July 31, 2010

Watch the money-go-round

Here's a little chunk of a Robert Fisk article from today's Independent:
an extraordinary – almost obscenely beautiful – financial arrangement in "Palestine". The EU funds millions of pounds' worth of projects in Gaza. These are regularly destroyed by Israel's American-made weaponry. So it goes like this. European taxpayers fork out for the projects. US taxpayers fork out for the weapons which Israel uses to destroy them. Then EU taxpayers fork out for the whole lot to be rebuilt. And then US taxpayers... Well, you've got the point.
That's just by the by. The article is titled Israel has crept into the EU without anyone noticing.

July 29, 2010

MKs in the UK

Zionists are often fond of pointing out that there are Arab members of the Israeli parliament and that this somehow proves that Israel is not a racist state, indeed that it is a normal functioning democracy. Well these two "Israeli"-Arab visitors to the UK parliament have other ideas. See this from the UK's Jewish Chronicle:
Israeli Arab Knesset members have launched a blistering attack on the Jewish state and its Parliament, declaring Israel "racist, fascist and worse than apartheid South Africa".

Speaking to supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at the House of Commons on Wednesday, MK Haneen Zoubi said: "Israel is much worse than the apartheid regime in South Africa. There were no ethnic cleansing policies there, but there are those policies in Israel."

Demand for entrance to the event was so great that supporters filled two committee rooms.

One campaigner said the current Palestinian mood lent itself to a third intifada, an "intifada for democracy".

In May Ms Zoubi, 41, was on the lead boat in the Gaza flotilla and addressed the Knesset by phone while on board. She was interrupted with shouts of "Go to Gaza, traitor" by Jewish MKs.

Speaking at the PSC event she said: "Everyone in Europe who supports Israel, financially and politically, must know they also support its racism, oppression, occupation and siege.

"The racism and discrimination against Palestinians in Israel is systematic. It's not a policy, it's an ideology. No-one can support the siege and call themselves a human being."

Ms Zoubi attacked Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's proposal to require all new Israeli citizens to swear an oath of allegiance recognising the country as a Jewish state.

She said she would campaign for democracy for "Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews" alike.

Jamal Zahalka, an MK since 2003, said the Knesset had passed "racist laws" that discriminated against Israeli Arabs.

"There is democracy, and then there is Israeli democracy," he said. "I say, give me my land and keep your 'democracy'. We should focus on the end of the occupation, the end of the siege and the end of the settlements. A two-state solution is losing time and becoming impractical."

Gratifying to know that it was such a well attended meeting.

Blix can't cover his tracks

Sami Ramadani in The Guardian's Comment is free on Hans Blix's "evidence" to the Chilcott "inquiry":
Yesterday it was Hans Blix's turn to appear before the laid back and suitably emotionless inquisitors. The former chief UN weapons inspector revealed nothing we didn't know. He told Chilcot there was no justification for war, because his inspectors found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction; and he told them that he had needed a few more months to finish his task.

As an Iraqi living in Britain, and fearful for my compatriots back home, I remember waiting with bated breath for Blix to utter those undiluted words when he appeared before the UN security council in 2003, 11 days before the war of aggression was launched. Back then, he minced his words, providing enough ambiguity for Tony Blair and Jack Straw to push on with their plans to drag Britain into the US-led war.

Like a lot of politicians with guilty consciences, Blix has thrown his weight behind justice and morality only after the fact.
But of course, Blix won't be paying the price that Iraq and its people are now paying, details of which are in the main body of the article.

July 28, 2010

Friend of Israel befriends Turkey and Gaza

David Cameron is (or was) in Turkey yesterday and he must have pleased his Turkish hosts with all he had to say. For example, The Independent reports that he made a "ferocious attack on Israel":
In comments that will play well in Turkey, Mr Cameron frankly addressed the situation in Gaza. Speaking to business leaders in Ankara, Mr Cameron condemned Israel's land and sea blockade of Gaza, aimed at weakening the Islamist group Hamas, which seized control of the strip in 2007.

"Let me be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change," said Mr Cameron, reiterating comments that he made earlier to the House of Commons. "Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp."

Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, applauded Mr Cameron's words, and repeated his condemnation of the flotilla assault in international waters, comparing it to Somali piracy.

Israel's relations with Turkey, already strained after the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict, further deteriorated when Israeli commandos boarded the lead ship of a flotilla aimed at breaching the Gaza blockade. Israeli troops killed nine activists, mostly Turks, prompting an international outcry.

Mr Cameron yesterday reiterated earlier comments that the attack was "unacceptable" and called for a "swift, transparent and rigorous" investigation of the raid.
Interesting stuff. Remember that documentary some months ago where Peter Oborne bemoaned the power of the lobby, you know which lobby, over the Tory party? Former Jewish Chronicle journo now with the Daily Telegraph, Julian Kossoff remembers it:
Last year a Channel 4 documentary sought to prove that the “wealthy Jewish lobby” (yawn) were Conservative Party paymasters. If that was the case they should now ask for a refund. David Cameron has blindsided the Conservative friends of Israel and the Israeli government by calling Gaza a “prison camp” and saying the Gaza flotilla raid was “completely unacceptable”. Hopes that he would be an uncritical friend have now rapidly dissolved.

The Prime Minister has revealed that his policy towards Israel will be carrot-and-stick. Last week there was jubilation over the lifting of thethreat of war crimes prosecutions of Israeli politicians and military leaders. Now this very public dressing down will leave Jerusalem fuming; the Israelis may even detect the hand of President Obama.

But the fact is not even Israel’s greatest allies can stomach the more brutal aspects of Israel’s conflict with Hamas. Israel’s leaders may not be able to distinguish between terrorists and innocent civilians but the rest of the world thinks it can – and it won’t countenance the continued, pointless suffering, any longer.

That doesn’t mean the likes of Cameron and Obama are “anti-Israel” (or even more ridiculous, anti-Semitic) or that they want to jeopardise its security. Both men’s commitment to the future of the Jewish state is unquestionable, they just want Israel to show a little more compassion. And so do I.

The question here is just how imperative is Israel's lack of compassion to the zionist project? Violence has always served Israel very well. But Cameron's speech and Kossoff's article in the most pro-Israel of the broadsheets on-line both go to show how far Israel's star has fallen in the eyes of its western supporters in recent years. Long may it continue, but not too long I hope.

