The labour movement should rally to the defence of Labour National Executive member and Momentum leader Jon Lansman against George Galloway’s threat to sue him for defamation.
Galloway says he has “instructed solicitors to bring a case for defamation against Jon Lansman”. That is a response to a tweet by Lansman defending Jewish comedian David Baddiel after Galloway made a tweet (now deleted) that “no supporter of the Palestinian people” would march “behind” Baddiel (apparently a reference to planned protests against Donald Trump visiting Britain).
Over the years Galloway has run or threatened a number of libel actions, including one against Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman in 2015.
British libel law makes it easy for moneyed people to deter criticism from the less-moneyed, since even to start defence against a libel action requires a lot of money, and the person bringing the case can sue printers and distributors as well as the author.
The labour movement should not tolerate legal threats being used in this way to silence comment such as Lansman’s.
Appearing on the Iranian state channel Press TV on 27 January, Ken Livingstone responded to a claim by the presenter that the Holocaust was “used” by Israel to make it “untouchable” by claiming chattily that the “problem” at the end of the Second World War revolved around the USA’s failure to allow Jews to flee there.
“Death to Israel” has been a common slogan on state-licensed demonstrations in Iran for many years.
A healthy labour movement must protect criticisms of comments such as Galloway’s and Livingstone’s, and allow them to be discussed fully and freely.