Group set up to protest against Labour's expulsion of members accused of antisemitism expels members for alleged antisemitism

Labour Against the Witchhunt is accused of pursuing 'shameful witch hunt'

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 02 January 2018 19:32
Gerry Downing was suspended by the party after tweeting a link to a group calling for socialists to ‘address the Jewish Question’
Gerry Downing was suspended by the party after tweeting a link to a group calling for socialists to ‘address the Jewish Question’

A campaign group that was set up to protest against the expulsion of Labour Party members for alleged antisemitism has expelled some of its own members who it says are antisemitic.

Gerry Downing, who was excluded from Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW), has accused the group of conducting its own witch hunt against him.

He is now planning a protest at the same location as a LAW meeting on Saturday, in a bid to be readmitted to the group.

Setting up a Facebook page called “Reject Bogus Left Antisemitism”, Mr Downing accused LAW of wanting a "witch hunt [against] genuine anti-Zionists and revolutionary socialists”.

He claimed the group wanted to demonstrate to Labour’s General Secretary, Iain McNicol, “that they really will never cross the line from defence of the democratic rights of Palestinians to advocating revolutionary solutions to these situations”.

Mr Downing was suspended by Labour in March 2016 after it emerged he had tweeted a link to an article on the website of the Socialist Fight group, with which he is involved. It called for Marxists to “address the Jewish Question” and claimed the “Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie” had “played a vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers”.

He had also written a blog about the 9/11 attacks in which he suggested a campaign of violence against the US “is progressive, no matter how distorted its actions are, and must never be ‘condemned’”.

Mr Downing was kicked out of Labour shortly after then Prime Minister David Cameron quoted the blog at Prime Minister’s Questions.

He helped set up LAW last October, but fell out with the group after he was expelled from the organisation and told not to attend meetings.

LAW’s leaders include Jackie Walker, who was suspended by Labour after claiming Jews were the “chief financiers of the slave trade”.

At its meeting on Saturday the group will discuss a motion demanding that anyone suspended by Labour because of what it calls “the ‘antisemitism’ smear campaign” has their membership reinstated.

The motion claims the suspensions and expulsions were “connected with the right-wing witch hunt of Corbyn supporters, carried out automatically, without a hearing, without the right of appeal”.

The group also wants Labour to abolish its Compliance Unit, the body that investigates allegations of offences, including antisemitism, committed by party members.

However, the meeting is likely to be overshadowed by Mr Downing’s protest, which will take place at the same central London pub at exactly the same time.

In the motion to be discussed at the meeting, LAW’s leaders said: “Our support will be weakened if we allow the campaign to be associated with those who promote views which are antisemitic. LAW condemns antisemitism and all forms of racism.”

Referencing a number of claims made on the Socialist Fight website, they added: “Those groups or individuals, such as Socialist Fight, who promote a form of antisemitism, for example the view that imperialist support for Israel has any connection to the ‘overrepresentation’ of Jews in the ruling class; or that Jews are “an oppressor people”; or that Jewish campaigns in support of the Palestinians such as Jews Against Zionism, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods or Jewish Voice for Labour are racist because they operate on the basis of a supposedly ‘Jewish moral superiority’, are not welcome in LAW.”

Socialist Fight denies that the group or “any member or supporter past or present” are antisemitic.

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