Tell New Statesman: Don’t censor Palestinian voices

The campaign by FSOI and others has been successful and PSC released the following statement:

As most of you will be aware,  two weeks ago the New Statesman removed an article by Salah Arjama from its website. PSC had commissioned the article from Salah, the co-founder and Director of the Lajee Cultural Centre in Aida Refugee camp to be hosted on the New Statesman website. The New Statesman published the piece as part of a two year partnership between the PSC and the New Statesman.

The removal of the article followed two pro-Israel websites attacking the article which raised concerns about the New Statesman having responded to this lobby pressure.  PSC sought a clear explanation from the New Statesman as to the reason for the removal of the article but did not receive it. As the issue was in the public domain, we were left with no option but to publicly petition the New Statesman. Thanks to your response, the New Statesman was inundated with 25,000 emails. Several notable figures, including lawyers, politicians, trade unions and artists, also committed to signing an open letter. After the very large number of complaints the New Statesman received, and after we informed them of the forthcoming open letter, they requested to meet with the PSC.

We are pleased to announce that after discussions we have received an explanation from the New Statesman who have framed the removal in a wider context of reviewing all their commercial partnerships from a wider editorial perspective. We are pleased that the New Statesman have acknowledged the discourtesy done by not providing an explanation when requested.

The New Statesman have reassured us that the article was not removed because of lobby pressure, acknowledged that they had no issue with the contents of the article and have now most importantly provided a link to the article on their website, ensuring that readers can still access Salah’s words and perspective. We feel this outcome gives a clear message that any pressure to remove Palestinian voices from the media will be resisted. They have also given a commitment to ensuring that their coverage of Palestine will continue to include a range of perspectives.

The issues raised in Salah’s article which can be read here are of crucial importance. PSC believes it is essential that the voices of Palestinians facing injustice and the denial of their rights are heard in wider media coverage. Although we will have no continuing commercial partnership, we look forward to continuing our wider relationship with the New Statesman to ensure that Palestinian voices and perspectives from all sections of society are heard.

We could not have done this without you, and is fantastic news for all that are concerned with the representation of Palestinian experiences in the press.

Shame of the New Statesman

Statement from Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Dear friend,

Palestinian voices are being censored and silenced. We cannot let this happen.
Earlier this month PSC commissioned an article from Salah Ajarma, the co-founder and Director of the Lajee Cultural Centre in Aida Refugee camp. The New Statesman published the piece as part of a two year partnership between the PSC and the New Statesman. Two pro-Israel blogs attacked the New Statesman for publishing the piece, shortly afterwards, the New Statesman deleted it without speaking to Salah or to PSC. They have since refused to offer any explanation or justification for the removal of the article.

This is a disgraceful attack on freedom of expression, a clear case of censorship, and a deliberate attempt to silence Palestinian voices. By doing this, the New Statesman have politically censored a human rights campaigner, who is living under very harsh conditions of military occupation in a refugee camp. We cannot stand by and let this happen. We cannot be silenced.

Entrance to Aida refugee camp
A giant key (said to be the world’s largest) sits atop the entrance to the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, reminding residents to insist on their “right of return.”

It would appear the New Statesman have caved into political pressure to remove the article, and do not believe they owe Salah or PSC the courtesy even of a conversation: the editorial team won’t even take our phone calls. In an email to the PSC, the New Statesman stated that the article had been removed as a result of ‘reader complaints’, refusing any further elaboration and any editorial contact.

Salah’s article describes the experiences of young Palestinian refugees in Aida camp and talks about how settlements impact his life and the lives of people in his community. New Statesman editors approved and published the article.

The New Statesman’s actions are political censorship of a Palestinian human rights campaigner. We cannot stand by and let this happen.

This action does not align with the stated goals of the New Statesman to “hold our leaders to account and tell the stories that the world needs to hear”. What is happening in Palestine is a story that the world needs to hear, and the account of a Palestinian should not be censored. The lack of explanation and refusal to speak to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign or Salah goes against all good journalistic standards and common courtesy

We did not want to make this public, we attempted to resolve the problem directly with the New Statesman, giving them the benefit of the doubt and attempting to speak to editors countless times.

However, we have now been told that the editors will not speak to us and that the decision to remove the article would not be explained or reversed.

We have a duty to stand up for justice, honesty, and integrity and so we must raise our voices about this.

Tell the New Statesman to:

  • Republish the article
  • Offer an apology to Salah Ajarma for removing it without good cause
  • Make a clear public statement as to your commitment to upholding the principle of freedom of expression

Please write to the editors of the New Statesman now – and show them that we will not be silenced and will not allow Palestinians to be censored.

