#BDS Misusing the term antisemitism for pro-israel political purposes deprives it of its charge

Protests as Israeli ambassador interferes to censor free speech

Censorship battle and an antisemitic charge cause anger

Dr David Alderson and 42 others want the University of Manchester to apologise to the students whose campaign it has maligned, and to the censored speaker whom it has defamed. Meanwhile Prof Avi Shlaim and six other signatories object to Moshe Machover’s expulsion from the Labour party

The University of Manchester should ‘make clear that it defends the principles of free speech’, say Dr David Alderson and his fellow signatories. 

Letters, The Guardian
October 15, 2017

We write to express our deep concern at the actions of senior figures within the University of Manchester in relation to an event organised by the student Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign earlier this year (UK university censors Holocaust survivor’s speech criticising Israel, theguardian.com, 29 September). While the event went ahead, the speech of a Jewish Holocaust survivor was arrogantly censored and labelled antisemitic, the right to superintend the meeting by university academic staff was usurped by institutional appointees, restrictions were placed on advertising the event, and the whole thing was filmed in what amounted to an implicit threat of potential further action.

As if such serious infringements of the right to freedom of speech on campus were not bad enough, it is now revealed by a student freedom of information request that the university’s actions were taken after representations from, and in deference to, the very regime whose lamentable human rights record was being condemned at the event. We are appalled that the university appeared to take instruction from Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, who, in his former capacity as spokesperson to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, justified to the world successive military assaults on Gaza that resulted in the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children in attacks on hospitals, homes and places of work using both high-precision weaponry and imprecise and indiscriminate materiel, including white phosphorous bombs.

We ask the university to apologise to the students whose campaign it has maligned, and to the censored speaker, Marika Sherwood, whom it has defamed. It should further make clear that it defends the principles of free speech and assembly against attempts to inhibit them by foreign states and other powerful external parties.

Dr David Alderson
Professor Mona Baker (Emerita)
Dr Lauren Banko
Dr Mark Brown
Professor Erica Burman
Professor Bridget Byrne
Alessandro Columbu
Professor Aneez Esmail
Emma Clarke

Professor Jeanette Edwards
Dr Douglas Field
Professor Hal Gladfelder
Dr Bethan Harries
Dr Jenny Hughes
Andrew Howes
Professor Tim Jacoby
Dr Stef Jansen
Dr Steven Jones
Dr Paul Kelemen (Honorary research fellow)
Dr Barbara Lebrun

Peter McMylor
Professor Rayaz A Malik
Professor David Matthews
Dr Vanessa May
Dr Dalia Mostafa
Dr Adel Nasser
Dr Richie Nimmo
Dr Michelle Obeid
Professor Luis Perez-Gonzalez
Dr Eithne Quinn

Dr Madeleine Reeves
Professor Dee Reynolds
Dr Myriam Salama-Carr
Dr Michael Sanders
Professor Ludi Simpson
Professor Zahia Smail Salhi
Dr Graham Smith
Dr Robert Spencer
Professor Jackie Stacey
David Swanson
Dr Petra Tjitske Kalshoven
Dr Nicholas Thoburn
Professor Julian Williams



A young Moshe Machover with friend and comrade Jabra Nicola (R), an anti-Stalinist member of the Palestine Communist party.

Letter

For George Monbiot, Labour could herald a new political movement, addressing the environmental challenge and inequality by “threatening established power in Britain”, creating space for a new politics (The Labour party could lead worldwide economic change, 11 October). We hope so. That is why we are members of the party. Not all members share this ambition. Some, it seems, would go to almost any lengths to thwart it.The latest such move is the exclusion of Professor Moshe Machover, an academic and Israeli socialist, long resident in the UK. His offence? Two infringements: his insistence that anti-Zionism and support for Palestinian rights are not antisemitic; and his willingness to write articles about this in any leftwing publication. For this, he has been expelled from the party.

Misusing the term antisemitism for pro-Israel political purposes deprives it of its charge

In this strange linguistic wonderland, it is antisemitic to argue that anti-Zionism is not antisemitic.The charge of antisemitism against Machover is personally offensive and politically dangerous. Misusing the term antisemitism for pro-Israel political purposes deprives it of its charge and its critical role in naming those who hate Jews because they are Jews. Real antisemitism is obscured by this self-serving redefinition of the term.

