Paul Eisen

Paul Eisen

Monday, 23 January 2012

Dear Sarah... #2

Sarah Colbourne is General- Secretary of the PSC

Sarah Colbourne - photo courtesy of T. Greenstein
Dear Sarah

I wrote to you in November  expressing my concerns about the direction PSC is taking under your leadership. I pointed out that the latest (at the time) victims of your witch-hunt were Francis Clark-Lowes and Gill Kaffash - surely two of the most dedicated and committed solidarity activists to be found. I also pointed out that those who were urging you to purge PSC of these activists were on the one hand, open and honestly Zionist outlets such as Harry's Place and the Jewish Chronicle but on the other hand, seemingly pro-Palestinian individuals such as Tony Greenstein, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and groups such as Jews against Zionism etc.
But why, when I refer to the solidarity instincts of these people, do I say (and italicise) 'seemingly'? After all, these people have been involved in Palestinian solidarity for many years and have been relentless in their opposition to Israel and to Zionism.

Both these groups of Jews emerged from the deep quandary so many Jews faced when they left the ghetto - both the real one and the religious one in their heads. The question  they asked themselves was "Who do I worship now that I've rejected God?"  For Zionists it was themselves that is, the Jewish People and for Marxists well, despite all the worthy Revolutionary Messianism it was in the end.... much the same.

Tony Greenstein comes from a long line of Marxist Jews. You remember them, those wonderful people who brought you the Cheka, the Holodomor and the Gulag - just read Jewish historian Yuri Sklezine. From their ranks came such luminaries as Sverdlov, Kaganovich and Ilya Ehrenburg. And yes, they do want to end the Jewish state and yes, they do want Palestine to be for Palestinians - just like they want America to be for the Americans (as long as they run it) Britain to be for the British (so long as they run it) and  PSC to be for Palestinian supporters (you know what I'm going to say). And, as for the integrity of their opposition to Zionism, remember what Lenin said.  "Zionists with sea-sickness', he called them.

Ask them what kind of Palestine they envisage? How do they answer? Do they answer as I and perhaps you might, that it is for Palestinians and only Palestinians to decide?  Or, perhaps they don't need to ask the question because they already know what kind of state Palestinians want - exactly the same kind of state they want i.e. a secular, democraticPalestine - truly a state for all its citizens.

Well, we all love democracy and we all want to be free to worship where and how we want. But I tell you Sarah, while it's true that in that secular, democratic utopia that these Jews-for-this and Jews-for-that so love, every person will be equal before the law, every  person will have one vote and every person will be free to worship as they choose but .....on every street corner there will be a Commissar who just happens to be Jewish and who just happens to know exactly how you should think, what you may believe and how you must live your life. And, if you don't agree with him, he will have tried and tested methods of helping you along. Just like in PSC.

As far as Marxism is concerned I like all the sharing and brotherhood of man stuff though I don't much like the set-piece sloganising, the think-what-I-tell-you-and-do-as-your-told stuff.  But there might be important differences between Marxist ideology and Jewish Marxist ideology. Horrible though it is to contemplate, and despite your ever increasingly desperate protestations to the contrary, there are legitimate notions of Jewish identity and, though of course incredibly complex and nuanced and with many exceptions and qualifications, every self-identifying secular Jewish identity  (including my own) does, by definition, involve to some degree, attitudes and tendencies which, if overly empowered and unchecked, can lead to what happened in Gaza in 2008 and also what happened at Conway Hall last Saturday.

But Sarah, hold on a sec.  A little birdie has told me that you and your close circle in PSC have some important and heartfelt political connections of your own? Is that true? Have I been wasting my time...again?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

From the outside looking in...The PSC AGM

I was never a very good PSC member. Never much of an activist, all that leafleting and politburo-style meetings, never did much for me. And since DYR and I were the very first casualties in the ongoing and current PSC witch-hunt, to stand outside the PSC AGM was something I viewed with eager anticipation but also trepidation.
My reasons for attending were four-fold:

1. To support Francis Clark-Lowes in his appeal against expulsion and Gill Kaffash in her motion to bring some sanity to this increasingly nonsensical ‘racist/anti-racist’ debate.
2. To hand out leaflets and badges about Deir Yassin and its remembrance
3. To witness for myself the progress of PSC’s descent into complete subservience  to Jewish power.
4. To show my face after a five year absence.
I needn’t have worried. PSC members are every bit as lovely as I recall and those members of the Executive Council I saw and who saw me were also polite, if a little downcast. Sarah Colbourne pretended she didn’t see me but Betty Hunter did manage a strangled gurgle when asked cheerily why she wasn’t wearing her “Remember Deir Yassin‘ badge. And the that little Jews-only trio – Abe and Ros Hayeem and Deborah Maccoby - though visibly paling at the sight of me, had the good grace to shuffle hastily past. Even friend and brother Tony Greenstein managed to refrain from his usual foul and abusive behaviour as, shifty and alone he entered the building. 

But the PSC rank-and-file were as the PSC rank-and-file always are – open, friendly and one hundred-and ten per-cent committed to the Palestinian people. .

I began to leaflet. For years, I was a market trader – not the money markets or commodity markets - but the real, get-your-gums-round-my-plums, markets - so I know a thing or two about shifting gear- and believe me, the principles of shifting gear on a market are much the same as pushing fliers at a PSC AGM  – Pile ‘em high and make ’em cheap (in this case, free), never crowd the punter and, above all, keep going. Everyone loves a free badge so I gave out a lot. And there’s no doubt that Deir Yassin carries a lot of resonance for a lot of people– all the more so for the five year absence.

I didn’t see Francis make his speech but I read it beforehand. Honest, thoughtful and beautifully crafted, I can only assume it was as inspiring to hear as it was to read and I know it was received with modest but determined and warm applause. He lost of course but what did we expect?

And Gill’s motion? Well, Gill’s motion wasn’t called. It seems the AGM just ran out of time. And before all you conspiracy theorists  get busy, Gill’s motion was not the only one not called.  Course it wasn’t. If I was engaged in shady practices to ensure unpalatable ideas didn’t reach my membership, I too would make sure that Gill’s motion wasn’t the only one not called.
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi at the AGM

And finally, what of those critical ‘anti-racism’ motions? The ones that deal with all those pesky anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. Well, the EC decided to ensure the future of its Star Chamber by hitching its motion with its childlike ‘building'  this and ‘the masses’ that firmly to Jews-only motion number 9. This one proposed by Tony Greenstein and Naomi Idrissi-Wimbourne was my favourite.
Tony Greenstein in a moment of reflection
Firmly Marxist in its rhetoric, this motion, above all,  set out to protect and to excuse Jews from their crimes in Palestine. Like the EC motion it called for the witch-hunt against ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘Holocaust denial’ to be intensified. But it also called for ‘a series of forums’ to ‘build understanding’ of 'Israel as a settler-colonial, apartheid state (So where is the Mother Country - World Jewry perhaps?) and ‘Educational materials’ to ‘develop understanding’ of ‘Israel’s status as a client state of US imperialism’ (So, it’s all the Goyishe Americans’ fault)  and ‘the non-Jewish origins and Jewish opposition to Zionism’ (You see, it’s nothing to do with us).  Yaakov Sverdlov and Pol Pot would both have loved it.

They passed of course just like we knew they would. .

Yes, PSC has hitched itself firmly to the Jewish supremacists - the ‘anti-Zionist’ variety this time but it won’t be long before dear old PSC is an open and full-blown hasbara mouthpiece.

But one thing I know. People aren’t so stupid and PSC activists certainly aren’t. So one question remains: Now the PSC has joined in oppressing precisely those people it was supposed to liberate, where will all those ‘open, friendly, one hundred-and-ten-per-cent committed and thoroughly decent’ PSC activists go?

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Mario Savio and the Palestinian People

A lawsuit over,  yes you guessed it, anti-Semitism has been dismissed. On December 22 US District judge Richard Seborg threw out the claim that the University of California had allowed an “anti-Semitic climate” to develop.

