Petition update

Statement from Pete Gregson on his failed appeal to the GMB against expulsion

Pete Gregson
Edinburgh, SCT, United Kingdom

Mar 11, 2019 — 

I am the first trade unionist to be expelled as an anti-Semite under the IHRA definition.

My appeal to the Central Executive Council of the GMB against my expulsion on 5th March 2019 failed, as confirmed to me by the president of the GMB, Barbara Plant, in her letter to me of the 6th March. I have been expelled for breaching the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism for I failed to “cease and desist” in promoting “anti-Semitic views and material”, when I was told to by the GMB Scotland Secretary on the 5th Nov and am therefore in breach of the rulebook.

Because the GMB adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism on 4th Sept, promoting “anti-Semitic views and material” now means criticising Israel. Until that date, anti-Semitism was defined as per the OED as “Hostility or prejudice against Jews”. The orthodox rabbi who attended my London hearing told Ms Plant and the rest of the Council, that nothing I had said or done was anti-Semitic (see my minute of the hearing here).

I have breached the IHRA definition on two counts: by saying that Israel was a racist endeavour and by saying it exaggerates the Holocaust for political ends. And I made quite clear that I was using the Merriam-Webster definition of “exaggerates” meaning “inappropriately heightens”. My GMB appeal (which can be found at tinyurl.com/gmbappeal ) elucidates thus (page 7):

This is what I said in my email to the Scotland Secretary of the 3rd Dec:

I will agree one thing.  I am guilty of “Accusing Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust”. It is the exaggerating part I admit to. 

But here I must refer you to the words of the Israeli former minister of Education, Shulamit Aloni, who said in a US video interview that "anti-Semitism is a trick. We always use it". The interviewer said: “Often, when there is dissent expressed in the United States against policies of the Israeli government, people here are called anti-Semitic. What is your response to that as an Israeli Jew?”. Shulamit Aloni replied: “Well, it’s a trick, we always use it. When from Europe somebody is criticizing Israel, then we bring up the Holocaust….”

So if a former Israeli government minister says that Israel exaggerates the Holocaust whenever it suits itself to do so, then presumably that whole example of the IHRA definition becomes meaningless.

(The full letter of 13th Dec with allegations, along with my responses of 17th Dec, can be viewed here).

So what I meant when I made that statement was that I think Israel “overstates” the Holocaust as a justification for what it does to Arabs.

OTHER HOLOCAUSTS

A friend just completed a distance learning course on the Holocaust run by an Israeli University. He pointed out to me there was not one mention of any other groups that suffered at that time. Only the deaths of the Jews were discussed.  (See Future Learn course with Tel Aviv University)

Wikipedia notes:

Holocaust victims were people who were targeted by the government of Nazi Germany for various discriminatory practices due to their ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, or sexual orientation. These institutionalized practices came to be called The Holocaust, and they began with legalized social discrimination against specific groups, and involuntary hospitalization, euthanasia, and forced sterilization of those considered physically or mentally unfit for society.

Conclusion:  11 million died as Holocaust victims, but it appears that Israel and its institutions care only about the 6 million who were Jews. The Israeli University teaching reflected a general view in Israel: the state generally appears to have less regard for the non-Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.

CONTEXT IN WHICH I USED THE WORD EXAGGERATE

I must make clear that when I said this I meant I was accusing Israel as exaggerating the importance of the Holocaust and I use the word as it is defined as a way of over-emphasizing something. I most definitely do not accuse it of exaggerating the numbers; 6 million Jews died in the crime of the century.

As I point out above, my use of the word “exaggerate” here reflects the Merriam Webster Dictionary definition whereby Israel “inappropriately heightens” its version of the Holocaust, by ignoring the deaths of the other 5 million who died.

It is inappropriate to only heighten the deaths of the 6 million Jews, whilst ignoring the fate of the rest. Israel’s concern is only for Jews.

What I object to is the way Israel uses the Holocaust as a reason for its actions. It suits the Israeli Government to couch everything it does in terms of the Holocaust. The inability of the Jews to defend themselves in the face of mass extermination by the Nazis has been transformed by Zionists into Israel’s preoccupation with ‘defence’, and most notably in its misuse of the word "defence". The Israeli army is the only army in the world that calls itself a Defence Force.

Invading Lebanon, seizing the Golan Heights, pulverising Gaza, building illegal settlements, etc - even the Nakba - can thus be framed as necessary for "defence". And whenever there is a breath of disapproval, immediately the Holocaust is raised as a justification for necessary violence and appropriation. ie if the West doesn't want another Holocaust, it must stand by Israel.

I am not disputing the horror visited on Jews in World War II, but its use as justification for ongoing oppressive acts 75 years hence, as if the Palestinians in 2019 represented a similar threat to Jews in Israel as that posed by the Nazis to their ancestors in Europe in 1940.

When I wrote to the Scotland Secretary (on the 3rd December) I chose my words with care; they are exactly what the IHRA suggests as likely to be anti-Semitic.

But they could not be anti-Semitic, by the OED definition of anti-Semitism, which clearly defines anti-Semitism as “hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people”.

