March 31, 2010

WEDO and JQ overlap

There is now a Guardian website report on the disruption of a Jerusalem Quartet performance at the Wigmore Hall in London. I'm sure you can read more about it at Tony Greenstein's blog because he gets a big mention in the piece:

It's difficult to imagine a more pacific backwater than the genteel Wigmore Hall, London's most prestigious chamber-music venue – but that peace was abruptly disturbed when anti-Israel demonstrators disrupted a concert given by the Jerusalem Quartet on Monday lunchtime. Wigmore Hall director John Gilhooly told Classical Music magazine: "The demonstration was evidently extremely well planned. The protesters must have bought their tickets for the concert a long time ago, because they were all sitting in individual seats in different parts of the hall. One stood up and started singing and shouting, and while we were removing him, another one started up somewhere else, and so on."

One of the protesters, Tony Greenstein, wrote on his blog: "I stood up . . . and proceeded to tell the Jerusalem Quartet that they were the cultural ambassadors of apartheid Israel and its army whom they perform for." Supporters of the quartet highlight the fact that its cellist, Kyril Zlotnikov, works with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which was founded by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said to include both Israeli and Arab young musicians, and point out that military service is compulsory in Israel. The quartet's live broadcast on Radio 3 was truncated and replaced with a performance by the Salomon Quartet. But the Jerusalem Quartet's recital eventually continued. "The atmosphere in the hall was very tense," said Gilhooly.

It was me that added the link to Tony's blog. The Guardian only linked to the Classical music magazine. But did you see that stuff about Kyril Zlotnikov? He
works with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which was founded by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said to include both Israeli and Arab young musicians
don't you know? Was this really such a hard case?

March 29, 2010

"Sliding towards"?

Here's an article in Ha'aretz by David Landau. It's one of those, "if we're not careful Israel will cease to be Jewish and democratic" articles that is either seeking to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted, ie, seems not to have noticed that there has been quite a lot wrong with Israel since its inception or it is pretending not to have noticed that the stable was wide open in the first place.
Since last Passover, over the first year of Benjamin Netanyahu's prime ministership, Israel has slid almost inadvertently a long way down the slope that leads to McCarthyism and racism.....

Inadvertently. That must be the explanation. Otherwise, how to explain the dismal fact that during this year a heinous travesty was perpetrated against Naomi Chazan - and the streets of our cities weren't seething with mass demonstrations? Major crossroads around the country were adorned with a literally Sturmer-like cartoon portraying this hitherto respected and distinguished woman, until recently a deputy speaker of the Knesset, who heads a fund that pours millions of philanthropic dollars into educational and civil, social projects in Israel - and thousands of decent people were not out there shouting, 'Fascism shall not pass!' One needn't like all of the organizations that Chazan's New Israel Fund supports to be outraged and disgusted and frightened by the style of the campaign that was mounted against her. (Full disclosure: I've lectured on occasion for the New Israel Fund.)

What's so depressing about the Chazan affair is not so much the crude brutishness of her adversaries as the limp impotence of the many people who tut-tutted - and did nothing.

In our own case, this past year, Netanyahu has incessantly repeated his mantra that he's merely doing in Jerusalem "what all my predecessors have done for 43 years." The purpose of this pretense is to erase from the public mind, at home and abroad, the fact that two of his predecessors negotiated with the Palestinians and the Americans over dividing the city. The purpose, too, is deliberately to blur the hugely significant difference between building in the Jewish neighborhoods that have been developed over decades and forcibly inserting Jewish settlers into all-Arab neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah. The purpose, basically, is to obliterate any chance of implementing the "Clinton parameters" - Jewish areas to Israel, Arab areas to Palestine, Holy Basin to God [or an international consortium representing Him] and thus reaching a fair compromise on Jerusalem.

The demonstrations taking place on Fridays at Sheikh Jarrah offer some smidgen of hope that not everyone has been duped and silenced. The Naomi Chazan front was abandoned. The "Nakba Law" front was lost without a fight. The battle line in Israel's war of survival as a Jewish and democratic state now runs through the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

It's hard to tell hasbara from naiveté but I think the guy is raising a genuine concern about Israel becoming nastier and nastier and that the increasing nastiness is threatening the gains of earlier nastiness to establish a state predicated on nastiness.

The WEDO controversy – Hard Cases deployed to make Bad Laws

Omar Barghouti and PACBI are in an unenviably vulnerable position as the people pushing for academic and cultural boycott of Israel. This has proven to be the most controversial part of the boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign, and attacks on the campaign invariably are expressed as attacks on PACBI. The latest controversy concerns Daniel Barenboim’s orchestra (or West-Eastern Divan Orchestra - WEDO). PACBI was accused of fanaticism because of its position that this orchestra facilitated ‘normalisation’ and should be boycotted. They’ve responded here, but their critics still run with the publicly aired accusations.

This overlong (you’ve been warned) blogpost is less about the rights and wrongs of this fairly insignificant case, and more about the actions of the critics – I ask why has the WEDO case been aired with such enthusiasm.

Let us be clear about one thing. Boycotts hurt people, just as strikes do. And more than that - if boycotts didn’t hurt people, they wouldn’t be effective. If what you are doing is so bad that it causes people to boycott you – maybe you should change? This is the aspect of boycott as learning modification behaviour. There is also the even more important aspect of a boycott, in that if you damage Israel’s cultural and economic standing you impede its ability to oppress the Palestinians. If you support Palestinian resistance (non-violent resistance to boot) you force Israel to do what it has tried to avoid doing – negotiate with these Palestinians.

Nevertheless, some left-wing friends of mine argue against an economic boycott, since for these boycotts to bite, workers in Israel will be hurt somewhat. I respect this though argue against them, saying that any short-term pain that workers in Israel experience must be counterbalanced by the horrors of occupation and the urgency of the Palestinian call for boycott, the necessity of helping Palestinians fight for justice, and so on. It’s roughly the same language I use to justify strikes – sure if workers in one area of the economy strike it will damage workers in another area of the economy, but the long term gains for all outweigh the short-term pain, not to mention the need to stand in solidarity with people trying to fight for justice.

However, there is no such pain, real pain, involved in an academic and cultural boycott. This is primarily a symbolic boycott. Some Israeli musicians mightn’t have foreign gigs to go to, some academics mightn’t get the coveted invites to prestigious conferences, some universities won’t get partnership funds. But there won’t be any real hardships caused by this boycott. And yet, ironically, this might be the most effective arena for the boycott in that it affects the lifestyles of privileged elites within Israel, rather than ordinary workers. This boycott campaign is directly experienced by the decision-makers in Israel and those close to the decision-makers. For my money, prioritization of the academic and cultural boycott is obvious – it combines minimum harm with maximum effect.

Yet, this aspect of BDS also affects the lifestyles of those of us in the West privileged enough to be able to make the decision on whether or not to take part in academic links with Israel, those of us with the cultural capital to go, or not to go, to watch an Israeli orchestra or dance troupe. The academic and cultural boycott doesn’t just affect Israelis in the political field; it affects people in the West involved in the political field. This is why there has been such a push for these symbolic, cultural boycotts, as well as why there has been such resistance to this aspect of the boycott. While academics and cultural workers who support Palestine have little problem about supporting an economic boycott, as soon as the boycott comes closer to home, the excuses mount.

