The Electronic Intifada / December 11, 2020
Much of the debate surrounding the suspension of former leader Jeremy Corbyn from the UK’s Labour Party has accepted at face value the conclusions of the report which precipitated the latest political purge.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report had claimed Labour under Corbyn had been guilty of “indirect discrimination” against Jews.
But on Friday a ground-breaking new legal analysis by a law graduate blew the report out of the water.
The EHRC report had also alleged two cases of “unlawful harassment” of Jews – by former mayor of London Ken Livingstone and a former Labour councillor Pam Bromley.
But despite its 17-month investigation, the EHRC failed to find Labour guilty of “institutional anti-Semitism,” despite being asked to do so by two pro-Israel groups – the “Campaign Against Antisemitism” and the Jewish Labour Movement.
The new legal analysis’s author is Ammar Kazmi, a young, left-wing, anti-imperialist Labour activist and graduate of law and Spanish from the University of Nottingham.
He says that the EHRC report represents a threat to free speech in Britain today and argues for a legal challenge.
A challenge “would likely contradict the EHRC and establish real, binding legal precedents protecting people’s freedom of expression,” he concludes.
Kazmi’s paper shows how the EHRC report is fundamentally legally flawed. He writes that “there should have been no findings of unlawful harassment by the party.”
The whole essay is well worth reading, but I summarize some of its main points below.
Threats to freedom of speech
Kazmi accuses the EHRC of “a revisionist approach to the [Ken] Livingstone case,” likely explained by the fact that Livingstone’s comments were “quite obviously protected under current [European Convention on Human Rights] case law.”
The EHRC’s approach “is simply not correct as a matter of law,” Kazmi says, warning that if not challenged it will be used to stifle freedom of expression more broadly.
Kazmi gives examples of why this is the case, saying that Keir Starmer’s recent purge against Corbyn and the rest of the Labour left “is being accompanied by an intensive campaign targeted at the social media giants to suspend the accounts of prominent left-wing journalists and activists.”
One of these journalists, editor of The Canary Kerry-Anne Mendoza, recently had her Twitter account suspended after bogus complaints of anti-Semitism against her. It was later reinstated, with Twitter acknowledging the suspension had been erroneous.
This campaign to shut down dissenting voices has been led by a relatively new body, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which is “an organisation closely tied both to right-wing Labour MPs and the Israel lobby,” says Kazmi.
These examples show how the “party’s internal battles are hardly ‘internal’,” Kazmi observes. “The party is a testing ground – a laboratory – to proliferate Israeli diplomatic objectives: normalizing Zionism and crushing socialist anti-imperialism across the UK.”
That such a convincing case can be made against the report by someone who has not yet completed his training as a lawyer suggests that the Labour Party under its right-wing leader Keir Starmer did not properly represent itself to the EHRC – despite having massive legal resources at its disposal.
This is a point Kazmi makes, arguing that had Labour done so there would likely “there would never have been any findings of unlawful acts.”
Labour neglected to properly defend itself during the EHRC inquiry deliberately to undermine Corbyn and his supporters, Kazmi argues: “The party’s new leadership has colluded in a legal process designed to produce findings that can be used for political ends against the previous leadership.”
The EHRC is an official body, charged by UK law with opposing racism and other forms of unjust discrimination.
But, as Kazmi notes, it has come under increasing criticism for failing to protect the rights of Black people and Muslims, for its increasing closeness to the ruling Conservative Party and for a long history of employing right-wing figures with disturbing views on Muslims.
More fundamentally, the body’s report on “Labour anti-Semitism” was flawed because it failed to take an evidence-based approach “seeming to rely instead on deference to its own authority,” Kazmi states.
His analysis shows how the EHRC offers a grossly distorted interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights to justify curbs on free speech far more draconian than the narrow limits permitted by existing case law.
No indirect discrimination
Kazmi disputes the EHRC’s first main charge against Corbyn’s Labour – that of indirect discrimination against Jews.
The basis for this claim was that Corbyn’s office engaged in “political interference” over alleged anti-Semitism.
But as Kazmi explains, the EHRC ignored the fact that both the intent and the effect of the alleged interference by Corbyn’s office was actually to speed up the disciplinary process, making it more likely that in those cases the accused would be suspended or expelled!
Kazmi argues that Williamson’s case “was interfered with in order to keep him suspended and to escalate his case … for a full disciplinary hearing. That intervention was not made for Williamson’s benefit, but to his detriment.”
Kazmi argues convincingly that the EHRC’s finding of two cases of “unlawful harassment” is utterly flawed.
Furthermore, the EHRC described their remarks “in the most unfavourable light” and did not present any of their explanations or defense.
Kazmi argues that their comments were protected under free speech laws – the European Convention on Human Rights has for years been written into UK law.
The Convention is a product of the Council of Europe, so its application is unaffected by UK withdrawal from the European Union.
The EHRC erroneously cited legal precedents to argue that these free speech laws did not apply, according to Kazmi. He argues that both Livingstone and Bromley are “protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
“Livingstone’s and Bromley’s comments are not even remotely analogous to the speech considered” in the cases cited, Kazmi argues, since the latter concerned Holocaust denial.
Livingstone was suspended from the party in 2016 after he accurately stated in a radio interview that Hitler’s Nazi regime in the 1930s had been “supporting Zionism” through programs such as the Haavara, or Transfer agreement.
Facts of history
Although this is considered controversial by Zionism’s modern day supporters, credible academic research including Lenni Brenner’s landmark study Zionism in the Age of the Dictators and historian Francis Nicosia’s The Third Reich and the Palestine Question document these facts of history.
“As a result of the Haavara Agreement, 60 percent of all capital that was invested in the Jewish settler-colonial community in Palestine between 1933 and 1939, came from German Jewish money, through this Transfer Agreement,” Columbia professor Joseph Massad has explained.
The German Zionist Federation collaborated with the Nazi regime, in order to train and remove German Jews from their homeland and send them off to Palestine to become settlers.
The Haavara Agreement between the Zionists and Nazi Germany also broke the international boycott of Nazi Germany supported by Jews around the world.
“In 1935, the Zionist Federation in Germany was the only Jewish party that supported the Nuremberg Laws,” Massad added. “The majority of course of German Jews were horrified by the racialist basis of the Nuremberg Laws, but the Zionists were not.”
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada; he lives in London