woensdag 28 februari 2018
Why BDS movement deserves a Nobel prize
When Norwegian lawmaker Bjørnar Moxnes nominated the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month, he called it an effort towards “stopping an ascendent, racist and right-wing politics sweeping too much of our world.”
Moxnes heads Rødt (Red) Party, one of several relatively small groups on the left of Norway’s political spectrum. The party won enough votes to have a member in parliament for the first time last fall.
It was a significant gain for Norway’s left while the lackluster vision of the more mainstream Labor Party was blamed in part for a narrow victory by a coalition of right-wing parties at the polls.
With a seat in parliament came new possibilities for promoting Rødt’s platform which supports a full “economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.”
Rødt members in the municipal governments of the northern cities of Tromsø and Trondheim have supported resolutions calling for boycotts of Israeli settlement products in recent years.
At a national level, however, control by a conservative government has meant an increase in Israel-friendly policies including closer economic and military cooperation.
“We believe that awarding the BDS movement with the Nobel Peace Prize is perfectly in line with the intentions of Alfred Nobel and his pro-peace legacy,” Moxnes told the Electronic Intifada by email.
Moxnes said the decision to nominate the BDS movement, which has been endorsed by former peace prize laureates such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, was one made democratically by the party he leads.
“We are taking the will of thousands of party members and other Norwegian pro-Palestinian solidarity activists and movements into the Nobel Committee and into the international political scene,” Moxnes said.
He urged activists all over the world to make the most of the opportunity that this nomination represents.
Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, based in the US and UK, respectively, have already launched a #NobelforBDS campaign and petition to support the nomination.
Moxnes said that this campaign and others like it could change the way world public opinion perceives the BDS movement and the Palestinian cause.
“We believe we can take the fight several steps in the right direction before the Nobel Committee announces its decision in October, regardless of whether the BDS campaign is actually awarded or not,” he explained.
Moxnes said he has received hundreds of messages of support since the nomination. But, inevitably, strong negative reactions have come from Israeli media and politicians.
In a letter to Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Sharren Haskel, a lawmaker representing Israel’s ruling Likud party, expressed her “dismay” and repeated standard accusations that BDS is “anti-Semitic” and that it is “not a peace-seeking movement.”
For his part, the Norwegian envoy distanced his government from the nomination, saying that the Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for the selection process and that the state is opposed to boycotts of Israel.
While acknowledging the blowback he has faced, Moxnes said that “Those who are really taking a risk are the millions of Palestinians and many Jews too, who resist a brutal occupation. They are making a sacrifice that we can only try to imagine.”
Israel is going to great efforts to combat the BDS movement.
The Israeli government listed the Palestine Committee of Norway among 20 organizations banned from the country as punishment for its support of BDS. Employees of Norwegian Church Aid have been denied entry by Israeli border officials.
Pushback and momentum
Laws aimed at criminalizing BDS have been introduced in Europe as well. The current government in Norway has included a provision in its latest budget proposal that would strip government funding from any organization that advocates BDS.
Moxnes said there is broad support for the Palestinian people in Norway, despite its government’s policies. He pointed to the vote by the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions last year to support BDS. Other major Norwegian organizations, such as the YMCA/YWCA, support a full boycott of Israel and the Church of Norway supports settlement boycotts.
Despite of the ascent of the far-right in northern Europe, Moxnes still finds momentum in support of Palestinian rights. He noted that Denmark’s parliament recently voted to exclude settlement activities from agreements with Israel. It is the first European state to publicly support sanctions against the companies on the UN list that do business with Israel’s settlements built in violation of international law.
“We hope that more countries will follow this example,” Moxnes said.
