Thursday, 21 November 2019

I Have Decided to Stand for Secretary of PSC Because That is the Only Way to Start a Debate on Strategy

The Failure to Defend Jeremy Corbyn the Only Pro-Palestinian Leader of a Major Political Party or to Understand What Was Happening Cannot Be Ignored


 


Earlier this year I stood for the position of Secretary of Palestine Solidarity Campaign and, much to my surprise, gained some 40% of the vote. When  giving my reasons I wrote that
 Self congratulation, timidity and caution bordering on obsequiousness is not the stuff of a solidarity campaign!’.
After reflection I have decided to stand again. Not because becoming Secretary of PSC is my burning ambition but because it is essential to stimulate a debate about the lack of direction of PSC. Questions such as what is its strategy for building a mass movement and how to respondd to the Zionist counter-attack cannot and should not be ignored in a healthy movement. One of the real problems within PSC is that there is almost no internal debate or discussion of these issues. The other question which the leadership of PSC tries to avoid is what are we fighting for, what are our goals, what is our vision? They appear to have none.
When the Zionists threatened venues in Brighton we transferred the meeting with Chris Williamson outside
I hope that in standing I will also encourage other people to come forward to stand for election at because there is a need for a new leadership of PSC.  If PSC is ever going to have a political impact on British politics it needs a dramatic change of direction and personnnel.
The cardinal sin of PSC is not only their inbuilt caution and conservatism but their inability to understand the political times we are living in. Their failure in the past 4 years has been comprehensive.
Palestinian members of the Knesset have given Corbyn more support than PSC Executive
When Jeremy Corbyn was elected in September 2015 as Leader of the Labour Party it sent shock waves throughout the British political system. From the Guardian to the Daily Mail there was wall to wall opposition in the media to his leadership. Yet to PSC it was business as usual.
In Jeremy Corbyn we have had, though maybe not for much longer, the most pro-Palestinian leader of a major political party. He attended nearly all PSC’s AGMs prior to becoming Leader. Defending him should have been a priority.
Ben Soffa - the current PSC Secretary
Why? Not because PSC supports any political party but because Corbyn and what he represented was under attack from the combined Zionist movement. The Israeli Embassy had no hesitation in interfering in British politics but PSC treated it as an internal Labour Party matter. Indeed PSC sought to maintain its relationship with a section of Corbyn's critics by not intervening in the 'antisemitism' smear campaign.
It should have been obvious in 2015 that there would be a major fightback by the British Establishment together with supporters the Israeli state. You didn’t need to have a crystal ball to predict that!
Paid for by the United States, PA Police attack demonstrators in Ramallah - PSC has never criticised the Quisling PA
It was also obvious very early on that this fightback against Corbyn would involve allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ and being a ‘supporter of terrorism’. ‘Anti-Semitism’ was the pretext and Jews were the alibi. It was incumbent on PSC to take the lead in fighting back against these allegations. Instead it kept silent and kept on keeping silent.
This excellent initiative was not backed by PSC
In August 2015, before Corbyn was even elected, the Daily Mail and the Jewish Chronicle ran stories about how Corbyn was associated with a holocaust denier, Paul Eisen. The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland quickly followed suit with Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem. He has written many such articles. This is his latest.
Very quickly individuals such as myself and Jackie Walker, often Jewish anti-Zionists, began to be targeted as anti-Semites. Yet we received no help and no support from PSC. When there was just talk of Margaret Hodge being disciplined the Zionists reacted as one.
One of the key supporters of the IHRA has been UNISON's right-wing General Secretary Dave Prentis
On March 18th 2016 I was suspended, without warning and without reason. On 11th April 2016 I wrote to the Secretary Ben Soffa suggesting that PSC should start doing something as it was clear that what was happening was not random. There hadn’t been a sudden upsurge in anti-Semitism. This was a state inspired campaign supported by the mainstream media with Corbyn as the target because of his previous support for the Palestinians.
Ben replied on 20th April. Despite admitting that ‘recent months have seen a significant uptick in a whole range of efforts attempting to drive a wedge between supporters of the Palestinian people and wider public opinion.’ he argued that PSC should do nothing, writing that:
we do not engage in every debate some would wish to involve us in. As the Reut Institute set out [ a report in 2010], there is a plan to force us to ‘play defence’ on the terrain chosen by those wishing to preserve the status quo in Palestine. We must not fall into the trap of allowing our opponents to set our agenda
In other words, apart from a submission to the Chakrabarti Report there was little if any response to the Zionist weaponisation of ‘anti-Semitism’.
The same was true when the Zionists increased the tempo of their attacks in 2018 over the mural and held an ‘anti-racist’ demonstration outside Parliament.  It was the first anti-racist demonstration that Norman Tebbit and Ian Paisley had ever attended!
Jewish Voices for Labour and Labour Against the Witchhunt held a counter-demonstration.  PSC was nowhere to be seen.
Yes PSC largely paid for an Opinion by Hugh Tomlinson QC on the IHRA and that was very welcome but when it came to campaigning PSC was and is conspicuous by its absence.
In 2018 the Zionists waged a massive campaign to force the Labour Party to adopt the IHRA ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism. PSC has been absent from opposition to this campaign.

