What a difference a year makes! We salute those who stood up for Palestine over many years, while everything got worse and hope was scarce. That is now in the past: Israeli crimes continue, US/UK/EU complicity is ongoing, but Arab dictators are toppling, and the world-wide BDS movement worries Israel greatly. Scottish PSC played its part last year and we will do better in 2012 with your help.
In 2010, I received an invitation to present a paper at an all-expenses paid International Conference on Jerusalem on 31st January in Doha, Qatar. It would have been a charade of posturing for Palestine called by the League of Arab States, the collective body of the Arab dictatorships.
These same regimes began to tremble and some fell that same month. Israel’s erstwhile allies and US/UK rendition destinations are now in revolution and popular fury at Israel crimes is being expressed in huge demonstrations. Popular anger led to the hurried departure of the Israeli Ambassador from Cairo, the sealing of its embassy, and 'Spiderman' tearing down of the Israeli flag.
The following month, I was invited by part of the froces that had resisted and overthrown the dictatorship to join a delegation to Tunisia in revolution. The popular mobilisation there was imediately evident at the airport, and was both humbling and inspiring; Palestine was a core element in the revolution. 2011, therefore, was a year of concern for Israel and hope for Palestinians. Revolutions in Yemen and Syria against their dictatorships are still ongoing. The Bahraini democratic uprising was crushed with the assent of the Western powers, Bahrainis joining Palestinians as not ready for democracy because not trusted to vote correctly and too close to core Western interests.
Palestinian resistance was one of the acids that ate away at the rotten dictatorships across the Arab world. In 2007, I had entered Gaza through a huge gap that the hungry and cold Palestinians of Gaza blew in the Israeli-built wall (no visa needed) and wrote from there that
“Every corrupt Arab government is weakened by such courage...When the Egyptian police stood aside and allowed Palestinians to flood into Egypt, Mubarak’s regime was weakened. Reuters reports a wave of arrests of pro-Palestinians in Cairo, but the example of Gazans unbowed by Israeli terrorism will continue to eat away at the fear that keeps Egyptians from joining those who oppose their President-for-life.”
And then Tunisians, Egyptians, Yemenis, Syrians, Bahrainis and Libyans went through the fear barrier.
Since the killing of Turkish aid workers in 2010, Ankara has drawn closer to Teheran and Cairo and openly proclaims a policy of isolating Israel in the region, a strategy which is highly popular domestically. Israel, an ethnic democracy for Jews and a murderous dictatorship for Palestinians, is openly discussing an attack on an Iranian nuclear facility. When threatened, such regimes are at their most dangerous.
Israel’s settlement expansion is extinguishing any notion of a genuine two-state settlement. The Zionist Mayor of Jerusalem is removing residency rights from 70,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites. Tens of thousands of Negev Palestinian Bedouin are being driven off their land to make way for Jewish-only settlement. Killings of peaceful Palestinian demonstrators have continued into December. Although forced this year to release many Palestinian political prisoners arrested or kidnapped earlier, the Israel military have been replenishing their stocks with further midnight raids across the West Bank. Always innovating, off the coast of Gaza, Israel has built a sea barrier to pen in fishing boats. Britain again supported Israel by refusing to support a Palestinian bid at the UN for recognition as a state, having refused to support the successful bid to join UNESCO.
The BDS movement is open to all and is effective, which is why it has generated a counter-attack from Israel’s supporters. 2011 was the year the first Israeli company was driven out of a prime site in a European capital city centre by determined grass-roots protest, i.e. Ahava was forced from central London. The National Union of Students also unanimously called for the ending of a link between Ahava and Kings College London. The company, together with Israeli arms companies, still receives EU funding, however.
In July of this year, according to Israeli Hebrew language daily Yedioth Ahronoth of 22 July,
“a closed meeting was held on this matter [BDS] attended by Israel's business elite...Danny Gillerman, formerly Israeli's ambassador to the UN, who was also the chairperson of the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce, talked about a ‘catastrophe’ for Israel. Idan Ofer, owner of the Israel Corporation, called to take an initiative to prevent a harsh blow to exports, on which half of the Israeli economy is based. The new reality, he said, ‘will significantly endanger a great number of jobs and households’...Ofer is the first to warn that the Zim ships he owns carry a hefty chunk of Israeli exports. The company's directors have encountered incidents and know what the nightmare scenarios for Israel's economy could look like."
The Palestinian BDS call was issued in July 2005 and Scottish PSC has made boycott our primary activity since then. We were founder members of BIN and work with the other partners on a range of BDS initiatives: Stop the JNF, Welcome to Palestine 2012 fly-in to Tel Aviv, Bin Veolia, and others.
