Claudia Webbe’s elevation to chair of the Labour party’s disputes panel is causing controversy. No wonder:
But she stood by her decision to write a letter to the Guardian in defence of the former London Mayor in 2006 after he was suspended from the party for four weeks over his encounter with Mr Finegold.
Ms Webbe worked as an adviser to Mr Livingstone in 2000 and 2004 and, in the Guardian letter, said his suspension “smacked in the face of true democracy”.
“His history of work in the anti-racist movement is unquestionable,” she wrote in the letter.
Oliver Finegold is the Jewish journalist Livingstone compared to a “concentration camp guard” in 2005.
What a fine anti-racist, eh. Keep in mind that Livingstone had already earned notoriety in 2004 by inviting Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the hate preacher extraordinaire, to London. Al-Qaradawi duly told BBC Newsnight that he fully supported suicide bombing attacks on Israeli civilians. Jewish community leaders protested about the visit at the time.
Webbe went on to become an Islington Labour councillor. For a revealing look at her weird Islington world, try a Gaza meeting she chaired at the Finsbury Park Mosque in August 2014.
A tape of the meeting is available on YouTube. Webbe praises and identifies with the crowd, opening the meeting with this line: “This is a true unity meeting. This is about all of us.”
So, what did people have to say when audience members at the “unity meeting” were allowed to make statements?
A man from Haringey Justice for Palestinians offers this, to applause:
I’d just like to ask, when are we going to pressure the British government to prosecute British Israelis who are fighting in the IDF? When are we going to prosecute people that fight on occupied land and break international law? If a Muslim goes to fight in Syria, automatically he is a criminal in this state. When will we have justice?
By August 2014 jihadis had committed countless atrocities in the Syrian war. The self-styled Islamic State had declared a caliphate and was on the march. Linking IDF personnel directly with jihadis was already plainly absurd, even if one is no fan of the IDF.
Another man accuses Israel of “neo-genocide”:
I want to find out how the Palestinians can be protected from this neo-genocidal onslaught by the Israeli military and their financial and military backers in the West?
A third man proffers a novel solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict – class war!
Do you think this problem can be ever solved on a capitalist basis? Because the Zionist state, in my opinion, I don’t think has any interest in peace or the creation of any kind of secure independent homeland for the Palestinian people. It’s just using this conflict in a cynical way to cut across the class struggle in its own country.
It’s trying to say, “we’re not your enemy, it’s the Palestinians. Don’t struggle against us, but you know, struggle against them”, which is completely false, and I think we should stand against this.
Without removing the capitalists, the bankers, the landlords and the imperialists, how can you ever really talk about peace, the end of poverty, the end of unemployment, the end of exploitation, not just in Israel and Palestine but across the world?
Webbe nods at this man and says “thank you”.
Next, a man who says he is the UCU equalities officer for the London region and a member of the Islington SWP suggests a blanket boycott of Israel:
At London Metropolitan University, what we’ll be doing, is we’ll be arguing that the university immediately breaks all links with Israeli academic institutions. But more than that, actually, what I want to see at London Metropolitan University, I want to see the university guarantee that they will not purchase goods or services from any organization or company that has any links with Israel at all.
The same UCU and SWP man urges Islington council to adopt this approach:
The council should not only break all links, I am sure it doesn’t have any at the moment, with Israel, but should ensure that companies it purchases services from, and it purchases lots of services from lots of companies, none of them have any links with Israel.
Next a woman stands up and flatly accuses Israel of “genocide” and adds that Israel wants to “ethnic cleanse” Gazans “into Sinai”.
The anti-Israel Israeli is a prized figure in this world. Sure enough, one stands up and is applauded as she says:
Well, I am standing up because I am an Israeli and an anti-Zionist. And although I am not in Israel demonstrating, I’ve been in the demonstrations here. And when I shout “Free Palestine”, I mean the whole of Palestine.
Murad Qureshi, a Labour London Assembly member at the time, takes the microphone to back blanket boycotts, including hassling shopkeepers:
I’ve been to Hayes and I’ve seen the protests there, co-ordinated by John McDonnell, where all the shops have come out and said they will not be selling Israeli goods.
Ah, that will be the campaign where McDonnell enlisted the support of “inminds”, a poisonous Khomeinist propaganda website.
For his part, James Murray, then an Islington Labour councillor, offers unqualified support to the crowd, as a councillor:
We are very fortunate, we are very honoured, to have a position where we can stand up and we can speak to people, and we can speak to people on doors and at public events. And we have a responsibility to represent you by using our position to multiply the ideas about what we should do, as so many speakers have said today. So, let’s speak after this, we’re there with you, we want to fight this alongside you and I look forward to working with you in future.
In the YouTube clip, Claudia Webbe, Hugh Lanning, Jeremy Corbyn, and Lindsey German are all shown on the platform. Lanning and German go on to speak in the clip and neither raises a single objection to the statements from the audience.
Lanning did echo the sentiments of the meeting:
Israel is fundamentally racist in everything it does.
The ethnic cleansing is their Achilles heel.
While a pleased German had only solidarity to offer:
How great it is, the diversity in this meeting, and I think that’s exactly what any movement around this question should be about, and it’s about welcoming everybody who agrees around these issues rather than trying to divide us and set up different campaigns. I think that’s absolutely great.
And I agree very much about the IDF people, the people who go to fight. I mean, it’s incredible. You have all this stuff, there’s 500 people fighting in Syria. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t, that they may be terrorists when they come back. But there are at least 100 British citizens fighting in the IDF in Israel and nobody even suggests there’s a problem with that or that they’re gonna be terrorists when they come back.
Corbyn’s words at the meeting are available on another clip:
He praises the audience and the mosque. He too raises no objections to blanket boycotts of Israel, “genocide”, “ethnic cleansing”, and aligning British IDF personnel with jihadis in Syria, for arrest. Instead, the angry words he has are for Israel’s EU trade agreements and Israel’s military suppliers.
Not only do we want an end to the military relationship with Israel, we want a suspension of the EU-Israel trade agreement until they agree to the human rights clauses and adhere to them.
He also speaks up for the Palestinian “right of return”. Then he adds this point:
We should say to those supermarkets that stock goods that are produced from the settlements, “sorry, you stock those goods, we ain’t shopping with you anymore.”
That summer did see bands of anti-Israel thugs swarming supermarkets, which required police protection. For example, see Labour MP Shabana Mahmood celebrating the forced closure and lost business of a Sainsbury’s in Birmingham as “activists” bellow behind her.
Towards the end of his remarks, Corbyn offers what appears to be an endorsement of Palestinian violence:
You cannot keep a people in jail for so long and not expect consequences as a result of it.
As for the meeting venue, readers will know that the Finsbury Park Mosque is closely connected to Hamas.
Israel is bound to be at the heart of several antisemitism cases. Looking at Claudia Webbe’s world, it is just as scandalous as it is unsurprising that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has chosen her to adjudicate them.