On 21 September 2018 The Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) – together with ‘Victory to the Intifada’ – held this meeting:
The venue was Chadswell Healthy Living Centre near Kings Cross. This is owned by Camden Council and run by a Charity, the Kings Cross-Brunswick Neighbourhood Association (KCBNA) – registered charity #1083901. It was clear from the notice for the meeting on Facebook that it would be antisemitic (assessed relative to the widely accepted (including by Camden) IHRA Definition). Here is what the notice said: ‘The aim of the Zionists is to criminalise support for Palestinian resistance against Zionist occupation.’ The word ‘Zionist’ is used by antisemites as a substitute for ‘Jew’ because they think it immunises them against the charge of antisemitism. IHRA says this is antisemitic: ‘Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective.’
Because the venue is taxpayer-funded and the event seemed certain to be antisemitic, representations were made to KCBNA to cancel the booking. They refused but told the RCG that the meeting must not be antisemitic:
Look at the RCG’s response!
It is the fundamental right of every minority to state what is offensive. Jews have expressed this in the IHRA Definition. But the RCG fails to accept that Definition. It considers itself an anti-racist movement but thinks it can tell Jews what they should find offensive (as by the way does Jeremy Corbyn). Its claim to be ‘antiracist’ is therefore a sham. (I fisked the Sedley definition here).
I emailed Mr Ali and Fr Cawrse to tell them that RCG’s promise of ‘no antisemitism’ was a sham. A few hours before the meeting I managed to speak to Mr Ali on the phone. He absolved himself of responsibility for the decision to go ahead with the meeting, saying it was the Trustees who made the decision. In corporate governance terms this is a nonsense. The Executive Director makes day-to-day policy decisions; the Trustees are there to provide strategic leadership. He said that the police, the Charity Commission and Camden Council had been consulted. How about the Board of Deputies of British Jews, I asked? The response was that other Jewish organisations had been consulted and were coming! And how come Camden adopts IHRA, only to fail to implement it?
I was unable to speak to Fr Cawse who was away due to a bereavement. I simply do not accept that a Camden Councillor who voted to adopt the IHRA Definition (and here) can then go on to ignore the Definition when it comes to the charity of which he is CEO. (What’s sauce for the goose ……..). Indeed that charity is partly funded by Camden Council!
Mr Ali promised me that if there was any antisemitism per IHRA, the meeting would be stopped. He was unable to tell me the name of the Chair of the meeting but told me that two Camden Council Prevent officers – Ali Alsaraf and Jane Murphy – would be in the meeting and would call for it to stop in the event of antisemitism.
Imagine my horror therefore on entering the meeting room to see the backcloth behind the speakers’ table:
It took 16 years to get the UN to expunge the infamous 1975 ‘Zionism Equals Racism” Resolution. IHRA states that it’s antisemitic to claim ‘that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’. Mr Alsaraf and Ms Murphy did nothing to try to stop the meeting – not at the start and not later on, when antisemitism was voiced. Does Camden not provide training in antisemitism for its Prevent officers?
Campaign4Truth was at the meeting, you can see their videos here. The meeting began with a statement from the meeting Chair ‘Sam’ regarding the representations made to KCBNA to cancel the booking. He said that Philip Rosenberg, the Director of Public Affairs of the Board of Deputies, ‘attempted to use his position of influence to ban this public meeting’. Rosenberg, he said, ‘claimed with no evidence that the meeting would be antisemitic. This is a reactionary attack on those who support Palestinian self-determination….. To suggest that the RCG is antisemitic is an outrageous slur’.
I shouted to ‘Sam’ that the cloth behind him was antisemitic. He threatened to throw me out (of course – for Communists, ‘free speech’ only goes one way).
‘Sam’ thanked the organisations and people who had emailed KCBNA to support the holding of the meeting. You can guess who they were. Here are some he mentioned: Camden Abu Dis Friendship Society; Free Speech on Israel; Socialist Resistance; Geoffrey Bindman; Steve Hedley from the RMT trade union.
Additionally RCG had contacted the following for support: PSC; Labour Against the Witchhunt; International Jewish Antizionist Network; London Palestine Action; InMinds; Friends of Al Aqsa; Counterfire; Jewdas; SWP; Socialist Party.
‘Sam’ was not happy about the presence of the two Prevent Officers: ‘We are outraged that a Labour Council sees fit to send these officers to an antiracist pro-Palestinian meeting and we see this as a step towards political censorship….. We advise attendees … to treat these officers as if they are Police.’
The first speaker was ‘Witan’ (that’s how I heard the name, no family names were announced, neither were they included in the meeting announcement). (Addendum: He has been identified as probably Wesam Pinko). As might be expected from the RCG, he gave a history of Zionism which was thoroughly distorted through a Marxist prism. He said that Zionism is a racist ideology; that it was a middle-class movement; that the JNF leased land only to Jews; that the JNF head in the 1930s wanted to ‘transfer’ Arabs; that Israel has forcibly sterilised Ethiopian women; that the UN gave Israel 55% of the land when the Jewish population was only 30%; that Israel had expelled 800,000 ‘Palestinians’ in 1947-8; that the Nation State bill proved that Israel is an ‘Apartheid’ State. All liberally laced with the usual ‘settler-colonialism’ and ‘imperialist’ references.
Five of these lies are antisemitic. I corrected some of the lies in my intervention in the Q+A, see below. The ones I omitted were about the JNF (the policy of leasing land only to Jews ended long ago); sterilisation (simply a lie); the 55% reference (much of the land allocated to the Jews was desert); the Nation State accusation (a lie).
The second speaker was ‘Nicki’. I understand her name is Nicki Jameson. She spoke about the IHRA definition and the tortured process by which Labour adopted it.
Here were her lies: The IHRA ‘has clauses which restrict or forbid criticism of Israel’; that there is a ‘Zionist propaganda machine’ which in 2008/9 complained to the BBC that its coverage was anti-Israel when 7 Israelis had died versus 2000 Palestinians; that Jeremy Corbyn did not lay wreaths for terrorists associated with the 1972 Munich massacre; that Rabbi Lord Sacks is ‘right wing’. I countered two of these lies in my intervention in the Q+A, see below.
There were two further lies which I will spell out because they were antisemitic. First came a denial of antisemitism: “The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters were clearly spurious. It was clear that this was an attempt both by Zionists to assert their agenda and by right wing forces both inside and outside the Labour Party to use antisemitism to attack Corbyn”. The second antisemitic lie came in the course of a denunciation of Jeremy Corbyn’s (hollow) apology for ‘occasionally appearing on platforms with people whose views I completely reject’. ‘Nicki’ noted that this apology was made after the disclosure that Corbyn chaired the Hajo Meyer meeting in 2010. Castigating Corbyn for apologising, she said “Hajo Meyer had denounced the Zionists’ use of ‘the Nazi genocide of Jews to justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by the State of Israel.’ This – the Zionists decided – was antisemitic. Even though it is historically what happened.”
In the Q+A there were only three speakers who were in any way critical of ‘Witan’ and ‘Nicki’s lies. I countered three of ‘Witan’s ‘ lies and two of ‘Nicki’s’. Someone in the Q+A before me also lied about Khan al-Ahmar. I countered that one too.
From the RCG supporters came a long attack on the Labour members of Newcastle City Council for adopting IHRA; a suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader was linked to Mark Regev’s as Ambassador (!); a quote from a leftist Israel lawyer to the effect that Israel causes antisemitism; an impassioned response to Sharon Klaff (who rightly said that the RCG is tiny (it’s a spinoff from the SWP)) from Mr Green Sweater (Update: identified as David Yaffe).
“Small groups get bigger” he said and “I will not support people who murder hundreds and hundreds of children” (Truth: (1) Israel has achieved the lowest ever civilian:combatant ratio in asymmetric warfare (2) Israel endured months of attacks before countering (3)The RCG has 1,375 Twitter followers, hardly more than me (1,282). David Collier has 20,100. The RCG is going nowhere).
There was an extraordinary personal attack on me by Carol Foster (‘FootballAgainstApartheid’). Noting “I’m Jewish as well”, she attacked me for being a bad Jew and claiming to “speak for all Jews”. Slander of course, I have never claimed that (video here at 42.30).
She was followed by this person (allegedly his name is Dominic Scofield), who had been outside checking people in.
He simply read out the JVL blog suggesting that Kenneth Stern – one of the authors of IHRA – had subsequently condemned its use as a means to assess antisemitic speech. Dave Rich of the CST has very effectively debunked this nonsense.
It seems that many in the room were supporters of Victory to the Intifada.
In conclusion, as Sharon Klaff said in her intervention (here at -32.58) I really don’t care if these Communists don’t like Jews. Israel is there, tg it’s thriving, it ain’t going anywhere. But I do care – and so should you – that they are able to express these vile Soviet-style views in a taxpayer-funded location courtesy of a charity which benefits from tax relief. Just as I care that there is nothing to stop these views being aired within the Parliamentary Estate, if an MP thinks it appropriate.