Posted by Richard Millett in London.
While British Parliamentarians spend today debating whether to recognise “a state of Palestine” they might wish to view MEMRI‘s clip below.
Tel Aviv is not Israel’s capital. That distinction of course belongs to Jerusalem.
One of the most well-reported instances of a media group being forced to apologize after making such an egregious error occurred on August 7, 2012, when the Guardian finally accepted that they were ‘wrong to state that Tel Aviv…is the capital’ of Israel.
A more recent case involves the Times of London, in a blurb in their print edition on June 28th (about the 2003 terror attack at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv) that we were going to post about at the time – before the Gaza war broke out and our blog’s coverage naturally shifted focus.
The Times later corrected the false claim:
Finally, we’ll leave you with this short video of Tel Aviv’s mayor patiently explaining that his city is NOT Israel’s capital.
Here’s a clip of the speech given by Guardian Associate Editor (and former Stalinist) Seumas Milne in front of tens of thousands of anti-Israel protesters at Hyde Park in London this past Saturday. During the four-minute speech, Milne explicitly justified Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis (a refrain from his Guardian column in mid-July), and accused ‘terrorist’ Israel of “industrial scale” killing in Gaza.
The shameful decision by Tricycle Theater to effectively boycott the UK Jewish Film Festival over its ties with Israel has united some diverse factions, including the Board of Deputies, Ha’aretz, and now…the Guardian – yes, the Guardian!
An official editorial on the Gaza war and the rise of antisemitism included the following:
The board of London’s Tricycle Theatre delivered an ultimatum to the organisers of the UK Jewish Film Festival, which it has hosted for the last eight years: either cut your ties with the Israeli embassy, which gives a £1,400 subsidy to the festival, or find another venue.
UK Jewish Film refused that instruction, along with the Tricycle’s offer to make up the financial shortfall, and is now looking for a new home. No doubt the Tricycle believed it was taking an admirably principled stand on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which flared anew after the truce that had held for nearly 72 hours broke down. But the theatre has made a bad error of judgment.
Some have made the argument that, if receiving money from a state implies endorsement of that state’s policy, then the Tricycle ought to return the £725,000 it receives from the taxpayer-funded Arts Council, lest that be read as backing for, say, UK participation in the invasion of Iraq. Of course, few would see the Arts Council as an arm of the state in that way. And a similar mistake seems to be at work here. For the Israeli embassy in London is not merely an outpost of the Netanyahu government. It also represents Israel itself, its society and its people. It was this connection with Israel as a country that UK Jewish Film refused to give up. Hard though it may be for others to understand, that reflects something crucial about contemporary Jewish identity: that most, not all, Jews feel bound up with Israel, even if that relationship is one of doubt and anxiety. To demand that Jews surrender that connection is to tell Jews how they might – and how they might not – live as Jews. Such demands have an ugly history. They are not the proper business of any public institution, least of all a state-subsidised theatre
Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz wrote about Tricycle Theater’s decision that he “certainly wouldn’t have thought it could happen in one of the most enlightened corners of London”, and we certainly wouldn’t have thought that such a strangely lucid denunciation of antisemitism could have been published at a London broadsheets known for its embrace of Judeophobic voices.
Moreover, we can only hope that this deeply troubling episode will provide a teachable moment about the allure of what Ben Cohen refers to as ‘bistro antisemitism‘ to some of the more sober commentators on the hard left, as well as the leadership of a theater which evidently prides itself on its commitment to ethnic and racial diversity.
While The Times (of London) is one of the better British newspapers on issues relating to Israel, it’s surprising nonetheless that any major paper in the UK would publish the following cartoon (by Peter Brooks), as it represents an unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and calls out the Islamist group for their tactic of using human shields.
Such open criticism of an antisemitic extremist group is, sadly, the rare exception within a UK media which, conversely, often posts graphic agitprop advancing the most toxic calumnies about the democratic Jewish State – a sad commentary on the moral confusion which grips the opinion elite in that country.
Cross posted from The CST
CST wrote last week about the danger of anti-Israel protests in the UK involving or encouraging antisemitism, either by targeting British Jews or by featuring antisemitic language and imagery.
Since then, several more examples of antisemitic incidents and other activity in relation to anti-Israel protests have been reported to CST:
These are just a handful of over 70 antisemitic incidents reported to CST since the beginning of July. This is roughly double the number we would expect to be reported during this period under ‘normal’ circumstances. Approximately ten of these incidents have involved violence. Approximately 14 have involved the use of social media.
