June 23, 2011

Hello, Jello

If you haven't already, do sign the Punks Against Apartheid petition telling Mr. Biafra not to play in Israel. Over a thousand signatures & growing.

June 21, 2011

Antisemitism and "antisemitism"

Just a couple of things I noticed whilst browsing.

Antony Lerman has a piece on Yale's decision to replace the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) with a more in-house Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA):
When the axing of YIISA was announced, after Yale’s faculty review committee concluded that its research and publications were not of sufficiently high quality, the Yale authorities indicated at the time that they would find some other means to continue serious research on antisemitism at the university. In the stampede to condemn Yale, its critics either ignored this message or dismissed it. Now that it looks certain that a new venture, headed by a Yale faculty member with excellent scholarly credentials, is to be set up, I wonder whether those who wildly accused Yale of all manner of nefarious reasons for closing YIISA will now withdraw their accusations and apologise? I’d advise Yale not to hold its breath.
Well, turning to Engage, we see that Antony Lerman was right to advise Yale not hold its breath.

Engage reports without comment the advent of the new programme and follows it with a piece from the Executive Director and founder of YIISA, Charles Asher Small. There is no link provided but it seems to have first been published on the Israel advocacy site of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.
"Recently, Yale University officials informed us of their precipitous decision to close YIISA, The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism.
It became evident that YIISA and Yale University have different visions and approaches to the study of antisemitism. YIISA, like Yale, believes in the necessity to publish in top tier journals. YIISA scholars, its graduate and post-doctorate research fellows, esteemed senior visiting professors, and scholars associated with YIISA have done so at a high caliber and with success.
I don't know why they centre their writing. Maybe it looks more dramatic.

But, whilst acknowledging the establishment of the new programme, Small's piece doesn't resemble an apology and misrepresents the reason for the termination of the discredited YIISA. It was academically below par but Small won't hear of this.
YIISA, however, is committed to critical engaged scholarship with a broader approach to the complex, and at times controversial context of contemporary global antisemitism.
It is this mission that my colleagues at YIISA so eloquently and with a sense of integrity engaged. This was reflected, for example, in the conference, “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity”. Held in August 2010 it was the largest academic conference on the study of antisemitism ever. 
Now let's quickly turn to Antony Lerman's announcement of the closing of YIISA:
YIISA’s approach was fully exposed when it announced its first major conference, ‘Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity’, to take place in August 2010. A huge, 3-day jamboree, with 4 breakout sessions twice-a-day and 3 or 4 keynote lectures/plenary events each day, the conference was attended by many genuine scholars of antisemitism presenting bona fide academic papers, but a full panoply of participants attesting to the ‘new antisemitism’ agenda of YIISA was present. In May Small had already confirmed that ‘The largest number of papers, and therefore reflecting the greatest concern, address contemporary antisemitism and the demonization of Israel and those associated or made to be associated with Israel.’ There was a whole session devoted to the bogus concept of Jewish self-hatred, a keynote lecture by Itamar Marcus, a leader of the settler movement on the West Bank, titled ‘The central role of Palestinian antisemitism in creating the Palestinian identity’ and the conference opened with a speech by the Director for Combating Antisemitism at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The demonization of left-liberal Jewish critics of Israel and of Palestinians, the promotion of a Zionist-centric approach to antisemitism, the distortion and exaggeration  of Arab and Palestinian sympathy for antisemitism, the presence of presenters from NGO Monitor, Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI – all of these elements of the ‘culture’ of the programme fundamentally undermined YIISA’s claim to academic respectability.
Sometime in between the closure of YIISA and the announcement of YPSA, Engage's Dr Hirsh had an article in the Jewish Chronicle, that seemed to suggest that the closure of YIISA was an example of "a menacing zeitgeist", ie, antisemitism, even in America. Here is the conclusion:

There were things wrong with YIISA but they should have been put right rather than mobilised as reasons to close it down. An interest in contemporary antisemitism is increasingly regarded as an indicator of vulgarity, dishonesty and selfish Jewish nationalism. Yale should have resisted this menacing anti-intellectual zeitgeist, not lent its own reputation to it.
Sometimes Americans have thought of the "new antisemitism" as an overseas phenomenon of degenerate Europe. Some American Jews, who had felt safe from antisemitism, will now be hurting.
But for some reason, the JC didn't publish his whole article. Here's the piece on Engage:
[This following passage was cut by the JC - DH]  Robert Fine, Moishe Postone, Brian Cheyette, Lars Rensmann, David Seymour, Annette Seidel-Arpaci, Michael Waltzer, Catherine Chatterley, David Feldman and Martha Nussbaum all went to YIISA, radical antiracist scholars, who understand that critical theory was forged in the crucible of the struggle against antisemitism.  Dovid Katz, expert in the antisemitism which is portraying Holocaust perpetrators as anticommunist partisans; Deborah Lipstadt and Anthony Julius, scholars first, and heroes of the struggle against Holocaust denial; Jeffrey Herf, Esther Webman and Matthias Kuntzel who unearthed the evidence connecting Nazism to Islamism; Nora Gold and Phyllis Chesler who experienced and analyzed the back-stab of antisemitism in the feminist movement; the heavyweights of German anti-antisemitism; experts in Muslim, Islamist and Iranian antisemitism; veterans of Durban; the chroniclers of today’s British antisemitism, Shalom Lappin, Paul Iganski, David Cesarani, Michael Keith, Barry Kosmin and Mike Whine.
Just google at random some of those names. One or two, maybe more, might be genuine scholars of antisemitism but I wonder why the JC left out that piece of the article, even on-line. And I notice Hirsh doesn't mention Itamar Marcus, a leader of the settler movement on the West Bank, in his list of great scholarly heroes or his "keynote lecture....titled ‘The central role of Palestinian antisemitism in creating the Palestinian identity’".

