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An open letter to the Cork Conference on Israel’s Legitimacy

This is a guest post by Claire Finn

Dear fellow participants of Conference Cork

I was asked if I wanted to speak several times this weekend but despite Oren Ben Dor’s assertion that zionists want to be hated, I thought it best to decline. Though, as I am not a European Israeli Jew, that probably confirms his hypothesis. Before the conference I knew that I was never going to agree with most of what was said and I knew there was going to be anti-Semitism. One only has to look at the title of Ben Dor’s paper and his bio in the programme to know he is itching to discuss the “Jewish question”. But what truly took me aback is something that I know very few – if not none – of you will see. I know this as I spoke to several very nice, well intentioned people who genuinely could not see the problem when I discussed it with them.

I heard a lot about love, inclusion, solidarity, engaging with the “other” and living in harmony with your neighbours. My genuine question to you all is: why do you want to be neighbours with a group of people – European Zionist Jews – that were depicted unrelentingly for three days as people – and it was people, not the state – without one redeeming quality. Not one. You could not allow yourselves to afford them one shred of humanity. We heard how they abuse Palestinian children, abuse their own children (by deliberately starving them of affection to harden them up), abuse the land, water, the trees – Palestinians on the other hand are uniquely connected in a deep spiritual way to trees and the land. We heard how they abuse other religions and abuse their own religion. This was a favourite topic indeed. How they simultaneously give true Jews a bad name and express the true nature of the European Jewish tradition. The words of the Passover Seder were scrolled out on screen to show how the Zionist paranoia and desire to be hated is deeply connected to the Jewish need to have an enemy to sustain its identity. Not being aware of the tradition, I have to assume, given the attitude displayed, that “good” Misrahi and Sephardic Jews have different wording in their Passover rituals. We learnt that Ashkenazi Zionist Jews abuse philosophy, epistemology and, through their evil Zionist/US Military Industrial Complex, the entire safety and ecology of the globe. They abuse language. Arabic has been removed as an official language (news I’m sure to Israeli schools where Arabic has become compulsory for Jewish students) and even their own language is suspect. When asked by a rather sweet, naive man whether it might be nice to see some Hebrew/Arabic poetry collaboration both Atif Alshaer and James Bowen were quick to point out modern Hebrew was beyond the pale. Possibly biblical Hebrew might be okay. But that’s a Palestinian language so belongs to the acceptable people. (Palestinians being the original Jews, you understand. European Jews are nothing but foreign invaders notwithstanding that I’m guessing the biblical Hebrew they retained for centuries in Europe came from the same source) But Hebrew in its “colonial guise”? That’s an “other” we can’t engage with.

We were told (in a particularly poor “academic paper” even by the standards of this conference) that the end of times were here environmentally and our days were numbered unless we stopped Israel in its tracks. Why you might ask? WARFARE (threatening the whole Middle East – Iraq, Syria) was shouted, followed by “9/11″. This passed without remark. Indeed in the question period, John McGuire, Professor Emeritus from UCC continued the theme of Israel’s involvement in all things nefarious by connecting Shannon Airport, US troops passing through and CIA torture. This opened the floor for Joel Kovel to take the floor again to expand on his 9/11 theories. Did we know that when the towers were burning there were 5 mysterious “painters” cheering in the shadows? Arrested at the time but soon “disappeared off the face of the earth”? “Mossad” was shouted by audience members and “academic ecosocialist” speaker alike. Embarrassed management finally took steps to shut him down saying it was inappropriate for an academic conference. But my question to the organisers is this: given the information portrayed over and over throughout the 3 days of how Israel  (sometimes in cahoots with the US) is responsible for so much evil in the world, for the wars in the rest of the Middle East, for plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock, for false flag tactics to encourage Jewish migration to Israel (who owes the Arab countries justice for stealing their Jewish communities by the way (!)), for using Gaza solely as a lab for its global arms sales while treating Palestinians as “untermenschen” and devising a “final solution” for them, and seeing as Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims are peace loving communers of nature: who else, in your world view, could possibly be responsible for 9/11? You talk about academic freedom, about “Samud” steadfastness, about bravery. Have the bravery of your convictions and let the man rant about 9/11!

Richard Falk accurately stated that Israel had hard power but was losing the soft power of public opinion. And others talked about Zionist paranoia. Do you honestly think that if these – humour me here, Oren, I know they still have to learn how to be human beings – people heard the sentiments at this conference it would disavail them of the notion that the whole world is against them? Would they be persuaded to give up their hard power? I highly doubt it and I don’t blame them.



