February 28, 2006

Corrie play "cancelled" in New York

From the Guardian:
A New York theatre company has put off plans to stage a play about an American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza because of the current "political climate" - a decision the play's British director, Alan Rickman, denounced yesterday as "censorship".

James Nicola, the artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop, said it had never formally announced it would be staging the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, but it had been considering staging it in March.

"In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon's illness and the election of Hamas, we had a very edgy situation," Mr Nicola said.

"We found that our plan to present a work of art would be seen as us taking a stand in a political conflict, that we didn't want to take."

He said he had suggested a postponement until next year.

Mr Rickman, best known for his film acting roles in Love, Actually and the Harry Potter series and who directed the play at London's Royal Court Theatre, denounced the decision.

"I can only guess at the pressures of funding an independent theatre company in New York, but calling this production "postponed" does not disguise the fact that it has been cancelled," Mr Rickman said in a statement.
New York's loss, I'd say.

February 27, 2006

Justice for Matan Cohen

Here's a post from Art Neslen to the Just Peace list on the case of Matan Cohen:
Matan Cohen, a 17-year-old activist in Anarchists against the Wall was shot in the head with a rubber bullet by border police on a demonstration against the West Bank Wall last Friday. He is currently in a critical condition and may now lose his sight in one eye.

Matan was not the only victim of army violence last weekend. An American
international, Sara Bregel, was also shot with a rubber bullet, while the ongoing IDF offensive in Nablus claimed another five Palestinian lives, and two more Palestinians were killed in Jericho – more casualties that went unreported in the Western media.

Many of us met Matan during a speaking tour in the UK last year. He impressed everyone who heard him as an extraordinarily intelligent, non-violent and thoughtful young man with deep convictions. Yet he was shot twice, once in the leg, and once again in the head, despite military guidelines which specify that rubber bullets fired in this way endanger human life.

This escalation of brutality against peace activists in the West Bank must not go unprotested. Matan's tragedy could have happened to any one of us in a similar situation. As the mainstream media aren't reporting the reality on the ground, we have to try to draw attention to it ourselves.

On Wednesday March 1, friends and supporters of Matan will be demonstrating outside the Israeli embassy on Kensington High St between 5-7pm to register disgust at the actions of the IDF. The nearest tube is Kensington High St(district line). Please come and show your solidarity.
Further info on the case here.

Israel co-sponsors Arsenal....with UAE

According to the Beeb website, the United Arab Emirates has demonstrated its commitment to the Palestinian cause by raising no objection to the fact that Israel and Arsenal have now signed a two-year sponsorship deal.
Arsenal football club has signed a sponsorship deal to promote Israel as a tourist destination from next season.

The two-year, £350,000 agreement will see Israel being promoted on pitch-side billboards and TV screens at Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium in London.

Arsenal said it had cleared the deal with officials in the United Arab Emirates, whose national airline bought the naming rights to the new stadium.

The United Arab Emirates does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Ilan Halimi update

Ha'aretz has updated its report on the anti-racist demo that followed the murder of Ilan Halimi. It now transpires that the French National Front and the Movement for France did not attend though some organisers wanted them to.
The organizers had decided against inviting Jean-Marie Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front party, to participate in the demonstration, due to sharp opposition from leftist organizations and human rights groups. Philippe de Villiers, the head of another far-right party, the Movement for France (known by its French initials MPF), did try to attend, but he was greeted with cries of "racist" and removed by the guards.

February 26, 2006

Almog Mark II?

According to Ha'aretz another Israeli army officer has been forced to steer clear of the UK because of his alleged involvement in the kind of war crimes without which Israel could not exist.
The commander of the Israel Defense Forces division along the Gaza border, Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, was forced to cancel his planned trip to the United Kingdom after the Military Advocacy instructed that he refrain from commencing studies at the Royal College of Defense Studies this summer, fearing that he would be arrested on charges of war crimes......

Military Advocate General Brigadier-General Avichai Mendelblit instructed Kochavi to abandon plans to study at the RCDS, in light of an arrest warrant issued some six months ago against former GOC Southern Command Doron Almog.

Last year, Almog had to cancel a visit to the U.K. and return to Israel without disembarking the plane, after learning that a criminal complaint had been filed for his alleged involvement in war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Because he had not passed border control, he was not considered to have entered Great Britain and therefore could not be handed an arrest warrant.
Makes me proud to be British!

Ilan Halimi's family boycotts "anti-racist" demo

According to Ha'aretz, the family of French murder victim, Ilan Halimi, are refusing to attend a demonstration organised to protest against the murder "that appears to have been motivated in part by anti-Semitism."
The rally - which is due to be attended by over 100,000 people and numerous public figures, including government ministers - has become controversial due to the planned participation of representatives of two right-wing political movements, the National Front and the Movement for France (known by its French initials MPF).

On Friday, the anti-racism organization MARP announced that it would refuse to attend the rally for this reason, charging that both movements were using Halimi's murder to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment and thereby encouraging racism. The National Front, for instance, described the murder as "the result of 40 years of uncontrolled immigration," while the MPF denounced "the Islamization of France."
It's a credit to the family that they have refused to stand alongside the French National Front and the Movement for France. Unfortunately CRIF (France's Board of Deputies) has no such qualms.
The Human Rights League said on Friday that it would participate in the rally, but demanded that the National Front and the MPF be barred from attending and denounced CRIF, the umbrella organization of the French Jewish community, for remaining silent about the MPF's participation even as it urged that the National Front be barred. The Jewish Students' Association has also condemned the participation of the two political movements.

February 25, 2006

Starving the Palestinians

Here's an article by Gideon Levy in Counterpunch from a few days ago. It details the sheer heartless arrogance of the zionist occupation. It is written in the wake of Israel's decision to steal even more from the Palestinians than they have done hitherto.
The Hamas team had not laughed so much in a long time. The team, headed by the prime minister's advisor Dov Weissglas and including the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the director of the Shin Bet and senior generals and officials, convened for a discussion with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on ways to respond to the Hamas election victory. Everyone agreed on the need to impose an economic siege on the Palestinian Authority, and Weissglas, as usual, provided the punch line: "It's like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die," the advisor joked, and the participants reportedly rolled with laughter. And, indeed, why not break into laughter and relax when hearing such a successful joke? If Weissglas tells the joke to his friend Condoleezza Rice, she would surely laugh too.

But Weissglas' wisecrack was in particularly poor taste. Like the thunder of laughter it elicited, it again revealed the extent to which Israel's intoxication with power drives it crazy and completely distorts its morality. With a single joke, the successful attorney and hedonist from Lilenblum Street, Tel Aviv demonstrated the chilling heartlessness that has spread throughout the top echelon of Israel's society and politics. While masses of Palestinians are living in inhumane conditions, with horrifying levels of unemployment and poverty that are unknown in Israel, humiliated and incarcerated under our responsibility and culpability, the top military and political brass share a hearty laugh a moment before deciding to impose an economic siege that will be even more brutal than the one until now.

The proposal to put hungry people on a diet is accepted here without shock, without public criticism; even if only said in jest, it is incomparably worse than the Danish caricature. It reflects a widespread mood that will usher in cruel, practical measures. If until now one could argue that Israel primarily demonstrated insensitivity to the suffering of the other and closed its eyes (especially the stronger classes, busy with their lives of plenty) while a complete nation was groaning only a few kilometers away, now Israel is also making jokes at the expense of the other's suffering.
Remember this is a state that, among other bogus arguments, uses the holocaust to try and justify its illegitimate existence.

Which Israel should Palestinians recognise?

An article on Kanaan on line (KOL) argues that for Hamas to recognise Israel would be a "lethal historical blunder". It points to one little problem that no one in the mainstream seems to have picked up on and that is:
what Israel does Hamas have to recognize? Is it Israel in accordance with the UN Partition Plan embodied within resolution 181? Or is it Israel within the 1967 borders embodied within UN Resolutions 242 and 338? Or is it Israel under the status quo where the wall and the various settlements obliterate any possibility of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state?
And this is where it could get lethal.

Support for Ken Livingstone

There appears to be a groundswell of support for Ken Livingstone following his temporary removal from office by an unelected gang of three. Here's the Guardian:
The government-appointed officials comprise David Laverick, a solicitor who is president of the Adjudication Panel and a pensions ombudsman, Darryl Stephenson, former chief executive of East Riding district council, and Peter Norris, a former civil servant, who is now a consultant to local authorities and children's charities.

In the hours following the panel's decision to suspend Mr Livingstone from office for likening a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard, allies and some critics voiced strong support for the mayor and hinted at practical assistance.

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "It is outrageous that an unelected body of three men has deprived seven million Londoners of their elected mayor for four weeks. Whilst many had wanted Ken Livingstone to apologise, suspension for such a long period seems to me to be totally disproportionate and serves no other purpose than to disrupt the work of the [Greater London] authority at a time when London needs it most. We will support London's mayor in whatever measures he may take to challenge this scandal."

