May 31, 2009

With friends like Saudi Arabia, who needs enemies

Saudi Arabia awarded $1.8 billion dollars to a consortium that would build a rail link between Mecca and Medina. One company in the consortium is the French Alstom, which is also building a light rail that will connect the Jewish settlements around Jerusalem to the city center. The rail link will be another important step in the colonization of the Jerusalem center, enabling Jewish settlers to avoid the overcrowded, badly maintained and often blocked roads left to Palestinians. The rail will of course make the settlements around Jerusalem more attractive for Jewish Israeli settlers. The project involves the Israeli government and the French contractors in making permanent changes to the infrastructure of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids, without any military necessity but to facilitate the illegal colonization.

There is a campaign against the companies, mostly Veolia and Alstom, in Europe and Australia, which includes both lawsuits in France and popular appeals for boycotts. This campaign has already bore fruits, with the involved companies losing a number of big contracts and being excluded from pensions funds. The Australian ASN Bank divested from Veolia, and so did the Swedish National pension fund. Likewise, Veolia lost a $1.9 billion waste improvement plan with the Sanswell Metropolitan Borough, the contract to operate the subway in Stockholm and an urban Network in Bordeau (Nadia Hijab, The Israel Boycott is Biting). Saudi Arabia has other priorities.

It is noteworthy that, According to Gulf News, Palestinian authority officials, despite usually supporting normalization with Israel, are involved in putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to rescind that contract. If the U.S.-E.U.-Israel effort to normalize the occupation cannot rely even on Mahmoud Abbas's "authority" to stand against the global anti-apartheid movement, that is bad news for Israel.

As it were, at least according to Gulf News, the "authority"'s pressure is somewhat underwhelming.
Palestinian foreign ministry officials have expressed reservation at a recent Saudi announcement awarding the contract for the Haramain Express railway to a consortium consisting of French company Alstom Transport....Backchannel talks with the Saudis are ongoing," a Palestinian foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Not exactly a profile in leadership, but significant nonetheless.

Prisoners of Conscience jailed for 65 years for helping Palestinian children

Five victims of the Holy Land Foundation witch hunt, including Ghassan Elhashi (left) and Shukri abu Baker (right) sentenced to 65 years in jail in a modern U.S. witch trial. More on Democracy Now.

World Medical Association headed by overt racist

Wonderful report in the Jewish Chronicle. It's "about" the protest signed by 752 physicians from 40 different countries calling for the dismissal of Dr Yoram Blachar, former head of the Israeli Medical Association:
The Israeli president of the World Medical Association has attacked critics who have called for his dismissal over allegations that Israeli doctors have been involved in or condoned the torture of Palestinians.

An open letter, said to have been signed by 725 physicians from more than 40 countries and sent to Dr Edward Hill, chair of the WMA council, has attacked Dr Yoram Blachar’s appointment saying it will “seriously damage the public reputation of the WMA and its work and risks making it a laughing stock”. A press release accompanied the letter signed by Dr Derek Summerfield, Dr Blachar’s main critic.

The letter claims: “Under Dr Blachar’s leadership the Israel Medical Association (IMA) made a decision, on political grounds, years ago to turn a blind eye to torture in Israel and the institutionalised involvement of doctors. This stance continues with Dr Blachar as WMA President. On an issue that goes to the heart of the moral authority of the profession, Dr Blachar has offered shameful ethical leadership to doctors in Israel and worldwide.

“We call upon the WMA Council to oblige Dr Blachar to step down as a matter of priority.”

Ok, so far, so fair. But see this:

But Dr Blachar insisted:

“I have no intention of standing down. It’s a joke.

“My view [of the letter] is that if we go through the names only partially, you will see that many of them are Arab physicians
Most of them are Arab physicians? And your point, Dr? But there's more:
You must notice that all the inquiries and investigations have come from information that has come only from Palestinians.
Ok, so Arabs and Palestinians can't be believed. Anything else?
I did attempt to meet Dr Summerfield some years ago but he refused to meet me.
Dr Summerfield denies refusing to meet Dr Blachar.

So, any more for any more? Just one thing.
On the question of a general boycott of the Israeli medical profession, Dr Blachar, who has held senior posts with IMA since 1995, said: “Some of the signatories are ex-Israelis, which smacks of self-destruction and is inexplicable to me. The boycott initiative is rooted only in Britain.”
Even a real doctor dabbling in the notion of self-hatred and not only that, having sought to invalidate his detractors by reference to their Arab or Palestinian ethnicity, he now tries the same trick, not as racist as the first, true, by saying that the boycott movement is rooted in the UK only.

They'll say anything these zios.

May 30, 2009

Israel's fear of history

Many thanks to johng for pointing this article in today's Independent to me.
For the Palestinian citizens of Israel, life is becoming a collective Kafkaesque experience. For years, their state has been determined to buttress its Jewish identity by legal, constitutional, cultural, and political means, in spite of the fact that one in five of its residents is an Arab. This latest series of bills is just another part of that effort. In addition to the discrimination they already face in all walks of life, Palestinians will not be able to mourn the Nakba, the loss of their homeland, or express their opposition to Israel as a Jewish state.

It is not only that they have been excluded from belonging to their homeland, which has been claimed by people who immigrated there and made exclusively Jewish; it is not only that their people have been expelled, occupied or dispersed to all corners of the world; it is not only that they are legally unequal citizens and even treated as enemies in many areas of life by the very state in which they are citizens. They also have to accept this reality: express loyalty, show no opposition, and even refrain from mourning their loss in public.

The expression of the natural feelings of losing their people and homeland, the yearning to rectify injustice, and the quest to transform Israel into a democratic state will be criminalised and punishable by law if the bills are enacted. The Arab citizens have to accept Jewish superiority anchored in constitution and law, accept that their homeland is not really theirs. They have to stop being themselves if they are to avoid being punished by the Jewish state; they have to stop being human altogether.

People are short of words to describe what is happening in Israel. It is becoming clear that Israel is fearful not only about the future, it is most fearful about history – and for a reason. Israel can suppress among its Jewish citizens – those who enjoy the privileges of superiority and of taking over a whole homeland – the history of the Nakba and the reality of its continuation for every Palestinian. But Israel must believe that Palestinians are subhuman if it thinks that it can suppress their feelings about the Nakba and their desire for democracy and equality and the yearning for the return of their people. For Israel to face its fear of the future it must first face history. Instead, in defiance of human nature, it is hopelessly seeking to suppress it.

The author is the director of the Arab Centre for Applied Social Research in Haifa, Israel, and a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Boston

I lifted the whole article from the Independent. There are also two more related articles:

It's certainly good news that there are three articles in the paper that criticise Israel but see this in the editorial:
The Nakba bill, which was approved by the ministerial committee on legislation this week, is bad enough. But the bill for a compulsory oath, which is also due to go before the committee, would be a disaster. It would require anyone seeking citizenship to "make a declaration in which they commit to being loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values and to serve the state as much as required through military or alternative service". Arab citizens at the moment are not required to do military service given the sensitivities of their situation.There are many in the British National Party who would no doubt like a similar oath over here. But any democracy committed to freedom of expression knows that the road to oppression lies though just such attempts to control the thoughts of its people.
Oh no! Israel might be on the road to oppression.

That's not all. Check out the "thought police" article by Donald Macintyre:
The bill's promoter, Zevulun Orlev, a Knesset member in the right-wing Jewish Home party, cited the case of Azmi Bishara, a Christian Arab who resigned his Knesset seat in 2007 and fled Israel, where he was facing charges of treason and espionage. Mr Bishara was heavily criticised for trips to Syria and Lebanon, where he reportedly praised Hizbollah. Mr Orlev claimed during the debate that Mr Bishara's case showed that what begins with words "very quickly leads to actions".
Actions? What actions? Or is praising Hizbullah an action?

A tale of tu quoques

Actually it's more than two. There are a few things that sparked off this post. First up, there was an insanely racist post at Harry's Place titled Explaining it to Michael Rosen. It was by Lucy Lips's male alter ego, David Toube. I kept meaning to post on it but I kept forgetting. Well next there was another nutty post at Engage, following the Universities and Colleges Union Congress passing an endorsement of BDS, denouncing a Jewish chap called Mike Cushman for celebrating the "fact" that there were no Jews at the Congress that he was at.

You see what David Toube's post was patronisingly and hypocritically explaining to Michael Rosen was something about racism but because of Mr T's, at best, cavalier approach to such things he managed to be racist himself. Hang in there, I'll explain in a bit.

