27 October 2009

Beating Arabs is not a Crime (unless it causes major injury) - Israeli Attorney General

The following article is from YNet, Yediot Aharanot on-line. It concerns the beating by Border Guards, in a video they themselves took, of 2 Palestinians in Jerusalem for the crime of being Arab. What is so outrageous in this case, and one cannot but recall similar instances of state-licensed beatings - be it in South Africa or Nazi Germany - is that the State has turned down requests to prosecute, because the victims didn't suffer any major injury! Unbelievable but true. Another instance of the deep racism of the Israeli State.

Below this by way of contrast is news of the jailing of Israeli pacifist and gay rights activist Ezra Nawi. He was trying to stop the demolition of Arab houses near Hebron. Again it was videod, but apparently a few seconds were missing from the video when Nawi apparently took it upon himself to attack the assembled thugs! You don't believe it? Neither do I but the judge hearing the case was only more than willing to believe it. And therein lies the rub.

When Israeli Jews identify with the oppression of the Palestinians then they too lose some of the freedoms that come with privilege.

Tony Greenstein

[Middle East News Service comments: Is the Occupation and the treatment of Palestinian Israelis getting worse? The question should naturally be investigated scientifically, but the empirical evidence suggests that it is. Take the recent case in which not even the video evidence taken by the perpetrators themselves showing them bashing Palestinians for no reason (other than being Arab), was enough to get them prosecuted, let alone convicted. Israel Prize Laureate and former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni lashes out at the decision not to prosecute and the context in which that decision took place.

My past experience with Ynetnews’ translation of Aloni has been such that it was necessary on this occasion to compare it with the Hebrew original. There were several omissions, which coincidently or otherwise, toned down Aloni’s comments. I leave it up to readers to decide whether or not the toning down is significant – SS]
Parts in Green are parts of translation not printed

Only Jews deserve dignity?
Shulamit Aloni slams decision not to indict Border Guard officers who abused Arabs
Shulamit Aloni
Published: 10.26.09

On a hot summer day, two Border Guard police officers walked around the holy city of Jerusalem without any particular mission. At one point they decided that it would proper to prove their authority and respectful position to themselves and to the Palestinians. The officers proceeded to nab two Palestinians, yelled at them, and demanded that they salute “their majesties” numerous times.

Next, they made them face a wall [with their arms and legs pulled apart and got on with the task of displaying the beauty the power of Israeli police. They] pulled out a camera, in case their colleagues won’t believe them. They beat the Palestinians on their head and nape time and again, they lifted their shirts, removed their pants, continued to hit them, kicked them in the rear-end, and showed these Arabs [Arabushim (a derogatory term equivalent to “towelheads”) as the Minister in charge of the police called them] how strong they are and how loyal they are to their job as the Jewish Border Guard.

And so, these police officers continued to take pleasure in abusing, beating up, humiliating, and photographing it. They did this until they got tired, and then, satisfied and gleeful, decided to let their victims go.

Such abuse, which is accompanied by photos and glee, must not be disregarded. A representative of the victims turned to the State Prosecutor’s Office and demanded to bring the honorable Border Guard officers to justice on charges of abuse, humiliation, and assault.

Given the photographs and testimonies, these “heroes” indeed deserve to be put on trial for the offenses they committed: Misuse of authority and assault, which carry a prison term of two years or more. Moreover, there are suspicions that additional offences were committed in terms of physical and emotional abuse, as well as acts that border on sexual abuse.

Extraordinary response
Yet here we were surprised: The State Prosecutor decided not to look into the matter. The response was so impressive that it would be proper to distribute in on posters, so everyone will see and know.

According to State Prosecutor’s Office, the materials available in the case, including the videos, indeed show “improper conduct” on the part of the police officers. However, as the case in question involved very light beating that caused no real damage, prosecutors found no basis for intervention, leaving the matter to be treated by the police’s internal affairs unit.

What an extraordinary response. After all, the police officers indeed did not pluck out their victims’ eyes and did not cut off limbs; besides, after all, these victims are [only] Palestinian, and therefore it turns out that abusing and humiliating them doesn’t count. The appeal filed over the decision was also rejected by the State Prosecutor’s Office [which again recommended that the matter be referred to internal affairs department.]

What we have here then is a new method apparently: The army will probe itself and then will let us know how chaste it is. The police will probe police officers, and it will turn out everyone is righteous, and so on and so forth.
[I have recently gone over ten Bills submitted by members of the 18th Knesset. All are very patriotic being preoccupied with Zionism and Judaism and loyalty. They include a demand for a “loyalty oath to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and Democratic state as well as its symbols and values” not to mention the flag and anthem. All these are necessary for being granted an Identify Card. Seeing that “its symbols and values” indicate that the Jews are the chosen people and ]

In the face of the State Prosecutor’s decision on this matter, which is not unusual, I believe we should be amending the Basic Law: Human dignity and Liberty, and decide that the State of Israel is committed to maintaining the liberty and dignity of a person only if he’s Jewish; Just like we have land that is only for Jews and roads that are for Jews only.

By modifying the Basic Law as suggested, we will know that “dignity and liberty” in the Jewish state are only reserved for Jews.

[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements Please note that while our own comments are not copyrighted we do appreciate acknowledgement. Items forwarded may be copyrighted and are forwarded to alert you of their existence.]

Leftist jailed for 1 month for assaulting police in West Bank

The Jerusalem Magistrate Court on Wednesday sentenced left-wing activist Ezra Nawi to one month in prison, after convicting him of assaulting police officers during the 2007 evacuation of illegal Palestinian caravans in the southern Hebron Hills.

"Ideology is ideology, but this trial is not about ideology," said Judge Eilata Ziskind. "Wild behavior from the right or the left is inconceivable, even if the goal is to help the weak. Without order, there can be no democracy."

Justice Ziskind described repeated instances in which Nawi threatened police or prevented them from carrying out their activities.

Nawi will serve an additional six months if he participates in similar activities during the next three years, and he was also ordered to pay a fine of NIS 750,000 along with an additional NIS 500 to each officer he assaulted.

Nawi accused the court of authorizing the occupation of Palestinian land for years and said that the court has long been trying to neutralize and silence him. "The punishment doesn't scare me," Nawi said.

The Yesha Human Rights Organization criticized Nawi's one-month prison sentence, saying, "One month in jail emphasizes the selectivity of law enforcement officials in Judea and Samaria, which allow Nawi to run wild, to hurt settlers and their property," in a statement.

Nawi was convicted in March for assaulting policemen during the demolition of illegal Palestinian caravans in the southern Hebron Hills. Nawi, who has prior convictions for sexually assaulting a minor, illegal use of weapons and drug offenses, has been active for Palestinian rights in the southern Hebron Hills in recent years.

Nawi has in recent months received the support of prominent international leftists, including Professor Noam Chomsky, former deputy attorney general Yehudit Karp and author Naomi Klein.

25 October 2009

Not so Innocent – Index on Censorship Trustee Seeks to Silence Campaigner Against Torture

Mark Stephens Threatens Libel Action against
Dr Derek Summerfield for criticising Israel's Apologist for Torture - Yoram Blachar

Shurely some mistake as my old friend Lord Gnome might say. Whispers have reached our ears that Mark Stephens of Finer, Stephens, Innocent has threatened Derek Summerfield, the doctor who has been tirelessly campaigning against the complicity of the Israeli Medical Association and its President, Yoram Blachar, in the torture of Palestinians, with a libel suit if he doesn’t shut up.

Now the use of Britain’s antiquated libel laws to silence people who tell the truth has been well documented. From Robert Maxwell to Richard Desmond, the pornographer who owns the Daily Express, the libel laws have been a useful means of keeping inconvenient facts from the public’s gaze. As we saw last week, notorious libel lawyers Peter, Carter, Ruck had actually managed to obtain an injunction from a dozy High Court Judge preventing the Guardian printing the truth about how Trafigura, an oil firm, had deposited poisonous oil sludge in Gambia poisoning and killing thousands of this poor State's inhabitants.

Almost without exception the libel law is used by the rich and privileged to defend their power and prevent the truth about their actions coming out. Of course there are exceptions, e.g. George Galloways defamation action against the Daily Telegraph which had alleged that Galloway's campaign against Iraqi sanctions and he personally, was being paid by Saddam Hussein.

But the actions of Mark Stephens are entirely different. It is to defend a powerful man, head of both the World and Israeli Medical Associations, in his determination to provide a cover for the use of torture. Of course none of this is new in the halls of infamy but what marks out Mark’s actions are that he is also a trustee of Index on Censorship!! Presumably Mark Stephens is opposed to censorship except when it comes to torturers, Zionists or Zionist torturers. Or maybe his commitment to fighting censorship stops when it threatens his pocket.

La Rochefoucauld’s famous maxim comes to mind: "Hypocrisie est un hommage que la vice rend à la vertu.' Roughly translated, 'hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.' One can only assume Mark Stephens is going to be weighed down by the tribute he will have to pay for acting on behalf of an apologist for torture, Dr Yoram Blachar, President of the World Medical Association and Chair of the Israeli Medical Association.

As viewers will know, this blog is very hot on the use of torture and other forms of medieval practice. We have repeatedly criticised the Israeli state and its Nazi-style doctors who monitor the practice

But we have also criticised the Palestinian Authority for using torture, so we are taking a principled position when we ask a simple question:

Is Index on Censorship happy at being associated with the attempted censorship of those who expose torture?

Below is an item from the right-wing Israeli daily, Yediot Aharanot, showing that the majority of the population of Israel, uniquely among countries, supports the use of torture. Clearly Blachar is not alone in doing his best to protect the torturers.

Tony Greenstein

BBC poll: World against torture, Israel in favor
Poll of 25 countries reveals that the majority of world's population opposes torturing prisoners suspected of terror involvement. In Israel, over half of Jewish population supports using torture to get information from terrorists, while most Muslims oppose it
Ynet, Published: 10.19.06,

Nearly a third of people worldwide support the use of torture against terror suspects in some circumstances, a BBC survey suggests.

Over 27,000 people in 25 countries, including Israel, were asked if torture was acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives. Fifty-nine percent were opposed to torture, 29 percent replied it an acceptable means to combat terrorism.

Respondents were asked which position was closer to their own views:
a) Clear rules against torture should be maintained because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights standards against torture.
b) Terrorists pose such an extreme threat that governments should now be allowed to use some degree of torture if it may gain information that saves innocent lives.

In Israel a majority of Jewish respondents in Israel, 53 percent, agreed that the governments should be allowed to use some degree of torture to obtain information from terror suspects, while 39 percent were completely opposed and wanted clear rules against it. However the Muslim population in Israel polled overwhelmingly against any use of torture.

And what do countries who have suffered terror attacks think? In the United States 58 percent oppose torture, 36 percent are in favor and 6 percent haven't made up their minds yet.
In Britain, where a large scale terror plot was recently thwarted, 72 percent are against retrieving information from terror suspects through torture while 24 percent are in favor. Similar figures were apparent in Spain, where 65 percent oppose terror and only 16 percent condone it.

The poll was also conducted in Muslim countries. In Iraq, which suffers daily terror attacks, 42 percent are in favor of torturing terror suspects, 55 percent are against it. In Egypt the figure drops to 25 percent in favor and 62 percent against. The rest are undecided.

In three other countries, besides Israel, less than half the population polled against torturing terror suspects. In China – 49 percent were against and 37 percent were in favor.

In Russia, 43 percent polled against and 37 percent were in favor. In India, which has also suffered from terror attacks the data is intriguing – 23 percent are against torture and 23 percent are in favor of the tactic. The remaining 45 percent have yet to make up their minds.

23 October 2009

BNP Griffin on BBC Question Time - But We are the Best Supporters of Israel!

Griffin denies he is anti-Semitic – after all I supported Israel!!

Oh dear. This is becoming something of a habit. Everytime some loathsome fascist or racist rattlesnake gets accused of being anti-Semitic, what do they say? But I’m pro-Israeli!! I just love Israel's attitude to Muslims (i..e they kill them).

Of course this may fool those who were taken in by the anti-Zionist = anti-Semitism nonsense but then there is no better qualification for being a supporter of Zionism, than being an anti-semite. After all, if someone says they believe Jews don’t belong in this country and they should all go ‘back’ to Palestine, then they are either an anti-semite or a Zionist.

First we had Michal Kaminsky, the racist neanderthal who leads Poland’s Law and Justice Party whose answer to charges of anti-Semitism is that he loves Israel. And he had the Israel Ambassador Ron Prossor there besides him just to prove the point.

Now we have Holocaust denying Nick Griffin also playing the same song. To quote from the man himself on tonights BBC Question Time:
“there are Nazis in Britain and they loathe me because I have brought the BNP from being frankly an anti-Semitic and racist organisation into being the only political party which in the clashes between Israel and Gaza stood full-square behind Israel’s right to deal with Hamas terrorists.”
And of course he’s right, in his own way. It is true that such is the depth of the BNP’s hatred of people who are Muslim, that it can only applaud the efforts of Israel when it physically annihilates Palestinians. Quite why this makes Griffin not an anti-Semite is difficult to understand, except according to the warped Zionist ‘logic’ that assorted fascists and racists love, it is only opposition to Israel’s actions and the Israeli state itself is somehow ‘anti-Semitic’.

But as the Guardian of April 10th 2008 reported: ‘BNP seeks to bury antisemitism and gain Jewish votes in Islamophobic campaign’.· Ruth Smeed, spokesperson for the Board of Deputies of British Jews explained that
‘The BNP website is now one of the most Zionist on the web - it goes further than any of the mainstream parties in its support of Israel’.
Which exactly confirms Griffin’s argument. Zionism and anti-Semitism – like peas in a pod.

Tony Greenstein

New Labour Retreats on Proposals to Abolish DLA

But Attendance Allowance is Still Under Threat
As Disability Alliance Welcomes Government Proposals

A little while ago I blogged about the threat from New Labour to abolish Disability Living Allowance - a benefit that had been introduced by the Tories in 1992 - and which helps ensure that disabled people have just about enough to live on.

DLA was, of course, a tempting target to the scum of New Labour. It costs over £10 billion a year to run, money that could be better spent on welfare to bankers who can't get rid of their gambling habits. How dare the poor, just because there's something wrong with them, expect similar consideration. I can just hear you (& Brown) saying.

Well in a major victory today for campaigners, Blairite Health Secretary Andy Burnham ‘categorically ruled out’ any threat to DLA. We can take this with a pinch of salt, since there have also been references to existing recipients not losing out, which suggests that having failed to gather support for a full frontal attack on DLA, New Labour are considering using salami tactics to be rid of DLA, starting with new claimants first.

But the threat to Attendance Allowance, the Care element of DLA for those 65 and older, is immediate and it is extremely worrying. Unless a major campaign is launched to save AA, and useless charities like Disability Alliance forego their sweetheart relationship with New Labour and stop stabbing disabled people in the back, then AA will be the first go, after which it is logical that the care element of DLA will be next.

This is at a time when the various Disability Charities like Help the Aged, Age Concern and Disability Alliance have been in extensive ‘consultations’ with the government over this precise issue and there were reports that many of them had been bought off or won round.

Burnham said today:
One avenue I do want to close down, however, is the debate and controversy over Disability Living Allowance. We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service. This is because, whilst there will be increases in the numbers of disabled people of working age who need care, the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people.

However, we do think there may be a case for bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as Attendance Allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people.
New Labour has abolished Incapacity Benefit, it is thought Industrial Injuries Benefit is also under threat and the prospect of being able to abolish Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance, costing over £10 billion per year was extremely attractive to a government which has established a welfare system for Bankers costing hundreds of billion of pounds.

New Labour’s continual shifts show that it has seriously mistimed its attempts ‘reform’ and ‘modernise’ and [ ] (fill in the New Labour buzz words most appropriate) of disability benefits. Its web site was absolutely inundated with critical comments about its proposals and its worth having a look at the comments. They really show the depth of peoples’ anger at the latest New Labour attack on the most vulnerable members of society.

It was on 29th September 2009 that at the Labour Party Conference, Phil Hope, when asked if he would abolish DLA after the election replied:
No. All the models that we have done have not included DLA. But if people were to make a case to integrate DLA into a comprehensive system, then I'm very happy to hear that case and have those arguments.

DLA is not under threat and people can be very happy.
However this was soon reversed when, on 13th October in the House of Lords, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Lord MacKenzie, stated in reply to a question by veteran disability campaigner, Lord Jack Ashley, regarding the threat to DLA that:
‘My Lords, I reiterate that no decision has been made on this matter—it is a consultation—and I acknowledge the benefit that many disabled people see in the current benefit structure, particularly DLA and attendance allowance. However, there is a case for bringing some disability benefits and the adult social care system together to provide better support through a new national care service. We should remember that the social care system and disability benefit system have in many ways developed in isolation from each other—they are separately assessed and have separate applications—and there may be benefits for individuals in bringing them together. However, we have made clear in the Green Paper that should we make a change in this direction, individuals receiving the relevant benefits at the time of the reform will continue to receive an equivalent level of support and protection.’
Yet on 4th September it was reported that the DWP had confirmed that DLA was under threat

“When asked if scrapping DLA was an option, a DWP spokesman said:
It depends on what people say in the consultation. We need to see what people say when they respond.
Likewise Phil Hope, the same Care Minister who had encouraged us to be happy, had previously refused to rule out the possibility of Disability Living Allowance being subsumed into the overall care budget, as some people fear it might be saying only that proposals have so far been modelled on doing this with attendance allowance.

Scab Role of Disability Charities
One thing that needs to be learnt quickly is that the disability charities cannot be relied upon to oppose government attacks on the disabled. Disability Alliance went as far as to actually 'welcome' the Government's Green Paper and to 'look forward' to working with the Government in implementing them! We know that these charities only use the disabled as a good funding stream, but even by the already abysmally low standard of ethics of these groups, this particular act of fawning was loathsome.

The main lesson to emerge from this is vigilance! New Labour or the Old Tories will be back with the same or similar proposals - however it is dressed up.

Tony Greenstein

21 October 2009

Press Freedom - Israel Ranks Behind Lebanon, Kuwait & United Arab Emirates!

Well what would know? Remember Israel's boast? The only democracy in the Middle East. It would seem, however that the shine has somewhat come of that boast. In fact it is looking quite tarnished. Reporters Without Borders have just compiled the rankings for the 2009 Press Freedom Index and Israel comes in at 150!

The Middle East's only democracy has fallen behind Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

But before you all cry 'anti-Semitism' (yes I know how your minds work!) just relax. You will be pleased to know that Israel has at least beaten Russia, Tunisia, Syria, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Burma and North Korea!! It has even beaten Abbas's fiefdom in Ramallah, which came in at no. 161.

This is how Reports sans Frontieres described their decision and below is Ha'aretz's take on the issue.

Obama effect in US, while Europe continues to recede
Israel in free fall, Iran at gates of infernal trio

“Press freedom must be defended everywhere in the world with the same energy and the same insistence,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said today as his organisation issued its eighth annual world press freedom index.

“It is disturbing to see European democracies such as France, Italy and Slovakia fall steadily in the rankings year after year,” Julliard said. “Europe should be setting an example as regards civil liberties. How can you condemn human rights violations abroad if you do not behave irreproachably at home? The Obama effect, which has enabled the United States to recover 16 places in the index, is not enough to reassure us.”

Reporters Without Borders compiles the index every year on the basis of questionnaires that are completed by hundreds of journalists and media experts around the world. This year’s index reflects press freedom violations that took place between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2009.

Europe no longer an example?

Europe long set an example in press freedom but several European nations have fallen significantly in this year’s index. Even if the first 13 places are still held by European countries, others such as France (43rd), Slovakia (44th) and Italy (49th) continue their descent, falling eight, 37 and five places respectively. In so doing, they have given way to young democracies in Africa (Mali, South Africa and Ghana) and the western hemisphere (Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago).

Journalists are still physically threatened in Italy and Spain (44th), but also in the Balkans, especially Croatia (78th), where the owner and marketing director of the weekly Nacional were killed by a bomb on 23 October 2008.

But the main threat, a more serious one in the long term, comes from new legislation. Many laws adopted since September 2008 have compromised the work of journalists. One adopted by Slovakia (44th) has introduced the dangerous concept of an automatic right of response and has given the culture minister considerable influence over publications.

Israel: operation media crackdown

Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s military offensive against the Gaza Strip, had an impact on the press. As regards its internal situation, Israel sank 47 places in the index to 93rd position. This nose-dive means it has lost its place at the head of the Middle Eastern countries, falling behind Kuwait (60th), United Arab Emirates (86th) and Lebanon (61st).

Israel has begun to use the same methods internally as it does outside its own territory. Reporters Without Borders registered five arrests of journalists, some of them completely illegal, and three cases of imprisonment. The military censorship applied to all the media is also posing a threat to journalists.

As regards its extraterritorial actions, Israel was ranked 150th. The toll of the war was very heavy. Around 20 journalists in the Gaza Strip were injured by the Israeli military forces and three were killed while covering the offensive.

Iran at gates of infernal trio

Journalists have suffered more than ever this year in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran. The president’s disputed reelection plunged the country into a major crisis and fostered regime paranoia about journalists and bloggers.

Automatic prior censorship, state surveillance of journalists, mistreatment, journalists forced to flee the country, illegal arrests and imprisonment – such is the state of press freedom this year in Iran.

Already at the lower end of the rankings in previous years, Iran has now reached the gates of the infernal trio at the very bottom – Turkmenistan (173rd), North Korea (174th) and Eritrea (175th) – where the media are so suppressed they are non-existent.

Obama effect brings US back into top 20

The United States has climbed 16 places in the rankings, from 36th to 20th, in just one year. Barack Obama’s election as president and the fact that he has a less hawkish approach than his predecessor have had a lot to do with this.

But this sharp rise concerns only the state of press freedom within the United States. President Obama may have been awarded the Nobel peace prize, but his country is still fighting two wars. Despite a slight improvement, the attitude of the United States towards the media in Iraq and Afghanistan is worrying. Several journalists were injured or arrested by the US military. One, Ibrahim Jassam, is still being held in Iraq.

Israel ranks low for freedom of press, after Gaza war media ban
By Gili Eizkovitch

Israel placed No. 93 out of 175 countries on a 2009 international index of press freedom, released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday.

The 2009 ranking meant Israeli lost its place as the top country for press freedom in the region, falling behind Kuwait at No. 60, Lebanon at No. 61 and the United Arab Emirates at No. 86.

Israel's dramatic drop - 47 spots since last year - came as a result of its press regulations dictated to international media during the Gaza offensive earlier this year.
"Israel has begun to use the same methods internally as it does outside its own territory," said Reporters Without Borders, adding that journalists had been arrested and imprisoned and that military censorship also posed a threat.

But as a result of actions during Israel's war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in December and January, Reporters Without Borders ranked the country at No. 150 for its "extraterritorial actions."

"The toll of the war was very heavy. Around 20 journalists in the Gaza Strip were injured by the Israeli military forces and three were killed while covering the offensive," it said.

Meanwhile, RSF noted that press freedom has improved in the United States in the last year as the country jumped 20 places to No. 20.

The media watchdog said the assumption of the presidency by Barack Obama in January brought a new approach in Washington after eight years under President George W. Bush, while some European countries fell in the group's Press Freedom Index.

It expressed concerns about U.S. attitudes toward the media in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it said journalists had been injured or arrested by the U.S. military.

"President Obama may have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but his country is still fighting two wars," the group said. "Despite a slight improvement, the attitude of the United States towards the media in Iraq and Afghanistan is worrying."

The United States came in just behind Britain on the press freedom index of 175 countries, while China was at No. 168. Afghanistan No. 149 and Iraq at No. 145.

Reporters Without Borders noted that in the United States the House of Representatives this year backed legislation to allow journalists to protect their sources - it has not yet been voted on in the Senate - and the Obama administration had promised better access to public information.

The group said civil liberties were violated in the name of national security during the Bush era.

European countries hold the top 13 spots, led by Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. France fell eight spots to No. 43, Slovakia dropped 37 places to No. 44 and Italy fell five spots to No. 49.

"Europe should be setting an example as regards civil liberties. How can you condemn human rights violations abroad if you do not behave irreproachably at home?" said Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Jean-Francois Julliard.

Press freedom in France has been worsening for several years, the group said, with the authorities placing growing pressure on journalists to reveal sources and proposing legislation that could reduce their freedom.

In Italy, Reporters Without Borders said press freedom was being stifled by threats from the mafia and various lawsuits being brought or considered by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi against news organizations.

At the bottom of the list were Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea "where media are so suppressed they are nonexistent," said Reporters Without Borders.

Iran dropped to No. 172 from No. 166, with Reporters Without Borders saying the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had fostered a paranoia about journalists and bloggers.

"Automatic prior censorship, state surveillance of journalists, mistreatment, journalists forced to flee the country, illegal arrests and imprisonment - such is the state of press freedom this year in Iran," the group said.

The ranking was compiled from hundreds of questionnaires completed by journalists and media experts around the world and reflecting press freedom violations that took place between Sept. 1, 2008 and Aug. 31, 2009. The exact number of questionnaires completed was not immediately available.

19 October 2009

Abbas, Oslo and the Ha'avarah Transfer Agreement between Nazi Germany and the Zionist Organisation

I know that most Palestinians are horrified by the behaviour of Abbas and his cronies in withdrawing a critical motion of support for the Goldstone Report from the UN’s Human Rights Committee. However Palestinians should not think there is anything exceptional in Abbas’s behaviour. Indeed he is merely following in the footsteps of his Zionist friends.

In 1933, when Hitler came to power the reaction from Jews and non-Jews worldwide was instantaneous. It was to boycott Nazi Germany in all its manifestations. When Hitler and Goebbels planned the Boycott of Jewish shops on April 1st 1933, they had intended it to be a permanent boycott. It lasted less than a day. Why? Because of the world-wide anti-Nazi boycott.

In the United States, which was the centre of the Boycott, it is estimated that in the fur industry alone, Germany lost $100 million worth of trade in 1933. [61] Even the Roman Catholic Bishop of Liverpool, hardly a radical figure, called on fellow Catholics to join the Boycott. But as one prominent Jewish leader admitted to the trade union daily, The Daily Herald: ‘The [Jewish] leaders are hanging back,’ but the Jewish people are ‘forcing its leaders on’.

Already the boycott had damaged ‘hundreds of thousand of pounds’ worth of German trade.’ [34] Trade unionists lined up to support the Boycott, knowing full well that their fellow trade unionists in Germany were at that very minute being arrested and thrown into Dachau.

The Nazis were furious. German Jewish leaders were summoned on March 25 to a meeting with Goering and told in no uncertain terms to go to London and New York to campaign against Boycott and to have a mammoth meeting at Madison Square Gardens on March 27th 1933 cancelled. The Boycott was seriously worrying to a Germany dependent on the export trade to provide it with the hard currency necessary to re-arm and re-equip.

But the Mahmoud Abbases of the day, who went by the name of the Zionist Organisation and Mapai [Israeli Labour Party], had other ideas. They saw the main problem as being not the danger to German Jews from the Nazis, but the assets of the German Jewish community:

‘The attitude of Histadrut officials was typical of Mapai leadership and
their allies, who saw the wealth of German Jews as the most precious hostage
held by the Third Reich.’
Whereas the vast majority of Jews supported a Boycott of Nazi Germany wholeheartedly, the Zionists saw Boycott as an opportunity to get rich quickly. So the Zionists came up with Ha'avarah, the Transfer agreement, which allowed them to get their hands on over $100m of the wealth of German Jewry.

Jews couldn’t take their wealth out of Germany, not least because Germany was desperately short of foreign exchange. Instead the assets of prospective emigrants were liquidated and deposited in a clearing house, Paltreu, in Germany, controlled by the Zionist Federation of Germany (ZVfD). These frozen assets were known as Sperrmarks. In Palestine the Anglo-Palestine Bank (now Bank Leumi), wholly controlled by the Zionist Organisation, set up another clearing house, Haavarah Ltd.

The mechanism was simple. Emigrants would be given the equivalent of £1,000 in foreign exchange, allowing them to emigrate without restrictions to Palestine. Once there Haavarah Ltd. would order machinery, tools etc. from Germany, thus enlarging Germany’s exports, and the German industrialists would be paid in Sperrmarks from the frozen account. In Palestine payment for the machinery etc. would go to Havarah Ltd., and the emigrants would receive a portion, (about 15%) after various 'deductions' to the emigrant.

Thus, at the very time when there was an economic boycott of Germany, whose aim was to prevent attacks on German Jews and hopefully oust the Hitler regime, Palestine was swamped with German goods!! Unsurprisingly this dealt a death blow to the Boycott. As Hannah Arendt noted:

‘The result of which was that when American. Jewry took great pains to organise
a boycott of German..
merchandise, Palestine of all places was swamped with all
kinds of goods 'Made in Germany'.
[Eichmann in Jerusalem, p.60]
It is estimated that 60% of capital investment in the Yishuv, Jewish Palestine, between 1933 and 1939 came from Nazi Germany.

But to Zionism what mattered was the Jewish state not the Jewish people. As David Senator, an Executive Member of the Jewish Agency explained Zionists ‘could at least "help Germany… avoid the almost certain rupture of commercial relations.’ [254] Whole new industries – Publishing, Brewing, Steel – were established in Palestine through the transfer en bloc of German machinery. [257]

An equally appalling example of collaboration – literally Jews for Goods to echo the infamous Himmler ‘offer’ of Blood for Trucks in April 1944 – was the barter deal with Nazi Germany whereby Germany took 10m RM of Jaffa oranges and the Zionist economy in Palestine took 20m RM of German goods in exchange. As Edwin Black wrote:

Boycotters were trying to make Germany starve that winter. They could not believe that Palestine would stymie this effort so near success with a food barter for a cashless Reich.’ [319]
Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, a militant Zionist and later President of the American Zionist Federation (who later changed his tune) told the Jewish Telegraph Agency that ‘If the reports of those two deals are correct… then every Jew who goes to Palestine becomes an importer of German goods into Palestine, and this at a time when we deny Jewry… of the world the right to trade with Germany.’

Silver went on:

‘Why, the very idea of Palestinian Jewry negotiating with Hitler about business instead of demanding justice for the persecuted Jews of Germany is unthinkable. One might think that the whole affair was a bankruptchy sale and that the Jews of Palestine were endeavouring to salvage a few bargains for themselves…’ [321]

[All quotes are from Edwin Black’s ‘The Transfer Agreement – The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich & Jewish Palestine.’ Brookline Books, 1999; unless otherwise stated]. Black is himself a fervent Zionist it should be noted.

So what Abbas has done is not unremarkable. On the contrary, he has faithfully followed the lead that the Zionists have given him. He too places commercial ties and business links before the needs of his own people.
The real question, for Palestine solidarity activists in Britain is, will Palestine Solidarity Campaign now be prepared to openly criticise the quisling regime in Ramallah, whose very existence depends on the support of Israel and the United States?
Below is an excellent article by Ramzy Baroud on Abbas’s ‘mistake’ in withdrawing the Palestinian Authority’s motion on Goldstone. He shows quite clearly, as we have, that this was no mistake but the product of PA support for Israel’s invasion. When the whole world was condemning Israel, the PA was condemning Hamas. At no time have the PA called on Egypt to lift its own blockade of Gaza, without which the Israeli blockade would be useless.

Tony Greenstein
Abbas and the Goldstone Report: Our Shame is Complete
October 16, 2009, by Ramzy Baroud

As Israeli bombs fell on the Gaza Strip during its one-sided war between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009, millions around the world took to the streets in complete and uncompromising outrage. The level of barbarity in that war, especially as it was conducted against a poor, defenseless and physically trapped nation, united people of every color, race and religion. But among those who seemed utterly unmoved, unreservedly cold were some Palestinian officials in the West Bank.

Mahmoud Habbash, the PA Minister of Social Affairs is but one of those individuals. His appearances on Aljazeera, during those fateful days were many. On one half of the screen would be screaming, disfigured children, mutilated women, and search parties digging in the dark for dead bodies, at times entire families. On the other, was Habbash, spewing political insults at his Hamas rivals in Gaza, repeating the same message so tirelessly parroted by his Israeli colleagues. Every time his face appeared on the screen, I cringed. Every unruly shriek of his, reinforced my sense of shame. Shame, perhaps, but never confusion. Those who understand how the Oslo agreement of September 1993 morphed into a culture that destroyed the very fabric of Palestinian society can fully appreciate the behavior of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank during the Gaza war, before it and today.

But especially today.

Those who hoped that the Israeli atrocities in Gaza would rekindled a sense of remorse among the egotistical elites in Ramallah, were surely disappointed when the PA withdrew its draft resolution supporting recommendations made by South African Judge Richard Goldstone. The Goldstone report is the most comprehensive, and transparent investigation as of yet into what happened in Gaza during the 23-day war. It decried Israeli terror, and chastised Palestinians as well. But the focus on Israel undoubtedly and deservingly occupied much of the nearly 600-page report. The next step was for the Human Rights Council to send the report for consideration to the United Nations Security Council, which was to study the findings for a possible referral of the case to the International Criminal Court e in the Hague. Such a move would have been historic. Knowing the full implications of such a possibility, Hamas accepted the report's recommendations in full. Israel, backed by its traditional US ally, rejected it, leveling all sorts of accusations and insults on the world-renowned Jewish judge.

The draft resolution - condemning Israel and calling for the transfer of the report to the UNSC - was due for a vote at the Council on October 2. Alas, it was withdrawn at the behest of the Palestinian Authority and its president Mahmoud Abbas himself. Palestinian friends and allies at UNHRC were shocked, but obliged. They were equally disappointed when they watched PA envoys discussing the matter, not with the Asian, African or other traditional allies at the Council, but with US and European diplomats, who seemed to have a greater sway over Palestinian political action than those who have for decades supported Palestinian rights at every turn.

Something went horribly wrong. How could a leader of an occupied and suffering nation commit such a 'mistake', deferring an urgent vote and discussion on a report pertaining to the death of over 1,400 people, the maiming and wounding of thousands more, to a later date, six months from today?

Theories flared. Israeli and other media argued that US pressure on PA president Mahmoud Abbas was the main reason behind the supposedly unanticipated move. A positive vote on the resolution would jeopardize the 'peace process', therefore any action must be stifled for the sake of giving the 'peace process' a chance, was the rationale.

Amira Hass of Haaretz opined, "The chronic submissiveness is always explained by a desire to 'make progress.' But for the PLO and Fatah, progress is the very continued existence of the Palestinian Authority, which is now functioning more than ever before as a subcontractor for the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration."

Jonathan Cook, however, offered another view: "Israel warned it would renege on a commitment to allot radio frequencies to allow Wataniya, a mobile phone provider, to begin operations this month in the West Bank. The telecommunications industry is the bedrock of the Palestinian economy, with the current monopoly company, PalTel, accounting for half the worth of the Palestinian stock exchange."

"No blood for mobile phones," should perhaps be the new chant in Palestine. But it's that sad fact that held the Palestinian will hostage for too many years. However, it's not just mobile companies whose interests triumph over Gaza's agony. Indeed, the post-Oslo culture has espoused a class of contractors. These are businessmen who are either high-ranking officials in the PA and the Fatah party, or both, or closely affiliated with them. Much of the billions of dollars of international aid that poured into Palestine following the signing of Oslo found its way into private bank accounts. Wealth generated more wealth and "export and import" companies sprung up like poison ivy amidst the poor dwelling of refugees throughout the occupied territories. The class of businessmen, still posing as revolutionaries, encroached over every aspect of Palestinian society, used it, controlled it, and eventually suffocated it. It espoused untold corruption, and, naturally, found an ally in Israel, whose reign in the occupied territories never ceased.

The PA became submissive not out of fear of Israeli wrath per se, but out of fear that such wrath would disrupt business, the flow of aid thus contracts. And since corruption is not confined by geographical borders, PA officials abroad took Palestinian shame to international levels. Millions marched in the US, in Europe, in Asia, South America and the rest of the world, chanting for Gaza and its victims, while some PA ambassadors failed to even turn out to participate. When some of these diplomats made it to public forums, it was for the very purpose of brazenly attacking fellow Palestinians in Hamas, not to garner international solidarity with their own people.

Readily blaming 'American pressure' to explain Abbas' decision at the UNHRC no longer suffices. Even the call on the 74-year-old Palestinian leader to quit is equally hollow. Abbas represents a culture, and that culture is self-seeking, self-serving and utterly corrupt. If Abbas exits, and considering his age, he soon will, Mohammed Dahlan could be the next leader, or even Mahmoud Habbash, who called on Gaza to rebel against Hamas as Israel was blowing up Palestinian homes and schools left and right.

Palestinians who are now calling for change following the UN episode, must consider the Oslo culture in its entirety, its 'revolutionary' millionaires, its elites and contractors. A practical alternative to those corrupt must be quickly devised. The Israeli wall is encroaching on Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank, and a new war might be awaiting besieged Gaza. Time is running out, and our collective shame is nearly complete.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His latest book is, "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle" (Pluto Press, London), and his forthcoming book is, "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story" (Pluto Press, London), now available for pre-orders on Amazon.com.

Bedouins protest against State - the Security Lies of the Zionist Apologists

The lies of the Zionists and their apologists are never more clearly exposed than in their treatment of the Bedouin of the Negev. There has been no 'terrorism' to justify their treatment, the destruction and demolition of their villages and their expulsions. There is only one explanation - they are not Jewish. That is why they are treated like untermenschen. The Bedouin are a living example of Zionist racism and the Goebbels-like behaviour of its increasingly paid-for apologists. Below is an article from Ynet, Yediot Aharanot on-line. Tony Greenstein

Bedouins protest against the state`s allotting their lands to the JNF while depriving them of water
Ilana Curiel
Ynet News, Oct. 3 2009
(Original title: )

Hundreds carry signs in south protesting against State`s alleged attempt to drive them out of their land by failing to connect unrecognized villages to water system `If they dare approach our land, it will not be good,` protestor says

Hundreds of Bedouins and Jews demonstrated Saturday afternoon at the Goral Junction near Beersheba in protest of what they said was the State`s failure to connect the unrecognized villages in the area to water.

The protesters also claimed the state is stealing the villages` land.

The protest was relatively quiet, unlike the demonstration that took place two weeks ago. The protestors marched from Lehavim Junction to Goral Junction in what they called a `water convoy`. They carried signs that read, `The Bedouins in the Negev are thirsty for water and recognition` and `The State and JNF are land thieves`.

One of the protestors, Nuri al-Ukbi, told Ynet, `The State of Israel is depriving people of water in order to force them to leave the Bedouins` permanent communities. The authorities have waged a war to strip us of our land and give it to the JNF (Jewish National Fund).
`We are not Jews, so where is our place? Where is our children`s future? The situation is bad, I feel alone against the State of Israel. If they dare approach our land, it will not be good and all the Bedouins will mobilize to prevent this.`
Noam Tirosh, of the coexistence forum in the Negev was also at the demonstration, and said he believes the situation can be changed through a joint struggle by Jews and Arabs. He said.
`We just passed the summer months and citizens of the State of Israel have yet to be connected to any proper infrastructure. The State, through the JNF, is doing everything it can to conspire against the Bedouins and take over their lands in a brutal manner,`
Yousef Abu Zeid said the protestors were shouting `No more`. He said, `We inherited this land from our forefathers and no one has the authority to touch it. I hope we succeed. We plan to push forward with our public activity and continue protesting legally.
`We will go to the law. We live in this state and we are its citizens and we want to contribute to it, but we must also be allowed to build villages and live our lives. This reality causes serious unpleasantness between Bedouins and Jews.`

The Myth of the Jewish Nation Meets New York University

I've already covered Shlomo Sand's important book on the Myth of the Jewish Nation.

'Secular' Zionism was predicated on the right of 'return' of the Jews to a 'holy land' that was given by god to his own chosen people.
Unsurprisingly 'secular' Zionism - always a contradiction in terms has all but disappeared as a living political force.

Shlomo Sand's book is important in showing that like many other foundational myths, the myth of the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine in 70AD was a myth, albeit a convenient one. As he says, the chances are about one-thousand times higher that a Palestinian in Hebron is descended from someone Jewish than a settler or someone like himself. Therein lies the irony of the colonisation by the settlers of the West Bank 'because god gave it to us'.

In fact Zionism was a late 19th Century political movement brought into being initially by Christians (& anti-Semites) not Jews.

Tony Greenstein

At NYU, devilish Shlomo Sand predicts the Jewish past and pastes the Zionists

by Philip Weiss on October 17, 2009 ·
Of all the events I’ve covered surrounding Jewish identity and Israel in the last year, none has given me so much pleasure as the lecture last night by Shlomo Sand at NYU on the Invention of the Jewish People. Most events I go to are grinding, awful, heartrending, often with lamentations and pictures of mutilated children. This one was pure intellectual deviltry of the highest order by a Pavarotti of the lecture hall. And while it was fiercely anti-Zionist and included references to the mutilated children, it left me in just an incredibly elated mood. For I saw real light at the end of the tunnel, and not the horrifying dimness that surrounds almost all other events that deal with Israel politics here– for instance with the neoconservative Weekly Standard’s disgusting pursuit of J Street.

This pleasure was entirely Shlomo Sand’s achievement. He walked by me going down to the lectern and I noticed his physical vanity at once. He had expensive shoes on, designer jeans or cords, a zipup black jacket and a black shirt under that unbuttoned to the sternum. He is lean and mid-60sish, and behaves like a player. His beard is cut in an interesting manner, he wears designer glasses. I wondered if he dyed his hair. All glorious devil.

Sand has an excitable, self-referential style, and he began the lecture by breaking his guitar. “Jewish history is not my field.” No, but once he had discovered that the story of the connection of the Jewish people to the Holy Land was a myth, he decided that he would secretly explore the history but not publish until he got tenure for doing other work. Because if he published this first, “there would not be any chance of being a full professor. Not only in Tel Aviv. But at NYU too.”
Everyone laughed, but Sand said, “That is not a joke. I must write the book after I see that no one could touch me really.” More devil. Though Sand is right. This is no joke.

Sand studies European history, but Israel has a separate department in every school for Jewish history, and Zionists run these departments. “I have not a right to write about Jewishness.” The Zionist history holds that the Jews have an ancient connection biblically to the land, and were exiled from the Middle East in 70 AD, in what became the Diaspora. The Jews of New York and Warsaw. Sand began to question this story when he saw archaeologists’ work about the early Christian times and also when he saw scientific data. The exile is absurd. The Romans persecuted the Jews. They didn’t exile them.

At this point came the first interruption by a Zionist. A bald man in the third row or so called out, “What about Bar Kochba?” And: the Jews weren’t exiled because they were killed.

Sand seemed to live for this interruption. He walked up to the audience with his eyes gleaming, and congratulated the man for his knowledge of the Bar Kochba revolt of 135 AD, after the Second Temple destruction, and agreed with him, but also dismissed him. Yes many Jews were killed. And for the rest of the lecture Sand would dance toward this man and tease him that he was Jewish—he was—and urge him to buy the book to discover the gaps in his knowledge, or by the end of the lecture, say that he would buy the book for him himself, to improve him. More deviltry.

Back to the exile myth. The expelled diasporic Jews went in a straight line north to Europe, made a right into the land between the Caspian and the Black Seas, Kazaria, and also north to Russia and Poland; and when they got there in the 1800s they made a u-turn and started back to Palestine. The absurdity of the myth is that there were always Jews in the Middle East. The Jews were peasants and mingled with other populations. The Jews were not passive actors. They were at times a majority in the Holy Land and conquerors of the Arabian peninsula before the Arabs, and of North Africa too. For a time, they did not have a bar against proselytization. The Maccabees were the first to undertake forced conversion. In the 8th century the Jews and the Muslim Berbers were likely the invaders of Spain.

Sand offered very little by way of evidence. You will find that in his “boring” book, he said. This was an aria not a chalktalk. The Jews of the Middle East made several kingdoms over the years. One in Yemen, another in Babylon, another in North Africa, where they fought the Arabs. Sand said he loves the curly hair of the Yemenite Jews. More deviltry, with some concupiscence thrown in.

The Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe originated in Kazaria. They were hugely successful and founded a great city, Kiev. We can claim to have founded Kiev, but not Jerusalem, he said. Because the Jews who lived in the Holy Land stayed in the Holy Land. Many of the people we now call Palestinians were originally Jews. The chance that someone who lives in Hebron today and speaks Arabic is a direct descendant of a Jew in ancient times is 1000 times greater than the possibility that I am descended from a Jew, Shlomo Sand declared.

Let’s move on from the mythology to the issue of national identity. Identity is formed by many many associations. “I don’t deny Jewish identity. I’m not fighting against someone’s identity. There is identity of homosexuals. They are not a people. We are composed of a lot of identities.” Two Catholic share a religious identity, but again, that is not a national identity with a tie to land.
Nationalism took root in human political development in the 1800s. The Germans and French began the project by inventing the idea of a German and French people. The French history books declared outright in the first sentence that the Gauls were their ancestors. It was a way to valorize the nation state, which was an essential part of modernity.

What is a people? A people generally shares a way of life, a language, a food, a geography. There is no Jewish language. Shlomo Sand stumbles proudly in English, while of course many of the people in the audience were Jews speaking English. Food the Israelis have–stolen from the Palestinians—and still you must say that there is an Israeli people. But they are not the Jewish people. They are Israeli people, and the Palestinians are Palestinian people. Both made by Zionism.

The Zionist project began inventing the idea of a Jewish people in the 1870s as a reflection of other nationalisms. The Zionists turned to the Bible for the foundational myth. The biblical myths are taught in Israeli schools from before children are taught mathematics and language–taught about the biblical associations of Jews to this land. But the Exodus is a complete myth. “As a historian, I try and predict the past. I’m not a prophet.” And what are the true predictions of the past: at the supposed time of the Exodus, the Egyptians also controlled Canaan. The kingdom of David and Solomon was not a kingdom at all, but a small settlement around Jerusalem.

Sand had run over his 45 minutes. In the Question and Answer period, his passion and intellectual majesty announced themselves. He sought to engage with the Zionists in the crowd, and did so out of moral fervor. When Sand said that Israel was not a democracy, and a Zionist called out, “It is a flawed democracy,” Sand bellowed. No: a democracy is founded on the idea that the people are the sovereign, that the people own the state. That is the first principle of a republic going back to Rousseau. Liberalism and civil rights are not the core. Yes, Israel is a liberal society. It tolerates Shlomo Sand’s heresy, for instance, and puts him on TV. But it is a liberal ethnocracy.

Down the row from me were two Arabs. I recognized the man from other events I have been to. I noticed how fulfilled they were by the talk, how quietly approving, and it was in this connection that we saw Sand’s passion: on behalf of the Palestinians. This part of the lecture brought tears to my eyes, it was so forceful and unapologetic. The idea that Joe Lieberman has a right to move to Israel tomorrow and a Palestinian whose ancestors have lived there for centuries cannot is an outrage, Sand said. But for 50 years the Palestinian Israelis were afraid to speak out.
“They were afraid because of the Nakba. They were afraid because of the military regime. Today this is a generation of young Palestinian Israelis that stop to be afraid. They become more anti-Israel in their politics the more they become Israelis.”

Ravishing fire

Sand said that Gaza was just an intimation of the violence that might come when the Palestinians declare that they want a genuine democracy, a state of their own citizens in Palestinian-dominated Galilee. These are young Palestinian Israelis who don’t want to be part of the West Bank or of Gaza. They will be like the Kosovars of Serbia, who when the Serbs started to make an ethnic regime of the former Yugoslavia, did not want to be part of Albania, with whom they share religious connections, no they wanted to be their own country. (And got it, by the way, 60 years after the world falsely promised the Palestinians that they could have a state.) “They will build in Galilee a state of their citizens. That will start to be the end of Israel. Israel won’t let Galilee become a state of its citizens. It will be a mass murder, I’m afraid.”

Don’t we want to get past the idea of the nation-state? Of course we do, Sand said, but that is the era we are in. And tell that to the Palestinians. They want a state. Sand is for the two-state solution because the Palestinians ought to get a state after being denied it forever. As soon as the occupation, which has denied these Palestinians any civil or human rights for 42 years—more fire!—is ended, that is the day we throw ourselves into the project of making a confederation of Israel with Palestine and Jordan. The one-state solution is a utopia. “Utopia has to direct politics. Not replace politics. It’s too dangerous.” (Something like Hussein Ibish’s new book in that.)

When Sand spoke to Palestinian professors at Al Quds University, they told him to speak Hebrew, because they had all learned Hebrew in Israeli jails. And he told them that just because Israel had begun with a great crime did not mean that it had not begun. “Even a child that was born from a rape has a right to live. ’48 was a rape. But something happened in history. We have to correct and repair a lot of things.” The next day the Palestinian papers had his rape line in big headlines.

You have not talked about anti-Semitism, or self-hatred, said another Zionist, with a cap on. “I am anti-racist. And an anti-anti-semite,” he said. “But look at me, do you think I hate the Jewish?” More devil eyes flashing. “I don’t hate myself… I hate the Jewish people? But that doesn’t exist. How can I hate something that doesn’t exist?”

More Zionist claptrap from the claque: You say that a Jew can’t marry non-Jews in Israel, but two men can’t marry each other in this country! Sand laughed. Men should be able to marry each other here if they want to, and anyone should be able to marry anyone else in Israel. Why won’t the state recognize such marriages? Not because of the orthodox. No: the secular Jews gave the rabbis the power over marriage when they founded the Jewish state in ’48. They did so because “they were not sure of their identity, and needed religious criteria.”

What do you think of Israel Shahak, whose work says that ethnocentrism and chauvinism are built into the Jewish religion? Sand said that Shahak was a chemist and a man of tremendous moral force, but he didn’t know the material. (I say he’s right about this; all religious doctrines are interlarded with racism.)

Why are you not on Charlie Rose? asked a man with a beard. The man said, I watch Charlie Rose every night and I’m up to here with the Zionism on the show. He held his hand at his neck. Not just the Israelis, the American journalists who imbibe Zionism. Sand didn’t seem to know who Charlie Rose was. He has been on lots of Israeli TV shows. And been 19 weeks on the bestseller list in Israel. “Also in France.”

I thought, Why has Yivo not asked Sand to debate Michael Walzer? Two years back at Yivo/the Center for Jewish History, Walzer declared that the Jews are a people, a people like no other, without national borders. They have maintained a political community for 2000 years without geographical sovereignty, through a religious-legal structure. Interesting ideas. And it would be a fabulous debate. Where are you chickenshit Yivo, when these great ideas are bursting forth from the Jews who hate what Israel is doing to our identity?

I hope I am conveying something of the power of this event, and its incredible optimism and second sight. Sand challenged every Jew in the room to reimagine the future. “Most of the Jews [in the world today] are a product of conversion… I see the shame. And it is a shame. If you are born in the 20th century, and we were all born in the 20th century– to base your identity on biology.”

I thought as always of the American Jewish project: to end the Israel lobby and to end the myth of Jewish outsiderness. Sand had addressed this too. “The destiny of Israel. And the destiny of the Middle East depnds a lot on you, Americans.” This was a subject for its own lecture. But it was necessary for the Americans now to “save us from ourselves. I’m not joking about this.”
Do you fear for your life? someone asked.

“I’m worried in New York. Not in Tel Aviv. It’s not a joke. Really, I’m not joking.”

Israel's Lack of Legitimacy

An interesting article by Haaretz commentator, Ari Shavit, on how Israel's strength is being undermined politically by its growing illegitimacy. Tony Greenstein

Israel needs legitimacy to wage war and peace
By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Correspondent

It seems as if everything is fine. Israel's borders are quiet, the state is stable, the economy is recovering. Hezbollah and Hamas have been deterred, real estate prices are skyrocketing, and chemist Ada Yonath is on her way to Stockholm to pick up the Nobel Prize. Even Ra'ad Salah's attempt to ignite Jerusalem has thus far not succeeded: Palestinian sanity and Israeli discretion are still maintaining order. So it is not surprising that according to a recent comparative survey, Israel is one of the 30 countries in the world in which life is just fine.

With a strong shekel, relative security and temporary calm, life here really is good. Corruption and cynicism have both been hit hard, and today's Israel is cruising on still waters. Without major achievements and without major failings, without peace and without war, it seems as if things are all right. Not great, but all right.

But things are not all right - they really are not. Why? Because underneath those still waters on which Israel's ship is sailing lurks an iceberg.

The Goldstone report marked the iceberg's first appearance. Turkey turning its back on Israel was the second. Attempts by European courts to try Israel Defense Forces officers were the third; the boycott of Israeli products and companies in various places round the world was the fourth; and global indifference to the nuclearization of a regional power that threatens to wipe Israel off the map is the fifth. Every week, almost every day, the iceberg peeks above the surface. And when one takes a good look over the railing of this pleasure cruise, one can see exactly what it is: The iceberg is the loss of the State of Israel's legitimacy.

Ninety-two years ago, Lord Balfour sent Baron Rothschild a letter in which he recognized the Jewish people's right to create a national home in the Land of Israel. Sixty-two years ago, the United Nations recognized the Jewish people's right to establish a Jewish state. The 1917 Balfour Declaration and 1947 UN partition resolution gave Zionism the diplomatic foundation on which the Jewish state was established and perpetuated.

But over the past decade, that foundation has been worn away, and the idea of a Jewish state is now open to attack. The Jewish people's right to sovereignty and self-defense is now controversial. Paradoxically, as Israel gets stronger, its legitimacy is melting away. A national movement that began as "legitimacy without an entity" is becoming "an entity without legitimacy" before our very eyes.

The right is the primary culprit of Israel's legitimacy crisis. With the occupation, the settlements and brutality, religious nationalism has fed the destructive forces that seek to trample the natural rights of Jews and Israelis. But the left has also contributed its part to the legitimacy crisis. Those on the radical left did not always make certain that opposition to Israeli policies would not turn into reservations about Israel's very existence.

The right sinned by contaminating Zionism with the occupation, and the left sinned by abandoning the campaign over Zionism's justice. As a result, Israel lost not only its way, but its voice. The fundamental truths that brought us here, and which justify our existence here, have been lost and forgotten.

The campaign to renew Israel's legitimacy is a vital one. Without legitimacy, Israel will be unable to contend with Iran in any way, shape or form. Without legitimacy, Israel will not achieve peace, nor will it be able to wage war. Nonetheless, to give Israel back what it has lost, the prime and defense ministers need to do more than deliver speeches. They need to act.

On one hand, there is an urgent need for a creative, daring diplomatic initiative that would prove that Israel is truly and genuinely striving to end the occupation. Without such an initiative, the world will not listen to Israeli justice, which today remains a concept largely invisible to the world. On the other hand, there is a need to enlist Israeli and Jewish elites in the struggle to once again strengthen the foundations of Israel's legitimacy.

This diplomatic and moral effort is no less important than the struggles that produced the Balfour Declaration and the UN partition resolution. If such an effort is not launched immediately, and does not soon succeed, Israel will become an international pariah.

18 October 2009

Defend Jonathan Hoffman!

More than once in the past few months I had wondered why the stuffed shirts of the English Zionist Federation had appointed an activist who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty, when Jonathan Hoffman surfaced as its Vice-Chair. I must confess it has been a pleasant surprise. Whenever a demonstration is getting a bit tired and enfeebled we can always rely on Jonathan to get people going.

Traditionally, getting Zionists into a debate and into defending their position was almost impossible. I can remember when I was a student activist that everytime a college invited the Union of Jewish Students to debate with me, UJS ducked out on grounds of my ‘anti-Semitism’. How wonderful it would have been to have had a UJS Jonathan Hoffman, who was capable of repeating, parrot-like, the normal mantras (‘Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East’, ‘Arabs in Israel are equal’, ‘anti-Semitism equals anti-Zionism’) whilst incapable of responding to any detailed point of criticism.

And now I hear that out of pique, the defeated candidate for Vice-Chair of the ZF, one of the more traditional members of the Zionist Establishment, who also doubles as Vice-Chair of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jerry Lewis, is trying to undermine, silence and even remove what is fast becoming a national treasure.

Now it is true that at the debate over whether Zionism was wrong, at the Iran Press TV debate chaired by Alan Hart, that Jonathan Hoffman was his normal outrageous self - interrrupting everyone, listening to no one and ignoring the Chair, but on reflection one image said more than a thousand sound bites. True I called Jonathan Hoffman ‘
autistic’ at one point, and having experience of an autistic child it is quite probable that he probably does suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome (as well as bad politics), but Jonathan Hoffman is nonetheless an asset.

I am therefore forming the ‘Defend Jonathan Hoffman Campaign’ with Deborah Fink of Jews 4 Boycotting Israeli Goods as my deputy. Attacks on Jonathan Hoffman and attempts to remove him are, in my opinion, motivated by nothing less than the deepest anti-Semitism.

After Jonathan’s bravura performance at the picket of Ahava beauty shop in Covent Garden a month ago, when he was almost singlehandedly responsible for driving away any customers that had slipped through our net, as well as attracting attention to our protest and motivating the protestors, we say ‘Leave Jonathan Hoffman alone.’

Tony Greenstein

Board blasts Israel’s 'maverick' defender
Jewish Chronicle October 15 2009
By Marcus Dysch and Simon Rocker, October 15, 2009

Board of Deputies vice-president Jerry Lewis has launched a stinging attack on fellow Board member Jonathan Hoffman over his tactics when defending Israel in public.

Mr Hoffman, who is also vice-chair of the Zionist Federation, has been criticised by War on Want and Amnesty for his vociferous attempts to challenge attacks on the Jewish state.

Mr Lewis, who oversees Israel advocacy at the Board, said: “Given his position, Mr Hoffman should be far more cognisant of the necessity to act with common sense and not to act unilaterally in a way which damages both Israel’s case and beyond.

“I’m painfully aware his tactics have been the cause of many complaints to the Board, and his behaviour has been less than helpful.”

Hoffman's actions damage Israel's case

It is believed the Board has also expressed its concerns to ZF chairman Andrew Balcombe. But Mr Hoffman said Mr Lewis’ comments represented “the sourest of sour grapes”.
He said:

“In 2008 he [Mr Lewis] announced his intention to stand as chairman of the ZF but then withdrew. He stood as vice chairman and I beat him. He has done nothing but badmouth the ZF ever since.

“Why has Jerry Lewis not signed my petition to Gordon Brown about the Goldstone Report, signed by 2,500 in little over a week? Why has the Board — which constitutionally is obliged to advance Israel’s standing — been silent on the report, unlike the ZF?”
Mr Lewis’ attack came after Mr Hoffman’s ongoing row with War on Want took a new twist when the anti-poverty charity’s executive director John Hilary called his complaints “witless” and “laughable”.

Mr Hilary said the Charity Commission should dismiss “vexatious” complaints from Mr Hoffman, who has also come under fire from Amnesty UK, which accused him of “immature and disruptive behaviour” at public events.

Last month the Charity Commission cleared WoW of wrongdoing after the charity hosted an event which accused Israel of human rights abuses and called for a worldwide boycott of the Jewish state.

But the commission’s board is still investigating alleged factual inaccuracies in a separate WoW leaflet which discusses Israel’s creation and claims Palestinian suffering is “an acknowledged product of Israeli occupation”.

At the commission’s annual public meeting last week, Mr Hoffman again questioned how the charity could pass a public benefit test and accused it of “fomenting hatred”.

The repeated questioning sparked Mr Hilary’s outburst and prompted him to ask the Charity Commision whether it had a “vexatious complaints” policy.

Mr Hoffman responded: “The notion that my complaint is vexatious is utter nonsense. The fact the commission has agreed to reopen the case proves it is not ‘vexatious’. This is simply John Hilary’s way of bullying the commission.”

Amnesty UK is hosting an event on October 28, entitled Discriminatory and unsustainable: Water and politics in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, at which the main speaker will be Ben White, author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide.

He also appeared at the WoW event about which Mr Hoffman complained to the commission.
After learning of the Amnesty event, Mr Hoffman wrote to its organiser, Kristyan Benedict, demanding a 15-minute section of the evening to respond to Mr White.

Mr Benedict responded: “Given your immature and disruptive behaviour, at the last event and previous ones I am aware about, I can see no reason to grant you this amazing demand. “If you are willing to invite people from the human rights community to any ZF events and give them 15 minutes to challenge positions which vilify international human rights law, then I may reconsider.”