Britain’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign has suspended four officers from one of its most active branches, Manchester PSC.
Activists in the northern city are renowned in the solidarity movement for their uncompromising support for the Palestinian liberation struggle.
The Electronic Intifada has obtained the suspension email.
The neutralization by the PSC’s national leadership of one of its biggest branches appears to have been an attempt to quash its support for Palestinian resistance.
“Manchester Supports Palestinian Resistance,” the branch’s banner read, as activists took to the streets early in October.
Nearly two weeks later, the national PSC office suspended Manchester PSC’s chair, treasurer, secretary and campaigns officer without warning.
As well as the banner, the branch had also posted on its website on 7 October that “Palestinian freedom fighters from besieged Gaza broke Zionist colonial barriers and entered settlements built on stolen Palestinian land inside ‘48 Palestine.”
Following Israel’s complete military defeat in the south on 7 October, the entity lashed out at the civilian population of Gaza, in a genocidal war that has, at the time of this writing, claimed the lives of more than 9,000 Palestinians, 3,760 of whom are children.
To shore up international support, Israel began pumping out unverified and increasingly lurid atrocity propaganda about the alleged actions of Palestinian fighters on 7 October.
With Britain’s anti-Palestinian Home Secretary Suella Braverman leading an incitement campaign against the Palestine solidarity movement, it wasn’t long before right-wing and pro-Israel media began attacking Manchester PSC for its stance.But instead of defending its Manchester branch, the office of the national Palestine Solidarity Campaign decided to neutralize them.
The PSC distanced itself from the Manchester branch in a statement released on its website.
National PSC wrote that Manchester PSC’s support for Palestinian resistance was “unacceptable.”
The statement appeared to be partly a response to a hit piece by anti-Palestinian newspaper The Jewish Chronicle, which had earlier cited a speech at a Manchester PSC rally supporting Palestinian resistance as part of an article claiming that PSC has “links to Hamas.”
Next, Harry Cole, political editor with right-wing tabloid The Sun, called the Manchester post “appalling” and suggested it was a matter for the police.
But despite the branch complying with a PSC demand to delete the website post along with a related Twitter post, the national office decided to suspend Manchester PSC’s officers anyway.
PSC’s national secretary Ben Soffa wrote to Manchester PSC’s treasurer on 27 October, saying that “following a preliminary consideration by PSC’s standing investigative committee,” the officer’s membership of PSC had been suspended.
In all, Soffa sent identical emails to four of the branch’s elected officers, Manchester sources said.
Soffa’s email, seen by The Electronic Intifada, specifically cited Manchester PSC’s 7 October post and an accompanying Twitter post as justification for the suspensions.
“This is not a punitive suspension and is intended only to last until the matter can be investigated and a report considered by the [PSC’s] executive committee,” Soffa claimed. “I will be writing to you in the coming days regarding this investigation and how you may submit evidence to it.”
Soffa explained that Manchester PSC’s posts supporting the Palestinian resistance were being formally investigated by the PSC, as they may “exhibit hateful or discriminatory behavior, or significantly undermine PSC’s ability to function as a welcoming and inclusive organization.”
Soffa then demanded that Manchester PSC officers “must therefore cease from taking actions in the name of your PSC branch whilst your membership remains suspended.” He gave no indication of how long that would take.
He said the officers must stop “organizing events in the name of the branch, publishing statements on behalf of your branch, accessing data on PSC members made available to you in your capacity as a branch officer or taking any other actions in the name of a branch of PSC.”
Soffa concluded saying that although “this will not come as welcome news, especially at this time” the suspensions were “necessary to safeguard the ability of PSC to build the most impactful movement at this critical juncture.”
But if the PSC was worried about drawing media attention to the suspensions, it had a funny way of showing it.
The day after the suspensions, the PSC released a statement on its website implying that unspecified “social media postings in the name of Manchester PSC” may have endorsed “deliberate killing of [Israeli] civilians” and what it described as “hostage taking.”
On Wednesday, the PSC’s director Ben Jamal claimed on Sky News that leading Palestinian resistance faction Hamas was in “violation of international law” on 7 October because “it targeted and killed civilians.”
But what really happened on 7 October is hotly contested. Hamas itself has denied targeting civilians, and some Israeli survivors of that day have insisted that many of the civilians died at the hands of Israeli forces.Until Israel allows an independent international investigation, we are unlikely to learn the full truth. But it may already be too late for that – Israel appears to be literally burying the evidence.
Physicians for Human Rights Israel on Monday warned that the remains of bodies from 7 October were being buried before identification.
Labour witch hunt lives on
Soffa’s talk of suspensions, “investigative” committees, members being forced to submit evidence in their own defense and murky hints about possible anti-Semitism will sound depressingly familiar to many former Labour Party members, purged in the Israel-lobby-driven witch hunt during the years when Jeremy Corbyn was the party’s leader.
The similarity is no coincidence: Soffa remains Labour’s head of “digital organizing,” despite a massive exodus of the pro-Palestinian left from Labour, amounting to a purge of some 200,000 members since Corbyn was kicked out.
Contacted by phone, Ben Soffa declined to answer questions on the record, insisting we email PSC’s media address instead.
Asked if he thinks Palestinians have the right to defend themselves using armed force, Soffa refused to answer.
He also refused to answer when asked what PSC’s position is on the Palestinian use of armed defense.
Asked if he, as a senior Labour staffer, has ever worked with Israeli spy Assaf Kaplan – who was hired to monitor Labour members’ social media activities – Soffa refused to answer.
“That is something that I’m not going to comment on,” he said, when asked if he works with Kaplan currently.
PSC said: “International law makes clear that the targeting and killing of civilians is prohibited.”
They said that they “took action in relation to officers of Manchester PSC after social media postings which violated these principles, did not reflect the position of PSC and do not serve the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice and liberation.”
They conceded that, “PSC fully recognises the rights of oppressed and occupied people to resist, including through the use of armed resistance within the framework of international law.”
But they did not comment on whether PSC accepts the Israeli version of events regarding 7 October, that Israeli eyewitnesses have said that at least some of the Israeli civilians were killed by Israel’s own forces or whether PSC will call for an independent international investigation into what really happened.
Finally, they did not comment on their national secretary Ben Soffa declining to clarify whether or not he works with the Israeli spy Assaf Kaplan.The PSC has been part of a coalition of left-wing, Palestinian and Muslim groups which have been organizing weekly national demonstrations in London since Israel’s genocidal war began on 7 October.
The most recent demonstration in London last Saturday was estimated by organizers to be half a million strong.
But this coming weekend, there is no big national march being organized in the capital city. The coalition is instead encouraging a day of local actions, while building for another demonstration the following Saturday, 11 November.
The PSC’s list of local actions for this Saturday conspicuously omits any mention of Manchester.
Manchester PSC and other local groups are organizing another big protest in their city on Saturday, their fifth since 7 October, organizers say.