Yaba Yaba

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Posts Tagged ‘UK

Me on PressTV: “Palestine, the ethics of resistance”

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Last week I was invited to participate in Tariq Ramadan’s “Islam & Life” show on PressTV. The title of the show was “Palestine: the ethics of Resistance”, but in fact the main topic of discussion was the boycott campaign in the UK. I shared a panel with Faizal Dawjee, who was introduced as a former journalist from South Africa, and Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, secretary of BRICUP (pronounced like hicup).

There was no pretence of balance – PressTV identifies itself as the first Iranian international news network, Tariq Ramadan has his clear views on the subject, and the panel had two pro-boycotters on one side and myself on the other. Nevertheless, there was an honest, respectfull and open debate. I was given the oportunity to resopnd to every argument by my peers, and ample time to present my positions. Whether I did a good job of that is for you to judge.

Written by yishaym

February 16, 2009 at 3:37 am

my short talk yesterday

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I was planning to post my notes for the Jewish Socialist After Gaza event beforehand. Of course, I was still writing them at 7pm. So here they are:

The title of this evening is “After the war on Gaza: What next for the Palestinians? And how can Jews here and in Israel help bring about a just peace?” I would like to start by disqualifying my self from answering both questions. First of all, I don’t think I have a right to tell anyone – Palestinian, British, Israeli, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or other – what they should do. Even if I did, my belief is that the less you tell people what to do, the better a job they do at figuring it out. Second, and perhaps more critical, I have a serious difficulty with the juxtaposition of Palestinians and Jews implied by the title. I see that distinction as the root cause of the current tragic situation, and any statement that emphasises it is dangerous. I will get back to that in a moment.
So what can I offer you tonight? Only this: my fears and hopes for the land I love, and my thoughts about what I should do. If you can help me by commenting on these, I am grateful. If you will find some of the questions I ask myself resonating with your own, then perhaps your time has not been wasted. If not, my apologies. I’ll try to keep it short.
Sitting here, looking there, I feel sad, confused and disempowered. I watch with horror as governments who claim to represent me and defend my loved ones launch attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, killing thousands of civilians. I hear, unbelieving, how my friends and family justify these attacks as inevitable acts of self-defence. I see, and cannot explain, the rise of Lieberman and resurrection of Netanyahu. I know what I would be doing if I was there – but I’m not. The events seem to be rushing at me at torrential pace, I feel the urgent need to respond, react, do something – but just can’t see a path ahead, my instinct is to “just do anything, anything but silence”. In fact, as paradoxical as it may seem, this is probably the right time to stand still for a moment and reflect. Standing still is better than rushing headlong over a cliff.
We hear a lot about the two peoples, the two narratives. In fact, we have many peoples and many narratives: there are Druze, Muslims, Christians, Samaritans, Bedouin, 1st, 3rd, 10th generation Israeli Jews, Israeli Palestinians, Jews of Arab heritage, and so on. Yet we all have one land, one history, and if any – one future. Denying these facts is what I see as the first source of our predicament. The second, related issue is that this one land speaks two languages. No, not Hebrew and Arabic. I’m talking of the language of life and the language of death, the language of hope, and the language of despair.
For me, as I learned from my friend Mohammad Darawshe, despair is not an option. So what can I do? What I have been doing – only more. Side myself with those who deny the boundaries between people, who seek the common humanity in all, who continue to build our common future.
A small example: earlier this week, Yuli Tamir, the Israeli minister of education, adopted the revolutionary recommendations of the committee for “education for shared life”. This committee, chaired by Professor Gavriel Solomon and Dr. Mohamad Isaweer, and initiated by the Abraham Fund argued that Jewish and Palestinian children of Israel should all learn and appreciate the culture, history and aspirations of each other, and should acknowledge common values of democracy, respect for minorities and civic and social justice.
You may ask: what has this to do with Gaza? And I say: everything. If such a programme would have been in place 20 years ago, we wouldn’t have been looking back at Gaza.

Unfortunately, Karma Nablusi had to cancel on the last moment. The convoy she had planned to join, going into Gaza, had been rescheduled a day earlier.

David Rosenberg opened the evening with a review of the growing dissent among UK Jews towards the actions of the Israeli government. He then moved on to criticise the established mainstream (and arguably self-appointed) leadership for silencing any discording voices. A theme that was picked up by many of the commentators later on.

Gerald Kaufman MP made several references to his YouTubed speech at the commons, and in fact echoed several of the themes in that speech. Without question an eloquent and well-rehersed speaker, he portrayed the position of the disallosioned British zionist. A picture somewhat wasted on the audience in the room, who had no part of Zionism to start with.

Then the floodgates where opened. In true Jewish socialist tradition, everyone was entitiled to an equal voice, and indeed several people in the audience pulled note sheets from their pockets and read speeches longer than mine. Most of them seemed to focus on the marginilisation of Jewish radicals. I found that confusing, first as Leila told me later, I thought we were here to talk about Gaza. Second, in my dictionary radical means way-off-centre. If you don’t want to be in the margins, why define yourself as radical?

Anyway, on and on it went. I felt that most of the comments where essentially historical reviews and ethical manifestos, but the chair, Julia Bard, thought there were many fresh ideas for action. Maybe. Sometimes sitting on the stage focuses your hearing on certain things. On the other hand, I might have a different idea on what constitutes action, a more Newtonian view.

I did mention the UK Friends of the Abraham Fund, and some people asked me for details. Here’s the website:


Which is really a couple of pages with basic details, as part of the general Abraham Fund site. Probably the best way to keep up with our activities it to join the mailing list. email tafi-uk-subscribe@googlegroups.com or, for general enquiries, call info@abrahamfund.org.uk

Written by yishaym

February 12, 2009 at 6:22 pm

who’s side are you on?

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I had a long chat with Mark today, and with a few other friends. Cooled me down a bit, and helped me understand why I’m so angry. It has also raises a few questions.

When something horrible happens, we feel empathy with the victims. Since we usually do very little to help, we also feel guilt. When I observe the anti-Israeli reactions in Europe, I wonder: are you dealing with the issue, or are you dealing with your guilt? Its really quite simple to answer, all it requires is a bit of honesty. Just write down what you’ve done about the situation, and what are the probable consequences of your actions. Not what you would wish the consequences would be: what you believe is their real most likely effect. Don’t tell me, this is between you and yourself.

Remember one thing: however dire the state of affairs, there is always a course of action which offers a chance for positive change. This, for me, is the axiom of human existence. The circle of hope. Without it, we might as well all blow ourselves up. If the tally for your chosen action does not fall within the circle of hope, abandon it and look for a new path.

Mark was disturbed by people’s obsession with categorising fellow humans, for him (and for me) this is hard to understand, and the root of great evil. He said: I observe people all the time, always looking for the common. I recalled how history and science have shown that it is normal people who commit the greatest atrocities, and that the first step that enables this is xenomorphism (my term, don’t know what would be the proper one): defining a group as “others” who pose a threat. Once you divide the scene into “us” and “them”, and identify “them” as a threat, you can do anything to them. Resolution and reconciliation will start from breaking down this dichotomy. A Palestinian from Ramallah will not bomb Gaza, even if he opposes Hamas with all his heart. Likewise, an Israeli soldier will not shoot a setteler even if he sees him as the cause of all his troubles. You do not kill your own. Peace can only come from the acknowledgement that we have one land, one fate. It could be manifested in two states, that’s detail. But it has to rest on an appreciation of the common, and the unique.On an acceptance that all tears are equal, all blood weighs the same. If its all one bug Us,then violence is not an option.

That’s when I realised how wrong the protests, and the media coverage, are.

It doesn’t matter if you’re marching “for Israel” or “for Palestine”. Either way, you’re marching for the dichotomy. Reinforcing the image of two tribes. One good, one bad. I don’t care who’s the good and who’s the bad in your story. Its just a bad story.

Then there’s the issue of Hamas. The resistance movement. Even the BBC, which has been amazingly restrained and thoughtful in its coverage, often talks of Hamas’ “resistance”. This puzzles me. I thought “resistance” implies some acts of resisting the occupying forces. So where where the Hamas resisters when the Israeli army combed the streets of Gaza? Surely, if they would have offered any resistance, they Israeli army would have suffered more casualties. As I undestand it, most of the 10 Israeli soldiers killed where victems of accidents and friendly fire.

Yes, Israel has the right to protect itself, the Palestinians have a right to resist the occupation. Over the last three weeks neither right was exersiced.

Update, 21 Jan:

Bob from Brockley has a good roundup on the comedy of British anti-Israeli protest. My favorite is the chair of Sheffield Palestinian Solidarity tearing down a placard that reads “no to IDF no to Hamas”.

Written by yishaym

January 19, 2009 at 2:55 am

Expressions for Gaza: fundraiser in London, Sat. 17th Jan

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A night of peaceful, artistic expression in support of and to raise funds for the people of Gaza

Acts donating their time and performance include:

*Steve Sabella* – Palestinian Photographer; *Prof Haim Bresheeth* – filmmaker, photographer and a film studies scholar; *Soraya Boyd* – human rights campaigner; *Klezmer Klub*- jewish/Yiddish folklore music; *Poetic Pilgrimage* – Muslim sisters hip hop band; *Nour Alkawaja* – Palestinian Female comedian and director

Date: Saturday 17th January 2009
Time: 6.00pm – 8.30pm
Venue: Abrar House, 45 Crawford Place, London, W1H Nearest tube: Edgware Road/Marylebone road Minimum donation on the night: £15 Dinner will be served at 20:30 after the acts. There is a vegetarian option. PLEASE NOTE CHANGE IN START TIME. Acts will start promptly at 6:15pm

TICKETS: Minimum donation is £15.

Please purchase prior to the event, tickets are limited:

ONLINE: http://expressionsforgaza.blogspot.com/
This is updated regularly. Please scroll to donate button to purchase your ticket. Tickets are confirmed by email.
All proceeds on the night will go to Medical Aid for Palestinians
If you are unable to attend for any reason and would like to donate visit http://expressionsforgaza.blogspot.com and follow the link.
There are several events taking place and many charity collections- donations to any are appreciated.

Written by yishaym

January 15, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Harry’s place shut down for ousting an antisemite

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Update (sept. 05): now its in the papers, so it must be true.

Eric Lee reports that Harry’s place, a popular British left-wing blog, had the wire cut by its ISP after posting the details of Jenna Delich, a Sheffield based academic who in the course of discussing the academic boycott of Israel on a trade union mailing list linked to the website of American KKK leader, neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denier David Duke.

So here’s me making the same accusations, posting the same picture. Sue me too.

read more | digg story

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September 4, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Bassam needs your help

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Some of you may remember the amazing talk Bassam Aramin gave at the goodenough college a few months ago. Bassam is now registered for peace studies at Bradford University, but since he missed the scholarship deadline, he needs help from private donations.


Bassam Aramin has been accepted to the University of Bradford’s Peace Studies Program and plans to attend in Sep, 2009! This is an especially important opportunity for the thoughtful co-founder of Combatants for Peace and his family, struggling to find a way to survive with the loss of their daughter and sister, 10 year old Abir Aramin.

We ask your help to raise the $73,875 (£37,500 – see attached budget) to bring Bassam Aramin and his family of seven to Bradford, England in time for the children to start school on Sep. 1 2009.  The fund is administered directly by the University of Bradford, without fee so and 100% of donations will go to meet the family’s needs.  Our committee, friends of the Aramin Family, is working with the University of Bradford to spread the word.

To donate, please mark the following reference number: “d9126 Aramin Scholarship” in the memo field of your check and send it to:

Maxine Daglan-Smith, Finance Department

University of Bradford

Richmond Road,

Bradford, BD7 1DP Great Britain

If you wish to donate by credit card please telephone the University of Bradford cashier’s office at 44-(0)1274-233123 to give your credit card number over the phone. Be sure to state it is for the “d9126 Aramin Scholarship Fund.”

Written by yishaym

August 28, 2008 at 11:23 am

TAFI UK on YouTube

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Seth Reynolds, aka coiled spring productions,  has done a great job producing a clip on the Abraham Fund Initiatives and its UK friends. Cheers, Seth!

Written by yishaym

August 15, 2008 at 3:18 pm

breaking my oath

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As a rule, I bluntly turn down sponsorship requests. If you can show me the logical link between you bungee jumping of Victoria falls and the welfare of blind cats, I’ll pay you a tenner. Otherwise, I’m happy to pay for you not to go. If you really want to help those cats, get a job, make some money, and do what you please with it.

But rules are made to be broken:

My dear friends,

As most of you know, Barnet Refugee Service is “my” organization. I was involved with it since its conception, was pregnant with it (as a team member and as an acting-coordinator of one of its parents organizations, which I had joined first as a volunteer in January 1999), and has been active in it in different capacities from the day it was born.

In the last 2 years I have been one of the trustees of this wonderful organization, and saw it going from strength to strength, recruiting more staff for more projects, assisting more and more clients, who – due to tightening of immigration legislation and withdrawing of support from asylum seekers – are becoming more and more destitute and desperate.

One of the things we offer our clients is legal advice – an invaluable stuff in times when most of the good immigration solicitors had withdrew their services, yet again because of bad government policy. A newish piece of legislation limits Legal Aid funding to such a few hours per asylum case, that the good law firms declared that under these conditions they cannot possibly prepare a strong asylum claim or represent clients in Home Office interviews and further legal proceedings. The disastrous result of this is that many asylum seekers are being refused asylum and returned to their countries to face persecution and possible death.

Another frustrating fact which we need to address now is huge funding cuts that we recently suffered, and that is despite our commended services and successful outcomes year by year. We are not the only charity who suffered these cuts of public funding from the Lottery Fund and I guess we can thank the Olympic games for that…

SO, we need your help. I won´t go on about our great aims and ethos and won´t go into further details of the services we offer – you can read all that on our website at http://www.barnetrefugeeservice.org.uk/.

I would just ask you to sponsor me (and/or Rony…) in a 10 km walk we will join ON 19th May as detailed below,




The 4th London Legal Support Trust  sponsored walk is a 10 km circle round London’s legal landmarks which starts at the Royal Courts of Justice at 5.30 and ends at the Law Society.
Last year 1,800 walkers raised over £200,000.
Your donation will go directly to BRS and will help us to provide advice and support to  asylum seekers who have fled persecution.

To sponsor me please go to www.justgiving.com/BarnetRefugeeService

If you prefer to send a cheque, please make it payable to “Barnet Refugee Service” and send it with a completed GiftAid form (attached) to:
BRS, c/o Peter Salomon, 30 Gurney Drive, London, N2 0DG

To join the walk and find your own sponsors please contact Peter Salomon at p@kandps.co.uk .


PS. as it happens, we are also looking for new trustees to join us in our AGM in July. If I got you interested in BRS – why not volunteer a few hours per month and offer your skills and experience to better the lives of those fleeing persecution?

Written by yishaym

May 15, 2008 at 1:19 am

about a boycott

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Mira Vogel interviewed me for engage.

The first thing I came to realise was that the boycott was promoting exactly the kind of thing it claimed to oppose. It’s a collective discrimininative action, a form of collective punishment if you like which is exactly the kind of action which should be stopped. I’ve been working in the peace movement to stop Israel taking collective action against Palestinians. I’ve been campaigning against that, and here is a group applying collective punishment to Israel. So, idealistically and pragmatically it’s wrong.

Something that happened quite recently I was visiting York and walking down the street and there was a Palestinian stand with, among other things, leaflets promoting boycott. And I got into an argument with people standing there and I found myself getting emotional. And I reflected on this and thought “Hang on, why am I getting so emotional? There’s a lot of good rational reactions against boycott but my reaction was emotional. And I realised that I feel personally hurt by boycott because it puts me in the same lump as Lieberman, Elyakim Haetzni and all those evil Israelis I’ve been fighting all my life because the boycott doesn’t discriminate between me and them. Suddenly I’ve become one of them, in the same bag with all their lot.

read it all

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May 13, 2008 at 5:43 pm

UK Gov. going IP-Bolshevik on ISPs?

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Laurence Kaye (and others) tell us that –

The Government today published a strategies paper for the creative industry, ‘Creative Britain: New Talents for the New Economy,’ which signals a shift in the way the Government will approach the fostering and protecting of intellectual property – and in particular the role of ISPs in relation to copyright infringement.

The front page of the policy doc says –

Our aim is to improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, support the pursuit of excellence, and champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries.

According to Laurence, The Government intends to achieve this with a two-pronged approach of:

  1. fostering creative growth through proposed initiatives such as creative apprenticeships and ‘find your talent’ and talent pathways’ schemes;
  2. safeguarding the resulting creative content by stamping out online copyright infringement.

Of course I like 1. But 2 gets me worried, especially when we move on to the operational plan, which aims (in the spirit of new labour privatization) to devolve IP policing to ISPs. Let’s put aside, for the moment, the fact that copyright does not protect creators or reward creativity. The new policy document actually focuses on the “creative industry“, so apart from the moto at the top, at least they’re honest. The problem here, specifically, is in dumping the liability in the ISPs lap.

For ISPs to enforce copyright laws, they need to do one of two things:

  • Monitor every bit you consume and decide if its kosher (yikes!)
  • Block every site they suspect might, on an off-chance, carry questionable content (eek!)

But hey, what’s the problem? Who needs Indimedia? You just sit down, relax, and watch the BBC, or Fox news. We’ll tell you all you need to know.
| digg story

Written by yishaym

February 23, 2008 at 6:05 pm