2014 has been declared by the UN to be ‘the year of the Palestinians’. This is a great rhetorical victory for Palestinians. The UN declaration – meaning especial attention and funds will be applied to their plight – marks another painful step from the idea that Jews are the victims to the acceptance that Jews – in this little part of the world – are the oppressors.The move from Israel as a desperate people in UN resolutions to Israel as an oppressor state has been short, shocking, brutal.
A phalanx of men in black, faces concealed by helmets is definitely sinister. The straight-arm, palm-down gesture seems horribly familiar – it’s the Nazi salute. Although it’s a fairly common gesture amongst militias – who eschew the deferential cap-salute – and predates the Nazis – it seems the Jihadists who used it on this occasion intended to offend. For Brandeis university to suspend its links with Al Quds university on the basis of this sect seems very feeble. Richard Silverstein comments.
‘The combination of being a bully and a victim at the same time has become Israel’s trademark’. One-time zionist and loyalist Zeev Smilansky mourns the perversion of Jewish values by the – his – Israeli state for which ‘people and human kindness are not part of the Jewish toolbox’. Thus for him, the zionist project has become another fleeting – and sad – episode in the gloomy history of the Jewish people.
Ilan Pappe’s next book is on the history of production of knowledge in Israel, and in this interview/conversation the question of why people know what they think they know often comes up. The beliefs that mask lack of knowledge, or curiosity, become the myths that keep things as they are in Israel – as elsewhere. Interview conducted by Frank and Florent Barat.
In contrast to the article below by Larry Derfner, here Ramzy Baroud and Barak Ravid both write upbeat articles about the impact the BDS campaign in Europe and the US is having – especially on companies which are fearful of losing their reputation. Israeli propagandists call this ‘delegitimisation’ and smear active campaigner Roger Waters as ‘an antisemite’ – usually signs of desperation.
The outcry against the American Studies Association for deciding to cut off contact with Israeli academic institutions was predictable – why was little Israel being picked on when worse transgressors were ignored? Such a response mangles reality argues Larry Derfner for it is those other transgressors which are the subject of powerful sanctions imposed by the US, the UN and EU. Israel alone is not held to account for its breaches of international law and alone is the recipient of great US largesse.
The idea that global events can be explained by prejudice against Jews or Muslims is alarming. Antisemitism is an accepted term, Islamophobia isn’t (that too can seem ‘common sense’). But how far these prejudices are alive in Britain is disputed. Participants in a conference on anti-Muslim/ anti-Jewish racisms raise the issues. One is the extent to which ‘western values’ of democracy, individual choice and rights can be used authentically to defend Muslim customs.
Perhaps the strangest ‘celebration’ of the Christmas season is the exhibition and event Bethlehem Unwrapped, running at St James’s Church, Piccadilly until January 5th. Organised by the Amos Trust and the Holy Land Trust, artists have created an 8 foot wall – like the one that encloses Bethlehem today and a wide array of poets, writers, cooks, comedians, singers are all performing their take on Bethlehem today.See Events, right-hand column.
The decision endorsed by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions was not wrong because of ‘double standards’ argues Peter Beinart. As others have said before, the focus of the West’s Left has long been on the wrong-doing of the agencies within the west’s capitalist network, because this is ours. Israel is part of it too. The problem he says lies in the implied denial of Israel’s right to decide its own immigration policy and thus preserve its nature as a state for Jews.
Oren Yiftachel takes issue with the argument of Eva Illouz – that state-enforced religion has corrupted Israel. Rather he says it is Jewish colonialism, in which settlers and state are ceaselessly acting to Judaise the whole land, from the Jordan to the sea. Judaisation primarily damages Palestinians but it also shunts those who are not Jewish, or not Jewish-enough to the margins – Ethiopians, Russians, Mizrahim and Sephardim.
To make their mark, racist people need leaders and spokespersons. David Sheen gives his 2013 list of those who have played this role in Israel. Uri Avnery names someone who gives a beautiful face to this ugliest – and now international – phenomenon when it is linked with a traditional set of far-right policies.
The pine tree. or facsimile, has been widely adopted in Palestine as an affirmation of one of the two main holy days of Europe and the Americas, of Palestinian Christian communities and a form of defiance against Judaic dominance. The tree – flamboyantly displayed along with coloured lights and fireworks – connects Palestinians with a world beyond their tight borders. This posting is a stocking filler of seasonal pieces with a big gift from Jonathan Freedland on the appeal of Christmas.
But solidarity workers have to decide which voices to amplify, and create space for. Ben White discusses the difficulties and traps of such work. It is clear from his indictment of Pres. Abbas and the Fatah leadership and his praise for the democratic and effective nature of BDS what choice he thinks should be made. And more, well-sourced information from Palestinians, with good translation into European languages would help.
Four writers on Ha’aretz – Amira Hass, Chemi Shalev, Anshel Pfeffer and Henry Siegman – give their opinions on whether Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ and on whether the tactic of boycotting Israeli goods is politically justified or effective. The backdrop to the discussion is the death of Mandela and the ASA decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions which have, if nothing else, brought the argument alive in Israel.
The weather crisis has led to Hamas and Fatah leaders talking, by phone. That they can do. Amira Hass doubts whether there can be more long-term agreements which would put at risk the power bases of both parties. Victor Kotsev thinks there is evidence of Hamas losing popular support and power, although this has been predicted before.
After the national council of the American Studies Association voted to adopt a boycott of Israeli universities, it put their decision out to a vote of all members. In the largest response they have ever had, members voted 66:30 to endorse the decision. Their statement includes endorsements by many academics who have worked in the fields of American racism and indigenous people’s rights and it answers a number of basic questions.
Lev Ginsburg cuts through the syrupy eulogies to Nelson Mandela to remind us that he gained his authority by initiating and leading an armed struggle: “terrorism”. There are a few candidates to be Palestinian leader- but would he find a partner for peace equivalent to FW de Klerk who could persuade his ‘own’ people to let go of their privileges?
For the last few years the US and EU have been throwing money at various agencies in Palestine/Israel in the hope that this will somehow ‘do something’ to change the stalemate. With clear anger, Sam Bahour explains that the occupation crushes all efforts to escape the poverty, humiliation and dependence enforced on Palestinians. Gideon Levy argues that as sanctions worked against Iran, so they will against Israel.
The story of a long protest march by African asylum seekers from a detention centre in the Negev to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem has got extensive news coverage – a bit of it here. Perhaps this is because it marks out Israel more sharply than any other issue from the world to which it longs to belong. By claiming its special ‘Jewish state’ status Israel exonerates itself from the normal humanitarian concerns that govern western nations on asylum seekers, despite the political problems these may cause.
International energy for a just Palestinian-Israeli peace is expended on everything but the one thing that matters – ending the occupation. The PA, under then-PM Salaam Fayyad’s direction, worked hard to produce the state institutions demanded by the West. So what? As the World Bank report, and this FMEP report, both make clear the Palestinian economy cannot grow while it is squeezed within an inch of its life by Israel’s restrictions, regulations, checkpoints, barriers on movement, and so on. The claim that all these are imposed in the name of security is laughable.