Month: October 2018

Merkel shows western leaders CAN stop the demolition of Khan al Ahmar

Angela Merkel has demonstrated the power of Western leaders by threatening to cut short her visit if the army go ahead with the planned demolition of the Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar this week.

The army turned up at 4 am and remained parked on the main road for half an hour (see below),  but then as quickly as they came they left.

Villagers put up posters of the German chancellor in the hope that she would persuade the Israelis to call off the bulldozers already on site, ready to raze their homes and their famous mud-and-tyre school to the ground.

Sadly there is no evidence that Angela Merkel or any other European leader will make anything more than verbal protests when, as now seems inevitable, the bulldozers move in.

Meanwhile a strange lake has appeared in the desert, caused by a leak from the nearby settlement’s sewage pipe.  At first the villagers thought this was another Israeli strategem to encourage them to leave, but now the lake is being drained.

Last week the army put up notices ordering villagers to demolish their own houses by Monday. Hundreds of activists and journalists gathered in the village for the expected confrontation.

Short of a dramatic intervention by the UK or another European country, they now expect demolition to start soon after Mrs Merkel leaves.
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Board of Deputies accused of antisemitism by its own members

A senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – the body at the forefront of the campaign for the IHRA code on antisemitism – is herself facing a vote of no confidence for criticising Israeli in a way that breaches the IHRA code.

Dr Sheila Gewolb issued a press release on behalf of the Board of Deputies in July criticising the Nation-State Law which says that only Jewish Israelis have a right to self-determination and downgrades the status of the Arabic language.

“Being Jewish is a wonderful thing, but this should not lead to doing down others. All people should be valued and Israel’s Arab and other minority populations should be a treasured part of society,” it said.

Two members of the Board of Deputies say this breaches example h) of the IHRA code by “applying double standards to Israel by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”.

This means that they consider the press release antisemitic.

They have told chief executive Gillian Merron that they already have the signatures of 32 members and are confident of getting the 50 required to table a motion of no confidence – effectively sacking Dr Gewolb from her post as vice-president.

The Board has itself used example h) to accuse the National Union of Students of antisemitism for voting to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

The Board also used example h) to accuse academics of antisemitism when they wrote to the Guardian to support an academic boycott in 2015.

Now the same catch-all clause is being used against the Board’s own vice-president, proving – if proof were needed – that the loose wording of the IHRA examples allows almost anyone to be accused of antisemitism.

And if the vote of no confidence is carried against Dr Gewolb,  then the whole leadership of the Board of Deputies will need to resign – as the press release was issued officially on behalf of the Board.

The two members – Jacob Lyons and Martin Rankoff – say that the Board of Deputies has been “hijacked by individuals …with so-called ‘progressive’ views” and that they are a Trojan horse inside the organisation.

They also say: “Anything that might be construed as a foreign entity interfering in the democratic process of another sovereign nation is categorically off-limits.”

This will be a problem not only for the Board of Deputies, but also for all the other mainstream Jewish organisations who have criticised the Nation-State Law.

  • According to the New Israel Fund, the law is a “slap in the face to Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel”.
  • According to Yachad, “we must speak up in opposition to this racist bill which turns minorities in Israel into second-class citizens”.
  • According to the American Jewish Committee, the law “puts at risk the commitment of Israel’s founders to build a country that is both Jewish and democratic”.

Hundreds of flags greet Labour’s first-ever debate on Palestine

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For decades Labour Party managers have kept motions about the Israel-Palestine conflict off the floor of its annual conference for fear of the arguments they might cause.  Finally at this year’s conference a motion on the conflict was debated and their fears proved to be unfounded. There was near-unanimity. Every speaker spoke in favour and very nearly every delegate voted in favour. Observers saw only three hands raised against.

The motion called for a ban on arms sales to Israel and an independent inquiry into the deaths of young Palestinians killed by Israeli army snipers on the Gaza border.  It also broke the taboo against referring to the “Nakba”, the Arabic name for the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948 to make way for the state of Israel.

Far from revealing divisions it revealed a very broad consensus in the Labour Party. This was obvious from the hundreds of Palestinian flags that were waved in all parts of the conference hall as Colin Monehen from Harlow and Zahid Ali from Wolverhampton SW spoke to their motion – an emotional moment for many delegates who have been campaigning for years in favour of Palestinian human rights.

“I want us to send a message to Mr Trump,” the Harlow delegate told the conference, “that cutting the funding of UNRWA, the UN humanitarian agency set up to assist these people in exile, born homeless, born stateless, in refugee camps, will not crush their spirit. It will not lessen their resolve to return home.

“I want us to say this to every Palestinian. We have heard you calling from the darkness and we cannot and we will not ignore you or your tragedy.”

Zahid Ali, seconding the motion, held up a picture of the woman paramedic Razan al-Najjar shot dead by Israeli Army snipers while she cared for injured protesters by the Gaza fence.

The motion urged the Government to:

  • increase its level of annual assessed contributions to UNRWA, providing much need reassurance and stability to Palestinian refugees, and to
  • encourage other member states to do the same.

and it called for:

  • an independent international investigation into Israel’s use of force against Palestinian demonstrators;
  • a ban on UK government arms sales to Israel; and
  • an immediate unconditional end to the illegal blockade and closure of Gaza.

According to delegates the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry had asked the movers of the motion to drop a reference to the Nakba, but they refused.

This is what the Harlow delegate referred to when he said: “There are those that are nervous about the word Nakba. But the Nakba did happen and those people were forcibly removed from their homes, and there has to be a recognition of that.”

She also resisted the proposal in the Wolverhampton motion to suspend arms sales to Israel pending the result of an independent inquiry, but in fact the motion ended up calling for a permanent ban on arms sales to Israel.

The debate and the vote to ban arms sales to Israel were widely reported in the Israeli press, but there was almost no mention of it in the mainstream media in Britain, apart from the BBC.