How Equalities Policies are Used to Deny Free Speech and Human Rights

Tony Greenstein describes the tortuous logic used by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to try to dismiss Stan Keable for unexceptional speech about collaboration between Nazis and Zionists in the 1930s. Free speech seems to be a difficult concept for the Council to grasp.

I have just learnt why Steve Terry, the London Regional Organiser (Local Government) is so unwilling to help Stan Keable.  He is also Councillor Steve Terry of Walthamstow Council and a firm supporter of Progress.  I am writing to him to ask him to step aside and have no further dealings with the case as he clearly has a conflict of interest.  I would be interested if anyone else has had dealings with Mr Terry.

On March 26th, as part of the wholly contrived campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, which blew up around a long erased, allegedly antisemitic, mural various Zionist organisations organised their first ‘anti-racist’ demonstration outside Parliament.  It is worth noting that over 2 years ago the Jewish Chronicle was far more tentative, describing the mural as having “anti-Semitic undertones.”  Fast forward to today and the same Jewish Chronicle was clear that ‘its intent was obvious’.

Stan Keable (photo Sussex LRC)

This must have been the first anti-racist demonstration that the bigots of the anti-Catholic DUP had attended. We even had our old friend Norman Tebbit there.  Tebbit was previously known for devising the ‘cricket test’ to ascertain whether Pakistani and Indian immigrants were really British, according to which, if someone supported the Indian or Pakistani cricket team then they weren’t really British.

A counter-demonstration was also called by Jewish Voice for Labour and about 200 people, including supporters of Labour Against the Witchhunt rallied to the banner of Jews who believed that the fake antisemitism campaign was more about defending Israel and getting rid of Corbyn than antisemitism.

One of the demonstrators was Stan Keable, the Secretary of LAW. As Stan went around handing out leaflets he got into a conversation with some Zionist supporters and into a conversation about the Holocaust and antisemitism. During this conversation Stan made his views clear that the Holocaust wasn’t only caused by antisemitism (obvious it wasn’t – antisemitism has existed since time immemorial), that the basis of Zionism was that Jews didn’t belong in the countries of their birth and further that the Zionist movement had collaborated with the Nazi in the period leading up to the Holocaust.

Unknown to Stan BBC Newsnight editor David Grossman had secretly recorded the conversation and it wasn’t long before it was in the public domain and on social media.  The result of this quite innocuous conversation was big headlines in papers like The Standard and Jewish Chronicle, articles in that well-known anti-racist paper the Daily Mail on-line.  The next day local Tory MP, Greg Hands sent a tweet out demanding action against Stan and he followed this up with a letter to Steve Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stan’s employer, demanding action.

Stan has been suspended for the past month for making ‘offensive comments’ likely to be in breach of the Equalities Act 2010.   And of course these comments ‘have the potential to bring the Council into disrepute.’  Because you always need a catch-all charge, plumbed from the depths of McCarthyism if you don’t have anything substantive.

Freedom of Speech

You don’t have to be a follower of Voltaire or Socrates or to have read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty to understand that inherent in freedom of speech is the right to offend or shock. That one cannot discuss one’s opinions with one’s fellows in a public space without a servile member of the BBC Newsnight’s Thought Police recording you, only to denounce your opinions with all the fervour of a moser, is in itself shocking.

It is no surprise that Stephen Cowan, the Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, being a paid up member of Labour’s Right, should seek to excommunicate and dismiss Stan Keable for daring to voice a dissenting opinion.

After all it is received wisdom amongst our rulers (but precious few others) that Zionism is a good thing, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and that kosher pigs fly.  In that order.  To dare to voice an opinion on Zionism that runs counter to the accepted narrative risks incurring the wrath of robotic council bureaucrats and mindless pen pushers with the claque of equal opportunist hangers on trailing behind.

As Jodie Ginsberg wrote in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the murder of a Danish filmmaker by jihadists, ‘the right to free speech means nothing without the right to offend.  If all you have the right to do is to utter platitudes then free speech is meaningless.’

If Corbyn should be hauled over the coals, it is not for failing to tackle a non-existent ‘antisemitism’ but in his failure to stand up for his friend Ken Livingstone.  When Livingstone said that Hitler ‘supported Zionism’ then he was doing no more than speaking an uncomfortable truth about an ideology and movement that has led to millions of refugees, thousands of deaths and a series of never ending wars and that is just in Palestine.  It is a fact that during the War the Zionist was opposed to the rescue of Jews if the destination was not Palestine.

