Lauren Booth: Three people in this marriage. The PSC, the JC and Harry’s Place
Gilad Atzmon: This is a crucial expose by the brave Lauren Booth- Enough is enough...
This week, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has revealed itself to be ethically compromised at the highest level.
In recent months it has become clear that the central office of the PSC, are increasingly pandering to the whims of Israeli hasbara activists. Joining with the likes of the rabid Zionist site Harry’s Place in efforts to silence some of this movement’s most outspoken and popular, thinkers.
This week, Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was quoted in the pro Israeli paper, the Jewish Chronicle, as supporting a boycott of the highly renowned musician and academic Gilad Atzmon. Atzmon was booked to perform in his professional capacity as a saxaphonist at an event celebrating political song in Bradford, called 'Raise your Banners.' The musician/author has recently published his best selling treatise on Jewish cultural identity called ‘The Wondering Who’. A work that, unlike Sarah Colborne, I have actually read, and can highly recommend, as it pulls no punches, when asking to what degree the racist idealogy - Zionism, when mixed with the Jewish sense of ‘Choseness’, is to blame for the existence of todays Apartheid Israel. It has been endorsed by some of the finest thinkers and writers on Israel/Palestine of our age.
But the subject matter alone (predictably) proved more than enough to have Atzmon, once again, falsely, branded an anti semite by the sections of the Jewish diaspora committed to stopping debate into their awkward, yet staunch, support for Israeli war crimes.
The Jewish Chronicle has spear headed the campaign to pressure organisers of the Bradford event to drop Gilad Atzmon from the bill.
Now, Atzmon is well liked in the PSC branches nationwide. Both as a radical, brilliant, speech maker and as a musician and fund raiser for Palestinian causes.
Yet, this is what Sarah Colborne of the PSC had to say when asked about Atzmon by the JC. "I am very concerned at what appears to be an attempt by Raise Your Banners to misrepresent the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. PSC has made clear to Raise Your Banners that we have no links with Gilad Atzmon, and that Palestine Solidarity Campaign does not work with him. When a representative from Raise Your Banners contacted the PSC office some months ago, they were urged to take seriously the concerns of those who had raised this issue’.
Her words raise several questions that need to be addressed at both national and regional level by the PSC.
Firstly, were members of the PSC asked if they support Colborne in what amounts to a cultural boycott of any staunchly anti Zionist academics?
Let's take a closer look at her last sentence.
‘When a representative from Raise Your Banners contacted the PSC office some months ago, they were urged to take seriously the concerns of those who had raised this issue’.
Colborne reveals that she is apparently supported by other London officials, in this effort to ostracize Atzmon.
So, here's another question. Hasn’t Colborne overstepped her official remit as Director of the PSC? After all this is a body whose name, (if little else at national level), suggests an inclusive movement, open to all voices who actively speak out against Israeli Apartheid with the aim of supporting the Palestinian right to a free state.
She has certainly set a very foolish precedent by bending over to hasbara activists.
Except it was far from a precedent. But merely the most recent in a shameful spate of expulsions and harrassment by the national office of the PSC.
Last month, I interviewed Sammi Ibraheem. Sammi is Palestinian. He was chairman of a regional PSC group in 2010. After six months he was ignominiously removed after a campaign of harrassment and rumour from inside the PSC. The pressure on Sammi began when a man named Anthony Copper began claiming he runs a website called ‘Shoah - the Palestinian Holocaust.’
And who is Anthony Cooper, this informer on ethics to the PSC?
Well, he introduces himself in online debates as follows; ‘ I am a Jewish supporter of Israel. Whilst surrounded by enemies bent on her destruction she has gathered and absorbed people from different parts of the world with different cultures and in so doing developed one of her own. Her people are resourceful and resilient. She has problems but her achievements are remarkable and perhaps unparalleled. So why am I suggesting that her friends, like me, should stop defending her?’ He claims he has been ‘researching’ the background of many local PSC groups. He has pointed out numerous websites which he considers (as a 'Jewish supporter of Israel') to contain ‘Holocaust denial’ material. Some of these have been ‘linked to’ PSC members own websites.
Let us note the words ‘linked to’ here. Not even written. But merely ‘linked to’. Links which after pressure from the PSC, its members (those who still care about remaining members) have had to remove.
Mr Ibraheem writes for the site shoah.org. It is strongly worded, carries stories from Palestinian sources on Israeli racism and (significantly) makes no concessions to Jewish sensibilities.
Is writing for such a site a problem for a Palestinian member of the PSC? Apparently so.
Sammi Ibraheem told me; ‘Somebody in the Birmingham PSC with links to the Zionist movement began to take action against me. They asked me to be investigated about my links to Shoah.org.
Sammi disputed the right to an investigation. One that he suspected being set in motion by the very Zionists who occupy his peoples land. Those very people that the PSC are supposed to be in ‘solidarity' with.
‘I refused to attend the meeting and be questioned by a bunch of thugs. So I was removed by vote as the chairman there and then’.
Nothing official was processed or put to the national membership of the PSC many of whom doubtless would have opposed the initimidation and harassment of a Palestinian member.
‘I feel they (the PSC) have no right to represent the Palestinians’ he says, ‘Their policies are pro the ‘two state’ solution. But such a decision is up to the Palestinians to decide. Not a foreign campaign group. The fact that Palestinians involved in an anti Zionist campaign are being kicked out of their committees and local groups proves they (PSC) have no right to represent the Palestinian cause’.
