ON FRIDAY 6 MAY IT SEEMED LIKE ANY OTHER LUNCHTIME at the school where I work. And then my mobile phone rang. ‘Hello this is Josh Jackman from the Jewish Chronicle. I’d like to know your reaction to being suspended from the Labour Party?’
I was stunned. ‘What is the reason for the suspension?’ I enquired, not fully coming to terms with the irony of the situation. ‘It’s on the basis of anti-Semitic media posts you have made.’ In the course of my teaching career I have taught Citizenship and had to deal with issues of racism, often having to take anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists to task. At one school, I successfully fought to bring in the excellent Anne Frank project which, although well-received, would have been an even more powerful experience for the school if my request had been heeded to invite a Holocaust survivor in for a special assembly.
Ever since childhood, I have taken an interest in politics and desired to see a more just world. It was Arthur Neslen, a Jewish childhood friend and now a journalist for the Guardian, who suggested I visit the Middle East with him in 2003.
Experiencing the brutal reality of the Israeli military occupation was like a Damascene conversion. As an abstract concept, it is easy to believe that both sides are equally to blame. If only Hamas would stop launching rockets. If only the Israelis had a partner who would genuinely work with them for peace. If only the Palestinians would recognise the state of Israel.
However, the Israeli Occupation is no benign protective measure. It’s an aggressive, unrelenting, murderous situation that Palestinians have to live with on a daily basis. Whereas Israelis may occasionally feel unsafe, military raids in Gaza and the West Bank are a daily occurrence and house demolitions are commonplace.
While Israelis proudly proclaim there is no death penalty in their judicial system, extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinians by the IDF or Israeli Special Forces are a weekly, sometimes daily, occurrence.
In the week previous to my suspension being announced, I had seen a blog directed at me on the Everyday AntiSemitism website, the blogsite for the so-called ‘Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’ whose chief spin doctor is one Jonathan Sacerdoti, former Director of Public Affairs for the Zionist Federation.
The Everyday AntiSemitism blog alleged that I had suggested on Facebook that Israel ‘mimicked the Nazis’, and ‘was secretly behind ISIS’.
The truth? I had shared a Daily Mirror article which detailed how the SS assassin Otto Skorzeny had worked for Mossad in the post-war years. I made no mention of Nazis or Jews in my post. The post relating to ISIS was a picture of a piece of Israeli ordnance that was said to have been found in an ISIS arms cache. My only comment was three letters: ‘Mmm’.
Interestingly, only a fortnight previously, the right wing Jerusalem Post had reported that Syrian troops had come across Israeli made weapons being sent to ISIS. To my knowledge neither the Mirror nor the Jerusalem Post is having to defend itself against charges of anti-Semitism.
The blog also proclaimed its outrage that I was prepared to defend Naz Shah against charges of anti-Semitism over her own post that got her suspended. I had had the temerity to suggest that her post was not anti-Semitic, as being anti-Semitic is not synonymous with being anti-Israel. Somewhat taken aback at this attack, I jokingly posted on Facebook that after Naz Shah, Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, the witch-hunt would now head my way.
However, even if this were to occur, I assumed the Labour Party would contact me directly, and not delegate the duty to a newspaper which to all intents and purposes is the right wing mouthpiece of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Britain. But as I did not receive any direct communication from the Labour Party until 10 May, a full four days after the JC phone call, the Labour Party Compliance Unit has questions to answer on whether it has followed due process.
As I write, I am still suspended. And the Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank is 48 years old. And counting.
is a member of Walthamstow CLP