Category Archives: Palestine

‘a very British coup’: Jeremy Corbyn opens up about the role of the British establishment, intelligence services and the liberal media in ensuring his political downfall

Independent journalist at Declassified, Matt Kennard, recently sat down with former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to talk about the central role played by the British military and intelligence services, the liberal media – in particular the Guardian and BBC – and the Israel lobby in the undermining his tenure through a coordinated smear campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn also speaks candidly about his successor Keir Starmer, the pushback he received to halting Saudi arms sales, and the ongoing state persecution of Julian Assange.

*

A full transcript of the interview with relevant links is provided below.

Jeremy Corbyn: Thanks for coming Matt. You like the gaff here?

Matt Kennard: It’s great. It’s lovely. I grew up here incidentally so I know Finsbury Park very well.

First question is about the role of the British security services and the military establishment. The role they played while you were Labour leader from 2015 to 2020. I went through in article written in 2019, all the different instances that they were briefing to the media.

Some very sort of shocking articles to read in hindsight. One, soon after you became leader, was a serving military general saying that the army would take direct action to stop you becoming Prime Minister. Were you aware of all this action by the intelligence and military establishment while you’re a leader, and what do you think it tells you about British democracy?

JC: I was obviously aware of the articles, and we had a daily press briefing from our office which summarised all the articles that were important to us. And I also noticed that it was particularly the Daily Telegraph that often carried leading stories apparently from “sources in the intelligence services” which I was attacked or undermined from. When that story came out shortly after I was elected leader in 2015 – from apparently a serving military officer – we obviously challenged it straight away, and they said it was a rogue element: it didn’t speak for anybody else etc, etc, etc. But I thought it was a sort of shot across the bow as a warning to me saying ‘look, you might have a different view of the world’ – when I’d laid out an international strategy based on peace, based on human rights, based on democracy, based on fair trade rather than the very pro-American defence and foreign policy we’d adopted. So I knew this was going to lead to attacks and it certainly did.

It also served as a warning to a lot of our supporters just what we were up against in challenging the foreign policy establishment, and the up-till-then cosy agreement between both front benches in parliament to support the same foreign policy. So yes, was I shocked? Yes. Was I surprised? No. And I tell you what was going through my mind was Harry Perkins in [A Very] British Coup. [available to watch on Channel 4]

MK: Just to ask specifically about MI5 and MI6 as well, because there was a meeting with each institution that you had – both were leaked. The evidence about the meetings was leaked to the press. Can you talk about those meetings, and talk about the leaks? And did you feel that those two institutions were also trying to undermine your leadership of the Labour Party?

JC: I’ve had some issues with them in the past on, for example, the ‘spy cops’ inquiry that’s going on at the moment. A number of MPs were clearly under police surveillance through the ’70s and ’80s. I wasn’t an MP in the ’70s, but I was clearly under some form of surveillance throughout that time. The ‘spy cops’ inquiry is still going on. Peter Hain was labelled as well because of his activities in the anti-apartheid movement and others.

And at one stage I was offered my police file if I accepted it in its redacted or limited form. They said you can have all the information that we think you should have, but you’ve got to accept that’s all you’re going to get if you receive the file.

MK: When would this be?

JC: This would be long before I became leader. This was when the issue came up of the surveillance that MPs had been put under. I refused. I said I want the whole file or nothing. I’m not prepared to accept your idea that you can edit out what information you’ve got on me.

And the ‘spy cops’ inquiry is still going on and I have a volunteer legal representative at the inquiry on my behalf who’s following everything. And that’s the policing – that’s the police ‘spy cops’ inquiry. Which, is it the same as MI5/MI6? Not exactly, but there’s clearly a link within it.

On the meetings we had, they were obviously private meetings. We obviously prepared for them and went there. We absolutely did not inform or leak about the meeting at all to anybody. And I instructed my office that this meeting had to be treated as completely confidential and it was. It was leaked by them. And it was leaked in a way to undermine that somehow or other I’d been summoned, and given a dressing down. That was not the nature of the meeting at all.

The meeting was a discussion in which they discussed various parts of the world and various issues: none of which was new to me, none of which was a surprise to me. It was about the role of ISIS. It was about the war in Syria. It was about post-Iraq war, Afghanistan and so on. They were well aware of my views on those conflicts and very well aware of what I’d said and acted about it at the time. They acknowledged I had a different view from themselves and the government and the meetings were yeah – they were pretty frank. Were they aggressive? No.

It was an intelligent discussion. Obviously it was all recorded. Obviously it was all then leaked out as a way to be deliberately undermining of me.

The same thing happened with some senior civil servants as well. There was apparently a conference of civil servants of some sort, which a briefing was given to the media by somebody that I was mentally unstable and not fit to hold a senior office. Bear in mind I’ve been an MP for 39 years. It’s abusive. It is nasty. It is obviously completely wrong.

Jon Trickett and I then raised that with the Cabinet Secretary – he [Jon Trickett] was the shadow Cabinet Office Minister – and we had a quite long and very frank discussion with the Cabinet Secretary at the time in which he apologized on behalf of the civil service; said it was nonsense, it was wrong and I was clearly not in any bad state whatsoever, and that they would leave no stone unturned in finding out who had made these comments.

Well there’s obviously a lot of stones! And these stones are still being slowly turned over and no more has been heard of it ever since then.

And so we did challenge all of this stuff, all the time, but I have to say within the totality of political argument and debate this was dramatic, of course, but it wasn’t the only thing because any studies of the print media and the broadcast media from 2015 onwards would show a steady stream of abuse against me, against my family, against the Labour Party, against people in my constituency, and so on. And we obviously challenged as much as we could all the issues that were thrown at us. That’s what we do. But you can spend your whole life rebutting what are actually ludicrous stories.

And, you know, some of my team (Seamus Milne, James Schneider and others) would often spend a whole day rebutting one crazy story about me, after another, after another. And so I always felt that we had to hit back by going round them, hence we developed a very strong social media platform. I have 2.5 million followers on Twitter. We did that through Twitter, through Facebook, through all the other social media outlets.

But it’s also designed to sap the confidence of people who were Labour supporters. And remember, that despite all this Labour Party membership went up from two hundred thousand ultimately to six hundred thousand.

And I made it my business to be travelling the country the whole time. To be putting an alternative point of view. I didn’t make an awful lot of speeches about foreign policy. Most of my work was on social justice, economic issues and environmental issues, and I attended hundreds of events all over the country all the time, as a way of enthusing and keeping our supporters together.

Now, if I may say so, this actually had a very important effect. At the start of the surprise 2017 election. It was a surprise when it was called. I mean anybody who says they knew it was coming is the talking nonsense. Nobody knew was coming. I’m not even sure Theresa May knew it was coming till the day before she announced it. That [meant] we went from 24% in the polls to 41% in the polls during a campaign.

Why? Because of broadcasting rules which meant I had to at least have my voice heard on the media, rather than the media describing what I’d said, or hadn’t said. And we were able to enthuse and mobilise our supporters.

The worst time wasn’t when I was a newly elected leader in 2015. The worst time was the latter part of 2017–2018 when the abuse on me piled on big time. After our unfortunately not quite winning the 2017 election, and then I spoke at Glastonbury, and we had a summer in which I said to the party: ‘you’ve got to be ready for an election [because] we’re demanding an election as soon as possible; the government doesn’t have majority [and] can’t govern’. And I did a whole summer of events all over the country, straight on the back of the 2017 election. It was after that that the abuse piled on and on and on. And the abuse was echoed by some elements within the Parliamentary Labour Party [PLP}.

MK: And also within the military and intelligence establishment. In that article I saw that there was a massive pick up in attacks.

I just wanted to ask one final question on that. You said, you were aware of it – you knew these leaks were happening. What does it say about British democracy that a democratically elected leader of the major opposition party is having MI5, MI6 and the military briefing against him in the media? And that’s what we know about, there might have been other things going on. How worried should we be about the implications of that for British democracy?

JC: We should be very worried about it. First of all, I’m not the only leader that’s ever been briefed against by the intelligence services. Harold Wilson, who had different politics to me in many ways, but nevertheless was under the greatest suspicion by the intelligence services, and I very well remember the open talk about a coup against Harold Wilson in the late 1960s when he was prime minister. It’s recorded both in his book The Governance of Britain and also particularly in the diaries of Tony Benn and Barbara Castle. It’s worth looking at those things. And then Wilson was very different to me. He supported the Americans in Vietnam, probably very reluctantly, but he did, and he kept nuclear weapons, and so on.

The question of the accountability of a security services is always an interesting one. So when the Select Committee system was set up in Britain in 1970, there was a Parliamentary Select Committee appointed for all government departments, and then there was the Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliament. Now all other Select Committees, in those days members were appointed on the basis of party alignment – so there was a mirror of the strength of parties in parliament on each Select Committee – and the Chair of the Select Committee was elected by the members and obviously a Select Committee is quite powerful because it can summon any witnesses; it has quasi-legal powers in doing that, except the Intelligence Committee, which is appointed by the Prime Minister and is chaired by an appointee of the Prime Minister and still is. It’s been excluded from all the democratic processes.

Now I used to do lecturing for the civil service college on parliamentary structures, parliamentary accountability. And I enjoyed doing those lectures because it was very interesting having a discussion, usually with younger newly recruited civil servants, about the concept of democratic accountability, of public services, and where parliament fits into all this. And I’ve made a lot of statements, contributions, and so on, both at those lectures and in debates in parliament and so on, about the need for accountability of the services.

And then the question came up later of a War Powers Act, which – we drafted a War Powers Bill – Shami Chakrabarti wrote it. [It’s] very good. And the immediate question was: would this include special operations? In other words, I was saying that there had to be parliamentary approval for overseas operations by the British military, which is actually pretty normal in most democratic societies; even the USA has a as a War Powers Act. And they said, ‘well would this include special operations?’ I said, ‘yeah, of course, it would.’

Emily Thornbury supported me on that, and she raised the same question. The message I was being given was you’re overstepping the mark: you are an elected politician, but there’s a whole area of the state that you really should not be in charge of and should not be questioning. And I did ask for my own file. I’m still waiting.

MK: It wasn’t just the UK intelligence and military and political establishment that was that was working to stop you becoming Prime Minister. You must have been aware that when Mike Pompeo came in 2019 (US Secretary of State, then formerly the CIA director), he was recorded in a private meeting saying, he would do, or the US would do their quote “level best” to stop you becoming Prime Minister. What did you think when you read that? I mean that is such blatant interference in the democratic process in Britain. Not only that, it was barely covered in the media, compared to interference from other countries.

JC: We have a supine media in this country. The British self-confidence of saying we’ve got the best media in the world, the best broadcasting in the world, the best democracy in the world, is nonsense. Utter complete nonsense.

We have a media that’s supine. That self-censors. That accepts D-notices. Doesn’t challenge them. And, for the vast majority of the mainstream media, haven’t lifted so much as a little finger in support or defence of Julian Assange. And so the idea that we’ve got this brave British media; they’re always exposing the truth: it’s utter nonsense.

Even the liberal supposedly left-leading papers like the Guardian; where are they in all of this? Nowhere. Where were they kicking off about Pompeo’s remarks? Nowhere. We obviously kicked off about it, protested and so on and so on, and we’re just told it was private briefing, etc, etc, etc. It wasn’t. It was a quite deliberate message.

As one that has been a very avid student of political developments around the world – I’ve lived to see Allende elected, I’ve lived to see Allende killed, I’ve lived to see the coup in Chile, but I’ve also lived to see democracy return to Chile thanks to the bravery of the Chilean people.

And so he wasn’t alone – Pompeo in these remarks – Benjamin Netanyahu also waded in on this, and said that I must not become Prime Minister. Sorry, who has been in Benjamin Netanyahu to decide who the British Prime Minister should be?

It’s not for me to decide who the Israeli Prime Minister should be, or the American President, or anybody else for that matter. So who is he to make that kind of comment? Again, the British media just lapped it up.

Frankly many of the so-called investigative reporters in the British media are just pathetic.

MK: I agree with that.

I wanted to just [ask] this final question about this military, intelligence, Pompeo, Netanyahu theme – you mentioned Allende, and that was a CIA-backed coup which overthrew Chilean democracy in 1973. You have examples of the US-Israel killing people around the world that they don’t like.

Were you at any times worried for your safety? You were you were a kind of historic problem for the establishment.

JC: That’s past tense!

MK: [laughing] Yeah, well you obviously still are, but I mean when you were a leader, and especially after 2017 when it became a lot more real for these different interests, you were a threat; a real threat; a historic threat. Were you were you ever worried about your safety and did you have any sort of conversations about that kind of that kind of stuff?

JC: I’m probably a very difficult person to work with, because I hate being put in a silo and been cut off, And so the arguments in my office were constant about my safety.

I was more worried about the safety of my sons, my family, and so on, and my team, than anything else, and I always made sure that they were very well looked after and protected. I think it’s very easy for any public representative to cocoon themselves and cut themselves off from the people that have elected them in the first place. Very easy. You can always say security. I remember Bill Clinton once saying if I listen to all the security advice I’d never get up in the morning. I’d never do anything.

And so I continued with all the travelling and so on that I did, and most of it was by public transport; very few long car journeys, mostly quite short car journeys; and I’d walk around my constituency in the normal way. People in the local Labour Party and others got alarmed if they saw me walking around on my own, so they would spot me and then join me to look after me. Nice solidarity. And then on journeys obviously I had somebody with me. Did I feel for my own safety? Not really because I think if you start deciding that every corner you walk around somebody’s going to attack you, then you know you’re never going to do anything.

Did I receive some physical attacks? Yeah, and there’s been two court cases taken against the individuals. And is it a danger to be in public life? Yeah, I mean you’ve seen the MPs that have been killed, and you’ve seen the dangers that people face. But you cannot just become obsessed with your own safety and security. You’ve got to be out there with people. And so I was never prepared to be cocooned and that was it. I understand the tensions this created for my team around me because they were genuinely very worried for me. They were more worried for me then I was worried for myself, and they kept telling me that. But I’d rather be with ordinary people; chatting to people on the streets, cafes, etc.

I don’t go to pubs because I’m not a drinker, so I’m the world’s worst drinker. I don’t drink so no point. But do I feel under threat? Actually, you’re going around the country the number of people that say hostile comments or abuse is very, very few. On trains we used to sit together at one end of the train, all of us, because we – a small team, would be accompanying me when we’re travelling around the country – and actually there would be a sort of steady stream of people coming up the train saying, ‘can I have a word about this, that, the other’. So train journeys weren’t the least bit relaxing, but it was a nice way of meeting people.

MK: I just wanted to move on now to talk about Israel, because you were the first pro-Palestinian leader of a major party for a long, long time, which was controversial.

JC: Not sure I was the first one.

MK: Actually that’s a good question. Was Michael Foot noticeably…?

JC: I don’t recall Michael Foot ever saying very much about it, so I’m not sure on that one. Harold Wilson was certainly pro-Israel in the sense of supporting Israel in Six Day War and so on. And all others have been that.

My view is that I support the Palestinian people and to end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. And what we had in our manifestos was full recognition of an independent State of Palestine.

MK: But in 2017, Al Jazeera released an undercover documentary which was quite revelatory about Labour Friends of Israel [LFI] particularly. They’d recorded a senior official in Labour Friends of Israel outside a pub saying that when Israel gets bad press they send us lines to take publicly. So effectively, I mean, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that it’s acting as a front for the Israeli embassy in some ways.

You, your party, the Labour Party took no action against LFI in the aftermath of that. There was action taken against an Israeli diplomat [Shai Masot] who said that he wanted to take down Alan Duncan: he was expelled from the country. Now the Labour Party took no action. Why was that, and do you regret that? And what do you think about the existence of something like LFI within a nominally progressive party?

JC: I’m not opposed to there being ‘friends’ of particular countries, or places all around the world within the party. I think that’s a fair part of the mosaic of democratic politics. What I am concerned about is the funding that goes with it, and the apparently very generous funding that Labour Friends of Israel gets from the, I presume, the Israeli government.

We did actually protest about the contents of the revelations by the Al Jazeera documentary. We did raise this. Interestingly, many of these allegations were then parroted against me by people in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the Friends of Israel group within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

But I also got a lot of support from obviously the Palestinian people. One would assume they would support on this and I had meetings with the Palestinian ambassador and so on, as I also met the Israeli ambassador on a number of occasions. And we then kick back against it – but I also got interestingly a lot of support from people in Israel, on the left in Israel, from the peace movement and human rights groups in Israel.

Should the party have taken more robust action against Labour Friends of Israel for its behaviour? Yes. Remember, this was at a time when many of the senior bureaucracy of the Labour Party were actively undermining me, and we now discover through the leaked documents which have been presented to the Forde Inquiry exactly what the extent of that was. And so did we underestimate this before I became leader? Yes, we did. We did underestimate it, and that is obviously something that I think any democratic party needs to think about. If you have officialdom in a party, you expect at the very least the best of civil servant standards in their behaviour. We didn’t get that.

MK: I just wanted to ask one question about the anti-semitism crisis within the Labour Party during your leadership, which was one of the most intense media campaigns I’ve ever witnessed and I’m nearly 40. So I think that probably goes for people who are older than me. How – this is a difficult question – but how much do you think that anti-semitism crisis was a result of your pro-Palestinian political position?

JC: Very largely that is the case.

I have spent my life fighting racism in any form, in any place whatsoever. My parents spent their formative years fighting the rise of Nazism in Britain and that is what I’ve been brought up doing. And when in the 1970s the National Front were on the march in Britain, I was one of the organisers of the big Wood Green demonstration to try to stop the National Front marching through. And I was part of the campaign against racism at the time of the rise the anti-Nazi league and everybody else, and we worked with AJEX, Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women. We worked with the Jewish community on that, as we worked with all the other communities: Bengali community, Afro-Caribbean community, all of them on this. We saw the fight against racism as one that affects all communities.

And somehow or other, I was accused of being anti-semitic. The allegations against me were foul, dishonest and utterly disgusting, and appalling from people who should know better and do know better. People that have known me for 40 years never once complained about anything I’d ever said or done in terms of anti-racism until I became leader of the Labour Party; interesting coincidence of timing. Disgusting allegations, which obviously we sought to rebut at all times, and I’ll be forever grateful for the support given by Jewish socialists and many Jewish members of the Labour Party all over the country, and of course, the local Jewish community in my constituency. It was personal. It was vile. It was disgusting, and it remains so. I will always spend my life defending people against racist attacks.

Look, anti-semitism was used historically against the Jewish people: Jewish people expelled from Europe; expelled from Britain; returned during the Cromwellian period; and then the anti-semitism that was written large into literature, into history, into culture, into life in Britain, was then exploited big time in France in Germany, and in Britain, and then in Germany in the worst case, and that ended up with the Holocaust. So we’ve got to be very well aware of where racism leads people to and I am very well aware of that.

MK: I agree, which makes it even more depraved how it’s been instrumentalised as an issue to destroy critics of the Israeli state. And can I just ask you quickly about that, because it was a particularly extreme in your case, but you see it again and again with people who are supporting the Palestinians. That this is a weapon which is used. They’re accused of being anti-semitic and it’s a very hard thing to fight back from because it’s used as a slur. Can you just talk a little bit about that, the tactic…?

JC: The tactic is that you say that somebody is intrinsically anti-semitic and it sticks, and then the media parrot it and repeat it the whole time, and then the abuse appears on social media, the abusive letters appear, the abusive phone calls appear, and all of that. And it’s very horrible and very nasty and is designed to be very isolating, and designed to also take up all of your energies in rebutting these vile allegations, which obviously we did. But it tends to distract away from the fundamental message about peace, about justice, about social justice, about economy, and all of that.

And I have been nine times to Israel and Palestine in my life. I’ve met many people in Israel. I supported Mordecai Vanunu who was put in prison after he’d revealed Israel was making nuclear weapons. And I have many meetings with people in human rights groups, and so on, in Israel.

Am I critical of Israel’s occupation the West Bank? Absolutely. Am I critical of the encirclement of Gaza? Absolutely. Of the settlement policy. And I will continue to hold that position and so some of the allegations then become amazing. I mean I was accused of condoning anti-semitic behaviour because I wrote a forward to the re-publication of a book on imperialism that was first published in 1903.

MK: I think it surprised a lot of people that within the media, the Guardian was at the forefront of the attacks on you. Did that surprise you, and what does it tell us about the Guardian’s role in British society and the British media?

JC: I have absolutely no illusions in the Guardian. None whatsoever. My mum brought me up to read the Guardian. She said it’s a good paper you can trust. You can’t.

After their treatment of me, I do not trust a Guardian. There are good people who work in the Guardian. There are some brilliant writers in the Guardian, but as a paper it is a tool of the British establishment. It’s a mainstream establishment paper. So as long as everyone in the left gets it clear: when you buy the Guardian you’re buying an establishment paper; when you buy the Telegraph you’re buying an establishment paper; Mail and so on. So once you’ve got past that hurdle, you can then develop a critical thinking about anything. There are many articles in the Guardian I like, and agree with, and support, but as a paper I’m not very surprised.

I had a meeting with the Guardian editorial team during the 2015 leadership campaign. It was very interesting. I was invited to the Guardian which has a sort of daily meeting (I think it’s daily may be weekly) of all the staff, who talk about news agendas and what’s going on, and so on; and then a smaller meeting of the senior editorial team. And so the meeting with the entirety of the staff was fine – a lot of young people were there. It was interesting. It was funny. It was zany, very pleasant. I was very well received, and they said, ‘okay what’s your pitch to be leader of the Labour Party?’ and I set out: anti-austerity and social justice and challenging economic inequality, and environmental politics, and international peace, and justice and so on. Some of the questions were quite tough. Fine, that’s okay. It was very respectful. It was very nice meeting.

We then had a meeting with the editorial team – a bit different. It was like I was being warned. Like I was being warned by this team of actually incredibly self-important people. It was a bit like the Today programme, which at its worst thinks it’s running the whole world; at its best is a very investigative programme. Guardian is a bit the same. And so was I surprised? No, and I’ve had to live with the behaviour of the Guardian ever since.

But the Guardian is in a unique position, because it is the paper most read by Labour Party members, is the most important in forming opinion on the centre and left in British politics and they are very well aware of that, which is why I think an analysis of the Guardian’s treatment of the time that I was leader of the party needs to be made. Because they, and the BBC had more unsourced reporting of anti-semitic criticisms surrounding me than any other paper, including the Mail, the Telegraph and The Sun.

The only paper that gave what can really call moderately fair coverage was the Daily Mirror actually. The Daily Mirror didn’t always agree with me, and said so, and would make public criticisms, but also did accept articles from me, and did accept the stuff that we sent them, and they were quite good at reporting the sort of social justice campaigns that that we put forward.

The Daily Express, which is in the same stable as the Mirror now – but I had one let’s just finish on this point – a fascinating evening: I was invited to a randomly-selected invitation-only event of readers of the Express and the Mirror in a room together, where I would take questions from them. Anyway, you could sort of very quickly tell who read the Express and who read the Mirror from the questions that came up. They weren’t seated separately, or anything like that, you could pick it up straight away. But it was actually quite good meeting. It was quite robust. I mean some of the Express questions were a bit, well, I thought slightly off-the-wall actually. But you know it was okay. I don’t mind that kind of – I enjoy that kind of political debate. I’ll take that. That’s okay. I mean MPs should be challenged. Political leaders should be challenged. Accountability is important. You can’t cut yourself off.

MK: I just wanted to ask about Julian Assange, because that also relates to the Guardian. Because obviously he was an early collaborator with the Guardian and then they’ve now turned on him massively – they’ve run a campaign against him effectively for many years now.

Can you just talk about the significance of Julian Assange being in Belmarsh maximum security prison for three years now? We’re on the eve probably of Priti Patel’s decision on whether to extradite him to the US to spend his life in a supermax prison in the desert there. What do you think Julian Assange has given to the world, and why do you think the establishment here, and the establishment in the US, is so keen to silence him forever, or leave him dead?

JC: Nelson Mandela was put into maximum security life imprisonment after Rivonia treason trial of 1964. All through the 60s and the 70s, into much later on – 80s even – Nelson Mandela was a lonely figure supported by a few people around Africa and around the world. He was not a popular iconic figure at all. He became so later on. He became the iconic figure in the fight against apartheid, and when he was released and came to British parliament, there were some amazing speeches from people who had apparently been incredibly active in the apartheid movement, but somehow or other I’d missed their participation in all the anti-apartheid activities I’ve been to. You know how it goes. That’s all right.

Julian Assange. What’s his crime? What is his crime? Julian Assange managed to collect information on what the US was doing; US foreign policy was doing; its illegal activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and much else. In the great traditions of a journalist who never reveals their sources – very important – and he was pursued because of this. And as we know, eventually sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, but was unable to get out of it.

We then discovered that all that time in the Ecuadorian embassy, there were the charges against him from Sweden, which were eventually dropped, and there was the surveillance of him by apparently an independent security company, but in reality, it was working for the Americans.

And he was initially welcomed by the Guardian, supported by the Guardian. The Guardian published all of his stuff, and then dropped him. And have continued to drop him. And I have been on many of the demonstrations outside the courts in Britain over the last few months while he’s been his case has been brought up again and again and again about removal to the USA or not. And there’s huge numbers of media there from all over the world. One day I did interviews for about 15 broadcast medias all over the world. Where were the British? None. Not one, apart from social media. Not one.

So what is it about the British media that they cannot bring themselves to the biggest story about freedom-to-know in the world today, on their very doorstep. They could walk from their offices to the high court and get the story. No. And it says everything about the supine nature of the mainstream media in Britain.

It’s not surprising that mistrust of the print media is the highest in Europe in Britain. That the sales of all newspapers are falling very rapidly, and people make their own news through social media, which has its pitfalls and has its dangers.

And so Julian Assange is now in a maximum security prison. He’s not convicted of anything. There is no unspent conviction that he’s got to serve time in prison for. And in Belmarsh – I’ve been there to see prisoners in the past – is a horrible, horrible place, and he’s there with all the dangers to his health that goes with that. And so, yes, I do support Julian Assange, and I was very pleased when JeanLuc Mélenchon made a very interesting statement yesterday that should the left candidates win a majority in the French national assembly he’d be welcome there.

Also Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the President of Mexico, raised the voice in support of him. Did try and persuade President Trump, just before he left office, to drop the case against Assange. And when I was in Mexico in January of this year, I took part in the mañaneras, the daily press conference that the President holds, which is quite dramatic affair, it lasts about two hours and there’s videos and films, and chat, and discussion, and so on: it’s a different form of government – and he raised the question again of Julian Assange, and made a very passionate appeal saying that Mexico would welcome Julian Assange, and would give him citizenship if he required it.

MK: Sir Keir Starmer was in your shadow cabinet and then quit during the what’s been called dubs ‘the chicken coup’. He was then reappointed.

JC: He wasn’t in the shadow cabinet at the time of the coup, he came later.

MK: I thought he was.

JC: He was a spokesperson on immigration issues, and then joined later on.

MK: So he was your shadow Brexit Secretary, which was a senior role within your shadow cabinet. Were you aware of his politics which have been evinced since he became leader in 2020, and has his move of the Labour Party to the right shocked you?

JC: I appointed Keir Starmer to the shadow cabinet after my re-election as leader of the party in 2016. Remember I was first elected with 248 thousand votes. I was re-elected less than a year later with over 300 000 votes. And I explained to the Parliamentary Labour Party – not that they wanted to hear it – that I actually had a mandate from the party members. Most of the Parliamentary Labour Party believed the leader of the party should be selected by the Parliamentary Labour Party, as historically it was the case.

I wanted to reach out within the parliamentary party, so I appointed what I believe to be a balanced shadow cabinet, and expected everybody to work together within that shadow cabinet, and to behave in a proper manner. I appointed Keir Starmer to the shadow of Brexit position because of his legal knowledge and skills, and the importance of saying to the parliamentary labour party, ‘look, I understand the makeup of the PLP, this is why I’ve appointed this broad and diverse shadow cabinet.’ Did it make it easy to manage? No. Was there lots of debates within the shadow cabinet? You bet there were.

I didn’t stop those debates. I encouraged those debates and said look we’ve got to move forward on this – and come back to your early question in a second – but I have to say as we developed this very difficult position over Brexit, where we had a 60:40 split of party supporters voting remain to leave, and we had the view that we had to somehow or other bring people together – I tried to unite people around the social and economic message saying if you’re poor and up against it, however you voted, you need a Labour government that’s going to redistribute wealth and power.

Was I close to Keir Starmer? No, I’d never met him before he became a member of parliament. I obviously knew who he was. He’s a neighbouring MP. Had we had much contact? No, not really, and our conversations when he was in the shadow cabinet were largely about the minutiae of Brexit various agreements, and the many meetings that we had in Brussels with officials there including Michel Barnier. We met him on a number of occasions. So beyond that, apart from occasional chats about Arsenal football club, that was about it.

Was I aware of everything about his past? No, not really. Should I have been? Yeah, but then there are so many things one could and should be aware of that one isn’t. I noticed it when he stood for election for leader of the party, he was very clear that he accepted the 2019 manifesto and its contents, and put forward his 10 points there. Those seem to have been parked now, shall we say.

And then, the response to the HRC report, which I gave which I thought was reasonable and balanced, was met with the immediate suspension of my membership, which the media were told before I was. First I heard about it was when a journalist stopped me in the street as I was leaving the Brickworks Community Centre (it’s a community centre just near here) which I’m a trustee of, and I was told my membership been suspended, and I thought the journalist [was playing] a joke; he was winding me up. I said, ‘what?’ He said, ‘no you’ve been suspended.’ I said, ‘No, no, what are you talking about.’ But it was true.

Anyway, I obviously appealed against that and won that appeal unanimously, reinstated unanimously, endorsed by the NEC [Labour’s National Executive Committee] unanimously, and then my membership of the parliamentary party was suspended, and there’s been no process taken against me by the parliamentary party.

It makes my constituents very angry. They say look Jeremy we voted for you as our Labour MP so why…? We’ve got confidence in you. We have no problem with you. We don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, and we welcome your work as our local MP. And I’m very proud to represent the people of this community.

So was I angry about it. Yeah, of course, but I have always in politics tried to keep off the personal attack and so on and so on. It’s very tempting, but I remember saying this during the 2019 election. I said look it’s really tempting for me to have a go at Boris Johnson personally, he had a go at me personally, and it can be quite funny, it can be quite witty for the first time. Second time I think, oh god, here we go again. Third time, nobody’s listening, nobody’s interested. Politicians having to go to each other, calling each other names: it doesn’t get anybody anywhere. It don’t put bread on the table. And so it is important that we campaign on political points and political principles.

MK: Will you stand as an independent at the next election if it doesn’t get resolved?

JC: Look, I am focused on getting the whip back at the present time.

MK: So what should be the major issue in terms of UK foreign policy right now is the critical support we provide to Saudi Arabia as it launches – what it has launched since 2015 – one of the most brutal wars in modern times, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It’s a brutal air war, full of war crimes including attacks on hospitals, schools, but also a naval blockade which has strangled the country and pushed millions of children to the brink of starvation.

Interestingly there was a vote in parliament, which was brought by your leadership in 2016, where a hundred of your own MPs either voted against it or abstained in calling for the withdrawal of UK support for Saudi Arabia. So could you just talk a bit about why you think there’s such a consensus across the establishment – and I’m including parts of the Labour Party in that – of support for Saudi Arabia, which is indefensible, not only because of the immediate war, but also it’s an extremist Wahhabi dictatorship which exports terrorism around the world and extremism. Why is there this consensus in the British establishment that we must support Saudi Arabia?

JC: Saudi Arabia and Britain have a very close economic, political and military relationship. It’s not new, it goes right back to the establishment of Saudi Arabia, which was a British invention in the beginning. I mean you need to read the whole history of the whole of the Middle East to realise the malevolent influence of British colonial policies within the whole region. That is well documented, but needs to be better understood. And I might just say, as an aside, one of my passions is to improve history teaching in the totality of our education system to understand the brutality of colonialism and imperialism.

Saudi Arabia is a big recipient of arms from western countries: USA, Britain, France and so on. Massive. Obviously, incredibly wealthy because of historically high oil prices going back to the 70s, and indeed their big time wealth grew over the big hike in oil prices in 73–74; the world oil crisis at that time. Major buyer of British arms. The contract that Tony Blair signed with them was massive. 2 billion, I think is the figure that was total at that time, which was massive at that time and it’s continued ever since.

Some of us have been very concerned about human rights in Saudi Arabia, and as a officer of the all-party human rights group, we’ve had many discussions about Saudi Arabia; about the executions; about discrimination; about treatment of migrant workers; about its export of terrorism around the world; and in particular the war on Yemen. And we are fuelling the war on Yemen, and indeed there are employees of British companies working in Saudi Arabia that are directing the bombing of Yemen. And Yemen is now, along with Afghanistan, the world’s worst humanitarian disaster: cholera, typhus, etc, etc. All these wholly preventable conditions [are] now rife amongst children and people in the Yemen.

And so I thought we had to have a much stronger policy on this, and so I pushed that we as a party make a declaration that we would cease all arms trade to Saudi Arabia, and I intervened to make sure that the Saudi delegation would not be welcomed as observers of the Labour Party conference. There was big pushback against that by a lot of people, and I said, ‘no, whilst they are bombing Yemen and we’re opposed to arms sales to Saudi Arabia, that stands.’

I then propose that we have an opposition day debate, where the opposition gets to choose the subject for debate and on a votable motion. It cannot be binding on a government, because it’s an opposition day motion, but it nevertheless is an important way of MPs being able to express an opinion. So I put this motion forward, which would be to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and I met with the most extraordinary levels of lobbying and opposition from Labour MPs who said, ‘it’s damaging jobs, it’s damaging major British companies: British Aerospace and others, and you cannot go ahead with this, this will cause consternation and damage within our communities and constituencies.’

I said, ‘look, I fully understand the employment implications over a long period on this, but if we’re serious about human rights, and we are, and you all are apparently, then this has to be the policy: we suspend arms sales and we protect those jobs in order to convert those industries something else.’ It does require a very big public intervention, and I made that clear to the unions, to Unite, GMB and others on that – I have to say I got a better reception in Unite than the other unions on this, but nevertheless there were obvious concerns, unions have got to represent their members. I get that. But, I also get that we are killing children in the Yemen, and so I put this policy forward on an opposition day and it was the biggest rebellion ever against my time as leader of the party.

I was appalled, saddened, disappointed by that, and it just shows how deep the pressure is of the arms trade, both on British politics, and it’s the motor force behind it all: the motor force of foreign policy is often driven by the interests of those that export arms. Look at who funds the think tanks; look at who sets up the seminars; look at who places the articles in papers saying there’s a big tension building up here. Yeah, there is a big tension in Yemen. Yes, there is a whole political history in Yemen: South Yemen, etc, Aden and so on. There’s all that there. Is there a tension with Iran? Yes, there is. We all understand that.

How do you resolve these tensions? Do you throw arms at it? Do you start another war somewhere? Do you then promote terrorism around the region knowing full well all that money spent on those arms by any one country is money not spent on schools, not spent on hospitals, not spent on housing, not spent on feeding people? The power of the arms lobby is absolutely massive in this country, in the United States, France, and in Russia, and in China, and so we have to think what kind of world would like to create.

I would have thought covid would have taught us that the danger to all of us is contagious diseases, poverty and hunger, and environmental disaster. That’s what the danger is. So why don’t we wind down the rhetoric, wind up the peace, and start supporting peace initiatives, and peace processes. All wars end in a conference. All wars end in some kind of agreement. Why don’t we cut out the middle phase and go to the end?

MK: We started Declassified in 2019 because we felt there was a lack of serious, rigorous reporting on UK foreign policy. Can you talk about the significance of the burgeoning independent media sector in Britain, and how important this is for the future of progressive politics?

JC: Declassified is very important because what you’re doing is exposing the truths. Exposing the truths about stuff that people don’t want us to know. And I think it’s important that we do that. It’s also important to challenge the way in which the mainstream media form our thinking, and it’s the growth of the technology of independent media that is so valuable to all of us that are more radical, more free-thinking, around the world.

As a young man, I was very politically active; indeed have been all my life. And I would labour the whole night through to hand print on a duplicator maybe 5 000 leaflets, and give them out the next day, and we thought, ‘wow we’re making impact!’ Social media lets you get a message to millions within seconds, or tens of millions within seconds, so everybody becomes a journalist, everybody becomes a reporter. So you then have to sift through the values or otherwise behind that, and some of it can be nonsense, some of it can be abusive and so on. But having an alternative media is very important.

So through the Peace and Justice Project we’ve set up some news clubs around the country, and these news clubs are people coming together who, yeah, they’re sceptical of both their local media regional media and national and international media, and setting up the dynamic of an alternative media. So we now have a lot of actually quite effective, robust independent media sources out on social media. They’re good, interesting. They need to cooperate together as much as they can. So that when we have big events on, we all share the same platform.

And I think it’s the development of this independent media that is so important and so critical because they can mobilise people. They can bring people together at very short notice. And I think had the independent media been as big and successful as it is now in 2003, on the eve of the outbreak of the Iraq War, we would have had even more people on those huge demonstrations. We would have been able to mobilise people in more countries, in a more effective way, particularly in the United States.

Having grown up observing the politics of the USA and this country, and being very much a part of it all, I never thought I’d see the day when somebody who calls himself a socialist would come within a whisker of winning the democrat nomination to the presidency in Bernie Sanders. How did that happen? Activism, social media and a rebirth of the whole idea of socialism.

So if I make just one last word, many people around the world call themselves socialists, and think about it and act in that kind of way. Many people around the world don’t realise they’re socialists and activists in the same way, and so through our project I don’t want us just to be defensive in saving, preventing damage, and so on and so on, to various very important services. I want us to be proactive. So we’re writing a book called Why We Are Socialists and we’re inviting anyone to contribute to it in no more than 500 words. 500 words maximum. Absolutely. 501 words don’t get printed. 500 yes. 499 definitely. And we’ve had hundreds of submissions. They’re really interesting.

People that come at it from their own personal experience. Come at it through industrial disputes, environmental campaigns, international peace campaigns, or come at it from studying history, and a more intellectual way of doing things about a sustainable world, and so on. It’s absolutely fascinating and we’re putting this book together. We’ll publish it later this year and that is, I think, the way forward. Get people to think critically for themselves. We’ve never been in an era but it’s easier to find things out. We’ve never been in an era but it’s harder to know.

Click here to read Matt Kennard’s article based around the same interview and published by Declassified on June 22nd.

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Yemen

Israel have just killed another journalist: RIP Shireen Abu Akleh

“I chose journalism to be close to the people. It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I could bring their voice to the world.”

— Shireen Abu Akleh

*

Update:

Murdered Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has been laid to rest after mourners were denied a peaceful final farewell. In shocking scenes, Israeli police attacked the funeral procession, nearly forcing pallbearers to drop Abu Akleh’s coffin.

*

Shireen Abu Akleh was a 51-year-old Palestinian-American and a veteran reporter for Al Jazeera. She was killed in Jenin yesterday morning:

She was there to do her job: reporting on how more Israeli soldiers were “raiding” – a euphemism for terrorising – more Palestinians.

She was wearing a helmet and body armour marked “Press”.

She was standing at a roundabout with other Palestinian journalists when she was shot in the face. An Al Jazeera producer, who survived, was shot in the back.

Abu Akleh’s body lay on the side of a road, next to a wall. Her colleagues screamed for help as they pulled her away from a sniper’s crosshairs. Later, an ambulance arrived. She died in hospital. Alone.

Another day, another murdered Palestinian.

Click here to read the full report published today by Al Jazeera colleague Andrew Mitrovica entitled “Some truths about Shireen Abu Aklen’s murder”.

The Electronic Intifada reports:

A preliminary investigation by Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, based on an autopsy result and eyewitness testimony, concluded that Abu Akleh was killed by a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers.

Soldiers had surrounded a home in the camp on the pretext of searching for wanted persons, according to Al-Haq, and were met with armed resistance.

Abu Akleh was hit in the head by a bullet fired from the direction of the Israeli soldiers, who had full view of the Al Jazeera crew, and not the resistance fighters, whose fire would not have been able to reach the journalists.

Another journalist, Ali Samoudi, was shot in the back during the same incident and was reportedly in stable condition.

Moreover, the type of projectile found in Abu Akleh’s brain is a bullet issued to Israeli soldiers.

Al-Haq said that Abu Akleh’s killing may amount to “premeditated murder.”

Click here to read the full piece by Maureen Clare Murphy entitled “Shireen Abu Akled’s blood is on the hands of Israel’s ‘friends’”

Meanwhile as the entire western diplomatic apparatus and its media mouthpieces have condemned “the killing” and “expressed concerns” calling for investigations, the same authorities are actively blocking the International Criminal Court’s war crimes probe in Palestine:

Israeli media reported that a delegation from the country traveled to the US to meet government officials in early March to hammer out a joint campaign strategy against the ICC.

The team was reportedly led by Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s energy minister and a cabinet member tasked with leading the government’s campaign to thwart an ICC investigation.

Steinitz has previously described the findings of [the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou] Bensouda’s preliminary examination as “a type of ‘blood libel.’”

In the US, Israel seeks bipartisan backing against the ICC, and its delegation reportedly met Democratic lawmakers as well as White House and State Department officials.

Israel has already mobilized its allies elsewhere to argue against jurisdiction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Australia, Brazil, Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic intervening with the court to support Israel’s position, as has Uganda.

Canada also joined Israel’s cause, sending a letter to the ICC reiterating that it does not recognize a Palestinian state. The letter also reminded the court of the funding it receives from Canada, which Amnesty International said “appears to be a threat to withdraw financial support.”

Click here to read Maureen Clare Murphy’s full report entitled “US and Israel team up to thwart war crimes probes” published by Electronic Intifada on April 14th, 2020.

*

Independent journalist Richard Medhurst pays tribute to Shireen Abu Akleh’s courage and integrity and expresses outrage at the blatant hypocrisy and double standards in western reaction and mainstream reporting of the murder of a highly respected journalist [warning: strong language]:

2 Comments

Filed under Israel, obituary, Palestine

Irish MP Richard Boyd Barrett calls out the double standards on Ukraine and Palestine

Richard Boyd Barrett is an Irish MP for the People Before Profit/Solidarity party who was elected at the 2011 general election. On Friday (March 4th) he made an impassioned speech at the Dáil calling out Irish parliamentarians and the international community as a whole for its consistent failure to condemn Israeli apartheid after seventy years of systematic oppression of Palestinians and raising the issue of blatant double standards on Ukraine and Palestine describing it as “utter hypocrisy”:

Treating the Arab population as a whole, the Palestinian population as a whole, as an inferior race. I mean it doesn’t get stronger than this and yet you want to be careful about your language. You’re happy to correctly use the most strong and robust language to describe the crimes against humanity of Vladimir Putin, but you will not use the same strength of language when it comes to describing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians when it is now being documented and detailed by two of the most respected human rights organisations in the world, and indeed has been alleged by dozens and dozens of non-governmental organisations. And to be honest, anybody who looks honestly at the decades of brutal inhumane persecution of the Palestinians; successive assaults on Gaza; the annexation of the land and territory; the systematic application of apartheid rules; you don’t want to even use the word ‘apartheid’, never mind sanctions.

[It took] five days for sanctions against Putin and his thugs, seventy years of oppression of the Palestinians and it wouldn’t be – what was the word you used? Uh, it wouldn’t be “helpful” to impose sanctions. Amnesty international are calling for Israel to be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Will you support it? They are calling for targeted sanctions against Israeli officials who are perpetuating the system of apartheid: just exactly the same types of sanctions you’ve just initiated against Vladimir Putin. Will you support it? And I think the answer is clearly you’re not going to.

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Russia, Ukraine

Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah on Israel’s slow-motion land grab

Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah is co-founder and director of The Electronic Intifada, an independent nonprofit publication focusing on Palestine. He is also the author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

Speaking with independent journalist Katie Halper, he describes how the Israeli government is now in the process of confiscating his family’s land in the West Bank village of Battir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is nothing unusual, Abunimah explains. It’s just what Israel does: “No Palestinian is safe from a criminal entity whose whole existence is based on theft.”

Battir is a beautiful place, Abunimah says, but:

“The whole area, the whole village is surrounded by Israeli settlements, you know, like any other Palestinian village in the West Bank. Any time the Israelis could show up and establish or expand another settlement, this is what any Palestinian can go through, any time, and so literally, you know, you can be killed with impunity, your land can be taken with impunity, your home can be demolished with impunity; that’s the reality and it’s a slow grind year after year, day after day, month after month, and that’s why Israel gets away with it. Because it’s like ‘yeah, well just one more house’, but it’s one house and another house and another house, day after day, week after week, month after month, and all of a sudden there goes the neighbourhood – all Palestinian neighbourhood in Jerusalem – demolished, depopulated and new settlements put in its place.”

*

A full transcript of the interview is provided below:

Israel is smart. You know when they want to take over a Palestinian neighbourhood in Jerusalem they don’t go in and do it all at once. You know they don’t go in on Wednesday and demolish a hundred houses at the same time, because that will generate unwanted international attention. They do it house by house, street by street, and they wear Palestinians down. They make it impossible.

If you’re a Palestinian in your native Jerusalem, it’s impossible for you to get a permit to build a house on your own land; land your family may have owned for generations. My family is experiencing this right now – not in Jerusalem – I tweeted about this a couple of weeks ago.

My father’s family is from a village in the West Bank called Battir, south of Jerusalem. It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site: you can look it up because it’s been continuously farmed; it has this incredible irrigation system (this ancient irrigation system) that goes back two thousand years: that the people there, the people of Battir, including my family, still tend and still look after.

About three weeks ago, one of my cousins showed up at the piece of land we have, and have had for generations; we have Ottoman records for it. He showed up – it’s an area where we have olive trees planted – and found a notice from the Israeli army saying that we have 45 days to vacate the land, and that we are illegally occupying the land. So that’s something I can attest to, but we’re not special. This is something that is happening to Palestinians across the occupied West Bank every single day.

There is a legal process. We have lawyers looking into it. I don’t want to say too much about that, but I will say that you’re dealing with – you’re under military occupation – so you’re going to courts that are not there to provide you justice. They’re there to justify the crimes of the occupier.

So you are put in a position where it’s like you may well have to go through the process simply so as not to relinquish your rights, but you’re not going to any kind of court which is part of a fair system. It’s occupiers’ justice. It’s a military occupation. But what do you do, do you let them take the land without a fight, or do you try to fight?

That’s the dilemma that every Palestinian is in, and in Jerusalem this morning they – the Israelis – demolished a home, a family home, in a tour, and put a family out on the street. A couple of days ago they did the same in Sheikh Jarrah. And they can get away with it, because you know US doesn’t do anything – we’re happy, you know even some of our so-called ‘progressives’ are voting to give Israel, the Israeli military, more money – the European Union is fine with it right, even some of the Arab dictatorships that are clients of the United States are, you know, embracing Israel: the Saudis, the Emiratis and others.

So what’s the incentive for Israel to stop doing this to us?

*

Additional: Amnesty International calls Israel an apartheid state

The video report embedded above was uploaded yesterday [Feb 1st] by Amnesty International on their official Youtube channel. The notes below have been reproduced in full and with capitals retained as they appear attached to the video upload:

DEMOLISH APARTHEID NOT PALESTINIAN HOMES TAKE ACTION HERE

http://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/camp…

Millions of Palestinians live under Israel’s system of apartheid, and at the heart of this violently racist system, is the Palestinian experience of being denied a home.

For over 73 years, Israel has forcibly displaced entire Palestinian communities and demolished hundreds of thousands of Palestinians’ homes causing terrible trauma & suffering. Over 6 million Palestinians remain as refugees and today at least another 150,000 are at real risk of losing their homes.

Israel has created and maintains laws, policies, and practices that deliberately oppress Palestinians and work to ensure Jewish Israeli domination across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). This includes racist seizures of property and planning laws and policies that make it impossible for many Palestinians to build homes. It also allows for mass demolitions of homes built without a permit, something that is routinely denied for Palestinians.

Apartheid is a crime against humanity and is committed with the specific intent of maintaining a cruel system of control by one racial group over another. Every week, the Israeli authorities displace Palestinians through demolitions or forced evictions, which shows how Israel deliberately disadvantages Palestinians, giving them inferior status to Israeli Jews.

With more stories coming to light and more people around the world mobilising against these injustices, now is the time for us to work together. As a first step, we must speak out for Palestinians living under Israel’s apartheid. We have the power to demolish this system even if it means one pillar at a time.

Take action against demolitions and forced evictions now by writing to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Call on him to immediately cancel all orders for forced evictions and home demolitions against Palestinians in Israel/OPT and to end the forced displacement of Palestinians.

TAKE ACTION AGAINST APARTHIED

HELP US DISMANTLE THIS OPPRESSIVE SYSTEM

FIND OUT MORE http://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/camp…

Leave a comment

Filed under campaigns & events, Israel, Palestine

Desmond Tutu RIP, Keir Starmer and Jeffrey Epstein’s mate, Peter Mandelson

Commemorating the life of Desmond Tutu, his friend, fellow anti-apartheid activist and former African National Congress MP, Andrew Feinstein, spoke to Double Down News on January 4th.

Andrew Feinstein contrasted Desmond Tutu’s lifelong commitment to end apartheid in all countries across the world with the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson and his current UK government, western mainstream media outlets and Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which would certainly have expelled him for his unflinching condemnation of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and his advocacy of boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS]:

*

A full transcript is reproduced below with relevant images and links provided:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu because of his views on Israel would be expelled from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. This is the same Labour Party whose leadership is currently being advised by Lord Peter Mandelson, a friend of Jeffrey Epstein who appears on ten occasions in Ghislaine Maxwell’s “little black book”; someone who phoned Jeffrey Epstein when he was in jail on child abuse convictions.

