This is a guest post by Rob Marchant
Well, from my New Statesman article last Friday I learned a couple of things: that there are an awful lot of crazy people in the world, most of whom, it seemed, wanted to comment on my piece; and that there are also sensible, decent people on the left who simply don’t know this stuff is going on.
Anyway, since PSC chair Hugh Lanning has now posted a response piece at the NS, I should try and correct what he has said. It is not difficult to take apart his argument, but I shall do it, for completeness and because I am, frankly, a bit bloody-minded.
For the record, Lanning’s response contains no links to sources, although this lack of corroboration is not surprising considering the weakness of the argument. Also for the record, my original piece contained links to twenty-one sources, one of which linked to ten further sources.
“Those who support Israel’s actions are attempting…to portray those supporting Palestinian rights as anti-Semitic”
I can only take it that Mr Lanning means me. However, in his opening lines, he’s actually made an entirely wrong assumption, as I’m afraid is typical of everyone I have come across in the PSC: they assume that anyone who criticises them is an Israeli puppet who slavishly follows everything their government says. Well, I don’t support Israel’s actions: at least certainly not the settlements policy and a bunch of other stuff. And I think Netanyahu is a very poor leader for Israel. But such nuances are clearly beyond Mr Lanning. Anyway, wrong assumption.
And I support Palestinian rights, by the way, and I’m not anti-Semitic. This piece was against the PSC (and others), not against everyone who supports Palestine. So, that assertion, backed up by nothing, is also incorrect.
“Rob Marchant‘s blog post which focused on criticising the PSC began with four incidences — three of which had nothing to do with PSC”
Interestingly, I did not claim otherwise: the piece specifically said that only the last two were to do with the PSC, the paragraph was a general one about the rise of anti-Semitism.
In fact, what the PSC claim – and, to be fair, may be true – is that the “Scottish PSC” and the “PSC” are not the same organisation. Odd that two organisations that have almost the same name are entirely separate, but let’s assume that’s the case, as it may well be.
It is interesting that Lanning’s claim is more than that: they are “nothing to do with the PSC”, because that is clearly false. Even if the organisations are legally separate, they work together, they attend the same demos and clearly share the same objectives. What is further interesting, note, is that there is no condemnation of Donnachie’s action (his conviction, as you may remember, was for a “racist breach of the peace”). And that is because, of course, as Lanning fails to mention and Stephen Pollard reports in the Telegraph, PSC director Sarah Colborne attacked his conviction.
In short, your argument is this: a very similar organisation to ours, with almost-but-not-quite the same name, has been associated with a racist incident, where members demonstrated outside the court and defended the convicted person in the press. And our organisation, thePSC, defended and supported it in doing so on record. But it’s ok, because technically it is not the same legal entity as us, so we’re in the clear and have nothing to apologise for. We need make no comment either way.
Next week: the People’s Front of Judea claim that the anti-Roman graffiti was done “by the Judean People’s Front”, so they’re in the clear.
Similarly, neither do they disassociate themselves from Viva Palestina and the “Go back to Russia” comments of its organiser Carole Swords. It is almost so obvious as to not need repeating: either disprove these assertions, or agree that they are correct and condemn these people. But don’t just say “it’s our friends, not us personally, so we don’t have to say anything”. Weak, weak, weak.
“and the fourth he completely misrepresented. PSC did not organise a protest outside the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance because of their “er, being Israeli” — it was because of their close collaboration with the Israeli armed forces.”
So, let me get this right: if they had been an orchestra with no connection to the Israeli military, you would not have thought them a legitimate target for jeering and barracking in the middle of a performance? But that’s funny, because you run a campaign against any kind of Israeli products being bought in the UK. Those Israeli companies are nothing to do with the Israeli armed forces or even the Israeli government, but you consider them a legitimate target. So, I’m afraid it’s rather difficult to believe that you did it because of links to the Israeli armed forces, because that would be rather inconsistent with your stated policy. It’s pretty clear that you would have barracked them anyway, isn’t it? But hey, that’s just a conjecture, albeit a very reasonable one.
“While the blog attacks Sheikh Raed Salah, it fails to mention that Jews for Justice for Palestinians also challenged the British government’s treatment of Raed Salah.”
I’m sorry, but I’m flipping out a bit here now. You are talking about Raed Salah, who you invited to speak at the House of Commons, and are quibbling about some procedural failure in the Home Office, all the while failing to mention rather important things from my piece like (i) this fairly disgusting poem of which he admitted to being the author during the tribunal (after previously denying it), (ii) this video, and (iii) the loss of his appeal and the fact he is about to be deported. Most of all, you fail to mention the comments of the tribunal judge, which are worth repeating:
“We are satisfied that the [Raed Salah] has engaged in the unacceptable behaviour of fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK. We are satisfied that [Raed Salah]’s words and actions tend to be inflammatory, divisive, insulting, and likely to foment tension and radicalism”
You are still defending, against all evidence to the contrary, this man who it would be clear to any reasonable person is an unpleasant extremist and racist. You could have admitted your mistake in inviting him to speak, but you are not big enough to do so and instead paint yourself into a corner, where you argue that black is white and white no colour at all.
“It also fails to mention that PSC has a clear policy against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in all its ugly forms and takes action to enforce this policy within the campaign.”
Ah well, that’s okay then. If you say that you are against anti-Semitism, everything’s ok. Well, no, it’s not. If I claim I am against racism and then invite David Duke to speak at my meeting, probably very few people will believe my claim. What you have done is not all that dissimilar, really, is it?
“As an ex-manager from the Labour Party surely knows, member organisations do need to deal with breaches of their policies and principles when they are aware of them, and PSC is committed to doing so.”
Oh, but I do: I surely do understand a political organisation must take action against its wayward members. It is interesting though, that you did not comment on any of the pieces about various of your members in ten separate local branches. In the Labour Party, anyone found carrying out these kinds of actions would immediately be reported to the Regional Office and disciplined, and quite possibly thrown out. I would be delighted to hear exactly what disciplinary action has been taken against each one of these people, if any.
“That is why we believe there has been a concerted attempt to smear the PSC.”
This is interesting, from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
con·cert·ed, adj: mutually contrived or agreed on
In other words, that I and a group of other people have ganged up on the PSC in order to smear them. Well, I have to make a terrible confession: I conspired with no-one at all in the writing of this article. Mostly I have used sources freely available on the internet, although for the odd one I am indebted to sources such as Engage and Harry’s Place. But I wrote this off my own bat, because I felt strongly about it. So your assertion is incorrect, just like the first six points.
The rest of the article bangs on, predictably, about Israel and Palestine, which was not the point of my post, as in the end I needed to point out in the comments, several times. It was about anti-Semitism, a subject which concerns me as a citizen. And that’s all, really. I am quite certain there are injustices inPalestine which need to be sorted out. As there are injustices in Israel. It is, as they say, complicated.
But what moved me to write the piece was nothing to do with the Palestine situation. It was simply that on racism there should be no quarter given, ever. And least of all in my party, the party that practically invented racial tolerance.
Finally, a few people said to me after reading the article that they didn’t know about this, and that it was shocking.
Learning point, if a blindingly obvious one: we, all of us, need to keep on going out into the world and boring people to death with this stuff until everyone, and I mean everyone, knows.
Thanks for listening.