Tony Greenstein | 25 August 2019 | Post Views:

Open letter to Brighton & Hove Councillors – We Intend to Defend Freedom of Speech on Palestine and Israel – Kyle, Platts and Yates will not prevail

Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism and Israel is no more a Jewish State than South Africa was a Christian State

Dear Councillor,

Last October Brighton and Hove Council passed a resolution supporting the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism. As we pointed out at the time, a 500+ word definition is not a definition. The IHRA, which mentions Israel in 7 of its 11 examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ was solely concerned with conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

People refusing to allow Kyle and Yates to dictate who they could listen to

We cited the views of a variety of legal and academic scholars – Hugh Tomlinson QC, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley and even the person who drafted the definition, Kenneth Stern. All were agreed that the IHRA was being used to chill free speech. Robertson described the IHRA as not being fit for purpose.

Stern, in testimony to Congress described how the IHRA had ‘chilled pro-Palestinian expression’ highlighting its use by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to vilify Bristol University lecturer, Dr Rebecca Gould because of an article she had written, Beyond Anti-Semitism. Stern described the attempt to get Gould sacked as ‘chilling and McCarthy-like.’

Asa Jansson of Brighton & Hove Labour Left Alliance

As Dr Geoffrey Alderman, a right-wing Jewish and Zionist academic, wrote in the Independent of 31 July, the IHRA’s 11 examples ‘embed numerous internal contradictions’. [This Labour Party row will not be settled by relying on a flawed and faulty definition of antisemitism]

Despite a range of Black and Muslim groups in Brighton making their opposition to the IHRA clear, the Council chose to ignore them and adopt the IHRA on the spurious grounds that the Jewish community supported it. In reality the people who supported it were activists of Sussex Friends of Israel. I doubt if 1% of Jewish people in Brighton or elsewhere have actually read this muddled and verbose prose. But even if Jews in Brighton and Hove had supported it it would have been wrong to adopt a definition which says that the Palestinian experience of Zionism and Israel is anti-Semitic

Peter Kyle – Hove’s right-wing ‘Labour’ MP

What we predicted has come to pass. Three weeks ago Peter Kyle MP used the IHRA to ‘persuade’ the Brighthelm Centre to cancel a meeting by Chris Williamson. This then gave encouragement to a campaign of threats, abuse and harassment directed at first the Holiday Inn and then the Friends Meeting House, both of which were forced to cancel Chris’s meetings. Kyle has repeatedly refused to condemn this abuse and threats.

Despite this we ensured that the meeting went ahead in Regency Square. Over 150 people assembled to hear Chris Williamson. We sent a message that we will not allow freedom of speech to be curtailed. Instead of applauding this exercise of people power that miserable wretch Cllr. Dan Yates called for the Council to penalise the organisers

Nancy Platts, the new group leader, implies that Jews aren’t welcome at the moment – Jews suffer least from racism yet Platts is silent on genuine racism

Our meeting included a number of Jewish people who were happy to stand with Chris Williamson and reject the attempt of Kyle to use Jews as a stick to beat the left of the Labour Party with. This is the real anti-Semitism.

What Kyle did resembled the actions of Donald Trump who, in the course of telling 4 Black Congresswomen to ‘go home’ berated them because ‘“They hate Israel & all Jewish people’. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why a White Supremacist should, almost in the same breath, utters the most vile racist insults against 4 Black women and then protests his undying love for Israel and Jews.

Today from Viktor Orban to Mattheo Salvini, Germany’s neo-Nazi AfD and our own Tommy Robinson, the far-Right combines anti-Semitism with ardent support for Israel.

Likewise the same Tory tabloids which have waged an unceasing campaign consisting of fake anti-Semitism allegations against Jeremy Corbyn have also employed ‘journalists’ like Katie Hopkin, a neo-Nazi who talked of perpetrating a ‘Final Solution’ to Muslims and described refugees as ‘cockroaches’. Hopkins combines ardent support for Israel with a justification for the shooting dead of 11 Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.

One doesn’t need to look any farther than the Tory party which combines support for the IHRA with being in alliance with fascists and anti-Semites in the European Parliament. For the past 10 years Tory MEPs have been members of the European Conservative and Reform Group.

The 4 Congresswomen who were told to ‘go back’ home by Trump, the Zionists’ best friend

The ECR contains a variety of fascist and anti-Semitic groups including the Brothers of Italy, the Swedish Democrats and Poland’s Law & Justice Party which was led by Michal Kaminski, a man who excused the massacre by Poles at Jedwabne in 1941, burning alive up to 1,600 Jews on the grounds that they had collaborated with the Soviet invasion in 1939. [Once no self-respecting politician would have gone near people such as Kaminski]. Roberts Zile MEP, another ECR member, of the Latvian LNNK even demonstrates each March with the veterans of Latvia’s Waffen SS!

As Medhi Hassan noted at the time, it is quite possible to be both anti-Semitic and pro-Zionist. Indeed historically most anti-Semites were pro-Zionist including Arthur Balfour

Cllr Dan Yates believed that this gathering should have been declared illegal – clearly he forgot he wasn’t in Israel!

Under the guise of opposing ‘anti-Semitism’, concerted attempts are being made at the Labour Party conference to prevent meetings around Palestine and Israel taking place. Jewish Voices for Labour has just had a meeting at the Jury’s Inn hotel cancelled and Zionist groups have promised to try and repeat what they did with Chris Williamson.

That was why the remarks of Nancy Platts, in an interview with the Jewish News, ‘that there may be any events in or around Labour Party Conference where Jewish people would not feel welcome’, apart from being an outright lie, indicate that she has thrown in her lot with Kyle. There is no substance whatsoever to Platt’s allegations. Jews have played a prominent part in Palestine solidarity and anti-Zionist groups in this city, however we are the ‘wrong sort of Jews’ i.e. anti-Zionists and anti-racists

Tower Hamlets recently used the IHRA to prevent this fundraising effort on behalf of Palestinian children

Platts, Kyle and Dan Yates, amongst others, demonstrate their contempt for freedom of speech on Palestine. A contempt which Brighton and Hove Council has given encouragement to with its support for the IHRA. Brighton and Hove Council is not alone. Tower Hamlets Council only two weeks ago prevented the Big Ride for Palestine from rallying in a local park because of the IHRA.

Refusing to be deterred by Kyle, Yates or Platts

The decision on the IHRA must be revisited. The IHRA is anti-democratic and a threat to freedom of speech. It does nothing to prevent anti-Semitism. That is not its purpose. Its sole rationale is as a weapon to be used against expressions of solidarity with the Palestinians.

In the meantime Councillors should be under no illusion that the Left in this town, including Palestine solidarity groups, have no intention of allowing racists and Zionists, backed up by Platts, Kyle and Yates, to prevent freedom of speech on Palestine. Chris Williamson and other speakers will be heard on the Labour Party fringe come what may.

We hope you will do your duty and act to protect freedom of speech and assembly against their enemies, be they in your rank or outside.Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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