Council blocks TH Palestine event over predicted IHRA definition misuse

A solidarity event to welcome cyclists raising awareness and money for Palestinian children suffering from the Israeli occupation was blocked by TH Council over fears they could be breaching a misguided definition of antisemitism.

The Big Ride 4 Palestine event was to be held in the borough with cyclists completing a 36m bike ride from Kensington to Bethnal Green on Saturday 27 July.

TH Council withheld the real reason for preventing one of their venues being used, however, subsequent release of emails between Council staff revealed in the Guardian show concerns over the definition of anti-semitism according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition.

TH Palestine Solidarity warned of the potential misuse of the IHRA.s definition in preventing free speech and legitimate support and campaigning for the Palestinian cause prior to the Council adopting it, but were ignored.

The full Guardian article can be read here. The letter to the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, from Palestine Solidarity Campaign in protest can read here. A response from Free Speech on Israel can be read here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lobby & petition against TH Council’s full adoption of the IHRA definition

TH Palestine Solidarity Campaign will lobby TH Council next month (5.45-7.30pm at the Town Hall on Weds 21 Nov) to express our concerns over the recent adoption of the full IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Councillors were reportedly pushed into voting in favour of it resulting in an unanimous vote that could restrict our ability to campaign for Palestine in the borough.

We are also urging supporters of Palestine and free speech, who live, work or study in Tower hamlets, to sign our petition (petition now closed) calling for the Council to include a caveat to the adopted IHRA definition that will protect our right to legitimately criticise the Israeli State, its policies, Zionist ideology, as well as support and advocate for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Please email us if you would like a paper version of the petition.

Background

In an era when the far-right is growing in confidence it is more important than ever to stand against Holocaust denial,, anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and any other forms of antisemetic prejudice and hatred.

However, many of the examples which accompany the IHRA definition systematically conflate opposition to Israel with antisemitism, threatening to undermine many years of practical solidarity with the Palestinian people in the face of decades of dispossession and occupation.

We note that the motion to adopt the full IHRA definition was moved by Conservative councillors, whose party has been at the forefront of promoting Islamophobia and the racist ‘hostile environment’ that has affected the lives of so many of our residents.

Click here to read more about the Council’s adoption of the full definition of the IHRA and our concerns.

Further information is also available on the excellent Free Speech on Israel website.

Statement on TH Council’s full adoption of IHRA definition

TH Palestine Solidarity will be protesting against TH Council’s full adoption of the IHRA definition at the Full Council meeting on Weds 21st November at Mulberry Place.

Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity Campaign (THPSC) and Jenin Friendship Association (THJFA) regrets TH Council’s decision of 17 September to adopt, in its entirety, the IHRA definition of antisemitism and the accompanying “examples”.

In an era when the far-right is growing in confidence it is more important than ever to stand against Holocaust denial, anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and any other forms of antisemitic prejudice and hatred.

However, the examples which accompany the IHRA definition systematically conflate opposition to Israel with antisemitism, threatening to undermine many years of practical solidarity with the Palestinian people in the face of decades of dispossession and occupation.

We note that the motion was moved by Conservative councillors, whose party had been at the forefront of promoting Islamophobia and the racist “hostile environment” that has affected the lives of so many of our residents.

Opposed to all forms of racism

We are opposed to all forms of racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia. Tower Hamlets has a proud history of uniting our community against racism and fascism – from Cable Street to the EDL and Britain First. This includes unity across differences in view over Israel-Palestine.

It is vital that our borough, particularly given the threat of the far-right today, maintains this unity and defends freedom of expression over Israel-Palestine.

We therefore oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its historic meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews. PSC and THJFA have always opposed any expression of antisemitism, whatever the context.

A statement we can support

We therefore support the statement by many leading Jewish academics and others that:

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic unless motivated by anti-Jewish prejudice. Examples of this can include: holding all Jews accountable for the actions of the state of Israel; engaging in conspiracy theories about the state of Israel that draw on antisemitic stereotypes about supposed Jewish power; accusing all Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to the interests of their own nations.

“Criticism of Israel, of its displacement of Palestinians and of its denial of their rights, is not antisemitic. Criticising laws and policies of the state of Israel as racist and as falling under the definition of apartheid is not antisemitic. Calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to oppose those policies is not antisemitic. We call upon all public bodies and other organisations to apply these principles in addressing antisemitism within their own organisations and when challenging it within wider society.”

