March 31, 2011

Protecting countries from war crimes allegations

Daniel Machover in Comment is free on The Guardian website arguing against the idea of "protected countries" for the purpose of universal jurisdiction:

The rationale behind universal jurisdiction is that certain crimes – piracy, war crimes, genocide, torture, crimes against humanity and hostage taking – are so harmful to international interests that states are entitled, and in some cases even obliged, to bring proceedings, regardless of the location of the crime and the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim. In accordance with that principle, in December 2009 a British judge granted an arrest warrant against Tzipi Livni, who had been the foreign minister during Israel's assault on Gaza a year earlier. It was withdrawn when it emerged that she had not travelled here after all, but the Labour government, backed by the Conservative leadership, expressed outrage that the warrant had been issued.
The coalition government claims that it is in favour of applying universal jurisdiction here. But it has brought forward proposals to change the law on arrest warrants requested by private individuals in international cases that will, in practice, deny access to criminal justice to victims from those countries allied to Britain who are prepared to withdraw intelligence co-operation or use other political or economic pressure to achieve immunity for suspects.
If the law is changed, suspects from a list of "protected countries" that includes Israel, America, China, Saudi Arabia and potentially others, such as Bahrain, will visit our shores with impunity, making us a safe haven for some war criminals and torturers. This outcome would be a sick parody of true universal jurisdiction.
Echoes of the "white list".

Land Day Gift from Argentina: BDS reaches Buenos Aires

March 30, 2011

Israel must own up to calorie counting in Gaza

From the Gisha website:

·         The Defense Ministry must reveal the "red lines document" in which the state apparently established the minimum caloric intake required for the survival of residents of the Gaza Strip.
·         The court also demanded that the Defense Ministry reveal the names and positions of the officials enforcing the closure of Gaza, which were blacked out in the documents previously provided to Gisha.
·         In a two-year-long legal proceeding, Gisha managed to reveal additional documents connected with the closure policy: the procedure for monitoring and assessing inventories in the Gaza Strip, the procedure for approving transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip and the list of humanitarian products whose transfer into the Gaza Strip is permitted.

Gisha is Israel's "Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.

Stop the JNF

This is from a press release from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:

National campaign launched against Cameron’s racist charity

A national campaign is being launched today against the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a UK registered charity whose patrons include high profile figures such as Prime Minister David Cameron.

The JNF was created in 1901 by the Fifth Zionist Congress in order to “build a country out of nothing”, according to JNF literature. However, Palestinian civil society organisations say that from its establishment “the JNF has been a chief partner in the Zionist colonial drive to dispossess indigenous Palestinians of their land, culminating in the Nakba of 1948 when Zionist militias and later Israel expelled a majority of the Palestinian population in order to establish a state with a Jewish majority”.

Campaigners claim that the role of the JNF remains unchanged until today and that the organisation, which has para-statal status in Israel, should not benefit from charity status in the UK.

Michael Kalmanovitz of the Stop the JNF Campaign says:
“the JNF controls land either directly or through the Israel Land Authority on which it has majority seats. That’s how it prevents Palestinians from living or working on this Palestinian land. According to the ideology of the JNF and the state of Israel, as a Jewish person, Zionists have given me more legal right to live on that land than the Palestinian people who were born there, although I have never lived there. For example, the Bedouin village of al Araqib in the Negev has been demolished by the JNF twenty one times since July 2010 in order to drive them out.”

“We refuse to stand by while the racist JNF is allowed to operate as a legitimate organisation in this country receiving tax relief and other associated benefits of being a charity. Can we continue to allow racism to be charitable in Britain? Although Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband are not patrons, unfortunately David Cameron has chosen to endorse the criminal activities of the JNF.”

Samuel Hayek, chair of JNF UK, has said that “For over 100 years we have had one mission: to settle and develop the Land of Israel. Today, thanks to the incredible support we receive and particularly our work in the Negev, JNF continues to pioneer this historic Zionist dream in the 21st century.”

The JNF is no stranger to protest. Over the years the Charities Commission has received complaints about the charitable status of the organisation. In December 2009 human rights protestors demonstrated outside the JNF ‘2020 Vision’ conference in Hendon. Their guest speaker, Israeli Minister Tzipi Livni, cancelled her appearance when Palestinian families affected by Operation Cast Lead successfully applied for a warrant for her arrest.

Notes for editors/bloggers:

1. The Stop the JNF Campaign launch, Land Day, 30 March 2011:

History of the campaign
The first meeting to build the Stop the JNF campaign was held in Geneva in May 2009, during the World Conference Against Racism/Durban Review and the shadow Israel Review Conference. Plans to build the campaign were started at this meeting with the Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC).

In May, 2010, these organizations co-sponsored an organizing meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, for activists and lawyers who were already building campaigns against the JNF in their regions. The goal of the meeting was the development and international coordination of campaigns against the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

What is the campaign to stop the JNF?
Stop the JNF is an international campaign aimed at ending the role of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael) (JNF-KKL) in:

  • the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land
  • the theft of their property
  • the funding of historic and present day colonies, and
  • the destruction of the natural environment.

