Israel

Israel Recalls Ambassador To Sweden Over Recognition Of Palestinian State

10/30/14

Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden Thursday after the Swedish government officially recognized a Palestinian state. New Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loven made recognizing Palestine one of his campaign promises. The Swedish Foreign Ministry tweeted Thursday that it “expressed hopes for peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine.”

 

Al Aqsa mosque is closed off for first time in 47 years as tensions flare

10/30/14

For the first time since 1967 the Israeli military has closed off Haram al-Sharif – the Noble Sanctuary and Al Aqsa Mosque to worshipers. A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described the closure of the holy site as a “declaration of war“. The Israeli army is currently attacking protesters in Old City of Jerusalem. But protests are expected to continue all over Palestine in a “Day of Rage“.

Late today, Israeli police said that the mosque had been reopened. “After police security assessments made, Temple Mount open again after being closed today. Police units still in Jerusalem this evening.”

News accounts say that Al Aqsa will be open for prayer tomorrow.

Yehuda Glick (Photo by Emil Salman)

Yehuda Glick (Photo by Emil Salman)

The closure followed an attack on a prominent U.S- born hardline rightwing Jewish Temple activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a major proponent of expanding Jewish worship and access to the Mosque compound, the holy site also referenced as the Temple Mount. Glick was shot by a gunman outside the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and is listed in critical condition in Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Haaretz reports the attack was witnessed by rightwing member of Knesset Moshe Feiglin after both men attended a conference about increasing Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. The Washington Post says that Glick was banned from the area by police in years past due to his provocative actions.

Police hunted down Muataz Hijazi, the suspected gunman, and killed him on the roof of his house at 5:30 am in a burst of gunfire that rang through the neighborhood. They then proceeded to arrest Hijazi’s family members.

The Israeli government is not doing much to calm the situation. Netanyahu accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting the latest tension. And in New York the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. showed a photograph of an ISIS-style flag found on the Temple Mount, suggesting that radical Islamists are at the root of the problem.

Fundamentalist settlers seem to be thrilled by the confrontation. Dan Cohen reports:

Bouquets for Melissa Parke

10/30/14

Earlier this month I wrote an article for Mondoweiss on the story of Jewish-Israeli academic Dr Marcelo Svirsky and his 300 km walk from Sydney to Canberra. The purpose of his walk was to gather support for a BDS Petition against Israel.

The petition was presented to The Australian Parliament and tabled on Monday night. The next day I did something I have never done before: I sent flowers to an elected representative of Parliament. The recipient was Melissa Parke (ALP, Freemantle WA). Parke spoke to the petition on Monday. She was brave and principled. I wanted to show my gratitude to her, and thus the flowers.

Speaking to the petition Parke implored the Parliament to find a solution to end the state-sanctioned violence many Palestinians are currently suffering. She said, “… we know that violence is not the solution. We affirm that the rockets fired from Gaza into Israel are an illegal response to Israel’s actions. But it does beg the question: what then is the alternative to the vicious cycle of bloodshed we have witnessed in recent months?”

Suggesting the BDS as a way forward Parke continued, “… nonviolent means of protest are and must be seen as legitimate. It is notable that both Israel and the US approve of boycotts and sanctions against other such states such as Iran and Brunei, so why is it objectionable to boycott a state that is,among other things, committing repeated grave violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention as Israel does with its illegal settlements?”

Echoing the frustration felt by many Parke also said, “If we are genuinely concerned about national and global security as well as international justice, we, along with other nations, including the US, should be insisting that Israel do its part to lay the groundwork for peace by, among other things, ending its illegal occupation, settlement construction and the Gaza blockade. Until this happens BDS is a perfectly acceptable form of protest and I congratulate Dr Marcelo Svirsky for his courageous walk and his brave stand.”

Although her speech was a cri de coeur for common sense and common decency it was remarkable for its uniqueness. No Australian politician, except Parke, would deign to speak up for Palestinian suffering in Parliament. In Australia, as in the US, most politicians are just ventriloquist dolls for the pro-Israel lobby. The same old dross is spouted. For example, “Israel has the right to defend itself” or “the bonds between Israel and (insert country here) are unbreakable” But Monday night Parke walked into no man’s land. The brickbats will inevitably follow as our Australian versions of Haim Saban and Jeffrey Goldberg try to take her down. But Melissa, you don’t deserve the brickbats, you deserve bouquets. You are, to my knowledge, the first elected representative in an Anglo-phone country to speak up for a peaceful way to get Israel to start behaving itself. Thank you.

SodaStream says it plans to leave West Bank for the Negev, but boycotters promise to not let up

10/30/14

SodaStream is dumping their apartheid digs in Occupied Palestine, allegedly. As news of SodaStream’s announced closure of their factory and forthcoming exit from Mishor Adumim Industrial Park in the illegal Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim flooded main stream media yesterday the plagued seltzer company announced the results for its third quarter ending September 30, 2014. It isn’t pretty. We previously reported the “titanic” stock drop that occurred after SodaStream released the preliminary report on October 7, 2014.

A glance at Bloomberg’s headline tells us everything we need to know about why this is a huge victory for the BDS campaign:

Bloomberg News Oct.29, 2014

Bloomberg News Oct.29, 2014

A virtual chorus of synchronized press running AP’s coverage from ABC , Newsday to The Washington Post opened with “boycott” in the lede. What a striking turnaround from the coverage just a 3 weeks ago when we reported “unofficially, it’s the boycott.”At that time, the majority of the press covering SodaStream’s plummeting stock didn’t even mention the boycott.

