Len McCluskey’s Distortions about Israel and Gaza

Len McCluskey is the trade union dinosaur who accuses Jewish community leaders of “intransigent” and “truculent hostility”, describes Labour’s antisemitism crisis as “wildly exaggerated”, and accuses MPs who oppose Corbyn of using it as “rocket fuel” for a split.

Now he has put his name to a Labour List piece about Israel that is full of falsehoods fisked below.

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‘With the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people under unprecedented attack, we as workers must make our collective voice louder in calling for freedom, justice and equality for our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

The principle of solidarity is the backbone of the organised labour movement – and that principle has never stopped at our own borders. From opposing the Chilean coup in the ’70s to supporting the South African anti-Apartheid movement in the ’80s, trade unionists have historically played a crucial role in numerous struggles for human rights across the globe.

The struggle of the Palestinian people is no exception to that. Ever since the Nakba in 1948, which saw over 750,000 Palestinians forcibly expelled from their homes,

WRONG – the vast majority left voluntarily, read Ephraim Karsh

the people of Palestine have endured continued discrimination, dispossession and violence at the hands of the Israeli state.

WRONG – Israel does no more than is necessary to secure the safety of its its citizens

And the global trade union movement has responded by taking action against Israel’s repressive regime.

WRONG – It isn’t ‘repressive’

For example, dockworkers in Durban responded to Israel’s 2008/9 war on Gaza by refusing to unload Israeli products. In Brazil in 2014, trade union federations played a key role in the successful campaign that led to the state of Rio Grande do Sul cancelling a major partnership with Israeli military company Elbit Systems. Meanwhile, UK trade unions – including Unite – supported the campaign to get G4S to end its role in resourcing Israel’s abusive prison system.

The spirit of solidarity embodied by these actions is needed now more than ever, as the Palestinian people face unprecedented attacks on their collective rights. Israel has enshrined a system of apartheid in its constitution through the passing of a racist “Nation State Law”,

WRONG – Nothing racist about the legal declaration that Israel is founded on Judaism

whilst continuing to rapidly expand illegal settlements

WRONG – No Court ever declared them illegal

and maintain its crippling siege on the Gaza strip

WRONG – No siege, all goods allowed in except those used for bomb making

– a territory set to become uninhabitable by 2022 according to the UN.

WRONG – In 2012 the UN said Gaza would become ‘unliveable’ by 2020. 2020 is only nine months away. There are no signs that Gaza is close to being ‘unliveable’. Life expectancy is 74.2 years (CIA Factbook)which puts Gaza around halfway in the league table of all countries, not far below Jordan (74.8).

On top of this, since the start of the Great Return March protests in March 2018, Israel has injured over 29,000 and killed over 200 unarmed protesters, including children, journalists and medics.

WRONG– Protesters have been armed with knives and Molotov cocktails and incendiary kites have been flown into Israel. The protests have been directed by Hamas and include many members of terrorist organisations.

Israel’s embedded system of discrimination and apartheid

WRONG – the Apartheid Lie

is in many ways felt most sharply by Palestinian workers. The systematic destruction of Palestine’s economy,

west bank and gaza

Source: World Bank

WRONG – there is rapid economic growth in Judea/Samaria (‘the West Bank’) and were it not for Hamas which stifles the economy, the same would be true of Gaza

the over 60 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens

WRONG – See David Collier’s blog here

and the relentless restrictions on freedom of movement and association curtail the working conditions and rights of workers every single day.

WRONG – the only restrictions are those designed to ensure security and the Histadrut helps to represent Palestinian workers in Israel

Palestinian trade unions have called on unions across the world to support them in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality – the UK labour movement must now redouble its efforts to answer this call.

We have seen how powerful our collective action can be in shifting policies. For example, in accordance with a growing call from consumers and trade unionists, most supermarkets in Britain have asserted that they no longer stock goods from illegal settlements.

WRONG – The settlements are not ‘illegal’ and the boycott is only partial eg the Co-Op.

However, we need this action to extend beyond corporate policies – we need governmental action. That’s exactly why so many trade unions, as well as the Trade Union Congress, have passed policy calling for on the government to implement a ban on settlement produce and take measures to end the UK’s complicity with settlements.

I am very proud that Unite the Union, alongside numerous other UK trade unions, are affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)

The PSC is an organisation riddled with antisemitism

and work closely with the organisation to build a mass workers’ movement committed to ending Israel’s occupation and upholding international law and human rights.

On May 11th 2019, PSC and others have called a National Demonstration for Palestine in central London to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people who live under occupation and apartheid every day, and to call for Israel to be held to account for its crimes. Most major trade unions, including Unite, are supporting this crucial demo and calling on their members to take to the streets for Palestine.

The labour movement cannot stand by whilst the rights and freedoms of our brothers and sisters in other countries are systematically denied. Wherever injustice manifests, we as workers must raise our collective voices in calling for freedom, justice and equality for all. Join us in standing with Palestine on May 11th.’

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If McCluskey thinks that whipping up hatred against Israel in order to boost the numbers on May 11 – and so whipping up the antisemitism that he claims is “wildly exaggerated” – is savvy political strategy – he’s wrong. 51% of voters accept that Labour has a problem with antisemitism.

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Calling Hertsmere Conservatives to account for false antisemitism accusation

Regular readers will recall that I blogged about the Jeremy Newmark saga at the beginning of March, after the JLC published  parts of the Report they commissioned. I again expressed scepticism about the allegations against Councillor Newmark. I was aghast at the JC’s reprehensible editorial which called for his resignation as a Councillor and said ‘he must never again have any role in public life’. Sure enough three weeks later (21 March) the JC reported that the police had dropped the matter!

In that blog I reproduced the truly vile letter sent by Hertsmere Conservatives to known Jewish voters in the Borough (from a list ‘compiled informally by activists who had noted which houses had mezuzot’ !!!).  Tonight I had the chance to question the Leader of Hertsmere Council who signed the letter, Councillor Morris Bright. The webcast is here (my supplementary question starts at 0h:26m:10s). My question – addressed to Councillor Bright – is here:

hertsmere apr 19
He read out a prepared response covering the Standards Board, Nolan Rules, etc.

I followed up with this supplementary:

Councillor Bright – On the basis of an appallingly badly researched and arguably libellous editorial in the Jewish Chronicle a letter went out from the Conservative Association, signed by you but ‘on behalf of 35 Councillors, all 7 Hertfordshire county Councillors and the Hertsmere MP’, suggesting that Councillor Newmark’s conduct when he was CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council would add to fears of the Jewish Community in Elstree and Borehamwood regarding antisemitism. Your clear suggestion was that Councillor Newmark’s conduct fuelled antisemitism. You only sent it to households that you had somehow identified as Jewish!

A few weeks later the police dropped the matter and confirmed there would be no investigation into Councillor Newmark. To anybody like me who had bothered to do their homework it was obvious that Councillor Newmark had done nothing wrong. But you blatantly failed to do your homework. It was even worse than that. Utterly cynically you attempted to weaponise antisemitism with this immoral letter. You said “This is NOT about politics” and you tried to justify that by saying – in a complete non sequitur – that your grandfather was the first Jewish Mayor of Hackney in 1959 and that he would be appalled at what has happened to the Labour Party. You even got that wrong. Your grandfather Morris Blitz was NOT the first Jewish Mayor of Hackney. Solomon Lever was Mayor in 1951.

Councillor Bright – You ended your despicable letter by saying that you hoped that Councillor Newmark would do the right thing – ie resign. My question to you tonight Councillor Bright is will YOU do the right thing? You must AT LEAST now – here – give Councillor Newmark a massive apology for failing to do any due diligence, instead giving credibility to an absurd and completely unjustified Jewish Chronicle editorial and accusing him of fuelling antisemitism. You must also consider your position. Now. Apologise.