I’d like to refer here to my letter in the Weekly Worker of 14th Feb 2019 where I explore where the real anti-Semitism of last century was played out, when Britain did so little for the Jews during the war (See “Holocaust Guilt” on the letters page: scroll down past the first six letters to get to mine).

ACCUSING A STATE IS NOT ACCUSING JEWS

To accuse Israel of anything it does cannot be anti-Semitic because the State does not represent all Jews. It only represents some; and obviously those who control the Government represent only the  Zionists who believe the land is for Jews above others.

We must not fall into the IHRA trap of conflating the Israeli state with all Jews. If I accuse the state of Israel of exaggerating the Holocaust, that is what I attack, not Jews. Therefore, it cannot be seen to be anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is "hostility to or prejudice against Jews", for being Jewish. Hostility to  Zionism  is something completely different. The former relates to an ethnic or religious identity, the latter to a political one. Thus hostility to Zionism could be seen as similar to hostility to fascism or anarchism. There are no laws outlawing antipathy to political doctrines.

So whether Israel does or does not exaggerate the Holocaust is not the issue here: the issue is whether accusing the Israeli state of anything can be the same as being critical of Jewish people in general. Of course, it cannot - a state is a “a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government.” And it is an established fact that many Jews disapprove of the state of Israel – and most choose not to live there. It’s estimated there are 15 million Jews in the world. Israel has 6.5 million – that’s 43% of world Jewry. Obviously, that doesn’t mean the other 57% disapprove of Israel. Many support the country but choose not to live there. So how many could be said to oppose it?  One study, the Independent Jewish Voice opinion poll, found that between 30% and 50% of UK Jews reject Israel's policies.

So, if Israel does not represent all Jews, how can criticising it be anti-Semitic? It cannot.

So, whether the state of Israel does or does not exaggerate the Holocaust is actually irrelevant; what is relevant is the question as to whether criticising it can ever be anti-Semitic and because such criticism is not about Jews in general, any criticism of Israel is valid and does not indicate hostility or prejudice towards Jews.

USE OF THE HOLOCAUST BY ZIONISTS

Rabbi Ahron Cohen (who provided a witness statement for me to the GMB hearing) gave this speech in 2006:

“I must add that the use by the Zionists of the Holocaust to further their aim of a sectarian State is the height of hypocrisy when one bears in mind that the Zionists turned each stage of Nazi oppression to their own advantage, to further the aim of forming a State.

In the thirties when the Nazi policy was to expel the Jews from Germany, it is well documented how the Zionists cooperated by working together – yes together - with the Nazi authorities to evacuate ‘suitable’ Jews i.e. young healthy pioneer material, from Germany to Palestine. Then during the war when the killing was proceeding, it is again well documented how their attitude was one of callousness, not helping when they could even though they were able to.

They needed the suffering and the deaths in order to be able to push for their State when the war would end. Finally, after the war, they turned the whole issue of the Holocaust and the pity and sympathy it evoked into almost an article of faith in order to ensure as much as possible the acquisition of their State.

Claiming that Zionism was there in order to prevent another Holocaust, when in fact Zionism predated the Holocaust by decades. They then proceeded to justify their atrocities against the Palestinians in order to further their cause.”

It is for this reason that it suited Israel well to have this example of “exaggeration” in the IHRA definition. They specifically fear being exposed for “weaponizing the Holocaust”. How better to prevent that than by making such a suggestion about Israel’s machinations to be totally unacceptable, by arguing such criticism is “anti-Semitic”?

The irony of Israel's Holocaust “exaggerations” is that it now persecutes the minorities, especially the Arabs, living within its borders. Most especially in Gaza. And so the racism that Jews suffered during the war is now practised by many Israeli Jews themselves. The Israeli State backs this – there are over 60 laws saying Jews have greater rights and in July that approach was incorporated into Israel’s basic law with the “Nation State” law. (more in this video). But it’s wrong to transplant one Holocaust for another."

So that was all in my appeal papers. Of course, the agency that is behind this action against me is the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), acting through their senior member Rhea Wolfson, who is also the GMB official mentioned in Barbara Plant’s letter. I discovered at the GMB hearing in Glasgow on 19th December that the reason I was in the dock was because of a complaint lodged against me on 28th Sept. I trawled back through my correspondence to find out what I’d done that day and realised on that date I had lodged my complaint with the Labour General Secretary about the Jewish Labour Movement, seeking their disaffiliation from Labour. Who did I send it to? Labour’s complaints unit, plus all the National Executive Committee members, including… Rhea Wolfson.

The other reason that I know that Wolfson was behind my GMB troubles was because I was informed as such by a GMB mole. At the time I was told this, I had not much of a clue as to who she was; all I knew what that had been on the NEC; I was astonished to learn that she also worked at the GMB. I was also to learn (from the GMB, when they started accusing me of anti-Semitism) that she was Jewish. Of course, when I wrote to the NEC in September, I had been unaware that Ms Wolfson was a leading light in the JLM and was, I now realise, a raving Zionist. I have since compiled a dossier on Rhea; read it here. In any event, it is heart-warming to know that one of the NEC, at least, has been reading and acting upon my emails. Ms Wolfson is, as I noted in my letter to 650 MPs of 24th Feb, a prospective parliamentary candidate. I also now  know that she and Jon Lansman worked all through the summer of 2018 to get Labour to adopt the full IHRA.

The GMB prosecutor, Louse Gilmour, in my case tried to paint Rhea as an innocent victim whom I had picked on at the GMB because she was Jewish, even though I had pointed out that I did not even know she was Jewish until the GMB told me so in November. Ms Gilmour made a point of repeating to the Appeals Committee what I had said in an email to the GMB Scottish Secretary in December as part of our correspondence on what I was charged with. I had said about Wolfson that "As a Jew I love her, as a Zionist I despise her". Ms Gilmore thought my utterances symptomatic of anti-Semitic behaviour - for goodness knows what reason.

And the reason there has been an “explosion” of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party? Because since the Party adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism on the 4th Sept (the same day as the GMB), there have been many folk (like me) who have declared Israel racist. The JLM and activists like Wolfson are working overtime (using Israeli funding and staff support) to get scores of Labour Party members such as I investigated. We are seeing a witch-hunt of cosmic proportions developing.

Some activists refuse to support me because they say I am a loose cannon (Jewish Voice for Labour, for example). They consider me dangerous for my provocative statements. Last November, in a paper I wrote to explore why the IHRA definition has been so enthusiastically adopted by civic groups, political parties and trade unions in the UK, I postulated that Holocaust guilt was to blame. Jews in the UK had leverage, I said, because of the Holocaust, but only the Zionists exploited that leverage. The critics thought I was making generalisations about Jews. But my point is that Jews are reputed to be the most persecuted race in human history and Hitler certainly gassed every Jew he could find, whether they be Zionist or non-Zionist. And here in the UK, we did little to help the Jews during WW2 (see Weekly Worker letter, above). As a result, we suffer in the UK from Holocaust guilt. Thus, all Jews have leverage whether they want it or not, because all Jews were victims. (In the same way that Scots paint themselves as victims of the English, for which we receive a £1Bn year subsidy, which could be called a Sassenach guilt-gift). Thus, all Jews have leverage, but most just want to get on and live their lives, and forget about the Holocaust. Not so the Zionists: they shamelessly exploit our Holocaust guilt (think Margaret Hodge, Joan Ryan and Luciana Berger) - and the newspapers just lap up their complaints. It is, as we all know, a confection by Israel and the right to destroy Corbyn and I’m sorry to say they are winning. Recently the Richie Allen show revealed Labour Party staffers and activists were privately employing help in getting their FB and twitter acounts "cleansed" of any reference to Israel, such is their fear of being targetted.

But a fightback must start somewhere. I have a “death-wish” petition, which I launched on the 4th Sept declaring “Israel is a racist endeavour”, only to be signed by Labour Party members – so far 1,560 have signed, sticking two fingers up to the NEC, brazenly breaking the IHRA rule. I went one step further, when I declared to the GMB Scotland Secretary on the 3rd Dec that Israel exaggerated the Holocaust for political gain. I used these words, because yet again they are a flagrant breach of the IHRA. It is important now, for more of us to come out and openly breach the IHRA, whilst never being anti-Semitic in the true sense of the word. Only in this way can we expose that the IHRA is, as Palestinian civic groups and trade unions pointed out on the 28th August to the UK Labour Party, a fraudulent and politicised definition of anti-Semitism. It is time for the UK population to wake up and end the witch-hunt developing across the country against all who call out Israeli racism; this can only be achieved by exposing the definition as the dangerous tool that it is, one developed with Israel to hunt out and ruin those who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement. We must fight this bogus anti-Semitism and show the world that Netanyahu has no right to rewrite our rulebooks to force us to favour his Zionist project. Together people, we are strong. Solidarity!

-ends-

More on Jewish Labour Movement in Jonathan Cook’s article in Middle East Eye, see it here

Pete Gregson was supported on his appeal with statements from:

·         Labour Against the Witch-hunt

·         Free Speech on Israel

·         Scottish Jews against Zionism

·         Scottish Friends of Palestine

plus many from individuals; including his two witnesses

·         noted campaigner Tony Greenstein

·         Rabbi Ahron Cohen.

The video made by Gregson and featuring the Rabbi at the Glasgow expulsion hearing ( at tinyurl.com/gmbihra ) has now been viewed almost 1,500 times in the 5 weeks since it was launched on 1st Feb. Film director Ken Loach said to Pete of the video “Your case is made clearly and is unanswerable. Pete, your position is justified and has to be defended. Solidarity!”

Pete is now considering a legal challenge to the GMB decision. His fundraising website to meet legal costs is at tinyurl.com/legalihra

He continues to be “under investigation” by the Labour Party (see letter here) for possible anti-Semitism.

To see more people who've been charged with anti-Semitism for doing nothing wrong, see the IHRA Rogue's Gallery

OTHER NEWS

Come support the "Zionism is Racism" (ZIR) protest in Glasgow on 16th March which I am helping organise (through Kids not Suits). More info at tinyurl.com/zirevent and tinyurl.com/zirsign


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