Reinstate Moshé

This petition, organised by Jewish Voice for Labour, has been signed by hundreds of Labour Party members, Jewish and non-Jewish

Over a thousand signatures already

We, the undersigned members of the Labour Party, condemn the expulsion of Moshé Machover from our party. This decision is a political attack on a life-long socialist activist, and a scholar of international renown.

Professor Machover has been told that his expulsion results from his “support” for Labour Party Marxists and the Communist Party of Great Britain. The evidence offered for this is that he has had articles printed in their publications, and has spoken at their meetings. This is no evidence at all. It is, for example, completely normal for senior figures in our party (including MPs and indeed our current leader), as well as senior figures in the trade union movement who are Labour Party members, to write for Communist Party publications.

There has never been a suggestion that willingness to engage with these publications constituted support to a rival political organisation. This is guilt by association - once notoriously indulged in by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The apparent implication is that membership of our party is incompatible with publishing in outlets that may not always support the Labour Party. Such a rule would clearly make it ultra vires for Labour Party members to write anything in the pages of the Financial Times, The Times, the Daily Mail, The Express, and so on. It is surely inconceivable that a major political party would seek to prevent its members from expressing their views publicly in the major newspapers of the country, on the grounds that these papers offer support to a rival political party. This proffered reason for the expulsion of professor Machover is evidently a pretext.

The real reason is surely revealed in the opening remarks of the letter to professor Machover announcing his expulsion. These refer to allegations made against an “apparently anti-Semitic article” authored by him, which “appears to meet the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism”. No source of these allegations is identified in the letter. No argument is provided to justify this absurd allegation against professor Machover, an Israeli Jew and a lifelong anti-racist activist. Criticisms of Israel - in respect both of its brutal policies against the Palestinians, and of its character as a systematically and constitutionally discriminatory state - are not anti-Semitic in any reasonable understanding of the term. Not even by reference to the flawed and discredited IHRA definition in the form accepted by the Labour Party can such criticisms be considered anti-Semitic.

The character and personal history of professor Machover speak powerfully against this absurd charge of anti-Semitism. An author of books and many articles on Zionism and its varied iniquities, and for three decades a founder and leader of the Socialist Organisation in Israel (Matzpen), he is a life-long activist against racism of all kinds, both in Israel and elsewhere. The allegation against him is a serious abuse of the accusation of anti-Semitism.

That there is no rationally sustainable ground for this expulsion raises serious concerns about the operation of the party’s apparatus for dealing with disciplinary matters. The letter of expulsion was signed by the head of disputes, located within the governance and legal unit. The operation of our party’s compliance unit has also given grave cause for concern. All, of course, are subject to the party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol. He has ultimate responsibility for a process which has seen Machover excluded without an inquiry, and without the opportunity to answer the accusations against him. The Chakrabarti report called for all disciplinary procedures of the party to follow principles of natural justice, and to do so transparently; this has patently not happened in this case.

From its complete failure to observe these principles it will be widely inferred that pressure has been exerted on the relevant Labour Party organisational units from supporters of Israel (not excluding the Israeli embassy) to act against critics of Israel and of Zionism. That they have exposed themselves to such criticism is an indication of how far the organisation has deviated from due process, and from its responsibilities. The compliance unit in particular cannot allow itself, cannot be allowed, to harass members of the party who support justice for Palestinians. It must not become party to the misuse of the accusation of anti-Semitism for partial and propagandistic purposes. It cannot allow itself, or be allowed, to become a mechanism for silencing criticism of Israel, and denying its own party members the right to speak out on grave injustices.

We, Jewish and non-Jewish members of the Labour Party, call upon the leader of the party, and on the national executive, to reinstate professor Machover pending investigation and to apologise to him for the totally unjustified assaults that have been made on his integrity.

We further call for an immediate inquiry to be established, headed by an independent legal expert, to review all the circumstances of this particular expulsion; and also to investigate the operation of the compliance unit, including the moral, political and legal implications of the unit’s procedures and its recent decisions.

Signatories include:

Brian Eno (Kensington), Ken Loach (Bath), Sir Geoffrey Bindman (Hornsey and Wood Green), prof Tim Shallice FRS (Hampstead & Kilburn), prof Avi Shlaim (Oxford and Abingdon), Gillian Slovo (Hampstead and Kilburn), Hillary Wainwright (Hackney South and Shoreditch), prof Haim Bresheeth (Hornsey and Wood Green), prof Jonathan Rosenhead (Hackney South and Shoreditch).

 

If you are a Labour Party member, add your name to the petition here:

www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/labour-party-policy/open-letter-leader-labour-party.