31 July 2009

Lies, Damned Lies and CST Statistics

An excellent article by Harry Feldman that analyses the scare-mongering tactics of the Community Security Trust, the Zionist vigilante squad set up by the Israeli Embassy and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

The main conclusion to be drawn from these limited statistics are:

i. The rarity of actual violent incidents against Jews compared to Black or Muslim people.

ii. That the increase in attacks coincided with the invasion of Gaza which the Zionists leaders of Britain's Jews claimed the Jewish community supported. The moral? The Jewish State's only function is to endanger British Jews.

Tony Greenstein

A Jewish fingernail

To the clamour of sensational headlines, Britain’s Community Security Trust (CST) has released its latest report, Antisemitic incidents, January – June 2009.

In case they are unfamiliar, according to the CST website,

Every year CST helps secure over 170 synagogues, 80 Jewish schools, 64 Jewish communal organisations and approximately 1000 communal events. CST also represents the Jewish community on a wide range of Police, governmental and policy-making bodies dealing with security and antisemitism. Indeed, the Police and government praise CST as a model of how a minority community should protect itself.

It seems that one of the threats from which they secure communal events is Jewish women distributing flyers.

Their other claim to fame is compiling data about antisemitic incidents. ‘Anti-Semitic attacks in Britain at record high’, wrote the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on 24 July. Similarly, Ha’aretz reported, ‘Watchdog: British anti-Semitism doubled after Gaza war’, and BBC News, ‘'Record rise' in UK anti-Semitism’.

The BBC’s Dominic Casciani opens his article, ‘Anti-Semitic attacks in the UK doubled in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2008, according to new figures.’ In reality, the CST reported a total of 609 incidents in the first half of 2009, compared to 276 over the first half of 2008. The 77 assaults recorded in the last six months are not nearly double the 45 they claimed for January to June 2008. Of course an attack need not be a literal assault, but Casciani couldn’t possibly be in any doubt about how his audience would interpret that first sentence, as he tacitly acknowledges a few lines down, ‘Most incidents were abusive behaviour, but there were also 77 violent acts.’

The CST’s media release itself notes that the perceived explosion of antisemitism was a direct response to Israel’s slaughter of the besieged population of the Gaza Strip.

The main reason for this record number of incidents was the unprecedented number of antisemitic incidents recorded in January and February, during and after the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza

There’s absolutely no reason anyone should give them the benefit of the doubt, but let’s assume they are not disingenuous when they claim, ‘Anti-Israel activity, which does not use antisemitic language or imagery and is directed at pro-Israel campaigners rather than Jewish people or institutions per se, is also not classified by CST as antisemitic.’ When the State of Israel claims to be the state of all Jews and to act on behalf of all Jews, when all the principal Jewish organisations in Britain applauded the massacre, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, ‘The voice of British Jewry since 1760’, organises a rally to celebrate it, it is understandable, if wrong and unforgivable, how some might form the impression that Jews were complicit.

As Casciani mentioned, only 77 of the 609 ‘attacks’ (less than 13%) actually involved any violence. Another 63 (10%) involved ‘Damage or desecration’, defined as

Any physical attack directed against Jewish property, which is not lifethreatening. This would include the daubing of antisemitic slogans or symbols (such as swastikas) on Jewish property, or damage caused to Jewish property, where it appears that the property has been specifically targeted because of its Jewish connection.

Most (64%) of the ‘incidents’ comprised ‘Abusive Behaviour’, which ‘includes a wide range of types of incident, including antisemitic graffiti on non-Jewish property, hate mail and verbal racist abuse.’ To be honest, I’m not convinced that the Jewish community is likely to flee in panic to the sanctuary of the West Bank at the sight of a sticker like this one allegedly distributed in Bournemouth: But taking the CST at their word again, let’s assume that there were 77 actual physical assaults on Jews motivated by antisemitism over that six month period. The CST’s 2008 report claims 44 assaults in the last six months of 2008, giving a total of 121 for financial year 2008–09.

According to Wikipedia, the total number of Jews in the UK is 350,000. That means that the rate of antisemitic assaults for FY 2008–09 was 34.6 per 100,000 Jews. In comparison, the Home Office site gives a figure of 960,187 cases of ‘Violence against the person’ in England and Wales during FY 2007-08, the most recent data available. The total population of England and Wales is 54,096,600. So the rate of assault in the population in general is 1774.95 per 100,000. Bearing in mind that the figures are not strictly comparable because the Home office figures cover the previous year and are more geographically restricted, they may still provide a rough indication of the scale of difference, and that means that any Briton, Jewish or not, is roughly 40 times as likely to be the victim of assault as a British Jew is to be the victim of an antisemitic assault. Looked at another way, 0.01% of all assaults are motivated by antisemitism.

But that scenario doesn’t really account for the alarming increase witnessed in 2009. So let’s assume that the level of violence for 2009 is exactly double the rate over the first six months, even though we know that the rate of ‘incidents’ plummeted in the six weeks after Israel withdrew its troops in January and has now plateaued at around 50 per month, as the graph shows. On that assumption, the antisemitic assault rate is 44 assaults per 100,000, as compared to 1775 total assaults per 100,000.

Indeed, even ‘Damage or desecration’, like this swastika daubed outside a synagogue in Manchester, is not a great threat to Jewish life or community. Still, compared to the ‘Criminal damage’ rate for England and Wales in 2007–08 of 1915 per 100,000, the antisemitic ‘Damage or desecration’ rate for 2008–09 is 30 per 100,000. Antisemitic “damage or desecration’ turns out to be equivalent to about 0.010% of the 1,036,123 cases of Criminal damage. In the implausible scenario where the observed increase persists through 2009, the Damage or desecration rate would be 36 per 100,000, or 0.012% of Criminal damage.

One is doubtless tempted to compare the frequency of antisemitic incidents with analogous racist incidents targeting some other oppressed minority in Britain, say Muslims. According to a May 2002 BBC article,

Muslim groups have agreed with a report by the EU race watchdog that anti-Islamic feeling has "detonated" in the UK since 11 September.

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) said there had been a big rise in attacks - including physical assaults - on Muslims in Britain since the US terror attacks.

That would be the same EUMC that promulgated the execrable ‘Working definition’ of antisemitism that has been such a big hit with the US State Department, among others. They have a new name – the Fundamental Rights Agency and the link from the BBC site to the EUMC report is broken, nor can I find either that report, or indeed the ‘Working definition’, on the FRA site. (For reference, you can still find the ‘Working definition’ on the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism site.)

There is an EUMC report, apparently from 2003, National Analytical Study on Racist Violence and Crime, but I’m sceptical that it is the one described in the article. It devotes a whole page to ‘New antisemitism’, including a table lifted from an earlier CST report, but only one paragraph to Islamophobia. Two graphs at the back chart the risk (Chart 2) and rate (Chart 3) of victimisation by ‘racially motivated incidents’ (RMIs) for four groups – White, Black, Indian, and Pakistani/Bangladeshi – in 1993, 1995, and 1999. They are not terribly informative, disaggregate neither Jews nor Muslims, and cover a period irrelevant to the topic of post 9/11 anti Muslim RMIs, much less to the explosion of antisemitism in the first half of 2009. For what it’s worth, however, they seem to show a pattern of RMIs targeting Pakistanis and Bangladeshis at a much higher rate than Blacks or Indians.

On visiting the sites of the Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Society of Britain, linked to from the article, there doesn’t appear to be a compilation of data. While the Islamic Human Rights Commission apparently collects incident reports, I haven’t managed to find evidence on their site that they publish the data, either.

In any case, to compare antisemitic incidents with anything else would of course itself be antisemitic. After all, we know how many Arabs a Jewish fingernail is worth.

Harry Feldman

28 July 2009

Banning Comparisons between Nazism and Zionism and Israel - Criminalising Free Speech

I first learnt of the proposal to make it a criminal offence to compare either Jews, Israel or Zionism to Nazis or Nazism when reading the house journal of Britain’s Jewish Establishment. Calling Jews 'Nazis' may be criminalised, [Jewish Chronicle, 16.7.09.] . At first I dismissed it as another attempt by the inarticulate to ban arguments they find difficulty dealing with.

Realising however that it was unlikely that April fool jokes were still being practised in July, I contemplated just some of the cases which could have arisen had this law been in existence.

For example when Israel’s High Court, in the Ka’adan case, ruled that Arabs were entitled to buy and rent apartments on the 93% of State and ‘Jewish’ land controlled by the Israeli Lands Authority/Jewish National Fund, Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, voted to reverse this ruling by a massive majority of 65.

The reaction of Jonathan Artzi, a well known Israeli pacifist and conscientious objector, was to write a letter (23.7.07.) to all 120 MKs offering to help them in their endeavours. He explained that:

‘On May 4th 1939 a law was implemented, forbidding a certain minority in certain country from purchasing and leasing the majority`s lands in that country. Instead of rewriting this law now, why don`t you translate and implement that law?’
It is fortunate that Jonathan Artzi doesn’t live in New Labour's Britain. In Israel, comparisons between the Nazis and one’s enemy are de rigeur.

