November 28, 2010

We are all Norman Finkelstein

Here's a Der Spiegel article that shows that holocaust survivors, their descendants and even Germans are waking up to the shenanigans of what Norman Finkelstein was the first to call the Holocaust Industry:
Through the sale of property Nazis stole from Jews in eastern Germany that was later signed over to the organization, the Jewish Claims Conference [JCC] has made a profit of about 1.5 billion euros. But not all of that money has been given to Holocaust survivors. Criticism of the powerful organization is growing in Israel and many are calling for greater transparency....

Around the globe, the descendants of Holocaust victims feel unfairly treated by the JCC, an umbrella association for Jewish organizations. They accuse it of hoarding compensation and restitution funds instead of distributing them to victims.
According to the article, "The JCC's critics include the Israeli government and parliament" so we really are all Professor Finkelstein.

November 26, 2010

Melanie Phillips, a real apology

Well here's the apology:
On 2 July 2008 we published an article entitled “Just look what came crawling out” which alleged that at a protest at the celebration in London of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, Mohammad Sawalha had referred to Jews in Britian as “evil/noxious”. We now accept that Mr Sawalha made no such anti-Semitic statement and that the article was based on a mistranslation elsewhere of an earlier report. We and Melanie Phillips apologise for the error.
But what about the article? Now you see it*:
It seems that last Sunday’s demonstration in London celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary has provoked a few scorpions to crawl out from under their stone.It seems that last Sunday’s demonstration in London celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary has provoked a few scorpions to crawl out from under their stone.Harry’s Place reports this gem:

Here’s Mohammad Sawalha, President of the British Muslim Initiative, speaking to Al Jazeera in Arabic about his demonstration against last Sunday’s celebration of the foundation of the State of Israel: 
The President of the British Muslim Initiative - Mohammad Sawalha - said in a speech to Al Jazeera:

‘We, the Arab and Islamic community, gather here today to express our resentment at the celebrations by the Jewish community and the evil/noxious Jew in Britain’.

[والوبيل اليهودي في بريطانيا]

Translation by DaveM

Apart from the British Muslim Initiative, Sawalha has been active in a large number of other ventures. He is the past President of the Muslim Association of Britain. He was the founder of IslamExpo, and is registered as the holder of theIslamExpo domain name. He is also a trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque: which was taken over from Abu Hamza by the Muslim Association of Britain, with the help of Detective Inspector Bob Lambert. 
He was also fingered by BBC Panorama as a Hamas activist. A pillar of the community, then.
Meanwhile, a Times report of how al Qaeda is reacting to being driven out of Afghanistan and defeated in Iraq (not that you will have read anything in the British media about this last fact, even though by any normal yardstick it should be front-page news; I wonder why??
Update: Paul Reynolds of the BBC says below that he reported this here) by regrouping in Pakistan, Somalia and Algeria contains this nugget, buried at the very end of the story:
A large number of radicalised Somalis are living in Britain and it is feared that instead of going to Pakistan for jihad training, they are travelling to Somalia.
Welcome once again to Londonistan, where the British authorities ensure that the jihadi sun never sets. 
Now you don't.  So even their half-hearted correction wasn't enough and Mad Mel Phlips had to apologise.  Dear oh dear!  I'm just remembering when Melanie Phillips described the outcry over an Israeli junior minister's calling for a "bigger holocaust" against defenceless Palestinians in Gaza a "bigger holocaust" as "the mother of all mistranslations".  Pity her Arabic isn't as, er, good as her Hebrew.

* I've copied in the words attributed to Mohammad Sawalha in the original article.  That article was amended in the cache link that I provided so an anonymous commentator sent a better cache link.

November 23, 2010

The Jewish Federation of New Mexico tries to rehabilitate Nazism. Thanks for nothing!

The Jewish federation of New Mexico responded to a speech of Ali Abunimah by publishing a despicable and stupid cartoon that compares, nah, identifies, BDS with Nazism. This is the cartoon, published by "the link," the newsletter of the fascist Jewish federation of New Mexico (why fascist? Look what they sponsor, "Israel's threat from within". Hey guys, why not just say "fifth column"?).

