SHORTS – Rachel Corrie, Israeli Concentration Camp for Refugees and much else besides
SHORTS – Rachel Corrie, Israeli Concentration Camp for Refugees and much else besides
I’ve been in an employment tribunal most of this week in a whistleblowing case, so I’ve had no time to do any posts. The articles below are therefore a summary of the main things I would have posted on.
The major story last week was on the murder of Rachel Corrie and there are a number of articles on this and in particular the shocking verdict of an Israeli court, which held that she was to blame for her own murder. The BBC naturally parrotted the Israeli line and the gruesome Mark Regev was interviewed to back up those apologising for Rachel’s murder. I have had a few posts from Zionists gloating over her death. Zionism has turned many of its supporters into little more than a Jewish version of the Hitler Youth.
An interesting article on the extermination by the Nazis of the Roma, something one doesn’t often hear about, unlike the extermination of the Jews.
Another article on the attempt to stifle free speech on campuses in the United States from the Californian State Assembly. An article on how Gaza may be unliveable in soon because of the Israeli siege.
There is a post on how the SDP government in North Rhine-Westphalia has banned 3 neo-Nazi/far right groups including the NPD, which has seats in two German state legislatures.
A very interesting artice in Ha’aretz from Yitzhak Laor, a famous Israeli poet, on how the Mizrahim (Arab Jews) have been portrayed by the Western Ashekenazi as the primary persecutors of the Palestinians – itself an example of the racism that the Mizrahi in Israel faced.
The article by Electronic Intifada contributor and investigative journalist, Asa Winstanley on those who conspired to falsely accuse Raed Salah, an Israeli Arab of ‘anti-Semitism’. Asa’s conclusion is that the power of the pro-Israeli lobby in Britain is waning.
Tony Lerman was once very much a part of the Jewish Establishment in Britain. He founded the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and had an open mind, too open, about Israel and Zionism. He was subject a nasty little witch-hunt from the likes of Stanley Kalms of Dixons because he broke the taboo of not criticising Israel under any circumstances. He was eventually forced out of the organisation he founded and his latest book on his journey from labour Zionism to non-Zionism is by all accounts fascinating.
A preview appeared in the Guardian’s Comment is Free and the usual Zionist propagandists had their futile go at someone with a mind of their own
Also a video on protests in Israel against the internment of refugees in a concentration camp in the Negev desert and finally an article from Outrage on the attacks on the disabled, nationally and internationally as the economic crisis grows apace.
The Electronic Intifada
31 August 2012
BBC coverage cast doubt on the motives of activists protecting Palestinian homes from Israeli-operated bulldozers.
Tuesday 28 August was an extraordinary day for the BBC, even by its own low standards of reporting on Palestine.
This was the day an Israeli court absolved the State of Israel of any responsibility for the death of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli armored bulldozer in Gaza in 2003.
BBC Radio 4’s World at One program ran a seven-minute segment on the court’s decision, including an interview with Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev.
Partway through this interview, the BBC presenter, Martha Kearney, made this astonishing claim: “Clearly Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day, and I know Israeli soldiers died too.”
In fact, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem lists no Israeli soldiers as being killed on 16 March 2003 (“Israeli security force personnel killed by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, 29.9.2000 – 26.12.2008,” B’Tselem).
Despite this, a BBC presenter decided to introduce the deaths of Israeli soldiers into the narrative of the day Corrie was killed, a completely false claim which altered the actual reality and set a framework for BBC audiences in which several Israeli soldiers and one activist had died.
Suddenly, Corrie was not the only victim. Kearney’s sleight of hand had effectively created a war zone with uncounted numbers of Israeli soldiers being killed on the same day, presumably by the side that Corrie was supporting.
Uncritical BBC acceptance of erroneous Israeli claims
Kearney’s erroneous words allowed Regev to expand into the framework she had created. He took over, to say: “This is an active area of terrorist activity. As you say, Israelis were killed there. An hour before Rachel’s death, a grenade was thrown at our forces.” With Kearney’s able assistance, the erroneous portrayal of Palestinians as terrorists, and those who stand with them as supporters of terrorism, was complete.
What Kearney did not choose to mention in her falsified version of “what happened that day,” was that the other casualties on the day Corrie died were Palestinian.
Two Palestinian civilians, including a 17-year-old boy, were shot dead that day in Gaza. During the week that Rachel was killed, Israeli forces killed 27 Palestinians in the occupied territories, mostly civilians and mostly in Gaza, including seven children, the youngest a four-year-old girl, as documented by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in its weekly report for 13-19 March 2003.
A Lexis-Nexis search of contemporaneous news reports from that period yielded no reports of any Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza.
Moreover, Kearney did not mention that two weeks before Rachel died, Nuha al-Maqadma, a pregnant Palestinian woman, died when Israeli forces in Gaza demolished her family’s house on top of her in Bureij refugee camp. Her killing prompted the US State Department’s official spokesman to issue a rare condemnation of “the increasing Israeli use over the past few months of demolitions and the civilian deaths that have resulted from this practice, including the pregnant woman” (US State Department briefing, 3 March 2003).
Regev’s lies go unchallenged
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign emailed Kearney asking her to back up her statement and provide evidence for the deaths of Israeli soldiers on the day Rachel was killed, but received an email back from her editor at World at One, Nick Sutton, requesting that we go through the official — and laborious — BBC complaints process.
Unfortunately, the criticisms emanating from Kearney’s interview with Regev are too lengthy to fit into the limited word count given on the BBC’s online complaints form. Immediately before concocting her own evidence-free claim, Kearney had allowed Regev to come up with a few of his own.
Thus, in an attempt to give credibility to a justice system which had withheld vital evidence relating to Corrie’s death, Regev had said, without challenge or contest from Kearney that: “Israeli courts are known for their independence. There are numerous examples of Israeli courts ruling against the government, against the military. Israeli soldiers have been sent to jail. Our judiciary is known internationally for its independence and its professionalism, and I think the best claim I could say to support that is the fact that every day Palestinians take the Israeli government to court in our courts because they know that our courts give justice.”
The Israeli injustice system
Regev has a strange notion of justice. Earlier this month, a former Israeli soldier was given 45 days in jail in relation to the deaths of a Palestinian mother and daughter, shot dead during Israel’s 2008-2009 massacre in Gaza as they attempted to flee a house under Israeli fire. They were killed as they waved a white flag. In May, Israel’s military prosecution decided that no legal steps would be taken against the soldiers responsible for killing 21 members of the Samouni family during the same three-week massacre (“IDF closes probe into Israeli air strike that killed 21 members of Gaza family,” Haaretz, 1 May 2012).
Stark figures do not back up Regev’s claims either. According to the Israeli human rights organization, Yesh Din: “91 percent of investigations [by Israeli police in the West Bank] into crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians and their property are closed without indictments being served. Eight-four percent of the investigation files are closed because of the investigators’ failure to locate suspects and evidence” (“Police fail to investigate ideological crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians,” 27 March 2012).
