This week, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) revealed itself to be ethically compromised at the highest level.
In recent months it has become clear that the central office of the PSC is increasingly pandering to the whims of Israeli hasbara – or propaganda – 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.
Sarah Colborne dives into the Zionist sewer
This week, Sarah Colborne, the director of PSC, was quoted in the pro Israeli paper, the Jewish Chronicle, as supporting a boycott of the highly renowned musician and writer Gilad Atzmon.
Atzmon was booked to perform in his professional capacity as a saxophonist at an event celebrating political song in Bradford, called “Raise your Banners”. The musician/author has recently published a best selling treatise on Jewish cultural identity called The Wandering Who? Unlike Sarah Colborne, I have actually read this book and can highly recommend it as it pulls no punches when asking to what degree the racist ideology – Zionism – when mixed with the Jewish sense of “Chosenness”, 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 as an anti-Semite by sections of the Jewish diaspora that are committed to stopping debate into their awkward yet staunch support for Israeli war crimes.
The Jewish Chronicle has spearheaded the campaign to put pressure on the organizers 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 and brilliant speech maker and as a musician and fundraiser for Palestinian causes.
Yet, this is what Sarah Colborne of the PSC had to say when asked about Atzmon by the Jewish Chronicle:
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.
What PSC activists must ask Sarah Colborne
Her words raise several questions that need to be addressed by the PSC at both national and regional levels. Foremost of these is whether members of the PSC had been asked if they support Colborne in what amounts to a cultural boycott of any staunchly anti Zionist campaigners.
Let's take a closer look at her last sentence.
Colborne says: “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 PSC 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, one that is open to all voices that 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.
Bending over to Israeli propagandists
The problem for Sarah Colborne is that this is not the first but the most recent in a shameful spate of expulsions and harassment of pro-Palestinian activists by the national office of the PSC.
Last month, I interviewed Sami Ibrahim. A Palestinian, Ibrahim was chairman of a regional PSC group in 2010. After six months in the post, he was ignominiously removed following a campaign of harassment and innuendo from inside the PSC. The pressure on Sami began when a man named Anthony Cooper noted that 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.
Cooper 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 PSC, its members (those who still care about remaining members) have had to remove.
Ibrahim does indeed write for the website Shoah – the Palestinian Holocaust. It carries strongly worded material and stories from Palestinian sources on Israeli racism and, significantly, makes no concessions to Jewish sensibilities.
Is writing for such a website a problem for a Palestinian member of the PSC? Apparently so.
Ibrahim 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.”
Ibrahim disputed the propriety of an investigation, one that he suspected was being set in motion by the very Zionists who occupy his people’s land, the very people that the PSC is supposed to be in “solidarity” with!
He continued: “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 intimidation and harassment of a Palestinian member.
“I feel they [the PSC] have no right to represent the Palestinians,” he said, adding:
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 Ibrahim’s experience with the PSC reveals a weakness at the organizations 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 organization that does not hurt Zionist sensibilities.
In bed with the Islamophobic Zionist Harry’s Place
And what of the PSC’s rather too cosy relationship with the Zionist blog Harry’s Place?
Ibrahim’s woes with the PSC did not stop when he was vaulted from the local chairmanship. The harassment continued in other arenas. Following a campaign by the Zionists of the website Harry’s Place, he was suspended from the weekly radio show, “Face the Nation”, broadcast in Birmingham on Unity FM, because of his links with the website Shoah – the Palestinian Holocaust and for broadcasting an interview with Gilad Atzmon!
Ibrahim said: “The letter that was used to accuse me of anti-Semitism came from Harry’s Place. But it 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 that is 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 from the lesson of the Palestine Liberation Organization/Fatah/the Palestinian Authority? Namely, that appeasement of the Israeli lobby can never, ever, co-exist with 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 or work alongside it. To be in solidarity with the people of Palestine means fighting Zionism. Period.
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 voice by the PSC is more significant than it may at first appear. For it cuts to the very heart of where the movement to end Zionism (not merely to 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 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 as anti-Semitic” is a well-worn ploy, an effort to intimidate activists or to delay real progress in the global fight against Israeli apartheid. The Jewish state’s sayanim target those they see as effective, painting us all as radicals and extremists, in the hope that the media, our places of 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 and others have chosen to align with those whose interests lie in silencing debate on the precise nature of apartheid 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, Kafesh has openly asked the following prescient question: “How long do you think it will be until the Jewish Chronicle demands that PSC unreservedly condemns Hamas? And how long before PSC complies? After all, Hamas is obviously anti-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 PSC to decide who is “right” on such questions as a one-state or two-state solution. 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. This is 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 PSC’s amended mission statement. This had the following addition:
Any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimize 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 the national PSC and Brighton PSC, was also “kicked out” this summer, also for being (guess what?) an alleged “Holocaust denier”.
Clark-Lowes said: “Although I didn’t actually hear about it until 21 June. I have appealed against the expulsion from national PSC, and this will be heard at the AGM [Annual General Meeting] 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 organization that is fit for purpose, one that does not pander to the emotional whims of the Jewish, Zionist lobby.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Chronicle, Harry's Place and the PSC central office, should take note of the following news. Last night’s “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 Board of Deputies of British Jews 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.