All posts by Dick Pitt

We call for an end to oppression we get Emily Thornbury’s insult

I sent this in to the Guardian letters as a response to Emily Thornbury.

 

Emily Thornbury in Thursday’s guardian called those of us who call for Boycott, Sanctions and disinvestment against Israel as supporting bigotry.  When a politician is reduced to name calling her opponents rather than seriously discussing the issues, it belittles her and raises questions about the weakness of the case she is trying to put.

It is not an individual Israeli Government that we oppose.  It is only those Governments which illegally confiscate Palestinian land, ignore UN resolutions and support ethnic cleansing, and the establishment of an Apartheid regime in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  (We could also add making Gaza into a huge prison camp, stealing Palestinian water and build weapons of mass destruction).  That would seem to be every Israeli Government for at least the last fifty years.

For international comparisons Iraq was invaded for having stolen land from Kuwait.  Sanctions were imposed on Iraq because it was accused (falsely) of building weapons of mass destruction.  It was then invaded on the same false accusation.

Sanctions were placed on Russia because it was seen to be stealing Ukrainian land (the Crimea and Donetsk area).   (The wishes of the locals have apparently no bearing on the issue.)

‘Tough even brutal’ sanctions were placed on Iran because it was thought to be developing nuclear weapons.

Israel has developed nuclear weapons.  It has also stolen land.  It has constantly defied the UN.  Like South Africa is has established an Apartheid state (in East Jerusalem and the West Bank).

We do not advocate hatred.  We do not advocate boycott of individual Israeli academics.  We are simply responding to a call from hundreds of Palestinian organisations who ask us to help them get basic justice and an end to Israeli racism.

They asked us to do something non violent to help them get basic human rights.  They asked us to boycott Israeli goods, disinvest in Israel, and impose sanctions.

When we respond to the call by a deeply oppressed people, we expect abuse from the Tories (who supported South African Apartheid).  To be accused of bigotry by a senior member of the Labour Party is a poor reflection on that party.

Why demonstrate

Why protests are a good idea
Trump has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Gone is the façade of even handedness. This year is the fifty-year anniversary of the 1967 war. The pattern of Israeli land theft and expansion and lack of action by world leaders to prevent it is clear to all who would look. Trump’s action is different. He is rewarding Israel’s land thefts and its creation of a new Apartheid in occupied Palestine. There is not even the fig leaf of impartiality. So we protested.
We do not expect Trump to learn of the protests across the world and finally find a moral compass. We do not expect Theresa May to retract her statement that Israel “is a beacon of tolerance” and overthrow decades of UK Governments accepting Israeli racism and oppression of Palestinians (although that would be nice). No, demonstrations serve a different purpose.
In the runup to the demonstration we mobilised. Put adverts on social media and in the press (where possible). Our supporters will have spoken about it to a network of relatives, friends, neighbours and workmates.
On the day of the demonstration we gave out hundreds of leaflets explaining why Israel is creating Palestinian ghettoes in their own homeland and what we need to do about it.
It reinforced the idea that Israel is an Apartheid state and that we have a largish number of people prepared to put time and effort seeking justice for Palestinians and a great many more who could not come to the protest at such short notice but stand with us. All these people who were there on Saturday, or who wished they were there will, be encouraged to talk to their friends, neighbours and workmates about the issue.
Of those hundreds, perhaps someone will have a birthday and rather than asking for presents ask for donations to our children’s projects. Perhaps a few people at one of the hospitals will get together to twin with a hospital in Gaza. Perhaps a few people will get together to help with fund raising for our wellbeing (trauma) centre in Gaza. Perhaps a few people will start organising to oppose Trump’s visit in February. Perhaps a few more people will join our monthly protest actions outside shops and banks that profit from Israeli Apartheid. The idea that we should boycott Israeli products will grow. Investors and fund managers will find it easier to argue for disinvesting in Israel. The political argument that sanctions need to be applied to Israel for its illegal practices will also grow.
There is a huge amount that needs doing. Every bit that we do will convince others. The facts are clear Israel is a settler colonial state. It is takes Palestinian land because it is powerful enough to do so. It will continue stealing Palestinian water because, supported by the Western powers, it is powerful enough to do so It will continue on its path until it meets resistance. We believe that the best form of resistance is boycott, disinvestment and sanctions. If each of us does a little, we can build a movement that puts pressure on Israel and forces our leaders to act or be replaced.
Today very few people will publicly defend South African Apartheid. Not even the Tories who for decades supported the white minority regime. An international movement was built that helped end Apartheid in South Africa.
We are building a movement that can help end Israeli Apartheid. Every little bit of solidarity that each of us can weave into our everyday lives helps bring forward the day when we have justice for the Palestinians.

