20 December 2013

Mass Transfer Plans for 70,00 Bedouin in Negev Put on Hold

Netanyahu's point man on Bedouin relocation says plan still on track

 Like certain states before it, Israel is concerned about the ‘demographic’ problem i.e. too many Arabs.  The ‘ideal’ is a maximum of 30% of non-Jews and it is getting close if Israel is going to remain a ‘Jewish democratic state.’

There are therefore consistent plans to ‘Judify’ the Galilee, Jerusalem and the Negev.  In the Negev the plans are to evict up to 70,000 Bedouin from their ancestral lands and force them from their ‘unrecognised’ villages into slum and shanty towns.  Half of the Arab villages in Israel are ‘unrecognised and have not no running water or other facilities.  It is a testament to the fact that Israel considers all Israeli Palestinians ‘temporary’ and not belonging as an equal part of the state.

The ‘Jewish’ towns in the Negev will be exactly that, just as Upper Nazareth was intended.  Non-Jews are not wanted.  The plan for the Negev that has been rejected as a result of massive pressure is the Prawer Plan.  It is likely to be resurrected.  The Jewish National Fund will no doubt plant trees and forests over their remains, as befits the new ‘ecological racists.’  Al Arakhib village has been demolished over 20 times by the army but the residents have shown a determination not to accept the dictates of a racist state.

Preparation is continuing for the Prawer Plan’s implementation

Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog contradicts former minister Benny Begin's announcement that plan has been shelved, says he will continue preparing for implementation.

By Jonathan Lis, Jack Khoury and Shirly Seidler
| Dec. 17, 2013 |

The Israeli official responsible for implementing a proposed law to relocate Bedouin settlement in the Negev says he has received no instructions to stop preparations, even though the minister in charge of the bill announced last week that it was being shelved.

Former minister Benny Begin, who was responsible for advancing the so-called Prawer Law on the government’s behalf, told the media at a news conference last Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had accepted his recommendation to stop work on the law.

But Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, Netanyahu’s point man for implementing the plan, told Haaretz on Monday that Begin can say whatever he wants, but he, Almog, will continue preparing for the law’s implementation. When asked whether this was also Netanyahu’s position, Almog said he was not acting on his own.

The chairwoman of the Knesset’s Interior and Environment Committee, MK Miri Regev (Likud), also announced Monday that her committee would continue to advance the Prawer bill despite Begin’s announcement to the contrary. Regev discussed the matter in the morning with the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Harel Locker, and also spoke with Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, but neither asked her to shelve the bill, she said.

“The cabinet did not ask to pull the law,” Regev told the Interior Committee.

However, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir will apparently replace Begin as the minister in charge of implementing the plan. Shamir’s office said that while the minister had been involved in advancing the plan for months, he has not yet been formally appointed as Begin’s replacement.

One of the main tactics now being considered is changing the wording of the bill to separate the issue of ownership claims to the land, which only affects a few thousand Bedouin, from the issue of recognising Bedouin towns. The latter portion of the bill would then be put on a fast track, sources involved in the legislative process said.

“Netanyahu understands that he has no chance of passing the law as presently constituted, since in a rare move, both most of the coalition and most of the opposition oppose it,” one said. “The intention is not to shelve the law completely, but to make a long list of changes to the present wording.”

“Netanyahu prefers making changes in the existing bill, which has already passed its first reading, to beginning from scratch with a new proposal, which would have to go through six votes in the cabinet and Knesset and two discussions in the Interior Committee, which are liable to drag out for months,” a Knesset source explained.

Sources in the Bedouin community said they knew discussions of the bill were continuing, but until now had believed that in light of Begin’s statements, it would ultimately be withdrawn.

“We’re disappointed, but this only motivates us to continue the struggle,” Atia al-Assam, chairman of the regional council of the unrecognised Bedouin villages, told Haaretz.

Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel was also surprised by the decision to continue advancing the law, saying this merely proved once again that it is being pushed through without consulting the Bedouin themselves.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) severely criticised the decision to continue advancing the law as well.

I call on the government not to lead the public by the nose and not to spread disinformation. If they want to correct the law, then it is better they learn from the last round and understand they need to act transparently, in dialogue and in an appropriate and proper manner.” 

Did The Saudi Government Fund The 9/11 Attacks?

Evidence Suggests that the Saudi Regime Triggered off 9/11

I am not a big believer in conspiracy theories, not least because they are an easy way of explaining complicated phenomenon and letting off the guilty.  Hence it was easier to blame 'Jewish bankers' for the 1919 Stock Market crash than look at the real causes.

They also tend towards racism, the belief that but for the Romanians/Poles or whoever is the most recent immigrant, has caused social problems to exacerbate.
Bush and Bandar - Saudi Ambassador
The Saudis deny any role in 9/11, but the CIA in one memo reportedly found "incontrovertible evidence" that Saudi government officials — not just wealthy Saudi hardliners, but high-level diplomats and intelligence officers employed by the kingdom — helped the hijackers both financially and logistically.
Posted December 17, 2013

An Op-Ed in the NY Post is raising new suspicions about Saudi Arabia's role in 9/11 and the Bush Administration's role in covering it up. We discuss the cover up with former Senator and Chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee Bob Graham.

Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis

World View: Everyone knows where al-Qaeda gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing

Indepenent Sunday 8th December 2013

By Patrick Cockburn Foreign Commentator of the Year (Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards 2013

Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight "the war on terror", they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies to turn off the financial tap that keeps the jihadists in business.
Obama & friend- such is democracy's way
Compare two US pronouncements stressing the significance of these donations and basing their conclusions on the best intelligence available to the US government. The first is in the 9/11 Commission Report which found that Osama bin Laden did not fund al-Qa'ida because from 1994 he had little money of his own but relied on his ties to wealthy Saudi individuals established during the Afghan war in the 1980s. Quoting, among other sources, a CIA analytic report dated 14 November 2002, the commission concluded that "al-Qa'ida appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators who raised money from a variety of donors and other fund-raisers primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia".

Seven years pass after the CIA report was written during which the US invades Iraq fighting, among others, the newly established Iraq franchise of al-Qa'ida, and becomes engaged in a bloody war in Afghanistan with the resurgent Taliban. American drones are fired at supposed al-Qa'ida-linked targets located everywhere from Waziristan in north-west Pakistan to the hill villages of Yemen. But during this time Washington can manage no more than a few gentle reproofs to Saudi Arabia on its promotion of fanatical and sectarian Sunni militancy outside its own borders.

Evidence for this is a fascinating telegram on "terrorist finance" from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to US embassies, dated 30 December 2009 and released by WikiLeaks the following year. She says firmly that "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide". Eight years after 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, Mrs Clinton reiterates in the same message that "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups". Saudi Arabia was most important in sustaining these groups, but it was not quite alone since "al-Qa'ida and other groups continue to exploit Kuwait both as a source of funds and as a key transit point".
Mecca  - threatemed by development
Why did the US and its European allies treat Saudi Arabia with such restraint when the kingdom was so central to al-Qa'ida and other even more sectarian Sunni jihadist organisations? An obvious explanation is that the US, Britain and others did not want to offend a close ally and that the Saudi royal family had judiciously used its money to buy its way into the international ruling class. Unconvincing attempts were made to link Iran and Iraq to al-Qa'ida when the real culprits were in plain sight.

But there is another compelling reason why the Western powers have been so laggard in denouncing Saudi Arabia and the Sunni rulers of the Gulf for spreading bigotry and religious hate. Al-Qa'ida members or al-Qa'ida-influenced groups have always held two very different views about who is their main opponent. For Osama bin Laden the chief enemy was the Americans, but for the great majority of Sunni jihadists, including the al-Qa'ida franchises in Iraq and Syria, the target is the Shia. It is the Shia who have been dying in their thousands in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and even in countries where there are few of them to kill, such as Egypt.
Saudi women are forbidden to drive unless accompanied by a  male family member
Pakistani papers no longer pay much attention to hundreds of Shia butchered from Quetta to Lahore. In Iraq, most of the 7,000 or more people killed this year are Shia civilians killed by the bombs of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, part of an umbrella organisation called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which also encompasses Syria. In overwhelmingly Sunni Libya, militants in the eastern town of Derna killed an Iraqi professor who admitted on video to being a Shia before being executed by his captors.

Suppose a hundredth part of this merciless onslaught had been directed against Western targets rather than against Shia Muslims, would the Americans and the British be so accommodating to the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Emiratis? It is this that gives a sense of phoniness to boasts by the vastly expanded security bureaucracies in Washington and London about their success in combating terror justifying vast budgets for themselves and restricted civil liberties for everybody else. All the drones in the world fired into Pashtun villages in Pakistan or their counterparts in Yemen or Somalia are not going to make much difference if the Sunni jihadists in Iraq and Syria ever decide – as Osama bin Laden did before them – that their main enemies are to be found not among the Shia but in the United States and Britain.

Instead of the fumbling amateur efforts of the shoe and underpants bombers, security services would have to face jihadist movements in Iraq, Syria and Libya fielding hundreds of bomb-makers and suicide bombers. Only gradually this year, videos from Syria of non-Sunnis being decapitated for sectarian motives alone have begun to shake the basic indifference of the Western powers to Sunni jihadism so long as it is not directed against themselves.

Saudi Arabia as a government for a long time took a back seat to Qatar in funding rebels in Syria, and it is only since this summer that they have taken over the file. They wish to marginalise the al-Qa'ida franchisees such as Isil and the al-Nusra Front while buying up and arming enough Sunni war-bands to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The directors of Saudi policy in Syria – the Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the head of the Saudi intelligence agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Deputy Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan – plan to spend billions raising a militant Sunni army some 40,000 to 50,000 strong. Already local warlords are uniting to share in Saudi largesse for which their enthusiasm is probably greater than their willingness to fight.

The Saudi initiative is partly fuelled by rage in Riyadh at President Obama's decision not to go to war with Syria after Assad used chemical weapons on 21 August. Nothing but an all-out air attack by the US similar to that of Nato in Libya in 2011 would overthrow Assad, so the US has essentially decided he will stay for the moment. Saudi anger has been further exacerbated by the successful US-led negotiations on an interim deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

By stepping out of the shadows in Syria, the Saudis are probably making a mistake. Their money will only buy them so much. The artificial unity of rebel groups with their hands out for Saudi money is not going to last. They will be discredited in the eyes of more fanatical jihadis as well as Syrians in general as pawns of Saudi and other intelligence services.

