Open Letter to Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign – When Are You Going to Fight Back?

Open Letter to Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign – When Are You Going to Fight Back?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Open Letter to Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign – When Are You Going to Fight Back?

I was Thrown out Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Trade Union Conference for Distributing Leaflets against the IHRA

Last Saturday I attended PSC’s trade union conference as a representative of my union branch (UNITE). Prior to this I had written, as had Brighton and Hove PSC, to Ben Soffa, PSC Secretary and Ben Jamal, PSC Director, asking that the IHRA be placed on the agenda of the conference. I wrote that:

In the past 4 years there has been a massive attack on the Palestine Solidarity movement and the IHRA has been Zionists main weapon.In that time many people, myself included, have been expelled or suspended from the Labour Party for our opposition to Zionism. In that time PSC has been conspicuously silent

PSC has done the minimal amount possible.  Sure it made a submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry and helped commission the Opinion of Hugh Tomlinson QC but it has failed to launch a campaign against the IHRA or treat it with the seriousness it deserves.

In that time we have seen mounting attacks on the right to free speech and the right to organise by the Zionists see for example the attacks in 2017 alone. Over 150 local authorities have adopted the IHRA, which has led to difficulties in holding meetings in some council authorities and the ban on Big Ride for Palestine by Tower Hamlets council

Yet this is the tip of the iceberg. What the adoption of the IHRA by the Labour Party and others has done is to chill free speech. It has given a shot in the arm to groups like the far-Right Campaign Against Anti-Semitism who attempt to demonise Palestine solidarity

One particularly outrageous case was where the CAA attempted to get Rebecca Gould, an academic at Bristol University sacked, because of an article she had written ‘Beyond Anti-Semitism’ on how the Holocaust and ‘the spectre of anti-Semitism’ is used to suppress discussion of Palestinian oppression. Even Kenneth Ster, the person who drafted the IHRA, condemned this attack as ‘McCarthy like’

You would think that PSC would be eager to discuss the IHRA at its Trade Union conference. After all the Labour Party wouldn’t have passed the IHRA if the big unions, in particular Unite and UNISON, hadn’t supported it.


Corbyn has now surrendered to his accusers – all they want now is his resignation

The IHRA gives as an example of anti-Semitism‘Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.’ Leaving aside that Israel is not a democratic state this example renders support for BDS, which is the policy of most trade unions, ‘anti-Semitic’. The German Bundestag in May condemned BDS as ‘anti-Semitic’.  It presents a clear and present danger to BDS

Why then has PSC confined its activities to making paper submissions and press statements and letters? The answer is simple. PSC  doesn’t want to offend the trade union leaderships who have buckled under the ‘anti-Semitism’ offensive and supported the IHRA.PSC has refused to tackle the Israel lobby. The Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel have had a free hand, together with the Israeli Embassy in the Labour Party


The firebombing of the Dawabsheh family, which killed both parents and a baby boy, badly burning another child – mentioning this is ‘antisemitic’ according to Jennie Formby’s racist witchhunters

It is therefore no surprise that PSC has all but given up fighting the IHRA. In its submission to Tower Hamlet’s Council it suggested, not that the IHRA resolution be rescinded but that the Council add a ‘free speech caveat’ to its existing policy.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that since the IHRA is designed to prevent free speech, a free speech caveat is a contradiction in terms.  The Labour Party passed such a caveat in 2018 when passing the IHRA policy. Nothing has been seen or heard of it since.Below is an open letter to Ben Jamal.

Tony Greenstein

The Fight Against the IHRA Requires Determination & Courage not Timidity, Caution & Cowardice

19th October 2019

Dear Ben,

Introduction

For the past 4 years, in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise election as Labour leader, the Zionist movement, the British Establishment and their press have waged an ‘anti-Semitism war’ against both Corbyn, the Left and the wider Palestine solidarity movement. Prior to his election Corbyn was PSC’s main parliamentary sponsor.  Yet despite this PSC, unlike Stop the War Coalition, failed to defend him against the never ending Zionist attacks


PSC Trade Union conference

Lorna Anderson recently reported when visiting the West Bank, on the ‘enthusiasm evinced for Jeremy Corbyn and the pro-Palestinian positions adopted by the Labour Party conference’ by PalestiniansCorbyn’s victory gave Palestinians hope but to PSC the attacks on him were simply an internal Labour party affair. Silence was the order of the day.

