Tag Archives: operation cast lead

Palestinian Ambassador to the UK: “I’ve started to believe that the Jews are the only children of God”

Jeremy Corbyn MP, PSC's Hugh Lanning, Manuel Hassassian in Parliament last night.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, PSC’s Hugh Lanning, Manuel Hassassian in Parliament last night.

Last night Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian “Ambassador” to the UK, said he believes that the Jews are the children of God because nobody is stopping them from building their “messianic dream of Eretz Israel”. He called for a “one state solution” and looked forward to the world’s Muslim population reaching two billion.

He was speaking in Parliament at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s 4 years on from Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’: Israel’s siege and attacks continue. Also speaking were Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter MP and Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather. Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn played host.

Addressing an audience of some 100 people Hassassian declared:

“We, the Palestinians, the most highly educated and intellectual in the Middle East, are still struggling for the basic right of self-determination. What an irony. How long are we going to suffer and be patient with Israel? You know I’m reaching the conclusion that the Jews are the children of God, the only children of God and the Promised Land is being paid by God! I have started to believe this because nobody is stopping Israel building its messianic dream of Eretz Israel to the point I believe that maybe God is on their side. Maybe God is partial on this issue.”

Then removing his “PLO and Palestinian Authority hat” he continued:

“There is no two state solution. Democracies don’t fight each other. If Israel is a democracy I would claim that the Palestinians are also a democracy. If democracies cannot fight each other then why not have one state?; one man, one vote.”

On Israel’s future he said:

“Israel will never continue to exist as a pariah state. Israel could never continue to fight wars against the Palestinians, against the Arabs and the Muslims. The United States is not going to be Israel’s strategic ally for time immemorial. And today we have 1.5 billion Muslims. In 20 years we will have 2 billion. And those 2 billion, forget about politics, from a religious perspective will not allow Israel to continue desecrating their religious rights (in Jerusalem). And then what?”

And on what could have been Hassassian said:

“What does Israel want? In 2002 the Arabs gave them the Arab Peace Initiative. Relinquishing territories occupied in 1967 would have led to normalisation of relations with Israel. If the Israelis had accepted that the flag of Israel would have been hoisted in Mecca, in Iran, in Tehran! If they had accepted. But Israel does not want peace. Israel nurtures on conflict, and the Zionist Ideology is to have the entire West Bank, the entire Palestine.”

Andy Slaughter MP accused Israel of deliberately killing whole Palestinian families and controlling the Palestinians’ calorie count. He said Israel supplied Palestinians just enough to stop them from starving and he described, what he called, Israel’s failure to supply clean water, electricity and decent homes as “collective punishment”.

Sarah Teather MP accused Israel of “wiping out five thousand homes” in one part of Gaza alone and that nothing could justify this.  She said that Israel must let “basic goods” into Gaza.

PSC Chair Hugh Lanning said he noticed that during Operation Cast Lead CNN only reported on the Hamas rockets. Lanning then claimed that “while the occupation and siege continues Israel is ALWAYS the aggressor”.  He also claimed that Israel had banned 180 life saving medicines from Gazan hospitals “because they might save lives”.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke about Gazans who had “never known the ability to move out of Gaza”. Ironically, he then introduced us to Rania Al-Najjar who has just completed a Masters in International Relations at London’s City University. Rania is from Gaza. She said, inter alia, that there are no economic opportunities in Gaza and that unemployment there is the highest in the world, relatively.

We then heard from two “1948 Palestinians” who live in Israel. One of them had spent three spells in Israeli prisons, his sentences ranging from one to eight years. He spoke about the remaining prisoners who had forgotten what the sky and moon look like and how they had not touched the hands of their mothers or children for many years.

Finally, Hugh Lanning announced that there will be a “controversial PSC conference” on April 13th where there will be “an open dialogue with the people of Gaza and their leaders”.

In other words, an open dialogue with Hamas.

British Muslim Initiative calls for Israel’s destruction, Inshallah!

Neturei Karta pose under a photo of Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah in London today.

Neturei Karta pose under a photo of Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah in London today.

Mohammed Kozbar of the British Muslim Initiative today threatened Israel with destruction should it again take defensive action against the Hamas rockets still being fired into Israel from Gaza when he spoke on the streets of London outside the Israeli Embassy today.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had called the protest to mark the three year anniversary of the start of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s defensive war against Hamas. Kozbar said:

“Our message to them is don’t repeat the same mistake again. This time will be the end of Israel, Inshallah”.

Here he is:

Other people spoke after Kozbar but I was told by a Constable Lines that I would be arrested for a public order offence if I continued to film close up as I was, apparently, “winding them up”. I might have been “in their faces” with my camera but then how is one supposed to film a political protest where there’s noisy traffic!

There is freedom of speech in London but no freedom to film that free speech!

Anyway, “From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free” was a constant chant of the 300 strong mob and the Neturei Karta turned up to huge cheers and posed under a photo of Hassan Nasrallah, he of “Jews are descended from pigs and apes” and “if every Jew gathered in Israel it would be easier than going after them worldwide” fame:

Surely, the Neturei Karta must get paid by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to be so supportive of an anti-Semite like Nasrallah.

But then, maybe, if ever Nasrallah’s Jew-killing dream comes to fruition he might spare the Neturei Karta and then claim to the world that he can’t be an anti-Semite as he let them live.

This is the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s tactic when it employs the services of the Neturei Karta. It would be fascinating to know how much the PSC pays them.

There was a small pro-Israel turnout of about 50, which was good considering the lure of the Brent Cross sales, Limmud and Eilat, but that was enough for the anti-Israel mob to direct their aggression at. There was one huge sign opposite them which read “Israel has the right to protect itself against terror”, which didn’t go down too well.