Roughly two-thirds of the incidents reported since 1 July have been related to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, and the number of incidents reported to CST has escalated since the beginning of Israel’s operation in Gaza on 8 July.
Another disturbing factor is that the proportion of antisemitic incident perpetrators described to CST as being of south Asian appearance has been much higher during this period than is normally the case. Antisemitism in Muslim communities is something that others have written about before; the incidents reported to CST suggest that it is playing a significant role in the high level of antisemitic incidents currently being reported. In these circumstances, last week’s statement from the Muslim Council of Britain warning against such behaviour was most welcome.
There have also been several examples of antisemitic incitement on anti-Israel demonstrations and on social media since the conflict between Israel and Gaza began. Last week the hashtag #HitlerWasRight trended on Twitter worldwide. One protestor took this theme onto an anti-Israel demonstration in London:
It should be noted that the antisemitic incidents recorded by CST since 1 July do not include antisemitic placards or chants on demonstrations.
Other protestors have used Nazi imagery to abuse Israel:
Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is antisemitic. It abuses the memory of Holocaust victims and offends contemporary Jews. It attacks Israel on the basis of its Jewishness. It should have no part in pro-Palestinian campaigning.
This flag commits the same offence, and compounds it by using a Star of David next to the phrase “Baby Killers”. The Star of David is a Jewish symbol. It is found on the Israeli flag, but it is also found on synagogues all over the UK. To use it in the manner it is displayed on this flag risks inciting hatred against British Jews.
This incitement has also been seen on social media. This cartoon is from the Facebook page of UK Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Taji Mustafa. it evokes the antisemitic blood libel, in which Jews are accused of murdering non-Jewish children and consuming their blood in religious rituals. The Arabic on the knife reads “Arab silence”, but the person holding the knife bears a Star of David. The Stars and Stripes on the fork also suggests an antisemitic conspiracy theory regarding alleged Jewish control of America.
CST has also received several reports of antisemitism on Twitter. These two tweets are clear examples of incitement against Jews in the Stamford Hill area of north London:
It has been suggested by some people that hate and abuse on social media is not as serious as other forms of hate crime and should not be included in hate crime statistics. We do not agree. Firstly, if a victim considers a tweet to be offensive or threatening enough to report it to CST, we will respect their feelings and their reaction to what they have seen. Secondly, if somebody shouts an antisemitic comment at a Jewish person in the street, it may only be heard by one person; if that same comment is put on Twitter, it can be seen by an unlimited number of people and it has a permanent record.
This pattern of antisemitic incidents in relation to the current conflict in Israel and Gaza is replicated in several countries around the world, most notably in France where Jewish shops and synagogues in Sarcelles were attacked last night. The antisemitic incidents and incitement seen in Britain over the past two weeks suggest that this danger is getting more, not less, acute. There should be zero tolerance within pro-Palestinian groups, and wider society, for anybody who targets Jews in word or deed.
Cross posted by Richard Millett
Some mocked the Holocaust, others disfigured the Israeli flag, a few screamed “Allahu Akbar”, they all called for the destruction of the Jewish state.
That was the scene outside London’s Israeli Embassy yesterday afternoon as many thousands thronged to hear blood-curdling speeches calling for the end of Israel.
Kensington High Street was closed off to traffic leaving London buses stranded by the protesters who requisitioned them and covered them with anti-Israel slogans.
The protest against Israel’s latest attack on Hamas in Gaza was a toxic mix of Islamists, trade unions like Unison, charities like War On Want, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and, of course, the extreme religious Jewish sect Neturei Karta.
I knew I had outstayed my welcome when a protester grabbed me and shouted “A Zionist!”. I shook him off and made for the relative safety of the tube station.
Here’s a clip for you to savour some of yesterday’s toxicity and some photos:
(I dedicate this blog to the memory of my recently deceased mum whom I loved and miss and who, before she lost the ability to speak due to her terminal illness, always gave me one piece of treasured advice when she knew I was going to an anti-Israel event: “Be careful.”)
What would be the appropriate UK response to thousands of rockets raining down on London, fired by an extremist movement dedicated to the country’s destruction, and one which forced thousands of Brits to take cover in bomb shelters?
Do you think it’s safe to say that the British government would give its military leaders explicit orders to stop the rocket fire? Further, considering such a hypothetical scenario, is there any question that ‘enlightened’ voices in the media would support the government while it engaged in such a basic act of self-defense?
Of course, over the past couple of days, the nation responding to such a real threat hasn’t been the UK, but Israel.
So, naturally, after two days of anti-terror operations against Hamas to stop the rocket fire terrorizing its citizens, the Independent published a cartoon not only suggesting that Israel’s response has been ‘disproportionate’, but also seeming to imply that the response is un-Jewish.
Here’s the cartoon published yesterday in the Indy by Dave Brown, a cartoonist who (as Eylon Aslan-Levy writing at Tablet on the cartoon reminded us) drew the infamous cartoon during the 2nd Intifada of Ariel Sharon devouring Palestinian babies.
fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Just as he inflicted an injury upon a person, so shall it be inflicted upon him.
The Indy cartoon’s revision of these words to “an eye for a tooth…a hand for an eye…a life for a hand…a people for a life” not only accuses Israel of responding disproportionately, and arguably (with the words ‘a life for a people’) engaging in something akin to ethnic cleansing, but that Israel has forgotten its own Jewish ethical tradition.
First, regarding Brown’s use of the Bible verse:
It should be noted that the Jewish oral tradition (as codified in the Talmud) is explicit that this verse ‘an eye for an eye’ has a far more narrow meaning than most suppose. It doesn’t literally mean that if someone pokes out another’s eye, the punishment meted out should similarly consist of poking out the attacker’s eye. It is understood as a commandment simply that justice must be proportional.
So, has the IDF military response – a campaign initiated only as a last resort after cease-fire talks failed to stop the rockets – been proportional?
Well, first we must remember that army has been narrowly targeting the instruments of Hamas terror – bombing concealed rocket launchers, launching infrastructures, training bases, terror tunnels and other military targets.
Further, any serious observer of the conflict would have acknowledge Israel’s strenuous efforts to avoid harming Palestinian civilians – despite the complication caused by Hamas purposely placing their instruments of war in civilian areas.
The IDF has routinely been warning Gaza civilians of intending attacks in order to limit casualties. This includes dropping leaflets and sending text messages to Palestinians who may be in harm’s way, phone calls to homes (used as hubs for terror activities) that are about to be bombed, and the ‘knock on the roof’ tactic where Israel deploys a ‘scare’ bomb which uses a loud noise to influence civilians to leave the targeted area.
Again, ask yourself, would the UK go to such measures to warn their enemies of impending attacks if they were facing a similar threat?
Moreover, it’s remarkable that such political cartoonists have once again failed to focus their righteous outrage and creative energies towards the Islamist extremist group in Gaza. There are of course no cartoons taking aim at Hamas’s racist ideology, or their callous disregard for human life – not just Jewish life but Palestinian life as well. Hamas after all is an Islamic movement which regards the Hebrew Bible as a sacred text, and so would similarly seem bound by its ethical commandment to engage in proportionate justice, and, most importantly, to value life, first and foremost.
Given Hamas’s religious tradition, how then are we to explain their recent acknowledgement that they’re targeting all Israelis civilians, their new warnings that they’ll once again begin launching waves of suicide bombings “on every bus, café and street”, and their leaders’ explicit support for the use of Palestinian human shields.
Would Indy editors ever sanction an op-ed or cartoon vilifying such blatant Palestinian disregard for the sanctity of human life as ‘un-Islamic’?
No, of course they wouldn’t – any more than they would castigate US and British leaders for behaving in an ‘un-Christian’ manner for the huge civilian toll over the years of targeting Islamist fighters in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Well, at least if fairness and moral consistency represent professional values Indy editors aspire to, then perhaps they should consider avoiding such imperious, sanctimonious and hypocritical sermons to Jews as well.
This post is part of a series which re-focuses on the problem of biased moderation at the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’ (CiF) – particularly, reader comments which are off-topic, ad hominem or antisemitic, and yet not deleted by their team of professional moderators. All of the following comments have been posted under ‘CiF’ op-eds which have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Guardian commenter with the moniker, ‘NormBlunt‘.
Guardian commenter with the moniker, ferdous87
Guardian commenter with the moniker, ‘monkie‘.
Again, these comments have NOT been deleted by ‘CiF’ moderators.
A May 16th Guardian article by Karma Nabulsi – an Oxford University academic and former PLO representative who previously claimed, at the Guardian, that Palestinian “schoolchildren are blown to bits [by the IDF] while playing’ – which fetishizes Palestinian violence represents a pattern at the media group, whereby contributors and editors support for the ‘right’ of Palestinians to engage in terror attacks against Israelis.