The complaint, made by Jessica Felber and Brian Maiss, both members of the university's  Zionist student organization Tikvah, (it means 'hope' would you believe)  was that  Palestinian solidarity students “threaten and endanger the health and safety of the University of California’s Jewish Students.”
The flashpoint of the claim was that a pro-Palestinian student rammed Jessica Felber with a shopping cart on the campus’ well-known protest area, Sproul Plaza, during “Israeli Peace and Diversity Week.”
Well, I don't know if Ms Felber was rammed with a shopping cart but if she was, she probably had it coming. An "Israeli Peace and Diversity Week" would drive anyone to violence and I'm sure that the Tikvah attack-dogs are every bit as horrible as our own well-orchestrated and Israeli-embassy funded Union of Jewish Students (UJS)  that make the lives of Palestinian and Muslim students such a misery in this country.

But the real point for me is that the incident took place at the Sproul Plaza and, being an old sixties geezer, this really set the bells ringing.  Because it was in that self-same Sproul Plaza, nearly 50 years ago on December 2nd 1964 that Mario Savio delivered his famous 'You've got to put your bodies upon the gears" speech. That was about free speech too - and you can watch it here .


Monday, 2 January 2012

Racist Tales
     A Confession and a Family Story

First the confession. Some time ago I was traveling on the London Underground. Opposite me was a black woman. Having lived in inner London all my life, and out of choice, always amongst every kind of ethnicity, the presence of a black woman on the tube really means nothing to me at all.

But this black woman was like no black woman I had ever seen. I don’t know where she was from, Africa I suppose, but her ethnicity was one that I had never before come across - her features were completely and utterly unfamiliar to me.

Her colour was a blue-black of an intensity and depth I had never before encountered and her facial bone structure was of no type that I had ever seen before. And when I looked at her eyes they were to me expressionless and impenetrable. At that moment I could not and did not have any idea what she might be thinking or feeling. If I had spoken to her she might have answered me in clear and understandable English (the only language I understand) and I would have learned so much about her and I am also sure that had she smiled or expressed anger or sorrow I  would have at once seen all her humanity. But she did none of these things and I tell you, at that moment, sitting alone on that tube train with this woman – a stranger to me in every way - I could not for the life of me see her as human in quite the way that I see myself as human.

Did I seriously doubt this woman’s humanity? Of course I did not. Did I see her as less than me? I don’t think so. Did I wish her any harm? God forbid. Am I a racist? You decide.

Now the family story: My wife had an elderly relative who lived in the Lancashire town of Rochdale. Her name was Auntie Eva. I had never met Auntie Eva until, some years ago myself, my wife and our children journeyed up north to visit Auntie Eva. She was just delightful - a clever, funny, unassuming sparrow of a woman who, now widowed,  lived quietly and alone in the same little two-up-two-down in the same tiny little cobbled street in which she had lived devotedly for years with her husband. 

Auntie Eva loved her little house and she loved her little street which was now filled, without exception, with Bangladeshis. The people were Bangladeshi, the language was  Bangladeshi , the food was  Bangladeshi , the shops were Bangladeshi  – Auntie Eva was the only Englishwoman in a thriving and lively Bangladeshi community – in a sense Auntie Eva was a stranger in her own home. I don’t know if Auntie Eva minded but whether she did or she didn’t, she seemed to view her neighbours in exactly the same spirit with which she viewed the rest of the world and her place in it – with gentle but chirpy contentment.

At lunch, suddenly during our conversation Auntie Eva referred to her neighbours as ‘the Pakis’. Well, I looked at my wife and my wife looked at me and we both looked at both our children and both our children looked at both of us – and we all shifted uncomfortably and tried to focus. But Auntie Eva carried on referring to her Bangladeshi neighbours as ‘the Pakis’ and she continued to do this easily and naturally with the same quiet grace with which she made all her  utterances, and with not a breath of malice. Was Auntie Eva a racist?

Some time later, we again made the journey to Rochdale and again because of Auntie Eva – but this time it was to attend her funeral. As the small funeral cortege drew up outside the tiny little terraced house to take Auntie Eva to her final resting place, all of Auntie Eva’s Bangladeshi neighbours came out of their houses – the men, the women and the children - to accompany Auntie Eva to her final resting place. The simple truth was that Auntie Eva loved the Pakis and the Pakis loved Auntie Eva.

Was Auntie Eva a racist?  You decide.