Category Archives: palestine

Irish BDS activists reject smears as dance festival in Israel is cancelled

We are reproducing this long post from the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign in which they refute allegations that threats and danger to dance students brought about the cancellation of the first Israeli Irish Dance Feis, planned for Tel Aviv in August.

The piece explains the goals and tactics of this particular cultural boyott campaign and in the process explores the principles of applying BDS in the arts.
There is much more on this subject on the website of Artists for Palestine UK.

10. Bilin 2

IPSC Statement on the cancellation of the Israeli Feis: A victory for Palestinian rights marred by disgusting and defamatory comments

According to a post on the Facebook page of the Carey Academy in Israel and The Carey Academy of Irish Dancing in Birmingham, the Israeli Irish Dancing Feis scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv on August 15th has been cancelled. The post announcing the cancellation makes scurrilous and defamatory remarks against human rights activists and organisations*.

[* Note: A first posting, several hours before the one that is now visible, contained even more malicious and defamatory statements. This has since been removed by the Carey Academy, though we have it archived. In this statement we focus solely on the posting of Tuesday 7th July at 5.03am.]

0. Feis statement

In 2005 over 200 Palestinian civil society, trade union, faith and artistic groups called for a comprehensive boycott, including a cultural boycott, of Israel and Israeli institutions until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian lands and abides fully by its commitments under international law. As supporters of this call based in Ireland, the IPSC welcomes the cancellation of the Israeli Feis as it represents the cancellation of an event that – consciously nor not – sought to ‘greenwash’ Israeli human rights abuses, war crimes and international law violations by bringing international cultural figures to Israel.

However, it is important to clarify from the outset that the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign – in accordance with the Palestinian guidelines for the Cultural Boycott of Israel – never sought the cancellation of the Feis. Instead we sought to encourage Irish people who had planned on attending the competition – including the advertised adjudicators Seamus and Ainé Ó Sé – to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and Apartheid. Separately, we pleaded with An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG; The Irish Dancing Commission), as an organisation which receives money from the Irish taxpayer via Conradh Na Gaeilge, to withdraw its endorsement, promotion and support for the event taking place under its auspices.

In other words, if Israelis in Israel want to host and partake in an Irish dancing competition – or any other cultural activity – this does not fall within the guidelines for the cultural boycott. An event only becomes subject to a call for a cultural boycott when international artists, cultural figures or institutions are asked to take, or listed as taking, part. This was very much the case with the Israeli Feis which not only involved international (Irish) adjudicators, a musician from Birmingham in England (who subsequently withdrew from the event), was endorsed and promoted by the CLRG and included an open call to Irish dancers from all over the world to attend. Thus it met the criteria to be focused on by principled human rights activists acting in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

That culture and the fight against oppression are inextricably linked is recognised by the more than 500 Irish creative and performing artists that have already signed up to the Irish Artists’ Pledge to Boycott Israel. These artists join a growing list of international artists like Roger Waters, Lauryn Hill, Ken Loach, Mira Nair, Nigel Kennedy, Cat Power and Elvis Costello who have refused to perform in Israel as an act of solidarity with the occupied and besieged Palestinian people. Famed anti-Apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu said last year that the conflict’s solution will “come from that nonviolent toolbox we developed in South Africa in the 1980s, to persuade the government of the necessity of altering its policies.  The reason these tools – boycott, sanctions and divestment – ultimately proved effective was because they had a critical mass of support”.

11. Bilin 3

The Carey Academy announcement states that their page “started to be attacked” – by which they presumably mean people were leaving comments in support of Palestinian human rights and the cultural boycott campaign – by a “radical political group” – by which they mean the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), an organisation that supports Palestinian human rights and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The post further states that the IPSC is “led by” Raymond Deane, Kevin Squires and Amanda Crawford. Ms. Crawford is a member of the Irish Palestinian Activists Collective, and not a member of the IPSC. Mr. Deane is a former Cultural Liaison Officer of the IPSC. Mr. Squires is a part-time employee of the IPSC.

The post insinuates that the IPSC – or these individuals – sent “threatening messages” to “teachers, parents and students”. Leaving aside the near impossibility, were one even so inclined, of finding contact details for teachers, parents and students which are presumably only in the hands of organisers, this is a completely defamatory statement. Neither the IPSC nor anyone officially associated with it sent a single threatening message to anyone. This statement smells of the usual lies and hasbara (Israeli propaganda) spewed forth when human rights activists are campaigning in favour of a cultural boycott.

We routinely hear of “threats” by the IPSC yet evidence has never been produced by any accuser to back up such defamatory claims. Indeed, it is not the first nor will it be the last time such lies are told about the IPSC. They are par for the course when campaigning against Israeli apartheid and for Palestinian human rights. If such an incident has occurred, it is of course important to state that IPSC neither advocates nor stands behind any violent act or violent threat made in the name of the BDS movement – nor does the international BDS movement itself – and that if anyone has genuinely made such statements or engaged in such actions they represent themselves only.