Rasmea Odeh at Jewish Voice for Peace Conference

Jewish Voice for Peace had their annual conference this weekend, earning more press than normal due to the inclusion of Rasmea Odeh.

She’s a convicted terrorist preparing to be deported for entering the United States illegally, but Rasmea Yousef Odeh has seen her status as a leftist celebrity remain intact.

The Palestinian and feminist activist is scheduled to speak this weekend at the Jewish Voice for Peace conference in Chicago despite agreeing last week to a plea deal in which she will admit to failing to disclose her criminal record on her visa application. In exchange Odeh will be sent to Jordan and receive no jail time.

Still, Jewish Voice for Peace has remained steadfast in supporting Odeh, a featured speaker at the left-wing group’s annual three-day meeting, which starts Friday at the Hyatt Regency.

Her invitation to the event has not gone without significant criticism. Jeffery Salkin and Peggy Shapiro penned firm arguments against allowing Odeh a place at a “peace” conference. JVfP responded to these criticisms with predictable lamentations:

That Rasmea Odeh was convicted — and therefore labeled a “terrorist” — evades the awful truths and broader context of what military rule actually does to the people under its control.

To be clear: at JVP we mourn the loss of all life, and condemn all forms of violence against all civilians, as a core element of our identity as a community rooted in love and justice for all people. That also includes the lives and freedom lost to a brutally unjust military court that deploys sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, and abuse. We can decry all acts of violence against civilians, and also understand —that from Nelson Mandela to Assata Shakur — the label of terrorist is far from neutral.

Shapiro from Stand With US went on to argue:

“You can’t make her out to be some heroine for social justice,” Shapiro added. “We want social justice, but we don’t want heroes who are murderers. That’s not justice.” These feelings, she said, are not just because Odeh is Palestinian: “If there were a Ku Klux Klan convention, if they featured someone who prominently lynched people, I would feel the same abhorrence.”


Abu Hamza’s Son Stripped of UK Citizenship

It emerged over the weekend that a son of the hook handed preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri has had his British citizenship taken away from him.

The Telegraph claims Sufyan Mustapha, 22, fled the UK in the wake of his father’s extradition to the USA where he has been imprisoned ever since.

He has reportedly been fighting against Bashar al Assad and has criticised ISIS and al Qaeda in an interview. It is unclear what group Mustapha has been fighting with.

He is quoted as saying;

“There is no solution to the Syrian situation while Assad is in power … if you want to help then shine a light on the atrocities carried out by Bashar Assad, the Russians and ISIS.”

In case anyone needed reminding of just how bad Abu Hamza was we have managed to rustle up some photos from his Supporters of Sharia demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in London in late 2000 which he put on along with Al Muhajiroun .

If you can spot the young Anjem Choudry in the pic below you get extra points…

And we Begg of you to spot one of the super famous guys below


Steve Bell on Ken Livingstone

Tomorrow Labour’s national constitutional committee is expected to rule on whether Ken Livingstone has brought the Labour Party into disrepute. Steve Bell chooses to ridicule this serious issue and paint any official body that dares to censure Livingstone as a kangaroo court that reverses the normal order of events (sentence precedes plea), Alice in Wonderland style. This is pretty disgraceful – but hardly surprising given Bell’s previous form.


US takes Assad off the hook

Amid the awful, bloody mess into which the Syrian civil war has descended, one central fact needs to be remembered:

More than 94 percent of the more than 200,000 civilians who have died in the conflict have been killed by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.

It is to the lasting shame of Barack Obama that– despite his stated goal of removing Assad from power– he could never manage more than a half-hearted and confused effort to help rescue the Syrian people from Assad’s murderous campaign. His own ambassador to Damascus resigned in protest of Obama’s failure to act more forcefully.

Of course we had no right to expect anything better from a Trump administration. What we have got is a good deal worse.

It is no longer even the stated policy of the US that Assad needs to go.

The White House on Friday backed top aides’ comments that the United States is not now focused on making Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leave power, saying the U.S. focus is on defeating Islamic State militants.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday drew criticism for playing down a long-standing U.S. goal of persuading Assad to leave power to help end the six-year-long Syrian civil war.

Tillerson said Assad’s future is up to the Syrian people to decide, while Haley said “our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”

At his daily news briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that regarding Assad, “there is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now.”

