Monday, 10 November 2014

The Origins of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)

A Talk I Gave to members of Brighton PSC on 31st August 2014

We often work in organisations which are so embroiled and rightly so in their day-to-day work, that they forget where they came from.  I am posting for others the transcription of the speech.  Passages in Bold have been added subsequent to the talk
Although slow at first to come aboard the BDS campaign, PSC has persuaded the lumbering carthorse of the TUC to support a boycott of settlement (but not Israeli) produce
PSC was formed in 1982 but I don’t want to start there.  I think you have to give some context and the background to what happened. 
Tony Greenstein speaking at the 2013 PSC AGM
I was brought up in a very Orthodox Jewish background.  At that time the media and public opinion was overwhelmingly pro-Zionist in the wake of the 1967 (6 Days) war.  There wasn’t a newspaper in the land which wasn’t supporting Israel. [The Independent wasn't yet yet existence] The only newspaper which even attempted at some balance was the (Manchester) Guardian, originally the most pro-Zionist of all papers under CP Scott.  It was reviled, of course, as a result.
Being a lover of Hitler, these young fascists recognise that Israel is the most racist anti-Muslim state of all
I can remember when Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the 1967 War, the BBC correspondent, Michael Elkins, was more enthusiastic than anyone else.  He was in fact an Israeli citizen.  He was ghastly and awful but this was accepted at the time.  Most people thought it was a very simple matter.  The Jews wanted a little portion of somewhere to live in the Middle East and the Arabs were intent on preventing this and refused to make peace. 
Hugh Lanning of PCS is the national Chairperson of PSC
The expulsions in 1947-48, the complexities never dawned on them.  It was fortuitous that I broke from that. Partly because we had a school debate and I played the devil’s advocate. The Zionist Federation wasn’t happy about a Jewish school hosting a debate on the rights and wrongs of Zionism!.  That began to open my eyes and then I went on a school trip to Israel, which was heavily subsidised by the Zionist Federation in order to get Jewish school students ‘aware of their roots’.  The only place I liked was Jerusalem.  They guided you around but if you had enough nous you spoke to people independently, which I did, particularly in Bethlehem, to ordinary Palestinian Christians to see what they felt about this benign occupation.  That was 1968-9 and I was about 15.
Jeremy Corbyn and Kamel Hawash on a demonstration outside Parliament
The other thing was that I became a socialist and a Marxist and participated in the anti-Springbok demonstrations against the South African rugby team.  I joined a group which was the precursor of the SWP, called the International Socialists.  There I met one or two other Jewish anti-Zionists.  They were few and far between compared to today where Jewish anti-Zionism has really taken off and become a major headache for the Zionists because it deflects the accusation of anti-Semitism but that was the position in the 1960’s in the wake of the 6 Day War.
Brighton PSC stall in Churchill Square.  Every Saturday Brighton PSC runs a stall
It was only in the 1970’s with the establishment of the settlements, they began in 1968 under the Israeli Labour Government and people like Yigal Allon and Yisrael Gallili of Ahdut H’avoda (one of the components of the Israeli  Labour Alignment).,
Scottish PSC after a failed attempt to prosecute 5 members for disrupting a performance of the Jerusalem Quartet
The massive expansion of the settlements began under Menachem Begin who became Israeli  Prime Minister in 1977.  That was the climate for the beginning of a a solidarity movement. 
PSC Conference speaker
I joined the British anti-Zionist Organisation which was controlled, although I didn’t realise it at the time, by the Iraqi  Ba’athists and the and this was always a problem for any solidarity movement, retaining one’s independence. 
Zionist Wishful thinking as Cherie Blair's anti-Semitic half-sister attacks PSC
But there were other major initiatives.  One was a Labour movement conference in Bradford, around 1981, where I met with Andrew Hornung, a member of Socialist Organiser, a precursor of today’s overtly pro-Zionist Alliance for Workers Liberty, which was then anti-Zionist, and decided to form a Labour Committee on Palestine.  When SO moved into the Zionist camp Andrew left the organisation.  At a well attended meeting at the GLC’s County Hall, in July 1982, we ejected the organiser of the Labour Friends of Israel, Peter Grunberger and set up the LCP as a formal organisation.  In the wake of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, in which 20,000 were killed and Beirut was heavily bombed, the LCP introduced an emergency motion to the Labour Party Conference that autumn, calling for a democratic, secular state in Palestine.  The resolution was actually passed! I had been elected as its Chair and Andrew as the Secretary and Ted Knight, leader of the Labour group on Lambeth Council was Treasurer. 

