The week in brief, 14th-20th June – a summary of recent postings

June 20, 2010
Richard Kuper


The Gaza flotilla still dominates the news: Uri Avnery comments incisively on how a flash of lightning – Israel’s action against the flotilla – has lit up the darkness in which Israel now operates. The International Committee of the Red Cross has issued its strongest condemnation of Israel yet: “the hardship faced by Gaza’s 1.5 million people cannot be addressed by providing humanitarian aid. The only sustainable solution is to lift the closure… The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility…” And Cathy Aston firmed up the EU position: “[W]e need to remind ourselves why the flotilla was heading for Gaza in the first place. That underlying cause is the terrible plight of Gaza, which is now back on peoples’ radar…” Some sharp criticisms of Israel were expressed as the House of Commons debated UK foreign policy in the Middle East; and the FCO clarified the UK government’s position on the flotilla, in a statement that was good in parts…

Moves to ‘moderate’ the blockade – the most likely outcome – have been met with calls to End the Gaza blockade, don’t ‘relax’ or ‘ease’ it by Oxfam, JfJfP and others. JNews’s Spinning the Blockade argues that “superficial improvements in humanitarian conditions in Gaza will only deepen its political isolation” and asks if this is really the aim of the international community.

Gisha, the legal centre for freedom of movement, provides facts and numbers about the Gaza blockade over the past three years. These are scarce in the Israeli narrative. And the Electronic Intifada carried a fine overview of what has emerged to date about the assault in its story Israel’s control of the media narrative is being broken.

Israel, desperate to avoid another Goldstone Commission, has bowed to international pressure and appointed its very own tame Commission of Inquiry. It was lauded by the US but Haaretz published an excoriating editorial attack on the Israeli proposal; Amnesty International did likewise and Chris Doyle of CAABU had a very good Comment-is-free piece Off the hook: Israel’s own Widgery inquiry into Bloody Monday. Finally, UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon joined in, arguing that Israeli Commission of Inquiry was not credible.

Flotilla passengers from several countries are urging their governments to demand that Israel release the property illegally seized in particular the many cameras, camcorders, mobile phones etc. that contain evidence of at least the beginning of the shooting of civilians by Israeli soldiers… ; and Turkey has frozen defense deals with Israel in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid.

Official Jewish community responses in the UK have been disappointing: Vivian Wineman, Chair of the Board of Deputies, says that the Board “is not a mouthpiece for the Israeli government to defend Israeli policy”, but reading his statement on the flotilla ‘episode’ you might be forgiven for thinking much of it might come straight from an Israeli government handout. Meanwhile, in the heart of the Zionist enterprise, the World Zionist Congress votes to support settlement freeze and two-state solution! Time will tell if this is significant.

Plans for a Jewish flotilla are still going ahead. JfJfP wrote a letter of protest to the Jewish Chronicle at how we were misrepresented as “anti-Israel” in the Jewish Chronicle article Now: the Jewish flotilla on the topic the previous week.

Wider issues and approaches

One of the original drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Stéphane Frédéric Hessel, diplomat, former ambassador and French resistance fighter, has come out in support of  BDS.

JNews carried both news and a background paper on the JNF, raising questions about its links with Prime Minister David Cameron and other leading political figures.

Paul Rogers assesses the risk of war between Israel and Iran today.

We announce the launch of a new website advocating a one-state solution.

Jonathan Cook reports on the darkening mood of Israeli Jews towards Israel’s Palestinian Citizens, and Avirama Golan on racial profiling at Ben Gurion – against, of course, Palestinian Israelis.

On antisemitism today: Cecile Surasky of Jewish Voice for Peace joins in the condemnation of Helen Thomas, doyen of White House reporters, for her recent off the cuff statement that Israeli Jews should go back to Germany…or Poland. But she finds an air of hypocrisy to it that is hard to stomach. Antony Lerman provides a substantial critical assessment of Anthony Julius’s massive tome “Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England” and finds it thin gruel. And Gilbert Achcar notes the rise of Holocaust denial in the Arab world but argues in The Arabs and the Holocaust, in advance of his forthcoming book on the topic, that it “is not primarily an expression of antisemitism, as western Holocaust denial certainly is, but an expression of what I call the “anti-Zionism of fools”.

Refusenik Diane Kogan is back in military gaol…and would welcome messages of support.

And finally, an open letter to the Polish government from the Polish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign raises wider question of international responsibility which should be applied directly to all governments, particularly those of Europe and the United States.

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