I'm not going to spare anybody from watching it by a mere link. The depravity of Israel's willing apologists, comparing a non-violent movement against a racist state to Hitler, should be wildly publicized and condemned. This shameful use of the holocaust chepeans the memory of Nazism's victims. It also defames Jews. There is no name low enough for people who make scarecrows and dirt shovels from the bones of their murdered kin.

Ali Abunimah eloquently demanded an apology, and you should too, beginning with

On matters of history, the sorry excuses of a human being who made and published this cartoon conveniently forgot that before Hitler's "boycott," really a a state campaign of violence and intimidation against its own citizens, and therefore nothing like BDS, but bearing some similarities to that which BDS confronts, given that, for example, there is Kristallnacht every week in Hebron, with Israeli soldiers watching and protecting the hooligans, there was a boycott of Nazi goods launched by the Jewish war veterans association of New York. This boycott, which, very much like BDS, was a non-violent civil attempt to raise awareness to the danger of Nazism, a real attempt by Jews to organize against Nazism, was undermined by the Zionist Jewish Agency, which signed an agreement with Nazi Germany that made the Zionists into promoters of Nazi merchandise. Fritz Reichert, a Gestapo agent in Palestine, explained the value of the anti-boycott cooperation between the Nazis and the Zionists:
The London Boycott Conference was torpedoed from Tel Aviv because the head of the Transfer in Palestine, in close contact with the consulate in Jerusalem, sent cables to London. Our main function here is to prevent, from Palestine, the unification of world Jewry on a basis hostile to Germany (Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators)
The one thing that must be acknowledged is the consistency of Zionist opposition to using boycotts against loathsome regimes.

(hat tip to Jewbonics)

Melanie Phillips, an apology?

I knew nothing of this until Debbie Fink posted on it to the Just Peace UK list but here's The Independent Diary:
Lovers of the unusual, rejoice! Within days Melanie Phillips will make a public apology. In July 2008, Mad Mel lifted and embellished a mistake from the neocon website, Harry's Place, regarding Mohammad Sawalha, a Palestinian-born British man whom Al Jazeera had mis-transcribed referring to "evil/ noxious" Jews at a rally. In fact, as Arabic experts later confirmed to High Court superstar Tugendhat, he referred to the "Jewish lobby". Al Jazeera corrected it instantly, and Harry's Place later, yet MM magisterially ignored requests for a simple correction until a trial was imminent, when she caved. This unwonted arrogance has presented a six-figure bill for damages and costs to The Spectator, which at the time of writing continues to host her deliciously deranged blog.
Deliciously deranged? What can they mean?

November 22, 2010

Back door re-entry for Oona King

It's a bit parochial this but I just saw a letter in The Independent bemoaning the fact that having been rejected by voters in Bethnal Green and Bow for supporting the war on Iraq and having been defeated by Ken Livingstone for Labour's London mayoral candidate, Oona King is being "ennobled".  That is, she is being given a seat in the UK's House of Lords.

Here's the letter:
Is there no way to be rid of Oona King?
The Lords’ honours list comes out – and democracy takes another beating. There are now many us – particularly those of us from black British diasporas – who are wondering what it takes for us to see the back of Oona King. As an MP she ruthlessly carried out the leadership’s will, enforcing policies that harmed the life chances of working-class and minority members at home, and recreated the horror of western imperialism abroad.
The first time she was faced with on old Labour challenger the electorate gratefully dumped her.She then lost again when challenging Ken Livingstone.
But no matter what Labour supporters and voters want, it seems she is going to be foisted on us. And Ed Miliband tries to tell us that New Labour is dead.
Gavin Lewis
Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader after criticising the war on Iraq. Since becoming leader he has been called upon to not patronise the ethnic cleansers of the Jewish National Fund. What kind of signal is this ennobling of Oona King sending to friends of the entity?  I don't like it at all.

Wotno comments?

Woops.  I just had a little accident trying to migrate comments from the JS-kit system to Disqus.  Hopefully it will get sorted because I know some people put quite a lot of effort into these threads.  The strange thing is that "recent comments" are still appearing down the right hand margin but not with the posts that they relate to.  And some comments are appearing with older posts but not with others.

