Factual errors behind the anti-Israel vote by Royal Institute of British Architects

CiF Watch recently posted about a motion passed by the Royal Institute of British Architects calling on the International Union of Architects (UIA) “to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects’ (IAUA) membership until it acts to resist projects on illegally-occupied land and observes international law and accords”.

The decision was based partly on a presentation given to the group by an anti-Israel activist (and Guardian contributor) named Abe Hayeem.

abe

Here is a response to some of the glaring factual errors which led to the RIBA anti-Israel vote.

1. RIBA claimed that their vote was based partly on Union of International Architects (UIA) Resolution 13 which states that Israeli projects in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) were ‘illegal’, as well as the Resolution’s claim  that “The UIA Council condemns all action contravening the fourth Geneva Convention”.  

First, the claim that “Israeli projects in the West Bank are “illegal” – despite what the UK media claims – represents a highly disputed legal contention.  Additionally, almost all Israeli settlements are in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, and is under full Israeli military and administrative control per the Oslo II Accord (1995) – an agreement, signed by the Palestinians, which contains no prohibition against settlement construction.

Also, Israel has not contravened the Geneva Convention.  Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention states

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

No court of law has ever found Israel to be in breach of this Article. The Article was written after WW2, when German and Russia forcibly transferred populations. Israel has not forced anyone to move into the West Bank, nor has it displaced local populations. In fact, the Palestinian population within the territories has increased dramatically

The International court of Justice did find in 2004 that Israel was in breach of the Geneva Convention, but this was in an advisory opinion which is not legally binding.

2. Abe Hayeem’s presentation to the RIBA Council included a characterization of the Prawer Plan for resettlement of the Israeli Bedouin as “ethnic cleansing”.

However, the plan does not even remotely resemble “ethnic cleansing”. It is a plan to give the Bedouin citizens of Israel more services and to reduce the economic and social gaps between the Bedouin and the rest of Israeli society. Many Bedouin supported the Plan (which has been shelved) under which a minority, some 20,000 to 30,000 Bedouin, would have been relocated (a few kilometers from their current place of residence) to recognised Bedouin towns, in order to be connected to Israel’s utility networks and have better access to state services.  Further, most Bedouin would have their current land legalized.  The plan also stipulated that those forced to move would receive financial compensation as well as new plots of land.

3. Hayeem also told the RIBA Council the following:

“Palestinian land has become so fragmented that a viable Palestinian State has been rendered impossible. The map of Palestine, for the indigenous Palestinians, has shrunk from being 97% of the land in 1917 to 44% in 1947 to 22% in 1967.”

First, the “map” he’s referring to has been exposed as a lie.

Further, it is not true that a “viable Palestinian state has become impossible”. Under the final status negotiations, Israel accepts that some settlements will need to be evacuated in the event of a peace agreement. And Hayeem’s figures (97% to 22%) ignore the impact of the immigration of Jews to Palestine in 1917-1947 as well as the 1948 War of Independence which was started by the Arabs but in which the new State of Israel successfully defended itself. In 1917 Israel did not exist! – hence the 97% figure.

4. Hayeem’s presentation to the RIBA Council accused Israel of pursuing “apartheid policies”.

This is an egregious falsehood, as you can see by a thorough refutation of the smear published by BICOM.  (See also Jonathan Hoffman’s critique of Ben White’s book.)

Finally, it’s worth noting that in April 2000 Nelson Mandela came to London and spoke to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He spoke of the need for Israel to leave the lands taken in 1967 but not unless there was first recognition of the Jewish State by the Arab States:

I added a second position, that Israel cannot be expected to withdraw from the Arab territories which she legitimately conquered when the Arab States wanted to whip her out of the map of the world.”

No mention of ‘apartheid’ in Israel – from a man who spent 27 years as a prisoner of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

(Editor’s Note: To assist those in the UK who oppose the boycott, please sign this petition, and consider contacting the president of the Union of International Architects (UIA), Prof. Albert Dubler, and ask that the group reject RIBA’s endorsement of a policy of racist exclusion targeting Israelis.)

uia@uia-architectes.org (UIA email)

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David Ward MP – Jews, money and power

Cross posted by Mark Gardner at the CST

Jews, money and power is a well-worn antisemitic trinity.

So, what possessed David Ward MP to send this tweet on 15th November?

That Roma are marginalised is not in question. If David Ward MP wishes they had a better reputation, or better representation, then let him say so: but this tweet appears to say far more about the Board of Deputies than it does about marginalised Roma.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews is the representative body of British Jews. It does its job as best it can, and has done so since 1760. It is, in mundane reality, neither awash with money, nor all-powerful. Ward is an MP for Bradford. There are very few Jews in Bradford, but very many Muslims. Taken at face value, the Board would basically be an irrelevancy for both David Ward and his constituents.

Nevertheless, this kind of thinking, the well-worn drawing together of Jews, money and power, betrays Jews, Muslims and Ward’s own Liberal Democrat Party. It also betrays Ward, but only in the sense of revealing how he thinks, or what he may think appeals to his Muslim constituents.

David Ward has, in under a year, gone from relative obscurity to becoming a one man wrecking ball for the reputation of his party. (For brief example, see here; and see here for his attending a meeting on November 4th that disgraced Parliament.)

