Category Archives: Occupied Palestinian Territory

Israel: Nurturing racism





It’s fair to say, isn’t it, that children are not born racist, but initiated into that particular mindset. This perhaps is particularly true of Israel. Therefore, where a state’s conception of itself rests on racist principles, on Zionist principles, one of its key objectives must be to shape minds at the earliest opportunity. This not only through the formal rigours of the education system, but also indirectly via the propagation of an ethos, of affecting the way the world is interpreted and understood.

This is achieved via many routes, among them the celebration of, and participation in, cultural and religious festivals many of which are based on what Shlomo Sand dubbed mythistory. Mythistory, as I understand it, is the creation of a past designed to act as proof of the rightness or inevitability of current beliefs and power structures; and the justification for intended future actions. And if you read into the past the belief that God was then, and is now, on your side, one’s own beliefs will be taken as axiomatic, unassailable, beyond dispute or contradiction.

Toxic web

To take just two examples that contribute to the toxic web that is Israel’s version of nurturing its children to adulthood, one is Daniel Bar-Tel’s study.  He found that generations of Israeli Jews were taught from Hebrew textbooks that portrayed Palestinian-Arabs in a negative and delegitimising way. Palestinian society was presented as ‘primitive, backward and passive.’ Israeli Jewish children were thus subjected to this form of negative and dehumanizing stereotyping, which ultimately conditioned how they perceive Palestinians.  

The other example is Nurit Peled-Elhanan book ‘Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education’.  In it she describes the depiction of Arabs in Israeli schoolbooks as racist. Representation of Arabs is limited to ‘refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists.’ In hundreds of books, not one photograph depicted an Arab as a ‘normal person.’

In a webinar, Peled-Elhanan said Israeli textbooks teach students that Israel exists primarily to prevent another Holocaust, and as such, Jews are the only ones presented as victims. She added that the curriculum commands students to actively ignore other victims, and that it “Nazif[ies] Arabs.’”

Israel: Nurturing racism





It’s fair to say, isn’t it, that children are not born racist, but initiated into that particular mindset. This perhaps is particularly true of Israel. Therefore, where a state’s conception of itself rests on racist principles, on Zionist principles, one of its key objectives must be to shape minds at the earliest opportunity. This not only through the formal rigours of the education system, but also indirectly via the propagation of an ethos, of affecting the way the world is interpreted and understood.

This is achieved via many routes, among them the celebration of, and participation in, cultural and religious festivals many of which are based on what Shlomo Sand dubbed mythistory. Mythistory, as I understand it, is the creation of a past designed to act as proof of the rightness or inevitability of current beliefs and power structures; and the justification for intended future actions. And if you read into the past the belief that God was then, and is now, on your side, one’s own beliefs will be taken as axiomatic, unassailable, beyond dispute or contradiction.

Toxic web

To take just two examples that contribute to the toxic web that is Israel’s version of nurturing its children to adulthood, one is Daniel Bar-Tel’s study.  He found that generations of Israeli Jews were taught from Hebrew textbooks that portrayed Palestinian-Arabs in a negative and delegitimising way. Palestinian society was presented as ‘primitive, backward and passive.’ Israeli Jewish children were thus subjected to this form of negative and dehumanizing stereotyping, which ultimately conditioned how they perceive Palestinians.  

The other example is Nurit Peled-Elhanan book ‘Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education’.  In it she describes the depiction of Arabs in Israeli schoolbooks as racist. Representation of Arabs is limited to ‘refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists.’ In hundreds of books, not one photograph depicted an Arab as a ‘normal person.’

In a webinar, Peled-Elhanan said Israeli textbooks teach students that Israel exists primarily to prevent another Holocaust, and as such, Jews are the only ones presented as victims. She added that the curriculum commands students to actively ignore other victims, and that it “Nazif[ies] Arabs.’”

Pro-Palestinian and Israel-critical voices silenced at the behest of a fragile ‘may’

It’s that word ‘may’ that tells you something fishy is going on. Something not quite right.  Where the need is for certainty, for assurance that an idea, definition or policy can stand on its own two feet, ‘may’ suggests uncertainty, even evasiveness.

A ‘may’ in a sentence prompts the thought, ‘well, maybe not’.  Odd, then, that the weak-kneed ‘may’ is housed in two key paragraphs, both of which are designed to justify far reaching policy decisions the effect – and the intention – of which is to stifle the free flow of political speech and action in respect of Palestine/Israel.

One of the two paragraphs in question is to be found in the Government’s attempt at justification of its proposed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill; the other is in the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill

In the recent Queen’s speech to Parliament – delivered by Prince Charles – the Government announced that it is to legislate a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Bill, ‘empowering Government to ban public bodies that are already subject to public procurement rules from conducting their own boycott campaigns against foreign countries or territories.’ 

It is no secret the proposed Bill is aimed primarily at curbing the increasing success of the pro-Palestinian BDS movement – a non-violent form of political expression.

Much could be said about the Bill and what might reasonably be thought to be its assault on fundamental democratic values by, for example, curbing elected local authority councillors, or pension fund trustees, from determining how funds in their charge can be deployed. In effect, once the measure becomes law, spending/investing authorities could end up in a situation of having to buy goods and services, or invest in activities, that contravene international law, for example, by having to have financial dealings with Jewish-only Settlements illegally situated on stolen Palestinian land. Such is this Government’s commitment to upholding the rule of law.

In setting out the ‘benefits’ of the proposed Bill the assertion is made – for that is all it is – that BDS somehow undermines community cohesion and that:

‘There are concerns that such boycotts may legitimise and drive antisemitism as these types of campaigns overwhelmingly target Israel.’ (Emphasis added)

Here the Government attempts to justify the notion that criticism of Israel is tantamount to being antisemitic. But the ‘may’ suggests that it doesn’t really believe its own justification, for if the Bill were based on genuine, evidence-based data, presumably it would have said. Since it cannot convincingly do that, and yet is so committed to shielding Israel from the consequences of its illegal actions, it must therefore press ahead with this Bill no matter how flabby its justification.

An irony here is that the linkage made between support for BDS and antisemitism might itself be deemed antisemitic since it assumes that all Jews, because they are Jews, identify with, or support the political, racist endeavour that is the State of Israel. That is palpably not the case.  But, as noted, the assertions, which are attempts at justification, all hang on the fragile thread of a ‘may’.  Well, may be boycotts don’t ‘legitimise and drive’ antisemitism.  And what on earth are all those Jews that support BDS doing there? Is it their intent to stoke the fires of antisemitism?

The proposed Bill is also an example of this Government’s seemingly unembarrassed capacity for rank hypocrisy that I discussed in ‘UK Government and allies supports BDS’.  In that article I suggested that the extraordinarily wide range of UK Government sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine were based, at least partially, on what it says is a commitment to the principle of self-determination, in this case, for Ukraine. In addition, the BDS being implemented against Russia is being undertaken in the belief that such measures will – eventually – prompt changes in Russia’s actions in respect of Ukraine. This may be right or wrong, but what counts here is Government’s belief, or its claimed belief, that BDS can prompt policy change.  This of course is the claim and aim of BDS in respect of Israel vis-a-vis its dealing with Palestinians.

Israel denies, violently and persistently, any form of meaningful Palestinian self-determination. BDS against Israel is founded on the principle of non-violence. Consistency to principle would suggest that BDS in respect of Israel should be endorsed by Government, not banned.

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism

I’m beginning to suspect that, in matters relating to Palestine/Israel, there is an Inverse Law of the Flimsy Premise at play, such that where an assertion, policy or definition rests on a weak or flimsy premise – expressed as a ‘may’- the greater the real-world negative impact it is likely to cause.   This is at least partially demonstrated by the rather odd IHRA definition of antisemitism, more often than not shackled to a series of so-called examples. It has had a profound negative affect on the ability of organisations and individuals to speak critically of Israel.  It is deployed as a major weapon against free speech on Palestine/Israel issues.

The definition, along with a number of the examples that accompany it, form what amounts to a protective cocoon around Israel and its actions such that it can brutalise, kill and oppress Palestinians, be they man, woman or child, with impunity. It does this daily.

The IHRA definition entangles itself thus:

‘Antisemitism 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.’ (Emphasis added)

The word-jumble claims to be a definition. But definitions need to be certain. Surely, the use of a ‘may’ cancels out the sentence’s purported purpose: to be a definition. For where there is a ‘may’ there also is a ‘may not’, stated or not. 

And what is a ‘certain perception’?   And ‘non-Jewish individuals’ can also, apparently, be victims of antisemitism.  I’m puzzled by this universalising of antisemitism; it seems to drain the term of meaning.

Hugh Tomlinson QC has given an Opinion on the IHRA ‘definition’. He says:

‘The use of language is unusual and therefore potentially confusing. The phrase “a certain perception” is vague and unclear in the context of a definition. The use of the word “may” is also confusing. If it is understood in its usual sense of “possibility” then the definition is of little value: antisemitism “may be expressed as hatred towards Jews but may also be expressed in other (unspecified) ways’.

Jonathan Rosenhead of JVL (Jewish Voice for Labour), is also puzzled by the ‘definition’:

‘Those two sentences do not make an adequate definition. Inspect that box [i.e the paragraph above]: A ‘certain’ perception? ‘May’ be expressed? There is an almost total lack of specificity. It could be this perception, or that, or indeed the other. And if antisemitism only ‘may’ be expressed through hatred, what are the other ways? This is a rank failure in defining. With hindsight it seems plausible that this vagueness was deliberate – to necessitate interpretation, to facilitate the inclusion of critiques of Israel within the dragnet.

The UK Government, with the Labour Party now limping along behind it, promotes, somewhat militantly, the IHRA definition, thereby reinforcing the hostile environment for Israel-critical voices across a range of institutions, not least universities. In so doing, the UK Government and the Labour Party, by deed and by word, become complicit in support of a racist state.

Part of a wider pattern

The planned restrictions to be placed upon public bodies in respect of BDS, along with the IHRA ‘definition’ of antisemitism has one overriding purpose: to silence and erase Palestinians and to hide from sight Israel’s brutal, unrelenting oppression.

The assault on Israel-critical, pro-Palestinian voices will continue. It intensifies by the day.

Attempts to curtail BDS already represent an escalation in the policing of speech and action in respect of Palestine/Israel.  This will be further reinforced with the now established Parliamentary Antisemitism Taskforce which will have the mission, according to the Prime Minister, ‘of rooting out antisemitism in education at all levels’ because, apparently, ‘our universities have for far too long have been tolerant of casual or indeed systematic antisemitism.’

So, perhaps its merely ‘casual’, on the other hand it may perhaps be ‘systematic’. Or, perhaps more convincingly, legitimate concerns about antisemitism are the subject of boosterism, the purpose of which is to deflect attention away from the very real and present assault by Israel on Palestinians

Given that Israel-critical, pro-Palestinian speech is being dubbed the ‘new antisemitism’, the stage is set for an increasingly vigorous clamping down on legitimate Israel-critical speech. I wrote about this back in April 2021 under the heading of The Israelisation of British Politics. It is a process that continues.

Such is the way a ‘may’ heralds in misbegotten endeavours.


‘We don’t need your tears – we have a lot of that from tear gas’. Israel and the role of International Civil Society

This article first appeared in 2021, but I thought it still relevant and worth republishing. The article now begins – in its title – and ends with a quote from Bassem Tamini.

It’s in three parts. Some readers already familiar with the reports I cite in Part two and may wish to leapfrog to Part three.

Part one: Can Israeli Apartheid last?

Israel will not of its own volition unmake its rancid racist regime. Currently, it is so immersed in self-generated and self-sustained contempt and fear of the Other – Palestinians – that it has not the internal emotional, ethical or ideological resources to break out of what is, were Israel able to see it, an existential dead end. At present, it can conceive of itself only in terms of domination, of dominating the material, human and political landscape that is Palestine/Israel. From this perspective, Israel might be said to suffer from a form of institutional and personal psychosis, such that it has condemned itself to tread a seemingly endless, junction-less road of folly, stained with its crimes and calculated cruelties – and a vista that offers no kinder horizon. Israel: a nation in need of a cure.  

And the root cause of Israel’s ailments? Its pursuit, its violent pursuit, of a herrenvolk, or Master race ideology. The objective: To create a Jewish supremacist state requiring that the indigenous population of Palestinians be either removed totally from their own land, or reduced to numbers that can be controlled and managed.  In this, Israel replicates the settler-colonialist practices that spawned, for example, the states of America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. A colonial endeavour is, inevitably and necessarily, violent.  Thus, from a herrenvolk ideology, all evil flows. (Though, by way of an aside, the idea of a pure race of anybody is a false construct, devoid of foundation to support it, or mortar to hold it together.)

Israel: A state in need of treatment

But where are the political medics, where are the counsellors, who might fulfil the role of true friends of Israel ready to guide, to persuade and, if necessary, to punish in hope of correction? Not among the warm-word friends – the international community, the UK, the EU, the countries of the West – all whose self-interest in oil, in arms, in trade, and who have allowed themselves to be captured by sectional interests, secular and religious, rendering them, at present, incapable of calling Israel to account. Which, paradoxically perhaps, makes them, ultimately, no friend at all.   A friend is someone who helps you get out of the trouble you have created for yourself. Helps you see yourself as you are, not as you purport to be.

Even hypocrisy seems too mild a word

We have become accustomed to the pious utterances mouthed by western countries in particular exclaiming their commitment to democracy and the rule of law. Not a few regimes have been the recipients of western nations’ finger-wagging rebukes as to deficiencies in their mode of government. And many rebukes are no doubt deserved.  

By way of contrast, Israel – the Apartheid state – is subject, if at all, only to occasional mild reproof. It nestles most contently within an approbatory cocoon fashioned by the very same states that are otherwise most strident in proclaiming their democratic, rule of law credentials. Yet hour by hour, day by day, Israel brazenly flouts international and humanitarian law. This position possible only because it rests on the firm foundation of international hypocrisy.

But even hypocrisy seems too mild a word to describe this toleration of gross offences against, ultimately, people – Palestinians. 

So, can it last in its present form?

Is it, therefore, to be believed that an Apartheid state, maintained to all intent and purposes by military might and unholy alliances, can ultimately survive in its present form?

I am not by nature an optimistic, I don’t believe the world is necessarily on a virtuous trajectory to a better, more benign future.  But there is, I hazard to suggest, an almost tangible liberatory urge globally that traverses the boundaries of age, ethnicity, religion and class which will, ultimately, find intolerable the existence of an Apartheid state in its midst.  Intimations of this are not hard to find, be that in the protests of Palestinians or the growth of dissenting Jewish voices in America, the UK and Europe.

From an article by George Zeidan (co-founder of Right to Movement Palestine) and Miran Khwais in Haaretz, 18 July 2021:

Now, we as Palestinians are rediscovering our common aspirations, our common goal of freedom, rejecting the artificial borders imposed and sustained by force and discrimination. We will be faced with critical questions and positions that we need to navigate together: finding common ground between political cultures, from Islamists to secularists.

But we’ve learnt a critical lesson from the recent harsh events. There is no chance of change or liberation relying on the regimes and their apparatchiks that are invested in oppressing us, the change has to come from within us.

Part two: some evidence

Here is an extract from the report (2017) commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) from authors Mr. Richard Falk and Ms. Virginia Tilley. This report was withdrawn from the UN portal after protest from the USA and Israel.  However, the report can be found here.

This report concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. Aware of the seriousness of this allegation, the authors of the report conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in
instruments of international law.

The analysis in this report rests on the same body of international human rights law and principles that reject anti-Semitism and other racially discriminatory ideologies, including: the Charter of the United Nations (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965). The report relies for its definition of apartheid primarily on article II of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid…

Note here the emphasis, indeed the foundation, of the accusation against Israel. It is based on law:

‘[we]conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.’

Yet that law loving and – supposedly – law adhering nation,the USA, wrapped its arms around Israel, and had the UN withdraw the report.  

B’tselem ‘This is Apartheid’

B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation that, prior to issuing its report ‘This is Apartheid’ in January 2021 concentrated only on violations in the West Bank, Occupied East Jerusalem and Gaza. However, it now sees that because Israel controls the entirety of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan that its focus must similarly widen to encompass the entire area. ‘This is Apartheid’ explains B’tselem’s rationale:

The Israeli regime enacts in all the territory it controls (Israeli sovereign territory, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip) an apartheid regime. One organizing principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. B’tselem rejects the perception of Israel as a democracy (inside the Green Line) that simultaneously upholds a temporary military occupation (beyond it). B’Tselem reached the conclusion that the bar for defining the Israeli regime as an apartheid regime has been met after considering the accumulation of policies and laws that Israel devised to entrench its control over Palestinians. (Emphasis added)

Human rights Watch: ‘A threshold crossed’

In April 2021 Human Rights Watch issued its report ‘A threshold crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’.  An extract:

On the basis of its research, Human Rights Watch concludes that the Israeli government has demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the OPT. In the OPT, including East Jerusalem, that intent has been coupled with systematic oppression of Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid.

Israeli officials have also committed the crime against humanity of persecution. This finding is based on the discriminatory intent behind Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the grave abuses carried out in the OPT that include the widespread confiscation of privately owned land, the effective prohibition on building or living in many areas, the mass denial of residency rights, and sweeping, decades-long restrictions on the freedom of movement and basic civil rights.

Part three

So, what to do? The pivotal role of International Civil Society

So, what to do?  What to do once one is apprised of the situation in Palestine/Israel? What to do to strengthen and amplify the voices of Palestinians and dissenting Israelis who resist and seek to counter the depredations visited upon Palestinians by an overweening, expansionist, seemingly unaccountable Israeli state? Two, essentially linked and overlapping perspectives, first from the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement:

BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions)

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity…

BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Since its launch in 2005, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

You may wish to consider following, or joining, BDS: https://bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds

The other from Jeff Harper, Israeli citizen and founder of ICAHD UK, from the transcript of webinar ‘Israeli Dissident Voices: Breaking Away from Zionism’,

…look at South Africa as the most relevant precedent as to what could happen here [in Israel] because in some ways, we share some of the same things.

…the liberation struggle in South Africa had to face a dominant white society that wasn’t going to cooperate at all with the anti-apartheid movement and of course (that’s) very like the Israeli public.

 So, what the South Africans did…is they by-passed the whites. I mean they went right to the international community, especially international civil society: churches, trade unions, political groups, university groups, and really built a strong anti-apartheid movement globally. That then affected government policies that then came back and created economic realities through their BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement that finally caused the collapse of apartheid.

You may wish to consider following, or joining ICAHD: https://icahd.org/

Non-Israelis are vital in this struggle

The role of international civil society is, therefore, crucial to creating the context and conditions for change. Absent a strong and unrelenting international voice in support of justice for Palestinians, then their struggle will likely as not be much extended and Israel, along with its powerful allies, will be content to push the issue into the shadows. Our job, non-Israelis, is to pressurise Governments and commercial entities to have no truck with an Apartheid regime. As indicated above, paradoxically, we’ll be doing Israel a favour, though the patient may take a little while to see it.

The final word:‘We don’t need your tears’

It’s fitting that this article both now begins, and concludes, with the words of Bassem Tamimi, Palestinian grassroots activist, described by the European Union as a human rights defender, designated by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, father of Ahed Tamimi’s who aged 16 slapped an Israeli soldier outside their home, an event that, unusually, actually broke through to mainstream media.

Internationals can’t come here just for tourism. If people come to do Palestinian cooking or dabka dancing, it’s part of learning about our culture and identity but I think that much more support and solidarity is needed.

We don’t need your tears because we have a lot of tears from tear gas.

And we don’t want the people to see us victims because we are freedom fighters.

 Internationals must support us in any way that is necessary. I think that we need more than emotion, we need your actions on the ground. Come here to learn and then go back to struggle to build an international movement to help us achieve peace. Do your duty. You must take responsibility for what is happening here. You can do a lot.


Israel: The necessity of violence

As blood is to the body, so violence is to the Israeli state – an indispensable component of its existence. Violence – personal, physical, structural – courses through the organs and agents of this state, shaping its very instincts and intuitions. It is a violence it cannot forsake, nor indeed meaningfully mitigate, for, as currently formulated, Israel can, by its own lights, exist only by virtue of suppressing the full expression of personhood of an entire people – Palestinians.

Israel has thereby created for itself only one choice – which of course is no choice at all, but rather an existential scream into what it conceives as the darkness of the night – to be in its very soul ‘Israel-militant’, a reach-for-the-gun, the baton, the tear gas, the skunk water polity, excessive and aggressive in defence of what it conceives to be its essence: being a Jewish State, a state for Jews. As long as this is the Israeli state’s animating principle, that is how long it will condemn itself to be both cruel oppressor and victim of its self-created fear of the other: the indigenous, original and continuing inhabitants of the land bordered by the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea – Palestinians.  The very logic of Israel’s conception of itself impels it to dispossess Palestinians from their fields, pasture lands, villages and homes.

The manufacture of justification

Thus it is that one of the high organs of the state, the Israel Supreme Court, was able to conjure for itself justifications that enabled it to endorse the expulsion from their homes of some 1,000 Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta. This for the benefit of IDF training, but more saliently, to clear the way for yet another Jewish-only Settlement on stolen Palestinian land.  

In coming to its judgment, the court averred that the prohibition in international law against forced population transfer was not binding on Israel. In this, a new principle seems to be established: that the criminal is able to pick and choose which laws may be deemed offences. As if this were not sufficient to demonstrate the preconceived partiality of the Supreme Court, one of the justices in the case, Justice David Mintz, is himself a settler. In other jurisdictions, a judge with a clear self-interest in a hearing would be expected to stand down from the case. Not so here.

The potential ramifications of the judgment are eloquently set out by David Shulman:

The forcible expulsion of the Palestinian communities of Masafer Yatta will have implications for the whole of humanity. Israel’s Supreme Court has now brazenly claimed, in its ruling, that international laws of war and, specifically, the laws of belligerent occupation, are not binding on the State of Israel and can be overruled by legislation and the orders of senior military officers. This ruling is shameful and cannot be defended. Reputed experts on international law say that the court’s ruling on Masafer Yatta may well expose the State of Israel, and all those connected to implementing this decision, to investigation and possible prosecution in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

But there is worse to come. The court’s ruling is another milestone in the process of remorseless annexation—that is, outright robbery—of Palestinian lands and the expulsion of the rightful owners of those lands.

This judicial assault, and the physical assault on Masafer Yatta it presages, is not a one-off. Dispossessions, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the destruction of livelihoods, these are daily occurrences perpetrated by the violent Israeli state. They continue.

Is there no limit?

Is there a limit to the violence Israel feels able to perpetrate against Palestinians?  The answer must be ‘no’.  By way of example, here are some instances for the period 19 April – 9 May documented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): The list is illustrative, not exhaustive.

  • 668 Palestinians, including 24 children, were injured by Israeli forces across the West Bank.
  • Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank
  • On six occasions, the Israeli police carried out operations in and around Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, triggering violent confrontations with Palestinians. A total of 99 Palestinians, including 15 children, were injured; 107 others were arrested…These operations followed three consecutive weeks of almost daily raids by Israeli forces to evacuate Palestinian worshippers to secure the entry of Israelis into the compound.
  • Israel settlers injured seventeen Palestinians, including two children; and people known or believed to be settlers damaged Palestinian property in 27 instances.
  • Israeli settlers attacked, shot, and injured thirteen Palestinian farmers, including two with live ammunition, and three by dogs…in six separate incidents.
  • In four incidents, stones were thrown at Palestinian vehicles…causing the injury of four Palestinians, including a four-year-old girl
  • Some 450 Palestinian-owned olive trees were uprooted in thirteen incidents by settlers….

And so – predictably – it continues…

Violence begets violence

There have also been Israeli deaths and injuries arising from attacks by Palestinians. However, Palestinian deaths and injuries, including those of children, are vastly higher than those of Israelis. Figures from the OHCHR paint a stark picture: 

At least 10,349 Palestinians and 1,304 Israelis have been killed by someone from the other side since 2000. At least 2,349 Palestinian children and 137 Israeli children have been killed by someone from the other side since 2000. Since October 2015, at least 376 Palestinians and 52 Israelis have been killed by someone from the other side.

The disproportionality in deaths and injuries between Palestinians and Israelis is hardly surprising. Israel is the extensively armed illegal occupier of territory not its own and, as a direct result of this, has need to enforce control, to keep down, a people it has no rights over.  This necessitates Israel’s use of violence as a key policy instrument. By its own lights, it has no choice.   

The question then arises: what might constitute a legitimate Palestinian response to Israeli state and settler violence?  An impartial observer is likely to see obvious parallels between Russia’s violent, illegitimate attempt to take over some or all of Ukrainian territory, and Israel’s violent and illegitimate takeover of Palestinian territory.  A process that continues, Masafer Yatta, and East Jerusalem to name but two areas where Israeli land-theft continues unabated.      

The West has eulogised Ukrainian resistance, actively aided it: weapons supplied, funds made available, constant political endorsement of Ukrainian’s right to resist Russian incursions.  And Palestinians right to resist Israel’s occupation and incursions? Either silence ensues, or mock concern.

It hardly needs to be said, we wish for the day when there are no deaths or injuries by violence.

Shireen Abu Akleh

Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, a well-known, highly respected reporter for Al Jazeera,  was shot dead in the West Bank on Wednesday 11 May  as she reported on Israeli military raids in the city of Jenin. Her producer was also shot but is in a stable condition.

Her employer, Al Jazeera, described her death as “a blatant murder” by Israeli forces.  Israel has suggested that she may have been shot by Palestinians. However, three eyewitnesses told CNN that the journalists were shot by Israeli troops and that there were no Palestinian militants immediately near to the journalists.

This death is shocking, and prompted an outpouring of grief and anger, particularly in the Arab world. At the time of writing, there is no formal confirmation of who is responsible for the death, but the evidence of the eyewitnesses quoted above, and others, strongly implicate an IDF soldier.

Israel has form when it comes to shooting journalists. As reported in The New Arab, according to Palestinian Ministry of Information figures, Israel has killed at least 45 reporters since 2000, the year of the Second Intifada. The Palestinian Journalists’ Union places the figure higher at 55.

Shireen Abu Akleh ‘s killing was shocking enough. I assume most readers are aware of the scenes – photographed and filmed, the images distributed around the world – at Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral. Israeli police stormed the funeral procession using tear gas and batons to the extent that the casket carrying Abu Akleh’s body at one moment looked as though it was about to be dropped.

The behaviour of the police is almost beyond belief, but not so when it is understood as yet another manifestation of the institutionalised, widespread violence perpetrated by the Israeli state. Since Palestinian aspirations for liberation cannot be quelled, and Israel is locked into consuming Palestinian land and resources, exercising control by violence is an inevitable consequence.

The USA, EU and UK have all registered their shock at the killing and condemned the police action at the funeral. It is unlikely that any substantive measures will be taken to censor or punish Israel for its behaviour. This would be to follow a by now well-established pattern of granting Israel effective impunity from facing up to the consequences of its actions.

Shield, sentinel and benefactor

There is every reason to believe that Israel is guilty of multiple crimes against Humanitarian and International law, along with breaches of the Geneva convention. It has constructed for itself an Apartheid regime, in effect a Jewish supremacist ethnonationalist state.

Its closest allies and benefactors are states characterising themselves as democratic, upholders of the rule of law, though in Israel’s case, other consideration seem to apply. The support Israel receives from its western allies – USA, EU, UK – inoculates it against criticism or consequence. The current attempts to outlaw BDS in the West is but one example of this.

Violence, as asserted at the head of this article, is Israel’s key operating principle, its ethos. Its ability to be this way is fuelled, funded and nurtured by the ‘democracies’ of the West who have proved themselves more than willing to entangle themselves ever more completely with Israel via trade deals, arms research and sales, military cooperation, not to mention cultural exchanges. This is something beyond mere complicity. It is the manifestation of calculated policy.

Thus the West fulfils the role of shield, sentinel and benefactor to the Apartheid state.