Is this the “justice” that Regev was referring to, his outright lies being flouted, unchecked, on the BBC?
Casting doubt on Rachel Corrie’s motives
The number of real facts given by BBC news reports into the Corrie ruling diminished as the day went on. One of the most important facts, which receded during the course of the broadcasts, concerned the house of the pharmacist and his family which Corrie had been trying to protect when she was killed.
he early morning Today program made a clear reference to house demolitions in Gaza. By the afternoon, the BBC was starting to waver. On The World at One, Kearney introduced the segment on the court’s ruling by asking BBC correspondent Jon Donnison to give an overview of the day Corrie died.
Donnison began: “Well, Rachel Corrie was part of a group of activists, from an organization called the International Solidarity Movement, very much supporters of the Palestinian cause, and they were in Gaza … trying to stop — in their view — the demolition of Palestinian homes and properties by the Israeli army.”
The casting of doubt into the minds of BBC audiences about the true motives of Corrie and her fellow protesters by those three little words — “in their view” — had begun.
There was, the BBC seemed to be saying, some other reason for Corrie to be standing in front of a bulldozer. In stepped Regev: “There were no houses that were demolished that day,” he told an uncritical Kearney. “The operation that day was dealing with clearing a territory, a part of land that was used for sniping. There were trees there, there were bushes there, there were places where people were shooting at our people. This was not about house demolitions; not at all.”
But Corrie wasn’t standing in front of trees or bushes. She was standing in front of the house of a family she had been living with for a number of days. Her mother, Cindy Corrie, said after the verdict: “There were children behind the walls of the home Rachel was trying to protect … We should have all been there.” The family’s home was demolished later by the same make of armored bulldozer that had killed its would-be protector.
BBC parrots Israeli propaganda
This went unremarked on in the BBC’s reports. Instead, by early evening, Eddie Mair, picking up on Regev’s comments made to Kearney earlier that day, was introducing the item on the court ruling on Radio 4’s PM program by saying: “Miss Corrie’s supporters say she was trying to stop Palestinian houses being demolished. Israel says there were no houses being demolished that day, but the area was being used as cover by people firing on Israelis.”
Again, the element of doubt, not just over Corrie’s motives, but over the veracity of the solidarity movement’s claims that Israel was destroying family homes, had been propagated. And if no houses were demolished that day, was it not because an American citizen had died trying to protect them?
This idea, and the fact that the home Corrie had been standing in front of was later demolished, was not examined by Mair. Instead he went on to give selective quotes from the Israeli judge in the case: that her death was a “regrettable accident,” that the bulldozer driver couldn’t have seen her, that she had been “protecting terrorists in a designated combat zone,” and that Israeli soldiers had “done their utmost” to keep people away from the site.
By the time the 6pm news bulletin rolled round, the BBC seemed to have fully accepted the Israeli line that Corrie’s activism had nothing to do with house demolitions and had decided it was no longer necessary to even mention that she might have been attempting to stop a home being destroyed.
And so the 6pm headline on Radio 4 was: “A court in Israel has rejected a claim for damages by the family of an American activist who was crushed to death by an army bulldozer in Gaza.” A few seconds into the report, the BBC reporter, Jon Donnison, said: “The young American died in Gaza in 2003 while trying to block the path of an Israeli army bulldozer.”
Later in the report, Regev came on to say: “This is an active area of terrorist activity and obviously it was a war zone. It’s clear that the drivers of these tractors actually moved away from the demonstrators on a number of occasions and yet the demonstrators followed after the tractors.”
However, nowhere in the report did Donnison say that Corrie was trying to protect Palestinian houses, and no spokesperson was brought on to give her reasons for why she was there, or to explain the deliberate terror wrought on the Palestinian population by house demolitions, which, as a form of collective punishment, are illegal under international law.
Bias by omission “typical of BBC reporting”
Instead, the BBC accepted as fact Regev’s assertion that this was an “active area of terrorist activity,” which he had been allowed to say all day on the BBC without having to provide any proof for his claims; it accepted that “demonstrators” were chasing after “tractors,” and it utterly failed to provide its audience with a reason as to why a young American might have been standing in front of a bulldozer in Gaza.
Greg Philo, director of the Glasgow Media Unit and co-author of More Bad News from Israel, a detailed study of how the BBC and other media report on Palestine, says this kind of bias by omission is typical of BBC reporting.
“You can always see where the BBC stands by looking at what they leave out,” he explained in an email. “When the verdict on Rachel Corrie came out, there were two versions — the Israelis saying it was an accident with a bulldozer and the alternative which was that she was killed while trying to stop a Palestinian home from being demolished.
“This is the version in the [The Daily] Telegraph [“Rachel Corrie death: eyewitness attacks Israeli verdict as ‘implausible’,” 28 August]: ‘Ms Corrie died after being run over by an Israeli Defence Force (IDF) bulldozer, while protesting against the demolition of a Palestinian house.’ This is the BBC [6 o’clock news, Radio 4, 28 August]: ‘A court in Israel has rejected a claim for damages by the family of an American activist who was crushed to death by an army bulldozer in Gaza.’ And then later in the same bulletin: ‘The young American died in Gaza in 2003 while trying to block the path of an Israeli army bulldozer.’”
“Twice they say it and still no reason given why someone would want to get in front of a bulldozer. How irrational! Why on earth would someone want to do that? Then in swoops Mark Regev to confirm the point, telling the BBC: ‘I mean they really acted in a way that I think a normal, responsible person would consider very irresponsible.’”
Philo adds: “This is how it works — the rationale for Palestinian action is missing. In More Bad News from Israel we showed that this is systematic in BBC presentations. It is extraordinary that the BBC journalist can so routinely exclude a phrase such as ‘demolishing a Palestinian home,’ which of course makes sense of why the protestors are there.”
It is, indeed, extraordinary, as extraordinary as Kearney’s claim that Israeli soldiers died on the same day Corrie was killed. But it is also typical — typical of a news organization that just can’t seem to let go of the Israeli narrative in favor of objective, factual news reporting.
A Sad Day for Humanity
It’s a sad day for humanity, for the Corries, for Palestinians, for all people of conscience around the world …
Cindy and Craig, we share your hurt. We share your indignation at this Israeli mockery of justice which is typical of this unjust system.
This latest and widely expected Israeli court whitewash underlines what the UN Goldstone Report had proven after the Israeli massacre in Gaza in 2008-09. Referring to “structural flaws” in the so-called Israeli justice system, the report concluded that Israel cannot be trusted to administer justice according to international standards.[Goldstone Report, paragraph 1756]
Precisely! In too many cases to enumerate here, Israel’s courts have rarely sentenced Jewish-Israeli criminals for killing or injuring Palestinians or wantonly destroying their property. According to Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din:
“… 91% of investigations [by Israeli police in the OPT] into crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians and their property are closed without indictments being served. 84% of the investigation files are closed because of the investigators’ failure to locate suspects and evidence. … Indictments were served in less than 3% of these cases.”