A divided opposition will be even more fragmented. Jordan may accommodate the Saudis and a multitude of foreign intelligence services, but it will not want to be the rallying point for an anti-Assad army.

The Saudi plan looks doomed from the start, though it could get a lot more Syrians killed before it fails. Yazid Sayegh of the Carnegie Middle East Centre highlights succinctly the risks involved in the venture: "Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate mujahedin groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over. Al-Qa'ida followed, and the blowback subsequently reached Saudi Arabia."

Documents  that reveal the hidden alliance between Israel and Apartheid South Africa

Why Israel Fears Roger Waters


The intellectual dishonesty of Israel’s supporters is appalling. But in some odd way, it is also understandable. How else could they respond to the massively growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign?
Roger Waters sprays the Apartheid Wall with 'No Thought Control'
 When a non-violent campaign – empowered by thousands of committed civil society activists from South Africa to Sweden and most countries in between – leads a moral campaign to isolate and hold into account an Apartheid country like Israel, all that the supporters of the latter can do is spread lies and misinformation. There can be no other strategy, unless of course, Israel’s friends get their own moment of moral awakening, and join the BDS flood that has already broken many barriers and liberated many minds from the grip of Israeli hasbara.

According to their logic, and that of the likes of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, writing in the New York Observer on Dec 12, legendary musician and human rights champion Roger Waters is an ‘anti-Semite’. In fact, according to the writer, he is an ‘anti-Semite’ of the worst type. “I’ve read some heavy-duty attacks on Israel and Jews in my time, but they pale beside the anti-Semitic diatribe recently offered by Roger Waters, co-founder and former front man of the legendary British rock band Pink Floyd.”
Roger Waters - ex front singer for Pink Floyd
Of course, Waters is as far away from racism as Boteach is far away from truly representing the Jewish people or Judaism. But what has earned Waters such a title, which is often bestowed without much hesitation at anyone who dares to challenge Israel’s criminal policies, military occupation and insistence on violating over 70 United Nations resolutions, is that Waters is a strong critic of Israel. In a recent interview with CounterPunch.org, Waters stated the obvious, describing Israel as a ‘racist Apartheid regime’, decrying its ‘ethnic cleaning’ of Palestinians, and yes, refusing to perform in a country that he saw as an equivalent to the “Vichy government in occupied France.”

Boteach is particularly daring to go after Waters, a person adored by millions, and not only because of his legendary music, but also of his well-known courageous and moral stances. But once again, the panic felt in pro-Israeli circles is understandable. What Israeli officials describe as the de-legitimization of Israel is reaching a point where it is about to reach a critical mass. It is what Palestinian Gaza-based BDS activist Dr. Haidar Eid referred to in a recent interview as Palestine’s South Africa moment.

In an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz published on Dec 12, Barak Ravid introduced his piece with a dramatic but truthful statement: “Western activists and diplomats are gunning for Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territories, and if peace talks fail, the rain of boycotts and sanctions could turn into a flood.” Entitled “Swell of boycotts driving Israel into international isolation,” Ravid’s article establishes a concrete argument of why the boycott movement is growing in a way unprecedented in the history of Israel.

I am writing these words from Spain, the last stop on a European speaking tour that has taken me to four European countries: France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium. The purpose of my tour was to promote the recently published French edition of my last two books, the second being: My Father Was a Freedom Fighter, Gaza’s Untold Story (Resistant en Palestine, une histoire vrai de Gaza). But at the heart of all my talks was the promotion of what I call ‘redefining our relationship to the struggle in Palestine,’ based first and foremost on ‘moral divestment’ from Israel. Only then, can we change our role from spectators and sympathizers to active participants as human rights defenders. The main address of such activities can be summed up in the initials: BDS.

What I learned throughout my tour, well attended and also covered in French media, was even to surprise me. The BDS debate is at such an advanced stage and it has indeed surpassed my expectations. In my last European tour of 2010, many of us were attempting to push the boundaries of the debate facing much resistance, even from groups and movements that were viewed as progressive. The situation has now changed in such an obvious away that on occasions I was compelled by the audience to discuss the most effective BDS strategies, as opposed to defending the very virtue of the tactic.

And within the two weeks of my travels, there was a flood of news of western governments, companies and academic institutions either joining the boycott or deliberating the possibility of doing so. The Romanian government, for example, is refusing to allow its labors to work in illegal Jewish settlements. A few years ago, this kind of news was simply unheard of.

But what changed? In some respects, nothing, and that is the crux of the argument. The Israeli occupation is more entrenched than ever; the illegal settlements are increasing and expanding; and the so-called peace process remains a charade maintained mostly for political self-serving reasons – a cover for the colonial policies of Israel, and a condition for continued US-western financial and political backing of the Palestinian Authority – and so on. But other factors are changing as well. BDS activists have found a common strategy and are formulating a unifying narrative that is finally liberating the Palestinian discourse from the ills of factionalism, empty slogans and limiting ideology. The new platform is both decisive in its morality and objectives, yet flexible in its ability to encompass limitless groups, religions and nationalities.

Indeed, there is no room for racism or hate speech in BDS platforms. What is equally as important is that there can also be no space for gatekeepers who are too sensitive about Israel’s racially-motivated sensibilities, or those ever-willing to manipulate history in such a clever way as to prevent a pro-active strategy in being advanced. The ship has sailed through all of this, and the boycott is vastly becoming the new and permanent address of the international solidarity with the collective resistance and struggle of the Palestinian people.

Of course, when Roger Waters took the stances that he did, he knew well of the likes of Boteach who would immediately denounce him as ‘anti-Semite.’ The fact is, however, the number of ‘Roger Waters’ out there is quickly growing, and the power of their moral argument is widely spreading. Israeli smear tactics are not only ineffective but also self-defeating.

Ramzy Baroud is author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle and “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

Israel - Apartheid South Africa's Best Friend

Lest We Forget – Israel’s Support for South Africa

As true today as when Mandela spoke
For decades Israel supported the “A-word” regime and its military with advanced weapon systems at a time when Western sanctions meant no one else would. According to Haaretz editor Aluf Benn, the cooperation reached its peak in the late 1980s, the twilight of the apartheid regime

In the summer of 1988, Benn says, Israel reportedly sold South Africa 60 Kfir combat planes in a hushed-up deal worth $1.7 billion. The planes were upgraded and renamed Atlas Cheetah and Israel’s involvement was played down because the US was party to the sanctions regime

Friday 13 December 2013

Israel and Apartheid: Confused? You will be

Accused of enacting 'apartheid' itself, in the past Israel aided the South African regime

The lame excuses made up by Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to go to Nelson Mandela’s memorial  on Tuesday have raised eyebrows and wry smiles all over the world. Having insisted on a £150,000 refit of the plane he and his wife took for the five-hour flight to Lady Thatcher’s funeral in London earlier this year, the trip to Johannesburg would, he claimed, be “too costly”. This from a man who spends thousands a year – from the public purse - on pistachio ice-cream
Netanyahu could not afford the price of a ticket to South Africa
Peres also couldn't go to South Africa - he had flu!
However, it is quite possible that Mr Netanyahu may have been less than ecstatically welcomed in the new South Africa anyway, following revelations that the country’s apartheid regime was the Israeli defense industry’s biggest customer and sponsor.
Begin, Rabin and Moshe Dayan entertain John Vorster, hardline supporter of Apartheid and an ex-Nazi interned during the wary
For many years it was virtually a capital offence to use the word “apartheid” as an analogy to policies of the Israeli government in the Occupied Territories. In 2007 my friend Danny Rubenstein, the venerated Arab Affairs analyst of Haaretz newspaper, was invited by the Zionist Federation of Great Britain to address an event. On his way he stopped to address a UN committee in Brussels, and used the word “apartheid” to describe Israel’s attitude towards the Palestinians.

In response, he was unceremoniously dumped by the ZFGB and left high and dry in a B&B in Golders Green on a Friday night. He was eventually rescued by the New Fund for Israel and invited to a crowded gathering in a North London Reform synagogue.
Israelis nuclear co-operation with Pretoria 
But while Rubenstein was mainly concerned to warn the audience of the dangers of Israel following in the footsteps of the Afrikaaners, his interviewer – and most of the questioners - kept harping on what was constantly, if coyly, referred to as “the A-word”.

Yet it now emerges that for decades Israel supported the “A-word” regime and its military with advanced weapon systems at a time when Western sanctions meant no one else would. According to Haaretz editor Aluf Benn, the cooperation reached its peak in the late 1980s, the twilight of the apartheid regime.

In the summer of 1988, Benn says, Israel reportedly sold South Africa 60 Kfir combat planes in a hushed-up deal  worth $1.7 billion. The planes were upgraded and renamed Atlas Cheetah and Israel’s involvement was played down because the US was party to the sanctions regime, according to Haaretz.

Israel joined the international sanctions in 1987 but said it would honour existing contracts so the deal went ahead anyway. A few weeks later, the Israelis launched the first Ofek reconnaissance satellite which Benn claims could only have been developed with South African funding. And only in 1991 was the US able to force the Israeli government to stop selling SA short and midrange missiles.

Maps which were only revealed in the past few days show how the Israelis plan to create bantustans for the Nomadic Bedouin in its southern Negev region. Tens of thousands of them would be forced into ghettoes to make way for new Jewish towns and military zones. A-word, anyone?

International Campaign Against Sodastream

International Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation 

Activists in Chico

Activists in Houston

Activists in Italy
Stickers say no Israeli products 

French Campaign Against Boycott

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation — Store owners in Rome, Italy remove all SodaStream...

This contains a link to the page of the Italian BDS website on Sodastream, which includes a photo of our march on the day of action in September!
Activists in Trieste
On Sunday, December 8, 2013 4:21 PM, Stephanie Westbrook  wrote:

Hi all,
good news from Rome, a retailer removed Sodastream *during* our action for the Italian national day of action! See English version of our press release:

(video is in Italian but you can see them remove the products from the shop window at the end)
Activists in Chicago
We also went round to bars and restaurants (it's a tough job but someone has to do it) doing counter-promotion against sales of Sodastream Professional's industrial machines. Several agreed to put our "We are Sodastream Free" stickers on their windows!

See also fotos from Pisa, Milan and Trieste

Other work is being done at the member' assemblies for the COOP supermarket chain.
We will try to put together a common press release on the day's activities.
In the meantime, please share our news from Rome.

Happy boycotting!


Hillel's Swarthmore Chapter Rejects Zionist Impositions on Students

Hillel warns Swarthmore chapter over rejection of Israel guidelines

[See below Eric Fingerhut's letter to me and my reply, the day after this was posted]
Swarthmore College
This is one of the most significant developments in the United States and shows the depth of disillusion with Israel amongst the Jewish community.

Rabbi Hillel, (110 BCE, died 10 CE) rejected the Zionist concept of ‘retaliation’ and expulsion (he prefigured Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount by saying you ‘What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellowman; this is the whole Law. The rest is but commentary.’ .

Like all Jewish institutions today it has had the normal Zionist intolerance foisted upon it.  You cannot be an anti-Zionist Jew and become a member of Hillel.

What is significant is that for the first time ever, a local Hillel has rebelled against these police state rules and declared that Hillel is open to all.

It is yet another sign of the way the wind is blowing.

Instead of  taking heed of the trends, Hillel’s International President Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut has written a typically Zionist McCarthyite letter as to who is acceptable within the tent. to Joshua Wolfsun, Communications Coordinator of the Swarthmore Hillel Student Board.

It breathes intolerance in the Zionist tradition and the refusal to accept that  many Jews are no longer Zionists.   It is also an example of dishonesty and how Zionism transforms the positive Jewish heritage into one of chauvinism and racism.

Fingerhut wrote that ‘Rabbi Hillel is perhaps more famous for his saying in Pirkei Avot, 
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

But like most Zionists he was  being dishonest.  He 'forgot' the whole quote, the second part of which completely changes the meaning:

‘If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when? 

It is no accident that the Zionists use the first part of the quote and discard the second, humanistic part which qualifies the first part!  The relevant parts

Tony Greenstein

Excerpts from Fingerhut's Letter

… I hope you will inform your colleagues on the Student Board of Swarthmore Hillel that Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines. No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise.

Your resolution further includes the statement: “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist.” This is simply not the case. Let me be very clear – “anti-Zionists” will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances….

In one of your resolution’s clauses, you invoke “the values espoused by our namesake, Rabbi Hillel, who was famed for encouraging debate in contrast with Rabbi Shammai.” Rabbi Hillel was famed for his openness to others, and his leniency in legal interpretation to advance tikkun olam – “repairing the world.” This spirit is strong in today’s American Jewry, and it is strong in the work of Hillel on every campus. However, Rabbi Hillel is perhaps more famous for his saying in Pirkei Avot, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

Hillel warns Swarthmore chapter over rejection of Israel guidelines

December 10, 2013 12:32pm

NEW YORK (JTA) — Hillel International warned its Swarthmore College chapter that it cannot use the Hillel name if it flouts the international Jewish campus group’s Israel guidelines.

Hillel delivered the warning Tuesday in a sharply worded letter following the Swarthmore chapter student board’s decision to repudiate Hillel guidelines prohibiting partnerships with groups deemed hostile toward Israel.

In his letter, Hillel’s president and CEO, Eric Fingerhut, warned Swarthmore Hillel’s student communications coordinator, Joshua Wolfsun, that the chapter’s rejection of the guidelines “is not acceptable.”

“I hope you will inform your colleagues on the Student Board of Swarthmore Hillel that Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines,” Fingerhut wrote. “No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise.”

The Hillel student board at the Pennsylvania liberal arts college voted unanimously on Sunday to reject the Hillel guidelines for campus Israel activities. Swarthmore became the first chapter of the Jewish campus organization to declare itself an “Open Hillel” — part of a student movement that says its goal is to “encourage inclusivity and open discourse at campus Hillels.

Hillel International’s Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities reject partnerships with groups or hosting speakers who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state; delegitimize, demonize or apply double standards to Israel; support boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against Israel; or foster an atmosphere of incivility.

The policy encourages individual campus Hillels to adopt their own policies that are “consistent” with these guidelines.

The Swarthmore Hillel student board’s resolution said the guidelines “privilege only one perspective on Zionism, and make others unwelcome.” The resolution said that Swarthmore Hillel “will host and partner with any speaker at the discretion of the board, regardless of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines.

Swarthmore Hillel had said in a statement: “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist.”

Fingerhut, in his letter, rejected the formulation.
“Let me be very clear – ‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances,” he wrote.

Wolfsun had previously told the Forward that Swarthmore Hillel did not need to worry about financial repercussions.

“We are funded by our own endowment and have no board of overseers,” he said.

I would like to add that last month, the Hillel Chapter, Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland, hosted the Israeli-Palestinian youth music movement, HEARTBEAT. The band played fusion rock, hip-hop, traditional Jewish and Arabic music and sent a strong message against segregation and discrimination, and sang for unity and an end to walls. There was a large crowd from the campus. They then had a discussion (but I couldn't stay for the entire afternoon). The founder of the group is an American Jewish former music student who is now doing his graduate studies in Rockville, Maryland. The organization is growing and including more musicians of Palestinian and Israeli background. If you want more information about the group, you can let me know.


