Archive for the ‘west bank’ category

Hebron in Israel? Facebook’s curious Palestinian geography problem

June 21, 2019

This morning while browsing Facebook, I happened to see that a friend had been tagged in a photo in ‘Beit Lehem, Israel’. This, I though was curious. After all, Bethlehem is in Israeli-occupied Palestine, not in the Apartheid State of Israel.

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Maybe, I thought, this was a mistake tag and was actually referring to Beit Lehem HaGlilit (Bethlehem of the Galilee), a once-Palestinian town ethnically cleansed in 1948 and taken over by Israel farmers. But no, clicking on the ‘Beit Lehem, Israel’ link brought me to a page with a map of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. So, Facebook would have us believe that Bethlehem, or ‘Beit Lehem’, is not in Palestine, but in Israel.

Yet Facebook wants to have its colonial cake and eat it too, as it also lists – as a separate location – ‘Bethlehem, West Bank‘. West Bank mind, not ‘Palestine’. Indeed, Palestine doesn’t appear anywhere on Facebook city locations, as we shall see.

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I next searched for ‘Hebron’, and sure enough, there was both ‘Hebron, Irsael‘ and ‘Hebron, West Bank‘. Hebron is the largest city in the occupied West Bank, and is an Apartheid city par excellence, were the lives of over 200,000 Palestinians are dominated by the presence of around a 1,000 illegal Israeli settlers in the middle of the city, and a further 1,000 Israeli occupation soldiers who ensure Palestinians are utterly subjugated.  There are separate paths for Jews and Arabs, Palestinian shops have been forced to close down, the Ibrahimi Mosque has been partitioned, and settler and military attacks on Palestinian civilians are frequent. As a report on the +972 Magazine website puts it:

Hebron’s Jewish settlers have become notorious for violently harassing their Palestinian neighbors, all under the watchful eye and acquiescence of the IDF. Some Palestinian residents in the seam zone on and around Shuhada Street have literally built cages around their homes to protect themselves from the violent settlers. The souk in Hebron’s Old City is covered by metal netting to catch the bricks, urine and other objects Jewish settlers regularly throw onto Palestinian merchants and passersby.

By allowing Hebron to be listed as being in Israel, Facebook is not only acquiescing in such atrocious behaviour and violations of international law, it is actually helping to normalise them.

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In some respects, Hebron an Bethlehem are lucky. They, at least, get the designation of being in the West Bank. With the exception of Jericho, no other Palestinian city – whether the current de facto political capital Ramallah, the major cities of Nablus, Qalqilyah, Jenin or Tulkarm, or Gaza City with its population of 750,000 – gets any such designation. Instead, each is merely listed as a “City”, presumably existing as independent entities in some geographical ether. The same goes for Madjal Shams, the large Druze city in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, which international law recognises as being part of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.

So what about Jerusalem? Unsurprisingly, ‘Jerusalem’ is listed as being part of Israel – with an image of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Israeli occupied part of the city to illustrate it. Curiously, however, also listed is ‘East Jerusalem‘ (this too exists in the same Facebook geo-ether as other Palestinian cities) – yet its picture is not of any of the most iconic images of the Old City – such as the above mentioned mosque – but simply a map.

Finally, what of the more than 200 other illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine and occupied Syria? It turns out that Facebook can’t make up its mind. Some, such as Ariel, Har Homa, and Gilo are listed as being inside Israel, while others such as the huge settlements of Ma’ale Adummim, Kiryat Arba, Beitar Illit, and Modi’in Illit, right down to the tiny Niran all exist as merely “cities” in undetermined locations.

A final Facebook geography fail is that while Israel not only exists as a ‘country location’, its entry comes illustrated by a satellite map of all of historic Palestine which does not delineate between the Apartheid state of Israel and the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories. Nice!

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Undoubtedly Facebook will claim that it is merely working off third party data like Wikipedia and its own algorithms to compile this data. But this is a nonsense – we all know that algorithms are not neutral, they reflect the values of those who program them. When it comes to such a contested and controversial situation as the Palestine-Israel question, Facebook in fact has a special responsibility to accurately reflect international law – not to merely draw arbitrary borders as it sees fit.

In its treatment of Palestinian cities and Israeli settlements – all of which are illegal and war crimes under the Geneva conventions – Facebook is actively aiding the normalisation of  gross violations of human rights and international law. It is helping to entrench Israel’s decades-long colonial occupation of Palestine and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. It is erasing Palestinain historical, cultural and national connections to their own homeland. It is literally wiping Palestine off the map.