The fact that Livingstone was essentially correct is almost irrelevant.  It is an indisputable fact that on 10th August 1933 the German Zionist  Federation and the Palestinian Jewish Agency signed an economic trade agreement, Ha’avara, with the Nazi state, that helped destroy the Jewish led international boycott of Nazi Germany.

It is also a fact, as Zionist historian Lucy Dawidowic wrote, that on 28th January 1935 Reinhardt Heydrich issued a directive stating:

‘the activity of the Zionist-oriented youth organizations that are engaged in the occupational restructuring of the Jews for agriculture and manual trades prior to their emigration to Palestine lies in the interest of the National Socialist state’s leadership.’ These organisations therefore ‘are not to be treated with that strictness that it is necessary to apply to the members of the so-called German-Jewish organizations (assimilationists)’. [Lucy Dawidowicz, War Against the Jews, pp.118, and Francis Nicosia, Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, p.119]

It is also a fact that another Zionist historian, David Cesarani, in his book The Final Solution noted that ‘the efforts of the Gestapo are oriented to promoting Zionism as much as possible and lending support to its efforts to further emigration.’

Stan was also accused of breaching the Equality Act because he said that according to Zionism Jews are not acceptable here

Perhaps Alexander and Claude Montefiore, Presidents respectively of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and of the Anglo-Jewish Association, were also antisemitic (because that is what is really being alleged) when on 24th May 1917 they wrote a letter to the Times protesting against political Zionism which said that the:

“…establishment of a Jewish nationality in Palestine, founded on the theory of Jewish homelessness, must have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands and of undermining their hard-won positions as citizens and nationals of those lands.”

Likewise Lucien Wolf, a leading member of the Conjoint Foreign Committee of British Jews, wrote a worried letter to James de Rothschild, dated August 31 1916 concerning the efforts to form an alliance between British imperialism and the Zionist movement: Wolf declared that:

‘the Zionists do not merely propose to form and establish a Jewish nationality in Palestine, but that they claim all the Jews as forming at the present moment a separate and dispossessed nationality, for which it is necessary to find an organic political centre, because they are and must always be aliens in the lands in which they now dwell and, more especially, because it is ‘an absolute self delusion’ to believe that any Jew can be at once ‘English by nationality and Jewish by faith.  I have spent most of my life in combating these very doctrines, when presented to me in the form of anti-Semitism, and I can only regard them as the more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism.’

When Stan Keable was repeating the above he was no more breaching the Equalities Act than someone who exercises their right to free speech at Speakers Corner.  The temerity and cowardice of the petty bureaucrats of Hammersmith Council is a wonder to behold.

Did Stan Keable Breach the Equality Act 2010?
Hammersmith Town Hall

If anyone deserves to be dismissed for gross misconduct it is the idiot(s) who were responsible for the Disciplinary Investigation Into Allegations Against Stan Keable.  It is difficult to believe that trained HR Professionals can come up with such utter nonsense.  One wonders whether it ever passed the eye of a lawyer in Hammersmith and Fulham Council.  If Steve Cowan were to spend less time plotting to appease Greg Hands and more on the Council he is leader of then he might ensure that their HR Department was fit for purpose.

The suggestion that debating an issue such as Zionism is a breach of the Equality Act is for the birds.  The Introduction to the Act, which sets out its purpose is quite clear.  It is an Act whose purpose is

‘to reform and harmonise equality law…  to enable certain employers to be required to publish information about the differences in pay between male and female employees; to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct… to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.’

There is nothing in the Act about restricting freedom of speech or disciplining people who make comments unpopular with Britain’s yellow press or its obsequious journalists. The key paragraph in the charges against Stan are contained in Paragraph 5.2 which states:

The question as to whether or not Stan Keable’s comments breach the Equalities Act may hinge on an interpretation of what constitutes ‘belief’ under the terms of the Act… One of these [protected] characteristics is “religion and belief”. Zionism is not a religion, although it is closely related to Judaism, but it is a belief in the right of the Jewish people to have a nation state in the ‘Holy Land’, their original homeland. Legal advice, obtained as part of this investigation, states that case law has established that the definition of belief can extend to political beliefs. If Zionism constitutes a ‘belief’ under the terms of the Equality Act then the statements by Stan Keable that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis and that it accepted that “Jews are not acceptable here” might be deemed to have breached the Equality Act.

