Monthly Archives: January 2014

Arab Israeli lecturer visits London, condemns “Judaisation” of Israel.

Imagine if a member of the English Defence League, or anyone else for that matter, came to the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to talk about the “Islamisation” of England or Europe or any place in the world. Do you think there’d be a riot?

SOAS would have barred such an invitation long before.

However, a discussion about “Judaisation” under the guise of academia is encouraged and applauded judging by last night’s audience at the Centre for Palestine Studies, which is based at SOAS, where the Arab Israeli (or Palestinian Israeli) lecturer Dr Thabet Abu Rass spoke on the topic of The Bedouin in the Naqab (Negev): The invisible Palestinians and the Prawer Plan.

I lost count how many times Dr Rass used “Judaisation” or “Judaising” to accuse Israel of nefariously attempting to make Israeli places like the Galilee, Nazareth and the Negev majority Jewish areas to the detriment of Israel’s Arab citizens already living there.

One has to ask the question,  if “Islamisation” is considered offensive then why is “Judaisation” considered not offensive?

Meanwhile, one has to strongly doubt whether the Bedouin will be happy to be considered Palestinian by both Dr Rass and the Centre for Palestine Studies. The Bedouin seem to have a completely different culture, history and relationship with Israel than the Palestinians do. But Dr Rass described the Bedouin last night as “part of the Palestinian people”.

Dr Rass is Adalah’s director of their Negev office, while Adalah styles itself  as “The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel”.

Dr Rass, who obtained a PhD in Geography and Regional Development from the University of Arizona, also lectures at Ben Gurion University and Sapir College but last night he started off by saying of those he teaches: “Some of my students are the most extreme settlers from Hebron.”

He continued that “Israel’s Arab minority is under attack”, that Avigdor Lieberman is attempting to “Judaise the Galilee” and that “the state of Israel is trying to increase its Jewishness”.

Dr Rass claimed there is “no free market of land in Israel” and that “93% of Israel is defined as state land” which, he said, was comparable to China, Cuba and North Korea.

Dr Rass then put the natural Bedouin growth rate at 4% and said there was only one group higher than this in the world.

Cue…pregnant…pause…

There then came derogatory laughter from the audience before some of them called out “ultra-orthodox Jews!” Sometimes, you do get a sense of total disparagement of Jewish people and for those few seconds I felt it.

Dr Rass mainly concentrated on the Bedouin town of Al-Araqib in the Negev, near Be’er Sheva, with its 300 residents. He accused Israel of demolishing its homes 49 times since July 2010 and described how Israel uproots Al-Araqib’s crops every spring.

And he described how a Bedouin village called Umm Al-Hiran was removed by Israel, soon to be replaced by a Jewish town called Hiran.

Dr Rass claimed Israel is trying to forcibly displace the Negev Bedouin and then confine them to just 1% of the Negev’s total area. He described this as “the severest attack of land confiscation since 1948”.

Dr Rass blames this, of course, on that policy of “Judaisation”. He continued that there was a “discourse of fear” in Israel which binds Israelis together. He said that when things were quiet with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah it is “the Bedouin who become the enemy”. Such a “politics of fear”, he said, pushes Israel to the right.

He tried to make the case that the Bedouin had legal and historic rights to the Negev. He produced an old Bedouin voting card and a photocopied Arabic land certificate from 1941. He also produced an aerial photo from 1945 of the Negev showing its fertility presumably to emphasise the quality of the land he was accusing Israel of stealing.

His parting shot at Israel was “for the first time since 1948 Israel is closing places to the Bedouin. From Be’er Sheva to Ashkelon the Bedouin cannot own land. Israel is closing areas off on an ethnic basis. Israel is going to destroy Bedouin unrecognised towns and build Jewish settlements. It is going to criminalise the Bedouin for sitting on their ancestral lands. Israel is not an apartheid state, but it is creeping apartheid“.

As I understand it, Israel is not closing anything off “on an ethnic basis”. The Bedouin can apply to purchase property in any of the new Negev developments.

Chairing this Centre for Palestine Studies’ latest anti-Israel hatefest under the guise of academia was Sharri Plonski. Two years ago, while studying at SOAS, Plonski chaired a SOAS Israel Society event Is BDS working? Now she’s a SOAS lecturer.

Meanwhile, Adalah is being advised on the situation of the Bedouin by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, which calls for a racist boycott of Israel leading to Israel’s eventual obliteration. Adalah is also supported by Christian Aid in this project. Once again we see hard-earned charity funds wasted on projects primarily aimed at demonising Israel.

If you really wish to know the truth about the Prawer Plan see here and watch the clip below. You won’t be surprised to learn that Adalah and Dr Rass have misrepresented the Bedouin cause.

Many Bedouin are in favour of Prawer. The plan should improve their lives immeasurably, allowing them to live in far more advantageous locations with proper mains supplies and schools, while also benefiting financially from the move. Consultations are still taking place, though, and nothing has been set in stone yet.

