So you and I could be anti-Semitic, and we didn’t even know it. Part two

This article can be read as a stand alone. But, as the designation ‘Part two’ suggests, there is merit in visiting Part one for useful, additional background. In particular, Hasbara is explained, as is the inept and damaging IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism along with its supposed examples.

Give or take a minute, each article is about a five minute read.

Israel’s current ascendancy

At present, and for some time now, Israel and supporters of its racist, apartheid state have been in the ascendancy at least so far as mainstream media and political opinion is concerned. In more tangible terms, this is evidenced by Israel’s involvement in bi-lateral and other trade deals (e.g. with the EU), arms deals, joint academic research projects, joint military enterprises, and much more.  There are, too, the massive transfers of USA dollars and European Euros to Israel. Taken together, all this helps keep Israel afloat, free to daily colonise more and more Palestinian land whilst working to empty the stolen land of its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants.

Hasbara’s aim is to deflect attention from all this. To put it out of sight, to direct our focus elsewhere, to project Israel as a perfectly normal Western-type state. The sort of state that can host a European Song Contest. The sort of state replete with pavement cafes in Tel Aviv or West Jerusalem, where one can relax, drink coffee, oblivious to the fact that British JCB bulldozers are demolishing Palestinian homes; children are being shot by the ‘most moral army in the world’;  that the Israel Defence Force (the inapt name for Israel’s army)  ‘makes its presence felt’, as a matter of policy, by breaking into Palestinian homes in the dead of night, armed, no warning given, often dragging some or all the inhabitants – mum, dad, brother, sister, uncle, aunt – away, traumatising all, but children in particular. All this a mere twenty five miles away from Tel Aviv’s cafés where people sit unconcerned, the facts unacknowledged, or wilfully ignored.

If the truth was acknowledged

An inherent difficulty for any hasbara effort is that there are few facts to hand that, in truth, point to a state and society that one would admire or aim to emulate. Beneath the surface glitter of normality, there is a highly militarised, colonising, corrupted state and corrupted society. It would not take a visitor long to verify this should they care to bother.

The real and present danger

Hasbara, and the actions that flow from it, must be understood as a highly aggressive, counter-democratic programme that not only camouflages Israel’s perpetual law and rights-defying behaviour, but also attacks and corrodes democratic discourse here in the UK, and in the West more widely. 

Hasbara and its associated policies and practices, is working to diminish and close down the public spaces available for critiquing Israel, its policies and practices towards Palestinians.  This, as I have made clear, is not accidental. It is the outcome of deliberate strategy.  And it’s been, and is, remarkably successful, here in the UK, in Europe and the USA as the following examples demonstrate:

Gavin Williamson, the UK Education Secretary, has threatened university with cuts to their funding if they do not adopt the IHRA definition.

Leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, has imposed a blanket ban on constituency parties discussing Jeremy Corbyn’s, its former leader, suspension; and David Evans, Labour’s General Secretary, has forbidden discussion on Labour’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

In USA, Zoom, YouTube and Facebook censored an online class featuring Palestinian, Black, Jewish and South African activists at San Francisco State University. The open classroom event “Whose Narratives?: Gender, Justice & Resistance” featured Palestinian activist Leila Khaled and was scheduled to take place at 12:30 PDT before being erased from Zoom, Facebook and YouTube.

Mike Pompeo, for the moment still USA Secretary of State, has said:  ‘As we have made clear, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism’. On the back of which the USA intends to identify and sanction organizations that engage in or support the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

A non-binding Bundestag resolution, adopted by a large majority on May 2019, condemned the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement targeting Israel as “anti-Semitic” and compared it to the Nazi regime’s demands not to buy from Jews. The resolution also called for denying public funding and public spaces to individuals and organisations which support BDS.

Profoundly mistaken

Anti-Semitism has been weaponised, aggressively deployed to support the Israeli State.  This is its main, indeed arguably, its only purpose.  It does not mean it is good for Jews in general, in fact it is potentially damaging. Damaging because the impression can all too easily be given – has already been given? – that anti-Semitism must be given special regard, divorced from the wider, most urgent, most necessary, struggle against racism in all its forms –Islamophobia, anti-black prejudice and discrimination, anti-Roma prejudice and discrimination.  This point is well made in a letter to the Guardian from 122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals who expressed their concerns about the IHRA definition:

‘To level the charge of antisemitism against anyone who regards the existing state of Israel as racist, notwithstanding the actual institutional and constitutional discrimination upon which it is based, amounts to granting Israel absolute impunity. Israel can thus deport its Palestinian citizens, or revoke their citizenship or deny them the right to vote, and still be immune from the accusation of racism. The IHRA definition and the way it has been deployed prohibit any discussion of the Israeli state as based on ethno-religious discrimination. It thus contravenes elementary justice and basic norms of human rights and international law.’

‘The suppression of Palestinian rights in the IHRA definition betrays an attitude upholding Jewish privilege in Palestine instead of Jewish rights, and Jewish supremacy over Palestinians instead of Jewish safety. We believe that human values and rights are indivisible and that the fight against antisemitism should go hand in hand with the struggle on behalf of all oppressed peoples and groups for dignity, equality and emancipation.’


So you and I could be anti-Semitic, and we didn’t even know it. Part One

A key objective of the Israeli State is to appear to be a normal state, one adhering to the modalities and conventions associated with a legitimate political entity. Because Israel, in vitally significant ways, does not in fact conform to those modalities and conventions, it must therefore expend much energy and money directed towards creating and sustaining what is, fundamentally, a false image.  The problem with falsity, however, is that it is only effective for as long as the veneer of falsehood is maintained.  Such maitenance requires much effort.

This is the first of two articles, the second to be published next Monday, 28 December. This first one discusses Israel’s strenuous efforts to appear a normal democratic state and the way it has deployed accusations of anti-Semitism to intimidate its critics. The next article will pursue this theme showing how our – the UK and the West’s – commitment to democratic values and free speach are endangered by an over-strident Israel lobby. This post is about a five minute read.

A key objective of the Israeli State is to appear to be a normal state, one adhering to the modalities and conventions associated with a legitimate political entity. Because Israel, in vitally significant ways, does not in fact conform to those modalities and conventions, it must therefore expend much energy and money directed towards creating and sustaining what is, fundamentally, a false image.  The problem with falsity, however, is that it is only effective for as long as the veneer of falsehood is maintained.  Such maintenance requires much effort.

The mechanism deployed by Israel both to eulogise its purported achievements and to intimidate its actual and potential critics is called hasbara.

Hasbara is propaganda directed at an international audience. It aims to influence the conversation so that Israel is portrayed in a positive light. Israel well understands the power of media and works assiduously to shape and direct the narrative on Palestine/Israel matters.  Such is the importance that Israel accords to propaganda that there is a Hasbara Ministry, headed by a government minister.

Hasbara, then, is well resourced, sophisticated and unrelenting. Israel-critical voices are demonised as anti-Semitic, a point I shall return to below. Palestinian voices and perspectives are erased or vilified.  Mainstream western media is shamefully complicit in the marginalisation of Palestinian perspectives.

Hasbara and its local helpmates

To be effective, hasbara must work through locally based groups and organisations – some very influential – who expend much energy patrolling the boundary of what they consider to be acceptable speech about Israel. However, to have extensive reach, upwards towards government and national institutions, and downwards towards local government and civil society – for example football clubs and university student unions – requires a self-reinforcing, unifying theme,  one that, superficially at least, appears manifestly, incontrovertibly, both necessary and true.

In a move of tactical brilliance, it was realised that a highly effective way of intimidating and demonising critical voices was to accuse Israel-critical and Zionist-critical individuals and groups of anti-Semitism. And, indeed, the tactic has been highly effective to the extent that even Jews can be accused of anti-Semitism, which certainly puzzles many of us.

Nevertheless, one would normally expect a degree of caution, not to say scepticism, to be brought to bear when assessing the validity of anti-Semitism charges if only because they are so promiscuously deployed. But no, to be charged is to be guilty, and through a process of demonization critical voices are silenced, hounded and marginalised.

Israel-critical and Zionist-critical analysis and speech is curtailed, in part through self-censorship born of the fear of being publicly vilified; and in part because the platforms – the halls, venues, papers, social media sites  – available for speech are  withdrawn and access debarred. There is a chilling hint here of the Salem witch-hunts whereby certain actions and forms of speech are deemed heretical and must at all costs be both punished and silenced.