I have been taking a look at some other blogs that are attempting the same migration and we are not alone in having this particular difficulty but of course I'm hoping that normal service will be resumed without JS-Kit/Echo comments and with Disqus but we shall see....

November 20, 2010

The hummus intifada

See also:

Video: "No justice, no chickpeas!" activists tell Philadelphia shoppers
Press release, Philly BDS, Nov. 1

The Philly BDS Coalition dances into action in a local grocery store chain to push them to deshelve Sabra and Tribe of Hummus; both brands support Israeli war crimes. This marks the launch of our campaign:

Palestine Chronicle: My hummus tastes like apartheid, Nov. 4

Jewish Exponent: In West Philly, Hummus Stands In for a Sword, Nov. 11

World Jewish Congress: Israeli food giant removes support for IDF from English website, Nov. 18

Debbie Schlussel: DISGUSTING: Sabra Hummus, Elite Candy Cave to Israel Boycott Crowd, Nov. 18. From the article:

It’s really sad. Strauss Group could have either ignored this Philadelphia Marxist boycott or it could have turned it into a way to get more supporters of Israel to buy its products. But, instead, the company chose to betray its own country, Israel, and the fighting men and women who risk their lives to protect it . . . and, again, the company’s very existence in Israel. The Golani Reconnaissance platoon consists of some of the most elite Israeli soldiers, the country’s best and brightest and most patriotic. Every day, they risk their lives under attack from Islamic terrorists. And this is how Strauss treats them. Nauseating.

So, that’s why I will no longer buy Sabra hummus, Elite chocolates and candy, or Must gum (all products of Strauss–see Strauss Group’s complete product line). You’d think a company that is the second largest food and beverage company in Israel and the sixth largest coffee company in the world would have more guts.

JPost: Strauss removes support for IDF from English website Nov. 19. A comment on that article:

1. Gangsterism!
Author: Gnarlodious Country: Santa Fe11/19/2010 06:06

See how easy it is to cave in to antisemitism when a gang of angry dancers stages your grocery store? Much more graceful than jackboots.

Mondoweiss: Depaul University suspends sales of Sabra hummus; other campuses to follow?, Nov. 19

The Daily Princetonian: Students campaign for alternative hummus, Nov. 19

HuffPo: Princetonians Call For Sabra Hummus Boycott, Nov. 19

NY Observer: Princeton Students Attempt Hummus Boycott Over Israel, Facebook War Ensues, Nov. 19

Philly BDS: No Justice, no Chickpeas

Adalah-NY: Consumer boycotts against Israel, Jan.21, 2009

Video: iPhone4 vs HTC Evo, June 24

A personal note - It's nearly midnight, and this has made me crave hummus. The bodega across the street gives me a choice; Sabra, or Tribe. I can either support the Golani Brigade, or the JNF. What's a fella to do? Reckon I'll just watch this again:

UPDATE: Fox News joins the fray Nov. 22, in the form of reprinting a student hasbarite op-ed:

This attack on hummus is an attack on Israel’s legitimacy. Efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel under the guise of divestment from companies funding Israel—which is a very familiar tactic at UC-San Diego and UC-Berkeley—are foolish. Hummus is a harmless late night snack, not a political ploy.

November 18, 2010

Abraham Serfaty, communist, anti-Zionist, democracy activist, Moroccan Jew, dies aged 84

Towering Moroccan activist Abraham Serfaty died Thursday aged 84, after a lifelong struggle for freedom, first against the French colonial rulers and then against King Hassan II's monarchy.

Abraham Serfaty was born in Casablanca in 1926 in a Moroccan Jewish family. He was a member of the Communist Party and fought first against French colonialism and later against the King Hasan II. For his struggle against colonialism and for democracy in Morocco he spent seventeen years in prison and eight years in exile.

Serfaty graduated as a mining engineer in Paris in 1949, and help develop technical education in Morocco after independence. He began his political engagement in 1944, when he joined other young Moroccans in the anti-colonial Communist Party. In 1950 he left the, in his words, "sclerotic" Communist Party and participated in creating an ultra left party called “The voice of Democracy”. In 1972 he was arrested and tortured by the Moroccan security services. Two years later he was imprisoned for 17 years. In September 1991, his Moroccan citizenship was revoked because of his opposition to the annexation of Western Sahara, and he was exiled to France with his wife, where he continued to be active in the cause of Arab liberation. He was allowed back in Morocco and his citizenship was reinstated in 1999.