The Bedouin might even, finally, be allowed to enjoy all the benefits of a full life in Israel that Dr Thabet Abu Rass has taken advantage of himself. He said that he has recently visited the British Foreign Office, the White House and Congress.

It seems that the only people against the Bedouin are Dr Rass, Adalah and anyone else who wants to stop the Bedouin from enjoying enhanced lives.

Advertisements

Families of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall continue their war on Israel.

When Craig Corrie approached a group of pro-Israel activists outside the Hackney Empire before the start of a memorial concert for Rachel Corrie everyone was worried he would be angry. It was 1st November 2005, more than two years after Rachel Corrie, his daughter, was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. She was 23.

The activists were holding up photos of Israeli Rachels murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Rachel Thaler was 16 when she died. She was also a British citizen. The others were Rachel Levy, 17, Rachel Levi, 19, Rachel Charhi, 36, Rachel Gavish, 50, Rachel Ben Abu, 16, Rachel Kol, 53, and Rachel Shabo, 40.

As Tom Gross wrote in 2005 “Even though Thaler was a British citizen, born in London, where her grandparents still live, her death has never been mentioned in a British newspaper.”

But Mr Corrie was not angry. Instead, he was very polite and after he had looked over the photos of the Rachels he said that they were all in his thoughts.

Sadly, his and his wife’s Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice now engages in the childish, ignorant politics of the average anti-Israel activist. The foundation calls for a boycott of Israel and for “the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes”, which would inevitably mean Israel’s destruction.

When I searched the foundation for mentions of the Israeli Rachels it returned “No posts found”.

Yesterday, I was at SOAS in London for the Not Afraid To Look exhibition, which is based on the photos and quotes of Tom Hurndall, aged 22 when he died from his injuries after being shot by an Israeli soldier in Gaza, and Rachel Corrie.

Both were “trained by” the International Solidarity Movement. ISM, the exhibition states, “provided support through non-violent action against arbitrary house demolitions and land theft by the occupying Israeli forces”.

Nowhere, was it mentioned that Israel imprisoned the soldier that shot Tom or that a thorough investigation acquitted the bulldozer driver of intentionally killing Rachel.

In a sideroom at SOAS I also attended a four-way Skype session that linked up activists in London, Gaza, Edinburgh and Olympia in Washington state, USA where the Corries are based. Tom’s mother, Jocelyn, was in the room in London.

Sadly, Rachel and Tom’s memories were commemorated by racist, childish songs sung from Edinburgh calling for Israel to be boycotted.

Here are some of the lines:

Don’t buy dates, don’t buy jaffa fruits, don’t buy Israeli wines, there’s a boycott going on.

Just read the labels, no looking back, if made in Israel, it stays on the rack.

Tell all your neighbours, don’t be shy, read all the labels before you shop, Israel’s apartheid’s got to stop.

Afterwards, Cindy Corrie praised those lyrics. Haider Eid, in Gaza, told the four-way Skype audience that Israel’s Operation Cast Lead “happened in response to harmless rockets from Gaza”. Meanwhile, the main guest, Jeremy Corbyn MP, failed to show up.

I can understand that the families of Tom and Rachel want justice but when you read the quotes of their children below, especially Tom’s, one has to question just what they were doing in such a dangerous predicament, especially considering that Tom arrived in Gaza AFTER Rachel had been killed.

The two families will, no doubt, continue their quest against Israel but their children should not have been in Gaza and complicity in their tragic deaths lies not just with Israel but with Yasser Arafat, who launched the bloody Second Intifada, themselves as parents for not dissuading their children from going to a war zone and with the ISM who took them there.

Quotes from Not Afraid To Look:

“It is strange to know that each night people are shot and killed for breaking military curfew. And in the darkness on the north west side there is an Israeli settlement a few hundred metres away with a military sniper in between. Any one of us four could be being watched through a sniper’s sights at this moment. The certainty is that they are watching and it is on the decision of any one Israeli soldier or settler that my life depends. I know that I’d probably never know what hit me, but it’s part of the job to be as visible as possible.” Tom Hurndall 6/4/03

“Two ‘young’ brothers shot at by snipers in the tower. Mustafa hit in leg, Rushdie in throat while in the bathroom (through a misted glass window). Ironically, his best hope of survival is if his family pays $4,000 and apply to take him to Israel for treatment.” Tom Hurndall 11/4/03

“Our job is to keep water pumping machinery on-line during the curfew because Palestinian technicians would be shot at if they came out to do it. We stand a better chance.” Tom Hurndall 6/4/03

“It seems that all over Palestine the strategy is the same…They shoot at water tanks on the top of houses for fun. They destroy wells, give all the water supply to settlements and place the off-switch in settlers’ hands to use as a weapon. Everything is deliberately designed to lower the standards of life for Palestinians so that they just get up and leave.” Tom Hurndall 7/4/2003

