28 December 2018

BITS & PIECES: - Paul Jonson Victory – The Guardian’s Vendetta Against Julian Assange – Birthright Expels Dissident Teens – Israeli Conscientious Objector Hillel Garmi (19) has been released from military prison

VICTORY AGAINST THE IHRA – Paul Jonson Reinstated

We should welcome the reinstatement of Paul Jonson.  It is a defeat for the Israeli Government funded Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. This McCarthyite organisation is dedicated to closing down debate and discussion on Palestine and Israel because they know that in any rational discussion, Israel’s racist behaviour and practices are indefensible.

This is also a massive defeat for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance misdefinition of anti-Semitism which is designed to destroy free speech on Israel/Palestine. 150+ local authorities have adopted the IHRA and we have to make sure that it is NOT used to undermine free speech.

The Guardian’s Vendetta Against Julian Assange 
This is a very disturbing article on how the Guardian is deliberately inventing malicious and fake  stories designed to undermine Julian Assange and Wikileaks.  Patsies like Nick Cohen are doing the Intelligence Services dirty work. None of the allegations against Assange, that he is a sponsored dupe of the Russians stands up.

Birthright Kicks Dissident Jewish Teens off their tours
Birthright or Birthwrong as it is called is a programme sponsored by US billionaire and Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson.  It is designed to acquaint American and other Jewish youngsters with their so-called birthright.  In other words to get them to become the colonisers of the future.

It is based on the lie that Israel is the ‘real home’ of diaspora Jews. Fortunately American Jewish groups like Ifnotnow have been hard at work informing those who go on these trips that these are propaganda tours and nothing more.  The result of their campaign is that the numbers going on these tours, which are nothing more than cheap bribes, is down by 50% this year and Birthright have now resorted to throwing off the trips those youngsters who challenge the right-wing Zionist narrative which they are fed.  Clearly Israel and its propagandists don’t do debate or discussion.  They want lapdogs who will accept whatever they are told.

Hillel Garmi (19) of Yodfat has been released from military prison
After 7 consecutive terms of imprisonment, Israeli teenager Hillel Garmi has finally been released from the obligation  to serve Israel’s occupation army. Although the experience of these Israeli kids is nothing as compared to Palestinian teenagers, some as young as 12, who are subject to beatings, sleep deprivation and outright torture, we should remember that the pressure on them to conform is massive.
Please support the Refuser Solidarity Network

Socialist Worker 20 December 2018

A council worker suspended from his job for criticising Israel has been reinstated after a campaign was launched to defend him.
Paul Jonson, an anti-social behaviour officer at Dudley council, was suspended from work earlier this year after calling Israel a racist endeavouron Facebook. He faced accusations that his post was antisemitic.
But now he has been told he has no case to answer, and that he has the right to campaign in solidarity with Palestinians. More than 800 people signed a statement defending Paul and the right to speak out against Israel.
It comes as the right to criticise Israel is coming under attack at councils across Britain.
Rob Ferguson, who helped to organise Paul’s defence campaign, told Socialist Worker the victory “is a very significant blow against the attempt to stifle and intimidate free speech on Israel and the Palestinian struggle.”
Supporters of Israel complained that Paul’s post breached the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
An example associated with the definition says it could be considered antisemitic to describe the existence of Israel as a “racist endeavour”.
This can make it harder to describe Israel’s systematic discrimination against Arabs as racist, or its attempts to expel Palestinians as ethnic cleansing.
Yet the state has racism at its core.
Some 850,000 Palestinians were forced out of Palestine when Israel was created in 1948. Its founders wanted to ensure the state had a Jewish ethnic majority.
Today Israel refuses to allow Palestinians to return because it says their presence would undermine Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Earlier this year the Israeli government passed a law that says only Jewish people have the right to self-determination there.
Yet supporters of Israel want to clamp down on those who call Israel—or its founding ideology Zionism, which justified Palestinians’ expulsion—racist.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) demanded that Paul was sacked after his Facebook post, which also advertised a lobby outside Labour MP Ian Austin’s surgery in October.
The CAA considers anti-Zionism to be antisemitic, has described the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as being fuelled by antisemitism, and has organised protests where Labour was compared to the Nazi Party.
Austin is listed as one of the CAA’s honorary patrons. He had previously recognised Paul as a council employee and confronted him at a protest in July.
The CAA apparently complained to Dudley council about Paul after the lobby of Austin’s surgery in October.
In a local newspaper article that broke the news of Paul’s suspension, CAA director Stephen Silverman said Paul was “Utterly unfit to hold the office of Anti-Social Behaviour Officer for Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.
“We are glad that the council has suspended him following our complaint.”
And in November a CAA spokesperson demanded to know why Paul “has still not yet been dismissed as a council employee.”
Yet Paul was finally told by council bosses on Wednesday that the accusation of antisemitism “will not be recorded against him,” and that he has the right to campaign for Palestine outside of work.
The campaign to reinstate him won widespread support. Defending the right to criticise Israel was at the heart of it.
As well as collecting signatures in his defence, Paul spoke at meetings of the local trades council, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign meetings, the Stop the War coalition and the Quakers.
The Dudley trades council also released a statement in his support.
The campaign is an example of how to resist attempts to clamp down on solidarity with Palestine in other workplaces.
Labour-controlled Waltham Forest council adopted the IHRA definition last week and incorporated it into its code of conduct for employees.
Rob said, “We need to learn from Paul’s victory and mount opposition to the IHRA definition across the entire trade union movement.”

