January 31, 2010

The Gaza dam of shame

This has become a very popular poster in the streets of the Middle East and on the internet. It says (on top):"The High One Built the High Dam", and (bottom): "The Low One built the Low Dam." (Angry Arab)

Law for the left, lawless for the right

Here's Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz:
Looking at the way the right acts makes one go green with envy and want to learn from them. Four hundred criminal cases opened against opponents of the 2005 Gaza Strip disengagement, people who threw oil, acid, garbage and stones at soldiers and police, were closed last week and their criminal record expunged. Fifty-one MKs voted in favor of the closure, nine against. That is the true map of Israeli politics (and society). Only about seven percent of the lawmakers believed that this was a worthless and dangerous decision. All the rest agreed with it, or did not bother to vote or take an interest.

Neither did anyone think to apply a similar rule to 800 protesters against Operation Cast Lead, who were arrested and charged, perhaps because they are Arabs, nor to the dozens arrested for protesting in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, perhaps because they are leftists. Left-wing demonstrators never acted as violently as the settlers do, but no one thinks about pardoning them. Not even a semblance of equality before the law, not even the appearance of justice for all - that is unnecessary in a place where public shame no longer exists.

This scandalous decision did not appear out of nowhere. It is the fruit of a campaign of pressure and solicitation, bullying and extortion. From now on, settlers and Israeli society will know that they can go as wild as they want: Even if someone dares charge them - another will arise who will know how to extricate them from trouble and penalty. In contrast, left-wing protesters are orphans. They have no public or parliamentary support. Protesters against disengagement and pogromists in Palestinian villages know they will be cleared, while leftist protesters are abandoned to their fate.
Speaking of unequal treatment, how does any zionist justify this without admitting that Israel isn't simply state with racists but a thorough-going racist state?
The Interior Ministry is demanding that a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem be deported for having spent too many years in the United States. Elias Khayyo - who holds no foreign citizenship - has been detained for three weeks at Givon incarceration facility in Ramle with other people deemed illegal residents and slated for deportation.

Khayyo, 41, was born in East Jerusalem and currently resides in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, where his parents also live. He says he has no relatives in America, nor a home, property or employment there.

The Interior Ministry, however, maintains that his permanent residency in Israel was revoked in January 2006, due to Khayyo having lived in the U.S. from 1998 to 2005 and receiving permanent-residence status there. Khayyo received bachelor's and master's degrees in biology over two extended stays in the U.S. He is now working as a translator in Jerusalem.
The ministry claims Khayyo resided abroad for more than seven years, and that he returned to Israel in 2005 as a tourist by presenting U.S. travel documents.
Could this happen to a Jew in Jerusalem of the right or the left?

January 30, 2010

Israeli feminism

One of the domains in which Israel is certainly a light unto the nations is the department of twisting words. Israeli culture's greatest contribution to humanity is in the perfection of the oxymoron: "purity of arms", "present absentees," "a Jewish and democratic state," and so forth. Another contribution is in linguistics. Usually, we call adjectives qualifiers because they slightly qualify the meaning of the noun. A tawny dog is still a dog, and a tall building is no less of a building for being tall. But not all adjectives are like that. The adjective 'Israeli' is one of the exceptions. Israeli socialism, Israeli justice, Israeli citizenship are examples of noun phrases in which the adjective doesn't qualify the noun but perverts it. Israeli socialism is the doctrine that Jews must drive Palestinians out of the job market, and then out of their country, in order not to oppress them as wage workers. Israeli citizenship does not make one an Israeli national, because there is no such thing as Israeli nationality according to Israeli law. Israeli law is another such noun phrase, because the law is usually understood as setting limits to the arbitrariness of power. But under 'Israeli law', the commander of an area in the Occupied Territories can make his every whim 'the law' simply by writing down an order. A 'law' was even issued once forbidding Palestinians from collecting the thyme that grows on the sides of the roads.

But the subject of today's language lesson is 'Israeli feminism'. Israel is well known for the Hasbara mileage its gets out of women. I've been told by Palestinians that women soldiers at the checkpoints are worse than the men. Courtesy of the Israeli NGO breaking the silence, we now have a confirmation and an explanation. That's feminism, the Israeli version:

Testimony 1 Name: *** | Rank: First Sergeant | Unit: Border Patrol | Location: General