July 27, 2010

Flotillas to Gaza. The Opportunity Costs

Around the time of the last flotilla – the massacred one – Richard Irvine had an interesting article in the Guardian. Richard (personal interest disclosure: he’s also from Ireland) was pointing out the similarities between the Mavi Marmara and The Exodus. The latter was the ship taking Jewish refugees to Palestine in 1947; it provoked international outrage when British forces boarded it, killing several passengers and preventing it from reaching Palestine.

While the comparison was clever and the article interesting, what struck me forcefully were the differences between the two ships. At its most basic, there were Jews on The Exodus. With a few exceptions, there were no Palestinians on the Mavi Marmara or any other ship on the flotilla. The Exodus served as an example of Jews doing things for themselves – liberating themselves from the Displaced Person’s camps in Europe – this is what gave the story its power. The Mavi Marmara and Freedom Flotilla is an example of other people doing things for Palestinians. As a story, it pushes Palestinians to the margins.

This is not meant to be a criticism of the flotilla tactic, but rather a reflection on its opportunity costs. All tactics come with these opportunity costs, these paths closed off, resources spent that could have be used elsewhere. Nothing - no political action anyway - is perfect. But that’s not to stop us trying to make them more perfect.

But before looking at these costs and weaknesses, we need to recognise that the flotillas have probably been the most successful tactic used to promote Palestine solidarity. As a way of demonstrating and creating international solidarity with Palestine it is unparalleled. As a means of reaching out to the public in our home countries and giving them a way of getting involved, it has surpassed anything else we’ve done. For instance in Ireland, thousands donated their fivers and tenners for bags of cement to Gaza and once this was done, these people were invested in the convoy; they were part of Palestine solidarity in an immediate and (sorry for the pun) concrete way. Connected in a way they hadn’t been before. And while comparisons with Sharpeville (or more extremely with 9/11) may be overstated, the flotillas have made the world aware as never before, of the brutality and random cruelty of the Israeli regime. Israel, unlike South Africa, has been able to get away with killing schoolchildren. But killing (non-Palestinian) aid activists was a step too far, too much for the rest of the world to stomach.

Yet things have been lost. One of the prime things cast overboard in the stories about the flotilla has been the agency of Palestinians. The stories are all about the activists and the aid. This, after all, is what made them easier to sell to the media. At the most cynical, there was the shock factor that Israel has descended to killing and brutalising white(ish) people, not just Arabs, Palestinians. But one does not need to be cynical – in Ireland the last flotilla was about ‘area man’, people from Cork, Donegal, somewhere nearby. It’s easy to get our media to write up stories about our generosity and our actions, be it a group of nurses raising money for medicines or retired bus-drivers on a sponsored run for the flotilla. This is all good. It makes solidarity much more immediate, more real for people than stories about foreigners in a far away land once again doing unspeakable things to each other.

But where are the Palestinians in these stories? They are indistinct, the object of aid, the victims of oppression. They are not seen as agents capable of liberating themselves, but passively awaiting our aid, our bravery. Not actors in this drama but once again assigned the role of spectators to their own history. Activists may be empowered by the flotilla story, but does this correspondingly disempower Palestinians? Perhaps not; the stories Irish or British people tell themselves so as to get involved in solidarity activism aren’t necessarily listened to by Palestinians. They have their own narrativws of action.

And yet… the mantle of despair and victimhood placed over Palestinians must have some effect. This is something solidarity activists are aware of. Speaking from experience, the Irish flotilla people were trying to assign agency to Palestinians, stressing the point of view of Gazans, how Palestinians are trying to break the siege, how they want the borders to be opened so the can be self-reliant, not recipients of aid. But actions speak louder than words and the flotilla tactic remains an action in which Palestinians are largely absent.

We can ask then whether this tactic builds Palestinian capacity to resist, or control of their own struggle. Long-term the hope is that it will - it will help end the siege, enabling Palestinians to have more control over their own futures. But asking the question more specifically: does the process of building the flotilla build Palestinian capacity inside the Occupied Territories? Also does it build specifically Palestinian diaspora activism and capacity the same way it builds other international solidarity activism? Should we be worried if it doesn’t? Considering that it is Palestinian struggle that will win freedom for Palestine, with international solidarity activism simply playing an ancillary role – I’d say yes, definitely.

Relating the flotilla tactic to domestic solidarity activism offers a useful pointer. There is a second opportunity cost to flotillas – the costs to international solidarity organisations to raise millions, only to have the millions captured by Israel. This is simply part of the cost of organising around sending people to Gaza, rather than around domestic activism. Groups like the ISM and EAPPI have been dealing with this quandary for years now. They recognise that Palestinians are pretty clear about what they want – it’s not so much for international activists to act as heroes in Israel/Palestine as for them to get involved in home country work when they return. These two groups stress this point, and in Ireland at any rate, so does the Free Gaza Movement, creating a good balance between flotilla work and domestic activism.

I can only speak for the Irish experience, but speaking for it, the flotilla organisers and participants have done a brilliant job in promoting and getting involved in Palestine solidarity work in this country. They have met ministers and local politicians, done press conferences and interviews, and have spoken up and down the country encouraging people to get active in solidarity work and to boycott, boycott, boycott Israel. This is aside from their work in trying to get another flotilla up and running. They have kept to an exhausting schedule upon returning, when it would have been much easier to lie back and recover from the trauma and craziness of the flotilla. They deserve the highest of praise for this. So, while there are undoubtedly some who would fetishise the flotilla, the majority of organisers and participants here most certainly do not, and conscientiously and deliberately promote domestic activism.

And so rephrasing the rather rhetorical questions I made above, can the same balance be made with respect to conscientiously and deliberately promoting Palestinian activities in the Occupied Territories and diaspora? It’s a difficult one to answer, but should be addressed. How about – even symbolically, getting the ships to take back something from Palestinians in Gaza – symbols of future exports from Gaza? Or ensure that there are Gazans on the organising committee, in constant contact with Western journalists. Or alternatively, using the flotilla to push and expand Palestinian diaspora political activism. After all, if we’re making comparisons with the Exodus, how about a boat with Palestinian exiles sailing to Gaza (They’d need to be citizens of other countries, so Israel’s brutality will hopefully be restrained).

To end: Of course there are some shortcomings in the flotilla tactic. But they’re not insurmountable. It should be possible to think of imaginative ways to overcome any weaknesses in what has already proved to be an imaginative, motivating and above all, effective tactic.

