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.

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…??

How to most effectively advocate for Israel on campus

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman.

On 31 October – over three weeks ago – I was invited to debate  the topic of “What is the best way to advocate for Israel on campus?” with Dan Sheldon, the Campaigns Director of the UK’s Union of Jewish Students.

I won the toss and spoke first. I sat down to listed to Dan Sheldon’s speech. I was expecting a reasoned response. What I was not expecting was what happened. I counted twelve falsehoods and/or defamations about me.

Eventually an apology was forthcoming, after the JC published an editorial calling for one and some 140 people signed a petition calling for the same thing.

The JC on Friday (p5) had an article by Jessica Elgot headed “Hoffman Gets UJS Apology”. It included the text of the apology which is on the UJS website under the somewhat odd heading “Dan Sheldon’s reflections on this week’s events”.

The text of the JC article follows. (It was not published online so cannot be linked to or seen by those who do not or cannot buy the paper copy of the JC).

UJS Campaigns Director Dan Sheldon has apologised for linking Zionist Federation co-vice-chair Jonathan Hoffman with the English Defence League. Mr Sheldon clashed with Mr Hoffman during a heated debate hosted by Leeds JSoc two weeks ago, over UJS’s “Liberation” campaign. Mr Sheldon claimed that Mr Hoffman was “happy to demonstrate side-by-side with members of the EDL Jewish Division” during counter-protests at the Ahava store in Covent Garden.

In emails seen by the JC, Mr Hoffman contacted the police in August 2010, stating he “did not welcome the EDL” who had been at the past two demonstrations outside Ahava. He requested a separate “third pen” for EDL supporters, but the police refused to provide this. On a JC blog Mr Hoffman said: “My record of fighting the far right is impeccable: witness my activism against Irving and Griffin when they were invited to the Oxford Union Society in 2007. Mostly the smears are from enemies of Israel and so they are in some sense a badge of honour … but for them to be repeated by those in positions of responsibility in the Jewish community is completely beyond the pale.” The full text of Mr Sheldon’s speech has been removed from the UJS website and Mr Sheldon has posted an apology which says: “I stated that Jonathan Hoffman was ‘happy to demonstrate, side by side, with members of the EDL’s Jewish Division’.

Jonathan has since voiced his clear opposition to the EDL. Therefore, I would like to offer a full apology to Jonathan for any hurt caused by my remarks.”

The wording of this apology was not agreed to by me. I had sent a draft of an apology to UJS but it was ignored.

The apology (“…. since voiced…”) makes it sound like I only voiced my opposition to the EDL after the debate on 31 October. That is demonstrably false and Dan Sheldon could have found that out if only he had done a modicum of research and not swallowed uncritically such defamations by the enemies of Israel.

For example I put out a clear statement in August 2010:

…..there was some crossover between the BNP and the EDL and that the EDL sometimes intimidated Muslims and that both these are reprehensible.

And there was not just one instance of defamation in Sheldon’s speech. There were twelve. Just one of them was that I “wear crash helmets to peaceful pro-Israel demonstrations”.  I racked my brain about that one, since I do not even own a crash helmet. Then I remembered. During Gilad Shalit’s captivity the ZF used to organise vigils at the Red Cross office in London. I remembered that I had cycled to the last one, on a Barclays Cycle Hire bicycle. And guess what …. I wore a cycle helmet and since there was nowhere to leave it safely at the vigil, I wore it.

That inadequate apology for such a smear sums up the standard of research on me carried for this speech. The “research” consisted of trawling the rankest depths of the internet and recycling age-old smears. And Dan Sheldon even had the chutzpah to preface this sordid attack by stressing how important it is “that we treat each other fairly, with the courtesy we’d extend to friends or family.” 

And the salvo of defamations was followed by a plea that:

“We must then aspire to the highest standards ourselves: honesty, politeness and willingness to listen as well as talk. The Chief Rabbi has called this the lost ‘culture of civility’, and I believe we need to get it back.”

Aside: Mr Sheldon told the audience, “This is a man who has called for a boycott of the Guardian”, as if such a proposal was a source of shame!

Well, I am happy to acknowledge that one as being true – and to say that the idea that this detracts from my credentials as an Israel Advocate is ludicrous.

Although the video and transcript of Dan Sheldon’s speech have now been removed from the UJS website they are still available elsewhere so, in the interest of balance, I post my speech below:

What is the best way to advocate for Israel on campus?

In asking this question we are in the realm of the social sciences.

In the physical sciences we can conduct experiments. Finding the best breaking system for an express train, or finding the best treatment for tetanus, are both possible through experiments. In the social sciences the nearest we can get to experimentation is to set up a focus group. To the best of my knowledge there has never been a focus group on Israel advocacy on campus. So one has to look at the evidence.

What I will argue is that the evidence suggests that campuses are a centre – if not the centre –  of the monstrous and remarkable inversion of reality whereby Israel has become a pariah state because of its determination to defend itself. (Of course they are ably assisted by some parts of the Press in particular The Guardian, Channel 4 and the BBC). I argue that by its failure to take on the delegitimisers on campus full-square, UJS has allowed them to gain much more traction.

