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Resisting Israeli Politics

by Brenda Heard

Six months prior to the upcoming UK general election, the Board of Deputies of British Jews published its “2015 General Election Jewish Manifesto.”

This 40-page document urges both existing and prospective members of the UK Parliament to support various “policy asks” and to “champion these causes.”

The Manifesto was styled after a very similar one created for the 2014 EU elections.  Indeed their goals appear the same: to ensure a pro-Israeli agenda in the House of Commons and beyond.

The 2015 Manifesto does include some discussion of faith-based issues, such as underscoring the need of the Jewish community in the UK to be able to provide Kosher meat and to observe the Sabbath.  This discussion is a just and valid participation of citizens in their government.

The problem arises when the Manifesto equates Jewish and Israeli. 

With 58 mentions of Israel, the Manifesto, cloaked in blue and white imagery throughout, even boasts a full-page illustration of the British and Israeli flags flying together.

This self-proclaimed “voice of British Jewry” avows a “very strong attachment to the State of Israel.”

Yet it is difficult to reconcile this support with such statements as “The UK Jewish community is committed to peace, security, prosperity and equality for Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Middle East” when this statement was penned less than two months after a vicious Israeli onslaught against Gaza, an indiscriminate rampage that in just 50 days killed at least 2,100 Palestinians, some 70% of whom were civilians, including 519 children.

A recent report by the American National Lawyers Guild concluded that “both facts and law refute the Israeli self-defense claims” and that Israel had “collectively punished the entire civilian population.”  Indeed, Israeli forces intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians, leaving them dead and wounded, homeless and devastated.

There has been no peace, no security, no prosperity and no equality for the PalestiniansNot ever.

Yet the Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses unwavering support for Israel.

Any resistance to Israeli policy, the Manifesto maintains, should be denounced by the world.

The Manifesto offers scant attention to Palestinian resistance group Hamas, however, noting that the EU had already classified Hamas as a terrorist organisation, one with whom the UK should “refuse to engage.”

Two months after the publication of the Manifesto, the EU General Court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations, stating:

“the General Court finds that the contested measures are based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews promptly condemned this “unacceptable” ruling, and called it “an affront to the values of Europe.”

The Board statement also used the opportunity to reiterate various accusations against Hamas—characterisations that have for years engendered the very hearsay that was finally rejected by the EU General Court.

The Council of the EU soon appealed the court’s decision.

The Board cheered the appeal and the efforts taken to ensure the appeal, stating “we commend the European Jewish Congress on all its work in ensuring that this issue remains on top of the agenda in Brussels.”  The power of lobbying for Israel.

As for Lebanon, the Manifesto proudly points out that the UK led the EU designation of Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organisation in 2013.

But that action was not enough to appease the Board, which urges the UK to lead the campaign to expand that designation to the “entirety” of Hezbollah.

The key here is that Israel and its allies have always wanted to destroy all semblance of Hezbollah, as every aspect of the group builds the pride and strength of a Lebanese populace.  It is the will to resist Israeli encroachment—the entire culture of resistance in both Palestine and Lebanon—that Israel wants to break.

And this is a sentiment of political Israel, not of “British Jewry.”  This has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.

Rather similar to the hearsay problem cited by the EU General Court, the accusations hurled at Hezbollah are based on decades of presumptions that Hezbollah is a ruthless entity to be feared and crushed.

The fervour to destroy Hezbollah has long been evident in the policies of Israel, the US and the UK.  Together, these three bodies have tremendous abilities to create and to seemingly substantiate and certainly to sell the narrative that suits their own agenda.  Perhaps it is time to question these fervent accusations.

The Manifesto asserts that Hezbollah has “launched attacks against European and Jewish civilians worldwide” and offers 3 examples to illustrate this sweeping and unsubstantiated accusation: Buenos Aires (1994), Bulgaria (2012), Cyprus (2013).  The responsibility in each of these incidents is far from conclusive.

The Buenos Aires investigation was at once tainted by the immediate involvement of US and Israeli intelligence services.  The case was indelibly ruined by layers of corruption within Argentinian services.

Even The Guardian acknowledged the investigation to be a “complex saga of mind-boggling intrigue.”  Surely the extensive research published in 2008 by historian Gareth Porter should at the very least create reasonable doubt about Hezbollah’s involvement.

Like Buenos Aires, the Bulgarian case investigation was aided by US and Israeli intelligence services.  Several reports raise doubts as to the legitimacy of the judgement process, examples of which: Gareth Porter, here and here; Times of Israel; Haaretz; Bulgarian FM Vigenin.

Despite Israel’s initial finger-pointing at Hezbollah, the investigation revealed compelling forensic evidence of an Al Qaeda-linked suspect, which was mysteriously dropped only to reveal three Lebanese dual-nationals as suspects.  The investigation that struggled for answers somehow, with the help of the US and Israel, was able to link those suspects to Hezbollah.  How politically convenient.

In an attempt to offer conclusive evidence of an attack-plotting Hezbollah, the Manifesto offers a fear-inspiring quotation from an allegedly self-confessed Hezbollah member who had seemingly bungled surveillance work in Cyprus and was caught out by Mossad.

The man’s “handler,” who was “always wearing a mask,” wanted him to pinpoint Kosher restaurants and to track the arrival times of flights from Israel.  But why risk doing such surveillance in person?  This information is readily available online, even if it required some creative computing skills.

The culprit’s narrative reads more like the stuff of a cheap spy novel than it does the operational expertise of a group with more than thirty-years successful experience.  Even if the confessor thought he was, in his nervously ever-changing narrative, revealing some truth, who is to say that he was not led by an imposter to believe he was acting under the direction of Hezbollah, when in fact he was not? Mission not so very impossible.

Still, we are meant to believe that in planning such globally significant missions, Hezbollah was careless enough to leave a paper-trail and to choose men who were inept in their tasks and men who would break under police questioning and tell all.  And we are meant to believe that the consistent aid of US and Israeli intelligence has always been strictly objective.

This article is not intended to be a full rebuttal to these specific accusations.

The point remains that there is at least reasonable doubt.  These accusations are on many levels fuelled by a hatred that has burned for decades, a hatred that would stop at nothing to eradicate the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon.

But even if you remain unconvinced of their problematic nature, even if you cannot bring yourself to offer Hezbollah the benefit of the doubt, there remains a double standard in this “Policy Ask” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

How in the name of civilised democracy can the British Government continue to vehemently denounce Hezbollah, yet eagerly champion an Israeli government that routinely practices that which it condemns?

The Manifesto complains, for instance, that Hezbollah arranged surveillance of Jewish people.  Yet we find the following boast in the Board’s EU Manifesto:

“As part of the widespread intelligence cooperation between Israel and the EU, Israel is providing essential information to EU officials enabling them to enforce the proscription [against Hezbollah].”

So it is acceptable for Israel to spy on Lebanese, but not vice versa?

The Manifesto also complains Hezbollah allegedly exploited dual-nationals and used false identity papers.  Yet this technique is an integral component of Mossad, from false identities and false flags in the 1950s, to political military espionage in the 1960s, to international vigilante justice in the 1970s, to fake passports and double agent killing squads in the 1980s, to assassination attempts in the 1990s, to falsified passports and passport fraud, and assassination after assassination in the 2000s.

These activities tend to be forgotten in the wake of repeated wars on the Lebanese and Palestinians.

These activities are often subjectively shrugged off as necessary handling of “legitimate” targets, perhaps with a few unfortunate mistakes.

Nonetheless, they exhibit a perpetual defiance of the rule of law, a defiance that is made glaringly clear in Israel’s custom of not only indiscriminate, but also deliberate attacks on the civilian population of the Palestinian territories.

After Israel’s 2006 onslaught on Lebanon, the UN Commission of Inquiry emphasised that one third of the Lebanese casualties were children and stated:

“The Commission highlights a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by IDF against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects. . . The Commission has formed a clear view that, cumulatively, the deliberate and lethal attacks by the IDF on civilians and civilian objects amounted to collective punishment.”

Likewise, after Israel’s 2009 onslaught on Gaza, the UN Fact Finding Mission concluded that:

“what occurred in just over 3 weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

Following Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza, an Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission described in detail the reckless, often deliberate targeting of civilians, including the use of the “double tap”: multiple consecutive strikes on a single location that would lead to additional casualties amongst civilian onlookers and rescuers.

Perhaps as much as casualty statistics, this calculated strategy reveals not merely what the Manifesto describes euphemistically as “challenges about integration between different sectors of the population that need to be addressed,” but what one IDF Staff Sergeant described as “contempt for human life.”  He was relating a similar tactic ordered by his battalion commander in the West Bank:

“You leave bodies in the field—they told me they did it a lot in Lebanon— and you wait until they come to recover it so you can shoot at them.  It’s like you’re setting up an ambush around the body.  But those are things I heard about Lebanon.  So it happened here [in Nablus], too.”

Contempt for human life happened.  Contempt for rule of law happened.

Again and again, at the hands of the “democratic state” promoted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who in the same instance would like to coax British and Europeans to condemn the very victims of that state’s crimes.  While their Manifesto offers a few pages pushing Israeli politics, I offer my recently published book, Hezbollah: An Outsider’s Inside View.

Based on 8 years of getting to know the people who are Hezbollah, this inside view of the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon offers the opportunity to explore for yourself the militants at the horizon.

May common sense, not lobbying efforts, shape the concerns of the British people.

Joanna Choukeir Hojeily posted this link on FB
March 27, 2015

The Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses unwavering support for Israel, holding that any resistance to Israeli policy should be denounced by the world.
FRIENDSOFLEBANON.ORG

Modern day heroes of investigative journalism?

Frank Barat conducted an interview with John Pilger and posted this Sept. 20, 2013:

As part of an ongoing series of interviews for the radio show “Le Mur a Des Oreilles; conversations for Palestine“, Frank Barat talks to John Pilger.

He is one of the most influencial journalist of the last few decades, and talked about the war in Syria, the colonisation of Palestine, the relationship between the corporate media and government propaganda and the actions of a few very brave men, Snowden, Assange and Manning.

FB: Quick question before we start, have you finished working on a new film?

JP: Yes, I’ve almost just finished a new film, which will be premiered at the National Film Theatre here on October 3 and shown on the ITV network on the December 17.

It is called “Utopia” and it is about Indigenous Australia and the secret of Australia and the way Australia has embraced an Apartheid without giving due acknowledgment for having done so. It is a subject I have written and made films about over the years but this is quite an epic film.

FB: Let’s start, so Syria is regularly headline news at the moment, what do you make of the corporate media reporting on the issue and as a reporter, do you recognise yourself in this type of journalism?

JP: Well, I’ve never recognised myself being the kind of journalism that misrepresents the Middle East as a matter of routine.

I don’t see how any journalist can recognise himself or herself. This is not to say that there are not good reporters, good journalists that work in the Middle East, but we rarely glimpse them in what we call the mainstream, that’s a miss known there is no mainstream of course and you’ve described it correctly as corporate media, we rarely glimpse these honourable exceptions.

There is a kind of Kissinger’s style to a lot of the reporting in the way that Kissinger made almost an art form of hypocrisy and looking the other way while the United States went about its rapacious business in the Middle East and the way he gave an impunity to Israel which we have to understand, if we are to understand, the problems of the Middle East and how they might be solved, but it’s almost as if Israel doesn’t exist and yet it is the core of the problem.

FB: Would it be a fair portrayal if I say to you that I can’t really see a difference between corporate media reporting on Syria and Government propaganda? It seems like they are the same sort of arms of the same Institutions in a way.

JP: Most of the mainstream reporting is simply an extension of what I would call an establishment prevailing view, it is not necessarily the government but generally speaking, it is the government point of view.

The mainstream broadcasters for example made no secret of the fact that they framed their political and to a large degree the International coverage on how the political class, the Westminster class in Britain deals with politics and international affairs.

So, you have a political reporter, he is limited to report in Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament, a so called diplomatic correspondent is limited to really reporting what the Foreign Office does.

So they are by almost their own definition simply echoes of what the government or the establishment point of view.

FB: Talking about journalists such as yourself that we normally call investigative journalists, it seems like it is a dying breed, would you say that people like Snowden and Assange are the new journalists nowadays?

JP: I don’t think it is a dying breed, I think there is a great enthusiasm among young journalists to really be real journalist.

In fact, investigating journalist is a modern invention really, I mean journalism should be about investigating, but people who do the hard work finding out things and encouraging whistle blowers and so on they are there.

You’ve got people in the United States like Jeremy Scahill and Gareth Porter. Gareth Porter especially who writes only on the Internet, he is an excellent investigating journalist. So, you know, we exist, we are not dying off, we are always under threat, I suspect we always were.

What we’ve done always in the past is recognise that our greatest source has been a whistle blower, I mean the source of great scoops, great revelations, is not always but mostly someone from within, a sort of conscientious objector, Bradley Manning played that part with great distinction and courage.

Snowden is an absolute exemplar of this.  And I suspect, in fact I know, that he represents many others within, the so-called security establishment. The biggest threat is probably still WikiLeaks because it has provided a method by which leakers can leak also blowers can blow.

It has a pretty moral principle behind it which Julien Assange has often expressed.

So, I would regard them as part of a kind of a band of brothers and sisters if you like, journalists, whistle blowers.

It is very interesting, one of the most interesting document which wikiLeaks leaked a few years ago from the Ministry of Defence in London was a document which I think entitled something like how to stop leaks and of course it was leaked, it described the biggest threats to all the wonderful things we hold here in the West, there were 3 major threats.

The third threat was Russian spies, believe it or not, the second threat was terrorists but the major threats above all were investigative journalists.

FB: Coming back to the Middle East, you’ve reported on Palestine for many years. How difficult is it to report on Palestine and what do you make of channels such as the BBC calling for impartiality on the issue? Can a journalist be impartial when the situation is so unbalanced on the ground?

JP:  Well, they don’t mean impartial, it is just a term that has been drained of all its diction meaning, it has no meaning, impartial means partial actually, it means putting a cross as I described the Western point of view and being very aware of that unless you put across on the Israeli point of view you are going to be in trouble within your own organisations.

The BBC is a particular example, and you know I made a film about this in which there were producers which I have known personally talked about being terrified of a call from the Israeli Embassy.

The routine intimidation of the BBC has produced without too much difficulty I have to say, has produced a partiality that they describe as impartiality, it is a sort of a Orwellian expression, there is no impartiality.

In the language used, so you have a BBC report in which you have two narratives in Palestine you know, the “Israeli – Palestine” conflict and so on.

There is very rarely reporting that is framed within the law. Say it was framed within the law, there would be no question of how Palestine would come out and how Israel would come out because Israel is the most lawless state in the world and what it is doing in Palestine is entirely lawless.

It’s never framed in terms of law, it’s never framed in terms of dare I say what is right or wrong; it is framed in terms of an equal conflict, which it is, of course not.

FB: You made a film called “Palestine is still the issue” in 2003, if you had to make one again today, what title would you give it and why?

JP: Well, the first film I made about Palestine was in 1974 and it was called “Palestine is still the issue”, the next film I made was in 2002 “Palestine is still the issue” and if I make one now it would be called “Palestine is still the issue” for the obvious reason.

FB: You mentioned words before, for journalists and for propaganda purposes from governments or mainstream media, how important are words? You talked about Orwellian words, it seems they can actually change the meaning of wars, they would call a “massacre” a “pacification”,”ethnic cleansing” becomes “moving borders” etc, can you tell us something about that?

JP: It comes down to much more basic that the word war. A war implies that there are two kind of more or less equal states or army facing each other.

So going to war in Syria, having a war in Syria, you hear that time and time again, there is no war in Syria, there is a war going on in Syria, but it is a civil war, but as far as the West is concerned there is no such things as going to war because apart from trying to defend itself, Syria will be attacked just as there were no war in Iraq.

A war was created, a sectarian war that was the consequence of what was a massive attack and invasion.

The same thing happened in 1991, I saw the state of the Iraqi army shortly before that and it was not equipped or able to defend itself or a country or whatever.

Yes, it could go on and invade Kuwait, but there was no real defence there. Again, that was not a war, they did not call it a war, they called it an invasion. So they are invasion, they are rapacious, they are aggressive, they are lawless.

In Vietnam, the world involvement was used, I remember that, in the Americans press. The US involvement in Vietnam you know is a useless word, it doesn’t really mean anything. In fact, it was the US invasion of South Vietnam, the country was meant to be defending, that term was almost never used.

FB: One of your last film that is called “The war you don’t see”, the people we often don’t see are the people on the ground, the people that are fighting imperialism, fighting for an intervention.

Following our interview tonight, we are going to talk to a woman activist from Nablus, a Lady called Beesan Ramadan, what would be your message to people on the ground that are suffering from Western interventions?

JP: I think we all depend on people like that; we all draw inspiration from them because it is just remarkable to me and inspiring. The Palestinians keep going, those who attack them again and again, the Israelis and Americans and former Israelis, Americans, Europeans and so on.

These constant attacks on Palestine have not even divided the Palestinians yet, I mean, yes, Gaza has been physically divided from the West Bank, the Occupied Territories, but even that division between people in Gaza and people in the West Bank as well as class division, of course there are but the fact that the Palestinian people keep going and this is a spectacle I find very moving, that Palestinian children going to school all dressed up in their school uniforms making their way through rubble, often having had disturbed nights and perhaps disturbing themselves by the attacks on them by the Israelis and so on.

So, because Palestine is still the issue, because unless there is a settlement, unless there is justice that is the key word, justice for the Palestinian people (when I said settlement I mean a just one), there is not going to be peace really in the region or in the broader world so we depend on the people there to keep going.

FB: Thanks John, thanks again.

John Pilger is an award winning Australian journalist and broadcaster/documentary maker primarily based in Britain.

Frank Barat is a human rights activist based in London, UK and is coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


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