Keep our anti-racism march anti-racist!

UPDATE - Saturday 10 March: Our motion calling for COFIS to told be it isn't welcome at the anti-racism demo in Glasgow on 17 March was rejected at the Stand Up to Racism Steering Committee meeting this afternoon.

The anti-racism demo in Glasgow in March 2017 was marred by the participation of a small number of supporters of The Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland (COFIS). COFIS works to close down public discussion of Israeli crimes. SACC is asking the organisers of the demo to tell COFIS that it isn't welcome this year.

A highlight of the anti-racism demo in Glasgow last March was the speech by Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine. He had just co-authored a report (download here: pdf) for the UN (which UN Secretary-General António Guterres subsequently suppressed) concluding that Israel is an apartheid state.

"United Nations bodies, national Governments and civil society actors,including religious organizations, should formally endorse the principal finding of this report that the treatment by Israel of the Palestinians is consistent with the crime of apartheid." - Recommendation of the report "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid" by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley, commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

The preface to the report states:

"The authors reject the accusation of anti-Semitism in the strongest terms. First, the question of whether the State of Israel is constituted as an apartheid regime springs from the same body of international human rights law and principles that rejects anti-Semitism: that is, the prohibition of racial discrimination. No State is immune from the norms and rules enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which must be applied impartially. The prohibition of apartheid, which, as a crime against humanity, can admit no exceptions, flows from the Convention. Strengthening that body of international law can only benefit all groups that have historically endured discrimination, domination and persecution, including Jews."

But the Glasgow demo that Richard Falk addressed in 2017 was marred by the participation of a small number of supporters of The Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland (COFIS). COFIS works closely with the Israeli Embassy to close down public discussion of Israeli crimes and to impede organising for the Palestinian-led BDS movement. The participation by COFIS in the march was an attempt to position it as an anti-racist organisation and legitimise Israeli claims that criticism of Israel is anti-semitic. This view is influential in government, but it should have no place in a mass anti-racism movement.

The demo is an annual event organised in cities around the UK by Stand Up to Racism in celebration of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March). Similar events are held elsewhere in Europe. This year the demo will be held on Saturday 17 March. Stand Up to Racism Scotland has not so far set out an explicit position on any COFIS involvement in this year's demo. As an affiliate of Stand Up to Racism Scotland, we think it should tell COFIS unequivocally that it isn't welcome on the demo. SACC supports the following emergency motion, which will be discussed at the Stand Up to Racism Scotland committee meeting scheduled for Saturday 3 March [postponed until Saturday 10 March due to the weather]:

"That this meeting of the SUTR (Scotland) Steering Committee notes the serious concerns raised by affiliates and supporters, particularly by campaigners for Palestinian equality, justice and freedom including the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, that the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS) joined and raised their banner and Israeli flags at the SUTR demonstration in 2017.

The Committee understands that the aims of CoFIS, an organisation that works in partnership with the Israeli government and international pro-Israel organisations such as Christians United for Israel (led by John Hagee who is known for his antisemitic and racist outbursts), are incompatible with the principles and aims of SUTR.

The Committee notes that CoFIS was founded in order to counter the work of Palestine solidarity campaigners in Scotland, and that their tactics include intimidation by smears of racism and lobbying local authorities to use and abuse hate crime legislation in order to protect the state of Israel.

The Committee resolves to inform CoFIS that they are not welcome to join the SUTR demonstration on 17 March 2018.

The Committee resolves to write to affiliates and supporters, and those organisations that have contacted SUTR with their concerns on this matter, to confirm that this action has been taken and to invite them to build and join the 17 March 2018 demonstration in Glasgow"

More info

Details of this year's Glasgow anti-racism demo (facebook)

Statement by Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign on the involvement of COFIS in the demo. The statement concludes: "We call upon SUTR and its affiliates to bar any group that exists to defend state-enforced racism in Israel/Palestine as having no place among anti-racist campaigns."

Statement by Scottish Friends of Palestine on the involvement of COFIS in the demo, saying: "The Confederation of Friends of Israel stands doubly condemned for its racist credentials." It says: "Zionism may have no theory of race, but practical Zionism and racism go hand in hand." The statement concludes: "This year’s demonstration on March 17th in Glasgow gives the opportunity for the SUTR steering committee to address racism in all of its forms."

"Serious solidarity must resist the Israel lobby and its front campaigns": article by John Hilley. Some important perspective that concludes:

"It's inevitable that open rejection of organisations like CoFIS will be met with the same backlash unleashed by the wider pro-Israel lobby. Yet, this should make the response of leftists and others of good progressive mind even clearer. Much better to take a principled position and defend your case with confident argument than capitulate to such forces for fear of being falsely labelled and smeared. There's no placating or appeasing this network. It will come after solidarity groups whatever its 'inclusion' or rejection.

Lobby groups and campaigns which help defend and hide Israel's mass violations and crimes against humanity have to be resisted with moral resolve and tactical intent. You can't fully stand up to racism while lying down to apartheid."