Jeffrey Epstein and Peter Mandelson Mail online

What does it say about our politics, our public life, and, crucially, our media, that Jeremy Corbyn was criticised more for the way in which he pronounced Jeffrey Epstein’s name [here, here, here, here and here] than scrutiny is being given to the fact that Keir Starmer’s leadership is being advised by one of Jeff Epstein’s mates? What does that say about the morality of a party that today is suspending and expelling people who share the vision and the specific political views of Archbishop Desmond Tutu?

Corbyn pronunciation of Epstein in The Sun

Desmond Tutu was the most courageous campaigner against human rights abusers around the world. I was privileged to know him personally because I’d come into contact with him during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, but even more importantly when I was an ANC Member of Parliament and was trying to investigate millions of dollars worth of corruption in a hugely corrupt arms deal that was facilitated primarily by Tony Blair and BAE Systems. Then Tutu called me to his home to give his support.

Desmond Tutu campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and he campaigned against human rights abuses everywhere in the world including in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. When he visited Israel he was shocked and remarked that he felt that apartheid in Israel was, if anything, worse than it had been in South Africa.

David Frost: You said that what you saw in Israel something that was quite akin to the situation in South Africa before freedom came to the black people of South Africa.

Desmond Tutu: Well in many instances worse.

He was also deeply frustrated by the fact that the Israeli state supported the apartheid South African regime and helped it become a nuclear power and he would often say both privately and publicly that he never understood how a state such as Israel could cooperate with and arm the apartheid state in South Africa that was run by Nazi sympathizers, where a lot of the apartheid legislation was mimicked from the Nazi legislation between 1933 and 1938.

Tutu would often speak about the need to liberate not just those oppressed, but the oppressor as well. He saw how white South Africans became a bitter and hateful people as a consequence of the racism that dominated their daily lives. The dehumanising of the other that is such a central component of any system of oppression.

And when he visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories he saw the same thing amongst many Israelis: a hatred of the other who they had dehumanised. A shrinking of their own existence because they defined that existence in relation to those they subjugated and oppressed.

Desmond Tutu: Part of my own concern for what is happening there is, in fact, not what is happening to the Palestinians, but it is what the Israelis are doing to themselves. I mean when you go to those checkpoints and you see these young soldiers behaving abominably badly. They are not aware that when you carry out dehumanising policies. Whether you like it or not those policies dehumanise the perpetrator

He continued his search for a solution to the Palestinian issue throughout his life and continued steadfastly to call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel just as he had against apartheid South Africa. Tutu felt very strongly – and we discussed this on a number of occasions – that the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign was absolutely critical in bringing about an end to apartheid in South Africa because what it did was it started to undermine and corrode the comfortable life that white South Africans lived at the expense of the majority of people in South Africa.

Without the global movement towards BDS, apartheid would never have ended in South Africa, and it’s for that exact reason that he believes it is only when the Israeli government suffers the economic consequences of BDS that they will be forced to the negotiating table to bring an end both to apartheid within Israel, but also to the illegal and brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fulsome in his praise of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on his passing, despite the reality that Boris Johnson’s government is in the process of trying to ban support for the boycott divestment and sanctions movement, which Desmond Tutu clearly stated was absolutely crucial in bringing about an end to apartheid in South Africa and is absolutely crucial in fighting against apartheid in Israel and the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Desmond Tutu campaigned indefatigably against press censorship, freedom of speech, freedom of the media. It is something that on certain uncomfortable topics today like Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories more and more our media our self-censoring. Our political parties are censoring their members what they can and cannot say and believe on these topics.

What Desmond Tutu taught us is that we must always listen to each other we must always hear each other regardless of how uncomfortable it is. In our world of social media we don’t listen. We don’t hear. We abuse. By instinct. Without thought.

Many of those who bandy about the word “antisemite” aren’t doing so because they care about actual anti-semitism or racism, they’re using it as a weapon to attack those who are critical of Israel. They’re trying to boil down Judaism to be equivalent to the State of Israel that is, in itself, an anti-semitic construct. They are doing it in such a way that effectively renders the term “anti-semitic” meaningless.

Alan Dershowitz: The world is mourning Bishop Tutu, who just died the other day. Can I remind the world that although he did some good things – a lot of good things on apartheid –  the man was a rampant anti-semite and bigot.

The fact that Dershowitz used the slur of “anti-semitism” to attempt to demean the reputation and legacy of this remarkable human being very sadly says more about Dershowitz and more about the way in which “anti-semitism” has been weaponised and equated with any criticism of Israel; its own discrimination – what is often called apartheid within Israel; and its brutal and illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. It is the same slur of “anti-semitism” that was used against Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom; that was used against Bernie Sanders in the United States; and that is still being used supposedly in the name of fighting anti-semitism.

This is the same Alan Dershowitz who acted as Jeffrey Epstein’s defence attorney securing a sweetheart deal in a 2008 plea agreement thereby enabling his friend to serve out his jail term on day-release, and who later confessed to receiving a massage courtesy of Epstein although he says he kept his underpants on, and who the BBC very recently saw fit to share his twisted opinion on the verdict against Ghislaine Maxwell:

So in today’s Labour Party, for instance, a Jewish member of the Labour Party is five times more likely to be investigated, suspended or expelled by the Labour Party for “anti-semitism” than anyone else in the party. Think for a moment of the absurdity of expelling anti-racist Jews to thwart anti-semitism. It is into that complete madness that Dershowitz’s comments about Desmond Tutu should be located.

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, eulogised Desmond Tutu despite the fact that the former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, who was a tireless campaigner against apartheid South Africa at a time when it was not fashionable to be so, remains suspended from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party along with countless other anti-racists who echo the words of Desmond Tutu on Israel, on the Palestinian territories, on injustice, and on true anti-racism. This was craven hypocrisy from Keir Starmer.

corbyn-arrest-1984-c2a9rob-scott-higher-compression-1-scaled-1

Jeremy Corbyn MP is arrested during the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group picket of South Africa House in 1984 [Photo: Rob Scott]

The Labour Party’s shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, was also full of praise for Archbishop Desmond Tutu in virtually the same moment at which he apologised for having nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party, despite the fact that just a few years ago he was singing Corbyn’s praises.

It is worth bearing in mind that David Lammy never thought it necessary to apologise for voting for the invasion of Iraq that has led to over a million deaths, that accelerated the rise of ISIS, that has caused untold suffering in Iraq and the wider Middle East region, but he did feel it necessary to apologise having nominated the only Labour leader who has apologised for the invasion of Iraq.

Jeremy Corbyn: So I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go toward Iraq.

Desmond Tutu refused to share a platform with Tony Blair because he believed that Tony Blair should be on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court. I know which Desmond Tutu would apologise for.

Desmond Tutu: Those who want to wage war against Iraq must know it would be an immoral war.

It is my belief that the most important thing we can do is to learn from our history rather than repeat it.

It is incredibly hypocritical of our political leaders to praise the person who fought and overcame apartheid in the past while at exactly the same time they are stifling and trying to prevent us from halting apartheid today. The reality that Desmond Tutu would be suspended or expelled by the current Labour Party for his support of BDS against Israel is a reflection on the current morality of Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

That is not the legacy of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu’s legacy is that we have the principles, the courage, and the convictions, to stand up against all racism, to stand up against human rights abuses wherever they occur, and whoever they are perpetrated by.

Desmond Tutu: Let’s send a message to governments that a critical mass of people want to see an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the oppression of its people by acting together we can break cycles of injustice and the occupation and build a new world based on our common humanity and justice. Support freedom for Palestine. Peace. Shalom. Salam.

*

Additional:

The following comment and link was received shortly after posting the article above.

Please consider publishing / publicizing the petition:

SUSPEND Lord Mandelson from the Labour party while carrying out an independent investigation into the extent of his involvement with the sex traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Mandelson

1 Comment

Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Israel, obituary, Palestine, South Africa

open letter to the Labour Party: what is its stance on Israel, Tzipi Hotovely, and anti-racism?

Israel ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, has claimed that there is “no Palestinian people” and last year described the Nakba – the well-documented 1948 expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in order to establish Israel – as “a popular Arab lie.”

In May, Hotovely was keynote speaker at a demonstration outside the embassy in support of Israel’s latest war against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Also in attendance was far-right activist Tommy Robinson.

On Tuesday night, students protested peacefully outside the LSE at the apparent invitation of Tzipi Hotovely by the LSE Debate Society. Eighteen student groups had also signed an open letter expressing their outrage at the event. The students said Hotovely’s racism was in clear contravention of LSE policies on external speakers.

[Shadow Foreign Secretary] Lisa Nandy afterwards tweeted:

The appalling treatment of Tzipi Hotovely is completely unacceptable. There is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and any attempt to silence or intimidate those we disagree with should never be tolerated.

Why do Lisa Nandy and the Labour Party stand by Tzipi Hotovely and not with the anti-racist protesters and in condemnation Israel’s far-right ambassador who has also openly called for an end to mixed marriages?

And irrespective of Labour’s position on Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid system (according to reports by HRW and B’Tselem), does the party no longer respect the right to peaceful protest?

*

Today I sent a copy of the letter above to my constituency MP Paul Blomfield and will post any reply below.

Sections are drawn from an article published by Electronic Intifada on November 10th entitled “UK government attacks Palestine student protesters” which goes on to highlight the response of government ministers including Home Secretary Priti Patel who tweeted that she had been in touch with Tzipi Hotovely to support her, saying “the police have my full backing in investigating this appalling incident”.

Click here to read Asa Winstanley’s full article.

The same evening, Novara Media featured the response of Labour MPs, Lisa Nandy and Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, who tweeted about “shocking scenes”, before he tacitly smeared the demonstrators saying “antisemitism has no place in our society”, adding, “I wish Tzipi Hotovely well and support the police in any investigation.”

The ten-minute segment, which is embedded below, was originally broadcast in Novara Media’s Tyskie Sour on Nov 10th:

*

Update: Keir Starmer doubles down on Labour’s defence of Israel

On November 10th, Labour leader Keir Starmer voiced his own outrage at what he falsely claimed was “intimidation and threats of violence” during the LSE protests against Tzipi Hotovely:

He afterwards attended the annual lunch of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) on November 16th, where as guest of honour he shared the stage with Tzipi Hotovely and delivered a speech that directly equated anti-Zionism with antisemitism and claimed opposition to Israel is “the antithesis of the Labour tradition”

Starmer said:

“Under my leadership, Labour will stand shoulder to shoulder with peacemakers and progressives. We’ll stand up against those who demonise and delegitimise Israel and its people.”

In the clip embedded above from the November 17th Tyskie Sour broadcast, Novara Media’s Michael Walker deconstructs Starmer’s paean to Israeli apartheid.

*

On November 22nd, Palestinian academic Ghada Karmi and Jenny Manson from Jewish Voice for Labour appeared on Not The Andrew Marr Show to respond to Keir Starmer’s speech to Labour Friends of Israel, in which he rejected sanctions against Israel and repeated the ahistorical myth that “Israel made the desert bloom”:

*

Further update: Paul Blomfield’s reply (received Nov 30th)

Dear James, 

Thank you for writing to me about the protests against the Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely. 

As you may know, I have consistently supported Palestine, visited the West Bankand worked in Parliament to challenge the policies of the Israeli Government – most recently, for example, I was one of the six sponsors for EDM 583 : Proscribing of Palestinian human rights organisations, which set out our opposition to their criminalisation and called on the government to act, and which has secured the support of around fifty other MPs. Labour has been clear in its opposition to the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, called for sanctions against annexation, and for recognition of the state of Palestine. 

I saw some reports of the incident at the LSE, but don’t know what went on exactly. I fully back the right of LSE students to protest, but would not support violent disruption of meetings, even if I vehemently disagree with the speakers (as I do with Ambassador Hotovely) 

Thanks again for writing. 

With best wishes, 

Paul 

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, campaigns & events, Israel, Palestine

Israel is deliberately obliterating media buildings in Gaza to cover up the war crimes that will follow | Eva Bartlett

The following is an extended extract from a report by independent journalist Eva Bartlett published on May 14th. All links, embedded video and tweets are as in the original.

On Tuesday [May 11th], Israel bombed the 10-storey Al-Jawhara Tower, causing it to collapse. Before doing so, it had ‘benevolently’ warned that the airstrikes were coming. The following day, it bombed the 14-storey Al-Shorouk Tower, also giving warning it was going to do so.

Most reports have the buildings as evacuated before being levelled. But without these media offices, reporting on Israel’s other war crimes will be left largely to what little media remain and citizen journalists.

The buildings were significant. A statement by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) noted the Al-Jawhara building housed the offices of 13 media institutions and NGOs. And an advisory by the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that the Al-Shorouk building housed at least seven media outlets.

A further statement by the same committee said that the Israeli military had defended its bombing of the building via email, bizarrely claiming it had “acted within international law,” alleging the Al-Jawhara building housed Hamas’ intelligence and military offices, and saying the Al-Shorouk building was a base for Hamas’ military intelligence offices and “infrastructure to communicate tactical-military information.”

Just minutes after the Al-Shorouk building was destroyed, I spoke by phone with Shadi Ali, a producer who had worked there for ten years and was understandably devastated at what had happened. He told me of previous occasions when Israel had bombed the building, in 2009, 2012, and 2014.

I was there in 2012. My office was on the 14th floor when it was hit at 6am. I was sleeping; I had only slept for one-and-a-half hours when it was hit by two missiles on the top floor,” he told me. “When it was bombed in 2014, we had taken precautions and left it already. They struck the 15th floor, destroying it completely. Our floor became the top floor after that.”

The building was on a main Gaza street, Omar Mukhtar, surrounded by residential apartment buildings. I asked whether he knew if there had been casualties this time. He replied, “We’re waiting, because often they’ll strike again soon after, knowing that people have come to search for casualties.”

I’ve witnessed this tactic with my own eyes. In January 2009, while I was accompanying Palestinian Red Crescent medics, one of the bodies the medics retrieved was that of a Kiffah Lum Towwak, 35, killed by an Israeli missile strike on her backyard in Jabaliya, just minutes after a strike which killed a family member living in the same house.

The same month, I was inside the now-destroyed Al-Shorouk building, having just finished an interview with RT about what I’d seen while riding in ambulances in the extremely dangerous areas of Gaza’s north. Shortly after concluding the interview, Israel shelled the building at least seven times. Thankfully, the tank shelling didn’t destroy the building, and we were able to run down the stairs to “safety” (although in reality nowhere was safe).

The Al-Shorouk building was again bombed a week after this Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the bombing and noted that the Israeli military had contacted Reuters (which had an office inside) “minutes before the attack to confirm the location of its Gaza office,” and had explained it would not be targeted.

In November 2012, I reported from a hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, after Israeli attacks, and documented the destruction of bridges and other infrastructure as well as visiting the media buildings which had been targeted. I wrote at the time, “At least three Palestinian journalists were killed in the November 2012 Israeli attacks on Gaza, and at least 12 reported injured. The Sharook building suffered damage on its upper floors from a number of bombings including drone and possibly Apache helicopter missiles. The building housing Aqsa TV and various other media offices likewise suffered major damage on its upper floors.”

The CPJ reported, “A series of airstrikes beginning early Sunday and continuing today targeted two buildings, Al-Shawa and Housari Tower and Al-Shuruq Tower, which are well-known for housing numerous international and local news organizations, news reports said. At least seven journalists were injured in the first attack. Khader al-Zahhar, a cameraman for Al-Quds TV, lost his right leg.”

Having journalists on the ground in a place like this is critical. In previous wars on Gaza, Israel has committed a litany of war crimes, including in 2009 targeting with a flechette bomb and killing a uniformed Palestinian medic as he worked to save injured civilians; firing more dart bombs on mourners the following day, killing six, including a pregnant woman; targeting with sniper fire two medics I was with, during ceasefire hours; assassinating children and infantsdrone-striking a 14-year-old during ceasefire hours; raining white phosphorous down heavily on civilian areas throughout Gaza; bombing a school sheltering the displacedbombing hospitals and repeatedly shelling a home Israeli soldiers had forced 60 members of an extended family into, killing 26, including 10 children and seven women.

And that was only in 2009. In 2012 and 2014, Israel again committed more unspeakable crimes of war, destroying entire neighbourhoods and massacring the residentsshelling children on a beach, and drone-striking a teen hours before ceasefire, among many others.

[…]

[W]hile journalist protection committees have condemned the recent Israeli bombings of media buildings in Gaza, Western corporate media generally haven’t. Imagine, though, if this was taking place in Syria: if Syrian or Russian planes premeditatedly bombed and levelled media buildings there. That would be front page news for days, if not weeks.

I would go back to Gaza to report on this horror if I could enter, but that’s impossible: Israel would not let me in, and is not allowing journalists in in general.

In December 2008, RWB reported, Israel declared the Gaza Strip a “closed military zone” and denied access to journalists working for international media. And now, as Shadi Ali told me the other day, Israel knows there are not many foreigners in Gaza to report what is going on. There is a media blockade, on top of the brutal siege of Gaza and Israel’s bombardment.

Israel will commit so many crimes in Gaza, while foreign media are not present,” Ali predicted. And he’s right. As Israel threatens to invade by land, the protection of media buildings and journalists becomes all the more important, because Israel will commit more war crimes. They’ve already pledged to make Gaza burn.

Click here to read Eva Bartlett’s report in full on her own website In Gaza and Beyond.

*

In a recent interview [May 11th], Eva Bartlett also spoke with Beirut-based geo-political analyst and media policy and law consultant, Laith Marouf, about Israel’s current indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, the events preceding this latest assault, and the remarkable new capabilities of Palestinian resistance in justly and legally resisting their occupier:

*

Update:

On Monday’s show [May 17th] Novara Media covered the story of the destruction of the Al Jazeera and Associated Press offices at length. Michael Walker and Aaron Bastani also went on to discuss the anti-war march in London and the backlash to Leicester City’s Wesley Fofana and Hamza Choudhury who unfurled a Palestinian flag in a display of solidarity during celebrations after winning the FA Cup final. Although ‘taking the knee’ is more or less demanded prior to all games, Palestinian lives apparently still don’t matter:

Click here to add your name to a petition calling on the UK government to sanction Israel.

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, Israel, Palestine

Occupation is the problem | Jeremy Corbyn

The issue is that the Palestinian people have been under occupation since 1967; that was the year I left secondary school. The whole of my life since becoming an adult so to speak, the Palestinian people have been under occupation, and that is fundamentally what the issue is.

I don’t want anybody killed. I don’t want any bombs. I don’t want any rockets. I want peace. But you’re only going to get that with recognition of the Palestinian people and that means ending the occupation; ending the settlements; removing the settlements; ending the siege of Gaza; and also recommending the rights of Palestinian refugees, who’ve lived their whole lives in Jordan, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iraq – every country all around The Gulf there are Palestinian refugees, who have lived their whole lives like that.

I went to Sabra and Shantila some years ago with the late Sir Gerald Kaufman, who was then a Labour MP. He was a Jewish man and was actually for much of his life very pro-Israel, and he was more and more disgusted at the treatment by the Israeli forces of the Palestinian people. And we went to the refugee camps in Lebanon together.

I’ve never forgotten meeting an old man whose whole life since being a very small child had been in this refugee camp since 1948: his whole life. And he had this dream that one day he would be able to return to the village he was expelled from in 1948. And so there is a big human story here and I think that has to be said.

But the events of the past week have been unbelievable and extraordinary… there are no rockets being fired from the West Bank [but] people are being killed on the West Bank. The Israeli occupation forces are destroying homes, destroying families, destroying people. The bombing of Gaza is incredible. You have first-world military planes bombing Gaza and destroying those buildings – and that building that was destroyed today which contained the Al Jazeera and Associated Press studios and offices; that was scientifically destroyed by an air raid.

The big building that was destroyed the other day contained many other organisations. I’ve been in those buildings during visits to Gaza in the past. There can be no possible justification under any rules for that.

Israel is in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel is in breach of its obligations as an occupying power. And the world has got to wake up and that means:

  • ending military cooperation with Israel – and I have questioned the British government on the degree of cooperation with Israel.
  • ending all arms supplies and arms imports from Israel. Because what we see is the destruction of the lives of Palestinian people.

Today in London, over one hundred thousand people marched. It was in fact very hard to get to the stage to deliver my speech today because the crowds were so dense, all down Kensington High Street. That was London. There were also demonstrations in Liverpool, in every major city, in Scotland and in mid-Wales, all over Britain. And so a hundred thousand is the London figure, but to that you should add many more.

Why were they there? They were there because they are human beings with sympathy and support and recognition that there has to be a political solution – and that requires the British government to act by recognising unilaterally, unconditionally, totally; recognising the state of Palestine. To do that at the United Nations as many other countries have done, and go through the points I made about settlements, end the siege, and have some regard for the needs and rights of refugees…

The decision to destroy a building containing the offices of two major media organisations – Al Jazeera and Associated Press – that is an attack on those who report was is going on in Gaza.

Now, I’ve been to Gaza on a number of occasions, I’ve met people, I’ve met young people, I’ve met children, visited schools – I’ve been to lots of places in Gaza – and it’s the most educated place in the world. I think two-thirds of the population have university degrees. Unemployment is even higher at 70%.

It’s very strange being [trapped] in this enclave under permanent fear, insufficiency of water, insufficiency of electricity, insufficiency of medical care, lack of covid vaccines, etc, etc… And then, when the power if off, the building you’re in in Gaza, you can look – if you’re in Gaza City to the North – and you see the bright lights of Ashkelon, to the East you see the lights of various villages and so on in Israel. It’s like putting a whole people under prison. It’s got to end.

I’ve done many debates, calls, meetings and so on, with a lot of people in Israel. A lot of people in left organisations, human rights groups and others in Israel, who would agree with every word I’ve said today. They are appalled. They want too to be able to live in that region in peace, with full recognition of the Palestinian people. That fundamentally is what it’s about. But the British government better wake up to what public opinion is now in this country.

You can watch the full 2hr livestream herehttps://youtu.be/85Mwwzfz4hY

Click here to add your name to a petition calling on the UK government to sanction Israel.

Corbyn on the right side of history again, here speaking out against Israel’s occupation at a recent protest in London:

3 Comments

Filed under campaigns & events, Israel, Palestine

Norman Finkelstein on why HRW finally turned their back to “the lunatic state” of Israel

The title of the Human Rights Watch report is “A Threshold Crossed”. The paradox there is the threshold was not crossed by Israel – like you say, this is all old news – the threshold was crossed by Human Rights Watch. They crossed the threshold. They now were looking square in the face without any extenuations, any qualifications, any caveats; they said Israel is based on Jewish domination… I mean I can barely say that.

I have a small public career denouncing Human Rights Watch – many of the chapters in many of my books are devoted to denouncing its whitewashing of Israel… Who would have thought the day would come to pass that Human Rights Watch would make us look like milquetoast? Taking positions that frankly I’ve not taken publicly – I was of a school of let’s just resolve this: let’s end the occupation and let’s move on; but now the terms are changing. [from 44:00 mins]

*

On Monday 10th, BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis interviewed Palestinian Ambassador to UK, Husom Zomlot, who eloquently called out the western media’s consistent downplaying of Israel’s settler colonial oppression as just its inevitable response to a cycle of violence sparked by Palestinians:

And here is Palestinian writer Mohammed El-Kurd from Sheikh Jarrah responding to CNN anchor in a clip that went viral:

As the liberal media does its level best to misrepresent the ongoing Israeli attacks on Palestinians as “clashes”, feigning equivalence between Palestinian stones and ‘rockets’ to the routine brutality of Israel’s military occupation and its “mowing the grass” with renewed airstrikes and bombing of Gaza, on Tuesday night [May 11th] political commentator Katie Halper invited Jewish American scholar Norman Finkelstein to speak about the protests in East Jerusalem and more widely across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, lending his own perspective on both the current and historical context for the violence. The full interview is embedded below alongside my own transcripts with relevant links provided – all the quotes (including the one above) are Norman Finkelstein:

I’ll tell you something that is a kind of a paradox; an irony. I’m not passing judgment now; I’m just going to lay out a picture. From 1967, Israel’s occupation, and especially beginning in the early 1970s, Israel’s existence as a Jewish state ceased to be called into question. The international consensus was: Israel, for better or for worse, it exists; it’s a state; if it wants its Jewish majority, it can have its Jewish majority, and it can carry on however it wants internally. And then the issue was just [what to do about] the occupied Palestinian territories.

Had the Israelis not been so arrogant; had they not been so supremacist, so contemptuous of the Palestinians; had they just calculated their own best interest; they would have settled for the two states and said let’s move on. But their arrogance, their Jewish supremacy, that impulse for Jewish domination – the cheapness to which they reduced Palestinian life – that had a paradoxical consequence. And what was the consequence? The consequence was that now their whole legitimacy is being challenged.