Problems with IHRA

We believe the Council’s decision to adopt the full IHRA definition, with all its examples, can only serve to suppress criticism of the Israeli state and support for the Palestine cause.

It is a decision that flies in the face of calls from Palestinians in the West Bank, the Israeli Knesset and in Britain, and OVER 40 international Jewish organisations  to reject the full IHRA definition. It will also disappoint the many Palestinians who have a personal connection with our borough.

Despite denials, the IHRA definition has already been used to suppress criticism of Israel. As the letter from Arab members of the Knesset makes clear, it specifically silences Palestinian voices in articulating the institutional and structural roots of their own oppression. Currently Israel has over 60 laws that discriminate against Palestinians.

Working together, getting it right

Since the formation of THJFA in 2002, our community, the Council, many councillors and our Mayor, have welcomed visitors from Jenin in Palestine. We have campaigned with the support of Tower Hamlets constituents, to further this friendship by twinning Tower Hamlets with Jenin.

We believe that adopting the definition sends a message that criticism of the Israeli state and solidarity with the Palestinian people will be discouraged in our borough and regarded with suspicion.

We aim to campaign that nothing in the Tower Hamlets code prevents our community from expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people and support for their struggle for equality and human rights or from discussing the reality and roots of their oppression.

We believe many in our community will be concerned at the adoption of the full IHRA definition. We intend to protest at the next meeting of our Council on Wednesday 21st November.

We will continue to highlight the struggle for Palestinian human rights; to build the solidarity campaign in our borough and to insist on the freedom to protest at the racist structures of power that have been employed to dispossess and oppress the Palestinian people.

Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jenin Friendship Association

thpalestinesolidarity@gmail.com

TH Palestine Solidarity holds successful events to commemorate Nakba Week

To commemorate Nakba Week in May, we held two successful solidarity events in Tower Hamlets.

Roman Road Market Stall

On Saturday 13th, we held our fourth stall on the Roman Road Market, selling Zaytoun Palestinian produce (olive oil, dates, almonds, and maftoul), which again proved to be very popular.

Profits from the sales contribute towards a range of solidarity work, including future local and cultural exchange activities. Recent examples of donations to groups based in Jenin, the city we hope to one day twin with Tower Hamlets, were reported on here.

Sales of Palestinian produce though is just one benefit of our Roman Road stall. We also secured more than 40 signatures supporting the child prisoners campaign; ensured the Palestinian flag was proudly visible; had many conversations with people who knew more or less about the situation in Israeli occupied Palestine. We also promoted the Monday night event.

Film showing and talk

On Monday 15th, we held a public film night and stall at the Brady Centre, with almost 50 people attending. We screened the British documentary ‘Firefighters Under Occupation’, which was introduced by Lucy Masoud, an official from the Fire Brigades Union, who has witnessed first-hand the experience of fire fighters in occupied Palestine.

The film follows fire fighting units in Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem and the additional challenges they face with limited equipment having to contend with Israeli armed checkpoints and vehicle searches.

The film was followed by a short presentation by Sybil on her recent experience at the Bethlehem Marathon. The evening concluded with a Q&A with both Lucy and Sybil reflecting on what we’d seen and discuss other topical events in Palestine – particularly the hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners, which has since been suspended after securing many of their demands.

Thanks to everyone who participated or helped to organise these events. If you would like to get involved in future events – helping on our next Roman Road stall or on local Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions engagement with shops selling fresh produce on the Roman Road are two live examples – please contact us.

Film & talk: Firefighters under Occupation – Mon 15th May Brady Centre, Whitechapel

Join us to mark the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, when 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes during and after the 1948 war with Israel and who largely remain refugees.

Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity is holding a free public event with film, speakers and discussion: 7.15pm-9pm, Monday, 15th May @ Brady Centre, 192-196 Hanbury Street, Whitechapel, E1 5HU.

  • Firefighters under Occupation: one-hour documentary about life as a Palestinian firefighter in the occupied West Bank
  • London Fire Brigades Union: Lucy Masoud will share her insights on the film and firefighting in Palestine
  • Bethelehem Marathon: report from our chair, who just returned from Bethlehem having completed the race
  • Palestinian produce stall: Palestinian olive oil, dates, soap, zatar (herbs) etc will be available for sale

Please join us and invite your friends for what will be a very interesting and informative evening!