Expelling Machover because another organisation published his work is absurd. This could just as well be used against Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Perhaps they are next in line. We are among 139 Labour party members, Jewish and non-Jewish, from many constituency organisations, who have written to our leadership demanding Professor Machover’s reinstatement, and an inquiry into how this has occurred.

Prof Avi Shlaim
Sir Geoffrey Bindman
Brian Eno
Ken Loach
Prof Haim Bresheeth
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

 

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‘A legal shield for the Palestine movement in the U.S.’ #BDS

‘A legal shield for the Palestine movement in the U.S.’

By Amjad  Iraqi

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of a Kansas public school teacher who, as a condition for taking her job, was required under a new state law to declare that she would not engage in boycotts of Israel. The law is just one in a growing list of measures in recent years aiming to counter the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States.

Political boycotts in the U.S. are meant to be stringently protected under the First Amendment. “The state should not be telling people what causes they can or can’t support,” Esther Koontz, the Kansas teacher, said about her lawsuit.

That’s not necessarily the reality these days, however. “It’s clear that when it comes to talking about Palestine, there’s a suspension of the notion that the government has no authority to interfere in that right,” says Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal.

Established in 2012 in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Palestine Legal has been one of the key players holding the frontline against efforts to suppress BDS activity and speech about Palestine across the U.S., from state legislatures to university campuses. Khalidi and her staff responded to 650 such incidents between 2014 and 2016.

Just last month, Palestine Legal responded to false legal threats sent to activists and professors by a group called “Outlaw BDS New York,” which accused them of violating an anti-BDS law that never actually passed the New York State legislature. Along with its legal work, the organization also tracks anti-BDS laws in all 50 states (21 have already enacted such laws) and at the federal level.

I spoke with Khalidi last month about Palestine Legal’s work and to hear her perspective on the various threats to – and signs of hope for – Palestine activism in the U.S., including BDS. The following was edited for length.

Palestine Legal Director Dima Khalidi (Courtesy photo)

Palestine Legal Director Dima Khalidi (Photo courtesy of Palestine Legal)

How and why was Palestine Legal created? What compelled the need for its existence?

“The idea started with conversations among lawyers and activists who were thinking about what we could do legally on Palestine in the U.S. This was in the context of largely unsuccessful attempts – including by CCR, where I interned and co-counselled – to seek accountability for Israel’s violations of international law through domestic and international legal mechanisms.

“This was also happening in the context of a rise in Palestine activism after the 2008-2009 Gaza war – a mobilization that we hadn’t seen in decades. And at the same time, there was an escalation in the backlash against that movement: 11 students at the University of California, Irvine were being criminally prosecuted for protesting a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., and the Olympia Food Co-op was being sued for passing a resolution to boycott Israeli goods.

“What I kept hearing from people was the need for help: that talking about Palestinian rights, and challenging Israel’s actions and narrative, opened people up to a huge amount of risk, attacks, and harassment – much of it legal in nature, or with legal implications.

“So with the support of a handful of people – including the instrumental vision of the legendary human rights lawyer Michael Ratner, who passed away last year – I established Palestine Legal. Our work is meant to provide a legal shield for the Palestine movement, to protect and expand the space to advocate on this issue. As an organization dedicated to movement lawyering, we don’t consider ourselves part of the movement per se, but as supporting the movement’s efforts to challenge the status quo, whatever their tactics.”

That can be a tricky distinction to make – being part of a movement versus supporting a movement.

“It is a tricky balance. Movement lawyering requires us to recognize that it’s not the lawyers that lead or dictate the movement, even if we personally disagree with their tactics or know they’ll land people into trouble. All our staff are deeply political people with their own activist and personal histories, but we try to step back from that role and focus instead on responding to the legal needs of activists on the ground.”

File photo of a pro-BDS protest outside Target in Chicago. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

File photo of a pro-BDS protest outside Target in Chicago. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

Does Palestine Legal only deal with the right to boycott, or does it also address the substantive content or arguments of the BDS movement itself?

“We always go back to why people are motivated to speak out and engage in BDS, which are central to why we have the right to do it. Boycotts are a means for people who don’t necessarily have access to power to take collective action in order to influence change – as was done with the civil rights boycotts, boycotts of apartheid South Africa, and boycotts for farm workers’ rights. The U.S. Supreme Court itself recognized this as a legitimate activity protected by the First Amendment in 1982.

“In this case, the goal of boycotts is to achieve justice, freedom, and equality for Palestinians, who have been continuously dispossessed of their land, livelihoods, dignity, and agency for over seven decades. Those opposed to Palestinian rights try to claim otherwise; so it’s imperative to the legal argument that we return to the key issues that describe the Palestinian experience.”

