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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM 2014

Hugh Lanning - Chair of PSC

Solidarity with Abbas & the PA is solidarity with Israel - PSC has to choose between the collaborators or the oppressed

Tony Greenstein asking a question about the Annual Accounts
It was over 31 years ago, that a group of us decided for form the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Most of those in attendance have scattered to the four winds and few are active today who remain. Names that come to mind are Helen Stollar, Roland Rance, Jeremy Landau, Moshe Machover (I think!) and myself. Possibly John Gee was there too. The meeting was called as a result of the ‘test’ invasion of Lebanon by Israel about 3 months before the invasion. Then world opinion had forced Sharon to withdraw but it was obvious to all that Israel was not going to tolerate an independent Palestinian enclave in Beirut in alliance with others in the leftist Lebanon Solidarity Movement. In the mid-70s the Druze, Palestinian, Shi’ite and Sunnis combined with communists and socialist groups to seek a change in the confessional nature of the Lebanese state, a present bequeathed by its former colonial power, France.
In June 1976, Israel and the USA gave a green light to Assad, the father of the present President, to go into Lebanon and help ensure that the right-wing Christian/fascist Phalangists were not defeated. No mention then of Assad’s brutalities. Preventing the ascendancy of the Left in Lebanon was what was important. I had personally visited Lebanon with a group of people via Syria in 1979 (the Phalangist controlled embassy in London refused us visas). Two of us, whilst visiting what was the Palestinian refugee camp of Tel al-Zaatar in East Beirut where there had been a massacre in August 1976 of thousands of Palestinians by Christian Maronite and Phalangist forces.
We had crossed the border illegally in a PLO jeep staying at the Triomphe Hotel in West Beirut which the Israelis bombed in 1982. When arrested by the Lebanese army I simply said that we were there as guests of the Syrians. As I suspected they didn't check nor did they wish to. Hiding behind sandbags where East and West Beirut meet they were just a figleaf.
Jeremy Corbyn  MP, a stalwart supporter of the Palestinians outside Parliament.
But I digress. The 2014 AGM was one of the quietest I have known. It may also be the last one I attend owing to illness and many people such as Sarah Colborne, its Director, Hugh Lanning, Kamel Hawwash and Jeremy Corbyn MP and many others went out of their way to be sympathetic and kind. Jane Foxworthy from Leicester made, completely unknown to me as I wished to leave to get a train but she asked me to say for 10 minutes more, a very moving tribute to my work in the movement.
Bur however kind comrades were on a personal level, our political differences hadn't gone away and Sue Blackwell who has been a close comrade and Naomi of J-Big telling me they could not support it tactically I was determined that a marker should be put down.
Owen Jones at the PSC stall at the Labour Party conference
Motion on Abbas & PA
Until I moved the motion on Abbas and the PA it was a quiet AGM. It was an Emergency Motion on Abbas’s attack on BDS at the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. My motion pulled no punches because there are times when you have to exercise one’s own capacity for independent thought and action, especially given that the Palestinians don’t, unlike Black South Africans, have one united Palestinian organisation. The PLO exists in theory, having not met in years and likewise the Palestinian National Council.

