September 30, 2008

JSF to the Ummah: Eid Mubarak!

This marks only the second year since 9/11 that my hometown has lit up its remaining tallest building green for Eid.

Everyone remembers the CNN film of a few Palestinians dancing in E. Jerusalem on 9/11. I recall watching that & feeling more than a little irked, having just come from a candlelight vigil with the WTC smoldering in the background & spending part of the day standing on line to donate blood for the wounded -- who never materialized -- that anyone could find a reason to rejoice in the pointless destruction of my city.

Fifteen months later I traveled to Palestine for the first time. In January of '03, I witnessed the biggest single-day orgy of home demolition in the West Bank since the beginning of the occupation, in the village of Nazlat Issa. Nazlat Issa was a thriving commercial center in the northern West Bank that straddled the Green Line. At least 60 shops were destroyed by the IDF that day. After the major part of the destruction was done, I was coughing amidst the rubble, something easily set off since the weeks I'd spent breathing in the debris of 9/11, and that caught the attention of a local pharmacist. He advised me to drink water, and regretted he didn't have anything from his shop to give me, as it had just been flattened.

Quite all right, I assured him, and when I explained the origin of my cough, I got a very common reaction from him, the one most Palestinians expressed as soon as they'd find out I was from New York -- deep sadness for what my city had gone through. Now I was savvy enough not to have expected to find a troupe of 9-11 celebrants prancing about the West Bank, but I was still quite moved at this widely-expressed commiseration. After all, my co-religionists, many of them being settlers with Brooklyn accents, were busy ethnically cleansing these folks, and my country was financing it. But it really took the cake, this pharmacist standing in the rubble of everything he had, and there he was busying himself expressing effusive sorrow for MY loss & worrying about my cough.

Caked with mud as we all were, and wanting to get away from the dust and the terminator-like machines still ripping away at the remains of the buildings, the pharmacist took myself and two other US Jewish activists to his family's house. He was a superb host, even on such a lousy day, occasionally getting a bit sunken when he talked about how he didn't know how he was going to support his family or mused on what would become of his village. But he brightened up considerably when one of my compatriots surged off an overstuffed sofa and burst into a fabulous interpretation of a Shakira-style bump & grind while the chanteuse blared over Lebanese MTV. We merrily egged him on, clapping in unison, and the one female activist amongst us gamely attempted to ululate. The pharmacist's mother made me tea with an herb picked from their garden -- worked wonders on the throat.

So the picture above is in appreciation for that fellow -- I hope he & his family are doing well this Eid; him and all the other Palestinians who've plied me with their hospitality, wisdom, humor & forbearance in my too brief visits to their beleaguered & beautiful homeland.

Fun with Finkelstein

Many thanks to Roland Rance for posting the link to this Finkelstein interview to the Just Peace UK list. I must say Finkelstein's on cracking form here. Here are a few, quite a few, cuts:
In 2007, Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul University because of an intimidation campaign spearheaded by Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, whose book, The Case for Israel, was pilloried by Finkelstein as blatant plagiarism of an earlier work, Joan Peters' From Time Immemorial, which was itself long ago exposed as a hoax.
That's an opener by the interviewer. And here's the man on Fatah:
I don't get involved in internal Palestinian politics. Those are choices Palestinians have to make. This much however can be said. You cannot win from diplomacy what you haven't won on the battlefield. I don't necessarily mean an exchange of lethal weapons; mobilizing public opinion is also a potent force. A good versus a bad diplomat will make some difference. Abba Eban made some difference; I don't want to discount it. But negotiations are the most trivial aspect of politics. What counts in politics is your ability to organize, mobilize, and bring to bear superior force -- and again force doesn't necessarily mean lethal force; there is also the force of public opinion. The so-called Palestinian leadership has not invested any time in trying to organize its constituency either in the Occupied Territories or abroad. Nothing is going to change without such organization -- it's just silliness; for the Palestinian leadership, lucrative silliness.
Hezbollah organized. Hezbollah prepared. Hezbollah analyzed and understood its enemy. Its judgment was not 100% accurate, but certainly that's where it invested its energy, with very impressive results. When you read detailed accounts of the 2006 Lebanon war, you realize just how astonishing was its defeat of the Israeli military. Hezbollah fired about 5,000 missiles altogether at Israel or in Lebanon (anti-tank missiles); Israel delivered or fired 162,000 weapons at Lebanon (about 4,800 per day). Israel fielded about 30,000 troops; Hezbollah's fighters numbered about 2,000 and there were about 4,000 village militia. Israel never even faced the crack Hezbollah forces which were stationed on the Litani waiting for an Israeli invasion that never happened.
And the Arab regimes?
Why should one expect more from the Saudis? The Arab regimes are completely in thrall to the United States. They would of course prefer to settle the Israel-Palestine conflict in terms of the international consensus. The Arab League has repeatedly put forth perfectly reasonable proposals to end the conflict in line with the whole of the international community. But they are not going to do more than express a preference. They're unpopular, corrupt, and therefore dependent on the United States.
On zionism, the Israel lobby and the democratic deficit:
You have to make a distinction between the popular level and the electoral level. At the popular level it's quite a big difference now as compared to say a decade ago in terms of the ability to criticize Israeli policy and to reach people. It's not difficult at all now on the popular level. If you have public meetings and so forth there's a very receptive, or potentially receptive, audience out there. Jimmy Carter's book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid showed this. The Israel lobby called him an anti-Semite, Holocaust-denier, supporter of Nazis and supporter of terrorism. His book still wound up at the top of the bestseller list. But the electoral level is not just about votes, it's crucially also about money; those with lots of money get a better hearing. At the electoral level it remains quite difficult. We haven't yet been able to translate popular feeling into an electoral mandate. That's not unusual. You have in the United States, for example, overwhelming popular support for gun control. But at the electoral level, because of a well-organized lobby, you're not able to translate the popular feeling into an electoral mandate. That's also true of health care and myriad other issues.......

There is much misunderstanding about the scope and reach of the Israeli lobby. In my opinion the Israel lobby has a significant impact on U.S. policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict. U.S. elites do not derive any advantage from the occupation; they would be perfectly happy if tomorrow Israel announced that it accepts the international consensus and will withdraw to the June 1967 borders. The reason U.S. elites don't press harder for such a settlement is the lobby.

But when we come to broad regional issues such as Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, it's not the lobby that's the driving force. It's U.S. policy. You can say U.S. policy is misguided and you can say that once U.S. policy has been decided, the lobby plays a useful role in drumming up public support. But the notion that somehow Cheney and Rumsfeld were duped or coerced by the lobby into waging a war in Iraq contrary to the U.S. "national interest" is neither on its face credible nor supported by the available documentary record.
On Dershowitz, possibly the best part. Here's the interviewer:
for instance, in one case, Alan Dershowitz chopped up a quote to claim you called your mother a Nazi collaborator. How do you deal with that kind of stuff?
And here's Finkelstein again:
My mother was very solicitous about my health and safety. She was a Jewish mother. But what Dershowitz said crossed the line. It's hard to fathom the magnitude of that slander: to say that somebody who passed through the Nazi holocaust, and every single member of her family was exterminated, and her entire life, from the day she was "liberated" till her death, she grieved over the loss of her family -- that now some sick sack of shit would come along, after her death and when she is no longer around to defend herself, and proclaim that my mother collaborated -- or I believe she collaborated -- with the murderers of her family. . .

So it did require immense self-control -- or maybe you want to call it cowardice -- for me to do nothing about it.

Dershowitz got very bad PR when he threatened a libel suit against the University of California press for publishing my book Beyond Chutzpah. He was trying to get a rise out of me so I would sue him for libel. Then he could say, "You see! Who's suing whom for libel now?" He was trying to push me into a corner or provoke me sufficiently that I would, like a panther -- which is how the Black Panther [Party] got its name -- you keep pushing it back and back and back, and it retreats and retreats and retreats, and finally when it's in a corner, it leaps out at you....

