Tuesday, 20 January 2015

UK government tries to smear “boycott Israel” call as anti-Jewish

The Electronic Intifada - A recent British government report attempts to smear the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions as “anti-Jewish.”

The document was published by the Department for Communities and Local Government on 28 December. As many people in Britain were on Christmas holidays at that time, the decision to release the report on a day it would not be widely-noticed is a curious one.

The report includes a list of supposed “government action on addressing anti-Semitism.”

However, closer examination reveals that the report conflates anti-Semitism with criticism of the State of Israel. It also misrepresents a 2004 call made by various Palestinian organizations for an academic boycott of Israel.

In one section, the report uses the following wording:
Calls to boycott contact with academics working in Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange. We recommend that pro-democracy lecturers in the new University and College Lecturers Union are given every support to combat such selective boycotts that are anti-Jewish in practice. We would urge the new union’s executive and leadership to oppose the boycott.
The genuine Palestinian statement on academic boycott, however, makes it clear that individual Israeli academics are not the target of the boycott call. Rather, the boycott targets Israeli academic institutions. Guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), state:
Anchored in precepts of international law and universal human rights, the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement, including PACBI, rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion. If, however, an individual is representing the State of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution (such as a dean, rector, or president), or is commissioned/recruited to participate in Israel’s efforts to “rebrand” itself, then her/his activities are subject to the institutional boycott the BDS movement is calling for.
It is also worth noting that many BDS advocates signed a 2012 letter against all forms of racism and bigotry. That letter opposes “the cynical and baseless use of the term anti-Semitism as a tool for stifling criticism of Israel or opposition to Zionism, as this assumes simply because someone is Jewish, they support Zionism or the the colonial and apartheid policies of the State of Israel, a false generalization.”

Smearing solidarity

Other problematic aspects of the government report include the portrayal of sympathy and solidarity with Palestinian victims of the Israeli war machine by local authorities in Britain as somehow equating to anti-Semitism, as seen in statements such as: “This year we also saw councils misjudging their remits, with Leicester City Council, banning Israeli-manufactured products, and Tower Hamlets flying the Palestinian flag.”

In portraying Palestine solidarity as anti-Semitic, the report hews to the line held by the State of Israel, which attempts to claim a representative role in respect of the global Jewish population. In reality, of course, many Jews around the world either have little interest in or reject Israel’s acts.

Claiming that actions such as the flying of the Palestinian flag by the London borough of Tower Hamlets and by other councils in Britain are associated with anti-Semitism obscures and cheapens the existence of a genuine problem of anti-Semitism in many parts of Europe.

The Department of Communities, however, seems determined to repeat and uphold inaccurate versions of the boycott call, and to defend the actions of the State of Israel as somehow representative of all British Jews. The question, of course, is why?

The answer quickly becomes apparent when one looks at the British Government’s choice of advisors on the subject of anti-Semitism.

Prominent amongst these is the Community Security Trust (CST), a “charity” which purports to monitor anti-Semitism.

In one of a number of citations of information from the CST, the report describes it as “an organization that looks after the safety and security needs of the Jewish community.” Other researchers, though, would less worthwhile activities to this benign description. more

Palestinians in Israel declare national strike after police deaths

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Leaders of Israel's 1.7 million Palestinians declared a general strike throughout the country on Tuesday in protest at the recent deaths of two Bedouin men in confrontations with police.

Former member of parliament Taleb al-Sana, chairman of an umbrella organization of Palestinian groups in Israel, said that schools and businesses would close from the Galilee in the north to the Negev desert in the south.

"The general strike today is to send a strong message that the entire Arab community ... strongly protests the murders of two citizens of the state of Israel whose only crime is being Arab," Sana, who is himself Bedouin, told Israeli army radio.

Sami al-Jaar died of a gunshot wound last week during a police drug raid on the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat.

Police have opened an inquiry to determine if the shot was fired by officers or townspeople.

During Jaar's funeral on Sunday, Sami al-Zayadna, 47, died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli police at mourners in the Bedouin city of Rahat.

Following Zayadna's burial on Monday, angry protesters hurled stones at the Rahat police station, police said. Tires were set alight and demonstrators smashed the front of the Hapoalim Bank and other shops.

Police statements said that five suspected stone-throwers were detained and that more arrests were expected.

Rahat residents have been on strike since Sunday. more

Israeli gunboats fire shells at Gaza fishermen, no injuries

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) – Gunboats of the Israeli navy opened fire at Gaza fishermen off the coast in northwestern Gaza City overnight Monday.

Witnesses who live in al-Sudaniyya neighborhood told Ma’an they heard four blasts off the coast.

They added that the blasts were Israeli shells fired at Gaza fishermen. more