But anyway, there is more on "antisemitism" as distinct from, even opposed to antisemitism. Engage has a resignation letter from a zionist philosophy professor from Birkbeck called David-Hillel Ruben to the Universities and Colleges Union:
As a life long socialist and a member of the AUT/UCU for almost 42 years, I could not have imagined that anything could have made me resign from the union. I have grown accustomed to the UCU’s annual adoption of illegal Israel boycott motions. But my imagination was obviously limited: the official UCU rejection of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) working definition of anti-Semitism has accomplished just that. It has brought about my resignation from the union.
One part of that working definition rejected by the union stands out: it is anti-Semitic to ‘deny the right of the Jewish people to self-determination’, within some borders, unspecified as what they might be. It is hard for me to comprehend how anyone could consider this relatively anodyne claim as unacceptable, let alone reject it as a current form of anti-Semitism, which it most certainly is.
This represents a slipping of the mask. Advocates of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism have long argued that all the fears of the working definition's opponents have been groundless by reference to a little preamble to the section aimed at protecting Israel from criticism and condemnation. Let's see the that bit again:
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, for example by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.

• Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

• Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (for example claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis.

• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

The EUMC Definition goes on to state that criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.
Israel advocates, and only Israel advocate, argue that this is simply a good faith way of establishing that if you say any of those things in a certain environment or discussion then, the could and context caveats would suggest that a given statement was not antisemitic whereas in another context the same thing would be antisemitic. So in what context could it not be considered antisemitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of a colonial settler state based on ethnic cleansing, segregationist laws and relentless violence? I can't think of any. I understand that it could well be construed as antisemitic to make the perfectly reasonable statement that the State of Israel simply has no right to exist or that Jews are simply not a legitimate case for self-determination but to make such statements directed at Jews because that would be holding all Jews collectively responsible for the establishing and maintaining of the State of Israel and, presumably all of the aforementioned behaviours required to establish and maintain said state. But I'm suspicious of whoever proposed and whoever supports this bogus definition. I want to know when or where they accept that it is not antisemitic to advocate the abolition of Jewish statehood.

Which brings me back to David-Hillel Ruben's letter, posted on Engage without criticism:

As a life long socialist and a member of the AUT/UCU for almost 42 years, I could not have imagined that anything could have made me resign from the union. I have grown accustomed to the UCU’s annual adoption of illegal Israel boycott motions. But my imagination was obviously limited: the official UCU rejection of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) working definition of anti-Semitism has accomplished just that. It has brought about my resignation from the union.
One part of that working definition rejected by the union stands out: it is anti-Semitic to ‘deny the right of the Jewish people to self-determination’, within some borders, unspecified as what they might be. It is hard for me to comprehend how anyone could consider this relatively anodyne claim as unacceptable, let alone reject it as a current form of anti-Semitism, which it most certainly is.
I know some people play all sorts of games with the concept of self-determination but the working definition makes it clear that "claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour" is an example of "denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination". And Professor Ruben cannot "comprehend how anyone could consider this relatively anodyne claim as unacceptable". Because it involves ethnic cleansing, stupid!

But this isn't about the stupidness of a professor, it is about the way antisemitism is being redefined not to protect Jews from racism but to protect a form of racism, zionism. The professor and Dr Hirsh have blown the gaff here. The assertion of a specifically Jewish right to self-determination is a red line that, among other things, the working definition insists must not be crossed. This line in the list exposes the caveats of "could" and "context" as the sham that they are and should arouse suspicions in any fair minded people being called upon to adopt the working definition as part of any anti-racist policy.

The Engage post goes on to highlight the refusal of the UCU to investigate "why people were resigning from the union citing antisemitism as a reason". But what's to investigate if they have made their reasoning clear, even if their reasoning is extremely unreasonable? There are or were people in the UCU who don't want solidarity with the Palestinians and don't want Israel criticised. They also want a working definition of antisemitism that is clearly aimed at stifling criticism of Israel to be adopted as policy by the union and possibly as law by states. Again I ask, what's to investigate?

June 20, 2011

Brian Haw brings a whole new meaning to Rest in Peace

Brian Haw died of lung cancer yesterday in Germany where he was being treated.

Here's the BBC:

Mr Haw, 62, set up a camp in London's Parliament Square in 2001 in protest against UK and US foreign policy.
In March 2011, a High Court ruling obtained by London's mayor forced him to move his camp on to the pavement.
In a statement posted on Mr Haw's website, his family said he had died on 18 June in Germany, where he had been receiving medical treatment.
They said Mr Haw, from Redditch, Worcestershire, passed away in his sleep in no pain.
A real fighter for peace.

June 16, 2011

What's the difference between Israeli citizenship and Jewish nationality?

Well I know a person can be a citizen of Israel and that internationally that means that a person has Israeli nationality but Israel distinguishes between citizenship and nationality.  Here's a Ha'aretz article on a man who believes he might be stripped of his "Jewish nationality" because of an interview he gave to the paper.
An Israeli citizen may have his classification as "Jewish" withdrawn by the Interior Ministry in the wake of a newspaper interview he gave. In an interview for the Family Affair section of Haaretz Magazine, in May, Itai Bar, a resident of Kibbutz Shoval in the south of the country, disclosed he wasn't Jewish.
Bar, 35, was asked by journalists Avner and Reli Abrahami to recount his family story for their weekly column. Bar's father, a Catholic, arrived at the kibbutz as a volunteer after the Six-Day War, where he met Bar's mother, the daughter of a Catholic mother and a Holocaust survivor father. Bar was born in Shoval and Hebrew is his native language. He mentioned in the interview that he is mistakenly described as Jewish in his ID card, but still serves as a "Shabbes goy" at the kibbutz dairy.
Three days ago, Bar arrived at the population registrar office in Be'er Sheva to obtain a document he needed. To his surprise, the clerk there told him his case was "blocked." He said that there was an alert about my nationality, following a report. I asked who reported it, and she said she couldn't tell me, but it might have something to do with the Haaretz article. From her I went to another clerk, who started asking me about my grandparents. I told her she was infringing upon my civil rights."
Later on, Bar found himself arguing with the deputy director of the office about his Jewishness. "She asked me if I was Jewish, and I said yes, I was circumcised and I celebrate the Jewish holidays."
The deputy director subsequently unlocked Bar's file to allow him to receive the document he came for, but warned him that his case was being forwarded to the Interior Ministry office in Jerusalem. When he pressed for the source of the information, he was told it came from the spokeswoman of the Interior Ministry.
The spokeswoman, Sabine Haddad, strongly denied yesterday she was the source of the information, and stressed that the process would not alter Bar's legal status in Israel.
She said that the spokesperson's office was charged with responding to media queries and preparing press clippings, not investigating people's Jewishness.
 So if it doesn't "alter Bar's legal status in Israel" what's it all about?