However unknown to me and others, Knight was an operative in the Labour Party for the Workers Revolutionary Party of Vanessa Redgrave fame, working behind a paper called the Labour Herald, which Livingstone helped front, and it was funded by various Arab regimes.  The LCP was a useful trophy to display to its funders to demonstrate its political prowess.  At its founding conference in November, some 100 WRP delegates, most of whom didn’t even know why they were there, trooped in to vote accordingly and we left to form the Labour Movement Campaign on Palestine.  We got a good story about what happened published in the Diary column of The Guardian (Knight of a 100 Introductions).
A spontaneous demonstration erupts when the EDL tries to attack the PSC stall.  All 5 of them run for it
The LMCP organised with the early PSC a Labour Movement Conference on Palestine at the Greater London Council’s County Hall.  At the latter, many of the luminaries of the Labour Left spoke – Jeremy Corbyn MP, Peter Tatchell, Richard Balfe MEP (now a member of the Tory party!).  On the day of the Conference the Zionists tried to sabotage the Conference by sending out fake letters in my name with a badly forged signature, cancelling the conference!  However the ploy failed.
Jewish Chronicle Report of founding of Labour Committee on Palestine
Guardian Diary Report of Ted Knight's  sabotage of the LCP Conference
But remember the context.  In the Labour Party for example the most ardent supporters of Israel were on the Labour Left, the Tribunite Left.  Tony Benn and Eric Heffer.  Stalwarts of the Left were members of Labour Friends of Israel.  One of the things that has developed as a result of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon was that the Left began to reject Israel with few exceptions (Jo Richarson MP).  The old Ian Mikardo wing disappeared or died out.  People on the Left supported the Palestinians whereas those on the Right, the New Labourites, made it an article of faith to support Israel. 
That wasn’t always the case.  In Liverpool I remember, with my school, attending a debate where the only pro-Arab or Palestinian speakers were either from the Labour Right, people like Christopher Mayhew MP or the Guardian journalist, the late Michael Adams.  He was the first journalist I can remember who was not pro-Zionist.  One of the Guardian’s correspondents and was rather shabbily treated from what I recall.  He was the first journalist to speak out against Israel’s ‘benign occupation’.
PSC AGM Notice with Omar Barghouti as speaker - At this meeting one of the leading  Atzmonites, Francis Clark-Lowes, was expelled for holocaust denial, something Omar applauded.
I can only describe the background to the growth of a solidarity movement from my own perspective.  I came down to Brighton in 1974 to Brighton Polytechnic and there was established by General Union of Palestinian Students a quite thriving Palestine society.  It was the days of very low-cost fees when you would pay £100-150 to get on a degree course, which now cost thousands of pounds.  So there were a lot of Palestinian students on Engineering and Science courses.  There built up an alliance between overseas students and the White left whereby a sleepy, reactionary and backward student union was captured by the far-left.  I was elected as Vice-President of the Student Union, two years in succession.  In Xmas 1977 I moved the first ever motion at the National Union of Students Conference supporting a democratic, secular state in Palestine.  It didn’t win of course, but it set down a marker for things to come.  In the student movement, in the 1970’s, Palestinian organisation and opinion in Britain was taking root via GUPS.
It wasn’t like now where Fateh are wrapped up in the Palestinian Authority.  I remember two of the activists.  Hannah, a bespectacled Ph. D student who went back to Jerusalem who was aligned with the Palestinian Communist Party and there was someone I called Brother Joseph, who I saw for the first time in a decade at the first Gaza demonstration in London, who was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and firmly on the left of the movement.  Unfortunately he is very ill now and going blind.  These were some of the unspoken about heroes of the beginnings of the solidarity movement in this country and at Brighton Polytechnic, which was more active on Palestine than Sussex University, where there was also a Palestinian Society. 
There was a burning need for a national solidarity movement which was given the necessary impetus by the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.  People don’t recall but there was a precursor to the invasion where Israel went in and the United States under Reagan (!) forced it to withdraw.  Then it went back in for a major invasion, using the pretext of the attempted assassination of the Israeli Ambassador to London, Shlomo Argov.  In fact the attack was by Abu Nidal, a renegade PLO member living in Iraq and controlled by the Ba’athists.  It was nothing to do with the official PLO but any excuse was sufficient for Israel to go into Lebanon, as we have seen in the attack on Gaza.  The carnage it caused was a catalyst for the solidarity movement in this country and world wide.  The image of Israel as a peaceful state, beleaguered on all sides, was shattered.  
Benn, Heffer and a number of Labour left-wingers resigned from Labour Friends of Israel.  Gradually the Palestinians began to have a voice in Parliament.  Not always a useful voice, for example Tony Marlowe, Tory MP, Monday Club member, for Northampton North who was more of an anti-Semite than a supporter of the Palestinians.  But there was a coalescence among the Labour left that you’d never ever seen before.  I personally began writing a whole series of articles for Tribune, house paper of the Labour Left and George Orwell’s former paper.  These were a sign of the times.  The New Statesman was another paper which swerved from support of Israel to criticism of it. 

