Tag Archives: Stan Keable

Taking the witch-hunt into the workplace

Hammersmith and Fulham council is appealing against the employment tribunal’s decision that its dismissal of Stan Keable was ‘unfair’. Ed Kirby reports

Stan Keable – LPM secretary – was sacked by Hammersmith and Fulham borough council for making critical remarks about Zionism. This happened in the course of a notably civilized exchange at the ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration and Jewish Voice for Labour counterdemonstration in Parliament Square on March 2018.

He was, though, fully exonerated by an employment tribunal. However, now council officers have decided to appeal. If that appeal is allowed to go ahead, not only will more precious public funds be wasted on lawyers’ fees, the council’s reputation will be further tarnished.

The appeal is, of course, politically motivated. Stephen Cowan, Labour leader of the council, wants to uphold the British establishment’s ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ false narrative. In this Stan Keable is not the real target. That is Jeremy Corbyn – and the entire Labour left. In the attempt to see the back of Corbyn, the Labour right is quite prepared to extend the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt from the Labour Party into the workplace.

The council’s failure at the five-day tribunal hearing in May – a full year after Stan Keable’s dismissal – was humiliating. Judge Jill Brown found that the dismissal, for “serious misconduct”, was “both procedurally and substantively unfair” and “well beyond the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer”.

Stan Keable has asked for reinstatement, and his work colleagues are looking forward to welcoming him back into the housing team. Departmental director Nicholas Austin – the man who formally sacked him – told the tribunal that he had “an entirely clean disciplinary record”, was “good at his job” and described him as “good, thorough, dogged in pursuit of landlords in trying to improve housing conditions”.

The issue of reinstatement was due to be resolved, along with appropriate compensation, at an October 2 “remedy hearing” – which may now be postponed, extending Stan Keable’s time in limbo even further. Hopefully, the tribunal will refuse permission to appeal. Criticism of Zionism and Israel should be calmly debated, not be a sacking offence.

On March 27 2018 – the morning after the ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration, ostensibly against Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed anti-Jewish racism – Stephen Cowan forwarded a 105-second long video to the council’s chief executive officer. This video had already been publicly tweeted by Chelsea and Fulham Tory MP Greg Hands. It showed a brief moment taken from a longish political conversation in Parliament Square between Stan Keable and an unknown man,

Cowan’s email stated:

LBHF [London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham] employee Stan Keeble [sic] making anti-Semitic comments. I’ll let Mr Keeble’s words speak for themselves. I believe he has brought the good name of LBHF into disrepute and committed gross misconduct. Please have this looked at immediately and act accordingly and with expediency … Please advise me at your earliest opportunity what action you have taken.

Hands’ tweet, tagged to Cowan and Hammersmith Labour MP Andy Slaughter, was not a complaint to the council, but a public attack on the Labour Party, smearing the party as a home for anti-Semites. Stan Keable’s employment at LBHF was unknown to Hands, but well known to Cowan, who seized the opportunity to extend the scope of the anti-Corbyn witch-hunt to the workplace. Cowan was, at this stage, the only complainant – joined later only by Greg Hands himself. His twitter campaign to drum up a storm of protest – and of BBC Newsnight journalist David Grossman, who was actually responsible for the video – produced zero results. Tens of thousands viewed the video, Stan Keable’s comments were reproduced in the Evening Standard and Mail Online – surrounded, as usual, by reports of unsubstantiated allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. But no-one complained to H&F council. Hands and Cowan were alone.

By labelling Stan Keable’s comments “anti-Semitic” and saying “gross misconduct”, Cowan effectively instructed council officers to suspend and dismiss him. Judge Brown found that they were “clearly put under very considerable pressure by Mr Hands MP and by councillor Cowan to dismiss the claimant”.

Four hours after Cowan’s email, Stan Keable was unceremoniously suspended from work – on charges which did not include anti-Semitism. One presumes that the council’s lawyers had pointed out that telling well documented, historical truths about the Zionist movement did not constitute racism. That would have been a good moment to tell Cowan that he was wrong and advise him to drop the matter. But an instruction is an instruction. Omitting the leader’s unsustainable “anti-Semitism” complaint, the suspension letter described the comments as “inappropriate”, “insensitive”, “likely to be considered offensive” and having “the potential to bring the council into disrepute”.

The tribunal, however, took a different view. Judge Brown “found that the claimant’s demeanour throughout the video clip was calm, reasonable, non-threatening and conversational”.

Stan Keable was not told that the complainant was the council leader, nor the substance of the complaint – that it was explicitly about “anti-Semitism.” Those embarrassing facts were only revealed a year later, shortly before the tribunal hearing. Nor did the suspension letter specify which comments were considered “offensive”. The original complainant (Cowan) had not done so.

Two “offensive” comments were eventually selected by the investigating officer, Peter Smith: (1) “The Zionist movement at the time collaborated with them” (ie, the Nazi regime), and (2) “The Zionist movement from the beginning was saying that they accepted that Jews are not acceptable here” (ie, in the countries where they currently live).

