Monthly Archives: November 2011

Zionists back to Manchester!

I was up at 5am on Sunday morning to catch the 5.45am coach to Manchester for The Big Tent For Israel conference along with another 17 hardy souls and so an early Saturday night was in order, although we were bemused that the half-way stop at Corley services lasted a full 45 minutes, possibly in line with EU regulations, as we could all have done with an extra 45 minutes in bed.

Once on the coach tiredness quickly subsided as anecdotes were exchanged about past battles against London’s anti-Zionist movement and plans discussed about possible future action.

We pulled in to Manchester at about 10.15am and once through registration were eventually seated in time for the sharp 10.50am start where we heard from Ivan Lewis MP, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub and Mick Davis, who seemed to be speaking on a videolink from somewhere much warmer than Manchester!

Sessions were arranged in five spheres that the Reut Report recognised as being the main areas in which Israel tends to suffer delegitimisation in the UK: Politics, Media, Academia, the Trade Unions, Churches.

Lewis, a “son of Manchester”, reminded us that Manchester was where Zionism came of age with CP Scott, owner of the Manchester Guardian, befriending Chaim Weizman and introducing him to British statesmen, which eventually led to the Balfour Declaration. Scott’s Guardian even editorially supported the idea of the Jewish Legion, the brainchild of Jabotinsky. How times have changed!

Daniel Taub was adamant that it is Israel’s existence that is under attack. If it was just about “occupation” then why, he asked, were Israel’s pull-outs from south Lebanon and Gaza followed by a constant barrage of rocket attacks on Israel from those places.

He told us about when he went to speak at a British university and was met by a front row of anti-Israel activists who immediately stood up and unfurled anti-Israel slogans in front of him. So he went to his computer and showed them a youtube clip of a Palestinian gunman attempting to cross a street. Knowing he would be immediately targetted when he stepped out the gunman grabbed a Palestinian boy and held him as he crossed before discarding the boy on the other side. Taub asked which Palestinian those activists were supporting; the boy or the gunman?

After that I went to hear Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post), another “son of Manchester”, Adam Levick (CifWatch), Marcus Sheff (Israel Project), yet another “son of Manchester”, and Michael Weiss (Henry Jackson Society) speak about Media Delegitimisation: Fact or Paranoia?

Sheff told us that Israel’s PR has improved from where it used to be, although that seemed to be from a very low wrung of the ladder, while Jonny Paul spoke about The Independent’s cartoon by Dave Brown of Ariel Sharon eating a baby, The New Statesman‘s 2002 front page of a Star of David piercing the Union Jack flag to illustrate a story about Britain’s “Zionist lobby” with the title “A Kosher conspiracy?” and of The Independent‘s false front page story by Robert Fisk that Israel may have used depleted Uranium weapons in the 2006 Lebanon War.

I was flattered to have been asked to chair the panel on Countering Delegitimisation: Strategy and Tactics alongside Jonathan Hoffman, Adam Levick and Richard Gold (engageonline).

I had just been to hear Lorna Fitzsimons (BICOM) speak at Every Jew is an Ambassador for Israel, why don’t we use them?, where I disagreed with quite a bit of what she said, although the passion with which she delivers her words was a brilliant lesson in oratory.

She asked who in the audience had written a letter to their local newspaper about Israel, or phoned in to a radio station, or had met with their MP. Few in the audience had done any of this and people were asked to pledge that they would.

I ripped up my prepared speech and decided to speak about how few pro-Israel letters get published and when they do they get published alongside letters extolling the supposed virtues of a one-state solution or Hamas.

At least with blogging everything you write gets published in addition to the important fact that the internet has now become one of the main battle-lines of attack against Israel.

I explained that I thought that the title of our panel discussion should really have been Countering anti-Semitism: Strategy and Tactics as I have lost count of the number of times I have heard Jews, not Israel or Zionism, be the object of degradation and derision at many of the anti-Israel meetings I have been to.

Some of the examples I gave were of anti-Israel commentator Khaled Amaryeh calling someone a “kike” on my blog, of a woman called Jane Green telling me outside a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting she had just attended that any Jews that did die in the Holocaust probably died after having had their foreskins chopped off, of trade union rep. Steve Hedley’s racist accusation at an anti-Israel RMT event that I was one of the Chosen People and of academic Ghada Karmi’s statement at a conference at SOAS that:

“The Zionist project would never have succeeded without Western complicity. Criminals might want to rob you, kill you, rape your daughters but normally they do not get away with it. Israel’s total impunity is so unusual today. The only way to reverse this is on the basis of rights and justice; that is the right of return of the refugees and the dispossessed and the exiles back to their homeland. If that were to happen we know very well that that would be the end of a Jewish state in our region.”

I also displayed the falsified slide shown at an anti-Israel meeting at Amnesty International of a young Palestinian boy having had a tattoo of a Star of David, allegedly, carved into his forearm by an Israeli soldier using a piece of broken glass. The Star was too small and too perfect to have been created that way and the plaster doesn’t even fit over the supposed wound!

Look at the Star and the plaster.

Look at the Star and the plaster.

Jonathan, Adam and Richard spoke very well and after that I went to listen to Stuart Palmer (Cohav) give another Social Media Workshop before the final session brought together some Rapporteurs to tell us about some of the events that people had been unable to go to seeing as many sessions clashed.

It was good to meet other bloggers, like Ray Cook, who had been lured out from behind their computers for the day, but I was astonished by the huge turnout with numbers reaching at least 500, possibly as many as 650.

But then that’s Manchester for you; hardcore Zionist through and through.

Oh, and Titanics kosher smoked salmon sandwiches on sale were just to die for!

PSC comes to North-West London to try to “dump Veolia”.

Salim Alam, Michael Deas, Chair, Simon Natas last night.

Salim Alam, Michael Deas, Chair, Simon Natas last night.

It was good to catch up with some old faces when I turned up for Brent PSC’s “Dump Veolia” meeting at Willesden library last night.

I was sat behind my old friend Abe Hayeem, of Architects for Palestinians, who I once sat down next to at an event when that was the only vacant chair left in the room and he promptly got up as if I was carrying the plague.

Last night he again showed his love when he noticed I was filming and asked that I be told to desist from such democratic behaviour, but luckily, the fairly nice Chair agreed that no harm was being done and allowed me to continue filming, although not before someone else from the audience shouted for me to have my camera confiscated. Here’s the clip:

I missed Michael Deas, Europe Coordinator of the
BDS National Committee, talk but I heard Simon Natas, a London solicitor, give his pick’n’mix interpretation of internation law (see clip below) in which he concluded that “the occupation is seen as being illegal under just about every tenet of international law” before going on to cite the UN Charter, UN Security Council resolutions “ordering Israel to vacate the OPT” and the 2004 ICJ ruling as evidence.

This, he suggested, would affect Veolia, especially as it is building the Jerusalem Light Railway which, he argued, will be transferring people into the “illegal territories”.

That might be Natas’ opinion, but it can also be argued that “the occupation” is not illegal. The ICJ ruling is non-binding, there are no binding Security Council resolutions that call for Israel to vacate any territory unilaterally and as the UN Charter technically incorporates the Balfour Declaration via the League of Nations’ incorporation of the British Mandate it can, therefore, be argued that Jews can live on the West Bank.

There was also this April’s ruling by a judge in the Ahava trial, where four anti-Israel activists were found guilty of aggravated trespass, that Ahava was “trading lawfully” at the time it was invaded by those activists.

I’d go with the objective judgement of District Judge Ian Baker every time over the judgement of the ever so slightly biased Simon Natas in this matter with his membership of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

As ever Hamas and its “let’s kill all the Jews” Charter were not mentioned once throughout his speech, so presumably Hamas is not in breach of international law and so should just be allowed to continue on their killing spree if Israel is ever forced by Natas’ version of international law to take down the Security Wall.

Next up was Salim Alam who I have written about on various occasions but without knowing his name, so it was good to, finally, hear him introduced last night. He spends large portions of his spare time hanging around outside supermarkets that stock Israeli produce. That’s when he is not speaking at meetings against Israel.

Alam got himself arrested outside Ahava last December when he threatened to knock my camera out of my hand while I was actually filming him. He was released without charge.

Last night Alam spoke (see clip below) about how the London boroughs of Ealing, Harrow, Brent, Richmond, Hillingdon and Hounslow have formed the West London Waste Authority which is inviting tenders from companies to dispose of their residual waste, which is waste left over after recycling. It is business worth £485m, but a letter has gone to the Authority signed by 576 people against Veolia being the successful bidder

From what I could guage there have already been some successes against Veolia and Eden Springs. Last night they claimed to have had Eden Springs water stopped from being used in certain offices and universities in the UK and Veolia also seems not to have won contracts with certain councils, although whether the latter was due to pressure on those councils after anti-Israel campaigns is unclear.

There was also mention of Israel’s diamond industry. While admitting that Israel only cuts and polishes diamonds, but doesn’t mine them, making it difficult for Israel to be caught by the Kimberley Process Natas argued that a case could be made against Lev Leviev who, according to Natas, invests the proceeds of his diamond polishing company in the settlements.

It was mentioned that the strategy of shaming celebrities who are caught wearing Lev Leviev diamonds should continue.

It’s funny how people speak of the “Zionist lobby”, because there are many lessons that could be learnt from the well-financed and strongly motivated anti-Zionist lobby.

Clip of Natas:

Clip of Alam:

Last night’s posters:

Oh, Mehdi, feel free to tell us to “bugger off to Tel Aviv”.

Mehdi Hasan.

Mehdi Hasan.

Last Friday Luke Bozier, a Labour blogger, said of Mehdi Hasan, the embattled Senior Editor (politics) at the New Statesman magazine:

“Wouldn’t it be good if he just buggered off to Tehran.”

It was in response to Hasan’s article the previous day If you lived in Iran, wouldn’t you want the nuclear bomb? which some commentators have interpreted as a call by Hasan for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb.

Yesterday Hasan posted a response to the criticism of his article and made the following curious remark about Bozier:

Can you imagine the media reaction if a British Jew wrote a column about Israel which prompted the response of “bugger off to Tel Aviv”?

I can’t see the parallel myself. Hasan isn’t Iranian and neither does Bozier’s remark seem to be an attack on Hasan’s Muslim identity.

It might be in dispute as to whether Hasan’s article amounts to a call for an Iranian nuclear bomb, but what is not in dispute is his coming to the defence of the vile Iranian regime, describing it as “surrounded on all sides by virulent enemies” and he doubts whether Iran is looking to create a nuclear bomb when he gives credence to the regime’s rhetoric that its “goal is only to develop a civilian nuclear programme, not atomic bombs”.

And so Bozier’s comment is not so different from those by people who tell apologists for Hamas to move to Gaza if they love Hamas so much. It’s the same with telling Hasan to go to Tehran. It isn’t a racist slur.

