Monthly Archives: March 2010

“Free Palestine, Vote Labour.”

Tony Benn

Last night’s meeting in Parliament arranged by Friends of Al Aqsa was due to be about Israel’s building in east Jerusalem but turned out to be a party political broadcast for the Labour Party.

The three Labour MPs that spoke mainly turned their guns on the Conservatives.

Martin Linton, Labour MP for Battersea (majority – 163 votes):

“There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends. Now there are a number of Conservatives who have a very good record on this issue, I am not saying it’s a simple party political issue, but you must consider over the next few weeks, when you vote and when you make your constituents aware, of the attempt by Israelis and pro-Israelis to influence the election in this country and you must draw your own conclusions from that. If they get the message that trying to buy a Conservative victory, what’s more trying to buy Conservative support for Israel, is successful then they will carry on doing it. If they can see that it is not going to work, then they will desist. It is important for not only this country but also for the future of the Middle East that the result of the election in this country does not send that message.”

Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester, Gorton (majority – 5808 votes):

“Just as Lord Ashcroft owns one part of the Conservative Party, right-wing Jewish millionaires own the other part.” (That’s a bit “rich” coming from someone who, according to the Daily Telegraph “charged the taxpayer £1851 for a rug he imported from a New York antiques centre and tried to claim £8865 for a television”).

Andrew Slaughter, Labour MP for Ealing Acton Shepherd’s Bush (majority – 5520 votes):

“There is no will in the Conservative Party to support anything other than the state of Israel. There has been a sea change on the Conservative Party over the course of a generation. That didn’t used to be the case. They are as firmly locked in now as the Republicans are in America. We have to challenge that through political power in this country.” (Did Slaughter not see William Hague’s condemnation of Israel in Parliament yesterday?)

It was stated by the Chairman of the meeting that the Conservatives were offered an invitation for someone to speak last night but they said that no one was available.

There was a sense that the pro-Palestinian campaign is suffering from event fatigue. With meetings and protests virtually every day over the last few weeks on the Goldstone Report, the arrests of british protestors over Gaza, protests against Mayor Nir Barkat as well as International Israel Apartheid Week recently finishing, things are losing steam.

Tony Benn spoke briefly but with nothing like his normal passionate anti-Zionist rhetoric. And Dr Phyllis Starkey, Labour MP for Milton Keynes South-West, who was due to speak last night, was a no-show.

And even Kaufman displayed some sort of concern for the future of Israel by explaining that its future is in jeopardy: “Either meaningful talks will take place soon or the population equation will take over.” It wasn’t an anti-Israel tirade, which one might have expected in front of this audience.

The meeting was told that all the main religions should be allowed to pray properly in Jerusalem “the third most Holy place in the world to Muslims”. Even this was met with light applause and nothing like Benjamin Netanyahu’s “Jerusalem is not a settlement, it is our capital”, which raised the roof at the AIPAC meeting in Washington on Monday in front of 7500 actvists and members of Congress.

Hugh Lanning of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign then spoke of future events including a global boyott, divestments and sanctions weekend, a campaign to ban Israeli settlement goods being sold in the UK, Naqbah Day on 15th May, a TUC action day in June and the six pledges* that all Parliamentary candidates must sign up to, but by then it was a case of information overdose.

The Six Pledges*:

1. Call on Israel to end its violations of international law, including ending its illegal occupation.
2. Oppose any attacks on universal jurisdiction and support bringing Israeli war criminals to justice
3. Work to end the siege on Gaza
4. Call on the government to ban the import of settlement goods
5. Call on the government to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement
6. Call for an end to the arms trade with Israel

Miliband puts Israel on tourist warning list

The Foreign Office has just added this official warning on its site for visitors who wish to travel to Israel:

“UK passport holders should be aware of a recent Serious Organised Crime Agency investigation into the misuse of UK passports in the murder of Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai on 19 January 2010. The SOCA investigation found circumstantial evidence of Israeli involvement in the fraudulent use of British passports. This has raised the possibility that your passport details could be captured for improper uses while your passport is out of your control. The risk applies in particular to passports without biometric security features. We recommend that you only hand your passport over to third parties including Israeli officials when absolutely necessary.”

David Miliband, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, made a statement that an Israeli diplomat will be expelled from the UK, eventhough this had been on the BBC website since this morning implying a Foreign Office leak to the BBC.

David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary

But all such statements should first of all be made to us, the British public, via our elected MPs, and not to the unelected BBC.

Miliband would not name the Israel diplomat except to say that he or she had been picked by the Foreign Office which seems to imply that this person is directly responsible for the faking of the passports that allowed for the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

There was agreement with Miliband’s action by both William Hague (Cons. Shadow Foreign Secretray) and Ed Davey (LibDem. Shadow Foreign Secretary).

At no time was a specific allegation made by these three that Israel carried out the Dubai assassination.

Then we had the MPs who were there specifically, in a relatively empty House of Commons, to get their prime TV time at the expense of Israel:

Gerald Kaufman (Labour) spoke of Israel’s corrupt government and Israel’s corrupt Ben Gurion airport (although, hilariously, Julian Lewis (Cons.) said it was highly unlikely that Israel would clone Kaufman’s passport.)
Mark Durkan (SDLP) was unhappy with Miliband’s use of the term “alleged murder”.
Angus MacNeil (SNP) demanded that Israel apologises.
Ming Campbell (LibDem) spoke of the “killing” in Dubai.