When the Zionist campaign had only just begun I wrote an Open Letter (11.4.16.) to Ben Soffa, PSC Secretary, observing that ‘PSC is renowned for its caution and timidity but there must be some limits to this’. I pointed out that:

The ceaseless political attack by the Zionists on support for the Palestinians in the LP cannot simply be ignored.  They will not go away because their campaign is linked with the determination of the Right in the LP to remove Corbyn.  ‘Anti-Semitism’ is their weapon of choice. Until Jeremy Corbyn firmly rebuts his critics he will continue to come under attack.  Appeasement rarely works.

3½ years later every word I wrote has come true. Ben’s reply (20.4.16.) dripped with complacency:

Many recent attacks reflect the strategy set out by the Israeli strategic think tank the Reut Institute in their 2010 report,… I make no apology for the fact that we do not engage in every debate some would wish to involve us in. … there is a plan to force us to ‘play defence’ on the terrain chosen by those wishing to preserve the status quo in Palestine. We must not fall into the trap of allowing our opponents to set our agenda,… In this area there are numerous initiatives which may be superficially attractive but the net effect of which would be strongly negative for our cause…. it is also not necessarily most effective for PSC to be the organisation leading on all aspects of this.


Former Lib-Dem MP David Ward was removed as a candidate by homophobic bigot Tim Farron

The consequences of ‘refusing to engage or ‘play defence’ was that Zionists had an open goal. The ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign has now gained such momentum that even denial that there is such a campaign is equated with anti-Semitism. What began in the Labour Party has not stayed in the Labour Party. For example the Lib-Dem Friends of Palestine have virtually been banned, Jenny Tonge was forced to resign and ex- MP David Ward was prevented from standing again for parliament.

Destroying Free Speech on Israel and Palestine

The public narrative has changed from one of Palestinian oppression and rights to Jewish rights and anti-Semitism. The fight for Palestinian liberation has been redefined by the IHRA as a form of anti-Semitism. A host of meetings and events have come under sustained pressure or being cancelled such as meetings for Tom Suarez’s book State and Terror, Jackie Walker’s film Witchhunt.  Chris Williamson MP one of the most solid Palestinian supporters as well as Israeli anti-Zionists  such as Moshe Machover and Miko Peled have become targets for the McCarthyites. All of this has met with a studied silence by PSC.

This has been led by the Board of Deputies. In the past week alone the Board has pressurised 2 churches, St Elizabeth’s in Eastbourne and St Annes in Soho, to apologise for hosted Miko.

During the Labour Party conference Zionist abuse and pressure forced Waterstone’s into cancelling the launch of Bad News for Labour by 5 distinguished academics, an investigation into the ‘anti-Semitism’ crisis.  The book revealed

‘shocking findings of misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.

Despite the support of the local store, Waterstone’s nationally cancelled the book launch. Subsequently their CEO, James Daunt has admitted“We made a mistake.”This was not because of anything PSC said, because again it said nothing, but because of adverse customer reaction and our own campaign. In Brighton we staged the book launch at extremely short notice at our Free Speech Centre where Greg Philo described how banning books was but one step away from book burning.

The IHRA and PSC’s Trade Union Conference

The IHRA has been adopted by over 150 Councils and used to prevent a rally by Big Ride for Palestine in Tower Hamlets. It has resulted in at least one suspension of a worker who called Israel a racist endeavour and the dismissal of another. It has also led to a chilling of debate on Palestine and Zionism on campus. In 2017 alone it was used in Manchester, Leeds, Central Lancashire, UCL, Exeter, Sussex and Liverpool Universities either to close down Israel Anti-Apartheid week or to severely restrict meetings. Today the IHRA is being used to force a book launch at UCL The Responsibility of Intellectuals: by Noam Chomsky and others to accept restrictions which would prevent any criticism of how the Zionist lobby operates.

On 23rd July I sent you and Ben Sofa a letter asking that the PSC Trade Union Conference on 12th October include a session on combating IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism on the agenda. I sent a follow-up to Ben Sofa but I received no response from either of you.

Brighton & Hove PSC wrote to you earlier this summer concerning the lack of any session on the IHRA at PSC’s Trade Union Conference and received an insulting email on 18th September. You claimed that we ‘need to keep in mind that these attempts to delegitimise activism for Palestine are global’ as if that was an excuse for your lethargy.

