Palestine

Anti-Semitism Awareness Act Criminalises Criticism of Israel in America

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/06/2018 - 6:01pm in

It isn’t just in Britain that the Israel lobby is trying to suppress criticism of Israel and its seven decades long persecution of the Palestinians as anti-Semitism. In America, the very Orwellian-sounding Anti-Semitism Awareness Act has been introduced to Congress. And it does exactly the same, but makes it an offence. The ACLU has criticised the act, and sent a letter to Congress protesting it. In this short video of just over four minutes from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski explains how the act will shut down criticism of Israel, and pro-Palestinian and pro-BDS groups at American universities.

The ACLU says of the act

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, recently introduced in Congress, will likely be used to silence constitutionally protected criticism of Israel.

There has been a rise in anti-Semitic attacks on Jews, but the ACLU observes

Anti-Semitic harassment is already illegal under federal law. The new bill does not change that fact. But its overbreadth makes it likely that it will instead silence criticism of Israel that is protected by the First Amendment.

The proposed legislation, for example, defines speech that applies a “double standard for Israel” or denies “the Jewish people the right to self-determination,” as evidence of anti-Semitism. It also directs the Department of Education to consider such speech in its investigations, which could result in a loss of funding for schools.

Kulinski begins by criticising the title of the Act itself, comparing it to the Patriotism Act, which similarly took away many of the constitutionally protected freedoms Americans enjoyed in order to protect them from terrorism. Just as the very title Patriotism Act sought to suppress criticism of its contents on the grounds that no American could possibly be against patriotism, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act does the same, as no decent person would be in favour of anti-Semitism.

The clause about ‘double standards on Israel’ means that if students founded a pro-Palestinian or pro-BDS group on campus, their opponents could shut it down by asking them why they aren’t protesting against the human rights violations of Saudi Arabia. If the group also advocated a single state solution to the problem, in which Israel became Israel-Palestine, with the Palestinians enjoying equal rights under the law, including the right of return, this would also be illegal under the terms of the Act, as it would deny the character of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state, and so consequently the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

Kulinski ends his video with a jibe at the self-appointed defenders of free speech on the American right – Ben Shapiro and others – wondering when they are going to protest this violation of it. Of course, they’re not, as they’re only interested in defending the speech they believe in from attack. So Kulinski states that he’s not going to hold his breath waiting for them, because he’d die.

You can bet that if this becomes law in America, it won’t be too long before it crosses the Atlantic, and the British and European pro-Israeli establishment will be falling over themselves to introduce something similar over here.

Israel Based Journo Shows How Censorship of Steve Bell Cartoon Plays into Hands of Real Anti-Semites

Last week the editor of the Groaniad, Kath Viner, spiked a cartoon by the paper’s Steve Bell for supposed anti-Semitism. The cartoon commented on the complete indifference to the murder of 21 year old Palestinian medic, Razan al-Najjar by the IDF shown by Netanyahu and Tweezer. Bell depicted the two having a cosy chat by the fire, in which al-Najjar was burning. This was too much for Viner, who immediately did what the Israel lobby always does whenever the country is criticised for its brutal treatment of the Palestinians: she immediately accused the critic of anti-Semitism. The cartoon was anti-Semitic, apparently, because al-Najjar’s place in the fire was supposedly a reference to the Holocaust and the murder of the Jews in the Nazi gas ovens. Despite the fact that Bell denied that there was any such intention in his work, or indeed, any overt references to the Holocaust at all.

Bell was naturally outraged, and issued a strong denial. I’ve blogged about this issue, as has Mike, and Bell’s denial was also covered by that notorious pro-Putin propaganda channel, RT. And an Israel-based journalist, Jonathan Cook, has also come down solidly on Bell’s side and against censorship.

Mike posted a piece reporting and commenting on Mr Cook’s view and analysis of the case on Saturday. Cook is a former Guardian journalist, who now lives in Nazareth, the capital of Israel’s Palestinian minority. Cook praised Bell’s cartoon because of the way it held power to account, and indicted the powerful and their calculations at the expense of the powerless. He stated

In other words, it represents all that is best about political cartoons, or what might be termed graphic journalism. It holds power – and us – to account.