June 12, 2011

Kosminsky and the critics

A friend of mine sent me this youtube clip of Peter Kosminsky facing, you might say facing down, critics of his mini series, The Promise:

A late take on Kosminsky's The Promise

A mini series titled, The Promise, by Peter Kosminsky, aired on Channel 4 back in February this year.  I didn't hear or notice that much about it at the time but a Palestinian friend of mine mentioned that he liked it, I was asked on a blog whether I would condemn its anti-Israel bias (because I had mentioned a general mainstream media bias in favour of Israel) and I have seen some real anger expressed about it on pro-Israel blogs.  Eventually, over about two weeks, I watched the four parter on Channel 4 oD.

The story jumps forward and back through the main characters, a Palestine based British soldier called Len and his granddaughter, Erin, who uses his diary of his time in Palestine to explore the story surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel and to fulfill her grandfather's promise to a Palestinian chap he had befriended back then.

Well, it seems to be very well made. It's certainly up there with Dallas and Friends. The plot reminded me a bit of Zelig or Forrest Gump.  It relies heavily, almost entirely, on the most amazing coincidences.

The story begins with Erin considering going to Israel with her friend, a young Anglo-Israeli woman together with old Len suffering some hospitalising condition. It jumps back to Len being involved in and diarising the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Current TV drama is interwoven skilfully with old newsreel much like Zelig, in fairness, without the humour.  Au contraire, the footage of the dead in Belsen is chilling and provides the backdrop for Len writing of why Britain had gone to war. Then it jumps forward to Erin in Israel with her friend and the friend's parents who are clearly very wealthy.

Anyway, the plot takes Len from Belsen to Palestine.  If I hadn't seen the protests from zionist quarters and not knowing anything of Kosminsky's sympathies, I would have assumed the jump from Belsen to Palestine to be part of yet another zionist propaganda show.  Can't they satisfying themselves with news and documentary?  Well, it wasn't like that.  Poor old Len was very conflicted about the whole thing.

He had a liberal non-Sabra Jewish girlfriend.  She turned out to be an Irgunist. His unit also had an Arab chai wallah who Len befriends.

The coincidences come in thick and fast as Len gets caught up in everything everyone who follows Palestine knows about.  He is at the King David Hotel when it gets blown up.  He gets captured with the two British soldiers hanged by the Irgun.  He is at Deir Yassin when the Irgun (and the unmentioned rest) slaughter most of the villagers.  His, by then, ex-girlfriend is among the slaughterers.  She still loves Len.  Not sure if it's mutual.

Erin too gets caught up in a few things that those of us who follow what goes on know about.  She's there when settler kids attack schoolgirls in Hebron.  She remonstrates with Israeli soldiers for not intervening. She meets a Palestinian woman whose family protected Jews during the 1929 Hebron massacre.  She even manages a Rachel Corrie moment when an Israeli bulldozer comes to flatten the home of a suicide bomber's family in Gaza.

I can't really apologise for spoiling the plot because the past historical (if unfinished) side is so well known.  The story doesn't have that much in the way of nuance or intricacy.  It's actually a bit in yer face but it is very well made as far as I can tell. And it is good that someone troubled to dramatise some real historical and current issues in Palestine for a mass audience.  I read somewhere that all the portrayals of Jews are negative. That's not true.  Zionism is put under a spotlight (not a microscope) but zionism isn't the Jews and remember the programme practically starts in Bergen-Belsen.  All in all it's an entertaining tale but I can well see why Israel advocates are chalking this down as one of their failures.

So if you have some spare moments you might want to read this Guardian preview.  Or if you have a few hours you can watch the programme.

June 11, 2011

Engaging with Engage

South African Jewish Report has recently published a response to David Hirsh by Ran Greenstein. The exchange began with an article by an Alison Goldberg. It's buried in here somewhere. But it's not really the article or Ran Greenstein's response that interests me. It's Hirsh's response to the response together with Ran Greenstein's response to Hirsh's response. Got that?

Here's Hirsh, from Engage but presumably as published in SA Jewish Report:
RAN GREENSTEIN wants to get us bogged down in the detail of wording and of who said what. But what is important is whether we choose to embrace the politics of peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine; or whether we choose the politics of siding with one set of ardent nationalists in their war against the other.
Greenstein does not support a peace between Israel and Palestine. He insists instead that Israel and Palestine should be thought of as one divided people who are ruled over by an apartheid regime.
He wants to dismantle Israel, like the apartheid regime in South Africa was dismantled, and he proposes instead a regime of individual rights within a new state.
But Israel is a nation, the nation descended from those who were driven out of Europe, out of Russia and out of the Middle East by 20th century anti-Semitism.
Israel is not an apartheid regime, it is a life-raft state, and it will not allow itself to be dismantled. Given this fact, Ran’s plan for treating Israelis in the way that the apartheid regime was treated, can only be a programme for conquest. The conquest of Israel is, hopefully, impossible and would in any case, never lead to a democratic outcome.
It is quite wrong to tell Palestinians that Israel must be finally defeated before they can be free, because it is like telling them that they can never be free.
But Palestinians can be free. Even the most terrible and entrenched conflicts between nations come to an end. They don’t come to an end with the final defeat of one or the other, but with a peace agreement between the two.
President Barack Obama was right when he outlined the deal: an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and both nations to recognise the sovereignty of the other.
Greenstein’s “Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions” slogan tries to exclude Israelis, and only Israelis, from the cultural, academic, sporting and economic life of humanity.
It is war by other means, it is not peace and reconciliation. And such a politics of exclusion, aimed at the descendents of the Jews who have already been boycotted and pushed out, is a politics which is insufficiently sensitive to the history of anti-Semitism which not only hangs over Jews, but over us all.
Ran Greenstein, who has given up on Israelis, has despaired of building the Israeli peace movement, imagines that peace in his homeland can be built by demonising them here, and in the UK and around the world.
He thinks that anybody who disagrees with him should be denounced as supporters of apartheid.
Instead of the politics of anger and desperation, we should back those in both Israel and Palestine who want peace and who stand against the demonisation of the other.
David Hirsh
Goldsmiths College, University of London
Funnily enough Hirsh failed to link to what it was he was responding to and refused to publish Greenstein's response to his response. He simply linked to the SA Jewish Report with his letter in it.

Well it so happens that the South African Jewish Report has now published Ran Greenstein's response:
David Hirsh does not think that “”wording”” and “”who said what”” are important. This is curious for an academic who deals with little else. But words do matter: contrary to his claims, I support peace between Israel and Palestine, conceived as democratic, mutli-ethnic societies, which guarantee equal individual and collective rights to all their people. I said as much at the UJ seminar and in my letter to SA Jewish Report, to which he was responding.
If words (and reality) mattered to Hirsh, he would understand that ‘’dismantling’’ apartheid meant the creation of a democratic state in South Africa, not the destruction of white people. Not only do I not want to ‘’dismantle’’ Israeli Jews, but I wish for them to live long and prosper as equal citizens, together with their fellow residents of the land. Why does the spectre of equality and democracy haunt Hirsh?
The real challenge facing us is to find ways to reach that goal. Certainly not by using violence to attack civilians (a practice employed to a far greater extent, resulting in far greater destruction, by the state of Israel than by Palestinians). Rather, it is by waging non-violent campaigns, peaceful protests, legal challenges, educational initiatives and, yes, sanctions as well. These have been used in many cases and constitute one important peaceful tactic, among others.
Are Israelis singled out here? Hirsh seems unaware that his own country has imposed severe sanctions and used violent means of censure against numerous targets in the last two decades: PLO, Hamas, Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Serbia and, most recently, Libya and Syria, have been subject to sanctions and military campaigns far more aggressive and violent than Israel is likely ever to face. Israel has been singled out indeed, for receiving vast sums of military and financial aid that allow it to entrench the occupation, and diplomatic immunity by the USA for its acts of violence against civilians.
Instead of pursuing his campaign of manufactured hysteria and distortions against those working for justice and democracy, Hirsh could support the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who protest peacefully in Bil’in, Ni’ilin, Sheikh Jarrah, and elsewhere in Israel/Palestine. These young activists do not support one national group against another, but campaign for members of both to unite in order to stop oppression and create a secure democratic future for all. This is my goal as well, and should be supported by all progressive people wherever they are.
This link to Jews for Justice for Palestinians is more reliable as the SA Jewish Report updates its letters page every week.  By the way, that means that Engage is currently linking to Ran Greenstein's withering response that Hirsh apparently didn't want his readers to see.

Of course Dr Hirsh has been mentioned in another dispatch by Antony Lerman, whose post on the demise of the Yale factory for the confusion of anti-zionism with antisemitism I linked to earlier. Here is a comment exchange between former American Jewish Committee employee, Ben Cohen and his host, Antony Lerman.

Ben Cohen:
 I specifically said that YIISA published some excellent papers and ran an exciting seminar series!
And here's Lerman:
you provide as your first example of ‘did produce some’—again, a comment that sounds like you’re really saying ‘did produce some, but not very much’—the Hirsh paper, which I briefly criticise in my post. If that paper had been submitted to me by an undergraduate, I would have given it back with the following instructions: ‘Start again, curb your verbosity, cut out the value-laden attacks on people for whom you clearly have an animus, work out precisely what questions you want to ask and proceed on the basis of a clearly worked-out structure. And no more than 30 pages maximum. There are some good ideas here, but they’re just not thought through.’
So the best of times and the worst of times for Dr Hirsh. On the one hand he is getting a bit of publicity. On the other hand, er, he is getting a bit of publicity.


BRICUP being the British Committee for Universities for Palestine.

Here's the letter:

London, 4 June 2011

Dear Paul Simon,

We know you’re no stranger to controversy. When you recorded parts of ‘Graceland’ in apartheid South Africa with black South African musicians, you were publicly criticised by the liberation movement, the ANC, and anti-apartheid organisations, for breaking the cultural boycott.

At the time, you told the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid that you yourself had ‘refused to perform in South Africa’. And since anti-apartheid icons Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela played in the live ‘Graceland’ tour (even though there were anti-apartheid demonstrators at some of the venues), you clearly convinced key members of the anti-apartheid movement that you were not colluding with, or intending in any way to promote, the apartheid regime.

We’re struggling to see any carry-over from this situation to your forthcoming concert in Ramat Gan, Israel, on July 21. You’ve played in Israel before, so perhaps this event doesn’t seem that important to you – just a one-night add-on to your US and European tour (and maybe that’s why the Ramat Gan date doesn’t figure in the tour list on your website).

But if you hope this concert in Israel can be about music, not about politics, that’s not how your promoter, Marcel Avraham, sees things. In July last year he told the Israeli online news site, Ynetnews.com, that he does shows in Israel ‘as a mission, a sense of Zionism, not just to make a buck’.

Whether you intend it or not, your show in Tel Aviv will make a political statement. And Avraham is absolutely clear what he believes that statement to be. He told Ynetnews that Elton John, Metallica and Rod Stewart, all under pressure to cancel their shows in Israel, had approached him ‘with questions. “My answer to them was very simple. Listen”, I told them. “Israel is a small country still fighting for its existence. The Arabs want to throw us to the sea. If you want to come and lend us a shoulder, by all means, we’ll be delighted”.’

This hackneyed scenario – small beleaguered state teetering on the edge of extinction -- won’t wash any more. Israel’s army has dominated the region for the past 40-something years, and the people who are clearly and evidently ‘fighting for existence’ are the Palestinians.

So -- are you willing to ‘lend a shoulder’ to daily land-grabs and water-grabs and the inexorable squeezing and stifling of Palestinian lives and hopes? Are you willing to ‘lend a shoulder’ to illegal settlements and illegal military checkpoints, to detention without trial, torture in prison, and the innumerable daily cruelties, small and large, aimed at making Palestinian existence intolerable and driving people out?

If you don’t support these actions by successive Israeli governments (documented in comprehensive detail by human rights organisations like Amnesty International), and if you don’t want to appear to condone Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity (see, for example, the UN Goldstone report on the Gaza onslaught in 2008-9), then we believe you should want to cancel the Ramat Gan concert.

Your choice is simple: occupier vs occupied; ethnic cleanser vs ethnically cleansed; oppressor vs oppressed. You can’t avoid it. Please follow the logic of your opposition to South African apartheid. ‘Strong wind destroy our home’ – it’s happening to the Palestinians every day. Please lend a shoulder to them.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Haim Bresheeth
Mike Cushman
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

PS: We’ve just noticed that the liner notes of your recent album, ‘So Beautiful or So What’, were written by Elvis Costello. You probably know that Elvis Costello cancelled the concerts he was scheduled to give in Israel last year as ‘a matter of instinct and conscience’. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) said Costello’s decision was ‘exceptionally brave and principled…a victory for the ethical responsibilities of international cultural figures’. When you cancel, you’ll be in good company. Please don’t go.

Antony Lerman on the improvement in antisemitism research

Here is Antony Lerman's take on the axing of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA). I must say I am jealous of his headline: Antisemitism Research Just Improved: Yale’s ‘Initiative’ for Studying Antisemitism is Axed.
For some years now I have argued that the academic study of contemporary antisemitism has been badly compromised by the growing politicisation of the subject. Back in September 2008, in an op-ed piece for Ha’aretz, I wrote:
Practically the entire business of studying and analyzing current anti-Semitism has been hijacked and debased by people lacking any serious expertise in the subject, whose principal aim is to excoriate Jewish critics of Israel and to promote the ‘anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism’ equation.
A number of institutions, supposedly tasked with undertaking serious research on antisemitism, have contributed to this situation. One of the foremost of these is the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA), established in 2006, and I had it in my sights when I wrote my op-ed.

Lerman goes on to list some of the organisations and individuals that have "badly compromised" the study of contemporary antisemitism.
Unsurprisingly, organizations that have contributed to the debasement of serious antisemitism research are not happy. The Anti-Defamation League’s National Director, Abe Foxman, said:
Especially at a time when anti-Semitism continues to be virulent and anti-Israel parties treat any effort to address issues relating to anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as illegitimate, Yale’s decision is particularly unfortunate and dismaying . . . it leaves the impression that the anti-Jewish forces in the world achieved a significant victory.
The American Jewish Committee said it was surprised and saddened by the decision. AJC’s Executive Director, David Harris, warned: ‘If Yale now leaves the field, it will create a very regrettable void’.
Yup, the ADL and AJC are big hitters in the field of "debasement of serious antisemitism research".

After a little detour to consider, by way of a hysterical howl of protest at YIISA's demise from the New York Post's, why YIISA has been ditched:

Foxman and Harris were relatively measured in comparison with the report in the New York Post headed ‘Yale’s gift to antisemitism’. The writer claimed that Yale ‘almost certainly [decided on closure] because YIISA refused to ignore the most virulent, genocidal and common form of Jew-hatred today: Muslim anti-Semitism.’ She also added: ‘Some suggest that Yale feels it can act with impunity because, earlier this spring, one of YIISA’s most powerful backers died; without his money and influence, the school can rid itself of a politically inconvenient nuisance.’
YIISA’s funders are not revealed by the institution so it’s possible that closure may have something to do with the withdrawal of funds, though the story may just be a rumour set running by those who suspect an anti-Israel agenda at work. But whatever the specific reason, it was obvious from YIISA’s inception that it would promote the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’, focus heavily on criticism of Israel and prioritise the issue of Muslim antisemitism.
And then back down to the debasement:
Among the first papers presented at YIISA seminars were those by Dr David Hirsh (2005), a sociologist at Goldsmiths, University of London and founder of Engage, a website dedicated to opposing the boycott of Israel, Professor Shalom Lappin (2007), professor of computational linguistics at Kings College, University of London, and Professor Irwin Cotler (2006), professor of law at McGill University and a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. All three are well-known for their highly politicised approaches to current antisemitism.
Hirsh’s paper was essentially a continuation of his political battles with the anti-Zionist left over the issue of boycotting Israel, which he claimed was an expression of antisemitism. Lappin’s academic work is not in the field of antisemitism yet he was regarded by YIISA as a proper person to present a paper that linked modern anti-Israel sentiment in the UK with centuries-old English antisemitism and claimed that the political class in contemporary Britain had abandoned the Jews – and this was written at a time when, in Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government, Jews in Britain had never had a more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel national political leadership. Cotler has probably done more than anyone to popularize the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’ having been responsible for coining the phrase ‘Israel is the Jew among the nations’. His paper, effectively an exercise in sophisticated hasbara (propaganda for Israel), likened the current situation to the 1930s and developed a framework for identifying forms of criticism of Israel as antisemitic.

The director of YIISA, Dr Charles Small, an academic with little experience of antisemitism research, had clearly put down a marker that Israel was going to be the central concern of YIISA.....Not all who have given seminar papers or lectures at YIISA have been quite as blatantly partisan as my three first examples, though one or two have been worse. (A list of some of those exemplifying YIISA’s approach can be found at the foot of this post.*)
Here's the list:
Some of the individuals who spoke at YIISA and are representative of its politicised orientation: Anne Bayefsky, Barry Kosmin, Edward Kaplan, Michael Oren, Emanuele Ottolenghi, Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Dina Porat, Matthias Kuntzel, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Ruh Wisse, Gerald Steinberg, Alan Dershowitz, Hillel Neuer, Kenneth Levin, Richard Landes, Melanie Phillips, Shimon Samuels, Robert Wistrich.
So how good is the news of the demise of YIISA?
The wider issue raised by YIISA’s imminent closure is whether it’s a watershed moment representing a rolling back of the politicisation of academic antisemitism research. I doubt very much whether the UK Universities and College Union’s decision to distance itself from the EUMC ‘working definition’ of antisemitism can be linked to it, although the vote brought to public attention that the EUMC’s successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency, has in effect dropped the definition – a potentially damaging blow to the lifespan of the ‘working definition’.
Hmm, end of YIISA and ditching of the EUMC working definition - good linkage!
More significant, although it’s not in the US, is the example set by the establishment of thePears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London.  Its Director, Professor David Feldman, an eminent expert on Jewish history, is taking a rigorously objective academic approach to his task, while not in any way ignoring the complex interconnections between contemporary antisemitism, Israel, Islam, Islamophobia, racism in general and policy questions. Feldman has won plaudits across the academic world for his stance, which gives the lie to the arguments of Cohen and Glick that antisemitism cannot be studied dispassionately and value-free. And while the Pears Institute is not in the US, the international nature of the field of contemporary antisemitism research means that what Feldman does could have a very significant impact beyond the shores of the UK.  With YIISA out of the picture and Pears at Birkbeck looking very secure, some sanity may now return to the discipline.
I say ‘may’ because the combined forces of those institutions and groups which have a vested interest in maintaining the ‘new antisemitism’-based politicised approach to the subject are very strong. YIISA was important, but the ship sails on with the Israeli government and the entire political right-wing in Israel blowing a powerful wind into its sails. And it’s not impossible that American Jewish funders will try to persuade Yale to change its mind, or get the money together to transfer YIISA to another institution, or set it up as in independent body.
Finally Lerman gives the last word to Jerry Haber, the Magnes Zionist, who he finds in similar celebratory mood over the axing of YIISA:
I am by no means alone in having smelled a rat when YIISA came on the scene....The Magnes Zionist blog also knew the score. In a post on 9 JuneJerry Haber cuts to the quick:
The moral of this story? Take an important phenomenon which is worthy of study and have it hijacked by people with an ideological agenda, who organize conferences that revel in Islamaphobia and rightwing Zionism, mixing mediocre academics and non-academics with serious scholars, all of whom have axes to grind – in short, trivialize anti-Semitism in order to silence critics of Israel – and sooner or later, God willing, real academics will write it off as an embarrassment.
So, good news for now. Within a couple of weeks of each other, Yale and the UK's Universities and Colleges Union have dealt major blows to zionism's antisemitism industry.

June 10, 2011

Another blow to the antisemitism industry

The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) is to close for lack of interest and, apparently because of quality issues. I first read about this in an Engage posting of a Yale News article by David Burt. Googling YIISA I can't find much on this from any side that doesn't support the scrapping of the 5 year old "initiative". (How long can an initiative remain an initiative?).

The David Burt article ever slightly exaggerates when it claims that the "decision to end the program has met criticism from groups across the nation that show support for Jewish people". He names but two of these groups that "show support for the Jewish people", The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. I can't see much evidence of any other groups that "show support for the Jewish people" taking issue with the ending of the initiative. And I can't find any primary or secondary source for the decision itself. Maybe there's something on some Yale site and to be honest I haven't looked very hard.

But Engage carries a link to an article by Ben Cohen published on both Harry's Place (a bit of a zionist hate site if you ask me) and Pajamas Media. So let's see what Ben has to say:

Here, in essence, is what Yale University told me on June 7, after I contacted its communications office to ask why an institute dedicated to the study of antisemitism had been shut down: some of our best friends are Jews.
“As you may be aware,” Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy wrote in an email, “Yale has long been a leader in Judaic research, teaching and collections. Yale’s Judaic Studies program has outstanding faculty members who conduct path-breaking research and inspire graduate and undergraduate students who choose from scores of courses and may earn degrees. The University library’s Judaica Collection is one of the strongest in the Western Hemisphere. The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies is a historic treasure and exceptional scholarly resource.”
All well and good. But why, I asked Conroy, was this information pertinent to the closure of the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), just five years after it opened its doors? “Yale has certainly made, and is making a contribution…through scholarly endeavors related to Jewish civilization, history and contemporary thought and issues,” he replied. “I point it out to add context.”
I have no doubt that Conroy made this statement with the best of intentions. However, his words reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the very phenomenon which YIISA will no longer be able to probe. For any institution that invokes its munificence towards Jewish civilization, in answer to a question about its commitment to scholarly research on antisemitism, clearly doesn’t grasp what antisemitism is and what it represents.
One of the pitfalls of the contemporary antisemitism debate is that there is too much focus on intent.
Yup, we're in antisemitic in effect if not in intent territory. Ok, let's accept that. Does that still require a separate interdisciplinary initiative? Can antisemitism really not be dealt with by some of the "best friends" that Ben feels so slighted by.

But what is Yale saying about YIISA?
If scholarly enquiry into antisemitism is, then, a legitimate pursuit, what was the problem with YIISA? According to Yale, YIISA was an academic dud. Professor Donald Green, the director of Yale’s Institute for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS), said that YIISA’s papers failed to excite the interest of  “top-tier journals in behavioral science, comparative politics, or history.” Students were not attracted to its programs. Contrast that, Green went on, with another ISPS program “that straddles social science and humanities, Agrarian Studies, [and] has produced dozens of path-breaking scholarly books and essays.”
It's an "academic dud" and not very popular among students.  That seems fair enough  but not to Ben:

This is an unfair comparison. Few scholars will bat an eyelid at the mention of Agrarian Studies, whereas the idea of studying contemporary antisemitism — the “historical” kind is a little more acceptable — will meet with howls of disapproval in countless political science departments. Just by existing, YIISA was going against the grain. In that kind of environment, getting your papers published was never going to be easy.
YIISA, in point of fact, did produce some important scholarly work during its short life-span, including three outstanding papers by David Hirsh (on anti-Zionism and antisemitism), Bassam Tibi (on the Islamization of antisemitism), and Yaakov Kirschen, a.k.a the cartoonist “Dry Bones” (on antisemitism and ‘coded images’). Its regular seminars featured some of the leading thinkers on the subject, like Moishe Postone and Gregory Stanton. Those in the YIISA community with whom I spoke emphasized that they wanted to do even more, citing lack of resources as the main reason why they didn’t.
So why didn't they get the resources. Did they ask anyone and if so, who? We'll never know but Ben has only been warming up.

