Archive for the ‘anti-Zionism’ Category.

Southampton conference roundup

The planned anti-Israel conference at the University of Southampton continues to generate controversy.

The conference, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism“, is organised by Prof. Oren ben-Dor, an Israeli academic known as a campaigner for a One-State Solution and a supporter of  an academic boycott of Israel.

The three-day conference in April does not pretend to be neutral. The official event description says it

…concerns the legitimacy in International Law of the Jewish state of Israel. Rather than focusing on Israeli actions in the 1967 Occupied Territories, the conference will focus on exploring themes of Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism; all of which are posed by Israel’s very nature.

According to our own research, 45 of the 56 speakers – 80% – have a record of anti-Israel activism such as supporting boycotts, opposing Israel’s existence, justifying terror or writing for campaigning publications like Electronic Intifada. By comparison, only 3 speakers have any record of supporting and only 8 speakers no obvious campaigning background at all! This is not a conference of impartial experts or neutral academics discussing their research. It is a political conference of political campaigners involved in fringe anti-Israel causes.

Only one speaker is an academic from an Israeli university — Dr Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, an Israeli Arab academic at Hebrew University. Many of the other speakers, including conference organiser Prof. ben-Dor, support a full boycott of Israeli universities. Surely they wouldn’t apply that policy to only Jewish Israeli academics?

 

Many people have voiced their concerns about the bias of the conference:

The Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies have both raised objections with the University’s Vice Chancellor.

A petition organised by the Zionist Federation calling for the conference to be cancelled now has 5000 signatures, leading to coverage in the Sunday Times

Lawyer Mark Lewis’s comments about the credibility of Southampton’s Law department  were covered in the Telegraph. He said

“This is a one-sided conference, not a debate and I would want to raise serious questions about what students at this university are being taught and what the university believes.

“If Southampton allows teaching which does not present both sides of a case it would raise doubts in my mind about the suitability of a candidate from its School of Law. I would not look so favourably on those CVs.”

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government told the Jewish News last week that

“There is a careful line between legitimate academic debate on international law and the actions of governments, and the far-left’s bashing of Israel which often descends into naked anti-Semitism.

“Given the taxpayer-funded University has a legal duty to uphold freedom of speech, I would hope that they are taking steps to give a platform to all sides of the debate, rather than allowing a one-sided diatribe”

The bias of the conference has also been condemned by local MPs.

We will update if there are any further developments.

Glasgow shop worker attacked with irritant chemical

We were shocked that a young stall-worker had an irritant chemical dropped on her head in a Glasgow shopping centre, simply for working at a stall selling Israeli goods. While not dangerous, the incident was both painful and frightening, and is the latest of a series of incidents of violence, intimidation and harassment against shop workers around the UK. We welcome the police’s decision to consider it a racist attack.

This August, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign called for “freelance harassment by passers-by, groups of friends” against Kedem and similar stalls in order to “drive them all out”.

 

Please see an except of the media coverage below.

Coverage from today’s Scottish Sun

Response to TUC General Council statement

responding to the TUC General Council’s statement on Gaza today, a spokesman for Fair Play, the anti-boycott unit of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, said:

“The TUC is being led by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign into further supporting boycotts and sanctions on Israel. Today’s decision will mean that the TUC will provide the infrastructure of the anti-Israel boycott movement, funding and organising its conferences and coordinating its campaigns.

Today’s General Council statement condemns antisemitism while speaking positively about the antisemitic Hamas, and doesn’t even mention rocket attacks on Israel. It supports a two-state solution, but refuses to work to make the two-state solution a reality by, for example, supporting cooperation and peace-building projects. The TUC’s actions are instead focused on pulling Israeli and Palestinian workers further apart.”

Why it is hypocritical to boycott Israel

This is a cross post from The Telegraph by Jake Wallis 

May 5th, 2014

Boycotting Israel: can it ever be justified?

We’re not normally called upon to justify a decision to travel abroad. Few people would challenge me if I were visiting China, despite that country’s appalling human rights record, repression of free speech, and colonisation of Tibet. If I was travelling to America, even though Predator drones kill thousands of innocent people each year, and even though Guantanamo Bay still holds 154 detainees, nobody would complain.

I would not be criticised for travelling to Egypt, which has become a police state that imprisons journalists, attacks protesters, and sentences political opponents to death. Nobody would suggest that I boycott India; or Pakistan; or Venezuela; or Saudi Arabia; or indeed Britain, which – I seem to recall – ignored the United Nations and attacked Iraq.

I could go on. But later this month, I am planning to travel to Israel to appear in the Jerusalem literary festival. As surely as night follows day, I have received an “open letter” from a group of 71 activists calling themselves the British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWIP), led by a poet and “professional Tarot card reader”. They were, I was informed, “extremely disappointed” by my decision, and “respectfully encouraged” me to boycott the event. But I am honoured to have been invited to Israel, and will be proud to attend. Here’s why.

