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Union calls for reinstatement of council worker in anti-Semitism row

By Peter Madeley | Dudley | Politics | Published:

Trade union bosses have demanded the reinstatement of a council officer suspended from work for allegedly posting anti-Semitic material online.

Paul Jonson attended the protest outside Ian Austin's constituency office in October.

Paul Jonson, an anti-social behaviour officer at Dudley Council, was suspended by the authority five weeks ago and placed under investigation after sharing a Facebook post branding Israel a 'racist endeavour’.

Now the Dudley branch of the TUC has demanded he be allowed back to work, describing his suspension as a ‘direct attack on legitimate free expression’.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism has called for Mr Jonson to be sacked and today accused the union of 'shaming' its movement over the move.

Mr Jonson was suspended because his comments were said to have breached the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which Dudley Council has signed up to.

A statement from Dudley TUC described Mr Jonson as a 'well-known local anti-racist activist and campaigner against anti-Semitism', and an active campaigner for Palestinian rights.

Paul Jonson's controversial Facebook post

It said: "We believe the sole purpose of the complaint is to limit freedom of speech and silence pro-Palestine voices. This threatens the rights of every trade unionist.

"Paul’s suspension is a direct attack on legitimate free expression, the right to protest and employment rights. It represents an attack on all trade unionists’ freedom to campaign on political issues outside work.

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The statement said that Mr Jonson had been 'victimised and slandered' for his views on Israel and Palestine, adding: "We are demanding Paul's immediate reinstatement and the dropping of disciplinary action against him by Dudley Council."

Mr Jonson has also received support from Jewish Voice for Labour – a group for Jewish members of the Labour Party – which described his suspension as 'a serious infringement of the right to free speech'.

He was suspended following a complaint relating to the promotion of a demonstration run by the Dudley Palestine Solidarity Group in October outside the constituency office of Labour MP Ian Austin.

In a Facebook post Mr Jonson stated: “Stand With Palestine – Israel is racist endeavour!!"

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Placard waving activists protested against the Dudley North MP, who is a vocal opponent of anti-Semitism and has been highly critical of the Labour leadership's dealings with the issue.

A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said: “There was a time when the trade union movement could be depended upon to fight those who bait Jews, now in Dudley, the local TUC shames its movement’s proud history by advocating for Paul Jonson who brazenly flouts the international definition of anti-Semitism.

"Since Dudley Council has formally adopted the definition and Mr Jonson is its anti-social behaviour officer, we are beginning to wonder why he has still not yet been dismissed as a council employee.”

Dudley Council's chief executive Sarah Norman, said: “The complaint is currently being investigated in accordance with the council’s approved procedure and while this is underway we’re unable to comment further.”

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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