“I think it is maybe official now that Rafah is the poorest place in the world.” Rachel Corrie 27/2/03

“Rachel (Corrie) was killed in Rafah a few weeks ago. It seems so unfair. Not just on the surface but looking at the images. I wonder how few or how many heard of it on the news and just counted it as another death, just another number…” Tom Hurndall 3/4/03

Israel’s “beautiful resistance” to suicide bombers: A response to St James’s Church Rector Lucy Winkett

St James’s Church’s Rector Lucy Winkett’s defence of her church’s installation of a replica of Israel’s security wall in a piece for The Guardian is a legal and moral failure.

First the legal side. She states that Israel’s wall is “illegal under international law”. It is incredible that so many non-lawyers (and a few actual lawyers) state this with such ease when there is little proper evidence of such “illegality”.

Rector Winkett is relying on the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. A frame repeatedly projected on to St James’s Church’s replica wall states “In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague stated the Wall was illegal and it should be dismantled.”

But an advisory opinion is just that; advisory and an opinion. It sets no legal precedent.

Even if Israel’s wall was “illegal” there is the legal argument of self-defence. If I used illegal means to stop someone killing me I would be guilty of nothing more than self-defence. In parallel with this Israel’s wall has stopped Palestinian suicide bombers killing Israeli civilians.

There are legal opinions for and against Israel’s security wall, but for Rector Winkett to declare the wall “illegal under international law” makes a mockery of her claim in The Guardian that “we are not ‘pro’ one side or another”.

On the moral side Rector Winkett derides as “irresponsible” those who claim “we are aligning ourselves with those who support the Holocaust, suicide bombings or that we are antisemitic”.

But Rector Winkett’s wish for Israel’s security wall to come down will encourage suicide bombers sent by the likes of Islamist terror group Hamas to resume their murder of Israeli civilians, including those living on the West Bank, which the building of the wall has successfully disrupted.

The Hamas Charter specifically calls for the murder of Jews, so, yes, Hamas does support the Holocaust, suicide bombings and is blatantly antisemitic.

And then there are the organisations that St James’s Church has expressly aligned itself with for Bethlehem Unwrapped.

Rector Winkett writes that St James’s is supporting “a peaceful Palestinian principle known as ‘beautiful resistance’; expressed in theatres, music projects…”.

Sami Awad, director of the Holy Land Trust, might believe in “beautiful resistance” but that doesn’t exclude a belief in violence. Awad is on record as saying that such non-violent resistance “is not a substitute for the armed struggle.”

Incidentally, all net proceeds from Bethlehem Unwrapped go to the Holy Land Trust. (That is should there be any net proceeds, the cost of the 12 day replica wall installation being an incredible £30,000.)

Meanwhile, recent news footage shows Interpal’s primary trustee Essam Mustafa with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

And War On Want and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions are part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a movement that campaigns for Israel’s destruction.

Rector Winkett writes in her Guardian piece that all viewpoints are listened to without exception and that visitors have been allowed to write a prayer or message of peace on the wall and that anything offensive has been immediately removed. She also writes that most conversations have been respectful.

Sadly, many have not been. A woman going in to St James’s Church for Bethlehem Unwrapped’s comedy evening responded to a question about the Holocaust with “What Holocaust?” A supporter of Israel was called a “friggin Jew” and “quenelle 4 ever” appeared on the replica wall (see middle of replica wall below written in blue):

wallquenelle

Rector Winkett also writes that people have written “this wall saves lives”. However, this was subsequently changed to “this wall enslaves lives”.

Bethlehem Unwrapped is not a respectful project however much Rector Winkett is trying to convince us. It mocks Israel’s valid attempts to keep both Israelis and Palestinians alive. Palestinians cannot now be sent as suicide bombers by Hamas.

And it fails to recognise even the possibility that the main problem for Bethlehem’s Christians is not the security wall at all but intimidation by Hamas similar to that carried out by Islamists elsewhere.

Moreover, St James’s Church’s Bethlehem Unwrapped festival has attracted antisemites, Holocaust deniers, those campaigning for the destruction of Israel and those who condone violence to that end.

This may not have been St James’s Church’s intention but this is what has happened and for this Rector Winkett should apologise to Britain’s Jewish community which is bearing the main brunt of the backlash.

The biggest irony is that St James’s Church itself is protected by a security wall; a tall metal fence that contains a locked door. When the door is unlocked it is heavily guarded. Some may call this a checkpoint.

St James’s Church is, understandably, protecting itself from anyone harbouring ill feeling towards it and who may be inclined to carry out an atrocity similar to those carried out against Churches in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria and Egypt by militant Islamists.

Israel is doing the same.

(This piece was originally posted at CiFWatch)