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JfJfP comments


2016:

06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics

2015:

23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo

2014:

15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014

2013:

29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011

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Posts

Honouring the legacy of a radical socialist, anti-zionist, Israeli


Akiva Orr in 2009. He was born in Berlin in 1931 and died on 9th February 2013. Photo by Sergio Yahni, AIC

For generation of British lefties, Matzpen hasn’t lost moral compass

An appreciation of Akiva Orr, a co-founder of the revolutionary socialist, anti-Zionist organization Matzpen, and its powerful influence on British leftists.

By Rachel Shabi, Ha’aretz
March 06, 2013

Akiva Orr once said, ‘In the 1970s if you didn’t hate Matzpen you weren’t a patriot, you were garbage.’ Photo by Mushon Zer-Aviv

Across the United Kingdom, a generation of leftists still remember the first time they heard Akiva Orr speak. One of the founders of Matzpen, the revolutionary socialist, Israeli anti-Zionist, group, Orr – who died last month – moved to London in the mid-1960s, when left-wing politics was in resurgence there.

“That’s what people tell me now,” says Moshe Machover, another of Matzpen’s founders, who relocated to London shortly after Orr. “Wherever you go, you meet people who say, ‘I heard Akiva’s talk in such-and-such place circa 1970 and that changed my whole opinion of the Middle East conflict.’”

Matzpen had only a few dozen members, but the group’s durable impact rippled across the United Kingdom. The first Israelis to present a documented, theoretical stand against Zionism as a colonial project, Matzpen was isolated and subject to denunciations within Israel.

As Akiva Orr said, in a documentary about the group by the independent filmmaker Eran Torbinger, “In the 1970s it was ‘in’ to hate Matzpen. If you didn’t hate Matzpen you weren’t a patriot, you were garbage.”

But in the United Kingdom Orr and Machover both brought formulated, documented thinking to politically engaged audiences that were more receptive to new ideas.

“It is not sufficient to form a moral opinion about Zionism, you need to understand what is behind it and what its dynamic is,” says Machover, in London. “To understand it as a specific form of a colonizing project you need theoretical analysis and fact-based literature.”

Members of Matzpen used publicly available documents to support their arguments – in that sense they were the original “New Historians,” long before Israel was prepared to accept such a thing.

Crucially, new-left politics in London was properly waking up to the Palestinian issue in the years after the Six-Day War, as journalist, filmmaker and writer Tariq Ali, one of the leading figures of the new left, explains:

“That period opened a lot of eyes as to the role of Israel in the Middle East,” he says. “[Matzpen] came at a time when people were desperate to find out what was going on.”

Ali recalls that in the early 1970s Akiva Orr, Moshe Machover and the Palestinian intellectual Jabra Nicola, a member of Matzpen (who died in London in 1974) came into the Soho offices of Black Dwarf, the radical newspaper Ali was editing at that time.

“They became regular contributors, educating a whole generation and educating me,” Ali says. “I had a very basic idea of what the problems were, but they knew it from the inside.”

During those years following Israeli’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians galvanized as an independent political force, comprising different resistance movements.

“The Palestinian liberation organizations that emerged attracted the European left,” says Ali. “We wanted to know what was going to happen to the region – and in the U.K. we were very lucky to have Matzpen to explain the situation for us.”

Akiva Orr’s relocation to London – he moved back to Israel in 1990 – also allowed for discussions with Palestinian activists, another crucial area in which Matzpen was a pioneer. The group was always clear of the absolute necessity for joint struggle, at a time when the concept was anathema.

One of those Palestinians in London was leading activist, academic and writer Dr. Ghada Karmi, who met Orr in the early 1970s. “It was a pretty big thing for a Palestinian to be interacting with an Israeli, outside of Israel,” she says. “But what impressed me enormously was his personality, his knowledge, his ability to inspire politically – he was this guru of political thinking. Here was someone coming up to you from the enemy camp, where you would not normally look, but he was saying things that were so comprehensible, so humane.”

That talent for inspired, political thinking reached the next generation, too, says Arthur Neslen, journalist and author of “Occupied Minds: A Journey Through the Israeli Psyche.

“Akiva’s writing on the inherent contradictions of Israeli identity wasn’t just groundbreaking, it opened up a whole new horizon for a lot of people in my generation,” he says, adding that, crucially, Orr’s work “opened doors to discussion and a neutral ground in which toxic traditions could be deconstructed and separated from the individuals born into them,”

According to Karmi, Matzpen also helped to crystallize developments for Palestinians like herself. “I became devoted to him really, I learned a lot from him, he shaped my thinking,” she says, adding that at that time there was a search for cohesive political concepts among Palestinians and, more widely, among all people with universalist ideas.

And Karmi adds another vital component to the mix: “He was so funny, one would have liked him anyway, apart from his politics.” Truly an added bonus in leftist political circles – and a rarity.


