Archive | April 14th, 2014

France’s main Jewish group fined for defaming Palestine charity

Submitted by Ali Abunimah 


Article falsely claimed charity raised money for Hamas.

France’s highest appeal court has ordered the country’s major Jewish organization to pay damages for falsely claiming that a charity supporting Palestinians collected money for Hamas.

The 11 March judgment from the Court of Cassation in the northeastern city of Nancy was first reported by the website Al Kanz this week.

In June 2010, CRIF, the main umbrella group for Jewish organizations in France, published an article by Marc Knobel alleging that the Committee for Charity and Assistance to the Palestinians – known by its French initials CBSP – was actually raising money for Hamas.

The article was published days after Israeli forces stormed the ship Mavi Marmara, which was part of a flotilla to Gaza, in international waters, and murdered nine civilians.

Youcef Benderbal, a CBSP official, was aboard the ship and among hundreds of passengers forcibly taken to the Israeli-controlled port of Ashdod.

In the days before and after the massacre, the Israeli government engaged in intense propaganda efforts to portray the people aboard the flotilla as dangerous extremists and terrorists.

According to its own website, CBSP, founded in 1990, supports initiatives for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and such projects as constructing water purification equipment for Gaza.


Knobel has worked with a number of Jewish communal and pro-Israel organizations in France, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and is described by CRIF as its chief researcher.

Knobel has written a number of articles attacking the boycott, divestment and sanctions(BDS) movement and has called on French authorities to prosecute BDS activists – something the country’s judicial authorities have done vigorously.

The court ruled that the Knobel article’s “accusation that CBSP was collecting money for Hamas is defamatory” because no evidence had been provided to support the allegations, which had also been previously spread by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The judgment also found that the article’s claim that CBSP had been defined as a “radical” organization by French authorities was false, and therefore “defamatory.”

The court ordered the CRIF researchers who wrote and published the article to pay CBSP a total of 3,000 euros ($4,200) in damages.

The defamatory article has been removed from CRIF’s website.

CRIF controversy

CRIF has been involved in spreading false allegations on other occasions.

One year ago, CRIF president Richard Prasquier apologized for spreading the “false news that Israeli film director Yariv Horowitz was “lynched” during a visit to France in what was widely claimed to be an anti-Semitic attack by “Arabs.”

Attack on Palestine groups

The defamatory CRIF article resembles a similar attack, also launched in 2010, against the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), an advocacy organization in London.

As The Electronic Intifada reported, the Israeli army published claims – without any substantiation – accusing PRC of being a “Hamas affiliate” that was “involved in initiating and organizing radical and violent activity against Israel in Europe.”

As I note in my book, UK authorities said they never received any information from Israel supporting these claims and never took any action against PRC.

That smear campaign was part of Israel’s strategy of “sabotage” and “attack” against the Palestine solidarity movement.

CRIF’s false allegations against CBSP look like they were part of a similar initiative aimed at discrediting civil society groups that keep Israel’s crimes against Palestinians in the public eye.

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Young Palestinian dad died from Zio-Nazi Gestapo torture


Submitted by Ali Abunimah

Young Palestinian dad died from Israeli torture, forensic expert says


A mourning relative clutches a portrait of Arafat Jaradat in the West Bank village of Sair, 25 February 2013.

An internationally renowned expert on torture says that evidence confirms that a young Palestinian died of injuries he sustained in Israeli custody due to torture.

Arafat Jaradat, a 33-year-old father of two, died on 23 February 2013 in Israel’s Megiddo Prison where he was being interrogated by the Shin Bet secret police.

As Haaretz reported, Jaradat was arrested on the night of 18 February 2013 on suspicion that he had thrown stones and a Molotov cocktail at Israeli occupation forces: “It was a bit after midnight and everyone in the house – he himself, his wife Dalal, his four-year-old daughter Yaara and two-year-old son Mohammed – was sleeping, as was his brother Mohammed, who lives in the same building. The soldiers, ten or 12 of them, burst into the home and behaved with rare courtesy. They asked for identity cards and when Arafat gave them his, they told him to say goodbye to his family and come with them for detention. His small children, Yaara and Mohammed, clung to his legs but the soldiers promised them their father would be home soon.”

He never did come home.

Autopsy: torture

Israel claimed Jaradat died of “natural” causes, but human rights groups and family members said the horrific injuries on his body indicated he had been severely beaten, a finding supported by the autopsy carried out by Dr. Saber al-Aloul, a forensic medicine specialist and director of the Palestinian Medico-Legal Institute, along with two Israeli pathologists.

Al-Aloul’s autopsy report concluded that Jaradat died due to “nervous shock as a result of extreme pain from the intensity of the injuries … which resulted from multiple direct and extensive acts of torture.”

Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups jointly condemned Jaradat’s death and urged an international investigation.

“Blunt trauma”

Now, in an 8 April joint statement, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)and Al-Haq have released the findings of Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, a forensic medicine specialist with three decades of experience.

The human rights groups say:

Dr. Korur Fincanci, relying on the autopsy data and analysis provided by the Israeli forensic authorities and pointing to the various bruises visible in the pictures taken of the corpse by the Palestinian police prior to burial, concludes that the autopsy findings actually “are indicative for blunt trauma with a long and thick object” and are not consistent with resuscitation efforts. The immediate cause of death is lung edema leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome, both of which “are highly consistent with timing of previous injuries that should be within 1-3 days prior to his death.” Dr. Korur Fincanci’s findings dispute Israel’s official expert opinion, which stated the cause of death as “natural.” The Palestinian forensic expert concluded that Mr. Jaradat’s death is attributable to torture.

Korur Fincanci contributed to the drafting of the “Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” – generally known as the Istanbul Protocol – which, the statement notes, “is an official and internationally authoritative United Nations document.”

She has been called on in numerous cases such as the exhumation of mass graves in Bosnia, as well as to investigate alleged cases of torture in Bahrain. Korur Fincanci has also been at the forefront of training others in forensic medicine.

Korur Fincanci was in Israel to give expert testimony in court hearings on Jaradat’s killing that are being held in secret due to officially imposed censorship banning the media from reporting on them.

Megiddo Prison: model for America?

As previously reported by The Electronic Intifada, Megiddo Prison, where Jaradat was killed, is an interrogation facility equipped by the British-Danish multinational prisoner profiteering firm G4S.

As I note in my book The Battle for Justice in Palestine, Megiddo Prison is also where Israel takes delegations of US law enforcement officials to showcase its supposed “security” expertise.

In October 2012, for instance, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange took senior police officials from the New York, Los Angeles and Houston police departments on a junket which included visits to various Israeli occupation installations and forces including specifically Megiddo Prison.

Commander Richard Webb of the Los Angeles Police Department, one of the participants,claimed: “My experiences in meeting with the various [Israeli] experts and leaders confirm they not only are experts, they are pragmatic and collaborative. Equally as important they do their duties while vigilantly protecting human rights. I will take many lessons I learned back to Los Angeles.”

The abuse and torture of Palestinians in Israeli detention, including of children and of women, is a pervasive practice, according to human rights organizations.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Young Palestinian dad died from Zio-Nazi Gestapo torture

Video: Victim recounts torture by Zio-Ab-A$$ Rat’s


Video: Victim recounts torture in Palestinian Authority prison

Submitted by Maureen Clare Murphy

In a short video produced by the human rights organization Al-Haq, 28-year-old Osamah Nayef al-Shawamreh describes in harrowing detail the torture he endured for three days in a Palestinian Authority prison in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron earlier this year.

“I wish I could be as I was before, to walk on the street without fear,” a tearful al-Shawamreh states.

Al-Shawamreh says he has lost control of his body, including feeling in one of his hands, and describes what seem to be symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the repeated beatings and other forms of physical torture.

Al-Shawamreh’s ordeal began with a phone call on 1 February from the Palestinian Investigations Unit in Hebron, summoning him for questioning regarding a hacked Facebook account. The beating began straight away, according to al-Shawamreh’s testimony. Shawamreh describes repeatedly losing consciousness during the physical abuse.

“You will die here”

“I felt I would die when he strangled me,” al-Shawamreh says of one of his torturers.

“You will die here,” al-Shawamreh recalls one of them saying as he begged for a sip of water.

After signing a statement under coercion, al-Shawamreh was taken to see a physician with the military services, a disturbing indication of medical professionals’ collusion in the practice of torture.

On the third day of his detention a public prosecutor ordered al-Shawamreh’s immediate release, but he was taken back to the Investigations Unit where he was subjected to more verbal and physical abuse before he was released on bail.

Al-Shawamreh was then taken to a medical center by a police officer who threatened him not to say anything to the doctor; al-Shawamreh told the doctor he didn’t suffer from anything and was asked to sign a paper presumably stating such.