No apology. Just some blather about how the letter wasn’t political ahead of the elections because he had called for Councillor Newmark’s resignation once before.

To adjust the final sentence of the infamous letter …

I hope Morris Bright will do the right thing asap. If not, then at the local elections on May 2nd there will be an opportunity for him to be removed by the people.

Postscript: Jeremy Newmark re-electedJC shamed.
newmark reelected

Sony World Photography Awards used as platform for anti-Israel propaganda

At Somerset House in London there is an exhibition of photos from around the world, the Sony World Photography Awards.  Winner of 3rd Prize in the Documentary category is Mustafa Hassona with photos of the weekly ‘return’ marches that happen each Friday in Gaza. The problem is the captions to the photos. One would have thought that there is a responsibility on the organisers of the competition and the exhibition to ensure that the captions are accurate. In the case of these photos they have demonstrably failed. You only have to look at any number of recent cases of antisemitism to see why it matters.

The first problem is Hassona’s affiliation, shown as “State of Palestine”. There’s no such country.

The second problem is the title of the series of captions, ‘Palestinian Right of Return Protests’. There is no ‘Right of Return’ and as Einat Wilf states, as long as the Palestinians don’t relinquish the “right of return,” ending the ethos of Palestinians being refugees, peace will remain elusive. “Because no other issue reflects more deeply the continued Palestinian, and more broadly Arab, view that Israel is temporary, and that the Jewish presence is not legitimate.”

The third problem is the misleading overall description of the photos: ‘Since May 30 2018, Palestinian protesters have protested weekly on the border with Israel in order to demand their right to return. The protests are still continuing along the Gaza Strip area bordering Israel, where around 233 Palestinian protesters have been killed and 21,000 injured by Israeli snipers.’

They are NOT merely ‘protesters’. Many are members of terrorist organisations like Hamas. They throw Molotov cocktails at the IDF. They want to destroy the barrier fence in order to enter into Israel and murder Israelis.  For example on April 4 IDF soldiers shot at three Palestinians who crossed the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip under the cover of darkness. The three were carrying knives. And the bombardment of Israel from Gaza has been incessant.

sony april 2019

Source: Meir Amit Center

The fourth problem is the captioning of each photo. Here is the first:

Flames appear after an explosion on the northern border of the Gaza Strip with Israel. Palestinians throw stones in response to Israeli forces’ intervention as they gather to support the ‘maritime demonstration’ to break the Gaza blockade by sea with more than 20 vessels of various sizes in Gaza City. Gaza on October 8, 2018.

What this caption misses is the fact that the maritime blockade is perfectly legal. It has a clear security purpose- The Hamas terrorist organisation is dangerous and acts to harm the State of Israel and its residents. Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organisations in Gaza are constantly arming for this purpose and use the sea to transport weapons with which they plan to harm Israel through terrorist attacks. An example was the Victoria arms vessel caught by the Israeli navy carrying many weapons sent to the Gaza Strip.

Here is the second caption: Funeral of a Palestinian in Gaza. Palestinian reporter Mariam Abu Dakka Abu Farhana(C) reacts after learning that her brother, Mohammed Abu Farhana (31), a member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was killed in the Israeli artillery attack in Khan Yunis while she was covering the news of that attack in Gaza on July 21, 2018.

What this caption fails to tell the viewer is that the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades is Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza. Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and the Jewish nation and the creation of an Islamic state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. And that the IDF operation that killed Farhana was a reprisal for the death of an IDF soldier.

Here is the third caption: “Great March of Return” demonstrations in Gaza City, Gaza. Palestinian demonstrators throw rocks using slingshots after the intervention of Israeli forces during the “Great March of Return” demonstration near the Israel-Gaza border, in Khan Yunis, Gaza on October 5, 2018.