And in reality, and Hasan must know this, the equivalent far-left racial slur against British Jews is for us to bugger off to Russia. I, myself, was once told to go back to Poland at an anti-Israel event in London.

So what a nice change it would be for British Jews to be told to “bugger off to Tel Aviv”.

Implicit in such a suggestion would at least be a recognition of the Jewish connection to Israel, a connection which both the Palestinian leadership and the far-left refuse to make.

But it wasn’t like that before 1948 when the common refrain of racists in the UK was for Jews to go back to Palestine. After 1948 it became politically inconvenient for the racists to suggest Jews go back to Israel, so Poland and Russia are now the new hot spots designated for us by the far-left, irrespective of the fact that Jews got slaughtered there in their millions by the Nazis.

And how ironic that Hasan now chooses to employ British Jews in his defence when he has previously shown us such disregard with his casual attitude to anti-Semitism.

In an echo of Ben White’s article in 2002 Is It Possible to Understand the Rise in Anti-Semitism? in which White wrote “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are” Hasan wrote in his article Does Israel “cause” anti-Semitism?:

“Nothing justifies anti-Semitism…But I do find it both tragic and ironic that the state of Israel…through its actions today…provokes such awful anti-Semitic attacks against diaspora Jews who have nothing to do with the actions of the IDF or the policies of Netanyahu, Olmert and Sharon.”

As The CST‘s Dave Rich wrote in the comment section of that post:

“The people who are primarily responsible for racist hate crimes are the racists who perpetrate them; the “cause” is their bigotry and hatred for a chosen ‘other’…You would not write an article lamenting that fact that Muslim immigration “caused” the recent arson attack on the Luton Islamic Centre…Don’t make excuses for racists, and don’t use racism as an excuse to score political points.”

And anyway, Hasan and President Ahmadinejad do have similar ideas which suggests that Hasan might actually feel at home in Tehran. For example, they both wish for Israel to be wiped off the map. In his article I’ve changed my mind about a two-state solution Hasan describes his own solution as being:

“a single, secular and binational state for Israelis and Palestinians. No longer ‘two states for two peoples’, but ‘one person, one vote’.”

And in mid-July 2009 he wrote of the Iranian regime’s Press TV that “not a single critic so far has claimed that his or her views were ever censored”. However, two weeks earlier Press TV interviewed Hossein Mousavi in his prison cell in Iran asking him questions prepared by the Iranian regime with Mousavi reading his answers from a script also prepared by the regime. (OFCOM recently upheld the complaint of unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy in making the programme containing Mousavi’s interview.)

So, Mehdi, by all means hate Israel, excuse anti-Semitism and support the Iranian regime if you are that way inclined but please don’t try to use British Jews in your defence when it suits you politically. And if anyone does tell me to “bugger off to Tel Aviv” I will be happy that, finally, they will have stopped trying to force me back to Poland.

War on Want at Russell Tribunal: “More direct action coming.”

Rafeef Ziadeh, Asa Winstanley, John Hilary, Joseph Dana, Frank Barat at Amnesty.

Rafeef Ziadeh, Asa Winstanley, John Hilary, Joseph Dana, Frank Barat at Amnesty.

War on Want’s John Hilary spoke of more direct action against firms complicit in Israel’s “breaches of international law”. He was on a panel at Amnesty International on thursday night for the launch of a book about last year’s London session of the Russell Tribunal.

In response to a question from Eva Jaciewicz, a member of the Polish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and who last year daubed “Free Gaza and Palestine” at the Warsaw Ghetto, about the possibility of occupying the workplaces of companies doing business with Israel Hilary endorsed the targeting of security company G4S, especially in light of its security role in next year’s London Olympics.

Here’s a short audio of the discussion. Frank Barat speaks first followed by Rafeef Ziadeh and Hilary:

Audio: Barat, Ziadeh, Hilary at Amnesty on G4S.

Hilary also spoke about anti-Israel activists going into shoe shops and trying on Caterpillar boots and then staging anti-Israel protests. Staff were unable to ask them to leave while they were wearing the boots.

Here’s the relevant clip which includes a short discussion on whether Hamas was invited to the Russell Tribunal:

Frank Barat, who coordinated the London RTOP, had initially started off the evening telling us how clearly international law is on the side of the Palestinians and how little Israel can do about this.

He said the word “Apartheid” scared Israel and its supporters, especially when people like Desmond Tutu are saying what is happening on the West Bank is far worse than what happened in apartheid South Africa.

This, Barat thought, was a good way to attack RTOP’s detractors and he reiterated RTOP’s call for:

1. Israel to dismantle its system of Apartheid.
2. All states to consider putting pressure on Israel to do this including severing diplomatic relations.
3. The prosecutor of the ICC to accept jurisdiction over Palestine.
4. Global civil society to replicate the spirit of solidarity that contributed to the end of apartheid South Africa and to support BDS.

There were only 43 people in the audience at Amnesty; not a good sign of global solidarity.

Asa Winstanley, who edited the book briefly ran us through its content and Rafeef Ziadeh, a Canadian Palestinian “refugee” now living in the UK, called the “Nakba” an “ongoing process” and reiterated the BDS movement’s call for Israel to:

1. End the occupation of all Arab lands.
2. Create equality for Palestinians everywhere, including in Israel.
3. Allow Palestinian “refugees” to return to their homes in Israel.

She said she couldn’t believe that Israel could consider someone like her to be such a threat.

