Palestine

Box 18 of the MO F Clark-Lowes Collection is devoted to my involvement with Palestine Solidarity, or as I would now prefer simply to say, Palestine.

In 2011 I was expelled first from the local branch of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in Brighton, and a couple of months later from the national organisation. Essentially I was charged with anti-Semitism. The irony of this situation was that I had founded the Brighton branch in 1997, and that around the turn of the century I had for a couple of years been the Chair of the national organisation.

After the first expulsion I wrote an essay which gave a comprehensive account of my relationship to Palestine and campaigning for the Palestinians. You can read it here: Goodbye to PSC? The question mark relates to the fact that I hadn’t then been expelled from the national organisation.

I continue to take a keen interest in Palestine, but now feel free of the artificial constraints imposed by those who mistake reasonable discussion about the Jewish dimension of the Israel-Palestine conflict with racism.

Some idea of my thinking on Palestine can be gauged by clicking on the links to the following essays. I do not now believe everything you will find here, but the links show the development of my thinking.

80th Anniversary of Balfour Declaration. This was a talk delivered on 5th November 1997 at the University of Sussex, three days after the 80th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. It could be regarded as the launchpad for the Brighton & Hove branch of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), abbreviated to BHPSC. Originally the plan was to open Palestine Societies at Sussex (where there had already been one which had become moribund) and Brighton Universities. I was at that time a student myself at the first, finishing my doctoral research. I failed, despite some help from a few keen supporters, to get the required number of signatures at Sussex for Student Union funding, and I probably didn’t do enough to advertise the idea at Brighton. We therefore ended up forming a joint Sussex and Brighton town (it wasn’t yet a city) branch. We continued to run freshers’ fair stalls on Palestine at the University of Sussex for some years, but BHPSC soon became centred on the town, and eventually a separate Sussex society was re-established.

Thoughts on Future of PSC. Written 24th January 1999 and circulated among members of the PSC committee to stimulate discussion. It’s interesting to see that I was already talking about Jewish identity at that time. I am not longer so convinced as I was then that we should do our utmost to recruit Jews into PSC. At the very least a degree of caution is in order.

50 More Years? Conference. A report written on 1st March 1999 on the PSC conference organised 14th November 1998. I guess it was published in Palestine Solidarity, the magazine which soon after became Palestine News.

Brighton Jewish Film Festival. This was a letter to the Director of this festival, which has since become a national event. For a number of years I engaged in a dialogue with her about the Palestinian issue, and she went to considerable lengths to include films which were regarded by many in the Jewish community as beyond the pale. I was acutely aware of this opposition to even thinking about the Palestinian case, and felt very uncomfortable engaging in the after-film discussions. As I indicate in this letter, physical discomfort, in the form of back pain, added to this ordeal. It was often Israeli films which were most perceptive at understanding the true nature of the conflict, though often in a somewhat patronising way. I guess the impossibility of fruitful dialogue with the local Jewish community became clear when an Israeli film, ‘The Jahalin’, directed by the young Talya Ezrahi, was programmed. All the seats were quickly snapped up in what I can only assume was a plan aimed at excluding any Palestinian supporters. I only got in because the director invited me. Talya was there herself, and in the discussion after the film she was vilified for her portrayal of the Israeli treatment of a bedouin tribe. There was uproar! One  vociferous supporter of the opposition to Talya’s film was a Church of England clergyman. Talya later told me she’d experienced nothing like this when she’d toured Israel with her film. But I’ve moved ahead of myself because I can’t find anything I wrote at the time

Reminiscence Work. ‘Reminiscence Work with a Palestinian.’ Submitted in fulfillment of the Life History Work course assessment guidelines for the Reminiscence Work option which required ‘one item of analytical and reflective writing (2,500 words) …’ April, 1999. The course was at the University of Sussex, and I undertook it just after I completing my doctorate at the same university. I used this material for my presentation at the ‘Landscapes of Memory’ conference the following month.

Uses & Abuses of Memory 1999. This was a paper I delivered to the (UK) Oral History Society’s ‘Landscapes of Memory’ conference on 16th May 1999. My title was ‘Uses and Abuses of Memory in the Israel/Palestine Dispute.’ It was considered controversial, though I particularly remember an Australian, who read a paper on Aborigenes, saying ‘Good on you!’ at some point during the presentation. I put it forward for publication in the Journal of the Oral History Association, but it was found unsuitable.

Review of Review. Written 8th July 1999, this was, I think the first of an intended series of articles for Palestine News. The review in questions was by Lyn Gardner of the Israeli entry to the London International Festival of Theatre, Va Yomer, Va Yelech (He Said. He Walked) published in the Guardian.

Questions of Identity. Written for Palestine News on 14th September 1999.

Arab Identity. Written for Palestine News on 12th November 1999.

Message from Chair 2000. Written on 5th February 2000 for Palestine News.

Flying a Kite. Written for Palestine News on 2nd April 2000.

Palestine Solidarity 2000 Personal View. Written while I was Chair of the national PSC. On the one hand it shows how much more pragmatically I viewed the refugee question at that time than I have recently. On the other it expresses my exasperation at in-fighting within PSC. There was almost certainly a connection, a thought that hadn’t until now occurred to me and which I find rather uncomfortable!

Norman’s Wisdom. A review in Palestine News written on 6th October 2000 of Norman Finkelstein’s book The Holocaust Industry which had recently been published.

Racism. ‘The Concept of Racism and the Israel-Palestine Conflict’. Written 1st December 2000.

Speech at Palestine Support Evening. This took place at Portslade Town Hall on 9th December 2000. It was a great success, bringing in many local Palestinians whom we would otherwise not see. Some of the London PSC committee members came down to help (I was at that time still Chair of national PSC).

Saudi Gazette Article. This was the result of an interview I gave to my very good friend and ex-colleague in Saudi Arabian Airlines in January 2001. After his return to England he wrote regularly for the Saudi Gazette, and English language paper in the kingdom. Sadly he died in 2006.

Correspondence with a Critic. My reply was written 25th January 2001, Nicole’s will have been written a short time before that. I have no recollection who she was, but I now find myself more in sympathy with her objection to our shrill moralism (my term) than I did then. What the Israelis, with mainstream Jewish support, are doing, and have done, to the Palestinians is ugly. But in terms of history, it’s not unusual. We Britis belong to a state which has at least equaled such atrocity, so there is a degree of hypocrisy in our moralism. Activists tend to claim they have no responsibility for what our country did in the past, but actually we are morally implicated, just as Nicole is in what her people are doing in Israel. What is detestable to me is the moralism adopted by supporters of Israel which presents Jews are especially worthy, because of their past, and claiming that those who oppose them are wicked. As Moshe Dayan once said, if they had been on the other side, they’d have done just the same as Palestinian fighters.

Holocaust Memorial Day. Written 27th January 2001, this may have been the basis for a flier. It may well have been that year that I delivered an address to a HMD event, possibly organised by Sussex Action for Peace, with which we collaborated a good deal. I remember it because of the praise I received from many, including one Jewish woman. Possibly this document was used at a flier at that event.

Holocaust Memorial Day. Written 29th January 2001 (as below) for Palestine News.

Atlas of Palestine. Written 29th January 2001 (as above) for Palestine News.

BHPSC Chair’s Report 2001. Written 22nd February 2001.

Letter to MP after 9/11. Written 5 days after the 9/11 attacks.

A New Radical Approach. Written sometime in 2002, this piece starts by contrasting pro and anti two-state solution arguments, and comes down on the latter side.

Jewish Identity. The full title is ‘Jewish Identity and the Israel-Palestine Conflict.’ It was written for the Sussex University Eclipse magazine on 14th April 2002.

Standard Letter to Media. Written  26th April 2002, this was to complain about bias in the media.

Language. The full title is ‘Language, Untruth and Logic’, and it was written 8th May 2002.

Prospects for Palestine. Written 23rd May 2002.

Palestine & Iraq. Written 9th September 2002, but I don’t remember for what purpose.

Address Notes at March Sept 02. Delivered 14th September 2002.

Campaigning for Palestine Post Jenin – A Personal View I wrote this essay on 21st September 2002 and sent it to Ghada Karmi, who as a child fled with her family from West Jerusalem in 1948. She was so impressed with it that she set up a discussion group which included Tim Llewellyn, ex-BBC reporter, John Rose, lecturer and I think at that time member of the Socialist Workers Party, and Elfi Pallis, an ex-Israeli. We had two or three productive meetings, the last at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) after a talk there by the Israeli radical, Illan Pappe, and then the group ceased to function.

Psychology & Iraq. Written 2nd February 2003.

Said Out of Place. A review of Edward Said’s autobiography, Out of Place, written on 24th March 2003 for the free Brighton newspaper called Insight.

Remembering Peter. Peter Holliday was an expert on caligraphy, and wrote a number of books on the subject. He also used his skills to design a whole series of leaflets and fliers. He died quite suddenly of cancer in 2003, and we held an event in his memory. While he and I didn’t always see eye to eye, I very much valued his contribution, as this imaginative piece indicates.

