Monthly Archives: May 2009

Mohammad Darawshe is speaking in London, Tue 2nd June

Update: I wrote up the presentation on Engage – I think you will enjoy reading it.

Via the unofficial blog of the UK Friend of The Abraham Fund:


Speaker: Mohammad Darawshe, Co-Executive Director of The Abraham Fund Initiatives.

Date: Tuesday 2nd June, 7.45pm (doors open 7.30pm)

Entry: Free, but we suggest a donation to cover our costs: £5 / £4 concessions

Hosted by the UK Friends of The Abraham Fund Initiatives and St Ethelburga’s, at 78 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AG.

Download flyer [PDF]

A Palestinian state – just do it

Gershon Baskin is an Israeli Green and co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. He has an idea for Palestinian liberation based on a mixture international law and direct action:

“ACCORDING TO INTERNATIONAL law, the recognition of a new state is an act that only states and governments may grant or withhold. The UN does not have authority to recognize a state. It may, however; admit a new state to its membership. Paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the UN Charter states that it “is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”

Palestine holds observer status in the UN, but it could become a full member in the following way: President Mahmoud Abbas would submit an application to the secretary-general and a formal declaration stating that it accepts the obligations under the UN Charter. The application would be considered first by the Security Council. On May 11, 2009 the Security Council already issued the following statement: “The council reiterates its call for renewed and urgent efforts by the parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on the vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.”

Any recommendation from the Security Council must receive the affirmative votes of nine of the 15 members of the council, provided that none of its five permanent members has voted against the application. If the Security Council recommends admission, the recommendation is then presented to the General Assembly. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary for admission of a new state, and membership becomes effective on the date the resolution for admission is adopted.

WHEN THE UN accepts the membership of the state of Palestine, Israel’s occupation of the territories becomes the occupation of a sovereign state which is a member in the UN by another member state. At that point, Israel would be acting in direct violation to the UN Charter and the Security Council would be morally and legally justified to enact Chapter 7 of the charter, enabling the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Palestine.”

Malfunction in the University and College Union

Only a few countries’ affairs were addressed in the international business of the University and College Union conference, and all of the motions not to do with Israel were submitted as late motions and breezed through in ten minutes. The Israel business took well over an hour.

Why is this? Standing up to ‘Zionists’, ‘the law’, ‘Zionist law’, ‘Zionist power’, pusillanimous leaders and trustees – the only thing constant is the sense of standing up to something in a heroic “truth against power” kind of way – strongly motivates these Conference delegates, who are often marginalised in their institutions. So, members who actively oppose the boycott – it is no coincidence that most are Jews – are identified as Zionist, and inexorably, connections are made in many minds, such as Sean Wallis’, linked below.  And yet allegations of antisemitism within the union are now viewed as vexatious, because they often emanate from members who oppose the boycott and among these members was a group who decided to pursue litigation. This view that claims of antisemitism are vexatious is a good way to grow antisemitism. It’s not dissimilar from our own situation in the Greens.

Conference delegates are rarely chosen by their members, and the important thing to keep in mind is that the boycott has been extensively discussed for many years in branches, and no boycotter has ever managed to get a motion on boycott passed in their branch. Branches don’t want to boycott Israel, althoug Conference delegates do.

Engage has written on Conference:

Here’s something still relevant by Mark Osborne, about the pro-boycott resolution 2 years ago.

“Somehow I can not imagine Sally Hunt fighting the battle of ideas against the SWP, slugging it out, campus by campus. I can, however, imagine her attempting to use some bureaucratic trick to cheat a pro-boycott UCU conference majority in a year’s time (after having done nothing much to tackle the politics of the matter over the next year).”

This is, in fact, what seems to have happened. In this year’s conference, boycott motions appeared in the agenda with a disclaimer that they would be voided if passed, and a strange pantomime of defiance predictably ensued.

This is likely to lead – and it will be stealthy and confusing for the target, because this kind of discrimination is against the law – to some Israeli exclusions, but given the clear views of the grass-roots, it is unlikely to be many.

This gesture by UCU once again subordinates academic freedom to its own self-indulgent gesture of defiance – for a clear view of what academic freedom actually means, read Jon Pike’s Education Guardian piece, linked above. It was also devoid of any conflict-resolving content. The word ‘peace’ was mentioned only once in the agenda, as part of the comically-worded Motion 27:

“Congress demands

  • Lasting peace in Palestine.”

But this gesture has side effects on us with respect to UCU’s Jewish membership, the deficit at which Jewish members who want to participate find themselves, and the diversity of views, including Jewish views, which are heard. To make this point is not to campaign for Zionism – rather it resists a campaign to force notional ‘Zionists’ out of the union; a campaign which ends up forcing out Jews because, along with the needs they share with other members, many Jewish members also have a strong concern about how the union should comport itself with respect to a boycott campaign against Israel, a concern which is very widespread among Jews in general, but this particularly Jewish aspect of their membership is unwanted, and to express it, deeply antipathetic to the views of those who claim the right to be their branch representatives at Conference, the supreme policy-making body of the union. David Hirsh worries about the absence of Jewish voices speaking against the boycott at Conference, and he is right to worry.

This is institutional racism – institutional antisemitism.

Allegations of antisemitism within the union are now viewed as vexatious, because they often emanate from members who oppose the boycott.