In solidarity,
The team at PSC

Read Salah’s article

Jews and Christians Join Forces to Counter Claims of Antisemitism

lichfield-holding-palestine-in-the-light

A month ago academics, church leaders, a rabbi and a retired diplomat spoke at an event in Lichfield Cathedral titled ‘Holding Palestine in the Light’.

The cathedral’s facebook page was instantly deluged with abusive allegations of antisemitism, some accusing it of holding a ‘hate fest’. Now the largest Jewish group in the UK that supports rights for Palestinians has partnered with Christian organisations and prominent individuals to commend the event organisers and uphold the right to advocate for Palestine.

They say in a statement:

“We find it disquieting that the Lichfield conference has been seized on by those who seek to silence criticism of Israeli policies.”

Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) spokesperson Naomi Wayne said: “It is not antisemitic to point out when a nation state – in this case Israel – breaks international law and deprives an occupied people of their basic human rights.”

The full text of the statement follows.

JEWS AND CHRISTIANS FOR FREE SPEECH ON ISRAEL AND PALESTINE

We, Christians and Jews who advocate for justice for Palestinians, would like to put on record our admiration for the Dean of Lichfield, with a group of local Christians from other churches, in hosting the festival ‘Holding Palestine in the Light’ in Lichfield Cathedral last month, despite opposition from some quarters.

Continue reading “Jews and Christians Join Forces to Counter Claims of Antisemitism”

Prominent academics among signatories to letter in support of Malia Bouattia

Reprinted from the Independent.

We, the undersigned, unequivocally support Malia Bouattia, the current NUS president and applaud her impeccable record fighting anti-Semitism, racism and her unwavering support for international students.

The Home Affairs Select Committee this week released its report into anti-Semitism. As well as gratuitously levelling attacks against twice elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, judgment is also reserved for Ms Bouattia. It claims that she has “failed to take sufficiently seriously the issue of anti-Semitism”.

Ms Bouattia has fought tirelessly against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia. To name but a few of her many achievements and commitments, she previously called for a review into institutional racism (including anti-Semitism) in the NUS, spearheaded solidarity initiatives for migrants and refugees in Calais, campaigned against the deportation of international students, worked on interfaith projects and safe spaces for faith students, co-led the largest opposition to the controversial PREVENT agenda; and all alongside her constant work with student unions across the country to dismantle racism.

The disparity between the report’s representations of Ms Bouattia compared with her actual record should be cause for real concern. The misuse and abuse of anti-Semitism belittle genuine threats against the Jewish community, primarily posed by a newly consolidated far-right in a post-Brexit landscape.

