Monthly Archives: April 2011

Amnesty and Middle East Monitor’s Israel hatefest love-in.

It is getting boring writing about Amnesty International and its hatred towards Israel but Michael Weiss wrote a recent blog asking “Why is Amnesty hosting a Hamas-friendly publisher of racists?

On May 23rd its London office is hosting Middle East Monitor’s (MEMO) “Complicity in Oppression: Does the Media Aid Israel?” event.

Weiss is Communications Director of the Henry Jackson Society and a spokesperson for Just Journalism.

As he points out in his piece MEMO is run by Dr Daud Abdullah who signed the Hamas-supporting Istanbul Declaration which calls on the ‘Islamic Nation’ to fight any ‘foreign warship’ attempting to block arms smuggling to Hamas. Presumably, such a ‘foreign warship’ could include one from the Royal Navy.

Weiss also quotes from a MEMO essay by Khalid Amayreh titled Netanyahu’s Lebensraum in which Amayreh denies that “these pathological liars from Eastern Europe…had any truly historical rights in the land of Palestine”.

Weiss signs off his piece asking us to ring Amnesty (02070331500) to ask why it is hosting this conference.

But according to Weiss Amnesty’s response is:

“Providing space for an event does not mean that we necessarily agree with all of the views of participants. The key point is that free debate takes place.”

Presumably, then, when Amnesty puts on its own conference it does “necessarily agree with all of the views of the participants”, like the one on April 13th where a photo was shown of a Palestinian teenager with a perfect Star of David, allegedly, tattooed on his forearm by an Israeli soldier using nothing more than broken glass.

Will Amnesty investigate this photo? Where is this Palestinian now? Surely, there would still be a scar on his forearm eventhough this incident happened some 8 years ago. I asked Ala Abu Dheer, who showed the photo, to email me details of the case so I could take it up with the Israeli Embassy, but I’m still waiting for the email.

But in response to Weiss’s piece MEMO has just posted an incredible rant by Khalid Amayreh titled Honest People can’t be indifferent to Israeli fascism.

Amayreh’s response is a slur on the 6,000,000 Jews executed by the Nazis. It has to be read to be believed and to see what Amnesty has become by hosting such a vile organisation like MEMO.

Here are some quotes from Amayreh’s piece:

“I have no problem comparing Israel with the worst criminals in history, including Hitler’s Nazis. It is true that Israel has not introduced gas chambers into Palestinian towns and villages (although relatively innocuous tear gas is often used in confined spaces, against the manufacturers’ recommendations, with often lethal results). However, gas chambers were never the only extermination method used by the Nazis. Israel has been killing and tormenting Palestinians in a variety of ways that, for sheer brutality and evil, don’t differ in substance from Nazi Germany’s murderous behaviour. Moreover, it is important to remember that the Nazi Holocaust didn’t begin with Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen…”

To compare the fate of the Palestinians to that of the 6,000,000 Jews slaughtered by the Nazis is vile and mendacious.

And he writes “The minute a Zionist Jew sets foot on Palestinian soil in order to live on land stolen from its rightful owners; or live in a house seized at gunpoint from its native Palestinian occupants, this Zionist Jew loses his sense of morality.” If someone wrote something similar about an immigrant African to the UK could they not be accused of inciting racial hatred?

Amayreh also talks of “hundreds of thousands of Christians and Muslims” having lived in “Palestine” when the Zionists arrived. He has wiped the many indigenous Jews already living there off the map.

He signs off by saying that “Zionists are the last people who are fit to lecture the Palestinians on the evils of terrorism…Israel represents ultimate terror…For arrogant Zionists to call us terrorists is, to quote Professor Norman Finkelstein, ‘beyond chutzpah’.”

But I do agree with his last words that “Palestine will be free”. Yes, free from the women oppressors and anti-Semitic Jew killers of Hamas who also execute their own, Palestinian, people by thowing them off the tops of tall buildings while their hands are tied behind their backs if they don’t follow Hamas’s strict religious and political doctrines.

This is the Hamas that is supported by MEMO and the MEMO which is being hosted by Amnesty.

Ahava Four guilty of aggravated trespass. Judge: Ahava “trading lawfully”

Four anti-Israel protesters were today found guilty of aggravated trespass by District Judge Ian Baker.