Yet, we are surely not alone in suspecting that having been taken to task by international human rights activists and realising the increasing indefensibility of their position and having their name and reputation associated with Israeli apartheid, The Carey Academy decided to pull the plug on the event, but sought to insinuate that non-existent threats of violence were the rationale.

Meanwhile, very real threats and racist comments have already started appearing in the IPSC mailbox and on our social media pages.

fysmont

For the record, it is important to chronicle just what actions the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign took during the course of this short campaign.

On 17th June we wrote privately to Aine and Seamus Ó Sé and asked them not to take part in the Feis. We received no response to this letter. We subsequently wrote again to Seamus Ó Sé – this time via email – when we had been made aware by a third party that Mr. Ó Sé was circulating false statements about the IPSC. In this letter we informed him that as “you have indicated in the email to Ms. Ni Bhriain (though, it must be pointed out, not to us) that nothing will change your mind on this issue it seems there is little point in continuing a dialogue with you and your partner as individuals who have chosen to break the boycott. It is heartbreaking that you would choose to ignore the calls from Palestinian civil society, from Palestinian dancers, musicians, singers, artists, writers, musicians, poets, human rights activists and everyday people not to help whitewash their oppression by the Israeli state, but ultimately the choice is yours alone to make.” Once again, we received no response to this email.

On 18th June we wrote privately to the CLRG and asked them to cease their endorsement, promotion and support for the Israeli Feis. We received no response to this letter.

On 19th June the IPSC was contacted by Colin Coyle of the Sunday Times, who was of the belief that the “social media campaign” was being organised by the IPSC. Mr Coyle was told that it wasnot an IPSC campaign, but that the petition was set up by the Irish Palestinian Activists Collective. The IPSC subsequently sent a statement to the Sunday Times, but despite this the printed article claimed the social media campaign was being organised by the IPSC. The journalist was immediately contacted and this erroneous statement was corrected in the online edition. A number of letters then appeared in the following week’s edition of that paper which named the IPSC. A right of reply was sought but, alas, not granted by the paper.

The same statement that was issued to the Sunday Times was also sent, upon request, to the website Irish Central and was quoted in full in this piece.

On 25th June, on behalf of the Israel citizens’ group Boycott From Within, we sent a letter to the CLRG calling on them to support the cultural boycott and posted the letter on our website at their request. To the best of our knowledge, BFW did not receive a response to their letter.

On 29th June we posted a statement that had been emailed to us from Jewish Voice for a Just Peace (Ireland) calling for a boycott of the Israeli Feis on our website.

Several times over the course of four weeks on our social media sites we shared the petition created by the Irish Palestinian Activists Collective and asked people to sign it, and on 6th July we shared their call for a Twitter Thunderclap. Finally, we shared images of Palestinians calling for a boycott of the event.

This is the sum total of the actions taken by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign during this campaign.

8. Lajee

To return to the Carey Academy statement, it claims that “unfortunately, there was a protest outside our dance studio. We do not want to risk the safety of anyone connected to the Carey Academy”. By this they mean the Carey Academy in Birmingham, England – not their Israeli branch. People have a right to peaceful protest and judging by the complete lack of any evidence to contrary it seems this protest was entirely peaceful in nature. With the growth of the global BDS movement over the past ten years, institutions that do business with Israel – whether financial, cultural or otherwise – should expect protests from people concerned at these associations. This is what happens in democratic societies. The outrageous insinuation that dancers, or anyone else associated with the Academy, were ever in physical danger is simply a barefaced lie.

However, this protest in Birmingham was not organised by the IPSC – as the Carey Academy is located in England, it is outside of our ‘jurisdiction’. For the IPSC to organise a protest in England would be akin to our colleagues in the British PSC organising an action in Cork. Indeed, as the Carey Academy is based and located in England, we never saw it as our role to focus on their involvement with the Feis, preferring to leave that to local activists – we focus on trying to convince Irish cultural figures to join the more than five hundred of their peers in respecting the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

Further, the Carey Academy states that “age, nationality or religious beliefs do not matter to us, Irish Dancing has no boundaries and brings people together.” This seemingly liberal and worthy statement elides at least one very major fact – Israel is a racist state that operates a racist entry law. Therefore any event that takes place in Israel automatically excludes millions of Palestinian refugee families who are denied their UN-mandated right of return to the homes they were expelled from in 1948 and 1967. Israeli also operates a severely restrictive entry regime for Palestinians from the territories it has occupied since 1967. This reality exists alongside the ‘Law of Return’ under which anyone of Jewish ancestry anywhere in the world can claim Israeli citizenship. The Israeli state openly discriminates on the basis of “nationality [and] religious beliefs”, therefore any event held in that state will also be discriminatory on the same basis.

