Labour employs anti-Semitism to ban Israel sanctions debate — in Peter Kyle’s CLP

My article in the July issue of Labour Briefing

Below is an article I wrote for the latest issue of the ever-excellent Labour Briefing (July 2021).

Since I wrote it — and in response to a similar article by investigative journalist Asa Winstanley — the Labour Party has made a bizarre attempt to stifle free speech with an unprecedented attack on journalism. Tony Greenstein, a pro-Palestine activist, has also written about the subject here.

An article by The Skwawkbox can be read here.

If ever there was a perfect case-study of the institutional failures of Labour Party democracy, it is difficult to look beyond the machinations of Hove Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

The presence of Peter Kyle as the local MP is both a symptom and a cause of the escalating attacks on socialists that have characterised Hove CLP for more than a decade.

Kyle, a leading figure in Progress and a virulent opponent of Jeremy Corbyn from the day he was elected leader, is a vice-chair of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) lobby group.

His first declaration in Parliament’s Register of Members’ Financial Interests was an LFI-funded “fact-finding” visit to Israel — even before he was elected — in December 2014.

He has repeatedly shared platforms with Fiona Sharpe, the Hove-based spokesperson for Labour Against Anti-Semitism, one of the organisations most responsible for smearing pro-Palestine party members with bogus allegations of racism against Jews.

You can only imagine how Kyle and his allies felt when Goldsmid and Hove Park Branch Labour Party passed, with an overwhelming majority, the following motion:

“The Hove and Portslade CLP call upon the leader of the Labour Party and the Shadow Foreign Secretary to strongly urge the government to:

“(1) Call on the Israeli government for an end to its violation of the human rights of Palestinians and for an end to the illegal occupation of the Gaza strip and the West Bank;

“(2) Impose legal sanctions on Israel for its repeated violations of international law, and, in particular, place an embargo on arms sales and end trade with illegal settlements.”

In accordance with party rules, the motion went to Hove CLP’s executive committee for members to discuss and vote on.

That’s when Kim Bolton, CLP chair and prominent Kyle supporter, stepped in and ruled the “Sanctions Against Israel” motion could not be discussed.

Shocking but nothing particularly unusual, given the crackdown on democracy under Sir Keir Starmer, a Zionist “without qualification”.

The EC minutes, however, are uniquely disturbing, because of the distinctly anti-Semitic pretext Bolton used — on the advice of Scott Horner, Labour South East’s regional organiser.

Horner claimed: “While we encourage comradely debate, I feel that this discussion would act as a flashpoint for the expression of views that would undermine the Party’s ability to provide a safe and welcoming space for all members, in particular Jewish Members [my emphasis].”

Even the deeply-flawed “definition” by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance would judge this to be anti-Semitic.

Horner appears to treat Jewish members as a monolithic bloc and to claim they would somehow be traumatised by a debate about sanctions in support of Palestine. Almost as if he regards them as collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel!

And Kyle’s response? He accused party members of “maliciously misinterpreting” the work of a busy CLP, adding irrelevantly: “We didn’t debate the climate emergency either, doesn’t make us climate change deniers!”

True. But what it does show is that the party is so desperate to avoid admitting the state of Israel is a racist endeavour — and always has been — that it uses anti-Semitism pretexts to stifle overwhelming calls for sanctions in support of Palestinians.

Pro-Corbyn. Elected secretary of Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party; votes annulled by NEC; suspended Oct 2016; re-instated Feb 2019. Ex-Fleet Street.