The Reut Institute is a national security think-tank in Israel. In a report published last year it said that London was the ‘hub-of-hubs’ of the delegitimisation network. Much of the delegitimisation activity takes place on university premises. I know because a small group of us go to hostile meetings and we have been to many on London campuses. We hand out leaflets, make a fuss and then blog what happens at the meetings, on the basis that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. (Some community leaders say “don’t give it the oxygen of publicity” but in my view that is a totally misguided line to take).

We have been to Israel-bashing meetings at Goldsmiths, LSE, UCL, Imperial College and SOAS. Only a week ago tonight we were at a meeting at SOAS to discuss boycotting Israel. Steve Hedley – Bob Crow’s right-hand man at the RMT trade union – told me at that meeting that I was one of the ‘Chosen People” (this phrase used in an abusive manner is a favourite of antisemites: of course the phrase “Chosen People” in the Bible clearly means chosen for responsibilities and not chosen for privilege). Then he referred to “your friends in the media” (the trope that Jews “control the media” is beloved of antisemites – it appears of course in that well-known antisemitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”).

But it’s not just London campuses where delegitimisation meetings under the auspices of Palestine Societies are taking place. It’s happening at most British Universities. I can give you plenty of examples.

Here’s one that’s coming up. This time next week Norman Finkelstein will be speaking on this campus in Leeds. The following day he moves to Manchester, on Wednesday to Nottingham, on Thursday to Birmingham and on Friday to Logan Hall, London. Norman Finkelstein is what I call a ‘renegade Jew’ –the phrase ‘self-hater’ – while probably true – is not one I use. Norman Finkelstein supports Iranian and Hizbolla terrorists and thinks that Jews exploit the Holocaust for financial gain and for propaganda reasons. He even exploits the Holocaust suffering of his parents to delegitimise Israel. He is invited here by one of the pro-Palestinian organisations.

Why do the PSC, the Islamists and the Left organise so many anti-Israel events on campuses? Simple. Because they want to recruit students. It’s not for nothing that Israel has been called “the recruiting sergeant of the Left” (by Robin Shepherd in his great book “A State Beyond the Pale”). The Palestinians have long been seen by the Left as an instrument of revolution in the Middle East.  Since the collapse of Communism, Israel as a whipping-boy has become even more important to the cause of the Left.

Demonisation of Israel is now the glue that holds the Left together. To persuade students of their cause, they lie through their teeth. They make false ‘apartheid’ analogies about Israel. They lie that those who defend Israel from their calumnies do it by accusing Israel’s detractors of antisemitism.

We could argue about the best way to advocate for Israel at these meetings. Should you stay silent and hope to be called on in the Q+A, or should you heckle and interrupt, in the knowledge that only people hostile to Israel will be called upon to ask a question? (My strong preference is to heckle and interrupt, because the chance of being called is very low).

One thing I hope we can agree on is that defenders of Israel should be outside the meetings before the start and after the end, handing out fliers which tell the truth. And that they should make themselves available when the meetings are over, to talk: sometimes there is just one person who mistrusts the certainty of what he has heard in the meeting and wants to know more. Some of my biggest successes have been in such 1-on-1 discussions after meetings.

Yes we could argue about the best way to advocate for Israel at these meetings. But we surely all agree that it is folly for Israel advocates to stay away from these meetings completely. Because that leaves the door wide open for a new generation to be indoctrinated by the delegitimisers.

But in many cases that is what UJS is doing – staying away and standing aloof. Not all cases. There have been some great victories and I have been the first to acknowledge them. Getting Birmingham students to vote to accept the EUMC Definition of Antisemitism in May 2010 was a great victory. So was the defeat in January 2008 of a motion at LSE calling for a boycott of Israel and calling Israel an apartheid state, raised at the student union general meeting.

But against this have been some horror stories. When Danny Ayalon spoke at the LSE in October 2009, we knew there would be a hostile demonstration so we organised a counter-demo, to support Ayalon. It was in Lincolns Inn Fields which is a public street. We asked Ben Grabiner – who was at that time head of the LSE I-Soc – if he would put the word round his members to join the counter-demo. We were horrified by the response.

He did not get back to us but the then UJS Campaigns Officer did. She was furious that we had dared organise a demo to support an Israeli Minister. She felt it would just be provocative! She tried to tell us it was an internal LSE matter and that UJS should handle it. It was not ‘internal’, Ayalon happened to be speaking at LSE but that was it. And our proposed demo was in the public street. So we held the line. She then called the Chairman of the ZF to try to get him to put pressure on me. Ben Grabiner sent a text to his members warning them not to join our counter-demo. He said – absurdly and slanderously – that it was being organised by a ‘right wing organisation’. I know because one of the LSE students joined our demo despite being warned off by Ben Grabiner, and showed me the text.

More horror stories. In February 2010 Cambridge Israel Society capitulated to pressure and cancelled a meeting with Benny Morris on the grounds that he is a racist. Benny Morris is no racist. In April 2010 under pressure from the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, UJS cancelled Douglas Murray at short notice, having invited him to speak in Gateshead. Douglas subsequently wrote a blog entitled “How to lose friends and alienate people. A lesson from Islamist-cowed Jewish students”.

