January 29, 2012

Classic case of hypocrisy?

Well, classical really.  Apparently the classical conductor, Christoph von Dohnányi is lined up to perform with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.  Here is an appeal to von Dohnányi from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine:

Dear Christoph von Dohnányi,
We were impressed to read that last October you cancelled several appearances as conductor with the Hungarian State Opera, in protest at appointments made by the mayor to the New Theatre in Budapest.   You were quoted as saying that you did not want to appear in a city ‘whose mayor entrusted the direction of a theatre to two known anti-Semites of the extreme right’.
 We share your alarm at the growing power of racist and authoritarian parties in the Hungarian state, and we salute you for the stand you have taken.   But we‘re also interested to see that you actively support the withdrawal of cultural engagement as a means of expressing political and moral outrage.   Please allow us to suggest that moral and political considerations might therefore argue against your appearances this coming April as guest conductor with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
 Leave aside for the time being the painful fact that between 1947 and 1949 more than half the Palestinian population was driven out of what became Israel, and has never been allowed to return (many historians, including Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe, have documented this; and then there is this old man, Amnon Neumann, describing on film exactly how his Palmach unit got Palestinians to leave).
 Leave aside for the moment the illegal military occupation of remaining Palestinian land since 1967, even though every day, dunum by dunum, it removes Palestinians from their land and abuses their rights (for example, the Guardian newspaper has just reported the systematic mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons).
Please look at one event that has occurred since the start of this year.
On 11 January 2012 the Israeli Supreme Court decided that marriage to an Israeli citizen does not give Palestinians from the Occupied Territories or elsewhere the right to reside with their spouses inside Israel.   These people, and their children, are now liable to be expelled.   Articulating the court’s majority opinion, Justice Asher Grunis said, ‘Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide’.   Presumably István Csurka, whose role in the New Theatre in Budapest you understandably object to, might voice similar ethno-nationalist sentiments in relation to the presence of Jews and Roma in Hungary (and according to the Anti-Defamation League, he has done so, many times).   
Our argument is that racism is indivisible.   If one is outraged by the presence in power of racists in one place, one has to be outraged by their exercise of power elsewhere too.   Israeli poet Yitzhak Laor says the Israeli Supreme Court decision is motivated by the desire to ‘maintain a Jewish majority…The looming expulsion of thousands will be carried out with the silent agreement of enlightened members of society [for whom] maintaining a Jewish majority is an ideological common denominator’.
Some of those ‘enlightened’ members of society will be sitting in your concerts, Christoph von Dohnányi, enjoying your interpretation of Schumann and Mendelssohn.   Meanwhile, says Laor, ‘the expulsion of women and children from their homes will be carried out by a state that has never held Arabs to be equal before the law’.
We could suggest further reading – this account of the harassment and dispossession of the Bedouin in the Negev – Israeli citizens, but not Jews.   This interview with Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, who says: ‘Jewishness here means Zionism, not Judaism.   It is misleading to talk about a Jewish and democratic state; it is a Zionist state…To choose Zionism at the expense of democracy is now legitimate; you are defending the Jewish state’. 
We applaud the good example you have set by withdrawing from your concerts at the Hungarian State Opera.   We respectfully suggest that consistency should lead you to do the same with regard to the IPO.   Please don’t let those ‘enlightened’ members of Israeli society continue to believe that their racism is tolerable and excusable because it’s directed at Palestinians.   Please don’t go.
Yours sincerely,
Professor Haim Bresheeth
Mike Cushman
Professor Adah Kay
Professor David Pegg
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead
I hope he heeds the call.

January 28, 2012

Gove gave what to who and why?

This is weird. Harry's Place is very worked up about an article in The Guardian which they are suggesting shows insensitivity on Holocaust Memorial Day (yesterday).  The Guardian article says that the UK's Education Minister, Michael Gove, awarded a £2 m grant to the Community Security Trust (CST), a zionist group mostly funded by Gerald Ronson supposedly to provide security for Jewish premises, schools, shuls, etc.

