Slowly but surely US intellectuals challenge Israeli violence

As Israel continues its strangulation of the West Bank and Gaza, the Jewish state is starting to realise such actions come with a price (like South Africa during apartheid).

This news is big and important (and ignore the typical and utterly tiresome accusations of anti-Semitism) and signals a growing shift to tackle Israel where it hurts; legitimacy. When you occupy Palestinians for decades, expect to pay a price.

The New York Times reports:

An American organization of professors on Monday announced a boycott of Israeli academic institutions to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, signaling that a movement to isolate and pressure Israel that is gaining ground in Europe has begun to make strides in the United States.

Members of the American Studies Association voted by a ratio of more than two to one to endorse the boycott in online balloting that concluded Sunday night, the group said.

With fewer than 5,000 members, the group is not one of the larger scholarly associations. But its vote is a milestone for a Palestinian movement known as B.D.S., for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions, which for the past decade had found little traction in the United States. The American Studies Association is the second American academic group to back the boycott, movement organizers say, following the Association for Asian American Studies, which did so in April.

“It’s almost like a family betrayal,” said Manuel Trajtenberg, a leading Israeli scholar. “It’s very grave and very saddening that this happens, particularly so in the U.S.,” he said.

Dr. Trajtenberg, an economics professor at Tel Aviv University, earned his doctorate at Harvard and like many Israeli academics has had frequent sabbaticals at American universities.

Israel has strong trade ties with Western Europe, where the B.D.S. campaign has won some backing for economic measures, a particular concern for Israelis. Last week a Dutch company, Vitens, announced that it would not do business with Israel’s national water company, Mekorot, because of Israel’s policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel recently faced a potential crisis when it seemed its universities and companies would lose out on some $700 million for research from a European Union program after new guidelines prohibited investment in any institutions operating in territory Israel seized in the 1967 war. Israeli academics were reeling at the possibility that they would be punished over government policy toward the Palestinians, until Israeli and European officials struck a deal late last month to allow Israel to participate.

In April, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, and several times in recent years there have been strong efforts within Britain’s largest professors’ group, the University and College Union, to do the same.

Israelis have long seen Europe as more hostile — even anti-Semitic in some pockets — but a slap from the United States has a particular sting.

“Rather than standing up for academic freedom and human rights by boycotting countries where professors are imprisoned for their views, the A.S.A. chooses as its first ever boycott to boycott Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, in which academics are free to say what they want, write what they want and research what they want,” Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said Monday.

America is viewed not only as Israel’s staunchest ally, but its best friend, and many analysts have fretted publicly in recent weeks that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outspoken opposition to the interim Iran nuclear deal had damaged relations with Washington.

Next month, the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting will debate a resolution calling on the State Department to criticize Israel for barring American professors from going to Gaza and the West Bank when invited by Palestinian universities.

People on both sides of the issue acknowledged that despite the heat it generates, the requested boycott will have little practical effect, at least for now. The American Studies Association resolution bars official collaboration with Israeli institutions but not with Israeli scholars themselves; it has no binding power over members, and no American colleges have signed on.

In fact, the American Association of University Professors, the nation’s largest professors’ group, said it opposed the boycott. A number of American scholars, while angry at Israeli policies in the West Bank, say they oppose singling Israel out over other countries with far worse human rights records. Others say it makes little sense to focus on Israeli universities where government policy often comes under strong criticism.

“O.K., so a couple of Israeli researchers will not be invited by a couple of American researchers,” said Avraham Burg, a leftist former Labor Party lawmaker who was one of the founders of Molad, a research group that recentlypublished a report on Israeli isolation. “That for me is awful, because the academic community is the last one with the freedom of thought and freedom of expression.”

But Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian activist and a founder of the B.D.S. movement, said the boycott vote shed light on the close collaboration between Israel’s universities and its government and military, and it put those universities on notice that they will become unwelcome in international academic circles.