It is worth looking also at a previous statement made by the Carey Academy on June 19th that said “Running a feis in Israel does not mean we support or are involved with the Israeli government [… ] Why should we starve these people of their enjoyment of Irish dance just because they live in a country who’s politics we do not agree with?”

Yet, while it may be true that the Israeli government was not directly involved in the Feis, the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel is predicated on the fact that the Israel state routinely uses culture as a tool to normalise and whitewash its decades of human rights abuses, war crimes, occupation and apartheid policies.

As the Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in 2005, for Israel “culture is a propaganda tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.” Another Israeli foreign office official, Arye Mekel, remarked that culture was way of “show[ing] Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war” and occupation.

Israel is a frequent and flagrant violator of international law and human rights norms, and regularly commits war crimes. Just last year in a brutal assault on Gaza, Israel killed over 2,200 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, including more than 500 children. In a human rights report following this attack, Defence for Children International said that it “found overwhelming and repeated evidence of international humanitarian law violations committed by Israeli forces. These included direct attacks on children, and indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian homes [and] schools”.

Therefore, whatever the intentions of the organisers, or those who were willing to take part, they were in effect providing cultural cover for the Israeli state’s horrendous treatment of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, the Israeli Embassy in Ireland mentioned the Feis, and even posted some of the anti-Palestinian, anti-BDS letters that appeared in the Sunday Times on its Facebook and Twitter pages. One post was subsequently shared by the ‘1st Israeli Feis’ event page, operated by the Carey Academy – certainly strange behaviour for an organisation that insinuates its own opposition to the actions of the Israeli government as it did on 19th June.

Finally, as part of the Feis, the Carey Academy were offering participants “a bus tour to some incredible place in Israel … will be chosen according to your votes”. The very first option is a tour of “Jerusalem (Old City)” and the second is “A Tour of Three Religions in Jerusalem”. Of course the Old City of Jerusalem is in illegally annexed Israeli-occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, and no “three religions” tour would be possible without visiting the Old City. Thus, we see the Carey Academy, whether wittingly or unwittingly it does not matter, reinforcing the Israeli state narrative of East Jerusalem being part of Israel, when no country in the world (other than Israel) recognises it as such.

ENDS

Exposed – Israel lobby’s threat to artistic and academic freedom

Letters in today’s Guardian (April 6) highlight the growing threat to artistic and academic freedom by pro-Israel lobbyists seeking to criminalise criticism of the Zionist state.

Playwright Caryl Churchill, a leading signatory of the UK Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, noted the alarming conjunction of a threat to funding of arts institutions that decline Israeli state links and cancellation of an academic conference planned for April 17-19 at the University of Southampton after Zionist pressure.

The organisers have launched a legal challenge to the decision to cancel. See lower down this post for a message from Southampton Students for Palestine explaining the campaign to raise funds to support the challenge.

“All Charlie Hebdo?” wrote Churchill, alluding to the collective outpouring of official outrage at the murder of cartoonists in France in January. “Except when freedom of expression means freedom to criticise Israel.”

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid’s comments on Israeli sponsorship ‘breached the principle of an arms-length relationship between the government and the arts’, writes playwright Caryl Churchill. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Another letter, from Professors Hilary and Steven Rose, prominent proponents of the academic boycott, said the university had “shamefully capitulated to pressure from the pro-Israel lobby”, as evidenced by the statement issued by the university authorities.

The university had initially listened to the hundreds of academics who rallied in support of the conference despite a barrage of attacks from a roll-call of Tories and Israel lobbyists, among them Communities Minister Eric Pickles, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation.  Pickles & Co alleged that the conference was a one-sided antisemitic rant against Israel’s “right to exist” and threatened demonstrations and disruption if it went ahead. This seems to have been what forced vice-chancellor Prof Don Nutbeam to announce the cancellation on unconvincing “health and safety” grounds.

A letter the Guardian declined to publish,  submitted by Tony Greenstein on behalf of J-BIG (full text at the bottom of this post) contrasted this cowardice with the fate of Danish film director, Finn Noergaard, killed at a cafe in Copenhagen in February while defending the right to debate freedom of speech.

The organisers of the three-day Southampton conference, titled International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism, had assembled an array of expert participants from around Europe, North America and the Middle East, including many Jews.   If the conference programme lacked representation from Israel’s friends, it is because invitations issued by the organisers to defenders of Zionism were rejected by the recipients.

As explained by Prof Haim Bresheeth on the website of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP),  Israel and its apologists are resorting to all possible means to prevent the issues addressed by the conference being aired.

One of the conference organisers,  engineering professor Suleiman Sharkh, a Palestinian from Gaza, explained its importance.

“International law was responsible for our misery. It was used to legalize the theft of our homes and it continues to be used to legalize the ongoing oppression of my people by the State of Israel. The questions asked by the conference are therefore questions that I have been asking all my life. They are important questions that need to be answered.”

