Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Don't let them get away with blackmail and bullying!

NEGEV Bedouin demonstrate in Jerusalem against repeated demolition of their village by Israeli forces. "KKL Steals Bedouin Land". K(eren) K(ayemet) Le(Yisrael) , Everlasting Fund for Israel, is the Hebrew name for the JNF, which has earmarked the villagers' lands for a settlement and forest. (photo Anne Paq /ActiveStills)

FIRST, two items of good news. One, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has quietly dropped out of his association with the Jewish National Fund (JNF). That's the Zionist "charity" which acquires and develops land in Israel and whose rules preclude Arabs from renting or working on it. Founded long before the State of Israel was established, it was left intact by successive Israeli governments not only for its fundraising abilities abroad but because the state could claim not to discriminate among citizens, knowing that a supposedly non-state institution was doing it. Its Hebrew name is Keren Kayemet LeYisrael - Everlasting Fund for Israel.

Just why Cameron has dropped out has not been made clear. Perhaps he feels he is in enough trouble. Some of that involves foreign aid and charities, Or he does not want any embarrassment to snare Britain's game in the Middle East. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair remain JNF patrons, but anti-Zionist campaigners are hoping Ed Milliband may now give it a miss. And though Cameron's aides only mention pressures of time, Zionists are worried at this straw in the wind.

The second bit of news is that despite heavy lobbying, a bit of bullying (including vague legal threats), emotionalism and Academics for Israel founder Ronnie Fraser performing like Violet Elizabeth Bott (saying he felt physically "sick". She said it better with a lithp), the Universities and Colleges Union(UCU) has refused to accept the European Union commission's "working definition" on antisemitism.

You can read about this in Mark Elf's blog:

The so-called "definition", entailing acceptance that Zionism is the legitimate expression of "self-determination" for Jews, would leave many a notorious antisemite free to say they only wanted Jews to "go to their own country", as Mosleyites could be heard saying after 1948, while many a Jewish figure would find themselves classified as "antisemitic". Tony Lerman, former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research says it is worse than useless, preventing reasonable criticism of Israel or Zionism, while blinding people to really dangerous antisemitism. Lerman was consulted by the commission, but says they ignored everything he said, while listening to American Jewish organisations instead. He sees the same "definition" influencing the Jewish Chronicle editor's cover for a right-wing Polish politician and the deliberations of some of our MPs.

The UCU rejection of this formula also puts the college lecturers' union ahead of the leadership in the National Union of Students.

But sadly, not all our academic institutions share either the logic showed by UCU members at their conference, or their courage. The other day we heard how a campaign had been whipped up against West Dunbartonshire council over its boycott policy, by inventing a fictitious council ban on books by Israeli authors. To hear some of the hysterical comments this was heading towards book-burnings across Scotland.

Only it was all bollocks.

Now from the book ban that wasn't, to a lecture ban that is:

"For the past 3 years the Medical School at the University of Liverpool has hosted a successful 4 week elective 'Healthy Inclusion' course that looks at issues such as homelessness, refugees and asylum seekers. It is one of the only courses of its kind in the UK and has been nationally acclaimed by academics and those in the medical profession.

On the 24th January 2011 a case study lecture on Palestine was held but before the lecture took place it was disrupted by a student. She was distraught at the subject matter and then missed most of the lecture. The lecture continued and received positive feedback from the attending students.

A complaint by another student at the University of Liverpool was made to the Medical School. It was never disclosed whether or not this was a formal complaint.

The University of Liverpool suspended the 'Healthy Inclusion' course for medical students on the 11th April 2011 without providing any reasons to students and staff.
On the 6th May 2011 the Jewish Chronicle online released a statement claiming the course had been suspended due to the distribution of literature that defended suicide bombing and that it was pending investigation; there has been no indication of this investigation and our own investigation has shown that:

- No pamphlet supporting suicide bombing was distributed, as was the basis of the 'investigation'

-The student who made the complaint was not enrolled on the course

-The course is highly acclaimed and a popular module choice for students and provides a great service in the community, supporting a local women's group

-The basis for suspending the course have not been made available for even those who teach on the module

We Believe that:

- No course should be closed down on the basis of one complaint that came from a student who was not enrolled on the course

-This module is an important subject to be made available to medical students and its popular reputation is testament to its important subject matter

We have an obligation to protect important subjects like this from suspension based on claims with no validation.

Moreover, we expect our universities to deal with these issues in a professional manner, and not to keep staff and students in the dark."

This is from an invitation passed on to me on Facebook by Mike Cushman, an academic and member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, who was one of the first in with aid for education in Gaza. So, respect.

All the same my immediate reaction tended towards disbelief. Surely no one would be able to get a course, and one with such positive aims, stopped just like that? And surely they would not try? But then the mention of interest for medical students reminded me of something I commented upon two years ago:

Lectures cancelled after Zionist campaign
report by Robyn Rosen, Jewish Chronicle October 29,

Two lectures by Israeli-based charity Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) were cancelled after a Zionist organisation told hospitals holding the talks that they were “anti-Israel”.

Miri Weingarten from PHR-I was due to give a lecture, entitled The Right to Health in a Conflict Zone, to three hospitals in Manchester, Liverpool and Bury last week. But just hours before the lecture, the Manchester Royal Infirmary and Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool cancelled the event.

Karen Solomon, director of the Zionist Central Council in Manchester, sent more than 200 emails to members urging them to contact the hospitals. Ms Solomon said that the original plan was to send members to the meeting to dispute some of the topics.'

So Alder Hey and Manchester Royal Infirmary cancelled, for what the latter's spokesperson called "security reasons", though Miri spoke to an appreciative audience in Bury without any problems.

This kind of bullying only works if people surrender their own right to reason and prefer not to know anything and allow themselves to be bullied. Where does it stop? Last week a handful of women shop assistants in Liverpool's left-wing News from Nowhere bookshop had to face harassment and intimidation from a gang of lumpen thugs from the English Defence League. They are not, so far as I know, planning to close down their bookshop. Let's tell our academic institutions they should not be bowing to pressure from equally prejudiced right-wing Zionists, even if the latter are cleverer about the way they try to do their bullying.

For a petition on this subject, see:

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