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JfJfP comments


2016:

06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics

2015:

23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

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15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

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28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014

2013:

29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

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24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011

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Posts

Dave Osler on anti-semitism & anti-Zionism

dosler3

Jewish student groups: the 1985 banning campaign

Posted on Sunday 7 March, 2010

A MOMENT from my past has just caught up with me. Last week I received an email from Dave Rich of the Community Security Trust, the Jewish-led charity that monitors anti-semitism in Britain.

Rich informed me that the CST is currently researching the campaign conducted 25 years ago – with the involvement of at least some Socialist Worker Student Society branches – to get campus Jewish societies disbanded, on the grounds that they were ‘racist’. Such a stance is in obvious contrast to SWSS’s overtly friendly attitude towards comparable Islamist-dominated Muslim student groupings over the last period.

He added, quite correctly, that I had spoken in support of a resolution to scrap the JSoc at a meeting of City of London Polytechnic students’ union in 1985. Yep, that long-haired skinny Trot kid on the platform was me. What’s more, Rich requested a meeting to talk about this episode.

Now, I am aware that the CST is held in some suspicion by many on the Jewish left, who dismiss it on grounds of its self-appointed nature. I am also bewildered that anybody has kept records of such minutiae, decades after the event.

But throughout my journalistic career, I have often written articles contrasting the actions of present-day politicians with what they said and did as college radicals. Therefore logical consistency dictates that the I should apply the standards I apply to others to myself.

So I will be getting together with Rich at some point in the week ahead. I have his assurance that the object of the exercise is not to paint me as some kind of swivel-eyed anti-semite.

In brief, I was in 1985 a member of both the Socialist Workers’ Party and City Poly SWSS, and as such, had no qualms about arguing for SWP politics. Nor can I claim to have been an ingenue; I was a young man of 24, overly booked up on Marxist theory, and well aware of what I was doing. But I was too far down the food chain to know whether hostility towards the JSoc flowed from a national or a purely local inititive.

My attitude had very much been shaped by the war in Lebanon three years earlier, especially the Sabra and Shatila massacre. So I saw things in black and white.

Zionism, I then believed, was a form of racism. Self-evidently, no student union should permit a racist student group to function under its auspices. Ipso facto, City Poly JSoc had to go.

This is not a position I now hold. I am, of course, still critical of the state of Israel from a leftwing socialist perspective, and remain convinced that a democratic secular state is the only basis on which lasting peace is possible in the Middle East.

But I have had the benefit of the intervening years to think things through. In particular, I have read Theodor Herzl’s ‘The Jewish State’, the founding manifesto of Zionism. Clearly it is a nationalist work, and I excoriate nationalism in 2010 as I did in 1985. However – and crucially, in this context – ‘The Jewish State’ is equally clearly not a book premised on racism or Jewish supremacism.

Although it would be wrong to call Zionism a racist doctrine per se,  that adjective may fairly be applied to some components of the current political leadership of Israel, who define themselves primarily as Zionists. On top of that, the establishment of the state of Israel represents, in historic terms, an injustice against the Palestinian people.

Just to complicate this picture, the borderline between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism is sometimes illegitimately crossed by sections of the far left. But by the same token, supporters of Israel frequently conflate the terms for base polemical advantage. While I now consider my support for the JSoc ban a gross mistake, I remain on balance an anti-Zionist.

In short, I guess I am not expecting a meeting of minds when I do get together with Mr Rich. I naturally hope we can have a reasoned exchange of views. But some differences, as they say, are too important to split.

UPDATE: I have slightly amended the original text of the post in the light of comments below from johng, who insists that the SWP did not co-ordinate a national attack against JSocs. He is evidently better placed to comment on this than I am. But the line taken by City Poly SWSS is beyond dispute.

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