Others also spoke and generally expressed the sentiment that this assassination was “murder” and should be tried accordingly as should the charge of fraud for cloning the passports.

It is a sad state of affairs that while our soldiers are attempting to kill terrorists in Afghanistan to try to make us safe on Britain’s streets Israel is condemned and punished for trying to do that for its own citizens.

But this is not about the killing or the passports, it is about the fact that British passports were used. Miliband said that of all the cloned passports used for the assassination the highest number were British. Hence the Foreign Office warning above.

Presumably, there would therefore have been no such outcry had none of the passports had been British.

But without such a cloning al-Mabhouh would still be alive today planning more atrocities against Israel’s civilians. And it is highly unlikely that Mossad, if it was Mossad, would clone British passports in the future after the current uproar.

In addition in the House today there was no criticism of al-Mabhouh or Dubai, which let al-Mabhouh come and go on many a false passport. In fact Miliband said he would continue to support Dubai in its investigation!

Not only has Israel lost a diplomat but tourism to Israel will now suffer due to this warning.

More than that, yet again, our Parliament has been demeaned by the sight of Israel-bashing MPs having an opportunity to paint a grotesque portrait of Israel while going unchallenged even by the likes of Miliband, Hague and Davey.

Protests as Mayor Barkat visits Chatham House

The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, visited Chatham House tonight to deliver a presentation on his modern vision for Jerusalem.

As ever anti-Israel protestors were outside chanting the usual “Free, Free, Palestine” as well as “Shame on you, Chatham House”.

The Neturei Karta turned up late but at least they made the effort.

The transcript of what the Mayor said should appear on the Chatham House website first thing in the morning.

Here are some photos of the protest (click to enlarge):

Liberal Judaism and the state of “Palestein”

Richard Kuper (JFJFP), Jeff Halper (ICAHD), Rabbi Danny Rich (Liberal Judaism)

For most Jews it might seem incongruous to attack Israel from in front of the Aron Ha-Kodesh but not for Jews for Justice for Palestinians and not for some from Liberal Judaism which hosted Jeff Halper of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) at the Montagu Centre.

Halper is an American who has lived in Israel for 40 years. His talk was titled The Problems of a Peacenik in Israel: Attacking the messenger.

Before Halper spoke Rabbi Danny Rich made the following statement:

“Jews For Justice For Palestinians have booked the Montagu Centre on a number of occasions. They pay more than an economic rent. It is not our custom to censor speakers. We have come under pressure both formally and informally to cancel this meeting. It is not appropriate to cancel this meeting as JFJFP have booked our hall many times before without any problem and we do not believe that calling for a one-state solution, and I believe that Jeff does not call for that anyway, is anti-Semitic.”

So Halper does not call for a one state solution? Some of his his words:

“There’s only one government in Israel and Palestine which is an Israeli government. There’s only one army, one electrical system, one highway system and one water system. Israel has made that, now we can’t blame the Arabs for that. They accepted the two-state solution publicly in 1988. We made this a binational state and we have to accept responsibility for what we do. We made our bed and we have to lie in it, which means a one-state solution which is either binational or a democratic unitary state. I’m not advocating it. I think a one-state solution is a challenge, I think it’s just, I would like to go that way. You can’t keep advocating for a two-state solution when Israel has eliminated the two state solution.”

Extraordinarily, at the end Halper came over to me to specifically state for the record that he “supports boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel” and he agreed that he is going round British universities both calling for those and describing Israel as an apartheid state.

As for the rest of his talk Halper:

1. Quoted General Petraeus’ recent statement on Israel’s behaviour in not allowing the West to make an accommodation with the Muslim world: “Judaizing Jerusalem isn’t some local issue. Jerusalem is the epitome of the clash of civilisations. It has tremendous implications in the world.”

2. Said the population of Israel is only 70% Jewish. 30% are not Jewish including Russian immigrants and foreign workers and their families. Adding four million Palestinians has made Israel a binational reality. Jews in the diaspora must let Israel go. What Zionism did to the Jewish people was terrible. It negated diaspora Jews.

3. Told us that if diaspora Jews respect Israel they have to respect its right to evolve as a country and find its own place in the Middle East. It isn’t in Europe. After World War One Chaim Weizzman said: “We want the Land of Israel to be as Jewish as England is English.” That made sense in 1919 in England but England could evolve and go somewhere else. England has become a very different country. Bradford has a majority non-white population. You can now become British even if you are from China.

4. Said he thinks Israel intends to keep “Judea and Samaria”: “I can’t explain why we did that if we want a Jewish state. Whoever planned these settlements must be the most anti-Zionist of them all, possibly Ariel Sharon.”

5. Stated that the majority of Jews have always lived in the diaspora and that their national identity is based on the Torah and the book of Joshua (the book of conquest) which is tribal and genocidal and which is where Zionism took its Judaism from. The prophets, however, articulated human rights and liberal humanism. The values Israel talks about are unacceptable to diaspora Jews and that Jerusalem should be Jewish is a racism people would never accept in Britain.

Halper never mentioned the spectre of Islamic Fundamentalism, twisted history by saying the Jews had rejected a two-state solution in 1948 and said that Jewish children were being “brainwashed” by the likes of Birthright Israel. This brainwashing accusation is becoming a common theme against anyone who puts forward Israel’s position.

Finally, after two-hours of advocating a one-state solution, despite his ridiculous denials, Halper even gave us its name: Palestein.