Douglas wrote:

“But what of the UJS? If the Union of Jewish students wants to take dictation for their events from the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, one wonders what they think FOSIS will ever do in return. Does the favour get reciprocated do we think? Are they going to vet any speaker that Jewish students don’t like? Or are these students just going to have to learn the hard way that in this matter, as in so many others, “tolerance”, “openness” and a respect for free speech are currently very much a one-way street.”

And most recently there was UJS’s proposal to give out Palestinian flags.

No, no, no. The Hamas Charter urges the genocide of Jews, the Palestinian Authority does not recognise Israel’s right to exist as a state grounded in Judaism. Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, wrote a doctoral thesis in which he described the Holocaust as “the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed.” To have the Union of Jewish Students giving out the Palestinian flag is something that most Jews would regard as obscene.

And I have been to many hostile meetings on campus where there is no sign of Jewish students whatsoever.

The reticence to engage with the Israel-bashers is, I believe, a contributory factor to the rise in antisemitism on campus. Antisemitism includes the vilification of Israel – see the EUMC Definition – if it is expressed in certain ways. To say that Israel is a racist state is antisemitic. So is holding Israel to higher standards than other nations. So is making Nazi comparisons when speaking about Israel. So is holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.

The recent JPR Report said that just over two out of five (42%) respondents had experienced an antisemitic incident since the beginning of the academic year (7 months at that time). Confining the sample to respondents who were ‘very positive’ about Israel takes the figure up to 48%.

Almost one in two?  – That is simply not acceptable.

And as an aside, the Report’s attempt to downplay the figure is a disgrace. We are told that students are half as likely to express any concern about

‘Anti-Israel sentiment at university’ (38%) as they are about ‘Passing exams’ (76%) – the obvious implication being that worries about antisemitism are minor.

Worrying about exams is natural. Worrying about antisemitism is not and must never become so.

So what kind of UJS do I want? I want a UJS that is proud, not cowed. I want to see Jewish students going in to hostile meetings and making their presence felt, heckling if necessary. I want to see them handing out fliers before and after a hostile meeting so that students who are new to the subject can get the truth – to offset the lies they are fed at the delegitimisation meetings.

Of course I want to see proactive events as well as reactive activities. Proactive events celebrating all aspects of Israel, from science through culture through food through openness and tolerance. The ZF can – and does – help, providing speakers like Khaled Abu Toameh – an Israeli Arab journalist – for campus meetings. And proactive events putting Israel’s case: explaining why the security fence is necessary and why Israel had to do ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in Gaza three years ago.

StandWithUs and Britain Israel Coalition are also great pro-Israel organizations that are active on campus. If any of you can get to London on Sunday 6th November, please go to the StandWithUs Conference with the Ambassador and Louise Mensch MP. Then on December 11th it’s the ZF Advocacy Day.

Every lie about Israel has a killer response founded in truth. If you want me to give examples, ask me in the Q+A. (I hope to soon publish a pamphlet of lies and how to respond to them).

Jewish students are intellectually inquisitive and seek the truth. Yet when it comes to rebutting lies about Israel they are strangely reticent. I don’t understand why.

Advocating for Israel is cool, very stimulating intellectually and can be incredibly rewarding personally. It has made me some great friends.

I think it’s the duty of Jewish students to be ambassadors for Israel on campus and to rebut the lies, but it’s a very pleasant duty – it’s fun, too.

I really don’t see why a Jewish student should not want to be an advocate for Israel.

To the UK Jewish Community: The time to act against the Guardian is now!

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” – Rabbi Hillel

Yesterday, Jonathan Hoffman, in a blog post titled “Just What Does it Take?“, asked the following of Mr. Vivian Wineman, who heads the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council in the UK:

Ron Prosor recently 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.’ Will you now call on the community to shun the Guardian, including withdrawing advertising?

The response:

We don’t support boycotts. Deputies can be trusted to choose their news sources accordingly.

An understandably exasperated Hoffman noted that such a response will be “taken by Rusbridger, Milne, Freedland and Co to mean that they can vilify and lie about Israel as much as they want – without major commercial consequences.”

In contrast, The Jewish Chronicle reported in September that, after leaders of Melbourne’s top Jewish bodies – Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria president Dr Danny Lamm – attempted, without success, to address the “strident line” against Israel by the city’s major broadsheet, The Age, with the paper’s editor-in-chief, the community decided to sever ties with the newspaper, accusing it of “clear and consistent vilification of the world’s only Jewish state”.

Lamm and Searle said there was no one incident that triggered the boycott, but the paper’s coverage of the Mavi Marmara in May was the final straw. A front-page article in The Age on June 4 said the Israeli naval commandos “hunted like hyenas” before “tightening the noose.”