There's no "intellectual" battle with Dershowitz. On his part there's no summoning of facts or elegant use of logic. It's just bar mitzvah speeches. He doesn't know anything, I doubt if he's read more than a half-dozen books on the topic. I don't entirely fault him. You can't defend high profile spousal murderers like O.J. Simpson, high profile sexual predators like Jeffrey Epstein, and high profile mass murderers like Radovan Karadzic, yet still have time left over to do serious scholarship. What he does is entertainment; it's a circus. He's like Hitchens. No one really cares about the facts Hitchens brings to bear. He could be making one case today and the opposite case tomorrow. Would anybody notice? They're just interested in the rococo tapestry he weaves around the facts. You don't walk away saying, "I've learned X, Y or Z from Hitchens," you walk away saying, "Wasn't that a witty line? Wasn't that a clever repartee?"

It's the same thing with Dershowitz -- of course, Dershowitz is not witty or clever. You don't learn anything and you don't expect to. I live near Coney Island. It's like the popular sideshow "Shoot the Freak." I haven't read a journal of intellectual opinion in years. Gandhi's collected works come to 90 volumes. Most of it consists of letters, quite a few on diet. There's more moral seriousness in one Gandhi letter to an anonymous correspondent on treating constipation than nearly the whole of our intellectual life.....

Everybody is terrified of Dershowitz because he wields a lot of power and is a very vindictive little man. I wasn't afraid and, I think, did a pretty solid job of demonstrating he is a preposterous charlatan. So he got his revenge by driving me out of academia, although -- in his mind -- not enough to compensate for the damage I did to his name.
And finally, about the interviewer:
Junaid Levesque-Alam is a Pakistani-American who blogs about America and Islam at Crossing the Crescent ( He writes about American Muslim identity for WireTap magazine and has been published in CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, The Nation (online), and The American Muslim. He works as a communications coordinator for an anti-domestic violence agency in the NYC area and obtained his undergraduate degree in journalism from Northeastern University. He can be reached at: junaidalam1 AT

September 29, 2008

Happy New Jewish Year

Happy Rosh Hashana, dear readers of JSF. May you all have a sweet year!

I hate to spoil your holiday fun, but many leaders of the Jewish community are alarmed that assimilation is leading Jews away from their roots. So many Jews no longer celebrate Rosh Hashana or even know that today is Rosh Hashana.

But fear not! Israel is the solution to assimilation.

For every Jew who no longer celebrates the high holidays, there is a Palestinian who is forced to celebrate them whether he or she wants to or not:

A general closure will be imposed on the West Bank, commencing Sunday night at midnight, in accordance with Defense Ministry directives and in light of security assessments, the army said.

The closure will be lifted at midnight Wednesday, after Rosh Hashana.

For the duration of the closure, the passage of those in need of humanitarian and medical aid will be authorized by the District Coordination and Liaison offices, said the IDF.

The army announced that since it regards Rosh Hashana as a highly sensitive time, it would increase its alert level in order to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens, while preserving, to the best of its ability, the daily life of the Palestinians.
(Jerusalem Post, 28 Sept, 2008)

Doesn't it warm your heart that the Jewish holidays are celebrated by four million people, whether they like it or not, with enforced imprisonment, travel bans, and other traditional customs Jews brought with them from their European homelands!

'Thinking Palestine' booklaunch

This should be of interest to people in London. There's a booklaunch of a new collection of essays on Palestine in SOAS this Wednesday, October 1st. Anyone interested is cordially welcome. Ilan Pappe and Ronit Lentin will be speaking; the book is called 'Thinking Palestine' and is edited by Dr. Lentin.

Should be an interesting evening (disclosure: one of my articles - on study trips to Palestine - is in the book) and it kicks off at at 7 pm. The exact address is The Khalili Lecture Theatre SOAS, University of London, Russell Square, London WC1.

For a review of the book:

Israel capable of first strike on Iran?

This is bad news. According to this Guardian report
The US has supplied Israel with a powerful long-range radar system that would provide an extra early warning in case of an Iranian missile attack, it was confirmed yesterday.
The bad news is that this means that Israel can launch a missile attack on Iran and avoid direct retaliation though of course there could be indirect means of retaliation.

Reading the article, America is claiming that it is a warning against Iran and a calming device for Israel. The curious thing about America's reasoning is that intrinsically defensive weaponry, like say, anti-ballistic missiles, have always been seen as actually offensive because they enable a first strike capability and they were the first to go in American-Soviet strategic arms limitation treaties. Also, Israel is nearly always responsibly for first strikes in its wars against its natives and neighbours whereas Iran has never attacked any of its neighbours. Further, Iran has said that it will not attack Israel whereas Israel has threatened Iran. And of course if Israel was to deny any aggressive intent towards Iran, what would that mean given Israel's appalling record of dishonesty?

America is going to be controlling the system it's giving to Israel and it's claimed that Israel isn't getting the green light to attack Iran but if Israel attacks Iran and Iran tries to retaliate, will the Americans implementing the project sit still while Iranian missiles hurtle towards them?

I can't help thinking I've got something wrong here. I hope I have.

September 28, 2008

Mufti "shameful" but not important

Here's a review in the New York Times by Tom Segev of a book on the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem by David Dalin and John Rothmann. Tom Segev describes it as a classic of the Arab-bashing genre and concludes that the book is, horror of horrors, bad for Israel.

Here are some snippets. This is the opener:
In August 1968, two American college students, David Dalin and John Rothmann, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. There they saw an enlarged photograph of Hitler with Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian leader and grand mufti of Jerusalem. “We were immediately struck by the same question,” they recount in the preface to this book: “What was the story behind that photo?”
These guys spent forty years wondering how they could spin one photo to Israel's advantage. Over that time there have been many books about the holocaust and the zionist approach to the rise of Hitler and there have been exposés of some bogus histories of the Jews and the holocaust. And doesn't whoever runs Yad Vashem (aka the holocaust circus) know it?
in recent years the photo they saw has been reduced in scale and removed to its proper historical context (a section in the museum that deals with volunteers from several nations who enlisted in Hitler’s Waffen SS)
Perhaps our intrepid scholars never went back to the circus because
“Ever since that August day in Jerusalem 40 years ago, we have pursued the story of the mufti with relentless determination, devoting innumerable hours to researching his life and times,” they write. The result, “Icon of Evil,” is of little scholarly value
But that won't stop it being a commercial success and it won't harm the careers of the authors, I'm sure.

Segev offers a somewhat dispassionate description of the Mufti:
In accordance with the principle of my enemy’s enemy is my ally, the mufti sought support from Nazi Germany and in return backed Hitler’s war, including the extermination of the Jews. In addition to meeting with Hitler, he sat down with Adolf Eichmann and sabotaged a plan to transfer Jewish children from Eastern Europe to Palestine.

