To all concerned about free expression of political ideas

Dear All

You’ll have heard about the debate that’s been raging around so-called anti-Semitic statements made by members of the UK Labour Party.

As a fairly active member of Oban Concern for Palestine, I feel that the term ‘anti-Semite’ is being applied pretty unfairly. As our friend Hugh from Scottish Friends of Palestine writes below (see item 3), ‘the fate of a people, the Palestinian people, around which all this revolves will form no part of the considerations of the majority of the protagonists’.
Other things that really matter have also fallen by the wayside: working towards a fairer world, a just peace, human rights for everyone, and – to quote Hugh again – ‘exposing the massive injustice perpetrated against the Palestinian people.’

I would therefore like to invite you to read the three messages that have arrived in my inbox in the last two days. The first one came in yesterday from Jewish Voice for Peace, a growing group of plucky, mostly Jewish people in the United States. The next two came in earlier today from Scottish Friends of Palestine. You may also find this analysis quite useful: What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?

Together, the three e-mails have helped me make sense of the media storm that has been raging of late, not just in the UK but in the US and elsewhere, too. Thank you, Rebecca Vilkomerson, thank you, Hugh Humphries!

We may be able to discuss these issues during the shared meal after our upcoming public screening of RESISTANCE RECIPES, a documentary about Food and Food Production in Palestine at Oban Phoenix.
Tuesday evening, 3 May, 6:30-7pm; The Grassroots Café from 7:30 until about 9:30 pm.

Personally, I very much look forward to seeing many of you there.

With kind regards – in the name of Justice and Peace
Margret
Member

PS: BDS = Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – a non-violent form of protest against the government of Israel’s policies that fly in the face of universal human rights and many international agreements. ‘In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. A truly global movement against Israeli Apartheid is rapidly emerging in response to this call.’

OC4P • Oban Concern for Palestine
www.obanconcern4palestine.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/obanconcern4palestine
ObanConcern4Palestine@gmail.com • 07747 300 062

**

1
—— Forwarded Message from Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace
——

Subject: It’s working
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2016 10:28:41 -0400 (EDT)
Reply-To: info@jewishvoiceforpeace.org

[…]

… at the UC Regents (the governing body of the University of California). A proposal to include anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism and discrimination has caused consternation among people fighting for Palestinian rights, as well as for all people concerned about free expression of political ideas – not to mention those who care about history and the erasure of anti-Zionism from Jewish history!

On March 23rd, the UC Regents adopted the policy, though the language was softened so that only “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism” were included. We can claim a partial victory, but the question of who will determine the boundary between the two, and the attendant threats to academic freedom and the freedom to speak out for Palestinian rights, are still a grave concern.

Attacks on the right to boycott have been cropping up all over the place – earlier this month, a Congressional hearing convened to smear American Muslims for Palestine with spurious and Islamophobic attacks. And at universities around California, posters appeared all over campus that viciously and publicly smeared members of Students for Justice in Palestine.

But we’ve been fighting back against these attacks, and hard. We sent over 10,000 emails to Congress challenging the “Combating BDS” act, and fought back against anti-BDS legislation in state legislatures across the country. We sent billboard trucks to state capitols – and to AIPAC – making it clear that we stand for Palestinian human rights. Although in some states the bills passed, there were brave legislators in every state who voted no. And in Maryland, the Freedom2Boycott coalition, with strong participation from our JVP chapters in the region, stopped an anti-BDS bill from coming to the floor.

It’s also been an important month in the U.S. Presidential race, in particular because U.S. policies toward Israel were questioned in a rather refreshing way during a televised debate. As a 501c3 nonprofit, JVP cannot take positions on candidates or the election, but I was quoted in this New York Times piece which looked at shifts in the Jewish American community through the lens of the election. The times, they are a-changing!

Let me put it another way: the organizing and campaigning and media advocacy that you and me and so many others are doing is really starting to change the political conversation around Israel/Palestine.

Here’s another example, and one with real impact: the Unitarian Universalist Association has voted to divest itself from companies that profit from Israel’s human rights abuses.

