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Friday, 28 April 2017

Stephen Sedley, former Judge at the Court of Appeal Criticises the IHRA Definition of anti-Semitism

No sooner had the European Union Monitoring Committee Definition of Anti-Semitism been scrapped by its successor, the Fundamental Rights Agency, in 2013, [EU drops its ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism] than it resurfaced in the guise of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.  First recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee in its Report Anti-Semitism in the UK it was adopted by Theresa May on behalf of the government.
 Jeremy Corbyn, oblivious to the fact that he has been attacked as an ‘anti-Semite’ once again decided to run up the white flag.  Whenever the word ‘anti-Semitism’ is used Corbyn runs for the hills.

There is a very simple definition of anti-Semitism drawn up by Brian Klug of Oxford University.  In his article in Patterns of Prejudice [Vol. 37, №2, June 2003, Routledge The collective Jew: Israel and the new antisemitism  he defines anti-Semitism as a form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.’ The ‘Jew’ towards whom the antisemite feels hostile is not a real Jew at all. In short anti-Semitism can be defined as ‘hostility to Jews’.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance consists of 31 countries including Poland and Hungary, both of which have anti-Semitic governments which are also pro-Israel
There is no mystery to defining  anti-Semitism.  It takes all of 20 words.  But the problem for the Zionists and supporters of Israeli Apartheid was how to concoct a definition that embraced within the definition of anti-Semitism, criticism of Israel.  As most people know, the standard retort of Israel’s defenders to criticism of Israel is that you are an anti-Semite.  You are not criticising Israel because it is a vicious, nasty little state that practices apartheid and embodies racial discrimination in its structure as a ‘Jewish’ state, because it is a Jewish state.  It’s like saying that people used to criticise Nazi Germany because you hated the Germans or that people criticised Apartheid because you were anti-White.

Sir Stephen Sedley, the only radical who has ever been a judge in the Court of Appeal, has penned an elegant article in London Review of Books.  It is well worth reading.
Sir Stephen Sedley - former Court of Appeal Judge
Defining Anti-Semitism or Attacking Freedom of Speech?
First printed in the London Review of Books
Stephen Sedley

Shorn of philosophical and political refinements, anti-Semitism is hostility towards Jews as Jews. Where it manifests itself in discriminatory acts or inflammatory speech it is generally illegal, lying beyond the bounds of freedom of speech and of action. By contrast, criticism (and equally defence) of Israel or of Zionism is not only generally lawful: it is affirmatively protected by law. Endeavours to conflate the two by characterising everything other than anodyne criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic are not new. What is new is the adoption by the UK government (and the Labour Party) of a definition of anti-Semitism which endorses the conflation.

In May 2016 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental body, adopted a ‘non-legally-binding working definition of anti-Semitism’: ‘Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.’ This account, which is largely derived from one formulated by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite. ‘A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred’ invites a string of questions. Is anti-Semitism solely a matter of perception? What about discriminatory practices and policies? What about perceptions of Jews that are expressed otherwise than as hatred?

These gaps are unlikely to be accidental. Their effect, whether or not it is their purpose, is to permit perceptions of Jews which fall short of expressions of racial hostility to be stigmatised as anti-Semitic. Along with the classic tropes about a world Jewish conspiracy and Holocaust denial or dismissal, the IHRA’s numerous examples include these:

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

Applying double standards by requiring of [the state of Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour.

The first and second of these examples assume that Israel, apart from being a Jewish state, is a country like any other and so open only to criticism resembling such criticism as can be made of other states, placing the historical, political, military and humanitarian uniqueness of Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestine beyond permissible criticism. The third example bristles with contentious assumptions about the racial identity of Jews, assumptions contested by many diaspora Jews but on which both Zionism and anti-Semitism fasten, and about Israel as the embodiment of a collective right of Jews to self-determination.

In October 2016 the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs published a report entitled ‘Anti-Semitism in the UK’ in which it broadly accepted the IHRA’s ‘working definition’ but proposed that two qualifications be added in the interests of free speech:

It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent.

It is not anti-Semitic to hold the Israeli government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent.

The government in its published response adopted the IHRA definition but brushed aside the select committee’s caveats, taking the exclusion of ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country’ to be part of the IHRA definition and to be a sufficient safeguard of free speech.
A recent opinion obtained from Hugh Tomlinson QC, a prominent human rights lawyer, by a group of NGOs concerned with Palestine and Israel, concludes that the IHRA definition is unclear and confusing (it could be suggested, in fact, that it is calculatedly misleading), that the government’s adoption of it has no legal status, and that the overriding legal duty of public authorities is to preserve freedom of expression. He also argues that, even taken on its own terms, the definition does not require characterisations of Israel as an apartheid or colonialist state, or calls for boycott, disinvestment or sanctions, to be characterised as anti-Semitic.

Policy is not law. At most it is a guide to the application of legal powers where these include exercises of discretion or judgment. For central government the impact of the IHRA policy may well be imperceptible, but for local authorities and educational institutions, and for the police in a number of situations, the policy is capable of having a real impact. Its authors may be pleased about this, but policy is required to operate within the law.
One law of central relevance is section 43 of the 1986 Education Act, passed after campus heckling of Conservative ministers and speakers but of continuing application to tertiary institutions in England and Wales. It places a duty on such institutions to ‘take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees … and for visiting speakers’.

A second, and fundamental, law is the 1998 Human Rights Act, which makes it unlawful for a public authority to act incompatibly with rights that include the right of free expression under article 10 of the European Convention. The right is not absolute or unqualified: it can be abrogated or restricted where to do so is lawful, proportionate and necessary for (among other things) public safety, the prevention of disorder or the protection of the rights of others. These qualifications do not include a right not to be offended. 

The European Court of Human Rights has not helped here. In a judgment handed down in 2016, it upheld the order of a Swiss court requiring an organisation which campaigned against anti-Semitism to withdraw its criticism of an academic commentator for writing ‘Quand Israël s’expose sur la scène internationale, c’est bien le judaïsme qui s’expose en même temps.’ It is disturbing that the court failed to protect a publication which contended that propositions like these ‘glissent carrément vers l’antisémitisme’ (‘are clearly edging towards anti-Semitism’). Why were both the article and the critique not equally protected by article 10? The upholding of the Swiss judgment is another in a long line of cases, starting in 1976 with the Little Red Schoolbook case against the UK, in which the Strasbourg court has tolerated intolerant decisions of national courts on freedom of expression by giving them the benefit of a ‘margin of appreciation’.

Although the abstentionist nature of Strasbourg jurisprudence does little to prevent official intervention aimed at muting criticism of Israel, it can be readily seen why it may be contrary to law in the UK to bar a speaker or an event because of anticipated criticism of Israel’s human rights record, or of its policies and practices of land annexation. If so, the bar cannot be validated by a policy, much less one as protean in character and as open-ended in shape as the IHRA definition.
In recent times a number of institutions, academic, religious and social, have stood up to pressure to abandon events critical of Israel. What are less easy to track are events which failed to take place because of such pressure, or for fear of it; but the IHRA definition offers encouragement to pro-Israel militants whose targets for abuse and disruption in London have recently included the leading American scholar and critic of Israel Richard Falk, and discouragement to university authorities which do not want to act as censors but worry that the IHRA definition requires them to do so.
When a replica of Israel’s separation wall was erected in the churchyard of St James, Piccadilly in 2013, the Spectator denounced it as an ‘anti-Israeli hate-festival’ – a description now capable of coming within the IHRA’s ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism. In such ways the official adoption of the definition, while not a source of law, gives respectability and encouragement to forms of intolerance which are themselves contrary to law, and higher education institutions in particular need to be aware of this.

Israel’s Collaboration in the Murder of 3,000 Jews by Argentine's neo-Nazi Junta comes back to Haunt It

Argentine-Israelis Urge Israel to Disclose Past Junta Ties

A demonstration against Argentina’s military junta in 1979. Women from Mothers of the Plaza hold up banners. The one that is clearly visible in the photograph has pictures of some of the "disappeared."
Argentine-Israelis Urge Israel to Disclose Past Junta Ties
One of the principal justifications for the Israeli state is that it is a refuge of last resort for Jewish people against the recurrence of anti-Semitism.  This is a powerful feeling among many Jews.  Yet I believe it is a myth.  What happened in Argentina is a reminder that for left-wing, socialist and dissident Jews, a far-Right racist Israel is anything but a refuge.

From 1976 to 1983 a neo-Nazi Junta took power in Argentina.  It was supported both by the United States, as part of Ronald Reagan’s fight against communism in Latin America, and Israel.  It was viciously anti-Semitic and up to 12.5%, 3,000, of those who it tortured and ‘disappeared’ were Jewish. 

Israeli Mirage jets bought in Falklands war, painted with Peruvian flag
According to Jacobo Timerman, the Jewish editor of the liberal La Opinion newspaper. who was himself arrested and tortured, for the torturers, interrogating non-Jews was a job whilst interrogating Jews was a pleasure.  A political opponent could be turned, but a Jew remained a Jew forever. [Prisoner Without a Name, Cell without a Number’, p.66, Vintage Books, New York, 1981].  Jewish prisoners were given ‘a double dose of torture and harassment’ and ‘it was known to the Israeli embassy which maintained relations with ‘moderates’ within the military junta.’ [Jewish Chronicle 25.5.84., ‘A White Book’ Leader].