Dr Tanzil Chowdhury, University of Manchester
Professor Norman Finkelstein, Sakarya University
Emeritus Professor Moshe Machover, KCL
Deborah Maccoby, Executive, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Emeritus Professor Colin Green, UCL
Professor Haim Bresheeth, SOAS
Sir Geoffrey Bindman,QC
Michael Mansfield, QC, Mansfield Chambers
Mansfied Chambers, Barrister’s Chambers
Dr Elian Weizman, CBRL Kenyon Institute, East Jerusalem
Professor Mona Baker, University of Manchester
Professor Piers Robinson, University of Sheffield
Dr Paul Keleman, University of Manchester
Professor Richard Seaford, University of Exeter
Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College
Dr Shirin Hirsch, University of Glasgow
Professor Myriam Salama-Carr, University of Manchester
Professor Hakim Adi, University of Chichester
Professor Tim Jacoby, University of Manchester
Dr Virinder Kalra, University of Manchester
Professor Paul Blackledge, Leeds Beckett University
Professor James Dickins, University of Leeds
Professor Robbie Shilliam, QMUL
Professor Salman Sayyid, University of Leeds
Professor Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds
Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, Sheffield Hallam University
Professor Ray Bush, University of Leeds
Professor Laleh Khalili, SOAS
Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London
Dr Kasia Narkowicz, University of York
Dr Sarah Marusek, University of Johannesburg
Dr Joanna Gilmore, University of York
Dr Waqas Tufail, Leeds Beckett University
Dr Adam Elliot-Cooper, University of Warwick
Dr Nadine El-Enany, Birkbeck College
Dr Sadia Habib, Goldsmiths
Dr Mark Carrigan, University of Warwick
Dr Judit Druks, UCL
Dr Nathaniel Coleman, Birmingham City University
Dr Una Barr, Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Les Levidow, Open University
Yael Kahn, Israeli anti-apartheid activist
Michael Kalmanovitz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Haifa Zangana, Author & Journalist
Victoria Brittain, Author & Journalist
Liz Davies, barrister & Honorary Vice-President Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
Zita Holbourne, National Co-Chair BARAC UK
Lee Jasper, National Co-Chair BARAC UK
Peter Herbert, Society of Black Lawyers
Ronnie Barkan, Boycott from Within
Max Blumenthal, Journalist
Dr Jamie Woodcock, LSE
Dr Naaz Rashid, University of Sussex
Dr Nisha Kapoor, University of York
Dr Abdul B Shaikh, University of Leeds
Dr Katy Sian, University of York
Dr Rizwaan Sabir, Liverpool John Moores University
Dr Naomi Foyle, University of Chichester
Dr Hannah Jones, University of Warwick
Dr Paul Bagguley, University of Leeds
Dr James Eastwood, QMUL
Dr Sarah Keenan, Birkbeck University
Dr Leon Sealey-Huggins, University of Warwick
Dr Kitt Price, QMUL
Dr Lorenza Monaco, University of Johannesburg
Dr Hannah Bargawi, SOAS
Dr Sadhvi Dar, QMUL
Dr Kerem Nisancioglu, SOAS
Dr Owen Miller, SOAS
Dr Paul Waley, University of Leeds
Dr Feyzi Ismail, SOAS
Dr Yasmeen Narayan, Birkbeck University
Dr. Jamil Sherif, Muslim Council of Britain
Dr William Ackah, Birkbeck University
Dr Humaira Saeed, Nottingham Trent University
Deyika Nzeribe, Green Party Manchester Mayoral Candidate
Neema Begum, PhD Candidate, University of Bristol
Mohammed Kasbar, PhD Candidate, QMUL
Ed Yates, PhD Candidate
Cecil Sagoe, PhD Candidate, UCL
Tom Cowan, PhD Candidate, KCL
David Wearing, PhD Candidate, SOAS
Noor Al-Sharif, PhD Candidate, McGill University
Sai Englert, PhD Candidate, SOAS
Altheia Jones-Lecointe, PhD Candidate
Hengameh Ziai, PhD Candidate, Columbia University
Lisa Tilley, PhD Candidate, University of Warwick
Jamie Stern-Weiner, PhD Candidate, University of Oxford Continue reading “Prominent academics among signatories to letter in support of Malia Bouattia”

Defining Racism, Antisemitism, Zionism While Preserving Freedom of Speech

On the issue of needing a definition of antisemitism the Home Affairs Commons Select Committee (HACSC) recent report asserts that: “… defining the parameters of antisemitism was central to the question…”
The HACSC goes on to adopt what is essentially the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘working definition’. It is as follows:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”

The report discusses some criticisms of this definition including its unrecognised status and its attempts to extend the applicability of the term beyond the clearly limiting parameters of pure racism. If it be accepted that a racist statement is always necessarily general form of:
ALL ‘race’ ARE ‘pejorative’
We can see the IHRA definition of antisemitism attempts deviate this structure by claiming:

“ALL ‘Jews’ ARE ‘pejorative’ AND may be directed toward things of ‘Jewish nature’ = antisemitism”

The definitional extension applied here would seem to logically make proving an antisemitic claim more difficult to demonstrate. However, in the court of public opinion and the examples of antisemitism given by the IHRA, the crucial importance of the first clause of this definition and the ambiguity introduced by ‘may’ seems to completely ignored. This renders the effective definition to be perceived as:

“’pejorative’ directed toward things felt to be of ‘Jewish nature’ = antisemitism”

The HACSC recognises that allowing for subjective perception of antisemitism is not a tenable position when it says:

“for a perpetrator to be prosecuted for a criminal offence that was motivated or aggravated by antisemitism, requires more than just the victim’s perception that it was antisemitic.”

The need for objectivity is stress in the statement:

“It also requires evidence, and it requires that someone other than the victim makes an objective interpretation of that evidence.”

The report again goes on to justify its need for a clear definition:

“The difficulty of making such a determination in the face of conflicting interpretations underlines the importance of establishing an agreed definition of antisemitism.”

This can be seen as an additional problem to the ambiguity introduced into the IHRA working definition by the use of the word ‘may’.

Rather than deal with the structural problems with this definition and the examples that are provided the HACSC proposes the following particular exceptions:

  1. It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.
  2. It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

The methodology of providing a loose ‘working definition’ and then seeking to restrict that definition by listing exceptions is fundamentally flawed. In this instance the HACSC is doubly flawed because it attempts to define antisemitism circularly in terms of antisemitism. The suggested modifications in no way bear on the general issue of subjectivity in interpreting antisemitic statements.

