Sarah Annes Brown’s lecture notes on Seven Jewish Children

I found the fierce discussions which Seven Jewish Children inspired when it was first produced extremely interesting, and suggested giving a seminar on the play as part of a postgraduate course on modern and postmodern literature. I did wonder whether that was wise, given its controversial subject matter, but in practice the classes seemed to go smoothly, without causing offence, and we’’ve had some very good discussions, particularly focusing on the distribution of lines in the play. Engage has offered to post a link to my lecture notes on the play. I’’ve never given the lecture in its full form, but have used the material here to shape the discussion. Some Engage regulars get a mention and you can view the PDF HERE.

Sarah Annes Brown, Professor of English Literature, Anglia Ruskin University.

Jeffrey Herf Reviews Gilbert Achcar’s “The Arabs and the Holocaust”

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).

Combatants for Peace – July 2010 UK Tour

This is a guest post by Kubbeh.

Israeli and Palestinian peace activists from Combatants for Peace are coming to the UK for a four-date tour later this month (21-30 July) in conjunction with Encounters. The bi-national group was set up by former Israel Defence Force soldiers and Palestinian militants who decided to put down their weapons and, instead, chose to work towards a peaceful future. (Engage can confirm that CfP are genuine peaceniks – and will be travelling to England by plane and not on a ship loaded with iron bars, knives etc.)

This tour will be a breath of fresh air for anyone who wants to see a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. By cooperating across borders, Combatants for Peace are working towards an alternative paradigm to boycotts, demonisation, hatespeech and other strategies which serve to perpetuate conflict. The Israelis and Palestinians will be sharing their personal stories and non-violent creative methods for resolving conflict.

Combatants for Peace UK tour dates are as follows:

  • Saturday 24 July – Warrington Peace Foundation (10am and 7.30pm)
  • Tuesday 27 July – Centre for Peace & Reconciliation Studies, Coventry University (7.30pm)
  • Wednesday 28 July – Frontline Club, London (7pm)
  • Thursday 29 July – Amnesty International UK, London (10am and 7pm)

Full details here.

Bassam Aramim Scholarship Fund

The group is also raising funds for Bassam Aramim, Combatants for Peace co-founder, to study for a Peace Studies MA at Bradford University in order to strengthen his ability to struggle for peace and find solutions to the conflict in his backyard. For more information and to donate click here.

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.

OneVoice channels fury

Got this by email from OneVoice:

“If you are furious about the situation in Israel and Palestine, you are not alone. Most people across the globe feel helpless seeing so much hatred, so many deaths and so much extremism.

As the situation continues to unravel, we at OneVoice are saying: enough.

The tragic events that unfolded in the waters off Gaza two weeks ago have brought into sharp focus just how dangerously unsustainable the status quo in the region is.  We call on every citizen to redouble his or her efforts to seize back the agenda for a comprehensive two-state solution – guaranteeing an end to the conflict, end to the occupation, and ensuring security and peace for the people of Israel and Palestine.

Amid these circumstances, it is almost impossible to think about the future. But now is precisely when we need to do everything in our power to ensure that such actions never happen again.

Imagine for a moment the year 2018.  What if in 2018 there was a final status agreement between Israel and Palestine?

Now imagine what life in 2018 will look like for you and your loved ones if there is continued violence, bloodshed and occupation.  Imagine if the events that we witnessed last week were to be compounded by eight more years of blockade, qassam attacks, violence, occupation, insecurity and mistrust.

Both of these futures are in fact very real.  Separated only by the willingness of people and their leaders to be courageous and take the actions necessary to achieving a two-state solution.

OneVoice Israel and OneVoice Palestine youth leaders are capturing thousands of visions for 2018 – asking people not only to visualize their future, but to create it!

OneVoice is channeling the frustrations of the millions of people who feel helpless and paralysed into concrete and constructive actions to ensure this tragedy does not repeat itself. Many Israelis, Palestinians, and concerned international observers do not agree about what took place off the shores of Gaza. Nor do they agree about what took place in 1948, 1967, or pretty much any date that marks a landmark event in this conflict’s constant downward spiral. But the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians can agree about what 2018 should look like.

We are asking three questions:

WHAT will it take to end the conflict?

– This month, Adi Grady speaks about her efforts in convincing Israelis to support their government in negotiations.

WHAT does the region look like?

