Tony Greenstein | 25 March 2021 | Post Views:

The Shameful Refusal of Palestine Solidarity Campaign to Defend Bristol University Professor David Miller is an Act of Treachery

As the Union of Jewish Students and the British Establishment Witchhunts anti-Zionist Academics PSC flies the White Flag of Surrender

Whatever you are doing, please join this demonstration in Bristol next Wednesday

If I Were the Treasurer of the Board of Deputies I would put the Director of PSC, Ben Jamal, on the payroll. And if I were a Zionist with an ounce of gratitude then I would get on my hands and knees and thank god for PSC. Never in my wildest dreams is it possible to imagine a more cowardly, timorous and treacherous leadership than that which presently runs PSC.

If the Zionist Federation, as part of a break-out session for young volunteers, set as an exercise in creative thinking, the task of imagining their ideal political opponent, then no one, even in their wildest dreams could imagine an organisation so accommodating and deferential as PSC. An organisation which takes every Zionist attack at face value, never doubting their sincerity whilst consistently undermining its own activists and supporters.

Britain’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign is as close as you can get to a pro-Palestinian organisation adopting a Zionist perspective. I feel a sense of shame since I was one of 15 people responsible for founding PSC back in 1982. Never in my wildest imagination could I imagine an organisation that attacks its own supporters, undermines independent initiatives such as that of Palestine Action, whilst dancing to the Zionist mood music.

Politically PSC clings in practice to the Apartheid ‘solution’ of 2 states. But even its past support for the Oslo Accords pales in comparison with PSC’s record in the past 5 years. Ever since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party the Zionists have waged an ‘anti-Semitism’ offensive. In April 2016 I wrote an Open Letter to Ben Soffa, PSC Secretary urging them to take the campaign seriously. I wrote:

 I know that PSC is renowned for its caution and timidity but there must be some limits to this…. 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.

The reply, 9 days later, oozed with complacency. Soffa wrote:

I make no apology for the fact that we do not engage in every debate some would wish to involve us in.

PSC would, in other words, get on with its routine work and it wouldn’t allow the Zionists to distract it.  Soffa was clear:

We must not fall into the trap of allowing our opponents to set our agenda

The problem was that the Zionists did set the agenda whereas PSC had no agenda. Instead of responding to the attacks PSC gave them an open goal. What PSC proved was that you cannot claim to support the Palestinians if you are not prepared to oppose Zionism, the movement and ideology that drove them from their land

Among the ‘academics’ signing a letter hostile to David Miller is Jonathan Hoffman, the link person between the Zionist Right and openly fascist organisations

In 1993 I resigned from PSC because of its support for the Oslo Accords. Oslo turned out, as I predicted (see my article in Labour Briefing October 1993). As everyone bar PSC will agree today, the Oslo Accords were the biggest disaster to hit the Palestinians since the Nakba. Voluntarily the PLO agreed to become Israel’s security subcontractor in return for endless humiliation..

The Palestinians are not, as PSC believe, a human rights issue. At its heart the Palestinian Question is a political question. Of course Israel commits numerous human rights issues but there is a reason for this – Zionism, the desire for Jewish racial purity.

What Shami Chakrabarti advised in her Report, PSC has been putting into practice. Chakrabarti wrote:

surely it is better to use the modern universal language of human rights, be it of dispossession, discrimination, segregation, occupation or persecution and to leave Hitler, the Nazisand the Holocaust out of it?

The problem with this argument is that although we may leave the Nazi and Zionism out of it the Zionists won’t. Similarly even if we ignore the question of ‘anti-Semitism’, as Ben Soffa suggested, it was clear that the Zionists wouldn’t be taking a vow of abstinence.

Supporting the Palestinians whilst having no critique or understanding of Zionism is like opposing human rights abuses in South Africa 30 years ago whilst having nothing to say about Apartheid.

On 22nd February I wrote an email to Ben Jamal, PSC Director and Ben Soffa:

Professor David Miller of Bristol University is subject to a concerted attempt by a host of Zionist organisations to have him dismissed.