The JNF (also known as Keren Kayemeth L'Yisrael or KKL) continues to serve as a global fundraiser for Israeli ethnic cleansing, occupation and apartheid. Despite its role in a State institution of Israel (the Israel Land Authority) and in institutionalized racism and apartheid, the JNF and its affiliate organizations enjoy charitable status in over 50 countries and many also enjoy consultative status with the United Nations.

The Stop the JNF Campaign also launched internationally today, on 30 March, Land Day, which is a day of commemoration for six Palestinian citizens of Israel killed by security forces in 1976 for protesting Israeli government land expropriation and confiscation.

Stop the JNF Campaign
Tel 07931200361 or 07816251377

2. Background Paper: The controversial land policies of the Jewish National Fund, by JNews:

3. Apartheid Israel: The Jewish National Fund, by Professor Uri Davis:

4. A list of JNF patrons are available here:

5. A statement by the Palestinian civil society organisations, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), 26 March 2011, Occupied Palestine:

6. JNF UK History:

7. El Araqib Destroyed for 21st time, JNF Changing Facts on Ground:

8. For Samuel Hayek’s quote see JNF UK Accounts, 31 December 2009:

9. For a list of cases raised by the Charities Commission as a result of complaints see Appendix 5 in the JNF E-book Vol published in January 2010, ‘Introducing the Jewish National Fund’:

10. Israel confirms U.K. arrest warrant against Livni, published by Haaretz:

11. Jewish National Fund Conference resisted from inside and out, December 2009:

12. Protests at JNF events:
13. History of the Palestinians in Israel, Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel):

14. Palestinian call for a day of action, Land Day, 30 March 2011:

Don't stop boycottin'

March 29, 2011

Peace in Palestine?

Here's a letter in today's Independent by my friend Diana Neslen:
It was with deep concern that I noted the headline of your report about the bomb in Jerusalem (24 March), stating it had shattered "seven years of peace". During this time, Israel has invaded Gaza, laying waste to the land and killing 1,400 people, including 300 children. 
Daily, there are incursions into Palestinian territory, to arrest and on occasion to kill Palestinians; there is an ongoing land and water grab by Israel, and Palestinians, including children, are arrested with impunity and incarcerated by the Israeli occupying forces, and are constant targets for attack by Israeli settlers.
All this while demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem continue apace and violence is meted out to non-violent demonstrators against the Wall. This does not sound like any form of peace that a neutral observer would recognise.
Diana Neslen
Jews for Justice for Palestinians, London W9

March 27, 2011

Struck dumb at Brum

The Jewish Chronicle is applauding the adoption of the so-called "working definition" of antisemitism by the students' union at Birmingham University.  Here's the JC under the misleading headline, Birmingham embraces EU:

All speakers invited to appear at the University of Birmingham will, in future, be required to adhere to the EU Monitoring Committee's working definition of antisemitism.
Birmingham Guild of Students passed a motion last week requiring all societies and speakers to work with the EUMC guidelines to ensure incidents on campus do not allow antisemitic language or behaviour.
The move follows a controversial lecture in February during which US army veteran Mike Prysner, speaking to the Friends of Palestine Society, compared Gaza to a concentration camp..
I think this is quite important because, in spite of being hosted by what used to be the European Monitoring Centre on Xenophobia and Racism, now the Fundamental Rights Agency's website, it has never been formally adopted by any part of the EU bureaucracy, commission or judiciary.  It's almost like the zionists that pulled it together don't want it subjected to forensic, judicial or parliamentary scrutiny.

Since we've covered this on JSF before, let's just have a quick look at what the dodgy definition consists of.  It starts innocuously enough with an abstract definition headed, "Working Definition" and states, :
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
Ok, but when the American Jewish Committee first pulled the thing together, it said that

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel include:
·         Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor.  
·         Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
·         Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
·         Drawing comparisons between contemporary Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.
·         Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.
That was a bit too obviously designed to stifle criticism of Israel so they threw in a couple of sops to free speech involving "context" and the word "could". So now rather than saying that "Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel include" it now says, 
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could  include
And then it sets out those various things by which "antisemitism" "could" manifest itself, subject to "context". I've had some chats about this on line, and the Israel advocates are very quick to accuse a person of dishonesty if they fail to mention the "context" and the "could".

The problem now is that this has been adopted by a students' union because someone likened Gaza to a concentration camp at a public meeting on campus. So what happens now? Will people who want to give talks about Israel on campus be asked what they are going to say so that can be told they are not allowed to say a certain thing? Will they be vetted for what they have said in the past so that they can be banned forevermore? Will they have to sign a document promising not to say anything that sounds like it might be accusing Israel or bearing comparison to the nazis or of practicing apartheid, or of being generally not nice to the Palestinians but without criticising other states that do nasty things too?  Was it even discussed before being adopted? I couldn't find the new policy or discussion of it on the University of Birmingham Guild of Students website though I'm not the best of web searchers. If someone finds anything please let me know.