Obama allows PLO to fly the flag

I had no idea that Palestinian representatives, even not very representative ones, had no right to fly their flag in washington. See this from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
The Obama administration will allow the PLO office in Washington to fly the Palestinian flag and assume the title of "delegation."

The change in status comes with no enhancement in diplomatic status, U.S. officials said.

The new privileges for the Palestine Liberation Organization office do not mean the representation has "any diplomatic privileges or immunities," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said last Friday.

"At the request of the PLO representative, which we have granted given the improvement in the relations between the United States and Palestinians, they have requested permission to fly the Palestinian flag," he said. "And they have requested permission to call themselves the General Delegation of the PLO, which is a name that conforms to how they describe their missions in Europe, Canada, and several Latin American countries."
But Israel lobbyists shouldn't worry:
Crowley said the steps have symbolic value and reflect improved relations between the United States and Palestinians, but they have no meaning under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
It's only a flag after all.

So no diplomatic status for the PLO but still not all of Israel's representatives are happy:
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the ranking member on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, tied her efforts to eject the PLO from Washington to congressional efforts to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, another law that presidents have routinely waived since its passage in 1995.

"Instead of giving more undeserved gifts to the PLO, it’s time for us to kick the PLO out of the U.S. once and for all and move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, where it belongs," she said in a statement.
No Palestine flag, no Palestine representation, no Palestine at all. The whole shebang is Israel according to Rep.Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla).

July 25, 2010

Israel moving in the right direction

A friend sent me this artist's impression of what Israel might look like in ten years time:
State-wide censorship of sexually explicit material on the internet. Laws prohibiting driving vehicles on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Women allowed to bathe in the Mediterranean only a few hours a week. The face of Baruch Goldstein on the 20 shekel bill. A national holiday celebrating our spiritual founding father, Rabbi Meir Kahane.
The artist is Yosi Even Kama and the report is in Ha'aretz.

PS - "Rabbi" Meir Kahane is the chap who advocated laws like this one.

July 24, 2010

Tomlinson Family Fighting Fund

Ian Tomlinson's family have now established a fighting fund in the wake of the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute anyone over the death of Ian Tomlinson. Now read on...

I found this on the New Left Project site first but it is a site in its own right:

New G20 footage shows Ian Tomlinson being hit by a policeman
Uploaded by ITN. - Up-to-the minute news videos.

About the Ian Tomlinson Family Campaign

This website and the Ian Tomlinson Family Campaign has been set up by Ian's family. We are grateful for the huge amount of public support received since Ian’s tragic death on April 1st 2009 at the G20 protests in London. It has been very hard for our family particularly following the release of images of the police assault on Ian emerged. Ian is deeply missed by us and we simply want justice for him.

We may have a long and difficult journey ahead to achieve justice and we will rely on your continued support.

Our family has set up this campaign for the following reasons:

• To demand a full investigation into Ian’s death that scrutinises the individual conduct and operational command tactics of police officers present at the G20 protest and those in command of them when Ian was assaulted and died

• To call for full criminal charges to be brought against any officer whose actions or failure of duty resulted in Ian’s death

• To campaign for change to any police policies, tactics or frequent abuses of power which may effectively endanger people’s lives rather than protect them, so that future deaths and injuries to the public can be prevented

• To raise awareness of any issues we may experience as a family seeking justice through statutory and judicial systems that are a cause for public concern

These are some things you may wish to do for now to support our campaign:

• Keep updated by checking this official family website for press releases, news articles and updates

• Join the official campaign mailing list by e-mail atiantomlinsonfamilycampaign@gmail.com and send any messages of support or ideas to this address.

• Stay in contact – send us updates of any events you have organised including pictures, letters received back, press articles etc.

• Write to your MP

• Direct any witness information to our lawyers so it may be used in evidence

With thanks,

Family of Ian Tomlinson

This post has previously appeared as Tomlinson Family Fight Funding. Woops! Many thanks to all those who didn't notice.

July 22, 2010

Eighteen months for consensual sex in Israel

A Palestinian man has been sentenced to 18 months prison in Israel for having sex with a woman who subsequently claimed he passed himself off as a Jew. I know this news is a couple of days old now but it had all the makings of an urban myth when I first started hearing about it and you know how there are people who will say anything to hurt plucky little Israel. Here's Ha'aretz:
Sabbar Kashur, 30, was convicted as part of a plea bargain. According to the indictment, Kashur met the complainant in September 2008 in downtown Jerusalem, presenting himself as a Jewish bachelor looking for a serious romantic relationship.

The couple then went to a nearby building and had sex, after which Kashur left the building without waiting for the woman to get dressed.

When the woman found Kashur was not a Jew but an Arab, she filed a complaint that resulted in charges of rape and indecent assault.

In the verdict, deputy president of the Jerusalem district court Tzvi Segal, along with fellow judges Moshe Drori and Yoram Noam, wrote that although this wasn't "a classical rape by force," and the sex was consensual, the consent itself was obtained through deception and under false pretenses.

"If she hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated," the judges wrote.

Segal further wrote that this was not a case to be resolved by having the convicted defendant undertake community service, as was suggested by the defense team in the plea bargain.
The Guardian also has a report and quotes Ha'aretz's Gideon Levy:
"I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman?

"Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not."
It goes on to link the case to Israel's proposed oath of allegiance to the "Jewish and democratic oxymoron, I mean state".

July 21, 2010

Justice in the land of the free

Prosecutors working for the Bush Administration accused the HLF of supporting Hamas by trying to "win hearts and minds" of the Palestinian population through humanitarian assistance, and that the charities HLF worked with were "front groups" for the political party. But after several years of wiretapping phone lines, seizing documents and following money trails, the prosecution couldn't support its allegations of an HLF-Hamas connection. Elashi said they then resorted to calling on an anonymous Israeli intelligence officer, who called himself "Avi," as a key witness who told the jury he was an expert who could "smell Hamas."

"It was the only time in the history of the United States that a witness inside a courtroom was allowed to remain anonymous, so the defense couldn't cross-examine him," Elashi said. "That in and of itself is huge grounds for appeal."

In fact, Israeli intelligence officers, in an unprecendented move, were allowed to testify in secret using pseudonyms and disguises and without the defense being given a full opportunity to cross-examine them during the 2006 federal trial in Chicago of American citizen Muhammad Salah and stateless Palestinian Abdelhaleem Ashqar. Accused of "racketeering" charges related to fundraising for Hamas, both men were acquitted of all the terrorism-related charges, but each was found guilty on single counts of obstruction of justice; Salah for lying on a form in a civil case and Ashqar for refusing to testify before a grand jury.