He then went on to describe how, by siding with Israel over the cartoon, the Guardian was siding with the powerful against the powerless; with a nuclear-armed state against its stateless minority. He then goes on to make the point that when criticism of Israel is silenced, the country benefits from a kind of reverse anti-Semitism, or philo-Semitism, which turns Israel into a special case. He writes

When a standard caricature of Netanyahu – far less crude than the caricatures of British and American leaders like Blair and Trump – is denounced as anti-Semitic, we are likely to infer that Israeli leaders expect and receive preferential treatment. When showing Netanyahu steeped in blood – as so many other world leaders have been – is savaged as a blood libel, we are likely to conclude that Israeli war crimes are uniquely sanctioned. When Netanyahu cannot be shown holding a missile, we may assume that Israel has dispensation to bombard Gaza, whatever the toll on civilians.

And when we see the furore created over a cartoon like Bell’s, we can only surmise that other, less established cartoonists will draw the appropriate conclusion: keep away from criticising Israel because it will harm your personal and professional reputation.

He then makes the point that doing so plays into the hands of real anti-Semites, and generates more:

When we fail to hold Israel to account; when we concede to Israel, a nuclear-armed garrison state, the sensitivities of a Holocaust victim; when we so mistake moral priorities that we elevate the rights of a state over the rights of the Palestinians it victimises, we not only fuel the prejudices of the anti-Semite but we make his arguments appealing to others. We do not help to stamp out anti-Semitism, we encourage it to spread. That is why Viner and the Guardian have transgressed not just against Bell, and against the art of political cartoons, and against justice for the Palestinians, but also against Jews and their long-term safety.

Mike goes on to make the point that we need to be more critical about the raving paranoiacs, who see anti-Semitism in Steve Bell’s cartoon, and also in Gerald Scarfe’s depiction of Netanyahu building his anti-Palestinian wall using the blood and bodies of the Palestinians themselves. This was attacked by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, as ‘anti-Semitic’, who claimed that it was a reference to the Blood Libel. It wasn’t, but the I apologised anyway. Mike goes on to say that there is no such thing as an unintentional anti-Semite, but authorial intentions are routinely ignored in these cases.

He then goes to state very clearly that as the authorial intentions of these cartoons weren’t anti-Semitic, Viner was wrong about Bell’s cartoon. Just as the Sunset Times, as Private Eye dubbed the rag, was wrong about Scarfe and Mike himself, as was the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. And so are the people, who’ve accused Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and so many others of anti-Semitism. And in the meantime, Netanyahu gets away with mass murder.

Mike concludes

But Mr Cook is right – these attitudes only fuel real anti-Semitism among those who draw the only logical conclusion about what’s going on in the media, which is that the Establishment is protecting the Israeli government against censure for its crimes.

It suggests to me that all those involved in this charade have been creating problems that will come back to harm all of us in the future.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/09/israel-based-journo-shows-how-guardian-editor-helped-anti-semites-by-censoring-steve-bell/

Now part of the problem here could be certain developments in anti-racism and postmodernist literary theory. For example, some anti-racist activists have argued that there is such a thing as unconscious racism, and have used it to accuse people and material they have seen as spreading or legitimising racism, but without any conscious intent to do so.

In postmodernist literary theory, the author’s intent is irrelevant. In the words of one French postmodernist literary theorist, ‘all that exists is the text’. And one person’s interpretation of the text is as good as another’s.

Hence, those arguing that the above cartoons are anti-Semitic, could do so citing these ideas above.

Now there clearly is something to unconscious racism. If you look back at some of the discussions and depictions of racial issues in 1970s popular culture, they are often horrendously racist by today’s standards. But they weren’t seen as such then, and I dare say many of those responsible for some of them genuinely didn’t believe they were being racist, nor intended to do so. And unconscious racism is irrelevant in this case too. The accusers have not argued that these cartoons are unconsciously racist. They’ve simply declared that they are, without any kind of qualification. Which implies that their authors must be deliberately anti-Semitic, which is a gross slur.

As for postmodernist literary theory, the accusers haven’t cited that either. And if they did, it could also easily be turned against them. If there are no privileged readings of a particular text, then the view of someone, who thought Bell’s cartoon was anti-Semitic, is no more valid than the person, who didn’t. Which cuts the ground out from such accusations. That argument doesn’t stand up either, though here again, the people making the accusations of anti-Semitism haven’t used it.

