Ilan Solomon’s has over the past year or two become one of the new important leaders in the fight against anti-Israel attitudes and behaviours on and off university campuses in South Africa. He is the current SAUJS National Political Officer and is also the former Wits Political Officer.
He sent in the following guest blog on a recent experience at a Palestine Solidarity Committee event which took place late last year.
My experience at a PSC event in Brixton
I write this short description of how I was treated at a PSC event which I recently attended at Nsako House in Brixton.
A friend of mine on facebook invited me to the screening of a few movies by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC), a few weeks back. Now I fundamentally believe that if one has a strong background in the Israeli-Arab conflict and is not swayed easily by propaganda - on either side – then I see no problem with hearing different views on the matter. So I decided along with a friend of mine to take up the challenge and venture into Brixton and go and see this event that the PSC and a few other organizations were putting on.
Some familiar PSC members did their best to hide their shock and clear discomfort with having two Jews that are well known for their pro-Israel activities in their own ‘den’. Well we quickly sat down to take our seats for the films and discussions. Before I continue let me just clarify that we both did not have any provocative clothing on, i.e. Israel or IDF shirts. The only thing that was clearly visible were our yarmulke’s which were just plain unbranded black and blue yarmies. Which as you will see later in this account became an issue.
The one documentary did not run properly, so they went straight onto the next film which is called Occupation 101, which features several supposed experts on the conflict giving over some of the ‘facts’ – as they see it on the ground.
After the film some members of the PSC, were given time to field questions from the audience. The questions touched on a variety of points relating to the conflict, many of which the PSC members did not answer or simply ignored or played down especially relating to the issue of Palestinian terror groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
At first I was hesitant to ask a question as being in the PSC ‘den’ with the only one other Jew besides me was quite intimidating – especially bearing in mind their history of volatile behaviour – I decided nonetheless to ask a question which I felt no one had touched on. The question was as follows “ I understand the situation in the territories are not as they possibly should be, and this needs to improve, however my question is what does the PSC suggest should be done to counter the religious extremism that is emanating from Mosques, Churches, Shuls and so on. It is clear that this conflict has major religious connotations and this issue needs to be addressed, how do you propose this issue be addressed?” Now I would say that is a fair question which is not hurtful nor is it inappropriate.
Well the members of the PSC were not happy with answering the question, and basically swept it aside saying it was a diversion from the greater human rights issue. A few minutes later the stage was given to Salim Vally – the Chair of the PSC Gauteng, he went on a tirade about Apartheid South Africa and how the new ‘Apartheid’ had to be fought by WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY!!! He then turned to me personally and here is some of what he said “Ilan Pappe – confusing me with a renegade Israeli historian!!! He then corrected himself and ranted Ilan Solomons you racist, fascist, your question was a typical Zionist ploy to divert attention from the real issue, the colonial imperialist Zionist who are ethnically cleansing Palestine. It is racist like this man Ilan Solomons that characterised the white supremacist racist Apartheid regime in South Africa and in Israel today. Ilan Solomons criticizes me for supporting the likes of Islamic Jihad and Hamas but he supports the state terrorist entity of Israel, who is the extremist Ilan Solomons, or myself, I am the moderate that supports human rights, it is the likes of Ilan Solomons that are the extremist’s racists. The PSC is open to all Christians, Muslims, Jews, and whoever else that wants to support the fight against the pariah Apartheid state of Israel and those that prop up this regime. Even you Ilan Solomons are welcome to join the PSC!” He then went on to conclude proceedings by thanking people for coming and by ranting about the racist supporters of Zionism and how it must be eliminated.
This just shows that the PSC is not interested in engaging with the issue but rather seeks to targeting the only Jewish person that asked a question, and by hurling personal insults and calling for the elimination of all Zionists and its supporters. As much as I hate invoking the Holocaust analogy, at that moment I truly related to the Nazi propaganda that was used when they called for the elimination of the Jewish nation, and its proprietors, which we all know what the results were.
I must state that afterwards when the crowds had dispersed somewhat Mohammed Desai – president of PSC Wits did come up to me and say that he felt Salim Vally was out of line, and offered me an apology. Which I had no choice but to accept what else was I meant to do? I mean when you have a full room of people seeing and hearing you being clearly targeted on a religious, and political grounds and having no right of response, it was one of the most humiliating and shocking experience of my life but I came expecting something along those lines, the only surprise I suppose looking back is that it took so long to actually happen.
I wonder whether this is the manner in which the PSC encourages other members to join? Or is this treatment only reserved for its prospective Jewish members. Well this is not the type of reception or marketing that I appreciate, and I am sure many people would agree with me. Can you imagine if the situation were the other way around and it was some one like David Sacks or Zeev Krengel from the Jewish Board of Deputies there would have been a riot or maybe even a Goldstone type report on the matter? It just shows one that while members of the Jewish/Zionist community seek to engage with the Muslim community, in this case the PSC, the PSC not only boycotts our events but when they do come like with the Limmud saga they seek to disrupt and protest against the very event.
This incident will not discourage me, and I encourage the progressive liberal members of the Jewish community to engage with the PSC, I believe in the goodness of man and I believe in a peace between the Jewish State of Israel along side an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian State! Which is I believe that the moderate Zionist must seek to tame the beast of Islamist extremism, and neo-Islamist fanaticism.
Peace is not an easy task but it can only come about through constructively engaging the other side, and you never know where and when you will find a true partner of tolerance and peace!
By Ilan Solomons
Of course, these are Ilan's views. Should there be any PSC members who were at the event and have a different story about what took place, I will be happy to post it as a reply to Ilan.