One of the questions the pro-Israel posse kept posing to the Israel-haters was “Where’s the church in Gaza?” But answer came there none.

What I really don’t get is if you burn a poppy in the UK you will be guilty of “threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour” but it is, apparently, absolutely fine to call for Israel to be destroyed like Kozbar did today and like many signs did in Trafalgar Square in the summer.

But such incitement will be allowed to continue until a British Jew or an Israeli resident or tourist is eventually attacked and killed (G-d forbid) on the streets of the UK.

More from today:

This was well-positioned directly opposite the anti-Israel protest.

This was well-positioned directly opposite the anti-Israel protest.

Watching the pro-Israel demo. across the road.

Watching the pro-Israel demo. across the road.

Israel-hating priest Stephen Sizer.

Israel-hating priest Stephen Sizer.

“Please Allah, kill all the Jews.”

It is amazing what you hear at some universities these days.

Last night the SOAS Palestine Society showed a new film called, bemusingly, To Shoot an Elephant, which is an almost two hour documentary about activists helping Palestinian paramedics in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

The title seemed apt in that it was like watching tourists on safari trying to film a kill, except in the film’s case the kill were to be only young Palestinian children.

There was lots of tragic footage of dead Palestinian children moments after they had passed away in hospital. The footage was heartbreaking but inexplicable in its lack of respect for the privacy of the dead and injured.

We were also shown dead children in the hospital morgue.

Tragic scenes of dead and mutilated Israeli children used to occur regularly in Israeli hospitals until Israel built that so-called evil “apartheid wall”.

Israel also builds shelters to protect its children. Hamas doesn’t. That was very apparent from the film.

Although the lack of protective shelters was obviously not mentioned in the film as one of the main causes of civilian casualties it is so obvious that a biased audience is bound to miss it.

Before the film started we were warned that we will hear the term “Al Yahud” quite a few times, but although it means “Jews” in Arabic we should understand that in the Palestinian context it means Israelis.

This is because, apparently, when the Palestinians see a Star of David on an Israeli soldier’s uniform they see him as Jewish eventhough he is Israeli.

I tried to be open minded.

I accepted that explanation even after seeing one Palestinian, who had had his fruit stall damaged, refer to Jews as “dogs”.

However, then we came to a funeral where an Imam was saying prayers not for the souls of the dead children but for the murder of every Jew.

When, at the end, I objected to this scene I was merely accused of playing “the anti-Semitism card” or taking the words out of context.

Judging by the flags in the background the funeral seems to have been arranged by Hamas and, possibly, Hezbollah. Here are the words of the Imam and the clip:

Allah is the greatest.
He who thanks Allah will be rewarded.
Oh Allah, loosen your power and strength on the Jews. (Amen.)
Please Allah, kill them all…
And don’t leave any of them alive. (Amen.)
Oh Allah, with your great power. Allah!
We are asking you with your infinite power, dear Allah. Allah!
Please dear Allah, take revenge for our martyrs’ blood. Allah!
Please Allah, get rid of the Jews.
Bring them down.
They are not as powerful as you.
Please Allah, make the earth shake and destroy the pillars of their civilisation.
Please Allah, cast fear and terror into their hearts.
Oh Allah disperse them so they become lost once again.
Oh Allah, show us a sign.
Oh Allah, surprise them in a way they don’t expect.
Oh Allah, cast fear and terror into their hearts.

To Shoot an Elephant is coming to a university near you soon.

Remember, when you see the above scene that, despite what he is saying, the Imam only wants all Israelis dead, not all Jews.

And whatever you do don’t play “the anti-Semitism card”.

You have been told.

Beware the monster being created by the anti-Israel Lobby.

There are worrying developments in this country’s anti-Israel lobby. Maybe it is the continuing strength of Israel both militarily and economically while the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is having limited, if any, success.

But while Israel and many Israelis continue to prosper, even more so in light of the upcoming change in the law of universal jurisdiction which will make it harder to arrest an Israeli official on allegations of war crimes, Diaspora Jews are still a target.

One might disagree with Israeli policies but what we think is irrelevant. We do not live there and so do not suffer the same threats as Israeli Jews.

Similarly, one would not expect Israeli Jews to advise UK Jews. Only those that live in a country can truly judge the appropriate action to take.

And Hasbarah is easy anyway. We all understand the history of the conflict. We know that Jews have a right to a sovereign state in the Middle East and that the Palestinians have a right to one also. The job may be big but that is no bar to trying to explain Israel’s position to office colleagues, friends and television audiences.

The main problem comes when you are attacked for what you are, a Jew, not what you think. Instead of being able to respond constructively the only response you are left with, apart from being left open-mouthed, is denial.

MP Gerald Kaufman claimed this year that rich Jews controlled the Conservative Party. Martin Linton, Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, said that Israel’s “tentacles” were controlling our political system. Both accusations could be straight out of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And, on seventh night of Chanukah the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) staged Seven Jewish Children at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith. The choice of venue for this outrageous play seems particularly cruel when considering the plight of Jews in Poland during the Holocaust. The production is full of horrendous accusations about Jews.

I saw it at the Royal Court last year and felt uneasy amidst an applauding London audience. The show lasts 10 minutes and uses seven short acts to portray how the Jews have turned from being killed during the Holocaust into the killers themselves during Operation Cast Lead.

According to the play Jews are biblically driven, think of Palestinians as “filth” and “animals”, justify the killing of Palestinian babies to their own children and enjoy swimming in nice pools while the Palestinians become dehydrated.

There may be some Jews who think like this, Baruch Goldstein was an example, but to imply that all Jews do is racist. However, the play is available for anyone to put on for free, including in schools.