SodaStream plans on moving to the Idan HaNegev Industrial Park /Lehavim Industrial zone, 1,100-acre “development zone” just outside of  the Bedouin township of Rahat in the Negev desert, heavily subsidized by the Israeli government. This is the same news we’ve heard repeatedly over the last couple years.

Who Profits, SodaStream Update | May 2013:

At the third quarter of 2012, SodaStream started constructing a new factory within Israel, in the Lehavim Industrial zone in Negev desert. The company evaluates that the first stage of the construction will be completed in approximately 18 to 30 months. The 2012 annual report emphasizes, “Upon completion of the first phase, the new site will have all production capabilities necessary to produce all of our products”.

So why are we hearing this now? Perhaps it’s because SodaStream stock is still floundering down in the low 20’s and has hardly budged all month.

Screen shot 2014-10-30 at 7.43.25 AM

If SodaStream thought re-announcing the move to the Lehavim Industrial zone next year would generate a spike in stock prices they were wrong. But one thing is certain from yesterday’s coverage, SodaStream’s brand has been thoroughly saturated by BDS. Their new marketing plan shifts the corporation’s previously disastrous tagline “Set the bubbles free” to the bland “water made exciting.” Regardless, it is unlikely to wash away the permanent stain left over from the p.r. assault by pro-Palestinian BDS activists.

Screen shot 2014-10-30 at 8.19.31 AM

Although the move from the occupied territories is certainly a victory, it’s not enough.  Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) spokesperson Rafeef Ziadah said:

SodaStream’s announcement today shows that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is increasingly capable of holding corporate criminals to account for their participation in Israeli apartheid and colonialism.

BDS campaign pressure has forced retailers across Europe and North America to drop SodaStream, and the company’s share price has tumbled in recent months as our movement has caused increasing reputational damage to the SodaStream brand.

Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians. Its new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab (Negev) desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred against their will. Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights.

Any suggestion that SodaStream is employing Palestinians in an illegal Israeli settlement on stolen Palestinian land out of the kindness of its heart is ludicrous.

Let this be a warning to everyone investing and empowering apartheid and the occupation of Palestine. The pressure won’t stop.

‘Chickenshit’ attack enrages Netanyahu and lobby, but will it stir voters against Obama?

10/30/14

The report that a “senior” Obama administration official called Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu “a chickenshit” for destroying the peace process continues to roil the political and diplomatic waters. Here’s a wrapup of some commentary on the revelation, including Netanyahu’s defiant speech addressing “attack” from anonymous sources in the Obama administration yesterday:

our supreme interests, first and foremost security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not the top priority of those same anonymous sources that attack us and me personally.

The report is no laughing matter to American supporters of Israel. Here’s a dialogue between Jeffrey Goldberg, who broke the story in the first place, and neocon Bill Kristol in which they compete for who is more supportive of Israel:

The quotes are extremely concerning to the Israel lobby groups. The Jewish Federations leader calls the comments “outrageous.” While the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ Malcolm Hoenlein and Robert Sugarman leap on the quotes:

“We are deeply concerned by a number of recent public and private criticisms, personal insults and inappropriate characterizations emanating from official sources. These often anonymous, but no less harmful, declarations undermine the common interests of the United States and Israel on the critical issues which face both countries and the real extraordinary cooperation on the security, intelligence, political and other levels. It is the common efforts of these two great democratic allies to address the threat of Iran becoming a threshold nuclear state, the rise of ISIS and other extremist Islamist groups, the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Libya, and the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, among other issues of vital significance to both countries, that is of primary importance. It is only natural that there may be disagreements on issues, but we believe those should be discussed privately between the leaders of both countries and there should be no place for personal attacks which undermine mutual confidence and support so essential to advancing the interests of both the United States and Israel.

J Street agrees: “that such ad-hominem attacks have no place in relations between close allies.” Though it points out that many in D.C. were silent when Israeli officials criticized Obama administration officials; and besides, J Street says, the report points to the damage Israel has done with its “reckless” settlement policy.

Will American Jews take Obama’s side? CNN’s Jake Tapper says on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that the comment will affect the mid term elections:

Hewitt: What surprises me is that it’s a week before an election in which the Jewish vote might indeed make a difference in a place like Florida, or a Senate race like New Hampshire, or a Senate race in Colorado. And these are not large numbers of voters who are motivated primarily by the American-Israel relationship, but they’re not insignificant, either. And this President has done repeatedly over the last three weeks things that Democratic candidates must be banging their head….

JT: Well, I completely agree with you that Rick Scott and others in tight races, where there is a significant vote of people who support Israel, not just Jews, but Evangelicals, will be making huge hay out of that comment. And I bet it becomes a big issue in those Israel-supporting communities, absolutely.

Noah Pollack of Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel fingers Ben Rhodes for the comment, while Adam Horowitz issued a clever challenge to Rhodes:

Horowitz, who did the artist’s composite in the above tweet, also pointed out the other slams on Netanyahu in the original report:

“Aspergery” has concerned the Ruderman Family Foundation, an organization focused on “advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community and fostering a more nuanced understanding of the American Jewish community among Israeli leaders”, which issued a statement condemning the administration for using that word as an insult:

“While it is perfectly acceptable for people to be critical of each other, it is unacceptable to use a term of disability in a derogatory manner. The term “Aspergery” was used in a manner that is insulting to the millions of people around the world with Asperger Syndrome. It is never OK to insult someone by referring to them by using disability in a negative manner.”

The comments were also seen as a threat to the Israel lobby. Netanyahu’s finance minister has used the flap to remind American Jews that Obama is no friend of Israel, and that they owe loyalty to that state:

If what is written is true, then the current administration intends to throw Israel under the bus….Israel is stronger than any disparager. The Prime Minister is not some private individual. He is the leader of the Jewish State and the Jewish world as a whole. Vulgar remarks directed against an Israeli Prime Minister are hurtful to the millions of citizens of Israel and Jews worldwide.

