11 June 2020
The following letter, signed by nearly 60 local campaigners for Palestinian rights, was sent to all Labour and Green City Councillors today, in response to the council’s public statement on 3 June 2020 Brighton & Hove City Council stands in solidarity with protesters in America
Solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the victims of racism and imperialism
To: Nancy Platts, Leader Btn & Hove Council and Leader of the Labour Group
& Phélim Mac Cafferty, Convenor of the Green Group
Dear Nancy and Phélim,
We are writing to congratulate you for issuing such a forthright statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and people of colour who are the victims of racism in the United States. The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police is yet another shocking reminder of the visceral state-sponsored racist violence in the United States and the continuing murder of Black men by American ‘law enforcement’ – in most cases armed white men.
Israeli troops using the ‘knee on neck’ hold that was used to murder George Floyd
Just five days after George Floyd was murdered, Eyad Hallak, an autistic Palestinian, was gunned down in East Jerusalem as he was walking to his day centre. He was just 32 years old but with a mental age of 5. Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper described what happened:
‘He’s disabled,’ the caregiver screamed. ‘I’m with her,’ Eyad cried. The cop opened fire anyway.
Three Border Police pumped seven bullets into Iyad’s body, at least three at close range. There is however a difference with George Floyd. The first his parents learnt of his death was when the murderers burst into his home, searched it and then asked when is the funeral.
In Minneapolis all four police have been arrested and charged with murder and aiding and abetting murder. In Israel none of the police have been charged. Although there is a police investigation these rarely result in prosecution, still less imprisonment.
We welcome your statement that ‘As anti-imperialists we recognise that America has been built on the slavery, dispossession and subjugation of its native and BAME population’. However imperialism is not confined to the United States. Palestine too, from 1917-1948, was part of the British Empire, a Mandated territory as a result of the 1922 San Remo Conference and the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
In 1948 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed and made refugees. In 1967 Israel completed its occupation of Palestine, including East Jerusalem where Eyad lives. Palestine is still a victim of colonialism and imperialism.
Yet in October 2018 Brighton and Hove City Council adopted the ‘working definition’ promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which purports to be a definition of anti-Semitism, although the majority of its examples of anti-Semitism include Israel. It was drawn up at Tel Aviv University, its purpose being to equate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Even the person who drafted the IHRA, American academic Kenneth Stern, now accepts that the IHRA is being used to ‘weaponise’ anti-Semitism against the Palestinians. In testimony to Congress Stern argued that the definition was being used to suppress free speech on Palestine. In his words to ‘chill, if not suppress, their [students’] political speech’.
When the Council adopted the IHRA it deliberately ignored the views of 17 local anti-racist, Black and Muslim organisations in the City. It instead preferred to accept the views of white members of Sussex Friends of Israel that the IHRA was essential to defend the Jewish community. It wasn’t and isn’t. The IHRA’s only purpose is to defend the Apartheid State of Israel and to silence those campaigning for justice for the Palestinian people.
In defending Israeli Apartheid the Labour and Green groups on the Council make a mockery of their statement of solidarity with George Floyd, and of their claims to be anti-racist.
Black Lives Matter has come under repeated attacks from American Zionist groups because of the movement’s support for the Palestinians and BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions).
Black Lives Matter supports the Palestinians because, like the ANC in South Africa, they recognise that their enemy is an Israeli state which is hand in glove with Donald Trump and the US military.
Using the knee-on-neck restraint on Palestinians is a speciality of Israeli police forces. Israel has been training law enforcement officers around the US for many years including the Minneapolis Police as the Morning Star reported last Monday.
Neta Golan, the co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) said:
When I saw the picture of killer cop Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd by leaning in on his neck with his knee as he cried for help and other cops watched, I remembered noticing when many Israeli soldiers began using this technique of leaning in on our chest and necks when we were protesting in the West Bank sometime in 2006.
It was disgraceful enough that when you passed a motion supporting the IHRA you did so in conjunction with the Tories, the party of the British Empire and slavery. What is worse is that Labour Councillor Nicki Brennan, who was part of the picket of the Council when it was debated, has been singled out for victimisation and removed from the Housing Committee.
When those who fought against Apartheid in South Africa, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the ANC veterans, declare that Israel is an Apartheid State, who are you to argue with their view? When Ronnie Kasrills, the Jewish Commander of the ANC’s military wing, wrote that ‘I fought South African apartheid. I see the same brutal policies in Israel’ who are you to argue? Yet according to the IHRA saying that Israel is an Apartheid State is ‘anti-Semitic’.
Benjamin Netanyahu has just announced that Israel will annex 30% of the West Bank. He also declared that the Palestinian residents of the annexed territories won’t be given Israeli citizenship. If this isn’t apartheid please tell us what it is.
If the Labour and Green groups are sincere in your declarations of solidarity with Black victims of racism in America, and we would like to think that you are, we would ask you to give notice of motion at Council withdrawing support for the IHRA.
Brighton and Hove Labour Left Alliance
Plus 57 signatories