 

Information from Southampton Students for Palestine.
Subject: Conference donations: update & important information
Q1: What is the final university decision in relation to the conference? 
The university’s initial decision to withdraw its consent was appealed by the organisers but the internal appeal was rejected by the Vice Chancellor and the withdrawal of consent was confirmed. University’s public statement: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/statements.page#.VRxbTkFmtTw.twitter
Q2: Are you collecting donations now or shall we wait further notice?
Donations are being collected now. Please see information on donations below.
Q3: Does this mean that you are proceeding with legal action?
Yes. Legal action has been initiated today. Please see official organisers’ statement attached hereby. Also see: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17842-academics-pursue-judicial-review-over-cancelled-israel-conference
Q4: Why are we making donations to Student Palestine Solidarity/Students for Palestine? 
You are not making donations to these organisations. They are only carriers of the funds to help facilitate payment since we are not using any personal accounts to collect donations.
* Information on donations*
Many thanks to those who have already sent their donations and sent me a confirmation email in that regard, I can confirm that they have been received.
If you are yet to donate, please find bank/paypal details below. Kindly consider a bank transfer as a first option (if possible) since paypal are deducting a fee on each incoming transaction. If a bank transfer is not possible then please feel free to make your donation via paypal. 
UK bank transfer:
Account name: Students for Palestine Southampton
Account number: 26617360
Sort Code: 30-90-34
 
International bank transfer:
Bank: LLoyds Bank
IBAN (for International Transfers Only): GB84 LOYD 3090 3426 6173 60
BIC (for International Transfers Only): LOYDGB21148
Paypal: 

J-BIG LETTER SUBMITTED TO THE GUARDIAN

The decision of Southampton University to cancel a Conference on Israel and the State of Israel [University event questioning Israel’s right to exist is cancelled, Guardian 31st March] is a disgraceful surrender to powerful bullies.  Zionist groups have a long track record of trying to ban anything they disagree with, given their inability to defend the indefensible.  The normal response is to stand up to them.

It was less than three months ago that four million people and world leaders marched in France in support of freedom of speech, in the wake of the murder of the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.  Amongst them was David Cameron.  If Cameron was sincere he would sack Eric Pickles MP from his government for having lent his support to the call to ban an academic conference.

The use of health and safety as the pretext to cancel the conference is absurd and illogical.  Is it really being suggested that Southampton University was incapable of protecting those attending the conference?  The Police were quite confident they could deal with any threats.

Southampton’s charter includes a commitment to secure academic freedom. With this decision it has been shown to be worthless.

It was barely a month ago that Danish film director, Finn Noergaard, was killed [while defending the right to] debate [on] freedom of speech.  The actions of Southampton University’s Vice Chancellor Don Nutbeam and the university administration in failing to uphold the basic norms of a democratic society are an act of abject cowardice.  If they have any integrity left they should collectively resign.

Yours faithfully

Professor Haim Bresheeth

Mike Cushman

Deborah Fink

Tony Greenstein

Professor (Emeritus) Moshe Machover

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

(Dr) Les Levidow

Roland Rance

 

HUNDREDS OF UK ARTISTS PLEDGE: ‘We won’t work with Israeli institutions’

Print  

700 UK artist announced on Friday (Feb 13) their pledge not to accept professional invitations to Israel as long as the state continues to deny basic Palestinian rights.

 

Among those who have signed the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, from diverse artistic and cultural backgrounds including many Jews, are:

 

– Writers Tariq Ali, William Dalrymple, Aminatta Forna, Bonnie Greer, Mark Haddon, Hari Kunzru, Liz Lochhead, Jimmy McGovern, China Mieville, Andrew O’Hagan, Laurie Penny, Michael Rosen, Gillian Slovo, Ahdaf Soueif, Marina Warner, Benjamin Zephaniah

– Film directors Mike Hodges, Asif Kapadia, Peter Kosminsky, Mike Leigh, Phyllida Lloyd, Ken Loach, Roger Michell, Michael Radford, Julien Temple

– Comedians Jeremy Hardy, Alexei Sayle, Mark Thomas

– Musicians Richard Ashcroft, Jarvis Cocker, Brian Eno, Kate Tempest, Roger Waters, Robert Wyatt

– Actors Rizwan Ahmed, Anna Carteret, David Calder, Simon McBurney, Miriam Margolyes

– Theatre writers/directors Caryl Churchill, David Edgar, Dominic Cooke CBE, Sir Jonathan Miller, Mark Ravenhill

– Visual Arts Phyllida Barlow, John Berger, Jeremy Deller, Mona Hatoum

– Architects Peter Ahrends, Will Alsop.

 

The full text of the pledge reads:

 

We support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. In response to the call from Palestinian artists and cultural workers for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.