Stan Keable’s Jewish former wife, Hilary Russell, had already helpfully emailed the council: “I can say absolutely confidently that he is no anti-Semite … it is not anti-Semitic to be opposed to Zionism, as many Jews are, or to criticise the government of Israel.”

Keep digging

Smith should have dropped the case. But he chose to keep digging, adding the Equality Act 2010 to the allegations. If anti-Semitism won’t stick, let’s try anti-Zionism.

He wrote:

If Zionism constitutes a belief under the terms of the Equality Act, then the statements made by the claimant that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis and that it accepted that “Jews are not acceptable here” might be deemed to have breached the Equality Act … [and] do not promote inclusion nor treat everyone with dignity and respect and … have breached the council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy.

Subsequently, whether a belief in Zionist ideology should be considered a protected characteristic under the Equality Act was neither claimed by the council nor determined by the tribunal. In any case, the act does not forbid criticism of a protected “religion or belief”: it outlaws harassment, discrimination and victimisation of believers. But the council “did not find that the claimant had made anti-Semitic or racist or discriminatory remarks”, so this seed fell on stony ground.

In his zealous search for a case to answer, Smith concluded his investigation report by adding a truly Orwellian allegation to the charge sheet, effectively saying that council employees must not attend demonstrations:

That, in attending a counter-demonstration outside the houses of parliament on March 26 2018, Stan Keable knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy and the council’s Code of Conduct …

Unsurprisingly, the tribunal upheld the right to demonstrate. The judge concluded that Stan Keable’s comments were “an expression of his views and beliefs. The claimant, as other employees, had the right to freedom of expression and assembly, which would normally include attending rallies and expressing their views there”

As Justice Michael Briggs commented in the High Court (Smith v Trafford Housing Trust [2013] IRLR 86, HC):

The encouragement of diversity in the recruitment of employees inevitably involves employing persons with widely different religious and political beliefs and views, some of which, however moderately expressed, may cause distress among the holders of deeply felt opposite views. The frank but lawful expression of religious or political views may frequently cause a degree of upset, and even offence, to those with deeply held contrary views, even where none is intended by the speaker. This is a necessary price to be paid for freedom of speech.

Quite so.

Unable to dismiss Stan for anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism, the council then attempted to establish “misconduct” for being “offensive” – but this failed at the tribunal too. The judge “took into account the line of case law which says that for a single act of misconduct to justify dismissal it must be serious, wilful and obvious”:

The misconduct must be obvious; it must be such that the employee would plainly recognise it as conduct which would merit summary dismissal if discovered by his employers. Such recognition might be either because the employers had expressly made known to their staff that a particular type of misconduct would be treated as a dismissible offence or because the employee, judging the matter for himself according to the ordinarily accepted standard of morality of the time, would recognise dismissal as the predictable consequence of such misconduct (Bishop v Graham Group plc EAT 800/98).

The basis of the decision to dismiss Stan Keable was departmental director Nicholas Austin’s personal view that “the average person would interpret the claimant’s comments as suggesting that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in the holocaust and that that was highly likely to cause offence”. However, the judge disagreed: “Mr Smith had not interpreted the claimant’s comments in that way, nor had Mr Hands in his tweet or letter … and nor had the other evidence which Mr Smith had relied on from the Mail Online or the Evening Standard.”

Why is a Labour council pursuing this pathetic case – wasting public money in order to restrict our hard-won rights of freedom of speech and assembly? These rights are the products of, above all, the class struggle of the workers’ movement, from the Chartists onwards. This case illustrates the fact that the class struggle is taking place at present in a sharp form within the Labour Party – councillor Cowan has placed himself firmly on the side of the ruling class.

One can only assume the council is counting on the legal strategy of “deep pockets wins”. Stan Keable’s legal costs, if the appeal is permitted, are likely to rise above £10,000.

Please help out, go to: http://www.gofundme.com/ReinstateStanKeable.

 

Defend Stan Keable! No to political sackings!

The deeply worrying implications of Stan Keable’s victimisation by Hammersmith and Fulham Council must be a matter of grave concern not simply for comrades on the left of the Labour Party, but for all democrats, defenders of free speech and, indeed, those of us who simply believe it is legitimate to reference historical facts to make points about contemporary politics. Clearly, the witch-hunt in the Labour Party is spreading ever further into society and is now threatening people’s livelihoods.

Stan is the secretary of Labour Against the Witchhunt, a leading supporter of Labour Party Marxists and was a housing enforcer for the west London council for 17 unblemished years. He attended a counter-demonstration organised by the Jewish Voice for Labour to challenge the March 26 ‘Enough is Enough’ anti-Corbyn demo/provocation staged in Parliament Square by a coalition of rightwing Jewish organisations and a smattering treacherous Labour MPs. The comrade mingled with the anti-Corbyn crowd, distributing leaflets and engaging individuals in conversations – some calm and useful, others less so.

