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June 05, 2007

Why pick on Israel? Because its actions are wrong.

Writing about web page http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article2611732.ece

Boycott IsraelIn yesterday's Independent the comments section had a neat little article entitled: "Why pick on Israel? Because its actions are wrong" by Steven Rose.  It essentially responds to three issues currently dominating discourse on the proposed academic boycott of Israeli universities:

1) How can you boycott academia? What about Academic freedom?

2) Why pick on Israel? Why don't push for action over Darfur, Tibet or Iran?

3) It is antisemitic. 

Anyone familiar with Dershowitz will have heard these arguments time and again in debates. If you choose to criticise or take action against Israel you must be anti-semitic. Why? Because you're highlighting the Jewish state instead of a number of other states at least as bad as Israel! It's mind-numbing.


Anyway, here's his article. Anything in bold is my emphasis. 



The University and College Union annual congress last week voted by a two-thirds majority to organise a campus tour for Palestinian academic trade unionists to explain why they had called for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and to encourage UCU members to consider the moral implications of links with Israeli universities. Not surprisingly, this overwhelming vote met with a roar of hostility from what we have learned to call the Israel lobby.

Our government, long accustomed to sitting on its hands when any serious attempt to censure Israel is made, predictably joined the chorus. More surprisingly, the Independent's editorialist and its columnist Joan Smith followed along. The boycott, we are told, damages academic freedom, picks on Israel, and encourages anti-Semitism on British campuses.

Entirely suppressed in this harrumphing has been any thought about why Palestinian university teachers and their union, as well as all the NGOs in the Occupied Territories, have called for a boycott. Academic freedom, it appears, applies to Israelis but not Palestinians, whose universities have been arbitrarily closed, Bir Zeit for a full four years. Students and teachers have been killed or imprisoned. Attendance at university is made hazardous or impossible by the everyday imposition of checkpoints. Research is blocked by Israeli refusal to allow books or equipment to be imported.

Even within Israel itself, some universities sit on illegally expropriated land, Arab student unions are not recognised and there are increasing covert restrictions on Arab-Israelis (20 per cent of the population) entering university at all. No Israeli academic trade union or professional association has expressed solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues a few kilometres away across the wall, though the boycott call may finally encourage them to do so.

When challenged, Israelis cite examples of collaboration with Palestinians: bridges, not borders. Fine, but because Palestinian academics from Gaza or the West bank are not permitted to enter pre-1967 Israel, how real can such collaborations be? If academic freedom means anything, it must be indivisible. And what are Palestinians to make of the uncensured insistence by senior Israeli academics that their family size constitutes a demographic threat to the Jewish state?

But why should academics, culture workers, architects and doctors in the UK, who have all in recent months called for forms of boycott of Israel, take such action? Why pick on Israel, we are asked. After all, as Joan Smith points out, there are lots of ugly regimes around. How about boycotting the UK until troops are removed from Iraq? But boycott is merely a specific tactic, a non-violent weapon available to individual members of civil society. It is only one form of protest: many boycott supporters are at least as actively involved in the various campaigns against the UK's illegal war in Iraq as in any boycott of Israel.

No one asks those campaigning against China's occupation of Tibet why not Israel or Darfur? If opponents of our boycott call want to make a case for boycotting Cuba (one boycott that Israel, following its American paymaster at the UN, habitually supports) they are free to do so. The issue is not "Why Israel?" but "Why not Israel?" Yet the secular western press, so willing to express discomfort with states that describe themselves as "Islamic Republics" is seemingly untroubled by the ethnic assumptions underlying the claims of a Jewish republic.

Further, it is precisely because Israel prides itself on its academic prowess (just as South Africa did of its sporting prowess) that the idea of an academic boycott is so painful. Israel has uniquely strong academic links with Europe, and despite its Middle-East location and constant breaches of European legislation on human rights, receives considerable financial research support from the EU. That's why the Israeli cabinet felt it necessary to set up an anti-boycott committee under that well-known campaigner for a greater Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, and why teams of Israeli academics toured the UK before the UCU vote to try to block the boycott call.

Lurking behind the thinking of even well-meaning opponents of the boycott is that it is in some way anti-Semitic. This ignores the fact that the boycott is of Israeli institutions, not individuals (so it would affect the tiny number of Palestinian academics in Israeli institutions, but not a Jewish Israeli working in the UK or US). Second, it ignores the fact that the British Jewish community is itself intensely divided over Israel, between those who will defend Israel at all costs, and the increasingly vocal critics who insist "not in our name". Even a cursory look at the signatories of the various boycott calls will show the large number of prominent Jewish figures among them. It really isn't good enough to attack the messenger as anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew rather than deal with the message itself, that Israel's conduct is unacceptable.

What could be a more democratic way of bringing debate on to university campuses than the instruction to the UCU to organise a campus tour for Palestinian academic trade unionists to engage in discussion before UCU members decide whether to support their call for a boycott? Those who cherish the idea of the university as the house of reason will surely welcome the opportunity for calm discussion of a controversial issue.

The writer is secretary of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine

                              Steven Rose, The Independent, 04/06/2007


April 13, 2007

Quotation of the Week

          

ghandi

"Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and in-human to impose the Jews on the Arabs."


April 01, 2007

Bush and Blair, the hypocritical pair.

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6514567.stm

President George W Bush has condemned Iran's "inexcusable behaviour" after its capture of 15 Royal Navy personnel.

Mr Bush told reporters at Camp David: "The British hostages issue is a serious issue because the Iranians took these people out of Iraqi water.

"And it is inexcusable behaviour.

"And I support the prime minister when he made it clear there were no quid pro quos. The Iranians must give back the hostages."

(I have edited out irrelevent portions and all parts in bold are my emphasis)

I've been watching BBC news this morning and, without even a trace of amusement (or bemusement), the newsreaders skip from Bush announcing that Iran must free the "British Hostages" to a story of a British "Detainee" realeased from captivity in Guantanamo Bay after five years. This is all amid a deeply sickening fiasco where the US is explicitly refusing to extradite CIA Agents accused of kidnapping (part of the illegal "extraordinary rendition") EU nationals from Germany and Italy. The US is even threatening to withold intelligence from the nations if they persue the extradition requests. 

Disgusting. 


December 15, 2006

Palestine: Attempt on Ismail Haniyeh

Follow-up to Palestine: Civil War Ahead? from The Story of Hamid-o

Haaretz

Hamas officials said the 24-year-old guard was shot in the head during intense gunfire from Fatah forces. “The bodyguard to Ismail Haniyeh was killed during an assassination attempt,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
/> [Haniyeh] added, “we know the party that shot directly at our cars, injuring some of the people with me… and we also know how to deal with this.”
/> About 50 gunmen greeted Haniyeh at his home in a refugee camp next to Gaza City, firing in the air and throwing candies. [What the hell?]
/> More than two dozen people, including the Haniyeh’s son, Abed, 27, were wounded in the fighting, deepening factional violence that has pushed the rival Hamas and Fatah parties closer to civil war. An official said that the son was not badly hurt.

Reading through the article, it’s not clear exactly how things started, but the end result is Haniyeh with a dead bodyguard, a half-dead son and a clear threat in the shape of “And we also know how to deal with this.”

This piles onto other recent events indicating the spiral down into a civil war, at least within Ghaza.

As with nearly any Israeli/American-written article on Palestine/Lebanone/The World these days, the evil Iranian boogeyman crops up:

The security establishment has voiced its concern over the emergence of closer ties between Hamas and Iran, as Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran this week is viewed by Israel as a possible step by them towards establish a strategic pact.

In my view the Palestinians could do a lot worse than looking to Iran for backing. The Arabs have failed them. The Europeans have been pic’ ‘n’ mix friends. The Americans have since the ‘60s been firmly aiding Israel.

The Iranians are promising ideological support (ie firm support for the creation of a Palestinian state or some bi-national state – I’m going to be deleting any comments saying Ahmadenijad wants Israel “wiped off the map”), economic support and logistical support. The Palestinians are already under severe economic sanctions and the occupation has been continuing in its brutality no matter what the Palestinians do. If the Palestinian factions stop failing the Palestinian people and embrace Iran, it is quite possible they will be able to more-effectively wage guerrilla warfare against the occupying power.


December 05, 2006

Palestine: Civil War Ahead?

The Palestinians have more-or-less managed to avoid civil war. over the past 40 years. There were always various rivalries between competing Palestinian factions, but the Palestinians have been able to stop that from fomenting into anything more than rivalry because of the united national goal and the united will of the Palestinian people (to see an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip).

Now it’s looking increasingly as though there is set to be some form of civil war between Fatah (and which ever splinter groups or allies choose to aid it) and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

This isn’t worrying just because of the potential violence and death that may ensue, it is also worrying because it reduces the Palestinian leadership(s) to mere monkeys dancing to an Israeli accordian.

Fatah has proven, since 1993, to be willing to comply to Israeli demands in order to gain or retain power. Hamas has proven to be equally pliant but in a different way. Time and again Hamas has predictably reacted to Israeli provocation in precisely the manner the Israeli authorities desired (for example, when Hamas would orchestrate a hudna, the Israelis would make an assassination. And if no reaction, another assassination. And then another until Hamas responded by making a strike against Israeli civilians which the Israelis would use as an excuse to escalate their violence).

And now these two monkeys are hearing the Israeli tune and dancing more ferociously than ever. They can’t see the wood for the trees? Would Palestinian Civil War be beneficial to Israel? Of course it would. Why? Well:

1) If the major Palestinian militant groups are fighting amongst themselves, they’re not going to be fighting with Israel.

2) If the Palestinians are engaged in civil war, Israel can continue to pursue its policy of the last 10 years and create de facto borders which will ultimately result in a semi-autonomous Palestinian region within an Israeli state. The Israelis won’t have to negotiate if the Palestinians can’t decide on their leadership. Negotiations completely go out the window. Palestinians destroy themselves while Israel reaps the benefits. To quote the Chinese Idiom: ”坐山观虎斗“ – Sit on a mountain and watch two tigers fight.

3) It frees the Israelis up to pursue other actions. Notably Lebanon. Israel is already making hints towards a future invasion (as though the hints at the end of the last war weren’t obvious enough) and it’s looking increasingly likely that an invasion or “intervention” will take place. .

Here’s hoping that neither Fatah nor Hamas will take the bait and launch a civil war. It would mean the ruin of hopes for a sovereign Palestine.


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