On Saturday, 17th March, the organisers of ‘Scottish Stand Up to Racism’ (SUTR) are organising a march in Glasgow in which the racist Confederation of Friends of Israel, displaying Israeli flags will be allowed to participate. Not surprisingly this has aroused considerable opposition, not least amongst Palestinians who are victims of Israeli state racist oppression. Tony Greenstein who lives in Brighton, and is a longstanding Jewish campaigner against all forms of racism, including Zionism, has written The Apartheid Flag of Israel as an introduction to the Statement from Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Organisation. This is followed by a Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Statement on Stand Up To Racism.
1. APARTHEID FLAG OF ISRAEL
Putting Anti-racism and Anti-imperialism in Separate Compartments
The SWP’s popular frontism in action
Below is a statement which has been issued by the Secretary of Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign. We, like many Palestinian supporters have been dismayed at the stance of the Scottish SUTR to allow supporters of Israel, the Confederation of Friends of Israel, to take part in Saturday’s anti-racist march in Glasgow, along with the flag of Israel.
This decision makes a mockery of the purpose of the march, to oppose racism. There can be no doubt that Israel is a racist state, in the same way that Apartheid South Africa was a racist state. It is a state with racism at its very core and essence. It is literally a State of the Jews, not just its own Jewish citizens even but of all Jews throughout the world. That is why when Netanyahu paid a visit to French Jews at the time of the killing of 4 Jews in a kosher Paris supermarket, he told them that they should ‘come home’. ‘Come home!’ Israeli minister urges French Jews amid terror wave
Palestinian refugees, driven out in 1948 in order to ensure a Jewish demographic majority in Israel are not invited ‘home’, despite they and their families having lived there for generations. Instead of being a state of its own citizens Israel is a state of its Jewish citizens and Jews outside the state.
The fact that a plurality of Israeli Jews support the physical expulsion of Israel’s Arab citizens bears witness to the degree of racism in Israeli society. The chant of ‘Death to the Arabs’ is a favourite one of Israeli right-wing demonstrations. At this very moment Israel is in the process of trying to deport 40,000 Black African refugees for the crime of not being White or Jewish.
For SUTR to allow people with Israeli flags to march as part of its demonstration is a disgrace which throws into question the purpose of SUTR. It is no secret that SUTR is a front organisation of the SWP. It runs and controls it behind the list of sponsors. This is how the SWP have always operated. Nonetheless many people have supported it who are not in the SWP, like Dianne Abbot, because it does good work in opposing Islamaphobia and the Prevent Programme.
For SUTR to allow the flag of Apartheid Israel to be present amongst its ranks negates all of this. Of course no one objects to someone who is a Zionist participating in the march. But to allow the flag of Israel to be present is an entirely different matter. The Israeli flag to Palestinians is like the Apartheid South African flag was to Black Africans and the Swastika was to Jews.
The reason for this debacle is the politics of the SWP itself. On the one hand they claim to be anti-Zionist, albeit in an extremely crude and unworked out way. On the other hand they prioritise racism domestically. They seem to have a blind spot for the fact that racism in Britain is a product of Britain’s role as an imperial power and the British Empire. Although the SWP have no problem attributing the growth of Islamaphobia to the War on Terror and the Iraqi and Afghanistan invasions, they do not see that in the Middle East the bastion of Islamaphobia and unadulterated anti-Arab racism is the State of Israel and Zionism.
It is precisely the viciously anti-Islamic policies of the Israeli state, which tolerates fascist attacks by Lehava on Arab males who are believed to be in mixed relationships, and which promotes anti-Islamic racism internationally that makes Israel so attractive to the European and American far-Right. Some of the most vehemently Islamaphobic politicians from Geert Wilders in the Netherlands to Heinz Christian Sprache, the Vice Chancellor Austria to our own Tommy Robinson ex EDL and Britain First admire Israel for its hostility to Muslims.
This adulation of Israel by the far Right seems to have passed the SWP by. Pictures of fascist organisations marching and demonstrating with the flag of Israel also seem to have passed them by. If Israeli flags appear on Saturday in SUTR’s demonstration in Glasgow the shit as they say will hit the fan.