He and his party are working to ensure that Norway is one of them.
donderdag 8 februari 2018
Selma Dabbagh The Electronic Intifada 23 January 2018
Palestine the Reality: The Inside Story of the Balfour Declaration 1917-1938 by J.M.N. Jeffries, Olive Branch Press and Skyscraper Publications (2017)
Balfour in the Dock: J.M.N. Jeffries and the Case for the Prosecution by Colin Andersen, Skyscraper (2017)
Few people, even those dedicated to Palestinian history and politics, are familiar with the name of Joseph Mary Nagle Jeffries (1880-1960). One reason is the bombing of a publishing house in London during the German blitz of 1940. The fire that ensued destroyed most of the copies of his 750-page magnum opus Palestine: The Reality, and prior to its recent publication by Skyscraper only 20 copies could be traced in the world.
The book’s curious publication history is narrated by Andy Simons in his preface to the new edition of Palestine: The Reality. It is also described in Colin Andersen’s work Balfour in the Dock.
A summary of what is known of J.M.N. Jeffries’ life is found in Ghada Karmi’s fine introduction to the recent edition of Palestine: The Reality. He was born to an Irish family, never married, and was “chiefly known as a major war correspondent for The Daily Mail, reporting on the First World War from 1914-1918 during which time he set a record by sending dispatches from 17 countries, including Egypt, Albania and Russia.”
Palestine: The Reality was Jeffries’ third significant book and was the culmination of 12 years’ work. On publication, it was frequently compared to George Antonius’ seminal book The Arab Awakening (1938).
However, by the outbreak of war in 1939, Jeffries had stopped working for The Daily Mail and disappeared into “unemployment,” according to one source. He resurfaced in Madrid, working in the British embassy’s press office. Little is known of his life in Spain, where he remained until his death, or if he continued following the Palestine issue from there.
It is known, though, that Jeffries tried and was unable to republish Palestine: The Reality.
Of the two works reviewed here, Jeffries’ book can be regarded more as primary source material, a collation of historical documents, debates and dispatches from Palestine, meticulously constructed to present a weighty critique of the Balfour Declaration and its legacy. Covering the period 1917 to 1938, it is an invaluable resource for researchers of the period, providing a wealth of detail, a cogently positioned argument that is alive with vivid imagery and wit.
Andersen’s work Balfour in the Dock, in contrast to Palestine: The Reality, is an accessible, contemporary work. It makes a case not just for the prosecution of Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary who supported Zionist colonization in Palestine, but for the defense of Jeffries.
Andersen retaliates against all the jibes and criticisms leveled at Jeffries that sought to discredit him either for his approach, perceived bias, or the reliability of his content. Focused on the Palestine experience in Jeffries’ life, the book also provides mini-biographies of personalities from that period. It is an engaging work.
These two books show that both Jeffries’ lively and nuanced writing style, and his nose for an angle and eye for detail, have survived the test of time.
As a journalist, Jeffries had a clear-eyed vision of the realities he saw, stripped clean of the racial and class prejudices prevalent at the time. This made him able to predict better the potential outcome of the situation he experienced than many others whose role in the region was overblown at best and misguided at worst, such as diplomat and writer T.E. Lawrence.
Andersen skilfully juxtaposes Jeffries’ and Lawrence’s analyses of the outcome of Zionism on the region, showing how Lawrence was fundamentally lacking in comprehension of the nature of the Zionist project and the concept of expulsion that underlay its core beliefs. “The success of their scheme will involve inevitably the raising of the present Arab population to their own [the Jewish immigrants’] material level,” Lawrence wrote cheerfully in 1920.
Palestine: the Reality and Balfour in the Dock both have the Balfour Declaration at their core. Both were published during 2017, the year of the declaration’s centenary and amid all the duplicitous pomp and circumstance that has surrounded that event in the UK.
The declaration was described by Jeffries as “an extremely confused document.” It did not enjoy universal support from the British government and was opposed by the only Jewish cabinet minister at the time, Edwin Montagu.
It is now forgotten that at the time of the declaration in 1917, Palestinians constituted around 91 percent of the population of Palestine, but in Balfour’s declaration were relegated the status of “the non-Jewish communities of Palestine,” a wording Jeffries condemned as “fraudulent” and designed merely “to conceal the true ration between Arabs and Jews, and thereby to make easier the supersession of the former.”