Somehow, a female combatant has to prove herself more, on the ground too. Again, a female combatant who can lash out is a serious fighter. Capable. A ball-breaker. There was one with me when I got there, she’d been there long before, she was – wow, everyone talked about what grit she had, because she could humiliate Arabs without batting an eyelash. That was the thing to do.
The entry ‘ticket’?
Yes, kind of. When I got to the company they were on operations maneuvers, and I got the highest marks, guys included. I was in the top ten. They were all impressed and at first I had a really good reputation, until I was out in the field and they realized I wasn’t that tough. On the ground I wouldn’t apply my capabilities. Like, she’s fit and she can punch and she’s a ‘karate-kid’ and all that doesn’t really show when she’s out there. Not because I didn’t give a shit. No, I was too wimpy. First of all, I didn’t like to cut guard duty. I can’t say I didn’t fall asleep on any shift. We all do. But I wasn’t too keen on cutting the job and going out to do this and that. Sure, let’s take a ride to this or that village because you know, routine drives you crazy, but I wasn’t too keen on going wild. So I had a problem. But right at first people really appreciated me.
..Was it obvious or implied that this was the ‘entry ticket’ for girls, to belong?
I think guys need to prove themselves less in this respect, but it was not clearly stated. We did talk about how the tough female-combatant has no problem beating up Arabs. It’s obvious, you don’t even need to spell it out. This one means business, you should see her humiliating them – there was no problem to say something like this out loud. Take a look at that one, a real ‘ball-breaker,’ see her humiliating them, slapping them, what a slap she gave that guy! You hear this kind of talk all the time.

From Women Soldiers’ Testimonies, Breaking the Silence

For clarity sake, it should never be forgotten that the biggest payout of the ethnic cleansing and oppression of Palestinians accrues to White secular Ashkenazi men of European origins whose families founded Israel. Part of the privilege enjoyed by this group is that they can delegate the less pleasant aspects of 'Israeliness' to less privileged groups, including Mizrahi, women, Druze, etc., to do their dirty work for them, while they themselves remain invisible or even lead the opposition to the occupation. While that is not an excuse for the shocking abuse that takes place at the checkpoints, never lose sight of it!

January 29, 2010

An ideology of hate, racism and ethnic cleansing. Yes but which one?

An Arab member of Israel's parliament has made a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day condemning the holocaust and holocaust denial. Here's a piece of the speech from Ha'aretz:
"There is no more natural an occurrence than for the Knesset and all its factions to unite and mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day," Tibi said. "The forces of evil sent tens of millions of people - Jews, Soviets, Poles, Gypsies, and political rivals - to an awful death. This wasn't a simple death, but an industry of death, which was borne of an ideology of hate, racism, and ethnic cleansing."
And on holocaust denial:
"There is nothing more foolish or amoral than Holocaust denial," Tibi said. "For what purpose? What end is served exactly by those who do so? We are here in the era of realizing rights for self-determination and freedom, not dismantling states or peoples."

"People must stand courageously against instances of denial of the other, oppression of the other, denial of the Holocaust," Tibi said. "I, Ahmed Tibi, a tall, proud Arab, is happy to be on the same side as prominent Arab intellectuals who came out forcefully against Holocaust denial in the Middle East and other places around the world."
Curiously it was a Shas member of the Knesset who was removed for twigging that the condemnation of the holocaust could just as easily have been a condemnation of Israel:
Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev was evicted from the plenum after interrupting Tibi's remarks, accusing the MK of comparing Holocaust victims to those injured in Gaza.
I think these guys might be Shas supporters.

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010


Does the name 'Abdelaziz' rattle you?

It did rattle a lot of Obama supporters who came to listen to and to applaud Obama's corporatist policies in a town hall in Tampa. Who would have believed that this name would be so unpopular in Florida? Listen for yourself. Laila Abdelaziz, a Palestinian student at Tampa University, is strongly booed by the audience after merely stating her name and affiliation: audio track. Obama then has to calm the audience down. Mind you, this blatant racism comes from the most "progressive" sector of the U.S. electorate, Obama's politically involved base, people who self-selected by attending this town hall meeting.

Things would have been so much better if she just said her name was Cohen.

Abdelaziz, who had actually volunteered for Obama's campaign, went on and asked a pointed question:
"My question is, um- Last night you spoke in your State of the Union address you spoke of America's support for human rights...Then, why have we not condemned Israel and Egypt's human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian people? And yet we continue supporting them financially with billions of dollars from our tax dollars?" (WMMF)
Good question. You can listen to Obama's reply on the track above, (or the video below, which unfortunately does not include the initial boos). It is not a pearl of wisdom, and as Abdulaziz later told the radio station, he effectively did not answer her.

But I would like to highlight the beginning of Obama flat footed, inarticulate, mendacious (a vibrant democracy? Not even a sick democracy like the U.S. is) and unintelligent answer:
"The Middle East is obviously an issue that has plagued the region for centuries...
Wow! We got used to Obama channeling Bush's policies, but here he is also channeling Bush's torture of the English language. What the hell does this sentence mean?

If I were inclined to deep parsing, I would have said that the President meant exactly what he said, namely, that the trouble with the region is itself. In other words, the region sucks, and has sucked for "centuries". The people there are just, well, the way they are. Clearly, if that's the case, one might solve the problem by taking the Middle East out of "the region", i.e., making the region (i.e., the Middle East) less Middle Eastern (for example, by ethnically cleansing it and putting there a lot of Jews from Brooklyn instead), or at least by imposing on it the oh-so enlightened dominion of Israel and the U.S. Beneath the incoherence there is a clear affirmation of crude Orientalism. Small wonder Obama doesn't mention occupation. From this orientalist perspective, occupation, far from being the problem, is in fact the solution.