All this was wrong and shameful, but in contrast to the authors’ contention, one can question whether Husseini “played an important role” in the Holocaust.
Zionists love to yabber on about the Mufti as if he took the whole of the Palestinian people with him to join the Waffen SS. They should be careful, as Segev notes,
The mufti’s support for Nazi Germany definitely demonstrated the evils of extremist nationalism. However, the Arabs were not the only chauvinists in Palestine looking to make a deal with the Nazis. At the end of 1940 and again at the end of 1941, a small Zionist terrorist organization known as the Stern Gang made contact with Nazi representatives in Beirut, seeking support for its struggle against the British. One of the Sternists, in a British jail at the time, was Yitzhak Shamir, a future Israeli prime minister. The authors fail to mention this episode.
There's another issue that ties this book to the zionist genre:
Throughout the book, Dalin and Rothmann tend to blur the terms radical Islam, anti-Semitism and Nazism
It's funny how zionists never baulk at that kind of trivialising of the holocaust and then there's
and numerous Arab and Muslim leaders are grouped together as disciples of the mufti. Anwar Sadat and Yasir Arafat are among the villains, though one is left to guess in what way the mufti’s spell led them to strike historic deals with Israel.
Hmm, there I have to part company with Segev. Maybe it was the influence of a nazi collaborator that set Sadat and Arafat on the road to compromising with Israel. I actually read somewhere that in the 1960s, seven Egyptian generals were asked what they thought of Hitler. 5 refused to answer, one said he was no good and the other admired him. I can't remember where I read that but that last was Sadat.

Anyway, I'll end where I began, with Segev's conclusion:
the book is worth noticing, as it belongs to a genre of popular Arab-bashing that is often believed to be “good for Israel.” It is not. The suggestion that Israel’s enemies are ­Nazis, or the Nazis’ heirs, is apt to discourage any fair compromise with the Palestinians, and that is bad for Israel.
Ok, it costs $26 and it's "bad for Israel". Go on!! Get out there and buy that book, not that I'm going to.

September 26, 2008

Israel: a "lawful state"?

I suppose the big news is that it appears that an extreme settler group has tried to kill Peace Now activist and Haaretz columnist Professor Ze'ev Sternhell.
Police suspect Jewish extremists of having carried out the pipe bomb attack earlier in the day.
But the thing I want to focus on is the bizarre comment made by Tzipi Livni following the bomb attack:
At a ceremony marking the Rosh Hashanah holiday at the Foreign Ministry, Livni went on to say that "the state of Israel is a lawful state, and moreover, it is populated by a society with values. It is the responsibility of the government and the Israeli society to renounce such phenomena as soon as the rear their heads."

Isn't that bizarre? Isn't it strange a leader saying that a state is "lawful". Most leaders take such things for granted. I can only guess as to why she would say such a strange thing but I think it has to do with that fact that the State of Israel is nothing like lawful. It's just something I noticed, that's all.

September 20, 2008

Thank God Lev Leviev is not motivated by Racism!

If Lev Leviev did not exist, Charles Dickens would have invented him. But as far as conjuring ugliness is concerned, Dickens is no match to reality.

There is apparently no misery that Leviev cannot turn into additional zeroes to his net worth. He makes money from the mining of diamond in Angola under conditions not far from slavery. There his company assets are "protected" with murder and sexual torture (Rafael Marques, lecture at St Antony’s College, Jan 26 2007 ). In the West Bank, his companies build settlements on stolen land and participate in the destruction of Palestinian villages such as Jayyous and Bil'in. Opression for Leviev is just another name for a business opportunity.

He is also a Jewish chauvinist who supports right-wing religious organizations such as Chabad and helps them spread their message of hate across the world.

All this leads to a fascinating question. What comes first for Leviev, the egg of racism or the chicken of profits?

We are interested in this question because in the general culture we live in, profits are kosher, whereas racism is a bit like dirty underwear, common enough but not to be shown in public. If it can be established that although Leviev invests in settlements he only really cares about money, some people might think better of him. We on the other hand think it is important to understand how profits depend on and require racism.

Concerned as we are with his damaged reputation, we are happy to report that Leviev's entrepreneurial portfolio proves he is more than willing to make money from the misery and oppression of Jews as much as from that of Palestinians and Angolans.

First, there is the interesting fact that Leviev's schools in Israel are implicated in their own racist scandal involving Ethiopian Jews. Then there is the complex economic nexus of the settlements Leviev builds. The demand for "development," on which Leviev's profits depend, is generated by government policies officially motivated by zionist fervor. But behind that fervor is a new economy that uses economic misery in a very old fashioned way. In Leviev-built settlements like Modi'in Ilit, high tech companies like Oracle, Matrix (a subsidiary of Formula Systems) and others compete on the fabled global marketplace by paying ultra-orthodox Jewish women between $275 and $1000 a month for writing java and code. The women work in hi-tech sweatshops where they are not allowed to talk with each other. And the company Rabbi forbids taking a 5 minute break for prayer on company time. (Gadi Alghazi, New Left Review 40, 2006)

Then, there is Leviev's company Africa-Israel, which is working towards the grand opening of Israel's first private prison. This first prison is a modest affair, less than a thousands inmates. But if the court bid to stop Leviev fails, it is already clear that a stay at Leviev's Hotel California will cost more than the public facilities it replaces. The Prison-Industrial Complex not being a new thing, we can be sure that Leviev will make money from his Israeli prison by following the U.S. model of providing inhuman conditions to his captive audience. No doubt also that given the ease with which Israeli politicians are bought, private prisons will create irresistable temptations to cut back even more on those social services that help people stay out of jail (although that would be hard given than 30% of schoochildren in Israel who began the scholarly year this month already suffer from hunger!)

We would like however to make two modest proposals.

First, we hope Susan Sarandon will grace the grand opening of the first Israeli private prison with the presence of her beautiful persona. After all, there are arguments on both sides, and there is nothing like such a gesture on her behalf to prove that the reason she wouldn't condemn Leviev has nothing to do with cowardice and fear of being associated with the too unpopular cause of justice for Palestinians.

Second, we note that there aren't enough Israelis to guarantee the kind of profits that would really make Leviev smile. Even if Israel's incarceration rates reached U.S. levels, and even if Leviev operated every prison cell in Israel, his profit would be less than $400 million dollars a year from this venture. Realistically, Leviev can expect to put his paws on no more than 10% of that. $40 million isn't chump change at all. But surely a world class entrepreuneur like Leviev can do better. Why stop at these retail prisons when the "international community's" plan for "peace" in the Middle East includes putting four million Palestinans in four open air prisons. Now there's a business opportunity of a century! Go for it Leviev! Nobody else is up to the challenge.

September 19, 2008

Dancing with racists

Alvin Ailey Dance Company went to Israel this last month, ignoring the Palestinian Boycott call. Sad as it is, the full ironies of this story are even sadder.

The dance company, founded in 1958, was Ailey's response to his own experience of white racism in the U.S. and Ailey's work has always been politically conscious. As Ailey said "If you live in the elite world of dance, you find yourself in a world rife with racism." But part of the contradictions of struggling against racism through cultural work is that success requires accommodations and finding ways to both challenge and serve racism at the same time. Ailey's company was for example one of the first group that toured South East Asia on State Department funds, thus helping U.S. imperialism in the very beginning of the U.S. engagement in Vietnam. It would be surprising if Ailey's mental illness, self-medication and premature
death were unconnected with the stress of dealing with racism and succeeding under its terms.

As if to answer the unvoiced (or at least unreported) question "why perform here?" Judith Jamison, Alvey's successor at the helm, told the Israeli press:

"We are artists and will always be in your face, no matter what....We are here to irritate you, to change your mind and make you think." (Haaretz, Sept. 17, 2008)

Unfortunately, this is an example of bad faith. The reason why the dance company is in Israel is because it pays. The transaction goes like this. The spectators pay the artist for mild provocations that make them "think," i.e. consider universal problems such as mortality, love, and even racism, but in "complex", "irresolvable" ways. The artist provides the audience an affirmation of the latter's class and cultural superiority which is evident in the latter's enlightened willingness to be so irritated, all the while allowing them not to think about all those "problems" whose improvement might require real sacrifice from them. Problems such as....the apartheid system that pays for these refined pleasures in Tel Aviv.

