Tony Greenstein | 28 September 2019 | Post Views:

Open Letter to the Leader of Brighton and Hove Council, Nancy Platts – Free Speech is not a luxury

Instead of Defending Freedom of Speech You have Chosen to Appease the Supporters of Israel on the pretext of ‘anti-Semitism’

Below is an Open Letter I have sent to Nancy Platts, the Leader of Brighton and Hove Council.

On two occasions in recent weeks, August 20th and September 26th Platts has inferred that Jews are under threat from meetings on Palestine or alternatively that they are not welcome at such meetings

The Zionists ban books, the Nazis burned them

What we have seen in recent months is the de facto implementation of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, a ‘definition’ whose sole purpose is to restrict freedom of speech on Palestine and Israel.

As readers will be aware, we in Brighton took steps before the recent Labour Party conference to pre-empt the local Zionists from inflicting their police state agenda on delegates and visitors by securing premises where events could be staged.

Tony Greenstein

The cancelled booklaunch was held at the Rialto to a far-larger audience

Open Letter to Nancy Platts

Dear Nancy,

Last Monday Waterstones Bookshop cancelled a book launch for Bad News for Labour. As its publisher, Pluto Press, explained:

This book clears the confusion by drawing on deep and original research on public beliefs and media representation of antisemitism and the Labour Party, revealing shocking findings of misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.

Despite this peer reviewed book being authored by 5 distinguished academics, Waterstones was subject to a barrage of hostile attacks on social media from supporters of Israel, in particular by Sussex Friends of Israel. See for example here, here and here

Ken Loach and Chris Williamson attend – standing room only

Sussex Friends of Israel openly encouraged people to get on the phone to abuse and harass the bookshop and its staff.

The accusations were familiar. The speakers were anti-Semitic, the book launch was a hate session and provocative to the Jewish community. Cancelling the book launch would be ‘hugely reassuring to the Brighton/Hove community’ (although 99.9% of them knew nothing about it!). The idea that a book launch in Waterstone’s bookshop would traumatise the Jewish community is risible

Despite the best efforts of Peter Kyle, Daniel Yates and the rest of New Labour’s scumbags, Chris Williamson’s meeting on August 8th went off as planned

In the run-up to Labour’s Conference, Brighton and Hove Labour Left Alliance took steps to ensure that events threatened by SFI would be able to continue. We were mindful that there might be a repeat of what happened on and before August 8th, when Peter Kyle MP and SFI took to abusing and threatening venues prepared to stage a meeting with Chris Williamson MP. Much to the chagrin of Councillor Dan Yates we held a large meeting in Regency Square.

We obtained an Events Licence enabling us to meet in Regency Square and we also hired for Saturday and Monday the Rialto Theatre. We had warned them that they would be subject to a barrage of abuse and threats from the usual suspects and on the usual grounds

Greg Hadfield introduces the session on Modern Monetary Theory with Chris Williamson and Professor Bill Mitchell

When Waterstones cancelled the book launch we held it in the Rialto. All 5 authors: Professors Greg Philo and David Miller, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg and Antony Lerman, a world expert in anti-Semitism took part.

The suggestion that these speakers posed a threat to Jews is absurd. What SFI feared was that an academic analysis of Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign would expose the lies behind it

The group that organised the Rialto

The fact that the supporters of Israel are so afraid of a book or book launch suggests that this whole campaign, supported by Britain’s racist media, has been driven primarily by those hostile to the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party

Former councillor Julie Cattell fostering fear and hatred and Fiona Sharpe, Sussex Friends of Israel’s virulent racist and perjurer

Unfortunately the Council have enabled this attack on freedom of speech. It has done this through its adoption of the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism. What kind of definition is 500+ words? The purpose of the IHRA is to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Even the person who drafted the IHRA, American academic Kenneth Stern, conceded in testimony to the US Congress that it ‘chills’ free speech and that that ‘Congress has enshrined a definition that can only help to chill, if not suppress, their political speech.’

Everyone who SFI hates is an anti-semite – only Tommy Robinson and the EDL escape their censure being pro-Zionist

Stern gave as an example the targeting by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, allies of SFI, of Bristol University academic Rachel Gould for an article she wrote in 2011 about the Holocaust. Stern described what had happened as ‘chilling and McCarthy-like.’

The reason why I am writing to you is because twice in recent weeks you have given sustenance to this campaign against free speech. In the Jewish News of 20th August you were quoted as saying ‘I am concerned to hear that there may be any events in or around Labour Party Conference where Jewish people would not feel welcome.’

What steps did you take to check out whether this allegation had any merit? In the Jewish News of 26 September reference you state that you ‘will not accept hate speech or hate crime’ in the context of a meeting entitled “BDS, Antisemitism and a free Palestine.” This meeting was held in the Old Courtroom on September 24, where author Tom Suarez, Azzam Tamimi and Miko Peled spoke.

The Zionist movement wanted to prevent Miko, an Israeli anti-Zionist and other Jewish anti-Zionists speaking for the same reasons that the South African government suppressed the views of White opponents of Apartheid. This understandable.

Israel is a state where 93% of the land is reserved for Jews. Israel’s 20% Arab population has access to just over 2%. It is a state where hospitals segregate Jewish and Arab women in separate maternity wards. In Israel there are separate Jewish and Arab education sectors. Marriage between a Jew and Palestinian is not only impossible but mixed relationships are a social taboo. It is a state in which hundreds of Jewish communities legally bar Arabs from membership. In the city of Afula in June there were demonstrations led by the Mayor against the fact that a house had been sold to an Arab. This not anti-Semitism is the real agenda of SFI.

The IHRA definition is being used for one purpose only. To prevent political speech which offends supporters of Israel. Despite SFI’s scaremongering the Jewish community is unconcerned. On August 8th, the Zionist demonstration against Chris Williamson mustered less than 20 people, some of whom were Christian Zionists.

Even if it were true that the majority of the Jewish community is offended by a book launch that is no reason to cancel it. When Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was issued we argued that freedom of speech trumps religious sensibilities. Why should that be any different when it comes to Jewish nationalists? Why was it right for Charlie Hebdo to offend Muslims yet it is forbidden to mention Israel’s abuse of human rights?

The vast majority of Jewish people in Brighton and Hove are not concerned with anti-Zionist meetings or whether or not a book debunks the false anti-Semitism narrative. The only people offended are Fiona Sharpe and Israel’s devotees.

Your duty as Council leader is to support the basic rights of Brighton residents under the European Convention of Human Rights, for example Articles 10 and 11. It is time to call the bluff of those who try to suppress any opinion bar their own. The best way to do that would be to reverse the adoption of the IHRA definition.

When my father took part in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 against Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists he didn’t need a definition of anti-Semitism in order to know who his enemy was. The only purpose of the IHRA is to restrict free speech. It has nothing to do with racism which is why the Tory Right loves it so much.

Tony Greenstein

See Waterstones cancels launch for book on Labour and anti-Semitism

Below are some of the abusive tweets and abuse that Waterstone’s Received

To SFI book launches are matters of concern to the Jewish community
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Tony Greenstein

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