He knows the real reason for the closure and it was nothing to do with academia.

This is where the politics comes in. In my correspondence with Thomas Conroy, I pointed out that YIISA’s 2010 conference, which extensively examined antisemitic manifestations in Iran and in the wider Arab/Muslim world, had provoked angry responses from, among others, Maen Areikat, the PLO’s Washington representative, who ranted about “anti-Arab extremism and hate-mongering.” “Yale doesn’t make decisions about programs (or individual scholars) based on outside criticism,” Conroy told me.
Even if Conroy is correct here, Yale’s decisions resonate far beyond its ivory towers. It beggars belief that Yale’s academics did not pause to consider that closing YIISA would be interpreted by Areikat — a man who recycles the idiocy that Arabs cannot be antisemites because they are “Semites” — as a vindication of his attack. Moreover, Areikat was not alone. Among those joining the anti-YIISA clamor were Philip Weiss, the pea-brained anti-Zionist blogger sponsored by The Nation magazine, and his sidekick Ben White, a frankly creepy figure who couches his antisemitism in the language of Christian liberation theology. After the YIISA conference, this duo — of all people!! — whined about the “besmirching of Yale University by the presence of this festival of propaganda.”
Of course, were Yale to organize an academic conference on the subject of “Israeli apartheid,” Weiss, White et al. would be salivating at the prospect. For critics like these, academic integrity is only relevant when it boosts their argument.
Any dispassionate survey of the social sciences reveals that there is precious little “value-free” research going on anywhere. I only have to look at my own alma mater, the London School of Economics, which, inter alia, has accepted funding from the murderous Gadhafi regime, and gave the clownish Naomi Klein a fellowship. Or I could venture into upper Manhattan, where Joseph Massad’s Columbia University classes on Middle East politics are their own “festival of propaganda.” The point is, why pick on YIISA alone?
They run their propaganda, why can't we run ours? But the fact remains, YIISA was considered an academic dud.

Actually I don't think we've heard the last of this.  If the ADL and AJC are so concerned then perhaps they can fund the thing or find someone who can but meanwhile this, together with the recent UCU congress decision to ignore the EUMC bogus definition of antisemitism, is another blow to the antisemitism industry. We should be pleased about that.

June 09, 2011

The Jews want to leave Israel, apparently

I’ve just read the latest claim about hordes of Jews wanting to leave Israel. It’s by Franklin Lamb and is a useful article, since it contains the entire gamut of reasons for Israeli Jews to leave: ambient fear, lack of roots, religious fanatics taking over, corrupt leaders, centripetal forces in Israeli society, Russians returning home, Jewish values being corrupted, guilt over colonialism and so on. The article has been eagerly circulated around the web and is clearly something many pro-Palestine activists would like to be true. However it’s not true. More than that, if we see the claim as a form of wish fulfilment, it hides a host of ideological positions, some benign and others malign, but all unhelpful.

False Claims
First let’s deal with the factual accuracy of the claim. There is a kernel of truth in that Israel’s victimhood ideology has created a sense of fearfulness and insecurity among Israelis. Also, Israel is becoming a nastier place for Jews as well as non-Jews, something that has an effect on migration. Since the year 2000, net emigration (i.e. the total of emigration over immigration) is about 10,000 a year, give or take. That figure includes Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, pushed out of the country. It also includes many leftist Israelis, many ordinary folks only too ready to aver how crazy Israel is and so on.

It is indeed useful to note that Israel is no longer a country of immigration. There is a real story here which undercuts Zionism – the fact that diaspora Jews are less likely to commit aliyah, another indication of their gradual distancing from Israel. But this lack of immigration does not mean that emigration is central for Israel. I speak as someone coming from a country (Ireland) where emigration is running at over three times the rate of Israel’s and yet nobody predicts that Ireland will internally implode (or rather, emigration won’t cause this implosion).

The two statistics that are regularly raised to show how little Israelis like Israel are the figures for multiple passports and Russian return migration. According to a survey Lamb quotes, 70% of Israelis have applied for or are considering applying for a foreign passport. Let’s leave aside how much this sounds like the type of forced question one asks in order to show that yes, there really is a crisis. For even if we accept that many Israelis do hold multiple passports – so what? In an era of increasing globalisation and growing border controls, a second passport makes sense and doesn’t necessarily indicate detachment.

The second issue is Russian-Jewish return migration to Russia from Israel, which is apparently about 22%. This sounds about right – that is, slightly above average for the usual rate of return migration. For instance, nineteenth century return migration from US to Europe was between ten and twenty percent. The combination of limited opportunities in Israel and an improving Russian economy adds to the usual migrant difficulties in moving to produce this not hugely noteworthy figure. In other words, there really isn’t much to see here.

And yet the Lamb article is only the latest one to circulate around pro-Palestine circles, asserting pending mass Jewish emigration from Israel. Since this doesn’t seem hugely likely, the question then moves to why do we wish this claim to be true.

False Hopes
One can’t help recalling, being delicate about it, the unoriginality of this particular wish. We can all, if we cast our minds back, recall a movement which said that the inhabitants of Palestine didn’t belong there and didn’t have proper roots in the Land. They were as sand across the desert and all they’d need was the gentlest puff of wind for them to leave and make way for the rightful inhabitants of the Land.

However, the veiled ethnic cleansing element to the claim that Jews are leaving – insofar as it exists - remains secondary. It is more plausible to see these claims of Israeli Jews voting with their feet as a way of demonstrating how bad Israel is and how wrong Zionism is, while at the same time absolving ordinary Israelis for the situation. After all, they’re leaving. This is not so much an anti-Israeli stance as a pro-Israeli-and-anti-Israel position. Or rather is a means of reconciling the two elements in this position.

I’ve a lot of sympathy with this attitude. We've probably all made the claim that Israeli society is so messed up that even Israeli Jews are rejecting it. Whenever we trumpet the occasional voices of Israeli resistance as being the voice of ‘real’ Israel, we’re doing this. This is nothing more than the necessary over-optimism of people seeking change. Equally, pointing out that the edifice of Israeli racism is collapsing gives people hope to continue the struggle.

