With friends like these…

Keir Starmer became a barrister in 1987.  The job of a barrister is to put his client’s case as clearly as possible.  Starmer’s speech to Labour Friends of Israel demonstrates the barrister’s art.

The full speech is here. There is a complete conflation between the Jewish community and Israel.  He says “Anti-Zionist antisemitism is the antithesis of the Labour tradition: It denies the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination”.

Here he uses the straw man strategy. Anti Semitism is a crime. Nobody who believes in justice can be anti Semitic. Everyone who believes in justice should fight against the form that Zionism has taken over the last seventy plus years. Starmer does not recognise Jews and other anti racists who oppose Zionism as it is practiced.

There is the appeal to Israeli leaders as his brothers and sisters in struggle “from Golda Meir to Chaim Herzog, Abba Eban, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres –as comrades in the international struggle for equality, peace and freedom. “Social democrats who made the desert flower,” as Wilson put it”.

A history lesson focussing on the flaws of each of them would take too long. I will mention that Peres offered Apartheid South Africa nuclear warheads, was active in support of the illegal settlements, and was President of Israel 2007 to 2014, when Apartheid was being fully established. Not much of a struggle for “equality peace and freedom”. Then there is the lie that “Social democrats who made the desert flower”. No mention of Palestinians who had a thriving agriculture for over a thousand years. No mention of the water thefts from the River Jordan nor the planting of unsuitable pines over the ethnically cleansed and destroyed villages. When they burned they revealed the Palestinian terraces.

Starmer makes an appeal to Israel’s progressive policies.

“ Three years after the liberation of the camps, Israel’s Declaration of Independence committed the new state to Freedom, justice and peace; Complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; And freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.”

The issue is not “self determination of Jewish people.”  The issue is how do we establish a regime(s) between the river and the sea that gives all people the right to a peaceful life where they can practice their religion with equality under the law, and social justice. Starmer says he believes that the establishment of a democratic in Palestine provides that solution.  Nearly a decade ago Manuel Hassassian was speaking in Sheffield.  He said something like “As a diplomat from Palestine our position is that we want a Palestinian State based on the pre 1967 borders.”  He paused took two paces to the left and continued “As an academic, Israel has created facts on the ground that make a two state solution impossible.”  Since then the embedding of Israeli oppression of Palestinians has become deeper and wider.

Human Rights Watch stated “that the Israeli government has demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the OPT. In the OPT, including East Jerusalem, that intent has been coupled with systematic oppression of Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid”.

It is not enough that Starmer does not comment on this, nor the other reports that preceded it. He says “Israel herself is the first to acknowledge that at times she falls short of these [equality and social justice] goals”. And continues “That is why I am both a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine.”

In summary Starmer refuses to acknowledge the reality of Israeli Apartheid, refuses to acknowledge that Israel has almost certainly destroyed a two state solution.  He opposes peaceful BDS efforts to pressurise Israel  into recognising basic human rights of Palestinians (right of return, right to equality, end of occupation). 

He happily repeats myths “Israel embodies progressive values” and “[Israeli]Social democrats who made the desert flower,”  He opposes BDS because it would “hurt the people of Israel and Palestine” and damage trade between the UK and Israel.

He looks at oppressor and the oppressed and says “That is why I am both a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine.”  But everything he proposes weakens the Palestinians and strengthens Israel.

Terrorists

Priti Patel has stated that she intends to redefine the Political wing of Hamas as terrorist.  The governments of the USA and UK have never forgiven Hamas for winning the 2006 Palestinian election.  They refused to recognise the democratically newly elected Government.  When Hamas and the PLO organised a joint Government in 2007, they refused to recognise that either.

Since then Israel has blockaded Gaza, and tightened up its occupation of the West Bank.  It has made clear that it intends to annex great swathes of the West Bank into Israel.  Various bodies, the most recent being Human Rights Watch, have looked at the way Israel dominates Palestinians in the area that it controls, and decided that it satisfies the definition of Apartheid[i].

For us in the PSC, separate housing, separate laws, separate access to water, separate roads constitute Apartheid.  Apartheid is a crime under International Law.

The Cambridge dictionary defines terrorist as “someone who uses violent action, or threats of violent action, for political purposes”.

Given that forced transfer of population, land theft, resources theft and supporting Apartheid are all crimes, Israeli settlers, soldiers, and politicians are all terrorists.

So can we expect Preti Patel to announce that Netanyahu, Tzipi Hotovley, Naftali Bennett and the IDF as terrorist? Well no, the right are not interested in truth and justice, the word terrorist is reserved for those who oppose their rule.

Today very few people defend South African Apartheid.  Yet Nelson Mandela and the ANC were declared a terrorist up to 2008[ii].

According to General Rawlinson[iii] Commander in Chief, the British  army India believed “you have to use terrorism whether you like it or not.”  Yet it was the pacifist Gandhi who was branded a terrorist[iv].

British rule in Kenya was brutal.[v]  According to the Kenya Human Rights Commission, 90,000 Kenyans were killed, tortured or maimed during the conflict, and 160,000 were held in inhumane prison camps.  “The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place.”  Yet it was the Mau Mau and Kenyatta that were declared terrorist. 

The Tories supported South African Apartheid it is not surprising they support the Israeli version.

[i] Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution | HRW

[ii] BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Mandela taken off US terror list

[iii] Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson – Wikipedia

[iv] Gandhi was declared terrorist and declaration sold cheaply – Oneindia News

[v] British government apologizes for colonial abuses in Kenya – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)

Rally Sat 27th November

Sheffield PSC has called for a rally on Saturday November 27th 11 a.m. This is to commemorate the UN day of solidarity with the Palestinians.

A Human Rights Watch report stated

“Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

Join us on sat 27th November 11 am Sheffield Town Hall, or join the cyclecade (cavalcade, but with bikes,) 10 am Heeley Retail Park

Cop 26 Palestinians barred

Human Rights Watch showed that Israel operates Apartheid in the area that it controls.  One of the discriminatory policies was with the Covid vaccinations.  All adults in Israel were offered a jab and all the 600,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank were offered a jab but not the Palestinians.

This is in defiance of the Fourth Geneva rule that states that an occupying power must look after the health of the occupied population.

Instead of condemning this blatant discrimination commentators like the BBC congratulated Israel for its prompt vaccination program.   

The UK recognises the Israeli administered vaccinations.  It does not recognise the vaccinations carried out by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The result is that Palestinians will not be able to come to Cop 26.

However, organisations like the racist Jewish National Fund which has a record of complicity in Israeli Apartheid are able to attend.

The UK authorities favour the oppressor rather than the oppressed

Khusa Healing Centre Launch

From Musheir El Farra Chair Sheffield PSC:
The children of Khuza’a and neighbouring areas need our support . They have been subjected to terrifying incursions and bombings by the Israeli army. Hundreds of children in Kuza’a and neighbouring area are still suffering from psychological trauma.

We have finished the construction of the centre; a small building; it’s currently functioning as a play and heal area for children. We hope that with your help we will be able to develop it to have a professional programme for helping children.
We plan to employ two child psychologists and play activists and a care taker; under the supervision of Dr Usammah Frenah; the director of Gaza Community Mental Health Programme; in the south of the Gaza Strip.
Middle Eastern Children Alliance MECCA agreed to match whatever amount we raise towards starting this very important project. See reports on this project here.
If you would like to donate, please use this account: SPACE (Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange). Account number: 33129312. Sort Code: 05 08 18

Beita – the fight for their land

I have been active in politics for a long time and been to many meetings.  The Zoom live link on Friday, to one of the weekly demonstrations by Beita villagers by which Sheffield PSC, Scottish PSC and Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine were able to act as witnesses and discuss with Palestinians grassroot activists was one of the most moving in my life.

An Israeli settlers’ group decided to occupy a hilltop near Beita.  They have no legal ownership of the land.  Not under International law, not under Palestinian law not even under Israeli law.  There are no state or regional plans that show an Israeli settlement.  These ultra-nationalists believe the Palestinians have no rights in Palestine.  They simply started building.  The Israeli Army has been told to demolish the settlement.  The settlers file applications, submit plans, add buildings, appeal to the Israeli courts.  The owners of the land, the people from the village of Beita strongly object to their land being stolen so they protest.  The army automatically sides with the illegal settlers.  The result is that Palestinians get killed, including children.

An Israeli settlement at Beita further carves up the West Bank and would provide a useful link between the illegal settlement of Ariel and the illegal Israeli controlled Jordan valley.  It would also cut the link from Nablus to Ramallah and the south.

What was remarkable about Friday’s programme was that we were taken to one of the regular protests.  We could see the tear gas rising from the valley where the soldiers were positioned.

We could speak* to ordinary Palestinians of all ages who expressed their dignified resistance to the injustice they faced.

They did not hate Jews.  They had not used violence.  They were determined. What was happening was simply wrong and they wanted the world to know.

While the Palestinians did not use violence the Israeli army did.

Since 1967, the villagers have suffered 87 deaths in the face of live fire from the Israeli military. In May, two teenagers, Mohammed Said Mohammed Hamayel (16) and his friend Ahmad Zahi Ibrahim Bani-Shamsa (15) were shot dead by Israeli fire. Six children have been killed in Beita in the last year.

This in a microcosm is what is happening across the whole of Palestine.  In Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, in Al Araqib, Umm al Hiran, Hebron and so on.  Israel does this because it is militarily and economically stronger.  Israel does it because it is shielded from criticism.  The Tory government gives military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel, while the Labour Party leadership act as cheerleaders.  The various “friends of Israel” give it financial, legal, and vocal support. 

Today very few people own up to having supported South African Apartheid.  There will come a time when very few will support Israeli Apartheid.  It is ugly and it is inhuman.  No doubt some of the cheerleaders for Israel will say “we never knew that it was so bad”. 
Read reports and join PSC.

  •  We owe a huge gratitude to Musheir El Farra, Chair of Sheffield PSC, who translated from Arabic to English.
  • The Peace now movement has written a moving peice.
  • The New York Times has a report.

BBC buries article

From time to time, I have gone through the tedious but necessary task of picking up the BBC’ bias over Israel’s dominance of the Palestinians.  This article is riddled with systemic bias.[i]  There is one sentence that, to me, sums up the attitude of the pro-Israeli report.  The issue is the 600,000 Israeli Jews who have settled in the West Bank.  “Palestinians say these are illegal under international law and are obstacles to peace, but Israel denies this.”

 It is not the Palestinians that say that the settlement process is illegal but the UK, UN the USA and EU and most others who have thought about it.  It is an astonishing piece of false reporting.  It is the reduction of international law to one of merely opinion.  So I, and many others, complain.

But what do you do when it produces nothing?

In June the official UN observer to the Middle East,  Michael Lynk said, “in my report, I conclude that the Israeli settlements do amount to a war crime”. “I submit to you that this finding compels the international community … to make it clear to Israel that its illegal occupation, and its defiance of international law and international opinion, can and will no longer be cost-free,”[ii] he added.

So what did the BBC say on this blunt correction of misreporting?  Nothing.  How can we complain against misreporting when there is nothing there?

How does the BBC decide what is worth reporting and what is not?  Now it may be that influence comes from the Chairman who is from the establishment[iii], and the establishment CEO[iv].  It may be that the Government sees Israel as a strategic ally and does not wish its war crimes drawn attention to.[v]  It may be the journalists are ardent Zionists or cowed by the boss’s views.  It may be that they fought to report it and lost.  I just do not know.

I decided to see if there was a paper trail.   How was Lynk’s report went unreported by the BBC?

The story

GENEVA (9 July 2021) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, today called on the international community to designate the creation of Israeli settlements as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” [vi]

My question “Was it reported on the BBC?” and “I would like copies of any e-mails relating to how it should be reported”.

This is what I got back

“Part VI of Schedule 1 to the Act provides that information held by the BBC and the other public service broadcasters is only covered by the Act if it is held for ‘purposes other than those of journalism, art or literature’. The BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities”

I don’t think it takes much creativity to bury a story.


[i] (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-44124396).

[ii] UN Rights Expert: Israeli Settlements Amount to a War Crime – AOHRUK

[iii] Richard Sharp has given more than £400,000 to the Conservative Party

[iv] Tim Davie was chair Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative party

[v] “We will also build upon our close security partnerships, including with Israel and Saudi Arabia, to better protect our interests in the region.”  From defence paper

[vi] OHCHR | Occupied Palestinian Territory: Israeli settlements should be classified as war crimes, says UN expert