Again the problem is what the caption fails to tell the viewer. Slingshots versus the IDF sounds like David and Goliath doesn’t it? But it’s highly misleading. These are NOT peaceful protests. And the caption fails to mention the incendiary balloons that were launched into Israel from Gaza. On October 7, 2018, firefighters put out five fires in the western Negev. Some of the balloons had explosive devices attached to them.

Here is the fourth caption: The “Great March of Return” in Gaza. Demonstrators shout slogans and hold Palestinian flags during the demonstrations at the Gaza and Israeli border in the eastern part of Khan Yunis, Gaza. Dubbed the “Great March of Return, the first of the Friday rallies in Gaza coincided with Land Day which commemorates the Palestinian fatalities of the protests held on 30th March 1976. They are also intended to pressure Israel to lift its decade-long blockade of the coastal enclave.

The issue here is that there is no ‘decade-long blockade’. See the COGAT website. Every day goods trucks go into Gaza from Israel. The only goods not allowed in are those which could be used for making armaments.

The final caption is on the best-known of Hassana’s photos: A shirtless young protester in Gaza gripping a Palestinian flag with one hand and swinging a slingshot over his head with the other, on the northern border between the Gaza Strip and Israel in the weekly protests organized by Palestinian protesters to protest against the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has been imposed by Israel for the past 12 years.

The falsehoods in this caption have been addressed above. The weekly protests are far from the David and Goliath image that this caption portrays. They are orchestrated by Hamas. And the allegation of a ‘blockade’ of Gaza is simply not true.

The organisers of (and judges for) the Sony World Photography Awards have lamentably failed to prevent their event being used for anti-Israel propaganda. How was this allowed to happen?

POSTSCRIPT

This is the totally unsatisfactory response to complaints (‘neutral !!!!’):

The Sony World Photography Awards is a platform for photography and the jury judge the photographs, not the narrative.

The descriptions used in the book and the exhibition are neutral descriptions of each image itself, not the event depicted, and do not offer viewpoint of the World Photography Organisation, Sony or the Sony World Photography Awards.
With best wishes,
Jill Cotton (Communications Director, World Photography Awards)

 

 

A BBC Car Crash

BBC News Channel’s Dateline London on 13 April discussed the outcome of the Israel election. You can watch the replay here or here. The discussion – moderated by the BBC’s Carrie Gracie (who resigned as China Editor because she felt she was paid less than male colleagues) – starts at 13:28.  Jonathan Sacerdoti speaks first. He advances reasons why Netanyahu might have won the election – for example, standing up to the hostile Obama Administration, successfully holding his ground on the Iran deal, having a good relationship with President Trump, presiding over a strong economy and cultivating relationships with the Arab world. At 16.55 Gracie brings in Abdel Bari Atwan who has clearly been itching to jump in over Sacerdoti. Sure enough, the bile against Israel comes out: Trump was the “election director” who assured Netanyahu’s victory, Netanyahu is leading Israel towards an “apartheid state”, the Nation State law deprives non-Jews of their Israeli citizenship. All ridiculous lies. When Sacerdoti challenges this nonsense, Annalisa Piras – not known as a Middle East expert – supports Atwan. (If you search Google and Twitter you will find that the sum total of Piras’ expertise on the Middle East appears to be this):
pirasAt 19.46 Sacerdoti – who seems to be the only one of the four who has any knowledge of the topic – clarifies what Netanyahu said about annexing parts of Judea/Samaria. Now watch Piras at 20.52. With shocking rudeness she tells Gracie to silence Sacerdoti ! – “it seems to be quite a monologue”. Gracie obliges (!) and turns back to Atwan. Atwan then blames Netanyahu for “killing the two State solution” (the truth was that the Palestinian Authority killed peace talks by joining with Hamas). Sacerdoti is far too well-mannered to jump in but at 22.38 his appalled look into the camera says it all. (Maybe he is thinking about Atwan’s 2013 comment that Osama Bin Laden was only “half a terrorist”……….).