Nevertheless, their arguments about the anti-Semitic content of these cartoons and the strained parallels they find with the Holocaust, or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, are very reminiscent of the postmodernist texts the American mathematician Sokal, and the Belgian philosopher Bricmont, used to demolish the intellectual pretensions of postmodernism in their 1990s book, Intellectual Impostures. One of the texts they cited was by a French feminist arguing that women were being prevented from taking up careers in science. It’s a fair point, albeit still controversial amongst some people on the right. However, part of her evidence for this didn’t come from studies showing that girls start off with a strong interest in science like boys, only to have it crushed out of them later in their schooling. No! This strange individual based part of her argument on the medieval coat of arms for Brussels, which shows frogs in a marsh. Which somehow represents the feminine. Or at least, it did to her. For most of us, the depiction of frogs in a marsh in the coat of arms for Brussels is a depiction of precisely that: frogs in a marsh. Because, I have no doubt, the land Brussels was founded on was marshy.

But Cook and Mike are right about these accusations, and the favouritism shown to Israel, playing into the hands of anti-Semites.

The storm troopers of the right are very fond of a quote from Voltaire: ‘If you want to know who rules over you, ask who it is you can’t criticise’. Or words to that effect. Depending on whether the person using the quote is an anti-Semite or an Islamophobe, the answer they’ll give will be ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Muslims’.

Of course, their choice of the French Enlightenment philosopher is more than somewhat hypocritical. Voltaire hated intolerance, and in the early stages before it became aggressively anti-religious, the French Revolution stood for religious toleration. A set of playing cards made to celebrate it showed on one card the Bible with the Talmud, the Jewish holy book containing extra-Biblical lore and guidance, and the Qu’ran.

But by ruling that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, the Israel lobby very much appears to show – entirely falsely – that the anti-Semites are right, and that the Jews really are in control of the rest of us. It gives an utterly false, specious confirmation of the very conspiracy theories they claim to have found in the works of the people they denounce. The same conspiracy theories they claim to oppose, and which have been responsible for the horrific suffering of millions of innocent Jews.

It’s high time this was stopped, and accusations of anti-Semitism treated with the same impartial judgement as other claims of bias or racism. And false accusations should be firmly rejected as a slur, and apologies and restitution demanded from the libellers.

Palestinians Request International Criminal Court to Investigate Gaza Massacre

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 27/05/2018 - 6:44pm in

This is a short report from the Arab news channel, Al-Jazeera. The Palestinian foreign minister has asked the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate Israel after the Gaza massacre last week. Israel is trying to block the move, on the grounds that it isn’t a member of the court, and Palestine isn’t a state. On the other hand, Palestine has been granted membership of the court, but the court has said it will only investigate crimes that have happened since Palestine became a member in 2014. The video includes an interview with a Palestinian politicians, who says that if the Court does decide to investigate, it means that certain Israeli politicians will be unable to travel to Europe, where many countries are also members of the court. He states that this isn’t about punishing the soldiers, but bringing the politicians responsible for the massacre to justice. The news team also talk to a Palestinian family, whose father, a disabled man in a wheelchair, was killed by Israeli soldiers in the massacre. They are obviously looking forward to the massacre and those responsible being investigated. The report concludes with the statement that it is now up to the court to decide what to do.

Ken Livingstone Talks about his Resignation from the Labour Party due to Anti-Semitism Smears

On Monday, Ken Livingstone resigned from the Labour party. He had been suspended from the party following the smears that he was an anti-Semite and had claimed that Hitler was a Zionist. This was completely untrue. As Red Ken goes on to say in the interview with RT, he never claimed that Hitler was a Zionist, only that he briefly supported Zionism. It is abundantly clear if you read Livingstone’s 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, that a racist of any stripe is the very last thing the former head of the GLC is. He makes it very clear that he is firmly opposed to anti-Semitism as well as anti-Black and anti-Irish racism, and details with the disgust and outrage the way the British state recruited Nazis, including those responsible for pogroms against the Jews and the Holocaust, as agents in the Cold War struggle against Communism. The claim that Livingstone said Hitler was a Zionist is an invention of John Mann, the Blairites and the Israel lobby, and repeated ad nauseam, ad infinitum, by the Conservative press and media in order to smear and discredit him. And they are still doing it. Deborah Orr, one of the wretched columnists in the I newspaper, claimed that he had said the Hitler was a Zionist, which shows how much she, and her editor, care about factual reporting. Mike has also covered on his blog how the Israel lobby continue to point to an interview Red Ken gave on Sky as showing that he was anti-Semitic. Which also shows they haven’t bothered to watch it, as in the interview Ken thoroughly refutes the allegations and shoots down those making them.

In this interview, Livingstone answers the question why it has taken him so long to resign. He replies that his instinct has always been to fight on to the end, whether it was against Thatcher or Tony Blair. But he chose to resign now because the controversy and lies surrounding him were becoming too much of a distraction. He was suspended two years ago in 2016. After a year, there was another three day hearing, which couldn’t refute the charges against him, and so extended the suspension for another year. He wanted to take his accusers to court, but was told by his lawyer that it would take at least two years to get there. He considered that it was too much of a distraction from Labour’s real programme under Corbyn, which he makes very clear has a real chance of winning.

When asked about whether the allegations have damaged Labour’s chances, for example, in Barnet, which has a high Jewish population, Red Ken said that of course people would be shocked when they hear that he said that Hitler was a Zionist, that it’s not anti-Semitic to hate Jews in Israel, or that Jews are Nazis, but he was struck by the number of Jews, who came up to him on the street to tell him that they knew what he said was true. This was that in 1933 Hitler and the Zionists made a deal to send some Jews to Israel. They didn’t like each other, but as a result, 60,000 Jews emigrated to Palestine. If they had stayed in Germany, they would have been murdered in the Holocaust. So it’s the lesser of two evils, according to Livingstone.

When the interviewer asks him if these allegations haven’t put a dent in Labour’s electoral chances, such as in Barnet, Livingstone tells him that half a dozen Jews have asked him on the street why he claimed that Hitler was a Zionist. And he’s told them that he never said that. Unfortunately, Livingstone never completes that reply due to a technical fault.

The interviewer then moves on to ask him if he really believes that Labour has a chance under Corbyn. Livingstone says clearly that everyone said that Labour would be wiped out during the next election. But in fact, Corbyn delivered the greatest increase in the Labour vote since the 1945 election, and they came within two per cent of the Tories. They could have gotten more, if the party had been united and MPs hadn’t been trying to unseat their leader. He states that Corbyn has excellent plans for massive public investment, improved service, creating new jobs and investing in high tech industries. That connected with people, and will connect with people at the next election.

The interview ends with the question of what Livingstone will do now that he’s retired from politics and whether he will return. Livingstone states that he retired from politics after he lost the election to Boris Johnson in 2012. Now he’s an old age pensioner and a house-husband, walking the kids and feeding the dog.

It’s a very, very good interview with Livingstone making it very clear that he definitely did not say what the liars in the Blairites, the Israel lobby and the press have accused him of. As for Jews telling Livingstone that they know he didn’t say those things, I can well believe this. Mike has put up innumerable pieces on his blog showing the support of many Jews and Jewish groups for Corbyn and the victims of the anti-Semitism smears, pointing out that there is absolutely no truth in them. Especially as so many of those libelled as anti-Semites are self-respecting Jews. The alliance between the Nazis and the Zionists is solid historical fact, and included in respected historical studies of the Holocaust, such as that of the Zionist historian, David Cesarani. It was called the Ha’avara agreement, and there’s a page on it on the site of the International Holocaust Museum in Israel. All you have to do is google it to find out that what Livingstone said was the truth.

Mike is disappointed with Ken’s decision to resign, as this also affects the legal chances of those, like him, who have been smeared trying to defend Livingstone. He writes

The shame of it is that certain people will take Mr Livingstone’s decision as an admission of guilt – and that he will not have the opportunity to put the record straight.

That means he is letting down others who have been put in the same situation (like This Writer).

I’m not backing down – and if Labour’s disciplinary panel find against me, I’ll happily sue the party because my good name is not a negotiable commodity.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/21/ken-livingstone-quits-labour-not-due-to-any-guilt-but-because-of-the-row-kicked-up-by-right-whingers/

It goes without saying that I’m backing Mike, and everybody else who has been foully smeared by these contemptible knaves, 100 per cent. While I understand why Livingstone has raised, I am afraid this will just serve to encourage the Blairites and the Israel lobby in their campaign against Corbyn and the true Labour moderates. They will not be placated by just taking down a few, sacrificial supporters, like Livingstone. Now that they’ve seen their campaign is effective, they will keep on and on. The best defence is attack, and the only way to tackle them is to meet them head on, and refute every one of their dam’ lies. They are not as secure as they think they are. The Blairites live in holy terror of the constituency parties deselecting them. The Israel lobby itself is becoming painfully aware that smears of anti-Semitism aren’t having the affect they used to have. And Jonathan Arkush’s own position as president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews is looking very rocky after his disgusting comments trying to cast the blame on the victims of the Gaza massacre, rather than the Israelis.

