Activism and BDS Beat 2 July 2021
Britain’s Labour Party tried to pressure The Electronic Intifada to alter an article we published last week with an apparent legal threat.
The 25 June article by Asa Winstanley reveals that two Labour officers banned a local party branch from debating a motion calling for sanctions on Israel.
It shows that Kim Bolton, chair of Hove and Portslade Constituency Labour Party, on the south coast of England, and Labour South East organizer Scott Horner, decided that discussing the motion “would undermine the party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space” for Jewish members.
Bolton also concluded that a debate on sanctions against Israel may lead to “anti-Semitic behavior.”
Winstanley emailed Labour’s press office and the South East regional office where Horner works the day before The Electronic Intifada published his article to ask for comment. Both emails were ignored.
Demands and threats
But on Monday, Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit emailed The Electronic Intifada’s general address with a message marked “URGENT – For the Attention of Asa Winstanley.”
The email claimed that it was “neither necessary, nor in the public interest” for The Electronic Intifada “to name and publish the photograph of Mr. Horner and the name of Ms. Bolton.”
Labour claimed that “as a result of your article” being passed around by activists “it has been necessary to limit Mr. Horner’s duties as an organizer owing to concerns for his safety.”
It did not explain what these “concerns” were or how his duties have supposedly been limited.
The party asserted that “the source material you rely on clearly constitutes the personal data of Mr. Horner and Ms. Bolton, being email exchanges that they would have a reasonable expectation would remain private.”
In fact, Winstanley’s article quotes extracts from the Hove and Portslade party branch minutes, two pages of which you can read below.
Nonetheless, the party alleged that the “continuing publication of the article in this form” breaches the UK’s Data Protection Act.
“We therefore require that you immediately amend your article to remove all personal data pertaining to Mr. Horner and Ms. Bolton, and confirm that you have done so by return,” the party stated.
The email implied that legal action could follow if The Electronic Intifada did not submit to the Labour Party’s demand.
The Electronic Intifada’s reply
I replied to the Labour Party on Thursday, explaining that as director of The Electronic Intifada I had no intention of making any changes to Winstanley’s article unless it was shown to contain factual inaccuracies.
Notably, the email from the Governance and Legal Unit did not assert that there were any inaccuracies. It did not contest or dispute a single fact.
Still, I gave the party an additional opportunity to submit any information showing the article to be inaccurate, but I received no response by my deadline of Friday afternoon in London.
Winstanley’s article therefore remains unaltered.
I also explained to Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit that The Electronic Intifada is published in the United States, where our right to free speech and to conduct our work as journalists is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The Labour Party has no basis to “require” The Electronic Intifada to edit our articles to its liking, especially not for accurate reportage on the acts and decisions of party agents relating to matters of clear public interest.
It cannot be the case that Labour Party officers can misuse their power to silence members concerned about Palestinian human rights and then hide behind a shield of anonymity.
Democracy requires transparency and accountability.
I told the Labour Party that I consider its email to be a politically motivated attempt at censorship through legal intimidation, albeit on entirely spurious grounds.
Indeed, if the Labour Party under its current leader Keir Starmer is ready to engage in such heavy-handed tactics against the press while it is out of power, it is troubling to think what it might do against critics and independent media should it ever regain control of the British state.
The real Labour anti-Semitism
Sadly, however, this is all in keeping with the Labour Party’s zeal to crack down on speech it doesn’t like using whatever pretext may be at hand.
Particularly troubling is the false equation of calls for Israel to be held accountable for its crimes against Palestinians with anti-Jewish bigotry.
That is at the heart of the story Winstanley reported, evidently to the great irritation of party bureaucrats.
It is a point emphasized by Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist and Palestine solidarity activist, who also reported about Bolton and Horner suppressing the Israel sanctions debate.
“Exceptionalizing Jews in this way as especially vulnerable if Israeli war crimes are debated … is clearly and obviously anti-Semitic,” Greenstein says. “It assumes that Jews form one monolithic bloc.”
Bolton and Horner are “anti-Semitic for assuming that Jews are uniquely incapable of debating the question of Israel rationally,” Greenstein asserts.
For Greenstein, the right wing of the Labour Party is using Jews as a “moral alibi” to silence any questioning of British policy.
“But of course it’s not about Jews at all,” Greenstein writes. “It’s about British foreign policy in the Middle East which is based on Israel’s role as a strategic watchdog and its industrial-military complex.”
Crying anti-Semitism where none exists is the British establishment’s hammer to smash anyone who objects to Israel’s crimes against Palestinians and the UK’s role in them.
My message to the Labour Party managers, who are part of this establishment, is simple: We will keep doing our job of reporting on you. There is no chance that your attempts at intimidation will succeed.
Permalink Nestor Makhno replied on
Congratulations Ali for your reaction on these coward human rights violators and my congratulations for Asa Winstanley for his excellent research and article
Another example of genuine anti-Semitism
Permalink Tony Greenstein replied on
Thanks for the reference to my blog on this.
I am rather miffed that the GLU failed to send me an instruction to remove reference to these 2 anti-Semites. I can only assume that they thought I was too
I can only assume that being Jewish they thought I was too sensitive to read it!
Yet another example of anti-Semitism from those dedicated to 'rooting it out' of the Labour Party
Starmer is a self-confessed '
Permalink colan campbell replied on
Starmer is a self-confessed ' Zionist- without qualification ' who vilifies those who oppose Jewish racism in Israel. Please continue to report as you do with the support of all who value justice and the rule of law.
Poison your opponents' well
Permalink Michael Beykirch replied on
Poison your opponents' well when you're unable to deal with the substance of their arguments: a common ploy, a common fallacy. Thus, accuse them of antisemitism when you, owing to your own complicity, are unable to acknowledge Israeli crimes, let alone fight and condemn them.
Alas, people who resort to fallacies face an ugly dilemma. They either muddle their thoughts or, as scoundrels, take refuge in their deliberate garble.
Whichever horn of the dilemma Bolton and Horner need to grab proves irrelevant. I simply see two people with egg on their face. I understand why they, even with no legal rationale, want to protect us from these images.
Corning, New York
Permalink Jack T replied on
Well done to Asa and the Electronicintifada for resisting the threats from the Labour Party right wing. There is no doubt whatsoever that the LP is under Zionist control and is determined to support the oppressors rather than the oppressed in Palestine. As an ex LP member, suspended on trumped up charges, I am horrified that the LP is now controlled by racists.
Asa Winstanley's reporting on Labour
Permalink Thomas Suárez replied on
Bravo to Asa Winstanley for his superb and ACCURATE reporting, and bravo to Ali Abunimah for standing firm against Labour intimidation.
Labour Party tries to intimidate The Electronic Intifada
Permalink Mario Golden replied on
Right on. More power to you.
criticism of Israeli violations and anti-semitism
Permalink beth ann goldring replied on
I am forwarding a recent article by Marilyn Garson (who spent 2011-15 in Gaza and wrote the book Still Lives) on the difference between criticism of Israeli policy and anti-semitism. I believe it to be extraordinarily illuminating and helpful.
Thank you for your consideration
Permalink Annie McStravick replied on
This attempt at intimidation is outrageous, especially coming from a Party that is in terminal decline.
Labour Party tries to intimidate
Permalink Pat Mc Ginley replied on
The minority Blairite/pro-Israel lobby controls the majority in the Labour Party. The successful right-wing media demonising and toppling of Corbyn was led by state broadcaster BBC. Only a Labour Party with right-wing leadership, like Blair's New Labour, is allowed to govern. A government for the many not the few i.e. real democracy is impossible in this totally corrupt system based on greed, privilege, gross injustices against the poor, sick, vulnerable etc. The UK is effectively, a one-party state fraudulently disguised as a 'democracy'. All new laws must great royal assent and the monarch can dissolve Parliament. A republic based on real democracy - where monarchy is a self-financing tourist attraction - is the only realistic solution. Anything less will always end in bitter disappointment for the many good people working for a fair and just society.
Labour and thought control
Permalink Frank Dallas replied on
Orwell's gramophone mind is in control of Labour and the pusillanimity of the specious campaign against factitious anti-Semitism grows ever greater. It's as if we shouldn't criticise North Korea as it might make totalitarian communists feel unwelcome or uneasy. Of course, it isn't Jews who are disturbed by criticism of the State of Israel, but followers of Herzl. The confusion and contradictions, the collapsing into anti-Semitism while claiming to be working to defeat it are characteristic. What is crucial here is the status of Labour as a democratic party. In its funk, its pathetic fear of offending the B o D (which represents hardly anyone) or the CST, or some other cabal of tendentious peddlers of messianic entitlement, it has turned itself into a centralised dictatorship; members have no right to initiate discussion if the the leadership and the bureaucracy object. What can be expected from such a party in power? There has long been a tendency of this kind in Labour, but under Starmer it has become defining. The UK is now without a mainstream political party which stands for change in the direction of equality working alongside the organised workers' movement. Starmer has enunciated nothing about policy except his support for Israel. Not offending Israel Statists is the supreme doctrine and aim of Labour today. If the pollsters bothered to ask UK citizens whether they think Palestinians should enjoy equal rights with Israelis, what might the result be? There is no evidence that the British people support the occupation of the West Bank or the siege of Gaza; yet Labour stands full square behind Israel on both matters. Of course, this has nothing to do with Jews, or freedom or anti-racism but everything to do with Labour having lost all moral authority. It upholds racism. It apologises for oppression. It cannot do so and stand for justice. And the Data Protection Laws? It flaunts them daily in dealing with its own members. Rank, vile hypocrisy.
Permalink Jill Azzouzi replied on
As a muslim i feel VERY unsafe by this protection for jews yet its ok for islamophobia. Imagine not allowing a charity bike ride for muslim CHILDREN as its antisemitic. Its not antisemitic its flagrantly islamophobic. The law changed this week so i will be jailed if i help a drowning muslim in the sea. Remind you of anything???
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