November 30, 2008

First they came for the Conservative....

I'm not comfortable with this. We have a strange situation in the UK with a government with a left-wing label relentlessly pursuing right wing policies mixing aggressive imperialism with free market economics, making libertarian noises whilst increasing repressive police powers, even passing a Freedom of Information Act whilst maintaining draconian secrecy legislation. Well now a Conservative MP has been arrested by, among others, counter-terrorism police under secrecy legislation.

The government is pretending that this is nothing out of the ordinary here and, on the BBC website Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith
insisted the investigation was not ordered because of politically embarrassing leaks, but because of the security implications for the Home Office.
But according to the Guardian's Q and A on the affair,
The Home Office called in the police to help them find who was leaking official information. The Tories have highlighted four documents that were passed to Green, but Home Office sources say that there were other leaks and that the problem had been going on "for an extended period of time".

What information did the four documents contain?

• A series of Home Office memos, which appeared in the Daily Mail on November 13 2007, showed that Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, had been warned four months earlier that thousands of illegal immigrants had been cleared to work in sensitive Whitehall security jobs. An email revealed that Smith had appeared to accept press office advice in August not to disclose the number of illegal immigrants.

• An email to Liam Byrne, then a Home Office minister, in February which showed he was informed about an illegal Brazilian immigrant who allegedly worked in parliament on a fake ID card. The memo was published in the Sunday Telegraph on February 10.

• A letter from Smith to Gordon Brown warning that a recession would lead to a rise in crime. The letter was draft advice that had not been cleared by Smith and had not yet been sent to Number 10, the Home Office said.

• A list of Labour MPs likely to rebel against the government's plans to detain terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge.

They amount to security implications? I don't think so.

November 28, 2008

JC correspondent pursues Israel critic beyond the grave

Unbelievable! See this response to the Jewish Chronicle's obituary for Irene Breugel, the recently deceased founder of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. If you followed the link to Just Peace UK in the previous post you may have already read it.
"The obituary of Irene Bruegel (November 21st) founder-secretary of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, gave the impression of someone equally concerned with the wellbeing of Israelis as with the Palestinians. This is far from the reality. The organisation she founded is consistently and unremittingly hostile to Israel and JfJfP have helped fuel anti-Israel rhetoric in the media. I find it unacceptable for the JC to sanitise the supposed contributions of people who have given succour to our enemies, out of a misguided respect for those recently deceased.
One can only wonder at how low some people, including whoever decided to publish that letter, are willing to stoop for the sake of the colonial settler project known as the State of Israel.

You know, with the humanitarian disaster that zionism has inflicted on the Palestinians it's sometimes easy to overlook the fact that the Jewish community has gone from being a community represented as fairly by quiet piety as by noisy radicalism to one dominated by shrill nasty bigots, racists, war criminals and apologists for the same. I think that has to be one of the cultural tragedies of the age. But maybe that's just me.

For what it's worth, the Jewish Chronicle is here.

It says in the Jewish Chronicle that Israel broke the truce, so there!!

It does say that. Alas, the Jewish Chronicle's website was always, well, chronic but it's even worse lately than it was and you just can't access the letters. But what was I saying? Ah yes, it says in the Jewish Chronicle that it was Israel that broke the truce with Hamas. Ok, at first it said in the Jewish Chronicle, as it said in the rest of the pro-zionist media, that Hamas broke the truce but Deborah Maccoby wasn't having any of that. See this:
Dear Sir,

Your report ("Alert system widened as Kassams continue", 21.11.08) cites Israeli officials saying: "the virtual blockade maintained since November 4th would continue because of ongoing Palestinian rocket fire. Around 150 missiles have been fired since that day and more than 20 since Sunday...." The implication is that the ceasefire was broken by the Palestinian rockets.

In fact, the ceasefire was broken by the Israeli army, who - while the world's attention was focused on the US election - launched a raid into Gaza on November 4th which killed six Hamas militants and deliberately provoked the rocket fire.

The Israeli army claimed it launched the raid because Hamas militants had dug a tunnel in order to kidnap Israeli soldiers, but, as Zvi Bar'el wrote in Ha'aretz on November 16th: "Last week's 'ticking tunnel,' dug ostensibly to facilitate the abduction of Israeli soldiers, was not a clear and present danger: Its existence was always known and its use could have been prevented on the Israeli side, or at least the soldiers stationed beside it removed from harm's way."

Israel's violation of the ceasefire and escalation of the conflict have aroused fears that it intends to take advantage of the interim period between US Presidents to launch a major ground invasion of Gaza.

Deborah Maccoby
You can read as close as it gets to the orginal here on the Just Peace UK list.

This situation repeats and repeats. Israel breaks the truce and the media reports that it has responded to a breach of the truce. Israel starts wars and the media reports that Israel's enemies have started them. Israel's existence is predicated on ethnic cleansing and its enemies are accused of genocidal ambitions. If I wasn't the bright spark that I am, I'd swear the media was controlled by the State of Israel.

Anyway, well done Deborah! You tell'em, otherwise they won't know.

Economic crisis hits do gooders hard

The right-wing US advocacy group Freedom's Watch is reportedly shutting down as its main funder, Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, becomes one of the high-profile casualties of the global economic downturn....

Adelson contributed over 30 million dollars to Freedom's Watch in 2007 and 2008, but has had to cut back on his philanthropy as his net worth – estimated at 36 billion dollars in 2007 – shrunk by 13 billion dollars.

Let's get down to numbers. If Adelson put all his wealth in treasuries, even at current depressed yields his 23 billion would fetch over $700 million a year without him lifting a finger. Adelson also received about $10 million dollar a year in compensation for his hard labor. I assume now that his company has some problems, his bundle is going to shrink a little (and only a little).

The poor man! Who can afford to be charitable on such a meager income? I mean the guy cares about Israel. All right. But that's no reason to hit the dog food shelves.

November 27, 2008

Holy Land charity case revisited

That's not a pun on the fact that the 108 charge trial had to be conducted twice in order to get guilty verdicts for each of the charges. It's just I did an earlier post on the same subject. Since posting that, I've been looking for information on the case and it looks very dodgy indeed, the case that is. Basically what has happened is that, in America, a Muslim charity for Palestinians in Gaza has been accused and found guilty of funding Hamas. At first I couldn't see much about it but I must have been googling the wrong few words. The Guardian's report is appalling. I won't post it here but it omits almost every crucial fact.

Whilst noting that this was the second trial of the same 108 charges it did not note that the mistrial verdict was reached after 19 days of deliberation. In the second trial, each of the 108 charges was sufficiently watertight to secure verdicts of guilty beyond reasonable doubt! How so? The question was addressed, after a fashion, in the LA Times.

At no time did the prosecution argue that the officers of the charity were involved in any violent activity, nor was it suggested that they funded any violent activity. This too got a mention in the LA Times article and according to Alternet, the organisations funded by the charity were engaged in education and welfare and the same organisations were also funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International Red Cross.

