The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), rightly supports Palestinians facing daily racism and every repressive and deliberately humiliating facet of occupation. It supports the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the land from which they were ethnically cleansed. It has occasionally had to deal with so-called supporters who have joined the organisation as a cover for their antisemitic worldview. And it has acted against them.
Just coincidentally, in the run-up to a national Palestine demonstration this weekend (assembling at Portland Place 12 noon), that bastion of anti-racism, the Evening Standard, has investigated the output of PSC’s local branches and claims to have uncovered antisemitism expressed by some members or supporters of PSC.
On the face of it some of these claims are regrettably true, others are instead crudely expressed opposition to Zionism/Israeli repression rather than antisemitism. But as regards the real cases it would have been better if they had been challenged and dealt with when they occurred. Hopefully they will be dealt with now.
Afif Safieh, the PLO representative in London during the 1990s, who set about building close relations with Jewish supporters of human rights, always condemned antisemitism in the clearest terms, and repeatedly told Palestinians and their supporters that antisemites are no friends of the Palestinians or the Jews. PSC would be well advised to act decisively, as it has done in the past, against individuals trying to piggy-back their just struggle for antisemitic purposes.
The Board of Deputies, are nothing if not predictable. As well as condemning PSC, they are calling on Jeremy Corbyn to dissociate himself from the organisation. Corbyn has supported PSC for decades precisely because of their opposition to racism and because of their advocacy of human rights and equality. He supports PSC for the very same reasons that his Conservative political opponents, with their longstanding record of friendship with racist regimes, largely do not support Palestinians, any more than they supported black victims of South African apartheid.
As for the Board of Deputies, well, we know they are anti-racists… (the sentence is not finished yet)… when it suits them. They will condemn most antisemitism, but not the institutional racism in Israel against Ethiopian and Mizrachi Jews. They say nothing when Netanyahu-supporters here tell left-wing Jews to “go back to Auschwitz” or call them “kapos”. They treat with kid-gloves the antisemitism expressed by Netanyahu’s closest allies in central and Eastern Europe.
They will condemn Islamophobia in British society but will not go as far as supporting Muslim organisations who have rightly called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory Party. They will tread ever so carefully when it comes to questioning the Tory Party’s real and verifiable links and alliances with right wing and far right antisemitic parties in Europe, and often choose to say nothing at all.
And who can forget how the Board’s previous president, Jonathan Arkush, rushed to try and be first to congratulate Donald Trump on becoming US President, despite his open Islamophobia, anti-Mexican racism, anti-refugee rhetoric and actions, a lifetime of hanging out with white supremacists and his frequent use of the White Power hand signal.
Many Jews will be joining the march on Saturday for Palestinian rights too, or expressing solidarity with the marchers – not because they are antisemites – but because for them, racism is absolutely indivisible. Any kind of racism is wrong, whether expressed against Jews or any minorities, including those who profess to support progressive causes. It is also wrong when it is expressed by the Israeli Government against Palestinians through the Apartheid Jewish Nation State law, or in the repeated acts of incitement and violence by settlers against Palestinians.
Do take a minute to recall who was the guest of honour in Israel on the day that the execrable Nation State law was passed – the antisemitic and Islamophobic Prime Minister of Hungary, Victor Orban,. And he will be Donald Trump’s guest next Monday. Despite Pittsburgh, despite the synagogue shooting in San Diego, both carried out by far right white supremacists, despite Trump and Orban’s shared conspiracy theories about the Hungarian Jew George Soros, don’t hold your breath waiting for the Board of Deputies to speak out.