Al-Shawamreh was later taken to a hospital in Ramallah where the Investigations Unit called to harass him, according to al-Shawamreh’s testimony.

A 7 February medical report obtained by Al-Haq states that al-Shawamreh was admitted to the emergency room and suffered from severe pain the neck and shoulder, abrasions, internal bleeding, burn scars and two fractured ribs, and adds that the patient was in need of psychiatric care.

The trembling and broken young man in the video was, before his arrest, an ambitious and hard worker at a solar power company, his coworkers told Al-Haq.

Al-Haq says it documented four cases of Palestinian prisoners “held under inhumane detention conditions and subjected to ill-treatment and torture” in the first few months of this year.

In 2008 the group published a study which found widespread politically-motivated torture by Palestinian government forces in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have for years been largely financed and trained under the auspices of the United States and the European Union.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Human RightsComments Off on Video: Victim recounts torture by Zio-Ab-A$$ Rat’s

BBC ignores Kerry’s “poof speech”

Submitted by Amena Saleem 

US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman address reporters on 9 April.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry pointed the finger of blame at Israel for the collapse of talks with the Palestinian Authority.

The United States’ most senior diplomat gave his explanation to the foreign relations committee of why the talks, ongoing since July 2013, had broken down.

“The prisoners were not released by Israel on the day they were supposed to be released and then another day passed and another day and then 700 [settlement] units were approved in Jerusalem and then poof — that was sort of the moment,” he said. “We find ourselves where we are.”

As part of the preconditions for negotiations, Israel had agreed to release 106 Palestinian prisoners who had been held in Israeli jails for more than 22 years. The prisoners were due to be released in three stages, with the fourth stage scheduled for 29 March.

That fourth release didn’t happen and, on 1 April, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas signed letters of accession to 15 UN treaties and conventions. It’s a right he has had since November 2012, when the UN voted to recognize Palestine as a state, but had agreed not to exercise while the talks were ongoing.

When Israel reneged on the final prisoner release at the end of March, Abbas went ahead and put his signature to the UN documents.

And while Kerry on Tuesday described the Palestinian move as “unhelpful,” he was quite clear that the primary cause of the breakdown lay in the Israeli camp.

BBC ignores Kerry remarks

For Israel’s strongest ally, the US, to make an accusation like that was quite extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented.

And yet, in the newsrooms of the BBC, the world’s largest news organization, it was as if Kerry had never spoken.

While other news organizations in the US and the UK covered the story from the angle of what has become known as Kerry’s “poof speech, BBC Online focused on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s order to his ministers to cease high level meetings with their Palestinian counterparts as a result of Abbas’s 1 April actions.

In a report headlined Israel PM Netanyahu curbs contact with Palestinians,” the BBC’s news team writes: “The order follows ‘Palestinians’ violation of their commitments under peace talks,’ officials said.”

And so the BBC pointedly began its article with Israeli allegations of Palestinian violations, failing to clarify later that Abbas only signed the UN treaties and conventions after talks had broken down, as agreed.

Kerry’s frustrated remarks about Israel were not reported at all in that article, or elsewhere by the BBC online. Careful not to alert its audience to the US Secretary of State’s allegations against Israel, or to carry a narrative that even so much as hinted at them, the BBC said only: “He blamed both sides for taking ‘unhelpful’ steps.” The rest was ignored.

Providing the facts

The rest, of course, is the actual news story – Kerry giving voice to US exasperation with Israel. However, the BBC’s news values when it comes to reporting on Israel and the Palestinians defy all normal standards of journalism.

Compare the 9 April BBC report with other reports that the same day in both the UK and the US.

In the UK, three broadsheet newspapers could be said to represent the political spectrum –The Telegraph to the right, the Guardian to the left and the Independent in the middle.

Published a day after Kerry made his comments, the three papers added new angles in an attempt to update the story, but the basic news story was the same – Kerry’s astonishing comments about one of the US’ most favored allies.

The Independent’s headline states: US Secretary of State John Kerry faces “anti-Semitic” claims for blaming failing of talks on Israel.”

Correspondent Ben Lynfield writes: “Mr. Kerry, making an appearance before senators on Tuesday, traced the crisis to Israel’s failure to release the prisoners.” He goes on to quote Kerry’s words to the senate foreign relations committee.

In the Guardian, Middle East correspondent Ian Black writes: “First in the sequence of events [Kerry] described came Israel’s refusal to free 26 prisoners (vital for Mahmoud Abbas to demonstrate he has something tangible to show for negotiating); then the announcement of 700 new settlement units (‘Poof, that was the moment,’ Kerry said); and only then came the violation by the Palestinians – their unilateral move to sign up to international treaties to allow them to tackle Israel’s 46-year-old occupation through legal means.”

The Telegraph interviewed Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli intelligence and strategic affairs minister, who claimed that Israel will offer a deal to rescue the talks.

However, even this right-wing, pro-Israeli paper did not fail, as the BBC did in its report, to provide the full facts of the story.

David Blair, chief foreign correspondent, writes: “Mr Kerry said that ‘both sides’ were responsible for the impasse, but appeared to place most of the blame on Israel, noting that after missing the deadline for releasing the prisoners, the Israeli government then approved the expansion of a settlement in East Jerusalem.”

“Absurd” denials of bias

In the US, where the major news organizations are traditionally biased toward Israel, there was no attempt to hide the Secretary of State’s finger-pointing at the US’s favored country.

The Washington Post led with the headline “Kerry raps Israel in faltering Mideast peace.”

Its editors go straight in with the story as they saw it. “US efforts to broker a Mideast peace agreement faltered after Israel refused to release prisoners as demanded by Palestinian leaders, then moved forward with plans to build new settlement housing in Jerusalem, America’s top diplomat said Tuesday,” is the introduction.

The New York Times reported along the same lines, saying that the “precipitating event” for the breakdown, according to Kerry, was Israel’s announcement of new settlement building in East Jerusalem.

It adds that Israel had “undercut an emerging deal to extend the negotiations” by failing to carry out the final prisoner release.

Time magazine also reported on Kerry’s comments, “which appeared to blame Israel for the latest breakdown in Middle East peace talks.”

In Israel itself, Haaretz newspaper’s headline was blunt: Kerry places blame on Israel for crisis in peace talks.”

Across the UK, US and in Israel, journalists were grasping the news story and reporting on it. Even newspapers with an inclination towards Israel did not shy away from reporting the news, unpalatable though it would have been to them, and keeping their readers informed.

Only the BBC, the UK’s public broadcaster, failed to do so and left its audiences completely in the dark. Why? And, while keeping news of Kerry’s allegations from them, why did BBC Online chose to lead its story with Israeli accusations of “Palestinian violations” instead?

The BBC, when challenged, will of course refute allegations of bias towards Israel in its reporting. But when its news operation seems so blatantly designed to shield Israel from criticism at the expense of professional journalistic standards, those denials seem ever more absurd.

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Continental Drift

Europe’s Breakaways


“Happy families are all alike: every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

–  “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy

The opening to Tolstoy’s great novel of love and tragedy could be a metaphor for Europe today, where “unhappy families” of Catalans, Scots, Belgiums, Ukrainians, and Italians contemplate divorcing the countries they are currently a part of. And in a case where reality mirrors fiction, they are each unhappy in their own way.

While the U.S. and its allies may rail against the recent referendum in the Crimea that broke the peninsula free of Ukraine, Scots will consider a very similar one on Sept. 18, and Catalans would very much like to do the same. So would residents of South Tyrol, and Flemish speakers in northern Belgium.

On the surface, many of these succession movements look like rich regions trying to free themselves from poor ones, but, while there is some truth in that, it is overly simplistic. Wealthier Flemish speakers in northern Belgium would indeed like to separate from the distressed, French speaking south, just as Tyroleans would like to free themselves of poverty-racked southern Italians. But in Scotland much of the fight is over preserving the social contract that conservative Labor and right-wing Tory governments have systematically dismantled. As for Catalonia—well, it’s complicated.

Borders in Europe may appear immutable, but of course they are not. Sometimes they are changed by war, economic necessity, or because the powerful draw capricious lines that ignore history and ethnicity. The Crimea, conquered by Catherine the Great in 1783, was arbitrarily given to the Ukraine in 1954. Belgium was the outcome of a congress of European powers in 1830. Impoverished Scotland tied itself to wealthy England in 1707. Catalonia fell to Spanish and French armies in 1714. And the South Tyrol was a spoil of World War I.

In all of them, historical grievance, uneven development, and ethnic tensions have been exacerbated by a long-running economic crisis. There is nothing like unemployment and austerity to fuel the fires of secession.

The two most pressing—and the ones most likely to have a profound impact on the rest of Europe—are Scotland and Catalonia.

Both are unhappy in different ways.

Scotland always had a vocal, albeit marginal, nationalist party, but was traditionally dominated by the British Labour Party. The Conservatives hardly exist north of the Tweed. But Tony Blair’s “New Labour” Party’s record of spending cuts and privatization alienated many Scots, who spend more on their education and health services than the rest of Britain. University tuition, for instance, is still free in Scotland, as are prescription drugs and home healthcare.

When Conservatives won the British election in 2010, their austerity budget savaged education, health care, housing subsidies, and transportation. Scots, angered at the cuts, voted for the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the 2011 elections for the Scottish parliament. The SNP immediately proposed a referendum that will ask Scots if they wanted to dissolve the 1707 Act of Union and once again become be an independent country. If passed, the Scottish government proposes re-nationalizing the postal service and throwing nuclear-armed Trident submarines out of Scotland.

If one takes into account its North Sea oil resources, there is little doubt but that an independent Scotland would be viable. Scotland has a larger GDP per capita than France and, in addition to oil, exports manufactured goods and whisky. Scotland would become one of the world’s top 35 exporting countries.

The Conservative government says that, if the Scots vote for independence, they will have to give up the pound as a currency. The Scots respond that, if the British follow through on their currency threat, Scotland will wash its hands of its portion of the British national debt. At this point, there is a standoff.

According to the British—and some leading officials in the European Union (EU)—an independent Scotland will lose its EU membership, but that may be bluster. For one, it would violate past practice. When East and West Germany were united in 1990, some 20 million residents of the former German Democratic Republic were automatically given EU citizenship. If 5.3 million Scots are excluded, it will be the result of pique, not policy. In any case, with the Conservatives planning a referendum in 2017 that might pull Britain out of the EU, London is not exactly holding the high ground on this issue.

If the vote were taken today, the Scots would probably vote to remain in Britain, but sentiment is shifting. The most recent poll indicates that 40 percent will vote for independence, a three percent increase. The “no” votes have declined by 2 percent to 45 percent, with 15 percent undecided. All Scottish residents over the age of 16 can vote. Given the formidable campaigning skills of Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, and leader of the SNP, those are chilling odds for the London government.

Catalonia, wedged up against France in Spain’s northeast, has long been a powerful engine for the Spanish economy, and a region steeped in historical grievance. Conquered by the combined armies of France and the Spain in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), it was also on the losing side of the 1936-‘39 Spanish Civil War. In 1940, triumphant fascists suppressed Catalan language and culture and executed its president, Lluis Companys, an act no Madrid government has ever made amends for.

Following Franco’s death in 1975, Spain began its transformation to democracy, a road constructed by burying the deep animosities engendered by the Civil War. But the dead stay buried only so long, and a movement for Catalan independence began to grow.

In 2006 Catalonia won considerable autonomy, which was then overturned by the Supreme Tribunal in 2010 at the behest of the current ruling conservative Popular Party (PP). That 2010 decision fueled the growth of the Catalan independence movement, and in 2012separatist parties in the province were swept into power.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s PP is pretty much an afterthought—19 out of 135 seats—in Catalonia where several independence parties dominate the Catalan legislature. The largest of these is Province President Artur Mas’s Convergencia i Unio (CiU), but the Esquerra Republicana de Cataluyna (ERC) doubled its representation in the legislature.

That doesn’t mean they agree with one another. Mas’s party tends to be centrist to conservative, while the ERC is leftist and opposed to the austerity program of the PP, some of which Mas has gone along with. The CiU’s centrism is one of the reasons that Mas’s party went from 62 seats to 50 in the 2012 election, while the ERC jumped from 10 to 21.

Unemployment is officially at 25 percent—but far higher among youth and in Spain’s southern provinces—and the Left has thrown down the gauntlet. Over 100,000 people marched on Madrid last month demanding an end to austerity.

Rajoy—citing the 1976 constitution—refuses to allow an independence referendum, a stubbornness that has only fueled separatist strength. This past January the Catalan parliament voted 87 to 43 to hold a referendum, and polls show a majority in the province will support it. Six months ago, a million and a half Catalans marched in Barcelona for independence.

The PP has been altogether ham-fisted about Catalonia and seems to delight in finding things to provoke Catalans: Catalonia bans bull fighting, so Madrid passes a law making it a national cultural heritage. The Basques get to collect their own taxes, Catalans cannot.

How would the EU react to an independent Catalan? And would the central government in Madrid do anything about it? It is hard to imagine the Spanish army getting involved, although a former minister in the Franco government started Rajoy’s party, and the dislike between Madrid and Barcelona is palpable.

There are other fault lines on the continent.

Will Belgium split up? The fissure between the Flemish-speaking north and the French-speaking south is so deep it took 18 months to form a government after the last election. And if Belgium shatters, does it become two countries or get swallowed by France and the Netherlands?

The South Tyrol Freedom Party (STFP) is gearing up for an independence referendum and pressing for a merger with Austria, although the tiny province—called Alto Adige in Italy—has little to complain about. It keeps 90 percent of its taxes, and its economy has dodged the worst of the 2008 meltdown. But some of its German-Austrian residents are resentful of any money going to Rome, and there is a deep prejudice against Italians—who make up 25 percent of South Tyrol—particularly among those in the south. In this way the STFP is not very different than the racist, elitist Northern League centered in Italy’s Po Valley.

It is instructive to watch the YouTube video on how borders in Europe have changed from 1519 to 2006, a period of less than 500 years. What we think of as eternal is ephemeral. The European continent is once again adrift, pulling apart along fault lines both ancient and modern. How nations like Spain and Britain, and organizations like the EU, react to this process will determine if it will be civilized or painful. But trying to stop it will most certainly cause pain.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on Continental Drift

Useful Tragedy Tales

20 Anniversary Gift


It was 20 years ago, starting this April, that 800,000 (give or take) lost their lives during about 100 days in the nation of Rwanda. Events were set in motion long ago, under Belgian colonial rule. They wanted a strong profit out of this colony and sometimes wringing out trumped up hatred comes in handy for the occupiers. Middle level management torture is easier to carry out when you’ve got “others” to oversee. Artificial delineations were created and those who envision a horrible new reality seem to be able to strong-arm it into existence. Tutsi/Hutu became something grave, a designation that could kill. It’s a fairly common practice, even trite…divide and conquer. Sometimes the whole seed just sprouts so many years later.

The powerfully horrific “We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We We be Killed With Our Families” by Philip Gourevitch does a masterful job transporting the reader to that window of depravity. There was a mundane dread that stalked those who tried to appeal for help and reason. The wording of that title was from a politely written note, full of assurance in regard to what was going to happen the next day. Word was getting out, but those with the power to actually assist ignored, or specifically avoided using the “g word” as that would imply some sort of need to intervene.

But now we get to hear the cautionary tales. The stories about what will happen if you don’t show up on a white horse to help in other nations. Machetes everywhere! Boxes of them. Just waiting for willing hands. The white horse tales appeal to the need for clarity, a narrative of fairy tale. When plotting war, there will always be an element of the populace that needs a rinky-dink explanation. So they can smugly explain away collateral. These tales are for them. Others are just good with “we should take their oil (or insert other resource). But those types you had at the word “take”. The Rwandan tales will be used to justify all sorts of intervention amongst factions who happen to be taking up space on top of resources that are coveted. This one time it was pretty fucking obvious that some help would be in order, as in Rwanda, nothing was done. But when was the last time you poured yourself a nice cup of Rwandan crude? You can be certain it will be referenced as “what will happen” if we don’t show up in those other regions, though. So the way things played out had a certain jaded usefulness.

And the foul open their mouths to explain. Madeleine Albright, who has been singled out for her exceptional stalling tactics during that time as Ambassador to the UN has said that it would have been impossible to alter this history, as it was “volcanic”. Around 10,000 little eruptions every day for around 3 months, I guess. But just this one time, it was unavoidable. All other interventions will be just, needed, and worth it! Especially those sanctions that provide a nice and clean, largely invisible death.

The sickening disrespect for those slaughtered will be the use of this episode to justify continued colonial behavior, not to point out that it was actually the spark that ignited this particular genocide even if it took so many years. Ripples and all that.

Today Obama says “It was a deliberate and systematic effort by human beings to destroy other human beings.” I’m not sure if that statement was crafted by artisans, like old world European ones that Obama went to after obtaining his Nobel. Did he ask “Can you mold me something out of bullshit, blood, and maybe old drone parts?” And the man from the Guild of Ironic Craftsman said “Aye, m’lord. I was born for it.” And presented him with these pretty meaningless words? I’m fairly confident that’s where Obama gets all of his speeches.

And the way things are done continue by those who would manipulate our best intentions into exactly what it is they want.

But for many, “the price was worth it” because they never pay it.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Useful Tragedy Tales

The Deterioration of Egypt

Human Rights Crisis After the Coup


We recently visited Egypt leading a delegation of lawyers to observe the situation of human rights in that country. We were troubled by what we saw and heard. We are also troubled by the United States’ support for a government installed by a military coup.

The United States and more than 160 States have agreed to respect and ensure the right to participate in one’s government, for example, by agreeing to article 25 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Nevertheless, as this right came under serious attack in Egypt, the United States continues to support the Egyptian military as it imposes its will on the Egyptian people. This support should stop until and unless the freely and fairly elected government is restored.

The military coup that took place in Egypt on 3 July 2013 is a serious violation of the right to participate in one’s democracy. It is a violation of the rights of the majority voters in the Egypt’s presidential and parliamentary elections in 2011 and 2012.

The serious deterioration of human rights in Egypt in the aftermath of the military coup is largely due to the military coup leaders’ unwillingness to allow any significant expressions of dissent and the military coup leaders’ failure to respect the will of the Egyptian people.

During our visit to Cairo we heard reliably allegations of massive, widespread and serious violations of the right to fair trial, to an independent judiciary, to security of person, to the prohibition of torture, and about a policy of violent assaults on women. The level of these abuses is unprecedented in Egypt, a country with which we are familiar for almost half a century.

Grave concerns were expressed by lawyers about the integrity of the courts. The trial of Egypt’s first elected President Mohamed Morsi by the military is a case in point. The procedures that exist in the Egyptian Constitution for trying their President have been ignored. This has resulted in President Morsi being tried by an illegal court that appears to have been created merely to justify removing him from office.

The military coup leaders have been unrelenting in their attack on the peaceful supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In December 2013 the military coup leaders declared the Muslim Brotherhood an illegal entity. They did this despite the fact that the Freedom and Justice Party with which it is associated, won more support than any other party in Egypt’s free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections. This action violates the right to free speech, assembly and association.

Recently, an Egyptian court, functioning under the military coup, sentenced more than 400 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death for the killing of a single policeman. At the same time, thousands of Egyptians remain arbitrarily detained and without fair trial.

The dismal state of human rights in Egypt, which we witnessed first hand, should be a concern for us all. The United States should stand with the Egyptian people and not with the leaders of a military coup.

Posted in Egypt1 Comment

Assad There to Stay?

How the US Campaign for “Regime Change” in Syria Became a Magnet for International Terrorism


Long gone the days when the U.S.-led so-called “Friends of Syria” could plausibly claim that two thirds of Syria was controlled by rebel forces, that Syrian capital Damascus was under siege and its fall was just a matter of time and that the days of President Bashar al-Assad were numbered and accordingly he “should step down.”

The war on Syria has taken a U-turn during the past year. Assad now firmly holds the military initiative. The long awaited foreign military intervention could not take off; it was prevented by the emerging multi-polar world order. Syrian and non-Syrian insurgents are now on the run. Assad stands there to stay.

The thinly veiled UN legitimacy, which was used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Libya under the pretexts of the responsibility to protect on humanitarian grounds, failed to impose no-fly zones, humanitarian corridors and other instruments of foreign intervention; they foundered on the borders of Syrian national sovereignty.

The official Syrian Arab Army (SAA), which was strategically organized and stationed to fight a regular war in defence against the Israeli occupying power in the western south of the country, was taken by surprise by an internationally and regionally coordinated unconventional attack on its soft civilian backyard where it had zero presence.

Within a relatively short period of time the SAA succeeded in containing the initial attack, in adapting trained units to unconventional guerrilla war in cities and in winning over the support of the civilian population, without acceding any ground of its defence vis-à-vis Israel.

Ever since, the SAA was gaining more ground, liberating more civilian centers from insurgent terrorists, closing more border crossing points used for infiltration of foreign fighters into the country, cutting of their supply lines and besieging pockets of their presence in inner old cities and in their isolated concentrations in the countryside. The capital Damascus, more than 95% of the common borders with Lebanon and the central heart of Syria around Homs are now secured. Except the northern city of Raqqa, no where in Syria the insurgents can claim exclusive control. The SAA is winning all its battles.

The declared goal now of the U.S., Saudi, Qatari and Turkish financial, military and logistical support for the insurgents is no more the “regime change,” but creating a balance of power aimed at improving their standing in future negotiations with the regime. To do so, they claim they are extending their support to what they describe as the “moderate” insurgents.

However, “moderate” rebels are a rare species in Syrian insurgency. Entering its fourth year now, the war on Syria has created a highly polarized war zone that has left no room for any moderates. Combatants are fighting now to death in a battle of life or death.

The fighting lines are strictly drawn between homeland defence and foreign intervention, between national forces and international terrorists and between an existing secular and civil state and a future state perceived to be governed by an extremist or, at the best, a moderate version of Islamist ideology supported by the most backward, tribal and undemocratic regional states with similar sectarian ideologies.

During his testimony at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on last September 3, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denied that the “moderate” Syrian rebels are infiltrated by the al-Qaeda terrorists as “basically not true.”

The Syrian “opposition has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership, and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority protecting constitution, which will be broad-based and secular with respect to the future of Syria,” Kerry testified.

However, hard facts on the ground in Syria as well as statements by other U.S. high ranking officials challenge Kerry’s testimony as a politically motivated, far from truth and misleading statement.

Last March, General David Rodriguez, head of the U.S. Africa Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee that “Syria has become a significant location for al-Qaeda-aligned groups to recruit, train, and equip extremists.”

The previous month, James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, called Syria a “huge magnet” for Islamic extremists in testimony prepared for the Senate intelligence committee.

Last January, Clapper also told a Senate intelligence hearing that “training complexes” for foreign fighters were spotted in Syria and chair of the Senate intelligence committee Dianne Feinstein described Syria as “the most notable new security threat in the year” since the committee’s last meeting.

Matthew Olsen, director of the U.S. government’s National Counterterrorism Center, was on record to say that “Syria has become really the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world.”

Also on record was Jeh C. Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, who stated that the Syria war “has become a matter of homeland security,” former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell who identified Syria as “the greatest threat to U.S. national security,” FBI Director until last September Robert Mueller who “warned that an increasing flow of U.S. citizens heading to Syria and elsewhere to wage jihad against regional powers could end up in a new generation of home-grown terrorists.”

All these and other high level U.S. conclusions do not testify to the existence of “moderate” insurgents in Syria and vindicate the official Syrian narration as much as they refute Kerry’s statement about the “democratic,” “secular” and “moderate” Syrian “opposition.”

“Moderate” rebels are either marginal or a rare species in Syrian insurgency and if they do exist they are already increasingly concluding “reconciliation” agreements with the Syrian government, according to which they disarm, join the government anti terror and anti “strangers” military and security campaign or simply recurring to attending to their personal lives.

The Americans and their Saudi and Turkish bullies are left with the only option of artificially creating artificial “moderates,” whom they unrealistically and wishfully dream of turning into a credible leading force on the ground.

As part of his efforts to mend fences with Saudi Arabia, a persistent advocate of war and militarization in Syria, U.S. President Barak Obama seems to have pursued recently a two-pronged diplomatic and military policy.

Diplomatically, he closed the Syrian embassy and consulates in the United States and restricted the movement of the Syrian envoy to the United Nations as a “down payment” ahead of his visit to the kingdom on last March 28.

Militarily, he promised more arms to Syrian “moderate” rebels during his visit. After the visit he was reportedly considering arming those “moderate” rebels with more advanced weaponry, including anti-aircraft missiles or MANPADs.

While providing those “moderates” with MANPADs is yet to be confirmed, Israel’s Debkafile website on this April 7 reported that two moderate Syrian rebel militias – the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Revolutionary Front – have been supplied with advanced US weapons, including armour-piercing, optically-guided BGM-71 TOW missiles, which enter the Middle East for the first time. Images of rebels equipped with these arms have begun to circulate in recent days. Both militias are coordinating and cooperating with the al-Qaeda offshoot the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, both listed as terrorist groups by the U.S., Saudi Arabia Syria and Iraq.

About Time for U.S. to Reconsider

Within this context, the existing CIA-led program in Jordan for training pre-approved “moderates” will reportedly be expanded to raise the number of trainees from one hundred to six hundred a month.

At this rate, according to Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Center in Qatar, writing on this April 3, “it would take close to two years to produce a force” that could numerically rival the extremist “Ahrar al-Sham” group and “it would take seven years” to create a force that could rival the extremist “Islamic Front,” let alone the mainstream groups of terrorist insurgents like the ISIS and the al-Nusra.

Going ahead with such a U.S.-Saudi training program in Jordan is tantamount to planning an extended war on Syria until such time that the regime changes or the country becomes a failed state, as the planners wishfully hope.

Moderate Syrian rebels are a U.S. mirage. With logistical vital help from Turkey, the Saudi and Qatari U.S. allies were determined to successfully militarize and hijack legitimate popular protests for change lest they sweep along their own people and spill over into their own territories.