Guilty by innuendo: the Guardian campaign against Julian Assange that breaks all the rules

An analysis of articles published by the Guardian over several months reveals what appears to be a campaign to link WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with Russia and the Kremlin. But the paper has provided little or no evidence to back up the assertions. And amid recent revelations that Guardian journalists have associated with the psychological operations experts at the Integrity Initiative, we should perhaps be more sceptical than ever before.
This particular campaign by the Guardian appears to have begun with an article on 18 May 2018 from Luke Harding, Dan Collyns and Stephanie Kirchgaessner. It stated that “Assange has a longstanding relationship with RT”, the Russian TV broadcaster; and the headline was Assange’s guest list: the RT reporters, hackers and film-makers who visited embassy. Assange has had hundreds of people visit him at the embassy, but the article was keen to focus on the “senior staff members from RT, the Moscow TV network described by US intelligence agencies as the Kremlin’s ‘principal international propaganda outlet’”.
On the same day, the Guardian published another article, claiming that Assange had visits from “individuals linked to the Kremlin”, but which offered no evidence for this.
On 20 June, Harding and Kirchgaessner wrote a story focusing on “Assange’s alleged ties to Russia”. It claimed that “a longtime US lobbyist for the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska visited Julian Assange nine times at the Ecuadorian embassy”. Yet the article’s sub-heading stated: “It is unclear whether Adam Waldman’s 2017 visits had connection to Oleg Deripaska”. Waldman is a lawyer, and visited Assange in that capacity.
By 21 September, Harding, Collyns and Kirchgaessner wrote about “Assange’s ties to the Kremlin”, without even an “alleged”. Then, on 26 September, Collyns wrote again of Assange’s “ties to the Kremlin”, also offering no evidence.
All these articles followed an opinion piece on 29 March by James Ball, who rhetorically asked if Assange was “working with people at the top of Putin’s government”.
More recently
In the US, special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election and the release of thousands of files from the US Democratic Party. The Guardian’s coverage of this has also attempted to convey that Assange knowingly sourced information from Russian intelligence. On 16 November, Jon Swaine and Stephanie Kirchgaessner wrote that “the July indictment [by Mueller] said WikiLeaks urged the Russians to give them the first batch of stolen emails”. This implied that WikiLeaks was working with “the Russians”. Then, on 27 November, Harding and Collyns wrote that “WikiLeaks emailed the GRU [Russian military intelligence] via an intermediary seeking the DNC material”. Nick Cohen similarly wrote on 7 October that “GRU agents passed 50,000 documents from the Clinton campaign to WikiLeaks, which presented them as the product of its own investigations”. Again, this all inferred that WikiLeaks was in contact, or actually conniving, with Russian intelligence.
On 17 October, the Guardian carried a story from Associated Press, mentioning “Assange’s relationship with Russian authorities”. It offered no evidence for this “relationship”, other than claiming there was “a growing body of evidence suggesting he [Assange] received material directly from Russia’s military intelligence agency”. Precisely what “growing body of evidence” it was referring to was unclear.
On 22 October, a Guardian opinion piece by Kathleen Hall Jamieson asserted that “it is now clearer than ever” that “the Russian cyber-theft” of thousands of Democratic Party emails was “abetted by Assange’s WikiLeaks” – the suggestion again being that WikiLeaks had been conspiring with Russia. Not even Mueller has claimed that WikiLeaks was involved in any hack of the emails.
The Guardian also tried to link the Mueller investigation to its RT story. On 6 December, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Jon Swaine wrote:
The special counsel’s alleged focus on RT is important because the Russian news channel also has a close relationship with the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange… [RT journalist Afshin] Rattansi’s August 2016 interview of Assange was alleged to have been part of Russian propaganda efforts aimed at boosting Trump and denigrating Clinton”.
And on 20 November, the Guardian published a story stating that “Russian Twitter trolls… have begun to advocate on behalf of Julian Assange”.
Then there are the accusations of flat-out “fake” stories
All this is in addition to two recent Guardian stories that faced accusations of being fabricated.
On 27 November, the Guardian published a story on its front page – written by Harding, Collyns and Ecuadorian journalist and former anti-government activist) Fernando Villavicencio – claiming that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had held three secret talks with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. (Note: As The Canary reported, Villavicencio’s name appeared on the print version but was not present on the web version.)
But in an exclusive interview with The Canary, former consul and first secretary at the Ecuadorian Embassy Fidel Narváez refuted that story. And a variety of media outlets, including the Washington Post, subsequently ridiculed it. The article also sought to link Assange to Russia, stating:
A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.
An earlier Guardian story – written by Harding, Kirchgaessner and Collyns and published on 21 September 2018 – was headlined Revealed: Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK. The article claimed that it “raises new questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin”. Narváez also described that piece as a “fake story” in his interview with The Canary. And because the Guardian named him as the link to Russia in the article, the former diplomat has accused the Guardian of causing “irreparable damage to my reputation” and has demanded an apology.
Not good enough
Simply referring to ‘unnamed sources’ (as in the article about the supposed Manafort visits) is just not good enough in the age of fake news. For this reason, The Canary followed up the Guardian story on Manafort by suggesting likely sources: namely private intelligence contractors organised by Ecuadorian intelligence (Senain), reportedly with some help from Villavicencio. The Guardian, meanwhile, has largely failed to defend its claims.
On the matter of sources, it’s important that journalists are careful with whom they associate. For example, Guardian commentator and BuzzFeed writer James Ball spoke at an event promoted by the controversial Integrity Initiative, which claims to specialise in ‘counter-disinformation‘. So did Guardian/Observer journalist Nick Cohen. And at least one other Guardian journalist spoke at that event too. Other mainstream media journalists, meanwhile, are also listed in Integrity’s ‘UK cluster’ activists document (seen by The Canary).
The question that we now need to ask is: if the Guardian story about the Manafort visits was untrue, then how many more claims against Assange in the articles quoted above were also untrue? If the paper had given hard evidence in the first place, we wouldn’t need to ask that question. But it didn’t. So we do.
The Canary contacted the Guardian for comment. But it hadn’t responded by the time of publication.
Whatever the Guardian‘s rationale behind its articles on Assange, they will undoubtedly help to create a hostile climate towards the WikiLeaks founder. And that in turn may enable Ecuador’s new government, at the behest of the US and the UK, to push him out of the embassy in London, leaving him to face potential or likely extradition to the US. 
A day after being kicked off a Birthright Israel trip, three young American Jews went to the exact place Birthright would never take them: the West Bank.
They are meeting with residents of a Bedouin village to ask them about living under Israel’s occupation of the territory, Emily Bloch said. Bloch, 29, along with Shira Tiffany, 29, and Benjamin Doernberg, 29, were dismissed from their Birthright trip Sunday.