The most common way that I’ve found people use in order to wriggle out of the academic and cultural boycott is to come up with ‘hard cases’ – examples whereby there is some moral dilemma involved. We know the example – the noble liberal Israeli academic is wheeled out, the imaginary Israeli doctor with the cure for cancer, the orchestra that brings together Palestinians and Israelis. What I find interesting is what is not discussed – the everyday Israeli academic shrugging his shoulders at everyday apartheid in and out of academia, the actual Israeli doctor involved in torture, the way that the Israeli government increasingly uses its cultural workers as ambassadors for their apartheid country. Nor are the Palestinian experiences and their considered responses to these academics and cultural workers discussed. Instead the exceptions are wheeled out, thrown around like sand in people’s eyes.

As the old legal expression has it, ‘hard cases make bad laws’. Of course there will be de facto exceptions in a boycott, of course there will be fudge and disagreements, and of course there will be bad calls made. (For example, one issue I’m totally unclear about myself is the area of films made in Israel). The boycott is a tactic after all, not a religion. Myself, I don’t think that the WEDO decision by PACBI was a bad call, especially in light of the use by Israel of this orchestra to forward normalization (of course there are elements in Israel who oppose WEDO – but by the same argument we should all support Binjaman Nethanyahu, since there are elements in Israel who see him as a soft leftist sell-out).

More than this, I am very very wary of publicly opposing Palestinian resistance, particularly when this resistance is as effective as PACBI’s campaigning has been. Others however, are not so wary. Far from it, it is disturbing how the WEDO case, as with all the other exceptions and ‘hard cases’ are seized on delightedly both by supporters of Israel and also by those who oppose Israel, but stop short of supporting Palestinian resistance to Israel.

I do accept that some people think in total good faith that WEDO should be supported, not boycotted. It is not an obvious thing to do - to boycott an orchestra which the late Edward Said set up. I don’t want to make this some article of faith – you are with PACBI on this case, or you are against the Palestinian people. (Neither if you read their statement, does PACBI wish for this).

There will always be hard cases that people disagree on, and should be allowed to disagree on. But the highlighting of these hard cases is what interests me – I’m arguing that for some there is an element of deliberate bad faith in focusing on these hard cases. They are doing it, maybe not to make bad laws concerning boycott, but to ensure there will be no laws – that there will be no coherent boycott campaign beyond what cultured concert-goers in the West are comfortable with. This is a recipe for disaster, and if we believe in Palestinian ownership of their own struggle, it is something we can’t accept.

March 27, 2010

Independent response to a "response"

Hey, do you remember I complained that the Independent had published a letter claiming that I had shot myself in the foot by saying that the holocaust had nothing to do with the world's leading powers supporting zionism after WWII? Surely you do. OK, just in case you don't, I wrote to the Independent in response to someone saying that Israel had arisen out of the holocaust:
It shows a lack of understanding of international politics and of history to suggest that Israel is "the gem that was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust" (letter, 9 March).

With the exception of Stalin's Soviet Union, all the major powers that supported the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine after the Second World War already supported it by the end of the First World War, and neither the Zionists themselves nor their allies in western governments predicted the Holocaust. Stalin's Soviet Union was the only power to invoke the Holocaust as grounds for supporting the establishment of the State of Israel. Does anyone seriously entertain the idea that Stalin felt sorry for Jews?

The tragedy of the Holocaust has been used as an effective propaganda tool by Israel and its apologists for several decades now.

Mark Elf

Dagenham, Essex

And then this chap wrote:
Mark Elf (letter, 16 March) shoots himself in the foot, like all Israel-bashers. He correctly points out that the Holocaust played no part in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised the Jews a return to statehood (centring on the large remnant that has always lived in Israel for 4,500 years).

This gives the lie to those who claim that it was only sympathy for the Jews after the Holocaust, that was the reason for the UN declaring the partition of the Palestine mandate to create a Jewish and an Arab state. The Holocaust merely brought the inevitable independence for Israel rapidly forward.

Equally, Elf's remark that Israel uses the Holocaust as some kind of propaganda blackmail ignores the fact that the fair partition of the Mandate into a Jewish and Arab state was openly proposed by the British Peel Commission of 1936, long before the Holocaust. For Zionists and their millions of supporters worldwide, the Holocaust is merely the final example of what happens to a people – the Jews – whose land was stolen by invaders, leaving us stateless for centuries and ever at the whims of other governments.

Martin Sugarman

London E9

Now I was a little peeved at the Indie publishing what I thought was a personal jibe with no substance so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw today that they published my response to Sugarman's response:

Far from establishing that I shot myself in the foot by asserting that the Holocaust was little or nothing to do with the establishment of the State of Israel, Martin Sugarman comes close to making the same point I did, that the major powers of the world were set on the establishment of a colony for Jews way before the Holocaust was conceived or committed. The main difference is that he seems to think the imposition of imperial designs on Palestine, the partition and the ethnic cleansing, were somehow fair.

He invokes the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as if this was a legal document and not simply a statement of imperialist intent. The Peel Commission suggested a partition of Palestine against the wishes of the natives and to be accompanied by the removal of some 300,000 of them.

Finally, he can't resist shroud-waving over the Holocaust, a tragedy which had zero impact on the decisions of the major powers but has been used successfully to stifle the growth of an anti-Zionist movement in the West and used to manipulate the opinions of Jews who are invariably accused of self-hatred and of risking another Holocaust if we speak out against Israel.

Mark Elf

Dagenham, Essex

I'm a little anxious about that 300 k claim. I'm actually reading Victor Kattan's From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949 but I haven't got to that bit yet.

A JSF Passover Special: a You Tube Seder

Seder means the protocol for an evening, composed of various readings of texts, the menu and related actions. You'll have to decide on the menu yourself, but here is a short Seder of youtube clips on the theme of recalling the Jews that Zionism despises.

Wie Lange?

Anarchists Against the Wall in Beit Umar

May the coming year be the liberation of Al-Quds, the year it bids farewell to its oppressive walls and bulldozers, the year it is no longer a city of bureaucratic sadism and percentages and demolished homes, but a Jerusalem recovering from a 100 years of Zionist terror and solitude, a city of people that gathers all its exiles and beams justice and peace to the world.

Israeli journalist held secretly by Gestapo

Anat Kam, a lowly Israeli journalist working for the Walla website, was arrested by Shabak and is now supposedly under house arrest, prohibited from working. Nobody knows why, and there is a military gag order not only on the accusations against her, but on the very fact that she was disappeared. An anonymous article on Israel's Indymedia was pulled down, but exists in the Google cache and you can see it on the left side in reduced form (click to download).

The speculation is that she was somehow involved in a leak of secret Herrenvolk army documents (see document below). The documents, published over a year ago in Haaretz, provided smoking documentation to what we all know, that the Herrenvolk, despite explicit supreme court prohibition, continues the practice of assassination of wanted Palestinians. The story, published in Haaretz by Uri Blau in November 2008 (two different articles, English and Hebrew), establishes three important points. The least important, because widely known outside those who consciously avoid knowing it, is that the Herrenvolk Army, a.k.a. the IDF, is a terrorist organization. More important is the fact, known but generally hushed, that even the minimal protection of human rights afforded to Palestinians by rare Israeli Supreme Court decisions are not worth the paper they are printed on, since the army simply ignores them. The third point, perhaps the most important one, is that the article named the Israeli generals that were involved in the premeditated murder of Ziad Malaisha, on June 20, 2007 in Kafr Dan, near Jenin. these were GOC Central Command Yair Naveh, Brig. Gen. Sami Turjeman, head of the operations directorate Tal Russo, and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. This might at least discourage them from ever traveling to countries that respect international law.

