Palestine Solidarity Campaign
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is an activist organisation in the United Kingdom that promotes solidarity with the Palestinian people. It was founded in 1982 during the build-up to Israel's invasion of Lebanon, and was incorporated in the UK in 2004 as Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ltd.
The PSC campaigns for peace and justice for Palestinians, in support of international law and human rights and against all racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and Islamophobia. It has stated that it opposes both "Israel’s occupation and its aggression against neighbouring states" Whilst recognizing differences between apartheid-era South Africa and Israel, PSC promotes the boycotting of Israeli goods as a method that it believes was previously successful in achieving political change. The PSC's stated goals include the "right of return" for Palestinians and Israeli withdrawal from the "occupied territories." The PSC has criticised Israel's practices when arresting children.
The PSC statesthat since it was founded in 1982, it has become the largest and most active campaigning organisation in the UK on the issue of Palestine. It says that it aims to build an effective mass campaign, organising protests, political lobbying and raising public awareness and that it is an independent, non-governmental and non-party political organisation with members from many communities across Britain – and increasingly throughout the world.
PSC chapters run workshops on such questions as "how to deal with Zionists' arguments; what to say to those who call us anti-Semitic; what are settlements? What will boycotting Israeli goods achieve?"
Under former General Secretary Betty Hunter, the PSC grew from 350 to more than 5,000 members between 2001 and January 2011. As of 2013[update] Hunter is now Honorary President and patron of the PSC.
Founders and leaders
The PSC has an executive committee consisting of 20 members (plus two members representing the PSC’s Trade Union Advisory Committee), who are elected at the Annual General Meeting by PSC members. Its headquarters are in London. There are four staff members. The organisation relies on volunteers to perform many tasks, such as running campaigns and managing branch offices.
One of the PSC's founders, Tony Greenstein, is a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. A lifelong political activist, he is also a founder of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and the author of A History of Fighting Fascism in Brighton and the South Coast.
Most of PSC's directors have not been of Palestinian or Middle Eastern descent. Its current Chair is Hugh Lanning and its current Director is Sarah Colborne.
Former PSC directors Riyad Tibi and Maha Rahwangi were also directors of Al-Awda Trust, as was current PSC patron Ghada Karmi. The trust was incorporated in March 2005 and dissolved in October 2006. Al-Awda means "the return," as in the right of return, in Arabic.
- Sue Plater, secretary, 24 Jan 2009-
- Elizabeth Mary Hunter, director, 24 Aug 2004-
- Hugh Lanning, director, 24 Jan 2009-
- Nicolette Petersen, director, 11 Feb 2006-14 May 2011
- Harriet Susan Plater, director, 11 Feb 2006-
- Bernard Regan, director, 11 Feb 2006-
- Carole Regan, director, 11 Feb 2006-22 Jan 2011
- Gillian Mary Swain, director, 6 Feb 2010-
- Hilary Wise, director, 11 Feb 2006-
- Zoe Mars, secretary, 24 Aug 2004-24 Jan 2009
- Stephen Bolt, director, 10 Mar 2007-23 Feb 2008
- David John Chappell, director, 11 Feb 2006-10 Mar 2007
- Francis Nicholas Clark Lowes, director, 11 Feb 2006-10 Mar 2007
- Terence Gallogly, director, 11 Feb 2006-10 Mar 2007
- Alan Charles Goater, director, 11 Feb 2006-10 Mar 2007
- Colin Kelsall, director, 11 Feb 2006-10 Mar 2007
- Martial Kurtz, director, 11 Feb 2006-10 Mar 2007
- Diane Langford, director, 11 Feb 2006-10 Mar 2007
- Zoe Mars, director, 24 Aug 2004-24 Aug 2009
- Maha Rahwangi, director, 11 Feb 2006- 6 Feb 2010
- Qasim Majeed Salimi, director, 11 Feb 2006-10 Mar 2007
- Miriam Alison Scharf, director, 10 Mar 2007-23 Feb 2008
- Jennifer Margaret Stanton, director, 11 Feb 2006- 1 Sep 2006
- Riyad Tibi, director, 11 Feb 2006-23 Feb 2008
- Monica Wusteman, director, 11 Feb 2006-24 Jan 2009
The PSC has local branches in all regions of England, Scotland and Wales and close links with the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. In London, it has branches in Brent, Camden, Hackney, Harringey, Kingston & Richmond, Lambeth & Wandsworth, Merton, South East London, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, and West London. Branches outside the capital are located in Aberystwyth, Bradford, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cambridge, Cornwall, Cardiff, Dorset, Durham, Exeter, Gloucestershire, Halifax, Hereford, Huddersfield, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, North Devon, Norwich, Nottingham, Orkney, Oxford, Portsmouth & S Downs, Plymouth, Reading, Rochdale, Sheffield, Southampton, West Kent, West Midlands, West Surrey, Wolverhampton, and York.
Although they collaborate on some activities, Ireland PSC is not the same as PSC. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign was set up in late 2001 by a group of established Irish human rights and community activists.
The PSC website lists many patrons of the organisation, including entertainers, journalists, union leaders, and current and former government officials:
PSC patron Baroness Jenny Tonge has rationalized suicide bombings and supported Palestinian resistance on Iran's Press TV, and was removed on 23 January 2004, from the Liberal Democrats frontbench for remarks she made about Palestinians and Israel.
PSC patron Caryl Churchill's play Seven Jewish Children, written in response to 2009's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and first performed in London’s Royal Court Theatre in February 2009, was described by the Times as "straitjacketed political orthodoxy" and widely called anti-Semitic.
Trade union affiliates
- Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen - ASLEF
- Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union - BECTU
- Fire Brigades Union - FBU
- GMB (trade union) - GMB
- National Union of Teachers - NUT
- Public and Commercial Services Union - PCS
- National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers - RMT
- Transport Salaried Staffs' Association - TSSA
- Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians - UCATT
- University and College Union - UCU
Boycott Israeli goods campaign
PSC has officially supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement since 2001, and does not believe concern for the jobs of Israeli and Palestinian workers should be considered when promoting BDS. The PSC is recognised as one of the major forces behind the BDS movement.
PSC was a co-founder of Stop Arming Israel, a campaign launched in June 2006 to pressure the UK to stop trading arms with Israel. The group no longer updates its website and has likely gone inactive.
PSC patron Ken Loach successfully convinced the organisers of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in May 2009 to return a £300 grant from the Israeli Embassy that was intended to cover the travel expenses of Israeli director Tali Shalom Ezer, who was going to show her film at the festival. In a statement, festival representatives explained their action by saying that Loach spoke "on behalf of the film community." Sir Jeremy Isaacs, former chief executive of Channel Four, told the Times that the festival's organizers made "an appalling decision" and urged them to reconsider.
The PSC organised disruptions of a performance by the Israel Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall in February 2011. BBC Radio 3, which was broadcasting the concert live, was forced to suspend the broadcast several times, over the protesters' shouting and heckling.
In May 2012, PSC activists wrote letters of complaint to the British daily newspaper the Morning Star after it included the Israeli national bird in its daily quiz. Their objection was that this violated the cultural boycott of Israel.
On 28 May 2012, when Israel's Habima theatre company performed at the London Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The PSC and other BDS groups organized a protest outside the building. On 29 May 2012, BBC Radio 4 reported that Habima was "being criticised for performing to Jewish audiences in the Occupied Territories." A PSC press release corrected the report, saying that it was criticising Habima "for performing in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank." After six months of pressure by PSC, the BBC Trust upheld the PSC's complaint.
The PSC waged a two-year campaign to block an EU trade agreement, the ACAA, that recognised Israeli pharmaceutical standards as equal to those in Europe. The agreement was ultimately passed in October 2012.
In November 2012, the PSC uploaded a 69-minute film to YouTube entitled The Case for Cultural & Academic Boycott of Israel, introduced by Ken Loach.
The PSC protested against an Israeli LGBT event in London, calling it "yet another attempt by Israel to co-opt the LGBT community into its pinkwashing campaign, which aims to re-brand Israel as a haven for queers while drawing attention away from its numerous crimes against the Palestinian people."
PSC has supported the BDS campaign against French company Veolia. The campaign has cost Veolia several lucrative contracts in Europe, including a £485 million waste management contract in West London. Veolia has been a target of BDS activists because of its work in Israel.
The PSC led a campaign to block the Israeli government's tourism bureau from advertising in British newspapers, its argument being that Israel was misrepresenting Palestinian territories as its own.
Longtime critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein has denounced the BDS movement, of which the PSC is a leading proponent, as a "cult" and "dishonest," because he thinks its ultimate goal is the destruction of Israel. He supports BDS, but says that recognition of Israel should be a precondition.
Scottish PSC member Pippa Bartolotti, a prominent leader of the Wales Green Party, took partin 2010's Viva Palestina convoy and visited Latakia, Syria, where she was photographed waving the flag of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), a known Neo-Nazi organisation. Bartolotti is a .
The PSC promoted the play I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You, which was staged on 17 January 2013.
Related groups and individuals
Red Card Israeli Racism is an offshoot UK-based group openly committed to BDS. Its membership is drawn from the ranks of other BDS groups, among them PSC.
PSC was part of 2007's ENOUGH coalition to oppose the Israeli occupation of territories controlled since the 1967 Six-Day War. George Galloway spoke at an ENOUGH demonstration in London, demanding the release of the "hero prisoner Marwan Barghouti," an accused terrorist, convicted of murder in Israel.
PSC cohosted the 2011 event "Complicity in Oppression: Do the Media Aid Israel?" with Amnesty International UK and the Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO), whose leader, Daud Abdullah, signed the Istanbul Declaration, stating that it is the obligation of the "Islamic Nation" to "carry on jihad and Resistance" against Israel.
The PSC has been criticized by fringe Palestinian elements for being insufficiently anti-Israel.
The PSC has publicly refused to denounce its association with Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), whose leader, Paul Eisen, has questioned the history of the Holocaust and praised a Nazi apologist and Holocaust denier. Controversy arose within the PSC ranks as some members of the organization sought to distance PSC from DYR, on the basis of what they perceived as anti-Semitism on part of DYR and its leadership. A public battle ensued, with members on both sides writing opinion pieces and open letters to argue their position. Ultimately, PSC chose to maintain its relationship with DYR. At its 10 March 2007 meeting, the PSC voted to dismiss Greenstein's motion calling for non-cooperation with DYR. Then-DYR board member Israel Shamir claimed that this motion was defeated by a 95% majority, suggesting that PSC strongly supports DYR despite accusations of Holocaust denial that surround the organization and its leadership.
The PSC invited Raed Salah, head of the group Islamic Movement in Israel, who had been arrested in 2003 for raising money for Hamas, to speak under its auspices at the Houses of Parliament in London in 2011. He was arrested, and PSC's London Director Sarah Colborne denied charges that was a terrorist, maintaining that he was the leader of a legitimate political organisation.
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