Andrew Dismore, chair of London's Labour MPs, said the mayor had brought his office into disrepute but added: "It is for the people of London to decide who should or should not be the mayor of London, not an unelected panel of bureaucrats." Jenny Jones, a Green party London assembly member, said she was "outraged that this system allows three undemocratically appointed individuals to suspend a man who was elected by the vote of millions of Londoners".
Meanwhile, Something Jewish tries to put the whole non-issue into perspective:
In a statement The Board said:

"The Board of Deputies of British Jews regrets that the Mayor’s intransigence over his hurtful comments last February outside City Hall and his subsequent failure to apologise has lead to a finding that the Office of the Mayor has been brought into disrepute. Had the Mayor simply recognised the upset his comments had caused, this sorry episode could have been avoided. He has been the architect of his own misfortune."

What upset did he cause, if only to the journalist in question? If you are a journalist doing any sort of door stepping or going up to public figures in the street, you should be made of thicker skin. Ken did not insult all Jews, he insulted one and it was within context.
Mark Lawson's Guardian comment is worth a look at too.

February 24, 2006

Ken Livingstone suspended over nazi jibe

Ken Livingstone has been suspended from office for four weeks by the Adjudication Panel of the Standards Board for England over his nazi jibe hurled at Oliver Finegold, an Evening Standard reporter.

Too much was made of this at the time but this is beyond ridiculous. It's a bit scary that an elected politician can be suspended by an unelected tribunal at the request of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Further reports here, here and here.

J.Edgar Hoover's Kahane obsession?

Forward reports that the late FBI boss, J.Edgar Hoover, had an obsession with the now defunct Jewish Defence League's and Kach's late leader Meir Kahane.
Kahane, an Orthodox rabbi in Brooklyn and the JDL's national chairman, was closely monitored as a "priority 1" on the bureau's security index. The FBI was especially concerned about the JDL's harassment and potential attacks on Soviet diplomats and installations at a time when President Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, were promoting "détente" with Moscow. In early 1971, Hoover regularly sent "priority" memos on Kahane to Kissinger, Secretary of State William Rogers, CIA Director Richard Helms, Attorney General John Mitchell and the head of the secret service.
An irony here is that Kahane claimed (back in 1972) to have worked for the FBI as a spy on another racist organisation: the John Birch Society. This must have been during Hoover's stewardship of the FBI.

February 23, 2006

Church Times cries "manipulation"

No they're not saying it about the Chief Rabbi's willful misrepresentation of the General Synod resolution to disinvest from Caterpillar. The claim is made about their poll about whether or not the C of E should disinvest. Here's what they say:
On 17/02/2006 we asked you "Should the Church disinvest from Caterpillar? (We are aware that voting on this question is being manipulated and no conclusions can safely be drawn - editor)"
Here's the latest result:
The results were:

Yes: 6923(63%)
No: 4077(37%)

Total: 11000
Here's the result when I posted on this earlier:
The results were:

Yes: 3166(65%)
No: 1687(35%)

Total: 4853
Now I think they should say what the manipulation consists of. Is it people simply voting many times from the same pc? If so they could at least tell us whether it's the yes votes or the no votes that are doing this the most. I should point out though, that since the "manipulation" was discovered, the no vote has risen (slightly) relative to the yes vote.

Competing rejectionisms?

David Hirst in today's Guardian:
the more democracy spreads, the more militancy in Palestine will find like-minded support in the whole region. Hamas began life as the Gaza chapter of the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood movement. Nowadays Arab democracy will mean the ascendancy of Islamism and its rejectionism almost everywhere. After the Muslim Brothers, despite gross obstructionism, won a fifth of the seats in Egypt's recent parliamentary elections, their leader said that his movement didn't recognise Israel and proposed that the 1978 Camp David peace treaty be put to a popular referendum; they are now using their pan-Islamic connections to raise emergency funds for the sanction-threatened Palestinian people. And why is it that, just as the Americans' well-known hankerings after "regime change" in Damascus seemed to be taking a purposeful turn, Israel suddenly took to urging them against it? Because it seemed better to preserve Bashar Assad, classical anti-Israeli nationalist despot though he may be, in his weakened condition than to unleash the demons of democracy, including the prospect of Syria's Islamists, a powerful subterranean force, clamouring for the liberation of the Golan Heights, which for 30 years has been the quietest of all Arab-Israeli fronts, thanks to the efficacy of the despot's repression.
The whole thing is here.

February 22, 2006

Church Times Caterpillar poll results

The results of the Church Times Caterpillar poll so far are as follows:
On 17/02/2006 we asked you "Should the Church disinvest from Caterpillar?"

The results were:

Yes: 3166(65%)
No: 1687(35%)

Total: 4853
I think voting's still open.

Vote on whether the C of E (or anyone else) should disinvest from Caterpillar


A matter of opinion?

There's a lot of stuff doing the rounds on the Irving business. Check out letters here and here. I'm not comfortable with holocaust denial being a crime, especially while other forms of genocide denial are perfectly legal. However, denying genocide as well documented as the holocaust ia not simply the expression of an opinion but the mis-statement of a fact: a lie in other words. We then need to ask, why lie? It's then that we are in the realm of incitement to racial hatred. The question then becomes, what should we do about incitement to racial hatred? And my answer is, I don't really know but in this instance I'm not going to be losing much sleep over it.

February 21, 2006

Jewdas event

If you scroll down to the post below this on you will see that Jewdas and Heeb magazine are having a joint event called Punk Purim on 18/3/2006.

The Jewdas site has a few updates since the last time I wrote about it.

Here are some snippets:

On the Union of Jewish Students and anti-semitism:
In a statement this morning, the Union of Jewish students called for a rise in anti-semitism on campus. “Its deeply shocking”, said Mitchel Simmonstone, the pie laden chair of UJS, “Some universities are seeing almost no Jew hatred at all, which makes it very difficult for us to pursue our work. In the good old days of Al-hamajaroun, Friday night meals were full of propaganda suceptible young yidden, whereas now they seem to building their own identities outside our watchful eye.

On the used-to-be Jewish East End:
Senior Jewish figures today united in condemning recent claims that some Jews were still happily living in the East End of London, and pledged to slap gagging orders on those East Enders claiming Jewish heritage.

The need for removal of Jews from the East End after the Second World War was a result of the threat posed by the building of illegal Muslim settlements on Brick Lane, E1. Acknowledging the inability of Jewish people to live surrounded by other ethnic groups, especially those in lower income bands, the flight to the Northern suburbs began. As The Board of Deputies said at the time, “There is a serious risk that pressure would be put upon us to contribute to charitable organisations that do not solely benefit Jews. That tzedakah 10% is not easy to part with, and it would compromise our Jewishness to have to give it to mixed-faith ommunities.”

On Sharon's final wish:
In an unconventional move, likely to anger Palestinians, Sharon does not wish to be buried, but will in fact nobly continue tackling the Arab-Israeli conflict after death. He plans to fully embrace the role of his nickname by becoming an IDF bulldozer.

It is revealed that Sharon has been in contact with freakish Dr. Gunther von Hagens of Bodyworlds fame, who will use an extra strong version of his groundbreaking plasticisation of the human body. He intends to render the ex-PM, who has been honing his massive bulk over decades, into the shovel of a bulldozer.

Also involved in the venture is the American company Caterpillar, arch enemy of the Archbishop of Canterbury. A spokesman from the firm confirmed that the Sharon bulldozer was “nearing its final stages”, adding "it is of huge importance for both us and Ariel to remain at the cutting edge of home-destroying technology."
All these and more at the Jewdas site.

Punk Purim?

From the 1890s until the First World War a group of renegade Jews were active in the heart of the Yiddish East End. The Jewish anarchists opposed hierarchy, imperialism and the state, and also defined themselves against the Jewish establishment, holding Yom Kippur balls, featuring pork, music and dancing. They even had their own newspaper the Arbeter Fraint, until the Jewish establishment closed it down. This radical tradition has remained dormant for almost one hundred years, as Anglo-Jewry has become increasingly suburban, conservative and dull. Until now.

What: jewdas and New York’s Heeb Magazine present Punkpurim
Date: Saturday, March 18
Time: 9pm

Place: rampART, 15-17 Rampart Street , Whitechapel , E1 2LA

Cover: FREE

dresscode(optional): hassidic

Extras: DJs, bands, art, projections, food, drinking… you know
Radical Jewish culture returns to the East End as The New Rabbis of Liberty head down to rampART, a squatted social centre in the heart of Whitechapel. Bringing on the spirit of Yiddish subversion with klezmer hip hop/drum n bass bands Ghettoplotz and Emunah; Radical Torah will be taught by a motley crew of Jewish renegades; films and art showcasing the best of revolutionary Diaspora culture; and djs spinning the speeches of Ariel Sharon.

Punkpurim is Jewish hipsterism meets Israeli hardcore metal meets UK anarchist collectives meets anti-nomian Chassidism. It reclaims the carnival heart of the Jewish festival of Purim. Think of it as the meeting of Walter Benjamin, Noam Chomsky and Barbara Streisand in a Brick Lane Bagel Bar. Think of it as the revenge of subversive diasporists everywhere.

Punkpurim is brought to you by:

jewdas.org the focus point of radical Judaism in the UK and beyond.  Promoting hemisiche culture on acid, jewdas whips up Talmud, satire, heresy and cream cheese into a chicken soup of underground Diaspora culture. Jewdas fully supports the Anglo Jewish establishment and would never criticise the state of Israel.

Heeb is a New York based Jewish Culture Magazine. It is the roiling product of so many drunken postmillennial nights on the mean streets of the Lower East Side . It is an ambitious antitrust investigation into the monopoly on God. It is a sweaty prizefight between hip hop and sushi in this corner and klezmer and kugel in the other. It is the bastard love child of Emma Goldman and Lenny Bruce. It is a plague on modern-day pharaohs replete with miraculous jailbreaks and a nice little riot or two. It is a Carnival cruise to the Garden of Eden with all-you-can-eat cheesecake and Parliament as the house band. Hallelujah.

For more info, contact us at info@heebmagazine.com

Currently confirmed:
live music from Ghettoplotz and Emunah
poetry from angry sam, adam cohen
radical torah from Jeremy schonfield, simon eder
film curated by Charlie Phillips
VJ Miki Grahame (ghettoplotz)
slides curated by Sarah maxwell (heeb magazine)
Deconstructive megilla from florian

Philosophical zionism?

I already linked to the letters in this morning's Guardian but I am reproducing the letter of the philisophy lecturer, Harry Lesser, here in full because of a comment about it in to the original post. Here's the letter in full:
Paul Oestreicher (Israel's policies are feeding the cancer of anti-semitism, February 20) overlooks the facts that the killing at Israel's birth was initiated by Arabs, and there would have been much more if they had won; that Golda Meir's remark denied the existence of a Palestinian nation, not of the people (and there was no such nation before the 1960s); that "zionism" is a term so vague as to be meaningless: let him say which Israeli policies he opposes and this can then be discussed; that the security fence doesn't bring peace, but does save lives; that the occupation would be over if Arafat had opted for negotiation rather than violence - the offer was easily good enough as a basis for negotiation; that Gaza has been evacuated and much of the West Bank has considerable autonomy; that the treaties with Jordan and Egypt have held; that no Israeli wishes to kill all or any Palestinians except in unavoidable self-defence.
Harry Lesser
University of Manchester
Here's the comment:
I think its important to be generous when arguing with people who hold different views, but Harry Lesser (who teaches in the Centre for Jewish Studies at Manchester University) gets just about everything wrong. To be brief I have selected three of this arguments – but you could select almost all of them.

"there was no such nation before the 1960s." Palestinian nationalism and a Palestinian nation could be said to exist from the 1920s. It is true that many Palestinians in early 1920s wanted to be part of Syria - but by the mid 1930s pan-Arabism was dead and almost all Palestinians wanted an independent state. Palestinians considered themselves to be a distinct ethnic group – albeit as Arabs.

His argument that Zionism is so vague that its meaningless is also a poor argument. For a start words without precise meanings are useful (e.g. "many" is not precise but is often more useful than numbers - in describing the number of people in a cinema – as its not practical to count them). "Zionism" obviously has many nuances, but it always includes adherence to claims of the legitimacy of the creation and existence of the state of Israel in more or less its current form.

"no Israeli wishes to kill all or any Palestinians except in unavoidable self-defence." This statement is ludicrously detached from reality. There are countless well documented cases of reckless killings of Palestinians including by soldiers with rifles in orderly non-threatening circumstances as well as reckless aerial bombing in civilians areas. These are not one offs but are extensive and have existed throughout Israel’s history.

I think its worth thinking about why clever people seem to produce such poor arguments. I think its simply that Zionists are blinded by their emotional attachment to Israel and are often subject to psychological process that stops them from thinking straight.
But "blinded" suggests that it's not deliberate. I think it must be deliberate. Some of the bogus arguments advanced by well educated (indeed educating) people must be rehearsed, planned and co-ordinated.

Guardian letters

Interesting crop of letters in the Guardian today, responding to Paul Oestereicher's article yesterday. It's interesting to see a new zionist tactic emerging. The first letter is from a philisophy lecturer, Harry Lesser, from Machester University who argues that:
"zionism" is a term so vague as to be meaningless
So offer us a definition. A Marjorie Lessey suggests that the C of E should continue investing in Israeli war crimes because:
The Palestinian people, even children, have been indoctrinated with the lie that Israel is occupying their land. The truth is that this area is part of God's land given to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as an everlasting inheritance.
My favourites are these:
The general synod of the Church of England has every right to sell shares in a company whose actions it considers unethical. However, Jonathan Sacks in his criticism of this decision (Sacks accuses synod of bulldozer ill-judgment, February 17) has done precisely what anti-Jewish people and groups do: he has merged Israeli government policies and actions with those of Jews in general. There are substantial numbers of Jews both inside and outside Israel who find the actions of the current Israeli government unacceptable and repugnant, and there is no reason why the synod should not also think so. To do so is not to attack all Jews nor Christian-Jewish relations. Sacks and his supporters have done Jews in Britain and possibly the world a great disservice.
David Freedman

Presumably, the chief rabbi, who concerns himself a great deal with ethics and the position of religious organisations, would prefer it if the church continued to invest in a company whose products are used directly in the brutal oppression of people living under a military occupation. Still, at least Jonathan Sacks is speaking only for himself. Nobody in the Jewish community elected him and he doesn't speak for the vast majority of Jews, many of whom will be appalled at his latest failure to take a moral stand over Israel's continuing occupation of Palestinian land and oppression of its people.
David Rosenberg
And the nuttiest is this:
What Oestreicher fails to comprehend is the exhaustion caused by the constant need to reassert our legitimacy. This is a feeling shared by Jews and Israelis of all religious and political persuasions.
Arthur Oppenheimer
Hove, E Sussex
We might ask "what legitimacy?" here. Or we might point out that there are many Jews who are opposed to the very existence of the State of Israel and certainly to the occupation. There are also of course many Jews who support divestment from companies profiting from the occupation and a more comprehensive boycott of Israel. Does the letters editor of the Guardian really not know that?

February 20, 2006

Independent letters

There are five letters in today's Independent condemning the Chief Rabbi's attack on the Church of England's decision to disinvest from Caterpillar. Here's my fave. Ok, I mean here's one from a friend of mine.
Sir: Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, states that "the Church has chosen to take a stand on the politics of the Middle East". On the contrary: the Church has chosen to take a stand on the issue of international legality and human rights, about which the Chief Rabbi has nothing to say.

In fact, his stand is consistent with his continued position of uncritical support for whatever the Israeli government chooses to do. This is, of course, taking a stand on the politics of the Middle East.

It is indeed strange that a man of the cloth who trumpets his commitment to peace has nothing to say about the godless outcome of the uses to which the Israeli militarised Caterpillar bulldozers are put. Since he is far more angry about a resolution than about the evil that occasioned it, many Jews like myself feel that his strictures are a sign of the bankruptcy of the organised establishment Jewish voice.


Whilst all of the letters condemn the Chief Rabbi's stance, none of them address the dishonesty of his condemnation of the C of E as detailed here.

Leading Anglican says that equating anti-zionism with antisemitism is moral blackmail

Here's a Guardian article from a former Church of Engalnd general synod member, Paul Oestreicher, criticising Israel's policies and indeed zionism itself. It has been written as a response to the Chief Rabbi's disingenuous swipe at the C o E last week.
But the main objective of my writing today, is to nail the lie that to reject Zionism as it practised today is in effect to be anti-semitic, to be an inheritor of Hitler's racism. That argument, with the Holocaust in the background, is nothing other than moral blackmail. It is highly effective. It condemns many to silence who fear to be thought anti-semitic. They are often the very opposite. They are often people whose heart bleeds at Israel's betrayal of its true heritage.

I began with the recognition that the cancer of anti-semitism has not been cured. Tragically, Israel's policies feed it - and when world Jewry defends Israeli policies right or wrong, then anger turns not only against Israel, but against all Jews. I wish it were mere rhetoric to say that Israeli politics today make a holocaust the day after tomorrow credible. If the whole Muslim world hates Israel, that is no idle speculation. To count on Arab disunity and Muslim sectarian conflict and a permanent American shield is no recipe for long-term security.

February 19, 2006

Religiosity rises on both sides in Palestine

Here's an article on the Gush Shalom site about the rise of religion in the struggle over Palestine. It details the transformation of the religious Jewish communities from the margins of the young Israeli state and society to the central role that they now play since the occupation and the settlement drive.
The Zionist movement was non-religious from the start, if not anti-religious. Almost all the Founding Fathers were self-declared atheists. In his book "Der Judenstaat", the original charter of Zionism, Theodor Herzl said that "we shall know how to keep (our clergymen) in their temples." Chaim Weitzman was an agnostic scientist. Vladimir Jabotinsky wanted his body to be cremated - a sin in Judaism. David Ben-Gurion refused to cover his head even at funerals.

All the great rabbis of the day, both Hassidim and their opponents, the Missnagdim, condemned Herzl and cursed him ferociously. They rejected the basic thesis of Zionism, that the Jews are a "nation" in the European sense, instead regarding the Jews as a holy people held together by observance of the divine commandments....
All this changed in the wake of the Six-day War. The Jewish religion staged an astounding comeback.
And on the Palestinian side:
The Arab national movement, too, was born under the influence of the European national idea. Its spiritual fathers called for the liberation of the Arab nation from the shackles of Ottoman rule, and later from the yoke of European colonialism. Many of its founders were Arab Christians.

When a distinct Palestinian national movement came into being, following the Balfour Declaration and the setting up of the British Government of Palestine, it had no religious character. In order to fight it, the British appointed a religious personality to the leadership of the Palestinian community in Palestine: Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who quickly assumed the leadership of the Palestinian struggle against the Zionist immigration. He endeavored to give a religious face to the Palestinian-Arab rebellion. Accusing the Zionist of designs on the Temple Mount with its holy Islamic shrines, he tried to mobilize the Muslim peoples in support of the Palestinians.

The Mufti failed miserably, and his failure played a part in the catastrophe of his people. The Palestinians have all but obliterated him from their history. In the 1950s, they idolized Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, the standard-bearer of secular, pan-Arab nationalism. Later, when Yasser Arafat founded the modern Palestinian national movement, he did not distinguish between Muslims and Christians. Right up to his death, he insisted on calling for the liberation of the "mosques and churches" of Jerusalem.

At one stage of its development, the PLO called for the creation of a "Democratic secular state, where Muslims, Jews and Christians will live together". (Arafat did not like the term "secular", preferring "la-maliah", meaning "non-sectarian".)

George Habash, the leader of the "Arab Nationalists" and later of the "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine", is a Christian.

This situation changed with the outbreak of the first intifada, at the end of 1987. Only then did the Islamist movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, start to take over the national struggle.
Through all of this, Avnery is leading to his conclusion that:
On the day Arafat died, many Israelis were angry with me for saying (in a Haaretz interview) that we shall yet long for this secular leader, who was both willing and able to make peace with us. I said that his elimination removes the last obstacle to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Palestine and the entire Arab world.

One did not need to be a prophet to see that.
I find this disappointing because at no point does Avnery address the problem of redefining the Jews as a nation entitled to armed sovereignty over a territory. We are back in "who-is-a-Jew?" territory. How do we define a nation in such a way as to include identity groups based in territory, like the French or Irish, and non-territorial peoples such as Jews, Roma and Jehovah's Witnesses? The common feature of the Jewish people today seems to be that we either practice Judaism or that we are the descendants of people who practiced Judaism. The most quoted definition of who is a Jew is someone with a Jewish mother. But that is both a religious definition and a circular one. I mean how do we define a Jewish mother? It seems to me that in spite of the "secularism" of early zionism we can't avoid the religious definition of Jews if we are to accord Jews a certain legal status as Jews, particularly if the legal status is one of supremacy. Ethno-religious supremacy is extremely hard (that is, impossible) to justify in humanistic terms and so this, I believe, is where the rise of religion in Israeli Jewish society comes in. It's not a full explanation but then Avnery offers no explanation at all except as an inferrence from the quasi-religious further that set in in the wake of the '67 war. So whilst lamenting the Israeli role in the rise of islamism among the Palestinians he is not really acknowledging the role of zionism in the rise of Israel's own Jewish fundamentalism.

The Chief Rabbi on Cromwellian tolerance?

The Chief Rabbi has been caught out again. This time it's on the subject of when Jews were readmitted, as Jews, to the UK. This is from Eliane Glaser in the Financial Times:
events are about to get under way to mark the 350th anniversary of the "readmission" of Jews under Oliver Cromwell. Britain's oldest synagogue will hold a commemorative service in June; Ken Livingstone's office hopes to erect a huge menorah in Trafalgar Square; the Arts Council has funded a new play; and there are plans for events at Tate Modern and the Royal Society.

The only trouble is, Cromwell didn't allow the Jews to return in 1656.

In fact, as I discovered when researching a doctorate in 17th- century religious history, the supposedly historic event of readmission and resettlement was nothing of the kind.
Here's where the "Chief" comes in.
If you had been listening to Radio 4's "Thought for the Day" last December however, you would have heard Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks give a different version of events: "In the Middle Ages, Britain led the world in its hostility to Jews, and in 1290 became the first country to expel them," he said. "But in one of the great reversals of all time, in the 17th century it led the world in tolerance. Jews came back to Britain in 1656, and in a few weeks time will begin celebrating the 350th anniversary of that event."

When I first attempted to interview the Chief Rabbi for this article, the executive director of his office, Syma Weinberg, told me that I should first read some books on the subject. I told her that I had actually read them all, and had written one myself.

Finally, after several days and many phone calls, I received a call from the Chief Rabbi. I put it to him that the readmission story was not what it was cracked up to be.

"You're right - there were people for, people against; the whole thing is wrapped in obscurity," he said. "Technically there was no moment at which you could say Jews were readmitted."

Sacks defends the anniversary, nonetheless, on the grounds that there is something less obvious to celebrate: namely, the English tradition of informal toleration.

"The fact that there was no formal legislation readmitting the Jews, which we could view negatively, actually worked out rather positively," he said, "because other countries which enacted specific legislation found that this became subject to enormous public debate, and sometimes these countries took several steps backwards, sooner or later revoking those laws."

But what of Sacks's earlier claim that the readmission was "one of the great reversals of all time"? Either something happened, or it didn't.
Then we get Eliane Glaser's own take on Crowellian tolerance.
Unlike Sacks, I regard the informal nature of British tolerance as a sign of reluctance rather than affable accommodation. The Jews were not readmitted to England in 1656; a bill to give them equal rights was repealed in 1754, and they were only permitted to sit in parliament without taking an Anglican oath in 1858, after 11 years of debate.

Challenging the traditional faith in British tolerance is a better way of acknowledging true religious diversity than celebrating an event that didn't happen.
I wonder what Catholics will make of the Chief Rabbi's take on Cromwellian religious tolerance.

UPDATE: I was a bit to hasty to run with my "enemy's enemy" here. Here's Charlie Pottins's take on Eliane Glaser's article:
I think this bit of historical revisionism, which has been aired before, should be viewed with suspicion. What is the meaning of calling England "deeply antisemitic" ? Is it supposed to be something in the water, or genetic? I don't know anything about Ms.Glaser, but I catch a whiff here of the
"eternal antisemite" way of thinking which is about as scientific as the "eternal

...If the initial flow of Jews to England was not huge, it may be simply because there was no pressing reason to come, nor any prospects for most. But the Cromwell period was definitely a turning point, and whatever his motives, his rule was good for Jews! As for his "tolerance" or otherwise, Cromwell did clamp down fiercely on his "left" - like the Diggers and Levellers (such as the mutineers commemorated at Burford church, in Oxforshire, where their ringleaders were executed. They had refused to go to Ireland.) He waged a colonial war in Ireland and massacred those who resisted (who were serving not a "progressive" national movement, incidentally, but a reactionary church and king).

But we need to free our historical thinking from religious perspectives, or
anachronistic ethical categories, and look at what happened, including religious developments, historically, asking what interests they served.

February 18, 2006

More reminders of the utter fraud that is Alan Dershowitz

Here are some links to a videoed debate between Norman Finkelstein and Alan Dershowitz.
Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

"The shockingness of your falsification is really breathtaking" - That's Finkelstein condemning Dershowitz. I don't think any serious observer could disagree. The only thing that does worry me is that Finkelstein's demolition job is so thorough, the less serious observers might feel sorry for him.

Dershowitz fraud revisited

I've had some visits from a couple of Engage people supporting the exposed fraud Alan Dershowitz, so here's a reminder of one his greatest works:
In the introduction to The Case for Israel, Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School asserts that his account is supported by "facts and figures, some of which will surprise those who get their information from biased sources" (p. 2). Yet, the evidence Dershowitz adduces will surprise no one familiar with the most notorious source of historical bias on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever published in the English language. The charts below document Dershowitz's wholesale lifting of source material from Joan Peters's monumental hoax, From Time Immemorial. Dershowitz not only copies Peters shamelessly, but knowingly does so from a book serious scholars have uniformly condemned. (For details on the Peters hoax, see Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, and Yehoshua Porath, "Mrs. Peters's Palestine," The New York Review of Books, 16 January 1986.) He is effectively no different from a professor lifting sources wholesale from a leading Holocaust revisionist in a book on the Holocaust. On a note both humorous and pathetic, Peters, in From Time Immemorial and claiming to be inspired by George Orwell, coins the term "turnspeak" to signal the inversion of reality (pp. 173, 402). Dershowitz, apparently confounded by his massive borrowings from Peters, credits the term "turnspeak" to Orwell, accusing critics of Israel of "deliberately using George Orwell's 'turnspeak'" (p. 57) and "Orwellian turnspeak" (p. 153). Is this scandalous scholarship, or is it plagiarism, or is it both?

Norman G. Finkelstein
Apparently his status as a Harvard face and the praise he has received from his fellow zionists in the American media and the Israeli government means that he must be a man of the highest integrity.

Hamas to change its charter

According to the Jerusalem Post, Hamas have been holding meetings with the aim of changing its charter.
Rather than texts assailing the Jews, as in the current charter, said Tamimi, "The whole language [in the new document] will be changed to political language."

Tamimi, who has given interviews defending suicide bombings that kill Israeli civilians, added in a telephone interview from London, "All that nonsense about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and conspiracy theories - all that rubbish will be out. It should have never been there in the first place."

The Hamas charter, written in August 1988 shortly after the group was founded, is rife with anti-Semitic statements. One reads: "Our struggle against the Jews is very great... [and will be pursued] until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realized... 'The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'"

The present charter also calls for "jihad" to liberate all of mandatory Palestine and declares that "so-called peaceful solutions contradict the principles of Hamas." It blames "Zionists" for the French and Russian revolutions, and cites the Protocols as a legitimate document.

"Any respectable group would not fall into such a trap because this is a totally false book," said Tamimi, who also advises Hamas leaders on media issues.
I doubt whether the removal of clearly antisemitic passages from the charter will receive as much publicity as their presence has done.

What the Synod said and what the Chief Rabbi said it said

Have a look at this article in the Jewish Chronicle by the Chief Rabbi. See this bit:
Locally there was the vote of the synod of the Church of England to heed a call to divest from companies associated with Israel
And this:
The vote of the synod of the Church of England to “heed” a call to divestment from certain companies associated with Israel was ill-judged even on its own terms.
Now look at what the Synod actually said:
(a) heed the call from our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, for morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc, until they change their policies;

(b) encourage the Ethical Investment Advisory Group to follow up the consultation referred to in its Report (GS 1604) with intensive discussions with Caterpillar Inc, with a view to its withdrawing from supplying or maintaining either equipment or parts for use by the state of Israel in demolishing Palestinian homes &c;

(c) in the light of the urgency of the situation, and the increased support needed by Palestinian Christians, urge members of the EIAG to actively engage with monitoring the effects of Caterpillar Inc's machinery in the Palestinian occupied territories through visiting the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East to learn of their concerns first hand, and to see recent house demolitions;

(d) urge the EIAG to give weight to the illegality under international law of the activities in which Caterpillar Inc's equipment is involved; and

(e) urge the EIAG to respond to the monitoring visit and the further discussions with Caterpillar Inc by updating its recommendations in the light of these.’
Note how, at its most general, the motion is "to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation." But reading the whole thing it is clearly aimed at Caterpillar in particular and then because of the use of its bullbozers in the commission of Israeli war crimes in the occupied territories. Nowhere does th Chief Rabbi mention either Caterpillar or the occupation.

So now if you refuse to invest in Israeli war crimes you are stoking the flames of antisemitism.

February 17, 2006

Cartoon character with a long nose

Well well well. Dr David Hirsh has had a letter published in the Guardian accusing various pro-boycott academics of misrpresentation of the words of the British Ambassador to the State of Israel. I posted the pro-boycott letter here. Ok then, here it is again:
Academic boycott

The newspaper Haaretz recently reported that the British ambassador to Israel, Simon McDonald, told a meeting at Bar Ilan University: "We had success in May" in overturning the AUT boycott of two Israeli universities. He is also reported to have described the AUT as taken over by a "highly motivated minority" who captured it to further their agenda. Bar Ilan was one of two universities targeted by a 2005 AUT boycott resolution as it had established the College of Judea and Samaria in the colony of Ariel, in the occupied West Bank (Vote ends Israeli boycott, May 27 2005). Under pressure of the boycott motion, Bar Ilan divested itself of legal responsibility for its offspring and the Israeli government hastily accorded the college independent university status. As members of AUT and Natfhe, we would like to ask the British ambassador why he was intervening in a professional trade union matter? Is it now Foreign Office practice? If not, who is the "we" to whom McDonald referred?

Prof Steven French, AUT, University of Leeds, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, AUT, LSE, Prof Steven Rose, AUT, Open University, Sue Blackwell, AUT, Birmingham, AG Nasser, AUT, Manchester, Phil Marfleet, Natfhe, East London, Bahadur Najak, AUT, Durham, Sean Wallis, AUT, University College London, Sami Ramadani, Natfhe, London Metropolitan, and seven others
Here's the doctor's response:
The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel has misrepresented the words of the British ambassador to Israel at the Bar-Ilan conference (Letters, February 16). A full and accurate transcript of what he said is available online (EngageOnline.org.uk) Simon McDonald said that it is possible for a highly motivated minority to win a vote where participation is low. He pointed out that, in a democratic organisation, a wrong can be righted. This is what happened in the AUT and the British government was pleased that the wrong was righted. The government, McDonald said, "recognised that the AUT was an independent player. Academic freedom cuts both ways. And whilst the British government made its views plain, it was up to the institution to right its own wrong". According to the letter's authors, McDonald admitted that the British government had intervened in this matter. What he had actually said was that "it is up to the institution to right its own wrong".

McDonald finished with a quote from Albert Einstein, that the right to academic freedom "implies also a duty. One must not conceal any part of what one has recognised to be true". The boycott campaign should take this advice more carefully.
Dr David Hirsh
Goldsmiths College, London

Ok so here's where the cartoon character with the long nose comes in. Dr Hirsh's Engage website is becoming increasingly unhinged and so when he's not trying to schmooze the Guardian with words like "misrepresentation", which could of course arise out of misunderstanding, he is running a cartoon of Pinocchio to say that the writers of the original letter are actually liars. Now we have to look at the Ha'aretz article that the boycott posse were responding to.
British Ambassador Simon McDonald criticized the Association of University Teachers (AUT), the British higher education union that imposed a short-lived boycott on Israeli academia last April.

The AUT was taken over by a "highly motivated minority," he said, who captured the large organization to further their agenda.

"We had success in May," he said of the decision to overturn the boycott one month after it was first passed. "But it won't necessarily continue and vigilance is vital to renewing that success."
It looks to me that their report of Ha'aretz's report was 100% accurate and that Hirsh's beef is as to whether the ambassador's words amounted to an intervention in the AUT's affairs. I'd say it did though I have to say that the boycott posse are being a tad naive if they expect the government to cheerfully stand back and not intervene when anti-zionist or pro-boycott groups or individuals are actively trying to undermine an aspect of Britain's unethical foreign policy.

In conclusion, thus we see, blah di blah, it looks to me that it is Dr Hirsh and his Engage site who are doing the misrepresenting here.

George Carey: C of E should invest in Qassam rockets

Ok, he didn't actually say that. According to the Independent, what he did, with regard to the Church of England decision to disinvest from the manufacturers of one of Israel's weapons against the Palestinians, Caterpillar, was to describe it as a:
"one-eyed strategy to rebuke one side and forget the traumas of ordinary Israelis who live in fear of suicide bombers and those whose policy it is to destroy all Jews".
So what do we do to balance things out with regard to those who now spent many decades destroying Palestinians? Perhaps George Carey wants to end the "one-sidedness" he complains of by having the C of E invest in Qassam rockets.

February 16, 2006

Israel: strong but just

Just kidding. That was something that Ben Gurion said way back when. Here's the actual quote (actually it's not a quote; it's reported speech) in Ha'aretz:
David Ben-Gurion said that Israel's fate is dependent on two things: its strength and justness.
I think we can replace the word "justness" with "PR". In fact that's what this article is about. It is titled Improve the image and it openly frets about the description of Israel as an apartheid state. The writer, Aluf Benn, wants Israel to improve its PR but it might just be that the product needs to be overhauled...in its entirety.

Israel's Gandhian ethnic cleansing

Here's Amira Hass in Ha'aretz showing that when Israel invokes Gandhi it is not an appeal for peace but a harbinger of still more ethnic cleansing:
Someone who apparently had an especially sarcastic sense of humor decided to officially name the Jordan Valley Road, Route 90, the "Gandhi Road." The reference is not to Mahatma Gandhi, but to Rehavam Ze'evi, who advocated "transfer" - the expulsion of the Palestinians from their land. Perhaps he understood that this was indeed the appropriate name for the eastern road. For not only on this road, but throughout the enormous and beautiful expanse of the Jordan Valley and the eastern slopes of the hills, there is an oppressive sense of absence, loss, and emptiness.

The Palestinians have disappeared from the valley, aside from a few thousand who live there plus some to whom Israel agrees to give daily entrance permits for various reasons. It is not even possible to include the approximately 35,000 residents of Jericho among those remaining, because the Israel Defense Forces forbids them to travel northward of Area A, where they live.
Some zionists are telling us that Israel's ethnic cleansing is a thing of the past. This article suggests otherwise.

Israel ponders a new Arab town

From Ha'aretz it appears that Israel is considering building a new Arab town from scratch. I think Israel designates its towns Jewish, Arab or mixed but I'll have to check:
Chairman of the Interior Committee for Building and Planning Issues in the Arab sector MK Raleb Majadele (Labor) responded to Dahoud by saying that "not everybody supports the creation of a new Arab town. There are many who believe that the expansion of existing towns and communities is preferable."

MK Abdulmalik Dehamshe (United Arab List) disagreed with Majadele, arguing that "we must strive to create many Arab towns in Israel."

During the debate, the committee considered several issues plaguing Israeli Arab communities, including the shortage of public space, the poor infrastructure levels, and the wide-scale illegal construction.

Dahoud presented a list of recommendations for dealing with these issues, including comprehensively reforming the planning and building laws to allow Arab towns to expand legally, distributing land ownership more equally, and changing the government's land expropriation policy.
Here's Israeli architect, Abe Hayeem's take on this from the Just Peace UK list:
This sort of enterprise has often been mooted, but little has come of it.

It simply does not square with the limitations put on Palestinian Israelis' lack of land and property rights encased in Israeli law, and could be a ruse to take over the centres of the 'mixed' cities by the ultra Orthodox, and thus segregate the two communities even further. Why then are internally displaced Palestinians not allowed to return to what few remains exist of their villages, like Livta, which are being developed for Jewish -only luxury housing, while negating any sign of their previous presence there?

Academic boycott update

Here's a letter in today's Guardian on the British ambassador to Israel's take on the overturning of the Association of University Teachers' motion to boycott Israeli universities.
Academic boycott

The newspaper Haaretz recently reported that the British ambassador to Israel, Simon McDonald, told a meeting at Bar Ilan University: "We had success in May" in overturning the AUT boycott of two Israeli universities. He is also reported to have described the AUT as taken over by a "highly motivated minority" who captured it to further their agenda. Bar Ilan was one of two universities targeted by a 2005 AUT boycott resolution as it had established the College of Judea and Samaria in the colony of Ariel, in the occupied West Bank (Vote ends Israeli boycott, May 27 2005). Under pressure of the boycott motion, Bar Ilan divested itself of legal responsibility for its offspring and the Israeli government hastily accorded the college independent university status. As members of AUT and Natfhe, we would like to ask the British ambassador why he was intervening in a professional trade union matter? Is it now Foreign Office practice? If not, who is the "we" to whom McDonald referred?

Prof Steven French, AUT, University of Leeds, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, AUT, LSE, Prof Steven Rose, AUT, Open University, Sue Blackwell, AUT, Birmingham, AG Nasser, AUT, Manchester, Phil Marfleet, Natfhe, East London, Bahadur Najak, AUT, Durham, Sean Wallis, AUT, University College London, Sami Ramadani, Natfhe, London Metropolitan, and seven others

February 15, 2006

Go to Jenin, judge tells newly weds

From yesterday's Ha'aretz:
During a final debate Tuesday before the High Court was to issue its ruling on a petition calling for the cancellation of an amendment to the Citizenship Law, Justice Mishael Cheshin said Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians should go live in Jenin....

The petitioners claim the amendment, which denies citizenship to Palestinians but would grant it to other foreign nationals who marry Israelis, is inherently discriminatory and racist.

"Personal freedom touches on the most basic of human rights: The right to love, to love and be loved by one's partner, to aspire to establish a home and a joint life without any institutional obstacles," the petition said.

February 14, 2006

When Norman met Shlomo

Here are some links to Democracy Now presenting Norman Finkelstein in conversation with former Israeli foreign minister, Shlomo Ben Ami:
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami Debates Outspoken Professor Norman Finkelstein on Israel, the Palestinians, and the Peace Process

What happens when a former Israeli Foreign Minister debates a scholar known as one of the world's foremost critics of Israeli policy? The answer is not what you may expect. We spend the hour with Shlomo Ben Ami, author of "Scars of War, Wounds of Peace," and Norman Finkelstein, author of "Beyond Chutzpah". They joined us in our firehouse studio for a wide-ranging exchange. We discussed the origins of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, to the Oslo Peace Process, right up to the present. [includes rush transcript]

Former Israeli Foreign Minister: "If I were a Palestinian, I Would Have Rejected Camp David"

In Part Two of our debate, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami and scholar Norman Finkelstein address the intricacies of a question that has been the subject of much debate - what happened at the Camp David peace talks in July 2000? Both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict say the other rejected peace, leading to the violence that has marked the conflict since. Ben Ami -- who was a leading member of the Israeli negotiation team -- says he would have rejected Camp David if he were a Palestinian, and discusses the ensuing peace talks in Taba in January 2001.

Norman Finkelstein on the "Not-so-New New Anti-Semitism" and Shlomo Ben Ami on Terror, Torture, and Peace

Norman Finkelstein argues that some supporters of Israeli government policies have attempted to de-legitimize criticism by disingenuously heaping the charge of anti-Semitism. Shlomo Ben Ami defends Israel's record on human rights, and says peace will only come about through a negotiated two-state settlement.
Includes mp3s and transcripts.

Thanks to Gorilla in the Room.

Also posted to Lenin's Tomb

Reform and the Law of Return

Israeli Religious Action Centre has complained that Israel's representatives in eastern Europe are refusing to recognise non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism.
Attorney Nicole Maor writes that a few weeks ago, 22-year-old T.S., who converted to Judaism through the Reform rabbinical courts in Europe, asked Israel's embassy in Moscow for a tourist visa to Israel. T.S. planned to visit her husband, N.S., who is in Israel for six months on a Jewish Agency study program slated to boost immigration. According to Maor, T.S. presented her conversion certificate and entitlement to the status of immigrant.

"Unlike for those born Jewish or converts through Orthodox rabbinical courts, the embassy representative refused to accept her application for a tourist visa as entitled under the Law of Return."

Instead of the simple visa with no limitations provided to the entitled under the Law of Return, the embassy gave T.S. a form for foreigners seeking to visit Israel.

The difference is substantial, as under the Law of Return, Jews are granted immediate tourist visas, while citizens of the former Soviet Union face a protracted application process, requiring relatives in Israel to formally invite the applicant for a visit, as well as approval from the Population Administration. In addition, the Israeli must provide a host of documents such as a lease, pay stubs, and municipal tax bills and must make a security deposit to guarantee the tourist will leave Israel at the end of the visa period.
From Ha'aretz.

Anti-boycott article

Here's Danny Rubinstein in today's Ha'aretz:
Hamas' victory must not serve as a pretext for the Israeli government to stop the political process and disengage from dialogue with the Palestinians. About three weeks have passed since the political earthquake of Hamas' victory, and it is now possible, to a large extent, to assess the direction of developments in the West Bank and Gaza........

.........Hamas leaders say that the problem is not whether they will recognize Israel, but whether Israel will recognize the rights of the Palestinians......

Against this background, what is needed is an Israeli policy that does not reiterate the shopworn cliche of "it is now clear that we have no partner on the Palestinian side; there is no one to talk with." After Yasser Arafat was declared a non-partner because he supported terrorism, the Palestinians elected Abbas as their leader - the man of whom Bir Zeit lecturer Nazmi Juaba said: "More of a partner than Abu Mazen [Abbas] we cannot create for you." Abbas is still around. He is a chairman with real powers, he has support in the region and worldwide, and he is seeking a way to work with both the new Palestinian government and the government of Israel. The latter must not boycott the Palestinians because of Hamas.

February 13, 2006

Another obituary for Sharon

Here's an article in Electronic Intifada recapping on Sharon's career:
After reading a number of tentative eulogies for now brain-damaged Ariel Sharon in the mainstream US press, one wishes that more sound-bites and column space could be devoted to those who bore the brunt of “the Bulldozer’s” morally troubling and legally insupportable policies and decisions.

Could we not hear from the bereaved parents of the Israeli soldiers that Sharon led into Lebanon in 1982 in a reckless war that caused more Israeli casualties and provoked sharper social debates than any Israeli military action up until then? Perhaps we should give attention not only to Ariel Sharon’s idyllic ranch, steely determination, and pride as a warrior, but also to the most aggrieved victims of violent acts committed under his Command Responsibility: the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 16-18 September 1982.

One cannot help wondering, in light of media focus on the campaign for the upcoming Israeli elections: What ever happened to the Israeli public that reacted with appropriate moral horror to news of the massacre in 1982 by staging the largest demonstrations Israel had ever seen? No Arab country witnessed such public outrage over the massacre; Lebanon's shattered government refused to investigate it seriously.

Is it possible that the Israel of 1982 had more integrity than the Israel of today? Average Israelis' humane and outraged reaction to the massacre 23 years ago paved the way for the 1983 Kahan Commission's (non-legally binding) investigation, which concluded that Ariel Sharon should never again hold public office. His return as Prime Minister in 2001 reveals Israel's political cynicism, deterioration, and corruption. Palestinian intransigence does not explain Sharon's political resurrection as well as does the complete impunity that Israel has enjoyed for war crimes over the last two decades, particularly since the Al-Qaida attacks of 2001, a watershed event that enabled Israeli and US discourses about "wars on terror" to dovetail seamlessly.

Don't say the P-word in Hollywood

Ha'aretz reports that Israel and zionist groups are lobbying the Academy Awards to refrain from using the word "Palestine" when presenting the film Paradise Now which was made in, er, Palestine.
Israel and U.S. Jewish groups have lobbied organizers of next month's Academy Awards not to present a nominated film about Palestinian suicide bombers as coming from "Palestine," an Israeli diplomat said yesterday.

With Israeli-Palestinian tensions running high, the provenance of "Paradise Now" is as combustible an issue as its plot in the run-up to the March 5 ceremony, which will be watched by millions worldwide.

A drama about two West Bank men recruited to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv, "Paradise Now" is a contender for the Oscar in the "best foreign film" category.
This is actually a step forward from a few of years ago when Palestinian films wouldn't even be considered in the foreign category lest an academy award nomination looked like recognition of Palestine.

Bulldozer row at C of E

According to the Guardian, former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has weighed into the row about the Anglican Church supporting disinvestment from Caterpillar on account of Israel's use of their bulldozers to commit war crimes in the occupied territories. Current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, came in for particular criticism.
His predecessor as archbishop, George Carey, said the synod decision made him ashamed to be an Anglican and Canon Andrew White, the church's chief negotiator in the Middle East, described the motion as "more sanctimonious claptrap" which made him despair of the church.
I don't know what obscurantist source could lead Christians to believe that investing in war crimes is good Christian behaviour. Perhaps there are clues on the Anglicans for Israel site.

Exposing apartheid in Israel

The Guardian's readers' editor has a round-up regarding Chris McGreal's articles likening Israel to a apartheid South Africa. I linked to the articles here and here. Chris McGreal speaks of how he came to see the analogy between Israel and apartheid South Africa.
I learned day by day, and it began to grow on me that there were parallels to be drawn or at least explored. And at the same time I became aware that there was definitely a taboo around the issue."

He did not, in his two articles, draw conclusions. Neither have the leader columns of the Guardian offered any comment. McGreal's intention, and this was clearly endorsed by the Guardian in publishing the articles, was to open the subject to debate.
Curious then that when the Guardian did editorialise on the Israel-apartheid analogy it editorialised against it on the grounds that Israelis don't like the analogy:
Supporters of boycotts often argue that Israel should be treated like apartheid South Africa. That is a controversial parallel which many Israelis see as delegitimating their state. Friends of the Palestinians should question whether this kind of boycott is not a blunt instrument that is unlikely to serve their cause well.
Not much in the way of explanation there.

February 12, 2006

Iranian Jews condemn Ahmadinejad

Here's a Ha'aretz article from Reuters, on the Iranian Jewish community's letter of protest to the President of Iran.
Iran's Jews slam Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial remarks
By Reuters

TEHRAN - Iran's Jews have sharply criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust, saying his remarks have sparked fears in their ancient but dwindling community.

Ahmadinejad has dismissed the 1933-1945 genocide of six million Jews by the Nazis and their allies as a myth, saying the crime was exaggerated to bolster Israeli interests.

Haroun Yashayaei, the head of Iran's Jewish community, sent a letter of complaint to Ahmadinejad two weeks ago.

"How is it possible to ignore all of the undeniable evidence existing for the exile and massacre of the Jews in Europe during World War Two?" said a copy of Yashayaei's letter faxed to Reuters on Sunday.

"Challenging one of the most obvious and saddening events of 20th-century humanity has created astonishment among the people of the world and spread fear and anxiety among the small Jewish community of Iran," the letter added.

A Jewish community leader said he preferred not to comment on whether Ahmadinejad had sent a reply to the letter, penned on behalf on the entire Jewish community.

Jews occupy an awkward position in Israel's arch-foe Iran, often speaking out against Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual father of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, urged Iranians to distinguish clearly between their own ancient community and Zionists.

However, Iran's Jewish community has slumped to some 25,000 members from about 85,000 at the time of the revolution. Iran's population is about 69 million.

Iran's Jews are often the subject of intense suspicion and 10 from the southern city of Shiraz were convicted of spying in 2000. The closed door trial sparked international outrage.

The last five detained were released in April 2003.

Last April, Iran's Jewish parliamentarian had to complain to parliament that popular television serials were anti-Semitic. The parliament speaker supported his complaint.

Iran's Jews are sometimes called "Esther's Children". The Jewess Esther, a queen of Persia who gave her name to a book of the Bible, is buried in the Western Iranian city of Hamadan.
Letters of protest to the Iranian Embassy can be sent here. I wrote to them on 11/1/2006 about this and I got a receipt but no reply so far.


Here's an intro by David Shasha to an article that appeared on Ynet back in December 05. I find David Shasha a remarkable chap. He claims to be a zionist and, as an Arab Jew, he is harshly critical of the Ashkenazi domination of Israel and of American Jewish life. He is also a great admirer of the UK's Chief Rabbi who he sees as a shining example of integrity and tolerance, which gives you some idea of the intolerance dominating Jewish communal life in America these days.
Leaving aside the fact that Mr. Hanania has not seen the movie in question, his tirade against the Arab world is a most interesting indicator of how Zionist HASBARAH has infected so many corners of the media world we now live in.

I will accept Hanania's characterization of the Arab world as lacking in the freedom of speech that we have in the West.

The question is: Will Hanania accept that there is a similar lack of freedom inside the Jewish community and its various media satellites?

In addition, while it is quite easy to pick on the Arabs for their dictators and their religious extremists, it is quite difficult to actually identify and articulate the idea that the Jews as a whole, have organized themselves into a bloc that speaks in one voice and attempts to block any attempt to create a pluralistic discourse.

The "Munich" episode is just such an example of this phenomenon. There have been many attacks on Spielberg's film prior to its release. I have received e-mails promoting boycotts of the film. This is quite interesting because those involved in writing and directing the film are all Jews. But the Right Wing Jews calling for the boycott are deeply concerned to enforce a certain regulated discourse on the matter of Israel. According to this model of discourse, anyone who removes themselves from the Right Wing Zionist consensus opens themselves up to smears and hate of unimaginable viciousness no matter their own Zionism or fidelity to Jewish causes.

Hanania does well to point out that Arabs can be as hypocritical as any other ethnic group, but he does not balance his argument out with what goes on in the Jewish community.

I am quite aware that it is hard to say that the Jews control the media; perhaps it is better to say that a certain part of the Jewish community has been able to control all discourse about Jews and Israel and to make sure that dissenting voices are either not heard or not given legitimacy. I believe that this would be a judicious way of putting it.

And for those Sephardim who continue to march in lockstep with the Ashkenazim and just as consistently continue to cry and whine about their disenfranchisement as Sephardim, they only have themselves to blame. The priorities and values of the Sephardic community not only have very little in common with the tyrannical Ashkenazim, but they are often completely in conflict with those of this Ashkenazi majority of Jews who more often than not act in a demeaning and paternalistic manner towards us.

Steven Spielberg has made a film that will serve to reflect the values of Ashkenazim on the Left and the battle waged with the Ashkenazim on the Right only reinforces the dysfunctional way in which the intolerance of this community plays itself out.

That Hanania seeks to valorize these misplaced and often damaging values is something that is quite inexplicable to me.

I have posted Ray Hanania's article in full here. Ray Hanania is an Arab American comedian.

Merkel, Hitler and Ahmadinejad

Here's an interesting letter in the Observer today:
Why Merkel is wrong

To equate, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel does, backward Iran with Hitler's technologically advanced Third Reich is absurd ('Iran faces UN nuclear crisis', last week). Iran, unlike certain democracies, has never committed aggression. As for the Iranian President's verbal wish to see the end of Israel, the Chancellor should acknowledge the West's (and Germany's) baleful historical roles in the Middle East. The creation of Israel was facilitated not just by Empire (the Balfour declaration) but, more importantly, by the Holocaust (the wronged party was recompensed at the expense of an innocent third party).