The protection the West offers comes at the cost of Israel never having to look at itself in the mirror, never having to face the consequences of its actions and so it repeats endlessly the only modes of being and action that it is able to comprehend: the application of violence.

Israel believes that it stands on firm foundations having constructed itself as an expansionist, Jewish ethnonationalist state.  But those foundations rest on quicksand, they cannot in the longer-term hold.  Israel’s conception of itself is its greatest weakness, blocking all avenues towards just resolution of the Palestinian/Israel impasse. It is the most profound folly to believe that justice for Palestine and Palestinians can forever be delayed, still less vanquished.

Israel does face an existential threat. But it is not from those it currently perceives as enemies. Israel’s greatest enemy, is itself.



Freeing Palestine. Current strategies necessary. But sufficient?

Part one, in summary, looks at the nature of some of the threats that Israel-critical/Pro-Palestinian advocates confront. It then asks whether there is a need for more joined-up, durable approaches in responding to key threats, ones that so negatively affect the Palestinian cause.  (3 minute read)

Part two looks at some examples of the threats to Palestinian interests. It is illustrative, not comprehensive. (8 minute read)

Part three: End word (30 seconds)

Part one. To confront a strategy, ensure one has one’s own

The forces arrayed against Israel-critical individuals and organisations are formidable, multi-faceted, wide-ranging and well-resourced.  Those forces have the capability to direct their fire at a multiplicity of targets – academic and cultural institutions, local government, business, civil society organisations – and to do this simultaneously; an indication of their breadth and resource. The merest hint of Israel-critical comment and/or support for a Palestinian perspective triggers attack from Israel’s more zealous supporters.

It hardly needs asserting that underpinning the unrelenting, multi-front assaults on Israel-critical perspectives is a strategy. And a strategy, by definition, is long term, integrative, creating the context for generating and marshalling any number of disparate, short-term initiatives within an overarching framework directed at achieving long-term goals.  It is a tool for the determination of priorities, along with the identification of strategic threats, and potential strategic advantages. A strategic approach is also about energy: where and how to expend it, where to conserve it; how to deplete the energy of one’s opponents.

The question arises: Whether, here in the UK, sufficient attention has been given to creating strategic – that is durable, sustained, cross-organisational – responses to the threats that confront Israel-critical, pro-Palestinian advocates. One potential strategic aim being to undermine, overtime and by diverse means, the credibility and (supposed) moral authority of the sources of the attacks.  

Arguably, insufficient attention has been given to creating and sustaining such an approach. The threats include, at the very least:

  • the IHRA definition and examples, deployment of which are scything their way through any number of organisations, groupings and institutions; and linked to this the just announced (see below in Part two section on ‘Government and Opposition’) establishment of an antisemitism task force aimed, it seems, at educational institutions.  
  • mainstream media’s institutional bias, aspect blindness, and timidity in the way it reports and analyses Palestine/Israel issues;
  • the threat that legislation will be introduced to ban or curtail support for BDS.

There surely is a case to be made for the establishment of – or at least the exploration of the merits of establishing – standing cross-organisational working groups able to draw in a range of expertise and political nous supportive of the Palestinian cause. Such working groups could examine weaknesses and lacunae in current approaches and formulate medium and long-term approaches to countering them.   That is to say what might be done beyond demonstrations, petitions, letters of support, necessary though these modes of action are.

Taking the mainstream media strand first, the sort of questions that could perhaps be usefully asked: Is there a strategic gap in how pro-Palestinians interests engage with mainstream media? Is there a case for a – hypothetically named – Palestine-UK Media Group the purpose of which is to change over time the way at least some mainstream media report on Palestine/Israel issues?  To say this is not to succumb to naivete. Of course mainstream media is shot through with institutional bias in favour of Israel, and has a grim and disreputable history in marginalising or ignoring Palestinian voices. But to say this is simply to describe part of the problem, it does not of itself yield remedy. 

Looking at the IHRA/antisemitism strand: Is there a case for a more focused, unified and sustained approach to objecting to IHRA, this as part of a wider strategy? There is a sense in which we present as potential targets waiting to be picked off. When the attack comes, defensive mobilisation is often swift and can be effective.  But is there more that can be done to undermines the authority of the IHRA? If so, this is not the work of a moment, but the need for persistent burrowing at the foundations of the text itself and the credibility of those who so strenuously promote it.  

Nothing said above detracts or minimises the significance of pro-Palestinian advocacy that is daily underway in a variety of ways, tackling every aspect of Israel’s oppression.

Part two: Strategic threats and their bearers – a very partial overview

IHRA

It surely is a move of strategic brilliance that the Israeli state and its cohabitees saw just how potent accusations of antisemitism could be in their unrelenting bid to silence, indeed demonise, Israel-critical, pro-Palestinian voices.  The vehicle for the propagation and dissemination of the accusations is of course the IHRA definition of antisemitism along with its so-called examples (henceforth ‘IHRA’).

In fact, I do not know whether Israel, along with its uncritical handmaidens, initially grasped the potential utility of the IHRA in silencing and demonising Palestinian voices; or whether they themselves have been surprised (and gratified) at its apparent catch-all utility as a multi-functional attack weapon, yet which also affords full-spectrum defence against criticism or censure of IHRA and its proponents. For that is how the IHRA functions: as a public relations shield for Israel, diverting attention away from Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians’ homeland and onto the supposed antisemitism of Israel-critical individuals and organisations.

It’s true there have been some inspiring and effective pushbacks against the IHRA. But the need to fight on this front, which in its narrow formulation is about protecting civil liberties and free speech, has a cost. That cost is the time, trouble and resources deployed to counter accusations of antisemitism and to defend free speech, thus, arguably, diluting attention that should properly be paid to the core issue: Israel’s daily, on the ground oppression of Palestinians.

Whilst each attack on pro-Palestinian interests can be said to emanate from a single source, or at least from sources closely aligned to each other, and likely as not functionally coordinated – a manifestation of a strategic approach – the targets of attack are often local and individual having to rely on their own, local capabilities and resources, notwithstanding acts of solidarity, joint protest and fraternal support from a range of pro-Palestinian individuals and organisations

UK Lawyers for Israel

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) is nothing if not industrious in pursuing all manner of what they judge to be unlawful actions by a wide range of authorities, commercial companies and other organisations and individuals.  Among UKLFI’s objectives are:

‘to provide, assist in providing, procure or promote the provision of legal support including advocacy, research, advice and campaigning in combating attempts to undermine, attack and/or delegitimise Israel, Israeli organisations, Israelis and/or supporters of Israel’

‘to contribute generally as lawyers to creating a supportive climate of opinion in the United Kingdom towards Israel.’

The implication here is that UKLFI support for Israel is, in effect, unqualified.

I do not comment on the correctness or otherwise of their legal perspective in any particular case, but here’s a partial – stress ‘partial’ – snapshot of their activities, all dated in the period January 2022 – March 2022, a mere three months.

  • The President of City University’s Israel Society, with assistance from UK Lawyers for Israel, has reported the City Students’ Union to the Charity Commission for conducting an unlawful BDS campaign targeting Israel.
  • A petition calling for Edinburgh to be twinned with the Palestinian city of Gaza was pulled from the agenda of the city council. This follows UKLFI’s letter to Edinburgh council’s head of legal services last week, warning that the Councillors will probably commit criminal offences if they participate in twinning between Edinburgh and Gaza City.
  • UK Lawyers for Israel has written to the 82 Local Government Pension Scheme Chairs in England and Wales, to warn them that a UN Rapporteur is unlawfully interfering in the management of their pension funds.
  • Wirral Council’s Pensions Committee, which administers the Merseyside Pension Fund, has voted against a proposal to progress towards divesting from businesses operating in the West Bank. UK Lawyers for Israel had written to Wirral Council’s Pensions Committee, explaining in detail why the Merseyside Pension Fund should not divest from certain businesses which operate in the West Bank and which appear on a database prepared by the UN Human Rights Council.
  • Following a complaint by UKLFI in January 2022 that those living in Israel were excluded from joining YouGov as panellists, YouGov has now allowed people living in Israel to share their opinions for market research.

And, as I briefly set out below, UKFLI is now pursuing the National Union of Students’ appointment of Shaima Dallali as its new President (to take up post in July 2022).

Pre-emptive caution

It’s clear from the activities set out above, and the list of UKLFI’s Patrons and Directors, that they command significant fire power which they deploy seemingly most effectively.

Putting to one side the question of the legal rightness or wrongness of their position in any particular case, it’s not hard to imagine the intimidatory effect a UKLFI letter, replete with references to statute and case law, will have on any number of organisations targeted. They will not wish to end up in court given the cost and time and trouble that requires, and therefore the tendency will be to submit to complaint. But beyond the particular targeted organisations, others which might have otherwise considered supporting, for example, BDS may feel that not addressing the question is the better part of valour; or at least the better part of pragmatism.

We believe in Israel

We Believe in Israel,an organisation whose title neatly summarises its stance, has directed its ire against the musician and activist Lowkey, accusing him of ‘incitement’ against Israel and pushing for his songs to be removed from the streaming service Spotify. Luke Akehurst, Director of We Believe in Israel and a member of the Labour Party’s national executive committee said:

‘Spotify has a responsibility to uphold its platform rules which quite clearly state that content promoting, threatening, or inciting violence is unacceptable. Our research has identified dozens of such breaches…The presence of Lowkey’s music is particularly offensive.’

The attack on Lowkey, essentially an attack on free speech and Palestinian advocacy, has prompted a petition in his support. When last I looked (19/04/2022) it had attracted over 42,000 signatures.

Low Key’s lyrics for Long Live Palestine Part 2 can be found here. Worth reading, but uncomfortable for We Believe in Israel, for the lyrics suggest that their belief in Israel is misplaced.

Students and education a target

In another attempt to silence Lowkey, a planned appearance at a conference organised by the National Union of Students in Liverpool was cancelled following a campaign from the Union of Jewish Students to get him removed from the panel.

The same student organisation, along with the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, is raising objection to Shaima Dallali’s election as president of the National Union of Students, this based on her pro-Palestinian stance and comments she made when a teenager which she has acknowledged as wrong, and apologised for them. However, this has not quietened opposition to her appointment.  UKLFI reports in its blog dated 24 April that:

UKLFI strongly believes the statements [by Shaima Dallali] are contrary to NUS policy. UKLFI considers these statements are antisemitic when judged against the IHRA’s working definition and that this should result in disciplinary action….Following UKLFI’s letter, which was sent on 11 April, the NUS has called for an independent inquiry into allegations of antisemitism.’

The complaint has served its function, whether it is determined as valid or not. Time, energy, finance will be devoted to dealing with the complaint and the IHRA’s role as an intimidatory tool will be further enhanced. Attention will be diverted away from Israel’s policy and actions in respect of Palestinians, the focus moving to consideration as to the degree IHRA can be said have been breached. Nothing, or next to nothing, will have been done to undermine the credibility of the IHRA itself.

A notable, welcome success. But…

There was also the ultimately failed attempt by Sheffield Hallam University to suspend the Palestinian graduate student, Shahd Abusalama, from teaching based on a smear campaign by supporters of Israel. Accusations against her revolved around her purported antisemitic actions and words. Leading the initially successful charge against her were the Campaign Against Antisemitism and that organ of balanced, dispassionate reporting, Jewish News

In the end their immediate efforts were nullified by a brilliant, widespread campaign in her support. That’s a battle won.

But now, as set out below, coming into play is the newly formed Antisemitism Task Force aimed, it appears, particularly at education and students.  Expect an escalation in attacks on student bodies and individuals.

Government and Opposition

So far as the UK government is concerned, it, with the Opposition trotting along behind – or is that side-by-side? – both have to all intent and purposes determined that criticism of, and opposition to, Israel’s policies and actions in respect of Palestine/Palestinians amount to antisemitism and are therefore to be condemned and countered.

Boris Johnson expounded on the matter in Parliament, claiming that ‘our universities have for far too long have been tolerant of casual or indeed systematic antisemitism’. He called for ‘rapid and irreversible change’, and the establishment of ‘an Antisemitism Task Force devoted to rooting out antisemitism in education at all levels.’ According to a blog from the very active UKLFI,  the establishment of this task force was formally announced at a Parliamentary reception hosted by Lord Mann on 5 April 2022.

In addition, the Conservative MP Robert Jenrick, has said that the government aims to outlaw BDS in the next Parliament.   Both these stances represent significant threats to Israel-critical campaigning. The Labour Party – formally speaking, Her Majesty’s Opposition – on Palestine/Israel issues is simply a busted flush, taking positions that in effect mimic that of the Government.

The Labour Party leader has set his face against BDS and, most recently, has opposed the recent Amnesty International report that finds Israel guilty of creating a ‘system of Apartheid’.  (It should be noted that Amnesty claims not to have designated Israel an ‘Apartheid State’ but, as stated above, a state that has created a ‘system of Apartheid’. Explanation of this distinction, if such it is, can be found here.

Above I noted that Luke Akehurst, the director of We Believe in Israel, is also a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, as of course he is entitled to be. At the same time, we are entitled to ask the degree to which he is able to offer the Labour Party a balanced account on Palestine/Israel matters. 

Act.IL

The most succinct way to explain about Act.IL is to quote directly from the Electronic Intifada report of the June 2019:

A global influence campaign funded by the Israeli government had a $1.1 million budget last year, a document obtained by The Electronic Intifada shows.

Act.IL says it has offices in three countries and an online army of more than 15,000. In its annual report, from January, Act.IL says its goal is to “influence foreign publics” and “battle” BDS…

Through its app, Act.IL… directs comments towards news websites in support of Israeli wars and racism, while attacking Palestinians and solidarity campaigners. The leaked report claims Act.IL’s app completes 1,580 such missions every week.

Part three: End word

I doubt that much objection can be raised at my characterisation of the strategic threats confronting Israel-critical, pro-Palestinian advocates.  Similarly, it is hardly new information that the forces arrayed against Israel-critical, pro-Palestinian advocates are formidable and well-resourced. Their capacity to disrupt and attack on multiple fronts is, in its own terms, impressive. 

Be you student, local authority, pension fund, journalist, bookseller, or simply a member of the public wanting to display the Palestinian flag, you can, and often will be, targeted by Israel’s allies, the strategic aim being to silence you directly and, more widely, to create a culture of inhibition such that one self-censors’ Pro-Palestinian expression.

The question raised in Part One seems to me to force itself upon us: Whether, here in the UK, sufficient attention has been given to creating strategic – that is durable, sustained, cross-organisational – responses to the threats that confront Israel-critical, pro-Palestinian advocates. One potential strategic aim being to undermine, over time and by diverse means, the credibility and (supposed) moral authority of the sources of attack.  




How shall we harm you?  Let us count the ways. A partial inventory of Israel’s oppression against Palestinians

Shoot your children bullet-dead – no tear to our eyes

‘On average, Israeli forces and settlers killed 6 Palestinian children per month this [2021] year.

‘Israeli forces and armed Israeli civilians have killed 78 Palestinian minors in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza, making 2021 the deadliest year on record for Palestinian children since 2014.’

Tear the olive trees from your soil – you nurture growth, this offends us

‘Some 50 masked Israelis from the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar destroyed over 100 olive trees Saturday outside the nearby Palestinian village of Hawara…’.

‘As the settlers’ snap branches off the trees, footage documented by a field worker for the Yesh Din group pans to IDF soldiers appearing to be standing by and not reacting.’

‘Over 9,000 olive trees have been destroyed in the West Bank since August 2020, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross

We make life unbearable – lest you thrive

From OCHA: ‘The situation in Gaza is unbearable for many. It has been described as an “open-air prison”, and things have been getting even worse amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. It has a population of approximately 2.1 million people and since 2007 has been under a land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel.

‘Years of conflict and the blockade have left 80% of the population dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive. Access to clean water is not possible for 95% of the population, and there is an ongoing power shortage which impacts essential services like health, water and sanitation.

‘Almost half of Gaza’s people do not have enough food, around 60% of children are anaemic and many children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.

‘The blockade has sealed off Gaza from the rest of the world, crippling the economy and trapping residents – including a generation of young people who have no hope of prospects for development. 70% of youth are now unemployed. Fear and lack of hope for the future have become the norm among young people in Gaza.’

We scatter your flocks as they graze – we harass, threaten and expel

Photos: Maragret Olin. Text David Shulman: ‘For the last three days, he’s [Abu Isma‘il ] come out to graze his herd all alone, with our activists to protect him. Without our presence, he might not venture out at all. And he has good reason to be afraid.

‘There’s the arch-settler Omer, whom we know too well; who can be counted on to harass, to expel, to threaten, to drive his ATV right through the flock, to send the soldiers to do his bidding and force the shepherds off the land.

‘Several of the ewes are pregnant; another one gave birth two days ago and is back in the field today. It’s the birthing season, right before the rains. Let’s hope the settlers don’t find an opportunity to make the ewes miscarry, as settlers have done many times before;…

‘They’ve also dug a deep ditch in a wide arc around the settlement, for the sole purpose of preventing the shepherds from grazing on these fertile lands. And guess whose lands they are. One of these days we are going to bring a tractor and fill in the ditch ourselves.’

We raze your homes to the ground – you do not belong here. What was yours, is now ours

From ICAHD UK: ‘For over thirty years, their entire married life, Atta and Rudina Jaber and their children have known nothing but oppression and cruelty from Israeli authorities and the extreme religious Jewish settlers from nearby Kiryat Arba in Hebron who covet their land. The valley in which Atta and his neighbours live, though arid, produces much of the West Bank’s harvest of grapes and produce. Atta’s small farm has been in the family since Ottoman times, but he has lost almost all of it to the settlement and to the busy highway 60 that connects the Israeli settlements of the southern West Bank to Jerusalem.

Atta Jaber

Besides losing their land and livelihood, the Jaber family has had its home demolished twice by the Israeli authorities, and Atta has been repeatedly jailed and beaten by the police. In December 2000, dozens of settlers invaded their home, evicted the family, spent a peaceful Sabbath in their home protected by the Israeli army and police, then burned the house on their way out and returned to Kiryat Arba undisturbed. In February 2018, the Israeli army destroyed what was left of Atta’s farm, forbidding him to ever plant again on Israeli “state land.”

Abduct your children to our prison cells – we are the most moral army in the world

From Military Court Watch: ‘Most Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank live within 2 kilometres of a settlement built in violation of international law, or a road used by settlers.

‘In 2013, UNICEF published a report which concluded that “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the process”.’

  • Children as young as 12 years can be prosecuted in the military courts.
  • Approximately 500-1,000 children detained each year.
  • Children are most commonly prosecuted for stone throwing.
  • Over half of all detained children are arrested at night and report physical and psychological abuse during arrest, transfer and interrogation.
  • 95% of cases in the military courts end in conviction.

Cruelty is our currency – we can no longer see ourselves as we are

Photos Margaret Olon. Text: David Shulman: ‘Some days ago [the community of Bedouin shepherds of Ras at-Tin] received a visit from the army or the Civil Administration (it’s the same thing). The officer told them there were no problems, they had nothing to worry about. Then at dawn on July 14th soldiers came with their cranes and trucks and other devilish devices and confiscated everything these people had. There were seven large water tanks (they have to buy water and bring it in tankers); all were taken away.

‘First, however, the soldiers poured out the water onto the rocks and sand. The children, watching this, were crying. Long thirsty hours went by before the shepherds were able to fetch more water. Tents and sheep-pens were also destroyed. Each water tank costs 7,000 shekels, a huge sum for a community of subsistence shepherds.

Ahmad al-Rashidat, the mukhtar of Ras at-Tin, said:

‘They told us we were safe, and then they came and took everything away. The water tanks. A tractor. Solar panels. Our only power source. Our stocks of food. Several carts and wagons. All that we have.

‘Have you ever heard of a government denying water to people? It’s inhuman, a crime. Who could imagine such a thing?  Some of the young men protested and were injured, and the soldiers prevented them from being taken to hospital….

‘…We are living on private Palestinian lands…We are peaceful people. See the school over there. We built it for our children. Now they are afraid whenever they hear a car coming. Tomorrow is our holiday, Id al-Adha, a time of celebration. Every year the children ask for presents, they ask us for whatever they want. You know what they asked for this year? Water. And what do we want? Only a little water, and our dignity, nothing more’

‘Behind the Civil Administration is the fanatical settlers’ organization called Regavim, which first targeted the school. Of course, the school has a demolition order hanging over it, stayed for the moment by the Supreme Court. But all talk of legality here is no more than a cloud of dust. What we saw today is, in my [David Shulman’s] view, or in my heart, remarkably pure, unmitigated cruelty for the sake of the pleasure that cruelty provides.’

And still they rise

(With acknowledgement to Maya Angelou)

UK Government and allies support BDS

Rank hypocrisy and shameless double standards are by now the unsurprising hallmarks of the UK Government.  But it has excelled itself in its rapid and enthusiastic conversion to BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) now seen as both a morally appropriate, and potentially efficacious, strategy designed, in this case, to persuade Russia to reverse its invasion of Ukraine.  Until this moment, the UK Government, along with allies, has been vehement in its opposition to BDS, specifically in regard to Israel, casting upon it no end of calumnies. 

On the basis that a policy should be expressive of an informing principle, and that consistency in the application of a principle is both desirable and necessary, we are entitled to ask: What circumstances justify the implementation of BDS, and what circumstances appear not to do so?  

Compare and contrast: BDS in respect of Russia and in respect of Israel

The case where BDS has been so vehemently opposed is of course in respect of Israel’s policies and actions towards Palestine and Palestinians. As indicated above, and in contradiction to the stance taken in the Israel/Palestine case, the UK Government and its allies are enthusiastically implementing BDS against Russia and Belarus. 

The scope of this BDS campaign is stunning. By way of example it includes, but is not limited to, moves to curtail Russia’s ability to trade in international markets, to export its oil and natural gas along with wide restrictions on semiconductors, telecommunication, encryption security, lasers, sensors, navigation, avionics and maritime technologies.  The EU and the UK are also closing their airspaces to Russian aircraft, including the private jets of Russian oligarchs

Some detail

It hardly needs this article to inform readers of some key features of Russia’s actions in respect of Ukraine. But in seeking to understand what, on the one hand, urges the Government to enthuse about BDS, and on the other, what urges it to deprecate BDS so vehemently, some attention to detail is required.

Ukraine can be characterised as a state that, until now, has been able to exercise its right of self-determination.  A neighbouring state, a relatively powerful one – Russia – commanding in particular military resources far in excess of those available to Ukraine decided, for reasons of its own, that Ukraine was no longer entitled to unfettered self-determination, and it should, in effect, become part of Russia.

One can discuss what precisely might be meant by ‘become part of’, but I think it fair to say that Russia was and is determined to extinguish Ukrainians’ enjoyment of unfettered self-determination. And to this end it launched, and is currently conducting, a brutal military assault that in practice, and inevitably, targets not only an opposing military, but also civilians.

The principle

Aside from Russia seeking to extinguish Ukrainian self-determination, there are no doubt other features that weighed with the UK and its allies as justification for implementing stringent BDS against Russia.  However, it is also surely the case that seeking, by force, to nullify a state’s or people’s capacity for self-determination are grounds enough for BDS to be an appropriate policy response. And what’s true in one case, if similar considerations apply, should be true in another.

Israel/Palestine

Turning now to Israel and its relationship to Palestine/Palestinians what do we find? Once again, it hardly needs this article to inform readers of salient features, but some detail here is useful.

In 1948 Israel pronounced itself an independent state, specifically an independent Jewish state. In order for the Jewish character of the new state to be assured, it was necessary to reduce the number of indigenous Palestinians living within its (then) boundaries. This was achieved by a range of methods including the deployment of significant military might that destroyed Palestinian villages, massacred Palestinians and created an atmosphere of fear such that many Palestinians fled to neighbouring countries.   In establishing for itself the right to self-determination, Israel sought to extinguish fulfilment of this right for Palestinians. And it has, thus far, succeeded. 

Though on a different scale to Russia’s assault on Ukraine, there are distinct similarities between the Russia/Ukraine conflict, and the Israel/Palestinian situation. Both involve the use of force to achieve political goals. Both target civilians. Both Israel and Russia’s aim was, and is, to deny their respective victims the right to self-determination, this denial secured by force of arms. 

On the grounds of consistency, as enumerated above, it’s clear that the UK and its allies would be justified in implementing a policy of BDS against Israel as a whole (see below).   Certainly, there are no grounds to deprecate BDS aimed at Israel, still less to seek legislative authority to ban or curtail it, as is mooted to be the UK’s present intention.

Caveat: 1948 or 1967?

For the purposes of this article, I want now to enter a caveat or variation to what has been said thus far.  The logic of the previous section, as stated, is that it is legitimate to implement BDS against Israel as a whole.  There is, however, a strand of Israel-critical thinking – sometimes characterised as a liberal-left strand – that accepts Israel’s culpability for the oppression of Palestinians dating back to 1948, the establishment of the Israeli state, but is more circumspect about what penalties Israel should suffer as a result.  In the light of this, let us take a different starting point and focus on the 1967 war and Israel’s conquering of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza (OPT).

There can be no argument that Israel is the occupying power in the OPT, an occupation enforced by a combination of the Israeli military (Israel Defence Force) and the semi-military force, the Border Police.

The OPT is under military law. Among the many egregious features of this brutal occupation are the targeting of civilians – children, women, men – the use of live fire, not least against children, the destruction of homes and the necessities for earning a livelihood, the theft of vast areas of Palestinian lands and the establishment of Settlements on stolen Palestinian land. In addition, there are severe restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement both within the OPT, and in relation to travel (when allowed) between Israel and the OPT.

In terms of the Jewish-only Settlements, although within the OPT areas, they are not under military law, as are OPT Palestinians, but under Israeli civil law. The Settlements are also woven into the fabric of the Israeli economy, and many of the products grown or manufactured there are sold in international markets. Put another way, the ability of the Settlements to trade in international markets means that that aspect of international trade – possibly the Israeli hummus you buy in the supermarket – in effect supports the illegal, apartheid-based Jewish-only Settlements.  For many taking 1967 and the occupation as their starting point, they hold that any BDS measures should be restricted to those that penalise the Settlements, but not Israel as a whole.

BDS justified in case of Israel/Palestine

For the purposes of this article, which is concerned to identify a principle that either justifies, or does not justify, BDS, I have no need to delve further into whether 1948 or 1967 is an appropriate starting point, whatever my personal view might be.

What has been established is, whether 1948 or 1967 is taken as the starting point, in both cases, Israel, by force of arms, by personal and economic oppression, denies, as a matter of state policy, by the minute, by the day, by the week, by the year, by the decade, the right of Palestinian to self-determination.

I have suggested that one aspect of the UK and its allies’ justification for implementing – incredibly stringent – BDS measures against Russia is its aim to nullify, by force of arms, Ukraine’s right to self-determination. There is not a cigarette paper’s distance between the justification for BDS against Russia, and the justification for BDS against Israel, either as a whole, or restricted to the Settlements. The point is, the in principle position is secure. If BDS is justified against Russia, it follows that it is against Israel as a whole, on in relation to Settlements only.

Absurd

It would be absurd to believe that consistency in the application of principle will play any part in determining the UK’s stance on BDS in respect of Israel. But perhaps the UK and its allies, at some level, and unwittingly, have closed the door on some of their justifications for opposing BDS against Israel, and/or its Settlements. Not a minor point if the UK, and indeed at least some of its allies, move legislatively to curtail the promotion or implementation of BDS.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Stop Press! Threat against Amnesty Apartheid report

The source of immediate threat is from the UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI). They are able to muster formidable legal resources against their chosen targets – essentially those who are Israel-critical or anti-Zionist. They have now asked the Charity Commission to investigate the involvement of Amnesty International Charities in their report ‘Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity’.

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI, says: ‘The Report is not for the public benefit, but rather consists of misleading and inflammatory allegations that will exacerbate the serious problem of antisemitism in the UK and around the world.’

In a way it is a secondary matter whether this, or other complaints, are justified. The fact a complaint has been made, has a chilling effect.  It also requires the ‘defendant’ to expend time and money attempting to fend of the accusations.


