We in the Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign are anti-racist. National PSC is anti-racist. It is a condition of membership and we have expelled racists in general and anti-Semites in particular.
So why do we object to the council adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism? The actual definition is fine[i]. The problem is that examples of anti-Semitism include believing that Israel is a racist state.[ii] Sadly there is plenty of evidence that it is.
In 1948 the embryonic state of Israel ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians. This is what a spokesman for the Jewish National Fund stated: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries – all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.“[iii]
Israel from its foundation adopted two policies 1. Expel Palestinians and prevent them from returning to their homes which was in defiance of United Nations Resolution 194[iv] 2. Give the right to emigrate to Israel to all Jews whether they have any desire to, or have any reasonable links to Palestine-Israel. This is clearly racist discrimination.
It continues to this day. Last year Israel passed the Nation State law. “Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it…”.[v] There are nearly two million Palestinians in the state of Israel. They have been relegated to second class citizens.
Adalah demonstrated that there are 65 laws in Israel that discriminate against Palestinians…”These laws limit the rights of Palestinians in all areas of life, from citizenship rights to the right to political participation, land and housing rights, education rights, cultural and language rights, religious rights and…during detention”[vi].
Israel continues to illegally annex Palestinian land. Israel has illegally settled 600,000 Israelis in Palestinian lands[vii]. “Israel’s Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law, Security Council Reaffirms”.[viii] Netanyahu plans to annex the Jordan valley- a move condemned by the European Union[ix].
Worse, Israel is creating an Apartheid state in the West Bank. There are separate laws for Palestinian children and Israeli children[x]. There are separate rules for water consumption in the West Bank[xi] [xii] There are roads that Palestinians are not allowed to travel on[xiii].
An Israeli ambassador commented “In the situation that exists today, until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state. This joint state — in the hope that the status quo is temporary — is an apartheid state.”[xiv] Desmond Tutu said “I am especially urging the Assembly to adopt the overture naming Israel as an apartheid state through its domestic policies and maintenance of the occupation, and the overture calling for divestment of certain companies that contribute to the occupation of the Palestinian people,”. Five years ago, John Kerry, US spokesman, said that ‘Israel risks becoming an apartheid state if peace talks fail.’ That was five years ago, and talks did fail.[xv]
Two final points must be made. Jews are not responsible for the policies of Israel. The attitudes of Israel are the responsibility of the Government of Israel and the uncritical military, diplomatic and economic support of Western leaders like Donald Trump.
The final point is that the Labour council has tied solidarity for the Palestinians with the slur of anti-Semitism. There are a number of Palestinian solidarity activities that have been curtailed because councils and other bodies have adopted this flawed definition of anti-Semitism. The Big ride for Palestine has raised £130,000 pounds for children charities within Palestine. [xvi] The final rally in London was due to finish up in Tower Hamlets. The council cancelled the venue because the council had adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and they feared that they would be accused of anti-Semitism. In the Sheffield debate, Council Leader Julie Dore stated article 10 of the Human Rights Act allows freedom of expression[xvii] and that this trumps whatever the council choses to adopt. It makes no sense adopting a definition that is immediately trumped by a human rights act. However, we know from experience that councils and other bodies will assume that basic solidarity with the Palestinians is somehow anti-Semitic and feel free to cancel venues and speakers. Pease read the letters overleaf and write to the council.
Sheffield Town Hall
Dear Julie Dore
I have noted the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by the Sheffield City Council.
I have read some evidence that Israel is a racist state.
I conclude that the examples associated with the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism will have the effect of curtailing legitimate criticisms of Israel.
I feel it will also curtail legitimate acts of solidarity with the Palestinians.
I ask the council to reconsider the adoption of the clauses associated with the IHRA definition of anti Semitism.
Sheffield Town Hall
Dear Julie Dore
I have read the statement by Palestine solidarity Campaign.
I have read some evidence that Israel does appear to be racist and the IHRA definition does appear to be flawed. Is there any statement in the PSC document that you would like to disagree with or question?
[i] Anti-Semitism 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.”
[x] JURIST Guest Columnist Rifat Kassis, President of Defence for Children International (DCI), argues that Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military often face abuse, mistreatment and torture in violation of international law and human rights
[xi] But it’s also a day to remember, and fight for, 2.1 million Palestinians who suffer something different – an artificial water scarcity deliberately created and sustained by Israel’s military occupation, and the private Israeli water company Mekorot. https://theecologist.org/2014/mar/22/water-apartheid-palestine-crime-against-humanity
[xv] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/28/israel-apartheid-state-peace-talks-john-kerry. He did later regret using those words.