This isn’t the first time in U.S. history that the right to boycott, or free speech in general, has been suppressed. Why is there still a “Palestine exception” to these rights today? What lessons do you take from the past when dealing with your cases?

“When we talk about the Palestine exception, it’s not to say that it’s the only exception. You can look at the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War, when people were forced to sign loyalty oaths and were subjected to witch hunts and blacklists. The response to that McCarthyist era was an eventual strengthening of First Amendment jurisprudence, which now provides better legal protections against ‘compelled speech,’ for example. This is also true of the Civil Rights era, when states tried to issue new laws to stop certain kinds of protests, and to use existing laws to indict people for boycotting – hence the Supreme Court ruling that recognized political boycotts as a right.

“Still, it’s clear that when it comes to talking about Palestine, there’s a suspension of the notion that the government has no authority to interfere in that right. We see all kinds of bogus justifications for strangling Palestine advocacy: it’s anti-Semitism, it’s support for terrorism, it’s propaganda, it’s discriminatory. Our position is to step in and say there’s no exception here. Talking about Palestine is exactly what the First Amendment is supposed to protect: it’s a dissenting view from what the vast majority of our politicians and officials espouse, and it is speech that the government most wants to censor, so it must be vigilantly protected.

“Another part of the reason why Palestine feels different is that the attacks pervade all aspects of our lives today. The backlash can be online (look at outfits like Canary Mission, which profile and harass people); from employers (look at Steven Salaita, fired for tweeting critically about Israel’s war on Gaza); from donors; from institutions (look at the students censored or punished at Fordham University, University of California-Berkeley, or at the Missouri History Museum). This is because there are influential domestic groups and individuals that are doing everything in their power to shield Israel from scrutiny on every forum, and to ensure that the U.S. continues to unconditionally support Israel.”

The head of a major Israel advocacy group was quoted in 2016 saying to BDS activists: “While you were doing your campus antics, the grown-ups were in the state legislature passing laws that make your cause improbable.” What do you take from that? Why is more of the anti-BDS backlash today coming in the form of legislation?

“That quote says a lot about the political dynamics in the U.S. On the one hand, you have an intersectional grassroots movement that’s driven by students and youth. On the other hand, you have a well-resourced and well-connected constituency that’s deeply entrenched in state and public institutions. The way that Israel lobby groups are successful in pushing such blatantly unconstitutional laws, and the way university heads face (and often succumb to) pressure from advocacy groups, alumni, donors, and state officials, further illustrates this top-down approach.

“There’s a growing and visible alliance between Zionist groups in the U.S., the right-wing Israeli government, and far right groups in the US. They believe that they can dictate the discourse on Israel-Palestine, and get around the First Amendment problem, by pandering to Islamophobic sentiment; by conflating nonviolent resistance with terrorism; and by undermining the motivation and rights of the entire Palestine movement. Even many in the Democratic Party and self-described “progressives” blindly support these agendas.

“At the same time, we’re seeing groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) offering different paths. There’s an enormous pushback to the more established right-wing Jewish organizations – and that’s exciting. But at the moment, those organizations still have the ability to drive the narrative from above. We have a long way to go; but in the long run, it’ll become untenable to ignore a powerful and growing grassroots movement.”

In Israel we have an anti-boycott civil law and now another law to deny entry to foreigners who partake in BDS. The right wing seems to think that legislation is an effective way to achieve its goals.

“Indeed. Dissent becomes the exception the more authoritarian the regime is, and we see signs of this in both the U.S. and Israel as forms of protest are being punished. It’s also telling that the language in Israeli laws is showing up in anti-BDS legislation in the U.S., such as the phrase ‘Israeli-controlled territory’ to refer to West Bank settlements. It just goes to show that we’re dealing with the same forces – and ultimately, that translates into advocating for those same things domestically. How can you be for equality in the U.S. when you defend Israel’s discriminatory laws and apartheid policies? It doesn’t add up.”

Anti-Semitism is routinely charged against Palestine activism. How do you address those accusations?

“We’ve had success with this legally on some levels. One of the tactics advanced by pro-Israel groups is to codify a redefinition of anti-Semitism which encompasses the ‘three D’s’: delegitimization, demonization, and double standards toward Israel. You can imagine that any and all criticism of Israel can basically fall into those three categories. But when these things go to court or even government agencies, a clear distinction is made between discrimination on the basis of religion or national origin, versus criticism of states and state actions.