Soyinka Reith Review. This was a review of Wole Soyinka’s 2004 BBC Reith Lectures, written on 31st May of that year. In it I criticise him for his praise of Shimon Peres, a man who locked up Mordechai Vanunu similarly to the way Soyinka was himself imprisoned. I have a feeling it was posted on the BBC website, and was studiously ignored by the webmaster and other readers.

Arafat I wrote this for a commemorative meeting following the death of Yassir Arafat on 11th November 2004. A considerably reduced version was eventually delivered.

Letter to an opponent. Written 15th December 2005, this was an attempt to reason with the person who eventually organised my eviction from both the local branch of PSC, and then the national organisation in 2011.

My Position on Zionism. Written 1st December 2006.

My Fears for Free Speech and the Palestinians. This was a piece I wrote for the Argus newspaper in Brighton in January 2008, but which wasn’t published by them, despite their initial undertaking to give me a right of reply. It was provoked by another article in the same paper attacking Gilad Atzmon for his views, and for the fact that I had invited him to speak in Brighton in January 2008. It was published on the Peace Palestine site. You need to scroll down a little to find the article.

Sound Recording of Gilad Atzmon’s talk, ‘The Primary of the Ear: The Road from Music to Ethics‘ on January 7th 2008. This took place upstairs in my house after a change of venue the reason for which I explain in my introduction. The event was attended by around 50 people, and in order to accommodate so many we organised a short circuit relay of the talk downstairs. After clicking on the link you will need to click on the down arrows to hear the two parts of the recording.

PSC Reflections. Posted on my old website (invitationtolearn.co.uk) in May 2008, I reflect here on 12 years of involvement in campaigning for Palestine.

Double Monarchies. Written 16th June 2008, this is a commentary on Paul Eisen’s essay, ‘The Holocaust Wars‘ (click on this link to read).

Unsent Email Re Withdrawal from BHPSC List. Written 2nd July 2008, but evidently thought better of. In fact I remained on the Email list until my expulsion in April 2011.

What is truth? Written 10th July 2011, this is a brief statement of my position on Holocaust revisionism.

Talk to Peace Picnic 2008. Written 20th July 2008, this was a speech I made to the annual Peace Picnic on Hove Lawns.

Eureka. Written 20th August 2008. and posted on local PSC email group, this was a protest at the tendency among some to monitor every word of text on the subject of Palestine for evidence of antisemitism.

Problems with the Apartheid Parallel. A letter published in the November 2008 issue of the journal Holy Land Studies. In it I comment on an article by my co-campaigner and friend, Rumy Hasan in the May 2008 issue of the same journal, which was entitled ‘The Unitarian, Democratic State and the Struggle Against Apartheid in Palestine-Israel’. Clicking on this link will give you the abstract, but you will have to pay for the full article, unless you have a subscription to Edinburgh University Press.

Notes for BHPSC Meeting 19th April 2011. This was the meeting which led to my expulsion from Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign. In the event I didn’t use the notes which the opportunity for that kind of discussion did not arise.

All’s Fair in Love and the Class War. Posted on deLiberation on 23rd January 2012. 

Questioning ‘the Holocaust’. Posted on deLiberation on 25th January 2012.

Let’s be Fair. Posted on deLiberation on 27th January 2012.

Why Not Jewish Power? Posted on deLiberation on 28th January 2012.

What is Power? A Couple of Stories. Posted on deLiberation on 30th January 2012.

Inoculating Israel. Posted on deLiberation on 1st February 2012.

Anti-Racism and its Discontents. Posted on deLiberation on 9th February 2012.

‘Wandering Who?’ Reading Group 1. Posted on deLiberation on 12th February 2012.

Diagram of Thought on Palestine. Posted on deLiberation on 13th February 2012.

Attacks on Gilad Atzmon are mistaken. Written 14th March 2012.

Something Odd About Reports from Syria. Posted on deLiberation on 14th February 2012.

Keeping Palestine Solidarity Campaign Anti-Racist. Posted on deLiberation on 16th February 2012. A link from this article leads to a spoof flow chart to help PSC officers exclude undesirables like me!

‘Wandering Who?’ Reading Group 2. Posted on deLiberation 9th March 2012.

I’m so glad we’ve got Gilad. Posted on deLiberation 14th March 2012.

A Modern St George & a Tribe of Dragons. Posted on deLiberation on 17th March 2012.

‘Wandering Who?’ Reading Group 3. Posted on deLiberation on 13th April 2012.

‘Wandering Who?’ Reading Group 4. Posted on deLiberation on 11th June 2012.

 

 

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