Within its own terms, witch hunting has an underpinning rationale which, once accepted, forms the basis of the accusations that follow. One approach was to test the accused’s ability to flawlessly recite a New Testament biblical passage or the Lord’s Prayer. Stumble over a word or words, and the witchcraft charge is confirmed, for only the maliciously deviant are so far from god’s grace that holy words become unspeakable.

Spurious authority: Working definition of anti-Semitism and examples

And so it is that Israel advocates seized on a profoundly weak document – the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) flawed and muddled ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism – as the basis for accusations of anti-Semitism. And, via this vehicle, a closed system of thought was instituted based on the assertion that almost all critical speech and writing about Israel and Zionism is, in and of itself, anti-Semitic.

The IHRA’s non-legally binding, working defintion of anti-Semitism:

‘Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.’

In the same way as scripture, new or old testament, has an accompanying body of commentary to help elucidate the meaning of the sacred texts, the ‘definition’ had appended to it a concoction of notional ‘examples’ of anti-Semitism to illuminate potential areas of misspeak; that is, where anti-Semitic utterance could be said to have occurred.

Nothing to do with anti-Semitism

But the actual purpose of the IHRA’s so called definition, and a significant number of its notional elucidating examples, have little or nothing to do with countering anti-Semitism but has everything to do with erasing knowledge of Israel’s brutal fifty-two year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, to say nothing of the discrimination Palestinians face within Israel (i.e. as distinct from the occupied territories). 

The tactic here is to weld criticism of Israel to a self-serving set of examples that link Israel-critical and Zionist-critical comment to anti-Semitism, thereby neutering negative comment and analysis, and condemning the critic to obloquy.

There are six highly questionable examples which it is claimed may constitute anti-Semitism. The full list can be found here.  For now, I’ll concentrate on only one:

‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.’

In 2018 the Israel Knesset (Parliament) passed the ‘Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People’.  Extracts are given below in italics.

The law’s title actually says it all: Israel is the Nation-State of the Jewish people. This further clarified in the clause:

‘The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.’

Palestinians and non-Jews comprise around 20% of the Israeli population but only Jews have the ‘unique’ right to self-determination. ‘Unique’ equals ‘exclusively.

‘The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.’

Only Jewish immigration, not Palestinian. Palestinian’s have no right to immigrate – or ‘return’ – to Palestine/Israel.  This particularly affects the approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants who were effectively expelled from their homes and country in the 1948 Naqba ethnic cleansing by the nascent Jewish State.

‘The state’s language is Hebrew not Arabic. 

Notwithstanding around a 20% Arab population.

‘The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.’

Note the development is of Jewish settlement. The settlements, properly called colonies, are situated on stolen (West Bank) or illegally annexed (East Jerusalem) land. The theft of Palestinian land is carried out with the aid of JCB British, militarised bulldozers, the Israel Defence Forces, and Israeli Border Police.  This process continues and in fact has recently been significantly stepped up. Israel does this with impunity. 

Notwithstanding any other indicators that define Israel a racist endeavour, surely the Basic Law clauses set out above confirm that the current State of Israel’s very foundations are racist, and it acts accordingly.   

Does what I have said here constitute the offence of anti-Semitism?

Next week’s article will discuss the real and present danger current hasbara practices represent to free speech and the need for a unified front against all forms of racism, not simply anti-Semitism. This is both an ethical point, and a pragmatic one.

That’s all it took: six army bulldozers and around a hundred soldiers

My purpose in this posting is simply to put before you first-hand testimony of the lived experience of the Jordan Valley Bedouin. The testimony offered here is by Professor David Shulman accompanied by his and Margaret Olin‘s photos .

Below is a brief introduction by David followed by a link to his 6 November 2020 report. The combination of words and photos is evocative indeed. No additional words from me are required.

One of Ta’ayush projects, writes Professor David Shulman, centres on protecting Palestinian shepherds and farmers in the Jordan Valley. [Rabbi] Arik Ascherman and the group of activist-volunteers who have joined him are with these shepherds and farmers almost every day.

There is no doubt whatsoever that without our presence accompanying the shepherds to their grazing grounds, it would be dangerous for them—perhaps impossible—to bring their sheep and goats out to pasture. They regularly and repeatedly suffer violent attacks by Jewish settlers, who are in many cases supported by soldiers and the police; the overall aim of this violence is to drive these Palestinians out of the Jordan Valley altogether. The authorities make no attempt even to disguise this brutal goal. One should keep in mind that the Jordan Valley settlements, like those elsewhere in the West Bank, sit on Palestinian land. All of the many newer “outpost”-settlements in the Jordan Valley are illegal even under the lenient terms of Israeli law. Such settlements tend to attract sociopathic young men who have found in them an outlet for their aggressive impulses.

One could say that this is a struggle on the micro-level for the lands still available to Palestinians in the Jordan Valley (probably less than 15% of the lands in the Valley as a whole, since huge areas have been declared closed military zones and/or handed over to settlers). It is also fair to say that in many cases the only thing standing between the Bedouin shepherds and their final expulsion is the presence of Israeli activists, on a daily basis, to protect them from the settlers and the soldiers. This form of activism is not without danger; all of us have been physically attacked at times by the settlers. This is a risk we need to take, if we are to live up to the privilege of being human.

In so far as it is possible to convey in words and pictures the brutal reality of Isaeli rule, it will be found in Professor Shulman and Margaret Olin’s Ta’ayush post of November 6, 2020.

Stuctural and personal violence: Israel’s relationship with Palestinians

Dear Reader, I return to a topic that is much neglected in mainstream media. It is also a matter of some sensitivity for many, and for many reasons. Whilst it is not necessarily hard to discern the motives and objectives of key state interests in maintaining and enriching, beyond all conscience, an apartheid regime, for many individuals the subject is of visceral significance, one of deep personal commitments, born of a mix of personal histories,  motives and affiliations.

It is also an issue subject to massive distortions – of truth, of ethics, of conceptual muddles – that litter the terrain with metaphorical landmines, overseen by vigilant and aggressive metaphorical drones. The adage ‘sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me’ has no purchase here.

The subject is Palestine/Israel. Over the coming weeks I hope to discuss aspects of the issue. Inevitably, for some, some words will sting.     

The democratic state of Israel

Like a toxic thread, cruelty runs through Israel’s dealings with Palestinians, perhaps most particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem and Gaza.  Be you Palestinian child, woman or man, its coarse rasp will demean, humiliate, wound or kill you. Daily.

Guardian report, 5 November 2020:Demolitions used as a ‘key means’ to ‘coerce Palestinians to leave their homes’

Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank have razed a Palestinian village, leaving 73 people – including 41 children – homeless, in the largest forced displacement incident for years, according to the United Nations….Three-quarters of the community lost their shelters during Tuesday’s operation…making it the largest forced displacement incident in more than four years.

However, by the number of destroyed structures, 76, the raid was the largest demolition in the past decade, she [UN spokesperson] added.

On Wednesday, families from the village were seen rifling through their wrecked belongings in the wind, with some of the first rain of the year arriving the same day.

Two strategic objectives

None of this is random, an unintended consequence or miscalculation.  It is the logic of a founding ideology systematically going about its work: State Zionism. State Zionism’s strategic rationale and purpose are essentially twofold:

One, to create and maintain a specifically Jewish State – that is, a state with a built-in, perennial Jewish majority – within Israel’s boundaries. This requires the containment and removal of significant numbers of the indigenous Palestinian population. The only way to achieve this is to enact, as a matter of policy, structural and personal violence against Palestinians. Daily.

Two, significant Israeli political forces hold that Israel’s ultimate geographical boundary properly includes the West Bank and East Jerusalem; that is, the land between the Green Line1 and Jordan River. On this land Israel has built illegal Jews-only Settlements2– colonies, properly called – and aims to formally annexe all or part of the West Bank at some point3.  

The only way to achieve an expansion of Israel’s borders whilst ensuring a Jewish majority or iron grip control of the area – approximately three million Palestinians live in the West Bank – is to enact, as a matter of policy, structural and personal violence against Palestinians.  Daily.

The West Bank and Gaza comprise the Palestinian Occupied Territory.

Recent publicity suggesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu has put to one side his intention to annexe additional swathes of Palestinian territory is little more than window dressing.  Much of the West Bank, and all of East Jerusalem, are to all intent and purposes de facto annexed. Israel’s writ and reach in practice extends to the entirety of the West Bank; and it maintains a suffocating seige of Gaza. ‘Israel’s writ’ refers to the OPT being under military rule, enforced by a brutal Israel Defence Force (IDF) inflicting Israel’s will on Palestinian childen, women and men.

