Memo to Polly Toynbee: regarding Deir Yassin

Memo to Polly Toynbee: Deir Yassin must be remembered!

Over the past week, there has been a concerted effort by pro-Israel advocates to smear Jeremy Corbyn and accuse him of anti-semitism because of his steadfast support for Palestinian human rights. Several articles, repeating the same mantra, under different bylines, emanate from the British Israel Communications and Resarch Centre (BICOM) 

On August 14, @pollytoynbee tweeted:

“Wise words from excellent ‪@J_Bloodworth : foreign policy is being all but ignored in Lab leadership.Read this ‪http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/13/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-foreign-policy-antisemitism  

The article by James Bloodworth was a mash-up of one that first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle on August 10th by Marcus Dysch; a Jewish Chronicle editorial on August 12;  and another on the website Left Foot Forward, under the byline of Loris Cross-Bell, a researcher for the British Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Further work on behalf of BICOM has been carried out by Alan Johnson, an editor of Fathom.

Joan Ryan, the new ‘chairman’ of Labour Friends of Israel, was quick to join the smear campaign, expressing ‘concern’ at Corbyn’s candidature. Ivan Lewis, who attempted to establish ‘guilt by association’ rather than make an outright accusation, had to hurriedly backtrack when a headline in the Daily Telegraph, featuring his insinuations, spelled out his underlying accusation of anti-semitism.

Bloodworth mirrored Lewis, stating that, “Because there is no direct evidence that he has an issue himself with Jews, there is overwhelming evidence of his association with, support for – and even in one case, alleged funding of – Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright anti-Semites.”

His reference was to an organization known as Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR).

Both Bloodworth and Loris Cross-Bell use near-identical language when pointing out that DYR is ‘an organization so extreme that even the Palestine Solidarity Campaign refuses to associate with it.’

Others repeated this implication (“even the Palestine Solidarity Campaign”), hinting that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is itself anti-Semitic, but DYR is even more so!

None of these writers mention that Jeremy Corbyn is Honorary President of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and was involved in deciding the PSC’s stance towards DYR and other holocaust deniers who were promptly exposed and expelled by the organization at a packed AGM. Like Jeremy Corbyn, the PSC is firmly anti-racist and rigorously opposes anti-semitism.

Like Corbyn, the PSC advocates human, civil, national and political rights for Palestinians. This stance has invoked the smear campaign by BICOM and those working on behalf of the Government of Israel.

In the early 2000s, I attended two events organised by DYR in London, having read about its American counterpart which was set up to raise funds to build a Nakba memorial dedicated to all those who were massacred during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, known as The Nakba, to make way for the foundation of the State of Israel.

The first such event, as I remember, was held in a reform synagogue in St. Johns Wood and featured music, poetry and readings by renowned actors. I do not recall whether Jeremy Corbyn was there, but there were certainly some Members of Parliament, public figures and Church Leaders. It was a given that we were in a space where the issue of antisemitism would not arise.

A year later, musicians, dancers and actors, gave a performance for Medical Aid for Palestinians, organised by DYR, at the Peacock Theatre. Shortly after that, my friend, the late Hanna Braun, issued a warning regarding the involvement in DYR of Israel Shamir, a Russian-Swedish Israeli with links to Paul Eisen.

A bloc of DYR board members, including Hanna, resigned in protest. Over time, Eisen and his Israeli associate, Gilad Atzmon, emerged openly as Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, with links to extreme rightwing groups and individuals. The potential damage to the Palestine solidarity movement was averted by the speedy, anti-racist action of PSC. It is hard not to draw the conclusion that the subversion of DYR was designed to fatally damage the solidarity movement and PSC was the prime target on their list.  For too long, the activities of Eisen and Atzmon continued to be facilitied by the Socialist Workers Party.

Hanna Braun, who died a few weeks after the publication of her autobiography in 2011, was an anti-Zionist Jewish woman who’d been taken to Palestine as a child. While a teenager she was recruited into the Haganah, a Jewish terrorist group. She remembered Deir Yassin in her frank account of her life, Weeds Don’t Perish, Garnet, 2011.

‘Early one morning in April 1948 a friend burst into my room with tears streaming down her face. “They’re massacring everyone in Deir Yassin!” she cried…the senseless brutality of such slaughter was incomprehensible. Even more despicable was the parading of some of the male villagers in an open van through the streets of Jerusalem prior to their being shot. Our only comfort, if such it could be called, was that the atrocity was perpetrated by the Stern Gang, forerunners of Likud. That fig leaf was torn from us when, a few months later Stern and Etzel members were incorporated into the army and their commanders became our officers.”

It is worth noting that in his Jewish Chronicle article, Marcus Dysch, refers to the “alleged killing by Jewish soldiers of 100 Arabs before the 1948 war of Independence.”

This language says all you need to know about Nakba denial. By using the word ‘alleged,’ Dysch plants an element of doubt about an event that is well documented, is not denied by Israeli historians and is pictorially represented in the national archives of the State of Israel. Calling Palestinians “Arabs” avoids the word “Palestine” or “Palestinian” in a bid to render Palestinians invisible. Referring to the massacres, ethnic cleansing and land grab upon which the State of Israel was established as a “War of Independence,” is both Nakba denial and a cover-up of Israel’s colonial settler enterprise.

Hanna Braun was determined that Deir Yassin should and must be remembered. Her book chronicles her journey from Zionism to activism in the Palestine solidarity movement.

The original organization, based in the USA, whose name was appropriated by Eisen to discredit the solidarity movement worldwide, had among its initial advisory board, Hanan Ashrawi and Edward Said. Its website  quoted Simon Wiesenthal’s observation that “Hope lives when people remember.”’ It is time to remember Deir Yassin, the symbol of the Nakba: Palestinian dispossession, forced expulsion, massacre and oppression.