Monthly Archives: December 2012

The cowardice of Peter Oborne.

Peter Oborne loves the Jewish people. He loves us so much he wants to save us from ourselves. It’s a shame Oborne wasn’t around at any of the previous troubled stages of Jewish history to advise us where we were going so wrong, but we can only breathe a sigh of relief that he has taken an interest in our current predicament.

In his recent article for The Daily Telegraph The cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel he writes about the “cowardice” of the Conservative Party for not condemning Israel’s settlement policy in stronger terms. He’s concerned the door will soon be closed on the possibility of a two-state solution and that, eventually, Israel will either cease to be Jewish and democratic or will become an apartheid state.

Oborne quotes Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, a former British ambassador to Israel, who recently said that “anyone who has a real affection for the Jewish people will want to help them to avoid this looming disaster.”

Alarm bells start ringing when someone critical of Israeli policy then co-opts the “the Jewish people”. Are all “the Jewish people” really responsible for “this looming disaster”? Israel is a democracy and British Jews do not have a vote. And it’s not British Jews who have Hamas to their south and Hezbollah to their north.

It’s a fact that there are far more non-Jewish supporters of Israel in the world, and thank goodness when considering the tiny Jewish world population. So why don’t Cowper-Coles and Oborne think non-Jewish supporters of Israel require such “help”?

Their patronising attitude towards Jews brings to mind Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury’s quip that “the Jews aren’t lacking in intelligence”.

Oborne finishes his article by claiming that “Mr Cameron does not want to go down in history as the man upon whose watch all hope of a two-state solution died”. Oborne ignores the fact that the two-state solution died in 1937 when the Arabs rejected 80% of British Mandate Palestine, in 1948 when the Arabs rejected 45% of British Mandate Palestine and 2000 when the Palestinians rejected 22% of, what was, British Mandate Palestine.

Oborne’s allegation that Israel could eventually either cease to be Jewish and democratic or become an apartheid state bears no relation to reality when one looks at the demographics on the ground. A study by Bar Ilan University proves that should Israel ever decide to annex the West Bank then the 1.41 million West Bank Palestinians would, when added to Israel’s existing Arab population, still leave Israel a Jewish majority and democratic state.

Oborne slams David Cameron for devoting just 64 words to the settlement issue at the recent Conservative Friends of Israel lunch. Oborne thinks “This is cowardice”. But Oborne doesn’t criticise Hamas and even blames Israel for the recent conflict. Again Oborne ignores the hundreds of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza before Israel assassinated Hamas’ Ahmed Jabari.

And Oborne refuses to differentiate between Palestinian terrorists and civilians who were killed, but just repeats the mantra that “the number of Palestinian deaths vastly exceeded those on the Israeli side”.

Oborne ignores Hamas treatment of its own people in forcing them to become human shields. Hamas imports tens of thousands of rockets into Gaza but cannot build even one bomb shelter for the people it was elected by to govern.

Oborne also criticises Britain for not backing the recent Palestinian bid for enhanced statehood at the UN. It is morally reprehensible that Britain only abstained. How could a civilised country like Britain refuse to vote against enhanced statehood when considering that the Hamas Charter calls for the murder of Jews?

In 2009 Oborne made a television documentary called Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby. It opens with the menacing line “Tonight on Dispatches how British policy is influenced by supporters of a foreign power.”

Oborne sets out to investigate financial transactions between Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and the Conservative Party and to investigate the influence of pro-Israel lobbyists like CFI, BICOM, Zionist Federation, Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. A not insubstantial part was dedicated to CiFWatch, which monitors anti-Semitism in The Guardian and its Comment is Free website.

Oborne investigated the claim that accusations of anti-Semitism by pro-Israel lobby groups are being used to silence criticism of Israeli policy. He put to Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor, an accusation by CiFWatch that the Comment is Free comments’ thread “is full of vile anti-Semitic sentiments”.

Rusbridger replied:

“I think it would be a terribly dangerous thing if the British press were made to feel that they couldn’t criticise Israel because they are going to be held up as anti-Semitic. I think it is a very disreputable argument.”

But since 2009 CiFWatch has proved time and again that some Guardian articles are anti-Semitic. Chris Elliot, the Guardian’s Readers’ Editor, has admitted as much.

The Guardian’s Deborah Orr was forced to apologise for describing Israel’s prisoner swap of Gilad Shalit in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners as proof “Zionists believe that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours.” Elliot explained in response that “Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read ‘chosen’ as code for Jewish supremacism.”