Like Piras, Iain Martin of The Times appears to have little – if any – track record as a Middle East expert or even indeed in international relations more generally, beyond Brexit issues (presumably why he was chosen, as the first part of Dateline London was about Brexit).

So when at 23.30 Martin goes to town on the hyperbole, it’s hard to take him seriously: Netanyahu’s victory is “a tragedy and a potential geopolitical catastrophe”. It will “provoke among the Palestinians’ allies an uprising and a backlash which will have very serious consequences.” (This is analogous to the argument that women should not wear short skirts).

At 25:15 Piras at last gets the floor. She shows her ignorance by criticising the US for “recognising Jerusalem as the new capital”. Wrong. Jerusalem has ALWAYS been the capital.  

All in all, a BBC car crash. Apart from anything else, to expect the same panel to be knowledgeable about both Brexit and the Middle East is a big mistake.

كلمة حرّة Your Say (unless you tell the truth about antisemitism or Gaza)

Kalima Horra means “Your Say”.  It is the flagship talk show of Al Mayadeen TV – a pan-Arab station. It is hosted by George Galloway.

Three weeks ago (16 March – a Shabbat of course) there was a programme about ‘Antisemitism’. It featured Tony Greenstein and Ken Livingstone and Adam Garry. Galloway referred to the “racist apartheid state of Israel“. Livingstone said : “Anyone who criticises the Israel government’s policies towards the Palestinians is denounced as antisemitic” (Ironically (I do understand English Irony) this lie is called the Livingstone Formulation). The recording is here.

At 24:07 a vox pop woman gives us the hoary old antisemitic chestnut “Palestinians are Semites too” (the word ‘antisemitism’ has nothing to do with ‘Semites’ – which is why it should be spelled without a hyphen). After her a man says “It’s not antisemitic to criticise Israel”.   Right.  As IHRA says …..

At 27.40 watch Greenstein on ‘Jewish Power’ … Responding to Galloway’s question as to why “conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism” has been “so successful”, he said “I have no doubt that when Corbyn was seen as likely to come to power I have no doubt that the centres of power – whether in the US, Britain or Israel – took fright”.

At 33:55 a woman – who previously had spoken up in support of the IHRA definition of antisemitism – quietly walks out in disgust, as Galloway says that “Patagonia could have become Israel“. If you are reading this Madam – well done!

At 34.22 Greenstein distorts Zionist history … “What Zionism did was co-opt the religious symbols and the Bible to a colonisatory project. Zionism was never a religious formation. The people who opposed Zionism most at the beginning were the orthodox Jews.”  He thus negates a whole tradition of religious Zionist Visionaries, such as Moses Hess and Rabbi Kook.

At 41:04 watch Livingstone again use the eponymous Livingstone Formulation: “If you criticise the policies of the Israeli government you can be accused of being antisemitic

At  46.49 Greenstein uses a fake quote supposedly from Herzl (“the antisemites will be our friends and our allies”).

At 48:06 Greenstein libels the actress Maureen Lipman CBE (who is Jewish and a magnificent defender of Israel) : “She’s fiercely anti-Palestinian” Then we get another false quote from Greenstein: Primo Levi never saidthe Palestinians are the Jews of Israel”. And then come repulsive antisemitic Jew/Nazi comparisons from Greenstein.

Followed by Livingstone (49.30) mendaciously and sanctimoniously denying antisemitism and then enabling it! (“My worry is that this obsession in the media is encouraging genuine antisemites to do antisemitic things”).

Ahead of the show on 16 March, I and several other Jews accepted the invitation to be in the audience (at a studio in Wembley) – but we then received an exclusion email.

On 13 April (another Shabbat – of course) the show is discussing Gaza and people are invited to join the audience.  You’d think they’d want a balanced audience wouldn’t you. Think again…………….

(Please contact me if you have received a similar  email, whether or not you are willing to be quoted)

kalima 3

kalima 2

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