The fact that the working definition exists on line at all under the auspices of the EU is a disgrace. It clearly essentialises Jews as zionists and seeks to implicate Jews generally in Israel's crimes at the same time as correctly pointing out that it is antisemitic to hold Jews responsible for the State of Israel. So it is antisemitic in itself though the clearest intention is the stifling, indeed preventing of meaningful criticism of Israel.

It is all the more problematic that it doesn't inform the laws of any EU state as yet because that has enabled it to evade scrutiny and simply get adopted where activism outweighs forensics, like students' bodies.

And this Birmingham Uni Students' Guild decision is disgraceful, particularly as I understand it was proposed by the Guild's anti-racism officer. But now it has been adopted by an organisation with the ability to approve or ban speakers, we might be able to see how the working definition, er, works. But I must say, that more needs to be done against it than the setting up of a facebook page.

March 26, 2011

Against intervention in Libya or anywhere else

Here's Mike Marqusee on his own site writing against the intervention in Libya. One of his foils is the bland Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian.
In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes that liberal interventionism is “fine in theory” but goes wrong “in practise”. I’d suggest that it goes wrong in practise because it’s deeply flawed in theory.

If liberal interventionists were consistent, they would advocate similar Western military action in relation to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, the Congo, Kashmir, Iran, Israel, Burma, etc. etc. etc. This would not only be wildly impracticable but deeply undesirable. It would lead to chaos and escalating violence on a global scale, overwhelmingly detrimental to the poor and vulnerable and fatal to the cause of democratic advance. A policy that if applied consistently and universally would result in disaster is best not applied at all.
Liberal interventionists treat great powers as neutral agents, disinterested entities that can be inserted into a situation for a limited purpose and time, like a surgeon’s knife. In reality, however, these powers have clear and compelling interests – in Libya as elsewhere – and their deployment of military force will be guided by those interests. In action, western troops are accountable not to the people they’re supposed to be protecting but to a chain of command that ends in Washington, London and Paris.
The unleashing of the great military powers undermines the universalism the liberal interventionists claim to honour: outcomes are determined by concentrations of wealth and power remote from the scene of suffering. If we’re to build any kind of just, sustainable world order, then we must (at the least) restrain and restrict great powers, not license them to act where and when it’s convenient for them.
Whole thing's worth a read.

March 25, 2011

Palestine on form

The census in the UK is supposed to be completed soon.  This Palestinian resident of the UK was in a quandary as to which country to say he was born in.  Here's The Independent:

Census took me home at last
As a British citizen of Palestinian origin, stating my country of birth often poses a problem, and this came to a head when completing the Census 2011 form.
My birthplace, Beit Jala, lies in what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Until 1948 it was Palestine; when I was born in 1951 it was under Jordanian rule and I received a Jordanian birth certificate; it was occupied by Israel in 1967, and is now referred to by the UK Government as the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
The census form allows only 17 characters for the answer, so that officially sanctioned name does not fit. I wasn't sure if "OPT" was a recognised abbreviation, so I called the census helpline.
After much internal consultation, and reference to guidance notes, I was told that "We all know it's occupied" and that I should simply write "Palestine", which I have done, with considerable pride and satisfaction.
It's gratifying that at least Census 2011 is clear about the reality, even while the UK Government dithers. My British passport states my town of birth but mentions no country, presumably a diplomatic cop-out to avoid controversy. Let's hope that the UK Government gets off the fence and properly recognises Palestine as a country.
Johnny Rizq, London W3
I wonder if they do keep a list of official countries...

March 23, 2011


When I first saw this I thought the email said that the UJS had voted to sever ties with Israel.  It is the UJ, the University of Johannesburg which has voted to sever links with BGU, which is Ben Gurion University.  Here is Joseph Dana's website with what I think was the first report of the happy news:

In a major victory for proponents of the academic boycott of Israel, the University of Johannesburg has voted to end its relationship with Ben Gurion University. This decision to boycott Ben Gurion University carries special significance given South Africa’s history of Apartheid and the successful boycott that was launched against the country in the 1980’s. The university’s decision is another confirmation of the efficacy of the global BDS movement which, in a remarkable short time, has had a major impact on Israel’s ability to continue its occupation of West Bank with little international regard. Below is the press release detailing the decision.
Today, setting a worldwide precedent in the academic boycott of Israel, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has effectively severed ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU).
This was after UJ’s Senate rejected a last ditch motion by pro-Israeli lobbyists to have two separate bilateral agreements – one with a Palestinian University and another with an Israeli University. UJ chose instead to uphold its previous Senate Resolution that required taking leadership from Palestinian universities. Palestinian universities unanimously rejected any collaboration with BGU (in any form) and have come out in full support of the the academic boycott of Israel. UJ chose to respect this.
UJ is the first institution to officially sever relations with an Israeli university – a landmark moment in the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel campaign. Throughout the campaign, academics and international human rights activists have been anticipating this decision. This boycott decision, coming from a South African institution, is of particular significance. This has set a precedent and must start a domino boycott effect!
The movement to end ties with BGU was boosted by the overwhelming support given to the UJ Petition ( – a statement and campaign in support of UJ academics and students who were calling on their university to end its apartheid-era relationship with BGU. As the UJ senate met today, over 400 South African academics, including nine Vice-Chancellors and Deputy Vice-Chancellors, had signed the UJ Petition.
Included in the list of supporters are some of South Africa’s leading voices: Professors Neville Alexander, Kader Asmal, Allan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Barney Pityana and Sampie Terreblanche. South Africa’s popular cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Bishop Rubin Phillips, former Minister Ronnie Kasrils and leading social activist Zackie Achmat also backed the campaign.
Further, over 100 internationals began to lend their support, including several prominent international scholars: Professors Judith Butler, Vijay Prashad, Michael Burawoy, Wendy Brown, Ernesto Laclau, and acclaimed British author, John Berger.
Today UJ has made history by upholding and advancing academic moral integrity. Palestinians, South Africans and the international academic and solidarity community celebrate this decisive victory in isolating Israeli apartheid and supporting freedom, dignity and justice for the Palestinian people. UJ now continues the anti-apartheid movement – against Apartheid Israel.
A bit of googling suggests that the happy news hasn't hit the mainstream yet but I'm guessing even the mainstream media isn't quite ready to accuse someone like Desmond Tutu of being antisemitic so best to say nothing.

Wiping Palestine off the map

This is a straight lift from Ellis Sharp's Barbaric Document.

Here is a portrait of the Holy Land as a physical embodiment of faith. Conjuring up the beauty of Israel's countryside, this volume also evokes the all-consuming passions and deep-rooted mysteries of Jerusalem.
Israel’s countryside? H.V. Morton’s book was first published in October 1934. The map in my edition, published one year later, shows a place called Palestine. I wonder what happened to it? (You can find a very personal account here.)

Morton was a travel writer who enjoyed enormous success. But he had a dark side.

A battered copy of In the Steps of St Paul accompanied me on a trip round Turkey (it wasn’t battered before the trip, incidentally). Morton is a great writer, and his description of Paul in Rome is one of the best passages about the apostle that I’ve ever read.

Sadly, however, the writer himself is not so loveable. A crypto-fascist who found a spiritual home in South Africa and whose efforts in the war were at odds with his secret admiration for Hitler: this is not a man who one can admire. Perhaps he realised this himself; perhaps the character revealed by his diaries was not the whole truth. 
He always kept his personal life carefully guarded, because he didn’t want people who admired ‘H.V. Morton the author’ to be dismayed by ‘Harry Morton the man.’
UPDATE - woops,  I had to correct this.  It wasn't Morton referring to Palestine as Israel, it was the Book Depository.  I'll let Ellis's post speak for itself but I can now tag the post to hasbara.

March 21, 2011

Israel: "colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing"

That's what the man said, the man being Richard Falk, the UN's man in, well near, Palestine:
Israel declines to deal with Falk or even allow him into the country, accusing him of being biased.....

In his speech, Falk said he would like the Human Rights Council to ask the International Court of Justice to look at Israeli behavior in the occupied territories.

This should focus on whether the prolonged occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem had elements of "colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing inconsistent with international humanitarian law," the investigator declared.
Only in the occupied territories? Perhaps he counts the whole shebang as occupied.

Melanie Phillips plumbs the depths of "depravity"

She's utterly bonkers. I first noticed this in The Independent today:
What desperate moments for all among us who revere Melanie Phillips and the rigorous self-restraint she brings to her work. In the coming days, the Metropolitan Police must decide whether to prosecute her over a classically thoughtful posting on her Spectator-hosted blog.
No one could argue with Melanie's outrage at the brutal murder of a family of West Bank settlers. What roused Muslim lobby group Engage to write to the Press Complaints Commission and Trevor Phillips, as well as the law, was her wontedly subtle extrapolation from the specific to the general... the extension of one horrendous crime to "the moral depravity of the Arabs"; one reference to Arabs as "savages"; and another to "the moral depravity of the Arabs".
So I hurried home to do a quick post but first I checked Mad Mel's blog at The Spectator for the quotes in context.

