Category Archives: Israel

Labour MP Mark Hendrick calls in armed police to evict Israel blogger during Palestine Return Centre event in Parliament.

Prof. Wendy Pullan, Kamel Hawwash, Mark Hendrick MP, Prof. Penny Green.

At the Houses of Parliament last night the Palestine Return Centre (PRC) held an event called The Question of Jerusalem. It was hosted and chaired by Mark Hendrick, Labour MP for Preston.

Prof. Wendy Pullan, Senior Lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Architecture at the University of Cambridge, went first and described Jerusalem as “a badly damaged city” the blame for which she lumped on Israel due to “50 years of conflict and occupation”.

She explained that Israel’s urban planning had led to Israelis and Palestinians vilifying each other and she compared Israel’s security barrier to the Berlin Wall.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Kamel Hawwash then told of how he had recently been refused entry to Israel and treated badly at Tel Aviv airport while his wife and child were let through. He was put on a plane back to the UK. He said “Israel was an expert at inciting hatred and was not a country that wanted peace.”

Finally, Prof. Penny Green, Professor of Law and Globalisation at Queen Mary University of London, described how one of her friends who works at Hebrew University was attacked and “called a filthy Arab which is very common”.

She described the “segregation wall” and road network in the Palestinian territories as “apartheid” and said that the wall “is not about security”. She also condemned the checkpoints where Palestinians queue before they can enter Israel to work saying they are where “humans are treated worse than cattle”.

She compared the barrier to the Berlin Wall as well.

During the Q&A I got to ask a question. It isn’t easy asking a question surrounded by people trying to heckle you and drown you out but mine was aimed at Prof. Green.

I asked whether she had any sympathy with Israelis left bereaved and disabled by suicide bombers who got into Israel before the wall, which she condemned, had been built?

Hendrick immediately intervened on her behalf saying that this was a meeting about Palestine, not Israel. When I pressed that she should be allowed to answer he went outside to call armed police as you can see from these photos:

Mark Hendrick points me out to armed police.

Armed police looking for me.

Armed police getting a better sight.

Hendrick pinpoints me to police.

Meanwhile, the one person who did respond to my question was Hawwash who said “If Israel had been created in Uganda does anyone believe the Palestinians would have cause for political groups to go and kill Jews?”

I was then politely asked to leave the room by police and then asked to give my personal details. At one stage I was surrounded by seven heavily armed police. Then my friends Jonathan, Sharon and Mandy were all similarly led out.

One neutral elderly lady who had been in the room came out to complain to PRC representative Sameh Habeeb about how badly we had been treated.

What a total waste of police resources and time by this MP especially considering that literally outside the front door of the building two months ago a terrorist drove into and killed four tourists before then stabbing an unarmed policemen to death.

But Mark Hendrick, Labour MP for Preston, doesn’t have to campaign. He will undoubtedly be re-elected on June 8th as he has a 12,000 majority. So while all other MPs are currently back in their constituences working hard to keep their jobs Hendrick is in London helping the Palestine Return Centre pursue its ultimate goal; the annihilation of Israel.

That’s Labour politics under Jeremy Corbyn for you.

Employee of alleged PFLP terrorist is panellist at Amnesty International.

Rachel Strouma, Rina Rosenberg, Neil Sammonds, Nada Kiswanson van Hoydonk at Amnesty. on Wednesday night.

Rachel Strouma, Rina Rosenberg, Neil Sammonds, Nada Kiswanson van Hoydonk at Amnesty on Wednesday night.

So what is the logical response when you are Amnesty International’s crisis manager for Syria and there has been a recent chemical attack on his own civilians by President Assad at Khan Sheikhoun followed by 100 Syrian civilians killed by a suicide bomber as residents of the villages of Fuaa and Kafrya were being taken to safety?

Well, if you are Kristyan Benedict you arrange a meeting at Amnesty about human rights in Israel!

Benedict, Amnesty’s crisis manager for Syria, is notorious for comparing Israel to Islamic state, making a sick joke at the expense of three Jewish MPs on twitter and for threatening me when I questioned, at one of his events, an obviously doctored photo of a Palestinian boy with a Star of David allegedly carved into his arm by an Israeli soldier.

On Wednesday 19th April at Amnesty in London he assembled a panel of four human rights activists:

Rachel Strouma – Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.
Rina Rosenberg – Adalah, which is based in Israel.
Neil Sammonds – Medical Aid for Palestinians.
Nada Kiswanson van Hoydonk – Al Haq, which is based in Ramallah.

The event was called In Pursuit of Accountability – Israeli and Palestinian NGOs working together for human rights.

Rosenberg spent her 15 minutes citing the hundreds of complaints made against the Israeli army by Adalah and other NGOs and the Israeli army’s lack of response. For example, 500 complaints were made againt the army after the 2014 war relating to 360 different incidents. The apparent result was just one indictment for looting.

Then Strouma spent hers detailing examples of maltreatment and torture of Palestinian prisoners and the lack of trust that Palestinians have in the Israeli judicial system. She concentrated mainly on the apparent three days spent by Palestinian prisoners in vans as they are transported to court from prisons and back.

She claimed that one Palestinian admitted to a crime he didn’t commit rather than spend three days in a van.

van Hoydonk works for Al Haq. The General Director of Al Haq, which is based in Ramallah, is Shawan Jabarin who was and allegedly still is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian which is responsible for hijackings and assassinations within Israel and around the world.

van Hoydonk spent her 15 minutes updating us on the International Criminal Court’s preliminary investigation into war crimes during the 2014 war.

During the Q&A I asked van Hoydonk whether considering her boss was, and possibly still is, a member of the PFLP, a proscribed terrorist group responsible for the murder of many innocent civilians, she really considers her own organisation, Al Haq, a human rights organisation?

Sadly, she refused to answer as you can see below (from 1 minute 25 seconds). Neil Sammonds stepped in on her behalf to explain that this was an event to address the problems in the Israeli justice system but there will be other fora to explore Palestinian issues:

The issue of the 1000 Palestinian prisoner hunger strikers was also brought up during the Q&A. Rosenberg referred to them as “political prisoners”. So while Adalah is trying to bring prosecutions against Israel soldiers it cannot even admit to Palestinian terrorists being anything more than “political prisoners”.

After the event the audience and panel members were invited to drinks and nibbles by Amnesty which is ironic considering the issues of hunger strikes, torture, murder and intentional destruction that had just been discussed and alleged.

It takes all sorts.

Anti-Semitic comments show the Method in the Methodists’ Madness.

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Hinde Street Methodist Church’s reconstruction of an Israeli checkpoint.

I went to Hinde Street Methodist Church’s exhibition in London about Israel’s security checkpoints today expecting something on the scale of the St James’s Church’s lifesize reproduction of Israel’s security barrier outside their own church in 2013 which cost £30,000 to construct. Hinde Street Church’s reproduction, however, was more of an IKEA job.

First, all of the exhibition was inside the church and second, the checkpoint was made from simple plywood with various negative commentaries about the wall, including quotations from the Bible, attached to it.

There were also real photographs of Israeli checkpoints, some sort of jenga section and three prayer stations for silent contemplation.

Third, the Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies had spent the weekend persuading the church to accept as part of the exhibition literature (including two big boards) explaining why the security checkpoints are so necessary (see below).

The exhibition didn’t seem to be busy (it runs till friday) but the ZF/BOD literature will be effective in countering those unsuspecting members of the public who wander in. My hunch though is that the exhibition will only attract real Israel haters coming to have their views on the Jewish state confirmed.

David Collier and I sat at a prayer station in discussion with two elderly British women for about 15 minutes. We played dumb about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the women proceeded to tell us, inter alia, that Israel has an “unkind society” and that Israel in the West Bank is akin to Putin conquering the Ukraine and transporting Russians there.

Although the exhibition itself is pretty downboat the fact that the church decided to criticise checkpoints that keep Israelis alive is pretty bewildering. Nowhere in the exhibition does the church condemn the Palestinian terrorism that has killed so many Israelis.

But reading the Church’s Facebook page marketing the exhibition gives you an indication of the mindset of some Methodists, perhaps.

Comments like

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indicate the real method in some Methodists’ madness.

More photos from the checkpoint exhibition:

Jenga!

Jenga!

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Jenga instruction!

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Brilliant ZF/BOD response inside the Church.

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Some poetry on the checkpoint.

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Guardian writer claims Google excluding Palestine to please customers.

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The Guardian’s weapon of choice on Monday against the Jewish state was maps with Petter Hellström, a PhD candidate at the Department of History of Science and Ideas, Uppsala University, claiming, in the Science section, that Google “chose not to mark Palestine on their maps…to stay impartial in the eyes of customers and the surrounding society…their fellow westerners.”

Once again this article would have been more at home in the opinion section.

Hellström complains that Google’s Map of Israel shows Israeli population centre Ma’ale Adumin on the West Bank but not “not even major (Palestinian) ones like Gaza City, Khan Yunis or Nablus”.

He then reproduces two maps of North America from 1614 and 1729 which he claims “made the colonists visible at the expense of the indigenous population” and which he calls “instruments of colonial legitimisation”, the obvious inference being that Google is doing the same to the Palestinians.

He also reproduces an Israeli government map which doesn’t delineate the West Bank and Gaza as separate from Israel while accepting that the Palestinians do the same with their maps but giving the Palestinian action a more innocent gloss:

“Palestinian maps often label the whole country as Palestine – effectively a refusal to acknowledge the development since 1948.”

Hellström then invokes anti-Zionist Israeli historian Meron Benvenisti who “described the process with which the Israeli state Hebraized the place-names of the country they had conquered”.

Hellström quotes Benvenisti:

“The Hebrew map of Israel constitutes one stratum in my consciousness, underlaid by the stratum of the previous Arab map.”

Hellström also invokes that ambiguous 173 year old phrase originated by Christian evangelicals ” a land without a people for a people without a land” but which Hellström attributes more directly to “the architects of Israel.” The phrase is now commonly employed as an epithet against Israel’s supporters.

Hellström took his cue from the Forum of Palestinian Journalists when they “accused Google of removing Palestine from their maps.”

His main concern is “whether Palestine and its people exist at all” and is under the impression that there was once a country called Palestine because “It is there on old paper maps, of the Holy Land, of the Roman and Ottoman empires, of the British mandate.”

But it was the “British Mandate for Palestine”, merely an administrative name. And on Ottoman maps Palestine was subsumed as a part of southern Syria.

Meanwhile, Palestine’s current status is as a UN non-member observer state having failed to join the international body as a full member state.

Irrespective of all the above I was bemused anyway because when you play around with Google maps of Israel and Palestine and zoom in closer then Palestinian population centres do appear.

Furthermore, Google’s map for Palestine has a sidebar showing Wikipedia’s definition of Palestine’s current UN status. Google, itself, even puts Palestine’s capital at “East Jerusalem” instead of the, arguably, more accurate Ramallah.

Here’s the link to Google’s map of Palestine.

I wrote to Hellström for clarification of his criticism. His response (which I publish in full below at his request if I was going to quote from it) was that Israeli population centres are disproportionately represented, that the Google sidebar is, depending on your device and settings, not necessarily always available, and that the content of Wikipedia is not stable.

He has a point to the extent that Google’s map of Palestine isn’t labelled. There is an argument that it could be labelled “Palestinian territories” or, “administered Palestinian territories” with delineated Areas A, B and C or, even, “non-member observer state”. Some might prefer “Judea and Samaria”.

It would just be inaccurate to refer to it as Palestine.

Hellström’s article could, quite validly, have gone down this road of discussion, but by directly implicating Israel and its creation in all this and suggesting that Google might have some financial agenda is to go down a far more sinister route.

Petter Hellström’s response to my email (23rd August 2016):

Dear Richard,

Many thanks for your e-mail. I am only happy to clarify what I wanted to say in the article; the short online format is not always helpful to give full disclosure of an argument.

First, it is not my main contention that the name of Palestine is absent from Google Maps. My argument is rather that this absence – like the relative absence of Palestinian place names – is significant, that it can tell us something, and that it matters.

If you search for Israel on Google Maps, the map centres on the State of Israel. It displays Israeli place-names, both in Israel proper and on the West Bank (Ma’ale Adumin), but no Palestinian place names, even as several Palestinian urban centres are significantly larger than the Israeli urban centres labelled (most striking is the labelling of Yotvata, pop. 700,while Gaza City, pop. 515,556, is not labelled; but even on the Palestinian territories there is a preference for Israeli urban centres, since only Ma’ale Adumin is labelled on the West Bank, although significantly smaller than several of the adjacent Palestinian urban centres). Since 19 August, in response to criticism, Google Maps also labels the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (even as it is not clear what status they enjoy). As you zoom in on the region, Palestinian place names start to appear along more Israeli place names. However, their respective representation is still disproportionate (Israeli urban centres show up at a much lower resolution than Palestinian urban centres of comparable size).

Now, if you search for Palestine on Google Maps, as you did, the map centres instead on the West Bank (you are in fact shown the same map image as if you searched for the West Bank). This map image is consequently of higher resolution, and thus more place names are shown, both in Israel and on the Palestinian territories. Their disproportionate representation is still apparent (the map image is, in fact, the same as the one you get if you first search for Israel, zoom in, and move the centre from Israel proper to the West Bank).

The Google Maps interface sometimes shows – depending on your settings and your device – a sidebar with a link to Wikipedia. It is Wikipedia, not Google Maps, that describes Palestine as ”a de jure sovereign state in the Middle East that is recognized by 136 UN members and since 2012 has a status of a non-member observer state” and which states East Jerusalem as its capital. The content of Wikipedia is not stable but changing depending on contributors. As far as I know, Google exerts no power over it, they merely provide the link. If you search for Jerusalem on Google Maps, it is clearly stated as located in Israel, not as in Israel and in Palestine.

In conclusion, Google Maps shows Israel but not Palestine, although both are states recognised by the UN as well as by most of the world’s independent states (Palestine is presently recognised by 136 and Israel by 161 UN member states). Moreover, and importantly, Google Maps shows Israeli presence in Israel and the Palestinian territories disproportionately more than it represents Palestinian presence.

Having said all this, it was not the purpose of my article to pass judgment on Google or to suggest how they should produce their maps in the future. Others are more willing to do this. My objective was rather to say that Palestine’s absence on Google Maps, like the relative absence of Palestinians, has precedents in the history of cartography; my example was New England, both because I thought it would speak to an Anglophone and predominantly British and American audience, but also because Harley made his argument about New England in reference to Israeli policies). My objective was also to say that history shows us that cartographic omission matters, especially when a state or country is in military occupation of another people, whose lands it is confiscating.

I hope this clarifies my argument. Again I thank you for your polite e-mail.

If you publish my reply on your blog or in any other forum, I would appreciate that you publish it in its entirety, rather than using only parts of it.

Best regards,

Petter Hellström

(This blog post also published at UKMediaWatch)

The Guardian provides a platform for Daniel Barenboim to slam Israel.

Last week Aditya Chakrabortty interviewed Israeli, or to be more accurate Israeli and Palestinian, conductor Daniel Barenboim for the Classical music section of the Guardian.

In his article headlined “Daniel Barenboim on ageing, mistakes and why Israel and Iran are twin brothers” Chakrabortty included political views which would have been more at home in an opinion piece than the Classical music section.

Barenboim conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a mix of Israeli and Arab musicians, which played at the London Proms last week prompting a 5 star review by the Guardian’s Andrew Clements. The review was delightfully free of politics.

Barenboim’s interview with Chakrabortty  goes into how and why the Orchestra came together in the first place, the perfectionist that Barenboim is, how hard he works his musicians and questions whether the Orchestra is actually achieving anything positive.

Then the interview enters its gratuitous political mode. After describing the insults Barenboim received after playing Wagner, the Nazis’ favourite composer, in Israel Chakrabortty writes

“For his part, the musician has called the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank “immoral” and backed a boycott of the Israeli government.”

I fail to see any connection between playing Wagner in Israel and what happens in Gaza and the West Bank but, for the record, Gaza is certainly not occupied after Israel withdrew in 2005. The European Court of Human Rights has said so and even Hamas, which is in full control of Gaza, admits it. Hamas has even been showing off how nice Gaza actually is.

I will give Barenboim the benefit of the doubt that he may have been referring, in error, to Israel’s legal naval blockade of Gaza but even then ships can dock at Ashdod and have goods transferred overland to Gaza after security checks.

And what did Barenboim mean when he “backed a boycott of the Israeli government”? This is the government Israelis voted in. Barenboim is proposing boycotting their democratic decision.

Chakrabortty writes that Barenboim holds “both Israeli and Palestinian nationalities” so why is Barenboim not calling for a boycott of the Palestinian government with its incitement against Jews via its Prime-Minister and official television outlet?

For Israel’s enemies “a boycott of the Israeli government” actually means a boycott of anyone who receives Israeli government support, which is why so few Israeli artists have visited the UK in recent years after the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in 2011, Israel’s national theatre company in 2012 and Israel’s youth dance company also in 2012 had their London performances viciously interrupted by anti-Israel protesters.

Does Barenboim support these disruptions?

The interview then discusses Barenboim’s attempts to take his Orchestra to Tehran. Barenboim states:

“The Iranian government still denies the Holocaust – so you can’t take them seriously. And the Israeli government spreads rumours and disinformation about Iran – because it needs to for the creation of panic. I find these theological states – and in this respect Israel and Iran are twin brothers – very, very dangerous.”

Again, what is the connection? How can Barenboim seriously equate Holocaust denial from a government that hangs gays and Israeli government politics?

Let me provide the following possible explanation.

Anyone that plays Wagner at Israel’s premier music festival in Jerusalem and, in doing so, causes so much hurt and pain to Holocaust survivors will have no qualms selling out Israel in such a way to the Guardian.

(Also published at UKMediaWatch)

Guardian highlights film in which Palestinians play Anne Frank.

Henry Barnes, site editor of theguardian.com/film, recently wrote about Anne Frank: Then and Now “starring Palestinian girls reading from the German-born Jew’s diary” which, quoting Deadline.com, Barnes described as a “clandestine cultural breakthrough” because it was secretly shown in Iran.

According to Barnes it “was filmed during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. The film is split between an educational documentary about Frank’s time hiding from the Nazis in occupied Holland and excerpts from the diary acted by two Israelis and eight Palestinian girls, one of whom performs in front of the rubble from an Israeli airstrike.”

The main aim of Croatian director Jakov Sedlar seems to be to “help spread information about the events of the Holocaust in Iran” and Arab countries.

This is a noble aim but why use Palestinian actors in Gaza? Why not just show, for example, Son of Saul which is the most explicit portrayal of the Holocaust imaginable.

Anyone viewing Anne Frank: Then and Now without any knowledge of the Holocaust will be left with the strong impression that the Palestinians are going through the same as the Jews did under the Nazis. The title of the film strongly implies that also.

My experience is that for anti-Israel activists one of their main planks of activism is comparing the Palestinians to the Jews in Nazi Germany and invoking Anne Frank. This tactic is, sadly, ubiquitous.

One of the worst examples was at an event attended by now Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP and the then Labour shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter MP where Love Letters to Gaza were read out on stage by actors. Here is a verse from one poem and here’s my clip of it:

“It is not now the Nazi state but Israel that blocks the seas.
It is not Auschwitz that stops the ship that carries hope and messages,
But those that might have died there.”

Then there is Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children that portrays the Jewish people slowly metamorphosing from victims under the Nazis into oppressors of the Palestinians. The play was staged by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign at the Polish Centre in London.

And here is my clip of an activist in parliament saying that Palestinian children are suffering worse than Anne Frank did.

This is par for the course of anti-Israel activism and I have witnessed many more examples of which this film seems to be, sadly, another.

I would like to be proved wrong about Anne Frank: Then and Now. I have not seen it in full. We have been provided with just one clip which the Guardian imbeds into Barnes’ piece. No other British newspaper seems to be highlighting this film, although the Israeli media is writing about its having been shown secretly in Iran.

But, for me, the biggest alarm bells about the film’s veracity are in Deadline.com which Barnes links to:

deadline guardian then and now

So David Robb of Deadline.com writes that as a Gazan actor speaks her lines “two men in gas masks run behind her”.

Maybe Robb, or Barnes for that matter, could explain to us the following: how could the cast and crew carry on filming if there was a need for gas masks to be worn by others in their immediate vicinity?

(also published at UKMediaWatch)

Possible diversion of charitable funds to Hamas but Guardian writer slams Israel.

guardian halabi

(Also published at UKMediaWatch)

If something bad happens to Jews or the Jewish state there are some, inexplicably, in British media or politics who cannot pass up the opportunity to use it against the former.

Ex-Liberal Democrat MP felt that the Jews hadn’t learned from the Holocaust. When an Egyptian judoka lost to his Israeli opponent in Rio and promptly refused to shake his hand The Economist used the opportunity to attack Israel as being an “apartheid” state.

Now, after the arrest of World Vision’s Gaza director Mohammad Halabi on allegations of diverting tens of millions of dollars to Hamas Dr Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, secretary general and CEO of CIVICAS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, uses the arrest as an opportunity to attack Israel’s new transparency law.

This new law obligates NGOs that receive more than 50% of their funding from foreign governments or organisations to report where the funding derives from. It doesn’t restrict their activities at all.

In an age of calls for more transparency this can hardly be classed as controversial especially when there are NGOs whose main objective for operating within the Jewish state is merely to destroy it.

But for Sriskandarajah it seems it is controversial. He sees the recent arrests of Halabi and Waheed al Borsh, a UN worker accused of diverting aid resources to help building a jetty for Hamas, as part “of systematic efforts by Israeli authorities to intimidate and undermine civil society”.

As you can see the link Sriskandarajah provides as evidence of such “systematic efforts” is to an article for Al Jazeera by arch anti-Zionist activist Ben White who once wrote “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are”.

One would think that Sriskandarajah would welcome the investigation into and possible long-term incarceration of anyone convicted of such a heinous crime as diverting funds away from mentally ill and physically disabled patients in Gaza to help the Hamas terror organisation build tunnels into Israel from which to murder innocent Jewish Israelis.

Instead, Sriskandarajah merely sees it as “yet another example of states cracking down on civic space.”

World Vision is one of the DEC charities. DEC advertised widely in the UK for aid for Gazans after Israel’s 2014 war with Hamas. Therefore, the British public has possibly been inadvertently duped out of their hard-earned money in to supporting a terror group instead.

However, The Guardian’s headline to Sriskandarajah’s article “Human rights activists are being portrayed as terrorists and foreign puppets” and using a photo of activists claiming Halabi is “a man of humanity” (see above) suggests total innocence on Halabi’s part.

It is, however, very noble of Sriskandarajah to state that “Israeli government has the right to hold to account any individual or organisation found guilty of corruption.” Halabi and al Borsh will have a chance to state their cases and employ lawyers to defend themselves against the allegations.

We await the outcome of these important criminal investigations, and any more that might arise, with interest and so should Sriskandarajah.