Hastings and Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Newsletter   29 October 2020

The Israel lobby and the controversial IHRA 'definition of antisemitism'

For several years, we have posted articles showing how this 'definition' has nothing to do with antisemitism but in fact has been used to stifle free speech, specifically to silence public debate on Israel's crimes against the Palestinians.

The IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition has been condemned by Palestinians, Jewish activists, academic experts, Palestine solidarity groups, Black and Asian groups and free speech defenders. It has been used to stop Palestine solidarity meetings and events such the fundraising bike ride for Gaza banned by Tower Hamlets Council. It has even been used to call for the sacking of Palestinian supporters as in the case of Paul Jonson.

One of the most vocal opponents is Kenneth Stern. It just happens that he drafted the document that has now become the IHRA definition. He has stated that the definition has been abused, warned of its "chilling effect" on free speech, and that instead of targeting acts of antisemitism, the code was being used to "restrict academic freedom and punish political speech." He gave as an example the case of Professor Rachel Gould of Bristol University. A pro-Israel lobby group had called for her sacking, citing the IHRA definition, after she had written an article critical of Israel.

To get a definition of antisemitism, a good start would be to look at the Oxford English Dictionary which defines it as "hostility to or prejudice against Jews." That's 6 words. But the IHRA definition consists of 432 words. It includes 11 examples, the majority of which involve Israel. The IHRA definition has shifted the meaning of antisemitism from the hostility of Jews to focus on criticism of Israel and opposition to Zionism, Israel's political ideology.

Opposition to the IHRA
The opposition to the enforcement of the IHRA 'definition' is very encouraging with the announcement this week that 'UK universities reject Israel lobby's anti-Semitism definition.' Abroad there are moves to challenge the definition - in Montreal and New Zealand. Where does this leave us locally, in Hastings?

Day of Shame - Wednesday 19 October
Last Wednesday, Hastings Borough Council adopted the full IHRA definition including the 11 examples. A 'free speech' amendment was added to the motion. The councillor proposing the motion said: 'It does not dilute the IHRA examples.' In fact the Labour Party has adopted the IHRA with a 'free speech' amendment. This hasn't stopped the witch hunt with expulsions of Palestinian solidarity supporters, including many Jewish supporters of Palestine.

One of the first things the proposer did was to send her thanks on social media to the 3 pro-Israel groups that helped her in her campaign.

There have been moves by the pro-Israel lobby to get local PSC information stalls closed down.This has been unsuccessful - we have had stalls for over 6 years now - last week's stall was particularly successful. The pro-Israel lobby organised a campaign to try to stop our meeting about apartheid in Israel last year. In fact we ended up with a packed meeting, one of our most successful meetings ever with speakers Jenny Tonge and Tom Suárez. So here is a lobby which is clearly not interested in fighting antisemitism - its aim is to shut down Palestine solidarity activity in the area. All we can say is that we're here to stay. Already we have a full range of events right up to the end of the year. And our membership is at an all time high.

Messages we've received include: 'completely disgusted,' 'I am horrified,' 'sickened,' 'quite appalling.' People are understandably annoyed. But any attack from the pro-Israel lobby makes us more determined to step up our work in support of Palestine. We're not going anywhere!

Racism against Palestinians
One of the IHRA's 11 examples is: 'denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.' How else can the experiences of Palestinians who have suffered more than 70 years of ethnic cleansing be described as anything but racism? 750,000 Palestinians fled the terror of the Nakba in 1948. Since then they have been on the receiving end of illegal military occupation, war crimes, torture in prisons, home demolitions.....the list goes on. Israel has been described as an apartheid state, whereby Israel's official policy of ethnic purity and supremacy subjugates the indigenous Palestinian citizens to second-class status. Israel's 60+ racist laws and its recent 'Jewish Nation-State Basic Law' enshrine the principles of apartheid. To say that there should be no mention of Israel as a racist endeavor means that Palestinians are forced to deny their past and present experiences, actively eradicating their history, culture and identity. This is the worst form of racism - imposed by the UK government and the Israel lobby through the IHRA.


