Monthly Archives: August 2010

Ahava staff carry on under pressure

staff looking out from Ahava

staff looking out from Ahava

Imagine your journey into work worrying about what you might find when you arrive or whether your office might be violently stormed with you in it.

This is the daily fate of the Ahava staff who work in the shop on Monmouth Street in London’s Covent Garden.

As we all know by now Ahava lost two days of business when late last year the shop was invaded by activists who locked themselves inside while petrified staff looked on. Then last week the shop front was coated in red paint by a couple of “brave” souls who had covered their faces so as not to be picked out by CCTV.

Ahava after last week's paint attack

Ahava after last week's paint attack

Yesterday the usual mob of anti-Israel activists turned up en masse with an array of Palestinian and Communist flags and the usual “Boycott Israel” and “Free Palestine” paraphernalia. They were allowed to position themselves a couple of metres from Ahava’s shop door and hand out anti-Israel leaflets to passers-by.

Sadly, one can forget any solidarity from neighbouring shop-keepers for now; Ahava is being told by some to shut up shop and go online.

By yesterday the red paint had been mostly removed at great expense to Ahava. Remnants could still be seen above the shop.

And if you had ever wondered where all the money comes from to fund both the attacks and legal representation, they hold fundraisers:

On September 11th we are putting on a fundraising party to raise money to fund direct actions in support of Palestine, such as blockades of Ahava or Carmel Agrexco. Come on down, with a banging line up and an amazing space to have a party in (the Ratstar comes with 2 rooms of music, a cinema room and even a roof terrace, oh yes), there has never been a funner way to support a great cause. The day kicks off at 4pm, with workshops on direct action, …Palestine related film screenings and a Palestinian cafe. Music starts at 8pm. The night is free before 8pm, £5 suggested donation afterwards, but pay what you can afford. All money raised will go to pay for actions like this; http://london.indymedia.org/articles/2955

No chance of any of that money making it to the starving or malaria-ridden of Africa then, nor the the flood victims in Pakistan nor even to the Palestinians themselves who the activists claim to care so much about.

Meanwhile, here is Channel 10 of Israel’s interesting video clip about the boycott Israel movement. Look out for insightful comment from Lauren Booth.

Yesterday:

left-over red paint after midweek attack

left-over red paint after midweek attack

small pro-Israel counter-demo.

small pro-Israel counter-demo.

Gideon Levy packs them in at Amnesty

Snow/Levy

Snow/Levy

I went to hear Gideon Levy talk at Amnesty in London last night. He’s in the UK to promote his book The Punishment of Gaza and last night he was in conversation with John Snow (Snow presents Channel 4’s Seven O’clock news and seems fond of chairing anti-Israel events).

It was nice to be actually let in unlike my last attempt. This event was co-presented by Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the latter organisation being more open to dialogue than some might give credit.

I hope being barred from a public debate on Israel/Palestine because people don’t like what I write won’t become de rigeur, but you never know.

Back to Levy. From what I had read about this tour I was expecting the devil incarnate to walk into the packed auditorium breathing fire from its nostrils. It didn’t happen.

Maybe in my old age I am becoming desensitised to the ubiquitous unsubstantiated accusations of racism and apartheid that are made, like they were last night, against Israel that they don’t anger me anymore.

Maybe I was softened up by Levy’s claim that he is an Israeli patriot: “All I do is care about Israel. I’ve used my journalistic career for a better Israel, not against Israel. I love Gaza but have not been alowed to go there since December 2006. I asked Ehud Barak why Israeli journalists are not allowed in Gaza and he said he didn’t know they weren’t allowed in.”

Levy saw Operation Cast Lead (OCL) not as a war but as a brutal operation against a civilian population.

He thinks OCL was the turning point of world public opinion which is now “less tolerant of Israeli violence and aggression. Look at the flotilla. We now do what we want wherever we want, for example in international waters, with force as the first option. The Israeli general in charge of the flotilla operation has said that next time we will use snipers.”

(Levy obviously hadn’t seen the BBC’s Death in the Med in which Jane Corbin concluded that that the Mavi Marmara’s bid to break the naval blockade wasn’t really about bringing aid to Gaza but it was a political move designed by the Islamist organisation IHH and others to put pressure on Israel and the international community. Corbin had just reported that two thirds of the medicines being transported to the people of Gaza by the flotilla were out of date and useless.)

He paid tribute to the fact that Israel was always the first on the scene to help in international crises like in Mexico, Turkey and Haiti.

