The power of the Israeli lobby reaches Hastings
There has been an increase in high-profile cases of alleged anti-semitism highlighted in the mainstream media recently. Is this form of bigotry real and on the increase, or has it in fact been manufactured? Laurie Holden, secretary of the Hastings Palestine Solidarity Campaign, looks into the matter.
Thankfully, there is a strong movement in this country opposing racism – and bigotry in general. So when those of us who identify with and support this movement get accused of anti-semitism, we have to take this very seriously. But it didn’t take long to find that the cases publicised in the corporate media were invariably engineered by supporters of Israel – and directed against supporters of the Palestinians and the movement for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel).
Plans to “take down” UK MPs
Evidence of this campaign has come to light through a recent undercover operation (by Al-Jazeera TV). This shows a senior diplomat from the Israeli embassy boasting about plans to “take down” MPs that are regarded as hostile to Israel, suggesting that “a little scandal” might get UK deputy foreign secretary Alan Duncan dismissed. Alan Duncan has been critical of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The film also shows the same embassy official promising to give £1 million to the Labour Friends of Israel.
In fact it was the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) that engineered one well-publicised case of ‘anti-semitism’. The Al-Jazeera undercover reporter filmed the entire incident. At last year’s Labour Party conference, one delegate, Jean Fitzpatrick, approached the LFI stand and engaged in a conversation about Israel’s illegal settlements. At no point did she make any anti-semitic comments, but the LFI reported her to the party’s Compliance Unit. This ‘incident’ ended up all over the British press, with headlines screaming ‘anti-semitism’. After an investigation, Jean was cleared, but the whole experience must have left her feeling that she had been caught up in some sort of McCarthyite witch hunt.
The economic and cultural boycotts gain momentum
Israeli interference in British politics is set to continue, especially as the country has given its Ministry of Strategic Affairs £21 million per year to fight the pro-Palestine and BDS movements.
So while the Israeli lobby has always been active, it is clear that it has stepped up its game considerably. So why now?
International opposition to Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies has been growing, especially after its massacres in Gaza during 2014, killing more than 2,250 Palestinians, including 551 children. While the boycott movement (called by Palestinian organisations in 2005) had already been winning successes, the Israeli massacres brought the principle of BDS to a wider public than ever before. It was not only just a case of individual consumers refusing to buy Israeli goods: large banks and pension funds have divested from Israeli companies.
The $210 billion Dutch pension fund PGGM announced its divestment from Israel’s five biggest banks. The world’s largest wealth fund ($820 billion) in Norway divested from Israeli companies involved in illegal settlement building. Companies throughout the world have terminated substantial contracts with Israeli firms. Churches have divested, trade unions and student unions have called for boycotts.
The cultural boycott has helped keep the issue of Israeli apartheid in the public domain: musicians such as Annie Lennox, Sinéad O’Connor, Roger Waters and Massive Attack have refused to play in Israel. The academic boycott was boosted by Professor Stephen Hawking refusing to attend a conference in Israel.
Intimidation by pro-Israel groups
Clearly, Israel is on the attack like it has never been before. We can expect Israel and its supporters to play dirty. The ‘anti-semitism trick’ is employed time and time again. One worrying development is the increasing use of censorship. Pro-Israel groups have tried to close down events about Palestine, sometimes successfully.
For two years running, pressure by Israel supporters led to the cancellation of a conference on Israel and international law at the University of Southampton. This type of pressure has also been put on owners of venues in order to ban Palestine Solidarity Campaign meetings, successfully in the case of events at Nottingham and Norwich; though thankfully alternative venues were found at the last moment.
In Hastings, a pro-Israel group wrote to the owner of our meeting room demanding that he ban the event we had planned last September. Thankfully, the owner wouldn’t be intimidated and the meeting – with author Ben White – went ahead.
This type of intimidation seems to have given the different Palestine support groups a new lease of life. One very encouraging development is the growth of Jewish organisations dedicated to the support of the Palestinians. In the UK, there is the Jews for Justice for Palestinians group, the predominantly Jewish Free Speech On Israel and Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods. In the USA, Jewish groups play a central role in the movement for Palestinian justice.
Genuine vs manufactured
It’s important to point out that whenever Israel manufactures ‘anti-semitism’, we will call it out; but where we find genuine cases of anti-semitism, we will always oppose and denounce them.
We’re pleased to have a local member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians speak at our forthcoming meeting, where she will be able to give the background to the misuse of anti-semitism: in society generally and in UK political parties, particularly the Labour Party.
Public meeting: Is Criticism Of Israel Anti-Semitism?: The White Rock Hotel, Saturday 11 February 2-4pm. This is a free event, with refreshments, organised by Hastings Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The group’s Facebook page.
Copyright (c) Hastings Palestine Solidarity Campaign. All rights reserved.
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