Leave aside the nonsense about Zionism being ‘closely related to Judaism’ or that Israel/Palestine is the ‘original homeland’ of the Jews (a popular antisemitic misconception of the Evangelical Christians who wanted to send the Jews back) there is a fundamental flaw in the above passage which any child of above average intelligence should be able to spot.

Zionism probably is a philosophical belief under s.10 of the Equality Act. But then so is anti-Zionism. However it is not the protected characteristics of Zionism’s believers which is at stake but those of Stan. Protected characteristics are not a free floating cause of action but they are tied to specific acts such as discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The Act is quite specific. Section 13(1) says for example that

  • A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.

It should be obvious to any fool, though clearly not to those trying to persecute Stan Keable that debating a topic in the open air or in a pub does not infringe your adversaries rights or treat him less favourably. By saying that the Nazis and Zionists collaborated at certain times, no one is being discriminated against.  Stan was not in any contractual or employment relationship with his adversaries.

BUT in suspending and seeking to dismiss Stan, it is Hammersmith Council which is guilty of breaching the Equality Act because it is Stan who they are discriminating against on the grounds of his Religion or Belief.  The failure to understand this simple but obvious point is quite staggering.

There is no single definition of what constitutes a religious or philosophical belief but the case of Grainger plc & others v Nicholson set out some guidelines. There must be:

  • A genuinely held belief.
  • A belief and not an opinion
  • A belief as to a weight and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  • The belief must have a certain level of cogency, seriousness, coherency, and importance
  • The belief must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity, and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others

If Stan Keable were to be dismissed then almost certainly he would have been directly dismissed because of his philosophical belief, i.e. anti-Zionism.  In addition to being unfairly dismissed he would also have suffered a detriment.

The fool who complied the Council’s Report states (Para. 5.6) that

in attending the counter demonstration at Westminster on 26th March and in making the comments that subsequently appeared on social media, Mr Keable has failed to avoid any conduct outside of work which may discredit himself and the Council.’

Under recommendations (Paragraph 7.1) we have this little gem, the product of the kind of bureaucratic mind that diligently produced ID cards that were nigh impossible to forge in Nazi Occupied Netherlands (thus condemning thousands of Jews to death):

The allegations are:

That, in attending a counter demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on the 26th March 2018, Stan Keable knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the Council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy and the Council’s Code of Conduct (‘Working with integrity’ and ‘Working with the media’).

Have you ever heard such a pathetic formulation?  That in attending a demonstration Stan ‘knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views…’

Whoever wrote this drivel should be sent on an extended course on basic civil liberties, the Human Rights Act, the Equality Act and for good measure a civics course explaining why protest is legitimate in a democracy.

We should be under no illusions that the product of the ‘antisemitism’ campaign of groups like Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement, where people are made to feel guilty about saying a word out of place, at the very same time that unarmed Palestinians in Gaza are being gunned down in cold blood, is to make people afraid that they might say something ‘antisemitic’. The McCarthyist campaign of Israel’s shills and propagandist organisations – such as Luke Akehurst’s We Believe in Israel, is to exert a chilling effect on democratic debate.

Hammersmith and Fulham believe themselves exempt from the Human Rights Act

If this Report is accepted by Hammersmith Council and Stan is dismissed, then mere attendance at a demonstration will be a potential breach of one’s employment contract. Because of course there is always likely to be press coverage of a demonstration and, horror of horrors, one might even feature in that coverage.

Clearly the fools who drew up the Report are also unaware of Schedule 1 of the 1998 Human Rights Act which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.

Article 10 Freedom of Expression states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

Article 11 Freedom of Assembly and Association begins:

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Closely allied to these is Article 9 on Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion.  If it is disappointing that a Labour Council is prepared to trample over the most basic human rights in order to appease the Israel lobby, then the reaction of UNISON and its London Organiser, Steve Terry, have been no better.  He has been obstructive, incapable of acknowledging the issues at stake and has suggested that if Stan didn’t apologise (for what?) then he would sit in on the disciplinary as a ‘silent representative’.  Clearly Steve doesn’t understand that UNISON officials are paid to represent and support their members.

I have no doubt, having considerable experience of both Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, that in the event of Stan being dismissed he will win any subsequently case because not even the most conformist and timid Tribunal will accept that going on a demonstration and airing one’s views in public constitute a breach of the Equality Act or one’s contract.  What is truly pathetic is that Steve Cowan and the Labour Council don’t understand this.

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