 

Former English PEN president, writer Gillian Slovo, said in a statement on the Artists for Palestine UK website, ‘As a South African I witnessed the way the cultural boycott of South Africa helped apply pressure on the apartheid government and its supporters. This Artists’ Pledge for Palestine has drawn lessons from that boycott to produce an even more nuanced, non-violent way for us to call for change and for justice for all.’

 

More than one hundred of the pledge signers gave their reasons for signing in an open letter to British artists published in the Guardian. It said Palestinians remained under relentless attack since the war on Gaza last summer. The letter continued:

 

‘Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too. Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers. Its own theatre companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank – and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of “Brand Israel”.’

 

It recalled that musicians opposing apartheid in South Africa pledged not to ‘play Sun City’ – Johannesburg’s playground for the rich. In that tradition, today’s pledge signers are undertaking not to collaborate with Israeli state-funded institutions to ‘play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run master-classes or workshops,’ until Israel ends its apartheid policies towards the Palestinians.

 

The letter invited all those working in the arts in Britain to add their names to the pledge. There is a sign-up form  here.

 

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK), which organised the pledge, said artists were incensed that speaking out for Palestine regularly attracted smear campaigns by pro-Israel lobbyists.

Theatre director Hilary Westlake, a member of the organising collective, said APUK’s message to British artists is: ‘You are not alone. Together we can defend our right to decide whose patronage we accept, despite groundless accusations of antisemitism and threats of financial and reputational ruin.’

 

http://artistsforpalestine.org.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtistsforPalestineUK

Twitter: @Art4PalestineUK

Dozens of signatories have written statements which can be found here). Here is a small selection.

 

  • Nobody questions [Israel’s] right to exist, but, sadly, to support Israel’s cultural institutions now is to support hypocrisy, film director Mike Leigh (honoured with a BAFTA Fellowship award last week).

 

  • I have signed up for a cultural boycott of Israel … Signing in support of the Israeli Cultural Boycott is more of a signing of support for Palestinian Artists … a positive rather than a negative.Phyllida Barlow, visual artist

 

  • I signed because I am a human being. All forms of art change people by opening their eyes to humanity in all its suffering and its beauty. I feel it is incumbent on Israel to treat Palestine and its people justly before it can seek to be a patron of the arts overseas. Hanan Al-Shaykh, writer

 

  • As an artist I wish to pursue a moral journey through life and the right and wrongs here are very clear to me. A suffering group has asked for my support; it cannot be withheld. Miriam Margolyes, actor

 

  • So what does it achieve? It sends a message: ‘We will not perform in Israel since we believe that by performing there we will be endorsing the status quo. We don’t support it and we won’t be part of it.’ Brian Eno, composer

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) exposes Israel’s use of culture as a smokescreen for its violence against Palestinians and its simultaneous attempts to shut down criticism with accusations of antisemitism.

 

 

‘Support for the Pledge grew in response to a smear campaign mobilised by supporters of Israel against the Tricycle theatre in northwest London during Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer’ said theatre director Hilary Westlake, a member of the APUK organising collective.

Tricycle had been vilified as ‘antisemitic’ for asking the UK Jewish Film Festival it has hosted for eight consecutive years to forego Israeli embassy funding.

‘For every one of us who has made a stand for justice by signing the pledge, there are many more musicians, actors, writers, directors, visual artists, architects who are fearful of the slander, bullying and threats they may face if they follow suit,’ Westlake said.

‘APUK’s message is: you are not alone. Together we can defend our right to decide whose patronage we accept, even against groundless accusations of antisemitism and threats of financial and reputational ruin.’

A full list of Pledge signatories, alphabetically and by art form, is available here.

 

BDS PROTESTERS VINDICATED AS ELBIT DRONE MAKERS’ CASE COLLAPSES

The prosecution of 9 activists who occupied a UK Elbit factory that makes drone engines has collapsed after Elbit refused to give evidence about the legality of its activities in court.
elbit protest
The story about the collapse of the case from the UK’s Independent newspaper is below and the group’s press release is here: http://londonpalestineaction.tumblr.com/post/109598110614/israeli-arms-company-and-uk-government-running.
Michael Deas, representing the Palestinian BDS National Commmittee  in the UK, said massive support for the protesters had demonstrated how much energy there is for campaigning around Elbit and the demand for a military embargo on Israel.
Outcry as prosecution service drops trial of anti-drone protesters at last minute
 
