- RED CARD ISRAELI RACISM CAMPAIGN TARGETS UEFA CONGRESS
- Jerusalem Quartet faces multiple protests on European tour
- CONFERENCE ON PALESTINE SOLIDARITY AND JEWISH OPPOSITION TO ZIONISM
- INDEPENDENT PUBLISHES J-BIG LETTER ON ZIONIST CLAIMS OF ANTISEMITISM
- PROTEST FORCES PLATINI TO DEFEND UEFA UNDER-21 FINALS IN ISRAEL
- ZIONISM AND ANTISEMITISM: RACIST POLITICAL TWINS – A J-BIG BRIEFING
- J-BIG CONFERENCE MARCH 2 – PALESTINE SOLIDARITY AND JEWISH OPPOSITION TO ZIONISM
- ELOQUENT PALESTINIAN PLEA THAT MOVED STEVIE WONDER
- TOP FOOTBALLERS CHALLENGE UEFA TOURNAMENT IN ISRAEL
- FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE
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Category Archives: JBIG
PROTEST at UEFA’s Annual Congress in London on May 24
SUPPORT Mahmoud Sarsak’s UK tour in May-June 2013
PARTICIPATE in the Goals for Peace tournament on May 19
BUILD the campaign to Red Card Israeli Racism
The Red Card Israeli Racism campaign is escalating its activities as the June 5-18 dates for UEFA’s under-21 men’s football final in Israel draw near.
The London-based campaign is now part of a European coalition of groups working to expose the folly of staging a major competition in a state which shows contempt for the rights of Palestinian football players and supporters. Beyond June, Red Card has the potential to develop into a long-term challenge to Israel ’s membership of UEFA – the overarching body for European football.
The June tournament will probably still go ahead, but the case against it has gained prominence over recent months. Frederic Kanoute and 51 other leading professional players issued a statement deploring Israel ’s attacks on Gaza in November, saying they called into question holding the games in Israel . In January, a well publicised action at the UEFA offices in Nyon , Switzerland , forced UEFA president Michel Platini to give pro-Palestinian protesters a hearing after two years of turning a deaf ear to the campaign.
In March, the congress of the French trade union CGT-INRA passed a resolution contesting UEFA’s decision to stage the competition in Israel and a former French minister of sport, Marie-George Buffet, wrote to Platini calling on him to hold it elsewhere.
In the UK , football media are opening up space for discussion of the issues, such as this piece on the FootyMatters website, written by members of the student group Football Beyond Borders. It prompted a reaction from the Jewish Chronicle, insisting that UEFA would “stand firm” against our campaign.
FBB has held two well-attended public meetings in London to mobilise support for the campaign.
The Red Card petition now has 6,500 signatures, and rising.
The UK will become the focus of intense campaigning action as UEFA holds its annual congress in London on Friday May 24. A major demonstration is planned for the occasion.
The men’s and women’s Champions League finals will be taking place around the same time and Friends of al-Aqsa are organising a 16-plus anti-racist tournament in east London – Goals for Peace – for up to 20 six-a-side teams.
Mahmoud Sarsak, the national Palestinian team player whose release from unlawful detention we campaigned for last Spring, plans to be in England at that time as part of an extended European tour. He aims to visit Norway , Spain , France , Italy , the UK and Ireland between April and June, meeting players, officials, fans, politicians, journalists and activists.
The intended dates for the English leg of his tour are May 16-26, visiting Scotland until June 8 and moving on to Ireland before returning to his home in Gaza later in the month.
The campaign is working to build support for the tour through mainstream organisations such as FARE (Footballers Against Racism in Europe), Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card, trade unions and faith groups, as well as pro-Palestinian and human rights bodies.
Red Card Israeli Racism was established in London in 2011 by members of PSC, Friends of al-Aqsa and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods. It currently (March 2013) has a steering group representing those organisations but is inviting much wider participation to build a sporting boycott campaign alongside other BDS groups around Europe .
Palestine solidarity and Jewish opposition to Zionism
On Saturday 2 March 2013, dozens of supporters and friends of J-BIG, Jews and non-Jews, gathered for a conference to explore how the universalist, humanitarian philosophy central to much Jewish thinking has been marginalised by Zionism and how that universalism leads naturally to support for the Palestinian call for a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, targeting Israeli institutions as long as it denies Palestinians freedom, justice and equality.