  1. Today the massacred Fogel family was buried in Jerusalem. And as anticipated, the moral depravity of the Arabs is finding a grotesque echo in the moral bankruptcy and worse of the British and American ‘liberal’ media
  2. So to the New York Times, it’s not the Arab massacre of a Jewish family which has jeopardised ‘peace prospects’ -- because the Israelis will quite rightly never trust any agreement with such savages -- but instead Israeli policy on building more homes, on land to which it is legally and morally entitled, which is responsible instead for making peace elusive. Twisted, and sick.
  3. Graphic pictures of the bodies of the slain Fogel family are circulating on the net and on YouTube. The relatives of the massacre victims have made them publicly available in order to show the world the full horror of the Arab barbarism in Itamar.  
It looks like The Spectator is going to tough this out for now. The editor, Fraser Nelson, is trying to make out that the references were only to the unidentified killer or killers. I think most reports assume that one person acted alone but here's Nelson:
It’s a funny old world. I have now been contacted by two journalists informing me that Bedfordshire Police are investigating The Spectator. Why? Because of the Melanie Philips blog where she referred to the “moral depravity” of “the Arabs” who killed the Fogel family in Israel.
She cannot possibly have been referring only to whoever killed the people at Itamar. This looks like a Kilroy-Silk moment for Mad Mel and let's see if she/they get away with it.

But, back to The Independent:
Some will wonder about the public reaction were a parodist to rework this piece by substituting "Arabs" with "Jews", and perhaps they have a point. 
But then of course, they'd never get away with it.

Palin goes to Palestine

From Ha'aretz:
Leading U.S. Republican Sarah Palin began a private visit to Israel on Sunday and planned to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and tour holy sites.
Palin started off her tour of Israel at the Western Wall Tunnels, accompanied by Likud MK Danny Danon.
I went to Israel three times when I was younger, always in a private capacity. I don't remember ever meeting an MK, still less the Prime Minister. Still, now Palin can tell AIPAC that she's been to Israel, like Obama did when he was on the campaign trail.

Eat liberal interventionism Gaddafi

Dave Brown cartoon in The Independent:

Interesting letters too.

March 20, 2011

Glenda Jackson opposes bogus definition of antisemitism

I saw this report in the JC online linked on the home page.  It's headed Glenda Jackson: calling Israelis Nazis is not hate speech - it's free speech and it has Glenda Jackson clearly opposing the aspects of that bogus "working definition of antisemitism" that I'm always going on about that are aimed at preventing criticism of Israel.

You can call Israelis Nazis and compare Gaza to a concentration camp - but that is not preaching hatred, according to Labour MP Glenda Jackson.
Ms Jackson, who won her Hampstead and Kilburn seat with a majority of just 42 votes in the general election, submitted herself to a grilling by Jewish constituents at London's Belsize Square Synagogue this week.
The MP dug her heels in when asked by a Birmingham student about hate speech on campus. The student was distressed by the comments made at Birmingham Palestine Society by a visiting speaker, Mike Prysner, who compared Israel's actions with the Holocaust. But Ms Jackson was unmoved. Free speech on campus was "precious", she said, adding: "I don't think that is hate speech, I think it's stupid and insensitive if someone does that. But it isn't hate speech. If people do preach hate on campus there are laws to prevent that."
She said she had met Manchester University students during a lobby of Parliament. "They argued that everyone speaking on campus should have their speech vetted. I couldn't believe it. You cannot do that."
Ms Jackson admitted she "expected more of Israel. Israel is not a little country standing alone against armies of people who hate it. If the government want support, they must stop building settlements, take down the wall and start letting necessities like cement into Gaza. I'm not anti-Israel but I am anti the Israeli government."
But Ms Jackson was unconvinced by those who urged a trade and academic boycott of Israel.
She said: "I do think that most boycotts are totally non-productive and hit the people who are most vulnerable. "
Nevertheless, her conclusion to the 50-strong audience was that "I can see there's going to be no meeting of minds here."
So she doesn't support the boycott but it was kind of brave, if she's seeking re-election to cross swords with 50 people when her majority was only 42.

But did you notice that it was a Birmingham student trying to twist her arm over comparing Israel to the nazis? Last I heard there were moves at Birmingham University, instigated by the students' union's anti-racism officer to get the "working definition of antisemitism" adopted by the students' union:
 so that if a guest speaker refers to Israel as a racist state, the student group inviting that speaker would face disciplinary charges on the grounds that it is 'Anti-Semitic'.
I don't know what happened but it appears that while we are often told that Jewish students are made to feel uncomfortable on campus, the victims of Israel's ethnic cleansing and segregationist laws will be barred from speaking out against it or describing it as racist. It would also mean that Birmingham Uni can't host Israeli Apartheid Week.

Where is Itamar?

I saw the print edition of the Jewish Chronicle yesterday, the day after it came out and it had several pages of comment and reports on Itamar. The front page carried the headline "Why no outrage over West Bank family slaughter?".
The negligible coverage in the international media of the terror attack in Itamar last Friday night, in which five members of one family died, has enraged the authorities in Israel.
Well I seem to have left my copy at my mum's (ok, my mum's copy at my mum's) so I looked at the JC on line and on the home page, at the time of writing, there is not one report or link to a report on Itamar.  It's not that they don't have the reports but they have to be searched to find them and then you will find 15 reports that appear to have been filed in time for publication in print.  So we must express "outrage over West Bank family" but not for long.  It could be some webmaster oversight or it could be that some of the responses from zionist sources are too repugnant even for the JC or it could be that new information has come to light that undermines some of the hypocritical and racist outpourings.

