Tag Archives: cifwatch

What does David Hearst mean by “the folk”?

On Friday night I went to Amnesty’s London HQ to hear Ben White publicise his updated book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide. The event was chaired by journalist David Hearst, former chief foreign leader writer of The Guardian.

Hearst refused to allow me the opportunity to put a question to White during the Q&A instead preferring to announce in front of everyone there:

“I know exactly what you’re up to. And who you are. And who you write for.”

I sent Hearst the blog I wrote about all this. CifWatch crossposted it over at their site. Here is Hearst’s response together with my reply:

What does Hearst mean by “the folk”?

There was an apparent attempt by the Israeli Embassy in London to have the Amnesty event called off. White has his own version of that supposed attempt. We don’t know the Israeli Embassy’s side yet.

I had nothing to do with any alleged attempt. Neither did CifWatch. I don’t work for the Israeli Embassy. Hearst knows this.

Hearst may have meant generally “the Israel lobby”. Peter Oborne describes “the Israel lobby” as supporters of a foreign power who influence British policy. It’s a nice idea that I can influence British policy, but my solitary vote at the ballot box apart I just can’t.

Hearst hasn’t replied to my request for clarification of what he meant by “the folk”. One wouldn’t wish to come to a conclusion without his explanation.

Debate and full disclosure are to be encouraged unlike what, sadly, passes for “debate” at Amnesty.

Unless I hear from Hearst his use of “the folk” will remain a complete mystery.

(For more on this see CifWatch)

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.

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!