PalExpo organisers resist hate campaign

Richard Kuper

Palestine Expo 2017 is the largest social, cultural and entertainment event on Palestine ever to take place in Europe. It runs on 8th and 9th July at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London. Food, live entertainment, academic discussion, shopping, photographic exhibitions and much, much more are on offer.

PalExpo leaflets
PalExpo leaflets

Too much, it seems for some. A hate campaign has been launched on social media maliciously accusing the organisers of having terrorist links in an effort to stop the celebration/exhibition in its tracks. Unjustified legal action, lawfare, has been launched by RHF Solicitors in Manchester representing Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW). They are trying to pressure the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre into cancelling the event. They have manufactured accusations against two of the organisers of PalExpo, Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), claiming they have clear terrorist links and support

Lawfare letter from RHF solicitors
Lawfare letter from RHF solicitors attacking PalExpo

“Jew Hate across the UK”. The solicitor’s letter alleges that “the recurring anti-Semitic themes promoted by the above groups is deliberately intended to intimidate and discriminate against Jews.” It continues: “Our client is certain that this event is a front for Jew hate and that the main groups (Friends of Alaqsa & Palestine Solidarity Campaign) are organisations promoting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in relation to Israel, a known anti-Semitic movement.”

Both FOA and PSC have robustly rejected these absurd allegations. In an appeal for support, FOA has said in a statement on 2nd June:

“FOA and our Chairman, Ismail Patel, have been slandered and defamed by JHRW who accuse us of spreading  ‘Jew hate’ because we support Boycott Divestment and Sanction of Israel. The promotion of BDS is supporting freedom of Palestinians and has nothing to do with being anti-Semitic!

They have also outrageously claimed that Palestine Expo should not be allowed to take place so close to Westminster, in a disgraceful attempt to exploit the recent horrific Westminster incident for their own gain. The malicious attack is a tactic to deter supporters of Palestine from attending.”

PSC Director Ben Jamal, cited in an article by Yvonne Ridley, called the allegations “false and disturbing” and explained:

“Palestine Expo will be a celebration of the rich Palestinian culture, with traditional dancing, food, artisan goods, art exhibits, and children’s entertainment alongside talks on the current political situation… We are sure that reasonable people have no issue with any national group celebrating their heritage.”

The two organisations are seeking legal redress against these slanders. They urge everyone to show their support for PalExpo by going along on 8th or 9th July! You can book tickets in advance here.

Further reading:

Ben White, “Israel and friends battle the boycott in Britain” Middle East Monitor, 1 March 2016

Yvonne Ridley, “An online hate campaign is trying to get a Palestinian cultural festival cancelled”,  Middle East Monitor, 26 May 2017

Far-right Islamophobes unite with pro-Israel lobbyists in European Parliament antisemitism debate

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

A debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday (May 31) exposed pro-Israel lobbyists as the natural allies of far-right Islamophobes supporting a definition of antisemitism designed to defend the state of Israel.

Ostensibly about a motion on “Combating Antisemitism”, the discussion in fact revolved around one clause calling for institutions of the EU and all member states to adopt the controversial “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism.”

This document, based on an earlier “working definition” abandoned by the now defunct EU monitoring centre on racism and xenophobia (EUMC), broadens the widely understood concept of antisemitism as hostility towards Jews, to include criticism of Israel.

In Thursday’s vote, 101 MEPs voted against its inclusion in the motion, but 479 voted in favour while 47 abstained. The motion including the contentious clause was passed.

Continue reading “Far-right Islamophobes unite with pro-Israel lobbyists in European Parliament antisemitism debate”

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism

Press Release from Free Speech on Israel and BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine)

for immediate release – 29th May 2017

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism

Support for Palestinian professor denied entry to Israel

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish-led organisation which defends the right to criticise Israel, and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, which campaigns for academic and cultural boycott of Israel, today welcomed the vote by the University and College Union (UCU) to reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Motion 57, submitted by UCU branches at the University of Leeds, Goldsmiths, and the University of Brighton, along with two strengthening amendments from Queen’s University Belfast and London Retired Members Branch, was carried overwhelmingly in the closing minutes of UCU’s annual Congress in Brighton.  Only one delegate spoke against the motion.