As the Guardian news item above demonstrates, Israel is and has been pursuing a policy of annexation by other means i.e. demolishing villages and individual homes; population dissplacement, and ensuring Palestinian villages have no access to water and other essential utilities.  Meanwhile, the Settlements – colonies – are richly endowed with new and developing infrastructure – all on stolen Palestinian land.

Defence for Children International: Palestine Ramallah, August 21, 2020

Israeli forces shot and detained a 16-year-old Palestinian boy on Wednesday night in the occupied West Bank and informed his family the next day that he was dead.

Late Wednesday night, three Palestinian teenagers approached a road used by Israeli settlers near the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Meshal, located northwest of Ramallah, seemingly to throw stones or Molotov cocktails, according to information collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. Israeli forces in a nearby concealed position opened-fire with live ammunition injuring all three boys

UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

 So far in 2020, 689 structures have been demolished across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, more than in any full year since 2016; rendering 869 Palestinians homeless.

The two strategic purposes outlined above are predicated on the ‘Judaisation’ – ugly word; ugly concept – of the ‘historical, biblical’ Land of Israel.

In addition to, as a matter of policy and daily practice, displacing as many as possible of the indigenous Palestinian population, Israel ensures that those Palestinians not displaced are nevertheless hemmed in by structural and legal barriers such that anything resembling full, equal citizenship on the same terms as the Jewish population is, and always will be, impossible to achieve. 

Military Court Watch: Monitoring the treatment of children in military detention

Children in military [note ‘military’] detention as of 31 August 2020: 135

Nationality Law

The corrupted State ideology delineated above is enshrined in Israel’s 2018 Nationality Law. In fact, the racist, apartheid basis of the Jewish Israeli state had been embedded in earlier legislation and organisational arrangements such as, for example, in the Jewish National Fund (JNF)  which holds or controls vast tracts of land which can only be settled by Jews.   

Israel is as it is because it is allowed to be so

Precisely because the Nationality Law was not strictly necessary there is, arguably, a performative aspect to its purpose. It can be seen as Israel confirming to itself and other state and civil society actors that it is immune to censor or consequence, no matter which norms of international behaviour or common decency are breached.

Israel is enmeshed in a web of American, British and European state and quasi-state enterprises along with academic research, much of it military, all seemingly sanctified by a somewhat mystical International Community. In other words, the much vaunted democratic west is pock-marked and stained by its active support of what should be a pariah state.

Subsequent posts will flesh out the degree to which western complicity is not only maintaining, but bolstering, Israel’s apartheid state regime.

But….

But neither the past, nor the present, are binding upon the future. In an admittedly almost entirely bleak vista, there are Palestinians and Jewish Israelis working to break out of the binary, zero sum game such that what is good for Palestinians must be bad for Jewish Israelis; and what is bad for Palestinians must be good for Jewish Israelis.  Paradoxically perhaps, these moves are not so much a forging of new ideas, but are rather a return to, and renewal of, a more generous faith and a more inclusive, expansive  vision.

Of which, more anon.  



[1] The ‘Green Line’ currently delineating Israel from the OPT is in fact the 1949 Armistice Line

[2] Some 465,000, and rising, Israeli Jews live in Settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.

[3] Israel annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem soon after the six day war (June 1967)


ODSC calls for international support against Israel’s annexation plans

Free Haifa

A CALL AGAINST APARTHEID OVER PALESTINE; ONE DEMOCRACY FOR ALL

One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC)

April 29, 2020

Israel is racing to complete its project of institutionalizing a colonial apartheid regime over all of historic Palestine. The next step is planned for July, when the coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu intends to formally annex large swathes of the West Bank. The expansion of Israel onto 85% of historic Palestine leaves the Palestinian majority imprisoned in dozens of impoverished enclaves on just 15% of the land, under permanent Israeli rule, bereft of any civil or national rights. This is apartheid, pure and simple.

Having “given” occupied East Jerusalem to the Israelis, Trump’s “Deal of the Century” allows Israel to take possession of the rest of the West Bank. Israel’s unilateral annexation of its massive settlement blocs has been waiting on a green light from the Trump Administration, the only international authority…

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Playing with death – Palestinian childhoods

Traditionally, this site has been concerned with children and their freedoms.  More recently, it has also focused on the conflict in Palestine/Israel.  The two subjects distressingly combine in todays’s Daily Telegraph report.

