Latest: a dignified demonstration is being held in protest
on Tuesday 11th May
See here for details.
JNews Background Paper: Who is Ze’ev Benjamin (Benny) Begin?
(keynote speaker for ‘Jerusalem Day’ celebrations in London 11 May 2010)
[see also Ruth Tenne Jerusalem day: a Day of Reckoning]
By JNews 11 May, 2010
A group of official and private British-Jewish organisations have jointly invited Benny Begin, the right wing Israeli government minister, to give the keynote address at ‘Yom Yerushalayim’ (Jerusalem Day) celebrations in London on 11 May.
The host organisations include the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Zionist Federation (ZF), Hendon United Synagogue, Ner Israel Community, “One Jerusalem” and the political group Likud-Herut UK.
In Israel, the annual ‘Yom Yerushalayim’ celebrations marking the 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem, or ‘the unification of the city,’ will be held this year on 11-12 May.
The day is celebrated by a central ceremony on Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, a former military post and one of the sites of the harshest fighting in the battle over the city. Religious Jewish Israelis also hold ceremonies in synagogues throughout Israel and Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia hold ceremonies to commemorate Ethiopian Jews who died on their way to Israel.
The unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem shortly after its occupation by Israel is not recognised by the international community. In 1980 United Nations Resolution 478 denied Israel’s claim to East Jerusalem and instructed member states to withdraw their diplomats from the city. The UN Security Council, with U.S. support, declared the Israeli annexation of greater Jerusalem as “null and void.”
In December 2009, the EU repeated its position regarding the status of East Jerusalem and reminded European diplomats to avoid official dealings with Israeli government bodies in East Jerusalem.
Some members of London’s Jewish community have expressed surprise and outrage at the choice of speaker for this year’s celebrations. Minister Benny Begin, son of the late former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, is widely perceived to be a hard-liner with regard to the peace process and is a staunch champion of the settlements project both in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.
The eminent Chicago-based Jewish historian and expert on Jerusalem, Professor Bernard Wasserstein, has said that he supports the right of Mr. Begin to speak, since he believes ‘in the right of free speech for anyone anywhere.’ However, he also questioned the prudence and the timing of the invitation.
“At a moment when, after many months of foot-dragging by the Israeli government, peace talks are at last resuming, albeit indirectly, between Israel and the Palestinians, one might have hoped that British Jewry would invite a speaker who is in sympathy with the peace process, rather than one who has consistently sought to place roadblocks in its way and who is an open opponent of the establishment of a Palestinian state,” he said in a message from New York on Monday.
“Unfortunately”, he added, “this invitation is of a piece with the generally blinkered outlook of the established bodies that claim to represent British Jewry. These organizations do not represent the Jewish community as a whole, large parts of which, particularly younger, secular, and better-educated elements, tend to have a much more enlightened view of Israel, and in particular of Israeli policies in the occupied territories.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews was asked to comment on the choice of speaker but no response has been received.
On Israel’s Independence Day last month, the Board’s President, Vivian Wineman, stressed Jerusalem’s place as the ‘eternal physical and spiritual capital of the Jewish people since time immemorial.’ On the Board’s website, he announced the launch of a ‘new Jerusalem history education campaign, Jerusalem—The Jewish Facts, that will look not to indoctrinate or to sow discord as some anti-Israel polemicists seek to do, but rather to educate with the simple, truthful historical facts.’
Members of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other organisations are to protest outside the Hendon United Synagogue celebrations at 7PM Tuesday May 11
B: Background paper by JNews, 10 May, 2010
Who is Ze’ev Benjamin (Benny) Begin, keynote speaker for ‘Jerusalem Day’ celebrations in London 11 May 2010?
Ze’ev Benjamin Begin, 67, the son of former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud leader Menachem Begin, is well-known in Israel as one of its most uncompromising right-wing politicians.
A geologist by profession, Begin first joined the Israeli Knesset in 1988, as an MK of Likud, the main right-wing party formerly led by his father. Throughout his years as an MK he was a member of the Political and Security Cabinet. In 1993 he competed with Benyamin Netanyahu for the leadership of the party and lost.
In the mid-90s Begin was one of the main opponents of the Oslo Accords (1995) with the Palestinians and has claimed consistently that it was a fraudulent trick played on Israel by PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
When Prime Minister Netanyahu signed the Hebron agreement (1997), Begin resigned his government role as Science Minister in protest. After the Wye memorandum was signed (1998) he also left the Likud party and in 1999 founded a new party further to the right.
He named the new party Herut – the National Party, invoking the ‘historical’ Herut movement, led by Menachem Begin and founded by former members of the paramilitary organisation Irgun after the establishment of the State of Israel. ‘Historical’ Herut declared as its aim the conquest of ‘all the Land of Israel,’ and claimed not only the West Bank but also Jordan as a part of this territory. Its slogan was: ‘Two banks has the Jordan River – this one is ours, and that is as well.’
The new Herut party ran for elections jointly with extreme hard-line parties Tkuma and Moledet (the latter headed by ultra-nationalist Rechav’am Ze’evi, who was later assassinated by the PFLP), together forming the National Union. Begin also ran for Prime Minister in the same elections. When the party got only 4 seats out of a total of 120, Begin left political life, saying he was a ‘public person with no public.’
In 2008, after nine years’ working for the Israeli Geological Institute, Begin returned to political life. He was appointed a minister in Netanyahu’s Likud government in February 2009 and is now also a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet and of his ‘council of seven’.
Perceptions of Begin in the Israeli public:
Begin is best known as an uncompromising hardliner regarding Palestinians and the occupation, located on the extreme right of the Likud. Begin is also considered a ‘straight’ politician, who is neither corrupt nor opportunistic but ideological and idealistic. He used to be called the ‘prince’ of the Likud because of his father’s role as the founder of the right-wing party.
Begin’s position on the status of Jerusalem:
Begin is an uncompromising supporter of an undivided Jerusalem under exclusive Jewish-Israeli sovereignty and supports the continuation of Jewish settlement in the city, even after the criticism voiced against it by the US administration.
Speaking at the annual international Jerusalem Conference on 15 February 2010, Begin related to previous offers that had been made to the Palestinians, according to which Jerusalem would be divided as part of a peace agreement and Israel would relinquish its sovereignty over East Jerusalem. He clarified that ‘offers like these will on no account be repeated.’
In the same speech, Begin drew a straight line between sovereignty over the holy parts of the Old City and control over other parts of East Jerusalem. ‘Far-reaching offers were made over the negotiating table regarding conceding the eastern part of Jerusalem and relinquishing Jewish-Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. It was proposed that they should be jointly administered by an international union,’ he said. Temple Mount is in the Old City and is the site holiest to the Jewish religion as well as the site of al-Haram al Sharif, sacred for Muslims. The Mount of Olives, on the other hand, is located well outside the Old City, to the east of the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. It is home to a densely populated Palestinian neighbourhood.
Begin clarified in his speech that ‘there is no equality between nations and religions regarding the right to Jerusalem’. ‘There will be free access to all the sites that are holy to all members of religions, but in order to ensure this it is necessary to have a Jerusalem that is under the sole sovereignty of Israel.’ Begin ended his speech with the words ‘Jerusalem our capital, in its entirety, under Israeli sovereignty, will never be divided again.’
Begin on the settlements:
Begin has been a champion of the settlements since the beginning of the project shortly after the 1967 war.
Most recently, after Israel agreed to a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction on the West Bank, in a speech in Tel Aviv on10 Dec 2009 Begin clarified that ‘by the end of the [settlement] freeze there will be more than ten thousand new residents in Judea and Samaria [biblical names for the West Bank].’
Referring to unauthorised outposts set up by hard-line settlers in the occupied West Bank, he added that ‘we make no distinctions between isolated settlements and those that are considered widely accepted. Had we agreed to such a distinction, we would have been setting the borders of the state before the start of the negotiations.’
This article may be reproduced on condition that JNews is cited as its source
7 May 2010
On Jerusalem Day – the ultimate symbol of the Palestinian dispossession of their home, land, livelihood and heritage – the international community ought to be reminded of the resounding words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: ‘if you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’, notes Ruth Tenne.
