Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Stand up to Israel and its front campaigns

Israel is becoming increasingly isolated, as worldwide criticism mounts over its illegal Occupation, siege of Gaza and apartheid crimes, unleashing, in turn, an even more furious backlash from Israel and its global defenders.

In particular, rising support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) has prompted new reactionary responses from the Israeli state and an increasingly strident lobby.

Condemnation of Donald Trump's incendiary speech endorsing Jerusalem as Israel's capital has only intensified Israeli propaganda and lobby hubris.

This is evident in the many fabrications against Palestinian children, notably the branding of Palestinian child Ahed Tamimi as a 'terrorist' for slapping a soldier. Ahed and her mother, imprisoned just for filming the incident, have had their trial, before a closed door military court, continuously delayed, as Israel weighs up how to impose its harshest punishment.

Those damning Ahed also have to deal with the awkward fact that an Israeli soldier had just shot her 15-year-old cousin, Muhammad Tamimi, removing part of his skull. In a further vindictive act, Muhammad, awaiting vital surgery, was again arrested in a night raid and forced to confess he had sustained his injury from a bike fall. Even after his doctors had shown medical proof of the shooting, an unapologetic lobby continue maligning the Tamimi family.    

It's all part of a relentless hasbara, seeking to control the narrative and intimidate anyone inclined to criticise Israel. US comedian Sarah Silverman was also denounced for urging fellow Jews to stand up for Ahed. The lobby even turned on Gary Lineker for daring to question Israel's brutal treatment of children.

With Netanyahu approving a new $75 million "public relations commando unit" to counter BDS, the lobby is now using every form of threat and distortion. With further menacing intent, Gilad Erdan, Israel's minister of strategic affairs, is leading a "black-ops" campaign against BDS.

Heading a growing list of artists endorsing BDS, noted musician Roger Waters has felt the lobby's fiercest wrath, with pressure on sponsors and legal threats to close down his shows. Admirably, Waters remains unfazed.

New Zealand singer Lorde has also experienced intense lobby intimidation after refusing to play Israel. Two young women, one Jewish, one Palestinian, who sent a letter asking Lorde to support BDS are being sued by pro-Israel legal group, Shurat HaDin.

Alongside 'Brand Israel', and paying students for hasbara trolling, online Palestine activists are now being censored as part of the pretext corporate clampdown on 'fake news'. Glenn Greenwald notes how Facebook executives approved Israel's requests to delete huge numbers of pro-Palestine accounts. 

Unlike the raging hysteria over 'Russiagate', Western media aren't rushing to report Israel's dark meddlings.

Escalating fears over BDS and Israel's declining image has also placed the US lobby on heightened political alert. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are leading an extensive attack on BDS through The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union as a violation of First Amendment rights.

Jonathan Cook notes that what's "special about the Israel lobby in the US – an amalgam of hawkish Jewish leadership organisations and messianic Christian evangelicals – is the fear it exploits to silence critics. No one wants to be labelled an anti-Semite."

Stand With Us are part of that same right-wing network, running multiple pro-Israel campaigns, and opposing Anti-Apartheid Week. It has been "accused of anti-Muslim propaganda and encouraging a militant Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East." 

The group was widely criticised after one of its media advisers wrote a virulent article disparaging common support between oppressed Palestinians and black protesters in Ferguson. The author was defended by Hen Mazzig, another Stand With Us associate with rabid right-wing views. 

The same US lobby have also launchedvociferous attack on Al Jazeera's forthcoming exposé of US lobby activity.

In the UK, Al Jazeera's previous undercover investigation has already revealed key connections between lobby bodies and the Israeli Embassy. With Priti Patel's recent 'family holiday' in Israel, and co-lobbyist Lord Stuart Polak, also now exposed, Conservative Friends of Israel are now ratcheting-up the fear, as in Michael Gove's shrill warnings on Palestine activists' "dark and furious energy". 

The enduringly Blairite Labour Friends of Israel remain on-message too, with Emily Thornberry delivering a speech to LFI "that could have been written by a pro-Israel lobbyist".

And the lobby's relentless smearing of Jeremy Corbyn for 'harbouring anti-Semitism' goes on, no matter how much he denounces such tendencies. 

Jonathan Cook also shows here how Owen Jones engaged lobby insiders, the Jewish Labour Movement, further serving to subvert Corbyn.

Encouragingly, newly-founded Jewish Voice for Labour now provide a strong counter to JLM's smear agenda, while Jews For a Just Peace have declared their support for BDS.

However, all this pressure on Israel has spurred other zealous lobbying.  

One group pursuing that kind of mission here is the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS), an avowedly pro-Israel organisation masquerading as 'pro-peace' street campaigns. This includes Glasgow Friends of Israel (GFI).

Besides evangelising for Israel and whitewashing its crimes, CoFIS consistently attack and smear Palestine solidarity groups.

Ignoring multiple UN resolutions and international law, CoFIS defends Israel's illegal acts, refusing to back key Palestinian rights and claims to full statehood. It approves Israel's apartheid wall, blames Israel's mass killing in Gaza on Hamas, and fails to condemn Israel's shooting and incarceration of children. It consistently applauds Netanyahu. It hails Trump and his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It denounces BDS and artists like Roger Waters. And it insists on Ahed Tamimi being punished as a 'terrorist'. 

Much of the literature CoFIS hands out to the public comes from the same visceral US right-wing group, Stand With Us.

Director Ken Loach, writer Paul Laverty, and actor Tam Dean Burn were among signatory Artists for Palestine UK who, in 2017, opposed CoFIS's "misnamed “Shalom Festival”, which promotes, not “peace”, but the apartheid State of Israel and its occupation." 

Their letter stated that the Festival, organised by CoFIS founder Nigel Goodrich and GFI's Sammy Stein, and endorsed by Stand With Us, was "part of the State of Israel’s attempts to counter BDS. It claims to support “peaceful coexistence” in Israel/Palestine, while whitewashing Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights."

CoFIS claim to be 'anti-racist', while denying the inhuman effects of the Occupation, the calamity of Gaza, and Israel's colonial settlements. This mirrors the very same deception Israel has peddled for generations with its contrived 'peace process', using every opportunity to extend the settlements, imprison Gaza, and deepen its racist treatment of Palestinians.

CoFIS has no support from Palestinian civil society. While it speaks of 'shared interests' and 'open dialogue', drawing in virtue-signalling liberals and unwary progressives, serious observers see this 'pro-peace' line for what it is: a cynical charade and continuous stalling exercise, serving to normalise Israel's land thefts, and prioritise its 'security concerns'. As with BDS, meaningful solidarity remains focused on real strategic action, helping to expose the multiple fronts and guises of Israel's lobby.

People of conscience, whatever their background or religious beliefs, should reject any organisation which seeks to approve and defend Israel's apartheid state. And they should be particularly alert to any group which seeks to conceal their real purpose through stealth insertion into parliamentary life, mainstream parties or civil movements. 

If we accept that, as with South Africa, apartheid is racism, there should be no place for Israel-protecting bodies like CoFIS within any authentic anti-racism event or demonstration.

Rejection will, inevitably, be met with the same lobby backlash. But leftists should defend their position with principled argument rather than capitulate for fear of being falsely labelled. There's no placating or appeasing this lobby. 

Campaigns which help hide Israel's mass crimes have to be resisted with moral resolve and tactical intent. You cannot stand up to racism while lying down to Israel's apartheid.

*(This is an abbreviated version of my previous blog article.)

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