We will also be running a stall at Roman Road market on Saturday, 13th May, selling Palestinian fair trade produce, so do stop by and say hello if you’re in the area.

2016 Summer Garden Party Fundraiser – Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity

After the success of last summer’s garden party-fundraiser we’ll be doing it all again on Saturday, 27 August.

Expect excellent Palestinian and Middle Eastern food, Zaytoun produce and Tim’s Freedom Ride sketches for sale, and a raffle to boot.

Oh. And did I mention some excellent company.

All friends and supporters welcome.

Email us to register your attendance and receive the address (secret Bow venue).

2016 garden party

TH Palestine Solidarity backs September’s Women’s Boat to Gaza

womens boat to gaza
Picture from freedomfloatilla.org

In three months time the Women’s Boat to Gaza will set sail in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza that has been suffocating 1.5m Palestinians for almost a decade.

The mission aims to not only highlight the escalating impact the blockade of goods and produce is having on the people living in Gaza, but also the important role women play in Palestinian society and the daily resistance to Israeli oppression.

A spokesperson for WBG said: “Like most people, we recognize the need to make our world more just and egalitarian. Women in Gaza often fill the role of caring for and sustaining life, and are actively involved in community development and nation building. It is important  to make their voices heard, even more so during periods of extreme injustice.”

TH Palestine Solidarity is supporting the Women’s Boat to Gaza, which is due to set sail in September 2016, to challenge the illegal maritime blockade of Gaza.

Please show your support for this latest project of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition however you can, including endorsing it, donating money, or time (email: james@breakgazasiege.org).

For more information visit the main website here.

Cartoonist Tim Sanders Freedom Ride illustrations available for sale as cards

After his recent trip to Palestine illustrations by national newspaper cartoonist Tim Sanders are available for sale as cards.

Tim joined four other members of TH Palestine Solidarity for the Jenin-based Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Ride in March this year and recently presented selected images for the first time at a talk he gave last week.

Now they are available for the first time in packs of five cards with short descriptions on the back. Money raised from sales will go towards costs and TH Palestine Solidarity’s continued campaigning, and solidarity and educational exchanges over the next year.

The cards feature a range of images from interactions with Palestinian children to Israeli soldiers interrogating them as well as more scenic images of towns, villages and the countryside.

The cards are available in packs of five for £5+£1 P&P. Prints and a calendar will be available later in the year when a full exhibition of his work is planned.

You can order packs of five cards using the PayPal Donate link here. Please specify which cards you would like using the numbers in the captions below. Please also specify the delivery address if different to the one registered with PayPal.

You can email us at thpalestinesolidarity@gmail.com with any questions or queries.

Thanks for your support.

Fasayel is in the Jordan Valley in occupied Palestine, surrounded by Israeli agribusiness plantations on land stolen from Palestinians.
1. Fasayel is in the Jordan Valley in occupied Palestine, surrounded by Israeli agribusiness plantations on land stolen from Palestinians.
Children working on a community mural in Fasayel, in the occupied Jordan Valley.
2. Children working on a community mural in Fasayel, in the occupied Jordan Valley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The school run in the Old City of Hebron
3. The school run in the Old City of Hebron
Jenin in the North of the West Bank viewed from the cinema.
4. Jenin in the North of the West Bank viewed from the cinema.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apartheid wall seen from Aida refugee camp
5. The apartheid wall seen from Aida refugee camp
Fasayel by night - illegal Israeli settlements on the hill, in the Jordan Valley.
6. Fasayel by night – illegal Israeli settlements on the hill, in the Jordan Valley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man in Jerusalem's Old City sits outside the remains of his home all day to stop illegal colonists confiscating what he has left.
7. Man in Jerusalem’s Old City sits outside the remains of his home all day to stop illegal colonists confiscating what he has left.
Silwan close to the Old City of Jerusalem.
8. Silwan close to the Old City of Jerusalem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hebron Old City. Schoolboy arrested  - he had no permit to be in the street.
10. Hebron Old City. Schoolboy arrested – he had no permit to be in the street.

 

 

 

Jenin refugee camp
9. Jenin refugee camp