And how's this for a judicial precedent:
Over fervent objections from the defense, the judge in the Holy Land trial allowed the prosecution to present testimony from an anonymous Israeli intelligence agent. This bizarre episode marked the first time in American legal history that testimony has been allowed from an expert witness with no identity. If the witness, who was introduced to the jury simply as "Avi," lied or committed perjury, he faces no consequences. He is officially non-existent, after all.
That one managed to escape the attention on the LA Times. The quote's from Alternet.

As is this:
Though the prosecution ostensibly limited their case to Palestinian charities operating in the present day, most of the evidence presented to the jury involved the general activities of Hamas, and dated back decades. With its propaganda-like quality, the evidence was clearly intended to provoke an emotional response. For example, jurors were repeatedly shown videos of grisly suicide bombings that none of the defendants were in any way connected to, or accused of planning.
The LA Times warns that the sentences will be "steep" and notes that the judge has incarcerated the defendants in case they abscond to escape the inevitable custodial sentences.

There is enough in the LA Times article to show that this has been a political show trial to terrorise anyone out of practical support for the Palestinian people, particularly those in Gaza. There was enough too in the BBC's offering. And alternet certainly filled a few gaps in the report. Why oh why are the liberals at the Guardian so relaxed about this latest zionist outrage?

November 26, 2008

More Returns of Zionism

Thanks to the commenter who pointed out that Gabriel Piterberg is giving a talk on his book the Return of Zionism at the London Review of Books bookshop tomorrow night. Here are the full details as per the LRB bookshop site
Thursday 27 November at 7.00 pm
Gabriel Piterberg's fascinating new book, The Returns of Zionism (Verso), asks whether the ideology that changed the face of the Middle East was really as distinctive as it seemed. From his immense knowledge of Zionist texts - and the literary work of the Jewish settlement in Palestine - he traces the many shifts in Zionism from its origins up to the present day.

JSF shocked, shocked, that Zionism is going on in this administration

From the JTA, Nov. 26:

Pro-Israel figures on Obama team

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's national security transition team includes a number of pro-Israel figures.

Susan Rice and James Steinberg will chair the 41-member team announced Wednesday. Rice, an Africa expert in the Clinton administration, was tapped for the U.N. ambassadorship, and Steinberg, a Clinton-era deputy national security adviser, is set to be deputy secretary of state.

"The National Security Policy Working Group works closely with key experts and our agency review teams to help prepare the president-elect, vice president-elect and senior national security appointees as they are named to make early decisions on critical national security issues," a statement from the campaign said.

Steinberg has close relations with the pro-Israel lobby. He reportedly helped draft Obama's speech in May to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and has emphasized pressing Arab nations and the Palestinians to recognize Israel and contain terrorism as a means of advancing the peace process.

Others on the president-elect's team with identifiable pro-Israel biographies include Dennis Ross, Clinton's top Middle East envoy; Jeremy Bash, a former AIPAC staffer and Al Gore's top foreign policy adviser in his 2000 run for the presidency; Daniel Shapiro, the Obama campaign's Jewish outreach director who as a Senate staffer helped draft the tough measures in the 2003 Syria Accountability Act; Mara Rudman, who helped shepherd the Holocaust insurance settlement through the International Commission on Holocaust Insurance Claims; and Daniel Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel who has counseled pressuring Israel to freeze settlements but who is well regarded in most of the pro-Israel community.

Notably absent are figures critical of Israel that Republicans predicted, often based on thin evidence, would feature prominently in an Obama administration: Robert Malley, a Clinton-era Middle East negotiator; Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter-era national security adviser; and Samantha Power, an expert on genocide.

JSF comments.

Widows, orphans and terror

There was a curious report yesterday about a guilty verdict in the trial in America of a Muslim charity and five of its leaders. Here's the BBC's report on the case:
A Muslim charity and five of its former leaders have been convicted of funding the Palestinian militant group Hamas, designated a terrorist group in the US.

Jurors reached the guilty verdict after eight days of deliberations in the retrial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

The group - once the largest US Muslim charity - was accused of giving more than $12m (£8m) to support Hamas.

It was the largest terrorism financing trial since the 9/11 attacks.

The former head of the charity, Ghassan Elashi, and the former chief executive, Shukri Abu-Baker, were convicted of 69 counts including money laundering and tax fraud.

Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh were convicted on three counts of conspiracy, and Mohammed El-Mezain was convicted on one count of conspiracy to support a terrorist organisation.
Where are the specifics? What did they actually fund?
The prosecution argued that Hamas controlled the charities to which $12.4m was sent between 1995 and 2001.
Ok, that's the amount of money involved but what did they fund?
The indictment against the group said it sponsored orphans and families in the West Bank and Gaza whose relatives had died or been imprisoned as a result of Hamas attacks on Israel.
Ah I see now. It funded widows and orphans. That's terrorism? So what does that say for the many many zionist charities on both sides of the Atlantic?

November 25, 2008

The bucket stops in Scotland

Israeli water cooler company Eden Springs has closed its East of Scotland depot after losing, according to a well placed industry insider, 'hundreds of contracts' across Scotland. Among the major losses in recent months, in an industry that is generally expanding, are contracts with East Lothian and West Lothian Councils and Caledonian MacBrayne Ferrries, the sole link between the mainland and Scotland's many islands. Heriot –Watt University in Edinburgh has also cancelled and Stevenson College, the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, as well as a number of Scottish trade union and student bodies have all voted to boycott Eden springs explicitly on the grounds of their violations of international and human rights law.....

Thanks to the wonderful work of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Zero tolerance?

Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians sent this Ha'aretz link to the Just Peace list recently. It's an open letter from Ha'aretz correspondent, Bradley Burston, about how the Simon Wiesenthal Centre is alienating even its supporters over its plans (don't laugh) for a Museum of Tolerance to be built on a Muslim cemetery.

UPDATE (11:08 am 25/11/08) Now at this point I simply copied and pasted the letter but I got this comment from co-blogger, Gabriel. It's a very useful intro to the main characters in this post:
Rabbi Hier is a major league Jewish supremacist and Washington whore.

Bradley Burston is the usual 'Zionist lite'. He wants Jewish supremacy with a gentle face.

The Zionist lite will fall into line grumbling, because there is no other choice for them except playing the role of conscience and then losing. We've been here before, with Magnes and Buber, with the fake socialism of Mapam, with Amos Oz and his coattails, with the great Israeli tradition of 'shooting and crying.'

It's beyond disgusting. If you've seen Von Trier's 'Dogville,' you'd recognize Tom as the quintessential soft Zionist.

Pity Burston, to build a museum of tolerance on a cemetery seems to me as Israeli as....building a state on ethnic cleansing.
Now please read on....:
Dear Rabbi Hier,

It saddens me to find myself in opposition to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose goals and good works I have long supported.

But I have an honest and personal disagreement with a decision the center has taken, the location of the Museum of Tolerance on a Muslim burial ground.

I detailed my objection in an article entitled Dividing Jerusalem, one bad wall at a time. I noted that in the past, SWC had worked diligently and admirably in protecting the sanctity of cemeteries, in particular, that of the unmarked Jewish graves of Auschwitz.

You responded with a letter headed "Museum of Tolerance is a beacon of light, not a wall." You begin by saying that I deliberately hid the fact that the land was given to the Simon Wiesenthal Center by the government of Israel and the City of Jerusalem, who presented petitions to the Supreme Court in support of the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem.

It remains unclear to me why I or anyone else would want, deliberately or otherwise, to hide that fact. But, since you brought it up, here's something else that I did not include:
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post in February, 2006, when you said that the plot of land was not considered a cemetery and was given to the center in good faith by the government of Israel and the Jerusalem Municipality, you went on to say:

"We never would have accepted a site if the government of Israel or the Jerusalem Municipality had said it was a Muslim cemetery."

"We would have laughed. It would have been preposterous. We never would have accepted it."

I believe you. Just as I still believe that as soon as bones began to be unearthed at the site, it was time to recognize that the idea of building a Museum of Tolerance over a cemetery - whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, non-denominational or animist - is, at its root, preposterous.

The same 2006 Post article, citing the Israel Antiquities Authority, notes that "The authority has already removed 250 skeletons and skulls from the site and has reported to the court that the cemetery dates back centuries and that there are at least five layers of density of graves there."

You have marshaled learned arguments to prove that the land is no longer legally sacred to Muslims.

But do you truly believe that Muslim individuals, who have come forward to state that their ancestors were buried there, are lying? Do you believe that they do not, in fact, consider this land sacred, or that their dismay over the museum plan is unjustified?

You have said that many of the critics of the plan are extremists, and that is true.

But seriously, on the most basic, human level, can you say in all honesty that you cannot understand why many Israeli citizens, moderate, tolerant Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, are vexed by the concept of a Museum of Tolerance built on a graveyard?

You have spoken eloquently and convincingly of the potential importance and contribution of the museum.

But you have not made one compelling argument for preferring the Mamilla site over other possible building sites in Jerusalem.

Finally, you have stressed that the bones found during construction were between 300 and 400 years old, the graves unmarked.

Are you telling us that in another 300 or 400 years, it will be all right for the Catholic Church to go ahead and re-build the convent near Auschwitz that you so strongly opposed 20 years ago? Are you telling us that there is a statute of limitations on memory?

People of good will in Jerusalem and its environs, intelligent, sensitive, tolerant Christians, Muslims and Jews, want to support a museum like this. These are exactly the kinds of people the museum needs to attract. These are exactly the kinds of people you need to listen to.

They are telling you that your flagship project may have lost its moral compass.

They are telling you that for all of your good will, this project, and, no less, your legacy, are in clear danger of defeating their own purpose.
What a strange argument the rabbi deployed. SWC was given land by the Israeli government. That makes it ok? He should have smelled a rat instantly.

November 24, 2008

Israel jails neo-nazis

An Israeli judge has responded to last year's annual Israeli fascist fest by imprisoning eight teenagers for carrying out neo-nazi attacks. Here's Reuters:
An Israeli court jailed eight Jewish teenagers on Sunday for carrying out neo-Nazi attacks in a case that sparked revulsion in a state that was a haven for Jews after the Holocaust.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Zvi Gurfinkel sentenced the teenagers, aged 16 to 19, to between one and seven years in prison for a "shocking and horrifying" year-long spree of attacks that targeted foreign workers, ultra-Orthodox Jews and homeless men.

The court said the group also planned to attack Arabs.

The eight teenagers were immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union and court documents cited social adjustment difficulties as a factor behind their involvement in the gang, which posted pro-Adolf Hitler video clips on the Internet.

One of the teenagers was the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

Gurfinkel said he gave the teenagers lengthy sentences in part to deter other Israelis from joining neo-Nazi groups.

When this case first came to light last year, the media made out that it was a freak occurrence whereas I pointed out that something like it had happened in Israel for each of the past three years. Now an Israeli judge feels that Israeli youngsters need deterring from forming or joining neo-nazi gangs. Now, how did neo-nazi thuggery get to be so fashionable in the last of the colonial settler states?

Bethlehem Now

Here's a news release from Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and Open Bethlehem:


Jews, Christians, Muslims and others have joined forces to highlight the tragedy of modern day Bethlehem with an evening of poetry, prose and song at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, in central London on November 26.

The “Bethlehem Now” event has sparked controversy by putting traditional Christmas songs to novel use. The alternative lyrics talk of Israel’s attempts to sustain its 41-year occupation of Palestinian land with ghetto walls, tanks and bullets, bulldozed homes and uprooted olive trees.

“Once in royal David’s city / Stood a big apartheid wall,” goes one refrain.

Daily Telegraph leader writer Damian Thompson, blogging on the newspaper’s website last week, called on the Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, to halt the event, saying its use of carols to make a political point was “indefensible.”

The vice-president of Catholic peace organisation Pax Christi, Bruce Kent, who will be among the readers at St James’s next Wednesday, said of the call for a ban: “I’m afraid this is just another example of Israel’s supporters trying to prevent free speech.”

Others taking part will include Dr Ang Swee Chai, author and orthopaedic surgeon, who will read an account of her experiences during the 1982 massacres of Palestinian refugees in the Lebanese camps of Sabra and Shatila.

Readings will reflect the seldom heard Palestinian experience over the past 90 years, concluding with a contribution from Eliza Ernshire of the Free Gaza campaign, which recently made news by sailing two small boats carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

“Bethlehem Now” organiser Deborah Fink, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, said Christmas is an apt time to raise awareness as to the current reality in the Holy Land.

“At a time of year when much of the world is focusing on Bethlehem, very few people are aware that the ‘Little Town’ is now surrounded by a 10-metre-high wall, with the people imprisoned inside and their economy destroyed,”
said Fink, a professional soprano who will lead the singing at the Wren church of St James’s.

“ I don’t expect this event to have a particular appeal to practising Jews, but most of us have sung Christmas carols. It is a wake up call to Christians who sometimes fear speaking out about their holy city for fear of accusations of anti-semitism. It is re-assuring for them that Jewish organisations are involved in this.’

“Whatever our faith or background, we should be calling on our leaders to ensure justice for Palestine, without which there will never be real peace for both peoples “ she said.

“BethlehemNow – Nine Alternative Lessons and Carols for Palestine”
7.30 p.m. Wednesday 26 November
St James’s Church, Piccadilly, LondonW1J 9LL
Tickets cost £10 (£6 concessions on the door)
Booking via TicketWeb 08444771000

November 22, 2008

Museum of Civilization to host ethnic cleansing fund raiser

Theodor Herzl believed that one could get rid of Palestinians expediently by "spirit[ing] the penniless across the border by procuring them employment in the transit countries whiles denying them employment in our own [sic!] country. The property owners will come over to our side." Pretty accurate and farsighted, especially the bit about the property owners.

He also thought that Jews would then become "a sector of the wall of Europe against Asia, we shall serve as the outpost of civilization against barbarism."

Obviously "civilization" meant for Herzl above all whiteness and colonialism, that sense of entitlement that justifies remorseless predation of the othered. He sooooo much wanted to be part of the master's household. Groucho Marx quipped that he wouldn't want to belong to any club that accepted people like him as members. Political Zionism was born out of the pathetic sentiment Groucho Marx parodies. The only people Herzl wanted to be accepted by were the people who looked down on him because he was Jewish.

I haven't been to the Museum of Civilization in Quebec Canada, but I wonder what kind of "civilization" is being represented there.

On the coming Monday, the Museum will host a fund raising dinner for the Jewish National Fund. The JNF, as regulars here know, is involved up to its eyballs in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. It manages a large budle of land robbed from Palestinians in 1948. The JNF received the land from the state so that it can discriminate against Palestinians as a "private" charity, while the state can maintain it pretense of equality before the law.

The JNF collects money in Canada for the upkeep of the so-called Canada Park, which is built over three destroyed Palestinian villages ethnically cleansed in 1967, from which 10,000 people guilty of owning land while not being Jewish were expelled. (1967 isn't a typo. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is not limited to 1948. It is still going on).

The event on monday is a fund raiser for the 'Negev.' The JNF helps the government of Israel "develop" the Negev. "development," like civilization, is a word with some interesting meanings. In Israel it means demolishing houses of Bedouins and building instead new houses for Jews.

Please write to express how civilized you are to:

Dr. Victor Rabinovitch
President and CEO
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Gatineau, Quebec
Fax: 819-776-7122

see also this petition and this Letter from the Latroun villagers. And this letter too.

Hat tip to Independent Jewish Voices in Canada.

Guardian: Palestinian notables denounce UK-Leviev embassy deal

From the Guardian's letters section, Nov. 22:

It is with great dismay that we learned of the British government's plans to rent space for its new Tel Aviv embassy location from Lev Leviev's company Africa-Israel. Africa-Israel builds Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Additionally, Leviev's company Leader is building the settlement of Zufim. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

We welcome the recent decision by the British government to take action against Israeli settlements by cracking down on settlement exports. However, renting space for the embassy from a settlement-builder would send a contradictory message, signalling clear and active complicity with illegal settlement construction. It is this kind of international complicity that allows Israel to continue to violate international law with impunity, thereby eroding the credibility of international law at the global level and in relation to occupied Palestinian territory. The UK Foreign Office says no lease has been signed but provides no assurance that such a deal will not take place. We therefore call on the British government to publicly guarantee that it will not do business with settlement-builders such as Lev Leviev and his company Africa-Israel.

Hanan Ashrawi Palestinian legislative council, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti PLC, Atallah Hannah Archbishop of Sebastia, Khaleda Jarrar PLC, Hussam Khader PLC, Ikrimah Sabri Sheikh of al-Aqsa Mosque, Bethlehem

Take action: write the UK gov't and insist they declare it won't rent from Leviev. Here's how.

November 21, 2008

The Returns of Zionism

SOAS Palestine Society
Gabriel Piterberg
Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel
Monday 24th Nov
SOAS Main Building
7pm, G2

In this original and wide-ranging study, Gabriel Piterberg examines the ideology and literature behind the colonization of Palestine , from the late nineteenth century to the present. Exploring Zionism's origins in Central-Eastern European nationalism and settler movements, he shows how its texts can be placed within a wider discourse of western colonization. Piterberg revisits the work of Theodor Herzl, Gershom Scholem, Anita Shapira and David Ben-Gurion, among other thinkers influential in the formation of the Zionist myth, to break open prevailing views of Zionism. He demonstrates that it was in fact unexceptional, expressing a consciousness and imagination typical of colonial settler movement. Shaped by European ideological currents and the realities of colonial life, Zionism constructed its own story as a unique and impregnable one, in the process excluding the voices of an indigenous people - the Palestinian Arabs.

About the Author
GABRIEL PITERBERG teaches history at UCLA, and has taught at St Antony's and Balliol Colleges , Oxford . His previous books include An Ottoman Tragedy: History and Historiography at Play. He writes for the New Left Review and the London Review of Books.
SOAS Palestine Society
Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square , London

The same event is taking place on Wednesday 26/11/08 at the London School of Economics.
LSE New Academic Building
5.15 pm, Room 2.04
John Chalcraft
Lecturer in Empire/Imperialism, Govt, LSE

November 19, 2008

Hasbara Buster masters the lingo

A friend asked me recently how come I've never linked to the Hasbara Buster blog. He very helpfully sent me a post that I missed when it first appeared and since it was back in September it no longer appears on the home page. So for those who come here but don't go there, a) go there and b) here's the post that so impressed my friend. It's headed, On the ambiguity of the English language and it goes like this:
As a native speaker of Spanish, I find certain subtle distinctions missing in English. Take, for instance, the verb to know; it may mean "to know a fact" or "to know someone." Spanish differentiates between both meanings, the words used being saber and conocer, respectively. Similarly, the verb to ask may mean "to ask a question" (Spanish: preguntar) or "to ask for something" (Spanish: pedir), and the verb to cry may mean "to cry out loud" (Spanish: gritar) or "to cry with tears" (Spanish: llorar). The native speaker of English may not even understand the need for separate words to cover the different meanings, but to someone who comes from another language the absence of these distinctions is startling.

In this post, I would like to discuss yet another English word that has separate and not necessarily related meanings: antisemite.

Before I continue I must say I don't dispute I'm an antisemite under the current definition of the word. Of all the peoples in the world, I want to deny the Jews, and only the Jews, the right to self-determination in their ancestral land. To that effect, I have singled out Israel for demonization (again: under the current definition of this word), and I have never written a single word about the plight of the Tibetans in China.

Of course, I could argue (wicked people always argue things) that I would deny other peoples self-determination under similar circumstances. I would oppose, for instance, the Gypsies returning to the place in Northern India they're supposed to come from and creating a country after displacing 700,000 Sikhs (or whatever). To give a real, not hypothetical, example, I opposed the Afrikaners' right to self-determination in South Africa after they grabbed the best lands for themselves and dumped the blacks into the bantustans of Venda, Ciskei, Transkei and Bophuthatswana. But these are moot points. Apartheid South Africa doesn't exist anymore, no member of the British nobility has ever promised the Gypsies a national homeland and the Brits have ceased to control India in any event. So that in practice my only problem is with the Jews' self-determination (as is currently exercised) and I'm an antisemite under the definition of several international bodies. There's no disputing that.

However, the word antisemite had an earlier meaning which continues to be in use. Many people, especially the younger generations, will be surprised to learn about it, but it's actually still being used. An antisemite used to be someone who hated the Jews as a whole. Those people would oppose having a Jewish neighbor, or their children marrying Jews. They would try to avoid working with Jews, they would never lend them money (allthough they might take loans from them), and they would support different forms of social and economic discrimination against Jews. Under the proper circumstances (war, invasions, crises, etc.), they would torch synagogues, loot Jewish property and actually kill Jews, or help those who undertook the killings.

These paleo-antisemites (let's neologize a bit) have by no means ceased to exist. Curiously, many of them don't oppose Jewish self-determination in Israel. In fact, I know quite a few Argentinian antisemites who would be very happy to see all Jews emigrating to Israel after having their citizenship revoked and their property confiscated.

Well, and here's my proposal: English needs separate words to describe these two different groups of people. It might be antisemite and contrasemite, for instance. Or antisemite and antihebrew. Or (gasp!) antisemite and anti-Zionist. With regard to the latter proposal, I don't oppose the word antisemite being used to describe me, and anti-Zionist to describe someone who beats a Jew because he's a Jew. (That is, I don't want to deprive anyone of the pleasure of calling me an antisemite; I don't mean to deny the Jewish people this right as well.)

But one thing is certain: the same word can't be used to describe both us, the ones who want to deny the Jews, and only the Jews, the right to self-determination, and them, the ones who only want to burn down synagogues, stab Jews and drive them out of their countries. It's simply not fair to them.
How's that for mastering the lingo? Well done, that hombre!!

Lloyds TSB adds injury to injury in Gaza

This is curious, at a time when the global financial system is in a state of collapse, the coffers of Lloyds TSB don't have room for money destined to alleviate suffering in Gaza. Now read on....

Protest Lloyds TSB joining the war on the people of Gaza

Sat 22 Nov 12 noon
Lloyds TSB Branch, Hanover St, Edinburgh

Interpal is a respected UK charity which helps alleviate the agony of Gaza. It has been thoroughly investigated by the Charities Commission (following malicious complaints by US Government) and had been given the all clear!

Lloyds TSB piles on the agony for Gazans by

  • closing Interpal accounts - forcing the charity to close
  • giving no reasons
  • ordering IBB (Islamic Bank of Britain) to cease all dealing with Interpal

Lloyds TSB demonstrates this cruelty in a week when


1. Demonstrate / organise a demonstration, however small, outside your local Lloyds TSB – use the SPSC leaflet to inform passers-by

2. Write/call to protest:
Islamic Bank of Britain plc 0121 452 7330 or 0845 6060786
Lloyds TSB Bank plc 020 7661 4778

3. Threaten to move your account from Lloyds TSB to a competitor if you have one

4. This call is issued initially by Scottish PSC and Friends of Al Aqsa.

Israeli tanks in Gaza

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency is reporting that Israeli tanks have entered Gaza.
Israeli tanks rolled into southern Gaza.

Palestinian gunmen fired rockets and mortars at the tanks when they entered the strip Tuesday. The tanks did not return fire, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported.

I'm anxious about this. I googled Israel and clicked on "news" and Times on line is the only site reporting the incursion.

It could be nothing of course but Bush is a lame duck, as they say, and Obama keeps appointing zionists to get his presidential show on the road. According to the JTA report:
Israel Defense Forces officials told Ha’aretz that the tanks were conducting a routine operation to discover explosives near the border fence. Palestinians said the tanks destroyed farmlands near the border.
Have they announced that as far as they are concerned the truce is over? Not according to the Times report. Here's Shaul Mofaz:
There is not right way to deal with the issue of a Hamas government in Gaza. There is need for an urgent cabinet meeting to determine our policy against the Hamas government. The current reality is that Israeli deterrence is wearing out... It appears that we are the ones acting like the ones interested in a truce, not Hamas. This approach and policy is wrong
Here's a spokesman for Hamas:
Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas leader, said he supported maintaining the truce, so long as the crossings into Gaza were reopened.

"We are still committed to what we declared and after the end of the 6 months we will sit down and re-evaluate this experience," he told a gathering in Gaza
And here are the scores:
The latest fighting began two weeks ago and there is now a near-daily cycle of mortar attacks on southern Israeli towns and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. At least 17 Palestinians have died, and several Israelis have been wounded.
Israel is ending the truce.

November 17, 2008

Late snippets on Obama

Sorry these are late but there are two little snippets about Obama that I meant to post on beforenow, then they seemed too late to post on, then I thought it wouldn't hurt to jog some memories, if only recent ones. The earlier thing is the letter from Ralph Nader to Barak Obama. I didn't know anything about Obama when he started campaigning though of course I didn't think he'd get much coverage if he hadn't shaken the right hands. I really was totally unprepared for his grovelling to AIPAC. Ralph Nader wasn't too pleased with it either and wrote an open letter to Obama to say so. Let's take the larger part of the letter that points to Obama's recent conversion to the zionist cause:
To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity— not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an "undivided Jerusalem," and opposed negotiations with Hamas— the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored "direct negotiations with Hamas." Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote "Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state."

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: "There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President."

Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, "of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. …Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its ‘legitimate right to defend itself.’"

In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on "the heart of a crowded refugee camp… with horrible bloodshed" in early 2008.

Israeli writer and peace advocate— Uri Avnery— described Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as one that "broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama "is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future— if and when he is elected president.," he said, adding, "Of one thing I am certain: Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people."

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled "Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama" (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled "Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque." None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans— even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to "tumultuous applause," following a showing of a film about the Carter Center’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!
Ok that was a letter dated November 3, 2008,so again, apologies for the delay.

The other thing I've been conscious of for a while is Obama's appointment of a kind of Minister for Jewish Affairs to head up his White House staff. Much joy has been expressed in zionist circles that Rahm Emanuel is the son of an Israeli Irgunist. The first report I read in Ha'aretz on the appointment had the appointees father refusing to comment.
Rahm Emanuel's father, Benjamin, yesterday refused to comment on the report that his son was appointed White House chief of staff. He told Haaretz that he would only comment after speaking to his son.
Well he couldn't hold his piece for long and as a former Irgunist he couldn't conceal his racism for long either:
In the interview, Benjamin Emanuel was reported as saying: "Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."
Wonderful! I know, like Nader's letter to Obama, it's been in the public domain for a while now, I just thought we should have a marker on the letter, the appointment and the kind of racism that the appointee must have been raised on.

Rahm Emanuel did apologise for his father's racist remarks after being called upon to do so by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

November 15, 2008

Zionism should be included in an encyclopaedia of racism

Clunky headline I know but references to zionist censorship are so cliché because it happens so often. Regular readers on the subject of zionism may know that there has been a game on for some time over the fact that a very expensive Encyclopaedia of Race and Racism has been published including, as well it should, a section on zionism. The section is by a chap called Noel Ignatiev, the prime mover behind the anti-racist magazine, Race Traitor.