When it first came up in 1975 with the “Zionism is racism” resolution at the UN. When it first came up the western states, and in particular the United States, had expressed its outrage, its indignation: how dare you say Israel’s a racist state? How dare you say Israel is an apartheid state? You probably remember the American official – I won’t call him ‘a statesman’ – Daniel Patrick Moynihan [who] made his whole reputation by sitting in the United Nations… holding up his hand, giving his no vote to that resolution. And that launched his career…

Here’s the irony: what Moynihan is objecting to now that ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution at the UN. Guess what? You now open up B’Tselem’s report, you open up Human Rights Watch report, and what did they say? The Israeli state is based on Jewish Supremacy and Jewish domination. Now isn’t that an irony? That’s what the reports are now saying. Exactly what launched Daniel Moynihan’s career was denouncing that claim, as did the whole of the western states and the American media in particular. That position, ‘Zionism is racism’ – Israel as a Jewish Supremacist state based on Jewish domination – that notion has now been legitimised.

From an historical point of view it’s a real irony, because to use simple language ‘they could have gotten away with it’. The international community was willing to accept Israel as it was, even though they knew the land had been and was still being relentlessly confiscated. They knew there were Palestinian refugees who were denied the right to return to their homeland. Everybody knew that. But, the international community turned its head away, and said let’s just forget about that, let’s just resolve the conflict: two states: Palestinian state, Israeli state; and let’s move on. [But] they didn’t want to move on. They wanted to have everything. And now everything is being called into question. Everything! [from 37:00 mins]

*

The text below is also a partial transcript of Norman Finkelstein’s conversation with Katie Halper.

Let me just map out broadly what I see happening. First is the headline news, which is the explosion in East Jerusalem. Which was a long time coming. There have been intimations for the last few weeks or more that Israel’s expulsions of families in East Jerusalem were at some point going to climax in a clash. And that happened this past week. You can never predict when they’re going to happen, but obviously a breaking point had been reached.

That’s the political aspect – the facts on the ground – and that’s what’s right now garnering all the headlines. But there’s another aspect to this conflict which has been getting some but not equal media attention. And that is the quite dramatic and one might say a turning point in the Israel-Palestine conflict at the legal, at the moral, and at the public opinion level. A collapse of all three: legal, moral, public opinion level. And for some of your listeners it’s particularly revealing of what’s happening in the American-Jewish community.

Now, let me try to just back-up and put things in context. First the major development. The major development is the past week Human Rights Watch, which as you know is the leading human rights organisation in the world. It’s the most prominent, the most influential, the most well-endowed. And I would also say – because it’s pertinent to what I’ll be saying in this evening’s conversation – it’s also the most centrist. The most mainstream of the human rights organisations.

And this past week Human Rights Watch put out a very substantial report. It ran to 214 pages, and it had a voluminous scholarly apparatus, which is the fancy way of saying that it was exhaustively and comprehensively researched. It’s an impressive piece of work. And it had many dramatic things to say. The title of the report is “A Threshold Crossed”, and before I get to that threshold crossed, I want to just back-up a moment and set it in context.

The context is that since roughly 2009, Palestinians and their supporters have been trying to bring a case against Israel before the International Criminal Court [ICC], and these were very protracted proceedings and they frankly seemed as if they were getting nowhere. There were two cases brought before the court. One was after many, many years finally dismissed by the Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda – that was the subject of [Finkelstein’s] book I accuse – it was an attack on the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda; and then there was a second case brought before the court. The second case was also dragging and dragging and dragging, and it looked as if was going to die out. However, this past year for reasons which I won’t go into now, the court finally decided it’s proceeding with an investigation into Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as Gaza.

Now one hurdle had been cleared to pursue this investigation, but there were still many other hurdles to be cleared. I myself having followed the case very closely and studied it, I was very sceptical the Palestinians would be able to clear the next hurdles. There are a lot of legal technicalities that would have enabled the court to kill the case. And I didn’t think [the Palestinians] would be able to prevail.

But then, lo and behold, about three months ago, the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, which is the main Israeli human rights organisation monitoring Israeli crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, they came out with what one might call an astonishing position paper. And I’m just going to read you the title. I’m not going to belabour you with the text; just the title: “A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid.”

Now there are three notable things about that title:

Number one. They use a very incendiary phrase. The phrase is “Jewish Supremacy”. Obviously for an American ear that sounds an awful lot like ‘White Supremacy’. Jewish Supremacy: there’s not even a flea’s hop separating the two. So to a public which has been – mostly because of the Black Lives Matter movement – very much sensitised to issues of White Supremacy and White domination – it was, as I said, an incendiary phrase.

Secondly, usually in discussions of the Israel-Palestine conflict there’s Israel here and the Occupied Palestinian Territories there. Israel’s legitimacy is more or less accepted. The point of contention is the state and future of the occupied Palestinian territories. B’Tselem did something new. It said we’re no longer talking about Israel here, Occupied Palestinian Territories there; there’s just one state now. We have to be honest about it. There’s just one state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, and that one state is Israel. And that one state is a Jewish Supremacist state. As the report goes on to say: this state’s foundation is Jewish Supremacy.

And then it takes the next step and says “this is an apartheid state”. Well, that crossed several red lines. Number one: it no longer acknowledged the legitimacy of the State of Israel. The point of contention was no longer just the occupied Palestinian territories; it’s the whole thing. And number two: they compared it to apartheid, and for Israel’s supporters that’s been a bogie: you can’t compare it to apartheid.

So frankly speaking – candidly – I was shocked. I was very surprised at what they did. They have a new leadership; the fellow who heads the executive is named Hagai El-Ad – he’s a very unusual figure. I don’t know him personally. I have never had personal contact – not from a want of trying from me, but we’ve never had contact. He’s a Harvard PhD in Physics and he apparently set aside his professional attainments and he now heads up B’Tselem. And he’s a remarkably principled and forthright person. There is one quite amusing exchange between him and [former] Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon at the United Nations. It’s a real sight to behold. And frankly I personally thought – and still think – he has gone so far out on a limb that there’s probably a good chance he will be assassinated. [from 2:45 mins]

Here is Hagai El-Ad, the director of Israeli non-profit organisation B’Tselem slamming the Israeli occupation’s crimes and violations during a UN Security Council session held in October 2018:

The response of Israeli Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Danny Danon, was to say “Shame on you, collaborator:

[B’Tselem] is the main Israeli human rights organisation monitoring Israeli crimes and abuses – I don’t like the word abuses I prefer the word crimes – Israeli crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories. It’s very reputable. It’s won many awards, and I think it’s fair to say no-one has seriously disputed the quality or the accuracy of its research. So it’s a formidable organisation in terms of its persuasive power. It has a good track-record for its accuracy.

Now the Human Rights Watch report is as astonishing as the B’Tselem report but in a different way. First of all, the Human Rights Watch report says, not that Israel has established a regime of ‘Jewish Supremacy’ across the board from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean; they say something slightly different, but equally incendiary. They say Israel has established across the board from the Mediterranean to the Jordan (Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories); they have established a regime – I’ll use their words now – ‘a regime of Jewish domination over and against the Palestinian people’.

And they say, that in the occupied territories, Israel has established – or Israel engages in – the crime of apartheid and the crime of persecution, and that these two crimes constitute under international law crimes against humanity, which according to Human Rights Watch, quoting some statutes, they say these are among the most odious – ODIOUS – crimes in international law.

And they say, that the ICC should not limit itself to investigating Israeli war crimes, but should go to the next step and investigate Israeli crimes against humanity. So it’s already taken what you might call ‘out on a limb’ positions – I’ll get back to that in a moment – the other thing that it does which was a total surprise to me (and I’m not saying these things for their theatrical or emotive effect – I’m being quite sincere and candid with you – I’ve studied this conflict since 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon which eventually became the subject of my doctoral dissertation and so I’m pretty inured to events in the Israel-Palestine conflict – I kind of think I’ve seen it all) but some things are happening which are very surprising. It’s the 1960s song that I grew up with: ‘There’s Something Happening Here’. There is: something is happening – there’s no doubt about it.

Because the Human Rights Watch report doesn’t just stick to the present: what is the situation now; what has been the situation in the past ten or twenty years. The B’Tselem report is basically a description of the present. The Human Rights Watch report – I’m not exaggerating, believe me I don’t exaggerate; I’m very careful about staying true to the facts – it goes all the way back to Israel’s establishment in 1948 – it even goes back to 1947. And it says, from the beginning, Israel, in order to create this Jewish state – the Zionist movement and then the State of Israel – they tried to do two things.

Number one – I’m using their words now – they tried to engineer a Jewish majority in Israel. Because for the founders of the State of Israel, a Jewish state could not be a Jewish state unless there was a Jewish majority, and so they wanted to engineer that Jewish majority. Well there was only one way to engineer a Jewish majority; you had to expel the indigenous population. There’s no other way to do it. And so Human Rights Watch… delegitimises the notion of a Jewish majority, because it says in order to create that Jewish majority, it could only be created at the expense of the Palestinians. And so it says this creation of a Jewish majority state was intrinsically at the expense of – or discriminating against – the Palestinian population.

The second pillar of the Jewish State objective was the confiscation of the land, because the land was owned by Palestinians; they didn’t live there. When Israel was created only 6% of the land in Palestine was owned by Jews. So they describe in searing detail – even though I know that’s a kind of catchphrase – this juggernaut, this maw, which is gobbling up the Palestinian land; dispossessing the Palestinians of their land. And to the point of creating the Jewish majority, 90% of the indigenous population was expelled; about 750,000 Palestinians. Now, with their descendants, Human Rights Watch gives a figure of 5.7 million Palestinian refugees.

And then on the other end, they say that Israel controls 93% of the land – its state owned land – and that 93% is earmarked only for Jews. Palestinians constitute 19% of the population of the State of Israel (about 1.6 million people) and they are confined to about 3% of the land.

To cut to the chase and to make a long story a little bit shorter, the effect is… and I’m not quite sure if Human Rights Watch is really aware of what they are doing – honestly I’m not sure – but the long and the short of the report is that it completely delegitimises the idea of a Jewish state. [from 13:55 mins]

What’s happening now in East Jerusalem, when you read the Human Rights Watch report, you see it as part of this juggernaut that began in 1947; this relentless, heartless, confiscation of Palestinian land. They just don’t stop – you know the expression: the hunger increases with the eating. The more they consume that land, the more they want more and more and more.

And so after reading the report, you see what’s happening in East Jerusalem in Sheikh Jarrah, you just see it as one more step in this long trajectory, this relentless, heartless juggernaut – this maw – of stealing the land from those hopeless, helpless and hapless people. That’s one point.

The second point I would make is where I left off a few moments ago. Human Rights Watch is a mainstream organisation. It’s not a radical organisation… They watch NPR, they listen to the NPR, they read The New York Times, in their leisure they read The New Yorker, they probably subscribe to the New York Review of Books, probably a few subscribe to the London Review of Books – they’re very mainstream, very conventional. They’re also very Jewish. Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director – this is the mainstream of the progressive and centrist Jewish community. And they’re very dependent on Jewish donors. They received a humungous donation from George Soros – a spectacular number [precisely: $100 million].

And so they must be very sensitive to how far they can go on the Israel-Palestine conflict before they lose their donors and they lose their constituency, which tells me that having done the calculations they reached the conclusion that their donors and their constituency were ready, were prepared, could digest a human rights report issued by HRW which not only condemns Israeli policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and describes this policy as the crime of “apartheid”, the crime of “persecution”, and those two crimes – apartheid and persecution – are crimes against humanity under international law, which as they say constitute among the most “odious crimes in international law” – they went not only that far, but they described the whole regime from the Jordan to the Mediterranean as one based on “Jewish domination”, which as I’m sure you recognise is only a flea’s hop from saying ‘Jewish Supremacy’ – these are pretty much synonymous – and what’s most revelatory they said all this on the assumption (in my opinion) that they wouldn’t lose their Jewish constituency. […]

The bottom line is, henceforth the paradigm is no longer Israel here and Occupied Palestinian Territories there: Israel, for better or for worse, we accept it as it is; Occupied Palestinian Territories we don’t accept, the occupation has to end and a Palestinian state has to be created. That was the paradigm up until now. Now, the whole legitimacy of the State of Israel as a Jewish state has been called into question. [from 24:10 mins]

As you probably know there’s been a huge amount of contention on college campuses over this annual event called “Israel Apartheid Week” which unfolds annually on many college campuses. And up until now, the Israeli organisations and their supporters have said that it’s antisemitic – it hurts the Jews and makes Jews feel scared, and all this politically correct nonsense [is used] in order to try and suppress the Israel Apartheid Week. Well, guess what happened? In the past three months, the most important human rights organisation in Israel and the most important human rights organisation in the world, they said: but it is apartheid. And they just legitimised Israel Apartheid Week. How can the Israelis answer that now and their supporters? You want to suppress a term, ‘apartheid’, that’s been appropriated now by Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem?

