Thursday, August 28, 2014

Palestine solidarity on Australia's Universities: on Christopher Pyne and The Australian's slander of socialist pro-Palestine students

Dear friends,

Today, The Australian today published a hasbara (propaganda) article written by the Abbott government education minister Christopher Pyne slandering socialist students as anti-semitic due to their role in leading pro-Palestine campaigning on campus.   In particularly he singles out Socialist Alternative, of which I am also a member.  


This article below published two weeks ago by Red Flag and answers all the lies in Christopher Pyne's article in the Australian today.  It should also be noted that for more than two weeks, the Red Flag website has come under concerted attack by Zionist hackers due to Red Flag's uncompromising support for Palestine and opposition to Israel's war crimes in Gaza.   The website is currently back up online but you can also support Red Flag by liking our page on Facebook and subscribing to the paper (and get either a digital or hard copy of the paper).

However slanderous, Pyne's attack on Socialist Alternative is, it is unsurprising.  Socialist Alternative in addition to playing a leading role in campaigning in support of Palestine on campus have also been active in leading the campaign against Pyne and the Abbott government's attack on education, which seeks to cut funding to universities and increase fees for students.

In addition, Pyne, like the rest of the Abbott government, is an unabashed apologist for Israeli occupation, apartheid and war crimes.  Pyne visited Israel at the height of Israel's assault on Gaza, speaking at a number of forums where he actively defended Israels right to carry out war crimes and mass murder in Gaza.
 


The Australian's anti-Palestine stance, including its active campaign against the Palestinian BDS campaign and supporters of the campaign, has been well documented both on this blog and elsewhere.  For my earlier posts on The Australian's campaign against BDS and pro-Palestine supporters see:

The Australian newspaper and BDS: A case study in obsession

The Australian's faux outrage over the Palestinian BDS campaign and student protests against Max Brenner

An interview with The Australian newspaper on BDS and the Max Brenner Protests ... OR ... What The Australian doesn't tell its readers...


I have also published below an article written by Guy Rundle for Crikey in response to Pyne's slander in The Australian. Overall the article is very good, although Rundle gets one thing wrong.  Socialist Alternative is very active in the campaign against Israeli war profiteer,  Elbit Systems. Along with other community groups and individuals, members of Socialist Alternative are actively involved in organsing the community protest against Israeli war profiteer, Elbit Systems, which is taking place in Melbourne on October 5/6. (for more details on the protest, join the FB page for the protest).

In solidarity,
Kim

**








Accusations of anti-Semitism against socialist students are lies
-Daniel Taylor, Red Flag, 13 August 2014

Over the past five weeks, as the Israeli military pulverised the Gaza Strip, there have been widespread allegations of an increase in anti-Semitic intimidation and violence on university campuses. The allegations – widely circulated in print, on social media and on commercial radio – include claims that Jewish students are being racially abused, physically intimidated and banned from public lectures. Socialist Alternative has been frequently named as responsible for these acts.

For anyone familiar with socialist politics, which includes at its core unyielding opposition to all forms of racial discrimination, these claims must seem alarming and incongruous. In fact, they are lies with no basis in fact. An explanation requires some examination of the politics of Zionism and socialism on university campuses.

*Socialist Alternative, Jews, and Zionism

Socialist Alternative is a Marxist organisation. Many of the thinkers from which it draws influence, including Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg, were not only Jews, but Jews who lived in periods of intense state-sanctioned anti-Semitic discrimination and pogroms.

Our movement seeks to fight against, and ultimately abolish forever, all forms of racial oppression. In Australia, this requires active struggle against the racist attacks on Aboriginal people, refugees, and Muslims. It also requires solidarity with those who struggle internationally against racism and oppression, such as the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Palestinians. Socialist Alternative student clubs often have spearheaded these campaigns on university campuses and in wider society. We seek to unite all struggles against oppression, break down all divisions of race and sex, and help build movements that can challenge the entire system that generates and perpetuates racism.

This requires a consistent and principled opposition to anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is not a major current in Australian politics, but it is nonetheless a poisonous and vile doctrine that seeks to lay blame for the world's ills on the characteristics of a single ethno-religious group. We celebrate the long history of Jewish socialism and Jewish anti-Zionism, and count many Jews among our members.

*Zionists on campus

There are many organised political currents competing for influence in the political life of Australian campuses. The student wings of the Labor, Liberal and Greens parties are all represented, as are other equally political groups that are sometimes less honest about their affiliation. In the latest controversies over anti-Semitism, they key political group is the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS).

AUJS has a presence on over 20 university campuses in Australia and New Zealand. It describes itself as the peak body representing Jewish youth. AUJS spokespeople are frequently quoted in the press as authorities on anti-Semitism. But AUJS is not an apolitical organisation. As its website proudly proclaims, it exists to "promote a positive image of Israel on campus". This mission becomes particularly crucial during the Israeli military's assaults against Palestinians.

AUJS runs annual tours to Israel, which aim to give participants "a stronger connection … to the state of Israel". AUJS's annual reports boast of campaigns in solidarity with Israel’s military during Operation Pillar of Cloud, a military assault that killed 100 Palestinian civilians; they describe the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel as "our great political challenge". They call for "settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism".

AUJS is not an organisation representing the interests of Jewish students, but an advocacy group for the right wing politics of the state of Israel. Its reports boast that pro-Palestine campaigners cannot host an event on any campus "without running into an AUJS campaign". For this reason, in 2012 the Zionist Federation of Australia sent AUJS a letter of thanks and congratulations for "efforts in combating anti-Zionism". The right wing politics of AUJS and its affiliates are embodied in the person of Matthew Lesh. Lesh serves two prominent roles: he is the political director for AUJS and an official spokesperson for the Young Liberals.

AUJS accuses its enemies on campus of conflating Zionism with Jewishness, and with turning criticism of Israel into hostility to Jews. In fact, conflating Judaism and Zionism is precisely the political goal of AUJS. Slandering supporters of Palestine as anti-Semitic is its primary method for "combating anti-Zionism" and fulfilling the project, outlined in the AUJS constitution, of "actively advancing the interests of Israel".

*Operation Protective Edge

When Israel began its latest massacre in Gaza – which has so far led to the slaughter of more than 1,900 civilians and the widespread destruction of homes, schools, and hospitals – a political confrontation between the supporters of Palestinian rights and the defenders of Israeli militarism was inevitable.

At Monash University, Socialist Alternative moved a motion in the Student Council, condemning Israeli war crimes and occupation. Similar motions, including endorsements of the BDS campaign, were taken up and adopted at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Sydney, Flinders University, and Curtin University. A similar motion moved at La Trobe University was voted down in a heated council meeting. Socialist Alternative also organised and advertised meetings at campuses around Australia, under titles along the lines of "Why You Should Support the Palestinians".

The Israeli military massacre in Gaza was catastrophic for the public image of Israel. Weekly protests against the attack drew thousands of attendees in Melbourne and Sydney, hundreds in other Australian cities, and millions around the world. We are proud that Socialist Alternative's work contributed to this anti-racist and anti-Zionist sentiment.

The initial response from AUJS took the form of a series of press statements expressing concern that the motions passed in student councils would "alienate Jewish students" and contribute to anti-Semitism. This was a clear attempt to conflate political opposition to Israeli policy with racial discrimination against Jews. AUJS also created an absurd series of images, headlined "What Would You Do?" of rockets being launched from one Australian university campus to another. These images were spread on social media and printed on posters, but rang rather hollow, especially after the Israeli military bombed the main university in Gaza.

AUJS also encouraged its members to file a flood of complaints describing the pro-Palestine events as "anti-Semitic", while lobbying university vice chancellors to ban pro-Palestine activism on campus. It managed to get the vice chancellors of Monash and La Trobe universities to send emails to all students implicitly attacking pro-Palestine activists, after what AUJS called "strong AUJS advocacy". AUJS then commenced a campaign of outrageous slander targeting activists at these two universities in particular.

*The slanders

The two most startling allegations were aired by Matthew Lesh on 3AW radio, and repeated by Deakin University's Danny Ben-Moshe in an online article published by The Conversation.

Lesh claims that Jewish students were physically ejected from a public lecture at Monash University, and subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation at La Trobe. Both these claims are absolutely false.

The "lecture" at Monash University was a Socialist Alternative political meeting. Not only were Jews welcome and encouraged to attend, but the talk itself was given by a Jewish member of Socialist Alternative. Attendees were asked to sign a petition calling for an end to Israel's illegal economic blockade of Gaza.

A small group of organised Zionists attempted to gain entry after refusing to sign the petition, and attempted to disrupt the meeting. They gave up after being told the meeting was for supporters of Palestine. There is nothing unusual in this. Socialist Alternative has in many previous instances barred disruptive right wingers who have attempted to disrupt and air racist opinions at our meetings. Even if you don’t agree with this policy, it has nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism. In this case, the meeting went ahead peacefully, with Jewish students both delivering the initial talk and contributing to the discussion afterwards.

Immediately afterwards, the Zionists who had attempted to disrupt the meeting began a social media campaign claiming that Jews had been banned from campus events. Socialist Alternative members immediately contacted them to clarify that Jews were welcome, but that the meeting was not for political defenders of Israeli occupation. No retraction was issued and their campaign continued, proving the utterly cynical use of allegations of anti-Semitism to smear and undermine progressive politics on campus.

The events at La Trobe University followed the decision by the student council to unanimously vote against a motion condemning the Israeli assault on Gaza. As the student council is a democratically elected body accountable to students, Socialist Alternative members produced posters quoting several of the arguments used by the council members to justify their vote – including "It's not our place to point at somebody and say, 'You're committing mass murder'."

The posters did not single out any council members on the basis of religion or ethnicity; they simply quoted the arguments made in the meeting. The student council, obviously fearful for its reputation, instructed security to tear down the posters, and complaints of harassment and intimidation were filed against Socialist Alternative members with the university administration.

The right to host political meetings on campus, and inform students of events that are taking place on their elected leadership bodies, would seem like basic political rights that nobody would contest. But because these rights, when exercised, could contribute to the continued disintegration of Israel's public image, AUJS kicked into overdrive. It launched an aggressive media campaign, claiming that these events represented a wave of anti-Semitic abuse and intimidation at Australian universities.

*Anti-Semitism and the responsibilities of the left

The ongoing genocide of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli state naturally horrifies all those who oppose racism. The slanders drawn up by organised Zionists are calculated to undermine this sympathy, and to suggest that campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinians is itself a form of racism. It is an attempt to isolate Palestinians from their natural supporters among anti-racists and supporters of human rights. It lays the groundwork for the intimidation of activists who support Palestine, the banning of their meetings and organisations, and the eradication of any criticism of Israel from university life. Already, because of the AUJS campaign around La Trobe University, activists have been forbidden from forming a "Students for Palestine" club – because campaigning for Palestine is now considered, scandalously, to be a form of "intimidation and harassment".

The death toll from the most recent Israeli attacks on Gaza is now approaching 2,000. The Israeli war machine receives extensive political, military, and diplomatic support from key institutions all around the world. A principled opposition to racism requires participation in a global movement in solidarity with the Palestinians. Socialist Alternative is proud to have played a role in this movement in Australia, and will continue to do so.

The attempt by the political supporters of Israel to define all opposition to its policies as forms of anti-Semitic intimidation and harassment is an outrageous and shameful lie. To slander anti-racist activists, and to promote the racist terror of the Israeli state, while claiming to be taking a stand against racism is an act of utter cynicism.

The Left cannot bow to this intimidation. It has a responsibility to continue raising a voice in solidarity with the Palestinians, to make it clear that Jews can oppose Zionism, and that institutions like AUJS that exist to defend and promote Israeli militarism are not the authentic voice of all Jews.

[Daniel is a member of Jews Against Israeli Apartheid and Socialist Alternative.]
***
 Rundle: Pyne's bizarre free speech rhetoric a dog whistle to the IPA

GUY RUNDLE
Crikey writer-at-large | 29 August 2014

CHRISTOPHER PYNE, FREE SPEECH, HIGHER EDUCATION, IPA, SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE, UNIVERSITY

Education Minister Christopher Pyne gave the campaign to abolish 18c another kick in the guts this morning in The Australian -- although it was disguised as an attack on alleged anti-Semitism on campuses.

The principle target of the attack was Socialist Alternative, which is among the groups leading the campaign against the massive fee hikes proposed by the Abbott government. SAlt is also running protest campaigns against Israel, which includes protests against the Max Brenner cafe/chocolate chain, which provides free goody bags to the Israel Defense Forces.

The optics of the Brenner protest aren't great -- the chain consciously imitates a Viennese-style coffee shop, so protesting outside it has ugly associations (which is part of SAlt's recruitment strategy -- those who quail at the complexity of that aren't cadre material. Hence the Brenner protests, rather than a more concentrated attack on the offices of Israeli arms exporters in Australia).

But anti-Semitic they ain't. Neither is the boycott divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which Pyne thinks should be excluded from universities by administrators. Quite aside from the fact that many of the people running BDS campaigns are Jews themselves -- and not only secular-Left Jews, but the increasingly vocal Hasidic groups, who have been anti-Zionist for more than a century -- Pyne's stance suggests a curious attitude to free speech.

The whole idea of the university is as a place of free thought, where both students and faculty should be protected from sanction simply for expressing unpopular ideas. This idea is central to a free society. To try and impose a range of "acceptable" free speech on a university from without is simply a misunderstanding of what the university is. Pyne is simply adopting the "no platform" argument of a section of the Left as regards universities and applying it to a spurious "anti-Semitism". Given that it was opposition by Australian-Jewish groups to changes to 18c that pretty much killed it, it's difficult not to conclude that the real target of this piece -- with its concluding paean to collectivist multiculturalism -- is the IPA and their renewed 18c target.

Such an approach to choking free speech at universities -- which is, in effect, the state choking off free speech -- is part of the new normal: that the greatest enemy of free speech now is the Abbott government, with its "Team Australia" rhetoric, its use of multicultural agents to treat inconvenient speech -- i.e. violent Islamism -- as a bacillus to be "deradicalised", etc. It's a chilling process -- one I'm sure the IPA will attack vociferously and stand up for the right of people to urge jihad. Hello? Hello?

Still, those in favour of 18C will be relieved to see that its friends now include the Abbott government. That is hegemonic victory, by any measure.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What's in the Gaza "ceasefire" deal? Has the siege been lifted?

Dear friends,
As I noted last night, while a ceasefire had been announced the details of the deal were still trickling through and there was some skepticism as to whether the siege would be lifted.

Reading the outline of the deal provided by Reuters, it seems the siege is only partially lifted - meaning that in effect it is still in place, at least on the Israeli side as Israel still controls the land, sea and air borders. However, there will be an easing of restrictions on the Israeli side to allow humanitarian aid through. 

Egypt in a separate deal has agreed apparently to open its borders but there appears to be still restrictions on "dual use" goods (ie. lots of electrical and other building goods, which are deemed as weaponisable). 

So while it is good that there has been an easing of restrictions, we also need to realise that it means that Israel (and Egypt to a lesser extent) can shut the borders down any time they feel like it and prevent much need goods entering the region. It also means that Gaza remains under occupation and that that freedom of movement for Palestinians and goods will still remains restricted and under heavy Israeli control.

The Guardian has similarly noted that the terms of the deal seem to be similar to that of the ceasefire deal in 2012 which only saw an easing of the siege, not an ending of it.


in solidarity, Kim 

**
What's in the Gaza peace deal? 

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Luke Baker GAZA/JERUSALEM Tue Aug 26, 2014  
 

(Reuters) - Israel and the Palestinians agreed on Tuesday to an Egyptian-brokered plan to end the fighting in Gaza after 50 days of combat in which more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, 64 Israeli soldiers and five civilians in Israel were killed.

Following are the broad parameters of the agreement, which Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been working on through indirect talks in Cairo over recent weeks.

As part of the deal, both sides have agreed to address more complex issues dividing them - including the release of Palestinian prisoners and Gaza's demands for a sea port - via further indirect talks starting within a month.

IMMEDIATE STEPS 

* Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza agree to halt all rocket and mortar fire into Israel.

* Israel will stop all military action including air strikes and ground operations.

* Israel agrees to open more of its border crossings with Gaza to allow the easier flow of goods, including humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment, into the coastal enclave.

* In a separate, bilateral agreement, Egypt will agree to open its 14 km (8 mile) border with Gaza at Rafah.

* The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, is expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza's borders from Hamas. Israel and Egypt hope it will ensure weapons, ammunition and any "dual-use" goods are prevented from flowing into Gaza.

* The Palestinian Authority will lead in coordinating the reconstruction effort in Gaza with international donors, including the European Union.

* Israel is expected to narrow the security buffer along the inside of the Gaza border, reducing it from 300 meters to 100 meters if the truce holds. The move will allow Palestinians more access to farm land close to the border.

* Israel will extend the fishing limit off Gaza's coast to six miles from three miles, with the possibility of widening it gradually if the truce holds. Ultimately, the Palestinians want to return to a full 12-mile international allowance.

LONGER TERM ISSUES TO BE DISCUSSED

* Hamas wants Israel to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners rounded up in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Jewish seminary students in June, an attack that led to the war. Hamas initially denied involvement in the killings, but a senior Hamas official in exile in Turkey last week admitted the group did carry out the attack.

* President Abbas, who heads the Fatah party, wants freedom for long-serving Palestinian prisoners whose release was dropped after the collapse of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

* Israel wants Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to hand over all body parts and personal effects of Israeli soldiers killed during the war.

* Hamas wants a sea port built in Gaza, allowing goods and people to be ferried in and out of the enclave. Israel has long rejected the plans, but it is possible that progress towards it could be made if there are absolute security guarantees.

* Hamas wants the un-freezing of funds to allow it to pay 40,000 police, government workers and other administrative staff who have largely been without salaries since late last year.

* The Palestinians also want the airport in Gaza - Yasser Arafat International, which opened in 1998 but was shut down in 2000 after it was bombed by Israel - to be rebuilt.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; writing by Luke Baker; editing by Larry King)

**

Gaza ceasefire: Israel and Palestinians agree to halt weeks of fighting

Terms of indefinite ceasefire – brokered by Egypt – expected to be similar to those agreed at the end of 2012 conflict

Gaza airstrike

After 50 days of the Gaza conflict, more than 2,100 people were killed, most of them civilians, including about 500 children. Photograph: Majdi Fathi/Corbis

The war in Gaza ended on Tuesday after Israel and the Palestinians agreed to halt fighting indefinitely, putting an end to seven weeks of catastrophic loss of life and destruction, but on terms which are likely to leave many on both sides of the conflict wondering what had been achieved.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad – the main militant groups in Gaza – the Palestinian Authority and Israel agreed on an open-ended ceasefire beginning at 7pm on Tuesday evening, bringing relief to civilians on both sides of the border.

Rocket fire and airstrikes continued until the last moments, and sirens sounded across southern Israel past 7pm. One Israeli was killed and several injured by a mortar shortly before the deadline, the Israel Defence Forces said. In Gaza, two children were killed in an airstrike in Khan Younis shortly before the ceasefire, and police reported that an Israeli airstrike flattened a seven-storey building in Beit Lahiya, the sixth high-rise to be toppled since the weekend.

As the ceasefire came into effect, Gaza echoed with celebratory gunfire and mosques announced victory through their loudspeakers. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in response to text messages sent by Hamas urging victory celebrations.

But the terms of the deal – brokered by the Egyptian government, and reached on the 50th day of the conflict – appeared to be almost identical to those agreed at the end of the previous war 21 months ago. Israel will open crossings on its border to allow the humanitarian aid and construction materials to enter Gaza, and will extend the permitted fishing zone to six miles off the coast of Gaza. The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is also to be opened.

More difficult issues will be deferred for further indirect talks between the two parties in a month. They include Hamas's demands for an airport and seaport in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners, and Israel's insistence on the disarmament of militant groups and the return of the remains of two of its soldiers killed in the fighting.

In a televised address, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas thanked the Egyptians, Qataris and US secretary of state John Kerry for their efforts to secure a ceasefire. He added: "The question is now 'What's next?' Gaza suffered three wars and are we expecting another one? We will consult friends and the international community, and we can't continue with 'cloudy negotiations'."

At a press conference at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: "Hamas is grateful to the people of Gaza who sacrificed their homes, children and money. We announce the victory today after achieving our goals."

He added: "[Israeli prime minister Binyamin] Netanyahu has failed to force Gaza to surrender. Yes, we defeated them by our standing and our resistance. We will stand by our people and we won't leave them."

Israel accepted the ceasefire, although three cabinet members, including the hardline foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, voiced opposition, according to Israeli media. A government official said: "Israel has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a complete and unlimited-in-time ceasefire. Israel accepted already the Egyptian proposal on 15 July. Israel has always supported an unconditional, open-ended ceasefire."

A US state department spokeswoman said: "We call on all parties to fully and completely comply with its terms, and hope very much that the ceasefire will prove to be durable and sustainable. We view this as an opportunity, not a certainty. There is a long road ahead and we're aware of that, and we're going into this eyes wide open."

The deal follows at least eight temporary ceasefires during the course of the conflict. In Gaza, more than 2,100 people have been killed, most of them civilians, including about 500 children, in the past seven weeks. At least 11,000 people were injured and more than 17,000 homes destroyed or badly damaged. Around a third of Gaza's 1.8 million population has been displaced, many now living in United Nations shelters. Schools, hospitals, factories, farms, mosques and infrastructure such as power and water plants were hit. Reconstruction could take up to 10 years, say analysts. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers died and five civilians – including a four-year-old boy – were killed. Hundreds of families relocated from homes near the Gaza border to safer areas further north.

The Israeli military estimates that the weapons stocks of Hamas and other militant groups have fallen to less than a third of their pre-war levels, by being fired or destroyed in airstrikes.

Three of Hamas's top military commanders were killed last week, and the fate of its military chief , is still unknown after his wife and two children were killed in a massive airstrike last Tuesday. However the organisation claims to have won respect among Palestinians for putting up strong resistance against Israel's military onslaught.

Israeli leaders are expected to claim to have severely weakened Hamas over the past seven weeks, and restored "quiet" to areas within rocket range.

Egypt will hope to gain international credibility from brokering a ceasefire agreement after weeks of abortive talks hosted in Cairo.

The Gaza conflict began on 8 July following weeks of tension after the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, and the subsequent revenge killing of a Palestinian youth. Israel responded with a wave of arrests of Hamas members, which triggered intensified rocket fire from Gaza.

BREAKING NEWS: Gaza - Palestinians announce long term ceasefire reached with Israel

Dear friends,
A long term ceasefire has been announced by both Abbas and the Hamas leadership.  The Israeli media is also reporting Israel's acceptance of the ceasefire.

According to media reports the deal supposedly includes:
  • an immediate easing of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and a gradual lifting of restrictions on fishing off the coast of the strip.
  • discussions on the creation of a seaport and airport was postponed for a month, when indirect talks betwen Israel and Palestinians will resume.

While details are still emerging and need to be confirmed, some on twitter such as Israeli activist and writer Mairav Zonszein have argued "There is no deal, only an agreed-upon ceasefire and mutual intentions to discuss a deal in the future".

Monday marked the 50th day since Israel started its massacre in Gaza on July 8. The death toll at that time had reached 2,120, of which 577 are children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

In solidarity, Kim 

Gazonto - imagine Toronto bombed like Gaza by John Greyson

Dear friends, Well known Canadian film maker and political activist, John Greyson provides us with another clever film in support of Palestine - imagining the bombing of Toronto as if it were Gaza. 

Greyson is a well regarded film director in his own right and has long been active in Palestine solidarity work. He participated in the 2011 Gaza flotilla and in 2013 while on his way to join the Gaza with Dr Tarek Toubani to carry out medical relief work, they were jailed and tortured by the Egyptian regime for 7 weeks. 

I have included below his video, along with the article about it which appeared on Electronic Intifada. 

 in solidarity, Kim 
 ** 

Short film “Gazonto” by John Greyson imagines Toronto bombed like Gaza 

By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, 24 August 2014


In his compelling new video Gazonto, Canadian filmmaker John Greyson reimagines Israel’s massive bombardment of the Israeli-occupied and besieged Gaza Strip as if it were an attack on his home city Toronto. 

Greyson imagines specific attacks on Palestinian homes, schools, mosques, hospitals and other institutions that Israel perpetrated since 7 July as if they had occurred on real-life Toronto sites including a well-known café, CBC TV, the University of Toronto and the Scarborough Injury Rehab Centre.

The film uses the device of a simulated video game to show how the horrifying effects of Israeli violence against Palestinians are rendered distant or invisible while the violence itself is celebrated.

The “video game” wherein the viewer is addressed as if they are the “player” also forces us to think about complicity and what those of us in Canada, the United States and other countries arming and supporting Israel can do to end such lethal intervention.

Gazonto asks viewers a simple question: what would happen to Toronto, or to your city, if, like Gaza, six thousand places had been heavily bombed in just a few weeks?

Obliterated

Since Israel’s bombardment began, its attacks have killed 2,127 Palestinians, including 512 children, according to the latest count from Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

On Saturday, Israeli warplanes completely obliterated a 12-story apartment building “without giving any specific explanation that can be verified,” Al Mezan said.

“Al Mezan’s investigations indicate that no military activities took place in or around it. Hundreds of its residents, most of whom are families headed by employees of the Palestinian Authority, were displaced,” Al Mezan added.

Israeli occupation forces “also destroyed a large shopping mall in Rafah and caused damages to dozens of homes in the Rafah refugee camp,” according to the group.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Haaretz: Israeli teenagers: Racist and proud of it

Dear friends,
yet another study and article on the increasing racism amongst Jewish citizens of Israel. 

Anyone following reports on Israel and Palestine will be aware of not only repeated studies revealing the increasing and rampant racism inside Israel but also the visible displays of racism against not against Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Arabs in general but also African asylum seekers in Israel. Repeated studies conducted by reputable Israeli organisations have also repeatedly identified significant racism against Jewish citizens of Israel who are not Ashkenazi (European/white) Jews.  

(Studies on Israel's racism: 20112012, 2012, 2013, 2014 Also see David Sheen's website documenting racism in Israel, click here)

In recent weeks, we have seen the repeated public spectacle of Zionist Jews in Israel marching through the streets calling for "Death to the Arabs" and "Death to Leftists".  As one of the students notes in this article: “If we’re not racist, that makes us leftists.”

Studies have also repeatedly shown that the text books used in Israeli schools promote racism against Palestinians, depicting them negatively as murders, rioters, suspicious etc.  A 1999 study of 124 Israeli text books on grammar, Hebrew Literature, history, geography and citizenship for elementary, middle school and high school found that the text books

"present[ed]  the view that Jews are involved in a justified, even humanitarian, war against an Arab enemy that refuses to accept and acknowledge the existence and rights of Jews in Israel.
“The early textbooks tended to describe acts of Arabs as hostile, deviant, cruel, immoral, unfair, with the intention to hurt Jews and to annihilate the State of Israel. Within this frame of reference, Arabs were delegitimized by the use of such labels as ”˜robbers,’ ”˜bloodthirsty,’ and ”˜killers,’” said Professor Bar-Tal, adding that there has been little positive revision in the curriculum over the years.
A more recent study by Nurit Peled-Elhanan shows that little had changed in the decade after the previous study.  Peled-Elhanan notes Israeli school books never refer to Palestinians unless in the context of terrorism.  In an interview with the Guardian, the Israeli academic notes that Palestinians are always called "Arabs" and that:
"The Arab with a camel, in an Ali Baba dress. They describe them as vile and deviant and criminal, people who don't pay taxes, people who live off the state, people who don't want to develop," she says. "The only representation is as refugees, primitive farmers and terrorists. You never see a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer."

While this Haaretz article is well worth reading and the study worth noting, both the study and article fail to address the origins of racism in Israel - ie. Zionism.  


Zionism is a settler-colonial ideology and as such is inherently racist. It can not be anything but. Zionism promotes an exclusivist state which privileges one ethnic group over another. It is therefore in compatible with the liberal idea of democracy, something which is ignored by the academics conducting this study. 

In solidarity,
Kim


***

Israeli teenagers: Racist and proud of it

Ethnic hatred has become a basic element in the everyday life of Israeli youth, a forthcoming book finds.

Aug. 23, 2014 |




Lehava protest in Rishon Letzion, August 17, 2014.
Members of right-wing organization Lehava protesting the wedding of a Jewish-born woman and a Muslim man in Rishon Letzion, August 17, 2014. Photo by Ofer Vaknin


Emil Salman
Authors Idan Yaron (right) and Yoram Harpaz. Photo by Emil Salman
 

“For me, personally, Arabs are something I can’t look at and can’t stand,” a 10th-grade girl from a high school in the central part of the country says in abominable Hebrew. “I am tremendously racist. I come from a racist home. If I get the chance in the army to shoot one of them, I won’t think twice. I’m ready to kill someone with my hands, and it’s an Arab. In my education I learned that ... their education is to be terrorists, and there is no belief in them. I live in an area of Arabs, and every day I see these Ishmaelites, who pass by the [bus] station and whistle. I wish them death.”

The student’s comments appear in a chapter devoted to ethnicity and racism among youth from a forthcoming book, “Scenes from School Life” (in Hebrew) by Idan Yaron and Yoram Harpaz. The book is based on anthropological observations made by Dr. Yaron, a sociologist, over the course of three years in a six-year, secular high school in the Israeli heartland – “the most average school we could find,” says Harpaz, a professor of education. 

The book is nothing short of a page-turner, especially now, following the overt displays of racism and hatred of the Other that have been revealed in the country in the past month or so. Maybe “revealed” isn’t the right word, as it suggests surprise at the intensity of the phenomenon. But Yaron’s descriptions of what he saw at the school show that such hatred is a basic everyday element among youth, and a key component of their identity. Yaron portrays the hatred without rose-colored glasses or any attempt to present it as a sign of social “unity.” What he observed is unfiltered hatred. One conclusion that arises from the text is how little the education system is able – or wants – to deal with the racism problem.
Not all educators are indifferent or ineffective. There are, of course, teachers and others in the realm of education who adopt a different approach, who dare to try and take on the system. But they are a minority. The system’s internal logic operates differently. 

Much of the chapter on racism revolves around the Bible lessons in a ninth-grade class, whose theme was revenge. “The class starts, and the students’ suggestions of examples of revenge are written on the blackboard,” the teacher told Yaron. A student named Yoav “insists that revenge is an important emotion. He utilizes the material being studied to hammer home his semi-covert message: All the Arabs should be killed. The class goes into an uproar. Five students agree with Yoav and say openly: The Arabs should be killed.” 

One student relates that he heard in the synagogue on Shabbat that “Aravim zeh erev rav” [“Arabs are a rabble,” in a play on words], and also Amalek, and there is a commandment to kill them all,” a reference to the prototypical biblical enemy of the Children of Israel. Another student says he would take revenge on anyone who murdered his family, but would not kill them all. 

“Some of the other students are outraged by this [softer stance],” the teacher reported. “The student then makes it clear that he has no love for Arabs and that he is not a leftist.” 

Another student, Michal, says she is shocked by what she is hearing. She believes that the desire for revenge will only foment a cycle of blood; not all Arabs are bad, she adds, and certainly they don’t all deserve to die. “People who decree the fate of others so easily are not worthy of life,” she says. 

Yoav himself claims to have heard Michal say: “Too bad you weren’t killed in a terrorist attack.” 

“The students all start shouting,” the teacher says, according to Yaron. “Some are personally insulted, others are up in arms, and Michal finds herself alone and absorbing all the fire – ‘Arab lover,’ ‘leftist.’ I try to calm things down. The class is too distraught to move on to the biblical story. The bell rings. I let them out and suggest that they be more tolerant of one another.” 

In the corridor during the break, the teacher notices that a crowd has gathered from all the ninth-grade classes. They have formed a human chain and are taunting Michal: “Fie, fie, fie, the Arabs will die.” The teacher: “I contemplated for five seconds whether to respond or keep going down the corridor. Finally I dispersed the gathering and insisted that Michal accompany me to the teachers’ room. She was in a state of shock, reeling under the insult, with tears to come instantly.” 

Six students are suspended for two days. The teacher reports on his conversation with Michal: “She continues to be laconic. This is what always happens, she says. The opinions are racist, and her only regret is speaking out. I just want to hug her and say I’m sorry I put her through this trauma. I envy her courage to say aloud things that I sometimes am incapable of saying.” 

Leftists as ‘Israel-haters’
In his research, Yaron spoke with Michal and Yoav, with other students in the class and with the homeroom teacher and the principal. The multiplicity of versions of the goings-on that emerge suggest a deep conflict and a lack of trust between the educators and the pupils. Each world functions separately, with the adults exercising little if any influence on the youngsters. It’s hard to believe that the suspension, or the punishment inflicted on some of the students – for example, to prepare a presentation for the ninth-grade classes on the subject of racism – changed anyone’s opinion. 

The same goes for the principal’s unequivocal declaration that, “There will be no racist comments in our school.” Even the essay Michal was asked to write on the subject was soon forgotten. “The intention was to launch an educational program, but in the meantime it was postponed,” the homeroom teacher admits. 

A year later, however, the incident itself was still remembered in the school. The same student who told Yaron that she won’t think twice if she gets the opportunity “to shoot one of them” when she serves in the army, also said, “As soon as I heard about the quarrel with that leftist girl [Michal], I was ready to throw a brick at her head and kill her. In my opinion, all the leftists are Israel-haters. I personally find it very painful. Those people have no place in our country – both the Arabs and the leftists.” 

Anyone who imagines this as a local, passing outburst is wrong. As was the case with the girl from the ORT network vocational school who alleged earlier this year that her teacher had expressed “left-wing views” in the classroom – in this case too a student related that he cursed and shouted at a teacher who “justified the Arabs.” The students say that workshops to combat racism, which are run by an outside organization, leave little impression. “Racism is part of our life, no matter how much people say it’s bad,” a student said. 

In the concluding discussion in just one such workshop, the moderator asked the students how they thought racism might eradicated. “Thin out the Arabs,” was the immediate reply. “I want you to leave here with the knowledge that the phenomenon exists, for you to be self-critical, and then maybe you will prevent it,” the moderator said. To which one student shot back, “If we’re not racist, that makes us leftists.” 

The moderator, in a tone of despair: “I’d like it if you took at least something small from this workshop.” A student responds to the challenge: “That everyone should live the way he wants, that if he thinks he’s racist, let him think what he wants, and that’s all.” 

As an adjunct of racism and hatred, ethnic identities – Mizrahi (Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries) and Ashkenazi – are also flourishing. Yoav believes that there is “discrimination between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim. We were severely punished for the incident [with Michal], but if it were the other way around, that wouldn’t have happened.” Yoav later told Yaron that he found the common saying, “What’s this, an [open-air] market?” offensive, because his whole family works in the local produce market. 

“Our business has existed since the state was established,” he said. “I am proud of my father, who is a man of the market. What are they trying to say, that my father isn’t cultured? When people say something about ‘Arabs,’ it’s considered a generalization, but when they say ‘market,’ that’s alright. When people say ‘market,’ they are actually talking about Mizrahim. We need to change the prejudices about the market and about the Mizrahim. People say I am a racist, but it’s just the opposite.” 

“There is no discussion about the topic of racism in the school and there probably will not be,” the principal admits. “We are not prepared for the deep, long-term process that’s necessary. Even though I am constantly aware of the problem, it is far from being dealt with. It stems in the first place from the home, the community and the society, and it’s hard for us to cope with it. You have to remember that another reason it’s hard to deal with the problem is that it also exists among the teachers. Issues such as ‘human dignity’ or ‘humanism’ are in any case considered left-wing, and anyone who addresses them is considered tainted.” 

Threat of noise
Prof. Yoram Harpaz is a senior lecturer at Beit Berl Teachers College and the editor of Hed Hahinuch, a major educational journal. Recalling the recent promise of Education Minister Shay Piron that classes in the first two weeks of the coming school year will be devoted to “emotional and social aspects of the summer’s events,” including “manifestations of racism and incitement,” Harpaz observes that schools in their present format “are incapable of dealing with the racist personality and identity.” 

He adds: “The schools are not geared for this. They can only impart basic knowledge and skills, hold examinations on them and grade the students. In fact, they have a hard time doing even that. In classes of 40 students, with a strict curriculum and exams that have to be held, it is impossible to engage in values-based education.” 

Yaron, a senior lecturer in sociology at Ashkelon Academic College, emphasizes how important teachers and the principal (and the education system in general) feel it is to stick to the curriculum and the lessons schedule – two islands of quiet amid a risk-laden reality. 

“Doing this makes it possible for the teachers not to enter a dynamic sphere, which obligates openness and is liable to open a Pandora’s box, too,” he notes. “The greatest threat to the teacher is that there will be noise – that someone will complain, that an argument will break out, etc. That danger looms especially large in subjects that interest young people, such as sexuality, ethnicity, violence and racism. Teachers lack the tools to cope with these issues, so they are outsourced, which only emasculates educational personnel even more.” 

The demand for quiet in the schools is not only an instrumental matter, deriving from the difficulty of keeping order in the classroom. There is also an ideological aspect involved. In general, there is a whole series of subjects that are not recommended for discussion in schools, such as the Nakba (or “catastrophe,” the term used by Palestinians to denote the establishment of the State of Israel), human rights and the morality of Israeli army operations. This was one of the reasons for the warnings issued by Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev during the fighting in the Gaza Strip about “extreme and offensive remarks.” 

Harpaz: “In Israel, the most political country there is, political education has not been developed as a discipline in which high-school students are taught how to think critically about political attitudes, or the fact that those attitudes are always dependent on a particular viewpoint and on vested interests.” 

What, then, can be done? According to Harpaz, the solution will not be found in discussions between the homeroom teacher and the students. Nor is a condemnation, however late, by the education minister sufficient. A more radical change is needed. 

“Values and outlooks are acquired in a lengthy process of identification with ‘significant others,’ such as teachers,” Harpaz explains. “This means that every aspect of the schools – patterns of teaching, evaluation methods, curricula, the physical structure and the cultural climate – has to change in the direction of becoming far more dialogical and democratic.” 

And he has one more recommendation: not to flee from political and moral dilemmas, or from possible criticism. “Our leaders are so fearful of criticism, but they don’t understand that critical education is what generates close ties and caring. We get angry at those we love.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Dog on the Moon: On Frontier Wars, Settler colonialism and resistance

Dear friends,
as I have mentioned before one of the reasons I became active in the Palestine solidarity activism is because of my own personal history - I saw the similarities between the Indigenous struggle of the Palestinian people and the struggle of Indigenous Australians.  Coming from a family of mixed heritage (my mother is Aboriginal and my father comes from a mixed European background), my first engagement with political activism was around Aboriginal and Indigenous rights and the struggle for land rights and justice in this country.

Aboriginal Australians have been no different from the Palestinians in fighting back against ethnic cleansing and settler-colonisation. Our people carried out an extensive armed resistance to European settler colonialism. This resistance began the moment Cook set foot on Australian soil in 1770 – the Gweagal people attacked Cook’s landing party with spears and woomeras. From that moment on Aboriginal resistance never ceased (for my earlier blogs on this, click here)


This resistance to European settler-colonialism in Australia is known as "The Frontier Wars". The period was largely ignored historically until Australian historian, Henry Reynolds wrote about it in 1981.

Today, First Dog on the Moon (Andrew Marlton), who is an Australian Walkley Award winning political cartoonist and satirist published a cartoon addressing the Frontier Wars in Australia and the hypocrisy of the Australian Abbott government (it should be noted that the Labor govts have also been completely hypocritical in relation to this as well).  The cartoon is very poignant, moving me to to tears.

First Dog's cartoon about the Frontier Wars is not only about the resistance by Aboriginal Australia to European settler-colonialism but it is also about the whitewashing of that history by repeated Australian governments. 

I have been a big fan of First Dog on the Moon for sometime.  Recently, during the assault on Gaza, First Dog also published a cartoon ridiculing the Israeli government's propaganda about its settler-colonial attacks and war crimes in Gaza.  I posted a copy of the cartoon on my Red Butterfly Effect blog (click here) but I will also post it again below.
 


First Dog's (Andrew Marlton's) cartoons appear regularly in The Guardian.

First Dog on the Moon also has his own website, which you can check out here.

in solidarity, Kim
**


THERE ARE NO MONUMENTS, NO MEMORIALS ...

This cartoon first appeared in The Guardian’s online edition on 22 August, 2014

 



MEANWHILE IN GAZA...

This cartoon first appeared in The Guardian’s online edition on 21 July, 2014



Melbourne Community Protest and Picket against Israeli war profiteer, Elbit Systems

Dear friends,
after the inspiring action by activists in Melbourne against Israeli war profiteer, Elbit Systems (see my previous post), a community protest and picket is being organised for October. Please find the details below.

in solidarity, Kim