A Jewish anti-Zionist who has been suspended from Labour is suing the party’s general secretary for what she says was a breach of data protection laws.
Jackie Walker told The Electronic Intifada on Monday that her case was only one of many such breaches made by the party bureaucracy in the UK over the last year.
Her lawyer Martin Howe wrote to The Electronic Intifada: “Jackie Walker has faced a barrage of hurtful, threatening and nasty abuse since the private details of her investigation by the Labour Party over alleged anti-Semitism was leaked to the press before even she knew of her suspension by the party.”
He said the breach “led directly to her being prejudged and unfairly cast as a racist before she was given any opportunity to tell her side of the story.”
Walker on Monday launched a crowd-funding campaign to cover legal costs.
She said she hoped the case would force an “immediate revamping of the Compliance Unit and the way it operates.”
The party has reportedly admitted that one percent of its eligible membership – approximately 5,000 people – was disqualified from voting in the summer’s leadership election campaign.
But according to the newspaper Morning Star, some estimates say the true figure could be as high as 5 or 10 percent.
Weeks before Corbyn decisively won re-election as party leader in September, his allies expressed concern about a “rigged purge” aimed at his supporters.
For most of 2016, Corbyn has faced an exaggerated and in some cases fabricated media narrative about an “anti-Semitism crisis” in the Labour Party.
Walker was briefly suspended from the party in May after decontextualized comments from what she had thought was a private Facebook conversation were sent by a pro-Israel group to The Jewish Chronicle.
Without investigation, the Labour Party suspended Walker as soon as “the JC brought her comments to the party’s attention,” the paper boasted.
No case to answer
It is this “unfair” briefing of the press which forms the crux of Walker’s legal case against McNicol, she said. She first found out about her suspension from press reports.
After a grassroots campaign pressed McNicol to rescind Walker’s suspension, the party found that the long-time anti-racism activist had no case to answer and she was readmitted.
But she was suspended again earlier this month, after a member of the Jewish Labour Movement executive filmed questions she asked at a training on anti-Semitism at the Labour Party conference in September.
Walker said she could not work with the politicized anti-Semitism definition the JLM promoted at the training, and said it would be good if all peoples who have experienced holocausts could be recognized by Holocaust Memorial Day.
The video was then leaked to the right-wing newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
Another media storm ensued and Walker was suspended from Labour and removed from her role as vice chair of the left-wing Corbyn support organization Momentum.
In September, Morning Star columnist Charley Allan was suspended from the party. At first he was given no reason why, but after he pressed McNicol and his staff, the Compliance Unit cited four Tweets.
In one of those Tweets he wrote “#AntizionismIsNotAntisemitic.”
In another, he wrote: “Confused by #LabourCoup? Wonder why Blairite hooligans would rather smash up @UKLabour than let @jeremycorbyn win?”
He attached a meme of Tony Blair’s notorious quote about not wanting “to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform.”
As one of many members campaigning against unjust suspensions in the party, Allan has called for the current general secretary to step down: “To wipe the slate properly clean, McNicol must go.”
Allan told The Electronic Intifada on Monday that “Jackie’s legal challenge is important because it looks like this is the only way she’s going to get any justice.”
He said that “this is just another example of the right wing using false claims of anti-semitism as a weapon against the left.”
“We need a full investigation into the purge,” he said. “With general secretary Iain McNicol personally abusing his powers by suspending us all without any hearings, his position is now untenable.”
In perhaps the most stark example of the party machinery’s over-zealous policing of speech, one Labour member was suspended for writing on Facebook, “I fucking love the Foo Fighters,” a famous rock band.