Monthly Archives: November 2010

Russell Tribunal on Palestine presents Ken Loach at Amnesty

Ewa Jasiewicz, Dr Ghada Karmi, Frank Barat, Paul Troop, Ken Loach

Ewa Jasiewicz, Dr Ghada Karmi, Frank Barat, Paul Troop, Ken Loach

Last night at Amnesty International in London, against a backdrop of a quote by Bertrand Russell (“May this tribunal prevent the crime of silence”), sat four anti-Israel activists and Paul Troop, a solicitor, presenting the raison d’etre of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The first Russell Tribunal was convened in 1967 in Sweden and Denmark to harness public opinion against the Vietnam War, but it was largely ignored as being merely a show trial.

And so to the second Russell Tribunal, this time on Palestine. It is due to convene over three days at the Law Society in London on the 20,21 and 22 November.

Over that weekend some 20 or so companies are due to be put on trial for complicity with “Israeli war crimes”.

Israel is not on trial, the companies are.

It will already be presumed that Israel is in breach of international law and has committed crimes against humanity.

When I asked Paul Troop where such breaches of international law are judicially laid down the best he could do was direct me to the “opinion” of the International Court of Justice on the wall dividing Israel from the Palestinians.

None of the companies on trial will be represented. Letters have been sent but none have yet responded to say they will be present.

Dr. Ghada Karmi spoke of the Palestinian issue being the moral issue of our time. This polemic is freely bandied around by anti-Israel activists and makes people whince since we know that 3,000 children die every day in Africa from AIDS, malnutrition, malaria and other diseases when they shouldn’t be in this age.

Dr. Karmi cited Cast Lead and the siege of Gaza and was outraged that Israel had not even apologised over something as clearcut as the deaths on the Mavi Marmara.

She said that Israel was now too woven into the fabric of the international system and because of this was never being called to account. There is no major organisation or state that backs the Palestinians.

She felt that the Palestinian case is based on hard international law and looked to the RTOP to, hopefully, get the campuses active and harness the intellectuals.

There is “corporate complicity” with Israel but imagine, she said, if all these companies withdrew their investments from Israel.

Ewa Jasiewicz spoke next. According to the Community Security Trust Jasiewicz recently helped desecrate the walls of the Warsaw ghetto, which is now a cemetery to the 100,000 Jews who died there during the Holocaust from disease, starvation and random executions by the Nazis. Activists daubed “Free Gaza and Palestine” on a ghetto wall (below).

Warsaw Ghetto desecration

Warsaw Ghetto desecration

Jasiewicz hoped that the RTOP will “denormalise Israel’s false legitimacy” and said that “Israel is trying to delegitimise the delegitimiers. We are the delegitimiers”.

She was part of the recent flotilla to Gaza but admitted that the flotilla was not about humanitarian aid for the Palestinians but about breaking the siege of Gaza.

She told us that the occupation is everywhere, not just in Palestine, but is reproduced internationally on a daily basis and she urged activists to continue shutting down places like Ahava and Carmel Agrexco and then turning to international law to support them.

The occupation exists, she said, not because of Jews but because of capitalism. These companies are not committed to Israel but to making money.

She hoped that people will use the tools from the RTOP and apply them in their work places, homes and down the pub and that governments will eventually apply sanctions, as they did to apartheid South Africa.

Film director Ken Loach spoke of this being an incredible story about the breach of international law. “We just want the rule of law. No community can live without law but that is what we are permitting,” he said.

He called for independent politicians and criticised Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for being patrons of the Jewish National Fund which, Loach said, is about collecting money for land being bought on the basis of racial purity.

He spoke of “one image” he had of the settlers being on high ground and the Palestinians being downhill and who cannot use their land or vineyards because settler effluent flows downhill and destroys that land. “It is just a simple detail, the devil is in the detail, but how revealing,” he said.

He referred to maps since 1947 which shows, he said, how the Palestinians have been continuously pushed out. This was evidence of lack of good faith that the Palestinians will ever be allowed to live side by side with Israel.

He challenged the idea of a state based on race: “We have had enough experience to prove that race as a founding principle is intolerable”.

He then quoted David Ben Gurion’s speech on the need for a Jewish homeland when the threats to the Jews in Nazi Germany were becoming intolerable:

“He said this, and I think it is chilling, he said, ‘If it was possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Israel then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the lives of these children but also the history of the people of Israel.’ If that is the mentality of people who are driving Israeli policy then that is chilling because that is not about peaceful negotiation, that is about conquest. Take that in conjunction with the maps and you can see what we are up against. We can remember who supported the Nazis; the industrialists. If the industrialists will support this attack on international law then we have a big task.”

