Tag Archives: Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods

J-BIG – THE JEWS WHO BACK THE BOYCOTT – WRITE UP IN MORNING STAR

Today’s MORNING STAR (“The People’s Daily”) carried this feature about the foundation and work of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.

DEBORAH FINK and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi are co-founders of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-Big), a group which has scored major successes as progressive Jewish people respond to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The pair met through Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), founded in February 2002 in response to the second intifada.

Fink joined in July that year. Coming from a conservative, pro-Israel background, she found it reassuring to meet fellow Jews who were against Israel’s policy in Palestine.

She sees JfJfP as an important organisation.

“It shows the world that Israel does not represent all Jews, that it cannot count on all Jews for support,” she says.

“And to a certain extent it protects non-Jewish critics of Israeli policy from bogus charges of anti-semitism.”

Anti-semitism is often the accusation thrown at Israel’s critics, with the aim of intimidating them into silence.

Fink felt there needed to be a specifically Jewish voice supporting the campaign to boycott Israeli goods, so with Wimborne-Idrissi she founded J-Big in 2006.

They chose the tongue-in-cheek slogan “it’s kosher to boycott Israeli goods,” highlighting the fact that many Jews are involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, so it’s “kosher” to take part.

Wimborne-Idrissi comes from a left-wing Jewish household. Her father used to sell the Morning Star’s predecessor the Daily Worker, so solidarity with oppressed peoples is something she grew up with.

She discovered JfJfP in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.

A speaker at a Stop the War demo was speaking, as a Jew, for Palestinian rights. Wimborne-Idrissi signed up there and then.

She felt that JfJfP, while doing great work in the Jewish community, did not go as far as she and others wanted in the boycott campaign. A further step was needed.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had set up a Boycott Israeli Goods campaign and was showing an interest in getting a specifically Jewish voice involved.

Wimborne-Idrissi and Fink pulled together some like-minded people and set up J-Big. A founding statement was published, a banner sporting the “kosher” slogan produced and J-Big set about mobilising support.

Wimborne-Idrissi says it wasn’t long before the expected deluge of venomous accusations flooded in.

They were denounced as “self-hating Jews” and “traitors to the Jewish state of Israel.”

“We had no illusions that the campaign would bring the Israeli economy crashing down,” she says.

“Boycotting avocados and peppers grown on illegally occupied Palestinian land and then sold as Israeli would not bring the country’s economy to its knees, but the immorality of how and where these goods are produced is an important message to get across.”

J-Big became more interested in boycotting Israel at an institutional level — by, for example, boycotting cultural events such as when Israeli musicians come to Britain under the Israeli flag to perform here while Palestinian artists are suffering under the occupation.

Here Fink’s musical training — she’s a bachelor of music and a trained soprano — came to the fore.

Working with others in the BDS movement Fink debuted by interrupting the Jerusalem Quartet at the Wigmore Hall in 2010, singing a parody of Jerusalem, Holy City.

J-Big was involved when the campaign tackled a more high-profile target, encouraging as many as possible to join in the protests when the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra played the Royal Albert Hall in 2011.

There were many disruptions to the orchestra’s performance, the first of which involved 13 activists in a choir led by Fink.

Sue Blackwell, a prominent member of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine who had written the words to the Wigmore parody, wrote a new version of Ode to Joy as Ode to Boycott, including the words “Israel end your occupation, Palestine must now be free, ethnic cleansing and apartheid should belong to history.”

Protesters, who came from as far afield as Edinburgh and Brighton, were strategically seated around the auditorium and their interventions carefully timed.

During a quiet musical passage protesters in vacant choral seats stood up with cloth banners which together spelled Free Palestine.

The protesters were eventually escorted out of the hall, but the protest made global news.

Fink explains the controversial action by pointing to the way the orchestra operated as a cultural ambassador, making Israel appear civilised.

“As a musician I find it hard to disrupt beautiful music,” she says. “But basic human rights are more important.

“It’s not just about influencing the audience at a prom, but about influencing world opinion. You can’t do that by handing out a few leaflets.”

Wimborne-Idrissi adds that the protests were planned to disrupt the beauty of the music as little as possible.

The Bruch violin concerto was part of the programme, for instance. So “free Palestine!” would be shouted when the conductor was raising his baton at the start of a piece, but not once the violin had started playing.

The disruptions were done to be in keeping with the performance, turning it into a weapon for the Palestinians.

The concert was not aborted. It was the BBC that cut the broadcast — which had never happened before in the history of the proms.

It was an even more successful protest than the previous action at Wigmore Hall.

