Monthly Archives: April 2009

Billboards demanding end to aid to Israel taken down

Mondoweiss reports:

A few week ago we posted about ten billboards going up around Albuquerque, NM calling for congress to cut off aid to Israel. They were put up by The Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious coalition working to “end to the ten year commitment of $30 billion in U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid pledged to Israel in 2007 by the Bush administration.” Today, the coalition sent out a press release saying that although Lamar Outdoor Advertising had signed a contract to run the billboards for eight weeks, they care coming down after three. From the press release:

On April 8th, the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel erected the billboards throughout the  Albuquerque area in order to inform the public about the misuse of their tax dollars, denominated in human lives. The group was motivated by concern for the Palestinian people who had recently been subjected to a massive invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military. Over 1,400 Palestinians – mostly civilian, including three hundred children – were killed and over 5,000 were injured. In 2007 the Bush administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel over a ten year period beginning in 2008. The majority of these dollars will be used to purchase American-made weapons.

The design of the billboard had been approved by Lamar and the billboards’ wording and final image were suggested by Lamar’s graphics designer.

According to information from Lamar, it appears groups claiming to be pro-Israel have conducted a campaign to pressure Lamar to remove the billboards. The Coalition believes this is a deliberate attempt to silence its right to free speech because the humanitarian message of the billboards supports equal rights for the Palestinian people, thereby necessitating criticism of Israel.

The chill of academic censure on the sunny West coast

William Robinson is a professor of Sociology and Global Studies at UC Santa Barbara.   This attempted case of academic censure allegedly revolves around an email Robinson forwarded to his class containing an editorial (by a Jewish journalist)  “condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza as well as juxtaposed images of Nazi atrocities with congruent images of Israeli atrocities against Palestinians.”   This was an optional reading for the class and was “intended to spark conversation by relating contemporary events to conceptual ideas discussed in class. “

The Anti-Defemation League wrote Robinson, who is Jewish, a letter a week later, charging him with anti-Semitism as well as other (spurious) alleged violations.   A week after this two students in his class had filed complaints against him (according to the the UCSB Academic Senate Charges officer ) The complaints? 1) critique of Israel is evidence of anti-Semitism and 2) the Israeli-Palestinian issue should not be discussed in a class on Globalization. I kid you not.  One of the students, no surprise here, is a graduate of StandWithUs‘ Emerson Fellowship program, which trains students in campuses in “response techniques” to anti-Israel efforts on campus.  Although this group has the free speech right to say pretty much whatever it wants, its main goal, is in fact, to limit the free speech of those who do not hold the party line on all things Israel.

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First Employee at Yad Vashem fired for voicing the wrong kind of political views.

Former Israeli combatant Itamar Shapira was recently fired for mentioning the 1948 massacre in the village of Deir Yassin, the ruins of which are visible from Israel’s official Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem talks about the Holocaust survivors’ arrival in Israel and about creating a refuge here for the world’s Jews. I said there were people who lived on this land and mentioned that there are other traumas that provide other nations with motivation ….

The Holocaust moved us to establish a Jewish state and the Palestinian nation’s trauma is moving it to seek self-determination, identity, land and dignity, just as Zionism sought these things

A Yad Vashem official astonishingly claimed that the institution “objects” to any political use of the Holocaust. If I may be so bold, I could reframe this to say that Yad Vashem objects to any political use that is not in service to the interests of the state of Israel. (Please refer to the stream of  foreign dignitaries that flow through  Yad Vashem in a “must do” ceremony that is designed to represent the absolute evil that was done in the Holocaust [no argument here], and the absolute incomparability of this terrible event to anything else in history). Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors, has written extensively and controversially (a good thing) about this in his book. The Holocaust Industry: reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering”.

In this vein, Shapira said that:

Yad Vashem chooses to examine only some of the events that took place in the War of Indpendence. “It is being hypocritical. I only tried to expose the visitors to the facts, not to political conclusions. If Yad Vashem chooses to ignore the facts, for example the massacre at Dir Yassin, or the Nakba… it means that it’s afraid of something and that its historic approach is flawed.

The “Jewish Conspiracy” behind the Durban Review Conference

Michael Jordan of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has an interesting piece today about the hesitance of the UN High Commissioner’s Office to actually name the groups behind the campaign to marginalize the Durban Review Conference. Jordan writes:

It’s no secret who was behind the effort to discredit the 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva.

For nearly a year before the anti-racism confab, Jewish and pro-Israel groups lobbied hard to get Western countries to boycott the gathering, which they said was certain to treat Israel unfairly, just as the first Durban conference had done in 2001.

But why, when pressed, do UN officials give such vague answers?

This time, however, the Jews actually did conspire, albeit openly, to sabotage the conference.

…But for the most part, Durban II’s organizers and participants did not want to point the finger at the Jews for the anti-Durban effort for fear of being labeled anti-Semites.

“I can’t tell you exactly who the lobby is,” Pillay said in a March 12 interview with Australia’s ABC.net. “I can just pick out that it seems to be one source putting out this wrong information and labeling this review conference as ‘hate fest.’ ”

In an earlier piece, Jordan reports a story that illustrates exactly the impossible dynamic faced by the UN office, and how, like a powerless female character in a film who threatens to yell ‘rape’ if someone gets too close, some Jewish groups are only too happy to cry ‘anti-Semite’ if you get too close. In some ways, its the nuclear option for powerless people. (Worse, as I have amply documented, these Jewish/Israel lobby groups sponsored a range of sessions demonizing and attacking the UN, Arabs, Muslims, Iran and Palestinians, all with Orwellian titles about fighting bigotry and anti-Semitism.)

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Countering Palestinian/Nazi analogy and Never again, for all

A must-read for fighting back- Moshe Yaroni watched Alan Dershowitz’s shameful association of Palestinians with Nazis and deconstructs the arguments:

Let’s be clear about Hajj Amin: he was a venomous anti-Semite, and his hatred eclipsed the bounds of the Palestinian national struggle. There is no disputing that he worked with the Nazis and that he espoused murderous hatred of Jews, not just Zionism. But such diverse scholars as Zvi Elpeleg, Idith Zertal and Peter Novick have all concluded that his actual role in Nazi plans was insiginificant and that, as Zertal put it, “…in more correct proportions, [he should be pictured] as a fanatic nationalist-religious Palestinian leader.”

Meanwhile, Sol Salbe’s Middle East News Service has translated from its original Hebrew this article about Jewish suffering and the Holocaust. Salbe writes as a preface:

Yediot Acharonot columnist Ariana Melamed’s comments are not particularly original. Others have observed the Israeli attitude to other peoples’ suffering summed up in the saying “after what they have done to us…”. But not only does Melamed puts it better than anyone else that I have read, she does bring it up to date. As the UN Conference on Racism is about to wind down, it is important to remember that the “never again” lesson need to be applied universally and that the ethos of victimhood exempts no one from doing the right thing.

Hebrew original: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3703925,00.html

As victims, we’re allowed

Ariana Melamed

Mistakenly, we continue to believe that being historical victims completely frees us of the need to develop solidarity with humanity and of the duty to consecrate the living, not only the dead.

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Durban Conference ends with a bang

This is from the final press statement of Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who announced the likely adoption of the final report and then launched into it:

It was very difficult. I had to face a widespread, and highly organized campaign of disinformation. Many people, including Ministers with whom I spoke, told me that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which as you know was agreed by 189 states at the original World Conference Against Racism in 2001 was anti-Semitic, and it was clear that either they had not bothered to read what it actually said, or they were putting a cast on it that was, to say the least, decidely exaggerated.

Many others have labelled the entire Durban process as a “hate fest.” We have had some rough moments in the process, but a “hate fest?” I’m sorry, this is hyperbole. It is a gross exaggeration. But it is everywhere on the Internet. And I’m sorry to say many mainline newspapers who incidentally declined many op-eds that I sent up to them. Because I kept urging States to take part, one of the most vociferous opponents of the conference called me the “dangerous High Commissioner for Human Rights.” So if you see a special look about me, that’s the danger. Another called me the “ludicrous High Commissioner for Human Rights.” That look I have dropped since. I expect these types of personal attacks to continue for the rest of my tenure. But I can live with them because I see this conference as a success and I know that you will judge this process in a valid and fair way.
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Indigenous peoples and Israel-Palestine

Harley Eagle works with First Nations peoples with the Mennonite Central Committee in Canada. I was stunned to learn that he has been approached on multiple occasions by Canadian Jewish groups who identify as aboriginal. “They come to us and tell us ‘our paths are similar. We have gotten our land back. We hope the same for you. We are cut of the same cloth.’” (I wrote about former Canadian AG Irwin Cotler’s Jews-are-aboriginal formulation here.)

Harley says they tend to target Christian aboriginal people as well as inter-tribal political groups to form a larger political body.  They invite people on trips to Israel.

But Harley’s group had already been doing an exchange program with Palestinians. “For we younger First Nations people who haven’t experienced colonialism and being put on reservations directly, the Palestinian program helps us remember what our people went through. It’s very powerful, but for the Palestinians, visiting Native American reservations is shocking because they see the future of their own people.”

Jewish groups and 1 Iranian group yanked from conference

{update: 1 member from B’nai Brith was also kicked out} Thursday, the Associated Press writes:

UN kicks Jews, Iranians out of racism meeting

GENEVA (AP) — The United Nations expelled three groups from its conference on global racism Thursday for unacceptable behavior related to the opening speech that Iran’s president gave denouncing Israel.

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UN Side-Events: The silencing of Palestinian NGOs

Badil[Pictured from left: Ingrid Jaradat Gassner of Badil, Maysa Zorob of Al Haq, and Harley Eagle of the Mennonite Central Committee] According to the United Nations website:

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has organized a series of events and cultural activities during the Durban Review Conference to highlight the issues being discussed at the conference.

Under themes such as the rights of indigenous peoples, the link between racism and poverty, and policing in diverse societies, the side events organized by OHCHR have enabled a large number of stakeholders to exchange views and share good practices on the issues at the heart of the Durban review process.

Non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors, such as victims’ groups and academics, are essential in combating all forms of racism and OHCHR has encouraged their participation in the review process.

To help showcase the activities of civil society actors, OHCHR also made several meeting rooms available for the organization of further side events for organizations accredited to take part in the Conference.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with Ingrid Jaradat Gassner, the head of Palestinian residency and refugee rights group Badil. She told me they were called into the UN office a few weeks before the conference started and told that they could not hold side-events that were region-specific.

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Is Israel being singled out? Well, yeah.

It’s easy to fall for the extreme polarization here. They hate the UN so you suddenly defend it. They say everyone is an anti-Semite so you want to say no one is. It’s a natural emotional response to this kind of elevated rhetoric, but in the end, it’s not helpful.

In fact, Israel does have some very legitimate claims when they talk about being singled out in the United Nations.  For example, in January, the UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into Israeli human rights violations during the attack on Gaza. But they neglected to call for an investigation into Hamas and other armed groups.

Or there is the Durban I 61-page outcome document- Israel and Palestine are  the only countries/territories that are mentioned. Everything in it that is said about Israel and Palestine is both fair and mild. The hullaballoo about the Durban II document, which makes no mention of Israel and Palestine, is simply that it endorses the Durban I document. Of course, Durban I also singles out the Holocaust for acknowledgment. That kind of singling out would be greeted warmly.

There are numerous examples of a range of human rights concerns that get, relatively speaking, little attention, while the Israeli occupation gets a lot of attention-almost all of it, I might add, apparently useless, given that we are in the 41st year of occupation. Obviously many Muslim countries in particular use this issue so they need not address their own. I have found myself rolling my eyes when forced to listen to Iran lecture Israel on human rights, even if I agreed with many elements of their critique.

But none of that makes what Israel is doing OK or even remotely acceptable.

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