Defend Palestine Solidarity - Fight back

Within days of the Labour Party’s endorsement of the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism Zionists have been escalating their attempts to prevent free speech, block solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and prevent criticism of Israel’s racism. Among their first attacks have been those on the RCG in London and Newcastle, with the full collaboration of the Labour Party and their opportunist allies in the Palestinine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

The RCG is resolutely pledged to combat these attacks and expose the role of Israel’s racist supporters and backers. Robert Clough reports.

London Revolutionary Communist Group experienced this Zionist drive when ex-Labour councillor and Director of Public Affairs for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Phillip Rosenberg, demanded that the King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association (KCBNA) cancel a room booking for a meeting entitled ‘Corbyn, Labour and anti-Semitism’. Our publicity had made it quite clear that we regarded Zionism as racism; Rosenberg claimed that the meeting would be anti-Semitic.

When KCBNA contacted us about this attempt to stop the meeting we immediately mobilised supporters and Palestine activists to email and phone KCBNA to oppose the cancellation. KCBNA was forced to allow the meeting to go ahead – but outrageously insisted that the RCG give a written undertaking that we would not tolerate any anti-Semitism at the meeting, and repeat that from the chair. For an organisation which has fought against all forms of racism for decades, this was an insult. Labour-run Camden Council, clearly annoyed by the meeting going ahead, drafted in two Prevent officers – ostensibly to counter extremism – to spy on us and the audience. This was despite the assurances given to Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association that the Council’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism would not constrain criticism of Israel or jeopardise room bookings in council-funded or council-owned venues. When the crunch came, Camden Council was not interested in the rabid racism of the Zionist supporters who were present, only in trying to intimidate us. This is abuse of power.

The meeting itself was a great success. Our banner ‘Zionism is racism’ made absolutely clear where we stand, and attempts by a handful of Zionists to disrupt the meeting were comprehensively dealt with. Every point they made was addressed head on: we made no attempt to tone down our responses or abide by the terms of the IHRA definition. Nor did we back down in challenging the Labour council: the two snoopers were left in no doubt about our disgust at their presence. We will be pursuing this further: we are demanding that Camden council release all the material relating to the decision to send the two officers, minutes, emails and other correspondence, plus a copy of the officers’ report. There is no way that we are going to let the council get away with this crude attempt at intimidation.

Opportunists line up to defend Zionism

However, it is not just Labour councils we are going to be challenging. The PSC has decided it will comply with the IHRA definition and at its events its representatives now say next to nothing about Israel, and try to focus exclusively on the conditions the Palestinian people face. At a London meeting on 27 September, PSC President Hugh Lanning, a one-time trade union official and Labour parliamentary candidate, said that when standing up for the Palestinians we ‘don’t need to talk about history’ – the Nakba – and that it suffices to discuss Palestinian rights in the context of equality, human rights and international law – not in terms of colonialism and racism. At one point he said that when asked if Israel is a racist state, his response is that if Israel acts in a racist way, implementing particular racist policies, then he would accept Israel was being racist. This, of course, is accepted even by Labour Friends of Israel: the issue is whether the Israeli state is inherently a racist state.

At the same meeting, NUT President Kiri Tunks said that we should limit our discussions to just Palestine because the Palestinian people were not helped by discussing ‘complicated’ issues – it would seem that Zionist racism is too complicated for a meeting on Palestine. Under challenge from the RCG, Lanning only made his craven position worse by saying that ‘I take my direction from Palestinians, who don’t want us to fight in the Labour Party.’ He is actually taking direction from the Zionists!

Opportunists at work in North East

Newcastle RCG had already been forced to challenge the local PSC when they refused to fight the Labour-run council’s adoption of the IHRA definition, and subsequently tried to undermine our campaign against it. There too, PSC officials tried to protect Labour councillors who claimed that they supported the Palestinian people but refused to fight the IHRA. When we challenged these councillors, Newcastle PSC released a statement which not only attacked us for disrupting the council meeting, but claimed we had published ‘distortions and outright lies about councillors with an exemplary record of support for Palestine solidarity’ – even though two of them voted in support of the IHRA definition, and three more made themselves absent.

Later, at a PSC public meeting, one of these councillors complained wretchedly that the definition now meant people would ‘self-censor for fear of losing their jobs’. This is exactly what matters to such people: they will not put their privileged positions on the line to support the Palestinian people and fight against the racist Israeli state. The PSC is going to cover up for the Zionism of the Labour Party – serious solidarity with the Palestinian people has to stand full-square against the Labour Party and its protectors.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 266 October/November 2018

 

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