Ok, fast forward (or maybe back or sideways) to a post on Gert's blog and a post on the mysterious banning of the exquisitely polite Hasbara Buster from Harry's Place and we get this:
I know HB to be a committed anti-Zionist but also a strict anti-racist, a sharp reasoner and always respectful, even in the face of the worst kind of bile pro-Zionist commenters at Harry's Place throw at him (and me). Endless distortions, straw man arguments, tu quoques, anonymous commenting and the most horrific forms of ad hominem (I comment there too and 'Gert's landlady' once suggested I 'clean out my basement of SS porn') are what any dissenter faces over at HP, in particular when the subject matter turns to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
I had to look up "tu quoques" and when I clocked the meaning I was reminded of Engage and Harry's Place again.

So what did Michael Rosen say that he needed David T of all people to explain racism to him?
I know Jews (perhaps you do too) who a) think of themselves as part of ‘a’ or ‘the’ ‘chosen people’. I know Jews who believe that there is a plot of land that belongs to them because a) they are the chosen people (ie they are fulfilling the word of God and no one else is) and b)their covenant with God entitles them to that land - and this is written down in sacred texts.

Following from this thesis, such Jews (not all Jews - I’ll return to that), believed they were entitled to expel or terrorise the inhabitants who lived on that land. Ever since this tragedy (do you think it’s a tragedy, John?), there has of course been conflict. Some Jews have nothing better to offer this situation than - tough shit, the ‘arabs’ can go and live in Jordan, they aren’t a ‘people’ like us, the land isn’t theirs, etc etc. Every single conflict since then has been about this issue and indeed about the further taking of land that the people living there thought was theirs.

The Jews who created this nation state and the many Jews all over the world who support those who created the state and those who defend that state take part in the myth of the ‘chosen people’. They may or may not sign up to every clause in the deal, but it’s part of what coheres this ideology.

I have not a scintilla of a problem with a playwright who takes the combination of ideas that I’ve expressed above and turn it into something that someone says in a play.
This was part of an exchange with a chap called John Meredith. Now see David T's "explanation":
Here is an analogy that I hope Michael Rosen will find helpful, in deciding whether he supports or opposes racism.

In my neighbourhood, there are a number of women working as prostitutes, on the street. I don’t have a profound problem with people selling or buying sex, but streetwalking is a little anti-social. Therefore, I attend a local meeting at which a campaign to end street prostitution is being set up.

When I arrive at the meeting, I discover that the central committee of the Neighbourhood Watch have produced an anti-prostitution poster. The poster shows a prostitute being assaulted by her pimp. The pimp is black. The slogan reads:

Irony: This Descendant of Slaves is Now Sexually Enslaving White Women

The irony here is that David T must know that the "chosen people" idea is quite a central concept in Judaism and that it also informs a lot of modern colonial enterprises even if he won't admit the extent to which it informs both religious and secular zionisms and that it is also a central concept among so-called ultra-orthodox anti-zionist Jews, though they tend to speak of the "inherent holiness" of the Jewish people. He will also know that if you identify yourself as Jewish you are more likely than not to be a descendant of people who believed in the chosen people idea. That is not to say that most or all Jews believe anything of the sort but it is a concept taken seriously, murderously seriously in some quarters, by many Jews. He won't admit, but again he must surely know, that a lot of mealy mouthed apologetics goes into explaining away the concept, the chosen people.

How then does he believe it to be a safe analogy to invoke some imagined black man's propensity to assault white women or pimp off of the earnings of prostitutes? Where is the black or predominantly black state that embodies that idea? This, of course, is without getting into the self-serving nonsense that Jews equate with blacks anyway. Does it really have to be explained that black gentiles can become black Jews whereas white Jews cannot become black Jews though we can convert out of being Jewish? That suggestion that Jews are the same as blacks is irritating. Clearly Jews have choices about identity that black people simply do not have. Nazis and zionists may disagree (no, not with each other) but they are wrong.

As it happens, the example of anti-black racism that he gives is indeed racist. But as it is such a bad analogy it is not analogous, as DT is saying, to the invoking the Jews as chosen people idea. Oh, just in case you need telling, Harry's Place is part of the huge concerted campaign to smear Caryl Churchill as an anti-Jewish racist over her play for Gaza, 7 Jewish children. That's what David T is "explaining" to Michael Rosen and making a complete hash of it.

But what I am trying to explain is that by equating the idea of black men having a propensity for assaulting white women to the idea that many people (Jews and non-Jews) believe Jews to be some kind of chosen people, he is being racist, albeit by being cavalier and ignorant of issues relating to black people rather than any malice on his part, not towards blacks anyway. Reds, yes; greens, yes; blacks, no.

But then we get to the comments and, admittedly, skimming them, it's amazing that I think only one HP regular points out DT's fau pas and typically DT ignores him. It's an Argentinian settler in Israel who curiously calls himself Fabian from Israel (he prefers that to An Argentinian in Palestine):
The correct analogy (which will not work, I know) is whether black men have consensual sex with white girls (a wonderful occupation which some view as wrong, just as Israel being a country is viewed as wrong) and sometimes rape white girls (which is bad, and it would be comparable with Israel behaving badly).

Then, and only then you can deploy your generalizations about black men’s sexual behaviours.

Now I assume this was levelled at DT. He didn't respond. Fabian may have thought better of undermining DT because his next comment was a contrived swearing fit at Michael Rosen.

Michael Rosen too, that is the Michael Rosen that the HP post "explain[s] it" to, had David T running for cover in the comments. He (Rosen) posted some lengthy quotes on the "chosen people" idea from prominent sources. This short comment responding to a lot of "distortions, straw man arguments, tu quoques, anonymous commenting and the most horrific forms of ad hominem" will give you an instant idea of what was being said:
..meaning, Mod, that I’ve known Jews who believed those things (no anecdote provided, so it wasn’t anecdotal) but I backed it up with evidence of articles where people have stated those views. John Meredith, you’ll remember seemed incredulous that people could hold those views. Perhaps he should get out and about in the ‘Jewish community’ a little more.

Sabato, I’ve explained to Tevya that the ‘Israel The Chosen People’ piece is not by me. It’s by a zionist who believes that zionism does indeed rest on the platform of chosen-ness. That’s not my argument, it’s theirs. And Sabato, nice try on the Haredi front. We’re not talking about the Haredi who are anti-zionist. We’re talking about ’some’ zionists. So ’some’ zionists doesn’t mean anti-zionist Haredi.

Sorry this is dragging but if the zionists are going to lie by saying that the chosen people idea is somehow nothing to do with anyone on their side and that therefore it can only be antisemitic to invoke it then it is only right that their sheer dishonesty be exposed, even if their use of bogus id means they themselves can't usually be exposed. So here's another short comment from Michael Rosen:
No conspiracy theory intended at all. GWB makes a statment one year ago in the Knesset. As far as I remember it was uncontentious at the time. He was re-asserting US support for Israel. I’m not getting into the political significance of that. I’m simply pointing out that his statement that the Jewish homeland is God’s promise to a chosen people, is not some off-piste statement by a tiny minority of irrelevant frummers and that it is indeed one of the ways in which zionism is underpinned. The fact the particular groupuscule of zionists who hang out at HP don’t like that formulation is neither here nor there. John Meredith claimed to have never come across Jews who believe the formulation that GWB expressed. Really? Were there none in the Knesset that day? Was he talking only to eg some zionist Hassidim sitting in the corner?
Ah yes, now that brings us neatly back to Caryl Churchill's own explanation of the line, "tell her we're chosen people":
Then we have “chosen people”. Some people are now uncomfortable with a phrase that can seem to suggest racial superiority. But George W Bush, speaking to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel, talked about “the homeland of the chosen people” without anyone suggesting he was accusing Israelis of racism or was anti-Semitic. Some supporters of Israel still use it with enthusiasm.
It's curious that some zios are clearly only "a phone call away" from getting an article published and yet none appear to have challenged her for some evidence of her claim. Of course, Michael Rosen provided plenty of quotes from prominent individuals to support the idea that the chosen people idea is indeed enthusiastically believed by some Jews, many zionists and other colonial settlers and racists and that to deny it is simply a lie.

But how does all this compared with David Hirsh's ludicrous post on the UCU victory for BDS? Well of itself it doesn't. What happened was that Dr Hirsh posted this:
Mike Cushman is one of the leaders of the boycott campaign in UCU. In the past he has pushed antisemitic conspiracy theory. He has defended union members who passed material from David Duke’s website around the union. He has rhetorically employed antisemitic stereotypes. He has been feted by the Iranian state propaganda machine. He has fawned over Hamas.

Now Cushman has provided the following breathless commentary of events at yesterday’s UCU Congress debate:

“It was brilliant. The Zionists bareley showed up. John Pike was totally isolated. On the first vote about invetigsting institutional anti-semitism in UCU he got about 6 votes out of 350.”

“On the key motion there were only two speakers against Pike and a woman from Workers Liberty, when the president asked for other speakers against no-one put their hand up. The vote was on my estimate about 300-30 (we should have asked for a count to rub salt into the wound).”

“What we must remember this was a victory built not just on hard work but even more on 1400 murders in Gaza.”

“Mike, in haste from Bournemouth”

Ok, there's more than a little there to be reminded of a typical Harry's Place post but let's read on:
This commentary requires a little bit of unpacking. Two years ago, at the first Congress of the newly merged UCU, there was a big, very tense, very nasty debate about the boycott. Cushman kicked off the ‘debate’ that day by declaring that he was “not going to be intimidated” – and received a huge cheer for it. What he meant, and what Congress understood, was that he was not going to be intimidated by Jewish power.
What gives Dr Hirsh these insights into what people really mean when they don't actually say what he claims they really mean? And how does he know what people understand by it? Doesn't this mean that if you say anything that Dr Hirsh disagrees with he can simply accuse you of meaning something that most people would disapprove of? Of course that's what it means. But there's more:
Two years later, yesterday, the atmosphere was different. There was not much cheering and there was not much howling.

Why? Because there were no Jews left to bait. As Michael Cushman says above, “the Zionists barely showed up”.

As I said earlier, and as Dr Hirsh knows, Mike Cushman is Jewish as are many people who are still in and active in the UCU. But as often happens when Hirsh makes an unsustainable point he, er, doesn't sustain the point:
Michael Cushman is excited by his victory. He hasn’t noticed the significance of the fact that Congress is now free of Jews.
Eh? what's this, he just made the same unsustainable point. I know but he immediately followed it with:
Except for Jews like him, the Jews who speak “as a Jew” but who are quite unable to recognize antisemitism. Haim Bresheeth. John Rose. Michael Cushman. These are the Jews now, at UCU Congress.
Woo! These are the Jews now. What a comforting thought for those of us who don't want to be identified with racist war criminals. But how can an academic in all seriousness say that there are no Jews and that a union's congress is "Jew free" when he is complaining about other Jews who were at the congress that the Engage piece heads, Michael Cushman and the Jew-free UCU Congress?

And it's that stupidness that reminded me of Harry's Place. We have Hirsh denouncing a Jew who Engage says was at the UCU Congress for celebrating the fact that there were no Jews at the congress that the condemned Jew was actually at. We have David T saying that it's antisemitic to invoke the idea of Jews as chosen people. Well hello, what's this? It's David T agreeing that Jews are "Chosen":
We are “Chosen” though. Chosen for racist hate and abuse so that we can be scapegoated and sacrificed for the ills of the planet.

Isn’t that the fucking truth.

Oh, all of a sudden it's ok to invoke the idea of Jews as chosen people. That's a bit like the way it's used in Fiddler on the Roof and Defiance except the references there are to a god, indeed the G-d, doing the choosing. And of course that kind of "everybody hates us" chosen-ness can be and is used to justify zionist racism even among secularists. The kind invoked by Caryl Churchill is only used in a direct and open sense by religious obscurantists. But it is a concept in Judaic thought, and in zionist and other colonialist thought and it certainly isn't antisemitic to say so. It is racist to suggest, as David T does, that assaulting women is to black men as the chosen people idea is to Jews.

So, that was a comparative study of two Davids, both of whom claim to be fighting racism and both of whom seem to do what it is they accuse others of. David T thinks he can explain racism to Michael Rosen and slips into racism himself with his clear suggestion that assaulting women is to black men as chosen-ness is to Jews, he is also happy to use a variant on the chosen-ness theme himself if it suits his "case". Dr Hirsh accuses various people of antisemitism and yet when Jews speak out against Israel or zionism he is quick to challenge them in connection with their Jewishness and helpfully sets out a list of the wrong kind of Jews. He also claims that UCU is Jew-free whilst reporting on a Jew that spoke. But he was the wrong kind of Jew.

Two Davids, tu quoques.

May 29, 2009

Pride comes before a fool

Well this is a turn up. Well a turnabout rather than a turn up. See a piece of the article from the Toronto Post in my earlier post:
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), an anti-Zionist protest group that made corporate sponsors squirm by flying banners at last year’s Toronto Pride parade, has been banned this year, along with any other group that would advance a political agenda.

“We will be very much more careful this year. We will make sure that we have a presence to ensure that people don’t slip into the parade,” Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands said today.

Well shame on pride, I said. But what's this? Tadhg, in the comments said that the Post article was flatly contradicted in the Star:
Pride's executive director Tracey Sandilands assured me, insisting that, contrary to the report in the Post, "Where we stand at this point in time is, we are not taking a side. We are not going to ban anybody from the parade."
Now I wasn't sure about this. The articles flatly contradict each other. But now the Post has run an update. Got that? An update, not a clarification, correction, retraction or a woops-we-got-it-wrong. An update, which they link to in the original article:
Pride Toronto will permit groups to march in next month's parade with banners reading "End Israeli Apartheid," as long as they are officially registered.
It's still a funny old diversity event that insists on registration of participants. I wonder what happens if you register but don't turn up. Will they ask for people's measurements so they'll know how big a space to leave?

Shame on Pride!

What a disgrace! See this report headed, Toronto Pride organizers ban anti-Zionist group, by Joseph Brean in the Toronto Post:
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), an anti-Zionist protest group that made corporate sponsors squirm by flying banners at last year’s Toronto Pride parade, has been banned this year, along with any other group that would advance a political agenda.

“We will be very much more careful this year. We will make sure that we have a presence to ensure that people don’t slip into the parade,” Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands said today.

The number of volunteer marshals along the barricades is to be increased from 25 to 80 to prevent unauthorized people joining the parade, she said.

“What happened last year was ... people on the sidelines who pushed into the parade and put up banners. We were totally not expecting it,” she said.

Her announcement came with a warning to grand marshall El-Farouk Khaki not to use his ceremonial position as a pulpit to promote an anti-Israeli boycott.

Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, today called for disciplinary action against Mr. Khaki, a founder of the national support group Salaam: Queer Muslim Community, because he spoke to a QuAIA event on the weekend.

A flier for the event said “Israel has now begun to frame itself as a tolerant, queer-positive democracy. This can never be reality under Occupation.”

Mr. Dimant said Mr. Khaki’s presence -- he made opening remarks and welcomed the main speakers -- “has already contravened Pride Toronto’s stated policy.”

Mr. Khaki declined to comment today.

“The grand marshall is not an official spokesperson,” Ms. Sandilands said. “He has committed to us that his sponsors for the parade are all organizations that have nothing to do with the Israeli issue, and that he will never under any circumstances speak on the Israeli issue from a Pride point of view.”

Pride Toronto’s discrimination policy is the same one mandated by the City of Toronto for all organizations it funds, which “prohibits discrimination and harassment and protects the right to be free of hate activity,” based on 19 grounds. These include all the eight grounds in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, plus others, including political affiliation.

Ms. Sandilands said she often gets requests to ban various groups because of protest movements, and gave the example of the Canadian Forces.

“We do not support or endorse any political cause,” she said. “Our parade is going to be about the spirit of Pride.”

Unlike other Pride parades around the world, neither individuals nor unauthorized groups may walk in Toronto’s parade, for both legal and liability reasons.

“We can’t afford to have individuals landing under the wheels of a float,” Ms. Sandilands said.

QuAIA’s most prominent member, film-maker and York University professor John Greyson, said he wonders whether today’s decision signals that social justice activism is being “wholeheartedly cut out of Pride.”

“To take activism out of Pride really takes it back to a place of shame,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Pride where I wasn’t part of an explicitly political action, and we were trying to be as militant as possible... The whole purpose of Pride was about visibility and fighting for our equal space in society, so for them to start saying ‘Oh, but you don’t have equal space’ just turns back the clock in an extraordinary way, and is really unacceptable.”
I've posted the whole article here but there is a comment facility at the Toronto Post for which you have to log.

Many thanks to marc b.

May 28, 2009

Israel's racism is in the water

as well as everything else.Here's a report from the Guardian :
A deepening drought in the Middle East is aggravating a dispute over water resources after the World Bank found that Israel is taking four times as much water as the Palestinians from a vital shared aquifer.

The region faces a fifth consecutive year of drought this summer, but the World Bank report found huge disparities in water use between Israelis and Palestinians, although both share the mountain aquifer that runs the length of the occupied West Bank. Palestinians have access to only a fifth of the water supply, while Israel, which controls the area, takes the rest, the bank said.

Israelis use 240 cubic metres of water a person each year, against 75 cubic metres for West Bank Palestinians and 125 for Gazans, the bank said. Increasingly, West Bank Palestinians must rely on water bought from the Israeli national water company, Mekorot.

In some areas of the West Bank, Palestinians are surviving on as little as 10 to 15 litres a person each day, which is at or below humanitarian disaster response levels recommended to avoid epidemics. In Gaza, where Palestinians rely on an aquifer that has become increasingly saline and polluted, the situation is worse. Only 5%-10% of the available water is clean enough to drink.

I wonder what security excuse Israel can dream up for that state of affairs.

More everyday academic apartheid in Israel

There's a grimly fascinating account in AIC about the mundane nature of Israeli apartheid in academia. The story is how a private school closed down an accountancy course because Palestinians were registering for it. What's interesting is that this decision was taken for financial, not ideological reasons - Israeli Jews would shun a college which was considered to have too many Arabs. It shows the depths of apartheid throughout the society.

The article is here: The Carmel Academic Center in Haifa Closes Academic Track As Too Many Palestinian Students Registered

May 27, 2009

65 years jail for aiding Palestinians

I've only just read that one of the founders of the Holy Land Foundation, at one time the largest Muslim charity in the US, has been given 65 years for "providing aid to the Palestinian group Hamas".

There are now many reports on Google news. At the moment the top report is the BBC's website whose report, together with the headline, openly sides with the prosecution.

Hamas backers jailed in Texas

Hamas gunman
The charity said none of its money
was used to fund Hamas violence
So why the picture?

Al Jazeera's report mentions something that the BBC report omits:
As grounds for an expected appeal, lawyers for the men are expected to challenge testimony given by an anonymous Israeli government agent, whose evidence was kept secret from the defence.
Fancy the BBC missing something like that.

Demand equality and go to jail

Now where might that be? Where do you think? The zionist rulers of occupied Palestine have approved a bill that makes it illegal to say that Israel should be for all of its people and not specifically for Jews. This is from the Ma'an News Agency website:
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, gave preliminary approval to a bill that would mandate year jail term for anyone who speaks against Israel’s status as a Jewish state on Wednesday morning.

The bill, which still needs final approval before coming law, passed after a heated debate with a vote of 47 to 34 and one abstention. The measure was originally introduced by Zevulun Orlev, a member of a right-wing religious nationalist party, Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home).

The bill’s passage comes three days after lawmakers advanced a bill that would ban all commemorations of Nakba Day, on which Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, remember their expulsion of 1948.

According to news reports, a Palestinian member of the Knesset, Jamal Zahalka, was removed from the auditorium during an argument after the vote.

During the debate preceding the vote, Chaim Oron, the chair of the left-wing Zionist party Meretz, decried the bill, according to the Ynet news agency: “Have you lost your confidence in the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? This crazy government – what exactly are you doing? Thought Police? Have you lost it?”

Jamal Zahalka said, also according to Ynet’s report, “Many intellectuals in the academia who talk about a country belonging to all its citizens belong in prison, according to MK Orlev. Arab and Jewish leaders who seek real democracy in Israel also belong in jail, according to Orlev… He wants to put anyone who doesn’t agree with him in jail.”
I don't know how the old hasbara is going to play out here. Israel is admitting to being a racist state and outlawing calls, not actions, calls for it to stop being a racist state. Let's see the zios wriggle out of this one.

Israel might provoke a war with iran

Aluf Benn, Haaretz analyst, understands the latest statements of Netanyahu and Obama and raising the probability that Israel will attack or provoke a war with Iran.

Netanyahu reiterated that he has come to an understanding with U.S. President Barack Obama on preventing Iran from acquiring a military nuclear capability. Unlike the dispute between Netanyahu and the United States on the Palestinian question, the Americans have not denied his statements on understandings reached on Iran.
There are other possibilities to consider: a war in the north that drags Iran in, or a strike against a valuable target for the Iranian regime, which leads Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to take action against "the Zionist regime." If Iran attacks Israel first, the element of surprise will be lost, but then Israel's strike against the nuclear installations will be considered self-defense.
It's hard to imagine that Obama will order the interception of Israeli aircraft on the way to Natanz if all other ways of stopping the centrifuges have failed. Clearly the administration will have to chastise Israel, and let's not forget the statements by CIA chief Leon Panetta, who warned against any operation not coordinated with the United States. But no one knows how Obama will behave in the moment of truth. He told Newsweek that he will not tell Israelis what their defense requirements are. Netanyahu liked this very much. (Haaretz, June 26, 2009)

May 26, 2009

Who is accusing Hizbullah of killing Hariri?

I didn't think too much of this Der Spiegel report when it appeared a few days ago. The headlined claimed that New Evidence Points to Hezbollah in Hariri Murder. But now a Time magazine blog is suggesting that the "new evidence" might actually be bogus:
However, any evidence that Hizballah either collaborated in or else masterminded the plot against Hariri would also be welcome news to the U.S, which considers the militant group to be a terrorist organization, and to Israel, which has been fighting with Hizballah ever since the group formed in 1982 to resist the Israeli occupation of Lebanon.

But there are reasons to view the Der Spiegel story with suspicion. A rumor that the UN tribunal had begun to focus on Hizballah had been making the rounds in Washington for weeks now. For it to have a public airing in the press just a few days ahead of Lebanon's parliamentary elections on June 7th -- a contest which the Hizballah-led opposition is poised to win -- makes it appear that someone opposed to Hizballah has been shopping this story around in a desperate measure to affect the elections.

The Der Spiegel theory also doesn't fit with the current understanding about the relationship between Hizaballah and Hariri. The former prime minister and billionaire businessman may have been one of the few other people in Lebanon whose outsized character could compete in the spotlight with Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, but Hariri was not a threat to Hizballah's main concern -- its military infrastructure. True at some point, Hariri's push for greater autonomy could have been a problem for Hizballah, if independence came with pressure on Hizballah to disarm, or if it became difficult to get weapons over the Syrian border. But as my colleague Nick Blanford ponits out in his excellent book about the Hariri assassination, "Killing Mr. Lebanon" in the weeks before his death, Hariri began a series of clandestine meeting with Nasrallah in order to reconcile their two visions of Lebanon. Hariri believed that he was close to reaching an agreement.

For his part, Nasrallah heaped scorn on the Der Spiegel article in a speech last night, and accused the magazine of being party to an Israeli plot. Eventually, time will tell if Der Spiegel is right: sooner or later the UN tribunal -- which is ostensibly keeping its investigation secret -- will have to issue its findings and announce suspects if there are any.

This is all quite interesting to me now because I heard just recently that there was a group within the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission with US intelligence backgrounds promoting the idea that Hizbullah was connected to the Hariri case. The idea was rejected on the grounds of motive, since as the Time article said, Hizbullah had no motive. It was also believed that certain parties had a motive for putting Hizbullah in the frame. One such party is to be found just to Lebanon's south and, far too often, in Lebanon's south.

It's interesting too that Lieberman was jumping up and down for the arrest of Nasrallah within 12 hours of Der Spiegel's report hitting the streets. Does Israel's foreign minister really make his demands on the basis of what he reads and that anyone else can read in the papers?

Palestinian Academic Union demands Boycott

Dr Amjad Barham is president of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) explains to British academics ehy they need to boycott Israel.
It is the duty of civil society to shoulder the moral responsibility of isolating Israel in the international arena through various forms of boycott and sanctions to compel it to obey international law and respect Palestinian rights.

It is well documented that Israeli academic institutions are deeply complicit in Israel's colonial and racist policies against the Palestinian people. Not only do Israeli universities and research institutions co-operate closely with the security-military establishment through research and other academic activities, they have never dissociated themselves from the occupation regime, despite the more than four decades of the systematic stifling of Palestinian education.

Israeli universities have never condemned the entrenched and institutionalised system of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel within the Israeli polity, society and even the academy.
The privileging of academic freedom above more basic human rights conflicts with the very idea of universal human rights, as it assigns far more importance to the academic freedom of a sector of Israeli society than to the fundamental rights of all Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity.


"Constructive engagement" with the Israeli academy is often suggested to us as a more effective mechanism to address the injustice inflicted upon us by Israel. We have tried this method, only to realise that as long as the terms of the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians are those of occupier and occupied, and oppressor and oppressed, the engagement process only results in normalising the occupation on the ground and whitewashing Israeli atrocities abroad.

I can give an example from my own personal experience. Once, as I was crossing one of the hundreds of military checkpoints on my way to my university, I was stopped by an Israeli soldier who turned out to be a fellow mathematician at an Israeli university. But our collegiality ended here: he told me that I could cross the checkpoint if I was able to answer a mathematics question correctly! What kind of engagement can be possible here?

The full article at The Guardian, 26 May, 2009.

May 25, 2009

The other Herzl

Philip Weiss is in Cairo doing the right thing, putting in his bit to break the siege of Gaza. Bless his heart! His mind however, is sometimes all over the place. Recently he penned an ode to Herzl that ignored everything that matter about the latter except his purported "success." Weiss even compares Herzl to Frederic Douglass. That to me is a symptom of a deeper deficiency, a deficiency that also manifests itself in Weiss's tolerance for the sewage that often accumulates in his comment section.

To clarify what it is exactly that Weiss fails to understand, let me engage in a little flight of fancy and describe an alternative universe. I am not claiming that this alternative universe could have existed as described, as too much that is different I intentionally ignored. But I do believe that things could always have been different than what they were, although not in ways we can imagine. In our alternative universe, a Black American preacher, Martin Luther Herzl, did not lead a mass movement for civil rights, but instead asked for a private audience with the President of the U.S. He spoke to the President in the latter's office with the following words:
When I was growing up I had many dreams. I dreamed of being an astronaut, a king, a U.S. President, the President of Harvard, I dreamed of being Cecil B. DeMille, and many other dreams. But as I grew up I realized that these dreams were impossible. Because I am black. And because you, white people, will never accept us as equal to yourselves. You can deal with one or two black people, but put three of us in a room and you become nervous. Deep down, the idea of us rising up and succeeding in society on our merit appalls you.

Some of my people urge me to fight this racism, but this is to me akin to fighting gravity. Racism is natural and human. We will never get rid of it. I come to you therefore with a bold proposition. Help me help you get rid of us!

Our ancestors were brought to this place from Africa in chains. But in these two centuries that we were here we learned your ways and acquired your culture and your habits of mind. We are in fact closer to you than we are to the people that remained behind. Africa is a forgotten place, a miserable wasteland, backward, sick and destroyed by war. Let us Black Americans, with our Western genius, habits and know-how, make that wasteland bloom. Help us take over a country there that is in the worse of conditions, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, or the Congo. We don't really care which one. With your assistance, we will expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Thus, we will become the rampart of the West against the spread of communism, an outpost of civilization against barbarism. As a side benefit, we will also rid you of our crazy revolutionaries, the communists, the rabble rousers, the malcontents and the criminals. We will take them with us, refashion them and plant them in a soil where they can become productive members of society again, a win for both our people. This is what I propose, instead of fighting, a mutually beneficial alliance between black liberation and white racism.

In our alternative universe, another man, a young Jewish journalist called Theodor King, did not seek private audiences with emperors, but led a million Jews to Paris in the wake of the indictment of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. There on the podium, he addressed Europe:
A century ago, in this city, a new dawn for humanity was declared. It is from here that the dramatic call for "liberty, equality, fraternity" intoned all over Europe. It is here that a nation first wrote into its laws that "All the citizens, being equal, are equally admissible to all public dignities, places, and employments, according to their capacity and without distinction other than that of their virtues and of their talents."

Yet a hundred years later, Jews are still treated as foreigners in their native countries. All across Europe, we are still held in ghettos, denied freedom of movement and employment, impovrished, beaten and murdered, and in the most "advanced" places branded as traitors to our countries.

We have come here to the cradle of the Rights of the Citizen to cash a check. When the architects of modern Europe wrote the Declaration of the Rights of man and of the Citizen, they were signing a promissory note. But you have given us a bad check, a check which has come back to us marked "insufficient funds". We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this continent. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
This is not of course how it happened. Martin Luther King chose the path of struggle, of principles and of dignity. Theodor Herzl chose the path of collaboration and opportunism. What was done cannot be undone. We must grapple with the world as it was left to us by these different choices. But we cannot do that without first recognizing that there is a fundamental choice to be made every time anew: when I pursue my self-interest, my dignity and my liberation, on the basis of what principles and what vision am I doing it?

Weiss doesn't seem to understand this question nor see the difference between these two performances. What makes Herzl a hero for him is the "success" of Zionism, principles be damned. But can there be freedom without a commitment to freedom? Can there be equality without a commitment to equality? Weiss describes Herzl's obsession with bourgeois decorum, sense of social inferiority and status consciousness as a quest for dignity. He confuses dignity and status seeking. Dignity is getting from others recognition of our self-worth. Kissing up in return for conferred benefits is the very definition of an indignity. Besides, what dignity did Herzl achieve for Jews? Herzl was ashamed of being Jewish for all the wrong reasons. His "success" is that a hundred years later we can finally be ashamed of being Jewish for all the right reasons.

And is there really a success? Israel is the largest Jewish ghetto on earth, a doomed state that will either commit genocide or go down in flame or both unless we defuse it first. To be described as a success, Zionism will either have to kill all Palestinians or get Palestinians and neighboring Arabs in general to accept forever being dominated by Jews. Place your bets.

Weiss describes how Herzl "wears a stiff smile as the Kaiser and his aides crack anti-Semitic jokes." It would be a fine example of discipline and self-restraint if Herzl went to these meetings with the goal of undoing his enemies. But he did not. On the contrary, he sat and listened placidly while plotting how he could join their smelly ranks, how he could become one of them, he plotted stratagems in order to help these men maintain their power while becoming their obedient servant. He plotted with them how to betray the Jews of Eastern Europe, who wanted westward and threatened the interests of wealthy assimilated Jews in the West. And he plotted with them how to betray the people of Palestine (or Asia, as he referred to them). This is where Zionism succeeded, as an example of betrayal and collaboration with one's oppressors. where is dignity in that?

That for the last 60 years Israel has been at the forefront of promoting antisemitism is not an accident, but a reflection of the deep affinity between antisemitism and the political Zionism that Herzl introduced.

Weiss should figure out what his politics are. It's good to have a heart, but it isn't enough. He can follow Herzl and Herzl's status obsessed opportunism, but then he'd better not mention Fredrick Douglass at all. Here is a passage about dignity from Frederick Douglass's autobiography, My Bondage and my Freedom. Measure the distance between Douglass's struggle for dignity and Herzl's anxiety over glove etiquette:
this battle with Mr. Covey--undignified as it was, and as I fear my narration of it is--was the turning point in my "life as a slave." It rekindled in my breast the smouldering embers of liberty; it brought up my Baltimore dreams, and revived a sense of my own manhood. I was a changed being after that fight. I was nothing before; I WAS A MAN NOW. It recalled to life my crushed self-respect and my self-confidence, and inspired me with a renewed determination to be A FREEMAN. A man, without force, is without the essential dignity of humanity. Human nature is so constituted, that it cannot honor a helpless man, although it can pity him; and even this it cannot do long, if the signs of power do not arise.

He can only understand the effect of this combat on my spirit, who has himself incurred something, hazarded something, in repelling the unjust and cruel aggressions of a tyrant. Covey was a tyrant, and a cowardly one, withal. After resisting him, I felt as I had never felt before. It was a resurrection from the dark and pestiferous tomb of slavery, to the heaven of comparative freedom. I was no longer a servile coward, trembling under the frown of a brother worm of the dust, but, my long-cowed spirit was roused to an attitude of manly independence. I had reached the point, at which I was "not afraid to die".
Can you imagine Douglass offering to help Covey capture a running slave in return for his freedom?

Why does Weiss suggest we need to be so generous to Herzl? Because
No movement to change U.S. policy in the Middle East is going to work without including Jews, to a greater or lesser extent. To capture Jews, you cannot just batter Zionism. You can’t go around with a big anti-Zionist button--as I generally do.
Of course, Jews should not be excluded. But who is excluding them? If you put a large tent and write in big letters on its entrance: equality, justice, liberty, human rights, civil rights, economic rights for all, which means all, including Palestinians, does that exclude Jews? If you demand full justice for Palestinian refugees, does that exclude Jews? If you condemn Israeli apartheid, does that exclude Jews?

No. There is nothing in any of that that is against Jews. But let us recognize that some Jews have constructed their identity on legal and material privileges taken at the expense of Palestinians. These Jews, upon seeing these platforms, chose to exclude themselves, because they cannot square that platform with who they are. We don't exclude them. they exclude themselves.

Should we run after them and ask begging "just how much should we water down the demand for justice and equality so that you can feel comfortable here?"

I don't think so.

May 24, 2009

Power of Culture v Culture of Power

But who won? And who will win? This is from the Observer, the Sunday newspaper version of the Guardian:
Armed Israeli police last night tried to halt the opening night of a prominent Palestinian literary festival in Jerusalem when they ordered a Palestinian theatre to close.

The week-long festival, supported by the British council and Unesco, has brought several high-profile international authors – among them Henning Mankell, Michael Palin and Ahdaf Soueif – on a speaking tour of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Shortly before the opening event was due to begin, a squad of around a dozen Israeli border police walked into the Palestinian National Theatre, in east Jerusalem, and ordered it to be closed.

Police brought a letter from the Israeli minister of internal security which said the event could not be held because it was a political activity connected to the Palestinian Authority.

Members of the audience and the eight speakers were ordered to leave, but the event was held several minutes later, on a smaller scale, in the garden of the nearby French Cultural Centre.

Israeli police were deployed on the street outside.

"We're so taken aback. It's is completely, completely independent," Egyptian novelist Soueif, who is chairing the Palestine Festival of Literature, said.

"I think it's very telling," she told the crowd at the French centre. "Our motto, which is taken from the late Edward Said, is to pit the power of culture against the culture of power."

Israel regularly prevents political Palestinian events in east Jerusalem, but has recently also started to clamp down on cultural events in an apparent attempt to extend control over the city.

I think it's plainly obvious what the zionists are up to here. It's yet another attack on the Palestinian identity itself. But let the zios have a spin at this:
Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said the event was closed down because Israel believed it was organised or funded by the Palestinian Authority.

Rosenfeld said a signed order had been handed over by police.

"This is the policy being implemented with regard to any events which are either organised or funded by the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem," he said.

He added that previous Palestinian events in the city, including the press centre for the pope, had been closed under the same policy.

Ok, now let's throw in a little naivety from the Palestinian side:
Rafiq Husseini, the chief of staff to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who was in last night's audience, was dismissive of the Israeli actions.

"It shows how the Israelis are not thinking, he said. "This is a cultural event. There is no terrorism, there is nobody shooting. It's just a cultural event.

"They are creating enemies for themselves."

Unfortunately it shows that the Israelis are thinking and that they want to create enemies for themselves.

Still, Michael Palin is quite a celeb in the UK and possibly in the States too and he has now seen Israel's racist rule and its expansionism first hand. He has also seen how the zionists see expressions of Palestinian culture as a security issue. Perhaps he could report back when he gets home to the UK or when he travels to the US.

In PR terms this may come to be seen as a setback for hasbara. The Observer article was written by Rory McCarthy who has tried to spin the Jewish National Fund as "a humanitarian and environmental charity" rather than the instigator and beneficiary of ethnic cleansing that it actually is. If McCarthy is now exposing the racism and expansionism of the Israeli state maybe other hasbaristas in the media will also turn.

May 22, 2009

A modest apology to Shalom-Ezer

I would like to apologize.

Not only in my name, not only for euphemistically calling Sharon-Ezra an idiot (at best), but also in the name of all the people who fight for justice in the Middle East, Palestinians, Israeli-Jews, Scots, Ken Loach, everybody. I understand this is presumptuous and over the top. Who appointed me to apologize for you, you may ask? But deep regrets and repentance are overwhelming my soul. So bear with me.

On the web, the usual suspects accuse Ken Loach of "censoring" and calling for boycotting a poor little Israeli filmmaker. This is a barefaced lie, as neither Loach nor the SPSC said anything about any particular filmmaker. They only asked the festival to refuse money and sponsorship from Israel. But go deeper and the critics have a point. Not being able to receive travel funds from one's embassy is a hassle, and even a potential obstacle to the career of a young filmmaker. Worse, it is a trouble that Shalom-Ezer faces only because she happens to be Israeli. Saudi filmmakers can get money from their embassy and nobody will mutter a complaint. But Israel!!!

Tali Ezra-Shalom is just a young Jewish woman from Tel-Aviv who wants to make films about love, sex and relationships. She wants to make people laugh and cry and understand deep things about life, things that really have nothing to do with the fact that the artist is living in a racist society and enjoying the social, political and economic benefits that accrue to her on account of this racism because she is identified as Jewish in a sate built on Jewish privilege, benefits including the freedom to travel to Scotland and return, the pursuit of a world-class academic curriculum undisturbed by white phosphor bombs, commuting to her class from home without being stopped and harassed at checkpoints, studying in classrooms built on the land of a destroyed Palestinian village, benefits such as the ease of renting a flat in Tel-Aviv because she is not Arab, or passing academic aptitude tests that favored her over potential Palestinian candidates, and more.

Furthermore, as some event organizers rely on state funding to bring foreign artists, a ban on Israeli state money, even if it does not target art itself, might still somewhat restrict the availability of Israeli art in Europe and elsewhere. This is terribly unfair to Scottish or French or whatnot audiences, people who just want to come, see a movie, laugh, cry and learn deep things about life and love and relationships without being constantly reminded that they live in a global economic and political system structured by racism and violence in which they are implicated whether they admit it or not.

Let's face it. That is deeply unfair. It is also discriminatory. What about culture funded by U.S. money, stained with the blood of a million Iraqis?

We have to do better. To be concrete, I would like to give the example of the action of a now famous radical community in a certain town in the U.S.. During the height of the latest Israeli carnage in Gaza, the members debated how to take action to force Israel to stop. different peaceful actions were proposed, including blocking a highway to the airport, occupying the Israeli embassy, and more. But all were conscientiously rejected. The group intuitively grasped that blocking the highway would inconvenience innocent people, for example, businessmen without any connection to Israel could lose their flight. Not to mention that it would gratuitously discriminate against businessmen who scheduled their flight on a particular hour of the day. As for occupying the embassy, it would have inconvenienced visa applicants as well as innocent Israeli expats who came to regularize their marriage or other mundane affairs that had nothing to do with oppression of Palestinians. One person proposed a protest in front of the Israeli embassy, but that was rejected on the ground that other countries also committed crimes. In the end, the group opted for blocking traffic on a cul-de-sac leading to a deserted factory. The police let them keep the blockade for the full day, and that amazingly conscientious action grabbed major headlines without a single person being even mildly inconvenienced. indeed, it was immediately after that action that a chastened Olmert announced a cease-fire.

However much we care, we have no business intruding into people's lives, careers and leisure with our demands for justice. Even people who benefit from injustice have a fundamental right not to be bothered. We have no right making Tali Shalom-Ezra's career as a budding filmmaker ever slightly more complicated just because she depends on the wages of Israeli violence against Palestinians. A moral law is not moral unless it is universal. The principle of ethical universality give both the people of Tel-Aviv and the people of Qalqiliya equally, the right to forget and not be bothered by the fact that residents in Qalqiliya live inside an open air prison and cannot travel to Scotland to show their films without clearance from the Israeli torturers.

Besides, Tali Shalom-Ezer is a peacenik. I have it on good source that she even supports the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, with one condition, namely, that they don't return to Palestine, because that would make finding a parking place in Tel-Aviv even more horrendous than it already is, negatively impacting her next production.

"Israel" adverts coming down from the underground

Palestine Solidarity and Jews for Justice for Palestinians appear to have had a result in their campaign to have Israeli tourism adverts removed from the London underground because the shows the a map of Israel and the occupied territories as being just Israel when everyone knows that it is a part of Syria and the rest is Palestine. Typically I can't find anything about this on the Palestine Solidarity site so here's Medialens:
Israeli tourism posters being removed from London Underground!

Israeli tourism ads are being removed from the tube, following massive pressure and complaints.

Late last week, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign started to receive information from members about adverts that they had seen on the London Underground. The adverts by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and ThinkIsrael included a map that included the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, together with Jews for Justice for Palestinians, immediately worked to bring these adverts down. We complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) ourselves, and notified our members and supporters, many of whom also made complaints to the ASA, Transport for London and CBS Outdoor, which was the company that put up the adverts.

Sarah Colborne, Palestine Solidarity Campaign�s Director of Campaigns and Operations, said:

�The Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomes the removal of these adverts, which had a map showing Israel as including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights � which are all illegally occupied by Israel. These adverts wiped Palestine off the map. It was particularly grotesque to use this map in an advert for tourism, given that under the Israeli blockade of Gaza, even humanitarian aid staff are denied entry.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had found the posters astonishing, given that the ASA had already upheld a previous complaint against for using a similarly misleading map in an advertisement placed in the Radio Times in 2007�.

On that occasion, the ASA ruled that had breached the �truthfulness� clause, and also the �non-response� clause, when it failed to reply to ASA�s correspondence.

PSC welcomes the deluge of complaints from members and supporters on this issue.

For further information: phone 020 7700 6192 or 07971 424296
Misinformation by zionists? What is the world coming to? Still there's a small improvement in London.

May 21, 2009

Tali Shalom-Ezer is an idiot (at best)

As you know, The Edinburgh Film Festival accepted a petty donation of £300 from the Israeli embassy. That caused a justifiable outcry, and a campaign, organized by the Scottish PSC, to get the festival organizers to return the money. The public pressure was helpful (yes it does happen! Not every public official is Tony Blair). The money was returned. One of the public figures backing the campaign was British Director Ken Loach. Loach stated unambiguously and courageously that "The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable." According to the festival organizers, Loach's stand made them change their mind. (Sky Digital, May 20, 2009)

Now, the money was supposed to be used to fund the travel of debutant Israeli director Tali Shalom-Ezer. In response she said,
"Loach's support in this act is an attempt to remove Israel from the cultural discourse, and this is painful. I consider this an attempt to destroy every chance for communication, and something that strengthen alienation and hatred. " (Ynet)
That silly statement wasn't enough. She also called Loach "a racist", and added that
"generalising all citizens of Israel as warmongers and racists is racism and outrageous, and as members of the peace camp we are personally hurt by it." (The Scotsman, 21 May 2009)
To be clear, nobody called for boycotting Shalom-Erez's film. Indeed the festival organizers assured the press that they would pay for her travel. Except now Shalom-Ezer doesn't want to come.

1. Shalom-Ezer thinks she has a moral right to demand that her public appearances be sponsored by the state of Israel. That's an extreme level of privilege that got to Shalom-Ezer's head. Stay home, Tali! The world's cultural scene will survive.

2. Shalom Ezer thinks that not taking money from the state of Israel, and refusing to adorn the festival with the sponsorship of a state that just murdered over 1400 people in Gaza, is racism and demonization. Just to take an example far from the killing fields, Israel forbids its Palestinian citizens to import children books in Arabic (AFP Aug 11 2009). But that is OK. Not taking Israel's money is however racism! Not only you cannot criticize Israel, you have to invite sponsorsip from it. Heck, any city that doesn't have a bust of Ariel Sharon in its main square is racist!

3. Shalom-Ezer considers applying pressure on the state of Israel a racist act that "generalizes" against all citizens of Israel. Obviously she does not include Israel's 20% Palestinian citizens in this "all." They are citizens, but they do not count. Saying anything about Israel doesn't apply to them. Nor do the 2.5 million Palestinians who would be citizens if Israel were not a country founded on racist principles count. Needless to say, the refugees do not count. The only people who count, who are "generalized" about by attacks on Israel, are Jewish-Israelis. And then she has the nerve to call Loach racist!

4. Shalom-Ezer sees no difference between the state of Israel and Jewish-Israelis. Anything you say about the first applies to the second automatically. If you describe the massacre of Gaza as a criminal atrocity, you are ipso facto describing all Jewish-Israelis as murderers. And therefore you are a racist. That logic may seem insane to most people outside of israel. The Scottish PSC responded wisely by calling out Shalom-Ezer's warped worldview:
More interestingly, the woman who made the film to be shown at the EIFF, towards which we need take no position, has accused Ken Loach of ‘racism’ in today’s Scotsman. Those familiar with Ken Loach’s films see a body of work that challenges all types of oppression and celebrates the human struggle for freedom. The grounds on which Ms. Tali Shalom-Ezer levels the accusation is that, "Generalising all citizens of Israel as warmongers and racists is racism and outrageous…”. That would be racist, if it were true. It is the opposite of the truth. Israel is a violent, aggressive apartheid state; all citizens of Israel are not ‘warmongers and racists’. Scottish PSC, working in a country that is committing terrible crimes against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as helping to arm the murderous Israeli Army, salutes those Israelis who actively oppose the crimes of their government. (SPSC)
It is worth thinking how Shalom-Ezer came to her amazing understanding. The most favorable option is that she is an idiot (hence the title). I'm afraid however this is not the case. Israeli consciousness and identity are bound up with the state. It is therefore impossible to describe the state of Israel's actual racist policies and laws, or the actual actions of its army, without attacking the identity of many if not most Jewish Israelis. The integration between the racist state and the national identity of so many of its Jewish citizens is itself an outgrowth of widespread racism. 94% of Israeli-Jews supported to carnage in Gaza (Jan 14, Jerusalem Post), even when its real dimensions were already public knowledge (notice how Israeli newspapers describe Israeli-Jews as "the public"). Over half of the Jewish population in Israel believes the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason (YNet, March 27, 2007). Thus Israel unfortunately is not only a racist state, but also a state of racists and warmongers. To be sure, The Scottish PSC is taking the right stand. Israel doesn't equal Israelis. It doesn't equal Jewish-Israelis. It is important to understand, precisely as Shalom-Ezer doesn't, that there is a category difference between the state and its citizens, a difference that does not depend on numbers, and to salute, as the SPSC does, the small minority of Jewish-Israelis who practice that difference and seek to widen it (many of whom support the boycott).

But we shouldn't pass over such idiotic accusations of racism with too much leniency. It is actually quite simple. If you deeply identify with a racist institution to the point of experiencing peaceful pressure on that institution as an attack on your identity, you are a racist!

Shalom-Erez is not only concerned with her own career. She is defending Israeli racism because she identifies with it. She uses her art, willingly, to undermine attempts to put pressure on Israel. Her description of herself as "member of the peace camp" is a testimony to how debased that term is in Israel. For strategic reasons, I think that PACBI's decision to avoid targeting individual Israeli artists is the right one. But strategy apart, her own words describe her as exactly the kind of Israeli artist that it would be completely moral and appropriate to ban.

Think about it that way. If Shalom-Erez had to go to Ramallah to get a ceriticate from PACBI before she were allowed to participate in international events, she would still have more freedom of movement, more artistic freedom, and more opportunities to develop her career than 99% of Palestinians. Not to mention that her art would be better for it.

The Jewish homeland?

This essay by Jacques Hersh first appeared for subscribers to the Monthly Review a while back but it has only just been published in full for non-subscribers. This bit stood out to me:
Despite the fact that Islamophobia has replaced the virus of Judeophobia in the West, Diaspora Jews feel unease at the prospects of identifying with a state that violates the human rights of another people and serves the interests of U.S. imperialism worldwide.

The existential purpose of Israel has come into question for many Israelis as well as for an increasing number of Diaspora Jews. The concept of a “national home of the Jews” is losing its appeal. According to Tony Karon, “the simple fact is that almost two-thirds of us have chosen freely to live elsewhere, and have no intention of ever settling in Israel.” It is somewhat paradoxical that 750,000 Israelis live in the United States or other European countries and that it is the norm today, for Israeli citizens who can, to acquire a foreign passport. One of Karon’s conclusions that is relevant to the analysis of the Middle East problematique, and in direct contradiction to Bush’s prognosis, is that “Israel may be an intractable historical fact, but the Zionist ideology that spurred its creation and shaped its identity and sense of national purpose has collapsed — not under the pressure from without, but having rotted from within.
The piece happily leads us to Tony Karon's piece on Israel's 60th last year.

May 20, 2009


Hey cop this. I just found the philosophy football site via Ha'aretz's google ads.

"They stole my land, burnt my olive trees, destroyed my house, took my water, imprisoned my father, killed my mother, starved us all, humiliated us all. But I am to blame : I shot a rocket back. So they stole more of my land, burnt my olive trees, destroyed my house, took my water, bombed my country..." Palestine09

The words on the shirt will look familiar to those who followed the demonstrations during the assault on Gaza Dec08/Jan09. They are taken from a placard on one of the London demos.

Le Monde Diplomatique: Leviev, Dubai & the boycott of Israel

Alain Gresh, deputy director of Le Monde Diplomatique, and author of numerous works on the mideast, recently went to a conference on Arab media in Dubai. The conference, hosted by the Dubai Press Club, was portentiously titled, "Arab Media: Weathering a Period of Change and Crisis." Some big fish were netted, including Sy Hersh, & the heads of al-Jazeera, al-Arabiya, & the BBC's Arab monitoring service. You can read all about it in the UAE's AME Info. The forum was held in the recently-opened Atlantis hotel, which houses a diamond store selling Israeli settlement-builder Lev Leviev's gems.

What you won't read about the conference at AME Info was that Gresh asked the audience, according to someone who was there: if this is an open forum, I want to know, why is there a Leviev store in this hotel? There was wide applause, but no one reported on Gresh's comment. Today on his blog at LMD, [Google translation here] Gresh reflects on the gaudiness & ironies of the Atlantis:

One can see in this ceremony, and in the hotel itself, the sign of an era of waste, of crazy money. It suffices to take a walk in its immense corridors, in the month of May 2009, to measure to which all that is vain, tasteless, and, of course, widely unoccupied, the tourists awaited having deserted it since the crisis.