The Blairites and the Israel lobby are bullies. They are in a far weaker position than they wish to appear, and are responding by smears, lies and throwing their weight around. But you can stand up to bullies, and bring them down.

Vox Political: Why Isn’t Britain and other Countries Condemning Israeli Gaza Massacre More Strongly

On Wednesday Mike put up a post questioning why Britain and many other countries had not made stronger condemnations of the Gaza massacre by Israeli soldiers. He also attacked the statement issued by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, justifying the shootings by stating that Hamas is a terrorist movement intent on the destruction of Israel that ruthlessly uses unarmed civilians and children, and so put them up to massing at and trying to break through the fence. Mike points out that, whatever the Israeli state has claimed, no Israelis were harmed, while 55 – the number of dead reported at the time – Palestinians had been killed. He also pointed out that this is blaming the victims, exactly what the Nazis did to justify their own persecution and genocide of the Jews.

And other Jews in this country and Israel have similarly been appalled and disgusted at the Israeli’s violence. They include tweeter Tom London, whose avatar is the fizzog of 18th century radical Tom Paine. Haggai Matar, whose first name is that of one of the lesser prophets of the Hebrew Bible, also posted a piccie of 500 Israeli protesters blocking the Tel Aviv road.

Muslims and those of Arab descent have naturally not been silent. Aleesha has expressed her utter disgust, and Mehdi Hasan has stated that the comments on the massacre by various organisations, which don’t condemn the Israeli state, mean that nothing they say on the subject of Israel should ever be taken seriously again.

Alistair Burt, speaking for the government, just made a very anodyne and half-hearted condemnation urging restraint of both sides, stating he was very saddened by the massacre and the use of live fire, but also the use of civilians by terrorists, and that all this was a threat to the peace process and a two state solution.

He was immediately torn into by Tom London, who found this weak condemnation also ‘cowardly, immoral and shameful’.

Rupert Colville, the UN’s spokesman on human rights, declared that the massacre was a violation.

And Linda Sarsour pointed out that South Africa, which has also lived through apartheid, has just broken off diplomatic relations with Israel. South Africa was a strong supporter of Israel under apartheid, something that appalled and disgusted many Israelis, even those who supported their own apartheid against the Palestinians. Will this loss of an erstwhile ally upset the Israelis? Not while they’ve got new, extreme right-wing allies in Europe like the present Polish administration and Fidesz in Hungary.

So why is the British government’s own response so muted? According to Marsha de Cordova, it’s because last year Britain sold the Israelis £216 million of arms, including sniper rifles. And coincidently, many of those murdered in Gaza were killed by snipers. The tweeter radicals put the figure at £445 million, including snipers.

Jeremy Corbyn issued a much more robust, statesmanlike response stating that the massacre came after weeks of Palestinians being killed while demonstrating for their right of return. He mentioned Trump’s movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem as a further emphasis to the threat to peace and the injustices inflicted on the Palestinians. He condemned the weak response by western governments to the massacre, and urged them to take a lead from Israei campaigners for peace and justice. There should be an end to the 11 years siege of Gaza, and the 50 year occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

He concluded:

“We cannot turn a blind eye to such wanton disregard for international law. That is why Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.

“The international community must at last put its collective authority and weight behind achieving a lasting settlement that delivers peace, justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, who have waited so long to achieve their rights.”

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/16/why-is-the-uk-and-the-international-community-not-condemning-israel-bitterly-for-the-gaza-massacre/

Corbyn’s speech is excellent, gives due credit and emphasis to Israeli campaigners for peace and justice for the Palestinians, and rightly condemns the ‘merchants of death’. So we can expect it will be seized upon and twisted by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism for alleged Jew hatred. As soon as the Israel lobby finds a way of fending off public outrage against them, of course. Mike’s put up a piece today reporting that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is being torn to shreds by British Jews, who like Tom London, find their statement disgusting. Liberal Judaism is particularly appalled, as is Yachad. Many joined a demonstration held outside Downing Street by Jewdas, while others held a ‘Kaddish for Israel’. The Kaddish is the lament at Jewish funerals, and comes from the passage in the Hebrew Bible ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord’. MPs have also condemned the shooting, and the board’s excuse that 50 of those killed were Hamas terrorists has been dismissed by one blogger as ‘a load of Fascist crap’. It’s another comparison between Israel and the Nazis. But as Mike points out, it isn’t anti-Semitic as it’s accurate.

He ends his article with the rhetorical question that if the side of reason is winning the argument, then

Why is the Duke of Cambridge – Prince William – determined to continue with a planned visit to Israel that will amount to an endorsement of that country’s murder of innocent people?

This issue becomes more complicated by the second.

Which is precisely the point Dr. Basem Naim, the former Gaza Health Minister raised when interviewed by Afshin Rattansi earlier this week.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/17/huge-backlash-against-supporters-of-israeli-government-over-gaza-massacre/

Apart from arms sales, there are also other geopolitical reasons why Britain supports Israel. It’s one of the two pillars of British foreign policy in the reason, the other being Saudi Arabia. They’re supposed to represent islands of stability in the region, and were our allies against the Soviet bloc and its Arab allies.

In fact the various statements that have been made justifying this situation are just so much guff. Israel isn’t the only democratic state in the region – so was Lebanon. And what the Americans and our governments feared was Arab nationalism, which was also considered pro-Soviet. Many of the Arab socialist regimes were pro-Russian, but not Communist. And almost from the moment the Balfour declaration was issued, there were suspicions that this was an attempt to create a pro-British Jewish island in the region, just like Belfast was a pro-British island of Ulster Protestants.

The Conservatives have always had a very close relationship with the arms industry, and I don’t doubt for an instant that many of them have shares in arms companies. The excuse for backing the arms industry is that it will open up these countries to the import of other British products. It doesn’t. They don’t buy other British goods, just our arms.

And earlier this week people compared the British attitude to the Gaza massacre with the Saudis using British arms to kill children and babies in Yemen. Well, once again, the accusation is correct. The Israelis have also been using British weapons to kill the innocent. Especially as one of those who died was a baby after Israeli squaddies threw CS gas into a tent.

Israel is an apartheid state engaged in ethnic cleansing. It is a disgrace, like every other nation with the same policies. We should stop arms sales now, and give every effort to support a secure, just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And those organisations justifying such massacres and persecutions should be marginalised and destroyed.

Exclusive: The Complete Moral Collapse of Labour Friends of Israel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 12:00am in

It is hard to imagine anything so nauseating as a group of affluent liberals defending the mass murder of poor colonized people in the name of democracy and security. Though a species of moral turpitude associated with 19th century colonial tropes, in 2018 it remains very much alive under the banner of the UK Labour Friends of Israel (LFI).

Do you want to travel around the Middle East? Think twice!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/05/2018 - 1:00pm in

Text and Photos by Andre Vltchek Do you think it is that simple to travel around the Middle East? Think twice! Ask Palestinians, about trying to get from a point A to a point B in their own nation. Some time ago, sitting in an old Ottoman hotel in Bethlehem, I asked a waiter what it takes to travel from there to Gaza, where he said, several of his relatives were living. He looked at me as if I had fallen from the Moon: “There is no way I could travel there. If my relatives get very sick or die, then, in theory, I could apply for an Israeli travel permit to go there, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they would approve, or that I could get to Gaza on time…” I tried to appear naïve: “And what if someone from an Arab country which does not recognize Israel, wants to come here, to Bethlehem? Like, a Lebanese pilgrim or just a tourist? Could he or she enter from Jordan?” The waiter weighed …

Review: Joe Sacco’s ‘Palestine’

(London: Jonathan Cape 2001)

This is one of the classics of the graphic novel. Joe Sacco is an American journalist. He spent two months with the Palestinians in late 1991 and early 1992 in Gaza and the West Bank during the time of the first Intifada. He wrote and drew Palestine after his return to the US, basing it on his notes, publishing it as a nine-part comic strip. These were later collected into a single volume to form the graphic novel. The book also has a kind of introduction, ‘Homage to Joe Sacco’, from Edward Said, the author of Orientalism, critic of western imperialism and attitudes to the Arabs, and himself a Palestinian.

This is precisely the type of book the Israel lobby does not want people to read. Not BICOM, not the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which was set up because Gideon Falter, its founder, was worried about British attitudes becoming more hostile to Israel after the blockade of Gaza, not the Jewish Labour Movement, formerly Paole Zion and the companion party to the Israeli Labor Party, not the various ‘Friends of Israel’ societies in the political parties, Tories and Labour, nor the Jewish Leadership Council and definitely not the Board of Deputies of British Jews. All of them shout ‘anti-Semitism’ at anyone who dares to publish anything critical of Israel, or show the barbarity with which it treats the Palestinians.

