One of the first Brighton Labour members to be expelled during Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis has lost his case for libel after being called a “notorious anti-Semite”.
A high court judge has ruled that Tony Greenstein’s defamation case against the Campaign for Anti-Semitism (CAA) should be struck out.
However, he is still able to pursue two claims of breaching data protection and misuse of private information because they reported historic criminal convictions for theft and dishonesty.
Mr Greenstein is due to speak at a virtual event called Reinstate Jeremy Corbyn tonight, which is calling for the suspension of the former Labour leader to be lifted.
Mr Corbyn was suspended after his response to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report on anti-Semitism in the Labour party, in which he said it had been exaggerated by political enemies and the media.
He is part of a panel which also includes Councillor Nichole Brennan, who resigned from Labour after allegations of anti-Semitism, and Greg Hadfield, former Brighton and Hove Independent editor who is on his third suspension from the party after allegations of abusive behaviour.
The general secretary of Unite union, Howard Beckett, had been due to speak alongside them, which sparked complaints to the union yesterday.
A union spokesman said today that Mr Beckett was now not speaking at the panel. He has been replaced by former Labour MP Chris Williamson, who was expelled from the party after denying there was a problem with anti-Semitism in the party.
The judgement, by Justice Amanda Tipples QC, said the CAA was entitled to call Mr Greenstein a notorious anti-Semite as it was an honestly held opinion based on his tweets and a letter he signed published in The Guardian.
Mr Greenstein was complaining about five articles published by the CAA. The first said he had lied to the Charity Commission when attempting to have the CAA struck off its register by saying that it ignored far-right anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
It also said he had lied in a letter to the Guardian when he said the International Definition of Anti-Semitism (or IHRA) prevented criticism of Israel.
Mrs Justice Tipples said that it was possible for an honest person to hold this opinion, based on the facts that he must have known the CAA does challenge neo-Nazi anti-Semites, and that the IHRA explicitly says criticism of the Israeli government is acceptable.
The ruling also quoted tweets of Mr Greenstein’s such as: “I loathe racist scum and Jewish Nazis like you” and “yes the holocaust did happen and you Zios have been milking it ever since even though u collaborated with the Nazis.”
Mrs Justice Tipples said an honest person could reasonably hold the opinion Mr Greenstein was anti-Semitic based on tweets such as these.
An earlier ruling had allowed the CAA to rely on a defence of honest opinion rather than truth, which would have meant they would have to prove Mr Greenstein is an anti-Semite as a matter of fact, not opinion.
The case for breaching data protection and misusing data protection may now proceed in the county court.
Mr Greenstein said: “The judgment is highly likely to be appealed on ground of fact. But the overall judgement was not unexpected because there are two defences to a claim of libel under the Defamation Act 2013.
“Section 2 is a truth defence. What you say has to be substantially true. However the Campaign Against Antisemitism sought to avoid this and rely instead on Section 3 which is honest opinion. It reverses the burden of proof and I have to prove that the opinion is malicious, dishonest. That is a very high burden. The truth of a statement is irrelevant.
“Nicklin J decided in February 2019 that allegations of antisemitism were statements of opinion not fact which is very convenient. It means that when the CAA and others, in the Labour Party, accuse someone of ‘antisemitism’ then if challenged they can say it was only a statement of opinion. There is no need to back up such a serious charge.
“In other words the law is an ass.”
Mr Greenstein was pushed out of the party in February 2018 after allegations of harassment and abuse of fellow members, including dubbing them Zios, a term singled out as anti-Semitic by the party.
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