Of course, such incendiary remarks by The Age pale in comparison to what’s routinely peddled in The Guardian.  During the “Palestine Papers” series alone, the Guardian likened the Jewish state to a “Moldovan nightclub bouncer“, provided a platform to a Hamas member (who issued a thinly veiled threat of violence), posted a political cartoon from a notorious anti-Semitic extremist, and published multiple letters explicitly justifying the use of suicide bombing against Jewish men, women, and children.

No longer merely a vehicle for anti-Israel activism, the Guardian (as this blog consistently demonstrates) is shamefully tempted by the most lethal political orientations – those which fetishize political extremism, and, most dangerously, sanitize, even romanticize, the use of violence against civilians to achieve political ends.

While reasonable people in the British Jewish community can certainly disagree over what tactics, on a case by case basis, are warranted in the continuing war against Israel’s legitimacy, when it comes to the Guardian the words of Charles Jacobs, co-founder of The David Project – an organization created in 2002 in response to the Jewish establishment’s failure to address anti-Israelism on America’s campuses – are especially apt.

The problem, as we saw it, was that Israel’s adversaries were portraying perpetual attacks on Israel as honest criticism – but were in fact carrying out well planned campaigns of vilification.

In fact, campaigns to delegitimize the Jewish state are impervious to facts, logic and reason; they actually thrive upon the Jewish community’s instinctive response, which is to defend and “explain” Israel’s conduct.

[Israel’s] adversaries have no interest in honest discussion. Indeed, each time you prove a claim to be wrong or an overreach, another claim is manufactured. This would have been obvious to Mark Twain, who remarked that “lies can travel around the world before truth puts its pants on.”

The most natural and effective response to a campaign of vilification is to announce to the world that you are being vilified, and to turn the finger of accusation back on the defamers. Who are these people who tell lies and photoshop the truth under the banner of journalism and academic freedom and human rights? To win, one has to break the silence about them, the defamers.

It’s heartening that the Melbourne Jewish community decided to break the silence about their defamers in the media, and we wait impatiently for the day when the British Jewish community will reach the conclusion that their strategy until now (though well-intentioned) simply has not worked, and decide to shift gears and boldly confront, without apologies or qualifications, the clear and present danger they’re facing.

The potential consequences of inaction, to both Israel and the UK Jewish community, are simply too dire.  The time for debate and reflection has reached its end.

The time to act is now!

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.

Jody McIntyre, professional anti-Israel activist, takes center stage

My thanks to Jonathan Hoffman for reminding me that Jody McIntyre is still very much in the thick of the hard left set in the UK.   When I was last following McIntyre, he was dumped from his gig as official blogger for a journal called Ctrl.Alt.Shift – the “hip” youth publication of Christian Aid.

Apparently, even the viscerally anti-Israel NGO, Christian Aid, couldn’t defend McIntyre’s ugly invectives against the Jewish state when it was exposed by The JC (as well as my essay in, believe it or not, Comment is Free).

The post at the heart of the controversy – published on International Holocaust Remembrance Day – was titled “[Shimon] Peres: War Criminal and Proud”.  In addition to the vitriolic commentary in his essay, the post included photos juxtaposing images of Jewish victims of Nazi genocide with photos of dead Palestinians, to advance the abhorrent impression of a moral equivalence between Israel and Nazi Germany.  (Christian Aid subsequently apologized and removed all of McIntyre’s posts from their site.)

The latest row involves McIntyre’s encounter with police while participating in the recent London riots, inspired by student tuition hikes.  I think the pure adolescent nature of the violent protests was best summed up by the blog, Mere Rhetoric, which noted that UK students seem to believe that “stuff costs money” is a concept invented by mean adults trying to harsh their mellow.

McIntyre (who Hoffman noted, has been at several of the boycott demonstrations at Ahava, the Israeli cosmetics shop in London), though something of a professional all-purpose activist, specializes in the anti-Israel variety.  Indeed, the passages cited during his stint with Christian Aid only touches the surface of his bile.

If you puruse his blog, called “Life on Wheels”, you’ll find him defending Hezbollah, frequently accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and labeling the entire nation a “racist state.”  In short, he has all the ingredients necessary to be a regular contributor to CiF.

Alas, it looks like the Guardian was scooped this time.  His blog at The Independent launched today.

Israel’s fight for survival and the comfort of Mick Davis

I was sharing a ride with a Jewish colleague during the height of the 2nd Intifada in 2002 – a terror war against the Jewish state that would claim over 1100 Israeli lives – and discussing the increase of anti-Semitic acts around the world triggered by the conflict when she exclaimed, “Ariel Sharon is causing anti-Semitism.”

Of course, what she was talking about was the upsurge in anti-Semitic violence directed towards Jews in the European diaspora while Israel was fighting Operation Defensive Shield.  My colleague eventually apologized for her remarks –  as, perhaps, it occurred to her how insensitive she sounded – but that visual is still emblazoned in my mind:  A Jew living quite comfortably in safety and affluence in the United States bemoaning the defensive actions of the world’s only Jewish state in a war against foes openly committed to her destruction.

I recalled that conversation when I first learned that Mick Davis, head of the UJIA (United Jewish Israel Appeal), the leading fund-raising organization in Britain for Israel, said the following:

“I think the government of Israel …have to recognise that their actions directly impact on me as a Jew living in London. When they do good things it is good for me, when they do bad things, it’s bad for me.”

While it was heartening to see the support  Jonathan Hoffman’s letter in the JC (lambasting Davis) received by at least some in the British Jewish community, the broader problem of diaspora Jewry’s “discomfort” when confronted with the messy business of defending Israel goes beyond Mick Davis.  Davis represents a large number of Jews who, as Melanie Phillips, noted,

“…instead of truthfully identifying the cause of the conflict as Arab intransigence and… hatred…parrot the Israel-bashers’ false claim that the impasse is really Israel’s fault.”

The moral elitism that many well-meaning diaspora Jews feel represents a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that no amount of Israeli good will or sechel (intellect) – of which, such Jews see themselves as possessing in massive quantities – by Israel’s leaders can magically bring peace in the Middle East. For many well-off Jews outside of Israel, it has become un-PC to acknowledge [regarding Hamas, Hezbollah, and other radical Islamist groups] that we are dealing with a dramatically different culture than ours – an ideology that doesn’t share our views about tolerance, pluralism, and peace.

Beyond Davis, there is a broader point to be made about a Western Jewish world that has become (largely) so well-off – enjoys so much freedom, comfort, and safety in the nations where they reside, that they have lost the sense of what it means to have to struggle for your existence, to have to take up arms and fight for your life, your family, your community, your nation – for the right to live freely as Jews in a part of the world that is still hostile to such modest aims.

No matter how openly hostile Israel’s enemies are to her existence, no matter how serious and complex the myriad of threats that they face are, such a disconnect results in an inability to empathize with such fears – the very real concerns of Jews whose lives aren’t as easy as their own.

This dynamic – this glaring lack of empathy – was on full display when, during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, a press release was issued by the new left-wing Israel lobby group, J Street, scolding Israel for its behavior and claiming that:

“Only diplomacy and negotiations can end the rockets and terror.”

I was then, and remain to this day, truly baffled how any adult with even the most rudimentary understanding of the democratic world’s experience in the last century battling totalitarian and terrorist movements can seriously make such a claim.  And – as a new Israeli who now must burden the real-world consequences of such facile notions about war, peace, diplomacy, and the right to self-defense – I nervously ponder the degree to which such ideas have planted roots and taken hold within diaspora Jewish communities across the world.

A Jewish writer, Jay Michaelson, wrote an essay for The Forward last year expressing his diminishing ”love” for Israel, and his increasing reluctance to mount a defense against her critics.  Michaelson – mirroring in many ways the lament of Mick Davis – complained that defending Israel within his political circles had become an extremely risky endeavor. He said:

”In my social circles, supporting Israel is like supporting segregation, apartheid…the war in Iraq, or George Bush …It’s gotten so bad, I don’t mention Israel in certain conversations anymore, and no longer defend it when it’s lumped in with South Africa and China by my friends.”

Yet, he went on to admit that he knows it is:

”…a sign of weakness of will on my part…this is wrong of me, I know.”

He, remarkably, concluded by acknowledging:

“I still support the State of Israel, its right to exist and the rest. Most important, it is still, in part, my home…. But as an outsider, I no longer want to feel entangled by their decisions and implicated in their consequences.  B’seder: It’s your choice to make… but count me out.”

As Jonathan Hoffman said:

“If Israel ’s policies make Davis uncomfortable at the golf club, let him acquire the knowledge and pride to defend a democracy under fire. If he is unwilling, he is not fit to be a communal leader and should resign.”

Mr. Davis, some things in life are worth fighting for – even if it means losing a bit of comfort and security.

Perhaps you need reminding that if, indeed, you lose friends as a result of such a principled stance, well, you may want to consider the possibility that such folks weren’t really your friends to begin with.

+++CENSORED+++CENSORED+++CENSORED

This is cross posted from Jonathan’s Hoffman’s blog at The JC

Last night was the introductory meeting for the Hate Israel Kangaroo Court that is laughingly called the “Russell Tribunal”. It took place at Amnesty International, London. Speakers included Dr Ghada Karmi; Ken Loach; Paul Troop; Ewa Jasiewicz; and Frank Barat.

http://thejc.com/blogpost/kangaroo-court-israel-to-sit-at-law-society

The “Russell Tribunal” is composed of known Israel haters and has effectively found Israel guilty before it has even started. No witness has been summoned to defend Israel.

How very telling that on turning up, I was barred from entry. The welcoming party included Krystian Benedict (Amnesty’s Campaigns Director) and a security guard. When I protested that I was being censored, Benedict summoned four policemen in from outside.

Rather than try to deal with my on-point objections to the speakers’ comments, I was censored. Bertrand Russell would surely be turning in his grave.

Fortunately Richard Millett was admitted and will blog the Israel lynch mob event.

Totalitarian societies begin with curbing free speech. It seems that Amnesty’s espousal of ‘human rights’ does not extend to the right of Jews to protest at antisemitism during Amnesty meetings.

