June 30, 2006

Clueless in Gaza?

Ha'aretz thinks that the Israeli government has lost its way in Gaza. That's strange because it's only a small place. Actually, the headline says that the government is losing its reason. Would that be it's ability to reason or its reason to be a government? Let's have a see:
Bombing bridges that can be circumvented both by car and on foot; seizing an airport that has been in ruins for years; destroying a power station, plunging large parts of the Gaza Strip into darkness; distributing flyers suggesting that people be concerned about their fate; a menacing flight over Bashar Assad's palace; and arresting elected Hamas officials: The government wishes to convince us that all these actions are intended only to release the soldier Gilad Shalit.

But the greater the government's creativity in inventing tactics, the more it seems to reflect a loss of direction rather than an overall conception based on reason and common sense. On the face of it, Israel wishes to exert increasing pressure both on Hamas' political leadership and on the Palestinian public, in order to induce it to pressure its leadership to release the soldier. At the same time, the government claims that Syria - or at least Khaled Meshal, who is living in Syria - holds the key. If so, what is the point of pressuring the local Palestinian leadership, which did not know of the planned attack and which, when it found out, demanded that the kidnappers take good care of their victim and return him?

The tactic of pressuring civilians has been tried before, and more than once. The Lebanese, for example, are very familiar with the Israeli tactic of destroying power stations and infrastructure. Entire villages in south Lebanon have been terrorized, with the inhabitants fleeing in their thousands for Beirut. But what also happens under such extreme stress is that local divisions evaporate and a strong, united leadership is forged.

In the end, Israel was forced both to negotiate with Hezbollah and to withdraw from Lebanon. Now, the government appears to be airing out its Lebanon catalogue of tactics and implementing it, as though nothing has been learned since then. One may assume that the results will be similar this time around as well.

Israel also kidnapped people from Lebanon to serve as bargaining chips in dealings with the kidnappers of Israeli soldiers. Now, it is trying out this tactic on Hamas politicians. As the prime minister said in a closed meeting: "They want prisoners released? We'll release these detainees in exchange for Shalit." By "these detainees," he was referring to elected Hamas officials.

The prime minister is a graduate of a movement whose leaders were once exiled, only to return with their heads held high and in a stronger position than when they were deported. But he believes that with the Palestinians, things work differently.

As one who knows that all the Hamas activists deported by Yitzhak Rabin returned to leadership and command positions in the organization, Olmert should know that arresting leaders only strengthens them and their supporters. But this is not merely faulty reasoning; arresting people to use as bargaining chips is the act of a gang, not of a state.

The government was caught up too quickly in a whirlwind of prestige mixed with fatigue. It must return to its senses at once, be satisfied with the threats it has made, free the detained Hamas politicians and open negotiations. The issue is a soldier who must be brought home, not changing the face of the Middle East.
And there's the rub. Israel's brutality has brought Hamas to power and now it has to be more brutal to punish the Palestinians for voting Hamas. And now it has to be more brutal because the Palestinians resisted the last round of brutality. Perhaps Israel shouldn't be happy with the threats it has made. Perhaps it should try to change the face of the Middle East but by peace rather than war. Of course, we have to ask ourselves, is this sheer naked use of such firepower against civilians and their infrastructure due to the cluelessness of a particular government or is it inherent in the the zionist project and the work in progress known as the State of Israel?

So what's Israel's game plan?

Does anyone know what Israel is doing apart from maintaining tension in Israeli society and making life as difficult as possible for Palestinian society? The Jerusalem Post might be expected to know but it doesn't seem to:
Olmert and Peretz have yet to give a media interview or press conference in which they will frankly lay out their objectives. Instead the public is provided with disjointed statements and oblique speeches in which mixed messages, especially from Peretz, are conveyed.

No one is answering the obvious questions: What's the connection between the limited operation in the south of the Gaza Strip and Gilad's kidnapping and if there is none, what exactly is Golani doing there? Has Israel decided to dismantle the Palestinian government and permanently take out the Hamas leadership, or will the legislators be released if a diplomatic solution is reached? And is Israel contemplating an attack on Syrian territory or was the flypast in Latakia simply aimed at reminding us that the IAF is still capable of getting something right without killing civilians?
Ultimately the article isn't simply aimed at criticising the Israeli government's lack of war aims here but to criticise the Gaza disengagement. The JP, together with most (maybe all) of the English language media, ignores Ariel Sharon's assurance that the Gaza "withdrawal" was a "punishment and not a reward" for the Palestinians.  So maybe it didn't punish them enough or maybe it punished them too much, but what did it do for Israel? And what's Israel doing now?

June 29, 2006

Event: International Conference: Against Zionism: Jewish Perspectives

Check out this all dayer:
02 July 2006

Speakers: Rabbi Yisroel Weiss, Uri Davis, Prof. Yakov Rabkin, John Rose, Roland Rance, Jeffrey Blankfort, Rabbi Ahron Cohen, Stanley Cohen

Islamic Human Rights Commission

Event: International Conference: Against Zionism: Jewish Perspectives, 2nd July 2006, UK

Event details:
Against Zionism: Jewish Perspectives
Brunei Gallery, School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Sunday 02 July 2006
9:30am – 7:00pm
Admission: FREE

A one day conference organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission in conjunction with NEDA and supported by The 1990 Trust, Crescent International, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Innovative Minds, Islam Channel, Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, Justice for Palestine Committee, Muslim Weekly, and Neturei Karta.

This conference is being facilitated to provide an opportunity for peoples of many different confessional backgrounds and none to listen to and interrogate some of the ideas of academics and activists who have opposed Zionism and who hail from Jewish backgrounds.

We hope this conference will inspire activists, as well as open up optimistic and fruitful debate.

Confirmed Speakers:
Jeffrey Blankfort, San Francisco
Rabbi Ahron Cohen, Manchester
Stanley Cohen, New York
Dr Uri Davis, Sakhnin
John Rose, London
Roland Rance, London
Professor Yakov Rabkin, Montreal
Michael Warschawski, Jerusalem
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, New York

For more information, please contact the IHRC office on (+44) 20 8904 4222 or info@ihrc.org.
And to think some people are going to see The Who in Hyde Park

Hamas leaders kidnapped

Israel has seized Hamas cabinet members according to Reuters. See this:
"They are not bargaining chips for the return of the soldier. It was simply an operation against a terrorist organisation," an army spokeswoman said. "They will be investigated, brought before a judge to extend their detention and charge sheets will be prepared."
Israel is now collectively punishing, that is bombarding, the Palestinians in Gaza supposedly on account of the seizure of an Israeli soldier. And yet the seizure of the Hamas leaders has nothing to do with it. Who then does Israel want to release this soldier it cares so much about?

Collective punishment

Here's today's Guardian editorial on Israel's war crimes in Gaza. Unlike many papers and indeed it's own commentators on occasion, it points up the sheer inequality of the Palestinians and the State of Israel.
It is not yet quite a year since Israel withdrew its forces and dismantled illegal settlements in the Gaza Strip, though there has always been a grim inevitability about the offensive - codenamed Summer Rain - that Ehud Olmert unleashed yesterday to try to free a soldier abducted by Palestinian fighters. Bombing bridges may have some military logic, but the destruction of a power station seems intended solely to intimidate and inflict collective punishment. No other purpose is achieved by cruelly depriving hundreds of thousands of ordinary Gazans of their electricity supply (and shutting down water pumps) in sweltering heat. The international community, rightly alarmed at this dangerous escalation, can only call for restraint and back whatever diplomatic moves are afoot, through Egyptian mediation, to secure a peaceful outcome to a grave crisis.

Confusion surrounds the precise motives of the gunmen from the Islamist group Hamas and two other armed organisations who captured the Israeli corporal and killed two other soldiers on Sunday. But it was clearly intended to provoke a reaction, as is the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Homemade Qassam missiles manufactured in secret workshops hidden in refugee camps are not in the same league as Israel's hi-tech (though not always accurate) weaponry, but they can still kill. No government could ignore them. The brutal truth, though, is that Israel has killed many more Palestinians in its attacks on the Gaza Strip - the distinction between preemption and retaliation now bloodily blurred. Mr Olmert has expressed regret for this, but insists he has no choice. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, cannot control Hamas, which formed a government but has faced an aid cutoff and deep financial crisis since winning January's elections. To complicate matters, Hamas is divided between local leaders with pragmatic instincts (who have ceased the suicide bombings that were once the movement's calling card) and a more militant exiled wing in Syria: that leaves Israelis and Palestinians stuck in a cruel impasse in which too many innocents die.

The events of the last few days underline the inescapable conclusion that unilateral Israeli withdrawals from Palestinian territory, which are welcome as far as they go, will not in themselves bring peace. The Gaza Strip may be technically free but it remains a vast prison with the Israelis guarding the gates. Not surprisingly, many of the inmates are desperately unhappy. And the West Bank, the remainder of the rump of mandatory Palestine, is still dotted with Israeli settlements built over the last 39 years. Mr Olmert, following Ariel Sharon's Gaza initiative, has pledged to remove isolated outposts and redraw the border (following the controversial "security fence") to incorporate the big settlement blocs. That does not guarantee a viable Palestinian state. Only a negotiated peace settlement, which will have to address thorny issues such as refugees and Jerusalem as well as borders, will be able to achieve that.