We’re just figuring stuff out,” Bloch said. “We didn’t have any plans because we weren’t planning to get kicked off.”
Bloch, Doernberg and Tiffany are all members of IfNotNow, a left-wing group that is opposed to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Members of IfNotNow left their Birthright trips over the summer to visit locations in the West Bank. The group has recently passed out packets of information about Israel and its occupation of the West Bank to Birthright participants in airports ahead of their trips.
IfNotNow provided contact information for Bloch, Doernberg and Tiffany to the Forward. Doernberg and Tiffany did not respond to requests for comment from the Forward.
The trio were asked to leave their trip after what Bloch described as a “pretty heated discussion” occurred between her and an Israeli tour guide leading the trip after Bloch asked about the wall that separates Jerusalem from the West Bank. Bloch said she asked about the wall because she is an immigrants’ rights activist in Boston.
The trio were then taken to a Birthright office in Tel Aviv, where they were told they could either go immediately to the airport and fly home, or stay on their own dime, and forfeit their flight home and $250 security deposit.
“I felt like I hadn’t gotten what I’d come here for, so I decided to stay and learn more,” Bloch said.
Bloch said that Birthright staff did not specifically tell them why they were being kicked off the trip, only saying that they had broken the program’s “rules and regulations.” Bloch said she took that to mean that they had infringed recently added language in Birthright’s code of conduct, which includes a ban on “hijack[ing] discussion.”
They’re drawing the line, that if you want to ask questions about the occupation, you’re not welcome anymore,” Bloch said.
In a statement, Birthright called the trio “activists,” and said that the organization has a policy of asking participants to leave when they “disrupt the experience of other participants.”
Birthright Israel always welcomes participants’ views and questions, which are essential to the success of the experience, so long as they are shared in a constructive and respectful manner,” the statement read. “We will not condone any coordinated plans to ruin the experience for others in order to promote a specific agenda.”
Birthright did not immediately respond to further questions asked by the Forward.
After being asked to leave, Bloch said that she, Doernberg and Tiffany stayed at a friend’s home in Tel Aviv, before going to the West Bank Monday morning. They are visiting Umm al-Khair, a Bedouin village near Hebron, which has seen tent homes demolished by the Israeli government.
Bloch says that the trio are self-funded, and may start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for their travel expenses and flights back to the U.S., as several Birthright participants who were kicked off their trips in August did.
Bloch said that tonight they are staying with an acquaintance in Jerusalem.
“A lot of people have reached out over social media and offered us places to stay, and connections,” she said.
Tomorrow they are planning to go see a main checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.
“The checkpoint is the gate of the border wall,” Bloch said. “That’s where I think you can often see a lot of what it’s like to live separated, on either side of the wall.”
Bloch said she was disappointed to be kicked off the trip. She said she had previously tried to go on a Birthright trip, in 2014, before it was cancelled because of Israel’s war with Gaza that year, and this is her first time in Israel.
“I wanted to see Israel with my own eyes,” she said. Birthright “is the opportunity presented to so many people in our generation as the way to do that.”
But, she said, they’re not helping American Jews have a “complex and nuanced relationship with Israel.”
“They want unwavering support for their political agenda,” she said.
Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at feldman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman
Israeli conscientious objector Hilel Garmi. (Yoav Eshel)

