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Silenced by ‘anti-semitism’

24 March, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Phil Rosenberg (left) and Peter Taheri

SHOCK, horror – whatever next!

Whatever the relevant definition of “anti-semitism” is nowadays, it was enough for the new chairman of Hampstead Labour Party, Peter Taheri, a barrister, to go red-faced and ban the subject from discussion at a packed meeting last week.

Whatever happened to freedom of expression, stunned party members must have asked themselves?

A motion accusing a “senior political officer” at the Israeli embassy of interference in our “democratic process” by “plotting” to “take down” a senior Tory minister for being critical of Israel was enough for Mr Taheri to call it a day.

This could be said to be a “provocation”, he reasoned aloud to the meeting. His definition of “anti-semitism” included any “criticism” of Israel – and therefore he ruled the motion out of order.
Members, I heard, were speechless.

Seeking approval, Mr Taheri, desperately trying to be democratic, then asked members whether they agreed with his decision. And, if they didn’t, he said, they were entitled to vote against him but would require a two-thirds majority!

Muddier and muddier the meeting became!

Members did vote against his decision – but by only a simple majority. Not enough, so the motion lay buried. Never to be discussed again.

And though it was only 9pm, the meeting ended – as did one of Mr Taheri’s early appearances as chairman. I gather Mr Taheri, liked by members, has ambitions to become a councillor.

In the audience were at least three Labour councillors including Phil Rosenberg, a West Hampstead representative who is a member of the Jewish Board of Deputies and recently awarded the Ralph Goldman Award for emerging Jewish leaders by the World Jewish Congress. I gather they did not take part in the discussion.

Whoever put forward the motion was surely asking for trouble considering the rumpus caused by strained accusations of “anti-semitism” in Labour circles – accusations I find very difficult to comprehend. Another act of martyrdom by a political thickhead!

I hear emails have been flying back and forth this week as party members do not seem to know what to do next. Perhaps, they should just put it down to experience – and let go of it.

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