2. Statement of Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Organisation
I write on behalf of the Committee of Brighton & Hove PSC (BHPSC). As an organisational affiliate to Stand Up To Racism (since October 2016), BHPSC is shocked and disappointed to learn of the decision, by the organisers of Saturday’s anti-racist march in Glasgow, to allow members of the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (COFIS), to take part in the march.
In allowing representatives of an Israel advocacy group to take part (with banners and/or Israeli flags) the organisers of the Scotland march have undermined the fundamental principle upon which the march was planned – ie opposition to racism in all its forms. Moreover, they have failed to recognise that COFIS is not a group representing Jewish people, but instead an advocacy group (composed in part of evangelical Christians) for the racist and apartheid Israeli regime. COFIS has cynically manipulated the situation to normalise the image of Israel in Scotland.
The issue is not fundamentally one of support for the cause of Palestinian rights, or one of race hatred against Jewish people. It is about the racist nature of the Israeli regime, and the message that is conveyed to genuine campaigners against racism, and to genuine victims of racism, by allowing the visual symbols of that regime to be displayed in an allegedly anti-racist march.
We have written to Stand Up To Racism Scotland to urge them to reconsider their decision.
As affiliates to SUTR, and active supporters of the local SUTR group, we seek an assurance from SUTR that pro-Israel groups will not be allowed to take part in any overt way (and to carry pro-Israel banners and/or Israeli flags) in the London march on Saturday March 17th. We also seek a public statement from SUTR, distancing itself from the decision in Scotland. Of course individual members of pro-Israel groups wishing to take part in a personal capacity cannot be excluded, but pro-Israel banners and/or Israeli flags have no place in the anti-racist movement.
Ben Steele, Secretary, Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign
3. Scottish PSC Statement on Stand up to Racism, 13.3.18
“Palestinians have situated their struggle, the BDS movement, as part of a wider struggle against racism. Week after week Israel’s crimes escalate, fuelled by racism and genocidal discourse so malevolent that even Israeli generals, prominent journalists and Holocaust survivors have spoken out about how Israeli society develop ever more marked features resembling 1930s European fascism and Nazism.”
As an anti-racist organisation, SPSC has participated over the years in Stand Up to Racism demonstrations; last year we provided a high-profile speaker, Prof Richard Falk, who co-authored the UN ESCWA report ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid’ which concluded “that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”. A year later, the active agents of that apartheid state, defenders of its crimes against humanity are to be allowed onto the march.
We understand that racism is a mortal danger to any project for a better future in Britain, threatens to hurl us backwards into the abyss and that ALL racist organisations need to be challenged and quarantined like political and social Ebola.
According to SUTR publicity, March 17th marks the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 and is part of worldwide demonstrations called to combat all racism, including state-enforced racism.
How did this come to pass that an organisation that represents and works on behalf of apartheid Israel can be welcome to participate in such an occasion, in a city proud of the internationalism and solidarity that led to the naming of Mandela Place?
It is with great regret, that we have concluded that we cannot participate in Saturday’s march since SUTR in Scotland and UK-wide has let it be known that the racist Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (COFIS), will be allowed to present itself as an anti-racist group on the march with a banner and Israeli flags.
COFIS is a group that considers extreme racist Tommy Robinson to be “a colourful character”, refers to Palestinians as ‘Pallys‘ and ‘Fakestinians‘ and posts about Palestinians being “euthanised”. COFIS is led by a Christian fundamentalist and is closely allied with Christians United for Israel. CUFI leader, Rev. John Hagee, asserts that Hitler was chosen by God to carry out the Nazi Holocaust to drive Jews to the only place they should live, Palestine.
Ask why the extreme right across Europe and beyond fly Israeli flags and they will provide the answer; US White supremacist Richard Spencer calls himself a ‘White Zionist’ because Israel is already their model for a state built on racist principles, ethnic cleansing and permanent inferiority for the indigenous people.
Palestinians have situated their struggle, the BDS movement, as part of a wider struggle against racism. Week after week Israel’s crimes escalate, fuelled by racism and genocidal discourse so malevolent that even Israeli generals, prominent journalists and Holocaust survivors have spoken out about how Israeli society develop ever more marked features resembling 1930s European fascism and Nazism.
An earthquake is sudden but it is the result of long-term movements in the earth’s crust. The shock of what happened last Saturday is the result of several factors:.
- The support for the Palestinian BDS call has been growing year on year since 2005.
