Monday, 13 December 2010

Calling all Birmingham students, let’s take a short journey into the past…

by Faris Karouni

Calling all Birmingham students, let’s take a short journey into the past…

15th January 2009: Blue and white stripes flying everywhere, the colours of an apartheid state. There is a crowd of people standing by the clock tower at the University of Birmingham. Their message is a political one; ‘We support Israel, and we will defend its actions at whatever cost, despite any international outrage and condemnation that may result from its actions’. Israel has just been accused of destroying hospitals and schools in Gaza, during a wide-scale aerial bombing raid that has resulted in the deaths of 1400 people, 400 of which are children.

The Zionist dream was realised 62 years ago, when a ‘Jewish State’ was proclaimed in Palestine (later named ‘Israel’), a land in which Muslims, Jews and Christians had coexisted for hundreds of years, but nonetheless had a Jewish minority. This was purported to be a state in which Jews could live in dignity and have the right to self-defence; given the atrocities committed during the Second World War. Jews worldwide were to be offered automatic citizenship to the new state, encouraging immigration. The majority of the indigenous people in Palestine however were not Jewish, and their rights were immediately being threatened.

The founder of the state of Israel (and commander of the terrorist organisation Haganah), David Ben Gurion, declared “We must expel Arabs and take their places."

Thus, Israel came to existence in the most appalling circumstances with 750,000 people being terrorised into leaving their homes simply because they were not Jewish (and their homes repossessed by incoming Jewish immigrants); a racially motivated war crime that is shockingly under-publicised in the international media, yet it is the root cause of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Absurdly, Birmingham University is a very special place for Israel. The Guild of Students has a very well organised and influential Zionist lobby that defends Israel’s actions whenever under scrutiny from students who stand up for human rights and try to condemn it.

When the flags of Israel were flying on our campus in 2009, a clear message was being sent out: ‘Israel must not be criticized, because doing so is attacking the Jewish people’. This terrible fallacy, regularly trumpeted by the Israel lobby, is an insult to the diversity of opinion that exists in the Jewish community. Are Jews assumed to naturally defend indiscriminate Israeli massacres of innocent Palestinians simply because it is in the interest of Israeli’s on-going apartheid policy? No.

Birmingham’s Guild Officer Team have typically been easily influenced by the Israel lobby on campus. The Guild historically has very low student participation outside of the main Officer Elections in Spring-time. Its decision-making council has a shamefully low turnout for elections and a large number of seats are awarded to students in uncontested elections, often with a turnout of less than 5 votes in constituencies where there are hundreds of students. This disastrous undemocratic system has poisoned our Student Union, and has led it to be so easily corrupted by the views of a few.

Policy that is highly offensive to students has been passed by the Guild Council over the past few years. They refused to condemn Israel during the Gaza massacre in 2009, saying that they ‘did not want to take sides’. Tom Marley (Vice President for Education and Access) and Hollie Jones (Vice President for Welfare) were both responsible for this decision. In May 2010, the Guild president Fabian Neuner spoke in support of a new policy calling for the Guild to label critics of Israel as ‘Anti-Semitic’ if they refer to Israel as a racist endeavour. This outrage sparked a facebook campaign with hundreds of students opposed to the motion, but the policy still passed with a majority vote.

The current Guild President, Dora Meredith, has stood on a platform of making the Guild more relevant to students. She has the potential to do this, but we need a broad student movement to support her. Also, unless other Guild Officers help her in this endeavour, it will be a difficult battle to win, and I call on all Vice Presidents to consider this in the next few months.

The recent NUS (National Union of Students) elections have been a huge victory for students on campus.

Edward Bauer, Adam O’Connell and Hannah Dadd have been elected (out of the 7 positions available). I can testify that these people have dedicated endless hours of their time to work on grassroots campaigns that benefit not just students, but society in general.

‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour’ was the slogan the Tories used to secure a shock victory at the 1964 general election in Birmingham Smethwick. 42 years ago the Conservative MP Enoch Powell gave his infamous speech in a Birmingham hotel warning that continued immigration into Britain would result in ‘Rivers of Blood’. These events have all happened in our city, and as students of Birmingham we should strive to use our knowledge and learning potential to create a world where history is never allowed to repeat itself and all peoples’ voices are heard.

