British Jews boost engagement with Israel’s Arabs

This is a guest post by “Kubeh”.

Organizations from across the political spectrum have launched a new initiative to promote the UK Jewish community’s understanding of Israel’s Arab population.

The UK Task Force on Arab Citizens was established by a coalition bringing together groups who rarely share a public platform, including the Zionist Federation and New Israel Fund UK. Other groups putting their weight behind are the Board of Deputies of British Jews, The Pears Foundation, UJIA and UK Friends of the Abraham Fund Initiatives.

Israel has over 1 million Arabs citizens – that’s approximately 1 in 5 Israelis. At the time that British Jews are working to engage with Israel’s Arabs, Britain’s left-Muslim alliance continues with its attempt to boycott Israel’s Jews.

Co-chairs of the UK Task Force, Douglas Krikler chief executive of UJIA and Trevor Pears, executive chair of The Pears Foundation, said: “We are pleased to have established a broad based coalition of organizations supporting Israel which will help the Jewish community learn more about and play a proactive role in addressing issues facing Israel’s Arab citizens.”

Trevor Pears added: “According to senior Israeli figures, including [former] Supreme Court judge Theodore Orr, this is the most important domestic issue facing Israel. Therefore for those who are concerned about Israel’s stability, prosperity and security, we must find meaningful ways to engage.”

The UK Task Force will work in partnership with the North American Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues, set up by the North American Jewish community who are “…proud of the democratic, sovereign state of the Jewish people and support Israel’s Declaration of Independence including the article that promises social and political equality for all its inhabitants, Jews and Arabs alike.”

More from Jonny Paul in the Jerusalem Post.

The Guardian: “Israel is an arrogant nation”

Colin Shindler and Robert Fine on the nationalism of the editors of both the Jewish Chronicle and the Guardian

Colin Shindler’s letter in today’s Guardian:

“The mark of an arrogant nation that has overreached itself” sounds more like an irritated imperial satrap of a bygone era than a reasoned Guardian editorial about the Mossad (24 March). Why nation and not government? Everybody? Does this include the Israeli peace camp, as well as those Israelis who held doctored British passports? Since many Israeli Arabs consider themselves to be members of the Palestinian nation, does this arrogance really only apply to Israeli Jews? What about those British Jews who define their Jewishness by their ethnicity? Would this attribution of collective responsibility have been applied to any other national group? Exuding patriotic indignation and resorting to spitting imagery about Jews per se aligns the Guardian with reactionaries.

Professor Colin Shindler

Soas, University of London

Robert Fine’s letter in yesterday’s Guardian:

The editor of the Jewish Chronicle writes (Comment, 19 March) of the Palestinians seeking a pretext to block negotiations with the Israelis so that Israel is further delegitimised internationally. What he neglects is that the building of these homes exclusively for Jewish Israelis is aimed at placating and supporting the most fundamentalist elements of Israeli society. There is not only a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but a battle between those who believe in a mixed, tolerant and non-racial society, and the forces of ultra-nationalism in both Israel and Palestine. We have the same battle against ultra-nationalism in Europe. We have the same need to renew our political language to recognise political pluralism across and within camps.

Professor Robert Fine

University of Warwick

Accusations of the Israeli occupation of Hungary

This is a guest post by Karl Pfeifer:

Hungary will elect a new parliament on April 11th and it looks as if the big völkisch opposition party Fidesz under the leadership of Viktor Orbán will be the strongest party, possibly even winning an outright majority. While there is obvious anti-semitism in Fidesz-related media, some of its journalists are attacking the national-socialist Jobbik party, which is leading an aggressive anti-semitic election campaign partly directed against its former godparents Fidesz. “Fidesz” is referred to as “Zsidesz” in Jobbik newspeak, i.e. the “Jewish” party. One of Fidesz leading anti-semitic journalists is Zsolt Bayer, for many years, as he admitted himself in an open letter addressed to Jobbik’s leader Gábor Vona, a member of the extreme right Turul-group. Now Zsolt Bayer states that he considers the even more extreme anti-semitism of Jobbik as shocking, and reminds Vona and Krisztina Morvai, Jobbik’s MEP, how Fidesz helped them in the past. Vona, no fool, answered with an open letter addressed to Bayer’s “boss” Viktor Orbán.

At a rally on Hungary’s national holiday commemorating the revolution against the Habsburgs on March 15th 1848 the Calvinist minister Lóránt Hegedüs Jr. raved against the apparent Israeli intention of occupying Hungary and, of course, against the Israeli “apartheid regime”.

The fantasy of an Israeli occupation of Hungary is based on a humorous remark by Israeli president Shimon Peres about the prowess of Israeli real estate agents: “We are buying Manhattan, Hungary, Romania and Poland.”