You stated bluntly that ‘To use the Conference to create a focus on the IHRA – would not be right.’ Why not?  The IHRA is the principle weapon of the Zionists in Britain and internationally. To ignore it won’t make it go away. In his keynote address to the conference Mustafa Barghouti singled out the IHRA for condemnation. It is clear to Palestinian activists that the IHRA is a weapon aimed at their struggle.  To you it is just an inconvenience.

You stated that ‘A key challenge in the UK and globally has been seeking to get agreement on a strategy of response.’ Despite your claims about devising a strategy, in an email to Brighton PSC member Caroline O’Reilly that you have ‘written a range of articles, social media posts” etc. it is clear that your response has been fragmented, piecemeal and ad hoc.

Yes you sponsored a legal opinion by Hugh Tomlinson and made submissions to various bodies, as well as writing to every councillor in Britain – itself worthy initiatives – but what you have failed to do was adopt any strategy for defeating the IHRA or indeed hold any discussion on how best to meet this new IHRA challenge. You seem bereft of ideas and are content to simply go through the motions.

For example PSC organises regular lobbies of MPs. Why has PSC not organised one on the IHRA? Why did PSC not support the lobby of Labour’s NEC on 4th September 2018? Why has there been no attempt to fight the IHRA by UNISON or UNITE. Why did you obstinately refuse to discuss the IHRA in PSC’s own trade union conference.

It was because of this refusal that I produced a leaflet for distribution. When I attempted to give it out in the conference itself I was asked to leave. Not because I was ‘verbally aggressive’ as you falsely claimed but because you asserted that I had no right to distribute my leaflet in ‘our conference’. I had always been under the illusion that PSC belonged to its members, however as one of the original founders of PSC I apologise for my mistake.

Constructing a Coalition Against the IHRA, the Trade Unions and the Witchhunt

The trade unions are a crucial arena in the fight against the IHRA. The University College Union already has policy opposing the IHRA which should be enormously helpful in terms of opposing any attempt of the university authorities to impose it. You could call a conference aimed at academics and students determined to resist the New McCarthyism.  At this very moment the government is `pressurising universities to adopt the IHRA.

The importance of reversing the decision of union executives to accept the IHRA lies in the fact that it was trade union representatives on Labour’s NEC who ensured that the Party adopted the IHRA.  In addition it is their members’ right to free speech which is affected and without free speech there are no trade union rights.

Most unions are affiliated to PSC but there seems to be a tacit understanding that in exchange for affiliation you don’t criticise the policies of their leaderships. The Executives of UNISON and UNITE have adopted the IHRA, without discussion with their own membership. If the trade union movement were to oppose the IHRA that would be a significant defeat for the Zionist lobby.  However the politics of PSC’s leadership and its Socialist Action leadership seem to dictate that you must not upset the trade union bureaucracy.

There is a burning need to construct a Free Speech coalition around the IHRA. We are faced with a concerted Zionist attempt to close down meetings through threats and abuse and ban books. Is it really so hard to construct a genuine coalition? Have you tried?

For example Liberty has passed policy opposing the IHRA. What approaches have you made to them? What approaches have you made to the churches nationally to get them to take a unified stand? A labour movement conference should also be called to oppose the IHRA.

We have to get the trade union leaderships to understand that there is no connection between support for the Palestinians , anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Stating that Israel is a racist state (endeavour) is a fact and has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

It would also be good if you didn’t keep claiming successes that are not your own. The demonstration of support at Labour Party conference in 2018 for Palestine and the sea of flags and the successful motion, did not belong to PSC but the hundreds of Palestine activists in the Labour Party itself. Labour Against the Witchhunt also handed out a 1,000 flags. Similarly the successful motion at this year’s conference owed nothing to PSC, which has never raised the issue of the Right of Return in either the Labour Party or trade unions.

What makes this claim particularly outrageous has been your refusal to defend Labour Party members who have been suspended or expelled. You stated that:

PSC has also made the strategic  decision that we should not get publicly involved in issues of Labour disciplinary processes against individual members

Where was this ‘strategic decision’ discussed?  When? Where was it reported? When Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman were under threat the JLM, LFI and Board of Deputies rallied round them. Your failure to support your own activists is a disgrace. To refuse to stand by your own members is an act of political cowardice.

When Asa Winstanley was suspended for having writen articles in Electronic Intifada on how the JLM was founded to get rid of Corbyn, it is clear this was no disciplinary process. Yet once again you kept silent. You didn’t even protest when Asa was prevented from having a press pass to Conference. Has the cat got your tongue?

BHPSC has written to you asking if Anne Mitchell, a prominent activist, is expelled, will you issue a statement of support for her? She has been accused of the ‘derogative stereotyping of Jews and Israelis’. The former is a lie but is calling Israel the most racist nation on Earth a stereotype when over 75% according to an opinion poll in Ynet News don’t want to live next door to an Arab and 60% wouldn’t have an Arab in their house?

Perhaps your most shameful act was your request, when Len McCluskey and Anne were pictured in front of the PSC stall at TUC congress, that the photograph should not be shared on social media because those who have been attacking her might use it against McCluskey.

Two States

The problem with your relations with the trade unions and the Labour Right is that you go along with their support for the two state solution despite the fact that no one seriously believes that it is feasible. Israel’s elections this year made that clear beyond doubt. The only possible solution, besides a series of Bantustans or the expulsion of the Palestinians is the creation of a unitary secular state. There is no other democratic solution.

PSC is frightened of saying out aloud what it knows to be true because of the implications. If you support a unitary state you must, of necessity oppose a ‘Jewish’ ethno-nationalist state and that, according to the IHRA is ‘anti-Semitic’. This is why everything that PSC does is just going through the motions.

Yes Israel is an Apartheid state but when Apartheid in South Africa was in existence did the Anti-Apartheid Movement call for 2 states – a White and Black state? The time has come for PSC to abandon what is an Apartheid solution. That is why the Board of Deputies, Labour Friends of Israel etc. support 2 states. They know it can never happen.

Zionism

When it comes to challenging the Zionist nature of the Israeli state you have nothing to say. The IHRA does permit criticism of Israel ‘like any other democratic state’ but what it forbids is a critique of the state itself. You  believe that you can fudge the Question of Zionism indefinitely. The Palestinian Question is not primarily a human rights question as you assert but a political question. The same was true with South Africa Apartheid

In your letter to Brighton and Hove PSC you state that

The fundamental challenge is how do we ensure the space is defended without falling into the trap of making every conversation about Palestine a conversation about antisemitism The risk if we do that is we increase the “chilling effect”

That is precisely the wrong approach, to counterpose a fight against the IHRA with support for the Palestinians. The reason for the cry of ‘anti-Semitism’ is because it’s not possible to defend Israel without attacking the messenger. Even PSC has been subject to such tactics by Zionist ‘researcher’ and fraud David Collier


Gerald Kaufman was the Jewish Father of the House of Commons – he spoke out against ‘Jewish Money’ funding the Tories. The same phrase is repeatedly used by Jews – 600 occurrences in the Jewish Chronicle archives – Anne Mitchell quoted an article in the Independent on this and that was held to be ‘antisemitic’

It is in the fight against false allegations of anti-Semitism that we can point to the oppression that Palestinians experience. We can also reject the nonsense of identity politics which equate Jews in this country with a people living under settler colonialism. Not once has PSC called into question either the Board of Deputies claim to represent British Jews or the JLM’s claim to represent Labour Jews. Particularly disgraceful was your comment that:

Many of our key Palestinian partners have expressed to us the need to ensure that our line of response is not the right of activists to say what they want but the rioghts of Palestinians

What do you think Palestinian activists do if not defend and support the rights of Palestinians? You seem to be saying that activists should allow themselves to be silenced. Yes we should be able to say exactly what we want without interference from Zionists without PSC cowering in the corner.

You claim, in the same letter, that it would have been ‘a fundamental strategic error’ to have opposed a demonstration by the JLM at the 2018 Labour Party Conference. Really? If the JLM hadn’t got cold feet then it would no doubt have attracted massive press publicity. Remember the Zionists’ ‘anti-racist’ demonstration outside parliament in March 18 which was quite rightly opposed by JVL and LAW? PSC of course did nothing then. To have refused to counter the JLM would have been a fundamental mistake. Fortunately for the JLM they knew which way the wind was blowing in Liverpool and it wasn’t for them.

In Solidarity,

Tony Greenstein 

 

 

 

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