Amnesty International official calls Israel “scum state”

Amnesty has excellent vision and the majority of its work is necessary and good. We all benefit from the scrutiny of strong human rights organisations and I do not want to weaken Amnesty. But this from Amnesty International’s Finnish head Frank Johansson requires attention.

“Scum” is a Google translation, apparently. When I ran “nilkki” through Google translate, I got “twat”. Alternative translations offered have been “punk state” or “creep state”. None really helps this official of a leading human rights organisation whose credibility depends on being able to criticise governments without those governments writing Amnesty off as simply antagonistic to the country. Do Amnesty officials publicly insult other countries like that or, once again, is it only Israel?

Why are so many members of so many organisations prepared to sacrifice their credibility for the chance to vent their flimsy personal opinions about Israel? Weird.

Sponsor asylum seekers’ project in Oldham

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Mike Luft, who has been an anti-fascist campainger for more than 50 years, will walk across the Pyrenées from La Junquera in Spain to La Coume in France – a journey of approx. 170 miles/273km – from 13 to 24 September 2010.

Mike’s walk, together with Stewart Bailey who is a Quaker, is an urgent fund-raising effort on behalf of Oldham Unity, a self-financing solidarity project which supports asylum seekers and refugees in the Oldham, Lancashire, area, providing emergency food parcels and accommodation to those who do not qualify for any state support, to people left without anything.

Mike, a former construction electrician, later library technician, and for his whole adult life an active communist and trade unionist, has always been a keen student of the Spanish Civil War and has researched the routes taken by those who crossed into the Spanish Republic to support the democratically-elected Republican Government against Franco fascism and also the routes taken by the Spanish refugees and anti-fascist fighters after Franco’s Hitler and Mussolini-aided victory.

As a result, he decided to retrace the routes taken on the terrible journey from Spain to France in 1939.

Commemorative plaque in Castell San Ferran
Commemorative plaque in Castell San Ferran

The route taken by Mike and Stewart will include:

  • La Vajol a border crossing used by the refugees
  • Las Illas the site of a memorial to the International Brigades (IB)
  • Valmanya a mining village destroyed, like Oradour and Lidice were, by the SS as a savage reprisal because it was a centre of fierce anti-fascist resistance organised by the FTP and Spanish Republicans.The partisan group there was named after Henri Barbusse. Its leader was Julien Panchot who was tortured most horribly and murdered by the SS in August 1944. He had fought in Spain with the IB and was a unifier and inspiration of the partisan network.
  • La Coume now an international welcome centre for children and adolescents. Set up, thanks to a Quaker member of the famous Clarke’s shoe company, as a refuge for Jewish children who were refugees from fascist persecution it was initially run by a German anti-fascist called Pitt Kruger and continued as a haven for children fleeing fascism up to Pinochet’s murderous coup in Chile.

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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)

Ian Anderson to boycotters: “Don’t fucking tell me what to do”

Jethro Tull are playing Israel. Their multi-talented musician and vocalist Ian Anderson was forced to respond to “some very hateful communication from people representing different sides of this ongoing issue – from supposed human rights supporters to individuals, bodies and groups … some pretty nasty stuff”.

Some artists seem to find threats persuasive, but Ian Anderson writes on Jethro Tull’s website that they will play Israel and moreover that he personally will be playing for its own sake, not for the money:

“Having performed concerts in the Middle East region many times over the last few years, I am well aware of the ethnic and religious tensions existing, not only in the countries concerned, but in the broader international diasporas representing the various groups and their interests.

Having long maintained the position that culture and the arts should be free of political and religious censorship and a distance kept between them, I took a decision in February of 2009 that any future concerts in Israel by me or Jethro Tull would result in charitable donations to bodies representing the development of peaceful co-existence between Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the fostering of better Palestinian/Israeli relations. A number of potential charitable beneficiaries have now been identified and are under consideration.

I speak only for my own share of concert profits here – I am not about to tell the rest of the musicians or crew what views they should hold or what to do with their remuneration. Nor do I feel pressured by human rights groups, national interests or any individuals to perform or not to perform in Israel or anywhere else. I make up my own mind in light of available facts, with my own experience and a sense of personal ethics.

To those who tell me I should “boycott” Israel (or, for that matter, Turkey or Lebanon), I can only point out that on my travels around the world I am continually reminded of atrocities carried out historically by many nations who are now our friends, and it serves to strengthen my resolve that some degree of peace and better understanding may result from my and other artists’ professional and humble efforts in such places. If I had the opportunity to perform today in Iran or North Korea, hell – I’d be there if I thought it would make a tiny positive net contribution to better relations.

It’s a long time since Pearl Harbor, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the firestorm of Dresden and I hope that, one bright day sometime in the future, it will seem a long time since the blockading of the supply flotilla to Gaza and the bombing of Israeli citizens by Hamas and Hizbolla.

So, I decided many months ago not to profit from my work in this troubled region and hope that interested parties on all sides will understand and respect my decision and resolve. The details of recipients of my charitable donation will be posted for the benefit of the doubters, as usual, on this website later in the year.

Ian Anderson, June 2010.”

And since then, he says, nobody has uttered a peep. He’s also made it impossible for Jethro Tull to be co-opted for the Israeli governing coalition’s public relations. It’s really that straightforward – take courage, Elvis!

Next door neighbours got 14 year-old me into Jethro Tull and I love them still.

How to overcome stress

File under “When satire goes wrong”, as Jams says in the comments to this Simply Jews post about this skit at The Onion.