When the Rabbi Meir Kahane, was first elected to Israel’s Knesset as the MK for Kach, the distinguished philosopher and historian Emil Fackenheim, himself a refugee from Nazism, compared Kahane’s methods to that of the Nazis during the Weimar Republic. [Sydney Morning Herald 27.8.84.] Rabbi Meir Kahane had, among other things, called for sexual relations between Arab males and Jewish females to be made a criminal offence punishable by five years imprisonment. Although sexual relations between Arabs and Jews are not criminalised in Israel today, mixed partnerships are extremely rare and subject to overwhelming public and social disapproval. Again it would ironic were a law to be passed to criminalise a holocaust survivor for calling a Jew a Nazi!

When Sir Gerald Kaufmann, a Jewish MP who used to be a stalwart of Labour Friends of Israel, compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to the murder of his grandmother in Poland by the Nazis, was he too being anti-Semitic?

The Guardian’s Comment is Free, whose editorial policy has already anticipated the proposed new law, was therefore in something of a quandary. Unable to host a debate over the rights and wrongs of comparing Zionism to Nazism, it decided instead to stage an artificial debate over whether it is right to criminalise a political comparison and critique.

Antony Lerman was therefore commissioned to write an article, Should we ban 'Nazi analogies? which took as its starting point the assumption that ‘Using Nazi analogies to criticise Israel and Zionism is offensive’. The only question up for debate was therefore ‘should it be banned?’ This is of course entirely consistent with the liberal idea of debate - agreement over substance and disagreement over tactics.

Antony Lerman, one of the dissident intellectuals of the Jewish Establishment, has written some excellent articles on the question of anti-Semitism, in particular refuting the idea that we are witnessing a ‘new anti-Semitism’ reminiscent of the ‘old anti-Semitism’ of the 1930’s. For example in an article Sense on anti-Semitism he argued that
‘The anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism argument drains the word anti-Semitism of any useful meaning. For it means that to be an anti-Semite, it is sufficient to hold any view ranging from criticism of the policies of the current Israeli government to denial that Israel has a right to exist as a state, without having to subscribe to any of those things which historians have traditionally regarded as making up an anti-Semitic world view: hatred of Jews per se, belief in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, belief that Jews generated communism and control capitalism, belief that Jews are racially inferior and so on. Moreover, while theoretically allowing that criticism of Israeli government policies is legitimate, in practice it virtually proscribes any such thing.’
In the present debate Lerman is caught on the horns of a dilemma. He accepts that ‘there should be no place for Nazi analogies in public debate,’ and that "Most people would accept that it's completely unacceptable to call a Jewish person a Nazi." yet he realises that the motivation for these proposals comes from those who have other motives, namely labelling all Israel’s critics as anti-Semitic.

The proposals for criminalising the equation between Zionism and Nazism comes from a Report ‘Understanding and Addressing the "Nazi Card": Intervening Against Anti-Semitic Discourse’. The work of researchers, Paul Iganski and Abe Sweiry, it was published by the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism’ (EISCA), which is chaired by New Labour MP and establishment toady Dennis MacShane, who also chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in the UK.

Both the ‘Inquiry’ and the Report take as their starting point the "Working Definition of Antisemitism" produced by the former European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). As Lerman notes, this definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ ‘is rapidly becoming the new orthodoxy.’ It is a conscious attempt to blur and confuse the differences between anti-Zionist and anti-Semitism and is a product of the normal muddle-headed and contradictory logic one expects of academics chasing their own tails.

It is worth though taking a closer look at this definition. Examples of how ‘anti-Semitism’ manifests itself include:

  1. 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.

  2. Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

  3. Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

  4. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and

  5. Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Now no one denies that the points three and five, especially the former, are examples of anti-Semitism. But the rest of this dogs dinner are clearly aimed at anti-Zionist criticism of Israel. In their pious ignorance, Iganski, Sweiry and all the other ‘anti-racist’ supporters of imperialism, never once stop to consider that the claim that there is one Jewish people, whose right to self-determination is being denied, is itself the foundation stone of anti-Semitic ideology!

Now the definition of a nation, which is what ‘Jewish people’ means, is normally understood to mean a common language, economy and territory. Otherwise such a ‘people’ is nothing more than a metaphysical and mystical entity, such as the Aryan race. Before the term 'race' was in vogue it was common for Zionists e.g. Moses Hess, Max Nordau, to refer to the 'Jewish race.'

Jews worldwide speak many different languages, live in and are citizens of numerous countries, and share the common fate of the non-Jews they live with. Yet in order for there to be a world-wide Jewish conspiracy there must be a single world-wide Jewish people, bound together by ties that are political and racial not religious. Indeed this was precisely the criticism that the overwhelming majority of East European Jewry had of Zionism when it first arose. It was validating the very tenets of anti-Semitism.

As Theodor Fritsch, a virulent anti-Semite and author of the Anti-Semitic Catechism explained:

'We still consider: the Zionists as the most honest of Jews... we therefore‘demand together with the Zionists ‘a clean separation’ and the settlement of the Hebrews in a special Jews dominion...' [Der Hammer (Leipzig) January 1922]

Nazi ideologue and Minister for the Eastern Territories, Alfred Rosenberg, who was hanged at Nuremberg in 1946, ‘intended to use Zionism as legal justification for depriving German Jews of their civil rights.’ [Francis Nicosia, The Third Reich and the Palestine Question, p.25, 1985, University of Texas Press].

It is difficult to know what double standards are expected of Israel that weren’t also expected of Apartheid South Africa. Drawing comparisons of ‘contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ is also apparently anti-Semitic. Leaving aside the question as to whether historical analogies are a fit subject for criminalisation in a free society, as it is normally only in a police state that there is an 'authorised' version of history, the courts and parliament are no better able to resolve historical debates and controversies than any other body. If one widens the question, as it would have to be, is it seriously suggested that to compare the actions of the Americans in Iraq or Vietnam to the Nazis is anti-Semitic? If not why then is Israel is excepted?

The irony of all this is that the party that has most in common with fascism and the Nazis, the British National Party, is also Britain’s most pro-Zionist party. So we have the absurd situation whereby the one group that will not be affected by the proposals of a report into anti-Semitism is Britain’s main repository for anti-Semites and neo-Nazis!!

As for holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel, then there is little doubt that this is anti-Semitic. It is somewhat unfortunate that the people primarily responsible for this are the leaders of Zionism, such as Britain’s Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks. At a rally to support Israel’s barbarous attack on Lebanon in 2006, Sacks exclaimed "Israel, you make us proud."

It is in the context of this mixture of hypocrisy and mendacity that the proposals of EISCA must be understood. Their clear and obvious purpose is to criminalise criticism of Zionism and Israel under the guise of ‘anti-Semitism’. What is clear is that comparisons between Israel, the pampered child of western imperialism, and the Nazi regime, have begun to be felt. Gone are the days when you could get by labelling the Palestinians as Nazis. The first and obvious reaction of people to the war crimes committed in Gaza was to ask how Jewish people could condone such atrocities in view of their own history. This was an understandable and perfectly natural reaction, the criminal law notwithstanding.

But the question which Lerman took for granted, namely are comparisons between Nazism and Zionism and Israel valid, is not one that has been addressed. Both Lenni Brenner, in his book Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, and myself in articles such as ‘Holocaust Analogies: Repaying the Mortgage’ have drawn attention to the undeniable fact that the Zionist leaders in the second world war both collaborated with the Nazis and undermined rescue attempts that were not directed at Palestine. Indeed the leaders of the terrorist Stern Gang/LEHI, which included Yitzhak Shamir, who became Prime Minister of Israel in 1984, actually proposed a military alliance with the Nazis! As the late Israel Shahak, a Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as well as being a childhood survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and Belsen-Bergen, noted:

‘LEHI showed its uniqueness in its very earliest political strategy, namely in its persistent search for an alliance with Nazi Germany throughout 1940-41.’

It is therefore worth making a few observations. Firstly the only reason for not comparing the crimes of the Nazi regime with that of Israel is if the former is beyond history. In particular, this depends on whether the holocaust was such a unique event that comparisons between it and any other act of genocide are impossible and therefore illegitimate. But is it seriously argued that comparisons between say the slave trade, during which millions of Africans died, or the murder of up to 10 million people in the Belgian Congo, and the Nazis are anti-semitic? A comparison is not the same thing as saying two phenomenon are the same or equal but that there are certain similarities. It would seem obvious that all acts of genocide are both unique in themselves and share similarities with other horrendous war crimes.

Indeed if the Nazi holocaust is to serve any useful purpose it is as a reminder of the dangers of racism and where it can, in extremis, lead. The 12 years of the Nazi dictatorship, between 1933 and 1945, can be broken into 3 periods.

  1. There was the period before the war, 1933-39, when restrictions on Jews became ever more severe as the Jews became increasingly isolated and economically marginalised. During those years physical attacks on Jews were the exception rather than the rule and were generally deprecated as undermining order and stability. The primary exception of course being Kristalnacht on November 9-10 1938.

  2. The second period was that of 1939-1941 prior to the setting up of the extermination camps and the onset of the Final Solution. This was a period of the ‘euthenasia’ or ‘mercy killings’ when the first people to be killed by poisonous carbon monoxide gas were physically and mentally handicapped Germans in the sanitoria of Germany itself. This wa the preparatory period and it is noteworthy that the very gas vans which murdered 'inferior' German racial types were then used in Poland to murder Jews.

  3. The third period of the Final Solution began with Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the actions of the killing squads, Einsatzgruppen, and the Order Police, who followed in the wake of the Wehrmacht, slaughtering at least one million Jews (and thousands of communists) from the Baltic republics down to Southern Ukraine and the Crimea.

To say that comparisons between the first two periods of Nazi rule should not be made is to argue for Jewish exceptionalism. That racism against Jews is somehow worse than that against any other people. That pogroms against and the murder of Jews stands apart from that directed against any other people.

The fact is that the reinterpretation of the Talmud by the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel does indeed replicate the Nazi contempt and hatred for the untermenschen (lower races). For example Lubavitch Rabbi Manis Friedman recently declared that

"The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle)," [Haaretz 9.6.09.]

When Israeli soldiers invaded Gaza this year they were "spiritually elevated" and "morally empowered" by Israel's military rabbis who urged them to show no mercy to the civilian population, but to treat them like the Philistines and other heathens, whose men, women and children, yea even women with suckling babes, were put to the sword.

"When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers. This is terribly immoral. These are not games at the amusement park where sportsmanship teaches one to make concessions. This is a war on murderers. 'A la guerre comme a la guerre.' IDF rabbinate publication during Gaza war: We will show no mercy on the cruel

There is no doubt that the Nazi treatment of the Jews of Germany as strangers in their own land has mirrored that of the Palestinians. When thousands of religious settlers held a demonstration through the Arab quarter of Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day on June 2nd 2008, their main slogan was Mavet La`Aravim` or`Death to Arabs`. The comparison between the cries of pogromists in Russia in the early years of the last century and the mobs in Israel who cry out for the elimination of Israel’s Arabs is obvious. The examples of this racist abuse and in particular the Nazi-like graffitti that Israel’s soldiers left in their way in Gaza, which talked about the ‘annihilation’ of the Palestinians, are legion.

What makes this ‘debate’ so absurd, is that it is in Israel itself that such comparisons are regularly made. When 46 Palestinians in the village Kfar Quassem were murdered in cold blood as they were returning from their fields, just prior to the Suez War, as unknown to them a curfew had been imposed, Rabbi Benyamin wrote that ‘‘We must demand of the entire nation a sense of shame and humiliation. That soon we will be like Nazis and the perpetrators of pogroms,".

Likewise, after the massacres and expulsions of the 1947-9 war Aharon Zisling, later Minister of Agriculture for the Zionist Mapam party said at a cabinet meeting that

‘I have not always agreed when the term Nazi was applied to the British. I would not want to use that expression with regard to them, even though they committed Nazi acts. But Nazi acts have been committed by Jews as well, and I am deeply shocked.’ [Tom Segev, the 7th Million, 300-1]

Those who decry any comparison between the actions of the Nazi and Israeli states are effectively saying that Israel should be judged by different standards from the rest of the world and previous settler-colonial states in particular. This is especially the case since the apologists for Zionism and the Israeli state have consistently used the holocaust as the justification for the existence and practices of Israel. What is therefore being said is that it is fine for Zionism’s propagandists to justify their deeds by reference to the holocaust, but that it is not acceptable for Palestinians to refer to that same history as a reason why Israel should not be indulging in war crimes and apartheid.

This is the kind of logic that leads world leaders and their tame supporters in the press to quietly ignore the fact that Israel earlier this year achieved some kind of historic milestone. An open fascist, Avigdor Lieberman, was appointed as Israel’s Foreign Minister. When Jorg Haider, leader of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party , entered government in 2000, they were subject to a boycott by European leaders, including Prince Charles. Contrast this with the reception that Lieberman has received from European and American leaders.

Yet Jorg Haider was a pale shadow when compared to Lieberman. He didn’t propose executing Jews who disagreed with him or drowing thousands of Jewish prisoners in the sea. Yet this is exactly what Lieberman is on record as saying about Palestinian prisoners and Israeli Arabs who talk to Hamas. Rather than boycotting him, world leaders have been falling over themselves to meet the thug from Molvova.

Of course the idea that there is a comparison to be made between the actions of Israel and the Nazis is shocking, or should be, to someone who is Jewish. That is the whole point. To shock Israel’s devoted and unquestioning supporters. As every anti-Zionist is well aware, Zionist attacks on supporters of the Palestinians as anti-Semitic are monotonously regular. Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism is a refrain one constantly hears, as if the repetition of a lie makes it true. It is for that if no other reason, that comparisons between the practice of the Israeli state and Nazism are valid.

But a word of caution. It is understandable when a Palestinian in the wake of the Gaza attack compares Israel’s actions to that of the Nazis. But that doesn’t therefore mean that a simple equation can be drawn between Israel’s attack, however brutal, and that of the planned and deliberate extermination of millions of human beings. Likewise it is to be welcomed when Palestinians identify their plight with that of the Jews of Warsaw. That is an anti-racist comparison. The media harlots who repeat every last word of Zionist hasbara would no doubt prefer that the Palestinians identified with anti-Semites instead of Jews. That would then ‘prove’ that Israel’s battle is against anti-semitism.

During the Gaza war I and many others equated the siege of Gaza to that of the Warsaw Ghetto. Did we therefore mean that Israel was planning to exterminate the Palestinians of Gaza in the same way as the half-million Jews of the Ghetto were murdered in Treblinka? Of course not.

But in laying siege to Gaza for over two years, in using the weapon of hunger in their battle against a civilian population and seeking to deprive it of all but the most limited amounts of food, in deliberately attacking civilian installations with phosphorous bombs, in razing civilian houses to the ground and in its mass murder of Gaza’s children, Israel’s actions did resemble that of the Nazis in certain crucial respects.

Nor are such comparisons to be confined to Gaza. When the District Governor of the Galilee Israel Koenig issued "The Koenig Memorandum" in 1976 calling for the Judaification of the Galilee and that "We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." how is that different from Aryanisation or deJewification?

When a prominent Zionist rabbi ruled that according to the Halacha (Jewish religious law), a non-Jew cannot serve as a Knesset member, even if the public agrees to it, because "This is a Jewish state and Jews are the ones leading the Jewish state." why is that any different from The Reich Citizenship Law passed by the Reichstag in Nuremberg 1935? The latter law made a distinction between German nationals and citizens. Is not this the same difference that exists in Israel whereby Arabs are citizens of Israel but not nationals?

And if one compares the Zionist settlers of Hebron, who daub ‘Arabs to the gas chambers’ on the walls of the old city, to Nazis, is one also being anti-Semitic?

To ask these questions is, of course, to answer them. ‘Of course not’ is the most obvious retort. If one’s sole purpose is to humiliate and ridicule someone who is Jewish by comparing them to Nazis then there is no doubt that that is anti-Semitic, as well as grossly offensive. But if one compares the actions of the Israeli military or state to that of the Nazis, then the first question is ‘why is it anti-Semitic’. Bearing in mind that Israeli soldiers themselves have all too often seen themselves in that role. Indeed not so many years ago, Israeli soldiers in the Golani Brigade consciously called themselves the ‘Mengele Squad’. [Al HaMishmar 24 July 1989, Ha'Aretz 27 July 1989

And sad to say, the level of anti-Arab racism as measured by popular opinion in Israel, is far higher than anti-Jewish hatred was in Nazi Germany. As Ian Kershaw showed in Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich most Germans ‘despite the efforts of the Nazis, continued to maintain social relations with the members of the Bavarian Jewish community.’ [Marrus, Michael The Holocaust in History, Toronto: KeyPorter, 2000 page 90].

Yet in Israel anti-Arab racism predominates throughout the Jewish population. Over half Israeli Jews believes the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason and over 75 percent do not approve of apartment buildings being shared between Arabs and Jews. 60% would not allow an Arab to visit their home and about 40% agreed that "Arabs should have their right to vote for Knesset revoked". Over half agreed that Israel should encourage its Arab citizens to immigrate from the country and would not want to work under the direct management of an Arab. 55 % said "Arabs and Jews should be separated at entertainment sites". When asked what they thought of Arab culture, over 37% replied, "The Arab culture is inferior." Indeed a total of 62% of Israelis want the government to encourage local Arabs to leave the country, according to the 2006 democracy index by the Israel Democracy Institute.

It would be churlish not to give credit where credit is due. The spiritual author of these proposals from EISCA to criminalise criticism of Israel, which is what the proposals are really about, is one Dennis MacShane. MacShane holds himself out as an authority on anti-Semitism. He’s even written an error-ridden book, ‘Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism’ about it. Yet, and here’s a strange thing. MacShane has absolutely no record when it comes to opposing fascism and racism in Britain. I’m not aware of him playing any significant part in the anti-fascist movement in Britain from the 1970’s onwards when the National Front first began to grow and pose a threat to Black and Jewish people.

