Just as Supporters of Black Liberation in South Africa Opposed Apartheid, Supporters of the Palestinians Must Oppose Zionism and Israel as a ‘Jewish’ State
This is the logic of Zionism – if you believe in universal values then you are no better than the Jews who perished in the gas chamber – indeed it is a pity that you weren’t among them
I have written many hundreds of articles, thousands if you count my blogs, but my article in today’s Electronic Intifada Only anti-Zionists are real supporters of Palestineis one of the most important, I have written.
I have long grappled with the question as to why it was that those who purported to support the Palestinians in the Labour Party, gave their support to an ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign, whose sole purpose was to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader because of his support for the Palestinians.
On 11 April 2016, I wrote to Ben Soffa, Secretary of Palestine Solidarity Campaign about the Zionists’ ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign. Rereading it today it seems prescient.
Despite initiatives from a number of Jewish groups… to stem the [anti-Semitism] attacks from the Board of Deputies, the BBC and the Guardian in particular, there has been complete silence from PSC. PSC prides itself on being the largest solidarity organisation in Britain. The Executive boasted in its Annual Report that it had contacted 1,042 candidates at the General Election, yet it hasn’t seen fit to contact any Labour parliamentarians to speak up against the attacks of the Zionists and the Labour Right…
Why haven’t you for example organised a large public meeting on the issue with say Ken Livingstone and a sympathetic MP as speakers or issued press releases, produced leaflets, called press conferences, pressed for articles in the Opinion columns of the quality press etc? I know that PSC is renowned for its caution and timidity but there must be some limits to this….
PSC has resources that other groups do not…. It is inexcusable that it has done absolutely nothing to respond to the Zionists daily attacks. …
… Part of the problem is undoubtedly the political weakness of PSC, which supports the Palestinians whilst not opposing Zionism. Historically PSC has prefered to act as a campaigning group around human rights whilst avoiding thorny issues such as Zionism and anti-Semitism.
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. It is no use Corbyn saying that he opposes anti-Semitism because what he means by anti-Semitism and the Zionists mean by it are two different things.… Until Corbyn speaks out saying that yes he opposes anti-Semitism but yes he supports the Palestinians, including the Boycott of Israel, giving chapter and verse on why Israel is a racist and apartheid state, then the attacks will continue.
A central objective is to change this situation by forcing them [Palestine solidarity organisations] to ‘play defense’.
This means systematically exposing information about delegitimizers, their activities, and the organizations that they operate out of. The goal is to eventually frame them, depending on their agendas, as anti-peace, anti-Semitic, dishonest purveyors of double standards.
Despite saying that ‘It is clear that the upsurge in attempts to link support for the rights of the Palestinian people with anti-Semitism requires a new a concerted response.’ Soffa went on to say that
… I make no apology for the fact that we do not engage in every debate some would wish to involve us in. As the Reut Institute set out, 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, which is precisely why PSC chooses to make the intervention we feel are most helpful to the situation, rather than seeking to make every intervention which might be possible…
There is much work to be done, but it is also not necessarily most effective for PSC to be the organisation leading on all aspects of this.
The problem with not engaging with the ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign was that it didn’t then go away. What it did mean was Britain’s largest Palestine solidarity group was absent from the fight against the Zionist lobby and their allies, the Labour Right.
There is good reason to believe that PSC did not want to align itself with the Corbyn left since their strategy involved aligning and working with those bitterly opposed to Corbyn. The problem with this was that the Labour Right, even those like Nisa Nandy who professed to support the Palestinians, would willingly throw the Palestinians under the bus to get rid of Corbyn.
Almost all the trade unions affiliated to Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who proudly use their affiliation as ‘proof’ that they support the Palestinians, were at one and the same time supporting the IHRA ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement. The IHRA’s sole purpose was to label supporters of the Palestinians as anti-Semitic.
Lisa Nandy’s Concern for Palestinian Children’s Rights Didn’t Prevent Her ‘Barnstorming’ Speech to Labour Friends of Israel – PSC was happy to provide a Platform for these Creatures
In some unions like the GMB, the IHRA has been used to expel genuine supporters of the Palestinians like Bert Schouwenburg.