Posted in humour. 4 Comments »

Mark Gardner on Mark Steel

It is neither CST’s desire nor role to act as a public relations outlet for Israel.

However, when antisemitism arises, directly, because facts have been deliberately omitted from an anti-Israel article, we will say so.

Today’s Independent provides one very small example of this. In this instance, the anti-Israel criticism, with not a word about Jews, is provided by columnist and comedian, Mark Steel.

Steel’s article is a disgraceful perversion of a Jerusalem Post interview with Israeli commandoes from the Turkish flotilla clash. Steel claims that Israeli “Sgt S” said the six people he shot “were without a doubt terrorists”.

Read the rest on the CST blog.

US co-op boycotting Israel receives ‘support’ from anti-Semites

This is a guest post by Kubbeh.

An American food co-operative has admitted that it has received anti-Semitic comments ‘in support’ of the boycott of Israeli products that it announced last month. The Olympia Food Co-op’s blog carried the following message: “Unfortunately anti-Semitic statements have abounded in a lot of the ‘support’ that the co-op has received in regard to the Israeli-products’ boycott.” (The co-op did not divulge the specifics of the messages that it had received.)

Whilst it is encouraging to see the co-op take a stand against anti-Jewish bigotry, it is nonetheless disappointing that the organisation remains intent on banning the produce of Israeli farmers from its shelves – thus using the actions of Israel’s government as an excuse to discriminate against ordinary citizens. Whilst congratulated the co-op for taking a stand against anti-Semitism,Ha’aretz columnist Bradley Burston also condemning the boycott movement:

“I remain opposed to boycotts, Olympia’s included, first because I oppose collective punishment of all kinds, whether practiced by Israel against Gazans, or by progressives against Israelis as a whole. I also believe that boycotts against Israel tend to be self-defeating and play into the hands of the right.“

The Olympia Food Co-operative’s boycott only extends to two stores in Washington State, however, it received widespread press coverage owing to the fact that Olympia is the hometown of pro-Palestinian activist, Rachel Corrie, who died in Gaza. The co-op’s boycott has nothing more than symbolic value – and any impact on the Israeli economy will be negligible. Once again, empty gesture politics win over genuine efforts to support the struggle for peace in the Middle East.

Olympia Food Co-op boycott: wrong

Washington state’s Olympia Food Co-op “honor nationally recognized boycotts which are called for reasons that are compatible with our goals and mission statement”. In that vein they’re adding Israel to a list which includes all of China and one US company (is that seriously all?). The decision to go for an all-Israel boycott rather than boycotting the settlements suggests that only Israel’s end as a Jewish state will satisfy these boycotters. The wording of the boycott statement either confirms this or confirms their ignorance.

The unusual thing about this boycott is that the Olympia Food Co-op also say antisemitism is a problem and even more unusually (unlike the University and College Union, for example) they have identified a problem in pro-Palestinian movements which (unlike Cafe Crema, for example) they consider – if briefly – to be their problem:

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitic statements have abounded in a lot of the “support” that the co-op has received in regard to the Israeli-products’ boycott. This pamphlet (downloadable, or available for reading online) is a good primer on what anti-Semitism looks like, especially in relation to pro-Palestinian work, and how we can include work against Jewish oppression in our movements for justice and peace.”

(Yes, read it again – that’s actually oppression of Jews, not by them.)

Writing in Ha’aretz, Bradley Burston:

“I want to thank the Olympia Food Co-op Israel boycott. Something extremely valuable is happening there. Something truly radical. An awareness that people who are truly in favor of social justice must take a stand against bigotry, no matter the target.”

Spare us. It’s a sign of the times that a short post and link to a pamphlet against antisemitism can bring about such extremes of relief and gratitude that an anti-boycotter fails to notice the boycott terms and overlooks the difference – gulf – between reasons and outcomes.

A boycott of farmers, manufacturers and distributors in Israel doesn’t deserve any “honor”. It doesn’t distinguish between Israel and the settlements, doesn’t respond to the anti-Jewish threats from the neighbours, and ignores the long-standing suppressed war against Israel currently making itself evident in Eilat, Ashkelon and – fatally – the Jordanian city of Aqaba. These things give some explanation why Binyamin Netanyahu, bad leader of a bad coalition, has such strong approval in Israel.

Boycotting workers in Israel is useless and probably counter-productive. How does it help anti-boycotters like Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, which has just managed to get Israel’s own Gaza flotilla investigation (which I’m willing to bet you didn’t hear on the news reports about the UN investigation) upgraded to legal standing?

That the Olympia Food Co-op were prepared to hurt themselves so badly to bring in such clearly unpromising policy is alarmingly disorientated. At best. Linking to that pamphlet was the least they could do.

Update: via Entdichtung in the comments below, a vehemently anti-Zionist and anti-capitalist view from the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) who at the same time consider the standing BDS campaign antithetical “to the international working-class struggle on which the liberation of the Palestinians is premised. BDS campaigns serve to promote illusions in the benign nature of other capitalist powers — not least British imperialism — relative to Israel”.

The purpose of boycotting Israel

On the allergy of boycott campaign leaders to Israeli and Palestinian partnership.

What kind of one state campaigner won’t take a stand against antisemitism in their movement? What kind of peace campaigner interferes with partnerships?

Bonus link for British readers available until this Thursday: BBC Radio 4, The World Tonight, Friday 29 July, 22:00, beginning minute 36.50, Mustafa Barghouti not addressing any of the barriers to his “more human” one state settlement, nor any of the reasons why most people accept that it’s either two states or conflict.