15 December 2017

Open Letter to Joan Ryan Chair of Labour Friends of Israel - MP for Enfield North & Jerusalem Central

Your Attack on Kate Osamor for supporting BDS against Israel is no different from Thatcher’s 
Opposition to Sanctions on South Africa

Kate Osamor comes out in support of BDS

Dear Ms Ryan,

You recently wrote an Open Letter to Kate Osamor MP.  You objected to Kate retweeting a tweet from BDS South Africa.  You claimed that BDS is ‘morally wrong’ because it seeks to ‘demonise and delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state.’  There is a lot to unpack there.

Firstly the idea that religious states are a good thing disappeared with the French Revolution and Emancipation.  A state should embrace all its citizens not just those of one religion.  Although Britain for example is still nominally a Protestant state this does not privilege the rights of citizens of a particular religion over another. In Israel being Jewish entitles you to far greater privileges than non-Jews. A Jewish state cannot help but be a racist state, since it was established via settler colonialism.
The tweet that Joan Ryan took exception to
The tactic of Boycott – from Captain Boycott in Ireland, the Boycott of Slave grown sugar in the West Indies, the Jewish Boycott of Nazi Germany (which the Zionists opposed) and the Boycott of Apartheid South Africa - has always been a weapon in the hands of the oppressed. 

Israel has not only maintained a military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 50 years (and today incidentally enforces a Boycott of Gaza) but it has treated the Arabs of Israel as a fifth column, guests in someone else’s country. Only this week Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for a boycott of the Wadi Ara area of Israel's Arab citizens:
“don't go in there—don't enter their restaurants or their businesses, don't get your cars fixed there. The residents of Wadi Ara must understand that they're unwanted and that they're not part of us.”
I don’t recall you writing an open letter to Benjamin Netanyahu demanding Lieberman’s dismissal or the Israeli Labour Party protesting, as would have happened in any democratic country.
Joan Ryan claimed the most expenses of any MP in 2006-7 having been runner up in 2005-6.  During the expenses scandal she was forced to disgorge over £5,000

As you will be aware it is those in the ANC who fought Apartheid who have been the greatest supporters of BDS. On November 28th Mandla Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, after visiting the West Bank was reported as saying that “Israel is the worst apartheid regime... Palestinians are being subjected to the worst version of apartheid.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle and a Nobel Peace Prize winner was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as saying:
"I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces, their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government."

Only this week a video captured Israeli soldiers attempting to kidnap three 5 year old Palestinian children.  This wasn't an isolated incident.  We had the Btselem video of a child of 8 being dragged from his home in Hebron earlier this year. In response to this and other criticisms, Btselem has been demonised in Israel and its funding threatened.

Instead of LFI criticising these examples of child abuse, which are in themselves war crimes, we had the disgusting spectacle of Louise Ellman, an LFI Vice-Chair intervening in the House of Commons debate on 16th January 2016 in support of the Israeli military's actions.
You refer to the support of your ‘sister party, the Israeli Labour Party’ [ILP]for a 2 State Solution [2SS].  This is disingenuous.  Only this week Avi Gabbay, the new leader of the ILP came out in support of Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is the final death blow to the 2SS.  Gabbay also made it clear that under an Israeli Labour government all the main settlement blocks will remain in place.  You cannot have a Palestinian state alongside the settlements.

The ILP’s support for a Palestinian state is the political equivalent of the 3 card trick.  At least, when Tsipi Hotoveli, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister says that “This land is ours. All of it is ours’ she is being honest. Labour Zionism has always been dishonest - talking peace whilst waging war.

The ILP is a far-Right party. There is nothing left-wing about it. It supports the forcible deportation of African refugees from Eritrea solely because they are not Jewish. They are termed ‘infiltrators’ the same racist term that is applied to Palestinian refugees.  The 2015 Freedom House report classified Eritrea as one of the 12 “Worst of the Worst” countries in the world.

What members of the Labour Party find disturbing is that LFI acts as the arm of the Israeli state within the Labour Party.  No other state in the world has such influence inside our party. 
You say you support a 2SS yet not once have you ever condemned Israel’s military occupation, its theft of Palestinian water and land resources, its administrative detention, checkpoints, abuse and torture of Palestinian children.  As the Al Jazeera programme The Lobby showed earlier this year, the LFI is a well-funded group with a £1m slush fund.
If you were in the slightest bit sincere in your call for a 2SS, you would call for an end to the Occupation. Instead you put the blame on the quisling Palestinian Authority, which acts as Israel’s security arm, for ‘anti-Semitic incitement’ ignoring the racist statements of Israeli Ministers like Deputy Defence Minister Eli Dahan about the Palestinians: “To me, they are like animals, they aren’t human.”  Dahan went on to explain that “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual,”

Even the right-wing Jerusalem Post called for Dahan to go, but LFI and the ILP remained silent.  Like all supporters of colonialism you put the blame onto the oppressed.
Your support for a 2 State Solution is deceitful and dishonest. You are fully aware that the real purpose of the 2SS slogan is to provide a pretext for the continual denial of democratic rights to Palestinians living under military occupation. To grant equality to these 5 million Palestinians would mean an end to Israel as a Jewish supremacist state.  To annex the Territories outright would mean an open declaration that Israel is an Apartheid State.  It is far better to maintain the present status quo and with it the fiction of a 2SS.  You are therefore deliberately complicit in the present occupation.