Joseph Dana, an American Jewish blogger with +972 Magazine and living in Ramallah, referred to the Palestinians in Bil’in, where he covers the weekly protests, as offering “Ghandian-like unarmed resistance” and he encouraged the use of Twitter and Facebook to combat the Jerusalem Post, Associated Press and Thomas Friedman, who is calling for the Palestinians to adopt non-violent resistance while, according to Dana, he is ignoring just that.

Dana predicted that there will be a “new unarmed Intifada” and he holds every Israeli responsible for Israel’s “transgressions” and spoke of the non-violent protests in Bil’in as being what “drives Israelis insane”. He said:

“Artists don’t come to Israel anymore. Israeli society wants to be considered a normal western country…The boycott pinpoints that issue of normality and says ‘no, you are not a normal society. You have to be held accountable for the transgressions that you are committing on a regular basis. Even if you are not directly committing them you are part of the society that’s doing that.'”

If that’s true then Dana, who lives in Ramallah, is indirectly accountable for the massacre of five members of the Fogel family by a Palestinian, including three month old Hadas who was decapitated while she slept.

Here’s the relevant clip:

+972 Magazine’s Joseph Dana wows the Palestine Society at SOAS.

Kill Jews and you're a political prisoner according to "human rights" group Addameer.

Kill Jews and you're a political prisoner according to "human rights" group Addameer.

Last night SOAS’ Palestine Society unveiled Joseph Dana, an anti-Israel blogger for +972 Magazine, and Gemma Houldey, of Jerusalem based “human rights” organisation Addameer, for an event called Palestine: Resistance and Occupation.

Larry Derfner also writes for +972 Magazine. Derfner justified the recent Eilat terror attacks when he wrote on his blog:

“Whoever the Palestinians were who killed the eight Israelis near Eilat last week, however vile the ideology was, they were justified to attack.”

Joseph Dana made aliyah in 2005, after having completed a degree in America in Jewish history, with a view to exploring his cultural and Jewish secular identity. He describes himself as an American Israeli Jew who was brought up in America in a Zionist indocrination programme but who was able to free himself.

After completing a degree in Israel, also in Jewish history, he found that the “predominant nationalist rhetoric in Israel was at odds with the secular Judaism” he was trying to explore, specifically the idea of “life on the periphery, marginality and dispossesion”.

Instead, he said, he opened up to the Palestinian narrative and started to visit the West Bank and “observed the protests around the wall and settler violence”. To deal with the “emotional discharge” he started his blog.

He now lives and works in Ramallah reporting and tweeting full time on the protests.

Of course there is no “predominant nationalist rhetoric” in Ramallah where they name streets after suicide bombers, where children are taught in school to hate Israel and where two Israeli soldiers were lynched, but Dana obviously feels more comfortable there than in Israel for some mystifying reason.

He showed us a youtube clip of Israeli soldiers violently dispersing a demonstration. Dana said that in his experience he had never seen a rock thrown first by a Palestinian but it was always the IDF who started the violence.

During the Q&A nearly every question was about the possibility of a Third Intifada. Students never tire of seeing violence and destruction. Dana responded that a Third Intifada would be “unproductive” and plumped for boycotts and demonstrations instead.

But Dana seems to have been badly inconvenienced by the new boycott law in Israel where organisations and individuals can now be sued for boycotting settlements, a law which was voted through 47-36 in the Knesset.

It’s a law that Dana seems to have a bit of trouble understanding.

He explained to his starry-eyed audience that if he called for a boycott of settlements then he could be sued. He said that a settler did not have to prove any economic loss, only that Dana intended to damage the settler financially.

What the law actually says is that a settler would have to prove that “economic, cultural or academic damage” could be reasonably expected from such a move.

This is an important distinction as there probably would have had to have been some sort of preparatory action taken by Dana towards a boycott. Dana’s intention alone wouldn’t suffice.

The highly dramatic Dana was concerned that even mentioning boycotting Israel could get him or his +972 Magazine sued. Here’s Dana attempting to explain the law. He excitedly refers to my camera which, he thinks, could get him sued if I put this clip on youtube. The law has yet to be tested but maybe now will be:

Moreover, as I understand it, the law applies to the whole of Israel so, for example, an Israeli calling for a boycott of an Arab business, whether in Israel or the West Bank, can also be sued. And I’m not sure that these laws are so different from those in other countries where you can sued in similar circumstances.

In the Q&A Dana was asked whether Zionism is “the work of the devil”. It’s a racist question seeing as Zionism refers to Jewish self-determination in their ancient homeland. Instead of ignoring such a question, which any self-respecting commentator would have done, Dana responds:

I asked Dana what it is like for women, gays and political dissenters living in Ramallah and what he thought about neither Jews or Palestinian refugees being allowed to live in any future Palestinian state.

Instead of addressing these points he conveniently picked up on my commment about the Hamas Charter calling for the killing of Jews, which I thought might be an example of why Palestinian prisoners are treated differently from Israeli ones. The latter had been the subject of the previous talk by Gemma Houldey.

Dana thought that some of the comments by Hamas were horrific but that they were just as horrific as comments by Israelis. As an example he quoted accusations that Palestinian schoolchildren do not have maps of Israel in their schoolbooks, but said that Israeli children do not have maps of Palestine in their schoolbooks either.

He also quoted an unnamed Israeli MK who wanted to move all Palestinians to an island off the coast of Gaza. Apparently, this story appeared in Maariv.

His summary of the situation was:

“Almost everything we can accuse Hamas of we can find the equal and sometimes worse situation inside of Israel.”

Before such nonsense we heard more nonsense from Gemma Houldey, of Addameer, who described, without giving any evidence, how Israelis deprive Palestinian prisoners of proper medication, sexually harass Palestinian women during interrogation and target Palestinian children for arrest because they are easy targets. Here she is in her own words:

And as you can see from her slide (see top) Addameer classes every Palestinian prisoner as “political”, whatever they did.

Such a “political prisoner” would presumably include Amna Mouna, included in the recent prisoner exchange, who formed an online relationship with 16 year old Ofir Rahum before luring him into a deadly ambush near Ramallah when his body split into two parts having had so many bullets pumped into him.

And now all Addameer is concerned about is that some of these released prisoners will be exiled.

As ever the unquestioning students at SOAS lapped it all up.

Extra clip:

Here is Dana introducing himself before showing us the youtube clip I have linked to above:

Audio: Joseph Dana at SOAS during Q&A.

Channel 4’s lying subtitles in Going for Gold in Gaza documentary.

It seems that Channel 4 has not been telling the full truth in its recently shown Unreported World documentary Going for Gold in Gaza, about the efforts of the men’s Palestinian Paralympics team to qualify for London 2012, shown on Friday night and which I subsequently blogged about.

Of its 23 minute duration almost half of the documentary was devoted to a totally gratuitous demonisation of Israel. The problem for Aidan Hartley, the presenter, was that none of the Paralympians he was interviewing had been rendered disabled by Israel. Their disabilities stemmed from either accidents or intermarrying or were hereditary.

Instead, Hartley sought out Palestinians, mainly children, who had supposedly been maimed or killed by Israel, which had no connection to the the title of the programme.

He also uncovered the case of a Palestinian boy, Yousef, who had lost an arm to cancer but who’d had a new artificial one, allegedly, blocked by Israel from entering Gaza. Terrible if true, but mean Hartley doesn’t bother trying to locate either the truth about the limb or the limb itself for Yousef.

Tom Meltzer’s review of the programme for The Guardian was equally villainous. For example, he describes the athletes as a “ragtag band of Palestinian Paralympic hopefuls”, eventhough one of them has a huge haul of medals from games from all around the world.

But now it gets worse.

Cifwatch had some subtitles in the programme translated by an Arabic expert and it now transpires that Hartley and his production team may have intentionally mistranslated the subtitles to leave out words that would have shown Israel in a good light, but which would have undermined the programme’s anti-Israel narrative.

Here is the relevant scene from the documentary:

Hartley is interviewing one of the Palestinian Paralympians who describes how he came to be disabled. The subtitles read:

“I was working on a building site and fell from a great height. After my accident, I went to a rehabilitation centre. At the centre I played sport for the first time. I felt it was a good replacement for something I had lost.”

But the subtitles should have read:

“After I was wounded, I went to Israeli hospitals and then to rehabilitation centers. The first time I did sports was at the Abu Raya center. I felt it was a good replacement for something I had lost.”

Hartley left out the fact that the Paralympian had been treated in Israeli hospitals!

And as for the “rehabilitation centers”, as opposed to just “a rehabilitation center” of the subtitles, our translator is almost certain that, from a grammatical point of view, those “rehabilitation centres” were also Israeli ones!

Additionally, the Paralympian actually said he first did sports at the Abu Raya centre, which is in Ramallah.

Mentioning those visits to Israel and Ramallah would not only have made Israel look too kind but would also have undermined Hartley’s later claim that:

“The Gaza strip has the atmosphere of a large prison. People are hemmed in and its claustrophobic and travel outside of Gaza is very restricted for any reason.”

This claim had, in fact, already been undermined when we learnt from the above clip that the Paralympian not only went to Israel and Ramallah to try to mend his broken body, but has since been everywhere to compete including to Birmingham, in 1998, to Guangzhou, in 2010, and to many Arab Games.

The programme was introduced by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, one of the main anchors of Channel 4 News, at the end of the news programme, giving it even more credibility.

Heads should roll for this but its Israel so they won’t. However, if anything, Channel 4’s subtitling should no longer be trusted.

(Thanks to Barry Mann who initially spotted the mistranslation)

Channel 4’s relentless pursuit of Israel continues in Palestinian Paralympics doc.

Blind Palestinian practising throwing the discus while his son claps so he knows where to aim (channel4.com)

Blind Palestinian practising throwing the discus while his son claps so he knows where to aim (channel4.com)

Channel 4 continued its attacks on Israel in Friday night’s Going for Gold in Gaza documentary, which was meant to follow the efforts of the men’s Palestinian Paralympics team to qualify for London 2012. Their disabilities consisted of congenital blindness and physical disabilities caused by either work accidents or intermarriage.

But as I settled down to watch I found that presenter Aidan Hartley couldn’t resist repeatedly taking the documentary gratuitously off-track in order to demonise Israel.

Here are my thoughts, in italics, as I watched:

It opens on a Gaza street showing posters of dead Palestinian men holding guns and with Hartley saying:

“In Gaza it’s those who have died fighting Israel who are seen as heroes, not sportsmen.”

FREEZE FRAME: Oh, Aidan! These men were not soldiers “fighting Israel” but Hamas terrorists who had probably walked into Israeli restaurants to murder innocent people or they had helped plan such attacks and were subsequently killed by Israel.

The next 10 minutes were fascinating as we found out about the athletes, their families, how the athletes became disabled, how they trained, the medals they had previously won, their excitement about London 2012 and also their concerns. A blind athlete is upset as he may be required to have his eyes retested.