“It is perhaps the strongest indicator yet that the B.D.S. movement is reaching a tipping point, even in the U.S., the last bastion of support for Israel’s unjust system,” he said.

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Palestinian culture of resistance grows due to Israeli oppression

Amira Hass in Haaretz:

At a West Bank University, in a class on the writings of Michel Foucault, one student said that every time she goes through checkpoints, she presents her identity card to the soldiers upside down. She makes use of the little space she can to make the sovereign decision not to be the automaton that the soldier, and the system, expect her to be.

Perhaps it’s an unusual example, but she is a reminder that the Israeli control of the Palestinian people always prompts reactions and creates a constant state of awareness and alertness. Even obedience is a response. Obedience and attempts to disrupt Israeli activity, as the entity that revokes their freedom and independence, are always on the minds of the Palestinian people.

The ethos of mass opposition remains a frame of reference for those who are not active, or are no longer active.

A culture of resistance is not just an empty slogan in Palestinian society; it’s assumed, and apologies must be made when one does not stick to it. Currently, it seems there are more people apologizing than resisting.

The most prominent apologizers are senior PLO and Palestinian authority bureaucrats as well as the urban middle class. In the villages, and the refugee camps, no one needs to apologize: their very existence is constant resistance.

But both the activists and the apologizers can take comfort in the fact that like in the past, at some point, a moment will come where “people can’t take it anymore,” and join in.

But what is that point? People who think in terms of struggle, and people who want to take advantage of the situation to make a name or a career for themselves, are in a race against time. At some point, the bubble of normality under occupation will burst – that’s a basic assumption that we hear all the time.

The question is whether the bubble will burst before enough of a foundation has been laid to deal with a new conflict, in the form of a grassroots uprising, against the Israeli occupation, Even the PA people feel the way of negotiation, which has been followed for 20 months, is bankrupt.

The American tendency today to artificially engineer an agreement reminds one of its insistence on holding the Camp David summit in 2000. The newspaper al-Ayyam hinted on Friday that the proposed American framework agreement does not designate East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state; it also ignores the refugees. The American effort to force an agreement (or punish the Palestinians for refusing it) could be the breaking point. That would be bad for advocates of unarmed resistance.

In recent years, various popular-resistance committees were formed, and they are trying to improve coordination among themselves. After years of isolated responses to the separation barrier in various villages and Hebron, the committees decided that the time has come to take the initiative. Blocking major roads, erecting tent encampments like Bab a-Shams and volunteering in villages, are only some of the initiatives that can be seen as preparation for more comprehensive efforts.

The boycott movement continues to spark imaginations. Its establishment in the West Bank roughly ten years ago forced the Palestinian Authority to declare a boycott on products manufactured in the West Bank. Enforcement of the boycott was spotty but now, informal organizations are considering boycotting goods from the other side of the Green Line as well.

“Boycotting 10% of Israeli goods is likely to increase Palestinian production by 10% and create tens of thousands of jobs,” said one activist. “When we call for boycott, we think not only of nationalist concerns, but also for the personal benefit of many unemployed people.”

Activists are in touch with other thinkers too: Palestinians elsewhere in the world and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are also part of the unarmed resistance. One demand that arose out of the blue in the past – to dismantle the PA – is gradually ceding to thoughts about morphing the PA from a “contractor” of the Israeli occupation into a resistance authority. That would begin, says the activist, with canceling cooperation on security, as – “the police and top officials are also under occupation.”

Also, human rights organizations are pushing to take advantage of the opportunities created when Palestine was defined a non-member observer state by the UN. Popular resistance, as discussed by the activists, would include all of these things.

One activist points out that Palestinian society is very young: roughly 50% are under 18, and 75% under 35. Activists are placing their hopes on the youth, not the older generations.

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What Mandela teaches Israel (but she isn’t listening)

The great Gideon Levy in Haaretz (and one of the finest columns on the death of the great South African, though Jonathan Cook’s dissenting view is vital):

South African President Nelson Mandela, in his address for International Solidarity Day with the Palestinian People on December 4, 1997, said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after Mandela’s death: “Nelson Mandela was among the greatest figures of our time … a man of vision and … a moral leader of the highest order.”

