Category Archives: palestine

LABOUR JEWS ASSERT – THE PARTY DOES NOT HAVE A “PROBLEM WITH JEWS”

Jewish labour and trade union activists, members of a range of groups campaigning in solidarity with the people of Palestine, have produced a statement intended for use in the fightback against the witch hunt targeting the pro-Palestinian Left in the Labour Party. 

Labour movement and human rights organisations, including PSC branches, can use it to generate informed debate and send a message to the political establishment that we will not allow campaigners for justice for Palestine to be smeared with allegations of antisemitism.

As the Jewish Socialist Group has stated on its website:

“A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism. “                            

LABOUR DOES NOT HAVE A “PROBLEM WITH JEWS”

We are witnessing a wave of hysteria over claims that the Labour Party is rife with antisemitism and has a “problem with Jews.” We know this is not true. But there is indeed a problem.  It is a problem with people – Jewish and otherwise, inside and outside the party –  who wield antisemitism allegations as a stick to beat the Corbyn leadership, regardless of the damage caused.

Jeremy Corbyn and others have done their best to respond, rightly asserting their impeccable anti-racist credentials, treating specific allegations of antisemitism seriously, investigating them and taking appropriate measures. This is no more and no less than should happen with allegations of racism or discrimination of any kind.

But this has not satisfied those sections of the pro-Israel lobby orchestrating the attacks.

They have targeted Malia Bouattia, the first Muslim woman to be elected president of the National Union of Students, on the thinnest of pretexts and despite her consistently principled stance. Another victim has been Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) founder member and lifelong anti-racist Tony Greenstein, suspended from the Labour Party without even being informed of the charges against him. Now Naz Shah MP has been suspended on the basis of a few inappropriate social media posts which she evidently regrets – swiftly followed by Ken Livingstone because of his ill-chosen remarks in defending her.

Make no mistake – this campaign of vilification is intended to undermine Labour’s new leaders, because of their commendable record of supporting justice for Palestine. The wider aim is to crush support for the solidarity movement which is working to achieve for Palestinians basic rights that are endorsed by international legal bodies.

As Labour and Trade Union activists, we need to resist this witch hunt and assert the right to campaign in solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians.

We urge labour movement organisations to:

 – Reiterate our strong commitment to combating all forms of racism and to defending those who are subjected to it. We actively oppose Islamophobia, prejudice against migrants and racism against ethnic and religious minorities, including anti-Jewish racism.

 – Reject the suggestion that questioning the Zionist ideology of the Israeli state and its supporters – both Jews and non-Jews – entails antisemitic prejudice. On the contrary, campaigning to end the injustices inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people is in the very best traditions of the British Labour movement.

– Urge the Labour Party establishment to

  • listen to the many Jews who are outraged by the lie that Jews are not safe in the Labour Party;
  • cease victimising those who work for justice for Palestine;
  • adhere to fair practice and transparency when investigating charges against members;
  • call to order Labour Party members who bring the party into disrepute by spreading calumnies about widespread antisemitism in the party.

Antisemitism – The weapon of choice in the war on Labour’s Left

The last few months have seen the British establishment waging an hysterical witch hunt against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership and the pro-Palestinian movement. Their weapon of choice has been the charge that antisemitism – and support for terrorism – are rife on the Left, that Labour “has a problem with Jews,” that Jewish LP members are  frequently subjected to racist abuse and that the new Labour leadership has allowed intolerant Jew-haters to flood into the party.

The response from Corbyn’s team has been defensive and apologetic. They rightly assert their own anti-racist credentials, insist that antisemitism is a vile prejudice that is not permitted in the Labour Party and pledge to expel anyone found guilty of it. So far so good. But they have not hit back at the pro-Zionist lobby – Jewish and non-Jewish – which deliberately and maliciously seeks to associate Jew-hatred with criticism of Israel in the public mind. This feeble approach has to change.

Tony G

 J-BIG stalwart Tony Greenstein, Brighton-based socialist, anti-racist and anti-Zionist, has won an apology (they call it a “clarification”) from the Daily Telegraph for “implying” that he was an antisemite. Labour’s Compliance Unit has suspended him from membership without giving any reason, but apparently shared the information with the Telegraph. Tony explores the charges against him on his blog.

 

Jewish pro-Palestinian groups in London are currently working on a strategy to help stem the tide. Both at grass roots level and within the Labour hierarchy, there is a huge need for political education to communicate the following key points.

Genuine antisemitism exists and must be condemned, as we would any form of racism.

Zionists have worked so hard to damn any criticism of Israel as antisemitic, it’s tempting to reject such charges out of hand. But amidst the crazed pillorying of Corbyn’s team in the Mail Online, for example, there are some instances of actual expressions of racism against Jews by Labour supporters. These must be tackled with as much vigour as hatred of Blacks, migrants or Muslims – so comprehensively ignored by the pro-Israel lobby.

When the complainant is committed Zionist Louise Ellman MP, one can sympathise with Piers Corbyn (brother of Jeremy) who reportedly tweeted: “#Zionists cant cope with any-one supporting rights for #Palestine.” Never a truer word! But it gave ammunition for the Evening Standard to use in publicising charges from Labour’s conflicted candidate for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. From a Muslim family, with a record of supporting causes such as the campaign to release Shaker Amer from detention in Guantanamo, and having been supported by Corbyn and leftwing former Mayor Ken Livingstone in his campaign for the candidacy, Khan now says he wears “a badge of shame” about antisemitism in the party and the leadership needs to be “trained on what antisemitism is.”

cityam.com sadiq khan

Credit: cityam.com

Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate in next month’s vote for Mayor of London, has publicly taken the side of pro-Israel Tories in alleging antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party.

 

 

 

The Palestine solidarity movement has learned to its cost that it must be vigilant against antisemitism among its members. In a recent story in Haaretz about a defender of Holocaust deniers who has been  rejected by her local Labour Party, the paper referred to her as “the former secretary of the Camden branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.” Haaretz neglected to say that the person in question was dismissed from that position precisely because her views were incompatible with PSC’s anti-racist ethos.

Charges of antisemitism are very often designed to protect Israel from criticism, harm legitimate campaigns for Palestinian rights, especially Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party under his leadership

Jonathan Arkush of the Board of Deputies (BoD) of British Jews has been vocal in accusing Corbyn of tolerating antisemitism, referring to “a stream of clear cut cases of antisemitism in the Labour party, which can’t just be fobbed off as differences over Israel.”

The stream is actually more of a trickle of cases, many referring to events in the distant past and many being far from clear cut. Most cases have attitudes to Israel and Zionism at their heart.

The Mail Online piece mixes some apparently nasty instances of genuine antisemitism with the staging in York of Caryl Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children (“horrifically anti-Israel” according to the BoD), a Facebook post complaining that ‘leading Zionists’ were trying to take over a student Union and links with the website of Friends of Al-Aqsa – a respected part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

 

The increasingly high-profile, non-violent BDS campaign is a major priority for antisemitic branding by those determined to defend Israel. Jonathan Neumann of the so-called Jewish Human Rights Watch, writing in the Daily Telegraph in February, alleged that BDS is just a precursor to ISIS-style beheadings: “The anti-Semitic campaign to shun Israeli goods embodies the radicalism that threatens everyone .”

Then there is the oft-quoted example of the Oxford University Labour Club where co-chairman Alex Chalmers, who is not Jewish, resigned in February claiming that a ‘large proportion’ of the party’s undergraduate members have ‘some kind of problem with Jews’.

The most comprehensive statement of the club’s “problem with Jews” appeared after Chalmers resignation on the Twitter feed of the Oxford Jewish Society (JSoc).

Oxford JSoc antisemitism

If the statement is true, it does indicate there may have been some questionable behaviour and some ham-fisted attempts by pro-Palestine supporters to explain what they thought was, or was not, antisemitic. But the JSoc clearly doesn’t know what antisemitism is either, claiming that the word ‘Zio’ – frequently tossed around between Jewish anti-Zionist activists – belongs on neo-nazi websites and that Jenny Tonge – kicked off the Liberal Democrat front bench for expressing understanding for Palestinian militants – was expelled for antisemitism. This is a circular argument in which people conflating antisemitism with anti-Zionism denounce supporters of Palestine for having been previously denounced for antisemitism! It all goes back to Arkush’s “differences over Israel”.

There is substantial opposition among Jews to this cynical campaign. 