Serfaty was a Moroccan Jew who rejected Zionism and declared his opposition to Israel’s “Law of Return.” He supported the Palestinian struggle and wrote in in his Prison notes "Zionism is above all a racist ideology. It is the Jewish reversal of Hitlerism....It proclaims the state of Israel "Jewish above everything" just as Hitler proclaimed an Aryan Germany".

Reuven Aberjel, Moroccan co-founder of the Black Panthers in Israel, wrote in an obituary: "[Serfaty] was the Nelson Mandela of the Moroccan Jews; he detested the Zionist activity in Morocco and the huge damage it caused the Jewish community there."

Serfaty authored six books: Anti-Zionist struggle and Arab revolution (1977); Prison Writings on Palestine (1992); In the royal prison (1992); The memory of the other (1993); Morocco in black and gray (1998); The insubordinate: Jew, Moroccan and rebel (2001).

Sources : aloufok, AFP, Ohalim, et al.

Mandela myth

It's funny how the establishment all love Nelson Mandela.  I think it's because he has been so forgiving of his enemies.  But how do they reckon him some kind of peacenik?  I don't know but apparently the Independent's Dominic Lawson has him down as just that:
Aung San Suu Kyi...told an interviewer: "We are convinced that the non-violent approach is the best. In the long run it pays off, even if that run is longer because of its non-violent nature."
Essentially the same approach was adopted by Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, but not by Robert Mugabe.
The non-violent approach is a desperately hard road to tread for such freedom fighters and Aung San Suu Kyi, King and Mandela were all criticised from within their own movements for subjecting them to such a difficult discipline.
Did Lawson really believe what he wrote? The necklaces were small beer in terms of the armed campaign of the ANC against apartheid but the necklaces were pretty damn violent, highly visible and very memorable. Bernard North, in the letters page, remembers:
The limits of non-violence
Dominic Lawson (Opinion, 16 November) advocates the policy of peaceful protest, drawing on such diverse examples as last week's protest against tuition fees and Aung San Suu Kyi's campaign against the military regime in Burma. I am surprised then that I don't remember his condemning Tony Blair's violence in attacking Iraq or Israel's violent attacks on Gaza. Surely Mr Lawson feels peaceful protest would have been the better response?
He then lists advocates of non-violence, including Nelson Mandela. In fact Mandela remained in prison in the 1980s because he refused to renounce violence and discusses this in his autobiography. His followers in the ANC certainly had trouble renouncing violence, as the incidents of "necklacing" testify.
Bernard North, Sutton, Surrey
There's more in the case of Mandela. Because of his refusal to renounce armed struggle, Amnesty International refused to adopt him as a prisoner of conscience.

November 17, 2010

Palestine and the living ain't easy...

This is from YNET:

Leftists chant 'stop Apartheid' outside Tel Aviv opera

Activists denounce Israel as South Africa's Cape Town Opera performs Porgy and Bess. Counter rally: We are all Israel. We are all Ariel
But let's just focus on the leftists, shall we?
Theater goers arriving at the premiere of the opera Porgy and Bess at the Tel Aviv Opera House on Monday found themselves in the eye of a political storm. Shortly before the opera, performed by South Africa's Cape Town Opera, around 40 left-wing activists held a protest rally and sang slogans denouncing Israel using paraphrased numbers from the songs performed on stage.

November 12, 2010

Gary Moore supports the boycott: Is summer on the way?

As winter falls, some glimmers of hope. The news earlier this month from the Irish section of the cultural boycott is that Gary Moore, a name beloved - or at least vaguely familiar to aficionados of ‘70s and ‘80s hard rock/blues, is joining the boycott of Israel. On tour in Russia, he declared that he wouldn’t visit the ‘criminal state’ of Israel ‘because of its racist policies against the Palestinian people’ . This is one of the straightest statements of support for boycott from an artist. Nice in itself, nice also to add another name to the roster. But I think someone like Gary Moore joining the boycott has wider resonance. Here’s why:

1. Gary wasn’t contacted by boycott campaigners in advance. In fact he’s not even a signatory of the Irish Cultural Boycott Pledge. This might mean nothing – he might have a friend involved in Palestine solidarity or Palestinian friends. But he probably does live in a place far beyond the ‘normal’ parameters of Palestinian solidarity activism. Put simply, hard rock isn’t the cultural milieu in which one would normally expect to find expressions of solidarity. I’m not being snobbish here: it’s no coincidence that so many of those who signed the Irish pledge were traditional musicians because a. trad musicians have a long history of political engagement b. trad musicians are specifically involved in Palestine solidarity. Hard rock has (as of yet) none of those links. It shows that the boycott campaign is out in the ether and that people who aren’t in any way connected to the milieu it originated from are now responding to the call.

2. This is AFAIK the first ever political statement made by Gary Moore. I could be wrong here, but he’s not the type of guy to mouth off about global warming, the budget etc. That someone previously not involved in politics and coming from a not particularly political background makes this stance significant. Again it shows the broadening of the campaign. It’s when musicians like Gary Moore matter-of-factly support boycott, rather than when already-political ones do that we can begin to hug ourselves with glee.

3. The statement was made in Russia, which along with Eastern Europe seems to be Gary’s main stomping and moshing ground these days. This raises the question as to what Eastern Europeans think of the boycott. Do they see it as an import, as a new trend from Western Europe and the US? And will it affect them, will they think that supporting Israel is yesterday’s fashion? Or am I assuming a Western cultural dominance that no longer exists. Even if they see it as a Western trend, are East Europeans and Russians less affected by this trend than, well, I’d hope?

I might be reading too much into this. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one rocker saying he won’t tour Israel mightn’t presage the mainstream acceptance of cultural boycott. But then again, where’s the harm in hoping?

November 10, 2010

"Peace Now" finally engages the "Peace Process" with....Natanyahu's government

According to Ynet, translated by 972mag:
An extraordinary meeting, the first such meeting of the Lieberman era, took place some days ago at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, when Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon met behind closed doors with a delegation of senior officials of the Peace Now movement.

At the meeting, which was initiated by Peace Now, the activists asked Ayalon if the Foreign Ministry could cooperate with Leftist circles in its hasbara [public information] efforts in Israel and abroad – in a bid to present Israel as a pluralist country that allows for a variety of opinion.

Now, who just called the Zionist left "wretched"? Oh well.

November 09, 2010

Matan Cohen is back!

I last wrote about this Israeli guy, Matan Cohen, four years ago when he was shot in the eye by border guards at a demonstration against the wall near Ramallah. Now he's turned up at a keynote speech by Netanyahu in the States where Cohen is now studying:

"When I got up to disrupt the prime minister's speech, he was speaking of the de-legitimization of Israel, and I yelled out that I am an Israeli and that it is the occupation, the Gaza blockade and the loyalty oath which delegitimize Israel," said Matan Cohen, one of five protestors who heckled Benjamin Netanyahu during his keynote address to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans on Monday.

"We (protestors) decided every five-six minutes one of us would get up and yell. We were detained and later transferred to the custody of the Secret Service," he told Ynet.

Cohen is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that works to achieve a "lasting peace that recognizes the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination."

Cohen, 21, was one of the founders of Anarchists Against the Wall, an Israeli group supporting the Palestinian campaign against the construction of the West Bank security barrier. Four years ago, he was injured from a rubber bullet fired by security forces during an anti-fence rally in the West Bank.

He is currently enrolled at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, which became the first of any college or university in the US to divest from companies due to their involvement in the "Israeli occupation of Palestine."
Active for years now and still only twenty-one (sigh...).

November 08, 2010

Denis the Menace update

Drunken Denis MacShane? Drag the pointer on this film to 39 mins and hang in there until about 51 mins:

Many thanks to JamieSW of the Heathlander blog

November 06, 2010

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

Palestine solidarity activist, Abe Hayeem, sent a message to the Just Peace UK list about saving Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from being stoned to death "in case this stands a chance". "This" being a circular calling on anyone who can influence Iran to try to prevent the execution from going ahead.