The sharp-eyed surely noticed the picture in the background when Netanyahu delivered his statement: an Israeli flag and the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. There he was, eulogizing the “moral leader” against the background of the occupied city, whose Palestinian residents are oppressed and dispossessed. It’s a city where a separation regime prevails – an example of Israeli apartheid, even if it’s not the worst example. The sharp-eared must have noticed how false his flowery words sounded.

President Shimon Peres also offered high praise for the “leader of immense stature,” and his words were no less hypocritical. The man who was involved up to his neck in the disgraceful cooperation between Israel and apartheid South Africa, who hosted its prime ministers with pomp and circumstance while Mandela languished in prison, is suddenly admiring the man who symbolized the struggle with that regime.

Neither Peres nor Netanyahu have any right to eulogize Mandela; both are responsible, more than any other statesmen in the free world, for undermining his legacy and establishing the (nonidentical) twin of the regime he battled. They’re eulogizing him? Mandela will turn in his grave and history will laugh bitterly.

Israeli public opinion tolerates everything, even intolerable, two-faced eulogies. But Israeli cooperation with the apartheid regime, and the continuation of its legacy in the occupied territories, cry out beyond the gloomy skies of a grieving South Africa.

The world’s mourning should inspire some pointed questions here as well. Why was Israel virtually the only country that collaborated with that evil regime? Why are so many good people convinced that Israel is an apartheid state? While it may not pay to dwell on past shame – even Mandela forgave Israel – questions about the present should disturb us greatly.

In April I visited the new South Africa that Mandela had forged as a guest of its Foreign Ministry. The visit was etched deeply in my heart, as comparisons to the Israeli occupation regime cried out from every stone, and with them also hope for change.

For example, there was the Supreme Court in Johannesburg, built on the ruins of the prison where blacks were thrown when they dared enter forbidden areas to find work. And in Soweto I visited Mandela’s home, where you can still see the bullet holes of a failed attempt at a “targeted killing.”

The comparisons echoed, as did the lessons. Roelf Meyer – a defense minister, constitution minister and deputy minister of law and order during apartheid, and later chief negotiator with the African National Congress – told me: “If we had started a few years earlier, we could have prevented a lot of bloodshed and gotten a better deal.” After beating his breast over many sins, Meyer is now part of the new regime, like many whites.

An unjust state becomes a just state; discrimination and dispossession are replaced by equality and democracy. The scowling faces tell of South Africa’s backwardness and rising crime, which are serious problems. But they don’t reduce the enormity of the historic achievement and its lesson for Israel: When a country turns from unjust to just, everything else is dwarfed in comparison.

Mandela proved that the dream is realistic, that what seemed like a fantasy only 20 years ago is achievable, and without much bloodshed. He showed that enemies of the past can live together in one country and even have equality; that a new chapter can be opened against all odds.

Mandela said he was not liberated as long as the Palestinians were not free. Those in Israel who seek to eulogize him can’t continue to ignore this.

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What a humanist, progressive, pro-Palestinian Jewish Rabbi looks like

Brant Rosen is that rare breed, an American Jewish Rabbi who remains outspoken about Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.

He’s been profiled in the New York Jewish Forward newspaper:

It was on December 28, 2008, soon after Israel launched its punishing military campaign in Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead, that Rabbi Brant Rosen hit the “send” key for a blog post that he believed could well pitch him out of his pulpit.

“We good liberal Jews are ready to protest oppression and human-rights abuse anywhere in the world, but are all too willing to give Israel a pass,” Rosen had typed out as Israel’s bombs were falling on Gaza — part of a massive response, with numerous civilian casualties, to rockets fired into Southern Israel by the Palestinian faction Hamas, which controls the territory.

“What Israel has been doing to the people of Gaza,” Rosen, 50, wrote on his blog, Shalom Rav, “is an outrage.”