The Barons: An Everyday Story of the Struggle for Workers’ Rights in Merrie England

This is cross posted by Jonathan Hoffman at The JC

TUC General Secretary Brenda Barking paced the floor of her suite in her 5 star hotel in Manchester. Her nails were bitten down to the quick. “Comrades” she began “we have a problem. Our membership is down to 6 million from over 13 million at its peak; our friends in the Labour Party are out of government and our friends in the LibDem Party have sold out to the Tories; we face thousands of job cuts in the public sector; and the proletariat is too busy watching Coronation Street to have time for any serious revolting. As Karl Marx said “The Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is, to change it.” Do any of you have any ideas as to what we can do to change the world and (more importantly) save face with the Comrades at the Congress this week? I booked Bank of England Governor Merv King to do the Wednesday night Cabaret but maybe the punters need something more than quantitative easing and jokes about Aston Villa.”

Bob Crowbar jumped in. “Innit Brenda! ….I’ll announce a five year programme of strikes on the London Underground …..” he said. Dave Apprentice nearly fell off his chair with laughter. “Come off it Bob, when you tried that last week the drivers from the other unions just worked twice as hard”.

Derek Simpleton spoke next. “Why not do a Trivia quiz for the Brothers and Sisters? First prize could be a signed copy of Tony Blair’s book. Second prize, we throw in Alastair Campbell’s book as well”.

Tony Woodenhead gritted his teeth. “No, we said goodbye to Bliar and New Labour when Gordon took over. And anyway, we made sure that Bliar was stopped from signing any books.”

Sally Sadd of the University Agitprop Union pouted, winking knowingly at Barking (they were comrades from way back). She knew that she had the killer suggestion. Never mind that within the next six months, she would lose half her members through redundancy. She knew the magic word. She waited until all the Barons were quiet then said the word in a magisterial tone of voice: “Israel”.

It was as if a ten ton weight had been lifted from the Barons’ shoulders! “Brilliant, Sally” said Barking. “We’ll get the Fire Brigade Union to write the motion. They are the experts on the Middle East. They will do us proud – colonialism, boycott, occupation, religion, white phosphorus, BDS, apartheid, IDF, killing peace activists, settlements, the prison of Gaza, nationalism – all those buzz words which get the Guardianista Left so excited that it clean forgets the boring old UK economy. All lies of course, but what does the truth matter between Comrades? We can even get the South African Comrades like Ronnie Kasrils to tell the punters how much Israel is like apartheid South Africa. We’ll get Huw Linen and his PSC (or do I mean PCS, they’re the same thing aren’t they….) to give out free badges and flags for them to wear, it will only cost us a few hundred quid. Maybe we can even run to “Free Palestine” T-shirts.

Viva la Revolucion! Viva the lies about Israel which glue the Left together! And we have nothing to fear from the British Jews – they never fight back, in fact they will probably thank us for being so restrained. In the unlikely event that they do fight back we will just say that they use the charge of “antisemitism” to deflect legitimate criticism of Israel.

“And so what if we lie to the Comrades, they have “nothing to lose but their brains!”

“And Ed Millipede will be onside, that’s why we pay him.”

“Comrades, let’s all sing ‘The Red Flag’ to celebrate Sally’s great idea” whooped Brenda. And the Barons linked arms:

The people’s flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyr’d dead
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
The lies ‘bout Israel will be told.

Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Within its shade we live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
If we tell lies we needn’t fear.

ZF and EDL: Letter in Guardian

This is a guest post from Jonathan Hoffman

In today’s “Guardian” there is a letter from the usual suspects about the ZF’s successful, peaceful rally on Wednesday night in support of Israel, which despite being arranged at very short notice was attended by over 700 people. I was there and met people from many religions (and none) and from many nations.

The letter alleges that supporters of the English Defence League were at the event. Before the event the ZF issued a Press Release – which was also sent to its mailing-list – informing them that the EDL might be there and disassociating the ZF from the EDL and saying that they would be allocated their own area.

The usual suspects are using the time-honoured tactic of “smear by association”. The ZF exists to inform the public about Israel and to support Israel. Like the attendees at the rally, our speakers come from all religions and none and the same applies to the audiences. As the signatories know full well, it is not within our mandate to be involved in UK communal issues.

We are proud that we operate in a country with a tradition of free speech. A public rally is precisely that – public – and no organisation can vet the affiliations of the attendees. If the signatories would rather live in a country where free speech is absent and where the State controls who can and who cannot demonstrate on the streets, they are free to do so but they should be aware that such countries also deny rights to Jews, gays and women – to mention just a few such minorities.

Jonathan Hoffman (Co-Vice Chair, Zionist Federation, UK and Ireland)

In the interest of speed, this initial response has not gone through our normal signoff process but we will be responding formally. Thank you to CiFWatch for agreeing to publish this response.