Then there’s a scene of another blind athlete and his son, Mohammad, who had his eyes tested and he now knows he won’t go blind like his father. Sinister music then follows and Hartley says:

“Gaza is effectively under siege. Israel controls the goods that go in and its hard for people to get out. Israeli gunboats control the coastline. Gunfire is an everyday sound. The Gaza strip has the atmosphere of a large prison. People are hemmed in and its claustrophobic and travel outside of Gaza is very restricted for any reason.”

FREEZE FRAME: Ok, starting to go off-track now but you have to mention Israel as it is part of the picture, obviously, but why is Hartley solely blaming Israel for Gaza’s deprivations when Egypt also borders Gaza? Hartley could also have explained why Israel takes these security measures (see “freeze frame” above).

Hartley then tells us that they found out there is a women’s Palestinian Paralympics team and he goes to see them training.

FREEZE FRAME: Ok, that’s the Israel bashing out of the way, hopefully, and to hear about Palestinian women athletes will be interesting.

But it didn’t last long. Fatma needs a special prosthetic leg without which she won’t be able to go to London 2012, so Hartley visits the Artifical Limbs Centre of Gaza where he interviews amputees on the waiting list.

Nine year old Yousef lost his left arm to cancer and has been waiting 10 months for a new prosthetic arm. The medical centre’s director tells Hartley that Israel has stopped sending materials directly and that a donation from Slovenia has been left in Tel Aviv since February. Hartley repeats:

“Let me get this right. Yousef, that nine year old boy, could have had a prosthetic limb months ago had the materials not been sitting in a warehouse in Israel for the last, nearly, eight months?”

We then get a flash of the security wall and Hartley says:

“Israel denies blocking medical supplies to Gaza. The sense that Gaza is under siege is never far away. And the conflict swells the number of injuries and amputations. Gazan civilians are killed or maimed by Israeli strikes, often in retaliation for rocket fire from Palestinian militants.”

FREEZE FRAME: Aidan, did you mean that Israel attacks Hamas and accidentally kills civilians or that Israel intentionally targets civilians as retaliation? It’s unclear but sounds like you meant the latter, which is untrue. And why didn’t you investigate the whereabouts of Yousef’s prosthetic limb and maybe even help obtain it for him? How mean of you.

Next Hartley visits a Palestinian home where he says “there are family members who are injured in recent violence”. A man tells Hartley how two weeks earlier his two nephews had been playing in the street. Israel, he said, responded to Hamas rockets with missiles from pilotless drones. Hartley finishes the story himself:

“Out of the blue a drone fired a rocket in amongst the children horribly wounding his two nephews. Saba wanted to show me where the attack occurred. In the weeks before we arrived dozens of civilians had been killed or maimed.”

Hartley is shown a narrow hole in the ground where the rocket, apparently, hit and the uncle shows Hartley pictures of his nephews lying horrifically injured in hospital. Hartley points to their amputations and says that one of them, Ibrahim, subsequently died.

FREEZE FRAME: Could these horrendous injuries possibly have been Hamas inflicted, a case of a Hamas rocket misfiring? It wouldn’t be the first time. Hartley doesn’t bother investigating.

Next Hartley meets another Palestinian man who “had lost his left leg when he was blown up by an Israeli missile”.

FREEZE FRAME: Again, Hartley doesn’t investigate how he tragically lost his leg.

Eventually, Hartley, again meets up with the paralympians that he had started the programme telling us about, one of whom had just lost his mother to cancer. She passed away in an Israeli hospital but, we are told, her son had not been allowed by the Israelis into Israel to be at her bedside when she died.

FREEZE FRAME: This has now become a programme demonising Israel, while occasionally concentrating on Palestinian paralympians.

Hartley signs off with:

“The Palestinians who make it to the London paralympics in 2012 will be amongst the most remarkable athletes at the games”.

FREEZE FRAME: These Paralympians are incredible and I have full respect for them and wish them every success next year but ALL paralympians are incredible. I don’t know how they do it. I couldn’t.

It’s a shame Hartley wasted so much of this short programme gratuitously attacking Israel. But after Channel 4’s War Child and The Promise nothing surprises me.

RMT’s Steve Hedley defames me trying to save his own skin.

What’s up with the RMT’s Steve Hedley? On October 24th he aimed an anti-Semitic barb at me at a joint RMT/PSC event at SOAS called Fighting for Palestine’s Freedom:

After his rant (see clip above for the part I managed to film) our brief exchange went like this:

Me: “Feel better?”
Hedley: “Better than you, obviously. But then again you’re one of the chosen people so you might feel better than me, huh?”
A nearby stranger: “That’s right.”
Me: “So it’s about being Jewish is it?”
Hedley: “No, it’s about being a Zionist.”

Chris Elliott, The Guardian readers’ editor, has recently said this of the “chosen people” phrase:

“It has never meant that the Jews are better than anyone else. Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read “chosen” as code for Jewish supremacism.”

Now Hedley has tried to defend himself against allegations of anti-Semitism by making a defamatory attack on me on the RMT’s London Calling website.

He claims I called him a Nazi twice. I did not, even once, call him that. If I did, he should prove it.

His post, some two weeks after the event, looks like it is in response to a post titled “Racism in the RMT” by David Greenstein on the WorkRep website where Greenstein quotes what happened at SOAS. Hedley also claims that I have “posted (the recording) on the internet on a number of right wing websites”, which I haven’t.

