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From the river to the sea

This is a guest post by Eric Lee

At first glance, who could oppose the Palestine Solidarity Campaign? The very name implies one of the most noble human aspirations — solidarity with a people. And in particular a people like the Palestinians, whose suffering is genuine.

No doubt many people who join the PSC, attend its demonstrations, donate money to it or encourage their unions to back it are expressing their support for the idea of solidarity with the Palestinians.

But there’s a difference — a huge one — between showing solidarity with the Palestinians and supporting the PSC.

Despite the PSC’s best efforts to convince everyone that these are one and the same thing, they aren’t.

And this becomes obvious whenever things heat up in Israel and Palestine, and when war is in the air.

Recently, I found myself at the demonstration of the PSC opposite the Israeli embassy in Kensington.

The call for the demonstration focussed on the Israeli air offensive against Gaza and was issued at a time when the only casualties seemed to be Hamas fighters, in particular Ahmed al-Jabari, the leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Still, by the time demonstrators began to arrive at the embassy, things had gotten worse and a number of civilians — on both sides — had been killed.

The demonstration would have focussed on those killings, right?

It would have called for a cease-fire or something like that, wouldn’t it?

But the very first thing I heard was not a call for an end to the violence — which would have been understandable and would have gotten sympathy from anyone — but instead was the chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

From the river to the sea?

Sorry, but there’s no way to be polite about this. That chant, and the PSC’s own logo of a map of Palestine from the river to the sea, and the subsequent chanting of “Israel out of Palestine” really could mean only one thing.

The demonstrators, or at least the people leading the chanting and making up the slogans, were supporting a one-state agenda, a solution to the century-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians by demanding that one side pack up and leave.

As it’s unlikely the Israelis are going to do this voluntarily, realistically what the demonstrators were calling for was the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine.

Not from the illegal settlements in the West Bank — no one mentioned those.

The Jews are to leave “Palestine” — from the river to the sea. This is an exterminationist agenda. I don’t think that’s too strong a term.

These are not people who dislike Israelis or Jews, or who want to discriminate against them, or put them in their place, or treat them as second class citizens. That would be ordinary anti-Semitism.

This is a different kind of anti-Semitism, the kind that imagines a Palestine without its six million Jews, from the river to the sea.

An exterminationist anti-Semitism whose solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be another Holocaust.

Of course one expects to see radical Islamists at a demonstration like this — after all, that’s been their agenda for decades.

But it’s not the agenda of the mainstream Palestinian national movement, not anymore.

It’s been nearly a quarter of century now since Arafat and the leadership of the PLO embraced the two-state solution, which paved the way to the Oslo accords.

Palestinian President Abbas isn’t calling for driving the Jews into the sea. The Palestinian trade unions aren’t calling for that. But that’s what the Palestine Solidarity Campaign was doing in Kensington — that’s their agenda.

So what was the Socialist Party doing there — a party which historically opposes the boycott of Israel and which supports a two-state solution?

On their website, they write that “The Palestinians and the Israeli Jews have a right to their own separate states.” They don’t say that one of those states will be in Palestine, and the other — in the sea?

And what was the SWP doing there, for that matter? Do they too support the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine?

It is fitting and proper for people who are shocked by the violence, and angry at the decision of the Israeli government, to protest and to show their solidarity with Palestine.

But to do so by chanting for the destruction of the Jewish state is to do the Palestinians no service.

For socialists to participate in such a demonstration is a disgrace.