Thursday, 24 July 2014

Support for Palestine does not equate to anti-semitism

First published in the Morning Star on 23 July 2014

We're caught up in our internal debate in Scotland as to whether independence or devolution is the best strategy to deliver social justice at home. 
Whatever the result, the world outside will be the same and, especially at times like these, we must resist looking inwards at the expense of our long and proud history of internationalism.
It is an internationalism that has grasped the nettle when the causes were not widely popular. 
Ireland is one example. But amid the universal support these days for Nelson Mandela, we forget the uproar from the right when Glasgow gave him the freedom of the city in 1981. A year later Scottish Friends of Palestine was born, hardly with a chorus of mass approval
In 2006, the STUC brought together Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and Histadrut reps in an audacious step that underlined the principle of speaking to all sides in conflict to try to achieve peace. 
But that was not an uncritical approach. As UNISON’s John McFadden told the STUC in 2002: “It is difficult to be even-handed about the current violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories,” as he pledged unequivocal support for the Palestinians.
In the same speech, he coined Scotland’s approach to internationalism. 
“What is needed is to deal with the issues of oppression and poverty. Removing the breeding grounds for terror will be more effective in ‘rooting out terrorism’ than all the tanks and bombs.”
There is a price to pay for speaking out on these issues, as many campaigners will tell you. They will tell of being bombarded with emails or threatened with legal action or actually arrested for “racism” for criticising a government. 
In the latter case it took two years for the courts to find that challenging Israeli government policies was not anti-semitism.
The last vestige of those who have lost the moral argument is to accuse you of anti-semitism. 
Over the years I have been told the very term “Palestine” is anti-semitic. I have been told, in emails from zionists, that support for Palestinians is anti-Jewish. 
It is nothing of the sort. It is support for the people who are subjugated and displaced, and for the families who have their homes blown up and their children killed. 
I condemn those who commit these hideous offences against the Palestinians, no matter what their ethnicity, just as I am against those who send young men and women out to die with bombs strapped round their bodies. Understanding why things happen does not mean condoning them.
Our predecessors went to Spain in 1936 to fight the fascism that went on to commit hideous crimes against Jews. 
We revere those fighters in at least 20 monuments across Scotland from Glasgow to Perth, Edinburgh to Aberdeen, Prestonpans, Motherwell, Fife, Blantyre and elsewhere. How dare the zionists call us and our heroic predecessors anti-semitic?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because it is nothing to do with anti-semitism. It is to do with right-wing politics. 
It is about US imperialism. It is about ensuring the war goes on. The greatest chance for peace was to do business with progressive forces in Palestine. 
Right-wing Israeli politicians made sure that could not happen. The US made sure that could not happen.
This is a conflict of the Israeli government’s choosing. One where, protected by the US flag, they don’t care about international horror at their killing. 
One where, protected by the corporate media, they don’t care about public opinion. 
A conflict where the TV correspondents on the ground can barely conceal their horror but toe the line, sometimes with obvious pain in trying to keep to “balanced coverage.”
You cannot have balanced coverage in a massacre. You have to take sides. To do otherwise is to pretend there is an equal conflict. There is not. There is an occupation. There is a denial of human rights. There is collective punishment of civilians. There is an active decision not to have peace. 
Thankfully, not all Israelis sit on a hilltop cheering on slaughter. Thousands have been on the streets this month calling for an end to collective punishment. 
The words of an Israeli army captain in 2009 sum up what all Israelis should know: “You cannot kill the desire of the Palestinian people to live in freedom.”
Opposing suicide bombers who take civilian lives does not make us anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. 
Opposing Israeli occupation, collective punishment or mass slaughter of families does not make us anti-semitic. 
It makes us human and socialist. The same socialists that spoke up for the Jews who shared the concentration camps with trade unionists, socialists, Gypsies, the disabled and anyone else who did not fit into the bizarre nazi concept of the world.
But when it comes to the choice between the oppressed and the oppressor there is no choice. We stand with the oppressed — and that is the Palestinian people.
And if you want to email me about that, it’s OK by me.

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