Howard Jacobson on Alice Walker and her trip to Gaza

This piece by Howard Jacboson is from cnn.

It should not need arguing, this late in the ethical history of mankind, that good people can do great harm. One of the finest and funniest novels ever written — Don Quixote — charts the damage left in the wake of a man who would make the world a better place.

Human beings are seldom more dangerous than when they are sentimentally overcome by the goodness of their own intentions. That Alice Walker believes it is right to join the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza I do not have the slightest doubt. But beyond associating her decision with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and very nearly, when she talks about the preciousness of children, Jesus Christ, she fails to give a single convincing reason for it.

“One child must never be set above another child,” she says. A sentiment that will find an echo in every heart. But how does it justify the flotilla? Gaza is under siege, Israelis will tell you, because weapons are fired from it into Israel, threatening the lives of Israeli children. If the blockade is lifted there is a fear that more lethal and far-reaching weapons will be acquired, and the lives of more Israeli children endangered.

You may want to argue that had Gaza been treated differently it would have responded differently, but if the aim of the flotilla is to ensure that one child will not be set above another it is hard to see how challenging the blockade will achieve it. All an Israeli parent will see is a highly charged emotionalism disguising an action that, by its very partiality, chooses the Palestinian child over the Israeli.

The boat on which Alice Walker will be traveling is called The Audacity of Hope. Forgive me for seeing a measure of self- importance in that reference. It will be carrying, Alice Walker tells us, “Letters expressing solidarity and love.” Not, presumably, for Israeli children. Perhaps it is thought that Israeli children are the recipients of enough love already. So what about solidarity? It is meant to sound innocuous. “That is all.”

Alice Walker makes plain, “its cargo will be carrying.” But what will these letters of solidarity be expressing solidarity with? Solidarity is a political term implying commonality of interest or aspiration. So what interest or aspiration do Alice Walker and her fellow travelers share with the people of Gaza? A desire for freedom? Well we all aspire to that. A longing to live in peace?

If they have such a longing we must be solid with them in that too, though the firing of rockets from Gaza is not, on the face of it, an expression of such a longing. And what about the declared hostility of Hamas to the very existence of Israel? Hamas, we are often told, is the elected government of Gaza, a government that fairly represents the wishes of its people. In which case we must assume that Hamas’s implacable hostility towards Israel fairly represents the implacable hostility felt by the people of Gaza. Are Alice Walker’s letters of love and ‘solidarity’ solid with the people of Gaza in that hostility?

Alice Walker, writer of 'The Colour Purple'

“If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman,” she says. Wrong on a thousand counts. As a writer, Alice Walker must understand the symbolic significance of words. The cargo is a cargo of intention. It is freighted with political sympathy and attitude. It means to blunder into where it isn’t safe, clothed in the make-believe garments of the unworldly, speaking of children and speaking like children, half inviting a violence which can then be presented as a slaughter of the innocents.

Even before the deed, Alice Walker has her language of outraged moral purity prepared — “but if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us…” The Israeli response is thus already an act of unprovoked murder, no matter that the flotilla is by its very essence a provocation. Whatever its cargo, by luring the Israeli military into action which can be represented as brutal, the flotilla is engaged in an entirely political act. To call it by any other name is the grossest hypocrisy.

Alice Walker might be feeling good about herself, but by giving the Palestinians the same old false comfort we’ve been doling out for more than half a century, and by allowing the Israelis to dismiss it as yet another act of misguided and uncomprehending adventurism — further evidence that its fears go unheeded – her political gesture only worsens the situation. The parties to this conflict need to be brought together not divided: but those who speak disingenuously of love will engender only further hatred.

This piece by Howard Jacboson is from cnn.

Lots more from Howard Jacobson here.

 

 

Gisha on Gaza

For more on Engage concerning Gisha, click here.

Gisha is the Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement.

Engage has been following much of Gisha’s work concerning the freedom of movement of Palestinian students and academics.

