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Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Last Fig Leaf Hiding the Nakedness of Israeli Democracy Has Been Stripped Away

The very idea of a Jewish state is a violation of the rights of its non-Jewish citizens

One of the few things that Zionists use to uphold the pretence that Israel is a democracy is the fact that the Arabs/Palestinians can vote in elections for the Knesset.  Now even this is no longer true.

it all began with this book published in 1896
 And it is true.  At the May 2015 elections the Joint Arab List which included the Communist Party (Khadash) and Balad the secular Arab Nationalist Party gained 13 seats making it the 3rd largest party in Israel’s Knesset.

There is just one problem.  In Israel’s nearly 70 years of existence no Arab party has ever been part of the Israeli government.  The only Arabs to become Ministers are seen as collaborators in their own communities.  It is an unwritten rule in Israeli politics that no government must rely on the votes of the Arab parties.  It was this that most incensed the Zionists when Yitzhak Rabin relied on Israeli Arab votes, who were not of course coalition partners, to defeat the right-wing parties led by Netanyahu.  This more than anything else was the cause of his assassination.

Now however even the fig leaf is being stripped away.  Hot on the heels of the Expulsion Bill passed last year which allows 90 MKs to expel another MK, something already being used to try and expel Basel Ghattas, a Balad MK, who apparently committed the heinous offence of passing mobile phones to Palestinian prisoners serving 30+ years in Israeli prisons.  No Jewish MK, however racist ever stands a chance of being disciplined.  All 3 Balad MKs last year were suspended by the Zionist Jewish majority for visiting the relatives of Palestinians who had been killed after attacking Israelis.  A particular target has  been Haneen Zoabi, a secular woman Palestinian Israeli MK who went on the Mava Marmari ship which tried to break the blockade of Gaza.  She has been subject to a tirade of hate and vitriol.  [See Haneen Zoabi: 'Israel is the only country not shocked by or afraid of Trump']

In an ethnocracy, which Israel is, where people vote according to whether they are Jewish or Arab, the power to expel the representatives from the minority can only be symptomatic of a dictatorship for that minority.  Israel doesn’t have class parties of  both Arabs and Jews.  The Labour Party is a racist part for Zionists.  Indeed it was the original party of Zionist racism.

Israel already has the attributes of a police state as far as Arabs are concerned – censorship, overt discrimination in every area of life, segregation in schools, towns –[the Access to Communities Bill overturned the decision of the Supreme Court in Kadan that it was forbidden to discriminate in land allocation policies and that the Israeli Land Authority and the Jewish National Fund could not refuse to sell land to Arabs].  Arabs are regularly arrested and gaoled under incitement to hatred laws.  Jews never are.  We even had the spectacle of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour being jailed for putting poetry on social media talking about resistance to Israeli racism. Dareen Tatour, Palestinian poet imprisoned by Israel for social media posts, shares her story

despite the headline Gopstein was not arrested whereas Sheikh Raeed Salah of the Northern Islamic Leagues has been gaoled for 10 months for defending the Mosque of Al Aqsa and the Golden Dome

However the fascist Lehava organisation whose leader Benzi Gopstein justified setting fire to churches and mosques is at liberty.  There is no attempt to arrest or gaol him because he used a religious justification for setting fire to non-Jewish religious institutions and that is an exemption in Israel’s anti-racist laws.  Burning of Christian churches in Israel justified, far-Right Jewish leader says

I have also included a very interesting article by Joseph Levine on questioning the Jewish State.  It is published in the New York Times of all papers.

I agree with it almost in its entirety.  Perhaps the only lacuna is that  Levine doesn’t mention that there is no Israeli nationality, just a Jewish nationality and a myriad of other, quite nonsensical nationalities in Israel.  In other words there is only one important nationality, that of the dominant ethnic group or race – those who are Jewish.

But his main thesis, that a Jewish state in which nationality and self-determination pertains only to one ethnicity in a state is bound to be racist is correct.  Britain is a Christian state but it is a state of all its peoples.  Christianity is a constitutional adornment, it has no effect on my rights as a Jewish citizen of Britain.  But in Israel being Jewish means real privileges – access to land, the best schools, grants to universities, better employment, political privileges etc.  That is why a Jewish state must be an apartheid state.

Tony Greenstein

Knesset Votes to Ban Palestinian Parties, Destroy Israeli Democracy

MK Basel Ghattas speaking in the Knesset, a body from which he may soon be expelled by his Jewish rightist colleagues  (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Yesterday, the Israeli Knesset voted to ban Israeli Palestinian political parties from participating in future elections.  It accomplished this evisceration of Israeli democracy in the dead of night with only 29 members voting in favor (20 brave souls voted against, the rest were apparently asleep at the switch).  The means used was quite ingenious: the Basic Law was amended to read that no MK could sit in Knesset unless he or she affirmed that Israel was both a “Jewish and democratic state.”  Jewish MKs have no trouble affirming both of these claims.  But Palestinian MKs believe that Israel is not democratic and that it shouldn’t be Jewish (alone).