What riled Jeffries and others with his vision, is that for the Zionist project to succeed the Palestinian population could not be seen, and if it was to be seen, it could only be seen as a mess to be cleared away. The founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, believed Palestine could be a better option than Argentina for colonization if it could be presented as an “outpost to civilization as opposed to barbarism.”
Andersen selects an incisive analysis by Walid Khalidi of Herzl’s diary entries from Palestine where Herzl fails to acknowledge a single Palestinian, concluding, “if Zionism was unaware of the Arabs it was because most Zionists perceived an obstacle in the Arabs and did not want to be aware of them.”
Jeffries was not without supporters during his time in Palestine, notably his editor at The Daily Mail, Lord Northcliffe (real name: Alfred Harmsworth), who visited Palestine in 1922 and described the country as “running the risk of becoming a second Ireland.”
Northcliffe is also quoted as stating during his visit what should have been obvious: “we mustn’t suppose that because a man wears a turban or a tarboosh that he is a fool or slow or unable to combine.” It was an approach Balfour did not appear to share. During Balfour’s visit to the region three years later, he is reported to have “insolently” inquired on seeing the Arabs of Jerusalem, “Who are those men in petticoats?”
Northcliffe died shortly after his visit to Palestine, a critical loss for Palestinians seeking supporters in the British press as Northcliffe’s editorial attacks on the Balfour Declaration would have gained more weight had they also spread to The Times, of which he was a part owner.
In his 1939 review of Palestine: The Reality, the writer Nevill Barbour wrote that Jeffries “set out, in the same sort of crusading spirit in which Emile Zola once set out to investigate the Dreyfus case, to expose what he considered to be a grave miscarriage of justice.” That review underscores Jeffries’ perception of the role of chance in determining the future of the region.
Barbour summarizes Jeffries’ conclusions, that the Balfour Declaration was “forced through” Britain’s war cabinet by Balfour and David Lloyd George, the prime minister, in the absence of Edwin Montagu, then visiting India. Montagu, a staunch critic of Zionism, had previously “succeeded in inducing the cabinet to reject the proposal,” Barbour writes. There was, therefore, “no preliminary discussion of the project in Parliament, nor was any serious investigation made into conditions in Palestine.”
The only person with any real knowledge of the realities, according to Jeffries, was the politician and diplomat Mark Sykes, who had developed “grave doubts” about the Zionist project. Had he not died prematurely in 1919, Sykes, according to Jeffries, would have been able to “use his influence to modify the project.”
Commentary around Joseph Jeffries and his work implies that his career suffered due to his unwavering support of the Palestinian cause. Both Balfour in the Dock and the new edition of Palestine: The Reality seek to reinstate his reputation.
J.M.N. Jeffries serves as an example of what writing and journalism could and should be.Selma Dabbagh is a British-Palestinian writer. Her debut novel, Out of It, was published by Bloomsbury (2012).
Rod Such The Electronic Intifada 7 February 2018
Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State? by Josh Ruebner, Olive Branch Press (2018)
“With the two-state solution fading into obsolescence, a secular, democratic state in all of historic Palestine re-presents itself as the only realistic alternative short of interminable bloodshed and unacceptable ethnic cleansing.”
So writes Josh Ruebner – policy director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights – in his latest book, Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State?
The book’s January 2018 publication coincides with Trump administration shocks that are possibly driving the last nails into the coffin of the two-state solution. US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is foremost among those developments as no Palestinian state is viable without a capital in East Jerusalem.
The fact that Ruebner raises either a single, secular democratic state or a binational state akin to Belgium as the only realistic alternative is thus more than appropriate as the Palestinian national movement and its allies consider their next steps.
His argument is in part demographic. Without the prospect of a two-state solution, he maintains, Israel will continue to be a state belonging to a Jewish minority ruling over a Palestinian majority, a situation that Ruebner says has existed since 2010. A US State Department report indirectly pointed at the demographic reality in 2005.
This imbalance further exposes Israel as an apartheid state and is guaranteed to increase its isolation from the international community.
“Can a minority govern over a majority indigenous population in perpetuity?” Ruebner asks before answering: “The history of decolonization in the developing world in the last century suggests not.”
No national rights
The question of one or two states and whether Israel should be considered democratic or an apartheid state are only two of the numerous topics addressed in this somewhat schematic book.
Among other topics are the impact of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the Balfour Declaration, Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing and denial of basic democratic rights to Palestinians, the failure of the peace process and what lies behind the special relationship between the US and Israel.
Each of these topics is covered in 22 chapters that range in length from one to eight pages. Ruebner’s previous book, Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (2013), demonstrates a much more rigorous and analytical approach to its subject.
The contrast, however, does not detract from the value of this slim, 120-page book, which is full of insights, useful historical information and sidebars for Palestinian rights campaigners.
As one such campaigner, this reviewer was extremely grateful for the extensive quotation from the 1978 legal opinion by the US State Department regarding the illegality of Israel’s settlement projects in the territories it occupied in 1967.
Many of these factoids demolish the historical and contemporary myths the Israeli government and its supporters attempt to perpetuate. Among the more recent is the claim that BDS is having no impact on the Israeli government, a claim the government itself undermined when in June 2015 it labeled the movement a “strategic threat,” as Ruebner notes.
Similarly, the chapter on the 1917 Balfour Declaration contains nuggets such as the quotation from then British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour to Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Balfour acknowledges that the “weak point of our position” in recognizing a Jewish homeland in Mandate Palestine “is of course that in the case of Palestine we deliberately and rightly decline to accept the principle of self-determination.”
Under the terms of the League of Nations mandate, however, the British colonial empire was obliged to do precisely that. But instead the Balfour Declaration favored a “Jewish homeland” as if Palestine belonged to the United Kingdom and Palestinians had no national rights that Britain was bound to respect.
Also of particular value is the chapter titled “US-Israel Relations,” which helps rebut the notion that US policy toward Israel and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination is decided solely by the power of the Israel lobby.
While acknowledging the strength and major role of this lobby, Ruebner examines two other key factors. The first is the benefits that the US military-industrial complex derives from its military relationship with Israel. The second is the shared “values” between these two settler-colonial states as both became hegemonic powers on the basis of the ethnic cleansing of indigenous populations.
To make the case that the Israel lobby is not all-powerful, Ruebner notes that the lobby failed to prevent the 2015 US-Iran nuclear agreement despite its all-out effort to get the US Congress to block the deal. As for the role of military spending, the author points to the enormous profits made by the US arms industry due to the country’s special relationship with Israel.
One might also add that the Pentagon and the US national security establishment regard Israel as an ally with a superior military advantage in a geostrategic, oil-rich region.
Despite the additional influence of Christian Zionists who represent an important part of the Republican Party, Ruebner calls attention to the base of the Democratic Party where young people and people of color increasingly see Israel’s racist treatment of Palestinians as inconsistent with their values.
The recognition of this conflict will play an increasingly important role in determining which narrative – the Israeli ethnic exclusivist narrative or the Palestinian equal-rights-for-all narrative – will become dominant.
Ruebner also provides BDS campaigners a useful primer for organizing and educating.
This reviewer wishes that the author, editors and publisher had given more careful thought to the book’s title given the range of issues covered. Because only one, brief chapter focuses on the question of apartheid, the title may mislead some readers expecting an in-depth investigation of the subject.
Fortunately, numerous such books exist, including Saree Makdisi’s Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, Ben White’s Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy and numerous anthologies comparing Israeli and South African apartheid, such as Israel and South Africa: The Many Faces of Apartheid.Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is active with the Occupation-Free Portland campaign.