And Facebook wants to lecture people about ‘fake news’?

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Huge explosion and fire in illegal Israeli chemical factory in Tulkarm on Thursday night

September 6, 2013

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According to a Palestinian news report from the Al Fajer TV website (Arabic, with lots of images) and eyewitnesses on the ground, late Thursday night there was a massive explosion followed by a huge fire in an illegal Israeli industrial area located beside the Palestinian city of Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank.

At the time of writing (10pm, a day later), for some reason there has been no English language reporting about this event. I am hearing via a friend visiting Palestine that residents have been advised by local television reports to stay indoors and turn off their air conditioning.

I do not speak Arabic, so the following report is compiled by using Google Translate – apologies in advance for any errors.

Explosion, fire and aftermath

The Al Fajer report says that a large cloud of smoke covered the sky of the city and the villages of Tulkarem last night, after a huge fire broke out in a nylon factory in the illegal Israeli industrial area Nizanei Shalom, west of Tulkarm. Nizanei Shalom (which means ‘Buds of Peace’ in Hebrew) is a controversial – even by illegal settlement standards – area, which houses a number of Israeli industrial and chemical plants.

A big explosion echoed from inside the industrial zone at 11pm on Thursday night, resulting in a dramatic fire and a two hour power outage for residents on the outskirts of the city.

Palestinian civil defence crews and medical staff were scrambled to the west of the the city to check on the health of citizens and provide them with protection, under the direction of Tulkarm’s Director General of Health, Saed Hanoun.

Incredibly, witnesses in the vicinity of the industrial zone reported that there was a large presence of Israeli occupation forces in the area, and military patrols fired tear gas canisters at local people who went to see what was occurring.

Firefighters worked throughout the night and the fire was largely extinguished in the early hours of the morning. However, Fulla Jallad, a local Palestinian woman told me that “the structure is still on fire and the smoke is obviously [still] poisoning the air”.

Health and environmental hazards

Palestinian Officials have warned of health and the environment hazards in Tulkarem citizens in the city. The have called on those living near factories to get out of their homes because of the serious consequences resulting from the thick smoke and the rain of falling ash in the aftermath, which constitute a potential danger to public health and the environment.

One local Palestinian official, Jamal Said, told the official PA news service Wafa that they had long warned of the danger of these plants to the health of citizens, due to emissions of serious toxins, adding that the seriousness of this fire lies not only in the phenomenal amount of smoke, but in the explosions of which there were several inside from inside the plant because of the huge fire.

Mr. Said added that the fire was out of control, and pointed out that the Israelis occupation forces had requested help from the Palestinian civil defence crews, who had put their priorities in the protection of Palestinian citizens and property in the western and southern region near the industrial zone

Mr. Said stressed the need for immediate intervention of the international community to ensure that these dangerous plants are fully removed from the Tulkarm area.

The Legal Counsel of the Environmental Quality Authority in Tulkarem, Mr. Murad, said that he had warned of the warning of the danger of these plants during a workshop held in Tulkarem only two days ago, and he called on all international bodies to assume their responsibilities towards what is happening as a result of the dangerous environmental contamination in the Tulkarem area. He said that this fire is clear evidence that Tulkarm is exposed to environmental dangers due to the burning of toxic substances, calling on citizens to beware of the smoke.

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Nizanei Shalom – One of Israel’s toxic little West Bank secrets

Initially based in Israel, several of the Nizanei Shalom, aka Geshuri, industrial park’s current inhabitants were closed down by Israeli court order for pollution violations during the 1980s. In 1987 Geshuri Industries, a manufacturer of pesticides and fertilizers originally located in Kfar Saba, was the first to relocate, moving their Keshet Prima factory there after closure by Israeli authorities earlier that decade. The Dixon industrial gas plants, formerly of Netanya industrial zone in Israel, followed and now there are almost a dozen such factories in this industrial zone, including Atzei Shitim, The Solor Group and Yamit E.L.I. Filtration and Water Treatment. According to a report by RT, the factories produce fibres, chemicals, glass, paint and materials for construction, and they operate 24 hours a day.

Many of the factories have come under severe criticism for both their environmental records and the treatment of their mainly Palestinian workforces.

Tulkarm’s General Director of Health, Saed Hanoun says that industrial by-products of these factories are dangerous to the health of citizens and the environment because of the damage caused by the vapours, which may be responsible for some serious diseases developing amongst the population, and he added that these “plants should be removed immediately as they internationally prohibited”. Nor is this the first such explosion and fire; in an interview with RT in 2009, Mr. Hanoun said that for three days that May, thick clouds hung over Tulkaram after a previous explosion in one of the factories.

