"It is noteworthy, and unhelpful, that while many Muslim leaders quickly condemned Al Qaeda’s Paris savagery, they find no public echo from the bulk of Jewish political leaders condemning the mass killings, the organised immiseration of Gaza, and ongoing dispossession of Palestinians from their land."
15 January 2015
When political leaders march, or pretend to march, against the murder of cartoonists and journalists, and against terrorism, we have a right to ask if they themselves might be guilty of deliberately killing working journalists, and whether they have committed acts of unambiguous terrorism.
A London inquest jury found that James Miller, a Welsh film-maker shot by an Israeli sniper in 2003 while filming in Rafah, Gaza, had been “murdered” (A week later, another jury found that the Israeli Army had ‘unlawfully killed’ British citizen Tom Hurndall.) The British Government did not seek extradition of the killer of a British journalist, and continued a lucrative arms trade with Israel.
After Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al Ali was assassinated in London on 22 July 1987, the UK Government expelled three Israeli diplomats in retaliation. The killers were never identified. The International Federation of Newspaper Publishers awarded Naji Al Ali the "Golden Pen of Freedom" the following year but Britain soon mended fences with Israel and the arms trade was not interrupted.
Israel killed 17 Palestinian journalists – coincidentally the number of victims of the Al Qaeda/ISIS attack in Paris - during their summer 2014 rampage into Gaza. As sinister as the killings themselves was the Israeli Army assertion that Palestinian journalists were ‘legitimate’ targets for assassination. No diplomatic notes protested these deliberate killings of journalists. Israeli savagery in Gaza was earlier recorded by one journalist, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, who reported that Gaza under Israeli occupation was the only place he had ever “watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport”.
What kind of ‘solidarity’ march finds space for Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister whose army slaughtered hundreds of Palestinian children among more than 2,000 souls in Gaza in 2014? He marched alongside other tainted politicians: Foreign Minister Shoukry’s Egypt has many journalists in its jails; the Saudi ambassador marched for freedom of expression.
The US also has a track record of killing journalists. In December 2001, a 500lb bomb was dropped onto the Kabul studios of Al Jazeera TV, a station repeatedly denounced by the bombers. Four years later, a US missile killed cameraman Tarek Ayoub inside Al Jazeera’s Baghdad office, one of four journalists that day killed by US forces. US President Bush discussed with Tony Blair his intention to bomb Al Jazeera’s main studios in Qatar. Killing journalists is not a monopoly of Al Qaeda.
What ‘solidarity’ were the politicians marching for? Two French citizens of Algerian descent murdered most of the 17 people killed in the Paris terrorist attacks, but the French Republic, whose ‘values’ inspired many of the demonstrators, killed 1.5 million Algerians in its war to prevent Algerian independence. Part of that war took place not far from the route of last week’s march, when the Paris police shot, smashed skulls and drowned in the Seine hundreds of peaceful demonstrators for the independence of Algeria.
If 17 victims of murder merited one minute’s silence, Paris would have had to stand silent for 35 minutes to give equal respect to the Algerian victims of only one Paris Police massacre in living memory, and for 61 days and nights to honour those killed in the colonial war in Algeria.
Every murder is a horror leaving devastation in its wake, but what is the point in marching against political terrorism with politicians like Netanyahu who defend murder – past, present and future - on an industrial scale?
On Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday (14 Jan 2014), Chief Constable of Manchester Sir Peter Fahy (starts at 2:14:30), spoke about the ‘huge level of fear’ across Britain in ‘Muslim and Jewish communities’ and called on ‘all institutions [to]…try to bring people together and have open debates’ to prevent or end a developing ‘siege mentality’ in minority communities.
Sir Peter said that we need to
“make sure events in other parts of the world do not affect community relations in this country…There are all sorts of difficult issues about freedom of speech, about the right of protest, issues in other countries like the situation in Palestine which generates very strong emotions. And the key thing we really need is to make sure those debates are taking place in the political space and not on the streets.”
