Comment

Israel’s defendants have questions to answer

I was surprised when I learnt about comments that had been accusing the Palestine Society of being a ‘vicious hub of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate’. Ironically of course, opposition to racist colonization of Palestine is the root of the struggle; thus opposition to all forms of racism is what Palestinian solidarity is about. Anti-Semitism is a tired old accusation from Zionists, retreating behind mendacious slurs when losing the arguments.

Make no mistake, the defenders of Israel are losing the arguments. Israel is consistently ranked among the world’s most unpopular nations, while an attempt by the ‘Academic Friends of Israel’ to legally challenge pro-boycott activists, accusing them of anti-Semitism was described by a judge as, ‘without substance’, ‘palpably groundless’ and ‘obviously hopeless’. What makes such accusations of anti-Semitism even more preposterous is the range of Jewish organisations fighting Israeli oppression, including Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK), Jewish Voice for Peace (USA) and even the Israeli group Boycott from Within. I have myself been taken on a tour of Israeli settlements by a group of Jews called ‘Breaking the Silence’, all Israeli ex-soldiers who speak about crimes they have seen committed by occupying forces in Palestine.

A host of organisations have already endorsed or pursued various boycott and divestment strategies. BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) principles and tactics have been formally endorsed by national trade union federations in South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Brazil and other countries across Latin America. Academic unions in the UK and Canada have voted to support various academic boycott campaign initiatives. The European Parliament elected not to renew a contract with G4S following action by Palestine solidarity groups. The Norwegian government pension fund and 12 other European finance institutions have excluded Israeli arms company Elbit Systems from their portfolios. The boycott is growing, hence the need for smear tactics from anti-boycott activists.

For me, the occupation of Palestine is more than just a set of grim statistics. It is also a series of personal stories. In 2013, I spent three months with a group of Palestinian students on the ‘Right to Education’ campaign at Birzeit University. I found that Palestinian academics are frequently denied visas to teach, students are prevented from studying at certain universities by the restrictions of the occupation, and that Palestinian students face arbitrary arrests or attacks from Israelis. During my short stay there, several were brutally killed by occupying forces.

I witnessed the war crimes committed against Palestinian students when I visited the Israeli military court system. Palestinians are taken to prisons in Israel in violation of Geneva Conventions, frequently abused and tortured, then convicted by kangaroo courts on ‘secret evidence’. In one case that I reported on, a friend’s fiancee was detained without trial for months on end, deteriorating in condition every time we saw him. The prisons he was held and abused in, Jalameh and Ofer, were equipped by G4S. How anyone could justify a university holding investments in such a company is beyond me, but this is the position of those who oppose boycotts. I don’t like being smeared as anti-Semitic, but I don’t bleed from it either. The real danger of the way Israel’s policy advocates behave is to shut down opposition to Israeli crimes and block action against them. The ultimate victims are the Palestinians themselves.

My father, once a student campaigner against apartheid in South Africa, often tells me how Lancaster University refused to support an honorary degree for Nelson Mandela because it was ‘politically insensitive’, and how Conservative students would walk around campus with badges reading ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’, while making spurious anti-boycott arguments. Those students played a role in prolonging apartheid, making the struggle of men like Mandela both harder and deadlier. Some things, it would seem, never change. Until Israel’s advocates stop apologising for Israel’s every crime and begin to think about the consequences of their actions, then the conflict will continue.

If they are interested in having a mature political debate about Israeli apartheid and colonialism, and how boycotts can fight it, then they know where they can find me. Until then, a period of silence on their part would be most welcome.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Pup Barrett

    25th January 2014 at 14:17

    Power to your elbow.

  2. Anonymous

    25th January 2014 at 18:11

    I agree. We have so many arguments and we did our best to have a transparant debate. Now we understand the zionists and their supporters never had the intention in a debate. They wanted to yell and keep the truth under the carpet. The issue is:

    A settler society is viable when they fulfill three conditions:

    1 the “solution” of the native “problem” has been found and finalized
    2 the settler state has decisively established its hegemony over or at least achieved normal relations with its neighbors
    3 it has obtained a measure of independence from the metropolitan sponsors by acquiring the ability to sustain itself economically and militarily because until it has fulfilled the first two conditions, the settler society must remain a garrison state, dependent on foreign military aid and logistical support
    Israel never came that far. It is on its retreat. Thanks for the information

  3. Robert

    25th January 2014 at 18:14

    The real issue is:
    A settler society is viable when they fulfill three conditions:

    1 the “solution” of the native “problem” has been found and finalized
    2 the settler state has decisively established its hegemony over or at least achieved normal relations with its neighbors
    3 it has obtained a measure of independence from the metropolitan sponsors by acquiring the ability to sustain itself economically and militarily because until it has fulfilled the first two conditions, the settler society must remain a garrison state, dependent on foreign military aid and logistical support

    A settler society is viable when they fulfill three conditions:

    1 the “solution” of the native “problem” has been found and finalized
    2 the settler state has decisively established its hegemony over or at least achieved normal relations with its neighbors
    3 it has obtained a measure of independence from the metropolitan sponsors by acquiring the ability to sustain itself economically and militarily because until it has fulfilled the first two conditions, the settler society must remain a garrison state, dependent on foreign military aid and logistical support

  4. Anonymous

    25th January 2014 at 19:46

    Well.. Their is a lot here in this article. mostly ignorance and accusations without proof. I would just like to say that, u are not anti-semetic for opposing Israeli policy. U are an anti Semite, because you are asking Israel to live up to a standered, that u don’t ask other countries to. Where is the boycott of turkey, who has jailed the most journalists and doesn’t allow free speech, and occupies and has sent settlers to northern Cyprus or who bombed Iraqi Kurds violating sovereignty of Iraq. Where is the boycott if China, for occuping and killing Tibet. And why is it ok for morocco to occupy west Sahara and build settlements their, a move that is not recognized by any nation. But the EU just signed a fishing agreement with morocco. Their are no boycotting of Saudi Arabia for stoning woman who are accused if adultery. When u start boycotting and applying the same standereds. For all the countries that break international law than u won’t be singling out Israel and won’t be an anti-Semite. Furthermore, while u were in judea and sameria, did u check out how palastinians are teaching their children to hate and kill Jews from the time they are born. So stop picking on Israel and learn your international law, and maybe a little history and u won’t be an anti Semite….

  5. Wallis Banner

    26th January 2014 at 01:37

    “…you are asking Israel to live up to a standered, [sic] that u [sic] don’t ask other countries to.”

    Let’s consider the soundness of your ‘argument’…

    You are admitting Israel is guilty of the massive human rights violations we would associate with the likes of China and Iraq, you just want to divert criticism away from Israel ’til the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is complete. Good luck with that.

    Each and every year, Americans shell out more than 3 billion, crisp reasons why WE have a right to hold Israel to a higher standard. Sure, all the ‘shining beacon of democracy in an otherwise bleak landscape’ crap works on Canada’s PM, and the ugly Americans queuing up to see inside the ‘The Land of Israel’ theme park, but the rest of us have heard it all before.

    Automatons like you are the REAL promoters of anti-Semitism.

  6. Asher

    26th January 2014 at 09:23

    Fuck off troll it’s our land and the Arabs deserve to rot for the crap they’ve done both to Israel and Americans or have u forgotten 9/11, ft hood, and the Coleman? Traitors like you should move to the filthy Arab lands and see how human these animals are!

  7. Exasperated Pro-Palestinian.

    26th January 2014 at 15:45

    Asher -that argument FALLS.

    Firstly, the Zionist movement began as demanding a Jewish homeland, not specifically in Palestine. There were plans to set up a state in Uganda, and even somewhere in the USA.

    Secondly, by your argument of ‘We were there 5000 years ago’ FALLS.
    By your logic, the French, Germans, Italians, Scandinavians and a number of other people have a rightful claim to Britain because they were there ‘a few thousand years ago’. From this, I assume you would you be completely happy with Italians coming over and telling us all to fuck off to Wales whilst they ruled over the rest of Britain? (But theres archeological evidence n shit!)

    I also think that Zionists coercing holocaust survivors (who DIDN’T EVEN WANT TO GO TO PALESTINE) to fight out Arabs and blow up the British weren’t particularly nice people either.

    Also, wanna see the fantastic way the the Palestinians are treated? http://www.btselem.org/ <- there ya go. Israeli Human Rights site.

  8. Igor

    26th January 2014 at 19:05

    @ wallis….

    im not saying Israel is guilty of human rights violations.. I’m saying that is the position of the BDS movement. AND EVERY COUNTRY INCLUDING BRITAIN AND AMERICA IS GUILTY OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS… (DRONE POLICY) BUT LAST TIME I CHECKED NOBODY IS ASKING FOR W. BUSH TO BE CHARGED AS A WAR CRIMINAL. AND OBAMA HAS A PEACE PRIZE.. SO GET OF YOUR HIGH HORSE.
    my personal views are that under current international law, countries can get away with lot in the name of national security, and i don’t agree with policies such as destroying homes FOR NO REASON and i don’t understand why the settlers are not punished to a further extent for their actions. but saying that everything that is done in the west bank is a violation of international law.. when you don’t know what international law says and the fact that their has been almost no precedent in international law for a situation like this, is just ignorant. AND BEFORE ANYONE READS OFF THE GENEVA ACCORDS OR A UN RESOLUTION..I HAVE READ AND STUDIED THEM. their are many more documents that apply to this VERY, VERY complicated situation like the fact that the Oslo accords gives Israel civilian and military control over area A. or the fact that british mandate which was adopted by the UN and the league of national at san marino, states that the jewish homeland is to be between the Mediterranean and present day Jordan. also the fact that in the cease fire treaty with Jordan in 1948, the green line is said to have NO legal affect as a boarder of any kind. resolution 242 states that Israel must have a secure boarder. resolution 181 was rejected by the arabs so it is null and void. thus the british mandate is the only document that sets legal boarders. in that area and Israel( or the home for jews) is supposed to have the west bank and Gaza.

    to the point about money:
    1. israel invests a large portion of that 3 billion, right back into the american economy, by buying weapons and other supplies.. thus creating American jobs.
    2. america invests a lot more in other countries that have worse humane rights records than Israel.
    Egypt: gets over a billion in aid
    Pakistan: is getting billions of dollars
    Turkey: gets millions in aid and military support
    Iraq and Afghanistan(were the Taliban are shooting little girls for going to school): is getting billions of dollars in aid.
    Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen are all receiving hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars to have friendly relations with america
    lets also not forget the hundreds of millions of dollars america send to the UN who than send that money to North Korea, Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Libya, Hamas controlled Gaza,
    China has and america have a “special economic agreement” between the countries that costs american taxpayers billions in revenue.

  9. Igor

    26th January 2014 at 19:59

    @ mr. Elliot.

    you are confusing colonialism with the legal return of the people to their ancient home land.. or the land of their ancestors… since their was a jewish STATE AROUND 1,000 BCE in the current Israel. also colonialism is for a FOREIGN power.. Israel is returing to their OWN HOMELAND. secondly most of the established settlements were legally purchased from their landlords before 1948.

    as for the term apartheid. you can’t say Israel is an apartheid state because u also argue that the west bank is not part of Israel.. while in Israel.. arabs can vote, hold political office, become doctors, lawyers, supreme court judges, and anything else they want. they also have the right to attend any higher institute of learning that they want. EVEN YOUR HERO JIMMY CARTER SAID “THAT ISRAEL IS NOT AN APARTHEID STATE”…. HE thinks that the policies that Israel is deploying in the west bank and Gaza have resemblance to the south african apartheid state. which I DISAGREE WITH. because residents of area a in the west bank can and do sue the state of Israel and its citizens in israeli court rooms and WIN. i admit many policies seem to be applied unequally between settlers and arabs.. that is a racism problem.. which must be fixed… but All countries have racial issues.. America still has racial and sexual discrimination. BUT I WOULD NOT CALL THE SITUATION IN THE WEST BANK AREA A AN APARTHEID. in fact many policies ( which I’m not saying are correct) are just a continuation of the british policies that were in affect when Britain controlled the area.( holding suspects with out bail or hearing for 3 months at a time)

  10. TheEvilZionists

    26th January 2014 at 20:11

    When will the BDS cultists understand that just because they’re not anti-semitic it doesn’t mean they can’t be wrong? And moreover when will they understand that just because someone is anti-Israel it doesn’t mean they’re not anti-semitic? As the article so conveniently fails to mention the accusation came after very real anti-semitism posts on their page. The fact that they were removed does mean that they perhaps weren’t representative and that the accusers were wrong to apply the label to the whole of the society but it doesn’t prove anything along the lines of “Anti-Semitism is a tired old accusation from Zionists”. Also notice how you say “Zionists”, not Israelis, not Pro-Israel acitvists – Zionists. So the “bad guys” here are those who believe in the right of self-determination of the Jewish People. Can’t be too surprised nowadays, the attitude of the BDS campaigners towards Jews is generally the same as that of what this article implies in its second paragraph : “The only good Jew is the Jew that agrees with me”. In fact I happen to be critical of a lot of Israel policies myself, but I have not reached the degree of self-loathe where I can stand side by side with people repeating the same Anti-Semitic tropes (just replacing “Jew” with “Zionist”) and pretend they’re just fighting for the rights of Palestinians.

  11. Igor

    26th January 2014 at 20:33

    very well said “evilzionist”… i agree 100% with you

  12. Blake

    26th January 2014 at 22:14

    There is no negating real history. Non fiction is the sane man’s education. Fairytale myths of the fakest of the fake fraudsters are not. Not that being an Israelite (they were bedouins, not Europeans btw) who migrated to Palestine entitles you to the land of Palestine. There is no negating real history. Jericho is 10000 years old.Palestine will be liberated from the river to the sea.

  13. CU

    30th January 2014 at 02:05

    This article is nothing less than a literary masterpiece – Mr Elliott *must* be a student of literature, given the enthralling nature of his prose.

    Consider the title: “Israel’s defendants have questions to answer”. It is an accusation, but it is also a tentative to understand and humanize. After all, do we not *all* have our own questions to answer? Perhaps, in a sense, we are all defendants of Israel? The universal nature of this strong statement is clearly an echo of Shylock’s “If you cut us, do we not bleed?” Do Jews not bleed when cut? Do they not answer questions? Are they not, in a sense, human?

    Also, note the choice of words: “Israel’s defendants”. As Mr Elliot knows very well, a ‘defendant’ is the accused in a criminal trial; perhaps he is suggesting that the Jews are accused by Israel in the court of law of the divine?

    The oeuvre continues with a stream-of-consciousness narrative, meandering seemingly erratically and purposeless through vague anecdotes about the BDS movement and the author’s memories from Palestine. But is the author not trying to send a message? Is this not a rallying cry against coherence, against the illusory nature of ‘logical argumentation’, which is little more but a manifestation of humankind’s hubristic claim to knowledge?

    Only a person of no literary taste would take this literary work in earnest; though its presentation as an op-ed piece might fool some, it is patently obvious that no Oxford student deserving of his place could ever write something of such appalling quality. No, this must be satire, and of the very highest rank.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

The Latest

To Top