Even the most stupid trade union leaders, like Gary Smith or Sharon Graham, understand the purpose behind the IHRA. Nearly all of the IHRA’s examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ involved opposition to Israel and Zionism. It completely ignored the genuine anti-Semitism of the far-right, yet PSC took a conscious decision not to raise the IHRA with its trade union affiliates.
Since PSC never asked anything of Nandy, Thornberry et al. they got nothing back except platitudes
When PSC held a trade union conference in 2019 Director Ben Jamal asked me to leave because I had distributed leaflets opposing the IHRA. Why is it that PSC is so reluctant to raise ‘difficult issues’ like the weaponisation of anti-Semitism with trade unions? Why does PSC value affiliations which are politically worthless?
First She was Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine
The conclusions I reached don’t make for easy reading but we have to face up to unpleasant truths. The trade unions, with the support of PSC, were able to proclaim their support for the Palestinians at one and the same time as they supported a Jewish Supremacist state.
and then a regular on PSC Platforms
As Jesus wisely observed you cannot serve two masters, God and Mammon. You have to make a choice between opposition to Israeli settler colonialism and support for the Palestinians or support for Israel as a Jewish State.
and then the JLM’s preferred candidate for leader
PSC has chosen to ride two horses which is why it is ineffectual politically. On the one hand it supports the Palestinians and on the other it refuses to challenge the imperialist neo-colonial narrative of support for the two state solution. It doesn’t even challenge the anti-Semitism narrative that says Jews are an oppressed group still less argue that Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state must inevitably be a racist state.
PSC has failed to master the art of riding 2 horses at the same time
The result is that PSC’s narrative is entirely incoherent and all that it can do is point to Israel’s human rights abuses. That of course is fine but how is PSC different from a human rights NGO such as War on Want? In many ways PSC is less effective than WOW.
When it came to supporting Corbyn against the Zionists PSC was conspicuous by its absence. PSC put up no opposition to the Zionists’ anti-Corbyn campaign for fear of upsetting trade union leaders and the Labour Right. PSC abandoned Palestinian supporters inside the Labour Party. They left the field clear to the Zionists.
Anyone claiming to support both Black people in South Africa and Apartheid would have been ridiculed yet today you have large numbers of people who claim to both support the Palestinians and the Israeli state. Quite simply you cannot support the Executioner and the Condemned Man – politics is about making choices not compromises.
No one was too opportunistic or right-wing to go on PSC’s platforms
Today supporters of a two state solution are in reality supporters of an Apartheid Solution in Palestine. They are supporting the continuing existence of a state based on ethnic cleansing whilst at the same time supporting their victims. The time has come for genuine supporters of the Palestinians to say to groups like PSC that you have to make a choice. You cannot continue to try and ride two horses.
I resigned from PSC in 2021 when it adopted a Constitution which abandoned opposition to Zionism. PSC did this with the support of the Socialist Workers Party and others who claim to be on the left.
I hope that my article stimulates the discussion that is necessary if we are going to see a strategic change of direction for the Palestine solidarity movement in Britain. PSC’s ‘strategy’ of ‘mainstreaming’ is dead in the water. The British Establishment is wedded to support for Zionism, as it has been for over a century. No amount of rational argument will change the minds of racists like Robert Jenrick.
I am grateful to Electronic Intifada, the most important Palestinian news site there is, for carrying my article.
Britain’s Palestine solidarity movement is at a crossroads. Loredana Sangiuliano ZUMA Press
The statement that you can’t be a supporter of the Palestinians unless you are an anti-Zionist may seem dogmatic, even sectarian to some.
But it is the failure of Britain’s Palestine solidarity movement to understand this simple truth which is responsible for so many of our recent setbacks. It is this which has enabled the successful weaponization of anti-Semitism.
Subjectively speaking, it is perfectly possible to support the Palestinians and the “right of Israel to exist” at the same time. In theory, there was no reason at all why good men and women could not sit down and draw the boundaries of a two-state solution equitable to all.
