Saturday, 3 April 2010

Coalbrookdale - A Beauty is Born

BIN - Boycott Israel Network Takes Off

Because of the campaign around the Jerusalem Quartet, I have only now had time enough to devote to a report on the Boycott Israel Network.

At an inaugural get together at Wooller Youth Hostel in Northumbria six months ago, a decision was taken to set up BIN – Boycott Israel Network. The reasons for this have become blindingly obvious. The major Palestine solidarity group, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, has been ‘taken over’ by 2 small political factions – Socialist Action & Communist League – whose main priority is retaining control of the organisation.

PSC has increasingly become an organisation where a leadership devoid of activists lays down a line which the membership are supposed to implement. Unfortunately they don't have the activists. Hence why PSC has been increasingly concentrating on Parliamentary lobbying work, individual and haphazard Boycott protests outside supermarkets at best and trade union work that is devoted exclusively to working with trade union bureaucrats.

A follow-up weekend of seminars and discussions was therefore planned at Coalbrookdale Youth Hostel near Telford on the weekend of 26-28th March. About 40 people were expected to attend. In the event the event was attended by over 90 people and places at a 2nd youth hostel, Coalport, had to be booked as well as B&Bs etc. It is rare that Palestinian events suffer from too many people attending!

As a result workshops became far too large and the organisers of the next gathering, in about 6 months, will have to rethink the format. and try to ensure that at least 2-3 workshops are taking place concurrently. But it has to be said from the outset that everyone I spoke to came away from Coalbrookdale feeling overwhelmingly positive. There was none of the attempts to fix meetings, gerrymander votes (there weren’t any!), stifle debate or any of the other tricks like preventing people voting or overloading an agenda with speakers so there isn't time to debate anything anway, that PSC has become associated with. Instead people talked about their own experiences of campaigning and how we could learn from each other.

There was a large contingent from Scottish PSC (a number of people said if only Britain’s PSC was like that of Scotland!) as well as Irish PSC, France and a number of Europe countries such as Spain and Belgium. In other words it was both a national and international event.

I didn’t take notes and I don’t pretend that this is a comprehensive report. But there was a large range of workshops on the different aspects of our campaigning. Maybe the only gap was a lack of anything specifically on Histadrut and Trade Unions.

There were sessions on Consumer Boycotts and Supermarkets, the Campaign Against Veolia, Zionist Counter-Strategies, the future direction of BIN itself, Cultural Boycotts and many informal meetings.

We discussed in particular the prosecution of 5 activists of Scottish PSC for having disrupted the Jerusalem Quartet performance at the Edinburgh Festival. They were up in court again the following Monday. Unknown to most of those present, was that Coalbrookdale had also provided the opportunity for another group of protestors to finalise plans to disrupt another JQ performance, also the same Monday 29th March! If the plans weren’t born at Coalbrookdale, the execution thereof was certainly finalised there!

The prosecution of Scottish PSC has been for racism against Israelis because of their nationality! The CPS in Scotland don’t seem to have realised yet that there is no such thing as an Israeli nationality. This tied in with a discussion on the increasing use of bogus charges of ‘anti-semitism’ as a means of intimidating people. In particular the European Union Monitoring Committee definition which effectively labels any anti-Zionist critique of Israel as ‘anti-semitic’ (meaning that most Jews pre-1939 would have had to be labelled as anti-Semites!).

Other sessions concentrated on the racist Jewish National Fund, which ‘redeems’ land from Arabs for the sole use of Jews. It used to buy such land at a market price, but since 1948 it has either bought it for a fraction of its real value or been given it outright. That land, of course, is the land of evicted Palestinians. Both main party leaders are patrons of this racist organisation and one of our tasks is to put an end to the ludicrous situation whereby the JNF is a charity.

The sessions also included discussion of the outrageous sentences being handed out to Muslim demonstrators at the Palestinian demonstrations to protest against the war in Gaza and British complicity. The attempts of first New Labour and undoubtedly the Tories after the election to prevent the use of human right laws and universal jurisdiction in order to have warrants for arrest of Israeli war criminals, such as Tsipi Livni and General Doron Almog who was forced to turn about on a plane at Heathrow without getting off.

The final session was devoted to the future of BIN. It is extremely clear that it is the failure of PSC to do anything bar engage in routine lobbying that is the cause of BIN’s success. In fact at least a dozen PSC branches sent people to the conference, such is the disillusion now with what is happening. Despite being asked four times to publicise it, PSC Executive refused to do so, instead organising their own Boycott Week whose highlight was the (apparent) distribution of PSC-TUC cards calling for a Boycott of Settlement Produce (note not Israeli goods). This is because the Palestinian motion that passed at TUC Congress last September was severely watered down (something PSC Exec. has never admitted). The result of PSC Executive trying to gain complete control of its BDS Committee and stifle all initiative has been that 4 out of 5 members have recently resigned. Effectively PSC has no Boycott Committee any longer.