SPSC is working to expand British involvement in the next Welcome to Palestine 2012 fly-in to Tel Aviv on April 15th, when a thousand people, in a challenge to Israel’s illegal siege of the West Bank, will present themselves at Israeli passport control declaring their wish to proceed to Bethlehem. On that Sunday night we will have a party with Palestinian friends....or fill cells again in an Israeli prison.
Notes from a year of campaigning in Scotland and beyond
• SPSC organised a UK speaking tour for US Army veteran Mike Prysner. He and Haider Eid from Gaza spoke at an SPSC conference in January, together with returning Tunisian exile Mohammed Ali Harrath, Mike Orr back from Lebanon, and Iraqi author and activist against the occupation of her country, Haifa Zangana. The conference was packed for two days of discussion on Palestine in the Context of the Drive to Permanent War.
• After a year of correspondence, the UK Government refused to answer repeated questions as to why it had been 'inappropriate’ for Auschwitz survivor Dr Hajo Meyer to participate in supposedly open Holocaust Memorial Day events during January 2010 relating his experience to Israel’s Gaza massacres. Dr. Meyer was censored from Holocaust Memorial Day websites while HMD Committee Members had spoken in support of Israel’s Gaza massacres at a rally in London without any questions as to whether that was appropriate.
• Premier Dead Sea Cosmetics, an Israeli company, were ousted from a Dundee shopping centre earlier in January, following street protests over months in which SPSC members participated.
• SPSC sponsored another UK speaking tour – Economist Shir Hever works for the Palestinian/Israeli AIC (Alternative Information Centre) and he spoke on the Political Economy of the Occupation.
• Shir Hever also took part in SPSC residential discussion weekend at New Lanark on Re-thinking Palestine Solidarity - Moving forward during the Arab Revolutions.
• February saw the broadcast on Channel 4 of Peter Kosminsky’s four-part drama The Promise. A superb drama that doesn’t shy away from portrayals of Israeli savagery during 1948 and today. The Zionist Federation of Britain and scores of others complained about it being “anti-Semitic”. All complaints were rejected by Ofcom. If you missed it, you are very lucky because that pleasure is still in front of you. If you saw it, get your friends to watch it.
• Edinburgh University Students for Justice for Palestine organised a successful protest against the visit by Ibrahim Khaldi, an Isreli Government advisor to thuggish Foreign Minister, Lieberman. Khaldi afterwards said:"There's no other humiliating, insulting and hurtful experience like this," believing a peaceful protest to be worse than Israeli violence towards Palestinians.
SPSC supported the student protest - 'town and gown' against ethnic cleansing and crime.
• SPSC meetings for International Women’s Day had speakers Rafeef Ziadah, a Palestinian refugee, poet and activist and Glasgow SPSC member Terri McLaughlin, who talked about the women who took part in a direct action which contributed to the closure of the Derry offices of US missile manufacturer Raytheon. Chaired by Vanesa Fuertes, one of the “SPSC 5” who fought off charges of racism following their disruption of a performance by musicians sponsored by the Israeli State and Israeli Army.
• A challenge to the JNF (Jewish National Fund) was launched as part of the work of the Stop the JNF Campaign UK. Motion EDM 1677 was put before Parliament and began to gather signatures.
• Labour MSP Ken McIntosh claims that Scottish PSC “target Jewish people living here in Scotland because of their blinkered hostility to Israel”. He claimed he had seen an “anti-Semitic leaflet calling for a boycott of kosher food”. When challenged by constituents, McIntosh claimed he was unable to find the criminal material. Oops, Ken, very careless. A senior police officer said “Police enquiries established that no offence had been committed”. Hope it’s not “anti-Semitic” to say that Ken is telling porkies.
• The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) condemns the Israeli trade union, the Histadrut and declares its continued commitment to the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel.
• Israeli company Ahava were driven out of their premises in central London by protests over a two-year period. Ahava were notified their lease would not be renewed, signalling success for London’s inspirational BDS activists. A celebratory event outside the Ahava shop on 2nd April was only marred by one of the seven Zionist counter demonstrators, one Sharon Klaff, who called on Jewish BDS protestor a “dirty little Jew boy”. EDL members sometimes joined the Zionist counter-demonstrators. At one protest an Ahava employee is caught on camera calling a Jewish protester a ‘Christ-killer.’ The weird world of Zionism is getting wackier.
• Counter-attack: an outburst of Zionist hysteria started with a fabricated claim that West Dunbartonshire Council, who had adopted the Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli goods during Operation Cast Lead, were blacklisting Israeli authors in their libraries. The Daily Express amplified the invention, the Jerusalem Post spread the book ban across Scotland, and an Israeli news agency added bans across Scotland on Israeli books in bookshops. The Israeli Ambassador described Scotland as “not far from a place that burns” books. The World Jewish Congress reported a plan by Dundee City Councillors to place “special stickers” on Israeli products throughout the City, and compared “the level of hatred” there to Nazi Germany. All complete invention, and still being re-cycled.
