by Mick Napier (Chair, Scottish PSC)
Marion Woolfson (Honorary President, Scottish PSC)
20 August 2009

The Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which opened in Edinburgh on August 9th, will be running two exhibitions simultaneously during the week beginning Monday the 24th. One will show the ravages of Israeli ethnic cleansing in occupied Jerusalem while the other will celebrate Edinburgh’s contribution to ‘modern political Zionism’, the movement that consciously planned and has carried out the ethnic cleansing of most of Palestine.

In Jerusalem Dispossessed, the organisers say that

‘striking images document the dark side of Jerusalem where hundreds of thousands of people are living in shadow, with identity defined by forces they cannot control, unwanted in their own homeland, afraid of being expelled while they are just asking to live peacefully with dignity and equality in their own city’.

The Festival organisers don’t name these ‘unwanted’ people but the un-named people must be the Palestinians who are being ethnically cleansed as the Israeli Government, supported by Zionist institutions worldwide, openly goes about the ‘Juda-isation’ of the Arab part of Jerusalem.  The never-ending construction of illegal settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes that are in the way is changing the ethnic composition of this conquered territory -  a war crime.

The ongoing forced expulsions of Palestinian families violates basic human rights enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are the indigenous inhabitants of the city, and Israel's programme of demolitions and expulsions breaches the Convention’s Article 147 which defines this changing of the ethnic composition of an area as a 'grave breach' of the convention. ‘Grave Breaches’ are defined as war crimes and are subject to criminal sanction.

Alongside the images of the dispossessed, or those slated for dispossession, the movement that is doing the dispossessing, political Zionism, is being celebrated in another part of the same venue. (St John’s Church, Venue 127, 9-5 daily).

Return to Zion will celebrate settlers who left Edinburgh to join the Zionist colonial project that has driven Palestinians from their homes and communities for over 60 years, to make way for Jewish settlement on the land thus cleared. The Festival blurb sees no Palestinian catastrophe (‘Nakba’ in Arabic) or nightmare, but only the realisation of a Zionist ‘dream’:

‘With the rise of modern political Zionism in the 19th century and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, this dream [going to Palestine] became a concrete possibility. Millions of Jews have since returned home. Among them are Jews from the small community in Edinburgh.’

The exhibition will tell ‘how they returned home to Zion’. How Edinburgh Jews managed to ‘return’ to a place they had never been is going to be told in the emigrants ‘own images and occasionally words’. The creation of the world’s biggest and longest-running refugee problem is going to be celebrated rather than mourned. Or rather, it will be mourned in one room and celebrated in another.

Afrikaaners, like their Zionist cousins, also conquered large areas of South Africa with the Bible as a title deed to the land they desired, as well as a writ of dispossession of the natives, albeit less extreme a dispossession than that envisaged in the Zionist project. The Afrikaaners’ religious arm, the Dutch Reformed Church, preached pious racism and Divine endorsement of their crimes as long as the hideous system of apartheid lasted. Did a past Festival of Spirituality and Peace celebrate the religio-political movement of South African White supremacy and the Hell it created for non-White peoples? Why is there a celebration in 2009 in Edinburgh of a latter day apartheid movement, that of Zionism in Palestine, which is vastly more cruel than its predecessor?

Zionism has immured an entire people in dismal ghettoes worse than those Jews endured in Europe, burns its residents with white phosphorous and other weaponry, and has erected an apartheid matrix of control much, much worse than anything we saw in the other Biblically-inspired racist nightmare. In the words of a Jewish veteran of the freedom struggle there, a man hunted by the assassination squads of the South African apartheid regime, ex-Minister Ronnie Kasrils:

"[T]he violence of the apartheid regime, as inhuman as it was, ‘was a picnic’ (in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu) in comparison with the utter brutality of Israel’s occupation of Palestine...Palestinian Arabs have been driven or are struggling to survive from the 1948 ethnic cleansing to the violence in the occupied West Bank and Gaza today."

Not even the Afrikaaner’s savage Deity ordained Whites-only roads; in the Israeli-occupied West Bank today Jewish-only roads enable settlers from Jewish-only colonies to by-pass checkpoints where sadistic soldiers play cruel experiments on those deemed an inferior race. Palestinians who travel on these Jewish-only roads will be arrested, or worse.

To be charitable, I do not believe those who have endorsed this Edinburgh celebration of Zionism know what these ‘civilised’, white-skinned, English-speaking colonists are doing in Palestine today. They should listen, then, to Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism, Chris Hedges, who reported for Harpers Magazine from Israeli-controlled Rafah in 2001 on the modern Zionist project: Israeli soldiers routinely murdering children for their amusement:

"Yesterday at this spot the Israelis shot eight young men, six of whom were under the age of eighteen. One was twelve. This afternoon they kill an eleven-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wounded four more, three of whom are under eighteen. Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered—death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo—but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport."

Those who celebrate settler colonisation, whether purely secular in inspiration or religiously inspired, are endorsing violent dispossession of the natives, as the entire history of ‘modern political Zionism’ shows for all who care to examine the record. Casting a veil of so called ‘spirituality’ over theft, the theft of a country and its villages and many of its houses, changes not one jot the content, whether we are looking at apartheid in its South African or Zionist version.  To paraphrase the courageous US Jesuit, Father Daniel Berrigan, or maybe it was his equally brave brother, Fr. Philip Berrigan, 'If your religion doesn't force them to come over your dead bodies to get at the oppressed, then to hell with it!'  Or your spirituality or your atheism.

The brochure of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace claims that it is ‘dedicated to supporting those with a practical vision for peace’. Why are they supporting settlers who are part of a programme of dispossession and dispersal of the native people of Palestine, which will only continue to produce permanent war? Or do they want the dispossessed and violated people of Palestine to accept their fate and endorse their violators?

Donald Reid is Director of the Festival of Spirituality – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Footnote: The Edinburgh International Festival of Middel Eastern Spirituality and Peace (easily confused with the organisers of the above exhibitions) also showed gross ignorance concerning the Palestinian issue in the past. Several years ago Neil Walker, EIFMESP Director, described noted Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, a victim of Israeli ethnic cleansing and a trenchant critic of Zionist crimes, as ‘Israeli-born’. When Scottish PSC wrote pointing out that Said was born 13 years before Israel and could in no way be described as ‘Israeli-born’, the organisers refused to concede the point or amend their publicity. Gross ignorance wedded to arrogance is an upleasant brew.

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