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Ben White addresses an HPSC meeting at White Rock Hotel in 2016. On this occasion too the owner received received demands from the Israel lobby to cancel the event (photo: HPSC).

Ben White addresses an HPSC meeting at White Rock Hotel in 2016. On this occasion too the owner received demands from the Israel lobby to cancel the event (photo: HPSC).

Israel lobby launches malicious attack on Hastings PSC event

When Hastings Palestine Solidarity Campaign planned a public meeting with Dr Jenny Tonge on Everyday Life in Apartheid Israel, they arranged to hold the event at the White Rock Hotel. But the hotel found itself the victim of a malicious attack by the pro Israel lobby, forcing a switch of venue, as HPSC’s Laurie Holden explains. 

There’s always been a lively atmosphere in Hastings when it comes to political debate and discussion. Meetings take place featuring a wide range of political persuasions, along with a broad spectrum of single-issue subjects. But all this was put under threat in December. A concerted attack was made to stop a meeting taking place in Hastings, with an attempt to damage a local business in the process. If this were not disturbing enough, we found that none of the perpetrators were even from this area.

STOP PRESS THURS 24 JANUARY The meeting had been moved to Central Hall, but due to continuing online attacks, has had to be moved again. Anyone wanting to attend is asked to contact HPSC via their FB page. Alternatively turn up at Central Hall and you will be redirected. The meeting will now start at 7.15pm.

The local branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign was formed just five years ago. In that time we have organised a wide range of events: film shows, information stalls, fund-raising, street theatre; even a theatrical production at St Mary in the Castle with the Freedom Theatre of Jenin, from occupied Palestine. Probably our best known events are our public meetings. We’ve had a range of speakers, from the UK, and from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. Our next meeting was due to be at the White Rock Hotel with Dr Jenny Tonge.

Designed to damage the business

Whenever we have meetings, we find that the venue usually gets emails from the Israel lobby demanding that they be cancelled. How dare we support justice for the Palestinians! But this time, the campaign went into overdrive. Starting Christmas Day, continuing into Boxing Day, there was a concerted attack directed at the venue.

The young receptionist on duty started receiving abusive phone calls. This was accompanied by unpleasant Facebook messages and emails. An online petition was set up calling for the cancellation of the meeting; this included language that we believe to be libellous.

On top of this, there was a concerted effort to post negative online reviews, knocking the hotel’s Facebook star rating down to 2.6. Many of these comments were hateful and abusive. The proprietor was concerned that the hotel’s TripAdvisor ratings would also suffer. This attack was obviously designed to damage the business. Out of respect to the business and its owner, a mutual decision was made to find another meeting place.

The proprietor is a highly respected local businessman who has done a lot for the local community. He is a firm believer in freedom of speech. Many local community groups use the White Rock Hotel for meetings, such as groups from the environment and women’s movements.

Growing resentment

As the news of this attack is getting out, there has been growing resentment, even anger, directed at the perpetrators. This is being seen as an assault against the local community. An analysis of the Facebook review campaign shows that there were no posts from the immediate area, none from Sussex or Kent. Most were from abroad, including 18% from Israel.

So we had a case of people from Tel Aviv, Haifa, New York, Washington telling the people of Hastings what we can and cannot do. We’re finding that there is a growing backlash against the Israel lobby because of this.

Israel and its supporters are clearly prepared to play dirty. Pro-Israel groups have made a habit of trying to close down Palestine solidarity events by putting pressure on venue owners. In the last two-three years, meetings have been cancelled at Nottingham, Norwich, Portsmouth, and Cambridge, though thankfully alternative venues were found at the last moment. Universities at Exeter and Manchester have banned meetings.

So who is responsible? There are several ‘Friends of Israel’ groups in the UK. They don’t do anything constructive ,like organising meetings. Their main function seems to be the disruption of Palestinian solidarity activities. In fact it is the same group from Hertfordshire that called for the cancellation of our meeting on Facebook that sent a contingent to Brighton last November to disrupt the information stall of the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Although they seem to have spent much of their time insulting members of the public!

Israeli interference

But in this case, most of the attacks were from abroad. It is well known that Israel interferes in the affairs of foreign countries. Israel has given its Ministry of Strategic Affairs £39 million per year to fight the Palestinian solidarity movement and the growing BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. It was reported back in 2012 that Israeli students were to be paid $2,000 to spread state propaganda on Facebook.