The book shows Sacco’s experiences as he goes around Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, talking to both Palestinians and Israelis, meeting them, entering their homes, and listening to their stories. He starts the book in Cairo, the beginning of his journey to Israel, and to which he returns at his departure. During his time there, he visits the Vale of Kidron, the Arab quarter of Old Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah, Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza strip, as it then was, Balata, another refugee camp on the West Bank, Nablus, the town of Gaza itself, and finally Tel Aviv.

It’s not an easy read. This is an occupied country during deep unrest, and the threat of violence and arbitrary arrest and detention without trial is every where. There are patrols of soldiers, demonstrations, explosions and stone throwing. And he shows, with quotes, the contemptuous, lofty and hostile attitude the early Zionists and Lord Balfour had for the indigenous population. He quotes Balfour as saying

‘Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit this ancient land. We do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the inhabitants’.

Ben Gurion thought it would be simple to expel the Palestinians, because he felt they had no real attachment to their homeland. He wrote that the Palestinian ‘is equally at ease whether in Jordan, Lebanon or a variety of other places’. With the approach of war, he made it clear their expulsion was going to be through military force: ‘In each attack a decisive blow should be struck, resulting in the destruction of homes and the expulsion of the population.’ When that was done, ‘Palestinian Arabs have only one role – to flee’. He also quotes Golda Meir, who stated that a Palestinian people, defining itself as a Palestinian people, did not exist, and ‘we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They do not exist’. 400 Palestinian villages were razed in the war marking the birth of Israel. Meir’s lie – that the Palestinians don’t exist as a people – is still repeated by Republican and pro-Israel bloggers. Golda Meir was also concerned about the Palestinian population outstripping that of the Israelis, another issue that is still very alive today.

His hosts are polite, welcoming him into their homes, and plying him with tea. But occasionally there is an outburst from one of them, when he’s asked what the point of him being there, of them talking to him, is. Because other journalists have been there too, and they’ve talked to them, and nothing has happened, nothing has changed. They also talk to him about the other factions, and of the peace process. In a separate text at the beginning of the book, he states that, while the peace process set up the Palestinian authority and gave them a government, it changed nothing for ordinary Palestinians, and the occupation and theft of land by the Israelis still goes on.

He also reveals that the Israelis appropriate 2/3 of the land in the West Bank for their own us, which includes the establishment of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. And the governments gives Israelis plenty of incentives to move to them. They’re given a government grant if they do, lower interest rates on loan, the housing itself is cheaper than in Israel, and an income tax rate of 7 per cent. The settlers themselves can be extremely aggressive. Sacco’s hosts tell them about incidents where settlers have come into Palestinian villages, smashing windows and demanding that the owners come out. Of people shot by them, and the trivial sentences given to the settlers guilty of this. They’re given jail sentences of a few months. If they’re convicted in the first place. Palestinians who shoot and kill Israelis are jailed for years. Some lavish homes do exist in Palestine, occupied by Arabs, but most live in very bare houses, often with leaking roofs, which are vulnerable to storms.

His cartoons show what his Palestinian hosts tell him it’s like in prison camps like Ansar III, with crowds of prisoners crammed into small, bare rooms with no heat and poor ventilation. There are also few eating utensils, to the various political factions in the camp – Fateh, Hamas, Popular Front, organise meal times so that everyone gets a turn with the cup and plate to eat and drink. Several of the people he talks to were arrested simply on suspicion. Israeli law allowed them to be held without charge while evidence was compiled, with his captors returning to court over and over again to request a few more days more, until the judge finally listens to their lawyer, has the procedure stopped and the prisoner released. He also shows how the prisoners were tortured through beatings, being forced to stand for hours with bags over their heads, a process permitted under Israel law. A judge ruled that torture could not be used, but what methods were to replace them were kept secret. So many Palestinians have been incarcerated, that a green identity card showing a man has been in jail is a matter of pride. And not to have been to prison correspondingly is a mark of shame.

