Helena Cobban / Just World Educational & Miko Peled / Just World Educational – 2018-12-26 20:54:48
22-day-long “Cast Lead-Plus 10” Campaign Starts December 27
Helena Cobban / Just World Educational
(December 26, 2018) — Tomorrow, our 22-day-long project #CastLeadPlus10 launches! Outreach Director Joe Catron and I have worked hard to pull together lots of great resources for the campaign. They include this 29-minute podcast I recorded recently with Richard Falk, in which he recaps the main events of Operation Cast Lead. (You can see a digest of highlights from the episode here and see below)
We’ve pulled together a dedicated Resource Page on our website, which offers a “one-stop” portal to a collection of great resources on Cast Lead. We hope many of you can use that Resource Page to help educate (or remind) yourselves and your networks/communities about the main features of that brutal, 22-day Israeli assault on Gaza — as well as its after-effects, in terms of inflicting lasting damage on Gazan Palestinians and establishing a defiant Israeli stance of impunity from international accountability that has continued to this day.
We will also, for each of the 22 days corresponding to Cast Lead, be releasing a special slide on the @JustWorldEd Twitter account, that highlights the main developments of that day, ten years ago. So do follow us on Twitter if you can, RT those slides, and find other ways to contribute to the #CastLeadPlus10hashtag!
On the Resource Page:
Among the highlights we’re offering on our new Cast Lead Resource Page are links to the following outstanding resources:
* A 46-minute video from Journeyman Pictures: “Israel/Palestine: The Gaza War from Ground Level”, which also has coverage from southern Israel. This is the best video record we know of, of Cast Lead from inside Gaza. Israel had banned international media from entering the Strip. This was shot almost wholly by videographers from inside it.
* Access to the whole of Issue 151 of the Journal of Palestine Studies, published in Winter 2009. It included a rich special section on Cast Lead. The journal’s publisher, the Institute for Palestine Studies has agreed to take down the paywall from that whole issue, December 27 through the end of January, as a great way to mark the tenth anniversary.
* The first three pages (for now) of the chapter recording Cast Lead from Laila El-Haddad’s 2010 book Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between. We’ll release more of this chapter later, but here are El-Haddad’s blog posts from December 27 and 28 as a downloadable, 3-page PDF.
We hope you can think of creative ways to use these or some of the other resources listed on our Resource Page in your hometown, social network, congregation, or college classroom. If you do use these resources by, for example, organizing a showing of the 46-minute video along with a discussion of Gaza bolstered by some of our other background materials . . . . be sure to send us photos of the event, or tag us on Twitter!
Miko Peled from London . . .
Here’s news of some other great content we published on our website a couple of days ago: An informative blog post from Miko Peled, tracking the encouraging development of the Palestinian-rights movement in the United Kingdom. [You can read Peled’s dispatch below — EAW.]
Peled has been spending quite a lot of time in the UK in recent years, interacting with various strands of the Palestinian-rights movement there. (In the photo here, he was with a group of British rights activists when they went to visit the Shaikh of the threatened Palestinian community of Al-Araqeeb.) I think many of you will find his blogged report on his latest visit to London very interesting.
A Reminder . . .
Finally, just one reminder here that everything we do requires resources . . . Our#CastLeadPlus10 campaign is just one of numerous projects we’re planning for the year ahead. So especially if you haven’t given to us recently — or if you have, but you’d like to increase your giving — here is the information on how to do so:
One of the main goals of our #CastLeadPlus10 campaign is to build the informed public, especially here in the United States, that understands the heavy costs that Israeli policies like holding Gaza in a tight siege and in so many other ways denying Palestinians their most basic rights inflict on the Palestinians . . . so that we can build up the pressure on our leaders to change those policies.
I hope you find the campaign useful. Do send us any feedback you have! Warmest wishes (especially for a more peaceful and happier year in 2019) to friends and colleagues everywhere.
Richard Falk Recalls Israel’s “Cruelty and Excessive Violence”
During Operation Cast Lead in December 2008
Just World Educational
(December 26, 2018) — In the first episode of our special mini-series of podcasts on Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” assault Gaza ten years ago, the distinguished international jurist Richard Falk discussed the “cruelty and excessive violence” of that assault with JWE President Helena Cobban. That cruelty and violence were, he said, “used to really terrorize the Palestinian population in Gaza”, and to persuade them to repudiate the Hamas authorities who were governing Gaza then, as now.
This podcast mini-series is part of JWE’s #CastLeadPlus10information campaign, in which we are exploring the record, the many legacies, and possible lessons of that Israeli attack on Gaza, ten years later.
At the time of “Cast Lead”, Falk was the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Though Israel wouldn’t let him into Palestine, he watched closely from afar as, for 22 days, Israeli forces pounded the extremely densely populated Gaza Strip from air, sea, and land.
In the course of those 22 days they killed around 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza, fewer than 300 of whom were combatants. Palestinian fighters inside Gaza killed nine Israelis, of whom six were combatants.
Three Israeli soldiers were also killed by “friendly fire.” The summary of casualties and losses recorded by Wikipedia is at right. (In the initial two columns, Israeli losses are on the left and Palestinian ones on the right.)
Assessing the imbalance in these casualty figures, Falk said they “do remind one of colonial wars or the wars between early American settlers and the Native Americans.” Israel’s behavior during Cast Lead was, he noted, “characteristic of Israeli reliance on force for suppression of the Palestinian people as a whole since 1948.”
Regarding the use by Hamas and its allies of rockets and mortars against targets inside Israel, Falk said, “Hamas [and its allies] used the weapons they had, which were primitive and not targetable. They were indiscriminate, which was problematic, but they were not targeting civilians.”
He referred to question of the right to resist foreign occupation. He also noted that the UN’s relatively recently adopted “Responsibility To Protect” (R2P), which was later invoked by Western powers regarding Libya in 2011, could perhaps have been invoked to protect the people of Gaza during the 2008-09 assault on them — “But the United States would have vetoed that.”
In a discussion of the use of violence by the Palestinian and the Israeli fighters, Falk and Cobban agreed that it looked as if the Palestinian fighters were doing more than the Israeli fighters to target combatants on the opposing side. Falk noted the proportion of civilians to combatants in the Palestinian casualty toll and said this raised the question of “who was the terrorist?”
This episode of the podcast was a fairly in-depth consideration of what actually occurred during Operation Cast lead. In a subsequent episode, to be released December 30, Falk and Cobban discuss such legacies of Cast Lead as the Goldstone Report and the mobilization of global civil society spurred by Cast Lead — a mobilization that led to the organizing of several international aid flotillas to Gaza and the strengthening of the worldwide BDS movement.
If you’re on Twitter, please follow (and retweet!) our #CastLeadPlus10 campaign by following the #CastLeadPlus10hashtag there.
Copyright 2018 Just World Educational, All rights reserved.
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Palestine and UK Politics
Miko Peled / Just World Educational
We’re pleased to publish this report, the first of two on this subject, by Israeli-American peace activist Miko Peled, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine and Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. Peled is currently at work on a book about the sizeable anti-Zionist current in the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish community.
London, UK (December 2018) — Recently, sitting in a London pub with friends who are members of the UK Labour party, we were recalling how on a recent visit to Palestine (see photo above), almost every person we met there reminded them that the mess in Palestine today is their country’s fault. While this claim is largely true, it may well be that the Brits — and particularly British Labour — will be the saviours of Palestine.
Decades of hard work by Palestine solidarity activists in the UK have created an environment ripe for change — so much so, that at the UK Labour Party conference held in September in Liverpool, a motion was passed calling to review the sales of British arms to Israel.
Furthermore, in his speech on the final day of the conference, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a long time supporter of Palestinian rights, said what no other Western leader would dare to say, namely that: “Our party is united in condemning the shooting of hundreds of unarmed protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces and the passing of Israel’s discriminatory Nation State Law. The continuing occupation, expansion of illegal settlements, and the imprisonment of Palestinian children are an outrage.”
He made those comments in front of a cheering crowd of some 12,000 members. Throughout the entire conference one could see members carrying the Palestinian flag and in many ways it seemed like a rally for Palestinian rights.
Decades of Activism
George Galloway has been fighting for justice for over four only stood firm but acted with great commitment against Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and against the sanctions and the war on Iraq. He is one of the most prominent voices for justice in Palestine and not surprisingly, he is also a firm supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
He told me of his initiation into the issue of Palestine in the early 1970’s and today, he remains committed to the cause of freedom and justice in Palestine more than ever.
Galloway was kind enough to invite me to a recent dinner, held on a very cold and rainy evening at the lovely “Beirut Nights” restaurant. (It was actually a family gathering where I was able to meet his lovely family .) I held an enlightening conversation with him on Palestine, the solidarity movement in the UK — and the virtues of debating openly with representatives of Zionist organizations, something I had just done a few days before our meeting.
“The state of the pro-Palestine camp in the UK is far better and stronger than it ever was,” Galloway told me, and of course what took place at the Labour conference was a testament to that. With regular events in support of Palestinian rights, protests when Zionist representatives come to present their case, and divestment votes, activism on UK campuses is robust.
Indeed, on a recent tour of UK campuses, the Israeli ambassador to London was met with numerous protests and in some cases was blocked from entering. At City, University of London the ambassador was forced to cancel the event.
The Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, or BDS, has changed the discussion on Palestine everywhere and has been particularly significant here n the UK. One recent and very significant development was the announcement by the British Quakers that they will not invest in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.
Their exact statement was, “the church will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine.” And, they added, “While Quakers in Britain is not a member of the full Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and does not advocate for BDS, we do support the right of organisations and citizens to engage in such democratic and legitimate means of nonviolent protest.”
According to a lengthy piece by Nathan Thrall in the Guardian, “Israel sees the international boycott campaign as an existential threat to the Jewish state. Palestinians regard it as their last resort.” Both claims may be true. The article continued by noting, “In the UK, BDS has brought turmoil to courts and local councils, embroiling them in disputes over the legality of local boycotts of settlement goods.”
To me, this “turmoil” means that there is a robust debate, and an opportunity to challenge the Zionists in the public sphere.
As may have been expected, all this created a reaction. In one recent court case which did not end well for the Palestinian cause, the British government was initially found to be in the wrong for banning public bodies from joining the Palestinian call for BDS — but then, a higher court later ruled for the government upon appeal.
According to Middle East Monitor, this legal battle was over guidance released by the British government in 2016 that stated that, “using pension policies to pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries are inappropriate, other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the government.”
In another legal attack on BDS, in the London Borough of Barnet Conservative Councillor Brian Gordon filed a motion with the borough council to criminalize BDS. The motion used the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism to support its claim that BDS is anti-Semitic.
Middle East Eye reported in 2017 that “British university staff are being advised to ‘risk-assess and manage’ events on campus relating to ‘contentious’ issues including Palestine and criticism of Western foreign policy in the Middle East in order to demonstrate their compliance with the government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy.”
The creators of “Safe Campus Communities”, who include the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), told Middle East Eye the list was intended to promote free speech by encouraging universities to ensure that “topics that may be seen as controversial” could be “debated in a safe environment”.
Elsewhere in the training material, the topics are described as a “list of views that may be regarded as extremist but are not illegal”. Accompanying notes state that holding such views “may be legitimate provided they are not expressed or furthered by statements, deeds or actions which result in the harassment, intimidation or threats of violence against individuals or society itself”. The training material included slides such as this, below:
It has been my experience that this quest for an allegedly “safe environment” (which is part of the UK government’s “Prevent” initiative) has in some cases been used to prevent a robust debate and to prevent people from coming to events on Palestine.
For example, at Westminster University in London people had to register for the event I was speaking at, some 48 hours prior, or they were not allowed to attend.
At other universities only students and faculty were permitted to attend and those wishing to do so had to register in advance. In one case there were suspicions that a Zionist organization booked the entire event by registering fake names and while organizers thought the event was “sold out” very few people were actually in attendance.
The UK Haredi Community
Another intriguing part of the Palestinian-rights movement in the UK (as elsewhere) is the ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Jewish community.
One notable leader in this community is Rabbi Moshe Dov Beck, shown with me at right. He left Jerusalem after the 1967 war and today lives in Monsey, NY where he has been an outspoken anti-Zionist for decades. His son, Rabbi Elhanan Beck lives in London and he too is an anti-Zionist activist.
(I asked the elder Rabbi Beck once why he had left Jerusalem. His reply was, “I do not want the Zionists to crown their state with my beard, my peyot and my kaftan.” The peyote are the side-curls orthodox Jews grow and the kaftan is the unique coat Haredi Jews wear — all symbols of their devotion.)
In London, Rabbi Elhanan Beck (shown below) said to me, “I have lived in the UK for more than 30 years and I do not know what a British soldier looks like. In Jerusalem every child knows what a soldier looks like and what guns they carry. How can they (the Zionists) claim that Israel is a safe place for Jews?”
He also says that there is no foundation to the claims of growing anti-Semitism in the UK. “Look at me, I obviously look like a Jew and I have never had any problem here.”
Zionist organizations in the UK claim that the vast majority of UK’s 260,000 Jews are Zionist. But the Haredi community, which numbers close to 40,000, stands firmly against Zionism. “I will give you 100 pounds for every Israeli flag you find in our community,” Rabbi Beck says with a smile, “one hundred pounds!”
Rabbi Aharon Cohen lives in Manchester and he too is an active and outspoken anti-Zionist. He and I gave a presentation together at an event on the sidelines of September’s Labour Party conference in Liverpool. (See a post-meeting photo of us, below.)
In a conversation we had in December of 2018, Rabbi Cohen asked me why I do not mention the anti-Zionist work of the Haredi community. I had to admit to him that until recently I was in complete ignorance about their work.
This community has done significant anti-Zionist work for over a century and many within it are committed to boycotting Israel and Israeli goods. In fact, according to Rabbi Beck, thousands of Haredi Jews leave Israel and immigrate to the UK because they do not want to live under a Zionist regime. “Every bottle of milk you buy over there, part of the money goes to the state,” he says.
How Will It End?
While the common wisdom is that the question of Palestine will never be resolved as long as the US continues to support Israel, it may in fact be the UK government that brings about the most significant change. If the Labour Party headed by Jeremy Corbyn wins the next elections and is able to remain steadfast in its support for Palestinian rights, change for the better in Palestine may be closer than one thinks.