Nor has be been prominent or visible in the campaign against the BNP today. As a signed up member of New Labour MacShane is as about right-wing as they get. Anti-racism isn’t and never has been part of his agenda. There is not even one example of MacShane rebelling against New Labours racist and poisonous attacks on asylum seekers. Nor did he speak out when Gypsies were pilloried by New Labour in the Czech Republic and an immigration desk was actually set up at Prague’s airport (before the House of Lords ruled its operation an act of racial discrimination). This caused the Chair of the American Helsinki Committee to recall that ‘it was 47 years to the day when the Nazis gassed 2,897 "gypsy" women, children and men at Auschwitz.’

For all his rhetoric about anti-semitism, MacShane has behaved exactly like his predecessors in the Foreign Office during the war who consistently blocked and vetoed any attempt to admit Jews from Germany into Britain. When MacShane says he is a devoted opponent of ‘anti-Semitism’ it is important to understand that what he means by anti-Semitism is not traditional Jew hatred and discrimination against Jews, but criticism of Israel. Because MacShane is if nothing else an arch-imperialist. Before being sacked by Brown in 2005, he was a junior Foreign Office minister, with special responsibility for Latin America. In this capacity he welcomed the CIA coup that temporarily overthrew Hugo Ch├ívez of Venezuela by denouncing the latter as "a ranting, populist demagogue" (Hugh O'Shaughnessy, March 12 2007), likening him to Mussolini.

Isabel Hilton Cheering on democracy's overthrow wrote that

‘Mr MacShane committed the undiplomatic error of describing Chavez as a "ranting demagogue". Of course, when he let slip those unfortunate comments, Mr MacShane thought that Hugo Chavez was a leftwing ex-president of a country with important mineral reserves in which the US takes a strong interest…. Odd, though, that Friday's coup, a procedure not normally considered an aid to democratic practice, did not attract the condemnation it deserved. Chavez, after all, has twice been elected president by the largest margins in Venezuela's history.’

All this makes the remarks by the Editor of Comment is Free, Matthew Seaton, even more strange. As Mark Elf wrote: ‘In the comments someone referred to Denis MacShane as Denis the Menace and Matt Seaton intervened to describe MacShane as a "sound democrat"…. The strange thing is that there are at least two responses to Seaton's bizarre but unsurprising intervention for a Zionist but his intervention seems to have disappeared. Like the great Dr Hirsh, our Mr Seaton seems to have censored himself for a change!'

Describing MacShane as a democrat is akin to describing the Marquess of Queensbury as a pioneer of gay rights. Bizarre isn’t quite the right word. It would seem that Mr Seaton would be best employed returning to his old job as Guardian bicycling correspondent. At least he would know then what he was talking about!

25 July 2009

Israel Establishes Undercover Group of Paid Internet Propagandists

The Zionist state has learnt well from the collapse of its former friend, Apartheid South Africa. Lose the propaganda battle and sooner or later you will lose the actual battle.Zionism, as a wholly owned and subsidised gendarme of the United States knows full well that it must retain public support. Hence the millions of dollars that go into everything from keeping tabs on NGOs, harassing academics and students who dissent, to trying to control and shape the Internet. It is well-known that Israeli agents via groups like Camera seek to doctor and tailor the content of sites like Wikipedia. Not content with banning Israeli Arabs from commemorating the Nakba, Zionism seeks to control all debate in which it has a stake.

The following article is from Jonathan Cook, who is based in Arab Israel's largest town, Nazareth.

Tony Greenstein

Web Warfare Team Unveiled

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

July 22, 2009 The passionate support for Israel expressed on talkback sections of websites, internet chat forums, blogs, Twitter and Facebook may not be all that it seems.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is reported to be establishing a special undercover team of paid workers whose job it will be to surf the internet 24 hours a day spreading positive news about Israel.

Internet-savvy Israeli youngsters, mainly recent graduates and demobilized soldiers with language skills, are being recruited to pose as ordinary surfers while they provide the government’s line on the Middle East conflict.

“To all intents and purposes the internet is a theatre in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must be active in that theatre, otherwise we will lose,” said Ilan Shturman, who is responsible for the project.

The existence of an “internet warfare team” came to light when it was included in this year’s Foreign Ministry budget. About 150,000 US dollars have been set aside for the first stage of development, with increased funding expected next year.

The team will fall under the authority of a large department already dealing with what Israelis term hasbara, officially translated as “public explanation” but more usually meaning propaganda. That includes not only government public relations work but more secretive dealings the ministry has with a battery of private organizations and initiatives that promote Israel’s image in print, on TV and online.

In an interview this month with the Calcalist, an Israeli business newspaper, Mr Shturman, the deputy director of the ministry’s hasbara department, admitted his team would be working undercover.

“Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the hasbara department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis,” he said. “They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”

Rona Kuperboim, a columnist for Ynet, Israel’s most popular news website, denounced the initiative, saying it indicated that Israel had become a “thought-police state”.

She added that “good PR cannot make the reality in the occupied territories prettier. Children are being killed, homes are being bombed, and families are starved.”

Her column was greeted by several talkbackers asking how they could apply for a job with the Foreign Ministry’s team.

The project is a formalization of public relations practices the ministry developed specifically for Israel’s assault on Gaza in December and January.

“During Operation Cast Lead we appealed to Jewish communities abroad and with their help we recruited a few thousand volunteers, who were joined by Israeli volunteers,” Mr Shturman said.

“We gave them background material and hasbara material, and we sent them to represent the Israeli point of view on news websites and in polls on the internet.”

The Israeli army also had one of the most popular sites on the video-sharing site YouTube and regularly uploaded clips, although it was criticized by human rights groups for misleading viewers about what was shown in its footage.

Mr Shturman said that during the war the ministry had concentrated its activities on European websites where audiences were more hostile to Israeli policy. High on its list of target sites for the new project would be the BBC News website and Arabic websites, he added.

Elon Gilad, who heads the internet team, told Calcalist that many people had contacted the ministry offering their services during the Gaza attack. “People just asked for information, and afterwards we saw that the information was distributed all over the internet.”

He suggested that there had been widespread government cooperation, with the ministry of absorption handing over contact details for hundreds of recent immigrants to Israel, who wrote pro-Israel material for websites in their native languages.

The new team is expected to increase the ministry’s close coordination with a private advocacy group, giyus.org (Give Israel Your United Support). About 50,000 activists are reported to have downloaded a programme called Megaphone that sends an alert to their computers when an article critical of Israel is published. They are then supposed to bombard the site with comments supporting Israel.

Nasser Rego of Ilam, a group based in Nazareth that monitors the Israeli media, said Arab organizations in Israel were among those regularly targeted by hasbara groups for “character assassination”. He was concerned the new team would try to make such work appear more professional and convincing.

“If these people are misrepresenting who they are, we can guess they won’t worry too much about misrepresenting the groups and individuals they write about. Their aim, it’s clear, will be to discredit those who stand for human rights and justice for the Palestinians.”

When The National called the Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, a spokesman, denied the existence of the internet team, though he admitted officials were stepping up exploitation of new media.

He declined to say which comments by Mr Shturman or Mr Gilad had been misrepresented by the Hebrew-language media, and said the ministry would not be taking any action over the reports.

Israel has developed an increasingly sophisticated approach to new media since it launched a “Brand Israel” campaign in 2005.

Market research persuaded officials that Israel should play up good news about business success, and scientific and medical breakthroughs involving Israelis.

Mr Shturman said his staff would seek to use websites to improve “Israel’s image as a developed state that contributes to the quality of the environment and to humanity”.

David Saranga, head of public relations at Israel’s consulate-general in New York, which has been leading the push for more upbeat messages about Israel, argued last week that Israel was at a disadvantage against pro-Palestinian advocacy.

“Unlike the Muslim world, which has hundreds of millions of supporters who have adopted the Palestinian narrative in order to slam Israel, the Jewish world numbers only 13 million,” he wrote in Ynet.

Israel has become particularly concerned that support is ebbing among the younger generations in Europe and the United States.

In 2007 it emerged that the Foreign Ministry was behind a photo-shoot published in Maxim, a popular US men’s magazine, in which female Israeli soldiers posed in swimsuits.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi. The version on this website is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.

22 July 2009

European Court of Human Rights Rules Against Boycott

Below is a post from Scottish PSC. It isn't quite correct as the ECHR can't make something legal or illegal but it has persuasive powers. The ruling is also quite specific to France and French law.

However the ruling is still quite ominous and would have meant that a Boycott of South Africa and Nazi Germany were also discriminatory and illegal!! In other words, you can be convicted of racial hatred for opposing racists!!

Tony Greenstein

European Court rules boycott of Israel illegal
Boycott is 'discriminatory and punishable' - EU Court judges
'interference with...freedom of expression needed to protect the rights of Israeli producers.' - Jerusalem Post
'First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win' - Gandhi

The European Court of Human Rights has moved to criminalise support for Palestinian human rights. The EU has consistently rewarded an Israel sinking ever deeper into crime, with open ethnic cleansers as Foreign Minister and Prime Minister. Now the judiciary joins the executive in aligning with Israel and criminalising those who support the call from Palestine for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against the bloody violence of the Israeli state. Hardly suprising when the British Government is involved in an equally bloody military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Birds of a blood-stained feather flock together.

This ruling is a response to the growing support for BDS following Israel's most recent massacres in Gaza in January. It criminalises the entire Scottish, Irish and South African trade union movements.

It might soon become illegal to stand up to the violence of Israel with the non-violent weapon of boycott. The courts, then, will leave supporters of Palestine with no choice but to challenge these laws in every way possible, including civil disobedience and non-violent direct action. This ruling is designed to protect those carrying out the ethnic cleansing of Palestine: according to the Jerusalem Post (see below), the European court of Human Rights 'ruled that interference with...freedom of expression was needed to protect the rights of Israeli producers.' Producing goods on ethnically cleansed land while working to destroy Palestinian producers.

The growing BDS movement will not be deterred by this latest ruling. After all, the British Government defied the ICJ (International Court of Justice) 2004 ruling that Israel's apartheid Wall is illegal and must come down. The people of Gaza are being crushed by an open alliance of Israel, the US, the EU and the Arab regimes. They have no allies but a slowly awakening world civil society. They have paid many times over in mountains of corpses for their refusal to accept Israeli/Western plans for them to disappear. Compared to their heroism and suffering, the cost of standing up for human rights against the European Court of Human Rights remains very modest. Here in Scotland, we do not face Israeli death squads, the murder of our children, bulldozed homes, burning farms, prison walls, the kidnapping of our finest sons and daughters into dungeons, routine torture, expulsion or daily humiliation by a murderous soldiery.

Five Scottish PSC members will appear in court on Friday August 7 charged with 'racially aggravated' crime for disrupting a musical performance by official 'Cultural Ambassadors' of Israel when they came to Scotland last year. The charges are no more absurd than the defence of 'Israeli producers' by the European Court of Human Rights while Gaza lives with Israeli-induced hunger and misery. The five are privileged to stand alongside so many others fighting for justice, and with the people of Palestine whose resistance to Zionist crime has inspired the world, but has long been criminalised by Israel's Western allies.

We invite you to come to the Court on Chambers St, Edinburgh at 9.15am on Friday 7 August to show your:

- solidarity with Palestine
- support for the boycott of Israel
- opposition to 'interference with freedom of expression to protect Israeli producers'

European court: Israel boycotts are unlawful discrimination
Israel finally won one last week in an international human rights court.

On Thursday, the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights upheld a French ruling that it was illegal and discriminatory to boycott Israeli goods, and that making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli goods did not constitute a violation of one's freedom of expression.

The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, has some 47 member states and is independent of the European Union. The court is made up of one judge from each member state, and the rulings of the court carry moral weight throughout Europe.

On Thursday the court ruled by a vote of 6-1 that the French court did not violate the freedom of expression of the Communist mayor of the small French town of Seclin, Jean-Claude Fernand Willem, who in October 2002 announced at a town hall meeting that he intended to call on the municipality to boycott Israeli products.

Jews in the region filed a complaint with the public prosecutor, who decided to prosecute Willem for "provoking discrimination on national, racial and religious grounds." Willem was first acquitted by the Lille Criminal Court, but that decision was overturned on appeal in September 2003 and he was fined €1,000.

His appeal to a higher French court was unsuccessful, and as a result he petitioned the European Court of Human rights in March 2005, saying his call for a boycott of Israeli products was part of a legitimate political debate, and that his freedom of expression had been violated.

The court, made up of judges from Denmark, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Macedonia and the Czech Republic .

According to a statement issued by the court on Thursday, the court held the view that Willem was not convicted for his political opinions, "but for inciting the commission of a discriminatory, and therefore punishable, act. The Court further noted that, under French law, the applicant was not entitled to take the place of the governmental authorities by declaring an embargo on products from a foreign country, and moreover that the penalty imposed on him had been relatively moderate."

The one dissenting opinion was written by the Czech judge.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor hailed the ruling Sunday, saying it provided important ammunition for those challenging on legal grounds calls frequently heard in Europe for a boycott of Israeli products, as well as calls for a boycott of Israeli academia.

"It is now clear that in every country in Europe there is a precedent for calling boycotts of Israeli goods a violation of the law," Palmor said. "This is an important precedent, one that says very clearly that boycott calls are discriminatory. We hope this will help us push back against all the calls for boycotts of Israeli goods."

18 July 2009

Feeling the Hate in Tel Aviv - 'Fuck Obama'

A remarkable video of middle-class Israeli youth, in the 'liberal' city of Tel Aviv by Max Blumenthall was censored by U-Tube. Free speech has its limits when it comes to Israel and telling it how it is. Best to pretend Israel is just another democracy rather than a country where chauvinism and racism are attributes, according to every opinion poll now taken, of the majority of Israeli Jews.

Below is the Video and its sequel and an article describing his experiences by Max Blumenthall.

Tony Greenstein

June 06, 2009
Censored by the Huffington Post and Imprisoned By The Past: Why I Made 'Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem'
By Max Blumenthal

On Wednesday, I walked around central Jerusalem with my friend, Joseph Dana, an Israel peace activist who has lived in the country for three years. We interviewed young people on camera about the speech President Barack Obama planned to deliver to the Muslim world the following day in Cairo. Though our questions were not provocative at all – we simply asked, “What do you think of Obama’s speech” – the responses our interview subjects offered comprised some of the most shocking comments I have ever recorded on camera. They were racist, hateful, and incredibly ignorant, and were mostly couched within a Zionist context – “this is our land, Obama!” The following day, we edited an hour of interviews into a 3:30 minute video package and released it on Mondoweiss and on the Huffington Post.

Within a few hours, I received an email from a Huffington Post administrator informing me he had scrubbed my video from the site. “I don't see that it has any real news value,” the administrator told me. “For me it only proves that one can find drunk people willing to say just about anything. Especially drunk, moronic people.” For the first time, the premier clearinghouse for online news and opinions had suppressed one of my posts.

Other bloggers and commenters criticized the video on similar grounds. Their complaints generally went like this: In order to advance an agenda, Max Blumenthal exploited the wild remarks of a bunch of drunk Jewish frat-boys innocently showing off in front of their friends. The footage contained in his video in no way reflects what the Israeli public thinks. If Max went to a bar in any college town in the United States he would find the same level of ignorance and racism. Ron Kampeas at the JTA has written that I need “to grow up and put [my talents] to good use.” (While Kampeas praised some of my other video reports exposing right-wing Christians, this latest video revealing the extremism of some Israeli and American Jews seemed to hit too close to home.)

The criticism of my video raised an interesting journalistic issue: Is reporting any less credible when interview subjects are drinking alcohol? Of course not. Journalists interview people at bars all the time, especially in broadcast packages. Beer does not, to my knowledge, contain a special drug that immediately infects drinkers with white supremacist sentiments, violent rhetoric, and anti-democratic tendencies. I get drunk as much as any social drinker and I have never called for “white power” or declared, “fuck the niggers!” as one of my interviewees did. No amount of alcohol could make me express opinions that were not authentically mine. If anything, alcohol is a crude form of truth serum that lubricates the release of closely held opinions and encourages confessional talk.

The notion that the racist diatribes in my video emerged spontaneously from a beery void is a delusion, but for some, it is a necessary one. It allows them to erect a psychological barrier against acknowledging the painful consequences of prolonged Zionist indoctrination. And it enables them to dismiss the disturbing spectacle of young Jews behaving like fascist soccer hooligans in the heart of the capitol of Israel and the spiritual home of the Jewish people.
The people in my video were not white trash, nor were they the “extreme right-wing fringe” as some bloggers have called them. They were the college-educated sons and daughters of middle and upper class American Jews from cosmopolitan metropolises and genteel suburbs. Some had come to Israel on vacation, some had made aliyah, and some told me they were planning to move to Israel in the near future. Many were dual citizens of America and Israel. They may have behaved in a moronic way, but they will not grow up to toil in the custodial arts. Many of these kids will move into white-collar jobs and use their influence to advance Israeli initiatives. Programs like Birthright Israel -- a few of those in my video were on Birthright tours -- exist for the exclusive purpose of indoctrinating American Jews into unyielding, unthinking supporters of Israel. Thus the kids in my video represent at least one aspect of the Zionist project’s future base of political sustenance.

I do not and have never claimed that the characters that appeared in my video were representative of general public opinion in Israel. They reflect only a slice of reality, which is reality nonetheless. On the other hand, a new Yedioth Aronoth poll finds a vast majority of the Israeli public holds a negative opinion of Obama and believes he is biased toward the Palestinians. A top minister in Israel’s government has compared Obama to Pharaoh, claiming his call for a settlement freeze is like casting Jewish children into the river. A group of rightists have launched a campaign against “the anti-Semitic Obama,” apparently convinced they can make inroads with the general public.

Behind the Israeli view of Obama lies a climate of extremism that exploded into the open when the country attacked Gaza. Today, extremist sentiment hovers well above the surface. A groundbreaking study of Israeli attitudes published in the wake of the Gaza war by the Tel Aviv University political psychologist Daniel Bar-Tal, who I recently interviewed, found that “Israeli Jews' consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal commented to me that the army is the primary vehicle for stoking the nationalism of young Israelis. “Some countries are states without armies,” he said. “But Israel today is an army without a state. There is no civilian institution capable of restraining the army’s influence.”

In an interview with me two days ago, the famed Israeli author David Grossman echoed Bar-Tal’s findings, remarking, “The country is trapped in one legitimate narrative: that of the government, which is of paranoia, and every event serves this narrative. Those events that don’t are simply overlooked.”

I have been in Israel for over a month; almost every day I hear expressions of paranoia about Arabs, historical delusions, and the constant refrain that “the world is against us.” I hear this even from some close friends -- young, cosmopolitan Israelis living the good life in the so-called “bubble city” of Tel Aviv. Last week, a friend I play basketball with in a working class suburb of Tel Aviv (he is a high-tech worker from a fifth generation Israeli family) calmly informed me while we sat in the shade by the court: “I’m a Zionist, so of course I prefer the bloodshed on the other side.” While sitting at a bar with an elegant and otherwise charming young woman, she described to me while sipping a mixed drink how she arbitrarily shot at Arabs while serving in the army because “they want to come and steal my house.” On a leafy Tel Aviv street, a friend of a friend who splits time between spinning at local hip-hop clubs and patrolling the streets of Gaza City told me if Israel has to kill 800 Palestinians to save one Israeli Jew, then so be it. “If we wanted to, we could completely wipe Gaza out,” he said. “But we don’t because the IDF is pure.”

Since Gaza, vocal opponents of the Occupation have found themselves increasingly marginalized and are hounded by the authorities (see the New Profile raid, Ezra Nawi, Sami Jubreir, and on and on). Meanwhile, Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteynu party’s unapologetically racist campaign has taken the form of a stream of bills working through the Knesset that would criminalize observance of the Palestinian Nakbah, ban public discussion of a bi-national state, and allow towns to ban people from entering their limits who do not subscribe to Zionist ideals. The bills keep coming like a flood; already, the Nakbah ban has passed a committee vote.
A straight line can be drawn from the rhetoric depicted in my video to the rise of Lieberman, a proto-fascist who draws a startling degree of political strength from Israel’s youth by channeling their innermost fears and resentments. In fact, the author of the Nakbah ban is a 28-year-old named Alex Miller – the youngest ever member of the Knesset and the chairman of Beiteynu’s youth wing. In an interview, Miller told me he introduced the bill simply because, “the Israeli public believes in loyalty.” He added, “Since the founding of our party we have grown in strength. We have never changed our platform and we are seeing increasing support from the public.

Despite the Huffington Post’s rejection of my video report, it has exploded across the blogosphere. Even the rapper 50 Cent posted it prominently on his official website. It two days it has garnered 100,000 views. I hope those who have watched it, especially those predisposed to dismiss it as anti-Israel propaganda or shock video with “no news value,” will at least ask how vitriolic levels of racism are able to flow through the streets of Jerusalem like sewage, why the grandsons of Holocaust survivors feel compelled to offer the Shoah as justification to behave like fascist street thugs, and how the sons and daughters of successful Jewish American families casually merged Zionist cant with crude white supremacism. The willful avoidance of these painful questions by self-proclaimed supporters of Israel is setting the stage for the complete delegitimization of the country they claim to love. As Obama said, “any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it.”

15 July 2009

The Myth of the Jewish Nation

The very idea that those who define themselves and their nationality in terms of religion, in order to proclaim a 'return to Zion' is part of the absurd mythology of Zionism. Of course when Zionism came on the scene in the late 19th Century none were more opposed to Zionism than Orthodox Jewry. Although the Zionist movement never mentions the fact, it is well known that the First Zionist Congress in 1897 had to be moved from Munich to Basle in Switzerland owing to the opposition of the Jewish community. The petition to the authorities was from Chief Rabbi Morris Gudemann.

The 'return to Zion' which was always a spiritual longing not a political desire, was transformed by imperialists and Romantics in the 19th Century. The idea that those proclaiming that their religiously derived beliefs entitle them to dispossess the indigenous population is one of the most barbaric and genocidal fruit of colonialism. It is no more worthy of serious consideration than the divine right of kings or the infallibility of the Pope.

Of course all settler colonialists and indeed all those waging war have claimed, in the words of Bob Dylan, that they have god on their side. The claim of the Zionists that they were endowed with the promise of god and could therefore remove or dispossess the indigenous people was always a racist idea at heart, based on the idea of the Chosen People, itself a racialisation of an old Jewish religious concept. In fact the most ardent advocates of a 'return' of the Jews to Palestine were not Jewish, other than a tiny minority of racial ideologues who sailed under the banner of Zionism. The first Zionists were non-Jewish imperialists and romantics - Ernest Laharanne, Lord Shaftesbury, George Elliot - for whom the Jewish 'return' meant a legitimation of those who enabled that 'return' i.e. British or French colonialism.

At first Zionism's ideologues such as Arthur Ruppin, literally argued there was a biological continuum between the ancient Hebrews and today's Jews, something which is still believed by many. Today it is merely a mixture of the quasi mystical and mythical, a hotchpotch of claims based on religious sanction. Religion has always been the oil that enabled the wheels of colonialism to turn freely. The publication of Shlomo Sand's book in English is therefore extremely welcome although much of it has appeared elsewhere e.g. Arthur Koestler's 13th Tribe. It debunks the myth that the Zionists were anything other than European settlers, themselves a mixture of various European peoples, whose religion operated as a means of legitimation for naked conquest. In this of course they are not unique and others such as the Pilgrim Fathers and the Conquistadors also put to the sword natives who insisted on claiming their lands for themselves.

The consequence of these Zionised religious myths can be seen above - Palestinians replaced Jews as the object of the most extreme and virulent racism. Below are some reviews of the book which has been in the Israeli best seller lists for 19 weeks and has just been published in English.

Tony Greenstein

Controversial Bestseller Shakes the Foundation of the Israeli State
The Palestine Telegraph
9 July 2009

What if the Palestinian Arabs who have lived for decades under the heel of the modern Israeli state are in fact descended from the very same `children of Israel` described in the Old Testament?

And what if most modern Israelis aren`t descended from the ancient Israelites at all, but are actually a mix of Europeans, North Africans and others who didn`t `return` to the scrap of land we now call Israel and establish a new state following the attempt to exterminate them during World War II, but came in and forcefully displaced people whose ancestors had lived there for millennia? What if the entire tale of the Jewish Diaspora -- the story recounted at Passover tables by Jews around the world every year detailing the ancient Jews` exile from Judea, the years spent wandering through the desert, their escape from the Pharaoh`s clutches -- is all wrong?

That`s the explosive thesis of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, a book by Tel Aviv University scholar Shlomo Zand (or Sand) that sent shockwaves across Israeli society when it was published last year. After 19 weeks on the Israeli best-seller list, the book is being translated into a dozen languages and will be published in the United States this year by Verso.

Its thesis has ramifications that go far beyond some antediluvian academic debate. Few modern conflicts are as attached to ancient history as that decades-long cycle of bloodletting between Israelis and Palestinians. Each group lays claim to the same scrap of land -- holy in all three of the world`s major Abrahamic religions -- based on long-standing ties to that chunk of earth and national identities formed over long periods of time. There`s probably no other place on Earth where the present is as intimately tied to the ancient.

Central to the ideology of Zionism is the tale -- familiar to all Jewish families -- of exile, oppression, redemption and return. Booted from their kingdom, the `Jewish people` -- sons and daughters of ancient Judea -- wandered the earth, rootless, where they faced cruel suppression from all corners -- from being forced to toil in slavery under the Egyptians, to the Spanish massacres of the 14th century and Russian pogroms of the 19th, through to the horrors of the Third Reich.

This view of history animates all Zionists, but none more so than the influential but reactionary minority -- in the United States as well as Israel -- who believe that God bestowed a `Greater Israel` -- one that encompasses the modern state as well as the Occupied Territories -- on the Jewish people, and who resist any effort to create a Palestinian state on biblical grounds.

Inventing a People?

Zand`s central argument is that the Romans didn`t expel whole nations from their territories. Zand estimates that perhaps 10,000 ancient Judeans were vanquished during the Roman wars, and the remaining inhabitants of ancient Judea remained, converting to Islam and assimilating with their conquerors when Arabs subjugated the area. They became the progenitors of today`s Palestinian Arabs, many of whom now live as refugees who were exiled from their homeland during the 20th century.

As Israeli journalist Tom Segev summarized, in a review of the book in Ha`aretz:

There never was a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the exile also never happened -- hence there was no return. Zand rejects most of the stories of national-identity formation in the Bible, including the exodus from Egypt and, most satisfactorily, the horrors of the conquest under Joshua.
But this begs the question: if the ancient people of Judea weren`t expelled en masse, then how did it come to pass that Jewish people are scattered across the world? According to Zand, who offers detailed histories of several groups within what is conventionally known as the Jewish Diaspora, some were Jews who emigrated of their own volition, and many more were later converts to Judaism. Contrary to popular belief, Zand argues that Judaism was an evangelical religion that actively sought out new adherents during its formative period.

This narrative has huge significance in terms of Israel`s national identity. If Judaism is a religion, rather than `a people` descended from a dispersed nation, then it brings into question the central justification for the state of Israel remaining a `Jewish state.`

And that brings us to Zand`s second assertion. He argues that the story of the Jewish nation -- the transformation of the Jewish people from a group with a shared cultural identity and religious faith into a vanquished `people` -- was a relatively recent invention, hatched in the 19th century by Zionist scholars and advanced by the Israeli academic establishment. It was, argues Zand, an intellectual conspiracy of sorts. Segev says, `It`s all fiction and myth that served as an excuse for the establishment of the State of Israel.`

Zand Gets Slammed; Do His Arguments Stand Up?

The ramifications of Zand`s argument are far-reaching; `the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendants,` he told Ha`aretz. Zand argues that Israel should be a state in which all of the inhabitants of what was once `British Palestine` share the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship, rather than maintaining it as a `Jewish and democratic` state, as it`s now identified.Predictably, Zand was pilloried according to the time-tested formula. Ami Isseroff, writing on ZioNation, the Zionism-Israel blog, invoked the customary Holocaust imagery, accusing Zand of offering a `final solution to the Jewish problem,` one in which `No auto da fe is required, no charging Cossacks are needed, no gas chambers, no smelly crematoria.` Another feverish ideologue called Zand`s work `another manifestation of mental disorder in the extreme academic Left in Israel.`

That kind of overheated rhetoric is a standard straw man in the endless roil of discourse over Israel and the Palestinians, and is easily dismissed. But more serious criticism also greeted Zand`s work. In a widely read critical review of Zand`s work, Israel Bartal, dean of humanities at the Hebrew University, slammed the author`s second assertion -- that Zionist academics had suppressed the true history of Judaism`s spread through emigration and conversion in favor of a history that would give legitimacy to the quest for a Jewish state.

Bartal raised important questions about Zand`s methodology and pointed out what appears to be some sloppy details in the book. But, interestingly, in defending Israel`s academic community, Bartal supported Zand`s more consequential thesis, writing, `Although the myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland (Palestine) does exist in popular Israeli culture, it is negligible in serious Jewish historical discussions.` Bartal added: `no historian of the Jewish national movement has ever really believed that the origins of the Jews are ethnically and biologically `pure.` ` He noted that `[i]mportant groups in the [Zionist] movement expressed reservations regarding this myth or denied it completely.`

`As far as I can discern,` Bartal wrote, `the book contains not even one idea that has not been presented` in previous historical studies.' Segev added that `Zand did not invent [his] thesis; 30 years before the Declaration of Independence, it was espoused by David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and others.`

One can reasonably argue that this ancient myth of a Jewish nation exiled until its 20th century return is of little consequence; whether the Jewish people share a common genetic ancestry or are a far-flung collection of people who share the same faith, a common national identity has in fact developed over the centuries. But Zand`s central contention stands, and has some significant implications for the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Changing the Conversation?

The primary reason it`s so difficult to discuss the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the remarkably effective job supporters of Israel`s control of the Occupied Territories -- including Gaza, still under de facto occupation -- have done equating support for Palestinian self-determination with a desire to see the destruction of Israel. It effectively conflates any advocacy of Palestinian rights with the specter of Jewish extermination.

That`s certainly been the case with arguments for a single-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Until recent years, advocating a `single-state` solution -- a binational state where all residents of what are today Israel and the Occupied Territories share the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship -- was a relatively mainstream position to take. In fact, it was one of several competing plans considered by the United Nations when it created the state of Israel in the 1940s.

But the idea of a single, binational state has more recently been marginalized -- dismissed as an attempt to destroy Israel literally and physically, rather than as an ethnic and religious-based political entity with a population of second-class Arab citizens and the legacy of responsibility for world`s longest-standing refugee population.

A logical conclusion of Zand`s work exposing Israel`s founding mythology may be the restoration of the idea of a one-state solution to a legitimate place in the debate over this contentious region. After all, while it muddies the waters in one sense -- raising ancient, biblical questions about just who the `children of Israel` really are -- in another sense, it hints at the commonalities that exist between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Both groups lay claim to the same crust of earth, both have faced historic repression and displacement and both hold dear the idea that they should have a `right of return.`

And if both groups in fact share common biblical ties, then it begs the question of why the entirety of what was Palestine under the British mandate should remain a refuge for people of one religion instead of being a country in which Jews and Arabs are guaranteed equal protection -- equal protection under the laws of a state whose legitimacy would never again be open to question.

Shattering a 'national mythology'
By Ofri Ilani Tags:

Of all the national heroes who have arisen from among the Jewish people over the generations, fate has not been kind to Dahia al-Kahina, a leader of the Berbers in the Aures Mountains. Although she was a proud Jewess, few Israelis have ever heard the name of this warrior-queen who, in the seventh century C.E., united a number of Berber tribes and pushed back the Muslim army that invaded North Africa. It is possible that the reason for this is that al-Kahina was the daughter of a Berber tribe that had converted to Judaism, apparently several generations before she was born, sometime around the 6th century C.E.

According to the Tel Aviv University historian, Prof. Shlomo Sand, author of "Matai ve'ech humtza ha'am hayehudi?" ("When and How the Jewish People Was Invented?"; Resling, in Hebrew), the queen's tribe and other local tribes that converted to Judaism are the main sources from which Spanish Jewry sprang. This claim that the Jews of North Africa originated in indigenous tribes that became Jewish - and not in communities exiled from Jerusalem - is just one element of the far- reaching argument set forth in Sand's new book.

In this work, the author attempts to prove that the Jews now living in Israel and other places in the world are not at all descendants of the ancient people who inhabited the Kingdom of Judea during the First and Second Temple period. Their origins, according to him, are in varied peoples that converted to Judaism during the course of history, in different corners of the Mediterranean Basin and the adjacent regions. Not only are the North African Jews for the most part descendants of pagans who converted to Judaism, but so are the Jews of Yemen (remnants of the Himyar Kingdom in the Arab Peninsula, who converted to Judaism in the fourth century) and the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe (refugees from the Kingdom of the Khazars, who converted in the eighth century).

Unlike other "new historians" who have tried to undermine the assumptions of Zionist historiography, Sand does not content himself with going back to 1948 or to the beginnings of Zionism, but rather goes back thousands of years. He tries to prove that the Jewish people never existed as a "nation-race" with a common origin, but rather is a colorful mix of groups that at various stages in history adopted the Jewish religion. He argues that for a number of Zionist ideologues, the mythical perception of the Jews as an ancient people led to truly racist thinking: "There were times when if anyone argued that the Jews belong to a people that has gentile origins, he would be classified as an anti-Semite on the spot. Today, if anyone dares to suggest that those who are considered Jews in the world ... have never constituted and still do not constitute a people or a nation - he is immediately condemned as a hater of Israel."

According to Sand, the description of the Jews as a wandering and self-isolating nation of exiles, "who wandered across seas and continents, reached the ends of the earth and finally, with the advent of Zionism, made a U-turn and returned en masse to their orphaned homeland," is nothing but "national mythology." Like other national movements in Europe, which sought out a splendid Golden Age, through which they invented a heroic past - for example, classical Greece or the Teutonic tribes - to prove they have existed since the beginnings of history, "so, too, the first buds of Jewish nationalism blossomed in the direction of the strong light that has its source in the mythical Kingdom of David."

So when, in fact, was the Jewish people invented, in Sand's view? At a certain stage in the 19th century, intellectuals of Jewish origin in Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, took upon themselves the task of inventing a people "retrospectively," out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people. From historian Heinrich Graetz on, Jewish historians began to draw the history of Judaism as the history of a nation that had been a kingdom, became a wandering people and ultimately turned around and went back to its birthplace.

Actually, most of your book does not deal with the invention of the Jewish people by modern Jewish nationalism, but rather with the question of where the Jews come from. Sand:
"My initial intention was to take certain kinds of modern historiographic materials and examine how they invented the 'figment' of the Jewish people. But when I began to confront the historiographic sources, I suddenly found contradictions. And then that urged me on: I started to work, without knowing where I would end up. I took primary sources and I tried to examine authors' references in the ancient period - what they wrote about conversion."
Sand, an expert on 20th-century history, has until now researched the intellectual history of modern France (in "Ha'intelektual, ha'emet vehakoah: miparashat dreyfus ve'ad milhemet hamifrats" - "Intellectuals, Truth and Power, From the Dreyfus Affair to the Gulf War"; Am Oved, in Hebrew). Unusually, for a professional historian, in his new book he deals with periods that he had never researched before, usually relying on studies that present unorthodox views of the origins of the Jews.

Experts on the history of the Jewish people say you are dealing with subjects about which you have no understanding and are basing yourself on works that you can't read in the original.
"It is true that I am an historian of France and Europe, and not of the ancient period. I knew that the moment I would start dealing with early periods like these, I would be exposed to scathing criticism by historians who specialize in those areas. But I said to myself that I can't stay just with modern historiographic material without examining the facts it describes. Had I not done this myself, it would have been necessary to have waited for an entire generation. Had I continued to deal with France, perhaps I would have been given chairs at the university and provincial glory. But I decided to relinquish the glory."
Inventing the Diaspora

"After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom" - thus states the preamble to the Israeli Declaration of Independence. This is also the quotation that opens the third chapter of Sand's book, entitled "The Invention of the Diaspora." Sand argues that the Jewish people's exile from its land never happened.

"The supreme paradigm of exile was needed in order to construct a long-range memory in which an imagined and exiled nation-race was posited as the direct continuation of 'the people of the Bible' that preceded it," Sand explains. Under the influence of other historians who have dealt with the same issue in recent years, he argues that the exile of the Jewish people is originally a Christian myth that depicted that event as divine punishment imposed on the Jews for having rejected the Christian gospel.
"I started looking in research studies about the exile from the land - a constitutive event in Jewish history, almost like the Holocaust. But to my astonishment I discovered that it has no literature. The reason is that no one exiled the people of the country. The Romans did not exile peoples and they could not have done so even if they had wanted to. They did not have trains and trucks to deport entire populations. That kind of logistics did not exist until the 20th century. From this, in effect, the whole book was born: in the realization that Judaic society was not dispersed and was not exiled."
If the people was not exiled, are you saying that in fact the real descendants of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah are the Palestinians?
"No population remains pure over a period of thousands of years. But the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendents. The first Zionists, up until the Arab Revolt [1936-9], knew that there had been no exiling, and that the Palestinians were descended from the inhabitants of the land. They knew that farmers don't leave until they are expelled. Even Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of the State of Israel, wrote in 1929 that, 'the vast majority of the peasant farmers do not have their origins in the Arab conquerors, but rather, before then, in the Jewish farmers who were numerous and a majority in the building of the land.'"
And how did millions of Jews appear around the Mediterranean Sea?
"The people did not spread, but the Jewish religion spread. Judaism was a converting religion. Contrary to popular opinion, in early Judaism there was a great thirst to convert others. The Hasmoneans were the first to begin to produce large numbers of Jews through mass conversion, under the influence of Hellenism. The conversions between the Hasmonean Revolt and Bar Kochba's rebellion are what prepared the ground for the subsequent, wide-spread dissemination of Christianity. After the victory of Christianity in the fourth century, the momentum of conversion was stopped in the Christian world, and there was a steep drop in the number of Jews. Presumably many of the Jews who appeared around the Mediterranean became Christians. But then Judaism started to permeate other regions - pagan regions, for example, such as Yemen and North Africa. Had Judaism not continued to advance at that stage and had it not continued to convert people in the pagan world, we would have remained a completely marginal religion, if we survived at all."
How did you come to the conclusion that the Jews of North Africa were originally Berbers who converted?
"I asked myself how such large Jewish communities appeared in Spain. And then I saw that Tariq ibn Ziyad, the supreme commander of the Muslims who conquered Spain, was a Berber, and most of his soldiers were Berbers. Dahia al-Kahina's Jewish Berber kingdom had been defeated only 15 years earlier. And the truth is there are a number of Christian sources that say many of the conquerors of Spain were Jewish converts. The deep-rooted source of the large Jewish community in Spain was those Berber soldiers who converted to Judaism."
Sand argues that the most crucial demographic addition to the Jewish population of the world came in the wake of the conversion of the kingdom of Khazaria - a huge empire that arose in the Middle Ages on the steppes along the Volga River, which at its height ruled over an area that stretched from the Georgia of today to Kiev. In the eighth century, the kings of the Khazars adopted the Jewish religion and made Hebrew the written language of the kingdom. From the 10th century the kingdom weakened; in the 13th century is was utterly defeated by Mongol invaders, and the fate of its Jewish inhabitants remains unclear.

Sand revives the hypothesis, which was already suggested by historians in the 19th and 20th centuries, according to which the Judaized Khazars constituted the main origins of the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.
"At the beginning of the 20th century there is a tremendous concentration of Jews in Eastern Europe - three million Jews in Poland alone," he says. "The Zionist historiography claims that their origins are in the earlier Jewish community in Germany, but they do not succeed in explaining how a small number of Jews who came from Mainz and Worms could have founded the Yiddish people of Eastern Europe. The Jews of Eastern Europe are a mixture of Khazars and Slavs who were pushed eastward."
'Degree of perversion'

If the Jews of Eastern Europe did not come from Germany, why did they speak Yiddish, which is a Germanic language?
"The Jews were a class of people dependent on the German bourgeoisie in the East, and thus they adopted German words. Here I base myself on the research of linguist Paul Wechsler of Tel Aviv University, who has demonstrated that there is no etymological connection between the German Jewish language of the Middle Ages and Yiddish. As far back as 1828, the Ribal (Rabbi Isaac Ber Levinson) said that the ancient language of the Jews was not Yiddish. Even Ben Zion Dinur, the father of Israeli historiography, was not hesitant about describing the Khazars as the origin of the Jews in Eastern Europe, and describes Khazaria as 'the mother of the diasporas' in Eastern Europe. But more or less since 1967, anyone who talks about the Khazars as the ancestors of the Jews of Eastern Europe is considered naive and moonstruck."
Why do you think the idea of the Khazar origins is so threatening?
"It is clear that the fear is of an undermining of the historic right to the land. The revelation that the Jews are not from Judea would ostensibly knock the legitimacy for our being here out from under us. Since the beginning of the period of decolonization, settlers have no longer been able to say simply: 'We came, we won and now we are here' the way the Americans, the whites in South Africa and the Australians said. There is a very deep fear that doubt will be cast on our right to exist."
Is there no justification for this fear?
"No. I don't think that the historical myth of the exile and the wanderings is the source of the legitimization for me being here, and therefore I don't mind believing that I am Khazar in my origins. I am not afraid of the undermining of our existence, because I think that the character of the State of Israel undermines it in a much more serious way. What would constitute the basis for our existence here is not mythological historical right, but rather would be for us to start to establish an open society here of all Israeli citizens."
In effect you are saying that there is no such thing as a Jewish people.
"I don't recognize an international people. I recognize 'the Yiddish people' that existed in Eastern Europe, which though it is not a nation can be seen as a Yiddishist civilization with a modern popular culture. I think that Jewish nationalism grew up in the context of this 'Yiddish people.' I also recognize the existence of an Israeli people, and do not deny its right to sovereignty. But Zionism and also Arab nationalism over the years are not prepared to recognize it.

"From the perspective of Zionism, this country does not belong to its citizens, but rather to the Jewish people. I recognize one definition of a nation: a group of people that wants to live in sovereignty over itself. But most of the Jews in the world have no desire to live in the State of Israel, even though nothing is preventing them from doing so. Therefore, they cannot be seen as a nation."
What is so dangerous about Jews imagining that they belong to one people? Why is this bad?
"In the Israeli discourse about roots there is a degree of perversion. This is an ethnocentric, biological, genetic discourse. But Israel has no existence as a Jewish state: If Israel does not develop and become an open, multicultural society we will have a Kosovo in the Galilee. The consciousness concerning the right to this place must be more flexible and varied, and if I have contributed with my book to the likelihood that I and my children will be able to live with the others here in this country in a more egalitarian situation - I will have done my bit. "We must begin to work hard to transform our place into an Israeli republic where ethnic origin, as well as faith, will not be relevant in the eyes of the law. Anyone who is acquainted with the young elites of the Israeli Arab community can see that they will not agree to live in a country that declares it is not theirs. If I were a Palestinian I would rebel against a state like that, but even as an Israeli I am rebelling against it."
The question is whether for those conclusions you had to go as far as the Kingdom of the Khazars.
"I am not hiding the fact that it is very distressing for me to live in a society in which the nationalist principles that guide it are dangerous, and that this distress has served as a motive in my work. I am a citizen of this country, but I am also a historian and as a historian it is my duty to write history and examine texts. This is what I have done."
If the myth of Zionism is one of the Jewish people that returned to its land from exile, what will be the myth of the country you envision?
"To my mind, a myth about the future is better than introverted mythologies of the past. For the Americans, and today for the Europeans as well, what justifies the existence of the nation is a future promise of an open, progressive and prosperous society. The Israeli materials do exist, but it is necessary to add, for example, pan-Israeli holidays. To decrease the number of memorial days a bit and to add days that are dedicated to the future. But also, for example, to add an hour in memory of the Nakba [literally, the "catastrophe" - the Palestinian term for what happened when Israel was established], between Memorial Day and Independence Day."