Quakers, Christian Aid urge official boycott

At the time of writing, Christian Aid and the Quakers are due to speak before the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons in an attempt to persuade the government that it should implement a total ban of Israeli settlement produce.

To use a photography analogy, the Quakers and Christian Aid have enlarged the Palestinian narrative to such an extent that the context is left out of the frame.

What is the context?

Firstly, the settlements are not the main impediment to peace. Before a single settlement was erected, the Palestinians refused to cooperate with the Israelis. Moreover, the dismantling of the Gaza settlements actually led to an upswing in Hamas-backed terrorism.

Secondly, the restrictions in the West Bank are only imposed because of the very real threat of terrorism. There is no racial motive in the application of checkpoints or separate roads. Israel is not South Africa and never will be.

Thirdly, the settlements are entirely legal as long as they are within the parameters of the 1922 Mandate, which has never been superseded in law, not even by the 1947 partition plan. This is the same mandate which encouraged Jewish settlement in all of Palestine.  Of course, it is a reasonable assumption that the settlements will play a part in final negotiations. And if a two-state solution is reached, it must be possible to allow a Jewish minority to remain in a Palestinian state. The Quakers and Christian Aid are effectively pre-empting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which seems quite arrogant.

Fourthly, the Quakers and Christian Aid exonerate the Palestinians of historical and contemporary accountability, and assume that Israel has the sole responsibility for ending the crisis.

Finally, the Palestinians are largely to blame for their own plight. Despite being given Transjordan in 1923, the Palestinians refused to live alongside the Jews in the 1920s and 1930s; they sympathised with the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s; and they rejected the UN  partition plan in 1947 and instigated their own refugee crisis. Since then they have murdered and terrorized Israeli civilians, and spread anti-Semitism.

In short, by focusing solely on the so-called occupation (which is a very loaded word), the Quakers and Christian Aid are falsifying the picture and are contributing to the absurd notion that Israel is an apartheid state.

Both these organisations have upset the Jewish community on numerous occasions. The Quakers  allow their meeting halls be used for pro-Palestinian meetings that demonize and delegitimize Israel. Christian Aid is notorious for blurring the line between Israelophobia and outright anti-Semitism.  Indeed, one of their former trustees is Baroness Tonge, who has made several outrageous comments that are offensive to Jews.

The Quakers and Christian Aid are also heavily involved in the Ecumenical Accompaniers Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which blames Israel’s presence in the West Bank as the primary contributor of injustice. And yet twice in the past twelve years (2000, 2008), Israel offered the Palestinians the opportunity to establish  their own state, with East Jerusalem as the capital. It is clear that the EAPPI does not expect the Palestinians to do anything to resolve the crisis. Everything depends on Israel, which means Israel is always to blame.

Let’s hope that the Foreign Affairs Committee – and by extension, the government – reject any call for an official ban on settlement produce. To pre-empt final status negotiations between the Jewish state and the Palestinians would be churlish.

Calls for boycott legislation have been strongly condemned by the Council of Christians and Jews. Boycotts not only harm the Palestinian economy, they contribute to an uncomfortable feeling that Israel is being discriminated against (which it is).

Furthermore, a ban on settlement produce would be a triumph for Israelophobes who would use that victory to press for a total boycott of all Israeli goods and services – in other words, economic anti-Semitism.


Colour Purple: BDS movement reaches a new low 

In what has to be a new low in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, Alice Walker has refused to allow a Hebrew translation of her book, The Colour Purple.

Walker refused a request by Yediot Books to publish a Hebrew edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on the grounds that Israel is “guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people.”

She claims the situation in Israel and the disputed territories is worse than the segregation of blacks and whites in the USA during the 1940s and 1950s.

“I grew up under American apartheid and this [is] far worse,” she said.

Walker, who has called both the USA and Israel “terrorist organisations,” clearly does not have a clue about the reality of life in Israel and the West Bank. If she did, she would not make such damning statements about the Jewish state.

Her refusal to allow a Hebrew translation of The Colour Purple is thinly-disguised anti-Semitism and is a low point in the BDS’s campaign against Israel.

She ought to be ashamed of herself.


United Church of Canada and Israel

United Church of Canada (UCC) delegates are due to vote on a proposed policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am concerned that some delegates may vote in favour of a boycott on the basis of a one-sided report released in May this year. The report exonerates the Palestinians of historical and contemporary accountability, and assumes that Israel has the sole responsibility for ending the crisis.

The UCC report blames Israel’s presence in the West Bank as the “primary contributor of injustice that underlies the violence of the region.” And yet twice in the past twelve years (2000, 2008), Israel offered the Palestinians the opportunity to establish  their own state, with East Jerusalem as the capital. On both occasions, the PA refused to cooperate. And only a couple of week ago, Ehud Barak’s suggested a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank in the absence of negotiations with the Palestinians. Nabil Abu Rudineh, chief aide to Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinians "object" to any unilateral action that will lead to "the formation of a Palestinian state in temporary borders."

This is not an occupation but a disputation over land. Jews lived in Judea and Samaria before Jordan invaded in 1948. Between 1949 and 1967, Jordan pursued a Judenrein policy, refused to let Jews pray at the Western Wall, destroyed Jewish holy places, and renamed the territory the “West Bank.” This was the only time in over 1,000 years that Jews were forbidden to live on this particular piece of land. In 1967, the West Bank came under Israeli control as a result of the Six Day War. Instead of formally annexing the territory, the Israelis left the final settlement of the land undecided in the hope of trading it for peace. Unfortunately, peace has not been forthcoming.

The report also states that the “deepest meaning of the Holocaust” is the denial and/or loss of human dignity. Surely, the deepest meaning of the Holocaust is the systematic mass murder of two-thirds of European Jewry. To compare the Palestinian crisis to the Holocaust is offensive and historically unjustifiable. A political and religious dispute over a small piece of land on the west side of the Jordan river is hardly comparable to the to the degradation and slaughter of six million Jews. The Jews were victims of the Nazis, whereas the Palestinians are largely to blame for their own plight by refusing to share the land with Jews and rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. This was after they had been given Transjordan in 1923.

This refusal to share the land, a refusal that can began decades before Israeli independence, was an act of pure selfishness. No sympathy was forthcoming for the Jews hounded and murdered by Hitler, and other anti-Semitic slaughterers. No sympathy was forthcoming when only three years after the Holocaust, a multitude of Arab armies attempted to annihilate little Israel. In the words of Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, “when the Arab claim is confronted with our Jewish demand to be saved, it is like the claims of appetite versus the claims of starvation.”

Not only was the refusal to share the land a mistake, the Palestinians compounded the problem by creating their own refugee crisis.  The Palestinian leadership  invited the Arab armies to fight on their behalf who, in turn, encouraged the Palestinians to evacuate while they fought their war of annihilation. Israel did not intentionally create a refugee problem. In fact, the Institute for Palestine Studies found that 68% of refugees "left without seeing an Israeli soldier.” The Arabs who did stay in Israel were made full citizens of state. In contrast, Israel's neighbours refused to incorporate the displaced Palestinians. The United Nations continues to aggravate the problem by keeping the Palestinians in refugee camps.

It is also worth pointing out that the Palestinians are far from being innocent victims. They repeatedly attacked Palestinian Jews during the 1920s and 1930s, and they sympathised with the Nazis. When Hitler proclaimed the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935, a number of Palestinians sent telegrams congratulating him. Two years later, on the occasion of Prophet Muhammad's birthday, photographs of Hitler and Mussolini, as well as Nazi flags, were carried by Arab demonstrators in Palestine. And in 1938, the Palestinians received British troops with shouts of “Heil Hitler.”

And let’s not forget that Haj Muhammud Amin el-Husseini, the exiled Mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Palestinians, was nicknamed the “Arab fuehrer” because of his extensive collaboration with the Nazis.

In his memoirs, Husseini wrote: “Our fundamental position for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a befitting our national and racial aspirations, and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: ‘The Jews are yours’.”

Palestinian scholar Edward Said has conceded that Husseini  “represented the Palestinian Arab national consensus.” According to Said, Husseini had “the backing of political parties that functioned in Palestine,” and was “recognised in some form by Arab governments as the voice of the Palestinian people.”

Husseini’s influence has been considerable. Hitler's Mein Kampf is one of the best-selling books in the Palestinian territories.  In 2009, the US State Department reported that many Palestinians  and Muslim religious leaders regularly expressed anti-Semitic opinions.  Earlier this year, a spokesman at a Fatah anniversary celebration declared that “war with the descendants of the apes and pigs is a war of religion and faith." Nader Tamimi, the Mufti of the Palestinian Liberation Army, stated on Al-Jazeera television that “the Jews have a sadistic mentality derived from the Torah.”

Holocaust denial/revisionism among the Palestinians is also something that refuses to go away. Mahmoud Abbas has written a book called The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism in which he suggests that the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust was "less than a million.” In July 1990, the Palestinian Red Crescent published an article in its magazine Balsam claiming that Jews had fabricated “the lie concerning the gas chambers.” In August 2009, Hamas denounced the Holocaust as a lie and referred to Holocaust education as a "war crime."

How on earth can Israel deal with these people?

The UCC states that Israel should be held to a higher standard than surrounding non-democratic countries or authoritarian regimes. First of all, no other nation in the world is singled out for criticism the way Israel is. Secondly, the UCC is guilty of inverse racism.  Why should the Palestinians and the surrounding Arab states be held to lower standards? Are they not rational human beings? Are they children who don’t know any better? It is clear that the UCC does not expect the Palestinians to do anything to resolve the crisis. Everything depends on Israel, which means Israel is always to blame. But what more can the Israelis do? The Palestinians have had several chances to build a state on the West Bank and Gaza and on each occasion they either turned it down or just simply walked away.

Finally, the report advocates a boycott of settlement produce.  Such boycotts are always problematic as they tend to affect the Palestinians who are employed by the settlers.  At least 22,000 Palestinians have permits to work in settlements or in their industrial zones.  Boycotting settler goods means more unemployed Palestinians, which means more disenchantment and anger.  Moreover, by boycotting settlement produce, the UCC puts all the responsibility and blame on the Israelis and acquits the Palestinians.

In short, the UCC’s report is heavily biased against Israel, lacks progressive and creative solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and radically devalues the shocking nature of the Holocaust. Of course, Christian admonition of Jews is nothing new, but it’s a shame that the UCC could not produce something more original than blaming everything on the Israelis.

I sincerely hope that delegates reject the UCC’s call for a boycott. Maybe then the UCC will have the courage to address the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in a fair and balanced manner.


Anthology shelved in racism row

In the latest round of cultural violence against Israel, an anthology of Middle Eastern women’s writing has been shelved.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas had intended to publish the anthology as a tribute to a colleague who died in 2008.

However, one of the contributing writers threatened to withdraw her work from the book unless the publishers omitted the work of Israeli writers.

The publishers rightly refused her demand on the grounds that excluding the Israelis did not meet academic standards.

It became clear that that publication of the book would have to be cancelled when more than a dozen Arab women authors withdrew their work.

It is ironic that the contributors boycotted the book when Israel is the only place in the Middle East where women have equal rights.

It reminds me of another act of self-defeating cultural violence that took place in the UK last month.

Israel’s Habima theatre, which was in London to perform the Merchant of Venice at the Globe, was publicly shunned by several well-known television performers, including Emma Thompson.

The performance went ahead, although there some protests and interruptions.

Habima’s crime was to have played a couple of dates in Ariel, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Of course, the fact that Habima has an Arab-Israeli theatre in Jaffa is of no interest to Israel bashers.



Protest South Africa’s ‘Made in Palestine’ Labels

Friends of Israel are being urged to contact the South African trade ministry to express their concern about the proposal to relabel some Israeli products as “Made in Occupied Palestine” or “Made in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

There is also some confusion over the SA government’s assertion that it recognizes Israel only within the borders demarcated by the UN in 1948. It’s not clear whether they mean  the 1949 ceasefire line (the so-called Green Line) or the borders proposed by the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine.

The SA government needs to understand that labelling such products with the words “occupied Palestine” legitimizes the misconception that  the West Bank is occupied territory when it is, in fact, disputed territory.

It is important to point out that the land captured in 1967 was a consequence of a defensive war against aggressive Arab regimes. Moreover,  the West Bank has never belonged to a State of Palestine but is unclaimed UN Mandate land, rejected by the Palestinians in 1947/48.

UN Security Council Resolution 242 does not call on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank but instead calls for a negotiated solution which would leave Israel with secure borders.

The Palestinians have refused to sensibly negotiate with the Israelis. Twice in the past 12 years (2000 and 2008), they declined Israel’s offer to establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank. Instead they have resorted to terror and when that didn’t work, they sought international recognition from the UN without first negotiating a settlement with the Israelis.

It is also worth mentioning that the perimeters of the built-up Israeli settlements on the West Bank cover about 1.7% of the territory or 5-8% if we include the security fence. Some 75% to 80% of Jews who live on the West Bank live close to the Green Line.

Over 10,000 Palestinians work for Israeli companies in the West Bank.  How does boycotting these companies help the Arab employees? And if the Palestinians think that boycotting settlement products is a good idea, why is that the Palestinian Authority continues to market Israeli products in stores in Bethlehem? The only reason why settlement goods carry the “Made in Israel” label is to indicate the goods are manufactured under Israeli standards. It is not an covert attempt to annex the West Bank.

Let's hope government of South Africa reconsiders its decision and realises it is being duped by Palestinian disinformation. Undermining Israeli exports puts Palestinian jobs at risk and puts unfair pressure on Israel when it has done all it can to negotiate a settlement.

You can contact South Africa’s Trade Minister Macdonald Netshitenzhe at:



Co-op boycott angers Jewish groups

The Co-operative’s decision to boycott four Israeli companies has caused outrage among Jewish groups and Israeli advocacy organisations.

Not only has the Co-operative sided against the Jewish people who are under constant attack from Hamas and other militants, they have actually implemented a policy that will harm the Palestinian economy. 

For example, Agrexco, distributes Palestinian produce, including the 800 tons of strawberries and more than 13.8 million flowers it exported for farmers in Gaza between 2010 and 2011 alone.

Mehadrin has many Arab employees who work in the fields and packing houses. A spokesman for the company said: “There are families who have been with us for many years. Any attempt to harm us harms the Palestinians too."

It is also lamentable that the Co-op is propagating the myth that the West Bank is 'occupied' territory, when it is, in fact, 'disputed'.

UN Security Council Resolution 242 does not call on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank but instead calls for a negotiated solution which would leave Israel with secure borders. The Co-operative has managed to penalise both Israelis and Palestinians before there has even been a negotiated settlement between the two sides!

If the Co-op is now involving itself in regional disputes, then presumably it is on the verge of boycotting goods from Northern Cyprus, which is occupied by Turkey. But of course it won’t. In fact, the Co-operative actually labels Northern Cyprus goods as Turkish.

I also hope that Co-operative travel will soon cease doing business in Turkey and Cuba, both of which are human rights abusers.

The truth is: the Co-operative has allowed itself to be swayed by the BDS movement, which cynically compares Israel to South Africa and liberally uses words such as ‘occupation’ and ‘colonialism’ to defame the Jewish state.

This is despite the fact that Israel has as much right to the West Bank (historically known as Judea and Samaria) as the Palestinians. Israel is not an occupier because the West Bank has never been a political or national entity.

Jews lived in the West Bank before the Jordanian occupation in 1949. It was the Jordanians who coined the term ‘West Bank’ and ethnically cleansed it of Jews. Never in history has there been a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, and there certainly was never any mention of it during the 19 years of Jordanian occupation.

It is also worth pointing out that the perimeters of the Israeli settlements cover only 1.7% of the territory or between 5% and 8% if the security fence is included.

The Co-operative’s decision to enter the complicated politics of the region is indicative of its naivety and gullibility. The boycott and divestment movement is driven by hatred towards Israel and is not interested in a resolution that would benefit both sides.

So, is it time to turn the tables and boycott the Co-op? I think so. Israel’s friends need to flex their economic muscles and play the boycotters at their own game by putting pressure on - and withholding cash from - companies who harm the Jewish state.


Is UNISON anti-Semitic?

I'm very disappointed to learn that UNISON and the NHS have prevented Professor Moty Cristal from speaking at a conflict resolution event in Manchester on the grounds that he is an Israeli. 

Professor Cristal was due to address UNISON officials and the managers of the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust but was then told by email that he wasn't welcome.

The fact that UNISON has boycotted an individual is part of a growing trend in the boycott and divestment movement to target individual Israelis.

It's ironic that both UNISON and the Manchester Mental Health Trust claim to be committed to ending discrimination and injustice, and yet do something that so clearly smacks of anti-Semitism.

What's particularly worrying is the fact that Professor Cristal is a supporter of the two-state solution. This can only mean that he has been prevented from speaking because of his nationality, rather than his politics. 

How does preventing Professor Cristal - who has actually worked with the Palestinians - help the peace process? It seems vindictive, childish and self-defeating to block anyone who happens to be an Israeli. 

Of course, I strongly suspect that the cancellation of his talk is because he is an Israeli Jew.  It goes without saying that UNISON wouldn't boycott an Israeli Arab. 

If this is the case, then UNISON is guilty not only of discrimination based on nationality but also race.

It seems to me that UNISON is officially endorsing anti-Semitism in order to placate the Palestinian lobby. Of course, I shouldn't expect any better from a trade union. But I am concerned that the NHS has given in to such despicable racism.