Monthly Archives: November 2013

CHANUKAH MESSAGE FROM JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE

Our friends in the US organisation Jewish Voice for Peace have produced a short video for Chanukah celebrating, as they put it “Gratitude for your courage to speak the truth.  Gratitude for your commitment to creating a world in which all people are valued. And gratitude that we are doing this difficult and life-affirming work together.”

JVP Chanukah YouTube clip

 Click here to view.  You may need to speed through an annoying advertisement first.

JVP’s work in support of Palestine is often remarkable. See this earlier video which uses animation to explain the origins of the ongoing injustices.

 

Methodist consultation on BDS: J-BIG response

When the UK’s Methodist Council endorsed BDS, it met Zionist condemnation and threats regarding interfaith relations.  This response led the Council to initiate a public consultation on the issues.   On4 November J-BIG submitted the statement below.

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What Methodist relations with the Jewish community?
Submission from Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG)

Les Levidow and Diana Neslen

There is some concern within the Methodist community that support for BDS will harm community relations and dialogue-based initiatives with the leadership of organised Jewry.  At first glance these threats do not seem to be idle.  Past decisions by the Methodist conference have induced a flurry of activity by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.  The Board hascondemned these actions and threatened a breakdown of relationships with the Methodist Church. Speaking for ‘the Jewish community’, in 2010 the Board expressed their ‘hurt and anger’ at the Methodist Church adopting the Justice for Palestine and Israel report.[1]

The Board stated that the decision ‘shattered the good relations’ between the Jewish Community and the Methodist Church.  This strong statement seemed to presage a divorce between the two organised communities, but this was not to be.   A communal Seder seemed to repair rifts [2].Soon after this the Board of Deputies was engaging in dialogue with the Inter-faith group on issues of concern to the Jewish community and the Methodists, like challenging anti Semitism[3].  Clearly it was one thing to engage in bluster, but another to make divorce a reality.

The same behaviour is manifest with respect to the Coop, which took the decision to boycott agricultural products from occupied Palestinian territory.  Since Israeli agricultural companies source agricultural products from the occupied territories, this means that all Israeli agricultural companies are subject toboycott. The reaction from the organised Jewish community was immediate and highly critical.  Efforts were made to overturn the Coop’s action.  Many Israel supporters joined the Cooperative movement for the express purpose of overturning the decision, but they had no arguments worthy of considerationin open debateand were unable to achieve their objectives. Consequently the Leeds Lobby Network, an organisation that gives unqualified support to Israeli policies, is now telling the Jewish Telegraphthat it is engaging in a dialogue with the Cooperative movement.  So the Board’s earlier threats were not fulfilled.

What kind of dialogue is sought by the Board? As the mouthpiece for Israel, it is committed to ‘an unwavering relationship with the state of Israel’,[4]so the parameters of dialogue are very limited.

Discussion of this issue is all the more urgent in the light of recent developments following the statement by Jonathan Arkush of the Board of Deputies[5]. In October the Jewish Chronicle reported that after talks with the Board of Deputies, the Methodists are considering abandoning the boycott.[6]   According to the report both sides ‘agreed to explore approaches, distinct from the BDS [boycott, divestment, sanctions] consultation on which the Methodist Church is presently engaged, including investing in peace, dialogue and reconciliation projects’.

At first sight this would seem to preclude the outcome of the consultation exercise.  Therefore the Methodist Church should consider carefully the character of the dialogue on offer.  Those who give unqualified support to Israel’s policies find that they cannot defend them to those who believe in universal human rights. Rather than acknowledge Israel’s transgressions, the Board resorts to subterfuge and propose something else like ‘dialogue, peace and reconciliation projects’.

Why? Precisely because nothing changes as a result.While people talk to each other, Israel grabs more territorywithout any penalty, as it is doing through the current ‘peace process’.  Dialogue is used to impose Israel’s distorted perspectives, rather than consider opposing viewpoints and change behaviour accordingly.  The Council of Christians and Jews illustrates how an organisation promotes Israel as a victim while paying lip service to Palestinian rights.[7]

Dialogue may be worthwhile if there is any chance that it will be used to encourage insight and change, towards respecting Palestinian rights.  Instead it is used to bully others into acquiescence with the powerful – the Board’s main aim for dialogue.  At this stage, the Israelis seek to reconcile their self-portrayal as the victim with the reality that they are oppressors.  Meanwhile the Palestinians need liberation rather than ‘reconciliation’.  A free people can enter into dialogue and indeed reconciliation, but the first objective must be freedom and equality. Anything less undermines the possibility of an equitable dialogue.

Israel is still the powerful player pulling the strings.  Let us be quite frank:  Israel wants more territory and in that quest is happy enough to allow her army to maintain ‘peace’ and to contract out the policing of Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority.  Israel lives under a peace that works for her.  Treated as lesser beings, the Palestinians live under oppression and dispossession, the very opposite of peace.

BDS is a non-violent means of trying to bring about change for Palestinian rights.  It raises awareness, engages the activists and slowly and inexorably changes the nature of the conversation from one of dominion to one of rights.   In fact the World Council of Churches supported BDS with respect to apartheid South Africa. The same must be true for the issue of Palestine.  Weneed to enhance the voice of those under the yoke of occupation.

The question then arises as to whether a BDS stance is the best available option.  The issue is whether Israel has any incentive to change its behaviour.  Unfortunately the evidence shows that without sanctions Israel continues to take advantage of its dominant position. It is the reaction of Israel and its supporters to BDS that tells us how profoundly this affects them.  Two members of the Israeli embassy in London are employed to challenge BDS.  This is how seriously the state takes this matter.  There are no members of the embassy employed to advance ‘peace, dialogue and reconciliation’.

There are those who say, not necessarily with tongue in cheek, that the time has come for dialogue, but not between organised British Jewry and those who support BDS.  Instead the time is ripe for dialogue between organised British Jewry and their contacts in the Israeli political establishment.  The purpose of this dialogue should be to advise Israel that the country need to change course before it is too late. It is time for the organised Jewish community to rescue Jewish values from the militaristic, nationalist ideology undermining them.  This viewpoint is being increasingly expressed by many Jews – not represented by the Board of Deputies.

In sum: The Zionist establishment (claiming to represent ‘the Jewish community’) seeks types of interfaith dialogue which reinforce Israel’s occupation of Palestine and lead other faiths to collude. If such dialogue is jeopardized by Methodists’  support for BDS, then this result would be no loss for the Methodist community.  To support Palestinian rights, the Methodist Church should support BDS and seek forms of dialogue which challenges the Occupation.

Notes

Jewish Anti-Zionist protesters target Israeli-sponsored film festival

On Saturday evening 2 November, protesters gathered outside a popular northwest London theatre to protest at its hosting of events in an Israeli-sponsored Jewish film festival.

 

The lively and colourful protest was called by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), in response to the Israeli Embassy’s sponsorship of this year’s festival at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. 

Photo and report from IJAN

People from different faiths and none, including an Israeli activist, Palestinian solidarity activists, and  campaigners from the Kentish Town-based Global Women’s Strike, came together to remind the Tricycle that at the very same time that they hosted the festival last year, Israel was bombing Gaza, killing 158 Palestinians; including 30 children.

Protesters, who have valued the Tricycle for decades through its vitally informative and entertaining plays about Afghanistan, Ireland’s Bloody Sunday, US Guantanamo, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, and more, are appalled at the Tricycle hosting a film festival sponsored by a government that whose major industry is repression, not only of Palestinians but around the world.

With placards and a loudspeaker they highlighted that Israel had broken the international boycott of apartheid South Africa – supplying it with military hardware and training, and helping build its nuclear industry; had armed the Argentinean junta even as it killed thousands, including many Jews; had helped arm and train the Rwandan military and Hutu militia which committed genocide against the Tutsis; and helped arm the Sri Lankan government with warfare technology, including  drones, enabling it to massacre tens of thousands of Tamils.*

Protestors were shocked that the Tricycle was not only using security guards who refused to identify themselves, but also that a vanload of police had been called on an entirely peaceful protest.   The protestors, who are mainly local residents and the Tricycle’s most loyal audience, have written to the new artistic director of the Tricycle, Indhu Rubasingham, to say: “Given that Israeli apartheid is not loved, especially in multi-racial Kilburn . . . Is this who the Tricycle wants to be associated with?”.

They also ask that the Tricycle to do what it says it does: bringing unheard voices into the mainstream.  That is, to take a stand for justice and peace and against repression.  They see the Tricycle’s association with Israel as a betrayal of this standard and are set to do another protest on the evening of 13 Nov – when a film sponsored by the Zionist Federation about Herzl (the founder of modern Zionism) will be shown.

 

Israel’s Worldwide Role in Repression http://israelglobalrepression.wordpress.com


Letter to the Artistic Director of the Tricycle, 6 November 2013

 Dear Indhu Rubasingham,

We say “No” to the Israeli sponsored film festival

We want to let you know why we are protesting outside the Tricycle during the Jewish Film Festival 2014 of which the Israeli Embassy is a sponsor.

First, may we remind you that last year as the Jewish Film Festival was showing in your cinema, the Israeli state was bombing Gaza. 158 Palestinians were killed; 30 were children.  That attack began when Israel murdered Ahmed Jabari, who only hours before had received a draft of, and was expected to respond positively to, a permanent truce agreement between Hamas and Israel.

You say on your website that the Tricycle “views the world through varied lenses, bringing unheard voices into the mainstream . . . [It] is a local venue with an international vision.” What you are enabling by welcoming the Israeli Embassy sponsorship does not fit these criteria.  Welcoming Israel by definition censors the voices of Palestinians, those whose country the Israelis occupy, whom they imprison, torture and bomb at will.

The Tricycle has informed us about Afghanistan, Ireland’s Bloody Sunday, US’s Guantanamo, England’s Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, and more.  It would not have hosted a film festival sponsored by the South African apartheid state especially at the time of the Sharpeville massacre, or the Argentinean junta while it disappeared and tortured tens of thousands, or the Rwandan state when it was committing genocide, or the Sri Lankan state as it was killing tens of thousands of Tamils.

Yet the Tricycle welcomes as a sponsor a state that broke the international boycott of apartheid South Africa – supplying machine guns, missiles, tanks and training, and helped build its nuclear industry; that armed the Argentinean junta even as it killed thousands, including many Jews; that helped arm and train the Rwandan military and Hutu militia which committed genocide against the Tutsis; and armed the Sri Lankan government with patrol boats, aircraft, drones, other warfare technology and training in order to massacre tens of thousands of the Tamil population – war crimes that are currently in the news.

How can the Tricycle ignore that Palestinians are forced into bantustans, complete with pass laws, segregation and other apartheid violence?  Or the ongoing siege of Gaza, undermining the long-term health of its inhabitants, particularly ensuring malnutrition among children and alarming levels of anaemia among babies and pregnant women?

Has the Tricycle forgotten the 2008-9 bombing of Gaza designed to terrorize and humiliate the civilian population, with the systematically reckless use of white phosphorus, forcing civilians to be human shields, the wanton destruction of infrastructure: food production, medical facilities, water, power and sewerage facilities, schools and kindergartens? 1,417 Palestinians were killed, including 313 children, and over 5,000 were wounded.

We protest that our Tricycle is associating itself  with a government which regularly kills, maims, persecutes, imprisons even little children and humiliates Palestinians of every age; whose major industry is assisting and even spearheading repression round the world.*   Your association with Israel misleads, distracts from and normalises its murderous past and present.

Although the security guards outside the Tricycle refused to identify themselves, they appeared to be from the Community Security Trust (CST).  The CST says it provides security for Jewish events – in fact our experience is that it is only for Zionist events.

And why was a vanload of police, in addition to the CST, called to our peaceful protest? Given that Israeli apartheid is not loved, especially in multi-racial Kilburn, they know they are not welcome but are accustomed to shutting down opposition and getting their way.  Is this who the Tricycle wants to be associated with?

Most of us protesting are your neighbours, local residents, and all of us have valued the Tricycle for all the decades of its existence.  The Tricycle’s association with Israel is a betrayal of the standards it claims to uphold: for justice and against state violence.  We, your loyal supporters, your audience, ask that you respond wholeheartedly to the Palestinian call for boycott – beginning with the Tricycle refusing to host an Israeli sponsored film festival.

Yours,
Michael Kalmanovitz
for IJAN UK