The amendment passed also notes that MKs may be found to have violated it not only by their deeds, but by their public statements.  This means that if a Palestinian MK exercises his right to free speech, he may be expelled from the Knesset.

So with a few strokes of a fountain pen or keyboard, the most extremist of Israeli governments has effectively destroyed Israeli democracy.  No self-respecting Israeli-Palestinian would be willing to affirm that Israel is and should be a Jewish state.  It’s the equivalent of an American Jew affirming the U.S. should be a Christian nation; or an African-American affirming the U.S. should be based on Christian white supremacy.  And without Palestinian representatives, the Knesset will become a Jewish-only body.

In the past, every single Palestinian MK has been subjected to criminal investigation or other form of persecution by the Knesset itself.  So the new law is further evidence of the Israeli Jewish campaign to render Israeli politics Arab-rein.  It is part of a longer term initiative to “disappear” Palestinians both physically and politically from Israel.

One must ask why only 20 MKs voted against this travesty?  Their number included the Joint List and Meretz.  Notably, it excluded virtually every other Jewish MK, including those from the supposedly liberal Labor Party.  Do I hear the “A-word,” anyone?

Coincidentally, today a UN body issued a report finding that Israel had become an apartheid state.  It further urged that the UN reactivate the methods, resolutions and commissions it used to ostracize South Africa, when it too faced international opprobrium for its racist policies.  The new version of the Basic Law further strengthens such findings.

In truth, this is all a bit of political theater, since the Israeli elections commission decisions to expel Party lists or individual MKs must be ratified by the Supreme Court.  This body, which has grown increasingly rightist, has in the past routinely overturned such rulings by the commission.  It’s likely it will continue to do so.  But as settlers are added to the Court it becomes increasingly likely it will eventually rubber stamp the anti-democratic racism of the legislative body.

By Joseph Levine 

NY Times
March 9, 2013 7:30 pm
Joseph Levine
I was raised in a religious Jewish environment, and though we were not strongly Zionist, I always took it to be self-evident that “Israel has a right to exist.” Now anyone who has debated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have encountered this phrase often. Defenders of Israeli policies routinely accuse Israel’s critics of denying her right to exist, while the critics (outside of a small group on the left, where I now find myself) bend over backward to insist that, despite their criticisms, of course they affirm it. The general mainstream consensus seems to be that to deny Israel’s right to exist is a clear indication of anti-Semitism (a charge Jews like myself are not immune to), and therefore not an option for people of conscience.
What does it mean for a people to have a state “of their own”?
Over the years I came to question this consensus and to see that the general fealty to it has seriously constrained open debate on the issue, one of vital importance not just to the people directly involved — Israelis and Palestinians — but to the conduct of our own foreign policy and, more important, to the safety of the world at large. My view is that one really ought to question Israel’s right to exist and that doing so does not manifest anti-Semitism. The first step in questioning the principle, however, is to figure out what it means.

One problem with talking about this question calmly and rationally is that the phrase “right to exist” sounds awfully close to “right to life,” so denying Israel its right to exist sounds awfully close to permitting the extermination of its people. In light of the history of Jewish persecution, and the fact that Israel was created immediately after and largely as a consequence of the Holocaust, it isn’t surprising that the phrase “Israel’s right to exist” should have this emotional impact. But as even those who insist on the principle will admit, they aren’t claiming merely the impermissibility of exterminating Israelis. So what is this “right” that many uphold as so basic that to question it reflects anti-Semitism and yet is one that I claim ought to be questioned?

The key to the interpretation is found in the crucial four words that are often tacked on to the phrase “Israel’s right to exist” — namely, “… as a Jewish state.” As I understand it, the principle that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state has three parts: first, that Jews, as a collective, constitute a people in the sense that they possess a right to self-determination; second, that a people’s right to self-determination entails the right to erect a state of their own, a state that is their particular people’s state; and finally, that for the Jewish people the geographical area of the former Mandatory Palestine, their ancestral homeland, is the proper place for them to exercise this right to self-determination.

The claim then is that anyone who denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is guilty of anti-Semitism because they are refusing to grant Jews the same rights as other peoples possess. If indeed this were true, if Jews were being singled out in the way many allege, I would agree that it manifests anti-Jewish bias. But the charge that denying Jews a right to a Jewish state amounts to treating the Jewish people differently from other peoples cannot be sustained.

To begin, since the principle has three parts, it follows that it can be challenged in (at least) three different ways: either deny that Jews constitute “a people” in the relevant sense, deny that the right to self-determination really involves what advocates of the principle claim it does, or deny that Jews have the requisite claim on the geographical area in question.
In fact, I think there is a basis to challenge all three, but for present purposes I will focus on the question of whether a people’s right to self-determination entails their right to a state of their own, and set aside whether Jews count as a people and whether Jews have a claim on that particular land. I do so partly for reasons of space, but mainly because these questions have largely (though not completely) lost their importance. 

The fact is that today millions of Jews live in Israel and, ancestral homeland or not, this is their home now. As for whether Jews constitute a people, this is a vexed question given the lack of consensus in general about what it takes for any particular group of people to count as “a people.” The notion of “a people” can be interpreted in different ways, with different consequences for the rights that they possess. My point is that even if we grant Jews their peoplehood and their right to live in that land, there is still no consequent right to a Jewish state.

However, I do think that it’s worth noting the historical irony in insisting that it is anti-Semitic to deny that Jews constitute a people. The 18th and 19th centuries were the period of Jewish “emancipation” in Western Europe, when the ghetto walls were torn down and Jews were granted the full rights of citizenship in the states within which they resided. The anti-Semitic forces in those days, those opposing emancipation, were associated not with denying Jewish peoplehood but with emphatically insisting on it! The idea was that since Jews constituted a nation of their own, they could not be loyal citizens of any European state. The liberals who strongly opposed anti-Semitism insisted that Jews could both practice their religion and uphold their cultural traditions while maintaining full citizenship in the various nation-states in which they resided.

But, as I said, let’s grant that Jews are a people. Well, if they are, and if with the status of a people comes the right to self-determination, why wouldn’t they have a right to live under a Jewish state in their homeland? The simple answer is because many non-Jews (rightfully) live there too. But this needs unpacking.

First, it’s important to note, as mentioned above, that the term “a people” can be used in different ways, and sometimes they get confused. In particular, there is a distinction to be made between a people in the ethnic sense and a people in the civic sense. Though there is no general consensus on this, a group counts as a people in the ethnic sense by virtue of common language, common culture, common history and attachment to a common territory. One can easily see why Jews, scattered across the globe, speaking many different languages and defined largely by religion, present a difficult case. But, as I said above, for my purposes it doesn’t really matter, and I will just assume the Jewish people qualify.

The other sense is the civic one, which applies to a people by virtue of their common citizenship in a nation-state or, alternatively, by virtue of their common residence within relatively defined geographic borders. So whereas there is both an ethnic and a civic sense to be made of the term “French people,” the term “Jewish people” has only an ethnic sense. This can easily be seen by noting that the Jewish people is not the same group as the Israeli people. About 20 percent of Israeli citizens are non-Jewish Palestinians, while the vast majority of the Jewish people are not citizens of Israel and do not live within any particular geographic area. “Israeli people,” on the other hand, has only a civic sense. (Of course often the term “Israelis” is used as if it applies only to Jewish Israelis, but this is part of the problem. More on this below.)

So, when we consider whether or not a people has a right to a state of their own, are we speaking of a people in the ethnic sense or the civic one? I contend that insofar as the principle that all peoples have the right to self-determination entails the right to a state of their own, it can apply to peoples only in the civic sense.

After all, what is it for a people to have a state “of their own”? Here’s a rough characterization: the formal institutions and legal framework of the state serves to express, encourage and favor that people’s identity. The distinctive position of that people would be manifested in a number of ways, from the largely symbolic to the more substantive: for example, it would be reflected in the name of the state, the nature of its flag and other symbols, its national holidays, its education system, its immigration rules, the extent to which membership in the people in question is a factor in official planning, how resources are distributed, etc. If the people being favored in this way are just the state’s citizens, it is not a problem. (Of course those who are supercosmopolitan, denying any legitimacy to the borders of nation-states, will disagree. But they aren’t a party to this debate.)

But if the people who “own” the state in question are an ethnic sub-group of the citizenry, even if the vast majority, it constitutes a serious problem indeed, and this is precisely the situation of Israel as the Jewish state. Far from being a natural expression of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, it is in fact a violation of the right to self-determination of its non-Jewish (mainly Palestinian) citizens. It is a violation of a people’s right to self-determination to exclude them — whether by virtue of their ethnic membership, or for any other reason — from full political participation in the state under whose sovereignty they fall. Of course Jews have a right to self-determination in this sense as well — this is what emancipation was all about. But so do non-Jewish peoples living in the same state.

Any state that “belongs” to one ethnic group within it violates the core democratic principle of equality, and the self-determination rights of the non-members of that group. 

If the institutions of a state favor one ethnic group among its citizenry in this way, then only the members of that group will feel themselves fully a part of the life of the state. True equality, therefore, is only realizable in a state that is based on civic peoplehood. As formulated by both Jewish- and Palestinian-Israeli activists on this issue, a truly democratic state that fully respects the self-determination rights of everyone under its sovereignty must be a “state of all its citizens.”

This fundamental point exposes the fallacy behind the common analogy, drawn by defenders of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, between Israel’s right to be Jewish and France’s right to be French. The appropriate analogy would instead be between France’s right to be French (in the civic sense) and Israel’s right to be Israeli. 

I conclude, then, that the very idea of a Jewish state is undemocratic, a violation of the self-determination rights of its non-Jewish citizens, and therefore morally problematic. But the harm doesn’t stop with the inherently undemocratic character of the state. For if an ethnic national state is established in a territory that contains a significant number of non-members of that ethnic group, it will inevitably face resistance from the land’s other inhabitants. This will force the ethnic nation controlling the state to resort to further undemocratic means to maintain their hegemony. Three strategies to deal with resistance are common: expulsion, occupation and institutional marginalization. Interestingly, all three strategies have been employed by the Zionist movement: expulsion in 1948 (and, to a lesser extent, in 1967), occupation of the territories conquered in 1967 and institution of a complex web of laws that prevent Israel’s Palestinian citizens from mounting an internal challenge to the Jewish character of the state. (The recent outrage in Israel over a proposed exclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties from the governing coalition, for example, failed to note that no Arab political party has ever been invited to join the government.) In other words, the wrong of ethnic hegemony within the state leads to the further wrong of repression against the Other within its midst.

There is an unavoidable conflict between being a Jewish state and a democratic state. I want to emphasize that there’s nothing anti-Semitic in pointing this out, and it’s time the question was discussed openly on its merits, without the charge of anti-Semitism hovering in the background.

Joseph Levine is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he teaches and writes on philosophy of mind, metaphysics and political philosophy. He is the author of “Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness.”  

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Routine Violence of Israel's Occupation is Caught on Camera

The Campaign Against 'Anti-Semitism' will say this video is 'Anti-semitic' and Len Duvall, London's Racist Labour Leader will agree

Only the die-hard Zionists of the misnamed 'charity' the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism will say this video of sickening Israeli police violence is anti-Semitic.  Their grounds no doubt will be that it insinuates that British Jews and all Jews are violent thugs.

This is however just an example of the routine violence of Israel's occupation.  Not just the occupation of the West Bank but the ritual bombing of Palestinians in Gaza, the regular shooting up of Palestinian fishing boats and as the video also shows the consistent violence meted out to young Palestinian children.

I post below the article by the legendary Gideon Levy, one of Israel's few anti-racist journalists in Ha'aretz newspaper.

The public outcry over footage of a violent policeman attacking a Palestinian truck driver is almost as nauseating as the video itself.

Gideon Levy Mar 26, 2017 12:52 AM

Police officer caught on video attacking Palestinian truck driver. Screenshot/Twitter
The shock, tut-tutting and condemnation over Thursday’s video footage, in which a policeman is seen beating a Palestinian truck driver, are maddening and repulsive. Only the video itself is more repulsive. The policeman disgusts you? That’s exactly what the occupation looks like. It is as violent, ugly, brutal and loutish as the policeman; this is exactly how Israel has abused millions of people every hour, every day, for 50 years.

It’s not just that the video reflects routine in the occupied territories: At any given moment, there are Israeli soldiers and policemen who strike Palestinians, kick, head butt, bark or swear at them, like in the video. What’s worse is that the footage reflects a far broader reality than the occupation.
It is a situation report, an Israeli selfie. If the film “Exodus” aspired to present an Israel of the War of Independence era, the video of the violent policeman presents Israel 2017. Exodus was the dream, the policeman its fragment: watch the film and you’ll see us.

Every Israeli has seen countless similar images in this “land of quarrels”: on the road; at the supermarket; in the hospital; on the soccer field or the parking lot ... in almost every line, this is the language, the Israeli lingua franca: bullying. Why pick on the policeman? He’s typical of his homeland. He did what everyone else did, almost. He’s also the son of us all. He’s a uniformed thug – so what?

He was already suspected of beating a civilian once before, and the police force didn’t see fit to prosecute him then. So, he acted as expected. It’s important to note the type of violence used: this is seasoned violence, almost inbred violence. The head butt is the weapon of an experienced bully; an inexperienced bully does not head butt.

You also have to listen to his language, the jargon of Israel. “I’ll pay for that? You son-of-a-whore … get out of my sight!” he shouts at Mazen Shwiki. “I’ll screw the mothers of all of you.” That’s how they speak in Israel. Not only in the occupation, not only on the road. It’s all here: the most important value of Israeliness – not to be a sucker (“I’ll pay?”); the immediate transition from threat to action; the power, the aggressiveness, the arrogance, the coarseness. The filthy language.

The fact that he did it in uniform makes no difference. The policemen also speak Israeli. Israel is violent because it can be. It bombs in Syria and assassinates in Gaza because it can. It’s the neighborhood bully because no one stopped it. And it is also violent within because it’s possible.
The policeman – who goes by the so-Israeli name Moshe Cohen – is also violent because he can be. The fact that he stood opposite a crowd did not deter him. He knew and they knew that he’s the strong one and they the weak; he’s the oppressor and they’re the oppressed, so he’s allowed to. He is lord of the land and they the dust at his feet. Everyone here fulfilled their role: the helplessness and fear of the Palestinian drivers who were afraid to come to the defense of their friend against the policeman’s rage. The uniform of the occupation against the helplessness of the occupied. The pistol in its holster, pay attention to the way the cop stands and walks: this is how the owner behaves. This is how our country behaves.

It’s an ugly picture, really ugly, hence the instant outcry when we witness it. More than the outcry was aimed at the policeman – he’ll quickly be forgotten, and it’s doubtful he’ll face trial – it was directed at the mirror it put up, a self-portrait of Israel 2017.

Which is why we’d like to forget this policeman. Let him be kicked out, let him be under house arrest for a few days, then get out of our sight (in his words); just don’t let him be put on trial. We had enough with the Sgt. Elor Azaria manslaughter trial: deep down, we knew we were all on trial.
A few hours after the video was broadcast, a reception was held at the home of peace activist Alice Krieger. Guest of honor was Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the doctor from Gaza [who lost three daughters during Operation Cast Lead]. “Hatred is weakness,” the bereaved father said in Hebrew, a language that only a few are still able to understand in Israel. “Kindness, tolerance and patience are power.” In the darkness of the evening and the video footage, the doctor’s noble words reverberated as detached, ridiculous, almost hallucinatory.

Open Letter to Len Duvall, Labour's Racist Leader in the Greater London Assembly

Forward, America's oldest and most influential Jewish magazine, which is liberal Zionist is baffled at the warm reception for Trump and Bannon by Zionist and Israeli leaders - not something that idiot Duvall is even aware of

Labour’s Greater London Assembly Members Support Israeli Apartheid in the fight against ‘Anti-Semitism’
On February 8th Labour’s Greater London Assembly members voted to support the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ that Theresa May’s government has recently adopted.  The IHRA definition conflates hostility to Israel’s Apartheid regime and anti-Semitism.  It also takes 493 words to do it. 

The witless racist who leads the Labour group on the Greater London Assembly believes democracy and apartheid are compatible
In response Mike Cushman of Free Speech on Israel protested that the decision of the Labour group, at the behest of Andrew Dismore, a prominent member of Labour Friends of Israel, called into question ‘the Assembly’s commitment to freedom of speech’.  GLA gets it so very wrong on antisemitism

There is of course a much simpler definition of anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews as Jews, which is what most people understand by anti-Semitism.  Dr Brian Klug of Oxford University, an academic expert on anti-Semitism drew up a simple definition of anti-Semitism.  In his lectureWhat Do We Mean When We Say ‘Antisemitsm’? Echoes of shattering glass’ given at the Conference “Antisemitism in Europe Today: the Phenomena, the Conflicts” which was held on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, in 2014, at the Jewish Museum, Berlin, Klug came up with a 20 word definition of anti-Semitism: Anti-Semitism is:

a form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.
A Rogue's Gallery - Not a Socialist or an Anti-racist Amongst Them 
Klug went on to explain that anti-Semitism was really ‘hostility towards Jews as not Jews. For the ‘Jew’ towards whom the antisemite feels hostile is not a real Jew at all. Thinking that Jews are really ‘Jews’ is precisely the core of antisemitism.’ [see The collective Jew: Israel and the new anti-Semitism, Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 37, No. 2, June 2003, Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)

The problem with this definition, for Zionists anyway, is that nowhere does it mention the State of Israel!  Hence why the IHRA definition was first proposed by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in a Report  Anti-Semitism in the UK. [see my Manufacturing Consent On ‘Anti-Semitism.  The Report was a combined attack by Labour right-wingers Chuku Ummuna and David Winnick and Tory members of the Committee on Jeremy Corbyn.

The response to Mike Cushman from Len Duvall, the leader of the Assembly Labour group, could have been written (and possibly was) by Israel’s Ambassador in London, Mark Regev, the slick former PR spokesman for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 
This is a good example of Duvall's Israeli democracy - a debate on whether to let Israeli state land (93% of all land in Israel) to non-Jews.  Racist?  Perish the thought Len
Duvall’s reply is classic hasbara (propaganda).  Israel is ‘a fully functioning and vibrant participatory democracy.  I therefore decided it would be useful to write him an Open Letter.  Not in the hope of convincing him.  Duvall is a convinced racist who sees nothing wrong in a Jewish supremacist settler colonial state founded on ethnic cleansing.  To him that is ‘democracy’ – Duvall is no different from previous labour imperialists and colonial apologists.  However I hope to enlighten others.

When looking for the names of members of the GLA Labour Group I noticed one particular name, Unmesh Desai, the member for Newham.  I remember Unmesh from the 1980’s when both of us were on the Executive of Anti-Fascist Action.  Both of us went on numerous anti-fascist actions together, many of which ended up in confrontations with the National Front and assorted neo-Nazi thugs.  Unmesh was a supporter of the Newham Monitoring Group, an anti-racist group that was at the forefront of the conflict with the racist Metropolitan Police.  It’s quite sad to see someone swap their previous principles for the trappings of office and the salary and perks that come with it.

Tony Greenstein
Andrew Dismore - Labour Friends of Israel member who moved the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism
Open Letter to Len Duvall, the Racist Leader of Labour in the Greater London Assembly
Without Anti-Semitism There is no Zionism

Dear Mr Duvall,

I read with interest your response to Mike Cushman of Free Speech on Israel.  Mike wrote to you concerning the Labour group’s support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. 

This definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ was drawn up by 31 governments including the far-Right anti-Semitic governments of Poland and Hungary, amongst others.   The Hungarian government under Victor Orban, which is viciously hostile to refugees, combines anti-Semitism and Zionism.  It is consciously rewriting history to portray Admiral Horthy, who presided over a puppet Nazi government in 1944, which deported nearly ½ million Jews to Auschwitz, as a nationalist hero. [Rewriting the history of the Hungarian Holocaust]

You say that the definition is ‘a fair representation  of how Israel  can be criticised when necessary in a reasonable way’.  What has a definition of anti-Semitism got to do with Israel?  Are you suggesting that British Jews bear a responsibility for Israel’s actions?  If not, why conflate the two?

You quote the definition as saying that ‘‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic’.  The whole point about criticism of Israel is that it is not like other states.  It is the world’s only Apartheid state.
Unmesh Desai - from anti-fascist activist to New Labour sycophant
You also say that criticism of Israel should not be ‘referring back to the Holocaust’.  Perhaps you would tell that to Israel’s supporters who routinely justify Israel’s actions on the basis of the Holocaust.  For example Abba Eban, Israel’s former Foreign Minister described the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank as an ‘Auschwitz border’.

I realise that your knowledge of Israel is probably gleaned from the briefings and expenses paid trips that you have received from the Israeli Embassy, however your muddled defence of Zionist racism is worthy of the Booker prize for fiction.

You put forward the view that ‘Anti -Semitism is fuelled by far right and far left views’.  I understand our ignorance but anti-Semitism has always been fought by the Left and supported by the Right.  Zionism has always been unique as a Jewish political movement in that it accepted the idea that Jews didn’t belong in the countries.  Like the anti-Semites they believed Jews should live in their ‘own’ state.  That was why the only Jewish member of Lloyd George’s War Cabinet, Sir Edwin Montagu, opposed the Balfour Declaration.  Historically Zionism was seen as a form of Jewish anti-Semitism.

You refer to the alt-Right and Donald Trump’s Strategic Advisor Steve Bannon who talks of “cosmopolitan elites in the media”... He means Jews.’  Yes you are right.  Perhaps you would care to explain then why the Zionist Organisation of America welcomed Bannon to its annual gala dinner in November?  

It was a demonstration organised by the anti-Zionist Jewish Voices for Peace and If Not Now that persuaded Bannon to stay away. [see Ha’aretz’s ‘Zionist Organization of America Flooded With 'Dozens of Calls' Amid Backlash Over Bannon Support’Ha’aretz’s subtitle was 'We did not survive the Holocaust, we did not found the State of Israel, just so that less than two generations later we could cozy up to neo-Nazis.'   According to your views above, Ha’aretz must also be anti-Semitic.