Defying Hillel rules, Swarthmore chapter invites anti-Zionists to come on in

Philip Weiss on December 9, 2013 19

Two weeks ago, an Israeli speaker was barred from Harvard Hillel because he was sponsored by a Palestinian solidarity committee. Over the weekend the Swarthmore College Hillel responded with a stunning and unanimous declaration: We defy Hillel International’s rules.

Here are two statements. First, a press release announcing the refusal to accept the international body’s guidelines on speakers and putting out a welcome mat for anti-Zionists, post-Zionists, non-Zionists, everyone. (And not just Jews.) And below that, the resolution itself.

(The Jewish Press has reported this news, angrily. Swarthmore Hillel’s Josh Wolfsun says there’s been no response to the resolution yet.)

Notice particularly the invocation of “our namesake,” Rabbi Hillel, who believed in open debate. Notice the defiant statements about “the true face of young American Jews” against the “monolithic face” that Hillel wants the Jewish community to have. Shattering.

Also hark to the way these young people are now instructing their elders about the mission:
we need to constantly wrestle with how best to meet the collective needs of a diverse community. We need to create a space that is safe and welcoming for all.

For all. In a diverse community. Swarthmore is redefining the modern Jewish community.

1. Swarthmore Hillel declares itself an Open Hillel By Swarthmore Hillel Board, 2013-2014

On November 11, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Burg was supposed to give a talk on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Harvard Hillel house. Instead, Hillel barred him from speaking at the Hillel house, and he ended up giving his talk in an undergraduate dormitory on campus. The reason he was barred? His talk was co-sponsored by the Harvard College Palestinian Solidarity Committee.

Sadly, for organizations bearing the name “Hillel,” situations like these are all too common. Across the country, many Hillels have banned Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli soldiers that facilitates talks about the Israeli military and West Bank occupation. Jewish Voice for Peace, which seeks “peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East,” has never been allowed to affiliate with Hillels. On some campuses, J Street has had a difficult time working with Hillels, and events co-sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine or Palestine Solidarity Committees have often been banned.

Across the country, Hillels’ suppression of the freedom to speak and believe things that are not narrowly pro-Zionist are the direct result of Hillel International’s Israel Guidelines. Right after stating in their “Political Pluralism” section that they object to excluding “students for their beliefs and expressions,” they declare that they “will not partner with, house, or host” – in other words, they will exclude – groups and speakers that espouse certain beliefs about Israel. These contraband beliefs include denying the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and supporting boycotting, divesting, or sanctions against Israel. They also ban those who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel.” No further explanation is provided to clarify these guidelines, but their ambiguity has done nothing to ease the stifling effect they have on individual Hillels’ freedoms of speech, belief, and association. These guidelines would exclude speakers with views like those of Peter Beinart, Judith Butler, and Noam Chomsky.

Hillel, billing itself as the “Foundation for Jewish Campus Life,” is seen by many as the face of the American Jewish college population. And due to these policies, it is a face that is often seen to be monolithically Zionist, increasingly uncooperative, and completely uninterested in real pluralistic, open dialogue and discussion.

We do not believe this is the true face of young American Jews.

In fact, we do not believe there is only one face of young American Jews. We believe there are many faces of this diverse population. In our community, we find this diversity in the conversations we have with each other in our Sukkah, in the group of students meeting in a college coffee bar to discuss Talmudic conceptions of angels, and in the songs we sing together after a Shabbat meal. If we are truly devoted to fostering Jewish Campus Life, we need to constantly wrestle with how best to meet the collective needs of a diverse community. We need to create a space that is safe and welcoming for all. We need to a create a space that invites difference – difference of opinion, difference of belief, difference of background, difference of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

This is hard work. But if we are going to bear the name of Rabbi Hillel, we cannot expect anything less to be asked of us. Rabbi Hillel valued Jewish debate and difference – it was at the core of his practice. We do the same. For us, that is what the name Hillel symbolizes.

Therefore, we choose to depart from the Israel guidelines of Hillel International. We believe these guidelines, and the actions that have stemmed from them, are antithetical to the Jewish values that the name “Hillel” should invoke. We seek to reclaim this name. We seek to turn Hillel – at Swarthmore, in the Greater Philadelphia region, nationally, and internationally – into a place that has a reputation for constructive discourse and free speech. We refuse to surrender the name of this Rabbi who encouraged dialogue to those who seek to limit it.

To that end, Swarthmore Hillel hereby declares itself to be an Open Hillel. All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist. We are an institution that seeks to foster spirited debate, constructive dialogue, and a safe space for all, in keeping with the Jewish tradition. We are an Open Hillel.

We invite you to join us.

2. The resolution. “Swarthmore Hillel is an Open Hillel.”
Unanimously adopted by Swarthmore Hillel Student Board, December 8, 2013

Whereas Hillel International prohibits partnering with, hosting, or housing anyone who (a) denies the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double standard to Israel, (c) supports boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel;
Hillel as the Zionists would like to portray it
And whereas this policy has resulted in the barring of speakers from organizations such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from speaking at Hillels without censorship, and has resulted in Jewish Voice for Peace not being welcome under the Hillel umbrella;

And whereas this policy runs counter to the values espoused by our namesake, Rabbi Hillel, who was famed for encouraging debate in contrast with Rabbi Shammai;

And whereas Hillel, while purporting to support all Jewish Campus Life, presents a monolithic face pertaining to Zionism that does not accurately reflect the diverse opinions of young American Jews;
And whereas Hillel’s statement that Israel is a core element of Jewish life and a gateway to Jewish identification for students does not allow space for others who perceive it as irrelevant to their Judaism;
And whereas Hillel International’s Israel guidelines privilege only one perspective on Zionism, and make others unwelcome;
Swarthmore Chapter rejects Hillel International's restrictions
And whereas the goals of fostering a diverse community and supporting all Jewish life on campus cannot be met when Hillel International’s guidelines are in place;

Therefore be it resolved that Swarthmore Hillel declares itself to be an Open Hillel; an organization that supports Jewish life in all its forms; an organization that is a religious and cultural group whose purpose is not to advocate for one single political view, but rather to open up space that encourages dialogue within the diverse and pluralistic Jewish student body and the larger community at Swarthmore; an organization that will host and partner with any speaker at the discretion of the board, regardless of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines; and an organization that will always strive to be in keeping with the values of open debate and discourse espoused by Rabbi Hillel

Hillel International faces crisis as Swarthmore chapter rebels against its Israel guidelines

Submitted by Abraham Greenhouse on Tue, 12/17/2013 - 19:45

In a move that sent shockwaves through the American Jewish community, the Hillel chapter at Philadelphia’s Swarthmore College declared in an open letter last week that it would not comply   with its parent organization’s policy of censoring speech critical of Israeli policy.

Hillel International, the world’s largest Jewish campus organization, acts as an umbrella group for more than 550 chapters around the world — but mainly within the United States.

Hillel’s Israel Guidelines  forbid chapters from hosting individuals or organizations that oppose Israel’s status as a “Jewish and democratic state” (i.e., its right to discriminate against non-Jews).

The guidelines further ban those who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double-standard to Israel” (a catch-all for virtually all other forms of criticism). They also rule out any speaker who supports boycotts, divestment or sanctions  (i.e. the use of nonviolent pressure to encourage Israel to comply with international law).

Citing the fact that Hillel’s own namesake was a rabbi known for his steadfast pluralism, Swarthmore Hillel’s student board stated in its open letter published in The Beacon  that:
Hillel, billing itself as the “Foundation for Jewish Campus Life,” is seen by many as the face of the American Jewish college population. And due to these policies, it is a face that is often seen to be monolithically Zionist, increasingly uncooperative, and completely uninterested in real pluralistic, open dialogue and discussion. We do not believe this is the true face of young American Jews…
Therefore, we choose to depart from the Israel guidelines of Hillel International. We believe these guidelines, and the actions that have stemmed from them, are antithetical to the Jewish values that the name “Hillel” should invoke. We seek to reclaim this name.

Hillel International responds
Swarthmore Hillel was rebuked almost immediately in a sharply-worded letter  from Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut.
Fingerhut insisted that “no campus organization that uses the Hillel name” may decline to comply with the umbrella group’s censorship policy. The letter goes on to state that “ ‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.”

Hillel International told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Fingerhut would meet with representatives of Swarthmore Hillel in January, but declined to say if any punitive measures would be taken.

Although Hillel’s campus chapters are autonomous entities, Swarthmore Hillel is particularly well-positioned  to challenge the policies of the umbrella group. It receives little funding from Hillel International, and unlike most chapters, it doesn’t have a non-student board of directors.

The Swarthmore move is a major leap forward for the broader Open Hillel, which was launched at Harvard last year. Open Hillel has started a petition in support of Swarthmore Hillel’s declaration that has already gained more than 1,000 signatures.

Mixing culture and religion with political advocacy

When Fingerhut was hired earlier this year, he said in an interview with JNS.org  that the Hillel board’s commitment to its Israel Guidelines was “an important thing” that persuaded him to take the job.

In a recent op-ed authored with Jonathan Kessler, Fingerhut boasted of the way Hillel works alongside lobbying group AIPAC  to “develop better and more effective strategies for minimizing the impact of anti-Israel activities on campus.” Kessler is the longtime leader of AIPAC’s campus programs.
Its partnership with AIPAC is only one feature of Hillel’s role in coordinating anti-Palestinian advocacy on college campuses. Seventy Hillel chapters across the United States host “Israel Fellows” employed by the Jewish Agency for Israel, working to increase Jewish students’ “engagement” with Israel, in large part through anti-Palestinian advocacy. Hillel chapters also work closely with “Campus Coordinators”  from the David Project, a Boston-based nonprofit which trains students to weave personal networks that can be activated to advance anti-Palestinian initiatives or respond to criticism of Israel on their campuses.
Implications for anti-Palestinian advocacy

In recent years, mainstream US anti-Palestinian groups, led by the Israel Action Network  (IAN), have sought to reduce the extent to which they are with identified with overt efforts at censorship, such as attempts to block Judith Butler  and Omar Barghouti from speaking at Brooklyn College. This is part of a broader strategy aimed at crafting a “Big Tent” that can leverage voices seen as being on the left to “drive a wedge”  between Palestinian rights advocates and potential progressive supporters.

With the Swarthmore declaration, and a growing perception that Hillel and associated institutions are out of touch with their communities and enforce a false consenus through the use of bullying, that strategy faces a serious crisis.

Andy Bachman, a rabbi known for working with IAN to aggressively pressure  Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op to continue stocking Israeli products, including settlement-made SodaStream beverage devices, was quick to leap to Swarthmore Hillel’s defense in the pages of the Forward.

While known astroturfer Bachman’s op-ed may be part of a deliberate communications strategy developed by key institutional stakeholders, it’s far too early to predict how this will play out.

Should other Hillels find inspiration in Swarthmore’s bold decision, or should the ideals behind the Open Hillel movement spread to other Jewish communal institutions, the anti-Palestinian leadership of groups like Hillel International may face a crisis larger than they thought.

Fingerhut, Eric
20 Dec (4 days ago)

to me
Dear Tony,
Thank you for sharing your views regarding Hillel and our approach to open and civil discussions and programs related to Israel. I want to state clearly that Hillel welcomes all Jewish students, including those of all political ideologies regarding Israel.
We embrace fully the broad mission of American higher education, which creates a unique opportunity to learn, to listen, to debate and to disagree. We want Jewish students to benefit from this environment of discussion, learning and new perspectives, and to contribute to it. This goes for any issue, and we are proud of the many Hillel student leaders who are actively involved in a range of campus debates and organizations.

We also do not discourage Jewish students from participating in programs or discussions related to Israel, such as the future of the peace process, or any program which they want to attend. We have many Hillel leaders who do exactly that, and we are proud of their efforts to reconcile their own political and policy views with the difficult realities of that region. They set a remarkable example, and I learn from them every day.

That said, we do not and will not partner with groups that seek to delegitimize and isolate the Jewish state. We do not deny to these groups the right to pursue their agenda on campus – they have their own resources and their own supporters. We simply will not partner with these groups or host such events in an official capacity. But again, I want to emphasize that Hillel embraces all Jewish students as equal members of our holy community.

Thank you for your concern and leadership. For more on our guidelines related to these issues, please read our Israel guidelines, which can be found here: http://www.hillel.org/jewish/hillel-israel/hillel-israel-guidelines.

Shabbat Shalom,

Eric D. Fingerhut
President & CEO
 ________________ Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center
800 Eighth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

P: 202-449-6560E: 
From: Tony Greenstein [mailto:tonygreenstein111@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 19, 2013 8:07 AM
To: Fingerhut, Eric; Spiegel, Osnat
Subject: In Support of Swarthmore Hillel and Open Hillel

Dear Mr. Fingerhut,

The purpose of being a student is to be able to learn, think and criticise. For some Jewish students to be exorcised from Hillel suggests that you are afraid that others might hear their message. Well I've news for you. They will anyway! I totally support Swarthmore Hillel in their decision to become an "Open Hillel." I believe that Hillel International's "Standards for Partnership" weaken Hillel, alienate many Jewish students, and reduce the vibrancy and diversity of the Hillel community. Given your own doctrine of "fearless inclusivity," all Jewish students and organizations should be welcome in Hillel. Hillel should not require students to hold a particular 'kosher' political ideology in order to be included. By excluding students, Hillel does not erase their political views, but simply prevents them from connecting with a Jewish community. The current policies also prevent Jewish and Palestinian groups on campus from working together or engaging in dialogue -- dialogue that would help both Jewish and Palestinian students gain a deeper understanding of each others' perspectives. Hillel should be a space for free discourse and open dialogue, not a monolithic political entity that represents fewer and fewer Jewish students' views. Please do not override students' voices, at Swarthmore Hillel or anywhere else -- respect Swarthmore Hillel's decision to become an Open Hillel, and remove Hillel International's "Standards for Partnership" so that all Hillels are free to be Open Hillels.

Tony Greenstein

19 December 2013

Sodastream walks into a boycott

Sodastream's Failed Campaign in Brighton.

A Xmas Boycott

The Brighton Boycott

Boycott has spread internationally

Goods plastered
When Sodastream opened its first and only so-called flagship eco-store in Brighton last year, there was talk in the local press about this shop being the first of many in the UK. Brighton had been chosen because of our 'green' image and the fact that we have the only Green MP, Caroline Lucas (who has supported the demonstrators outside  the shop).

Our impression at the time was that they were going to assess its success in Brighton and, assuming reasonable profits (or market share, or penetration, or whatever the business-speak term is) they would then roll out similar so-called eco stores across the UK. 

Our understanding is that they have radically but quietly revised their plans and in essence concentrated on getting their products into other stores like Argos.   Sodastream (renamed Ecostream in Brighton) have in effect abandoned the expansion project (unusual for Israelis, I know) due in large part to the noisy reception they received in Brighton. 

I've emailed their customer services, using a couple of (erm) useful email addresses, to say how envious we are here in (eg) Sheffield that Brighton has such a fantastic eco-shopping place, and when are they going to open one here so all us greenies can re-fill our bottles? All the replies say the same thing - "no plans to open a shop near you, I'm afraid". This suggests that the original Sodasstream project has been abandoned.  

Tony Greenstein