Neither Uri Blau, not any other journalist in Israel, dared to take a stand. Haaretz is silent. The only mealy mouthed protest comes from a Maariv journalist who wrote an article on line about a journalist arrested in the imaginary "shsholand", to conclude that "the journalists of that country are zeroes." Indeed! Anat Kam apparently cooperates with the Gestapo, and her lawyers are trying to silence all publicity of the story. Given the betrayal of her fellow journalists and the kind of state she lives in, Kam's collaboration is understandable if not excusable. But it doesn't oblige anybody else. Other people who deal with Israel's crimes regularly might want to establish a special "living will" and deposit it with their relatives: "In case I am arrested by the Shabak and I'm calling you from their office to ask for your silence, please ignore my request."

Hat tip to Richard Silverstein.

Los San Patricios

As a gesture to David, I'm posting one of my favorite political ballads, the story of true heroes, courtesy of songwriter and performer David Rovics.

March 26, 2010

Business as usual as US arms Israel

Pressure on Israel from America? What pressure? Here's Ha'aretz:
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington this week absorbing the full wrath of the Obama administration, the Pentagon and Israel's defense establishment were in the process of sealing a large arms deal.

According to the deal, Israel will purchase three new Hercules C-130J airplanes. The deal for the three aircrafts, designed by Lockheed Martin, is worth roughly a quarter billion dollars. Each aircraft costs $70 million.

The aircrafts were manufactured specifically for Israeli needs.....
What does that mean, they only kill Arabs?

Gagging Palestine protests

Here's Mike Marqusee on the charges facing the Edinburgh 5 over their protesting the visit of "ambassadors for Israel", the Jerusalem Quartet, about 18 months ago:
March 29th will see the resumption in an Edinburgh court of an extraordinary trial with disturbing implications for freedom of expression and campaigners for Palestinian rights.

Back in August 2008, five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign disrupted an Edinburgh performance of the Jerusalem Quartet, who are promoted and indeed contracted to act as official ambassadors of the Israeli state and specifically the Israel Defence Forces. The protesters shouted “End the siege of Gaza”, “Boycott Israel”, “Israel is an apartheid state”, “Stand up for human rights” and similar slogans, were detained by security guards, handed over to the police and charged with a breach of the peace.

So far, so familiar, at least to political campaigners. But astonishingly, seven months later, the Procurator Fiscal, the prosecuting agency in Scotland, decided to replace the breach of the peace charge with the much more serious charge of “racially aggravated conduct.” The PF now claimed that the SPSC protesters had “made comments about Jews, Israelis, and the State of Israel… evincing malice and ill will” towards the musicians because of “their membership or presumed membership of an ethnic group”.

At the first stage of the trial In January, it was revealed that although the police had interviewed the performers and many of the 1000 strong audience, not one had reported or complained of any anti-semitic comments. What’s more, a high quality audio recording of the entire event made by the BBC confirmed that no comments of any kind had been made about Jews. As a result the PF agreed to to strike the word “Jews” from the charge. Defence counsel requested that the term “Israelis” also be removed since the only reference to “Israelis” was when one of the protesters stated: “Daniel Barenboim is an Israeli of conscience; we support all Israelis of conscience.” In this case the PF declined to amend the charge, possibly because it would then accuse the defendants of nothing more than making “comments about the State of Israel”.

Dropping the word “Jews” from the charge made the PF’s claim that the protesters evinced hostility to the Quartet because of “their membership or presumed membership of an ethnic group” problematic. When defence counsel made the point that “Israelis” are not an “ethnic group”, the PF proposed that the words “or nationality” be added to the charge.

Ironically, in Israel itself there is no such thing as “Israeli nationality”. Israeli citizens are classified into one of some 126 ‘nationalities’, including Jewish, Tatar, Samaritan, Russian, etc. Israeli citizens who have sought to change their official nationality from “Jewish” to “Israeli” have been persistently rebuffed by the Israeli courts.

So the PF is now in the position of charging the SPSC protesters with offending a “nationality” whose existence is denied by its official representatives. That, of course, is only one of the many unintentional ironies embedded in the prosecution’s muddled logic. The implication of the amended charge is that to protest against the representatives of a state is to offend or harass them because of their “membership of a nationality”. The PF’s charge could apply with equal justice, or lack thereof, to those who demonstrated against the visit of the Chinese president. The danger here is obvious: that the state is enabled to proscribe protest against the representatives of foreign countries.

I suppose we can expect more of this sort of thing the more the more people realise that there is simply no case for Israel.

March 25, 2010

Our friend reports from Balochistan

A child is fiddling with a poster of a mustachioed man, a missing political worker who may be his father or his uncle, and who is in all likelihood, dead. He draws my immediate attention, this child, because out of the thousands seated around him in row upon neat row inside the open-air tent, he is the only one not focused on the stage, the blazing lights, the young man holding forth in angry punctuated bellows.

“I am not a friend of Pakistan!” Zahid Baloch bangs the podium to emphasise his point, his countenance flushed, severe. “I am not a friend of the People’s Party!” He bangs the podium again, and the evening air swells with the ferocious stillness of his audience, tense and alert like a taut muscle.

Two days earlier, on January 15, the Pakistan army’s Frontier Corps had opened fire on a student protest in south-eastern Balochistan, killing two students and injuring four more – the latest casualties in an escalating war between the state of Pakistan and nationalists in Balochistan, the country’s largest and most sparsely populated province, where the fifth sustained rebellion against Islamabad since 1948 is seething.

A motorcyclist rides past graffiti in a Baloch neighbourhood in Karachi, Pakistan. A famous quote from Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, it reads: "Freedom needs patriots instead of voters"

Zahid is the secretary-general of the largest student movement in Balochistan, a fierce opponent of the central government and the more mainstream Baloch parties. At this twilight gathering in Lyari, home to a sizeable Baloch community, he delivers a verbal blow to the waffling nationalist parties. “The Baloch are the enemy of the National Party! The Baloch are the enemy of the BNP-Mengal!” The crowd has heard itself affirmed. Wild applause erupts, a release. (Continue reading Madiha Tahir's report on the site of The National)

Looking forward to read more!

March 24, 2010

BDS Action in France (Down with the anglo-saxon bias of this blog!!!!)

Irishman Arrests Tony Blair!

...well he tried to at any rate. A friend of mine, David Cronin, who works as a journalist out in Brussels made a citizen's arrest of Tony Blair for war crimes yesterday. Maith an fear.

Unfortunately the security guards at the EU parliament were less au fait with international law than David, and instead of bundling the war criminal away to a cell to answer for his crimes, bundled poor David away. There's an account of his attempt here , here and here.

Also, a heads up, David has written a book which will be coming out soon. It's about EU links with Israel and promises to be very informative.