There are of course opportunities for artists to break the limits of these transactions. But these require some more serious thought than Jamison is ready to entertain. What, for example, would it mean to make the audience think, when the audience is composed of those most benefiting from Israeli Apartheid? At least, in order to change someone's mind one needs a specific intention. How can you change someone's mind when you can't even express what it is that you want to convey? Had she been serious, Jamison could have for example told the audience she'll perform in Tel Aviv when half of the people in the hall would be Palestinians from Nablus and Dheishe. Alas, that would provoke the kind of irritating thinking that audiences boo.

In a final twist of irony, a dancer from the company with a Muslim name was taken aside while checking to fly out of Ben-Gurion Airport. The security personnel thought nothing of asking the dancer to dance for them to prove his or her story. Take a moment to imagine this utterly offensive scene.

The officer wanted to know that the dancer was "really a dancer" and not the "security threat" reflected in the name and skin color. Had the security officer belonged to the same social class as Tel Aviv's dance afficionados, that extra dance at the airport would have been superfluous.

UPDATE: Omar Barghuoti knows more about the story than I and his article corrects a few factual errors in the post above.

September 17, 2008

Denouncing Israel kills!!!

Eh? What? Who could say such a ludicrous, nay more, nutty thing? Yup, it's our own nutty professor, or at least he would be a nutty professor if he was a professor* at all, Dr David Hirsh. So what's this latest attempt at silencing criticism of Israel all about?

Paul McCartney is to play a gig (maybe more) in Israel and he has been asked not to by the Palestinian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Well apparently some of the papers have got hold of an islamist rent-a-quote's threat to kill McCartney and according to Dr Hirsh it's all PACBI's fault because of their "politics of denunciation". See this:
PACBI should understand what it means to denounce a person as a collaborator with "Israeli apartheid". If you play the politics of denunciation, somebody is likely to take you seriously and for that, you have to take some political responsibility.
But no, I'm wrong and I'm being unfair. I'm just having a little bit of fun at the expense of "frightened Jews". Dr Hirsh isn't for one minute saying it is all PACBI's fault. It's the fault of the Universities and Colleges Union as well because look:
The University and College Union, which talks the talk in favour of the exclusion of Israelis from the academic, cultural, sporting and economic life of humanity needs to understand that its denunciations may have consequences. Just because the political children of the boycott campaign are used to nobody taking what they say seriously, they should not rely on it.

Official policy of the UCU "notes" the "apparent complicity of most of the Israeli academy" in "illegal settlement, killing of civilians" and other human rights abuses.
You gotta love the line about people not taking the UCU seriously. He's such a shrewd debater. Point out that the whole of the zionist movement has upped its resource deployment by millions of pounds to combat the academic boycott in the UK alone and Hirsh can say, aha, "so they are inciting murder" or say "ok, no one takes the boycotters seriously" and bear the shame of agreeing with Hirsh.

Hirsh is an intellectual shadow of John Strawson (as in poor imitation not carbon copy) and Strawson has tried this incitement to murder tosh on Joseph Massad before now so there's an element of party line to this hysteria. Campaign against Israel's racist structure or the occupation in a meaningful way and you will be accused of inciting murder.

And of course no post by Dr Hirsh would be complete without a misrepresentation of what his targets have actually said. See this:
McCartney is not "effectively complicit" in "racial oppression". It is just rubbish. And it is also dangerous and irresponsible rubbish.
And what did the PACBI statement that led to Hirsh accusing them of responsibility in the event of McCartney being killed actually say?
Despite our denunciation of Paul McCartney's effective complicity in covering up Israel's occupation and system of racial oppression, ... PACBI strongly and unequivocally condemns any violent threats made against him or, for that matter, against any other cultural or academic figure who decides to visit Israel in violation of the Palestinian boycott of Israel.
Complicity in the covering up of racial oppression. And that is without getting into their strong and unequivocal condemnation of any violence against McCartney or anyone else who scabs on the boycott.

Oh no! I've looked at the comments and Ben White has queried Hirsh's use of quotation marks around the expression "collaborator with apartheid". In some ways I wish he hadn't have done that because now the Engage troll army is mobilised in making the word collaborator mean one who is complicit. But Hirsh was offering what clearly purported to be a quote. Curiouser still, the shadowy Shachtman (who I've always suspected of being a Hirsh sock puppet) has popped up with some copied and pasted letters from PACBI again running this line that people who entertain in Israel are participating in the covering up of Israel's oppressive state structure and behaviour, not collaborating with the oppression itself.

But Ben White's question has remained unanswered by either Hirsh or Shachtman. Here it is:
Is it possible to provide some examples where either Paul McCartney or others who PACBI have included in their boycott campaign have actually been called "collaborators with apartheid"?
Amid twenty-five comments (so far) accusing Ben of illiteracy (or something close) or obsessiveness he's forced to respond to his own question thus:
The thing is, when you use quotation marks, it's usually because you're quoting someone. However, as we've seen, the phrase "collaborator with apartheid" is a Hirsh interpretation. That is important, of course, because of the specific mileage Hirsh then tries to get out of the term 'collaborator'. So thanks 'Shachtman' (ahem) and Brian, but the impression of rather tenuous logic still lingers...But then Hirsh often seems to see what he'd like, rather than what's there, like the recent case of the vanishing 'solidarity' headline.
'Solidarity' headline, what 'solidarity' headline?

*What the Americans call a professor is called a lecturer in the UK. Professor in the UK is something more grand.

September 16, 2008

Anti-Semitism in the Scottish Sunday Herald

The Israeli navy, like any navy, does bad things. Unarmed Palestinian fishermen, like all unarmed fishermen, do bad things too. So why is the Scottish Sunday Herald singling out the Israeli navy for shooting at unarmed Palestinian fishermen? Why isn't it devoting column space to when the Chinese navy shoots unarmed Tibetan fisherman? Or when Arab Sudanese nautical militia shoot at unarmed African Darfurian fishermen? By only showing videos of Israeli seamen shooting up Palestinian boats, what they are really doing is exploiting the subtext that "The Jews" -- because the Israeli navy happens to be populated largely with Jews (some of them likely Zionist Israeli Jews) -- are shooting at defenseless Palestinians, seemingly for no reason. It even claims that 14 Palestinian fishermen have died this way. It fails to mention how many Israeli seamen have been killed by unarmed Palestinian fishermen. Thus, they wittingly spread the "naval libel," that Jews shoot Palestinian fishermen for fun. Shame on the Herald. Good on the Israeli embassy for refusing to dignify this Jew-baiting with a comment.

Here the ISM claims the Israeli navy rammed a Palestinian fishing vessel.
The ISM claims the navy yelled over a megaphone, "When the internationals leave Gaza, you will all be made to pay."

UPDATE: from an ISM press release, Sept. 16:

An Italian solidarity activist who sailed into Gaza has been injured today by the Israeli Navy while he was accompanying fishermen in Gaza.

Vittorio Arrigoni was hit by flying glass as the Israeli navy used a high power water cannon against the unarmed boats. The water canon smashed the glass surrounding the steering section of the boat, with shards lacerating Vittorio's back. He was been taken to hospital immediately upon reaching shore, requiring stitches.

September 14, 2008

Enough bogus allegations of antisemitism already!

Here's Antony Lerman in Ha'aretz complaining about the persistence and pervasiveness of the bogus allegation of antisemitism made by zionists, often against Jews. The article is actually titled Jews attacking Jews but it might just as well be Jews attacking non-Jews or indeed non-Jews attacking Jews since it makes mention of the EU's ludicrous "working definition" and the even more ludicrous self-styled "official" UK parliamentary group's "inquiry" into the "issue". Here's a chunk:
Practically no discussion about current anti-Semitism now takes place without Israel and Zionism being at its center. Judging by the vast number of books, pamphlets, articles and conferences on the subject, this trend is widely welcomed.

The equation "anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism" has thus become the new orthodoxy, and has even earned the seal of approval of the European Union. Its racism and anti-Semitism monitoring center (the Federal Rights Agency) produced a "working definition" of anti-Semitism, with examples of five ways in which anti-Israel or anti-Zionist rhetoric is anti-Semitic. The 2006 report of the U.K.'s All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism urged the adoption of the EU definition, and the U.S. State Department's 2008 report "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism" is also based on it.

The redefinition of anti-Semitism has led to a further radical change in confronting the phenomenon. Many Jews are at the forefront of the growing number of anti-Israel or anti-Zionist groups. So, perceived manifestations of the "new anti-Semitism" increasingly result in Jews attacking other Jews for their alleged anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.

Anti-Semitism can be disguised as anti-Zionism, and a Jew can be an anti-Semite. In principle, therefore, exposing an alleged Jewish anti-Semite is legitimate. But if you read the growing literature that does this - in print, on Web sites and in blogs - you find that it exceeds all reason: The attacks are often vitriolic, ad hominem and indiscriminate. Aspersions are cast on the Jewishness of individuals whom the attacker cannot possibly know. The charge of Jewish "self-hatred" - another way of calling someone a Jewish anti-Semite - is used ever more frequently, despite mounting evidence that it's an entirely bogus concept.

Anything from strong criticism of Israel's policies, through sympathetic critiques of Zionism, to advocacy of a one-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, is defined as anti-Zionism, when none of these positions are prima facie anti-Zionist. Many attackers endow their targets with the ability to bring disaster and dissolution to the Jewish people, thereby making it a national and religious duty for Jews to wage a war of words against other Jews.

I realize that many readers will regard these attacks as fully justified. But think for a moment about who benefits. Can it really help the fight against anti-Semitism to place the fantasy of the anti-Semitic Jew at its center? There are many issues about which Jews should argue robustly with each other, but the attack by Jew on Jew is acrimonious and demeaning - Can it do us any good? I would say no to both questions, for overwhelming reasons.
Curiously for an article on bogus allegations of antisemitism and ad hominem attacks, no mention is made of Engage. See here for a list of Engage posts, including one on this Ha'aretz article, in which Antony Lerman features. Among their criticisms of Lerman, vindictiveness clearly isn't one of them.

September 12, 2008

US Jews to Hollywood stars: Boycott Israel celebration!

The following has been sent as an open letter to Jason Alexander, Heidi Klum, Debi Mazar, Kevin Spacey, Oliver Stone, Kiefer Sutherland, and all other confirmed attendees of the September 18 celebration of Israel at Paramount Studios.

It has also been sent to unconfirmed guests Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and Adam Sandler. From No Time to Celebrate:

September 12, 2008

We write to you with sadness and outrage as we learn that you plan to attend the September 18 event "From Vision to Reality," a Hollywood celebration of sixty years since the establishment of the state of Israel. The vision that led to the reality of the Israeli state is one of systematic and ongoing ethnic and religious discrimination against the Palestinian people. This does not deserve to be celebrated.

Sixty years ago, Zionist groups destroyed over 500 Palestinian villages and made more than 800,000 Palestinian people refugees in order to create a Jewish state in a land where the majority was not Jewish. This has come to be known by Palestinians as the Nakba, or "catastrophe," and this Nakba continues today. Inside of the 1948 borders of Israel, Palestinian citizens are denied equal rights to Jews under the law. Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem are denied access to land, water, healthcare, and other basic resources. Today there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees throughout the world, all of whom are denied their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and land simply because they are not Jewish.

As Jewish North Americans, we are outraged at the policies the state of Israel has implemented in our names and with our government's financial support for more than sixty years. At the same time, we are inspired by the ongoing creative resistance of the Palestinian people, and most recently the unified civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law. We ask you to heed this call. Boycott is a nonviolent tool that has been used by ordinary people countless times to hold countries responsible for atrocities when our governments fail to do so. In South Africa, the boycott movement helped bring about an end to the apartheid system. In the case of Israel/Palestine, it can do the same.

Whether you attend or not, you are making a statement. If you attend, you indicate that you support the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people (now millions) and ongoing policies of ethnic cleansing of an indigenous population from their land. If you cancel your attendance, you indicate that you will not turn a blind eye to both the suffering and the call to action of millions of Palestinian people.

With stature comes responsibility, and we hope you do not take yours lightly.


The No Time To Celebrate Campaign
a campaign organized and implemented by thousands of Jewish people in the US and Canada this year to protest Israeli Independence Day activities, to commemorate the Nakba, and to honor the Palestinian
call for boycott against Israel

As food for thought in the wake of NTTC's letter, JSF is reprinting this blast from the past. From AP, Dec. 20,1987:

HOLLYWOOD (AP) The release of "Cry Freedom," the first major film about apartheid, has focused attention on the continuing campaign of entertainment figures and companies to combat South African racism.

Entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and Liberace once drew huge salaries for appearing at Sun City, South Africa's equivalent of Las Vegas. But most won't go anymore. Others, however, including Robert Wagner and Ernest Borgnine, still do promotional events and shoot movies there.

The appearance of American stars in South Africa could cause a storm of protest in the United States, as it did when Paul Simon recorded part of his Grammy award-winning "Graceland" album in South Africa, using black South African musicians.

Government authorities suggested that Richard Attenborough film "Cry Freedom" in South Africa. He didn't accept. "I knew perfectly well the conditions would be intolerable. You would have no freedom at all to show the monstrous brutalities that exist under this obscene regime," he said.

The critically acclaimed film, which was made in Zimbabwe, portrays the life and death of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko (Denzel Washington), who was killed by state police, and his friendship with a liberal white newspaper editor, Donald Woods (Kevin Kline).

"It was good for American artists like Simon to collaborate with South Africans," said film director Jonathan Demme.

"But we say: Don't do it in South Africa. Don't pay for taxis and hotels and production facilities. Don't put money into a system that legalizes racism."

Demme is co-founder with Martin Scorsese of Filmmakers United Against Apartheid. The organization had its beginnings when Scorsese was editing "The Color of Money" and Demme completing "Something Wild" in back-to-back rooms of a Manhattan post-production house last year.

"As often happens, we got together for rap sessions in the hallway, and one day we started talking about apartheid and the cultural boycott," Demme said.

From their conversations emerged FUAA. In March, they sent letters to 200 fellow directors, and 120 responded positively. The membership includes many of the major creators of today's films, including John Badham, John Carpenter, Arthur Penn, Sidney Poitier, Warren Beatty, James L. Brooks, Francis Coppola, Norman Jewison, Penny Marshall, Mark Rydell, Steven Spielberg, Alan Pakula, Sidney Pollack, Oliver Stone, Hal Ashby, Gene Wilder, Jack Nicholson and John Landis.

The aim of FUAA is to withhold all American-made and American-financed movies from South Africa.

"Movies are an omission from the cultural boycott of South Africa _ a key and glaring omission," said Demme, speaking by telephone from the New York set of his new film, "Married to the Mob."

The filmmakers' goals run counter to the present policy of the Motion Picture Association of America. Jack Valenti, MPAA president, did not want to be interviewed by The Associated Press, but spokeswoman Barbara Dickson said that for the last two years, American movies have been shown only in South Africa's desegregated theaters.

"We feel we have had a positive effect on the situation in South Africa," she said. "Our figures show that in 1986 only 54.2 percent of the theaters were multiracial. It is Jack's understanding that more than 90 percent of the theaters are now multiracial."

Demme said the filmmakers' group "does not aim to tell people how to run their business or argue in a `crusady' kind of way. We simply want to invite thought on the subject."