The IHRA has been slated by a whole series of academic and legal scholars - Brian Klug, David Feldman, Antony Lerman; Hugh Tomlinson QC, Stephen Sedley, Geoffrey Bindman QC, and Geoffrey Robertson QC. Even the original drafter of the IHRA, Kenneth S. Stern has described it as having a chilling effect on free speech.
If it were merely a question of logic then we would have won long ago. The success of the IHRA is because it conforms to the needs of the British State and its foreign policy. The IHRA has been adopted, not because it has anything to do with anti-Semitism but because it accords with the interests of the Establishment.
PSC invites the very same Labour MPs who run with the 'antisemitism' attacks to its meeting at the House of Commons
How do we respond?  In the Labour Party it is the trade unions who have the most influence. It was their representatives that were responsible for pushing through the IHRA in the September 4th meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee. These same unions are affiliated to PSC yet not once did PSC raise the IHRA with the unions.
Outside Labour’s National Executive meeting there was a demonstration of hundreds of people from LAW, JVL and many assorted individuals.  However there was no mobilisation by PSC. There were no PSC banners. There was no attempt to lobby MPs. Nothing. What happened on September 4th when Labour’s NEC adopted the IHRA was a matter of supreme indifference to PSC.
It is in the wake of that decision that the witchhunt of supporters of Palestine in the Labour Party has been stepped up.  Hundreds of people have been suspended and/or expelled for criticism of Israel because under the IHRA Israel is a Jew and therefore criticism of it is anti-Semitic.
Yet in a letter to Brighton and Hove PSC Ben Jamal, PSC Director, stated bluntly that
PSC has also made the strategic decision that we should not get publicly involved in issues of Labour disciplinary processes against individual members especially those which are not immediately or directly Palestine involved.
I’m not aware of when and where this ‘strategic decision’ was made but regardless it is an outrageous breach of PSC’s duty to support its own members when under attack. The expulsion and suspension of many fine people has nothing to do with breaches of Labour's ‘disciplinary processes’ and everything to do with a Zionist witch-hunt using ‘anti-Semitism’ as their weapon.
In the run up to the General Election Jewish councillor Jo Bird was prevented from standing for Liverpool Riverside constituency despite overwhelming supporting within the CLP. Colin Monehen, who made such a wonderful speech at the 2018 Labour Party conference was removed from the shortlist in Epping Forest.
Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North and a strong supporter of the Palestinians and an opponent of the Zionist witchhunt was suspended and prevented from standing again as Labour MP for Derby North.  Throughout all of this there was silence from PSC.
When the Board of Deputies and various Zionists threaten places which are willing to hire out rooms for Palestine meetings PSC continues to say nothing. This happened 3 times in Brighton over the summer to a Chris Williamson meeting. The Zionists alleged he was a ‘Jew baiter’. It was only because we defied the Board of Deputies, by holding the meeting in the open air and hiring a PA that we thwarted the Board who sent their President Marie van der Zyl down to Brighton.
During the Labour Party conference we ran a Free Speech Centre to prevent any attempts to disrupt our meetings. Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson and Anne Mendoza of Canary spoke there. Waterstones was forced to cancel a book launch for Bad News for Labour during the Conference because of Zionist threats. Fortunately we staged it. An academic book which looked dispassionately at the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ witchhunt was too much for the  purveyors of the fake antisemitism witchunt. 

Again PSC didn’t seem to notice. As Greg Philo stated, it is but a short step from banning a book launch to burning books.
It was the decision of PSC not to have a session on the IHRA at the Trade Union conference on October 12th that was the final straw in my decision to stand. When I gave out leaflets about the IHRA inside the conference I was told to leave!
Week in week out the IHRA is being deployed against Palestine solidarity related activities.  Whether it is the launch of the book Chomsky and the Responsibilities of Intellectuals or the refusal of Tower Hamlets Council to allow a rally in a park for the Big Ride for Palestine. 


Activities are under constant attack on campus because university administrations, such as Manchester University, UCL or Central University of Lancashire, are imposing conditions or even banning events altogether.

And for every event we know about there will be others where there is a silent refusal or even self-censorship. The conversation about Palestine is being chilled as ‘anti-Semitism’ raises its head whenever Palestine is on the agenda.
For example the speaking tour of Israeli  Miko Peled was dogged by attempts to cancel meetings at churches in Soho, Eastbourne and Brighton. What is needed is a national approach. Liberty, the former National Council for Civil Liberties, have policy opposing the IHRA.  Has PSC even approached them about an alliance against the IHRA together with the University College Union?
The Campaign Against the IHRA needs to be prioritised. It is being used throughout Europe and the USA. As long as the Zionists are allowed to wield this weapon none of our activities will be safe.
What is the purpose of a solidarity campaign. Is it simply to stand around giving out leaflets or running a stall, admirable though that is? What is the purpose of convincing the public if we don’t translate that into political strength?  Foreign policy is not an expression of peoples’ opinions but a representation of the interests of the most powerful in society. We therefore need to turn to mass organisations such as trade unions where there is a possibility for debate and discussion. 
We have to change the climate of opinion in this country not bow to it and accept the inevitable.  That is why I am standing because the present incumbent, Ben Soffa, has shown no sign that he understands any of these things.  If Ben is still employed by the Labour Party then that is clearly a severe hindrance to the role of Secretary and he should consider his position anyway.  If PSC continues its passivity in the face of the Zionists’ attacks then we consign ourselves to at best being an irritation and at worst an irrelevance.  That is not why, 37 years ago, I helped found PSC.
Tony Greenstein

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