Saying goodbye to Akiva Orr

We have very few role models in the Israeli Left – few that we can follow their footsteps, few torches to light a dark and lonely path, few lights to pave the way. Aki was one of those, and now with him gone, the road seems a little darker.

By Leehee Rothschild, +972
February 10, 2013

I’ve been sitting and staring at this photo for the past few minutes, trying to put together some words to go along with it. The sentence that keeps repeating in my mind is “This is exactly how I felt when Tanya [Reinhart] died.” I suppose it is quite an accurate description.

I could not say that I was well acquainted with Tanya. She was my professor in one of the most significant classes that I took in my first degree. A class in which I had relearned how to read newspapers, to look for the limitation of discourse within the text, and to search for the things said between the lines, and more importantly, for the things that are not. She had also been a partner for cafeteria talks during the breaks, and for leftist protests in the campus, during the later days of the Second Intifada. I hadn’t known her well, and yet, upon hearing on her death I felt like I was hit with a well-directed punch, and when I tried to express how I felt, I couldn’t find the words among the strong sense of loss and confusion.

I can say the same things about Akiva. I was never a student of his, but during my early days of activism, when I first walked into Salon Mazal, then on Allenby-Montefiore in Tel Aviv, Raanan convinced me to stay and hear Akiva Orr talk. I hadn’t known who he was back then, and today I don’t remember much from this lecture about cosmology, but I left it knowing that I was lucky to have met him. In the following years I got to know both Matzpen and Aki somewhat better, through books and texts, if not in person. He was the sort of person whose mere existence within the Israeli Left served as some sort of a comfort.

I won’t go in lengthy detail about his biography here. I’m quite certain that people more fitting for this job will do so in the next few days. I will say, however, that to my young eyes he seemed like one of those people who were always there, whether in the dramatic moments of the 1951 Seamen’s Strike, and in the days in which only Matzpen dared to speak out those things that needed to be said. He was one of those who never gave up, who kept on fighting against the occupation, Zionism, capitalism – a Sisyphean struggle which can easily make one despair. He was one of those who tried to pave the way, beat the system, and offer some real alternatives to parliamentary democracy, even if I am not certain whether direct democracy is the answer. One of those who knew how to be part of the Left and criticize it at the same time. And one who determined to always, always side with the oppressed.

We have very few role models in the Israeli Left – few that we can follow their footsteps, few torches to light a dark and lonely path, few lights to pave the way. Aki was one of those, and now with him gone, the road seems a little darker.

Rest in peace, comrade. I hope I shall succeed in walking in your way.

WATCH Akiva Orr talking about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jerusalem Alternative Information Centre, English, 7 mins 15.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MwjKa9v6OAY]

Leehee Rothschild has been active in the Palestinian struggle for over a decade. She currently works with Anarchists Against the Wall and Boycott From Within. She writes about activism and political struggle on her blog, Radically Blonde and other publications.


Akiva Orr, co-founder of Matzpen, passes away

By AlternativeNews, AIC
February 10, 2013

Akiva Orr, co-founder of the Israeli anti-Zionist group Matzpen, passed away at his home over the weekend. He was 80 years old.

A child in Germany, he immigrated to Palestine with his parents in 1934 after the Nazis came to power in 1933. Orr wrote that his political education began with the seamens’ strike of 1951 in Haifa, a strike attacked by the labour union Histradut and the ruling party Mapai. Following the strike, he joined the Communist Party of Israel, but quickly became disillusioned with its uncritical stance toward the Soviet Union and its inconsistent attitude toward Zionism and the rights of Palestinians.

In 1961, Orr published his first major work, a seminal book entitled Peace, Peace and there is no Peace. Written with Moshe Machover under the pseudonym, A Israeli, the book uses information from the Israeli press itself to demonstrate how Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion colluded with Britain and France in a colonial war against Egypt and disproves Ben-Gurion’s claims that the 1956 Suez War had been a war fought to save Israel from annihilation. The book is a classic in Israeli leftist writing and remains relevant to this day.

Expelled from the Communist Party in 1962 for his critical attitude and free thinking, Orr – together with Moshe Machover, Oded Pilavsky and Jeremy Kaplan, formed Matzpen-the Socialist Organisation in Israel. Matzpen was critical of Zionism as a colonial project, in which Zionists came to Palestine to expropriate the indigenous Palestinian population, and not simply to exploit them economically as was the model of much of European colonial regimes throughout the world.

In 1964 Orr went to study cosmology in London, where he befriended several of the major figures in the European Left. During this time he began learning and writing about radical direct democracy, which he saw as a political alternative in which decision-making is in the hands of every person.

He returned to Israel in 1990, after which he remained active in writing, lecturing and meeting young people, from Israel, Palestine and abroad. Orr spoke at the AIC several times, in both Jerusalem and Beit Sahour, and retained his keen interest in the development of revolutionary, anti-Zionist thinking and practice.

Eran Turbiner, creator of the film Matzpen in which Orr was a primary figure, noted that “we are all a bit orphaned following the death of Akiva”, to whom he was very close.

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