Three weeks ago, the group stated its views in letters to film company executives. Lorimar and Cinecom responded that they already ban their films from South Africa. MCA president Sid Sheinberg replied "in a positive tone," said Demme.

Ironically, MCA's "Cry Freedom" has been cleared by South African government censors and will be exhibited without cuts or restrictions in desegregated South African theaters.

"We are all stunned, amazed and delighted," said Thomas Pollock, chairman of Universal Pictures, the MCA division that produced "Cry Freedom."

"What the government is saying is that although the books upon which this movie is based are banned, the movie itself is not banned. ... If that's true, it could mean the government is going to open up all sorts of things."

Demme was asked if denying American movies to all South African audiences would punish blacks as well as the white regime?

"We believe the answer is `no,"' he said. "Leaders of the (opposition) African National Congress have said they fervently want a boycott. ... As far as denying the consciousness-raising among whites that American films could provide, the consensus is that it will take more than one movie or group of movies to raise the consciousness of the white rulers."

American companies have not filmed in South Africa for several years. But Dolph Lundgren is doing "Red Scorpion" and Gary Busey is shooting "Act of Piracy" in Johannesberg.

"I'm an artist, not a politician," Busey told syndicated columnist Marilyn Beck. "Besides, we're working with some South African actors in this film; they tell me the real story's very different than what we're getting from the U.S. news."

Demme said Busey's work in South Africa was a matter of personal choice: "My interpretation of the (apartheid) situation, from the United Nations reports and talks with many blacks, is much different."

Lorimar Telepictures, which reportedly had optioned theatrical rights to "Act of Piracy," said through spokeswoman Anne Reilly that Lorimar is involved only in the home video rights.

Maybe Busey's excuse that he's "an artist, not a politician," sheds some light on his decision to play an organ-harvesting Jewish doctor(video clip here) in "The Valley of the Wolves-Iraq," a Turkish production based on an ultra-nationalist TV series. The movie brought in record audiences in Turkey, and has a rather unfriendly take on US involvement in Iraq -- you know, shooting up weddings, etc, things US soldiers would never do...

UPDATE: Tony Montana points out that "Valley of the Wolves'" depiction of an organ-harvesting Jewish doctor is no worse than the myriad Hollywood caricatures of Arabs and Muslims as stone-age brainless killers. One cannot but concur, and we thank Tony for reminding us of Jackie Salloum's excellent & spot-on "Planet of the Arabs:"

We've posted Salloum's rap videos before but unconscionably & inexplicably neglected "Planet." Salloum credits "Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People" by Jack Shaheen as the inspiration for her film.

September 11, 2008

Nick Cohen on America's child soldier

I got this comment some days ago and very grateful I was too. It showed how the sheer stupidness of our own Nick Cohen has crossed the Atlantic by way of his drooling admiration for Sarah Palin who "sent her son to fight in" Iraq. I just didn't realise how ludicrous Nick Cohen had become. He has a reputation for drinking hard and then trawling and commenting on blogs, sometimes using false names and equally false allegations. Did I mention that already? But now he seems to be hitting the sauce in the day time and writing his Observer column in the same state and spirit as when he surfs. See this on Sarah Palin:
a Christian, conservative anti-abortionist who proved her support for the Iraq War by sending her son to fight in it
He just can't let go of that war he has staked his whole being on. How, asks that blog I linked to above, did she send her son to a war? War is for grown ups, believe it or not. Britain sends sixteen year olds to fight and technically, they need their parents permission. But can even a British teenager be sent into a war he or she doesn't want to fight? Surely if it comes to using children as soldiers, America would use an African, not an Alaskan, proxy.

But Old Nick was pleased with that line and thought himself on a roll so he came up with another little gem, still trying to ride his hobby horse, the war on Iraq:
English leftists made the same mistake of allowing their hatred to override their judgment after the Iraq war. If they had confined themselves to charging Tony Blair with failing to find the weapons of mass destruction he promised were in Iraq, and sending British troops into a quagmire, they might have forced him out. They were so consumed by loathing, however, they insisted that he had lied, which he clearly had not.
Eh? Suppose they had confined themselves to charging that he hadn't found WMD in Iraq. He didn't find them because the idea that Iraq had them was a lie. The lie and the failure to find the object of that lie were the same thing. And if Blair had gone, what then? We'd have got the pro-war Tory leader, David Cameron, or the not anti-war present incumbent, Gordon Brown. Blair was saved, for a time, by the lack of alternative to him, not by what Nick Cohen sees as his integrity.

Lest we forget, Nick Cohen's article was about how others have lost the plot.

Yet another disappearing act on the Engage site

It appears (or should that be disappears?) that Dr Hirsh has had a bit of a change of heart over a Canadian trade union's "solidarity" resolution. He ran a headline, Canada's Carpenters Union opts for solidarity with Israel and Palestine, not smears or boycotts for a piece on how a Canadian trade union has passed a resolution in support of Israel. The Engage post was based on this report from Market Watch:
Canada's Carpenters' Union, meeting at the 7th Biennial Canada Council of Carpenters Convention in Victoria, has voted in favour of a new resolution that will have a profound effect on organized labour around the world. With a membership of more than 60,000, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution denouncing the characterization by a limited number of other Canadian unions of Israel as an apartheid state. The resolution calls for greater understanding of the plight of Israeli citizens, who face continual waves of attacks and threats from the vast majority of their neighbours.

"Unlike many neighbouring countries, Israel has an active trade union movement that participates freely in Israeli society," explained Ucal Powell, President of the Carpenters' District Council of Ontario. "Supporting a boycott or sanctions against Israel risks reinforcing terrorist groups and does little to encourage the wellbeing of workers in the region."

The resolution, believed to be the first from a union in defence of Israel, was developed in consultation with various groups, including Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, a respected Canadian-based NGO that takes its name from the famed Holocaust survivor and international justice pioneer Simon Wiesenthal.

"The road to lasting peace can only be paved on a foundation of tolerance and security, which is impossible to achieve given the current terrorist activities of Hamas and Hezbollah," said Avi Benlolo, president of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. "Resolutions such as this one are needed to counter the animosity toward Israel which is inherent in recent union activity - a situation which encourages further threats and violence from terrorist groups in the region. Our organization and its more than 25,000 members wholeheartedly support the Carpenters' resolution and believe it will resonate with Canadians and other labour advocates."

The leadership of the Carpenters' Union and local community leaders in attendance at the convention are hopeful this new perspective will encourage other unions to issue similar resolutions.
Here's a screen grab of the original post from google cache:

Unfortunately for Dr Hirsh, a chap called johng read the linked article and apparently "asked how the union was showing solidarity with the Palestinians". A quick read of the article shows that it mentions neither Palestine nor Palestinians. It only mentions, indeed praises and expresses sympathy with, Israel and Israelis.

Well Dr Hirsh appears (or disappears) to have agreed with johng because without any acknowledgement of johng's question or acknowledgement of any change, the headline now reads, Canada's Carpenters' Union opposes smears and boycotts against Israel. Questions arising out of this have to be, how did this "professional sociologist" manage to run away with the idea that a resolution against a boycott of Israel, denouncing the apartheid tag, amounted to solidarity with Palestine? Another would be, what is it with Dr Hirsh that he can't own up to getting things wrong? The Engage site has a lot of form for this sort of thing. We all know the Wildean cliche about losing parents. You know, losing one is unfortunate, two looks like carelessness. Well Dr Hirsh has lost so many posts, headlines, paragraphs, etc, we can't just put it down to mere misfortune nor just carelessness. And as johng found out, we can't ask Dr Hirsh what's up either.

I should point out that google cache itself disappears after a while but not for the same reason that Engage posts disappear.