Since then, it wouldn’t be difficult to assume that Israel has upped its stakes. And of course it has. The project ‘Act.il’ came from a joint US-Israel collaboration. An article in The Forward shows how users of the app were asked to email a Boston-area church to complain about a screening of a documentary critical of Israel. Sounds familiar? In fact the film is Occupation of the American Mind. We’ve shown it in Hastings. It “…exposes how American media is an active partner in the ugly and illegal occupation of Palestine” (Marc Lamont Hill). Highly recommended, by the way!

So we will never know who exactly orchestrated the attack on us, but we must be ready for any future repeats. In the meanwhile, it appears that those responsible have shot themselves in the foot because with the increasing publicity surrounding this attack, it looks like the meeting with Dr. Jenny Tonge will get a really good turnout. So we look forward to a successful meeting!

Jenny Tonge

We have arranged to hold the meeting with Dr Tonge at a new venue – Central Hall.

Dr Tonge worked as a doctor for the NHS in the UK for over 30 years before entering the House of Commons as MP for Richmond Park in 1997. She was the Liberal Democrat spokesman for international development for 7 years.

jenny-tongeIn 2008, she took part in the Gaza Flotilla which broke through the blockade to deliver humanitarian aid. She was raised to the peerage as Baroness Tonge of Kew in 2005, and awarded the Justice and Freedom Award in 2012 by the Palestinian Return Centre for her ongoing open support of the Palestinian cause,

Dr Tonge has been a fearless fighter for Palestinian rights and justice throughout her distinguished career. Her insights come from regular trips to Israel/the Occupied Palestinian Territories where she has seen first-hand the daily indignities of the Israeli apartheid state.

 

 

Everyday Life in Apartheid Israel Talk by Dr Jenny Tonge arranged by  Hastings Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Thursday 24 January, 7.15-9.15pm. Either turn up at Central Hall (5a Bank Buildings, Station Road, Hastings TN34 1NG) at 7pm and be redirected or contact HPSC via their FB page.

On 23 January 2019 this article was substantially amended after we discovered we’d used the wrong text. Apologies to HPSC for that error! Nick Terdre

On 24 January it was amended again following the second switch of venue.

 

Posted 19:27 Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019 In: Campaigns

6 Comments


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. Colin gibson

    Appalling behavior from a heavily funded pressure group. South Africa has taught them that money and US financial aid will trump morality every time. When in doubt, raise your voice, threaten and invoke unconnected events. I notice I used the word “trump” there, an unintentional Freudian slip methinks.

    Comment by Colin gibson — Monday, Jan 28, 2019 @ 11:11

  2. Blake Alcott

    Commenter Alan Rankin goes off topic. Here the article and discussion is about Palestine and Palestinians, and he diverts our attention to Holocaust Memorial Day. Alan, can’t you just for once pay some attention to the Palestinians? Thank you, and think a moment about a simple fact: the Holocaust, and in general Jewish persecution going back before the 20th century happened IN EUROPE. Palestine is not IN EUROPE. The Palestinians had nothing, zero, to do with it or with the Holocaust. So why must you insert it into this conversation?

    Comment by Blake Alcott — Saturday, Jan 26, 2019 @ 19:22

  3. Alan Rankin

    Important we should all remember and respect Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January and all crimes against humanity and injustices. The US State Department, Special Report on Ethnic Cleansing, May 10th 1999 and the United Nations provide references and definitions which inform the international court in The Hague when tasked with judging those responsible for planning and executing crimes against humanity.

    Comment by Alan Rankin — Friday, Jan 25, 2019 @ 14:49

  4. Steve O’Neal

    The same thing happened to us while living in Brussels when I went to hear Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada. I had a crude GPS on my bike that led me to an obscure building near la Gare du Nord. That was our venue.
    Jenny Tonge spoke at our first public event in Marlborough last November. She was amazing and drew over 70 attendees without charging us, even for expenses.
    It’s no wonder that the Zionists hate her.

    Comment by Steve O'Neal — Friday, Jan 25, 2019 @ 11:42

  5. peter watkins

    Genuinely disgusting tactics from the Israeli far right who will do anything to kill conversation about Palestine.

    Comment by peter watkins — Thursday, Jan 24, 2019 @ 11:43

  6. Fernando Bauza

    I am seriously pissed off. Using underhand tactics to intimidate the White Rock Hotel and today the Central Hall, making them rescind the booking one day before the meeting is really despicable. But no fear, the meeting will happen on Thursday, now enhanced with the presence of Tom Suarez accompanying Jenny Tonge. To avoid further trouble the venue will not be publicly advertised but will be made available to you once you message Hastings Palestinian Solidarity
    It will be a fabulous occasion to repudiate the Zionists attempt to block freedom of expression.

    Comment by Fernando Bauza — Thursday, Jan 24, 2019 @ 00:18

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