– In this issue, Dalia Labadi gives her account of a special Town Hall Meeting in Jenin with Palestinian Policemen

WHAT is your role in getting there?

Mohammed Asideh gives his personal story about growing up in Nablus, why he joined OneVoice Palestine, and what he’s doing to help build a Palestinian state.

What is your 2018?

OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward a two-state solution. The movement works to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by advocating for a negotiated two-state solution that ends the occupation, ensures security and peace for Israel and Palestine, and solves all final-status issues in accordance with international law. The 1967 borders form the basis for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state with permanent borders and any modifications to be agreed on by both parties. The movement recognises that violence by either side will never be a means to end the conflict.”


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.”

Review of Benny Morris’ book ‘One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict’

This review is by Brian Goldfarb.

Benny Morris – ‘One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict’

Yale UP, 2009.

By his own admission, Benny Morris has “moved marginally rightward”, as he says of himself in an article in The New Republic in 2009 reviewing and critiquing Avi Shlaim’s book “Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations”   (,0). By the same token, he notes that the other Israeli “New Historians” – Ilan Pappe, Tom Segev, Avi Shlaim – having started, like himself, on the left of Israeli politics, have “steadily drifted leftward (if that really is the direction of people expressing understanding and sympathy for the likes of Yasser Arafat and Hamas).” It goes further: Shlaim (who, though born in Iraq, is more British than anything else, having been largely brought up and educated in  the UK and is now a professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and a fellow of the British Academy) is less than complimentary about Morris’s work.

Thus, in the New Republic article cited above, Morris quotes a Shlaim article in which he says of Morris that he “is in danger of becoming…’a genuine charlatan’”…which is a very British way of saying that [Morris is] a charlatan”. We must also remember that Morris was born in the UK, which accounts for his excellent and untranslated prose style, and for his understanding of the very British nuance that Shlaim displays.

However, Morris’s latest book will do nothing to alter the views of those such as Shlaim and the other “New Historians” as to his supposed rightward drift. His last book, “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War”, published in 2008, was clearly a return by him to a more conventional view, from the Israeli side, of the causes both of that conflict and of the Palestinian refugee situation, as readers of these pages will know. That is, he, in essence, repudiated his earlier views as to which side was the prime mover in the creation of the Palestinian exodus from what became post-1948 Israel. Now, claiming access to official (mainly Israeli) documents not available earlier, he argued that the Arab states encouraged this movement and, anyway, in many cases, civilians, hearing the sound of gunfire getting closer, did what unarmed civilians most often do in such situations: flee. Of course, there was an Israeli push, especially from Irgun, and, occasionally, even Haganah units overstepped the mark. But essentially it was, at worst, six of one, half-a-dozen of the other and there was no official Israeli government policy on expulsion.

Now, his history of the politics of the one state, two state issue will further alienate him from his erstwhile fellow “New Historians” and others of that ilk, all the way from IJV, JfJfP through to the whole of the BDS squadrons, to say nothing of the people who believe that they are advancing the Palestinian cause by demonising Israel.  Whether Morris will care is another matter.

The book starts with 7 pages of maps as to what the various proposals for partition would or did look like “on the ground”. This is followed by a short (27 page) chapter on “The Reemergence of One-Statism”, which is a tour through the mainly Arab and Palestinian retreat from “their at least superficial espousal during the 1990s of a two state solution and a reversion to the openly enunciated policy of the Fatah and Palestinian Liberation Organization in the 1960s and 1970s…which posited the elimination of the Jewish state and the establishment in its stead of an Arab-dominated polity encompassing the territory of Israel and the (at present) semioccupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.” (pp 1-2) Just try counting the number of contested and contestable statements in that sentence alone.

The bulk of the book (pp 28 to 160) is concerned with “The History of One-State and Two-State Solutions”. To this reader, this chapter was both interesting and essentially uncontroversial, to the extent that I was already aware of much of the history. Others may well find at least some of his interpretations interesting, to say the least. However, in my view, the real sting comes in the final, 40 page chapter: “Where To?” Perhaps unsurprisingly, he utterly rejects the one-state, bi-national, solution as likely to lead to, at best, a Jewish exodus. However, his own conclusion will, if read with care, come as a surprise, although there are those who will find it anathema.

He concludes, despite his rejection of the “one-state” solution, that the “conventional” two-state solution – a Palestine composed of the West Bank and Gaza, with a guaranteed access between the two, and an Israel essentially within the 1967 Truce lines, with or without land swaps – is no longer viable. The area that would be Palestine is far too small. His proposed solution is for an enlarged Jordan: one that will encompass Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan (again, with or without land swaps to allow for the major settlement bloc(s)). He squeezes this idea into the final two pages of his book, and summarises it thus: “…a partition of Palestine into Israel…along its pre-1967 borders, and an Arab state, call it Palestinian-Jordanian, that fuses the bulk of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the east bank…” (p. 199). It would be physically large enough, Morris argues, to allow for the Palestinian desire for expansion (ie, the Palestinian Right of Return) as well as for future development. Morris’s sting in the tail comes with this gem: “…the unification of the P[alestinian]N[ational]A[uthority] and Jordan, with its relatively powerful army and security services, would provide the possibility of reining in the militants (much as Jordan has easily and successfully reined in its own…militants over the past decades).” Hardly music to the ears of the one-statists!

It must be left to the reader to decide how viable such a solution would be, but to Engage and other supporters of the “Euston Manifesto” (of whom the author is proud to be one), it’s certainly a solution worthy of serious consideration and debate.

Morris offers one further satisfaction for regular readers of these columns: his preparedness to dub many writers on this issue and also the lobby as guilty of “mendacity”, including Mearsheimer and Walt and many other proponents of the one-state solution. For those without a dictionary to hand, “mendacity” is a very British way of calling someone a liar. It also carries clear implications of being a knowing liar.

On Frankie Boyle, Jews and Israelis

It’s now common-place for people who think they’re being to-the-point about matters concerning Israel to then go on to confuse Jew, Israeli and Zionist, implicating them interchangeably in Israel’s policies, often with intense hostility.

You might assume an honest mistake but if, on being corrected, they become indignant and start going on about being gagged, speaking truth to power and so on, then you have to entertain the idea that they’re labouring under an aversion to Jews imperfectly contained in a more socially-acceptable aversion to Zionists and Israel.

Frankie Boyle, dispensing with the figleaf, proposed that his audience should think of Palestine as a cake punched to bits by a Jew and then, when lightly reprimanded after a complaint was upheld, accused the BBC of capitulating to a “lobby” and with startling sincerity disclosed that he had written the jokes in support of Palestinians.

A Richard Herring tweet got me to this by The Man Who Fell Asleep.

He talks about the difficult relationship many Jews outside Israel have with Israel, exacerbated by Israel’s policy towards Palestinians, and continues:

“What really annoys me about Boyle’s letter to the BBC is the tone. This is the pathetic self-pity of a man who courts controversy, who happily laughs at down-syndrome kids but feels that he can take the moral high-ground when the BBC rebukes him for villifying a minority. He continues his letter by explaining that he once watched a documentary about Palestine, sounding like nothing more than David Cameron explaining that he once met a black man. Well, you’ve watched a documentary about Palestine! Brilliant! That certainly makes you an expert, or at least cool enough to stride around Dalston in a Palestinian scarf, high-fiving those who wish the destruction of Israel.

Oh, and of course he talks of “well-drilled lobbying,” which plays into the hands of those who believe the Jews control the media. Is there are pro-Israel lobby? Of course there is, just as there’s a pro-Palestinian lobby and a pro-Iranian lobby and a pro-American lobby. All sides have their lobbies.

He continues with more self-pity: “…I cried at that [the documentary] and promised myself that I would do something. Other than write a few stupid jokes I have not done anything. Neither have you.””

There’s something really ugly about seeing a person’s sense of their own cosmic impotence curdle into vindictive blame.

Hat tip: my other half (who must be Richard Herring’s most devoted fan).

Israel boycott again on agenda in UK

Dr. David Hirsh of Engage, a group of academics and trade unionists who campaign against the boycott call, came out strongly against the UCU’s move.

“Annually, the boycotters propose to exclude Israelis from the global academic, economic, artistic and sporting community as though Israel was unique on the planet and as though it was normal to punish ordinary working people for the actions of their government,” said Hirsh. “The UCU leadership does nothing about the boycott or about the Palestinians, but continues to allow anti-Semitic ways of thinking to pollute the union and to degrade our solidarity.”

Read the whole article by Jonny Paul here.

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