Netanyahu seems to believe this, too; he says that the U.S. and Israel have a “moral covenant.” Here are portions of his speech yesterday. Very defensive, angered by the anonymous sniping. Four times he refers to the “attack” on him.

When Israel is pressured to make concessions regarding its security, it is easiest to give in. We receive applause and attend ceremonies on lawns, but later the rockets and tunnels come.

As Prime Minister, I stand firm with regard to Israel’s security. I care about the lives of each and every citizen and each and every soldier. I have been on battlefields many times. I risked my life for this country, and I am not prepared to make concessions that will endanger it. And it must be understood, our supreme interests, first and foremost security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not the top priority of those same anonymous sources that attack us and me personally. I am being attacked only because I am protecting the State of Israel. If I did not protect the State of Israel, if I did not stand up decisively for our national and security interests, they would not attack me. And despite the attacks I face, I will continue to protect our country; I will continue to protect the citizens of Israel.

I would also like to add that I respect and appreciate our deep connection with the United States. Since the establishment of the country, we have had disagreements with the US and we will have disagreements in the future as well. However, they are not at the expense of the close relationship between our peoples and our countries. We have seen time and again, this year as well, that support for the State of Israel is ever increasing among the American public, and this support reached an all-time high. The strategic alliance and the moral covenant between our countries continues and will continue.

Netanyahu focused on the criticism that he destroyed the peace process by allowing settlements. But he seems to bridle at another aspect of Goldberg’s piece, the suggestion that he is chickenshit for not attacking Iran, which is Goldberg’s unprosecuted agenda of more than four years standing.

During the briefing at the State Department yesterday, Matt Lee of AP used the euphemism “chicken salad” to ask about the quote. State says it does not reflect U.S. leadership opinion:

Lee: I’ll try and keep this family-friendly by using the phrase “chicken salad” rather than the other word: What is going on here? Why are there senior Administration officials running around trashing the prime minister of Israel?

JEN PSAKI: Well, let me first say on your first question, even though it wasn’t a real question, the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong, our security bonds have never been greater, and the ties between our nations are unshakeable. We remain fully and firmly committed to Israel’s security. On the comments, we think such comments are inappropriate and counterproductive. I spoke with Secretary – the Secretary about this this morning, and he certainly feels strongly that a war of words is not productive from either side. Obviously, we believe that moving forward, it’s in the best interests of both sides to address any issues that may arise appropriately and respectfully and not through personal attacks…

QUESTION: Are you trying to figure out – is the Administration trying to figure out who made these inappropriate and counterproductive comments?

MS. PSAKI: No….

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that the comments attributed to the anonymous U.S. official were authorized?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. No.

Jerry Slater brings the matter back to the political realities in the U.S., and the possibility of the comment reflecting if not affecting the vote. He writes at his blog that the comment actually reveals Obama’s cowardice, and his beholdenness to the Jewish community, and in turn the beholdenness of that Jewish community to rightwing Zionism:

[T]he real “political coward” is Obama, not Netanyahu.  In this morning’s Haaretz, the indispensable (and amazingly courageous) Gideon Levy writes that the real political coward is Obama, who by abandoning the Palestinians and continuing all forms of support to Israel is going against his real views, whereas Netanyahu is at least acting according to his real views.

The problem with the argument that Obama is a political coward… is that it doesn’t address the other other level, which creates a terrible dilemma: it isn’t Obama that would suffer political consequences if he exercised real pressure on Israel, but the rest of us.  Meaning that as long as a large majority of the American Jewish community will not support serious U.S. pressures on Israel, the electoral consequences of defying that community–i.e. losing Jewish money and votes–could be an even stronger Republican majority in Congress, for that matter even in a close Presidential election.   And that’s not an Obama disaster, it’s our disaster.
The dilemma cannot be resolved without a major change in the views of the American Jewish community, which is why I have always regarded that community as the most important audience for critical analyses of Israeli policies.

Thanks to Adam Horowitz.

Malala and the Nobel Peace Prize: Why Rachel Corrie would never win

10/30/14

The recent announcement that Malala Yousafzai had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has widely been well received. Earlier this week, she announced to have her prize money donated to the rebuilding of 65 UN schools in Gaza that were destroyed in the Israeli led war this past summer. Known for her firm and brave stand for women’s education in Pakistan, despite being constantly threatened by the Taliban, Malala has become an iconic symbol of hope for many.

Nevertheless, her critics include those who see her celebrity to be nothing more than a crutch for western governments to continue their bombardment of Muslim nations from Somalia to Pakistan.

It is perhaps harsh to criticize a teenage girl who was almost killed in a life threatening attack by the notorious Taliban organization, of being anything less than courageous. However, it is not without merit that had Malala been a victim of western aggression or her allies, the 17 year old’s celebrity would have endured a shorter lifespan.

The case of Rachel Corrie

On March 16th 2003, Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer, who had been protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank. According to several reports, the driver was unable to see her, leading to Corrie being caught beneath the bulldozer, killing her instantly.

Deeply moved by the Palestinian cause, Corrie had flown to the West Bank from her native America to work as part of the International Solidarity (ISM), striving to bring awareness to deteriorating conditions of the Palestinians; in particular to protest the routine demolition of their homes. After her untimely death, Corrie was hailed as a daughter by the Palestinian people, and was showered with numerous accolades.

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli government went on a full PR campaign to dissolve its armed forces of any blame. The then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered a full investigation but no credible examination took place. Corrie’s own government remained mum on the incident and continued to remain disinterested.

Why Not Corrie?

It has been evident now for several decades that the every US government has been an ardent supporter of Israel. The fact that the Jewish state remains the number one recipient of US aid sheds some light on the previously made claim.

Much of this aid, as documented extensively, is for military purposes which also include dozens of bulldozers that are often held responsible for the flattening of homes, and that ultimately led to the tragic demise of Corrie.

It is hence not surprising that successive US governments have bypassed the opportunity to highlight the injustice even to their own citizens. The American media, liberal and conservative alike, had hardly cast any attention on the Corrie incident, pretending to be aloof during the whole episode.

In August 2012, as an Israeli court declared no wrong doing in the Corrie’s death, describing the incident as an accident. In response to the verdict, right wing analysts claimed the decision now made clear that Corrie was no peace activist. Jonathan Tobin writing in Commentary Magazine mockingly said that “Her death was as unnecessary as the intifada itself” and that ultimately she was at fault.

Yet few in the America addressed the statement of then and current US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, an ardent defender of Israel, admitted that the investigation into Corrie’s death had not been credible or transparent.

Malala’s story on the other hand, is devoid of much controversy for western government alike, and their 24/7 news cycle. Being the victim of the nihilistic Taliban regime, the teenage Malala has become the perfect justification for many pro-western authors, politicians and journalists to rationalize wars in Muslim nations.

As the war on terror intensifies with the likes of ISIS and Boko Haram, the outspokenness of a daring Muslim teenage girl like Malala enhances the moral authority of western governments to somewhat exaggerate the threat that Islamic terror groups pose to world “civilization”.

At the peak of the Boko Haram kidnapping scandal of over a hundred Nigerian school girls last July, Malala’s plea and condemnation of the group made rounds in the mainstream media which showed her lending a hand to the #Bringbackourgirls campaign. Sooner than expected, when the story was past its prime, Malala’s onscreen presence quietly took a back seat.

In addition to her activism, Corrie’s opposition to her country’s own detrimental policies would alone be enough to stifle her case for ever being recognized by a mainstream organization such as the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

In letters she wrote to her parents published online, Corrie referred to former President George Bush as a “tool” and had opposed the former president overtures in Iraq; condemning the dire situation of the Iraqi children who had suffered immensely under a decade of sanctions.

She had also been well aware of the damaging effect of American foreign policy in the war torn Middle East. In one of her last emails to her mother Corrie wrote;

“I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world. I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports…”

She also expressed her satisfaction and encouragement of groups back home which organized protests in support of the Palestinians in her home state of Washington.

Malala too has courageously condemned US aggression for example in her native Pakistan, reiterating that US drone attacks in Pakistan are only fueling extremism, not curbing it. In a recent show on a mainstream news channel, she reiterated the need to give books than sell weapons to war torn areas.

Nevertheless, her criticisms towards US and European foreign policy have remained rather generic and hardly specific.

To be fair, the mainstream media has chosen to be often selective of her views while omitting many valid assertions that the Pakistani activist has previously made on issues like poverty.

Malala should be celebrated and serve as a reminder for all as to how deprived today’s children are of basic human rights such as education. The point however is to consider that if Malala’s home was in the occupied West Bank or Gaza, or in the drone bombarded villages of Yemen, would she have been invited to the White House? Would her struggle make her a global icon?

The chances would be slim, and few in the corridors of power would want to take notice.

Had Corrie been alive, there is little doubt that she and Malala would have been friends; the latter’s gesture to donate her $50,000 prize money to the children of Gazan would have been deeply touched Corrie, as it has others.

Yet the trajectory of their struggles success would have been far different. Malala makes most governments in the west feel that she speaks their language, especially against a sworn enemy; celebrating her achievements comes with little controversy.

Corrie’s efforts exposed the blatant double standards in western foreign policy including that of her country. Vouching for her to win one of the most prestigious, albeit controversial awards would only mean the acceptance of their disastrous policies, an admission unlikely to be committed anytime soon.

‘Take your Ebola ass and get out': L.A. confrontation highlights relationship between Zionism and anti-black racism

10/30/14

On 18 October 2014, a self-professed “racist” pro-Israel counter-protester at a Block the Boat action in Los Angeles told black Palestinian solidarity activist and radio personality Margaret Prescod to “take your Ebola a*s and get out.”

LA-based activist Taher Herzallah first tweeted the picture and quote:

This quote was corroborated by numerous activists who attended the demonstration. I asked several LA protesters personally, all of whom verified that the Israel-supporter indeed spewed such racism. I was told that there was even video of the incident. I asked I could get ahold of it, and an activist who goes by the name of Sanchez uploaded the cinematographic evidence to YouTube on October 26:

At 1:15 in the video, you can see Prescod begin to walk over to the group of Zionist counter-protesters. She holds a large yellow “Free Gaza” sign, in the shape of a hand, a common design used by Block the Boat activists. At 1:26, when Prescod arrives next to the counter-protesters, you can hear one tell her “Get the f*ck* out of the way, d*ke.” Prescod responds noting the First Amendment guarantees her the right to stand in a public space and protest. The pro-Israel protester replies “Maybe I don’t want any Ebola.” Another counter-protester, off screen, says “Take your Ebola ass and get out.” Prescod, aghast, asks “What kind of racist comment is that?” The counter-protester in the red shirt proudly replies “I am racist. Step the f*ck out; step the f*ck out!” (At 1:43, another counter-protester inquires, entirely relevantly, “Do you like Obama?”)