This is subsequent borne out by the way the HACSC report completely acknowledges the term ‘Zionism’ as a political concept worthy of discussion and yet goes on to be completely persuaded by personal testimonies alone that the word ‘Zionist’, and by extension its contraction ‘Zio’, has such “toxicity” that it can automatically be assumed to antisemitic. The report avoids explicitly falling into this fallacy, but by subsequently siding with the aggrieved John Mann MP at the hostility and “vilification” he received, the conclusion can be in no doubt.

The report singularly fails to remain objective by making this arbitrary determination. The report fails to take account of the fundamental right to freedom of speech. This right cannot be arbitrarily interfered with. Thus the HACSC is legally duty bound to provide a suitable and necessary principle that would differentiate the term of abuse, of say, “Trot”, as directed toward left wing members of the labour party with that of ‘Zio’ for the political backing of Israeli policy.

The Select Committee report highlights the angry tweets received by John Mann MP and seems to imply the obviousness of their antisemitic guilt. At least half of those many texts have no discernible racist element by lack of generality. No effort is made to show how any of the tweets are in fact antisemitic in terms of the proposed definition. Merely presenting them in their hostility is hoped to bring your nodding acquiescence along, under an already prejudiced definition. The reader is not reminded of the context of these written messages in which Mr Mann himself appeared to be on the verge of physically assaulting Ken Livingstone in the most insane political moment I can think of in recent times.

The Chair of the HACSC report, the conservative’s Mr Loughton MP, attempts to mock Baroness Chakrabarti’s report for describing some antisemitic complaints as “unhappy incidents” and yet his report cites Mr Mann as a victim of vilification “after his attempts to challenge Ken Livingstone’s comments”. Comments which have not been found to be antisemitic at the time of writing and not likely to in this author’s opinion. On the contrary it would seem a likely justice if Mr Livingstone was to prosecute Mr Mann for his gross inappropriate actions and false accusations. The Baroness was quite right to defend her own report’s impartiality in not delving into ongoing investigations and taking sides. Words Mr Loughton ought to let sink in. The report is an abuse of process and should bring professional sanction because of its clear lack of impartiality. This would go some way to safeguarding future parliamentary Select Committee reports.

John Mann ambushes Ken Livngstone
John Mann ambushing Ken Livingstone

To make my point concrete I adduce the first of the example tweets cited in the report regarding the John Mann incident:
“@johnmannmp why don’t you admit you’re a Zionist wh*re then ??”
Angry, hostile and offensive? Certainly. Racist? Absolutely not, and by extension not antisemitic. I don’t admire or even like the person who sent this message, I don’t know him or her, it might be a small piece of evidence that he or she might be a despicable person. But equally it might not be such evidence. When you try to arbitrarily restrict human freedoms, many will take those liberties even more, as a ‘screw you’ if you like, in essence echoing the sentiments of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said:

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”

It seems a convenience for this MP and to other vested interests to show the political language of so many in such a tainted ‘working’ definition.

Note:
Racist and Religious Crime – CPS Guidance

Justin Hesford

Labour Jews say antisemitism inquiry reporting today must defend freedom to debate Israel-Palestine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Labour Jews say antisemitism inquiry reporting today must defend freedom to debate Israel-Palestine

  • Free speech is at risk from the charge that opposition to Zionism is antisemitic
  • Pro-Israel Jewish organisations do not represent all Jews
  • Jewish scholars say supporting Palestine is not anti-Jewish
  • Antisemitism must be confronted alongside Islamophobia and other forms of racism
  • False allegations are being used as a weapon against Corbyn supporters

June 30 – Recommendations from an inquiry set up following accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are due to be made public today. Jewish party members and supporters have told the inquiry that pro-Israel lobbyists are threatening freedom of speech by making criticism of Israel a “thought crime”.

Free Speech on Israel (FSOI), a Jewish-led network of labour, green and trade union activists, was set up in April to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as anti-Jewish.

“It is imperative that criticism of Israel and indeed the Zionist project do not become thought crimes,” said Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, lead author of the FSOI submission to the inquiry, which is due to report at the end of June.

He said the inquiry, headed by former Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, “is an opportunity to put to rest the moral panic that has been whipped up by some opponents of Corbyn’s Labour Party and to ensure that freedom of speech on an important and contentious issue is not undermined.”