Instead General Secretary Betty Hunter wrote, what can only be described as a strange and petulant e-mail to contacts on the BIN list:

Dear subscribers to the Boycott Israel Network,

We know that many subscribers to the network are members of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, but PSC has never been invited to contribute to your workshops.

As you know the BDS campaign is our priority both at national and local levels, and we suggest that we meet up to discuss how we can further the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaigns.

We suggest that we meet up to discuss this in April.

Best wishes

Betty Hunter

General Secretary
Palestine Solidarity Campaign 020 7700 6192

It is strange because PSC were notified at least 4 times of Coalbrookdale. Quite why Betty states that ‘PSC has never been invited to contribute to your workshops’ is strange. No one received a special invitation. What she really meant was that PSC had not been invited to provide ‘leadership’ of the kind that PSC Executive seems to have in abundance. Of course they could contribute to workshops, which were models of open discussion, but one suspects that that wasn’t what she meant.

PSC Executive, having no activists on it, would hardly be in a position to contribute anyone with any expertise on a particular subject. But people who are in PSC, like Angus from Portsmouth & Southdowns PSC, were invited to present workshops based on their actual experience of, in his case, campaigning against Veolia. As one activist put it to me ‘I think Betty is right to be worried. The prospect of a democratic, membership- led organisation emerging at some point would be very appealing.’ In any event, staff member Martial was going to attend the conference but, from reports, he was instructed at the last minute by Betty not to come.

In fact lots of groups were represented from Bricup, J-Big, JfJfP to Action Palestine, a large number of PSC branches, ICAHD etc. etc.

And therein lies the problem that PSC Executive faces. It is stuffed with people who, like Carole Regan & Ben Sofa are there only because of their membership of a political group. They don’t actually do anything. Or there is the student officer Fiona Edwards who, as was confirmed by students at the weekend, opposed an occupation over Gaza at Sheffield University and then comes to PSC and proclaims the exact opposite!

The last session therefore produced the only real differences. Mick Napier proposed both a liaison committee being set up and a Steering Committee. The latter proposal was withdrawn as it was seen as premature but a liaison committee with representatives from each group is being formed.

Although people are, quite rightly, wary of forming another organisation, we all realise that Palestine solidarity requires and needs some form of national organisation. Not one with an obscure constitution which isn’t implemented nor a bureaucracy that has more and more staff who produce less and less, but an organisation that is a resource centre for all different groups and a co-ordinator of activities. Although people are right to be wary of rushing in too soon, it is also the case that we can be too cautious. As the Jerusalem Quartet action demonstrated, boldness can win out where caution fails.

The task in the next 6 months, with all the various groups which have been set up, is to translate our ideas into action and also put the flesh on the bones of a new solidarity network.

Groups represented included:

Dundee Trades Council, UCL PalSoc, Scottish PSC Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen & Edinburgh, ISM, Action Palestine, , Scottish PSC Edinburgh, IJAN, , Lancaster PSC, Anti-Agrexco Coalition France, , Halifax Friends of Palestine, Brighton PSC, , Manchester PSC, York PSC, BRICUP, Scottish PSC Glasgow, BRICUP, ICAHD, PACBI, SJP Edinburgh Uni, Palestine Komittee Bergen, Ireland PSC, Friends of Sabeel UK, Shropshire Palestine Talks, PSC West Midlands, , Sheffield PSC, Free Gaza Movement, , War on Want, NPK (Dutch Pal. Comm.), JBIG, York PSC, Ireland PSC, Leeds PSC, BDS France, Justice for Palestinians West Midlands, CODIP (Coordination Organisation Documentation Information Palestine), BNC, Halifax Friends of Palestine, EuroPalestine France, Leeds Uni PSG, Cambridge PSC, United for Palestine Bradford, Huddersfield Uni, Viva Palestina, Liverpool Friends of Palestine, Pax Christi, Midlands Churches Forum, PSC Bradford, Muslim Business United, COBI Brussels, Cambridge PSC, StW, PSC Nottingham, Our Ummah Network, Portsmouth & South Downs PSC.

