Expelled for opposing Zionism
Tony Greenstein reports back from his disciplinary hearing
On Sunday February 18, after a delay due to a high court injunction, my trial before Labour’s Star Chamber (the national constitutional committee) took place. I had previously applied for a new panel of the NCC to hear the case, since it was this one which had rejected my application for an adjournment in the first place. However, not surprisingly the request was refused.
The hearing took place in one of Brighton’s most expensive hotels, the Metropole, and, since it was booked for two days, I doubt if the Labour Party had much spare change out of £15,000, once you factor in the cost of fighting the injunction.
The barrister presenting the case, a Mr Thomas Ogg, was an Oxbridge graduate who qualified in 2012. Judging by the questions I put to him, his dry, stuttering style and his fumbling with documents, he has a long way to go before taking silk. He supplied me with what is called a ‘skeleton argument’ just 36 hours before the hearing. Although it was not formally admitted to the hearing after my objection, it was relied on throughout Ogg’s submission.
It is no doubt appropriate that the first major victim of Labour’s false anti-Semitism witch-hunt should himself be Jewish (although in the end it seems that accusing me of anti-Semitism would just not hold water and instead I was expelled for verbal ‘abuse’). The allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party have nothing to do with anti-Semitism, of course, and everything to do with opposition to the racist creed of Zionism and support for the Palestinians.
I was suspended nearly two years ago for alleged anti-Semitic comments, but Ogg’s skeleton argument admitted that all the charges related to events that took place after I had been suspended. Paragraph 102 conceded: “All of the charges relate to conduct after Mr Greenstein’s suspension from the Labour Party on March 18 2016.” This was therefore an admission that my suspension in March 2016 had been invalid, unlawful, unconstitutional. I therefore applied at the beginning for the whole case to be thrown out, but - once again not surprisingly - the panel did not take the same view.
As part of its guidelines, appendix 6D to the rules of the Labour Party (which are actually not part of the rules!) stipulates that the NCC must ignore everything that happens prior to the issuing of charges. This is the ‘turning a blind eye’ clause. It states:
The NCC is entitled to (and will) act on the basis that the charges are properly brought before them and cannot become embroiled in dealing with complaints about the administration of any investigation leading to the charges. Any such complaint will therefore not be entertained by the NCC or panel thereof unless it is material or relevant to the consideration of the evidence to be used by the presenter in support of the charges.
This enables the NCC to ignore any injustice, breach of the rules, malpractice or leaking to the press, etc, that occurs. Of course the NCC is also bound to act ‘fairly’ under chapter 1, clause IX (4) of the rules (which are part of the Labour constitution) and also to modify the guidelines as it sees fit. But the NCC chooses to interpret its remit narrowly and against the interests of natural justice. That was why I was forced to obtain an injunction against the Labour Party on December 7, preventing it from holding a rushed hearing.
The day began brightly enough with a lively picket of the Metropole Hotel. There was a wide range of people from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Labour Party and Momentum, and Marc Wadsworth and Debbie Hobson from Grassroots Black Left. Even a couple of people from Sussex Friends of Israel showed up (but I suspect it was not to show their support) before disappearing fairly quickly.
The charges which were finally brought, as the barrister for the Labour Party was at pains to point out, were not that I was anti-Semitic. My ‘crime’ in essence was that I had abused racists and Zionists (or “Zios”) in the Labour Party, including that detestable supporter of Palestinian child abuse, Louise Ellman.
Mr Ogg gave a long, two-hour-plus speech, which was the equivalent of watching paint dry. My own speech was much shorter and to the point. I made it clear that I regretted nothing. It was alleged that I was insinuating, when accusing the execrable MP for Liverpool Riverside of supporting the abuse of Palestinian children, that she therefore supported sexual abuse of those children. Although this was not directly true, it is clear that the abuse of Palestinian children is often sexual in nature and that Ellman had never spoken out against this treatment. On the contrary, she supported everything Israel did in the name of ‘security’.
In the debate in the House of Commons on ‘Child prisoners and detainees: occupied Palestinian territories’ on January 6 2016,1 Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, described how, in June 2012, a delegation of British lawyers published a report on children held in Israeli military custody. It barely needs stating that it referred to non-Jewish Palestinian children. The report was facilitated and funded by the foreign office.
It found that Israel was in breach of six of its legal obligations under the United Nations convention on the rights of the child and two obligations under the fourth Geneva convention. The report also concluded that, if allegations of abuse referred to the delegation were true, Israel would also be in breach of the absolute prohibition against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment - in other words, torture - which is a war crime.
Champion explained that eight months after the UK report was published, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) released its own assessment of the military detention system for children. After reviewing over 400 sworn affidavits from children detained in a system that allows the prosecution of 12-year-olds in military courts, Unicef concluded:
… the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.
