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A Fraudulent Quid Pro Quo - Israel, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism

Apartheid Wall

Update - 10 March: Stand Up to Racism Scotland has rejected the motion calling for COFIS to be told it isn't welcome on the anti-racism march in Glasgow.

COFIS (Confederation of Friends of Israel in Scotland) says: "COFIS members will once again join with others on March 17 in Glasgow to march against antisemitism. Only antisemites would seek to prevent us from doing so." COFIS appears to be trying to mobilise on social media for a good turnout. It's to be hoped that the pool of potential is low, but even so there's every chance that COFIS will have a stronger presence than last year. Afterwards they will try to use their participation in the march to promote the idea that they can be anti-racist at the same time as supporting Israeli apartheid, to smear as anti-semitic those who oppose that position, to co-opt the march into their smear campaign, and to crow over their success in participating in it.

The way to stop this is to make it clear to everyone that COFIS is present, if at all, against the wishes of the organisers of the march (Stand Up To Racism), to take a firm stand against malicious accusations of anti-semitism, and to ensure that SUTR is positioned so that any controversy after the march helps spread awareness of Israeli abuses, helps the struggle against real anti-semitism and makes it harder for this struggle to be undermined and hijacked by supporters of Israel. I am supporting a motion to the Stand Up To Racism Scotland Steering Committee (text of the motion at the end of this article) that I believe facilitates that, though other wording could no doubt be devised that would do the job as well or better.

COFIS was set up to undermine support for Palestine. The speech by Richard Falk at last year's anti-racism march put it on the back foot. A year's failure to make clear that the COFIS presence on the same march was unwelcome has eroded this position. COFIS is now trying to regain the initiative, and perhaps believes it has done so by publishing an accusation of anti-semitism ahead of any SUTR decision on the matter. SUTR has an opportunity on Saturday to put an an end to this pantomime and tell COFIS it isn't welcome.

Islamophobia remains a much larger problem than anti-semitism. It is being exploited to create public acquiescence in UK military adventures and in Israeli attacks on Palestine. It is also being exploited by the far-right to power their growth not just in the UK but across much of Europe and the US. Islamophobia, not anti-semitism, is nearly everywhere the fuel that the far right relies on. Where successful, the far right then tends to turn on its traditional target, the Jewish community. Muslims, Jews and all the rest of us have a shared interest in draining the swamp of racism and Islamophobia on which the far right relies.

Supporters and apologists for Israel are offering a fraudulent quid quo pro: they will allow us to campaign against Islamophobia provided we also suppress meaningful criticism of Israel. They invite us to deny the actual experience of victims of racism, deny the relationship between racism and colonialism and ignore the strategies that modern far right organisations use. The Israeli offer is divisive. We should not be distracted by the Byzantine processes through which the Labour party is trying to deal with it. If we accept the offer on behalf of our mass movement against racism, we weaken ourselves.

The motion for the Stand Up to Racism Scotland Steering Committee

"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"

Photo: hjl, "Fading homage to Delacroix", February 2013. Some rights reserved