My conversation with Ben Jamal of Palestine Solidarity Campaign on Zionism, Palestine Action and the Palestinian Authority
My conversation with Ben Jamal of Palestine Solidarity Campaign on Zionism, Palestine Action and the Palestinian Authority
Having abandoned anti-Zionism, does PSC actually have any strategy other than Appeasing the Establishment and ‘Mainstreaming’?
My interview on an independent Bristol radio station
Ben Jamal, PSC and Zionism
In the wake of my resignation from PSC, an organisation I helped found in 1982, Ben Jamal emailed me. His complaint was that I had misquoted him when I said that the reason he had given for PSC changing its constitution, so as to remove opposition to Zionism, was that Zionism ‘meant different things to different people.’
In the course of our conversation Jamal became ever more abusive. He began by saying that I had ‘mischaracterised’ his view. When I pointed out that I had directly quoted what Dave Chapel, a member of Exeter PSC had told me, and that I had checked back with Dave, Jamal spluttered that:
My strongest concern about the way you conduct yourself is that you are not concerned with being accurate- You make assertions that you cannot know to be true but are not concerned about establishing whether they are or not ,lest the truth doesn’t suit your polemic-
Jamal ignored the fact that I had cited my source, which I did not have to do, having first sought Dave’s permission.
Jamal denied saying what I had quoted him as saying but despite my probing, he could not or would not explain why anti-Zionism had been removed from PSC’s Constitution.
Jamal said that he himself was an anti-Zionist but I never questioned his personal beliefs. My concern was that he had been instrumental in fostering on PSC a constitution which abandoned even nominal opposition to Zionism. The question is why?
Imagine the Anti-Apartheid Movement 30 years ago saying that it was opposed to human rights abuses in South Africa but it was neutral about Apartheid! Zionism is the ideology of Israeli apartheid and if you are willing to dispense with opposition to Zionism then PSC has become little more than another NGO without politics or direction.
Clause 3(h) of the Aims and Objectives of the 2015 Constitution spoke of:
opposition to racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and the apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state.
The 2015 Constitution was not brilliant but at least it made clear its opposition to the ‘Zionist nature of the Israeli state.’ Clause 3.1.3. of the new Constitution speaks of support for:
the Palestinian struggle to end the systems of settler colonialism, apartheid, and military occupations, motivated by Zionism.
Nowhere does the Constitution state its opposition to Zionism. It is my view that the quote attributed to Ben Jamal is credible and makes sense, especially in the light of his comment that:
because people suggest they many (mean? TG) different things when they talk of Zionism it is important for us to be clear and precise in what we say
However the new clause is anything but precise or clear. All it says is that settler colonialism, apartheid and the occupation are ‘motivated by Zionism.’ In what way we are never told nor are we enlightened as to what Zionism is. In any case Israeli colonisation and apartheid are not ‘motivated’ by Zionism but Zionism is integral to them.
Nowhere in the Annual Report or Plan for this year or last year does the word ‘Zionism’ even make an appearance. PSC to all intents and purposes is not an anti-Zionist organisation.
This is not academic. The Israeli state was created by the Zionist movement. The Zionist goal was maximum land with fewest Arabs. Transfer of the Palestinians was at the heart of Zionist strategy. Zionism sought to recreate the mythical Jewish nation/race in Palestine just as it sought to bring to an end the Jewish diaspora. Zionist attitudes to anti-Semitism was one of acceptance. It is a mistake for Jamal to draw a distinction between pre-State and post-state Zionism. Zionism is a beast whose contours have never changed.
Because Zionism is an integral part of the West’s foreign policy, what are essentially Israeli state organisations, such as the Union of Jewish Students, the Community Security Trust and the Campaign Against Antisemitism are able to operate in this country as agents of the Israeli state in a way that similar political organisations promoting Chinese or Russian interests would not be able to do.
If we look at the Israeli funded UJS it is a Zionist as opposed to a Jewish organisation. It does not represent Jewish students who are anti-Zionist or anti-racist. Its Code of Conduct stipulates that
UJS members, event participants and representatives are expected to proudly and passionately embody UJS values of representation; peer leadership; cross-communalism; and Israel engagement.
Professor David Miller, who was dismissed by Bristol University as a result of a vicious campaign of denigration by UJS, wrote about how
the current president Nina Freedman openly admits that “UJS alumni are currently serving in senior positions in the Israeli government, the foreign ministry, the IDF [Israel’s military] and even the [Israeli] president’s office.”