One of Jobbik’s election posters shows Shimon Peres with the Star of David and promises that Israel will not occupy Hungary.


Barikád, Jobbik’s weekly, depicts a prominent statue of a Catholic saint on a hill in Budapest with a menorah instead of a cross. Barikád calls on the inhabitants of Budapest to arise and asks its readers if they want to have a Jewish dominated Budapest. Karl Lueger, the anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna who hated Jews and Hungarians alike, once called Budapest “Judapest”. Jobbik seems to follow suit. Not unlike the Arrow Cross party of 1939 which was especially successful in Social democratic strongholds, when Social democrats suffered a crushing defeat. An outcome predicted again 71 years later.

Hungarian anti-semites who propagate the existence of an Israeli plan to occupy Hungary are either cynical or suffering from acute paranoia. Yet no Fidesz politician has commented on this madness in public for fear of losing voters. Fidesz tries to depict itself as a party of the middle between (the almost extinct) left and the extreme right. However, if Fidesz does not win a crushing victory at the elections and does not have an overall majority, it will have to decide who will be its coalition partner in government.

John Mann needs re-election help

John Mann needs your help

John Mann is the political driving force behind the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism in the UK which conducted an inquiry and produced a report on antisemitism in 2006.

John Mann is also a key figure behind efforts to do similar work internationally through the Inter-parliamentary coalition for Combating Antisemitism, whose conference produced the London Declaration.

In short, John Mann has worked harder than any other MP in Britain to organise against antisemitism and he understands the problem clearly.

John Mann’s constituency is being targeted by the Tories in the coming general election and money is being poured in by Lord Ashcroft and other big Conservative Party donors to unseat John Mann.  They believe that his seat is winnable.
John Mann is resented because he is one of the few MPs who was not touched by the expenses scandals.  He is entirely impossible to corrupt, either financially or politically.  He has stood up for his largely working class constituents fearlessly and he has stood up against antisemitism in the same way.

Money is needed to fund John’s campaign. And it is needed now.

The threshold for publication of donations is £200 and donors must be registered to vote. Donations over £1500 (to one or more than one candidate) are to be disclosed. Donations over £7,500 are published.

Please donate early – Ashcroft is making his presence felt  http://www.johnmannmp.com/donate

Update: John Mann won in Bassetlaw with a much smaller-than-national-average swing to the Conservatives.

Israel/Palestine: the settlements are unsustainable, and Netanyahu knows it

Dave Osler has a good piece on the Israeli government’s latest settlement activities :

ISRAEL’S announcement of plans for 1,600 new settler housing units in illegally occupied Palestinian territory has triggered both stern condemnation from Washington and rioting on the streets of East Jerusalem. And just to highlight their heartfelt regret over these adverse reactions, the Israeli authorities have today confirmed their desire to build 300 more.

It is difficult to interpret such intractable obstinacy as anything other than deliberate provocation, and not just in respect of the timing. As Netanyahu is well aware, substantial withdrawal is the sine qua non for the two-state policy increasingly pressed on his government by the rest of the world.

Yet his evident determination to scupper this outcome is so deep that he is willing quite literally to try and build his way out of his impasse. Not only can he not be allowed to succeed; he cannot succeed, even within his own terms.

Netanyahu’s hardline position puts him directly at odds with majority opinion in his own country. Most Israelis do not regard preservation of settlements in Palestinian territory as a fundamental objective of the state, and do not believe that the interests of settlers take priority over those of the population in general.

Still the administration pushes on with colonisation, either oblivious to – or more likely perfectly conscious of – the consequences. But in either eventuality, it is equally culpable. Yet in the long run, the economic, demographic, diplomatic and political realities that will ultimately culminate in the establishment of a Palestinian state render the practice unsustainable.
The argument is sometimes advanced that any Israeli government calling for the abandonment of even a single settlement would run the risk of civil war. It is indeed the case that some isolated communities are home to potentially terrorist elements inspired by the ideas of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

But these groups lack sufficient wider support to mobilise mass backing for any resistance to an order to withdraw. There is also the precedent of Yamit, an Israeli-built town in northeast Sinai, which was evacuated in 1982 under the terms of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

Ultimately the settlements are an obstacle in the way of a settlement, and that is why the construction work – tellingly, employing mostly Palestinian labour – is being stepped up. But they are not enough of an obstacle to do anything more than delay the inevitable cave in to reality.

How easily anti-Zionism slid into antisemitism

This short piece by David Osler is interesting – I wish it was longer and I’d urge commenters not to demand too much of a piece this brief.

These days he aligns his support of secular democracy with being “on balance an anti-Zionist”, though he doesn’t believe that Zionism is necessarily racist. But in the ’80s, while he was in the IMG, he helped kicked the Jewish Society out of his university. This is how easily anti-Zionism slid into antisemitism:

“My attitude had very much been shaped by the war in Lebanon three years earlier, especially the Sabra and Shatila massacre. So I saw things in black and white.

Zionism, I then believed, was a form of racism. Self-evidently, no student union should permit a racist student group to function under its auspices. Ipso facto, City Poly JSoc had to go.”

He now regrets his part in this as a “gross mistake” while noting that higher up the food chain of his movement there may have been a coordinated hostility to Jewish Societies.

No less problematic an ideology than Zionism is held to be, almost everything about contemporary anti-Zionism needs examining along with the Zionism anti-Zionists confront us with. We should insist.

Hard-hitting campaigns or outright anti-Semitism?

This is a guest post from Jak Codd, Communications and Internal Affairs Officer for Leeds University Union.

Having been a student at Leeds for over three years, I am used to the rough and tumble of the student political environment. However, recent events on campus have shocked even myself. Leeds has always had one of the largest Jewish societies in the country, and coupled with an active Palestinian Solidarity Group, this often results in a robust political environment – especially where the Middle East is concerned.

Leeds Palestinian Solidarity Group has often been accused of having, at best, a dismissive attitude towards the anti-Semitism many students feel exists within the organisation’s midst. In November 2008, Jewish students decided that their student union needed to do more to combat the worrying rise in anti-Semitic incidents on British campuses, which resulted in a referendum motion proposing the adoption of the EUMC’s working definition of anti-Semitism. Rather than accepting that anti-Semitism was a major issue facing Jewish students, Leeds PSG and their so-called ‘progressive’ allies unleashed a ferocious campaign in response – peaking with a banner picturing an Orthodox Jew holding a placard stating ‘End the Holocaust in Gaza’. It was argued that the passing of the definition may shut down the Palestinian society but, as Bernard Harrison succinctly points out, surely anyone that claims that a restriction on anti-Semitism will deprive them of their best arguments is de facto admitting being complicit in anti-Jewish racism? Rather than self-reflect as to why the National Union of Students, the State Department of the USA, and the European Union to name but a few, considers their group to fall under the EUMC Definition, all Leeds PSG could do was pour petrol on the flames of their offensive discourse. This worrying attitude towards anti-Semitism is the context for the disturbing events that have embroiled Leeds PSG in 2010.

In January of this year, Leeds PSG ran a series of events to mark a year since Israel’s war in Gaza, which was conveniently timed to coincide with the student union’s week long commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.

One event, hosted in conjunction with the Leeds city Palestinian solidarity campaign, was a lecture given by Sameh Habeeb. Habeeb is the editor and founder of the dubious newspaper the Palestinian Telegraph, and a cheerleader for the anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon. Habeeb published an article by Atzmon on Holocaust Memorial Day, which stated that “the true interpritation of the Goldstone report is that Israelis are the Nazis of our time”, and that “Israeli… involvement in organ harvesting is well documented and an accepted fact”. Leeds PSG are no strangers to hosting speakers that are near the knuckle, having supported BRICUP’s tour of Bongani Masuku, the South African trade unionist found guilty by the South African Human Rights Commission for hate speech. However, it was their behaviour at another event that show the true colours of Leeds Palestinian Solidarity Group.

Ishmael Khaldi is an Israeli diplomat of Bedouin origin who was invited to speak on campus by the student Jewish society, to address the issue of a boycott of Israel. Instead of engaging and debating with the speaker, Leeds Palestinian Solidarity Group attempted to stop the event going ahead by repeatedly banging on the windows of the lecture theatre and storming the venue. As a result, a female security guard and a representative of University security were both shoved; with one being kicked in the back by a protestor. Most seriously, a Jewish student has recently complained to the University of Leeds that they heard chants of “throw the Jews into the sea” outside the lecture theatre. Of course, the Palestinian society vigorously denies this claim. Leeds PSG’s behavior that night has resulted in the society being banned by the student union from booking rooms for the foreseeable future.

On the back of this, Leeds University Union recently held their annual sabbatical elections. As a result of hard work and excellent campaigns, four Jewish students were elected to sabbatical positions within the student union. These students were of varying political affiliations, their only common connection their religion. Amid the celebrations in the union bar, a student entered and proceeded to wave a Palestinian flag silently. A protest at the recent room booking ban? Or was there something more sinister at play? It could be merely a coincidence that a Palestinian flag was waved as four Jewish students are elected to office, but having experienced the rhetoric and tactics of Leeds PSG and their comrades for four years, I am not so sure.

These single examples could probably be explained away as merely hard-hitting direct action against the Israeli state. But put into context, there is clearly a worrying pattern of behaviour from Leeds PSG that at best is intimidation of Jewish students, but at worst is outright naked anti-Semitism. I know which one I believe.

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