Members and supporters may be interested to read our response to the dangerous and provocative statement by Graham Cox, Chairman [sic] of the Brighton and Hove Conservatives. It is reproduced below.
Dear Mr Cox,
We write in response to your statement on the Brighton and Hove Conservatives’ website (http://www.brightonandhoveconservatives.com/2012/07/statement-on-anti-israel-remarks-of-smash-edo/) dated 3 July 2012, and in particular to object to what we feel is your attempt to discredit our campaign with the charge of antisemitism. We’d be pleased to come along to speak to your group to clarify our position.
The Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign works to achieve justice and equal human rights for Palestinians. We oppose many of the policies and actions of the Israeli government both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in 1948 Israel.
Your statement asserts that there has been ‘a rise in racist incidents targeted at the Jewish community’ locally. You go on to suggest a link between this alleged rise in anti-Jewish incidents, and the activities of SmashEDO ‘and other local extreme left-wing groups’, in which category we assume you clearly intend to include our own organisation. We wish to refute this slur in the strongest terms. It is both spurious and insulting for you to attempt to discredit our campaign by insinuating that we have somehow encouraged anti-Jewish racism implicitly or explicitly.
Racism – including antisemitism – thrives in conditions of poverty, inequality and social exclusion. We are living in precisely such conditions. A much more plausible explanation for the alleged increase in anti-Jewish incidents is therefore the well-documented growing gap in living standards and opportunity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ – conditions reminiscent, to use your own phrase, of the 1930s.
At the same time it is also empirically true that recorded incidents of anti-Jewish behaviour tend to increase during periods of the most visible aggression by the Israeli state, as in the attacks on Lebanon in 2006 and the devastating ‘Operation Cast Lead’ campaign against Gaza in 2008-09, and as Israel has increasingly asserted its status as a Jewish state. But this is why it is so crucial to distinguish between criticism of Israel on the one hand and of Jewish people as individuals and as a category on the other, as we always do. We are very heartened that you agree that ‘of course it is legitimate to criticise the Israeli government’.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is founded on principles of justice, human rights, and opposition to all forms of racism. At its most recent national Annual General Meeting, the PSC re-affirmed its opposition to antisemitism with a major policy motion. We believe that our solidarity with the Palestinians and our opposition to antisemitism are rooted in the same founding principles of antiracism – hence our campaign against the blatantly racist policies and actions of the Israeli state.
As a group locally, we are vigilant to ensure that antisemitism plays no part in our campaign, and we feel very strongly that you should be equally vigilant to ensure that you do not libel groups which actively oppose Israeli policies. Any of your members who are committed to social justice and human rights would be welcome to join us, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or political affiliation.
You are right to point out that Israel is not the only state with a deplorable human rights record. Many of us involved in Palestine Solidarity are involved in other campaigns as well, but it is ludicrous for you to criticise pro-Palestinian campaigns because they focus exclusively on Palestine. Should the Conservative Friends of Azerbaijan, for example, be criticised for failing to speak out against human rights abuses in China?
Many Jewish Zionists may well dislike hearing Israel labelled an apartheid state. The use of the term ‘apartheid’ in relation to Israel is not reckless hyperbole on our part. The term has been formally adopted by the UN and in international law: laws and policies designed to benefit one group of people over another and enforce separation fit the definition of apartheid under international law. In other words, the term does not relate exclusively to South Africa. This year, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has slated Israel, condemning ‘segregation’ in Israel’s pre-1967 borders, as well as in the Occupied West Bank. The uncomfortable truth is that Israel is democratic for Jews, and Jewish for Palestinians, as evidenced by the racist priorities shaping immigration, land, planning, development budgets and more.
The South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, who was a leading opponent of apartheid in South Africa, has said that Israel would never get true security and safety through oppressing another people’ and compared Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians to the South African oppression of black South Africans under apartheid.
As for Brighton and Hove PSC’s support for the cultural boycott of Israel, we are resolved to boycott any Israeli institution which supports, represents, promotes or benefits from the Israeli government’s apartheid policies, and its representatives, in response to the call by Palestinian civil society in 2005 for a worldwide programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions. Your comparison of this boycott to Nazi book-burning and other anti-Jewish activities is inaccurate and ill-informed. This boycott is aimed at the Israeli government, not at Jewish individuals, and is supported by many Jewish anti-Zionist groups who are vociferous in their criticism of Israel’s racist policies. So, far from being reminiscent of the 1930s, as you suggest in your statement, the current boycott movement is actually reminiscent of the 1980s, when civil society worldwide organised to oppose the appalling suppression of human rights in South Africa.
As we said at the outset, if you would like clarification of any of these issues we would be pleased to come and speak to your group.
Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign