A left-wing Jewish activist, Moshe Machover, has been expelled from the Labour Party. Although the formal reasons for his expulsion were alleged involvement in organisations that Labour’s HQ has decided do not align with the ‘aims and values’ of the Party, the letter informing Mr Machover of his expulsion also mentioned comments in an article, which Labour HQ considered an alleged breach of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Association) definition of antisemitism.
A fringe event of last week’s Labour conference saw the official launch of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) at a packed meeting in the Mercure Hotel on Brighton’s sea-front. The SKWAWKBOX was the first to break the news that the union Unite’s General Secretary, Len McCluskey, had put the organisation immediately on the map with his announcement that his union of well over a million members will formally affiliate with JVL. ASLEF’s Tosh McDonald also announced that he will ask his union to do the same.
Speaking to the SKWAWKBOX about his decision, McCluskey said:
The existence of JVL means Jewish members on the left of the party now have an organisation that represents their views – and that transforms the discussion into one of left vs right as it should be.
JVL has issued a strongly-worded statement regarding Mr Machover’s expulsion:
Jewish Voice for Labour is appalled at the summary expulsion of Moshe Machover from the Labour Party, and calls for his immediate reinstatement.
Moshe Machover is a highly respected Jewish historian and a life-long socialist, and was founder of the socialist party Matzpen in Israel in the early 1960s. The much-lauded new disciplinary Rule agreed at conference was, we are assured, designed to tackle racism and discrimination in the Party but is now being (mis)used as a McCarthyite tool. Our comrade has been accused, charged, prosecuted, judged and sentenced in one letter and without the necessity of a trial.
The letter informing Professor Machover of his expulsion refers to a complaint of antisemitism about an article he had written. The letter asserts that the content of the article fits the IHRA definition of antisemitism. As adopted by the Labour Party, this reads simply:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The Labour Party has not adopted the contentious set of ‘illustrations’ attached to the Definition, that attempt to spread the mantle of antisemitism over criticism of Israel.
We have studied the article published by Labour Party Marxists. It contains no attack on Jews; it is, rather, a scholarly analysis of Zionism, one that is well worth reading and debating. Zionism is an ideology (one also espoused by non-Jews) and as such must be open for study and debate.
This ill-founded accusation of antisemitism is not, however, the reason given for his summary expulsion. One must therefore seriously question why it was, quite improperly in our view, included in a formal letter of this type.
The grounds provided for his expulsion is of association with other organisations – Labour Party Marxists and the Communist Party of Great Britain. We are not aware that Labour Party Marxists is a proscribed organisation. Further we cannot see how writing for a journal, or speaking at meetings, all that is alleged, can justify expulsion, let alone summary expulsion. If this were the case, we would lose the current leader of our Party. We have been able to confirm that Mr. Machover is not, and has never been, a member of either of the cited organisations.
Jewish Voice for Labour also wishes to protest in the strongest terms the lack of due process in this case. The recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report place strong emphasis on a requirement that all measures and processes shall be carried out “in accordance with the principles of natural justice and proportionality.” We will stand by any Labour member who is treated in this way, even if we disagree with their politics. And we certainly stand with our Jewish comrade and longstanding campaigner for justice for all.
In the unlikely event that the Party persists in considering that Professor Machover has a case to answer, then the absolute minimum requirement is the application of due process, plus a full apology to Moshe Machover for its absence in the initiation of this case.
The SKWAWKBOX welcomes the adoption of the new rule strengthening party discipline on incidences of bigotry. However, it is absolutely essential that due process and principles of natural justice are central in the application of the rule and inseparable from it.
Several members of the NEC have told the SKWAWKBOX that, while pleased at the stronger rules, they feel it is crucial that clear and definitive guidance on the application of those rules is issued immediately by Shami Chakrabarti and the NEC to ensure that they are applied and enforced in ways compatible with the intent of Ms Chakrabarti and her team who drew up the wording that Conference overwhelmingly approved last week.
More than one NEC member expressed concerns that Labour’s rules can be opaque even to experienced members and that in such a critical area clarity is vital.
Add these concerns to the lack of trust on the part of many members in the Labour HQ ‘machine’ following the ‘purges’ that saw many members suspended or expelled in the run-up to recent leadership elections and the need for such definitive guidance to direct and constrain party staff and elected officers in the application of the new rules is clearly a matter of huge importance and urgency.
Whatever you think of Mr Machover’s comments and expulsion, surely few would argue that any disciplinary action should be conducted in a fully orderly, diligent and transparent way – and guidance from Ms Chakrabarti and/or the NEC must be considered a priority.
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