Wiping countries off maps

israel_mapAlthough I haven’t been there for a couple of decades, Israel is a fascinating place to visit, I feel a connection with it, and it’s on the small list of far-off places I’ll be taking in before I die. So at Bank yesterday, on the Central Line east-bound platform, this promotion from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, which you can click on for a bigger version, caught my eye:

After I’d half-written this I found out that I was not the only person to notice that the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Golan had been brazenly subsumed into Israel and in fact I was slow off the blocks and Israel’s Ministry of Tourism had admitted to a “mistake” this time last week. Transport for London received 600 complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority, 342, and these were upheld. But after a week, the posters are still there.

The strange thing is, if you look really closely at the blown-up version of this bad picture I took (there were staff close-by and you know, it’s not permitted to snap on the London Underground system so I was shooting from the hip) only then will you see faint, skinny white-on-yellow lines demarcating some borders (not the Golan). I think the graphic designer probably understood what white-on-yellow means in the mustardy light of a London Underground platform, and was showing what the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, ThinkIsrael and co-sponsors want shown.

This kind of wishful-thinking, under-carpet-sweeping, white-washing denial is very stupid and very wrong. It’s not the first time somebody played with a map for political reasons, and it won’t be the last.

Press TV, the English language station funded by the Iranian government also pretends the state of Israel doesn’t exist, in keeping with ominous calls to wipe it off the map.

Hamas likes to present a world without Israel, in keeping with its hatred of Jews.

So does (did) the RESPECT coalition, in keeping with Iran and Hamas.

Update: with shameless hypocrisy, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which took the lead in objecting to the Israeli Ministry of Tourism map, also expunges Israel from its map.

I’m not sure these are equivalent, by the way.

The Israeli Ministry of Tourism responded about the poster:

“The map in the London Underground advertisement reflects a map that gives a tourist perspective to the region. It is not to be confused with a political map, but rather the advertisement highlights those areas within Israel which are particularly attractive to the U.K. market”

“Tourism is one of the major engines for economic growth in Israel, benefiting all its residents. 2008 was a record year for tourism in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority and it is hoped that the recent pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority will serve to encourage pilgrimages to the Holy Land and bring economic benefits to the entire region”

So Gaza’s going great guns with the tourism then? Pun intended. The only people I know of who are going in there are Hamas supporters, by boat. And how about when BMI flew passengers to the Mediterranean with maps omitting Israel – the Israeli Transport Minister was very assertive about his country’s right to recognition:

“Doing business with Israel has its advantages and disadvantages, but we will not agree to a situation where they hide the existence of Israel but want to do business with Israel”

Along the Central Line you can find other posters promoting Morocco and Dubai as tourist destinations so warm, golden and peaceful that you could hardly imagine that the grave human rights abuses in those countries could exist, or that, for example, Morocco could be involved in an occupation of its own (its promoters wisely steer clear of maps). After all, if you want prospective visitors to forget that they will be visiting an occupying country, you leave the map out.

Of course tourism ministries like to minimise their blemishes and big up their assets. Sadly it doesn’t go without saying that the Israeli Tourism Ministry and co-sponsors are far from the only or worst culprit. But they must face up to the fact that the three smaller regions on that poster, with their vanishingly faint but critically important demarcations, are occupied and settled by ugly force, and that diverting attention from this also involves a pretence that the ongoing oppression of the people who live there does not exist.

Update: Philip Meier reviews  Mark Monmonier‘s book How To Lie With Maps.

Young, Jewish and Left – a documentary film

Perhaps the most visible faces of the Jewish Left are the Jewish anti-Zionists who flirt with antisemitism. I think you could say that among the wider left, these few people have come to define the Jewish left.

For other voices – on Israel, on community, on Zionism, on activism – watch the trailers for Young, Jewish and Left, a documentary from the U.S..  They have a YouTube Channel (currently headed by a video on global warming).

Via Contested Terrain who comments:

“The story demonstrates more than a sensitivity deficit on the part of Jna’s comrades. It illuminates a conflict in the Left’s relationship to the Shoah, and the inability to fit it into a historical narrative that relates intelligibly to the present. The issue is not about a trauma that is carried forward from one generation to the next, but about how this historical event has shaped the twentieth century as well as the current one. The “I am Jewish and I hate Israel” identity, which is the only acceptable form of American Jewish Left identity, reveals precisely that, that within the Left, the Shoah can only be understood if it is restricted to the World War II period and the European terrain. If it is allowed to defy these space and time dimensions, it threatens to break down the whole framework of the Left orientation. For Jna and many others, the two orientations represent an unbridgeable chasm.”

Scroll down to the bottom of its Wikipedia entry for some links to interviews and reviews.

In case you hadn’t guessed already, this one won’t be coming to a cinema near you, but you can find out how to see it on the Young, Jewish and Left site.

Well done mass media

I hope this wouldn’t embarrass him, but I have generally found myself in agreement with S.O. Muffin, reader and occasional contributor to Harry’s Place. I think he’s an academic with a foot in both Israel and the UK but don’t ask me where I got that impression.

Here he is congratulating the mass media on the quality (if not volume) of its coverage of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Bonus links:

On Operation Cast Lead.

On Palestinian children and Jewish children.

On how the UCU reminded him that he is a Zionist.

“Had anybody asked me the same question a decade ago, I would have probably answered back (a bad Jewish trait) “and what exactly do you mean by `Zionist’?”.

If you ask me today, however, the answer will be an emphatic “Yes”. And for this I have to thank assorted members of the UCU executive, SWP, Respect and several posters on this blog. Jean Paul Sartre once said that Jews are defined by anti-Semites and by their persecution. Although I never liked this definition, I must confess that, at least in my case, Zionists are defined by the hatred of the anti-Zionists. (Not all anti-Zionists – I don’t believe that being an anti-Zionist makes you automatically into an anti-Semite. But by those vocal anti-Zionists that we hear these days in UK.)”