Wondering what might stand a chance against such a regime I googled the name Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. According to the Iranian regime they are not going to stone her to death today but we still need to consider what stands the best chance of saving her life and Matt Kennard, at The Guardian's Comment is free, thinks he knows.
Back in August, then Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offered sanctuary in his country to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for the "crime" of adultery. It was another moral and well-judged piece of diplomacy from the leader, who has just been replaced in presidential election by his protege, Dilma Rousseff.

Lula had taken big risks with his engagement of the Iranian regime, alongside Turkey, in order to find a peaceful resolution to the ongoing furore over the Iranian nuclear programme, which Iran says is for civilian purposes and the US and Israel say is for nuclear weapons. The real strides made by Lula and Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were purposefully ruined by a US-sponsored UN resolution, which imposed a fourth round of sanctions and jettisoned the valuable work they had done.

But in the aftermath, Lula rightly realised that he could use his influence to try to shame the Iranian regime from going forward with this barbaric death sentence. Now, the situation became even more acute as the International Committee Against Stoning has said it has information thatAshtiani is to be executed imminently.

Lula's intervention was true to form. He is part of a historic movement in Latin America. After centuries of foreign dominion and interference, a collection of independent leaders has sprung up from the ranks of the poor who genuinely represent their people and are building better societies across the region, from Hugo Chávez in Venezuela to Evo Morales in Bolivia.

But most of these socialist leaders have made a strategic alliance with the Iranian regime as they try to build up relationships outside of US hegemony. A trade relationship is understandable – the US has an ugly history of liquidating democracy in Latin America and installing their own tyrants to create a happy investment climate for their corporate interests. It's only rational that the new wave of leftwing leaders try to build independent groupings.

But if these socialist governments are giving hope to millions across the globe who want to build a better world, then with that comes huge responsibility – a responsibility that, on Iran, they have not met. In fact, they have done the opposite.

Last week, there was a video of Evo Morales kicking around a footballwith the Holocaust-denying president of Iran before announcing a nuclear tie-up, and the week before, Hugo Chávez was there breaking bread with the head of a regime which thinks nothing about hanging two gay teenagers from a crane. There was not a whimper of comment from either on the barbarous nature of the government that was hosting them. For those who have invested effort and hope in these governments, this was hard to take. Not only would Chávez and Morales be in the opposition if they lived in Iran, they would probably be sitting in jail and being tortured.

Because of their closeness to Iran, they have the power to shame its leaders into stopping the barbarous injustice of Ashtiani's execution, and they must do it. It is now incumbent on Hugo Chávez, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales to join their comrade Lula and offer Ashtiani sanctuary in Latin America, while forcefully denouncing Iran's human rights abuses of women and gay people.

It's the very fact that the leaders of Latin America are different and have principles that makes it vital they speak out against the atrocities taking place and being planned in Iran. It is to them that we look.

Offer Ashtiani sanctuary now. Shame the Iranian regime to stop this outrage.

Can't argue with that.

November 05, 2010

Hague in Palestine

A mixed bag from William Hague on his visit to Palestine. Someone sent me a link to the Hebrew edition of Ha'aretz (or הארץ as it is written) with a translation from the opening paragraph which has Hague saying the following to Palestinian anti-occupation activists:
When negotiations seem like a timeless promise that is never fulfilled due to Israel's unwillingness [to provide a] fair solution, popular resistance to the occupation is the only remaining possible alternative for the Palestinians to achieve their rights whilst avoiding armed struggle.
It's being quoted around bits of the net but I can't find the English edition.

I was also sent a YNET article on the same thing:
British Foreign Minister William Hague on Wednesday met with the Palestinian prime minister and Israeli foreign minister, but his visit with Palestinian activists made the most headlines.[my emphasis]

Hague met with three senior Palestinian activists spearheading the popular struggle against Jewish settlements and the West Bank security fence, and expressed his support in their non-violent struggle.

"Hague told us that he supports the non-violent popular struggle, similarly to the official statement made by the European Union," Mahmud Zuhari, one of the activists, told Ynet.
So apparently, the UK's foreign minister has opened the door for non-violent struggle by Palestinians against the State of Israel.

