Labour Party revokes Electronic Intifada press pass
|Ali Abunimah 19 August 2019|
Last month, the Labour Party approved a press pass for The Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley to cover its annual conference next month.
But last week the UK opposition party’s press team claimed in an email to Winstanley that “Your application has not been approved.”
This amounts to a revocation of an approved press pass without cause, and an undemocratic attack on media freedom.
The move came just days after an influential Israel lobby group conceded that The Electronic Intifada has been “the single most popular website” for reporting on the Labour anti-Semitism witch hunt against supporters of Palestinian rights.
The terse 15 August email claiming Winstanley’s pass had not been approved flatly contradicts an email he received from Labour Party Conference Services on 22 July.
The July email to Winstanley states: “I can confirm that your application has been successful. Your pass will be dispatched in early September.”
The revocation of Winstanley’s press access appears to be part of an ongoing effort by factions within the party’s bureaucracy to silence critics of how it has handled largely bogus accusations of anti-Semitism targeting the left, supporters of Palestinian rights and prominent Black and Jewish members.
That campaign has been in full swing ever since left-wing lawmaker and lifelong Palestine solidarity campaigner Jeremy Corbyn won the party leadership in 2015.
The Electronic Intifada “most popular website”
In March, Labour launched a disciplinary investigation into Winstanley, a party member.
Winstanley first learned about the investigation from information leaked to the Jewish Chronicle, a right-wing, pro-Israel publication that has fueled the campaign of false allegations that Labour is rife with anti-Semitism.
At the time, Winstanley lodged a formal complaint for violations of his rights under the UK’s Data Protection Act.
The Information Commissioner’s Office is currently investigating the leaking of his data as a potentially criminal act.
Winstanley has a long record of meticulously accurate and widely read reporting on the Labour Party.
The broad impact of The Electronic Intifada’s reporting was confirmed this month by the Community Security Trust, an Israel lobby group with close ties to the British government.
The CST published a report purporting to expose the “the online networks behind the Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis.”
The report states that “the single most popular website for article shares about the subject of anti-Semitism, the Labour Party and Israel/Palestine was [The] Electronic Intifada.”
The Electronic Intifada’s reporting, the Israel lobby group states, “generated nearly four times the online engagement than The Guardian did for content about this specific area of discussion.”
While the CST report cites many of Winstanley’s articles for The Electronic Intifada, it does not point to any factual inaccuracies.
Rather, the report attempts to spin incontestable and highly relevant facts, including the close ties between the Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel lobby group within the party, and the Israeli embassy.
Winstanley was the first to expose that the Jewish Labour Movement’s sometime executive director, Ella Rose, had previously worked at the Israeli embassy.
He also revealed how Rose, as director of the Jewish Labour Movement, worked closely with Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy spy expelled from the UK after his activities were exposed.
Winstanley’s work has often cited Al Jazeera’s documentary The Lobby, which exposed how the Israeli embassy, working with British Israel lobby operatives, tried to covertly create a fake grassroots organization called Young Labour Friends of Israel.
The documentary also exposes how Joan Ryan, then chair of Labour Friends of Israel, fabricated an allegation of anti-Semitism against a party member.
The secret coordination between groups including the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel, on the one hand, and the Israeli government, on the other, has taken place against the background of Israel’s global covert war to sabotage and silence supporters of Palestinian rights.
This campaign has included inciting death threats against human rights defenders.
Despite being unable to point to errors in Winstanley’s articles, the Community Security Trust smears his reporting on the role of the Jewish Labour Movement in fueling the bogus anti-Semitism crisis as “a classic ‘dual loyalty’ trope, by which Jews (and other minorities) are often accused of not being fully loyal to the country of their birth.”
Needless to say, Winstanley has made no such allegation, and this spin by the CST is an effort to defame him and to misrepresent and discredit his reporting.
The CST, notably, has influence with the British security establishment.
In 2011, British authorities ordered prominent Palestinian political figure Raed Salah deported based on bogus allegations of anti-Semitism contained in a report sent to the government by the CST.
After a 10-month legal battle, Salah was completely vindicated as a court upheld his appeal against the deportation “on all grounds.”
The Electronic Intifada has written to the Labour Party to ask that Winstanley’s press pass be immediately reinstated. Winstanley has also taken the matter up with the National Union of Journalists, of which he is a member.