It’s about time that the U.S. policy makers reconsider, deal with the facts on the ground in Syria and stop yielding to the bullying of their regional allies who continue to beat the drums of war only to survive the regional tidal wave of change.

To contain this tidal wave of change, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have sponsored an Islamist alternative as a counterrevolution. The Muslim Brotherhood International (MBI) was a version of this alternative. Unfortunately the U.S. got along with it. The MBI plan in Egypt has proved counterproductive. Its failure in Egypt pre-empted for good any hope for its success in Syria. The ensuing rift among the anti-Syria allies doomed the plan regionally.

President Assad’s statement on this April 7 that the “project of political Islam” has failed was not overoptimistic or premature. Neither was the statement of his ally, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, on the same day that “the phase of bringing down the regime or bringing down the (Syrian) state is over… They cannot overthrow the regime, but they can wage a war of attrition.”

The U.S. campaign for more than three years now for a “regime change” in Syria has created only a “huge magnet” for international terrorism, thanks to Saudi, Qatari and Turkish military, financial and logistical support.

Peaceful protesters were sidelined to oblivion. More than three years of bloodshed left no room for moderates. “Regime change” by force from outside the country, along the Iraqi and Libyan lines, has proved a failure. U.S. and western calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down is now a faint cry that can hardly be heard.

All world and regional indications as well as military developments on the ground refer to one fact: Assad is there to stay. Change will come only under his leadership or his guidance. Understanding with him is the only way to internal and regional stability. More or less he has succeeded in turning the “huge magnet” for international terrorists into their killing field. His final victory is only a matter of time. Arming rebels, “moderates” or terrorists regardless, will only perpetuate the Syrian people’s plight and fuel regional anti-Americanism.

The sooner the United States act on this fact is the better for all involved parties.

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Open Letter to Left Unity: An Organisation that is Afraid to Campaign

 Left Unity was formed last  year with the many of the members coming from the fall-out in the SWP over Martin Thomas and the question of rape/sexual harrassment.  Others are relatively new to politics and of course there are those who are members of existing left groups – Socialist Resistance and the Communist Party of Great Britain.

At the Conference I attended in London 30th there were some of the same hard-boiled cooks that had played a role in other prominent left groups.  Andrew Burgin as Chair of Stop the War Committee, Liz Davies, who Blair stopped from standing in Leeds and who became Chair of the Socialist Alliance, acting as a cover for the SWP as it proceeded to destroy the SA, Kate Hudson of CND, ex-Respect.  LU has about 1,500 members but it is doing nothing with them other than involving them in interminable intra party elections and affairs.

I therefore send an Open Letter to LU members making my criticisms clear.  I have had a favourable response from a number of members but it is doubtful that the central leadership understands it.  Despite submitting it to the website a week ago, it has yet to appear

Founding Conference

There is, of course nothing wrong with internal elections, quite the contrary.  For ex-members of the various left sects it’s probably a novel experience.  But the intricacy and complication of the election process are self-imposed burdens.  Instead of simple elections, weighted to ensure that minority political opinion is represented there is a full-blown PR system.  Women won’t be elected of course in accordance with their politics but simply because of the biological fact that they are women.  We have yet to go down the UNISON road with every minority of a minority being represented (except the working class) but no doubt that that is a delight to come as the Left Unity confuses its own organisation with the society it is seeking to create.  No better example of the contempt for democracy that this breeds is the statement:  ‘There is no obligation on individual members to vote for at least 50% women in any section though members may of course choose to do so.’

BBC News Interview

I can remember when the demand for positive discrimination first raised its head, in the student group of which I was a member, the Socialist Students Alliance, in the 1970’s.  The SSA was dominated by the International Marxist Group (now Socialist Resistance) which had abandoned working class politics for ‘movementism’.  Positive discrimination encouraged clichés, slogans and a superficial support for socialism, in place of any deep commitment to opposing this system or involvement in campaigns at the sharp end of the battle with this capitalism.  Most of those women either became supporters of New Labour (Blair was a particular supporter of positive discrimination and all-women shortlists) or dropped out of politics. This was not true of all the men – especially the Irish and anti-fascist activists. We had 101 women (New) Labour MPs, who 75% of whom voted in favour of the Iraqi war (as opposed to 40% of men who did so).

Coupling this with the fact that the 30th November Conference devoted the whole day to drawing up a constitution and it appears ever more obvious that Left Unity is like the Malaysian Airline plane – destined to crash but we know not where, at least yet.

Left Unity is an organisation with a small number of members, yet it has a Rolls Royce constitution fit for an organisation of hundreds of thousands.   Indeed, until New Labour took over, it could be said that our constitution is more complicated and cumbersome than the Labour Party’s.
Some people are losing sight of the fact that the purpose of Left Unity is to make a political impact in and away from elections that the mass media and the establishment cannot ignore.  One thing that UKIP and to a lesser extent the Green Party have shown is that it is possible for parties that are determined and dedicated to succeed, even electorally, despite First Past the Post elections.  To translate the ideas and desires of the working class and chunks of other parts of society, into a vehicle for socialism.  A thoroughgoing debate on how to achieve it, what issues to prioritise, the targeting of resources on particular areas, the concentration on campaigns that epitomise everything which is wrong with market capitalism.  I’m thinking of the NHS and Welfare ‘reform’ in particular and above all steady and solid work over the lifetime of a parliament, with a possible focus on by-elections, are just a few example of this.  This will lead to steady but slow recruitment. A weekly paper (no not Socialist Resistance revamped!) But this hasn’t even been subject to any debate, nationally or in the local branches.  Instead the focus has been wholly internal.  The first thing you see on LU’s website is the absurd and trite slogan ‘Coming soon to a ballot paper near you!!’ with a picture of a cross on a ballot paper and the top three articles are  concerned with internal elections and then an equally trite article ‘A budget for UKIP not ‘hardworking people’ which, apart from anything else, is nonsense.

The term ‘hardworking people’ not the working class or marginalised or unemployed, is in itself a reflection of New Labour ideology.  Are the disabled ‘hardworking people’?  Does it matter?

What is or should be the target for the website?  New Labour of course.  It is the beneficiary of the working class vote.  Articles hammering away at this would at least suggest that LU has some coherent strategy other than, as at present, being a mishmash of left and not-so-left ideas.  Attacking Miliband for support for the Benefits Cap, for following Gordon Brown’s strategy of engineering a boom via house prices inflation, the selling of council houses, privatisation of the NHS, the fact that the pension reforms will inevitably lead to growing poverty among the elderly, the pathetic suggestion of a 20 month prices freeze in utility bills when the real issue is nationalisation.  These are examples of what a focused and aimed political strategy might aim at.  But instead we debate the constitution and focus on internal elections!

There is also the absurd name – Left Unity.  What does it mean to people?  That the left is disunited?  Perhaps if we hadn’t faced a Hobson’s choice at the Conference, when suggestions could have been taken from the floor, we might have had ‘People Not Profit’ or something that sums up what LU purportedly stands for.

It is telling that no candidates came forward for the elections from Scotland, the North-East or South-West.  What does this say about LU’s present political trajectory and appeal?  Even the Socialist Alliance, before the SWP took it over and destroyed it had more political weight and substance.

One suggestion would be that national leaflets on renationalisation nd the NHS, Welfare attacks, the contrast between Bob Crow and the present TU leaders and privatisation, racism (G4S).  This would mean that LU becomes a vehicle moving in the same direction together.  How does LU achieve momentum and a critical mass?  This is of greater importance than interminable internal elections.  LU has a year at most before stagnation and decline set in.  It can either move forwards or backwards.   If it doesn’t start focusing on society out there as opposed to its own internal structures, it will lose any chance to do so.

Tony Greenstein

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Abandon BDS – It’s the Jews Who Are the Enemy



Gilad Atzmon

For the past 6 years, a number of us have been warning about the danger posed to the Palestine Solidarity movement by Gilad Atzmon, an ex-Israeli jazz player, and the small group of people around him. Four years ago we introduced a motion at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM to formally dissociate ourselves from Atzmon and the Deir Yassin Group, led by holocaust denier Paul Eisen. Unfortunately PSC dismissed our fears and the motion was heavily defeated. Today they are having to face up to the consequences of that decision.

Atzmon has just brought out a book The Wandering Who? which brings all his ‘ideas’ and quack philosophy together in one work, well nearly all of them. For an excellent analysis of Atzmon’s spurious use of philosophy, see Gabriel Ash’s article Commentary on the “Philosophical Thinking” of Gilad Atzmon. 

It has attracted support from a number of academics and the less discerning Palestinian intellectuals. This is a support that some are going to regret.

At the heart of Atzmon’s dense prose is a very simple idea. The cause of the Palestinians’ dispossesion lies in the nature of Jews per serather than Zionism. Israel behaves as it does, not because it is a settler-colonial state sponsored by the West, but because it is a ‘Jewish’ State, the manifestation of the Jewish spirit and Jewishness.

The rise of Atzmon is the product of the Zionist movement which is now rubbing its hands with glee at the confusion and disruption which Atzmon’s acolytes are causing. As every Palestine solidarity activist will confirm, for years Zionists have attacked supporters of the Palestinians and opponents of Zionism as ‘anti-Semitic’ – they even invented a ‘new anti-Semitism’ and tried foisting a false definition of anti-Semitism, the EUMC Working Definition, in place of the commonly understood usage of the term.

It is the classic case of the boy who cried wolf. As I warned in the Big Questions programme, when Zionists associate Jews with Israel’s atrocities, they must bear the blame for the resultant anti-Semitism.

It is not surprising that some activists have taken the message and inverted it. Instead of challenging the Zionist argument that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are the same, they have drawn the conclusion that if the price of supporting the Palestinians is being anti-Semitic then that was a price they would pay. Yet this is a false choice that Zionism wants people to adopt. Zionism historically is a product of anti-Semitism and has welcomed anti-Semitism. Without anti-Semitism there would be no Zionism. As the founder of Political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, wrote in his Diaries (p.6):

‘In Paris…, I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism.’

In his new book, The Wandering Who? Atzmon spells out the implications of his argument:

‘Zionism is not a colonial movement with an interest in Palestine,… (it is) a global movement that is fuelled by a unique tribal solidarity of third category members. To be a Zionist means to accept that, more than anything else, one is primarily a Jew.’

Zionism is no different from being Jewish. This is exactly what the Zionists also say. Atzmon merely adds his own conspiracy theory.

In an interview with Silvia Cattori, Atzmon expands on his thesis:

The “Left” likes the colonial paradigm because it locates Zionism nicely within their ideology. It also leads us to believe that the colonial/post-colonial political model provides some answers and even operative solutions; following the colonial template, we first equate Israel with South Africa, and then we implement a counter-colonial strategy, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions).
… BDS has not in fact, led to any metamorphic change within Israeli society. If anything, it has led to further intensified radicalisation within the right in Israel. Why has the BDS not worked yet? The answer is simple: It is because Israel is not at all entirely a colonial entity… its power and ties with the West are maintained by the strongest lobbies around the world. So, if the Left wants to stop Israel for real, then it must openly question the notion of Jewish Power and its role within Western politics and media.’

The Palestinians are ‘victims of a unique global political identity, namely the third category people who transformed the Holy Land into a Jewish bunker.’ (WH p.21).
Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

It couldn’t be clearer. Israel is a product of Jews, as Jews, not Zionism or colonialism. Atzmon is arguing that because Israel is not a settler-colonial state, BDS will not work, indeed it is counterproductive, because it will only lead to a further strengthening of the Right in Israel. Yet a moment’s thought and one will recall similar arguments against imposing sanctions on South Africa by Thatcher & Regan. It would strengthen the Right. We should rely on White liberals. It would hurt the victims.

That is why 170 grassroots Palestinian organisations came together in 2005 to form the BDS National Committee.

Despite protestations, Atzmon has never supported BDS, hence why many suspect his bona fides and motives. In an interview with Mary Rizzo he explained that:

‘interfering with academic freedom isn’t exactly something I can blindly advocate. … I am against any form of gatekeeping or book burning. But it goes further, I actually want to hear what Israelis and Zionists have to say. I want to read their books. I want to confront their academics.… I believe that the best way around it is to support freedom of speech categorically…’

When BDS activists disrupted the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra Atzmon’s sent me the following e-mail (Thursday, 22 September 2011, 17:00):

‘We loved your opposition and we also loved your Jewish campaign against the Jewish philharmony is never boring you :)’

and later the same night Atzmon explained his hostility to the Albert Hall action. We weren’t PS activists, ‘merely anti-Zionists.’:

‘Do you really think that BDS enthusiasts are blind to your Judeo centric actions and motivations? How are you going to protect Pls artists from similar Zionist actions… tragically, you are not Pls solidarity campaigners, you are merely anti Zionists.’

Maybe ¼ to 1/3 of those taking part in the IPO disruption were Jewish or affiliated to J-Big. Yet here we have an example of how Atzmon seeks to divide the movement between its Jewish and non-Jewish supporters.

It is however a fact that a major factor in the impetus of the Boycott movement has been its support by Jewish people. In the words of the J-Big slogan, they kosher the movement.

An article in the Jewish Chronicle ‘Named: boycott ringleaders’, 15/06/2007, by Bernard Josephs and Nicole Hazan, shortly after UNISON, Britain’s largest public sector trade union voted to support a boycott of all Israeli produce, highlighted the role of Jews in the Boycott movement. In the same edition, the account of the Board of Deputies meeting noted concern about the role of Jews in the BDS movement.

‘The JC today identifies the key players in the escalating British campaign to boycott Israel. Our investigation shows that many are Jewish or Israeli, and that they justify their stance as part of the struggle for Palestinian rights and ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. A high proportion are deeply involved in UCU, the University and College Union, which last month sparked an international outcry by voting to facilitate a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Anti-boycott figures suggest that the campaign has been fuelled by a well-organised mix of far-left activists and Islamic organisations. In reality, the main proponents are a loosely knit collection of academics and trade unionists linked to groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for the Boycotting of Israeli Goods, and Bricup, the British Committee for Universities of Palestine. … Prof Bresheeth told the JC that a boycott was not an easy decision. “I am Jewish and an Israeli, and I don’t wish harm on either side. But how long can this occupation go on?” Bricup has a large number of Jewish supporters, among them husband and wife Hilary and Steven Rose. Hilary, a professor of social policy at Bradford University, is Bricup’s co-convenor alongside Prof Jonathan Rosenhead. Her husband, an Open University biology professor, is the organisation’s secretary. They have been active in the boycott movement since 2002.’

It is no coincidence that Atzmon has targetted Jewish anti-Zionists at the same time as there has been an unprecedented outburst of Jewish opposition to Zionism and support for BDS. In the United States, Jewish Voices for Peace, which has now adopted BDS, has over 100,000 supporters.

Worse than Hitler? Absurd Exaggerations Can Only Harm the Case Against Zionism

Zionism is bad enough as it is without needing to exaggerate. It has expelled approximately one million Palestinians, holds another 3.5 million under a military occupation and treats its own Arab citizens as temporary guests. To say Israel is ‘as bad as Hitler’ is to weaken not strengthen the Palestinian cause. Everyone (bar holocaust deniers) knows that Israel hasn’t begun exterminating Palestinians. That isn’t to say that a significant section of the religious sector in particular wouldn’t like to do so. But Israel’s program is expulsion/transfer not extermination.

Atzmon is on record as stating that “to regard Hitler as the wickedest man and the Third Reich as the embodiment of evilness is to let Israel off the hook’ because Nazi Germany… (at least) were trying to take towns and land intact.’ Beyond Comparison This is but one example of Atzmon’s ignorance. The Nazis did indeed destroy Belgrade (& Warsaw). They intended to destroy Moscow. They intended to starve to death 30 million Russians. Is Israel really worse than this? These absurd comparisons are ahistorical, factually wrong and designed to discredit those who adopt them. As someone who isn’t shy to compare Israeli behaviour to that of the Nazis, it is important to get it right when you make such comparisons, not to wield them widely as a form of abuse.

Nor is Israel uniquely evil. At the same time as Israel was murdering some 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza in 2008/9, the Sri Lankan military were murdering an estimated 20,000 Tamils and setting up concentration camps to further brutalise the survivors. Was the Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka also ‘worse than Hitler’?

The Sinhalese majority are Buddhist. Is Buddhism therefore merely a cover for genocidal intent and racist barbarities? And was Protestantism in Northern Ireland responsible for the sectarian outrages against Catholics in what was termed by Prime Minister Lords Craig and Craigavon ‘A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People’?

Was there something especially cruel about American settlers or Australian convicts which led them to exterminate the indigenous population? Isn’t this argument rather reminiscent of that of Zionist Daniel Goldhagen’s execrable ‘Germans: Hitler’s Willing Executioners’ which placed the blame for the holocaust on the cruelty of Germans as Germans?

