Justice depends on freedom of speech

By   /   March 25, 2017  /   1 Comment

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The New Zealand Jewish Council (NZJC) has declared its opposition to the idea of new hate-crime legislation. NZJC President, Stephen Goodman, explained the Council’s position, commenting that: “Freedom of speech is much too important to restrict, unless there is also a threat of violence involved”.

The New Zealand Jewish Council (NZJC) has declared its opposition to the idea of new hate-crime legislation. NZJC President, Stephen Goodman, explained the Council’s position, commenting that: “Freedom of speech is much too important to restrict, unless there is also a threat of violence involved”. This very welcome statement is in stark contrast to the huge Zionist campaign being waged in the UK and elsewhere to stifle free speech and prevent action in defence of the Palestinian people. The Zionist state’s strategy is to divert attention from Israel’s human rights abuses by conflating campaigns like Israeli Apartheid Week with anti-Semitism. Enormous psychological pressure is being brought to bear upon individuals and governing bodies by organisations, such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and many people are made to feel afraid for their careers if they step out of line. Academic institutions are among those most targeted. Recently, the University of Central Lancashire banned a meeting named “Debunking misconceptions on Palestine”, issuing a statement saying that the meeting “contravened the definition of anti-Semitism recently adopted by the government, and would therefore not be lawful.” Concerned non-Zionist Jewish students complained that they were being told they do not have the right to define anti-Semitism for themselves.

However, the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, adopted by UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party, is being rejected by an ever-increasing body of opinion. Staff at dozens of universities condemn the definition. In an open letter, many professors aired their concern that Minister Jo Johnson was asking for the Government’s definition of anti-Semitism to be adopted throughout the higher education system. They say that support for the Palestinian people and respect for international humanitarian law must not be taken “as prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism”.

A letter published in the Guardian, signed by academics at the London School of Economics, University College London and Warwick, York and Exeter Universities, among others, condemned the conflating of “criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism”. They describe a statement by the Campaign Against anti-Semitism as outrageous interference with free expression and academic freedom:

“As academics with positions at UK universities, we wish to express our dismay at this attempt to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for more than 50 years. It is with disbelief that we witness explicit political interference in university affairs in the interests of Israel under the thin disguise of concern about antisemitism.”

The BDS movement opposes all forms of anti-Semitism

A Shalom Kiwi article attacks the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for “symbolically singling out Israel for disproportionate measures”. The two key terms to be considered here are ‘sanctions’ and ‘disproportionate’. With regard to Palestinian human rights, the 1922 League of Nations Mandate assigned to Britain, as a “sacred trust of civilisation”, the responsibility “to advance the welfare of the Palestinian people and guide them to independence”. They have been massively betrayed by the world community and, 95 years on, find themselves abandoned to the cruel will of Zionist military Occupation.

Disproportionate

Palestinians are being forced to live with the daily humiliation of checkpoints, the terrors of abduction and imprisonment of their children, house demolitions and land theft. UN refugee camps can offer no refuge from Israeli Army violence and other breaches of international law because no effort is made to bring Israel to account. Israel’s almost daily Gaza ceasefire violations following its total blitzes on Gaza, such as Operations ‘Cast Lead’ and ‘Protective Edge’, are examples of extreme asymmetry. Israel’s almost fifty-year military Occupation and colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with the Syrian Golan Heights, are unprecedented in modern history.

Sanctions

The relevance of ‘sanctions’, has to do with the vital importance of international law, accountability and justice. Together, they offer a way to counter Israeli intransigence exemplified in an Arutz Sheva article that relies on the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism to ‘prove’ that BDS activities are anti-Semitic “as they are only applied against Israel”. The Zionist article also says that the same is true for various European Union labelling rules applying to what it calls the ‘disputed’ West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights. The Palestinian people regard the movement to boycott Israel as part of the global struggle against racism and all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

The BDS movement says it rejects Zionism because it “constitutes the racist and discriminatory ideological pillar of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid that has deprived the Palestinian people of its fundamental human rights since 1948”. BDS is an inclusive human rights movement, basing its principles upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 2015, more than 1,000 Black artists, intellectuals and organisations recognised “the racism that characterises Israel’s treatment of Palestinians” and condemned Zionism as well as White supremacy movements.

Argument and debate

Stephen Goodman’s support for freedom of speech finds expression in another Shalom Kiwi article concerning one aspect of Judaism:

“. . . disagreement is a fundamental part of Judaism; the Talmud is essentially a collection of arguments – disagreements – between Rabbis. Such debate is a cornerstone of modern democratic society as much as it was (and still is) a cornerstone of rabbinical scholarship and Judaic law. Any debate requires freedom of expression.”

