Tony Greenstein, long-time Jewish anti-Zionist activist, is facing prison for allegedly acting with ‘intent to commit criminal damage” at the Shenstone Factory of Elbit Systems, the Israeli weapon and drone manufacturer. Elbit is well known to be a prolific manufacturer of weapons for killing and ethically cleansing Palestinians, and has been repeatedly targeted by protesters from the direct action protest group Palestine Action.
There have been well-publicised acquittals of Palestine Action protesters engaged in direct action protests at Elbit premises. For instance the Kingsway 5, who used fake blood to highlight the murder of Palestinians Elbit was responsible for at an October 2020 protest outside Elbit’s offices in Kingsway, London were acquitted by a jury that were convinced of ‘lawful excuse’ for their actions. This is not the only example, as Palestine Action make clear on their website:
“In trials across the country, activists have been acquitted, had their cases thrown out by judges, or have seen their charges dropped. In the courts this year, 18 activists have walked free, while 5 have seen minor convictions in the magistrates courts, those being for ‘criminal damage’ or ‘obstruction of the highways’. Dozens of other activists have had their cases dropped and trials postponed, until 2023 or 2024. Palestine Action are set for a number of major jury trials in 2023, where once again activists will deliver the message: Elbit is guilty, Palestine Action is not.”https://www.palestineaction.org/2022-actions-victory/
These tactics have been successful not just for Palestine Action, but for other protesters in cases around the country, from environmentalists to those who in June 2020 pulled down the Bristol statue of 17th century slave-owner Edward Colston.
However, this extreme right-wing government is up to its neck in complicity and support for genocidal Israeli terror against Palestinians, and in addition is pursuing a culture war against anti-racists (who it dubs as a ‘woke’ menace) and against environmental protest as well. So not only has it been passing draconian anti-protest laws aimed at criminalising ‘direct action’ protest tactics such as ‘locking on’ (protesters attaching themselves to an object, such as a statue or gates etc), but even protesters linking arms. They are also trying to nobble jury trials to prevent possible acquittals by blatant violations of common law, which in the UK constitutes a layer of customary law that in some ways plays a role in lieu of an actual, written constitution, providing some semblance of defence of the rights of ordinary citizens confronted with abuses of governmental and judicial power.
One such ‘common law’ protection is the right of a jury to take account of its ‘conscience’ and acquit defendants on the basis of facts about the motives for an action that ostensibly breaks the law. The concept of ‘lawful excuse’ is a defence for many crimes involving social and political protest when the accused is able to demonstrate that the action taken was done to prevent greater crimes being committed. Obviously here Elbit is involved in producing material used to murder Palestinians in pursuit of political Zionism. Which is a racist project involving the forcible expulsion or even destruction of civilian populations who live in the ‘wrong’ place and are an obstacle to the desire of illegal Jewish settlers to steal their land. These implements thus are being used to commit a major, ongoing crime. The ongoing oppression today of the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza (and of so-called Israeli Arabs), is a continuation of the Nakba (catastrophe) of the Palestinian civilian population in ‘Israel’ – the 1948 expulsion of three quarters of the native Arab people of Palestine. This is self-evidently a far greater crime than the spraying of fake blood around the front of an office, or into a factory producing such implements. Juries have agreed with this and acquitted protesters on this basis.
Juries can be ‘nobbled’, i.e., prevented from hearing such legitimate evidence, by the abuse of power by judges, urged on in many cases by politicians and the ruling class in general. That pertains to the class nature of the state and of the judiciary in particular. When it is in their class interest to do so, such protections and legal principles are often flagrantly violated and ignored. In the case of Tony Greenstein and his fellow activists, this is evidently what happened. In the trial, no one was able utter a word about the motives of the protesters, who were arrested before they even arrived at the protest, on pain of imprisonment for ‘contempt of court’. Juries being not allowed to hear relevant facts about the motives of protesters and the conduct of those corporate bodies protested against is arguably a flagrant ‘contempt’ of the jury and therefore of the court itself, but that is the nature of the ruling class and the way their system of criminal justice, or rather criminal injustice, works in practice whatever fine words they utter about the ‘rule of law’.
Furthermore, as well as the activities of far-right Tory politicians and like-minded judges, in this case you have the direct involvement of the Zionist lobby. UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), which some might consider could justly be called UK Lawyers for Genocide, are particularly incensed in this case by Tony Greenstein’s anti-Zionist politics. And no doubt about his authorship of the encyclopaedic work Zionism and the Holocaust – which exhaustively documents Zionist complicity and collaboration with the Nazis during the Nazi holocaust. This was to secure a Jewish-Israeli state in the Middle East at the expense of millions of helpless European Jews who were sacrificed so that a privileged minority could become the founders of such a state.
UKLFI also recently wrote to the far-right Tory Home Secretary, Suella Braverman (who is attempting to deport refugees, including pregnant women, torture victims and victims of modern slavery, to concentrations camps in Rwanda), urging her to exclude the US citizen and anti-Zionist Rabbi, Dovid Weiss, from the UK. Rabbi Weiss came for a speaking tour alongside Dr Azzam Tamimi, a well-known Muslim academic, organised by the campaign group One Democratic Palestine and its dedicated founder, Peter Gregson, to promote unity of Jews and Muslims against Zionist racism. That proved to be a bridge too far even for Braverman. But it does show the far right nature of UKLFI: both in the case of Rabbi Weiss and Tony, as well as going after Palestinian figures as Tony documents , they also show a rabid hatred for Jews who oppose their racism, and they are quite prepared to ally with far-right racist forces in a more general sense in a vendetta against anti-racist Jewish people who they consider to be ‘race-traitors’ in a similar sense to neo-Nazi hatred of anti-racist white people.
Tony documents that UKLFI wrote to the judge urging his jailing for ‘contempt of court’ for writing of the right of the jury to return a verdict based on ‘conscience’ and the real facts about both the motives of the protesters and the crimes of those they are protesting against. This is documented by Tony in a legal sense (see https://tonygreenstein.com/2023/05/defend-the-right-of-juries-to-reach-decisions-according-to-their-conscience-not-those-of-judges-protecting-war-criminals/) and also by Craig Murray (see https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2023/05/lawyers-for-israel-oppose-conscience/)
The prospective jailing of Tony Greenstein and three other defendants at this Wolverhampton show trial has nothing to do with justice. In the case of the fifth defendant, even the (effectively nobbled) jury failed to convict, and the judge apparently himself conceded that a retrial might not be so easy. Such shenanigans are just repression, carried out by the racist state. All legal means must of course be used to fight such repression, but the only real means of defeating such abuses and travesties of ‘justice’ is through mobilising the power of the organised labour movement in defence of those so victimised and threatened with jail. From this case, all the way up to the most flagrant case of repression against anti-imperialist dissent – the persecution of Julian Assange, such ruling class attacks on basic democratic rights must be fought tooth and nail on the basis of class solidarity. Hands off Palestine Action protesters – hands off Tony Greenstein!