Tag Archives: anat matar

Anat Matar: “Settlers can get away with rape.”

The new book by Matar and Baker. A must read if you have more money than sense.

The new book by Matar and Baker. A must read if you have more money than sense.

Last night Jews For Justice for Palestinians hosted Dr Anat Matar and Abeer Baker at the Indian YMCA to publicise their new book Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel.

For Matar, a senior lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Tel Aviv University, it was a warm anti-Israel welcome back to London.

In February 2010 she spoke at SOAS where she called for an economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. However, saving her own skin, she said she didn’t want Israelis boycotted if they were “refusniks and great anti-Zionists”.

Abeer Baker, who describes herself as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is a human rights lawyer and runs the Prisoners’ Rights Clinic at Haifa University’s Law Faculty. She received her Law degree from Haifa Uni. in 2001 and between 2001 – 2006 she worked for Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Matar started by saying that since 1967 a minimum of 650,000 Palestinians have been in Israeli prisons at some stage or other and for varying lengths of time, which equates to every fourth Palestinian.

She said the estimate could even be as high as a million!

Israeli prisoners, she said, are treated as normal criminals while all Palestinians are immediately classed as “security prisoners”, whatever their offence, and that the chances of parole for a “security prisoner” are much lower than that for a Jewish terrorist.

She concluded that this Palestinian mass imprisonment, which has excluded a quarter of the population from Palestinian society, has changed the way Palestinian political life is built and amounts to racial discrimination.

She mentioned that many Palestinians are captured at the regular non-violent Friday protests at the “apartheid wall”. Many are held, some are indicted and some serve long prison terms with no parole in contrast to ultra right-wing settlers.

Baker told us that Israeli prisons are similar to “the occupation”; they are not for punishment, but to exclude Palestinians from daily public life and to weaken their political struggle.

Assassination, she said, was the harshest way to do that and then comes the Israeli prison system.

Putting Palestinians behind bars was the equivalent of the “apartheid wall” and that Palestinian families spend all their time worrying about their imprisoned relation instead of engaging in the struggle against the occupation.

She also said it was a breach of the Geneva Convention for Israel to move Palestinians from the occupied territories into Israel to imprison them.

Next she recited the torture meted out by Shabak, which included, sleep deprivation, physical torture (including beating) and shackling to chairs. Palestinians were not allowed access to a lawyer for three months, the prison cells are narrow, have special lighting and the walls are too tough to lean on.

All this, she said, was intended to make Palestinian prisoners more likely to confess.

She also spoke of Palestinians never properly getting their lives back after their release as they find it hard to get a work permit and they have their movements restricted.

She claimed that the only way a Palestinian prisoner would be allowed to use a phone is if he or she renounced all allegiances to their hostile organisation. But, because they are put in the same cell as people from their own organisation it was impossible for them to do that. However, Yigal Amir is allowed to call his wife.

During the Q&A I asked how practical it was for Israel to imprison a Palestinian anywhere else but Israel and how practical it was to give a Palestinian prisoner parole, it being unlikely they would return to prison if recalled.

I suggested that racism was not at play if there was such different treatment, but that conditions on the ground may be determining factors. For example, the settlers were supportive of Israel, while the Palestinians were not.

Matar said the settlers were not supporters of Israel from they way they set fire to mosques and Baker asked me to imagine a settler and a Palestinian raping a woman: “Would you say you should pardon the settler?” she asked.

I said there was no way a settler would be pardoned for raping a woman, but Matar interrupted with:

“The settler wouldn’t even get accused of rape.”

We almost got through the evening without the obligatory Holocaust analogy. But earlier on we had been told about Palestinians having to pay for their own food in prison, so that even in prison Israel is making money out of them.

Someone then said that it reminded him of Jews sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis being forced to buy their own train tickets.

Still, these two women earn a living from Israel’s academic institutions, while being allowed to write a book and travel the world describing how evil Israel is. Not bad for such such an oppressive state.

The irony was, as ever, lost on the audience.

(For the record Matar and Baker said that they did not agree with the way Gilad Shalit is treated)

Advertisements

Dr. Anat Matar: “Boycott Israel but please don’t boycott me”

Dana Levy: Hells Angels 2002

I went to a recent talk given by Dr. Anat Matar on her recent visit to London.

Dr Matar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.

She is also an Israeli citizen who wants the world to boycott Israel.

She is a member of Who Profits? Exposing the Israeli Occupation Industry.

Dr. Matar feels that the only way to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is for there to be an economic, cultural and academic boycott of her own country.

Imagine boycotting yourself! Would any Brit or American call for a boycott of their respective countries over Afghanistan or Iraq?

Only a courageous, caring and unselfish person would even contemplate this, surely?

Her son, Hagai, spent two years in an Israeli prison for refusing to enlist.

At her talk at SOAS Dr. Matar outlined the three main objections that her friends on the radical anti-Zionist left have to a boycott:

1. The time hasn’t come yet:

She addressed this concern by saying that all Israelis profit from the occupation including the working class and Arab Israelis: “The shrinking of the military industry, which supports so many families, may cause many to suffer but it is necessary.”

And she questioned why we should boycott Israel and not America or Britian over Afghanistan. She said: “The boycott is pragmatic. It is ridiculous not to take action against one country just because others are immune. And maybe if the boycott succeeds it may touch on the policies of these other countries.”

2. There is something hypocritical and anti-semitic in the boycott campaign:

She understood this argument and said we must be watchful and that “I am not going to go back to Lithuania”. (Dr Matar believes in the end of the Jewish state and so I wonder how she can be so sure that she would never have to go back to Lithuania since Muslim countries have ejected nearly all their one million indigenous Jews. If Israel became “secular and democratic” and, ultimately, a Muslim country she could well be on her way back to Lithuania).

3. Supporting a boycott replaces genuine activism:

She said that all the varying approaches to attacking Israel should be considered and each organisation should unite and then consider which approach is best.

For example, choose particular campaigns like boycotting merchandise made in the occupied territories but not the Tate Modern’s exhibition of Israeli video installations that is taking place this weekend in London.

Guy Ben-Ner: If only it was as Easy to Banish Hunger by Rubbing the Belly as it is to Masturbate 2009

“Don’t boycott this. You have to look at the names of the Israeli artists. Some of them are refusniks and great anti-Zionists,” Dr. Matar said.

But audience members shouted “this is part of ‘brand Israel’ and its campaign for normalisation” and “why are they coming here?” and “Why are these artists accepting money from the vile Israeli government?”

Poor Anat. Her own supporters attacking their boycott heroine.

She tried to put across her ethical argument and explained how hard it is to be an artist in Israel: “You can’t make a film or be a dancer without taking money from the Israeli government. If you are rich you are alright but if you are poor and an artist and support the occupation what do you do? They can’t give up their lives. If they support the boycott it will finish their careers”.

I then realised how wrong I was.

I had honestly respected Dr Matar. However misguided, she actually seemed to be willing to sacrifice herself for what she perceived to be the greater good of Israel and the Palestinian people; an academic boycott in which even she would suffer.

But in effect she was calling for an academic and cultural boycott just so long as those who are against the occupation are not affected which, conveniently, includes herself.

So in a nutshell her message to the world is: “Boycott Israel, boycott all Israeli academics but please don’t boycott me.”

Dr. Matar isn’t as courageous as she would like people to think she is.

Meanwhile, you can make your way down to the Tate Modern this weekend and see what Israeli artists have to say about Israel through their art.

Miri Segal: Be right back 2007