Old wounds are being reopened this weekend as Hastings councillor Leah Levane is billed to speak at a rally in London that will be discussing what it describes as ‘the right to free speech on the subject of Israel and Palestine’.
Ms Levane, who represents Castle Ward on Hasting Borough Council (HBC) and is also co-chair of a national group called Jewish Voice for Labour, is scheduled to speak at the event tomorrow afternoon, her subject is: “The international campaign to impose the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) fake definition of antisemitism and the fight for free speech in schools and universities…” this despite HBC voting to adopt the IHRA definitions of antisemitism as its policy at a meeting in October and those definitions also forming part of the Labour Party’s national policy.
Tomorrow’s rally is the launch of a group calling itself Campaign for Free Speech. The event says it is: “Co-sponsored by Labour Against the Witchhunt, Labour Left Alliance, Resistance Movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign Brighton.”
The rally has received a solidarity message from Tariq Ali that says: “Angela Rayner tells #JLM2020: ‘If I have to suspend thousands and thousands of members, we will do that. Because we cannot and we will not accept an injury to one, because an injury to one is an injury to all.’
“The response to this should be: ‘If we have to be suspended because we support the rights of the Palestinian people to live, plough their lands, tend their olive trees, defend their children and themselves and continue the struggle for equal rights in an apartheid state and for self-determination outside it, then we will.'”
What troubles some fellow councillors is that Ms Levane will be sharing a platform with people who have either already been ejected from The Labour Party or who are under suspension for what has been deemed to be antisemitic behaviour.
Speakers include former MP Chris Williamson who was kicked out the party after telling a meeting the Labour was apologising ‘too much’ for antisemitism in the party. Labour’s disciplinary committee called it ‘a pattern of behaviour’.
“…if Leah perhaps took more interest in Castle Ward instead of this kind of activism?”Jonathon Stoodley, Deputy Chair of Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrats
Also speaking will be Jackie Walker who has claimed that Jews and Jewish banking were behind the slave-trade.
In October when Hastings Borough Council voted on a motion to adopt the IHRA definitions of antisemitism Ms Levane abstained – all other councillors present voted in favour, later in the same meeting she seconded a motion that said: “The council reaffirms its commitment to combat, racism and prejudice in all its forms. In order to ensure that every individual feels safe, protected and comfortable we will look to work closely with the diverse range of communities in our town.
“As part of our commitment to the above the council will formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition on antisemitism…“
Former Labour councillor for Old Hastings, Dany Louise, who resigned from the party last year saying, “Sensible people have long ago abandoned the Hastings and Rye branch of the Labour Party,” and claimed she had been driven out because Labour had become a ‘welcoming environment for antisemities’ said this week: “I am horrified that an HBC elected member would choose to share a platform with these utterly discredited people, who have rightly been expelled or suspended from the Labour Party for unacceptable behaviour.
“To my mind, it falls far below the standard of conduct that residents of Hastings have a right to expect from their elected members. To then choose to speak on an agenda item which calls the IHRA definition of antisemitism ‘fake’ is both breathtakingly arrogant, and vile.
“It seems to me that Ms Levane is increasingly out of step with Labour Party policy. “
Jonathon Stoodley, Deputy Chair of Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrats told Hastings In Focus: “Labour’s issues with anti-semitism are very serious and need urgent attention.
“The Liberal Democrats are always for freedom of speech and belief, but wouldn’t it be nice if Leah perhaps took more interest in Castle Ward instead of this kind of activism?”
Rob Lee, who leads the Conservative group on HBC said: “It’s disappointing to see a Hastings Borough Councillor as one of the speakers at this event, especially after we just passed a motion at full council against anti-semitism.
“The Labour leadership must not turn a blind eye to anti-Semitism within it’s own ranks. It supports what many have been thinking, even after Jeremy Corbyn has been thrown out of the party, Labour hasn’t changed one bit.”
Hastings In Focus has made numerous attempts by phone, email and social media to contact Ms Levane for a comment but her only response was to ask: “Are you planning to attend the event?”
When asked for their view on whether it was appropriate for Ms Levane to be speaking at the event a spokesman for Hastings and Rye Constituency Labour Party said: “Thank you for your enquiry but we have no comment to make.”
And at a national level no one in The Labour Party’s press office has responded to our requests for a comment, although a spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told us: “Labour takes all allegations against any Labour member extremely seriously and has a complaints process in place that is independent from the leadership of the Party. Complaints can be made at?https://labour.org.uk/members/my-welfare/making-a-complaint/?including anonymously.
To see the full agenda for tomorrow’s rally click here