Ariel Sharon had achieved quite a bit during the invasion of Lebanon, including complete revulsion for what Israel had done.  It was after the initial false start that a group of people, it must have been about 15 or 16 people, came together at the University of London Union in Malet Street.  Besides myself there was Jeremy Landau, Helen Stollar, who I met at the most recent Brighton demonstration and is ill now.  There was Roland Rance of Jews Against Zionism, Moshe Machover and Haim Skotario of Matzpen – the Socialist Organisation in Israel.  Moshe’s article The Class Nature of Israel which New Left Review published around 1968 and the International Socialists published as a pamphlet later is, even now, extremely worth reading, even after more than 30 years.  Machover was a brilliant speaker on Zionism and is, despite his age, still active. 
There were a number of others, most of whom I can’t remember, Over half the meeting was Jewish!  There were people like John Gee, the future Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  There were a number of Palestinians and one very vociferous, outspoken and articulate member of the Lebanese National Movement.  Because Israel had ensured, via Assad’s Syria, that the Left did not win the civil war. The aim was to ensure the victory of the fascist Phalange, in order to prevent the unification of the Lebanese nation. 
In 1979, along with a group of others, we visited Lebanon.  The Embassy in Britain was controlled by the Phalange and they refused us visas.  So we went to Syria first and after a couple of days, we were taken off by the PLO in a jeep across the border, without any visas of course.  We were taken by this mountain of a guy.  It was very difficult as you go up on the hills above Damascus and see the city shimmering in the night.  It was a wonderful scene.  It was semi-desert and there were traditional villages and families by the roadside, with tents and lanterns, selling fruit.  We were taken to Beirut where we stayed at a hotel called Triomphe, which the PLO controlled.  Three years later the Israelis bombed. 
It was tragic.  We visited the refugee camps of Bourj-al-Barajneh, Sabra and Shatilla.  The people we saw were lambs to the slaughter three years later, as the Israeli troops lit up the night sky with flares as their fascist friends in the Phalange butchered them, after the PLO fighters had left Beirut under an American sponsored agreement. 
I can remember, with another member of our delegation, crossing the frontier to Christian (East) Beirut from West Beirut, to see Tel al Zataar, a refugee camp, where some 2,000 Palestinians were massacred in August 1976.  This was a consequence of the Syrian invasion of Lebanon, which the USA and Israel had given the green light to, in order to help the Phalange which was in danger of being defeated by the leftist Lebanese National Movement, which included the Druze of the Bekaa Valley.  You saw the destroyed buildings with massive gaping holes where the shells had pierced.  That was a precursor to the Sabra and Shatilla massacres.  We were arrested on the way back, for not having visas, by the Lebanese army, which was few in number and dug in behind sand bags in the strip dividing Beirut.  We told them we were guests of the Syrian government and were released pretty quickly! 
Back in London, PSC was formed three years later, in 1982, and they were small beginnings.  We met I think every 2 weeks in Oxford House, a trade union and community centre in Bethnal Green and I would estimate that after a year we only had a couple of hundred members.  If we organised a demonstration we‘d be lucky if we got more than a couple of thousand people.  When we look back to the monster demonstration on 9th August 2014 we can see the major advances in PSC since that time. 