Let’s work with each other across different backgrounds/religions/races/interest groups to fight racism and discrimination in all its forms, from Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, gender discrimination, to cuts in education, human rights violations, and the general damage to society that we see in today’s distressing economic climate.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Redbrick Letter

egarding the article "The Quest for Peace in the Middle East continues" in last week's
Redbrick. We support freedom of speech including for deceitful propaganda like that piece; this response is just to maintain some balance.

Regarding "one of the most controversial issues engulfing the conflict: West Bank settlements", in 2004 the International Court of Justice issued a ruling on many aspects of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and all fifteen judges agreed the settlements are illegal. Security Council resolution 465 (passed with a vote of 15-0) determined that the settlements 'constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention' and called on them to be dismantled. The Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch have all issued statements declaring the settlements illegal. In fact, one would struggle to find a less controversial issue in international affairs; yet Israel and its apologists pretend there exists some kind of controversy, depicting an illegal occupation as merely a 'dispute' by two sides with equally legitimate claims. We advise readers to check the facts for themselves and see who's telling the truth.

On the "unprecendented" 10-month settlement moratorium, we advise readers to enter 'Maariv feature documents "settlement freeze" sham' into Google, where they'll find Israel's main newspaper reporting that settlement building continued throughout this 'moratorium'.

On Israel making 'the painful concession of uprooting settlements in Gaza', we'd ask readers to ponder whether to stop committing a flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions legitimately constitutes a 'painful concession'. We'd also advise readers to enter "Dov Weisglass interview with Haaretz - "The Big Freeze"" into Google, where they'll find its architect explaining that rather than being a 'painful concession' for peace, the objective was "the freezing of the peace process... When you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state."

Regarding a Palestinian state 'not confined to the pre-1967 borders' being 'the only real way' to resolve the conflict. Considering that the international community (bar Israel and the US) in the UN General Assembly has long agreed to settle the Israel-Palestinian conflict by a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (i.e. its legal borders); that since 2002 all twenty-two Arab states signed the Arab Peace Initiative offering full peace with Israel for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders; that all fifty-seven Islamic states (including Iran) have agreed to support this initative; that all major Palestinian factions (including Hamas, enter "Hamas renews offer to end fight if Israel withdraws" into Google for Hamas' position) have offered to end the conflict if Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders; we advise readers to question whether supporting Israel's refusal to join the rest of humanity really is "the only real way" to resolve the conflict.

We call upon all students wanting an end to the conflict to take a principled stance against fake 'negotiations' with unelected Palestinian collaborators and demand that Israel withdraw from Occupied Palestinian Territory; and to demand the British government put its official positions into action and cease assisting Israeli crimes with arms deals, preferential trade agreements and dealing in illegal settlement goods.

University of Birmingham Friends of Palestine Society

* This letter was published on page 14 of the 29th October 2010 edition of Redbrick and was written in response to THIS article.

Monday, 25 October 2010

On J-soc's invitation of Colonel Richard Kemp

by Adam O'Connell

University of Birmingham's JSoc are apparently "delighted" to present colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan (in 2003), to give a talk on the following (quoting their poster for the event) on Wednesday 24th November:

- Are the Geneva conventions still relevant?
- What role does international law play in today's military warfare?
- What are the similarities between Britain's mission in Afghanistan and Israel's incursion in Gaza?

Before addressing these questions one must understand why this particular colonel, described by J-soc as "a phenomenal speaker, and a true friend of Israel" has been chosen.

Richard Kemp is one of the Britain's most valued imperial strategists. In 1994 he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire for his work as a second lieutenant in Northern Ireland, and in 2006 was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his work in Afghanistan.

After his work in Afghanistan was over, he was sent regularly as a military advisor to Israel. During the Gaza massacre he went on the BBC to pontificate about the morality of the Israeli Occupation Forces. Not only that, but he even took the initiative of going to the UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Goldstone Report to defend Israel's savage attack.

Indeed, Kemp's open, loud and proud colonial solidarity with the Zionist state is uncharacteristic of the British army, who like to give an impression of professionalism. This impression was of course definitively smashed for those in doubt by the Afghanistan war logs. It's a testament to the bubble-like mentality of Zionist activists that they assume people still think of Afghanistan as "the good war", but we do not share their colonial prejudices.

Kemp's argument rested on a number of myths, the most ingrained of those obviously being that Israel is a legitimate state under attack from "terrorists". Israel is a state of colonial settlers, serving as the West's attack dog in the Arab world. It faces resistance from the Palestinian people whose land it has stolen and continues to steal on a daily basis.

His entire argument is ignorant of the civilian death toll and of course the hundreds of specific incidents of war crimes, many outlined in the Goldstone Report. The only crime an Israeli soldier was charged and punished for was for stealing a Palestinian's bank card, everything else was naturally whitewashed.

Are the Geneva conventions still relevant? What role does international law play in modern warfare?

Zionists are ever eager to discredit international law which actually recognises resistance to occupation as legitimate, and considers Israel's occupation and colonial settlement as illegal. Similarly, the Geneva conventions are to be discredited as Israel is again quite a regular offender (as is the United States and the UK).

The point I figure that J-soc will be expecting Kemp to make will be that "war is chaos", "mistakes happen". Essentially that the targetting of civilians while fighting resistance is justified when it means that the UK or Israel can make gains in their imperialist campaign dubbed "the war on terror". But this is terrorism, carried out by fighter jets, apaches and tanks. The aim is to try and force the Palestinians in Gaza to give up their legitimate struggle.

The Geneva conventions have always been discarded by the West and Israel whenever it has been militarily necessary to fulfill their imperialist and expansionist objectives. So their relevance is merely symbolic - allowing us to point out the hypocricy of moaning about Hamas rocket strikes. If you declare that "war is chaos", and then go about killing innocent people as a shortcut to your objectives, then expect that some resistance will be "chaotic".

What are the similarities between Britain's mission in Afghanistan and Israel's incursion in Gaza?

There are similarities, but not those which J-soc are thinking of. They probably see in both conflicts a 'righteous' battle against... well I wonder.

Both are colonial occcupations which are being defeated by the resistance. Arguably in Afghanistan the resistance has already won. Britain, having once again been laid to waste in the graveyard of empires, is now officially incapable of taking part in invasions on the scale of Iraq and Afghanistan (according to Cameron, as he explained the defence cuts in Parliament), and Israel constantly fails to crush resistance in Lebanon and Gaza.

Israel did not withdraw from either southern Lebanon or Gaza out of kindness but because of defeat. The military occupation of Gaza in support of illegal settlement was too costly. Most Gazan families are refugees from pre-1948 Palestine, and will not give up their struggle until they are able to return to their land which is now within 'Israel'.

Nevertheless, Israel is blockading Gaza by air, land and sea - not even allowing in building materials, meaning that Gaza still lies in a war-torn state. When collective punishment becomes a policy, it is because the power cannot stay on top without targetting the civilian population. Much of the ejecting Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank is done on the initiative of the racist and increasingly militant settlers. Similarly, Israel's attempts to divide Lebanon are getting more desperate. This is a sign of weakness.

So both the US-British occupation of Afghanistan and Israel's military failures and increasing extremities lay bare the decline of Western power in the world. And it is this decline of world powers that, when colonial racism is at play, allows for "collateral damage" of the type we saw in Gaza at the end of 2008. We don't buy it.

(EDIT - 22/11/10 - Jsoc had planned this event for the 25th October, but the war criminal couldn't make it, so now he's coming on the 24th November: The same day we had planned ages ago to have Finkelstein to come and speak, and the same day of national anti-fees/anti-cuts actions by students and staff. What are they trying?!)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Recommended Reading

by Daniel Lindley


Zeev Maoz - Defending the Holy Land

Probably the best comprehensive history on Israel's wars.

Benny Morris - Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab conflict

Has the best account of the Nakba and is worth reading just for the section on 1947-49. However Morris seems to get caught up in the Israeli nationalist fervour by the time he gets to 1967, where the book starts to go awry.