Even as early as 1996, at the height of the so-called “peace process,” an Israeli settler fatally pistol-whipped 11-year-old Palestinian child Hilmi Shusha near Bethlehem for no apparent reason. An Israeli judge first acquitted the murderer, saying the child “died on his own as a result of emotional pressure.” After numerous appeals and under pressure from the Supreme Court, which termed the act “light killing,” the judge reconsidered and, as the Intifada was raging, sentenced the killer to six months of community service and a fine of a few thousand dollars. The boy’s father accused the court of issuing a “license to kill.” [Reuters, January 22, 2001; Phil Reeves, “Fury as court frees settler, The Independent, January 22, 2001]
Gideon Levy of Haaretz eloquently described the fine at the time as the “end-of-the-season” clearance price on Palestinian children’s lives, referring to the findings of B’tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, which documented dozens of similar cases in which perpetrators were either acquitted or received a slap on the wrist. [Gideon Levy, Haaretz, January 28, 2001]
Adding insult to injury, the complicit Israeli judge in this case implied that Rachel was not a “thinking person” because of her heroic nonviolent attempt to stand against an indisputable war crime.
Given that Israel’s courts, like their South African counterparts during apartheid, have systematically and consistently been a reliable pillar of Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid, Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity ought to be prosecuted in international courts where justice has a chance to see the day of light.
This should also convince anyone who still needed to be convinced that without effective BDS against Israel it will never comply with international law. This is the lesson of South Africa.
Family of Corrie, who was crushed by an IDF bulldozer during a pro-Palestinian protest in Gaza in 2003, filed lawsuit in Haifa accusing Israel of intentionally killing their 23-year-old daughter.
By Jack Khoury and Reuters
Haaretz Aug.28, 2012
The Haifa District Court rejected on Tuesday accusations that Israel was at fault over the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a 2003 pro-Palestinian demonstration in Gaza.
Corrie’s family had accused Israel of intentionally and unlawfully killing their 23-year-old daughter, launching a civil case in the northern Israeli city of Haifa after a military investigation had cleared the army of wrong-doing.
In a ruling read out to the court, judge Oded Gershon called Corrie’s death a “regrettable accident”, but said the state was not responsible because the incident had occurred during what he termed a war-time situation.
At the time of her death, during a Palestinian uprising, Corrie was protesting against Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
“I reject the suit,” the judge said. “There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages.”
He added that the soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site. “She (Corrie) did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done.”
Corrie’s death made her a symbol of the uprising, and while her family battled through the courts to establish who was responsible for her killing, her story was dramatized on stage in a dozen countries and told in the book “Let Me Stand Alone.”
“I am hurt,” Corrie’s mother, Cindy, told reporters after the verdict was read.
Corrie came from Olympic, Washington and was a volunteer with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement.
Senior U.S. officials criticized the original military investigation into the case, saying it had been neither thorough nor credible. But the judge said the inquiry had been appropriate and pinned no blame on the army.
Marzahn, the first internment camp for Roma (Gypsies) in the Third Reich. Germany, date uncertain.
— Landesarchiv Berlin
A People Uncounted documents the travails of the Roma in Europe – often pejoratively referred to as Gypsies – who were among those targeted by the Nazis as part of Germany’s Final Solution.
The tragedy that befell the Roma is woefully underreported and unacknowledged.
The film also tries to capture much of the modern-day persecution the Roma experience in various European states, most notably in Hungary at the hands of the fascist Jobbik party.
The filmmakers noted that the Romany equivalent of holocaust is Porrajmos, a term that’s becoming more widely used in their community. The etymology of the word is debated, but widely used to mean devouring, as the Roma sometimes refer to this genocide.
How long is the journey from “You know…” to social exclusion, disenfranchisement and, ultimately, devouring?
[T]hen I hear the social anthropologist in me ask her the open-ended, non-judgmental question: What sort of neighbours are they? “Oh”, she smiles, “I get on with them very well. But you know…” And she smiles at me again. This one is a very different smile.
How long is the journey from this “But you know” smile… to the 1935 Nuremberg racial laws? The Roma were not mentioned per se but in the interpretation of these laws they were included with the “Negroes” and the Jews as “racially distinctive”. Minorities with “alien blood”. The terrible irony of the nonsensical racial purity theory is that Romany being an Indo-European language just like German, English, French and most European languages (except, for example, Hungarian), the Roma are, if anything, as “Aryan” as the Germans themselves. Nonetheless, their marriage to “Aryans” was prohibited, and, like Jews, the Roma were also deprived of their civil rights.
The journey from here to the night of 2nd of August 1944 was swift enough. That night the Gypsy was liquidated in Auschwitz-Birkenau: thousands of Roma men, women, and children were killed in the gas chamber. others were murdered before and after that night. 2nd and 3rd of August is the International Roma Holocaust Memorial Day or Porrajmos.
How long is the journey from “You know…” to social exclusion, disenfranchisement and, ultimately, devouring?
In Palestine solidarity circles the debate around the pro-Israel lobby often focuses on the chicken-or-the-egg problem: are Western governments supportive of Israel because the lobby is so influential, or does the lobby only seem influential because governments are so supportive of Israel?
A focus on this question neglects another, more crucial, aspect of the debate: how can we win? How can the tide be turned against Western governments’ support for Israel?
In April, a Palestinian political and religious leader won an important victory in the British judicial system. Sheikh Raed Salah’s successful appeal against deportation gives us a glimpse of how to answer this question.
In the Upper Tier Immigration Tribunal, Sheikh Raed won his case, with Judge Mark Ockelton ruling that “there is no lawful basis” for Home Secretary Theresa May to implement an exclusion order she had imposed secretly on him.
Ockelton wrote of May’s argument that Salah should be deported from the country, that the tribunal considered it “to be very weak,” because she was “under a misapprehension as to the facts” and that “she was misled” by advisors.
The case (which I covered extensively for The Electronic Intifada) was a matter of principle for the sheikh. Unlike most appeals against deportation, Salah was eager to return to his home country. It was the manner of his departure which was important. Had he agreed to go along with deportation it could have been interpreted as an indirect admission of guilt; more importantly, it would have given the Israeli government another legal pretext to pursue its vendetta against him.
Salah had arrived in Britain in June 2011 to speak to British audiences about various political and humanitarian topics. His meetings included a private gathering in the House of Lords, hosted by Baroness Jenny Tonge. Part way through his well-advertised speaking tour, he was arrested, without warning, on the night of Tuesday 28 June. He had been due to speak the following day at a public meeting in Parliament on the subject of Jerusalem, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
In an arrest later ruled wrongful detention by the High Court, Salah was taken by UK Border Agency officers to jail. They were acting on behalf of May, who had apparently banned Salah from the country on 26 June, although there was a slight problem: no one in May’s department told Salah or any of the organisers of his tour about the ban. In court, UKBA officials and lawyers admitted that Salah had done nothing illegal by entering the country.
But there was another, even greater problem: the Home Secretary’s ban was based on deeply flawed, even fabricated, evidence. This is why the judge ultimately ruled she had been misled.
The first item of the banning order was an accusation reported in the Israeli press that Salah had written an anti-Semitic poem. In court, this was thoroughly debunked. The original Arabic poem was produced in evidence. It seems that the Jerusalem Post maliciously added the words “You Jews” where they did not appear in the original, in order to smear him as an anti-Semite. Even government lawyers later had to admit that the anti-Semitic poem accusation was not true.
Salah spent almost three weeks in British jails, before being released on bail pending his appeal against deportation. He then spent 10 months living in North West London under stringent bail conditions. He had to wear an electronic tag, report daily to police and observe a 6pm to 9am curfew. Perhaps most onerous of all, Salah was barred from speaking to the public. This condition also prevented him from speaking to the press.
Although Sheikh Salah could have left this virtual house arrest at any time by agreeing to be deported back to Palestine, this was never an option for him. He understood the political stakes right from the start.
Soon after his arrest, right-wing Israeli parliamentarian Alex Miller tried to build support for his so-called “Raed Salah Bill”. The newspaper called Israel Hayom quoted Miller: “If the British government refuses entry for this individual… there is no reason why Israel should allow him and his kind to enjoy such activities either. (MK Ben-Ari urges Britain not to release Sheikh Salah,” 30 June). Miller is a member of the extreme right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, and lives on an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Conspiracy or mistake?
According to one confidential UKBA document I have seen, it is clear that the British government was aware that Sheikh Salah had not been informed of the ban. An airline information alert issued and dated 24 June said that Salah has “not yet been notified of his exclusion”. The Risk And Liaison Overseas Network (RALON, a UKBA department) document included Salah’s picture, passport number and other details, noting that he was “expected to travel to the United Kingdom imminently (within the next two weeks)”.
In a confidential letter, faxed at exactly the same time, RALON official Moira McDougall asked Heathrow immigration authorities to “serve the alert aside on EL AL”, the Israeli national airline.
The final page in the three-page fax is another letter from the UKBA’s RALON addressed to “EL AL, TEL AVIV, Via London Heathrow”. It asks for the alert to be “disseminated by your staff and agents operating in Tel Aviv as a matter of urgency”.
The 24th June 2011 was a Friday, and the fax is timed in the afternoon. The Jewish weekend in Israel begins on Friday afternoon, so a likely scenario here seems to be that the message was neglected over the weekend. Nevertheless, Israel does not entirely grind to a halt over the Sabbath, so it seems strange that the urgent message would have been neglected entirely.
However, it is now known that Salah actually travelled on a British Airways flight, which might explain why he seems to have been missed.
Still, the Israelis might well have wanted him to have been arrested and deported from the UK. Then, portraying him as a criminal, they would have a new pretext to continue their campaign against him.
As the leader of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, Salah has long been a target for the Israeli authorities. Because of his leadership of demonstrations against the Israeli occupation of east Jerusalem, the authorities view him in a very similar light to other Palestinian leaders’ peaceful popular resistance. Because Salah is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, they cannot simply throw him into jail with little more than a military trial in an occupation kangaroo court, as they do to West Bank and Gaza Palestinians.
Israeli intelligence agencies have waged a campaign of dirty tricks against Salah over the years. In July 2010, Zionist fanatic and Kahanist settler Chaim Pearlman released recordings of a Shabak officer trying to persuade him to assassinate the sheikh. A press release from Salah’s office published by MEMO lists other events in the Israeli campaign against him.
In May 2010, after the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara and the rest of the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla, Salah alleged that Israeli forces had tried to assassinate him. One of the Turkish victims, Ibrahim Bilgen, bore a remarkable likeness to Salah.
So, with a track record of such Israeli conspiracies against Salah, one might ask if the UKBA warning was deliberately ignored by the Israelis. We can’t be sure, but we do know that there was an Israeli role in the plot to have Salah banned, as I showed writing for The Electronic Intifada.
The pro-Israel lobby and the Salah case
Whether it was a mistake or a conspiracy on the part of the Israelis must remain a matter of speculation, unless any new evidence comes to light. Nevertheless, the case as a whole does teach us a key lesson about the pro-Israel lobby in the UK: it is not invincible and can be defeated. Even since Peter Oborne’s landmark 2009 Dispatches film Inside the Israel Lobby, things have changed and the momentum is no longer on the side of the lobbyists.
As the partly successful campaign against Jenny Tonge earlier this year shows, the pro-Israel lobby has lost little of its influence. What does seem to be shifting in mainstream political circles, though, is a willingness to listen to Palestinian narratives.
Ian Lucas, Labour’s shadow minister for the Middle East, and a Labour Friend of Israel, must have felt that it was a good career move for him to go on a recent Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding (CAABU) delegation to the West Bank. That speaks volumes, as does the fact that he addressed the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East annual reception in May.
MEMO’s Shazia Arshad, who is an executive committee member of Labour Friends of Palestine, told me recently: “If you look back ten years, or even five years ago, the issue of Palestine wasn’t mainstream. But more than that it was a bit scary” and perceived as a fringe left-wing issue. “Now,” she added, “there are politicians who are not afraid of talking about Palestine.”
The Salah case is another example. A few years ago, it would probably have been unthinkable for him to enter Britain because, according to internal Foreign and Commonwealth Office emails I’ve seen, “The FCO in Israel has also confirmed that SALAH is considered to be an extremist”. The Israeli government opinion, it seems, is no long taken at face value.
Although pro-Israel bloggers like neo-con Michael Weiss (who expresses his support for Syria by drafting a plan to bomb it) and Telegraph hack Andrew Gilligan did their best to smear Salah by spreading now utterly discredited lies about him, the Palestinian sheikh was ultimately vindicated by the courts and returned home of his own free will.
True, it is a disgrace that it took a long court battle to achieve that outcome. The Community Security Trust – CST did their best to have Salah deported, but ultimately they failed. Despite its charitable remit stipulating that the CST is purely about fighting anti-Semitism, the Salah case brought to light the group’s pro-Israel agenda, as well as its strong links to Israeli state agencies.
Reading through internal government department communications with the organisation, it’s laughable how desperate the CST was to dig out even the most tenuous rumour to use against Salah. Echoing Israeli propaganda, the mere suggestion of “links” between Salah and the Turkish charity IHH was something that could potentially be used against him in court, the CST argued; government lawyers apparently disagreed.
