The Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM on 23/1/2016

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25/01/2016 by socialistfight

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Opening the PSC AGM on 23 January 2016

Building Solidarity with Palestine

Report by Gerry Downing 25/1/2016

About 350 delegates attended the AGM, according to the PSC website but the only counted vote recorded 76 for and 116 against with several delegates holding two and, in one case I noted, three voting cards – apparently you got a red card vote as an individual member and one as a delegate from a local group or a blue vote additionally as a delegate from a national organisation. Don’t know what the three red card votes was about.

Financially the PSC is in very good shape, the global reaction at the mass bombing of Gaza in July 2014, Operation Protective Edge, was such that a very high level of donations and affiliations continues, unlike the fall-off after previous IDF outrages like Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9. PSC has recruited extra staff and ended the year with a healthy surplus.

There were only 6 motions from the 62 branches, not an indication of a very politically engaged base. No need for a compositing committee here, with all its bureaucratic implication. These motions were taken around the discussion on the 4 Objectives for the coming year, which was a good way of doing it.

 Objective 1

was the colonial settlements, Nakba – a week for Palestine, culminating in a national event on Sunday 15 May, as in previous years, and the siege of Gaza.

There were two motions taken here, Motions 2, condemning Israel’s appalling attacks on their Bedouin citizens in the Negev desert. In particular the 90 times the village of Al Arakib was demolished only to rise again dues to the determination of its inhabitants, who are now forced to live in the cemetery, whose earliest gravestone prove that it has existed there since 1913. And the AGM pledged solidarity with the village of Umm el-Hiran, which is scheduled to be demolished and replaced by an Israeli Jewish village of the same name in the same place, despite the fact the Negev is 4,700 square miles; over half of area of Israel. Of course it is not a desert at all in places or people could not live there. One delegate condemned the developing practice of replacing road signs with the Israeli name in Hebrew and Arabic but the Palestinian name no longer appears, their very name for their own places is no longer recognised by Israel. This motion was passed unanimously with many moving speeches in favour and none against.

The second motion here was the Red Card for Israeli Racism, with the attempt to get FIFA to suspend Israeli membership. The motion condemned restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players, staff and officials and egregious racism on the part of Israeli football officials and clubs. In particular the Israeli Football Association tolerance of the situation at Beitar Jerusalem FC, where a long-standing unofficial ban on Palestinians players is combined with violent fascism on the part of its supporters. This motion was also passed unanimously, although the suggestion of one delegate that Palestine be allowed into the Eurovision song contest went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

Then followed the elections for the Executive committee. All the existing Officer places were filled without contest. These were Hugh Lanning, Chair, Kamel Hawwash, Vice Chair, Ben Soffa, Secretary, John Ellis, Treasurer, Stephen Bell, Campaign Officer and Pia Westlin, Trade Union Liaison Officer. Eight were elected from the twelve nominations from the membership. One candidate apologised for being white but did point out that he was both gay and disabled so we should vote for him. I did not in a very politically motivated anti-sectionalist huff. And I did not vote for those who were not at the meeting or who made no political statement whatsoever apart from how experienced and good they were at their jobs. Of course one needs to know more about candidates but left with no other way of deciding and not yet being engaged in the internal politics of the PSC that was my only option. There was no obvious oppositionists like Tony Greenstein on the list. Betty Hunter and Bernard Regan were two well-known names elected amongst the eight.

Gaza-17-10-16

The 17 October protest outside the Israeli in support of Gaza where Abbas Ali and Antonio Maniscalco  were arrested for holding the Hezbollah flag and “for disrupting the peace, i.e provoking others to attack them, and for supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation.”

 

 Objective 2,

was after lunch which we dealt with how to strengthen our campaigning. This noted that PSC campaigning (and others too) was under serious attack through the Prevent strategy and Extremism Bill. Moves by Israel and the US – including by TTIP – to undermine BDS (this motion, No. 6, fell off the end of the agenda and was referred back) were now being actively pursued. This was the only official muted criticism of the USA in the whole AGM, of which more later. It advocated the Boycott Divestment & Sanctions (BDS), anti-racism, challenging Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

But there was no mention or, let alone advocacy of, workers’ sanctions, no calls for direct actions by the working class globally in black-listing and hot-cargoing ships and air traffic cargo to Israel as the San Francisco dockers in the famous Local 10 did to Apartheid South Africa beginning in 1962 and famously in 1984 when Local 10 members refused to work South African steel and coal for ten days. And of course the great the world-wide labour protest of dockers and transport workers in July 2010 at the massacre of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and those on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara. Greg Dropkin reported on 09/07/10

“Three weeks after the massacre on the Freedom Flotilla, ILWU dockworkers in the San Francisco Bay area delayed an Israeli Zim Lines ship for 24 hours, the Swedish Dockworkers Union began a week-long blockade of Israeli ships and containers, dockers in the Port of Cochin, India, refused to handle Israeli cargo, and the Turkish dockworkers union Liman-Is announced their members would refuse to service any Israeli shipping. In South Africa, Durban dockers had already boycotted a Zim Lines ship in response to the invasion of Gaza last year.”[1]

 Significantly this was the result of an appeal from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW), the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (IFU), and eleven other Palestinian union and labour movement organisations. It was a global labour movement action which showed their power. In fact there was no labour movement orientation and no recognition of the global working class as central agents of revolution and those with the direct potential to isolate and defeat the Israeli state.

October 2014: Oakland has made history once again with another BDS victory for Palestine against the Israeli Zim shipping line. This latest round of organizing has been the most momentous and historic. Members of ILWU Local 10 informed Block the Boat organizers that the Zim Beijing which was headed to the Port of Oakland, has been re-routed to Russia to avoid disruptions at the SSA terminal. For the first time ever, an Israeli ship has been completely turned away before reaching its port of destination due to sustained overwhelming community organizing.

 What is a “terrorist”?

Next came the major oppositional debate on Motion 1 on the Government attacks on solidarity – the Counter Extremism Bill. The motion itself was unobjectionable but very weak hence the amendment propose by Tony Greenstein and seconded by Clayton Doyle. This was opposed by the Executive on many counts but really what they found absolutely unacceptable was the sentences, “We reject the labelling of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) as terrorists. This does not mean that PSC agrees politically with any or all of the above organisations.” The PKK had nothing to do with Palestine so why should we bother with those? asked one PSC leader. Also objectionable was the proposal to affiliate to ‘Together Against Prevent’ – the PSC does not affiliate to any organisation, they said and the only way to fight Prevent was legally, we had already learned from the Objectives.

The implicit motivation for rejecting the label terrorists for Hezbollah was an event that happened at demo outside the Israeli Embassy on 17 October 2015. The 5 Pillars website reported on the incident. [2] Here the PSC leadership objected to the presence of the flag of Hezbollah and some present attempted to remove it, the flag poles were broken. Subsequently the police were called, the two flag holders, Abbas Ali and Antonio Maniscalco, were arrested for disrupting the peace and for supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation. Ali said that the police had also raided his house and took PCs, laptops and memory cards. Mr Maniscalco’s residence was also raided.

Abbas Ali complained that:

 “There were other flags at the demonstration such as pro-Morsi and Hamas symbols and someone actually broke our flagpole but the police didn’t do anything to them,”

 I personally witnessed many flags on the protest. The PSC said that only Palestinian national flags would be welcome at the protest but only the Hezbollah met with such fierce opposition. The PSC leadership have neither confirmed nor denied calling the police.

The amendment was fiercely attacked by the Executive and just as fiercely defended. The political issues were clear, although both Hamas and Hezbollah were legal political parties they both had military wings who were either ‘terrorists’ according to imperialist propaganda accepted by the PSC Executive or they were freedom fighters according to their opponents who had every right to use violence to defend themselves. The truly shocking notion that only the violence of the oppressor and the slave holder was legitimate and the violence of the oppressed and the slave was totally illegitimate and the actions of ‘terrorists’ was what the conflict was clearly about.

The Executive and delegates also stressed the need to highlight both the 100 anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and the 50 anniversary of the 1967 war next year and preliminary plans were outlined for this.

The amendment was lost by about 2:1 with no card count. The motion itself was then passed unanimously.

Motion 5, to condemn the Co-Operative bank was taken here and it was agreed to pursue legal action and to transfer either to the Unity Trust Bank or to the some other bank that offered a good deal. Passed unanimously.

Mustafa Barghouti, General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative (PNI), a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council since 2006 and is also a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council addressed the meeting through Skype with a moving expose of the shocking actions of the Israeli and the support the Palestinians were gaining for UN membership and rights as a state.

 Objectives 3,

to organise for growth and

Objective 4,

to build alliances for political growth, were then outlined. One delegate here raised the project of setting up a Conservative (yes, Tory) Friends of Palestine group of MPs and the Executive indicated support for this. Another delegate asked for a fortnightly newsletter to assist activists in their work and the remaining motions were taken.

Motion 5, to expel Israel from the United Nations was the other controversial motion. It was moved by Blake Aklcott and seconded by Chris Burns-Cox. It had been referred back from the 2015 AGM by 134 to 74 and it was taken again here. The Executive strongly opposed with the same type of argument used against Tony Greenstein, they agreed with most of the sentiments but they had to build broad alliances and this would alienate the many of those who might support the cause. There was a lot wrong with the motion, its legalism and the illusion that the UN, which had recognised Israel and partitioned Palestine in the first place in 1948 (Joe Stalin first in with recognition there).

This could not possible be the vehicle for the liberation of Palestine via a “motion to the Security council recommending that the General Assembly expel Israel in compliance with the Charter, Article 6.” But the motion did represent a progressive impulse to expel and defeat Israel and should have been supported on that basis. And wasn’t is contradictory to be for the inclusion of Palestine and the Expulsion, a PSC leader asked? Not it wasn’t replied a delegate later, both these should be taken together, this happened in 1971 when the United Nations General Assembly recognised the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and expelled Taiwan.

Notable in support of the motion was a young Palestinian woman in traditional dress who spoke eloquently and powerfully in support of the motion and a ‘new member’ who opposed the motion on the basis that it was not ‘reasonable or realistic’ – standard Blair-speak for defending the status quo.

Nevertheless it was supportable as a democratic demand but not to the PSC executive. This amendment was lost 76 for and 116 against in the only card count of the meeting, including all the multi-votes cast.

Embarrassment for UK Zionists after Israel rally is cancelled

A UK pro-Israel rally scheduled for the end of the month has been cancelled in an embarrassing blow to the British Zionist movement. The event – called “Say No to Terror: Stand With Israel” – was due to take place on January 31st in Manchester, north west England.  Manchster was home to Chaim Weizmann who, almost a century ago, was instrumental in securing the Balfour Declaration which paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel, and would later became its president.

Socialist Fight Public Meeting and new pamphlet

Socialist Fight intervened by distributing a few hundred flyers advertising our public meeting on

Zionism and Colonialism

Political Zionism: The Hegemonic Racism of the early 21st Century

Sunday 14 February, 2 pm – 4.30 pm

Cock Tavern, 23 Phoenix Road, Nr Euston NW1 1HB

Speakers

Ian Donovan: Socialist Fight EB

Gerry Downing: Socialist Fight EB

Ailish Dease: Socialist Fight EB, Author, The imperialist rape of the Congo: the Longest Genocide

Chair: Carol Foster, Socialist Fight EB

And we sold 20 copies of our pamphlet In defence of Trotskyism No. 17

Zionism and Colonialism

Political Zionism: The Hegemonic Racism of the early 21st Century

Ian Donovan got to speak in support of Tony Greenstein’s amendment to Motion 1. I just missed the cut on that motion and constraints of time meant that there was only one for and one against from the floor on the motion for the expulsion of Israel from the UN.

 This is what Comrade Donovan said:

 “I am a PSC supporter from London and a supporter of Socialist Fight. I am speaking in support of the amendment from Tony Greenstein. First of all I would like to point out that there is no problematic issue with Tony’s amendment regarding Hamas and Hezbollah. Nowhere does it mention their armed wings; it is simply pointing out that we should be opposing the government criminalising these political movements and parties as being ‘terrorist’. The arguments against this are false

 But I would like to talk about the context of all this. The amendment correctly says that the Terrorism Act 2000 would have outlawed support for the African National Congress. Yet in the days of the anti-Apartheid movement supporters of white supremacy were on the defensive. It was clear that they were supporting racism.

 Today it is not so clear to many. This is shown by the self-righteous tone of the political offensive being waged against Muslims and implicitly against the Palestinians. The government is claiming that ‘British values’ are universal and anti-racist, and that rejecting them is tantamount to racism and /or ‘fundamentalism’. We must not capitulate to this narrative.

 We must take up the idea that was once so obvious that it was even passed in the UN General Assembly in the 1970s – before it was repudiated in a great backsliding.

 Political Zionism is racism. Not only that, but it is the hegemonic form of racism today. Also it is the racism that does not speak its name. It has great power, not only in Israel but also in the imperialist countries generally.

 We see the use of the tragic events of the Holocaust as a justification for this racism today, in the name of an Orwellian pseudo-’anti-racism’ that justifies the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. This ideology needs to be challenged. Thus I am calling for support for this amendment, as a step in the right direction, even though from my standpoint it arguably does not go far enough. Vote for the amendment.”

 

 What I would have said:

I didn’t get to say what I wanted so here is approximately what I would have said:

 “Isn’t it amazing that in the whole of the conference there is no condemnation of the role of the USA in the oppression of the Palestinians. There was one mention, a demand from one delegate that we raise the arrack on the USS Liberty in 1967 that cost dozens of US lives by the Israeli Navy and carry a US flag in a demo to protest the subsequent cover-up and seek to right this injustice. Operation Protective edge is only a year and a half ago, the IDF ran out of bombs to drop of Gaza half way through and, far from stopping the mass slaughter, the US immediately re-supplied them from their ammunition dumps in Israel so the bloody business could proceed without a hitch.

 The US grants Israel over $3 billion annually and this amounts to a total of over $130 billion since 1949, by far the biggest recipient of US aid. Israel could not do with it does to the Palestinians without this military and economic assistance.

 The inability of this meeting to take ANY position on Imperialism amounts to a grovelling before the imperialist media, we must brand Hezbollah, Hamas and the PKK as ‘terrorists’ because they tell us they are and because they oppose the economic and political interests of US imperialism.

 There has been several references to the ‘success’ of the campaign against South African Apartheid and boycott and sanctions but I will make two points on this. Despite the welcome removal of outright racial decimation, of course a progressive thing in itself, today’s South Africa and its neighbouring Namibia are the most socially unequal societies on the planet now. The ANC and SWAPO only replaced a small section of the old ruling class with a few Black faces who became billionaires and millionaires. They retained the rest of the old regime intact, including some of the more covert features of the old apartheid.

 In fact they also increased the neo-liberal agenda of privatisations and facilitating transnational banks, mining companied and other corporations in exploiting Black labour. The massacre of the Marikana miners on 19 August 2014 and the crucial part played by the ANC and the former miners’ leader Cyril Ramaphosa in facilitating that massacre says it all. If all the PSC wants to do is to replace Israeli exploiters with equally vicious Palestinian exploiters, or more likely with a settlement what allows a small section of the Palestinian capitalists to buy into Israeli exploitation as ‘equal partners’, clearly Mahmoud Abbas’ aspiration, then many more Marikana-type massacres are in the offing.

 ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan made a good speech and it was a relief this year that no guest speaker to tell us of their admiration for the ‘good work’ of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority, whose term of office ended in 2009 but who unilaterally abolished elections and extended his rule indefinitely. He continues as the open stooge of Israel with no objection on his lack of democracy from any imperialist power. But when Hamas got elected by a democratic majority vote of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank in 2006 these elections were refused recognition by the ‘democratic’ international community, i.e. the imperialist powers that rule the planet with compliant acquiescence of the leaders of Russia and China in any matters that does not conflict with their immediate interests.

 But even the miserable ‘solution’ to apartheid won in South Africa is not on offer in Israel. Only the international working class will lead the struggle for the liberation of Palestine. We saw their global potential if they are given a lead in the great response to the attack on the Mavi Marmara referred to earlier. Abbas is not Nelson Mandela, Israel proposes wholesale ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel itself, from Gaza and the West Bank. And that means we must identify the USA as the main enemy of the whole of the global working class and oppressed humanity everywhere. We must seek its defeat by the anti-imperialist united front and NEVER ally with it against any force fighting it. The violence of the oppressed is NOT to be equated with the violence of the oppressed, one is reactionary and the other is progressive in so far as it fight imperialism itself.

 A delegate from Barnstable, in north Devon proudly waved his Morning Star proclaiming it to be the only daily paper to support the Palestinians. This was untrue, of course, the WRP still produces the News Line and that definitively supports the Palestinians.”

 The AGM concluded with a presentation to Sarah Colborne and a speech by Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian, his 10th to a PSC AGM, outlining his vision of the way forward.

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Palestine Ambassador Manuel Hassassian closing the 2016 PSC AGM in Conway Hall London

[1]Greg Dropkin, Blockade: Dockers respond to Israel’s Flotilla Massacre and Gaza Siege, http://www.labournet.net/docks2/1007/blockade1.html

[2]Two arrested after refusing to take down Hezbollah flag at Palestine demo, http://5pillarsuk.com/2015/10/20/two-arrested-after-refusing-to-take-down-hezbollah-flag-at-palestine-demo/?fb_action_ids=10208703186564990&fb_action_types=og.comments

 

One thought on “The Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM on 23/1/2016

  1. This is the link to Tony Greenstein’s report on the same meeting.

    http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/report-on-psc-agm-2016.html.

    Like

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