UPDATE: The signatories of the letter all have history. Mike Cushman wants to boycott Israeli academics and saw nothing wrong with inviting Bongani Matsuku to speak in the UK. Matsuku is a South African trade unionist who the South African Human Rights Commission has declared guilty of inciting hate towards Jews. Fink and Greenstein interrupted and ruined a broadcast Jerusalem Quartet Concert last month. Selma James is a Marxist feminist who chaired a meeting with Hajo Meyer – who regularly crosses the line into antisemitic speech. Miriam Margolyes appeared in the antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children”. Alexei Sayle made a video unsuccessfully imploring Leonard Cohen not to perform in Israel. Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi regularly attends events which demonise Israel and has a well-placed contact at the BBC to whom she feeds vitriolic copy about Israel.

The Nightmare Shidduch

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

So the Guardian is backing the Liberal Democrats (“LibDems”) for the UK election on Thursday, as the Party that offers the best chance of achieving change from a ‘First Past The Post’ electoral system to a ‘proportional representation’ one.

But how convenient for Rusbridger et al that the LibDems are by far the closest in ideology to CIF’s Israel bashers. Indeed there are several crossovers. It was the LibDem’s leader, Nick Clegg, who voiced support for an arms embargo on Israel. Moreover he chose CIF as his platform to announce it. That speaks volumes.

And what a coincidence that Clegg has been advised by Nicholas Blincoe, a former ISM activist, who writes for the Guardian and was a staffer for a time. Blincoe’s insights about Israel include this one:

Israeli archaeologists are like the fireman in the novel Fahrenheit 451; their job is to erase the traces of non-Jewish civilizations, not to investigate them.

And look how Nadhmi Auchi, an anti-Israel Iraqui billionaire, is close to Clegg and organised a fundraising dinner for a LibDem candidate.

Then there is Jenny Tonge, famous for saying “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party.” Until very recently she was a Patron of the viciously antisemitic Palestine Telegraph. Only when it posted a David Duke video did she resign. But she has not been thrown out of the LibDem Party – as she surely should be.

You can see here what Tonge and a LibDem MP Sarah Teather say about Israel.

Here you can see the LibDems’ response to the questionnaire sent to candidates by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (the only party – as opposed to individual candidates – to respond). (The response has been taken off the PSC site). They call for a ban on settlement goods, suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement and an arms embargo on Israel).

33 LibDem candidates have so far put their name to this. A further 25 LibDem candidates signed the PSC’s pledges.

One LibDem candidate said that the only reason that there was not an arms embargo on Israel was “the power of the Jewish lobbies in Washington and Britain”.  She also echoed Tonge’s call for an inquiry to disprove allegations that Israeli army medical teams in Haiti “harvested” organs of earthquake victims.

And the LibDems’ spokesman on foreign policy, Shadow Foreign Secretary Ed Davey MP, thinks the Goldstone Report is “balanced” and wants the UN to act on it.

More still: Over 80% of the LibDem MPs in the Parliament which has just been dissolved are happy to see Israelis arrested in the UK on politically motivated false “War Crimes” charges.

Finally …….. remember Chris Davies? He was the LibDem MEP who told a constituent that he hoped she enjoyedwallowing in her own filthafter she wrote to disagree with his views on Israel. He remains a LibDem MEP though he was forced to resign as the Party’s Leader in the European Parliament.

Voluminous though this catalogue is, I’m sure that diligent CIF readers can add to it. Like the way the LibDems’ message on Israel changes according to whether the listener is mezzuzah or muezzin.

I certainly will not be voting for the LibDems on Thursday. No Jew or supporter of Israel should vote for them. They and the Guardian deserve each other. It is a nightmare shidduch.

In fact I have already voted (by post) for the Conservatives. I want a Conservative government because of the previous government’s hostility to Israel. Of course there will be Conservative policies towards Israel with which one disgrees but on the basics – closing the Universal Jurisdiction loophole, opposing the Goldstone Report/Islamic extremism/Iran/Hamas/Hisbolla – they can be trusted.

Postscript:

Not all LibDems are endemically hostile to Israel. Baroness Sarah Ludford has been a great supporter in the European Parliament. There is a LibDem “Friends of Israel” organisation (Vice Chair Matthew Harris, the candidate in Hendon) which especially at Party Conferences has done a good job in stopping some of the extreme hostility being ratified in Resolutions. Chris Huhne – the Home Affairs spokesman who should be Party Leader (he ran against Clegg and reportedly a sack of votes which arrived late would have swung it for Huhne, but he generously said that they should not be counted when this was offered) certainly does not go along with the extreme hostility and neither does Vince Cable (the Shadow Finance Minister). But I believe these people are in a small minority in the Party. If the LibDems entered the Cabinet in a hung Parliament, they certainly would not form the majority voice in the Party’s foreign policy.

Explanatory Note: A “Shidduch” (Hebrew: שִׁידּוּךְ‎) is a match made between two Orthodox Jewish singles.

Disclaimer: The above are personal views and should not be attributed to the UK Zionist Federation of which I am (honorary) Co-Vice Chair.

Israel and the OECD – The Truth

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

Seth Freedman’s article on Israel’s imminent accession to the OECD is a mixture of ignorance and prejudice – perfect for a “Comment Is Free” article on that country, in other words. For a former investment banker, his ignorance of economics, statistics and the workings of the OECD is shameful. For a Jew who took advantage of the Law of Return and still lives in Israel even though he makes a living from badmouthing it in the Guardian, his prejudice is despicable.