Ironically, at this menacing moment, prospects for negotiation may have improved - at least on paper - thanks to Mr Abbas's agreement with Hamas. That paves the way for a Palestinian unity government mandated to talk to the Israelis. Hamas, like the PLO 20 years ago, has so far refused to recognise the Jewish state, and there is still ambiguity and disagreement about whether it has indeed done that now. Yet as this paper has argued before, deeds matter more than words. Implicit recognition coupled with an end to violence would be a solid basis on which to proceed. Polling evidence consistently shows that a majority of Palestinians, many of whom voted for Hamas to protest against a corrupt and ineffective PLO, back negotiations with Israel. The obverse is true of Israelis. But there can clearly be no negotiations until the guns fall silent and the harsh cycle of attack, retaliation and vengeance is broken.
See also this Comment is free by Yossi Alpher. I can't say I agree with what he is saying but he does point out that the home made Qassam rockets were being fired from Gaza before Israel "withdrew."

Unholy alliance?

Sorry I'm late with this but Tony Greenstein had/has an article in last week's Weekly Worker on collaboration between zionism and antisemitism. Here's the intro:
If you are an anti-Zionist and a supporter of the Palestinian struggle, then you will inevitably be accused of "anti-semitism". If you are Jewish, then you will likely be accused of being a "self-hater" - the label the Nazis attached to anti-fascist Germans.

The accusation of "anti-semitism" has become so widespread that it is regularly hurled by Zionists at each other. Even Yitzhak Rabin, the assassinated Israeli prime minister, was depicted in posters by opponents of the 1993 Oslo accords wearing an SS uniform. So ludicrous has this become that when the Marks and Spencers board rejected a takeover bid from Philip Green, the latter accused the M&S chairman, Paul Myners, of anti-semitism!

For the last 30 years, there has been a continuous redefinition of anti-semitism. No longer is it about racism or discrimination, instead it is about hostility to a political movement. In 2004 the US Congress passed the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, which instructs the state department to start rating governments throughout the world on their treatment of Jewish citizens.
Now read on.

June 28, 2006

Rachel Corrie play in New York

The Jerusalem Post reports that the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, is to be shown in New York after all.

A play about a young American student who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza will open in New York in October, several months after another theater pulled the show from its schedule, drawing charges of censorship.

Producers Pam Pariseau and Dena Hammerstein said that they will present the U.S. premiere of London's Royal Court Theatre production of the one-woman show My Name Is Rachel Corrie at the Minetta Lane Theatre. Previews are scheduled to start on Oct. 5 for a 48-performance run scheduled to end Oct. 15.

Director Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner, features editor of The Guardian newspaper in London, put the one-woman play together from the diaries, letters and e-mails of Corrie, a 23-year-old member of the International Solidarity Movement, who died in the southern Gaza town of Rafah in March 2003.

Rachel Corrie returned for a limited run at London's Playhouse Theatre in the West End this spring after the New York Theatre Workshop, one of the city's leading off-Broadway spaces, indefinitely suspended a production scheduled to open in March.

An Israeli investigation ruled Corrie's death to be accidental. Since then, Corrie has become a divisive figure in the United States, with supporters hailing her bravery and commitment and opponents condemning her as foolish and naive.

Now check out the picture they chose to run with, out of all of the pictures they could have chosen from.

June 27, 2006

Death of a zionist serial complainer

Here's an interesting letter in today's Education Guardian about what someone found when his father died bequeathing, among other things, an email account
:Sickened by racist emails

Your article (Israeli university boycott: how a campaign backfired, June 20) resonated with me. Two years ago, while my father was dying in hospital, I had the misfortune to be asked by him to take care of his emails. I was shocked and sickened with what I found in his inbox and outbox. He belonged to a "media watch" mailing list whose sole aim was to find any snippet of anti-Israel (or pro-Palestinian) opinion in the media and then bombard the writer with emails accusing them of anti-semitism. Within the inbox were emails congratulating him for his dedication and detailing the effects of such vigilance. The racist nature of most of the mailings turned my stomach. I am sure that, were he alive today, my father would have been bombarding union leaders with emails.

The overall effect of this was to make me determined to discover the reality of what was going on in Palestine. I am looking to donate part of my inheritance to peaceful Palestinian causes.
Name and address supplied
I'd love to know the name of the media watching outfit.

Just who is promoting understanding in the Middle East?

I saw this article when it first appeared in the Independent a few days ago. It's about a film festival at an Israeli college and I didn't bother posting anything on it because I thought it amounted to yet another puff piece for the racist war criminals of the State of Israel. Take the opening paragraph:
In its promotional brochure, Sapir College calls itself "a lighthouse in the Negev". Despite being in the firing line of Hamas Qassam rockets hurled daily from Palestinian Gaza territories, the college holds the Cinema South Film Festival every year with a particular orientation towards the graduation films of its students and invited guests from around the world. Sapir is the largest public college in Israel and does its best to encourage the admission of Muslim students. This is the Israel you never hear much about.
The article was posted to the Engage site on the day that it appeared. It has only attracted three comments, the second of which was this one from Linda Grant:
Clarke writes: 'It's been a humbling experience. Film festivals can be such monuments to human triviality, and to find such an oasis in the midst of so much hatred and recrimination has forced me to reassess my view of Israel. Fainguelernt tells me: "I sincerely believe that 90 per cent of Muslims and 90 per cent of Israelis just want to live their lives and get on with each other." It's a good thought to go away with.'

This is what terrifies the cultural boycotters and why they hate such meetings coming about and try to prevent people from attending them. Reality always trumps propaganda.
So there we have it. Cultural boycotters don't have any integrity or true beliefs, just a fear of people seeing reality. And this from Linda Grant.

Thankfully, Richard Kuper of the Just Peace list (and I think Jews for Justice for Palestinians) was aware that a prospective juror, Haim Bresheeth, had dropped out of the festival, and not because he was terrrified of people seeing "reality" but rather it seems out of fear that people might fail to see the reality of Israel's brutality to the Palestinians.

Here is Richard Kuper's comment:
Roger Clarke's description of Sapri College and its Cinema South Film Festival as 'the Israel you never hear much about' is not as unproblematic as would appear from his Independent article. It is odd indeed that this article does not even refer to Haim Bresheeth's agonised decision, after much reflexion, NOT to participate in the festival or to act as chair of the Jury.
So here's Haim Bresheeth's letter:
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mr. Avner Faingulert
Director, Cinema South Film Festival
Sderot, Israel

Dear Avner,

I am really sorry for the delay in relaying to you my decision about partaking in this year's Cinema South Film Festival, and chairing the Jury; this was a difficult decision to make, one of the most difficult I ever had to take. I have decided to set out my reasons in a clear and open manner, and would ask that you share this letter with my colleagues (alas...) on the Jury, Roger Clark and Jean Peret, both of whom I respect enormously, and who I am sad that I will not be able to join. Please apologise to them in my name. I suggest that you also might share this letter with the filmmakers at the festival.

Firstly, this festival is obviously not alien to me. I have set up the Cinematheque in Sderot after many years of work, and the Cinema South plan was hatched some years ago, before my departure from Israel, and the Cinematheque. My connection to Sapir and Sderot is a deep one, as you well know, and my admiration of the excellent job you have done in following up on those ideas is known to you too. I would like nothing more than the chance to see it all working so well, believe me. This success story is one I feel some responsibility for in a small way, and would have loved to take part in its continued existence, and meet my many friends and colleagues, not to mention see the films and meet the filmmakers who made them.

Secondly, I would love to see the vast and long overdue retrospective of Jad Neeman's films, and to meet with him again; Jad is one of the most astute and principled of all Israeli filmmakers, with a long commitment to dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has courageously produced some of the most innovative and daring films in Israel. When one adds to this his central and crucial role in setting up and leading the first and most successful academic film school in Israel - a task to which he has devoted his whole career - I would dearly love to take part in this important event, when Jad is honoured by the festival.

I would also like to meet again with my friends and colleagues Nizar Hassan and Eyal Sivan, two important and courageous filmmakers, whose films have many times plunged them into political difficulties, but who have stuck to their guns (I mean, their cameras...) and said what they felt they must say, in their own particular and inventive ways. I mention here just two of your many colleagues, as they are ones who always deal with the conflict in their films, whatever the subject and the format they choose.
For all those reasons, I have accepted your kind invitation, by which I am honoured. I have agonised much about this for some weeks, have spoken to friends and colleagues here and in Israel and Palestine, and found it very difficult to make up my mind. The reasons for my difficulties were the following:

• Hardly any Palestinian filmmaker has agreed for their films to be included, in this, the 38th year of the Israeli occupation. Indeed, the festival starts a couple of days after the anniversary of the 1967 war. In all those years there were difficult periods and easier ones, naturally; but never before have the Palestinians faced a more brutal assault on their rights, aspirations and existence than in the last few years, with the building of the Apartheid wall, and the continued rejection of any real withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, from all the territories, as demanded by various UN and Security Council resolutions on many occasions. As I write those lines, mass starvation of the Palestinian population is instigated by Israel and the USA. The Palestinian filmmakers are part and parcel of their communities, and feel that those of us who believe in their rights and equality, should stand with them in their hour of need.

• Hardly any Arab filmmaker has agreed to partake in this festival. I do not blame you or your colleagues for this lack - I know full well how hard you have tried, for many months. Some Israelis may say, probably, that this proves that Israel has no one to speak to. They will just be proving that the only dialogue they prefer is one with themselves. To conduct a dialogue there ought to exist some equality and some basic agreement on the rules of the game. Most Arabs do not feel that Israel, as state and as a society, is really at the point of dialogue with its Arab neighbours, and I tend to agree with their reservations. Israel sees itself as part of the west, rather than the Middle East, and has continued to represent political and cultural discourses and policies which are alien and offensive to most Arabs, including the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. As I am writing this, the Israeli Supreme Court has passed what many consider a racist ruling, one which will plague society for many years to come. It is the Israeli polis, not just the army and the state, which is offensive to many if not most Arabs in the Middle East, by its obtuse and consistent disregard to the human rights of Arabs and Palestinians. Future, lasting peace, will only be built on understanding and sharing, not on force and military might. This festival should become an important vehicle of developing and sharing such sentiments, and I am sure that under your leadership it may well do so. This year, it cannot be seen to be doing that, not yet.

I feel that the refusal to partake in this festival on the part of the Arab and Palestinian colleagues and friends, is a way of relaying a subtle message to Israel and its cultural elite: "you can rule us, you can brutalise us, you can occupy us with the massive might of an army supported by the strongest power on earth, but you cannot make us speak to you, as long as you do all that". Only when this message is fully internalised, can change towards a future of coexistence emerge, and that is not forthcoming in contemporary Israel. When I agreed to chair the jury, many months ago, I had some reasonable hopes for the future, which have been shattered by events, making it just about impossible for me to accept your invitation. HI very much regret having to take this decision. - this pains me especially due to my long friendship with you as a filmmaker, a teacher and a close friend, whose friendship I especially value.

I apologise for not being able to join you, and am sure that the festival will be a lively and successful event in many ways, if not in some of the ways I describe above, which are, of course, the most crucial and urgent tasks it can achieve, and hope that one day it will. I am genuinely sorry if my refusal causes any difficulties, but am sure those could be overcome.

Yours, with friendship,

It's a step forward that Richard Kuper's comment was allowed through but then perhaps Engage were hoping that Alf Green would come and agree with Linda Grant like "he" agrees with other Engage contributors.

June 26, 2006

Palestinian demand: free woman and children from jail

According to the Guardian, a group claiming to be holding the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, have demanded the release from Israeli jails of women and children under the age of 18.
A statement faxed Monday by Palestinian groups purporting to hold an Israeli soldier demanded the release of women and children under 18 held in Israeli prisons. The authenticity of the statement could not immediately be verified.

Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured Sunday in an attack by Hamas-linked militants on an Israeli military post near the Gaza Strip border. The demand, if authentic, was the first issued by his captors.
Now I feel a bit sorry for the soldier's family. If he gets killed can they say he died in a noble cause? Can they say that his life was a price worth paying for Israel keeping women and children under lock and key?

Israel threatens Gaza invasion as Palestinian hostages strike back

It seems that some of Israel's Palestinian hostages have struck back by capturing an Israeli soldier. So now the captives have a captive Israel is threatening to re-invade Gaza instead of just starving its population. Conal Urquhart in the Guardian suggests that the Israeli army won't be too heavy handed because:
it is unlikely to do anything to jeopardise the life of Corporal Gilad Shilat, the 19-year-old gunner snatched from a tank in a border raid in which Hamas militants admitted they took part
It's typical of Conal Urquhart to suggest that saving a life is uppermost on the collective mind of the Israeli government. I'm not original in saying that Israel deliberately provokes Palestinian violence. In fairness Israel prefers its civilians to be killed than its soldiers because the latter getting killed is bad for the Israeli army's invincibility myth so maybe Urquhart's right this time.

Still, we'd better get ready for Israeli officials and their apologists in the media here to start chanting the Jenin mantra.

It's interesting comparing the Ha'aretz article with the Guardian one. The Guardian has Olmert threatening Abbas that he will hold him responsible for whatever happens in this saga. The Ha'aretz headline has Abbas threatening Hamas. Is this the food chain in occupied Palestine? Perhaps we're about to find out.

Alf Green and Engage's Alexandra Simonon, are they by any chance related?

I'm really sorry to do yet another post on Engage but there's a funny old business going on involving one or two of their people. I had a couple of posts yesterday from someone calling themselves Alf Green. See the post below for the links. I used to get lots of comments from the same person round about the same time I felt I had to start moderating because of harrassment. Sure enough after a while I stopped this Alf Green's comments coming through. They were usually either insulting or misrepresented the comments or posts they purported to be responding to. Anyway, when I went to approve a response of mine I noticed that Alf Green has the same IP address as the Engage Managing Editor, Alexandra Simonon. Now it's possible that they live together but when I googled their names together, only one site came up. The site was the Euston Manifesto which both names, Alf Green and Alexandra Simonon are signed up for. Alf actually left a blurb:
I think that totalitarian and antisemitic thought is common on the left - and this problem will get worse. So we have to organise against it - in order to save the left - and to save ourselves.
Pretty strong stuff.

Googling just Alf, well googling - "Alf Green" Israel - over one hundred sites come up, mostly comment sections. I looked at four and I think they were all anti-boycott and made the most strident allegations of anti-semitism against pro-boycotters and anti-zionists. Some were in threads including comments from David Hirsh, agreeing with him totally of course.

Checking the Engage Forum we find Alf Green in action attacking this Dov chap. Maybe you remember my post, Complaint to Engage. In that I quoted an Engage supporter who complained about the antics of some of the Engage commentors thus:
Is it just me, but I am finding some of the comments distateful. I am also getting pretty fed up with having to wade through a load of juvenile insults. If some of the contributors wish to chat amongst themselves and call others names, then I would rather they did not use Engage as a forum for so doing.

I have little sympathy for Elf's views and disagree on many occassions with Deborah Fink's and Deborak Maccoby's. Yet, I think it right to grant them the respect that we should expect from them. Either engage with their arguments, ignore them or refute them, but please do not reduce this forum to the level of a school playground.

I really don't have time for all of this!
In the same thread, I didn't notice at the time, Alf Green has a comment containing this little gem:
Elf feels that the people who are out to kill Israelis have a certain justice on their side. So his opinion is really quite out of place on an anti-racist website like Engage.
Now if this is really Alexandra Simonon then she has the power, as far as I know, to ban comments from the site and yet here s/he was effectively calling for me to be banned. In a later post Alf delivers a rebuke to Dov too.

But the most curious and, if Alf and Alexandra are the same person, damning of the Alf posts are those to the Alexandra Simonon article, Don't boycott World Pride Jerusalem on the Guardian's Comment is free space. There we see AlfGreen (sic) making three comments to criticise Simonon's detractors and to support and even explain Simonon's article.

No, using a false ID to support your own article wouldn't be the worst thing would it? The use of two IDs to bump up the Euston Manifesto signatories would be worse wouldn't it?

I have written to both Alf Green and Alexandra Simonon for an explanation and neither have replied. It could all be innocent of course. It could even be a hoax at my expense. I mean the Managing Editor of Engage leaving comments from the same IP address but with two different identities. Could they be so stupid? Perhaps Alf and Alexandra share a computer. I won't know until I get a reply, and even then, how could I be sure?

Finally, again I apologise for this focus on Engage contributors. I know they have become a complete joke in many people's eyes but they are quite persistent in their false allegations of dishonesty and antisemitism and they have a tendency to harrass me from time to time. Perhaps I'm wrong to retaliate but I can't resist it sometimes.

June 25, 2006

Jabotinsky's zionist antisemitism?

Here's a fascinating essay in the Nation by Jacqueline Rose. It's titled The Zionist Imagination and it's about Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of so-called Zionist Revisionism. I have to say that I haven't done it justice with my headline because it is the antisemitic overtones that I want to focus on but first up let's just look at the first paragraph.
In 1917, after the British conquest of Palestine, the Jewish Battalion, which Vladimir Jabotinsky had campaigned for since the outbreak of World War I and which had participated in several of the battles, was allowed to rename itself the Judean Regiment. The regiment chose as its insignia a menorah with the Hebrew word "kadima," meaning "forward" or "eastward." This was not the first time Jabotinsky had used the word. Kadima was also the name of the Zionist publishing house he had founded with a group of friends in Odessa in 1904, which marked the beginning of Zionist activity throughout Russia. When, at the end of last year, Ariel Sharon left Likud to form a new party of the center-right, Kadima, a move widely welcomed as creating a fresh middle ground in Israeli politics, he was therefore paying the profoundest tribute to Jabotinsky - Likud's forefather, founder of militant Revisionist Zionism, visionary of the Jewish radical right.
Anyway, now to the antisemitism bit:
But Jabotinsky did not believe in the veracity of the Bible and, as Ya'acov Shavit has related, in all his writings there is not one reference to God's covenant with Abraham, the Exodus, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai or indeed the conquering of Eretz Israel by the Israelites. Jabotinsky's Zionism is shorn of Jewishness even when he appeals to sacred tradition as having a part to play in the forging of the national (racial) mind. To this extent it is arguable whether the demise of the Milgroms in The Five can be traced to their betrayal of their Jewish identity and spiritual legacy, or whether Zionism itself--or rather Jabotinsky's Zionism--arose at least partially not just out of the desire to be free of an increasingly violent anti-Semitism but paradoxically also from a longing to leave the Jewish legacy and world behind. Better get out, if a family as beautiful and talented as the Milgroms--carrying the forlorn hope for the Jews of a civilized European life--cannot survive. The novel does not judge; it laments. Seen in these terms, Jabotinsky's Odessa is less a prelude to Zion than its rival--as the publication of this novel in the year he founds the New Zionist Organization suggests--one that persists in his mind even when its world has vanished. The city rises up as a counter-utopia to his own chosen destiny, a lost paradise rather than a mistake. This gives an added dimension to the acknowledged role in Zionism of contempt for the Diaspora Jew, as it does to the Zionist fantasy of creating an outpost of Western civilization in the East. It was because the Jews could not fulfill the true dream--to assimilate in Europe--that they were so determined to travel as Europeans to Palestine.