Jerusalem Day was declared as a national holiday by the State of Israel (12 May 1968) in celebration of the “Liberation” of East Jerusalem, and the unification of the city in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War. The Muslim medieval Quarter near the Jewish Wailing Wall was demolished soon after, and its Palestinian inhabitants were evicted in order to make way for an open space for Jewish worshipers (1).
To celebrate this occasion the victorious hymn “Jerusalem of Gold” was written in glorification of the annexation and unification of East Jerusalem and the reclaiming of the Western Wailing Wall.
In 1980 the Israeli Knesset passed the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, confirming Jerusalem’s status as the nation’s “eternal and indivisible capital”. UN Resolution 478 of the UN Security Council stated thereafter that Jerusalem Law was “null and void and must be rescinded forthwith” (2).
The Resolution instructed UN member-states to withdraw their diplomatic representation from the city – refusing to confer an official status on Israel’s illegal act of annexation of East Jerusalem and the unification of the city.
UN position, however, did not deter Israel from its continued attempts to cleanse East Jerusalem of its Palestinian inhabitants by the use of force and military orders. The so-called “City of Gold” turned into a ghettoised place with rubble from demolished Palestinian houses, razed Palestinian neighbourhoods , desecrated old Muslim graveyards ,and dispossessed homeless families who serve as testimony to Israel’s underlying aim of “purifying ” the city of its indigenous Palestinian population. According to the Head of the Israeli Committee Against house Demolitions – Jeff Halper – only 11 percent of East Jerusalem land is available for Palestinian housing as result of Israel’s discriminatory policies which means that Jerusalemite Palestinians are virtually barred from 93 percent of the municipality of Jerusalem. The overall goal is to confine Palestinians to small enclaves in East Jerusalem, or to remove them from the city altogether – an action referred to by Israel as the “quiet transfer”.
The policy of ethnic cleansing is further intensified by the ongoing construction of an 8- meter -high Segregation Wall complete with watch towers, electronic sensors, and military patrols. The Wall encircles East Jerusalem, rips through villages and neighbourhoods, divides families – leaving about 35,000 West Bank Palestinians enclosed between the Wall and the Green line in a “no man’s land” (3).
The International Court of Justice’s ruling (9 July 2004) declared the Israeli Wall as an illegal entity that had to be removed stating that financial compensation must be paid to affected Palestinians. the ruling of the was endorsed by a consequent UN resolution (20 July 2004) (4).
Yet , Israel continues to press ahead with the construction of the Wall flouting UN resolutions with impunity and leading to a situation whereby “Jerusalem is being transformed from a city into a region dominating the entire central position of the West Bank” (Jeff Halper, An Israeli in Palestine , Pluto press 2008).
The recent confrontation in the neighbourhood of Sheikh over the expanding Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem makes it increasingly unlikely that East Jerusalem could ever serve as the designated capital of a Palestinian state. The Israeli police is given free hand to harasses evicted families and arrest demonstrators who are committed to a non-violent, popular resistance against Israel’s expansionist policy in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem (5).
In spite of international outcry from members of civil society around the world, the ultra-right government under the leadership of Netanyahu brazenly continues its relentless purge of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In recent decision the Israeli Government publically declared of its advanced plan to construct 1600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. The announcement was especially timed to obstruct the evident good will by the Palestinian Authority for resuming the halted negotiations with Israel. It attracted a strong public condemnation by US Vice President -Joseph Biden – who referred to Israel’s action as “precisely the kind of step that undermines that very trust , the trust we need right now in order to begin profitable negotiations” (6).
ESCALATING STEPS OF ETHNIC CLEANSING
The Israeli Government’s response to US call and the expressed concerns of human rights activists (including Israeli human rights groups) is a further escalation of its ethnic cleansing strategies. A new military order came into force in April this year which will enable the deportation of hundreds of Palestinian from the West Bank, indicting on charges that will be carrying prison terms of up to seven years. The new order defines as “infiltrator “anyone who enters the West Bank illegally and does not hold a permit (7).