According to Irish activist-journalist Tommy Donnellan, who visited the area in 2010, and documented local people’s stories on video, “[the lands] in the immediate vicinity of the factory have been polluted to the point where they are no longer agriculturally viable. Trees in the area are decaying; those that remain alive exhibit stunted growth. Pollution from the factory also widely affects other agricultural land in Tulkarm and has seeped into underground water sources in the area. Noxious carcinogenic fumes from the Geshuri [Keshet Prima] factory have also adversely affected the health of the population. Respiratory problems and eye infections, which are most likely to afflict the very young and elderly, are the most commonly reported problems. It is also believed by medical experts that the pollution caused by the plant has led to cancer cases, although to confirm this no studies have been carried out to date”.

Mr Donnella also said that the “chemical complex is beyond the control and power of the [Palestinian Authority] as the Israeli occupying [so-called] ‘Civil Administration’ watch over and protect it – where for 11 months of the year the prevailing west to east winds blow the emissions into Tulkakem and in the one month when the winds shift direction and blow from east to west into Israel the factories cease their carcinogenic activities”.

One worker in the zone, Ahmed, interviewed by Corporate Watch, also in 2010, has stated that the “factories are dangerous in that they pollute the environment … they are also unsafe for the workers, they do not adhere to any health and safety regulations as they are based in occupied territory and there is nothing to protect workers. Accidents are common”.

Workers’ and locals’ rights abused and safety compromised

Another worker, Rashid, went on to say that the “Solor factory is very unsafe. Three workers have died – in 2000, 2002 and 2008 – from burns sustained from gas related fires at the factory” and that “Solor workers receive 90 shekels a day, well under the Israeli minimum wage. Before we started to organise in the factory we were paid 65 shekels a day”.

Indeed, the area can also be more immediately dangerous to those not even working vicinity. According to the General Union of Petrochemical Workers in Palestine, a young man, 18-year-old Hamza Walid Haloub, was seriously wounded by live army fire in March this year while walking near the industrial park. Dr. Khaled Saleh of Thabet Thabet Hospital said a bullet punctured his lung and the injury was so serious that Mr. Haloub had to be transferred to Nablus hospital for emergency treatment.

A microcosm of the iniquity of the occupation

Nizanei Shalom is a microcosm of the iniquity of Israel’s occupation; local Palestinians were forced from their lands in the 1980s so that illegal building could begin; the zone exploits the far cheaper Palestinian labour force, so economically crippled by decades of occupation that they have little choice but to work under awful conditions; in practice, a separate legal/safety system exists than inside Israel, with these highly polluting factories are given the all clear by Israeli authorities; the result is that it is the Palestinians of Tulkarm who suffer the environmental, economic and health problems and dangers arising from the operations of the plants. And Nizanei Shalom is not the only such zone, there are several in the occupied West Bank, pointing to the importance and inextricable nature of these parks for the Israeli economy.

The existence of these illegal colonial settlement-factories are war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should be shut down on that basis alone. That they are highly dangerous and possibly in contravention of international pollution standards should add an urgency for the international community to take immediate meaningful action to ensure that they are.

Al Haq video about the Nizanei Shalom industrial zone

RTE: Contextless and vacuous

February 26, 2013
Protesters tear gassed outside Ofer Military Prison

Protesters tear gassed outside Ofer Military Prison

Today, RTE News online ran a story about Palestine, headlined ‘Rocket fired from Gaza explodes in southern Israel’. This in itself would be a perfectly factual way to frame the story if, for example, RTE had been following the Gaza ceasefire story since last November.

However, this is the first mention of a ceasefire breach since 1st December 2012. In fact, before today’s piece, there have only been two stories about ceasefire breaches published since it came into effect. Those were on 23rd November and 1st December. The former was a report headlined ‘Israeli gunfire kills man near Gaza border’, and the latter was a one line report about the killing of a Palestinian man in Gaza as an aside to a piece on British and French reactions to Israel’s announcement that it was planning more illegal settlements.

For those who have been following the aftermath of the last Israeli attack on Gaza, this lack of coverage will probably seem bizarre, and infuriating. Since the ceasefire, there have been 4 Palestinians shot and killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, and 91 injured. The Israeli military has carried out 63 shooting attacks, 13 armoured incursions, and 30 attacks on Palestinians fishermen at sea.