Accusing Black students of ‘antisemitism’ is one of the Union of Jewish Students’ favourite ploys
Nina Friedman was the person who led the campaign against David Miller yet at no time did PSC, under Jamal’s direction, give David any support. UJS is currently waging another campaign – this time against Black anti-racist rapper Lowkey. Accusing Black people of ‘anti-Semitism’ is a favourite pastime of UJS and they are now targeting the National Union of Students’ President Shaima Dallali.
PSC refused to support Miller. On 22 February 2021 I emailed Jamal:
I hope that PSC is not going to repeat the errors of the past and simply turn a blind eye to what is going on. The reasons that the Board of Deputies, CAA et al are behaving in this way is to do with changing the discourse from the rights of Palestinians to those of Jewish students.
I hope therefore that PSC will write to the Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, in addition to issuing a press statement. It would also be helpful if a petition I have launched in defence of David Miller could be publicised on PSC’s social media as a matter of some urgency.
Ben Jamal replied telling me that
PSC has had discussions with a range of key partners in past 2 days. We have put out a statement today which addresses the broad context of the attempts to delegitimise activism and puts the attack on David Miller in that context. It also reflects the conversations we have had with partners. You can find it here
What the statement didn’t do was express support for David. See
UJS is playing the same role in the student movement that the Jewish Labour Movement played in the Labour Party under Corbyn. The JLM Chair, Mike Katz, has recently done an interview under the title How I Banished Jeremy Corbyn From the Labour Party and now the same process is underway in the student movement led by UJS. Naturally false allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ against a Black President have been supported to the hilt by this government. This is the same government which has just introduced a policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.
PSC simply ignores the Zionist movement in this country despite it constantly attacking the Palestine solidarity movement. Imagine the Anti-Apartheid Movement 30 years ago turning the other cheek to pro-Apartheid organisations yet that is exactly what PSC does and Ben Jamal presides over it.
The fact is that Israel ‘right-or-wrong’ Zionist organisations organise at multiple levels in Britain today. They are supported by both the Government and the Labour Opposition (if that is the right word to describe Starmer’s Labour). Yet not once has PSC criticised the bogus assertion that these organisations represent socialist or non/anti-Zionist Jews.
See the statement issued by representatives of Sussex University Student Union.
Jamal claims to be an anti-Zionist but clearly that doesn’t inform his work. His understanding of Zionism is limited to its effect on the Palestinians. Unfortunately that is only half the picture and it is because the PLO never understood Zionism that it believed that the Oslo Accords would pave the way to a Palestinian state rather than, as it has done, enable a Palestinian Bantustan.
Zionism is based on the idea of a transnational Jewish nation/race. It is an exclusivist and chauvinist organisation that arose in opposition to Jewish socialists and which found its main allies in the anti-Semites. In Israel today it is continuing the same settler colonialism in Jerusalem that has always characterised its endeavours.
My problem was that I had ‘no knowledge of any discussions that took place regarding changes to wording in the constitution.’ And for once Jamal is right. I didn’t and nor did 99.9% of PSC’s membership. So how could they be expected to pass in half an hour a replacement constitution that was twice as long as the previous one?
Anyone committed to the principles of democracy would have spelt out the changes and explained, in a simple paper, why were necessary and what the purpose of the exercise of adopting a new constitution was. Instead there were a series of pathetic lies and claims which fell apart under the lightest scrutiny. It is a measure of the sheep-like quality (and stupidity) of most of those attending PSC’s AGM that delegates were prepared to vote blindly to adopt a constitution that negated their very reason for being a member of PSC.
Jamal on Palestine Action
Jamal made a number of trivial personal accusations such as suggesting that I demonised and dehumanised my opponents. My crime was dehumanising the Zionists by calling them scum!
We used to call members of the National Front ‘scum’. Fascists are the lowest of the low, the filth that rises to the surface. What other adjective can be used to describe someone like Luke Akehurst who justified Israeli snipers mowing down children at the Gaza fence?
Those who justify Israeli war crimes dehumanise themselves. Jamal’s sensitivities suggest that his heart is not really in it. He may be a Palestinian by origin but he has long since become too comfortable. Those who work night and day, to defame their opponents and portray Palestinians as worse than Nazis are indeed the scum of the earth.
