Tony Greenstein | 06 April 2019 | Post Views:

Your Silence and Lack of Solidarity over Chris Williamson’s Suspension is both Shameful and Cowardly

Below is an Open Letter that I have written to members of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs.  Formed in 1981 by Tony Benn during his deputy leadership challenge to Dennis Healey it underwent a considerable down sizing during the Blair/Kinnock years.

Richard Burgon

One might have thought it would regain its voice after the election of Jeremy Corbyn. Instead most of its members have been conscripted into the Shadow Cabinet with the result that it has lost its voice almost entirely.I have therefore sent this letter to the following MPs all but two of whom are in the Campaign Group:

Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon, Dawn Butler, Ronnie Campbell, Dan Carden, Emma Dent Code, Jeremy Corbyn, Marsha de-Cova, David Drew, Imran Hussain, Ian Lavery, Karen Lee,Clive Lewis, Rebecca Long-Bailey, John McDonnell, Ian Mearns, Grahame Morris, Laura Pidcock, Kate Osamor, Danielle Rowley, Lloyd Russell Moyle, Dennis Skinner , Cat Smith, Laura Smith, Jon Trickett

Dear Comrades,

Until recently I didn’t even realise that the Socialist Campaign Group [SCG] of Labour MPs still existed. Such has been your silence, I assumed that rigor mortis had set in.Permit me to introduce myself. I was expelled a year ago as a result of the confected ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt because, if you want to fight ‘anti-Semitism’, then it’s always a good idea to expel Jews. This was my second time. I was first suspended in 1992 during the Kinnock purges. My crime then wasn’t fake ‘anti-Semitism’ but support for non-payment of the Poll Tax.

The difference between then and now is that Campaign Group MPs had a backbone and weren’t afraid to speak out. I refer to MPs such as Tony Benn, Norman Atkinson, Ernie Roberts, Joan Maynard, Stan Orme, Alice Mahon and Dennis Skinner. Even David Blunkett spoke out. You however seem afraid of your own shadow.

Today the Left and Jeremy Corbyn has won the leadership of the Labour Party. The problem is that it is on the defensive, forever apologising and temporising. Although Jeremy is in office he isn’t in power. How else to explain the situation whereby Tom Watson demands the head of Chris Williamson and you remain silent like a Trappist monk?

Cat Smith MP – the Cat has got her tongue

Watson’s pretext was ‘anti-Semitism’ but nothing Chris saidcould be remotely described as anti-Semitic.“The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic… We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other party.”Watson’s real concern isn’t anti-Semitism but the preservation of Labour’s bipartisan support for American foreign policy, which is symbolised in support for the Israeli state.

Laura Pidcock MP

It is understandable why socialists and anti-racists have been intimidated by spurious allegations of anti-Semitism given the history of the Holocaust. However anti-Semitism has nothing to do with opposition to the Israeli state and Zionism, the ideology and movement that gave birth to that state.

It is often said that anti-Zionism is a disguise for anti-Semitism. In fact the opposite is true. It is Donald Trump, whose election campaign was openly anti-Semitic, Richard Spencer, the neo-Nazi founder of the alt-Right who declares himself a White Zionist and Tommy Robinson who cover their racism with support for the Israeli state.

The Beast of Bolsover aka Dennis Skinner

Zionism and the establishment of the Israeli state was the worst possible answer to anti-Semitism. Zionism replaced one horror with another. A settler colonial state, based on racial supremacy, permanently at war with the indigenous population. Zionism agreed with the anti-Semites that Jews were not part of the nations they lived amongst but formed a separate state.

The result is the present Apartheid state. This was evidenced recently in the response of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Israeli actress Rotem Sala, who declared that

Israel is a state of all its citizens and that all people were created equal, and that even the Arabs and the Druze and the LGBTs and – shock – the leftists are human.”

Netanyahu’ response was that

Israel is not a country of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish nation.”

Netanyahu was right. Israel is not and has never been a state of its own citizens and that has always been the position under Israeli Labour as well as Likud governments.

It is for making these arguments that Black and Jewish anti-racist activists such as Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and myself have been expelled.

Jewish anti-Zionists, who have been a particular target of the witch-hunt, are the equivalent of White opponents of Apartheid in South Africa. Our expulsion is particularly shameful as is your silence.

Not only was I a founder of Brighton and Hove Anti-Fascist Committee in the 1970’s and Secretary of Brighton and Hove Anti-Nazi League in the 1980’s but I have written the only book about the fight against Fascism in Brighton.

As Jewish comedian Alexei Sayle observed we have the spectacle of racists accusing anti-racists of ‘anti-Semitism’. We live in Orwellian times when Black is White and anti-racism is anti-Semitism.

Today in the Labour Party it is anti-Semitic to suggest that anti-Semitism has been weaponised despite the fact that allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ are the first resort of Israel’s supporters. I doubt if there is a single Palestine solidarity activist who hasn’t been accused of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is the go to accusation levelled against supporters of the Palestinians including Jewish supporters.

Israel’s supporters argue that Zionism is an integral part of being Jewish whilst claiming, as per the IHRA, that to blame Jews for what Israel does is anti-Semitic! For example Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation Leagueopenly declared that “Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.’

What is happening in the Labour Party today is straight out of The Crucible when denial of being a witch was itself proof of one’s guilt. People are scared of discussing Israel or Zionism for fear of being pounced upon by ‘investigators’ from the Compliance Unit.

Arthur Miller

When Arthur Miller explained why he wrote the Crucible, he used the Salem Witchcraft Trials as a metaphor for what was happening in the America of Joe McCarthy.

‘I was motivated in some great part by the paralysis that had set in among many liberals who, despite their discomfort with the inquisitors’ violations of civil rights, were fearful, and with good reason, of being identified as covert Communists if they should protest too strongly.

‘Anti-Semitism’ is the new anti-communism and you are the liberals that Arthur Miller referred to, wracked by paralysis. Today all manner of racists profess their opposition to anti-Semitism. After spending 17 minutes denouncing refugees in his State of the Union Address, Trump took time out todenounce ‘anti-Semitism’!

A Witch Trial in Salem

When Tom Watson called for the suspension of Chris Williamson instead of defending Chris you said nothing. When Watson declared that he wouldn’t rest until every last anti-Semite was kicked out of the Labour Party you took him at face value. At its most charitable you were cowed into silence.

Tom Watson however is a most unlikely anti-racist. When the racist Labour MP Phil Woolas was removed by the High Court as an MP for electoral offences in 2011, it was revealed that his election campaign had been based around ‘making the white folk angry’.

What was Watson’s response? An apology? No a full throated defence of Woolas. Watson wrote that ‘I’ve lost sleep thinking about poor old Phil Woolas and his leaflets.’

When Sandwell Councillor Yvonne Davies objected to a St. George’s Day demonstration that had been taken over by the BNP and white racists Watson defended the march andharassed and bullied Davies.

Cllr. Davies was abused by Councillor Hosell, who Watson had supported when he was deselected from Sandwell Council. When Watson was contacted by Skawkbox he refused to dissociate himself from Hosell.

Tom Watson was the Campaigns Organiser for Liam Byrne in the 2004 by-election in Birmingham Hodge Hill. In The ghost of Enoch Nick Cohen described the gay bashing, racist campaign that Watson ran when ‘Labour reshuffled the pack and played the race card’ against the Lib Dems.’One Labour leaflet carried the slogan: “Labour is on your side, the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers.”

Former City banker Byrne told the voters, ‘The Lib Dems want to keep giving welfare benefits to failed asylum seekers. They voted for this in Parliament on 1 March 2004. They want your money -and mine – to go to failed asylum seekers.’ If this isn’t playing the race card it is difficult to know what is yet you have kept your silence.

All of these facts are publicly available. The idea that Tom Watson is motivated by anti-Jewish racism is for the birds. He is a bigot who will play the race card whenever it suits him. His main concern is support for Israel and a bipartisan pro-American foreign policy which is why he is Vice President of Trade Union Friends of Israel.

Watson’s allegation that Luciana Berger MP was subjected to ‘racist thugs’ in Liverpool Wavertree CLP, which is chaired by a Jewish member Dr Alex Scott-Samuel, was a lie. Ms Berger’s was Director of Labour Friends of Israel for 3 years and is to this day a prominent Zionist and parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Tom Watson’s racist history is not a state secret. Even his commitment to oppose anti-Semitism is suspect given hisfalse allegations of child abuse against the late Leon Brittan, which he was forced to recant. Brittan had been the subject of considerable anti-Semitic abuse, e.g. Harold MacMillan’s jibe that Thatcher’s cabinet was more Old Estonian and Old Etonian.

Instead of supporting to Chris Williamson, it was intimated I believe that it would be better if he didn’t attend any more meetings of the Campaign Group because it might embarrass certain members. If true this is both cowardly and shameful.

My purpose in writing this letter is in order that the Campaign Group might, in these turbulent political times, relearn the meaning of solidarity. When the Right is on the offensive and talk of a national government is in the air, this is no time to cower in the dark.It would appear that the Beast of Bolsover has become the Westminster Pussy Cat!Yours in Solidarity.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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