The Liberal Democrats must have thought that Jenny Tonge’s much awaited exit had put all of this aggravation and nonsense behind them. Unfortunately, Ward has swiftly occupied the space vacated by Tonge’s departure; and, once again, the Jewish community is left dismayed by the antisemitic resonance of statements made by a Liberal Democrat MP.

The last time we got here with Ward, the party leadership suspended him, and failed in attempts to educate him on the subject of antisemitism and Jewish sensitivities. Then, at the recent Liberal Democrat party conference in Glasgow, Ward attended an open meeting of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel group, entitled,

Crossing the line: Israel, Palestine, language and anti-Semitism

Before it, he had tweeted:

looking forward to LDFI event tonight on use of sensitive language

On behalf of CST, I spoke at the meeting, as did Alistair Carmichael MP, Maajid Nawaz and Lesley Klaff.

David Ward and a colleague sat near the front. Ward appeared to be paying very close attention, his face a scowl of concentration as he scribbled furiously throughout. I tried to direct my explanation of contemporary antisemitism and anti-Zionism straight at him, including:

If I think that someone’s made an antisemitic remark, or that the accusations they make against Israel or Zionists sound just like an update of older antisemitism, with the word Zionist used where the word Jew used to be, then I’m not saying that that person hates every single Jew in the world…I’m just saying that they’ve made an antisemitic remark. The context surrounding that remark, and how they react to my perception of what they’ve said, how other people react in accordance with all of that – now that’s important to me.

Because that’s the basics of how racism works. Its a form of political violence. It feeds off loose language and stereotypes. If the media or the politicians or activist groups run anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim or anti-black scare stories, then attacks on those people increase. You know that, we all know that and its no different with Jews. If you don’t care about the anti-Jewish aspect of racism, or about the feelings of Jews as victims, then it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a dyed in the wool antisemite, but it certainly makes you part of the problem.

At the very least, David Ward MP is certainly part of the problem.

The cowardice of Peter Oborne.

Cross posted by Richard Millett

Peter Oborne loves the Jewish people. He loves us so much he wants to save us from ourselves. It’s a shame Oborne wasn’t around at any of the previous troubled stages of Jewish history to advise us where we were going so wrong, but we can only breathe a sigh of relief that he has taken an interest in our current predicament.

In his recent article for The Daily Telegraph The cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel he writes about the “cowardice” of the Conservative Party for not condemning Israel’s settlement policy in stronger terms. He’s concerned the door will soon be closed on the possibility of a two-state solution and that, eventually, Israel will either cease to be Jewish and democratic or will become an apartheid state.

Oborne quotes Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, a former British ambassador to Israel, who recently said that “anyone who has a real affection for the Jewish people will want to help them to avoid this looming disaster.”

Alarm bells start ringing when someone critical of Israeli policy then co-opts the “the Jewish people”. Are all “the Jewish people” really responsible for “this looming disaster”? Israel is a democracy and British Jews do not have a vote. And it’s not British Jews who have Hamas to their south and Hezbollah to their north.

It’s a fact that there are far more non-Jewish supporters of Israel in the world, and thank goodness when considering the tiny Jewish world population. So why don’t Cowper-Coles and Oborne think non-Jewish supporters of Israel require such “help”?

Their patronising attitude towards Jews brings to mind Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury’s quip that “the Jews aren’t lacking in intelligence”.

Oborne finishes his article by claiming that “Mr Cameron does not want to go down in history as the man upon whose watch all hope of a two-state solution died”. Oborne ignores the fact that the two-state solution died in 1937 when the Arabs rejected 80% of British Mandate Palestine, in 1948 when the Arabs rejected 45% of British Mandate Palestine and 2000 when the Palestinians rejected 22% of, what was, British Mandate Palestine.

Oborne’s allegation that Israel could eventually either cease to be Jewish and democratic or become an apartheid state bears no relation to reality when one looks at the demographics on the ground. A study by Bar Ilan University proves that should Israel ever decide to annex the West Bank then the 1.41 million West Bank Palestinians would, when added to Israel’s existing Arab population, still leave Israel a Jewish majority and democratic state.

Oborne slams David Cameron for devoting just 64 words to the settlement issue at the recent Conservative Friends of Israel lunch. Oborne thinks “This is cowardice”. But Oborne doesn’t criticise Hamas and even blames Israel for the recent conflict. Again Oborne ignores the hundreds of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza before Israel assassinated Hamas’ Ahmed Jabari.

And Oborne refuses to differentiate between Palestinian terrorists and civilians who were killed, but just repeats the mantra that “the number of Palestinian deaths vastly exceeded those on the Israeli side”.

Oborne ignores Hamas treatment of its own people in forcing them to become human shields. Hamas imports tens of thousands of rockets into Gaza but cannot build even one bomb shelter for the people it was elected by to govern.

Oborne also criticises Britain for not backing the recent Palestinian bid for enhanced statehood at the UN. It is morally reprehensible that Britain only abstained. How could a civilised country like Britain refuse to vote against enhanced statehood when considering that the Hamas Charter calls for the murder of Jews?

In 2009 Oborne made a television documentary called Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby. It opens with the menacing line “Tonight on Dispatches how British policy is influenced by supporters of a foreign power.”

Oborne sets out to investigate financial transactions between Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and the Conservative Party and to investigate the influence of pro-Israel lobbyists like CFI, BICOMZionist FederationJewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. A not insubstantial part was dedicated to CiF Watch, which monitors anti-Semitism in The Guardian and its Comment is Free website.

Oborne investigated the claim that accusations of anti-Semitism by pro-Israel lobby groups are being used to silence criticism of Israeli policy. He put to Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor, an accusation by CiF Watch that the Comment is Free comments’ thread “is full of vile anti-Semitic sentiments”.

Rusbridger replied:

“I think it would be a terribly dangerous thing if the British press were made to feel that they couldn’t criticise Israel because they are going to be held up as anti-Semitic. I think it is a very disreputable argument.”

But since 2009 CiFWatch has proved time and again that some Guardian articles are anti-Semitic. Chris Elliot, the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor, has admitted as much.

The Guardian’s Deborah Orr was forced to apologise for describing Israel’s prisoner swap of Gilad Shalit in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners as proof “Zionists believe that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours.” Elliot explained in response that “Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read ‘chosen’ as code for Jewish supremacism.”

A recent cartoon by The Guardian’s Steve Bell seemed to employ the anti-Semitic trope that Jews control the world. Elliot admitted that Bell’s cartoon could be considered anti-Semitic.

And under a very recent Comment is Free article there’s this and worse:

“The 9/11 WTC attack was done by the pro-slavery Zionist-Jew bankers…”

Despite all his efforts to uncover something sinister Oborne declares at the end of his Dispatches documentary:

“In making this programme we haven’t found even something faintly resembling a conspiracy, but we have found a worrying lack of transparency and the influence of the pro-Israel lobby continues to be felt.”

So, Oborne found the pro-Israel lobbies in Britain guilty of nothing more than…..doing their jobs effectively.

Instead of trying to save “the Jewish people” from ourselves Oborne could do worse than visit Gaza if he really wants to understand why there cannot be peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He could then ask Hamas:

1. Why it summarily executes alleged Palestinian collaborators and drags their bodies through the streets?

2. Why it oppresses Palestinian women, gays and political dissidents?

3. Why it doesn’t build any bomb shelters for its people?

4. Why its Charter calls for the murder of all Jews?

But we know he won’t go and ask such questions and that makes Oborne the only coward around here.

Former BBC MidEast reporter Llewellyn: ‘Zionists scattered at strategic points in UK business’

Cross posted by Richard Millett

Milne, Alibhai-Brown, Llewellyn, Rowland listening to Jenny Tonge’s rant last nigh

The reputation of the Jewish community was dragged through the gutter at last night’s book launch of The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe: Changing Perceptions of the Palestine-Israel Conflict. The event was staged by anti-Israel pressure group Middle East Monitor at the University of London’s Senate House.

The panelists were Tim Llewellyn (former BBC Middle East correspondent and now adviser to Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding), Jackie Rowland (Al Jazeera correspondent) and Seumas Milne (The Guardian associate editor). Yasmin Alibhai-Browne (The Independent) chaired the event.

Seumas Milne

Llewellyn and Rowland described a persistent manipulation of the British broadcast media by a well-moneyed pro-Jewish lobby. Llewellyn said, inter alia, that:

“The BBC is very sparing in the amount of delegations or visitors it allows from the Palestinian side. Whereas from remarks that have been heard from the head of BBC News, Helen Boaden, the British Board of Deputies (of British Jews), for example, practically lives at the BBC. They’re there all the time.”

And:

“I was there (at the BBC) when we weren’t interfered with. But the last 10-12 years, since the beginning of the second Intifada, has coincided with Israel’s decision  to mount a tremendously well organised, careful, assiduous and extremely well-financed propaganda campaign in this country, especially in Britain.

The BBC has completely and utterly become feeble and has misreported, in my view; misrepresenting the situation in Israel-Palestine. It has done this maybe because of intense Israeli and pro-Israeli pressure from within this country, from political elements like the Friends of Israel of our three main political parties.

Also through the higher level of pro-Israel Zionists who are scattered at strategic points throughout the British establishment, throughout British business and among the people whose voices are respected.

The propaganda can sometimes be extremely intense, it can be bitter, it can be angry, it could be violent, it can be other forms of coercion. But it’s something the suits at the BBC find very hard to resist. So what has developed over the past 10 years at the BBC, and at other broadcasting institutions like ITN, not so much Channel 4, is a kind of self-censorship.

It is known now by the reporters if they are reporting on an atrocity by the Israelis, in the occupied territories or elsewhere, that they have to add-on to the end of their story some kind of appeasing story of how terrible the Palestinians are or how the Israelis have suffered.”

And:

“The pressure of this Israeli campaign has had a tremendous effect, especially at the institutional level of the BBC and inside the political parties. These people are extremely tough, tough-minded. I have just read a book by Anthony Lerman called The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist. If you studied the internecine warfare that goes on inside the Jewish community between the different groups; the anti-Zionists, the Zionists, the liberal Zionists, the non-Zionists, it is vitriolic, it is dreadful, I mean what chance have we got outside that community.”

Llewellyn even described Jews as “an alien people”. He said:

“The situation in Palestine now is the direct result of British deviousness, betrayal…dividing Syria in at least three parts; Lebanon, Syria as it is now, and Palestine, and setting the stage for the imposition and the implanting of an alien country, an alien people in that region.”

Rowland described how the BBC’s obligation for accountability, because it is publicly funded, has been “used and exploited by very well organised pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish lobby groups.”

She said that she knew someone who worked in the complaints department of the BBC who told her “that 85% of the complaints he dealt with were complaints by pro-Israeli, pro-Jewish lobby groups complaining about the perceived bias of the BBC’s Middle East coverage.”

She said this gives an idea of “how well organised, well-funded people use the idea of public accountability to tie up a lot of BBC resources on one very narrow focus.”

Alibhai-Browne told of how she had been given a rent free home in England by Professor Hugh Blaschko for seven years after she fled Uganda and how he had said to her that “Israel will bring the worst out in us Jewish people”.

Alibahi-Browne also compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.

Milne said “there are well-funded and well organised organisations that campaign in support of Israel. If you’re editing in these area you will find pressure and campaigning constantly by those groups.”

During the Q&A I couldn’t resist mentioning, seeing she was in the audience, that I took the footage that contributed to Jenny Tonge’s exit from the Liberal Democrats. In a bizarre outburst right at the end she took to the microphone to announce:

“I’d like to say, I hope he hasn’t gone, a big, big ‘thank you’ to Richard Millett, the Jewish Chronicle, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the entire pro-Israel lobby who have relentlessly attacked me for eight years but making sure that the Palestinian cause gets heard.”

I have no problem at all with the Palestinian cause getting heard. The main problem for the Palestinians is that it is heard via the likes of Tonge, Milne, Rowland, Alibhai-Browne and Llewellyn.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to clarify exactly what Helen Boaden did say that led to Llewellyn’s accusation that the Board of Deputies of British Jews “practically lives at the BBC”.

Click HERE for Jonathan Hoffman’s view of last night.

Click HERE for MEMO’s version with photos.

Feeble reasons not to boycott the Guardian

The following was written by Geoffrey Alderman, and published yesterday at The JC

Earlier this month, the Board of Deputies declined to adopt a resolution urging “all those who oppose antisemitism to refrain from buying the Guardian or advertising in it”.  

The proposal, tabled by Zionist Federation vice-president Jonathan Hoffman, had already been rejected by the Board’s defence division but the division’s own alternative motion (a wrecking tactic if you ask me), noting the paper’s “continued biased and anti-Israel reporting”, and deploring the lack of action by the Press Complaints Commission, was also rejected.

So, apart from rejecting both propositions, the Board did precisely nothing.

But my concern today is not with the Guardian (for which I have written in the past), or with the concept of a free press – an argument that was, I gather, deployed by opponents of Hoffman’s initiative. My concern is with the Board.

We can argue whether the Guardian really is an antisemitic newspaper and whether – if so – an Anglo-Jewish boycott of it would do any good. In the 1930s, there was a highly effective Jewish-led boycott of the pro-fascist Rothermere press. Lord Rothermere was a supporter of Oswald Mosley. Jewish companies were persuaded to withhold their advertising patronage from his newspapers. Rothermere soon came to heel, signalling that he had done so by ordering the papers to run articles praising the Jewish contribution to British life.

So the “boycott” was highly effective. But this took place three-quarters and more of a century ago, before the internet age. I rarely buy the Guardian, preferring for a variety of reasons (not primarily economic) to read it online. Much of its advertising is placed by international conglomerates which, however “Jewish” some of them might appear, would be unlikely, in today’s economic climate, to forego exposure to make a political point.

Read the rest of the essay, here.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (Who Guards the Guardians?)

A guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

On Sunday, the following Motion proposed by me and seconded by Harry Levine was on the agenda of the Board of Deputies of British Jews:

“The Board regrets the regular appearance of antisemitic material in The Guardian and its online blog “Comment is Free”.  The Board urges all who oppose antisemitism to refrain from buying the Guardian or advertising in it, until its Editor has proved that he is willing to confront the problem.”

The matter falls into the ambit of the Defence Division of the Board. They did not like the boycott element of the motion, so they proposed their own ‘spoiler’:

“The Board of Deputies of British Jews is appalled at the continued biased and anti-Israel reporting which appears in the Guardian newspaper, and its online web forum, Comment is Free, which regularly crosses the boundaries of legitimate criticism into the realms of antisemitism. The Board deplores the persistent lack of intervention and toothless approach to this issue taken thus far by the Press Complaints Commission, and expresses its support for initiatives which will create a transparent and robust regulatory system, to cover not only the mainstream press in general but also electronic, technical and specialist media.”

Their motion was discussed first (despite the fact that the only reason it was there was my motion).

The discussion was bizarre. Alex Brummer (a journalist now with the Mail, formerly The Guardian) stressed the importance of a free press and called the motion ‘intellectual fascism’.

Another former journalist (ex-Reuters) said much the same.

Alex Goldberg (an interfaith professional) said he has written for CiF and had always found the editing sympathetic and The Guardian is not an antisemitic newspaper: after all, the Guardian website features the “Sounds Jewish” podcast.

Someone quoted Jonathan Freedland as saying how careful and wide-ranging the daily editorial conference is.

Several people said that The Guardian is not an antisemitic paper (though, neither the ‘spoiler’ nor my motion claims it is, just that it carries antisemitic material regularly).

Three or four people said the motion was ‘toothless’ implying that they might support my motion. (I did not rise to speak as I wanted to speak to my own motion).

The ‘spoiler’ motion was defeated by a substantial majority (46-77).  I put this down to a combination of:

(a) the ‘hands off the free press’ argument

(b) the ‘toothless’ argument and

(c) – linked to (b) – those who wanted to vote for my motion instead. (I was in category (c) as was Harry).

Only after two hours was my motion addressed. But it wasn’t. The Chairman moved that ‘the motion be not put’ without any discussion and it was carried overwhelmingly. I put this down to a combination of the ‘hands off the free press’ argument and the fact that after two hours people’s attention span is reduced and they thought they had heard enough about The Guardian.

The ‘motion not be put’ device is completely undemocratic.  The Constitution (SO17) gives a Deputy the right to speak to a Motion and have it voted. If a Motion was frivolous or otherwise unacceptable I could understand that the Chair might call for a vote that it ‘not be put’. But no-one could say that of this motion – after all it was taken seriously enough that a ‘spoiler’ was tabled.

 But draw your own conclusions – you can read the speech I would have made – opposing the ‘motion be not put’ motion – below.

Here’s the text of my prepared speech:

We have a constitutional duty to advance Israel’s security, welfare and standing. We also have a duty to protect, support and defend the interests of Jews.

The Guardian is the polar opposite of advancing Israel’s security, welfare and understanding. It defames and lies about Israel continuously. Robin Shepherd has called it “the mainstream Anglo publication most hostile to Israel in the world.” Moreover it frequently crosses the line into antisemitism. After Israel released 1027 terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a Guardian columnist – Deborah Orr – unbelievably wrote that Israel chose the 1027:1 ratio for racist reasons. She wrote “there is something abject in their eagerness to accept a transfer that tacitly acknowledges what so many Zionists believe – that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours.

I can cite many more examples. Former Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote: ‘Never has a British broadsheet so openly served the agenda of Middle Eastern extremism. The Guardian must be commended for its transparency: readers can no longer doubt its affinity for Hamas’.

This Motion needs to be debated. It needs to be debated because the Board must take a stand against The Guardian and must encourage others to do the same. A strong stand. “Deploring” and “being appalled” – as the defeated Defence Division motion states – is toothless (one of the reasons it was defeated). It is simply talking to ourselves.

It is time for the Board to take the lead in using economic leverage against The Guardian until things change. The Guardian matters. It is approximately the 200th most visited website in the world (for comparison, the BBC is the 45th). That’s tens of millions of unique users a month. The Board supports Advocacy Conferences but unless it’s willing to act and act decisively against the sources of delegitimisation, it’s fighting only one half of the battle.

They did it in Australia. Faced with a similar problem with “The Age” newspaper in Melbourne, the Jewish leadership took a stand. They severed ties with the newspaper, accusing it of “clear and consistent vilification of the world’s only Jewish state”. They did it in Australia – are we really too timid and too much of a pushover to do it here?

When this Motion was debated in Defence Division there were four objections raised. All are easy to answer.

The first was “People will say we’re trying to control the media”. Simple response: We must not let antisemites tell us how to deal with antisemitism

The second was “We don’t believe in boycotts”. The Defence Division says our Motion will “undermine the community’s long held opposition to boycotts”.

Ah yes .. I remember now …. That was the same opposition which led the Board of Deputies to resolutely refuse to join the Boycott of Nazi Germany which began on 21st March 1935. The Board continued to refuse to join the Boycott throughout the 1930s. It was on the wrong side of history then. Is it really going to make the same mistake again?

The third argument was “There are not enough Jewish readers/advertisers of the Guardian to make it successful”. My response is that this is about building a coalition of right-thinking people. There are plenty of non-Jews who will support us. Indeed there are plenty who are mystified as to why we have not done it already.

The final argument was “A debate/vote will show us divided”. My response to that is So What? Is it so shameful for Jews to be seen to be disagreeing? We are a notoriously disputatious people – we disagree all the time for heaven’s sake.

Many people have told us that we should not have to move this Motion. The Executive should have acted long ago. I completely agree. It is shameful that the Executive is not sponsoring this Motion just as it was shameful that the Board failed to join the Boycott against Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

That makes our right to have the right to have this Motion debated unquestionable.  Standing Order 17 gives us that right. If this Motion was frivolous then we could accept that this Motion be not put. But the Defence Division clearly does not think it frivolous since we have spurred it to come up with its own Motion.

If a Deputy cannot have such an important Motion debated, then we might as well shut up shop and go home … what is the point of becoming a Deputy … and what kind of example is this to the young people we are trying to persuade to become Deputies…??

Racist Alliance: Behind the scenes of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and Pluto Press

Richard Millett’s recent post on the subject of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine’s (RToP) book launch held at Amnesty International’s London premises (where else?) provides a good opportunity to take a look behind the scenes of such an event and to examine the connections of some of the various players and the manner in which some anti-Israel activists attempt to co-opt legitimacy to their campaign by intellectualising it.

The book in question is entitled ‘Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation’ and is based upon the ‘evidence’ presented at the RToP session in London last year. Its editors are Asa Winstanley and Frank Barat and it is published by Pluto Press.

Asa Winstanley is heavily involved with the International Solidarity Movement and spent time in the PA controlled territories working on its behalf.

“The ISM training was yesterday and today. We had about eight new recruits, so it was a pretty good weekend session. At the end of today, we were planning how to spread ourselves around the regions that ISM covers and it was a really good vibe. We have some good activists here now and I am feeling more confident about the state of ISM. The majority of us here now are British, I think.”

Winstanley’s ISM links appear to have continued after his return to the UK and he has been involved in recruiting volunteers and fundraising for the organisation.  He apparently considers his stint with the ISM to have turned him into a Middle East expert, and writes for a variety of outlets including ‘Electronic Intifada’ and ‘Ceasefire’. Winstanley’s level of ‘expertise’ on Israel can be appreciated in the following passage.

“When I lived in Palestine, on the few times I had to travel to Tel Aviv from the West Bank (via Jerusalem,) walking around the public bus stations I was struck by the sheer number of armed, uniformed soldiers who used the public bus system. Anyone who has used buses in Israel for any length of time will tell you they often have more soldiers than civilians on them.

The phenomenon is so widespread that it can only be a deliberate policy. Does some $3 billion a year in military aid from the US government not provide it with enough funding for its own troop transportation? So Israel not only uses Palestinians as human shields, but it even “hides” its soldiers amongst its own civilian population – exactly what Israeli spokespeople accuses Hamas of. Talk about projection.”

Recently Winstanley has invested much in defending the case of Northern Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah who was arrested earlier this year in the UK. (The Tribunal decision is here.)  Here he is being interviewed on the subject by Dr Hanan Chehata (also press officer for Daoud Abdullah’s MEMO) on the Muslim Brotherhood-linked ‘Al Hiwar’ TV channel which was established in 2006 by Azzam Tamimi.

With lies and distortions in practically every sentence, not to mention the liberal sprinklings of ‘Israel lobby’ conspiracy theory and false accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ against the CST and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, it is easy to appreciate why Winstanley is such a hit in anti-Israel circles. Particularly interesting is his declaration that the new book he co-edited is designed to be a ‘handbook’ for those engaging in BDS.

The book’s other editor is the currently UK domiciled French activist Frank Barat who is also the co-ordinator for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Barat is also a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the UK branch of ICHAD.

In January 2010 Barat spoke as RToP representative at one of the Palestine Memorial Week events which the RToP now organizes annually together with the Palestinian Return Centre, the Palestinian Forum in the UK, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, the Islamic Forum of Europe, FOSIS, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Islamic Human Rights Commission, among others.

The majority of these organisations have direct links to Hamas – a proscribed terror organization in the UK – and the Muslim Brotherhood.  The events are endorsed by the PSC, Friends of Al Aqsa, the ISM, the Free Palestine Movement (organizer of flotillas) and Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.

Barat is also busy on the lecture circuit: here he is for example appearing alongside a Guardian reporter at a Tower Hamlets Jenin Friendship Association event, and here, alongside Ghada Karmi and Jody McIntyre, explaining why he is an ‘activist’.

Barat also appears to have links to the ISM and in addition writes for a number of outlets including Al Jazeera, ‘Electronic Intifada’, the Palestine Chronicle and others. Here is his report for Ma’an from the recent RToP session in South Africa, written together with Al Shabaka’s Victor Kattan who was reporting from the event on Twitter.

Barat also runs his own blog where he links to, among other extremists, Gilad Atzmon, whose antisemitic resume includes leveling the explicit charge, on his blog, that Jews are indeed trying to take over the world.

Barat is also the editor of a book by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe.  

Here is Barat’s distinctly incomplete account of the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma.

“Jawaher probably chanted “la la el jidar” (no, no, to the wall) and walked, side by side with others, towards the Apartheid Wall and the line of soldiers, waiting on top of the hill. She then probably run away when the first tear gas were fired, regrouped, and walked back towards the wall again.

……Or maybe she did not. Not this time.

She inhaled a huge quantity of this most poisonous substance and was taken to a Ramallah hospital. She never recovered. She died. The Holy Land is not the land of miracles.”

Both Winstanley and Barat are obviously wedded more to the ‘narrative’ which promotes their careers as ‘activists’ than to the kind of objectivity and adherence to fact one would expect from the editors of books or serious publications.  One must therefore ask why a publishing house would select them for that role and the answer to that question is probably best found in an understanding of the ideologies adhered to by founder and publisher of Pluto Press, Roger van Zwanberg.

Many of the authors on Pluto’s authors list are household names to those familiar with the anti-Israel scene:  Alastair Crooke of Conflicts Forum, Sarah Irving, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Uri Gordon of ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’ and Ted Honderich - who published at letter at the Guardian morally justifying suicide bombing against Israeli civilians - to name but a few.  