Goldstone Report debate shambles – The Sequel

Prof. Chinkin and Colonel Travers (3rd & 4th from left)

On wednesday night Colonel Desmond Travers, one of Richard Goldstone’s four person UN team that looked into the possibility of war crimes having been committed during the Gaza War, spoke in Parliament. At the end of this blog is the transcript of his talk.

He’d spoken on March 8th at LSE and I was left incredulous that such a man could actually have a bearing on whether politicians and soldiers could end up serving life in prison for war crimes.

At LSE Travers and Professor Christine Chinkin, who was also on the team, made startling admissions as to how this investigation, which found that war crimes were committed mainly by Israel but also by Hamas, was conducted.

Questionable credibility of Travers and Chinkin:

1. Israel destroyed 14 mosques during Operation Cast Lead which, Israel claimed, was due to Hamas storing weaponry inside them. Travers said he had inspected two of the mosques and had found no evidence of secondary explosions. Despite the important question of how this was forensically tested it leaves open the even bigger question of why he didn’t visit the other 12 mosques.

2. Palestinian witnesses from Gaza had been heard in open sessions, where the public could hear what was said. But knowing the callousness of Hamas towards traitors, for example throwing them off the top of high buildings in Gaza while handcuffed, which Palestinian in his or her right mind would dare tell the truth?

3. Chinkin had signed a letter to the Times published on 11th January 2009 part of which stated:

“Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.”

At LSE Travers was pressed on his recent statement, with its dark undertones, that “Britain’s foreign policy interests in the Middle East seem to be influenced strongly by Jewish lobbyists.”

How these issues were addressed by Travers:

1. Travers was offered the brand new 349 page report by the The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre which contains photographic evidence of secondary explosions in mosques. He dismissed ITIC as an Israeli GONGO (Government Operated Non-Governmental Organisation).

When he was pressed as to why he didn’t examine the other 12 mosques for secondary explosions he replied:

“If I was Hamas I would not store weapons in an open space such as a mosque.”

2. Neither Travers nor Professor Iain Scobbie, of SOAS, viewed anything wrong in having public, as opposed to, private hearings eventhough Travers closed with this incredible statement about Hamas:

“One of the main things I hate about Hamas is the knee-cappings they carry out”

3. Travers was asked to explain his “Jewish Lobby” comment three times but each time, like at LSE, he refrained. And when both his credibility, in light of that comment, and Chinkin’s credibility, in light of her letter to the Times, were both challenged he just replied:

“You can join the long list of whingers.”

4. There were also the issues of Travers’ new assertion that “now there are now no mistakes in war” (see transcript below) especially in light of three Israeli soldiers being killed by “friendly fire” during the Gaza War, and totally anonymous testimony given by Breaking The Silence that Travers has accepted unquestioningly.

Finally, Jocelyn Hurndall, whose son, Tom, was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier in Gaza in 2003 and who subsequently died nine months later, was at the talk to continue to seek justice for her son and it really does put into perspective all the bickering during the Q&A.

However, before we can even start to consider whether the “facts” given to us in the Goldstone Report are credible we have to establish whether both the investigators and their methods were credible in the first place.

In my view both Chinkin and Travers were not credible and neither were their methods.

It is the first principle of law that justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done.

Travers’ and Chinkin’s take on that seems to be not to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

TRANSCRIPT OF TRAVERS’ TALK

Ambit of investigation:

Travers called the six month investigation “thorough” and told us that its ambit, as formulated by Richard Goldstone, was as follows:

“To investigate all the violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been commited at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from the 27th December 2008 and 18th January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

He said that in addition to Hamas and Israel being investigated, Fatah/PLO were also investigated as were claims of discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens.

Evidence:

“188 people were interviewed, 200 reports studied, 30 videos watched, thousands of photos viewed (at least 1,200) and 10,000 documents perused. Two field visits to Gaza were made in June and July 2008 for a week each time.”

Public Hearings:

“Public hearings, which took place in Gaza, Amman and Geneva, were undertaken for Palestinians and Israelis who wanted to come before us to relate their experiences. We even spoke to the father of Gilad Schalit. Therefore I want to stress that we were not on some sort of witch-hunt which some perceive we were. You can download the interviews from the website and they are all very telling. We found no evidence that the witnesses were coerced or interfered with whatsoever. I have no doubts as to the veracity of what we were told.”

Provocation and Proportionality:

“We looked back as far as June 2008 when the ceasefire was in place between Israel and Hamas as we know that insurgents can use this time to rearm and sometimes that rearming has to stopped by pre-emptive military strikes such as the one that occured but that theory of mine did not survive our enquiries. The initial attack was on 27th December by guided munitions. It was very severe by any military standards. It was extreme and occasioned most of the casualties in Gaza. 1417 people were killed, although B’Tselem gives a lower figure. The higher figure is becoming more applicable as people are still dying and bodies are being recovered from collapsed buildings. 99 policeman were killed in the initial attack on a police graduation parade. The defence used was that these were Hamas police. We examined the inter-relation worldwide between police and military forces. However, that connection was unfounded. In newspaper obituaries we found mention that some of the police were Hamas members but we concluded that they may have been a) politically affiliated or b) families just wanted to optimise their pension compensation arrangements. I perfectly understood that. My father was a policeman and I could see my mother doing the same. He died at 42.”

