WHY WE ARE RESIGNING FROM THE LABOUR PARTY – an Open Letter from 2 Women of Colour
WHY WE ARE RESIGNING FROM THE LABOUR PARTY – an Open Letter from 2 Women of Colour
Israel tears down Palestinian COVID-19 facilities but if you mention this Starmer will accuse you of ‘anti-Semitic’ conspiracy theories!
This statement from Cristel Amiss & Sara Callaway, the former Joint BAME officers, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP, says just about everything that needs to be said about Sir Starmer and the Labour Party.
Sara and Cristel write that at their Zoom meeting with Starmer BAME officers were unable to see each other (unlike Starmer’s meetings with the Jewish Labour Movement and the Board of Deputies when all participants were visible to each other). Of course White people are inherently trustworthy unlike their Black counterparts and there is therefore a need to keep an eye on them. They write
‘astonishingly, the Windrush scandal, the tragic Grenfell fire, racism against immigrants and asylum seekers, were never mentioned.’
Unfortunately it is not that astonishing.
Jewish people in Britain do not face or experience state racism, which is the form of racism that Black and Muslim people face. With the partial exception of Hasidic Jews whose dress is different Jewish people don’t face anti-Semitic attacks either. At worst Jews in Britain experience a certain amount of prejudice.
Jewish people don’t get stopped by the Police for driving whilst Black unlike even the most respectable Black people like Dawn Butler MP. Jewish people don’t die in Police custody. They don’t get deported back to countries they haven’t been in since childhood because their citizenship is questioned (after the Home Office had kindly destroyed all the proof in the form of landing cards). Jewish synagogues don’t get firebombed unlike mosques.
State racism today operates against Blacks and Muslims not against Jews. There is no Jewish Stephen Lawrence or George Floyd There is no Jewish Windrush. Instead the Zionist Board of Deputies, which has never once lifted its finger to oppose genuine racism, acts like a parasite on the findings of the MacPherson Report distorting its conclusion that incidents which an alleged victim perceives as racist must be reported as such. According to the Jewish Labour Movement this translated into accepting the word of a victim as proof of the guilt of the alleged attacker, thus dispensing with the need for any form of investigation or trial.
What of course really happened in the past 5 years is that British Jews and ‘anti-Semitism’ were used as the pretext to undermine and destroy Corbyn because of his opposition to British and American foreign policy, which in the Middle East rests on Israel. Jews were used by the British Establishment, with the active connivance of the Board of Deputies and the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, as a pretext for attacking the anti-war position of Corbyn and the left. In the words of Barnaby Raine
Once they saw us as dangerous Semites infesting European society. Now instead we are their favourite pets: heroic colonists in the Middle East and successful citizens in the West
It had nothing to do with genuine anti-Semitism. But because of the treachery of Jon Lansman, Owen Jones and other fake leftists, the Zionists’ bogus use of ‘anti-Semitism’ was successfully used to divide and demoralize the left.
Below I have illustrated some of the concrete examples of the callous everyday racism that is taken for granted in the State of Israel.
1. Imad Barghouti, a Professor of Physics at Al Quds University, was arrested on July 16th simply because of his publicly-expressed opinions and social media activity. He is currently in Ofer prison camp, near Ramallah. Professor Barghouti, like hundreds of Palestinians, is held under Administrative Detention, i.e. without any form of trial. On the basis of allegations made by Israel’s security services he is detained indefinitely, renewable every 6 months.
This it should be noted is the ‘democratic Israel’ that Starmer and the Labour Right uphold as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Of course for Israeli Jews there is a certain, limited democratic space though even that is narrowing, for example the Police and fascist attacks on Netanyahu demonstrators.
2. In Israel the authorities are doing their best to protect its Jewish citizens (albeit unsuccessfully) and prevent the spread of COVID 19, including imposing a renewed lock-down. In the West Bank the Israeli military (which calls itself the Civil Administration) is doing its best to prevent the Palestinians from protecting themselves by demolishing coronavirus clinics and isolation tents. We can therefore say that not only does Israel not recognize its responsibility as an Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention to protect the indigenous population but that it is doing its best to help spread the virus.
Some people resent comparisons between the Nazis and Zionists yet it is a fact that the Nazis, by ghettoizing the Jews in impossibly small and confined areas deliberately ensured that typhus and other illnesses rapidly spread, which itself became an excuse for extermination. Up to half a million Polish Jews died of hunger and disease. As I have often said, Israel is Hitler’s bastard offspring.
3. And for once a heart warming story that has now unfortunately turned sour. For reasons that are not clear, the Israeli army turned a blind eye to mass breaches of the Apartheid Wall (thus proving it was never intended to stop bomb attacks) by Palestinians who desired to go to the beach and see the sea. Despite being less than 20 miles away from the sea, most Palestinians in the West Bank have never seen what we take for granted. The idea of swimming in the sea is just a dream. It is one of the few advantages of Gaza that it has a shoreline. Today the Israeli army, after criticism from the usual racist politicians, acted to stop Palestinians ‘illegally’ entering their own land.
We are women of colour active in non-party grassroots organising for social justice for many years. Like thousands of others, we joined the Labour Party (2015) when Jeremy Corbyn stood for the leadership, calling together a movement to fight for an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-austerity, anti-war government to be elected. Such a government, alongside a strong grassroots movement, could have been transformative.
We got to know old and new members who helped us find our way in a rigid party structure, and were elected officers in our branch, our CLP, and as delegates to conference. We joined Momentum and organised community meetings. We focused on bringing grassroots justice issues to the fore – detention centres, Windrush, racist attacks including on Mosques, anti-rape, police violence, poverty and housing. We were part of a team of canvassers who increased the Labour vote in 2017 and 2019 in our multi-racial and immigrant neighbourhood and in some other constituencies. Our communities have been among the most loyal Labour voters but are the least respected.
We support Palestine and Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS), and faced a bullish core of white mainly male defenders of Israeli apartheid, some of them councillors, determined to suppress the membership’s support for Palestine by stating or implying it was antisemitic. We made official complaints within our CLP and to London Region about the treatment we and other women, including Jewish women, experienced from these men. There has been no response from HQ. On a recent webinar evaluating the leaked report that exposed gross racism, sexism and sabotage by HQ, a woman councillor reported that similar treatment was going on in constituencies up and down the country: “It’s as if they are protected.” A woman council leader resigned recently citing similar misogyny and bullying from inside the Party.
We are leaving the Labour Party because:·
Starmer’s grovelling apology and the Party payment of hundreds of thousands of members’ money to staff who attacked members and conspired against winning elections, despite legal advice that the Party had a strong defence, is the last straw·
Sabotage, and gross racist, sexist abuse and bullying by HQ are rife but Starmer is more concerned with who leaked the report than what’s in it.·
The 850-page report exposes how staff in charge of complaints, including on antisemitism, were themselves routinely abusive, especially to Black women MPs. HQ undermined Corbyn’s leadership and pursued witch-hunts against members. We were shocked and furious to find out that the 2017 election was lost by a mere 2,500 votes because of sabotage by HQ and right-wing Labour MPs, some of whom are now in Starmer’s shadow cabinet. Starmer’s first response to the report was to get those who leaked it.·
Antisemitism is being misused and elevated above every other form of discrimination, including racist attacks against Muslims and people of colour. False accusations of antisemitism were manufactured and used by Labour’s right-wing to discredit Jeremy Corbyn and launch a witch-hunt within the party where anyone on the left could be attacked for saying what was disapproved of by a small clique. Keir Starmer has said that he supports “Zionism without qualification” and that his “first priority” is “to tackle anti-Semitism” in the Party. Not the hostile environment, and structural and life threatening racism that Black, Asian, Muslim, immigrant and asylum seeking people, and people of colour generally face daily; not the causes of the Grenfell fire that killed 72 people, overwhelmingly immigrant and/or of colour, as if their lives didn’t matter; not poverty which 4.5 million children, disproportionately children of colour, suffer turning up at school hungry; not climate change which threatens all our lives; not Covid-19 and Tory negligence, indifference or worse that has killed tens of thousands, again disproportionately people of colour.·
Black Lives Matter. Starmer, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, told the BBC:
“I worked with police forces across England and Wales bringing thousands of people to court, so my support for the police is very, very strong.”
As people of colour and antiracists rise up against police violence and racism in every sphere, Starmer’s response is to belittle BLM as a “moment”, condemn the toppling of statues of slavers, and dismiss calls to defund the police as “nonsense”. As DPP he refused to prosecute police officers who killed Jean Charles de Menezes in a terrifying extra-judicial execution and then lied about the victim to justify the killing. Starmer’s disrespect for Black lives has already caused resignations from the Labour Party—it is worthy of Boris Johnson and points to a political affinity between them.·
Starmer is putting supporters of Israeli apartheid in charge of Labour’s disciplinary procedures and of who members are allowed to associate with. All the leadership candidates, except Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler, endorsed the 10 pledges of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD). The BOD defends Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and the bombing of Palestinian civilians. How can such an organisation be given power over the membership? The aim, it seems, is to move on from the antisemitism row and increase Labour’s electability. We refuse the racist presumption that treats Palestinians (and pro-Palestinian members) as collateral damage to Labour’s electability.·
Palestinian Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter supports Palestinian rights because there can be no liberation for any of us unless the boot of racist occupiers is taken from our necks everywhere. To allow anyone to be treated as expendable by a party seeking power, opens the way to many more of us being expendable, if that party wins power. To put the BOD (which has attacked Black Lives Matter for supporting Palestine) and the Jewish Labour Movement (which told people not to vote for Corbyn) in charge of the membership gives carte blanche to the Israeli government – a foreign apartheid power aligned with Trump and other reactionary forces worldwide – to take charge of the Labour Party. Already Black women MPs have been reprimanded for participating in a zoom meeting where two Jewish anti-racists, one of them a Black Jewish woman, who had been hounded out of the Party by the vicious witch-hunt, were present. Another Black woman MP is facing verbal abuse and physical threats for supporting BLM; the leadership response has been faint.·
Starmer claims to be a “human rights advocate” but unilaterally reversed a policy decision passed overwhelmingly at Conference to support self-determination in Kashmir. He gives a green light to occupation by Modi’s racist, sectarian violence against Muslim people, with Muslim women on the front lines.
· BAME officers were invited to a zoom meeting with Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner on 15 June. Astonishingly, the Windrush scandal, the tragic Grenfell fire, racism against immigrants and asylum seekers, were never mentioned. BAME officers were prevented from seeing or hearing each other and our questions. BAME elections to the NEC were flawed, making it almost impossible for independent accountable candidates to be nominated much less elected.
We won’t campaign for a party where people of colour and anti-racists, and our movements, are maligned and attacked, and where we would be silenced. We resign with immediate effect. We will continue to work with anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-capitalist members in the Party. We need each other to build a strong movement to win the changes we have all been fighting for.
Israeli authorities arrested me on July 16th 2020 simply because of my publicly-expressed opinions and social media activity. I am currently in the Ofer prison camp, located near Ramallah city. I consider this arrest to be against my right to freedom of speech which is protected by international law. I have the right to express my own opinion and speak up to defend my country from military occupation. Also, my detention infringes on the rights of my students, my research and scientific activities.
I do not expect any justice from the Israel military court system which is designed to subjugate the Palestinian population and lacks any credibility.
The new academic year is scheduled to start in September and as a faculty member in the physics department of Al Quds University I am assigned to teach the following courses:·
Advanced nuclear theory (graduated level).
Atomic & molecular physics (4th year level).
Theory of Electromagnetism (3rd year level).
Theory of relativity (3rd year level).
In addition, I supervise many master students and graduate research projects.
Dear scholars, I appeal to you to support the rights of myself and my students to continue pursuing our research. I therefore ask you for your support and solidarity to call for either my release from Israeli prison or, at minimum, demand that they provide me with the necessary tools to be able to teach online and set up my own lectures. Preferably located in my house in order to be able to teach and supervise my students.
In advance, thank you very much for your help and support. Prof. Imad Ahmad Barghouthi Department of physics, AQU Occupied Palestine Currently in the Ofer Israeli prison camp
“When we woke up in the morning to find the building destroyed, we were shocked,” landowner Raed Maswadeh tells MondoweissBy Yumna PatelJuly 23, 2020
As the number of coronavirus cases in Palestine continue to soar, Israeli forces demolished this week a COVID-19 testing clinic in the city of Hebron, the epicenter of the outbreak in the occupied West Bank.According to locals, Israeli forces demolished the clinic in the middle of the night, just before sunrise on Tuesday morning.
The order gave the landowner, who had charitably donated the plot to the Hebron Municipality, 96 hours to prove he had building permits.
If he did not provide Israeli-approved building permits, the order said, the clinic would be destroyed.
The owner of the land, Raed Maswadeh, told Mondoweiss that over the course of the past week, he had been working with Israeli authorities to retrieve the proper building permissions.
Because the land, located right at the entrance to Hebron City, is located in Area C, any sort of construction or work on the land requires Israeli permission — a nearly impossible feat, as Israel overwhelmingly denies any Palestinian building requests in Area C.
Just 24 hours before the demolition, Maswadeh and his lawyer were allegedly told by the Israeli Civil Administration office in Beit El that the permits were approved, and the clinic would not be destroyed.
“We thought everything was fine, and we were really relieved,” Maswadeh told Mondoweiss. “So when we woke up in the morning to find the building destroyed, we were shocked,” he said.
According to Maswadeh, Israeli authorities notified his lawyer of the demolition via email in the evening hours of Monday, after his lawyer had closed his office for the day.
Maswadeh described the actions of the Israeli military and civil administration as “shady,” saying that it was “inhuman” to demolish a COVID-19 clinic in the midst of the pandemic.
“My family donated our land, and put in hundreds of thousands of shekels of our own money to build this clinic,” Maswadeh said, adding that he was driven to start the project after his grandfather passed away due to COVID-19 complications.
“This was our way of honoring my grandfather’s memory and helping our community,” he said. “But Israel does not care about that, and they clearly don’t care about Palestinians dying because of the coronavirus.”
Yumna Patel Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.
This past weekend was very special for Siham, 45, and her five children, who live in the West Bank village of Bil’in, and who crossed the separation barrier and traveled to the beach in Jaffa.
“My children had never seen the sea – as far as they were concerned it was as if they were coming to the most important attraction in the world,” Siham said. “To touch the salty water and play in the sand was the dreamiest and least expensive entertainment I could have offered my children.”
Siham’s account is one of a thousand such stories of Palestinians, adults and children alike, who were allowed to cross the separation barrier and go to beaches in Israel over the past week. Anyone coming to the beach over the weekend couldn’t miss the Palestinian families, especially in Jaffa but in Herzliya, Haifa and other beaches as well.
The average Israeli wouldn’t be able to tell whether an Arab family came from Nablus or Tul Karm in the West Bank or Umm al-Fahm or Kafr Qasem in Israel, but a sharp eye could tell that the Palestinians were different, people for whom going to the beach is a rare treat and getting there involved some difficulty.
“We came to Kafr Biddu and we crossed the barrier at an opening – not at a checkpoint or anything, just an opening in the [separation] fence like many others,”
said Inas, a mother of three who came to Jaffa. “On the Israeli side there was a bus waiting for us – I paid 30 shekels (nearly $9) and we went to Jaffa. There was nothing threatening. I was surprised when I saw the Jews [soldiers] looking at us without bothering us at all.
“They told us just to just bring a mask and food,” she said about the drivers waiting on the Israeli side.
“We haven’t been to the beach in years, certainly not the little kids. My husband and I were able to go years ago, but the kids were waiting for this moment. The coronavirus has left all of us financially stressed and apparently the Israeli economy needs us now. In Ramallah none of the parks, pools or even the zoo are open. Do you know how much it costs for the hotel pool in Jericho? Who has money, so what could be better than the sea?”
The presence of Palestinian families at Israel’s beaches has been a topic of discussion on the West Bank, raising numerous questions. Was this a spontaneous act, or an act of protest by the population against the Palestinian Authority, which is trying to restrict movement and prevent gatherings as part of its battle against the coronavirus? On the other hand, why was Israel turning a blind eye and letting thousands of people cross through random breaches in the barrier without any supervision or inspection?
After Eid al-Adha, which straddled the previous weekend, a few Palestinians managed to get through the fence and reach Jaffa. This past weekend, the numbers grew considerably.
A Nablus-area resident who was involved in arranging buses to the Jaffa beach said he didn’t coordinate the trips with any Palestinian or Israeli entity. “People are simply fed up and wanted to go to the beach,” he said.
“The Palestinian government is imposing closures and Israel is apparently interested in taking in thousands of Palestinians to prove to the PA that it doesn’t control anything. The fact is that thousands chose to defy everything and go, and there’s always someone who takes on the role of organizer or the agent that helps people get to their destination.”
Many people explained that the breaches in the barrier, near Far’un, Biddu and Shuweika, are an open secret; people just come and cross. Araf Sha’aban, a resident of Jenin who organized buses to the beaches at Jaffa and Herzliya, explained how it works.
“You advertise on social media and people register; then you bring a bus or minibus to an open point in the barrier, and people go there, cross and on the other side another bus is waiting that brings them to the beach and then returns them. The price is 150 shekels per person as part of a family,”
explains Sha’aban, who didn’t express any concern about being detained by the army.
“What delays? In many cases they helped people cross or opened the gate,” he said. “The truth is, the soldiers also saw that these were families with flotation rings, beach balls and baskets of food, and not grenades.”
Other people told Haaretz that the behavior of the Israeli security forces was surprising.
“We saw the army jeeps but we didn’t feel any threat; on the contrary, in the evening, when we came back and it was dark, they turned on the lights so we shouldn’t miss the opening in the fence.”
In Jaffa itself, many residents said there was no sense of threat. In fact, there were those who acknowledged the presence of the visitors and opened kiosks, including merchants from East Jerusalem.
One West Bank resident who came with an elderly woman and wouldn’t give his name, said,
“I don’t know how Israel views this but as far as I’m concerned, these are the beaches of Palestine. So we are at the beach with or without permission. They turned a blind eye or didn’t enforce; who cares. The point is that we got here and it was fun.”
The PA did not come out against these visits but some saw it as Israel poking a finger in the PA’s eye.
“They want to prove to us that with or without coordination, they are letting in civilians, even at the risk of a coronavirus outbreak, even though they knew in advance that the Palestinians wouldn’t mix with the Israelis,”
a senior Palestinian official said.
“What’s more, instead of Palestinians taking their leisure in the West Bank and spending their money there, they preferred having the money to spend in Israel and not the West Bank, even if we aren’t talking about large sums.”
The coronavirus restrictions are continuing in the West Bank as part of the state of emergency declared by the PA, but many are now saying that keeping major leisure sites closed serves no purpose if thousands of people are going into Israel and returning.
Near the Meitar checkpoint there is another breach in the fence that four people can go through at once. At the edge of the road that leads from the crossing to the South Hebron Hills, cars stop every few minutes and men and boys get out carrying packs and suitcases. One of them, 16, said he was breaching the barrier to seek work in Israel, since the coronavirus eliminated most workplaces in the Hebron area.
Another man said he had worked in Israel in the past, but when the PA halted coordination with Israel he was unable to renew it. He crossed with his younger children. “The soldiers just don’t care, after all, they could stop this is a minute,” said one of them.
On the other side of the barrier there are cars waiting, most of them driven by Israeli Arabs, to bring them the Palestinians to their destinations. Some of them even wait on the Palestinian side of the barrier, in full view of everyone. “A guy just wants to work; if there’s no money you find a way to work,” said one of them.
One young hipster, carrying only a small pack, said he had crossed the barrier to have a good time. “On the other side they bring us to Be’er Sheva and from there we’ll continue, maybe we’ll get to Jaffa,” he said, before crossing through the opening.
On the road, a Jewish woman from the area stopped her car to look at what was going on. “This is crazy,” she said. “Every day I see them coming out in droves and I’ve even reported it a few times and nobody cares.” An elderly Palestinian man who works in construction in Jaffa stopped alongside her and started to argue with her.
“Do you know how I live? Do you know I have a sick grandson and we don’t have money for his treatment?”
he said angrily.“But this is a border,” she replied.“For me this is no border,” he said, and continued on his way.