So apparently I’m a stooge of the Israeli government and a supporter of the occupation of Palestine and an Establishment lackey.
The reason for this is I’ve agreed to speak at an event organised by the Jewish Labour Movement in my memory of one of my closest friend’s father, and in conversation with former Labour parliamentary candidate Sarah Sackman (which I’m very glad to do).
JLM asked me to do the event in memory of Henry Smith, a lovely man I was very lucky to know. I was his son’s best man and longtime housemate.
Because of the position of JLM members on Israel and Palestine, I’m currently being bombarded by people calling me an Establishment careerist stooge of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and so on and so forth.
So let me abundantly clear. I’m a passionate supporter of Palestinian justice. My views on Palestine haven’t changed one jot. Palestine currently languishes under brutal occupation and is deprived of one of the most fundamental rights, the right to national self determination. Israel’s hard-right government is expanding illegal settlements. The Israeli government has subjected Gaza to brutal sieges and military offensives which have killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians. My opposition to these horrors hasn’t weakened one bit.
I believe in a just peace for both Arabs and Jews, providing security and peaceful coexistence. That process involves dialogue. At the JLM event, there will be people with a variety of different views on Israel and on Palestine, because like any other community British Jews are not a homogenous bloc of people. If that discussion happens, I will offer the same views I’ve always had.
On foreign policy, there’s a desperate need for consistency. I oppose the occupation of Palestine for the same reason I’ve campaigned about Britain’s support for the Saudi dictatorship and its British-backed bombing of Yemen, or about Britain’s support for the Turkish regime as it cracks down on democracy and oppresses Kurds — because when your government goes against human rights and justice, you have a responsibility to call them to account. It also means speaking out about injustices committed by other powers, too, whether it be Donald Trump’s America or Vladimir Putin’s Russia (and its role abroad).
One of the claims currently being made is that by speaking at a JLM event I’m part of a right-wing conspiracy against the Labour leadership. It should be noted that Corbyn backer Rhea Wolfson won the support of JLM when she successfully stood for Labour’s National Executive Committee, and the Labour leadership brought JLM on to the NEC’s Equalities Subcommittee. It’s not always some conspiracy. I’m speaking at an event in memory of my friend’s late father.
There is another point, though. I am a passionate opponent of anti-Semitism in all its forms, overt or subtle. It has to be fought, relentlessly, wherever it appears, including on the left. I’ve written about this repeatedly — about the need for the left to take leadership on the issue and combat anti-Semitism wherever it appears. Socialists have a responsibility to stand with Jewish people and to be seen to stand with Jewish people. Again, it’s in that spirit that I’m attending the JLM event in memory of my friend’s father.
Over the years I’ve spoken at all sorts of events, up to and including at Conservative Party Conference. Yes, there are exceptions: I won’t, say, attend events organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party because they covered up rape within their organisation and subjected survivors of rape to kangaroo courts where they were interrogated about their sexual and alcohol history. But I believe in dialogue, discussion and debate. That doesn’t mean compromising my views one bit.