29 October 2015

Open Letter to J.K. Rowling

Abandon Your Support for Israel’s Death Eaters


J.K. Rowling, c/o Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP
Israeli artists with mouths sealed to represent the decision of the Israeli Government to cut the funding of artists who oppose the Occupation of the West Bank and the settlements
J K Rowling - a Betrayal of Palestinian children
Dear Ms Rowling,
Unlike many of the signatories to the letter to the Guardian of October 22nd [Israel needs culturalbridges, not boycottsyou are seen as someone who is politically progressive and who still remembers when she was a single person dependent on welfare benefits. 

Michal Kaminski -  the anti-Semitic neo-fascist Polish MEP that Eric Pickles defended
That in itself should have given you pause for thought before signing a letter alongside people like Eric Pickles MP, the former Cabinet Minister who has devoted his life to making the poor poorer and the rich richer.  Your co-signatories include a roll call of the Conservative Friends of Israel [CFI]; Members of Parliament - Guto Bebb, Bob Blackman, David Burrowes, Oliver Dowden, John Howell, Andrew Percy, Mike Freer, Matthew Offord, Andrea Jenkyns, Dame Angela Watkinson,  Chloe Smith, Heather Wheeler.
The Bradford Bigot and Former Tory Cabinet Minister - Signed the letter calling for 'dialogue'

There are also a host of other reactionary figures in the British Establishment such as Telegraph journalist Norman Lebrecht, Tory imperialist and historian Andrew Roberts and Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of Britain’s only private university,  Buckingham.
Miri Regev - Israeli 'Culture' Minister who cut off funding to Israeli artists opposed to the Occupation.  Once called asylum seekers 'cancer' and then apologised to cancer patients for having compared them to asylum seekers

The idea that Pickles, CFI’s Chairman or these Establishment figures are in the slightest bit concerned with dialogue and greater understanding of the plight of the Palestinians living under military occupation, beggars belief.  Pickles was only recently instrumental in pressurising Southampton University to cancel a conference on ‘International Law and the State of Israel’ http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/pickles-to-southampton-uni-avoid-one-sided-diatribe/
Eric Pickles - racist MP, former Cabinet Minister and Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel - co-sigantory to letter with J K Rowland
 Pickle’s opposition to applying international law in Palestine however, didn’t prevent him from defending the link up in the European Parliament’s Conservatives and Reformists Group between neo-fascist and anti-Semitic MEPs Michal Kaminski of Poland’s Law & Justice Party and Robert Zile of Latvia’s LNNK and the Conservative Group.
Michal Kaminski - the hapless fascist and anti-Semitic MEP that Picles defended - seated in front of an appropriate fascist symbol

As David Miliband observed:  “Eric Pickles, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, explained without a hint of shame that we should not condemn one of their new allies, the ‘For Fatherland and Freedom’ party, who every year celebrate the Latvian Waffen SS with a march past of SS veterans, because they were only following orders.’ 

You say that the true human cost of the Palestinian conflict was seared in your consciousness by the ‘heart-splitting poetry of Mahmoud Darwish.’    Mahmoud Darwish was a victim of the ‘dialogue’ you espouse, driven from his village of al-Birwa in 1948 and then denied the right to live in Israel.  His poetry is, to this day, banned from the curriculum of the Israeli state education system.

Instead of targeting the Cultural Boycott of Israel your Cultural Co-existence group should direct its attention to the withdrawal of funding by Israeli ‘Culture’ Minister Miri Regev from any Israeli group critical of the Occupation.  Israel's Minister of Culture Miri Regev vows to withhold funds from artists who 'defame'the state   This is the real boycott.

Another target for your group is Israel’s repeated and consist boycott of Palestinian culture, not only educationally but by, for example, its Police physically preventing the Palestinian national cultural festival taking place in Jerusalem in 2009 and subsequently.

You say that ‘ It would indeed have been a fool’s errand to try and talk Voldemort or Bellatrix Lestrange into laying down their wands for love of their fellow humans’ Why Dumbledore went to the hilltop.  Yet that is what you ask of the Palestinians, that they should abandon the one weapon that the Zionists fear.  A weapon used by the oppressed and dispossessed throughout the ages.

