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Suspended Labour activists plan to picket party’s antisemitism disciplinary hearings

Labour Against the Witchhunt says it defends supporters of Jeremy Corbyn who have been “expelled or suspended on bogus charges of antisemitism”.

    Tony Greenstein chaired Saturday's meeting and faces a disciplinary hearing later this month (Photo: Tony Greenstein)
    Tony Greenstein chaired Saturday's meeting and faces a disciplinary hearing later this month (Photo: Tony Greenstein)

    Labour activists who are suspended from the party over allegations of antisemitism have revealed they plan to protest outside the disciplinary hearings of fellow members fighting charges of Jew-hatred.

    The decision was taken at a meeting on Saturday of the group known as Labour Against the Witchhunt, which says it defends supporters of Jeremy Corbyn who have been “expelled or suspended on bogus charges of antisemitism”.

    LAW also agreed to expel from its ranks supporters of the Socialist Fight group, introduce paid memberships and trade union affiliations, and to prioritise setting up regional groups.

    Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli anti-Zionist whose expulsion from Labour was rescinded last October, will serve as LAW’s honorary president.

    He was reinstated by the party despite concerns over an article he wrote for a Marxist newsletter.

    LAW plans to picket three meetings in the coming weeks, including cases due to be heard by Labour’s national constitution committee. Among the hearings is the investigation into Marc Wadsworth, who was suspended from the party in July 2016 after challenging Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish MP, at the launch of the Chakrabarti report into antisemitism.

    His case is expected to take place on January 24, the day after a Labour national executive committee meeting, and the day before a hearing into the conduct of Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist suspended for writing offensive blogs about Louise Ellman, another Jewish Labour MP.

    LAW members' decision to bar Socialist Fight supporters followed a debate at the meeting over “the conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism”, and a discussion on whether suggesting the United States is “servile” to Israel counted as being antisemitic.

    Mr Greenstein, who chaired the meeting, wrote on his blog that the session had lasted around 90 minutes and featured activists who had travelled to London from Sheffield and Liverpool to take part.

    Jackie Walker, who was suspended from Labour twice in 2016 for comments in which she referred to Jews as the “chief financiers of the slave trade” and for remarks she made about Holocaust Memorial Day, also chaired part of the session.

    The meeting had been preceded by an argument last week over LAW’s intention to suspend some members accused of antisemitism but not others.

    Jackie Walker remains suspended from the Labour Party and sits on the steering committee of LAW
    Jackie Walker remains suspended from the Labour Party and sits on the steering committee of LAW

    Gerry Downing, a Trotskyite who was suspended from Labour for a second time in March 2016 because his website carried anti-Zionist conspiracy theories, was said to be one figure due to be thrown out of LAW.

    In response, he reportedly attempted to organise a second meeting at the same venue, on the same day, using a splinter group with the name Reject Bogus Left Antisemitism (RBLA). But that was apparently thwarted after the landlord of the pub cancelled the booking for both groups.

    LAW’s meeting took place in a different pub near King’s Cross station.

    Mr Downing is a member of Socialist Fight and an ally of Israeli antisemite Gilad Atzmon.

    One activist who attended Saturday’s meeting, and apparently sides with Mr Downing, wrote on Facebook that the LAW group was “morally bankrupt and will die a natural death. Any person within this group will not be safe, as the group are willing to compromise on the values that they claim to stand for and will ultimately use these undemocratic tactics again in the future”.

    LAW’s steering committee includes Mr Greenstein and Ms Walker.

    When it was launched last year, LAW demanded Labour end its suspensions of members and reject the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance’s definition of antisemitism which has been adopted by the government and backed by Jeremy Corbyn and the party leadership.

    This article has been amended to update the text

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