They were each given an 18 month conditional discharge (as long as they are not guilty of any further offences in that time no further action will be taken).

Costs of £250 were awarded against each defendant.

The convictions relate to two separate occasions at Ahava in Covent garden, London.

The first occasion, involving Gwendolen Wilkinson and Matthew Richardson, was on 2nd October 2010.

The second occasion, involving Jessica Nero and Christopher Osmond, was on 22nd November 2010 (this was the view from outside Ahava on the day).

Both occasions involved similar actions by the defendants. They entered Ahava and locked themselves onto a concrete block leading to Ahava having to close down and lose business.

However, both occasions led to slightly different charges.

In relation to events on 22nd November the District Judge found the defendants guilty under S69 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 for knowing that a direction to leave land had been given under S69(1) and they failed to leave that land as soon as practicable. For the direction by the police officer to be valid the prosecution must prove that he had a reasonable belief of the commission of aggravated trespass or obstruction of a lawful acvitity.

The District Judge found that the direction to be valid as the officer “saw a shop apparently trading as shops should do”.

Also, as the defendants had created a situation where their own leaving was “impracticable” the test of practicability did not apply to them. Otherwise, trespassers could take “ever more extreme steps to frustrate the powers of the police under S69″.

Events on 2nd October were prosecuted under S68. The elements of the offence were:

1. a person trespasses on land
2. where persons are engaged in a lawful activity
3. and does anything intended to obstruct or disrupt that activity.

The DJ said that as there was no suggestion that Ahava or its employees were occupying the premises illegally the case against the defendants was made out.

He said that the employees were “acting lawfully in accordance with their terms of employment” and could not be considered accessories to any alleged offences. The defendants disrupted the normal activities of the employees by what they did and so the case against them was made out.

The DJ did consider alleged criminal activity by Ahava, which could have made even the employees’ activities illegal, but could not come to any proper conclusions as follows:

The defendant’s claims of illegality because “everything Ahava does at the shop is unlawful because of its actions in the OPT” is behaviour “in relation to which the Metropolitan Police have declined to take action…At this statge, it constitutes little more than a line of reasoning…Until such time as Ahava UK is prosecuted….I can do no more than accept that its a shop trading lawfully”.

And on labelling the DJ said that “The goods come from the Dead Sea and are so labelled. The Dead Sea is not a country….I am strengthened in this view by the fact that no law prohibits the sale in the UK of goods produced in the OPT by Israeli companies”.

Even if he was wrong on all this the DJ felt the defendants acted disproportionately citing that we are a democratic country with many democratic procedures available but “they are not free to act in the way they did on this occasion”.

Amnesty Event: “Israeli soldier used broken glass to cut Magen David into Palestinian boy’s forearm”.

Would an IDF soldier really do this?

Would an IDF soldier really do this?

Last night I went to Amnesty International for an event called Deliberate Discrimination Deliberate Deprivation: The Denial of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories chaired by Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty’s Campaign Manager.

There were five speakers who each gave a ten minute cameo talk on how Israel had stolen Palestinian land, had destroyed and stolen Palestinian water resources, had destroyed Palestinian health care, had destroyed the Palestinian education system and had destroyed Palestinian cultural and political life.

Each speaker used slides of photos (mainly old ones), statistics and maps to illustrate their points. We were told about the deaths of Palestinian children, one from an asthma attack at a checkpoint. Dr Asad Khan spoke of how Palestinians are arrested in their hospital beds and taken away by Israeli soldiers who are “accompanied by Israeli doctors”.

I took photos of many of the hundred or so slides. Some of them are below, but one photo really disturbed me.

It was taken in 2003 and shows a Palestinian boy with a Magen David cut into his forearm (see above). The caption reads:

“The soldier, checking student’s ability to bear pain, took a piece of glass and broke it and taking Qasem’s arm, cut into it a Star of David (April 30th 2003)”

After the event I wanted to discuss the provenance of this photo with Ala Abu Dheer. He shook my hand and invited me to visit Palestinian towns with him to show me how the Palestinians were living and promised to email me details of the case of the Palestinian boy.

He asked me what I would do about it and I told him I would try to get Israel to investigate. However, I said that if an Israeli had done this surely we would have seen the photo by now. I asked him what he would do about Hamas’ crimes.