He reveals his ignorance for all to see by assuming that the OECD is a political organisation, like the European Union, and that therefore there is some kind of political ‘test’ which aspiring members need to pass (as for example Turkey does in relation to EU membership). That is incorrect. The OECD is an economic cooperation organisation, best thought of as an economics version of “Weightwatchers”. Thus Freedman’s phraseology (eg “welcoming Israel in from the cold” and “willingness to overlook”) is entirely inappropriate. Freedman’s final sentence (“it can only be hoped that the OECD’s opposition to Israel’s misdeeds comes late rather than never”) is simply crass.

Freedman digs himself in further by suggesting that “Israel’s credit rating will be upgraded as a result” of OECD entry. There is absolutely no link between OECD entry and movements in a sovereign’s credit rating. While it is true that OECD members have higher average ratings than non-OECD members, the point is that a country would not be granted accession unless its economy was considered strong. And as has been seen with Greece recently, OECD membership is no guarantee at all that a country’s credit rating will not be downgraded.

Now to the prejudice. Freedman suggests that a statistical issue has the potential “to derail” accession. The issue in question is said to be the coverage of the West Bank statistics that Israel submits to the OECD. But the truth is that the OECD decided to commence the accession process over two years ago and that since then Israel has fully followed and implemented the guidance of the OECD, including far reaching regulatory amendments. It is very common for countries to accede to the OECD and then fine tune their economic procedures afterwards, including statistical coverage.

Even the Abu Dhabi newspaper article to which Freedman links – written by Jonathan Cook, no friend of Israel – concedes this.

Indeed it may not be possible to divide the West Bank’s statistics to separate the value-added  accruing to settlers and that accruing to Palestinians (as Freedman suggests that some members of the OECD are requesting). If an enterprise employs both settlers and Palestinians – as is common – then it is impossible to subdivide that enterprise’s income.

PS Israel is one of five countries, along with Chile, Estonia, the Russian Federation and Slovenia, that were invited in May 2007 to open negotiations for membership of the OECD.

Vote for Eric Lee for the Amnesty International UK Section Board

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

Over the past eighteen months or so, Amnesty International has been in the vanguard of the delegitimisers and vilifiers of Israel. Even though impartiality is a core value of Amnesty within its statute, the London branch has hosted meetings addressed by Jeff Halper, who frequently calls Israel an ‘apartheid’ state – an antisemitic  statement – Ben White, author of the book with an antisemitic title “Israel Apartheid” (a book replete with misquotations and untruths) and the Christisons, who make the antisemitic charge of ‘dual loyalty’ about US supporters of Israel and make wry jokes about Congress being “Israeli-occupied territory.” (They are also 9/11 ‘troofers’).

Amnesty has also got far too close to organisations that support radical Islamism and suspended Gita Saghal when she queried the propriety of this. 

 Amnesty published a report about water resources in Gaza which was shamefully biased and intended only to vilify Israel; it was not so much a piece of research as a piece of fiction. 

The good – no, wonderful – news is that Eric Lee wants to change things at Amnesty by standing for election to the Amnesty International UK Section Board.

You can read his aims for yourself.

I know Eric and have spoken in a debating team with him. I cannot think of anyone better to restore sanity to Amnesty as regards Israel. 

If you are a member of Amnesty UK, please don’t waste this chance!

Methinks the Editor Doth Protest Too Much

This is cross posted from Jonathan Hoffman’s blog on the the JC website

The story so far: In last week’s JC, Professor Geoffrey Alderman revealed that Matt Seaton, editor of Guardian “Comment Is Free” (CIF), had given him a ‘gun at head’ ultimatum: choose between writing for CiFWatch (the brilliant forensic website that keeps tabs on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias on CIF) and CIF. In addition Alderman related that he was being premoderated by CIF (in CIFspeak “premoderating” is pretty much a synonym for “banning”). Further, he wrote “the fact is that the anti-Zionist contributions to CiF far outweigh the pro-Zionist ones”. Of the articles published on CIF he wrote “slowly but surely, CIF … has become a platform for the crudest propaganda that can only have been intended to foster a hatred of the Jewish state.“

Matt Seaton promptly demanded the “right of reply” in the JC. Quite why – when he has his own newspaper in which to “reply” – is unclear. It suggests an Editor who is profoundly unsure of his ground. Today his reply was published, but the JC gave Alderman the chance of a rejoinder.

Matt Seaton justified the premoderation by the risible claim that Professor Alderman had compared Palestinians to Nazis. A word of background: the comment in question was in the thread below an article by Seth Freedman on 22 January about the connection between Israel’s rescue work in Haiti and its alleged lack of concern for the Palestinians in Gaza. Alderman’s comment was deleted but in his rejoinder, he says that Seaton’s assertion is both “incorrect and mischievous”: he entered a debate on the balance between compassion for fellow human beings and the need to fight an enemy, arguing that “the fact that Nazis were human beings did not deter the wartime allies from destroying the Nazi state. I made an analogy, not a comparison”.

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