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

A strange thing happened – I got into a conversation with AJ Solomon, Vice Chair of Bristol Jewish Society. We got talking about Zionism and the attack on David Miller. Solomon told me that it was antisemitic to blame Jews for Israel’s actions. I agreed but asked by then does Israel continue to call itself a Jewish state, thus perpetuating that idea. Losing the argument Solomon ‘unsent’ his 5 or so messages!

Whilst most of the long-winded statement was unexceptional, it failed in one key respect. To offer unconditional or indeed any support to David. The Board of Deputies and the Zionists were alleging that by focusing his criticism on the Union of Jewish Students [UJS], an Israeli funded student group which marginalizes and ostracises non-Zionist Jewish students, David Miller was making Bristol University an ‘unsafe’ environment for Jewish students.

UJS, which is leading the attack on Miller, is an Israeli funded Zionist student group. Its constitution commits it to ‘inspiring Jewish students to make an enduring commitment’ to Israel.

In Vetting in practicefor Comment is Free described what happened when Emma Clyne, the non-Zionist Chair of SOAS Jewish Society organised a meeting with speakers such as Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC:

posters for a meeting the society put on were repeatedly torn down. Ms Clyne told a meeting of Independent Jewish Voices on May 15 that she had to put new ones up every day.

A clue as to the reason for its silence might lie in an article in the Jewish Chronicle of April 27 (“Students in censorship row over IJV debate”).

The Chair of UJS, Mitch Simmons, made clear‘”It is the view of the UJS that certain views are not acceptable under free speech.”

PSC’s statement acknowledges the attack on pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist academics first began in the United States. This attack uses the ‘vulnerability’ of Jewish students (but never anti-Zionist Jewish students) in order to portray supporters of Israeli Apartheid as its victims, is just a form of identity politics which has long been used against American academics such as Joseph Massad and Norman Finkelstein.

In short PSC and Ben Jamal as its representative had bought into the Zionist narrative that a political response to the Zionist UJS would endanger the lives of Jewish students.

PSC’s statement accepted that the Board of Deputies, Community Security Trust and other Zionist organisations were ‘mirroring tactics already used in the US targeting students and academics on campus’ but what was their response?  Did they extend the hand of solidarity to David who was under attack? Not a bit of it. Instead PSC issued a statement mirroring the Zionists’ criticisms.

When addressing such issues, it is crucial to apply depth, context, and clarity, and to avoid narratives that oversimplify the interlinks between groups which oppose actions in support of Palestinian rights, and Israeli state actors. Doing so obscures our understanding of the way political actors’ function. At worst, it can risk drawing on anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish power.

Whilst some have criticised Professor Miller for lacking such depth and clarity in the way he has couched his remarks,…’

It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines. This was a none too veiled attack on Professor Miller for failing to ‘apply depth, context, and clarity’ and for ‘oversimplify(ing) the interlinks between groups which oppose actions in support of Palestinian rights, and Israeli state actors.’ This statement is like crossing a picket line. It is scabbing. PSC has no expertise on the question of links between Zionist groups.  Professor Miller is an international expert.

But more importantly. Instead of allowing the Zionists to frame the issue, PSC should have launched a full-scale defence of David Miller’s right to conduct his research without let or hindrance. People are free to criticise David Miller’s work what they should not be free to do is to call for his dismissal.

When PSC organised a tour for the Israeli Palestinian cleric Sheikh Raed Salah, in 2011, he was detained shortly after arriving in Britain. The Home Office used material that the Zionist Community Security Trust had given them, including a doctored poem, in which the words ‘we Jews’ had been inserted, as well as other ‘evidence’ in its attempt to deport Saleh. However the Upper Immigration Tribunal rejected the Home Office’s case and Professor Miller’s expert evidence played a key role in showing that the CST had submitted false evidence.

Unlike PSC’s apparatchiks, the Zionists have long memories. Ever since then the Israel lobby– from the Board of Deputies to the UJS – have waged a war to discredit David Miller. UJS in particular, which is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation, which has a ‘land theft division’ (Palestinian land of course!) has done its best to get David Miller dismissed.