Noam Chomsky - The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians.

Was originally published in 1983 so it focuses mainly on the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon
despite being updated in 2002. Still definitely worth reading.

Gideon Levy - The Punishment of Gaza

A short but concise book on Israel's policies towards Gaza in recent years.

Norman Finkelstein - Beyond Chutzpah

The second half of this book is probably the most comprehensive account of Israeli human rights abuses during the Second Intifada.

Jimmy Carter - Palestine: Peace not Apartheid

Doesn't really contain anything new but is a decent explanation of the present situation by an internationally respected figure. However chapter 16 on The Wall is especially informative, possibly the best (short) work on the topic.

Shlomo Ben-Ami - Scars of War, Wounds of Peace

Again, nothing particularly new except that Ben Ami is former Israeli Foreign Minister and was the chief Israeli negotiatior at Camp David and Taba so his account carries some weight.

Avner Yaniv - Dilemmas of Security: Politics, Strategy and the Israeli Experience in Lebanon

A lesser known work but probably the best analysis of Israel's occupation of and wars with Lebanon, and is also relevant to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Robert Fisk: The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East

About Western policy towards the Middle-east in general and at 1,392 pages is pretty comprehensive. Chapters 11-13 are on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Some Articles

Dov Weisglass interview with Haaretz - "The Big Freeze"

Especially important as he explains the reasons for Israel's 'disengagement' from Gaza.

"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process... When you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Disengagement supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

Vanity Fair - The Gaza Bombshell

Exposes how the US, Israel and some elements of the Palestinian Authority attempted a military coup against Hamas in Gaza after it won the Palestinian elections, and then when Hamas defeated the botched coup attempt the perpetrators tried to twist what actually happened into a "Hamas coup in Gaza".

"After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, the author reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever."

Maariv feature documents "settlement freeze" sham

“The construction momentum in Judea and Samaria is the same as when it was at its peak,” Katz announced happily to Likud activists in the settlement of Revava on Tuesday evening. “Thousands of housing units are being built everywhere. I never liked the freeze. Nobody in the security cabinet likes the freeze. It was a mistake. You can’t take people and freeze them. That is no solution. The government will ensure that the construction momentum will resume this September. In any case, I know that as far as I am concerned, there is no freeze.”Katz toured the settlements for an entire day to observe the great construction boom already taking place on the ground, precisely at a time that the state is trying to show the world that it is limiting construction. The freeze, it turns out, was simply an opportunity to unfreeze land and prepare it for construction. The government froze new houses but allowed the settlers to complete houses for which the foundations had been laid. The result on the ground is unimaginable. Thousands of settlers rushed to work on what they had begun, before any new edicts could arrive.

The London Review of Books: The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam

Details Of The Olmert Peace Plan For The West Bank

An excellent blog post on one aspect of why these "peace summits" never seem to go anywhere.

How Israel torpedoed its ceasefire with Hamas to produce a casus belli

Who started the 2008/09 Israel-Hamas War?

Two similar articles On how Israel broke a ceasefire with Hamas (which Israel itself admits "Hamas was careful to maintain") in order to justify invading Gaza.


Norman Finkelstein vs Shlomo Ben Ami transcript.

Edited video of debate: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Shlomo Ben Ami: "If I were a Palestinian, I would have rejected Camp David as well"

Noam Chomsky vs Alan Dershowitz transcript


Norman Finkelstein vs Alan Dershowitz: Part 1, Part 2.

A classic :)

Is Israel a Rogue State? Robert Fisk vs Dan Diker

War or Peace? Norman Finkelstein vs Dan Diker

Gideon Levy on Middle East Peace


Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (Goldstone Report)

The International Court of Justice's Ruling on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

United Nations Report on Israeli Attack of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Amnesty International - 22 Days of Death and Destruction

Human Rights Watch - Rain of Fire: Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza

B'Tselem - Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank

B'Tselem - Maps

B'Tselem/Association for Civil Rights in Israel - Ghost Town: Israel's Separation Policy and Forced Eviction of Palestinians from the Center of Hebron

Hamas' letter to Obama