“For example, the U.S. Education Department received complaints under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, claiming that universities are tolerating hostile anti-Semitic activities by allowing groups and events that criticize Israel. The Education Department dismissed the complaints and said that this is political speech, and that just because it might be offensive to some, it doesn’t mean that it’s harassment or discrimination.

“Moreover, the vast majority of Palestine advocates are unequivocal about their opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. When we put these matters in the context not only of free expression, but also that the Palestine movement opposes all forms of oppression – that’s when we’re able to make the most impact.”

File photo of a pro-Palestine rally in downtown Boston. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

File photo of a pro-Palestine rally in downtown Boston. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

Do all the attacks feel coordinated or concerted?

“Undoubtedly. We see the same two dozen Israel advocacy groups engaging in the same tactics around the country, accusing activists of being threatening, violent, and anti-Semitic for engaging in Palestine activism.

“But it’s also clear that not all those groups agree on tactics. Some, like David Horowitz and Canary Mission, who publicly name and blacklist Palestinian rights advocates as ‘Jew-haters’ and ‘terrorist-supporters,’ are seen as going beyond the pale even among Zionist groups that actively engage in suppression in other ways. There are also disagreements about pursuing anti-BDS legislation, and about imposing the new definition of anti-Semitism mentioned earlier.

“But ultimately, the more ‘extreme’ tactics serve the same purpose as the others: they want to make it so costly to engage in Palestine advocacy that people just become exhausted, give up, and stay silent. I don’t think these tactics are going to work: more and more people are seeing that they can be successfully challenged, more people are learning about the horrors of Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and more people are refusing to stay silent about those policies and the U.S.’s role in enabling them.”

The ACLU recently came out in defense of the right to boycott Israel. How do you reach out to audiences that aren’t your conventional supporters, including those in the American mainstream?

“Palestine is still a lightning rod and there’s still a reluctance to come out on this issue. That said, the more egregious the measures against Palestine advocacy, and the more they attack our fundamental freedoms, the more we see the likes of ACLU being compelled to speak up – even though they still claim neutrality on the underlying political and human rights issues. We’ve worked in several states with ACLU chapters and other groups that typically wouldn’t be willing to step up publicly on these matters, and we’re now seeing them do so because of what’s at stake.

“Steven Salaita’s case is an example of this: when he was fired for tweeting about the 2014 Gaza war, it sent shock waves across academia. Thousands of professors around the U.S. pledged to boycott the university, and a dozen departments voted no confidence in the chancellor. That’s when you see more people being willing to step into the fray, saying that this is dangerous beyond just the matter of Palestine advocacy — that this threatens all our basic rights to dissent and to debate the most important issues of our time.”

What are your thoughts on the future of your work, and on Palestine advocacy in the U.S. in general? What new strategies are you considering?

“We feel like we’ve been on the defensive and putting out a lot of fires over the last five years, which also seem to be coming faster and faster. There’s no doubt that we’ll continue to help those who are under attack; but we’re also thinking about more proactive ways to tackle some of these issues.

“Our lawsuit with CCR against Fordham University – which refused to grant club status to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) because some considered their views too “polarizing”– is an example. The attack on SJP aims to make Palestine activism so radioactive that universities won’t even allow such student groups to form – so it’s crucial that we prevent this from happening. We have a long way to go in enshrining a new narrative that views Palestine advocates as forces for freedom and justice, and their advocacy as protected political expression – but we’re on our way.

“Regarding legislation, our role is to explain to activists and the public what these laws do and don’t do. This is important because one of the main purposes of the legislation is to make people believe that Palestine advocacy is prohibited or criminalized – and that really isn’t the case with most of these laws. So it’s critical to make sure that activists aren’t scared off from their work, but instead feel empowered to confront its challenges.

“There’s also no question that grassroots mobilization has been successful in impacting the political arena, though we hear less about it. Look at the failure of legislative initiatives in states like Virginia, South Carolina, Maryland, and Montana. These victories are because of groups like the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, American Muslims for Palestine, JVP, church groups, and the US Palestinian Community Network. Anti-BDS measures have ultimately strengthened the networks of Palestine advocates across the country, and these coalitions outlast the lifespan of a bill. We believe that the power of these grassroots movements is what will effect change – and that’s what Palestine Legal aims to bolster.”

Unbelievable: Kansas Teacher Barred from Employment for Supporting #BDS

Kansas Teacher Barred from Employment for Supporting BDS

By Stephen Lendman | October 18, 2017

Barring longtime math teacher Esther Koontz from renewing her teaching contract, solely for her political beliefs, is a flagrant First Amendment violation.

She righteously supports BDS activism, wanting Israel held accountable for its high crimes against Palestinians.

Kansas House Bill 2409 prohibits state contracts with individuals critical of Israel’s agenda. In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for the plaintiff against state authorities, cracking down on boycotts of white businesses, saying authority over economic relations doesn’t limit or deny political speech.

Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA. In July, it voted to divest from US companies, profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation.

She supports Palestinian rights. Her employment papers require a declaration in writing of no support for BDS. She declined and was denied the right to train other teachers.

The Kansas law is unconstitutional. The ACLU supports Koontz. Last week on its web site, she headlined “Kansas Won’t Let Me Train Math Teachers Because I Boycott Israel,” saying:

“Because of my political views, the state of Kansas has decided that I can’t help it train other math teachers.”

“I was chosen last spring to participate in a program that trains public school math teachers all over Kansas. After completing a two-day preparation course in May, I was ready to take on the role.”

As a Mennonite Church USA member concerned about human rights, notably longstanding abusive Israeli practices against Palestinians, she won’t buy products made by Israeli companies or from businesses profiting from its ruthlessness.

She’s inspired by how activism helped end South African apartheid, wanting to help the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Last summer, a Kansas State Department of Education email said to participate in its math training program, she’s required “to sign a certification stating that I don’t boycott Israel,” she said.

She was “stunned,” refusing to sign “as a matter of conscience.” Asking if she could still participate in the state’s training program, she was told she could not.

She’s challenging the decision with ACLU help, a federal lawsuit filed on her behalf. A public school math teacher for nine years, she’s trained to teach others how to teach her discipline.

“The lawsuit argues that the Kansas law violates the First Amendment for several reasons,” said the ACLU:

“(I)t compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression; restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression based on its content and viewpoint.”

The suit calls for striking down the Kansas law and barring its Department of Education from requiring contractor/teachers like Koontz from certifying no support for BDS activism.

The First Amendment protects the right to boycott, upheld by Supreme Court rulings. American Revolution supporters boycotted British goods.

Colonists refused to obey the UK Stamp Act. They boycotted British goods in protest. Shop owners signed non-importation agreements. They rejected taxation without representation.

America’s first Supreme Court chief justice John Jay boycotted New York merchants engaged in the slave trade.

The mid-1950s Montgomery bus boycott was a major turning point in the struggle for civil rights. Nationwide anti-war protests in the 1960s and early 70s helped end the Vietnam war.

Boycotts and protests are an American tradition – at risk by extremist governance wanting them curtailed or abolished.

The First Amendment protects these rights. Denying them puts all others at risk.

No federal, state or local authority can legally curtail or prevent free expression in all its forms. Nor is requiring individuals indicate their political beliefs a prerequisite for employment.

If justice is to be served, Koontz will prevail in court, including the Supreme Court if her case goes that far, the unconstitutional Kansas law annulled.

Zionism: The Ideological Cover-Up to Jewish Supremacy

Zionism: The Ideological Cover-Up to Jewish Supremacy

(Photo: Anne Paq, ActiveStills.org, file)

The benign-sounding term “settler” or “settlement” is used so often in the news without reference to Jewish colonization of Palestine that the world often loses sight of the immoral nature of the Zionist project in Palestine. The term is used to describe Jews moving illegally to the West Bank, and commandeering land that belongs to Palestinians. Waves of Jews moving to Israel are no longer called colonists or even settlers in the news media, but rather immigrants.

Palestine is the only and last active act of settler colonialism. Since the creation of the UN, “more than 80 former colonies [including several in the Arab world] comprising some 750 million people have gained independence since the creation of the United Nations.”

Why the exception in the case of Palestine? Because the ideological driving force behind the process, Zionism, is the most virulently and insidiously powerful force on the planet. Over the course of the past one hundred years — i.e., since the Balfour Declaration, Zionism has successfully manipulated imperial powers, first Britain and now the United States, and also instrumentalized Christianity, as well as Judiasm, to serve its political purpose.

As John Berger put it: “Certain voices across the world are raised in protest [against the Jewish state]. But the governments of the rich, with their world media and their proud possession of nuclear weapons, reassure Israel that a blind eye will be cast on what its soldiers are perpetrating.”

Colonialism justifiably has a bad name. When Third World Quarterly published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism”, voices rose sharply demanding “retraction, to fire the journal editors, even to fire author and to revoke his PhD.” In that piece, Bruce Gilley argues controversially that Western colonialism was, “as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found.”

Because of the moral questions raised by Western colonialism, the truth about the colonial nature of the Zionist project in Palestine has long been suppressed — consider, for example, the repulsion generated when a course was proposed at UC Berkeley titled “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis”.

But despite the strong veil of Zionist hasbara that shielded the moral degeneracy of Zionism from view, the paradigm of Israel as a settler-colonial project did gain traction. When that happened, the attitude among pro-Israel and Zionist voices took on the same point of view as that expressed in the Third World Quarterly article.

“Settler colonialism conveys an unarguable sense of delegitimization, racial exclusion and financial exploitation”, wrote Arnon Degani in a September 2016 Haaretz opinion piece, titled: “Israel Is a Settler Colonial State — and That’s OK.”

“…arguing for the comparability of Israeli history to that of the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, pulls the rug from under the agenda of singling out Zionism and its deeds as particularly evil… Israel, though, is probably heading more towards an arrangement similar to that of South African settler colonialism: a consolidation into a democratic republic in which the Whites are recognized as sons of the land and yet still enjoy many of the privileges they accumulated during Apartheid. In Israel, from the left (Haaretz’s own Gideon Levy and Rogel Alpher) and right (President Reuven Rubi Rivilin, MK Yehuda Glick), there is growing sentiment in favor of pursuing this particular one state settler colonial road.”

The case being made here by Degani and his ilk is that Israeli Jews will still come out on top if Israel pursues the “one state settler colonial road”. They will be recognized as “sons of the land”, just as white settlers are in the US or Canada, etc. have been, and “yet still enjoy many of the privileges they accumulated during Apartheid.” Clearly, this is a contention filtered through a Jewish supremacist ideology that is dismissive of the human rights of non-Jews.

BDS, on the other hand, is aimed at ending the three-tiered regime of injustice that has ruined Palestinian society since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948: 1) the military occupation and colonization of the Palestinian — and other Arab — territory occupied by Israel in 1967; 2) the system of institutionalized and legalized racism within Israel against non-Jews, and 3) the persistent denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of the Palestine refugees, especially their right to return to their homes of origin and to reparations.

As Omar Barghouti observes, “Moral reconciliation between conflicting communities is impossible if the essence of the oppressive relationship between them is sustained.” And, in the case of Palestine, not even recognized.

And as long as the fundamental racism and moral blindness of Zionism continues to be obscured – as in negative references to “right-wing Zionism” rather than to plain Zionism or Jewish supremacy – the monumental ideological cover-up to Israel’s crimes against Palestinians will endure.

 – Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. 

Zionism: The Ideological Cover-up to Jewish Colonization of Palestine

 

Zionism: The Ideological Cover-up to Jewish Colonization of Palestine

By Rima Najjar,

The benign-sounding term “settler” or “settlement” is used so often in the news without reference to Jewish colonization of Palestine that the world often loses sight of the immoral nature of the Zionist project in Palestine. The term is used to describe Jews moving illegally to the West Bank, and commandeering land that belongs to Palestinians. Waves of Jews moving to Israel are no longer called colonists or even settlers in the news media, but rather immigrants. 

Palestine is the only and last active act of settler colonialism. Since the creation of the UN, “more than 80 former colonies [including several in the Arab world] comprising some 750 million people have gained independence since the creation of the United Nations.”

Why the exception in the case of Palestine? Because the ideological driving force behind the process, Zionism, is the most virulently and insidiously powerful force on the planet. Over the course of the past one hundred years — i.e., since the Balfour Declaration, Zionism has successfully manipulated imperial powers, first Britain and now the United States, and also instrumentalized Christianity, as well as Judiasm, to serve its political purpose.

As John Berger put it:

“Certain voices across the world are raised in protest [against the Jewish state]. But the governments of the rich, with their world media and their proud possession of nuclear weapons, reassure Israel that a blind eye will be cast on what its soldiers are perpetrating.”

Colonialism justifiably has a bad name. When Third World Quarterly published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism”, voices rose sharply demanding “retraction, to fire the journal editors, even to fire author and to revoke his PhD.” In that piece, Bruce Gilley argues controversially that Western colonialism was, “as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found.”

Because of the moral questions raised by Western colonialism, the truth about the colonial nature of the Zionist project in Palestine has long been suppressed — consider, for example, the repulsion generated when a course was proposed at UC Berkeley titled “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis”.

But despite the strong veil of Zionist hasbara that shielded the moral degeneracy of Zionism from view, the paradigm of Israel as a settler-colonial project did gain traction. When that happened, the attitude among pro-Israel and Zionist voices took on the same point of view as that expressed in the Third World Quarterly article.

“Settler colonialism conveys an unarguable sense of delegitimization, racial exclusion and financial exploitation”, wrote Arnon Degani in a Sep 2016 Haaretz opinion piece, titled: “Israel Is a Settler Colonial State — and That’s OK.”

…arguing for the comparability of Israeli history to that of the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, pulls the rug from under the agenda of singling out Zionism and its deeds as particularly evil… Israel, though, is probably heading more towards an arrangement similar to that of South African settler colonialism: a consolidation into a democratic republic in which the Whites are recognized as sons of the land and yet still enjoy many of the privileges they accumulated during Apartheid. In Israel, from the left (Haaretz’s own Gideon Levy and Rogel Alpher) and right (President Reuven Rubi Rivilin, MK Yehuda Glick), there is growing sentiment in favor of pursuing this particular one state settler colonial road.

The case being made here by Degani and his ilk is that Israeli Jews will still come out on top if Israel pursues the “one state settler colonial road”. They will be recognized as “sons of the land”, just as white settlers are in the U.S. or Canada, etc. have been, and “yet still enjoy many of the privileges they accumulated during Apartheid.” Clearly, this is a contention filtered through a Jewish supremacist ideology that is dismissive of the human rights of non-Jews.

BDS, on the other hand, is aimed at ending the three-tiered regime of injustice that has ruined Palestinian society since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948: 1) the military occupation and colonization of the Palestinian — and other Arab — territory occupied by Israel in 1967; 2) the system of institutionalized and legalized racism within Israel against non-Jews, and 3) the persistent denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of the Palestine refugees, especially their right to return to their homes of origin and to reparations.

As Omar Barghouti observes,

“Moral reconciliation between conflicting communities is impossible if the essence of the oppressive relationship between them is sustained.”

And, in the case of Palestine, not even recognized.

And as long as the fundamental racism and moral blindness of Zionism continues to be obscured – as in negative references to “right-wing Zionism” rather than to plain Zionism or Jewish supremacy – the monumental ideological cover-up to Israel’s crimes against Palestinians will endure.

Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

UN takes first step to end israel’s impunity #BDS

UN takes first step to end Israel’s impunity

A UN list of companies that do business with Israel’s illegal settlements would boost the global movement for Palestinian rights.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler ActiveStills

UN officials are finally moving to hold Israel accountable for breaking international law, though they are facing fierce resistance from Israel and its allies.

“After decades of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli military occupation and apartheid, the United Nations has taken its first concrete, practical step to secure accountability for ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights,” said Omar Barghouti, a founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. “Palestinians warmly welcome this step.”

On Wednesday, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the UN’s human rights office began sending letters to some 150 companies around the world warning them that they may be added to a database of firms doing business with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

This week Nickolay Mladenov, the top UN political official in Jerusalem, told the UN Security Council that “Israel’s illegal settlement activities have continued at a high rate” in gross breach of UN resolutions.

There is a growing legal consensus that international law requires governments to prohibit all trade with the settlements.

“This could snowball”

Israeli officials have admitted that many firms – though they did not provide names – have already responded to the letters by assuring the UN human rights office that they will not renew their contracts in Israel or seek new ones.

“These companies just can’t make the distinction between Israel and the settlements and are ending their operations altogether,” a senior Israeli official told Haaretz. “Foreign companies will not invest in something that reeks of political problems – this could snowball.”

The senior Israeli official confirmed what a top EU diplomat had reported back to colleagues in Brussels.

In a June memo written when he was the EU ambassador in Tel Aviv, Lars Faaborg-Andersen admitted that the EU had no reliable way to distinguish exports from settlements from other Israeli goods.

The Israeli official’s comments also echo the findings of a secret report by two influential Israel lobby groups leaked to The Electronic Intifada earlier this year.