Meanwhile, private, US-based, pro-Israel groups are currently sending millions of dollars every year to support illegal settlement colonies and right-wing Zionist settlers in the occupied West Bank. The New York Times reported on 5 July that at least 40 US-based organizations are actively donating more than $200 million in tax-deductible "gifts" to build and sustain illegal settlements. According to the Times, some of the donations also pay for "legally questionable" items such as bulletproof vests, guard dogs, weapon accessories and armored security vehicles ("Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank"). (Electronic Intifada)

Of course, there is that arcane document called "the constitution," supposedly there to guide the application of justice, which says that
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him..." But the legal system of the land of the free, which in practice means the land with the highest per capita number of people deprived of their liberty, always made an exception for people of less than white complexion, the exact boundaries of said complexion being amenable to change.

47 down, 1.5 million to go

Is Israel finally coming clean that it has been rather beastly to the people of Gaza? According to Ha'aretz, Israel has submitted a report detailing 47 criminal investigations arising out of its 2008/9 attack on Gaza:
"The IDF has ... implemented operational changes in its orders and combat doctrine designed to further minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian property in the future," the report said.

"In particular, the IDF has adopted important new procedures designed to enhance the protection of civilians in urban warfare, for instance by further emphasizing that the protection of civilians is an integral part of an IDF commander's mission," it said.

Among those measures will be the inclusion of a humanitarian affairs officer in each combat unit.

About 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed in Israel's December 2008-January 2009 offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that was aimed at ending cross-border rocket fire from Palestinian militants.

A UN report by a team headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone was issued in September and found that both the Israeli army and the militant Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, were guilty of war crimes in the conflict but focused more on Israel.

Israel, which refused to cooperate with Goldstone, has condemned his report as distorted and biased and rejected the war crimes allegations. Hamas denied its fighters committed war crimes but has said it regrets Israeli civilian deaths

The report also said Israel has launched some 47 criminal investigations into alleged misconduct by its soldiers in the Gaza war, 11 more than in January.

Well there's a thing. The most moral army in the world just got more moral.

Peace camp demolished in Parliament Square

Well it lasted about three months but the peace camp right in front of the UK's Houses of Parliament has now been demolished and the site has even been transformed from green space into a desert. Here, let Johann Hari explain it all:
In May, a smattering of tents was set up on this diesel-tinted green by citizens protesting against the war in Afghanistan. When I first saw them they were a mixture of students and activists and professors, voicing the conviction of 70 per cent of British people that the war is unwinnable and should end. One of them, Maria Gallasetgui, said: "We have a responsibility to stand up to what they're doing. It's immoral." She added: "We support the troops, that's why we want to bring them home. They" – she pointed to Parliament – "are the ones sending them to die."

They held up signs with pictures of maimed Afghan children, and waved them at the MPs as they walked to work. The MPs invariably looked down and away and they hurried through Parliament's iron gates......

Very early on Tuesday morning, the police came to force the protesters out, after Johnson got a court order. So now there is a clean, clear lawn again.
Well not quite

Rachel Corrie's local co-op boycotts Israel

From Ha'aretz:
Last week, the board of directors of the Olympia Food Co-op in Washington state decided that no more Israeli products will be sold at its two grocery stores in the city.

"We met last Thursday for the board members meeting and a pretty large group – about 40 people – presented the boycott project and answered our questions," Rob Richards, a board member, told Haaretz. "A couple of board members were concerned about what will be the financial effect on the organization, but it’s minimal. For me personally there is a moral imperative that goes beyond any financial concern. So we decided to adopt the boycott which went into effect the next day."

Asked whether the boycott includes all products made in Israel, or only in settlements, Richards explained: "As far as I know – it concerns any Israeli products. We exempted "Peace Oil" – it’s a joint product produced by the Palestinian farmers. Any product that is made by the company that works to improve the conditions of the Palestinians will be exempted."
And here is the co-op's boycott announcement in pdf.

Message of support can be sent here. And a petition can be signed here.

July 20, 2010

Megrahi update

This oil spill business in the Gulf of Mexico has now washed up on the shores of Scotland with some American senators suggesting that BP may have lobbied to get Megrahi, the Libyan chap convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, freed from a Scottish jail. Cameron is grovelling to the yanks over the case but the sister of one of the victims is not so thrilled:
It is difficult to contain my anger at the announcement of the latest attempt by the US to discredit the administration of justice in respect of the prosecution and sentencing of the Lockerbie perpetrator(s). It is impossible to disguise my contempt for successive leaders of a nation which vaunts its model of democracy as sufficiently valuable to justify interference in other states' internal affairs.

After long international consideration, a unique court constituted for that purpose with agreed jurisdiction tried two men for the bombing. Megrahi alone was convicted. After the conviction, managing his sentence was a matter for the Scottish administration, and as the sister of one of the victims of the incident I both advocated for Megrahi's release and was delighted Scotland did free him.

It is not relevant to this decision that Megrahi may now have recovered somewhat. I wish him well and hope that, whether or not the conviction accurately reflected what actually happened, he will find some peace in the rest of his life.

What an insult by the US to all of us who have a direct personal interest in discovering and dealing with the truth about the largest modern mass murder in Britain, a truth which as yet is very far from ascertained.

Julia Cadman

St Helens, Merseyside

These opportunists across the pond ought to be careful. The truth might come out that Megrahi had nothing to do with the bombing in the first place.

July 19, 2010

Quartet sans trois

Nice description of the shower that is supposed to be facilitating a peace process between the racist war criminals of the State of Israel and their victims. I saw it in this article on a former UK cabinet minister, Chris Patten's call for a bolder approach to Israel and the Palestinians by the EU:
"The default European position should not be to wait to find out what the Americans are going to do, and if the Americans don't do anything to wring our hands. We should be prepared to be more explicit in setting out Europe's objectives and doing more to try to implement them."

He implicitly criticised US dominance of the Middle East quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – by saying he concurred with the description of it by the leader of the Arab League as the "quartet sans trois".

Patten, who found it "easier to get into a maximum security prison in the UK than to enter Gaza", said Israel's relaxation of its blockade had not gone far enough. "It's moved from about minus 10 to about minus eight. It doesn't do anything to help restore economic activity in Gaza.

