Victory in Glasgow as Racist COFIS Kept Off Anti-Racist March
The Shame of the SWP/SUTR as they accept the Zionists’ ‘anti-Semitism’ narrative
Despite attempted obstruction from the march stewards Mick Napier of Scottish PSC captures what happened
Yesterday in Glasgow, despite the best attempts of the SWP/Stand Up to Racism leaders, the Zionists of the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland were kept off an anti-racist march. Scottish PSC, Palestine solidarity supporters and anti-racists were sufficiently incensed by the arrogant and dismissive attitude of SUTR/SWP that they built their own model replica of Israel’s Apartheid Wall in order to keep the Zionist racists away from the march. The Zionists got a taste of what it must be like when you face a wall separating you from where you want to go!!
The march itself, was apparently only a few hundred strong and it set off almost immediately after the time scheduled for the marchers to rally. It is clear that the leaders of the SWP/SUTR realised the counterproductive nature of their decision to allow racists onto an anti-racist march and were determined to get it all over with as soon as decently possible.
How did it happen? The SWP formed a ‘united front’ (in fact a popular front) against racism appealing to the lowest common denominator politically with the Labour and Trade Union bureaucracy and just about anyone who would have them. The SWP is anxious to keep the support of the Labour bureaucracy at any price and is fully aware that much of that bureaucracy has fallen for the lie that being Jewish and being Zionist is one and the same thing.
When the question arose of the participation of Zionists, supporters of the world’s only apartheid state, in their annual racist march, the SWP took fright. If they told the COFIS that Zionist racists were not welcome on an anti-racist march it would mean the usual allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ and the possibility of the Labour bureaucrats taking away their ‘support’. So the SWP decided that they would buckle first by swallowing their principles.
This is of course not the first time that the SWP has found its principles to be a flexible and moveable feast. When they were in Respect they kept quiet about abortion. In Stop the War Campaign they kept quiet about gay rights. Ten years ago they gave their support to Gilad Atzmon, an open anti-Semite and turned a blind eye to his anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. ‘Anti-Zionist’ holocaust denier, Time to say goodbye
Five years ago the SWP was embroiled in a crisis when a woman made allegations of rape against the National Secretary Martin Smith. Instead of Smith being suspended and the matter investigated or, if that were not possible, the Police being asked to investigate, the woman herself was penalised and made to feel responsible. Another woman, a victim of serious sexual harassment was effectively sacked for making such allegations.
In a series of articles that I and others wrote The Self-Destruction of the Socialist Workers Party — Now is the Time for a New Left Party, SWP Crisis Over Cover-up of Rape & Sexual Harassment Allegations against former National Secretary Martin Smith, SWP Central Committee — Rabbits Caught in the Headlights and Ten years on: a comment on the British SWP by the late Mike Marqusee the question was posed how this could happen in an allegedly revolutionary organisation. My own view was not merely that the question of rape and sexism was not taken seriously but that the deformed internal political culture and lack of democracy in the SWP, whereby a self-perpetuating leadership slate is re-elected each year, resulted in an organisation which has no means of checking still less analysing its own behaviour. In short there was no democratic accountability. For the SWP leadership’s analysis of what went wrong see The politics of the SWP crisis.
In the front groups it sets up like Stand Up to Racism it replicates this lack of democracy. None of its previous groups, Globalise Resistance, Unite Against Fascism, the Anti Nazi League etc. were remotely democratic. They consisted of hand picked sponsors from the Labour Party, like Peter Hain in the ANL and SWP permanent full timers who effectively controlled the organisation. In the Socialist Alliance they deliberately destroyed its democratic structures.
It is little wonder that when Palestinian supporters made demands on SUTR that an openly racist Zionist organisation should not be allowed to participate in their annual march, the SWP panicked. Knowing full well the way that the false anti-Semitism campaign of Zionism had impacted on the Labour movement they took the decision that COFIS could participate because otherwise any decision would be painted as ‘anti-Semitic’. This was a deliberate concession to reformist and pro-imperialist currents in the Labour Party because the alternative was to stand up for international solidarity and anti-imperialism. It is a concession to social chauvinism.
Of course the obvious way out was simply to declare that Jews, whoever they were, were welcome on an anti-racist march but that supporters of Israel and Israeli flags in particular were not welcome. Instead of confronting the Zionists’ attempts to confuse the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism the SWP simply caved in and made the situation worse.
