I have been reading a range of articles about the events at the PSC AGM on Saturday. I am still trying to find what, if anything, had come out of the meeting that could cause it to be described as “a very good day” for the Palestinians.
And I came across a post by Anthony Cooper, in which he is trying to understand the reaction of the meeting to Francis Clark-Lowe’s appeal speech.
He notes that Tony Greenstein said that the room gasped when Francis mentioned the “Holocaust Myth”, that Paul Eisen referred to “modest applause” when Francis had finished speaking, and that Asa Winstanley said there were loud cheers when it was announced that Occupy London had taken over another bank building.
Loud cheers at a previous PSC event are, as it happens, the reason I have never joined, nor had much time for the PSC. Those cheers erupted at a rally in Trafalgar Square in 2003, anytime a speaker mentioned Rachel Corrie, who had died so tragically in Rafah earlier that year. I was listening to the speeches with two ISMers who had days before been deported from Israel, and who had both been eye witnesses to Rachel’s death. One of them was keen to address the crowd and I asked if this was possible. The answer was negative, although to this day I am convinced that the people cheering the usual suspects that address PSC rallies (ie Trade Unionists, clerics and politicians) describing events they had not witnessed, would have been interested to hear from people newly returned from Gaza, who had been at the very scene being described so dramatically from the stage.
The refusal (on the grounds of limited time) I found callous, and indicative of an intransigent approach. Last Saturday’s AGM shenanigans suggest to me that that my assessment was pretty sound. The loud cheers at PSC events for an ISMer in 2003, and the Occupy movement in 2011 also suggest that people attending the formulaic events laid on by the PSC Exec would welcome a more dynamic approach.
Occupy London is part of a movement of people who are tired of the old way of doing things, and who have come together to try and find new and dynamic ways of expressing their dissent. For now they are attempting to have a conversation about how to bring people together to resist the austerity measures of the discredited politicians that serve the interests of the corporations so well. By coincidence they use many of the same tools for organising that the ISM uses. They try to be as inclusive as possible, and aim to be as non hierarchical as they can be. Thus, in many ways they are antithetical to the PSC and much more flexible and open to innovation.
Anyway, directly under the Cooper post on the AGM was another PSC related post from earlier this month, which I read with growing unease. Entitled Did the PSC Lie to Caroline Lucas MP?”, it contains some disturbing hints at how bad things are in the PSC. I learnt that Green Party MP Caroline Lucas had received assurances from the PSC that “the organisation does indeed recognise Israel’s right to exist ….and that it remains committed to a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict”.
I stared at my screen in disbelief. The PSC had, it seemed, adopted the Zionist narrative and was now in favour of what I can only see as a ‘bantustan solution’. Cooper then pointed to an article in the Morning Star which portrays PSC Chair Hugh Lanning thus:
“He stressed the need for two states based on the 1967 borders – a demand recently backed by US President Barack Obama but consistently rejected by Israel.
“At the moment there is only one state – Israel,” he said.
“A two-state solution objectively means the creation of a free, independent Palestinian state which does not exist right now.”
I have Palestinian friends who would see this as totally unacceptable because for them it means eternal banishment to the overcrowded refugee camps, from which they have spent their entire lives waiting to escape. Their dream has always been to go back to the homes that their families were pushed out of in 1948. And somehow, in the name of solidarity with them, this Mr. Lanning is advocating an end to their dreams.
I wanted to find out more about him. After reading an amusing description of him as “a fake-left rightwing bureaucrat” I came across an article which seems to help explain why the PSC is so useless as a vehicle for solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine.
Here, Hugh tells us that:
“All of the arguments we want and need to make, can and should be made without reference to race and religion. The strongest arguments are those based on justice, human rights and international law. There is no need to stray beyond these core principles -indeed it weakens us to do so.”
Good grief!!. He wants us to tackle what South African victims of Apartheid have described as an Apartheid state, without referring to the very causes of that Apartheid, and furthermore he wants to make the arguments based on “justice, human rights and international law” yet he himself is advocating a two state solution which fits into not a single one of those categories!!!
Lanning also hints at why the PSC is insisting on this rigid, formulaic and unfruitful path for solidarity activism. He points to a campaign of smears against the PSC in face of the Reut Institutes identification of “the biggest political threat that Israel faced as the growth of the boycott movement and solidarity with Palestine” before going on to claim that “PSC, London and the British trade union movement “ are the ‘hub.
In this last claim I think he is wrong. What Reut identifies is a “delegitimization network” and the PSC as shown above, does not fit into that category as it seems they are rather working to give it legitimacy.
For as long as the Israel insists on the subordination of Palestinians, we must surely resist any moves to afford it legitimacy, if we are truly in support of the peoples of Palestine. The PSC also has an ambivalent approach to the Boycott movement, which is why the Boycott Israel Network was set up away from BIG, in an endeavour to ensure that direct action for BDS could go ahead.
The PSC I am told, had an income of £220k last year. This is money which surely is intended to provide solidarity with an oppressed people, and yet somehow it is being diverted into activities that seem to be serving the interests of Zionists better than they are serving the Palestinians.
By buying into a rhetoric which identifies Israel as legitimate, and which refuses to address the racism which is integral to Zionism, or the ideological devices which sustain the Apartheid state, an organisation which was established with the express purpose of showing solidarity to the suffering has rendered itself at best ineffectual.
That it is now actively involved in the witch-hunt of those who reject the legitimacy of Israel, along with the racism and ideological apparatus that sustain it, renders it dangerous.
There is an urgent need for a vibrant, critical and responsive movement to stand united in solidarity with our oppressed brothers and sisters in Palestine and beyond, and the PSC is standing in its way.