Campaigning for Palestine: Victories, threats, and resolve

There’s been a cluster of events, of which I shall mention only four, that have gladdened the heart, prompted admiration, and that serve to reinforce resolve.

Ambassador sent on her way

One was the protests undertaken by Cambridge University students against the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely. She was giving a speech at that university. The only thing that can be said in Hotovely’s favour is that her appointment presents to the UK the unvarnished truth of Israel’s position vis a vis Palestine and Palestinians.

Hotovely has reportedly denied Palestine’s existence, designated the Nakba ‘a great Arab lie.’, and opposed any Palestinian claim to the occupied West Bank, Gaza, or East al-Quds, at the same time supporting the expansion of Israeli Jewish-only settlements. It’s worth adding that the university students’ actions are, arguably, not an example of ‘no platforming’. The ambassador was representing – she was not speaking as an individual – a country guilty of multiple floutings of humanitarian and international law, a country designated an apartheid state in no less than four reports, the latest by Amnesty International . There is no obligation to offer a platform to the representative of such a state. There are other places where her toxic views will be well-received.

Direct action works

Palestine Action is rightly proclaiming a number of direct-action victories, a key one being the closure of the Elbit (Israeli arms manufacturer) in Oldham.  More widely, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) seems to be recognising that it has little chance of securing convictions against individuals taking conscientious action.  Activists blockaded the UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, in November 2020, preventing operations at the drone-engine factory. This follows two trials dropped in January – after a ‘not guilty’ verdict delivered in December. Over the past two months, the CPS has failed to secure successful prosecution against any of the 11 activists whom they had charged. (Shades of the acquittal of the – statue overturning – Colston Four.) However, there are potential threats on the horizon, more of which below.

Labour drops case against Jewish woman for alleged antisemitism

Diana Neslen, an 82 year old Jewish woman and Labour Party member, was accused of antisemitism, in particular on the basis of one of her tweets when she said ’the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavour and I am an antiracist Jew’. She instructed lawyers to inform Labour that she would bring a lawsuit for discrimination and harassment, claiming that anti-Zionism is a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act.

Initially Labour did not respond, but after the Guardian published details of the case it told her they were dropping the investigation. Prior to this, Neslen was sent a ‘reminder of conduct’ the same year (2018) that Labour adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism that included the (so-called) example: ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self determination e.g. by claiming that the existence of a taste of Israel is a racist endeavour.’ 

Whether because of the threat of legal action, or publicity in the Guardian, or a combination of the two, the dropping of the charge is the appropriate action. There is, however, a wider point to consider, and Diana Neslen makes it well: ‘I’m pleased they dropped it because it exposes the fact that they shouldn’t have done anything in the first place.‘   But she goes on to say, and this is the strategic insight, ‘But I also feel that I would have liked the issue of protected belief to have been addressed because I believe there are a lot of people who also, like me, are anti-Zionist, believe that it’s a perfectly legitimate belief, and they have no recourse.’ I’ll touch on this again in remarks below.

Sheffield Hallam University – the case of Shahd Abusalama

I’ve reported on this in previous blog articles and shared my letter of protest to the university.  Briefly, Shahd was suspended by her employer, Sheffield Hallam University, from teaching her class the evening before it was scheduled to take place. The basis of the suspension were accusations of antisemitism by Jewish News and the Israel lobby group the Campaign Against Antisemitism, two entities whose relationship with truth and accuracy are somewhat strained.  Underpinning the false accusation was the university’s endorsement of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, again, more of which later.

Shahd, with ever increasing support, led a magnificent campaign that culminated in what can only be described as a victory. She posted on Twitter:

We’re celebrating a fantastic victory for Palestine…[the university] will not be progressing with any further investigation…I have been wholly exonerated of the false charges of antisemitism, brought under the unfit-for-purpose IHRA definition…I will also be offered a more secure contract…That wouldn’t happen without your support so THANK YOU.’

It needs to be added that Shahd, is reporting in her tweets that she is being subject to continuing attacks by ‘Zionists’.

But considerable threats and barriers remain intact

It’s right to say that Sheffield Hallam University’s reversal of its earlier shameful decision to suspend Shahd’s teaching position is a victory, not only for her, but also for Palestine. It’s one battle won, but, arguably, the current immediate strategic advantage remains with those who oppose Palestinian self-determination.

It is the ‘unfit-for-purpose’ IHRA definition of antisemitism, along with its working examples, that form part of the architecture of strategic threat to achieving justice – between the river and the sea – for Palestinians.  In that regard, it’s good to see that a joint project comprising the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Committee for Universities of Palestine and Jews for Justice for Palestinians have created a web site on how to combat the IHRA definition, aimed in particular at universities and local councils. The web site offers comprehensive tool kits suggesting the sort of actions that can be taken along with a range of authoritative opinion and evidence to support the case against adopting, or where already in place, rescinding the IHRA definition.  This is really excellent. The questions remain, however, what more needs to be done, who is yet to be influenced, or rigorously opposed?  Are there lines of attack that have yet to be explored, or revisited?

The thinking of Diana Neslen, quoted above, suggest there is at least one avenue to be explored. As she said, she wished she could have had the opportunity to go to court to make the case that being anti-Zionist was not racist, that it was a protected philosophical belief under Equalities law.  This of course does not presume she would have won if the matter had gone to court.  But the strategic merit of thinking in this type of way is that it focuses on the foundations upon which IHRA rests not only on its individual manifestations.  

The IHRA is not the only strategic threat. BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is, here in the UK, under the threat of potential anti-BDS legislation by the current Conservative Government. It’s unclear whether the proposed ban will be limited to local councils and other publicly funded institutions. Robert Jenrick MP, as recently as 15 December 2021 announced that a bill banning the BDS (Boycott Divestment, Sanctions) movement will be presented to Parliament in the coming months. He is also a maximalist in terms of desired scope and has said, ‘Obviously I want it to be as broad as possible so there’s next to no avenue for BDS to continue here.’

The Bridges for Peace web site comments, ‘Given…a significant majority of Parliament seats, it seems reasonable to expect that the Conservative Party will be able to achieve its commitment to ‘boot BDS out of the UK’ in the very near future.’ If successful, the UK will join Austria, Germany and Canada in banning BDS. This must be opposed.

Wider context

The IHRA definition along with threats to BDS are Palestine-specific concerns, though of course they are aspects of wider threats to free speech, and the curtailment of legitimate political action. But fast coming toward us – in fact terrifyingly imminent – are Bills currently before Parliament and, if they hold their course, will soon be law. I refer to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Judicial Review and Courts Bill and, potentially on the horizon, the findings of an inquiry into the Human Rights Act 1998.

Whilst the latter two – Judicial Review and Courts Bill, the inquiry into the Human Rights Act 1998 – may seem somewhat remote to the immediate concerns of Palestine supporters and activists, it is not unfeasible that a situation may arise where, for example, a pro-Palestine organisation or individual may wish to seek judicial review of a government or other bodies decision. The proposed Act on judicial review would limit both the grounds on which a review could be instituted, and also the potential scope of remedy.

Similarly, there is no reason to be confident that a conservative-initiated review of Human Rights legislation will result in fundamental rights, not least the right to a fair trial, being comprehensively secured. At present, the Human Rights Act protections apply to, for example, foreign nationals, or people in prison. Given this Government is not ashamed to have as a matter of policy the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ in respect of asylum seekers and refugees, there is reason to be nervous of what may soon come our way.

The imminent threat

But it is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that represents imminent threat, potentially undermining our ability to take to the streets to demonstrate and protest. In brief, some – draconian – proposed measures have been defeated in the House of Lords and can only be reinstituted in a new Bill; that is, the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill cannot be the vehicle for reintroducing the fallen measures – it would require a new Bill. There is no reason to be confident that, given the conservatives’ large majority, that this might not be undertaken.

The fallen clauses include proposed offences such as ‘locking on’ or being equipped to lock on to a structure or, I think, a person; causing nuisance; no-suspicion stop and search powers related to protest; and Serious Disruption Prevention Orders (protest banning orders). It is not hard to see how these measures, were they to be reintroduced in a new Bill and become law, would potentially hinder mightily the freedom to demonstrate and protest; and, in particular, place in jeopardy, for instance, Palestine Action.

But these other clauses are still in prospect

There are other clauses, defeated in the Lords but able to be reintroduced into the current Bill by MPs. Once again, with such a large conservative majority, this must be a cause of anxiety – and opposition.

The clauses that can be re-introduced include: Giving police power to impose noise-based restrictions on protest; Giving police power to impose restrictions on public assemblies; Creating a ‘buffer zone’ around Parliament; Criminalising one-person protests; Creating the offence of wilful obstruction of the highway (amended to only include the Strategic Road Network. Again, one can see how these clauses, if law, will hinder, potentially criminalise, legitimate public protest.

Arguably, it is the ‘creating a ‘buffer zone’ around Parliament’ that is so symbolically resonant of the Bill’s spirit. It is to marginalise dissenting voices of any ilk, to neither hear nor see injustices, still less to address them.

Strategic threat, Strategic advantage

This article started on what might be called a ‘high’ – ‘a cluster of events…that have gladdened the heart’ – then headed downhill to consider threats and challenges. But it can’t end there.

Notwithstanding purblind Governments – the UK, Germany, Austria, Hungary, USA, to name but a few – there is the palpable growth of international civil society rallying to the Palestinian cause, in particular, but not only, among younger generations. That’s like having a down payment on the future, for those hearts beat strong. Palestine shall prevail.