Also in court, it was noticeable that the FCO’s legal team tried to distance itself from the CST, with Neil Sheldon QC arguing time and time again that the CST was just one of many sources the government consulted. He struggled to prove this, and the UKBA had to admit that the CST was a primary source of information and “evidence” against Sheikh Salah. These are all signs of desperation within the pro-Israel lobby.
It is true that Theresa May seemed to have decided to ban Salah only 17 minutes after the CST sent its report on Salah to the government, but it’s also true that, looking at the wider context of the email discussion, the government was already hostile to the idea of Salah entering the country and approached the CST to provide a fig leaf.
In an email from the FCO’s counter-terrorism department two days earlier, Asif Siddiquee sent a link to a Harry’s Place article (titled “The Blood Libel and Parliament”) to contacts at the Home Office and the Department For Communities and Local Government. He had to admit that Salah’s statements were “not particularly UB [unacceptable behaviour]“.
Ultimately what the Raed Salah case proves is this. With enough determination, the pro-Israel lobby can be defeated. As it resorts to more and more nakedly false propaganda, the Palestinian narrative will win more and more battles against it, and truth will out.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist from London who has lived and reported from occupied Palestine. His website is www.winstanleys.org
Germany’s most populous state North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) has banned three far-right extremist groups after police searched 150 premises. Thursday’s raids follow a trial opening in Koblenz against 26 neo-Nazis.
SPD Interior Minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Ralf Jäger
The SPD Interior Minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Ralf Jäger, said searches by 900 police officers in 32 locations early on Thursday had netted hand weapons, computer data and a bust of Adolf Hitler. In Dortmund, 1,000 placards of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) were seized.
Hitler medallion seized in raids
The placards were apparently intended for a city council by-election due on Sunday in the Ruhr District city, said Jäger. The placard find, the minister said, proved a “close interconnection” between the far-right scene and the NPD.
Some federal and regional officials want to submit a fresh application to Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe for the party to be banned.
Minister Jäger has launched a crackdown on the far-right in NRW
In 2003, the court rejected an application on the grounds that the authorities’ use of informers within NPD circles had tainted evidence. The NPD has seats in two of Germany’s regional state assemblies. Germany’s top court sets high hurdles before any banning of political parties.
Neo-Nazi network “gauged”
At a press briefing in Dusseldorf, Jäger confirmed that he had banned three neo-Nazi cells called “comradeships” because the groups were “xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic” and posed a danger to peaceful co-existence in Germany’s communities.
German authorities overlook cell
He said members of the groups – located in the Aachen area on the border with Belgium, in Dortmund, and the Hamm area of northeastern NRW – had repeatedly attacked their political opponents with “fist punches and knife stabbings.”
Thursday’s crackdown had “gouged” large holes in the neo-Nazi network,” Jäger added. “All their actions were aimed at undermining our democratic social order.”
Last year, Jäger estimated that among NRW’s population of 17.8 million residents there were 4,000 neo-Nazis. On Thursday, he said 400 to 600 of them were prone to being violent.
Last December, NRW authorities established a new coordination center in Düsseldorf to police the far-right scene. That move followed shock disclosures that, between 2000 and 2007, a secretive neo-Nazi cell based in the eastern state of Thuringia had murdered eight people of Turkish origin, one person of Greek origin, and a policewoman.
NRW also set up special investigative units in Aachen and Dortmund as well as the Rhine River city of Cologne, where Jäger banned another comradeship last May.
Authorities in NRW have also moved against Salafist groups in recent months, after violent clashes between police and radical Islamists in the cities of Solingen and Bonn.
Neo-Nazis on trial in Koblenz
The intervention by NRW’s state government, follows the start of major trial against 26 alleged neo-Nazis upriver in Koblenz in the adjoining state of Rhineland-Palatinate (RLP) on Monday.
Prosecutors accuse them of establishing a criminal group that intended to eliminate Germany’s free and democratic constitutional order and of perpetrating a “climate of fear” during attacks on leftists as far afield as Dresden in eastern Germany between 2009 and 2011.
On Monday, the presiding judge in Koblenz rejected a defense application that the public be excluded during the reading of charges. The mammoth trial is expected to run into September.
The legal actions precede commemorations this weekend of the 20th anniversary of anti-foreigner rioting in Lichtenhagen – a suburb of Germany’s northern Baltic port city Rostock – that shocked Germany in 1992, shortly after its east-west reunification.
The State of Israel marks the border between east and west for its citizens, and all the Mizrahim live on the border.
By Yitzhak Laor | 03:16 27.08.12
The State of Israel has molded generations of racists, and it is not clear which is worse: higher infant mortality rates for Arabs than for Jews as a result of discrimination in the health system, successive generations of Arab manual laborers as a result of discrimination in the educational system, the decades-long license given to soldiers to show disregard for the lives and property of Palestinians wantonly, or the attempted lynching in Zion Square.
The lynching attempt is easier to censure. After all, “our hands did not spill this blood,” and maybe the time has even come to think about how the “Mizrahism” of Jews from Arab lands has become part of the mechanism that drives the Arabs beyond the boundaries of what is human. The Mizrahi-Askenazi division is not “natural” or “cultural,” but “political.” Before the category of Mizrahim was created Jews lived in Muslim societies only as a minority, not as “Mizrahim” (mizrah is Hebrew for “east” ). It was only when the state was founded that the category “Mizrahi” (“Easterner” ) was created, as the negative of what the majority was identified with: “the West.” Despite this there was nothing “natural” or “cultural” connecting all of Morrocan Jewry to the Jews of Yemen, or of Iran, except for the connection made by the state in their being non-European Jews – and in the fact that their state, which provides identity, defines itself as the west in a war “against the mizrah,” the east.
Sometimes Ashkenazim also underwent violent immigration and were forced, in the worst case, to become “non-Diaspora Jews.” But Jews from Muslim lands underwent two contradictory socializations, which they must still live with, even if they were born here. The first, into their definition as “Mizrahim,” that is, different from the Western majority; the second, simultaneous socialization required them to always, on behalf of the same granter of identity, to give up their Mizrahi identity in favor of being Israeli, which has no meaning except as imitation, or as denial of their past and their parents, and therefore also entails adopting anti-Arab racism. That is how the neurosis is formed. And as if that were not enough, its products are dubbed “arsim” (“guidos” or “chavs” ).
The State of Israel marks the border between east and west for its citizens, and all the Mizrahim live on the border, at least as a response to the constant demand to be “modern” – in other words, not Arab. This wound is opened occasionally in the form of justified complaints of racism and such cultural decisions as becoming religiously observant. But the wound is actually the State of Israel itself, the “Westerner in the East,” that defines Mizrahim as a minority that must “meet the standard” – “modernity,” combat service, academic achievement and of course belonging to “the West.”
(Classical music helps. ) It is worth remembering the wearing of kippot and large stars of David in
places where a “Mizrahi appearance” blurs national identity.
In this historical tragedy the right has granted the Mizrahim, at least since Menachem Begin’s election victory in 1977, a clearer border between east and west than the Labor Party did. From the right’s standpoint, the border crosses between all Jews and all Arabs, not between the “primitive” past and the “modern” future, which the Labor movement, the home of the elites and their yearning memories, promised.
The right gave the Mizrahim the possibility of being “Israeli,” in other words to hate Arabs and of course leftists, who are a reminder of the previous insulting division.
In this “new” division, Likud is “the People of Israel” and “the new state” it will establish after getting rid of the Arabs and the “elites.” The failure of the leftist slogan, “Money for urban neighborhoods, not settlements,” that is, the failure of the attempt to build a political barrier between Likud’s Eretz Yisrael and the Mizrahim, is connected to the “liberating nature of the occupation, in the sense of rebuilding “the People of Israel.” As the conflict with the Arabs grows deeper, the Arabs are removed eastward and the Jews, all of them, finding themselves in the bosom of “the People of Israel,” expels the Arabs or at least beats them at night until they pass out. In the West.
Gaza will no longer be “liveable” by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health, and schooling, the United Nations’ most comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave said on Monday.
“Action needs to be taken now if Gaza is to be a liveable place in 2020 and it is already difficult now,” UN humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard told journalists when the report was released on Monday.
By Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace
Ken Stern, a specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism for the American Jewish Committee (AJC) authored an op-ed piece in the JTA a couple of weeks back entitled BDS Campaign may be Failing but its Effort to Delegitimize Israel Remains Dangerous that was filled with cherry-picked facts, twisted half-truths, and half-told tales.
My own attention was drawn to the article because Stern refers, as evidence of the moral corruption of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, to the fact that the American Free Press (AFP), a despicable anti-Semitic and racist website, ran an interview with me earlier this month. The logic seemed to be that my consent to be interviewed, and the rather standard appreciation I expressed to the interviewer, was proof that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic at its core.
At first I gave Mr. Stern the benefit of the doubt—he couldn’t have known that the interviewer had approached me under false pretenses, that I was horrified and sickened to be featured without my consent on the AFP website, and that I had already been trying for days to get the interview removed, to no avail. But when I approached him with these facts, backed up by documentation, he told me, and later the JTA editors, that he would not remove that section of the article.
To be clear: for Mr. Stern and the AJC, scoring political points is apparently more important than their integrity or the simple truth.
Given my intimate knowledge of Stern’s approach to writing, a closer look at the column seemed worthwhile.
The first part of Stern’s thesis is that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is failing, and that the movement’s only actual success in the U.S. is the Olympia Co-op Israeli products boycott.
This is odd, since just in the last few months, the Methodist and Presbyterian churches have endorsed the boycott of settlement products. The Friends Fiduciary Committee divested $900,000 from Caterpillar in the spring, and, as Stern notes, MSCI, the leading indexer of socially responsible companies, delisted Caterpillar, at least in part because of the way its equipment is used in the Occupied Territories .
His description of this decision as “meaningless” seems willfully inaccurate, given this decision marks the first time that a financial services company has recognized that a company’s activities in Palestine are an element of how it is judged as a socially responsible investment company. Stern did not bother to add that as a result TIAA-CREF divested its Social Choice Funds of $72 million in Caterpillar stock, the largest divestment victory to date, one that TIAA-CREF CEO Roger Fergeson attributed at TIAA-CREF’s shareholder meeting in July at least in part to the work of divestment activists including Jewish Voice for Peace.
Stern claims that the comparison to BDS efforts to end apartheid in South Africa are specious, yet on August 22nd it was announced that South Africa has decided to label products made beyond the Green Line as “made in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” the first step toward state sanctions of those products. As described in Ha’aretz, this decision is garnering a lot of attention in Israel, in recognition of the parallels with sanctions imposed on South Africa by Israel in 1987 at the end of the anti-apartheid struggle.
The African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa began calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions internationally in protest of the apartheid regimes from as early as 1959. While most people who remember BDS actions against South Africa are thinking of the 1980’s, right before Apartheid fell, the reality is that this decisive moment in the anti-apartheid struggle came after decades of hard organizing, with victories coming slowly. It is a mistake for BDS opponents to think that because the pace of victories is not yet akin to the 1980’s that the movement is failing. To the contrary, it seems to be progressing in the case of Palestine and Israel much faster than against South Africa.
The second part of Stern’s thesis is that the BDS movement seeks the end of Israel. To look at just one example in his column, he attacks Kairos U.S.A, a Christian group that calls for solidarity with Palestinian non-violent campaigners, as well as Israelis and others who support them, for saying that Jews do not have “an exclusive or preeminent right to the Holy Land,” but rather a right “to create a vibrant Jewish culture in historic Palestine.”
Let’s look at that statement more closely. It seems that unless the Jewish people are acknowledged as having the exclusive right to the land, then they are considered beyond the pale. But what about the 20% of the Israeli population that is not Jewish? What about the over 5 million indigenous Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem combined? In Ken Stern’s world, are you anti-Israel and anti-Semitic if you don’t buy into a vision of an ethnocratic state where one people have more value and more rights than any other?
Last week, we saw the natural end result of this kind of thinking. A gang of teenagers in the center of Jerusalem attempted to lynch some young Palestinians. Hundreds, including a policeman, watched and did nothing. One of the suspects, after he was arrested, said as far as he was concerned, that the victim could die, because, “he is an Arab.”
This is not the Israel that any of us can be proud of. The Israel that I was proud to be a part of when I lived there included the Israeli activists who put their very lives on the line to protest the policies being pursued in their names, who in the process created a glimpse of what the future of Israel and Palestine could look like if it were based on mutual support and cooperation, rather than fear and extremism.
Just as activists who support Palestinians who nonviolently fight against the Wall do not seek an end to Israel’s existence, the movement to end Apartheid in South Africa did not seek an end to South Africa’s existence. It sought freedom, dignity, and equality for all its citizens, regardless of race.
My own children hold Israeli citizenship. I would like them to have the option to live in an Israel that offers the same—freedom, dignity and equality, regardless of ethnicity or religion–the same values that I grew up with as an American. That is not about the end of Israel, but a vision for justice that all of us can be proud to say we’ve played a role in encouraging.
Antony Lerman, former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, sits down with Haaretz to discuss the British Jewish community, why he renews his Israeli passport and his new book ‘The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist.’