Conscientious objector freed after 107 days in military prison

Hillel Garmi, who was inspired by one of the leaders of Gaza’s ‘Great Return March,’ served seven prison terms for his refusal to join the Israeli army.
By +972 Magazine Staff 24th December 2018

The Israeli army discharged conscientious objector Hillel Garmi on Sunday after imprisoning him for a total of 107 days. Israel has compulsory military service, and Garmi refused to be drafted due to his opposition to the occupation.
Garmi, 19, from Yodfat in northern Israel, is one of the initiators and signatories of the “Shministim letter,” published earlier this year by dozens of Israeli high school seniors who declared their refusal to serve in the Israeli army. He served seven successive prison terms since July.
Israel's real heroes - Tamar Alon and Ze'evi who both served repeated terms of imprisonment rather than serve in Israel's army
Upon leaving military prison on Monday, Garmi said:
“The five months I spent in prison were dedicated to the struggle against the occupation and the siege, for the sake of the five million Palestinians who actually live under the rule of the Israeli government, but do not enjoy the right to elect it.”
“In all the days and nights I spent in prison, I tried to keep in mind the Palestinians suffering from the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, which includes a shortage of drinking water, food, and medicine, or Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank, which includes land grabs, arrests and random searches,” Garmi said.
“There were people who told me that I was shirking my responsibility [to ensure] the security of the citizens of Israel, but I think that it is precisely with this act that I take responsibility for the safety of all the people affected by what I do — both Israelis and Palestinians.”
In his declaration of refusal, Garmi explained that he was inspired by Ahmed Abu Artema, one of the lead organizers of the ‘Great Return March’ protests on the Gaza border. “I was impressed to find people who prefer to deal with the situation between the Jordan River and the sea without resorting to violence,” wrote Garmi. “I, too, believe in civil disobedience – in applying nonviolent pressure to highlight a government’s lack of morality.”
Abu Artema responded to Garmi in a letter published on +972, in which he praised the conscientious objector’s decision for helping to
“end this dark period inflicted on Palestinians, and at the same time mitigate the fears of younger Israeli generations who were born into a complicated situation and a turbulent geographical area deprived of security and peace.”
Earlier this month, an IDF disciplinary body sentenced Israeli conscientious objector Adam Rafaelov to an additional 10 days in military prison for his refusal to be conscripted. Rafaelov, 18, from Kiryat Motzkin in northern Israel, has been sent to prison seven times since July when he was first sentenced. He has served a total of 87 days behind bars. Like Garmi, Rafaelov is being accompanied by “Mesarvot,” a political Israeli network that provides supports for conscientious objectors.
Press Release, 25.12.2018 -

Following 107 days of incarceration, Hillel Garmi (18) of Yodfat has been released from military prison
On Xmas Eve, the IDF’s Conscience Committee decided to exempt conscientious objector Hillel Garmi, of Yodfat in northern Israel from military service. Garmi, one of the initiators of the High School Students’ Letter, was released following seven sentences since his first appearance at the Induction Center this July, when he first declared his refusal to serve.
Haggai Matar - (right) refused to serve in army
Upon his release Garmi said,
The five months I have spent in prison have been dedicated to the struggle against occupation and siege, to the five million Palestinians who effectively live under the rule of the Israeli government but do not have the chance to elect it.”
Garmi added:
Throughout the nights and days I spent in prison, I tried to imagine the suffering of the Palestinians undergoing the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip, including the lack of drinking water, food and medicine, or that of the Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank, who suffer the theft of their lands, road blockages, arbitrary search and arrest. Some people have told me that my refusal amounts to evading responsibility for the security of the citizens of Israel, but I believe rather that this act is one of taking responsibility for all those affected by my deeds, Israelis and Palestinians, by not joining in the cycle of violence and not hurting any of them, and by convincing others to act likewise.
Upon entering prison Garmi said that his decision to refuse was inspired by the actions of Ahmed Abu-Ratima, the Gazan organizer of the Great Return March, and that Abu-Ratima had written him in support of his act.
Conscientious object Adam Rafaelov (18) of Kiryat Motzkin is currently in prison, having already served 97 days for refusing to join the army.
Garmi and Rafaelov are accompanied by Mesarvot – A political refusing network that writes letters and initiates refusing groups from the last few years to joint action. The network supports conscientious objectors that choose to not enlist in the occupation army, while knowingly acknowledging the gender aspects that the compulsory enlistment brings to Israeli society. The network works in cooperation and assistant from Yesh Gvul Movement.
Dror Mizrahi
Media | Strategy | PR
Cell: +972-50-7248688

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