UCU Congress delegates standing up to racism
UCU Congress delegates standing up to racism

UCU had previously, in 2011, rejected the “Working Definition of Antisemitism” of the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).  The IHRA definition strongly resembles the EUMC version.  Today’s vote strengthens UCU’s existing policy. Continue reading “UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism”

If you thought the IHRA (mis)definition was bad enough…

… the version that Luke Akehurst is peddling is even worse

Mike Cushman

Luke Akehurst of ‘We Believe in Israel’ has been circulating an amended version of the IHRA definition of antisemitism to Local Authorities and encouraging them to adopt it. A letter sent by Akehurst, former Labour Leader of Hackney Council and failed NEC candidate, has been urging councils to pass a motion that subtly, but significantly, toughens the suppression of pro-Palestinian voices. Worse it tries to pass off this new version as the same as the original. The letter has been circulated in the name of a previously unknown front organisation ‘Local Government Friends of Israel’.

The IHRA definition is in two parts: a flawed core definition and a series of exemplars that link the definition to criticism of Israel. The IHRA definition describes the exemplars as:

“Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:”

Akehurst's motion to intensify the IHRA definition
Akehurst’s motion to intensify the IHRA definition

Akehurst’s model motion amends this to:

“The guidelines highlight manifestations of antisemitism as including:”

This makes criticism of Israel such as “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” an absolute offence; regardless of whether there is any evidence of antisemitic intent.

Continue reading “If you thought the IHRA (mis)definition was bad enough…”

Lib Dem leader Farron ducks questions over sacking of David Ward

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi.

Farron ducks questions as David Ward fights to clear his name

On April 26, Liberal Democrat party leader Tim Farron caved into McCarthy-style pressure to dump one of his own parliamentary candidates, former Bradford East MP David Ward, who had been unjustly accused of antisemitism.

Ward is fighting to clear his name and has said he will stand as an independent candidate in the forthcoming general election.

The day after the sacking, I emailed Mr Farron offering to introduce him to Jews who could explain the widespread misuse of politically motivated antisemitism allegations. His reply, received on May 2, made no reference to any of my discussion points and was in fact a carbon copy of the reply he sent to others who had protested at the sacking of Mr Ward.

In a follow-up email, I challenged Mr Farron to justify the vacuous arguments in his message point by point. Having received no response, I am publishing our correspondence for the edification of students of the political art of evasion.

To tim.farron@libdems.org.uk

April 27, 2017

Dear Mr Farron,

I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked (when people discover that I am Jewish) questions along the lines of: “How is it possible that the Jews, who suffered such terrible persecution during the Holocaust, could go on to commit atrocities against Palestinians in the state of Israel, and continue to do so in the West Bank and Gaza?”

I recognise these questions for what they are – regretful expressions of bafflement at a seemingly inexplicable state of affairs. They are questions which usually lead to a discussion about the history of Israel and Palestine, during which I invariably have the opportunity to explain that despite the claims of the state of Israel to represent “the Jews”, actually many of us do not identify with Israel and resent the assumption that we all share its ideology.

If the people making comments like the one in my first paragraph above, which is almost word for word what David Ward wrote on his website in 2013, express any hostility to Jewish people or give any hint of harbouring hateful feelings against us, I have no hesitation in chastising them for their antisemitism. But there is nothing in such comments of themselves that even hints at hatred of Jews – which is what antisemitism is. Nor is it antisemitic to refer to Israel as an apartheid state. It’s controversial, yes, and it makes some people very cross, but it is decidedly not an expression of hatred of Jews.

I am, quite frankly, horrified that you have bowed to pressure from apologists for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, such as Eric Pickles, in blocking David Ward’s candidacy.

If you have been influenced by the government’s enthusiasm for a new definition of antisemitism which deliberately conflates it with criticism of Israel and Zionism, then I recommend reading a piece on the subject by Sir Stephen Sedley, a distinguished judge, himself Jewish, in the latest London Review of Books. Sir Stephen gives short shrift to the definition so ardently embraced by Pickles and Theresa May, warning that attempting to act upon it could result in legal suits for denial of free speech.

Once you’ve read it perhaps we could meet and you could explain to me why you have departed from Nick Clegg’s view that what David Ward said was neither racist or antisemitic.

Seriously, I would like to propose a discussion between you and other parliamentary colleagues, and some of my many Jewish friends who share Sedley’s understanding. We are on dangerous ground when we allow proponents of a partisan political (in this case pro-Israeli) stance to determine what may and may not be spoken about. Freedom of expression is seriously at risk here and you, as a Liberal Democrat, should be defending it, not conniving in its demise.

I look forward with interest to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

 

From: tim.farron.mp@parliament.uk

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 4:02 PM

Subject: RE: David Ward and antisemitism

Dear Ms Wimborne-Idrissi,

Recently David Ward was removed as the Liberal Democrat candidate in Bradford East.

Despite assurances to the contrary, David has consistently made remarks and statements which have been considered as inflammatory by people on both sides of this contentious debate.

I have been clear that I believe in a politics that is open, tolerant and united.

I am also clear that this is part of a pattern of behaviour that is not consistent with those values, and therefore David has lost the right to seek to represent our party in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Farron, MP

Leader of the Liberal Democrats

 

To: tim.farron@libdems.org.uk

Date: 4 May 2017 at 00:17:19 BST

Subject: David Ward and antisemitism – your disappointing response to my detailed concerns

Dear Mr Farron,

I am deeply disappointed with your formulaic response to my detailed and personal concerns about the removal of David Ward as a candidate.

I addressed you sincerely as a Jewish human rights activist who is increasingly alarmed at the alacrity with which people in positions of authority, such as yourself, cave in to demands to deny freedom of expression to supporters of justice for Palestine. You sent me in return the same letter that I have seen on social media, posted by other people who wrote you entirely different messages.

I ask you now to do me the courtesy of responding specifically to my questions.

1.You talk about Mr Ward “consistently” making certain remarks and statements. But the abuse hurled at him is based almost exclusively on deliberate distortions (as I explained in my letter) of two comments made in 2013, neither of which deserve to be labeled antisemitic. Can you explain why you believe those remarks to justify exclusion from your party’s list of parliamentary candidates? And I do not mean why you believe these remarks are upsetting to a certain politically motivated group in society. I mean – what is fundamentally wrong with the things that he said? On what grounds do you discount the arguments that I put to you about this?

2.You assert that his remarks “have been considered as inflammatory by people on both sides of this contentious debate.” I am at a loss to understand what you mean by this. Those who have publicly denounced him are all very clearly on one side of the Palestine/Israel issue. For those of us on the other side, who are struggling to defend our right to speak in support of the Palestinians, it is the arguments of those who denounce us as antisemites that are inflammatory. It is they, not David Ward, whose views are “considered as inflammatory” by us. On what grounds do you suggest that David Ward has inflamed opinion “on both sides?” Who, apart from those who wish to defend Israel from criticism, has been “inflamed” by David Ward’s words?

3.You assert your belief in “a politics that is open, tolerant and united” and allege that David Ward’s behaviour is inconsistent with those values. Can you show me any evidence of your openness and tolerance towards people campaigning for human rights of Palestinians? In what way does forcing out a candidate supported by his local party, solely because of his views on one contentious area of politics, serve to bring about unity?

I reiterate my offer to introduce you to other Jews who can help you and your colleagues understand the complexities of this issue, explained in depth at the launch on March 27 in the House of Lords of an authoritative legal opinion about the definition of antisemitism mistakenly adopted by the government and some other bodies.

I have so far kept this correspondence private but I will feel obliged to make it public if you are unable to satisfy me on the above points. I look forward to hearing from you in the coming week.

Sincerely,

Naomi Wimborne Idrissi

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Mike Cushman talk about the FSOI journey

Film maker Jon Pullman interviewed Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Mike Cushman to produce this video on the FSOI journey to playing a vital role in defending the space for action in support of Palestinian Rights.

The Orwellian defenestration of David Ward

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

The Orwellian defenestration of David Ward

It was inevitable that antisemitism smears would be deployed against supporters of Palestine at some point during #GE17. Even so it was a surprise to hear Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat party leader, cornered by pro-Israel lobbyist Eric Pickles in the House of Commons on Wednesday, appeasing the witch hunters by declaring that one of his own parliamentary candidates would be banned from standing.

The language used to denounce David Ward, former Lib Dem MP for Bradford East, as in so many of the cases we have seen in the Labour Party, the National Union of Students and elsewhere, takes us deep into Orwellian territory.

David Ward
David Ward

While Ward could probably sue the Jewish News for calling him “the Israel-hating, Jew-baiting former MP David Ward”, other media have been less hysterical but equally dishonest. Continue reading “The Orwellian defenestration of David Ward”

Walter Wolfgang speaks about fake accusations against Ken Livingstone

Walter Wolfgang, Former member of Labour NEC, speaks about fake accusations against Ken Livingstone

 

Walter Wolfgang, a 93 year-old survivor of the Holocaust, speaks of his deep regret after the Labour Party National Compliance Committee finds Ken Livingstone guilty of putting the party into disrepute by his comments about specific acts of collaboration between the Nazi regime and Zionist organisations during the 1930s.

see also

 

 

In Defense of Ken Livingstone

By FSOI Vice-Chair Jonathan Rosenhead.

Republished from Haaretz.

Ken Livingstone, enfant terrible of the British political left, was arraigned before a Labour Party tribunal last week for things he said in a radio interview in April last year. (He has been suspended from membership since that time.) The outcome of the hearing has produced a mighty uproar.

The affair has its origins in a surge of accusations of anti-Semitism against prominent Labour Party members in the early months of 2016. One casualty had been Labour MP Naz Shah, who at the time of the 2014 conflict in Gaza had tweeted extensively and not wisely. (She was then not yet an MP.) Livingstone rode in to her defense, and it was an interview with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio that led to the case against him.

One of Shah’s re-tweets had been a quote from Martin Luther King: “Remember that everything that Hitler did in Germany was legal.” Feltz asked Livingstone a question about Hitler, seemingly to pick up this point, but he misunderstood the thrust and responded with some views on Hitler’s interactions with European Zionist leaders in the 1930s, which he had written about decades earlier. This response turned out to be a gratuitous own goal, with escalating demands that he be expelled –which peaked last week when the Labour Party tribunal failed to sack him, but ‘only’ extended his suspension.

It is a shame that Colin Shindler gave such a one-dimensional account of the Jewish community component of this furor. Shindler paints a picture of a British Jewish population all but united behind Israel and against Livingstone, except for a few ”marginal” and “highly unrepresentative” types. Like me.

I need to declare an interest. Although my previous direct contact with Livingstone was limited to a conversation while walking down two flights of stairs after a public meeting some years ago, I was one of five Jewish Labour Party members who gave evidence for the defense at Ken’s hearing a week ago. We testified in particular on the allegation that his remarks had been anti-Semitic. The oldest of us had got out of Germany as a child in 1937, with his parents lucky enough to make it two years later. My own back story is less dramatic. I grew up in a thoroughly Zionist family in Liverpool. I spent the summer of 1956 in Israel on the Jewish Agency’s Summer Institute project. I celebrated without any doubts Israel’s military victories from 1948 through to 1967. Many others have since then, like me, been forced by Israel’s continuing treatment of the Palestinians to rethink and regret our former position.

It is true as Shindler says that the great majority of us (around 90 percent, according to a reputable 2015 survey) express some degree of attachment to Israel. Indeed I do myself. However what he glosses over is that more than 40 percent of respondents, when specifically asked, declined to describe themselves as Zionists. Those who self-describe as Zionist have actually decreased from 72 percent to 59 percent in just five years. My own subjective experience is that of those who still do identify as Zionists a substantial proportion express criticisms, some verging on disillusion, with the actual policies of successive Israeli governments.