(A non-political analysis of Ben Gurion’s speech can be viewed here).

In the Q&A I asked Loach why he singled out Israel for criticism for its racial and religious make-up when most other countries around the world are the same. He repeated his comment about past experience of states basing themselves on race but he agreed that other countries are based on religion and to show his objection he had boycotted the Iranian film festival.

Someone asked whether Loach would make a film about the suffering of the Palestinians but he replied that that would have to be done by an Arab.

When asked what would Britain do if it was under attack from rockets Loach simply replied that it was not right to balance the violence of the oppressor with the violence of the oppressed.

The RTOP is an expensive charade (the jury is being flown in from all over the world), yet again not benefitting the Palestinians in the slightest.

More shameful was the presence of Ewa Jasiewicz and then acclaimed film director Ken Loach justifying Palestinian violence and unabashedly renewing old anti-Jewish tropes about Jews poisoning their neighbours and killing children.

Last night at Amnesty felt less about the delegitimisation of Israel and more about the delegitimisation of living Jews and the desecration of the memory of dead ones.

Ousted MP, Martin Linton, returns to anti-Israel activism outside Ahava

ex-MP and head of Labour Friends of Palestine, Martin Linton.

ex-MP and head of Labour Friends of Palestine, Martin Linton.

It’s Saturday and that means anti-Israel protest outside Ahava. The protest started an hour earlier than usual because some protesters had to shoot off to an anti-fascism and anti-Islamophobia rally.

So many protests, so little time.

After a year the Ahava protests are finally starting to attract some celebrity anti-Israel activists.

Two weeks ago Sarah Colborne, Director of Campaigns and Operations at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, made her first appearance.

She was present again this week but there was even greater royalty in the form of Martin Linton, Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, who lost his Battersea Parliamentary seat in May.

In March Mr. Linton told a meeting in Parliament that Israel was using its long tentacles to fund British election campaigns and to buy Conservative support. His speech made front page headlines.

I did suggest to him today that if he switched sides then this all powerful pro-Israel machine might win him a place back in Parliament. Sadly, he declined the offer.

Meanwhile, ever present Bruce, chief secretary of AAAUK (Americans Against Apartheid UK) took the opportunity to tell passers-by that disagreed with him that they were fascists (clip 1 below).

Others were content to hold up pictures of dead Palestinian children while describing pro-Israel activists as “bloodsucking” (clip 2 below).

In two weeks time it is Ahava BUYcott weekend where you can obtain a 10% discount on Ahava products and then wave your purchases at the anti-Israel protesters as you exit the store (39 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden). Always fun.

Clips:

Pics.

anti-Israel activist displaying picture of dead children

anti-Israel activist displaying picture of dead children

Phil Woolas needs to fight this judgment

Phil Woolas, now ex-MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth

Phil Woolas, now ex-MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth

Phil Woolas has been stripped of his parliamentary seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth, which he won by just 103 seats in May for, of all things, lying about his opponent, Elwyn Watkins of the Liberal Democrats.

Some judges really need to get out more.

Politicians lie.

We have seen this on a massive scale over the last few years with the expenses scandal and the ease with which political parties put a match to their promises and political manifestos, particularly the Liberal Democrats.

So it is a bit odd to find the Liberal Democrats complaining about lies when they are the masters of the art.

As they say, they can give it but they can’t take it.

Phil Woolas was only doing what thousands of politicians have done throughout the hundreds of years of British politics; slightly bending the truth.

His big whopper was to accuse his Liberal Democrat opponent of wooing Muslim extremists.

The judges have also failed to take into account the times in which we now live.

Only yesterday a young woman was sentenced to life for trying to murder the MP Stephen Timms because he voted for the Iraq war.

She was so easily radicalised. All she needed to do was sit in front of youtube for a few hours and view the uploads of a radical Islamist.

The election in Oldham East and Saddleworth itself was complicated by the sinister presence of MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Committee) which had a hit list of “Zionist” MPs whose opponents it supported. One of those on the hit list, Lee Scott of Ilford North, received death threats.

In the 2005 elections the Liberal Democrats directly benefitted when MPAC spread rumours that Lorna Fitzsimons of Labour was Jewish. She wasn’t but she lost her Rochdale seat by a mere 442 votes, very possibly because of this Jewish “slur”.

MPAC seems to have little care or interest for the United Kingdom as a whole. It is a wholly pro-Muslim/anti-Israel outfit which interferes in elections using the highly intimidating tactic of labelling its opponents pejoratively either as “Jewish” or “Zionist” in the hope of whipping up an unsavioury atmosphere in Britain.

