From HENRY ZEFFMAN in The Times:
First came allegations of antisemitism among grassroots supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader. Then came the backlash, as those suspended or expelled accused Labour of a witch hunt. Now the backlash has spawned its own backlash, after a landlord banned rival hard-left factions from meeting in his pub.
Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW), which protests against suspensions and expulsions of party members accused of antisemitism, is in a dispute with Reject Bogus Left Antisemitism (RBLA), a splinter group that was set up after its members were expelled from LAW for antisemitism.
LAW had planned to meet in a central London pub today, but the pub cancelled its booking after RBLA planned to hold a protest at the same pub at the same time. RBLA called on activists to “put a stop to this shameful witch hunt by Labour Against the Witch hunt”.
At the last meeting of LAW, two of its leading members called for the expulsion of Gerry Downing and Ian Donovan, who also belong to Socialist Fight, a Trotskyist sect. Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein, who lead LAW, told members: “It is a standard tactic of Zionism to accuse anti-Zionists of antisemitism. In 99 per cent of cases this is false but occasionally they are right.”
After Ms Walker and Mr Greenstein tried to expel Mr Downing from LAW, he set up a rival event at the Calthorpe Arms in central London where LAW’s meeting was planned. He accused Ms Walker and Mr Greenstein of joining the Guido Fawkes website and David Cameron to “witch hunt genuine anti-Zionists and revolutionary socialists”.
After media coverage of the row this week, Mr Greenstein said: “Because of idiotic and stupid publicity which made out that there would be two groups fighting over one space or worse on Saturday, deliberately feeding the bourgeois press and Guido Fawkes, the landlord of the Calthorpe Arms has just rung me up cancelling the meeting.”
However, Mr Downing said that other LAW members had been told the meeting was going ahead at a new venue. Mr Downing, who describes himself as a Trotskyist retired bus driver with ambitions to end capitalism by socialist revolution, was suspended by Labour in 2016 after he said the “Jewish-Zionist bourgeois” had helped to lead “the capitalist offensive against the workers”. Writing about the events of September 11, 2001, he said violence against the US “is progressive, no matter how distorted its actions are, and must never be ‘condemned’ ”.
Leading members of LAW have also been accused of antisemitism. Ms Walker, a former vice-chairwoman of the left-wing campaign group Momentum, was suspended from Labour after claiming Jews were the “chief financiers of the slave trade”.
Meanwhile, splits among pro-Corbyn activists in east London left some members unclear about which group was the true local branch of Momentum. On Twitter, Momentum Redbridge, Redbridge Momentum and Redbridge Momentum — Official all claimed to be the real group.
Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, said: “It’s like something from Monty Python. None of us have any idea which group is the Judaean People’s Front and which group is the People’s Front of Judea, but that kind of factional infighting has made very little impact in my constituency.”