We can help our allies at the Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East build on this victory by thanking the church for standing for justice. We’re putting together a giant thank-you card that we’ll hand deliver, and I’d love for it to get 2,500 signatures.

From the very earliest days of JVP, we’ve known that standing up, speaking out, and saying “thank you” isn’t just good manners — it’s a political act. In 2007, back when JVP was a fraction of the size it is today, we launched one of our first big petitions, thanking Archbishop Desmond Tutu for having the courage to speak out against the occupation.

Archbishop Tutu was being hounded by pro-occupation groups in Minnesota, who tried to pressure a college into canceling an address he was due to give. That’s right: they were so appalled that he had the temerity to criticize Israel’s human rights abuses that they tried to cancel a speech by a Nobel Peace Prize winner. We weren’t having it, so we organized thousands to thank him for speaking out. Archbishop Tutu, in turn, thanked us publicly for our support. This is the kind of solidarity that builds our movement for the long-term.

So you can see why it is so critical that we show our allies at the Unitarian Universalist Association that we’re standing with them. Click here to sign our thank you card.

In other news, just from this month: we mobilized with our allies in Israel/Palestine to fight back against the demolition of Bedouin villages. We collected over 15,000 signatures urging Carlos Santana to cancel his concert in Tel Aviv. Our chapters held seders, some with as many as 150 people in attendance, in cities from coast to coast – including one on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, in solidarity with the struggles of immigrants. And we brought leaders from 13 chapters in the Northeast region to a leadership development institute, to strategize for the year ahead.

Meanwhile, the entire month of May we’ll be running a member drive. We’re hoping to bring 1,800 new members into JVP over the course of the month, to help strengthen our movement for the road ahead. This is a great excuse to have those conversations with friends, family, colleagues and communities that you otherwise might never have – and we’ll be offering all kinds of tools to help you recruit new members and build our strength. You’ll be hearing a lot more about how starting next week!

Until then, a sweet Pesach to all who are celebrating, and to liberation for all!

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace

‘Jewish Voice for Peace is a [US] national membership organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for the freedom, equality, and dignity of all the people of Israel and Palestine.’

***

2
—— Forwarded Message from Scottish Friends of Palestine
——

Subject: SFoP: On the topic of the moment . . . .
Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2016 00:40:29 +0100
From: SFoP <info@scottish-friends-of-palestine.org>


On the topic of the moment [‘Labour’s problem with antisemitism’] . . . .

Some sound advice  with this measured statement:

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.

Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not anti-Semitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the anti-Semites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.

Accusations of anti-Semitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of anti-Semitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.

A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of anti-Semitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into anti-Semitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Semitism.

Jewish Socialists’ Group

+
Asa Winstanley, How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis. The Electronic Intifada, 28 April 2016.

***

3
—— Forwarded Message from Scottish Friends of Palestine ——

Subject: SFoP members: for your consideration
Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2016 16:53:59 +0100
From: SFoP <info@scottish-friends-of-palestine.org>

The one thing that the ruptures of the past week do not publicly address is – to whose ultimate political advantage does this favour? Regardless of the answer to this question you can be rest assured that the fate of a people, the Palestinian people, around which all this revolves will form no part of the considerations of the majority of the protagonists.

How many have raised the question of the fate of brother and sister,  23-year-old mother of two, Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, five months pregnant, and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim on Wednesday of this week? Making their way through a checkpoint, they strayed into the “vehicles only” road. Being shouted at in a language they did not understand Maram responded by taking out her medical papers (she was on her way to a medical appointment). Both her and Ibrahim were shot dead by a soldier 20 metres away, protected by a concrete block. The “kill” was confirmed by further shots. And by the time the Israeli miltary produced their version, the medical papers had morphed into 3 knives.

Their deaths, their murder, at the hands of Israel’s “Defence Forces” is now a normal, accepted consequence of the denial of rights, of the right to self-determination and the right to return to their own land, of a whole people, by the state of Israel. And just where were the cries of outrage from Westminster and the media?

[…] you may have received a couple of leaflets publicising our seminar, Jerusalem: crucible for peace? These are an invitation for you, not just to come along and support SFoP, but to further help in exposing the massive injustice perpetrated against the Palestinian people. An injustice long normalised.

