The Israel Lobby tries to stop freedom of speech in Hastings.

Seven years ago, Dr. Jenny Tonge spoke at a meeting in Hastings about Palestine and the Israeli occupation. The event was a success - with standing room only - staged at the White Rock Hotel. We had organised another meeting with Jenny this January, again, at the White Rock Hotel.

But starting Christmas Day, continuing into Boxing Day, there was a concerted attack by the Israel lobby directed at the venue and its proprietor. The young receptionist on duty started receiving abusive 'phone calls. This was accompanied by unpleasant Facebook messages. An online petition was set up calling for the cancellation of the meeting; this included language that was no doubt libellous. On top of this, there was a concerted effort to post negative online reviews, knocking the hotel's Facebook star rating down to 2.6. Many of these comments were full of hate and abuse. This attack was obviously designed to do damage to the business. Out of respect to the business and the proprietor, a mutual decision was made to find another meeting place.

The proprietor is a highly respected local businessman who has done a lot for the local community. He is a firm believer in freedom of speech. Many local community groups use the White Rock Hotel for meetings, groups such as women's groups, environmental groups. As the news of this attack is getting out, there has been growing resentment, even anger, directed at the perpetrators. It is being seen as an attack against the local community. An analysis of the Facebook review campaign shows that there were no posts locally, none from Sussex or Kent. Most were from abroad. 18% were from Israel. What right do people from Tel Aviv, Haifa, New York, Washington have to tell the people of Hastings what to do? We're finding that there is a growing backlash against the Israel lobby because of this.

We have announced the new venue. It's on this website and on our Facebook event page. With the increasing publicity surrounding this attack, it looks like the meeting with Dr. Jenny Tonge will get a really good turnout. So we look forward to a successful meeting!

The Face of Hate.

Israel and its supporters are clearly prepared to play dirty. Pro-Israel groups have made a habit of trying to close down Palestine solidarity events by putting pressure on venue owners. In the last 2 - 3 years meetings have been cancelled at Nottingham, Norwich, Portsmouth, and Cambridge, though thankfully alternative venues were found at the last moment. Universities at Exeter and Manchester have banned meetings. A small number of known zionists are behind this campaign, aided by 'Friends of Israel' groups. They seem to exist solely to disrupt. Recently one group made the 100 mile journey from Hertfordshire to disrupt the weekly information stall run by the Brighton and Hove PSC. They spent most of the time shouting at and insulting not only PSC members but also passersby (see photos above right). Their main message is hate.

Israel on the ropes.

So why is the Israel lobby attacking the Palestinian solidarity movement so vehemently? There's clearly a whiff of desperation in the air. How can anyone defend a country that carries out war crimes, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment? People throughout the world were sickened to see Israel's massacres in Gaza during 2014, killing more than 2,250 Palestinians, including 551 children where Israel targeted schools, hospitals, ambulances and mosques.

Israel is increasingly seen as a rogue state, in perpetual violation of international law. An ever growing number of people throughout the world are appalled at its racist treatment of the Palestinians. Even in the USA, seen as the main supporter of Israel, this support has recently been 'plummeting,' particularly among young people, women and ethnic minorities. The recent Economist/YouGov poll showed that in the US "only 25 percent of those 18-29-years-old said that Israel was an ally." Only "19 percent of African Americans and 22 percent of Hispanics" saw Israel as an ally.

Jewish opposition to the Israeli occupation.

One very encouraging development is the growth in Jewish opposition to the Israeli occupation. A number of Jewish groups support solidarity with the Palestinians. In the UK we have 'Jews for justice for palestinians', the predominantly Jewish 'Free Speech On Israel' and 'Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods.' In the USA, Jewish groups play a central role in the movement for Palestinian justice. It's very encouraging to see the formation of the US Jewish youth activist group IfNotNow.

Growth of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement.

BDS successes are being announced all the time. In response, Israel has given its Ministry of Strategic Affairs £39 million per year to fight it. The boycott of apartheid South Africa played an important part in bringing an end to its racist system of government - this type of action can do the same in Israel.

BDS victories are coming through fast and furious. In just the last few weeks, HSBC announced its complete divestment from Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems; the Irish government passed a bill making settlement goods illegal; UK Quakers announced that they would not invest in companies that profit from Israel's occupation of Palestine; home-renting company Airbnb removed listings in Israel's illegal settlements; two US police departments cancelled training with Israel; and Leeds University became the first UK university to divest from firms involved in the Israeli arms trade.

So it's clear why Israel and its supporters are resorting to such desperate measures to silence the ever growing Palestine solidarity movement. Israel is becoming isolated; its internal contradictions are so great that its system of apartheid cannot continue. Ultimately, it's the determination and resistance of the Palestinians that will bring about the end of the occupation. The solidarity movement won't let a small group of crazy zionists stop our small part in all of this.

January 2019