Here's HP, under the headline, The Guardian’s Holocaust Memorial Day Surprise:
The Guardian has celebrated Holocaust Memorial Day by running a “gotcha” piece which implies that Michael Gove MP improperly provided government money to the Community Security Trust Michael Gove, the education secretary, awarded £2m of public money to an organisation that he promoted as an adviser for four years.
The education secretary personally made the decision to give taxpayers’ money to an organisation to fund better security at Jewish schools. Gove has promoted the Community Security Trust(CST) as an adviser since 2007.
Documents obtained by the Guardian show that Gove personally wrote to the trust confirming that the education department was awarding the money to it. He issued a public statement saying that he had “secured the funding” to the trust.
Richard Benson, the trust’s chief executive, replied to Gove twice thanking him for his “personal commitment” to providing the funding. Benson’s letter lists Gove as a member of its advisory board, along with more than 50 others.
The minister has taken a strong stand against antisemitism. However, questions are being asked over whether he should have taken any role in awarding the money to the organisation.

The Guardian article, according to its history, appeared in yesterday's print edition but it was updated subsequently to take into account the fact that the CST claims it was only distributing the money.  This paragraph was inserted:
All the money is distributed by the Community Security Trust to the schools which then employ the security guards. As the trust's role is essentially administrative, none of the money is retained by the trust or pays for any of the trust's work.
And the amendment is mentioned at the bottom of the online article thus:
This article was amended on 27 January 2012. The original may have implied that the Community Security Trust retained cash or employed school security guards.
Now if you scroll back up you will see that in the online article as copied by HP there is a link to the ministerial announcement.  Here it is again. And here's how the Department for Education announced the funding:

Education Secretary Michael Gove today confirmed up to £2 million to fund tighter security measures in Jewish faith schools. 
Community Security Trust (CST), a charity working to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in the UK, will receive revenue funding for the extra measure of security guards at 39 Jewish voluntary-aided faith schools across England. 
Parents of children at these schools currently pay around £1.6 million a year out of their own pockets, along with the CST providing £400,000, to ensure their children have a school environment safe from any potential anti-semitic or racist threats. 
Schools are responsible for funding general security measures such as fencing, gates and CCTV out of their main school budget. However, following assessments obtained by the CST, the extra security provided by guards in place at Jewish faith schools helps ensure pupils and staff remain safe. 
Confirming the funding on the last day of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, Michael Gove said: 
Faith schools make a fantastic contribution to our education system and none more so than Jewish faith schools, which teach children the importance of ethos, values and a belief in social justice. 
Children and staff at these schools should feel safe at school and able to learn in an environment free from any anti-semitic or racist threats. That is why I have secured funding of up to £2 million for 2010-11 to be made to the 39 schools via the Community Security Trust. 
The first payment of £650,000 will be paid in arrears for the autumn 2010 term, with up to £2 million funding being provided for 2010-11, subject to further evaluation. 
Richard Benson, Chief Executive of Community Security Trust, said:
CST is grateful to the Secretary of State for recognising the importance of security provision at state-funded Jewish schools, and for the time he and his Department have spent assessing the problem and constructing a viable solution. We will work with the Department for Education and the Jewish school sector to ensure that the funding for school security is distributed efficiently and according to need. 
Joshua Rowe, Chair of Trustees at King David Schools in Manchester, welcomed the news: 
What a wonderful Chanukah present for the whole Jewish community. We hugely appreciate the support the Secretary of State for Education and the Government will now offer – to ensure that our schools and pupils receive the protection they require and deserve.
There's no mention of the rather technical issue of who handles the money or who is employed by whom. The fact is that The Guardian reported pretty much what appeared in the departmental statement together with a criticism of the fact that Gove has been an advisor to the CST. The article doesn't even mention the fact that some of the CST's reporting on antisemitism is, at best, controversial and that many of us see its role as defending and promoting zionism rather than protecting Jews.

Neither The Guardian article nor the Education Department's statement nor HP mention that Michael Gove describes himself as a "proud zionist", though surely this could be considered relevant. The Guardian article might also have asked if there are any strings attached to the allocation of funds by the CST but it didn't.

In other words, this is an HP rant about nothing. The Guardian reported what Gove's department reported with the additional information that Gove has been an adviser to the group to whom the funding was being given. And what did HP add to the Education Department and The Guardian reports?  Well, it reported the fact that yesterday, apart from being Friday 27 January 2012, was Holocaust Memorial Day. And how did Harry's Place "celebrate" Holocaust Memorial Day? By reporting what The Guardian reported, by lamenting the passing of some blogs and looking forward to the closure of The Guardian. In other words the only mention of Holocaust Memorial Day at Harry's Place on the day itself was in a piece decrying The Guardian for a straightforward factual report.

UPDATE: The Guardian article has now reappeared in Saturday's edition. Curiously there is no mention of this in the "article history" to the online edition which is still dated Friday 27 January 2012.

January 26, 2012

Abbas notices that peace process isn't happening

Wow! I've heard many times that Abbas got a doctorate for denying the holocaust so he won't be getting one for stating the bleedin' obvious, but he certainly deserves one this time; possibly more so than last time.

Here's Ha'aretz:
The time frame that the Palestinians have allowed for talks with Israel in Amman under Jordanian auspices expires on Thursday. According to diplomatic sources associated with the Middle East Quartet - the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia - last-minute efforts are underway to head off the talks' collapse, but the prospects seem slim.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's representative to the Amman talks, Isaac Molho, met on Wednesday in the Jordanian capital for a fifth time with the head of the Palestinian negotiating team Saeb Erekat - but at this point no formula has been reached that would enable the talks to continue. Erekat made it clear that because Israel has not presented its position on the issue of borders with a Palestinian state, from the Palestinians' standpoint, the talks have ended.....
......Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in Amman with Jordanian King Abdullah and told the monarch from his standpoint talks with Israel had run their course without results.

No sh*t Sherlock?

January 21, 2012

Atlanta Jewish Times editor calls for lynching of Obama

Is that a fair description of what actually happened? See this from Ha'aretz:
The owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, has suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu consider ordering a Mossad hit team to assassinate U.S. President Barack Obama so that his successor will defend Israel against Iran.
Adler, who has since apologized for his article, listed three options for Israel to counter Iran’s nuclear weapons in an article published in his newspaper last Friday. The first is to launch a pre-emptive strike against Hamas and Hezbollah, the second is to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and the third is to “give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”
As soon as I read this my mind turned to this lynching in Atlanta back in 1915.

h/t Matthew Tenzer.

Self-hatred in Manhattan?

Well it's still at the allegedly stage at the minute but what it looks like is another case of a Jew going round spraying anti-Jewish graffiti complete with swastikas and causing a lot of shock and horror in the process. I only heard about this today but it was even in the Daily Mail a few days ago.  The New York Daily News seems to have been the first mainstream paper in the US to cover the story. The local, DNAinfo.com appears to have been the first with the news:

MANHATTAN — A Chelsea man made several threatening and anti-Semitic phone calls over a month-long stretch to elderly women in his neighborhood and Brooklyn, police said.

David Haddad, 56, faces aggravated harassment as a hate crime charges for the alleged spree, which began last December and mainly targeted elderly women.
The first incident occurred Dec. 11 when an 80-year-old Brooklyn woman who lives in the 61st precinct—which includes Sheepshead Bay and several other neighborhoods—said she received numerous threatening calls containing anti-Semitic messages.

On Jan. 10, anti-Semitic symbols and messages were found on five apartment doors inside a Chelsea building. A female victim in the building said she also received a threatening anti-Semitic call, police said.
The next day, an 87-year-old Chelsea woman reported receiving a threatening phone message, also containing anti-Semitic statements.

Then on Jan. 12, a 78-year-old woman who lives in the 61st precinct claimed she received a threatening call as well.
It is not clear if Haddad knew any of the victims or why he allegedly targeted them. 

The various mainstream sources are saying that the motive involved a business dispute. I wonder what Judge Judy would say.

January 19, 2012

EU terrorises Netanyahu

Letter in The Independent:

Donald Macintyre's report from Jerusalem that the EU is giving up hope for a viable Palestinian state (12 January) is as extraordinary as it is appalling. The EU lists Israel actions: demolitions ; prohibitive planning for the Palestinians, but uninhibited for Jewish illegal settlements; the apartheid separation barrier; restricted travel except for the settlers; denial of access to water and other natural resources. This reads like the pogrom it is.
But what is worse is the mooted EU response, which consists of "calling on Israel to halt demolitions and building of settlements". Wow, I bet that makes Netanyahu plead for mercy!
Israel's main market is the EU, where Israel has special access, denied to her neighbours, with the associate status agreement. This agreement is supposed to be dependent upon a country's respect for human rights. The EU has suspended agreements where a country can be seen to be in breach. So I urge every one to write to their MEPs and demand the EU take such a course of action, before it is impossible for Palestine to exist.
Peter Downey
Here's a list of Members of the European Parliament

January 17, 2012

Pretext yes, context no

There's an article in today's Guardian print edition and of course on line titled, LSE nazi games in context. But don't expect context. Rather, an article with a news peg about some students from the LSE playing a nazi themed game resulting in a fight in which  a Jewish student got his nose broken has been used as the pretext for a bogus attack on Palestine solidarity activism and criticism of Israel.

You know early on where the article is going with an ahistorical passage such as this:
It is a sickness that emerges from generation to generation, always with a new resentment to prosecute – the murder of the Christ, well poisoning, usury, the Jewish invention of communism or its opposite libel, Jewish world domination through capitalism, and now a Jewish state that defends itself, kills Palestinians, and is corrupted. The crimes are different, but the criminal is always the same. It is just a shame the Jew from the LSE didn't have bigger fists, but I would always suggest that Jews avoid the Alps.
It's not just the pathetic attempt ("Jews avoid the Alps") of the writer, Tanya Gold, playing Woody Allen, that is at issue here.  She managed to sneak in a hasbara nugget, "a Jewish state that defends itself". But there's more.
Antisemitic discourse is now mainstream and to say it all comes from the crimes of the Jewish state feels disingenuous and a denial of the past. Antisemitism is too old to sprout anew from nothing. Leftwing antisemites despise Israel, but are less vocal on the crimes of other oppressive states (China, Russia, Saudi Arabia). They call it "whataboutery", and say that any defence of Israel is propaganda.
It is whataboutery and worse since Israel's existence is predicated on its crimes and defence of any state is propaganda it's just in the State of Israel's case it is always false propaganda,

But still there's more:
The incidents mount up – the heckling of an Israeli orchestra, the graffiti on university walls, the demand that Jews denounce Israel if they wish to be accepted in polite society, the plays and TV films written without context, the violence against Orthodox Jews (visible Jews), the sale of antisemitic toys in Poland, the terrible fact that 12,000 Facebook users think to mock the Holocaust, not lament it.
 Goodness! When did heckling musical hasbara become antisemitic? And which plays or films are being referred to here? I'm guessing she means one play, Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill and probably only one tv programme, The Promise by Peter Kosminsky.  Nothing antisemitic about either but I can't think of anything else and Tanya doesn't say.

But what Tanya Gold has done here is write an article intended to defend the State of Israel and to smear the critics. The article is only ostensibly about antisemitism. And people wonder why real antisemites like, eg, Gilad Atzmon, are given a free pass. The fact is that the bad faith allegation of antisemitism has been overdone. People are now confused and Tanya Gold's crying of wolf isn't intended to help.

January 13, 2012

Ethiopians protest against racism in Israel

This reminds me of a joke I heard a long time ago about the Israeli Education Ministry ordering teachers to honour the legacy of the late Rahavam Ze'evi, an open advocate of the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Palestine.  A teacher told the her class how courageous Ze'evi had been in advocating the, ahem, "Transfer" of the Palestinian population. A child said, "that's wonderful, Miss, when can we do that to the Ethiopians." The teacher said "don't be so racist in my class!"

Anyway, a couple of days ago Ha'aretz reported on a demo by Ethiopians and "representatives of various groups who feel weak in Israeli society."

"The phenomenon of racism harms us all, and it is impossible to separate the discrimination of Ethiopians in Israel from the discrimination of Arab residents or Russian-speakers," said Rabia Elsagir, a resident of Shfaram and member of The Coalition Against Racism in Israel, who attended the protest with a handful of people from the Arab sector.
There are of course many examples of racism in Israel but two more occurred just recently. One was the water throwing incident in the Knesset just the other day:

For a comment on this see Magnes Zionist.

The other is a further degeneration of the State of Israel into an explicitly apartheid situation within Israel itself and not simply between Israel and the occupied territories.  The Israeli High Court has now effectively ratified Israel's so-called Citizenship Law which spells out a crucial difference between the Jewish and Arab inhabitants of Israel within the pre-67 boundaries.  Again here is Ha'aretz:

Israel’s High Court rejected on Wednesday petitions against the Citizenship Law, which prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from receiving Israeli citizenship or residency. Six judges voted to reject the petitions, while five voted to accept them.
Israel generally grants citizenship to spouses of Israelis in a gradual process. In the spirit of this process, a similar process was instituted for the naturalization of spouses of permanent residents, though the process is a little longer. A 2002 temporary order excluded Palestinian spouses from these processes and barred them from becoming Israeli citizens.
 And again Magnes Zionist has a scathing comment:
Yesterday, the State of Israel became the first western state whose High Court ruled that some citizens have fewer fundamental rights than other citizens based on their ethnicity. Actually, it had done so before, but yesterday it rejected  the most sustained challenge to the “Citizenship Law,” which bars the non-Israeli spouses of Israeli Palestinians from becoming citizens. So while an Israeli Jew from Brooklyn has the right of marrying anybody she likes, and having her spouse naturalized, a native Palestinian Israeli citizen cannot marry  a distant relative who lives in a town five minutes from her house – unless that relative was a Palestinian collaborator, working for the Israelis, and then, only by special approval of the Minister of Interior.
Yet another answer to Goldstone and all those who try to make out that Israel isn't an apartheid state.

January 09, 2012

Clichés are usually wrong

There's quite an interesting blog called the Muddle East run by a chap called Matt Hill.  Matt supports the two-state solution in that he sees the maintaining of a state for Jews as essential, desirable and inevitable.  See this from his latest post:
It's become almost a cliche: everyone knows, roughly, the likely shape of a future peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. And it's true that on issues like borders, settlements, even refugees, the chasm separating the two sides in 2000 has narrowed - even amid all the violence and overheated rhetoric. 
Matt describes himself "moderately pro-Palestinian" but this is relative to the fact that he often cross-posts at Harry's Place where his support for the two state solution and criticism of the State of Israel sends most of the commentators and those of the hosts who can bothered to comment into a feed frenzy.

Anyway, he recently stopped by the Magnes Zionist blog and Jerry Haber, the blogger there, returned his visit with a comment of his own as follows:
Thanks for stopping by my place. I think my email is there. Anyway, it's 


You wrote:

It's become almost a cliche: everyone knows, roughly, the likely shape of a future peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. 

You are right -- it is almost a cliche, and like so many almost cliches it is a comforting one.

Fortunately, I stopped believing in it a long time ago. 

You see, the proposed peace solution that "everybody knows" (to quote Leonard Cohen) is what the Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit calls a "rotten compromise". It allows certain groups in Israeli and Palestinian society maintain their current life styles, at the expense of other groups in both societies who will suffer. On my blog, I have been most sensitive to the suffering of the Palestinians who are the victims in this conflict, and that compromise will condemn them to years of subalternation. But I cannot deny the suffering of some of the perpetrators, the brainwashed settlers, should they have to evacuate their homes for several generations. (I can't deny it; I also can't get as upset about it.)

Faith in the peace process allows the liberal Zionist to sleep at night. She sees the daily injustices and inequities (and iniquities) committed by her side against the Palestinians, and longs for some relief, some way out. So she lives under the illusion that things will get better if only the messiah comes, sorry, if only the right formula is figured out. So she will talk about confidence-building measures, state-building, reducing tension, people-to-people initiatives, joint summer camps. In the meantime, more settlements are built, more settlers enter the high ranks of the judiciary, military, and government, more Palestinians are arrested, and most Israelis don't give a damn. 

I have been observing this conflict for forty years. The sides are further apart today then they ever have been. And generations of Israeli Jews and Palestinians are growing up with almost no contact whatever -- much different from when I was here as a young man.

My advice to you is to come to Israel, and take Breaking the Silence's trips to Hebron and Ramallah. You won't be able to read the Atlantic again.

And how's this for another cliche: Things will have to get a lot worse before they get better.

I am betting on the truth of that one. And when things do get better -- and they will -- the final settlement won't look anything like your cliche says it does.

Let's keep the dialogue open. Unlike some of my cohorts, I believe in kiruv, engagement.


So in this case the Magnes Zionist appears to be not as enamoured of zionism as generally understood as the "moderate... pro-Palestinian" is.  Should Jerry Haber change the name of his blog? Should Matt Hill change his self-description? Of course both could do either but I'm guessing neither will do either.  I do think Matt Hill's blog is worth a look at but I needed the excuse that Jerry Haber's comment has given me.

January 05, 2012

Ask a man who knows: De Klerk answers Goldstone

I was sent this BBC Radio 4 programme recently. It actually went out on 29 December 2011. It has De Klerk, the last white president of South Africa, explaining why apartheid had no future, not in South Africa anyway.

What I supported as a younger politician was exactly what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine, namely separate nation states will be the solution. In our case we failed. There were three main reasons. We failed because the whites wanted too much land for themselves. We failed because the majority of blacks said this is not how we want our political rights. And we failed because we became economically totally integrated. We became an economic omelet and you can never again divide an omelet into the white and the yellow of the egg. And we realized in the early eighties we had landed in a place which has become morally unjustified.

Goldstone denied the apartheid analogy here.

January 02, 2012

Norman Finkelstein on the passing of Hitchens

I've only just stumbled on this Norman Finkelstein obituary (sort of) of Hitchens.  See it here. I'm off out now but I might revisit this later:

A Brief Comment on the Passing of Christopher Hitchens

Even some of the critical commentary on Hitchens’s passing pays tribute to his robust atheism, which no doubt shocked readers ofVanity Fair.

But the ultimate irony seems to have gone over everyone’s head.

When I first learned that Hitchens was diagnosed with an excruciating and terminal cancer, it caused me to doubt my atheism.

Could it be merely chance?

The news came just as Hitchens was about to go on a book tour for his long-awaited memoir.

It was as if he was setting out on his victory lap when the adulating crowds were supposed to fawn over him and—wham!—his legs were lopped off at the kneecaps.

Could it be the hidden hand of a Jehovah?

If I still had doubts, the events of the past week dispelled them.

First Hitchens passed.

If that wasn’t burden enough to bear, the next day Vaclav Havel imploded.

The deep thinkers among us were now beside themselves with grief.

But then, on the third day, Kim Jong-il kicked the bucket.

Was this a practical joke, and who was the joker?

Biblical scholars report that divine interventions usually come in threes.

Moe, Larry, Curly.

Christopher, Vaclav, Kim.

I cannot help but see in this otherwise improbable sequence a divine intelligence at play.

The irony could not be more perfect: the god that the vindictive but witty Mr. Hitchens made a career scoffing at turns out to be…vindictive but witty.

But I will leave the last word to a close buddy of Hitchens’ who is himself a true believer.

When Saddam Hussein was executed, Tony Blair remarked: “I do not believe in capital punishment, but I think the world is a better place without him.”

When I heard that Hitchens was dead, I took a deep breath.

The air felt cleaner, as if after a 40-day and 40-night downpour.


I get no satisfaction from Hitchens’s passing.

Although he was the last to know it, every death is a tragedy, if only for the bereft child—or, as in the case of Cindy Sheehan, bereft parent—left behind.

But, still, life is full of surprises.

No one should be too smug in his certitudes.

And if you’ve made a career of pissing on other people’s mostly innocuous beliefs, should it surprise that outside the tiny tent called Vanity Fair, your memory stinks of urine?