So I think this is a major setback for Israel’s apologists. I think they’re probably now in a panic mode. And I think that events like what happening now in East Jerusalem will no longer be seen in isolation. When you read the Human Rights Watch report you see it now as a momentary flashpoint in a long trajectory. […]

The [main] flashpoint is in East Jerusalem, however, Palestinians in Haifa, Palestinians in Nazareth, they’re all joining in; Palestinians in the West Bank are joining in; Palestinians in Gaza via the so-called ‘rockets’, they’re joining in. And so you kind of see a manifestation of what the report described. Because both reports talked about from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, meaning it’s about all Palestinians and all Israelis…. and so for the moment it seems it is becoming a struggle no longer confined to the occupied Palestinian territories, or confined to Gaza, as was the Great March of Return beginning in March 2018, or confined to the West Bank; it’s now spreading among all Palestinians. I think that’s a significant development.

It’s possible that all the terms for understanding the conflict and resolving the conflict – those terms are now being called into question and they may be recast in a new form, which I think is going to be a real problem for the State of Israel. [from 32:15 mins]

I don’t want to be polyannish about this but I don’t think {Israel and its apologists] are going to be as successful anymore. We saw a video of them dancing and singing as the fire blazes on Al-Aqsa… they were all wearing Jewish yarmulkes… It was actually quite hideous.

Video shows Israelis dancing and celebrating the burning of the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the third most holy Islamic site in the world [the same footage can be viewed in the Katie Halper show at 1:07:15]:

If you were to imagine in a neighbourhood like where I live in Ocean Parkway [Brooklyn, NY] where there’s about two synagogues in every block, of Muslims gathered around the synagogue while the synagogue is on fire, and they’re cheering. [from 1:02:25]

If you go back and listen to the interviews (not that you’re obliged to of course) I’ve done in the last few years, I’ve said: “it’s a lunatic state”. And you see now the lunacy is being played out, maybe not in The New York Times and maybe not in the New Yorker and maybe not in the New York Review of Books or The Atlantic magazine, but enough people will see it. It’s a cliché but it’s true: the democratising effect of the web. They’re not going to be able to hide this…

I don’t want to be too polyannish but in my opinion Israel’s in for a rough ride now. Too much is known. Too many people are alienated. Too many people disgusted. There is a sea-change occurring. [from 1:07:55]

We should acknowledge when there have been victories and what has now been said [in these reports] constitutes a major victory. And from my point of view, what’s equally important: it’s going to give Israel a very hard time now. [from 1:13:10]

*

Last night’s Novara Media also devoted its main segment to Palestinian protests in the occupied territories and the latest bombardment of Gaza by Israel. Host Michael Walker welcomed Riya Al’Sanah who is a Palestinian activist and writer based in Haifa:

*

Additional: Palestinian solidarity protests across Britain

On Saturday 15th, there are events planned to take place across the country calling for an end to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, and for the right of return for all exiled Palestinians.

Protests are being organised around the country by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition, Friends of al-Aqsa, Palestinian Forum in Britain and Muslim Association of Britain.

SATURDAY 15th MAY 2021 #SaveSheikhJarrah #FreePalestine #FreeGaza Protests:

Aberdeen, Marischal Square, 2pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/579816402984185/

Brighton, The Clocktower, 12pm

Bristol, Castle Park, 2pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/210502050657881/

Canterbury, HSBC Bank, Whitefriars, 9 Rose Lane, Canterbury CT1 2JP, 1pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/307828627519700

Cambridge, Market Square, 11.15am – https://www.facebook.com/groups/cambridgepalestineforum

Cardiff, Aneurin Bevan Statue, 12pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/4560945557267377

Edinburgh, Regent Road Park, 12pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/372506180780931

Exeter, Bedford Square, 12pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/306515077708621

Hastings, Near Debenhams, 12pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/1183922488708042/

Hitchin, Windmill Hill, 11am – https://www.facebook.com/events/284046986748935/

Inverness, Town House, 12-1pm – https://www.facebook.com/HighlandPalestine

Jersey, Royal Square, 11am – https://www.facebook.com/events/580129649570440/

Leeds, Leeds Trinity Briggate (Area outside Zara/Debenhams), 2pm – https://www.facebook.com/LeedsPSC.org.uk

London, March to the Israeli Embassy, Assemble Marble Arch, 1pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/464271897978862

Machynlleth, The Clock Tower, 11am-12pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/208833754148964

Manchester, Platt’s Field Park, Rusholme, 12pm-4pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/373982893940589/

Newcastle, Grey’s Monument, 11.30am – https://www.facebook.com/events/463362151414611

Nottingham, Old Market Square, 12pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/833822114155903/

Plymouth, New George Street, 11am-1pm  – https://www.facebook.com/events/323519439242407/

Sheffield, Sheffield Town Hall, 12pm – https://www.facebook.com/sheffieldpalestine

Southampton, Bargate, 11am-12.30pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/237979378115605/

Wolverhampton, Queen Square, 11am – https://www.facebook.com/groups/167943526632859


Sun 16 May:

Glasgow, George Square + March to BBC, 1pm – https://www.facebook.com/events/2625768251049758/

Click here to find this same event list on the Stop the War Coalition website.

Leave a comment

Filed under analysis & opinion, campaigns & events, Israel, Palestine

B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch confirm that Israel is an apartheid state

The forthright branding of Israel as an apartheid state by Human Rights Watch could be a watershed moment in mainstream acceptance of what Israel has become. Human Rights Watch is not an outlier or left wing organisation. It is very much a part of the establishment in the United States and is not generally associated with hard hitting criticism that conflicts with the promoted interests of the American state.

This is the verdict of Craig Murray in light of the release of the recent HRW report that confirms Israel is an apartheid state.

It is interesting to consider how we have reached this moment, so before coming back to the details contained in the new report, let us quickly retrace some events that have happened since the turn of the year.

Firstly, on January 12th, B’Tselem, ‘The Israeli Information Center of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories’, released their own report that emphatically accused the state of Israel under the government of Netanyahu of being “a regime of Jewish supremacy”. Headlined “This is apartheid”, it begins:

More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule. The common perception in public, political, legal and media discourse is that two separate regimes operate side by side in this area, separated by the Green Line. One regime, inside the borders of the sovereign State of Israel, is a permanent democracy with a population of about nine million, all Israeli citizens. The other regime, in the territories Israel took over in 1967, whose final status is supposed to be determined in future negotiations, is a temporary military occupation imposed on some five million Palestinian subjects.

Over time, the distinction between the two regimes has grown divorced from reality. This state of affairs has existed for more than 50 years – twice as long as the State of Israel existed without it. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers now reside in permanent settlements east of the Green Line, living as though they were west of it. East Jerusalem has been officially annexed to Israel’s sovereign territory, and the West Bank has been annexed in practice. Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. All this leads to the conclusion that these are not two parallel regimes that simply happen to uphold the same principle. There is one regime governing the entire area and the people living in it, based on a single organizing principle.

Click here to read the report entitled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”

Then, on February 5th, the International Criminal Court made a landmark ruling that it has jurisdiction to investigate Israel for war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Shortly afterward [Feb 14th], The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté invited Jewish American historian Norman Finkelstein to discuss the ICC decision and its probable outcomes:

*

The ICC investigation commenced on March 3rd, when the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, issued her own statement:

Today, I confirm the initiation by the Office of the Prosecutor (”Office”) of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”) of an investigation respecting the Situation in Palestine. The investigation will cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed in the Situation since 13 June 2014, the date to which reference is made in the Referral of the Situation to my Office.

Continuing:

Any investigation undertaken by the Office will be conducted independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour.

Click here to read the full statement by ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

The Guardian reported:

The move, which Palestinians and human rights groups said was long overdue, was immediately condemned by the Israeli foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, as “morally and legally bankrupt”.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, added: “The decision of the international court to open an investigation against Israel today for war crimes is absurd. It’s undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy.”

In a videotaped statement, Netanyahu added: “The state of Israel is under attack this evening.[”]

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “ICC opens investigation into war crimes in Palestinian territories.”

The BBC headline was more nuanced with scare quotes and a skilful avoidance of any mention of Israel: it reads, “ICC opens ‘war crimes’ investigation in West Bank and Gaza”. Their report does however include the following statement:

Campaign group Human Rights Watch said “all eyes” would be on incoming prosecutor Karim Khan to “pick up the baton”, and that “ICC member countries should stand ready to fiercely protect the court’s work from any political pressure”.

Then last Tuesday [April 27th], Human Rights Watch finally issued its own 213-page report, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution”.

The HRW Press Release begins:

Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The finding is based on an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.

Continuing:

“Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

The finding of apartheid and persecution does not change the legal status of the occupied territory, made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, or the factual reality of occupation.

Originally coined in relation to South Africa, apartheid today is a universal legal term. The prohibition against particularly severe institutional discrimination and oppression or apartheid constitutes a core principle of international law. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC) define apartheid as a crime against humanity consisting of three primary elements:

  1. An intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another.
  2. A context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group.
  3. Inhumane acts.

The reference to a racial group is understood today to address not only treatment on the basis of genetic traits but also treatment on the basis of descent and national or ethnic origin, as defined in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Human Rights Watch applies this broader understanding of race.

The crime against humanity of persecution, as defined under the Rome Statute and customary international law, consists of severe deprivation of fundamental rights of a racial, ethnic, or other group with discriminatory intent.

Human Rights Watch found that the elements of the crimes come together in the occupied territory, as part of a single Israeli government policy. That policy is to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territory. It is coupled in the occupied territory with systematic oppression and inhumane acts against Palestinians living there.

Drawing on years of human rights documentation, case studies, and a review of government planning documents, statements by officials, and other sources, Human Rights Watch compared policies and practices toward Palestinians in the occupied territory and Israel with those concerning Jewish Israelis living in the same areas. Human Rights Watch wrote to the Israeli government in July 2020, soliciting its perspectives on these issues, but has received no response.

Across Israel and the occupied territory, Israeli authorities have sought to maximize the land available for Jewish communities and to concentrate most Palestinians in dense population centers. The authorities have adopted policies to mitigate what they have openly described as a “demographic threat” from Palestinians. In Jerusalem, for example, the government’s plan for the municipality, including both the west and occupied east parts of the city, sets the goal of “maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city” and even specifies the demographic ratios it hopes to maintain.

To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians. The institutional discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel face includes laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children. In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid. […]

Israeli authorities should dismantle all forms of repression and discrimination that privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, including with regards to freedom of movement, allocation of land and resources, access to water, electricity, and other services, and the granting of building permits.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor should investigate and prosecute those credibly implicated in the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. Countries should do so as well in accordance with their national laws under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and impose individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on officials responsible for committing these crimes.

The findings of crimes against humanity should prompt the international community to reevaluate the nature of its engagement in Israel and Palestine and adopt an approach centered on human rights and accountability rather than solely on the stalled “peace process.”[…]

“While much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation that a decades-long ‘peace process’ will soon cure, the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution,” Roth said. “Those who strive for Israeli-Palestinian peace, whether a one or two-state solution or a confederation, should in the meantime recognize this reality for what it is and bring to bear the sorts of human rights tools needed to end it.”

Click here to read the HRW press release in full.

In his own assessment of the HRW report, Craig Murray writes that:

The strength of the report lies in its systematic comparison of the structural system of Israeli rule with the formal definition of the crime of Apartheid in the Statute of Rome [which established the ICC] and the Apartheid Convention, both widely ratified and important documents of international law. This perforce leads to less concentration than is possible on the outrageous acts of individual cruelty, but shows them to be systemic and part of a much wider design.

The Statute of Rome defines the international crime of apartheid as:

inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.

The Apartheid Convention defines apartheid as:

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.

I do not believe anybody can sincerely deny that the situation in Palestine meets these criteria, even if attempts are made to justify how we got here. If you have not done so, you may like to read my previous personal article on why Israel is an apartheid state, which draws on my experience as FCO Desk Officer for South Africa when it was the original apartheid state.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full article which includes a less than glowing personal account of his interview with Kenneth Roth after he left the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 2005 and was shortlisted for the position as HRW Global Advocacy Director and flown to its “very plush” New York HQ located inside the Empire State Building.

Leave a comment

Filed under Craig Murray, Israel, Palestine