On the fifth night of Chanukah, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of a London-based Arabic newspaper, gave a talk at LSE and allegedly pointed at Jewish students and accused them of bombing Gaza. In 2007 Atwan stated that he would “dance with delight” if Israel was hit by Iranian missiles. Imagine someone pointing at Muslim students while shouting they are all suicide bombers. That person would be accused of inciting religious hatred.

My suspicion, which may be wrong, is that the PSC came to the Polish centre via Ewa Jasiewicz, a Polish anti-Israel activist. During the summer Jasiewicz visited the Warsaw Ghetto and helped to daub “Free Gaza and Palestine” on the walls of one of the Ghetto houses in, what could be considered, a crude attempt to equate the Palestinians with the Jews under the Nazis. The Ghetto is now considered a grave to the 100,000 Jews that perished there.

More recently, the PSC and Middle East Monitor invited Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s representative to the Palestinian territories, to London to give a talk on Israel’s assault on human rights.

Yet, it was the same Falk who, in 2008, said that Israel’s treatment of Gaza was a “Holocaust in the making”.

Criticising Israeli policy is one thing but comparing the Palestinians with the fate of the Jews during the Holocaust and accusing today’s Jews of condoning the killing of babies while justifying it to their own children is another.

This will only lead to dangerous repercussions elsewhere. During the summer I had to intervene after seeing a Jewish teenager violently attacked by a Muslim teenager. Britain’s anti-Israel lobby should beware the monster it is helping to create.

(This piece appears in the latest edition of The Jewish News)

MEMO, MCB and Richard Falk eviscerate Israel.

Daud Abdullah (right) presents Falk with his award depicting the end of the Jewish state.

Daud Abdullah (right) presents Falk with his award depicting the end of the Jewish state.

Richard Falk pulled no punches about the existence of “the Zionist project”, as he referred to Israel, when he addressed a Middle East Monitor audience at the University of London’s Senate House last night.

Falk is the UNHCR’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories and was here to speak about The Israeli Assault on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories although, last night, “Occupied Palestinian Territories” included Israel itself.

Falk denies he is biased despite having compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews.

The pro-Palestinian lobby has adopted the view that too many governments and organisations are still behind Israel so now it is up to the ordinary citizen to take a stand.

Michael Mansfield QC told us that when he goes on the BBC he is “not allowed to say certain things about Israel”. On the Today programme he wanted to “put the flotilla episode in the overall context of the ongoing illegal occupation and settlements but was told to move on”.

Mansfield said it was “time to stop mincing our words” and to speak about “ethnic cleansing, Israeli apartheid and murder”.

As for Falk, he sees the current peace process as a “deceptive effort to impose an inadequate solution” on Israel and the Palestinians and it was now time “to invoke the legacy of the anti-Apartheid campaign.

He said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the last remnant of the colonial era and that the Palestinians have suffered oppression and ethnic dispossession from their historic place of residence making it impossible to ever implement proper justice.

He, therefore, saw only two possible outcomes:

1. “A unified democratic secular state that respects the rights of all people within its borders,” or
2. “An intensification of the exisiting apartheid situation.”

He said that the two state solution “presupposes the capacity to reverse the injustices over the years, which will only lead to civil war in Israel.”

He spoke of the cumulative effect of settlement building in breach of Article 49(6) of the Geneva Convention, the Judaisation and ethnic cleansing of east Jerusalem which makes the Palestinians feel insecure and the subjugating of the indigenous Palestinian population to separate roads and unequal access to water as being a form of apartheid.

Furthermore, as apartheid is now a crime against humanity then it follows that the occupation is “a continuing crime against humanity”.

He also spoke of Operation Cast Lead as inflicting on Gaza Israel’s high technology war machine against a defenceless population where only 13 Israelis died “mostly to friendly fire” against 1400 Palestinians who were “mostly civilians”.

He equated OCL to collective torture on a par with Abu Ghraib: “Torture horrifies us due to the vulnerability of the victims and the impossibility of retaliatory capability,” he said.

During the Q&A someone challenged Mansfield’s thesis on the illegality of the security wall (Mansfield had earlier read out paragraph 159 of the International Court of Justice’s opinion on the wall).

Falk countered that the wall was built in occupied Palestinian territory and, anyway, had “no security role”, “did nothing to stem penetration” and “was just an inconvenience to the Palestinians who have had their land divided”.

He said that if the Berlin Wall had been built one foot inside the west there would have been World War Three and that Israel has just taken land on the pretext of security.

During the talk someone shouted “This is nothing but anti-Semitic lies” before walking out and leaving Falk a bit open-mouthed.

If anyone was in any doubt about Falk’s, MEMO’s and the Muslim Council of Britain’s true thoughts on the peace process Daud Abdullah, Deputy Secretary General of the MCB, then presented Falk with an award: an inscribed miniature of a unified Israel, West Bank and Gaza.

Finally, in case the audience hadn’t heard enough hate and lies there were booklets on offer on a range of topics:

Isn’t it time for America to re-evaluate its “special relationship” with Israel?
The Cultural Genocide of Palestine.
Europe’s role in strengthening and protecting Universal Justice.
The Judaization of Jerusalem.
Israel’s Domestic Ticking Time Bomb.
Universal Jurisdiction Against Israeli Officials.
Palestinians in Israel’s ‘democracy’: The Judaization of the Galilee.

Israel’s discrimination against its Arab citizens.
and, finally,
Israeli Racism in theory and practice.

Falk's award: Bye bye Israel.

Falk's award: Bye bye Israel.

Those “disloyal Jews”.

Matthew Gould: Britain's new Ambassador to Israel

Matthew Gould: Britain's new Ambassador to Israel

Middle East Monitor (MEMO) is one of those nasty anti-Israel think-tanks which aims to win the ear of the political establishment.

It describes itself as “an independent media research institution founded in the United Kingdom to foster a fair and accurate coverage in the Western media of Middle Eastern issues and in particular the Palestine Question.”