"It's difficult to understand what preventing exports has to do with security. It has everything to do with the view that Gaza should be collectively punished to discredit Hamas. Unfortunately there are some centuries, if not millennia, of history that show that does not work.

Doesn't work? That rather depends what you are trying to achieve.

Friends of Israel appearing today

Two Friends of Israel events are happening in London today. One starts in twenty minutes and is organised by the Henry Jackson Society and takes place at the Houses of Parliament. The other is organised by a company called Public Image Ltd (CEO John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten) and takes place at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire.

July 17, 2010

Johnny Rotten invokes Clause 2 of the Israel apologists' charter

There's a piece on Johnny Rotten in today's Independent. You have to get to the end to find what an ignorant racist he has become over the decades since supporting the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. I remember a National Front supporter in a pub back in the seventies praising a report in the National Front newspaper at the time describing Rotten as a "white n-word" for supporting black liberation in South Africa but not "white liberation" (aka fascism) in the UK. Well now Rotten may have had a change of heart. Check out this interview in The Independent:
What I do know, having hung out with him for an afternoon, is that he's still always spoiling for a fight. As we're about to say our goodbyes, he pulls a sheaf of faxes out of his pocket. They are complaints, e-mailed to his manager, John "Rambo" Stevens, who lives in Arkansas, complaining that PiL will shortly be performing in Israel. One, from a fan called Lawrence Casin, declares: "I will destroy all my albums and paraphernalia that I have collected over the years if you bastards play that hell hole."

Most musicians, particularly those who have been around for 30 years, wouldn't let hate mail upset them. They probably wouldn't even read it. But John's anger is genuine. He wants me to record it, for posterity. "I really resent the presumption that I'm going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews," he tells me. "If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he's suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they're treated."
That's funny. It wasn't that long ago that Rotten was saying that non-appearance in Israel was a betrayal of the fans. Now apparently Palestinians deserve ethnic cleansing, occupation, relentless aggression, slaughter of innocents, segregation and occupation because of the absence of democracy in Arab and Muslim states, where that is the case. This is the "they suck" argument that people will recognise from Gabriel Ash's list of classic Israel apologetics. I wonder if Rotten would be so "spoiling for a fight" if he wasn't being paid to perform for the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.

July 16, 2010

A tale of two Socialist Workers

Ah dear. This denunciation of Gilad Atzmon's undoubted racism on the Socialist Worker website raised a bit of a cheer at the Just Peace UK list:
On July 13, SocialistWorker.org published an interview with jazz musician and anti-Zionist writer Gilad Atzmon. After the interview's publication, we learned of many allegations that Atzmon has made not just highly inflammatory, but anti-Semitic statements about Jews, be they supporters or opponents of the state of Israel--and that he has associations with deniers of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews. The evidence for these serious charges is damning.
We knew that Atzmon was a controversial figure among opponents of Israel when we ran our article, but not the full extent of these allegations. Needless to say, there was no trace of such ideas in his interview with SocialistWorker.org, or it never would have been published.
Nevertheless, we believe that our Web site, which is committed to the liberation of the Palestinian people and to the struggle against anti-Semitism, should not have published the interview without any reference to the controversy over someone who could make the comments and advance the ideas that he has--whatever his motives or reasoning. We therefore withdrew the article from our site.
Richard Kuper sent the link to the Just Peace list and Mike Cushman responded favourably, as well he might. I texted a woman friend of mine who is one of the few SWPrs who tackled the SWP leadership about what the eff it's doing with Atzmon to tell her the good news and I emailed Tony Greenstein for the same reason.  But our good cheer was not to last.  Richard Kuper issued a mea culpa to say that he had boobed and that the self-recrimination was from the American SWP, not the UK one and they are not sister parties.

So where does the SWPUK stand on or with Atzmon now?

It's almost five years to the day since the SWP hosted Atzmon at Bookmarx, their bookshop and many of us protested because of Atzmon's antisemitism and his association with and promotion of fascists and holocaust deniers. The SWP issued a breathtakingly disingenuous statement about Atzmon at the time and I wanted to post it here. According to Sue Blackwell's site the SWP statement should be here. Well whadya know? It's gone.

Undaunted, I remembered how Michael Rosen had written to the SWP questioning the appropriateness of someone like Atzmon attending the Cultures of Resistance events back in 2007. The responses he got were ludicrous and you can see them here. Now it wouldn't be cricket if the SWP published letters criticising Michael Rosen without publishing his own letter and sure enough there is a link with the critical letters. See here:
As the organisers of the Cultures of Resistance event we were disappointed to see Michael Rosen claiming that Gilad Atzmon is an antisemite and should therefore not have been invited to perform (Letters, 6 January).
So what did you see? Again, nothing.

Trotskyists getting handy with the airbrush. Sadder and sadder unless I've missed something. in which case perhaps someone can find the SWP's Statement on Gilad Atzmon for me.


UPDATE: Someone called g in the comments has sent me this link to a cache facility that could embarrass the SWP, yay even unto the third generation, or the 3G even. It has a replica of the original page from the SWP website:
There has been some controversy surrounding our invitation for the musician Gilad Atzmon to perform at Marxism 2005. One or two small groups are claiming that Gilad is an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. We would like to state the following:

Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli born Jew who served in the Israeli Defence Force and who now lives in “self-exile” in Britain.
He is an internationally acclaimed jazz musician whose album Exile won BBC Best Jazz Album of 2003.
The SWP would also like to make it clear, that we would never give a platform to a racist or fascist. Our entire history has been one of fierce opposition to fascist organisations like the National Front and the British National Party. We played a prominent role in setting up the Anti Nazi League in the mid-1970s and Unite Against Fascism two years ago.

One of our members, Blair Peach, was killed on an anti-fascist demonstration in west London in 1979. Our founding member, Tony Cliff, was Jewish and, like many of his generation, lost many members of his family in the Holocaust. Nazis in the British National Party and National Front have targeted our members for attack. In the last three weeks we have helped initiate two vigils in response to anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Manchester and east London. Across the country our members are involved in campaigns to defend asylum seekers, oppose police brutality and defend communities from scapegoating.

We have a record of opposing fascism, anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, that is second to none.

The SWP does not believe that Gilad Atzmon is a Holocaust denier or racist. However, while defending Gilad’s right to play and speak on public platforms that in no way means we endorse all of Gilad’s views. We think that some of the formulations on his website might encourage his readers to feel that he is blurring the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti Zionism. In fact we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with.

We do not believe that Gilad should be “banned” from performing or speaking. “No Platform” is a principle that the left has always reserved for fascists and organised racists. Where other disagreements occur, the left, with the same vigour, has defended the right to freedom of speech, debate and the clash of ideas.
Oh yuk, I'd forgotten quite how low the SWP had stooped over this. I mean invoking the memory of Blair Peach to justify hosting an antisemitic cohort of fascists and holocaust deniers is truly beneath contempt. And that's without getting into the sheer dishonesty of the statement which I can't be bothered to get into now.

UPDATE II: I now have a copy of Michael Rosen's letter:
Inviting Gilad Atzmon to play is a bad move

Great news about the Cultures of Resistance musical programme, but I have to say I’m mightily dismayed that you have saxophonist Gilad Atzmon on board.

He is someone who has frequently expressed racist ideas and surely we have always said that you can’t fight racism with racism? I fear that the racism he expresses is seen by some in the liberation movements as a racism that doesn’t matter as much.

That’s to say, it’s said by some that racism towards peoples from countries oppressed and exploited by the West is the main racism we’re fighting, but a racism directed towards peoples seen as heavily implicated in the West’s oppression matters less.

Thus, antisemitism in the 21st century is seen perhaps as “mistaken” within the liberation movement, much as we might say that going on about Rupert Murdoch being Australian is “mistaken”.

This is a disastrous route to go down. Antisemitism imagines the removal or elimination of a group of people from the world system.

All we have to ask ourselves is: 1) would eliminating that group change the system for the better? 2) what ghastly processes would a state create in order to do the removing and eliminating?

I think Cultures of Resistance is making a great mistake taking Atzmon on board with them and this will undermine and weaken what we are all trying to do.

Michael Rosen, East London”
Actually I already had a copy here on JSF. See there was a link to the Cultures of Resistance programme:
Great news about the Cultures of Resistance musical programme, but I have to say I’m mightily dismayed that you have saxophonist Gilad Atzmon on board.

Now check out the link. Yup, broken. Another stroke of the airbrush. Another stroke pulled by the SWP. So where are the great defenders of the SWP's decision to host Atzmon now? Lindsey German has ceased to be a member but what of these two Cultures of Resistance peeps? They were Hannah Dee and Viv Smith who insisted that Gilad Atzmon is not racist. So where are they now?

July 15, 2010

Genocidal campaign against the Palestinians?

I was surprised recently to see someone whose opinion I usually respect saying that Israel's campaign against the Palestinians should not be called genocidal.
Some people have used the term genocide to describe Israel’s attack upon Gaza. Whilst it was a brutal assault aimed largely at terrorising the civilian population, the term is misused here. I’ve also heard the term used more generally for the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel; again, as bad as it is, I don’t think it is pertinent as we are not talking about an attempt physically to destroy an entire nationality.
I just don't agree. Well I agree that each attack on Gaza isn't of itself genocidal but I may well use the word "genocide" as shorthand for the fact that Israel's attacks on and blockade of Gaza are part of a genocidal campaign against the Palestinians. Surely the destruction of the Palestinians is what Israel and the zionist movement have been attempting since their earliest days?

Mike Marqusee puts it all better than I could:
Within pre-1967 Israel, the 18% of the population who are non-Jewish Palestinians, officially classified as “Arabs”, enjoy what is at best a second-class citizenship. More than 90% of the land is legally reserved for Jewish use, while Israeli Palestinians are confined to a separate and inferior educational system and denied benefits and jobs to which Jewish Israelis are entitled. Israeli law prevents Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs from living in Israel, but anyone else who marries an Israeli is granted Israeli citizenship. Yes, Israel’s Palestinians have the right to vote, but even that is circumscribed. Any political group that advocates amending the “Jewish” character of the state by calling on Israel to become, like every modern state, “a state of all its citizens”, is banned from taking part in elections. Elected Palestinian Members of Knesset who have made such a call have been stripped of Parliamentary immunity and tried for subversion.

Some 10,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in Israeli jails, including over 300 children, some 50 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, plus mayors, municipal councillors and even a few ministers of the Palestinian National Authority. 600 are being held without charge under “administrative detention”; others have been charged but await trial indefinitely.

Israel claims all this is necessary because of its unique “security” needs. If these actions are not taken, it is asserted, the Jewish State and therefore the Jewish people will be annihilated. In fact, it is the Palestinians who face an existential threat, who are being ground out not in theory but in daily practise.
And that's without getting into 1948 and all that.

July 13, 2010

More on Turkey less for Turkey

Here's a useful article by Asmi Bishara in Al Ahram warning against praising Turkey too highly over its support for the Palestinian cause:
Turkey's actions are built up to signify the emergence of a neo-Ottoman state, or even the resurgence of the Islamic caliphate. Ankara's tensions with Tel Aviv are exaggerated to the point where some forecast a Turkey invasion of Israel in retaliation for that attack on the Freedom Flotilla, whereas other minds mould Prime Minister Erdogan into the statue of the valiant hero loyal to the Arab/Muslim nation. "After all, Saladin wasn't an Arab," they say, as if there were such concepts as ethnic nationalism and modern nation states in the age of Saladin.

There's always a butt.

Deborah Fink not responsible for mobilisation email shock!

I got an email yesterday purporting to be from Deborah Fink and asking why I was doing nothing about a ludicrous article in the National Post (whatever it is and wherever it is based. My guess is Canada but I don't know).

This is what the email said:
Why aren't you joining us in refuting these canards?
I asked Deborah what she was talking about and she wrote to me saying that she hadn't sent the email at all and that it was a forgery.

Scrolling down the email I saw this:
You received this email because your friend debbie fink thought you would be interested in the article linked above.

© 2010 The National Post Company. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.
So I am guessing someone simply input Deborah's details into one of those "email a friend" thingies complete with message bar. I have been on line since 1999 and blogging since 2004 and this is the first time I have received such a hoax though I did climb the walls recently worrying about a friend in Edenbridge asking me to send him a grand to Nigeria.

Anyway, if you get a nasty email from Deborah Fink, chances are it's a hoax. On the other hand, you might want to get out there and do something for the Palestinian cause so you'll know the email is nonsense whether Debbie sent it or not!

When Turkey sent a flotilla

It didn't take us long to get back to the emerald isle but I have just been sent a link to the story of another time when a flotilla was sent from Turkey to aid those suffering from a lack of food because of the genocidal policies of their neighbours. I have only seen this on facebook and one other site but it all looks well researched:
Ireland was ridden with famine and disease between 1845 and 1849. Also known as the Great Hunger, this famine had lasting effects: at least one million people died due to famine-related diseases and more than one million Irish fled, mainly to the United States, England, Canada, and Australia.

Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid sent five ships full of food supplies and funds as charity. However, the British administration did not give permission for these ships to enter the ports of Belfast or Dublin. Taner Baytok, former Turkish ambassador to Ireland, recounts in his memoirs that these ships secretly discharged their load in Drogheda, a town approximately 70 miles north of Dublin.

On May 2, 1995, commemorating this charity, the mayor of Drogheda, Alderman Frank Goddfrey, paid honor to Baytok and erected a plaque in the Westcourt Hotel, which was then the City Hall where Turkish seamen stayed. Baytok says he first learned of this act of charity from an article by Thomas P. O’Neill published in The Threshold magazine in 1957.

The Otoman sultan declared that he would donate £10,000, but on the orders of Queen Victoria the British Ambassador in Istanbul informed the Sultan that he should reduce this amount, for the Queen’s donation was only £2,000. As noted in the letter of gratitude from the “noblemen, gentlemen, and inhabitants of Ireland,” the amount donated by Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid was reduced by the Queen to one thousand pounds.
I can only wonder what was happening in Armenia at the time but it's an interesting tale with an obvious parallel today.

More fallout over forged passports

Small but significant piece of news about the incremental distancing from Israel that is happening in Europe. The Irish government reaction to the forging of passports to kill a Hamas politician in Dubai had been fairly disappointing - the expulsion of a low-level diplomat on a heavy news day. However, this is more significant - the EU commission was proposing that member countries be allowed to transfer their citizens' data to Israel. Ireland objected, citing the forging of passports as reason not to trust Israel. So now the issue will be debated by an EU committee.

This is no spectacular victory, rather its a slow dawning among certain sections of the ruling classes in Europe that there's something a bit fishy about Israel. But perhaps this vague apprehension that they are not 'one of us' will mean that in the future there'll be less resistance to Palestine solidarity work and to Palestinian demands. Eventually anyway.

IPSC welcomes Irish Government move to block transfer of EU citizen data to Israel
Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Press Release, Thursday 8th July 2010, 6.30pm

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) today welcomed the move by Irish Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to block a proposed European Commission data-sharing plan with Israel. If adopted the proposal would have given the green light to EU member states to allow the transfer to and storage of sensitive personal data on European citizens to Israel.

The European Commission proposal was for EU member states to give a green-light to a declaration that the EU recognises Israeli data protection standards as being sufficient to allow member states to transfer sensitive personal data to Israel. Without such a declaration, the transfer of sensitive personal data to Israel is illegal. As a result of the Irish objection, the move will now have to be debated in an EU committee that deals with protection of personal data.

Speaking about the government’s objections to such a declaration, Minister Ahern’s office said: “It may well be the case that Israel provides data protections which meet EU standards, [but] the Minister believes the EU committee has to take very serious account of the forgery of EU passports – including Irish ones – by Israel in recent months. Personal data provided innocently to Israeli officials by Irish citizens was used in forging passports. [This] is a matter of the gravest concern.”

Freda Hughes, Chairperson of the IPSC, today said: “The IPSC welcomes Minister Ahern’s intervention to stop this process. The Israeli state has been routinely committing crimes against the Palestinian people for decades and the EU should not be taking steps to normalise this abusive behaviour by a rogue state. Furthermore, the very idea that EU citizens private data would be provided to Israel after the passport abuse in the Dubai murder is absurd. Israel’s actions have, time and again, proven that it is not a ‘normal’ state and should not be treated as such.”

Ms Hughes concluded with a call to the Irish government: “We understand that this important issue will be discussed at a future meeting of a special data protection committee. We encourage the Irish government to maintain the strong line they have already taken on this issue and refuse to allow Israel access to sensitive data on EU citizens. To allow such a move would leave millions of people open to state-sponsored identity theft of the kind we witnessed in Dubai last January, and indeed would be a tacit acceptance the legitimacy of the such acts of state terrorism carried out by Israel.”


July 11, 2010

Another ghetto is born in Palestine

I can only marvel at the sheer lack of conscience of the people responsible for this despicable monstrosity:
Omar Hajaj says he will soon be caged "like a zoo animal," with an electric fence encircling his house and his village hemmed in by the notorious West Bank barrier.

The rumble of bulldozers has become a common sound around this Palestinian village on Jerusalem's southern outskirts as earthmovers work on a huge trench which will be filled with towering slabs of concrete.

After years of interruptions, work finally got under way in April to lay the foundations for another stretch of Israel's "security fence" -- a section which will completely encircle this southern West Bank village.

At the moment, villagers have more or less open access to the nearby city of Bethlehem. But not for much longer.

"It is the only village in the West Bank that will be completely surrounded by the wall," says Willow Heske, of the Oxfam humanitarian group, which is helping villagers make their voices heard.

Since the 1967 Middle East War, half of Al-Walajah was annexed by Israel as part of municipal Jerusalem, while the other half remained in the West Bank.

The initial route would have sliced the village in two but following intervention by Israel's high court, it was changed to incorporate the rest of the village -- with one exception: the Hajaj family.

When the towering concrete wall is erected, it will cut directly through Hajaj's property, leaving half on the Al-Walajah side, and the rest -- including his house and nine acres of land -- on the Israeli side.

This would normally have given him free access to Jerusalem.

But last week, government officials told Hajaj his property would be hemmed in by an additional barrier -- a five-metre (16-feet) high electric fence.

His only way into the village will be via a gate in the concrete wall.

From his house, Hajaj can just make out Jerusalem's biblical zoo -- and fears his fate will soon be like that of the animals.

First Gaza, now this.

