Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Israeli military courts continue to take a hard line against Palestinian Druze citizens of Israel who refuse military service on conscientious grounds. The most recent is Burhan Abu Zaid, of Shefaamer in the Galilee, who has been held for nearly 2 months after refusing to participate in the IDF induction process. His father said: “My son decided to refuse to serve in an army that occupies Palestinian lands, the army of a state that refuses to recognize the right of return.”
Among the many causes for complaint of the Druze Palestinian citizens of Israel, it is significant that these military resisters highlight recognition of the right of return.
See, in Hebrew: http://www.mahsom.org/article.php?id=6065
Recognize the right to, on grounds of conscience, refuse military service and to disobey military orders! Release all military resisters!
Monday, 17 September 2007
Building on action taken by civil society and moving forward
Connecting with worldwide peace and social movements
Paper delivered at UN conference at the EU parliament in Brussels, 30 August 2007
By Angela Godfrey-Goldstein
This year and next are landmarks for Israelis, Palestinians and internationals campaigning against Occupation, advocating for a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, at peace with Israel, or other options if a viable 2-state option (as opposed to the Bantustan version currently on offer) is seen to be no longer attainable. 40 Years of Occupation was marked around the world in June with non-violent events which will continue by marking 60 years since the establishment of the state and the Nakba. Within ICAHD, my organisation, we launched a one and a half million dollar campaign to rebuild 300 homes demolished by Israel, including full page adverts in The New York Times and the Guardian, to mark our 40-60 Campaign, (funded by Americans, including holocaust survivors and Orthodox Jews) to expose Israeli policies of discrimination, whilst working to end the Occupation.
The 40 Years of Occupation was marked around the world in June with a multitude of events, gleaning much media attention. Next year’s worldwide campaigns will continue the Bilbao Declaration which invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN resolutions and calls for the establishment of civil society networks. Similarly, the Florence Declaration underlines the role of civil society, and seeks to reinforce the Arab League Peace Plan. There is also the Avaaz.org internet lobby, a spin-off of MoveOn and in UK War on Want, ICAHD UK and many others in the Enough! coalition are blazing the way for civil society, too. In Israel, as many as a million Israeli civilians have voted with their feet and left the country, while some say the real refusal rate of youth to serve in the IDF may be as high as 50%. Grey refusal in the Air Force is also very high, said to be 30%.
John Pilger wrote recently:
“The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is as much America's crusade as Israel's. On 16th August, the Bush administration announced an unprecedented $30bn military "aid package" for Israel, the world's fourth biggest military power, an air power greater than Britain, a nuclear power greater than France. No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world's tyrannies comes close. International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel. There is nothing like it in UN history.” I’d add that Israel has ignored over 60 UNSC resolutions, in direct negation of United Nations’ recognition of Israeli statehood.
“But [says Pilger] something is changing. Perhaps last summer's panoramic horror beamed from Lebanon on to the world's TV screens provided the catalyst. Or perhaps cynicism of Bush and Blair and the incessant use of the inanity, "terror", together with the day-by-day dissemination of a fabricated insecurity in all our lives, has finally brought the attention of the international community outside the rogue states, Britain and the US, back to one of its principal sources, Israel.”
“The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so has South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle.” [end quote]
Ronnie Kasrils said, in fact, on visiting Palestine this year, that it is 100 times worse there than apartheid South Africa. And UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, has said that human rights conditions in the EU trade agreement should be invoked and Israel's trading preferences suspended. This was echoed by Clare Short, with us today, in a June 26th debate in the British Parliament.
Also in early July, the Dutch government warned a Rotterdam-based company to stop work on the construction of the 700 kilometre-long "separation barrier" or “apartheid wall”, as its construction was ruled illegal by the ICJ in 2004. In America major churches such as the Presbyterians have ongoing processes of Mission Responsibility Through Investment: MRTI in place, which lead to divestment.
I would say that those who read the facts on the ground, the infrastructure, and the money trail, and the political declarations or meaningful silences or constructive ambiguity (or even warnings of the next intifada brewing if November produces yet another slap in the face to the Palestinians) – are less than optimistic.
International civil society, as represented at this meeting and at Social Forum meetings, consisting of peace and human rights groups, faith-based groups, trade unions, universities and intellectuals, and all those ordinary people of the world in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Israeli peace camp, is the key to liberation. When even the Peace NGOs Forum run by the Peres Centre for Peace holds a conference in Florence to engage with international civil society because it sees it as the only effective counterweight, one sees a growing realisation that only civil society can bear this singular burden of democracy, not least to empower politicians at forums such as this – the United Nations and the European Parliament.
I see, after five years of working with diplomats, politicians and aid workers in Israel and Palestine, that on an individual basis there’s enormous personal support and empathy for the Palestinian cause. Because they see it. They “get” it. But actually diplomats have no power. They are the ‘hollow men’ and their own governments are unable and unwilling, often for economic or domestic reasons, to translate diplomatic empathy into policy. Thus the gulf between realpolitik and policies of peace or real democracy. Between the peoples of the world and the power bases. Between those millions who took to the streets against the Occupation of Iraq or those who went to war, willy-nilly defying warnings.
I recall Ophir Pines-Paz, when Minister of Internal Affairs, insisting at a conference in Jerusalem about the city’s future (attended by the “left”): “Give me a hard time. I need to hear from you so I can offset pressure I get from other lobbies.” Similarly, in Florence, in June this year, Romano Prodi told the Peace NGOs that he can’t pressure George Bush or interfere in Israeli domestic policy, but said “Italian civil society can help you a lot with this.” In other words, only if we build a successful grassroots, civil society struggle, similar to that of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the 80s or Civil Rights in the 60s, will the diplomats and politicians become sufficiently compelled to change policy.
So much happens so fast on a daily basis (home demolitions, arrests, settler violence, Wall infrastructure, tree uprootings, detentions, military raids, 50% of Palestinian farmers now on food aid in model farming communities, and a general breakdown of Palestinian civil society, to name but a few), and Israeli and Palestinian society are so dysfunctional that outside help is vital. We need to build on action taken, connect with worldwide peace and social movements and develop them together. The real international peace movement, which mobilizes against wars and occupation, in Iraq, Lebanon or the OPT, is the only alternative. But campaigners must know the facts on the ground and subtleties, or else become unfocused, simplistic or simply hate-filled. And they must be able to counter the rhetoric of the right wing, which doesn’t recognise the Palestinians, and never has – whilst demanding of Hamas full recognition of borderless Israel as a Jewish state (invoking, with chutzpah, United Nations benchmarks!).
I see the Israeli extreme Right as a more dangerous enemy of peace than the Palestinians, most of whom want peace. Recently the IDF escorted us into Hebron for a demonstration through the Palestinian part of Hebron, rather than through militant strongholds of Kiryat Arba and settlements ruthlessly judaising Hebron’s Old City, which they considered far more dangerous to our safety. Indeed it was Hebron American Israeli Kach-supporter settler Dr. Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Palestinians in the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Ibrahimi Mosque, which persuaded Hamas to turn its armed struggle against civilians, and start the wave of bus and café suicide bombings which so traumatised Israelis, preventing them from feeling responsibility for Palestinian suffering. Hamas is threatening now to end its ceasefire. Let us see then if the Wall can really work or if – as Jamal has shown – it isn’t really just a huge land and water grab, a tool for massive population transfer. The Right has no peace plan. At a recent 3-day Conference in Jerusalem to discuss the future of the Jewish people, peace was not even on the Agenda. So much for their Jewish values.