Spicer blamed the inability of Trump’s predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, to persuade Assad to step down.

The Obama administration, in its later years, was focused on reaching a deal with Russia that would eventually see Assad go, though it also shifted its focus to the fight against Islamic State militants, who captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The proper response to Obama’s failure to remove Assad is not to announce that it is no longer even an objective.

Senator John McCain was right in his scathing criticism of Obama’s failure in Syria, and he’s right about the Trump administration’s position:

“Secretary of State Tillerson said today that the longer-term status of Bashar Assad ‘will be decided by the Syrian people.’ But this overlooks the tragic reality that the Syrian people cannot decide the fate of Assad or the future of their country when they are being slaughtered by Assad’s barrel bombs, Putin’s aircraft, and Iran’s terrorist proxies. U.S. policy must reflect such basic facts.

“Ultimately, the administration’s statements today could lead America’s true allies and partners in the fight against ISIS to fear the worst: a Faustian bargain with Assad and Putin sealed with an empty promise of counterterrorism cooperation. Such a policy would only exacerbate the terrorist threat to our nation… Trying to fight ISIS while pretending that we can ignore the Syrian civil war that was its genesis and fuels it to this day is a recipe for more war, more terror, more refugees, and more instability. I hope President Trump will make clear that America will not follow this self-destructive and self-defeating path.”

Not much hope of that, I’m afraid. The Trump administration is adopting a foreign policy under which human rights in other countries are unlikely to receive much lip service, let alone serious support.

Update: Assad is off the hook for (among other atrocities) this.


Cork day two – breeding Zionist monsters and untermenschen

This is a cross-post by David Collier

Today, 01st April 2017 was the second day in the three day anti-Israel conference in Cork.  As I arrived in the morning, I was still feeling somewhat bitter over the events of the day before. This the central difference between the usual anti-Israel events and a conference such as this. There is simply no recovery time. Speech after speech, panel after panel, and then day after day. It is as difficult to digest as it is relentless.

In my mind I was still going over the twisted talk by Oren Ben Dor as I had breakfast. And was replaying the outrageous comments by Ghada Karmi as I walked towards the venue for the second day.  When you go to anti-Israel meetings you become accustomed to ludicrous comments, but these people are academics. What on earth was Kharmi doing suggesting Palestinians are the real descendants of the Jews?

Three central pillars of Cork

Just as was originally intended at Southampton, Ben-Dor had split up the conference into three areas of discussion. Legitimacy (showing Israel has no legitimacy), Exceptionalism (showing Israel is an Apartheid Settler colonial state) and responsibility (the ‘what to do about it’ section).

The first day had seen the discussion of legitimacy, so today was all about how disgusting a nation these anti-Israel activists think Israel is. Each of the papers were rancid, none more so than the one by Shalhoub-Kevorian, that dealt with children and what were described as ‘death zones’.  It was little more than a desperate and despicable attempt by an activist to use children as an academic sympathy toy.

Do read the rest of David’s post here


Myriam Francois on the hijab and neutrality

I thought Myriam Francois raised some quite interesting issues in her brief Newsnight presentation on ‘neutral clothing’ and the hijab.  It was useful to reflect on what is meant by ‘neutrality’, and consider whether the exclusion of all markers of religious identity really is neutral – and, if it is, is neutrality so very desirable and necessary in the workplace?

I was reminded by her reference to the specificity of western norms – ‘neutrality reflects the norms of white secular people’ –  of arguments sometimes used against banning male circumcision.  Societies are much readier to uphold inconsistent practices with regard to what is safe and legal, when the unsafe practice is part of its own cultural heritage.

But I didn’t like that glib implied association between being ‘white’ and ‘secular’. Also, you can be fiercely secular, while still being perfectly relaxed about religious headgear in the workplace.  You might even wear it.  Yet it is certainly true that in striving for a ‘neutral’ workplace you would have no impact on your atheist employees, only on some of your religious ones. Is the right not to be confronted with someone’s religious identity at work more important than the right to express that identity?

There were other moments when Francois’ points seemed strained.  Her opening move was to imply some kind of parity between a tweed flat cap, a hoodie, a headscarf (hijab), a niqab and a cross. ‘What am I saying?’ she asked, concluding that all these symbols are political.  I’m slightly vague about the precise semiotics of tweed, but it could be associated with the working classes, aristocrats or university lecturers. The hoodie has been aligned with delinquency but probably correlates more with youth than anything else.