Israeli academics rebel against "proto-fascism"

Well a "proto-fascist mindset" but it's the same thing. Anyway, two articles on BDS have appeared on The Guardian website today and both of them were in today's print edition of The Observer. One is by Rachel Shabi and Peter Beaumont and is introduced thus:
An academic backlash has erupted in Israel over proposed new laws, backed by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, to criminalise a handful of Israeli professors who openly support a campaign against the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has gained rapid international support since Israeli troops stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships in May, killing nine activists. Israeli attention has focused on the small number of activists, particularly in the country's universities, who have openly supported an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

A protest petition has been signed by 500 academics, including two former education ministers, following recent comments by Israel's education minister, Gideon Saar, that the government intends to take action against the boycott's supporters. A proposed bill introduced into the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – would outlaw boycotts and penalise their supporters. Individuals who initiated, encouraged or provided support or information for any boycott or divestment action would be made to pay damages to the companies affected. Foreign nationals involved in boycott activity would be banned from entering Israel for 10 years, and any "foreign state entity" engaged in such activity would be liable to pay damages.

The other is more from the horse's mouth as it is by Neve Gordon who is an Israeli academic:
There is a considerable amount of misunderstanding about Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. BDS is not a principle but a strategy; it is not against Israel but against Israeli policy; when the policy changes BDS will end.

BDS is not about a particular solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the demand that Israel abide by international law and UN resolutions.

It is, accordingly, something that you can support if you are for a two-state solution or a one-state solution. You can even support it as a Zionist.

It arises from the realisation, following years of experience, that the occupation will not end unless Israelis understand that it has a price.

In a sense, the need for a boycott is a sign of weakness following the polarisation and marginalisation of the left in Israel. We are witnessing the development of a proto-fascist mindset. I am, for example, extremely anxious about the extent that the space for public debate in Israel is shrinking.

One of the ways of silencing dissent is through the demand for loyalty, so that a slogan you hear a lot now is "no citizenship without loyalty". This reflects the inversion of the republican idea that the state should be loyal to the citizen and is accountable for inequities and injustices. The reversal of this relationship between state and loyalty, and the adoption of a logic similar to the one that informed Mussolini's Italy, is alarming.

Comments are still open on the Neve Gordon article which is interesting because the mods at The Guardian will ban comments that compare Israel to Hitler's Germany but what will happen now that an article has likened Israel to Mussolini's Italy?

An open letter to Anne Sofie Von Otter

This is very sad. I had never heard of this woman before but I have just seen this open letter from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine to Anne Sofie Von Otter, pleading with her not to play in Tel Aviv in occupied Palestine. I had to google her name and I settled on her entry in the not always very reliable Wikipedia. I don't have any reason to doubt this bit of her entry:
In 2007, she released a highly-praised album of music written by composers imprisoned in the Nazi "model" ghetto of Theresienstadt concentration camp (also known as Terezin) prior to their transportation to the death camp of Auschwitz. She collaborated on this project with Christian Gerhaher (baritone) and chamber musicians. She has explained that the material has special personal meaning for her as her father, Baron Göran von Otter, a Swedish diplomat in Berlin during WWII, had attempted unsuccessfully during the war to spread information that he had received from Kurt Gerstein about the Nazi death camps
Now let's see this open letter:
Dear Anne Sofie von Otter,

We are writing to you because we wonder whether a musician who has done as much as you have to make the world remember the Nazi ‘show camp’ of Theresienstadt might be willing to think about the implications of your performances in Israel, scheduled for this October.

Possibly among your audience will be survivors of the Holocaust – and no one would want to deny people who suffered so much the pleasure of hearing you interpreting the wonderful music you will sing. Unless your presence in Tel Aviv raised a moral question – and in our view, respectfully, it does.

Because scattered all over the world are survivors of another kind – some of the 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children – half the population – who were driven out of their country by Israeli forces in 1947/48 and have never been allowed to return. Of the roughly 450 Palestinian villages that were emptied this way – producers of wheat, barley, olives, almonds, cotton, goats, honey, peaches, figs, apricots, some from before Roman times – almost all were bulldozed. Beautiful ancient Palestinian cities – Jaffa, Lydda, Acre, Majdal – were suddenly
proclaimed Israeli. The Palestinians thus wiped off the map, their children and children’s children, in exile from Detroit to Adelaide, in refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, and under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza – none of these Palestinians will be able to come to Tel Aviv and hear you sing.

You have said that as you researched the music written in Theresienstadt, you discovered that your father, a Swedish diplomat in Berlin during World War II, had learned about the death camps and alerted his government, to no avail.

If your father were alive today, what do you think might trouble him? Perhaps the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has sealed off 1.5 million people, many of them still traumatised and homeless after the three - week carpet bombing Israel subjected them to early last year.

Perhaps the daily struggles of a West Bank farmer who’s lost her orchards to Israeli settlers, whose well has been sucked dry by the settlement, whose children can’t get to school because the Israeli army blockades the village and the settlers shoot at the children, whose harvest of tomatoes and cucumbers rots at a checkpoint at the whim of the soldiers – we could go on.

Richard Horton, editor of the reputable British medical journal The Lancet, writes about ‘the small daily atrocities that are continuously eroding the future of Palestinian families’.

Consider the appearance of civilised normality your concerts will give – a glass of wine after work; coffee and cake on a Friday afternoon; a chance to contemplate the meaning of Um Mitternacht in an atmosphere charged only with the beauty and drama of your voice. And yet forty minutes’ drive from the concert hall, a million and a half people will be walled up in the Gaza ghetto. While you are singing, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories will be facing the ‘small daily atrocities’ that Richard Horton evokes, and calling on their stores of resilience – because he also says that what he observes among Palestinians is ‘a quiet civic resistance and resilience to chronic terror’.

Your presence in Tel Aviv will implicitly condone that ‘chronic terror’. But you could make a different choice.

When the International Committee of the Red Cross inspected Theresienstadt in 1944, they believed the show the Nazis put on for them – that this cruel antechamber to Auschwitz was a model resettlement town for Jews, complete with parks and children’s playgrounds and concert halls. You, on the other hand, have access to all the information anyone could possibly need to understand the cruel situation in which the Palestinians live. You have knowledge, and the
power of choice. (Your one-time colleague, Elvis Costello, considered the evidence, and, to his very great credit, changed his mind about going: http://www.elviscostello.com/news/it-is-after-considerable-contemplation/44) Please, don’t sing in Tel Aviv.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Haim Bresheeth
Mike Cushman
Professor Hilary Rose
Professor Steven Rose
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead

The sad part for me is that her dad tried so hard to let the world know what the nazis were doing to the Jews during WWII. And here is Anna Sofie Von Otter doing her bit to cover up zionist crimes against the Palestinians by normalising the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.