The prosecution of arms-trade protesters who occupied a British drone engines manufacturer has been dropped at the last minute, after the company refused to hand over evidence about its exports of weaponry to Israel, The Independent can reveal.
The nine demonstrators had been due to go on trial next month for aggravated trespass after they halted production during a sit-in at the Staffordshire factory of UAV Engines Ltd, a subsidiary of the Israeli defence giant Elbit Systems – one of the largest manufacturer of military drones.
The activists were arrested after they targeted the company at the height of last summer’s assault by Israel on Gaza, to highlight claims that British-made weaponry was being used by Israeli forces.
But charges against them were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service last week, just hours before a deadline expired to provide the defendants with details of arms export licences granted to UEL to send its hi-tech engines to Israel for use in the Hermes 450 – a drone widely deployed by the Israeli military. Although the drone was used in the Gaza campaign, UEL has insisted the version used by Israel’s armed forces is not powered by its engines.
The CPS told The Independent it had been forced to discontinue the case after it was informed that two witnesses from the company were no longer prepared to give evidence, and that documentation – understood to be the arms export data – would not be forthcoming.
“We deemed that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction,” the CPS said.
Lawyers for the protesters criticised the failure to obtain the export data, saying the information would have cast crucial light on whether weaponry produced in the UK was deployed by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in Operation Protective Edge – the assault on Gaza which cost more than 2,000 Palestinian and 73 Israeli lives.
The protesters from London Palestine Action had been granted permission by a district judge to obtain disclosure from the CPS of “any and all” material held by public bodies, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), about export licences granted to UEL and Elbit Systems since 2003. It is understood that the CPS itself made no effort to obtain the data from the Whitehall department.
Mike Schwarz, a partner with law firm Bindmans, said: “The information would have shed light on the links between UK arms companies and Israel’s assault on Gaza. With no court date, there’s no public scrutiny. Indeed, that seems to be what the affected business desperately wants and the Government is more than content to let happen.”
Britain’s lucrative defence trade with Israel has proved controversial for the Coalition. The refusal of the Government to suspend 12 export licences last summer led to the resignation of the Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi.
UEL did not respond to requests to comment. BIS said none of the export licences granted to UEL were for use in Israeli military drones but it confirmed that licences had been granted to an unnamed supplier for engines used in IDF drones as recently as 2010.

 

Reasons to be wary of Holocaust commemoration

“We have become very good at remembering. . . . . It’s acting on the remembrance that defeats us.”

So says the ever-thoughtful Robert Cohen in his blog Micah’s Paradigm Shift.  Here follow his meditations on the manner in which horrific events have been “used, abused and politicised”

Auschwitz revisited

In the week we have been commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz I have been trying to understand why I am so weary and wary of the Holocaust. Despite the undoubted emotional pull of the survivors’ testimonies, is there any lasting meaning be found in the ashes at Auschwitz? Should it even be looked for?

I didn’t always feel this way.

We recently moved house and a few weeks ago my older son and I were unpacking boxes of books and finding new homes for them. I noticed just how much reading I had done on the subject of the Holocaust, mostly more than twenty years ago.

I had straight histories like ‘The War Against the Jews’ by Lucy Dawidowicz and ‘Holocaust’ by Martin Gilbert. I’d read ‘Last Waltz in Vienna’ by George Clare, Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’, ‘Europa, Europa’ by Solomon Perel and Primo Levi’s ‘If This is a Man’, and ‘The Drowned and the Saved’. There were Art Spiegelman’s graphic novels ‘Maus’, where Nazis and Jews become cats and mice. Ghetto accounts such as ‘A Cup of Tears’ by Abraham Lewin and Marek Edelman’s ‘The Ghetto Fights’. I remembered being completely absorbed by Theo Richmond’s detailed account of the destruction of one tiny shtetl village ‘Konin’. I had the complete transcript of Claude Lanzmann’s epic documentary Shoah. Hannah Arendt’s account of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in the 1950s. And of course, Anne Frank’s diary, the fully annotated critical edition.

My reading had been a search for meaning – historical, political and theological. I had been trying to make sense of something I knew was shaping my adult Jewish identity.

Last weekend I visited my 88 year old father and asked him to recall for me the visit he made to Auschwitz in the late 1960s while on a business trip to Poland. Perhaps his account could restore my faith in the possibility of finding a purpose in the week’s commemorations beyond honouring the memory of the dead.

My father’s visit to the death camp took place in a very different world from today. For the first two decades after the war the mood had been for moving on, for forgetting not remembering. The Holocaust was very far from being the defining event of the Second World War it has now become.

While he was on his trip, my father and three work colleagues found themselves with time on their hands when a public holiday was announced to coincide with a Soviet Russian State visit. Their local client, the factory manager of a smelt works in Katowice, suggested they visited Auschwitz, which he explained now ran as a museum.

Although my father was familiar with the name Auschwitz, he told me his knowledge of the how the Nazi’s had implemented their killing was vague and sketchy at the time of his visit to Poland. Two of his colleagues had served in the army during the war but their understanding was even less than my father’s. So the four British businessmen hired a driver and set off for the day with little or no expectation of what they were about to see.

They reached Auschwitz less than an hour after leaving Katowice and found the camp/museum almost deserted despite the public holiday. In fact, my father and his colleagues seemed to be the only visitors there and were rewarded with a personal tour by one of the senior officials.

