Last night at SOAS the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network presented a talk by Uri Davis called Stop the JNF: Stop Greenwashing Apartheid. The JNF is the Jewish National Fund.
Davis is an activist author, a member of Fatah and an observer member of the PLO. He is a Muslim of Jewish origin and calls for one democratic state for two peoples on equal footing, the two peoples being the Palestinian Arab people and the Palestinian Jewish people. (Another Palestinian state, basically.)
As you can see from my five minutes of footage above I was one of at least four people in the room recording the talk with a camera when I was asked to switch mine off. Not that Uri Davis or Selma James, who was the Chair, objected or even know me but as you can see at 3 mins 41 seconds Ms James receives a note which she reads.
After I question why I should turn it off when others can continue to film Ms James takes a vote. 95% of the audience in the lecture theatre don’t know me but virtually all of them raise their arms. Ironically, you can see all the other cameras being trained on me while I’m asked to turn mine off. With the atmosphere turning hostile and security called I had to comply, although SOAS is now investigating this selectivity.
The event itself focused on undermining Israel through challenging the JNF in the courts. Davis accused the JNF of “complicity with ethnic cleansing”, for example by planting trees on old Arab villages. He suggested that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair should be similarly challenged for being JNF patrons.
Davis made the allegation that politicians are in the pay of the Zionist lobby:
“The Zionist lobby has been for decades much more powerful than we have been. Its intervention into Parliament has been much more effective because it is easier to intimidate or bribe a politician than it is to intimidate or bribe a justice.”
We then had a presentation from smashEDO made by Pete of International Solidarity Movement and Robin. smashEdo goes into factories it doesn’t like and smashes them up. EDO manufactures parts for Israel.
Pete gave us an update on court proceedings currently taking place against a group of actvists who smashed up an EDO factory in Brighton in January 2009 and he was encouraged that the judge seems to be accepting political arguments like evidence from the Goldstone Report. smashEDO view their own behaviour as non-violent seeing as, according to Pete, they are “preventing further crimes”.
This is what smashEDO does of a day out:
Next, Michael told us about a petition that has been drafted against the JNF for only Jews to sign. They wanted to make it clear through the petition that the JNF was Zionist, not Jewish and that “it wasn’t a fund, it was a fraud. It was a means of covering up decades of ethnic cleansing”.
Then, Ms James expressed satisfaction that Gil Scott-Heron and Elvis Costello had decided to boycott Israel, although they had failed with Joan Armatrading. According to Ms James this was “unsurprising as Joan Armatrading has always been right wing. I believe she’s a ‘black Tory’. They do have them”.
We were told that the Holocaust was not an exception and Ms James stated that “as Israel falls more injustices will be revealed. For example, Sri Lanka has a better chance as Israel goes down. We are fighting Zionisms on many fronts”.
Finally, while a hat was being passed round for financial contributions Uri Davis told a joke:
“A catholic priest, a protestant priest and a rabbi decide to hold a charity day and at the end they have to decide what to do with the money. The Protestant priest thinks they should draw a circle on the floor and throw the money in the air. What lands inside the circle is ‘G-d’s money’ and therefore goes to charity and what lands outside is for us to divide up for ourselves. The Catholic priest thinks that a good idea but the money should be thrown in the air and what lands outside the circle is ‘G-d’s money’ and should go to charity and what lands inside the circle should be for us. The Jewish Rabbi disagrees. He thinks they should throw all the money in the air and what G-d wants He takes and what falls down we take.” Cue laughter and applause.
I cannot see the relevance of this joke in the context of the meeting but I do know that had a similar joke been made about, for example, blacks or Muslims there would have been valid anger, not laughter and applause.
I have to say that, having studied there, SOAS is one of the world’s great universities for both academic study and for the environment that it engenders among people of all faiths and none for open, lively and peaceful debate. SOAS only provided the room and had no say in the proceedings last night but what I heard in that room is not something that should be allowed in to any British University. Davis, James and the audience shamed themselves.