Jamal all but accused me of racism for issuing an Open Letter to Omar Barghouti, a leading figure in the Boycott National Committee. I did this because of Barghouti’s support for PSC’s venomous attacks on Palestine Action. The ‘tone’ of my letter was ‘offensive and bordering on racist and colonial – the white man telling the brown man how to conduct his liberation struggle.’ This is a good example of how those on the right employ identity politics to cover for the deficiencies in their own politics.
As a simple matter of anti-imperialist politics those who are part of the solidarity movement certainly have the right to criticise those amongst the leadership of the oppressed who are acting against the interests of those they purport to represent. Is it seriously suggested that we can’t criticise Israel’s military subcontractor, Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority?
Palestinians are no more monolithic politically than Jews. To say that criticism of one Palestinian is a criticism of all Palestinians is borrowed from the Zionist toolbox. It is the Zionists who pretend that the Board of Deputies represents all Jews. Both Omar Barghouti and the BNC chose to take Jamal’s criticisms of PA on trust.
Jamal also distributed false and misleading legal advice to try and deter PSC members from supporting PA. PA was accused of not telling activists of the risks they faced and not giving them support.
The reason behind these criticisms of PA relate to the way PSC sees the role of a solidarity movement. It believes in token demonstrations, polite lobbying and tugging the forelock to the Establishment and anyone they perceive has influence. From putting open Zionists on their platform (Lisa Nandy, Emily Thornberry, Starmer) to refusing to critique the assumptions behind Zionism or the role that Zionist organisations play today.
When the Oldham factory of Elbit was closed as a result of PA actions BNC put out a statement welcoming the closure without once mentioning PA. PSC also put out a statement which failed to mention Palestine Action. This is simply dishonest politics.
I asked Barghouti and Jamal a simple question. Did they think that people in Gaza at the sharp end of Elbit’s missiles would appreciate their attacks on Palestine Action? Neither responded.
And sure enough, what appeared in the heart of Gaza City recently but a mural depicting PA as striking back against those who are attacking them. It is clear that the actions of PA, rather than endangering Palestinians as has been suggested, are a form of solidarity that is far more effective than the actions of the well-funded Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
PSC’s indifference to Zionism is part of a greater problem – the lack of any political strategy
The poverty of Jamal and PSC’s approach is that it is blinkered. It does not see the Palestinian struggle as part of a larger struggle for the liberation of the Middle East from its despotic regimes. Nor does PSC have an anti-imperialist outlook or analysis. The Palestinian struggle takes place in a complete vacuum as far as they are concerned. It is a self-contained box.
The problem with this is that the Palestinians are not in the same situation as the Black masses in South Africa. South Africa was surrounded by states that had been newly liberated from Portuguese colonialism. They were hostile to South Africa and furthermore South Africa had just lost a war in Angola thanks to Cuba.
Israel is surrounded by regimes which have made alliances with it. Most Arab regimes now openly or covertly work with Israel including the Gulf Sheikhdoms and Saudi Arabia. Israel acts as the watchdog of imperialism over its client regimes. It is inconceivable that the Palestinians can overthrown the Israeli state by themselves. They are simply too weak. The solution to the Palestinian Question is also a solution to the problem of imperialism in the Middle East.
PSC Refuses to Condemn the Quisling Palestinian Authority
I moved a motion condemning the Quisling Palestinian Authority at the last AGM. It was defeated. This is the same PA that Israel and the United States funds and which deems cooperation with Israeli security forces as something ‘sacred’ in the words of Abbas.
The motion condemned the killing by the PA of Nizar Banat, a strident critic of the PA and the Fateh group which controls it. PSC Executive, backed by the union block vote, preferred to support the thugs of the PA. When the Apartheid regime in South Africa sponsored the Inkatha movement of Gatsha Buthelezi, the Anti-Apartheid Movement in this country had no hesitation in criticising Black collaborators yet PSC refuses to do the same.
PSC also refuses to say anything about the kind of society they are striving for. They have nothing to say on 2 states or 1 state. Because trade unions mostly support 2 states PSC doesn’t want to alienate them but this is the problem. The Two State Solution allows the unions to ‘balance’ their support for the Palestinians with support for the racist Israeli state. It allows them to avoid taking sides and to accept the IHRA definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ that defines support for the Palestinians as anti-Semitic.
All PSC can do is encourage its members to stand on street corners handing out leaflets in the vain hope that one day, some day, our rulers will develop enough of a conscience to stop supporting Israel. But the problem is that it is in the interests of British and US capitalism to support Israel as the West’s strategic guard dog. The fact that the majority of the public supports Palestine is irrelevant. Public opinion has next to no say on international affairs.
