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2 November 2011updated 26 Sep 2015 10:01pm

Supporting Palestine is supporting an anti-racist struggle

The PSC replies to Rob Marchant's blog on anti-semitism and the left.

By Hugh Lanning

Only this week Israel has announced it is to punish Palestinians for seeking recognition at UNESCO by seizing Palestinian land and withholding Palestinian money in violation of international law. We have seen a massive rise in international solidarity in response to the continuing crimes committed against Palestinians. And as it is difficult to defend the indefensible, those who support Israel’s actions are attempting to turn reality on its head, to portray those supporting Palestinian rights as anti-Semitic.

This doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is committed to equality, and actively opposes racism and anti-Semitism, because they are fundamentally wrong — this reflects who we are, what we believe in, where we come from.

Rob Marchant’s blog post which focused on criticising the PSC began with four incidences — three of which had nothing to do with PSC and the fourth he completely misrepresented. PSC did not organise a protest outside the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance because of their “er, being Israeli” — it was because of their close collaboration with the Israeli armed forces.

While the blog attacks Sheikh Raed Salah, it fails to mention that Jews for Justice for Palestinians also challenged the British government’s treatment of Raed Salah. It also fails to mention that PSC has a clear policy against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in all its ugly forms and takes action to enforce this policy within the campaign.

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As an ex-manager from the Labour Party surely knows, member organisations do need to deal with breaches of their policies and principles when they are aware of them, and PSC is committed to doing so.

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The Palestinian solidarity movement will always stick to anti-racist principles, for reasons that include but extend beyond the moral dimensions:

Two wrongs don’t make a right

You cannot fight racism with racism, evil will not defeat wrong — it might have a temporary success, but cannot be the basis of a long-term victory. If you want to legitimately criticise the racist actions of the Israeli state — the discriminatory laws and practices, the ethnic cleansing, the colonisation of Palestine — it cannot be done if you are open to the same criticisms.

We want to win

Our objective as PSC is to build the broadest based solidarity movement — a mass movement that has the capacity to win, to influence governments, to win public opinion and to build mass protest through boycott, divestment and sanctions. A broad coalition must be inclusive of churches, trade unions and a wide variety of NGOs as well as the committed activists. This can not be done from a racist base.

We want Jewish support

It is fundamental to the Palestinian cause that it is the actions of the Israeli state that is the problem, not the actions and beliefs of the Jewish peoples as a whole or Israeli citizens. Many Jews and Israelis have criticised the Israeli state’s actions. A just solution needs their support.

Equality makes us stronger

The principles of equality and diversity make the movement stronger. They provide the best foundation on which to build a mass movement. They provide the right operating principles to decide how to act, what is acceptable and what is not.

It isn’t necessary

All of the arguments we want and need to make, can and should be made without reference to race and religion. The strongest arguments are those based on justice, human rights and international law. There is no need to stray beyond these core principles -indeed it weakens us to do so.
Of course – it is for all these reasons that our opponents seek to smear and undermine us. Israeli think-tank, the Reut Institute, identified the biggest political threat that Israel faced as the growth of the boycott movement and solidarity with Palestine – with PSC, London and the British trade union movement as the ‘hub’. Reut identified attacking ‘the hub’ as one of the best means of defence.

That is why we believe there has been a concerted attempt to smear the PSC . It is a tactic that is born out of weakness. Because Israel is losing the political and moral argument. If Israel believed it was right in the eyes of the world, it would seek to justify the occupation, its siege on Gaza, the wall and the settlements. But it cannot do this. So it has to attack and discredit its opponents.

The Israeli state and its supporters have a choice. They can continue to bomb Gaza, they can continue to encircle and colonise the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They can drive the Bedouin off their lands. But sieges end, walls come down — the oppressed rise up. Israel’s supporters ought to be advising their leaders to follow the same principles outlined. A strategy based on hatred is ultimately doomed. One based on equality is the only way both sides can win.

Hugh Lanning is chair of PSC

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