Monthly Archives: March 2010

Ilan Pappe: “You’re all just brainwashed”

It is one thing being abused by the audience, which I am regularly, but it is another thing being abused by the actual speaker at an Israel hate-fest.

At these meetings it is with trepidation that one raises an arm to ask a question or put Israel’s side of the case. The hatred is like no other I have felt before in any other place.

I have recently been called a “Holocaust denier”, “scum” and even , horror of horror, “from the Zionist Federation”.

But after listening to Ilan Pappe and Ronnie Kasrils speak at Parliament on Wednesday on Opposing Apartheid: Palestine and the experience of South Africa I approached Pappe.

Professor Pappe is an anti-Zionist Israeli who used to lecture at Haifa University. He claims that his views were so anathema to Israeli academia that he was hounded out of the country and now he is Professor of History at Exeter University.

I have read a lot of his work and have found him interesting on nationalism and identity so I wanted to ask him why he felt that there should be no Jewish state when there have always been Jews living in the area of what is now Israel, West Bank, Gaza and Jordan.

“Jews made up just 1% of the population and even they weren’t Zionist,” was his answer.

This bemused me especially as arch anti-Zionist Ben White quotes a Jewish population figure of 5%.

I told Pappe that I couldn’t understand the relevance of whether these Jews were Zionist or not. Surely, their mere presence as Jews was proof enough of uninterrupted Jewish lineage in the area. And it wasn’t as if the 500,000 Arabs there considered themselves “Palestinian”.

I asked Pappe where he got the “1%” statistic from and he referred me to Ottoman records. I questioned how he was sure they were accurate but he’d had enough and said “You’re all just brainwashed”.

Imagine you are a student with a £20,000 loan and you ask Pappe a simple question like that in class but get told you are “brainwashed”.

Pappe is also a prolific writer on how Jews “ethnically cleansed ” the Palestinians.

I would be shocked and amazed if he ever offered an alternative view to his history students about the complex events on the Israeli-Arab war that took place between 1947-1949. For Pappe there is only one view: It was Zionist policy to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians.

But would he, for example, recommend his students to read Benny Morris who has a much more nuanced view of what took place in 1947-1949?

But one of Pappe’s most undesirable comments was reserved for Jewish students in the UK. Just after leaving Israel for the UK he gave an interview to the Times Higher Education Supplement of 6 April 2007:

“By concentrating their efforts on defending Israel, Jewish student groups were exacerbating this perception. They then risked drawing Muslim anger against the state of Israel upon themselves.”

His insinuation was that if Jewish students support Israel they only have themselves to blame if something dreadful happens to them. It was his warning for Jewish students to just shut up.

I did a Masters at SOAS and came across no problems from any Muslim students or Muslims in general when Israel/Palestine was discussed on campus.

The only insults came from middle-aged hard-lefties consumed with rage that the Jews can have state.

Yet, now Pappe comes here trying to stir up trouble and silence Jewish students.

Is this the sort of person who should be lecturing our students?

Really, Exeter University seems to be doing itself no credit by giving Pappe tenure.

“You’re a Holocaust denier and you’re Scum.”

These were the words left ringing in my ears last night when I questioned the thesis that Palestinian nationalism or a Palestinian state had existed when the Jews began to return to the Middle East at the beginning of the 20th century.

I was at LSE again for Ben White’s talk Democracy or Apartheid? Israel’s regime of control and the Palestinians .

The talk that was part of the sixth international Israel Apartheid Week.

Israel Apartheid Week is basically two weeks of propaganda and lies spoken against Israel to demonise both Israel and its supporters.

We were a tiny audience, 20 at most. White put this down to “event fatigue” but “Ben White fatigue” would be more accurate. White has a book to flog and so has been back and forth across the Atlantic racking up the airmiles trying to do exactly that.

His presentation consists of little more than accusation after accusation against Israel. His evidence mainly consists of random quotes of Israeli politicians, past and present, a few photographs and some maps. White does maps a lot.

