Dear Ms Duffield,
I notice that you frequently preface mention of people like Ella Rose or Mike Katz as ‘my friend’ when referring to them. I would like to tell you about a friend of mine, Hanna Braun: holocaust survivor, born Berlin, arrived Haifa, Palestine, 1937, aged ten years, left behind friends and relatives who perished at the hands of the Nazis.
While still a teenager she was recruited into the Haganah, a Jewish terrorist group. Decades later, living in the UK, she remembers Deir Yassin, a notorious massacre in the ethnic ‘cleansing’ of Palestine in her memoir, 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.”
Hanna renounced her Israeli citizenship and founded the Coventry Palestine Solidarity Campaign. She visited Palestine many times, firstly in 1989 with Women for Socialism and joined the International Solidarity Movement during the second intifada, confronting soldiers, admonishing them in Hebrew, and dismantling roadblocks. Her extraordinary book was published only weeks before her death. I have worked in Trade Union leadership, anti-racist and progressive women’s organisations for sixty years; meeting people like Hanna was the kind of privilege that inspired hope that this work for socialism and justice would eventually prevail.
I am writing to you about Hanna to make sure you are fully aware of the background of at least one of the anti-zionist Jewish people you smear in your tweets and utterances. These are individuals who have suffered the same family loss and intergenerational trauma experienced by all descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors.
I had the honour of presiding at Hanna Braun’s memorial gathering at the Conway Hall in the presence of her grieving daughters and grandson. The programme included a reading from Hanna’s book by eminent Palestinian scholar, Dr Ghada Karmi, and renowned Palestinian singer, Reem Kelani, performed a favourite song.
Before the proceedings were able to begin, several people nervously pointed out a large man wearing a baseball cap who was filming everyone in the room. When told it was a private event for friends and family only to celebrate Hanna’s life, he said: ‘I have a right to be here. I am here to record anti-Semitism.
His manner was rude and aggressive and eventually the police had to be called to expedite his removal from the venue. He was Richard Millett who, along with Jonathan Hoffman, was evicted from the House of Commons when the police had to be called to a pro-Palestinian event in 2017. Hoffman appears at far-right, e.g. EDL, events with an Israeli flag and has been convicted of harassment and threatening behaviour. Millett and Hoffman are two of the aggressive thugs who regularly disrupt events where Palestinian human rights are being discussed, including those organised by Amnesty International.
Hoffman’s role in the horrendous abuse and intimidation inflicted on staff of the Holiday Inn Hotel and threats received by the Quaker Meeting House in Brighton last week is described in Greg Hadfield’s shocking account of the course of those events. You can read that here.
The harassment was reminiscent of countless incidents of abuse and intimidation experienced over decades of Palestine solidarity, especially by Jewish people critical of Israel: Hannah was constantly abused and threatened at peaceful demonstrations in support of Palestinian freedom; the poet Eric Fried was forced to leave London in the sixties after intimidation had reached a point where his children required a police escort to go to school; Jackie Walker, a Black Jewish woman, has been persecuted and traduced for speaking of her own complex heritage and calling for an inclusive Holocaust Memorial, she was subjected to a threat of physical violence by your ‘friend’ Ella Rose and you were instrumental in barring her from the Labour Club in Whitstable; Professor Moshe Machover was reported for anti-Semitism and suspended from the Labour Party; Glen Secker, who captained a humanitarian boat to Gaza was accused and suspended; Tony Greenstein, a lifelong anti-racist and anti-zionist has been expelled from the Labour Party. You tweeted a false accusation against Laura Pidcock MP, accusing her of failing to answer questions about anti-Semitism, and you joined in the ludicrous attacks upon Chris Williamson MP.
The tweet you sent regarding a Jewish woman who invited other Jewish people to speak up for Chris Williamson MP was sickening and inexcusable. Your association with Ella Rose, who threatened to ‘take down’ Jackie Walker using Israeli martial arts, is inexcusable. You have contributed to the ramping up of the farcical smear campaign of false accusations which is deployed to camouflage Israel’s ongoing, daily crimes, thereby supporting a brutal apartheid regime and an illegal, racist occupation.
If you or any of your friends know the names of the thugs who went to the Holiday Inn Hotel in Brighton to intimidate staff, or know the identity of the senders of obscene, sexist threats to staff there, or can name those who thought it was amusing to register for Chris Williamson’s talk on socialist economics using the name ‘Mr Hitler’ and other grossly offensive nom-de-plumes it is your moral duty to give this information to the police to help them in their enquiries. I suggest it is also incumbent on you to withdraw your tweeted comment that people organising or attending the event be thrown out of the Labour Party.
I write this as an open letter, as you seem unwilling to engage with those whose opinions differ from yours. I hope you will give these matters open-minded consideration before you bring the Labour Party into more disrepute and further undermine the chances of the success of the socialist project.
Diane Langford is a Palestine Solidarity Campaign activist, novelist, trade unionist, women’s liberation movement activist , LGBTQ and NHS campaigner.
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