28 February 2009

28 February 2009 - Obama makes the right choice

The U.S. has pulled out of Durban 2. Finally. Question: would it have been better to avoid the negotiations in the first place, or is the opposition to Durban 2 stronger now that Obama has made a show of his attempt to change it? Follow-up question: did Obama intend to withdraw all along, or was vocal opposition the reason he changed his mind?

25 February 2009

25 February 2009 - Antisemitic trade union begs for end to debate

Mr. Bongani Masuku, who is the international spokesman of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, has been ranting against Israel and Jews for several weeks now via e-mail. Now that several of his recipients have responded, Mr. Masuku has asked for the debate to end. This morning, he sent the e-mail below, with the subject heading "FINAL WORD." It is a testament to the hatred and ignorance at the core of the anti-Israel left. I have included it in full and unedited.

Now that almost everyone has fully understood what I stand for and what I mean when I say we shall support the cause of justice till end, could I humbly request that no more Zionist communication with me any further. I want to repeat the following in case of doubt;

1. Israel supported apartheid South Africa and assisted in the murder of many of our comrades and still works with the most reactionary and murderous regimes the world over, including Colombia (also financed by the US)

2. All Jews who have risen above the fascist parochial paranoia of Israel have changed our views on Jews, as we thought all of them are inhumane, hence our respect for Kasrils, Friendman and all of them. But we still believe the majority of them continue to vote the Likuds, Kadimas, Yisraelis who have blood in their hands and are equally guilty of murder

3. The source of the war is the occupation of Israeli and not rockets of Hamas or Al-Aqsa matrys. Any people who are occupied have a duty to fight as we all did, we would never support people who only submit to invaders, but will actively support those who are fighting against colonialists and settlers, who have one intention, occupation to steal other people’s land. No jew, however much his hatred will ever deny that FACT that occupation is evil and an injustice

4. Finally, in the world where there are progressives who stand on the side of justice and progress, on the one hand, and enemies of peace and justice who support wars OF OCCUPATION IN IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN, PALESTINE, etc, one the other, we stand on the side of those who stand for justice and are victims of colonial bigotry and wars of greed. Israel is the client and puppet of US imperialism and responsible for protecting the oil interests of the west, which itself was stolen from the Arabs

A humble reminder therefore, Israeli as an apartheid state deserves the fate of all its preceding fellows and friends. Apartheid is a crime against humanity, so is colonialism and invasion.

With these words, I dearly apologise to all friends of justice and comrades who were angry at me for even wasting precious time with enemies of justice, agents of apartheid and friends of Hitler, instead of attending to more urgent things with people of justice and freedom from occupation. I finally rest my case and request that we are not seeking to change your poisonous views, we only wanted you to know that finally justice will prevail.

It is now official, may I plead with all of you, as you have accepted we are enemies of each other, you stand for apartheid, we stand for justice, to please keep away and no more shall I need your communication or anything ever from you. Beyond this level, it would mean something else.

22 February 2009

22 February 2009 - Obama getting ready to abandon Israel?

So says Anne Bayefsky, after witnessing U.S. negotiators in (in)action at the Durban 2 negotiations:

...The U.S. administration attended four full days of negotiation. During that time they witnessed the following: the failure to adopt a proposal to act against Holocaust denial, a new proposal to single out Israel, which will now be included in the draft without brackets, broad objections to anything having to do with sexual orientation, vigorous refusal by many states to back down on references to "Islamophobia" (the general allegation of a racist Western plot to discriminate against all Muslims), and numerous attacks on free speech.

This "dialogue" is not promoting rights and freedoms. It is legitimizing a forum for disputing the essence of democracy, handing Holocaust deniers a global platform and manufacturing the means to demonize Israel in the interests of those states bent on the Jewish state's destruction.

But you can be sure that the State Department report now on Obama's desk reads "can't tell yet, don't know, maybe, too early to tell." Why?

If the Obama administration does not immediately announce that its foray into the morass of Durban II has led it to decide this is no place for genuine believers in human rights and freedoms, there is only one conclusion possible. His foreign policy of engagement amounts to a new willingness to sacrifice Israel and an indeterminate number of American values for the sake of a warm welcome from the enemies of freedom.

18 February 2009

18 February 2009 - Are American Jewish leaders being duped?

American Jewish leaders were told by the Obama administration Monday "that Washington's decision to participate in the [Durban II] conference was being coordinated with the Israeli government."


On the same day, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni was telling American Jewish leaders exactly the opposite:

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday appealed to the U.S. not to participate in the UN-sponsored conference. Speaking before a delegation of visiting American Jewish leaders, Livni said that "Israel expects the free world not to participate in Durban II."

It's clear that American Jewish leaders are being asked to believe--and some seem rather eager to believe--that Israel actually supports America's involvement. The Obama administration may have notified Israel of its participation in Durban II, but to call that "coordination" is to stretch the truth.

Unless American Jewish leaders call this bluff, and start applying real pressure on this issue, Durban II may mark the first rift in U.S.-Israel relations under the Obama administration, as well as an acceleration in the decline of American leadership on human rights issues worldwide. (There are even hints that the U.S. is about to ease sanctions on Burma.) It's time to protest America's involvement in Durban II. In a few weeks, it will be too late.

15 February 2009

15 February 2008 - Obama administration to help plan Durban II

Via the Jerusalem Post comes the most unwelcome news that the Obama administration is going to help plan the Durban II conference--the follow-up to the disastrous World Conference Against Racism in August-September 2001 in South Africa, which became an antisemitic hate carnival and launched the worldwide movement to equate Israel with apartheid.

This is a very bad decision and suggests astonishing naivété. It is far too late for the Obama administration to make a difference. The conference's draft declaration already includes references to "apartheid Israel" and anti-Israel regimes are trying to make things even worse. As Anne Bayefsky reports:

Negotiators have now put on the table claims that (1) a homeland for the Jewish people is racism - a "racially based law of return," (2) Israel is guilty of "apartheid" and (3) the veracity of the murder of one-third of the Jewish people during the Holocaust is subject to question. A reference to Holocaust facts has now been "square-bracketed" because Iran and Syria have questioned the numbers of Jews that died and consensus is the only guiding principle governing the decision-making process.

Read the document itself, and see just how bad it really is: linking discussion of the Holocaust to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, condemning Israel for "racial discrimination" against Palestinians and Syrian residents of the Golan (!), insisting on the Palestinian right of return, referring to the security barrier as the "segregation wall," etc. (more below).

The Obama administration will give such ideas legitimacy by haggling over them. There is no way to save Durban II, and the only conscionable reaction must be to boycott it, as Canada has already decided to do (along with Israel). Apparently the White House wants to have it both ways--to participate in talks without necessarily endorsing the final conclusions--but the Bush administration made the same mistake in 2001.

At some point, no matter how sincerely the U.S. tries to show the rest of the world its friendship, at some point a line must be drawn and evil must be recognized for what it is. I sincerely hope that the leaders of the American Jewish community, as well as American civil rights and human rights organizations, are going to speak out against this decision and prevent Obama from wasting his credibility on this hatred.

The relevant section of the draft document:

(Holocaust) [proposal to change title]

29. [Affirms that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with numerous members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice; recalls again that the Holocaust must never be forgotten;]

ALT: Recalls that the Holocaust must never be forgotten;

[NEW PARA: Recalls and urges States to implement United Nations General Assembly resolutions 60/7 and 61/255 which observed that remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to prevent further acts of genocide, condemned without reservation any denial of the Holocaust and urged all Member States to reject denial of the Holocaust as a historical event either in full or in part or in any activities to this end;] [proposal to move to section 5]

[(Middle East)] [proposal to delete cluster]

30. [Expresses deep concern at the practices of racial discrimination against the Palestinian people as well as [Syrian nationals of the occupied Syrian Golan] [other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories] which have an impact on all aspects of their daily existence and prevent the enjoyment of fundamental rights, and renews the call for the cessation of all such practices;]

31. [Reiterates that the Palestinian people have the inalienable right to self determination and that, in order to consolidate the [Israeli] occupation, they have been subjected to unlawful collective punishment, torture, economic blockade, severe restriction of movement and arbitrary closure of their territories. Also notes [with concern] that illegal settlements continue to be built in the occupied [Arab] territories [since 1967];]

32. [Reaffirms that a foreign occupation founded on settlements, laws based on racial discrimination with the aim of continuing domination of the occupied territory[y][ies], as well as the practice of reinforcing a total military blockade, isolating towns, villages and cities from one another, [totally] contradicts the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations [and constitutes a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, a crime against humanity, a contemporary form of apartheid and serious threat to international peace and security] [and violates the basic principles of international human rights law];]

[NEW PARA: Expresses deep concern at the plight of Palestinian refugees and other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories as well as displaced persons who were forced to leave their homes because of war and racial policies of the occupying power and who are prevented from returning to their homes and properties because of a racially-based law of return. It recognizes the right of return of Palestinian refugees as established by the General Assembly in its resolutions, particularly resolution 194 of 11 December 1948, and calls for the return to their homeland in accordance with and in implementation of this right;]

33. [Reiterates deep concern about the plight of the Palestinian people [as well as inhabitants of the other occupied territories] under foreign occupation, [including the obstruction of the return of refugees and displaced persons, and the construction of the segregation wall,] and urges respect for international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, and calls for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region;]

34. [Re-emphasizes the responsibility of the international community to provide international protection, in particular from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, for [Palestinian] civilian populations under occupation in conformity with international human rights law and international humanitarian law;]
[Proposal to include reference to Gaza situation – language to be provided]

10 February 2009

10 February 2009 - Congratulations to Tzipi Livni

It appears that Tzipi Livni and Kadima have won Israel's elections, contrary to what polls suggested and my own expectations. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is a close second. Overall, the right-wing advanced but the center may govern.

Now the coalition game begins. The right could put a governing coalition together, but President Shimon Peres will probably let Livni try first. She failed the last time she tried, but now she has a stronger mandate to lead.

Kadima and Likud--cut from the same cloth before the 2005 disengagement--could reunite in government but will still need one other party, perhaps Ehud Barak's Labour, to form a government if they go for the national unity approach.

There is also another coalition partner to consider--Barack Obama, who will exert a significant influence over Israeli affairs (like it or not). Livni is a good foil for him--better, probably, for the U.S.-Israel relationship than Netanyahu.

It is gratifying--though admittedly somewhat superficial--to observe that Israel has once again chosen to give a woman the chance to lead. In that respect Israel is far ahead of the U.S., and perhaps a more elusive target for the haters.

Best of luck to Livni in forming a government and in leading Israel and the region through the difficult months ahead. She is a relatively new face at a crucial moment. She may yet prove to be a great leader and peacemaker.

07 February 2009

07 February 2009 - South African Jews under direct attack

Anti-Israel protesters in South Africa--including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), and former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils--have made it clear that they are specifically targeting Jews in their campaign against Israel.

According to reports, they marched on the Jewish community headquarters in Johannesburg on Friday, burned an "Israeli" flag (with a swastika in place of the Star of David) outside a synagogue, and declared a boycott against Jewish-owned stores.

Some quotes:

"We want to convey a message to the Jews in SA that our 1.9-million workers who are affiliated to Cosatu are fully behind the people of Palestine," said Cosatu's Bongani Masuku.

"Any business owned by Israel supporters will be a target of workers in South Africa."

Ronnie Kasrils, the former minister of intelligence, said the ongoing "butchering" of Palestinians in Gaza was unacceptable.

"What Israel is doing in Gaza is creating concentration camps because people have nowhere to run. It is reprehensible that we have Zionists here who support Israel."

04 February 2009

04 February 2009 - I take that back

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has now backed down in the most disgraceful manner:

The president had accepted Hajaig's withdrawal of the comments and her unqualified apology and there would be no further action against her.

"The deputy minister has owned up to the mistake she has committed and government is satisfied," Maseko said.

SA Jewish Board of Deputies national chairman Zev Krengel said Hajaig's apology on Wednesday was fully accepted.

"We are very happy with the apology and happy that the cabinet and the president took it seriously.

"We can thank cabinet and the president for getting her to apologise as she did," he said.

The deputy minister could not bring herself to apologize to the community, but one private apology to the president and the community's leaders back down.

How completely useless and indefensible. South African Jews really are in danger.

UPDATE: Perhaps I spoke too soon, again. See comment below.

04 February 2009 - This is how the left should respond

Finally, an appropriate response from a Jewish opponent of Operation Cast Lead to the ongoing wave of global antisemitism. Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, who opposed Operation Cast Lead, points out what should be obvious: criticism of antisemitism that insists Jews should distance themselves from Israel is insincere and objectionable.

Nathan Geffen, Doron Isaacs, Jonathan Berger, Farid Esack et al. should take note: this is how you guys ought to have done it if you wanted to be taken seriously.

As British Jews come under attack, the liberal left must not remain silent

It should be perfectly possible to condemn Israel's brutal action in Gaza while taking a stand against antisemitism

by Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian Wednesday 4 February 2009

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on September 11 2001 and July 7 2005, a noble impulse seized the British liberal left. Politicians, commentators and activists united to say to their fellow citizens that, no matter how outraged they felt at the loss of civilian life they had just witnessed, they should under no circumstances take out that anger on the Muslim community. Progressive voices insisted that Muslims were not to be branded as guilty by association, just because the killers of 9/11 and 7/7 had been Muslims and had claimed to act in the name of all Muslims.

They urged Britons to be careful in their language, not to generalise from a few individuals to an entire community, to make clear to Britain's Muslims that they were a welcome part of the national life. One week after the 7/7 London attacks, a vast crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square to hear a call for unity led by then mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Londoners should not start looking for "who to blame and who to hate".

It was the right reaction and I am glad that, writing on these pages, I shared it, denouncing the surge in Islamophobia that greeted either a terrorist attack or the revelation of a terror plot. Yet there's been a curious silence in the last few weeks. Once again many are outraged by the loss of civilian life they have witnessed - this time in Gaza. Yet there has been no chorus of liberal voices insisting that, no matter how intense their fury, people must not take out that anger on Britain's Jewish community.

It's worth stating the obvious - that Operation Cast Lead is not 9/11 or 7/7, that Israel is not al-Qaida - and noting that the silence has not been absolute. In a very welcome move, a group of leading Muslims wrote an open letter condemning apparent Gaza-related attacks on Jews. Meanwhile, Labour's Denis MacShane, in a passionate article for Progress magazine, urged those on the left not "to turn criticism of Israel into a condemnation of Jews".

Otherwise, it has been eerily quiet. Those who in 2001 or 2005 rapidly spoke out against guilt by association have been mute this time. Yet this is no abstract concern. For British Jews have indeed come under attack.

According to the Community Security Trust, the body that monitors anti-Jewish racism, the four weeks after Cast Lead began saw an eightfold increase in antisemitic incidents in Britain compared with the same period a year earlier. It reports 250 incidents - nearly 10 a day - the highest number since it began its work 25 years ago. Among them are attacks on synagogues, including arson, and physical assaults on Jews. One man was set upon in Golders Green, north London, by two men who shouted, "This is for Gaza", as they punched and kicked him to the ground.

Blood-curding graffiti has appeared in Jewish areas across the country, slogans ranging from "Slay the Jewish pigs", and "Kill the Jews", to "Jewish bastardz." Jewish schools have been advised to be on high alert against attack. Most now have security guards on the door; some have a police presence.

The threat is real, and yet barely a word has been heard from those who pride themselves on their vigilance against racism. But there is more than a sin of omission here.

Take last month's demonstrations against Israel. Riazat Butt, the Guardian's religious affairs correspondent, describes in a joint edition of the Guardian's Islamophonic and Sounds Jewish podcasts how at one demo she heard the cry not only of "Down with Israel" but "Kill Jews". An anti-war protest in Amsterdam witnessed chants of: "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas."

At the London events, there were multiple placards deploying what has now become a commonplace image: the Jewish Star of David equated with the swastika. From the podium George Galloway declared: "Today, the Palestinian people in Gaza are the new Warsaw ghetto, and those who are murdering them are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1943."

Now what, do you imagine, is the effect of repeating, again and again, that Israel is a Nazi state? Even those with the scantest historical knowledge know that the Nazis are the embodiment of evil to which the only appropriate response is hate. How surprising is it if a young man, already appalled by events in Gaza, walks home from a demo and glimpses the Star of David - which he now sees as a latter-day swastika - outside a synagogue and decides to torch the building, or at least desecrate it? Yet Galloway, along with Livingstone, who was so careful in July 2005, did not hesitate to make the comparison (joined by a clutch of Jewish anti-Israel activists who should know better).

The counter-arguments here are predictable. Some will say they take pains to distinguish between Zionists and Jews. Intellectually, that's fine; in the seminar room, it holds water. The trouble is, it doesn't mean much on the street - at least not to the man who saw a group of Manchester Jews leaving synagogue on January 17 and shouted "Free Palestine, you motherfuckers," before giving them the Nazi salute.

The liberal left should know this already. After all, when Jack Straw wrote his notorious piece about the hijab, full of qualifications, progressives understood that none of that would matter: it would be read as an attack on all Muslims. And so it was. For all Straw's careful phrasing, Muslim women whose heads were covered were attacked. Liberals warned Straw that he was playing with fire. Today's anti-Israel activists need to realise they are doing the same.

Besides, this business of distinguishing between good and bad Jews has a long history. Anthony Julius, author of a definitive study of English antisemitism, says that, with the exception of the Nazis, Jew-haters have always made distinctions. Christian antisemites accepted Jews who were ready to convert and rejected those who refused. A century ago, Winston Churchill drew a line between homegrown British Jews and those spreading Bolshevism. Now the dividing line is affinity for Israel.

But the logical corollary of this is that, if Jews refuse to dissociate themselves from Israel, then they are fair game for abuse and attack until they publicly recant. Liberals rightly recoil from the constant pressure on Muslims to explain themselves and denounce jihadism or even islamism. Yet they make the same implicit demand when they suggest Jews are OK, unless they are Zionists. The effect is to make Jews' place in British society contingent on their distance from their fellow Jews, in this case, Israelis.

Nor is it good enough to say that most Jews support Israel. Yes, most have a strong affinity and family ties to the Jewish state. But that doesn't mean they support every policy, including the one that led to such mayhem in Gaza. And do we think that those who kicked the man in Golders Green first stopped to ask his opinion of the merits of Cast Lead?

I know that some will say that even raising this is an attempt to divert attention from the real and larger issue, Israel's brutality in Gaza and the colossal number of civilian deaths that entailed. I won't accept that. Regular readers know that I denounced Cast Lead from the beginning. But I shouldn't have to say that. These two matters are separate. It is perfectly possible to condemn Israel's current conduct and to stand firmly against anti-Jewish prejudice. And it's about time liberals and the left said so.


04 January 2009 - South African Jewish Board of Deputies finds its courage

The Board wisely and bravely rejected a false "apology" from the Deputy Foreign Minister:

Jewish Board rejects Hajaig's apology
Peter Fabricius

The row over allegedly anti-Semitic remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig refused to die after she issued an "unequivocal apology" - which the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) immediately rejected as very equivocal.

Hajaig apologised for any pain she may have caused to South Africans and particularly the Jewish community with her recent remarks about "Jewish money power" controlling the West. She denied that she was anti-Jewish though she admitted she had "conflated Zionist pressure with Jewish influence" in her controversial statement.

But the SAJBD said she had "failed to address, let alone repudiate" her "blatantly anti-Semitic sentiments" and so it was pressing ahead with a complaint against her for anti-Jewish hate speech which it laid last week with the SA Human Rights Commission.

Click here!

However, some members of the Jewish community felt that Hajaig's apology, even though "mealy-mouthed" should be accepted.

The row first blew up over Hajaig's statement - at a pro-Palestinian rally in Lenasia on January 14 to protest the Israeli assault on Gaza - that the control of the US and most other Western countries was in the hands of "Jewish money".

"Sometimes I feel that America and [its] people - and most of them don't think anyway - are completely led by their nose, by the Israeli interests that surround the Zionists that are in America," she was reported as saying then.

"They in fact control, no matter which government comes in to power, whether Republican or Democratic whether Barack Obama or George Bush, inclined to be the same, the control of America just like the control of most Western countries is in the hands of Jewish money and if Jewish money controls their country then you cannot expect anything else."

Hajaig has not denied making these remarks.

The SAJBD, the American Jewish Committee, the Democratic Alliance and other organisations condemned her remarks for playing into historic, racist stereotypes about Jews that had sometimes led to "tragic consequences".

Hajaig said in a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday, that she had been opposed to apartheid and all forms of racism - including anti-Semitism - all her life. But she had also been "cognisant of the immense suffering that the Palestinians have experienced" as a result of Israel action, including the recent Gaza war.

She had addressed this suffering in her Lenasia speech where she had also deplored "the attempts of Zionists to justify policies" including "unmitigated state violence directed against unarmed civilians; as much as I deplore indiscriminate attacks against Israeli unarmed civilians.

"At a singular point in my talk, and entirely unrelated to any South African community, I conflated Zionist pressure with Jewish influence. I regret the inference made by some, that I am anti-Jewish. I do not believe that the cause of the Palestinians is served by anti-Jewish racism.

"As a member of the South African government and a committed member of the ANC, I subscribe to the values and principles of non-racialism, and condemn without equivocation, all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism in all its manifestations and wherever it may occur.

"To the extent that my statement may have caused hurt and pain, I offer an unequivocal apology for the pain it may have caused to the people of our country, and the Jewish community in particular."

But the SAJBD said in a statement in response that it was pressing ahead with its complaint to the SA Human Rights Commission against Hajaig. It said it had received no communication from her.

It said her statement "failed to address, let alone repudiate, the blatantly anti-Semitic sentiments originally expressed by her, but merely apologised for any hurt it might have caused to the Jewish community. The bulk of the statement, in fact, focused on the Middle East situation and Ms Hajiag's viewpoints in this regard.

"It can only be concluded that Ms Hajaig stands by her previous statement that the United States and most other Western countries are controlled by Jewish money power. As such, her latest statement does not constitute an acceptable apology but, in fact, serves to compound the original insult to the Jewish world, the people of South Africa and the United States government.

"The SAJBD urges the South African government to unequivocally distance itself from the false, inflammatory and racially offensive allegations made by Deputy Minister Hajaig."

SA Human Rights chairperson Jody Kollapan confirmed last night that he had received the complaint from the SAJBD and intended to meet the board's leaders on Monday to discuss the complaint and the outcome they hoped for.

He declined to comment on the substance of the case.

Hajaig's apology seems rather similar to the condemnations issued by Isaacs, Geffen, et al. in their refusal to address the issue of antisemitism without attacking Israel at the same time. The attempt to separate Jews from Israel continues. Congratulations to the Board for standing up to it.

04 February 2009 - Wanted: Your Gaza Atrocity Stories

"Breaking the Silence" is circulating this ad:

They seen to be pretty desperate. Hard to find Israeli war crimes, I guess.