But he started off by demeaning Zionism. My loose definition of Zionism is:

The will of the Jewish people for national determination in a land where they used to live in great numbers before being expelled by Roman conquest. Just 96 years ago that “land” consisted of provinces of the Ottoman Empire (see my own map below) and contained approximately 525,000 people. It was not a state. Today that same area contains over 10 million people.

White demeans Zionism as anti-democratic and having been implemented by force:

“Zionist colonisation could only be carried out in defiance of the will of the native population,” Jabotinsky, 1923.

“Were I an Arab I would rise up against immigration liable sometime in the future to hand the country over to Jewish rule,” Ben Gurion, 1939.

Sure, Zionist leaders were hardtalking and pragmatic but, apart from the Irgun and the Stern Gang of the 1940s, Zionism established itself via negotiations with politicians and opinion formers, not with force.

White then described what he views as Israel’s apartheid measures against Israel’s own Palestinian community (“don’t call them ‘Israeli Arabs'”), against East Jerusalem’s Arab population and against the Palestinians in the West Bank.

On the Israeli Arabs he mentioned martial law, land confiscations and Judaization of the Galilee and the Negev. “Judaization” is moving of Jews into these areas:

“The project of ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ commenced when the state was founded and has continued in various guises to the present day.” Prof. Hillel Cohen.

On the Arabs of East Jerusalem he spoke of their “residency” status being somewhere between the Palestinians in the West Bank, who have no status, and the Israeli Arabs, who are “citizens”.

“Residency” means they can move about freely in Israel but cannot vote in national elections but this “residency” can be stripped without notice as, apparently, happened to 4,500 East Jerusalem Arabs in 2008.

He quoted a Jerusalem Post headline: “Jerusalem Mayor Barkat: Arab population in capital a strategic threat.”

About the West Bank White spoke about settlement building “which is a consensus issue in Israel as the settlement project accelerated even under a Labour government from 1993 to 1996” and about house demolitions.

Then he brought out his maps of “disappearing Palestine”.

White's map of West Bank before settlements

Based on his maps for White there is only one conclusion: a one-state solution.

In the Q&A I made the point that the West Bank settlements aren’t necessarily there to stay but can be removed as part of a negotiating process so leaving a fully functioning Palestinian state.

But White answered that the settlements are deeply ingrained in Israeli policy.

Then I made my point about Palestinian nationalism for which I was called a Holocaust denier and scum.

White's West Bank map as of now

Some 96 years ago the area now comprising Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria were merely provinces of the Ottoman Empire. There were towns, villages and provinces, but not a Palestinian state.

Neither did Palestinian nationalism exist. It grew in direct opposition to Zionism. That is not to say that the Palestinians should not have a state now. They are a now a people. But to say there ever was a Palestinian state is just not the truth and there is scant evidence of Palestinian nationalism at the time.

“Palestine” was not a land without “people” but it was a land without “a people”.

You can call me a “Holocaust denier and scum” but do your own research.

This map shows how “Palestine” looked just 96 years ago.

Goldstone Report debate shambles

Goldstone's fact finding team: (l to r) Hina Jilani, Richard Goldstone, Professor Chinkin, Colonel Travers

Last night a few of us headed down to the London School of Economics to hear two of Richard Goldstone’s United Nations “fact” finding team into Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

The event was entitled The Goldstone Report and the Peace Process.

Considering the importance of the event it should have started on time but the Chairman and four speakers strolled in 15 minutes late so reducing the event’s length from 90 to just 75 minutes.

Retired Colonel Desmond Travers and Professor Christine Chinkin were both on the Goldstone panel but Chinkin had already signed a letter to the Times condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Chinkin’s mere presence on the investigation team was, therefore, a breach of Article 6 (Right to a fair trial) of the European Convention of Human Rights as she is obviously not “impartial”.

Karma Nabulsi also spoke. She is an ex-PLO negotiator and very personable but a one trick pony. For Karma peace can only come through “justice” and “justice” for her means the return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel.

She asked: “What is wrong with the refugees returning to Israel?”.

Where does one start, Karma! It’s the equivalent of the UK opening its borders to 60 million non-EU nationals.

Then there was Ami Ayalon. He was the “Israel voice”. He is ex-Shin Bet . Shin Bet is Israel’s internal security service, like our MI5. He also used to be a Labour Member of Israel’s Parliament.

He said Israel has a duty to defend its citizens but that he was against Israel invading Gaza because, as the Hamas website says, Hamas will take the fight to its own civilian areas.

Ayalon felt Israel did not have the tools to do this without causing harm to Palestinian civilians. Instead he had proposed a plan with Sari Nusseibah where there should be a new “law of return” for the settlers who wish to move back West into Israel proper and who should be compensated accordingly.

As decent a left-wing Israel voice as Ayalon was it would have been more interesting to hear from someone from Kadima, the party that took Israel to war. Now such a person runs the risk of arrest as soon as they step off the plane at Heathrow, so we will never be allowed to hear from them.

Ami Ayalon - ex-Shin Bet

But back to Colonel Travers who left some of us in utter disbelief by the end.

Travers was Goldstone’s munitions expert. He started off by saying that “the great preponderance of the damage that was done in Gaza was done by conventional weapons”.

Travers then took us through the deadly propensity of White Phosphorous, a non-conventional weapon which was used as a smoke-screen by Israel to shield its soldiers from Hamas fighters. Travers admits that the use of WP is not illegal and that all armies use it but he felt it should be banned worldwide “even for battlefield use”.

As he explained: “WP is a highly toxic chemical that needs no initiator to ignite, all it needs is oxygen. If it is deprived of oxygen it remains dormant and active. WP that was dumped in the Irish Sea after Wolrd War Two broke away from its moorings and came ashore and ignited on an Irish beach 50 years later. The fumes cause sickness as they are highly toxic and people with as low as 10% surface area burns will die becuase it attacks the central nervous system.”

Then he said: “Children in Gaza were attracted to the smoke because of its pleasent almond smell.”

But, apparently, there are two alternatives to WP: Red Phosphorous and Titanium Tetrachloride

Now, I am no chemist but at first glance these two chemicals also seem highly deadly and my hunch is that had Israel used either of them then accusations of war crimes would still be heading its way.

Then Travers moved on to the use of DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive): “To be very honest about it we found no evidence of DIME being used. There is anecdotal evidence. Whether it was or it wasn’t used it puts the victim at risk of cancer and is very difficult to trace and remove.” (Note the caveats.)

He also said he wished to see Tungsten and Flechette shells removed from the armies of the world.

But for the denouement of his presentation he said: “In Gaza munitions were dropped to achieve deep penetration, perhaps tunnel systems or underground caches and this suggests strongly that those munitions were comprised of hardened warheads which might have logically been hardened by radiological devices or depleted uranium or uranium devices and if so there are toxic consequences. It might have happened and if it has happened there is a responsibilty on the international community to make sure Gaza doesn’t deteriorate further and it is in a terrible situation already.” (How many more caveats!)

I had my doubts about the Goldstone Report but I kept an open mind that Israel might well have done things beyond international law. Now, after hearing, Professor Chinkin and, particularly, Colonel Travers I am even less inclined to trust its findings, eventhough I have not read the report in full.

Professor Chinkin has little credibility as an objective judge and Colonel Travers’ accusations that Israel used non-conventional weapons applies, on his own admission, to every other army in the world so then why is only Israel under investigation?

Below you can see Colonel Travers in full flow last night as filmed by Jonathan Sacerdoti. Note how in response to Jonathan Hoffman’s question about the possibility of weapons being stored by Hamas in mosques he admits that he visited only 2 out of the 14 mosques destroyed by Israel in Gaza and found no evidence of munitions having been stored there because, in his view, it just isn’t a secure place to store them.

Get that: He visited just two! What about the other 12, Colonel? Did Hamas not allow you into them by any chance?

The event was a perfect show of the amateurish way that the Goldstone Report, which could have the affect of sending Israeli soldiers and politicians to prison, was put together.

The United Nations, itself, loses even more credibility by endorsing the report.

Free the Gaza 22 now!

The January 2009 London protests against Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

A general election must be approaching.

Political demands are getting more and more eccentric as politicians appeal to those religious minorities who can return them to power and it’s not just the Lib Dems who are expertly adept at this.

George Galloway and Jeremy Corbyn made Nick Clegg seem positively liberal when they spoke at the recent “Public meeting on jailing of Gaza protesters“.

After the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six now comes the “Free the Gaza 22” campaign.

At the meet we were informed that there were 119 arrests at the protests that took place in London last January against Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas.

“Almost all were Muslim,” we were told. 22 had already been jailed with many more to follow. Sentences ranged from eight months to two and a half years.

“The majority were 16 to 19 years old, many were just 15 and 16 and one was as young as 12.”

Most of the meet was spent accusing the police of making political arrests and the judiciary of handing out political sentences both in order to discourage Muslims from taking to the streets to protest in the future. Allegations of Islamaphobia were rife throughout the meet.

Jeremy Corbyn closed the meeting with the following eccentric demands:
1. The 22 in prison should be immediately released.
2. No one standing trial should go to prison.
3. All complaints against the police should be investigated.
4. There should be an independent review of the police operation.
5. There should be a broader campaign against the criminalisation of the Muslim community.

I am as much against Islamaphobia as anyone but whoever remembers seeing the violence perpetrated by thugs at the London demonstration will not be surprised in the slightest by the prison sentences, even for first time offenders.

But Joanne Gilmore, the chief researcher, suggested that these were “relatively minor disturbances”.

Well if you call knocking a policeman unconscious and smashing up Starbucks “relatively minor” one can start to understand why certain people don’t take seriously the thousands of Kassam rockets that have pounded Israeli towns over the years and which caused Israel to go into Gaza to stop them.

And when the Stop the War Coalition repeatedly refers to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine as attacks on Muslims then what do they expect when thousands of British Muslims come out on to the streets of London to violently protest.

The lies feeds the anger that creates the violence that causes the arrests and the imprisonment.

Make your own mind up about who is responsible for the violence:

But the meet started off in farcical circumstances.

George Galloway stood up to give his cynical view on how the police behaved during the protests. He blamed their heavy-handedness on the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London and a visit by George Bush to 10, Downing Street.

Galloway told of how he was assaulted in the underpass at Knightsbridge and how the law is being used to discourage Muslims:

“If you were Osama Bin Laden you would be rubbing your hands with glee. He would view our democracy as a sham. The police are achieving the opposite of that they intend.”

At that point two Iranians who were sat close by could not stay silent any longer and started remonstrating George’s support for the Ahmadinejad regime.

Guess who walked in to save the day for George but the……police!

There was George condemning the police but seconds later obsequiously pointing out to two police officers the source of the interruption and having the two protestors (who were merely shouting) removed.

George then said he hoped the police will treat the two protestors better then he himself was treated by the police before, in the same breathe, accusing the protesters of being Iranian Monarchists, an allegation which would see them sentenced to death in Iran, the fate of 21-year old Amir-Reza Arefi last month.

See the protest below (I do not endorse the title of the video in the slightest) and note how on 2 minutes 8 seconds George’s hand enters, screen left (black sleeve), to obsequiously point out to the police the protesters he wanted removed by the same police force that only seconds earlier he had been condemning.

As George, himself, repeatedly says: “You couldn’t make it up!”

Lib Dems launch Mezuzah War

A mezuzah.

With the general election and the Jewish festival of Passover both approaching it is ironic to see some politicians making the same decision the Almighty made when smiting the first born son of each Egyptian family to persuade Pharoah to release the Jews.

Thousands of years ago Jewish families marked the front of their own homes so the Almighty would “pass over” and leave their own first born sons unharmed. It worked and Moses was allowed by the evil Pharoah to finally lead the Jews from slavery to freedom.

This time it is the Lib Dems who are deciding which houses to “pass over” but with a view to entering not so much the Promised Land as the House of Commons.

But there’s a problem. Camden council contains the two parliamentary constituencies of Hampstead and Kilburn, where the MP is Glenda Jackson, and Holborn and St. Pancras, where the MP is Frank Dobson.

In Hampstead and Kilburn the election will be close. In 2005 Jackson got 14,615 votes and the Conservatives and Lib Dems received 10,886 and 10,293 votes respectively.

Jackson was elected as Labour MP in 1992 and with her majority on the slide ever since it is highly probable that she will be out of a job after 6th May.

In Holborn and St. Pancras in 2005 Dobson secured victory for Labour with 14,857 votes. The Lib Dems came second with 10,070 votes.

And so the Lib Dems are in with a chance of not only being in control of Camden council but they could turn Camden completely yellow if they take these two parliamentary seats as well.

But the Lib Dems are already not fighting fair before the general election has even been officially called.

Chris Philp, the Conservative Candidate, has written about the different leaflets put out by the Lib Dems depending on whether a family is Jewish or Muslim.

Chris Philp (right) at a Conservative Friends of Israel event

We know how horrendous the Lib Dems are about Israel.

Without needing to mention Baroness Jenny Tonge, Chris Davies MEP and Sarah Teather MP the most hostile of all to Israel, because he is the one who ultimately makes the decisions, is Nick Clegg MP, the Lib Dem leader.

Clegg advocates Israel being left without any defence against Hamas rocket barrages by calling for Israel to be disarmed.

So if Nick Clegg becomes Foreign Secretary, a distinct possibility with recent opinion polls implying a hung parliament, Israeli citizens could be fearing for their lives.

Clegg’s hostile attitude is now reproduced in Lib Dem leaflets in Holborn and St Pancras, with its large Bangladeshi community, where Israel is continuously vilified by Jo Shaw, the Lib Dem candidate.

“Stop Arming Israel” screams her leaflets.

Jo Shaw's leaflet in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency

But if you are living in the adjoining constituency of Hampstead and Highgate, with its disproportionately high Jewish population, the story is completely different.

There, Ed Fordham, the Lib Dem candidate has inserted into his leaflets photos of himself in Israel and has even included Hebrew. These leaflets are aimed at placating the Jewish households.

Chris Philp thinks that the Lib Dems might “have compiled a list of Jewish people in the area”.

It is much easier than that. All these crafty Lib Dems need do is see if there is a Mezuzah on the front door. If there is then through the letterbox goes the Israel-friendly leaflet. If there isn’t then that letterbox gets “passed over”.

Ed Fordham (left) in Israel

Sadly, attempting to manipulate the feelings of religious minorities has paid off before. In the 2005 General Election Lorna Fitzsimons, the then Labour MP, lost in Rochdale.

The 2006 Report of the All Parliamentary Committee into anti-Semitism found that the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, in order to help unseat Fitzsimons, distributed leaflets stating “she had done nothing to help the Palestinians because she was a Jewish member of the Labour Friends of Israel”.

One problem, Lorna Fitzsimons is not Jewish.

A similar deligitimising campaign is already underway against Luciana Berger who is standing as the Labour Party candidate in the Liverpool Wavertree constituency. She has already been labelled that “well-known Zionist”.

I am sure that the average voter is savvy enough not to be fooled by Lib Dem mind games but at least when Jewish families are sat around their passover tables and they hear that political leaflet drop on to the mat they will finally be able to answer that all important Passover question:

Why is this political leaflet different from all other political leaflets?

Luciana Berger: Liverpool Wavertree's Labour Candidate