I am pleased to concur with comrade David Ellis’ suggestion to publish this worthwhile contribution to the debate about the recent expulsions from PSC from Ruth Tenne of Camden PSC, not least because unfortunately WW does not have comments on its website. Therefore in the interests of the free exchange of ideas it appears here.
Tony Greenstein’s piece, ‘No room for anti-Semites’ (Weekly WorkerJanuary 19), seems to have a lot in common with Tanya Gold’s comments in The Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’ (‘LSE Nazi games in context, January 16). Gold claims that “Anti-Semitic discourse is now mainstream and to say it all comes from the crimes of the Jewish state feels disingenuous and a denial of the past. Anti-Semitism is too old to sprout anew from nothing.”
Tony, a Palestine Solidarity Campaign member, will by Tania’s definition be regarded as “one of the leftwing anti-Semites [who] despise Israel, but are vocal on the crime of other oppressive countries”. Yet, Tony, like Ms Gold and the pro-Zionist camp, is bent on cleaning out PSC of any alleged holocaust deniers and anti-Semites. He claims: “It would be futile to deny that this has not caused major problems for PSC … Up and down the country, individual branches have experienced problems … In Camden, Gill Kaffash was forced to step down as PSC secretary after her holocaust denial sympathies became clear.”
As a member of Camden PSC, I was appalled by the underhand way Camden PSC pushed Gill out of her post as secretary of the branch to which she dedicated more than five years of hard work – making good use of her organisational expertise and inspiring many PSC supporters. Gill has also spent long periods in Palestine, where she taught English and helped with establishing community facilities. Moreover, she was a member of the PSC executive for a number of years. Needless to say, I felt compelled to object to the branch’s intention of forcing Gill out of her post and sent my objections to the small forum which was about to take that decision. Yet they decided unanimously, on the basis of a previous resolution, to go ahead with their intended ‘coup’ – informing Gill of it in an email which was only copied to the members of the forum who took the decision rather than to the full email list of Camden PSC.
Since PSC does not seem to have an appeal mechanism, and the issue at hand was too important to ignore, Gill proposed a motion which stated that in the light of the pressure on PSC from accusations of anti-Semitism – which has led to expulsion of members on such alleged grounds – there is a need to “demonstrate the importance of agreement on the meaning of racism, anti-Jewish prejudice and Islamophobia, as used in the constitution”. Gill proposed a definition based on the Wikipedia dictionary.
As a member of Camden PSC who witnessed the unacceptable ad-hoc mechanisms by which Gill and other PSC members were pushed out of their posts, or membership, I seconded her motion, being aware (as Gill was) that the proposed definition is only a basis for debate, to be followed by building up a coherent policy. Unfortunately, there was not enough time at the January 21 AGM to discuss all the motions and Gill’s was remitted to the executive, who presumably will discuss it among themselves and inform the membership whether it had been adopted or not. Since it seems this discussion will be carried out behind closed doors, I feel compelled to make my seconder’s comments public. These were to refer to my strong views about PSC’s recent policies on alleged holocaust deniers. As a Jew and an Israeli-born citizen, I believe the following comments as a seconder to Gill’s motion should not be disregarded by PSC’s membership:
“I am greatly alarmed by obvious attempts to ‘clean out’ PSC of alleged anti-Semites and holocaust deniers. My grandparents and many close relatives perished in the holocaust. Yet I believe that I, like other fellow citizens, have the right and perhaps the duty to ask questions about the background, extent and procedures/means employed by the Nazis for exterminating millions of Jews and non-Jews and the stages which led to the ‘final solution’. I do not consider the holocaust a taboo subject, which, in my view, is virtually hijacked by Israel and the Jewish community. If my questions lead to challenging the official narrative of the holocaust – which is promoted aggressively by Israel in order to defend the creation and the policies of the Jewish state – then I stand to be called a holocaust denier …
“Let me remind you that we owe a great deal to the Israeli new historians … who dared to challenge the Israeli national version of the so-called ‘war of independence’ and the steps which led to the Palestinian nakba. On the same principle, the Jewish scholar, Marc Ellis, has argued that the holocaust is not merely part of the past and should not be considered as if it was born in a vacuum – having no links to the present and future. In his words: ‘… To speak of the holocaust without confessing our sins towards the Palestinian people and seeking a real justice with them is a hypocrisy that debases us as Jews.’
“Marc Ellis, like Norman Finkelstein … has been hounded and vilified by the mainstream Jewish community. Is the PSC going to align with such forms of inquisition-style witch-hunt on the lines of the McCarthy era, when alleged ‘communists’ were hunted out in public? Are we going to implicitly offer support to the Israeli ‘holocaust promoters’, such as Matan Vilnai – the ex-deputy defence minister, who in February 2008 threatened Gaza with a bigger shoah (holocaust), and Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Israeli prime minister Olmert – who considered putting Gazans on a ‘starvation diet’ in the aftermath of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza?
“By looking out for alleged, or imaginary, holocaust deniers and voting for a motion which makes it part of PSC’s official and publicly declared policy, we are placing ourselves on the same level of those who view PSC as an anti-Semitic organisation …
“It is clear to me that PSC should avoid falling into the trap of employing an ambivalent and open-ended definition of anti-Semitism, or get engaged in an anti-holocaust denier campaign – which may stand the risk of conflating extreme criticism of Israel’s policies with, or view any attempt to revisit and challenge the narrative of the holocaust as, anti-Semitism …
“I would submit that the PSC … should add the following statement to the executive’s AGM motion 2 …: ‘Equally PSC should endeavour to combat attempts of (mis)using the holocaust in order to fend off criticism against Israel’s policies and in employing the holocaust’s emotive narrative for defending Israel’s racist actions and apartheid practices’.”
The AGM adopted the executive’s motion, which says that “any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the holocaust, have no place in our movements. Such sentiments are abhorrent in their own right and can only detract from the building of a strong movement in support of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.”
Thus, the witch-hunting and ‘cleaning out’ of alleged holocaust deniers has become now one of the core policies of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. This would no doubt have a significant impact on the work of PSC, the use of its resources and on its cohesion as a movement which is supposed to stand up against those who in the name of the holocaust justify the creation of a ‘Jewish state’ based on indefensible colonialism and racism against the Palestinian people.
It is not, however, too late to include my above-submitted lines (or a similar wording) in PSC’s mission statement, which is posted on its website.