There was only one problem. Such a solution failed to take into account the dynamics of settler-colonialism and of Zionism in particular.
Many supporters of the British Empire, liberal imperialists such as Thomas MacCaulay and the Labour Party Fabians, really did believe that there could be a benevolent imperialism that was compatible with supporting the rights of the colonized. It was called “trusteeship.”
Moving from PSC to Labour Friends of Israel is effortless for Emily Thornberry because PSC asks so little of its speakers
Many honest people believed that the colonies were the “White Man’s Burden,” as the British novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling infamously put it, and that we were only in India and Africa out of the goodness of our hearts.
The Church Missionary Society and people like John Philip would have been aghast if you had accused them of supporting white supremacy. Yet that is what they did.
Thornberry repays PSC’s invitation by attacking BDS to Israeli Embassy Group Labour Friends of Israel
Holding contradictory ideas inside one’s head is what most people do, for much of the time. It’s called “cognitive dissonance” or as George Orwell termed it, “doublethink.”
However, for a solidarity organization to do the same renders its task impossible. Sooner or later a choice has to be made.
Solidarity with the Palestinians, although it involves opposing many egregious abuses of human rights, is not at bottom a question of human rights. Just as apartheid in South Africa was not primarily about human rights but Black liberation from white minority rule, so too is the Palestinian question primarily about liberation from Zionism and a state of Jewish supremacy.
In 2022 I resigned, for the second time, from the organization I had helped found, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, because it had adopted in March of that year a new constitution which eliminated its previous opposition to Zionism. If the truth be told, opposition to Zionism had long been abandoned by PSC. But by removing this from its constitution PSC made explicit what before had been implicit.
Prior to its March 2022 annual general meeting (when the PSC executive railroaded through the changes) the PSC’s old constitution had included an unambiguous clause stating that one of the group’s objectives was “opposition to racism, including … the apartheid and Zionist nature of the Israeli state.”
The new constitution has watered this down significantly, stating only that Israel’s system of apartheid and settler colonialism is “motivated by Zionism,” without explaining PSC’s position on Zionism. The argument privately used by the PSC to “justify” this change was that Zionism means different things to different people.
Zionism is the racist creed and movement which led to the dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinians.
It was the failure of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and much of the Labour left to combine support for the Palestinians with opposition to Zionism that was their Achilles’ heel. It was no surprise that the Jewish Labour Movement and its faithful poodle Jon Lansman wanted to abolish any mention of Zionism.
Their reasoning was that some people used the term “Zionist” when they really meant “Jew.” But it was the Zionists themselves who had deliberately sought to confuse the distinction in the minds of people.
Their other argument was that “Zionism” covered a multitude of sins – from left to right, obscuring the fact that all wings of Zionism agreed on establishing a Jewish state with a large majority of Jews.
Corbyn was undoubtedly a supporter of the Palestinians but he had no understanding of Zionism and could not therefore explain why or how the Palestinians had become marginalized and oppressed in Israel.
When the “anti-Semitism” campaign first began, Corbyn effectively became a Zionist.
He supported a Palestinian state but also recognized the legitimacy of the Jewish Labour Movement’s claim to represent Jews in the Labour Party. Instead of seeing the JLM as a lobby group, the primary purpose of which was support for the Israeli state and therefore the oppression of the Palestinians, Corbyn accepted that the group’s purported concerns about anti-Semitism were genuine.
Having spent 30 years as a campaigner for Palestinian rights, Corbyn above all was familiar with the Zionist accusation of “anti-Semitism.” Yet when he became leader he forgot all of this.
Support for the two-state solution enabled Corbyn to both support the Zionists and support the Palestinians. Saying, as he did, that there was a place for both Zionists and anti-Zionists in Labour was in effect saying there was a place for both racists and anti-racists in the party.
Corbyn’s human rights concerns disappeared as he lent his support to the very organization, the JLM, which was formed to remove him.
Those who accept Israel’s “right to exist” accept the legitimacy of Zionism. They fail to understand that a “Jewish” state, as an expansionist ethno-nationalist settler-colonial state, could never accept anything more than a set of mini bantustans.