Pluto Press’ radical agenda is, however, not entirely limited to the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In 2005, for example, it published a book (preface can be read here) entitled ‘Conjuring Hitler; How Britain and America made the Third Reich’ which, according to reviews, leans on the works of Holocaust Denier David Irving among others.

The publishing house also has its own Youtube channel, organizes events at universities and other venues and dedicates a page on its site to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Roger van Zwanenberg

In addition to his activities at Pluto Press, Roger van Zwanenberg was also a trustee of the apparently now defunct ‘Gateway Trust’  (also known as the ‘Van Zwanenberg Charitable  Trust’) which included Naomi Klein and former Guardian employee Victoria Brittain among its group of  ‘international advisors’ and which was supported financially by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, UNESCO and Pluto Press.

He has also been a member of the advisory board of ‘Just Media’ (founded by the Palestine Chronicle’s Ramzy Baroud – also a Pluto Press author) along with Ilan Pappe, Noam Chomsky and John Pilger.

Here is Pluto Press described in its founder’s own words:

“Our niche, our rationale and our advantage in the marketing place of the world, is that we tackle the great issues of our day… the grandeur of Imperialism, war and peace locally and globally, the tyranny of oppression, and the domination of one people by another…. the great issues as seen through socialist writers (sic) eyes.”

Van Zwanenberg describes himself as a Marxist born into “a Christian family with deep Jewish roots; all my first cousins were and are deeply Jewish.”  That fact is, apparently, sufficient grounds for pulling the ‘asaJew‘ card when deemed an advantage. Here  van Zwanenberg has signed a 2008 ‘Jewish opposition statement to attack on Iran’ organized by ‘Jews against Zionism’. He is also a member of ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’.

In a 2006 article entitled “Jewish people of Israel re-enact the horrors of their German oppressors” (written as a response to the IDF’s attempt to locate and rescue the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit), van Zwanenberg wrote the following:

Israel and its people are now behaving with impunity, just like the State of Germany did in prosecuting the final solution. We are schooled in the belief that we must say “never again!” to such barbarity. But Israel knows that all the surrounding states are too weak to intervene. As we watch with horror the invasion of Gaza, we all feel our helplessness. All the fine words, how the horrors of the Holocaust must always be remembered, are quickly forgotten by the world’s governments as the Jewish people of Israel re-enact the horrors of their German oppressors—the horrors that their mothers and fathers underwent 60 or more years ago.

Just as Nazi Germany could not survive for long, so too, a brutal Israel, brutalizing her own and all the surrounding people, cannot survive for long. As things stand, I cannot see how that demise will come about. But the acts of evil we are now witnessing cannot last without having deep and lasting effects on all of us.” [emphasis mine]

In 2008 van Zwanenberg lent his name to a campaign for the reinstatement of a German academic, Ludwig Watzal, removed from his tenure at an official periodical after making a series of anti-Semitic remarks. Coincidentally or not, Watzal had produced a glowing review of one of Pluto Press’ publications the previous year.

Van Zwanenberg appears to consider himself proficient in understanding what he terms “so-called Terrorism”, supports BDS and is an ardent promoter of ‘anti-Imperialism’:

“Western and Eastern interests are everywhere, shipping into and out of the Suez Canal; the struggle to own or control mineral resources; but above all, the fear of “Political Islam”. The Western powers fear of political Islam is a dominant force driving the US to war throughout the region. Some will argue, as I would, that this is thoroughly misunderstood. But the hatred of all things Islamic is a mantra which is everywhere in Western media. The ruling and political classes use this fear to drive their own “War against Terrorism”.”

In 2007, following the controversy over an American publisher’s distribution of the Pluto Press book “Overcoming Zionism”, van Zwanenberg said that:

“Many presses in the United States are frightened of the pressures that the lobby can place on them,” van Zwanenberg said. “We get authors from the United States, precisely because they can’t obtain adequate representation elsewhere, and we have a good reputation for scholarly work on the subject of Israel and Palestine, and we probably have the best collections of any university press in that area.”

“Van Zwanenberg added that the attempts by “the Israel lobby” to cut off Pluto’s American distribution channel were an attack on free expression. “The lobby is very powerful and very well-financed, and small presses like us could be destroyed by these people,” van Zwanenberg said. “They are a threat to our existence and to free speech.” “

Of course in reality no-one is threatening van Zwanenberg’s free speech or the existence of his business, but free speech is a two-way street.

Members of the public have the right (and perhaps the obligation) to be aware of the extremist ideologies which motivate the publication of the type of quasi-academic work produced by publishers such as Pluto Press, particularly when it comes as a result of collaboration with a ‘tribunal’ which misleadingly affords itself quasi-legal status  and faux ‘human rights’ activists such as Winstanley and Barat with links to terror-enabling organisations.

UK Dep’t for International Development removes video accusing Israel of stealing Palestinians’ water

A guest post by Oded Ben-Josef, on Aug. 23, commented on a video posted on the site of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) which highlighted a four-year plan to promote sustainable development and eliminate poverty in the Palestinian Authority, which featured a visit to the PA by UK Minister of State, Alan Duncan MP, to promote the project.

As Ben-Josef noted, Duncan’s commentary in the video went beyond mere anti-poverty advocacy, and was more akin to the most shrill and vitriolic propaganda by anti-Israel activists, and including the following:

“Israeli settlers can build what they want, pretty well, and they immediately get the infrastructure, so that takes the water deliberately from Palestinians here.” [emphasis mine]

“[..] So, the Israelis can build, and this is not their country, but Palestinians, whose country this is, cannot build.”

And, later in the video, Duncan said this about Israel’s security barrier:

“…Behind me is the wall. Well the wall is a land grab. It hasn’t just gone along the line of a proper Israeli boundary.”

Following reports about the DFID video, The Board of Deputies of British Jews criticized Duncan for his remarks.

Further, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy questioned whether the minister was suitable as a spokesman for the UK government, and reminded Duncan that the wall was built solely for security purposes to stop “Palestinian suicide attacks” on civilian buses and restaurants.  

The Israeli Embassy spokesman said:

“Claiming that the security barrier, which has prevented the deaths of thousands more Israelis, is not for security purposes, shows a disrespect for Israeli life, and we are therefore convinced that this could not be the official British government position.”

As Ben-Josef noted, the “YouTube video from the trip was posted on the DFID site and on YouTube, but was, without explanation, taken down and disabled”, shortly thereafter.

But, an Aug. 27th report by The Telegraph sheds some light on the decision, quoting a DFID Spokesperson saying:

“The video was aimed at highlighting DFID’s work to alleviate poverty in the OPTs [Occupied Palestinian Territories]…Unfortunately, some elements were misinterpreted and Mr Duncan has asked for it to be taken down.”

According to The Telegraph, the UK Foreign Office was reported to be unhappy with the “tone” of the language that Mr Duncan had used.

Of course, the UK Foreign Office didn’t suggest what would be the appropriate “tone” for callously criticizing Israeli security measures implemented to prevent suicide bombers from murdering innocent Israelis, and falsely accusing the Jewish state of  cruelly taking water away from thirsty Palestinians.

Jonathan Hoffman: “Boycott the Guardian”

Jonathan Hoffman, in his blog today, said the following, in the context of the Guardian’s “Palestine Papers” series but referring more broadly to the paper’s record of consistently giving license to voices who demonize the Jewish state and advance narratives which are often explicitly anti-Semitic:

The Guardian wilfully misleads its readers about Israel, vilifying and falsifying at every step of the way.

I call on members of the Jewish Community and all right thinking people and advertisers to stop buying the Guardian and placing advertising with it. I have tabled a question to the President for Sunday’s Board of Deputies meeting, asking him to endorse this boycott.

For relevant background, see Hoffman’s Report to Parliament on anti-Semitism at CiF.

The Board of Deputies’ appalling lack of clarity in response to the Kairos document

This is a guest post from Jonathan Hoffman

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has published “Zionism: A Communal Response.”

A response to what, precisely?

Its a response to the so-called Kairos document issued by a group of Palestinian Christian theologians in December 2009.

That document is far from even-handed. It speaks of ‘occupation’ without acknowledging the withdrawal from Gaza; fails to say that the separation fence has saved hundreds of lives because it has all but eliminated suicide bombers; wrongly suggests that Israel disregards international law; suggests that Israel is practising ‘collective punishment’; appears to sanction terror (“Resistance is a right and a duty for the Christian”); and supports a boycott of Israeli goods. It portrays Israel’s creation as a response to Western guilt over the Holocaust, rather than as a legitimate expression of Jewish self-determination.  It even refers to Israeli occupation as “a sin against God.

CAMERA has noted that the Kairos document has many similarities with a memorandum issued by Arab Christians in 1967 entitled “What is Required of the Christian Faith Concerning the Palestine Problem.”

So the Board’s document knocks these tropes on the head, right?

Wrong.

Rabbi Wittenberg’s piece addresses the Holocaust point but none of the others.

Rabbi Bayfield doesn’t really attack any of the Kairos tropes.

Dan Rickman (who posts at the Guardian’s Comment is Free as “leftwingorthodoxjew”) says that the Kairos document was written out of “a feeling of pain and distress” and then fails to take it on. (He does note the unbroken history of Jewish life in the Holy Land).

Rabbi Danny Rich (who’s on the Board of Patrons of the far left site, JNews) also notes the historic links of the Jews with the Holy Land. He then outlines ten biblical principles. Incredibly he sees moral equivalence between the Israeli case and the Palestinian case:

“There is little evidence of these principles being applied on either side of the divide.”

Even more incredibly he seems prepared to give up the Jewish State:

“At one time a binational state might have been a possibility, but in the absence of support for it from the mainstream of either side partition seems to be the only viable option.”

This fits in with (and casts light on) his refusal to see the advocacy of “One State” as antisemitic.

It is utterly bewildering how he manages to square this with remaining as a Patron of the Zionist Federation. Surely in all conscience he should step down.

In its conception, choice of authors and execution, this is a document that should never have seen the light of day. That it did so once again underlines that UK’s Jewish leadership unbelievably still does not ‘get it’ when it comes to delegitimisation and vilification of Israel. Just what will it take?

I should add that I am a member of the Board of Deputies and indeed am on the International Division which should surely have seen this publication well before it saw the light of day. But it didn’t.