The young rabbi, then a decade into his tenure as spiritual leader of Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, a 520-household synagogue in Evanston, Ill., concluded his 221-word post with these sentences: “There, I’ve said it. Now what do I do?”

That rhetorical question came from a writer whom Newsweek had named earlier that year to its list of the top 25 pulpit rabbis in the United States.

Today, Rosen, 50, heads the rabbinical council of a group called Jewish Voice for Peace, which makes him a high-profile official with an organization on a much different kind of list: the Anti-Defamation League’s “Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in the U.S.” for 2013.

JVP, which is No. 6 on the list, does not just criticize Israel’s fundamental policies toward the Palestinians and Iran, while claiming its position as a matter of Jewish values. The group contains a range of Israel critics, from self-described left-wing Zionists who favor some form of binational state to outright anti-Zionists. And it supports boycott, divestment and sanction campaigns against targets it views as involved in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. As an organization, it is determinedly agnostic on whether Israel should be governed as an explicitly Jewish state.

An October 2013 report from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs underlines how unusual Rosen’s profile is. Of 552 rabbis from varied points on the political spectrum that the council polled, nearly 40% said they sometimes or often avoided expressing their true feelings about Israel.

“[Rabbis] frequently find themselves fearful of, or caught in the maelstrom of, tension regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their personal views about it,” the JCPA report said.

Rosen said the report’s findings were consistent with his own observations regarding his colleagues. “Most rabbis just don’t engage in Israel at all. They don’t fit in the AIPAC route,” he said, referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful mainstream pro-Israel lobby. “But they’re also afraid to speak their truth on this issue…. I confess I was like that for a long time.”

Rosen’s credo for his own congregational leadership is a famous journalistic motto: to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” If he had not become a rabbi, Rosen said, his longtime dream had been to become a newspaper columnist.

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Who and what killed Yasser Arafat?

A fascinating, new documentary by Clayton Swisher for Al Jazeera English, Killing Arafat, that examines the murky circumstances around his death. It focuses principally on the Palestinian Authority (rather than the obvious other suspect, Israel) and portrays the US-backed institution as corrupt and utterly untrustworthy. Swisher explains more about this in a recent piece in the Guardian:

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Why BDS must be supported for justice in the Middle East

My weekly Guardian column is published today:

The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, a thriving Palestinian-led initiative that attacks institutional links to Israel’s illegal settlements, has been gaining in popularity. In Australia, the movement has been slowly growing as Israel continues to defy international law – and it now faces one of its greatest opportunities in the court of public opinion.

Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center is an Israel-based organisation that claims to be a civil group “fighting for rights of hundreds of terror victims”. It is currently taking Jake Lynch, head of Sydney University’sCentre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), to the Australian federal court. They assert that Lynch has allegedly breached the 1975 racial discrimination act by refusing to sponsor a fellowship application by Israeli academic Dan Avnon. Lynch and CPACS support BDS, and since Avnon works at Hebrew University – a key intellectual hub which is targeted by boycotters for allegedly being complicit in the establishment of illegal settlements – Lynch declined to be named as a reference.

The story has been largely ignored. Fairfax Media has not touched it, and ABC TV’s 7.30 only briefly addressed it last week. Instead, it is Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian which has been driving the debate on the issue, publishing countless stories that deliberately conflates antisemitism and support for the BDS movement.

Just last week, after the horrific bashing of Jewish men in Sydney, the paper featured a Holocaust survivor on its front page condemning the attack. Within the article was the rhetorical device of inserting comment about BDS – as if physically assaulting Jewish people was on the same spectrum as a peaceful, non-violent attempt to force Israel to abide by international law. Bizarrely, an op-ed published by Newscorp’s The Telegraph also said that the best response to the assaults was to support Max Brenner – the chocolate shop whose parent company, the Strauss Group, has been a target of BDS protestors for supporting the Israeli Defence Force.

Countless letters have since been published in The Australian reinforcing a correlation between antisemitism and the boycott – following this logic, Lynch and his backers are a threat to public order. This also ignores the nearly 2,000 signatories of a public petition backing Lynch (which a number of academics, including the co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish VoicesPeter Slezak, signed).

Last week, The Australian ran an editorial which implied that Lynch blocked Avnon’s academic credentials simply because he was an Israeli. Another front page story in the paper last week claimed that Hebrew University is a bastion of Jewish and Arab co-operation, yet ignored an example of the institution repressing Palestinian rights through its connections to the arms industry.

Lynch tells me that Shurat HaDin have deliberately skewed his BDS stance. He denies, despite what the group’s Australian lawyer Andrew Hamilton said on ABC TV last week, having “admitted” that he boycotted Avnon because he was Israeli. He told me:

“I have made it abundantly clear from the start that the policy is aimed at institutional links. If the Hebrew University is anything like the University of Sydney, then it probably employs academics from various backgrounds in terms of religious affiliation and country of origin. It would not make any difference to my or the CPACS’ policy if the applicant was originally from Belgium, Botswana or Bolivia – I believe the University of Sydney should revoke its part in the Sir Zelman Cowen and Technion fellowship schemes, and I reserve my right not to collaborate with them. Andrew Hamilton has clearly not paid serious attention to our policy, or to what I have actually done in pursuit of it.”

It’s worth noting that Avnon, endlessly praised in the Australian media as a humanist who believes in co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians, sits on Israeli group Metzilah’s General Assembly. This is a group that put out a report explicitly rejecting the Palestinian right of return to lands stolen by Israel, and claims that a Jewish state discriminating against equal rights for Palestinians is not problematic. It is worth noting that the Palestinian right of return is a requirement in international law.

Largely missing from the ferocious media coverage has been any information about the real agenda of Shurat HaDin. The organisation, according to Wikileaks documents, has strong links to Israeli intelligence and Mossad, just one of the many groups that now prosecutes Israel’s argument for the Jewish state. The law firm tried to sue Twitter for daring to host Hizbollah tweets, former US President Jimmy Carter for criticising Israel and Stephen Hawking for damning the Israeli occupation. Even the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, a leading Zionist lobby, refuses to endorse Shurat HaDin’s case against Lynch, pointing out that attempts to suppress the campaign through litigation are inappropriate.

Also absent from the debate is the reason BDS exists. It is growing due to a complete lack of faith in US-led peace talks. American journalist Max Blumenthal recently published a book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, which shows in forensic detail the reality of the Israeli mainstream’s embrace of blatant racism against Arabs and Africans. This isn’t what the Israel Shurat HaDin and its fellow travellers want the world to see. Indeed, Australian Israel lobby AIJAC responded to the latest BDS case against Lynch by completely ignoring illegal settlements altogether. This week Dean Sherr, a young lobbyist, wrote an entire column in The Australian about BDS without mentioning their existence.

The fear of BDS is reflected in the massive amount of money and resources Israel is spending to stop it. Instead of moving towards a democratic state for all its citizens, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to demolish Palestinian homes and build illegal colonies on Palestinian land.

Shurat HaDin’s Australian lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, told Haaretz last week that BDS “does nothing to help Palestinians and indeed harms them. It is merely an excuse for the vilest public antisemitic campaign the western world has seen since the Holocaust.” With such a statement, which essentially compares Jake Lynch to a Nazi, it’s no wonder Zionist advocates are losing the public relations battle globally.

For some of us on the left, using the racial discrimination act as a tool to silence views we find distasteful is deeply worrying – I write this as somebody who opposed the legal case against News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt in 2011. A real democracy is a place where any individual has the right to vehemently oppose colluding with an overseas university institution that disputes equal rights for Jews and Arabs.

I look forward to Australia’s leading public backers of free speech, such as Bolt, Miranda Devine and the Institute of Public Affairs, loudly backing Lynch. Somehow I think I’ll be waiting a while for these brave advocates to find their voice.

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ABC Radio Perth interview about Profits of Doom and religion/faith

I was interviewed this week by ABC Radio Perth’s Afternoon presenter Russell Woolf about my book Profits of Doom, Israel/Palestine and ethics:

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Mossad-backed Israeli law group attempts to silence free speech over Palestine

As the Israeli occupation of Palestine worsens and Zionist racism against Arabs in general becomes far more known globally (examples here and here), Israeli groups are trying to stamp out dissent through dodgy legal means. One Israeli group, Shurat HaDin, is going around the world attempting to silence critics of Israel. In Australia, two academics from Sydney University, Jake Lynch and Stuart Rees, both friends and colleagues, are under attack for daring to back BDS. Al Jazeera and Haaretz have covered the story.

Now, thanks to Wikileaks, we discover that Shurat HaDin is nothing more than a Mossad proxy. Electronic Intifada has tackled the story and asked me to comment:

There is growing realization amongst hardline Zionist groups that critics of Israel and its brutal occupation are winning over the public across the world … [so] groups such as Shurat HaDin dare to pursue legitimate advocates of Palestinian justice. In Australia, with barely any public support … the tiny organization is attempting to shut down the few outspoken backers of BDS through tribunals and the courts. Public opinion polls now show in Australia that a majority of the population supports Palestine so Shurat HaDin are fighting a losing battle.

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Another day and another example of extreme Zionist racism against Arabs

The extremism and growing fascism inside Israel is largely ignored by the mainstream media and political elites (though it’s something Max Blumenthal’s new book Goliath covers brilliantly).

A case in point (via The Times of Israel):

A right-wing, anti-assimilation organization that campaigns to prevent Arab men from dating Jewish women has opened a hotline enabling members of the public to inform on women so that they can be persuaded to end the relationship.

When called, a recording on the Lehava hotline says the service is meant to “save the daughters of Israel.” In addition to offering support for women, the line also provides the names and telephone numbers of Arab men that the organization suspects of dating Jewish women.

Callers to the hotline are given a number of choices from a menu in which a recorded voice refers to a non-Jewish man as a “goy,” a derogatory term for a non-Jew.

“If you are in contact with a goy and need assistance, press 1,” is the first option offered by the service, which continues by asking callers if they wish to inform on others.

“If you know a girl who is involved with a goy and you want to help her, press 2,” the voice recording says.

The service then asks for information about non-Jewish men who are in relationships with Jews.

“If you know of a goy who masquerades as a Jew or is harassing Jewish women, or of locations where there is an assimilation problem, press 3.”

“The purpose is to submit immediate reports about girls who are going out with Arabs, and about Arabs who are pretending to be Jews in order to catch Jewish girls in their net,” the chairman of the Lehava organization, Bentzi Gupstein, told Walla, claiming that each report was acted on immediately, as a matter of life and death.

“We approach the girl in question and tell her about the life that awaits her with the selfsame Ahmed who at the moment is calling himself Yossi,” he explained.

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An instructive tale of Zionism, Israel lobby bullying, history and the truth

Back in June I was invited to Brisbane by the Queensland History Teacher’s Association to deliver the keynote speech at their annual conference. I spoke about Israel/Palestine, the role of Zionist violence against Palestinians, apartheid in the West Bank and the responsibility of all of us to speak out when injustice occurs. It was warmly received.

I was informed soon after the event that the Queensland Zionist lobby was upset. How dare this organisation invite me to talk to teachers, they wrote? Apparently I may have infected these teachers with dangerous ideas, such as BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and a realistic view of the conflict. This is problematic for insular and bigoted Jews who are desperate to maintain the fiction that Israel is a noble state that doesn’t oppress the Palestinians but merely cuddles them gently.

To their great credit, the History Teacher’s Association responded strongly, rejecting Zionist bullying and rightly arguing that alternative views are vital when discussing the Middle East and adherence to a blindly Zionist line serves nobody except propagandists. The correspondence, written by the Zionist lobby and Association, shows the extremism of hardline Jews who refuse to tolerate any challenge to their narrative. Global, public opinion, along with many young Jews, is increasingly turning away from a militant and pro-occupation Israel.

In the Association’s latest public newsletter, extracts published below, it’s clear how out of touch the Zionist lobby has become.

First the Association’s introduction:

The term 3 ejournal is special because it contains a tremendously important debate about the history of the Middle East. Given that so many senior Modern History courses feature a unit on the Arab/Israeli conflict we think it would be useful to share these exchanges. At the recent QHTA Annual Conference, author Antony Loewenstein was invited to explore a notable silence in the crisis in the Middle East narrative – the events of 1948. Indeed, these events have never been accepted as a legitimate part of Middle East Peace talks. Antony highlighted what he believed were key moments in the removal of 800 000 Palestinians from their homes. He also explores the way Judaism and Zionism merge in most mainstream commentary on the Middle East.

In this framework the interests of all Jewish people are identical with Israel and its policies. Antony argues that this is not the case. The presentation drew sharp criticism from Jason Steinberg, President of the Jewish Board of Deputies Queensland Chapter. Jason Steinberg argued that Antony did not have the credentials of a historian to reliably evaluate the circumstances surrounding the establishment of Israel. He indicated that Queensland students were being misled if teachers uncritically accepted Antony Loewenstein’s version of Israel’s foundation year.

In response to Jason Steinberg’s letter, President of the QHTA Sue Burvill-Shaw wrote an account of Antony’s participation in the QHTA conference and outlined the approach Queensland history teachers adopt when teaching contested history.

We have published Antony Loewenstein’s speech, an article by Jason Steinberg criticising the central tenet of a recent book by Antony entitled After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine, as well as our letter because they remind us that different interpretations of the past are often connected to current debates and that these debates shape the way evidence is gathered and empathy is expressed. We invite readers to contribute their understanding of the historiographical issues raised in this journal.

When students reflect on the Arab/Israeli conflict it can sometimes appear that violence and religious discord are structural features of the region. The past, and not too distant, provides evidence of vibrant multi-faith communities across the Middle East. In Baghdad, Alexandria and Jerusalem many saw themselves as part of a common Judeo-Arabic culture. Jews and Arabs once sat in the same coffee houses and enjoyed the same music. The Israeli poet, Amira Hess declared, “I am Baghdad’s daughter”. Echoing this affectionate recollection of a Jewish upbringing in a multi-faith environment, Israeli novelist Shime’on Ballas wrote “I have never denied my Arab origins or the Arabic language. I am an Arab who has taken up an Israeli identity but no less an Arab than any other Arab”. These affirmations of a shared culture can be a source of hope.

Dr Brian Hoepper suggests that Tony Abbott’s comments about the Australian History Curriculum might indicate a re-emergence of the of the history wars that raged during the Howard years. In the lead-up to the Federal election Mr Abbott argued that there was a left wing bias in the curriculum because too prominent a place is afforded Indigenous studies and trade union history. The Australian, an energetic participant in most cultural battles, tells its readers that the focus in schools should be the “solid canon of history”. Brian neatly traces the opening salvos in the campaign to shape history education and points to some important questions that need to be asked.

In this edition Janis Hanley encourages us to consider ways that we are able to connect large and complicated global events such as a world war to local sources of historical knowledge. Janis describes an investigation carried out by year 2s at the Mudgeeraba Light Horse Museum and supported by local experts. Also included towards the end of this journal are some teaching suggestions guides to accessing the most recent information about the Senior Ancient and Modern History Curriculum.