Netanyahu is fulsome in his support, not only for Donald Trump  but Steve Bannon. [Why Netanyahu doesn’t worry about Steve Bannon]  Isn’t it strange that the Jewish Prime Minister of a Jewish state welcomes anti-Semites in the Trump administration.  And not only Netanyahu but Israeli Labour’s Isaac Herzog. [Herzog to Trump: Your win shows elites are thing of pastYou see without anti-Semitism there is no Zionism.

Your suggestion that the Left calls Israel a ‘Nazi state’ or compares Israelis to SS murderers is simply untrue and I challenge you to back up your lies.  There are though many comparisons which can be made between Israel and Nazi Germany, especially in the period before 1941.  The Palestinians are treated as an untermenschen.  When Israeli mobs march to the beat of ‘Death to the Arabs’ – maavet la’aravim] it does bear a similarity to the chant of ‘Death to the Jews’ that was commonplace in fascist Europe during the 1930’s.  Don’t you agree?

However the full measure of your racism, because turning a blind eye to racism makes you equally guilty as those who practice it, is in your assertion that ‘it is wrong to call Israel an ‘apartheid’ state.’  Apparently it shows ‘real  disrespect and diminishes the sacrifices made by the majority population in South Africa’.

This is hypocritical cant.  It is South Africans above all who make the comparison between Apartheid in South Africa and Apartheid in Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported Archbishop Desmond Tutu thus:

"I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces.  Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government." 

Nor is Desmond Tutu alone.  Ronnie Kassrills, the ANC’s Jewish Police Minister noted, at South Africa’s Israel Apartheid Week that it was the architect of apartheid, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd who stated that Israel was an Apartheid State.  That was why Israel was South Africa’s best friend.  Desmond Tutu: Israel guilty of apartheid in treatment of Palestinians

You are simply wrong when you state that Israel doesn’t enforce pass laws.  In fact its system of check points, databases and ID cards in the West Bank is far worse than South Africa’s pass laws. 

You say that in Israel incitement to racism is a criminal offence.  Not true.  Jews are never penalised for incitement to racism because their anti-racist laws exclude discrimination on the grounds of religion.  Only Arabs are ever prosecuted.  To this day the fascist Lehava organisation, whose leader Benzi Gopstein called for the burning down of mosques and churches remains free.  Indeed the Israeli state funds Lehava’s ‘charitable’ wing, Hemla, which campaigns against sexual relations between Arabs and Jews.  When Nuremberg Came to Israel

Apparently ‘Every person in Israel has full equal rights; 1.6 million Arab Israelis have the same rights as the 6.8 million Jewish Israelis’.  Yes Israel’s Arab population has the vote, but it is meaningless.  In nearly 70 years, no Arab party has ever been part of Israel’s government.  Only last week the Knesset passed a Bill which will prevent parties that don’t accept that Israel is a Jewish state rather than a state of all its citizens standing. Expanding Political Persecution With an Amendment

You also said that ‘Every person in Israel has full equal rights; 1.6 million Arab Israelis have the same rights as the 6.8 million Jewish Israelis...Israel is a fully functioning and vibrant participatory democracy.’  It is difficult to know where to begin when confronted with such nonsense.  Perhaps the best place is the Pew Research Centre Report Israel’s Religiously Divided Society.

In this Report some 64% of Arabs said Israel could not be both a Jewish and a democratic state (27% disagreed).  79% of Israeli Arabs say there is a lot of discrimination as opposed to 74% of Jewish Israelis who disagree.  No doubt you believe the racists!  A plurality of Israeli Jews (48%) support the physical expulsion or transfer of Arabs from Israel.  79% of Israeli Jews believe that Jews should be given preferential treatment in comparison with Arabs.  Perhaps you would care to explain how this is compatible with a free and equal society? 

To give but one example of the equality you talk about, in Israel, despite a 10 fold population increase Israel’s Arabs are confined to the same area of land (about 2%) that they occupied in 1948.  There have been no new Arab towns.  Planning applications are routinely rejected resulting in thousands of house demolitions.  Half of the Arab villages are ‘unrecognised’ which means that basic facilities – running water, electricity, sewerage is not supplied.  This would be unheard of for Israeli Jews.

Just four weeks ago the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran was demolished and one villager murdered by the Police in order to make way for a Jewish town, Hiran, in its place.  This is the real meaning of a Jewish state.  Israel’s Inhumane and Stupid Bedouin Policy

You compare Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state to Islamic states.  There is one difference.  In Israel to be Jewish means to be privileged, like being White in South Africa.  In Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. Islam is used as a means of justifying the oppression of Muslims. 

The Labour Party has a long history of supporting colonialism, including in South Africa.  It is no surprise that you should continue this inglorious tradition with your racist apologia for Israeli Apartheid.  What is surprising is that the Black Assembly members should go along with what you wrote.  I can only assume that the perks and salary go some way to alleviating their consciences.

Yours fraternally,

Tony Greenstein

Response from Len Duvall to Mike Cushman of Free Speech on Israel

Good morning

This is the response which is on behalf of the Labour Group.

Thank you for your email  about the anti -Semitism motion.

I believe this represents mainstream Jewish opinion about anti- Semitism and is a fair representation  of how Israel  can be criticised when necessary in a reasonable way. The motion says in terms:
‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic’.

Of course, there are minorities within the Jewish and other  communities  who will disagree from both a fundamentalist religious viewpoint and from an anti- Zionist  left view, but  I think criticisms of Israel should be expressed in a way that does not encourage or reflect anti – Semitic tropes, especially referring back to the Holocaust.

Anti -Semitism is fuelled by far right and far left views, in my opinion. On the right, believers that the world is engaged in a clash of cultures approve  of a strong Jewish state in the Middle East – they support  Israeli settlement building as part of a generational struggle rooted in Islamophobia. These same groups on the right hold in disdain the majority of diaspora Jews, who are overwhelmingly centrist liberals and generally do not support parties of the far right or far left  especially in the UK and North America.

This in the eyes of the alt-right  makes them enemies of their national projects. For example Steve Bannon, chief strategist to President Trump is on record using various demeaning terms about Jews.  When he refers to a shadowy group of “cosmopolitan elites in the media that live in a handful of larger cities.” He means Jews.  At a meeting of Jewish Republicans, President Trump stated how honoured he was to be in a room of ‘great negotiators’ and then went on to suggest that they wouldn’t like him because he doesn’t want their money. Another anti-Semitic trope.

And  when people from the left proclaim  that Israel is a Nazi state or compare Israelis to SS murderers, they are using the most horrific and personal imagery to Jewish people. To do so is not only anti-Semitic in itself, but also downplays the significance of the Holocaust and  the suffering of its victims and  survivors.

Equally it is wrong to call Israel an ‘apartheid’ state. To do so is not merely a sloppy and inaccurate analysis, it shows real  disrespect and diminishes the sacrifices made by the majority population in South Africa, to obtain the rights all Israelis have.

Israel does not deny Arab Israelis voting rights, nor enforce pass laws, nor insist, unlike Apartheid South Africa’s Afrikaans rules, that Hebrew should be the medium in schools.

Every person in Israel has full equal rights; 1.6 million Arab Israelis have the same rights as the 6.8 million Jewish Israelis; in Israel incitement to racism is a criminal offence; people have freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and they enjoy universal adult suffrage.

Israel is a place where women enjoy equality, religious minorities are free to practice their faiths, the media is unfettered and critical, an independent judiciary protects the powerless from the powerful, educational excellence and scientific innovation are pursued and a welfare state supports the poor.
Israel is a fully functioning and vibrant participatory democracy.

By the same token, any criticisms of Muslim states and the activities of the Palestinian Authority  should be measured, though many of those who demonise   Israel seem willing to turn a blind eye to them.

Those who criticise Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state should reflect  that whilst this does not form part of the country’s official name, ‘Islamic’ is  part of the official name of  quite a number  of countries; they  expelled their Jewish communities 60 years ago, (incidentally  in far greater numbers than displaced Palestinians), do not allow Jews to visit , do not promote religious  tolerance, criminalise homosexuals, have restrictions on the media, deny rights to women and are not functioning democracies

Such criticisms  can be advanced, as I just have,  without recourse to the insulting language that some critics of Israel feel they are free to  deploy against Israel.

Best wishes

Len Duvall AM

FSOI letter to all GLA members

 Jewish led Free Speech group says London Assembly antisemitism vote is “A charter for censors”
Dear Assembly Member

We would like to draw your attention to this statement from the Jewish-led Free Speech on Israel campaign regarding the motion on antisemitism passed by the London Assembly on Feb 8.

In the statement, the group points out the worrying implications of the position the Assembly has taken – a position that could call into question the Assembly’s commitment to freedom of speech.
We invite you to look more carefully at the decision you made at the behest of Andrew Dismore, a prominent member of the lobby group Labour Friends of Israel.

briefing document from Free Speech on Israel explains how equating anti-Zionism (a valid political position) and antisemitism (a noxious form of race hatred) constrains discourse about Palestine under the rubric of protecting Jews from antisemitism. This can only have the unintended consequence of stoking new hostility to Jews who may be seen as attempting to determine what non-Jews may or may not say about a foreign state.

We have a large number of London-based Jewish members who would welcome the opportunity to talk to you, individually or as a group, about this important subject.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Cushman
for FSOI