Here are just a few examples: Guardian editors published a letter in January 2011 by a philosophy professor which explicitly defended the right of Palestinians (on moral grounds) to murder Israeli civilians in terror attacks – an editorial decision which was actually defended by their readers’ editor following the uproar which ensued; In May 2011, the Guardian published an official editorial about the ‘Arab Spring’, and praised the Palestinians for teaching the Arab world how to launch ‘successful’ intifadas; And, in November 2012, during the war in Gaza, Associate Editor Seumas Milne wrote an op-ed explicitly defending the right of Hamas to launch terror attacks against Israelis, and argued that Israel has no such moral right to defend itself.
So, while the May 16th article, titled ‘Artist of the Palestinian revolution‘, on an exhibit featuring Palestinian revolutionary films and art now showing at venues in London (under the slogan “The World is with Us“), comes as little surprise, it’s nonetheless interesting in the way it’s presented, as embodying chic, progressive artistic sensibilities.
Nabulsi’s tale about the glorious nature of the Palestinian revolution begins in the early passages:
In the simplest terms, the story of the Palestinian revolution is a story of the cadres who created it, served it, and gave it both life and force. A people expelled en masse from their homeland, they managed to take matters into their own hands and transform their situation in a most ingenious manner. Initiated by a handful of young refugees, they began to “make their own history”, launching a popular struggle in the late 1960s to regain their homeland and their rights.
However, the PLO was founded in 1964, three years before Israel was ‘occupying’ any Palestinian – or, more accurately, Jordanian – territory, and the (clearly stated) goal of the “popular struggle” was not to “regain their homeland”, but to annihilate the Jewish state.
Nabulsi not only fails to note that the weapons depicted in her beloved Palestinian art were used to murder unarmed Jewish civilians, but characterizes the PLO and other Palestinians terror groups as culturally vibrant, progressive, and humanistic social welfare-based institutions:
Developing factories, institutions, hospitals, schooling and a plethora of ideologies inside an armed struggle throughout the 1970s, Palestinians also created an ebullient revolutionary culture of music, film, poetry, radio, photography, painting and plastic arts, and became the touchstone for revolutionary movements across the world.
Here’s the next terrorist-chic graphic from the exhibit used by Nabulsi:
Nabulsi then sums up the movement thusly:
By no means a Marxist revolution (although Marxists were a part of it), it was definitely progressive, and certainly popular. To the revolutionary movements of Africa, Latin America and Asia it was known intimately: Palestine was with the world, just as the world was with Palestine.
This was not merely an anti-colonial or national liberation movement. Comprising the disenfranchised and the dispossessed, and driven by a determination to return home, and to count on themselves alone, meant that the Palestinian cause was not national, nor leftist, but, instead, of the whole people. The culture of return and the armed struggle at the heart of the revolution brought common cause to a people whose country had been destroyed by the Nakba
Since 1964 (the year the PLO was founded), over two thousand Israelis have been murdered, and thousands more maimed, by the “culture of Palestinian armed struggle”.
Finally, we’ll leave you with the trailer from the ‘The World Is With Us” London exhibit promoted by Nabulsi:
We just came across a fascinating post by the prolific Tom Gross describing his experience in 2001 escorting Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger (and Ian Katz) around Israel and the Palestinian territories.
What especially stands out is how much worse their coverage was during the early 2000s compared to today – which says a lot in light of the egregious institutional anti-Israel bias we’ve been exposing since our blog’s launch in 2009.
LAST May, I escorted the editor of London’s Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger, and his features editor, Ian Katz, round West Jerusalem and into Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem. It was Rusbridger’s first trip to Israel. His paper had been singled out by critics of press coverage of Israel – even in the context of highly selective and biased reporting across virtually the entire European media – as one of the most unfair. [Ian Katz is now editor of BBC’s Newsnight.]
Unlike many other journalists who have climbed aboard the anti-Israeli bandwagon over the last months without having ever even been to Israel, Rusbridger – to his credit – took five days off work to see the situation for himself. He is, after all, heir to the great C.P. Scott, editor of The Guardian for 57 years, who (in Rusbridger’s words) “fought tirelessly alongside Chaim Weizmann for the creation of the state of Israel.” (Indeed it was Scott who introduced Weizmann to Arthur Balfour).
A few days before our meeting, the Guardian’s chief Jerusalem correspondent, Suzanne Goldenberg, had been presented with Britain’s prestigious Edgar Wallace Trophy by Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. In a front-page announcement, The Guardian said that the London Press Club had decided to award her the prize, for her “courageous and objective journalism.”