Growth in PSC was slow but steady.  PSC took over, two offices in a shabby building, which housed other voluntary and campaigning groups, in the backstreets of London near Finsbury Park Tube Station and after about a year we began employing a part-time worker.  I can remember that one of the workers was Anne Gray, who is still active on the Left and in PSC.
We publicised ourselves at the various GLC festivals on the South Bank of the Thames, anti-racist festivals and similar gatherings.  PSC also worked with the Labour Movement Campaign for Palestine and held public meetings and displays. Slowly but surely PSC gained name recognition.  In particular PSC organised, in Camden Town Hall, a major conference on Anti-Arab racism, funded to the tune of about £2,000 by the GLC (which Thatcher abolished and was headed, in his radical days, by Ken Livingstone).  This produced a major outcry from the Zionist Establishment and the Jewish Chronicle famously wrote that there was enough Arab money within a stone throw of Marble Arch.
It was picketed by Herut, the dominant party of the Likud coalition in Israel and the ‘Marxist’ Zionists Mapam.  We let a few of the latter in (we had heavy security) given the campaign against the Conference.
I objected vehemently to this racist statement (substitute ‘Jewish’ for ‘Arab’ and see why) and after the Jewish Chronicle refused to carry a letter from me I submitted a complaint to the Press Council (the precursor of the Press Complaints Commission).  Much to the Editor, Geoffrey D Paul’s surprise (his main defence was that my letter was too long and ‘boring’) and also my surprise, the PC upheld my complaint and the Jewish Chronicle was forced to print the adjudication, though it also printed an angry self-righteous defence.
Brighton PSC's successful picket of the Sodastream shop - Sodastream is now in deep financial crisis
There have of course been setbacks amongst the Palestinians, notably the 1993 Oslo Accords.  This had a knock-on effect on PSC which held an Emergency General Meeting and voted by 2-1 to support the Accords.  Later the Chair of PSC, who chaired the meeting, with Uri Davies from Israel at his side, told me how wrong he had been.  But regrets after the Accords had been agreed were worthless. 
A number of us resigned from the organisation because, as I wrote in National Labour Briefing (in a debate with Julia Bard of the Jewish Socialists Organisation) this was the biggest setback to the Palestinian since the Nakba.  It was a historic defeat.  Everything I wrote then has, unfortunately, turned out to be correct.  All that has happened is that the faces of the Israeli military have been replaced by that of Palestinians, trained by the Americans and supplying every ounce of Intelligence that the Israelis require.  It is a major obstacle on the road to liberation, to which the Palestinians have to find their own answer. 
I rejoined the organisation locally in the early 2000’s at the suggestion of the then Chair Frances Clarke-Lowes (who ironically I played a major part in having expelled nationally and locally for holocaust denial).  I had taken part in a demonstration from Palmeira Square to Brighton on Palestine, as a result of one of many Israeli attacks on the Palestinians and Lebanese.
But I returned in earnest in 2005 when a friend I knew from the Left, Sue Blackwell, a lecturer at Birmingham University, spearheaded the first major BDS campaign in the Association of University Teachers, later the University College Union.  AUT held a national conference in Eastbourne and she nagged me to go over and leaflet it, which I did, as did other Brighton PSC members (Zoe I remember) and the resolution passed narrowly. That caused an uproar, Tony Blair condemned it as did most establishment worthies.  But UCU held on, despite its leadership (the Left later captured the Executive) and we saw the culmination of Zionist lawfare tactics with the bringing of a case last year at an employment tribunal by Ronnie Fraser, a minor academic, alleging racial discrimination against UCU. 

In reality Fraser was just a front man and the eminence grise behind the case was none other than Anthony Julius, an ardent Zionist and former lawyer to Princess Diana, who trousered some £2m from the charitable trust set up in her name after she had died.  Julius, whose speciality is clearly not employment law, was out of his depth in trying to argue that being a Zionist is a ‘protected characteristic’ (protected characteristics for example age, sexual orientation, gender, race etc. are the grounds upon which you can sue for discrimination and harassment).  The problem, as the Tribunal noted, was that many Jews are also opposed to Zionism and the Tribunal held that the litigation was “an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means”.  For a damning indictment of Zionist tactics and a defence of the Tribunal, from a Zionist lawyer see ‘Why the Ronnie Fraser case against the UCU was a legal and public relations disaster’ .

After the successful motion to the AUT Conference in 2005, a group of us were invited for Sunday lunch to Stephen and Professor Hilary Rose where the academic boycott group BRICUP was discussed and tactics planned.  Also in attendance was Betty Hunter, the then General Secretary of PSC who asked me why I didn’t rejoin PSC.  I mentioned Oslo and she said that today that was irrelevant, everyone opposed it now and as a result I felt it was churlish not to rejoin.

Tony Greenstein






Saturday, 8 November 2014

Labour Heads for Electoral Disaster

Those Who Want to Replace Miliband Miss the Point - It's the Strategy that Needs Changing

That speech

New Labour MPs Panic as their Seats Are in Danger – But None Advocate a Change in Strategy

When I posted an article in July this year saying that there was no way Miliband could win the election, a lot of my friends told me I was wrong.  On the contrary, given the disarray of the Tories under Cameron and the threat from UKIP Labour stood a good chance of an overall majority.

I doubt if anyone today would repeat that.  The fact is that the chickens have come home to roost.  It wasn’t his disastrous speech at New Labour’s conference, parts of which he forgot, but the lack of any theme to articulate.  Instead Labour comes across as a pink and watered down version of Cameron’s Tories.  They support welfare reform, but not quite as much of it as the Tories and Lib Dems.  They favour capping pr ices on rail and utilities but public ownership is a no-no, but you can’t control what you don’t own.  It’s elementary and Attlee and Wilson understood this.  The policy wonk Miliband understands nothing.
Miliband Address the Zionist Labour Friends of Israel

It would be easy to target the 1% of Britain that owns 55% of its wealth, the savage rich and hangers on but that wouldn’t be the New Labour way and that is why Miliband is doomed.
Miliband Says Nothing in Hiw Own Long-Winded Way
To compound Labour’s misery, the Scottish heartland they took for granted is deserting them en masse.  The Scots rejected devolution but the working-class heartlands such as Glasgow voted to support independence.  Labour ran a campaign with Cameron, with that useless washed up disaster area, Gordon Brown, performing the role of a Tory patriot.  Well devolution was narrowly rejected but Labour has suffered the price of working with the Tories (as well as being stabbed in the back by Cameron the day after the vote).
Ralph Miliband - turning in his grave at the treachery of his sons!
The panic of Labour MPs says more about their fears for their careers than any rethink of  strategy or purpose.  The result may be Labour will struggle to even get 200 seats in the next General Election.   The tragedy is that the socialist left and in particular Left Unity, is so tied up witness navel gazing that it is in no position to take advantage of Labour’s problems.

Tony Greenstein

I posted the following on the Left Unity site.  I doubt it will see the light of day!

‘At a time when Labour is in disarray Left Unity is still obsessing about internal matters.
Who gives a fuck as to who is the principal speaker?  You've lost 1,000 of your members - one third - and have learnt as few lessons and drawn as few conclusions as Miliband has done.

Another left sect consigned to obscurity for which u can thank the ISG and navel gazing 'feminists'. 

Well done for squandering another opportunity for the Left.’

'The Only Democracy in the Middle East' Suspends Arab MK Haneen Zoabi

Israel’s mask of democracy slips as Haneen Zoabi is suspended for 6 months
Haneen Zoabi -  singled out for abuse by Israeli right and Zionists
 In the summer Haneen Zoabi, a member of the Knesset for Balad, was asked of the kidnapping and murder of 3 teenage settlers was an act of terrorism.  She replied that it wasn’t.  There was no reason to believe that it was part of a wider political or military campaign as opposed to the act of individual Palestinians.  For this she has been suspended for 6 months from the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament.
Ayelet Shaked MK of Jewish Home, a far-right member of the government coalition also wrote, on Face Book, that Palestinian mothers should be murdered in order to prevent the birth of Palestinian ‘snakes’.  A clear call for genocide.  Her punishment?  There wasn’t any.

The government has also passed an Act to raise the threshold that a Party needs to be elected, to 3.25%, the purpose of which is to prevent the election of Arab MKs.
Israel used to parade itself as the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’.  Now even that sounds hollow, as Zoabi, who supported and was on board the Mavi Marmara, has outraged the Zionist public in Israel.  With the exception of the Meretz civil rights group, all the Zionist parties, including the Labour Party, voted to support, by 64-16 the motion to suspend Zoabi.
Below is a full report from Jonathan Cook’s excellent blog.

5 November 2014
Electronic Intifada – 4 November 2014

The Israeli parliament voted overwhelmingly last week to suspend Haneen Zoabi, a legislator representing the state’s large Palestinian minority, for six months as a campaign to silence political dissent intensified.

The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, voted by 68 to 16 to endorse a decision in late July by its ethics committee to bar Zoabi from the chamber for what it termed “incitement.”
It is the longest suspension in the Knesset’s history and the maximum punishment allowed under Israeli law.

At a press conference, Zoabi denounced her treatment as “political persecution.”
“By distancing me from the Knesset, basically they’re saying they don’t want Arabs, and only want ‘good Arabs.’ We won’t be ‘good Arabs,’” she said.

The Knesset’s confirmation of Zoabi’s suspension comes as she faces a criminal trial for incitement in a separate case and as the Knesset considers stripping her of citizenship.
But Zoabi is not the only Palestinian representative in the firing line. Earlier this year the Knesset raised the threshold for election to the parliament, in what has been widely interpreted as an attempt to exclude all three small parties representing the Palestinian minority. One in five citizens of Israel belong to the minority.
In addition, it emerged last week that a bill is being prepared to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, the only extra-parliamentary party widely supported by Palestinian citizens.
Along with Zoabi, the Islamic Movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has been among the most vocal critics of Israeli policies, especially over the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem.
Death threats
Zoabi was originally suspended after legislators from all the main parties expressed outrage at a series of comments from her criticizing both the build-up to Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” and the 51-day attack itself, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians.
In particular, fellow members of Knesset were incensed by a radio interview in which she expressed her disapproval of the kidnapping of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank, but refused to denounce those behind it as “terrorists.” The youths were later found murdered.
Zoabi faced a wave of death threats and needed to be assigned a bodyguard for public appearances.
During the Knesset debate on her appeal against the suspension, Zoabi said: “Yes, I crossed the lines of consensus — a warlike, aggressive, racist, populist, chauvinist, arrogant consensus. I must cross those lines. I am no Zionist, and that is within my legal right.”
Zoabi, who has come to personify an unofficial political opposition in the Knesset against all the main parties, is under attack on several fronts.
Last week she was informed that the state prosecution service had approved a police recommendation to put her on trial for criminal incitement for “humiliating” two policemen.

She is alleged to have referred to the policemen, who are members of the Palestinian minority, as “collaborators” as she addressed parents of children swept up in mass arrests following protests against the Israeli assault on Gaza over the summer.

Faina Kirschenbaum, the deputy interior minister in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, has also drafted two bills directly targeting Zoabi.

The first would strip someone of the right to stand for the Knesset if they are found to have supported “an act of terrorism,” while the second would strip them of their citizenship.

Because ministers are not allowed to initiate private bills, the task of bringing the measures to the floor of the parliament has been taken up by the Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee.

Intentional subversions

Zoabi further infuriated fellow members of Knesset this month when she compared the Israeli army to the Islamic State, the jihadist group that has violently taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq and has become notorious for kidnapping westerners and beheading them.
In an apparently intentional subversion of Netanyahu’s recent comparison of the Islamic State and Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement, Zoabi described an Israeli Air Force pilot as “no less a terrorist than a person who takes a knife and commits a beheading.” She added that “both are armies of murderers, they have no boundaries and no red lines.”
Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, was among those who responded by calling Zoabi a “terrorist.”
“The law must be used to put the terrorist — there is no other word for it — the terrorist Haneen Zoabi in jail for many years,” he told Israel Radio.
A poll this month found that 85 percent of the Israeli Jewish public wanted Zoabi removed from the Knesset.
“There is a great deal of frustration among Israeli politicians and the public at their army’s failure to defeat the Palestinian resistance in Gaza,” said Awad Abdel Fattah, the secretary general of Balad, a political party representing Palestinians in Israel. “At times like this, the atmosphere of repression intensifies domestically.”
Silencing all political dissent
The initiatives against Zoabi are the most visible aspects of a wider campaign to silence all political dissent from the Palestinian minority.
Last week, Lieberman instructed one of his members of Knesset, Alex Miller, to initiate a bill that would outlaw Salah’s Islamic Movement.
The legislation appears to be designed to hold Netanyahu to his word from late May. Then, the Israeli media revealed that the prime minister had created a ministerial team to consider ways to ban the movement.

At the same time, the Israeli security services claimed that Salah’s faction was cooperating closely with Hamas in Jerusalem.

After Israel barred the Palestinian Authority from having any presence in Jerusalem more than a decade ago and expelled Hamas legislators from the city, Salah has become the face of Palestinian political activism in Jerusalem.

Under the campaign slogan “al-Aqsa is in danger,” he has taken a leading role in warning that Israel is incrementally taking control of the most sensitive holy site in the conflict.

Last month it emerged that the Knesset is to vote on legislation to give Jewish religious extremists greater access to the mosque compound. Already large numbers of Jews, many of them settlers, regularly venture on to esplanade backed by armed Israeli police.

They include Jewish extremists that expressly want to blow up the al-Aqsa mosque so that a replica of a Jewish temple from 2,000 years ago can be built in its place.

Last week, Yehuda Glick, a leader of one of these extremist groups, was shot and wounded in Jerusalem. In response, Israel shut down al-Aqsa for the first time since the outbreak of the second intifada fourteen years ago. Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, called it a “declaration of war.”
According to the text of Lieberman’s bill, the northern wing of the Islamic Movement “subverts the State of Israel’s sovereignty while making cynical use of the institutions and fundamental values of the Jewish and democratic state.”

It also blames the movement for “an eruption of violence and unrest among the Arab minority in Israel, while maintaining close relations with the terrorist organization Hamas.”

Raising the threshold

The attacks on Zoabi and the Islamic Movement come in the wake of legislation in March to raise the electoral threshold — from 2 percent to 3.25 percent — for a party to win representation in the Knesset.

The new threshold is widely seen as having been set to exclude the three Palestinian parties currently in the Knesset from representation. The minority’s vote is split almost evenly between three political streams.

Zoabi’s Balad party emphasizes the need for the Palestinian minority to build its own national institutions, especially in education and culture, to withstand the efforts of Israel’s Zionist institutions to strip Palestinian citizens of their rights and erase their identity. Its chief demand has been for “a state for all its citizens” — equal rights for Jewish and Palestinian citizens.

Balad’s chief rival is the joint Jewish-Arab party of Hadash, whose Communist ideology puts a premium on a shared program of action between Jewish and Arab citizens. However, its Jewish supporters have shrunk to a tiny proportion of the party. It too campaigns for equal rights.
And the final party, Raam-Taal, is a coalition led by prominent Islamic politicians.
The three parties have between them eleven seats in the 120-member Knesset, with one held by a Jewish member of Knesset, Dov Chenin, for Hadash.

Abdel Fattah said his Balad party had been urging the other parties to create a coalition in time for the next general election to overcome the new threshold.

So far it has faced opposition from Hadash, which is worried that an alliance with Balad would damage its image as a joint Jewish-Arab party. A source in Hadash told Israeli daily Haaretz in late September: “Hadash is not an Arab party, and there’s no reason it should unite with two Arab parties.”

Abdel Fattah said Hadash’s objections were unreasonable given that both Balad and the Islamic faction believed it was important to include Jewish candidates on a unified list. “Eventually they will have to come round to a joint list unless they want to commit political suicide,” he remarked.
Falling turnout
Balad has been under threat at previous general elections. The Central Elections Committee, a body representing the major political parties, has repeatedly voted to ban it from running. Each time the decision has been overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court.
In 2007 the party’s former chairman, Azmi Bishara, was accused of treason while travelling abroad and has been living in exile ever since.
But the representation of all the parties is now in danger from the raised threshold. Over the past thirty years, turnout among Palestinian citizens has dramatically fallen to little more than half of potential voters, as the minority has seen its political demands for equality greeted with a wave of laws entrenching discrimination.
Among the anti-democratic measures passed in recent years are laws that penalize organizations commemorating the Naqba, the Palestinians’ dispossession of their homeland in 1948; that provide a statutory basis to admissions committees, whose function is to prevent Palestinian citizens living on most of Israel’s territory; and that make it impossible for most Palestinian citizens to bring a Palestinian spouse to live with them in Israel.

Uncompromising stance

Last week, Balad MKs boycotted the opening ceremony of the Knesset, following the summer recess, in protest at Zoabi’s treatment.

At a press conference in the parliament, her colleague, Basel Ghattas, warned: “The day is approaching when Arab MKs will think there is no use participating in the political sphere. We are discovering more and more that we are personae non gratae at the Knesset.”

On Facebook, Lieberman responded that he hoped the Arab MKs would “carry out this ‘threat’ as soon as possible.”

The increasingly uncompromising stance towards all the Palestinian minority’s political factions marks a shift in policy, even for the right.