The FSOI submission states that pro-Israel bodies such as the Board of Deputies (BoD) of British Jews, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) do not represent the entire Jewish community as they claim.

The network disputes those organisations’ assertion that Zionism – the political ideology underpinning the Israeli state – is intrinsic to Judaism and Jewish identity.

Other Jewish organisations making similar arguments in submissions to the inquiry include Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) and the International  Jewish Antizionist Network (IJAN), as well as an ad hoc group of 97 Jewish members of the Labour party who have proposed creation of a new, inclusive Jewish Labour organization.

For more information contact:
info@freespeechonisrael.org.uk

NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Here are the main points made by Free Speech on Israel in its submission to the Chakrabarti inquiry. We also draw on a submission proposing formation of a new inclusive Jewish Labour organization, as well as submissions from the Jewish Socialists’ Group, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the International Jewish Antizionist Network-UK, and many individuals. All can be viewed here

1.      Antisemitism is Hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which they are perceived as something other than what they are,” according to a widely accepted definition from Dr Brian Klug, an authority on the subject. Refs: FSOI submission p.5 Defining antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.11 Defining Antisemitism
2.      Robust criticism of the Israeli state and its founding ideology, even if expressed in ways upsetting to some Zionists, does not amount to antisemitism. Alleging that it does threatens free speech on the Israel-Palestine question. Refs: FSOI submission p.1 Free Speech; IJV submission p.1-3 Executive Summary
3.      Suggesting that all Jews share one ideology – Zionism – and are uniformly loyal to the State of Israel is itself antisemitic. Not all Jews are Zionists, many Zionists are not Jews, pro-Israel organisations do not represent all Jews. Refs: FSOI submission p.3 Jews in Britain, p.5 Antisemitism and AntiZionism; JSG submission p2 Zionism –contested political ideology, not a religious imperative; p.4 Antisemitism and Antizionism; p.6 Voices and representation within Britain’s Jewish community
4.      Virtually all of the complaints directed at the Labour Party are about attitudes to Israel, not about Jews. We are seeing a purge of pro-Palestine activists who are supporters of democratically elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. Refs: FSOI submission p.4 The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party; IJAN-UK submission p.1; JSG submission p.8/9 Evaluating charges of antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.4 Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party
5.      Antisemitism is one among many forms of prejudice that must be fought. It is less virulent today than the Islamophobia and hatred of migrants and Roma people promoted by the Far Right and made respectable by some mainstream politicians. Refs: JSG Submission p.4 Antisemitism in Britain; IJAN-UK submission p.2
6.      The so-called EUMC (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia) definition of antisemitism, promoted by the BoD, JLM, Zionist Federation, Campaign against Antisemitism and other pro-Israel lobbyists, has never been adopted by any official EU body. Refs: FSOI submission p.6 Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism; JfJfP submission p.6/7 Related ‘framing’ issues
7.      Zionism is responsible for Palestinian dispossession over several generations. Almost every Palestinian is anti-Zionist for entirely understandable reasons. There is nothing antisemitic about this. Refs: FSOI submission p.2 Context; JSG submission p.5; IJV submission p.8 The New Antisemitism
8.      If expressions of support for Palestine unintentionally stray into antisemitic territory, the answer is education, not expulsion. Refs: JSG submission p.5 & p.8 Evaluating charges of antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.15/16 Judaism and Zionism; JfJfP submission p.14 Providing Guidelines
9.      The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) – an openly Zionist organization – is not a fit body to educate others on antisemitism. Its proposed changes to party rules make false charges of antisemitism more likely, disregard victims of real antisemitism, and spread fear of being accused of antisemitism, stifling debate about Israel-Palestine. Refs:FSOI submission p.10 False allegations of antisemitism; Proposal for a new, inclusive Jewish Labour organisation; JSG submission p.8.
10.   It is not sufficient for someone Jewish to say they are offended by a statement for it to be judged antisemitic. This is a distortion of guidance from the Macpherson inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence.  A victim’s perception must be taken into account when investigating an alleged hate crime, but it cannot determine in advance, without reference to objective criteria, that a hate crime was committed. Refs: FSOI submission p.12 The Macpherson Report; JfJfP submission p.12 The Macpherson Principle

11.   Allegations of antisemitism cannot be used to ban certain political arguments about the nature or origins of the state of Israel, or the tactics – such as boycott – that Palestinians choose to campaign for an end to the injustices committed against them. Refs: FSOI submission p.9 Boycott and ‘singling out’ as hate speech; JfJfP submission p.14 Providing Guidelines