“There have been worse occupations in history but not where the occupier felt so good about itself. We are the first occupiers in the world to say that we are the victim and Israelis believe the IDF is the most moral army in the world, ” he said.

He asked: “How can an occupation by a democratic society last for 42 years? How do Israelis live with it?”

He answered: “We were trained to think we are very moral but that Palestinians were not human beings like us. Dehumanisation is the only tool which enables us to maintain the occupation and feel good about ourselves. It is wall-to-wall now. Even the peaceniks don’t feel the Palestinians are human beings”.

He told us how two Israeli dogs being killed during OCL garnered more media coverage than the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians. The dogs’ funerals and interviews with the owners were all over the front pages while Palestinian deaths were only mentioned on pages 15 and 16: “In Israel two Israeli dogs are worth more than hundreds of Palestinians,” he concluded.

(Had Levy picked up a British newspaper recently or logged on to the internet he would see that while people are dying in Pakistan from the terrible floods we are obsessed by a woman who dumped a cat in a bin.)

Levy said that a crowd of the size at Amnesty to hear him would never turn out in Tel Aviv and that Haaretz, the newspaper he writes for, is an island with a small readership.

He spoke of the ever growing file labelled “Subscription cancellations due to Gideon Levy”: “I get full freedom to write for Haaretz but Haaretz is losing influence,” he said.

He recalled the 400,000 Israelis who protested after the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacres which, he said, were not even carried out by the Israelis but thought that that size protest would not occur now. He has been described as a “self-hating Jew” and “an enemy of Israel”.

(When Shlomo Sand came to the UK to promote his anti-Zionist polemic, The Invention of the Jewish People, he said it was top of the best-seller list in Israel.

As for Haaretz itself it is read nationally and internationally. It is published in English and Hebrew and is distributed along with the International Herald Tribune and has a daily circulation of 72,000 (100,000 at weekends). The Jerusalem Post’s circulation is 15,000 (40,000 at weekends).)

On the question of boycotting Israel Levy said that although he cannot call for a boycott himself, because he is Israeli, it is a legitimate weapon especially as Israeli uses it against Gaza, Hamas and Iran.

He was asked whether boycotts are racist because they target Jewish Israelis, even those opposed to the settlements. He failed to address this question properly but he did say that boycotters should read the label first and boycott only if a product is from the West Bank.

(Obviously, Levy fails to understand the racism inherent in the boycott Israel movement because first, boycotters don’t look at the label in such a discriminating manner. As long as the label says “Israel”, they will boycott (One member of the audience claimed that the only reason they boycott is because the Palestinians themselves are calling for it). And, second, the boycott includes Israeli academics.)

Levy’s main complaint is that he feels so alone in Israel. He feels the drama is all going on in Israel’s backyard and yet there is no one covering it. He said there is no censorship in Israel, only self-censorship by journalists.

(But even if this were the case there are plenty of foreign journalists in Gaza, including from the BBC. But I can fully understand why Israeli journalists would be so banned; they would be an easy target for kidnapping by Hamas.)

Despite all the above Levy is not actually an anti-Zionist.

He called for the return of Palestinians to a Palestinian state and a limited return of some 500,000 to Israel including an admission of liability from Israel for what happened in 1948 and compensation for the non-returning refugees.

“What happened in 1948 is an historic injustice but it happens in wars. Israel is a fait accomplit so let’s move to a new chapter. The Jews had a right to settle in Palestine but the Palestinian rejection of the partition plan should not have led to the expulsion of 650,000 from their villages,” he said.

Levy claims that no one in Israel cares about the Palestinians and he cites Tel Aviv as the best example of this. But then again he would hear the same complaints from the residents of Sderot who also think that the rest of Israel doesn’t care about the bombs that are regularly fired at them from Gaza.

I had a couple of nice chats afterwards and one with someone in charge of the Northern Section of the TUC who said that a full TUC boycott of Israel is coming.

I asked whether the TUC had ever considered a boycott of Britain or America due to NATO forces occupying Afghanistan.

He said it was impossible to boycott Britain but there is every possibility of a boycott of America being passed. I’d like to see them try!

Keep an eye on the TUC Conference, 13th-16th September.

The Battle of Monmouth Street

On Saturday some 80 anti-Israel protesters and 15 pro-Israel counter-demontrators crowded in front of Ahava in Covent Garden.

For the first hour there was actually quite a good atmosphere as a small band showed up which played a medley of old Communist tunes including The Internationale,which they duly murdered.