Fair and accurate? Pull the other one.

They won’t even let you into one of their meetings if they disagree with your views.

Now MEMO asks: Is Britain’s new ambassador to Israel really going to be objective?

The question under discussion is: “Can a Jewish ambassador to Israel ever be truly objective when advising his home government on relations with the Jewish state? That is going to be the big question for Britain’s new ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, who has just taken up residence in Tel Aviv.

This is not the first time the someone’s Jewish background has been held against them recently in the media. When respected historians Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman were appointed to the panel of the Chilcot Enquiry to investigate the Iraq War Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya, wrote in The Independent:

“Both Gilbert and Freedman are Jewish, and Gilbert at least has a record of active support for Zionism. Such facts are not usually mentioned in the mainstream British and American media, but The Jewish Chronicle and the Israeli media have no such inhibitions, and the Arabic media both in London and in the region are usually not far behind. All five members have outstanding reputations and records, but it is a pity that, if and when the inquiry is accused of a whitewash, such handy ammunition will be available. Membership should not only be balanced; it should be seen to be balanced.”

Should being Jewish really disqualify them from all aspects of political life involving Middle Eastern matters?

And yet I wish I had a pound for the amount of times that someone’s Jewish background has been utilised to make a political point when it is to Israel’s detriment.

Richard Goldstone, who in his shabbily investigated report into Operation Cast Lead found Israel guilty of war crimes, has repeatedly had his objectivity placed beyond reproach solely because he is Jewish.

Then people who call for boycotts against Israel and march through London holding Hezbollah and Hamas flags think themselves beyond reproach with regards to anti-Semitism because they have a few communist Jews and the extreme religious Jewish sect of the Neturei Karta marching alongside them.

And now MEMO highlights the new British Ambassador to Israel’s Judaism as being a possible hindrance to his objectivity and raises the age-old issue of Jewish loyalty to the country in which they are citizens.

MEMO writes:

Despite Matthew Gould’s claim to be “a career diplomat”, his previous service as the principal private secretary to Labour’s David Miliband (also a member of North London’s increasingly influential Jewish community) when he was Foreign Secretary suggests that Conservative Mr. Cameron is indeed playing the Jewish card with this appointment. But for whose benefit: Britain’s or Israel’s?

This despite Cameron recently calling Gaza a “prison camp”!

Apparently Gould lost eight close relatives in the Holocaust and the MEMO article continues:

“Without wishing in any way to diminish the significance of the Holocaust on the psyche of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora – and the need to ensure that “never again” will a powerful militarised state be able to commit genocidal acts without being called to account for its actions – it is this “visceral” link which surely calls into doubt Matthew Gould’s ability to be a critical friend of Israel.”

But politicising the deaths of six million Jews in this way does “diminish the significance of the Holocaust”!

This is all despite Matthew Gould being a model British citizen, serving Britain to the best of his abilities and paying his share of taxes to support Britain’s needs.

Now the only apparent problem is that he’s Jewish.

And because he is Jewish MEMO perniciously describes Gould as “in all but name, a person with dual citizenship rights”.

In 1883, with Jews scattered across the globe and vicious pogroms against them the norm in Eastern Europe Moshe Lilienblum wrote in “The Future of Our People” the following prescient piece about smearing Jews:

“The opponents of nationalism see us as uncompromising nationalists, with a nationalist God and a nationalist Torah; the nationalists see us as cosmopolitans, whose homeland is wherever we happen to be well off. Religious Gentiles say that we are devoid of any faith, and the freethinkers among them say that we are Orthodox and believe in all kinds of nonsense; the liberals say that we are conservative and the conservatives call us liberal. Some bureaucrats and writers see us as the root of anarchy, insurrection and revolt; and the anarchists say we are capitalists, the bearers of the biblical civilization, which is, in their view, based on slavery and parasitism. Officialdom accuses us of circumventing the laws of the land – that is, of course, the laws directed specifically against us….Musicians like Richard Wagner charge us with destroying the beauty and purity of music. Even our merits are turned into shortcomings: “Few Jews are murderers,” they say, “because the Jews are cowards.” This, however, does not prevent them from accusing us of murdering Christian children.”
(The Makings of Modern Zionism, Shlomo Avineri, 1981)

In employing someone’s religious background so gratuitously in order to try to smear that person ignorant organisations like MEMO display that, for some, Lilienblum’s thesis is still intact today, 127 years later.

(For more commentary see here and here).

Gideon Levy packs them in at Amnesty

Snow/Levy

Snow/Levy

I went to hear Gideon Levy talk at Amnesty in London last night. He’s in the UK to promote his book The Punishment of Gaza and last night he was in conversation with John Snow (Snow presents Channel 4′s Seven O’clock news and seems fond of chairing anti-Israel events).

It was nice to be actually let in unlike my last attempt. This event was co-presented by Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the latter organisation being more open to dialogue than some might give credit.

I hope being barred from a public debate on Israel/Palestine because people don’t like what I write won’t become de rigeur, but you never know.

Back to Levy. From what I had read about this tour I was expecting the devil incarnate to walk into the packed auditorium breathing fire from its nostrils. It didn’t happen.

Maybe in my old age I am becoming desensitised to the ubiquitous unsubstantiated accusations of racism and apartheid that are made, like they were last night, against Israel that they don’t anger me anymore.

Maybe I was softened up by Levy’s claim that he is an Israeli patriot: “All I do is care about Israel. I’ve used my journalistic career for a better Israel, not against Israel. I love Gaza but have not been alowed to go there since December 2006. I asked Ehud Barak why Israeli journalists are not allowed in Gaza and he said he didn’t know they weren’t allowed in.”

Levy saw Operation Cast Lead (OCL) not as a war but as a brutal operation against a civilian population.

He thinks OCL was the turning point of world public opinion which is now “less tolerant of Israeli violence and aggression. Look at the flotilla. We now do what we want wherever we want, for example in international waters, with force as the first option. The Israeli general in charge of the flotilla operation has said that next time we will use snipers.”

(Levy obviously hadn’t seen the BBC’s Death in the Med in which Jane Corbin concluded that that the Mavi Marmara’s bid to break the naval blockade wasn’t really about bringing aid to Gaza but it was a political move designed by the Islamist organisation IHH and others to put pressure on Israel and the international community. Corbin had just reported that two thirds of the medicines being transported to the people of Gaza by the flotilla were out of date and useless.)

He paid tribute to the fact that Israel was always the first on the scene to help in international crises like in Mexico, Turkey and Haiti.

“There have been worse occupations in history but not where the occupier felt so good about itself. We are the first occupiers in the world to say that we are the victim and Israelis believe the IDF is the most moral army in the world, ” he said.

He asked: “How can an occupation by a democratic society last for 42 years? How do Israelis live with it?”

He answered: “We were trained to think we are very moral but that Palestinians were not human beings like us. Dehumanisation is the only tool which enables us to maintain the occupation and feel good about ourselves. It is wall-to-wall now. Even the peaceniks don’t feel the Palestinians are human beings”.

He told us how two Israeli dogs being killed during OCL garnered more media coverage than the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians. The dogs’ funerals and interviews with the owners were all over the front pages while Palestinian deaths were only mentioned on pages 15 and 16: “In Israel two Israeli dogs are worth more than hundreds of Palestinians,” he concluded.

(Had Levy picked up a British newspaper recently or logged on to the internet he would see that while people are dying in Pakistan from the terrible floods we are obsessed by a woman who dumped a cat in a bin.)

Levy said that a crowd of the size at Amnesty to hear him would never turn out in Tel Aviv and that Haaretz, the newspaper he writes for, is an island with a small readership.

He spoke of the ever growing file labelled “Subscription cancellations due to Gideon Levy”: “I get full freedom to write for Haaretz but Haaretz is losing influence,” he said.

He recalled the 400,000 Israelis who protested after the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacres which, he said, were not even carried out by the Israelis but thought that that size protest would not occur now. He has been described as a “self-hating Jew” and “an enemy of Israel”.

(When Shlomo Sand came to the UK to promote his anti-Zionist polemic, The Invention of the Jewish People, he said it was top of the best-seller list in Israel.

As for Haaretz itself it is read nationally and internationally. It is published in English and Hebrew and is distributed along with the International Herald Tribune and has a daily circulation of 72,000 (100,000 at weekends). The Jerusalem Post’s circulation is 15,000 (40,000 at weekends).)

On the question of boycotting Israel Levy said that although he cannot call for a boycott himself, because he is Israeli, it is a legitimate weapon especially as Israeli uses it against Gaza, Hamas and Iran.

He was asked whether boycotts are racist because they target Jewish Israelis, even those opposed to the settlements. He failed to address this question properly but he did say that boycotters should read the label first and boycott only if a product is from the West Bank.

(Obviously, Levy fails to understand the racism inherent in the boycott Israel movement because first, boycotters don’t look at the label in such a discriminating manner. As long as the label says “Israel”, they will boycott (One member of the audience claimed that the only reason they boycott is because the Palestinians themselves are calling for it). And, second, the boycott includes Israeli academics.)

Levy’s main complaint is that he feels so alone in Israel. He feels the drama is all going on in Israel’s backyard and yet there is no one covering it. He said there is no censorship in Israel, only self-censorship by journalists.

(But even if this were the case there are plenty of foreign journalists in Gaza, including from the BBC. But I can fully understand why Israeli journalists would be so banned; they would be an easy target for kidnapping by Hamas.)

Despite all the above Levy is not actually an anti-Zionist.

He called for the return of Palestinians to a Palestinian state and a limited return of some 500,000 to Israel including an admission of liability from Israel for what happened in 1948 and compensation for the non-returning refugees.

“What happened in 1948 is an historic injustice but it happens in wars. Israel is a fait accomplit so let’s move to a new chapter. The Jews had a right to settle in Palestine but the Palestinian rejection of the partition plan should not have led to the expulsion of 650,000 from their villages,” he said.

Levy claims that no one in Israel cares about the Palestinians and he cites Tel Aviv as the best example of this. But then again he would hear the same complaints from the residents of Sderot who also think that the rest of Israel doesn’t care about the bombs that are regularly fired at them from Gaza.

I had a couple of nice chats afterwards and one with someone in charge of the Northern Section of the TUC who said that a full TUC boycott of Israel is coming.

I asked whether the TUC had ever considered a boycott of Britain or America due to NATO forces occupying Afghanistan.

He said it was impossible to boycott Britain but there is every possibility of a boycott of America being passed. I’d like to see them try!

Keep an eye on the TUC Conference, 13th-16th September.

“From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”

Once again calls for the destruction of Israel rang out through Covent Garden in London yesterday as protesters chanted “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free” (see above) and “Free, Free Palestine” (see below).

While up to 2000 Uzbeks have been murdered by the wicked Kyrgyzstan government and today is the one year anniversary of the murder of Neda Soltan by the vile Iranian regime, the protesters still came to protest outside Ahava.

And while some countries still call for an international inquiry into the Mavi Marmara tragedy the United Nations has merely called on the Kyrgyz government to hold an internal enquiry.

Meanwhile, Britain’s own Saville enquiry reported a mere 38 years after Bloody Sunday and found individual soldiers responsible for the killings.

The British army as a whole was able to breathe a sigh of relief that it was not found to be collectively responsible, thus enabling David Cameron to make a somewhat easier apology than if the latter had been the case.

That said with the enquiry finding that Martin McGuinness was allegedly armed with a sub-machinegun the soldiers might well have been understandably petrified, which itself may have contributed to the massacre of innocents.

Britain has also held several internal enquiries into the Iraq war so I am bemused as to why Israel is treated so differently.

The United Nations has already shamed itself by producing the Goldstone Report into Operation Cast Lead and it should not be allowed to shame itself again.

Israel has investigated itself objectively in the past. Examples are the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres and the 2006 Lebanon War and has to be allowed to investigate the Mavi Marmara tragedy.

Back to Ahava and the protesters yesterday handed around a cartoon of two girls shopping in Ahava who wished to look like Kristin Davis (Charlotte from Sex in the City) who is an Ahava representative. Luckily we see two heroes burst in just in time to educate them about Israel’s “brutal, illegal occupation”. Persuasive stuff.

An owner of a nearby retail shop was arguing with an anti-Israel protester but getting nowhere. His business is being badly affected by the noisy anti-Israel demonstrations.

The sooner the protests are stopped the better. The destruction of peoples’ livelihoods is well beyond the limits of freedom of speech.

Love Jews, Hate Israel.

Living life as a British Jew sometimes makes me feel like we have regressed 200 years. This feeling is even more pronounced at general election time.

200 years ago a Jewish state was nothing more than a figment of some madman’s imagination. Jews were nothing more than a religious people who were to be looked after, nurtured and cared for by the country in which they resided. Under Muslim rule they were considered “millet“; they could organise their own religious practices just as long as they were loyal to the Empire.

And on 21st December 1789 Clermont-Tonnerre declared in revolutionary France: “To the Jews as a nation nothing, to the Jews as individuals everything.”

Jews were expected to commit wholly to the country they lived in, which they did. There was to be no mention of Jewish autonomy or, dread the thought, a Jewish state.

And so forward 200 years to present day UK.

Our politicians have worked out that by mentioning Jews, but not Israel, they can have it both ways; ingratiate themselves with their Jewish constituents while being able to harness the Muslim vote. The perfect combo.

Just before this general election election was called the three main parties were united in the decision to expel an Israel diplomat after Israel’s, as yet unproven, use of British passports to assassinate a self-confessed Hamas terrorist.

And in the FT of 31 March David Cameron said: “Unlike a lot of politicians from Britain who visit Israel, when I went I did stand in occupied East Jerusalem and actually referred to it as ‘occupied East Jerusalem’”.

Why did Cameron feel the need to call it “occupied”? He was adopting the language of one side, the Palestinians. No one called it “occupied” when it was controlled by Jordan between 1949-1967, when Jewish cemeteries and synagogues were trashed by the Arabs and the most religious site for Jews, the Western Wall, was allowed to fall into total disrepair.

Israeli Jews were banned from visiting the Wall. Had I been around at the time I would have been able to visit it but only by flashing said British passport.

But now the election is on there is hardly a negative mention of Israel, if it is mentioned at all, from the politicians wanting my “Jewish vote”.

David Cameron recently spoke to the Movement for Reform Judaism and failed to mention Israel. He praised the “Jewish people” and said he was appalled by the rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Most worthy was Cameron’s assertion that he will ban preachers of hate and extremist groups that are radicalising British students.

But a little more acknowledgement of why anti-Semitism is on the rise would have been welcome; because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel is unpopular with many British Muslims because of the conflict. But that does not mean that Israel is wrong in defending its innocent civilians from terror attacks. If Cameron was more courageous he would have pointed that out.

The Liberal Democrats’ views on Israel are now notorious. No need to keep mentioning Nick Clegg’s call for a ban on the sale of arms to Israel, so leaving it highly vulnerable to attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah.

But Ed Fordham, their candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, posted On the Doorsteps of Hampstead and Kilburn on the JC blog in which he goes out on a limb to mention the concerns of “one house of Jewish voters” and his “Jewish friends” as well as his visit to Dennington Park Road synagogue.

Then Labour politician Diane Abbot pops up on the JC website with her blog Fighting for Yemeni Jews. She wants to offer the persecuted Yemeni Jews sanctuary in the UK. Maybe they would like to go to Israel though? For some reason Abbot does not consider this obvious option.

Diane Abbott - Fighting for Yemeni Jews

There is no mention of Israel in her entire post but then again Abbott thinks Israel commits war crimes as you can see in the video below in which she passionately denounces Israel during Operation Cast Lead.

It is hypocritical that although in her post Abbott admits that Yemeni Jews are being persecuted “because of insurgent Islamicism”, when Israel defends itself against said “insurgent Islamicism” she considers Israel to be committing “war crimes”.

So although it is good to see that politicians are so concerned for British Jews, what they don’t realise is that theirs is a job only half done.

For most British Jews, although totally committed to Britain, concern for the welfare of Israel is part-and-parcel of their Jewishness just as for most British Muslims, also totally committed to Britain, their concern for the Palestinians is part-and-parcel of their Islam.

So these politicians need to be courageous enough to express that what Israel is up against is also what many of our own troops are currently dying because of in Afghanistan; said “insurgent Islamicism”.

They also need to speak out against the vicious campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, the latest incarnation of which is the Advertising Standards Authority’s banning of pictures of Western Wall in tourism adverts for Israel, unless the Wall is described as being on “occupied land”. The ASA’s delving into politics is unwelcome and wrong.

But as things currently stand, after some 200 years of enlightenment British politics seems to have regressed to the once extinct ideology of “to the Jews as a nation nothing, to the Jews as individuals everything”. It is a worrying development.

An edited version of this article appeared in the Jewish Chronicle

Goldstone Report debate shambles – The Sequel

Prof. Chinkin and Colonel Travers (3rd & 4th from left)

On wednesday night Colonel Desmond Travers, one of Richard Goldstone’s four person UN team that looked into the possibility of war crimes having been committed during the Gaza War, spoke in Parliament. At the end of this blog is the transcript of his talk.

He’d spoken on March 8th at LSE and I was left incredulous that such a man could actually have a bearing on whether politicians and soldiers could end up serving life in prison for war crimes.

At LSE Travers and Professor Christine Chinkin, who was also on the team, made startling admissions as to how this investigation, which found that war crimes were committed mainly by Israel but also by Hamas, was conducted.

Questionable credibility of Travers and Chinkin:

1. Israel destroyed 14 mosques during Operation Cast Lead which, Israel claimed, was due to Hamas storing weaponry inside them. Travers said he had inspected two of the mosques and had found no evidence of secondary explosions. Despite the important question of how this was forensically tested it leaves open the even bigger question of why he didn’t visit the other 12 mosques.

2. Palestinian witnesses from Gaza had been heard in open sessions, where the public could hear what was said. But knowing the callousness of Hamas towards traitors, for example throwing them off the top of high buildings in Gaza while handcuffed, which Palestinian in his or her right mind would dare tell the truth?

3. Chinkin had signed a letter to the Times published on 11th January 2009 part of which stated:

“Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.”

At LSE Travers was pressed on his recent statement, with its dark undertones, that “Britain’s foreign policy interests in the Middle East seem to be influenced strongly by Jewish lobbyists.”

How these issues were addressed by Travers:

1. Travers was offered the brand new 349 page report by the The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre which contains photographic evidence of secondary explosions in mosques. He dismissed ITIC as an Israeli GONGO (Government Operated Non-Governmental Organisation).

When he was pressed as to why he didn’t examine the other 12 mosques for secondary explosions he replied:

“If I was Hamas I would not store weapons in an open space such as a mosque.”

2. Neither Travers nor Professor Iain Scobbie, of SOAS, viewed anything wrong in having public, as opposed to, private hearings eventhough Travers closed with this incredible statement about Hamas:

“One of the main things I hate about Hamas is the knee-cappings they carry out”

3. Travers was asked to explain his “Jewish Lobby” comment three times but each time, like at LSE, he refrained. And when both his credibility, in light of that comment, and Chinkin’s credibility, in light of her letter to the Times, were both challenged he just replied:

“You can join the long list of whingers.”

4. There were also the issues of Travers’ new assertion that “now there are now no mistakes in war” (see transcript below) especially in light of three Israeli soldiers being killed by “friendly fire” during the Gaza War, and totally anonymous testimony given by Breaking The Silence that Travers has accepted unquestioningly.

Finally, Jocelyn Hurndall, whose son, Tom, was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier in Gaza in 2003 and who subsequently died nine months later, was at the talk to continue to seek justice for her son and it really does put into perspective all the bickering during the Q&A.

However, before we can even start to consider whether the “facts” given to us in the Goldstone Report are credible we have to establish whether both the investigators and their methods were credible in the first place.

In my view both Chinkin and Travers were not credible and neither were their methods.

It is the first principle of law that justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done.

Travers’ and Chinkin’s take on that seems to be not to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

TRANSCRIPT OF TRAVERS’ TALK

Ambit of investigation:

Travers called the six month investigation “thorough” and told us that its ambit, as formulated by Richard Goldstone, was as follows:

“To investigate all the violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been commited at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from the 27th December 2008 and 18th January 2009, whether before, during or after.”

He said that in addition to Hamas and Israel being investigated, Fatah/PLO were also investigated as were claims of discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens.

Evidence:

“188 people were interviewed, 200 reports studied, 30 videos watched, thousands of photos viewed (at least 1,200) and 10,000 documents perused. Two field visits to Gaza were made in June and July 2008 for a week each time.”

Public Hearings:

“Public hearings, which took place in Gaza, Amman and Geneva, were undertaken for Palestinians and Israelis who wanted to come before us to relate their experiences. We even spoke to the father of Gilad Schalit. Therefore I want to stress that we were not on some sort of witch-hunt which some perceive we were. You can download the interviews from the website and they are all very telling. We found no evidence that the witnesses were coerced or interfered with whatsoever. I have no doubts as to the veracity of what we were told.”

Provocation and Proportionality:

“We looked back as far as June 2008 when the ceasefire was in place between Israel and Hamas as we know that insurgents can use this time to rearm and sometimes that rearming has to stopped by pre-emptive military strikes such as the one that occured but that theory of mine did not survive our enquiries. The initial attack was on 27th December by guided munitions. It was very severe by any military standards. It was extreme and occasioned most of the casualties in Gaza. 1417 people were killed, although B’Tselem gives a lower figure. The higher figure is becoming more applicable as people are still dying and bodies are being recovered from collapsed buildings. 99 policeman were killed in the initial attack on a police graduation parade. The defence used was that these were Hamas police. We examined the inter-relation worldwide between police and military forces. However, that connection was unfounded. In newspaper obituaries we found mention that some of the police were Hamas members but we concluded that they may have been a) politically affiliated or b) families just wanted to optimise their pension compensation arrangements. I perfectly understood that. My father was a policeman and I could see my mother doing the same. He died at 42.”

Death and Destruction:

“280 schools and six university buildings were destroyed, 240 policemen were killed, 14 mosques were attacked, two of which I examined carefully. Two hospitals, Al-Shifa and al-Quds, were attacked. 29 ambulances were destroyed, killing 16 medics or ambulance drivers. After that initial bombardment being a paramedic was the most dangerous job to carry out. I find that very troubling. These air strikes were deliberate attacks on the infrastructure of Gaza. These were not Hamas infrastructure but infrastructure that maintained society. The destruction of schools, hospitals and mosques was particularly troubling and together with farms, homesteads, agricultural land, sewage farms it becomes very troubling.”

Breaking the Silence:

“The ground incursion started on 3rd January and was led by the Golani brigade from northern Israel and the Givati brigade from the south east. They both held certain positions and while they rested reservists were brought in. It was these reservists who produced the evidence for Breaking the Silence. These couragous soldiers decided to reveal their concerns about the behaviour of their colleagues. Some of these incidents were of ‘human shields’ and that of a 59 year-old man forced to enter a building where Hamas operatives were hiding. When he came out he spoke of seeing two or three Hamas operatives inside. The soldiers beat him up so they could be ceratin of the veracity of what he had described. They made him go in a second time and this time bring a camera. So he went in and took photographs of what he saw and when he came out they wanted him to go in a final time but he refused and so they beat him up again. Eventually they sent in a dog with a camera on its back and it was killed by a Hamas operative. The the IDF collapsed the building on top of the two Hamas soldiers which i haven’t got an issue with that but they also collapsed this man’s building which was adjacent to it and while he watched it collapse he wondered if his wife and children were still inside. By great good fortune they had escaped. This incident shows you how easily rules of engagement are so easily broken and those that formulate them should be very careful. The account of the man used as a human shield was replicated precisely by one of the soldiers from Breaking The Silence. This proves that witnesses are telling the truth.”

Palestinians told to leave their homes:

“This was very troubling. There were those that were forced to leave homes so Israel could use them as strongholds but if they encountered an Israeli checkpoint they ran a very high risk of being shot and even if they were carrying white flags it did not protect them. This evidence was replicated by Breaking the Silence as soldiers were told that any person they then encountered in their vicinity was likely to be the enemy. The dropping of leaflets early on ensured that those who were left in Gaza were potential aggressors. Is that sufficient to absolve a military commander of his obligations? It is not. And anyway where were they to go? The double whammy was that those who knew Israel’s route into Gaza exited their areas and stayed with friends or family elsewhere. Often those houses where they stayed were struck by missiles and the possible explanation for this is that the thermal signature of a high density of occupation in some houses was enough to alert the missilers to target that place. As a result you were damned in you did go and damned if you didn’t go.”

Destruction of food sources:

“This was also troubling. We went to the only flour mill functioning in Gaza. It was struck and destroyed by an air attack. People now have to pay for their flour in Israel with a food price-hike on top of their other troubles. Israel claimed it was not struck from the air but was damaged by a tank shell during an exchange of fire with Hamas operatives in the area. But Israel’s argument was demolished by a Guardian journalist who saw the bomb fragments the following day. It was a Mark 84 JDAM bomb. Then there was the main chicken farm with 35,000 chickens. The family was locked away while the hatcheries were bulldozed. These were very troubling incidents. Then Israel, in what was called ‘Operation the Day After’, started bulldozing factories, farmland, wells and all the trees. I found that personally very difficult to comprehend. 6800 dunams of land had been destroyed. That figure has now increased to 20,000 dunams because the degradation is cumulative when land is adjacent to sea, sand or sewage and that land is left untended. 140,000 olive trees, 136,000 citrus trees and 22,000 fruit trees were destroyed. The agricultural destruction was my particular cause of pain.”

“Now there are no mistakes in war”:

“Today we have the undreamt of luxury of precision weapons. There are no accidents, there are no miscalculations and there are no errors. There may be soldiers among you who disagree with me but that is my view, especially in the armies that have emerged in the last five or six years, because the technologies are there and they are inexpensive. Therefore I have to make assumptions that the amount of destruction that was applied to the territory of Gaza would lead to other consequences if the blockade was left in place. As long as the blockade continues the degradation of life in Gaza will continue. I could argue that the blockade is the continuation of the war by other means.”

Weapons used:

“There is an evolving doctrine in the Israel defence community. This doctrine has an influence on other armies in the West. The most ubiquitous symbol of the war that was repeatedy flashed onto our screens was the discharge of White Phosphorous over the city. There are claimes that 3,500 WP shells were discharged on a defenceless city. This is an extremely troubling action. WP will burn through the skin to the bone. It affects those who treat it. 14 people were killed by it. WP should never be used either in an undefended area or on a battlefield. Ireland got rid of WP from its arsenal in the 1970s.

Shrapnel, heavy metal and tungsten were also used. One boy had tungsten in his spine and he is now likely to develop cancer and you have to call tungsten’s use into question. It is particularly troublesome if used in powder form such as DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive). It is not detectable in the system and will also cause cancer and tumours. Then there are Fleschettes, little darts, which are designed on impact with human flesh to ‘tumble’ and aggravate the injuries internally. Sometimes when they meet the flesh they break and so portions of the darts go in different directions inside the body. This is in breach of the Geneva Conventions and should be banned and condemned out of hand.

There were certain weapons used, or suspected to have been used, with deep penetrator capabilities to take on the tunnels and underground bunkers that may have been in Gaza and were certainly on the border with Gaza and Egypt. It is reasonable to surmise that these weapons penetration abilities can only be arrived at by the use of hardened warheads which use materials containing alloys, which are highly toxic, or uranium or depleted uranium, which are highly toxic, and so there is an urgent need to institute investigations of the soil, the air and the water in that area not only in Gaza but in soil to the east of Gaza, in Israel, because of the prevailing westerly winds. Any toxicities released as a result of the weapons will travel.

Although we have handed in the Goldstone Report there are further revelations. This morning I got hair sample results of 65 people who lived close to four or five major impact sites and their finding reveal an array of toxic chemicals in the hair samples, some of which are tungsten, which is carcinogenic, and some is uranium. Therefore while I confine myself to the Goldstone Report’s findings I will not be discharging my duties to you adequately if I did not reveal to you subsequent findings which add further wieght to this report, which cannot be ignored and which will not go away.”