Death and Destruction:

“280 schools and six university buildings were destroyed, 240 policemen were killed, 14 mosques were attacked, two of which I examined carefully. Two hospitals, Al-Shifa and al-Quds, were attacked. 29 ambulances were destroyed, killing 16 medics or ambulance drivers. After that initial bombardment being a paramedic was the most dangerous job to carry out. I find that very troubling. These air strikes were deliberate attacks on the infrastructure of Gaza. These were not Hamas infrastructure but infrastructure that maintained society. The destruction of schools, hospitals and mosques was particularly troubling and together with farms, homesteads, agricultural land, sewage farms it becomes very troubling.”

Breaking the Silence:

“The ground incursion started on 3rd January and was led by the Golani brigade from northern Israel and the Givati brigade from the south east. They both held certain positions and while they rested reservists were brought in. It was these reservists who produced the evidence for Breaking the Silence. These couragous soldiers decided to reveal their concerns about the behaviour of their colleagues. Some of these incidents were of ‘human shields’ and that of a 59 year-old man forced to enter a building where Hamas operatives were hiding. When he came out he spoke of seeing two or three Hamas operatives inside. The soldiers beat him up so they could be ceratin of the veracity of what he had described. They made him go in a second time and this time bring a camera. So he went in and took photographs of what he saw and when he came out they wanted him to go in a final time but he refused and so they beat him up again. Eventually they sent in a dog with a camera on its back and it was killed by a Hamas operative. The the IDF collapsed the building on top of the two Hamas soldiers which i haven’t got an issue with that but they also collapsed this man’s building which was adjacent to it and while he watched it collapse he wondered if his wife and children were still inside. By great good fortune they had escaped. This incident shows you how easily rules of engagement are so easily broken and those that formulate them should be very careful. The account of the man used as a human shield was replicated precisely by one of the soldiers from Breaking The Silence. This proves that witnesses are telling the truth.”

Palestinians told to leave their homes:

“This was very troubling. There were those that were forced to leave homes so Israel could use them as strongholds but if they encountered an Israeli checkpoint they ran a very high risk of being shot and even if they were carrying white flags it did not protect them. This evidence was replicated by Breaking the Silence as soldiers were told that any person they then encountered in their vicinity was likely to be the enemy. The dropping of leaflets early on ensured that those who were left in Gaza were potential aggressors. Is that sufficient to absolve a military commander of his obligations? It is not. And anyway where were they to go? The double whammy was that those who knew Israel’s route into Gaza exited their areas and stayed with friends or family elsewhere. Often those houses where they stayed were struck by missiles and the possible explanation for this is that the thermal signature of a high density of occupation in some houses was enough to alert the missilers to target that place. As a result you were damned in you did go and damned if you didn’t go.”

Destruction of food sources:

“This was also troubling. We went to the only flour mill functioning in Gaza. It was struck and destroyed by an air attack. People now have to pay for their flour in Israel with a food price-hike on top of their other troubles. Israel claimed it was not struck from the air but was damaged by a tank shell during an exchange of fire with Hamas operatives in the area. But Israel’s argument was demolished by a Guardian journalist who saw the bomb fragments the following day. It was a Mark 84 JDAM bomb. Then there was the main chicken farm with 35,000 chickens. The family was locked away while the hatcheries were bulldozed. These were very troubling incidents. Then Israel, in what was called ‘Operation the Day After’, started bulldozing factories, farmland, wells and all the trees. I found that personally very difficult to comprehend. 6800 dunams of land had been destroyed. That figure has now increased to 20,000 dunams because the degradation is cumulative when land is adjacent to sea, sand or sewage and that land is left untended. 140,000 olive trees, 136,000 citrus trees and 22,000 fruit trees were destroyed. The agricultural destruction was my particular cause of pain.”

“Now there are no mistakes in war”:

“Today we have the undreamt of luxury of precision weapons. There are no accidents, there are no miscalculations and there are no errors. There may be soldiers among you who disagree with me but that is my view, especially in the armies that have emerged in the last five or six years, because the technologies are there and they are inexpensive. Therefore I have to make assumptions that the amount of destruction that was applied to the territory of Gaza would lead to other consequences if the blockade was left in place. As long as the blockade continues the degradation of life in Gaza will continue. I could argue that the blockade is the continuation of the war by other means.”

Weapons used:

“There is an evolving doctrine in the Israel defence community. This doctrine has an influence on other armies in the West. The most ubiquitous symbol of the war that was repeatedy flashed onto our screens was the discharge of White Phosphorous over the city. There are claimes that 3,500 WP shells were discharged on a defenceless city. This is an extremely troubling action. WP will burn through the skin to the bone. It affects those who treat it. 14 people were killed by it. WP should never be used either in an undefended area or on a battlefield. Ireland got rid of WP from its arsenal in the 1970s.

Shrapnel, heavy metal and tungsten were also used. One boy had tungsten in his spine and he is now likely to develop cancer and you have to call tungsten’s use into question. It is particularly troublesome if used in powder form such as DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive). It is not detectable in the system and will also cause cancer and tumours. Then there are Fleschettes, little darts, which are designed on impact with human flesh to ‘tumble’ and aggravate the injuries internally. Sometimes when they meet the flesh they break and so portions of the darts go in different directions inside the body. This is in breach of the Geneva Conventions and should be banned and condemned out of hand.

There were certain weapons used, or suspected to have been used, with deep penetrator capabilities to take on the tunnels and underground bunkers that may have been in Gaza and were certainly on the border with Gaza and Egypt. It is reasonable to surmise that these weapons penetration abilities can only be arrived at by the use of hardened warheads which use materials containing alloys, which are highly toxic, or uranium or depleted uranium, which are highly toxic, and so there is an urgent need to institute investigations of the soil, the air and the water in that area not only in Gaza but in soil to the east of Gaza, in Israel, because of the prevailing westerly winds. Any toxicities released as a result of the weapons will travel.

Although we have handed in the Goldstone Report there are further revelations. This morning I got hair sample results of 65 people who lived close to four or five major impact sites and their finding reveal an array of toxic chemicals in the hair samples, some of which are tungsten, which is carcinogenic, and some is uranium. Therefore while I confine myself to the Goldstone Report’s findings I will not be discharging my duties to you adequately if I did not reveal to you subsequent findings which add further wieght to this report, which cannot be ignored and which will not go away.”

Whiskey, dips and human rights.

Soon after Live8 was announced in 2005 I received an email which advertised a very expensive package for the concert including champagne breakfast and VIP access at the concert.

But I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to sip champagne while they were supposed to be thinking about the starving of Africa.

On Monday night it was a similar experience at the launch of JNews (not to be confused with the Jewish News).

JNews was launched by Brian Klug, who set up both Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP) and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV).

JFJFP, IJV and JNews are big on human rights and see themselves in opposition to other Jews, like me, who they think aren’t big on human rights because we condone Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

At the JNews launch Anthony Lerman told us that JNews will approach “the Israel-Palestine conflict from a concerned Jewish perspective” and that “we are living at a time when the situation in Israel-Palestine is becoming increasingly desperate”.

When hasn’t it been desperate, Anthony!

Next Klug sat before us preaching about human rights and social justice and quoting heavily from the Talmud.

Then it was quiz time: “What do you think the “J” in “JNews” stands for?”, he asked us.

Some, he said, would think it stood for “Jews for Genocide” or “Traitors to the Jewish people” or “Self Hating Jews”.

Finally, he ended our suspense: “The ‘J’ stands for Jews and Justice and, as it says in the Talmud, these two should be as one”

He wants JNews to be non-partisan but being the committed anti-Zionist activist that he is I doubt very much JNews will succeed in that.

Baroness Helena Kennedy

Then we heard from Baroness Helena Kennedy who said she was proud to be a patron of JNews. She actually spoke with true concern for what was happening in Israel/Palestine.

And she quoted Amos Oz’s short work Please help us to Divorce which really is a must read for people who wish to understand the psychological complexities that both Israelis and Palestinians must overcome before there can be a two-state solution.

Unlike the myopic JFJFP, IJV and JNews Oz doesn’t blame everything on Israel.

Then there was a big faux pas when Baroness Kennedy said “I’m an honorary Jew” due to her experience of growing up in Glasgow “where both the Catholics and the Jews got it in the neck at the same time”.

So Helena loves Jews but she obviously hasn’t been reading Anne Karpf lately. Didn’t Helena realise that philo-Semitism is the new anti-Semitism?

According to Karpf, who co-edited IJV’s A Time to Speak Out:

“We live in postmodern times where some of what looks like anti-Semitism isn’t, but, conversely, some of what doesn’t look like anti-Semitism in fact is. Consider the “philo-Semitism”, for instance, of Michael Gove and Julie Burchill (“the Jews are my favourites”; “Jews do things so well”). Burchill’s philo-Semitism is a form of anti-Semitism, I’d suggest, because it bunches all Jews together as though we were a single, uniform entity. The idea that all Jews are wonderful is little different from all Jews being hateful: in both cases Jews are stripped of individual characteristics, and are nothing except Jewish – a view to which most racists happily subscribe.”

So if Burchill and Gove are “anti-Semites” what does that make Baroness Helena Kennedy who thinks of herself as an “honorary Jew”? Would the 90 members of this Karpf-loving audience shout “anti-Semite” at Kennedy, I wondered? Of course not.

Miri Weingarten (Guardian)

Then it was time for Miri Weingarten who said that “as Jews we can offer the public a unique voice out of genuine concern for Israelis and Palestinians”.

Finally, it was short film time. The film (see end) showed us the real perspective that JNews is coming from which is of the Palestinian refugees returning to Israel. The film makes the Israeli public out to be dishonest.

It is called On the Day Yafa’s Refugees Return.

Then it was time for wine, whisky, potato wedges and dips served by waitresses and all of which reminded me of that Live8 email of five years ago.

Would it not have been better if the money put into this expensive catering had gone to promote the human rights that JNews cares so much about?

So what is JNews?

It seems to be just another version of JFJFP and IJV; same patrons, same audience.

It has expensive office space in the heart of Farringdon.

It sees itself as Britain’s answer to J Street which is trying to challenge AIPAC’s influence in Washington. AIPAC is America’s pro-Israel lobby.

It claims it will take articles from any perspective, even a Zionist one, as long as it comes from a human rights perspective.

It likes to serve delicious food and alcohol.

Duck pancakes, anyone?

Fisk/Hari

It was a good old Independent doubly-whammy to nicely finish off International Israel Apartheid Week.

Robert Fisk

Last Friday (12 March) Johann Hari had a piece Palestinians should now declare their independence.

On Saturday (13 March) Fisk recommended books to help you understand the Middle East.

Fisk recommends and quotes from George Antonius’s The Arab Awakening:

“The cure for the eviction of Jews from Germany is not to be sought in the eviction of the Arabs from their homeland …”

Fisk sees this as “the first truly eloquent warning of what was to come”.

He didn’t recommend Benny Morris’ The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem but he mentioned it in passing:

“Benny Morris was the most prominent Israeli researcher to prove that it was indeed Israel’s intention to evict the Palestinians from their homes in their tens of thousands in 1948 – the fact that Morris has since gone completely batty by claiming the Israelis didn’t ethnically cleanse enough of them does not detract from his seminal work.”

But Morris did not prove any such intention!

Morris, for starters, quotes Ze’ev Jabotinsky, leader of a right-wing Zionist movement, who said in 1931: “We don’t want to evict even one Arab from the left or right banks of the Jordan. We want them to prosper economically and culturally.”

If anything it was the 1937 Peel Commission, which was under the auspices of the British government, that first recommended transfer of the Arab population out of areas earmarked for the Jewish population on partition.

Morris’ view is that there was no specific Zionist policy of transfer although there had been unofficial “transfer thinking” that preceded the war. But it was only once the Arabs rejected the 1947 UN partition resolution, civil war between the Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs and then the full-scale Arab invasion of Israel ensued that “Jewish hearts hardened towards the Palestinian Arabs who were seen as mortal enemies, and should they be coopted into a Jewish state, a potential Fifth Column”.

To be fair to Fisk has lived in the heart of Beirut for 30 years and so he is highly biased out of necessity.

Johann Hari does not live in the heart of Beirut and so has no such excuse for his bias (or is it just ignorance?).

Johann Hari

Hari suggests the Palestinians should declare their own state forthwith to concentrate the minds of the West and he narrates his own version of the Arab/Israeli wars including, like Fisk, that of 1948:

“Until 1948, the Palestinians were living in their own homes, on their own land – until they were suddenly driven out in a war to make way for a new state for people fleeing a monstrous European genocide.”

Again there is no mention of the total Arab rejection of UN partition resolution 181, the consequent civil war started by the Palestinian Arabs against the Jews and the Arab invasion after Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948.

For Hari one side is evil while the other side is totally innocent. He continues this theme throughout the piece.

He quotes Golda Meirs’ “there are no Palestinians”. Well to Meir there were no Palestinians 40 years ago just like there were no Palestinians as such to the Jews that came to Palestine 100 years ago because they did not view the Arabs living there as a nation. But that doesn’t mean to say there is no Palestinian nation now. There is and one deserving of a country.

But it is a common anti-Israel tactic to take an ancient quote of an Israeli or Jewish leader and put it in today’s context to make the speaker look evil.

Hari also writes of “some heroic Israelis who argue back”, so painting the rest of Israel’s citizens as weak, ignorant and cowardly.

But Hari thinks he has found the answer to why there are so few “heroic Israelis”:

“It may be that surviving the most horrific atrocities doesn’t make you compassionate, but more often makes you hard, and paranoid. It may make you see the ghost of your murderer even in your victims: Adolf Hitler in a Gazan child.”

For Hari Jews are still so obsessed by the gas chambers that every one of us, apart from his “heroes”, has turned into our own self-contained irrational killing machine.

Not for Hari do Israelis fight back against thousands of deadly Kassam rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza towards Israel’s southern towns or against Katyushas hitting nothern Israel from Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon.

And Hari thinks that Hamas, “the ugly fundamentalist group”, tacitly accepts a two-state solution but how ignorant can one be.

Accepting a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, as Hamas does, is not the same as accepting the existence of Israel.

But Hari has fallen for Hamas’ rhetoric hook, line and sinker.

Hari finishes off urging the Palestinians:

“They should declare independence. Then it is up to us – the watching billions – to pressure our governments to make it real, rather than a howl in the dark.”

Hari doesn’t understand that Palestinian society is in no state to declare independence. While building consruction is swiftly taking place in West Bank towns the hatred that persists between Hamas and Fatah will mean that civil war, bloodshed and revenge killings would not be far away.

Hari hasn’t thought the consequence of his logic through but, then again, for Israel’s haters the demonisation of Israel and Israelis far outweighs any concern they really have for the Palestinian people.

Ilan Pappe: “You’re all just brainwashed”

It is one thing being abused by the audience, which I am regularly, but it is another thing being abused by the actual speaker at an Israel hate-fest.

At these meetings it is with trepidation that one raises an arm to ask a question or put Israel’s side of the case. The hatred is like no other I have felt before in any other place.

I have recently been called a “Holocaust denier”, “scum” and even , horror of horror, “from the Zionist Federation”.

But after listening to Ilan Pappe and Ronnie Kasrils speak at Parliament on Wednesday on Opposing Apartheid: Palestine and the experience of South Africa I approached Pappe.

Professor Pappe is an anti-Zionist Israeli who used to lecture at Haifa University. He claims that his views were so anathema to Israeli academia that he was hounded out of the country and now he is Professor of History at Exeter University.

I have read a lot of his work and have found him interesting on nationalism and identity so I wanted to ask him why he felt that there should be no Jewish state when there have always been Jews living in the area of what is now Israel, West Bank, Gaza and Jordan.

“Jews made up just 1% of the population and even they weren’t Zionist,” was his answer.

This bemused me especially as arch anti-Zionist Ben White quotes a Jewish population figure of 5%.