We can agree on the need ‘to bring people together and have open debates’ (both in back rooms and on the streets). But ‘open debate’ will recognise Israel’s repeated massacres, brutal siege and other crimes against the Palestinian people, which indeed ‘generate very strong emotion’. This anger at an apartheid, genocidal state motivates many to act – either democratically or for a tiny number through terrorism – and the emotion is legitimate, rooted in opposition to injustice and oppression. Open debate that can discuss Britain’s role in giving Palestine to a European colonising project, the root of the whole crisis in Israel/Palestine, can provide a democratic channel for the justified anger many feel. Closing off democratic avenues will increase despair and increase the numbers drawn to terrorism.
One hurdle to ‘open debate’ is that some leaders of the Jewish community claim that they speak on behalf of those communities in endorsing massacre and dispossession of the Palestinian people. The Scottish Government position on this matter has been helpful, namely that Scottish Jews are not to be held responsible for the crimes of the State of Israel, but this position comes up against those leaders of Jewish communities who incessantly conflate hostility to Israeli crimes with ‘anti-Semitism’. For any democrat, the notion of collective responsibility is odious - we denounce Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people as a crime.
It is noteworthy, and unhelpful, that while many Muslim leaders quickly condemned Al Qaeda’s Paris savagery, they find no public echo from the bulk of Jewish political leaders condemning the mass killings, the organised immiseration of Gaza, and ongoing dispossession of Palestinians from their land.
A campaign for social solidarity that accepts or ignores the crimes of Israel and consigns the Palestinian people to their fate at the hands of Israel will fail. And ought to fail, for the Israeli State is a racist structure, based on Jewish privilege in politics, economics and legal codes, with the resulting denial of civic equality to Christians and Muslims across historic Palestine in the areas of residency rights, employment, access to justice, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and more.
Only an acceptance of human rights for the people of Palestine – and Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East – can provide a basis for enduring social cohesion. There will be a time for reconciliation but it can only come when the crimes stop. At the moment the urgent need is to prevent the victory of the Zionist plan and the successful ethnic cleansing of all of Palestine.
The framing of the crisis as a ‘Jewish’ or ‘Muslim’ communities issue is unhelpful for the great majority of people in Scotland, the UK, across Europe and around the world are hostile to Israeli crimes and this can only increase. Measures of public opinion over decades confirm an inexorable long-term deterioration in Israel’s public image. The same holds true for Jewish public opinion.
We hold to a fundamental distinction that Zionist leaders are constantly trying to blur: Zionism is a political ideology and a project to colonise Palestine with Jewish immigrants and reduce the number of Palestinians as near as possible to zero. Most people oppose such programmes. Jews, on the other hand, are a population and the misdirection of a justified anger at Israeli massacres into anti-Jewish hatred is unacceptable – it is both despicable as well as harmful to the cause of Palestinian freedom.
It is unacceptable because, like any form of racism, it demonises a whole population, including many who have never injured anyone and who can be our allies in the future in fighting for justice. To see how harmful it is one only needs to listen to Netanyahu, like every Zionist leader before him, try to empty Europe of all its Jews to reinforce the Zionist project in Palestine.
The Italian American Anti-defamation League was set up by one of the Mafia families in New York; most of us can see the difference between the Mafia and Italians. We should freely condemn the former and esteem the latter. Likewise with Zionism and Jews; effective opposition to the crimes of Zionism, and its racist, anti-semitic origins, means a struggle against an apartheid system and a settler-colonial state. Just as some Whites, including Jewish Whites, joined the struggle against South African apartheid, numbers of Jewish activists around the globe already play a significant role in Palestine solidarity campaigning and the BDS effort.
As Israel continues to foster anger in Britain and around the world, increasing numbers from all walks of life will join us in fighting for a future based on universal human rights, equality, and freedom for all. Others will be urging a ‘war of civilisations’ by Europeans against others who do not ‘share our values’ which Israel could join. As the founding father of the Zionist colonial project, Theodor Herzl, hoped, his Jewish State in Palestine “should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism”. Zionism is racist on multiple levels, not least in its desire to be “European…opposed to barbarism”, meaning the rest of the world. Actually the civilised part of the world includes people in every land who will resist the stampede to divide us and force us into hostile trenches. If we fail, at a certain stage it will be too late, impossible to cross the no-man’s land.
15 January 2015