March 19, 2011

Excellent joke in The Independent

See this letter in The Independent:
Britain has excelled itself in taking the lead, spearheading international efforts to protect Arab civilians in Libya. Such courage in the face of economic adversity and global cynicism makes us all very proud to be British. This is a moment to celebrate British grit, values and assertive action at times of exceptional difficulties.
Despite detractors, David Cameron and William Hague deserve praise for their role. It is true that as a country we have legitimate commercial concerns. Yet while we should always make sure that the UK is open for business, we equally need to assert that its fundamental values are never for sale.

The UK should never be a mere convenience to Arab dictators, their sleazy offspring and highly corrupt cronies. Either we are on the side of Arab masses or we assist in their subjugation.
With their brutal ways and espousal of corruption, Arab dictatorships are a relic of the Cold War and a threat to the security of the UK, EU and the US. Building genuine friendships with the deeply oppressed Arab populace is the only way forward.
Dr Lu'ayy Minwer Al-Rimawi

Well it cracked me up but I'm not really sure if they are joking.

Gaza and Libya: compare and contrast

Some interesting letters in The Guardian today:
When Israel bombed Gaza at the end of 2008 in a brutal action which killed 1,300 people and destroyed 20,000 buildings, there was no question of the US allowing the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza to protect its people, 50% of which are children. Those who support the UN security council's authorisation of a no-fly zone over Libya (Britain, France and US line up for air strikes against Gaddafi, 18 March) need to reflect on the selective nature of UN intervention throughout the world and in the Middle East in particular.

The UN will not be intervening in the Libyan revolution to protect civilians from Gaddafi's brutality. It will go in to further the interests of the world's major powers in the region. It will be an imperialist action, not a humanitarian one. After the bloodshed it produced in Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan, the doctrine of "humanitarian military intervention" should be discredited beyond rehabilitation. The west is a major source of the problems of the Middle East and north Africa. It's not part of the solution, even when its troops wear blue helmets.
Sasha Simic
The others are worth a look at too.

March 18, 2011

Thoughts on the "No Fly Zone"

Lenin has a good post (but that isn't news) about the potential outcomes of UNSC Resolution 1973. The comments, especially his, also hold great insights. The gist of it is this. The powers who are now coming to "help" the rebels are led by sociopaths and mass murderers (yes, I do mean Obama, Clinton, and all their friends. Can Tony Blair be brought back from retirement?). Their purpose in intervening is to snuff freedom in the bud. And given their power, they have a fair, although by no mean ironclad, chance of success.

We can fret about it, and we can prophesize doom. We should. Doom is a distinct possibility. We can also explain to the rebels why they are wrong to welcome Western intervention. But I'd rather not. It feels dirty. I'd rather ask what other roads were not taken. One of Lenin's comment begins doing that:
I would have argued that they ('Western' governments) could keep their military hardware out of it, recognise the transitional council, release Qadhafi's frozen funds to them, allow them to acquire arms, and open the borders to Libyan refugees. These would have been practical, relatively low-cost measures that could have made a lot of difference.
How could we have actually helped on the basis of this template? The organized radical left in Europe, together with the left in the Arab world, could have perhaps called on volunteers to gather in, say, Marseille, to prepare for sailing to Libya. A camp of volunteers could have come about, a solidarity "tahrir square", clamoring, amplified by widespread demonstrations, for all the measures Seymour suggests, as well for free passage, arms for the rebels as well as for themselves, supplies, boats to take refugees safely across the Mediterranean, and everything else that might have been needed, AND NO NATO military intervention AND limited assistance for people who want to help the rebels.

We didn't do that. Why? Maybe we couldn't. Why? What should we do so that we can do that? These are questions worth discussing. In the absence of any of that, what cup should a thirsty rebel pick, the poisoned cup of imperialist "help," or the empty cup of anti-imperialist rhetoric? The answer is stuck in my throat.

March 16, 2011

Criticism of Criticism of Criticism of Criticism

Ok, so Dimi Reider issued a ridiculous call for all leftists to prove their "credibility" by condemning the killing in Itamar. Even though I am of course appalled by the slaughter of babies, I am not going to condemn anything here, and I am certainly not going to shed a tear for the death of Mr. and Mrs. Fogel. Not because I, pace Reider, doubt or ignore their humanity, but because they have dedicated their very human lives to destroying others who have done them no harm. My world has lost little with their passing.(*)

Nor should I have anything to prove to Reider. As he accuses, I plead guilty: I do have a double standard for which I won't apologize. I have one standard for the systemic, meditated, clinical and profitable violence of the oppressor, and a different one for outbursts of anger and hatred coming from those who have been systematically stepped upon, let alone the very different matter of organized armed liberation, which I justify and support. For more in that vein, Max Ajl wrote a beautiful and eloquent rebuttal of Reider that ought to be required reading in schools.

Then another writer from that same 972 magazine wrote a rebuttal. Yossi Gurvitz, with whom I sparred before, among other good points, correctly argued that Reider has internalized right-wing rhetoric. He also had an unpleasant slip of the pen, describing the settlers' rapid instrumentlization of the deaths at Itamar as "going native." He was justly taken to task by Ahmed Moor on Mondoweiss, and this is where it is getting doubly annoying, because Moor's criticism fast developed into little more than a gratuitous swipe at Gurvitz' alleged Jewish worldview.

Here is Gurvitz's offending line:
I never even considered the idea of grabbing the nearest Palestinian, burning his property, or beating him up. And most Israelis were just like me. We took the attacks on the chin, gritted our teeth, and kept ourselves from whining. The settlers, on the other hands, have gone native. It used to be Palestinians who brandished bloodied Israeli bodies; now it’s the settlers who do so.
There should be no doubt that associating behavior the author considers repulsive with "the natives" is a racist commonplace of European colonial discourse. There is doubt however about the level of the conscious thought behind the offense, as Moor graciously concedes being "confident he [Gurvitz] didn’t intend to employ the language he did in the way that he did." That is a charitable, and I would say a fair reading. But it is downhill from here on. Here is how Moor interprets the meaning of Gurvitz's slip:
Here, Gurvitz reveals a deeply embedded Jewish-centrism that many of our friends on the left share. The drive to end the occupation and Israeli apartheid stems not from universal human values, but from the drive for the Tikkun Olamization of the Jewish people. Everything else is secondary.
This is simply made up. Nowhere in this passage does Gurvitz even mention anything Jewish, or indeed provide any rational at all for "ending the occupation," Jewish or otherwise. Nowhere does he mention Tikkun Olam or even raise any of the issues Moor mentions. Gurvitz contrasts an Israeli attitude that one could describe perhaps as a "stiff upper lip" (if there is any allusion here, one that comes to mind perhaps is the popular representation of British calm under the Blitz) with a kind of histrionic politics that is allegedly shared by Palestinians and settlers alike. Is this racist? You bet. But the contrast between the rational, self-disciplined European and the emotional, childish, impulsive native is a commonplace of Western colonialism. One can find it in representations of native Americans, or Africans, of black slaves in the US, and of course, of Arabs in the Middle East. The racism of Gurvitz's language, at least to the extent that a textual reading can reveal, does not come from a "Jewish-centric" worldview, a worldview Moor ascribes to Gurvitz based on the mere fact that Gurvitz is in fact Jewish. It comes from Gurvitz's western cultural references.

Furthermore, the expression "going native," which Gurvitz uses, is a familiar English idiom that doesn't even have an easy counterpart in Hebrew (Although the ideas are certainly familiar in Israeli culture). Here is the definition of the idiom from "Post Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts:"
The term [going native] indicates the colonizers’ fear of contamination by absorption into native life and customs. The construction of native cultures as either primitive or degenerate in a binary discourse of colonizer/ colonized led, especially at the turn of the century, to a widespread fear of ‘going native’ amongst the colonizers in many colonial societies.
What does that have to do with "Tikkun Olam" or Jewish exceptionalism? Nothing. Gurvitz uses an English idiom to articulate an idea that is familiar to English speakers precisely because of the colonial history of the term which allows him to put Israeli Jews inside a larger implied context of whiteness. If there is an argument about Jews in there, it precisely the opposite of what Moor thinks, it is that the Jews are the same as other (Europeans).

Additionally, it is worth noting how much Moor's distinction between "universal values" and whatever he imagines as Jewish values is itself a deep internalization of the same colonial discourse about the natives that traverses Gurvitz's text. It is primarily in the name of "universal values" that Europeans argued that slavery was "civilizing" Africans, that killing native-Americans was an effective way to save their souls, and recently that Iraq ought to be "liberated" so that it is made to conform to the "universal" political norms of US-European kleptocracies. Here is George Bush on universal values:
The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity. People everywhere want to be able to speak freely; choose who will govern them; worship as they please; educate their children—male and female; own property; and enjoy the benefits of their labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society—and the duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common calling of freedom-loving people across the globe and across the ages. (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America)
And here is, taken from the same post-colonial dictionary, the entry on "universalism:" a bit simplistic, but given how well it fits the previous paragraph, good enough for my purpose here.
The assumption that there are irreducible features of human life and experience that exist beyond the constitutive effects of local cultural conditions. Universalism offers a hegemonic view of existence by which the experiences, values and expectations of a dominant culture are held to be true for all humanity. For this reason, it is a crucial feature of imperial hegemony, because its assumption (or assertion) of a common humanity – its failure to acknowledge or value cultural difference – underlies the promulgation of imperial discourse for the ‘advancement’ or ‘improvement’ of the colonized, goals that thus mask the extensive and multifaceted exploitation of the colony. (my emphasis)
So yes. The drive to end the occupation and apartheid does not stem from any universal value, because no values exist outside of concrete traditions of thinking about values. It does stem, for some, from certain values that some of us would like to be universally shared. I, for once, would like to impose on everyone my commitment to equality, because I believe that inequality is harmful. When we put it like that, however, that is, when we own the power relations we play when we talk about values, rather than naturalize the superiority of our perceptions under the false claim of universality, we become accountable for what we seek to impose on others. Imposing some ideas, especially about what is ethically acceptable or not, on others, is unavoidable in any context of shared existence. Being disingenuous about it is not. If Moor doesn't like the way some Jews articulate their reasons to opposing Israeli apartheid, he has every right to his feelings. But if he wants to impose on them his notion of the "correct" reason to oppose apartheid he needs at least to provide a justification other than pretending that his own preferences are "universal" whereas theirs are merely "Jewish."