It gets worse. What the survey calls “dovishness” increases the younger you are, and the more education you have. Among under-30s, the percentage who say they would support sanctions against Israel if they thought it would get Israel to negotiate for real with the Palestinians rises to 41%.

It is not only Shindler who paints a picture of a united Jewish community “up in arms” because the “anti-Semite” Livingstone has not been expelled. On the day of his non-expulsion Haaretz reported the Jewish Leadership Council as blasting the Labour Party. An article by Daniella Peled quoted incandescent condemnation by the Community Security Trust, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Holocaust Education Trust. The UK’s Jewish communal organizations have indeed been jumping up and down and making a lot of noise, in unison. But this apparent unanimity is a construct.

These organizations effectively blanket out any coverage of this dissident, alternative Jewish perspective. It is as if the Jewish organizations which take a skeptical or downright critical view of Israel – Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jewish Socialist Group and others – do not exist.

So what did Livingstone say that makes his expulsion so compulsive? He said, in his now infamous radio interview, that when Hitler became chancellor “his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism…” This Transfer (Ha’avarah) Agreement is, perhaps unfortunately, solidly based in fact –  and many more people probably know that now than did before Livingstone’s gratuitous history lesson. The agreement was based on a unity of purpose (but not of motivation) between the Nazi regime and a range of European Zionist organizations, which lasted through to 1937. The Nazis wanted Jews out of Germany, and Zionists wanted Jews to settle Palestine. As a quid pro quo for the arrangement Zionists called off the economic boycott of Germany and gave other assistance to the faltering German economy.

How could this statement of facts be seen as anti-Semitic? One neat solution found by Livingstone’s enemies was to misquote it, either as “Hitler and the Zionists collaborated”; or even as “Hitler was a Zionist.” The host on a BBC radio program swore blind to me that Livingstone had said just that.

Quoting historical facts can hardly be anti-Semitic, which is presumably why the Labour Party didn’t even charge him with it. The allegation was, rather, of “bringing the Party into disrepute” – a nicely vague and plausible accusation, for which he received a two-year suspension. No penalty was imposed on all those MPs and other Labour worthies from the right of the Party who seemingly thought they might be able to get rid of one of the Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s most effective supporters. They brought the party into disrepute but, of course, were not charged.

There are multiple casualties in all this. Foremost there is the truth, bent and misused for partisan purposes. Second, the Labour Party, brought even lower in popular esteem by the continuing disloyal attempts to unseat a leader with a radical mandate – and one who supports the Palestinian cause. Third, the fight against anti-Semitism. Until recently there was no doubt about what the concept meant, and that it was anathema to all but an unsavory fringe. Individuals and organizations who think that it can be raised into both a shield against criticisms of Israel, and a weapon for taking back control of the Labour Party, are trying to politicize the notion of anti-Semitism. Only the real anti-Semites will benefit from the resulting confusion.

145 Labour Party members say ‘I am Jackie Walker’

Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party

We can’t add more names as the letter has been submitted to Corbyn, but do indicate your support in a comment

We may not be Kirk Douglas but we do say 'I am Jackie Walker'
We may not be Kirk Douglas but we do say ‘I am Jackie Walker’

Dear Jeremy,

We are writing to you as members of the Labour Party. We are a predominantly Jewish group and are writing to ask you to review your behaviour on the question of Israel/Palestine. We understand that amongst reasons given by the Labour Party for claiming that Jackie Walker, the ex-Deputy Chair of Momentum, is antisemitic, the following are included:

  1. Regularly posting on Israel
  2. Describing Israel as a racist state
  3. A pattern of behaviour that causes offence to some members
  4. Claiming that there is an antisemitism witch-hunt
  5. Claiming that there is Israeli involvement in British politics
  6. Saying the Right of the party is using this witch-hunt for political purposes
  7. Saying adoption of IHRA definition of antisemitism is an attempt to outlaw criticism of Israel and to silence pro-Palestinian voices

We would therefore like to let you know that we are too are ‘guilty’ of such charges, not because we are antisemitic but because we believe these to be reasonable statements, accurately describing Israel’s policies and actions. Continue reading “145 Labour Party members say ‘I am Jackie Walker’”