Of course, one can be charitable towards Obama and read it as merely total incoherence that comes from having nothing to say after he had abdicated all pretense to pressure Israel into making the mildest of conciliatory gestures.

Bravo Laila Abdelaziz!


A couple of readers tell me that I am wrong and the booing at the beginning was because of sports rivalry. Given that, the title and first paragraph are in doubt. The audio is there, so make your own judgment. It's one thing I'd love to be wrong about.

Iraq panel's resident zionist praises Brown for supporting racist war criminals

This is a rum do. When the Chilcott "inquiry" appointed card carrying zionist and pro-Blair sycophant, Martin Gilbert, I thought maybe the historic responsibility might cause him to drop his pro-establishment sycophancy. This guy is not just a card carrying Jewish supremacist - I'm not sure if he denies Israel's ethnic cleansing or just makes excuses for it - but he is on record likening Bush and Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill.
Although it can easily be argued that George W Bush and Tony Blair face a far lesser challenge than Roosevelt and Churchill did - that the war on terror is not a third world war - they may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill. Their societies are too divided today to deliver a calm judgment, and many of their achievements may be in the future: when Iraq has a stable democracy, with al-Qaeda neutralised, and when Israel and the Palestinian Authority are independent democracies, living side by side in constructive economic cooperation.

If they can move this latter aim, to which Bush and Blair pledged themselves on 12 November, it will be a leadership achievement of historic proportions.

He got some flak for that even from a former friend, but did I say sycophant? I meant to say, sycophant and idiot. But it gets worse and more cynical.

Apparently just yesterday or the day before, the BBC reported that Gilbert was complaining that there are people objecting to his role as an Iraq war "inquiry" panellist because he is Jewish. Not because he supports Jewish supremacy or because he is a pro-establishment sycophant, but because he is Jewish. But did I say it gets worse? Cop this in The Times newspaper in an article headed Chilcot inquiry member Sir Martin Gilbert praises Gordon Brown:
A member of the official inquiry into the Iraq war has praised Gordon Brown just weeks before the Prime Minister gives evidence about his role in the conflict.

Sir Martin Gilbert said he was aware of the hard work undertaken by Mr Brown when he was asked to accompany him on an official visit to Israel last year.

The distinguished historian made the comments in an interview in which he condemned “anti-Semitic” criticism that two of the five Chilcot committee members are Jews.

He said more senior people should speak out against the “terrifying” rise anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli opinion in Britain.Sir Martin praised Mr Brown - who agreed last week to give evidence to the inquiry before the general election - for his support for Israel and Jews.

“One of the curious things about Britain today is that we have had this terrifying sort of rise in crude anti-Israel anti-Semitic feeling on the one hand, often fuelled by one or two newspapers,” he said.

“On the other hand we have a Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who is totally committed to Israel and feels very close to Jewish people.

“He asked me to come with him last year when he came to the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) and I watched in the period before his visit just how carefully he worked on the visit... I was impressed he was spending so much time and effort to get it right.”
"Get it right"? Yeah right, just the man to appear on a panel to establish the rights and wrongs of the war on Iraq.

January 28, 2010

Mohammad Khatib, another arrest of prominent Palestinian civil resistance leader

Mohammad Othman and Jamal Juma' our out of jail, but the struggle to defend the activists of civil resistance in Palestine from arbitrary arrest isn't over.  Mohamad Khatib from Bil'in is the latest one arrested.

At a quarter to two AM tonight, Mohammed Khatib, his wife Lamia and their four young children were woken up by Israeli soldiers storming their home, which was surrounded by a large military force. Once inside the house, the soldiers arrested Khatib, conducted a quick search and left the house. Roughly half an hour after leaving the house, five military jeeps surrounded the house again, and six soldiers forced their way into the house again, where Khatib's children sat in terror, and conducted another, very thorough search of the premises, without showing a search warrant. During the search, Khatib's phone and many documents were seized, including papers from Bil'in's legal procedures in the Israel High Court. Israeli Soldiers violently preventing an international solidarity worker from entering Khatib's home tonight.  Read more on the Popular Struggle Coordination Commitee Website.

January 27, 2010

Palestine and the left - a weekend conference at SOAS

Weekend Conference
27-28 February 2010, School of Oriental and African Studies, London Brunei Gallery
Organized by SOAS Palestine Society
and hosted by the London Middle East Institute
Please note SEATS ARE LIMITED – book in advance
Price: £30 (£20 concessions, and £40 organisations)
All tickets include lunch and refreshments
To buy your tickets:
By cheque
Send cheque payable to SOAS Palestine Society with attached note of email address to
SOAS Palestine Society
Thornhaugh Street
London , WC1H 0XG
Day One: Saturday, 27th February
Registration and Refreshments (9:00-9:30)
Opening: Azmi Bishara (Former Knesset member in exile, writer and political leader)
Speech delivered via video (9:30-10:00)
Session One: The Left in British-Mandate Palestine
Chair: John Rose (SWP activist and independent researcher, London )
- Hide quoted text -