Boycott has a long pedigree, taking its name from the campaign of Irish peasants against Captain Boycott in Ireland.  In 1791 there began a Boycott of Slave Grown Sugar in the West Indies.  Sales dropped by a third and by 1792 some 400,000 people were boycotting sugar or buying it from the East Indies.  For some strange reason, those who advocated abolition didn’t call for ‘dialogue’ with the slave owners!  In 1933 there began a Jewish and Labour Movement boycott of Nazi Germany, which at one point threatened to topple the Hitler regime.  Again dialogue with Hitler wasn’t considered an option.  Unfortunately the Zionist movement decided to conclud a trade agreement with Nazi Germany (Ha'avara) which broke the boycott.  60% of capital investment in Jewish Palestine between 1933 and 1939 came from Nazi Germany. 

You will be aware of the crucial part played in the overthrow of Apartheid in  South Africa by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.  That is one reason why people like Ronnie Kassrils, the former ANC Minister, who is himself Jewish, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are so vociferous in their support of BDS.  I first became politically active in 1970 in the Stop the Springboks Tour.  Pressure on Apartheid rather than dialogue was rightly seen as more effective.

You say thatWhat sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contact with Israel’s cultural and academic community means refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government.  A cultural boycott places immovable barriers between artists and academics who want to talk to each other, understand each other and work side-by-side for peace.’ 

You are wrong.  An advert in the Guardian (27 October) from 343 academics supporting an academic boycott made it clear that the Boycott was of institutions, not individuals.  The cultural boycott, as the PACBI Guidelines make clear, is about boycotting arts groups that are sent abroad as part of the Israeli government’s ‘Brand Israel’ campaign.  It is not about boycotting individual Israeli artists or groups, even those which receive Israeli funding without political conditions attached.

The letter you signed stated that ‘cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory’ and that ‘Open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding’.  What is divisive and discriminatory is the situation where for example half of Israel’s Arab villages are ‘unrecognised’, liable to be demolished at any time.  There have been 67 years of such dialogue.  Discrimination has intensified and racism is thriving in Israeli schools and society.  ‘Death to the Arabs’ marches are a regular feature of Jerusalem’s political life.  Dialogue has failed precisely because it hasn’t been backed up by sanctions. 
You say that you ‘do not believe that a cultural boycott will force Mr Netanyahu from power’.  Perhaps not, but it will contribute, as it did in South Africa, to the process of forcing Israelis to face up to the consequences of their own actions, including voting for Netanyahu.
Throughout ‘Harry Potter’ there is the contrast between the ideology of racial supremacy, as expressed in the term ‘mud bloods’ and those who were muggle-born.  Pure Bloods represents the ideology of Jewish supremacy in Israel.  That is what a Jewish state means.  It means, for example the government funded group Lehava picketingthe wedding reception of a ‘mixed couple’ i.e. a Jewish and Arab couple.    It means that Eli Dahan, the Deputy Defence Minister, in charge of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, can say with impunity of the Palestinians ‘To me, they are like animals, they aren’t human.” and that ‘“A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual,”   New deputy defense minister called Palestinians ‘animals’ 

You have signed a letter with those who, like Pickles and the CFI, oppose an arms embargo on Israel.  That is the real ‘dialogue’ that they believe in.  Arms which helped murder over 2,000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza last year in Operation Protective Edge, including over 500 children.
Not one signatory to your letter was a Palestinian, the very people with whom you profess to want to establish a dialogue with.  I suggest you read the Open Letter of a Palestinian teenager Mia Oudeh who expresses her disappointment with your actions, which she feels, quite rightly, is a betrayal of her and other Palestinian children. 

It would also appear that your own literary agent, Neil Blair, is one of the driving forces behind Culture for CoexistenceHarry Potter fans “heartbroken” as author urges engagement with Israel Blair is also on the board of the UK branch of the Abraham Fund, which is sponsored by Hapoalim, an Israeli bank that finances the construction of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.

On 21 October, the UK Friends of the Abraham Fund announced as its new Chairman  Alex Brummer, a journalist with the reactionary and racist Daily Mail.   A recent statement on the Abraham Fund’s Facebook page calls for Arab society in Israel to ‘unite against the attacks and stabbings of Jews and prevent the incitement which is encouraging these acts.”   It seems oblivious to violence against Palestinians.

It is to be hoped that you will rethink your position on a Cultural Boycott and abandon your support for Israel’s Death Eaters.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein

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