Yet PSC and Jamal have found a new slogan called ‘mainstreaming’. In other words by a process of political osmosis support for Palestine will somehow infiltrate the body politic. Yet the evidence for this is not good. MPs have become more hostile, not less so, to Palestine. As a result of the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ attack on Corbyn and the Labour Left, MPs are less willing to support the Palestinians than ever.
Part of the blame for this lies with PSC itself. Whilst all Zionist organisations joined in the attack on Corbyn, PSC remained aloof. Partly this was because National Secretary Ben Sofa, a member of Socialist Action, was also Digital Officer for the Labour Party and didn’t want to be compromised. It was a clear conflict of interest yet it cause few people to comment.
The reality is that the British Establishment and its prostitute press is more not less hostile to the Palestinians even as the debate on Zionism and Israel has changed. However PSC is not responsible for that change, which is primarily because all the world’s major human rights organisations, from Israel’s B’Tselem to Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International have declared Israel to be an apartheid state.
Mainstreaming is a nice cliché which avoids asking simple questions such as why the British Establishment from Johnson and Truss to Sunak and Starmer support Israel right or wrong? What is it that brings down condemnation when it is the Uighurs in China or Russia in Ukraine but silence when it is the Palestinians? In other words PSC cannot be effective politically as long as it aspires to join the British Establishment. Support for Palestine is a radical political posture which brings one into conflict with western imperialism. There is no solution to the Palestine question within imperialism. That is a lesson PSC and Ben Jamal have yet to learn.
Ben Jamal Thu, 7 Apr, 19:56 (6 days ago)
Tony, to confirm your record has been updated.
There are many things you say in your resignation and on your blog about this that are simply untrue, but I see little point in addressing them in detail- weve been there before. There is one issue however I would like to address. You have reposted an allegation you made at the AGM that I chose not to address at the time but wish to do so now. You have reported that I have indicated some equivalence about antizionism, on the basis of some reported conversation about which you choose to provide no detail or context. I have no sense of what conversation is being reported but I am clear that I have not nor ever would equivocate about my position on Zionism. I have and would say that because people suggest they many different things when they talk of Zionism it is important for us to be clear and precise in what we say. So for the record, and to be clear, my position has always been straightforward. I describe myself as an antizionist on the basis that I understand Zionism in this way. Before 1948 Zionism meant the claim of the right of the Jewish people to found a state in Palestine. (my emphasis)
They did not have that right because Palestine was inhabited by a majority population of indigenous Palestinian arabs, including my ancestors . There was no way to found a state that did not involve the dispossession and denial of the individual and collective rights of the Palestinians . Since 1948 Zionism has meant the right for Israel to sustain itself as a majority Jewish state that privileges the rights of its Jewish majority over non Jews , especially Palestinians. That ideology and the policies that stem from it are racist. On that basis I define myself as an antizionist. You will not find a single statement from me that contradicts this. I ask you as someone with whom I have many disagreements ( and many agreements) but who has always claimed to express the truth , to cease to mischaracterise my views. It is deeply disrespectful and as a Palestinian I find it insulting
I will leave it to your conscience how you choose to respond
The conversation I was reporting was with Dave Chappell of Exeter who reported that you said, in response to a query on the change in PSC’s position on Zionism in the constitution, that the reason for this was that Zionism meant different things to different people. That of course is irrelevant because what matters is what Zionism has done to the Palestinians and the role it has played and continued to play in the region, not how some of its more feeble supporters see it. You were in a position to oppose this change in the constitution but you failed to do so. It was not your private views that I criticised but your public emanation of them.
I don’t accept that Zionism pre-1948 is any different to Zionism post-48. Zionism has never wavered from its determination to exclude as many Palestinians from the area of the State and to contain those that remain in as small a portion of the land as possible. Judaisation of the Galilee, Jerusalem and the Naqab today is no different from its policies and practices before 1948. Zionism always meant more than simply the right of the Jewish people, itself a myth, to form a state in Palestine. To Zionism a Jewish state meant a state that was as Jewish as England is English, to quote Weizmann. Since 1948 it has meant a continuation of colonisation, first internally and now both in the Occupied Territories and in Israel itself.
The fact that PSC should have changed its Aims and Objectives so fundamentally, without any debate whatsoever, is a disgrace. It is shameful that PSC today is not explicitly anti-Zionist and that is why it has been unable to come to terms with the ‘antisemitism’ campaign. It was unable to counter this campaign by pointing out that Zionism has never fought anti-Semitism. Indeed Zionism arose on the basis that anti-Semitism could not be fought. PSC abstained from the fight in the Labour Party, unlike every Zionist lobby group. This campaign, which resulted in the acceptance by the British Establishment of the IHRA has resulted in the targeting of academics such as David Miller, who PSC did not support, Shahd Abusalama and others.
I do not accept therefore that I have mischaracterised your views in the slightest.
Ben Jamal 8 Apr 2022, 18:38
Well Tony, as I made clear I did not say what was reported to you and what you subsequently reported. You also have no knowledge of any discussions that took place regarding changes to wording in the constitution. Further it is wrong to characterise them as a shift from an antizionist position. Your logic on this is absurd. For years you have claimed that PSC does not oppose Zionism despite the old constitutions wording. Now you say because that has been changed PSC has abandoned its antizionist position.
All of that is by and by. My request to you, appealing to your conscience was that you cease to mischaracterise my position and my views . You have chosen not to do so using the logic that your interpretation of what the change to the constitution means must reflect my views whatever I say to the contrary.
So be it. One final thing I will say. There is much you have written over the years I agree with- much I don’t. My strongest concern about the way you conduct yourself is that you are not concerned with being accurate- You make assertions that you cannot know to be true but are not concerned about establishing whether they are or not ,lest the truth doesn’t suit your polemic- such as your years long absurd statements that Socialist Action controls PSC. But more than this my deepest concern is about the manner in which you conduct your politics. I have always believed that those who genuinely stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people , must do so not from a position of hatred but because of a profound commitment to a set of principles about how people and peoples should be treated- what they are owed. One key test of that commitment is how you apply those principles in your personal dealings with those with whom you disagree. You unfortunately have consistently resorted to the tactics of demonisation and dehumanisation . These not only do you no credit but actively harm the movement when you are associated with it. I am certain you must have had similar feedback from many over the years and simply choose to ignore it. I would hope that you might reflect on how the way you present yourself informs why the positions you hold – as demonstrated by many failed motions at PSC AGM’s – receive little support.
We received huge numbers of feedback from people who were deeply dismayed at your conduct at this years AGM which they experienced as disrespectful to other members and dismissive of the work of others. I received similar feedback about your open letter to Omar Barghouti including from many Palestinians who found its tone offensive and bordering on racist and colonial – the white man telling the brown man how to conduct his liberation struggle.
Your influence in the movement could be so positive. I am genuinely saddened that you have chosen to act in ways which have resulted in the opposite
You say that you did not say what I quoted you as saying, namely that Zionism means different things to different people and that was why PSC’s constitution has been amended. Dave Chappell of Exeter has emailed me today to confirm that what I wrote was an accurate account of what you did say to him. I believe Dave’s account because it is more credible.
I did not say that you were not an anti-Zionist. I have no way of knowing. The problem is that when it comes to PSC your views don’t translate into practice.
The reason I believe Dave’s account is that it accords with what happened. The 2015 Constitution was clear. Clause 3(h) of the Aims and Objectives spoke of:
opposition to racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and the apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state.
The 2022 Constitution, Clause 3.1.3. speaks of support for:
the Palestinian struggle to end the systems of settler colonialism, apartheid, and military occupations, motivated by Zionism, which deny the realisation of those rights.
You say that ‘For years you have claimed that PSC does not oppose Zionism despite the old constitutions wording.’ What you say is true but it was always open to members to change PSC’s refusal to oppose Zionism and the Zionist lobby. Then anti-Zionism was part of PSC’s Constitution even if the Executive chose to ignore it. Today the Constitution itself has been changed to reflect that past practice. To me that is a bridge too far.
The AGM marked a watershed. All we know is that Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid ‘is motivated by Zionism’. I suspect some Zionists could live with the present formulation.
PSC is no longer constitutionally opposed to the very Zionist movement and ideology that is at the root of Palestinian problem. This is not an incidental change. For me personally that is the final straw. Your statement that ‘it is wrong to characterise’ the constitutional changes ‘as a shift from an antizionist position.’ is simply untrue. Why else make these changes? What was their purpose? To this day neither you nor the Executive has given an explanation.
You are absolutely correct. I had little or no knowledge of the discussions that took place regarding these changes. The same applies to 99% of PSC’s membership. That is why it was incumbent upon you and the Executive to explain, in a simple document, what the need for these particular changes were. The Executive needed to be transparent and open in what it does. In practice it is anything but. That is what accountability means. In that you utterly failed.
You are wrong when you say that I am not concerned with accuracy. That is why I went back to Dave Chappell to make sure that I had not misheard what he said.
My allegation that PSC is effectively controlled by a tiny political group Socialist Action is not just my opinion. Both the Secretary Ben Sofa and the Vice-President Louise Regan are supporters. Others such as Bernard Regan are supporters of the Communist League, which like SA came out of the old IMG. These affiliations have never been declared yet the politics of these groups is what guides the actions of PSC’s leading bodies.
I reject your accusation that my politics stem from hatred. Nor do I accept your allegations of dehumanisation or demonisation. If you feel my criticisms demonise or dehumanise you then you are wrong. I note that you have given no concrete examples.
The motions I have presented over the years have received varying support but yes it is disappointing that PSC AGMs have largely consisted either of a trade union block vote or delegates who are not activists, not highly politicised and who all too often vote like sheep.
For example when I moved that PSC should support the breaking of links with Histadrut, the Zionist ‘trade union’ which Golda Meir described as a ‘‘big labor union that wasn’t just a trade union organisation.It was a great colonizing agency’. Bernard Regan opposed it as did the Executive. He didn’t want to alienate PSC’s trade union affiliates even though UNISON had already broken their links. The fact that a majority of the AGM supported Regan’s position speaks volumes. They have a very low political awareness of Zionism and PSC deliberately keeps them in that position. There are no educational leaflets or background papers about Zionism and the history of Zionism, for example its relationship to anti-Semitism.
I suspect that the major activity of many of the delegates is attending the AGM and that is why they feel the need to support the Executive. Of course I can’t be sure because delegates do not have a list of other attendees. Information is deliberately kept from members just as the Executive ensured that the Chat facility of the AGM was closed on a spurious pretext.
You say you have had ‘huge feedback’ from people who thought I had been disrespectful at the AGM. I will be blunt. Assuming that this is true, which I doubt, I confess that I have no respect for the opinion of anyone who supported keeping the Chat facility closed. They voted not to have contact with other delegates. They are what people call sheeple.
Likewise I have contempt for those who accepted the wholesale changes to the constitution without even debating them and without, it would seem, even wanting to debate them.
As to my letter to Omar Bargouti. I am sorry that Omar and the BNC went along with your defamatory accusations against Palestine Action. The question I asked then remains pertinent. Would the people of Gaza who were under bombardment from Israel agree with Omar or with Palestine Action? All the feedback I had from Palestinians was that they were hugely in favour of what PA were doing to Elbit’s factories.
Just because I support the Palestinian struggle it doesn’t mean that I am uncritical. In 1993 I resigned from PSC over its support for the Oslo Accords. I predicted then that they would lead to disaster. I faced much more criticism of the kind you mention. If Palestinians had listened, not just to me but people like Edward Said, then they would not be facing having to confront not only the Israeli army but Palestinian security forces too.
The position of the Executive in opposing the motion on the Palestinian Authority, despite the support of the family of the murdered Nizar Banat was disgraceful and it shows that you aren’t afraid of disregarding Palestinian voices when it is convenient for you to do so.
It is the duty of socialists to give critical but unconditional support to national liberation movements. Because the leaders of such movements are often, as with the case of Abbas, merely aspiring dictators eager to oppress their own people it is our duty to be critical. I am still staggered that PSC was unable to condemn the Palestinian Authority which considers co-operation with the Israeli Defence Forces as ‘sacred’ and which supported Operation Protective Sword in 2014 which killed over 2,200 Palestinians including 550 children.
The problem with you Ben and the politics of the leadership of PSC is that you are not anti-imperialist. That is why you have nothing to say about the Arab regimes which today are Israel’s junior partners. Historically the position of the Palestinian left was to oppose Zionism, Imperialism and Arab Reaction.
Finally. I have made my decision to resign from PSC for the reasons I have given. I am not asking anyone to do likewise. That is their decision. I am sorry that in your response you are unable to see the wider questions and instead indulge in personal blaming. If what you say is true, then at next year’s AGM, all the positions I advocated should now go through! I somehow doubt it.
Further to my previous email.
Since I intend to write up our correspondence for a blog, as part of a debate on the road ahead for the Palestine Solidarity movement I thought I should comment on the one part of your emails that I didn’t respond to. You said that:
I received similar feedback about your open letter to Omar Barghouti including from many Palestinians who found its tone offensive and bordering on racist and colonial – the white man telling the brown man how to conduct his liberation struggle.
My open letter to Omar was in relation to his support for your attacks on Palestine Action. Omar, took on trust the information that you supplied him with and as a result both he and the BNC criticised PA’s activities. It was because of this that the BNC put out a statement welcoming the closure of Elbit’s Oldham factory without once mentioning PA. Anyone reading the statement would assume that it was either a result of ‘years of grassroots campaigning’ or that Elbit had grown tired of the scenery.
The question in my letter to these leaders was extremely relevant and not in the slightest racist. Do they think that people in Gaza at the sharp end of Elbit’s missiles would appreciate their attacks on Palestine Action? Neither Omar Barghouti nor the BNC are infallible and above criticism. Infallibility is the domain of the Pope!
So it wasn’t a question of the white man telling the brown man how to conduct his struggle. Rather it was a few Palestinians with whom we are in solidarity telling us how to build solidarity with them. With respect to Omar, I think we are in the best position to do that because only we know local conditions.
The problem with your reducing the question of solidarity with the Palestinians to a question of identity politics (‘white’ vs ‘brown) is that it entirely misses out the fact that not all brown (?) people, i.e. Palestinians think alike. Not only that but not all Palestinians have the same interests as each other because Palestinian society too is stratified.
It is because of class divisions that you have a small comprador bourgeoisie amongst the Palestinians who are only too happy to act as Israel’s collaborators in return for their own privileges. This was, after all, what Zionism did in Europe when it collaborated with the Nazis. Your failure to recognise the intersection of class, race and liberation struggles leads PSC to remain silent on the treacherous role of the Palestinian Authority.
It also leads PSC to become inarticulate when it comes to what exactly is our vision. What do we say to supporters who ask whether we support a ‘Jewish’ state i.e. the ‘right of Israel to exist’. Do we support a unitary, secular state between the river and the sea or do we support a Palestinian bantustan located in the interstices of the West Bank settlements?
The failure to discuss how, given their lack of strength, the Palestinians can achieve liberation means that PSC organises routine solidarity whilst knowing that it will have next to no impact. A genuine solidarity organisation would have something to say about the complicity of the Arab regimes in the Zionist dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians. These are not side issues as it is clear that the liberation of the Palestinians is inseparable from the liberation of the people of the Arab East from imperialism and its client regimes.
Arab regimes who are now openly complicit with Israel as a result of the Abraham Accords should also be the target of the solidarity movement.
The Palestinian left always recognised this in theory if not in practice. The tragedy is that PSC doesn’t even recognise that there is a problem. What other reason can there be for PSC continuing to stay silent on the abomination that is the Palestinian Authority?
In its latest report on the situation in Jenin and on the fighters in Jenin’s refugee camp, Middle East Eye reports that ‘Since late last year, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have made several attempts to contain the growing number of armed fighters in the city.’
Does it not embarrass you that PSC has nothing to say about Israel’s military subcontractor?
Wed, 13 Apr, 09:44
Tony- to be clear- I do not give you my permission to make this correspondence public- I wrote to you with a request that you do not mischaracterise my position on Zionism. Im afraid I do not trust you to give an accurate account of any exchange . You have already in your previous response mischaracterised or misunderstood what I was saying to you. I did not for example accus you of dehumanising conduct towards me. I was referring to your routine use of dehumanising language- eg scum- towards political opponents. I see no purpose in a public dialogue on these issues .
I note your objection. However you did not make clear or at all that you were writing to me in confidence and the matters you raised are not personal to us.
I am glad to receive your clarification of what you accused me of. I don’t think calling people like Jonathan Hoffman, Sharon Klaff or her sister in law, Lesley, to name but 3, ‘scum’ is ‘dehumanising’. It is their own behaviour which is inhuman. But to be clear I don’t call all Zionists ‘scum’. It is an appellation I reserve for Zionists who are clearly and overtly fascist or racist.
You say that you don’t trust me to give an accurate account of any exchange. That is precisely why I prefer to copy a verbatim transcript of our exchanges.
When I do write up our exchanges I will of course be happy for you reply in the Comments sections of my blog.