Something hidden, obscured or ignored now starkly highlighted:

More children than Palestinian fighters are being killed in the offensive on Gaza. The name, age, sex and location of 132 of the 155 Palestinian children killed have been collected by the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights

PLAYLINK changes in Twitter notifications

The @PLAYLINKuk Twitter account has until now been used to publicise all of my blog posts, regardless of subject.

The new position

From now on a new Twitter feed – @BernardSpiegal – will be used for posts which discuss Palestine/Israel issues.  Please follow me at @BernardSpiegal if interesed in that subject.

PLAYLINK’s tweets will continue to be on play and reated matters.

Apologies in advance: this post may go out two or three more times by way of friendly reminder.

Thank you

Bernard Spiegal

2019 Eurovision Song Contest – Songwashing occupation, discrimination, apartheid

Tel Aviv is to host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest

What’s Tel Aviv like?  This from Business Insider:

‘From the Mediterranean shores of Tel Aviv, Israel’s fraught geopolitical position is almost non-existent. Tourists and locals alike sip Goldstar, Israel’s ubiquitous dark lager, as the waves roll in and out. Children laugh and splash in the water. A group of teens play volleyball as the sun sets.

It feels like a much nicer version of the Jersey Shore: The sand is softer, the water is clearer, and the beer tastes better.’

Tel Aviv, Israel: Tourists eating in outdoor cafe, Tel Aviv Yafo, Israel

Poster child

Tel Aviv is the Israeli state’s poster child, projecting an image of a country that is modern, open, welcoming and, of course, democratic.  But it is only an image, a mirage, a shimmering falsehood that does not in fact exist – certainly not if you’re a Palestinian.

From: Haaretz:

Settler Violence Against Palestinians Is the Escalation to Fear in the West Bank

Rise in attacks against Palestinians likely to continue as army, police, Israeli society stand by passively or encourage attacks

What actually exists is an Apartheid state that has enshrined in law – the Nationality Law – Jewish supremacy.  And lest there be room for doubt about the law’s intent, Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) Member Avi Dichter, a sponsor of the Nationality Law, provided confirmatory commentry: ‘We [Israel] are enshrining this important bill into a law today to prevent even the slightest thought, let alone attempt, to transform Israel to a country of all its citizen (sic).’   It is this state that is to host, in May 2019, the Eurovision Song Contest.

Songwashing Continue reading

Palestine/Israel: Reflections on a visit

Extract: War on Want Briefing to MPs

Israel’s use of military force against Palestinian civilians is a prominent feature of its occupation regime. This militarised repression of the Palestinian people extends beyond  the scenes of checkpoints and bombings we have unfortunately become accustomed to; Israel’s military and security services maintain an intense regime of surveillance, physical violence against people, and destruction of Palestinian homes, schools, and properties. Israel’s use of excessive force has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations, and has been deemed unlawful by human rights experts. This violence and destruction is made possible by Israel’s trade in arms with dozens of countries, including the UK. Since 2014, the UK Government has approved over £500m worth of military technology and arms exports to Israel, including for weapons of the type used in clear violation of international law.

This means that the UK is providing material support for Israel’s illegal use of force, and is complicit by providing an infrastructure to sustain it through the ongoing trade in arms

From the Occupied Palestine Territory, 23 October – 13 November 2018

Evil is being done here: systemised, institutionalised and unrelenting.  Its manifestations are threefold: physical; bureaucratic; and psychological. The three distinct but interconnected aspects coil, python-like, round the Palestinians, asphyxiating their capacity for agency, all aimed at extinguishing the possibility of hope.  The extinguishment of hope is part of the point: it is an Israeli tactic to embed the idea that it will always be dominant.  To achieve this requires a refinement in the modes of cruelty that can be visited upon people.  This surely is part of the motivation in requiring a person to demolish their own house, a standard practice.

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM

The Israeli authorities have ordered the Palestinian citizen Murad Hsheima, 38, to demolish his own house in Ras al-Amud in Occupied Jerusalem. Otherwise, the municipality would carry out the demolition and force him to pay 60,000 NIS and serve two months in jail. 

Ensuring the house came down

According to Palestinian sources, 19 houses have been demolished in Jerusalem by their owners since the beginning of 2018. The Palestinian Information Center

The overarching aim of the current Israeli regime is the Judaisation of Palestine/Israel – ugly word, ugly concept.  To achieve that purpose a key condition must be met: That the number of Jews in the area controlled by Israel must be greater than the number of Palestinians. That is the rationale and driving motivation of establishing Jewish only settlements on Palestinian land.