After an hour the atmosphere turned more menacing. The Croydon Division of the the English Defence League (EDL) pitched up and unfurled a Flag of St. George, which acted as a lighting rod for the anti-Israel protesters. For the next hour the EDL group and anti-Israel protesters faced off and exchanged insults.

The usual accusations of EDL collusion with the “Zionists” are now being made in an attempt to smear as racist those who support Israel’s right to exist.

Of course there was no collusion. In Britain you cannot stop anyone turning up, standing where they want, wearing what they want and saying what they want. You can only make complaints, of which there were many.

I understand that at the next anti-Israel Ahava protest on 28th August the possibility of yet another pen, for the EDL, is being investigated. Not that anyone sticks to their pens anyway.

That said it is of the utmost hypocricy to make claims of racism while at the same time calling for a wordwide boycott of Israeli goods and people and more to the point Jewish Israeli ones (anything Christian or Muslim Israeli is exempt from boycott).

Apart from the anti-Israel Ahava protests there is also the continuing anti-Israeli demonstration outside Marks and Spencer every thursday night from 6 to 8pm.

But Monmouth Street is very narrow. There is no room for almost 100 protesters antagonistic towards each other especially with cars constantly sweeping through and protesters all over the road.

And on the 28th the crowds will likely be even bigger with the EDL there. Something for the police to sort out before something goes drastically wrong.

Some pics. (click to enlarge) and a clip:

Omar Barghouti’s Guardian love-in

Omar Barghouti (Guardian.co.uk)

Omar Barghouti (Guardian.co.uk)

The new mantra of the far-left is that the “South Africa moment” has arrived in relation to Israel.

Reasonable people around the world recognise what Israel is up against when confronting Palestinian terrorists groups. They recognise that Israel’s battle is a mirror-image of the battle that NATO troops are fighting in Afghanistan. While the focus of Al Qaida, the Taleban and Hamas are different all Islamist terror groups employ the same brutal tactic of deliberately targeting and murdering innocent civilians.

Yet in an article for The Guardian Omar Barghouti praises Desmond Tutu, Richard Falk and Mairead Maguire for endorsing the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and that some artists have decided not to entertain in Israel. Many superb artists do play in Israel including Elton John, Madonna and Joan Armatrading.

Far from being a “South Africa moment” Barghouti would know, seeing as he is studying for a Masters at Tel Aviv University, that Israel is booming. The currency is very strong (Israeli banks took on no toxic debt), investments continue to poor in and low cost carriers have started to fly there. Exports flourish with tasty Israeli fruit and vegetables gracing the shelves of British supermarkets. Technological and scientific innovation continues apace (Israeli scientists have recently created a breathe test to detect common forms of cancer).

In his article Barghouti argues that BDS wants three main objectives of the Palestinian people realised:

1. The “occupation” ended – This is understandable but it can only be done around a negotiating table. Israel’s security is paramount and Israel has a right to be in the West Bank. Israeli forces are authorised to be there pursuant to UNSCR 242 drafted after the 1967 war. Arguably the settlers are there in accordance with the Balfour Declaration (“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people..”) that was incorporated into the British Mandate of Palestine, a legal instrument endorsed by the League of Nations and incorporated into the United Nations.

2. An end to the racial discrimination against Israel’s Palestinian citizens – Barghouti believes Israel is an “apartheid state” because he thinks it privileges Jews over its own Arab population (some 18% of the total). He didn’t give examples but we all know by now that Israeli Palestinians are well represented politically and some are very nicely off thank you very much. If you want to make money in Israel you can. While things in Israel, like most western countries, are not perfect Israeli Palestinians can fight politically to improve their conditions if they feel they are being slighted.

3. The so-called “right of return” for Palestinian refugees – The outcome of this would be the demographic destruction of the Jewish state, which is the real objective of the BDS movement. Israel obviously won’t agree to this but Barghouti thinks this “right” has UN approval and he disingenuously quotes UNSCR 194, which is not a “right” at all.

UNSCR 194 “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date..

Anyone read the Hamas Charter recently?:

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.

I’m not sure that “killing the Jews” correlates too well to wishing to “live at peace with their neighbours”.

Which brings us, finally, on to the most pernicious aspect of the BDS movement. An increasing amount of the Palestinian and pro-Palestinian narrative is being aimed at Jews per se. Anti-Semitic cartoons are rife in the Arab world and Hamas is open about what it thinks of Jews.

Pro-Palestinian activists have no qualms about equating Gaza to a Nazi concentration camp. Placards at anti-Israel rallies proclaim “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza” while pictures of children behind barbed wire abound.

Then there are the boycotts themselves. Anthony Julius has recognised that historically the boycott has been the main tool used to isolate the Jews. In his Trials of the Diaspora – A History of anti-Semitism in England he cites France in the 1890s, Limerick in 1904, Nazi Germany, Egypt in 1945 and Saudi Arabia in 1952. In the UK during the 1930s and 1960s right-wing fascists carried out boycotts.

Today it is Israel, which is disproportionately Jewish, that is being similarly boycotted. The sole qualification is to be Israeli. Organisations like Boycott Israeli Goods (BIG) make no bones about this.

Targeting someone because of their origin is normally considered racist but not, apparently, when it comes to Israel. Although the BDS movement is unsuccessful what makes a respected British newspaper like The Guardian unable to recognise the vicious ideology it is promoting is totally beyond me.

Anti-Ahava activists cleared of all charges

ism-london.org.uk

ism-london.org.uk

Four anti-Israel activists were today cleared at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court of all charges after they locked themselves onto concrete-filled oil drums inside the Israeli-owned Ahava shop on Monmouth Street in London’s Covent Garden forcing it to close down for one day in September 2009 and another day in December 2009.

Taherali Gulamhussein, Bruce Levy, Tom Ellis and Ms Crouch, all from London, were found not guilty of failing to comply with a police officer’s orders to leave the shop (Ss.68&69 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994).

The activists insisted that they were legally justified in their actions as they claim the shop’s activities are illegal because the products on sale in the shop originate from Mitzpe Shalem, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank, and are deliberately mislabeled as “Made in Israel”.

Ms Crouch commented on the acquittal: “This is only a small victory in the wider campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. We’ll continue to challenge corporate complicity in the occupation and Israel’s impunity on the international stage.”

The website of the International Solidarity Movement states that on the first day of trial, prosecutors dropped aggravated trespass charges. This would have required the prosecution to demonstrate Ahava was engaged in lawful activity but, apparently, the CPS decided that this was not something they would attempt to prove.

And, according to the website, the Ahava store’s manager’s failure to testify contributed to the acquittals on all remaining charges.

The case also apparently hinged on a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) guidance to retailers:

“The Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’. This would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli settlement in the OPT. This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders of the state of Israel” (11 December 2009).

The activists were therefore found to have acted lawfully.

Another activist, Mr Matthews, said: “The message is clear. If your company is involved in apartheid and war crimes and occupying Palestinian land, people will occupy your shop.”

Sarah Colborne, of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said ‘it is the owners of Ahava who should be in court, not just for their role in helping to cement an unlawful occupation, but for violating the Fourth Geneva Convention by exploiting the natural resources of an occupied territory for profit.’

This case comes after last month’s case at Hove Crown Court when seven anti-war activists were cleared of all charges after breaking into the EDO arms equipment factory in Brighton and causing £200,000 worth of damage.

In that case the defendants claimed they were trying to prevent the factory from making arms for Israel during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. But in his directions before dismissing them to consider a verdict Judge George Bathurst-Norman told the jury: “”You may think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered at that time” and said of group leader Christopher Osmond: “The jury may feel his efforts investigating the company merit the George Cross.” The Crown Prosecution Service may still investigate these directions.

Numbers for next Saturday’s anti-Israel protest outside Ahava on Monmouth Street in Covent Garden from midday until 2pm are certain to be swelled after yet another triumph for anti-Israel activists in the UK.

(Another recent anti-Israel protest outside Ahava).

Is The Independent anti-Semitic?

I don’t think so, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the discussion. After all we have just had to endure a week of radio phone-ins questioning whether England is an anti-Semitic country after Shimon Peres’ less than diplomatic recent interview in which he said that “There is in England a saying that an anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary.”

That dreadful statement implies that the English dislike the Jews as a matter of course which is not true.

Peres was correct however in pointing to the political advantage for many of being anti-Israel. They’ve done the maths.

Even David Cameron managed to keep tight-lipped about Israel until election-day. He made a point of referring to East Jerusalem as “occupied East Jerusalem” but because he constantly praised British Jews for their contribution to British society they flocked to vote for him and his party.

However, within three months of being elected his true thoughts revealed themselves when he referred to Gaza as being a “prison camp” because of Israel and he called the attack on the Mavi Marmara unreasonable (I doubt Cameron would have allowed an IRA boat to have docked at a British port).

