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Jews we can be proud of – Rabbi Lerner celebrates Mohammad Ali, UK Jews defend Labour Party against antisemitism charges

On June 10, two dramatically different settings saw progressive Jews demonstrating their adherence to universal human values of justice and compassion – a Rabbi standing up for Palestinian rights at Muhammad Ali’s memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky, and Jewish activists making the case for Palestinian solidarity in the UK Labour Party – under threat from allegations of antisemitism.

Members of the main Jewish groups  working for justice for Palestine combined forces with non-Jewish comrades to offer incontrovertible testimony to the Shami Chakrabarti inquiry  – the Labour Party is not rife with antisemitism; Zionism is a political ideology which must be open to question; it is not intrinsic to Judaism or Jewish identity; criticism of Israel, support for Palestinians and the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions are not forms of anti-Jewish racism; not all Jews are Zionists; not all Zionists are Jews! Read the submission from Free Speech on Israel – the Jewish-led network set up to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as antisemitic.

Free Speech on Israel also reported the oration by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, speaking for liberal and progressive Jews to huge applause (and reluctant clapping from Bill Clinton) from thousands of mourners for Mohammad Ali.

Lerner  said: “We know what is like to be demeaned and to have a few people who act against the highest visions of our tradition to then be identified as the value of the entire tradition which is why we… liberal and progressive Jews have called upon the United States to stand up to the part of the Israeli government that is oppressing Palestinians, that we as Jews recognise… that everyone is equally precious and that means Palestinians as well as all the other people on the planet.”

He also condemned the mass incarceration of African Americans by “racist police and racist judges.”

 

CHIEF RABBI CALLED OUT FOR MAKING ZIONISM ‘A RELIGION BEYOND QUESTION’

Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, ‘attacks the Labour party by launching a defence of Zionism which turns it from a political ideology (that can be supported or opposed) into a religion that is beyond question. We British Jews reject this categorically.’

This letter was submitted to the Guardian after a earlier version was rejected by the Daily Telegraph, despite multiple signatures including those of Mike Leigh, Michael Rosen and Miriam Margolyes. It is one of the first public initiatives of a new network supported by J-BIG and members of other pro-Palestinian Jewish organisations – Free Speech on Israel.)

Anti-Zionism does not equate to antisemitism

Guardian, 10 May 2016

In his Daily Telegraph article on which you report (Chief rabbi: Labour has severe problem with antisemitism, theguardian.com, 4 May), Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the antisemitism crisis engulfing Labour had “lifted the lid” on bigotry.

He joins in the sensationalist allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party, where the headlines’ decibel level is in inverse proportion to the evidence supporting them. Ignoring the more serious anti-Muslim racism in electoral politics, Rabbi Mirvis attacks the Labour party by launching a defence of Zionism which turns it from a political ideology (that can be supported or opposed) into a religion that is beyond question. We British Jews reject this categorically.

Mirvis attacks as “antisemitic” those who separate Judaism from Zionism. Yet most Jews who perished in the Holocaust were indifferent to Zionism and many opposed it. In the last municipal elections in Europe’s largest Jewish community, in Poland, just before the second world war, Poland’s Jews voted overwhelmingly for the secular, anti-Zionist, socialists of the Bund, while Zionist parties got derisory votes. Is Rabbi Mirvis recasting those victims of the Holocaust posthumously as enemies of Judaism and therefore as antisemites?
George Abendstern
Seymour Alexander
Julia Bard
Sue Bard
Graham Bash
Craig Berman
Rica Bird
Haim Bresheeth
Elizabeth Carola
Linda Clair
Jim Cohen
Norman Crane
Wendy Crane
Judith Cravitz
Mike Cushman
Ivor Dembina
Stephen Deutsch
Mark Elf
Thomas Eisner
Nancy Elan
Liz Elkind
Pia Feig
Deborah Fink
Kenny Fryde
Carolyn Gelenter
Claire Glasman
Sarah Glynn
David Gordon
Helen Gordon
May Gordon
Tony Greenstein
Jan Hardy
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Marion Hersh
Lorraine Huddle
Selma James
Riva Joffe
Michael Kalmanovitz
Roisin Kalmanovitz
Richard Kuper
Pam Laurance
Leah Levane
Mike Leigh
Rachel Lever
Rosalind Levy
Les Levidow
Susanne Levin
Barrie Levine
Sue Lieberman
Yosefa Loshitzky
Ruth London
Catherine Lyons
Moshe Machover
Henry Maitles
Beryl Maizels
Miriam Margolyes
Helen Marks
John McArdle
Martine Miel
Mica Nava
Diana Neslen
Esther Neslen
Susan Pashkoff
Juliet Peston
Roland Rance
Frances Rifkin
Leon Rosselson
Michael Rosen
David Rosenberg
Jonathan Rosenhead
Maureen Rothstein
Ian Saville
Alexei Sayle
Amanda Sebesteyn
Glyn Secker
Suzanne Senior
Roger Silverman
Vanessa Stilwell
Inbar Tamari
David Turner
Philip Wadler
Jackie Walker
Naomi Wayne
Sam Weinstein
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Ben Young
Aliya Yule

 

 

MIKE MARQUSEE – INTELLECT AS DAZZLING AS IT WAS UNIQUE

Mike Marqusee, author of “If I am not for myself” and other books, has died of cancer.

Mike was a principled comrade, a strong supporter of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, active on Palestine and Iraq and other issues, as well as a person of wide cultural interests. He was widely loved and respected.

A fitting obituary has appeared in the Guardian. It said:

Mike enjoyed an intellect as dazzling as it was unique. A true polymath, he made the most of a boundless curiosity and a powerful memory to educate himself, and others, about a kaleidoscope of topics: Renaissance art, cricket and empire, British labour politics, Indian history and culture, Zionism, the music of Andalucía and Tamil Nadu, the poetry and art of William Blake, the American civil rights movement, the films of John Ford, the songs of Bob Dylan. The list could go on and on.

His partner Liz Davies posted the following message on Mike’s Facebook page.

Mike Marqusee, my partner and our brother, died peacefully on 13 January 2015, aged 61.

He was an inspiration to all of us, and to those who met him, or knew him through his writing.

He had been ill with multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, since 2007. He received extraordinary care from the NHS, and, latterly, from St Joseph’s Hospice.

The funeral will take place in the week starting 19 January, and there will be a memorial event in a few months’ time. Details of both will be posted shortly.

Contributions can be made in Mike’s memory to Medical Aid for Palestinians (www.map-uk.org), a cause close to Mike’s heart, and/or to St Joseph’s Hospice (www.stjh.org.uk).

Liz Davies, Jeff Marqusee, Joanne Marqusee, Susan Marqusee and Ellen Marqusee.

 

HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR MAKES FINAL GESTURE OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINE

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network has published the tribute below to Holocaust survivor Dr Hajo Meyer,  a campaigner for justice for Palestinians and an inspiration to the boycott movement until his death on August 22.

Shortly before he died he led more than 350 survivors and descendants in issuing a widely-publicised denunciation of Israel’s assault on the people of Gaza.

Read a press release about the statement here.

Click here for the Independent’s coverage.

 
 hajo.jpg
Honoring Dr. Hajo Meyer
This past Friday August 22, 2014, Dr. Hajo Meyer, proud member of IJAN and long time anti-Zionist activist passed away. Hajo was unwavering in his conviction and passion that Never Again meant Never Again for Anyone and in his outrage that his experience in Auschwitz is misused by Israel and Zionism to justify the colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Dr. Meyer was born in 1924 in Bielefeld, Germany. When he was barred from attending school there after November 1938, he fled to the Netherlands, alone. In I944, after a year in the underground, he was caught and subsequently survived 10 months at Auschwitz.
Dr. Meyer dedicated himself to countering the Zionist manipulation of the Nazi genocide to justify the colonization of Palestine. He played a leading role on the Never Again for Anyone tour of Europe in 2010, and of the United States in 2011.
We will miss Hajo. His message will continue and grow stronger as he is joined by survivors of the Nazi genocide, the descendants of its victims and survivors and all people committed to justice. Our hearts go out to those who loved him.
The morning of his death, the following letter from survivors of the Nazi genocide and the descendants of survivors and victims, in response Elie Wiesel’s attempt to justify the attacks on Gaza, was published as in the NY Times. Hajo was the first to sign on.
Below is the ad listed in the New York Times. For the full list of signers, click here.

TRIBUTES TO VERONICA PLANTON, CAMPAIGNER FOR JUSTICE

veronica planton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veronica Planton

Born 1939, died 19 November 2013

FROM INMINDS.COM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nigel Kennedy silenced

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

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

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

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

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

EURO 2013 IN ISRAEL DRAWS PALESTINIAN, ISRAELI AND OPERATIC PROTESTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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