PACBI explains its position on Barenboim's orchestra

I know I shouldn't call it Barenboim's orchestra but if someone told me about the West-East Divan Orchaestra I don't think I'd know what they were referring to. Anyway, there's been a little ding-dong between PACBI and Edward Said's widow over the former's condemnation of the Qatari government for hosting the orchestra in breach, PACBI says, of boycott guidelines.

Here's PACBI's explanation of its position:

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra: Undermining Palestinian Civil Resistance and Violating Palestinian Cultural Boycott Guidelines

Occupied Ramallah, 23 March 2010 -- A recent article criticizing PACBI's position on the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO) [1] is based on false premises, misunderstanding and/or misrepresentation of PACBI's boycott criteria, and a misconception of the recent history of civil resistance in Palestine. Since the article insinuates that PACBI's position on WEDO is inconsistent with its own principles, the record needs to be set straight.

We also wish to counter any attempt to present the Palestinian civil society boycott call as an antithesis to the rich thought and humanist heritage of our late cultural giant, Edward Said. PACBI, like the great majority of Palestinians, particularly cultural workers, thinks Edward Said's legacy belongs to humanity at large and the Palestinian people in particular. Immune to reductionism of any sort, Said's wide-ranging scholarship highlights the importance of critical thought, ethical principles, and rejection of dogmatic discourse. The Palestinian cause, Said argued, is based on justice and a moral quest for freedom and equality, above everything else. The tools of our struggle, it follows, must at all times maintain the moral high ground. Said’s writings on anti-colonial discourse alerts us as well to the importance of learning from own mistakes and those of other resistance movements around the world, past and present. It is in this spirit that PACBI and the Palestinian-led BDS movement at large have launched our boycott campaigns against Israel's occupation, colonization and apartheid, basing them on an unambiguous commitment to international law and universal principles of human rights, as well as an unwavering rejection of racism in all its forms. While the most recent source of inspiration and ongoing tactical influence on the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have come from the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the BDS movement’s principles have evolved out of a learning experience from the deeply rooted Palestinian experience in civil resistance and the historical mistakes and challenges associated with it. We take to heart Said’s counsel to be critical and repudiate complacency.

Towards the end of January 2010, PACBI criticized the government of Qatar for inviting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO), led by the famous Israeli musician Daniel Barenboim, to perform at the celebration of Doha as the Arab Cultural Capital for 2010, expressly because inviting an institution that goes against the boycott guidelines cannot but be seen as an act that contributes, even if inadvertently, to whitewashing Israel's violations of international law. This was particularly so in light of the fact that the performance coincided with the first anniversary of Israel's massacre in Gaza, December 2008-January 2009, condemned by the UN Fact Finding Mission, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, as constituting war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Israel's grave violations of Palestinian rights also include its ongoing medieval siege of Gaza; its decades-old military occupation and colonization of Palestinian and other Arab lands; its denial of Palestinian refugee rights, including their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homes of origin; and its intensifying system of apartheid against its own "non-Jewish" citizens, the indigenous Palestinians.

Earlier, in 2009, PACBI, along with the General Union of Palestinian Writers, the Union of Palestinian Expressive Artists, the House of Poetry, among other cultural organizations and associations, opposed the Divan's performance in Ramallah on the same grounds [2].

But how and why did PACBI reach the conclusion that WEDO was in violation of the Palestinian cultural boycott?

It is important to state up front that PACBI consistently determines whether or not any cultural project violates the criteria of the Palestinian boycott according to the widely adopted and carefully crafted Guidelines for the International Cultural Boycott of Israel [3]. Taking a principled stance in support of the Palestinian civil society's Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign necessarily calls for respecting and applying the boycott criteria set by the movement. Before issuing its opinion on WEDO or any other project's infringement of the boycott criteria, PACBI thoroughly examines and deliberates over all the publicly available information pertaining to the project in a nuanced, rational and methodical manner that focuses on principles rather than personal opinions, institutional complicity more than individual culpability. Based on this systematic process of evaluation, PACBI views the West Eastern Divan Orchestra as indeed in conflict with the Palestinian cultural boycott criteria.

WEDO identifies itself [4] as seeking "to enable [an] intercultural dialogue and to promote the experience of collaborating on a matter of common interest." Combining "musical study and development with the sharing of knowledge and comprehension between people from cultures that traditionally have been rivals," WEDO "is not only a musical project, but also a forum for dialogue and reflection on the Palestinian-Israeli problem." Boasting an "equal number of Israeli and Arab musicians," [5] WEDO aspires, in its own conductor's words, to "have an important role in overcoming political and cultural differences between the countries represented in the workshop. In this model, an orchestra serves as a good example of democracy and civilized living." [6] [All emphases added]

Furthermore, the WEDO website states that, "The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has proved time and again that music can break down barriers previously considered insurmountable…. Through its work and existence the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to one another." [7]

In other words, the Orchestra's self-definition turns occupation and colonial oppression into a mere "problem" or “barrier” to be discussed between "traditional rivals" who hope to settle their "differences" and build "bridges" of understanding through music and dialogue to encourage "listening to one another" and to set "a good example of democracy and civilized living."

By promoting this false symmetry or balance between the "two sides," WEDO is indeed promoting normalization. The Divan refuses to even recognize, let alone oppose, Israel's ethnic cleansing, occupation and system of racial discrimination as the root causes of the Arab-Israeli colonial conflict, sanitizing the very real oppressive reality on the ground with benign terms that are intended to project symmetry between oppressor and oppressed and moral parity between colonizer and colonized. This conforms to the definition of normalization, a term used across the Arab World, especially in Palestine, to describe joint Arab-Israeli projects that ignore or bypass the reality of oppression altogether, and/or fail to contribute to the struggle to end it, hence presenting to the world a deceptive image of "civilized" coexistence despite Israel's patently uncivilized colonization and apartheid system.

WEDO is not unique, though, in its dialogue-based approach. Projects based on notions of “dialogue” or “constructive engagement” have existed since the early eighties and flourished after the signing of the Oslo Accords. The underlying assumption of such projects, as echoed in the WEDO website, is that bringing Palestinians and Israelis face to face and engaging them in common “apolitical” activities will address the injustice and somehow further the possibility of achieving peace. This line of thinking subscribes to the “deserving native” model, which suggests that when the privileged/colonizer is brought to work together with the oppressed/colonized, the colonizer will become more willing to “grant” the oppressed their rights, or at least some subset of them. This model was tried in the South African case in the early eighties, when British Prime Minister Thatcher advised the black and white South Africans to “constructively engage” as a strategy to end the apartheid regime. Needless to say, the anti-apartheid movement’s leadership flatly rejected this model, opting for diverse forms of resistance instead, which eventually led to the collapse of apartheid in South Africa.

Under conditions of colonial oppression, be it South Africa yesterday or Palestine today, joint projects claiming to be "apolitical" or aimed at promoting music, science, environmental protection, etc. as domains that are "above politics" are misleading and injurious to the struggle against injustice. By overlooking the oppressive reality of Israel's atrocities and gradual ethnic cleansing, these projects in effect legitimize and contribute to perpetuating and normalizing oppression. In addition, they have often played into the hands of persistent Israeli official propaganda, especially its well-oiled, but so-far futile, "Brand Israel" campaign [8], which markets Israel not only as a “normal” nation, but also as a "democracy" that excels in the arts, academic research and hi-tech.