The headline on its website today reads “Election 2010 Success: FOUR Zionists Taken Out by MPACUK”.

The article reads:

MPACUK have taken another scalp – this time of the infamous electoral cheat and, ironically, the former Minister for Race Relations, Phil Woolas.

For all those Muslims who think you can’t make a change, here’s proof you can. For all those Muslims who think democracy doesn’t work, here’s proof it does. For all those Muslims who said Woolas would never lose, here’s proof he did. And for all those Muslims who joined us in the fight and thought we had lost, here’s proof that we won.

We targeted six Zionist, pro-War and Islamophobic MP’s in the 2010 general election. Here’s a list of our scalps:

1. Labour – Clare Ward – Watford. OUT
2. Labour – Andrew Dismore – Hendon. OUT
3. Labour – Terry Rooney – Bradford. OUT
4. Labour – Phil Woolas – Oldham. OUT

One of the commenters underneath has written “4 Zio-Nazies have been removed from Parliament by your efforts”.

Elwyn Watkins may not have openly wooed the likes of MPAC but did he loudly and explicitly denounce them? If he did then this was the right court decision.

If he didn’t then, in my book, he has as good as wooed them and Woolas should appeal this decision and be allowed to reclaim his place in Parliament.

It’s the Holocaust, stupid.

Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Means Freedom) at the entrance to Auschwitz where 1.1 million people died, 90% of them Jews

Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Means Freedom) at the entrance to Auschwitz where 1.1 million people died, 90% of them Jews

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is extremely adept at keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, but, sadly, not for memorialising or academic purposes.

Many a PSC event, or those held by other anti-Israel organisations, seem to start off by invoking the Holocaust.

And why not?

For sure, the very sound of the word “Holocaust” makes an audience’s ears prick up.

The Holocaust. Two simple but emotive words.

You would hope that the memory of 6,000,000 Jews (including 1,000,000 children) and 4,000,000 Communists, gypsies, homosexuals and the physically and mentally disabled would only be invoked when utterly necessary.

Maybe on Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January each year), a visit to Auschwitz or Dachau maybe or maybe an educational class about the Holocaust. This is appropriate.

But a talk presented by the PSC at the House of Commons entitled Ending the siege on Gaza – Eyewitness reports from the Viva Palestina convoy, Parliamentary delegations, and Westminster University Architects is an inappropriate place.

I doubt, somehow, that Gaza, Viva Palestina, Parliamentary delegations and Westminster University Architects have anything to do with Jews being gassed, hanged, shot, burned alive, having medical experiments performed on their genitals and having their corpses bulldozed into mass unmarked graves.

Holocaust denial is sickening enough (and there is plenty of it around in Iran and Arab countries) but gratuitously invoking the Holocaust, as Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury did at the PSC event on tuesday, is sickening in its own way.

Perhaps he should be forgiven as he is a Liberal Democrat peer. As we well know, the Liberal Democrats, wishing to entice the Muslim vote, are not well-disposed to Israel.

But being anti-Israel is no excuse to utilise the Holocaust just to get an audience’s attention. If Lord Phillips thinks he was being intelligent and authoritative, he wasn’t.

According to Jonathan Hoffman Lord Phillips was eager to tell everyone that his first visual memory was of the Holocaust (he was born in 1939) and he suggested that Israel was created only because of the guilt felt by the West after the Holocaust.

Lord Phillips, according to Hoffman, also said, “Europe cannot think straight about Israel because of the Holocaust and America is in the grip of the well-organised Jewish lobby.”

The sub-text to these comments seems to be that if six million Jews hadn’t died at the hands of those blinking Nazis there would be peace in the world today. There would be no need for Al Qaida, Hamas and Hizbollah. It’s all because of that blinking Holocaust, stupid.

Even from the grave Hitler is exerting his presence thanks to the likes of Lord Phillips.

Just for good measure Lord Phillips said he believes that Israel has a right to exist but no one who addresses a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting believes this and certainly wouldn’t be invited to give a talk if they did.

If he was pushed further he would state that Israel has a right to exist but that the Palestinians must have the have a right to return, which would extinguish the Jewish nature of Israel.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign supports Hamas (or, at least, doesn’t denounce it), a banned terrorist organisation. Hamas has sent many suicide bombers into packed Israeli restaurants and would continue to do so if it wasn’t for the security wall built, far too belatedly, by Israel.

Supporting Hamas is bad enough but the PSC and its speakers should leave those who have been tortured and murdered by the Nazis to rest in peace and not have their experiences raised for political point scoring or to grab an audience’s attention, especially when the topic at hand is totally unrelated to the Holocaust.