The Left

Atzmon’s Triumph

Engage reports that the anti-racist anti-Zionist Sue Blackwell and “anti-Zionist jews”, Tony Greenstein and Roland Rance, have been comprehensively slapped down by the Atzmonites:

Tony Greenstein is an anti-Zionist who believes that Zionism is like Nazism, that Zionists helped the Nazis carry out the Holocaust, that Israel, uniquely, is an essentially and unchangeably racist state.

Sue Blackwell is an anti-Zionist who is best known for campaigning to exclude Israeli academics from university campuses, conferences and journals around the world. Blackwell believes that Israel is an “illegitimate” state.

Roland Rance is an anti-Zionist who campaigns for the “dismantlement of the Zionist structure of the state of Israel”.

All three have been demonizing Israel, passionately and constantly for decades. They have been fighting hard for all the stapele anti-Zionist principles, without rest. Israel is an apartheid state, they say, its trade unions are not real workers organisations, they say, its universities are structures of oppression, they say, its civilians are not really civilians, they argue, its anti-racists are really racists, they declare.

But now the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in the UK has rejected them because they dared to stand up against open antisemitism within the movement.

This weekend they came to the PSC conference with two motions (reproduced below) arguing that those who push Holocaust denial and open antisemitism should be excluded from the PSC. Their motions were almost unanimously defeated.

British Anti-Zionism fights for a world-view that singles out and demonizes Israel as though it was a unique evil in the world. It exists in a world where most anti-Zionism, from Stalinist, Jihadi, neo-Nazi and Arab nationalist traditions, is openly antisemitic. It is obvious that such consistent and widespread demonization has the potential to lead to the rise of open antisemitism. And now we see exactly happening within the Palestine Solidarity movement.

Greenstein and Rance have come under attack recently from the openly antisemitic Gilad Atzmon and they thought that they could fight back by getting the anti-racist Palestine Solidarity conference on their side. They were wrong. The PSC conference overwhelmingly backed the Atzmon line against the anti-Zionist Jews. Blackwell, it seems, is now isolated as one of the tiny number of anti-racist anti-Zionists left in the Palestine Solidarity movement. She is one of the very few to stand up for her Jewish comrades.

But Greenstein, Rance and Blackwell still seem incapable of grasping how their own anti-Israel obsessions have led to a situation where they themselves have been entirely marginalized within their own PSC by a bunch of antisemites. This wekend, our warnings of a couple of years ago began, sooner than we thought possible, to become a reality.

Before the vote Roland Rance appealed to anti-racists within the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to come to the conference and vote:

A final appeal to anyone who is a member of Palestine Solidarity, or is willing to join, to attend the AGM tomorrow. There are two motions – one from me and Les Levidow, and one from Tony Greenstein and Sue Blackwell — opposing the infiltration of antisemites and holocaust deniers into the solidarity movement (text below). Our opponents have gone wild, with increasingly hostile postings all over the internet. It is important that these motions be passed, and the executive’s wrecking amendment defeated, as otherwise the slimeballs who have wormed in and are using alleged solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for their own devious purposes, will proclaim a victory. Please swallow any reservations you may have about tactics or precise wording; the principle here is so important, that we need every possible supporter to take part in this.

However, it was the “slimeballs” who won the conference. This is how they describe the weekend’s events:

If they had contented themselves with a simple resolution, calling for non-cooperation with Deir Yassin Remembered, they might have stood a chance. But with their two long-winded resolutions, attempting to impose a Jewish Socialist ‘weltanchaung’ on the Palestine Solidarity movement, the Greenstein/Rance onslaught stood no chance of success.

With J.A.Z. [Jews Agaainst Zionism] and J.S. [Jewish Socialist] activists popping up on all sides, coupled with the intervention of their Christian Passionara from Birmingham [Sue Blackwell], it began to look more like a Zionist takeover of PSC than a simple call for the excommunication of Paul Eisen, the Jewish humanist who dared compare the slaughter by the Irgun of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children at Givat Shaul in 1948, with what happened in eastern Europe in the darkest days of the 3rd Reich. All it needed was Betty Hunter’s empassioned and moving denunciation of Rance’s public attack on the PSC in the Jewish media, for the latter to be compelled to offer an abject apology and to ensure an almost unanimous rejection of the two ill-conceived resolutions.

The motions are set out on the Engage website.

The Atzmon Groupie site, Peace Palestine has its own report here.

The official PSC line appears to be that “PSC had no formal links with DYR and granted them no facilities” that as there wasn’t a PSC-Deir Yassin link, there was no need for this motion.

What is notable is that the PSC used to have Deir Yassin as a link on its website, but now – and I think this is recent – doesn’t.

There’s also this by Ramzy Baroud , which I think sums up what the PSC’s response will be:

However, instead of confronting the Zionist scheme that has brought such untold harm to the image of one of the greatest and oldest monotheistic faiths by holding Israel and its associates to account, there is a growing and alarming trend where members of the peace and justice movement have themselves fallen into the ominous trap: engaging in most ruinous and consuming scuffles, isolating members and entire groups for allegedly being anti-Semitic. While taking a moral stance against racism in all of its forms is a requisite for any genuine peace and justice activist, the intense debate in some instances is reaching such grievous points that it is threatening to tear apart the peace and justice movement.

A most notable example is the quarrel in the United Kingdom between members of Jews against Zionism and those of Deir Yassin Remembered; the former, accusing members of the latter of anti-Semitism, is endorsing a motion at an upcoming conference of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign that would ostracize the Deir Yassin group from the peace and justice movement. Members of both groups have spoken out strongly against the maltreatment of Palestinians in the past and both have a lot to offer PSC and its various activities.

The entire episode is a continuation of an alarming trend that began in the U.S. several years ago, and has consumed activists, distracting them from the real fight. Moreover, it is dangerously compromising constructive dialog and freedom of speech, the lack thereof has historically sidelined the pro-Palestinian voice for decades. If members of both groups are unable to work jointly and sort out their differences through dialog, then they should refrain from taking their fights to the public, as has been the case in Britain, in ways that are demoralizing the entire movement.

So all in all, congratulations are due to Gilad Atzmon, Paul Eisen, and Israel Shamir. Basically, it isn’t an overwhelming win for the Atzmonites. However, if I were them, I’d be pressing my advantage to see if I can advance my position in the PSC. Clearly, they’re pushing at an open door.

This vote does indicate that

(a) Blackwell/Rance/Greenstein have effectively been told that they’re surplus to requirements, and that the Palestinian Solidarity movement no longer needs helpful anti-zionist jews to “kosherise” the demonisation of Israel.
In other words, the PSC does not feel the need to demonstrate that its anti-Zionism is anti-racist.

(b) There is a fair degree of support for the “jewish power” thesis within the PSC.

That’s hardly surprising. In this post-Mearsheimer and Walt world, the notion of “jewish power” is commonplace.

Moreover, the refusal of the PSC to engage with this debate mirrors the enormous tension between the Marxist advocates of “one secular state”, and the broader solidarity movement’s position of “solidarity with Hamas, the Voice of Palestinians”.

If you’re showing solidarity with an organisation which looks forward to the genocide of jews in its Constitution, the little fight between Atzmon and Greenstein must seem awfully trivial.

As a footnote, there’s also this. David Rosenberg – one of the Independent Jewish Voice crew – claims that Jews for Justice for Palestinians were thrown off a STWC platform by a prominent SWP-er:

During the summer of 2006 there were two big demonstrations over the lebanon war in London. I spoke at one for “European Jews for a Just Peace”. On the second one there was due to be a speaker from Jews for Justice for Palestinians (jfjfp). The proposal to have a speaker from jfjfp was strongly supported by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. But this proposal was blocked within the Stop the War committee.

I have been told, on very good authority, who blocked it – a leading member of the SWP. I don’t know whether this member is also part of the faction that is supporting the continued association with Atzmon but I wouldn’t be surprised.

The irony of the situation is that the Independent Jewish Voice position is that anti-semitism and anti-semitism blindness is not a significant issue within the Left. Indeed, the argument is that accusations of anti-semitism are a smokescreen, used to silence critics of Israel.

And, so it seems, some of those Independent Jewish Voices have, in fact, been silenced. But not by the Chief Rabbi or the Board of Deputies.

So, where does this leave anti-racists and jewish anti-zionists in the Palestinian solidarity movement?

It seems to me that they have two options:

(a) Accept that they are members of an organisation which, at the very least, does not regard anti-jewish racism within the Palestinian solidarity movement as a concern. Continue to allow themselves to be wheeled out to rebut accusations that anti-jewish racism exists; or

(b) To form a new, anti-racist and anti-Zionist Palestinian solidarity movement.

Perhaps they could call it “Independent Jewish Voices