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TRIBUTES TO VERONICA PLANTON, CAMPAIGNER FOR JUSTICE

veronica planton

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods pays tribute to Veronica Planton, a dedicated campaigner for justice, who died of cancer at Guys Hospital in London on November 19, 2013.

Veronica was a constant presence at demonstrations in London highlighting Israel’s injustices against Palestinians. She played an active role in many of the boycott actions covered in this blog and  initiated an inspirational campaign to send teddy bears to the children of Gaza.

She also made use of her background in theatre and the arts in productions bringing to life the Palestinian experience. One of these, Love Letters to Gaza, was staged at the Calder Bookshop in October 2011 and formed part of an evening of poetry and theatre  promoted by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

Veronica refused to allow ill-health to prevent her tireless work on behalf of her local community in the Waterloo district of London, the people of Palestine and the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

When it became too difficult for her to play an active role in street demonstrations on behalf of Palestinian prisoners or other causes, she continued to send the 700 supporters of her local Wandsworth and Lambeth PSC branch frequent emails containing carefully researched digests of news from and about Palestine. 

Tributes read to friends, relations and fellow activists who gathered for her funeral at the City Crematorium on December 3 testified to the range of communities in which Veronica had made her mark.

Messages came from companions who had worked with her at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre in the 1960s, from members of the Coin Street community where she lived, from  Palestine solidarity activists in London and in Palestine itself, and from the Moslem organisation Inminds which announced her death to the activist community.

Veronica Planton

Born 1939, died 19 November 2013

FROM INMINDS.COM

We are very saddened to announce that our dear sister Veronica Planton, a dedicated campaigner for the Palestinian cause, has passed away last week after becoming very ill in the spring.

Despite suffering from severe asthma and always being breathless she passionately stood up for Palestinian rights. She regularly attended protests outside the Israeli settler store Ahava untill it finally closed down, then she joined protests outside the Tower of London in support of the Samouni family of Gaza whose children amongst others were massacred by the Givati  Brigade of the Israeli army which is funded by the Steinmetz diamond company whose diamond was on display in the Tower of London. It was part of the Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds campaign.

The children were especially close to her heart and she ran a project to send teddy bears to the children of Gaza. After Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza, Veronica would carry a blooded doll at protests to symbolise the murdered children of Gaza. She also helped stage a theatrical performance for Gaza called “Love Letters to Gaza”.

Rest in peace, our dear sister who showed us that even a debilitating illness cannot stop a person who has decided to fight for justice.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un – “Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return”

FROM MOHAMMED SARHAN, RAMALLAH:
Dear  brothers and sisters _,
I have no words to express how deeply sorry I am to hear about your great loss . I’m in shock to hear this news. My prayers and thoughts are with you all during this horrible time. I love you all  and please give a big hug from us to each one who are attending the funeral . I would love to  be there tojust  to say the word.
Our thoughts with all of you in this time.  Veronica was the one said, ” Yes,  Palestinians deserve a better life, life of freedom ,justice and the  right to return to their villages and beloved ones .”
Its the time to say that we will follow up your steady search for justice and freedom..
.
Horia Falastine  (Free Palestine)Your Sincerely, Mohammad Sarhan, Ramallah

J-BIG LETTER IN TELEGRAPH: “NIGEL KENNEDY SILENCED”

A letter from Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, headlined Nigel Kennedy silenced, appears on page 27 of today’s Daily Telegraph (22 August). It has been published virtually unedited. It appears online among a number of other letters on different subjects. The full text is reproduced below.

There is also a write-up by John Bingham, the paper’s religious affairs editor.

Nigel Kennedy silenced

SIR – Some of us were present at the exhilarating celebration of musical artistry of Nigel Kennedy’s Four Seasons Prom, with the Palestine Strings (Ivan Hewett, telegraph.co.uk). We congratulate the BBC for giving young players from the Edward Said Conservatory an all-too-rare opportunity to demonstrate the vitality of Palestinian cultural life, despite all the obstacles they face.

It now appears that the BBC intends to censor tomorrow’s broadcast of the concert, redacting a statement by Kennedy in which he hinted at the harsh conditions under which Palestinian musicians live. He said the Prom performance showed that “given equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen”.

The BBC said these words do not “fall within the editorial remit of the Proms as a classical music festival”. Kennedy responded with a statement condemning an “imperial lack of impartiality”. We note the Jewish Chronicle’s report indicating that the BBC has been subjected to pressure from pro-Israel advocates.

As Jewish campaigners for equality, justice and freedom for all in Israel/Palestine, we urge the BBC to acknowledge his comments as an integral part of a performance which was warmly received by an enthusiastic Proms crowd. The BBC owes television viewers the right to see the event uncensored, in its entirety.

George Abendstern 
Seymour Alexander 
Craig Berman 
Linda Clair 
Mike Cushman 
Nancy Elan 
Pia Feig 
Deborah Fink 
Tony Greenstein 
Abe Hayeem 
Rosamine Hayeem 
Riva Joffe 
Leah Levane 
Rachel Lever 
Dr Les Levidow 
Prof Moshé Machover 
Beryl Maizels 
Miriam Margolyes
Dr Simon Pirani 
Renate Prince 
Roland Rance 
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead
Chair, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
Leon Rosselson
Dr Joan Safran 
Sabby Sagall 
Alexei Sayle
Miriam Scharf 
Stanley Walinets 
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi 
Secretary, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods 
Devra Wiseman 
Naomi Woodspring 
Terry Yason

EURO 2013 IN ISRAEL DRAWS PALESTINIAN, ISRAELI AND OPERATIC PROTESTS

Israel’s shameful hosting of the UEFA under-21 men’s football finals, due to conclude when defending champions Spain face five-time champions Italy on Tuesday June 18, has elicited a range of creative protests from Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and from operatic singers in the UK.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel's Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel’s Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football's favourite operatic number a new twist.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football’s favourite operatic number a new twist. See YouTube video of their performance.

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHES J-BIG LETTER ON ZIONIST CLAIMS OF ANTISEMITISM

The suggestion by Zionist supporters that Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon in The Sunday Times was anti-Semitic is a classic example of the abuse of the term. It drains the term of all meaning and, like the boy who cried wolf, desensitises people to anti-Semitism when it does rear its head.

This was the opening paragraph of a letter in the Independent newspaper on February 4, submitted by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and carrying 28 names gathered at short notice. They included actress Miriam Margolyes, OBE and writer Alexei Sayle as well as a sprinkling of professors and other academics.

Read the whole letter here.

 The letter has attracted several appreciative comments from readers of the Independent. 

Here is one:

I am writing to say how pleased I am to see the letter in today’s Independent: Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon is not antisemitic.   Your examples of Palestinian youths are shocking and they, alone, provide justification for Scarfe’s cartoon.  I am ashamed to hear the ‘anti-semitic’ outcry: why do even Jews mix Israel with being Jewish?

As a Jew, I despair when the holocaust is emotively and perhaps even cynically high-jacked to obfuscate facts.   Palestinians have lost land, their human rights and their lives  due to the trifold expedience of Israeli internal politics, international support and military power.

I am certainly in favour of boycotting Israeli goods and will sign up right now.

 

ELOQUENT PALESTINIAN PLEA THAT MOVED STEVIE WONDER

Media reports from the US have confirmed what was briefly rumoured – legendary pop musician Stevie Wonder has cancelled his performance scheduled for December 6 at a gala in Los Angeles saluting IDF Soldiers.

The 25-time Grammy winner was to appear before an audience of more than 1,000, including dignitaries from the U.S. and Israel.

Stevie WonderPicture: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Stevie Wonder
Picture: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Credit is due to all the activists who mobilised via social media to persuade the great singer to realise his mistake. This eloquent Palestinian plea must have helped move him to change his mind about playing for the benefit of the Israeli war machine:

Dear Stevie,

On a typical cold wintery night, on January 25th 1995, I hobbled on my crutches
with an inflamed and bandaged knee into the aisles of the famous Radio City
Music Hall in New York City. Here I was, a twenty three year old aspiring actor
from Palestine, who despite severely injuring my knee in a basketball game two
days before, was not about to miss what he will for the next eighteen years
claim as  “the best concert”  he ever attended. This was a concert by Stevie
Wonder, the genius whose music had inspired me and whose cassettes, CDs, and now mp3, had kept me company many a time, and who not only sang beautiful melodies with an amazing voice but whose lyrics tackled the whole spectrum of life. From oppression to freedom, from infidelity to the purest love, and from sadness to euphoria, so many of your songs are attached to the milestones of my life.

On that day in 1995, I had waited till the concert had ended and the crowd had
cleared and hopped on my crutches down to the stage door. With a mix of pity for my injury and some persuasion, I had convinced the bodyguards to let me through to meet you. There you were, standing talking to other fans or your crew. Struck by the awe of the moment, I had no idea what to say to you.  “Stevie, my name is Bassem and I am from Palestine”. You had looked towards my direction. I have no idea if you had even heard what I said, but that was my cue to approach you and give you a hug. You hugged me back. That was enough for me: the affirmation that I had a “moment” with you that no one could ever take away from me. Following that moment, I took off my black and white Palestinian kaffiyah, the symbol of struggle, resistance, and freedom for Palestinians, and put it in your hands and said, “This is from the people of Palestine.”  I have relived these moments, alone and with friends, with mostly joy, nostalgia, and sometimes humor. However, there was no doubt, in my mind that you were an artist who understood our world, who sided with the poor, the oppressed, the needy, and the heartbroken. Your music and words were your contribution to make the world a less little cruel.

Until today.

Today I was horrified to hear about your intension to play at the annual gala of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) organization to be held on December 6 in Los Angeles. Today I am living in Palestine and have just lived through the same Israeli Defense Forces, the one you are supporting, killing more than one hundred and thirty of my people in Gaza, many of whom were civilians including children. This army, Stevie, is a tool of oppression and subjugation that has kept me, my family, and my people occupied for over forty five years. Every day, this army is protecting the seizure of more Palestinian land to build illegal Israeli settlement on further denying me my rights as a human being. As I read the news of your upcoming performance, I kept on wondering, how can Stevie even contemplate doing this? There must be a mistake somehow. I searched the internet whether this was a rumor or a hoax.

Unfortunately, my worst fears were confirmed. You are supporting occupation,
oppression, destruction, and apartheid.

I have no idea what has led you to this decision. I am writing this open letter
hoping it results in the restoration of the almost perfect image of you and your
art in my mind and my life.

I am urging you to cancel this performance and stand with the values of justice
and peace for all.

At the end of the concert in 1995, the band had stopped playing after over two
hours of music. You were sitting on your piano stool and people were shouting
out the names of songs they still wanted you to play. Then suddenly, for a brief
moment, there ensued an eerily beautiful silence that encompassed that glorious
concert hall. Taking advantage of that, I yelled the name of my favorite song at
that time “Lately”. Without flinching, you turned to the band and said, “You
heard the man!” and the beautiful music had started flowing.

Here’s to hoping you hear me again.

Bassim Nasir

FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE

As Israel prepares to announce the draw for UEFA’s under-21 football finals in June next year, the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign has put out the following news release.
FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE
+ FREDERIC KANOUTE, MOUSSA SOW, DEMBA BA, JACQUES FATY SAY UEFA IS REWARDING ISRAEL FOR “ACTIONS CONTRARY TO SPORTING VALUES”
+ MPS AND OTHER EMINENT BRITS SAY ISRAEL MUST NOT HOST UEFA UNDER 21 FINALS
Nov 27 – On the eve of the announcement in Tel Aviv of the draw for the Euro 2013 under-21 finals next June, some of the biggest names in European football have condemned Israel ’s military attack on Gaza which killed 170 people, including Palestinian boys playing football, and destroyed vital sports infrastructure.
Former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute is among those signing a statement referring to Israel’s hosting of the U-21 championship as rewarding it “for actions that are contrary to sporting values”.   (See full statement below)
On November 8, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was shot in the abdomen by the Israeli military while playing football with his friends in ‘Abassan village, east of the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis . He died in hospital shortly afterwards. Four other boys were also killed.
The Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for London 2012, were among facilities wiped out by Israeli bomb attacks in the days that followed.
A number of football fixtures and gatherings have been moved because of the violence.
Pressure on UEFA to change the venue for the 2013 u-21 finals is mounting as 20 British Members of Parliament have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons  stating:
” That this House congratulates the Football Association for its Kick It Out campaign against racism in football; registers with profound disapproval, however, that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”
Campaigners in a number of European centres are marking the draw in Israel on Wednesday.
Red Card Israeli Racism in Britain has handed in a petition of several thousand signatures.  along with a statement from public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach, calling on the Football Association to support a change of venue for the 2013 tournament. (Text and signatures attached).
UK campaign coordinator Geoff Lee said, “ In addition to the increasing racist violence against Arabs in Israel which is well known to UEFA , the latest attacks by Israel on the besieged people of Gaza must make the UEFA delegates rethink this issue.”
In Italy, a letter has been delivered to the Italian Football Federation calling for withdrawal of the Italian national team from the competition unless there is a change of venue. On themorning of Wednesday, November 28 a protest will be held outside the nationalheadquarters in Rome during which activists have requested a meeting with management.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF FRENCH LANGUAGE STATEMENT SIGNED BY :
Frederic Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty and others
The horrific situation faced by Palestinian civilians in recent days is deeply concerning. We have learnt that on November 10 the Israeli army bombarded a sports stadium on Gaza . Four young people who were playing football were killed. Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara (16 and 17 years old), Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 years old).
We are also aware that since February 2012 two footballers with the Al Amari team, Omar Rowis (23) and Mohammed Nemer (22) are still imprisoned in Israel without trial or charge.
In the run-up to Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, which will reward Israel for actions that are contrary to sporting values, we as European sportspeople wish to express our regret the turmoil of recent days, the primary victim of which has been the Palestinian people.
We express our solidarity and our support for the civilian causalities. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. The Palestinians must be protected by the rule of international law. We hope that a just peace will finally emerge – it is simply unacceptable that children are killed while they are peacefully playing football.
  2. THE STATEMENT IN FRENCH
Palestine , le sport au pied du mur
La situation subie par les civils palestiniens ces derniers jours est plus que préoccupante. Nous avons appris que le 10 novembre, l’armée israélienne a bombardé un terrain de sport à Gaza . Quatre jeunes qui jouaient au football ont été tués : Mohamed Harara et Ahmed Harara (16 et 17 ans), Matar Rahman et Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 ans).
Nous savons en outre que depuis février 2012, les deux joueurs de football de l’équipe d’Al Amari, Omar Rowis (23 ans) Mohammed Nemer (22 ans) sont toujours emprisonnés en Israël sans procès et sans jugement.
À la veille où Israël doit accueillir l’Euro des moins de 21 ans, se voyant ainsi récompensé alors qu’il commet des actes qui restent contraires aux valeurs du Sport, nous, sportifs européens, regrettons la situation d’embrasement de ces derniers jours qui a pour première victime le peuple palestinien. Nous exprimons notre solidarité et notre soutien aux victimes civiles. Tout peuple a le droit de vivre dignement, dans la liberté et la sécurité. Les Palestiniens ne peuvent en ce sens être exclus du droit international. Nous espérons que le droit et la justice règneront enfin, parce qu’il est inadmissible que des enfants meurent alors qu’ils jouent paisiblement au football.
Premiers signataires: Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty
4. Events in Israel cancelled because of the violence:

5. England could host u-21 in 2013 instead of Israel

5. Statement from Ken Loach and other eminent figures calling for UEFA to move under-21 finals from Israel .
 
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINIAN FOOTBALL
As football supporters we hear with concern an appeal from Mahmoud Sarsak,http://www.bdsmovement.net/2012/mahmoud-sarsak-uefa-appeal-9826 a young Palestinian national team player whose career was cut short by three years’ detention without trial in an Israeli jail.
We are aware that he regained his freedom last July 10, only after a three month hunger strike won him sympathy and support from influential voices in the football world.
Sarsak is asking us now to show our support for all Palestinians who love the beautiful game but who suffer the impact of discriminatory Israeli policies on Palestinian football and the life of the community in general.
We are disturbed by the myriad ways in which the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and the siege of  Gaza  prevent both the development of Palestinian sport at grass roots level and its representation in international competitions. These include:
  • regulations and checkpoints that block the movement of players between Palestinian towns and villages and between  Gaza  and the  West Bank ;
  • official interference preventing the Palestinian national team from travelling abroad to train or compete and making it virtually impossible for foreign teams to attend fixtures in Palestine ;
  • restrictions on the importation of equipment, even when donated by international footballing organisations;
  • prevention of the construction of facilities.
In addition to these impediments, life under occupation entails the constant threat of detention or even death. Two  West Bank footballers, Mohammed Saedy Ibrahim Nemer and goalkeeper Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis, were detained in February and have been incarcerated ever since.
Four footballers were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed during the Israeli assault on  Gaza  in December 2008 – January 2009.   Even children are not exempt. On June 20 this year, twelve-year-old Mamoun Zuhdi al-Dam was killed by an Israeli warplane as he played football on land near his family home in  Gaza .
Against this background, Sarsak has drawn our attention to Palestinian dismay at UEFA’s insistence on having  Israel  host next year’s under-21 finals.
He says that staging this, or any other UEFA competition, in  Israel “is legitimising  Israel ’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed to take place in  Israel .”
Taking into account the high profile given in European football to combating racism wherever it appears, we agree with Sarsak that it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.
We therefore call upon UEFA to move the 2013 U21 finals away from  Israel  and to assure Palestinians that  Israel  will not be granted such an honour as long as its discriminatory practices continue.
Signed:
John Austin
Dr. Salman Abu Sitta
Stephen Cavalier
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Bob Crow
Rev. Garth Hewitt
Ghada Karmi
Bruce Kent,
Ken Loach
Paul Laverty
Kika Markham
Karma Nabulsi
Prof. Steven Rose
Keith Sonnet
David Thompson
Jenny Tonge

UK-WIDE PRO-PALESTINE DANCE PROTEST REACHES SADLER’S WELLS AS GAZA CASUALTIES MOUNT

NEWS RELEASE
UK-WIDE PRO-PALESTINE DANCE PROTEST REACHES SADLER’S WELLS AS GAZA CASUALTIES MOUNT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
  • ISRAEL’S BATSHEVA CHALLENGED IN ITALY AS WELL AS ALL UK VENUES
  • SADLER’S WELLS BEEFS UP SECURITY IN PREPARATION FOR PRO-PALESTINE PROTESTS
  • ACADEMICS CONDEMN THEATRE MANAGEMENT REFUSAL TO ENTER DIALOGUE
 November 15 – A nationwide campaign which has already interrupted 10 dance performances by Israel ’s Batsheva Ensemble in five cities up and down the country reached London ’s Sadler’s Wells this week, with activists saying mounting Palestinian deaths in Gaza added urgency to their protests.
Supporters of the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign handed leaflets to audience members entering the theatre for this week’s evening shows, explaining why there will be protests when the Israeli troupe performs there on Nov 19, 20 & 21.
“We target artistic institutions which are intrinsically linked to the Israeli state through funding and the ‘Brand Israel ’ initiative,” the leaflets said. They quote an Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman outlining 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 is embraced 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.
Campaigners say their protest is not directed at individual Israeli artists, but at the government which deliberately uses art as cover for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.
A group of Italian artists has written in similar vein to the artistic director of the Turin Dance festival, which is due to host the Israeli company, and there were demonstrations at Batsheva performances in Rome on November 8 & 9.
“With Israel escalating its attacks on Gaza, killing at least a dozen civilians in recent days including two little girls and a number of boys on a football field,  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.
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 their nationality,” 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,  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 inScotland  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 a letter from a Palestinian Christian organisation questioning the hosting of Batsheva at the Hippodrome was presented to the Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Rev. David Urquhart, who is one of the theatre’s directors. Kairos Palestine, which sent the letter, has received no reply.
.
The next  Batsheva Ensemble tour date is in Leicester on Nov 16, followed by Sadler’s Wells on November 19 to 21. The tour ends in Plymouth on Nov 24.