I suggested that what this party of 30 or more people had done that night at the Albert Hall was not so much to disrupt Beethoven, who featured, but to be true to his spirit.

Fink and Wimborne-Idrissi agree: “Beethoven was a revolutionary.”

Wimborne-Idrissi stresses that the global boycott movement, started by the Palestinians themselves, does not target individual Israelis — and certainly not Jews as Jews.

It targets institutions and aims for equality for Palestinians living in Israel, freedom for Palestinians living in the occupied territories and justice for Palestinian refugees, including the right of return for all those forced to flee their homes since the Nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948.

Together, these movements hope to win justice for Palestinians — something the UN has signally failed to achieve.

 

 

Jewish activists back call to Boycott Sodastream

Saturday September 28 marked a national day of action to highlight the scandal of high street stores marketing Sodastream – fizzy drink-making products for the home produced by an Israeli company operating out of an illegal settlement on Palestinian land. There were protests in many cities around the UK.

Ecostream 28.9.13 (17)

The Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods banner was prominent on the demonstration in Brighton where Sodastream is promoted by the Israeli-owned Ecostream shop.

The green and gold Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods banner was prominent on the demonstration in Brighton where Sodastream is promoted by the Israeli-owned Ecostream shop.

J-BIG made a point of supporting the campaigners in Brighton and Hove who have steadfastedly maintained weekly protests since the Ecostream store opened just over a year ago. They have faced vicious attacks from Zionists, supported by the Brighton Argus newspaper in attacking them as anti-semites. One of those they have vilified is Jewish PSC member Terry Yason who addressed the protest on Saturday to put the record straight.

Here’s what he said.

Over 2000 years ago Hillel,  the  most famous of all Jewish  Rabbis,  said  when asked What is Judaism? –  “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.”

Since  Hillel Jews have consistently supported  the  underdog – at The  Battle of  Cable  Street against the Fascists  in Brick Lane,  London in 1936 ,  in the  International Brigades in Spain fighting Franco  for the democratically elected Republican Government,  in the Civil Rights Movement riding  and dying with the  Freedom Riders  in Mississippi in the 60s and  fighting in the ANC against Apartheid  South Africa. We have an honourable history.

But today the Government of  the “Jewish State” of Israel defy Hillel in their  inhumane treatment of  the  Palestinians. For the first  time  in Jewish history, to their shame, they have  created  their  own Underdog.

SodaStream, the  parent  of the Brighton shop Eco Stream, manufacture  their products  in a factory situated in  the  illegal settlement  of MISHOR ADUMIN.   In the Sodastream corporate video   their CEO… claims   they are one big happy family. Here is  what  one Palestinian worker says about working for Sodastream.

“I feel humiliated and I am also disgraced as a Palestinian, as the claims in the corporate video are all lies. We Palestinian workers in this factory always feel like we are enslaved . . . “

Brighton and  Hove  Palestine  Solidarity Campaign is  a  universal  movement,  made  up of  ordinary  people  of all  colours,  religions , politics, nationalities and  back grounds. Together we oppose  the savage   treatment  meted  out to the  Palestinians  by the  Israeli government.

As a cornerstone  of  their  propaganda , the Israeli Government  continually label  those who oppose her as anti Semitic.

Today I am  here  as a Jew, with my Jewish  and  non Jewish comrades,  to  destroy once and for all that  insidious claim , and to proclaim that Anti  Zionism is a call  not for  the destruction  of   the  State  of  Israel  but for  its  emancipation . When we  opposed Apartheid  in  South Africa the result  was  the  Rainbow  Nation.

Like South Africa, Israel can become the  democracy it so  mistakenly calls  itself,  if  it also abandons Apartheid.

To make even  more of  a  nonsense  of  their  lies;  today we are  joined   by members of  the two national Jewish organisations, Jews  for  Justice for  Palestinians   and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods  .

 We also have support from two Jewish artists who have sent  these emails. 

From actress Miriam Margolyes:

A great wrong is being done in Israel & decent Palestinian people are having their lives destroyed.  Brighton should emphatically NOT patronise the ECO shop. It is a fraud & a disgrace. ‘ 

From comedian and author Alexei Sayle:

‘I wish all the best to the demonstrators, Sodastream drinks taste like creosote anyway and the fact that they’re produced in an illegal settlement makes them doubly repulsive’

Israel was created  in my  name, exclusively for Jews  by Jews, and as  a Jew I feel a special responsibility to protest at the racist actions  of  the  Israeli government towards  the  Palestinians – their colonial land  grab , the relentless building  of settlements  on Palestinian land, their diversion  of priceless water to the settlements,  the constant confiscation of  Palestinian land , the thousands  of Palestinians  in Israeli jails and  to the shooting by the  IDF of  Palestinian children. In  their  their relentless  and  murderous  pursuit of a  land  devoid  of Palestinians they  destroy  the dream  of  Hillel.

 Today I ask  the Jews  of  the Diaspora to remember your  history  in supporting the  underdog, and  support  us in withdrawing your support  for Israeli Government policies  towards  the  Palestinians.

To all the  people  of Brighton and  Hove   I ask you to boycott the EcoStream shop , refuse to  buy SodaStream products and send  them  packing out  of our  beautiful city .

See also Tony Greenstein’s blog for a detailed report and more pictures.

 

Sound and fury at the Proms over “apartheid” remark

This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the BRICUP Newsletter, http://www.bricup.org.uk
Proms collaboration between Kennedy and the young musicians from Palestine Strings.  Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Proms collaboration between Kennedy and the young musicians from Palestine Strings.
Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Violinist Nigel Kennedy sent Israel’s apologists into a mighty spin during a Promenade concert in London on August 8 when he used the word “apartheid” to refer to the life circumstances of the young Palestinian musicians with whom he was sharing the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Kennedy, addressing an overwhelmingly supportive audience for his innovative performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Royal Albert Hall, “ it’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from experiencing this night of music tonight, that given equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen.”
Kennedy, an enfant terrible of the classical music world , had not played at the Proms for years but took advantage of a radical mix of programmes this time to revisit the Four Seasons with a number of jazz musicians, his own largely Polish Orchestra of Life and 17 players from the Palestine Strings wearing trademark keffiyehs. Aged between 12 and 23, these protégées of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music demonstrated considerable artistry in one of the world’s greatest performance spaces. No wonder the Zionist reaction to their mentor’s solidarity comment was so swift and strong.
Within days the Jewish Chronicle announced with satisfaction  that the BBC intended deleting Kennedy’s remark from its edited TV broadcast of the concert. Baroness Ruth Deech, a prominent Zionist and former BBC governor, had pronounced his words “offensive and untrue” and unfit to be heard during a Prom concert. The BBC, saying they did not“fall within the editorial remit of the proms as a classical music festival,” duly obliged. The critically-acclaimed concert went out on BBC4 on August 23 without the offending comments.  
In the interim BRICUP chairman Jonathan Rosenhead had joined supporters of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, among them actress Miriam Margolyes and writer/comedian Alexei Sayle, in signing a letter contesting the BBC censorship decision. It was published on August 22 in the Daily Telegraph (scroll down through the other letters to find it here) along with a fair-minded article by the paper’s Religious Affairs editor John Bingham.
The Jewish Chronicle named BRICUP and Rosenhead in its coverage.
The issue was taken up by wider activist circles with writers’ organisation PEN and Index on Censorship weighing in in Kennedy’s defence. Rock legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was moved to issue a long-awaited statement calling on fellow musicians to back the boycott.
petition calling on the BBC to revoke its censorship decision  quickly garnered more than 1,200 signatures.
Music commentator Norman Lebrecht, himself deeply pro-Israel, picked up the story, calling into question the provenance of a statement in which Kennedy described his comments as “purely descriptive and not political whatsoever” anddenounced the BBC’s “imperial lack of impartiality”. The flighty genius does not own a computer or use any new-fangled digital media so the statement was issued via a musician friend’s Facebook page. As a matter of interest, Lebrecht later posted YouTube footage of the concert, generating serious and largely favourable discussion on his blog.
Matters were complicated by Kennedy’s own manager Terri Robson – presumably with an eye to her charge’s potentially lucrative future bookings – publicly suggesting that the BBC was within its rights to censor him.
Thanks to links with pro-Palestinian classical musicians who are in contact with Kennedy – he does at least own a mobile phone – we were primed and ready when he once again re-iterated his pro-Palestinian stance in an open letter to the Palestine Strings.
He observed that his comment would surely not “have been censored if it had been referring to the benefits of the demise of the apartheid in South Africa when playing with an African ensemble”.
 
Kennedy’s letter suggested that the Palestine Strings had been detained for 12 hours on their return to Palestine. This turned out to be a misunderstanding. The players were not detained but Edward Said National Conservatory of Music’s Orchestras Manager, Tim Pottier, was held for 12 hours at the Allenby Bridge. An official at the conservatory explained in a private email, “Tim is now sadly used to long interrogations and waiting at the Bridge, although the return from the Prom established a record. The occupying authorities who control all entries to Palestine know him far too well and, I suspect, do not like what he does.”
This incident, naturally enough, was not deemed newsworthy by mainstream media. Indeed, although the Telegraph’s Bingham refers to “a bitter row over alleged censorship”, others showed zero interest in the BBC censorship story.
One late entry into the fray was pundit Dominic Lawson who chose to use his valedictory column in the Independent on September 2 to slag off Kennedy and Waters as part of a sinister army of antisemites holding Israel responsible for all the evils of the world.
His attack highlights the care supporters of BDS need to take in the terminology they use. Waters has defended himself expertly when challenged, but drawing attention to Baroness Deech’s Jewish-sounding maiden name (“nee Fraenkel”) rather than referencing her vociferous Zionism, and shooting down a pig-shaped zeppelin emblazoned with a Star of David (albeit alongside other symbols of oppression), has handed ammunition to the enemies of BDS. A call from a small group of German Jews to boycott a forthcoming concert by Waters has won mainstream coverage denied to the injustice done to Kennedy.
It remains to be seen, at the time of writing, if any further controversy will follow Kennedy’s planned appearance at the Last Night of the Proms on September 7.
As he himself noted when news of the BBC’s censorship plan became known:
“ . . . the BBC has created . . . a huge platform for the discussion of its own impartiality, its respect (or lack of it) for free speech and for the discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.”

NIGEL KENNEDY LOOKS FORWARD TO END OF “ZIONIST APARTHEID”

Violinist Nigel Kennedy, whose remark about the “apartheid” conditions faced by Palestinians was censored from a BBC Prom concert broadcast, has vigorously defended his comment, adding more fuel to the row about the BBC’s decision. See the Jewish Chronicle’s coverage here and here.

In an open letter to young  musicians of the Palestine Strings with whom he shared the stage to spectacular effect on August 8, Kennedy, who is billed to play at the Last Night of the Proms on September 7, wrote:

Your performance at the Royal Albert Hall was something to be proud of and demonstrated the benefits of people being treated equally as opposed to being decimated and robbed by an apartheid system.

As you have seen, there is huge support for stopping the abuse of your human rights. My short comment [about apartheid] was purely observational and humanist. It surely wouldn’t have been censored if it had been referring to the benefits of the demise of the apartheid in South Africa when playing with an African ensemble. Many thanks however to [everyone] for giving a world platform to the important discussion concerning Zionist apartheid.

I hope life is treating you ok. We all miss you over here. I’m sorry to hear that the “normal” treatment of Palestinian people by the Israeli authorities led to you being detained for twelve hours. I am looking forward to playing with you again soon and to the days when we can play on a level playing field in Palestine and throughout the world.

No further information is available at the time of writing about the detention of the young musicians Kennedy refers to.

The BBC has insisted that Kennedy’s “apartheid” remark was cut for purely editorial reasons. But an article in the Jewish Chronicle before the TV broadcast on August 23 referred approvingly to lobbying efforts by Zionists, among them Baroness Deech, a well-known pro-Israel advocate and former BBC governor.

The decision to censor has provoked serious online discussion in musical and activist circles, with writers’ organisation PEN and Index on Censorship weighing in in Kennedy’s defence. The Daily Telegraph published a letter signed by 32 Jews opposed to the BBC’s decision, among them actress Miriam Margolyes and writer/comedian Alexei Sayle.

An online petition - Don’t Censor the Palestine Prom – has gathered more than 1,100 signatures and remains open.

NIGEL KENNEDY CONDEMNS BBC’S “CENSORSHIP AND IMPERIAL LACK OF IMPARTIALITY”

The following statement has been issued on behalf of violin maestro Nigel Kennedy in response to the BBC’s decision to censor a remark he made  during a Prom concert with young Palestinian musicians on August 8 (see previous post for details).

Will the BBC now have the courage to restore Kennedy’s comment to its rightful place in the TV broadcast of the concert on August 23?  Will they continue with his scheduled appearance as one of the stars in the gala Last Night of the Proms on September 7?

As Kennedy says,  the BBC may have done us a favour by inadvertently generating “discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.”

A spokesperson for Nigel Kennedy said:

“Nigel Kennedy finds it incredible and quite frightening that in the 21st century it is still such an insurmountable problem to call things the way they are. He thinks that once we can all face issues for what they really are we can finally have a chance of finding solutions to problems such as human rights, equal rights and even, perhaps, free speech. His first reaction to the BBC’s censorship & imperial lack of impartiality was to refuse to play for an employer who is influenced by such dubious outside forces.

Mr Kennedy has, however, reminded himself that his main purpose is to provide the audience with the best music he can deliver. To withdraw his services would be akin to a taxi driver refusing to drive their customer due to their political incorrectness. He, therefore, is not withdrawing his services that he owes to his audience, but is half expecting to be replaced by someone deemed more suitable than him due to their surplus of opportunism and career aspirations.

Mr Kennedy is glad, however, that by censoring him the BBC has created such a huge platform for the discussion of its own impartiality, its respect (or lack of it) for free speech and for the discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.

Mr Kennedy believes his very small statement during his concert was purely descriptive and not political whatsoever.”

BBC PLANS TO CENSOR NIGEL KENNEDY PROM BROADCAST

This picture from the Proms website beautifully illustrates  the collaboration between Kennedy and the young musicians from Palestine Strings. BBC/Chris Christodoulou

This picture from the Proms website beautifully illustrates the collaboration between Nigel Kennedy and the young musicians of the Palestine Strings. BBC/Chris Christodoulou

In an astonishingly supine display of cowardice, the BBC has bowed to pressure from Zionist lobbyists and said it intends to cut out an allusion to Israeli apartheid  when it broadcasts a Promenade concert by the brilliant and mercurial violinist Nigel Kennedy.

Kennedy, a long-standing supporter of Palestinian rights, used the word “apartheid” in a brief reference to the hostile life circumstances of young Palestinian musicians performing with him at the Royal Albert Hall in London on August 8.

At the end of a warmly received re-working of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons involving Arabic, Jazz and many other styles, Kennedy said:

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from experiencing this night of music tonight, that given equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen.”

The concert had indeed shown that, in the face of adversity, Palestinian musicians could hold their own on one of the most prestigious of world stages. Audience reaction on the night was rapturous and reviews by music critics in the TimesGuardianIndependent and Telegraph were overwhelmingly favourable.

An in-depth advance piece in the Financial Times had offered a valuable insight into the way music and politics are intertwined in the lives of Palestinian players.

It must have been fury at the granting of a such a high-profile platform to Palestinian cultural self-expression that sent the pro-Israel camp into a vengeful frenzy. Marcus Dysch, political correspondent at the incorrigibly Zionist Jewish Chronicle, wrote that former BBC governor Baroness Deech had demanded an apology from Kennedy for his “offensive and untrue” remarks.

Tweeting about the story he had written, Dysch celebrated a deliberate attempt to undermine the growing boycott movement directed at Israeli crimes:

“Another #BDSfail - BBC to cut Nigel Kennedy’s anti-Israel rant from Proms broadcast”

Even the JC editors thought “anti-Israel rant” was a bit strong, preferring to label Kennedy’s innocuous words a “slur”.

The BBC said: “Nigel’s comment to the audience at his late-night prom on August 8 will not be included in the deferred BBC 4 broadcast on August 23 because it does not fall within the editorial remit of the proms as a classical music festival.”
 
This excuse is similar  to the BBC’s lame justification for beeping out rap artist Mic Righteous’ shout  of “Free Palestine” on Radio 1Xtra in February 2011 and for the last-minute pulling of an advertised TV documentary about archaeology in the Holy Land earlier this year.

A campaign is now underway to stop the BBC redacting Kennedy’s offending truths from its August 23 Prom broadcast.

Sign the petition.

Comment on the Proms Facebook page

Write to BBC chairman Chris Patten (chris.patten@bbc.co.uk or lord.patten@bbc.co.uk), copying the BBC Trust (trust.inquiries@bbc.co.uk) and asking them to make sure your letter goes to Patten and relevant executives.

 

CONFERENCE ON PALESTINE SOLIDARITY AND JEWISH OPPOSITION TO ZIONISM

Palestine solidarity and Jewish opposition to Zionism

On Saturday 2 March 2013, dozens of supporters and friends of J-BIG, Jews and non-Jews, gathered for a conference to explore how the universalist, humanitarian philosophy central to much Jewish thinking has been marginalised by Zionism and how that universalism leads naturally to support for the  Palestinian call for a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions, targeting Israeli institutions as long as it denies Palestinians freedom, justice and equality.

A detailed report posted immediately after the conference appears on Tony Greenstein’s blog.

Listen here to audio recordings. Film of the main contributions will be added shortly.

The first session, on Jewish values in support of Palestinian rights , began with the screening of a short film, BUNDA’IM,  introducing the last comrades of the Bund mass movement which was exterminated in Europe and ignored in Israel.

Then came a discussion led by David Rosenberg from the Editorial Committee of Jewish Socialist magazine  and Antony Lerman, author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist and former director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research.

They dealt with aspects of Zionism and Bundism in pre-WWII Poland and described  how Zionist leaders have marginalised Bundism in the diaspora,  Zionist attacks on proponents of Jewish universalism and the conflation of antisemitism with opposition to Zionism.

In a panel discussion, a range of speakers tackled issues facing the BDS movement.

Sue Blackwell from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) outlined the Zionist resort to legal challenge against the Universities and Colleges Union (since gloriously vindicated by a tribunal) for its willingness to debate BDS and refusal to apply the so-called EUMC working definition of antisemitism which seeks to outlaw criticism of Israel.

Michael Deas, coordinator in Europe for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) was unable to attend due to illness. In his stead Ronnie Barkan, a leading member of Israeli organisations Anarchists against the Wall and Boycott from Within, discussed the centrality of BDS to the anti-racist, anti-colonialist Palestinian struggle.

Tony Greenstein, speaking for Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), explained the rationale behind publication of the briefing document  Zionism and Antisemitism: Racist Political Twins.

John Rose, author of The Myths of Zionism, unpicked the Zionist myths used to perpetuate the idea that Israeli Jews confront eternal Arab hatred and Israel therefore has the right to “defend itself” by any means.

Hours of discussion were rounded off with an evening of entertainment compered by Deborah Fink, “The Diva with a Difference”,  and starred renowned Palestinian singer Reem Kelani with the up-and-coming musicians of the Raast collective, led by Kareem Taylor.

The conference was twinned with another event at the same venue on the following day, Sunday March 2, bringing together expert speakers on a range of subjects under the heading Reclaiming an Alternative Jewish Culture and Identity

Listen to audio recordings here.

 Ilan Pappe: Jewish Culture In A Non-ZionistOneState In Palestine.

Moshe Machover: Hebrew v. Jewish Identity

Prof. Helen Beer: Jewish Identity Without Yiddish?

Yuval Evri: 19C. Palestinian Arab Judaism

Murray Glickman: BCE Judaism

Cloe Skinner: Gender & Zionism

Sai Englert: The Bund & The 1917 Russian Revolution

J-BIG CONFERENCE MARCH 2 – PALESTINE SOLIDARITY AND JEWISH OPPOSITION TO ZIONISM

SATURDAY MARCH 2

1 – 7 PM

VENUE -     24 Greencoat Place,     London SW1P 1RD  (Near Victoria station)

This is a half-day conference offering  everyone working for Palestinian rights a chance to reinforce their knowledge of Zionism, its rejection of Jewish radical traditions, its conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel and its attempts to undermine Palestinian solidarity work – in particular the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).  

Proceedings will start with BUNDA’IM, a short film introducing the last comrades of the Bund mass movement. Exterminated in Europe and ignored in Israel, its ideas live on.

Discussions will be lead by speakers including:

Sue Blackwell – British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

Michael Deas – Palestinian BDS National Committee coordinator in Europe

Antony Lerman – author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist

John Rose – author of The Myths of Zionism

David Rosenberg – Editorial Committee, Jewish Socialist magazine

Followed by entertainment from Deborah Fink (“The Diva with a Difference”), Leon Rosselson and others.

Book your place by email to jews4big@gmail.com

£10 waged, £5 unwaged/concessions (includes refreshments)

The J-BIG conference is part of “A Weekend of Two Conferences” – events put together by two separate organisations which have cooperated due to a clash of dates and venue. You can book both days for £25/concessions £20 via either email address.

Sunday 3rd March 10.00am – 6.30pm

AN ALTERNATIVE JEWISH CULTURE & IDENTITY

Ilan Pappe:  Jewish Culture in a non-Zionist One State in Palestine

Moshe Machover: Hebrew v. Jewish Identity;

Prof. Helen Beer: Jewish Identity Without Yiddish?

Yuval Evri: 19C.Palestinian Arab Judaism;

Murray Glickman: BCE Judaism

Cloe Skinner: Gender & Zionism:

Sai Englert: The Bund & The 1917 Russian Revolution

Leon Rosselson, Ivor Dembina

Email:  J.Reclaimed@gmail.com

£20/concessions £15. Lunch & refreshments included.

 

 

TOP FOOTBALLERS CHALLENGE UEFA TOURNAMENT IN ISRAEL

A statement signed by 52  European football players has dramatically raised the profile of the campaign challenging European football’s governing body UEFA for staging its 2013 under-21 finals in Israel.

KANOUTENews of the statement, published on Friday November 30 on the website of former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute (pictured above), was picked up by the Guardian online and then by many other media worldwide (see references below).

The group of UK premier league footballers and players in other major European leagues said that holding Euro 2013 in Israel was tantamount to rewarding it for the assault on Gaza which killed 170 Palestinians in November, including boys playing football. Israeli aerial attacks also destroyed the Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for the 2012 Olympics.

The Guardian story explained:

The signatories, who include Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Abou Diaby of Arsenal and five Newcastle players – Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba – also criticised Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial of two Palestinian footballers.

 Several former Premier League players have also signed the letter, including Didier Drogba and Frédéric Kanouté, both of whom now play in China. Players with QPR, Stoke, Blackburn and Ipswich are among the signatories along with footballers in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.

The statement roundly condemns the Israeli assault on Gaza, describing it as “yet another stain on the world’s conscience” and expresses “solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom”.

It then focuses on the destruction of a football stadium which the Israeli military said had previously been used by Hamas as a rocket launching site but which at the time of the bombing was not.

The statement had originally been signed by 62 players. Ten, including Drogba, dropped out, possibly due to Zionist pressure.

The statement was welcomed by the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has been working with activists around Europe to challenge the staging of the U-21 finals in Israel since UEFA announced its decision in early 2011.

Last Tuesday, ahead of the draw for the competition in Tel Aviv, the campaign circulated the text of a statement from a group of public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach saying:  “it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”

Twenty-two British Members of Parliament  have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons registering “with profound disapproval . . . that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”

ACTION:

Call on your MP to sign EDM 640

Sign the petition calling on UEFA to move the Euro 2013 final away from Israel

Links to some of the extensive media coverage:

http://www.agencemediapalestine.fr/blog/2012/12/01/bonne-couverture-mediatique-de-lappel-de-footballeurs-en-soutien-a-gaza/

http://www.tdg.ch/monde/afrique/Les-footballeurs-ne-veulent-pas-d-un-Euro-en-Israel/story/28143281?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.saphirnews.com/Kanoute-Drogba-Menez-Mandanda-Des-stars-du-football-soutiennent-la-Palestine_a15800.html

http://www.insideworldfootball.biz/worldfootball/asia/11647-gaza-conflict-damages-vital-sporting-infrastructure.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/football/article3616788.ece

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/news/9715577/Premier-League-players-call-on-Uefa-to-remove-Israel-as-European-U-21-hosts.html

http://www.france24.com/en/20121130-top-footballers-urge-rethink-israel-venue

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1246310/didier-drogba-among-stars-declaring-support-for-palestine?cc=5739

http://itisallaboutfootball.tumblr.com/post/36899657123/european-football-players-declare-support-to-palestine

http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/freddie-kanoute-is-joined-by-hazard-diaby-papiss-cisse-tiote-demba-ba-in-condemning-plans-to-hold-u21-euros-in-israel/

http://www.twtd.co.uk/ipswich-town-news/21988/ellington-amongst-players-in-israel-protest

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-299857-football-players-stand-in-solidarity-with-palestinians-amid-recent-israeli-aggression.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/sports/soccer/soccer-players-protest-european-under-21-championship-tournament-in-israel.html

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/11/30/footballers-sign-statement-protesting-israel-hosting-euro-u21-tournament-after/

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/football/israel-risky-hosts-for-under-21-euro-championships/story-e6frfg8x-1226527893532

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/30/footballers-u21-european-championship-israel

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/footballers-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-euro-u21

http://www.timesofisrael.com/soccer-players-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-under-21-tournament/

BRAND ISRAEL EXPOSED AS PLYMOUTH PROTESTS ROUND OFF BATSHEVA UK TOUR

One of many posters used around the country contrasting Israeli freedom of cultural expression with the injustices inflicted upon Palestinians.

The last of two nights of peaceful but noisy protest at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, southwest England, on Saturday, rounded off almost a month of action  directed at Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble – the junior arm of world renowned Batsheva Dance Company which is hailed by Israel’s right-wing leaders as its best “cultural ambassador”.

Rain-soaked but exuberant in Plymouth.

 
Like previous protests in Edinburgh, Salford, Bradford, Brighton, Birmingham, Leicester and London, the Plymouth actions were coordinated by the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign, part of the cultural boycott movement which aims to expose Israel’s deliberate deployment of art as a political weapon. Israel’s slaughter of more than 160 Palestinians in Gaza as Batsheva’s tour drew to a close gave the campaign added momentum.Plymouth’s small band of Palestine solidarity activists was reinforced by others from nearby Exeter and further afield, mounting demonstrations of at least 40 outside the theatre on both nights, despite vile weather on the Saturday. There were also protests inside the venue. The demonstrations were covered by the local Evening Herald .
 

At least one prospective audience member tore up his tickets after reading a campaign leaflet

 
One local activist said Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists, drenched by pouring rain, all stood and shouted together for a common purpose.  “It was
joyful and spirited,” the activist said.  “The beaming face of a friend from Gaza, who was with us, was reward enough. I asked how his family were. ‘Strong’, he said. They will know in Gaza that we support them.”
 
Earlier in November organisers of protests at the Salford Lowry received a message of support and encouragement “from youth in Gaza.”
 “We in Gaza salute your tremendous efforts confronting any group supported by the Israeli apartheid regime,” the message said.  “You are our voice and you give us real hope. Please do everything to grow the movement. No longer can we entertain anyone in the name of brand Israel while the ethnic cleansing, racism and sheer brutality against our people persists everyday of our lives.”
 
During three days of protest at Batsheva’s Sadler’s Wells performances in London Nov 19-21, the company’s artistic director Ohad Naharin  was quoted in Israeli newspaper Haaretz saying he sympathised with protestors but Batsheva did not deserve to be targeted.
 

Zionists in Manchester showed that they see Batsheva as an icon for their Israeli nationalist views.

 However, indications of involvement by some pro-Israel members of the fascist English Defence league, vociferous counter demonstrations by flag-waving Israel supporters and the presence of a high proportion of Zionists in Batsheva’s audiences at every venue testify to the truth of the cultural boycott analysis – whatever the views of individuals associated with an Israeli cultural institution, as long as it does not formally renounce state funding and the cultural ambassador role, it will continue to be treated as an icon by  the state which is repressing Palestinians and will consequently encounter protests.
 
The Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign began in Edinburgh in August when the Batsheva Dance Company appeared at the Edinburgh International Festival. The no2brandisrael website was set up and creative banners, leaflets and artwork were developed to get the Palestinian boycott message out all around the country. There was high-level support from Scottish cultural figures and excellent news coverage.
 
With the appearance of the Batsheva Ensemble, also in Edinburgh, at the end of October, the Don’t Dance coalition moved into action mobilising Boycott Israel Network and Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporters, and members of  a range of local and national faith-based, community and human rights organisations, to protest the entire tour.  
Photos: Rada Daniell
Protesters singing, handing out leaflets and engaging in conversation  with ticket holders generated considerable debate among audiences in every centre. Most were hostile but a significant number asked questions which were respectfully answered and went away better informed than before about Israel’s denial of equality, justice and freedom to Palestinians.
Interventions inside the venues have given theatre managements huge headaches and are bound to make them review any future plans to book cultural groups linked to the Israeli state.
Sadler’s Wells saw five interventions each on Monday and Tuesday, and another two on Wednesday. Security staff were often heavy-handed, dragging, grabbing, carrying and pushing people. This behaviour was reproduced in some other venues but not all.

Organisers in several centres reported positive experiences working with police, although this was not entirely true in Bradford where the Batsheva protests became  the focus for a remarkable expression of community solidarity with the people of Palestine.

 The Sadler’s Wells protests – although no bigger or more effective then elsewhere -attracted the most media interest.

This was probably partly because Sadler’s Wells is London’s prime contemporary dance venue, and partly due to the connection with protests over the Gaza onslaught.

Remarkably, BBC Radio 4 devoted 12 or more minutes of its iPM slot on Saturday afternoon to discussing cultural boycott, initially with a listener who claimed to be baffled and upset by protests targeting Batsheva, and then with Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s national poet (Makar), who has publicly backed the boycott since before the Israeli company’s appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Campaign news releases sent out in advance of the Sadler’s Wells dates were quoted by the Guardian and by the London Evening Standard, which said: “The spectacle begins even before you get inside the theatre — a vocal anti-Israeli picket line against this contemporary dance company because it takes financial support from the Israeli state. “
The Evening Standard headlined its editorial comment on Nov 20  “Israel’s Gaza war and a protest too far,” echoing its own report on the same day referring to Zionist actress Maureen Lipman’s “anger after protestors disrupt show”.
This Guardian review referred to demonstrations outside and inside the performance spaces.
A BBC arts report was reasonably fair and other dance reviewers also covered the protests. 

Many pictures and YouTube clips appears on activist blogs, websites and Facebook pages.