As my ‘Guide to the anti-Semitic jazzman Gilad Atzmon’ demonstrates, Gilad Atzmon is deeply anti-Semitic. He subscribes to every myth and libel that has ever been written about Jews, from the world Jewish conspiracy theory, to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the holocaust itself. No relic from the medieval sewer is too filthy for Atzmon to grasp at. The Bolsheviks were funded by Jewish capitalists in order to foment revolution! According to the young Atzmon the medieval Blood Libel may be true:

“It seems I didn’t learn the necessary lesson because when we studied the middle age blood libels, I again wondered out loud how the teacher could know that these accusations of Jews making Matza out of young Goyim’s blood were indeed empty or groundless.” [Wandering Who, p.185, Epilogue]

Atzmon’s and Friends Set Out to Destabilise the Palestine Solidarity Movement

Historically the Zionist movement has sought to associate anti-Zionists and supporters of the Palestinians with ‘anti-Semitism’. Atzmon is determined to prove the truth of such allegations. Some people have suggested that Atzmon, like his friend Israel Shamir, is an Israeli state agent. One thing is clear. He is worth his weight in gold to Israel’s hasbara. If he isn’t being paid by Shin Bet then he has a good case for unpaid wages, because every time he opens his mouth the Zionist find it difficult to contain their glee.

The work of PSC Branches and activists, up and down the country, has been disrupted by Atzmon and his supporters. Everywhere they seek to divert effort from BDS and solidarity work to ‘the Jews’. Everywhere they fail, but not without causing significant disruption.

Harry’s Place, the notoriously racist anti-Muslim site, which shares a common agenda with the English Defence League, is besides itself with glee at the work of Atzmon. For example in an article Gill Kaffash, The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Camden Council and Gilad Atzmon the utterances of Gill Kaffash, the newly resigned Secretary of Camden PSC, are spelt out.

Yet the increasingly deranged Lauren Booth, who all of us respected at the time of the Iraq War for speaking out against her war criminal brother-in-law, is happy to supply the Zionists with further copy. In Palestine Solidarity Campaign in unholy alliance with Israeli mouthpiece and UK Zionist website Booth has this to say:

‘Gill Kafesh, until recently the popular secretary of the Camden branch of the PSC, was “asked to resign by a small group, who made the decision at a special meeting” this autumn. On Harry’s Place, Kafesh is listed as (guess what?) “a supporter of Holocaust denial”. She denies the slur.’

She may well deny ‘the slur’. Nonetheless it is true. In an article My Life as a Holocaust Denier’ Paul Eisen recalls that when he ‘came out’ as a holocaust denier he was disowned by most people ‘but there were some who openly and repeatedly demonstrated their solidarity e.g. Dan McGowan, Henry Herskovitz, Gilad Atzmon, Sarah Gillespie, Israel Shamir, Francis Clark-Lowes, Gill Kaffash, Amjad Taha, Randa Hamwi Duwaji, Cambridge PSC, Rosemary Ernshaw, Fr. Michael Prior RIP, Ernst Zündel; Ingrid Rimland.’

In fact some of those on it – Rosemary Ernshaw and Fr. Michael Prior – were never supporters of Eisen and holocaust denial. Others like neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel and his wife Rimland certainly were. But also there is one Gill Kaffash. When I first saw this article, written in January 2008, I filed it away knowing that it made a number of false claims about people.

However in correspondence on 28th April 2011 Gill Kaffash, in an e-mail to activists stated that ‘Gilad Atzmon is very clear what he means by Jewishness. Come and hear him’. Debbie Fink took exception to the term ‘Jewishness’. In her response of 2nd May Kaffash complained that no one had explained to her why Atzmon was anti-Semitic. So on the same day I posted her an e-mail explaining that Eisen was a self-declared holocaust denier and cited Atzmon’s holocaust denial comments and the relevant quotations. On 7th May I reminded Kaffash that she had requested an explanation as to why Atzmon was anti-Semitic and yet she had gone unusually quiet. And so it was to be. When push comes to shove she has nothing (worthwhile) to say.

On 10th April 2011 I wrote to PSC Executive, referring them to e-mail discussions on the Brighton & Hove PSC list when Francis Clarke-Lowes had declared himself to be a holocaust denier. It should be pointed out that the reaction of local members of PSC to Lowe’s utterances were uniformly hostile. On 20th April Lowes was expelled by the officers of Brighton Branch, without any dissent by members.

I have had a number of disagreements with PSC Executive, as readers of this blog will confirm! However the reaction of PSC Executive and their Secretary Ben Soffa to the situation was quick and decisive. Frances Clarke-Lowes was unceremoniously expelled and although he has a right of appeal to the PSC AGM in January there is no doubt whatsoever that that decision will be upheld. In short there is no room at the Palestine Solidarity inn for holocaust or genocide deniers.

Equally welcome was the PSC Executive statement amending PSC’s aims to make what was previously implicit, holocaust denial, explicit.

In Bradford there has also been considerable disruption and diversion of energy as a result of the local Raise Your Banners group, once considered on the left, hosting Gilad Atzmon. It was originally booked at the Bradford Cathedral, but owing to slow sales of tickets was moved to a smaller venue. Nick Lowles, editor of the Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, which has previously been extremely supportive of Zionism under Gerry Gable, came out with an extremely fair report of this debacle.

PSC distances itself from Raise Your Banners

See also GILAD ATZMON: Supporting Holocaust Deniers and spreading hatred of Jews 

In Liverpool a Palestinian activist, Nahida, who was once the mainstay of the group, changed almost overnight when she married a sinister Dutchman. Jewish conspiracies took over her life and it was with difficulty that the branch reclaimed its website, which had posted links to her anti-Semitic website (‘Spiders Web’). Nahida wrote that ‘‘With my usual frankness I attempted to defend Atzmon and Eisen, explaining that in the writing of either men, I did not find any evidence supporting the allegations thrown against them i.e anti-Semitism or denial of the Holocaust.’ I commented on the blog explaining why both Atzmon and Eisen were anti-Semitic.

In Birmingham the Chair of Birmingham PSC, who interviewed me a number of times for Unity FM, a Muslim radio station, also became a convert to Atzmonism and holocaust denial. He was soon removed as an officer of the branch.

In Exeter the local Friends of Palestine group at the University held a meeting at which Atzmon was the star speaker. Exeter has been a problem branch for some time, with Roy Ratcliffe one of the most dedicated of Atzmon supporters. See Gilad Atzmon Finds Someone to Defend Him (Roy Ratcliffe) 

Naturally Atzmon and friends have fed off the disruption caused like vultures feeding off carrion. In a ‘review’ of David Landy’s new book’Jewish Identity & Palestinian Rights – Diaspora Jewish Opposition to Israel’, Atzmon wrote of how

‘In the last few months in the UK, more and more exiled Palestinians and solidarity activists have been kicked out from PSC and other solidarity organisations, thanks to relentless pressure from the so-called ‘Israel Critical Jews’. Francis Clark- -Lowes, former Chair of the National PSC was thrown out of the PSC a few months ago due to demands mounted by the infamous Jewish activist Tony Greenstein. Admired Palestinian poet and writer Nahida Izatt was also cleansed . This time it was no Israeli or a ‘Zionist’ who barred her from her local Palestinian solidarity group – it was a Jewish ‘anti’ Zionist Greg Dropkin who had been harassing her and other intellectuals for years. A similar fate was awaiting Gill Kaffash, an admired London activist, who was asked to resign from being Camden PSC’s Secretary. Sammi Ibrahem, Palestinian activist and radio journalist, originally from Gaza, was Chair of Birmingham PSC – at least he was, until he too was expelled due to Jewish ‘anti’-Zionist pressure.

The ‘Shoah – Palestinian Holocaust’ site , which is run by Atzmon or his devotees, in an article of 23.9.11. Palestine Solidarity Campaign PSC surenderd to Zio-Nazi Harry Place and J lobby pressure we are treated to a series of e-mails describing the plight of the hard pressed anti-Semite and holocaust denier facing expulsion and ostracism in the Palestine solidarity movement.

In his own contribution ‘PSC has made it’ of 23.9.11. Atzmon takes pleasure in the disruption and divisions he is causing. We are told that ‘UK PSC is now approved by the notorious UK hard core Zionist Jewish Chronicle (JC).’ And why? Because PSC had “amended its statement of purpose expressly to include a denunciation of Holocaust denial.” Atzmon purports to being ‘puzzled’.

Atzmon does not even know what holocaust denial can mean. ‘Can one deny’ he asks, ‘a historical chapter?’ In the course of many e-mails and what purports to be a discussion between Atzmon and myself, one thing I have learnt is that not only is Atzmon far more stupid than he gives himself credit for, but he also has a terrible memory, probably caused by imbibing certain substances. Yet even Atzmon can’t, I asked myself, be that stupid or forgetful.

After all when he performed for the SWP, he actually denied that he was a holocaust denier! He wrote on 21.6.05. that ‘This is to confirm that I am not a Holocaust denier, I have never denied the Nazi Judeocide and I do not have any intentions to do so. For me racism and Nazism are categorically wrong and it is that very realisation that made me into a devoted opponent of Israel and Zionism.’ Even more relevant than Atzmon’s coke ridden brain cells is the simple fact that of course it is possible to deny the holocaust. Just as it is possible to deny the Nakba, the Armenian Genocide and many other similar massacres. Indeed the deniers of the Nakba bear a distinct resemblance to holocaust deniers. Both use outright denial, despite the overwhelming evidence, to justify their barbarities.

Atzmon seems to think it is a sign that PSC has sold out that the Jewish Chronicle reported the fact that PSC had amended its statement of aims on its website to include: “Any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the Holocaust have no place in our movement.” Strange that when I would have thought that such an obvious anti-racist statement should have been welcomed.

The fact that PSC has admittedly come under pressure, because of the views held by a tiny minority of its members, doesn’t mean it has caved into Zionist demands. The fact is that holocaust denial is death to Palestine solidarity and PSC are more than aware of this fact. Likewise the fact that the Jewish Chronicle mentioned that ‘the move has been welcomed by Jewish anti-Zionists such as Tony Greenstein.’ should be welcomed. What would be worrying would be if the Zionists were attempting to ‘prove’ that Atzmon’s views represented anyone but himself and a small coterie around him. In particular, it would be worrying if it was seriously suggested that PSC somehow endorses Atzmon. It doesn’t and won’t.

Putting on his best mask, Atzmon assures that although not a member of PSC ‘I would like the PSC to be strong and effective.’ Yes Gilad, and kosher pigs really do fly!

But the most hysterical and vitriolic of all the contributions comes from one Lauren Booth on 26.11.11. In her article Palestine Solidarity Campaign in unholy alliance with Israeli mouthpiece and UK Zionist website Booth raises a call to arms by the Atzmonites as they realise that the bluff of their supporters has been called. She seems to have been particularly riled by the dissociation by PSC from any support or involvement in the Bradford concert by Atzmon. Booth wrote [Three people in this marriage. The PSC, the JC and Harry’s Place], (26.11.11.)

‘This week, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) revealed itself to be ethically compromised at the highest level.
In recent months it has become clear that the central office of the PSC is increasingly pandering to the whims of Israeli hasbara – or propaganda – activists, joining with the likes of the rabid Zionist site Harry’s Place in efforts to silence some of this movement’s most outspoken and popular thinkers.’

As if this were not bad enough the next section is entitled ‘Sarah Colborne dives into the Zionist sewer’. Sarah, who was one of those who was on board the Mavi Marmara, whose testimony at the following press conference was moving to anyone who watched it. She was clearly traumatised by what had happened. It is quite outrageous to describe her as a Zionist. Normally this term of abuse is reserved for Jewish anti-Zionists because they are Jewish. For opposing anti-Jewish racism, Ms Colborne has been branded a Zionist. Thus proving the very point we have been making.

It used to be the case that the National Front and Greater Britain Movement would attack ‘Zionists’ when they meant ‘Jews’. ‘Zionist’ was a code word. Today they don’t bother doing that. Instead they leave the really heavy anti-semitic lifting to Gilad Atzmon and his useful idiot, Lauren Booth.

According to Booth, ‘this is not the first but the most recent in a shameful spate of expulsions and harassment of pro-Palestinian activists by the national office of the PSC.’ The problem, apparently, is that ‘They [PSC] are attempting to create a pro-Palestinian organization that does not hurt Zionist sensibilities.’ And the result? They have ended up ‘In bed with the Islamophobic Zionist Harry’s Place’.

I mention this because I, more than anyone, have been critical of PSC because of its diplomatic orientation and its refusal to condemn Abbas and the Palestinian Authority or clearly come out against Histadrut or make a firm commitment in favour of a one-state, secular and democratic Palestine. However there is nothing that Booth, the paid scribe of Iran’s Press TV mentions that is at all critical of PSC’s political positions. Booth’s venomous attack is based on a core racist commitment.

Booth alleges that ‘Sarah Colborne and others have chosen to align with those whose interests lie in silencing debate on the precise nature of apartheid Israel and its root causes.’ It’s a strange accusation, not least because it is untrue. There are many criticisms that can be made of PSC, but this is not one of them.

Apparently the Jewish Chronicle ‘reported gleefully on PSC’s amended mission statement’ which condemned holocaust denial in its own right. I’m pleased it did. That means that whenever anyone doubts PSC’s viewpoint on anti-Semitism and the holocaust, they can refer back to the article. One wonders what Booth’s objection could possibly be. But no doubt the erudite half-sister of Cherrie Blair can tell us how holocaust denial is helpful to the Palestinian cause.

The question is what next to do. There is no doubt that the effect of the Zionist libel that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are one and the same has built support for Atzmon, who openly proclaims his anti-Semitism. It is also the case that Atzmon’s supporters tend to be Islamists, who have no tools of analysis bar Islam and are therefore prey to Atzmon’s subjective analysis. It also represents the despair of those who want to see the liberation of the Palestinians and see no end. There is a natural resentment against British Jews who support the horrific attacks of Israel on the Palestinians (& increasingly even Jewish citizens of Israel – witness the raft of Acts attacking basic democratic rights in Israel).

As Israel Shahak, the former Hebrew University Professor of Chemistry and survivor of Belsen-Bergson and the Warsaw Ghettoremarked, ‘The Nazis made me afraid to be a Jew, and the Israelis make me ashamed to be a Jew.” To be Jewish at the time of the attack on Gaza indeed made one feel ashamed, when innocent children and civilians were being butchered on the altar of Zionist expansionism. Ashamed at the fact that what was being done was being done in all of our names. But Gaza probably heralded a new stage in the struggle. Certainly in Britain, which contains one of the most devoted Jewish populations, the attendance at the Zionist war meeting in Trafalgar Square (4,000) was a fraction of previous turnouts.

If Atzmon were successful, it would only be to ensure that those Jews breaking from Zionism had second thoughts in view of the hostility to them of the Palestine Solidarity movement. Because the logic of Atzmon and Booth’s position is to picket not the Israeli Embassy but the local Jewish kindergarten.

PSC needs to take decisive action to root out, once and for all, those who evince sympathy for racism – of whatever description. And that includes the expulsion of Kaffash and Atzmon’s most devoted supporters. This isn’t a call for a witch-hunt. It is natural that people will occasionally refer to ‘Jews’ rather than ‘Zionists’. After all that is how Israel justifies its actions. The blurring of the distinction between being Jewish and Zionism is the effect of constant propaganda in this society. But those who evince sympathy with Hitler’s aims and fascism or deny that extermination was among his ‘achievements’ have no place in the Palestine solidarity movement.

It is no accident that nearly all of the far-Right and fascist parties in Europe [bar Hungary’s Jobbik and Germany’s NPD] are both racist and anti-Semitic and pro-Zionist. Anti-Muslim hatred is more important than anti-Semitism. [See Israel’s anti-Semitic Friends]

But there is also a crying need for greater internal education within PSC so that these issues don’t continually blow up. E.g. how many people realise that the first Zionists were non-Jewish imperialists or that the descriptions that the Zionists used about Jewish people were even more anti-Semitic than the anti-Semites or that they myths about Zionism, such as that Herzl was converted to Zionism by the Dreyfuss Trial are just that – myths.

But there is also one more thing that can be done. But only Palestinians can do it. Too many Palestinian intellectuals – e.g. Ramzy Baroud and Samir Abed Rabbo – have given comfort to Atzmon and supported his initiatives. Their stupidity beggars beliefs. These are people who are the most privileged Palestinians. They above all should understand that historically Zionism has always been helped by anti-Semitism. Even today, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj al-Amin Husseini, and his support for Hitler, is used to justify Israel and Zionism. The Mufti’s stupidity did more to help the Zionist cause than anything the current Netanyahu cabinet could manage. To visit Yad Vashem, the Zionists’ propagandistic holocaust memorial museum, one would think that next to Hitler, the Mufti was the major war criminal of Nazi Germany rather than the most minor and pathetically ineffectual individual that he actually was.

Yet Baroud, Rabbo and Makram Khoury-Machool seem determined to learn nothing and forget nothing. I have personally written to a number of progressive and leftist Palestinian intellectuals, such as Joseph Massad (from whom I’ve heard nothing whatsoever) but it is fair to say that people are keeping their heads down, hoping that things will blow over.

Yet if history teaches one thing it is that racism doesn’t go away of its own accord. There is a need for a forthright stance that makes it clear that no one benefits from anti-Semitism in the Palestine solidarity movement as much as the Zionists themselves. Indeed there is no better article on the subject than Joseph Massad’s article Semites and anti-Semites, that is the question in Al Ahram of 9.12.04.which is subtitled ‘Today the real victims of Western anti-Semitism are Arabs and Muslims.
* Tony Greenstein: Paid Undercover Mossad Agent to surf the internet 24 hours a day spreading positive news about Zio-Nazi I$raHell.   

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