- Since 2014, the Israeli government has mobilised their support through the new ‘Ministry of Strategic Affairs’, working with organisations around the world. In Scotland, that organisation is COFIS.
- The smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the witch-hunt being conducted against his support base is having an influence, leaving activists fearful of being targeted by the campaign that secured expulsions and suspensions from the Labour Party of dedicated anti-racist, anti-Zionist Jews. Corbyn delivered a shattering defeat to the pro-war, pro-Israel Blairites to become leader of the Labour Party. He channelled the hopes of millions and spoke to tens of thousands.
- The Old Guard of the Labour Party are fighting back and the pro-Israel Labour groups are spearheading the attack by smearing Corbyn as an ‘antisemite’.
- Unfortunately, Jeremy Corbyn has allowed some of his most active supporters to be expelled and suspended following demonstrably false accusations.
- The result has been increased intimidation of anti-racist, pro-Palestine voices across the unions and the wider society.
Corbyn will find that COFIS and their ilk are insatiable and will continue to come for him, for the left, and certainly for all of us concerned with ensuring a future in Palestine / Israel that is apartheid-free and based on equality, justice and freedom.
During the long agony of the Palestinian people, most of the British left openly sided with the colonisers. Groaning in a vast gulag, periodically massacred, denied minimum human rights, an entire people were violated over decades, while the Churchills and Thatchers cheered on and armed the colonisers.
But we also must acknowledge that the British Labour Party in 1944/45, in the most progressive Labour Government ever, asked the Palestinian people as a whole to move out of Palestine to make way for Jewish colonists. Only recently has the British trade union movement and most of the left begun to atone for this shameful past.
The movers of the motion to ‘unwelcome’ COFIS were informed that the decision to accept defenders of Israeli war crimes and apartheid on to the march “came from SUTR National Officers, from Diane Abbott all the way down”. The repeated reason given by SUTR for allowing COFIS onto the march was the fear of being attacked in the media as “antisemitic” if they told these uber-racists they were unwelcome.
This is a capitulation to racism in a double sense. Scottish SUTR officers agree that COFIS is a campaigning racist organisation. (“We fully agree with you about what COFIS is”). But as the letter from Scottish Jewish anti-racists makes clear, to treat COFIS as a Jewish community organisation is itself a racist position because it asserts that all Jews are in some way associated with the Apartheid State. When clear anti-racist politics are needed, when its ‘fight or flight time’, SUTR has chosen capitulation to a racist smear against Scottish Jews and has thrown the Palestinians under the bus.
We have seen that there is far to go and we have been thrown back by this rotten decision. We are even hesitant about communicating this betrayal to our friends in Palestine for we know the pain it will cause to people who gambled on our support and have been rejected by some in Scotland.
There is the danger of the retreat in the face of weaponised false antisemitism charges turning into a rout.
We pick ourselves up from defeats just as we have celebrated victories and we dedicate ourselves to a long struggle, seeking the new allies that will inevitably come to the aid of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle.
Palestinians are being occupied, murdered and dispossessed, many living in cruelly besieged Gaza under a military that uses guidance systems made in Fife to get bombs to their targets on Palestinian universities, schools, hospitals and homes. The same flag that flies over their constant humiliation in Palestine will now fly over the demonstration in Glasgow.
We have never been in such a situation before where a hard racist organisation has learned that they will be welcome on an ANTI-racist demonstration. This is salt in open Palestinian wounds and sends a message – the message COFIS and the Israeli Embassy work tirelessly to send – that resistance is futile because Palestinians under Israel’s iron heel are completely isolated. “Just look – even Scottish anti-racists are with Israel!”
What better way to spread pain and despair, for Israel’s benefit. Those progressive Palestinians and citizens across the Middle East who argue that international solidarity can contribute to their liberation and a better world have been kicked in the teeth and those elements who thrive on despair – ISIS and Al Qaeda – can put another slide in their PowerPoint.
Those Palestinians, our comrades in the fight against the Apartheid they suffer under, have reached out to join with anti-racists around the world and have been told that the flag of their torturers is welcome in Glasgow.
But everything is now out in the open for all to see. New lines must be drawn with those who oppose all racism on one side of that line, and on the other extreme racists and their partners, racist and “anti-racist” alike.
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