What does Hirsh say when he’s inside the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Have a look at the second video on this link. Actually it looks like it is going to be a crap film and it looks like Hirsh is going to be cast as the new Norm Finkelstein. What can you do?

The whole text of the speech I made that day is on the old Engage site. I guess it was edited selectively.

Chris of Cafe Crema responds

Chris: "Israel needs to think about why so much of the world is against it..."

Chris: "Israel needs to think about why so much of the world is against it..."

The owner of the café near Goldsmiths which has decided to boycott Israeli (and only Israeli) goods has responded on BobFromBrockley to this debate as follows:

Fair enough, I can now see that it was a mistake to write ‘Jews are as welcome here as anyone else’ in that it has been taken, by many people, in exactly the opposite way that it was intended (but perhaps I should have foreseen that – I apologise). Obviously, whilst writing anything about boycotting Israel (I’ll come to that in a bit) I wanted to also state what is obvious to me: that that doesn’t mean we’re anti-Semitic. I only felt that needed stating because certain people (such as Israeli politicians and pro-Israeli journalists) deliberately try to muddy the water by conflating anti-Israeli sentiment with anti-Semitism. I don’t care (and obviously generally don’t know) what community/religion/race/diaspora our customers come from – however in answer to the comment about taking fascist shekels, we would never knowingly serve a member of the BNP – and, in terms of individual Israelis, I don’t blame anyone for the misdeeds of their government, in the same way that I would hope that no one would hold me responsible for the misdeeds of British governments, past and present.

But we will continue to boycott Israel, and we certainly won’t hide the fact. All the time that we’ve been open, there have been stickers on the walls calling for a boycott. To me, it’s as legitimate as boycotting South Africa was in the 1980s [By the way, we don’t use Columbian coffee beans, we use Fairtrade Brazilian beans]. It doesn’t mean that I am a supporter of Hamas. It just means that I am more than a little frustrated with seeing absolutely no progress in favour of the Palestinian people, despite decades of handwringing by Western governments (and by progressive/leftwing Israelis). The walls, roadblocks, checkpoints and settlements continue to go up; the mass-killings, collective punishments, arbritrary arrests and incarcerations carry on, as the ineffectual UN resolutions continue to be passed.

I don’t see Hamas as being comparable to the WWII French Resistance, but I do see the Intifada in general as being so. It’s a popular uprising against a hated, and militarily far superior, occupying force. You cannot cite Palestinian suicide bombings and rocket attacks as being anywhere near the same league as what has been meted out by Israel; they don’t amount to 1 per cent of the total carnage and misery. Israel needs to think about why so much of the world is against it, in the same way that the USA has started to do in recent years (we boycotted them, too – and we had a notice up about it, but no complaints or counter-boycotts, as far as I’m aware – while Bush was in power; looks like it worked).

I am well aware of the Holocaust (my wife’s stepfather was in a concentration camp as a child) and the unjust treatment and displacement of Jews in general, in much of the world, for centuries. But these facts do not give Israel a licence to kill and oppress, or to steal land, anymore than the legacy of British colonialism gives Robert Mugabe excuses for his behaviour, despite what he might say.

And, Contentious Centrist, I’d like you to tell me exactly what my ‘ill-concealed wishes’ are, and why on earth I would feel ‘anguish …as a result of so many Jews feeling welcome in [my] cafe.’ The Jewish person who works at Café Crema certainly appears to feel welcome, and this doesn’t cause me much anguish. And this is not ‘gestural politics’. This is absolutely sincere.

Once again, to anyone I’ve offended, or made feel unwelcome, I apologise. However, the boycott remains. I’m genuinely sorry if this means we’ll lose certain customers; that’s obviously not our intention.

Chris, Café Crema, New Cross

John Strawson Answers:

The arrogance of Chris’s position is astounding. Britain has been a colonial power for 3 centuries during which time it played a major role in the slave trade, ethnically cleansed most of North America and Australia, created concentration camps in South Africa and fought vicious wars to keep its colonies – do not forget some 100,000 Kenyans died in the 1950’s. Incidentially it also prevented many cictims of the Nazis from reaching Palestine – and did nothing to stop the Holocaust during World War II. The same Britain has recently been helping occupy Iraq since 2003. Chris is not frustrated by his own state and its bloody colonial record – he is only frustrated by a Jewish State. I think he has a problem.

Swansea’s Tesco 2 and the meaning of ‘racially aggravated’

swansea_palestineFrom a few sources today I’ve heard that Dee Murphy and Greg Wilkinson, two activists from Swansea Action for Palestine, have been arrested for spray-painting (blood red) a boxes of Israeli peppers and stencilling ‘boycott Israel’ on the floor of a Sainsbury’s in Swansea. They weren’t arrested for racism, but for “racially aggravated criminal damage“.

The allegation was taken badly by the activists, who retorted, “We are beginning to feel harassed for speaking out”.  Activists who are charged with racially aggravated crime in relation to their anti-Israel campaigning tend to say this sort of thing – see for example the response of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign when they were charged with racially aggravated harassment against an Israeli chamber orchestra. Jenny Bourne, a “Jewish veteran anti-racist campaigner”, commented “It is an irony that whoever made this ridiculous allegation is being racist by implying that “Israeli” constitutes a race”.

I’m not sure what happened at the supermarket or whether the raids on the homes of the protesters were or weren’t appropriate. They are not thought to be dangerous and have been bailed until June.  But Jenny Bourne is wrong, as far as I can see.  The law in question is the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, Section II 28 (4) of which reads:

“In this section “racial group” means a group of persons defined by reference to race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.”

