On Monday there will be a hearing at Hendon Town Hall which will consider two related complaints about the behaviour last year of Tory councillor and Cabinet member, Brian Coleman, in which he has been alleged to have breached the code of conduct for members of the authority by making a series of remarks in email correspondence with constituents. You may care to take a look at the report here.
Coleman has been accused of breaching the code of conduct for members of the council after sending a number of emails to these residents, in response to an issue concerning the commercial involvement of the global company Veolia with the North London Waste Authority. Veolia has had business interests in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and several members of the public had sent emails to Coleman to voice their objections to Veolia's possible involvement with the NLWA, in perfectly polite and reasonable terms, exercising their right to raise such concerns with their elected representative.
Coleman sent responses to four of these residents which they found so distressing that they consequently made formal complaints to the Standards Committee. Two of these have been investigated, and the investigators findings are that he did indeed breach the code of conduct, paragraph 3(1) - 'You must treat others with respect' in the case of Ron Cohen and Dr Jago, and additionally was in breach of paragraph 5 - 'You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute'.
To one woman, Dr Charlotte Jago, the investigator's report tells us, point 5.5.4:
'He equated anti-Zionism to anti Semitism and finished 'I suppose seventy years ago you would have been in the blackshirts' ...
To the other complainant, a Mr Ron Cohen, when informed that he happens to be an Israeli, Coleman remarked: 'A disloyal one at that' and then 'Doesn't take much to flush you out,' ... see point 5.6.6.
The investigator describes the lack of cooperation by the member with his enquiries, and then tells us that Coleman accused him of 'bullying and harrassing him'. 5.7.9
The investigator's comments are quite extraordinarily damning.
On the part of the complaint by Dr Jago, and the reference to blackshirts, he states that Coleman's reply was:
'personally offensive, abusive, demeaning, and designed to cause hurt and distress to the recipient'
As regards the replies to Ron Cohen, Coleman is described as crossing the line into 'deliberately personal, offensive and insulting abuse'. 5.6.8
Further more the investigator states that Coleman 'would have known that the language of his replies would cause hurt and distress to an Israeli and that he was being personally offensive, abusive and demeaning.'
The investigator's findings will be addressed by the committee and the respondant, ie Councillor Coleman in proceedings on Monday, where no doubt Councillor Coleman will present a robust defence of his actions, and dispute the conclusions made in this report.
Amongst the other remarks quoted by the investigator, Coleman is noted as claiming 'In my book, anti-Zionism is the same as anti-semitism'.
You might wonder what book Brian Coleman is reading from. Is he Jewish? No. Does he speak in behalf of the Jewish community? No. Does he feel himself to be loved and respected by the entire Jewish community? He does. Is he deluding himself? Yes.
Is anti Zionism the same as anti semitism? It can be. Whether or not it is always so is a difficult and sensitive issue, and this is not the time to debate it. This accusation is anyway irrelevant here, as neither Dr Jago nor Ron Cohen have made anti Zionist remarks, and to imply this is simply offensive and insulting, especially in the case of Mr Cohen. If you look at the report you will see that both complainants are objecting specifically to a particular issue, and to make a criticism of a policy or action of the Israeli state is not the same as being an anti Zionist. To take this false accusation even further and accuse these people of anti semitism is simply preposterous and highly offensive.
Anti semitism is repellant, vile and always objectionable. Equally objectionable is the use of baseless acusations of anti semitism for political purposes, or in order to discredit an individual. Here is the widely recognised legal definition of antisemitism:
And here is the worrying development.
Mrs Angry has been sent a copy of what appears to be an 'invitation' made by a leader of a controversial activist group which targets alleged 'anti Zionists' to followers to hold 'a massive demonstration of support for Coleman' outside the Town Hall on Monday.
In rather intemperate language, for example referring to 'the Israel hating Forces of Darkness', this call for action claims it has been requested to do this by certain parties, and urges its followers to brandish placards declaring 'Supporting Brian', Backing Brian' and 'Brian is right'.
Of course this would be highly amusing where it not for the fact that such a protest could be viewed as deliberate intimidation of the complainants and also members of the committee, some of whom are themselves Jewish.
Mrs Angry imagines that Councillor Coleman will wish to disassociate himself from any such demonstration and will be happy to publish any such statement in which he does so.
In the meanwhile, she has sent a copy of this invitation to the council, and asked them to investigate the alleged planned demo, and to take the appropriate action in order to allow the hearing to proceed without disruption or any personal targeting of those involved.