Calls for Israel's destruction in London Yaakov Lappin, The Jerusalem Post, May. 22, 2005
A central London rally organized by the British Palestine Solidarity Campaign on Saturday heard Respect Party MP George Galloway advocate a general boycott of Israel, as well as other speeches calling for Israel's destruction.
Dark gray clouds poured heavy rain on London's Trafalgar Square, as a crowd waving Palestine flags and anti-Israel banners filled the square to hear speakers shout vitriolic anti-Israel speeches. Demonstrators chanted Islamic Slogans and flags calling for "victory to the intifada" were waved. Leading figures in Britain's anti-Israel coalition also lined up to attack Israel.
Andrew Birgin, of the Stop the War Coalition, urged the destruction of the State of Israel. "Israel is a racist state! It is an apartheid state! With its Apache helicopters and its F-16 fighter jets! The South African apartheid state never inflicted the sort of repression that Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians," he said to loud applause. "When there is real democracy, there will be no more Israel!" concluded Birgin. "Allahu Akbar!" yelled several men repeatedly in response.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Birgin said he was referring to Israel "in the sense that it exists now," and said he wanted to see a "democratic secular state in which peace can move forward." The Palestinian representative to the UK, Husam Zomlot, also addressed the rally. "As we speak today, the Israelis are continuing the ethnic cleansing campaign they started in 1948," he said. "To the Israelis, I say that there will absolutely be no peace without the right of return." "The right of return is non-negotiable! Apartheid no more!" exclaimed Zomlot.
"We urge our government to cease all trade with Israel," said Jeremy Corbyn, a backbench Labor MP, who went on to express support for nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu.
Former Labor MP Tony Benn said that "the apartheid wall should be removed," referring to the security fence built by Israel to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israeli cities. Calling American president George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon the "two most dangerous men in the world," Benn condemned America's military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel's anti-terrorism measures.
"My dear friends, if this process continues, there will be possibly some sort of a world war," said Benn. "We are talking about respect for international law," he added. Paul Mackney, president of Britain's second largest university teachers' union, NATPHE, also spoke to the rally. "We stand in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. Palestinian refugee camps are like open air prisons," said Mackney. "The Israeli army frequently invades them. There will be no peace in the Middle East until there is justice for the Palestinian people.
"We are calling on all unions to join us," he added. There has been speculation that NATPHE may hold a vote in its upcoming meeting to join the AUT's boycott of Israeli universities. Galloway, the newly elected MP for the anti-Iraq war Respect Party, used the rally as an attempt to launch an international boycott of Israel.
"It's about time that the British government made some reparations for the Balfour declaration," said Galloway. Instead, Tony Blair said that Israel has no better friend than the British government. We say to Mr. Blair: You should be ashamed by that.
"The Palestinian people are like the 300 Spartans holding the pass of Thermopylae, until the others can arrive and come to their side. We will join them, by boycotting Israel. By boycotting Israeli goods. By picketing the stores that are selling Israeli goods," he said to cheers and applause.
Azzam Tamimi, head of the Muslim Association of Britain, delivered an Islamist speech, guided by an ideology that rejects nation states in favor of a global Islamic state. "There are 22 stupid Arab states, why have another stupid Palestinian state?" he asked. "I don't want another Palestinian state, I want Jaffa free, I want Haifa free, I want every inch of Palestine free!
"I don't want to see any form of racist nationalism. And the most racist form of nationalism is Zionism. The problem is with a nationalist ideology that is the most racist on the face of the earth."
Stuart Pexley, a former Catholic bishop, and a member of Pax Christi, said: "Jesus Christ attempted to create a new humanity without divisions. As a Christian I am opposed to the apartheid wall." "This morning we've had a message from the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, saying they support the AUT boycott, and call for the May 26 AUT conference to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan University," said Corbyn, before introducing Sue Blackwell, the Birmingham lecturer who presented anti-Israel boycott motions passed by the Association of University Teachers last month.
Blackwell attacked opponents to the boycott of Israeli universities, listing the Board of Deputies, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Congress. "We can't expel anyone from the union for breaking the boycott, so why is it that the whole world has gone completely hysterical?" she asked. She bitterly criticized the upcoming emergency May 26 AUT meeting which will vote on a motion to overturn the boycotts. "When the issue is Israel, suddenly the
procedures of the union are undemocratic, and a special meeting of the council has to be called, in over to overturn the motion. Comrades, it's not us who are making a special case for Israel, it's the people who lost the vote who are," said Blackwell.
"I'm not very optimistic about the outcome," she added "We are up against a backlash, being promoted by a well-organized, well-funded pro-Israeli lobby." Blackwell also attacked the University of Haifa, and accused it of holding a "racist conference on Arab demographics." "I stand absolutely by every word in the motion. What we said about Haifa is an understatement. This is a university, which just hosted a conference, two days after the anniversary of the Nakba, entitled 'The demographic problem.' Brothers and sisters, a university which organizes a racist conference as
Haifa has just done deserves every bit of trouble it gets from trade unionists in the UK."
"We did not defame Haifa, but what is defamatory is attacks in the press calling us anti-Semitic," said Blackwell. Speaking to the Post about links on her personal homepage to neo-Nazi Web sites, she described as "defamatory rubbish" the article that exposed them. Blackwell promised to "make a statement" to the Post about the links, which she has since removed, in the near future. The rally was also attended by members of the fringe anti-Zionist haredi Natorei Karta sect, who held signs which read: "Palestine from the Jordan River to the Sea." "We are abiding by the Torah," said one member. "They [the Israelis] have no right to exist. Israel will fail. Before Israel, Jews were living well in Arab countries," he added.
Britain's Jewish Problem By Abraham H. Foxman National Director of the Anti-Defamation League This article originally appeared in The New York Sun on May 18, 2005
Britain has a Jewish problem. More specifically, Britain has a problem with Jews. Few Britons will admit to that, fewer still would accept the proposition, and many will doubtless be offended by it. But what other explanation is there for a country where barely a week goes by without some form of opprobrium being visited upon Jews?
Whether manifested as anti-Zionism or as anti-Americanism or in classic form - exemplified by the louts who shouted hateful slurs at a ceremony on April 10 commemorating Jewish war dead in East London - in the last 12 months
Britain has witnessed the full spectrum of anti-Semitism, from brutish insensitivity through to a record number of physical attacks.
Naturally, there is resistance to speaking of smashed Jewish gravestones in the same breath as an academic boycott of Israeli universities. But it is legitimate to do so, because both examples reveal an unhealthy fixation with a miniscule percentage of the British - not to mention global - population and a disproportionate emphasis on supposed Jewish misdeeds. The litany, by now, is a familiar one. Highlights include: London Mayor Ken Livingstone comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard; Lord Ahmed hosting a lecture by a virulent anti-Semite who railed against Jewish media barons; and the resignations of Jewish members of the National Union of Students Executive Committee because of their anger and frustration at unchecked anti-Semitism on campus.
Much of this hostility is camouflaged as criticism of Israel. It is often expressed by eminently reasonable, educated people who would hotly deny the charge of anti-Semitism. For the record, Orla Guerin, the BBC reporter who was recently made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, despite overwhelming evidence of bias in her reporting from Israel, should not be accused of hating Jews. Neither should that charge be made against the actor Alan Rickman, who has brought the story of Rachel Corrie, the American activist killed in Gaza in 2003, to the London stage.
Even so, Britain's liberal milieu has yet to face up to some uncomfortable questions: are Jewish sensitivities about Israel-bashing given the same consideration as, say, Muslim concerns about associations with terrorism? Are Jews being held to a unique standard? Are these negative portrayals and abuse of the facts - particularly the canard that Israel resembles apartheid-era South Africa - fueling dislike, distrust, hatred of the Jews? To the first question, the answer is no; to the second, yes; to the third, absolutely.
That Britain, of all places, should be so willing to embrace anti-Semitism's latest incarnation - in the form of demonizing Israel - is particularly shocking for Americans. Our traditional view of Britain is a benign one: the
country that valiantly held out against the Nazi menace for two years before we joined the war, our reliable and trusted ally ever since.
Moreover, Britain has been relatively free of religious and racially inspired anti-Semitism. The Jewish community has historically been secure and enjoys respect for its contributions to national life. However - and here is the crux of the problem - hostility to Jewish national aspirations, and those who identify with those aspirations, runs deep. And when
politicians or academics or celebrities argue not against Israeli policy, but against Israel's very legitimacy, that increases the feelings of vulnerability among many British Jews. That should not be surprising, given there is solid evidence that anti-Jewish violence in Britain and elsewhere is influenced by events in the Middle East.
Opposition to the idea of a Jewish state is enjoying a revival partly because enmity toward Israel is a natural bedfellow of the anti-Americanism which is now an established feature of British political life: One would have to be myopic to deny that all the talk of neoconservative cabals and conspiracies has a distinctly anti-Semitic flavor. But there is another important factor: While Britain was spared the Holocaust that accompanied Nazi occupation, there is a misguided sense of responsibility for the Palestinians' fate, given Britain's historic role in the Middle East.
Those in Britain who regard the Palestinian narrative as an unassailable truth will point to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as proof of their country's complicity in the Zionist enterprise. But the problem with selective history is what it ignores. When was the White Paper of 1939 - which led the British authorities to virtually close Palestine to Jewish
immigrants at a time when this escape route was never more needed - last mentioned in public debate? How widely known is it that Britain threatened to intervene on the side of Egypt during Israel's 1948-49 war of independence, when five Arab armies simultaneously attacked the new Jewish state? Crucially, why is there such a willingness to embrace the Palestinian version of events when respected historians of the region - including Benny Morris, whose work is often cited by Palestinian sympathizers - state clearly that there was no Zionist grand plan to drive out the Arab population?
It can be argued that Israel emerged in spite, and not because of, the policies adopted by the British Mandate authorities in Palestine. Palestinians may blame the British, as well as the Zionists, for their fate, but it is indisputable that Britain's actions also cost thousands of Jewish lives. That was the tragic consequence of a policy based on the idea that Jews are different and, therefore, not deserving of their own country. As long as that idea remains in play, Britain's Jewish problem will persist.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.