Adrian Skerritt

Humanities HOD

Centenary State High School

Here’s the Israel lobby’s letter:

The word “Zionism” was grossly misrepresented by Antony Loewenstein in his speech to the QHTA earlier this year. Zionism is simply the affirmation of the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination in Israel. It does not imply a territorial claim to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip or to particular borders. The fundamental and incontrovertible nature of the right of self-determination of peoples has been recognized in the UN Charter (Art 1.2) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art 1.1) and by the International Court of Justice in the Namibia, Western Sahara and East Timor cases. Australia’s Professor James Crawford regards the right of self-determination and other peoples’ rights as a category of human rights. Individual rights are another. And yes, we accept that the right applies also to the Palestinians. We support a two-State solution for that reason. The UN has supported a resolution of the conflict on the basis of two States for two peoples since 1947, and has rejected the so-called one-State solution.

If a person were to contend that Palestinians are not an authentic nation and do not have the right to national self-determination and to have their own state, I suspect that that person would be widely denounced as a racist, with Antony Loewenstein leading the charge. Yet he sees no irony in contending, expressly or by implication, that the Jewish people (despite centuries of nationhood and statehood, amply attested by their own records and the writings of neighbouring civilisations) are not an authentic nation and do not have the right to national self-determination and to have their own state. He may not admit it expressly but he is saying, in effect, that it is acceptable for the Jews to live once again as vulnerable minority communities within States which each give expression to the language, culture and history of their majority community, but this would never do for the Palestinians! We say that this would never do for either people.

The following article “One-State Dream, One-State Nightmare” published in the New York Times in August this year will hopefully provide Queensland history teachers with some further information about why the suggestion of a One-State solution would not work.

With thanks

Jason Steinberg

Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies

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Max Blumenthal talks about his new book “Goliath” on Israel/Palestine

American journalist Max Blumenthal has been reporting on the Middle East, the far-right, racists and weirdos for years. He’s a gem, and a friend.

His latest book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, has been released (I’ve just received a copy). Here he is speaking to Abby Martin on RT:

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How BDS against fossil fuel companies grows in power

Interesting results and instructive of how similar tactics are increasingly used by critics of Israel through the BDS movement.

The Guardian reports:

A campaign to persuade investors to take their money out of the fossil fuel sector is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign and could cause significant damage to coal, oil and gas companies, according to a study from the University of Oxford.

The report compares the current fossil fuel divestment campaign, which has attracted 41 institutions since 2010, with those against tobacco, apartheid in South Africa, armaments, gambling and pornography. It concludes that the direct financial impact of such campaigns on share prices or the ability to raise funds is small but the reputational damage can still have major financial consequences.

“Stigmatisation poses a far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies – any direct impacts of divestment pale in comparison,” said Ben Caldecott, a research fellow at the University of Oxford‘s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, and an author of the report. “In every case we reviewed, divestment campaigns were successful in lobbying for restrictive legislation.”

The report is part of a new research programme on stranded assets backed by Aviva Investors, HSBC, Standard & Poor’s and others. It found: “The fossil fuel campaign has achieved a lot in the relatively short time since its inception.”

Some major investors, such as the $74bn Scandinavian asset manager Storebrand, have already pulled their funds from coal stocks. But the researchers found that even if the maximum possible capital was divested by university endowments and public pension funds, the total was relatively small compared to the market capitalisation of traded fossil fuel companies and the size of state-owned enterprises.

However, the team concluded: “The outcome of the stigmatisation process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vastenergy value chain.”

Analysing previous campaigns, the researchers found examples of stigmatised companies being shunned by governments and being barred from public contracts or acquiring licences. “Stigma attached to merely one small area of a large company may threaten sales across the board,” the report found, citing the examples of Motorola dumping its defence business due to bad press and Revlon’s decision to disinvest from its South African operation after customer groups threatened a boycott.

The report also found instances when customers, suppliers and potential employees were scared off by stigma and where stigma had led shareholders to demand changes in the management of companies.

Bill McKibben, the environmental campaigner who leads the 350.org divestment campaign which is expanding from the US into Europe this autumn, said: “This divestment campaign is just one front in the climate fight, but of all the actions people can take to bring about structural change, it’s probably the easiest. Severing our ties with the guys digging up the carbon won’t bankrupt them–but it will start to politically bankrupt them, and make their job of dominating the planet’s politics that much harder.”

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