Hamas condemns UN for teaching children that the Holocaust happened

From Reuters

Hamas condemned the United Nations Sunday, saying it planned to teach Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip about the Holocaust — but the U.N. agency which runs schools in the enclave would not confirm any change.

Branding the Nazi genocide of the Jews “a lie invented by the Zionists,” the Islamist movement which runs the Gaza Strip wrote in an open letter to a senior U.N. official that he should withdraw plans for a new history book in U.N. schools.

A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which educates some 200,000 refugee children in Gaza, said the Holocaust was not on its current curriculum. He would not comment on Hamas’s statement that it was about to change.

Palestinians resent the way world powers reacted to the Holocaust by supporting the establishment of Israel in 1948, a move that left half the Arab population of then British-ruled Palestine as refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and abroad.

Hamas said it believed UNRWA was about to start using a text for 13-year-olds that included a chapter on the Holocaust.

In an open letter to local UNRWA chief John Ging, the movement’s Popular Committees for Refugees said: “We refuse to let our children study a lie invented by the Zionists.”

UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said: “There is no mention of the Holocaust in the current syllabus.” Asked if UNRWA planned to change that, he declined to comment.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, run by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, teachers said there was no official guidance on teaching about the Holocaust.

Israelis are angered by denial of the Holocaust among some in the Middle East, notably lately by leaders in Iran, who provide support for Hamas. Abbas, who has engaged in negotiation with Israel, has had to distance himself from his own 1980s doctoral thesis, which cast doubt on the scale of the Holocaust.

Hamas’s official spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said he did not want to discuss the history of the Holocaust but said:

“Regardless of the controversy, we oppose forcing the issue of the so-called Holocaust onto the syllabus, because it aims to reinforce acceptance of the occupation of Palestinian land.”

From Reuters

(Editing by Erika Solomon and Alastair Macdonald)

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.

Crudités

A selection of news and comment.

Ignoblus on Yoav Shamir’s film Defamation.

Via Bob From Brockley: Contentious Centrist surfaces some under-reported news of a separation wall built by Hesbollah and Syria which isolates a Lebanese border region mostly populated by Christians and Druze, and  home demolitions by Hamas; the revolution will not be Tel Aviv’ed – gingerly linking to Spiked to give you Natalie Rothschild; Martin in the Margins on Chomsky refused; Michael J. Totten’s interview with Paul Berman about his book Flight of the Intellectuals.

Off-topic for this blog (but kind of on-topic because I came to it via a Labour parliamentary candidate who, nonetheless worryingly though she was unsuccessful, apparently believes that problematising Zionism will pay off in British politics) Peter Beinhart considers some long-term trends in Israeli society and trends in the attitudes to Israel of Jews outside Israel, calling for an uncomfortable Zionism as alternative to anti-Zionism, a lethargic non-Zionism, or an exclusive and aggressive kind of Zionism.

The Turin Book Fair was targeted by boycotters again this year, but they were rebuffed, and Israeli author Amos Oz won the readers’ prize. Umberto Eco was again (scroll to the L’Espresso translation, 2008) one of those who spoke against boycott. Here is something good from him back then :

“I understand very well what certain friends of the extreme left (who only need to turn 360 degrees to come dangerously close to the extreme right) are thinking when they demand such a thing: we have to direct people’s attention to the ominous politics of the Israeli government, so we can kick off a scandal that will hit the headlines in all the papers. It is true that politicians and advertising companies work like this (and Berlusconi has mastered the art), but what is happening in Turin right now is a bit like the Blue Telephone trying to draw attention to the abuse of children by having some of them whipped in public.”

Jeremy Corbyn Supports Hamas and Hezbollahn

“The idea that an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people, and bringing about long term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region, should be labelled as a terrorist organisation by the British government, is really a big, big historical mistake”

More on Harry’s Place.

Bob From Brockley questions the claim that people on the left should support Hamas

Here.

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