Although no Israeli government coalition has ever included a Palestinian party, and the Nasserist al-Ard movement was banned in the 1960s, Jewish politicians have generally viewed it as safer to keep the Palestinian parties inside the Knesset.

Analyst Uzi Baram observed in Haaretz that even Menachem Begin, a former hardline prime minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, believed it would be unwise to raise the threshold to keep out Arab parties. If they were excluded, Baram wrote, it was feared “they would resort to non-parliamentary actions.”
‘Paving the way toward fascism’
Zoabi petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against her suspension from the Knesset in early October. However, the judges suggested she first use an arcane appeal procedure before the Knesset’s full plenum to demonstrate she had exhausted all available channels for lifting the suspension.
Israeli legal scholars have noted the irregularities in the ethics committee’s decision to impose a record-long suspension on Zoabi. The committee’s task is to regulate parliament members’ behaviour inside the Knesset, not political speech outside it.
Aeyal Gross, a constitutional law professor at Tel Aviv University, warned that the Knesset’s treatment of Zoabi was “paving the way towards fascism and tyranny.”
Gross noted the extreme severity of the committee’s punishment of Zoabi, contrasting it with that of another MK, Aryeh Eldad. In 2008 he called for Ehud Olmert, the prime minister at the time, to be sentenced to death for suggesting that parts of the occupied territories become a Palestinian state.
Eldad was suspended for just one day, even though it was a clear example of incitement to violence in a country where a former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was murdered by a right-wing extremist, citing similar justification for his actions.
Tyranny of the majority
The Supreme Court, which has shifted rightwards in recent years, may not be sympathetic to Zoabi’s appeal against her suspension.
In September the court jailed Said Nafaa, a former MK from her Balad party, for one year after he was convicted of visiting Syria in 2007 with a delegation of Druze clerics and meeting a Palestinian faction leader in Syria.

The crime of making contact with a foreign agent is the only one in Israeli law in which the defendant must prove their innocence.

The court may also be wary of making unpopular rulings at a time when it is under concerted attack from the Israeli right for being too liberal.

Ayelet Shaked, of the settler Jewish Home party, which is in the government coalition, has introduced a bill that would allow a simple majority of the Knesset to vote to override Supreme Court rulings.

Human rights lawyers warned that the bill would further erode already limited protections for minority rights.

Debbie Gild-Hayo, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, warned that protections for minorities from the tyranny of the majority would be in severe jeopardy as a result. “These proposals wish to break down the checks and balances that are fundamental to democracy,” she said.
Zoabi remained defiant. She noted that, while she was being hounded, the legal authorities had ignored genocidal remarks made by Jewish politicians against Palestinians during the summer attack on Gaza.

“They’re putting me on trial over a trivial, meaningless matter, while ministers and MKs who incited to racism and incited to violence and even to murder aren’t being investigated, even after complaints were filed against them.”

She added: “If I am indicted, I’ll turn the hearings into the most political trial in Israel’s history.”
- See more at


The Lib-Tory Attack on the Disabled

After 4 Years the Lib-Dems are now Opposed to the Attacks  They Supported!

Every time you hear Nick Clegg talk about how the Lib Dems restrained their Tory partners in the Coalition, just think of the attacks on the welfare state, the NHS reforms and above all the attack on claimants.  The story below, in last Wednesday’s Guardian illustrates the reality of what has happened.  Those who couldn’t protect themselves went without food, had their benefits stopped ‘sanctioned’ and were left to wither on the vine whilst Ian Duncan Smith flattered the Tory’s multi-millionaire donors.
Disabled Man Dies -  Guardian
In all of this the Lib-Dems have been complicit.   The    poor have paid the bankers’ bills as Clegg and Cable smiled on what was happening.   Only now have the Lib-Dems discovered that they opposed the Bedroom Tax all along!
speaks for itself

What can be done?

Today there is no movement against the attacks on claimants.  Small groups like Brighton Benefits Campaign exist but they are more concerned with their own sectarian differences than campaigning on the coal face.  The attack on benefits affects those in work as well as those who are unemployed.
These attacks are designed to keep wages   down, even at a time of nominal full-employment.  In this they have succeeded.  We have a recovery without any increase in the price of labour.  The trade union movement has unfortunately sat idly by doing little or nothing.

There is a desperate need for a mass campaign on the lines of the anti-poll tax movement to shake up those in power and reverse the cuts.


Tony Greenstein