ISRAELI DANCE TROUPE ENCOUNTERS NATIONWIDE BOYCOTT PROTESTS

 

Posters used by Manchester campaigners at the Salford Lowry on November 2 and 3

 

Israel’s Batsheva dance company, the focus of vociferous pro-Palestinian boycott activity during the Edinburgh International Festival two months ago, continues to attract protest during a UK tour by its junior ensemble.

 

Although its artistic director Ohad Naharin is a critic of Israeli policy towards Palestine, Batsheva is hailed by the current right-wing government as its “best global ambassador” and the company is financed by Israeli arms companies, the Israeli State, and the racist Jewish National Fund which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants.

 

This is why the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign has mounted protests at Batsheva Ensemble shows in Edinburgh, Manchester and Bradford, with more to come in Brighton, Birmingham, Leicester, London and Plymouth. There will also be protests in Italy later this week when the Batsheva Dance Company is due to perform in Rome.

 

Every performance has met with lively demonstrations outside the theatres as well as short but effective interruptions inside. This is despite extravagant attempts by venue managers to weed out Palestine sympathizers, covertly aided – or more likely pressurised – by zealots of the StandWithUs pro Israel  propaganda outfit.

The latest protests occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday in Bradford where 100 or more Palestine sympathisers gathered outside the Alhambra theatre on each night. A member of the Green Party explained their involvement in the protests in eloquent detail.

Demonstrators have written to the West Yorkshire police complaining of unnecessarily heavy-handed policing, but there have been no arrests. There has, however, been at least one assault on a peaceful protester by a pro-Israel audience member. Campaigners are considering bringing charges.

Such is the level of Zionist exasperation at the growing support for the boycott movement, modeled on the campaigns which helped end apartheid in South Africa, they have resorted to bringing charges of “racially aggravated conduct” against protest organisers. These have been justly brushed aside by the authorities in Edinburgh but have surfaced again in Brighton where Batsheva is due to perform next week.

This is clearly part of a campaign of intimidation against people of conscience trying to draw attention to Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law. Having no arguments to counter their critics, Israel’s apologists take refuge in smear tactics, ignoring the fact that throwing around the charge of antisemitism where it has no foundation devalues it and desensitises the public to genuine anti-Jewish racism when it arises.

 


Norma Turner who helped organise protests at Manchester’s Lowry on November 2 and 3, said there had been many Jewish people among those on the protests there. This had defused the usual “antisemite” slurs and facilitated a great deal of positive dialogue between campaigners and people entering the theatre. Attendance seemed to be low and discounts were on offer.

 

“A number of ticket holders decided against attending the performance after hearing us explain about the cynical Brand Israel project,” said Turner.

 

Brand Israel is a PR exercise started in 2005 by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs deliberately using culture as mask to beautify Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. The boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is Palestinian’s non-violent response.

 

Activists have been accused of behaving like hooligans but this was clearly not the view of the Lowry management, who handed out hot drinks to protesters braving a rainy and windswept November night. This was despite the fact that managers had previously refused to engage with campaigners about Batsheva’s presence.

 

In London too, where the Israeli ensemble is due to perform at Sadler’s Wells on November 19/20/21, the venue management has so far refused to engage with  academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) who have requested a meeting. BRICUP has also issued a powerful open letter to Batsheva’s Naharin.

Naharin has emailed the Don’t Dance campaign and been quoted arguing that boycott action is of no benefit to the Palestinian people. He said it was motivated by “frustration and revenge” whereas Batsheva aimed “to build not to destroy”. We need “to try and create a dialogue” to replace “conflict” in a hugely complex situation, he said.

Mick Napier, chair of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, wrote in response  “Far from ‘conflict’ impeding dialogue with protestors, it seems that only the fear of protests … induced Naharin to communicate in August, promising to discuss with his Board and get back to Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid. This budding ‘dialogue’, however, was still born, possibly because Batsheva hoped vainly that protests would fizzle out.” Napier said the Don’t Dance campaign has still not had a report-back from the Batsheva board.

 

In recent correspondence with one campaigner, Naharin wrote sarcastically that people in the West Bank must be celebrating because someone shouted out during a quiet part in one of the Batsheva Ensemble performances. The truth is that yes indeed, they are. Palestinians are so desperate for the world to take note of the injustices they suffer that a voice calling out on their behalf in a dance theatre in Scotland is something to celebrate.

 

Evidence of this can be seen in a YouTube clip from a group of young women in Gaza, not a slick, professional piece of Hasbara (propaganda), such as we are constantly fed by Israel’s foreign policy and media outlets, but a heartfelt statement of stifled Palestinian cultural expression contrasting bleakly with the freedom of Batsheva’s pampered dancers.

 

For more Palestinian cultural voices speaking for themselves, see:

 

Images and sounds of Gaza’s vibrant subculture in “Not a dreamland”

Remi Kanazi video debuts blistering new poem against the injustice of normalization

 

RAFEEF ZIADEH performs “Shades of Anger” and “We Teach Life, Sir”

 

There have been a few media reports of the Batsheva protests.

 Morning Star

Salford Star

This one avoids the underlying issues entirely:

 

 

 

 

KEN LOACH SUPPORTS FREED PALESTINIAN HUNGER STRIKER’S APPEAL – DON’T PLAY UEFA UNDER-21 FINALS IN ISRAEL

One of the demonstrations for Palestine at football fixtures around Europe this autumn.

Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian football player whose career was cut short by three years’ detention without trial in an Israeli jail, has issued a plea for European football’s governing body UEFA not to go ahead with plans to stage next year’s under-21 finals in Israel.

Sarsak was released last July 10 after a three month hunger strike won him sympathy and support from influential voices in the football world. Former French and Manchester United star Eric Cantona, the international federation of professional footballers associations FIFPro and FIFA president Sepp Blatter were among those who called for his release.

In a letter thanking those who had helped win his freedom, Sarsak said Israel was not “a normal state where citizens can play sport freely.”  At least two footballers were among many hundreds of political detainees and there were endless repressive impediments to playing the game.

“I call on all those who spoke out for my release and the release of the Palestinian hunger strikers, to once again show their commitment to justice and equality by insisting that UEFA move their competitions away from Israel,” Sarsak said.

“UEFA is legitimising Israel’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed take place in Israel.”

Film maker Ken Loach and screen writer Paul Laverty have endorsed a statement for football professionals to sign, supporting Sarsak’s appeal.

The statement says:

“Taking into account the high profile given in European football to combating racism wherever it appears, we agree with Sarsak that it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”

Sarsak’s letter was published on his behalf by the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement and has been taken up by the London-based Red Card Israeli Racism campaign.

“We urge everyone who cares about justice and equality for all involved in the game of football to support Mahmoud Sarsak’s appeal,” said campaign coordinator Geffrey Lee.

“We must endorse Sarsak’s call on UEFA to move planned competitions away from Israel as long as its discriminatory practices against Palestinians continue.”

Red Card Israeli Racism has gathered more than 2,800 signatures for a petition calling on UEFA president Michel Platini to move the 2013 under-21 finals from Israel.

Please add your name to the petition and publicise it widely.

In addition you can tell UEFA – politely – on Facebook why you support Sarsak’s appeal.

Campaigners staged actions in support of the campaign at football fixtures in France and Luxembourg on October 12.

At a playoff qualifier between France and Norway at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre , protesters carried on to the field a banner reading “Do not play for Apartheid”. The action was widely reported in the French media.

An earlier demonstration took place on September 20 at a match between Basque side Atletico Bilbao and Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shoma from Israel. Two Bilbao supporters’ clubs took part.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER FROM MAHMOUD SARSAK, OCTOBER 17, 2012

On July 10 of this year I was released after three years of imprisonment by the Israeli occupation forces and 92 days of hunger strike. The mobilisation by people of conscience around the world and the statements and comments by footballing organisations like FIFPro, professional footballers past and present such as Eric Cantona and Frederic Kanoute, senior football figures such as Sepp Blatter and other notable public figures, were both inspiring and immensely helpful in keeping the pressure on Israel and a major reason behind my eventual release.
I would like to offer my deepest, heartfelt gratitude to all those who spoke out against the inhumane treatment of Palestinians at a time when I and other hunger striking Palestinian political prisoners needed it most.
However, the arbitrary detention, abuse and torture of Palestinian political prisoners continue. Palestinian prisoner rights organisations have particular concerns about three who are on extended hunger strike – Samer Al-Barq, Hassan Safadi and Ayman Sharawna.
Israel works endlessly to repress Palestinian football, just like it does many other forms of Palestinian culture. Palestinian league player Mohammed Sadi Nemer and goalkeeper Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis were detained in February this year and remain in prison in Israel .
Football players Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate, as well as over 1,400 other Palestinians in Gaza, were killed and the Rafah National Stadium was destroyed during Israel’s 2008-09 onslaught on Gaza.
Israel does not behave like a normal state where citizens can play sport freely. Why then, should it be granted the honour of hosting the UEFA U21s championship in 2013, or the women’s U19s in 2015? As stated in a letter from Gaza sports clubs to UEFA president Michel Platini, we must not“reward Israel for its violent repression of Palestinian rights”.
Platini has cruelly stated that the 2013 tournament will “be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together”. But by allowing Israel to host it, UEFA is legitimising Israel’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed to take place in Israel.
I call on all those who spoke out for my release and the release of the Palestinian hunger strikers, to once again show their commitment to justice and equality by insisting that UEFA move their competitions away from Israel.
The cultural and sporting boycott and other forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) were vital in the fall of the South African apartheid regime, and similar initiatives will be vital to ending Israeli apartheid.
Mahmoud Sarsak
DETAILS OF DETAINED FOOTBALLERS
a) Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis turned 23 on Sept 10. He is goalkeeper for Al Amry in Ramallah, West Bank. Detained Feb 20, currently in Ofer prison. Reported to have been tortured by Israeli General Security Services, held in stress positions for prolonged periods and subjected to extreme temperatures.
b) Mohammed Saedy Ibrahim Nemer, aged 22, married with one child, plays for Al Amry, on loan to Al Khader. Detained Feb 18, held in Ofer prison but moved early Sept to Remon Prison. Also reported to have been tortured.  .
 NOTES ON ISRAELI DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PALESTINIANS
Israeli Apartheid – a quick guide
We often hear that there is no discrimination in Israel because Palestinian citizens can vote. Some football teams have Arab players. There has even been an Arab Supreme Court judge.
This is true, but it masks an inherently discriminatory system in which most Palestinians cannot hope to be equal citizens in ‘the Jewish state’. Any Jew in the world can claim citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return and Citizenship Law, while Arabs forced to flee their homes from 1947 onwards are refused their UN-sanctioned Right of Return.
Inside Israel (within the pre-1967 Green Line)
The very existence of Israeli Palestinians is regarded as a threat to the state. Racist public discourse constantly bemoans the Palestinian birthrate and pushes for ‘Judaisation’ of the Galilee, the Negev, etc. The domestic secret service Shin Bet has said it will “thwart” peaceful and legal efforts to challenge the ‘Jewish’ nature of the state.
There are more than 30 main laws that discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Since 2009 the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu has initiated many more.
It is illegal for citizens to live with a spouse who comes from the West Bank or Gaza. Backing the law, which in practice applies almost exclusively to Palestinians, Israel’s High Court said: “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide”.
In 70 percent of Israeli towns, residency is controlled by admissions committees that filter out those deemed ‘unsuitable’ for the community’s ‘social fabric’. Their role is enshrined in law for 46 percent of communities inIsrael, under legislation passed in 2011.
Various elements of Israel’s land regime mean that Palestinian citizens are blocked from purchasing or leasing land in around 80 percent of the country.
More than 700 Jewish communities have been established in Israel since 1948. The equivalent number for Palestinian citizens is seven, all in the Negev where Bedouin communities have been uprooted from their ancestral homes.
An estimated 90,000 Palestinian citizens live in dozens of ‘unrecognised villages’, many of which are in theNegev and face the prospect of total demolition.
In the Occupied Territories
Israel strips East Jerusalem’s Palestinians of residency status for what EU Heads of Mission called “demographic” reasons. Mayor Nir Barkat openly believes in ensuring a Jewish majority in the city.
Israel’s regime in the West Bank – including the 120+ illegal settlements – has been described by Human Rights Watch as a “two-tier system” where Palestinians face “systematic discrimination”.
In 2011 alone, Israel demolished 620 Palestinian-owned structures in the occupied West Bank. The EU has said this is part of a policy of  “forced transfer of the native population”.
Amnesty International calls Israel’s control of West Bank water resources “discriminatory”, with Palestinians restricted to 20 percent of the water from the main underground aquifer.
Israel blocks movement of goods and people between the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as part of what is officially described as a “separation policy”.
SEGREGATION AND APARTHEID
In March 2012 the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged Israel to end “segregation” inside the Green Line and “policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid” in the OccupiedPalestinian Territory.
For more detail see a report by Adalah, The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. http://www.adalah.org/upfiles/2011/Adalah_The_Inequality_Report_March_2011.pdf

THEATRE UNDER OCCUPATION – DISCUSSION WITH ASHTAR FROM PALESTINE ON FRIDAY MAY 4

Theatre under Occupation:

What does Shakespeare have to say to the Palestinians?

 A post-performance discussion with Ashtar Theatre from Palestine

Date: Friday 4 May 2012

Time: 17:30

Venue: Nancy Knowles Lecture Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, London SE1

Ticket holders for Friday’s matinee performance of Shakespeare’s Richard II are invited to join Iman Aoun, artistic director of Ashtar, and other members of the cast in discussion with British theatre makers and their audiences.

ASHTAR is performing Richard II in Arabic at the Globe on May 4th and 5th, three weeks before the controversial performance of The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew by Habima, Israel National Theatre, as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

Places for the discussion following Friday’s matinee are limited, so admittance will be strictly on a first-come-first-served basis. If you want to put your name on a priority list, contact jews4big@gmail.com providing your ticket number or booking reference.

Tickets for the play can be booked online here or by phone on 020 7401 9919.

If booking for the Friday matinee you may be able to get a good deal by quoting “£10 matinee” over the phone or typing in “PCDMAT10″ online.

If you can’t support Ashtar by attending their2.30 pmFriday show, please book to see their Saturday evening performance.

Below is a statement sent to media on Tuesday May 12.

WHAT DOES SHAKESPEARE HAVE TO SAY TO THE PALESTINIANS?

West bank theatre company ASHTAR on Richard II and theatre under occupation

Controversy over the invitation to Israel’s National Theatre Habima to perform at Shakespeare’s Globe has highlighted the connection between art and politics.  Palestine’s ASHTAR theatre company is performing Richard II in Arabic on May 4th and 5th, three weeks before the performance of The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew by Habima.

On Friday 4th, the Globe is giving an additional platform to ASHTAR to explore the theme:  THEATRE UNDER OCCUPATION: WHAT DOES SHAKESPEARE HAVE TO SAY TO THE PALESTINIANS?  Artistic Director Iman Aoun will discuss the issues with their audience, including UK theatrical figures opposed to Habima’s involvement in the Cultural Olympiad.

Shakespeare’s Richard II is often regarded as an invitation to consider the nature and source of political authority and under what circumstances it is legitimate to resist. Aoun said “when you read the text you can see that something which happened 600 years ago has echoes of what’s going on in the world today. Those who are out of power can look as if they have integrity and are with the masses; once they gain power they are blinded by it.”

“Culture plays the most important role for us as Palestinians living under Israeli occupation,” said Aoun. She said Palestinians lack political and economic independence, but “in culture we’re creators and we are free. We have fought Israeli censorship for years. We can really show people that we are capable of life, able to invent and live despite hindrances, and that we have a voice; this is an important part of resistance.”

The discussion will take place in the Globe’s Nancy Knowles Lecture Theatre at5.30pm.  It will be open to audience members attending Friday’s matinee performance at 2.30pm.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1) ABOUT ASHTAR

ASHTAR Theatre was established in Jerusalem in 1991 as a non-profit organization by two prominent Palestinian actors, and is based in Ramallah. This April, Ashtar performed their production of Shakespeare’s Richard II in the open-air courtyard of the ruins of the 8th-century HishamPalace inJericho in the occupiedWest Bank: “We were full for all four performances. I was very happy – the place was beautiful and it really came alive!” said Ashtar’s artistic director, Iman Aoun. “Shakespeare resonates with audiences today because he understood the psychology of people, regardless of rank.” In general, she added, “Palestinians are not theatre goers by habit and that is why we developed a travelling system – we go to the audience wherever they are. We present plays that socially challenge an audience – they welcome the fact we tackle difficult issues.”

The Gaza Monologues

The Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 led to the deaths of at least 1,380 Palestinians, amongst whom were 431 children. Ashtar’s production, the Gaza Monologues, was their artistic response: personal stories of a group of children from Gaza, performed simultaneously all over the world on17  October 2010 by 1,500 youngsters, and subsequently at the UN in November to mark the ‘International Day of Solidarity with the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People’. “The reception of the Gaza Monologues was incredible,” said Iman Aoun. “Many theatre organisations liked the idea and it was performed by over 60 companies in 36 countries. Those involved saw they had a part in stopping this madness. Everyone wanted to say: ‘Enough is enough!’ This is the role of art. Yet the Israeli Embassy in Norway and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to stop a performance in Norway.”

Culture and freedom

“Culture plays the most important role for us as Palestinians living under Israeli occupation – because we have failed on many levels: politically and economically we are dependent,” stated Aoun. “In culture, however, we’re creators and we are free – we have fought Israeli censorship for years. We can really show people that we are capable of life, able to invent and live despite hindrances, and that we have a voice; this is an important part of resistance. Resistance with words, self-expression, prevents your culture, art and heritage from being stolen. Israel tries to occupy everything, from land to embroidery to the food we eat.”

Building bridges through art?

“Art does build bridges; it brings people together. But we’re asking for a bit of sanity”, says Aoun, explaining: “At night Israeli artists want to perform with us and in the morning they serve in the army. What is the use of going on producing art when deep down they know they are breaking basic human rights by supporting the occupation and its apartheid regime and settlements? Israelis need to work inside their own society; changes have to occur on the ground inIsraelfor there to be real justice.”

2) ABOUT THE ISRAELI NATIONAL THEATRE CONTROVERSY

Actors and directors including Emma Thompson, Mike Leigh, Mark Rylance and David Calder, have asked the Globe to withdraw the invitation to Habima, on the grounds that it colludes with the Israeli colonisation of occupied Palestinian territory by performing in illegal Israeli settlements. In the weeks since the March 30 publication in the Guardian of a letter signed by leading theatre names opposing the invitation to Habima, media debate about the cultural boycott issue has deepened and broadened.

Some of the responses have been hostile, for example a letter to the Guardian on April 21 from five MPs asserting claiming that it was no crime to perform in the illegal settlements since they were bound to be part of Israel in due course.  This argument was firmly repudiated in further letters on April 23.

Mainstream arts coverage has included the Economist arts blog Prospero.