September 09, 2008

Herrenvolk army is right

This is apposite coming hot on the heels of a post where Dr Hirsh claims that it is indicative of antisemitism in the Universities and Colleges Union that Israel is compared to nazi Germany. Well cop this little gem from Ha'aretz:
A Holon youth belonging to a neo-Nazi group convicted of possessing explosives has asked a Tel Aviv court to extend his sentence so he can be eligible for a special program allowing him to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces.

The young man told Tel Aviv District Court that he wants to join the Ofek elite reconnaissance unit after completing the two-and-a-half-year prison term he received on a plea bargain for the possession offense.

Ofek is a special program run jointly by the IDF and Israel Prison Service, which allows convicted criminal offenders to enlist after completing their jail terms.
Oh dear, better Gaza to expect yet another shoah.

Tony Greenstein on Martin Shaw on David Hirsh

I kept getting interrupted trying to do a post on Dr Hirsh's beyond the call of duty defence of Israel in the face of an argument by an anti-boycotter, that the boycott Israel campaign may be wrong but it's not antisemitic. The debate is a series of letters on a silly Eustonista website called Democratiya. Well I've given up critiquing Hirsh's contributions for now but fortunately Tony Greenstein has done a post on it here. Here's Martin Shaw's first letter in the debate:


The Mote is in Hirsh's Eye: Martin Shaw responds to David Hirsh

Dear Editors:

I have never supported the proposal for an academic boycott of Israel and so I agree with some of the reasons that David Hirsh advances against it in Democratiya 13. However when it comes to the alleged 'anti-semitism' of the boycott, the mote is in Hirsh's own eye. He writes that, 'Any impact assessment of a boycott of Israel would find that in a whole number of distinct ways, it would disadvantage Jews much more than others. In this sense then, already we can see that an academic boycott of Israel would be institutionally antisemitic.' By this topsy-turvy reasoning, the boycott of apartheid South Africa must have manifested anti-white or anti-Afrikaner racism, since it harmed whites and Afrikaners more than others. It simply will not do to say that action against a racially based state like Israel is itself racist because it must by definition harm the interests of the groups that benefit from that state.

Hirsh also repeats the suggestion that anti-semitism must lurk behind the choice to campaign against Israel rather than against other oppressive states. This too is a phoney argument as there are plenty of other reasons for selecting to campaign against Israel. Unlike Burma or China (and actually plenty of opponents of Israel's policies also oppose these regimes), Israel claims to be a democracy and receives enormous support from Western governments.

It is Hirsh's resort to the insinuation of anti-semitism that is the 'lazy' argument, effectively granting immunity to Israel against any serious opposition. His use of it suggests that he simply hasn't come to terms with the gravity of the affront which Israel's oppression of the Palestinians presents to the progressive left and indeed to most sectors of democratic opinion worldwide. After 60 years of expulsion and 40 years of occupation, it is hard to 'exaggerate' the Israeli problem.
Ok, see how you go with that then look on Tony's or the Democratiya site for some of the most ludicrous apologetics for Israel ever advanced by a "non"-zionist.

The curious thing for me is that Hirsh insists on calling himself a non-zionist at the same time as deploying every stale trick in the zionist book to defend Israel. It's not enough for Hirsh that someone opposed the boycott, they have to positively enthuse about Israel. Ok, now read on.

Thank you.

Abe Hayeem in the Grauniad: don't rent from Leviev!

Abe Hayeem of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) has penned a call in CIF for the UK not to rent its new Tel Aviv embassy from JSF's favorite diamantaire and settlement mogul -- and your neighbor in the UK -- Lev Leviev:

The wrong message to Israel

Britain seems reluctant to take a firm stand against the illegal colonisation activities by Jewish settlers

When Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, visited Ramallah in mid-July, he told the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas: "We want to see a freeze on settlements. Settlement expansion has made peace harder to achieve. It erodes trust, it heightens Palestinian suffering, it makes the compromises Israel needs to make for peace more difficult."

In that case, the decision by the British government to rent space for our new embassy in Tel Aviv from the Africa-Israel Investments company chaired by businessman Lev Leviev sends precisely the wrong message.

Leviev, a Russian-Israeli real estate and diamond billionaire who recently became a UK resident, is also a major settlement builder. Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of Leviev's Africa-Israel group, has built homes in three West Bank settlements - Mattityahu East, Har Homa, and Ma'ale Adumim.

Additionally, Leviev is a major donor to the Land Redemption Fund (LRF), which is affiliated with the radical fundamentalist Gush Emunim settler movement. The LRF uses highly questionable methods to secure Palestinian land for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in clear violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva convention.

The settlement of Mattityahu East along with Israel's wall, which was built mostly inside the occupied West Bank to grab land for settlements, seizes 50% of the village of Bil'in's land, including olive groves that its residents have relied on for centuries. Leviev's Zufim settlement, again along with Israel's Wall, seizes as much as two-thirds of the village of Jayyous' agricultural land and six wells, effectively annexing one of the West Bank's most fertile agricultural zones. Since 2002, residents of Bil'in and Jayyous have held more than 250 nonviolent protests, with the support of Israeli and international activists, in an effort to save their lands.

The Israeli army meets the protesters with clubs, teargas, bullets, curfews, arrests and stink sprays.

The settlements where Leviev's companies have recently built homes trap Palestinians in disconnected enclaves, destroying the possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state. The settlements of Ma'ale Adumim and Har Homa constitute part of an outer ring of settlements that cut off East Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank, and separate its north from its south.

Israel's facts on the ground, created by companies like Leviev's, make the two-state solution impossible, resulting in a de facto one-state solution, in which half the population lives under apartheid-like conditions – contradicting Israel's proclaimed democracy. Having raised this issue in petitions and pressure on Israel's architects and construction industry, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine has protested at Leviev's Bond Street jewelry boutique, in conjunction with Adalah-NY, which has also carried out a series of protests at Leviev's Madison Avenue store in New York. These actions respond to a call for a boycott of Leviev's companies issued by the villages of Jayyous and Bil'in - a call that has also been taken up by US and Israel-based peace groups and the Palestinian Boycott National Committee, which represents 171 Palestinian civil society organisations.

Yet the British government seems to be immune to taking positive action. In late June, after three Israeli settler leaders were invited to the Tel Aviv home of the UK ambassador, Tom Phillips, for the Queen's birthday, Crispin Blunt MP sent a blistering protest letter to Foreign Office minister Kim Howells. "Entertaining the pioneers of this colonisation movement has certainly given the strong impression that Britain tacitly endorses it or no longer objects to it," demonstrating a "weakening in the government's long-held position that settlements were illegal and an obstacle to peace".

Blunt demanded that British taxpayers' money should not be "spent entertaining those who violate the Fourth Geneva Conventions and whose very presence has been an obstacle to a vital and much needed peace deal in the Middle East". Kim Howells responded that the settlers' presence "was not helpful" and that they would not receive such invitations again.

Rewarding Leviev with the contract for our new embassy shows that Her Majesty's government is not serious about stopping Israeli settlements. Rather than mouthing admirable but empty platitudes about freezing settlements, for the sake of all Israelis and Palestinians, let us apply serious sanctions to stop Israel expanding illegal settlements and the Wall, and take our business elsewhere.

September 03, 2008

I still say defend Jenna Delich

My co-bloggers and I rarely consult each other on posts but I thought that the case of the zionist witch hunt against Jenna Delich was a special case where the views of one could be held to commit the others so I consulted the others before running the "Defend Jenna Delich" post. We did say that we intended to offer something more detailed in due course. This is my personal offering.

Now, not being a follower of Harry's Place or Engage I don't know when this sorry saga began and I can't remember when I first became aware that there was a witch hunt in progress over an email that was posted to a private activists list of the Universities and Colleges Union, the site of quite a battle over what activists can or should do about 40 or 60 years of zionist occupation of Palestine, depending on your point of view.