Protest -Trump rewards land theft

protestsatOn Saturday we held a protest against Trump’s support for Israeli land theft.   It was a good turnout given the very short notice.   We need ordinary people to weave opposition to  Israeli Apartheid into their everyday lives.  We organise meals, protests and meetings.  Join us and find out how you can help.

Anti Semitism Part two

This is the second blog addressing a new report on anti-Semitism brought out by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research

Two questions arise from the report that need a serious answer.  The first is that ‘all political groups located on the left, are no more anti-Semitic than the general population.’   Given that antiracism is a fundamental principle for us on the left, this is concerning.   We should be better.  The second is the following ‘we find that the existence of an association between the anti-Semitic and the anti-Israel attitudes tested, is unambiguous.’

This is a puzzling result.  Traditionally, those of us who are strongly for justice for the Palestinians want Jews to live fulfilled lives in the UK, USA or France.  We do not want them to emigrate to Israel to oppress the Palestinians, so why does this report not reflect that? There are a number of possible explanations for this result.

The questionnaire

I have asked for the actual questionnaire but so far without success.  (The organisers feel it is of commercial value.)  There are a couple of problems.  I cannot understand why there is no question about the illegal Israeli settlements, though this is likely to be a major ground for hostility to Israel.

The second set of problems is to do with the IJPR survey’s methodology.  The survey has a string of questions about attitudes to Israel interspersed with attitudes to Jews.  If the responder is still thinking of their answer to Israel is deliberately trying to wipe out the Palestinian population (23% agreement), Israel is committing mass murder in Palestine (24%), Israel is an apartheid state (21%) they may answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Jews think they are better than other people’ (13%) because they are thinking within the context of Israel.  The answer is still anti-Semitic but the confusion is made easy. This factor could have been reduced by having separate sections, one about attitudes to Israel and another about attitudes to Jews.

A wider source of conflating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism comes from the definitions used. Britain has adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.   The definition is not a legal document (and hence is useless for many situations).  Worse, because the definition is fuzzy it needed a set of guidelines.   For a legal opinion see here .  These guidelines can brand people who want justice for the Palestinians as anti-Semitic. (According to one guideline claiming ‘State of Israel is a racist endeavour’ is an example of anti-Semitism.)

Another guideline says ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’ is anti-Semitic.  I agree.

Israeli spokespeople could help clarify the situation. They could issue the true statement

‘The Israeli Government killed 10 people trying to get aid to Gaza, built an illegal wall, stole Palestinian land, and has established an Apartheid state.   We wish to make it clear that Jews in Britain, France, the USA etc. took no part in planning or carrying out these activities and should in no way be held responsible.  The planners and the people who did these things were Zionists please blame us.

Signed Israel

They could update it every time they carry out an atrocity.

Instead they repeat ad nausea, that the state of Israel is the home of all Jews (irrespective of the ideas of the Jews themselves).  The crimes listed above were done in the name of the ‘Jewish state’.  If a Jew has the temerity to say that Israel is a racist state and they want nothing to do with it, they are roundly condemned by the likes of Mark Regev (Israeli ambassador) as anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew. The claim that Israel is the home of the Jews is then repeated followed by another atrocity.

This was on the PSC called protest against Balfour.

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We in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have a huge interest in combatting anti-Semitism.  Racism of any sort undermines the democratic and socialist ideas on which a progressive political movement has to be based.   We want Jews to be part of that and to live happy and fulfilled where they are, and not emigrate to Israel.  We are constantly abused by people who want mass Jewish emigration, and have an interest in misstating our position.

They want to drown out criticism of Israel in a sea of slanders alleging anti-Semitism.  We want to oppose racism here and in Israel-Palestine.

Anti Zionism is not Anti-Semitism

There is a new report on anti-Semitism brought out by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Given the mass of confusion and misconceptions, I think it deserves serious study.  It reports a snapshot of views at a specific time.   We need more work to understand the underlying dynamics however two conclusions drawn by the author need highlighting.

The first conclusion of the report

Indeed, in both diagrams we see that most of those holding the anti-Israel attitudes tested (whether measured at a level of one or more, or six or more) do not hold any anti-Semitic attitudes.

This is important.  There is an oft repeated view that says anti Israel and anti Semitism are the same thing.  This view is simply wrong.   People do distinguish between disliking Israel and holding anti-Semitic views.  The idea that people start from prejudice against Jews then move on to hostility to Israel is also wrong. (If that was the trajectory those disliking Jews would be a bigger group than those disliking Israel.)

Second conclusion

The left is not more hostile to Jews than the general public.

levels of anti-Semitism in Great Britain are among the lowest in the world. British Jews constitute a religious and ethnic group that is seen overwhelmingly positively by an absolute majority of the British population: about 70% of the population of Great Britain have a favourable opinion of Jews and do not entertain any anti-Semitic ideas or views at all.

The very left-wing, and, in fact, all political groups located on the left, are no more anti-Semitic than the general population.

Why is there such a huge gap in the reality and the media coverage?

Israel’s new ambassador to the United Kingdom on Sunday said parts of Britain’s left are ‘in denial’ about the ‘disease’ of anti-Semitism.

Sir Eric Pickles, chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn must shoulder some blame for failing to challenge antisemitism in his party.

Joan Ryan MP is a spokesperson for Labour Friends of Israel.  She is opposed to Corbyn.  She wrote an article headed Anti-Semitism cannot go unchallenged.

I agree with Avi Shlaim

Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel; in order to suppress free speech; and in order to divert attention from the real issues: Israeli colonialism, Israel’s apartheid, its systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and its denial of their right to independence and statehood.

I would add that the right wing in the Labour Party are using the issue as a stick to hit Corbyn.

Given that ‘The very left-wing, and, in fact, all political groups located on the left, are no more anti-Semitic than the general population’ it would appear that the attacks on the left for anti-Semitism are disproportionate and a deliberate slur to attack the Labour Party and Corbyn and the Palestine solidarity movement.  This filthy slur of anti-Semitism does three other things.

  1. It hides the fact that Islamophobia is a bigger problem.  While debates and expulsions over accusations of anti Semitism dominate debate the bigger problem of Islamophobia in the Labour Party and society is not addressed enough.  The report shows that the general public shows unfavourable attitudes to Muslims at nearly three times the level of hostility to Jews. (15.4 against 5.4).  There are countless examples that illustrate this.  Labour MP, Sarah Champion wrote an article in the Sun “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.”  Why highlight white girls?  Asian girls were raped too.  Why highlight Asian men?   The majority of rapes on young girls are carried out by white men. Trevor Kavanagh from the Sun can write about the ‘Moslem problem’ with its horrible echoes of the 1930s.
  2. It spreads fear within the Jewish community.   According to the report ‘levels of anti-Semitism in Great Britain are among the lowest in the world’.   However about 30%  hold at least one anti-Semitic view.  (The majority of these will also hold positive attitudes to Jews.  The hardened Jew haters are about 3 %).  This means that Jews will experience anti Semitic views and ideas.  They will hear many more anti-Israel views than anti Semitic ones.  ‘56% of the general population hold at least one anti-Israel attitude’.  Each time Israel steals more land, kills more people, introduces a new racist law, or reinforces the apartheid regime in the west bank, more people will become anti-Israel.  Any confusion between Anti-Israel attitudes and anti-Semitism will unnecessarily raise the fears of British Jews.  Israel wants mass emigration of European Jews to Israel.   Sadly the campaign by the Israeli Embassy, the Friends of Israel appear to have done this. ‘One in three British ‘Jews thinking about leaving UK’ as anti-Semitism soars leaving one in six feeling unwelcome.’ 
  3. It possibly allows anti Semitic ideas to be ignored. Jackie Walker was expelled from the Labour Party because she has been alleged to be anti-Semitic.  (She is married to a Jew and the daughter of a Jew and a consistent campaigner against racism.)  Does anyone believe that she is anti-Semitic or wants to spread hostility to Jews?  Moshe Machover was also expelled from the Labour Party (since reinstated) for ‘an apparently anti-Semitic article.  He is an Israeli Jew who has consistently fought Zionism and racism.  Their real crime was effective campaigning against Israel.  Some people on the left feel that all charges of anti-Semitism are malicious inventions of the pro Zionist right.  This cannot be the case. ‘all political groups located on the left, are no more anti-Semitic than the general population’  Given that those of us on the left pride ourselves on anti-racism we should be doing far better than the general public. We need to understand why this is not the case. I will address this in the next blog.

We can draw 3 conclusions

  1. Being Anti Israel is not the same as anti Semitic
  2. The left does not have an anti Semitism problem (but it perhaps could do better)
  3. Pro Israel propagandists use the anti Semitism charge to shut down criticism of Israeli Apartheid practices.

 

Manchester – Balfour

manchester  A group of Zionists wanted to celebrate 100 years since the Balfour Declaration.  We believe that the creation of a new Apartheid state is nothing to celebrate.  A group of us went from Sheffield.  One of our sisters fell and broke some bones in her wrist and shoulder. Our thoughts are with her.   We wish her a full recovery.

Join us this Friday 3rd November 5pm Sheffield Railway station.  Bring a light.

The Healing Project Khuza

The HealingprojectOn Wednesday 18th October about 100 people came to the Appeal Launch of the Healing Centre Project Khuza at Sheffield Town Hall.  Thanks to The Lord Mayor Anne Murphy, Angela Martin for the film Small Park big Run, the Socialist choir,  and for the groups that raised the huge amount of money, especially Yemeni women, who have made this launch possible.