When a non-Jewish Palestine Solidarity Activist Calls out a Jewish MP for Antisemitism

There are those moments – rare, fleeting, glimmers in the grayscape of the internet, of the world – where I am reminded that the world has hope embedded in its strange human crust.

The other day, a Member of Parliament in the UK, Gerald Kaufman, made obscene, antisemitic remarks about “Jewish money” controlling UK politics. MP Kaufman is Jewish. Some online bigots took this [gleefully] as proof that MP Kaufman must be telling “the truth;” for how could a Jewish person possibly profess anti-Semitic tropes? Just as, certainly, there are no blacks who espouse racist views of black people; no Muslims who promulgate offensive stereotypes about Muslims…

It was within this context that I was moved and grateful to see the following letter written by Gary Spedding, a non-Jewish Palestine Solidarity Activist from the UK, addressed to MP Kaufman.

”Dear Sir Gerald,

I am writing to you today after news broke of the remarks you made at an event in Parliament on Tuesday 27th October 2015, where it is reported that you made a number of conspiratorial statements regarding Jews, Jewish money and Israel.

As a Palestine solidarity activist I am deeply disappointed by your use of language at the Palestine Return Centre’s event. Such words are not only racist and anti-semitic, but also highly damaging to the hard work put in to build Palestine solidarity here in the UK. Each time there is an incident such as this with a high profile public figure such as yourself it brings the Palestine solidarity movement into disrepute and puts others off giving their support to the Palestinian people.

It is frustrating for individuals like myself – people who work off virtually zero budget and rarely get our voices heard in national media – when damage is done to our hard work in promoting the rights of Palestinians. We push very hard for a just resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict through the use of international law and well-established accountability mechanisms in order to promote peacebuilding and conflict transformation. All of this goes unnoticed because the focus is usually upon bigoted remarks such as those you made on Tuesday.

Despite my anger at the damage caused, I am also writing to you in the hope of highlighting two pieces of published literature that I believe might be of help to you.

The first, a piece written by a Palestinian-American student, Yasmeen Serhan, was published in response to anti-semitic discourse surrounding Israel’s horrific slaughter in Gaza last year. It’s a very important read for Palestine solidarity activists as it makes a very clear and straightforward case about Anti-semitism not having any place in Palestine solidarity.

Secondly, and perhaps more relevant to your recent remarks, is a piece written on a blog entitled ‘This is Not Jewish’ where the author writes an article entitled ‘How to Criticize Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic‘. The sections most relevant to yourself are the points about not saying ‘Jews’ when you mean ‘Israel’ and not accusing Jews of having dual loyalties or controlling the banks/media/country. Also, based on some of your previous statements where you used Hitler and the Nazis as a rhetorical prop, I think reading point 14 on the list will be of use to you as well.

I hope that you can see my intentions here are to provide advice to you on a way forward now that your most recent remarks are out in the public domain. You should make a public statement apologising for the language you used and clarifying your position opposing anti-semitism. Please take this as an opportunity to make amends – both to the UK Jewish Community AND the Palestine Solidarity Movement that you have brought into disrepute.

Your statements are something that I do not wish to be associated with as a Palestine solidarity activist. You really have done a massive disservice to the Palestinian people by making the focus about what you have said rather than the current suffering of those human beings with whom we are supposedly in solidarity.

I look forward to hearing a response from you at the earliest convenience.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Spedding”

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