A detailed report posted immediately after the conference appears on Tony Greenstein’s blog.
Listen here to audio recordings. Film of the main contributions will be added shortly.
The first session, on Jewish values in support of Palestinian rights , began with the screening of a short film, BUNDA’IM, introducing the last comrades of the Bund mass movement which was exterminated in Europe and ignored in Israel.
Then came a discussion led by David Rosenberg from the Editorial Committee of Jewish Socialist magazine and Antony Lerman, author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist and former director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research.
They dealt with aspects of Zionism and Bundism in pre-WWII Poland and described how Zionist leaders have marginalised Bundism in the diaspora, Zionist attacks on proponents of Jewish universalism and the conflation of antisemitism with opposition to Zionism.
In a panel discussion, a range of speakers tackled issues facing the BDS movement.
Sue Blackwell from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) outlined the Zionist resort to legal challenge against the Universities and Colleges Union (since gloriously vindicated by a tribunal) for its willingness to debate BDS and refusal to apply the so-called EUMC working definition of antisemitism which seeks to outlaw criticism of Israel.
Michael Deas, coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) was unable to attend due to illness. In his stead Ronnie Barkan, a leading member of Israeli organisations Anarchists against the Wall and Boycott from Within, discussed the centrality of BDS to the anti-racist, anti-colonialist Palestinian struggle.
Tony Greenstein, speaking for Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), explained the rationale behind publication of the briefing document Zionism and Antisemitism: Racist Political Twins.
John Rose, author of The Myths of Zionism, unpicked the Zionist myths used to perpetuate the idea that Israeli Jews confront eternal Arab hatred and Israel therefore has the right to “defend itself” by any means.
Hours of discussion were rounded off with an evening of entertainment compered by Deborah Fink, “The Diva with a Difference”, and starred renowned Palestinian singer Reem Kelani with the up-and-coming musicians of the Raast collective, led by Kareem Taylor.
The conference was twinned with another event at the same venue on the following day, Sunday March 2, bringing together expert speakers on a range of subjects under the heading Reclaiming an Alternative Jewish Culture and Identity
Listen to audio recordings here.
Ilan Pappe: Jewish Culture In A Non-ZionistOneState In Palestine.
Moshe Machover: Hebrew v. Jewish Identity
Prof. Helen Beer: Jewish Identity Without Yiddish?
Yuval Evri: 19C. Palestinian Arab Judaism
Murray Glickman: BCE Judaism
Cloe Skinner: Gender & Zionism
Sai Englert: The Bund & The 1917 Russian Revolution
SATURDAY MARCH 2
1 – 7 PM
VENUE - 24 Greencoat Place, London SW1P 1RD (Near Victoria station)
This is a half-day conference offering everyone working for Palestinian rights a chance to reinforce their knowledge of Zionism, its rejection of Jewish radical traditions, its conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel and its attempts to undermine Palestinian solidarity work – in particular the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Proceedings will start with BUNDA’IM, a short film introducing the last comrades of the Bund mass movement. Exterminated in Europe and ignored in Israel, its ideas live on.
Discussions will be lead by speakers including:
Sue Blackwell – British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
Michael Deas – Palestinian BDS National Committee coordinator in Europe
Antony Lerman – author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist
John Rose – author of The Myths of Zionism
David Rosenberg – Editorial Committee, Jewish Socialist magazine
Followed by entertainment from Deborah Fink (“The Diva with a Difference”), Leon Rosselson and others.
Book your place by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
£10 waged, £5 unwaged/concessions (includes refreshments)
The J-BIG conference is part of “A Weekend of Two Conferences” – events put together by two separate organisations which have cooperated due to a clash of dates and venue. You can book both days for £25/concessions £20 via either email address.
Sunday 3rd March 10.00am – 6.30pm
AN ALTERNATIVE JEWISH CULTURE & IDENTITY
Ilan Pappe: Jewish Culture in a non-Zionist One State in Palestine
Moshe Machover: Hebrew v. Jewish Identity;
Prof. Helen Beer: Jewish Identity Without Yiddish?
Yuval Evri: 19C.Palestinian Arab Judaism;
Murray Glickman: BCE Judaism
Cloe Skinner: Gender & Zionism:
Sai Englert: The Bund & The 1917 Russian Revolution
Leon Rosselson, Ivor Dembina
£20/concessions £15. Lunch & refreshments included.
AN UPDATED NEWS RELEASE FROM THE BRITISH COMMITTEE FOR THE UNIVERSITIES OF PALESTINE AND JEWS FOR BOYCOTTING ISRAELI GOODS
NOVEMBER 18 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANGER AT GAZA SLAUGHTER TARGETS SADLER’S WELLS
- PROTEST OVER GAZA DEATHS MOVES TO THEATRE HOSTING ISRAEL’S BATSHEVA DANCE ENSEMBLE
- BATSHEVA ACCUSED OF ACTING AS CULTURAL FIGLEAF FOR ATROCITIES
- SADLER’S WELLS BEEFS UP SECURITY IN PREPARATION FOR PRO-PALESTINE PROTESTS
- ACADEMICS CONDEMN THEATRE MANAGEMENT REFUSAL TO ENTER DIALOGUE
November 18 - Protests at the growing Palestinian death toll caused by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza will move from outside London’s Israeli Embassy to the city’s premier contemporary dance venue at Sadler’s Wells, Islington on Monday.
A nationwide campaign, Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid, has already interrupted 11 dance performances by Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble in six cities up and down the country and is now targeting the Israeli troupe’s three planned performances at Sadler’s Wells on Nov 19, 20 & 21.
Campaigners say their protest is not directed at individual Israeli artists, but at the government which deliberately uses culture as cover for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.
“We target artistic institutions which are intrinsically linked to the Israeli state through funding and the ‘Brand Israel ’ initiative,” the campaign leaflets say. They quote an Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman outlining, in the wake of the previous onslaught on Gaza which killed more than 1300 Palestinians, its explicit intention to send abroad cultural icons to “show Israel ’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
Although Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin has publicly opposed Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, his company isembraced by Israel ’s far-right government as their finest cultural ambassador.
It receives funding from the Israeli state, Israeli arms companies and the racist Jewish National Fund which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants.
“With Israel escalating its attacks on Gaza, killing dozens including civilians, with children among them, we intend our protests to reclaim for the Palestinians a tiny piece of the cultural and physical space which Israel has stolen from them,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, cultural working group coordinator for the Boycott Israel Network, part of the UK Don’t Dance coalition. “We do not accept that art may be used as a figleaf for killings and collective punishment of a civilian population.”
Sadler’s Wells management has emailed ticket-holders telling them to expect “groups of peaceful demonstrators” at the Batsheva Ensemble performances, with the possibility of “some form of disruption inside the venue”. Bags will be searched on arrival and people should be ready for delays, the email said.
The theatre’s chief executive and artistic director Alistair Spalding refused to meet academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) who had asked to discuss the invitation to Batsheva with him.
Spalding insisted the Israeli company was no different from other international institutions: “the vehicle for the creative expression of their artistic directors and not .. representatives of the governments of their countries.
“I have a firm belief in cultural engagement rather than exclusion and … will present the work of choreographic artists whatever theirnationality,” Spalding said.
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of BRICUP, said that Sadler’s Wells commitment to cultural engagement seemed not to extend to dialogue with principled critics. Spalding had failed to address any of the arguments BRICUP had made, said Rosenhead.
He referred in particular to the conditions under which Palestinian culture has to operate, described by a Palestinian dancer as “ Israel ‘s three-tiered system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid [which] ruthlessly suffocates the livelihoods of Palestinian communities, including our right to artistic and cultural expression.”
BRICUP has issued an open letter to Batsheva’s Naharin, even more relevant now that Gaza is under Israeli attack, asking “What does the artistic freedom of yourself and your dancers mean, when it’s used as international cover by a state that’s essentially trying to force out the indigenous Palestinian population?”
Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid began its campaign with protests at performances by the main Batsheva Dance company in the Edinburgh International Festival at the end of August , winning support from considerable Scottish cultural figures including the national poet (Makar) Liz Lochhead.
Hundreds of campaign supporters have made their presence felt at every stop on the current tour by Batsheva’s junior Ensemble, beginning in Scotland before moving on to Manchester and Bradford .
In Brighton Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wrote to the Dome Theatre management reminding them that: “Israel’s sponsorship of arts and cultural events is one deliberate way in which it is actively seeking to repair the reputational damage inflicted by its treatment of Palestinians, so Palestinian civil society has called for a full cultural boycott of all cultural performers and exhibitors that are institutionally linked to the Israeli state.”
There were more protests on November 13 & 14 in Birmingham where five protestors disrupted the performance on each of the two nights, and on the second night they managed to drop a banner from the Circle.
A performance in Leicester on Friday night attracted a hundred or more local people angered by the assault on Gaza. As in every other venue, the show was interrupted on a number of occasions by protesters calling out pro-Palestinian slogans.
After Sadler’s Wells there are two more Batsheva Ensemble tour dates, in Plymouth on Nov 23 & 24.
Click the caption to read the names and ages of the victims of Israel’s current assault on Gaza.The letter below has appeared in the Guardian newspaper, along with several others commenting on the attacks. Initiated by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, it has been signed by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and more than 30 individuals including actress Miriam Margolyes, comedian, author and actor Alexei Sayle, writer/musician Leon Rosselson and author Mike Marqusee. (Not all the names appear in the Guardian).
Letter to the editor
As Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights, we have once again watched in horror as Israel escalates its lethal bombardment on the civilian population of Gaza. Numerous people including children are being killed or wounded. Israeli casualties came only after Israel, having started the slaughter by killing a 13-year-old boy in Gaza on November 8, shattered a truce by assassinating the Gazan military leader who had negotiated it. So who is the terrorist and who wants peace?
Israel’s political-military leaders cynically escalate the conflict, trying to justify their blockade on Gaza and acting tough in the run-up to government elections. Having turned Gaza into an open-air prison, they again punish the Palestinians for electing leaders who attempt to resist the illegal Occupation.
Too much of our media, the BBC in particular, collude with the official Israeli version: that the attacks are ‘targeted’ retaliation for rockets launched from Gaza. Despite hand-wringing by some Western governments, they encourage Israeli belligerence by labelling Hamas as a terrorist organisation, supporting the Gaza siege and denying Palestinian rights, both within and outside Israel. We support the peaceful campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) designed to help achieve those rights.
Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods can confirm what so many others have been saying since Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg forced Jenny Tonge to resign from the party: She is a consistent friend of Palestinian human rights, always willing to work with campaigners trying to bring an end to Israel’s unrelenting denial of justice to the Palestinian people.
“My experience of working with Jenny is of a warm, kind and genuine person, always supportive on a personal level and an enthusiastic participant in J-BIG events,” said Deborah Fink, a founding member of the group. “Suggestions that she is an extremist who dislikes Jews are absurd.”
The report below, from Friends of Al-Aqsa, explains the circumstances surrounding Baroness Tonge’s departure from the Lib Dems and includes a call to act in her defence.
Guardian columnist Michael White says that her remarks about Israel were not as outrageous as Clegg made out.
Picture: Friends of Al-Aqsa
Baroness Jenny Tonge was given an ultimatum by Lib Dem Party leader Nick Clegg when she made a fair and accurate statement about the state of Israel – ‘retract the statement or leave the party’
Baroness Tonge, a long time champion of the Palestinian struggle for freedom chose to leave the party rather than be forced to toe the party line where Israel is concerned.
The exact statement she made at Middlesex University last week was:
“Israel is not going to be there forever in its present form. One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70bn a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East – that is Israel. One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough. Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”
Ismail Patel, Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa stated: “There was nothing in her statement which was unfair or inappropriate. The fact is that Israel in its present form is a racist state which has been occupying Palestinian land for over 44 years. This cannot and will not last forever. Millions of people around the world who form the ‘Free Palestine’ solidarity movement will work hard to ensure that Israel ends its occupation and that Arab Israeli’s are given equal rights within Israel. These aims merely represent international legal standards.”
Party leader Nick Clegg’s ultimatum was unnecessary and reflects the unacceptable sway the pro-Israel lobby appears to have on the party’s policies towards Israel.
1. Write to Nick Clegg condemning his ultimatum to Jenny Tonge.
2. Write to Baroness Jenny Tonge expressing support for her brave stand and continued solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Friends of Al-Aqsa
Saturday January 21 marked a watershed moment for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the UK, with a standing ovation for Omar Barghouti, founder of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), at the Annual General Meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).
“Today, solidarity with Palestine cannot but include support for BDS as the most popular and one of the most effective forms of peaceful, civil struggle for Palestinian rights,” Barghouti told almost 300 campaigners from all over the UK, meeting in the Conway Hall in London to mark the 30th year since PSC’s foundation.
“At its most basic level, BDS calls for ending partnership in crime, ending complicity in the perpetration, justification and whitewash of Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian rights.
“Withdrawing support for an evil policy or system, as Martin Luther King describes the boycott, is not heroic; it is a profound moral obligation,” Barghouti said.
OUR “SOUTH AFRICA MOMENT”
With recent successes such as huge contract losses for French multinationals Alstom and Veolia, both complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation, the University of Johannesburg’s severance of ties with an Israeli university implicated in human rights violations and the spread of the cultural boycott to prominent musicians and other artists, “BDS is on the verge of its South Africa moment,” said Barghouti.
Building a mass boycott movement comparable to the South African anti-apartheid campaign was placed at the heart of PSC’s work for the coming year.
The AGM resolved to team up with trade unions, students, faith groups, human rights organisations and others working locally, nationally and internationally to end the siege of Gaza, to halt ethnic cleansing of Palestinians within Israel, in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; to expose major companies complicit in colonial occupation and settlement, to bring to light the repressive apparatus of the Israeli state in its treatment of Palestinian prisoners and of children living under occupation and to challenge the media bias that marginalises the Palestinian narrative.
Barghouti clarified the origins of BDS as the specific name of the call issued by the great majority of Palestinian civil society on 9 July 2005, constituting “a qualitatively new phase in the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and in international solidarity with Palestinian rights.”
The call embodies the fundamental principles of Freedom, Justice and Equality in three basic demands which are the minimum required to achieve self-determination – right of return for refugees; end of 1967 occupation and colonisation; equality for the indigenous Palestinians inside Israel.
“No part of the Palestinian people can be ignored,” Barghouti said. “Anyone claiming to be in solidarity with the Palestinian people cannot be satisfied with ending the 1967 occupation alone while ignoring the basic rights of the rest of the Palestinian people.”
He said Palestinians’ basic rights under international law are “inalienable and non-negotiable”, but “the methods through which the movement of international solidarity supports our struggle to realise them are tactical and dependent on context, political alliances, awareness, among other variables.”
Israel’s regime of multi-tiered oppression had to be understood as settler-colonialism, occupation and apartheid, Barghouti said.
BDS A UNIVERSALIST MOVEMENT
He stressed that BDS is a universalist movement categorically opposed to all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and antisemitism. “This is not negotiable,” he said.
Equating Israel with “the Jews” is unacceptable and antisemitic. “Only Zionists and Nazis do that,” said Barghouti .
“Nazis say Jews are sub-human, Zionists say they are superhuman; both agree that they are not a normal part of the human species, and that is clearly racist.”
Suggesting that “the Jews” and Israel are one and the same “implies that Jews are one monolithic sum who think alike and are all collectively equivalent to Israel and responsible for Israel. If this is not antisemitic, I am not sure what is!” Barghouti said.
“Jews, like any other human group, have diversity and differences. Many of the leaders of the BDS movement in the West are Jewish intellectuals, academics, feminists, students, activists. Many of them support the struggle for Palestinian rights through BDS not just out of a deep-rooted sense of international solidarity and moral obligation but also based on their insistence thatIsrael, a colonial apartheid state, does not and should not speak in their names.”
NO PLACE FOR JEW-HATRED
The AGM endorsed these sentiments wholeheartedly, welcoming a statement posted on line by the Executive Committee last year affirming that “any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the Holocaust, have no place in our movement.”
A motion from Tony Greenstein and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), calling on the EC to integrate these principles into the work of the movement, was also passed overwhelmingly. They argued that Zionists’ baseless allegations of antisemitism, and cynical abuse of the memory of the Holocaust, would harm the Palestine solidarity movement if used to justify ignoring genuine Jew-hatred when it arose.
PSC Executive Committee member Ben Jamal regretted that Zionists attacking the movement had been able to cite a few “indefensible statements” by some individuals. Trade Union Advisory Committee member Steve Bell called on the AGM to make it absolutely clear that membership was not open to people holding antisemitic views.
The AGM had earlier upheld the removal from PSC membership of Francis Clark-Lowes, whose appeal statement stunned listeners with its unapologetic racism. “Dislike of groups”, he said, should not be regarded as “a cardinal sin”. A Jew challenging “Jewish ideology” did not cease to be a Jew, any more than a dog that had lost a leg ceased to be a quadruped.
An edited version of Clark-Lowes speech swiftly found its natural home on websites peddling racist conspiracy theories where his words were described as “beautiful”.
Such attitudes, Tony Greenstein pointed out in debate later on, were not only morally repugnant but would make it impossible to promote Palestinian rights in the trade union movement or within churches.
ENTERING THE MAINSTREAM
Joining forced with such mainstream organisations was the task of BDS campaigners from now on, according to Barghouti – to think long term, to build broad alliances and to build awareness of the struggle for Palestinian rights as part of the global struggle of the 99 percent – “for social and economic justice, for freedoms, for equal rights, against racism, for immigrant rights, for the environment, for LGBT rights.”
Israel’s expansionist and belligerent agenda, by contrast, “fits right at the centre of the agenda of the 1%, the ‘Perpetual Wars Inc.’ . . . the military industries, the homeland security businesses, the oil companies, the banks and financiers.”
“The 1% of the world are already united,” Barghouti said. “It is high time for us, the 99%, to unite.”
Read a fuller version of Omar Barghouti’s speech
According to the unashamedly Zionist weekly Jewish Chronicle, ”a new pro-Israel lawyers group has written to the Metropolitan Police calling for the prosecution of protesters who disrupted a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in London last September.
“Jonathan Turner, chairman of UK Lawyers for Israel, set up last year, urged the Met’s Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to ask the Crown Prosecution Service to act before the March 1 deadline on mounting a prosecution,” the JC said.
The protest, by more than 30 campaigners supporting the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, resulted in the BBC halting a radio broadcast from the Promenade concert series in the Royal Albert Hall for the first time ever.
As key participants in the action last autumn, several members of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods will be waiting with bated breath for their summonses to drop onto the doormat.
“What an opportunity to advocate publicly for the boycott of cultural institutions linked to the Israeli state,” said J-BIG secretary Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, one of 13 protesters who sang an Ode to Boycott during the first piece on the orchestra’s programme.
“Our action was peaceful and actually rather tasteful. If Mr Turner wants to complain about ‘a threatening atmosphere’ he should turn his attention to the members of the audience responsible for prolonged booing, shouts of ‘Out, out, out’ and physical attacks on some protesters.”
Investigative journalist Asa Winstanley has discovered more evidence that the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli apartheid has Israel’s supporters rattled.
Writing in The Electronic Intifada, Winstanley said that, in its attempts to discredit Jews who backed Palestinian political activist Raed Salah’s fight against deportation from the UK, the Community Security Trust (CST) denounced them to a government department as “extreme”.
Citing a report sent in August to the Home Office, Winstanley said the CST denounced several “anti-Zionist British Jewish individuals and groups” as “extreme groups,” claiming they were “unrepresentative of the vast majority of British Jews.
“The CST denounced as “extreme” well-known Palestine solidarity activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and the anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta. The report highlights that Wimborne-Idrissi is secretary of Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods.”
Winstanley says that use of the term “extreme groups” is significant. “It’s a phrase the CST usually reserves for violent far-right groups such as the British National Party, the National Front and Combat 18; or for Islamic political groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir.”
He said it appeared that ”the CST works behind the scenes with an assertively pro-Israel agenda not stated in its charitable remit. There are also serious questions over the CST’s links to the government of Israel and, allegedly, to its intelligence services.”
Professor Norman Finkelstein stormed UK campuses in the week to November 11, lecturing to packed auditoriums in London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham on How to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
His main message was that since Israeli settlement, occupation and denial of rights to Palestinian refugees are all acknowledged as illegal under international law, the campaign on these points is as good as won.
He said that Tzipi Livni, when serving as Israel’s foreign minister, had declared:
“I’m a lawyer – and I’m against the law, international law in particular.”
She had good reason for saying that because under international law “Israel loses, on Jerusalem, on the West Bank and Gaza, on settlements and right of return for refugees,” said Finkelstein.
The relevance of this to the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was teased out in discussion between Finkelstein and Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) on Friday afternoon, Nov 11, at UCL.
Rosenhead opened with a review of the history of boycott as a weapon available to the weak oppressed by the strong, as in Ireland in the 1880s and in South Africa in 1960s-90s.
He said boycotts targeting Israel, begun in 2004, combine “symbolic protest, material intervention and political action.” The overall aim was ending the Israeli system of oppression, as called for by Palestinian civil society.
Rosenhead said freedom of expression in academia was a vital principle, but it was not absolute and could conflict with a higher principle, such as freedom and self-determination for an oppressed people.
Finkelstein said he supported the BDS campaign as a legitimate and potentially effective tactic. But he locked horns with Rosenhead and many in the audience when he argued that to go beyond goals that were enshrined in international law was to lose the possibility of reaching a broad public.
If your target is all Israeli institutions and your goal is an amorphous “system of oppression”, he said, the campaign may be morally pure, but it will be politically useless – a sect.
“The public will want to know, you are asking us to boycott until when? Until the Occupation ends, as defined in international law, or until Israel ends? If the latter, you will have no possibility of reaching beyond the people in this room,” Finkelstein said.
From the audience, Naomi Foyle of British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP) referred to the principles laid down by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), setting out the aims of BDS based on international law and human rights and including “dismantling the Israeli system of apartheid”.
She argued that Israel fits the United Nations definition of apartheid and that far from this position distancing us from the public, explaining the many ways in which Israel behaves like an apartheid state resonates within huge numbers of people.
Frank Barat, coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, read out the findings of the Tribunal session held last week in Johannesburg. The judgement said that Israel’s “rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.”
Abe Hayeem, of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, said the boycott campaign laid considerable stress on the legal arguments when taking its message to the public. ”But governments don’t uphold the law, so civil society has to pressure Israel to come to its senses,” Hayeem said.
Tony Greenstein, anti-Zionist blogger and founding member of J-BIG, wrote later that Finkelstein’s focus on international law and institutions was misplaced.
Analysing Finkelstein’s evening lecture, Greenstein said: “Not once in his speech . . . did Norman Finkelstein mention the word ‘Zionism’. It is as if Israel magically appeared. As if its behaviour towards Palestinians is some form of aberration. As if the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is out of character. And as if Israel, once it hands back all the 1967 territories, will become a normal state.”
“The real task ,” Greenstein wrote, “is to de-Zionist Israel and the creation of one unitary, secular and democratic Israel/Palestine.”
The BDS discussion took place as part of Finkelstein’s lecture tour organised by students at University College London, supported by the Palestinian Return Centre and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.
The tour was targeted by Zionists attempting to prevent Finkelstein’s trenchant pro-Palestinian message from reaching a wide audience.
University authorities in Manchester threatened to cancel his lecture there unless non-students were denied access, forcing the Action Palestine organisers to find an off campus venue at short notice.
University head of governance Martin Conway, responding to a letter of complaint from J-BIG, insisted that they were simply following protocols to safeguard “the safety and security of our students and visitors.”
He denied there had been any pressure on the administration, but Action Palestine said the Jewish Society had alleged that Jewish students could be in danger if an open meeting was held.
Finkelstein said such suggestions were absurd. ” I have spoken at Manchester on at least two previous occasions without any incident,” he said.
On the day the tour ended, the pro-Zionist weekly Jewish Chronicle filled its front page with a hysterical outburst alleging that Finkelstein was one of “a wave of hate speakers” on UK campuses.
But as anyone who attended any of his lectures or has read any of his works will know, his learned, critical and challenging analysis of Middle East history and politics illuminates an area be-fogged with pro-Israel bias.
Click here for Brian Robinson’s audio recording of Finkelstein’s lecture at the Logan Hall, Institute of Education, on Friday evening, November 11.