They were taken to long wooden huts sectioned off into large glass fronted display cases. Inside the first display were bails of material that my father could not identify. “What is this?” He asked. “Human hair” came the reply, “shaved from the heads of those about to be exterminated.” Nothing went to waste, it was explained, “The hair could be weaved into cloth and used for insulation”. Next came a display of walking sticks and crutches neatly stacked in huge piles. Then shoes, all sizes, suitcases still with name and home address labels attached, spectacles and false teeth. Apparently, it all had revenue potential for the Third Reich.

After three hours of the tour my father was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the attitude of their guide. “He was more interested in the Nazis’ attention to detail, administrative diligence and mechanical ingenuity than in the morality of what had taken place there.” Finally, they were taken to see the furnaces that burned day and night, fueled by human corpses.

But what had been new and revelatory to my father nearly fifty years ago has become burdensome and problematic to me. When I look at all the books on my shelves relating to just 12 years out of three thousand years of Jewish history, I have no desire to revisit them or even flick through the pages.

As a student I had thought there were lessons to be learnt and meaning to be divined from what had happened. But now it feels as if the event has been used, abused and politicised, and, from a moral perspective, largely ignored.

As time has passed I have become increasingly pessimistic about our ability to take something meaningful and positive from the horror that is now summed up by the single word ‘Auschwitz’.

Some, especially the remaining survivors, see denial and forgetfulness of the Holocaust as the biggest concern we should have. But I think these are the least of our Holocaust problems.

Holocaust denial will remain a fringe issue. The documentation is secure in its veracity and overwhelming in its volume. If anything, today’s school children are in danger of thinking that Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin went to war against Hitler because of what was happening to the Jews.

And we have become very good at remembering. We do it with great care and respect and afford enormous dignity to the survivors and their testimonies. This week’s marking of the Russian army’s liberation of Auschwitz proved this once again. So, we remember with no difficulty. It’s acting on the remembrance that defeats us.

Since the end of the Second World War we have had Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. All of which suggest that despite the creation of so much international law on human rights and genocide, humankind has not progressed an iota as a result of Auschwitz.

I can now see that my own long-term reaction to the Holocaust has led me not to focus on anti-Semitism and Jewish security (although neither can be ignored) but on the values and teaching that I see as central to Judaism. Justice, Compassion, Humility, individual and collective Responsibility. These are not new lessons but very old ones. As a Jew, I choose to apply these to our relationship with the Palestinian people because this is the issue on which we must judge ourselves. In the 21st century this is ‘the Jewish question’.

While a growing number of Jews both in Israel and around the world share this perspective, it is still a minority opinion.

When it comes to the Palestinian people, the Holocaust has hardened our hearts and closed our minds. The scale of our own suffering has made us blind to their suffering – which we see as all of their own making.

Perhaps this was inevitable. Why should a people abused and broken become saints? The opposite result is more often the outcome. I am asking for too much. Expecting something that no group is capable of.

And so I have become both weary and wary of trying to take meaning or lessons from the Holocaust. Yes we must continue to teach it as an appalling stain on humanity. And an exercise in empathy is never wasted. But we must not expect it to unlock the human heart.

Maybe all we have are the stories of bureaucratised murder, random survival, and unexpected acts of kindness that Primo Levi called ‘Moments of Reprieve’.

My father and his colleagues had planned to eat a meal together that night back at the hotel in Katowice. But after the visit nobody was hungry.

On the return journey my father asked their driver if he had known about the camp during the war. “Oh, yes”, he replied. “We knew something was happening. We could smell it.” My father asked him whether anyone at the time felt they could do anything about it? The driver replied “Yes, we would wind up the windows tight, so we couldn’t smell the stink”.

See also: A Letter to Anne Frank

CHARLIE HEBDO AFTERMATH MUST NOT STIFLE RIGHT TO PURSUE BDS

The murders of journalists at Charlie Hebdo magazine, and of shoppers at a kosher supermarket in Paris, by three young French jihadis who were themselves shot dead by French police, have generated thousands of column inches and endless hours of air time full of confused and confusing rhetoric about the killings and the reaction to them.

The dominant narrative has been one of self-congratulation on the part of the predominantly Christian West. Rallying in thousands, claiming freedom of expression as the marker of democracy and civilisation, “we” cast anyone who dares take offence when targeted with racist lampoonery as  irredeemably at odds with “our values”.

“They” represent  the barbarian intolerance of the Islamic world and this entitles “us” to take a good principle and pervert it, self-righteously insisting on a spurious right to insult millions of powerless people.

We, made fearful of seemingly irrational terror in our midst, will accept growing limitations on our freedoms in the name of security.

Never mind the countries our war-mongering governments have devastated, the dictators we have foisted upon them, the penury and hopelessness imposed upon migrants who try to make better lives for themselves in France, the Netherlands or the UK.

