RIP Mike Howard — tarred as an antisemite by Labour, he was a Jewish activist who fought fascism and racism his whole life

Mike Howard was the Jewish son of a family that escaped the Nazi pogroms in what is today Lithuania and Poland to settle in the East End of London. At school he suffered constant racist abuse being teased as “a fat little Jew boy”. Irrespective of his background and his longstanding commitment to international socialism, in June 2020 he received an email from the Labour Party accusing him of antisemitism on the basis of a few pro-Palestinian posts on Facebook, and in spite of the fact that many of these posts had actually included his own back story.

Mike Howard was outraged but more so for knowing that the letter had very probably come from people inside Labour HQ who were not even Jewish, but anonymously making false accusations when his own family had actively fought the fascists before, during and after the war, and had fought racism the whole of their lives. A very active member of the party, coincidentally, he had just been reselected to run for councillor in the May elections – previously he was elected and served as councillor on two occasions. He immediately appealed against his suspension but heard nothing.

Mike Howard became one of seven members known as Labour Activists For Justice (LA4J) who took the Labour Party to court over its disciplinary process for investigating complaints of antisemitism:

The members of the group, four of whom are Jewish, have all had disciplinary action taken against them and are currently under investigation over alleged rule breaches relating to antisemitism, which they strongly reject. They know that many other members are in similar situations. They are making this High Court claim because the suggestion in many cases, including their own, that there is anti-Semitic content in the evidence provided by the Labour Party is unfounded and offensive. They want a fair disciplinary process to be implemented for ALL Labour Party members where the criteria by which they will be judged are clear and public and the procedures are fair.

When they lost their case at the High Court in July, Jewish Voice for Labour issued a statement that begins:

It’s difficult not to get the impression that the recent judgment, on the claim against the Party by several members accused of antisemitism, is one of those cases where the judge decided what he wanted to do and then thought of some reasons to justify it. In fact, his comment at the end of his judgment, where he declared that it’s effectively the policy of the courts not to intervene in disciplinary proceedings, meant that he was never going to agree with the claimants.

And concludes:

The difficulty for anyone challenging the Labour Party on anything to do with antisemitism allegations is that they are fighting what has become an entrenched conventional wisdom i.e. that there is rampant antisemitism in the UK in general and in the Labour Party in particular. Indeed, the way the judge listed the draft charges against one of the claimants (unnamed) seemed intended to indicate what a dreadful bunch they must be.

After a short illness, yesterday [Nov 11th 2021] Mike passed away with his family around him. He was still suspended from the Labour Party.

Click here and here to read each of the reports published by Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL).

You can see the full judgment on the case here.

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