It is my strong belief that Israel is, relatively speaking, a force for good in the world. I’m not saying that it is free from controversy, and I’m not saying that I have no sympathy with Palestinians. But every country that abides by the democratic process, enshrines in law the rights of women and minorities, and conducts itself with compassion both in war and in peace – or at least aspires to do so – deserves our support and respect.

But what about Israel’s flouting of international law, I hear you ask? Very well: but has Britain always been squeaky clean? I have already mentioned the example of Iraq. Britain intentionally bombed civilian targets during the Second World War, which was the last time we were under existential threat (the Area Bombing Directive ordered the RAF to attack the German workforce and destroy morale). Moreover, the Army’s Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre, based in Kensington Palace Gardens, London, between 1940 and 1948, carried out systematic torture on enemy prisoners. If we were at war again, against an enemy that was able to strike at the heart of our civilian population centres, how would we behave?

Would we, perhaps, be tempted to react as we did when the IRA were terrorising the streets of London? Would we reprise the British Army’s Operation Demetrius of 1971, which allegedly included detention without trial, beating, starving, hooding for long periods, harassment with dogs, placing nooses around prisoners’ necks, forcible head shaving, denying prisoners clothes, forcing them to run barefoot behind Army vehicles, burning them with cigarettes, dragging them by the hair and pressing guns to their heads? Would Bloody Sunday, in which 26 protesters and bystanders were shot by British paratroopers, happen again?

These examples are particularly relevant when you consider the geographical, topographical and historical context in which Israel exists. The Jewish state is roughly the size of Wales, with a ridge of high ground running along the middle of the West Bank. If Britain were surrounded by hostile neighbours at such close proximity, some of which contained terror groups bent on the destruction of the country, would we be doing any better? And would a fearful British public be outraged at the Army’s brutality? Or relieved that it was keeping us safe?

It is significant that a man who knows war, Colonel Richard Kemp – the former commander of Britain’s armed forces in Afghanistan – testified to the UN Human Rights Council that the Israeli military does “more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare”. It is right that every instance of military abuse should be treated gravely. But this does not justify a boycott.

From a historical point of view, Israel has been attacked repeatedly by an enemy bent on its destruction (when the Arab world attempted to liquidate the Jewish State in 1967, the settlements had not yet been built). The country has suffered terror attack after terror attack, tragedy after tragedy. Clearly, whatever the boycott activists may say, to draw a parallel with pre-1994 South Africa is ludicrous.

Of course, Israel presents many areas of concern. In particular, the situation on the West Bank is disturbing, as are the societal disadvantages that confront minorities in Israel, particularly Israeli Arabs. The army has been guilty of heavy-handedness many times. And it is sad to witness the tit-for-tat violence the plagues the region, not to mention the heavy civilian losses that are sustained by Palestinians in warfare.

Again, I could go on. But to boycott Israel alone reveals a deeply partisan approach to the conflict, and a ridiculously naïve and even hypocritical one.

By the standards of the pro-boycott activists, should the Palestinians not also be boycotted? Their society is severely intolerant of homosexuals; many go to live in Israel rather than face oppression at home. The Palestinian government has signed a reconciliation deal with a terror organisation, and within weeks they may form a unity government. As Ireported in the Telegraph last week, the Palestinian leadership pays huge financial rewards to those convicted of terror offences, and cold-blooded child killers are celebrated as heroes when they are released.

While we’re on the subject, shouldn’t the BWIP have called their group “British Writers In Support of Palestine and Israel”? And if not, why not?

For these reasons I am proud to be travelling to Israel later this month. As a journalist I value objectivity above all, and am not interested in closing my ears to one side of any story, particularly a story as complex as this. And as a novelist, my concern is with the human condition; attending a festival with fellow writers and artists who are not afraid of challenging ideas can only be a good thing.

And given that according to a YouGov poll, three-quarters of Britons “see no reason why British performers should not travel to Israel” – and fewer than one in five Britons believe that Israeli artists should be barred from the UK – I travel in the knowledge that I have public opinion on my side.

NUJ boycott motion defeated

The National Union of Journalists’ biennial Delegate Meeting [Conference] in Eastbourne yesterday rejected a proposal to boycott Israel. The motion was similar in tone and content to a boycott motion that NUJ did pass in 2007. It was rejected overwhelmingly, with such a large margin that there was no need to count.

BBC branches spoke against the motion, and the Guardian branch was also a vocal opponent.

After being alerted, UK Labour Leader Ed Miliband spoke out against the boycott proposal during his Israel visit last week. The motion was opposed by the Union’s National Executive Committee. NUJ’s General-Secretary made a strong speech against the motion which might have swayed many delegates. NUJ’s own report of the debate can be read here

A spokesman for the Fair Play campaign said:

“We welcome the decision by the NUJ’s General-Secretary, Executive and Delegates to overwhelmingly reject a boycott of Israel. Seven years ago, the NUJ voted to boycott Israel, provoking a major backlash from serious journalists in Britain and around the world. Today, the Union has renounced this path and has chosen another, better way that’s true to the journalistic values of neutrality and fairness.”