The article concludes with a warning:

“Once we start relying on state machinery to determine what is the truth and legitimate speech and what is not, we are in dangerous territory.”

Extreme and threatening references to anti-Semitism act as a deterrent for many people who might otherwise play an active part in the Palestine/Israel debate. All that is required is goodwill and respect for truth. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention are valuable yardsticks by which to measure different points of view.

Judaism is a religion – Zionism is an ideology

Some religious Jews are also Zionists, some are not. The same is true of non-religious Jews. Jews and non-Jews alike manifest a wide range of adherence to religions and ideologies, ranging from extreme fanaticism to faith that is rational and liberal. Driven by its founding ideology, Zionism, Israel claims to speak and act in the name of all Jews. Any Jew who opposes Zionism is branded as ‘self-hating’ by Zionist extremists and vilified. But the range of Jewish viewpoints regarding Zionism is vast and although many secular and religiously observant Jews long ago rejected Israel’s propaganda, others continue to support it in the most extreme ways.

Israeli Rabbi Dov Lior

Dov Lior heads the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria. For extreme Zionists, they are part of Israel even though they are in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza. He also serves as the Chief Rabbi of Hebron and the illegal Occupation settlement Kiryat Arba, both of which are also in the Palestinian West Bank. Lior’s racist assertions do not bear repeating here but they can be found at Wikipedia and ynetnews. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz also has an article on the rabbi’s racism. On 28 July 2016, Haaretz also published evidence of top Israeli officials discussing ways to violate international law in order to build the Kiryat Arba Occupation settlement.

Rabbi Dovid Weiss: The Torah demands justice for the Palestinians

At the opposite pole of religious understanding, Rabbi Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta International, told a gathering in Times Square, New York:

“My friends, for 53 years the world has ignored the just claims and rights of the Palestinian people. And, yes, for that same amount of time, some people, blinded by the dogmas of militant Zionism, have first created and then perpetuated this horrible abuse of an entire people. We are here to proclaim that the crimes committed against the Palestinian people when they were exiled from their homes in 1948 and deprived of their basic human rights, first as refugees and later as persecuted subjects in the West Bank and Gaza, were not done in the name of Torah or of Torah believing Jews.”

It is worth remembering that the majority of rabbis were opposed to the holding of the first Zionist Congress in Munich and the Zionists were forced to hold it, not in Germany as intended, but in Basle, Switzerland. In his address, Dovid Weiss also reminded his audience that:

“As Torah Jews we are called upon to feel and express our sense of compassion when any person or group of human beings suffers: In the words of King David, the Psalmist, “And His Mercy is upon all His creatures.” All men are created in the image of G-d. As Torah Jews our prime imperatives in dealing with our non-Jewish brethren – and certainly our cousins the Arab peoples – are peace, respect, mutual understanding and empathy. Thus, it is obvious, that the Jewish people has no quarrel whatsoever!! with any Arab nation.”

There is hope in this embracing affirmation and while Zionists have the right to dismiss Weiss’s words as inappropriate or even anti-Semitic, the rabbi’s humanitarianism will remain a welcome alternative to divisiveness and prejudice.

Within Israel and around the world, Jewish and non-Jewish revulsion at Zionist human rights abuses expresses itself in many ways, including support for BDS. The website of B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, explains that: “B’Tselem has championed human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for over two decades, promoting a future where all Israelis and Palestinians will live in freedom and dignity”. Members of B’Tselem put themselves on the line, confronting the Israeli military and bearing witness to human rights abuses by the Israeli Occupation, they use video and other means to bring them to the attention of the wider world. By so doing they hope to shame the perpetrators and curb the Israeli Army’s excesses. B’Tselem is by no means alone in this work. Here are some other Jewish voices that Israel does not wish you to hear: Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace, Rabbis for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights on Home DemolitionsThe Shalom Center, MIFTAH – 400 Rabbis publicly oppose home demolitions in Israel, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). ICAHD is a non-violent, direct-action group, originally established to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territory. In New Zealand there is Dayenu: “New Zealand Jews against racism and the illegal Occupation of Palestinian land.”

UN Report: Israel has established an ‘apartheid regime’

A new United Nations report accuses Israel of having established “an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”. The report reflects world-wide public concern over Israel’s Occupation settlements and suppression of Palestinian self-determination. The manner of the Occupation appears to have resulted in the creation of an apartheid-style, discriminatory, single-state. The UN ESCWA report: Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid: Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1 states that:

“Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. Aware of the seriousness of this allegation, the authors of the report conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law. The analysis in this report rests on the same body of international human rights law and principles that reject anti-Semitism and other racially discriminatory ideologies, including: the Charter of the United Nations (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965).”

