From the Israeli Defence Forces to the NCC
I CAME TO THE UK in 1996 as a postgraduate student to read for a doctorate in ancient history at Brasenose College, Oxford. I had behind me 16 years of compulsory and reserve service in the Israeli army - mostly spent in the occupied Palestinian territories and in occupied Lebanon during the First Lebanon War in 1982, with later stints as a reservist.
My last commission before moving to the UK was as a foreign press liaison officer at the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) spokesman unit. My job was to whitewash the atrocities which I had witnessed on a daily basis when serving in the West Bank or in Gaza and spoon-feed with watered-down information the foreign correspondents while escorting them during their restricted visits.
My military experience together with a strong socialist conviction led me to become an activist of the Peace Now movement alongside joining the United Workers Party (MAPAM, now defunct). However, only here in the UK was I able to gain a wider perspective of the real intentions of the state of Israel, reflected through the agenda of the settlers’ movement, namely a permanent and irreversible Jewish colonisation of the occupied Palestinian territories.
I was naturalised as a British citizen in 2006, but it was only when Gordon Brown’s government was about to hit rock bottom, the fear of a Tory government with an agenda not dissimilar to that of the ruling Likud party of Israel led me to join Labour. I positioned myself on the left of the party and gladly welcomed the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership in 2015. Shortly after Corbyn’s election, the social media (Twitter in my case) became swamped with anti-Corbyn propaganda. Being a veteran of the Israeli military propaganda system and intimate with its civilian Siamese twin (the notorious “Hasbara”, co-ordinated from the Israeli PM’s office in Jerusalem), I could immediately identify their ideological fingerprints all over it. I kept a watchful eye on the vitriolic accounts (always anonymous, without exception) which had mushroomed over Twitter with the false antisemitism allegations. I ignored their abusive accusations against me and my family - including an appeal to the college I teach at in Oxford to sack me.
The first notice about my suspension from the party was in August 2016. I did not let it and the emails from the party’s Compliance Unit stop me. The suspension lasted till November 2017. I was then informed about the NCC’s (National Constitutional Committee) decision to summon me to a disciplinary hearing which eventually took place on 20th March 2018. The NCC disciplinary panel included Maggie Cousins as chair with Emina Ibrahim and Douglas Fairbairn as co-adjudicators.
The charges against me revolved around my ‘antisemitism’ - a grotesque accusation for a son of Holocaust survivors whose mother had been snatched in the last minute from the crematoria of death camps and whose father had fought the Nazis flying a Soviet combat aircraft, while his entire family, parents, siblings and all their relatives perished in the Belzec concentration camp.
The ‘antisemitism’ in question was my criticism of the state of Israel and its atrocious policies - namely, the unending occupation of the West Bank and the inhuman siege on Gaza, the continuous colonisation of the West Bank and annexed territories (ie. Eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights) and the pervasive apartheid and discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
My accusers were very keen to recast comments I made on Israel’s success in recruiting certain leaders of western Jewish communities and turning them into zealous supporters who ostracise opposing Jewish voices, as “making mendacious allegations about Jews as a collective” and “accusing Jews, supporters of Israel and critics of antisemitism as being more loyal to Israel than to the UK…”. And most ludicrous – accusing me of “ denying Jewish people the language to describe their own oppression. “
With such a charge sheet, it did not come entirely as a surprise that Ms Cousins and her adjutants ran the disciplinary hearing as a kangaroo court from start to finish. I was constantly disrupted and harassed by the chair and the ‘presenter’ Dan Hogan, and my replies to the accusations were largely ignored. When Ms Cousins declared that the charges were ‘proved’ I decided to leave the kangaroo court in disgust. The anticipated expulsion letter arrived four days later. I have been expelled for two years. Presumably I am expected to be cured from my ‘antisemitism’ by then.