It is also important to emphasize that, in almost all cases, what may appear as “neutral” or “non-political” collaboration between Palestinians and Israelis is anything but. Presenting enmity between Palestinians/Arabs and Israelis as if it were primarily a result of lack of understanding of the “other side” or some other psycho-cultural factor unrelated to the reality of occupation and apartheid is a political stance par excellence.
PACBI realizes that projects that go against the boycott cannot all be put into one basket or regarded as being equally objectionable. Given the limitations of the boycott movement's human capacity, prioritizing boycott targets becomes crucial. Such prioritization is a factor of multiple, evolving considerations, moral and pragmatic, that take into account, among other things, the degree of complicity of each project and its expected harm to the overall struggle for Palestinian rights and against Israel's impunity. While clearly in violation of the boycott, WEDO is not regarded, comparatively speaking, as among the most objectionable projects.

More than twenty years of such projects in Palestine, mostly under the rubric of “constructive engagement,” have led to nothing but further entrenching Israel's colonization and progressive denial of Palestinian rights, while exonerating Israel on the international scene as a civilized entity trying to bridge gaps with the native Palestinians. This important historical experience has taught the Palestinians, as it did South Africans, crucial lessons: false symmetry between the oppressor and oppressed only results in further empowering the oppressor, hence prolonging the bloodshed and injustice. The Palestinian civil society has learnt from this experience and devised a different model of civil resistance, the BDS movement. The very few projects that remain from that past doomed era are not just useless, but represent a model proven to have detrimental repercussions for the struggle of the Palestinian people for self determination, justice and freedom.

Its musical mission notwithstanding, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, as a politically-motivated forum with political objectives that advocates "dialogue" without justice, is in contradiction with the overwhelmingly endorsed cultural boycott criteria adhered to by Palestinians and supported by wide sectors of the international solidarity movement in support of BDS. Any morally consistent advocate of Palestinian rights, justice, freedom and sustainable peace cannot ignore this fact.
[6] Ibid.

March 23, 2010

Never again - For anyone!

I received a mailout from the International Jewish Anti-zionist Network about the Never again - For anyone tour. I've had to change nearly all the links because, as Sarah in the comments noticed, they were internal googlemail links. Where the links were to unpublished letters I have simply reproduced the letters below:
Dear friends,

Here are some of the press articles & letters arising out of the Never Again - For Anyone tour, beginning with a major piece on Dr Hajo Meyer in the prestigious Huffington Post An Ethical Tradition Betrayed.

The tour began in Scotland - the Glasgow Herald published Auschwitz survivor: ‘Israel acts like Nazis’ but not IJAN's letter in response. The Jewish Chronicle, in one of a number of attacks on the meeting in the House of Commons on Holocaust Memorial Day, wrote Gaza ethnic cleansing talk attacked as ‘an appalling offence’,* and did not publish our letter,** nor would the Independent on Sunday publish Yael Kahn's letter.***

The Camden New Journal wrote a very positive article Auschwitz survivor, 86, takes on the protesters, as did Press TV Auschwitz survivor sees Nazi acts in Israel. The letters column of the Camden New Journal has carried more attacks, and more letters defending Dr Meyer.**** And finally East London Lines reported on the "controversial" Goldsmiths meeting, Holocaust survivor heckled in Lewisham.

For a video of Dr Meyer's speech on the tour, please click here. And for three of Dr Eid's speeches, made especially for this tour, please click here & here & here. See more on the Never Again website.

Following the House of Commons meeting, a number of people who had offered testimony on the genocide of their communities, are continuing to work together. We met at a full-day meeting (no Zionists allowed!). From this came a collective process to challenge the exclusivity of Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK, and instead speak of genocide rather than holocaust; to make explicit the genocides and ethnic cleansings historically and today; and to confront Zionism and the many forms of racism we all face. We will soon be giving you a report of this effort, and asking for your input.

Please keep in touch.

Yours against Zionism,

Selma James, Sara Kershnar, Michael Kalmanovitz
Notes and unpublished letters:
*Article seems to have changed from the original. Need to scroll down for the original headline.

**IJAN's unpublished letter to the Jewish Chronicle, 2 February 2010

Dear Letters Editor,

We brought together Auschwitz survivor Dr Hajo Meyer and Palestinian activist Dr Haidar Eid (via live telephone link from Gaza) and speakers from communities that had suffered and resisted genocide and other forms of mass-murder: Armenian, Irish, Native American, Roma, Rwandan, and others. Our aim is to realise the expression: never again, for anyone, anywhere.

Yet Dr Meyer was insulted and attacked by the JC: Jonathan Hoffman calls Dr Meyer “the Amazing Dancing Bear” (January 24); your article headlines the meeting as “an appalling offence” (28 January); and at the meeting itself Zionists tried – and failed – to prevent Dr Meyer speaking. One Zionist gave the Nazi salute & shouted “Heil Hitler” as MPs had police remove him.

Typically, Zionists try to destroy anti-racist organizing because they think it is also directed at them– and they are right. We know the difference between Judaism and Zionism, between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and between commitment to collective humanity and commitment to the interests of an apartheid State. In coming together to stop the ‘slow-motion genocide of Palestine’ we are Zionism’s enemy, and every day since Gaza more Jewish people are with us.


Selma James, Michael Kalmanovitz

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

***Yael Kahn's unpublished letter, Independent on Sunday, 7 February 2010

Anne Karpf rightly says that "philo-Semitism is a form of anti-Semitism" ("Anti-Semitism is at the limits of irony", 7 February). I wonder how she would define abuse of Holocaust survivors and Jewish Rabbis in traditional Jewish garb if the attackers claim to support the rights of Jews?

This is not a hypothetical situation nor from decades ago, but an actual event in the House of Commons and of all days, on Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2010). A Jewish Auschwitz survivor was repeatedly shouted at and was stopped many times from speaking about Auschwitz. He and other Jews, including a Rabbi, were persistently attacked, in spite of repeated police warnings, until 4 of them were escorted out. One of the attackers made the Nazi salute and shouted the Nazi obscenity, "sieg heil". While not all the attackers were Christians, they were all Zionists, in fact, mostly Jews. The Jewish victims were all anti-Zionists.

As Anne Karpf rightly says "We should never be complacent about anti-Semitism" - should attacks like that on the 27 Jan 10 be exempted?

Yael Kahn

****Holocaust survivor’s courage

Published: 4 March 2010

I HAD the privilege of seeing Auschwitz survivor Dr Hajo Meyer’s courage in the face of the repeated attacks at the House of Commons meeting, and he certainly did not look like someone “wheeled out... who has been bamboozled...” (letter by Nicole Segre, February 25).

The attacks at Dr Meyer on the Holocaust Day event escalated until House of Commons police escorted out a Jewish Zionist official.

Then another heckler was escorted out by a policeman but, just when he passed next to us, mainly Jewish people, he shockingly waved his hand in the Nazi salute and shouted “sieg heil”. By contrast, John Gulliver showed his humanity in his compassionate article about the keynote speaker 86-year-old Dr Meyer (February 4).

With dignity Dr Meyer watched the hateful hecklers, only to resume his coherent account of his personal experience and historical analysis.

Unfazed in the face of the Zionist attackers, he told the audience of the lessons on the Siege of Gaza to be learned from the Holocaust.

Dr Meyer’s talk was a special inspiration for me, being an Israeli, currently having regular contact with Gaza, and a daughter of parents who escaped Nazi Germany.