The report relies for its definition of apartheid primarily on article II of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973, hereinafter the Apartheid Convention):

“The term ‘the crime of apartheid’, which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa, shall apply to… inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”

Zionism’s implacable hostility towards the UN

US President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has taken up the strident Zionist narrative against this UN report by accusing the organisation of what she and Israeli officials describe as “a strong anti-Israel bias”. Dismissing the careful language and indisputable evidence presented in the report, she simply asserted: “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign.” The US/Israeli alliance with UN Secretary General António Guterres, led to intolerable pressure being brought to bear on the executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Rima Khalaf. She resigned as a matter of principle rather than cave in and withdraw the report, which she fully supports. Rima Khalaf said: “We expected of course that Israel and its allies would put huge pressure on the Secretary General of the UN so that he would disavow the report, and that they would ask him to withdraw it.”

The report was authored and researched by Virginia Tilley, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, and Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. Richard Falk is a Jewish American professor emeritus of international law who Zionist propagandists dismiss as an anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist. Supporters of the report expressed hope that it could lead to liberation for the Palestinian people and due recognition of their long-delayed human rights. Unable to refute the well-documented evidence presented in the report, the Zionists and their allies seek instead to bury it. Should readers find the report has been removed, here is an additional link.

UK universities cave in to Zionist demands

Two British universities cancelled book-launchings on 21 and 22 March under pressure from the self-styled Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA). CAA actually issued a statement announcing that it had intervened to force the cancellations. The group was established in 2014 to counter the outrage prompted by Israel’s colossal blitz on Gaza. Richard Falk, once more, finds himself the target of Zionist wrath. The Professor of International Law had been scheduled to speak on his new book, Palestine’s Horizon. Zionist attempts to silence Jewish voices for peace are best summed up in a letter from Larry Saltzman, who writes that Richard Falk . . . “is a victim of a systematic plot by Zionists to shutdown the voice of the many of us who are both Jewish and pro-Palestinian. Palestinians have suffered greatly because of the nationalistic, undemocratic ideology known as Zionism. The sad reality is that if even Jewish voices are censored for speaking out against Zionism what chance do others have. The organisation, Campaign Against Antisemitism, that intimidated two Universities into censoring Falk should be ashamed of themselves and should re-examine the core Jewish values that respect free speech and spirited debate. Campaign Against Antisemitism is not fighting antisemitism they are promoting the censoring of Jewish and other voices that disagree with them, that is disgraceful.”

In a world torn by war and terrorism, world leaders and the mainstream newsmedia should pay more heed to the voices of reason. All the world-wide peace movements, secular, Christian, Muslim and many other faiths that oppose ideology-driven racism, support the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the inspirational Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those who would smear this commitment to justice and human rights as ‘anti-Semitic’ are simply desperate to hide the truth.

“I was the terrorist” – video

Further witness to Zionist racism can be seen and heard in this moving video of an interview with a former Israeli Army soldier, Eran Efrati, who served as an Occupation enforcer in Hebron. During his years of service he became agonisingly conscious of the malevolence that characterises Israeli military rule over the Palestinian people. The Israeli regime’s war crimes, such as ‘shoot to kill’, are still being covered through the use of nod and wink ‘understandings’ of military orders that dare not be revealed for what they really are.

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About the author

Leslie Bravery

Leslie Bravery is a Londoner with vivid World War Two memories of the Nazi blitz on his home town. In 1947/1948 His father explained to him what was happening to the Palestinians thus: “Any ideology or political movement that creates refugees in the process of realising its ambitions must be inhuman and should be opposed and condemned as unacceptable.” What followed confirmed this assessment of the Zionist entity a hundredfold. Now a retired flamenco guitarist, with a lifelong interest in the tragedy of what happened to the Palestinian people, he tries to publicise their plight. Because the daily injustices they suffer barely get a mention in the mainstream news media, Leslie edits/compiles a daily newsletter, In Occupied Palestine, for the Palestine Human Rights Campaign. These days, to preserve his sanity, he enjoys taking part in a drama group whenever possible!

1 Comment

  1. Strypey says:

    This trend of no-platforming speakers and shutting down meetings at universities is deeply disturbing. As well as being basic human rights, freedoms of opinion and expression, and especially academic freedom, are the lifeblood of democracy. How can we coordinate a global pro-democracy movement to defend dissidents against these anti-democratic tactics?