Then events took a surreal turn. An Amnesty official went to get Kristyan Benedict who proceeded to tell Mr Abu Dheer that there was no point in talking to me as I was a war crimes denier. On the way out Kristyan proceeded to tell me, inter alia, that he would “smack me in my little bald head”. As you can hear he also suggested that I put it on my blog, so here it is:

Kristyan Benedict – Amnesty Campaign Manager.

I usually get on well with Kristyan, so I really don’t know what came over him. During the Q&A earlier in the evening, after I had asked a question, he told the audience that he and I go back a long way and that we usually have a man-to-man discussion after an event. I didn’t realise it would be this man-to-man though!

At least I wasn’t bitten by anyone, but these events are proving more and more intimidating to attend if you want to put Israel’s side of the equation.

Anyway, here are some of the other slides, and a photo of Cara Flowers holding up bottles of water to illustrate how little water Palestinians, allegedly, drink/use compared to Israelis. She said the ratio is four to one in favour of Israelis:

Cara Flowers holding up two bottles of water.

Cara Flowers holding up two bottles of water.

(Notice the calf sitting there)

(Notice the calf sitting there)

(L-R) Cara Flowers, Dr Asad Khan, Dr Victoria Mason, Kristyan Benedict, Stephen Royle, Ala Abu Dheer

(L-R) Cara Flowers, Dr Asad Khan, Dr Victoria Mason, Kristyan Benedict, Stephen Royle, Ala Abu Dheer

William Hague’s nasty Chatham House speech on Israel.

"Vague" Hague.

"Vague" Hague.

William Hague, Britain’s Foreign Minister, recently spoke at Chatham House about 60 years of diplomatic relations between Britain and Israel.

If you want a perfect example of how Britain’s foreign policy has waivered dangerously over the years towards Israel then this speech is a must read.

On the surface Hague’s speech seemed as fluffy and diplomatic as ever towards Israel.

He begins talking about Israel’s undisputed right to exist and to self-defence and Britain’s firm opposition to those who delegitimise and boycott Israel.

But near the end of the speech he states the following that seems to totally condradict this expression of support:

“The British Government has made very clear our concern about ongoing settlement expansion. We believe it is illegal, an obstacle to peace and a threat to a two state solution.”

Two sentences that say so much.

First, I take issue with the word “settlement”. They are actually towns or cities but, admittedly, one wouldn’t expect Hague to do away with such an in-vogue term.

Second, either something is legal or it is illegal. Murder is illegal. One cannot believe that murder is illegal. It is illegal because the law says so.

But there is no law that says the “settlements” are illegal. I suspect Hague knows this, which is why he says he “believes” their expansion is illegal. Very diplomatic.

Nevertheless, Britain voted for last month’s resolution that stated the settlements to be illegal. The resolution was vetoed by America.

But by stating that he “believes” that “settlement expansion” is “illegal” Hague plays straight into the hands of the delegitimiers and boycotters who target Israel because of this alleged “illegality” (see the Ahava boycott).

Hague’s loose talk is boosting the campaigns of those who wish to tear down the Jewish state. Why does he insist on doing this and what are the Conservative Friends of Israel doing on this matter?

Moreover, it was Britain in the first place, via the Balfour Declaration, that said that Jewish people should live where the “settlements” are now, so unless a law is enacted to the contrary how can something Britain once defined as legal suddenly be considered “illegal”? Hague’s position is illogical.

And what has Hague got against “settlement expansion” anyway? British towns expand as of necessity, so why not Israeli “settlements”?

As for Hague referring to “settlement expansion” as being “an obstacle to peace”, even the Palestinians have accepted the “settlements”. See Palileaks.  It is only Hamas they hinder because they block Hamas’ ultimate desire to destroy the Jewish state.

And as for Hague saying “settlement expansion” is “a threat to a two state solution”, well again this is just a load of baloney when the Palestinians will never sign a peace treaty with Israel in a million years even if the “settlements” were removed. We know what Hamas wants and Fatah are too scared of Hamas to ever sign a peace treaty with Israel.

In the same speech Hague gives an answer to the “settlement” conundrum when he talks of any peace deal involving “1967 borders with equivalent land swaps”. So why all this continued fuss over “settlement expansion”? The Palestinians will receive a 1:1 land swap in any eventual peace deal anyway.

Hague blathers on about the “settlement expansion”, but by doing so he is supporting the delegitimisation of Israel and of the settlers. And we have seen where delegitimisation of the settlers leads.

In his speech Hague did condemn the slaughter of the Fogel family in Itamar by two Palestinians. But he diluted the condemnation by referring to the loss of innocent life “on all sides”.

I don’t wish to see any innocent Palestinians killed but there is a huge difference between specifically targeting a three month old Israeli boy and slitting his throat and accidentally killing Palestinian civilians while in the process of trying to destroy Hamas positions to stop deadly rockets being launched into southern Israel.

If Hague really supports Israel’s right to self-defence then he should understand that the blame for the spilling of innocent Palestinian blood lies solely with Palestinian terrorists who fire rockets from civilian areas.

Israel does not target innocent civilians, but Hague’s attempt at moral equivalence infers that it does!

Honestly, has there ever been a Foreign Secretary as disingenuous as William Hague? Oh yes, David Miliband, his predecessor, who also spoke of Israel’s right to self-defence, but expelled an Israeli diplomat after Israel, probably, assassinated a Hamas terrorist in Dubai, and in circumstances in which not one civilian was killed or injured.

AV or not AV? That is the question.

Or more precisely it’s:

“At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?”

On May 5th Brits have the opportunity to put a ‘X’ against ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ (please vote in my own poll below).

We are having to do this because of the Liberal Democrats. This was the negligible price they demanded for forming a coalition with the Conservatives.

Since the general election last May the Lib Dems. have reneged on their pledge not to introduce tuition fees and have voted that it is legal to save the lives of Libyan Arabs, having once voted that it wasn’t legal to save the lives of Iraqi Arabs.

There are 650 constituencies in the UK and whichever candidate gets the most votes in his/her constituency at a general election becomes a Member of Parliament. Whichever party gets the support of 326 MPs becomes the government.

Those in favour of AV want each MP to be elected by at least 50% plus 1 of the votes. At the moment one can become an MP on, say, 30% of those who vote, as long as he/she gets more votes than any other individual in that constituency. Voters can only choose one candidate to vote for.

Howevere, under AV you can put a ’1′ next to your first choice and ’2′ next to your second choice and then ’3′, ’4′, ’5′, etc.

The number 1 votes for each candidate are then counted. If a candidate wins more than 50% he or she become MP.

If no one gets more than 50% the candidate with the fewest number ’1′ votes is eliminated and his/her number ’2′ vote (if there is one) is added to the latter candidate’s pile of votes.

This is repeated until one candidate achieves more than 50% of the vote. So the winner in the first round might not necessarily become MP.

My main complaints about both AV and this referendum are:

1. Arbitrariness – Achieving 50% plus 1 vote seems an arbitrary limit. Why stop at 50%? Why not 75%? The person who wins with 50% plus 1 might have lost in the next round of counting. In fact, why not count every preference to see who wins? By stating the winning post to be 50% plus 1 the will of the people has not been fully expressed as there is still enough information available that has not been considered and which could have determined that another person should become MP.

2. Timing – Why are we not having something crucial like this on the day of a general election when turnout will be greater? Ironically, AV could be approved by far less than a 50% turnout of voters. At a general election turnout will be more than 60%.

3. Cost – The government is cutting jobs and services, so this referendum is an unnecessary expense right now.

4. A highly unfavoured candidate could end up winning under AV.

5. AV seems to be nothing more than a glorified version of the current first past the post system, the only difference being that the winning threshold is set at 50% plus 1.

I would like to retain the first past the post system but there should be compulsory voting with a financial penalty given to those who fail to vote (like with the census form we have just had to fill in). There would be a box marked ‘none of the above’ on the ballot paper if you don’t want to vote for any of the candidates.

This is the only way, in my view, that we will get a clear picture of the will of the people as to who they wish to govern the country.

I think that AV will, rightly, be rejected on May 5th but maybe my analysis is wrong. Please let me know your view by voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to AV in my poll below. I promise I won’t fine you if you don’t.

Whichever choice gets the most votes will determine which box I put my ‘X’ in on May 5th.