Freeing Palestine: Victories, threats, and resolve

There’s been a cluster of events, of which I shall mention only four, that have gladdened the heart, prompted admiration, and that serve to reinforce resolve.

Ambassador sent on her way

One was the protests undertaken by Cambridge University students against the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely. She was giving a speech at that university. The only thing that can be said in Hotovely’s favour is that her appointment presents to the UK the unvarnished truth of Israel’s position vis a vis Palestine and Palestinians.

Hotovely has reportedly denied Palestine’s existence, designated the Nakba ‘a great Arab lie.’, and opposed any Palestinian claim to the occupied West Bank, Gaza, or East al-Quds, at the same time supporting the expansion of Israeli Jewish-only settlements. It’s worth adding that the university students’ actions are, arguably, not an example of ‘no platforming’. The ambassador was representing – she was not speaking as an individual – a country guilty of multiple floutings of humanitarian and international law, a country designated an apartheid state in no less than four reports, the latest by Amnesty International . There is no obligation to offer a platform to the representative of such a state. There are other places where her toxic views will be well-received.

Direct action works

Palestine Action is rightly proclaiming a number of direct-action victories, a key one being the closure of the Elbit (Israeli arms manufacturer) in Oldham.  More widely, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) seems to be recognising that it has little chance of securing convictions against individuals taking conscientious action.  Activists blockaded the UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, in November 2020, preventing operations at the drone-engine factory. This follows two trials dropped in January – after a ‘not guilty’ verdict delivered in December. Over the past two months, the CPS has failed to secure successful prosecution against any of the 11 activists whom they had charged. (Shades of the acquittal of the – statue overturning – Colston Four.) However, there are potential threats on the horizon, more of which below.

Labour drops case against Jewish woman for alleged antisemitism

Diana Neslen, an 82 year old Jewish woman and Labour Party member, was accused of antisemitism, in particular on the basis of one of her tweets when she said ’the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavour and I am an antiracist Jew’. She instructed lawyers to inform Labour that she would bring a lawsuit for discrimination and harassment, claiming that anti-Zionism is a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act.

Initially Labour did not respond, but after the Guardian published details of the case it told her they were dropping the investigation. Prior to this, Neslen was sent a ‘reminder of conduct’ the same year (2018) that Labour adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism that included the (so-called) example: ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self determination e.g. by claiming that the existence of a taste of Israel is a racist endeavour.’ 

Whether because of the threat of legal action, or publicity in the Guardian, or a combination of the two, the dropping of the charge is the appropriate action. There is, however, a wider point to consider, and Diana Neslen makes it well: ‘I’m pleased they dropped it because it exposes the fact that they shouldn’t have done anything in the first place.‘   But she goes on to say, and this is the strategic insight, ‘But I also feel that I would have liked the issue of protected belief to have been addressed because I believe there are a lot of people who also, like me, are anti-Zionist, believe that it’s a perfectly legitimate belief, and they have no recourse.’ I’ll touch on this again in remarks below.

Sheffield Hallam University – the case of Shahd Abusalama

I’ve reported on this in previous blog articles and shared my letter of protest to the university.  Briefly, Shahd was suspended by her employer, Sheffield Hallam University, from teaching her class the evening before it was scheduled to take place. The basis of the suspension were accusations of antisemitism by Jewish News and the Israel lobby group the Campaign Against Antisemitism, two entities whose relationship with truth and accuracy are somewhat strained.  Underpinning the false accusation was the university’s endorsement of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, again, more of which later.

Shahd, with ever increasing support, led a magnificent campaign that culminated in what can only be described as a victory. She posted on Twitter:

We’re celebrating a fantastic victory for Palestine…[the university] will not be progressing with any further investigation…I have been wholly exonerated of the false charges of antisemitism, brought under the unfit-for-purpose IHRA definition…I will also be offered a more secure contract…That wouldn’t happen without your support so THANK YOU.’

It needs to be added that Shahd, is reporting in her tweets that she is being subject to continuing attacks by ‘Zionists’.

But considerable threats and barriers remain intact

It’s right to say that Sheffield Hallam University’s reversal of its earlier shameful decision to suspend Shahd’s teaching position is a victory, not only for her, but also for Palestine. It’s one battle won, but, arguably, the current immediate strategic advantage remains with those who oppose Palestinian self-determination.

It is the ‘unfit-for-purpose’ IHRA definition of antisemitism, along with its working examples, that form part of the architecture of strategic threat to achieving justice – between the river and the sea – for Palestinians.  In that regard, it’s good to see that a joint project comprising the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Committee for Universities of Palestine and Jews for Justice for Palestinians have created a web site on how to combat the IHRA definition, aimed in particular at universities and local councils. The web site offers comprehensive tool kits suggesting the sort of actions that can be taken along with a range of authoritative opinion and evidence to support the case against adopting, or where already in place, rescinding the IHRA definition.  This is really excellent. The questions remain, however, what more needs to be done, who is yet to be influenced, or rigorously opposed?  Are there lines of attack that have yet to be explored, or revisited?

The thinking of Diana Neslen, quoted above, suggest there is at least one avenue to be explored. As she said, she wished she could have had the opportunity to go to court to make the case that being anti-Zionist was not racist, that it was a protected philosophical belief under Equalities law.  This of course does not presume she would have won if the matter had gone to court.  But the strategic merit of thinking in this type of way is that it focuses on the foundations upon which IHRA rests not only on its individual manifestations.  

The IHRA is not the only strategic threat. BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is, here in the UK, under the threat of potential anti-BDS legislation by the current Conservative Government. It’s unclear whether the proposed ban will be limited to local councils and other publicly funded institutions. Robert Jenrick MP, as recently as 15 December 2021 announced that a bill banning the BDS (Boycott Divestment, Sanctions) movement will be presented to Parliament in the coming months. He is also a maximalist in terms of desired scope and has said, ‘Obviously I want it to be as broad as possible so there’s next to no avenue for BDS to continue here.’

The Bridges for Peace web site comments, ‘Given…a significant majority of Parliament seats, it seems reasonable to expect that the Conservative Party will be able to achieve its commitment to ‘boot BDS out of the UK’ in the very near future.’ If successful, the UK will join Austria, Germany and Canada in banning BDS. This must be opposed.

Wider context

The IHRA definition along with threats to BDS are Palestine-specific concerns, though of course they are aspects of wider threats to free speech, and the curtailment of legitimate political action. But fast coming toward us – in fact terrifyingly imminent – are Bills currently before Parliament and, if they hold their course, will soon be law. I refer to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Judicial Review and Courts Bill and, potentially on the horizon, the findings of an inquiry into the Human Rights Act 1998.

Whilst the latter two – Judicial Review and Courts Bill, the inquiry into the Human Rights Act 1998 – may seem somewhat remote to the immediate concerns of Palestine supporters and activists, it is not unfeasible that a situation may arise where, for example, a pro-Palestine organisation or individual may wish to seek judicial review of a government or other bodies decision. The proposed Act on judicial review would limit both the grounds on which a review could be instituted, and also the potential scope of remedy.

Similarly, there is no reason to be confident that a conservative-initiated review of Human Rights legislation will result in fundamental rights, not least the right to a fair trial, being comprehensively secured. At present, the Human Rights Act protections apply to, for example, foreign nationals, or people in prison. Given this Government is not ashamed to have as a matter of policy the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ in respect of asylum seekers and refugees, there is reason to be nervous of what may soon come our way.

The imminent threat

But it is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that represents imminent threat, potentially undermining our ability to take to the streets to demonstrate and protest. In brief, some – draconian – proposed measures have been defeated in the House of Lords and can only be reinstituted in a new Bill; that is, the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill cannot be the vehicle for reintroducing the fallen measures – it would require a new Bill. There is no reason to be confident that, given the conservatives’ large majority, that this might not be undertaken.

The fallen clauses include proposed offences such as ‘locking on’ or being equipped to lock on to a structure or, I think, a person; causing nuisance; no-suspicion stop and search powers related to protest; and Serious Disruption Prevention Orders (protest banning orders). It is not hard to see how these measures, were they to be reintroduced in a new Bill and become law, would potentially hinder mightily the freedom to demonstrate and protest; and, in particular, place in jeopardy, for instance, Palestine Action.

But these other clauses are still in prospect

There are other clauses, defeated in the Lords but able to be reintroduced into the current Bill by MPs. Once again, with such a large conservative majority, this must be a cause of anxiety – and opposition.

The clauses that can be re-introduced include: Giving police power to impose noise-based restrictions on protest; Giving police power to impose restrictions on public assemblies; Creating a ‘buffer zone’ around Parliament; Criminalising one-person protests; Creating the offence of wilful obstruction of the highway (amended to only include the Strategic Road Network. Again, one can see how these clauses, if law, will hinder, potentially criminalise, legitimate public protest.

Arguably, it is the ‘creating a ‘buffer zone’ around Parliament’ that is so symbolically resonant of the Bill’s spirit. It is to marginalise dissenting voices of any ilk, to neither hear nor see injustices, still less to address them.

Strategic threat, Strategic advantage

This article started on what might be called a ‘high’ – ‘a cluster of events…that have gladdened the heart’ – then headed downhill to consider threats and challenges. But it can’t end there.

Notwithstanding purblind Governments – the UK, Germany, Austria, Hungary, USA, to name but a few – there is the palpable growth of international civil society rallying to the Palestinian cause, in particular, but not only, among younger generations. That’s like having a down payment on the future, for those hearts beat strong. Palestine shall prevail.