WeeklyWorker

05.07.2018
Sacked as part of the 'anti-Semitism' witch-hunt

Gaining momentum

The campaign to reinstate Stan Keable has growing support

I am grateful to Brent trades union council for backing my campaign for reinstatement to my housing enforcement job at Hammersmith and Fulham council, which I believe is a first step in mobilising wider trade union support.

However, although the trades council motion was carried with no votes against, comrades have told me that Morning Star supporters (Communist Party of Britain members) among the delegates were unable to vote for the motion, and actually abstained. If this is true, the CPBers should explain themselves and, hopefully, think again. I can only guess that perhaps, like Corbyn, they want to downplay the witch-hunt rather than confront it. I prefer ‘straight-talking politics’ and solidarity. An injury to one is an injury to all.

Brent TUC carried the model motion proposed by Labour Against the Witchhunt and decided to affiliate to LAW - the RMT’s Carol Foster will be the delegate. It has donated £25 to my legal defence fund. Finally it has written this excellent letter.

Stan Keable

To: Councillor Stephen Cowan
leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council

Brent Trade Union Council at its meeting on June 27 resolved to send you and the Labour group this letter urging the reinstatement of Stan Keable. You have sacked Stan for stating in a private discussion that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazi regime - a well-documented historical fact.

On March 26 the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council organised a demonstration in Parliament Square to protest against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Stan was part of a counter-demonstration organised by Jewish Voice for Labour and others. As Stan went around handing out leaflets, he got into a conversation about the holocaust with a Zionist and explained that it was not only caused by anti-Semitism (it is obvious that this is correct - it began with the extermination of the disabled, for instance). Stan also explained that Zionism held the view that Jews did not belong in the countries of their birth and because of that the Zionist movement had collaborated with the Nazis, who also wanted them out of Germany.

BBC Newsnight editor David Grossman secretly recorded the conversation and the result of this quite innocuous conversation was headlines in papers like the Evening Standard, Jewish Chronicle and the Daily Mail. The next day local Tory MP Greg Hands sent out a tweet demanding action against Stan and he followed this up with a letter to Steve Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stan’s employer, demanding action.

David Ben-Gurion, the most prominent founder of the state of Israel and its first prime minister, famously said in a speech to Mapai’s central committee on December 9 1938:

If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the history of the people of Israel.

On August 10 1933 the German Zionist Federation and the Palestinian Jewish Agency signed an economic trade agreement, Ha’avara, with the Nazi state, that helped destroy the Jewish-led international boycott of Nazi Germany.

The allegation contained in Hammersmith and Fulham’s disciplinary investigation was that Stan had breached the Equality Act 2010. It is difficult to believe that trained ‘human resources’ professional lawyers could come to such a conclusion with legal advice. The suggestion that debating an issue such as Zionism is a breach of the Equality Act is wrong. The introduction to the act is quite clear. Its purpose is:

to reform and harmonise equality law … to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct … to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.

There is nothing in the act about restricting freedom of speech or disciplining people who have views which are unpopular with Britain’s rightwing mass media. The key paragraph in the charges against Stan stated:

The question as to whether or not Stan Keable’s comments breach the Equality Act may hinge on an interpretation of what constitutes ‘belief’ under the terms of the act … One of these [protected] characteristics is “religion and belief”. Zionism is not a religion, although it is closely related to Judaism, but it is a belief in the right of the Jewish people to have a nation-state in the ‘Holy Land’, their original homeland. Legal advice, obtained as part of this investigation, states that case law has established that the definition of belief can extend to political beliefs. If Zionism constitutes a ‘belief’ under the terms of the Equality Act then the statements by Stan Keable that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis and that it accepted that ‘Jews are not acceptable here’ might be deemed to have breached the Equality Act.

It is nonsense to claim Israel/Palestine is the “original homeland” back in 135AD, with the crushing of the Bar Kokhba revolt by the Romans, when Judea lost its name. Zionism may be a philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act. But then so is anti-Zionism. However, it is not the protected characteristics of those Stan was arguing with which are relevant, but those of Stan! Stan is not their employer! Just because someone might be classified as having a protected characteristic in certain situations - mainly employment - does not mean that if you disagree with, for example, a gay person you are therefore guilty of discrimination!

‘Protected characteristics’ are not a free-floating cause of action: they are tied to specific acts, such as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The definition of direct discrimination (section 13.1) says: “(i) A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.”

It should be obvious to anyone - though clearly not to those leading Hammersmith and Fulham’s investigation - that debating a topic in a public space does not infringe his adversaries’ protected characteristics. Put bluntly, debate is not discrimination. No-one is being discriminated against when it is stated that the Nazis and Zionists collaborated. Neither was Stan in any contractual or employment relationship with his adversaries.

However, in suspending and seeking to dismiss Stan, the council is almost certainly breaching the Equality Act, because it is Stan whom they are discriminating against on the grounds of his belief. The failure to understand this simple but obvious point is quite staggering.

The council’s investigation report (paragraph 5.6) stated:

in attending the counter-demonstration at Westminster on March 26 and in making the comments that subsequently appeared on social media, Mr Keable has failed to avoid any conduct outside of work which may discredit himself and the council.

In other words, Stan’s offence was, in part at least, attending a demonstration! Under ‘recommendations’ (paragraph 7.1) we get:

That, in attending a counter-demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on March 26 2018, Stan Keable knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the council’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the council’s code of conduct (‘Working with integrity’ and ‘Working with the media’).

This is an outrageous infringement of Stan’s civil liberties in attending a demonstration. Stan “knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views …”! Stan’s sacking means mere attendance at a demonstration will be a potential breach of one’s employment contract.

Article 10 (European Convention on Human Rights), ‘Freedom of expression’, states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

Article 11, ‘Freedom of assembly and association’, begins: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” Closely allied to these is article 9 on ‘Freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.

There is little doubt that Stan will win his legal case, because not even the most conformist and timid tribunal will accept that attending a demonstration and airing one’s views in public constitute a breach of the Equality Act or one’s contract. H&F Labour Council should now call a halt to these proceedings by reinstating Stan Keable.

Roger Cox

Secretary, Brent Trade Union Council