Palestine Solidarity Society disrupts Law lecture at Queens University, Belfast

From The Gown:

The Palestinian Solidarity Society today disrupted a lecture by Solon Solomon, former member of the Israeli Parliament’s legal department, on Israel’s right to self-defence. Entering the lecture, members of the society heckled the lecturer forcing it to be brought to a close after seven minutes. Members of the panel had to be removed from the room by security in the interests of their own safety to calls of “Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio.” The PSS was apparently videoing the lecture without permission.

Read the rest of the article here.

New Israel Fund: boycott is “inflammatory and counterproductive”

By Kubbeh

The New Israel Fund is a Jewish Israeli not-for-profit-organisation that, in its own words, is “committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis”. In the past year, NIF has found itself in an unusual position – under attack from all sides: from both right wing activists in Israel, as well as international left and  anti-Zionist activists calling for the boycott of Israeli civil society.

In a recent article in Zeek magazine (Don’t Divest; Invest), NIF’s Naomi Pass slammed boycott, sanctions and divestment as a “blunt force” that “penalizes the innocent” and contributes to the rightwards shift among moderate Israelis:

“We see global BDS as a tactic that embodies the message that Israel cannot and will not change itself, and for that reason, we think it is inflammatory and counter-productive. We see proposals that would ban Israeli academics, no matter what their personal and political views may be, from participation in the free exchange of ideas in international conferences. We see artists and musicians, who often come bearing badly-needed messages of peace and tolerance, being urged to take Israel off their tour itineraries…

“And we disagree. The way to change Israel is not to divest, but to invest in Israelis and Palestinians who are struggling every day to change the status quo.”

Read the full article, Don’t Divest; Invest.


Public meeting – no zionists, no undesirables allowed

Further to a JC article describing how senior figures in the Manchester Jewish community were ordered out of a meeting hosting Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, Manchester PSC Chair Linda Clair has had the following letter published in the Jewish Chronicle :

When are you going to start telling the truth and not a completely distorted version of the facts? I was the chair of the Gideon Levy meeting you report (JC August 27). Michael Samuels and his two companions did not actually enter the meeting to start with. They were outside the room when I asked Mr Samuels his name and where he came from. He replied and said he came from Manchester. I told him and his companions that they would not be allowed in – that Zionists were not wanted in that meeting. Mr Levy, who was already in the meeting room, and was standing behind me, asked me to let them in, which I did, only at his request. This was before he spoke to them. Whatever they said to him certainly did not influence my decision to allow them in, I had legal advice that although it was a public meeting, it was on private property and so we were well within our rights to exclude any undesirables. In case you want to label me antisemitic, I am not, I am an anti-Zionist Jew, and I know the difference between the two, even if you choose not to.

Linda Clair

I won’t comment on the letter because it speaks for itself (I should however point out that Manchester JFJFP’s promotion of the meeting was simply to send an email with details of the meeting and they were not involved in organising the meeting itself).


Israeli professors: academic freedom includes freedom to self-boycott

Hundreds of Israeli professors and academics have signed a petition slamming Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s stated intention to take action against professors who support an academic boycott of Israel.

Petitioners include Haifa University rector Prof. Yossi Ben Artzi, Israel Prize laureates professors Benjamin Isaac and Yehoshua Kolodny, and former education minister Prof. Yuli Tamir.

Read on in Ha’aretz. As a staunch anti-boycotter I hope they are successful in overturning this attempt to criminalise boycott.

Update – some more on this.

Firstly, I mis-titled this post, I think – an inadvertent provocation.

The petition was initiated by Israel’s Forum for the Protection of Public Education. They don’t translate into English (i.e. they aren’t seeking international attention) but Google sort of does (and the original is here).

This petition needs to be considered in the context of the bill to outlaw Israel’s homegrown boycotters, which does not distinguish between the implicit eliminationism of a whole-Israel boycott and the implicit acceptance of Israel’s and Palestine’s co-existence in the boycott of settlement products. The 552 signatories of the petition are not fighting for the right to boycott – they explicitly do not endorse boycott – but against the intrusion of an unsurprisingly defensive government into what is said and considered on campus, and for the right, when one academic’s expression of freedom begins to interfere with that of their colleagues, of the institution to respond on its own behalf.