One of our comrade’s less edifying encounters was secretly recorded by the BBC Newsnight editor, David Grossman. In this, Stan can be seen briefly alluding to the well-documented (and uneasy) collaboration between the early Nazi regime and Zionists. (The same episode that Ken Livingstone has been crucified for citing.)

The next day, this snippet of Stan’s comments were splashed over the pages of scab rags like the Evening StandardJewish Chronicle and the Daily Mail. On Twitter, local Tory MP Greg Hands demanded action be taken against Stan and followed up with a letter to Steve Cowan, Labour’s leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council. Then, on April 21, a letter – which began with the warning that its content was “Strictly private and confidential”– informed our comrade that he was dismissed for the nebulous crime of having “brought the Council into disrepute”, a charge that was upheld when comrade Keable was dismissed a few weeks later after a hearing (“Disrepute” in who’s eyes? How does this verifiable 1930s episode bring shame on today’s Hammersmith and Fulham Council?)

To make matters worse, he was also let down by union Unison, which advised him to apologise instead of fighting the charges. When he refused that advise, they informed him that they would not represent him.

The logical implications of a ruling like this are deeply worrying:

  • Comrades should read the full article of this exacting Weekly Worker commentary by Tony Greenstein (who defended Stan at the hearing), but one of the points he makes there is particularly worthwhile highlighting. The Council’s justifications for its actions state that Stain “failed to avoid” putting himself in ‘discredit’s way’, as it were, not only by “making the comments” that were splashed all over the rightwing media, but also by “attending [the JVL] counter-demonstration”! In other words, a part of Stan’s culpability lies in the fact that he attended this demonstration – he could have been Sphinx-like in his inscrutability on the day and still have breached the Council’s strictures simply by being present at the JVL event.
  • This is made explicit later in the letter where – incredibly – we are told that “in attending a counter-demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on March 26 2018, Stan Keable knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the council’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the council’s code of conduct”! (Our emphasis) There is some slippery use of language here. Stan certainly aired his views on the March 26 actions, but the sensitive issue of Nazi-Zionist collaboration is not a viewpoint. It is a historical fact that people can have different interpretations of – but it did happen.
  • Apparently however, citing this concrete historical fact equates to “offensive comments” according to Hammersmith and Fulham Council. And anything deemed to be “offensive” is – literally – unsayable.  The infamous Berufsverbot was the name for given to a system under German law of automatic prohibition of entry into some professions. Originally introduced by the Nazis, it was widely used in West Germany after a 1972 decree to ban people with “radical” views from employment in the German civil service. (A wide category that included teachers, for example.) Although touted as a response to the reactionary armed actions of the miniscule Red Army Faction, it was used far more widely to deny employment to thousands of leftists.

Are we moving towards norm where it will be demanded of all job applicants: “Are you now, or have you ever been, an anti-Zionist?”

Read Stan’s ‘Open Letter’ and donate to the fund for the legal costs he will incur challenging his sacking. On the latter, he writes:

“Unison has withdrawn support because I rejected the bad advice of their regional organiser to plead guilty, throwing away the right to demonstrate and to freedom of speech – so I need funds for a barrister and potential legal costs to challenge my political victimisation at an employment tribunal, as well as for campaigning for reinstatement.

“My dismissal extends the McCarthyite witch-hunt against Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party to the area of employment. Don’t let me be the first of many political sackings.

“Please give generously. Any surplus funds will be passed to Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW) for campaigning.”

PLEASE CONTRIBUTE HERE. 

The case of Stan Keable: No criticism permitted

Tony Greenstein reports on the case of LPM secretary Stan Keable, whose employer is threatening to dismiss him for comments made in a private conversation

On March 27, the day after he attended the Jewish Voice for Labour counter-demonstration outside Parliament, Stan Keable, secretary of Labour Against the Witchhunt, was suspended from his job because of comments he made in a conversation with a Zionist demonstrator.

Last week I represented Stan at his disciplinary hearing, despite not being from his branch, because Unison’s London regional organiser, Steve Terry, refused to give Stan any support. In a letter dated May 8, Terry stated that because Stan would not accept his advice, Unison was withdrawing its support. He had recommended that Stan apologise for his comments, apologise and plead for mercy. In other words, he was advocating surrender.

Last week I posted an article on my own blog explaining both the background to the case and the role of Terry, who is a rightwing Labour councillor in Walthamstow and now I have received an email from Beth Bickerstaffe, Director of Unison’s executive office, saying that a complaint of serious misconduct has been made against me. I have been requested to take down my post and not to refer to Terry on social media or elsewhere!

The demonstration that Stan attended was organised by two Zionist groups, the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council. This was their first ever ‘anti-racist’ demonstration. When it came to confronting the British Union of Fascists at Cable Street in 1936, the Board of Deputies recommended that Jews stay indoors and keep their heads down. This was also its message when the National Front and British National Party began organizing in the 1970s and 80s. The Board of Deputies in particular has but one concern: defending the Israeli state.

This must have been the first anti-racist demonstration that the Protestant supremacist Democratic Unionist Party has ever attended. We even had our old friend, Norman Tebbit, there. Tebbit, who was previously best known for having devised the ‘cricket test’ to ascertain whether Pakistani and Indian immigrants should be regarded as British, is apparently also concerned with ‘anti-Semitism’.

As Stan went around handing out leaflets, he got into a conversation about the holocaust with a Zionist and explained that it was not only caused by anti-Semitism (it is obvious that this is correct – it began with the extermination of the disabled, for instance). Stan also explained that Zionism held the view that Jews did not belong in the countries of their birth and because of that the Zionist movement had collaborated with the Nazis, who also wanted them out of Germany.

BBC Newsnighteditor David Grossman secretly recorded the conversation and the result of this quite innocuous conversation was headlines in papers like The Evening Standard and Jewish Chronicleand that well-known anti-racist paper, the Daily Mail. The next day local Tory MP Greg Hands sent out a tweet demanding action against Stan and he followed this up with a letter to Steve Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stan’s employer, demanding action.

Stan was suspended for making “offensive comments” likely to be in breach of the Equalities Act 2010. These comments apparently “have the potential to bring the council into disrepute”. The latter is a catch-all charge, plumbed from the depths of McCarthyism.

Freedom of speech

You don’t have to be a follower of Voltaire or to have read John Stuart Mill’s On liberty to understand that inherent in freedom of speech is the right to offend or shock. If one cannot discuss one’s opinions without a servile member of BBC Newsnight’s thought police recording you, then what is free speech worth?

It is no surprise that Stephen Cowan, Blairite leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, should seek to effect Stan’s dismissal for daring to voice a dissenting opinion. After all, it is received wisdom amongst our rulers (but precious few others) that Zionism is a good thing, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and kosher pigs fly. To dare to voice a contrary opinion on Zionism – the movement responsible for slaughtering dozens of Palestinians this very week on the Gaza border with Israel – risks incurring the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ and offending all manner of diversity and equality policies.

As Jodie Ginsberg wrote in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the murder of a Danish filmmaker by jihadists, “the right to free speech means nothing without the right to offend. If all you have the right to do is to utter platitudes, then free speech is meaningless.”

Of course, Ginsberg was referring o offending Muslims and that is acceptable, but when Livingstone said that Hitler “supported Zionism”, he was merely speaking an uncomfortable truth. Zionism is the ideology of a state that has led to millions of refugees, thousands of deaths and a series of never-ending wars. It is a fact that during the holocaust the Zionists even opposed the rescue of Jews if their destination was not to be Palestine. As Ben Gurion famously said in a speech to Mapai’s central committee on December 9 1938,

If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the history of the people of Israel. 1)T Segev The seventh million London 2000, p28

On August 10 1933 the German Zionist Federation and the Palestinian Jewish Agency signed an economic trade agreement, Ha’avara, with the Nazi state, that helped destroy the Jewish-led international boycott of Nazi Germany.

As Zionist historian Lucy Dawidowicz wrote, on January 28 1935 Reinhardt Heydrich, deputy leader of the SS, issued a directive stating: “the activity of the Zionist- oriented youth organisations that are engaged in the occupational restructuring of the Jews for agriculture and manual trades prior to their emigration to Palestine lies in the interest of the National Socialist state’s leadership.” These organisations were therefore “not to be treated with that strictness that it is necessary to apply to the members of the so-called German-Jewish organisations (assimilationists)” 2)L Dawidowicz War against the Jews London 1991, p118; and F Nicosia Zionism and anti- Semitism in Nazi Germany Cambridge 2008, p119. Even Zionist historian David Cesarani noted that “the efforts of the Gestapo are oriented to promoting Zionism as much as possible and lending support to its efforts to further emigration”.3)D Cesarani The final solution Basingstoke 2016, p96

Stan was also accused of breaching the Equality Act because he said that, according to Zionism, “Jews are not acceptable here”.

Perhaps Lucien Wolf, a leading member of the Conjoint Foreign Committee of British Jews, was also an anti-Semite when he wrote a letter to James de Rothschild on August 31 1916 expressing his fears that:

the Zionists do not merely propose to form and establish a Jewish nationality in Palestine, but that they claim all the Jews as forming at the present moment a separate and dispossessed nationality, for which it is necessary to find an organic political centre, because they are and must always be aliens in the lands in which they now dwell and, more especially, because it is ‘an absolute self delusion’ to believe that any Jew can be at once ‘English by nationality and Jewish by faith’. I have spent most of my life in combating these very doctrines, when presented to me in the form of anti-Semitism, and I can only regard them as the more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism. ((Reproduced in B Destani (ed) The Zionist movement and the foundation of Israel 1839- 1972 Cambridge 2004, Vol 1, p72

Equality Act 2010

The allegation contained in Hammersmith and Fulham’s disciplinary investigation was that Stan had breached the Equality Act 2010. It is difficult to believe that trained ‘human resources’ professionals can come up with such nonsense. One wonders whether the allegation ever passed the eye of a lawyer in the council.

The suggestion that debating an issue such as Zionism is a breach of the Equality Act is for the birds. The introduction to the act is quite clear. Its purpose is:

to reform and harmonise equality law … to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct … to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.

There is nothing in the act about restricting freedom of speech or disciplining people who have views which are unpopular with Britain’s yellow press or its obsequious journalists. The key paragraph in the charges against Stan stated:

“The question as to whether or not Stan Keable’s comments breach the Equalities Act may hinge on an interpretation of what constitutes ‘belief’ under the terms of the act … One of these [protected] characteristics is “religion and belief”. Zionism is not a religion, although it is closely related to Judaism, but it is a belief in the right of the Jewish people to have a nation-state in the ‘Holy Land’, their original homeland. Legal advice, obtained as part of this investigation, states that case law has established that the definition of belief can extend to political beliefs. If Zionism constitutes a ‘belief’ under the terms of the Equality Act then the statements by Stan Keable that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis and that it accepted that “Jews are not acceptable here” might be deemed to have breached the Equality Act.”

Leave aside the nonsense about Zionism being “closely related to Judaism” or that Israel/Palestine is the “original homeland” of the Jews (a popular anti-Semitic misconception of evangelical Christians, who wanted to expel the Jews) there is a fundamental flaw in the above passage, which any child of above-average intelligence should be able to spot.

Zionism probably is a philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act. But then so is anti-Zionism. However, it is not the protected characteristics of those Stan was arguing with which are relevant, but those of Stan! Stan is not their employer! Just because someone might be classified as having a protected characteristic in certain situations – mainly employment – does not mean that if you disagrees with, for example, a gay person you are therefore guilty of discrimination!

‘Protected characteristics’ are not a free-floating cause of action: they are tied to specific acts, such as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The definition of direct discrimination (section 13.1) says: “(i) A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.”

It should be obvious to anyone – though clearly not to those leading Hammersmith and Fulham’s investigation – that debating a topic in a public space does not infringe his adversaries’ protected characteristics. Put bluntly, debate is not discrimination. No-one is being discriminated against when it is stated that the Nazis and Zionists collaborated. Neither was Stan in any contractual or employment relationship with his adversaries.

However, in suspending and seeking to dismiss Stan, the council is almost certainly breaching the Equality Act, because it is Stan whom they are discriminating against on the grounds of his belief. The failure to understand this simple but obvious point is quite staggering.

There is no single definition of what constitutes a religious or philosophical belief, but the case of ‘Grainger plc and others v Nicholson’ set out some guidelines. The belief must be:

  • genuinely held;
  • not an opinion;
  • in relation to a weight and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • of a certain level of cogency, seriousness, coherence and importance;
  • worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity, and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.

If Stan Keable were to be dismissed, then almost certainly he would have been directly discriminated against because of his philosophical belief: anti-Zionism. In addition to being unfairly dismissed, he would also have suffered a detriment.

No demonstrations!

The council’s investigation report (paragraph 5.6) stated:

“in attending the counter-demonstration at Westminster on March 26 and in making the comments that subsequently appeared on social media, Mr Keable has failed to avoid any conduct outside of work which may discredit himself and the council.”

In other words, Stan’s offence was, in part at least, attending a demonstration! Under ‘recommendations’ (paragraph 7.1) we have this little gem – the product of the same bureaucratic mindset that diligently produced ID cards that were nigh impossible to forge in Nazi-occupied Netherlands (thus condemning thousands of Jews to death):

“That, in attending a counter- demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on March 26 2018, Stan Keable knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the council’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the council’s code of conduct (‘Working with integrity’ and ‘Working with the media’).”

Have you ever heard such a pathetic, cringing, fawning formulation? That in attending a demonstration Stan “knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views …”!

What kind of person is capable of formulating this nonsense? Whoever wrote this drivel should be sent on a prolonged course on basic civil liberties, the Human Rights Act, the Equality Act – and, for good measure, another course explaining why protest is legitimate in a democracy.

We should be under no illusion that the purpose of the false ‘anti- Semitism’ campaign of groups like Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement – where people are made to feel guilty about saying a word out of place, at the very time that unarmed Palestinians in Gaza are being gunned down in cold blood – is to make people afraid that they might say something ‘anti- Semitic’. The McCarthyite campaign of Israel’s propagandist organisations – such as Luke Akehurst’s We Believe in Israel, is to exert a chilling effect on democratic debate.

If this report is accepted by Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Stan is dismissed, then mere attendance at a demonstration will be a potential breach of one’s employment contract. This is one of the reasons why I have openly criticised Unison’s appalling London regional organiser, Steve Terry. He has in effect accepted that attendance at a demonstration and expressing ones views constitutes a disciplinary offence.

Clearly the fool who drew up the council’s report is unaware of schedule 1 of the 1998 Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.

Article 10, ‘Freedom of expression’, states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

Article 11, ‘Freedom of assembly and association’, begins: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” Closely allied to these is article 9 on ‘Freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.

If it is disappointing that a Labour council is prepared to trample over the most basic human rights in order to appease the Israel lobby, then the reaction of Unison in the form of its London organiser is no better. Steve Terry has been obstructive and incapable of acknowledging the issues at stake. He seriously suggested that unless Stan apologised he would only attend the disciplinary hearing as a “silent representative”. The poverty of intellect of Terry is equal to that of his council counterparts. Clearly he does not understand that Unison officials are paid to represent and support their members.

There is little doubt that in the event of Stan being dismissed he will win any subsequently case, because not even the most conformist and timid tribunal will accept that attending a demonstration and airing one’s views in public constitute a breach of the Equality Act or one’s contract. What a sad state of affairs that Steve Cowan and a Labour Council do not understand this and, even worse, that Unison has failed to support one of its members who is subject to such a disgraceful attack by his employer.

 

References

1 T Segev The seventh million London 2000, p28

On August 10 1933 the German Zionist Federation and the Palestinian Jewish Agency signed an economic trade agreement, Ha’avara, with the Nazi state, that helped destroy the Jewish-led international boycott of Nazi Germany.

As Zionist historian Lucy Dawidowicz wrote, on January 28 1935 Reinhardt Heydrich, deputy leader of the SS, issued a directive stating: “the activity of the Zionist- oriented youth organisations that are engaged in the occupational restructuring of the Jews for agriculture and manual trades prior to their emigration to Palestine lies in the interest of the National Socialist state’s leadership.” These organisations were therefore “not to be treated with that strictness that it is necessary to apply to the members of the so-called German-Jewish organisations (assimilationists)” ((L Dawidowicz War against the Jews London 1991, p118; and F Nicosia Zionism and anti- Semitism in Nazi Germany Cambridge 2008, p119

2 L Dawidowicz War against the Jews London 1991, p118; and F Nicosia Zionism and anti- Semitism in Nazi Germany Cambridge 2008, p119. Even Zionist historian David Cesarani noted that “the efforts of the Gestapo are oriented to promoting Zionism as much as possible and lending support to its efforts to further emigration”.((D Cesarani The final solution Basingstoke 2016, p96
3 D Cesarani The final solution Basingstoke 2016, p96

Stan was also accused of breaching the Equality Act because he said that, according to Zionism, “Jews are not acceptable here”.

Perhaps Lucien Wolf, a leading member of the Conjoint Foreign Committee of British Jews, was also an anti-Semite when he wrote a letter to James de Rothschild on August 31 1916 expressing his fears that:

the Zionists do not merely propose to form and establish a Jewish nationality in Palestine, but that they claim all the Jews as forming at the present moment a separate and dispossessed nationality, for which it is necessary to find an organic political centre, because they are and must always be aliens in the lands in which they now dwell and, more especially, because it is ‘an absolute self delusion’ to believe that any Jew can be at once ‘English by nationality and Jewish by faith’. I have spent most of my life in combating these very doctrines, when presented to me in the form of anti-Semitism, and I can only regard them as the more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism. ((Reproduced in B Destani (ed) The Zionist movement and the foundation of Israel 1839- 1972 Cambridge 2004, Vol 1, p72

In defence of Stan Keable!

On March 27, the day after he attended the counter demonstration in Parliament Square, organised by Jewish Voice for Labour, Labour Party Marxists secretary Stan Keable was suspended from work by Hammersmith and Fulham council. The suspension letter states that there are “serious allegation(s) which, if substantiated, could constitute gross misconduct under the council’s disciplinary procedure” and which “could result in your dismissal from the council’s service”.

Stan has not yet been informed of the exact nature of the alleged “inappropriate comments”. However, it seems very likely that they relate to a short video clip tweeted by BBC Newsnight editor David Grossman. It seems that Grossman – without asking for permission – filmed Stan on his mobile phone while he was talking to a supporter of the anti-Corbyn demonstration.

Like other LPM comrades, Stan had approached the Zionists with the intention of engaging with them. He handed out Labour Against the Witchhunt leaflets and spoke to numerous people. Most discussions were friendly, if a little one-sided: “People on the ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration were a mixture of Tories, Labour Party members and ex-members,” says Stan. “They told me they were there because of the ‘huge problem’ of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, but when I asked if they themselves had experienced discrimination, they could not give me any concrete examples.”

The conversation in question was several minutes long “and the guy and I shook hands afterwards”. The 105 seconds that Grossman has published – again, without even asking for permission – are entitled: “Anti-Semitism didn’t cause the holocaust and Zionists collaborated with the Nazis”. As we show in the transcript below, this is seriously misleading. But, as you would expect from such a headline in the current climate, the short clip has caused quite a stir on social media.

Outraged Progress leader Richard Angell has called for Stan to be expelled from the Labour Party, only to be rather disappointed when somebody pointed out that he had, in fact, already been booted out under Labour’s witch-hunting rule 2.1.4.B. This automatically bars from membership anybody “who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party” and has led to the expulsion of dozens, if not hundreds, of Marxists and socialists, including supporters (or alleged supporters) of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and  Socialist Appeal, as well as Labour Party Marxists.

Angell then demanded that Jeremy Corbyn should “make clear to him that he never wants to see him in a Labour sticker ever again and that he does not speak for the Labour leadership. Corbyn could tweet at him, write to him and make it clear beyond any doubt.”

Somebody then alerted local Tory MP Greg Hands, who sprang into Twitter action, demanding that Hammersmith and Fulham “investigate and urge action. Enough is enough.” And they quickly did his bidding. Less than 18 hours after the demo, Stan was suspended by the council (which is run by Labour, incidentally).

Let us take a closer look at the short clip then. We see Stan talking to a man who is, rather outrageously, trying to “make a connection” between Corbyn’s throwaway comment about the ‘anti-Semitic mural’ and the holocaust: “Are you saying it’s unreasonable to extrapolate that the mural reflects tropes that have existed for hundreds of years and that have really resulted in the anti-Semitism that led to the holocaust?”

Stan replies: “I don’t think anti-Semitism caused the holocaust, no. The Nazis used anti-Semitism …”

The man then interrupts him: “Yes, it was anti-Semitism that caused the holocaust! Are you really saying it wasn’t anti-Semitic?”

Stan replies: “No, I’m not saying that. Of course the holocaust was anti-Semitic. The problem I’ve got is that the Zionist movement at the time collaborated with them …” He then gets shouted down, while trying to elaborate that “the Zionist movement from the beginning” accepted the idea that Jews did not belong in Europe.

There are a number of points to make about this conversation and the reaction to it.

First of all, Stan’s comments were clearly part of a longer discussion and are taken out of context. Had he been properly interviewed or written an article, he could have explained more fully what he was trying to say. Of course, anti-Semitism by itself did not cause the holocaust. It existed long before the Nazis, eg, as promoted by the medieval Catholic church. The Nazi, at first, used anti-Semitism as a propaganda tool to link communists and social democrats together with finance capital. Both the labour movement and banking were supposedly dominated by Jews. There was an element of truth here – there were many Jewish communists and social democrats and more than a few Jewish capitalists. But, according to the Nazis, they were united in a world-wide conspiracy to rule the world. A form of social madness that led the Nazis first to ban the Communist Party (February 1933), then the trade unions (May 1933), then the social democrats (July 1933), then, in September 1935, this same ideology saw them introduce the Nuremburg race laws and, on November 9-10 1938, a full scale assault on Jewish owned businesses.

It was, however, Stan’s comment that “the Zionist movement at the time collaborated with [the Nazis]” which has really got the right incensed. It was for this he has been labelled a “holocaust denier” online. You could criticise the slight factual inaccuracy contained within the words “at the time”, which implies that Stan meant during the time of the holocaust. But his attempts to clarify that he was talking about the Ha’avara agreement of 1933 between the Zionist movement and the Nazis (which broke the non-Zionist Jewish-led call for an economic boycott of the Nazi regime) was simply shouted down. This notorious agreement, however, is a historical fact.

Most seriously though is the culture of fear around the question of anti-Semitism displayed by this episode. Stan’s suspension letter states that, “suspension is a neutral act and does not in itself constitute disciplinary action or imply guilt”. But even the briefest look at the clip should show the leaders of Hammersmith and Fulham council that there is nothing contained within those 105 seconds that could “bring the council into disrepute” or constitute “potentially a breach of the Equality Act 2010”.

The right has been incredibly successful in creating a moral panic. By manipulating, by misrepresenting, by imputing, by lying the left can be charged with peddling a line which is supposedly anti-Semitic. Presumptions of innocence go out of the window in such a toxic atmosphere. Stan will now have to prove that he is not an anti-Semite or a holocaust-denier – not just to his employer, but also the thousands of people who have seen the reports and comments about the short clip (which has also been published by the Daily Mail – again without anybody approaching Stan, despite the fact he was clearly identified online).

Marxists believe in open, free and robust debate. We believe such debate is absolutely crucial if we ever want to see a working class confident enough in defending and arguing its ideas to become the ruling class in society.

Some say it would have been better to shut up when there might be a camera pointing at you. Of course, we have been advised to keep quiet about plenty of other things too: our open criticism of Jeremy Corbyn right from the day he won the leadership contest; our transparent reporting of meetings of the left; our analysis of disagreements between politicians in the Labour Party. You name it, we’ve been publishing openly about it.

This is also reflected in the behaviour of our comrades at events: we do not shy away from debates, discussions. Even if that leaves us open to misinterpretation, wilfully or otherwise. That comes with the territory and there is only one way to avoid it: saying nothing at all. Something we are most certainly not going to do.

_____

This article was updated on April 2 to more accurately reflect the recording of the discussion at issue.

Expulsion from the Labour Party: No case to answer

Stan Keable was expelled last week from the Labour Party because of his association with Labour Party Marxists, of which he is secretary. This is his reply to Labour’s head of disputes

Dear Mr Sam Matthews

In reply to your October 2 email, and the attached letter and “evidence”, I am writing for the following purposes.

1. To reject the false and malicious allegation against Labour Party Marxists and against myself, by persons unnamed, of anti-Semitism, and to challenge the validity of the so-called “evidence” supplied, in that it in no way substantiates that allegation.

2. To reject your assertion that the “expressed aims and principles” of Labour Party Marxists, of which I am secretary, are “incompatible” with membership of the Labour Party, and to challenge the validity of the so-called “evidence” supplied, in that it in no way substantiates that assertion.

3. To demand to know who made the allegation of anti-Semitism against LPM, and the precise wording of the allegation.

4. To demand the immediate rejection of the allegation of anti-Semitism as unfounded, because (a) the “evidence” provided transparently fails to substantiate the allegation: ie, there is no case to answer; and (b) because the allegation is obviously a continuation of the malicious rightwing smear campaign, promoted by the Israeli state, which maliciously brands as anti-Semitic all criticism of the politics of Zionism and all opposition to Israel’s apartheid-type laws and ongoing settler-colonisation of Palestinian land; and (c) because the ready acceptance by the governance and legal unit of such obviously malicious allegations brings the Labour Party into disrepute.

5. To demand the immediate withdrawal of your decision to end my Labour Party membership as an invalid decision, because (a) no case has been made to substantiate your bald assertion of “incompatibility” between the aims of LPM and the aims of the Labour Party; (b) contrary to natural justice, no right of appeal has been offered (only the right to “challenge the validity of the evidence”); (c) instant dismissal from membership without due process brings the Labour Party into disrepute.

The so-called “evidence” attached to your letter consists of published materials which contain not one iota of anything which can reasonably be construed as anti-Semitism, or as “incompatible” with Labour Party membership. Indeed you have not indicated any words, phrases or statements in the “evidence” which might substantiate the allegation of anti-Semitism or the claim of incompatibility with Labour Party membership. In short, there is no case to answer.

Anti-Semitism?

As a lifelong communist and internationalist, anti-imperialist and anti-racist, I find the charge of anti-Semitism risible. As a child I was proud to hear my parents’ anecdotes of how, in the 1930s, they formed part of the ‘underground railroad’ in east London, giving refuge in their home to illegal Jewish and socialist refugees escaping from Nazi persecution in Germany. In the 1960s I was proud of my brother’s courageous role when he risked everything to carry ANC propaganda material into apartheid South Africa as one of Ronnie Kasrils’ London Recruits.

The ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign, using the contrived definition concocted by the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance, and maliciously alleging anti-Jewish racism where none exists, is designed to deflect criticism of Israel and its role as US imperialism’s chief ally and collaborator in the Middle East. Its conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism misuses anti-racist sentiment to protect the real racism of the Israeli state against Palestinian Arabs. Complicity with Israel’s anti-Semitism smear campaign brings the Labour Party into disrepute.

Labour Party Marxists does not consider the existing rules of the Labour Party, including the existing version of clause four, to be written in stone. We very much welcome the establishment of the democracy commission and the opportunity to engage with others aiming to change the rules for the better. The existing 1994 Blairite version of clause four, which you baldly assert is “incompatible” with the LPM’s aims and principles, is itself the product of several revisions since the adoption of the original version in 1918.

Discussion of further proposed changes does not constitute “incompatibility” with party membership. Indeed, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy at its 2017 AGM set up a working group (of which I am a member) to draft a rule change proposal for a revised, 21st century, socialist clause four.

LPM was launched by a group of Labour Party members in 2011, following Labour’s 2010 general election defeat, in response to the invitation by Peter Hain, then chair of the national policy forum, to members and party units to submit their views on his consultation paper, ‘Refounding Labour – a party for the new generation’. Our submission to the consultation, ‘Refound Labour as a real party of labour’, was duly submitted, and published in Labour Party Marxists No1 (autumn 2011), which also includes our ‘Aims and principles’. It is still available on the LPM website. Peter Hain thanked us for our contribution, and, of course, no question of our ‘Aims and principles’ breaching the rules was raised then or since. It is unreasonable to do so now.

Rule 2.1.4.B

Your October 2 letter quotes rule 2.1.4.B in support of your assertion of “incompatibility”.

The first criterion in this rule is so arbitrary that its selective use to expel members of LPM or any individual would amount to unfair and malicious political discrimination. Your interpretation of the rule is clearly mistaken. Do you really propose to expel all members who support “a political organisation other than an official Labour group or unit of the party”? That would mean expelling, for example, all members of Progress, Labour First, Compass, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Labour Representation Committee and Momentum, to name just a few.

The second criterion for exclusion from membership in this rule – “supporting any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate” – does not apply to LPM. On the contrary, LPM has a record of criticising those left groups which do so, such as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

LPM believes that the Labour Party will be greatly strengthened not by McCarthyite red-baiting to exclude Marxists and socialists unacceptable to Labour’s right wing, but by winning the allegiance of all socialists and campaigning for the affiliation to Labour of all socialist groups and all trade unions, and making the party – in the words of Keir Hardie – “a great movement for socialism”.

Stan Keable
Unison delegate to Hammersmith CLP