He talks about how the Israelis have a deliberate policy of not allowing the Palestinians to industrialise, so that they compete with the Israel. The State has also put obstacles in place to prevent Palestinian farmers competing with Israelis. They also deliberately uproot the olive trees many Palestinians grow to support themselves. The Israelis also appropriate most of the water, and dig deeper wells, so that the Palestinians have a much poorer water supply and their own wells are becoming increasingly saline. As a result, unemployment in Gaza was at 40 per cent. And Sacco himself was approached several times by Palestinians, hoping he could do something so that they could leave and go abroad to study or find work.

He describes a school, without electricity, as well as a school for the deaf, which is supported through volunteers and whose staff complain of their lack of training for dealing with people with disabilities. He also hears and illustrates the story of one Palestinian woman, whose son was shot by Israeli soldiers, but was prevented from taking him directly to hospital. Instead she was ordered to go hither and thither, where she was told a helicopter was waiting to take her and the boy. When she gets there, there is no helicopter. She eventually takes him to the hospital herself in a car, by which time it’s too late and the lad dies.

The book also shows the mass of roadblocks and the permit system which Palestinians have to go through to go to Israel. At the same time, Israelis are simply allowed to whiz through in their separate lanes.

Sacco also doesn’t shy away from showing the negative side of Palestine – the anti-Semitism, and particularly infamous murders, like the killing of Klinghoffer aboard the Achille Lauro, and the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team by the terrorist group Black September. This can turn into support for the murder of Israeli civilians. There’s also a chapter on the plight of Palestinian women, This is a society where women are still very much treated as inferiors and subordinates, where honour killings are carried out as the punishment for female adultery. It is also a society where collaborators are murdered, and those, who belong to the wrong faction may also be shot and killed.

The book was written 27 years ago, but nothing really seems to have changed since then. The illegal settlements are still there and expanding. Settlers are still seizing Palestinian homes and property, the apartheid separating Israelis from Palestinians is still in place, unemployment is still high, and Palestinians are still being treated as foreigners, refugees and second-class citizens on their own land.

However, some attitudes are changing. The Israeli liberals Sacco talks to only support the Palestinians up to a point. When pressed, some of them will say that Israel should keep the Occupied Territories, because they seized them in war. Or that they need to keep them for security reasons. But an increasing number of young Jews in America and elsewhere are appalled at the continuing maltreatment of the Palestinians and are becoming increasingly critical and hostile to Israel because of this. And there have also grown up major opposition groups like the human rights organisation B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence in Israel.

The Israeli state and its lobby and supporters in this country and others are increasingly scared. It’s why they’re trying to pass laws to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in America, and to outlaw criticism of Israel in this country through tortuous definitions of anti-Semitism that are stretched to include it. It’s why they’re smearing, with the connivance of the right-wing media, the Blairites in the Labour party, and the Conservatives, decent people, who have fought racism and anti-Semitism, as anti-Semites.

Very long, detailed books have been written about Israel’s brutal treatment, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Sacco’s Palestine presenting this as graphic novel, is an example of how comics can also be serious literature, tackling a difficult subject with both narrative and artistic skill and style. I’ve mentioned on this blog before the alternative comics that were also published from the ’60s to the 1980s/1990s on political topics, including the Israeli maltreatment of Palestinians in Pat Mills’ Crisis. Palestine is very much in that tradition, and in 1996 won the American Book Award.

Mahmoud Abbas: reactionary rhetoric and political diversion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/05/2018 - 12:42am in

The comment by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, that the Holocaust was a result of the economic function of Jewish people in Europe and not of anti-semitism is wrong, shows a failure to grasp the nature of anti-Jewish … Continue reading →

“When Israelis murder Palestinians, it’s a tragedy — for Israelis.”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/04/2018 - 11:00am in

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Israel, Palestine

by Richard Hugus Since the start of the latest massacre in Gaza — the killing with live fire of almost 40 and wounding of almost 3,000 unarmed Palestinian protestors during the March of Return — propaganda in service of Israel has been mobilized to cover up the blatant crime. Three days after the March began, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston issued an unbelievably twisted statement on the attacks. What follows is their statement in blockquotes, with comments inserted in plain text: Jewish Community Relations Council Statement on Events Along Gaza Border April 2, 2018 We see the events along the Gaza-Israel border this weekend as the continuation of one of the great tragedies of our time.” This implies that Gaza is a sovereign country bordering Israel, not the prison for Palestinian refugees that Israel established decades ago in the south of Palestine. “This is a situation where many are at fault, leaving individuals in impossible situations with impossible choices.” When someone is morally at fault, the situation is always “complicated.” As we …

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