Musa Budeiri ( Birzeit University )
The Last Colonial Venture: Communists, Nationalists and Settlers in Palestine

Ilan Pappe ( Exeter University )
The Contradiction of the Zionist Left in the Mandate Era

Leena Dallasheh ( New York University )
Nazarene Labour Mobilization in Late Mandate Palestine

Coffee, Tea and Refreshments (11:45-12:00)
Session Two: The Left of the PLO-in-exile

Chair: Laleh Khalili ( School of Oriental and African Studies)

Leila Khaled (PFLP, Member of the Palestinian National Council)
The Left’s Social Mobilization in the Refugee Camps*
*presentation via video

Jamil Hilal (Independent Researcher, Ramallah)
The Shaping of the Palestinian Left
Gilbert Achcar ( School of Oriental and African Studies)
Strategic Deficiencies of the PLO Left
LUNCH (13:30-2:15)

Session Three: The Left of the PLO - West Bank and Gaza Strip(2:15-4:15)

Chair: Dina Matar ( School of Oriental and African Studies)

Muhammad Jaradat (Campaign Unit Coordinator for BADIL)
The Left’s Lessons from the First Intifada
Toufic Haddad (Researcher for BADIL and Journalist)
The Left in the Post-Oslo Era

Aitemad Muhanna ( Swansea University )
The Rise of Hamas, the Fall of Leftist Ideology?
Jamal Juma (Coordinator for Stop the Wall Campaign)
The Current Situation of the Left in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
Coffee, Tea and Refreshments (16:15-16:30)
Session Four: The Palestinian Left in the Israeli State
Chair: Bashir Abu-Manneh ( Barnard College )

Areen Hawari (Co-founder of Tajamu and former member of its Politburo)
Balad (Tajamu): Democracy Confronts Zionism
Aida Touma-Sliman (Head of the International Relations Department, Communist Party of Israel )
Title tbc
Ahmad Sa’di ( Ben Gurion University *)
Communism and Zionism: A Troubled Legacy
*speaking in his personal capacity

Day Two: Sunday, 28th February
Registration and Refreshments (10:30-11:00)

Session Five: The Israeli Anti-Zionist Left
Chair: Nira Yuval-Davis ( University of East London )

Moshe Machover ( Kings College , London )
Israeli Socialism and Anti-Zionism: Historical Tasks and Balance Sheet

Sami Shalom Chetrit ( Queens College , CUNY)
The Zionist Left, the Anti-Zionist Left and the Fanatic Extremist Zionist Mizrahim in Israel
(Who Really Invaded, Occupied, and Enslaved Palestine ?)
Michael Warschawski ( Alternative Information Center )
From Matzpen to Anarchists Against the Wall: Continuation and Ruptures

Adar Grayevsky (Anarchists Against the Wall)
From Tel Aviv to Bil’in: The Israeli Radical Left Joins the Palestinian Popular Struggle
Lunch (13:15-14:00)

Session Six: The Palestinian Left in Literature (14:00-15:45)
Chair: Wen-Chin Ouyang ( School of Oriental and African Studies)

Suheir Daoud (Coastal Carolina University )
Literature as Resistance
Sabry Hafez ( School of Oriental and African Studies)
Constructing Identity, Re-Claiming the Land: Palestinian Poetry debunks the Zionist Myth
Bashir Abu-Manneh ( Barnard College )
Kanafani's Revolutionary Morality
Coffee, Tea and Refreshments (15:45-16:00)

Session Seven - Roundtable Discussion: Towards a New Left Programme for the Palestinian Struggle
Chair: Gilbert Achcar
Aida Touma-Sliman, Areen Hawari, Jamal Juma, Jamil Hilal and Muhammad Jaradat

January 25, 2010

Defamation maker resents defamation

The maker of the Defamation documentary, Yoav Shamir, has defended his work against what he claims is defamation by one of the only heroes in the film, Dr David Hirsh. The documentary, for the third time (at least), is here. Hirsh's Comment is free piece is here and Yoav Shamir's response to Hirsh is here. In case you've read none of the previous posts on this, Channel 4 on Youtube describes the Defamation documentary thus:
Yoav Shamir's personal exploration of a sensitive contemporary issue asks "What is anti-Semitism today?" Is it a real danger that requires eternal vigilance or a tactic used by Zionists to discredit their critics?
Whenever Hirsh beefs about anything it's hard to tell for sure what the beef is or indeed where the beef is but let's try this:
Shamir makes me into the hero of the film. Normally I would enjoy being the hero but in this case he constructs my heroic status by misrepresenting what I do and what I say.

I am shown making criticisms of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians as though this was something controversial. I am shown arguing that contemporary antisemitism is in part a mystification of the real conflict, transformed by racist language and grotesque narratives. I actually said more that day than the one-sided soundbite that Shamir wanted to hear.

