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Labour’s fabricated anti-Semitism crisis is a threat to free speech

Jewish Voice for Labour supporters demonstrating against false claims of anti-Semitism, in London on 26 March 2018 [Twitter]
Jewish Voice for Labour supporters demonstrating against false claims of anti-Semitism, in London on 26 March 2018 [Twitter]

UK MP Chris Williamson has begun legal action against Labour, the British political party which has suspended his membership.

The treatment of Williamson by Labour’s bureaucrats has been totally unjust and completely bizarre. His situation is only the latest in a long line of phoney examples of anti-Semitism, which have been barely out of the headlines since 2015.

Williamson was suspended earlier this year, shortly after he had booked a room in Parliament to host The WitchHunt, a film about the manufactured anti-Semitism “crisis” in the Labour Party and the long-running right-wing campaign against Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

The film explored the case of Jackie Walker and other anti-racist grassroots Labour activists falsely accused of anti-Semitism by the mainstream media. It tells a story about Israel’s alliance with the global far-right, that Israel’s supporters would rather you not hear. Acclaimed British director Mike Leigh praised how it “exposes with chilling accuracy the terrifying threat that now confronts democracy”.

In conversation with many left-wing Jewish activists, the film challenges the conventional wisdom that anti-Semitism in Labour is endemic and has now reached “institutional” proportions.

READ: Formal ‘anti-Semitism’ complaint made against Corbyn’s Labour critic

Right-wing, anti-Palestinian groups like the Jewish Leadership Council, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Labour Movement have, for the last two years, considered Williamson to be public enemy number one – almost to the extent of Corbyn himself.

These pro-Israel lobby groups have rounded on Williamson, exactly because he has been the only MP to publicly challenge the Israel lobby’s narrative on anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Instead, he has talked of how the issue is used as a smear in order to oppose Jeremy Corbyn – a veteran Palestine solidarity activist – and his supporters.

The fake anti-Semitism “crisis” has now reached a genuinely dangerous level, one which massively threatens the very basis of free speech in the UK.

After Williamson was suspended in February (bizarrely for a “pattern of behaviour,” not for alleged anti-Semitism), he was readmitted to the party in June by a National Executive Committee panel. The disciplinary group let him off with a warning, which, considering he did or said nothing anti-Semitic, he should never have received.

However, this prompted an outcry by Israel lobby groups and Labour’s vestigial right-wing elements. The decision was overturned after two days of media headlines.

READ: ‘I called out Palestinian suffering – and was met by antisemitic abuse’

It is this disgusting treatment which Williamson is now challenging in court – something he says was unlawful. His crowdfunder has raised more than £35,000 ($43,000) in donations in only three days.

After a long line of good socialists have been driven out of the party – Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth – it seems that the Labour grassroots has really had enough and is saying “no more”.

Williamson has been one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent supporters. He led a “Democracy Roadshow” speaking tour around the UK last year, in which he argued for the need for fully democratic elections for Labour’s candidates for MPs.

At the moment, it is very difficult for ordinary Labour members to hold their local MPs to account. This meant they had no fear in orchestrating a coup against Corbyn in 2016, despite the fact that he was elected by hundreds of thousands of ordinary Labour members and supporters.

Further, because they still have almost no democratic accountability, many Labour MPs are still openly agitating against their own party’s twice-elected leader. Williamson’s advocacy of open selections put him in the firing line of the unpopular, right-wing MPs who quite openly see democracy as a threat.

READ: London council cancels pro-Palestine event over anti-Semitism claims

As part of his campaign for re-admittance to Labour, Williamson spoke in Brighton last weekend about the need for a democratic and socialist economy. However, he was forced to address those assembled outside, after three meeting venues cancelled on the organisers.

Anti-Palestinian activists fiercely opposed Williamson’s speech in Brighton. Threats were made and Brighton’s Quaker centre, as well as hotel chain Holiday Inn, both pulled out to protect their staff. One of those alleged to be involved in this war of words against Williamson was Jonathan Hoffman, an anti-Palestinian activist convicted earlier this year of threatening behaviour. The initial venue, the Brighthelm Centre, also cancelled after a dishonest intervention by Peter Kyle, a right-wing, anti-Corbyn local Labour MP.

When an elected MP cannot safely hold a public meeting, you know that there is a severe chilling effect in place. Yet nothing is being said about it in the “mainstream” media.

The fabricated “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” is now the biggest threat to freedom of speech in the UK today.

READ: Israeli minister accuses UK’s Corbyn of Jew-hatred

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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