When Corbyn decided to commission the Chakrabarti inquiry he set the seal on this process. He accepted that there was a problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The resulting report, authored in 2016 by human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabarti, found no evidence that Labour was dominated by anti-Semitism as was being claimed at the time. Nevertheless, it made some key concessions to this false narrative.
Chakrabarti defined Zionism not as a political creed or movement but as a form of Jewish identity. In so doing she completely failed to understand where the accusations of anti-Semitism were coming from.
She wrote in the report that:
A further complexity comes from left-wing British Jewry, including, but not exclusively, young people becoming increasingly critical of, and disenchanted with, Israeli government policy in relation to settlements in the West Bank and the bombardment of Gaza in particular. This has led to some people personally redefining their Zionism in ways that appear to grant less support to the state of Israel and more solidarity to fellow Jewish people the world over … It seems to me that it is for all people to self-define their political beliefs and I cannot hope to do justice to the rich range of self-descriptions of both Jewishness or Zionism, even within the Labour Party, that I have heard.
Of course, anyone can self-define their political beliefs and what they understand Zionism means. However, there is no obligation on anyone else to accept such an identity.
The only meaning of Zionism that counts is that of those who suffer its ill effects – the Palestinians. People who define themselves as Zionists tell us nothing other than what is going on in their heads.
Confusion as a badge of honor
The ability to combine both support for the Palestinians with support for Zionism enabled political charlatans like the lawmaker Lisa Nandy to chair Labour Friends of Palestine whilst denouncing opposition to Zionism as anti-Semitic.
Just imagine that someone had said that although they supported the rights of Black South Africans they refused to oppose apartheid. They would have been ridiculed, yet that is precisely what is happening when people claim to support the Palestinians yet refuse to identify as anti-Zionists.
This is why I term support for a two-state solution, with its assumption that a racist “Jewish” state could co-exist alongside a Palestinian state, as support for the continued oppression of the Palestinians.
Jeremy Corbyn, with his support of the two-state solution, made his own political confusion over Palestine into a badge of honor. He also disarmed his supporters and gave confidence to his detractors.
By supporting the state of Israel, Corbyn also supported the idea that Israel was the nation state of the Jews.
If this was the case, and if Jews were indeed a nation, despite living in most of the world’s countries, then clearly Jews have the right to self-determination. Ipso facto, one must welcome Israel’s new neo-Nazi police minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Theirs is the monstrosity that is called Israel.
Instead of calling out the Jewish Labour Movement as supporters of a racist, settler-colonial state, Corbyn bought into the idea that Israel was guilty of nothing more than Jewish nationalism and its opponents were guilty of anti-Semitism. The tragedy was that the Palestinians themselves, in the form of the Palestine Liberation Organization, had abandoned their own anti-Zionism in the belief that Zionism could be confined within only part of historic Palestine – what the Zionists term Eretz Yisrael (Hebrew for the land of Israel).
To say you support the Palestinians while refusing to oppose Zionism, the movement with a primary goal not of fighting anti-Semitism but fighting the native Arab Palestinians, is to accept the left-Zionist narrative of a “conflict” between two peoples, a clash of right vs right. It renders any solution, other than a neo-colonial one, impossible and in practice it means surrendering to the existing power structure in Palestine.
Nowhere is this clearer than in Britain’s trade unions.
Nearly all major trade unions are affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. All of them claim to support the Palestinians.
Yet Gail Cartmail, the assistant general secretary of Unite – which calls itself Britain’s leading union – justified banning the film Oh Jeremy Corbyn: The Big Lie and a talk by Asa Winstanley covering his new book Weaponising Anti-Semitism (which documents the fake “anti-Semitism” campaign) all on the grounds that Jews have been hurt and even made afraid by journalism that seeks to tell the truth.
The reality is that by adopting Israel’s twisted definition of anti-Semitism, British unions are facing both ways at the same time. They support the Palestinians yet also support the Jewish Labour Movement and those who took down Corbyn.
The trade unions can only get away with this because supporters of the Palestinians in the Labour Party, including Corbyn, fail to understand how anti-Semitism has been weaponized in the service of state and nation.