The other three examples send out a fairly unambiguous message about religious identity, so really do say something reasonably specific about you (although of course women wearing hijab, say, will have a huge range of perspectives on Islam) and people will have different views about where and when each of these three symbols is appropriate.  However hoodies and flat caps can only be seen as ‘political’ in the very loosest sense.  In order for a political signal to approach the specificity of say a cross, you’d need to wear a T shirt or badge with a slogan. (Also, I believe you’ll find it easier to wear a headscarf at the office than a flat cap or hoodie).

But that doesn’t perhaps capture the full nuance of the situation. It is established custom in many places, and across history, to wear symbols of faith, and (often) to wear them all the time.  They may therefore seem more neutral.  Logically they are sending out just as strong a signal about your views as a party political rosette, but the latter would seem much more obtrusive if worn at work.

At one point she says:

Dressing in a way that’s areligious is just as political – or just as neutral – as dressing with religious markers.

That seems a very odd assertion, just as it would be odd to claim that you are sending out as strong a message by not wearing a political badge as by wearing one.  What does it mean to dress in a way that’s ‘areligious’?  I assume she wasn’t thinking of Jesus and Mo T shirts but simply an absence of religious symbols. Many religious people wear no markers at all, and in many cases one sex’s religious markers happen to be much more obvious than the other’s – so men and women of equal religiosity will be sending out different signals.  (At this point I started to wonder exactly what political signal was being sent out by the ever decreasing dimensions of Myriam Francois’ own headscarves.)

However I agree with what I assume is her overarching point – that it’s preferable for workplaces to allow people to wear headscarves, crosses and skull caps.


An Israel-themed trio

First, a report of what sounds like a gruesome experience for David Collier in Cork – he’s attending the conference on Israel and international law.  Here’s an excerpt.

I have little doubt now that the Falk/Tilley report was timed to coincide with this Cork conference. Almost every speaker at Cork referenced it, and each in turn described it as an important  ‘UN’ report. This in itself is enough to discredit every academic involved.

What we know is that a UN agency consisting almost entirely of enemies of Israel commissioned a notorious anti-Israel activist to write a report suggesting Israel is an Apartheid state. When it became clear upon the report being published what had occurred, the UN simply pulled the report. It is therefore unethical for an academic to suggest this is a UN report. They have to be aware they are pushing bogus goods. What this in effect highlighted is that we are dealing with activists willing to abuse academia to push their own ideological cause.

Do read the full post here. According to another delegate, Oren Ben Dor was on his usual form:

The second story is less obviously linked to Israel, but does concern Zionism, and its relationship to both Jewish identity and antisemitism.  Tomorrow Owen Jones is to give the inaugural Jewish Labour Movement Henry Smith Memorial Lecture, and here you can read an interview with Rosa Doherty for the Jewish Chronicle.  For some time – since I wrote this piece certainly – Owen Jones seems to have been developing a more careful and considered view of antisemitism.

You get this classic blaming thing when you talk about antisemitism, and people go ‘well what about Israel’. It is just wrong.  … Lots of my friends who are Jewish describe themselves as Zionists. They are supporters of Israel but that does not mean they don’t criticise the government.

Not surprisingly, some don’t welcome this move from Jones:

Finally, a very concerning story from Israel.  I realize the region faces many environmental challenges but had no idea that in 20 years time there may be no fish left in the Dead Sea.  I’m sure readers will want to sign this important petition.


Why I volunteered to serve in the IDF

This is a cross post from the Times of Israel by Emanuel Miller

Dear Baroness Warsi,

As a former Mahal volunteer to the IDF who grew up in Britain, I read about your latest comments with great interest. Seeing as I speak from first-hand experience, perhaps you might be interested in hearing what motivated my decision to serve.

First, a brief explanation of why Israel is, and has always been, a massive part of my life. Although I grew up in London, almost all my extended family live in Israel. My grandfather, a Jewish refugee from Iraq, started the trend in the 50s, and although he left for a number of years, eventually he, my grandmother, and all their children apart from my mother ended up making Israel their home. Yes, I may have grown up in London, but my family is Israeli. More generally, I speak as Jew. Jerusalem is my people’s spiritual home. Jews are indigenous to Israel; the Holy Land is our ancestral home and developments there have always been important to us.

