Lift Tony Greenstein's suspension

Submitted by AWL on 6 April, 2016 - 1:48 Author: Ira Berkovic

Tony Greenstein, a socialist based in Brighton, was unilaterally suspended from holding office or representing the Labour Party on 18 March.

His suspension letter alleged a breach of Labour Party rules, citing "comments you are alleged to have made", which will be investigated internally. The letter does not state what the comments actually were.

A Daily Telegraph article has claimed that the comments mentioned were those made by Greenstein in a blog article, comparing Israeli school textbooks which denounce mixed Jewish-Arab relationships as akin to the Nazi Nuremberg Laws. 

Greenstein's suspension takes place in the context of both a witch-hunt against the Labour far-left by the right wing, which, despite the election of Jeremy Corbyn, still controls much of the party apparatus, and a controversy over anti-semitism within the left.

Tony Greenstein is himself Jewish. He has been an often strident critic of anti-semitism, including on the left. He also adheres to an extreme version of that strand of far-left politics on Israel/Palestine which exceptionalises Israel as a uniquely evil state and Jewish nationalism as a uniquely reactionary nationalism. He has long been hostile to Workers Liberty on issues to do with Israel.

His comments, if they are indeed the subject of the allegation were rhetorically wild. They were not in and of themselves anti-semitic, but that is not to defend them: Greenstein will be well aware of the way in which anti-semites, including left anti-semites, often hyperbolically and cynically compare Israel to Nazi Germany, in a deliberate attempt to instrumentalise the collective trauma of the memory of the Holocaust against Jews.

His comments feed into that discourse. Nevertheless, that does not justify his suspension, the manner of which is an affront to any basic notion of justice. Those accused of a misdemeanour have, at the very least, a right be informed by their accuser what it is!

If it were the intention of the Labour machine to confront alleged anti-semitism through such suspensions, they have failed. A unilateral suspension on the basis of an unspecified allegation serves no purpose whatsoever other than to assert the power of the Labour Party bureaucracy.

Tony Greenstein's suspension should be lifted. If a complaint has been against him, he should be informed of exactly what it is and given the opportunity to defend himself according to due process.

There is a real need to confront anti-semitism, both in wider society and within the labour movement and the left. That need is not served by this sort of bureaucratic action.

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