The time has come for the Labour Party to abandon its support for the world’s only apartheid state.  It is Israel’s colonisatory project not Palestinian resistance that is at the heart of the problem today.  Support for Israel is part and parcel of support for US imperialism in the Middle East.  That is why Israel is the largest recipient of US aid in the world.
Jean Fitzpatrick was the victim of an attempt by Ryan at the 2016 Labour Party conference to paint her as antisemitic
For too long Labour’s Zionists have used the bogey of ‘anti-Semitism’ as a weapon against supporters of the Palestinians, including Jewish anti-Zionists such as myself and Jackie Walker. You yourself were captured by Al Jazeera faking an incident of anti-Semitism at Labour’s 2016 Conference. 

In the General Election you sent letters to your constituents attacking Jeremy Corbyn and saying that people had more trust in Theresa May.  Such is your loyalty to Labour’s elected leadership.

The time has come for the Labour Party in Britain to break its links with LFI and the apologists for Israeli Apartheid, yourself included.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein
Vice Chair – Labour Against the Witchhunt
Joan Ryan's Open Letter to Kate Osamor

Background to Joan Ryan - Israel's Devoted Servant

Joan Ryan is a devoted servant of the Israeli state.  She is also, by any measure, one of the most self-seeking and greedy MPs.  

In October 2007, the Evening Standard reported that Joan Ryan claimed £173,691 in expenses for the 2006/2007 tax year the highest for any MP.  In 2005/6 she had only managed second place in the competition to see who could claim the most parliamentary expenses.  Ryan was by all accounts delighted to have won the coveted ‘Snout in the Trough Award of the Year.’

In February 2010, as a result of the Parliamentary expenses scandal, Ryan had to repay £5,121 mortgage interest.  However this all pales into comparison compared to the £1 million slush fund that the Israeli Embassy agent Shai Masot arranged to be paid for her and which was captured in the Al Jazeera programme The Lobby.

Wikipedia reports that:

In 2012, The Independent reported that "[a]t least 10 attempts have been made from computers in Parliament to remove information about [Ryan's] expenses claims and a further 20 efforts to delete the information, some from her constituency of Enfield North, have also been recorded in Wikipedia's logs."[15]

During the 2015 general election, The Daily Telegraph returned to this issue. In Ryan's case, the entire expenses section was deleted, including information on repairs and decorations on her home paid for out of her MP's expenses; the edits were made while Ryan was not an MP, and she denied involvement.[16]

Ryan was also caught on camera making a false allegation of anti-Semitism against a Labour Party member, Jean Fitzpatrick, at the 2016 Labour Party Conference.  When put under pressure to explain exactly what Labour Friends of Israel were doing to achieve their supposed objective of a 2 state solution [2SS] Ryan preferred to concoct an allegation of anti-Semitism.

In August 2016 Richard Burgon MP, the Shadow Justice Minister, described Zionism as an enemy of peace.  Joan Ryan leapt into action to defend the world’s only apartheid state.  In response I penned an Open Letter.  In the past week Kate Osamor MP, who is both a member of the Shadow Cabinet and a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee has tweeted her support for the campaign for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions.  Once again Ryan has issued an Open Letter.  I have therefore decided to write once again to Ryan, not in the hope that she will enter into a dialogue – Zionists rarely like to exchange views – but because Ryan’s poisonous and racist views should not go unchallenged.

See Letter here

Asa Winstanley 13 December 2017
Electronic Intifada

Labour’s shadow development minister Kate Osamor has endorsed BDS. (ODI/Flickr)

Activists expressed support for the UK Labour Party’s shadow development minister Kate Osamor on Wednesday, after she tweeted approval of BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The movement aims to hold Israel to account for its violations of Palestinians rights.

Osamor over the weekend tweeted “BDS movement #Freedom #Justice #Equality” – the hashtags standing for the three demands of the Palestinian-led BDS movement.

“We welcome Kate Osamor’s statement of support for the employment of BDS towards Israel until it recognizes the equal rights of Palestinians and ends its violation of their human rights and of international law,” the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s director Ben Jamal told The Electronic Intifada.

Osamor also retweeted a tweet by BDS South Africa which stated that similar tactics had helped the struggle against apartheid in their country:

Osamor’s public support for BDS highlights an apparent split in the party’s shadow cabinet. A left-winger who represents a constituency in North London, Osamor is a strong ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Her endorsement runs counter to shadow foreign minister Emily Thornberry, who last month gave a speech to Labour Friends of Israel in which she claimed – echoing common Israeli propaganda – that BDS is “bigotry.”

In a 2015 interview with The Electronic Intifada when he was running for the leadership, Corbyn expressed support for key parts of the BDS movement, including an arms embargo and a boycott of Israeli universities involved in arms research.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Corbyn told The Electronic Intifada that the “quotes stand.” Meanwhile, The Guardian quoted a spokesperson saying Corbyn “doesn’t support BDS,” only “targeted action aimed at illegal settlements and occupied territories” – but standing by Osamor’s right to support BDS.

Asked to clarify, the spokesperson said that Corbyn still “supports targeted boycotts of those Israeli academic institutions involved in arms research and surveillance of the Palestinian population.” The spokesperson last month also told The Electronic Intifada that Corbyn stood by the 2015 interview.
Labour Friends of Israel’s chair Joan Ryan condemned Osamor on Wednesday, calling on her to withdraw her support for BDS, claiming it “seeks to demonize” Israel' – another common Israeli government talking point.

Labour Friends of Israel is a lobby group within the UK’s main opposition party that coordinates closely with the Israeli embassy.

In an undercover Al Jazeera documentary in January, Ryan was caught on camera faking an incident of anti-Semitism against a Palestine Solidarity Campaign activist at the 2016 Labour conference.

Updated with further Corbyn spokesperson quote.

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