Jews are not an undifferentiated mass of pro-Israel supporters, nor have they ever been. Today they are certainly not united behind the witch-hunt again the pro-Palestinian Labour Left and the BDS movement.

Clear evidence for this appeared on the Guardian letters page after  Jonathan Freedland published a long piece retelling the story of a British Left riddled with anti-Jewish racism.

Leading Jewish pro-Palestine campaigners queued up to refute his allegations.

As one said: “…it is a betrayal of every Jew in history who fought for human rights and against oppression, and every Jew ever persecuted for being a Jew, to sling allegations of antisemitism every time anyone tries to stand up for Palestinian rights.”

Zionist beliefs are not the preserve of Jews alone.

There is a whole other story to tell about the origins of the Jewish Zionist movement in the second half of the 19th century, the attachment of many leading Christian intellectuals and politicians to the idea of Zionism and the relationship of both to antisemitism.

Today’s most vocal British Zionists include Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles and Business Secretary Sajid Javid. Not a Jew among them.

In the USA the most ardent supporters of Israel are to be found not among the Democrat-voting Jews of the East Coast but among the millions of evangelical Christians in the South who believe all Jews must gather in Zion to usher in the Second Coming of Christ.

See elsewhere on this website for a briefing about Zionism and Antisemitism.

There is treasure trove of valuable background information on the website of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

 

 

Jewish groups mobilise to say NO to Board of Deputies’ support for Israeli state violence

END THE KILLING, END THE OCCUPATION

Tomorrow, Tuesday October 13, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and other self-appointment “communal groups” plan to indulge in a shameful display of contempt for Palestinian lives by protesting outside the Palestinian Mission in West London. They display their blatant racism by hijacking the anti-racist hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, using #IsraeliLivesMatter to tout their demands for a Palestinian apology for recent attacks on Israelis. Meanwhile the toll of Palestinians killed and injured mounts, with no apology for the violence of the Israeli state and the settlers it defends. Four Israelis and 25 Palestinians have died over the past 12 days.

Three pro-justice Jewish groups have called an Emergency Counter Protest outside the Mission at 5 Galena Road, W6 0LT

Meet at 4.30pm  outside the Lyric Theatre, King Street, Hammersmith and will we walk in small groups to Galen Road.

Below is the text of a leaflet produced by J-BIG, the Jewish Socialist Group and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

END THE KILLING, END THE OCCUPATION

We are here today as Jews to say that the Board of Deputies of British Jews does NOT speak for us when they protest outside the Palestinian Mission. The Board has never truly represented the whole Jewish community and it certainly does not do so now, when it defends Israel and its belligerent occupation.

This occupation:

  • Walls Palestinians into ghettos, divides families and destroys family life
  • Denies both Christian and Muslim Palestinians the freedom to worship
  • Expropriates Palestinian land and water
  • Settles Jewish migrants from abroad on Palestinian lands
  • Demolishes Palestinian homes, destroys farms and olive groves
  • Imprisons Palestinian children and their political leaders after trials in kangaroo courts, or no trial at all
  • Kills Palestinians with impunity

The present government of Israel has made it quite clear it has no intention of giving up the lands they illegally occupy. They want territory not peace.

They continue to provoke Palestinians, making the throwing of stones by Palestinian children a lethal offence while protecting stone-throwing settlers and those who burn Palestinians alive in their homes. They protect the rampaging lynch mobs in Jerusalem who flood the streets with cries of ‘Death to the Arabs’.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews acts as Israel’s advocate, shamefully telling Palestinians that #IsraeliLivesMatter, while Palestinian lives are being snuffed out unnoticed by world leaders.

We demand instead that the Board take their protest to their friends in the Israeli Embassy and tell them that it is time to end the occupation.

This is the only option that will end this non-stop violence: violence that the Israeli state perpetrates daily and that only attracts international attention when the Palestinian people can take the oppression no longer and respond.

We believe that Jews are entitled to equality in whichever country we live. Thus we demand that the government of Israel treats all people living in the territories it controls with the same equality and dignity that Jews throughout the world have every right to expect.

Organised by: Jews for Justice for Palestinians (jfjfp.com), Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (jews4big.wordpress.com), Jewish Socialists’ Group (jewishsocialist.org.uk).

 

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’

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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.