But while England is not an anti-Semitic country there are English people that are anti-Semitic. This anti-Semitism is not merely confined to the BNP but deeply penetrates the far-left of politics also.

The subtle difference is that while the BNP and other far-right groups actively encourage anti-Semitism those on the far-left allow it to flourish unchallenged in order to suit their objectives.

Take the case of the openly and virulently anti-Semitic Hamas. Their Charter talks of jihad and killing Jews but the far-left will never condemn Hamas. Instead they state that although they don’t support Hamas they support the Palestinian people’s elected representatives’ right to govern. This is where the ideology of the far-left and Hamas coincide: the destruction of the Jewish state.

The expressed anti-Semitism of Hamas is left unchallenged by far-left political activists because they see it as having, for them, this benign outcome.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Down the years far-left politics have helped to destroy many a Jewish life, so why should it be any different today.

But getting back to The Independent. While Peres was taken to task over his unhinged statement The Independent got away with publishing an objectionable article by Chistina Patterson disingenuously headlined The limits of multi-culturalism in which she attacks religious Jews for the capital crime of…..being rude. For example:

“I didn’t realise that goyim were about as welcome in the Hasidic Jewish shops as Martin Luther King at a Klu Klux Klan convention.”

She doesn’t like the way religious Jews clog up the pavements with their prams and children, drive while on their mobile phones and drive the wrong way into supermarket car-parks.

To honour political correctness Patterson then goes on to slam the way Muslims dress before arriving at her real gripe; female circumcision and the lack of prosecutions for it.

Now female circumcision is a far more serious crime among ethnic groups than being rude. I am sure that many religious Jews are incredibly rude but then many non-Jews are also guilty of the same charges of rudeness and driving while speaking on a mobile phone.

So Patterson’s attack on this specific group of Jews is totally gratuitous. Not only that but when one ascribes such miserable traits to just one group of people, like Patterson does, people might have the wholly legitimate right to identify this as nothing less than racist rhetoric. This kind of talk is comparable with the notoriously anti-Semitic “Jews are tight with money” jibe.

Patterson’s gratuitous attack on religious Jews seems to be a cover for her not unreasonable attack on the barbaric but very rare British Muslim practice of female circumcision and as a good liberal Patterson probably wanted to show balance.

By now we are used to The Independent being a totally anti-Israel newspaper. Johann Hari, Yasmin Alibai-Brown and Robert Fisk have spent vast amounts of their journalistic years taking Israel to task. Fisk won’t even compare Israel to Hamas. Israel is far, far worse apparently now.

Sadly, The Independent’s views are more far more ideological than factual about Israel and at times the newspaper itself seems to be a mere extension of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the high-profile anti-Israel lobby group.

But this unscientific attack by Patterson on Jews directly is out of place in a British newspaper. I’m surprised it was allowed to run but then maybe The Independent is unfussed these days in appealing to the people Peres meant to refer to in his interview as being anti-Semitic. After all with its vastly declining circulation it needs the readership.

But where were the phone-ins about Patterson’s objectionable views?

Anti-Israel activists on trial next week

A heavy police presence was required again last Saturday in Monmouth Street, Covent Garden as anti-Israel protesters gathered outside the Ahava shop for the fortnightly ritual of singing anti-Israel songs, parading anti-Israel slogans and giving out anti-Israel literature.

It rounded off a good week for the protesters after David Cameron seemed to hold Israel solely responsible for the suffering of the people of Gaza as well as expecting Israel to allow any ship to enter Gaza unchallenged.

Mindful of the fact that businesses on Monmouth Street are suffering due to these regular protests a small group of pro-Israel counter-demonstrators gave out leaflets which encouraged people to shop there while the anti-Israel protesters continued with their usual leaflets that scream: “Boycott Ahava”.

The website of the International Solidarity Movement, which helps to organise the protests, states: “Police in overzealous form initially attempted to claim that a poster with a picture of a small forlorn looking Palestinian child holding a barbed wire could offend passers by. Despite threatening arrest, demonstrators successfully argued their case and were able to continue to display the picture which serves only to set out the emotional distress many Palestinian children endure.”

And on 9th, 10th, 11th August anti-Israel activists are in court once again. The website goes on to state:

“In september 2009, activists blockaded the shop to prevent it from trading with the public, in December 2009 the action was repeated. Where activists set out to do what the government, Camden Trading Standards and the police have so far refused to do, stop the trade in illegal settlement goods, they are now due in court to prove their actions were justified.”

Meanwhile, the next anti-Israel protest outside Ahava is on 14th August from midday.