Sadly he has also opened another door. The door to the UK is now being opened for Israel's war crimes suspects. This time it has been reported in Ha'aretz in English.
Israel's government said Thursday it appreciated a promise from visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague to amend a controversial law which has seen Israeli officials threatened with arrest while visiting London.

"Israel welcomes the British government's explicit commitment to amend the universal jurisdiction law," a statement released after Hague met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv said.

How's that for compromise? The UK and the EU will support Palestinian non-violent resistance whilst guaranteeing safe passage for Israeli war crimes suspects. But where in the whole anglosphere are all those headlines about Hague's support for the Palestinians?

November 01, 2010

On the loyalty oath and the wretched Zionist "Left"

Earlier this month, Israel's government decided, with a large majority, to obligate non-Jewish naturalized citizens to pledge allegiance to a “Jewish, democratic state”. This is, of course, an abomination. It is another indignity that targets primarily the spouses of Palestinians, and attempts, through them, to strike at the growing resistance against Zionism amidst Palestinian citizens of Israel. It is another advance in the colonial war, both physical and cultural, waged by the settlers against the indigenous people of Palestine. The Loyalty Oath is also in line with what can be expected from the ever more violent, racist and hateful Jewish parliamentary majority in Israel.

That “Oath” provided an opportunity for the moribund “Zionist Left” to wake up momentarily from its terminal delirium in order to cry “fascism!” Like dinosaurs descending from their pedestals in natural history museums, the larger than life skeletons of the white Ashkenazi Israeli left gathered in ethnically cleansed Tel-Aviv. There, fancying themselves a battery of Tom Paines, they ceremoniously released their “Declaration of Independence from Fascism,” reproduced below in its entirety:
A state which forcibly invades the hallowed realm of the individual citizen's conscience, and which imposes punishment on those whose opinions and beliefs do not fit the authorities' opinions and the prescribed "character" of the state, stops being a democracy and embarks on becoming a fascist state.

Behind these stairs where we stand, the state of Israel was proclaimed. The state which increasingly takes Israel's place – a state which fills the country with a variety of racist legislation, promoted by the Knesset and the cabinet – is excluding itself from the family of democratic nations. Therefore we, citizens of the Israel envisaged in the Declaration of Independence, hereby declare that will not be citizens of a country purporting to be Israel and which violates its basic commitment to the principles of equality, civil liberty and sincere aspiration for peace – principles upon which the State of Israel was founded. (See description by Gush Shalom, one of the forces behind this )
What utter nonsense? “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.” The state that you call Israel was founded, through ethnic cleansing, on a single principle, the superiority and primacy of the European settler over the indigenous Palestinian. The “democratic” state of Israel that you evoke with moist eyes spent the first years of its existence expropriating the land and property of both the expelled and the remaining native Palestinian inhabitants and distributing the spoils to you and to your parents.

The allegedly defunct state of Israel you mourn sees and has always seen the Palestinian conscience through the lens of the “demographic problem.” A Palestinian cannot be a schoolteacher in Israel without an examination of, and favorable verdict on, the content of his or her conscience by Israel’s security services. Palestinian politicians and intellectuals have been driven into exile, persecuted and jailed because their “opinions and beliefs do not fit the authorities' opinions.” This is not the result of a “right-wing” takeover. This has been the condition of Palestinian “equality” in Israel since 1948.

But let us look closer.

The “Declaration of Independence of Fascism” sanitizes the history of Israel and renders invisible the primary victims of its policies, the Palestinians, who are not even mentioned in the document. Who, according to the declaration, is the victim? The “individual conscience,” which has been intruded by the state. The systemic discrimination and predation of the state, which targets Palestinians not as individuals, but as members of a group, as Palestinians, as indigenous people, and targets the conscience of only those who resist this assault on the indigenous people, has been artfully disappeared. Why?

The primary framework the document establishes is an opposition between the citizens and an alien state, one that has taken over the rightful state. The government, they claim, has taken away their country, Israel, and built another one, fascist, in its place. Where else is this framework used? What can the context introduced by this device teach us about the politics behind it? Two answers come to mind: the populist Right in the US and in Europe, and Palestinian nationalism. Of course, these two are very different. Palestinian nationalism invokes this framework in relation to a real historical event. The state of Israel was indeed founded through a massive act of expropriation, in which the native people lost not only their property but their country. The majority is today stateless refugees. Those who were lucky to remain are treated by the state as well as by the dominant culture quite openly as foreigners in their native land. symptomatically, they are often invited, if they “don’t like it in Israel”, to move to “their” Arab countries.