What happened was that a woman called Jenna Delich posted a link to an article that wasn't the smartest but it read like a statement of accounts of Israeli murders of Palestinians against Israeli casualties from Palestinian resistance. Apparently Jenna googled an expression, "humanitarian disaster in Gaza" and it took her first to the David Duke website. Not being a native English speaker, and David Duke not being quite the celebrity the zionist movement and other racists would like him to be, she thought nothing of the site's ownership. She posted the link with the words "the facts speak for themselves". Well, buried among those facts was some puerile analysis that wonders how it is that Israel can pose as a victim with a score card of death tilted so heavily against the Palestinians. Answering his own wonderment, the writer of the piece, Joe Quinn, suggested that it was the ownership and control of the media by the Israeli state and he made a throwaway reference to Israeli oligarchs. Now I don't know if anyone pointed out that the analysis was unsound but a casual read of the piece doesn't set alarm bells ringing among non-initiates regarding antisemitism but someone definitely did say that the linked site was unacceptable given that it was the site of David Duke, one time Great Poobah of the Ku Klux Klan, kicked out for conduct unbecoming a neo-nazi. Realising her mistake, Jenna Delich apologised to the list and that could and should have been that.

But then things took a nasty turn. Here's Richard Seymour at Lenin's Tomb:
In due course - or rather with indecent haste - Harry's Place posted the comment that she had made, along with a crudely subtitled photograph of her with her name featured in white-on-black lettering. In the photograph's subtitle, a deliberately ambiguous wording is deployed: "Sheffield-based academic, Jenna Delich - links to far right websites associated with the Ku Klux Klan". This could be read as meaning that she has links to far right websites associated with the Ku Klux Klan, rather than that she has 'linked', once, to said websites. The ambiguity was, in all probability, intentional. They headed their post 'UCU and the David Duke Fan'. Thus, Harry's Place asserted, based on this single incident, that Jenna Delich was a 'fan' of a Nazi ideologist. Further to this, the post accused her of "viciousness against Jews", which it said the UCU union had refused to act against (ie, it had refused to suppress her speech).
Now the strange thing here is that the email by Jenna Delich was leaked to Harry's Place but her apology and withdrawal appear not to have been because they didn't say anything about that, they simply ran a piece with her photo and text to imply, indeed, to say that she was some kind of neo-nazi.

Well, then someone advised Jenna that she should complain to the hosts of Harry's Place. It turned out that they have a rule that the blog could be pulled if it contained libellous material and so it was pulled. And so the Harry's Place attempt at silencing a critic, indeed all serious critics, of Israel succeeded for a few hours in silencing Harry's Place. As it happens I have just seen the funny side of this. What a schmock the lawyer David Toube (for it was he) turns out to be, yet again. He tried to shoot someone and shot himself in the foot. Then the libellous stuff was removed - only to be replaced in other sites - and the site was restored but not before some leftist sites who would normally be on HPs' hit list themselves, came out in "solidarity with Harry's Place".

In a nastier turn still, since we expect nasty from HP, Jenna was suspended from the UCU activists list and is still suspended. That is the champions of free speech at Harry's Place have had someone's free speech taken away from them at the activists list of the UCU. She posted a wrong-headed but not expressly antisemitic article from a neo-nazi site in error, apologised for the error and now, as things stand, she is denied the right to address the UCU activists list at all on any issue. HP can carry on smearing the critics of Israel though it might be careful not to be too overtly libellous.

I should point out here that HP have had their informant out a-hunting some more on the UCU activist list and - shock-horror - they have found another article sent in by Jenna four months ago. Another one where there might be coded antisemitism. This one was back in May this year. It slipped by HP's deep scroat that time around but this time around it's the final "proof" that HP needed. If deep scroat can't tell how can a beginner?

Anyway, now the Jewish Chronicle is on the case and what does it say? Here's the headline: Anti-Zionist lecturer posts KKK link. And here are a couple of chunks:
Jenna Delich, a business-studies tutor at The Sheffield College, was this week suspended by the University and College Union from participating in an email forum for union members after posting a link to an anti-Israel article on the website of David Duke, the American white supremacist.

But a regular Harry Place blogger, who writes under the name David T, said his site had been taken down after its coverage of the incident, which criticised Ms Delich.

He said that the company which hosts Harry's Place on the web,, had not explained the decision to take down the site, beyond having received a complaint over allegedly "slanderous comments".
"After I asked them, they told me it was the Delich post," he said. He added that he had told the material in question was not defamatory.

Covering for David Toube's identity by referring to him as David t, when David Toube has written for the Jewish Chronicle sets the dishonest tone for just about the whole article.

Toube claims that the post was not defamatory. Then what happened to the headline UCU and the David Duke fan? Why was that headline removed from HP only to appear on sock puppet blogs around the web. It now appears on HP as the "David Duke link". Jenna Delich's photo has been removed from the original post, together with the accompanying text "links to far-right websites associated with the Ku Klux Klan."

And then there's Jon Pike:
a member of the union's national executive and founder of the Engage website which counters antisemitism and anti-Zionism, commented: "It is good that the UCU leadership has taken some action, however minimal, about the distribution of antisemitic material within the union."
Jon Pike is notoriously stupid but he surpasses himself here. The material was not antisemitic and how minimal is an indefinite ban on someone? Does he want her shot? Of course not. He needs people to make honest mistakes as she did.
But he called for an inquiry to be set up into "institutional antisemitism" at the UCU, saying that "the problem has been there for months".
Please stop people criticising Israel! Make them stop! If Arabs can't use a swimming pool at an Israeli uni we'll speak out but leave it to those of us who don't mind colonial settlement, ethnic cleansing, racist laws, relentless aggression, aerial bombardment of civilians, cluster bombing villages, luring children to be shot and so on and so forth.

The funny thing is, I don't even know if Jenna Delich is anti-zionist. I do know that David Toube is a lying bullying hypocrite and it saddens me to see so many bloggers falling for his crap about being the victim here. In fact come to think of it, how do perpetrators pass themselves off as victims? Whatever you do, don't ask Joe Quinn! Ask David Toube aka David t at Harry's Place. Ask him how the state whose ethnic identity he claims to oppose, passes itself off as a victim. His analysis might put paid to some of the bogus analyses out there that he pretends to be so concerned about.

UPDATE: I wrote all that a couple of days ago without looking at the Socialist Unity blog that had declared its "Solidarity with Harry's Place" presumably before all the facts were in. Well it now seems that whoever runs the SU blog now realises the mistake they made and they have now run a guest post supporting Jenna Delich against this increasingly orchestrated zionist witch hunt.

September 02, 2008

More Academic Freedom Under Attack

Yet another attack on an academic for opposing Israel. This case comes from the US. Terri Ginsberg, some member of the academic proletariet, was 'let go' for expressing sympathy with Palestinians in an unwise fashion. The union isn't interested and so there's a petition, less to the college and more to the union to ask them to support one of their members. Which is slightly depressing when you think about it.

Anyway the petition's here. (I've got two urls, one must be right)

You can add your own sarcastic comment about engageniks rushing off to defend her.

September 01, 2008

Defend Jenna Delich

Jenna Delich is the victim of a witch hunt intended to intimidate academics from speaking out in support of Palestinian human rights and liberation.

We condemn the misguided "solidarity" of confused leftists with the perpetrators of this witch hunt on the bogus justification of protecting "free speech". We condemn Harry's Place
and its sock puppets for the campaign of deliberate omissions and misrepresentations intended to defame Delich.

We support Delich because she deserves our support and yours. Delich made mistakes, but nothing she said or did remotely justifies what is being done to her.

We intend to write more at length soon clarifying our position and our choice.

Please inform yourself and please support Delich against the witch hunters!