In spite of being verbally assaulted, Prescod stands her ground, insisting on the importance of her First Amendment right. Off to the side, a Zionist counter-protester, wrapped in an Israeli flag, argues with a Palestinian solidarity activist, rehashing popular myths and distortions about Islam (e.g., Muslims cannot be friends with Jews and Christians, the prophet Muhammad was a pedophile, etc.). Very often concomitant with diehard Zionism is not just racism, but also Islamophobia.

At 4:10, Prescod expresses her concern to this man, who appears to be at least slightly less pugnacious than his confrères. “Excuse me a moment. For your message,” Prescod politely says, motioning toward the Zionist who proudly identified as a racist, “your supporter said ‘Get your Ebola self outta here.’ To have a racist person—” The man cuts her off, promptly insisting “That’s not racist” and defends his companion.

The group of Israel advocates then, at 6:50, proceeds to accuse Palestine human rights advocates of being connected to ISIS—another popular Islamophobic tactic. At 7:00, the self-identified racist points over to Prescod and yells “How many black people have committed crimes, b*tch?” By 7:40, fellow Palestinian solidarity activists of color have joined Prescod and have begun chanting “From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation is a crime.” This appears to prompt another Zionist counter-protester,at 7:47, to flail her arm at the peace advocates and violently yell “Uneducated!” six times.

Next on the list of racist stereotypes from which the Zionists draw is right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric, prevalent among the US Republican Party. A counter-protester refers to the people of color present as “anti-American.” At 8:48, she yells into the megaphone “Get outta here. All anti-Americans, get outta here!” and, at 9:40, “You’re all anti-Americans.”

In a mellifluous conclusion to to the Zionists’ chauvinist cacophony, at 11:00, the Palestinian solidarity activists begin chanting “Racists go home!” The counter-protesters take their leave. The counter-protester in red flips them off as she ambles angrily away.

Two Ugly Sides of the Same Coin

Margaret Prescod is well known in the community as a host on listener-supported KPFK 90.7 FM public radio. Four times per week, she hosts the morning show “Sojourner Truth,” covering local, national, and international new with an emphasis on “how those of us most impacted – women, communities of color and other communities are responding.”

After the counter-protesters left, Global Voices for Justice filmed Prescod as she addressed the crowd, recounting the incident and explaining that the struggle against Israeli apartheid is part of a larger movement against apartheid and racism around the world. At 0:20 she states:

I’m really glad to be out here, as a person of African descent, and to see some of my other brothers and sisters of African descent here, because we know that the apartheid practiced in Israel is the same apartheid that was practiced in South Africa, and the racism happening against the Bedouins and the Palestinian people in Israel is the same racism that we are facing here in these United States.

An incident happened this morning that I intend to report on the show on the air, and really to encourage more of my African-American brothers and sisters to be part of this effort. Our women’s group has been part of the Block the Boat coalition and we tried to get the word out as best we could.

But as I walked across the street this morning, to where the Israeli lobby and supporters were, I was the first person that walked over there. First, the police turned me away. I then stayed on the other side. And then I thought ‘Well why should they be able to occupy that corner?’. And I walked back across the street … and one of the women viciously said to me ‘Get your Ebola self outta here.” She did, and it was caught on video. And I said, ‘Because I’m black, you’re saying that to me? That’s racist,’ and she said ‘Yes I’m a racist and get your f’ing Ebola self off of my corner; get away from me.’

Now that tells us something, and that sends a message not only to all of us here, clarifying to many who may be confused about what’s going on with the occupation and the repression of Palestinian people, that level of racism, being out here, representing the state of Israel, is shameful.

I just wanted to report that to you. The police officers who are out there, you should know that as well. I reported it to one of the Long Beach police officers; he made no comment. But I really felt attacked, as a person of African descent. And that is bloody outrageous.

And also, just finally to say, that just didn’t fall out of her mouth. There are people that are now running around with this. And the guy she was with defended it saying ‘You black people want to be called African-Americans, and everybody knows that it’s Africans that are putting people at risk of Ebola.’ This is the level of racism going on, and this is the kind of racism that Zionism represents and that we stand against. So thank each and every one of you for being out here and supporting us.

Echoing Israeli Racism

That Zionists are open about their racism is not surprising. Their support for the ethnocratic state of Israel is doubtless, at least in part, motivated by this racism.

As journalist Rania Khalek has noted, Zionism “enable[s] Israel’s genocidal ambitions” by normalizing this racism within an ethnoreligious-supremacist political philosophy. Zionism’s hyper-nationalism inspires egregious stereotypes that lead to the demonization and subsequent dehumanization of entire peoples. The same racist (il)logic that leads to the generalization of all Palestinians as “terrorists” leads to seeing all people of African descent as having Ebola.

Muslims have been racialized through “race thinking,” so Islam, as a synecdoche, has come to represent, and to be iniquitously wielded against, these Arab “terrorists.” The sign the Zionist counter-protesters held read “Radical Islam is the new Nazi.” The anti-Palestinian and anti-black racism festering in these Israel supporters also manifests itself in a virulent Islamophobia. They presumably know that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, but use the racialization of Islam to present themselves as brave warriors, combating “radical Islam”—this phrase, of course, meant, through this series of connections, to refer to the Palestinian people.

At an even more basic level, semiotics and cultural connotations aside, moreoever, this sign is too somewhat strange considering the recorded instances of Israeli actual neo-Nazis beating up Palestinians, African refugees, and Jewish leftists, often while police stand by, doing nothing.

It’s also strange considering journalist David Sheen has collected video footage of numerous rallies in which groups of Israeli fascists chant “Death to Arabs” & “Death to leftists.”

Israeli peace activist and Duke University professor Rann Bar-On was attending a demonstration in Haifa this summer, with “about three or four hundred left-wing activists demonstrating against the war, for peace between Arabs and Jews, refusing to be enemies,” when

well over a thousand … militant activists from the right, surrounded by police and others, screaming, ‘Death to Arabs! Death to leftists!’ As we were protesting, they moved towards us. The police allowed them to move towards us. The police allowed them to attack us, to throw stones at us. Later on, as we were trying to leave, … the police did not attempt to allow us to leave. They took over an hour to evacuate us while we were under heavy attack by stones and other missiles. Many were injured. We’ve had over 30 injured. Two women are still in hospital. There were gangs roaming the streets, beating up anyone they thought was an Arab or member of our demonstration.

During “Operation Protective Edge,” Israeli fascists roamed the streets, looking for Arabs and Jewish leftists, whom they would then harass and attack. There is video footage of Israeli mobs shouting “Death to the Arabs” and attacking Palestinians at a Jerusalem mall. Israeli fascists took the life of 17-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir, burning him alive, after forcing him to drink gasoline (which made his internal organs burn while he was still alive).

As if it was not enough to take a young, innocent man’s life, Israeli police then ransacked the home of Abu Khdeir’s family and arrested relatives in “revenge for the family’s role in publicizing CCTV footage of [Tariq, his cousin] Abu Khdeir’s brutal beating at the hands of Israeli police, and their public campaign to secure his return to the US.”

Anti-Black Racism in Israel

Events like these serve as regular reminders that Zionism is indeed a racist, colonialist ideology.

The racism of these California-based Zionist counter-protesters is symptomatic of a much larger culture of bigotry and hate. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has gone on record calling his country, in the words of the Jerusalem Post, “a sick society that needs treatment.” Haaretz, the “Israeli New York Times,” has also shown that racism is getting even worse among younger generations, that Israeli teenagers are “Racist and proud of it.”

This racism manifests itself politically in the form of apartheid. In 2007, David A. Kirshbaum, of the Israel Law Resource Center, published a piece titled “Israeli Apartheid — A Basic Legal Perspective,” meticulously detailing the myriad ways in which Israel is an apartheid state, under its very own laws. Once again, Israel’s most-read newspaper has published pieces confirming this fact, admitting that “Israeli Arabs have never been equal before the law.”

And yet, as the aforementioned incident evinces, this racism is not only directed at Palestinians. David Sheen has been “carefully chronicling the racist attacks against non-Jewish African asylum-seekers in Israel for several years,” documenting “social media stories about the recent violence, footage from four years of anti-African rallies, and extended one-on-one interviews about opposition to the presence of Africans in Israel.” He writes:

In January 2012, an organization in Israel that aids African asylum-seekers, the African Refugee Development Center, asked me to author on their behalf a report to the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). After receiving the report in text and video form, the UN committee urged the Israeli government to prevent racist attacks against Africans in Israel. The Israeli government ignored the UN’s call, and the following month, Israelis firebombed a kindergarten for African children in Tel Aviv, igniting a wave of violence against non-Jewish African people in Israel that is still ongoing.

Blumenthal and Sheen released a brief documentary titled “Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land.” In it, they show video footage of prominent politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Member of Knesset Michael Ben-Ari, calling African refugees “infiltrators” and “cancer,” and openly using the n-word; of Israeli citizens harassing fellow Israelis for engaging in interracial relationships; and of some politicians even going so far as to propose the creation of concentration camps in which to hold African refugees.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also drawn attention to the vitriolic strain of anti-black racism in Israeli society. In its September 2014 report “Make Their Lives Miserable”: Israel’s Coercion of Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum Seekers to Leave Israel details how “Israeli authorities have labelled Eritreans and Sudanese a ‘threat,’ branded them ‘infiltrators,’ denied them access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and used the resulting insecure legal status as a pretext to unlawfully detain or threaten to detain them indefinitely, coercing thousands into leaving.”

HRW writes that “Israel’s policies are well summed up in the words of former Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai who said that as long as Israel cannot deport them to their home countries, it should ‘lock them up to make their lives miserable.’”

In the time since Blumenthal and Sheen’s documentary was made (mid 2013), Israel has in fact created what are effectively internment camps for African refugees. Israeli journalist Lia Tarachansky, reporting for the Real News, has documented these horrific practices.

Tarachansky notes that African refugees are imprisoned en masse in open-air prison camps in the middle of nowhere. They are told they are not prisoners, but they must sign in three times per day, and the prison camp is so far from any neighboring city that it is impossible to leave on foot. Moreover, when African refugees collectively decide to leave in protest of the concentration camp conditions in which they are involuntarily held, the army violently stops them. In response, African refugees are now going on hunger strike.

Israel’s modus operandi for dealing with this supposed refugee “problem” has been to trade African asylum-seekers with other countries in exchange for weapons. It goes without saying that such a decision bears striking and grotesque resemblances to slavery. (It might also, significantly, be herein noted that the US is complicit in this neo-slavery process, as the weapons Israel is exchanging for human beings may very well have been bought with the US’ over $100 billion of military aid.)

Even African Jews are not immune from this intense, unmitigated racism. Israel has admitted to forcibly sterilizing Ethiopian Jews, in an action that some argue constitutes the legal definition of genocide. Magen David Adom, the “Israeli Red Cross,” has refused to take blood donations from one of its own country’s Members of Knesset, Pnina Tamano-Shata, referring to it as “the special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood” they avoid.

Scholar Hanan Chehata has thoroughly detailed Israel’s “overt racism” against and segregation of African Jews, calling the ethnocracy the “promised land for Jews … as long as they’re not black.” The chief rabbi of Petach Tikvah (a “sister city” of Chicago) went to so far as to refuse to wed Ethiopian Jews, because he doubted that they were truly Jewish. Clearly, Israel’s white supremacist Zionism leads to its own despicable form of anti-Semitism.

The Palestinian Solidarity Movement Is an Anti-Racist Movement

Given the obscene levels and grotesque displays of racism in Israeli society, it should not be a big surprise that Israel’s supporters tell black Americans to “take your Ebola a*s and get out.” As Prescod noted in her speech, this Zionist’s (and her accomplices’) racism “just didn’t fall out of her mouth”; it’s a reflection of the racist ethnostate she (and they) support.

Racist Zionist protesters like these remind one that the Palestinian solidarity movement is a fundamentally anti-racist movement. In the words of Blumenthal, we are “principled” anti-Zionists because “we’re genuinely disgusted by any form of racism. It’s why we’re disgusted by the Israeli government and by the structure of Israeli apartheid.”

Palestinian solidarity activists—advocates for Palestinian human rights, freedom, and dignity—organize and fight precisely because they oppose racism, in all of its forms, and want to see an end to it anywhere and everywhere.

Loyola SJP investigation reflects double standard towards Palestinian voices on campus

10/30/14

On September 19, the administration of Loyola University Chicago temporarily suspended Loyola Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and opened an investigation of the organization. The actions, which will culminate in a disciplinary hearing on Thursday evening, came after a diverse group of students gathered at a table hosted by Taglit-Birthright Israel, which provides trips to Israel exclusively for Jewish students, to register and ask questions about the program.

Through Taglight-Birthright-Israel, Jewish students from countries like the US with no ancestral connection to the state of Israel can vacation there for free—while over seven million Palestinian refugees are barred from ever returning to their occupied homelands.

Loyola’s investigation is part of a broader censorship of political speech on university campuses around the US over issues related to Israel and Palestine. At Loyola, the administration has emphasized that the university is a space for open political debate while employing a sweeping suppression of pro-Palestine speech, choking what is supposed to be the very foundation of the university and scholarship: a free exchange of ideas.

Student voices are silenced on a number of institutional levels. Loyola requires that students request approval from the administration days before demonstrating on campus. According to an administrator I spoke with after a student group was threatened with suspension or expulsion if we participated in an unplanned protest, the university implemented the policy explicitly because it wanted to avoid negative publicity around sensitive issues.

Since SJP found out about the Birthright table only a day before, the group was prohibited from planning an organized political response. Zahraa Nasser, the spokesperson for SJP and Chief Justice of the student government’s judicial branch, stated that the incident was not an organized demonstration; rather, two Palestinian students individually alerted other students about the Birthright table and encouraged them to show up and ask questions. Nasser said the questioning served to challenge the notion of Birthright and raise awareness that Palestinians cannot return to their lands, “while people with absolutely no ties to the land can [return] just because they are Jewish.”

“A lot of the people signing up for the trip don’t realize that it’s racist because they don’t know the historical implications behind it,” she said. “A lot of it was just challenging the students and raising awareness to show them ‘Look it’s great that you can visit this beautiful country. But that country once belonged to my ancestors and as a Palestinian I cannot return because I’m not Jewish.’”

photo3The requirement that students ask for permission to demonstrate denies our fundamental understanding of free speech. Despite SJP’s acknowledgement and compliance with university policy, students of color who gathered to ask political questions were still racially associated with the organization and investigated.

Professor Steven Salaita, a Palestinian activist and academic, was fired from his tenured position at the University of Illinois Urbana Champagne this summer after tweeting numerous critiques of Israel’s massacre in Gaza earlier this year. His Zionist opponents willfully misconstrued his political criticisms as anti-Semitic and uncivil, and successfully pressured the university to fire him despite the fact that they had already granted him a tenured position.

Salaita says that the suppression of free speech in both his case and the temporary suspension of SJP Loyola punishes Palestinian activism and the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement currently challenging Israel’s occupation.

“It proposes very distinct solutions that exist outside of the consensus of the political and economic elite,” he said. “The value and threat of BDS is the fact that it asks us to confront things and discuss things and to think about things a lot of folks would prefer simply to ignore. The interests for those ensconced in positions of power are to not have the conversation in the first place. We’re basically saying we demand campus conversation.”

At Loyola, the immediate suspension of SJP illustrates the administration’s assumption of the group’s guilt before any democratic process or conversation about the incident could even take place. Only after the group supplied ample evidence that it had followed university codes did the administration undo its suspension, but continue the punitive investigation.

Nasser explained that administrators have subjected SJP to investigation and potential punishment without consistently or fairly informing the group of the investigative procedures or the hearing.

“We’re left in the dark, there’s no transparency; we don’t know what is happening with the hearing,” she said.

Throughout the investigation process, the organization has had no idea which individuals are under investigation or what charges and punishment they or the organization face. When Nasser herself requested written documentation of officially filed complaints, administrators said they would send them to her sometime before the disciplinary hearing; they have not. The university has set the hearing date for Thursday, October 30, allowing only four SJP members entrance to the hearing and prohibiting any legal representation.

The university’s right to arbitrarily try and punish students has also allowed it to strip the student governing body of authority over political campus issues. After the United Student Government Association (USGA) voted unanimously to pass divestment legislation sponsored by SJP in the spring, the administration forced student senators to vote again on the basis that the Zionist campus organization Hillel had not been properly notified of the discussion.

Before the second successful vote occurred, the Loyola administration proved its willingness to exert its power to delegitimize democratic student processes. In a statement issued on Loyola’s official Facebook page, the university said it would not comply with any divestment resolution, yet simultaneously, with a proverbial pat on the head, welcomed “open dialogue and debate on differing points of view.”

The expectation that SJP must warn Jewish students about the legislation, even after clear and extensive efforts to educate and inform the student body, including the collection of over 1,000 signatures in support of the legislation, illustrates how the university holds students of color and those working in solidarity with them to unfair and impractical standards. Nasser pointed out that in the spring, students who sponsored legislation to allow gay marriage on campus—another heavily debated issue—were never expected to notify the entire Catholic population on campus about their efforts. SJP has been held to a much higher standard than other groups presenting supposedly controversial legislation.

Both the administration and Zionist students continue to employ inflammatory rhetoric to frame Palestinian activism in a way that spreads misinformation about the Israeli occupation. The administration and Zionist students essentialize both Jews and Muslims and reinforce any opposition to the occupation as anti-Semitic and divisive.

When SJP sponsored a divestment bill urging Loyola to remove its shares in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine, Provost John Pelicero and Loyola President Father Michael Garanzini condemned the resolution by employing a false dichotomy between Jewish and pro-Palestine students. They framed the issue as “one-sided,” “unfair,” “harmful and divisive.”

Administrators responsible for investigating the tabling incident also seem ignorant about the diversity and broad support of the Palestinian movement. When administrators questioned SJP members about the students photographed at the incident, they singled out one student who wore a piece of paper that said, “I am an American Jew and I have more right than they do to go to Palestine.”

Nasser said, “We weren’t asked, ‘Who is this?’ We were asked, ‘Is this true? Is he actually Jewish?’ As if it’s impossible to fathom that an American Jew could be pro-human rights, pro-Palestinian.”

Nadine Darwish, chapter president of Loyola SJP, addressed the administration’s mischaracterization in Loyola’s student newspaper in the spring: “The Palestinian struggle is not one between Jews and Muslims, let alone Jews and Palestinians. It is one between those of conscience and those who uphold the systems that perpetuate oppression.”

Zionist Hillel students who hosted the Birthright table associated demonstrating students of color who were not members of SJP with the group and accused SJP of harassment, hostility, and threatening the safety of Jewish students on campus. The instant racial association of the demonstrators with SJP and the university’s punishment of only Muslim students affiliated with the group are not only racist, but also ignore the ethnic and religious diversity of the broad support of Palestinian activism, which includes Jews both at Loyola and across the globe. The ambiguity of political and apolitical Jewish identity in Hillel itself misrepresents the Jewish student population as a monolith devoid of diverse opinions on the question of Palestine and alienates Jewish students who do not conform to Zionist ideology. In contrast, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian students maintain respective apolitical identity organizations at Loyola separate from SJP.

“The Jewish people were an oppressed people,” said Nasser. “That’s something that you never get over as a people. That’s something that Arabs can relate to, that’s something that Muslims can relate to. That’s something that anyone that’s not the majority can relate to. For anyone to feel alienated from that special circle because of something like political views is very unfortunate.”

The charge against the tabling event as “bias-motivated discrimination and misconduct” invokes the same ideas about “civility” that cost Salaita his job. Salaita said the term enables those in power to easily justify shutting down dissent.

“The notion of civility is a broad, sprawling term that suggests something undesirable without the burden of having to precisely state what it is that is objectionable,” he said. “It’s a catch-all. It can be invoked in various ways to suppress or discourage viewpoints that the administration or political and economic elites find discomforting.”

The university’s unfettered power to discriminate against political speech based on ambiguous standards of “offensive” and “respectful” and the obfuscation of Zionist and apolitical Jewish identity makes it nearly impossible to separate legitimate political critiques of Israeli policy from anti-Semitic hate speech. The blurring of Jewish apolitical and political identities, facilitated through trips like Birthright, forms a new Jewish identity based on ethno-religious nationalism. Political criticism of Israeli human rights violations, then becomes anti-Semitic by definition.

Salaita, who was punished himself for what UIUC Zionist students and donors considered anti-Semitic speech, said unwarranted accusations of anti-Semitism distract and silence political discourse.

“It’s intellectually dishonest,” he said. “It’s a very forthright way of shutting down a conversation before that conversation even has a chance to get off the ground,” Salaita said. “It puts the person who’s critiquing unjust colonial policies on the defensive and then that person is in the spotlight as having done something wrong, rather than the nation-state he’s criticizing. We end up spending most of our time discussing what is or is not anti-Semitic or who is or is not anti-Semitic. The fundamental issue here, which is unjust Israeli policy, gets lost.”

The immediate assumption of the guilt of SJP members based on biased accounts of the incident illustrates how accusations of anti-Semitism can have a chilling effect on political dissent.

“It attempts to make people think twice about stating any sort of criticism of institutions with power,” Salaita said.

Loyola expects students to dialogue through democratic processes, yet it prohibits us from engaging in dissent; it encourages us to engage in critical discussion and action, yet it vows that it won’t heed our ideas even if we do engage in the processes of dialogue and debate that the university says it respects.

“There’s nothing more threatening to an unjust power structure than freely engaged exchange of intellectual ideas,” Salaita said. “There’s a reason that all repressive regimes throughout history have thought to curtail speech and thought. … Because a thinking populace, a populace that’s critically engaged in these issues is one that’s fundamentally inimical to the interest of the particular power structure.”

On Thursday evening, SJP Loyola will defend its right to engage in civil political discourse on campus. The administration’s decision to suspend or acquit the organization will proclaim whether it truly stands with students, with freedom of expression, and with social justice. Suspending SJP will not only slice the stem of a just cause, the liberation of Palestine, but it will poison the roots that proliferate the emancipation of all people on this campus, across this nation, and throughout this world.