My voice has been silenced and I’ve lost faith in mainstream activism

Laura Stuart

Pro-Palestine activist Laura Stuart, who was suspended from the Labour party over anti-Semitsm allegations, argues that she has been targeted by the pro-Israel lobby and has lost faith in mainstream activism.

Following my recent statement on my suspension from the Labour Party, I feel my personal experience of the destructive power of anti-Palestine lobbies, groups and individuals needs to be shared.

I spent years in activist solidarity with Palestinians – through protest, writing articles and on-the-ground activism such as aid convoys to Gaza and then the Freedom Flotilla/Mavi Marmara. My activism led me to witness the tragic deaths and injury of my comrades at the hands of the Israeli military on board the Mavi Marmara, and the kidnap at gunpoint of myself and all remaining passengers, followed by imprisonment in Israel and finally deportation for having entered Israel illegally – somewhat strange since we were taken into Israel forcibly.

But I have seen how pitifully little has been achieved in terms of actual justice for the Palestinian people. The reality is the situation in Palestine is worse now even than it was at the time of operation “Cast Lead” when I started to engage on a more proactive level.

So the question remains: Where governments fail, is it possible for an individual to join other like-minded people to achieve justice? The evidence suggests it is not.

In the case of Israel and Palestine, despite the raising of awareness by well-supported citizen-led movements like BDS or PSC, as far as facts on the ground are concerned there seems little they can do to combat the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Why is this?

Let me fast forward a few years and relate what happened to me after I gave up direct activism and joined the Labour Party.

Like many others, I joined the party when Jeremy Corbyn became leader in the hope of not only working for a more equal society in the UK, but also for justice for the downtrodden and oppressed elsewhere, and particularly in Palestine.

Within a short time of becoming an active member, an as yet unknown person trawled through my social media and reported me to the party and I quickly found myself under investigation for anti-Semitism. Now, because I stand accused of being personally responsible for every tweet from what is a group account, I am suspended from the party. Adam Langleben, a local councilor, has now admitted that it was he who investigated and reported me.

To comprehend Adam Langleben and his motives for attacking me on social media we might examine who exactly Mr Langleben is and what it is he believes. And to do this, we might investigate to which groups Mr Langleben belongs, and whom he works with.

We see he is a member of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), is their Campaign Officer and sits on their National Executive Committee. On the JLM website we find:

“In addition to the UK Labour Party, the Jewish Labour Movement is also affiliated to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Zionist Federation of the UK, and organise within the World Zionist Organisation alongside our sister party in Israel, Havodah – the Israeli Labor Party”.

So clearly, Mr Langleben, as a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, is very connected to Israel.

It is perhaps no coincidence that on the day before I was suspended from the Labour Party, I attended a meeting of Labour activists where we discussed the issue of suspensions, expulsions and investigations of Corbyn-supporting Labour members.

At that meeting, I asked the speaker his opinion of the JLM. In asking my question I expressed my concerns about JLM, that the leader of their sister party, the Israeli Labour Party, Abi Gabbay, had on the 8th October 2017 said that he will not enter into coalition with any Arab party to form a government.

Since Israeli governments are usually coalitions, this is clearly racist and discriminatory against Palestinian Israelis, and I asked why JLM had said nothing to condemn his words or even to distance themselves from them.

Furthermore, a few days later, Avi Gabbay determined that the only Palestinian member of his party would, in future, not be permitted to sit in the Knesset because he had declined to attend the recent Balfour Declaration centenary celebrations – an act which Gabbay claimed was extremist.

Such a decision displays a clear lack of understanding or care by the Israeli Labour leader at what the Balfour Declaration – an act that led ultimately to the loss of Palestinian homes and land and the displacement of 700,000 of their people – might mean to the Palestinian people.

Indeed, we now know that the Israeli Labour Party will not form a government with Palestinians, nor tolerate even one inside their party unless they are prepared to celebrate the same Balfour Declaration. I wanted to know if JLM agreed with this, and if not why they have declined to clarify their position.

It now seems entirely possible that there may well be some connection between my speaking out on JLM on that Monday evening and Adam Langleben’s activities against me.

Let us now take a closer look at Mr Langleben and at JLM.

Adam Langleben is not in the photo below, but Lord Janner whose Chief of Staff Mr Langleben once was, certainly is. Lord Janner was an ex-President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and of the Jewish Leadership Council and co-founded the Holocaust Educational Trust. He also, before his death, stood accused of being a paedophile. Also bottom left in the photo is JLM Chair, Jeremy Newmark.

 

Who else is in JLM?

Well, anyone who watched last year’s Al Jazeera documentary “The Lobby” will be familiar with JLM’s National Director, Ella Rose. In the documentary, Ella appeared somewhat angry and frustrated at having being “outed” as an erstwhile employee of the Israeli embassy, and claimed her outing was motivated by “anti-Semitism.”

The same overall charge of anti Semitism was made against Al Jazeera for making the programme (obviously, the close relationship between JLM and the Israeli embassy is something they would prefer not to be public knowledge), but was ruled null and void by OFCOM.

In the documentary, Ms Rose also boasted about being able to “take” Jackie Walker, the then deputy leader of Momentum, by using her IDF Krag Mava training. Earlier this year, Ella unsuccessfully stood for election in Bushey South and I also understand she was a regular helper in our local Hendon Labour office.

 

Ella Rose, Adam Langleben and Jeremy Newmark at Church House, Westminster outside a Labour hearing on Ken Livingstone.

 

Jeremy Newmark, the JLM Chair, was also the Labour candidate for Finchley and Golders Green in the last General Election. Despite receiving an increased vote for Labour (no doubt on the coat tails of Jeremy Corbyn’s increasing popularity) Newmark was unsuccessful.