The report, which was endorsed by the Israeli government, concluded that most of the “collateral damage” being done to Israel by the BDS movement is a result of a growing “silent boycott” – groups, individuals and companies who make undeclared decisions to refrain from engaging with Israel, either because of their support for Palestinian rights, or simply to “avoid unnecessary problems and criticisms.”

Household names

Last month, The Washington Post named some of the American companies warned by the UN that they may be listed in the database.

They include household names such as Caterpillar, TripAdvisor, Priceline.com and Airbnb.

According to Haaretz, about 30 of the 150 companies are American while others are from Germany, South Korea and Norway.

The Washington Post also outlined the strong American opposition to the database, whose creation was mandated by a UN Human Rights Council vote last year. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, has called the database “shameful” and said her country is considering pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council.

Israel has set up a government task force to try to thwart the list, but according to Haaretz, most of the officials involved in the effort believe publication of the database in December is “inevitable.”

With the list looming, US lawmakers have proposed legislation – the Israel Anti-Boycott Act – that could impose harsh fines and prison terms for companies and their personnel who participate in a boycott of Israel and its settlements that is deemed to be encouraged by an international organization.

Israel’s “desperation”

The intensity of the US pressure – and the long history of the so-called international community’s pandering to Israel – means that it cannot be taken for granted that UN officials will not capitulate again.

Two years ago, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon caved in to Israeli and American pressure and removed Israel from a UN list of serious violators of children’s rights.

In March, Ban’s successor Antonio Guterres bowed to US pressure and suppressed a report that found that Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians.

One of the conclusions of that report is that research and legal analyses by UN bodies – such as the United Nations Center Against Apartheid – were critical resources for civil society activists in their efforts aimed at “legitimating boycott, divestments and sanctions, and contributing to the overall formation of a transnational movement against apartheid in South Africa.”

The report urged a similar approach toward ending Israeli apartheid. Veteran campaigner Adri Nieuwhof recently wrote for The Electronic Intifada that UN registers of firms, athletes and entertainers complicit in South African apartheid gave a huge boost to the international solidarity campaign.

“That Israel wants to nip the planned database in the bud is a sign of desperation,” Nieuwhof wrote. “Israel is already a pariah state in the minds of ordinary people around the world. If Israel’s crimes do not cease, its isolation will grow.”

“We hope the UN Human Rights Council will stand firm and publish its full list of companies illegally operating in or with Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land, and will develop this list as called for by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016,” BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti stated.

“If implemented properly, this UN database of companies that are complicit in some of Israel’s human rights violations may augur the beginning of the end of Israel’s criminal impunity.”

Renowned Israeli Doctor, Ruchama Marton Backs #BDS

Renowned Israeli Doctor, Ruchama Marton Backs BDS

Dr. Ruchama Marton (Photo: via Twitter)

A renowned Israeli doctor and human rights activist has issued an impassioned defence of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, saying a boycott is essential for confronting “occupation and apartheid”.

Writing in Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Tuesday, Dr. Ruchama Marton, the founder and president of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, rebutted criticisms of BDS, which she defended as “the only nonviolent lever that can cause Jewish-Israeli society to feel the yoke and pain of the occupation”.

Rather than paying “lip service” to “peace” – something no one opposes – Marton argues that the “present question is the question of occupation and apartheid”, and “the correct struggle…is the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle”.

She adds: “Whoever deludes themselves that they can win this battle without help from the outside holds a mistaken, dangerous illusion, based on Zionist-Israeli macho pride”.

In answer to the claim that boycotting Israel would “drive the entire Israeli public into the arms of the settlers”, Marton suggested a different analysis.

“If the occupation and apartheid lead to economic, cultural and diplomatic suffering because of an international boycott, it is very possible that a change will occur in Israel’s worldview, which is based on one hand on the enormous benefit to the country and its Jewish citizens from the occupation and separation, and on the other hand the cowardice of what is called the Israeli left, or peace camp”.

Marton served in the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade during the 1956 Sinai War, before going on to attend medical school. In her professional life, Marton has worked as a senior psychiatrist and taught at Tel Aviv University.

Marton compared Jewish Israelis who oppose BDS and “think it is possible to change from within” to “the parable of the rabbit who wanted to change the lion from within. So the lion ate him”.

“To change from within today is an illusion, the radical left cannot think and act in such a way”.

In 1988, Marton co-founded the Association of Israeli-Palestinian Physicians for Human Rights, now known as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. She is also a co-founder of The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, as well as having been active in a number of other issues.

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