This open letter, signed by Craig Berman, Sarah Glynn, Abe Hayeem, Rosamine Hayeem, Yael Kahn, Michael Kalmanovitz, Roisin Kalmanovitz, Agnes Kory, Selma James, Les Levidow. Moshe Machover, Helen Marks, Sam Weinstein and Karl Weiss, was first issued on 10 June 2018.
We are appalled that the Board of Deputies (BoD) which claims to be “the voice of British Jews,” has once again attempted to justify the massacre of unarmed Palestinian people by the Israeli military.
You issued a throw-away tweet on 31 March and a full statement on 15 May, followed by a comment opposing the World Health Organisation fact-finding mission into the health needs of the occupied territories on 24 May.
As you know, on 30 March, when Israel began its latest attack, Palestinians were commemorating Land Day. It was the launch of their Great March of Return demanding the right to go back to their homeland and an end to the blockade of Gaza. The March continued until 15 May, the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, when three-quarters of a million Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their land: hundreds of towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed to make way for the state of Israel.
Since 30 March, 123 Palestinians have been killed, including children, women and medics, and journalists wearing vests marked PRESS, many shot in the back, and 13,600 have been maimed or injured by live ammunition, tear gas and firebombs. For six weeks the killings continued, day after day, and on 14 May, when the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem, despite overwhelming global opposition, another massacre: 60 people killed, and 2,771 maimed and wounded. The Israeli use of illegal “dumdum” bullets which expand after entering the body was clearly intended to cause not only greater pain but permanent disabilities.
Your statement justifying this massacre prompted over 500 Jewish Zionists to write to outgoing president Arkush and president-elect Marie van der Zyl protesting that BoD had “deeply misrepresented” their views by relieving Israel of all responsibility for the deaths caused by their snipers.
BoD is doing its best to hide that Jews are divided over Israel’s ongoing repression and slaughter of the Palestinian people, which many of us, like most people everywhere in the world, including a number of Zionists, are outraged by. So much for BoD “speaking for all Jews”! You are so determined to defend Israel that you have even accused Jewish organisations and individuals of “antisemitism” because they support Palestinian rights, and campaigned for their expulsion from the Labour Party.
This is not the first time the BoD has condoned murder, claiming to speak on behalf of Jewish people in the UK. The BoD publicly supported pro-Israel rallies during the bombing of Gaza in 2008/9 and 2014 that killed thousands of Palestinian women, children and men. It has consistently supported a regime that is widely considered guilty of war crimes and the racist crime of apartheid. You are now saying that opposition to Israel’s actions is antisemitic, thus demanding that Israel should be the only government in the world exempt from criticism.
The BoD in recent years has been uncritical of Israel and pro-Tory, contrary to the great Jewish working-class tradition of struggling for social justice in every situation. Arkush declared his political allegiance when (on 9 June 2017) he mourned the Tory prime minister’s failure to win an outright majority at the general election as a “loss” for the Jewish community, and described the Tory alliance with the extreme right-wing, homophobic, anti-abortion Democratic Unionist Party in the North of Ireland as “positive news” and the DUP as “exceptionally warm and friendly”. The Tories that Arkush supports are aligned in Europe with right-wing political parties that honour Nazi collaborators and Islamophobes. Arkush also celebrated the election of Trump undeterred by his racist, Islamophobic, and antisemitic campaign.
Your identification with the Israeli government could prove even more frightening. Governments and people around the world fear that the wrecking of the agreement with Iran by Netanyahu and Trump (the heads of two nuclear powers) may start yet another war, repeating the horrors of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. You may find yourself not only supporting the destruction of Iran, but urging the risk of nuclear war.
As Jewish people we are distraught that the Nazi holocaust has been, and continues to be, used to justify the brutal occupation of another people who played no part in our historic persecution, and to indulge in warmongering.
We reclaim our tradition of struggling for social justice for all by echoing the call by Jamal Juma, coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and the Land Defence Coalition:
“It is time for the world to stop standing in implicit or explicit complicity with Israeli apartheid and to join us in nonviolent action by taking up the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions until Israel respects international law and human rights.”
Below a suitably sinister picture of Jeremy Corbyn and a very thin text in the Times, John Carlin (right) refers to Corbyn’s refusal to accept an invitation to attend an official dinner with Israel’s prime minister this week.
The position taken by the Labour leader is honest and consistent. Years ago he was arrested for demonstrating against Israel’s support for apartheid in South Africa.
Below: The West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit, seen through a barbed wire fence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to approve some hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements before slowing settlement construction, two of his aides said Friday, despite Washington’s public demand for a total settlement freeze.
“Since 1967 Israel has established over a hundred settlements in the West Bank. In addition, there are dozens more settlement outposts that are not officially recognized by the authorities. These settlements were established on vast tracts of land taken from the Palestinians, in breach of international humanitarian law. The very existence of the settlements violates Palestinian human rights, including the right to property, equality, a decent standard of living and freedom of movement”: B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
Jeremy Corbyn has consistently called for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people, supporting a two-state solution. Had he agreed to dine with a perpetrator, one can imagine the outcry and the charges brought against him.
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories is one of many Israeli Palestinian organisations working for justice and peace.
Nelson Mandela, to whom Carlin (his biographer) is said to have paid an eloquent, affectionate tribute (here), was loyal to Palestinians and troubled by Israel’s support of the South African apartheid, which he worked to end.
On a 1999 trip to Israel Mandela said:
“Israel should withdraw from all the areas which it won from the Arabs in 1967, and in particular Israel should withdraw completely from the Golan Heights, from south Lebanon and from the West Bank”.
(Read on here).
As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”
It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.
Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”
Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?
There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.
A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.
But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.
“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”
Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.
He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.
Co-existence in Iran
In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.
As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:
“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.
Admirable and truthful – a searing denunciation of Anglo-Saxon cruelty
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10203724273340046 – perhaps technically better – sight and sound.
Then he asks: “What to do?” and answers:
- Remove the embargo
- Step up EU differentiation policies
- Expel Britain’s Israeli ambassador
- Explore possibility of UN peacekeeping force in Gaza
- Send civilian organisations to restore Gaza’s electricity and meet all basic needs
A copy of the message sent by Dave Owen to the BBC:
I am staying in a Palestinian village close to Nablus. I am picking olives with Palestinian farmers as part of a UN Protective Presence, we monitor and report on attacks and incursions by illegal Israeli settlers and the Israeli Defence Force, which is the occupation force of the West Bank.
(Ed: to read more about this work and the detailed accounts of ‘attacks and incursions’ of many kinds and one illustration (below) of those relating to trees, go to: http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/3822b5e39951876a85256b6e0058a478/79be45d2e5f9d15985257d81004f3cc0?OpenDocument)
Three days ago 57 Palestinians were shot by the IDF and taken to hospital from the nearby Huwwara checkpoint, the injured included the Maan news reporter who was covering this event. The BBC did not report this story.
On Wednesday my friend and fellow olive picker David Amos was attacked by a group of young settlers from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar. He was hit three times on the head with large stones from close range while defenceless, a clear attempt to murder him. He escaped with his life by fleeing down the mountain with two other women olive pickers, who were also attacked and robbed.
The BBC have not reported this story at all and today rejected the proposal to speak to David on the Victoria Derbyshire program, after David had prepared himself, despite being unwell and in pain. We are extremely disappointed at the failure of the BBC to respond to this shocking story of unprovoked attack on a British citizen abroad.
While in the West Bank over the past week I have been following BBC news daily and am astonished at the pro-Israeli bias of reporting of this important story. Attacks, arrests and injury to ordinary Palestinians are simply ignored. Every story of an attack on an Israeli is given huge prominence. You are failing in your duty to provide objective unbiased news coverage. You may contact me on 07785355353.
Media Lens sees all this so clearly, retweeting in https://twitter.com/medialens and even more forcefullydoes John Hilley, in The BBC’s Shameful Film: “Children of the Gaza War”. Coverup of Israel’s Orchestrated Massacre: ‘A truly disgraceful piece of distortion from the BBC’s Lyse Doucet’ . . . From the first minute of this shoddy film, one just wants to urge Doucet: tell the truth, give the context!’
“There is no ‘war’, only another orchestrated massacre, a campaign of civil terror, in order to maintain Israel’s illegal siege”.
Rabbi Mendy Korer helped to organise unveiling of this commemorative plaque. He told the audience about inviting the local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, to Shabbat dinner after the MP suggested applying for a plaque to be fixed to the original site of North London Synagogue. See more on the United Synagogue’s website.
The four candidates standing for the Labour leadership participated in the public meeting co-hosted by the Jewish Chronicle, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement at the JW3 community centre in north London.
Links to two accounts of this event, written from different perspectives are given at the foot of the post. The first, from Middle East Eye, sent by a reader, carries more conviction in the writer’s opinion, because of its use of directly quoted speech. It also offers a video of the whole debate so that readers can hear the discussion for themselves.
Three of the four MPs standing – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall expressed their strong support for Israel during opening statements at the event moderated by journalist Jonathan Freedland, who writes a weekly column for The Guardian and a monthly piece for The Jewish Chronicle.
In his opening remarks Corbyn said that he had supported the establishment of the state of Israel – that was not reported in this account.
Corbyn is widely known for his peace activism and has been on nine visits to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza during his 32 years in parliament. He called for the UK to have “relationships with all sections of society in Israel” and stressed the need to have a nuanced view of the country: “We shouldn’t judge everything to do with Israel through the prism of whatever Benjamin Netanyahu is saying from one day to the next – Israel’s politics is much wider than that.” At that – and other points – there was applause from the audience – not reported.
He saw real grounds for hope in the ‘nuclear deal’ reached in Iran, but this was not reported by Haaretz or Middle East Eye.
Corbyn called for “robust discussion” on Israel’s siege of Gaza, the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and alleged mistreatment of Palestinian child detainees in Israeli prisons.
He said that following the Israeli assault on Gaza last summer both sides are now being investigated to see if they have committed war crimes, leading him to question whether it is wise for the UK to be continuing to sell arms to Israel. “Is it right that we are supplying arms [to Israel] in this situation? Is it right that we are importing goods from illegal settlements across the West Bank?”
An audience member asked the candidates whether it is appropriate for parliamentarians to host members of groups including the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah
The question was a reference to Corbyn hosting members of the two groups in parliament several years ago. In a clip that recently surfaced Corbyn referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” – a comment that has brought the leftwinger criticism due to the groups being viewed as terrorists by many Western nations. Corbyn defended his outreach to Hamas and Hezbollah: “You don’t achieve progress by only talking to those who you agree with,” he said. “You have to address the rights of everybody if peace is to be achieved across the whole region. Conflicts are settled politically, not necessarily militarily.”
Corbyn argued that criticism of Israel must not lead to anti-Semitism and that unity is key in the battle against prejudice of all forms. “Does questioning the behaviour of the Israeli state towards Palestinians lead to anti-Semitism? No, it mustn’t and shouldn’t,” he said. “Whether it’s a synagogue or a mosque under attack we must all come together to be as one in confronting it.”
Sources giving two different perspectives:
Valued by many countrywide and local people who elect him with a resounding 21,000 majority, Jim Pickard, the FT’s chief political correspondent reports that polls now place the MP for Islington North as ‘frontrunner’ to become the next leader of the Labour Party.
Mr Pickard reported that Labour MPs were shocked by the sheer extent of Jeremy Corbyn’s “first round” lead: at 43% of votes — against 26% for Andy Burnham, 20% for Yvette Cooper and 11% for Liz Kendall. The YouGov poll then pointed to a narrower advantage for the Islington North MP at the final round of the contest — at just 53% to 47% for Mr Burnham. He adds that the depth of support for his candidacy, leading to Wednesday’s YouGov poll showing him to be the likely winner on September 12 has astonished Mr Corbyn.
As Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London and Labour MP put it: “After plugging away in parliament, supporting all the right issues, he suddenly finds himself with a massive wave of support.”
Pickard notes that Mr Corbyn has “often been on the right side of history”:
- supporting the jailed Nelson Mandela,
- defending the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six — groups wrongly convicted of the 1974 pub bombings,
- opposing the Iraq war,
- speaking up for Mordechai Vanunu, imprisoned in Israel for revealing its secret nuclear weapons programme,
and we add:
- speaking to groups reflecting “the full range of political opinion in both Israel and Palestine”
- and keeping dialogue open with Irish republicans: “jaw jaw, instead of war, war”.
Advice from Blair and his minions
One of many other anecdotes of the ‘panic-stricken’ concerns John McTernan, an adviser to the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who is said to have rounded on the 35 MPs who nominated Mr Corbyn, branding them “morons”.
The appalling prospect of a leader who might not Whip his party into submission
Emily Thornberry, MP for neighbouring Islington South, said she had a lot of respect for Mr Corbyn, who is a “lovely, friendly, relaxed” person: “My concern is whether he has the experience necessary to negotiate common lines for the official opposition . . . Politics is the art of the possible and has to involve compromises, and the next leader can’t let people say whatever they like.”
Ken Livingstone’s comment on this suggestion: “Under Blair we had a load of ghastly clones just there to represent corporate interests”. If there are people who joined the party just because they wanted to get rich and get nice corporate jobs after leaving government, perhaps we would be better off without them.”
A level-headed response
Mr Corbyn said his campaign was going well but talk of his victory was premature. As for Mr Blair’s criticism, he said it was “rather silly”, adding: “Surely we should be talking about the situation facing Britain today, the situation facing many of the poorest people in this country today, and maybe think if our policies are relevant.”
My neighbour’s unsolicited verdict today at lunch: “If Corbyn is elected I might rejoin the Labour Party”.
Chamber of Shame’s revolving door: the interests of the already rich are served and media further compromised
Clearly at the service of the multinationals, especially arms manufacturers and United States/Israel/Gulf states – and not those whom they were elected to serve – the Conservative cabinet goes full steam ahead to consolidate these links:
From Abu Dhabi Airports to the UK Ministry of Defence
As the electorate sees cuts to basic services, the coalition government has decided to appoint Tony Douglas, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports, with most useful Middle East contacts, as the new chief executive of Defence Equipment and Support (DE & S) on Tuesday. The FT reports: “The new chief of Britain’s armaments programme is to be rewarded with a £285,000 salary and £250,000 performance-related annual bonus, making him the highest earner in Whitehall and the latest in a new line of senior business figures lured into the public sector with the promise of private sector levels of pay”.
Now to the BBC Trust: Sir Roger Carr, arms manufacturer, representing your average license fee payer?
Investigative journalist Felicity Arbuthnot adds another breathtaking example: Roger Carr, the chairman of Europe’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems and Visiting Fellow of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, has just been appointed as Vice-Chair of the BBC Trust, ludicrously, “to represent license fee payers views”. The BBC is established under a Royal Charter and – under an agreement with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport – is to serve the public, inform, educate and entertain.
BBC impartiality further compromised?
The BBC Trust is its governing body, mandated to ensure that the BBC delivers that mission – and ‘speak peace’ according to the charter coat of arms.
On a range of issues, grossly skewed information has led to floods of public protest and the official 2004 Hutton Inquiry investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, a biological warfare expert and former UN weapons inspector in Iraq challenged the BBC’s journalistic standards and its impartiality.
CAAT protests that BAE Systems has armed dictatorships and human rights abusers around the world, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel. It has presented a petition asking the BBC to cut its ties with Carr and the arms trade.
The Guardian’s gross omission
Disturbingly, the Guardian, still read by many thoughtful people, does not mention this affiliation, listing only Carr’s former appointments.
After reading a cutting from a neighbour’s Observer the writer learnt that, in Israel, four largely Arab-Israeli parties have merged and – with the name of the Joint List (above) – are gathering increased support. This party is predicted to win 3 seats in the election and would then become the third largest part after Likud and the Labour Zionist Union. Today, a Surrey reader sent an article from the New York Times: ”Arab Alliance Rises as Force in Israeli Elections” by Diaa Hadid in Ibillin, Israel.
Ayman Odeh [right], the leader of the Joint List, made a good impression in late February on Israel’s popular Channel 2, during the only debate of the election season. It was described as a breakthrough moment for Mr. Odeh, a lawyer from Haifa who has never served in Parliament but is now likely to be a power broker in forming Israel’s next government.
We read that in Israel this year, Avigdor Lieberman, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, campaigned to raise the percentage of votes required to enter Parliament, threatening the survival of four small Arab parties, so they decided to unite.
The move has energized many of Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens, whose participation rate in elections had been decreasing.
Mr. Odeh has indicated he will support Mr. Herzog of the centre-left Zionist Union if he manages to oust Mr. Netanyahu and is changing the tone of Arab politics with a vow to work with Jewish allies to achieve equality for his community. He quotes Martin Luther King Jr. and Palestinian poetry as he preaches coexistence with the Jewish majority. He told high school students on March 7 in Ibillin, an Arab town in the hills of the Galilee:
“We want to throw our weight as a people into politics. We want to build institutions for our people . . . We need to extend bridges to the Jewish community. Martin Luther King fought for blacks, and democratic whites were with him.”
Amal Jamal, a professor of political science at Tel Aviv University said that though the war in Gaza was very painful and bloody, “There’s a feeling that the Israeli reality is changing, and that the united Arab list can change the political map in Israel and so from that, there’s optimism.”