More importantly, before getting into what Jewish values offend Moor and why, there is also the issue of the value of reading accurately, and criticising authors for what they wrote, rather than for what can be assumed about their state of mind on the basis of their religion or nationality. I don't know if this is a Jewish value or not, but I would certainly recommend it to Moor, along with spending less time learning about "Jewish-centrism" from the "native informants" at Mondoweiss.

Here is, for reference, a definition of the "native informant":
A native informant is someone from a particular race or place who is seen as an expert on it simply by virtue of belonging to it. (Abagond)
* As an aside, this elaborate discussion is taking place as if it is already known that the perpetrators were Palestinians. Let me note that we do not in fact now that. Therefore, I think it is inappropriate to "defend" the alleged perpatrators as much as it is inappropriate to condemn them, but with that in mind, it is fair to address the general questions raised.

March 15, 2011

Support Israel Apartheid Week in Canada against McCarthyism

Canada loves Israel the way only white settlers can love. The Harper administration, eager to secure for Canada a front row at the upcoming 'clash of civilizations', has made determined support for Israel the cornerstone of its international posture (not to mention lucrative trade in arms). In 2009, for example, Canada was the only country on the UN Human Rights Council who voted against condemning Israel's punitive expedition in Gaza. Repressive domestic measure are everywhere the inevitable companion of such a wretched foreign policy, and Canada didn't disappoint. George Galloway was banned from entering Canada because of his alleged "support for Hamas," among many other sins. KAIROS, a Canadian faith based Christian organization, was defunded by the Canadian government for the crime of sharing a name with the pro-BDS document, Kairos, issued by Palestinian Christians.

Opposing antisemitism being the last refuge of the latter day scoundrel, the Canadian ruling class fully invested itself in the task of defending imaginary Jews from imaginary racism. Last year, the Ontario regional parliament took time from less pressing issues to condemn "Israel Apartheid Week," a series of events organized by students on a budget that wouldn't buy Canada a minute of repression in Afghanistan. In March 2009, the Canadian parliament created a Coalition to Combat antisemitism, a barely veiled attempt to rehabilitate Senator McCarthy's tactics and update them for the needs of the day. As its activities make clear, the CPCCA has one and only goal, to suppress public criticism of Israel in Canada.

Canadian universities have become prime targets of the new Canadian Mcchartyism. Student groups involved in BDS have been regularly harassed, banned, fined, their posters censored and their activists disciplined by university administrators, whereas local and national politicians sought to undo students elections, all for Israel. Israel's shills didn't stop with students, but also sought to derail conferences and attack professors and graduate students.

This year, the attack on Israel Apartheid Week reached the national parties. Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party, issued a statement condemning the IAW as antisemitic, intolerant and ignorant.

(BTW. You have to visit the website of that Liberal party. These days, the more one has the blood of brown people on one's hands, the more brown faces you can expect to see in their "image". If Goebbles had been as savvy as these people are he would have always appeared in public wrapped in a Jewish prayer shawl.)

One effect of this campaign of intimidation is that it works. Very few untenured professors dare speak critically about Israel. Another effect however is that it backfires. (Yeah, yeah, I know... some people would call this "dialectical." Deal with it!) Even academics who are unconnected to the issue of Palestinian rights care about politicians interfering in their classrooms. By attacking academic freedom, the McCarthyites are making it hard not to see how dependent Canadian foreign policy is on silence, ignorance and disiformation, and what price will all Canadian institutions, including universities, pay, unless they are defeated.

So the Rector of Queen's University, Nick Day, responded publicly to Ignatieff, explaining why including IAW on Canadian campuses was a matter of free speech. He was hang out to dry by the University administration and a referendum for his dismissal has been launched by the usual forces.

Please read and sign this petition defending the Rector and IAW on the campus of Queen's University: