July 29, 2007

Israel and the Empire

I just got my Sephardic Heritage Update. It's a newsletter published in Word and sent out as an attachment. I'd like it to be a site but the paper's editor and distributor, David Shasha, has resisted persuasion to make it into one. Perhaps he doesn't have time to deal with inane apologetics for Israel in the comments. Mind you he could always not have a comments section. Anyway, he writes some articles and copies others from various sources. The newsletter only came out today and so I have only just seen this Associated Press article headed Original Masada findings disputed. The story's been about for a good while so a quick google search shows that it has appeared in at least 1,000 sites.

The story of Masada is one of a mass suicide by Zealots in preference to being captured and/or killed by the Romans.
The remains of two male skeletons and a full head of woman's hair, including two braids, were found in a bathhouse by archaeologists in the 1960s. They were long thought to belong to a family of Zealots, the fanatic Jewish rebels said to have killed themselves rather than fall into Roman slavery in A.D. 73, a story that plays an important role in Israel's national mythology.

The bathhouse remains became a key part of the site's story. Yigael Yadin, the renowned Israeli archaeologist in charge of the first dig, thought they illustrated the historical account of Zealot men killing their wives and children and then themselves before Roman legionnaires breached Masada's defenses.

Upon finding the remains, the crew "relived the final and most tragic moments of the drama at Masada," Yadin wrote in his book documenting the dig, mentioning that the woman's "dark hair, beautifully plaited, looked as if it had just been freshly coiffeured."

"There could be no doubt that what our eyes beheld were the remains of some of the defenders of Masada," he wrote.

Along with other bodies found at Masada, the remains were recognized as those of Jewish heroes by Israel's government in 1969 and given a state burial, complete with Israeli soldiers carrying flag-draped coffins.
I think kitsch is the word for that. But hold on.
But anthropologist Joe Zias and forensics expert Azriel Gorski write in a paper in the June issue of the journal Near Eastern Archaeology that the remains buried with honors may not have been those of Jews at all, but of Romans.

The paper focuses on the hair, noting the odd absence of a skeleton to go with it. The researchers' new forensic analysis showed an even stranger fact — the hair had been cut off the woman's head with a sharp instrument while she was still alive.

Zias' attempt to explain the discrepancy led him to the Old Testament's Book of Deuteronomy, where a passage says that foreign women captured in battle by Jews must have all their hair cut off, apparently an attempt to make them less attractive to their captors.

Zias concluded the hair belonged not to a Jewish woman but to a foreign woman who fell captive in the hands of Jewish fighters.

In his scenario, the woman was attached to the Roman garrison at Masada in A.D. 66 when the Zealots seized the fortress and killed the soldiers. Jewish fighters threw two Roman bodies into the bathhouse, which they then used as a garbage dump, judging by other debris found inside. The Zealots treated the woman captive according to Jewish law, cutting off her hair, which they threw in with the bodies.
Not exactly definitive proof. I mean Deuteronomy was written a long time before the Masada story. Rituals could have changed in that time.

One of the original archaeologists isn't happy with the new info.
Ehud Netzer, a veteran Hebrew University archaeologist who participated in the 1960s dig and later oversaw restoration work there, questioned the new findings.

Zias is "building a story on assumptions built on assumptions," he said.
Hmm, now projection is what we call that. This guy was one of the original digger uppers. This kind of archaeology raises ethical issues but who is one of the original digger uppers to raise them? And what's all this about "assumptions built on assumptions?" Read on...
The new paper is only the latest in a series of attacks on the original Masada dig, which some scholars now think was colored less by scientific rigor than by a desire to enshrine the desert fortress in a national mythology of heroism and sacrifice.

Once a pillar of Israeli identity — army units used to be sworn in on the mountaintop, shouting the sentence "Masada will not fall again!" — the Masada story fell out of favor as Israelis became less comfortable with glorifying mass suicide and identifying with religious fanatics.

The very story of the suicide, as recounted in dramatic detail by the 1st century Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius, also has come increasingly into doubt. Many scholars now believe it was either greatly exaggerated or never happened at all.

The original archaeologists at the site, Zias said, "had the story and went around trying to find the proof." No concrete evidence for the Zealot suicide has been found, he said.

But others have pointed out that many details of Josephus' story are matched precisely by archaeological evidence, and charged that for archaeologists today debunking the Masada myth has become as popular as creating it was 40 years ago.
So in "proving" zionist mythology, the State of Israel may have given full military honours to Roman invaders. Zionism is built on many myths in both its ideological and project forms. This isn't the first time that a question mark has been placed over the claims of zionist archaeologists and I'm guessing it won't be the last.

July 27, 2007

Brown joins the Jewish National Fund

According to the Jewish Chronicle, as soon as Gordon Brown became Prime Minister the President of the JNF UK sent him an invitation to become an honorary patron. He has happily accepted.
A spokesman for Mr Brown told the JC: “The Prime Minister supports a number of charities and has agreed to become a patron of the Jewish National Fund UK in order to encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone who lives in Israel.”
Everyone? It seems like only yesterday that the MK who proposed the law copper-fastening the JNF's Jews only policies said:
The JNF is not obligated to work for non-Jewish settlement.
Actually it might have been only yesterday.

Apparently Arabs are about 20% of Israel's population. What does the UK's Jewish National Fund do for them that the Israeli JNF doesn't?

Ecumenical Israel lobby

Here's an article by Max Blumenthal I've just been sent from Huffington Post about one of those Christian zionist outfits that see no contradiction between their zionism and their belief that Jews should ultimately be eliminated by conversion or death.

Watch the video:

Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost and Vimeo.

Now read on....
On July 16, I attended Christians United for Israel's annual Washington-Israel Summit. Founded by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee, CUFI has added the grassroots muscle of the Christian right to the already potent Israel lobby. Hagee and his minions have forged close ties with the Bush White House and members of Congress from Sen. Joseph Lieberman to Sen. John McCain. In its call for a unilateral military attack on Iran and the expansion of Israeli territory, CUFI has found unwavering encouragement from traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and elements of the Israeli government.

But CUFI has an ulterior agenda: its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil. In the end, all the non-believers - Jews, Muslims, Hindus, mainline Christians, etc. - must convert or suffer the torture of eternal damnation. Over a dozen CUFI members eagerly revealed to me their excitement at the prospect of Armageddon occurring tomorrow. Among the rapture ready was Republican Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. None of this seemed to matter to Lieberman, who delivered a long sermon hailing Hagee as nothing less than a modern-day Moses. Lieberman went on to describe Hagee's flock as "even greater than the multitude Moses commanded."

Throughout CUFI's Israel Summit, videographer Thomas Shomaker and I were hounded by PR agents seeking to prevent us from interviewing attendees about the End Times. The conference, we were told, was about "one message" - evangelical Christians supporting Israel. We were instructed to only interview CUFI leaders capable of sticking to the talking point that their support for Israel has, as Hagee declared, "nothing to do with the End Times." But I was forbidden from asking Hagee about statements he made in his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," that appeared to blame Jews for their own persecution. After doing just that during a press conference, I was removed from the conference by off-duty DC cops summoned by members of Hagee's family.

I have covered the Christian right intensely for over four years. During this time, I attended dozens of Christian right conferences, regularly monitored movement publications and radio shows, and interviewed scores of its key leaders. I have never witnessed any spectacle as politically extreme, outrageous, or bizarre as the one Christians United for Israel produced last week in Washington. See for yourself.
I don't know if it's all laughable or scary but I'd say a debt is owed to this Blumenthal guy for pointing up the sheer opportunism of zionists willing to collude with these these so-called fundamentalists. See this Hagee guy ducking and diving through press conference questions like a huckster politician and then see Lieberman praising his host as a latter day Moses character.

July 26, 2007

Broker Blair and Gaza's gas

On the subject of the Jewish National Fund, according to Arthur Neslen in Comment is free, one of their patrons, Tony Blair, has involved himself in a deal regarding gas off of the Gaza shore, that could compound the Palestinian Authority's dependence on Israel for some time to come. I find these issues hard to follow but catch this:
It's always nice to start a new job with a trick up your sleeve, and the Middle East's new envoy Tony Blair could be forgiven for thinking he has just that. In the near future, a $4bn deal to exploit Gaza's offshore gas reserves will be signed by the Israeli government, Britain's BG Group (BG), the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s investment arm, the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC). Environmental considerations notwithstanding, an injection of this kind of capital into the occupied territories could transform the political landscape.

By fortune or design, Tony Blair has been crucial to the deal's genesis. But the pressure he has put on other parties to agree a deal that economically ties the PA to Israel has exacerbated Fatah-Hamas tensions, put the PIF on the political defensive, and may even have helped stoke the recent fighting in Gaza.

It was the Gaza-Jericho first agreement in 1994 that first allocated the PA a 20-mile maritime zone off Gaza's coast. But it was not until 1999, the year that BG gained its exploration concession on the field, that Israel agreed to "give" it to the PA. In exchange, the PA signed away "full security control" of the sea off Gaza to Israel. They probably thought they had got a bargain.

The Gaza maritime field is estimated to contain between 35-40bn cubic metres - or one trillion cubic feet - of gas. In the words of the British Foreign Office, it is "by far the most valuable Palestinian natural resource" and revenues from its output are usually estimated at $4bn. For this reason, Ariel Sharon always opposed its development, claiming that monies raised might be used to arm Israel's enemies.

In the summer of 2005, when Sharon was focused on "disengagement" from Gaza, BG signed a memorandum with the Egyptian company EGAS to sell the gas there. However, the deal was scuppered a year later, when Tony Blair intervened at the last minute to plead the Israeli government's case to BG, allegedly following a request from Ehud Olmert.
This story about Gaza's gas has been around for a while but this Blair involvement thing is a new angle. Some say that the sale of Palestinian gas to Israel was one of the things that prompted Hamas to kick Fatah out of Gaza. So it seems that the man now posing as the honest broker in the Middle East intervened in a deal that may have sparked off the recent civil strife in Gaza. No wonder Blair got then his Foreign Minister to call the Hamas victory in Gaza a coup d'état

If there's such a thing as racism then zionism is it

I think that's what this member of the Israeli parliament, Yitzhak Bam, is saying in Ha'aretz.
This week, in an attempt to rescue some of the honor of hundreds of thousands of our forefathers who collected their pennies and dreamed of redeeming the land, the Knesset had its say by a significant majority. With sweeping support it passed, at a preliminary reading, the amendment to the Israel Lands Administration Law, which will enable the ILA to administer the lands of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael) according to the fund's goals, and to lease them for Jewish settlement only. The response among the non-Jewish MKs was bitter, and Meretz voiced criticism as well. The word "racism" sneaked in once again, the same old ugly and immoral accusation.

This may be the place to cite what one of our public leaders once said about the JNF's lands: "The lands of the JNF, which were purchased with the money of the Jewish people, are devoted to Jewish settlement, just as the Islamic Waqf is devoted to providing the social needs of the Muslim community." These words were said by Yaakov Hazan, the outstanding, historic leader of Mapam, the left wing of the Zionist labor movement.

The amendment to the law only fulfills Hazan's words. The amendment makes it possible to devote JNF lands to the purpose for which Jews throughout the Diaspora collected their meager funds in the "blue box" - Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. Anyone who claims that this is racism apparently believes that Zionism is racism, or simply does not understand the legal situation and the reason for the legislation.
Well fancy anyone believing that zionism is racism. So when did this Bam chappie arrive on our planet? But starting with sheer ignorance of racism he ends on a positively Orwellian note:
According to the fundamentals of justice and equality, the State of Israel must act for the benefit of all its citizens. The JNF is not obligated to work for non-Jewish settlement. If that is racism, all of Zionism is racism. And its supporters are racists, including Yaakov Hazan and his party, Mapam.
Have I read that correctly? Is he saying that according to principles of equality, the JNF's land can be out of bounds to Arabs in Israel? Or is he saying that the State of Israel has to run according to principles of equality, acting for the benefit of all of its citizens but the JNF is not the State and so it does not?

July 25, 2007

Fiddler on the wall

British violinist Nigel Kennedy is in Palestine and, according to this Ha'aretz interview, he's not impressed with the wall:
"And today, I was really shocked when I saw the wall here. It's a new type of apartheid, barbaric behavior. How can you impose collective punishment and divide people from one another? We are all residents of the same planet. I would think that the world learned something from South Africa. And the world should boycott a nation that didn't learn. That's why I won't perform in your country.

"The concert tonight is very emotional," he adds, "because I am performing for people who are imprisoned, to give them two hours of fun and show them that the world has not forgotten about them."
Sometimes I think that is all that outsiders can offer the Palestinians.

July 23, 2007

Israeli school textbook to tell the truth but not to Jews

Here's a fascinating report on the BBC website about how the Israeli education ministry has "approved a school textbook that for the first time presents the Palestinian denunciation of the creation of Israel in 1948." Look at this:
The book, to be used only in Israeli Arab schools, notes that Palestinians describe the event as a "catastrophe"....

The new textbook notes that "some of the Palestinians were expelled following the War of Independence and that many Arab-owned lands were confiscated", the education ministry said.

Palestinians refer to Israel's creation in 1948 - in which hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled in the wake of the independence war - as "al nakba", or the catastrophe.

They blame the Jewish state for usurping their land.

The new textbook also says Arab leaders rejected a UN partition plan for Palestine to be split into Israeli and Palestinian states, and that Jewish leaders accepted it.

Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the book on army radio, blaming "the masochism and defeatism of the Israeli left, which constantly seeks to apologise, while we did what we had to".

Former Education Minister Limor Livnat of the right-wing Likud party said it would encourage Arabs to take up arms against Israel.
Arabs take up arms against Israel? How come they never thought of that before?

But really, surely telling the truth is a step in the right direction but why are only Arabs to be privy to it?

BMJ poll on the academic boycott

There's a poll being conducted on the website of the British Medical Journal on whether or not there should be a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. What sets this poll apart from any other that I have seen of this kind is that it asks the voter to explain their vote.
Please answer the following questions with regard to whether we should consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions?

We asked two British academics for their opinion.

[ Yes ], says Tom Hickey.
[ No], says Michael Baum.

1. Should we consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions?

2. Tell us why you voted the way you did.

3. Which category of visitor best describes you? (Please choose one)
Medically qualified doctor
Medical student
Other healthcare professional or student
Academic researcher
Pharma employee
Patient or patient support group
Member of the public

4. Which country are you from?
At the time of writing the percentage against the boycott is over 90% so the zionists have been rather busy bees but it is interesting that the poll asks for reasons. Obviously these on line polls are open to all sorts of rigging so the reason "why you voted as you did" is particularly important here.

July 22, 2007

Satanic proposals have become politically correct in Israel

I just got this Ha'aretz article from David Shasha's mail-out, the Sephardic Heritage Update. It's by Gideon Levy and carries the headline Little Ahmadinejads which might be an insult to Ahmadinejad:
Ram Caspi has written an article. From the heights of his apartment in Tel Aviv's David Towers, the prominent lawyer has suggested strangulating the Gaza Strip. In the financial daily Globes of May 25, he called for, "neither a land incursion nor an aerial attack, but the creation of a noose ... From the moment that rocket number eight is fired, the government of Israel will act to cut Gaza off from the essential infrastructure systems of fuel, water, electricity and telephones, and will prevent others from providing these utilities to Gaza."

In other words: to cut a million and a half people off from the sources of life. Caspi is a successful attorney, who comes and goes in the tabernacles of justice and rule, a man who moves about in the highest reaches of Israeli society. Not a hair on his head has been mussed as a result of his satanic proposal. This man of the law who incites for the violation of international law has not been chastised. No one has shunned him in the wake of his words. The season for racism, collective punishment and verbal violence is at its height. What was once the reserve of nutcases on the right, the talkbackers and the loony listeners to the call-in radio programs, is now politically correct, in the heart of the consensus, the dernier cri in the violent and overheated Israeli discourse.

Caspi is not alone. Satan is no longer to be found only in Tehran --- he is alive and kicking here in our midst. Israel is being inundated by a murky stream of little blue-and-white Ahmadinejads: If the president of Iran proposes to destroy Israel, they, who are smaller than he, are proposing only to "eradicate" villages, "flatten" them, starve entire populations and in fact to kill them.
The thing that struck me was this invocation of "Satan" to describe the casualness with which the annihilation of the people of Gaza has been proposed. When Deborah Fink said on this site that Israel shouldn't be called Jewish because its behaviour is satanic (in contrast to Jewish) she was relieved of whatever position she held in Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Now a leading commentator with Ha'aretz has said the same thing. Is nothing sacred?

The return of the Dunnes Stores' strikers

Well not quite but maybe only a matter of time. This is a picture of a picket of one for Dunnes Stores' Dublin branches calling on the company to stop stocking Israeli potatoes and asking shoppers to boycott the same.

The symbolism of this is quite remarkable. It is via the humble potato (or its absence) that the Irish know more than a little about the sheer devastation of colonial rule and of course Dunnes Stores was the scene of a great battle between staff and management over the formers solidarity action with the victims of racist rule in South Africa back in the 1980s.

Here's a word from Irish Palestine Solidarity:
Shoppers and passers-by were interested – often wondering: ‘Why Israeli spuds?’ Answer: they’re often grown on Palestinian land using water stolen from West Bank aquifers. Also, there’s an international boycott campaign against Israel until they abide by international law and end their apartheid rule over Palestinians.
Now Israel's really had its chips! Geddit? Ok, I'm sorry.

Jim Crow and the Hebrew University

Here are a couple of report backs from the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Palestine. They are actually from two people who studied (or study) at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I received them from the Just Peace UK list but maybe they're doing the rounds elsewhere.

Here's a piece of the first:
Curious students cautiously raised their hands "What kind of bags should we be looking for that might be bombs?" one asked. "Any bag could be a bomb,"he replied. "Even if you can see through the bag and see that it is just a loaf of bread. There could be a bomb inside the bread. Arab terrorists have been known to do that." Another queried, "What if we want to go to Eilat (a Red Sea resort)? Doesn't the Israeli highway to Eilat go through the West Bank?" He reassured her, "Yes, but you'll be okay as long as you stick to good Jewish transportation." A third student wanted to know about Jerusalem itself. "Where is it safe to go in East Jerusalem?" (East Jerusalem is the older, Palestinian part of the city.) "As for the Old City, you'll be all right in the Jewish quarter," he explained. "The Christian and Muslim quarters however are iffy, and at night they're not safe. As for the rest of East Jerusalem, stay away. There's just nothing for you to see there."

At this point, I'd heard enough. I took my bag and left. If students follow his advice, they'll never see most of the fascinating historic parts of Jerusalem or get a sense of its unique character, shaped by thousands of years of history and culture. They'll never see the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is said to have been crucified, or walk the grounds of the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. They'll never hear the live Middle-Eastern music at the Jerusalem Hotel on a Friday night. They'll never see the sun set behind the golden Dome of the Rock from the Mount of Olives. They may as well not have come to Jerusalem at all.

If Israeli universities are disseminating this type of misinformation and racism, then they are indeed complicit in the growing apartheid regime taking hold here, making it harder and harder for Palestinian society, thousands of years in the making, to survive.

From the edge of campus, if you look out east, you can see the apartheid wall snaking through the West Bank, cutting through Palestinian land, splitting families apart. However, the human ability not to see what one doesn't want to see is phenomenal, especially when you've been told not to look.
And here's the second:
One American student listed a dozen or so organizations dealing with things like Arab-Jewish coexistence and reconciliation with which she was involved. When I mentioned that my organization supports Palestinians who engage in nonviolent resistance, she looked at me warily. She began to inquire about my experiences with Palestinians. "What is it they want? Along with rights, do they have a sense of responsibilities?" I explained that their sense of responsibility to one another and to their guests under harsh conditions is more than admirable. I knew my response wasn't what she was looking for.

Israel and its friends abroad need to start asking themselves about their responsibilities to Palestine, instead of always about the Palestinians' responsibilities to Israel. Under the current status quo, the responsibility of the Palestinians to Israel is that of African-Americans to Jim Crow and of non-white South Africans to apartheid. None.

The Palestinians' responsibility is to engage in a struggle that respects common humanity and seeks to dismantle the current state and replace it with one in which Israelis and Palestinians are not cast into the roles of oppressor and oppressed. The responsibility of Israelis is to stand with them in that struggle.

July 20, 2007

Why I resent the Jewish Chronicle...

The reason I resent the Jewish Chronicle my email responding to a David Aaronovitch article from two weeks ago is because the letters editor of the Jewish Chronicle asked me to. Look:
It was strange for her to claim that it was never received because I definitely sent it and it didn't bounce. It was also a strange request because she claims to know from my blog that I sent this:
Dear Sir

Could David Aaronovitch get over the fact that some of us who do not agree with Zionism and the State of Israel are perfectly comfortable with being Jewish and will insist on identifying ourselves as such? If he could then he could refrain from the personal abuse and get on with a meaningful, indeed analytical, debate.

In my blog post that he mentions, I referred to Tony Blair as a Zionist in the context of his being appointed envoy for the Middle East quartet whilst being an honorary patron of the Jewish National Fund which was founded early last century to acquire land for Jews only (and forever) in the then Palestine. It was established by the World Zionist Organisation. The World Zionist Organisation still exists and some of its members clearly wish to retain "Judea and Samaria" as does the person I was addressing in the quote David Aaronovitch lifted from my comments section from April 2006.

I recognise that there are various Zionist orientations but I use the term Zionist at a minimum to mean someone who believes that people of immediate Jewish origin from around the world should have more settlement and citizenship rights in Israel than non-Jewish natives who are there or who are from there. And there are some Zionists I like, I just don't like their Zionism.

For a "heroic correspondent" of the JC and other papers I have only had one letter in the JC and that criticised David Aaronovitch for sneering at Jews for Justice for Palestinians for inviting him to sign their statement and then criticising Independent Jewish Voices for not inviting him to sign theirs. I have also had three letters published in the Observer, again criticising what he had written, not him personally, and in context too. None of the letters refer to my being Jewish. I only mention it if I think it is relevant to what is being said.

On that matter, I'm sure that David Aaronovitch has gone on record saying that he is not actually Jewish and yet he lectures others on when and how one can identify as Jewish. I don't even accept that from other Jews. Why should I?

Still, in these ecumenical times I think it's nice that a non-Jew such as David Aaronovitch can write for the Jewish Chronicle but when he invokes stereotypes like "big noses and loud behaviour" I'd say he's crossed a line. Surely in the JC a Jew's anti-Zionism is preferable to a gentile's anti-Semitism.

Yours faithfully

Mark Elf
Jews sans frontieres

Apologies to those who have already seen the same letter.

So the letters editor of the JC saw my letter on my blog and still she asked me for an email I had already sent and that hadn't bounced back. She didn't acknowledge receipt or raise any issue about it. In fact her email requesting it was the only correspondence I've ever had from her. She asked that I email either her address or the letters@thejc.com address. I was thrilled. I even believed that she hadn't received my letter. I was very polite, even friendly and I was thrilled about what I thought was going to happen next. I emailed both addresses and still this week my letter hasn't appeared. Ok, fine, I've had more letters to the press unpublished than published. The annoying thing is that I was libelled by Aaronovitch in that my motive was impugned and that Miriam Shaviv person has wasted my time and for what? Also, I got my hopes so raised. This was going to be the fifth time I exposed this award winning journo as a liar, an ignoramous and a fool.

Still there's some interesting stuff in the JC this week so perhaps I just got crowded out. For example, there's a front page report on how much per annum zionists are going to have to spend fighting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in the UK alone:
a senior communal source said that countering burgeoning boycott moves, particularly in British and Irish trade unions, would cost the community a “ballpark figure” of £1 million a year above normal costs.
"A senior communal source?" That's an interesting concept in a community with no official status. What is "a senior communal source?" Here's a clue:
In his warning to Bicom’s executive, Mr Zabludowicz, its chairman, said he was ready to underwrite a fighting fund, estimated at £300,000, to help cover operations over the next three months.
Ah I see, it's someone who can stump up £100 k a month to defend the indefensible. And that's above the normal hasbara activity.

And there's more. Deborah Maccoby had a letter published. Here's what was published:
Michael Kagan Crumpsall Lane, Manchester M8 David Hirsh and Freddie Fisher attack Richard Kuper for speaking out “as a Jew” (Letters, July 7, 13). Do they also criticise the many Muslims who speak out “as Muslims” against atrocities committed in the name of Islam by people who seek to impose one identity on all Muslims? Deborah Maccoby Sach Road, Clapton, London E5
But that's not all she wrote:
David Hirsh (Letters 06.07.07) attacks Richard Kuper for writing "as a UCU member who opposes the boycott". But it gives added force to Mr Kuper's criticism (Letters 30.06.07) of the hysterical reaction to the UCU debate that he himself is on the side of the debate which opposes the academic boycott of Israel.

Mr Hirsh and Mr Freddie Fisher (Letters 13.07.07) also attack Mr Kuper for speaking out "as a Jew". Do they also criticise the many Muslims who speak out "as Muslims" against atrocities committed in the name of Islam by people who seek to impose one identity on all Muslims? Similarly, the Israeli government claims to act in the name of the entire Jewish people and tries
to impose one identity on all Jews. "I believe that this is a war fought by all the Jews" said Ehud Olmert about last year's attack on Lebanon. The many Jews who refuse to be conscripted in this way need to say so - as Jews.

Deborah Maccoby
And this all is all she wrote. It's bizarre the way the JC published the most outrageous ad hominem attacks on members of the community it purports to be the mouthpiece of.

But it gets worse. Alex Brummer, the Daily Mail's finance editor and the JC's media correspondent, laments the conviction of Lord Black and the gloating over the same by his former prize possession the Daily Telegraph. Actually it is interesting that newspapers do stick the boot into discredited former proprietors harder than on other people and harder than other papers do. The Mirror was the same with another proprietor whose criminality surpassed the minimum requirement of simply cheering for racist criminals. But what is more interesting is that way that this out and out crook's demise is openly lamented as a "blow to Israel's cause." See this:
As far as the Middle East is concerned, the loss of Black and his glamorous and cerebral spouse Barbara Amiel is a huge blow to Israel’s cause. No media couple were more sympathetic to the Jewish state in its hour of need during the second intifada, when efforts to demonise Israel were at their height.
Is such rabid support for Israel a sign of a lack of moral compass? Does it suggest a criminal mind? Is support for Israel a way of avoiding scrutiny? It doesn't matter. The fact that a leading writer with the Jewish Chronicle can openly mourn the demise of a master criminal simply because of his support for Israel is indicative of a serious moral deficiency in zionist circles that doesn't seem to replicate among those who claim to represent mainstream opinion in other communities.

More JC here

July 18, 2007

But you mustn't call it apartheid

Here are a couple of articles on a new bill before Israel's parliament. The first is in the Jerusalem Post and titled Bill would stop Arabs leasing JNF land:
The Knesset on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved in preliminary reading a bill allowing the Israel Lands Authority to continue selling land belonging to the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to Jews only, despite a contradictory decision made earlier this year by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.

The bill was initiated by MKs Uri Ariel (NRP/NU) and Ze'ev Elkin (Kadima) and passed by a vote of 64 to 16.
The second is in Ha'aretz and headed Bill allocating JNF land to Jews only passes preliminary reading:
When the bill was discussed in the Knesset presidency, there were demands to nullify it because it was called racist, but Knesset legal advisor Nurit Elstein said a bill should only be rejected if the racism is explicit in the proposal.
So please don't call Israel an apartheid state, that would be too, er, explicit.

Anti-boycotters apologists for Israel

I didn't see the Howard Jacobson article that prompted this letter to the Independent and I can't be bothered to look for it but maybe we can hazard a guess by what this correspondent had to say:

Why boycott of Israel is necessary

Sir: Howard Jacobson's latest tirade against those who advocate an academic boycott of Israeli institutions exemplifies a prominent and recurrent feature of such criticisms (14 July). He says little or nothing about the Palestine-Israel situation. He ignores the motivations of the boycott, which originate in Israel's violations of international law, infringements of Palestinians' human rights, and the 40 years' oppression of the population of the Occupied Territories. Instead of confronting the advocates' case he misrepresents them, without distinction, as accusing "Israel of every known crime against humanity" and encourages his readers to see in that the signs of anti-Semitism.

Those who advocate the boycott are not insensitive to the importance of academic freedoms but they give higher priority to the rights to life and livelihood and believe that public opinion must find ways of actively and effectively opposing those policies of Israel which perpetuate oppression.

If the critics, who make passing reference to not supporting the Israeli occupation, were to show that they actually oppose it and were to present alternatives to the boycott, then they could be taken seriously. Otherwise they appear only as apologists for Israel.



Maybe the article was a bit like this.

July 16, 2007

The moving apartheid wall

A young Palestinian writing to her mother in the UK:
Getting to Bir Nabala was depressing as expected. We went to Arram to pick up baba first and that was awful. A temporary concrete barricade splits the road in two and then becomes the 'real' wall. Today the gate was closed and no one knew where to go. So we went on a detour around Arram to find baba's office. Down each road we came to a dead end where the wall blocked us off. It runs right down the middle of small residential streets separating family from family and no one can see why they chose to build there. People on both sides still have to cross the checkpoint so I really don't understand the logic. It is like a garden maze, except the dead ends keep moving so you can't even learn the route for next time. It really affects baba. This is his daily road to work.
More on the wall at the Stop the Wall campaign website.

Israeli becomes president of Poland

Woops, that was a transposition error. I meant to say Pole becomes president of Israel. Yes, apparently, following the resignation of sex offender Moshe Katzav, this Polish chap, Shimon Peres, has become president of Israel. I think it's because he came second in the original contest. This isn't very newsworthy, the post is largely symbolic except for the granting of pardons. What got me was this gushing report from the Times of India.
Elder statesman Shimon Peres was sworn in as Israel's ninth president on Sunday, crowning the Nobel peace laureate's six-decade-long political career.

The 83-year-old Peres, a former prime minister, was elected by parliament a month ago to the highly prestigious post, which though largely ceremonial, has proven to carry a lot of weight in Israeli politics. Peres replaces Moshe Katzav, who resigned from the presidency last month after admitting — in a plea bargain for a dropped rape charge — to committing sex crimes against a woman employee and sexually harassing another.

As head of state, Peres will have the critical job of granting pardons or commuting sentences for prisoners in Israeli jails, including dozens of Palestinian inmates Israel has pledged to release in a boost to president Mahmoud Abbas.

Peres won a Nobel Prize along with the late Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for a 1993 interim peace deal, Israel's first with the Palestinians that led to the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Born in Poland, Peres immigrated before Israel achieved statehood and rose through the ranks of the leftist Labour party as an ally of the country's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
It's only a short article so they couldn't find room for Qana or the Lavon affair.

July 15, 2007

Nature wipes Israel off the map

And it's not by global warming.

See the map? Yes? See the legend? Yup? Where's Israel? This is the highly respected Nature journal. Way ahead of its time I'd say but it can't be a projection map for the effects of global warming because the area between Egypt (23) and Jordan (32), that is area 34, is still there.

To be honest, I haven't read the accompanying article so I don't really know what the maps are trying to say. I mean, I notice that America doesn't even have a number so what does that mean? Without reading the stuff, I just don't know.

UPDATE @ 20:16: Excuse the language here but "damn and blast!" Montag in the comments has noticed that the map is of countries with Muslim majorities which is why Israel isn't on it. Ok, I'll come clean. The man who drew my attention to the map and legend told me that while I was doing the post. But I was in my stride so I published it anyway. So I did know, even without reading the stuff. Oh dear, honesty is the best and my usual policy.

July 14, 2007

Genocide denial by the Affluent Donors' League

What lovely people they are at the Anti-Defamation League. Apparently Abe Foxman has been doing his bit for the Turkish state by denying the Armenia genocide by Turkey. I was pointed to this Jewcy article by Montag in the comments to an earlier post. The headline is Fire Foxman. The question is why?

Abdullah Gul needed a favor. It was February 5 of this year, and the Turkish foreign minister was fighting a push in the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the Turkish murder of one million Armenians during World War I. In past years the House had placated Turkey by dropping similar resolutions. But now, with the American-Turkish alliance weakened by the Iraq war, the resolution had found renewed support. Gul summoned representatives from the Anti-Defamation League and several other Jewish-American organizations to his room at the Willard Hotel in Washington. There he asked them, in essence, to perpetuate Turkey’s denial of genocide.

Abraham Foxman’s ADL acquiesced, and in so doing, performed the pièce de résistance of Foxman’s highly effective, if unintentional, decades-long campaign to demoralize Jewish America and send young Jews scurrying for the communal exit doors. The ADL chief is a danger to the future of the community, and it is a scandal that he remains at the head of a major Jewish organization. Foxman must go. And the organization he has done so much to shape must either change or go with him.

I'm a little troubled by this. Foxman must go, not because he is a genocide denier but because his genocide denial is bad for Jews. But there's more.
Soon after the meeting with Gul, the ADL joined three other American Jewish organizations—the American Jewish Committee, B'nai Brith International, and the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs—to deliver to Congress a written plea from the Jews of Turkey that the U.S. not recognize the Armenian Genocide. Turkish Jews are more vulnerable now than at any time in recent history as they struggle to reassert their place in a society polarized by the competing visions of Turkey’s Islamists and secular nationalists, so it is hardly surprising that they would parrot their government’s denialist claims. By dutifully passing their letter to Congress, the Jewish American groups cynically exploited a small, frightened Jewish minority.
Great! So now the Jews of Turkey are at loggerheads with Armenians and the ADL is helping out as best it can. But why would this be? Surely ordinary Jews would want solidarity with survivors of genocide. Well ordinary Jews might but...
What’s surprising is how unabashedly forthright Abraham Foxman has become about what motivates him and his institution. In October of 2005, Foxman addressed a classroom of Jewish students at New York University. Young heads nodded and brows furrowed as Foxman riled them with his customary rhetoric: Isn’t it antisemitic for pro-Palestinian groups to seek divestment only from Israel, ignoring the far greater crimes of regimes like Sudan or North Korea? How do we describe this sort of selective flagellation of the world's only Jewish state, if not as antisemitism?

"What if the campus Free Tibet club campaigned for divestment from China? Would that be anti-Chinese bigotry?" asked Asaf Shtull-Trauring, a 20-year-old student and conscientious objector from the Israeli army.

Of course not, answered Foxman, but it was preposterous to compare the two conflicts, what with the Jews' experience of two millennia of murderous persecution. Shtull-Trauring responded with two questions: Did Foxman mean that selective treatment is okay so long as it's not directed at Jews? And where did the Anti-Defamation League get off telling Jewish university students which opinions about Israel were acceptable and which verboten?

The dialogue spiraled into a confrontation. Shtull-Trauring says Foxman, frustrated and under attack, placed his cards on the table, angrily retorting: “I don’t represent you nor the Jewish community! I represent the donors.”
Ok, he represents the donors, but what for exactly?
Without a meaningful mission to pursue, the ADL has resorted to scaremongering to fill its coffers and justify its existence. These efforts have grown increasingly bizarre and damaging. For example, the ADL website surveys the vast changes in Jewish-American life over the past century and offers the grandiose judgment that they “are due, in large measure, to the efforts of the League and its allies.” Yet Foxman also claims that today the Jewish people face as great a threat to their safety and security as they did in the 1930s. In other words, the ADL takes credit for the vast improvements in the circumstances of American Jewry, and then denies that those changes have taken place. It is still 1939. It will always be 1939.

When the ADL was born, in the early 20th century, institutional discrimination against American Jews was commonplace at every level of society. Populist politicians employed the most vulgar antisemitic language, and “restricted” hotels and country clubs reassured patrons that Jews would be stopped at the front door. In 1915, 31-year-old factory manager Leo Frank was lynched in Marietta, Georgia after he was accused of raping a Christian girl. But today, American Jews are successful and well-integrated. And unlike in Weimar Germany, where we were accepted only so long as we obscured our Jewishness behind the accoutrements of gentile culture, in America we are accepted even as we celebrate what sets us apart.

Such a reality, however, doesn’t serve the fundraising interests of the ADL. The ADL’s jihad against Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was typical of the organization’s destructive, self-interested efforts. Foxman, as you might remember, fanned fears it would inspire Chmielniki-style pogroms. Yet not a single documented act of violence against Jews resulted from the film, nor even a single verbal assault. A study conducted by Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles indicated some anger among Christians toward Jews—but because of the reaction to the film, rather than its contents. Thanks to the ADL, our strong and self-confident community was made to appear silly and paranoid before the world.

More present absentees

A refugee camp is to be built near the Israeli parliament building on this coming Monday. It is for the expellees of a Bedouin village that is being depopulated and razed to the ground on orders from the Israeli government:

The Government of Israel is intensifying the demolitions of Bedouin homes in the Israeli Negev. This is instead of recognition, community involvement in discussions, and planning. This is part of a new "evacuation-compensation" plan for the Arab Bedouin population that resides in unrecognized villages in the Negev. To read the Association for Civil Rights in Israel letter to Minister Shitrit regarding this plan: http://www.acri.org.il/...

In accordance with this plan, only two weeks ago the government demolished 28 homes, adding 28 families to over one hundred that the government made homeless since the beginning of 2007! The pictures show the results of past demolitions.

But the governmental bulldozers are not satisfied. Last Thursday the government put Demolition Orders on the homes of all the residents of the village of A-Sire. This is despite the tireless work of the leadership of the village and their turn to any possible legal and civil body to show the futility and the atrocity of the action: the village has been in this location for hundreds of years, and the residents of the village have nowhere to go. If the homes are demolished the people will remain under the desert sun until they rebuild their homes.

Full story at Daily Kos here.

I should have said I got this from an email from a chap called Joe from a place called Dundee in the states. (too many froms, I know.)

Aaronovitch does the decent thing the JC didn't do

On the anniversary of Israel's war with no name (I don't think it has a name still*) you might think I'd have something more important to write about than David Aaronovitch allowing the me to post my letter, which the Jewish Chronicle wouldn't publish, to his blog. It won't get seen by that many people. Last I saw he had about 8 comments some of which made no sense at all. It seems he had to remove one by a Harry's Place/Engage regular called Mikey. Well a comment by a chap called Mikey was removed. Anyway I posted my letter to the JC and now to Aaronovitch's blog in my previous post so I won't post it here. But while I was checking to see if it had been accepted I noticed a very good comment, amid some real dross. See this:

I can't quite articulate my dismay at the spectacle of Orwell's name pinned to the likes of David Aaronovitch, whose article "Anti-Zionists should grow up", is an embarrassing outburst of vitriol.

Aaronovitch calls the flurry of activity "a fabulous diversion" from the solemn and ennobling task of thinking hard about a solution for the conflict. I am always mystified when journalists adopt this line, since for the overwhelming majority of us in the international community, the solution has been clear for quite some time: the dismantling of settlements and an Israeli withdrawal to 4 June 1967 borders, with minor and mutual adjustments, as per the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which was launched again earlier this year.

The boycott initiative is not a tantrum. It is programmatic, not punitive. Its proponents have put forward a comprehensive vision for peace, which echoes (point-for-point, it seems) the Arab initiative. This vision enjoys near unanimous support in the international community, with the exception of Israel and the United States, who have single-handedly blocked it for over three decades. The idea behind the boycott, as far as I can gather, is not to punish Israel but to apply strategic pressure on it to withdraw and allow for the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.

Should we be less sweeping and target the Likud? This might have been a viable strategy, if not for the lamentable fact that the business of the occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands has gone on under the banners of all three major political parties, and with their explicit support. Since Rabin every single labor government has erected new settlements. Occupation is not the policy of the Israeli right, nor of the left: it is the policy of Israel, and it will continue until significant international pressure comes to bear.

Meanwhile, those of us who support the boycott and happen to be Jewish will have to continue pinching ourselves to suspend our disbelief when we read that an Orwell award-winning journalist accuses us of working out our adolescent frustrations with mommy and daddy.

Good one, huh? Aaronovitch was on Any questions on BBC Radio 4 today. He was introduced as Orwell award for journalism prize winner, David Aaronovitch. I listened for as long as I could. Maybe it was about 5 minutes. There was a question about supercasinos in the UK and Aaronovitch nattered a while about how the PM is new and the government has to try to be different from its predecessor under Blair and that means that some ministers will have to now say they oppose what they used to support and will have to support what they used to oppose. A bit like Aaronovitch with Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices. Anyway, he then said that he thought there was an element of snobbery in opposition to the placing of supercasinos in poor areas.

And it struck me that this award winning journalist - actually commentator - hasn't got an argument about anything. Look at his thing on anti-zionists. Look at what he had to say about jfjfp and IJV. What's the matter with him? He can't argue for or against an argument. He only ever impugns the motive of the arguer. I hate the overuse of the word totalitarian but it applies in his case. He seems to be saying that if you support a position that Aaronovitch doesn't want you to support then you must have a bad motive. No one is sincere. But no one. And for that he gets prizes. More, he gets an Orwell prize. He says there's no such thing as zionism any more. He said that there is no significant right wing movement to keep the West Bank under Israeli rule and there's no expansionist tendency left in Israeli governing circles. And he won an Orwell prize. Orwellian doesn't get more Orwellian. On which, have some Orwellianisms:

*Apparently it bears the imaginitive name The Second Lebanon War. I'm sure Engage calls it the Israel-Hizbollah War. There was an issue a few months back about what to put on the grave stones for the Israeli soldiers who were killed in that war. It was said in all seriousness that the lack of a name for the war was causing more suffering for the grieving families.

July 13, 2007

No right of reply to Aaronovitch in the JC

This is a rum do. Having been on the receiving end of a tirade of personal abuse by David Aaronovitch in the Jewish Chronicle I thought they might publish my letter in response. It's here:
Dear Sir

Could David Aaronovitch get over the fact that some of us who do not agree with Zionism and the State of Israel are perfectly comfortable with being Jewish and will insist on identifying ourselves as such? If he could then he could refrain from the personal abuse and get on with a meaningful, indeed analytical, debate.

In my blog post that he mentions, I referred to Tony Blair as a Zionist in the context of his being appointed envoy for the Middle East quartet whilst being an honorary patron of the Jewish National Fund which was founded early last century to acquire land for Jews only (and forever) in the then Palestine. It was established by the World Zionist Organisation. The World Zionist Organisation still exists and some of its members clearly wish to retain "Judea and Samaria" as does the person I was addressing in the quote David Aaronovitch lifted from my comments section from April 2006.

I recognise that there are various Zionist orientations but I use the term Zionist at a minimum to mean someone who believes that people of immediate Jewish origin from around the world should have more settlement and citizenship rights in Israel than non-Jewish natives who are there or who are from there. And there are some Zionists I like, I just don't like their Zionism.

For a "heroic correspondent" of the JC and other papers I have only had one letter in the JC and that criticised David Aaronovitch for sneering at Jews for Justice for Palestinians for inviting him to sign their statement and then criticising Independent Jewish Voices for not inviting him to sign theirs. I have also had three letters published in the Observer*, again criticising what he had written, not him personally, and in context too. None of the letters refer to my being Jewish. I only mention it if I think it is relevant to what is being said.

On that matter, I'm sure that David Aaronovitch has gone on record saying that he is not actually Jewish and yet he lectures others on when and how one can identify as Jewish. I don't even accept that from other Jews. Why should I?

Still, in these ecumenical times I think it's nice that a non-Jew such as David Aaronovitch can write for the Jewish Chronicle but when he invokes stereotypes like "big noses and loud behaviour" I'd say he's crossed a line. Surely in the JC a Jew's anti-Zionism is preferable to a gentile's anti-Semitism.

Yours faithfully

Mark Elf
Jews sans frontieres
Now, they did publish Tony Greenstein's letter, taking on all of his detractors, which was big of them but Tony was only gratuitously named by Aaronovitch. I was actually defamed at length and not by accident. Anyway, I didn't post the content of my letter on to Aaronovitch's blog because I think it's bad form to share a letter to an editor with a third party before it has been published (or not). So let's see if I have more luck at the little read Aaronovitch site. Aaronovitch moderates so it's strange that a comment that appeared earlier in the week has now disappeared. Anyway, here goes. Ok, I've posted it and it's awaiting moderation but he doesn't get many comments. Less than me in fact so I don't think as many people will see it between here and there as saw his diatribe against me. Ah well, when I grow up I'll move to the right and smear anyone who campaigns against racist war criminals. That's what I'll do. I'll wring my hands and wonder why Iraqis don't applaud the invasion of their country by the people who had been starving their children for years. Yeah, and I'll bracket a Mandela who led an armed struggle with a Ghandi who definitely didn't. And I'll ask why Muslims can't take a leaf out of Walter Sisulu's book and be non-violent because I'll be grown up enough to have conveniently forgotten that Sisulu too led an armed struggle side by side with comrade Mandela. I might even grow up so much that I'll tell people that if weapons of mass destruction aren't found in Iraq, I'l never believe anything Tony Blair says again. And then I'll invoke Hutton to prove that he can't have lied. I can hardly wait. When I grow up I'm going to be David Aaronovitch. Oh no, I can't be, he's not Jewish.

* I think one was in the Guardian actually but I don't think the JC excluded it on grounds of factual inaccuracy!

Israel wants Jews wiped off the map of Iran

Yes, in spite of Israel and the zionist movements best efforts Iran's Jews are hanging in there. Zionists love to say that there were Jewish communities throughout the middle east that have now gone, in many cases to Israel. Now that most witnesses to whatever caused them to go are dead, there are lots of zionists suggesting that there was an ethnic cleansing campaign throughout the Arab world that caused them to leave. The saga of Iran's Jews is a telling case of how zionists are happy to destroy long-standing Jewish communities in order to acquire cannon fodder for their colonial settler project.

I don't know if this has found its way into print yet but the Guardian last night reported how Iranian Jews are being offered hard cash to settle in Israel.
Iran's Jews have given the country a loyalty pledge in the face of cash offers aimed at encouraging them to move to Israel, the arch-enemy of its Islamic rulers.

The incentives — ranging from £5,000 a person to £30,000 for families — were offered from a special fund established by wealthy expatriate Jews in an effort to prompt a mass migration to Israel from among Iran's 25,000-strong Jewish community. The offers were made with Israel's official blessing and were additional to the usual state packages it provides to Jews emigrating from the diaspora.

However, the Society of Iranian Jews dismissed them as "immature political enticements" and said their national identity was not for sale.

"The identity of Iranian Jews is not tradeable for any amount of money," the society said in a statement. "Iranian Jews are among the most ancient Iranians. Iran's Jews love their Iranian identity and their culture, so threats and this immature political enticement will not achieve their aim of wiping out the identity of Iranian Jews."

The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reported that the incentives had been doubled after earlier offers of £2,500 a head failed to attract any Iranian Jews to leave for Israel.

Iran's sole Jewish MP, Morris Motamed, said the offers were insulting and put the country's Jews under pressure to prove their loyalty.

"It suggests the Iranian Jew can be encouraged to emigrate by money," he said. "Iran's Jews have always been free to emigrate and three-quarters of them did so after the revolution but 70% of those went to America, not Israel."

Iran's Jewish population has dwindled from around 80,000 at the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution but remains the largest of any country in the Middle East apart from Israel. Jews have lived in Iran since at least 700BC.

Hostility between Iran's Islamic government and Israel means Iranian Jews are often subject to official mistrust and scrutiny. In 2000 10 Jews in the southern city of Shiraz were jailed for spying for Israel, which Iran refuses to recognise.

A Jewish businessman, Ruhollah Kadkhodah-Zadeh, was hanged in 1998, apparently for allegedly helping Jews to emigrate.

Jews generally avoid political controversy, but Mr Motamed wrote a letter of protest to Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, last year after he called the Holocaust "a myth". Mr Ahmadinejad had earlier said that Israel should be "wiped off the map".

Jews are free to practise their religion and have their own schools, although they are forced to open on Saturdays, the Jewish sabbath.

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties with Israel, Iranian Jews frequently go there to visit relatives.
There are other means by which zionists "encourage" aliyah but that's a murky story for another time.

July 12, 2007

Do you know this woman?

I know her face, but do you ever really know a person?

Actually there are several pictures on the web including Debbie Fink and others who picketed Engage's anti-boycott rally last night. The question is why they were taken and who called the police?

Ah, the banner - I don't think our spies got a good frontal of the banner.

July 11, 2007

Tony Greenstein sans frontieres?

I thought I'd say that before someone else did. Tony Greenstein has a comment piece on the Littlejohn documentary on antisemitism. Here's the whole thing titled The war on rationality:
When I was contacted about being interviewed for Richard Littlejohn's The War on Britain's Jews I had, to put it mildly, some doubts. Despite the reassuring words of producer Anna Ewart-James, it was clear that any programme fronted by Littlejohn would have a set agenda. This was no balanced documentary.

So did the programme live up to my worst fears? Yes. Do I regret being interviewed? No.

Firstly Channel 4 deserve to be heavily criticised for this programme. At least the BBC does bias subtly; with Littlejohn it's laid on in spades. The bias throughout the programme was unremitting and at times tedious. And that is why Littlejohn's programme will only fool the gullible.

The message was quite simple. Anti-semitism is on the increase and it's mainly the fault of these nasty Muslims and those dupes on the left who oppose Israel. Hizbullah are apparently one of the most anti-semitic groups in the world. (Actually it's their opponents, the Christian Phalange, who were responsible for attacks on Beirut's Jewish community, not Muslim groups, and it was the Palestinian guerilla group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who defended the Lebanese Jewish community in the civil war.)

If Channel 4 was seriously concerned about anti-semitism then the last person to present it would have been Richard Littlejohn. This is the same person who said of the Rwandan genocide: "Does anyone really give a monkey's about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them" - which is a direct take from the late Alan Clark's infamous remark about "bongo bongo land".

He has also called the Palestinians "the pikeys of the Middle East" and suggested that it was time to "wring [their] necks". "Pikey" is a racist reference to Gypsies, one of Littlejohn's pet hates, along with gays and asylum seekers.

The main thrust of the programme was the alleged increase in anti-semitism. Yet even the statistics used by the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Anti-semitism show (paragraph 29, page 14) that there was a 14% decline in anti-semitic incidents from 2004 to 2005.

What made Littlejohn's concern about anti-semitism so grating is that he has never hesitated to demonise asylum seekers as benefit scroungers, malingerers and fakers, using some of the crudest racial stereotypes.

He is someone who delights in pillorying different minorities, and he looked startled when I held up a copy of the Daily Mail from August 20, 1938, which proclaimed that "The way stateless Jews from Germany are pouring in from every port of this country is becoming an outrage: the number of aliens entering the country through back door - a problem to which the Daily Mail has repeatedly pointed"

The truth is that when Jews were really the targets of anti-semitism, the Richard Littlejohns of the day were vehement in attacking them. And the paper he writes for, the Daily Mail, was an ardent enthusiast for Hitler and Oswald Moseley. What it says about Muslims today was then directed at Jews.

For Littlejohn anti-Zionism equals anti-semitism. Why? Because the "new anti-semitism" means opposition to the Israeli state. If you oppose a state where, in an opinion poll, 75% of Jews don't want to live next to an Arab, why is that anti-semitic?

Every anti-semitic act is to be condemned. Likewise all forms of racism, but the programme generalised from a few anti-semitic attacks. And pretending that Muslims, who are the primary victims of racism in our society, are the main perpetrators, is to stand the truth on its head. No group has been more assiduous in feeding this racism than the pro-Israel lobby. Muslims are seen as backward and reactionary, rather than as people whose lands have been colonised.

Of course political Islam is reactionary but who was it who supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and helped create the Taliban and al-Qaida but the United States? And wasn't it Israel's secret service, Shin Bet, in their efforts to undermine secular nationalism who helped create Hamas? Inconvenient facts are easily forgotten. But what is called Muslim anti-semitism is in reality a pale reflection of European anti-semitism, lacking its social roots, and borrowing its ideas without ever understanding them. As Marx said about feudal socialism, it is "half lamentation, half lampoon, half echo of the past, half menace of the future ... always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history."

But what Littlejohn failed to comprehend was that if it is wrong for anti-semites to associate Jews with Israel's war crimes against the Palestinians, then it is equally wrong for the leaders of Zionism and the Israeli state to proclaim that Israel's war against Lebanon was waged in the name of Jews throughout the world. The fact is that if some people misguidedly attribute Israel's crimes to Jews, one of the reasons for so doing is that Israel and its apologists claim that it acts on behalf of world Jewry.

And does he regret being on the telly? No! Spoken like a true self-lover.

July 09, 2007

Greenstein was good, shame about the rest

Ah well, it's over. Richard Littlejohn did his transparent best to link antisemitism and anti-Zionism but I don't think he was that successful. We saw some Community Security Trust people strutting around with the police. There was an imam suggesting that young Muslims who are ill-disposed towards Jews might be better disposed if Jewish leaders spoke out. It's a tough one that because if Jews in leading positions do speak out like say Independent Jewish Voices, they get themselves rubbished by the establishment. As it happens, IJV refused to participate and I thought Tony Greenstein shouldn't have got involved. But I have to say that he came out very well, surprisingly well given the agenda of the programme. Littlejohn tried to wrong foot him into blaming Jews for their own misfortunes but Tony simply said that some misguided people are too easily influenced by Jewish leaders who claim to represent all Jews and promote the idea that we all support Israel.

The programme itself was tosh but it does put a marker down in a great divide. There is an attempt by the British (in fact western) establishment to co-opt the Jews for imperial adventurism abroad and for a racist security driven agenda at home. Many Jewish leaders are more than happy in this vanguard role and a sure sign of our acceptability, indeed respectability, is Littlejohn's imprimatur. Thankfully his interview with Tony Greenstein, close to the end of the programme too, showed that not all Jews are on the same side and it's "an insidious form of racism" to say that we are.

Still no sign of Littlejohn on Engage.

UPDATE. Follow the link above and you will find an article on Hizb ut Tahrir by a chap called Ed Husain in which he calls Littlejohn's documentary "excellent in most parts." I must thank Brian Robinson in the comments for drawing attention to a more detailed review in The London Paper.
The War on Britain's Jews?

by Stuart McGurk. Monday, 09 July 2007

QAh, the question mark. The thinking idiot’s Get Out Of Jail Free card. Doesn’t matter what you put before it, as long as there’s a question mark afterwards, you’re home free.

The Daily Mail knows it, having memorably ran headlines such as “Were Hitler’s Bad Teeth Responsible For The Holocaust?”

And it’s a Mail bellower Richard Littlejohn – the ­baying mob’s columnist of choice – who’s at it again.

His question-mark doc proposes the following – Britain­ may be multicultural, but it’s Britain’s Jews, above any other race or creed, who are increasingly attacked.

So much so they now find themselves “under the greatest threat since World War II.” Yes, he actually says that.

If it’s true, a rise in anti-semitism is, of course, abhorrent and disturbing. But is it? Well, put it this way. There’s only one stand-out statistic here.

Apparently, anti-semitic attacks have doubled since 2001. Where’s this from? No idea. It’s one big question mark.

The rest of the time sees Littlejohn – with his trademark delivery of a market trader selling hot coals while in desperate need of the toilet – picking on disparate incidents, deciding the facts, and calling it a trend.

So he talks to a rabbi who was viciously attacked by youths. Nobody knows why – but Littlejohn does. He visits Manchester’s Jewish community, where they’ve built a school – and let’s be clear about this – with terror attacks in mind. They’ve even put in anti-bomb windows, says a police officer.

“ANTI-BOMB WINDOWS!” bellows Littlejohn, as if Manchester schools are being bombed daily by anti-semites. “IN A SCHOOL?”

If you told him you’d put “baby-proof” windows in your flat, he’d probably scream “BABY-PROOF WINDOWS!” under the assumption people were catapulting infants at your homestead.

It’s prevention, you idiot. Not cause. We’re talking about terrorists. They’re not just anti-semitic, they’re anti-sentient human beings. They hate everyone.

And so it continues, in the same nano-brained, ham-fisted, hysterical way.

He quotes the BNP (who similarly, hate everyone too), some random Arab chat-show (very relevant to UK, that), asks radio phone-in callers for their anti-semitic tales (let’s be honest – you could ask for tales of hamster abuse and be deluged, it doesn’t mean it’s on the rise) and finally – finally – arrives at a salient point.

Namely, that growing hostility to Israel is spilling over into anti-semitism. Maybe, but it’s not explored.

And it’s not helped by him getting a map of the Middle East, rolling up his sleeves, and wielding a ruler. Oh Lord, you think, Littlejohn is about to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It must have Tony Blair waking up in sweats.

Anyway, I have a better idea for a show. It’s called Littlejohn: A Total Idiot? Hey, it’s fine. I used a question mark and everything.
Clearly a difference of opinion between Husain and McGurk. But the gulf between "nano-brained, ham-fisted, hysterical" and "excellent" is so wide you'd wonder if they saw the same programme.

Beyond the settlers' needs?

Here's an article in today's Daily Telegraph that shows how far Israel's star has fallen in the eyes of the establishment.
Israel has been accused of orchestrating a deliberate land grab in the West Bank by allocating 11 times as much land to Jewish settlements as is needed.

It has also been accused of doing nothing to stop settlers from spilling out of allocated areas and stealing even more land from their Palestinian neighbours.

The twin strands of Israel's land policy in the occupied West Bank is described by Peace Now, a respected Israeli land rights group, as a "deliberate and underhand" policy of expansion.
Hurrah for Peace Now! How good of them to notice the "needs" of the settlers. But what of the Telegraph? Time was that they would never had touched an article like that. And how is Conrad Black these days?

July 08, 2007

Be fair to Engage? Ok, I will

I've had a comment telling me that if I was fair to Engage I would have searched harder or more often on google cache to find the amazing disappearing Littlejohn post on Engage. Maybe they're right. It appears that David Hirsh attempted an explanation and apology before disappearing the piece altogether. The cache for the time being is here. You'll have to scroll down a bit because, unusually, the lengthier UPDATE was on the home page. The update bit is this:
UPDATE Some people are angry with this piece I wrote yesterday. There are, I think, two separate issues.

(1) Was I wrong to mention that the Littlejohn programme was coming up and link to his interview and his article? I think that this was entirely appropriate – a link doesn’t signify support or agreement – and I think that people who are interested in contemporary antisemitism might well want to keep up with what Littlejohn is saying. I’ll watch it and I assume other people would like to watch it too.

(2) Did what I said lead people to think that I am advocating some kind of alliance with Richard Littlejohn against antisemitism?

I think that the way I wrote this piece might have done that, and I apologise for having given that impression.

I don’t read the Daily Mail or the Sun (perhaps I should, so I know what is going on). In my head Littlejohn was a blast from the past – a time-warp back to a different political universe – a Thatcherite universe from which we have, thankfully, moved on. I wrote a slightly flippant nostalgia piece – and I can see that doing that was a mistake.

I was wrong to think of Littlejohn as a bad dream, a clown from the far distant past – he is also a hard-right voice from the present – hard right, xenophobic, homophobic and racist. Certainly what he is quoted as saying about Rwanda is racist:
"Does anyone really give a monkey's about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them."
I used the wrong tense, what I said is true now, as it was then:
"how we hated these nasty little apologies for everything Thatcherite - tinged as they were around the edges with an anti-immigrant xenophobia and a baying hatred of the "politically correct"
I think the central point I made in this piece – which was to point out the horrible irony - that some people on the right, and even the far right, are clearer in their opposition to antisemitism than some on the ‘anti-imperialist’ left – is quite right and I make it again. I didn’t mean to give the impression – and I didn’t say – that Littlejohn is more of an antiracist than they are. But when we’re choosing between the hard left and the hard right, it shouldn’t be like choosing between the plague and cholera.

I didn't say Littlejohn was suddenly a great antiracist, I didn't say he was an ally against antisemitism, I didn't say that we should all join in a popular front against antisemitism with him, I didn't say that he was my best mate, I didn't say that he was right to hate gay people - what I said was, perhaps you might be interested to watch his television programme on Monday.

Littlejohn is a caricature tabloid/Daily Mail racist, homophobic sleaze. If he uses his TV programme to try to reverse antisemitism into hostility to Muslims - something he comes close do doing, but doesn't do in his Daily Mail piece - then this is nasty and to be opposed in the strongest possible terms. He can’t resist a little mention of Bernard Manning, he can’t resist a little dig at people who take Islamophobia seriously. It would hardly come as a surprise if Littlejohn, like Melanie Phillips, opposes antisemitism without understanding it as form of racism, which is to be opposed always and everywhere.

What defines Engage has always been its consistent antiracism - its refusal to accept antisemitism which sometimes flows from a justified anger with Israel - and its refusal to accept Islamophobia - and sometimes people fighting antisemitism have been tempted to "blame the Muslims not the Jews". Engage tries to negotiate a consistently antiracist path through this territory.

Did I put a foot off this path by linking to Littlejohn? Maybe. I don't think so. If I was writing this piece now, I’d write it differently. Perhaps we should carry on the discussion here after the programme goes out on Monday. DH

Here is the original piece, as I wrote it yesterday:
I have already posted what follows here.

But there is still a bit of an issue with this. The comments page is still as illusive as it was yesterday but I have got a piece of one by David Hirsh responding to a commentor called Diasporist. He said this:
But diasporist, my point was, how come this right wing sleaze is now suddenly more of an anti-racist than you are? At least than Livingstone is, than the SWP is, than Alexei Sayle is, than UCU is than UNISON is, than T&G? How come?

What has happened to antiracist politics when even Richard Littlejohn is to the left of all those that I mention? I never said he was good, I said he was a clearer opponent of anti-Jewish racism than a whole layer of "antiracists".
Now if you look back up at the update to the bit in bold. Ok, let's have it again:
I didn’t mean to give the impression – and I didn’t say – that Littlejohn is more of an antiracist than they are
And the disappeared comment again:
how come this right wing sleaze is now suddenly more of an anti-racist than you are? At least than Livingstone is, than the SWP is, than Alexei Sayle is, than UCU is than UNISON is, than T&G? How come?
He did say what he subsequently said he neither meant nor said. Now I'm sure he didn't mean it. But he definitely said it and he said it in such a way as to appear to want people to think that he meant it. So, to my commenting contributor, I hope I have been fairer this time around than I was when I thought that David Hirsh was simply pulling the Littlejohn post because Littlejohn was an embarrassment. He seems to have pulled the post and the comments because, in his attempt to explain away yet another dubious associate for Engage he claimed he did not say what he definitely did say. Fair? Yes, fair!