The populist Right in the west uses the framework of “the stolen country” as a projection. The projection reverses the objective relations between immigrants and their host countries, portray immigrants as powerful and sinister, and the dominant institutions of the state as either naïve victims or as having been hijacked by a foreign and malevolent force (forces such as “communism,” “Jews,” “Islam,” “multiculturalism,” “liberals,” etc.)

Why then does the Zionist “Left” find this framework appealing? I’ll provide two mutually reinforcing hypotheses.

  1. As Oren Yiftachel describes, social antagonisms in a colonial settler society tends to define three major groups: Founders, Natives and Immigrants. In Israel, the Founders are the westernized, secular Ashkenazi Jews. Most of them came to Palestine before the establishment of the state. This group—mostly through “primitive accumulation,” or, in less fancy terms, armed robbery—has come to own the bulk of the land and capital in the country, and to dominate politics, the corporate economy and the professions. The Natives are the Palestinians, who are, when not targeted for disappearance, the enemy of the state and the object of its predation. The Immigrants are constituted primarily by Jews from Arab countries, religious Jews and Russians, social groups formed by those who either arrived to Israel or adopted Zionism after the founding of the state. They participate in the oppression of Palestinians in a subordinate position, and have used their relation to the Founders (Jewishness in the case of Israel), to advance and to challenge the dominance of the Founders. Knowing that the Oath of Loyalty is a scheme whose main promoter is the Russian party “Israel Beiteinu,” and is imposed by the Right (Likud), a party that holds power through a populist appeal to the “Immigrants” since 1977, clarifies the rhetoric of the declaration. The people who are creating the state that “took Israel’s place,” and who are establishing a “fascist state,” are the immigrants: Russians, religious settlers, Oriental Jews, etc. The political ascendancy of these “immigrants,” because they are not western in orientation, (rather than the apartheid policies established already in 1948) lead to the exclusion of Israel from the “family of democratic nations.” This “family” is, as it is easy to recognize, a euphemism for the West (secular, liberal, etc.), which is the cultural reference for the Zionist "Left". Underneath the constitutional language there is a racialized democracy, allegedly undermined by foreigners. Behind the concern for the individual conscience, which itself already masks the identity of the real victims, this “Left” document defends the cultural hegemony and political primacy of the founders against the immigrant challenge.
  2. But there is also a relation with Palestinians. Not only is the Palestinian narrative erased and evaded, but the speakers appropriate it. They are the ones whose country has been stolen. Proclaiming that “grievance” serves precisely to appropriate another attack on the people whose country really was stolen. By proclaiming the founders victims of an expropriation of “their” country, the document naturalizes them in Palestine, and by the same token it naturalizes the spoils of 1948. In this respect, the language of the alleged expropriation of the country by fascists is not altogether different from the transformation of the Jaffa orange, the prickly pear and “khummus” into national Israeli symbols. It is another element in the struggle to erase the presence of Palestinians and to take their place.
There is also a political strategy in this. This so called “left” is willing to defend Palestinians against the Loyalty Oath and other schemes of the far right, but only on the condition that all claims against its own constituency, the wealthiest in Israel, are dropped, and that the Palestinian struggle is made subordinate to the imperative of re-asserting Ashkenazi hegemony. Indeed, the condition is that Palestinians disappear as Palestinians. That is nice. I assume. And perhaps 40 years ago it might have been accepted by some. But today, when this “Left” is not in a position to deliver a bucket of socks, it is empty words, proclaimed symbolically in a city center empty of Palestinians.

The minimal condition of a progressive left in a settler colonial society like Israel is the recognition of the settler colonial nature of the regime, and therefore of the primacy of the antagonism between settler and native. Only are progressive those forces that base their politics on this antagonism and make themselves allies to the struggle of the indigenous people of Palestine. Such left does exist in Israel, although it is marginal. That other "left" that defends the interests of the settlers and seeks to make the Palestinian national problem disappear is not part of the solution. It is part of the problem.