Even-handedness requires that we aim for a nuclear-free (and WMD-free) Middle East. Iran would forgo enriching uranium and Washington, in return, would agree to a 'no first use' nuclear weapons policy.
Yugo Kovach

February 11, 2006

What's to tolerate?

There are many reports and comments on Israel's proposed building of a Museum of Tolerance on Muslim graves in Jerusalem. Donald MacIntyre reports on it in the Independent here and Meron Benvenisti comments in Ha'aretz thus:
The initiators of the white elephant called the Museum of Tolerance declared that they do not deal with Holocaust-related issues and will not deal with issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The first statement was meant to ensure Yad Vashem's monopoly on Holocaust issues. The meaning of the second statement is now transpiring: The tolerance preachers couldn't care less that they are building on a foundation of generations of Muslim skeletons. After all, they promised not to deal with the local conflict. Let Moria, the company owned by the reunited city of Jerusalem, deal with skeleton matters. After almost 40 years of sanctimoniousness and double standards, City Hall should know how to cover up the hypocrisy of building a museum of tolerance on - of all places - a desecrated Muslim cemetery.
So what are the racist war criminals of the State of Israel calling on us to tolerate?

Also posted to Lenin's Tomb.

February 10, 2006

Architectural intifada?

The Independent reports that a group of influential architects are calling for an economic boycott of Israel's construction industry.
Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, whose members include Richard Rogers and the architectural critic Charles Jenckes, met for the first time last week in secret at the London headquarters of Lord Rogers' practice. He introduced the meeting, and the 60 attendees went on to condemn the illegal annexation of Palestinian land and the construction of the vast fence and concrete separation barrier running through the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The Indie also has one Israeli architect - Yitzhak Lipovetzky-Lir - arguing against a boycott and Abe Hayeem arguing in favour.

Putin to meet with Hamas leaders

According to Ha'aretz, Vladimir Putin has said that he will be inviting Hamas leaders to meet with him in Moscow. The Israelis are none to happy about this:
Minister Meir Sheetrit accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "stabbing Israel in the back" for saying he planned to invite Hamas leaders to visit, and said Moscow should not play any role in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Russia "cannot fill any position regarding negotiations with the Palestinians" unless it changes its position on Hamas, Sheetrit told Israel Radio.

Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said Hamas leaders would visit Russia if they receive an official invitatation.

But Sheetrit said no such invitation should be forthcoming until Hamas renounces its charter, which calls for Israel's destruction.
The UN General Secretary is also keen to give Hamas a chance.

February 07, 2006

Engage with anti-semitism

This is bizarre. David Hirsh, the zionist (he claims to be non-zionist without defining zionist) sociology lecturer behind the Engage website has hurled a bit of anti-semitic abuse at Charlie Pottins of the Jewish Socialist Group. It appears in the comments to an article on Sue Blackwell's recent foray into al-Ahram on the Protocols and holocaust denial. Check out Sue's article first. Then the Engage one. Here's Charlie's comment:
Obviously Sue Blackwell can do no right by you. After all, she moved a resolution in the AUT to boycott two Istaeli institutions on account of specific issues, and in your book this places her "behind the campaign to blacklist Israeli scientists, academics, teachers, students, musicians and artists".
Presumably you had some arguments against the proposal to boycott Haifa and Bar Ilan, but why trouble with details when you can so much more easily scare the kinder with tales about a completely different and imaginary boycott.

Outside your esteemed circles Sue has been known as an active anti-racist,and anti-fascist, and has also opposed the way some people accomodate with Islamic fundamentalism. But when she makes it her business to take the fight against antisemitism and Holocaust revisionism into the Arab media, plainly this is not satisfying. You would have her responsible for every unpleasantness in the Arab world (does this mean you take responsibility for the Kahamists?) Or are you perhaps worried that if Sue and others succeed in countering antisemitic influences you will have less to point to?
Sue has also challenged the poisonous activity of Israel Shamir and others like him. Her website was exposing Shamir's double-identity as a Swedish antisemite when the stalwarts of UJS were far more interested in closing Sue Blackwell's website. Likesise she has taken on Gilad Arzmon and Paul Eisen, and now taken this fight into Al Ahram. Perhaps Engage would be sorry to lose such useful bogeys. How dare supporters of the Palestinian struggle take up a real fight against antisemitism?! Why, they'll not only make it harder for you to smear them, but people might wonder what responsibility you lot have ever undertaken.
See how the self-styled non-zionist and anti-semitism watchdog, David Hirsh responds:
Charlie Pottins, please relate to the argument in the post. Of course Sue is in favour of a full academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Don't play games. Relate to the discussion Charlie.

And please write in English Charlie, not in Yiddish. This is not a forum for you to perform your anti-Zionist Jewish identity. It is a serious discussion about antisemitism in the British Labour Movement.
Charlie comes back:
So far as I am concerned I was relating to the discussion. Whether I'd call it serious is another matter.

As for my language.I'll speak and write how I please. Sorry if my English is not pure enough for you. I thought the old Zionist war on Yiddish had ended, and its a long time since kids were forbidden to use Yiddish in schools in Britain, nowadays you even hear it on telly.
If the odd "foreign" even Yiddish expression grates on your ears, perhaps you should wonder whether it is other people's antisemitism you have problems with.
Mind you, I'm no psychologist, not even a sociologist, just a historian.
Curiously, David Hirsh's Engage colleague, John Pike, could see that Charlie had addressed the points raised.
Charlie Pottins, you are simply wrong about the boycott resolutions in the AUT. The (false, libelous) case that was made against Haifa called for a boycott in line with, and citing, the PACBI call. The A and the C in PACBI stand for Academic and Cultural. And Ilan Pappe, in his Guardian piece about the boycott made it clear that, though he was 'flattered' by the attention given to his 'predicament', at Haifa, this was a tactical and strategic mistake.

Sue Blackwell is in favour of a full academic and cultural boycott of Israel along the lines of the PACBI call, and she's in favour of this because, amongst other things, she regards Israel as an illegitimate state. It is that view that has been criticised here, and defended in many places by Sue. Why on earth do you seek to misrepresent it?

Selectivity was always a pretty overt tactical ploy, and the boycotters have now more or less dropped it. Check the text of the PACBI call and the interview with Pappe and try to keep up.
Ok, patronising, insulting even, but he clearly disagrees with Hirsh's put-down. And he avoids Hirsh's anti-semitism. Going back to that, Hirsh seems to have a problem with Jews. Here he is in the late Nick Cohen's comments section slagging me:
Yours is a Jewish nationalist position, isn’t it Mark? You oppose (your strange understanding of) Zionism “as a Jew”. You challenge “Zionist hegemony” within “the community”. Anti-Zionism is your way of being Jewish. Its a naughty school-boy way; its a wind-up daddy way; but its your way. That explains why Israel is at the centre of your universe - because you share this feature with some other small fringe racist traditions of Jewish nationalism.
He's got a real thing about Jews, this non-zionist, David Hirsh.

I should point out here that when I say "the late Nick Cohen's comments section" its because he deleted all of the comments from his blog; not because he died. Anyway I posted them to my Jews against zionism blog. I missed the last 12 or so. I had some correspondence with him about why he stopped commenting altogether and you can see that here. He deleted the comments from the "anti-semitism" article after the correspondence. I'm not sure why and I can't rely on him to say. I'm guessing that either Linda Grant or David Hirsh persuaded him to delete them. If you have a look through them you'll see why that's my supposition.

C of E votes to divest from Caterpillar

There's a quirky article in the Times today about the Church of England General Synod (parliament) voting to divest from Caterpillar on account of Caterpillar suppling bulldozers that are purpose built for Israel's persistent war crimes. I say quirky because the writer, Ruth Gledhill, is an Anglican for Israel. This is apparent elsewhere in the paper but not in or after the article here.
In a surprise move, the General Synod voted to back a call from the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East for "morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories".

In particular, the Synod backed the Jerusalem church's call for the Church Commissioners to disinvest from "companies profiting from the illegal occupation", such as Caterpillar Inc. Caterpillar, a US company, manufactures bulldozers used in clearance projects in the occupied territories, and also used by Palestinians in their own rebuilding work.
Ok, that's the news. Now look:
No time was made to debate an amending motion put forward by Anglicans for Israel, the new and influential pro-Israel lobby group.
I couldn't find anything via the Times homepage or search facility to show that Ruth Gledhill is a Christian zionist but I could find her more overt opinion piece in the Times via the Anglicans for Israel site.
As an Anglican myself, this decision provokes anger and shock in me, allied with shame and embarrassment. Have 2000 years of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and the horrific death toll of suicide bombings in Israel taught us nothing?
This morning that quote was listed as the Times's "quote of the day". Check the homepage now and they've changed it for one from David Aaronovitch. I'm not suggesting anything sinister here, I just guess that they realised that such a silly quote didn't require such prominence. But then to have Aaronovitch provide the quote for the day is a bit desperate for such a major daily.