The Labour Party on Sunday expelled prominent Jewish anti-Zionist Tony Greenstein, citing his allegedly abusive language and his criticism of leading pro-Israel figures in the UK’s main opposition party.
A disciplinary panel expelled Greenstein for what it claimed was online abuse.
But Greenstein disputes this and says the real reason was that he has spoken out against the Israel lobby within the Labour Party.
“I expected it,” he told The Electronic Intifada after his expulsion.
He said that he had been “overwhelmed by the number of supportive messages, so I shall be fighting from outside” and would press for membership reinstatement.
Expelled for criticizing Israel lobby
Although the disciplinary panel that expelled Greenstein claims it was not because of his views, a Labour Party document seen by The Electronic Intifada suggests otherwise.
Written on behalf of the party’s National Executive Committee by party lawyer Thomas Ogg, the main thrust of the document is that Greenstein should be expelled for using the term “Zio,” which it contends is an anti-Semitic epithet.
But it also suggests Greenstein should be expelled for a blog post he wrote criticizing Louise Ellman – a Labour lawmaker with a long history of supporting Israel.
The article – written months after Labour suspended Greenstein in 2016 – described Ellman as an “apologist for Israel’s occupation forces” and a “supporter of Israeli child abuse.”
Greenstein told The Electronic Intifada on Monday that Ellman is “quite clearly complicit” with Israeli human rights abuses. She has “put forward the standard Israeli security argument.”
Abuse of children
The Israeli army habitually detains and tortures Palestinian children, imprisoning them without credible trial.
The abuse has included sexual violence and rape threats and other forms of torture according to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, B’Tselem and Defense for Children International-Palestine.
This systematic abuse is cause for such concern that more than 20 members of the notoriously pro-Israel US Congress have cosponsored a bill to outlaw US aid to Israel being used for the military detention, abuse and torture of Palestinian children.
However, according to the lawyer Ogg, the blog post was “an attempt to shame Ms. Ellman” using “provocative, inaccurate and offensive” language – and was therefore grounds for expulsion.
The “offensive” language Ogg points to is Greenstein’s contention that Ellman is a “supporter of Israeli child abuse.”
Ogg claims this phrase is inaccurate, despite the fact Ellman was clearly speaking in defense of the detention practices of an occupation army with a well-documented track record of abusing Palestinian children.
Ellman’s defense of the Israeli army is no surprise. She is a vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel and a former chair of the Jewish Labour Movement – both Israel lobby groups within Labour with intimate ties to the Israeli embassy.
One of those Greenstein is accused of verbally abusing is Ella Rose, a former Israeli embassy officer who is now director of the Jewish Labour Movement.
Rose was herself the subject of a complaint by party members last year after she was caught on camera stating that her critics should “die in a hole” and saying she could “take” one of them down in hand-to-hand combat.
Yet the same party bureaucracy that expelled Greenstein treated Rose with kid gloves, closing the matter without disciplinary action – a result one complainant called a “whitewash.”
The procedure of suspending and eventually expelling Greenstein also appears to lack due process.
In the document, Labour’s lawyer admits that “all of the charges relate to conduct after Mr. Greenstein’s suspension from the Labour Party on 18 March 2016.”
In other words, the National Executive Committee suspended Greenstein first, then sought out evidence later.
As The Electronic Intifada reported at the time, in the suspension letter Greenstein received he was told only that it related to “comments you are alleged to have made.”
Greenstein asked to see the allegations against him, but his request was denied, as was his request to know who his accusers were.
Trial by press
The party’s disciplinary unit apparently did however manage to leak vague allegations of “anti-Semitism” to hostile right-wing media.
The lawyer’s 22-page document – which Greenstein says was provided to him less then two days before his hearing – formed the outline of the case against him on Sunday.
That document was in turn based on a larger 189-page bundle of supporting evidence. A lot of time and effort was clearly expended on removing Greenstein from the party.
Although the insinuations apparently leaked to the press were all about Greenstein’s supposed anti-Semitism, the document mostly drops that allegation to concentrate on alleged online abuse.
But the party’s lawyer concedes in the document that it was not a case about “whether Mr. Greenstein is an anti-Semite.”
As Greenstein stated on his blog, “throughout my 22 months suspension the goal posts have been continually changed.”
Greenstein’s expulsion, along with the upcoming hearing against Marc Wadsworth, are thought by many activists to be the prelude to a new attempt to expel former mayor of London Ken Livingstone when his current suspension expires in April.
Greenstein said, “it’s incumbent on Momentum and [their chairperson Jon] Lansman and the rest of the left to actually start standing up to” the witch-hunt – “clearly the apartheid regime is working through its agents to pursue this.”
Momentum is the grassroots Labour group established to support Jeremy Corbyn.
Greenstein criticized the Labour bureaucracy for attacking him and other prominent activists on the left for alleged abuse, while refusing to take action on abuse of the left from the right of the party.
Led by general secretary Iain McNicol, the party bureaucracy has also refused to take any action against Jeremy Newmark, the now-disgraced former chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.
Newmark stepped down as chair of the group this month after The Jewish Chronicle revealed he had allegedly defrauded a Jewish charity of tens of thousands of dollars.
But last week McNicol told Labour members demanding Newmark’s suspension that the revelations were a “private matter” for Newmark.
- Tony Greenstein
- Labour Party
- Labour National Executive Committee
- Labour National Constitutional Committee
- Labour Against the Witch-hunt
- Jeremy Corbyn
- Louise Ellman
- Thomas Ogg
- child abuse
- child detainees
- Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
- Labour Friends of Israel
- Jewish Labour Movement
- Jeremy Newmark
- Marc Wadsworth
- Ken Livingstone
- Jon Lansman
- Iain McNicol