JVL deplores the suspension of Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley. Photo: Eectronic Intifada

Jewish Voice for Labour is shocked to hear of yet another summary suspension of a respected party member who has for years been a powerful voice speaking up for Palestinian rights. Asa Winstanley, a journalist for Electronic Intifada, has done the sort of investigative journalism that our mainstream media to its shame refuses to engage in. He has exposed some of the sleaziest aspects of the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, including the lies told in an attempt to smear Oxford University Labour Club as antisemitic, and the use of multiple fake social media accounts to send antisemitic messages purporting to come from Labour supporters.

Especially concerning is that information about Asa’s suspension was leaked to the Press, specifically the Jewish Chronicle, before Asa had seen the email from the Labour Party informing him of his suspension. This is back to the bad old days when Iain McNicol was General Secretary. Jennie Formby needs to find out who is responsible for this serious betrayal of trust, and take appropriate action.

The suspension of Asa Winstanley and a growing number of others appears to mark a return to the policy of summary suspensions, which marked and marred the McNicol regime. This directly contradicts the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report which Labour says have been accepted. It was in response to that policy of routine suspension that Chakrabarti said that “the presumption should be against interim suspension”. It should only be used when the conduct complained of was of a grave nature, and if there was an immediate risk that the person complained of might do “lasting or irreparable damage to the Party” during the period of the investigation.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that his suspension results from a complaint about a tweet in which Asa remarked on the alignment between the Jewish Labour Movement and the Israeli embassy. He had previously used the phraseThe Jewish Labour Movement acted as a proxy for the Israeli embassy” in an article in April 2018. This is virtually identical to his current tweet. It was not an assertion, or an insult. It was factually based on the evidence of their closeness revealed in the Al Jazeera undercover report The Lobby.

To suggest that a tweet of this kind poses a threat of lasting or irreparable damage to the Party requiring suspension is surely stretching the meaning of words beyond breaking point.

Asa Winstanley’s suspension follows hard on the heels of that of our greatly respected JVL member Councillor Jo Bird – for cracking a typically self-deprecating Jewish joke at a public meeting. It seems that this is now regarded as potentially antisemitic! Antisemitism is a deeply serious matter (unlike Jo’s joke). It has a horrendous history, and should not be trivialised in complaints that the Party now seems to think it must treat as dangerous enough to merit suspension. As we said in JVL’s response to Jo’s suspension

We are Jews who are entirely comfortable in the Labour Party. But we are far from comfortable seeing the terrible history of the Jewish people exploited by those intent upon scuppering the best hope in decades for ordinary and vulnerable members of our society.

Those who oppose the Corbyn project are once again ratcheting up the allegations of antisemitism, and individuals are being picked off for daring to publicly reject the assertion that Labour is rife with antisemitism.  This baseless assertion is cruelly leading to genuine fear for some Jewish people, at the same time as trying to silence their best allies against oppression, discrimination and hatred. JVL supports the necessary and proportionate steps the party is taking to deal fairly with the small amount of antisemitism that does exist among Labour members and supporters. But to be clear – we at JVL, based on our own personal experience as Jewish party members, absolutely refute the assertion that Labour is rife with antisemitism. And we resolutely oppose the use of knee-jerk suspension as a response to complaints, which offers a perverse incentive to those making unfounded allegations.

Comments (16)

  • Jasbir Kaur Cargill says:

    I entirely agree with the above.

  • Terry Rickhuss says:

    Well stated comrades

  • Ruth Cameron says:

    I entirely agree with the above and am very worried and sad that jvl are never heard on mainstream media. The power of those against JC is frightening.

  • Marie Breen-Smyth says:

    I am horrified at this suspension. This truly is a witch-hunt

  • Tigger says:

    Right. This is war. But don’t let’s try to attack this head on. Instead, let’s rigourously seek put any and every racist / anti-Islamic comment made by any and all complainants ( this will include both Jews and gentiles).
    Then let’s put all these to the Equalities Commission. They will find themselves out on a limb. – especially those MPs and local government officials who have sought to ban Labour party members for presumed antiSemitic comments.

  • Anne Tanner says:

    Totally agree! These false accusations of Antisemitism must make many Jewish people feel insecure.

    Antisemitism exists even in Labour and I would be the last person to deny it (although I, personally, have never encountered it.

    Meanwhile the right wing supporters of “Tommy Robinson”, who are a real threat to Jewish people and people of non European descent, are completely ignored by the media.

  • Allan Pearson says:

    I completely agree, it would seem that all members are equal but some members are more equal than others.

  • Bernard Grant says:

    I totally agree with what the JVL is saying.
    How do we move this forward and get back control?
    We are like rabbits watching a speeding car traveling towards us. Somehow we need to fight back, to win this war against our Party and in particular Jeremy Corbyn, the main target of the people behind it.
    I read my friend Tony Greensteins Blog on this and cannot find fault with it. I’m so, so angry about this.
    I hope someone comes up with a plan, that will turn this around.

  • Marco Chiesa says:

    Your stance and comments ought to be reported in mainstream media. Sadly and shamefully, they will not do that

  • dave says:

    “the Corbyn project”

    Great piece but please don’t use this phrase – Jeremy is the overwhelming elected leader of the Labour Party. It is not a project.

    • Mike Cushman says:

      It is not just about Jeremy, who, as you correctly say, is the overwhelmingly elected leader. It is the wider project of transforming the Labour Party into a campaigning party that will radically transform the country into a more equal and just society. Jeremy is the figurehead and crucial but the project is all of us.

  • Richard Purdie says:

    Never allow fear to silence the truth! That way lies despair and the destruction of all that’s good in our world.

  • Susan Armstrong Robinson says:

    This is excellent. It presents a reasoned, rational argument and facts. No hysterical claims. Thank you.

  • Richard Hayward says:

    Shocking, and raises the question of whether NEC changes are just window dressing (particularly in light of the adoption of the IHRA ‘examples’ and the lack of sanctions on PLP members making slanderous assertions).

  • Terence McGinity says:

    What can be done? Apparently according to LAW there is no ‘Ban’ on putting Motions of support into Branch/CLPs for suspended members. At the most it is advice emanating from London Regional Office. (See Labour Against the Witch hunt). Motions can still be put in reflecting the groundswell of opposition to the Right Wing.
    I was prevented but managed to pass at my Branch a Motion calling for the full implementation of the Chakrabati Report and essentially its call for ‘transparency, due process and human rights law’.

  • Richard Hayward says:

    A few days on – a further observation.

    I may have missed something, but, given the usual piling in by the media on the ‘antisemitism’ issue, news about Asa Winstanley’s suspension has been hard to find.

    Am I being too cynical in seeing that exposure to examination would be too dangerous for the smear initiative, given Winstanley’s incisive journalism?

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