Even worse the SWP then went to the leaders of unions like the EIS (teachers union in Scotland) asking them to back them up, which unsurprisingly they did. Equally unsurprising the Muslim Council of Scotland backed out of the march. So the main representative of the community which is hardest hit by racism, the Muslim community, was not represented. So Zionists, whose sole raison d’être is support of the Israeli state and who are not affected in any way by state racism, were welcome to participate on the march whereas the victims of state and fascist violence, Muslims, were forced into a position where they were not welcome.
The dunderheads of the SWP, who parrot their opposition to Islamaphobia, fell at the first hurdle. Islamapobia is the consequence of imperialist interventions in the Middle East and Afghanistan primarily. A racism imported back to Britain in the same way as the racism used to justify the British Empire found is reflection in the anti-Black racism of the 1950’s and 1960’s as symbolised by Enoch Powell.
However anti-Muslim racism is also spearheaded by Zionist groups, their neo-conservative and far-Right allies and the State of Israel. It is no accident that some of the leading Islamaphobic groups, in Britain and internationally, love Israel so much. Whether it is Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen in France or Heinz Christian Strache of the neo-Nazi Freedom Party in Austria, all are agreed that Israel is the first line of defence of the Western world against the Muslim hordes. Indeed the neo-Nazi founder of the alt-Right in the USA, Richard Spencer, declares that he is a White Zionist. In Britain a similar line is taken by the British National Party and Britain First — Holocaust denial groups at home but Israel supporters abroad.
According to Wilders, his film ‘Islamization in the West’ will show “how the forces of Islamization are specifically targeting Israel in a fight against all free societies.” The leader of Netherland’s fascist Freedom Party explains that ‘The film will demonstrate that the fight against Israel is not territorial, and hence Israel is only the first line of defense for the West.’ But the SWP is too stupid to understand the relationship between Zionism and anti-Muslim racism and because it lacks any internal democratic structure such decisions cannot be challenged.
What the debacle over the Glasgow SUTR march shows is that the SWP’s formal anti-Zionism and pro-Palestinian politics are a dead letter. When the crunch comes they simply abandon them in an opportunist and unprincipled attempt to retain the allegiance of the labour and trade union bureaucracy.
Practically this means that the SWP’s credibility in the Palestine solidarity movement is about zero. They have totally discredited themselves. Brighton PSC affiliated to Stand Up to Racism but I would not wager that that affiliation continuing much longer.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign nationally sent a letter to SUTR asking them to issue a statement that organisations participating in their march ‘need to stand on a platform of opposition to all forms of racism — which includes resistance to or, at the very least, not supporting the policies and laws of any state that are clearly racist.’
Instead they received a cursory, insulting response which addressed none of their concerns and merely informed PSC who SUTR supporters are and what their criteria are, namely ‘opposition to the rising tide of racism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism and the scapegoating of refugees and migrants.’ This response completely failed to address the question of the participation of an openly racist, pro-Israel organisation in a supposedly anti-racist march.
One of the problems with the SUTR response is the crude equation it draws between racism, Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism. Racism is not simply a prejudice but is closely related to the class division of labour in society. It is about the exercise of power and the role of the state. Anti-Semitism today is not directed by the state. Jews do not suffer from state racism. For example there are no Jewish deaths in custody. Jews are not subject to stop and search or immigration controls or even fascist violence. Jews are not the subject of economic discrimination such as low wages. Whereas Mosques are attacked with firebombs and an attempt was made at Finsbury Park mosque to run over worshippers, killing one, no such attack has been mounted on a synagogue.
Yet the bulk of State funding for the protection of religious premises goes to the Zionist Community Security Trust not Muslim organisations. Jews are also not demonised like Muslims in the press. It is noticeable that all Britain’s racist papers — from the Express to the Sun and Mail — throw up their hands at ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party. All of them are opposed to ‘anti-Semitism’ when the question of Israel arises. Jews are not subject to the Government’s Prevent Strategy. Jews are, for the most part, a privileged section of the White population. Anti-Semitism is a marginal prejudice.
This is born out by the Pew Global Attitudes Survey 2016 where by 7% of people hold negative attitudes about Jews compared to 28% in respect of Muslims and a whopping 45% when it comes to Roma. The figures in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden are similar. The failure of the SWP/SUTR to take this on board testifies to the crude simplicity of their anti-racist strategy. It is a simplicity that hit the buffers last Saturday in Glasgow.
Letter from PSC to SUTR:
We wanted to follow up our telephone conversations with a written note about our concerns over the presence of the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland on the SUTR Glasgow march on Saturday.
We are aware that a range of groups in Scotland including Scottish Friends of Palestine and SNP Friends of Palestine have raised their worries about the participation of the Confederation. These include the fact that this places Palestinians — including a group of Palestinian firefighters currently being trained by the FBU — in a hostile environment on a march they had intended to a join.
Whilst we understand that SUTR want to build a broad coalition of partners wishing to fight racism — including anti-Semitism, a brief visit to the Facebook page of the Confederation reveals them as propagators of the most offensive anti-Palestinian narratives. These include denying the Palestinian Nakba and posting material stating that no Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed prior to and after the establishment of the state of Israel; denying the status of Palestinian refugees and posting an article from the CEO of AIPAC which states that any Palestinian state is incompatible with Israel’s security. The Confederation is also part of a campaign to have student activism on UK campuses under the banner of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ closed down. The Confederation has links with groups in the UK who — alongside Britain First and the EDL — have attempted to disrupt PSC marches and meetings.
We understand that the Confederation has framed its desire to attend within the context of an opposition to anti Semitism and that there is a concern that to indicate that their presence is not welcome will leave organisers open to the charge of anti-Semitism.
There are many definitions of racism, but to promote prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against people of a different race, ethnicity or culture, as the Confederation does, must surely give you as organisers cause for concern.
We would hope that there could be a clear statement that all of those organisations participating in a SUTR march need to stand on a platform of opposition to all forms of racism — which includes resistance to or, at the very least, not supporting the policies and laws of any state that are clearly racist. As organisers, we would hope that you would agree that anyone who cannot sign up to these basic principles would not be welcome and that behaviour designed to intimidate other participants will not be tolerated.
We would hope it is not too late for such a statement to be issued. Notwithstanding this, after the events of this weekend, we would wish — as the PSC — to have a more detailed conversation with SUTR about the long term strategy to address these issues.
Ben Jamal, PSC Director, and Hugh Lanning, PSC Chair.
Dear Ben and Hugh,
For your information the SUTR Scottish Steering Committee unanimously agreed the following statement:
Stand up to Racism is a broad coalition comprising many civic organisations, refugee and migrant communities, as well as trade unions, political organisations and individuals. The key criteria are opposition to the rising tide of racism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism and the scapegoating of refugees and migrants. If you support these principles please come and join us on M17.
Signatories: Scottish Trades Union Congress, Unison Scotland, Unite the Union Scotland, Educational Institute of Scotland, University and College Union Scotland, Scottish Labour Party, Church of Scotland, Justice and Peace Scotland, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Scottish Refugee Council, Muslim Council of Scotland, Scottish Faiths Action For Refugees, Show Racism The Red Card, City of Edinburgh Unison, Glasgow City Unison, Unison South Lanarkshire, Edinburgh College EIS-Fela, Unite Scottish Housing Associations branch, Unite NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Unite GPM and IT Branch, Unite Glasgow retired members, MEND, Afghan Human Rights Foundation, Social Work Action Network, The People’s Assembly Scotland, Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, Govanhill Against Racism, Maryhill Integration Network, Perth Against Racism, Women for Independence Glasgow, Scottish Jews For A Just Peace, PCS Scotland, RMT Scotland, FBU Scotland, Interfaith Glasgow.
We urge the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to join us.
The depraved racist views of COFIS (Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland) have not been a sufficient barrier to organisers allowing them to participate in the march tomorrow in Glasgow. COFIS, working in partnership with the Israeli Embassy, share posts about “euthanising” Palestinians, and jeer at a people under illegal occupation whom they call “Fakestinians”. COFIS suppports EVERY Israeli crime against the Palestinian people — massacre, mass incarceration, home demolitions, and the brutal siege of Gaza.
Their presence on the march tomorrow has nothing whatsoever to do with anti-semitism — which they equate with opposition to Israel’s crimes — but is part of the Israeli Embassy’s psychological war against the Palestinian people and their supporters. It is an integral part of the Israeli State’s war against the Palestinian people, and against their supporters in Scotland and internationally..
That well known anti-racist Rupert Murdoch’s The Times today provides a platform to COFIS to cover up their nauseating racism. COFIS has announced they will bring their members from across Scotland for the march tomorrow. The same publication that promotes uber-racist COFIS ran a Goebbels-like attack piece some months ago calling Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign “an open sewer”. The Murdoch press are drawing a line.
And some people are on the wrong side. The Israeli Embassy was shown in Al Jazeera’s The Lobby series putting millions into shifting domestic UK politics, not only against a Tory Minister but especially the Labour Party and wider labour movement. It is simply unacceptable that SUTR organisers to fail to acknowledge this and to attack as “obssessed with COFIS” and “dividing the movement”.all those who want the Palestinian people to be acknowledged among the victims of racism.
We want anti-racists to oppose state-enforced racism of an increasingly genocidal type. SUTR has quietly removed the name of the Muslim Council of Scotland from their published list of supporters for the march but have refused to engage with the MCS concerns, or the pain shared by all Palestinians in Scotland and communicated eloquently to SUTR Scotland by APCS. Along with anti-racist Jews, UK Palestine Solidarity groups, they are being ignored while COFIS prepares to exploit an ANTI-racist march in Israel’s war against the Palestinian people.
A letter below was signed by a huge number of South African activists in a very short time and it should be some balm on Palestinian wounds caused by Israeli State agents marching and gloating about the surrender of Scottish anti-racist organisers to their intimidation. We remember that Stephen Hawking supported BDS and refused to attend an event in Israel in solidfarity with the Palestinian people. SUTR are now allowing the active enemies of the Palestinian people, extreme racists, to march with them in Glasgow posing as ANTI-racists.
Members of Nelson Mandela’s family are shocked that a march passing near Mandela Place will fly Israeli flags while Palestine is occupied. They urge that “demonstrations on the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre should oppose all racism that blight our planet, especially the brutal apartheid system that still holds sway in Israel/Palestine.” They acknowledge the role international solidarity played in their own struggle for liberation from state-enforced racial segregation and urge that we accept our “duty on this anniversary to build another example of successful international solidarity for the long-suffering Palestinian people.
Yet SUTR turns a deaf ear to all these concerns and seems determined to turn the march tomorrow into a dark farce by excluding Palestinians and their supporters (for how can we betray our principles of consistent anti-racism by marching alongside those who would “euthanise” Palestinians?) in order to admit a group onto their march that they acknowledge is racist and complicit in Israel’s settler colonial regime.
The message from SUTR is clear and unambiguous: ‘We are afraid to stand up to the false and weaponised accusations of anti-semitism that have led to anti-Zionist Jews being hounded out of the Labour Party. We will treat a racist pro-Israel campaign group as if it were a Jewish community group.’
Statement of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
The Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland should be a pariah as we march in Glasgow, write MARGARET PACETTA and JOHN HILLEY
15-year-old Muhammed Tamimi was shot in the head at point blank range and his sister Ahed has been in a Zionist prison for 3 months for slapping his attacker
ISRAEL is becoming increasingly isolated as worldwide criticism mounts over its illegal occupation, its siege of Gaza and its apartheid crimes. The rising support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and widespread condemnation of Donald Trump’s endorsement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has seen the Israeli state also step up its external lobbying and media campaigning.
This is evident in the propaganda offensive against the Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi, who was labelled a “terrorist” for slapping a soldier. Ahed and her mother — imprisoned for filming the incident — have had their trial, before a closed military court, continuously delayed.
Those criticising Ahed have to explain the awkward fact that an Israeli soldier had just shot her 15-year-old cousin, Muhammad Tamimi, removing part of his skull. While awaiting surgery, Muhammad was again arrested in a night raid and forced to “confess” he had sustained his injury from falling off a bike. Even after his doctors had shown medical proof of the shooting, the lobby has continued to malign the Tamimi family.
This is all part of a relentless hasbara seeking to intimidate anyone inclined to criticise Israel. US comedian Sarah Silverman has been denounced for urging fellow Jews to stand up for Ahed. Over here, the lobby has turned on Gary Lineker for daring to question Israel’s brutal treatment of children.
Netanyahu has approved a new $75 million “public relations commando unit” to counter BDS, with Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan leading a ”black-ops” campaign against BDS.
Among those targeted for supporting BDS are Roger Waters, with pressure on sponsors to close down his shows, and New Zealand singer Lorde, who has refused to play in Israel. Two young New Zealand women — one Jewish, one Palestinian — who sent a letter asking Lorde to support BDS are being sued by pro-Israel legal group Shurat HaDin.
Online Palestine activists are being censored as part of the corporate clampdown on “fake news.” Glenn Greenwald notes how Facebook executives approved Israel’s requests to delete huge numbers of pro-Palestine accounts.
Escalating fears over BDS and Israel’s deteriorating image has also placed the US lobby on heightened political alert. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, now before the US Congress, will make any support for a boycott of Israel a criminal offence in the United States.
The same US lobby has also launched a vociferous attack on Al Jazeera’s forthcoming exposé of US lobby activity.
Here, a previous undercover Al Jazeera investigation revealed connections between lobbyists and the Israeli embassy.
With disgraced former international development secretary Priti Patel’s recent “family holiday” in Israel and co-lobbyist Lord Stuart Polak now exposed, Conservative Friends of Israel are working overtime with Michael Gove’s shrill warning of Palestine activists’ “dark and furious energy.”
The enduringly Blairite Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) remains on-message too, with Emily Thornberry delivering a speech to LFI that could have been written by a pro-Israel lobbyist.
The lobby’s relentless smearing of Jeremy Corbyn for “harbouring anti-semitism” goes on, no matter how much he denounces such tendencies. Encouragingly, newly founded Jewish Voice for Labour now provides a strong counter while Jews for a Just Peace has declared its support for BDS.
However, all this pressure on Israel has spurred other zealous lobbying.
One group pursuing that kind of mission here in Scotland is the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (Cofis). Ignoring multiple UN resolutions and international law, Cofis defends Israel’s illegal acts.
It approves of Israel’s apartheid wall, blames Israel’s mass killing in Gaza on Hamas and fails to condemn Israel’s shooting and incarceration of children. It applauds Trump and his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It denounces BDS and artists such as Waters and insists that Ahed be punished as a “terrorist.”
Besides evangelising for Israel and whitewashing its crimes, Cofis consistently attacks Palestine solidarity groups in Scotland, as does Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI).
Much of the literature Cofis hands out to the public comes from the same visceral right-wing group in the US, Stand With Us.
Film director Ken Loach, writer Paul Laverty and actor Tam Dean Burn were among the signatories of the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, organised by Artists for Palestine UK, which in 2017 opposed Cofis’s “misnamed Shalom Festival, which promotes, not peace, but the apartheid state of Israel and its occupation.”
Their letter stated that the festival, organised by Cofis founder Nigel Goodrich and GFI’s Sammy Stein, and endorsed by Stand With Us, was “part of the state of Israel’s attempts to counter BDS.’ It claims to support ‘peaceful coexistence’ in Israel/Palestine, while whitewashing Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.”
Cofis claims to be anti-racist, while denying the inhuman effects of the occupation, the calamity of Gaza and Israel’s colonial settlements. This mirrors the very same deception Israel has peddled for generations with its contrived “peace process,” using every opportunity to extend the settlements, imprison Gaza, and deepen its racist treatment of Palestinians.
Cofis has no support from Palestinian civil society. While it speaks of “shared interests” and “open dialogue,” drawing in unwary progressives, serious observers see this supposedly “pro-peace” line for what it is: a cynical charade serving to normalise Israel’s land thefts and prioritise its “security concerns.”
People of conscience, whatever their background or religious beliefs, should reject any organisation which seeks to defend Israel’s apartheid state. And they should be particularly alert to any group which seeks to conceal their real purpose through stealth insertion into parliamentary life, mainstream parties or civil movements.
There should be no place for Israel-protecting bodies like Cofis at any authentic anti-racism event or demonstration.
The left must defend its position with principled argument rather than capitulate for fear of being falsely labelled.
Campaigns which help hide Israel’s mass crimes have to be resisted with moral resolve and tactical intent. You cannot stand up to racism while lying down to Israeli apartheid.