In February 2015 Unicef issued an update to its original report and noted that allegations of ‘ill-treatment of children during arrest, transfer, interrogation and detention have not significantly decreased in 2013 and 2014”.
Paula Sherriff MP intervened to explain how she had visited the West Bank with Ms Champion in September 2015 and was briefed by Military Court Watch. She asked:
Does my hon friend share my concern at the significant disparity between treatment of Palestinian and Israeli young people, including lack of legal representation and parental support, allegations of widespread abuse and having to sign confessions in Hebrew, among many others?
Or, to put it bluntly, why is it that Israeli Jewish children and Palestinian children are treated differently? Why do Jewish children from the settlements have a parent or legal advisor with them at all times? Why are they rarely if ever incarcerated in detention? Why are Palestinian children forced to sign confessions in a language that they do not understand? The late Jo Cox MP also contributed to the debate:
I congratulate my hon friend on securing this debate. She will be aware that evidence from Military Court Watch suggests that 65% of children continue to report being arrested at night in what are described as terrifying raids by the military. Will she comment on that worrying fact?
Louise Ellman made three contributions on behalf of the Israeli military and the Jewish Labour Movement, of which she is vice-president. She said in one of them:
My hon friend makes an important point, but does she accept that the context in which these situations occur is an organised campaign conducted by the Palestinian authorities of incitement, to try to provoke young Palestinians to carry out acts of violence towards other civilians, some of which result in death, including the death of young children?
The idea that, if it was not for such ‘incitement’, Palestinians, children included, would come to love a 50-year-old military dictatorship, which has resulted in the theft of their lands and the deprivation of all liberties, beggars belief. It is clear that Louise Ellman is a despicable apologist for Israel’s war crimes; and the NCC and the Labour Party, by expelling me, are in effect apologists for those crimes.
The NCC under Maggie Cosin, who chaired the hearing, repeatedly ignored the question of fairness - in my case trying to rush a hearing after a 20-month suspension. The other members of the NCC included a Mr Fairbrother of the Community union. As I pointed out, this rightwing union was the only one to affiliate to Trades Union Friends of Israel. So the verdict was no surprise. Unfortunately Emina Ibrahim, who is vice-chair of Momentum, also supported the right on the NCC - I now understand that she is a Fabian who opposes the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. So this is another example of how Jon Lansman has put forward Zionists under the Momentum banner for positions on Labour’s national bodies.
As I told the committee when beginning my response, an old-time friend, Graham Bash, rang me on the morning of the hearing to tell me that he reckoned I had a one-percent chance of not being expelled - to which I responded that the odds probably weren’t that high!
Ogg argued that I was not being expelled for my views, but for “abusing” racists and rightwingers online. However, the bundle of papers prepared for the hearing demonstrated that this was a lie. Statements such as ‘Israel is a settler colonial state’ were highlighted in an article dealing with the eviction of a Bedouin village in Israel. The reality is that, although everything was dressed up in procedural terms, my expulsion was for my anti-Zionist politics.
That is why the southern organiser for the Jewish Labour Movement, junior war criminal and former defence minister Ivor Caplin, welcomed my expulsion. He stated to the Brighton Argus that my “continued membership is at complete odds with our collective values of solidarity, tolerance and respect”. He was “delighted that our values have been placed at the forefront, as we seek to form a government”.1 One wonders what “solidarity, tolerance and respect” Caplin accorded to the hundreds of thousands of victims of the war he helped initiate in Iraq in 2003.
My expulsion and the proposed expulsion of Marc Wadsworth and Jackie Walker are part of an attempt by the right and the Zionists in the party to purge Labour of socialists and anti-imperialists. The fight will go on for my reinstatement and the acquittal of both Mark and Jackie. It is not we, but the Jewish Labour Movement - the apologists for the deportation of African refugees from Israel for the ‘crime’ of being black and not Jewish - who deserve to be expelled. The failure of Jeremy Corbyn to speak out against this witch-hunt is a disgrace, because the purpose of the witch-hunters, despite their weasel words at the hearing, is to remove him.
It is ironic that at the same time as I am expelled for anti-Zionism and anti-racism, Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, has declared that the charges against the JLM’s former chair, Jeremy Newmark, of having defrauded a Jewish charity of thousands of pounds are a “private” matter.
The rightwing Huffington Post, Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and no doubt others will be celebrating, as Labour’s witch-hunt continues, even whilst they keep quiet about the Jeremy Newmark scandal. The Daily Mirror managed to outdo even Marcus Dysch of the Jewish Chronicle in the number of mistakes it has made by lazily reteling a two-year-old story about why I was originally suspended, when those bogus accusations had long been dropped.
1. https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-01-06/debates/16010636000001/ChildPrisonersAndDetaineesOccupiedPalestinian Territories. www.theargus.co.uk/news/16034209.___I___ll_be_back____insists_expelled_Labour_man.