A JVL statement on the Tony Greenstein case

Antisemitism allegations against Tony Greenstein
Statement by Jewish Voice for Labour, 26 November 2017

Jewish Voice for Labour is committed both to challenging any antisemitic incidents or statements we encounter in the Labour Party or elsewhere, and to contesting unwarranted allegations of antisemitism.

We agree with Tony Klug who wrote in The Jewish Chronicle last year: “While antisemitism is monstrous – and, like all forms of racism, should be vigorously dealt with – false accusations of antisemitism are monstrous too.” To be labelled an antisemite is both painful and severely damaging to a person’s reputation and it is not an allegation to be made without clear prima facia evidence. False allegations also risk making correct allegations less credible and place Jews at greater risk.

We have reviewed the bulky dossier of material presented as evidence against Tony Greenstein by the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party. To those of us who have known him for many years as a Jewish socialist and an implacable opponent of racism and antisemitism in any form, it is no surprise to find that the dossier does not offer any remotely persuasive substantiation of claims of antisemitism.

There is undoubtedly evidence of language which we would not want to be associated with. But as Shami Chakrabarti stated in her report, even offensive language on its own is only antisemitic if it is coupled with antisemitic intent. Such intent cannot be demonstrated in Tony Greenstein’s case because it is absent.

There are many critical comments we could make about this disciplinary process. We will limit ourselves to one, the issue of representation. Party members with sufficient financial resources are entitled to instruct a lawyer to represent them. Those who cannot afford one are only allowed to have a ‘silent friend’. This clearly discriminates against less affluent party members and in particular against less affluent and less articulate party members who are denied the support of a knowledgeable friend or colleague to speak on their behalf.

The party should either provide legal representation to all summoned to a disciplinary hearing or allow representation and advocacy from a non-legally qualified acquaintance.

Comments (12)

  • David Roger says:

    I agree . Presumably the Labour Party Compliance lawyers would
    be paid out of our subscriptions as Labour Party members so I feel
    the accused should be given the same advantage or the individual accusing
    him should pay their own legal bills

  • Cyril Chilson says:

    I have been suspended from my LP membership since August 2016.My case was referred in February 2017 to the NCC by the inquisitors of the NEC (who ‘interrogated me via email) without disclosing the identity of my accusers save the Twitter handles of some of them (one wonders how could the inquisitors be sure that those behind the handles are actually Labour members?). The ‘charge’ is antisemitism on social media (btw: I was born and raised in Israel in the bosom of the Jewish (orthodox) faith, served as an officer in the IDF, mostly in the occupied Palestinian territories so it follows that unlike my accusers and interrogators, I am better positioned to claim first hand knowledge of what is going on in the territories concerned). The ‘evidence’ the ‘prosecution’ is drawing on is solely my Twitter time line. They added to the selection of posts they used to suspend me also an assortment of posts dating back to the intervening period of time i.e. between the suspension and the referral to the NCC, another questionable step. It is my contention that my detractors amongst Lanour’s right-wingers hope to kill two birds with one stone: in addition to the expulsion of another Corbynista who happen to be an ex-Israeli strong critic of Israel and Zionism , they also hope to get read of a Jewish convert to Catholicism which is precisely what your truly happens to be. In other words they are out to get not only the political criticism but also what they regard as a potential politico-theological danger. Needless to say that they appreciate that that danger has a potential to mushroom if an ex-Israeli soldier turned Catholic British citizen is allowed to voice criticism of Israeli apartheid within the Green Line and debunk their lurid presentation of the ‘single democracy in the Middle East’. Perhaps this is the explanation of the scandalous message from the NCC which landed in my letter box a fortnight ago, notifying me that they must receive my written answers to the charges by 8 December 2017 and as regards my request to have legal representation (for which I requested a deferment as the Festive Season is upon us and lawyers often go on a vacation later on in January) I was told that the NCC are yet to decide if a permission to be represented by a lawyer wil be granted but at any event – a deferment is not a viable option. Now what is this if not a session of Kangaroo Court ?

  • Mike Scott says:

    As a former Trade Union Organiser with extensive experience of representing members in all sorts of Hearings, I have been astonished at the way allegations against members are handled by the LP machine. Once the current elections to the the NEC are out of the way, there will be an urgent need to review both policies and procedures to ensure they comply with the Principles of Natural Justice.

    And I should also add that having known Tony Greenstein in the 1970s, while I would expect to disagree with him on a number of issues, I really can’t imagine how he could be considered anti-semitic!

  • Philiph35 says:

    In the absence of any sight of or link to the dossier, I am not prepared to accept that “………. the dossier does not offer any remotely persuasive substantiation of claims of antisemitism.” It would also be interesting to see an example of “language which we would not want to be associated with”.

    I also do not accept Tony Klug’s statement. Anti-semitism can lead to genocide and is always to be rejected. Accusations of anti-semitism not so much and there is even a theoretical possibility that they might be justified.

  • Stephen Bellamy says:

    And in the meantime the silence from Corbyn and assorted Momentum grandees ( you know who you are ) is deafening.

  • Tony Booth says:

    Over the next months it will become clear to the NEC as well as many thousands of others that it is ludicrous for the opinions of one group of Jews about criticism of the State of Israel to be used to justify the expulsion of another group of Jews from the Labour Party. I am convinced that the growth of JVL will have an impact sooner rather than later and that this foolishness will come to an end. So the task is to grow JVL as quickly as possible and move to influence our Constituency Parties as well as the NEC.

  • Philiph35 says:

    But surely one key aim of JVL is to justify the expulsion of another group of Jews – Zionists – from the Labour Party and, indeed, from public life as a whole?

  • Mike Scott says:

    I think Philiph35 is (deliberately?) confusing the issue here. The purpose of JVL isn’t to expel Zionists from the LP – they are perfectly entitled to hold their opinions, even if i disagree with them. What they’re not entitled to do is claim to represent all Jews and close down any debate by calling everyone who has a different view an antisemite. That is totally undemocratic and intolerable.

    So, how about an open discussion of the issues where all views can be put forward without fear of retribution? Over to you, Zionists!

  • Philiph35 says:

    Mike, I don’t believe I was being confusing and certainly not deliberately so. I had in mind the following quote, by Miko Peled and taken from this website:

    “It’s about the limits of tolerance: we don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks; and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing.
    Promoters of racist ideologies should not be given a public platform, and to me that does include people who promote Zionism – which is a racist ideology whose followers have committed and continue to commit crimes against the people of Palestine.”

    It seems you don’t agree with this but I am afraid that others do. If Zionists are viewed as Nazis and racists, they are unlikely to be given a very favourable hearing

  • Mike Scott says:

    I don’t agree with that quote – though having been to Israel/Palestine to see things for myself, I can understand why others might. And i don’t believe it to be a reflection of JVL policy, as far as it’s been agreed, so it’s important to make sure you’re arguing with the right people!

    My earlier point about an open discussion stands….

  • Mike Scott says:

    I’ve said all I’m going to!

Comments are now closed.