And, it goes without saying, never mind our governments’ support for Israel in its endless persecution of the Palestinians.

Step forward Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu, beaming at the front of the crowd in the huge Paris “Je Suis Charlie” march, determined to milk the criminal killing of four Jews as a political opportunity. His cynicism in exploiting those tragic deaths to call on French Jews to flee to alleged safety in Israel, alongside his attempt to present his racist, far-right government as a defender of free speech, is jaw-droppingly obscene.

Equally abhorent is the ongoing campaign by a group in the UK calling itself the Campaign Against Antisemitism and claiming support from all the country’s leading Jewish community organisations. Set up  last summer to counter rising criticism of Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza, its first triumphant success was bullying the Tricycle theatre into withdrawing its objection to Israeli Embassy funding of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

Now this outfit is peddling a scare-mongering report based on its own highly dubious poll, claiming that 77 percent of British Jews “have witnessed antisemitism disguised as a political comment about Israel”, that 82 percent believe antisemitism is fuelled by biased coverage of Israel and 84 percent “find boycotts of Israeli businesses intimidatory.”

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research has questioned the poll’s methodology, but the CAA is urging supporters to use its “statistics” when contacting the press or  local police about planned boycott protests. They are working with the UK government to implement “zero tolerance law enforcement” on what they consider to be hate speech or antisemitic actions. They allege that protesters against Israeli slaughter in Gaza or groups organising supermarket boycotts “regurgitate ancient antisemitic prejudice”.

In other words, anyone wanting to speak or protest on behalf of Palestine will have to defend their right to freedom of expression against coordinated legal and political attacks from Israel’s apologists.

There is a bitter irony here. The pro-Israeli lobby attempts to take up a position within the narrative of countering terror and defending freedom of speech, while claiming an exceptional right for Jews to limit the freedom of others to protest at the violent actions of the state it supports. Claiming the right for Jews to censor what others say about Israel is hardly the way to combat antisemitism.

On the contrary, the lesson we should draw from France is that Jews need to be part of a united struggle against all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Jewish racism when it rears its head.

As Tony Greenstein says on his blog:

“There will always be a few people who are taken in by the proclamation of Jewish communal bodies, such as the British Board of Deputies of Jews, that British Jews stand with Israel in its attacks on Palestinians.  Such people are, wittingly or otherwise, fostering anti-Semitism.  Our  job is to break the connection.”

RIBA CAPITULATES TO ISRAEL LOBBY ON ARCHITECTS’ BOYCOTT DECISION

Abe Hayeem chairs Architects and Planners for Justice for Palestinians

Abe Hayeem 

Abe Hayeem, chair of Architects and Planners for Justice in  Palestine, has summed up the U-turn performed by the Royal Institute of British Architects, reversing its principled boycott decision earlier this year to urge suspension of the Israeli association from the architects’ international body:

There we have it. It speaks for itself. The RIBA has gone even beyond merely reversing the Council motion. It has obsequiously declared that they got it wrong. This is not only a capitulation to the Israel lobby, it is a spit in the eye for professional ethics and brings the whole institute into disrepute. 

We will not let this stand.

Here is the Jewish Chronicle’s jubilant report of a shameful climb-down.

Riba president Stephen Hodder (Photo: Jamesfranklingresham)

Riba president Stephen Hodder (Photo: Jamesfranklingresham)

Riba u-turn over Israel boycott: ‘We got it wrong’

By Marcus Dysch, December 4, 2014

Riba president Stephen Hodder (Photo: Jamesfranklingresha m)
British architects have reversed their call for Israeli counterparts to be suspended from an international union.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) confirmed the u-turn today when its council adopted a new policy on international affairs.
The move rescinded a motion which had been passed in March calling for Israelis to be barred from the International Union of Architects (UIA) in response to concerns about Palestinian human rights and Israeli settlement building.
Riba changed its stance after lawyers warned that such a policy was outside its charitable remit and could lead to Charity Committee censure.
The boycott is understood to have cost the institute more than £100,000 after Jewish supporters and groups pulled out of bookings to use its prestigious central London headquarters for batmitzvahs and other celebrations.
Riba president Stephen Hodder admitted: “We got it wrong.”
But he declined to apologise formally for the upset caused to British Jews.
Mr Hodder said: “For the Institute to have engaged in this issue in a confrontational way – by seeking suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects from the UIA – was wrong.”
The institute accepted that the reputational damage caused by the affair would take years to recover from, but said it wanted to take positive steps to engage in foreign affairs.
A Riba delegation travelled to Israel two months ago in an attempt to rebuild bridges with architects in the country. International division chair Peter Oborn said he had been warmly received on the trip.
The boycott motion had proved hugely controversial, with Jewish and pro-Israel architects around the world criticising the decision.