We need now to co-ordinate a global campaign aimed to put pressure on Israel to end its politics of occupation and colonization and divide-and-rule tactics by sanctioning its systematic violations of international law and United Nations resolutions. We must save Israel from itself, for the sake of the majority of average peaceful Israelis and Palestinians.
As one who lived for five years in South Africa under apartheid, I heard the anti-boycott choruses from apartheid supporters, so I take such words with a large pinch of cynical salt. Boycott is a fundamentally useful way of encouraging public awareness, putting pressure and expressing disapproval. No, it is not okay. No, the world has benchmarks of human rights and international law. Occupation, colonialism and apartheid are unacceptable in the 21st century. Some say boycotts “will not change positions in a day, but they will send a clear message to the Israeli public that these positions are racist and unacceptable … They would have to choose.”
In my organisation we have gone unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court to fight a demolition order on our peace centre, Beit Arabiya, located in a Palestinian home demolished by Israel four times. So we’re now examining with the Chilean judge who brought Pinochet to trial, the possibility of using universal jurisdiction to sue those we say are committing war crimes by demolishing people’s homes (for nothing to do with security). Similarly, the UN has been served with an Urgent Action Appeal on behalf of 3,000 Jahalin Bedouin – refugees being moved off land they’ve lived on since being forced off their own lands in the early ’50s; a population transfer being enforced by military order simply because they live in the path of the Wall being built illegally around the settlement city of Maale Adumim, whose infrastructure is designed to prevent a viable Palestine from ever arising. Another Urgent Action Appeal has just been delivered as to the North Jordan Valley for more population transfer there.
I believe there are a number of actions that can be taken:
1. Present the issue of settlements to the ICJ for its ruling under international law.
2. Ensure the recommendations of the ICJ are implemented regarding the Wall, by calling the international community to boycott the Occupation, sanction Israel and divest;
3. Work on a comprehensive registry of Palestinian damages, in the knowledge that transitional justice will one day kick in as it always does;
4. If Israel doesn’t take serious steps towards real peace, Eurovision, the European Cup, the Olympic Games and other high profile events must be targeted, and the academic boycott increasingly kick in.
5. When even Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni uses the words “viable Palestine” we have to agree what real viability entails
6. Never forget the centrality of the Right of Return and Israel’s responsibility for the refugees (which must also be acknowledged for the sake of Israeli closure, psychological health and reconciliation).
Because the crimes against humanity which UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard says are being committed --– the Occupation has elements of colonialism and apartheid in it, according to him -- are unacceptable, even if governments turn a blind eye or lack the political will to take principled stands. The emperor is naked and only international civil society is free to say so. Which emperor? All the emperors. (If Madeleine Albright could put her foot down and freeze settlements, why doesn’t Ms. Rice?) Indeed, civil society has a duty to exercise and underwrite freedom and democracy or risk losing them, in the face of neo-conservative values and the neocons’ predilection for imperialistic wars – fought by Israel as their proxy in the Middle East.
Pressure works. So, sadly, we have to ratchet up the pressure, so that Israel’s government won’t continue down the suicidal road on which it’s embarked. This means lobbying those in power. Insisting that they visit Palestine with critical guides (not just the IDF or Jewish lobby) to see what is contentious. We need to ensure they visit the living conditions of Bedouin citizens living in the Negev without water, electricity, roads, health services or any conditions provided to other citizens living next door. It means writing Op-Eds or letters and getting them placed, even in local newspapers. Phoning-in to local or national radio to report on visits and actions and activisms and campaigns. Boycotting Israeli products. Insisting on the benchmarks of international law and human rights. Promoting photographic exhibitions particularly amongst students so they can see what the hell is going on.
And it demands of us to strategise and to prioritise. Are we now embarked on an anti-apartheid campaign? Are we still going for the 2-state solution or can we discuss alternatives? If the 2-state solution is already dead and buried and irrelevant because of those facts on the ground, what are the alternatives? How do we fight the so-called security infrastructure being built on E-1 -- the nail in the coffin of the 2-state solution – already two huge police stations dominate it. Can we strategise effectively? Where do we stand on Gaza and its prison-like sub-human conditions, the blockade it suffers, the poisonous water supply, the naval patrols preventing fishing, while Israeli officials talk of it being free? We must surely fund the Free Gaza campaign.
The Israeli government and the Bush Administration will not move forwards for real peace. Time and serious commitment are of the essence, as are truth, and true hearts. Peace – real peace - is long overdue. This is no time to cling for security to the line of least resistance, for feeling comfortable. We are in a state of psychological warfare, fighting for peace. A spiritual battle that we shall, insha’allah, eventually win. Together.
Sunday, 2 September 2007
Below is a “Labour for Palestine” statement issued in response to the pro-Israel statement of some US labor leaders.
Please send a note of encouragement to firstname.lastname@example.org
Labour for Palestine Responds to US Anti-Boycott Statement
27 August 2007
In July 2007, a group of labour leaders from the US issued a statement opposing the growing international campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The statement was signed by a number of presidents from unions including the American Federation of Teachers, the American Postal Workers Union, the Communication Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the AFL-CIO(1). It was widely discussed in the Israeli media, where it was presented as a response to this summer’s important set of boycott resolutions from unions in the UK. While the US statement can in no way be seen as representative of grassroots sentiment within the North American trade union movement, as labour activists involved in a variety of Canadian unions we feel it is important to respond to the array of mistruths and distortions it contains.
Singling out Israel or international solidarity
The US statement begins by endorsing a sentiment that is repeated ad nauseum by pro-Israel activists:
“with the diverse range of oppressive regimes around the world about which there is almost universal silence, we have to question the motives of these resolutions that single out one country in one conflict.”
The first thing to note about this argument is that it contains a remarkable omission. Nowhere in the entire US statement is there mention of the fact that the global campaign of BDS against Israel is a direct response to an urgent appeal signed in July 2005 by over 170 Palestinian worker, student, farmer, women, professional and refugee associations (2).
This appeal was endorsed by every Palestinian trade union federation and is the broadest and most representative call for international solidarity ever made by Palestinian society.
This point bears repeating. To portray the call for boycott as a “simplistic and non-constructive approach” originating from outside the region deliberately obfuscates the central point of the BDS campaign. The global trade union support for boycott resolutions is a direct response to an urgent appeal from Palestinian workers and their representatives.
Palestinian workers and their representatives have set up a picket line and asked us not to cross. As North American trade unionists we have an extra responsibility to workers and their families struggling against unjust and oppressive regimes – particularly when those regimes are fully supported by the US and Canadian governments.
It is worth emphasizing that attempts to characterize the international trade union movement as ‘singling out’ Israel appear ridiculous to anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with the labour politics. If there is one issue – particularly in North America - that the labour movement has simply been silent on for too many decades it is the injustice committed against the Palestinian people. The courageous resolutions coming from the UK, Canada and countries in Europe are a long overdue response to a shameful blight on the history of the international trade union movement. Our fellow trade unionists in the US should take up this campaign with even more vigour, given the fact that the crimes committed against the Palestinian people by the Israeli government would simply not be possible without US diplomatic, financial and military support.
The 'why-pick-on-Israel' response to the boycott campaign is even more shocking to hear from the leaders of the largest and most influential union organizations in the US. What kind of trade unionists ever make the argument that we shouldn't support a labour struggle in one city because there are other workers also being oppressed in another? Or that a victory in one sector won't aid our struggles as workers in another? This is an essential ABC of international solidarity. It is an unfortunate truth that too many in the labour movement in the US - and Canada - have largely forgotten or deliberately buried the principle of 'an injury to one is an injury to all'. Nevertheless, we must constantly uphold and stress this principle as essential to rebuilding our respective labour movements around a platform of militant, progressive solidarity and anti-imperialism. It is indeed striking that the US statement avoids all mention of even the word 'solidarity'.
We are absolutely certain that the trade unionists in the US that are active around solidarity with Palestine are the same ones promoting other solidarity issues in the labour movement: the wars against the Iraqi and Afghan peoples, solidarity with workers in Mexico, Colombia, Egypt, the Philippines, and many others. These activists are also on the forefront of picket lines, organizing the unorganized, building support for undocumented workers, and leading ‘unauthorized’ strikes for social justice. The portrayal of BDS resolutions as narrowing the work of trade union activists is simply dishonest. A victory on one of these issues will inspire and mobilize activists across a broad range of social justice issues. This is our experience in Canada. It is certain to be the case elsewhere.
The ‘both sides’ argument
The US labour leaders’ statement also invokes the equally oft-repeated argument that we need to be ‘balanced’, look at ‘all sides’, avoid talking about the ‘victims and victimizer’, and so forth. The statement claims:
“We note with increasing concern that virtually all of these [BDS] resolutions focus solely on objections to actions or policies of the Israeli government, and never on actions or policies of Palestinian or other Arab governments, parties or movements. We notice with increasing concern that characterization of the Palestinians as victims and Israel as victimizer is a staple of such resolutions. That there are victims and victimizers on all sides, and that many if not most of the victims of violence and repression on all sides are civilians, are essential items often not mentioned in these resolutions.”
This argument of balance is willfully blind and deliberately obfuscating of the central political issues at hand. There is an underlying cause to the ongoing misery and suffering that affects peoples in the area – and it affects some people more than others: The destruction of the Palestinian homeland in 1948; the creation of an exclusivist state that closely resembles the apartheid state of South Africa; the continued occupation, since 1967, of Palestinian lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of UN resolutions; and the current encirclement, siege and economic strangulation of Gaza; these are the root problems of the conflict. Israel (with U.S. and British support) is the key perpetrator of these violations and it is morally disingenuous to deploy arguments of ‘all sides equally guilty’. These violations of the Palestinian peoples and nation must be addressed if a genuine and just peace is to be achieved in the region. Avoiding these issues – and repeating vacuous calls that serve to equate the oppressed and their oppressors – really means standing on the side of those in power.
Of course civilians on all sides suffer from the ongoing state of war. But if you want to do something about that, then the fundamental causes of the problem need to be addressed. The global BDS movement attempts to do just that: by denying legitimacy to those who make a living justifying the current state of affairs; by refusing to work with organizations that support the oppression of an entire people; and by opposing investments that strengthen the occupation and domination of the Palestinian people. Peace can only be brought to the region by supporting peoples struggling for their freedom and social justice.
The negotiations myth
The US labour leaders’ statement goes on to argue that peace requires the coming together of the parties. The calls for boycotts stand in the way of the necessary interaction between the warring communities. Such an argument is again similar to those used against workers engaged in struggle in their workplaces. How often have we been told that a strike ‘hurts everyone’, and if we sit down and negotiate then ‘all sides will win’?
The reality is that over the last few decades the so-called ‘peace’ negotiations have simply served to cement Israel’s stranglehold over the Palestinian people. Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank doubled. Its system of military orders governing every aspect of Palestinian life was expanded to include an invidious control of Palestinian movement based on the notorious South African pass card system. Israel guaranteed the complete dependence of the Palestinian economy through control of all exports and imports, the construction of industrial zones to exploit cheap Palestinian labour, and the ultimate supply of all water, electricity, and fuel entering the Palestinian areas. The disconnected islands of territories that Palestinians have been made captive within have been rightly described as Bantustans. These Bantustans are now encircled by the Apartheid Wall and its associated network of military checkpoints, barbed wire fences and explosive mines.
To claim that ‘direct talks’ are a panacea for these fundamental problems overlooks the basic fact that negotiations are not neutral. The Israeli government wields tremendous military, economic and political superiority over the Palestinian people. It is supported by the most powerful states on the planet. The Palestinian people are living under Israeli occupation. In such a situation can it be anything more than self-evident that negotiations will favour the more powerful? These realities of power in the region – and its implications for the achievement of rights of self-determination and justice for Palestinians – must be acknowledged to truly demonstrate international solidarity. It means taking sides. As unionists we know that this means always being in the front ranks supporting those suffering against exploitation and oppression.
There are groups of people in Israel that respect the rights of Palestinians, maintain relations of solidarity and support for their struggle, and also support the BDS movement against Israeli apartheid. Much like the relations between the white South African supporters of the ANC and the liberation movement, the former fully supported the struggle and renounced the privileges and the superior status given to them by the racist regime. We are absolutely confident that the numbers and public profile of those courageous Israelis who stand with the Palestinian people will continue to increase alongside the growing strength of the global boycott movement.
Israeli and Palestinian unions
What about the Palestinian and Israeli trade unions? Once again, the silence of the US labour leaders’ statement towards the call issued by all Palestinian trade union federations in February 2007 to boycott the existing Israeli union movement – the Histadrut – needs to be underlined (3). The Histadrut represents a colonial-type union formation that supports the ongoing domination of the Palestinian people. It has worked hand-in-hand with the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip for decades, and is thus an integral part of the exploitation of Palestinian labour. The former Histadrut leader, Amir Peretz, moved straight on to Israeli Defence Minister and in that position presided over the horrendous bombardment of Lebanon in 2006. As part of Olmert’s government, he participated in the further extension of settlements in the West Bank and the building of the Apartheid Wall. The relationships that exist between the Histadrut and Palestinian labour institutions can in no honest way be described as constituting “co-operative and mutually supportive activities”.
The purpose of boycott and divestment resolutions is to force the Israeli government to fulfill basic principles of human rights. Governments around the world have clearly failed to do so – and, in contrast, are instrumental to supporting Israel’s system of oppression. The BDS campaign message is direct: it simply says that we should have no part in supporting those who stand with and maintain Israeli apartheid; we refuse to participate with and strengthen those structures and demand that basic human rights are achieved for the Palestinian people.
The boycott campaign is working. What other international initiative over the last few decades has so publicly expressed global dissatisfaction with Israeli policies against the Palestinian people and been so effective in forcing the Israeli government to respond? We know that we are having an impact when the Israeli government decides to set up a special government committee to combat the global boycott movement (4). We know that our voices are being heard when the British government must publicly come out against the UK trade union movement because of its position on Israeli human rights violations (5). When was the last time a western government has paid attention to a trade union resolution?
The BDS movement is also a powerful consciousness raising tool. By raising the arguments and debates we help to educate workers around an issue that it is simply impossible to understand on a diet of the mainstream, corporate media. In Canada, for example, union activists in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Ontario) have been conducting a year-long education campaign throughout dozens of union locals based on material produced by the union on BDS. Hundreds of workers have gone through these educational sessions. Discussions and groups supportive of Palestinian solidarity have formed in other unions. This would simply not have been possible without a resolution passed by CUPE in March 2006.
Over the past fifty years much of the trade union movement in the US (and many in Canada as well) have an inglorious record in supporting the foreign policy efforts of successive pro-business governments. Nevertheless, today a growing number of trade unionists are rejecting that tradition and are instead looking to rebuild a truly internationalist worker's movement. The BDS campaign is a powerful component of this movement for progressive union solidarity.
As Canadian trade unionists, we are convinced that the global BDS campaign represents a re-awakening of the true principles of the labour movement. The boycott movement was an important part of solidarity with black South Africans struggling against apartheid. We are certain that it will be an instrumental part of achieving justice and peace in the Middle East. We are proud to be active in this campaign in Canada. A great many rank-and-file labour activists in the US support this work. Their voices and solidarity will not be silenced.
(1) See http://www.jewishlaborcommittee.org/2007/07
statement_of_opposition_to_div.html for a copy of this statement.
(2) See http://www.stopthewall.org/downloads/pdf/BDSEnglish.pdf
(3) See http://www.stopthewall.org/boycott/bds/cupe.shtml
(4) See “Government to Form Joint Task Force to counter U.K. Boycotts”,
Haaretz, 8 June 2007 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/868700.html
(5) See British Embassy Tel Aviv, “Howells Comments on Boycott of Israeli
About Labour for Palestine
Labour for Palestine is a network of activists involved in promoting and strengthening the BDS campaign across a variety of different Canadian unions as a sub-committee of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA).
In March 2006, Labour for Palestine launched a 106-page reader exploring themes such as the history of the Palestinian struggle, Zionism and the Israeli labour movement, Canadian ties to Israeli apartheid, the global campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, and commentary around the CUPE Ontario resolution in support of BDS. The reader can be purchased online from the Toronto Women’s Bookstore for Cd$13.00 by visiting http://www.womensbookstore.com
For more information on Labour for Palestine, please contact email@example.com
Saturday, 1 September 2007
By Jeff Halper*
Published in the Jerusalem Post, 28 August 2007
A funny thing happened to me on my way from Tel Aviv to New York a couple months ago. I was sitting in my aisle seat reading a book, when all of a sudden I became aware of the tall figure of a man looming over me.
I looked up and saw a guy with a mustache and kippa whom I had never met before.
"I am Gerald Steinberg," he trumpeted. "I am the person who will put you out of business."
Then he abruptly lurched off. But he apparently had one more thought he wanted to share with me. Suddenly he turned around, pointed at me and bellowed: "You are a Jewish anti-Semite!"
Now accosting me in the street is one thing, but accusing me of anti-Semitism in a voice everyone could hear on a planeload of Jewish passengers was virtual incitement to a lynching. Fortunately, my fellow passengers had their seat-belts on, and the incident passed peacefully.
Later, in the passport line at Kennedy, we passed each other. "Why don't we get a cup ofcoffee sometime and talk?" I offered.
"You're not important enough," he snapped back as he disappeared into the Goldene Medine.
THE ACCOSTING has now moved to the pages of The Jerusalem Post ("Europe to host NGO attack on Israel," August 23) where, not for the first time, Steinberg refers to me as, in general, anti-Israel - although here I only "appear" with anti-Semites.
All this is silly stuff, of course. But the kind of rhetoric Steinberg employs is significant because it is often used by self-proclaimed "pro-Israel" advocates to obfuscate the very important debate that must take place if we are to overcome conflict and usher Israel into the state of peace, security and reconciliation most Israelis seem to desire.
In his article, Steinberg employs epithets, simplistic and accusatory terms as if they were"objective," the very technique of "radical propaganda" of which he accuses me and others.
In the Brussels meetings - to which I wasn't invited, despite Steinberg's insinuation that I was - he refers to "radical" Palestinian NGOs (whatever that means); "anti-Israel" NGOs (including a number of Israeli ones), "radicals" in general (although as an old '60s person that doesn't sound bad to me), "liberation theology" (apparently a bad thing in Steinberg's world), "anti-Semitic themes," and so on.
THE UNSPOKEN and misleading assumption underlying all this is that there exists a normal, acceptable, correct "pro-Israel" position from which no one should be permitted to deviate. And I'll bet that position conforms precisely to Steinberg's.
There is no such position, of course. Twenty years ago, to support a two-state solution - which Steinberg today touts as the epitome of being "pro-Israel" - would have gotten you thrown out of town. Things change, but they cannot change for the better if open, honest and occasionally heated debate is not allowed.
Steinberg urges that the UN/European Parliament meeting in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace be cancelled. This seems to contradict the motto on the banner of his own NGO Monitor: "Promoting critical debate" on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Promoting civil debate would be enough.
*Jeff Halper is the coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He was a nominee for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
New Israeli highway separates Palestinians
By Steven Erlanger
JERUSALEM: Israel is constructing a road through the West Bank, east of Jerusalem, that will allow both Israelis and Palestinians to travel along it - separately.
There are two pairs of lanes, one for each tribe, separated by a tall wall of concrete patterned to look like Jerusalem stone, an effort at beautification, indicating that the road is meant to be permanent. The Israeli side has various exits. The Palestinian side has few.
The point of the road, according to those who planned it under the previous prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is to permit Israel to build more settlements around east Jerusalem, cutting the city off from the West Bank but allowing Palestinians to travel unimpeded north and south through Israeli-held land.
"The Americans demanded from Sharon contiguity for a Palestinian state," said Shaul Arieli, a reserve colonel in the Israeli Army who participated in the 2000 Camp David negotiations and specializes in maps.
"This road was Sharon's answer, to build a road for Palestinians between Ramallah and Bethlehem but not to Jerusalem," Arieli said. "This was how to connect the West Bank while keeping Jerusalem united and not giving Palestinians any blanket permission to enter east Jerusalem."
Sharon talked of "transportational contiguity" for Palestinians in a future Palestinian state, meaning that although Israeli settlements would jut into the area, Palestinian cars on the road would pass unimpeded through Israeli-controlled territory and even cross through areas enclosed by the Israeli separation barrier.
The vast majority of Palestinians, unlike Israeli settlers, will not be able to exit in areas surrounded by the barrier or enter Jerusalem, even the eastern part, which Israel seized in 1967.
The road bars such stops by having Palestinian traffic continue through underpasses and over bridges, while Israeli traffic will have interchanges allowing turns onto access roads. Palestinians with Israeli identity cards or special permits for Jerusalem will be able to use the Israeli side of the road.
The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recently made conciliatory gestures to the Palestinians and says it wants to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state. But Olmert, like Sharon, has said that Israel intends to keep the land east of Jerusalem.
To Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer who advises Ir Amim, an Israeli advocacy group that works for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in Jerusalem, the road suggests an ominous map of the future, in which Israel keeps nearly all of east Jerusalem and a ring of Israeli settlements surrounding it, between largely Arab east Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, which would become part of a future Palestinian state.
In a final settlement, Israel is expected to offer the Palestinians land swaps elsewhere to compensate.
The road will allow Israeli settlers living in the northern West Bank, near Ramallah, to move quickly into Jerusalem, protected from the Palestinians who surround them. It also helps ensure that Maale Adumim, a suburban settlement of 32,000 east of Jerusalem, where most of its residents work, will remain under Israeli control, along with an empty area designated E1, between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem, that Israel also intends to keep.
For the Palestinians, the road will connect the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. In a future that may have fewer checkpoints, they could travel directly from Ramallah north of Jerusalem to Bethlehem south of it, while being forced to bypass Maale Adumim and Jerusalem.
"To me, this road is a move to create borders, to change final status," Seidemann said. "It's to allow Maale Adumim and E1 into Jerusalem but be able to say, 'See, we're treating the Palestinians well - there's geographical contiguity.' "
Measure it yourself, he said. "The Palestinian road is 16 meters wide. The Israeli theory of a contiguous Palestinian state is 16 meters wide."
Khalil Tufakji, a top Palestinian geographer, said the road "is part of Sharon's plan: two states in one state, so the Israelis and the Palestinians each have their own roads." The Palestinians, Tufakji said, "will have no connection with the Israelis, but travel through tunnels and over bridges, while the Israelis will travel through Palestinian land without seeing an Arab."
In the end, he said, "there is no Palestinian state, even though the Israelis speak of one." Instead, he said, "there will be a settler state and a Palestinian built-up area, divided into three sectors, cut by fingers of Israeli settlement and connected only by narrow roads."
Asked for comment, David Baker, an Israeli government spokesman, said: "The security arrangements on these roads are in place to protect the citizens of Israel. And they are not connected to any other matter."
Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, cited the Bush administration's policy that Palestinians should be allowed to travel more easily through the West Bank "consistent with the need to maintain security."
Asked if this road predetermines final status, she said: "The U.S. government has encouraged the parties to avoid any actions that would predetermine permanent status," but said she was not authorized to comment more specifically.
Tufakji says he has become cynical about the way Israel builds for the future it defines, no matter what it promises Washington. He sees a West Bank divided into three parts by Israeli settlement blocs, the most important of which is Maale Adumim and E1, around the capital that both peoples claim.
"Israel is building the infrastructure to keep E1, to surround Jerusalem," he said. "They are working to have an area of minimum Palestinians and maximum Israelis."
Source: International Herald Tribune
From Henry Lowi, Toronto, Canada:
There is renewed hype about a “peace process”, promoted by the Right Honourable Tony Blair and his friends and the media. The focus is on the exercise of authority of “President” Mahmoud Abbas over ever-smaller bits of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
No one is talking about the leaders of Palestinian political movements (notably Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat) who are held in Israeli prisons, together with 10,000 other Palestinian prisoners.
No one is talking about stopping the construction of the Wall (aka “security fence”) despite the fact that the World Court declared the Wall’s illegality and required its removal.
No one is talking about Israeli legislation that grants privileges to Jewish citizens, recognized as “racist” and “apartheid” by some well- intentioned and outspoken Israelis.
No one is talking about Israeli persecution of pro-democracy activists like former Member of the Knesset Dr Azmi Bishara and anti-nuclear activists like Mordechai Vanunu.
And no one is talking about nearly 5 million Palestine refugees, exiles, “present absentees”, and their descendants, whose rights are at the heart of the conflict, and without whom no “peace process” has any chance of success.
With this in mind I am RE-SENDING Adel Samara's February 2006 article on "Liquidation of Hamas or termination of the right of return".
(This is also being translated to Arabic and other languages and distributed in Palestine and beyond. Please read and if you agree, email us your name, city, and state.)
We are Palestinians and others who believe in freedom, rights of refugees to return, and self-determination. We write to express our steadfastness, our unity, and to relay our vision for a just peace in Western Asia. We assert the following points:
* The Palestinian people endured incredible adversity and tragic historical confluence of events from colonization, ethnic cleansing, occupation, land confiscation, economic dedevelopment (and indeed also mistakes and collaboration). But there was also inspiring heroism, steadfastness, resilience, resistance, International solidarity, and more over the past 100 years.
* Some Palestinian leaders engaged in good faith negotiations with Israel hoping to end the occupation and achieve freedom and self-determination in the context of some division of land into two sovereign states. This led to signing of agreements including Oslo, Wye River, and Sharm El-Sheikh accords. Those hopes were dashed on the wall of Israeli intransigence supported by the US. Many agreements were violated and/or have expired without implementation (e.g. Oslo called for negotiations to be concluded in a five year interval and that expired in 1998). Israel's intention to consolidate its grip on the West Bank has become increasingly clearer. It is therefore incumbent on all Palestinians (whether in positions of leadership or not and whether they supported previous strategies or not) to contribute to a national rethinking of strategies to achieve our human and national rights. Each Palestinian (and our supporters) has rights and responsibilities in this regard.
* We condemn the US illegal invasion and continued occupation of Iraq that has caused the second largest refugee population in the world (second only to Palestinians) and resulted in the deaths of nearly a million Iraqis (and thousands of US troops). We believe that architects for that invasion are the same neoconservative Zionists in the Bush Administration who helped extend last summer's war on Lebanon and are now pushing for conflict with Iran. The lobby representing political Zionism is active in both major parties in the US and in mainstream media in such a way as to suppress open dialogue about US real interests and the suppression of constitutional rights for an endless "war on terrorism" that serves special interests (Zionists and the military-industrial complex). But we also believe that this debacle is now more and more recognized thanks to collective efforts. We believe we can effect real change in America and are inspired by the many new organizations formed and by the formation of coalitions bringing together many groups to coordinate and plan joint actions for peace with justice. We are also encouraged by the mobilization of Palestinians in exile and diaspora to work together regardless of their political leanings (e.g. see http://twww.palestineconference.org).
* Despite the challenges, we believe that there are many options and opportunities open to us in the coming stages of the struggle. There is now a greater international understanding of the Apartheid nature of Israel. The apartheid wall is the last stage of a reality becoming harder to ignore (including to people like President Carter who wrote a book titled "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid"). Apartheid also exists within the Green line. Apartheid in South Africa ended because of the local resistance and also because of the way the African National Congress rallied international support for a campaign of boycotts, divestments, and sanctions. We were thus inspired when Palestinian civil society called for similar actions until Israel complies with the basic Palestinian rights (which also are called Palestinian Constants "Al-thawabet Al Falastinya"): rights of return, freedom from occupation and colonization, equality, etc. See http://www.pacbi.org/boycott_news_more.php?id=66_0_1_10_M11
* Among options being increasingly discussed for political change are: working for equal citizenship in one state for all its people (Jews, Christian, Muslim, others), confederation, binationalism, and even using the two state scenario as an intermediate step towards achieving the border-less society that is being developed (e.g. in Europe). Many are now articulated in books and developed into associations and societies and even beginnings of political parties. We believe that discussions of these options are healthy and urge all to not limit their horizons of potential political solutions. It is the best measure of real democracy when people are empowered to think for themselves and develop the political structures needed. Yet, in all cases, the litmus test must be respect for basic and fundamental human rights as there can be no peace without basic rights.
* The Internet and other forms of communications gave us new tools to network, to educate others, and to work together to achieve our collective goals. In the coming and challenging stage of our struggle, older activists must redouble their efforts while making way for youth, women, and people with unique skills to step forward to take more leadership roles.
The Arabic saying is: "God does not change what is in a people (i.e. their destiny) unless they change what is within themselves." We are optimistic that we have within ourselves the tools and the resources to achieve freedom, justice, and peace which will be good for all people in Western Asia (what is referred to in Europe and America as "the Middle East") and people around the world. Thus we call for renewed and enhanced dialogue among all Palestinians (and our supporters) wherever we are to shape our future as a people.
(A list of signatories is in formation and will be initially sent by 20 July 2007.)
Please send your endorsement of this call to support of Palestinians rights and for the necessity to protect and aid their struggle.
From Henry Lowi:
Take a look at this short video. The farmers of Ertas, near Bethlehem, have an account to settle with Zionist settler-colonialism. They need our help. Down with the occupation!
A MEMRI (Israeli PR agency) clip from Qatar TV, showcases the class basis for the right of return movement, and the useless rhetoric of official Palestinian spokespeople.
It would be good if the ongoing siege and destruction of Nahr-al-Bared in northern Lebanon would elicit action inspired by the sentiment expressed in a recent letter to the editor printed in the Toronto Star. Let the refugees return home!
The ongoing IDF repression in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is the focus for worldwide protests commemorating the June 1967 war. Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, the mindless Kassam squads ("I shoot therefore I am" is their only political message) provide valuable grist for the mill of Zionist PR and thus actually help strengthen the grip of Zionist settler-colonialism.
Palestinians need our help to end the occupation!
See below report by Yoav Bar about the recent court hearing of Ahmad Saadat, charged with being a member of the political organization which he leads, and on whose slate he was elected to the captive Palestinian Legislative Assembly. Free all the Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons and detention centers!
In June 2007, the Palestine refugees, farmers, and workers bear the brunt of the oppression, and wait patiently, stoically, for effective organization, effective leadership, and effective solidarity.
Defiant Maluh refuses to testify against PFLP Secretary-General Sa'adat
Ramallah, 30 May 2007
The Israeli occupation's military court continues its hearing in the case against the Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmad Sa'adat. Usually the hearings, held in the fortified Opher military base near Ramallah, are very one-sided: Sa'adat refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the court, and forbids his lawyers from playing by the court's rules. The lawyers ask the court to be reprieved from their impossible role, and are prevented by the court from resigning, but avoid any active defense. As a result, the sole manager of the court is the military prosecutor, a young and arrogant religious Jewish soldier-lawyer, and the 3 uniformed military judges follow his script to fill the trials files with "evidence"…
But this morning's hearing was some exception. The prosecutor chose to bring as his next "witness" 'Abed elRahim Maluh, the PFLP's deputy secretary general. The aged Maluh (67), which was arrested in June 2002 and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, proudly refused to be a witness, and the meeting of the of the two leaders in the courtroom allowed their common defiant stance expose the court in all its ridiculous vanity.
Seven television crews were allowed in before the hearing started, but they were repeatedly warned by the Military public relations officer that they are not allowed to ask Mr. Sa'adat any questions, and anybody breaching this order will be promptly expelled. As he was allowed in, between military guards and prison officers, Sa'adat chose the moment, before the cameras, to give a well prepared declaration on the occasion of 40 years to the 1967 occupation and 59 years of the Palestinian Nakba. He called on all Palestinian parties, and particularly Fatah and Hamas, to stick to national unity against the occupation and avoid any internal clashes. He called on the international community to recognize the democratically elected Palestinian government and to defend the Palestinians against the continuing Israeli war crimes. Before he went on to call for an end to the occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestine, the TV crews were all expelled out of the courtroom.
Later, when the judges came in, Sa'adat refused to stand up, reinstating his rejection of his supposed role as 'defendant'. Than the guards brought in Maluh, just half the big man that he used to be before his arrest. Cuffed and in prisoner's clothes, Maluh started with protesting at being brought without his consent. He declared he is not a witness, and doesn't regard Ahmad Sa'adat as 'a defendant', and will say only what he finds fit. He said he was proud at his role as the deputy secretary general of the popular front for the liberation of Palestine, as he already declared in the military trial in which he was sentenced for this very 'crime'. He said his main role in the PFLP was as responsible to political relations, and representing the PFLP in the Palestinian Liberation Organization, serving as member of the PLO's executive committee. When asked who serves as secretary general of the PFLP, he said it was not his business to give such information to the court. At this stage Mr. Sa'adat from his bench intervened to ask the judges to stop this ridiculous show, as they know very well that he is the secretary general. Apparently, the judges changed tactics with Mr. Sa'adat, refusing to 'recognize' his declarations. One judge told Mr. Sa'adat that if he will stand in front of them they will write down his words…
An extra surrealistic flavor was added to the whole event by the incredible translator, a young Jewish soldier, which mixed almost every sentence. Apparently he couldn't catch the difference between the popular front for the liberation of Palestine and the PLO, and had no knowledge of basic terminology like "the executive committee". So the court was held in two separated worlds, the Arabic world of freedom fighters resisting the occupation, and the Hebrew occupation world where the resistance is posed as criminal activity. Any communication between these two worlds under Israeli Apartheid was based on misinterpretation, just as the Opher military camp is posed in the middle of the Apartheid walls, separating between "Israeli" and "Palestinian" spaces.
As the court was dispersed until 29/7, Maluh and Sa'adat were dragged back to the Hadarim prison, and we went out from the Apartheid court to the Apartheid world. Most Palestinian families are not allowed to go out of the "Israeli" side of the fence, even though it is well within the 1967 occupied West Bank, within densely populated Arab area, while Israelis are not allowed at the Palestinian side. One old lady was stuck between the fences. She came with a Red Cross bus full of families that came to visit at Opher prison about 200 meters in the blue side of the fence. But as she came to the court to see arrested relatives, she couldn't cross again to Israeli territory to catch her bus. As we went away the international community was still failing to protect the rights of one old Palestinian lady to go back home.
For more details: "Free Saadat" firstname.lastname@example.org
Please resend and post as widely as you find adequate.
Peace and justice movement in Britain at crossroad*
By Ramzy Baroud
Growing up in a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, it was a very familiar encounter: Israeli soldiers storming our house accompanied by shouts of terror and a barrage of insults. Such recollections make me shudder to this day. On frequent raids, as soldiers pounded on our door demanding entry, my father would always ask in a trembling voice, “Who is it?” The answer was always the same; “Yahoud,” they would say.
So naturally, I grew up making the association between “Yahoud”, the Arabic word for “Jews”, and the horror my family and I had experienced. When my cousin Wael was shot dead in his teenage years, while on his way to study with me — it was the “Yahoud” who killed him. When my childhood friend Raed Munis was shot repeatedly as he dug a grave for a neighbour of ours, shot just an hour earlier, he was killed by the “Yahoud”. When my mother was struck in the chest repeatedly by the butt of an Israeli soldier’s machine gun, a beating that led to her untimely death 50 days later, that too was carried out by the “Yahoud”.
Every inch of land that was stolen from Palestinians in the last 40 years of occupation was done in the name of the “Yahoud” and their security; every settlement erected on a poor Palestinian farmer’s orchard, every life that was taken, every brick of every wall that was built and continues to be constructed over confiscated Palestinian land in defiance of international law was also done in the name of the “Yahoud”. Palestinians, thus — most Arabs and Muslims and others as well — hold the “Yahoud” responsible for their plight, not out of their ingrained and inherent anti-Semitism, as some so shrewdly or naively choose to believe, but because on the basis of its Jewishness Israel has excused all of its inexcusable actions. If someone is to blame for this, it is Israel, not its detractors. It’s as simple as that.
But, of course, it’s not always as simple as that. When I moved to the US, I realized, correctly that the term “Yahoud” is not befitting, for the old connotations of the name cannot be accepted in Western societies where Jews have historically been a recurring victim, and where a large number of activists and fellow writers, of which many became close friends of mine, are also Jewish. A distinction between a Jew and a Zionist was indeed an imperative, though not always easy, for Israel extorts much needed financial, political, moral and other forms of support, relying primarily on Jewish constituents in North America and Western Europe. Many of the latter demonstrate their allegiance to Israel in more ways than one can recall. Unfortunately, in the minds of many, being Jewish requires one to unquestionably support the “Jewish State”. Most publications that define themselves as Jewish in the Western hemisphere seem more absorbed by Israeli politics, Israel’s security and so forth, than engaged in their own political and cultural realms. The relationship has in fact become so blurred that it’s becoming nearly impossible and most confounding to set apart the anti-occupation activist from the anti-Zionist from the anti-Semitic.
However, instead of confronting the Zionist scheme that has brought such untold harm to the image of one of the greatest and oldest monotheistic faiths by holding Israel and its associates to account, there is a growing and alarming trend where members of the peace and justice movement have themselves fallen into the ominous trap: engaging in most ruinous and consuming scuffles, isolating members and entire groups for allegedly being anti-Semitic. While taking a moral stance against racism in all of its forms is a requisite for any genuine peace and justice activist, the intense debate in some instances is reaching such grievous points that is threatening to tear apart the peace and justice movement.
A most notable example is the quarrel in the United Kingdom between members of Jews against Zionism and those of Deir Yassin Remembered; the former, accusing members of the latter of anti-Semitism, is endorsing a motion at an upcoming conference of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign that would ostracize the Deir Yassin group from the peace and justice movement. Members of both groups have spoken out strongly against the maltreatment of Palestinians in the past and both have a lot to offer PSC and its various activities. However, the motion and the entire episode is a continuation of an alarming trend that began in the US several years ago, and has consumed activists, distracting them from the real fight. It also ought to be noted that, as far as Israel is concerned, any criticism of its occupation of the West Bank, no matter how polite or subtle, is an unforgivable form of anti-Semitism; thus there is no need for any member of the peace and justice movement to exacerbate the Israeli witch hunt. Indeed, Israel is more than capable of prolonging such campaigns on its own.
There are many Palestinian children who are still huddling inside their homes in fear of the encroaching tanks and the hordes of unforgiving soldiers, who continue to commit untold atrocities in the name of the “Jewish State”. It’s those depraved individuals and the government that has assigned them to their vile mission, who deserve to be isolated and labelled; it’s Israel who must be held to account, by Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and groups alike, to end its exploitation of the Jewish people and their religion.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 45 per cent of Palestinians in the occupied territories are food insecure; the Israeli wall is snaking around the West Bank at an astonishing speed; human rights violations are committed against vulnerable Palestinians with impunity in broad daylight with tacit or explicit support from various Western countries led by the United States.
There is no time to be wasted: all energies must be channeled in so prudent a way to stop Israel’s inhumane treatment of the Palestinians and to end the occupation. I plead to all of you, to work for peace, to redress injustice or at least to do nothing that would jeopardize the work of the peace and justice movement, either in Britain or anywhere else.
*This article was first published in Arab News.
By Paul Eisen*
In a recent piece on The Guardian - Comment is Free Tony Greenstein says that Deir Yassin Remembered is an anti-Semitic organization and, along with Roland Rance, Sue Blackwell and Les Levidow, he’s going to try to get the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to have nothing to do with us. Well, good luck to them, and if the PSC is foolish enough to bow to this kind of thing, then good luck to them too – they’re going to need it.
Deir Yassin Remembered is an international organization whose aim is to build a memorial to the victims of the Deir Yassin massacre of 9 April 1948. But the list of victims extends far beyond the 100 to 130 elderly men, women and children who died that day. It extends also to the over 750,000 Palestinians expelled in the concurrent Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine, to the over 500 Palestinian towns and villages destroyed or expropriated by the Jewish ethnic cleansers and now also to their descendants ‑ the now over six million dispossessed Palestinians living either as second-class citizens in Israel, in the towns, villages and refugee camps of post-1967 occupied Palestine, in refugee shanty-towns in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan and finally in the many Palestinian communities-in-exile in practically every corner of the world. In short, Deir Yassin Remembered exists to build a memorial to all of Palestinian life and memory.
But Deir Yassin Remembered is not just about remembrance; Deir Yassin Remembered is also about resistance. Yes, there was a time when we spoke passionately about the proximity of Deir Yassin to the Jewish Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem and about the inextricably close and agonized relationship between Jewish suffering and the suffering inflicted by Jews on Palestinians. But not any more. There have been too many deaths, too many disappointments and now the nearness of Deir Yassin to Yad Vashem serves merely to underline the stark differences between abused and abuser ‑ and the continuation of the abuse.
But there's no smoke without fire. If Tony and his colleagues say that we are anti-Semites and the Palestinian solidarity movement should have nothing to do with us, there must be something in it – nobody, surely, nobody could dream up such a thing. Indeed, there is something in it. Tony's complaint rests on three matters: the inclusion of Israel Shamir in our Board of Advisers, a couple of articles written by myself, and a recent visit by Dan McGowan, the founder of DYR, to Ernst Zundel, who was sentenced to five years imprisonment in Germany for Holocaust denial.
To take these in turn: Israel Shamir is indeed on our board – he is one of 20 members of whom half are Jews, half non-Jews; half are men, half women. Shamir is an intellectual, a religious thinker and writer, and an outstanding and tireless supporter of Palestinian rights. He also has severe criticisms to make of the way Jews and Jewish organizations are currently behaving and have behaved in the past. Shamir has also proposed the existence of what he would term a Jewish "spirit" or "paradigm" (which, incidentally, is by no means confined only to those who identify themselves as Jewish) which, if unchecked and unbalanced, can lead to supremacism.
But Israel Shamir has never been guilty of violence nor has he ever advocated violence. He has never discriminated against anyone, nor has he ever advocated discriminating against anyone. Nor has he ever advocated denying anyone the right to free speech, or to a fair hearing. I like Shamir enormously, I find him stimulating and informative and always gentle in his manner and humane in his approach, and I agree with a lot, though not all, of what he says and writes. Shamir is in full agreement with the spirit and meaning of Deir Yassin, has contributed enormously to Deir Yassin Remembered and is an honoured member of the Deir Yassin Remembered Board of Advisers.
Tony also objects to DYR because I, one of its seven directors, wrote, in a personal capacity, two articles with which he disagrees. The first, "Jewish Power", examines Jewish identity and the complex relationship between Judaism, “Jewishness” and Zionism, and distinguishes between Judaism the religion and “Jewishness”, the more complex cultural and emotional identity. It also examines Jewish power, not only in its political manifestation but also, and more interestingly, its cultural, ideological/religious and emotional significance. Finally, it examines the degree to which Zionism, and therefore the abuse of Palestinians is a Jewish phenomenon and, if it is, asks why it is so hard to say so.
The Holocaust Wars was written in three sections. The first, titled “Scum", describes the struggle of Ernst Zundel, now sentenced to five years' imprisonment in Germany for Holocaust denial. This section attempts to contextualize and rehumanize Ernst Zundel and Holocaust revisionism. It also attempts to see the National Socialist regime through the eyes of the German people. In fact, what this part of the essay really tries to do is to see the world through the eyes of the “other” ‑ and for an obsessively curious self-identifying Jew such as myself, who could be more “other” than Ernst Zundel? The second section, "The War for the Truth," examined Holocaust Revisionism ‑ its scholarship and its struggle. Although I stopped short of coming out in definite agreement with revisionists, I did (and do) find their case compelling. The last section was called "The War for the Spirit" and was concerned with the ideological, spiritual and religious meaning of the Holocaust narrative and the use to which it has been put to enforce Jewish power. For me, this was the most important section of the essay.
Finally, Dan McGowan, the founder and US director of DYR, also in a personal capacity, visited Ernst Zundel in prison. Why he did this, what happened there and what he made of it is all is described most eloquently in his piece A Visit in Prison with Ernst Zundel ‑ a piece of writing which, for Tony, renders Dan and the organization he founded now beyond the pale.
But that’s not all; it gets worse – worse even than Tony knows because DYR does indeed include in its solidarity discourse a challenge to the notion of a non-religious Jewish specialness and its possible effects, when empowered, on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Is this racism? Not at all ‑ Jews are not a race so, strictly speaking, any anti-Jewishness cannot, by definition, be racist. Is this anti-Semitic? Maybe it is ‑ it all depends on what you mean by the term. Is it acceptable? Who knows? Let the debate begin.
But look, it really doesn’t matter what anything means or what is or is not acceptable. Tony and his colleagues will tell us what things mean and what we may or may find acceptable because Tony is an arch practitioner of that which he most denies - Jewish power. Does Jewish power exist? Of course it does. Who has not seen someone stand up in a solidarity meeting and begin with the words, “As a Jew...”? And who has not seen the meeting then fall reverently, even fearfully silent? And who, in the course of their solidarity activities, at one time or another has not felt the brunt of Jewish collective power? So, of course Jewish power exists. The question is how does it exist, to what extent and to what effect? Let the debate begin.
So on 10 March at the PSC Annual General Meeting Tony Greenstein, Roland Rance, Les Levidow and Sue Blackwell will propose, and may even pass, a motion which will urge the PSC to shun Deir Yassin Remembered. And their stated reasons are that one out of 20 DYR advisers and two out of seven DYR directors hold views with which Tony and his friends disagree. Why do they do this? Why do these largely Jewish activists see their personal struggle against a perceived anti-Semitism as so important that it overrides any other considerations, including the good work of Deir Yassin Remembered?
The answer is simple. Like so many Jewish activists, and particularly those who style themselves as “anti-Zionist”, Tony and his colleagues’ real priority, despite their protestations to the contrary, is defending Jews, mainly from what they see as anti-Semitism. Of course they care about other things too ‑ Palestinian liberation, civil rights. human rights, etc. etc. but when push comes to shove it is Jewish interests that they will ultimately defend. But why should this be a problem? Why should Jews and others not defend Jewish interests? The problem is twofold: First because not only do they prioritize Jewish interests but they also insist that everyone else must do the same. And they’re not afraid to enforce it either with the ever-present threat of being labeled an anti-Semite. The second reason why their defense of Jewish interests is a problem is that they won't admit that they are doing it and one reason why they won't admit they are doing it is because they don't really know that they are doing it. At least that is how it was. I now have a sneaking suspicion many of them are beginning to realize what they are doing and are now beginning to do it consciously. In effect, self-delusion is becoming conscious lying.
And why should the PSC, without a whimper, pass such a motion? The answer is again simple: Like all of us, they are terrified, terrified of Zionist power and the penalty of defying it – being branded an anti-Semite or, even worse, a Holocaust denier. And this is what this is really all about. Because the real reason for this motion is this: Tony Greenstein, Roland Rance and Les Levidow, three Jewish activists, plus Sue Blackwell their obligatory non-Jewish associate, want to make it clear who really runs the PSC, indeed who runs all Palestinian solidarity.
Deir Yassin Remembered does not “know” what is right for the Palestinian people. Only Palestinians can know that. Deir Yassin Remembered cannot free Palestine. Again, only Palestinians can and will do that. But Deir Yassin Remembered stands in unconditional solidarity with Palestinians and in unflinching opposition to those who oppress them and oppress so many others in the world.
Deir Yassin Remembered has advisers, directors, members and supporters with very many different ideas and beliefs – some will agree with all of the above, some with parts of it and some with none of it. But what they all share is an unconditional commitment to Palestinian remembrance and resistance. Anyone who wishes to join us is welcome and, provided they do not try to impose their views on, or try to silence others, we care little for what else they believe. So, if Tony Greenstein and his friends will mend their ways, they too are welcome.
*Paul Eisen is the UK director of Deir Yassin Remembered.
When debating the rights of the Palestine refugees, one often hears the following from left-wing supporters of Zionist racism, purporting to be "pragmatists":
"What's done is done. One can't always be turning back the clock. Otherwise, there would be no end. We must make peace with the Palestinians, and the Palestinian refugees must give up their right to return. Maybe a few can return on humanitarian grounds, the rest will have to accept token compensation."
This is the position of all the wings of "left" Zionism (and left "non-Zionism"), and all those who support the so-called "two-state solution" i.e. those who uphold the discriminatory and anti-democratic state structures of the Israeli regime.
The preposterousness of this position is illustrated by the position that Jewish organizations take toward claims for restitution of property that was seized from Jews by the Nazi invaders, and then re-seized by the "Communist" liberators.
Can you imagine someone saying:
"The Jews of Poland abandoned their homes voluntarily, and sought refuge in the Eastern zone under Soviet protection, planning to return with the victorious Allied armies, and thus forfeited their property"? Or "The Jews of Poland, when they had the chance to return to liberated Poland, chose not to do so but settled in the capitalist West, and thus forfeited their property"?
No one would dare.
Recognition of the right of European Jews to return to their countries of origin in Europe is not in issue. No one in their right mind denies it. It is irrelevant that a minority of European Jews actually seek to exercise this right of return.
In Europe, the only issue is the right to restitution and compensation. And when offered compensation for 15 per cent of the seized property, Naftali Lavie rejected it and responded: "How can you give someone back only a part of a house he lived in," Lavie said. "I would not call this a compromise ... it is depriving people of their property and parts of their lives," he said."
Isn't what is gravy for the goose gravy for the gander?
What is gravy for the goose is gravy for the gander. (See "Holocaust survivors to press Poland for compensation".)