There were some hard rightwingers at the conference who hated what I said and who heckled me. There were some anti-racists who liked what I said and congratulated me. Like in any other movement against racism, there are significant political differences in the global struggle against antisemitism. Dina Porat, who is shown angrily arguing with me is not all that scary! I gave a presentation at her own centre at Tel Aviv University the following day and we had a serious scholarly discussion.

Three of the key figures at the Global Forum are genuine liberals and antiracists: John Mann, the British Labour MP, Gert Weisskirchen, the veteran German Social Democrat and Irwin Cotler, the Canadian human rights lawyer and politician. The overwhelming majority of the Israelis at the conference were two-staters, people who have been committed for decades to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Shamir preferred to present the story as a group of dishonest rightwing defenders of Israel being confronted by one heroic British sociologist. Very nice, but not a true picture.

Hirsh had another beef which I emphasis here:
Since that conference Israel has lurched to the right, as has the ministry of foreign affairs, which is currently headed by Avigdor Lieberman, a man who garnered votes in the general election by rhetorically threatening the position of Arab citizens of Israel. I suspect somebody in the ministry saw Defamation, because although I was invited to the conference this year, I was not asked to speak. Here is my report of this year's event.
Before getting to what was really on his mind Hirsh accused Shamir of aiming for all manner of "easy targets" but I think given his lamenting not being invited to speak at the latest Israeli Foreign Ministry pantomime on anti-semitism he is seeking to distance himself from what he actually said at the conference. In fairness he said that the occupation is generating anger towards Israel but that is no excuse for anti-zionism:
One of the reasons why so many people around the world are angry with Israel is because of the continuing occupation of Palestinian land and because Israel, which has state power, has not done enough to end the occupation. Such an occupation cannot be sustained without racism, violence and humiliation against the people who are occupied.

Jews are involved in a real conflict in the Middle East where not all the rights and wrongs are on one side, where neither nation has always acted wisely and where in the absence of peace, things can only get worse.

When Jews are involved in conflicts there is a danger that the ways people think about those conflicts get mystified in the language of antisemitism. Anti-Zionism is not a reasonable response to the actual situation; it is a response to a narrative of the actual situation which has become mystified by antisemitism.
Shamir's response really misses the main point but given how he portrayed Hirsh in the film, he may not have known Hirsh at all. Certainly, everyone that is familiar with his work was surprised at how he came across in the film. It's funny how he claims that opposing the occupation is uncontroversial and yet he thinks it's the most natural thing in the world to prevent him from speaking at a conference on antisemitism because he is now on record as an oppponent of the occupation.

Shamir chooses to reject the charge that he selected easy targets. His article is very informative and it shows his difficulty in being loyal to family, maybe even to tribe whilst being loyal to ideals:
In David Hirsh's critique of my film Defamation, he accused me of finding "easy targets" as subjects for my film. I can only assume that "targets" is common terminology for him; quite simply, all the subjects in my film (including him) are people who willingly chose to participate.
He then goes one by one through the subjects Hirsh describes as easy until he gets to Hirsh's real beef. For example, Hirsh took issue with Shamir using his grandmother's classic zionist antisemitism so here's Shamir:
My grandmother loved the film and was proud to take part. Hirsh sees her as an "easy target", and although I personally completely disagree with what she stated on camera, her perspective represents the very early Zionists thinkers such as Nordau, who wrote Degeneration, and Herzel, "the visionary of the [Jewish] state". This small and marginal group (representing less than 3% of the entire Jewish population at the time) were young, secular, socialist Jews who wanted to create a "muscle" Jew; a Jew who would be different from all of what they resented in their parents' generation. My grandmother is a genuine representative of this school of thought. She opens the film, not only because she is a great character who expresses what many people of her generation and, in fact, many Israelis feel toward diaspora Jews, but she is a reminder of the vicious cycle that Zionism became caught in – the state that was supposed to be a cure for what antisemitism started, as both Foxman and Finkelstein are actually saying, has ended up generating antisemitism.
I threw that in because zionist antisemitism is a theme we often return to here and Shamir's grandmother is a still living example of the genre. Now the beef:
Hirsh concludes his article by regretting that he was not invited to speak at this year's conference about how to combat antisemitism convened by the Israeli foreign office, which he attributes as probably caused by his appearance the film. But I can inform him that, at this year's conference, Abe Foxman stated that the situation of antisemitism is the worst since the second world war, just as he had said last year and just as he will probably say next year, too.

At the conference I filmed, Hirsh regrets he came out as a hero – his interpretation, of course, as I never declared him one. But in that year, he was the only one speaker who said anything disputing the general consensus and for that, I thought he deserved credit.

Nope, it's not just Hirsh's interpretation. Even a Palestinian commenter to JSF thought Hirsh came out of the documentary very well, surprisingly well. But I want to return to this idea that it was Hirsh criticising the occupation that led to his not being asked to speak at the latest Israeli Foreign Ministry conference on antisemitism. As I said, Hirsh appears to believe that being a critic of the occupation is sufficient grounds to bar someone from addressing a conference on antisemitism. But Hirsh may have stumbled on the reason he wasn't invited to speak earlier than his mention of "somebody in the ministry [who] saw Defamation".

It was his mention of the new chair of the procedings, Avigdor Lieberman. I don't know when the invites for the latest panto by Israel's Foreign Ministry went out but Hirsh had a letter in the Jerusalem Post just last month in which he berated Lieberman's "rhetoric":
Of course, it does not help the fight against anti-Jewish racism that this conference is hosted by Avigdor Lieberman, a man who has done nothing to demonstrate an understanding of how best to oppose racist ways of thinking.
Sour grapes that Hirsh couldn't speak at Lieberman's rally? Or the reason Hirsh wasn't invited? Or is it the case that people that say anything against the occupation will be barred from any conference claiming to be on antisemitism when they are run simply to silence the critics of Israel, even loyal critics like Dr Hirsh.

January 24, 2010

Hirsh exposes false report in Jewish Chronicle

Hurrah for Dr Hirsh of the Engage website! A couple of days ago Engage ran a report from the Jewish Chronicle's website by a chap called Leon Symons. Here's a piece from that JC report:
Panellist Mary Davis, professor of labour history at the London Metropolitan University, admitted she felt “isolated and, yes, intimidated” at last May’s congress because she was the only Jew present and the only one prepared to speak out against the boycott.
Well Hirsh is nothing if not a stickler for accuracy so he ran this correction beneath the post:

Note by David Hirsh:

Leon Symons is wrong to say that Mary Davis was the only Jew present at the 2009 UCU Congress. The point I have made is that there were no Jews present at that Congress who were prepared to speak against the boycott. Mary Davis is against the boycott and did make a procedural move against the boycott but did not speak against it in the debate. Of course there are lots of Jews at UCU Congress who are prepared to speak for the boycott. My piece on that Congress is here: http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/michael-cushman-and-the-jew-free-ucu-congress/

So there was at least one Jew there but the JC was wrong to say that there was only one. So how did the JC get it so wrong? And what did David Hirsh call the post on the UCU Congress at which he now claims "there are lots of Jews"? Michael Cushman and the Jew-free UCU Congress. And what did he say in his post containing the words, "Jew-free UCU Congress".
Michael Cushman is excited by his victory. He hasn’t noticed the significance of the fact that Congress is now free of Jews.
Except one surely? Well no, look. He immediately follows up 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.
Now if Leon Symons is getting his info from Engage then he needs to brush up on his speed reading or maybe from reading Engage he is just one confused dude but something I don't get is how Hirsh knows who is Jewish and who is not when so many contributors to Engage, including Hirsh, so heartily disapprove of people who speak "as a Jew". Doesn't that mean that there could be Jews speaking against a boycott who are Jews but, like Hirsh, don't like to say? Or is Engage saying that the only people entitled to speak "as a Jew" are people who support the racist war criminals of the State of Israel or at least who oppose a boycott?

January 22, 2010

The best legislature money can buy

I thought it was always the case that American politicians could spend as much as they could muster on electioneering. Well apparently not. But they can now according to this LA Times report:
Reporting from Washington - Overturning a century-old restriction, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations could spend as much as they wanted to sway voters in federal elections.

In a landmark 5-4 decision, the court's conservative bloc said that corporations had the same right to free speech as individuals, and for that reason the government could not stop corporations from spending to help their favored candidates.

The ruling, which will presumably apply as well to labor unions and other organizations, is likely to have an effect on this year's congressional elections. Many political analysts and election-law experts predict that millions of extra dollars will flood into this fall's contests, much of it benefiting Republican candidates.

Republicans praised the decision as a victory for wide-open political speech, but Democrats slammed it as a win for big money.

President Obama called the ruling "a major victory for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans."
Hmm, I didn't know he cared.

January 21, 2010

Defamation revisited

I have already posted on this Channel 4 documentary, Defamation, which takes a look at how false charges of antisemitism are used to stifle criticism of Israel. Apparently it can't ordinarily be viewed outside the UK but if you use this proxy server you can view it anywhere.

My first post on it linked to the Channel 4 website where the film is only hosted for 4 weeks. The youtube link should be, hopefully, permanent.

I've now watched the film a few times and I actually think it was rather good even though Dr David Hirsh is the hero of the film. If you want to be spared watching all 91 minutes then Finkelstein appears at about 54 minutes in and Dr Hirsh drops his "bombshell" at about 1 hour and 4 minutes in.

As I said in the earlier post, Hirsh now claims that he was misrepresented in the film and in a way he was. This is what Hirsh now says:
I am shown making criticisms of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians as though this was something controversial. I am shown arguing that contemporary antisemitism is in part a mystification of the real conflict, transformed by racist language and grotesque narratives. I actually said more that day than the one-sided soundbite that Shamir wanted to hear.
Following his link, this is true. He actually said that Israel's state power, its racism and its humiliation of the occupied Palestinians is no excuse for anti-zionism. Of course, it shouldn't be an excuse for antisemitism but he actually said:
Anti-Zionism is not a reasonable response to the actual situation; it is a response to a narrative of the actual situation which has become mystified by antisemitism.
That bit wasn't shown because, as Hirsh himself points out, only not in so many words, Yoav Shamir (the documentary maker) did not want to portray Hirsh as the defender of zionism that he (Hirsh) is.

We then see this Dina Porat woman remonstrating with Hirsh. She doesn't "get it". She wonders if he was being "ironic". Here's Hirsh,
Dina Porat, who is shown angrily arguing with me is not all that scary! I gave a presentation at her own centre at Tel Aviv University the following day and we had a serious scholarly discussion.
Ok, now go see at 1 hour 6 minutes into the film she approaches Dr Hirsh. The conference was organised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Porat says that "we invited you to speak". Hirsh describes her as a scholar and yet she refers to the Israeli Foreign Ministry as "we". There is another issue with this woman's scholarliness. When she approaches Hirsh to complain that he preached about "human rights which we do not have". She asked him if he was simply trying to be controversial by mentioning Palestine and the occupation. He responds by saying that he mentioned Palestine because "Palestine was not mentioned in this conference". She says that "it was mentioned all over". Now how do two people have a "scholarly discussion", serious or not, when one of them never hears the word "Palestine" in a three day conference and the other one hears it "all over" the same conference?

Just asking, that's all.

January 18, 2010

From Gaza to Haiti

Here's a very perceptive article from Ha'aretz detailing the sheer hypocrisy of Israel's aid to Haiti and other troubled places on the planet:
The disaster in Haiti is a natural one; the one in Gaza is the unproud handiwork of man. Our handiwork. The IDF does not send cargo planes stuffed with medicines and medical equipment to Gaza. The missiles that Israel Air Force combat aircraft fired there a year ago hit nearly 60,000 homes and factories, turning 3,500 of them into rubble. Since then, 10,000 people have been living without running water, 40,000 without electricity. Ninety-seven percent of Gaza's factories are idle due to Israeli government restrictions on the import of raw materials for industry. Soon it will be one year since the international community pledged, at the emergency conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, to donate $4.5 billion for Gaza's reconstruction. Israel's ban on bringing in building materials is causing that money to lose its value.

A few days before Israeli physicians rushed to save the lives of injured Haitians, the authorities at the Erez checkpoint prevented 17 people from passing through in order to get to a Ramallah hospital for urgent corneal transplant surgery. Perhaps they voted for Hamas. At the same time that Israeli psychologists are treating Haiti's orphans with devotion, Israeli inspectors are making sure no one is attempting to plant a doll, a notebook or a bar of chocolate in a container bringing essential goods into Gaza. So what if the Goldstone Commission demanded that Israel lift the blockade on the Strip and end the collective punishment of its inhabitants? Only those who hate Israel could use frontier justice against the first country to set up a field hospital in Haiti.

True, Haiti's militias are not firing rockets at Israel. But the siege on Gaza has not stopped the Qassams from coming. The prohibition of cilantro, vinegar and ginger being brought into the Strip since June 2007 was intended to expedite the release of Gilad Shalit and facilitate the fall of the Hamas regime. As everyone knows, even though neither mission has been particularly successful, and despite international criticism, Israel continues to keep the gates of Gaza locked. Even the images of our excellent doctors in Haiti cannot blur our ugly face in the Strip.
The article is headed Israel's aid to Haiti won't save Gaza. Hopefully, in the long run, it won't save Israel.

January 17, 2010

Catch Defamation before it catches you

Check out this Channel 4 documentary, Defamation, supposedly about antisemitism but really about the industry that has grown up around the usually bogus charge of antisemitism. Channel 4 itself accurately describes the programme thus:
The True Stories strand, which showcases the best international feature documentaries, continues with Yoav Shamir's controversial, personal exploration which asks, "What is anti-Semitism today?" Is it a real and continuous danger that requires eternal vigilance or a tactic used by right-wing Zionists to discredit and cow their critics?

Among those he interviews are Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who is adamant that anti-Semitism is rife and must be exposed; while Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry: The Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, claims that anti-Semitism is being used for political gain.

I say "catch Defamation" because it is only available on line for another 25 days.

I say "before it catches you" because whilst it plays well as an exposé of one of the main players, and boy do I mean players, in the holocaust industry, it tries to come down on some kind of "happy medium" side of the issue hasbara versus the truth about Palestine. In fact David Hirsh, of Engage, is touted as a controversial supporter of the Palestinian cause. Even he has to admit that he was misrepresented in the programme.
Shamir makes me into the hero of the film. Normally I would enjoy being the hero but in this case he constructs my heroic status by misrepresenting what I do and what I say.

I am shown making criticisms of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians as though this was something controversial. I am shown arguing that contemporary antisemitism is in part a mystification of the real conflict, transformed by racist language and grotesque narratives. I actually said more that day than the one-sided soundbite that Shamir wanted to hear.
Both the documentary's maker and Hirsh manage a swipe at Norman Finkelstein. Here's Hirsh on that point:
Another of the film's easy targets is Norman Finkelstein, the bitter and defeated American anti-Zionist. Shamir gives Finkelstein enough rope to hang himself and Finkelstein meekly obliges in a rather sad and pathetic way, culminating in his performance of a Nazi salute for the camera.
Actually, it wasn't Finkelstein's best offering but he still came out quite well even though the editor clearly didn't want him to.

So you've got 25 days to catch Defamation. It's no curate's egg but it is good in parts if you don't let it catch you on one or two barbs.

January 16, 2010

Don't let war crimes suspects off the hook

Here's a letter in the Guardian calling for the retention of the UK's treaty obligations on war crimes:
We are shocked at suggestions by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Ivan Lewis and foreign secretary David Miliband that Britain may consider changing its laws to avoid any future attempts to prosecute suspected war criminals, Israeli or otherwise. The UK must not renege on its international treaty obligations, particularly those under the fourth Geneva convention to seek out and prosecute persons suspected of war crimes wherever and whoever they are, whatever their status, rank or influence, against whom good prima facie evidence has been laid. We reject any attempt to undermine the judiciary's independence and integrity. A judge who finds sufficient evidence of a war crime must have power to order the arrest of a suspect, subject to the usual rights to bail and appeal.

The power to arrest individuals reasonably suspected of war crimes anywhere in the world should they set foot on UK soil is an efficient and necessary resource in the struggle against war crimes, and must not be interfered with (Report, 6 January). Nor should the government succumb to pressure from any foreign power to alter this crucial aspect of the judicial process. We urge the government to state clearly that it will not alter the law on universal jurisdiction and will continue to allow victims of war crimes to seek justice in British courts.

John Austin MP

Katy Clark MP

Frank Cook MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Ann Cryer MP

Paul Flynn MP

Neil Gerrard MP

John Hemming MP

Paul Holmes MP

Kelvin HopkinsMP

Brian Iddon MP

Lynne Jones MP

Tom Levitt MP

Martin Linton MP

Bob Marshall-Andrews MP

Gordon Prentice MP

Linda Riordan MP

Terry Rooney MP

Baroness Jenny Tonge

Baroness Lindsay Northover

Bob Russell MP

Clare Short MP

Phyllis Starkey MP

Sir David Steel

Sandra White MSP

Derek Wyatt MP

Tayab Ali, Partner, Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors

Sir Geoffrey Bindman

Richard Burgon, solicitor

Daniel Carey, Public Interest Lawyers

Ian Cross, solicitor

Jim Duffy, Public Interest Lawyers

Shauna Gillan, barrister, 1 Pump Court

Andrew Gray, solicitor

Tessa Gregory, Public Interest Lawyers

Beth Handly, Partner, Hickman and Rose solicitors

Michael Hagan, solicitor

Michelle Harris, barrister, 1 Pump Court

Susan Harris, solicitor

Jane Hickman, Partner, Hickman and Rose solicitors

Sam Jacobs, Public Interest Lawyers

Salma Karmi-Ayyoub, barrister

Paul Kaufman, solicitor

Aonghus Kelly, Public Interest Lawyers

Daniel Machover, Chair of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Michael Mansfield QC

Anna Mazzola, Partner, Hickman and Rose solicitors

Sarah McSherry, Partner, Christian Khan solicitors

Clare Mellor, solicitor

Karen Mitchell, solicitor

Simon Natas, Partner, Irvine Thanvi Natas solicitors

Sophie Naftalin, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Human Rights Legal Aid Fund

Henrietta Phillips, solicitor

William Seymour, solicitor

Navya Shekhar, solicitor

Phil Shiner, Public Interest Lawyers

David Thompson, solicitor

Paul Troop, barrister

Mohammed Abdul-Bari, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain

Anas Altikriti, British Muslim Initiative

Lindsey German, Stop the War Campaign

John Hilary, Director, War on Want

Kate Hudson, Chair, CND

Betty Hunter, General Secretary, PalestineSolidarity Campaign

Dan Judelson, Jews for Justice for Palestinians

Hugh Lanning, PCS Deputy General Secretary

John McHugo, Chair, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine

Gerry Morrissey, General Secretary, BECTU

Tony Woodley, Joint General Secretary, UNITE.

Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

Jackie Alsaid LLM

Rachel Bowles

Prof Haim Bresheeth

Dale Egee

Sarah El-Guindi

Deborah Fink

David Halpin

Sharif Hamadeh

Samira Hassassian

Professor Ted Honderich

Victor Kattan

Asad Khan

Miriam Margolyes

Professor Nur Masalha

Professor Steven Rose

Professor Jonathan Rosenhead

Andrew Sanger

Dr Aisha Sarwar

Tareq Shrouru

Tony Woodley, UNITE Joint General Secretary