The 100+ MPs includes a number of overt racists including Bob Blackman MP and Baroness Cox – Caroline Lucas is happy to be seen in such company

The campaign to dismiss David Miller has been one which has been waged by the political Establishment, Tory to Green. Out and out racists like Baroness Cox, Bob Blackman and Ian Paisley signed a letter from over a 100 MPs demanding Miller’s dismissal. [See Meet Caroline Lucas’s Racist Friends]. In the Lords yesterday there were a series of questions, all demanding Miller’s dismissal, from Labour’s Lord Bassam to the racist Tory Lord Pickles.

Electronic Intifada, the world’s premier Palestinian news site had no qualms about supporting David Miller. As soon as the Zionist attack began they printed an article by David and three days later followed it up with an article by Asa Winstanley ‘Israel lobby demands firing of professor who opposes Zionism’. On 3 March they printed an article describing how the Israeli state is co-ordinating the attack on Miller via online trolls. On 6 October EI described how support for David Miller was growing with a petition signed by 315 academics. One name missing from the petition was Professor Kamel Hawwash of Birmingham University, PSC’s utterly useless Chairperson.

Middle East Monitor has carried 4 articles (here here, here and here) supporting Miller. Al Jazeera ran an articleA war is being waged against academic freedom in Britain, by Malia Bouattia, the former NUS President.

But from PSC not a dickie bird. Total silence. It was only 6 weeks ago that UJS and other racist students were attempting to prevent Ken Loach from giving a lecture at his old college, St. Peters in Oxford. Then too the personal safety of the young Zionist snowflakes was threatened by an 84 year old film producer.

If anyone has any doubts as to what is afoot, Professor Ray Bush of Leeds University is also under attack by Zionism’s McCarthyists. In all these cases PSC has said nothing. As the Zionists sharpen their knives, PSC and Director Ben Jamal prefer to avert their eyes.

The original calculation of PSC that the attack on Jeremy Corbyn was going to be confined to the Labour Party was, as I predicted mistaken. What began in the Labour Party has spread to every party with Caroline Lucas leading the Zionist charge inside the Green Party.

It is difficult to get understand the mentality of the clique that runs PSC. Allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ have chilled debate within and without the Labour Party. Mere mention of Palestine is now grounds for expulsion from Starmer’s Labour. A climate of fear has grown up.

If PSC had used its trade union affiliates to oppose the IHRA then the Zionists could have been stopped in the Labour Party. But trade unions affiliate to PSC on the basis of support for the apartheid 2 states solution and on a human rights, not a political, basis. Because anti-Zionism is not part of PSC’s political perspective it has never opposed on principle a Jewish supremacist state.

The Jewish Chronicles Lies Are Remiscent of Goebbel’s Der Angriff

The Jewish Chronicle has led the charge against Miller. Articles such as Bristol does not want its Jewish students to be safe and accusing Bristol University of an “absolute failure of their duty of care” have adorned its pages. Yet PSC, like the 3 wise monkeys, sees, says and hears nothing. It opposes the abuse of Palestinian human rights but it hasn’t a clue as to why those rights are abused.

We are seeing a massive national movement against government attacks on free speech and the right to protest. PSC is completely absent from this campaign. This is despite the fact that the first groups likely to be a casualty of state repression are pro-Palestinian groups. Instead of joining forces with women and Black Lives Matter PSC Executive, under the influence of Socialist Action does absolutely nothing  in its splendid isolation from reality.

demonstration has been called in Bristol for March 31 against the victimisation of David Miller, who has been forbidden to speak out in his own defence whilst he is attacked by the State and the Zionists. It has been called by the Labour Campaign for Free Speech. It will be a minor miracle if PSC deigns to publicise it.

The whole Zionist spectrum, including Israel’s Ha’aretz, is supporting the attack on David Miller with articles by Professor David Feldman and Nicole Lampert. I have previously blogged about Feldman, ‘The Academic as an Establishment Whore.

With its latest act of political cowardice the question is whether PSC is fast becoming an obstacle to effective Palestine solidarity. Its refusal to support David Miller comes hot on the heels of its attack on Palestine Action for its actions against the Israeli Arms factories of Elbit. PSC prefers demonstrations that achieve nothing as opposed to direct action that provides a focus for a mass campaign.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

1 Comment

  1. Decommissioner on 03/10/2021 at 8:19am

    Thanks Tony people need to understand what is happening. This piece gives a good explanation.
    Solidarity to David Williams.
    in Brighton once.
    Let’s do it again.

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