A full house

The motion supported a unitary democratic secular state of Palestine, condemned the Abbas regime as a ‘quisling’ one and called for the non-recognition by PSC of the Palestinian Authority, which I termed the ‘bitter fruit’ of Oslo.
I pointed out that the one area in which the Palestinian Authority had succeeded was in the torture and abuse of its own people. Some 95% of detainees of its security police are tortured. The PA's security forces are trained by the American General Dayton in Jordan, with Israel approving who is a member.
I asked a simple question. 'How can an organisation that is funded and trained by those it opposes be a movement of liberation?' I never received an answer.
I pointed out that Abbas’s attacks on BDS were just one in a long line of betrayals. According to Clayton Swisher’s Palestine Papers, PA officials were responsible for urging on the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2009. Indeed they criticised it for not killing more people, destroying more homes and retaking the territory. Of course like the Saudi rulers and Iran they don’t say these things publicly but when was the last time that the PA called for an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza? It is little wonder that when Palestinians took to the streets to support the overthrow of Mubarak, they were attacked and beaten and told that anyone detained would be tortured.
Perhaps a revisit to the Palestine Papers by Clayton Swisher (Hesperus Publishing, 2011 introduction by Ghada Khami) explains it better than I can.   When the PP came out PA/Fateh thugs laid siege to the Al Jazeerah offices in Ramallah.   Abbas denied they were true even as Nabil Shath and others were confirming their veracity.
The PP describe the negotiations Israel and the PA conducted. The obsequiousness of the Palestinian negotiators to the Israelis, led by Tsipi Livni is embarrassing.
"According to a September 2008 summary of a conversation between General Dayton and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad the Israeli occupying forces began to see the Palestinian Authority as a partner because of the latter's performance on American inspired efforts in the West Bank areas they controlled."
The Palestinian Authority laid out the extent of its cooperation with Israel in a confidential memo it gave Middle East envoy George Mitchell in June 2009. Among the anti-Semitic actions the PA highlighted:
Arrested approximately 3,700 members of armed groups.
Summoned around 4,700 individuals for questioning about various offences, including affiliations with armed grops.
Confiscated over 1,100 weapons. (p.55)
"What in part took the Palestinian Security Forces from being hunted and killed by Israeli forces in 2002 to full partner and friend by 2008 was strong security collaboration, including an operational willingness by the Palestinian Authority to kill their own people…"! (p. 56)
"Abbas noted:
with pleasure that the fact that Sharon considered him a friend, and the fact that he too considered Sharon a friend, could serve them both in the days ahead." (p. 57)
This is the Butcher of Sabra and Shatilla that Abbas is prostrating himself before.
"Yes they [the Egyptians appear to have ended the siege. (Ahmad Q’rai Abu Ala)
"The Egyptians don’t do enough and we’re sure they can do much more. (Livni)
What can you do about Philadelphia Crossing? (Abu Ala)
We’re not there. (Livni)
You’ve reoccupied the West Bank and you can occupy the crossing if you want. (Abu Ala) p.117.
The Palestinian Authority is calling for the blockade to be strengthened.
The PA is nothing more than a handful of former senior Fateh officials and a number of rich Palestinian multi-millionaires who live in large mansions in or outside Ramallah oblivious to the plight of the refugees.
Its participation in the ‘Peace Talks’ merely allows Israel more time to colonise the West Bank and to justify its refusal to give even the slightest civil rights to the Palestinian population of some 4 million.
The attack on BDS wasn’t the first time that Abbas had done this. When Israel objected to the Goldstone Report on Israeli war crimes in Gaza the Palestinian ‘state’ submitted a critical motion to the UN Human Rights Council only to withdraw it when they came under pressure from Netanyahu.
Abbas himself lost his mandate to rule some 3-4 years ago and continues on as life President of the Palestinian ‘State’because he was told to by the Americans.
The speech received a healthy applause and it was clear to me that that Executive, who didn’t speak, were in somewhat of a dilemma regarding Abbas and the PA.
Unsurprisingly up jumped the Honorary President of PSC Betty Hunter to make a demagogic speech worthy of certain European leaders of the 1930’s. Her speech was vacuous and empty repeating that it is not for us to decide who should represent the Palestinians. The motion was ‘divisive’ which is what those European leaders used to say about democracy. Far better to have a false unity i.e. agreement with those who rule  than useless democratic  debate. That has been the stock-in-trade of dictators throughout the ages. Other speeches were against the motion but their points were obscure.
Betty Hunter it was who, in 2009, again made a demagogic speech when we proposed that PSC should have no links with anti-Semitic groups like Eisen’s Deir Yassin Remembered on the grounds that we had no links anyway and the motion implied the contrary. After two years, with Gilad Atzmon and friends becoming increasingly influential amongst supporters, and Ms Hunter having retired, members of PSC Executive worked with Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, to make it  clear that anti-Semitism and holocaust denial has no place in PSC.  Although moving their own motion, to expel an open holocaust denier from its ranks PSC Executive in effect reversed the position they took 2 years previously.
There is certainly an irony in Betty Hunter’s position. I first met year in 2005 at a private dinner party hosted by members of Bricup, following our success in successfully moving the boycott of Israeli universities. She asked me to rejoin PSC and I explained that I had resigned with 1993 when PSC had voted to support them. ‘Oh, noone support them now though’ and after much  I decided that if that was the case it would be foolish to decline the offer and so rejoined.
Unfortunately those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Ms Hunter had learnt no lessons from Oslo and it would appear will back anything the PA agrees as a settlement, which is a distinct possibility.
I put it to Conference that if a framework agreement was reached it would involve leaving the settlements in place, demilitarising the Palestinian entity and giving Israeli forces the right to enter at will, an abandonment of the refugees (which in essence Abbas had already done) and a possible ‘land swap’ that involves moving the ‘Triangle’ in particular into such a ‘state’ because the contains the greatest concentration of Palestinian citizens of Israel. As well as giving up Jerusalem.  Again this Ms Hunter had nothing to say about this. It was all a question of Palestinian self-determination.
The only problem is that Palestinians live under occupation and severe repression.  Failing a 3rd Intifada they are unlikely to be organised enough to sweep the PA into Israel where the belong. We have to decide whether Abbas is indeed the chosen representative of the Palestinian people. Clearly Ms Hunter thinks that they do.
Needless to say the motion was lost overwhelmingly but the issues I raised will not go away and PSC will be force to take a stand on the '‘peace process’ and a future Palestinian Reservation (bantustan is being too kind). I also pointed out that the ANC had refused to work with Buthelezi, the apartheid supporting leader of the Zulus). PSC’s present position is de facto that it does see the PA as legitimate. Even Hamas, for all its many faults, is sincere in wanting a 2 state solution, despite the absurdity of a national liberation movement which is the Gazan wing of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. But since Israel helped create it in the late 1980’s that too is not surprising.
I can understand that there are some good people working in the offices of the PA in London, including Prof. Hassasian. However a means can be found to accept that they are the representatives of the Palestinians in Britain whilst seeing those who appointed them as worse than quisling (who at least ensured the territorial integrity of the whole of Norway).  Betty Hunter hoped to shock conference by the fact that I had described the PA as quislings.  In a sense she is right.  They are a Palestinian  Judenrat, the Jewish Councils in Europe who co-operated with the Nazis.
Whether I’m around to see it or not, there is no doubt that PSC cannot continue to bury its head in the sand.
PSC out campaigning for Boycott
There were no other contentious political motions (there was an absurd on the creation of a separate media entity along the lines of the Israeli lobby organisation BICOM but that too was heavily defeated
Those put forward for election were unopposed. It is clear though the numbers of those in PSC is well over 5,000 and is at a record high.  The organisation does excellent work around the media and boycott but it also has to become more political and not be afraid of offending leaders.

Tony Greenstein


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