I told Pappe that I couldn’t understand the relevance of whether these Jews were Zionist or not. Surely, their mere presence as Jews was proof enough of uninterrupted Jewish lineage in the area. And it wasn’t as if the 500,000 Arabs there considered themselves “Palestinian”.

I asked Pappe where he got the “1%” statistic from and he referred me to Ottoman records. I questioned how he was sure they were accurate but he’d had enough and said “You’re all just brainwashed”.

Imagine you are a student with a £20,000 loan and you ask Pappe a simple question like that in class but get told you are “brainwashed”.

Pappe is also a prolific writer on how Jews “ethnically cleansed ” the Palestinians.

I would be shocked and amazed if he ever offered an alternative view to his history students about the complex events on the Israeli-Arab war that took place between 1947-1949. For Pappe there is only one view: It was Zionist policy to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians.

But would he, for example, recommend his students to read Benny Morris who has a much more nuanced view of what took place in 1947-1949?

But one of Pappe’s most undesirable comments was reserved for Jewish students in the UK. Just after leaving Israel for the UK he gave an interview to the Times Higher Education Supplement of 6 April 2007:

“By concentrating their efforts on defending Israel, Jewish student groups were exacerbating this perception. They then risked drawing Muslim anger against the state of Israel upon themselves.”

His insinuation was that if Jewish students support Israel they only have themselves to blame if something dreadful happens to them. It was his warning for Jewish students to just shut up.

I did a Masters at SOAS and came across no problems from any Muslim students or Muslims in general when Israel/Palestine was discussed on campus.

The only insults came from middle-aged hard-lefties consumed with rage that the Jews can have state.

Yet, now Pappe comes here trying to stir up trouble and silence Jewish students.

Is this the sort of person who should be lecturing our students?

Really, Exeter University seems to be doing itself no credit by giving Pappe tenure.

“You’re a Holocaust denier and you’re Scum.”

These were the words left ringing in my ears last night when I questioned the thesis that Palestinian nationalism or a Palestinian state had existed when the Jews began to return to the Middle East at the beginning of the 20th century.

I was at LSE again for Ben White’s talk Democracy or Apartheid? Israel’s regime of control and the Palestinians .

The talk that was part of the sixth international Israel Apartheid Week.

Israel Apartheid Week is basically two weeks of propaganda and lies spoken against Israel to demonise both Israel and its supporters.

We were a tiny audience, 20 at most. White put this down to “event fatigue” but “Ben White fatigue” would be more accurate. White has a book to flog and so has been back and forth across the Atlantic racking up the airmiles trying to do exactly that.

His presentation consists of little more than accusation after accusation against Israel. His evidence mainly consists of random quotes of Israeli politicians, past and present, a few photographs and some maps. White does maps a lot.

But he started off by demeaning Zionism. My loose definition of Zionism is:

The will of the Jewish people for national determination in a land where they used to live in great numbers before being expelled by Roman conquest. Just 96 years ago that “land” consisted of provinces of the Ottoman Empire (see my own map below) and contained approximately 525,000 people. It was not a state. Today that same area contains over 10 million people.

White demeans Zionism as anti-democratic and having been implemented by force:

“Zionist colonisation could only be carried out in defiance of the will of the native population,” Jabotinsky, 1923.

“Were I an Arab I would rise up against immigration liable sometime in the future to hand the country over to Jewish rule,” Ben Gurion, 1939.

Sure, Zionist leaders were hardtalking and pragmatic but, apart from the Irgun and the Stern Gang of the 1940s, Zionism established itself via negotiations with politicians and opinion formers, not with force.

White then described what he views as Israel’s apartheid measures against Israel’s own Palestinian community (“don’t call them ‘Israeli Arabs’”), against East Jerusalem’s Arab population and against the Palestinians in the West Bank.

On the Israeli Arabs he mentioned martial law, land confiscations and Judaization of the Galilee and the Negev. “Judaization” is moving of Jews into these areas:

“The project of ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ commenced when the state was founded and has continued in various guises to the present day.” Prof. Hillel Cohen.

On the Arabs of East Jerusalem he spoke of their “residency” status being somewhere between the Palestinians in the West Bank, who have no status, and the Israeli Arabs, who are “citizens”.

“Residency” means they can move about freely in Israel but cannot vote in national elections but this “residency” can be stripped without notice as, apparently, happened to 4,500 East Jerusalem Arabs in 2008.

He quoted a Jerusalem Post headline: “Jerusalem Mayor Barkat: Arab population in capital a strategic threat.”

About the West Bank White spoke about settlement building “which is a consensus issue in Israel as the settlement project accelerated even under a Labour government from 1993 to 1996″ and about house demolitions.

Then he brought out his maps of “disappearing Palestine”.

White's map of West Bank before settlements

Based on his maps for White there is only one conclusion: a one-state solution.

In the Q&A I made the point that the West Bank settlements aren’t necessarily there to stay but can be removed as part of a negotiating process so leaving a fully functioning Palestinian state.

But White answered that the settlements are deeply ingrained in Israeli policy.

Then I made my point about Palestinian nationalism for which I was called a Holocaust denier and scum.

White's West Bank map as of now

Some 96 years ago the area now comprising Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria were merely provinces of the Ottoman Empire. There were towns, villages and provinces, but not a Palestinian state.

Neither did Palestinian nationalism exist. It grew in direct opposition to Zionism. That is not to say that the Palestinians should not have a state now. They are a now a people. But to say there ever was a Palestinian state is just not the truth and there is scant evidence of Palestinian nationalism at the time.