By Anshel Pfeffer | Sep.01, 2012 | 11:55 AM |
Lerman working on the banana groves of Kibbutz Amiad where he was a member. Photo by Courtesy Antony Lerman
LONDON — Antony Lerman says he is “not bitter.” Three and a half years ago he resigned as director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) amid a firestorm of accusations that his views on Israel were “dangerous” and “obscene,” and a feeling that the British Jewish establishment could not include figures who raise serious challenges to the community’s consensus. Today he insists that while “there is an image of me as someone who is on the periphery of the community, on the outside, it is not the true representation of who I am.”
He has had time to digest the events that effectively ended his career as a British Jewish professional and has just brought out a new book: “The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist” (Pluto Press), which will be formally launched in October at the London Jewish Cultural Center and featured early next year at the London Jewish Book Week Festival.
Does this mean that British Jews are prepared to come to terms with Lerman’s often harsh indictments?
“The Jewish leadership has solidified its support of Israel,” Lerman acknowledges in an interview. “But there are examples of people showing readiness to be more independent and critical of what Israel is doing. The polls show that an increasing percentage is ready to say that we should speak out if we disagree with what Israel is doing, even though most of them are still Zionists. I think we are now in a more fluid situation than we were five years ago.”
Though there may be a greater openness in the British community today, many will still have trouble internalizing Lerman’s arguments – for example, his contention that even an “inactive yet self-identifying Zionist living in Manchester” is also “complicit in propping up an unjust occupation” and the “widespread Jewish denial” of what Lerman sees as the injustices committed by Israel. Lerman believes that Israel’s only morally justified future is to abolish the Law of Return, relinquish its Jewish status and become a binational state for Jews and Palestinians.
To Jews in the Diaspora he offers a stark choice between two courses. One is “embracing pluralism, universalism, diversity, multiple identities, and drawing strength from the encounter between Jewish culture and values and the wider world.” The other, which is the only alternative, is a life “grounded in guarding Jewish exclusivity, rejecting multiculturalism, stressing the centrality of Israel and acknowledging Zionism as the primary political ideology uniting the Jewish people.”
From childhood Lerman, 66, has been involved in the Jewish community. He grew up in Habonim, the Labor Zionist youth movement and at age 18 spent a year training as a madrikh (youth leader) in the Jewish Agency/World Zionist Organization’s Jerusalem-based Institute for Foreign Youth Leaders. At 22 he had become British Habonim’s mazkir, or national leader. He immigrated to Israel in 1970 but returned to London three years later and spent three decades, starting in 1979, working in Jewish organizations, mainly as a researcher in the Institute of Jewish Affairs (which would evolve under his directorship into the Institute for Jewish Policy Research). In seven years as chief executive of the Rothschild family’s Hanadiv Charitable Foundation, he oversaw funding of projects aimed at revitalizing European Jewish life.
Many prominent British Jewish leaders are critical of Israel’s current policies and identify with non-Zionist Jewish groups mainly concerned with articulating those positions. What makes Lerman unique is that he did so while actively filling a senior post in a mainstream communal organization. His membership in the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights (JFJHR), where he is a founder, and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), overshadowed his second term as director of JPR and led to calls in the Jewish media for his resignation. “In addition, some central Jewish organizations and figures – including the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and Ron Prosor, at the time the Israeli ambassador to Britain – refused to cooperate with the institute while he was director.”
You accuse the Jewish establishment in Britain of stifling debate on Israel and give the impression that you were hounded out of your job yet you were appointed to a second term, in full knowledge of your political positions on Israel and ultimately left of your own accord.
“I wasn’t forced out but I felt that the job had become impossible for me to do properly. As happens in public life when you personally become the story and you’re trying to do things and represent an organization, you get in the way. I felt that I no longer had the opportunity to have the impact I wanted and I felt that what was being said about me was damaging for JPR.”
Even those in the community who sympathized with your views felt that you had somehow broken an unwritten pact, that as leader of a communal organization you should not express radical views or sign certain petitions.
“The only code you have to abide by is doing what you personally feel is best for the Jewish community. I did censor myself and try to keep to a certain way of speaking about things. I had set out views about the possibility of a one-state solution but I wasn’t going to force those views on anyone. My specific aims were to raise debate about questions of Israel’s impact on European Jewry, the degree that anti-Semitism is being increased by actions that Israel takes and to think again about Zionism and what it means. There were occasions where I felt so strongly that I had to sign a letter and that is where I had problems with my board. But I never intended to make JPR a vehicle for my views.”
So why do you think you became such a target for many in the community?
“The fact that I was at the heart of the Jewish community and I had developed these views made me a threat. It was easy for the establishment to demonize other Jewish people who are not part of the community, but to have someone on the inside saying these things was threatening for them.”
Your book is mainly about the Diaspora’s relationship with Israel but there is an underlying question of what the Jewish Diaspora stands for. You promote a secular, cosmopolitan and liberal European-Jewish identity but the experience of the past 50 years would seem to indicate that only religion and Zionism are effective rallying causes.
“If Judaism is worth anything, it’s a lot more than that. Judaism is about values and behavior and mitzvot, not territory and governments. You can’t have a strong Jewish life without that. I don’t want to cut off anyone’s connection with Israel, but Jewish life in the Diaspora has a meaning for its own sake. There are Jewish centers all around the world, not just one center in Israel or America. Birthright [the program offering young Jews free first trips to Israel] thinks the only way we can appeal to young Jews is by sending them to Israel. I’m not against sending people to Israel, my own Jewish connection developed thanks to going and living there, but we need ways of encouraging Jewish identity outside Israel. Israel and religion are part of the mix, but there are other things such as concern for welfare of the elderly and disadvantaged. These are important Jewish values, as is the huge area of Jewish culture and education. You write that Israelis were often the only Jews who fully agreed with your criticism of Israel. Isn’t that ironic when set against your assessment of Israeli democracy? “In a sense you’re right. There is hardly any democracy in the British Jewish community and even a lot of left-wing Jews feel uncomfortable because they are critical of Israel but are worried about what they can say in public because of ‘what our enemies will say.’ And there are certainly strong elements of democracy in Israel, I’ve never said otherwise. You can have an open debate there, though it’s harder in recent years, but people still do speak out and that is one of the things that give me hope. But there are certain features of what has happened in Israel and the nature of what is happening in the West Bank and in Gaza that are fatal to Israel’s democracy.”
The debate within the British community is opening up. Last year UJIA chairman Mick Davis warned in public that Israel risks becoming an Apartheid state; Yachad, a pro-peace movement that is critical of Israeli policies, now exists within the community.
“When I first heard of the idea of a British equivalent of [the American] J-Street, I was very supportive. But I soon became very concerned because it seemed to me that Yachad distanced itself from what people call radical Jews. Veteran peaceniks like me were labelled and kept out of the debate. I felt that I was ostracised by them. They were in effect contributing to the demonization of certain Jews who were seen as holding too radical opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is better to have Yachad than nothing, but there really was a sea-change at the time in Jewish views and the right kind of leadership could have tapped into it. Yachad failed at that.”
You write that despite no longer being a Zionist, ‘I could take myself out of Israel, but I couldn’t take Israel out of myself’ and that 39 years after coming back to Britain, you still make a point of renewing your Israeli passport. “I am still happy to be an Israeli citizen just as I am a British citizen but I am a nationalist of neither. There is such a thing as liberal nationalism, but what dominates in Israel is extreme nationalist Zionism. Some people think liberal Zionism is compatible with human rights and liberal values. For me though, Zionism today means only one thing, which is represented by current Israeli governments, and settler ideology. That is the only Zionism that matters in terms of where Israel is going. I am not against Jewish national self-expression – but the way it is done impacts on universal values, is ethnocentric and anti-human rights.”
Are you anti-Zionist?
“No. Sometimes arguments about Zionism can sound like flat-Earthism. Zionism happened, it’s a done deal – and to be anti-Zionist is like saying I’m against the French Revolution. Wanting to dismantle Zionism is totally impractical, even if there was any justification for it. There is an Israeli state and a strong Israeli culture. But Zionism is today being portrayed as an ongoing project to purify the nation, as a settler ideology.”
The California State Assembly has just passed a bipartisan resolution (HR 35) by voice vote which constitutes a serious attack on academic freedom and the rights of students and faculty to raise awareness about human rights abuses by U.S.-backed governments. While purporting to put the legislature on record in opposition of anti-Semitism on state university campuses, it defines anti-Semitism so widely as to include legitimate political activities in opposition to Israeli government policies.
The resolution was opposed by a wide variety of groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Asian Law Caucus, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, yet the Republican-sponsored measure received wide bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled legislature.
The non-binding resolution — which was sponsored by 66 of the 88 members of the lower house — demands that what it calls “anti-Semitic activity” should “not be tolerated in the classroom or on campus, and that no public resources be allowed to be used for anti-Semitic or intolerant agitation.”
The resolution lists a number of examples of genuine anti-Semitic activities, such as painting swastikas outside Hillel offices. However, much of the text is focused upon criticism of the state of Israel. Among the examples given of “anti-Semitic activities” included in the resolution are:
• Accusations that the Israeli government is guilty of “crimes against humanity”
This would mean that a speaker from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights groups which have documented such violations of international humanitarian law by the Israeli Defense Forces could not be provided space or honoraria to talk about their research.
• Accusations that Israel has engaged in “ethnic cleansing”
This would mean that Israeli scholars who have studied and published documents from Israeli archives pertaining to the 1947-49 conflict in Israel/Palestine which demonstrate that there was a calculated policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian population in some regions, would similarly be barred.
• “Student and faculty-sponsored boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel”
This would prohibit efforts to boycott goods made in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, support international sanctions on Israel over its ongoing violations of a series of UN Security Council resolution, or have the university divest from its endowment stock in companies supporting the Israeli occupation.
The resolution also declares a number of other political activities that, while clearly objectionable — such as disrupting a speech by a supporter of the Israeli government — as “anti-Semitic,” based on the assumption that hostility toward such a speaker is not based on opposition to policies of Israel’s right-wing government, but because the country is Jewish.
Indeed, throughout the resolution, opposition to Israeli government policies is equated with bigotry towards Jews. There’s no question that some pro-Palestinian activists do sometimes cross the line into what could reasonably be called anti-Semitism, which should indeed be categorically condemned, as should all manifestation of prejudice. Unfortunately, this resolution makes no distinction between this tiny bigoted minority and the majority of activists who oppose the Israeli occupation and other policies of that country’s right-wing government on legitimate human rights grounds.
Not only does this constitute an attack on academic freedom, it compromises legitimate efforts against the scourge of anti-Semitism which — while not as widespread a phenomenon on California campuses as the resolution implies — is still very real.
College campuses, particularly those in California’s large public university systems, have long been a center of agitation for human rights and in opposition to U.S. policies which support violations of human rights, whether it be the war in Vietnam, investment in apartheid South Africa, intervention in Central America or support for Israel’s wars and occupation.
This bipartisan effort appears to be an attempt to stifle this tradition. Indeed, if the California state legislature succeeds in shutting down debate regarding U.S. policy toward Israel and its neighbors, it will only be a matter of time before debate on other aspects of U.S. foreign policy will be suppressed as well.
Protest against the internment of refugees, Saharonim prison, Negev Desert, Israel, 31.8.2012.mp4
Tory Lib Lab coalition is squeezing the disabled until the pips squeak: May they rot in hell.
The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS.
As a gay man living with HIV since at least 1990, when I was diagnosed, I have always been extremely grateful and reliant on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – as have many others with HIV for whom it has been a life raft since it was introduced in 1992, ironically enough by Mrs Thatcher’s government. It is a benefit which is not means tested and which allows HIV positive people to return to work, part-time in my case, and still be assured that if they are unwell or unable to work full-time that they will have something to fall back on.
‘Many long-term recipients of DLA will not be eligible for PIP under the new harsh testing regime, which resembles the “computer says no” scenario from Little Britain.’
Several years ago I attended a meeting organised by Terrence Higgins Trust when it seemed that many of us who had been awarded DLA for life, could have that benefit stripped from us. There were people there, some of them in their 70s, with real terror in their eyes. Many had given up jobs and life insurance and for them, DLA is the only guarantee of any sort of quality of life. A recent article in the Guardian also referred to this.
The new Welfare Reform Act intends to abolish DLA from next year and replace it with PIP, Personal Independence Payments. It is clear from debates during the passing of the legislation and from Department of Work and Pensions statements since, that the aim is to remove half a million recipients from DLA. Even worse, ATOS Medical Services, whose cut throat methods have recently been exposed in the Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ programme and elsewhere, have been given the contract to assess who should and should not receive PIP. The quota will be what drives the assessment and not any real need.
The process will start from next April with face-to-face interviews. It is likely that many long-term recipients of DLA will not be eligible for PIP under the new harsh testing regime, which resembles the “computer says no” scenario from Little Britain. What is even worse is that DLA is a gateway benefit, thus those refused PIP will also lose subsidised travel, housing benefit and many other benefits and be cast into the grinder of being dependent on Employment and Support Allowance. The impact, both in terms of mental and physical health, for many people living with HIV will be huge.
It is vital that people living with HIV join the campaigns being mounted against these huge benefit cuts and the demonisation of disabled people by the anti-cuts and disability movements. In Greece, for example, because of the severe cuts, only those whose CD4 cell count is below 200 receive benefits, with the result that some are allowing their health to fail to access food etc. Two organisations I am involved in are Coalition of Resistance, the national anti-cuts campaign and Queers Against the Cuts, fighting against the cuts for LGBT people, many of whom are HIV positive. We must fight together or we will sink together.