Fathom 5 Is Online Now

Alan Johnson writes about the new edition of Fathom.

As Fathom goes to press, US Secretary of State John Kerry is working intensively with the Israelis and Palestinians to draw up a framework agreement. We carry three critical reflections on the peace process.  David Landau, the biographer of Ariel Sharon who died in January 2014, reflects on Sharon’s change of mind. Aluf Benn explores the personality and politics of Benjamin Netanyahu.  Isaac Herzog, the new Labour Party leader argued the division of the land is needed to maintain the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state.’

The deal struck between Iran and the P5+1 nations in November 2013, is the subject of Ben Cohen’s interview with Olli Heinonen the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director General.

The relationship between some demonising forms of ‘anti-Zionism’ and contemporary antisemitism is the concern of several contributors to Fathom 5.

Dave Rich explains the unwelcome arrival of the Quenelle, Lesley Klaff examines the ugly phenomenon of ‘Holocaust Inversion,’ while David Hirsh reviews those aspects of Jewish left-wing anti-Zionism that have helped foster BDS activism in the West. Martyn Hudson looks back at the life of the Polish historian and socialist Isaac Deutscher, and Michael Allen reviews Gil Troy’s study of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the US Ambassador to the United Nations who opposed the ‘Zionism is Racism’ resolution passed by the General Assembly in 1975.

Two book reviews discuss aspects of the history of Zionism. Colin Shindler praises Shlomo Avineri’s study of Theodor Herzl for ‘casting a new light on the short, troubled and driven life’ of the founder of Zionism. Liam Hoare reviews Yossi Klein-Halevy’s Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.

Israel’s Arab citizens are the focus of two important essays by Safa Abu-Rabia and Joshua Muravchik. Abu-Rabia maps the emergence of an exciting new Bedouin Arab leadership in Israel’s Negev region, while Muravchik shows that when it comes to evening out the differences between its Jewish and Arab citizens, Israel has done rather better than most countries encompassing sharply diverse nationalities. We also spoke to Sayed Kashua, the creator of the hugely popular Israeli television sitcom Arab Labour and one of the country’s most successful writers.

The remarkable journeys taken by two iconic American Jews are the subject of warm appreciations. Steven Lee Beeberon Lou Reed and Peter Ryley on Emma Goldman.

Yair Raveh reviews two films that take as their subject the murder of a Shin-Bet agent by his informant. Bethlehem is an Israeli film by first time director Yuval Adler, and Omar is an Oscar-nominated Palestinian movie by Hany Abu-Assad. Finally, we spoke to Yariv Ben-Yehuda about the Israeli rock opera Sakhir.

The Price of Kings: Shimon Peres – screening 30th January

Received by email:

The Price of Kings: Shimon Peres

Film Screening & Discussion

Next Wednesday 30th January, at Kings College London, OneVoice will host an event to examine the legacy of President Shimon Peres, and the wider question of leadership in the region.

The Price of Kings: Shimon Peres

“I’ve never heard leaders speak like this before” – Total Politics
“Chills the blood” – The FT, “Uncompromising” – Huffington Post, “Outstanding” – The National
“Epic in scope, themes and revelations” – Rankin

Together with Kings College War Studies Society, the event will examine the legacy of President Shimon Peres and the wider question of leadership in the region with a Q&A after the screening.

Paul Charney (Chair, Zionist Federation)
Dr Ghada Karmi (Palestinian activist and academic)
John Lyndon (Executive Director, OneVoice Europe)
Richard Symons (Co-Director, The Price of Kings)

Venue: Room K4U.12, Kings Building, Strand Campus, Kings College London
Time: 7:00pm, Wednesday 30th January
Admission : FREE

We do hope you’ll be able to join us at Kings College for this event, and the subsequent screening next month of the second film examining the life and political legacy of Yasser Arafat.

OneVoice is an international mainstream grassroots movement that aims to amplify the voice of Israeli and Palestinian moderates, empowering them to seize back the agenda for conflict resolution and demand that their leaders achieve a two-state solution.

A brave campaign from the Union of Jewish Students

This is a cross post from Jak at Reduard

The Union of Jewish Students have announced a new Israel campaign for the upcoming academic year, one which signals a radical break from past UJS hasbara efforts.

As the JC reports:

Jewish students arriving at universities in the next fortnight will be asked to pledge their support to “two states for two peoples”, hand out Israeli and Palestinian flags, and support “freedom, justice and equality” for all.
There is a belief within UJS that standard advocacy efforts “do not cut it any more” because “students are not stupid”. Students will be encouraged to back the “liberation” of Israelis from Palestinian terror, and Palestinians through the formation of a new state.