Might there be inside Jabotinsky's project, therefore, a core of hatred, as much as love, for the Jews? ("We will exaggerate our hatred to make it help our love.") When the narrator takes up a career in public service ("Secretary in the Temporary Administration of the Society of Sanatorium Colonies and Other Hygienic-Dietary Institutions for the Treatment and Education of Students Suffering From Bad Health From the Indigent Jewish Population in the City of Odessa and Its Surrounding Areas"), Marusya offers to accompany him to visit these impoverished, indigent Jews. "Would you like to get away from all these Jews?" she asks at the end of a visit that has at once dismayed and exhilarated her, "both rich and poor?" And accompanying her sister Lika into exile in Volgoda, she writes home to the narrator: "Don't forget to remind me when I return to join some political party or other, just as long as there are no Jews in it" (remember, she is the best woman he has ever known). Slezkine tells the story of Esther Ulanovskaia, who came to Odessa from a shtetl in the Ukraine and joined the Young Revolutionary International: "The Jews represented the world I wanted to get away from."

In his autobiography, Jabotinsky cites his first "Zionist" speech, delivered in Bern in 1898: "I am a Zionist, without a doubt, since the Jews are a very terrible people, its neighbors justly hate them" (not surprisingly, it was received as anti-Semitic). According to Schechtman, Count Michael Lubiensky once said to him: "You know that I hold Jabotinsky in highest regard and that my opinion of Weizmann is trimmed accordingly.... Dr. Weizmann has all the chances to retain the allegiance of the majority of the Jewish people. Because his entire mentality is identical with that of an average ghetto Jew, while the mentality of Jabotinsky is spiritually nearer to me, a Gentile. I understand him better; he evokes in me a kindred response." Jabotinsky turned to the assimilated Jews of Russia in 1935 because he still belonged to them. As with his Odessa, so with his Zionism, there was no trace of Pale or ghetto.
As I suggest above, I haven't done justice to a lengthy essay so please read the whole thing.

John Pike: an apology

I must tender a heart felt apology to one of the doyen's of Engage. My disgrace began simply enough. I did a post on David Hirsh's response to a Guardian article on how the zionist anti-boycott campaign actually backfired. In the post I referred to the fact that over 15,000 hostile emails had come from three organisational sources. Well a chap (I think it's a chap) called "Bennett" queried the use of the word "hostile." I dealt with that query (or quibble as I actually called it).

Then a chap calling himself "Alf Green" came along with a comment supporting David Hirsh's artcle. Go check what he said. Well in my response I inadvertently came close to accusing one of the Engage founders, Jon Pike, of having the integrity to describe Engage as a "bit over the top." I wasn't entirely certain, as I made clear in the comment, but I was fairly certain. In fact here's the relevant bit (relevant to what? don't ask. Alf Green thinks it's a big deal):
Also I noticed recently, John Pike saying that sometimes Engage is "a bit over the top." Something like that. I think he may have meant the same as me only from a different perspective obviously.
I even thought it was in the context of (the now defunct) NATFHE's boycott vote. So up pops this Bennett character again asking for quote and context. So, against my better judgment (I swear some zionists think it's their patriotic duty just to waste anti-zionists' time) I delved into the Engage Forum. Horror! Can't find the quote. So now I've got to look into the even more ridiculous Engage comments. Found it! Only it's not what I said. It's this:
The argument was about academic freedom, consistency and McCarthyite political tests. Loads, really loads, really the vast majority of British academics think this stuff is just stupid. Lots aren't, I'm afraid, in the union, lots don't think the union should posture on international matters, lots support the Palestinians in some sense, but think the boycott is just dumb. Probably a fair few think that ENGAGE is a bit over the top.
Now what he said wasn't a million miles from what I said he said. I mean look at it. He makes four clear statements of fact.
1. the vast majority of British academics think this stuff is just stupid

2. Lots aren't, I'm afraid, in the union

3. lots don't think the union should posture on international matters

4. lots support the Palestinians in some sense, but think the boycott is just dumb
The fifth statement is not one of fact but conjecture:
Probably a fair few think that ENGAGE is a bit over the top
It's the word "probably" that suggests that Jon Pike is conjecturing here. Now why would he do that if he didn't think Engage was "a bit over the top" himself?

So here's my next comment replying to Bennett:
Aha - what he actually said was "Probably a fair few think that ENGAGE is a bit over the top." The reference was to how academics feel about Engage. I assumed that he thought that because it was his own view. Maybe I was wrong but then I allowed for that when I said "Something like that."

It's here: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/b...ment.php?

Why are you so interested in minutiae? David Hirsh (a doyen of the anti-boycott movement) has been exposed many times now as distorting and misrepresenting articles that anyone can read and you want to quibble over the meaning of "hostile" and a throwaway line by Jon Pike.
And back comes Alf Green to firm up on the fact that I was wrong, point out that I had admitted I was wrong and provide the link that I had already provided whilst pointing out that I had already provided the link.

So there we have it. I thought Jon Pike had uttered a slight criticism of Engage when he just assumed that "probably a fair few [academics] think that ENGAGE is a bit over the top." So apologies to Jon Pike and to all of you who think I shouldn't get bogged down in these petty squabbles arising out of the comments facility here.

Why Israeli academia deserves a boycott

Here's an article in the Times Higher Education Supplement by Lisa Taraki:
Confront the colluders in Israel's academy

Lisa Taraki

Published: 23 June 2006

Israeli scholars have either collaborated in the occupation or turned a blind eye. They deserve a boycott, argues Lisa Taraki

Although Menahem Milson's career path and mine have been on a collision course, we have never met. In 1976, I joined Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank as a junior instructor in sociology. The same year, Milson, a professor of Arabic language and literature at the Hebrew University, became "adviser on Arab affairs" in the Israeli Government.

By 1981, when the academic community I was part of was struggling under the crushing yoke of Israeli punishments, he was appointed head of the military administration in the West Bank. One of the highlights of his tenure was the notorious "Village Leagues" scheme, a failed experiment in promoting a class of Palestinian collaborators to mediate Israeli rule.

Milson's service fits into the classic paradigm of a colonial regime enlisting scholars to assist in ruling the "natives". He told an American Jewish publication in 1995 that to "serve an Arab population responsibly, one needs to know language and civilisation. That is why so many professors have been called to do this". Indeed, the list of Israeli academics who have served government agencies and the occupation regime is impressive.

Today, that list includes demographers, psychologists and a host of strategic analysts.

What is most significant for those of us who argue for a boycott of the Israeli academy is that these academics, instead of facing censure and opprobrium from their peers for their complicity in oppression, are rewarded with the highest privileges. The toleration of racism and bigotry under the guise of scholarship is also remarkable; the legitimacy and normalcy of the discourse of "the demographic threat" is a striking example.

Opponents of an academic boycott complain that it violates academic freedom by restricting Israeli scholars' access to international academic networks.

They also claim that since Israeli universities are generally "liberal", the action punishes those who are least in agreement with the policies of their Government. These complaints betray a striking disregard for the indivisibility of academic freedom (the academic freedom of Palestinians being of no concern) and misrepresent the reality of the Israeli academy and Israeli academics.

When I arrived at Birzeit, the first institution of higher education established by Palestinians in the occupied territories, the university president had been deported by the Israeli Army. He was accused of "inciting" students against the occupation. He lived in exile for 19 years until he was allowed to return in 1993. As resistance to the occupation escalated in the 1980s, universities were treated to a constant diet of "closure orders" as punishment for student demonstrations.

As soon as a military closure order was issued, we young faculty would go into top gear and fire off appeals to Western consulates, the media and human rights organisations. Because arrests invariably followed closure orders, we also fell into a routine of preparing for students' encounters with the system of military "justice". We attended trials in seedy military courtrooms where some of the prosecutors and judges were academics on reserve duty. I can still remember watching those colourless individuals as they assiduously avoided the eyes of the Palestinian academic observers on the benches.

Later, and after we had organised makeshift lectures and laboratories scattered throughout Ramallah and Jerusalem, we would evade Army patrols bent on criminalising our efforts to rescue the semester or the entire academic year. I remember teaching a seminar on the Iranian revolution in the kitchen of an empty apartment in Ramallah, just as I recall travelling to Gaza to help a graduating student being held under house arrest finish his matriculation requirements (this trip, as the one to Jerusalem, is no longer conceivable, and we no longer have students from Gaza).

So where have Israeli academics been during the long siege of Palestinian higher education? Aside from a handful of progressive academics, the Israeli academy has remained silent.JBusiness as usual has been the order of the day for nearly four decades. Virtually all Israeli academics have continued to serve in the Army's reserve forces and, as such, have been perpetrators of, or witnesses to, the many crimes committed by their military.

What is there left to do?JGlobal centres of power have stood firmly by Israel as it has wreaked havoc with the lives and futures of Palestinians.

Our only hope is pressure from international civil society. And that includes academics. We want our colleagues abroad to know that, with every conference they attend at an Israeli university, with every review they write for an Israeli institution, they are unwittingly helping to maintain the system of injustice.

The academic boycott aims to make Israelis realise that there is a price to be paid for complicity, complacency and silence. Milson may have retired, but his successors continue to enjoy the fruits of academic freedom in the Israeli academy. The rest do not care.

Lisa Taraki is associate professor of sociology at Birzeit University.

The Times Higher Education Supplement is a subscription only site with a two week free trial period which is why I have reproduced the article in full here.

Netanyahu: Israel could wipe out Gaza

According to Ha'aretz, Binyamin Netanyahu has said that the Israeli army has the ability to wipe out the whole of Gaza.
Opposition leader and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu told the 35th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces has the operational capability to wipe out the Gaza Strip, but chose not to do so.

"The IDF has the firepower to wipe out an entire population if we wanted. We could wipe out all of Gaza but we are not doing this. If the other [Palestinian] side had this [firepower], they would do this," Netanyahu said in his speech.

The Likud leader was speaking one day after a botched Israel Air Force missile killed two Palestinian civilians in southern Gaza. Two days ago, three children were killed in an IAF strike in Gaza City that targeted members of Fatah's military wing.
Why do they assume that when the child killers of the Israeli army kill children, it's a "botched operation?" They've killed about 700 children since 2,000. Were they all botched operations by the most powerful, not to mention "most moral" army in the Middle East?

June 24, 2006

Israeli lives worth more than Palestinian lives

This is a remarkable headline from the Independent yesterday:Olmert: Israeli lives worth more than Palestinian ones. It comes from Ehud Olmert's speech in Caesarea.
Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, expressed "deep regret" for army operations that have killed 14 Palestinian civilians in Gaza in just nine days but said the lives of Israeli citizens threatened by Qassam attacks were "even more important".

The deaths in three separate missile attacks overshadowed Mr Olmert's first meeting with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, since taking office, as grieving relatives gathered here to mourn the two latest civilian victims, Fatima Ahmed, a 37-year-old pregnant mother of two small children, and her brother Zakaria, 45.
Of course it isn't just Olmert saying that Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian lives. Have another look at the scores:
Almost three times as many Palestinian civilians have been killed in Gaza in the past nine days as Israeli civilians in Sderot killed by Qassam rockets in the past five years.
And a view from the bereaved:
The dead woman's husband, Nidal Wahba, 39, said the couple's 18-month-old son Khaled was in hospital after having emergency surgery for injuries to his head. With heavy irony, he added: "He has been shooting rockets at Amir Peretz", the Israeli Defence Minister who lives in Sderot.

But Mr Wahba, who works for an aluminium fabrication firm, said he wanted to see an end to violence on both sides. "We are against all this. We don't want to teach our children violence. I wouldn't like to see this happen to Israeli people."

The attack came amid signs of progress in talks between Fatah and Hamas designed to reach an agreement on a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel. Mr Wahba said: "There are people in Gaza who want to make war against Israel and people who want to make peace. I want the Palestinians to have one goal and that should be peace."

Of the missile strike which killed his wife and brother-in-law, he added: " I hope it will be the last one."
Keep hoping.

June 23, 2006

Sorry doesn't always make it right

Ehud Olmert has "expressed regret" to Mahmoud Abbas over the fact that Israel keeps killing civilians in Gaza. This is from the Financial Times:
Ehud Olmert, in his first meeting with Mahmoud Abbas as Israeli prime minister, yesterday told the Palestinian Authority president he regretted the deaths of Palestinian civilians in recent air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

The two men met briefly in the margins of a conference in Petra, Jordan, hours after a pregnant woman and her brother were killed by a missile that struck their home, bringing the Palestinian civilian death toll to 13 in little over a week. Three Palestinian children died in an attack on Tuesday.

The Israeli air force commander, Major-General Eliezer Shakedi, defended air strikes as the most accurate means of targeting militants short of a full-scale ground offensive into Gaza. The military nevertheless said it was launching an investigation into the latest botched raid.

The military has reverted to air strikes against militants who fire home-made rockets into Israel after suspending daily artillery barrages in the wake of the killing of eight picnickers on a Gaza beach on June 9, ostensibly by an Israeli shell.
Meanwhile, back in Israel Olmert says the killings will continue, but then we knew that without being told.

June 22, 2006

Hamas to recognise Israel?

According to a Guardian headline Hamas is about to recognise Israel. Here's the headline: Climbdown as Hamas agrees to Israeli state. And here's the first paragraph of Chris McGreal's article.
Hamas has made a major political climbdown by agreeing to sections of a document that recognise Israel's right to exist and a negotiated two-state solution, according to Palestinian leaders.
But the American Jewish newspaper, Forward, has a different spin:
American Jewish organizations are strongly criticizing the document guiding national unity talks between Hamas and Fatah officials.

Echoing Israel's position, Jewish organizations say that the "document of national reconciliation" stakes out a series of positions that could end up undermining Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Known as the "prisoners' document," the proposed agreement was drafted last month by Palestinian faction leaders who were being held in Israeli jails.

For Palestinians, observers said, the purpose of hammering out a unified platform is not to trigger talks with Israel. Instead, the negotiations surrounding the document appear aimed at preventing an internal civil war and breaking the financial siege that the international community has imposed on the Palestinian Authority since Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization, won the general elections in January and formed a Cabinet made up of loyalists.
I wonder if it makes any difference what Hamas is actually signing up for.

June 21, 2006

David Hirsh: Zionist organisations are just "poorly organised and frightened Jews"

I thought Engage would have the good grace to take their medicine when their kind of antics were cited as a factor in the boycott Israel campaign's gathering success. The fact that the suggestion came from a Ha'aretz journalist, Tamara Traubmann, might have hammered the point home. But no, David Hirsh has waded back into the fray to deny that there has been an organised campaign against the boycott. Cop this:
And there is no other description of the charge. Big Jewish organisations in America organising petitions and letter-writing campaigns; the Bar-Ilan people pretending to be in favour of academic freedom; Scholars for Peace in the Middle East sending emails to the general secretary of a union that is discussing not criticism of Israel but a racist exclusion; Engage sneakily pretending to oppose the occupation in order to get a hearing from the left.

It is not the first time that Jews have been accused of a lying, cheating, organised campaign, pretending to be one thing but in fact being another, spanning the far left as well as the far right.

I think flooding people's inboxes with abuse is a bad idea. I don't think sending thousands of emails to clog up a union's system during an important dispute is sensible. I don't agree with the tendency of the Jewish and Israeli right to respond to an attack on Jews with a counterattack on Muslims. But this is not an illegitimate Jewish conspiracy. It is a desperate and disparate response by poorly organised and frightened Jews.
I wanted to say here that comment is superfluous but I'd better show what the article actually said:
a reasoned debate was made extraordinarily difficult by an aggressive campaign involving tens of thousands of activists. "The ironic thing," Mackney said despondently after the motion was passed, "is if we had put this to delegates a couple of weeks ago, before the international pro-Israeli lobby started this massive campaign emailing delegates and trying to deny us our democratic right to discuss whatever we like, it probably wouldn't have passed. People feel bullied, and what we have seen is a hardening of attitudes. All they achieved was making the delegates determined to debate and pass the motion."

After a month covering the debate for our respective newspapers, we are inclined to agree. Most delegates displayed more passion in their outrage at the heavy-handed tactics used to affect the union's decision than they did in their support of the rather divisive resolution. It passed with only a 53% majority. The campaign served the exact end it sought to avoid.

This is not to criticise the desire of the boycott's opponents to affect the decision. Natfhe was debating a proposal calling on British lecturers to boycott Israeli colleagues who do not "publicly dissociate themselves" from "Israeli apartheid policies". The motion contained provocative judgments of the Israeli academy and called for a curtailment of Israeli academic freedoms. Why shouldn't those who value such freedoms and those who support Israel and its academy lobby members of the union?

The pickle is trying to determine whether the campaigns against such boycotts are actually motivated by concerns for academic freedom, or whether they are using the universalist ideal to stifle critical discussion of Israel.

We have found much more evidence of the latter. Through discussions with anti-boycott campaigners and a trace of the most common emails (not necessarily abusive) sent to the union and handed over by Natfhe, we found the vast majority of the tens of thousands of emails originated not with groups fighting for academic freedom, but with lobby groups and thinktanks that regularly work to delegitimise criticisms of Israel. We spoke to a number of these groups about their aims and the extent of their campaigns against the boycott.

The main Israeli anti-boycott organising group is the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom, which claims to have a network of hundreds of American and European academics. With few exceptions, its principal work is to defend Israeli academic freedoms.

In the US, home to the vast majority of those organising against the boycott, one major campaigner was the American Jewish Congress, for which academic freedom is not the central aim. AJC supporters could go to the website, type in their name and an email would be sent on their behalf - 5,480 individual emails were sent to each of five union leaders in this manner.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews also held a website-based email campaign, yielding 5,015 individual emails to each union leader.

The only US organisation whose mission is explicitly related to education is Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a Zionist organisation working on US campuses "to develop effective responses to the ideological distortions, including anti-semitic and anti-Zionist slanders that poison debate". The group organised a large petition and appealed to its 6,000 supporters to email a letter to union leaders. Mackney received more than 4,000.
And their right to campaign against the boycott?
This is not to say such groups do not have a right to counter criticisms of Israel. It is simply to argue that advocacy of academic freedom is not the motivation behind the anti-boycott campaign, and the mission statements of the organisations behind it - all of which involve pro-Israeli advocacy, rather than academic freedom - do not match their rhetoric.
I'm starting to feel that Hirsh's critique here is like some that we saw on Mearsheimer and Walt. The article is pro-boycott for sure but it is well balanced. It isn't attacking the anti-boycott idea, just the tactics of the zionist movement. It presents clear evidence that the campaign has been organised.

And I do enjoy their summing up of the pro-and anti-boycott positions:
Campaigners have used academic freedom as a tactic in a political campaign seeking to redirect public discussion away from the question of the complicity of the Israeli academy with the occupation and discrimination in Israeli universities (a debate they are likely to lose) towards academic freedom (a debate they are likely to win).

They have so far succeeded, dominating the debate by questioning the morality of a boycott. Campaigners have argued it will hinder the international academic cooperation that has aided the peace process.

They have criticised the problematic precedent set by a UK union boycotting Israeli academics who do not publicly subscribe to the beliefs of that union. They ask why Israeli academics should be singled out for rebuke while those working under regimes with equal or worse human rights violations go unquestioned.

Many boycott supporters engaged with these arguments. Some pointed to incidents in which the union took a stand against human rights violations all over the world; others agreed that a boycott is discriminatory, but argued the boycott of South Africa was both discriminatory and necessary. For the most part, the boycott's advocates admitted it would infringe on academic freedom, but argued that the international community cannot be expected to protect the academic freedom of one group of people when it is dependent on - and often aids in - the suppression of the overall freedoms of other groups, academic and otherwise.
And back to the tactics:
There are merits to both arguments. What is disappointing is that, while there is a robust public debate over academic freedom and the discriminatory nature of boycotts (the primary arguments of the opponents), serious consideration of the makeup and operations of the Israeli academy (source of the primary arguments of its supporters) has been largely absent.
So back to some facts:
About 9% of Arabs are accepted for university studies in Israel, compared with about 25% of the children of Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin) and about 16% of the Mizrahim (Jews of north African or Middle Eastern origin). The percentage of Arabs in university faculties is about 1%.

While individual Israeli academics have spoken up in defence of academic freedom in the occupied territories, not one institution has officially condemned injustices related to the occupation: not when in Operation Defensive Shield the army sowed destruction on Palestinian campuses, or when students are arrested on their way to university, and hundreds cannot reach their classrooms because of the separation wall or the other restrictions on movement. Under Israeli occupation, all 11 Palestinian universities have been closed at some point, often for years at a time.

What are flourishing in Israeli universities are special programmes for the security forces and centres for security studies, in which the focus is not on academic analysis of the security apparatus, but on finding academic justification for its activities.

Surely all this should be included in a global debate on the academic freedoms of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
But let's not get carried away from what David Hirsh has said here. Tamara Traubmann and Benjamin Joffe-Walt have made a compelling case that the anti-boycott campaign was by named zionist organisations who they say accounted for nearly 15,000 hostile emails. One group, the American Jewish Committee, even drafted a template and over 5,000 people put their names to it. Does David Hirsh want us to believe that over 5,000 Jews, when they're feeling frightened and disorganised, automatically log into the AJC website?

But, of course the NATFHE thing is Boycott II and this time it's personal. The thrust of the article isn't about the highly organised zionist tactics themselves but the fact that they not only failed but that they may have pushed delegates to support a motion than many boycott supporters thought wasn't a very smart motion anyway. And of course David Hirsh was a high profile player in that movement and, the good news, still is.

Israeli support for CUPE Israel boycott

Here's a letter doing the rounds from Israelis to the Canadian Public Employees Union, supporting the latter's boycott of Israel.
Letter of support from Israelis to CUPE

As Israelis we express our support of the CUPE boycott of Israel, honor your courageous initiative, and fervently hope that it will set an example for many others to follow.

We assure CUPE that it is no more anti-Semitic to criticize and oppose Israeli government policies than it was anti-American to oppose the Vietnam war or is anti-Canadian to oppose the present war in Iraq. It is never anti-Semitic to oppose injustice, destruction, gross inequity, and inequality. We also assure CUPE that Israel, having the 4th most powerful military in the world, is in no existential danger.

As citizens devoted to the promotion of peace and democracy in the region, we denounce the international community’s continued economic investments in our country, which directly and indirectly support Israel's daily violations of international law and accelerated colonization of the occupied territories. We fear the potentially irreversible damage created by Israeli occupation, by Israel’s unilateral plans, and by the international community’s impotence in ending Israel’s occupation. We realize that Israel’s Occupation of Palestinians and their lands will very likely not end without international sanctions.

Israelis, as well as Palestinians, will benefit from ending the Occupation. Symmetry does not exist between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed. Yet Israelis suffer from loss of life, increase in militarism, and a steady devaluation of human life. This latter is particularly evident from the socio-economic sphere and the affliction of post-traumatic distress.

Successive Israeli governments have spent enormous amounts of money on expansion, to the detriment of social benefits for the Israeli population. While it is true that had there been no Occupation, Israeli governments might not have spent the money on social benefits, the fact that expansion continues a pace reveals Israel’s intention to rid the West Bank of as many Palestinians as possible and to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state.

To this end, money is spent on maintaining a large military presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, on erecting the apartheid wall at 4 million dollars a mile, with 400 miles planned (twice the length had it been built on the ‘green line’), and constructing 6,000 more units in highly subsidized settlements (this past year alone, some 12,000 new settlers moved into the West Bank, 4,000 more than were evicted from the Gaza Strip). Much money goes also for constructing super-highways for Israelis-only in the Occupied Territories, as well as for new lookout towers (that can double as sniper towers), and checkpoints galore (mainly separating Palestinian communities).

While all this is taking place at considerable economic cost, poverty in Israel has increased sharply. Israel now has the dubious notoriety of having the worst poverty level in the Western world. Over ¼ of Israelis now live under the poverty line. 1 of every 3 children goes to bed hungry. And every 4th elderly person is poor. No wonder, then, that Israel's elderly are “Suicidal,” as Yedioth Ahronot revealed in a report showing that over 50 percent of suicides in Israel every year are committed by people aged 65 and over. There are additional worrying trends. Not only are the few rich getting richer and the numerous poor getting poorer, but also many in the middle class who have jobs are sliding into poverty due to low wages.

One result of the increased poverty is that now 25% of Israelis forego medical care because they cannot afford it. 75% of the poor cannot afford medication. But of all the sad statistics, one of the more shocking is that 40% of Holocaust survivors—170,000 aged individuals--now live in desperate straits. It is shameful that of all places in the world, in Israel, Holocaust survivors live in dire poverty and misery.

The worsening economic conditions contribute, in turn, to escalation of violence. Thus, for instance, one of every five elderly Israelis is subject to abuse, mainly by spouses or children. And the Israeli police recorded a 24% increase in violence among youth the first months of 2006.

A direct cost of Occupation and a threat to Israel's welfare is post-traumatic stress, which can result in addiction to drugs and alcohol, and can also contribute to violence.

A counselor at a rehabilitation center terms the malady “a ticking bomb," Help, he relates, is unavailable for many soldiers who have gone "into terrible distress of drugs, beatings, violence, impatience, ... soldiers who clashed with a civilian population, and when they were discharged understood that they had been wrong." Hundreds, he reveals, "are roaming about with the feeling that there is no point to living, and the path to suicide and drugs is very easy. We are afraid that former soldiers will commit criminal acts as a result of their distress."

On the Palestinian end of the Occupation, the situation is far worse both economically and security-wise. For Palestinians, Occupation means a loudspeaker in the middle of the night ordering residents out of their homes, regardless of winter or summer, hot or cold, wet or dry. Occupation means long waits at checkpoints, even in emergencies. Occupation means that one needs permits to go to one’s fields, permits that are often not given, and even when given, the Palestinian farmer often finds that the military gates that control accessing his fields are closed and fail to open, and, for that matter, fail to open also for children on their way to school. Occupation means land theft and the uprooting of olive trees, some of which are 100s of years old, all of which are means of sustenance, some now the only means. Occupation means curfews, during which sick people can and do die. Occupation means that one’s home can turn into rubble in minutes, as bulldozers or explosives demolish it, along with its furnishings, toys, family photograph albums, computers, and all else. Occupation means imprisonment. In January 2006 as many as 9,000 Palestinians were incarcerated in Israeli facilities. Israeli Occupation means apartheid. Four instances of this are water, roads, home construction, and checkpoints. Of 960 million cubic meters of water that is generated in the West Bank, Palestinians are allowed to use only one-tenth of it. The rest goes to Israelis. On average, a Palestinian citizen in the West Bank is allowed to use no more than 36 cubic meters of water per year, while Israeli settlers in the West Bank can use up to 2,400 cubic meters. Palestinians are not allowed to use ‘settler’ roads, which are highly superior to Palestinian ones in the Occupied territories, are not allowed to build houses or even to add rooms, while Jewish settlement building continues uninhibited. Checkpoints have also recently become separated. Israelis, tourists, and Jews from abroad can go from the Territories to Israel via many checkpoints, but Palestinians having permits are allowed to enter Israel through but 11 of them, forcing Palestinians fortunate enough to have a permit to enter Israel to travel far out of the way on their way to work or to medical care.

For the above reasons, we Israeli Seekers of Peace and Justice express our sincere gratitude to CUPE’s boycott initiative. Boycott and divestment are non-violent means of pressuring governments to change their policies--means now sorely needed to compel the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestinians and their lands.

For signatures: http://www.geocities.com/liveletlive2001/signatories_so_far.htm
Thanks to Frank Fisher for posting this to the Just Peace list.

June 20, 2006

A question of Israel?

Antony Lowenstein's book, My Israel Question is due out on 1st August 2006. Here's the blurb from Melbourne University Publishing.

My Israel Question

Antony Loewenstein

The undeclared war in the Middle East is the abiding conflict of our era, with little apparent hope of resolution despite years of peace talks.


'I can think of few books about Israel and Palestine, written by an Australian, as important as Antony Loewenstein's brave j'accuse. In challenging the propagandists to give up their addiction, he is a truth-teller bar none.' --John Pilger

'This is one of the best treatises which presents in the most lucid way possible why anti-Zionism can not be equated with anti-Semitism. Interweaving personal trips, most valuable information and clear analysis, My Israel Question will serve as an essential guide for those who dare to criticise Zionist wrongdoing in the past and Israeli policies in the present, without being deterred by false allegations of Anti-Semitism.' --Dr Ilan Pappe, Senior Lecturer at the University of Haifa, Israel, and author of A History of Modern Palestine

About this Title

The undeclared war in the Middle East is the abiding conflict of our era, with little apparent hope of resolution despite years of peace talks.

On one side of the conflict, in the face of suicide bombings and international criticism over its military aggression, Israel asserts the right of the Jewish state to exist in Palestine. On the other, the Palestinian people struggle, some peacefully, some violently, for survival. Far beyond Israel's disputed borders, in New York and Washington, London and Paris, Sydney and Melbourne, the conflict is replayed in passionate public debate by Holocaust survivors, Zionist organisations, Arab advocates, the anti-war movement, newspaper columnists, presidents and prime ministers, and politicians and activists of all shades.

In My Israel Question, a young Australian Jew, Antony Loewenstein, asks how much Zionism-the ideology of Jewish nationalism-is to blame for this intractable conflict. He fearlessly investigates the ways in which the Jewish diaspora in Australia and elsewhere have campaigned on Israel's behalf, in the media and in political and business spheres. He also considers the historical rationale for Zionism-including the centuries of virulent European anti-Semitism from which it grew-and asks how relevant and sustainable twentieth-century Zionism is today. A searching discussion from a significant new voice in one of the most important debates of our times.

About the Author

Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based journalist and author. He has written for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald, The Australian, The Bulletin, Znet, Crikey, New Matilda, The Big Issue and Counterpunch. He was also a contributor to the 2004 bestseller, Not Happy, John! He is a board member of Macquarie University's Centre for Middle East and North African Studies.
His website can be found at www.antonyloewenstein.com
Of course he has had his little local difficulties down there in the land of Oz. Hopefully they're behind him now.

You heard it here first

Do you remember me saying that I hoped that delegates to the recent NATFHE conference would read the Engage site where their absurd, dishonest and insulting antics would surely backfire on this sorry bunch of zionists? Well a Guardian article is saying pretty much the same thing, only, bizarrely without mentioning Engage itself.
Mackney was sent over 15,000 messages from boycott opponents. At least 50,000 more were sent to other leaders of Natfhe and the Association of University Teachers, which passed a similar motion last year. Petitions with more than 17,000 signatories were sent to the union. While much of the criticism was well formulated and respectful, there was something troubling about the massive international campaign.

Mackney's family gave shelter to Jewish refugees during the second world war. He has campaigned on behalf of Jewish members for policies for those who do not want to work on the Jewish Sabbath. He opposed the boycott, speaking out passionately against it just before the votes were counted at the conference late last month.

But, he said, a reasoned debate was made extraordinarily difficult by an aggressive campaign involving tens of thousands of activists. "The ironic thing," Mackney said despondently after the motion was passed, "is if we had put this to delegates a couple of weeks ago, before the international pro-Israeli lobby started this massive campaign emailing delegates and trying to deny us our democratic right to discuss whatever we like, it probably wouldn't have passed. People feel bullied, and what we have seen is a hardening of attitudes. All they achieved was making the delegates determined to debate and pass the motion."

After a month covering the debate for our respective newspapers, we are inclined to agree. Most delegates displayed more passion in their outrage at the heavy-handed tactics used to affect the union's decision than they did in their support of the rather divisive resolution. It passed with only a 53% majority. The campaign served the exact end it sought to avoid.

This is not to criticise the desire of the boycott's opponents to affect the decision. Natfhe was debating a proposal calling on British lecturers to boycott Israeli colleagues who do not "publicly dissociate themselves" from "Israeli apartheid policies". The motion contained provocative judgments of the Israeli academy and called for a curtailment of Israeli academic freedoms. Why shouldn't those who value such freedoms and those who support Israel and its academy lobby members of the union?

The pickle is trying to determine whether the campaigns against such boycotts are actually motivated by concerns for academic freedom, or whether they are using the universalist ideal to stifle critical discussion of Israel.
And doesn't that last paragraph sound just like Engage?

Tit for tat?

Here's a piece from an article by Donald Macintyre in today's Independent that demonstrates the asymmetric nature of the war by Israel on the Palestinians:
A total of five (Sderot) residents have been killed by Qassams in the last five years. While the toll is dwarfed by the far greater loss of Palestinian civilian life in Gaza, residents said nerves were at breaking point.
Goodness! Israelis are getting bad nerves. The Palestinians are only losing children and whole families.

June 19, 2006

No partner for peace?

I've only just seen this letter in Friday's Independent:
Sir: Of course that wasn't an Israeli shell on Gaza beach. It was a publicity stunt by a family of Palestinian terrorists engaged in asymmetric warfare. When will Europe understand that Israel does not have a partner for peace?


I think she's being sarcastic.

June 18, 2006

Palestinian people outclassed by their leaders

Here's Joseph Massad in al-Ahram explaining the "real rift" in Palestinian society by reference to ruling classes established by the Oslo process.
The five main classes that the architects of Oslo created to ensure that the "process" survives are:

- A political class, divided between those elected to serve the Oslo process, whether to the Legislative Council or the executive branch (essentially the position of president of the Palestinian Authority), and those who are appointed to serve those who are elected, whether in the ministries, or in the presidential office.

- A policing class, numbering in the tens of thousands, whose function is to defend the Oslo process against all Palestinians who try to undermine it. It is divided into a number of security and intelligence bodies competing with one another, all vying to prove that they are most adept at neutralising any threat to the Oslo process. Under Arafat's authority, members of this class inaugurated their services by shooting and killing 14 Palestinians they deemed enemies of the "process" in Gaza in 1994 -- an achievement that earned them the initial respect of the Americans and the Israelis who insisted that the policing class should use more repression than it had to be most effective.

- A bureaucratic class attached to the political class and the policing class and that constitutes an administrative body of tens of thousands who execute the orders of those elected and appointed to serve the "process".

- An NGO class: another bureaucratic and technical class whose finances fully depend on their serving the Oslo process and ensuring its success through planning and services.

- A business class composed of expatriate Palestinian businessmen as well as local businessmen -- including especially members of the political, policing and bureaucratic classes -- whose income is derived from financial investment in the Oslo process and from profit-making deals that the Palestinian Authority (PA) can make possible.
Massad discusses how the interests of these "classes" have been undermined by the accession of Hamas and what they are doing to fight back.

Trivialising the holocaust?

This is a guest post from a holocaust survivor living and working in Germany.
Wrong time, Wrong Place, Wrong Battle

The World Cup is not the place to demonstrate against Iran, and the Iranian soccer team is not the right address for a protest.

Not enough that some members of the German Jewish Community - and its newly elected leader - brought politics into the World Cup before the Iranian soccer game in Nürmberg last week, they are gathering their forces again today to demonstrate before the game in Frankfurt. The fact that 1,000 persons protest and the media writes that “Germans and Jews protest” is unfair to the millions of Germans who are hospitable hosts to all the athletes, and the 100,000 Jews who are not protesting.

Before the fact, some of the Jewish media, and especially the bloggers, were totally hysterical about the fact that Iran was allowed to play in the World Cup, citing "international protests", for which there is no evidence, calling the Iranians Nazis, and the rest of the usual blah blah that is used to incite and intimidate.

There was even a rather provocative piece in The Observer by Luke Harding, about Iran's team facing "mass protests" and "senior politicians" also quoting Charlotte Knoblauch saying Ahmadinejad should be arrested if he came to Germany. The German media has stayed out of the fray, intimidated into silence on the subject of Israel.

The demonstration in Munich, led by politicians whose motives can be explained in terms of their own ambitions, had talk show host and former Jewish Community vice president Michel Friedman - who plummeted from grace two years ago when he was caught in a prostitution and cocaine sting, and has been clawing his way back ever since - calling Iran's president Ahmadinejad "the Hitler of the 21st Century" to a small crowd of cheering supporters. He didn’t say “could become” or “is potentially”, which one could almost accept as a concept, even if finding it personally ridiculous. He was speaking to the cameras and to inflame the crowd. There is nothing like a Hitler comparison for eliciting outrage these days.

As a Holocaust survivor and someone who has studied the Holocaust extensively, I am more than allergic to all these ignorant Hitler comparisons that are meant to incite. Every banal comparison to Hitler takes the magnitude of horror of the Holocaust another notch lower and the uniqueness to the ordinary.

The atmosphere in Germany during these two weeks of World Cup competition has been really fantastic. Except for one night of some rioting after the Poland Germany game, it has been a huge peaceful and friendly party. The authorities bend over backwards to accommodate the thousands of fans that have descended on Germany, and a number of heads of state have come to cheer their teams on and left with a feeling of having been welcome. Ahmadinejad has already stated that he had no plans to come.
Considering the news that has come out of Israel in the past two weeks about the murder of an entire family on the beach of Gaza, and the fact that a former Israeli Prime Minister Menachen Begin was the architect of the assassination attempt on German Chancellor Adenauer in 1952, and the fact that Israel has held 44 asylum seeking Africans in jail without warrants for two months, would seem that those NOT protesting may have the moral upper hand. Athletes should be respected for the job they have come to do and not be made responsible for what the politicians say – or do – for reasons of their very own.

Note: At the playing of the national anthems at beginning of the game, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the ZDF TV Announcer say that if the Iranian hymn can be sung without any disparagement and interference, it will be a winning game. And there was no booing to be heard, to which he commented that this game can now begin without political interference.

June 17, 2006

Gaza beach killings: who do you believe?

The Guardian examines Israel's disclaimer of responsibility for almost wiping out a whole Palestinian family.

The key part of the military's defence hinged on timings. It says it fired shells toward the beach between 4.30pm and 4.48pm, and that the artillery barrage stopped nine minutes before the explosion that killed the Ghalia family.

The army concluded that the deadly explosion occurred between 4.57pm and 5.10pm based on surveillance of the beach by a drone that shows people relaxing until just before 5pm and the arrival of an ambulance at 5.15pm.

Major General Meir Kalifi, who headed the army's investigation committee, said the nine-minute gap is too wide for Israel to have been responsible for the deaths. "I can without doubt say that no means used by the Israeli defence force during this time period caused the incident," he said.

But hospital records, testimony from doctors and ambulance men and eyewitness accounts suggest that the military has the timing of the explosion wrong, and that it occurred while the army was still shelling the beach.

Palestinian officials also question the timing of video showing people relaxing on the beach just before 5pm if the army, by its own admission, was dropping shells close by.

Several of those who survived the explosion say it came shortly after two or three other blasts consistent with a pattern of shells falling on the beach.

Among the survivors was Hani Asania. When the shelling began, he grabbed his daughters - Nagham, 4, and Dima, 7 - and moved toward his car on the edge of the beach. The Ghalia family was on the sand nearby awaiting a taxi.

"There was an explosion, maybe 500 metres away. Then there was a second, much closer, about two minutes later. People were running from the beach," said Mr Asania. "Maybe two minutes later there was a third shell. I could feel the pressure of the blast on my face it was so strong. I saw pieces of people."

This sequence is backed by others including Huda's brother, Eyham, 20. Annan Ghalia, Huda's uncle, called an ambulance. "We were sitting on the sand waiting for the taxis, the men on one side and the women on the other. The shell landed closer to the girls," he said. "I was screaming for people to help us. No one was coming. After about two minutes I called the ambulance."

The first ambulance took children to the Kamal Odwan hospital. Its registration book records that five children wounded in the blast were admitted at 5.05pm. The book contains entries before and after the casualties from the beach, all of whom are named, and shows no sign of tampering. The hospital's computer records a blood test taken from a victim at 5.12pm. Human Rights Watch said altering the records would require re-setting the computer's clock.

The distance from the beach to the hospital is 6km. Even at speed, the drive through Beit Lahia's crowded back streets and rough roads would not take less than five minutes and would be slower with wounded patients on board.

Dr Bassam al-Masri, who treated the first wounded at Kamal Odwan, said allowing for a round trip of at least 10 minutes and time to load them, the ambulance would have left the hospital no later than 4.50pm - just two minutes after the Israelis say they stopped shelling.

Factoring in additional time for emergency calls and the ambulances to be dispatched, the timings undermine the military's claim that the killer explosion occurred after the shelling stopped.

The first ambulance man to leave another Beid Lahia hospital, the Alwada, and a doctor summoned to work there say they clearly recall the time.

The ambulance driver, Khaled Abu Sada, said he received a call from the emergency control room between 4.45pm and 4.50pm. "I went to look for a nurse to come with me," he said. "I left the hospital at 4.50pm and was at the beach by 5pm."

The Alwada's anaesthetist, Dr Ahmed Mouhana, was woken by a call from a fellow doctor calling him to the hospital. "I looked at the time. That's what you do when someone wakes you up. It was 4.55pm," he said.

Dr Mouhana left for the hospital immediately. "It only takes 10 minutes from my house so I was there by 5.10pm or 5.15pm at the latest. I went to reception and they had already done triage on the children," he said.

If the hospital records and medical professionals are right, then the emergency call from the beach could not have come in much later than 4.45pm, still during the Israeli shelling.
while the Jewish Chronicle's Eric Silver, for the most part, supports Israel's claims. Eric Silver used to be the resident zionist at the Guardian.
An internal Israeli army investigation concluded on Tuesday that Israeli shelling did not cause last Friday’s explosion which killed a family of seven Palestinians picnicking on a Gaza beach. But the findings were dismissed by Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon official now with Human Rights Watch, who said it was “highly likely” that the deaths were caused by 155mm artillery shells whose shrapnel he had seen.

TV footage of a 12-year-old survivor, Huda Ghalia, searching desperately among the corpses of her family shocked Israeli and world opinion. It was widely assumed that a stray 155-mm artillery shell was responsible.

However, Major-General Meir Kalifi, who conducted the investigation, reported four days later that “all possibilities that the cause of the explosion was an artillery shell fired on that Friday have been disproved.”

Israel had fired six shells into the Northern Gaza Strip, he said. To make sure they do not hit civilian areas, the army monitors all artillery fire. “We can precisely account for all the places where five of the six shells landed,” the general insisted. “The first shell was not identified by the system, yet the possibility of the first shell causing the incident is close to zero.”

The missing shell was launched at 4.30pm, he explained. Examination of three films indicated that the explosion occurred between 4.47pm and 5.10pm.

General Kalifi also rejected the possibility that the tragedy was caused by shelling from the sea or the air.

In London, Colonel Mike Dewar, a respected military expert and managing director of One Defence, told the JC that he accepted the Israeli explanation. “This is not a case of the IDF trying to pull the wool over our eyes,” he said. Colonel Dewar, who noted that he himself had been involved in similar investigations of mis-aimed artillery fire, said that the Israelis were “professional. They checked their systems, they check their fire missions and check the co-ordinates of each salvo fired. You have to take them at their word. I would criticise the Israeli army for many things, but they are not liars.”

Another independent expert, speaking to the JC on condition of anonymity, said: “The Israeli conclusion is plausible. I’ve spent a lot of time down there. That part of Gaza is littered with old munitions, some dating back to the 1967 war.”
The Guardian tries to settle the "dispute" here:
Thank the Lord that in Gaza, where rules of the war on terror plainly apply, a hero has emerged to separate desperation from asymmetry when all you could see for miles was mud obscuring truth. Seven members of a picnicking Palestinian family, including three small children, were killed on a beach that Israel had been shelling from gunboats and land-based artillery. Images from the scene of seven-year-old Hadeel Ghalia's grief at the sight of her dead and injured family were haunting. Israel regretted the incident.

Footage from the funeral appeared around the world to increase international revulsion at the incident. There was the same distraught small girl, now an icon of Palestinian suffering. Imagine my surprise. An Israeli internal military investigation immediately found it wasn't responsible for the blast after all. Perhaps a Hamas-planted landmine had been. Desperate? Asymmetrical? You choose.

But in stepped Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon battle damage expert who knew what he was talking about after years in Iraq and Kosovo. The evidence, he said, pointed to the explosion being caused by a 155mm Israeli land-based shell, as did the injuries to the victims. Mr Garlasco is now the senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch and, because he served with the US Department of Defence for seven years, his credentials, under the circumstances, were impeccable.
Tell that to Lyn Julius.