Mass emigration would indicate both what a mess Israel is and also undermine a central tenet of Zionism - the solidity of Israeli love of the Land. Since Zionists defend any landgrab, dispossession and exclusion of non-Jews by referring to this ‘natural’ link between Israeli Jews and the Land, there is something delightful in pointing out the tenuousness of this link. I certainly feel a smug and ironic sense of satisfaction in seeing how Israeli Jews are becoming more and more like other diaspora Jews with their multiple passports and so on. Yet even though it is useful to undermine the ‘blood and soil’ narratives of Zionism by noting how unattached to Israel Israelis actually are, it remains nonsense to claim that Israelis are going to en masse up sticks and go. It gives false hope.

As a claim, it also does what Gabriel has accused activists of often doing – wishfully talking about how unsustainable oppression is and waiting for the future to happen, rather than bringing it about themselves. Really, if Israel is so terrible that even the racial elite are leaving, we can just wait for the process to play itself out. A counter-argument is that this fantasy may lead to intensifying boycott actions as much as to quietism. However, building our work on such glaringly false claims discredits this work and is a recipe for future disillusionment. This remains true whether the claim appeals to base hopes – that the Other just leaves; or romanticised hopes – that Israelis are so good that uniquely among colonising people they realise what they are doing is bad, and so will go.

So let’s say it now. Israelis are going to stay in Israel/Palestine. No doubt some will leave should Israel/Palestine become a democratic state, but the present sickness of the Israeli state should not, cannot be measured in wishful hopes that the racial elite will sicken of it all and leave. It should rather be countered by offering a vision where along with refugee return, all can stay in equality.

June 08, 2011

Fuad: fear of a BDS Europe

From Ha'aretz, June 6:

"Listen, Bibi," MK Benjamin [Fuad] Ben-Eliezer (Labor ) growled, "I congratulate you on your hug from Congress, but it will not take us off the path to confrontation. Our situation in Europe is very bad. President Obama said everything we wanted him to say. Now you have to announce that Israel will vote for a Palestinian state in the UN this September ... As a former industry and trade minister, I tell you: The markets are closing. We will suffer a devastating economic blow."

& from May 15, from the Israeli tech business publication Calcalist, as translated by the Alternative Information Center:

“We are quickly turning into South Africa” noted Idan Ofer to the Israeli paper Calcalist, a prominent Israeli player in international ventures and future technologies. “The economic damage in the wake of boycott and sanctions will be felt by every family in Israel. The top percentiles, members of the middle class and first and foremost the distressed classes,” he added.

Together with Yaakov Peri, the former head of Israel’s General Security Services (GSS) and Dani Gilerman, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Ofer initiated the meeting of some 80 of Israel’s most prominent businessmen.

“Global business provide us with heightened senses and in recent months we are experiencing signs of substantial erosion in the legitimacy of the state of Israel, stated Ofer. “If in the past the community of business people tended to desist from taking a position in relation to the political process, today’s situation obligates us to act in defence of the Israeli economy. In an age in which exports represent almost 50% of the gross domestic product, damage to Israel’s international position will immediately endanger jobs and households in Israel.” Therefore, said Ofer, “we must act with all the means at our disposal to call on the government of Israel to initiate a political initiative that will prevent any possibility of the imposition of a boycott on Israel.”

Dani Gillerman, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said “the morning after the expected recognition of a Palestinian state, a dramatic and painful process of South Africanisation of the state of Israel will commence. The economic quiet existing today in Israel is illusionary, and is very likely to explode immediately following the declaration. I continue even today to receive messages from senior Palestinian officials that the Palestinian side prefers a peace agreement over a unilateral move. Therefore, the (Israeli) prime minister must initiate a real political process which will allow this, and prevent a catastrophe from an Israeli perspective.”

June 06, 2011

Cross with Brian Haw

Brian Haw and some camp followers have hung in for a long time at Parliament Square to protest wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, in Palestine, now on Libya. Well, it's really a protest against war in general now. Many methods have been used to try to get rid of Brian Haw but now it looks like the end is nigh.

Here's The Independent from a few days ago:
Brian Haw's anti-war protest camp has dominated Parliament Square for 10 years, cut off from curious pedestrians by the busy lanes of traffic that surround it.
Now Westminster City Council wants to change that by installing a pedestrian crossing. Although they claim their intention is merely to make it easier for Londoners and tourists to access the square, its creation is also likely to result in the eviction of Mr Haw and the protesters gathered around him.
In March, a High Court ruling obtained by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson forced Mr Haw to move his camp from the grass on the square to the pavement.
Now the council, which is responsible for the pavement, is seeking to repeal his right to sleep there too – by establishing that he and his fellow protesters are "proving an obstruction to the footway" and acting as a "hindrance" to pedestrians. Mr Haw, a carpenter from Worcestershire, set up his camp in 2001 and remained there until September last year, when he was flown to Germany to be treated for lung cancer.
Well now there are two letters protesting the move against the peace camp:
So it looks like a pedestrian crossing will spell the end for Brian Haw and his peace camp (report, 3 June)?
This is a great shame because, even for those not directly associated with his cause, the camp provides a important (and colourful) focus for our consciences in stark contrast to all-pervasive advertising which dominates the rest of London aggressively encouraging us to indulge in "the latest gadgets, cheap flights and various forms of fast food".
In my view, we could do well to have a little more "conscience" and a lot less "stuff". Indeed, Councillor Colin Barrow mentions, "We of course support the right to protest and will continue to do so [...]". If this is the case, why not lift the ban on protests within a half-mile radius of Parliament Square?
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany
When I first visited London after moving back here from America, I was delighted by the sight of Brian Haw's protest camp in Parliament Square. What a lesson, for tourists from China or even America, in the tolerance that ornaments a free society.
How disillusioning to learn that our society, too, has set over itself humourless and narrow-minded repressors such as the Mayor of London and the Westminster council ("Pedestrian crossing may spell the end for Westminster peace camp", 3 June).
Guy Ottewell
Lyme Regis, Dorset
It's been a remarkable protest. Still it ain't over til it's over.