All posts by Dick Pitt

Labour NEC bends under pressure

The massive pressure by right wing Labour, Zionists, and the right wing media has paid off.  The Labour NEC has adopted the IRHA definition and its examples.  Previous blogs have explained why we in PSC do not like some of the examples given.

The right wing succeeded in framing the debate.  The key issues were about Israel.  The NEC had previously accepted the IHRA definition of anti Semitism but not adopted four clauses about Israel. 

Imagine if all the headlines over the summer had been “Labour split on the issue of Israel” “Labour NEC split on whether Israel is an Apartheid state”.  What would have followed would hopefully have been a rational debate on the policies of the Israeli Government (which evidence shows to be racist) and what is the way forward.

Instead we had an appalling string of headlines attacking Corbyn and the Labour left as an anti-Semite.

“The NEC has today adopted all of the IHRA examples of antisemitism, in addition to the IHRA definition which Labour adopted in 2016, alongside a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”

We in the PSC feared that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism was an attempt to silence criticism of Israel.  This is shown by the reaction to the NEC addition.

‘Labour Against Anti-Semitism said the move “appears to be about protecting the freedom of racists to present vile views”.  A spokesman said: “There can be no caveats, no conditions and no compromises with racism.  “We are disappointed by the decision of Labour’s governing body, the NEC, to diminish the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism via the attachment of a ‘clarification’ that risks giving racists in the party a get out of jail card.”

Simon Johnson, the JLC’s chief executive, said in a second statement that Corbyn had “attempted shamefully to undermine the entire IHRA definition”, adding that the free speech caveat “drives a coach and horses” through that definition.’

 ‘Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber called the NEC’s decision “appalling” and claimed the “freedom of expression” clause “totally undermines the other examples the party has supposedly just adopted”.’

‘Dame Margaret Hodge, who is herself Jewish, said: “He should have simply adopted the full international definitions with absolutely no ifs and buts… “He’s sullied it. I’m saddened that it was sullied by this attempt that there is a get-out clause – the sullying that he was reluctant to go forward.”  She had described the NEC’s decision as: “Two steps forward and one step back.”

So the right to defend Palestinians and attack Israel is ‘a step back’ according to Hodge and ‘appalling’ according to Gerber.

While the media has a frenzied attack on Corbyn the ‘Israeli government announced a further enlargement of its massive colonial project in the occupied West Bank. Plans were now advanced, it said on Wednesday, for a further 1,000 “homes” in Jewish “settlements” – still the word we must use for such acts of land theft’

Last week is was announced that ‘Trump cuts more than $200 million in U.S. aid to Palestinians’

This is part of an attempt to remove refugee status for the Palestinians.

 

The blockade of Gaza goes on.  The prevention of free movement to Palestine goes on.  The oppression goes on.

The fact is that Israel is built to privilege people of Jewish ethnicity over that of the Palestinians.  Its racist policies flow from defending and perpetuating that structure.  It steals Palestinian lands and water.  In the west Bank it has established an apartheid state.  These are unpalatable facts to the right wing Labour, the media, and to the Zionists.  The statements are not anti Semitic.  Only a minority of Jews and some right wingers, support expansionist Israel and its establishment of Apartheid.  We need to shift the debate from a flawed definition of anti Semitism, to what is happening in Palestine.

 

It’s about justice for the Palestinians

Margaret Hodge has launched an attack on Jeremy Corbyn.  Corbyn’s key crime according to her is the NEC’s decision not to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism ‘in full’.  This accusation is repeated by many other right wing and Zionist commentators.

The central problem for them is that the NEC has adopted the full definition.  It is

‘Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.’

What the NEC of the Labour Party did not do was to accept the guidelines which are pro Zionist.  Anthony Lerhman writes eloquently on the issue.  In a blog he shows that the roots of the IHRA clauses were the activities of pro-Israel lobby group.   The media seem reluctant to mention the 36 Jewish Groups that back Labour’s NEC.

Meanwhile in Palestine /Israel a number of events have occurred this week.   This was from the BBC on the 15th July.

‘Israel has carried out its biggest attack against Hamas militant targets in Gaza since the war in 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.’

On July 20th there was a headlineIsraeli soldier killed by gunmen, retaliatory airstrikes kill 4 Palestinians[vii]

Yesterday, 23rd July, a 15 year old Palestinian boy in the West Bank was killed by Israeli troops.

These events come after Israeli snipers killed about 140 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

A week ago there was a demonstration against the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar.  It is a Palestinian village just outside Jerusalem.  The Israeli authorities plan an illegal settlement.  This threatens to link Jerusalem with the illegal settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.  This is a further step in cutting Palestine in half and making a Palestinian state impossible.

On Thursday 19th July the Guardian had a headline ‘EU leads criticism after Israel passes Jewish ‘nation state’ law’This law enshrines the idea that Israel is the nation state of the Jews and ends the status of Arabic as an official language.   One Arab-Israeli politician, Ayman Odeh, denounced it as “the death of our democracy” and added “[The Knesset] has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”

There are 65 other laws that entrench the oppression of the Palestinians within Israel.