To say this has stoked up debate online would be the understatement of the year. A Facebook group is doing the rounds, calling the campaign ‘disgraceful’ and ‘utterly crazy’.

Now, I was on campus for four years at a university widely consider to be a hotbed of extreme anti-Zionism and led a wide variety of Israel campaigns. We did all the standard campaigns that anyone who has been on a UK campus will recognise – we handed out falafel, had speakers from the Israeli Embassy, had film showings, talked about how welcoming Israel was to women/homosexuals/religious minorities etc etc. All were good campaigns, well organised and relatively successful. But what they didn’t do is change the narrative on campus. Hateful  anti-Israel diatribes would still appear in the student rag on a weekly basis, the Palestine society would still shout outside university buildings about the ‘holocaust’ in Gaza, and any ordinary student with any sense whatsoever simply ran a mile in the opposite direction – and understandably so. We are facing a new reality on our campuses – the old arguments about settlements or the security barrier are being replaced by a debate about the mere existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Zionism is a dirty word for many students – associated with oppression rather than liberation. Explaining Israel is no longer enough – what is needed is a dialogue, not just about Israel but about the very ideas behind Israel – Zionism, liberation, and self determination for the Jewish people. UJS is in a sense implementing is a back to basics campaign, focusing on ideas and concepts rather than specific policies.

As for those annoyed that UJS is advocating a Palestinian state, I would say this: it is morally dishonest to advocate self-determination for one group of people and not the other. Jews and Palestinians both need and deserve a homeland. Yes there may be a debate about the future borders or composition of those states, but the idea of self-determination is a universal one. It’s why groups like the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and their ilk will always be hypocritical, bigoted and discriminatory organisations – they vehemently support the self-determination of one nation whilst completely ignoring the rights of others. UJS should be proud of taking such a principled stance on the issue, especially as they must have been aware of the potential backlash it could cause.

The campaign is a brave step for UJS, and it may or may not work. But at least it is attempting something different. The naysayers and critics should step back and honestly ask themselves whether they really think the current strategy is working. Surely all evidence suggests that it is not? Burying heads in the sand and pointing to Golda Meir being a female as an example of Israeli progressiveness frankly no longer cuts it.

Boney M told to skip hit in West Bank gig

For me, Boney M’s ‘By The Rivers Of Babylon’ has special associations with musical bumps and musical statues. For others, it has unpleasant associations with Jews.

From the Associated Press:

“Lead singer Maizie Williams said Palestinian concert organizers told her not to sing “Rivers of Babylon.” The song’s chorus quotes from the Book of Psalms, referring to the exiled Jewish people’s yearning to return to the biblical land of Israel.

Palestinians often question the Jewish historical connection to the Holy Land. Organizers said they asked for the song to be skipped, deeming it “inappropriate.””

Yeah that’s right, weird Stalinist Palestinian concert organisers – fingers in ears, sing “La la la” and maybe those Jews will just go away.

An innocent ’70s hit which offends only hateful repressive morons whose rejection of any Jewish connection to the land of Israel eclipses just about everything else – censored. Which is symptomatic of a wider problem in some sections of Palestinian society (including Iman Hamouri of the Popular Art Center, apparently) of rejectionism, not only of Israel but of Jews who want to be close to holy sites in the Middle East.

And it does make you realise that, despite the pressures boycotters pile on artists, there doesn’t seem to be any much corresponding censorship at Israeli gigs. Jonny Rotten claims free rein to make his trouble musically.

I get the impression Boney M aren’t really into these politics but they probably need to be. I hope they perform the song anyway.

“How can we create a new conversation about Israel & Palestine?”

Received by email, this may be of interest to those of our readers who identify as Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

St Ethelburga’s is recruiting a group of Jews, Christians and Muslims to undergo an innovative process of co-operative inquiry exploring the Israel Palestine issue.  The group will spend a weekend away together in October, followed by an 8 day study and encounter tour of the Holy Land in November.  Followed by futher meetings to reflect on learning.

The programme will adopt the co-operative inquiry approach, which is a reflective action research model in which participants set an agenda and inquire together into a key research question.  The question in this programme will be focused on how to create productive dialogue around the highly divisive and polarising issue of the Middle East.

Our intention is to select a very diverse group of individuals, reflecting as wide as possible a range of perspectives, who have a strong connection to the issue as well as an interest dialogue processes.  We will fund air fares and hotels for successful applicants.

This is a very special opportunity to undergo an intensive learning experience with a diverse group.

Application forms and background information can be found at http://stethelburgas.org/israel-palestine-inquiry

Applications need to be with us by 30 August and selection and interviews will be in the second week in September.

Please forward this email on to anyone you think would be interested.

Please do not reply to this email.  For more information contact justine@stethelburgas.org

Warm wishes,

Justine Huxley
Interfaith Projects Co-ordinator
St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation & Peace

Combatants for Peace – July 2010 UK Tour

This is a guest post by Kubbeh.

Israeli and Palestinian peace activists from Combatants for Peace are coming to the UK for a four-date tour later this month (21-30 July) in conjunction with Encounters. The bi-national group was set up by former Israel Defence Force soldiers and Palestinian militants who decided to put down their weapons and, instead, chose to work towards a peaceful future. (Engage can confirm that CfP are genuine peaceniks – and will be travelling to England by plane and not on a ship loaded with iron bars, knives etc.)

This tour will be a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to see a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. By cooperating across borders, Combatants for Peace are working towards an alternative paradigm to boycotts, demonisation, hatespeech and other strategies which serve to perpetuate conflict. The Israelis and Palestinians will be sharing their personal stories and non-violent creative methods for resolving conflict.

Combatants for Peace UK tour dates are as follows:

  • Saturday 24 July – Warrington Peace Foundation (10am and 7.30pm)
  • Tuesday 27 July – Centre for Peace & Reconciliation Studies, Coventry University (7.30pm)
  • Wednesday 28 July – Frontline Club, London (7pm)
  • Thursday 29 July – Amnesty International UK, London (10am and 7pm)

Full details here.

Bassam Aramim Scholarship Fund

The group is also raising funds for Bassam Aramim, Combatants for Peace co-founder, to study for a Peace Studies MA at Bradford University in order to strengthen his ability to struggle for peace and find solutions to the conflict in his backyard. For more information and to donate click here.

World’s unions reject boycotts, embrace Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

Eric Lee at Tulip :

The international trade union movement has just delivered a stinging rebuff to advocates of the campaign to boycott Israel.

At its second world congress which just concluded in Vancouver, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) rejected calls to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targetting the Jewish state.

A vehemently anti-Israel resolution submitted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions never made it to the floor.

And in a stunning blow to pro-Hamas activists in some unions, the Israeli national trade union center Histadrut was honored by the global trade union movement.

Its leader, Ofer Eini, was elevated to the ITUC’s 25-member Executive Board as well as its General Council. Eini was also elected as one of the organization’s Vice Presidents.

The ITUC has 312 affiliated organizations in 156 countries and territories representing 176 million workers.

Eini’s election followed calls by major unions in the UK and elsewhere for the Histadrut to be boycotted. Instead, the international trade union movement has embraced the Israeli unions, understanding them — correctly — to be important partners in building peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a resolution adopted by the ITUC congress, the positive role of the Histadrut was made explicit:

“Congress welcomes the landmark agreement between Histadrut and the PGFTU on the rights of Palestinian workers, which was finalised with the assistance of the ITUC in August 2008, and initiatives by Global Union Federations in their sectors to support cooperation in defence of workers’ rights. This agreement, and other actions to promote decent work and end discrimination, are crucial to building the basis for just and equitable economic development.”

For the future, the ITUC resolution declared:

“Congress commits the ITUC to continue to support the strengthening of cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli trade union movements and calls upon the international community to support Palestinian economic reconstruction and development, including through the ILO Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection.”

In addition, the world’s trade unions

-Called for a two-state solution — and “universal recognition of Israel’s right to exist, next to an independent viable Palestinian state”.

-Rejected “the extremist policies of Hamas“.

-Condemned the Egyptian “decision to impose heavy restrictions on its border with Gaza”.

-Acknowledged that Israeli’s December 2008 attack on Gaza came “in response to rocket attacks”.

-Supported the 2002 “Road Map” for peace proposed by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.

The resolution adopted was highly critical of many Israeli policies, calling for an end to illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, rejecting the blockade of Gaza and the building of a security fence, and so on.

But what stands out clearly is the commitment by the vast majority of the world’s trade unions to a two-state solution and to strengthening Israeli-Palestinian trade union cooperation.

This is welcome news for Israelis and Palestinians and a blow to the supporters of Hamas who have tried hard to isolate and demonize Israel within the trade union movement.

Northern Ireland: Trade unionists make the case against BDS campaign

This report is from TULIP.

Last night, four trade union opponents of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign targetting Israel were given the opportunity to make their case before a standing-room only crowd in Belfast.

In an event organised by Northern Ireland Friends of Israel (NIFI), activists from unions in the UK and the Republic of Ireland spoke out against the “Israel is apartheid” slander and called for engagement rather than boycott.

The speakers included Terry McCorran (who chaired the meeting) — a Unison branch official in Northern Ireland; Lilach Head, a Unison activist from England; Chris Hudson, who spent 18 years working as a full time official for Irish trade unions; and Eric Lee from TULIP (a member of the National Union of Journalists in the UK).  McCorran chaired the meeting and all four speakers appeared in an individual capacity, not representing their unions.

Head spoke about the experience of being an Israeli-born trade unionist in Britain, of the exclusion of Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) from the Unison conference last year, and of the courage required to get up in front of thousands of conference delegates and make the case against boycotts.

McCorran spoke about examples of anti-Israel sentiment in Northern Ireland — but also about how many in the community identify closely with Israel.  He also reported on his participation in a TUFI delegation to Israel and the West Bank in November 2009.

Hudson, who has had years of experience not only as a trade union leader, but also a leading anti-apartheid campaigner, made a strong case that Israel can in no way be called an apartheid society.

Lee explained what the BDS campaign was all about, who supports it and who opposes it, why it is a bad idea — and what we can all do about it.  He made six concrete suggestions:

  1. If you support genuine peace between Israelis and Palestinians, support those organizations in Israel and Palestine that campaign for this – including Peace Now, One Voice, the Parent’s Circle and many others.
  2. Here in the UK, support those organizations that campaign against BDS – including TULIP, TUFI and NIFI.
  3. Challenge BDS supporters without fear – it is their argument to lose, and they are the ones who do not want debate.
  4. Practice zero-tolerance of anti-Semitism – just as we would not tolerate any other form of racism.
  5. Buy Israeli products.
  6. Visit Israel – see for yourself what “apartheid” looks like.

Over 200 copies of the TULIP founding statement were distributed at the event.

European Jewish Congress concern over Swiss referendum on minarets

The European Jewish Congress defends equal treatment of Swiss Muslims:

Following the referendum in Switzerland concerning the construction of minarets, the European Jewish Congress reiterates the position of its Swiss affiliate SIG in “speaking out firmly in favour of equal treatment and justice and against laws of any type which are intended to apply specifically to certain religious communities.”

The European Jewish Congress defends freedom of religion and religious practice as a fundamental human right, including the right to build places of worship.

BRICUP dreams of apartheid while the Abraham Fund works for co-existence

BRICUP is touring some boycott celebrity speakers round the country to talk about ‘Israel, the Palestinians and apartheid: the case for sanctions and boycott’. Perhaps somebody could ask Omar Barghouti to kindly explain about Tel Aviv again, for those of us who still don’t understand how he could demand boycott of a really good university, and then go and privilege himself by enrolling there.

Or perhaps we could just give our attention to something better, because meanwhile in the real world Israel has once again brought new meaning to the word ‘apartheid’. A delegation of senior Israeli police officers is visiting Belfast to find out  how to provide a respectful service for minorities:

“The mission, which includes nine brigadier generals from various police departments, is part of an educational program that aims to introduce the officers to practical tools for providing egalitarian and respectful policing services to Israel’s Arab citizens.

The program was developed by the Training and Education Department of the Human Resources Division and the Abraham Fund Initiatives.

This program is part of a joint venture between the Israel Police and the Abraham Fund Initiatives aiming to improve relations between the police and the Arab community. The venture was initiated following the October 2000 events and the publication of the Or Commission recommendations.”

That this has gone ahead under the current Israeli government is a tribute to the Abraham Fund and their friends in the Knesset. As well as advocating for Arab citizens with the Israeli right, the Abraham Fund has to make arguments to Arab citizens who want to turn their backs on Jewish ones. One example is a recent move to boycott “Jewish organisations” by Arab citizens of Sakhnin, to which the Abrahan Fund responded:

“Many of Israel’s supporters understand that just as in the past they contributed toward immigration, absorption, infrastructure development, and project renewal, today the issue of integration of Israel’s Arab citizens is an important and urgent national necessity which needs to be advanced to the top of the agenda.”

To precisely this end, the Abraham Fund is having a global online benefit on December the 9th 2009 during which they will present their work and how it is helping Israeli society. Register to join them real time, free.

Bonus link: The Abraham Fund’s Mohammad Darawshe, speaking in London earlier this year.

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