Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has described the Palestinian founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) as “classical antisemites in modern garb”. Yet Arabic is the most widely-spoken of all the semitic languages. Zionism’s choice of the term ‘antisemitic’ in preference to the implied, yet far more direct expression, ‘anti-Jewish’, is strategic. The intention is to deny, or at least obfuscate, every aspect of Palestinian culture and history.
Because the bright light BDS shines upon its human rights violations is so effective, Israel is seeking to criminalise the movement across the world. In Europe, the Israeli Government has thrown its support behind a conference in Brussels to be held on 6 and 7 November at the European Parliament and other venues. It is being organised by the European Jewish Association (EJA) and the Europe Israel Public Affairs (EIPA) group. With Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs logo displayed on its promotional website page, EJA describes BDS as “the ‘new’ and latest incarnation of anti-Semitism”.
It is not just BDS, of course, that Zionism detests. The ideology looks to suppress freedom of speech for all who campaign in defence of human rights and international law. Israel’s recently-published BDS blacklist bans 20 charities and human rights groups that support BDS from entering the country. Among those blacklisted are War on Want, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Society of Friends (Quaker) group, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). In 1947, AFSC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping victims of Nazi persecution. The Society of Friends assisted people of all religions in the Second World War and, in Britain, when Hitler came to power in 1933, the Quakers set up ‘The Germany Emergency Committee of the Religious Society of Friends’, which played an essential part in the organising of the life-saving, humanitarian Kindertransport, that lifted 12,000 Jewish children from under Nazi rule to safety in Britain. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Israel, recognises as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ more than a dozen Quakers, including the English Quaker, Bertha Bracey, who worked in Germany after the First World War and was later instrumental in the Kindertransport.
HIAS and the spirit of Kindertransport
In Pittsburgh, on 27 October, the neo-Nazi massacre of eleven worshippers at the city’s Tree of Life Synagogue shocked the world. The synagogue’s conservative congregation describe themselves as remaining true to traditional teachings, yet also “progressive and relevant to the way we live today.” Their humanitarianism in partnering with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS has attracted violent, anti-Jewish hate-speech from white supremacists. What particularly upsets US neo-Nazis is that HIAS assists Jewish and non-Jewish refugees in war-torn areas to obtain asylum in the US. The congregation’s compassion for refugees has also drawn hostile comment from Zionists.
Israeli Minister’s anti-refugee manifesto
In Israel, racist sentiment abounds. The award-winning journalist, Max Blumenthal, author of the book Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, has revealed that a prominent Likud Party member in good standing regarded the Tree of Life massacre as legitimate. Yoav Eliasi held that the synagogue terrorist, Robert Bowers, “was a man fed up with subversive progressive Jewish leftists injecting their sick agendas” into his country. Blumenthal informs us that Eliasi echoed the neo-Nazi’s manifesto, adding that: “HIAS brings in infiltrators that destroy every country. The murderer was fed up with people like you. Jews like you brought the holocaust and now you’re causing antisemitism. Stop bringing in hate money from Soros.” The Israeli journalist David Sheen explains, in an article published earlier this year, how Netanyahu’s anti-refugee policies were “inspiring white supremacists all over the world to advocate adopting these policies as their own.” Blumenthal writes: “Back in 2012, Naftali Bennett published an anti-refugee manifesto that advanced many of the same concepts as Bowers’ social media rant against HIAS.”
Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister, Naftali Bennett, wrote “There is a plague of illegal infiltrators in the State of Israel,” on Facebook. He went on to blame the New Israel Fund, a liberal non-profit charity, for “bringing horror & crime to Tel Aviv” by defending asylum seekers against deportation. With Bennett now visiting Pittsburgh, the Jewish Home Party is delaying hearings in the Knesset on an “anti-infiltration” bill which would authorise the government to imprison and deport all asylum seekers in Israel.
Unity in opposing racism
The massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue has brought people together. At a community event on 28 October, attended by thousands, Wasi Mohamed, the executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, offered support from the Muslim community: “We just want to know what you need”, he said, “If it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We’ll be there. If you need anything at all, if you need food for the families, if you just need someone to come to the grocery store because you don’t feel safe in this city, we’ll be there. And I’m sure everybody in the room would say the same thing”.
Since 2009, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that 53 mosques and churches have been vandalised in Israel. Unsurprisingly, in Israeli-Occupied East Jerusalem, this religious persecution is manifested by both Occupation forces and illegal settlers. A cell phone video of an assault by Zionist forces and police on Coptic Orthodox priests in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on 26 October is revealing. The Church had organised a peaceful protest against the Israeli Occupation’s denial of the Church’s right to renovate the interior of the holy site. Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli soldiers and police used excessive force against the priests, causing injury.
Denial of human rights
Seventy years ago, more than 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes – and they are still being denied their UN-recognised right of return. For all of this time, the Palestinian people have been forced to endure crippling travel restrictions and prohibitions, as well as relentless night-and-day home invasions by the Israeli Army. These violent intrusions are surely among the most traumatic assertions of alien dominance that any population has to face. What is even worse, is that these very same families can later be forced to witness the total destruction of their homes.
Israel’s invasive rail line
Israel has opened a new train service, which most Palestinians are not allowed to use, that passes under Occupied West Bank territory. The line runs from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport, passing under the Palestinian village of Beit Surik. So much for ‘negotiations’ and the ‘Peace Process’! Israel has already made up its mind about the status of Palestinian land. The illegal rail link crosses Palestinian land to benefit Israel and does nothing to alleviate the crushing travel restrictions imposed upon the Palestinians.
This cynical exploitation of Palestinian territory comes on top of over 50 years of repressive military Occupation (the longest by far, in modern history) which, a UN report says, keeps the Palestinian Territories in a state of perpetual poverty. But the world community, showing no sense of urgency and giving no priority to the ending of decades of flagrant violations of human rights, compounds the injustice by requiring Israel’s defenceless victims to negotiate with their oppressor for their liberation. This is why BDS exists – it is the conscience of the world – the voice of decency.
Speaking truth to power
On the 15 October, in a written question in the UK Parliament, Baroness Jenny Tonge asked the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) what representations are being made to the government of Israel following the Protection of Civilians Report by the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs, which states that, as of 24 September, a total of 306 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished by Israel this year in East Jerusalem. In its reply, the FCO acknowledged that, “In all but the most exceptional circumstances, demolitions are contrary to International Humanitarian Law.” The FCO also admitted: “The practice causes unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians and is harmful to the peace process.” The FCO declared as well its concern over the evictions of Palestinians and demolition of Palestinian property; the construction of illegal Israeli settlements; and the removal of residency rights from Palestinians.
Having admitted all these Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, the FCO lamely said it was helping Palestinian residents, through its legal aid programme, to challenge decisions in the Israeli legal system. This response from the UK Government exemplifies the collaboration and complicity of world powers with Israel’s ideological ambitions. Abandoning Palestinians to plead for mercy in the courts of the Occupying power is an obscenity. It must be recognised that Israeli courts are never going to put Palestinian human rights above the Zionist determination to illegally colonise Palestinian land and property. It is Israel that should have to face court proceedings, which should be in front of the International Criminal Court, where Israel’s endless war crimes and inhumanities can properly be judged. That is what the Fourth Geneva Convention and a rules-based international society is supposed to provide.
Where the UK and the US abysmally fail, the New Zealand Government could set an example of responsibility and steadfastness. A moral starting point would be the internationally-adopted Palestinian Right of Return, enshrined in Article 11 of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. Then, of course, there is the 2016 Security Council Resolution 2334, which New Zealand promoted and Israel ignored – why the silence?