Greenstein mistakenly asserts that Hedley’s rant was aimed at me. But, as you can see from my clip of Hedley’s rant, it wasn’t aimed at me but at someone somewhere behind me. If I had just called him a Nazi surely he would have been looking and pointing at me. And, believe me, if I had just called him that I wouldn’t still be sat there calmly filming.

Furthermore, Hedley’s rant contained comments like “your friends in the media”, “the attack on those innocent women and children who you starved and turned into the biggest concentration camp on the earth”, “you’re an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people” and “you’re a modern day Nazi”.

As you can see these comments weren’t about Israel but about the person he was shouting at. But, in his post Hedley tries to defend himself against claims of anti-Semitism by claiming he said to me after our brief exchange “I have no idea what your religion is”. He never actually said that to me but, I would like to ask, if he didn’t know my religion how did he know the person’s religion he was shouting at with his “you’re an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people” remark?

He seemed to have it in for Jewish people that night.

He finished off his post with another despicable smear by implying that I “openly consort with the neo-fascist EDL” and claimed that I have had to register my blog out of the UK because I have been sued for slander and libel by other victims of my “maniacal denunciation of everyone who dares to speak out against the Israeli state’s role in the Middle East”.

I always denounce the EDL, I use WordPress, which is registered in America, and I have never been sued by anyone for anything ever!

Despite his clearly anti-Semitic remark Hedley hasn’t had the courage to make an unreserved apology in his post. He says he regrets saying “chosen people” and calls it “unwise” and only apologises “to anyone who may have been offended by this remark”.

But that’s parts of the left for you these days; unable to conceive of any anti-Semitism in their ranks and, therefore, having nothing to apologise for.

Anyway, should Hedley’s defamatory post stay up any longer I will, as they say, be considering my options against both Hedley and the RMT.

Why is a liberal blog continuing to publish a defender of a homophobic hate preacher?

Sheikh Raed Salah (2nd from Left), who Ben White defended, at PSC/MEMO event the day before his arrest.

Sheikh Raed Salah (2nd from Left), who Ben White defended, at PSC/MEMO event the day before his arrest.

Sunny Hundal runs respected left-wing blog Liberal Conspiracy and regularly appears as a commentator on Sky News and the BBC. But last week I was appalled when he published yet another piece by Ben White, the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide.

White’s piece attacked Louise Mensch MP for speaking at a London student conference run by Israel advocacy organisation Stand With Us, who he accuses “of promoting extreme positions and working with disturbing allies”.

Sunday’s conference kicked off with a talk by the Israeli ambassador and was followed by a presentation by Andrew White of Beyond Images. In the afternoon there was advocacy training and Louise Mensch MP closed the conference with a passionate talk.

She basically reiterated her Daily Telegraph articleA family slaughtered in Israel – doesn’t the BBC care?” about the five members of the Fogel family who were murdered in their beds by a Palestinian terrorist earlier this year. She said that she only found out about the massacre on twitter when she followed a link to Mark Steyn’s pieceDead Jews is no news” .

She said that there had been no mention of the attack on BBC TV news and that it was only mentioned briefly on BBC radio, while on the BBC website the attack was given a cursory description.

The BBC responded to her query as to why by explaining that the Japanese earthquake and Libya campaign had dominated the news that day. But, as Mensch pointed out, the BBC has many radio channels and a dedicated 24 hour rolling news channel.

She reckoned that if an Israeli settler slit the throat of a four year old Palestinian boy leaving him to slowly die and then decapitated a three month old baby Palestinian girl in her bed it would have been fully covered.

She said that after apathetic responses to her enquiries the BBC had finally admitted its mistake in not covering the attack more fully.

Her conference talk wasn’t to everyone’s liking. She described the settlements as a “road-block to peace”, but then she implored the students to always remember “the others” who were also suffering in conflicts:

“Keep thinking of your Muslim brothers and sisters who are also victims of suicide bombers, like today in Afghanistan,” she said.

Meanwhile, White’s own attempts to smear Stand With Us as “extreme” are risible.

He cites the UK Chair of Stand With Us’ assertion that the “settlements” might not be illegal.

However, the question of the legality of settlements was recently put to the test in a British court when four anti-Israel activists were tried for “aggravated trespass”. They entered the Ahava shop in Covent Garen and caused it to shut down for some hours. Their main defence was that Ahava’s factory at Mitzpe Shalem on the West Bank is illegal and so they were stopping the Ahava shop from selling illegal products. But, the judge found that Ahava shop was “trading lawfully” and all four defendants were convicted.

White spuriously claims that Stand With Us’ donors “have been accused of anti-Muslim propaganda” and that some Stand With Us activists had intimidated “Palestine solidarity activists”.

Meanwhile, what of Ben White himself?

On June 29th this year White was slated to share a panel at the Houses of Parliament with homophobic hate preacher Sheikh Raed Salah who lives in Israel and who came to Britain intent on preaching that Israel is planning on destroying the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem so it can rebuild the Third Temple.

Two days earlier Salah had preached this at a joint Palestine Solidarity Campaign/Middle East Monitor event at Conway Hall in London. Salah has also previously said of homosexuality that:

“It is a crime. A great crime. Such phenomena signal the start of the collapse of every society.”

But Salah did not make it to Parliament for the panel discussion having been arrested the night before. He was on the Home Secretary’s exclusion list as “not being conducive to the public good” but had still managed to pass through customs and into Britain.

Ben White (right) waiting to speak at Sheikh Raed Salah panel discussion on 29th June.

Ben White (right) waiting to speak at Sheikh Raed Salah panel discussion on 29th June.