Mr Ibraheem’s experience with the PSC reveals a weakness at the organisations heart.
Today the PSC is attempting to perform a trick that is both impossible and, let's be frank, pointless. They are attempting to create a pro Palestinian organisation - that does not hurt Zionist sensibilities.
And what of the PSC’s rather too cosy relationship with the Zionist blog Harry’s Place?
For Palestinian activist Sammi Ibraheem his woes with the PSC did not stop when he was vaulted from local chairmanship. The harrassment continued. His weekly radio show in Birmingham is called ‘Face the Nation’, on Unity FM. Recently, Ziobots from Harrys Place managed to have him suspended from his radio show for (again) the exaggerated links with the website ‘Shoah.org’ and guess what, for broadcasting an interview with - Gilad Atzmon.
Mr Ibraheem says; ‘The letter that was used to accuse me of anti semitism came from Harry’s Place. But included an email from the recent chair of the Birmingham PSC Naim Malik. It seems to me that Birmingham PSC has links to Harry’s Place somehow’.
This is disturbing. For it appears that it’s not only the London office of the PSC taking tacit (or explicit) guidance from the enemies of our movement. But some of its regional offices as well.
Leftists who increasingly see their remit as not offending Zionists are heading the British ‘solidarity’ work for Palestine. Have they not learnt the larger lesson from, the PLO/Fatah/the PA? Namely, that campaigns of appeasement to the Israeli lobby can never, ever, co exist as part of a determined campaign to end Israel's bloody and illegal occupation of Palestine. And let us be clear. A Palestine Solidarity Campaign should be working to END Zionism. Not ease it a little. Not work alongside it. To be in solidarity with the people of Palestine means fighting Zionism.
And guess what? That just is not going to get you good headlines in the Jewish Chronicle, Harry's Place or for that matter Fox News or the Guardian.
Real leaders of this movement say to that - so what!
The rejection of Gilad Atzmon's academic voice by the PSC is more significant than it may at first appear.
For it cuts to the very heart of where this movement, to end Zionism, (not to merely oppose it, but to end it) should be heading from now.
It is their mistake not to engage with Gilad Atzmon’s writing. His blog on Zionism related issues is even more popular than that of the Electronic Intifada (presumably by dint of its name far too radical for the PSC too).
For which of us who speaks against Israeli war crimes has NOT been branded a terrorist sympathizer or an anti semite on more than one occasion? These overused, misused terms are part of the Sayanim (Israeli Mossad activists) armoury, as has been repeatedly revealed in the past. Branding an anti Zionist 'anti semitic' It is a well worn ploy, an effort to intimidate activists or to delay real progress in the global fight against Israeli Apartheid. The Jewish States Sayanim target those they see as effective, painting us all as radicals and extremists, in the hope that the media, our places or work and even the pro Palestinian movement itself will shun us. Until now, this last has been laughably ineffective. But the friends of Zionism seem to be making some headway. With the likes of Colborne and the National body of the PSC their willing accomplices.
At this crucial time for Palestinian activism, Sarah Colborne et al, have chosen to align with those whose interests lie in silencing debate on the precise nature of Apatheid Israel. And its root causes.
Gill Kafesh, until recently, the popular secretary of the Camden branch of the PSC. was ‘asked to resign by a small group, who made the decision at a special meeting’ this Autumn. On Harry’s Place, Kafesh is listed as (guess what) ‘a supporter of Holocaust denial.’ She denies the slur.
However, she has openly asked the following prescient question; ‘How long do you think it will be until the Jewish Chronicle demands that PSC unreservedly condemn Hamas? And how long before PSC complies? After all, Hamas is obviously ant-semitic – most of the people it attacks are Jewish’.
The point she is making is important. For it is not for the main office of the PSC to decide who is 'right' on such questions as one state/ two state. It is for the campaign to listen to all sides of the Palestinian debate and to reflect these all views in its work.
A leaf should be taken out of the The International Solidarity Movement’s book. A movement whose impetus ALWAYS comes from within Palestine. And for whose members the word 'solidarity' still retains its meaning.
In September, the Jewish Chronicle reported gleefully on the PSC’s amended mission statement. Which had the following addition: ‘Any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the holocaust have no place in our movement. Such statements are abhorrent in their own right and can only detract from the building of a strong movement in support of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. We welcome all those who share our aims to join PSC.'
Meanwhile, Francis Clark-Lowes, who has been chairman of national PSC and Brighton PSC was also ‘kicked out’ this Summer. Also for being - guess what- an alleged ‘Holocaust denier’.
Clark-Lowes says ‘Although I didn’t actually hear about it until 21st June. I have appealed against the expulsion from national PSC, and this will be heard at the AGM in January, though it is quite unclear what the procedure will be’.
Whose interests do these expulsions serve?
The Palestinian cause?
Britain is witnessing the rise of a new wave of pro Palestinian activists. They need an organisation that is fit for purpose. One that does not pander to the emotional whims of the Jewish, Zionist lobby.
Meanwhile, The Jewish Chronicle, Harrys Place and the PSC central office, should take note of the following news. Last nights 'Raise your Banner' event in Bradford, in which Gilad Atzmon performed, was sold out. Not a single ticket remained. And no protest against the artist and author took place.
When Atzmon asked the audience if they thought that the British Board of Deputies had a right to control artistic freedom in Britain the crowd of some hundreds yelled a hearty 'No!'
They would answer the same to Sarah Colborne.