Local News & Reports
Brighton & Hove PSC had a very successful and well-attended Annual General Meeting on the 15th of June. More than 70 of our 265 members attended, to review our achievements over the past year and to plan next year’s activities. It was fantastic to see so many supporters and to be able to thank them for their involvement in the struggle for justice and human rights for the people of Palestine.
We were especially pleased to welcome Tom Suarez to Brighton as our special guest speaker. Tom is a professional violinist, a former member of major US symphony orchestras, and a former faculty member of Palestine’s National Conservatory of Music. He is also an author and historian, and has written extensively on the history of cartography. He is perhaps best known to solidarity campaigners for his book State of Terror: How terrorism created modern Israel (Skyscraper Books). He contributes regularly to Mondoweiss, the online site for news and analysis on Palestine/Israel.
The focus of Tom’s keynote talk was ‘Ending apartheid in the age of IHRA’. In his talk, Tom spoke of the need to resist the proliferation of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and to call it out for what it is: an attempt to smear and silence solidarity campaigners. It should not be difficult to discredit the IHRA definition. It is logically flawed and politically inspired. Imminent figures – many of them Jewish – have added their voices to the opposition to IHRA. But Tom urged us to mount a more assertive fight-back – one based on the argument that the IHRA definition is itself antisemitic.
Tom argued that the IHRA definition perpetuates a pernicious trope about the Jewish people – that they all long to return to ‘the homeland’, and that this yearning is an essential characteristic of Jewishness. If this were true, then any attack on zionism could be construed as an attack on the Jewish people, and would therefore be antisemitic. But it isn’t true. We know that many Jewish people reject and repudiate the zionist project, so it’s a racist stereotype to say that they all identify with it, and that it is antisemitic to oppose it.
Tom also summarised some of the main themes in his book State of Terror – in particular, the systematic way in which, from the beginning of political zionism, violence and terror were seen as legitimate tools to deny the rights of the indigenous inhabitants to the land they had lived on for generations.
The film at Duke’s @ Komedia may have been a fantastic film.
That’s not the point.
The point is that the Seret Festival is being financed, and used, by the Israeli government to ‘art-wash’ Israel’s appalling human rights record, and its long history of flagrant violations of UN resolutions and international law.
The SERET London Israeli Film Festival is an Israeli government-sponsored event, ostensibly to showcase Israeli cinema but in reality a cynical exercise in using cinema to try to rehabilitate Israel’s reputation in the UK.
Palestinian civil society have called on us to protest, due to the festival’s heavy sponsorship by the Israeli government and its clear purpose as an attempt at normalisation. Learn more about the case for a cultural boycott of Israel here.
Twenty prominent film-makers, including Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, have signed a letter to The Guardian, demanding that UK cinemas boycott the Seret Festival. “We cannot understand why cultural institutions continue to behave as if Israel is an ordinary democracy”, they write.
The Seret Festival tries to project Israel as ‘a melting pot of cultures, religions and social backgrounds’ rather than as an apartheid and colonial regime that has more than 65 racist laws discriminating against its indigenous Palestinian citizens. This includes the recently-passed ‘Nation-State Law’, which formally relegates Palestinians to second-class citizens. Two sets of laws, rights and citizenship – one for Jewish Israelis, and another for Palestinians.
This is straight out of apartheid South Africa’s propaganda playbook and illustrates the way in which Israel uses the arts to try to deflect growing condemnations of its violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
The Seret Festival is sponsored not only by Israeli ministries and diplomatic missions, but also anti-Palestinian Israeli government-backed agencies, including the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. Both play a pivotal role in the planning of racist Jewish-only settlements at the heart of Israel’s illegal land grabs in the occupied Palestinian territory.
People of conscience and supporters of social justice worldwide are seeing through the smokescreen. As Israel’s popularity continues to dip worldwide, thousands of artists, including filmmakers Mira Nair, Ken Loach, John Greyson, The Yes Men and Mike Leigh, have heeded the Palestinian call, refusing to allow their art to be used to conceal Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
By not performing or exhibiting their work in Israel, and by refusing to take part in Israeli government-sponsored events, artists send Israel a clear message that as long as it continues to deny Palestinian human rights, the cultural community won’t engage in business-as-usual relations with its regime.
In response to Israel’s atrocities in Gaza, the Oscar-winning star Natalie Portman has boycotted a ceremony in Israel that would have honored her. The singers Lorde and Rag N Bone Man have recently cancelled their gigs, in response to the call for boycott.
Help us pull back the curtain on Israel’s crimes and end the impunity that has allowed it to carry on its oppressive and criminal policies for decades.
Palestinians are asking people to support them by boycotting this festival. Your active support would send a strong message to them that they are not alone, and also a message to Israel that its actions and policies have consequences.
We are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the boat “Freedom” in Brighton next week. “Freedom” is one of four boats sailing from Scandinavia to Gaza, with a crew of activists bringing a message of solidarity to the besieged people of Gaza, and a message to the British government that its support for the 11-year illegal blockade of Gaza must end.
Of course there is a particular significance to this flotilla, in the light of the dreadful events in Gaza over the past few months.
The boat’s stop in Brighton is attracting widespread media interest, and we’ve received promises of help and support from activists across the country, as well as from politicians, artists and other public figures. We’re planning a range of activities to showcase the boat and its crew while they’re here, and to amplify their message of solidarity and resistance.
The best way to keep up-to-date is to visit our website.
Tuesday 5th June – Welcome the boat “Freedom” as it sails into Brighton
Assemble 4pm for an estimated arrival time of 5pm. Details on the event page for this event.
Wednesday 6th June – Public meeting
7.30pm – 9.30pm
Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF
Free Admission – Donations welcome
We’ll hear from the captain and crew of “Freedom”, from politicians, activists, artists and other public figures, and from members of the Flotilla Coalition. It should be a memorable evening!
Details on the event page for this event.
City centre stalls with the crew of “Freedom”
Wednesday June 6th 12-2pm at the Clock Tower
Thursday June 7th 12-2pm at the Old Steine War Memorial
Friday 8th June – Wave “Freedom” out of Shoreham Harbour as it continues its voyage to Gaza
Assemble 8.00am for an estimated departure time of 9.00am. Details on the event page for this event.
Brighton to host a boat from the 2018 Freedom Flotilla to Gaza 5-8 June
Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign, together with the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition, are very pleased to announce that Brighton will be hosting one of the boats sailing from Scandinavia to Gaza this summer. Like international flotillas to Gaza in previous years, this flotilla aims to raise international awareness of the 11-year illegal blockade of Gaza, and to put pressure on the international community to end the blockade.
The boat “Freedom” is scheduled to arrive in Brighton on Tuesday 5 June and will stay for three nights, departing for its onward voyage to Gaza on Friday 8 June. There is a call-out to supporters of the Palestinian struggle across southeast England to welcome “Freedom” when it sails into Brighton on the 5th of June, and when it departs Brighton on the 8th of June.
“Freedom” is one of four boats taking part in the Flotilla, and the only one being brought to English territorial waters. We hope that this will give people in England and throughout Britain an opportunity to show their support for the Palestinian people of Gaza, and to send a message to the British Government to end its complicity in the ongoing illegal blockade.
During their stay in Brighton, activists and crew from “Freedom” will meet with politicians, campaigners and prominent local people, to convey the message of solidarity at the heart of the Flotilla’s journey and to raise awareness about the 11-year illegal blockade of Gaza.
There will be a public meeting on Wednesday 6th June 2018 at 7.30pm at the Friends Meeting House in Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF, featuring activists and crew from “Freedom” as well as prominent supporters in the UK. Please refer to the Events section of our website.
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is led by a fishing boat “Al-Awda” (Arabic for “Return”). “Al-Awda” left the Norwegian port of Bergen on April 30, together with “Freedom” and “Mairead”, named after Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, who was on board the 2010 flotilla and the Women’s Boat to Gaza in 2016.
In the coming weeks, a fourth ship “Palestine” is expected to join the Flotilla. Two boats will travel via European canals and rivers, while two others will sail along the Atlantic coast. All of the boats will make many port stops before meeting again in the Mediterranean Sea for the final leg towards Gaza in mid-July. There are many different participants and crew, including activists from 20 countries – details are progressively being promoted on the Freedom Flotilla Coalition website (https://jfp.freedomflotilla.org/participants).
The flotilla is expected to reach the Gaza Strip in July.
The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition states:
“In response to the brutal Israeli blockade, for seven years the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has carried out nonviolent direct actions aimed at raising international awareness and putting pressure on the international community to end the blockade”.
“We sail this year for the right to a just future for Palestine… We will continue to put pressure on our governments and protest their complicity with Israel’s crimes against humanity. We sail again to stand with the Palestinians of Gaza, as they demand their freedom of movement and their right to a just future in their land”.
One of the activists joining the flotilla will be Yudit Ilany, political consultant to Israeli Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi. Ilany was also part of the 2016 Women’s Boat to Gaza. She is currently on board the “Al Awda“ but will be leaving the Flotilla in Amsterdam.
Before the Flotilla left Gothenburg, a solidarity ceremony was held in the Swedish city with the participation of hundreds of activists from Scandinavia and other European countries to mark the launch of the flotilla.
The ceremony coincided with “Nakba Day,” the “Day of Catastrophe” that marks the ethnic cleansing of over 700,000 Palestinians leading to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Israel’s declared policy is not to allow any protest flotillas to reach Gaza. In the past, the Israeli Occupation Forces have taken control of all the vessels in international waters. Information about previous campaigns and missions here: https://freedomflotilla.org/.
Notes for editors:
Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign (BHPSC):
Local contact for Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaign is Ben Steele (BHPSC Secretary). Email firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile 07448 130963.
More information on the Freedom Flotilla Coalition and the 2018 Flotilla:
The UK is complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights through our arms trade. Despite the illegality of Israel’s occupation and apartheid system, the UK is one of the main arms exporters to Israel as well as a major purchaser of Israeli weapons and weapon technology. The chain of complicity extends to various corporate stakeholders who profit from Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, including UK high street bank HSBC.
An important part of the campaign to Stop Arming Israel is to tackle corporate complicity by calling on HSBC to cut its ties with companies trading weapons with Israel. HSBC is complicit in Israel’s crimes and violations of human rights through the bank’s investments in arms companies as well as through providing a range of financial services to these companies, such as loans.
Here in Brighton we have demonstrated outside the main branch of HSBC once a month for nearly a year, raising awareness about the bank’s involvement in the Israeli arms industry, and about the UK government’s hypocritical support for Israel’s war crimes.
You can find out more about the background to this campaign by downloading and reading the War on Want report Deadly Investments: UK bank complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
And you can write to HSBC’s CEO expressing your outrage by using PSC’s online email facility.