An article in the Buenos Aires Herald told how, ‘Jews in Argentina take it for granted that if for any reason they go to prison, they will be treated far more harshly than Gentiles.’ [Timerman, p. 136]  Anti-Semitism was a factor both in the initial kidnapping and the additional torture and murder reserved for Jews.’ [Edy Kaufman, p.492, Jewish Victims of Repression in Argentina, Under Military Rule (1976-1983), Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Vol 4, No 4]  Kaufman speaks of a ‘general consensus’ that Jewish prisoners were subject to more severe treatment by their jailers. [Ibid. p.483]  

Timerman was released in 1978 and flew to Israel in 1979 where he became a citizen.  In 1982 he wrote a bitterly critical book against Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, The Longest War: Israel's Invasion of Lebanon (1982).  He described Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as similar to that of Black people in South Africa under Apartheid.  In response, Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben Meir  on the US news program 60 Minutes described his book as ‘a collection of calumnies and lies arising from his own self-hatred.' [Rein & Davidi, "Exile of the World" (2010), p. 20.

Dr. Marcos’s son Mauricio was an Israeli citizen, who was arrested and murdered.  Marcos set up in the 1990’s the Associasion de Familiares de Desaparecidos Judios, an organization of the families of Jewish persons who disappeared and have not been traced.  Another member, Dr Weinstein described how “Israel's indifference to the matter began back during the days of the dictatorship, and has continued to this day.” [A disappearing act, Aryeh Dayan, Ha'aretz 3.1.03.,]

The perception was widespread that ‘The Jewish state's concern for the disappeared was subordinated to political and commercial considerations.’ [Latin American Weekly Report 17 February 1984 cited by Bishara Bahbah, “Israel's Military Relationship with Ecuador and Argentina,” Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 15 no. 2, (1986): 94]. 

At the same time that the ambassador was acting on behalf of the detainees, Israeli agents were waiting outside, bearing proposals for sales of the means of warfare. Thus, the arms sales were only detrimental to the cause. [Yitzhak Mualem, Between a Jewish and an Israeli Foreign Policy: Israel-Argentina Relations and the Issue of Jewish Disappeared Persons and Detainees under the Military Junta 1976-1983, Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 2004.: citing Senkman, "The Rescue of Jews in Argentina during the Military Regime, 1976-1983," p. 112; Barromi, "Were the Jews of Argentina Abandoned?" p. 69].

In 2002 the Israeli government set up a committee to investigate the disappearance of Jews but it took care not to offend the Argentinian government.  Its interim report omitted Israel's role during the dictatorship. It also rejected the demand to take legal action against the officers who tortured and killed Jews.  This was consistent with Israel's own stance regarding the trying of Israeli military officers and politicians in European countries or at the International Criminal Court at the Hague for their actions in the Palestinian territories.  Dr. Marcos recalled how
We and other Jewish families knocked again and again on the door of the embassy [in Buenos Aires], and we were always sent away.  I thought that from the report, we would be able to understand why this happened. Was this a policy that was dictated from Israel, was it a policy that was decided upon at the embassy … I did not find even a single word about this in the report.[ Ha'aretz, A disappearing act, 3.1.03.]
The anti-Semitism of the Argentinian Junta set the case apart from other examples of Israeli co-operation with repressive regimes.[Aaron Klieman, Israels Global Reach: Arms, Sales As Diplomacy, p.12, New York, Pergamon-Brassey, 1985]. The Israeli state and the Zionist movement had a choice between selling military equipment to the Junta or waging a campaign against the torture and murder of Argentina’s Jews.  The Israeli government chose the former.

According to Timerman's son, Héctor, Israeli Ambassador Ram Nirgad visited their house, when he had been released from detention and asked Timerman to sign a letter saying that he had been well treated and had no problems with the government. The journalist refused and said he'd rather remain in detention.[Héctor Timerman,” Israel, la dictadura y los consejos de Avivi”, Pagina/12, 3 July 2001, Rein & Davidi, “Exile of the World” (2010), p. 16.

Timerman was attacked in the United States by right-wing Zionists who believed he ‘asked for what he got’.[Jewish Chronicle [JC] 31. 7. 81].  US neo-conservatives reserved their criticism, not for the Junta but the Carter administration’s human rights policies. Jean Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s Secretary of State, fatuously distinguished between ‘authoritarian’ regimes that respected religion and family and totalitarian ones. [Jean Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorships and Double Standards” Commentary .

These neo-cons argued that the Junta enjoyed good relations with Israel, which was “an important supplier of arms and military equipment to Argentina.”  This was cited in a memo to Congress as evidence that the Junta could not be considered anti-Semitic.  Jim Lobe described how Christopher Hitchens was told by Irving Kristol, a prominent neo-con, that he didn’t believe that Timerman had suffered anything like that which he had described in the book. [See Decter, “The Uses of Jacobo Timerman”, Contentions, August, 1981; Seth Lipsky, “A Conversation with Publisher Jacobo Timerman, Wall Street Journal, June 4, 1981.”, and NYT columnist William Safire].

The reason why Israel and the Zionist movement kept silent was because, faced with choice of maintaining a profitable arms trade with a regime whose political goals it supported and speaking out about the Jews who were persecuted in Argentina, they chose the former.  The latter were the same as those Jews who, in Israel, had opposed the occupation of the Palestinian territories and later the war in Lebanon. That was why the ‘Jewish State’ didn’t lift a finger to help them.  By way of contrast, the campaign to ‘free’ Soviet Jews was accompanied by a massive Zionist publicity campaign internationally. Soviet Jews represented potential settlers.  Jewish opponents of the Junta were potential critics and activists.

Renee Sofia Epelbaum, mother of three desaparecidos and one of the leaders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, accused Daia [the Argentinian equivalent of the Board of Deputies of Jews] of silence and extreme caution towards cases of arrests and disappearances of Jews.  In sharp contrast, the paper Nueva Presenda expressed its support for the cause of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo including the Jewish desperados. Daia even tried to improve the image of Argentina abroad, “particularly in the USA”. [Mario Sznajder and Luis Roniger, FromArgentina to Israel: Escape, Evacuation and Exile, Journal of Latin American Studies, p.356, Vol. 37, No. 2 (May, 2005) Cambridge University Press.

After the fall of the Junta, Amia (the Buenos Aires Zionist communal organisation) held its 90th anniversary celebration:
A group of women whose children disappeared during the Argentine military regimes crackdown on Left-wing opponents shouted ‘Nazi-Nazi’ at those attending the Congress here of Amia, the central Ashkenazi community of Buenos Aires. 
The protestors claimed that Israel, Amia and Daia- the political representative body of Argentine Jewry- had done nothing to help the ‘desaparecidos’ (disappeared ones)... 
The guest of honour was Mr Itzhak Navon, formerly President of Israel. The mothers attempted to prevent his entrance to the Conference as well as that of the Israeli Ambassador to Argentina.[Bitter Protest by Grieving Mothers’, Jewish Chronicle, 23 March 1984.
The Israeli state maintained close relations with the military dictatorship in Argentina. Despite the Junta’s anti-Semitism, relations between the two countries flourished, first during the Israeli Labour government of Yitzhak Rabin and subsequently under the Likud administration of Menachem Begin.[ Rein & Davidi, "Exile of the World" (2010), pp. 6–8].

Below is an article in Ha’aretz about the continued failure of Israel’s leaders to disclose the truth about the collaboration of Zionism with Argentina’s neo-Nazi leaders, which is but an echo of the collaboration with Nazism.

What happened in Argentina is a demonstration that Israel is no refuge from anti-Semitism.  An anti-Semitic regime is likely to be a semi-fascist one and thus, like Argentina under the Military Junta, a good friend of Israel.  In the event of such a regime arising, it will target left-wing Jews, precisely the ones that Israel will not wish to help.

As the late Yossi Sarid MK of the left-Zionist Meretz described it:  ‘the government of Israel never once lifted a finger and co-operated with the Argentine murderers because of their interest in arms deals….In Argentina, Israel sold even the Jews for the price of its immediate interests.’ [ “Yes, I Accuse,” Ha'aretz, 31 August 1989, p. 7 [Hebrew]; MK Yair Tzaban in Divrei Ha-Knesset, 29 June 1983, pp. 2810-2812 [Hebrew];

Argentine-Israelis Urge Israel to Disclose Past Junta Ties

Israel aided the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, including by providing arms. Argentine Jews who immigrated to Israel are demanding the release of documents on these ties.
Gili Cohen Mar 21, 2016 

There are wounds that do not heal. Forty years after the coup that ushered in a brutal, seven-year military dictatorship in Argentina, 12 Israelis who immigrated from that country are demanding that Jerusalem release documents on its ties with the junta.

Most members of the group lived in Argentina when the junta was in power, from March 1976 to December 1983, and some of them lost family members in the “Dirty War.” But according to one member of the group, Jessica Nevo, 54, “It was only when we came here, to Israel, that we began to read in the foreign press what was happening there, in Argentina. We didn’t know there were torture camps below the military bases. I learned about the defense ties with Israel only recently.”

Eitay Mack, an Israeli lawyer who campaigns for transparency about the country’s defense exports, has filed a Freedom of Information Law request with Israel’s defense and foreign ministries on behalf of the group. It demands the full disclosure of ties with the junta: arms sales, military installations built and operated by the state or Israeli companies and correspondence about Jewish political activists who were persecuted, detained or who disappeared during the junta era.

Even now, many of the Jews who lived through the period ask whether Israel did enough to rescue young Jews who were identified with leftist movements in Argentina and persecuted by the regime.
 “The aim is for us who live here — Israeli citizens who have chosen to be here and whose family members were murdered there — to feel that if we didn’t do all we could have done at the time, at least we will atone for what happened and we will do everything to bring the truth to light,” says journalist Shlomo Slutzky, 59, who immigrated to Israel from Argentina a few weeks after the coup and is one of the group’s leaders.

Nevo, a Bar-Ilan sociologist and feminist peace activist, immigrated from Buenos Aires in 1978, at age 16. She says her family was harmed by the regime both directly and indirectly: One member of the group is Francisco Tolchinsky, a relative who came to Israel with his siblings after their parents were murdered by the junta. In the FOI request, he noted that while he has little hope of learning more about his parents, he hopes the information can contribute to a fuller understanding of that dark time.
 “I believe [our request] has moral significance. It could be old-fashioned but I think there’s a place for such things, so we can tell our children and grandchildren that we did something,” says Slutzky, one of whose relatives is among the “disappeared.”
 “We want to know what happened to [him] — was Israel informed of his disappearance, was Israel asked to intervene in his behalf? Did they do anything? Maybe Israel did more than it’s ready to say, but this too must beknown,” Slutzky says.

Nevo believes the truth will come out, even if their petition is denied. She says their FOI request sets a precedent, after which “it will be impossible to continue to use the ‘security’ mantra to hide the Israeli connection” to the junta, adding, “security is also knowing what happened there.”
An estimated 30,000 people disappeared in the Dirty War, among them 2,000 Jews. The junta operated over 300 illegal detention sites. Torture was routine, including beatings, electric shocks and sexual assault.
Jessica Nevo, a member of the group that filed the freedom of information request.Moti Milrod
News of Israel’s ties to the junta is increasingly coming to light. In 2012 Argentina’s largest newspaper, Clarin, reported on retired Argentine pilots and military figures who testified that in 1982 they secretly flew to Israel, where they met with representatives from the military and defense manufacturers and returned with their plane loaded with light arms, mortars, air-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons.

According to Hernan Dobry’s book “Operation Israel: The Rearming of Argentina During the Dictatorship 1976-1983,” the weapons were meant for use in Argentina’s war against Britain (Falklands/Malvinas), and then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin was motivated primarily by anti-British sentiment. Israel also reportedly sent gas masks, land mines, radar equipment and tens of thousands of heavy coats for the war effort.

Testifying before Congress in 1981, the U.S. deputy secretary of defense said that in the three years since the U.S. arms embargo on Argentina, Buenos Aires had bought some $2 billion in arms from Israel and European states. Other estimates put Israel’s total defense exports to the junta at about $700 million.

Mack, the lawyer who filed the request, says this one is different from his FOI requests over Israeli defense exports to states such as Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan: This time the applicants are Israelis with relatives who murdered or disappeared, who don’t know whether Israel tried to save them or to help the junta.

 “Most of their parents’ generation is old or dead, and they have many questions. Now is the time to reveal the truth, so people can get some answers” before they die, Mack says, adding that it’s also important for Israel to take responsibility and learn from its mistakes.

Also signatory to the request are Wanda Clara and Marcus Weinstein, of Buenos Aires. They want to know more about what happened to their son Mauricio, an Israeli citizen who was abducted in the Dirty War. In an email Marcus Weinstein, a physician, described street patrols and nighttime arrests and abductions of civilians. After being tortured, many were shot and killed or thrown out of helicopters into the sea.

Mauricio Weinstein was 18, a senior in high school. On the evening of April 18, 1978 he was at his father’s office, near his school, where he planned to sleep because he needed to go in early the next day.

The soldiers came to the home as the rest of the family sat down to eat with guests. “They stood us up against the dining-room wall and took me in a car, with a pistol to my head, to my office. I was forced to open the door. My son was abducted, I saw them put him in a car,” Marcus Weinstein wrote, adding that a few of his son’s classmates were also abducted that night.

 “Several months later, I heard he was in the El Vesubio camp, which the prisoners called ‘hell.’ In July, apparently, he was ‘transferred,’ that is, killed.”

The Weinsteins contacted the authorities and also appealed to the local Jewish community and to Israel. Marcus Weinstein says he felt the Israeli diplomatic representatives cared little interest about the disappeared Jews, including his son and a second Israeli citizen. Today he wonders whether it’s possible to understand 38 years “of suffering and memory, without truth or justice.”
The event in Tel Aviv to mark the 40th anniversary of the military coup in Argentina Moti Milrod
Last week, Israel’s Meretz party and the World Union of Meretz held a memorial in Tel Aviv to mark the 40th anniversary of the coup in Argentina. It was called “Nunca Mas” (never again, in Spanish).
The demand for disclosure is not without its critics in Israel’s Argentine community. Some fear it will hurt Israel’s international reputation, while others say there’s no point dwelling in the past. Better, they say, to remember the dead and the disappeared while focusing on safeguarding democracy and human rights in Israel and in Argentina.

But others say those with personal experience have a duty to gather information. “I, who grew up as a teenager in Argentina, my memory is that it is forbidden to talk, to voice what you believe,” says Nevo. “This is something that you learn right away: Don’t say anything, don’t ask anything. The experience of growing up in a dictatorship has enabled me to recognize the concealed militarism here. I want answers. I want to know what’s in those documents. I want Israel to give an accounting.”
In a response, the Defense Ministry confirmed it had received the FOI request and will attend to it in the usual manner.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Steve Bell’s defence of Ken Livingstone - If... only Jeremy Corbyn had the same courage and clarity

Corbyn’s retreat in the face of Zionism’s False Anti-Semitism Allegations symbolised his appeasement of the Right

It was inevitable that when Jeremy Corbyn won the leadership of the Labour Party that he would face intense opposition.  Unlike the Labour Left, the Right has demonstrated, as Tony Blair has made clear, that it would prefer a Tory victory than a Labour government led by Corbyn.

The phone line must have been busy between the American and Israeli Embassies when Corbyn was elected Labour leader.  British Intelligence must have worked overtime dreaming up dirty tricks.  The idea that someone who opposed the nuclear ‘deterrent’ and wanted out of NATO could be allowed to lead, unchallenged, the second major party in the United Kingdom, America’s major ally in Europe, was unthinkable.

That and that alone is what lies behind the manufactured anti-Semitism crisis that hit the Labour Party.  It is to Corbyn’s shame that not once did he stand up to the bogus anti-Semitism campaign.  There is no excuse.  When he stood for election as leader he himself was accused of working with holocaust denier Paul Eisen. See the Daily Mail’s Jeremy Corbyn's 'long-standing links' with notorious Holocaust denier and his 'anti-Semitic' organisation revealed

Anti-Semitism was seen as the ideal weapon to attack Corbyn because of his previous support of the Palestinians.  In failing to rebut charges of consorting with terrorists (Hamas/Hezbollah) by simply saying that the main terrorists in the region were Israel, not those who fought them, he laid the ground for further attacks.  If he had confronted his critics from the start then they would have been rendered silent.
The failure to purge Labour’s civil service of the Blairites, in particular Iain McNicol, the General Secretary who tried to stop Corbyn even standing for re-election, has been fatally damaging.  When he was re-elected for the second time, it would have been possible then to say that a leader cannot have the head of Labour’s staff plotting against him.  Instead he has remained silent while McNicol has continued with the witch hunt.  Matt Zarb-Cousin, Corbyn’s former press secretary describes how It was very difficult to get Southside [Labour Party Headquarters] to work with us constructively.’  After all, they were too busy leaking stuff to the Tory press! [See Inside Corbyn’s Office, Jacobin]

There was never any substance to the false anti-Semitism allegations as Asa Winstanley demonstrated in a well-researched article. How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis 

In Al Jazeera’s The Lobby we saw how the execrable Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan, manufactured a false charge of anti-Semitism against a Labour delegate.  We also saw how an Israeli agent, Shai Masot had been busy plotting the downfall of the Israeli government’s enemies in British politics. 

It is therefore refreshing that Steve Bell, the Guardian’s veteran socialist cartoonist, has stood up to the racist anti-Semitic baiters of the Zionist movement and produced a wonderful  If... series of cartoons about Ken Livingstone.  It is a great pity that Corbyn, instead of defending Ken’s right to speak the truth, once again appeased his critics and failed to defend a friend.

Below is the Guardian interview with him and an introduction.  It is well worth reading.  I suggest it should be compulsory reading for Jeremy Corbyn.

Strong feelings, already primed, erupted when Steve Bell used his cartoon strip If… for four days (3-6 April) to attack Labour’s handling of the veteran party member and former London mayor Ken Livingstone.

Bell depicted a kangaroo court trying Livingstone for “mentioning Hitler once too often”. It passed sentence pre-plea “for an offence that isn’t actually an offence”, and furiously denounced the term “kangaroo court” as “a blatantly antisemitic stereotrope”.
Steve Bell - the Guardian's famous cartoonist at work at Labour Party conference 2016
Readers reacted to Livingstone’s remarks, Labour’s handling of him, and Bell’s take on it all. Excerpts will illustrate: “the old left’s tin ear for antisemitism”; “crude use of Jewish pain”; “no other minority has to suffer the calling-out of racism against it being so easily dismissed by people who are not of that minority”; “filth … [Bell] thinks anyone who complains about his Der Stürmer stereotypes … is talking nonsense”.

Some were supportive of Labour or Livingstone or Bell, saw the issue through the prism of Labour’s leadership strife, and were critical of a Guardian editorial which excoriated both Labour and Livingstone.
I compressed the main allegations involving Livingstone/Bell into a series of potential interpretations of his four strips, viewed as a whole, and put them all to Bell. I said this was a topic of great sensitivity, involving a vast weight of historical suffering, and it was best to be clear about intended meanings. The note ended: “As with all famed cartoonists, you have a big share of the freedom of the press and you rightly exercise it vigorously, so this kind of accountability follows.”

I asked Bell to think about it and respond in writing. Here is the result:

Were you defending Ken Livingstone against what you regard as an unfair Labour party process?

I was. The charge of “bringing the Labour party into disrepute” is a kind of indeterminate, catch-all offence that is capable of almost infinite interpretation. It has not been possible to sustain an accusation of antisemitism, since Ken Livingstone was not guilty of it. He could conceivably be open to the charge of insensitivity, but this does not warrant expulsion from the party. He had already been suspended from membership for over a year, which automatically cost him his place on Labour’s National Executive Committee. He was also subject to a vitriolic campaign of vilification across all media, beginning with John Mann’s slanderous description, on air, of him as a “racist” and a “Nazi apologist”. Mann was initially suspended from the party at the same time as Livingstone since his actions could just as legitimately be seen as bringing the Labour party into disrepute as Livingstone’s words, but Mann’s suspension was soon lifted. This demonstrates a lack of balance.

Were you defending Ken Livingstone against a charge that he brought the Labour party into disrepute by saying that Hitler was supporting Zionism before the Holocaust?

I was. He was arguing in defence of the Labour MP Naz Shah against charges of antisemitism that had been brought against her in relation to a joke that she had retweeted some time before she became an MP. Though his defence proved to be spectacularly ineffective and Naz Shah has since apologised for her inappropriate use of the words “the Jews” in a later tweet, I would say that if Ken Livingstone brought anyone into disrepute it was himself rather than the Labour party by unwisely introducing Hitler and the Nazis into a discussion of Zionism and contemporary antisemitism. At the moment the Labour party brings itself into disrepute very effectively every day in almost every way possible without Ken Livingstone’s help.

Were you defending Ken Livingstone against a charge that he was being antisemitic when he said that Hitler was supporting Zionism before the Holocaust?

I was. Ken Livingstone was talking about the narrowly defined actions and activities of parts of the Zionist movement in the 1930s that made the foundation of a Jewish state in the territory of Palestine its absolute priority. To question that aim does not constitute antisemitism.

Were you criticising the view that it is antisemitic to suggest that the suffering of Jews under the Nazis is somehow less deserving of empathy because a proportion of the Jews who left Germany under Nazi policies during the 1930s went to Palestine where Zionists later established the State of Israel?

This question is difficult to answer, since it confuses two separate issues, so I will try and untangle it: no one could possibly argue that the suffering of the Jews under the Nazis is somehow less deserving of empathy. If one did try and argue that point one would certainly be guilty of antisemitism. I don’t believe Ken Livingstone has ever attempted to make any such argument, or try and justify it with such a reason as “because a proportion of the Jews who left Germany under Nazi policies during the 1930s went to Palestine where Zionists later established the State of Israel”. I would never have supported him if he had.

Were you criticising the view that it is a misreading of history to suggest that Jews were somehow beneficiaries of, rather than victims of, Nazi government policies during the 1930s to remove Jews from Germany?
It certainly would be a misreading of history to suggest that Jews were somehow beneficiaries of Nazi government policies during the 1930s. The fact of negotiations between some Zionists and the Nazi government at the time is a separate issue. Attempting to suppress or deflect discussion of that issue with specious charges of antisemitism does not serve the cause of historical accuracy.

Were you taking issue with the term “antisemitic trope”?

I was. As you know I have a bit of history with your predecessor who upheld a charge against me of using “antisemitic tropes”. I don’t wish to go over the whole thing except to reassert that a trope needs to be antisemitic to be an “antisemitic trope”, and that my depiction of Netanyahu with a glove puppet of William Hague on one hand and Tony Blair on the other did not qualify. In the cartoon strip the use of the term “kangaroo court” is plainly not an “antisemitic trope” (or “stereotrope” as I brutally caricature the term). I believe that the charge of antisemitism is, and should be, a very serious one. Accusing someone of using “antisemitic tropes” is a kind of half-baked way of calling them an antisemite. It devalues and debases the term.

Were you being consciously antisemitic, that is, expressing hostility and prejudice towards Jews?

No, I am neither a conscious nor an unconscious antisemite. I am hostile to the idea of an entire population being held captive for 50 years in a stateless limbo. I have great sympathy for any people, no matter what their colour or creed, who are forced to live in such circumstances. The problem with all arguments around the question of Zionism is that, in current circumstances in the Middle East, it has less to do with race or religion and much more to do with land. It would be foolish to elevate or dignify one side’s claim, or indeed one side’s hatred, over another’s.
Since the charge of antisemitism is such a grave one, inappropriate use of the term is too often used to stifle debate around, for example, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, one of the few non-violent ways open to inhabitants of the occupied territories and their supporters to challenge the oppressive actions of successive Israeli governments. In the long run this cannot help the cause of peace.        

Farewell Comrade Willem Johannes Meijs 12th April 1941—21st March 2017

Willem Meijs - A friend and fighter for Palestine and a better world

On 21st March, Willem Meijs, the husband of my dear friend Sue Blackwell, passed away in a hospice in the Dutch town of Hoorn.  Six days later I made my first foreign trip since having a liver transplant 18 months ago to pay my respects to Willem.  A decade ago I had broken off my holiday in Normandy to go to their wedding.  The time seemed to pass too quickly.

Willem was first and foremost an activist in the wider Palestine solidarity movement and a fighter for the oppressed and downtrodden of this world.  Sue, who initiated the academic boycott in Britain, found a partner who shared her passion for justice.  Willem was also great company.
Willem was  the heart and soul of our alternative choir at the Albert Hall some years ago when an alternative performance was given to the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at the Proms.  For the first time ever Radio 3 took the Proms off air rather than allow its listeners to hear peoples’ outrage at the visit of Israel’s musical ambassadors.

At the reception held afterwards I said a few words and read out a tribute from Debbie Fink, a member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, who was unable to be at the funeral.  Also below is a tribute from Naomi Wimborne-Iddrissi, who was also unable to attend.

From Debbie Fink, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods:

I am sorry not to be here with you all today.

I knew Willem for over ten years through Sue and their involvement in the Palestine Solidarity movement. I have many fond memories of him. Sue & Willem treated me like family, particularly when I stayed with them in Hoorn in 2012 after their fifth wedding anniversary and in Clare, Suffolk, their other home, in 2015. They were very hospitable and took me on sightseeing tours in both places and we shared many tasty meals.

They also stayed at my place, one notable occasion being after we had disrupted the Israel Philarmonic Orchestra as part of the uninvited choir at the Royal Albert Hall, with Sue's parody of Ode to Joy- Ode to Boycott. We had each carried a letter in spelling 'Free Palestine'. Apparently Willem held his letter up the wrong way! We stayed up most of the night, watching Sue send off news releases, & went out for a hearty brunch the next day.
Willem on a demonstration in Amsterdam on 3rd January 2009 against the bombing of Gaza in Operation Cast Lead
Prior to this historical occasion, we recorded a longer version of 'Ode to Boycott' in my flat to be posted on YouTube: Willem singing the tenor line, Sue & Naomi sharing the alto line and myself on soprano.

This was not the only recording we made in my flat. A few years later, Willem and I recorded another parody of Sue's: 'End Apartheid', to the tune of 'Nessum Dorma' by Puccini which we had sung at a demonstration against UEFA, pleading that the finals would not be staged in Israel.

I also spent time with them in their house in Southall and on Boycott Israel Network conferences. At one of these, Willem wrote out the words to 'On the Street where you live' which he had played a recording of him singing, as I was planning to sing it to a man I liked! He called it 'The stalking song from My Fair Lady'.

Sue and Willem were a double act. I will miss his humour, his voice and contribution to the Palestine solidarity movement.
A fond farewell - from Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
I must apologise most humbly for not being with Sue and Willem’s other loving family and friends to say farewell to the most genial and supportive of comrades.

I’m pretty confident that Willem would have accepted my excuses – no doubt with a wink and an affectionate reprimand - if I were able to communicate with him about the reason for my absence. For some weeks now, a number of us have been hard at work on a major project to expose attempts to demonise us all simply for trying to call Israel to account for its injustices against Palestinians. Sod’s law has come into play, and this project is being launched publicly on this very day, March 27, in London. News of it should emerge while you are all gathered in Hoorn in Willem’s honour.

Not only did Willem devote himself to supporting Sue in her tireless campaigning efforts. He too put his shoulder to the wheel and applied his talents when called upon.
This was taken at the Boycott Israel Network Conference 2011 where the protest at the Prom against the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra was re-enacted
Most famously, he joined Sue and me and Deborah in performing Sue’s alternative wording for Beethoven’s great “Ode to Joy” as our highbrow contribution to protests at London’s celebrated Royal Albert Hall in September 2011. The occasion was a promenade concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra,acting as a cultural ambassador for the state of Israel. This attracted protests outside the hall and also within, where more than 30 of us deployed ourselves with military precision.
Sue’s “Ode to Joy” rang out from high up in the choir stalls early in the concert, followed by other interruptions later on,  taking the BBC’s radio broadcast off the air the first time in the 75 year history of the Proms and making headline news around the world.

Separately we recorded ourselves singing in three-part harmony - Debbie the soprano, Sue and I altos and Willem the tenor.

It made me smile while preparing this message to hear his voice and see his name on the YouTube clip that he uploaded proudly after the event.
This was taken at the Boycott Israel Network Conference 2011 where the protest at the Prom against the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra was re-enacted
He and Debbie performed together again at another protest, in June 2013, braving unseasonably wet and windy weather to sing another one of Sue’s parodies to the tune of NessumDorma, outside a Park Lane hotel where European football’s governing body UEFA was meeting. This time the issue was UEFA’s decision to hold its under-21 men’s football final in Israel, in defiance of the Palestinian boycott.
Willem and Debbie performing outside a Park Lane hotel where UEFA was meeting. 
It is desperately sad to have to say farewell to Willem long before he should have left us.

Ik ben ontzettend trots om hem als  vriend te kunnen noemen.

Veel liefs,


Below are a series of photos that were taken after the funeral in Willem's home town of Hoorn

Hoorn's harbour

Hoorn's harbour

statues sitting on harbour wall

Sue and her daughter Jazwinder
Dennis and Tony Greenstein 

Dennis from Cambridge PSC, Sue and Jaz