In order to achieve the goal of population supremacy, Palestinians need to be removed from their land and properties and/or be corralled into semi-isolated enclaves within which they may constitute a majority but their sovereignty is limited, curtailed by Israeli domination of virtually everything, including receipt of tax remittances, control and withholding of infrastructure (water, utilities, roads, travel routes etc). This stifling of Palestinian life can only be achieved by a sophisticated, multi-layered, physical and psychological attritional war of relentless coercion and control. Continue reading

Palestine/Israel: What oppression looks like

I have just returned from a trip to Palestine/Israel. My purpose: to understand more; to interview/have conversations with people; to report back to those who might already be interested and, fond hope, to encourage more widespread interest – and action. 

The bulk of my time was spent in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), taking the opportunity to have conversations in Bethlehem, Nablus, Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Hebron.

The Palestine/Israel conflict receives relatively sparse coverage in the mainstream media and where it does, coverage seems to me and many others to lean heavily towards an Israeli state narrative that seeks to frame the conflict in terms of  Israel’s security concerns, terrorist threat and the absence of a Palestinian ‘partner for peace’. One aim of this and the next post(s) is to attempt, in however minor a way, to offer a counter narrative that helps illuminate the institutionalised viscousness of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Having said that, most of the examples I offer in these posts cover the West bank and illegally annexed East Jerusalem.

Israel society is, for the present, ensnared in the current regime. This has got to change. 

The one thing the current Israeli regime fears is loss of  international support, in particular of  the USA, UK, and EU.  Israel’s occupation, and it’s colonising programme are utterly dependent on the willingness of the USA, UK, EU to  actively support it (see Trump’s USA, but in fact practically every administration), turn a blind eye, or to offer ritualised statements of regret at this or that incident or policy, with no further consequence. Yet all these countries have to hand the levers that can help contrain, and turn round the worsening situation.  

This post offers a little backround to the conflict, and a few examples of  what Israeli policy means in practice. It’s not pretty.  Subsequent post(s) will offer a commentry on the situation and try to expose some of its essential, underlying features.  

We start in Occupied East Jerusalem:

Hashimi Hotel, Old City (Palestinian) Jerusalem, 25 October 2018. in the part of Jerusalem illegally annexed by Israel in 1967 after the six day war of that year

I’m writing this from the rooftop terrace – by no means a ‘luxury’ terrace, but fine – of the hotel with a view of the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Islam after Mecca and Medina.  The hotel has quite a number of Muslim pilgrims based here.

Jerusalem is awash with a variety of pilgrimage groups from virtually everywhere in the world.  You can’t walk in the Old City without encountering a snake of seemingly welded-together pilgrims on their way to Al Aqsa or, this for Christians, walking the Via Dolarosa  (the Way of Tears) and pausing at each of the Stations of the Cross.  There is also the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over what is believed to be the site both of Jesus’s crucifixion and his burial tomb, a site for often emotional veneration.

Jews (my lot, in general terms) are at it too, for they head towards the Wailing Wall which is ‘a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall’.  Together, the entire area incorporating the Western Wall and the Al Aqsa Mosque is known as Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif  by Muslims.  This is an area of sharp contention, religious passion and naked political power games, further destabilised by virtue of Israel’s annexation of the city and its own less than commendable agenda. Which I shall no doubt come to.

Welcome?

Not infrequently, one can get a sense of a place, a sense of ‘what’s going on’ by way of a series of vignettes, actual incidents that illustrate, in shorthand form, essential features of a wider canvass. I was at the threshold of the country, queuing at passport control to enter Israel.  The manner of greeting can say a lot about the nature of a home.

My queue contained a group – a family group: mum, daughter, three lads, probably in their twenties – all obviously Muslim. The lads had what I suppose we think of as typical beards, one or two wore skull caps, and one had that long garment, the name of which escapes me.  I was next to them and so heard them talking – talking in northern British accents and clutching their British Passports ready for examination. We started chatting.

They were already prepared for some at least not to be allowed through passport control without being interviewed, and perhaps denied entry.  Sure enough, the three lads were turned back and walked past me smiling as they went to the interview area. Mum and daughter got through. Continue reading