The Home Office produced a guide to the act which includes:

“3.11 Section 28(1)(b) is the second string of the test of what amounts to “racially aggravated”. The racial hostility need not be the sole motivating factor nor does it need to be the primary one. Section 28(1)(b) makes it clear that the behaviour will be covered by the Act even if the racial hostility is only part of the motivation for the offence if the damaged property belonged, or was treated as belonging, to a Pakistani.”

So an offence can be legally defined as racially aggravated if it’s based in some way on nationality or citizenship, and when Greg Wilkinson told a friend, “the use of the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Israeli’ is no more racist than the use of, say, British, in relation to invasion of Iraq or Aghanistan”, he missed the point. The “racially aggravated” part is contingent on a crime having been committed in the first place – and it seems that the SAP activists are not denying the criminal damage.

The law exists to help the government identify racial, national, ethnic and religious elements in crimes. Basically, if the “Jewish veteran anti-racist campaigner” wants that law changed, she should look into how it is used in practice. She should search the web for, say, “racially aggravated” and the nationality of her choice (I tried Polish) to get a better impression of how it works.

It’s also worth considering that SAP don’t just “speak out”. They do inflammatory direct action with quantities of red paint. If I look at the blood-baths they create and try to work out what they want, my best guess is that they want me to hate and condemn Israel, the blood-letting state, as they do, and turn it into a pariah. In this video-recorded protest, shopping trolleys of  food were overturned in the entrance of Tesco, their contents strewn over the ground and fake blood flung about to the sound of a tom-tom. Even if we could rely on the protesters for a straight story (it is unclear, whether, for instance any West Bank products are from Palestinian businesses – it would be very ironic if the products they were slinging paint over were actually the genuine article) their message is not “stop buying settlement goods” – it’s a call for a “national boycott of Israel”. Dee Murphy blurted a reference to Israel’s “sin” revealing a religious slant to her protest. As is standard, a discussion of any Palestinian role in the conflict is completely absent from SAP’s reckoning.

blood_tescoBut how are we supposed to protest Israel’s brutal occupation? Seems to me that if you’re an advocate for Palestinians then protesting products from the settlements which are labelled ‘West Bank’ or ‘Israel’ in a way which is misleading is very straightforward. You assert – publicly, to the supermarkets, and to your MP – your right to know whether the proceeds from the goods you are buying are helping the Palestinian economy or the settler economy. You explain why it is important to help one, and not to help the other. You need never (unless you already have a record as such, perhaps, or unless you encounter very prejudiced opponents) be misunderstood as anti-Israel or antisemitic.

So why are we still seeing so much fake blood?

Greg Wilkinson again, musing on the significance of the raid on his home:

“Still, question remains who authorised this disproportionate use of police power and numbers – thousands of pound worth of public money to get to the bottom of a box of Israeli peppers and some graffiti on a Bridgend floor?

This development shows two things:

  1. the campaign to boycott is beginning to bite and the Zionists have been panicked into a hasty and counterproductive response.
  2. Things are going to get much rougher from now on”

Those dangerous, all-controlling – but strangely ploddish – Zionists.

Hari’s Formulation – Mark Gardner

The Livingstone Formulation had another outing in today’s Independent. This time, courtesy of Johann Hari.  The paper’s front and second pages covered the dreadful testimonies that have emerged from IDF troops who served in Gaza. Hari followed this up by telling Independent readers that:

“For months, the opponents of Operation Cast Lead – the assault on Gaza that killed 1,434 Palestinians – have been told we are “dupes for Islamic fundamentalists”, or even anti-Semitic. The defenders of Israel’s war claimed you could only believe the reports that Israeli troops were deliberately firing on civilians, scrawling “death to Arabs” on the walls, and trashing olive groves, or using the chemical weapon white phosphorus that burns to the bone, if you were infected with the old European virus of Jew-hatred.”

Further on in his ‘Comment’ piece, Hari clarified that there are still some decent Israelis. He didn’t, however, make any such clarification about who did and didn’t scream antisemitism over the reports that emerged during the Gaza war.

Let me be clear. I think its very likely that Hari and/or his Independent colleagues will have received some disgusting emails, threats and insults during the Gaza conflict from some “defenders of Israel’s war”. There is absolutely no excuse for such despicable behaviour; but plenty of people such as David Hirsh at Engage receive such abuse from the other side of the fence, and they do not write articles in national newspapers blaming it upon such all embracing terms as ‘the defenders of Palestine’.
Hari’s particular Livinsgtone Formulation (“The defenders of Israel’s war claimed you could only believe the reports…if you were infected with the old European virus of Jew-hatred”) is so indiscriminate it could even include the Independent’s own editorial about the soldiers’ testimonies, which states in part:

“Nor does the conduct of Israeli troops invalidate the overall objective of Operation Cast Lead, namely to stop Hamas firing rockets into towns in Southern Israel”.

Ironically, this part of the editorial probably sums up what many of those who basically back Israel felt during the Gaza war. It most certainly does not mean that they were lambasting Hari et al as infected with Jew-hatred for simply believing reports of IDF wrongdoing that emerged during the conflict.
For arguments sake, perhaps Hari would have been closer to the truth if he had written that Israel’s defenders are concerned that the “old European virus of Jew-hatred” plays a role in the unique obsessions and emotions that are stirred by Israel today. However, he didn’t.

Mark Gardner, Director of Communications, CST