What is Engage?

Martin Bright on Ronnie Fraser’s Legal Action


Martin Bright

This piece, by Martin Bright, is from the JC.com

Pivotal moment for unions and Labour

For many years, too many trade union members have stood by as their officers expended significant time and money on international “solidarity” campaigns. The honourable cause of Palestinian national self-determination has thus been swallowed up in an ideological pudding that bundles together Venezuela, Chile and Cuba within campaign groups often run by the same small number of hard-left organisations.

Mr Fraser, director of Academic Friends of Israel, has been driven to this course of action by his treatment at the hands of his fellow trade unionists. This should be a matter of deep shame to all his comrades in the UCU. The union that represents the country’s intellectuals and thinkers should never have allowed itself to be drawn into this kind of fringe politics. Now it finds itself the subject of a harassment complaint under the Equality Act 2010.

As it has done so often over recent years, the trade union movement has provided the stick with which its opponents can beat it. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was able to occupy the moral high ground when he wrote in the JC last week that the UCU was sending a “chilling message” to Jewish academics and students.

The labour movement and the party that represents it has been left flat-footed once more.

The TUC leadership has so far held the line against an all-out boycott on Israel but it will come under increasing pressure to harden its stance in the run-up to this year’s Congress in September. So far Ed Miliband has been silent on the issue. He has the rest of the summer to reflect, but then he must show some leadership.

This piece, by Martin Bright, is from the JC.com

SA Advertising Authority allows an advert which calls Israel apartheid

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies made a complaint against the South African Advertising Standards Authority concerning a radio commercial which was made by “Artists Against Apartheid”, calling for a boycott of Israel because it was an apartheid state.

The commercial features the voice of Dave Randall, lead singer of the group Faithless. He says,

Hi, I’m Dave Randall from Faithless. Twenty years ago I would not have played in apartheid South Africa; today I refuse to play in Israel. Be on the right side of history. Don’t entertain apartheid. Join the international boycott of Israel. I support southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com.

The Complaint said that

the commercial is untrue, and not supported by any evidence to verify the implied claim that Israel is an apartheid state. Given that there is no finding that Israel is an apartheid state by the International Court of Criminal Justice. The commercial contains a lie which amounts to false propaganda.

The finding said:

The expression of the view that Israel is an apartheid state in contravention of international law is based on a sound factual matrix and the connection between apartheid South Africa and Israel has been made numerous times in the South African media. The claim is therefore justified and arguably capable of substantiation through this range of documentary sources.

The whole ruling is here.

Here are links to the debate from last october relating to the decision of the University of Johannesburg to cut its scientific links with Ben Gurion University in Israel.  Included here are pieces from Desmond Tutu, Robert Fine, Ran Greenstein, David Newman, Neve Gordon, David Hirsh and Farrid Essack.

Here is David Hirsh’s short critique of the apartheid analogy.

What’s wrong with PACBI’s “call” for a boycott?  click here.

For the Engage archive on the Israel / Apartheid analogy click here.



Irwin Cotler – on judging the distinction between legitimate criticism and demonization

From Cotler’s interview in Ha’aretz:

Since the start of the 21st century, the world has been “witnessing a new and escalating, globalizing, virulent, and even lethal anti-Semitism,” Cotler said, one which substitutes hate for the Jewish person with hate for the Jewish state. “We had moved from the discrimination against Jews as individuals, to the discrimination against Jews as a people, to Israel as the targeted collective ‘Jew among the nations.”

But he said not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.

“I think we’ve got to set up certain boundaries of where it does cross the line, because I’m one of those who believes strongly, not only in free speech, but also in rigorous debate, and discussion, and dialectic, and the like,” he said. “If you say too easily that everything is anti-Semitic, then nothing is anti-Semitic, and we no longer can make distinctions.”

The whole interview is here.


The following response from Irwin Cotler has been posted on Antony Lerman’s blog:


Your headline in the article “Canadian MP Cotler: Calling Israel an apartheid state can be legitimate free speech“ – as well as the inappropriate juxtaposition of disparate comments – suggest that the indictment of Israel as an apartheid state can be legitimate free speech.

As all of my writing, my talk at the President’s Conference and my follow up interview with Ha’aretz make clear: the indictment of Israel as an apartheid state is false, defamatory and hateful, but the right to be wrong, defamatory and hateful – however offensive it may be, can nevertheless be an exercise in free speech. Simply put, the fact that the indictment is hateful – and may cross the line into being anti-Semitic when it calls for the dismantling of the State – does not mean that we should prohibit the hateful speech to begin with.

It means, as I said in the interview, that we need to engage it, expose it, rebut it and thereby “delegitimize the delegitimizers” – not prevent their delegitimizing speech to begin with.

The main theme in my writings – and in the interview – was regrettably not referenced in the article itself: that the real concern is not the phenomenon of the delegitimization of Israel. That has always been with us – what is new, and particularly offensive, is the laundering of the delegitimization of Israel under all that which is good, for example: the struggle against racism, international law, human rights, and the like. The result is not only prejudicial to the State of Israel – as in the indictment of Israel as an apartheid state or the singling out of Israel for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena– but prejudicial to the case and cause of the struggle against racism and human rights.

To label Israel an apartheid state demeans the real struggle against apartheid – in which I was honoured to be at the forefront – as much as it falsely misrepresents Israel, however one may criticize Israeli policy and practice.

Irwin Cotler
Montreal, Quebec, Canada