Tag Archives: Peter Beinart

American Professor tells British audience “Israel is heading into an abyss.”

I only made it to the last 25 minutes of Joel Beinin’s talk at SOAS last night but, sadly, I still have enough material to write a blog about it.

Beinin’s talk, The New Internationalism, High-Risk Activism, and Popular Struggle against the Israeli Occupation in the West Bank, was chaired by Gilbert Achcar, who once publicly accused me of leaving insulting messages on his answering machine.

Meanwhile, Beinin is Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University. Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of him but Wikipedia has a surprisingly large page about him. According to the description he was “raised as a Zionist” and at one stage intended to make aliyah but having encountered some racist attitudes on a Kibbutz he returned to America instead.

Beinin has published a lot also. I only read one article of his when I got back last night but if I say that the article trashes Peter Beinart’s call for Israeli Jews living on the West Bank to be boycotted because this doesn’t go far enough you get the gist of Beinin’s politics.

In this article Beinin also denounces those who condone “indecent trivialisation of the Holocaust” when they compare levels of anti-Semitism today to those of the late 1930s. (That said, if anyone can explain the difference between boycotting Jewish-owned shops in the late 1930s and boycotting Jewish-owned shops, like Covent Garden’s Ahava and Brighton’s Ecostream, today then please let me know.)

But, hey, guess who is the real master of “indecent trivialisation of the Holocaust”? None other than Joel Beinin himself!

You see, last night, Beinin started discussing Israel’s Prawer Commission Plan to move the Negev’s Bedouin population into far better equipped towns in return for compensation. Beinin described this as “putting them into what would effectively be concentration camps.” (see here from 2 mins. 25 secs.)

Oh, really? So would that be concentration camps like Auschwitz or Treblinka, possibly?

But, of course, Beinin doesn’t indecently trivialise the Holocaust, remember.

Towards the end of the event Beinin said there was a “rightward drift of Israeli society”, “a degradation of whatever there ever was of the democratic process” and “Israel itself, besides the occupation, is heading into an abyss and it’s not clear at all what might stop that.” (see here from 30 secs.)

Abyss means an “An immeasurably deep chasm, depth, or void”. Alternatively, it means “The abode of evil spirits; hell.”

And all this because Beinin once encountered some racists on a Kibbutz?

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.

Yachad and UJS to host talk by boycotter Peter Beinart at UJIA.

Yachad calls itself “The pro-Israel pro-peace voice of British Jews”. It’s as if no other pro-Israel British Jew can possibly be “pro-peace”. Just those Jews who support Yachad, you understand.

At the United Nations in New York today at what is euphemistically called Observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, “Palestine” is due to be recognised as a non-member observer state.

However, today’s rhetoric has had nothing to do with Palestinian statehood, but has been tantamount to incitement to murder Jews and Israelis and to boycott Israel out of existence. One Arab delegate accused Israelis of burning the Koran, and Roger Waters spoke for 25 minutes. Waters accused Israel, inter alia, of apartheid and prioritising Jewish people above its other citizens. He demanded a boycott of Israel.

Delegate after delegate called for a two-state solution and for UNGA Resolution 194 to be implemented. 194 calls for a return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. As the UN classes ALL Palestinian descendants as refugees this would soon lead to the demographic destruction of Israel as the world’s only Jewish state. What UN delegates are, in effect, calling for is a two-state solution as long as both states are Palestinian.

Waters, ludicrously, claimed that Hamas has agreed to future peace with Israel as long as a Palestinian state is agreed along the 1967 ceasefire lines. He claimed that New Yorkers, cut off from the outside world, don’t know this. Hamas who, in their Charter, call for the murder of all Jews are hardly going to agree to any Jewish state along any lines. It is Waters who is cut off.

But, now, with this growing febrile atmosphere against Israel where Israelis are demonised and demands made that they be boycotted Peter Beinart has been invited by Yachad and the Union of Jewish Students to address a Jewish audience at the offices of the United Joint Israel Appeal (UJIA). UJIA, a charity, is supposed to have the interests of Israel and all Israelis at heart.

It is a student-only event. Here is the Facebook page where the location of the event has now been hidden:

As you can read Beinart calls for “a boycott of West Bank Settlement produce”.

So because Beinart disagrees with a group of people, in this case Israeli settlers, he wants their businesses and livelihoods immediately destroyed and their ability to feed their families and young children immediately curtailed. All they have worked for should be destroyed overnight on the say so of someone living thousands of miles away?

Hannah Weisfeld, who heads Yachad, claimed in March this year:

“While we hugely respect Peter Beinart and believe he adds an important voice to the debate, we believe that all forms of boycott are counter-productive.”

However, a month earlier at an Israeli Society event at SOAS discussing whether Israel should be boycotted Weisfeld was far more ambiguous when she said:

“I think we would be having a very different conversation in this room if the BDS movement was about a targeted (settlement) boycott. I am not saying that I would necessarily support it, but I think the entire debate would be different…”

Now Weisfeld, Yachad and the Union of Jewish Students have invited Beinart to make the case, via Skype, for just such a targeted boycott of those Israeli families living on the West Bank.

By all means disagree with their living their and make the case that they shouldn’t be. Try to achieve a gradual change in Israeli government policy, like when Ariel Sharon finally decided to order Israeli settlers to be removed from Gaza.

But for Beinart and others to encourage the wrecking of people’s livelihoods overnight is crossing a red line, let alone a green one. We hear it enough at the hundreds of anti-Israel events that take place annually.

Meanwhile, UJIA have confirmed that they are hosting the event: