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 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 also a founder of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and the author of a number of articles about Palestine and related subjects, many of which are freely available online.
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.
The PSC has about 40 branches in England, Scotland and Wales, a list of which is kept on its website. The organisation's activity in Scotland is co-ordinated by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign is a separate organization that 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 the following notable individuals:
Following remarks at a pro-Palestinian lobby when it was reported that she said of Palestinian suicide bombers: "If I had to live in that situation - and I say that advisedly - I might just consider becoming one myself", PSC patron Baroness Jenny Tonge was criticised for rationalising suicide bombings. In a subsequent BBC interview, she stated "I was just trying to say how, having seen the violence and the humiliation and the provocation that the Palestinian people live under every day and have done since their land was occupied by Israel, I could understand and was trying to understand where suicide bombers were coming from." Adverse comment was aroused and on 23 January 2004 Charles Kennedy, then leader of the Liberal Democrats, asked her to resign from his party's frontbench.
PSC patron Caryl Churchill's play Seven Jewish Children, was written in response to 2009's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and first performed in London’s Royal Court Theatre in February 2009. It received a mixed critical reception. The full text of the play and links to a number of comments about it are available online.
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. A study published in the Jewish Chronicle has been reported as recognising the PSC as one of the main proponents of the BDS movement in Britain.
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.
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 the 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 criticized by the BDS movement because of its activities in Palestine and Israel. The allegations made included providing infrastructure and services to illegal settlements and racist recruitment policies.
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.
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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