You are invited to consider using the leaflets to help publicise the seminar to a wider audience. Even better, use […] the following link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/jerusalem-crucible-for-peace-tickets-25039038438  to approach possible contacts. And I use contacts in the loosest possible sense. You may be a past/present member of a trade union/professional association/church/mosque etc. You may live in a community with a variety of well established organisations – Red Cross/ United Nations Association etc. A few minutes searching on the computer can give you contact details. Sending the seminar details to them may not result in a positive reponse but it is an opportunity to reach a fresh audience and hopefully get them to think about the issues.

[…] by doing this you are also active for […] the rights of the Palestinian people.

Thanks

Hugh

Witnesses: Palestinian siblings posed no threat when shot dead
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Apr — Witnesses to an alleged stab attempt on Israeli border police at a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank Wednesday said two siblings shot dead during the incident posed no threat at the time the Israeli officer killed them. Witnesses told Ma‘an that 23-year-old Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, five months pregnant, and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim [Taha] were en route to Jerusalem when they took a path intended for vehicles, not pedestrians, into Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah.
The two were apparently unable to understand Israeli officers yelling in Hebrew, and stopped walking. Witnesses said it appeared that Ibrahim attempted to grab his sister’s hand and move away from the officers, when they opened fire on her. Maram fell to the ground and when Ibrahim attempted to aid her, he was shot in his tracks.
A Palestinian bus driver present at the scene, Muhammad Ahmad, told Ma‘an that the Israeli officer who opened fire on Maram was standing behind a cement block some 20 meters away from her at the time. The driver said it did not appear that Maram or her brother posed any threat when the officer shot them.
Palestinian local and witness to the incident Ahmad Taha told Ma‘an that Israeli officers approached the two after they had been shot and had fallen to the ground before opening fire on them again “to ensure that they were dead,” adding that the officers “could have moved the two away without opening fire.” Taha alleged that the officers planted knives on the scene, photographs of which were distributed by Israeli police who said they had been in Maram and Ibrahim’s possession.
The witness accounts collected following the incident contradict Israeli police reports that the officer opened fire after Maram threw a knife in their direction.
Local sources said Maram was the mother of a six and four-year-old, and five months pregnant. She had reportedly obtained a permit from the Israeli authorities to enter Jerusalem for the first time when she was crossing on Wednesday …
Maram and Ibrahim’s deaths come in the wake of mass criticism towards what has been termed Israel’s policy of “extrajudicial executions” towards Palestinians, which most recently came under spotlight after an Israeli soldier was caught on film shooting a prone Palestinian through the head from point blank range.
http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=771316

The woman who was killed by Israeli soldiers along with her brother was pregnant
[with photos of the two victims] IMEMC 28 Apr by Saed Bannoura – Palestinian medical sources confirmed that the Palestinian woman who was killed by Israeli army fire, on Wednesday, did not carry an explosive belt as the army claimed, but was instead five months pregnant, and “her only fault was walking the wrong route and not understanding Hebrew.”
The Israeli police and army tried to come up with various allegations, including the usual claim of “carrying a knife,” and then tried to claim that she “was wearing an explosive belt,” while the only thing she “carried” was her fetus.
The slain woman has been identified as Maram Saleh Abu Ismael, 24, a mother of two children; Sarah, 6, and Remas, 4. Her brother, Ibrahim Taha, only sixteen years of age, was also killed as he was walking with her, heading to Jerusalem, after she obtained for the first time a permit to enter the city.
Contrary to the Israeli allegation that Maram “carried a knife,” and the second allegation of “carrying an explosive,” eyewitnesses said the two victims walked the wrong route while heading to the Qalandia terminal, as they took the route that is only used for vehicles, instead of the pedestrian path.
The soldiers then started shouting in Hebrew, a language neither Maram nor her brother understood, and the woman just froze from fear before the soldiers started firing at her, and when her brother rushed to rescue her, the soldiers shot him too, and both were left to bleed to death. The two were tens of meters away from the soldiers, and contrary to military allegations, did not attempt to attack any soldier or officer.
Ahmad Taha, an eyewitness from Jerusalem said that after the soldiers shot the pregnant woman and her brother, they retreated a few meters back, and fired several additional live rounds on them, “confirming the kill.”
“There was no stabbing attempt, and no reason for the army to shoot, the soldiers shot them from a distance, and later fired more rounds to confirm the kill,” Ahmad said,
“The soldiers then placed two knives next to the lifeless body of the pregnant woman, and shortly after that, the police published pictures showing three knives!” Mohammad Ahmad, a bus driver who witnessed the shooting, said an Israeli soldier, who [was] standing behind a large concrete block, shot the woman from a distance of more than twenty meters.
“Neither the woman, nor her brother, posed any threat to the lives of the soldiers,” Ahmad stated, “They were far away from the nearest soldier, and did not pose any threat to them – they just walked the wrong route.”
The slain brother and his sister are from Qotna village, northwest of occupied Jerusalem; Maram [was] married and living with her husband and children in Beit Surik [a] nearby village.
It is worth mentioning that a Palestinian ambulance rushed to the scene, but the soldiers closed the entire area, and prevented them from approaching the two Palestinians, who eventually bled to death.
More than an hour after the shooting, Israeli military medics placed the corpses of the two Palestinians in black bags, and took them away.
One day before this fatal shooting, a Palestinian man in his sixties nearly faced the same deadly fate when he walked this same wrong route, but when the soldiers started shouting at him he understood them because he speaks and understand Hebrew very well.
http://imemc.org/article/the-woman-who-was-killed-by-israeli-soldiers-along-with-her-brother-was-pregnant/

Brother and sister slain at checkpoint were executed, Palestinians say
EI 27 Apr by Maureen Clare Murphy –
Israeli forces killed a young woman and her 16-year-old brother at a military checkpoint on Wednesday and denied emergency medics access to the siblings. Israel claimed the pair were killed during an attempted attack on soldiers, but eyewitnesses disputed this version of events.
Police told the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz that “the two were ordered to stop several times but continued to approach officers and guards stationed at a drive-through checkpoint not intended for pedestrians.”
“According to the police, as the two approached, the woman’s hand was buried inside her bag and [the boy’s] hand was behind his back. The two eventually heeded the police’s call, stopping a short distance from the officers and turning away, but the woman then spun back around and pulled out the knife, throwing it directly at one of the officers. Police and security guards then shot the two,” the paper added.
In a mobile phone video taken at the scene, an eyewitness describes the shooting of the boy after the slaying of the woman:  “He touched the woman and then they shot him,” the eyewitness says, as additional shots ring out …
–Medical care denied–
The Palestine Red Crescent Society told Ma‘an that Israeli forces denied medics access to the woman and child. Video from the scene shows Israeli forces turning away a Palestine Red Crescent medic and preventing a cameraman from filming.
A brother of Maram and Ismail told Haaretz that he doesn’t believe his sister intended to carry out an attack, saying that she was on her way to a doctor’s appointment when she was shot dead.
“We have no details about what transpired and no one briefed us, but I don’t believe this whole terrorist attack story,” Hassan Taha said. “She was probably lost, or didn’t understand what was going on at the roadblock, and the soldiers shot her and my brother,” he added. An uncle of the siblings told media that the pair were killed “in cold blood.”

***

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About Oban Concern for Palestine

. . . supporting people in Palestine and Israel who oppose the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Oban Concern for Palestine are a group of Argyll residents who share an interest in Palestine, a friendship with its people and a deep concern for their welfare. And, for the sake of Israel, we want to encourage the government of Israel to comply with international law. Oban Concern for Palestine believe that the oppression of the Palestinian people is a grave wrong, that the government of Israel is in violation of international law, and that we have a duty to speak up and do what we can to bring it to an end. We welcome new members and supporters. For more information, please contact obanconcern4palestine AT gmail DOT com • +44 7747 300 062 • Oban Concern for Palestine, c/o Stronchriach, Rowan Road, Oban, Argyll, PA34 5TY, UK
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