Posts Tagged ‘Ramallah’

Labour MP Gerald Kaufman Attacks Israel for Its Nazi Crimes in Gaza

March 23, 2019

It wasn’t just the Irish challenging their governments over support for Israel during the bombardment of Gaza. In the video below from 2009, posted on YouTube by setfree68, the veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman also bitterly criticises Israel for its attacks on civilians. Kaufman himself, as his speech makes very clear, was Jewish and his family also suffered under Nazi persecution, with many of relatives being murdered. He makes an explicit parallel between the way the Nazis treated them and the other Jews, and how the Israelis were then treating the Palestinians. Kaufman was one of the MPs, who lost his seat and was convicted of fiddling his expenses during that scandal a few years ago. Nevertheless in many ways he was a fine politician, and certainly spoke the truth here with real moral courage that certainly was not shared by the former Labour leader, Tony Blair.

He begins by addressing the deputy speaker, and describes how he was brought up as an Orthodox Jew and a Zionist. On a shelf on his family’s kitchen was a tin box for the Jewish National Fund into which they put coins to help the pioneers building a Jewish presence in Palestine. He first when to Israel in 1961 and states that he has since been there more times than he could count. He has family and friends in Israel, one of whom fought in the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973, and was wounded in two of them. He states that he is wearing a tie-clip made from a campaign decoration awarded to one of his friends, which he presented to Kaufman. He states that he knew most of the prime ministers of Israel, starting with the founding PM, David Ben-Gurion and describes Golda Meir as his friend, along with deputy prime minister Yigal Alon, who was the general, who won the Negeb for Israel in the 1948 War of Independence.

He states that his parents came to Britain as refugees from Poland, and that most of their families were subsequently murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. His grandmother was ill in her bed when the Nazis came to her hometown of Stashev, and she was shot dead in her bed by a German soldier. He then goes to state that his grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploits the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count. He mentions that on Sky News a few days previously an Israeli arm spokeswoman Major Liebovich was asked about the Israeli killing of, at that time, 800 Palestinians. The total, he says, is now a thousand. Leibovich replied that five hundred of them were militants. That, he states unhesitatingly, is the reply of a Nazi. He says that he supposes that the Jews fighting unhesitatingly for their lives in the ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.

He then goes on to discuss Hamas and the problems they pose for a proper peace. He states that the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, asserts that her government will have no dealing with Hamas because they’re terrorists. Livni’s father was Atan Livni, chief operations officer of the terrorist Irgun Tzvi Liun, who organised the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which killed 91 victims, including four Jews. Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism. Jewish terrorists hanged two British sergeants and booby trapped their corpses. Irgun, together with the terrorist Stern Gang massacred 254 Palestinians in 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin. Today, the present Israeli government indicates that they would be willing in circumstances acceptable to them to negotiate with the Palestinian president, Abbas, of Fatah. He declares that it’s too late for that. They could have negotiated with Fatah’s previous leader, Yasser Arafat. who was a friend of Kaufman’s. Instead they besieged him in a bunker in Ramallah where Kaufman visited him. It’s because of the failings of Fatah since Arafat’s death that Hamas won the Palestinian election in 2006.

Hamas, he says clearly, is a deeply nasty organisation, but it was democratically elected and is the only game in town. The boycotting of Hamas, including by our own government, has been a culpable error from which dreadful consequences have followed. He says that the great Israeli foreign minister, Abba Eban, with whom Kaufman campaigned for peace on many platforms, said ‘You make peace by talking to your enemies’. However many Palestinians the Israelis murder in Gaza, they cannot solve this existential problem by military means. Whenever and however the fighting ends, there will still be 1 1/2 million Palestinians in Gaza and 2 1/2 million more Palestinians in the West Bank, who are treated like dirt by the Israelis with hundreds of roadblocks and the ghastly denizens of the Jewish settlements harassing them as well. Kaufman predicts that a time will come, not so long from now, when they will outnumber the Jewish population in Israel. It’s time for our government, he declares, to make clear to the Israeli government that its conduct and policies are unacceptable, and to impose a total arms ban on Israel. It is time for peace, he says, but real peace, not the solution by conquest which is the Israelis’ real goal, which is impossible for them to achieve. He concludes with the stinging words ‘They’re not simply war criminals, they’re fools!’

The video ends with the address of a couple of websites. I haven’t visited them, and so I can’t vouch if they are reasonable websites or not, so be careful.

Kaufman’s statesmanlike speech makes it very clear that he isn’t a knee-jerk anti-Israeli, nor is he ashamed of his Jewish background. Indeed, from this it’s clear that he’s proud of his connections to Israel. But like very many decent people of every race and creed, he was disgusted by the Fascistic violence of the Israelis against the indigenous Arabs.

He is also absolutely correct about Israel’s cynical exploitation of gentile guilt over the Holocaust. This is quite different from the proper commemoration of the Holocaust and its victims, which should serve as a reminder that terrible atrocities were committed in civilised Europe, and that such horrors could indeed occur again if it is not properly remembered. And we need that now, when real Fascists, Nazis and anti-Semitic regimes are taking power in Hungary, Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine.

But the Israelis and their supporters do exploit the Holocaust. We’ve seen it with the way the Israel lobby smears their opponents as anti-Semites, and people like Mike as Holocaust deniers. Indeed, Margaret Hodge used the Holocaust to smear Corbyn when she whined that her suspension was like that of the Jews in eastern Europe waiting for the Nazis’ knock at the door. Of course, it was nothing like that, and Jews and non-Jews, whose relatives really had suffered arrest and imprisonment by the Nazis angrily reminded her of that. Norman Finkelstein also addressed it in his book, The Holocaust Industry, in which he described how the Israeli state and greedy lawyers enrich themselves by suing governments and organisations for compensation and monies owed to Holocaust survivors and their families, but then swallow this in legal fees. Thousands of Holocaust survivors have been swindled like this, and left in poverty in Israel.

As for Hamas, they’re horrific. But they were democratically elected, something Killary lamented in a recorded phone call. The time is long past when governments around the world should be indulging Israel and its genocidal policies. But they will, because of geopolitical reasons. Israel is the West’s key ally in the Middle East, along with Saudi Arabia. And they sell guns and other weapons to eastern Europe, as well as no doubt buying all that ‘wonderful kit’ David Cameron raved about as an arms factory in Lancashire.

The Democrat politicos who aren’t going to AIPAC this weekend have made a great moral decision. It is one which I hope more of the world’s politicians follow, and that I hope it also pays off as an increasing number of people in America and Europe turn away from Israeli brutality. As for Kaufman, he may have been a crook, but he would have been a far better Foreign Minister than that clown Boris.

Review: Joe Sacco’s ‘Palestine’

May 12, 2018

(London: Jonathan Cape 2001)

This is one of the classics of the graphic novel. Joe Sacco is an American journalist. He spent two months with the Palestinians in late 1991 and early 1992 in Gaza and the West Bank during the time of the first Intifada. He wrote and drew Palestine after his return to the US, basing it on his notes, publishing it as a nine-part comic strip. These were later collected into a single volume to form the graphic novel. The book also has a kind of introduction, ‘Homage to Joe Sacco’, from Edward Said, the author of Orientalism, critic of western imperialism and attitudes to the Arabs, and himself a Palestinian.

This is precisely the type of book the Israel lobby does not want people to read. Not BICOM, not the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which was set up because Gideon Falter, its founder, was worried about British attitudes becoming more hostile to Israel after the blockade of Gaza, not the Jewish Labour Movement, formerly Paole Zion and the companion party to the Israeli Labor Party, not the various ‘Friends of Israel’ societies in the political parties, Tories and Labour, nor the Jewish Leadership Council and definitely not the Board of Deputies of British Jews. All of them shout ‘anti-Semitism’ at anyone who dares to publish anything critical of Israel, or show the barbarity with which it treats the Palestinians.

The book shows Sacco’s experiences as he goes around Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, talking to both Palestinians and Israelis, meeting them, entering their homes, and listening to their stories. He starts the book in Cairo, the beginning of his journey to Israel, and to which he returns at his departure. During his time there, he visits the Vale of Kidron, the Arab quarter of Old Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah, Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza strip, as it then was, Balata, another refugee camp on the West Bank, Nablus, the town of Gaza itself, and finally Tel Aviv.

It’s not an easy read. This is an occupied country during deep unrest, and the threat of violence and arbitrary arrest and detention without trial is every where. There are patrols of soldiers, demonstrations, explosions and stone throwing. And he shows, with quotes, the contemptuous, lofty and hostile attitude the early Zionists and Lord Balfour had for the indigenous population. He quotes Balfour as saying

‘Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit this ancient land. We do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the inhabitants’.

Ben Gurion thought it would be simple to expel the Palestinians, because he felt they had no real attachment to their homeland. He wrote that the Palestinian ‘is equally at ease whether in Jordan, Lebanon or a variety of other places’. With the approach of war, he made it clear their expulsion was going to be through military force: ‘In each attack a decisive blow should be struck, resulting in the destruction of homes and the expulsion of the population.’ When that was done, ‘Palestinian Arabs have only one role – to flee’. He also quotes Golda Meir, who stated that a Palestinian people, defining itself as a Palestinian people, did not exist, and ‘we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They do not exist’. 400 Palestinian villages were razed in the war marking the birth of Israel. Meir’s lie – that the Palestinians don’t exist as a people – is still repeated by Republican and pro-Israel bloggers. Golda Meir was also concerned about the Palestinian population outstripping that of the Israelis, another issue that is still very alive today.

His hosts are polite, welcoming him into their homes, and plying him with tea. But occasionally there is an outburst from one of them, when he’s asked what the point of him being there, of them talking to him, is. Because other journalists have been there too, and they’ve talked to them, and nothing has happened, nothing has changed. They also talk to him about the other factions, and of the peace process. In a separate text at the beginning of the book, he states that, while the peace process set up the Palestinian authority and gave them a government, it changed nothing for ordinary Palestinians, and the occupation and theft of land by the Israelis still goes on.

He also reveals that the Israelis appropriate 2/3 of the land in the West Bank for their own us, which includes the establishment of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. And the governments gives Israelis plenty of incentives to move to them. They’re given a government grant if they do, lower interest rates on loan, the housing itself is cheaper than in Israel, and an income tax rate of 7 per cent. The settlers themselves can be extremely aggressive. Sacco’s hosts tell them about incidents where settlers have come into Palestinian villages, smashing windows and demanding that the owners come out. Of people shot by them, and the trivial sentences given to the settlers guilty of this. They’re given jail sentences of a few months. If they’re convicted in the first place. Palestinians who shoot and kill Israelis are jailed for years. Some lavish homes do exist in Palestine, occupied by Arabs, but most live in very bare houses, often with leaking roofs, which are vulnerable to storms.

His cartoons show what his Palestinian hosts tell him it’s like in prison camps like Ansar III, with crowds of prisoners crammed into small, bare rooms with no heat and poor ventilation. There are also few eating utensils, to the various political factions in the camp – Fateh, Hamas, Popular Front, organise meal times so that everyone gets a turn with the cup and plate to eat and drink. Several of the people he talks to were arrested simply on suspicion. Israeli law allowed them to be held without charge while evidence was compiled, with his captors returning to court over and over again to request a few more days more, until the judge finally listens to their lawyer, has the procedure stopped and the prisoner released. He also shows how the prisoners were tortured through beatings, being forced to stand for hours with bags over their heads, a process permitted under Israel law. A judge ruled that torture could not be used, but what methods were to replace them were kept secret. So many Palestinians have been incarcerated, that a green identity card showing a man has been in jail is a matter of pride. And not to have been to prison correspondingly is a mark of shame.

He talks about how the Israelis have a deliberate policy of not allowing the Palestinians to industrialise, so that they compete with the Israel. The State has also put obstacles in place to prevent Palestinian farmers competing with Israelis. They also deliberately uproot the olive trees many Palestinians grow to support themselves. The Israelis also appropriate most of the water, and dig deeper wells, so that the Palestinians have a much poorer water supply and their own wells are becoming increasingly saline. As a result, unemployment in Gaza was at 40 per cent. And Sacco himself was approached several times by Palestinians, hoping he could do something so that they could leave and go abroad to study or find work.

He describes a school, without electricity, as well as a school for the deaf, which is supported through volunteers and whose staff complain of their lack of training for dealing with people with disabilities. He also hears and illustrates the story of one Palestinian woman, whose son was shot by Israeli soldiers, but was prevented from taking him directly to hospital. Instead she was ordered to go hither and thither, where she was told a helicopter was waiting to take her and the boy. When she gets there, there is no helicopter. She eventually takes him to the hospital herself in a car, by which time it’s too late and the lad dies.

The book also shows the mass of roadblocks and the permit system which Palestinians have to go through to go to Israel. At the same time, Israelis are simply allowed to whiz through in their separate lanes.

Sacco also doesn’t shy away from showing the negative side of Palestine – the anti-Semitism, and particularly infamous murders, like the killing of Klinghoffer aboard the Achille Lauro, and the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team by the terrorist group Black September. This can turn into support for the murder of Israeli civilians. There’s also a chapter on the plight of Palestinian women, This is a society where women are still very much treated as inferiors and subordinates, where honour killings are carried out as the punishment for female adultery. It is also a society where collaborators are murdered, and those, who belong to the wrong faction may also be shot and killed.

The book was written 27 years ago, but nothing really seems to have changed since then. The illegal settlements are still there and expanding. Settlers are still seizing Palestinian homes and property, the apartheid separating Israelis from Palestinians is still in place, unemployment is still high, and Palestinians are still being treated as foreigners, refugees and second-class citizens on their own land.

However, some attitudes are changing. The Israeli liberals Sacco talks to only support the Palestinians up to a point. When pressed, some of them will say that Israel should keep the Occupied Territories, because they seized them in war. Or that they need to keep them for security reasons. But an increasing number of young Jews in America and elsewhere are appalled at the continuing maltreatment of the Palestinians and are becoming increasingly critical and hostile to Israel because of this. And there have also grown up major opposition groups like the human rights organisation B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence in Israel.

The Israeli state and its lobby and supporters in this country and others are increasingly scared. It’s why they’re trying to pass laws to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in America, and to outlaw criticism of Israel in this country through tortuous definitions of anti-Semitism that are stretched to include it. It’s why they’re smearing, with the connivance of the right-wing media, the Blairites in the Labour party, and the Conservatives, decent people, who have fought racism and anti-Semitism, as anti-Semites.

Very long, detailed books have been written about Israel’s brutal treatment, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Sacco’s Palestine presenting this as graphic novel, is an example of how comics can also be serious literature, tackling a difficult subject with both narrative and artistic skill and style. I’ve mentioned on this blog before the alternative comics that were also published from the ’60s to the 1980s/1990s on political topics, including the Israeli maltreatment of Palestinians in Pat Mills’ Crisis. Palestine is very much in that tradition, and in 1996 won the American Book Award.