• PM David Cameron resigns as a Patron of the JNF. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband decline invitations to become JNF Patrons.
• Scottish Friends of the Earth “is pleased to join the call for the revocation for the JNF's charitable status in the UK and to help raise awareness on this little known issue.”
• The annual protest at the annual JNF pro-am golf fund-raiser at Bonnyton Golf Course was the biggest, most determined and high-decibel in the years of protest. In 2010 we had been threatened with arrest, but perseverance wins out. Every year since 2005 SPSC and other solidarity activists have organised all-day "8 till late" protests - very long days in northern latitudes since it falls on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. See JC's somewhat strained damage limitation effort, inaccurate in every sentence, that is confounded by the fact that there will not be a 2012 JNF golf fund-raiser.
• The first Welcome to Palestine fly-in to Tel Aviv led to over 120 travellers in Israeli prison, demonstrations inside major European airports highlighting European enforcement of the illegal siege of the West Bank, and further damage to Israel’s tattered reputation as they refused to allow visitors to the vast prison that Palestine has become. SPSC members were among others taken in handcuffs and leg irons from the airport, never charged with any offence in Israel’s lawless legal system, and forced onto aircraft after a short stay in prison.
• Britain 'more Israeli than the Israelis' in plan to deport Palestinian Islam leader Sheikh Raed Salah
• Aberdeen SPSC Branch organised an 84-mile walk along Hadrian’s Wall to raise money for the Plant-a-Tree project in Palestine to counter settler and Israeli Army destruction. Part of the Stop the JNF International Campaign
• Scottish PSC residential weekend of political discussion in beautiful Highland retreat: 12-14 August 2011. "Arab revolutions and European crisis: the changing context of Palestine solidarity"
• In a travesty of a trial in Cupar, Fife, St Andrews student Paul Donnachie was found guilty of "racially aggravated conduct" for his behaviour towards an Israeli flag. Within an hour of the guilty verdict, Paul was handed a letter of expulsion from the university. That same month, four musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra were suspended without pay for writing a letter to the press, critical of Israel and urging the cancellation ofa concert with an Israeli state-sponsored musical group.
• Defence Minister Liam Fox forced to resign in scandal: “The donors of some of the country’s key pro-Israel groups appear to be near the center of the affair.”
• Glasgow Caledonian Palestine Society succeeded in getting Israeli company Eden Springs, human rights violator, removed from the University.
• Scottish Green Party rejected the ‘green’ claims of JNF and unanimously voted for a motion calling for the withdrawal of the JNF’s charitable status since it is involved in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
• The PCCS (Police Complaints Commissioner Scotland) upheld a complaint of wrongful arrest, wrongful handcuffing and wrongful injury by SPSC Chair, Mick Napier, against Lothian and Border Police during a peaceful event to publicise the siege of Gaza.
• An SPSC team participated in the 5th BIN (Boycott Israel Network) weekend of workshops, a.k.a. BIN5, held in Coalbrookdale Youth Hostel in the English Midlands. The weekend consolidated work underway and set out some new directions for BDS grass-roots organising.
• SPSC wrote to the Scottish Government Minister for Community Safety pointing out that the Zionist leaders of SCoJeC, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, were claiming Scottish Government support for their proposal to include pro-Palestine demonstrations at Scottish-Israel football games within the scope of the Government’s proposed legislation on religious sectarianism at football games. The Scottish Government dismissed the SCoJeC report: “Contrary to the report you mention, the Bill does not seek to infringe upon freedom of speech.” The leaders of SCoJeC have in the past been underhand in their dealings with the Scottish Government.
(NB Scotland v Israel UEFA Women’s Under 21football game 16 June 2012)
• As of year’s end, an unprecedented 57 MPs have signed EDM 1677 with more to come. David Goodman, JNF CEO has written to MPs that he is “particularly concerned” at the potential of EDM 1677 to “tarnish the work of the JNF” and has asked to meet with each of them. The JNF CEO claims the Stop the JNF material is “false” and informs MPs that Israel is committed to “positive action to help minorities” because “in Israel equality for all is...a determined reality.” The JNF letter and detailed rebuttal will shortly be posted on the Stop the JNF website on January 2nd
• A Stop the JNF delegation is currently in Israel/Palestine and has spoken again to victims of ongoing forced population transfer. They return with Palestinian testimonies that rebut the fanciful claims made by the CEO of the JNF.
2012 challenges/opportunities to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom
- April 15th Sunday Welcome to Palestine 2012 fly-in to Tel Aviv to challenge the siege of the West Bank
- Lobby your MP on EDM 1677 in response to JNF
- May 11th Friday “JNF KKL Scotland Charity Shoot” at Cowans Law Estate
- June 16th Saturday Israel-Scotland UEFA Women’s Euro Competition. Venue to be announced