Middlesex Univ. bans public from ‘Free Palestine Society’ event with Lauren Booth

Cross posted by Richard Millett

middlesexuniThe Facebook page above reads:

“THE UNIVERSITY HAVE RESTRICTED THE EVENT TO MIDDLESEX STUDENTS & STAFF ONLY…PLEASE EMAIL MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY TO SEEK THEIR JUSTIFICATION FOR THIS UNPRECEDENTED RESTRICTION.”

The event was the Free Palestine Society’s The Case for Boycotting, Divesting, and Sanctions against Israel held last night. The speakers were Lauren Booth, John Rees and Asghar Bukari. The location was Middlesex University in Hendon, a highly Jewish populated suburb of London.

On her blog Booth quotes Gilad Atzmon’s anti-Semitic rhetoric extensively and tries to back him up. For example:

“No Jews do not run the world. They get others to do it for them.’”….This argument is not without example. In 2001 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, made unguarded comments, about relations with the United States and the peace process.
“I know what America is,” he told a group of terror victims, apparently not knowing his words were being recorded. “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.”

And she directly implicates British Jews in what she sees as Israel’s “crimes” when she writes:

“What must also continue, freely and without hindrance are debates into the British Jewish communities role in funding the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and East Jerusalem via such bodies as the Jewish National Fund.”

Bukhari is the founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee. MPAC was banned from university campuses in 2004 after being branded anti-Semitic by the National Union of Students and Bukhari, himself, supported and financed Holocaust denier David Irving.

MPAC recently tweeted that Zionism equals Nazism.

Rees has, inter alia, reportedly identified with the Mahdi Army, a terror cell responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis.

We did email Middlesex University to ask why concerned members of the public were banned, but the response bore no relation to the question. Middlesex University responded:

“This is a Students’ Union supported society event which is open to students and staff at the University. As a University we have a responsibility to protect freedom of speech within the law and support the rights of our students to meet and discuss issues that matter to them. The University hosts a wide range of events, presenting many different views, and we would not seek to prevent them or influence the content unless there are very strong grounds to do so.”

When I contacted Sam Spindlow, of Corporate Communications at Middlesex University and who was responsible for disseminating the statement, even he agreed that the statement did not explain why the public was banned, but said he could go no further than that.

The reality is that at a similar event at Middlesex University last year Ken O’Keefe compared Jews to Nazis, and Jenny Tonge said that “Israel won’t be here forever” for which she was chucked out of the Liberal Democrats.

Middlesex University’s new policy seems to be to allow hate speech to go virtually unopposed. Concerned members of the public are to be banned from anti-Israel events, although whether this policy is legal is open to question with Middlesex University being a taxpayer funded institution.

A few defiant members of Middlesex University’s Jewish Society did attend last night. One walked out in disgust at what was being said about Israel. She said that a pro-Israel question was asked during the Q&A but was dismissed by Lauren Booth as being “too Zionist a question to take seriously.” Another member of the Jewish Society handed out pro-Israel leaflets afterwards.

Jonathan Hoffman and I weren’t allowed in so we waited outside till the end and engaged in discussion with the students as they exited the room. We didn’t get very far though. We were told we were “child killers” and as I left a student shouted at me “Go back to Golders Green*.”

That kind of vile racism has now become the norm at anti-Israel events, but Middlesex University dangerously continues to look away.

*Golders Green is another highly Jewish populated suburb of London.
** Thanks to Stand For Peace for its research on Booth, Bukhari and Rees.

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Jonathan Hoffman and security outside last night’s Free Palestine Society event at Middlesex University.

Resistance: The JNF, and Harriet Sherwood’s continuing delegitimization of the Jewish state

“My Dear Sir, But you are proceeding upon the superstition that Moral Courage and a Hankering to Learn the Truth are ingredients in the human being’s makeup. Your premises being wild and foolish, you naturally and properly get wild and foolish results. If you will now reform, and in future proceed upon the sane and unchallengeable hypothesis that those two ingredients are on vacation in our race, and have been from the start, you will be able to account for some things which puzzle you now.” – Mark Twain

By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 500 million people, one-quarter of the world’s population at the time, and covered more than 13 million square miles, almost a quarter of the earth’s total land area.

At the height of its power, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman Turkish Empire controlled territory in southeastern Europe, southwestern Asia, and North Africa. In 1680, under Mehmed IV, the empire controlled 5.5 million square miles of land.

Today, in the Middle East, a vast area previously controlled by the Ottoman Turks and then the British, 5.25 million square miles belongs to states of the Arab League. The one holdout in that hegemony is the 8,000 square mile Jewish state of Israel—the only Jewish homeland that ever was and ever will be. The population of Israel is 7.5 million. The ratio of Arab to Jewish land is 640:1.

In 1901, during the fifth Zionist Congress, delegates had spent the day debating a proposal for the establishment of a national fund to purchase land in Ottoman Empire-controlled Palestine (the name given by the Romans to ancient Israel).  The motion passed and the congress resolved that a fund to be called Jewish National Fund (JNF) should be established, and that “the fund shall be the property of the Jewish people as a whole.” JNF’s first undertaking was the collection of £200,000.

Theodore Herzl, who four years earlier had organized the First Zionist Congress, was inspired to galvanize world Jewry around the idea of returning to their ancient homeland in response to the anti-Semitism of the Dreyfuss Affair, the failure of European Jewish emancipation more broadly, and to his all too prescient sense of an impending catastrophe for European Jewry.

Throughout the years preceding Israel’s independence the JNF purchased additional land and, even during the British mandate when Jewish immigration to historic Palestine was severely restricted during the Holocaust and in the three years prior to statehood, developed previously uninhabitable land in anticipation of Israel’s rebirth – development which was, by any measure, wildly successful.

While the borders of the British and Ottoman Empires were drawn, as most modern nation states’ boundaries have been drawn (and defended), by the edge of a sword, Israel’s were formed by legally purchased land (by the JNF), and via international law (from legally binding decisions codified at the San Reno Conference, though the UN Partition plan and Israel’s admission into the UN).  

While it’s less than clear whether British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to resign as a patron of the JNF was due to pressure from anti-Israel activists such as Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), (David Cameron resigns as patron of the Jewish National Fund, Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, May 29), the story’s legitimization of the narrative of groups such as PSC and Stop the JNF Campaign that JNF has committed “war crimes” and has been complicit in “ethnic cleansing” represent, at best, unintelligible invectives – and are a testament to the truth that, for many, anti-Israel ideology has taken on an almost religious intensity, where nuance, complexity and doubt are subservient to ideological articles of faith.

The JNF, as was its goal, legally purchased the land that would become the State of Israel, then helped to develop that land into the thriving nation it would become – by planting trees (becoming the only nation in the world who entered the 21st century with a net gain in the number of trees), building dams and reservoirs, creating parks, and developing the infrastructure which supported the absorption of millions of immigrants to the Jewish state.

Growing up, in my assimilated secular Jewish family, what I most associated with Israel was the ubiquitous blue JNF box – the most iconic and non-political way Jews in the diaspora could support the continued development and continued success of the state of Israel.  Whether you were motivated by a desire to protect Israel’s environment, or a broader concern for the nation’s long-term viability in a hostile neighborhood,  the JNF was about as controversial as the United Way or American Red Cross.

Harriet Sherwood’s efforts to paint the JNF as some sort of instrument of oppression is but another form of delegitimization – an effort to pry those susceptible to such facile and intellectually unserious ideas away from support for the Jewish state.  In short, it’s an attack on Zionism itself – an assault on our rights to finally, as Herzl dreamed, “be a free people in our land.” 

The word “resistance” is one that’s sadly been co-opted by the radical (Guardian-style) left, anti-Zionists, and Islamists to denote resistance to “Western oppression”.  Yet the word, in its true sense, uncorrupted by its explicit defense of violence and politically reactionary movements, conveys what is desperately needed in our post-modern, post-colonial world – an appeal to garner the strength necessary to defeat the enemies of the Jewish people, and not to submit to moral relativism, cynicism or defeatism.

Resistance to the allure of intellectual fads of our day, which serve to weaken our resolve to defend progressive democracies more broadly, and the Jewish democratic state in particular – the radical chic pose which Harriet Sherwood and her political fellow travelers have so cravenly succumb to – represents “resistance” that true progressives should rightfully be engaged in, and is the broader objective of the fierce battles our blog (me and my loyal colleagues) are engaged in daily.

Happy Tu B’Shvat! (The fruits of perseverance)

Many Israelis will be out planting trees over the next few days in honour of the festival of Tu B’Shvat and continuing the over one hundred year old tradition started by the Jewish National Fund which has resulted in Israel being able to lay claim to the very rare achievement of entering the 21st century with more trees than it had 100 years previously.

But not only organised and ‘official’ tree planting takes place at this time of year. Thirty eight years ago the little forest in the picture below did not exist, but year after year members and children from my kibbutz planted trees there both on Tu B’Shvat and, according to our local tradition, each time a couple got married here. Several times the forest was severely damaged by bushfires, so we planted more trees. Today it has a life of its own, with birds, badgers and other wild-life as well as wild flowers and children building dens.

Of course tree planting demands much time, patience and nurturing before it is possible to enjoy the results. Sometimes, in the face of adverse weather or blight, one has to conjure up a lot of belief that it will be worth it one day and the fruits will come, but with perseverance they do.

Our little CiF Watch acorn which we planted 18 months ago is something similar.

Happy Tu B’Shvat (New Year for trees) to all our readers.

(Editor’s note: Please see Israelinurse’s other post on Tu B’Shvat at the blog, OyVaGoy)

The Little Blue Box is back!

A Guest Post by AKUS

Over lunch the other day my family debated where we should donate money in the wake of the huge fire that has destroyed so much of Israel’s beautiful forest on Mount Carmel and was responsible for so many deaths. We tend to give small amounts to numerous causes in the hope that some of it will reach the intended recipients, while remaining rather suspicious of the organizational costs which eat up a good percentage of each dollar sent. (I estimate we receive between five and ten letters from various organizations each week asking for money, and in some cases I suspect the endless mailings cost more than the amount we donate).

As we discussed the fire, we decided that there is one Israeli organization that can really point to “results on the ground” – “uvdot b’shetach”, as we say in Israel. That is the JNF – Jewish National Fund, or Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael. The JNF is the organization which can lay claim to the concept of positive “climate change” and making a country greener before anyone had heard of the issue of “global warming”. It continues its efforts to this day as you can see on any visit to Israel.

The funding for the JNF has come from Jewish families – and perhaps non-Jewish families who admire what it has achieved. For decades children at Jewish day schools have been encouraged to bring a few coins to school on Friday to donate to the JNF, dropping the coins into the once ubiquitous “Blue Box”. As Israel grew and prospered, the need seemed less, but children continued to do this as an example and lesson in “tzdakah” – charitable giving – learned by practicing it every Friday.

So for our family – the little Blue Box is back, and that’s where our donations will go – to help reforest the Carmel.

Russell Tribunal on Palestine presents Ken Loach at Amnesty

This is cross-posted from Richard Millett’s Blog

Ewa Jasiewicz, Dr Ghada Karmi, Frank Barat, Paul Troop, Ken Loach

Last night at Amnesty International in London, against a backdrop of a quote by Bertrand Russell (“May this tribunal prevent the crime of silence”), sat four anti-Israel activists and Paul Troop, a solicitor, presenting the raison d’etre of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The first Russell Tribunal was convened in 1967 in Sweden and Denmark to harness public opinion against the Vietnam War, but it was largely ignored as being merely a show trial.

And so to the second Russell Tribunal, this time on Palestine. It is due to convene over three days at the Law Society in London on the 20,21 and 22 November.

Over that weekend some 20 or so companies are due to be put on trial for complicity with “Israeli war crimes”.

Israel is not on trial, the companies are.

It will already be presumed that Israel is in breach of international law and has committed crimes against humanity.

When I asked Paul Troop where such breaches of international law are judicially laid down the best he could do was direct me to the “opinion” of the International Court of Justice on the wall dividing Israel from the Palestinians.

None of the companies on trial will be represented. Letters have been sent but none have yet responded to say they will be present.

Dr. Ghada Karmi spoke of the Palestinian issue being the moral issue of our time. This polemic is freely bandied around by anti-Israel activists and makes people whince since we know that 3,000 children die every day in Africa from AIDS, malnutrition, malaria and other diseases when they shouldn’t be in this age.

Dr. Karmi cited Cast Lead and the siege of Gaza and was outraged that Israel had not even apologised over something as clearcut as the deaths on the Mavi Marmara.

She said that Israel was now too woven into the fabric of the international system and because of this was never being called to account. There is no major organisation or state that backs the Palestinians.

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