Future activities

  • Information stalls. We run our stalls in Hastings town centre every fortnight - weather permitting! The next dates are: 7 and 21 November.
  • Fundraiser for MAP. Last year we raised £1,000 through our Come Dine For Palestine event. This year we're organising an online raffle - the draw will be on Sunday 22 November, 7pm, with a live link up to Gaza for musical entertainment from talented young Palestinian musicians. MAP's Community and Events Fundraising Officer Zahra Yassine will say a few words. Details to follow.
  • National day of action: Saturday November 28. Stop Annexation, End Apartheid, Sanctions Now. 12.00 Hastings town centre. Details to follow.


    Israeli military bludgeon 16-year-old Palestinian boy to death

    Last Saturday night in the town of Turmus-Ayya northeast of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops killed 16 year old Amer Abedalrahim Snobar. Director of the Palestine Medical Complex Ahmed al-Bitawi said "there were visible signs of beatings on Snobar's neck." The medical centre reported that the injuries to Amer's neck were consistent with being beaten with the butts of the soldiers' rifles.
    Amer hailed from the village of Yatma, south of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

    Israeli forces kill 16-year-old Palestinian boy with excessive force.

    Urgent Intervention Needed to Release Hunger Striking Administrative Detainee Maher Al-Akhras

    Maher Al-Akhras, 49, from Jenin continues his hunger strike refusing his administrative detention amid fears that he will die at any moment. Maher repeated arrests began in 1989, and his detention continued for seven months. The second time was in 2004 for two years then he was re-arrested in 2009 and remained in administrative detention for 16 months. Administrative detention is a policy that allows authorities to hold people indefinitely without trial, sometimes for years. He was arrested in 2018 and was held in custody for 11 months, until his last arrest. On 27 July this year he was arrested again and the occupation authorities ordered his administrative detention for four months.

    Maher's wife Taghreed said, "Two weeks ago, my husband's health condition gravely deteriorated and the doctors warned of his death at any moment."
    New Israeli aggression puts life of Palestinian hunger striker Maher al-Akhras in immediate danger.
    Sign the petition:
    Free Maher al-Akhras!
    Haaretz (print page due to paywall):
    A tale of two hospital visits, and two sets of morals.

    According to
    ADDAMEER (Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association) there are currently 4400 Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israeli jails including 350 Administrative Detainees, 155 child prisoners, 39 female prisoners.

    Virtual Lobby Day 2020

    2 December. Meet with your MP over Zoom to discuss Palestinian Rights. Request A Zoom meeting with your MP on 2nd December.
    More information here.

    News from and about the occupation:

    The Real Cancel Culture: Pro-Israel Blacklists.

    Gaza's young amputee footballers find hope on the pitch.

    People in Gaza sifting through rubbish for food, UN head says.

    The Campaign to "Kill" the BDS Movement Against Israel Extends Far and Wide.

    The Lancet censors Gaza health letter after pro-Israel pressure.

    A time to empathize with Gaza?

    Incoming ambassador to UK called for "expanding" Israel's borders.

    Culture & Identity: Folklore Dabke is Traditional Dancing of The East.

    US media talks a lot about Palestinians - just without Palestinians.

    Jewish Chronicle, Pollard and Harpin apologise and pay damages (yet again) for fake news accusing left activist of antisemitism.


    Hastings and Rye PSC online membership and donations

    Becoming a member of Hastings and Rye PSC is an important way of supporting our work.The annual subscription is £10 waged, £5 unwaged. We now have an online membership payment form. It can also be used to renew membership. The work of Hastings & Rye Palestine Solidarity could not continue without the generous donations from members of the public. If you would like to support our work without becoming a member please visit our shop page here and see the right hand column: Donate to Hastings & Rye PSC.

    Recent Hastings and Rye PSC newsletters:
    25 September 2020
    21 August 2020
    3 July 2020

    Keep up to date with our website, Facebook and Twitter pages:

    Hastings/Rye PSC website  Hastings/Rye PSC Facebook  Hastings/Rye PSC Twitter