Scottish Interfaith Group’s Israeli Government-sponsored visit
by Mick Napier (27 July, 2008)
"A Scottish interfaith ‘pilgrimage’ to Israel, supported by the British and Israeli Governments, has just returned from a short trip to the ‘Holy Land’(10). There was outright dishonesty, denial, refusal to face up to basic realities, irritation at truth-tellers, and even scoffing at Palestinians proposing a solution based on peace and co-existence."
'They create devastation and call it peace.' Tacitus
The Zionists have always been in favour of ‘peace’. The only condition they attach is that they be allowed to continue the plunder and dispossession of the Palestinian people unhindered. Zionist leaders have long been aware that their project means the violent expulsion of the native people of Palestine.
Herzl, the founding father of modern political Zionism, thought it could be done furtively (1) while Jabotinsky, the guiding light of that strand of the Zionist tradition that gave us Israeli Prime Ministers like Sharon and Olmert, stressed the need for overwhelming violence(2). All, however, wanted peace during the process of dispossession and after its completion. Zionists, like other colonial invaders and dispossessors, have always been aware that they are prosecuting a war. If only the Palestinians wouldn’t resist, if only they would accept their dispossession and ‘move on’, the Israeli soldiers wouldn’t have to kill and torture them(3).
It is true that the great majority of people in both Israel and Palestine desire ‘peace’ and want to live ‘side by side’, but these oft-quoted phrases conceal a bitter truth that we ignore at our peril: Palestinians want to be free and to have political equality with Jews, while the Zionists work day and night to wall Palestinians up in huge prisons ‘side by side’ with Israel(4). Zionists refuse to compromise on blatant Jewish privilege and supremacy in every square metre of land their army controls. Jewish supremacism in Israel is both political and economic, and is backed up by a racist legal code and the use of great violence and destruction against the entire Palestinian people.
The state-directed violence continues up to the present day: settlements continue to expand and the Israeli military deals with Palestinian opposition in its time-honoured ways of mass kidnapping, torture, death squads, house demolitions, and the collective punishment and mass immiseration of a whole population.
Israel’s bulldozing of Palestinian human rights could not be covered up, and the result is that Israel’s stock has fallen so low in world-wide public opinion that it is increasingly impossible for Zionists to openly defend Israeli practices in public forums. Israel is already a pariah state in world public opinion(5). Intelligent Zionists, therefore, are switching from defence of Israeli policies and practices, where they know they will face massive opposition, to a campaign in favour of ‘dialogue’ and against the growing danger of mass boycott movements in support of the Palestinians and in opposition to Israel’s flouting of UN resolutions and rulings of the International Court.
As every general knows, persuading some of the opposing troops to desert the field of battle, in this case the stuggle for boycott and disinvestment, either to join the opposing army or even to declare their neutrality, is much more valuable than recruiting extra soldiers to one’s own forces. The opponent is greatly weakened and demoralised and you don’t need to use up your own limited resources.
Soon after the large Presbyterian Church in the USA voted to take practical steps to end its investments in any US corporation that supports Israel’s occupation(6), an article in the US Zionist ADL website was revealingly titled, ‘Interfaith Mission to Israel Leads to New Trust Between Jewish And Protestant Leaders; Jews Hope for End To Divestment Campaign’. The author reported that
‘Jewish participants expressed the hope that the mission would lead to concrete steps by the leadership of the Protestant churches to cancel their divestment campaign against Israel’. (7)
The Zionists’ aim in promoting any ‘interfaith mission to Israel’ is to blunt the increasing drive towards active boycott and divestment of Israel; instead of the unmistakable process of ethnic cleansing underway in occupied Palestine, Zionists work to substitute an alternative narrative of ‘wrong on both sides’ that balances between the Israeli juggernaut bearing down upon the Palestinian people and the victims crushed beneath its wheels.
Not only churches, but trade unions also are adopting policies of boycott. One result is that the Israeli pseudo-trade union, the Zionist Histadrut, has virtually given up hope of being welcomed by trade unionists internationally as a fraternal body(8); they have retreated instead to a position of asking for trade unions not to break links with them on the supposed grounds that this would frustrate ‘dialogue’ between Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists(9). ‘Dialogue’, rather than defence of Israel’s behaviour, is their mantra and goes hand in hand with attempting to portray their human rights opponents as opponents of ‘dialogue’. Getting into such an exchange, of course, nicely shifts the focus away from Israel’s behaviour in Palestine.