Even though the prize is meant to cover reporting in general, and has no particular connection with the Middle East, the runner-up was another media crusader against Israel, Robert Fisk, of the Independent newspaper. Goldenberg’s news report in the Guardian on the morning the prize was announced, was titled “Mutilated Children of a Crippled Palestine,” which gives a flavor of the kind of writing which had so impressed her fellow journalists.
See our post (published last year) which fisked Goldenberg’s appalling 2001 report on the al-Dura incident.
Rusbridger, Katz and I crossed by car into Bethlehem. It wasn’t clear whether it was safe to go there that morning. The mutilated bodies of two 13-year-old Israeli boys had been found in a nearby cave just hours earlier, and tension was high. My car had Israeli, not Palestinian, license plates, and over the previous weeks several motorists had been shot dead for just such an offence.
The boys murdered in the cave were Yosef Ish Ran and Koby Mandell.
Two Israeli soldiers, aged about 18, were standing guard on the Israeli side of the border. When we showed our journalist identity cards and asked if we could cross, one of them said in English “But of course if you are journalists you must come in.” Then he added, with a wry smile, “You are the bodyguard of democracy, after all.” Rusbridger jotted down the soldier’s observation in his notebook.
“Is it safe to go in this morning?” I asked the soldier. “Yes, the Palestinians don’t start shooting until lunchtime these days,” he replied. Katz was worried: “You mean they have shooting here!”
We were pressed for time, so our foray into Bethlehem was a short one. But it was long enough for Rusbridger and Katz – a contemporary of mine at Oxford who told me that he hadn’t been to Israel “since his bar mitzvah” – to see with their own eyes that the Israeli soldiers were courteous and polite to Palestinians. They saw that Palestinians were allowed to cross the checkpoint by both car and foot in a matter of seconds. And they saw by contrast how the same soldiers were refusing religious Jews, who wished to go and pray at the nearby holy site of Rachel’s Tomb, entry to Bethlehem.
On our drive down one of Bethlehem’s main streets, we passed Palestinian-owned cars of a similar standard to those we had just seen being driven by Israelis in Jerusalem. Rusbridger and Katz also had a chance to observe that the local Arab shops were well stocked. And when we drove back out from Bethlehem into Israel, they could see that Palestinians were allowed to pass quickly – in about the same time it takes an average Israeli to enter a Tel Aviv shopping mall or movie theatre, as his bags are searched for explosive devices. At the same time the religious Jews we had seen before were still on the other side of the road, still pleading with the soldiers to be allowed entry to Bethlehem.
“BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL”
Two weeks later, Rusbridger wrote about his trip in a cover story for the Spectator magazine in London. The Spectator was an unexpected choice. It is owned by Conrad Black, one of the few prominent non-Jews in the West to have openly denounced media coverage of Israel. “The BBC, Independent, Guardian, Evening Standard and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are rabidly anti-Israel,” Black had written in The Spectator a few weeks earlier, “and wittingly or not, are stoking the inferno of anti-Semitism.”
Pay close attention to Rusbridger’s words:
Rusbridger began his Spectator article as follows: “In the last, dying days of apartheid I visited South Africa… A couple of weeks ago I made my first trip to another much-written about country, Israel. As with my earlier journey I found a lot that was shocking, but this time I was genuinely surprised. Nothing had prepared me for finding quite so many echoes of the worst days of South Africa in modern Israel.”
He went on to give some examples – taken out of context – of shooting incidents, and of Palestinian poverty he had witnessed in what he called the “large prison” of Gaza. He wrote of the “endless humiliating queues waiting to pass through Israeli army checkpoints.” There was no mention of our very different experience crossing into the “occupied West Bank.”
Not content with drawing analogies with South Africa, Rusbridger also made a comparison with Northern Ireland, implying that the situation is worse in Israel because Israelis don’t know what’s going on. He wrote – mistakenly – that “The difference in Israel is that almost no Jewish-Israeli journalists ever report firsthand on life and death on the West Bank or Gaza today… The exceptions – I think there are three – are brave and, by and large, despised by Jewish Israelis.”
He seemed to have forgotten our conversation about the workings of Israeli democracy, in which I had pointed out that every Israeli newspaper – without exception – has regular and comprehensive reporting about life in Gaza, some of it highly critical of Israel; that both national Israeli TV channels have correspondents in Gaza; that senior advisors to Yasser Arafat, and even spokespersons for Hamas, are regularly interviewed on Israeli television and radio; and that Israeli Arabs play a significant role in the Israeli media. Indeed, as I had told Rusbridger, probably the single most influential journalist in Israel, Rafik Halaby, the Director of News at Israel’s state-run Channel One TV, is an Arab.
In his article Rusbridger also made no reference to the many progressive elements of Israeli Jewish society which we had discussed in some detail. I had asked him why, if Israel is “an affront to civilization” – the headline given to a comment piece written by a former British Defense Secretary in The Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, a few days before Rusbridger’s visit – the Jewish state should, for example, have some of the most liberal laws in the world for homosexuals, far more liberal than those in the US and Britain.
As for his claim that “nothing had prepared me for finding quite so many echoes of the worst days of South Africa in modern Israel”, it made me wonder, for a moment, how carefully he reads his own paper, given that comparisons between present day Israel and South Africa in the apartheid era have become part of the Guardian’s stock in trade.
Take, for example, Goldenberg’s report of Saturday June 3, 2000. It was headlined, “Palestinians feel the heat as police enforce beach apartheid: With peace looming, Israel is keen to establish areas for Jews only”, and the article itself began: “In these early days of a sweltering summer, the long palm-dotted beaches of Tel Aviv are a natural escape. But if you are a Palestinian, a family day out can mean a night in jail. As Israeli Jews lolled on the sand yesterday, the Tel Aviv police were out in force in a zealous enforcement of beach apartheid… [an] operation to create Jewish-only beaches. Palestinians were arrested near the dolphinarium before they could even set foot on the sand…”
As someone who lives in Tel Aviv, and goes to the beach most days, I have never seen anything of the kind. Jews and Arabs mix freely on the beach, and did so when the article was written in June 2000, as any resident of Tel Aviv will confirm. This includes the area around the dolphinarium, site of a deadly Palestinian suicide bomb at a beachfront teenage disco exactly a year after Goldenberg wrote her piece.
About the same time that Rusbridger published his Spectator article, he wrote a massive editorial in The Guardian, running to well over 2,000 words, entitled “Between Heaven and Hell.”
A pull quote was reproduced in large type in a box on The Guardian’s front page. It read:
“We are forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about how the dream of a sanctuary for the Jewish people in the very land in which their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped has come to be poisoned. The establishment of this sanctuary has been bought at a very high cost in human rights and human lives. It must be apparent that the international community cannot support this cost indefinitely.”
You can read the rest of Gross’s post, here.
You can continue to read about the Guardian’s hostility towards the Jewish state on these pages.
Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett
As many as eight anti-Israel activists were arrested yesterday outside Israeli-owned Ecostream in Brighton, on England’s south coast. Ecostream belongs to Sodastream, which has a factory on the West Bank. Although Sodastream employs many Palestinians the anti-Israel lobby prefers to see the factory shut down, thus imperiling the livelihoods of Sodastream’s Israeli and Palestinian workforce.
Every Saturday anti-Israel activists flock to Ecostream to call for its boycott. They are always met by the stoical counter-protesting of Sussex Friends of Israel. Yesterday, however, the anti-Israel activists were swelled by the presence of Palestine Solidarity Campaign affiliated trade unionists from the NHS, NUT, GMB, NUJ and the University of Brighton.
But tempers rose and not before long the number of anti-Israel activists was depleted as protester after protester was led away to the back of a police van. A heartbreaking sight, indeed.
Then the police issued a “section 14″ meaning both sides were kept apart and liable to arrest should anyone step outside their own zone. The remaining anti-Israel activists were restricted to the other side of the busy road opposite Ecostream and could, therefore, hardly be heard or seen for the remainder of the protest. Ecostream’s supporters stayed close to the shop.
Ecostream itself is a magical store. You can buy products that allow you to make your own carbonated drinks and you can refill your own bottles there with anything from honey, to olive oil to washing up liquid. Basically, cut down on your use of bottles and help the environment. Refilling is also vastly cheaper when there is no bottle to pay for.
Those of us who journeyed from London and other parts of England were very warmly received by Sussex Friends of Israel. Thanks to Harvey for driving a car load of us from London. It was good to see friends and meet new people and I also bought some lovely Palestinian olive oil from Ecostream.
Meanwhile, here are photos and footage of the action and photos from inside the Ecostream shop itself.
The first clip shows two of the alleged arrests and the second shows two trade unionists explaining how the presence of so many different trade unions protesting against Israel should make those supporting Israel “question themselves”. Well, that’s certainly an unbeatable argument if ever there was one: