Tag Archives: Dr Ghada Karmi

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.

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Ahava feels the heat

Thirty anti-Israel protesters congregated outside Ahava in Covent Garden for two hours on Sunday handing out leaflets and singing anti-Israel slogans. There was, as ever, a small counter-demonstration.

The incessant chants of “Israeli mud, Palestinian blood” disturb adjacent shop-owners and residents who might now ask Ahava’s landlords not to renew Ahava’s lease.

Obviously this is unfair. The protests, that take place every two weeks now, have nothing to do with Ahava. It is a perfectly legitimate business that provides a valid service to a strong customer base.

The protesters handed out leaflets sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Boycott Israeli Goods that call for the banning of “illegal settlement produce”. International Solidarity Campaign is also an organiser.

But as with all of these protests, it isn’t really about settlement produce.

An organisation called “Boycott Israeli Goods” gives away the true nature of the protests and when you start speaking to the protesters the settlements are the last thing they mention.

They talk of the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Arabs from Israel in 1948, the seige of Gaza and the supposedly awful treatment of Palestinian Israelis.

As for the latter I am sure that there is much more than Israel can do to alleviate poor conditions for many of the 1.2 million Palestinian Israelis that live inside Israel.

But many of them do very well economically and enjoy all social freedoms. Such freedoms they could only dream of if they lived under other Arab governments, including a Palestinian one. Recently, Islamic extremists destroyed a United Nations summer camp for children in Gaza.

As for “ethnic cleansing” I am still trying to get my head around the arithmetic of how 600,000 Jews could possibly ethnically cleanse 750,000 Palestinians while fighting both them and the invading armies of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.

And as for the siege, the protesters forget that it is enforced by Egypt also. Most Israelis are unhappy with such a “siege” but know the tragic consequences of allowing Hamas to appropriate imported materials meant for the people of Gaza. This would allow Hamas to quickly replenish its deadly stock of Kassam rockets.

Even the leaflets the protesters hand out make no pretence that this is only about settlement produce.

The leaflets state: “This call for a ban on illegal settlement produce is part of a campaign to boycott all Israeli goods until Israel abides by international law and respects human rights.”

So now, it seems, anyone can find a political issue they are passionate about and harrass a legitimate business connected with that issue just to make a point. If Ahava closes, which now seems quite possible, people will lose their jobs and livelihoods.

Ahava’s manager came out towards the end of the protest to speak to the protesters and to explain this point but, as polite as they were, they just explained back to her that she is “an innocent bystander in all this” and that “there’s a far bigger cause at stake”.

Would these self-styled “peace activists” stand outside a Palestinian owned business protesting Hamas’ atrocities against not just innocent Israeli civilians but Palestinian opposition activists? “Of course,” they claim, “we don’t support Hamas but the Palestinians have a right to elect who they wish.”

But electing a government doesn’t mean that government has the right to fire thousands of Kassam rockets into Israel and summarily execute its own people.

The PSC’s patrons are: Jenny Tonge, Tony Benn, Victoria Brittain, Julie Christie, Caryl Churchill, Jeremy Corbyn, Bob Crow, William Dalrymple, Reverend Garth Hewitt, Dr Ghada Karmi, Bruce Kent, Karma Nabulsi, Illan Pappe and Benjamin Zephaniah.

However much these people disagree with Israel’s policies, and even its very existence, surely the likes of Socialists Tony Benn and Bob Crow must be able to see the injustice of bullying a legitimate business in order to close it down with the consequent loss of jobs. Maybe just not when it comes to Israeli workers.

Section 11 of the Human Rights Act emphasises the right to peaceful assembly but what takes place outside Ahava is not peaceful. Shoppers quickly pass Ahava and the adjacent shops and restaurants to avoid the terrible noise. Takings of all businesses in the vicinity are down.

And who would wish to walk into a shop like Ahava that is flanked by four police officers and a security guard there to stop the inevitable invasion that would take place if they were absent (as happened on the first occasion these protesters turned up outside Ahava)?

Sadly, Britain is a society that protects the human rights of suspected al-Qaida terrorists more than those of employers and employees wishing to earn a living here.