INTERFAITH DIALOGUE BEFORE JUSTICE!
A Scottish interfaith ‘pilgrimage’ to Israel, supported by the British and Israeli Governments, has just returned from a short trip to the ‘Holy Land’(10). There was outright dishonesty, denial, refusal to face up to basic realities, irritation at truth-tellers, and even scoffing at Palestinians proposing a solution based on peace and co-existence.
Martin Hill, of the Salvation Army, reported that Palestinian Dr Mustafa Barghouti’s "thesis was of Israel’s expansionist intentions"(11), a ‘thesis’ he was careful not to endorse. As I write, the end of July 2008, Israel has just announced its latest illegal settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley(12). But Martin Hill’s characterisation of Israel’s constant expansion as a ‘thesis’ of Dr Barghouti, rather than an unremitting reality for Palestinians, helps in the task of the ‘pilgrimage’, which is to showcase apartheid Israel and delegitimize Palestinian resistance. The Church of Scotland Minister in Jerusalem, Colin Anderson, struck much the same note of delegitimizing Palestinian experience in writing of his personal upset "when the Palestinian regaled us with very much the victim litany"(13).
Pramila Kaur, Chief Executive of the Scottish Inter-Faith Council, went even further after meeting with Dr Barghouti, and wrote that certain Palestinian people had upset the pilgrims, for
"some of us expressed concern about their use of language such as 'ethnic cleansing' and it was felt this was not conducive to bridging the gap." (14)
So don’t speak to Ms Kaur, the seeker of ‘dialogue’, about torture or demolitions or the murder of children or the flooding of peaceful Palestinian villages with raw sewage or the poisoning of Palestinian village wells or kidnappings or much else of Israel’s disgusting crimes. Her counterparts in the field of rape counselling would doubtless admonish the victim to avoid talking openly of their ordeal lest it make ‘dialogue’ with the rapist more difficult. Best not talk about these things, and anyway, the rapist has himself a history of being abused, or at least his grandfather had.
For our ‘interfaith-pilgrims’ the important task is to ‘bridge the gap’ while the torture, demolitions, kidnappings and murder, and, yes, ethnic cleansing continues unabated. They are apologists for crime, or they accommodate to the criminals in the interest of ‘dialogue’. Upholders of human rights, on the other hand, insist that justice is the only conceivable midwife of peace, that crimes must be named and acknowledged, that the criminal must show remorse instead of boasting of his deeds, and that justifying or drawing a cover over criminal behaviour encourages others to follow the same path.
The tenor of the ‘pilgrims’ discourse is revealed, however, in a diary entry by two Zionist participants who wrote of "Israel’s security barrier in that most controversial of areas – the West Bank" (15). None of the other participants challenged the mendacity of the term ‘security barrier’ for an illegal land grab nor illegal occupation being rendered as the ‘controversial area’ (sic) of the West Bank.
Finlay MacDonald was ‘unsettled’ by Israel’s standard racism at Tel Aviv Airport when "five of us, Asian, Arab, Muslim looking are pulled to another side", but Naeem Raza saw in comprehensive and open racial profiling Israeli state personnel "merely trying to do their job!". Would he accept British police ‘trying to do their job’ in the same way as their Israeli counterparts?
Naeem Raza then indicated his neutrality in the Palestinian struggle for existence, saying that he would "look at where I can best support the peace process... we all need to move on"(16). The mask slipped from these seekers after ‘dialogue’ and revealed the features of hardened Zionism underneath, when Fiona and Howard Brodie sneered at the the words of a Palestinian in Hebron, a man constantly under attack by vicious settlers, a man who showed true nobility, not to mention extremes of tolerance, in suggesting how Jews and Arabs could live together in peace. They scoffed at his talk of "a 'one state solution', the return of 6 million Palestinians to live in a Utopian Palestinian state where peoples of all faiths can live in perfect harmony"(17). The Brodies, Zionists, are naturally committed to Jewish privilege and dispossession of Palestinians.
Organisers state that, "a group has been formed which could provide a forum for action and education" and that back in Scotland, "participants will visit a wide range of organisations to talk about the pilgrimage"(18). One participant, an activist in the Zionist Maccabi youth group saw his model of "interfaith work...working in the holy land" and said he would be coming back to apply the same 'peace-creating' methods of interfaith work in Britain(19). It is time to worry when Zionists wish to import the Israeli model to Britain.
Two of the Muslim participants, Naeem Raza and Mazhar Khan concluded that "the light at the end of the tunnel was provided by the likes of...One Voice" (20). The Chair of the Glasgow branch of One Voice also took part in the ‘pilgrimage’.
Readers should be aware that One Voice is "endorsed by mainstream Israeli political figures from parties including the Likud and Shas"(21), dedicated and vicious violators of Palestinian human rights. When they became aware of such involvement, and the misleading nature of the One Voice call for ‘dialogue’ not grounded on ending occupation and racism, or equality of political rights for Jew and Arab, many Palestinian artists and musicians refused to participate in One Voice initiatives(22). According to PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) the One Voice
"event is being organized to promote a 'peace' agreement that is devoid of the minimal requirements of justice, and that will leave the Palestinian people as disenfranchised as previous agreements have" (23).
If we are wise, we don’t assess a person only by what he says when we have a clear record of their behaviour. Israel has consistently made life hellish for Palestinians, has driven out large numbers from time to time, and continues to impose a huge number of administrative and violent measures to continue the process of ‘disappearing’ as many Palestinians as possible.
Clothing support for crime in religious garb does not diminish the crime. My mother was a Catholic and so was General Franco; one cared for orphans, the other created huge numbers of them. If your religion, whether rooted in the teachings of the prophets Amos or Mohammed, or Jesus Christ or the Buddha, leads to support for justice and human rights, then we are all on the same side. If your religion leads you to crime, or does not compel you to oppose injustice, then you are part of the problem rather than the solution.
Those attending interfaith dialogue events might like to ask the ‘pilgrims’ the following questions:
a. Is it moral to discuss WHETHER Palestinians should have basic human rights rather than HOW to achieve those fundamental rights?
b. Should we support the Palestinian appeal for boycott and divestment against their colonisers and dispossessors?
c. Do we accept the racism of the Jewish State towards non-Jews (e.g. racial profiling, Jewish-only settlements that exclude all Palestinians)?
d. Is it acceptable to express solidarity with those who actively support the violation of the Palestinian people?
e. Do we promote Zionist schemes for ‘peace’ and ‘dialogue’ while the violation of Palestinian human rights continues?
f. Do we see occupation soldiers – e.g. checkpoint abusers - as morally equal to the occupied Palestinians they abuse and kill?
g. Should we allow the Zionists to conceal their land grabs by suggesting the conflict is in some way ‘religious’?
a. no b. yes c. no d. no e. no f. no g. no
1. Herzl wrote in his Diaries: "We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country.. expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly." Morris, B. (2002) Righteous Victims, Random House, p. 21-22)
2. "If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison for the land, or find a benefactor who will maintain the garrison on your behalf. ... Zionism is a colonizing adventure and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces." Masalha, Nur (1992 ) Expulsion Of The Palestinians, p. 45)
3. “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.” Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel. More recently, Professor Arnon Sofer, Professor of Geography at Haifa University, father of Sharon's "separation plan", said that " we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day. If we don't kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings." The Jerusalem Post May 21, 2004
4. The presenter of the BBC report of the interfaith pilgrimage to Israel acknowledged as much when she said that ‘everyone wants peace whether through security or dignity.’ The problem is that Israel’s ‘security’ rests on the violent subjugation of the Palestinians and the denial to them of any minimal dignity.
5. Even in the USA public opinion is hostile to Israel. http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk/content/view/2415/404
8. Histadrut members had tried to convince members of the British union to go back on their plan to launch the boycott, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.”
9. The first paragraph on the Trade Union Friends of Israel website claims it exists to facilitate links between Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists rather than the interests of the State of Israel. “Trade Union Friends of Israel has been established to strengthen the links between the Histadrut (the Israeli TUC), the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and the British Trade Union Movement. http://www.tufi.org.uk
10. The pilgrimage has received funding from the Scottish Government, and is supported by both the Israeli Embassy in London and the British Ambassador to Israel.
22. Zionists, typically claimed – but only in their English-language releases, that the stay-away was a result of Palestinian ‘terrorism’ and ‘intimidation’ rather than popular hostility to Zionist intrigues.