When it came to White’s turn to talk he first defended Salah against his detention:

“It is shameful that because of the actions of the British government another Palestinian will spend the night in prison.”

Here is White in his own words:

Audio: Ben White defending Salah.

Harry’s Place also writes of Salah’s total disparagement of Jews when Salah:

1. Claimed the Jews baked the blood of children into their holy bread.
2. Claimed 4,000 Jews skipped work at the World Trade Centre on 9/11.
3. Laughed at the memory of taunting a Jewish teacher of his with a Swastika.
4. Wrote a poem referring to Jews as “monkeys and losers” and being “the bacteria of all times”.
5. Funded Hamas.

And here is the recent decision of the tribunal that dealt with these points and which then decided, pending an appeal, to deport Salah. It states, inter alia,:

“We are satisfied that the Appellant has engaged in the unacceptable behaviour of fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK. We are satisfied that the Appellant’s words and actions tend to be inflammatory, divisive, insulting, and likely to foment tension and radicalism.”

Maybe after all this White has retracted his defence of Salah, but I haven’t heard anything.

But even if he has so retracted his defence White’s own record on anti-Semitism isn’t too impressive either.

He has written of himself, in an article for Counterpunch in 2002, that he isn’t anti-Semitic, but he can understand why some people are. Would Hundal publish on his Liberal Conspiracy blog someone who claimed not to be Islamophobic but who can also understand why some people are?

White also writes that while comparisons between Israel and the Nazis are unwise they are not anti-Semitic (although under the EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism such comparisons actually are anti-Semitic). But then White goes onto implicitly compare Israel to the Nazis anyway when he writes:

“Comparisons between the Israeli government and the Nazis is unwise and unsound, since the Israelis have not (at the time of going to press) exterminated in a systematic fashion an enormous percentage of the Palestinians. Cold-blooded killings, beatings, house demolitions, vandalism, occupation, military assaults, and two historical pushes at ethnic cleansing–yes. Full fledged genocide–no”

What does “at the time of going to press” imply?

While on his own blog White states the Palestinians have “had to endure massacres, death-marches, and ethnic cleansing”, all of which took place in the Holocaust. (See Cifwatch for commentary on the deputy-editor of The Guardian’s Comment is Free’s ridiculous defence of White on this point. David Shariatmadari claims that there can be no such comparison without an explicit reference to, for example, Auschwitz.)

And according to Seismic-shock, in the bibliography of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide White cites an essay by convicted Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

White has also defended President Ahamadinejad against accusations that he called for Israel to be wiped off the map and against accusations of Holocaust denial.

With the above in mind White felt forced to write an article for Liberal Conspiracy defending himself against accusations of anti-Semitism. Maybe he should have made himself clearer in the first instance.

When I tweeted Hundal about why White was writing for Liberal Conspiracy he replied:

“I’ll only say this once – I don’t really care what either of you say about what I should publish on libcon.”

and

“why don’t you carry on witch-hunting Jews who don’t toe your line and leave the rest of us in the real world, yeah?”

So I ask again, why is a defender of a homophobic preacher of hate writing for a liberal blog?

Yachad debates “Is the Two State Solution Dead?”

Hannah Weisfeld, of Yachad, and Davis Lewin, of the Henry Jackson Society, were invited by King’s College London’s Israeli Palestinian Forum to debate “Is The Two State Solution Dead?”

Last night they were up against Jayyab Abusafia, from Jabalia Refugee Camp in Gaza, a freelance journalist who works for Alalamia TV in London, and Jafar M Ramini, a Palestinian writer and commentator on Palestinian/Arab affairs who was born in Jenin and educated in London and who is “a passionate advocate of peaceful co-existence based on the acknowledgement of equal rights and dignity for all”.

Hannah Weisfeld made the case for the two state solution citing the separate identities of both peoples as one important factor. She also cited the fear that Israelis have from the constant rocket attacks and the sight of Palestinians who celebrate the release of Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands.

Yachad is not to everyone’s taste but it is a breathe of fresh air to hear Israel criticised when set against the two Palestinian commentators who painted a picture of the Palestinians as perfect.

For example, below you can hear Jayyab Abusafia describe Hamas as having transformed themselves into a group of moderates and Jafar M Ramini describing the rockets that are fired into Israel as “fireworks”.

Meanwhile, Weisfeld mentioned the recent “pricetag” attack on a mosque in Israel, but said that five mosques had been destroyed by settlers in the West Bank and this had been unreasonably tolerated by the IDF with no arrests made.

Abusafia describes Israel as having locked the gates to Gaza and thrown the key into the sea with no mention of Egypt also having a key to Gaza, while Jafar M Ramini went back as far as 1890 to start his twisted account of so-called Zionist expansionism and quoted “A land without a people for a people without a land” as the Zionist war cry.

He later invoked the Holocaust saying he had nothing to do with it after having told a totally gratuitous anecdote about Jews suing the German authorities even for the gold that was taken out of their teeth.

Yachad  are trying to concentrate on the here and now to try and work out how the Israelis and the Palestinians can forge peace. The problem is that those representing the Palestinians want to continue arguing over 1948 and, even, 1890.

That is a conundrum Yachad will have to try to solve but at least they are there on campus working hard, while other traditional pro-Israel organisations are absent.

But I think that Davis Lewin spoke for most in the room last night when he said that the evening had helped neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians.

Against the Two State Solution – Jafar M Ramini and Jayyab Abusafia: (try switching browser if viewing problems)

For the Two State Solution – Hannah Weisfeld and Davis Lewin: