Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Netanyahu's Deputies get their way -with help from Gove

THE BRITISH government has decided, as expected, that it will not support the Palestinian declaration of statehood and bid for recognition in the UN. Not much surprise there, then. So much for David Cameron's interest in freedom and the 'Arab Spring'.

If some friends of the Palestinian people have appeared hesitant or unsure about supporting the bid for statehood and UN recognition, their enemies have not hesitated to oppose.

Here's the website of the Board of Deputies of British Jews:

'Board Statement: UDI Latest

The Board and the JLC have written to both the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander restating the Jewish community's opposition to a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence. We believe that the only route to achieve a lasting peace is via negotiations. The Board is concerned and disappointed at the statement issued by the Opposition this week endorsing the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. The letter to the Prime Minister can be found here. The letter to the Shadow Foreign Secretary can be found here.'

That use of the expression "Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI)" harks back of course to Ian Smith's Rhodesia, a white settler regime which declared independence of Britain without making any concession to its black African people's aspirations for freedom and majority rule. But the only supremacist regime enforcing its rule in Palestine is the State of Israel, with its settlements, which of course the Board of Deputies supports.

Thirty years ago when Israel was treating Palestinians as just "terrorists", the Board of Deputies mobilised a huge rally to oppose Britain's Lord Carrington, then at the Foreign Office, from meeting with the PLO. It continued opposing local authorites like Dundee twinning with West Bank towns like Nablus, and it has had a long-running feud with Ken Livingstone since his days at the GLC. Then after Oslo, when the Israeli government decided it was temporarily kosher to talk with Palestinians, the Board went so far as to welcome Arafat, even though it had condemned one of its own leaders, June Jacobs, for meeting with Palestinians before Israel gave the OK. By the recent wars in Lebanon and Gaza these "community" leaders were rallying again for Israel, though without the enthusiasm, unanimity or numbers of bygone years.

The Jewish Leadership Council, JLC, consists of various bigwigs and big donors expecting political clout, among them Tony Blair's old chum Lord Levy. In July 2009 Conservative Party Treasurers Howard Leigh and Stanley Fink joined the Council as individual members. In December 2009 the Council sought and published a legal Opinion from Lord Pannick QC advocating a change in UK law to prevent the issuing of arrest warrants against Israeli leaders without prior consent of the Attorney General. The Con Dem government has now changed the law in accord with promises.

Not everyone agrees with such spokespersons. On ewish Voices issued a statement:

'In keeping with our support for a fair and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Independent Jewish Voices welcomes the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations. We see it as a legitimate demand for fuller recognition on the world stage and as an affirmation of Palestinian nationhood.

At the same time it is clear that it is not an end in itself. It leaves many questions unanswered and problems unresolved – the continuing occupation, the need for free and fair elections in the West Bank and Gaza, the status of the Palestinian diaspora. Nonetheless it provides the only current opportunity to break the long-standing deadlock. We call on all parties – including the British and Israeli governments, and fellow Jews – to express their support.

on behalf of IJV Steering Group
20th September 2011

Unfortunately, as we can see, these are not the kind of voices listened to by H.M.Government. So the Palestinian delegation in London will not yet be upgraded to an embassy. Whereas the Israeli government, thanks to supporters like the Board of Deputies, has two.

This enables its repressive policies not only to evade criticism from the British government but to influence events happening here. This weekend sees an ambitious cultural festival in the north London borough of Haringey,
Join celebrated writers, film makers, rappers, photographers, story tellers and locals to listen, talk, learn, rap, discuss, watch, question and share ideas on Palestine at the inaugural Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival, Thursday September 29th to Sunday October 2nd.

Among those taking part is poet and former children's laureate Michael Rosen, and the event was apparently designed to include Palestinian children's poetry and opportunities for London schoolchildren to learn about the lives of children their age in Palestine. But earlier this week I read that Michael and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn were angered to learn that schools were being told they could not attend.

It was reported that the Board of Deputies had expressed concern about schools participating, claiming some children might "feel uncomfortable" or get a one-sided impression from the events. It turns out that as the Jewish Chronicle reports, the Board has not been alone in intervening.

Gove asks schools to pull out of Tottenham festival

By Marcus Dysch, September 27, 2011
Follow Marcus on Twitter

Education Secretary Michael Gove has intervened to ask primary schools to pull their pupils out of a literature festival organised by pro-Palestinian campaigners.

Mr Gove wrote to headteachers after learning of the plans for youngsters to attend workshops at the Tottenham Palestine Literary Festival.

Eight schools from the north London boroughs of Islington and Haringey had signalled their intention to take part in workshops led by anti-Israel activists at which children would be encouraged to examine "the themes of human rights".

Organised by the Haringey Justice for Palestinians branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the festival begins on Thursday, the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

The Board of Deputies had earlier called the plans for children to take part "extremely troubling".

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Schools have a statutory duty to offer children a balanced presentation of opposing political views.

"The Secretary of State has written to the schools reminding them of their duty to present a balanced argument, and has asked them to either withdraw from participation, or explain how they will comply with [their statutory duty]."

Board president Vivian Wineman said: "I can think of few organisations which would be less appropriate to run a workshop in a school than the PSC. The conspiracy theories and hostile propaganda promoted by some of its members are particularly obnoxious. I am delighted the Secretary of State has taken such strong action."

The schools were expected to respond to Mr Gove's request as the JC went to press.

A blogger on the Board of Deputies website also had his say:

"Is the PSC really an organisation that head teachers want in their schools? Are racist conspiracy theories, antisemitic cartoons and the concept of the Holocaust as a means by which the Jewish community can maintain non-Jewish guilt, really views to which our young people should be exposed?

For anyone who believes that our schools should be inclusive and safe, this is a move which must be opposed.

And opposed it has been.

Today it was revealed that, following discussions between the Board of Deputies and Department for Education Officials, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, had written to each of the schools concerned. In his letter Mr Gove reminds the schools of their legal duty to ensure that where pupils are exposed to issues of a political nature, there should be a balanced presentation of those issues (this duty is set out in the Education Act 1996). The schools have been asked either to provide evidence that they are meeting their statutory duty or to withdraw from the festival. Furthermore, Mr Gove has made clear that if the schools do not provide satisfactory evidence he will consider issuing a direction under the 1996 Act to secure their compliance."

Although I am not a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, I have shared platforms with its leading members, attended conferences and worked with them in the Joint Committee on Palestine, and the Enough! coalition. I occasionally read their magazine. I can't recall any of them spouting racist conspiracy theory or Holocaust denial (in fact they have adopted a resolution against it) or displaying antisemitic cartoons. Nor can I imagine such stuff being acceptible to the Tottenham festival participants, who beside Michael Rosen include I see Hanna Braun, a Holocaust survivor and Israeli national whose memoirs have just come out.

But then though Vivian Wineman and blogger Jamie Slavin appear to be sticking to a similar script, the older Wineman is careful enough to attribute the objectionable views to "some" PSC members, whom he does not name. Maybe they exist. But should any of the people I know get indignant at his accusation, he can always say "But I did not mean you, ..." Now where have I come across that sort of tactic before?

Still, the Board can't have had much trouble getting the ear of Michael Gove. Here is the Jewish Chronicle again:

Gove tells UJIA: 'I am a proud Zionist'

By Jessica Elgot, September 22, 2011

Education Secretary Michael Gove told 700 UJIA supporters at the charity's annual dinner on Monday: "I'm proud to be a friend of Israel."

Mr Gove was the guest of honour at the London Hilton event, which raised £2.76 million for the charity's work in Israel and the UK.

He told an admiring audience that he had been a socialist in his teens and a journalist in his twenties, but one thing had remained constant in his life. "I was born, will live and die proud to be a Zionist.

"One of the more important lessons is that the best memorials we can give for the Holocaust is a Jewish state for the Jewish people." In a wide-ranging address, he also talked about faith schools, problems in the Middle East and rising antisemitism. He reiterated the pledge that "no Jewish parent should pay extra for school security".

It was "disgusting", he added, that a Jewish student at St Andrews University had been racially abused by a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. "We should condemn this vile prejudice wherever we encounter it."

And find it wherever we can, perhaps. (incidentally, though I don't know the details of the St.Andrews case I do know Scottish PSC includes Jewish members, but also that it is not part of the main PSC).

The more we are learning about Michael Gove, we may ask whether the Zionists can feel proud of him as a self-claimed adherent, however obliging he may be. A promoter of so-called Free schools, who gave his former PA a free £500k to 'assist' them, and former Rupert Murdoch employee who held a series of dinners with the press tycoon to persuade him to invest in Academies, Gove,has made the news recently for encouraging civil servants to communicate with him by private e-mail, so the messages are not subject to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act.
Gove faces probe over private e-mails -

Michael Gove reportedly claimed £7,000 for furnishing a London property before 'flipping' his designated second home to a house in his constituency, a property for which he claimed around £13,000 to cover stamp duty. Around a third of the first £7,000 was spent at an interior design company owned by Gove's mother-in-law.[23] Gove also claimed for a cot mattress, despite children's items being banned under the Commons rule. Gove said he would repay the claim for the cot mattress, but maintained that his other claims were "below the acceptable threshold costs for furniture" and that the property flipping was necessary "to effectively discharge my parliamentary duties".[23] While he was moving between his multiple homes, he stayed at the Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa, charging the taxpayer more than £500 per night's stay.

Considered by some to be a British neo-con, he was an early supporter of war on Iraq, and stated in October 2004 of Tony Blair: "I can't hold it back any more; I love Tony!" He is a signatory of the Henry Jackson Society, and an adviser to the Atlantic Bridge, which works to affirm the Transatlantic alliance. He has claimed that the invasion of Iraq succeeded in bringing peace and democracy to that country. Just the man to see to it that honest and balanced opinions are promoted in our schools.

Ah well.


L' Shana Tova, Chaverim - Happy New Year Friends and Comrades.

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