A recent cartoon by The Guardian’s Steve Bell seemed to employ the anti-Semitic trope that Jews control the world. Elliot admitted that Bell’s cartoon could be considered anti-Semitic.

And under a very recent Comment is Free article there’s this and worse:

“The 9/11 WTC attack was done by the pro-slavery Zionist-Jew bankers…”

Despite all his efforts to uncover something sinister Oborne declares at the end of his Dispatches documentary:

“In making this programme we haven’t found even something faintly resembling a conspiracy, but we have found a worrying lack of transparency and the influence of the pro-Israel lobby continues to be felt.”

So, Oborne found the pro-Israel lobbies in Britain guilty of nothing more than…..doing their jobs effectively.

Instead of trying to save “the Jewish people” from ourselves Oborne could do worse than visit Gaza if he really wants to understand why there cannot be peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He could then ask Hamas:

1. Why it summarily executes alleged Palestinian collaborators and drags their bodies through the streets?

2. Why it oppresses Palestinian women, gays and political dissidents?

3. Why it doesn’t build any bomb shelters for its people?

4. Why its Charter calls for the murder of all Jews?

But we know he won’t go and ask such questions and that makes Oborne the only coward around here.

Centre for Palestine Studies and UJIA swap roles on Israel for the night.

There must have been something in the London air last night. While the United Joint Israel Appeal, Union of Jewish Students and “Pro-Israel” Yachad hosted Israel boycotter Peter Beinart via Skype, further down the Northern Line SOAS’ Centre for Palestine Studies hosted Professor Jean-Pierre Filiu.

Beinart will have been trying his best to persuade his Jewish audience (the talk was restricted to Jewish students and members of Jewish youth groups only) to boycott the livelihoods of innocent Jewish families living in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Meanwhile, at SOAS’ usually anti-Israel Centre for Palestine Studies Professor Filiu gave an interesting talk on the history of Gaza. Not only did Filiu recognise Israel’s security needs but he attacked Hamas for its mistreatment of Palestinian women. There were no calls for boycotts.

Filiu’s main thesis was that peace in the Middle East would only come via Gaza as, historically, control of Gaza was pivotal to control of the Middle East. The most recent example was General Allenby who won control of Gaza a month before entering Jerusalem.

Filiu said the Muslim Brotherhood opened a branch in Gaza in 1946 and its founder, Hassan al-Banna, visited Nuseirat sometime before May 1948 to urge his followers to fight for Palestine.

Filiu described Gaza as a “Noah’s Ark” for 200,000 Palestinian refugees, but it was  the Sinai Desert that kept the refugees in Gaza otherwise they would have journeyed on to Egypt. Gaza’s original population was 80,000.

Filiu splits Gaza’s recent history into three 20 year cycles:

“1947 – 1967 Obliteration of Palestine” – Filiu claimed that during the winter of 1948/1949 many children died of hunger and cold and that the Quakers and Turks were the first in to offer tents. The only two political parties were the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communists.

In 1955 Ariel Sharon’s Unit 101 launched a raid into Gaza to attack terrorists. An Intifada soon followed. The battle cry of the Brotherhood and the Communists was “Nasser dictator, traitor of the Palestinian cause.”

During Israel’s short occupation of Gaza to try to destroy Fedayeen nests 1,000 Palestinians died out of a population of 300,000. (NB. there are no proper archives on Gaza’s history so figures may well be inaccurate)

After the 1956 Suez Crisis Israel withdrew from Gaza. Egypt took over. The Fedayeen weren’t allowed to operate. Many left Gaza for the Gulf and founded Fatah. The Muslim Brotherhood went underground.

“1967 – 1987 Reoccupation” – This period was characterised by Palestinian civil resistance to Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood’s continued oppression by Nasser, infighting between Palestinian Nationalists and the Muslim Brotherhood and a boycott by President Sadat when the Palestinians condemned Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel.

Islamic Jihad was formed and they regarded Palestine as a priority, but not its Islamisation. The 1987 Intifada took both the PLO’s external leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood by surprise. The Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza turned itself into Hamas.

“1987 – 2007 Cycle of Intifadas” – Filiu said this was a time of collective sorrow, desolation and Palestinian infighting. Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades executed many Palestinians for being collaborators.

The peace process brought hope but when Arafat divorced himself from Gaza Palestinians living there felt they had paid the price for bringing him back from Tunis, especially when Palestinian police opened fire on their own people and many were tortured to death. Gaza totally lost out in the peace process.

