Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Israeli goods are ‘legitimate’ according to PSC Executive

Back in September 2009 PSC couldn’t help trumpeting their victory at TUC Congress. The TUC had, apparently, agreed to a Boycott of Israel, which was indeed a victory. Later it transpired that what had happened was not all that it had been cracked up to being. The TUC had passed a motion from the Fire Brigades Union supporting a Boycott of Israel, but it had also approved a General Council statement that only supported a Boycott of Settler produce. And the GC statement took precedence over the FBU motion.

However none of us believed that PSC Executive would put its name to an attack by the TUC's General Secretary on the very idea of a Boycott of Israel. Yet that is what has happened.

As Terry Gallogly of York PSC wrote on 28th April:
PSC has done it again, once more they are facing both ways on the question of boycotting Israel. In a new trade union briefing called Israeli Settlement Goods: Ban them, don't buy them there is a section on the back page listing companies involved in the settlement, Carmel-Agrexco, Ahava etc. The final sentence of this section reads

"Please note that some of these companies also produce legitimate goods in Israel. It is goods from the illegal settlements we want people to boycott. "
So the implication couldn't be plainer, some goods produced by companies profiting from the occupation are "legitimate", hence there is no need to boycott them.

The briefing is produced in full colour and carries the PSC logo and website address as well as the TUC logo. It is presumably being sent out to PSC members all over the country. I received copies along with the branch allocation of Palestine News.

A pattern seems to be emerging. A couple of weeks ago the PSC website prominently displayed a statement from TUC general secretary Brendan Barber referring to joint statement with PSC on the need to boycott settlement goods. Concluding the statement Mr Barber explained;

"This is not a call for a general boycott of Israeli goods and services which would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers"
Despite complaints from PSC members about the fact that it contradicted PSC policy, the statement remained on the website for several days.

In the Morning Star of 15th April, Hugh Lanning, writing in his capacity as Chair of PSC, passed up on the opportunity to disassociate PSC from the anti-boycott statement of Brendan Barber as printed in the same newspaper a week earlier (the same article that was to appear on the PSC website). Nowhere in his article did Hugh advance the PSC policy, which is for a full boycott of Israel. Instead he recommended that raise with our MPs a call for a ban on the importation of settlement goods and arms sales to Israel.

In my opinion PSC should not put its name to, or allow its logo to be used on, or commend to its membership any statement which contradicts the full Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions policy as endorsed by the membership at the Annual General Meeting.

Previously when I pointed out that PSC had effectively endorsed the TUC’s opposition to a general Boycott of Israel Executive members reacted furiously:

Hugh Lanning was deputed to write a statement saying that PSC still supported a Boycott.

Betty Hunter, PSC General Secretary, wrote a widely distributed e-mail on 24th April to Brighton PSC stating that:
“As will be clear to all from the statement put out to members in the weekly update PSC's position on boycott remains full support for the Palestinian statement dated July 2005 - and all of the actions by PSC members and branches as well as the adverts in both the Guardian and Independent on 27th March are evidence of this.

Our AGM policy is clear as are all our articles, notices etc. that we are working tirelessly to achieve maximum support throughout Britain, in the trade unions and among trade unionists for the fullest support possible.

I would be grateful if you would ensure that this reply is sent to your BHPSC yahoo group. And as I believe you have many non members of PSC on your list could I suggest that you forward the regular weekly update to your yahoo list as the BDS campaign features strongly in this and would be useful information to all as well as correcting any misinformation.
Well that should have been clear. PSC’s policy is, as she emphasises twice, ‘clear’ and in support of a full Boycott. On 12th April, Ben Sofa, a Socialist Action member of PSC Executive, had written to me:
“As anyone who actually reads the lines you cite will see, it is prefaced with "TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said...". If it was a statement from the PSC, it would read "The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said...". It does not, and therefore is not a statement of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Suggesting otherwise is absurd.”
So the fact that PSC linked on its web site, without comment, to a statement by the TUC’s Brendan Barber opposing a Boycott of Israel was irrelevant.

Gill Swain, another member of the Executive, was even more furious. She wrote to me on 12th April that ‘This is libellous. I am thinking of suing.’ So far I haven’t received the libel writ, but I wait with trepidation.

Now it transpires that the joint TUC-PSC Boycott Leaflet specifically attacks a Boycott of Israel. Distributed both by PSC and the TUC it reads:
‘Please note that some of these companies also produce legitimate goods in Israel. It is goods from the illegal settlements that we want people to boycott.” Could it be clearer? PSC has lent its name to a leaflet that says goods from Israel are ‘legitimate’?
E-mail Correspondence with Gill Swain
From: "gill swain
Sent: Mon, April 12, 2010 4:01:24 PM
Subject: Re: Britain's Palestine Solidarity Campaign Abandons Support for Boycott of Israel
This is libellous. I am thinking of suing.

From: Tony Greenstein
To: Gill Swain
Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 6:54 PM
which bit in particular is libellous? You are aware, I assume, that if an allegation is true that is an absolute defence to a defamation claim?

tony greenstein

From: gill swain
To: Tony G
Sent: Wed, April 14, 2010 11:36:49 AM
Of course I am aware of that defence. The following statement intends to apply to me since I was elected to the EC at the AGM and implies that I and my colleagues are doing it for money. You need to withdraw this statement and apologise unreservedly for the insult asap.
...the main political factions on PSC Executive at the AGM - Socialist Action & Communist League. They are prepared, for the sake of control of PSC's machine and access to the £400,000+ PSC gains each year, to sell out the Palestinian struggle in return for 'lip-service' resolutions.

From: Tony G
To: gill swain
Sent: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 5:11 PM
So is this an admission that you are a member of Socialist Action and/or Communist League. I have no doubt at all that one of the motives for taking over other organisations by these groups is financial. Wasn't that the case at the GLC?
If you're not a member of SA/CL the statement didn't apply to you but it would seem that this is an admission to the contrary.
But I would be interested in why people who are not activists on Palestine nonetheless stand for the Executive of PSC. Not one member of the EC attended the picket of Veolia last weekend. Or is that libellous too?
Tony Greenstein

From: gill swain
To: Tony G
Sent: Wed, April 14, 2010 6:46:48 PM
Of course it is no such admission. Your accusation is sweeping and therefore could be seen in court as applying to everyone on the EC - I know of similar accusations which have become subject to libel cases.
Though it is untrue, I do not regard your ridiculous assertion that I am a member of the SA/CL as libellous. However, imputing a financial motive to myself or any other member of the EC is libellous and you have just repeated the libel, therefore increasing the potential damages.

From: Tony G
To: gill swain
Sent: Friday, April 16, 2010 4:37 AM
On the contrary, far from being sweeping, the allegation is specific. It is clear that the phrase 'they are prepared' to sell-out etc. refers to the previous sentence i.e. the reference to 2 relevant political factions.

Repeating something to you is not libellous because libel has to be broadcast to more than 1 person. In any event you would have great difficulty, even were your argument true, in arguing that internet accusations are anything more than a form of slander. That is the judgment of Eady J in Smith v ADVFN. Eady is the High Court's primary libel judge and his decision has not been appealed.

If you carefully read my post to you it says 'is this an admission...' i.e. it is a question? A question is not usually regarded as an assertion, unless rhetorical which this was not!

That PSC has been taken over by SA/CL is indisputable. Whether you are a member of these factions is best known to you and I have no way of knowing whether what you say is true. Indeed I know nothing about you as an individual, since most members of PSC EC are not activists.

There really is no point in threatening me with libel. I suspect, being a law post-graduate, that I have somewhat more experience than you of the libel laws, having successfully brought actions against The People and The Times re Aaronovitch's attempt to insinuate I was an anti-Semite.

Tony Greenstein

From: gill swain
To: Tony G
Sent: Fri, April 16, 2010 6:15:13 PM
Ok, slander then.
'That PSC has been taken over by SA/CL' , far from being 'indisputable' is utter twaddle. It is slanderous to say that I have been 'taken over' by anyone. Your original allegation accuses any, or all, of the EC as belonging to the two political factions, which is why it is sweeping and not specific.
How many hours did each of the EC members spend on PSC activity over the past month?

From: Tony G
To: gill swain
Sent: Friday, April 16, 2010 6:32 PM
I didn't say what I wrote was slanderous. I said that were your accusations true, then they would be a matter of slander not libel.
The accusation that PSC Executive (not yourself unless you have merged your identity into that of PSC Executive as a corporate body) has been taken over by SA/CL is unfortunately true. 3 members in a row of SA were appointed as staff members (one temporary). The last 2 (at least) student officers have been SA including one Fiona Edwards who supported the Gaza occupations at PSC AGM but opposed them in her own college! There is no disputing that the Campaigns Director is PSC but more importantly, there is a pattern of behaviour, such as subordinating PSC's student work to that of SA, which clearly indicates that you are wrong.
I have never said all of PSC Executive belongs to SA/CL. They are usually know as fellow travellers, happy to go along with the main officers. In reality only a few key officers make the key decisions, hence why the Executive statement in response to our letter last August was sent out before PSC Executive had met and contrary to the request of the Vice-Chair Kamal Hawwash.
I haven't a clue how many hours EC members spent on PSC activity, however that is defined, in the past month. I think you're in a better position to answer that one.
Tony Greenstein

From: gill swain
To: Tony G
Sent: Sat, April 17, 2010 11:49:51 AM

I suspected you hadn't a clue how many hours EC members spend on PSC activity and therefore fling out your ridiculous accusations about them not being activists without any knowledge of the true situation or any basis in fact.
I detect a pattern.

Yes there is a pattern.
Picket of David Bellamy, Egyptian Embassy, Veolia, Ahava etc. etc. No members of PSC Executive

Tony Greenstein

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