Naomi Chazan: “Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul”

This is a guest post by Kubbeh.

Leading Israeli academic, peace activist and president of the New Israel Fund (NIF), Naomi Chazan, was in the UK earlier this month, talking to the Jewish community about her hopes and fears for Israel’s democracy. We’ve all heard the statement that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It may not be perfect (where is?), but it is true. The citizens of Egypt, Jordan, Gaza, Syria, Iran and elsewhere would all benefit from a good dose of democracy – particularly women, Christians, gay men and women, journalists and political dissidents.

Speaking earlier this month to a capacity crowd at Moishe House, a post-denominational Jewish community in west London, Chazan outlined the challenges to Israel’s democracy and what her organisation is doing about it. These reached a peak earlier this year with a well-funded smear campaign against NIF by right-wing pressure group, Im Tirtzu, which attempted to vilify Chazan and NIF as enemies of the state.

“Is there a problem [with Israel’s democracy]? Absolutely yes. Is there a hope? Equally so, she said.

For Chazan, democracy is fundamental to the existence and success of Israel as a Jewish state:

“Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul. Without Israel’s democracy, there will be no Israel. That is because Israel’s raison d’etre, as embodied in its Declaration of Independence, will no longer exist. The source of Israel’s strength is its democracy.”

Chazan explained how the NIF has been “thrust to the centre” of guarding Israel’s democracy, a role which she sees as crucial to upholding the Zionist dream embodied by the state’s founding fathers: “Jews have the right to self-determination in two senses,” she said. “Collective self-determination, in terms of the right to create a state for the Jews; and individual self-determination, through creating a society which grants individual liberties and social justice to all of its citizens regardless of race, religion or gender.”

She also took a swipe at anti-Zionists and boycotters, many of whom she regularly meets in academic circles, who want to see Israel relegated to the dustbin of history:“I have nothing in common with people who tell me that I have no right to exist. We need to distinguish between the deniers and deligitimisers – and dissenters.”

At a time when Israel is more politically isolated and vilified than ever before and the Islamist extremists of Hamas and Hezbollah continue to stockpile weapons to use against Israeli civilians, the work of peace and civil rights movements like NIF is more vital than ever. Israelis who want to walk the path of moderation have never had it so tough. In Chazan’s words, they are “stuck between those who don’t want to hear it and those who don’t want them to exist.” If, like me, you feel confused and frustrated about how to respond to recent events in the Middle East, then supporting the New Israel Fund is a good place to start.

Stand up for NIF, stand up for Israeli democracy

A guest post by Progressive Zionist.

A smear campaign was launched last week against leading Israeli social justice organisation, the New Israel Fund. In what Meretz MK Haim Oron, described as a “show trial,” NIF has been blasted for apparently being the “life-force” behind the UN’s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead and the delegitimisation of Israel in the international court of opinion.

But this campaign to discredit NIF and its grantee organisations amounts to nothing less than an attack on freedom of speech.

So what did NIF do wrong?

On 29 January 2010, Israeli tabloid Ma’ariv published the findings of a report by right-wing student group, Im Tirtzu, claiming that over 90% of allegations against the IDF in the Goldstone report came from 16 NIF-funded Israeli NGOs. The following day Im Tirtzu organised a demonstration outside the Jerusalem home of NIF president, Prof Naomi Hazan (pictured), with dozens of activists dressed as Hamas terrorists, as well as running an advert in the Jerusalem Post depicting a demonic Prof Hazan wearing a horn.

It didn’t take long for Im Tirtzu’s “research” to be debunked and dismembered. Anshel Pfeffer did a good job in Ha’aretz:

What is being said here? Im Tirzu is not claiming that any of the information supplied by these organizations was false. It is simply questioning the very legitimacy of free speech in Israel.

In support of Israeli democracy

NIF is a philanthropic organisation that funds over 300 organisations working to make Israel a better country, in line with the vision of its founding fathers. NIF grantees pursue social justice, civil and human rights, religious pluralism and safeguarding the environment.

One need not agree with every position of every organisation that NIF funds, which range from Breaking the Silence and B’tselem to Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. But supporters of democracy should stand up for the New Israel Fund – and many already have, including journalists from Ma’ariv itself.

Ori Nir from Americans for Peace Now said it succinctly:

The New Israel Fund is an asset to Israel‘s democracy, as are its grantee organizations. Attempts to silence them should not be tolerated by the Israeli public and by friends of a free and democratic Israel worldwide.“

But this sorry episode has left me with a feeling of déjà vu.

One thing that struck me is how many NIF grantees would find themselves boycotted by anti-Israel activists here in the UK. For instance, Israeli groups that promote cooperation between Jews and Arabs.

There’s an uneasy parallel between the recent McCarthyist attacks on NIF and the British Left-Islamist coalition’s campaign to silence and boycott those who fail to tow their party line of an Israel-free Middle East. It seems that the two sides have more in common that they would like to admit.

See also my Greens Engage post, New Israel Fund needs international solidarity; Jews outside Israel need theirs.

A smear campaign was launched last week against leading Israeli social justice organisation, the New Israel Fund. In what Meretz MK Haim Oron, described as a “show trial,” NIF has been blasted for apparently being the “life-force” behind the UN’s Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead and the delegitimisation of Israel in the international court of opinion.

But this campaign to discredit NIF and its grantee organisations amounts to nothing less than an attack on freedom of speech.

So what did NIF do wrong?

On 29 January 2010, Israeli tabloid Ma’ariv published the findings of a report by right-wing student group, Im Tirtzu, claiming that over 90% of allegations against the IDF in the Goldstone report came from 16 NIF-funded Israeli NGOs. The following day Im Tirtzu organised a demonstration outside the Jerusalem home of NIF president, Prof Naomi Hazan (pictured), with dozens of activists dressed as Hamas terrorists, as well as running an advert in the Jerusalem Post depicting a demonic Prof Hazan wearing a horn.

It didn’t take long for Im Tirtzu’s “research” to be debunked and dismembered. Anshel Pfeffer did a good job in Ha’aretz:

What is being said here? Im Tirzu is not claiming that any of the information supplied by these organizations was false. It is simply questioning the very legitimacy of free speech in Israel.

In support of Israeli democracy

NIF is a philanthropic organisation that funds over 300 organisations working to make Israel a better country, in line with the vision of its founding fathers. NIF grantees pursue social justice, civil and human rights, religious pluralism and safeguarding the environment.

One need not agree with every position of every organisation that NIF funds, which range from Breaking the Silence and B’tselem to Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. But supporters of democracy should stand up for the New Israel Fund – and many already have, including journalists from Ma’ariv itself.

Ori Nir from Americans for Peace Now said it succintly:

The New Israel Fund is an asset to Israel‘s democracy, as are its grantee organizations. Attempts to silence them should not be tolerated by the Israeli public and by friends of a free and democratic Israel worldwide.“

But this sorry episode has left me with a feeling of déjà vu.

One thing that struck me is how many NIF grantees would find themselves boycotted by anti-Israel activists here in the UK. For instance, Israeli groups that promote cooperation between Jews and Arabs.

There’s an uneasy parallel between the recent McCarthyist attacks on NIF and the British Left-Islamist coalition’s campaign to silence and boycott those who fail to tow their party line of an Israel-free Middle East. It seems that the two sides have more in common that they would like to admit.

:: New Israel Fund UK on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/newisraelfunduk?ref=ts

:: New Israel Fund (Israel website) http://www.nif.org/

:: coteret.com Hebrew news from the Israel media in English

:: Prof Naomi Hazan sacked by Jerusalem Post. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1147998.html

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.

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