This new military order is the latest step by the Israeli government to limit the freedom of movement and residency of the Palestinians by administering a pass and permit system reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa.
In order to stifle any criticism of the state’s undemocratic actions, members of the Israeli parliament tabled a bill this May which. If became a law would prevent any human rights organisations from being registered. It would close down existing groups if they were found to be passing information “to foreign entities” or were involved in legal proceedings abroad against war crimes of senior Israeli government officials and officers. In a joint statement, Israeli human rights groups declared that the bill would “trample democratic values.” Instead of defending democracy, the sponsors of this bill prefer to reduce it to ashes.” They claimed that the bill is the “direct result of irresponsible leadership that is doing all it can to undermine democratic values and the institutions that are the backbone of a democracy: the Supreme Court, a free press and human rights organisations”(8).
“Brand Israel” is the new multi- million propaganda project which aims to legitimize Israel’s policies and make them acceptable to people abroad (9).
In its effort to legitimize the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem the Zionist Federation are hosting a Jerusalem Day celebration in a Hendon synagogue where the Guest Speaker is Benny Begin- an Ultra-right member of the Israeli parliament. The website refers to Benny Begin as Minister of Netanyahu’s inner cabinet who is “a vigorous defendant of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the Jewish nation and for the rights of Jewish settlement in Yisrael” (the land of Israel). Ironically Jerusalem is the very same city where a Jewish terrorist group headed by Begin (Benny’s father) planted a bomb at the King David hotel in the Western part of Jerusalem (1946) – destroying a great part of the hotel and killing 91 people, mainly British Mandate’s officials (10).
SILENT AND INACTION IS NOT AN OPTION
Jerusalem Day is a day of reckoning rather than of celebration. Solidarity groups across the world are committed to non-violent actions in order to remind the international community of the continued plight of the Palestinians. The movement of Boycotting Divestment and Sanction (BDS) appeals to the members of civil society to boycott Israel in all its forms, including consumer goods and produce, and state-sponsored appearance of politicians, military staff and public figures from the world of arts, science, and academia along with divestment from companies which trade and profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.
The BDS movement and its protest actions is gaining momentum in the West where members of all walks of life along with trade union, faith organisations, charities, human rights organisations, political parties, civil and municipal bodies and major commercial companies show their commitment to boycott and divest from Israel. However, it has to be said that in order to achieve its ultimate aims the BDS movement has to expand across the globe and get a further active support from Arab and Muslim nations who should use their potential impact in term of oil production and distribution, petrol dollar , and trade and commerce. Arab leaders have to be approached and challenged by their own people and by pro- Palestinian groups in the same manner that Western leaders are being confronted by the BDS movement. Arab regimes, under the umbrella of the Arab League, need to play a greater role in achieving a just resolution to the Palestinian cause rather than remaining disengaged, or implicitly (and explicitly) cooperating with Israel and the US. Disengagement by Arab and Muslim leaders seems to imply support for the status quo.
On Jerusalem Day – the ultimate symbol of the Palestinian dispossession of their home, land, livelihood and heritage – the international community ought to be reminded of the resounding words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “if you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Ruth Tenne’s personal appeal on Jerusalem Day was written in commemoration of a city in which she spent the early 60s as a student – being unaware of the plight of the Palestinians and remaining blind to the many expropriated Palestinian homes which were taken over by Israeli residents in the aftermath of the 1948 war . Ruth confronted her ingrained Zionist heritage in the aftermath of the 1967 “six days war” and became an active supporter of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, the BDS movement and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Demonstration against Benny Begin on 11th May at 7.00pm
24 organisations now supporting
Please come to the Hendon synagogue at 7pm (nearest tube Hendon Central)
Come dressed in black to mourn Israel’s desecration of Jerusalem.
A silent demonstration will convey our disgnified, humanitarian message.
Bring placards with such slogans as:
“Jerusalem belongs to the world”
“Exclusive Israeli control is illegal”
“Jerusalem is holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews”
“Israel is vandalising the Holy City”
“Benny Begin celebrates ethnic cleansing”
Location details here