In the early 2000s, I flew to Israel almost every summer as a mixed family visit/religious pilgrimage. My parents wanted our family to remain close, but many of my friends were scared away by the threat of suicide bombers and Molotov cocktails. Those were the bloody Intifada years. At its peak, bombs exploded daily, sometimes killing dozens of people at a time. Over a thousand Israelis were murdered in those years. There were too many tragedies to recount.

Just last week marked the 15th anniversary of one of the most shocking murders in the conflict – the shooting of Shalhevet Pass, a ten-month old baby who was shot dead in her pram by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron on 26 March 2002. Events such as this were seared my consciousness, and I realised that although I might live in the relative safety of London, my cousins, some of them babies, were at risk of being callously murdered by terrorists.

I also realised that the extremists were targeting all Jews. Further attacks on Jews around the world such as the abduction, brutal torture and barbaric murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris in 2006 only served to underline my resolve that us Jews still cannot depend on anyone to guarantee our own safety. In more recent years, the 2008 bombing of a Jewish centre in India, the 2012 shooting of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, and the gruesome murder and dismembering of an elderly Jewish couple in Morocco last year have profoundly affected myself and many other Jews. We know that while Israel may not be perfect, we are being targeted because of our identity, not because of our actions.

Meanwhile in Britain, the Jewish community saw the BDS movement gathering steam. We witnessed anti-Israel protesters gathering outside Marks & Spencer calling for Israel to be ethnically cleansed of Jews (“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”) while the police looked on, probably unaware of the meaning of the slogan. We saw the UN passing resolutions condemning Israel for defending itself in the face of murderous terrorism but ignoring the lethal acts which compelled it to act, and we heard students describe Israel’s actions as “Nazi-like”, but who had no words to condemn the vicious, deliberate murder of innocent Israelis by Palestinian extremists.

And somewhere in the middle of all this, I resolved that when I would volunteer to serve in the Israeli army. I resolved to defend my family from this murderous terrorism. I vowed not to remain apathetic in the face of such evil. You might seek to portray Mahal volunteers as taking part in some kind of killing machine, but just the opposite is true: I joined the IDF in the hope of becoming a soldier for peace.

I arrived in Israel in the summer of 2005. That summer, two incidents profoundly impacted the way I see the world. First, Islamic terrorism came to my hometown of London when four Muslim extremists let off bombs, killing 52 people and injuring 700 more. It was at this moment that I realised that, no matter what people may say, the battle against Islamic extremism had come to British shores. The murderous terrorism known all-too-well by Israelis was now a very real threat to Londoners.

The second major event occurred a month later, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in the vain hope that showing some goodwill would help foster the right conditions for peace. Israeli made no demands and asked for nothing in return – but its benevolence was met by a barrage of rockets which have only got deadlier and more intense. In total, over 15,000 missile have been fired at Israeli cities in the twelve years since the last Israeli family crossed the Gaza border. Instead of the peace Israelis desperately hope for, millions of Israeli citizens now live in the crosshairs of Hamas. Were it not for the life-saving, wondrous Iron Dome missile interception system, thousands of people would surely have been killed by Hamas’ deadly rockets.

Jews around the world see all this and cannot remain passive. We remain committed to the values of democracy, universal human rights and believe that Christians, Jews and Muslims, all have a right to live in peace and prosperity. And so when we see Jews being targeted mercilessly by a cynical enemy, some of us have made the decision to defend those rights. If only the world had acted to stop such terrorism, then we would never have needed to come out here in the first place.

In your 2014 resignation letter, you wrote that the government’s “approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible” and “not consistent with the rule of law and our long support for international justice”. Noble words indeed. But do you apply those standards equally? Do you, and others like you, stop to consider that Jews worldwide are increasingly alienated by people ignoring or even justifying the slaughter of Jews and Israelis, and then slamming Israel when it attempts to restore safety to its citizens? Your words about international justice would carry far more conviction if you displayed an iota of care for the Israelis whose lives were snatched by bloodthirsty terrorists.

If you want to sue me for defending myself and my people, come right at me. We’ve had enough of seeing innocent people being killed and refuse to stand by and just let it happen.

Emanuel Miller
Jerusalem, formerly of London


Ken Livingstone Awaits his Punishment

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone will soon find out whether he has brought the Labour Party into disrepute.

While we’re all waiting to see what happens lets check out one of his many, many rants about Jews and while doing so reflect on his view that;

“What my detractors and I really differ on is not anti-semitism, which I totally condemn, but the policies of successive Israeli governments.”

H/T Guido Fawkes