I first noticed the attack on the publishers by zionists on the Engage website. They ran a post headed Macmillan USA Encyclopedia Damns Zionism as Racism - Ben Cohen. Ben Cohen, a former anti-zionist activist, now appears to be the main man at the Z-word blog, which is sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. He starts his article thus:
Noel Ignatiev is one the last people you would expect to be authoring an entry on Zionism for an encyclopedia published under a well-known, trusted imprint. But open Volume 3 of the “Encyclopedia of Race and Racism,” which carries the names of both Macmillan Reference USA (now owned by the Michigan-based Gale, Cengage Learning company) and the Macmillan Social Science Library, and you will see that he has done just that.
The Race Traitor site has a motto, "treason to the white race is loyalty to humanity". That alone must spawn many a sigh of relief in self-hater circles and his identification of and campaigning against racism, including his writing on zionism make him a fair candidate to write a section on zionism in an encyclopaedia of race and racism.

The attack on Noel Ignatiev is just one prong of a two pronged attack on the publishers but let's just deal with the attack on Ignatiev for now. Cohen continues:
Some of you will be wondering who Ignatiev is. I first came across Ignatiev’s name a few years ago, when the antisemitic writer who uses the name “Israel Shamir” referred to him as “our good friend.” Lest I be accused of damning by association, I should point out that Shamir and Ignatiev appear to have their disagreements, although these will be barely intelligible to those not familiar with the obscurantist doctrines they represent.
Follow the link that Cohen so helpfully provided and you will see he is indeed "damning by association". See this from the Shamir site reproducing one of Ignatiev's responses to Shamir:
My second difference with you is over the historic importance of the Jews… Even if no such people as the Jews had ever existed,… the world would be pretty much as it is…. Nineteenth-century capitalist society brought with it poverty, disease, and ignorance for the wage slaves of Europe and America, not to mention the Irish famine, the poisoning of the Chinese people with opium, [and] the reduction of the population of the Congo by ten million over fifteen years and no one has ever suggested that nineteenth-century capital was dominated by Jews or that it had a neo-Judaic character. In Capital and the Grundrisse Marx analyzed and forecast with amazing accuracy the development of society from his day to ours , and while he was certainly not soft on the Jews he had no need for them as an element in his study. Even if every Jew were a capitalist and every capitalist a Jew, I would still be anti-capitalist, not anti-Jew, because capital is the force driving the planet to destruction, and “the Jew” is at most its personification.

I recall someone reproaching you for being soft on David Duke. You replied that in all likelihood the one reproaching you would have been willing to overlook Duke’s white supremacism had Duke not also been against the Jews. If so, it were a grievous fault. It is also wrong to overlook Duke’s white supremacism because he is against the Jews. Duke, the National Alliance, and other advocates of White Power are no friends of ours, notwithstanding their anti-zionism….

For Shamir antisemitism is at the heart of his worldview and Jews are responsible for all that is wrong with the world. Look at the piece from Ignatiev. He rejects, in toto, the worldview of Shamir. Nothing obscurantist there.

The other prong of the attack is the inclusion of Zionism in the encyclopaedia at all and here an error of Ignatiev's could have helped them but truth is so far from the zionists' considerations they missed their opportunity. Here's Ignatiev on zionism:
Because it defines Jew not by religious observance, language, place of birth, or culture, but by descent, Zionism is an ideology of race.
But there are many ideologies of race which are not repugnant like zionism is. Zionism can actually include just about anybody from a Russian neo-nazi with a Jewish granny or granddad to a Peruvian native fast-tracked into chosenness by a huckster rabbi. It's who zionism excludes that makes it racist, not who it includes. It excludes the natives of Palestine, it displaces them, it occupies them or it oppresses them as second class citizens.

The fact that Jews have been identified by nazis and, in the old days, zionists, as a race was presumably a consideration underlying some examples of zionist collaboration with the nazis and it may well make a section on Jews a legitimate entry to an encyclopaedia on race and racism but to define zionism as an "ideology of race" doesn't do it a derogatory term. Au contraire, it nearly gets it off the hook. It favours settlers over natives and it's that that makes it racist and it's that that situates zionism well in the racism section of an encyclopaedia of race and racism.

I don't want to damn the guy over the difference between race and racism but the zionists are trying to make out that zionism is just another nationalism when it isn't even nationalism. By identifying zionism as an "ideology of race" Ignatiev comes close to equating zionism with certain resistance ideologies that are equally "ideologies of race" but clearly not racist ideologies.

Now the inclusion of the section on zionism is a must for an encyclopaedia on race and racism and that such a section made it through to publication is news in itself and cause for celebration. But what brought it to my attention was the campaign against it. The campaign was initiated by the American Jewish Committee and the Zionist Organisation of America. Well, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, they have succeeded in wringing an apology from the publishers. But for the Zionist Organisation of America, that isn't enough:
"We appreciate Gale/Macmillan’s apology to those who, like us, are appalled by the falsehoods in the existing chapter equating Zionism with racism and its undertones of anti-Semitic bigotry that help to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist," the ZOA wrote. "But there is only one way for Gale/Macmillan to rectify the wrong, and that is to withdraw the chapter from the online and print editions of the encyclopedia."
So, not content to smear the author of the section, the zionists want the only trace of this fairly good primer on zionism to be expunged to the extent that all that will remain of it are zionist smears against its author.

Watch this space.......

November 14, 2008

Flat is the New Beautiful

Thomas Friedman, the great advocate of outsourcing, harder work, lower wages, war, bombing civilians, and in general tightening the screws on everyone
who failed to chose their parents as carefully as Tom and his wife did, is cranky.

His problem: the flatness of the world reached the value of his wealth, which apparently declined by an astonishing 99% (which still leaves him a millionaire.)

Easy come, easy go. It's not like he had to work to get his fortune (unless....oh forget it! I won't go there.)

But Tom is not going to be seen near a soup kitchen anytime soon, nor is any Iraqi V from Vendetta type likely to repay him for his tireless advocacy for mass murder. As vanity Fair mentions, he is still paid $50,000 dollars a pop to explain to other people why they should have less. And given that they flock to hear him, they probably deserve having less.

Hey Tom, people are tested in hard times. Be en entrepreneur, Tom! Innovate! Hire some folk in India to write your column for you, and pocket the wage difference. There are people in Nigeria who are can speak publicly better than you for a hundredth of those $50,000. Once you understand that, you get why the next logical step for you is to become Thomas Friedman International. Be your own brand! Imagine an army of well trained public speakers and op-ed writers all writing and speaking as "Thomas Friedman" and you get paid for everything.

It's a win-win plan. You will get rich again and the public will get more insightful op-eds and lectures.

November 13, 2008

Israel blocks tunnels and media

Well just fancy that! Israel has invaded Gaza, killed a few Hamas people, closed a tunnel, cut off food deliveries and restricted fuel supplies. Now it's being reported that Hamas has broken the truce and it's because of this that Israel has cut off the food supplies.

According to Amira Hass in Ha'aretz, the tunnels are a lifeline for Gazans:
People here do not depend on miracles. The Tel el Hawa grocery store ran out of candles shortly after people realized their refrigerator had stopped running. Even the big supermarket in the exclusive Rimal neighborhood had no candles by the end of the morning. In the afternoon, a package of Egyptian candles came through the tunnels. A shekel a candle, but an hour and a half later, by sunset, the price had quadrupled.
So first up Israel moved to close a tunnel that Gazans may well have depended on for food and fuel. They killed a few Hamas people in the process. Palestinians have responded with home-made rocket fire. And it's Palestinians that are "in violation of a four-month-old truce."

How do they pull these strokes in media of record?

By the way, Israel has now barred journalists from entering Gaza.

November 10, 2008

The Price of telling it to Shimon Peres like it is

On 01.11.2008, chairman of the Arab Student Commitee at the Hebrew Universirty in Jerusalem, Ali Baher, was detained for three hours, summoned to a disciplinary hearing pending suspension, and evicted from his dorm room, all because he refused to shake hands with President of Israel, Shimon Peres.

According to Haaretz, Ali was studying in the university library, when the President walked in and began shaking hands with students. Ali refused to shake hands with Peres, saying that he was a child murderer and reminding him of the Qana massacre, which was carried out under Peres’s premeirship.

When the president left the library [1], Ali was assaulted by security guards, who questioned him for three hours before serving him with a demand to appear before the discplinary committee of the university, on suspicion of "inappropriate conduct". This charge can potentially lead to Ali’s suspension from the university. The guards also confiscated Ali’s student card, which restricts his access to essential university services, such as, indeed, the library.

Later on this week, Ali came home to the dorms to find his room broken into, with political sticker torn off and the door handle vandalized. He submitted a complaint to the security staff, and was visited in the morning by the manager of the dorms, Mr Yitzhak Hofy, and his staff. They made no mention of the break-in, and instead proceeded to inform Ali that his halls contract was ended, on the feeble ground that a shisha pipe was found in his room and his walls had posters on it - admittedly an infringement of dorms regulations but a fairly light and common one.

[1] note that there was not even the pretense of a security concern. The university police waited until Peres left and THEN assaulted Ali.

The above is quoted from a support blog for Ali Baher. There is an article in Haaretz, a petition and guidelines for help. Please visit and act.

Let's take a moment to remember the talking points of the opposition to the academic boycott: Israel is a democracy. One cannot compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa because Palestinians in Israel enjoy civil rights including the right to free speech. Most importanty, Israeli Universities are bastions of peace-minded progressive liberalism. Yes, that must be it.

Boycott the Hebrew University in Apartheid Jerusalem!!

Good news:
From the support blog:

On 11.11.2008, following an internet campaign and protests by students, faculty members, and academics and citizens the world over, the University returned Ali his student card, reinstated him at the dorms and canceled all disciplinary measures and summons.

November 08, 2008

Rapping with Paxo

Did you watch that? Jeremy Paxman interviewing rapper, Dizzee Rascal. The guy came across as a complete moron but Dizzee Rascal was on good form. Finally Paxman got out of his depth. Well done Dizzee Rascal!! Check out the criticism of the Beeb at the Guardian and no doubt elsewhere.

November 06, 2008

Way beyond satire and another reason to boycott Israel

This should have been big news and perhaps in some quarters it is but look at this report on The Medical Committee for Boycott of the Israeli Medical Association website.
5 November 2008 Derek Summerfield writes to say the long standing President of the IMA, Yoram Blachar, becomes President of the World Med Assoc. It had escaped The Medical Committee for Boycott of the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) that he had been President-elect of the WMA.

For those familiar with the role Blachar has played over many years, for him to become President of the official international watchdog on medical ethics is an event beyond satire, as when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Next thing Donald Rumsfeld is going to pop up as the head of Amnesty International...

Just for openers, the1975 Declaration of Tokyo, which forbids doctors to participate or collude with torture, is a WMA document. Yet Blachar is on record in no less than the Lancet as supporting the use of “moderate physical pressure” (the Israeli euphemism for torture, and condemned as torture by the UN Committee on Torture). This is not something you see everyday in an international medical journal from the head of a national medical association (Blachar Y. The truth about Israeli medical ethics. Lancet 1997;350:1247) . He has played a consistent and trusty role over many years in batting away approaches from both Israeli organisations (PHR-I, Public Committee Against Torture) and international ones (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, various UN agencies, aid agencies like Medecins Sans Frontieres etc) regarding the extent of documentation in the public realm about the everyday collusion by Israeli doctors with torture as state policy.

He has refused to condemn the systematic violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention being applied in the siege of Gaza- those sections that guarantee a civilian population unimpeded access to materials and services vital to life, including health services, and which guarantee immunity to health professionals as they work. A morally abhorrent track record of quite unusual clarity.

The WMA is there to address the violations of medical ethics to which I and others have been pointing for years, but it has of course long since been sewn up. That was what Blachar was there for, I am afraid. As I have written before, when the official and ‘normal’ channels do not function or will not function, we can either give up or move on to other approaches. This is where our calls for a boycott of the IMA, and indeed the whole academic boycott campaign, come in.
The campaign for a boycott of the IMA is a part of the academic boycott campaign.

November 05, 2008

Ave Divus Obama, Morituri Te Salutant

The Empire has a new Emperor. It's a handsomer face than we got used to in recent times, the son of a punter from a faraway province, deep in the lands of the barbarians. And a smarter Emperor as well. It's been a while since we had an Emperor who can read and understand the title above. You know things are going badly for the empire when they feel the need to have an intelligent barbarian with an apoplectic middle name run it. In sunnier times, the courtiers prefer a dull non-entity from a good family on the throne. Let the boy emperor play with his toy soldiers and not interfere with the banquets. But the wine and the song, like the seasons, all have gone. It is time for a new sobriety, a new reality based governance, and with it a new, sober, emperor. Where the id was, there the ego be. Where malapropism was, oration be. In -- sobriety, responsibilty, reality, work, earnest, somber tones, saving accounts, Toyota Prius, ants. Out -- carefree, fantasy, party, flashy colors, mischief, apres moi le deluge, Porsche 911, NASDAQ, crickets.

The new Emperor, may the augurs smile on his imperium, is not an oilman. If nothing else, this alone will reduce the heating and transport bills for millions or families across the world. But he is a fighter. And he pledges to defend Pax Americana with all his "yes we can" determination. So let all the malcontents, all those who see opportunity in the Empire's misfortunes, take heed. The Empire is down but not out. Gone may be the days when a million died so that Halliburton and Exxon Mobile could make a tidy profit. The new Emperor is likely to kill as many people as the old one did. But he will spill blood to preserve the empire, not to run it down for the cronies. And the nobility of the cause will make all the difference for the conscience of many a courtier put off by the war in Iraq. When we say sobriety will replace drunkedness, let nobody think that we mean gving away what belongs to the Empire (and what, after all, doesn't belong to the Empire?)

Americans are ready for the new sobriety. Credit card debt is plummeting and with it the appetite for conspicuous consumption. "Sex and the City" is on its way to becoming a period film, representing the shopoholism of this fin-du-siecle the way the Titanic symbolized the excesses of the previous one. Obama is in tune with change. The emperor's triumph speech echoes John F. Kennedy's famous call for public mindedness and sacrifice. But there is a class inflection to this call that remains carefully unsaid. The sacrifice that is required now of Americans is the sacrifice of the cleaning workers who come after the party ends, to scrub vomit off the floor and trash the used condoms. There are mountains of debts to be paid. The party has been binging on stolen and borrowed booze. Obama is set to provide the foundation for the ideology of this clean-up, that is, the infusion of general deprivation and belt-tightening with a collective moral purpose, a spirit of self-flagellation designed to deflect attention from the real distribution of pain. Those who partied hardest are planning to sacrifice the least. One need only look at the finance wizards advising the Emperor to see the direction that is most likely being plotted. There is Larry Summers, who brought gangster capitalism to Russia, plunging the country into a real Great Depression, and in the process causing more excess deaths than Bush did in Iraq. And there is Paul Volcker, who twenty seven years ago administered a milder version of the Shock Therapy to both U.S. workers and to the global South, destroying their bargaining power and leading to the generation long wages stagnation on which Wall-Street feasted for two great decades. Volcker is particularly worshiped by the Right as the embodiment of capitalist moralism, namely, the delusional belief that markets create a moral order based on 'market discipline,' that rewards work and sacrifice and punishes free-riding. The presence of these names on the new Emperor's team gives a very disturbing undertone to what Obama means when he speaks about sacrifice.

Ave Divus Obama, Morituri Te Salutant

November 01, 2008

So what is zionism then?

I just found myself looking at Normblog, the blog of an academic called Norman Geras. He seems to get quoted or linked to approvingly on the Engage website quite a lot and he was one of a trio of Israel/zionism defenders (Harry's Place, Engage) that attacked, or at least tried to, Martin Shaw over his opposition to a boycott of Israel but for the wrong reasons. For my money Shaw skewered them all.

The post I first looked at is titled Another thought about zionists in which Norm refers to a Guardian columnist, Michele Hanson, who tells us that
She attended the launch of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network: "Which shows that not all Jews are Zionists. And about time too."
Norm's not happy with this, look:
Now, this is plainly not the usage of 'Zionists' I was referring to the other day in which it is a prejudicial code word for 'Jews'. The context makes that clear. But note two things about it. First, anyone who knows anything about this subject will know that it is nothing new for there to be Jews who aren't Zionists; it is a very old distinction within the Jewish diaspora. Hanson suggests it might be news. Second, and worse, the remark suggests that a Zionist is a bad thing for a Jew to be. But why so? A Zionist is someone who supports the existence of an autonomous Jewish homeland in Israel - so a Jewish nationalist if you like. We do not know why Hanson thinks that it's bad for Jews to be nationalists; it's just an offhand remark of hers without explanation or elaboration. Yet it indicates how, far beyond the ranks of the out-and-out Jew-haters, comfortably esconced now within any average assembly of well-meaning liberals, there are expectations on Jews that aren't placed upon others - who may, for their part, legitimately be nationalists and attached to the self-determination of their peoples.
Alas, Norm gives no examples of other nationalisms nor of how they define their peoples but to define a zionist as a person "who supports the existence of an autonomous Jewish homeland in Israel" is in a way brave and in a way cheeky. He could have been really tiresome and got into things like cultural zionism, linguistic zionism, even zionism "with seasickness". But "bravely" (for want of a better word) he opts for so-called "modern political zionism". Cheekily he places the desired homeland "in Israel" which in a stroke erases the history, indeed the fact, of the place known to so many and for so long, as Palestine.

But of course if a zionist is a person "who supports the existence of an autonomous Jewish homeland in Israel" then that person must also be someone who supports whatever it takes to transform a predominantly Arab territory into an "autonomous Jewish homeland". So should we not say that a zionist is a person who supports colonial settlement, ethnic cleansing and racist laws? Can we say this in a way that is non-pejorative?

Now, what about these "others - who may, for their part, legitimately be nationalists and attached to the self-determination of their peoples." Who are they? How do they compare to zionists? Which people can "legitimately be nationalists" whose nationalism involves the dispossession of another people? Norm doesn't say. I wish he had because Israel apologists are fond of invoking what looks like comparison without actually doing any real comparing. If they did they would see that the kinds of nationalism most readily comparable to zionism are the Afrikaaner kind, the Rhodesian kind, even the nazi/fascist kind. Legitimate nationalisms are those that seek independence, self-determination, autonomy for all of the people of a given territory. There are no legitimate nationalisms that call on the members of communities from around the world to converge on one territory, eradicate as many natives as is necessary to transform the settler minority into the armed ethnic, religious or, since it's making a comeback, racial majority.

Coincidentally, earlier I referred to people who I would usually call zionists as "Israel/zionism defenders". I did that because two of the people, I had in mind, David Hirsh and David "everyone knows me" Toube, call themselves, rather implausibly, a non-zionist and an anti-zionist respectively. The coincidence is in the fact that in the Normblog post I have been discussing here, Norm refers to a previous post of his where he suggests that since some people use the word "zionist" to mean "Jew" they should use another expression to make clear the fact that they do not necessarily mean Jew.
it might be said that many Jewish supporters of Israel are happy to call themselves Zionists, so demonstrating that the word is not necessarily tied to any anti-Semitic connotation or intent. No, it isn't. But context makes a difference. Those identifying themselves as Zionists obviously don't use the word pejoratively. Others do, some of them in an odious way. And it is not as if there aren't alternatives. A critic of Israel could refer to his or her opponents as 'supporters of Israel' or even, if it comes to that, 'apologists for Israel'.
As it happens this may well be helpful when it comes to avoiding the pedantic time-wasting tactics of the self styled "non-zionist" and "anti-zionists" who devote so much energy to attacking Israel's critics but I don't see how it will make Israel's apologists any more likely to admit that support for the State of Israel as a state for Jews is in no way comparable to those who can "legitimately be nationalists".

Now you can only really "legitimately be nationalist" if your brand of nationalism includes sovereignty for all of the people of the "national" territory. Like say Irish republicanism where the movement was for the independence of the island of Ireland from the United Kingdom. The republican movement pledged to establish a state for "Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter" or put another way, a state that "cherishes all of its children equally". Zionism is the official ideology of a state which cherishes only the children of Israel. That is not a legitimate nationalism.

All of which brings us to the extraordinary outpourings on zionist websites against the inclusion of zionism in
Volume 3 of the “Encyclopedia of Race and Racism,” which carries the names of both Macmillan Reference USA (now owned by the Michigan-based Gale, Cengage Learning company) and the Macmillan Social Science Library
The charge has been led by the so-called American Jewish Committee and the blog that it sponsors called Z-Word. The article is by a chap called Ben Cohen who was once upon a time a declared anti-zionist who signed the Return statement calling for the abolition of Israel's Law of Return and for the right of Palestinians to return to their homes to what is now called Israel. Mr Cohen is particularly put out by the fact that a Noel Ignatiev penned the entry. But that's all for another post, especially as the book costs at least $399 new or used and this post is too long already.