Overall Israel is stealing land, oppressing the Palestinians, killing them when they dare to protest, killing them when they fight back and making a two-state solution impossible.

A very powerful lobby of right wingers, Zionists and a right-wing media want to stifle attacks on Israel under a slur of anti-Semitism.  They are doing a huge disservice to the cause of justice for the Palestinians and also obscuring real anti-Semitism.

 

Say no to trump

trumpbadge_final_editedprat-2We in PSC have specific reasons to oppose Donald Trump.  The move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem as encouragement to Israel’s land theft, the military diplomatic  and economic support  for Israel.  There is also the fear that the US is encouraging support for conflict against Iran.   Come if you can.

Razan al Najjar so sad

Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign had a sad task last week.  Where and when do we wish to protest against the killing in Gaza of  Razan al Najjar.  She was a 21 year old medic, clearly identifiable, there to provide help to injured Palestinians.  Her whole life ahead of her, snuffed out by an Israeli sniper.  The images of her smiling face linger on in our minds.  Perhaps we could have called a vigil for the 14 children killed over the last few weeks.  What about the others among the 119?  They were protesting that their right of return enshrined in UN Resolution 194 was being denied them.  They need to be remembered as well.

It is worth pointing out that killing civilian protesters is a war crime.   This is B’stalem’s legal opinion.

‘Israel’s position that it may use live and potentially lethal fire against unarmed demonstrators who are endangering no one undermines every moral principle, contradicts the provisions of international law and is unlawful.’

Along with the 119 dead we should consider the injured.  This is from a report in the BMJ.

‘As of 18 May, the death and injury toll, rising every day, is 117 dead, including 13 children, and no less than 12,271 injured. 6,760 have been hospitalised, including 3,598 with bullet wounds. 19 clearly identified medics have been shot to date…Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been operating in Gaza and says that people have been shot with bullets that have caused fist-sized wounds of “unusual severity”. Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, head of MSF Palestine says in their report that “half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverised bone. This is what we are facing. I have seen a great deal of physical trauma in Gaza following Israeli attacks but have not seen these kind of injuries before. From the appearance of the wounds there appears to have been systematic use by Israeli Defence Force snipers of ammunition with an expanding ‘butterfly’ effect.”.

We cannot rely on justice from the Israeli legal machinery.   In 2013 Samir Awad, 16, was shot dead by two Israeli snipers.  He was shot in the leg, then as he ran away from the soldiers he was shot in the shoulder and in the back of the head.  According to Hebrew-language news outlet Walla, the Israeli Central District Attorney’s office formally retracted all charges on Tuesday, saying there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

‘During the hearing, attorneys for the accused argued that their clients should not be convicted because it was not proven that they acted negligently and because the law was being selectively enforced in their case. The attorneys presented military data showing that in the last seven years, out of 110 cases in which soldiers had shot and killed Palestinians, only four indictments were filed’.

They were saying in effect, because the Israeli state did not prosecute the others, it is wrong to prosecute these two.

Nor can we rely on the United Nations.  Kuwait tabled a motion at the security council arguing that Palestinians need to be protected.  It was vetoed by the United States.

When we cannot rely on others to help defend Palestinians, we have to do it ourselves.  The vigils are important, events like the Small Park Big Run are important, Adam’s cycle ride to Amsterdam, and a thousand others.  They make a difference.

We have been here before.  South African Apartheid was defended by the British and US authorities.  Nelson Mandela was denounced as a terrorist.  We were the extremists.  Today only outright  racists and fascists defend South African Apartheid.  David Cameron has apologised saying the Tories were wrong over Apartheid.

We were right then, and we are right now.  It is wrong that unarmed demonstrators are killed by Israeli snipers, that medics and children were injured or killed, that hundreds will be maimed for life.

The sooner that the media, and the politicians regain a sense of morality, the sooner they will take up the cause of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, the sooner Israel will look upon Palestinians as equals as opposed to targets, the sooner there will be peace.

 

Adam Samara Ride for Palestine Day 2

adamAdam Samara is Cycling from Leeds to Amsterdam to protest against the killing of  Razan al Najjar and the other 118 unarmed Palestinians killed by Israeli snipers.  This (11th June) is the second day of his 600 mile journey.   Image may contain: 6 people, including Musheir El-Farra and Flis Callow, people smiling, outdoor

A few of us wished him well for the next 50 miles of his ride.  He will be in Loughborough tonight.

Pulic Meeting Eitan Bronstein

Eitan Bronstein_edited-1Eitan Bronstein was in Sheffield Tuesday 22nd May to address a public meeting organised by Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign.   The meeting was called Why the Nakba still matters.  Eitan Bronstein is a founder member of Zochrot.   Zochrot organizes tours of Israeli towns, which include taking displaced Palestinians back to the areas they fled or were expelled from in 1948 and afterwards.[3] The group erects street signs giving the Palestinian history of the street or area they are in. Zochrot sees this as causing “disorder in space”, raising questions about naming and belonging. A key aim is to “Hebrewise the Nakba” by creating a space for it in the public discourse of Israeli Jews.[