Tony Greenstein


  1. jock mctrousers4 April 2010 at 00:33

    It would be nice to see a REAL Palestinian Solidarity rally. Since I discovered PSC I've dutifully showed up for all the Trafalgar square rallies, so I know that the claims of 10,000 or so attending are ridiculous; 1,000 at the outside for the best attended one, and usually only a few hundred, most of whom seem to be from the Jewish Chronicle looking for signs of anti-semitism. I get the feeling sometimes that PSC wants to keep the rallies secret in case they attract anti-semites. So the rallies don't do anything but give the Jewish Chronicle fuel to crow about the lack of interest in the Palestine cause. But there IS widespread interest and support for Palestine; look at the tens of thousands of free Palestine badges and posters at the big stop-the-war rallies! But then they just go home - because there's no-one to mobilise them maybe. PSC is such a damp squib! But, apart from rallies, in the ten years I've been wearing a Free Palestine badge where practical I've never ONCE seen anyone else wearing one - ONCE a jogger passed me wearing a Free Palestine t-shirt. You could probably identify me as the guy in London who wears the Free Palestine badge (I've got very serious health problems which prevent me doing much else). This is pathetic.
    But then again, this is the first I've heard of YOUR new group! Whatever, I think it's obvious that the first priority for a Palestine Solidarity movement is to make people aware of its existence, and be easy to find and join; and bear in mind that there are a lot of supporters who aren't able to be regular activists for all sorts of reasons, but who could turn out for a good reason.
    Are the Revolutionary Communist Group (Fight Racism/Fight Imperialism paper) participating in the new 'project'? I haven't read their paper for ages, but they have their own little solidarity campaign. They seem a bit more assertive, but there just aren't very many of them.
    One thing I like about PSC however is that they don't get distracted from the core issues, or compromise on them. " There already IS a roadmap - International Law" I like that, and I think that moving away from the positions supported by countless UN resolutions is dangerous because it just leads to endless sterile arguments about the 2-state solution v the 1-state solution, which just dissipates energies and confuses newcomers. There is a massively funded propaganda operation against us; we have to keep our message simple and consistent - ONE message repeated over and over is the only way to get through the lies.
    So excuse me for rambling, but I think you're right. It's risky starting a completely new Palestine campaign, but PSC is a dead loss.
    Oh, I thought you were a bit over the top about Gilad Atzmon, and I still think he's got his good points, but I have to admit he's gone a bridge too far in some directions for me recently. But that's another matter.

  2. Oh, I thought you were a bit over the top about Gilad Atzmon, and I still think he's got his good points, but I have to admit he's gone a bridge too far in some directions for me recently. But that's another matter.
    - Atzmon is an antisemite and of no use to anyone least of all Palestine solidarity, with reagrds to which, he represents a threat.

    Atzmon believes, just like Hitler, the antisemitc forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion must be taken seriously.

    Atzmon believes that Jews are, in some way, behind and controlling global international finance capitalism.

    Both these irrational beliefs are classic indicators of the presence of antisemitism.

    Atzmon also chunters on about Jews being Christ-killers - a classic symptom of old-style religious antisemitism.

    Forgive me for saying so, but someone on a blog once claimed that jock mctrousers is an alias used by Rowan Berkeley, a notorious London antisemite who used to hang around Mary Rizzo's old 'peacepalestine' blog.

    You certainly sound like him, with your fascination for left-wing revolutionary parties; your criticisms about how ineffective official channels of Palestine solidarity are; your support for Atzmon; you live in London; and your noted health problems.

    I think Rowan Berkeley also used the alias alias Lafayette Sennachrib but that's just a hunch of mine.

  3. jock mctrousers4 April 2010 at 22:28

    No, I'm not Rowan Berkeley. Yes, I'm also Lafayette Sennacherib occasionally. I suppose now you'll be digging back through the archives for my best non-pc moments. Get a life! I suppose you think that the likes of you Joe90 should have the right to vet supporters of the Palestine cause for signs of what you consider antisemitism. THAT will really bring the punters in. I consider use of the word antisemitism to be a symptom of a zionist mindset. I see no reason why jews should get a category of racism to themselves. If it's not plain racism, it's just criticism, which is ok. Gilad Atzmon is therefore NOT an antisemite. I dislike his anti-communism which verges on nazi propaganda sometimes, or Trotskyist propaganda for that matter. He's also flippant sometimes about things which should at least be treated with care. Not to mention pretentious often. But Atzmon's as much a jew as Joe90 or Tony Greenstein. Why do YOU Joe90 call yourself a jew? Are you religious? Do you consider jews a separate race or ethnicity? Do you consider Polish jew, German jews, Russian jews, not to mention Ethiopian jews to be the same ethnicity? How about Irish and Italian catholics? Yes, it's ridiculous! I don't feel the need to describe myself as a protestant just because my parents had some tenuous link with that church. Do you feel that your jewish (in whatever sense) parentage should give you some special privileges in the Palestine campaign, in the left, or life generally? Oh, it shows that it's not just antisemites that criticise Israel, right? To me, that amounts to a statement that all gentile anti-zionists stand accused of antisemitism. If you think that jews as such individually or collectively are beyond criticism, then you're a zionist i.e. a racist.
    As to Rowan Berkeley - someone else accused me of being him, but I don't know anything about him. I don't remember him from peacepalestine, but I only discovered it a month before it closed (I only discovered it because of Tony Greenstein going on about it). I googled Rowan Berkeley and read a few lines of one of his posts - just sounded like a pompous public schoolboy. Totally different style from me anyway. I don't know what he says or stands for, but he's nothing to do with me.
    And no, it's Tony Greenstein who has "criticisms about how ineffective official channels of Palestine solidarity are..." I said my bit above. I respect PSC for at least existing and being on the right side, but it's a bit of a damp squib and Tony may be right about why.

    As to this:

    " Atzmon believes that Jews are, in some way, behind and controlling global international finance capitalism. ... these irrational beliefs are classic indicators of the presence of antisemitism. "

    Well, I'm not sure what Gilad believes on that, but I admit I've been depressed to see Gilad lately picking seemingly randomly and uncritically from these websites which require no evidence to find 'the jews' behind everything from haemorrhoids to the Black Death. But if you want to have an uncensored discussion about 'the jews' i.e. 'SOME jews' and international finance, I'm up for it. In fact, if you're not prepared to discuss that, then I don't think you're serious about supporting the Palestinians, because it puts big areas of the sources of support for Israel out of bounds for discussion.

    As a last thought, Joe90, do you ever post as 'Hyacinth' on Dejan Nikolic's 'Cultural Parody Centre'?

  4. I'd like to terminate this discussion because it is going nowhere. I accept that Jock McTrousers is not Rowan Berkeley. If he was I wouldn't print anything of his. But I will judge people by what they say.

    The term 'anti-semitism' is not a Zionist mindset, it's the way Zionists use the term - see the latest article on Hoffman's use or abuse of it.

    Anti-Semitism is something that Zionism never fought when it did exist and now it is a marginal prejudice they invent it to attack opponents of Israel - including Jewish ones.

    I don't think, incidentally, it is a great privilege to get a racism devoted to oneself and in any case what is 'Islamaphobia'? Sometimes forms of racism do have specific names but it means nothing other than one is trying to analyse and understand specific forms of racism. In any case it was an anti-Semite, Wilhelm Marr, who invented in circa 1870.

    There is a lot of confusion in what Jock is saying. I am also Jewish. But I don't believe in a Jewish ethnicity, which is not only a Zionist concept but an anti-Semitic one. Another example of where anti-Semites and Zionists share the same ideas. I am a Jew politically, i.e. I detest Zionism and also fascism. I was brought up as a Jew, religious as it happens, and I identify with the Jewish fight against oppression, including Zionism.

    I also like bagels and Jewish food!

    Re Atzmon. There is no doubt that he is anti-Semitic. Extremely so from his belief in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to Jews who control high finance and responsible for the banking collapse, to his holocaust denial and his targetting of Jews in the Palestine Solidarity movement. His attack on Moshe Machover as a 'Jewish Marxist' was simply the nadir of his journey to the bottom of the sewer.

    Now please change the subject gentlemen as I would prefer that the only debate on this is the topic of the post, i.e. what an advance Coalbrook is. I don't believe Jock is anti-Semitic but he is very very confused!

  5. Same old drivel.Get a life Greenie! Grow up Joe90! Less slander - more focus on positive developments like B.I.N.

  6. Ah my old friend Goch. And what do you propose then regarding BIN? What are your suggestions? And have you now finally seen the sense over your infatuation with Atzmon, who has now parted ways with Rizzo and is pursuing his own very right-wing racist direction?

  7. Cheers TG.

    It's quite a reaction from this jock mctrousers/lafeyette sennachrib character.

    A yes or a no would have sufficed to my question 'jock mctrousers/lafeyette sennachrib' or whoever you are.

    rej goch says,
    Same old drivel
    - I couldn't agree mor rej.
    How are you, atzmon and rizzo all getting on these days?

    Get a life Greenie! Grow up Joe90!
    - very poetic. Same old rej.
    Presumably you're back to defend atzmon's reputation using your unique defence of not actually agreeing with him - or maybe you're just going to invite people over to Edinburgh for a face to face meeting to discuss matters further.

  8. jock mctrousers7 April 2010 at 21:11

    -Ok, point taken. Well, WERE you Hyacinth on the Cultural Parody Centre? Yes or no?


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