He is known most for his part in the case of Fraser v University and College Union. Adam Wagner, a human rights lawyer has written a most enlightening summary of that trial. Here is an extract of Adam Wagner’s comments – Particular criticism was reserved for Jeremy Newmark, the Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, a committee of community grandees.

And the Judge’s remarks:

“We regret to say that we have rejected as untrue the evidence of Ms Ashworth and Mr Newmark concerning the incident at the 2008 Congress… Evidence given to us about booing, jeering and harassing of Jewish speakers at Congress debates was also false, as truthful witnesses on the Claimant’s side accepted. One painfully ill-judged example of playing to the gallery was Mr Newmark’s preposterous claim, in answer to the suggestion in cross- examination that he had attempted to push his way into the 2008 meeting, that a ‘pushy Jew’ stereotype was being applied to him.

“The opinions of witnesses were not, of course, our concern and in most instances they were in any event unremarkable and certainly not unreasonable. One exception was a remark of Mr Newmark in the context of the academic boycott controversy in 2007 that the union was ‘no longer a fit arena for free speech,’ a comment which we found not only extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing.”

Now, there are words you never want to hear in litigation: “untrue”, “false”, “preposterous”, “extraordinarily arrogant”, “disturbing”.  Remember, this is about the Chief Executive of an organisation which is arguably now the main representative of the Jewish community to the wider British community and if the Judge and Adam Wagner are right, should we, as members of the British public, not be very worried indeed?

In the photograph above are Shai Masot of the Israeli embassy, the man with a million dollar slush fund, the whereabouts or purpose of which we still do not know, also Jeremy Newmark and Mark Regev the Israeli apologist for war crimes. Just this week we learned more about the role Shai Masot played during his time there.

All in all, I think we can clearly see the connection between JLM leaders and Israel – and the impact of this connection on our own British Labour Party.

For me, with my experience as a Mavi Marmara activist, this connection between Adam Langleben, JLM and the State of Israel is particularly relevant. As a witness to the events on the Marmara in May 2010, I gave my statement to the United Nations and to a Turkish court. Our case was strong and the judge in Turkey actually issued arrest warrants for those Israeli Generals in charge of the operations on that fateful day.

Unfortunately, the arrest warrants never got further than the desk of the Turkish Minister for Justice when they should have been sent to Interpol for red notices to be issued. Of course, political power prevented them from ever being sent and eventually our case was closed down.

President Erdogan wanted a deal with Israel and the Israelis demanded that all cases against their officers be closed. At the time, we could not believe that the Turkish Government could so flout the rule of law, but it did and against the wishes of the widows and families of the martyrs, the judge caved in to political power and the deal was signed. The trial was over. Politics had triumphed over justice.

At the same time as the Turkish trial was in progress, we presented our case to the International Criminal Court. After due deliberation, the ICC leader Fatima Bensouda concluded that war crimes may have been perpetrated on the Mavi Marmara by Israeli soldiers but still she decided not to take the case forward to the Hague.

Since then, our case has been resubmitted but with the same conclusion. War crimes yes, but any chance of justice, no.

What do I make of my experiences? I conclude that there is an insidious power that ensures that you can be part of the game, but only if you stay within parameters set by infiltrated gatekeepers to ensure the status quo remains unchanged. And what is that status quo – that Zionism remains effectively unchallenged and Israel, with the help of Zionists worldwide, can continue its nefarious activities with impunity.

Taking the leap into mainstream politics in the UK in the hope that grassroots activism may bring justice to both those suffering in the UK and abroad led me back to the same place – a dead end.

The parameters of what we are allowed to say, even what flags protestors are allowed to carry at demonstrations, are all set by this same oppressive power. Now, that same power wants to dictate what words protestors may chant at demonstrations. Thus “From the river to the sea – Palestine will be free” is now interpreted as ‘wanting all Jews dead’ and, like the Hezbollah flags, these chants will be made to disappear.

Palestine solidarity speakers and Palestinian solidarity events are routinely interrupted and often shut down. Why, only last week, a female Zionist activist disguised as a Muslim, infiltrated a solidarity event in the Houses of Commons and secretly filmed the Palestinian Ambassador and others.

This incident, amusing if it wasn’t so serious, illustrates the lengths that people are willing to go to in order to claim, in this case, that hate speech took place in the House of Commons by invitation of an M.P..

It seems the game is rigged, and no matter how you try, you cannot make progress. Sure, you might achieve a feeling of at least having tried, which might make you feel momentarily better, but it doesn’t help the victims and may even get you killed, injured or arrested. Most likely, it will get your name smeared all over the media which, for many, has meant a ruined career, loss of income and personal heartbreak.

Finally, it is clear to me that Muslims who try to engage in activism come under particular scrutiny. Who can fail to notice the many examples of Muslims being called out for alleged anti-Semitism by the charity Campaign Against Anti-Semitism? In fact, out of the 39 allegations the CAA have made against Labour members, fourteen have Muslim names.

Muslim organisations such as MPACUK try to get Muslims politically engaged, but even though virtually every Muslim cares deeply about Palestine, only those Muslims who are willing to throw Palestine under a bus are able to make any headway in British politics.

And in all cases, Muslims may express their feelings about Palestine only if they use language dictated by others and only within the parameters set by Zionists and their supporters. Muslim men and women are told they must integrate, must work, must engage and yet, the vitriolic attacks some of us come under, provide no encouragement whatsoever.

I still want to believe that Jeremy Corbyn can deliver a more just society – more equal for all our citizens here, and hopefully an end to the endless wars for profits abroad. Unfortunately, those who really support Corbyn are being attacked and picked off one by one.

In the Labour Party or not, I will certainly vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Will he be able to make a difference? I want to believe he can; yet my experiences now indicate otherwise.

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