“Palestine” was not a land without “people” but it was a land without “a people”.

You can call me a “Holocaust denier and scum” but do your own research.

This map shows how “Palestine” looked just 96 years ago.

Goldstone Report debate shambles

Goldstone's fact finding team: (l to r) Hina Jilani, Richard Goldstone, Professor Chinkin, Colonel Travers

Last night a few of us headed down to the London School of Economics to hear two of Richard Goldstone’s United Nations “fact” finding team into Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

The event was entitled The Goldstone Report and the Peace Process.

Considering the importance of the event it should have started on time but the Chairman and four speakers strolled in 15 minutes late so reducing the event’s length from 90 to just 75 minutes.

Retired Colonel Desmond Travers and Professor Christine Chinkin were both on the Goldstone panel but Chinkin had already signed a letter to the Times condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Chinkin’s mere presence on the investigation team was, therefore, a breach of Article 6 (Right to a fair trial) of the European Convention of Human Rights as she is obviously not “impartial”.

Karma Nabulsi also spoke. She is an ex-PLO negotiator and very personable but a one trick pony. For Karma peace can only come through “justice” and “justice” for her means the return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel.

She asked: “What is wrong with the refugees returning to Israel?”.

Where does one start, Karma! It’s the equivalent of the UK opening its borders to 60 million non-EU nationals.

Then there was Ami Ayalon. He was the “Israel voice”. He is ex-Shin Bet . Shin Bet is Israel’s internal security service, like our MI5. He also used to be a Labour Member of Israel’s Parliament.

He said Israel has a duty to defend its citizens but that he was against Israel invading Gaza because, as the Hamas website says, Hamas will take the fight to its own civilian areas.

Ayalon felt Israel did not have the tools to do this without causing harm to Palestinian civilians. Instead he had proposed a plan with Sari Nusseibah where there should be a new “law of return” for the settlers who wish to move back West into Israel proper and who should be compensated accordingly.

As decent a left-wing Israel voice as Ayalon was it would have been more interesting to hear from someone from Kadima, the party that took Israel to war. Now such a person runs the risk of arrest as soon as they step off the plane at Heathrow, so we will never be allowed to hear from them.

Ami Ayalon - ex-Shin Bet

But back to Colonel Travers who left some of us in utter disbelief by the end.

Travers was Goldstone’s munitions expert. He started off by saying that “the great preponderance of the damage that was done in Gaza was done by conventional weapons”.

Travers then took us through the deadly propensity of White Phosphorous, a non-conventional weapon which was used as a smoke-screen by Israel to shield its soldiers from Hamas fighters. Travers admits that the use of WP is not illegal and that all armies use it but he felt it should be banned worldwide “even for battlefield use”.

As he explained: “WP is a highly toxic chemical that needs no initiator to ignite, all it needs is oxygen. If it is deprived of oxygen it remains dormant and active. WP that was dumped in the Irish Sea after Wolrd War Two broke away from its moorings and came ashore and ignited on an Irish beach 50 years later. The fumes cause sickness as they are highly toxic and people with as low as 10% surface area burns will die becuase it attacks the central nervous system.”

Then he said: “Children in Gaza were attracted to the smoke because of its pleasent almond smell.”

But, apparently, there are two alternatives to WP: Red Phosphorous and Titanium Tetrachloride

Now, I am no chemist but at first glance these two chemicals also seem highly deadly and my hunch is that had Israel used either of them then accusations of war crimes would still be heading its way.

Then Travers moved on to the use of DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive): “To be very honest about it we found no evidence of DIME being used. There is anecdotal evidence. Whether it was or it wasn’t used it puts the victim at risk of cancer and is very difficult to trace and remove.” (Note the caveats.)

He also said he wished to see Tungsten and Flechette shells removed from the armies of the world.

But for the denouement of his presentation he said: “In Gaza munitions were dropped to achieve deep penetration, perhaps tunnel systems or underground caches and this suggests strongly that those munitions were comprised of hardened warheads which might have logically been hardened by radiological devices or depleted uranium or uranium devices and if so there are toxic consequences. It might have happened and if it has happened there is a responsibilty on the international community to make sure Gaza doesn’t deteriorate further and it is in a terrible situation already.” (How many more caveats!)

I had my doubts about the Goldstone Report but I kept an open mind that Israel might well have done things beyond international law. Now, after hearing, Professor Chinkin and, particularly, Colonel Travers I am even less inclined to trust its findings, eventhough I have not read the report in full.

Professor Chinkin has little credibility as an objective judge and Colonel Travers’ accusations that Israel used non-conventional weapons applies, on his own admission, to every other army in the world so then why is only Israel under investigation?

Below you can see Colonel Travers in full flow last night as filmed by Jonathan Sacerdoti. Note how in response to Jonathan Hoffman’s question about the possibility of weapons being stored by Hamas in mosques he admits that he visited only 2 out of the 14 mosques destroyed by Israel in Gaza and found no evidence of munitions having been stored there because, in his view, it just isn’t a secure place to store them.

Get that: He visited just two! What about the other 12, Colonel? Did Hamas not allow you into them by any chance?

The event was a perfect show of the amateurish way that the Goldstone Report, which could have the affect of sending Israeli soldiers and politicians to prison, was put together.

The United Nations, itself, loses even more credibility by endorsing the report.