Of these, RTE deigned to report only two, and both of those in the near immediate aftermath of the ceasefire. And of those, one was merely a nameless statistic in a report about the ‘real’ news – two imperialist powers’ lightly rapping Israel on the knuckles for announcing it was planning to commit yet another violation of the Geneva Convention by building more illegal settlements.

The only other stories that mentioned Gaza in that three month period were as follows: Hamas’ leader-in-exile Khaled Mesha’al’s visit to Gaza on 8th December, headlined ‘Hamas leader vows to never recognise Israel’; a report entitled ‘Egypt floods Gaza tunnels cutting vital lifeline’ on 13th February; and a piece about the winner of the World Press Photo Award called ‘Swedish photographer wins World Press Photo award’ (the photograph was a harrowing image of the funeral of two children and their father killed in Israel’s November 2012 bombing campaign).

Frankly, it should be incredible that RTE, the Irish state’s public service broadcaster, could ignore constant violations of the ceasefire by Israel and then run a story like this; nowhere in the piece does it mention any of Israel’s numerous ceasefire violations, not even the meagre two it had previously reported. Should be, but alas, isn’t.

For the sake of accuracy, let’s deconstruct the piece , line-by-line:

Rocket fired from Gaza explodes in southern Israel

The headline immediately frames the piece with Palestinians carrying out an act of unprovoked violence.

A rocket has exploded in southern Israel in the first such attack by militants in Gaza since a truce ended a week of cross-border fighting in November.

No mention is made that would suggest this rocket comes after three months of ceasefire violation by Israeli forces.

The rocket caused some damage to a road near the city of Ashkelon but no injuries, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The first quote is given to an Israeli official.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank-based Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the strike, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency said.

Fatah is not “West Bank-based”; it the oldest Palestinian political faction, active in all the occupied territories and the diaspora. The only Palestinian voice in this piece is that of a Ma’an news report, citing a Palestinian group as claiming responsibility for a violent incident; apparently RTE doesn’t believe Palestinians should have agency or even give us the group’s own rationale for the attack.

There was no military response from Israel.

This rocket, if it was anything, was a response to constant ceasefire violations in Gaza and violent Israeli provocations in the West Bank, including the deaths of six people since November, three of them children. Yet RTE infers: ‘Israel is letting it go without a military response, aren’t they very restrained?’ I believe I’ve yet to see an RTE report that says ‘Today a Palestinian was killed by the Israeli military – there was no response from Palestinian fighters’.

The attack came after the death on Saturday of a Palestinian detainee in Israeli custody, which triggered protests in the West Bank.

This is the first piece of information we get about Israeli actions against Palestinians. This one death is apparently the trigger – but note, the attack did not come “in response” to the death, for only Israel “responds”. The rocket simply could not have been a reaction to the constant Israeli ceasefire violations or other acts of violence in the West Bank. But what does RTE tell us of this death it has chosen as the rationale for this attack?

The death in disputed circumstances of Arafat Jaradat and a hunger strike by four other Palestinian inmates have stoked tensions ahead of a planned visit next month by US President Barack Obama.

First, there are 12 hunger strikers at present and, incidentally, I believe this is the first time RTE have mentioned the hunger strikes since May 2012. Second, this tells us nothing of the death, other than it was “in disputed circumstances”. What are these circumstances? Well, according to the Palestinian Authority Minister for Detainees, Issa Qaraqe, the detainee was tortured to death while in Israeli custody. Tortured. To. Death. In case you missed that. By the self-proclaimed only democracy in the Middle East. This is not worth reporting it would appear.

Israeli troops shot and wounded five Palestinians during confrontations with protesters in the Bethlehem area yesterday and a 15-year-old boy was in critical condition. At the end of last year, Egyptian mediators helped achieve a truce after eight days of Israeli air strikes amid rocket attacks from the coastal territory.

This is factual, as fas as I can tell – although I have seen a report that says 10 others were injured by by shooting outside the Ofer military prison, near Ramallah.

Remember folks, if you have a television and you live in Ireland, you’re paying for this crap. Almost, as if to add insult to injury, recently the Irish government announced that it doesn’t even matter that if – like my good self – you don’t own a television, you’re going to have to pay for a television license anyway.

According to the Irish Independent, “Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte [said] that a huge number of people now got their news, not from sitting in front of the 9pm news, but from other services offered by the national broadcaster”. No, Minister, nobody gets their “news” from RTE – not on the screen, not on the airwaves, not online. We get half-truths, misinformation and propaganda. And it’s just not good enough.

[A note on RTE Online News stories – it is possible that in a single day RTE online will run the same story, sometimes slightly edited, sometimes exactly the same, re-posted several times throughout the day – usually as ‘updates’ at 1pm, 6pm and 9pm. For the purposes of this examination, I have taken multiple virtually identical stories on the same subject as being a single story.]

Audio: Discussion with ISM founders Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro

February 24, 2012

Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf, two of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has posted the audio I recorded of last night’s discussion with with Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro, two of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) which promotes non-violent resistance to Israeli Apartheid. It was a wide ranging discussion that encompassed everything from Palestinian refugees to the ‘Arab Spring’.

The discussion followed the very successful première screening of the new film ‘Roadmap to Apartheid’ by film-makers Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson, and was part of Israeli Apartheid Week 2012 in Ireland.

Copied from the IPSC website:

On Thursday 23rd February, as part of Israeli Apartheid Week 2012, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) was proud to present the Irish Premiere of the brand new film ‘Roadmap to Apartheid’ by film-makers Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson.

The 90 minute documentary film, takes a look at the current situation in Palestine through the lens of South African Apartheid; comparing the two regimes in a manner not flattering for the Israeli state. It is narrated by US Civil Rights icon Alice Walker, and features interviews with many Palestinian, Israeli, South African and international activists, journalists and academics. The film was well received by the audience of over 60 people, even receiving an ovation at the end. The film is due to be released in the coming months and will be making appearances (and hopefully winning deserved awards) at various international film festivals. You can view the film trailer below, and if you missed it don’t worry, the IPSC will be organising future screenings of this brilliant film around the country.

Following the film, there was a discussion with Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro (audio recording below), two of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) which promotes non-violent resistance to Israeli Apartheid. It was a wide ranging discussion that encompassed everything from Palestinian refugees to the ‘Arab Spring’.

Click here to download an audio recording of the Q&A with Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf (mp3). Disclaimer: Views expressed in the discussion do not necessarily reflect the view of the IPSC.

A section of the audience

Special thanks: The IPSC would like to thank the directors of Roadmap to Apartheid Ana and Eron for allowing us to screen their film as part of Israeli Apartheid Week 2012, and Huwaida and Adam for stepping in at the last minute when Iyad Burnat’s tour had to be cancelled.

Non-Judeo Christians unwelcome at “Faces of Israel” hasbara event?

February 20, 2012

And so, Ireland finds itself in the hasbara gun-sight once again.

A story appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Times (19/02/2012,  Irish edition) proclaiming that an Israeli hasbara “charm offensive” would be touring Ireland beginning on Thursday. The mission will involve six “young Israeli representatives”, “backed by the Israeli government” and in association with Tom Carew’s “Ireland Israel Friendship League”, engaging in a speaking tour of Ireland.  Although the article is scant on actual details, it does say that both the UCD International Students Society and the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel will be hosting some of their talks (though they have yet to appear on either website – maybe they don’t want people turning up asking difficult questions?).

However, someone sent me the following event listing, organised by the Irish Christian Friends of Israel. This event, hosted by a group who believe “the Biblical truth that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people forever” (so, two-statist ‘moderates’ then),  forms part of the “Faces of Israel” tour. Of particular note is the line stating that, “Jews and Christians are ALL welcome”. Really? Is this to say that people of other faiths, and none, are not welcome at an event allegedly showcasing “how Israel comprises many diverse cultures and nationalities”? Doubly surprising given that over 1 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are of Muslim origin.

On a “diversity” buzz, it appears that this tour’s veritable jewel in the hasbara crown is the inclusion of an “Arab Israeli” (Palestinian citizen of Israel – PCOI) woman called Raneen Khoury. Although the Times article calls her a “member of the Israeli police”, the ICFI description is different, stating that:

Born and raised in the city of Nazareth, Raneen has lived in the midst of Israeli co-existence, always trying to progress Arab – Jewish relations within Israel through various co-existence projects such as the establishment of the National Service Organization. Currently she is the manager of “Lehava” project whose aim is to decrease the digital gap within Israeli society.


It appears that Ms. Khoury, a Christian Palestinian, is involved in recruiting PCOIs into the National Service (Sherut Leumi), an alternative for those who do not wish to serve in the Israeli Military. All Jewish-Israelis are conscripted into the military after leaving school, but some can opt for other means of serving the state instead. PCOIs are exempt from the military draft. As of 2010, there were 1,473 PCOIs volunteering for National Service, 0.12% of the total PCOI population. Clearly, Ms. Khoury is representative of the average Palestinian citizen of Israel, and will indeed champion their cause as a heavily discriminated-against section of the Israeli population (20%) as part of this mission.

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EDIT 24-02-2012:
I have been contacted by the author of the original Sunday Times article, Mr. Mark Paul. He asked me to clarify that he never mentioned Ms. Khoury by name. This is true, and my assertion was based on extrapolating from the ICFI description and the Times article. The article says “six young Israelis” are visiting, five Jewish-Israeli and one “Arab Israeli”. The ICFI claims that Ms. Khoury is speaking at their event, so I put two and two together and came up with five and for that I apologise. It seems the information on the ICFI website is error, not the Times article, as having had a “chance” encounter with the six-strong hasbara team today, Ms. Khoury was not present as far as I could tell, but another Palestinian Citizen of Israel was (more on that in another post).
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Another minority included in the entourage is one Hadas Yossef, an Ethiopian Jew who was brought to Israel in 1983, presumably as part of Operation Moses.  According to the IsraelPolitick blog (an official Israeli Foreign Ministry website):

After completing her studies in Architecture at the Bezalel High Institute for Arts, Hadas began working as a professional architect at one of the biggest firms in Israel.

As with Ms. Khoury, I think, given that some 60% of Ethiopian Jews live below the poverty line and are subject to disgusting forms of racism, Ms. Yossef is not entirely representative of the experiences of her community within Israel either. It’s like pointing at Barack Obama and saying “look, institutional racism doesn’t exist in the US any more”.

In the interview, Mr. Adam Briscoe is at pains to point out that the “Faces of Israel” initiative “operates independently of the [Israeli] government”. This claim is disgustingly laughable. Not only because it is contradicted by his the very next sentence, to whit: “it was born out of an idea publicly touted last year by Yuli Edelstein the Israeli minister for public diplomacy [hasbara]”; but also because the Israeli press has been touting these guys as being sent by the government! As an article in yesterday’s Jerusalem Post explains:

The Public Diplomacy [Hasbara] Ministry plans to send 100 Israelis from different sectors in society abroad to represent and defend the state during Israel Apartheid Week.

The participants in the project have undergone several weeks of training in the Public Diplomacy Ministry, and will visit dozens of college campuses to battle the “apartheid” label in New York, Boston, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Toronto, Montreal, Dublin, London, Madrid, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Indeed, according to the Times article, another of the participants, Sari Diskind, actually works in the office of the Israeli Prime Minster.

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EDIT 2: 24-02-2012:
Mr. Mark Paul of the Times has also asked me to clarify that Mr. Briscoe did not say that “it was born out of an idea publicly touted last year…” and that was in fact Mr. Paul’s balancing of Briscoe’s comments. Fair enough, but I think it was worded (or perhaps edited, as a journalist I know the pain of the editor’s knife) in a clumsy way, such that a cursory reading would suggest the whole comment came from Briscoe.
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Not only that, these same characters could be considered old hands at this type of thing, given that some of them have done it all before, in (at least) February and September of last year. And one can bet they are not paying for this out of their own pockets.

The Jerusalem Post also tells us that the “mission, which leaves next weekend, includes settlers, Arabs, artists, experts in national security, gay people, and immigrants from Ethiopia”.

Conspicuously absent from this list of advocates are any representatives of the Palestinian community of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the occupied Syrian Druze community, the internally displaced Palestinians within Israel, the Bedouin community currently undergoing ethnic cleansing, gay Palestinians blackmailed by the Israeli secret police, the external Palestinian refugee community, or even anti-occupation Jewish-Israelis. Clearly in it’s desire to show us the rainbows of diversity in Israeli society – and given that illegal settler voices are included, presumably the lovely conditions under which all people in the territories controlled by Israel live – the Israeli Ministry of Hasbara feels it is necessary to exclude “unimportant” voices, i.e. ones that might call a spade a spade and say, “Israeli is an apartheid state”.

And ultimately, that is what this mission is all about. This week in Ireland, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other groups are taking part in international Israeli Apartheid Week 2012. According to the IPSC website:

Israeli Apartheid Week is an annual international series of events held across the globe. The aim is to educate people about the nature of Israeli apartheid against the Palestinian people and to build the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement locally and globally. Last year, IAW took place in over 60 cities across the globe. (Full list of Irish IAW week events here)

I think it is a tribute to the work of Palestine Solidarity activists in Ireland that the Hasbaristas feel it necessary to send a delegation that is definitely, definitely, not sponsored by the Israeli government to come here and lie for them. Keep up the good work folks.

Of course, what the Israeli government seems loathe to accept that it is not better PR tactics that are needed to improve the state’s image, it is an end to apartheid, occupation, human rights violations and war crimes!

(Update 21/02/2012: Thanks to Irish Left Review for re-blogging this piece)

Why is the Irish Chief Rabbi’s website linking readers to extremist groups?

February 5, 2012

While browsing for something unrelated, I stumbled upon the links page of JewishIreland.org and was shocked by a couple of the links they provided. JewishIreland.org is website of the self-described “Jewish Community in Ireland”, or basically, the website of the Chief Rabbinate of Ireland and hub for various religious and social events and congregations.

Of course, it’s not surprising that one would find links to international Zionist organisations like the World Zionist Organisation, the World Jewish Congress or the so-called Anti Defamation League (which scholar Norman Finkelstein once described as an organisation that “specialises in defaming critics of Israel”) and to various Israeli websites. But two links in particular were very surprising. The first is a link to the now defunct website of the US-based Jewish Defence Organisation (JDO) – website archive here.

The links page of JewishIreland.org, linking to the terrorist Jewish Defence Organisation, and illegal Israeli settler news service Arutz Sheva/Israel National News

The JDO is a self-described “militant” organisation, though others have labelled it a “terrorist group”. It is a splinter group from the more infamous Jewish Defence League (JDL), and like the JDL subscribes to the extremist Zionist ideology of Kahanism, and boasts of physically attacking pro-Palestinian activists in the US.

For example, a report (and I apologise in advance for the awful grammar and spelling contained therein) on its new website claims that in May 2008 a “JDO Security Team beat a group of Moslem terrorists from the PLO and Hamas along with a group of anarchists who had accompanied them physically at their ‘Death to Israel, Death to the Jews’ protest” in New York. These terrifying terrorist threats were actually a small group of anti-Zionist Jewish activists who were protesting a celebration of Israel’s 60th Anniversary at Radio City (video here). The JDO claimed they were handing out “flyers praising armed PLO and Hamas attacks on Jews”. In fact, as reported by a blogger who could not be considered sympathetic to the anti-Zionist protesters, the fliers actually said:

“No time to celebrate! Jews remember the Nakba: standing in solidarity with 60+ years of Palestinian resistance to Zionism. This May, while Israel marks 60 years of statehood, Palestinians around the world mourn 60 years since the Nakba – Arabic for ‘catastrophe.’”

They also posted Norman Finkelstein’s address on their website, calling for him to be “run out”, and plastered his building with fliers saying: “Drive-Out Traitor to the Jews Professor Norman Finkelstein”. Most recently, the JDO have been involved in opposition to the University of Pennsylvania’s hosting of a conference on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, calling the organisers a “Hamas Islamic Nazi group”. Alas, though one may laugh at such paranoid nonsense, it is not far removed from more ‘mainstream’ slanders against the conference organisers.

JDO website posts Prof. Finkelstein's address and calls for him to be "run out"

The group’s founder/leader, Mordechai Levy, is himself an ‘interesting’ character. In 1985, when his organisation was suspected of being behind the bombing of the California offices of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee that killed one person (later attributed to the JDL), Levy told the New York Times that “[the JDO] aren’t claiming credit, but it couldn’t happen to better people, more deserving people”. Levy was convicted in 1989 for assault with a deadly weapon after his attempt to murder JDL leader, and long-time rival, Irv Rubin resulted in the injury of three bystanders. For this he served 18 months of a four year sentence, and was later convicted for assaulting a 12 year-old boy.

The second troubling link is to an Israeli internet news outlet. Arutz Sheva/Israel National News is not your average right wing Zionist website, it is in fact the voice of the ideological ‘national-religious’ settler movement in the occupied Palestinian territories. Based in the illegal West Bank settlement of Beit El, it started life as a pirate radio station for which 10 of its staff were convicted under Israeli broadcasting laws. Indeed, it’s very existence – based as it is in an illegal settlement – is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus a war crime. Today it remains a cesspit of foaming-at-the-mouth rightwing Zionist and Islamophobic bilge. A quick scan through it’s Op-Ed section reveals headlines like ‘Is The NYT’s Agenda to Normalize Islam in the West?’; ‘Omar Barghouti on US Jihad Tour’; ‘Self Hatred: The Only Way Jews Can Vote Obama’; ‘Israel has the Right to Build in Yesha [i.e. occupied Palestinian territories]’; ‘Israel is a Relgious [sic] Nationality’; ‘UNESCO Declares War on Jewish Hevron [i.e. occupied Palestinian Hebron]’; and so on. It’s also worth noting that the website links all Israeli English language news outlets, with the exception of the liberal-Zionist newspaper Haaretz, which is sometimes critical of Israeli policies toward the Palestinian people. Coincidence?

A thread linking both the JDO and AS/INN is not hard to find. Below is an extract from a much longer piece I’ve written for an upcoming edition of No Quarter, the  magazine of Anti-Fascist Action Ireland.

Before leaving [the US for Israel, Rabbi Meir] Kahane had established the Jewish Defence League, a right-wing Jewish-nationalist terrorist group that was behind attacks on Soviet interests in the US for two decades, and also carried out attacks on, and murders of, Arabs and Muslims around the world. Most recently, the French JDL chapter have been implicated in the 2010 murder of Said Bourarach, a Muslim security guard in the town of Bobigny.

Upon arrival in Israel, Kahane founded the Kach (“Thus”) party which sought to “restore the biblical state of Israel” by forcibly expelling the remaining Palestinians from their homeland and instituting Jewish religious law throughout all of historic Palestine. Despite its small size, Kach and its offshoots have been influential amongst the Israeli far-right settler movement. Kach engaged in terrorist attacks on Palestinians, including shootings, stabbings, arson and bombings. Kahane himself – later elected to the Knesset – was once imprisoned for a short time for attempting to commit an unspecified “grave act of provocation” at Jerusalem’s Haram Al-Sharif (“The Noble Sanctuary” – one of Islam’s holiest sites, that is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock), while another Kach member Yoel Lerner served time for attempting to blow it up two years later. Kahane was ultimately assassinated by an Egyptian jihadi in New York in 1990 and his party split in two. The breakaway group Kahane Chai (“Kahane Lives”) was led by his son – though both retained the same fundamental philosophy of violent religious-nationalist inspired hate.

Kahanists have carried out many murders, two of the most notorious being the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir (a member of the Kach-linked Eyal), and the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians in Hebron’s Ibrahim Mosque carried out by Dr. Baruch Goldstein, Kahane’s former personal election agent. This slaughter, still praised by many in the settler movement who consider Goldstein a “hero”, is regularly cited as the incident which gave rise to the Palestinian tactic of suicide bombing. In any case, it was only with this attack that the Kahanist parties were finally banned under Israeli law.

Yet the Kahanists continue to operate today, mainly out of two settlements where they run yeshivas (religious schools), and continue to plot and execute violent acts against Palestinian civilians. For example, in 2005 Kach member Eden Natan-Zada opened fire on a bus in northern Israel, killing four Palestinians (he was then beaten to death by other passengers). In 2001 Israeli police arrested several Kahanists who were planning to blow up a Palestinian girls’ school (when the 1,500 students were scheduled to arrive) and a large Palestinian hospital. Noam Federman, Kahane Chai’s spokesperson, said of this, “I think the government should put bombs in hospitals but [it doesn’t], so it is up to the people to.”

Are we to take it then that the good offices of the Chief Rabbi of Ireland endorse violent and racist terrorist vigilantes and their apologists, both inside and outside Israel? One sincerely hopes not.

(Unpublished) Letter to the Indo re: Minister Shatter’s disgraceful comments about Ireland, Israel and the Nazi Holocaust

February 3, 2012

I sent this letter to the Irish Independent on 25th January 2012. Needless to say, it wasn’t published…

Dear Editor,

Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, at an Israeli Embassy hosted propaganda film festival in Dublin (Nov 2011)

The Minister for Justice was right to remind us of the Irish State’s appalling attitude toward Jewish people during Hitler’s reign (State ‘did nothing for Jews in WWII’, 24/01/12). Indeed, Ireland is not the only country with such a disgraceful record. However, Minister Shatter’s assertion that this terrible history “delimits Ireland’s moral authority and credibility” amongst Israelis is disingenuous and cowardly. One suspects the Israeli state’s refusal to listen to reason has less to do with Irish historical wrongs and everything to do with the fact that it has been allowed to ignore international law with impunity. Furthermore, his comments would smack less of Israeli hasbara [propaganda] had he himself not refused some 97% of all asylum applications to this same Irish state since taking office.

Yours etc

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Also, here’s a video from the Never Before Campaign, gearing up for the 8th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week later this month. The IPSC and others will be organising events around the island, check the IPSC website for details as they are posted.