I find Dr Meyer’s lessons poignant, especially when I face denial and silence in spite of the evidence of the death, hunger and suffering caused by the merciless siege of Gaza imposed by Israel.

Yael Kahn
Chair of Islington Friends of Yibna


Published: 11 March 2010

THE treatment of Auschwitz survivor Dr Hajo Meyer by Zionist Jews comes as no surprise to people like me who have personally experienced the kind of thuggish behaviour they regularly indulge in.

As a Jewish person who has been on the receiving end of their threats and intimidation, I regard it as important for others to know that bullying and cowardice are their stock in trade. The only useful thing to take from their behaviour towards Dr Meyer is that it reveals once again their disdain for civility, the bankruptcy of their politics and the perversity of their claim to speak for the welfare of Jewish people whether they live in Israel or any place else.

Ivor Dembina, SE1

The True meaning of Never Again

Published: 18 March 2010

WE brought together Auschwitz survivor Dr Hajo Meyer and Palestinian activist Dr Haidar Eid, whom the Israeli blockade prevented from leaving Gaza but who addressed the meeting via live telephone link, (Letters, Yael Kahn, Holocaust survivor’s courage, March 4).

They were joined by speakers from communities who had also suffered and resisted genocide and other forms of mass murder: Armenian, Irish, Native American, the Atlantic slave trade, Roma, Rwandan, and others.

Our aim is to realise the true meaning of Never Again, not only for Jews but for anyone anywhere.

Why did Zionists attack Dr Meyer?

Why do they want Jewish people to be the exception?

It seems that this somehow excuses Israel’s exceptional brutality against Palestinians. How can we allow our history of suffering to hide and even be an excuse for the suffering of others?

Dr Meyer, whom Zionists have always failed to silence, knows the difference between Judaism and Zionism, between anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism and between commitment to collective humanity and commitment to the interests of an apartheid state.

Michael Kalmanovitz
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Good bit of work, theirs not mine. Well done those people.

Thanks to Israel, some Jews are really reimagining passover

The establishment of an “infiltrators’ city” next to the border with Egypt that would be built by illegal residents from Africa, which would be the only place they could live; hiring these refugees and immigrants to do state sponsored labor such as building the new border fence and paving roads for the benefit of the residents of southern Israel — these are just some of the proposals raised by MK Yaakov (Katzele) Katz of the National Union and chairman for the Knesset committee to examine the problems of the foreign workers, to battle the phenomenon of the infiltration of tens of thousands of refugees and African work immigrants into Israel. 

In a letter filled with harsh expressions that was circulated by Katz on the web, he explains: “It could well be that these jobs will be hard on the infiltrators and this will cause them to advise their relatives not to follow them to Israel..." (Maariv, translated by Koteret)
If there were a Jewish lobby in the USA, it would be lobbying to White house to help dismantle the "Jewish" state.

Dershowitz explains how the Cosa Nostra should work

Before we go any further, no. AIPAC doesn't rule America. Nor does AIPAC determine US foreign policy. Capital rules the US, the world, and hence also US policy towards the world, which is all about extraction and domination, and is hostile, not just to the Palestinian people, but to people in general, everywhere and anywhere, but especially if they fail to meet the appropriate standards of docility. Capital hates all people, but it also welcomes people hating each other: it color codes people so that different people can be consumed differently, and some can be the slaves of others.

AIPAC, however, is part of the way capital rules the world, and the fact that it doesn't rule the world by itself is not a get-out-of-jail card. AIPAC is a criminal organization. That the people of the US allow it to hold conferences is a mark of American un-freedom. Of course, the same is true about Congress. Looking for criminals in Washington is like looking for the wicked in Sodom. The embarass de richesse! God was merely practical when he reversed course and searched for the handful of the just instead.

Now watch Dershowitz, the consiglieri of the Cosa Nostra, in the above clip. Watch his authority, and how the wretched J-Street guy defers to him and stands before him like a pupil sent to the headmaster's office. This is the "alternative" to AIPAC? It isn't even funny. 

I don't know if Dershowitz really jerks off to clips of phosphor bombs falling on Gaza as Latuff suggested, but that Dershowitz is a liar, a bully, a plagiarist and an impostor is public knowledge. He is also someone whose recent arguments about the Palestinian "responsibility" to the holocaust sunk to the level of historical Nazi propaganda about Jews. Anybody who stands near Dershowitz and nods and doesn't hold their nose is showing by this very behavior that they have no integrity, no principles, no ethics and are nothing but a sorry excuse of a biped, the kind of biped that would feel at home at an AIPAC conference, or anywhere else in Washington.

For heaven sake, where is the fire and brimstone?

March 21, 2010

Protest against an ethnic cleanser in London

URGENT ACTION: Protest against Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Monday 22nd March, 5pm, London

Nid BarkatNir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem behind the announcement of 1,600 new settlement units in East Jerusalem, will be visiting London early next week. A total of 50,000 housing units have planned in the coming years - doubling the settler population - and reducing the Palestinian population to a third. Israel's plans to restore Hurva synagogue a few hundred meters from Al-Aqsa mosque has led to clashes over the last few days - men under 50 have been refused entry into Al-Aqsa since Friday. Israel has deployed some 3,000 security forces across the city.

He will be speaking at Chatham House (10 St James's Square, London SW1Y 4LE). Come along and protest against the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

Organised by: Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, British Muslim Initiative, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Friends of Al Aqsa; Friends of Lebanon, Friends of Sabeel UK, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine, Britain Palestine Twinning Network.

You can let Chatham House know what you think about their recent briefing ‘Jerusalem: the Cost of Failure' and the event by ringing 020 7957 5700 or emailing:

Palestine Solidarity Camoaign

Ban Ki-Moon delivers rare rebuke to Israel and its partner in crime

I'm surprised to see the UN General Secretary criticising Israel and Egypt over the Gaza blockade but it's there in black and white on the Voice of America site:
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has made a visit to the Gaza Strip and repeated his condemnation of the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. Meanwhile, international efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations are stepping up.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came the region to press Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations. On Sunday, while visiting the Gaza Strip, he condemned Israel for the blockade it and Egypt have on the enclave.

"I have repeatedly made it quite clear to Israel's leaders that the Israeli policy of closure is not sustainable and that it is wrong," Mr. Bn said. "It poses unacceptable suffering of human beings. This policy is also counterproductive. It undercuts moderates and empowers extremists."
It seems to have escaped his notice that the blockade is being imposed by rather powerful extremists.

March 19, 2010

Does he mean me?

I just saw a letter in The Independent today from a man called Martin Sugarman. It drew attention to a letter I had published on Tuesday. Here's Martin Sugarman:
Mark Elf (letter, 16 March) shoots himself in the foot, like all Israel-bashers. He correctly points out that the Holocaust played no part in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised the Jews a return to statehood (centring on the large remnant that has always lived in Israel for 4,500 years).

This gives the lie to those who claim that it was only sympathy for the Jews after the Holocaust, that was the reason for the UN declaring the partition of the Palestine mandate to create a Jewish and an Arab state. The Holocaust merely brought the inevitable independence for Israel rapidly forward.

Equally, Elf's remark that Israel uses the Holocaust as some kind of propaganda blackmail ignores the fact that the fair partition of the Mandate into a Jewish and Arab state was openly proposed by the British Peel Commission of 1936, long before the Holocaust. For Zionists and their millions of supporters worldwide, the Holocaust is merely the final example of what happens to a people – the Jews – whose land was stolen by invaders, leaving us stateless for centuries and ever at the whims of other governments.

Martin Sugarman

London E9

And here's mine, which I wouldn't have seen if it hadn't been for his:
It shows a lack of understanding of international politics and of history to suggest that Israel is "the gem that was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust" (letter, 9 March).

With the exception of Stalin's Soviet Union, all the major powers that supported the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine after the Second World War already supported it by the end of the First World War, and neither the Zionists themselves nor their allies in western governments predicted the Holocaust. Stalin's Soviet Union was the only power to invoke the Holocaust as grounds for supporting the establishment of the State of Israel. Does anyone seriously entertain the idea that Stalin felt sorry for Jews?

The tragedy of the Holocaust has been used as an effective propaganda tool by Israel and its apologists for several decades now.

Mark Elf

Dagenham, Essex

Apart from Sugarman's ahistorical tosh about zionist settlement "centring on the large remnant that has always lived in Israel for 4,500 years", I can't see that his points significantly differ from or even engage with mine.

March 18, 2010


Max Blumenthal calls attention to the difference between the theater of US Israel tensions and the peachy actual relations (and other issues):

Norman Finkelstein on the same issue and others:

March 17, 2010

What is zionism today?

There's been an interesting discussion on the Just Peace UK list about the meaning of the term "zionism". I know we've had this definitional focus stuff before but Frank Fisher, one of the administrators of the list, has made an interesting comment in response to the idea that the anti-zionists leave themselves open to being misconstrued, usually deliberately, by using the expression "zionist".
The current aims of World Zionism are laid out in the Jerusalem Program: see This is a fairly clearly defined manifesto and I attempted to pinpoint those elements of it which inform current political activity and which I oppose. I referred to 'Modern' Zionism in order to focus on CURRENT policy. Historical criticism of Zionism has it place; but current political activity needs to engage with the policies of contemporary Zionism. The World Zionist Organisation, The Jewish Agency and their affiliates have an existence and programme distinct from the Israeli State, albeit intertwined with it. Opposing these policies does not today require opposition to the existence of the Israeli State, only to many of its current activities.

I don't use 'Zionist' as a term of abuse; but to denote (!) an adherent to the Zionist Movement and its policies. I don't believe there can be a meaningful and Just peace in Israel/Palestine without addressing the ramifications of, in particular, the 1st 2 elements of Zionist policy that I mentioned previously, viz:

1) Maintaining Israel's status as a Jewish State (with all the implications for non-Jewish citizens, natives, returnees and residents).

2) Preserving the Law of Return and Israel as a state of all Jews everywhere.

The 3rd I oppose for additional reasons:

3) Ensuring the centrality of the State of Israel in diaspora Jewish life.

I don't ask others to describe themselves as anti-Zionist. However, semantic argument alone will not cause the very real activity and influence of the present-day Zionist movement to disappear.
All very well put, I thought, but I have an issue with this bit:
Opposing these policies does not today require opposition to the existence of the Israeli State, only to many of its current activities.
How many of its "current activities" that one would describe as zionist could Israel jettison and still be Israel? That's the question.

March 16, 2010

Against holocaust denial

I've just been sent this interview with Gilbert Achcar in the International Institute for Research and Education website:
In the introduction to your book, you declare that you wrote it in order to "fight the symmetrical caricatures" often heard about Arab attitudes to the Holocaust? What are these caricatures?

Gilbert Achcar: These caricatures flourish in the ongoing propaganda war between supporters of the Israeli side and supporters of the Palestinian or Arab sides. The caricature spread by Israel's supporters presents a majority of Arabs as having been pro-Nazi, using the all too famous figure of mufti Amin Al-Husseni, referred to as the "mufti of Jerusalem".

Al-Husseini took refuge in 1941 with the Axis powers and spent the rest of the Second World War between Berlin and Rome, taking an active part in Axis propaganda toward the Arab and Muslim worlds, and even playing a part in setting up two Bosnian Muslim units of the German Waffen-SS.
However, the caricature considerably exaggerates the Mufti's real role by ascribing to him a direct responsibility in the Jewish genocide. But what is exaggerated above all is his representativeness or impact in the Arab world, while much tangible evidence proves beyond a doubt that his exhortations had very little impact. This was so much the case that the British army had far more Arabs from Palestine alone in its ranks than the German army was able to recruit from all Arab countries together.

On the opposite side, it is no surprise that we find an apologetic current that seeks excuses for the Mufti's attitude – a posture which I staunchly condemn as there can never be any mitigating circumstances for collaboration with a genocidal endeavour about which one has full knowledge. Indeed, in his memoirs, the Mufti doesn't hide the fact that he was aware of the Nazi genocidal undertaking, as he recounts that Himmler had informed him in Berlin, in the summer of 1943, that 3 million Jews had already been exterminated. This is incidentally why I point out that the Mufti's testimony can be considered a good indirect refutation of Holocaust denial.

You do take up this question of Holocaust denial, as found among Arabs nowadays.

Although it is far from representative of all public opinion in the Arab countries or even majority opinion, there has been in recent years a new outbreak of expressions of Holocaust denial among Arabs. Rather than an outlet for anti-Semitism, as Western denialism is, in most cases the Arab expressions are reactions we could call skin-deep, that is superficial, knee-jerk reactions to the way the State of Israel is "instrumentalizing" the Shoah (to use Pierre Vidal-Naquet's expression) in order to legitimize itself, legitimize its actions and shield itself from any criticism.

A distinction must be drawn between anti-Jewish attitudes that can be found among Europeans, which are purely and simply abject, and anti-Jewish expressions among Palestinians who are subjected to the terrible oppression we know of, from a State claiming to act on behalf of the "Jewish people". To be sure, there can be no excuse for any form of Judeophobia, but the two attitudes can't reasonably be put on the same level, just as we can't put on the same level the anti-Semitism of a Slavic pogromist and the anti-Goyim racism of a persecuted Jew from the Pale of Settlement, or the anti-Black racism of a White lynch-mob and the anti-White racism of oppressed Black persons. All too often, the categories of European history are projected onto utterly different situations, such as the Palestinians' situation in the territories. By rebutting all types of caricatures, I am attempting to contribute to a better mutual understanding, indispensable for a peaceful and fair settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

This interview with IIRE Fellow Gilbert Achcar was conducted by Olivier Doubre and published in the French weekly Politis (18 February 2010). It was translated for the IIRE by Marie Lagatta. Gilbert Achcar's latest book, The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, came out recently in French and Arabic, and will come out in English in April/May, in New York and London

March 15, 2010

New blog on the roll

I don't know why I haven't got round to this until now but I've just added the Lawrence of Cyberia blog to the blogroll which means we get the heading of the latest post as and when it's published. "As and when"? Why not just "as" or "when"? Never mind, I don't know. It's like, "this day and age". Why not "this day", or "this age"?

Anyway, Lawrence of Cyberia is a jolly good, very informative blog with posts like, No Such Thing As Liberal Zionism and a quote of the week every now and then like,

"A Nation... is a group of persons united by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbors".

- Karl Deutsch, Nationality and Its Alternatives, 1969 (cited by Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People, page 1)

"To call oneself an Israeli Zionist is to engage in the dispossession of an entire people".

-- The Logic Of Colonial Power by Nir Rosen; The Guardian, 29 Dec 2008.

What about non-Israeli zionists? What do they say about themselves? That they are shrill nasty racist smear merchants? Check out Lawrence of Cyberia, I'm sure she, for it is she, puts it better then me.

Ah yes, and she does very good analogies and "what ifs" that raise the question of how you might feel if your country was ruled as a zionist state. A good untangler, that's what Lawrence of Cyberia is.

Brave Herrenvolk soldiers communicate with the natives

The announcement is a new military order declaring the wall area of Bil'in a closed military zone on Fridays and forbidding entry of internationals and Israelis.

March 14, 2010

Stupidity and the "peace process"

Foreign Policy writer Mark Perry reports an interesting story, interesting because of course nobody knows exactly who decide to leaks which part of what transpired somewhere behind the closed doors of the Pentagon. Allegedly, Gen. Petraeus, the Proconsul of Arabia, who aims high and probably sees himself as a future president, threw the White House a gauntlet when he asked that Gaza and the West Bank be transferred from EUCOM to CENTCOM. This is of course very serious. It signals a development that Chalmers Johnson has already predicted as the natural trend in a militarized global empire. As the government in Washington slowly bleeds both its capacity to act and its legitimacy, power is shifting to the Proconsuls, who are in fact the governors of the different provinces and command the only U.S. governing institution that is well funded and functional, the military.

It does not signal a breach in the relations between Israel and the U.S. The problem for American dominance is not Israel, which is and will remain a valuable ally, but the out of control populist right wing in Israel which has developed a sort of bulimic land eating disorder, and needs to feed more and more often on Palestinian land to feel satiated. That populist right wing is also a problem for the Israeli ruling class, but primarily to the extent that it matters to the US. As long as the US allows it, the Israeli ruling class would rather not confront it. Let the fanatics, as far as the Israeli center is concerned, get their daily nibble at the Palestinian expense. The predatory relation is already deeply institutionalized; the whole Israeli military apparatus is organized around the colonization process; it can be slowed down or sped up, but it cannot be dismantled with serious damage all around. The US will not risk serious damage to Israel, unless it is pushed really hard by its Arab clients. They, in their turn, couldn't care less, except occasionally when they fear that things have gone too far and they need to get a bone that they can hang on their breast as proof to their people that they are not totally venal but can get some respect from Washington. It's a political game whose object for all the players is none other than the ultimate goal of politics according to Raymond Aron, "to make things last." In its Middle East version it is often known as the bicycle principle, in the words of former Israeli FM Meridor: “the peace process [is] like being on a bicycle; one must keep pedaling lest you crash and fall off.” Except it is cycling on training rollers and need not actually go anywhere.

We are now in one of these moments when, because of a few momentary lapses, the bicycle seems about to fall off the rollers. Enter Proconsul Petraeus. We wish him to fail. But that is a far fetched expectation given that all he needs to do is remind all the bikers in the room of the importance of pedaling. But trust the commentariat and the blogosphere to read it as some kind of cosmic battle between Israel and the U.S., Netanyahu and Obama, the Lobby vs. the Army, Cpt. America vs. The blue-white Hulk.

The silly phrase of the day belongs to Mark Perry, who hyperventilates like he was just given the go order for the invasion of Normandy:
America's relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America's soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.
Really? That must be why the Bush administration couldn't find money for body armors in the half a trillion dollar a year defense budget, not to mention the Walter Reed scandal or other moments when the truth about how much the ruling class cares about the grunts emerges in broad daylight. Soldiers are cheap, really cheap. They are made in large batches from unemployed and looking forward to a life of un- and under-employment youth. The supply is growing, and I have full faith in the White House to create the economic conditions that will keep it growing for a while.

Go to your beds now, and wait for the next occasion to hyperventilate.

The Gaza mural

St Patrick's Day Special: Irish army buying Israeli bullets?

Ireland is considered to be somewhat more pro-Palestinian than other EU countries. For example, last year, Ireland was one of the few EU countries to endorse the Goldstone report at the UN. But behind all the talk of the Irish government taking a stronger line on Israel than other European countries, and of being outraged by Israeli use of Irish passports for its terrorist actions, it's business as usual.

One of Israel's main businesses is of course war, and as Naomi Klein wrote in The Shock Doctrine, it makes a tidy profit from exporting weapons of war. Ireland has long been a trading partner with Israeli arms companies - buying drones for use in UN peacekeeping (that failed to function), and buying surveilence systems from Elbit, the notorious security company being blacklisted elsewhere in Europe for its participation in the occupation regime.

The latest scandal is that Israeli Military Industries (which in its favour, doesn't try to be euphemistic about what it does) might win a contract to supply the Irish army with bullets. I wonder what their USP was - 'as tested in Gaza'?, 'proven to kill and kill and kill'? Cynics, which we all tend to be, might point to this as yet another example of Irish politicians saying one thing - in this case calling for evenhandedness and talks with Hamas - simply in order to do another.

However, I don't think this is a lost cause. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has informed a number of politicians about this issue. They are equally dismayed and have promised to raise the issue, and we intend to do more lobbying in the coming weeks. As part of this, we have an online petition and facebook site for the public to sign up to. The petition site contains more information about this deal. Sign, and spread it around! We can ensure this rotten deal doesn't go ahead.

Response to the Independent on Sunday swipe at Vanessa Redgrave

I'm really trying to get over to my mum's and then go to work but I keep finding post-worthy stuff. This time Brian Robinson has posted something to JPUK from the Independent on Sunday about the children of Gaza, two thirds of whom might be called children of Israel but let's not go there. Oh, they can't go there and I won't go there. Now where was I? Ah yes, the Independent on Sunday. Brian's post to the Just Peace UK list reminded that I had written to the Independent on Sunday protesting at their decontextualisation of Vanessa Redgrave's Oscar winning speech.

I know I already posted on this but here's what I wrote:
Dear Sir

I remember Vanessa Redgrave's Oscar acceptance speech where she applauded the Academy for resisting, "over the last few weeks", intimidation by the Jewish Defence League, who she described as "zionist hoodlums whose behaviour is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world."

It was an excellent speech and received gasps and applause in equal measure. It was falsely denounced on the night by screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, as the "propagation of personal political propaganda" when it was clearly a response to the violent politicking of a group characterised as "a right-wing terrorist group" by the FBI. And for David Randall to describe the speech as "embarrassing" strips it of its context.

It beggars belief that even in, arguably, the most Israel critical newspaper in the UK and even in an article about something as frivolous as the Oscars, space can still be found for a gratuitous swipe at an Israel critic over thirty years after an event.

Yours faithfully

Mark Elf

And here's what they published:
I remember Vanessa Redgrave's 1977 Oscar acceptance speech, in which she applauded the Academy for resisting intimidation by the Jewish Defence League, whom she described as "Zionist hoodlums whose behaviour is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world" ("Oscars Babylon", 7 March). It was an excellent speech and received gasps and applause in equal measure. To describe it as "embarrassing" strips it of its context.

Mark Elf

Dagenham, Essex
I can't complain. It was big of them to publish it at all really.

OK mum, here I come.