This is obvious in the luxury shops and stores that sell out pricy clothes or diamonds. Among those up and coming is a store with an announcement on its window promoting Leviev diamonds as in the picture.

What is Leviev? Leave the word to Abe Hayeem, an Israeli pacifist who wrote an article entitled "Boycott this Israeli settlement builder" in The Guardian on April 28, 2009. It recalls that the ministry of the British foreign affairs decided to renounce a rent contract for the British embassy in Tel Aviv because of the activities of this corporation. Too big to limit itself to the sale of diamonds, Leviev is implied in activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, notably constructing a road that links up the illegal colony of Zufim to the Israeli territory, facilitating the confiscation of Palestinian lands. The company is active in Bil’in also, where on April 17, the Israeli army killed 29-year old Bassem Abu Rahmah who was taking part in a peaceful demonstration. This is the same company that has two shops to Dubai.

The presence of Leviev jewelry raised some questions in the emirate. The English language newspaper Gulf News published, on April 30, 2008, an article entitled "Israeli jeweller has no trade license to open shop in Dubai", by Abbas Al Lawati. This article, quotes an official saying that the emirate had not granted any license to Leviev, but it clearly indicates that, in reality, Leviev sells his diamonds there through these shops. Only the Gulf News followed up on this issue and returned to it several times, including at the time of a demonstration to Dubai ("Call to boycott Israeli jeweller", by Abbas Al Lawati, December 14, 2008). At the Arab Media Forum, which I attended this month, I raised this issue with different local Arabic dailies in the discussions I had with them and they explained to me that they were not authorized to follow up on these matters.

At a time when Israel violates all the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations and enjoys impunity, a movement is forming in favor of boycott, divestment (recollection of the foreign investments in Israel and in the occupied territories) and sanctions. This is the direction adopted by campaigns in France against Alstom and Veolia for their involvement in the construction of a tram in occupied Jerusalem ("Tram to Jerusalem, lie to Paris", October 24 2007). It is astonishing in these conditions that the Arab countries collaborate with these same corporations that work in the occupied territories.

That's a partial translation. Gresh has a photo of Leviev's store on his blog.

Hey Bibi, wassup?

I got that "wassup?" from Obama at the Correspondents' Association dinner thingy. I don't know where Obama got it from. Anyway, here's Mustapha Barghouti on the Institute for Middle East Understanding website on the issues between Obama and Netanyahu. It's a plea to hurry before the two state solution becomes impossible. I've found it impossible for some time now but let's give the lad a chance:
I cannot recall a more important meeting between an American president and an Israeli prime minister than today's meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Will the Obama administration have the courage to challenge Netanyahu, or will all the talk of change dissolve in the face of a concerted one-two punch from Netanyahu and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee?

I am increasingly convinced that if Obama fails to speak out now, it will doom the two-state solution forever. Further fiddling in Washington - after eight years of it - will consign Jerusalem, the West Bank and the two-state solution to an Israeli expansionism that will overwhelm the ability of cartographers to concoct a viable Palestinian state.

It's now or almost certainly never.
My guess is, it won't be now. My further guess is that there will never be two entities that accurately could be described as states between the River Jordan and the Med.

May 18, 2009

Einstein and zionism

I've often heard it said that Einstein was a zionist but at the same time there are some choice quotes from him expressing disquiet about certain manifestations of zionism. See this in the Indypendent. No, not the Independent. The indYpendent. It's a website. Anyway, see this:
Veteran journalist Fred Jerome uses hundreds of pages of Einstein’s own letters, articles and interviews — many published for the first time — to refute this thesis.

It is well known that Einstein, a German Jew, witnessed European anti-Semitism firsthand and spoke out against both prejudice and Nazism. These experiences convinced Einstein to support Zionism and a Jewish homeland. After gaining immense fame for his scientific breakthroughs, he was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952 after the death of the country’s first president, Chaim Weizmann.

In reality, while Einstein was sympathetic to the Zionist cause, he repeatedly warned that a “narrow nationalism” may arise if a Jewish-only state was founded and peaceful co-existence with the Palestinians was not achieved. Instead, Einstein advocated Cultural Zionism — the creation of Jewish cultural and educational centers within a bi-national state with equal rights for both Arabs and Jews.

When Einstein was offered the Israeli presidency, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion stated, “I’ve had to offer him the post because it was impossible not to, but if he accepts we are in for trouble.” In a letter written in the same year, Einstein compared the Zionists’ project with that of the Pilgrims, noting, “how tyrannical, intolerant and aggressive [they] became after a short while.” And in Einstein’s last media interview, which ran in the New York Post a month before his death, he stated “We had great hopes for Israel at first. We thought it might be better than other nations, but it is no better.”

Jerome has authored two previous books about Einstein; The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist and Einstein on Race and Racism, co-authored with Rodger Taylor. These books are essential to understanding Einstein, a self-described “revolutionary,” who publicly stated that he would use his fame and celebrity status to bring attention to the causes important to him. For example, Einstein on Race and Racism details for the first time Einstein’s 20-year friendship with Paul Robeson. While the first two books were aimed at filling a large gap in the knowledge about Einstein’s radical beliefs and political activism, Einstein on Zionism and Israel seeks to debunk the myth that Einstein was a supporter of Israel.

In the process, Jerome reveals much about the nature of mainstream propaganda. Einstein’s opposition to Israel was widely known and reported on during his life. In fact, the myth of Einstein’s support of Israel was born the day after Einstein’s death in his obituary in The New York Times, which shamelessly wrote that he “championed” the establishment of the Jewish state. This contradicted decades of reporting from the “Paper of Record.” Jerome provides some examples, including a 1930 article headlined “Einstein attacks British Zion Policy,” a 1938 article stating Einstein was “Against Palestine State” and a 1946 article stating Einstein “Bars Jewish State.”

So zionists started lying about Einstein as soon as he died? I'm shocked, shocked I am!

Palestine solidarity activists in France reject antisemitism

Here's a letter from EuroPalestine in France about who they will be supporting in the up coming Euro elections:
Dear friends,

A short note about the elections at the European Parliament that will take place soon (June 7), to tell you that, as you know, we’ve asked all the political parties in France (except for the right and the extreme-right) to support the BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel) in order to put an end to Israel’s impunity.

We got only one positive answer : it came from the NPA (New Anticapitalist Party led by Olivier Besancenot). So we decided to support its candidates in the whole country. Inasmuch as these candidates do not only make statements about the boycott, but they act accordingly. See for instance this video : ?article4089

In 2004, our association presented a list of EuroPalestine candidates in the Paris region, because at the time, not one party accepted to even quote Palestine as one of the issues to deal with at the European Parliament. So our tiny association spent more than 100 000 euros to be present in just one region in France (out of 8) — money that was not refunded. But we had a good campaign, even without any media coverage. This time we are happy to see that a larger organization, with more means, has agreed to deal with this vital issue. Of course this decision is linked to the indignation created among the population by the Gaza massacres, but also by the fact that many men and women in France and in Europe have not stopped their mobilization at the end of January, but have started being very active in the boycott campaign (of Israeli goods, for example). They have not waited for politicians to act. They have shown the way.

In 2004, The French comedian Dieudonne was part of our list of candidates. We chose him because he had principles. He had fought against the extreme-right (Le Pen’s National Front) in the city of Dreux, and had dared criticize the Israeli settlers on TV. But after the media — following the Israeli lobby decisions— rejected him from all kind of media appearance, he made the wrong choices, choices that we condemned as soon as September 2004, and that have nothing to do with the Palestinian cause. He chose to make a filthy alliance with the the extreme-right, becoming friend with le Pen, a man who is proud of having tortured Algerians during the French war in Algeria, who makes jokes about Blacks, saying that their unique competence is to run fast, who hates Jews and Arabs, and asks for the expusion of all immigrants from France.

Dieudonné announces that he will run in the European elections in Paris Region under the label : "Anti-zionist Party". But how can you fight zionism which is a form of racism consisting in excluding all those who are not Jewish from a land conquered by violence, and favor other kinds of racisms ?

We cannnot accept that. We want to fight for Palestine with those who share the sames values as we do, and kick back all the Lieberman (see the video ?id_article=4080 ) and alike. Let the boycott campaign become each day stronger in all Europe !

Best wishes, CAPJPO-EuroPalestine

Very sad about that Dieudonné chap, still c'est la vie.