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Long-standing Labour Party member accuses Sir Keir of ‘amplifying’ prejudice against Jews

LABOUR is set to be rocked by claims of anti-semitic discrimination after a former long-standing member accused Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of “amplifying” prejudice against Jews.

Stephen Marks, 78, claims party bosses breached the Equality Act by subjecting him to “bullying,” direct discrimination and harassment that was “difficult to survive” in a pre-action letter lodged at a county court.

The former member of Labour’s national constitutional committee (NCC) warned his claim for damages could spark similar action by other Jewish members whom the party could have unfairly penalised over their pro-Palestine views.

He told the Morning Star: “Labour could be playing with a ticking bomb with this. 

“If I were successful it would be a tremendous blow against the Starmer leadership.”

He said Labour’s treatment of him “is bullying, arrogant and contemptuous” and a clear case of “wilful conflation of anti-semitism with anti-zionism” as “they are looking for excuses to rid the party for people they would describe as Corbynistas” for which Palestine is a “touch issue” about anti-imperialism.

He added: “I think obsessively identifying all Jews with Israel does amplify anti-semitism.

“I don’t accept that it was anti-semitic under Jeremy Corbyn but I think that it’s actually behaviour that in effect stereotyping all Jews in relation to Israel is anti-semitic.

“I think the long-term impact of the Gaza situation will be one of the factors which changes the context in which people see this.”

Mr Marks, of Oxford, is seeking an apology, reinstatement and damages arising out of his suspension on July 2021 which culminated in his expulsion from the party in December 2022.

He was suffering from poor health when he was given 14 days to respond to his notice of suspension for having “undermined the Labour Party’s ability to campaign against racism” contrary to its code of conduct.

It said he had signed an open letter titled “Labour Jews to Chuka Umunna — Stop using antisemitism smears against Corbyn” in July 2016; another titled “145 Labour Party members say ‘I am Jackie Walker’” in April 2017; and posted  a petition to Facebook titled “Antisemitism: Open letter to Jeremy Corbyn and the left on the NEC” in April 2018.

Mr Marks said he received no response to a request for an extension and in August 2021 challenged his suspension in writing, saying: “I find it quite extraordinary that I am being asked to defend myself against baseless and completely unfounded accusations of being a Jewish anti-semite.

“I can think of no more cruel accusation you can make to anyone who considers themselves a proud Jew and active in the cause of human liberation … than to suggest that they are anti-semitic.”

Late in December 2022, the national executive committee (NEC) panel issued his expulsion from the party, of which he has been an active member for more than 40 years.

He appealed but was informed six months later he had been unsuccessful.

Mr Marks said the allegations against him were “obviously a put-up job because they waited several years before suddenly noticing that these statements had apparently undermined the Labour Party’s ability to fight racism.”

In the pre-action letter this month sent to Labour which has been seen by the Morning Star, his lawyers argue his philosophical belief “which is critical of zionism and the state of Israel” is protected under the Equality Act.

His original suspension, failure to consider his substantive response to the allegations and refusal to consider his appeal “was directly discriminatory… because of our client expressing a manifestation of his protected philosophical belief,” it adds.

It also alleges Labour bosses treated him unfavourably due to his Jewish identity, amounting to harassment.

The Bindmans LLP’s letter said there was “a wholly unreasonable length of time” for a response to the suspension notice and accused the party of creating “a state of affairs which was again hostile, humiliating and offensive.”

It alleged “the unwanted conduct adopted by the party against our client was clearly related to his Jewish identity… This is evident as the 9 July 2016 letter was signed by 43 Jewish members and the 11 April 2017 letter was signed by a substantial number of Jewish members.”

Research by Jewish Voice for Labour, which is backing his case, in August found Jewish members were six times more likely to be investigated and more than nine times more likely to be expelled from the Labour Party for anti-semitism than non-Jewish members.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians executive member Richard Kuper said: “Stephen was singled out — no-one else has been similarly charged with like offences, though it is in unfathomable as to why anyone should be so charged in any event.

“This a fundamental injustice of which the Labour Party should be truly ashamed.”

The Labour Party was contacted for comment.

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