Israel again withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but it was Fatah’s change of rules for the 2006 Palestinian elections, hoping to prevent a Hamas victory, that actually allowed Hamas to win. Hamas immediately offered a national unity government but Fatah wasn’t interested in Gaza. After the 2007 coup Hamas fully controlled Gaza.

Filiu said that Palestinians in Gaza are fed up with Fatah and Hamas’ petty war. He acknowledged Israel’s security concerns but said Israel “should deal with the people, not bomb and kill them”. He said there is no other way but for Israel to lift the “blockade” of Gaza, which he viewed as helping Hamas to build a police state and control the population, especially the women.

During the Q&A Filiu was asked about the possibility of a one state solution. Filiu said a two state solution was the only way forward and that this is what the PLO had just asked for at the UN and that this had been celebrated even in Gaza.

Apart from Filiu’s wanting Israel to lift all restrictions on Gaza, which would lead to increased suicide bombings in Israel, it was as objective and interesting a talk about the conflict and Hamas as I have heard from any non pro-Israel organisation.

My appearance on 4ThoughtTV: Are Jews Still Persecuted in Britain Today?

Tonight at 7.55pm on Channel 4 I am in 4ThoughtTV’s slot on whether Jews are still persecuted in Britain today, which is the theme of the week.

There are seven contributions in all. Here is the link to mine and the other six:

http://www.4thought.tv/themes/are-jews-still-persecuted-in-britain-today/richard-millett?autoplay=true

1. I spoke about my experiences of harassment at anti-Israel events when I have merely tried to get Israel’s point of view across.

2. Stephen Sizer is an anti-Israel/anti-Zionist Christian Minister. I once went to hear him speak at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign event held in a church. He said, inter alia, that churches that side with Israel have “repudiated Jesus, have repudiated the bible and are an abomination”. On my way out of that meeting I was accosted by an audience member who let out some of the most Holocaust denying anti-Jewish vitriol I have ever heard. She told me, inter alia, that Jews died in the Holocaust from having “had their foreskins chopped off.”

In his 4Thought clip Sizer claims it’s important to be able to criticise certain Israeli policies without being accused of anti-Semitism. Let’s be clear: criticising Israel’s policies is legitimate, just like it is legitimate to criticise the policies of any country.

Sizer and his ilk are accused of anti-Semitism because they want the world’s only Jewish state to disappear. This is completely different to criticising Israel’s policies. Instead, they single out the Jewish state, the collective Jew, for destruction. So, Sizer is being highly disingenuous. If he were truthful he would have admitted he wants the Jewish state removed.

3. Another who wants the Jewish state removed is Ahron Cohen, of the extremist religious Jewish sect the Neturei Karta which believes that Jews should only go to the Holy Land once they have received a direct order from God to do so. The Neturei Karta also embraces Iran’s Holocaust denying President Ahmadinejad who repeatedly calls for the destruction of Israel. Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has referred to Israel as “the Zionist cancerous tumour in the heart of the Islamic world”.

In his clip, Cohen blames Palestinian terrorism “on the very existence of the sectarian state known as Israel”.

4. Mike Marcus has also fallen for the myth that “The Zionist lobby uses the label of anti-Semitism to silence their critics”.

5. Jose Martin correctly blames the media for whipping up anti-Semitism due to its unfair reportage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

6. Yisrael Abeles, a Holocaust survivor, also blames the media for driving much of what has, these days, become “institutionalised anti-Semitism” as opposed to street anti-Semitism.

7. The most moving clip is by schoolgirl Eden Simones-Jones who says that she still suffers from depression and anxiety due to anti-Semitic harassment. She finishes:

“If people say there is no problem with anti-Semitism, I think they should wake-up, open their eyes and really look about what’s going out there because they’re obviously sheltered in their own little dreamland where everything’s rosy, because anti-Semitism’s everywhere. You’ve just got to know what to look for.”

Sadly, she’s right. Anti-Semitism is everywhere. In Britain today anti-Zionism, an attack on Israel as the collective Jew, is the modern updated version of anti-Semitism, the attack on Jews as individuals. “Anti-Zionism” is a label that has been adopted by many of Britain’s  academics, journalists, politicians, religious leaders and charities to hide their true feelings about Jews. This is the “institutionalised anti-Semitism” referred to by Yisrael Abeles.