A small group holding Israeli flags were holding a counter protest as hundreds of protesters gather in front of the Israeli Embassy in central London in solidarity with Palestinian people in London, United Kingdom on 30 March 2019
By Asa Winstanley
A lot has been written about the pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian lobby over the years. Many take the view that the US and Britain have their foreign policy dictated to them by Israel and its influential lobby groups in the West.
I don’t intend to revisit the whole debate over the lobby in this column, but I’ve written before about how I consider this to be an inaccurate view, born of an essentially conservative worldview. It is a view that starts with the assumption that American and British foreign policies are essentially benign, and that the pro-Israel lobby has somehow corrupted them.
On the other hand, there are those on the left who hold to the equally mistaken view that to even use the term “pro-Israel lobby” is a conspiracy theory or (even more outrageously) anti-Semitic. This is, quite plainly, nonsense.
Many countries have powerful, well-funded and impressively connected lobbies working to promote their interests in Western capitals. Israel is no different in that regard. The pro-Israel lobby obviously exists, is well-funded, and has a significant impact on British political life.
Historically, however, the influence of the pro-Israel lobby is on the wane. It is a slow process for sure, and the lobby is certainly not be written off yet. But for those like myself who follow the activities of the lobby for a living, the general trend is plain to see.
Witness, for example, 2017’s documentary The Lobby by Al Jazeera. In this superb undercover investigation, we saw plainly that the lobby is still a force to reckon with. Most infamously, Israeli Embassy agent Shai Masot told ex-Labour, and now ex-MP, Joan Ryan — she was the chairperson of Labour Friends of Israel at the time — that she could partake in the “more than £1 million” worth of funding for junkets to Israel. Ryan stated that her group had put names forward for the embassy to consider.
At the time the film was made, these names seemed most likely to have been MPs, since LFI is quite well known for taking lawmakers on propaganda trips to Israel. Earlier this year, though – more than two years after the film aired — LFI denied this, stating that the funding was for trips for “young people” to go to Israel; the lobby group was probably hoping to influence future MPs. Either way, the money represented blatant interference in the British political system by a state which is extremely hostile to the opposition Labour Party, which was at the time Ryan’s own party, remember.
However, the Al Jazeera film contained another key scene. Shai Masot, its main antagonist, admitted to Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter that the pro-Israel lobby is in stark decline in Britain. Unlike in previous years, when almost every Labour MP would join Labour Friends of Israel, they are no longer doing that, he lamented. Conservative Friends of Israel has no such problem, apparently, but LFI seems to be in almost terminal decline. It no longer has stalls at the annual Labour Party conference, thanks mainly to the scrutiny that Al Jazeera’s film brought to bear and the growing awareness among normal Labour Party members of LFI’s insidious role.
There were also revealing comments about the declining role of the pro-Israel lobby in a second undercover Al Jazeera investigation focusing on America. The Lobby – USA was completed and cleared fully through all legal vetting, but it was censored by Al Jazeera’s owner, the state of Qatar, after it came under immense pressure by the very same lobby that the film exposed.
However, The Electronic Intifada was able to obtain and publish the entire film, making it free for anybody to view online. It contains many revelations about how the pro-Israel lobby operates and what makes it tick. There were two comments in the film, though, which particular stuck with me.
The first came from Jonathan Schanzer, of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies: “Anti-Semitism as a smear is not what it used to be,” he was caught admitting. The lobby constantly defames Palestinians and their supporters as motivated by racism against Jews, so it’s actually refreshing to see one of the lobby admit – albeit in private – that they cynically abuse the issue as a “smear” campaign.
Secondly, and most ominously for the lobby, a former lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, said that, “The foundation that AIPAC sat on is rotting.” This was a recognition by Eric Gallagher of the historical trends at play right now.
The influence of AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobby groups is on the wane because Israel itself is becoming more of a partisan party political issue, rather than the bi-partisan consensus issue that it far too often was for politicians in the past. In other words, you are far more likely to support Israel if you are a Trump voter or a Boris Johnson voter, than if you are a Bernie Sanders or a Jeremy Corbyn voter.
Our role, then, as people in support of justice for the Palestinian people, should be to accelerate these historical trends, expose the hypocrisy and never give up. If the pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian lobby is on the decline, let us all help it on its way.
Member of Hamas’ political bureau Khalil Al-Hayya in Gaza, 30 August 2018
All suspicious deals aimed at eliminating the issue of Palestinian refugees are bound to fail, the Hamas website reported a member of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khalil Al-Hayya, as stating.
During a visit to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Al-Hayya assured Palestinian refugees that the Palestinian people across occupied Palestine had embraced the option of resistance in their struggle against the Israeli occupation.
Al-Hayya visited the refugee camps in Lebanon, along with several Hamas officials from Gaza and Lebanon. The delegation included Rawhi Mushtaha, a member of Hamas politburo, Wesam Abu Shamala, Ayman Shanaa, in charge of Hamas’ Lebanese Relations and Ali Qasem, in charge of Hamas’ political affairs in Beirut.
In a visit to Burj Al-Barajneh camp, the delegation was briefed about the harsh conditions that Palestinian refugees are enduring in the camp, where they also met with some Palestinian dignitaries and factions.
Mushtaha, during a gathering in the camp, called for the refugees to reinforce the national unity and end the internal division.
The member of the Hamas Political Bureau called on improving the living conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon’s refugee camps.
In a statement, the commission announced “the real and strategic solidarity with the Palestinians is the UN’s courageous decision to cancel the illegal resolution 181 which was adopted by the US General Assembly on 29 November 1947.”
This resolution recommended the division of Palestine into three parts: 42.88 per cent for a Palestinian state, 55.47 per cent for a Jewish state and 0.65 per cent, which comprises Jerusalem and Bethlehem, to be under international guardianship.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its biweekly Protection of Civilians Report that the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 39 structures in the West Bank in the past two weeks, displacing 63 Palestinians, and otherwise affecting 380 others, Days of Palestine reported.
OCHA said the most severe incident occurred near Za’tara village, near Bethlehem, in an area designated as a firing zone for military training, the occupation authorities demolished 13 structures, including Palestinian homes, animal shelters, water tanks, and solar panels.
The remaining structures demolished were in occupied Jerusalem, where on 23 November, Israeli forces confiscated equipment and tiles for renovating a road and side walk to connect Jabal al Baba community with nearby Al ‘Eizariya town (Jerusalem).
The infrastructure was demolished by Israeli forces on 18 November, and since the construction of the road in August 2019, Israeli authorities have confiscated equipment twice.
“So far this year, nearly 800 Palestinians have been displaced in the West Bank as a result of demolitions, almost double the figure during the equivalent period in 2018,” the report said.
During the same period, the report added, illegal Israeli settlers carried out 12 attacks that resulted in the injury of 30 Palestinians, and caused damage to at least 100 olive trees and 48 vehicles.
Two of these attacks, as well as additional incidents of intimidation and confrontations, took place on November 22-23 in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2), where thousands of settlers and other Israeli visitors attended a religious celebration.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concerns that in many cases, Israeli forces in the area “appeared to not take action to prevent the attacks or to protect the population”.
Since the end of the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) in January 2019, the frequency and intensity of settler attacks in the H2 area of Hebron has significantly increased.
In other incidents across the West Bank, Israeli settlers stormed Urif, Majdal Bani Fadil, Qabalan and Beit Dajan villages (Nablus district), Sarta and Kafr ad-Dik (Salfit) villages and vandalized a total of 48 Palestinian-owned vehicles, scrawling hateful messages on the walls of five houses and one school.
In lands near the settlement of Itamar (Nablus), Palestinians from Awarta village reported that settlers stole the crop of 100 olive trees, in an area that requires prior coordination with the Israeli authorities to access.
Israeli forces also carried out a total of 135 search and arrest operations across the West Bank and arrested 157 Palestinians, including 18 children. The majority of the operations were in the Hebron governorate (46), followed by Jerusalem (25) and Ramallah (22) governorates.
As an integral part its ongoing propaganda, Israel, along with its fervent supporters and legions of paid and anonymous agents, zealously repeats and disseminates – in the media, on university campuses, in blogs and comment sections, at conferences and more – the same old, tired Zionist myths.
Propaganda guides and tool kits, such as the “global language dictionary”, offer ready-made arguments and counter-arguments to sell Israel to journalists and critics. Such talking points come with tips on what tone and rhetorical tactics to use, what words and formulas “work”, and how to discuss “sensitive” issues, such as Israel’s illegal colonisation and annexation of Palestinian land, Jewish settlements and the killing of civilians.
All of which are now set to get worse since US President Donald Trump has both rewarded and emboldened Israel by recognising its illegal and brutal colonisation (its “settlements”). By the same token he has offered yet another spectacular demonstration of the complete contempt of the United States for the rule of international law.
Setting such an example will only send the message to all the despots, autocrats and tyrants of various stripes around the globe that not only it is ok to steal, colonise, and brutalise weak and defenceless populations, but that you may even be rewarded by the West for adopting the “law of the jungle”.
The media is saturated with uplifting news about the “Israeli economic miracle”, its wealth and high living standards, and its thriving startup and high-tech industry. But have you ever heard from a mainstream Western media outlet or politician that a fifth of Israelis live below the poverty line, that people are forced to look through rubbish for food to avoid starving, or that Israel has the highest poverty rate in all of the developed world?
The answer is most likely not, and we should ask ourselves why. Other lies propagated by Israel’s disinformation machine include origin myths, the most famous being the romantic theme of Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land”, which strangely persists, despite its historical absurdity. Israel relies a lot on ignorance and gullibility.
This magnificent interactive photographic collection of pre-1948 Palestine is enough to pulverise that revisionist lie, which seeks to eliminate the very notion of the existence of Palestinians on the land before it was taken from them by Western colonial powers to be given to Jewish emigrants from Europe and elsewhere. Palestinians were made to pay for a Holocaust that Europe had committed, and in which they themselves played no part.
Besides the pathetic nature of such PR operations to counter critics and improve Israel’s disastrous global image, its effectiveness is more than a little uncertain.
When news and images of Israel’s killing and mutilation of Palestinian children, deliberate bombing of schools, and indiscriminate use of white phosphorus on entire neighbourhoods circulate around the world, it is hard to convincingly portray such a predatory, violent and terrorist rogue state as noble, democratic, peaceful or gentle.
Zionist myths By far the most common Zionist myth is the notion that Israel is the “only democracy” in the region – one that some even describe as a liberal, egalitarian, Western-style democracy. This grotesque, self-serving fairytale perpetuates the fallacy of a similarity of regimes, of a common destiny, and of a natural alliance between Israel and Western nations. Racist propaganda often pits this against the inevitably “barbaric”, backward and undemocratic Arab states and Muslim-majority societies.
This misleading description echoes the larger, even more sinister – but equally fallacious – Huntingtonian “clash of civilizations” discourse, which is itself the cultural reformulation in civilisational terms of the old ideologies of racial differences.
Repeating a lie multiple times does not make it true, although Israel’s agents clearly think it does. Israel is no democracy, and certainly not a “liberal, egalitarian” state. Two cold, hard facts can easily debunk this myth.
Firstly, there is the acquisition of Israeli nationality and citizenship through religion. The Law of Return allows any Jew, anywhere in the world, to emigrate to Israel and obtain full Israeli citizenship, whether or not they have ever set foot there or have any relatives living there. A privileged, royal path to citizenship is reserved exclusively for Jews, while being denied to members of other religions. Religious discrimination is thus institutionalised as official policy.
Archaic marriage laws Just imagine for a minute how “democratic” countries such as France, Germany, Britain or the United States would be if they decided that from now on, Christians from all over the world – but only Christians – could freely emigrate and settle there, and unlike members of any other religion, or even atheists, they would automatically be granted citizenship upon arrival.
This would amount to discarding their most fundamental and basic democratic principles, including their cherished secularism – but such institutionalised religious discrimination is exactly what Israel practices.
Secondly, there is the issue of marriage. Given the massive pro-Israeli propaganda machine, coupled with the silent complicity of our Western media and governments, many people might be unaware that in Israel, only religious authorities are allowed to officiate marriages. Civil, non-religious marriages are not permitted.
Even worse, inter-religious, mixed marriages are also forbidden by law, forcing inter-religious couples to marry abroad. When they return, the non-Jewish partner often receives second-class citizen treatment by the state.
Again, let’s imagine what would happen to the French, British, German or US democracies if we were to apply such archaic principles. Rather unthinkably for those of us living in actual democracies, the Israeli state manages to make those already backward practices even harsher, levying a two-year prison sentence on couples who get married by a religious authority not accredited by the state.
Despite all this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his PR minions continually explain to us – with a straight face – how democratic, egalitarian, tolerant, open and enlightened the state of Israel has always been, and how it grants all of its citizens equal rights.
Israel was already a profoundly racist, unegalitarian, undemocratic, ethno-religious state before the nation-state law was passed last year. Now, it is even worse.
Conceived of from the start as an ethno-religious “Jewish state” – a description it has finally openly acknowledged through the nation-state law – just as other countries thought of themselves as “white states” (South Africa, the segregationist US), it is not surprising that Israel quickly instituted a veritable apartheid system.
This reality is easily visible to anyone on the ground, and has been abundantly documented for decades by the media, all major human rights organisations, UN-mandated independent teams on the ground, Palestinian and Israeli activists, NGOs and academics, who explain how Israel’s apartheid regime constantly invents new, creative ways to perpetuate and consolidate itself.
Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants have themselves denounced Israel as a structurally segregationist, and even fascist, apartheid state. One can safely assume that when you have survived Auschwitz, as did Professor Hajo Meyer, you can recognise fascism in action – particularly in your own country.
ANC veterans who spent their own lives fighting apartheid in South Africa have also declared that what they saw in Israel was in some respects worse than what they confronted at home. Even US President Jimmy Carter wrote an entire book on Israel’s apartheid, explaining how Palestinians were caged in an open-air prison worse than what the South Africans had to face.
Israel’s discrimination against its Arab citizens, among others, is thus not just a societal, economic or cultural phenomenon. Every country has a share of that. In Israel’s case, discrimination is institutionalised, inscribed in its justice system as well.
“Israeli law includes numerous provisions that explicitly assert and institutionalise a principle of inequality between Jews and Arabs,” notes Arab-Israeli professor and politician Yousef Jabareen.
“To cite only one example, the Israeli flag, with its Star of David, represents only the Jewish majority of the country. But this differential treatment is certainly not limited to the realm of the symbolic. It exists in all domains of life: the definition of the state and its symbols, but also immigration laws, citizenship, political participation, access to land, culture, religion, budgetary policies, etc.”
Similar to the Law of Return, the “settlements” in the occupied West Bank – often direct breaches of Israeli law itself and major violations of international law – are exclusively reserved for Jews.
Israel invests considerable resources there on infrastructure and social services, but non-Jews are not allowed to live in the settlements – even though they are often built on confiscated land privately owned by Palestinians.
These settlers live among a population of more than three million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, who live under an all-pervasive, brutal military occupation. Another two million Palestinians live under siege and ongoing military terror in Gaza. None have a right to vote in Israeli elections.
Again, imagine the outcry if Britain or the US started invading territories outside of their internationally recognised borders, illegally annexed the land and resources, and then began creating Christian-only settlements in those areas.
The dozens of Israeli laws that explicitly discriminate against Arab citizens and Palestinians in the occupied territories are well documented. They can be accessed through the Adalah searchable database, and they apply to all aspects of Palestinian life: citizenship, education, political and economic rights, residency, language, culture, religion, and so on.
Hyper-violent colonialism Even access to water, the most fundamental and life-sustaining resource, is the object of differential treatment by Israel, which has never hesitated to confiscate water or to use it as a war weapon to collectively punish entire populations.
Since the nation-state law has been adopted, Israel’s already systemic discrimination has become even worse, with new laws being passed to further entrench and expand inequality.
In addition to all of this evidence that Israel is no democracy, the state has also become globally infamous for its relentless, illegal, supremacist, hyper-violent colonialism; its annexation of land at gunpoint; its terroristic military; and its armies of fanatic Jewish “settlers”, who are little more than international rogues and land thieves.
During its half-century of illegal occupation and annexation, which is now doomed to get even worse, Israel has wilfully and knowingly violated almost every major international law convention, treaty and UN resolution, including the Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter, the 1947 Partition Plan, the Camp David and Oslo accords, and so on.
Such lawless behaviour has given Israel the distinct honour of being among the countries that for decades have been, and continue to be, regularly condemned by all major human rights organisations out there, and by the UN itself.
Distinctly Israeli terror It is difficult to find a worse rogue state than Israel. From its very inception, writ with ethnic cleansing, Israel has made the collective punishment of defenceless civilian populations, the killing of entire families, the deliberate mutilation of children, the bombing of schools and hospitals, and other barbaric atrocities as distinctly, recognisably Israeli as challah, hamin and gefilte fish.
Even Israeli soldiers themselves – thousands of them, often elite soldiers regrouped in veteran organisations such as Breaking the Silence – are exposing and documenting Israel’s systematic and deliberate targeting of defenceless Palestinians. As much as the ANC veterans know apartheid, and Holocaust survivors know fascism, when they see it, these brave soldiers surely know what they are talking about, as they were once a part of it.
But they, too, are probably just “antisemites” or “self-hating Jews”; instead of them, maybe we ought to believe the likes of Netanyahu, who continues to claim that Israel is the region’s “only democracy”?
Since the start protests, Israel has killed more than 315 Palestinian protesters, including 47 children, two women, nine disabled, four paramedics, two journalists
Israeli occupation forces have killed 47 Palestinian children and wounded 3,696 others since the start of protests of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege on 30 March 2018.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said in a report issued on Friday that the last child killed by the Israeli occupation forces was Fahd al-Astal, 16, was shot with live ammunition along with seven others.
Since the start of the peaceful protests, the Israeli occupation forces have killed more than 315 Palestinian protesters, including 47 children, two women, nine disabled, four paramedics, two journalists.
Regarding the wounded, the Palestinian ministry of health said that the Israeli occupation forces also injured at least 30,000 protesters.
The Palestinians have initiated the weekly protests to call for ending the 13-year-old strict Israeli siege and reinforce the right of return for the Palestinian refugees, who were displaced from their homes by the Jewish Zionist gangs prior to the creation of Israel.
UN along with several other international bodies reiterated that the Israeli occupation forces have been using lethal force against the peaceful Palestinian protesters in Gaza.
Withholding bodies of dead Palestinians and not return them to their families for proper burial is a cruel practice and a violation of international humanitarian law and United Nations Convention against Torture, said the Haifa-based Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said today.
Responding to directions by the new Israeli occupation Minister, Naftali Bennett, who ordered all bodies of Palestinians who attacked or who are alleged to have attacked Israelis to be held and not returned to their families, Adalah’s General Director, Attorney Hassan Jabareen, stated that, “No country in the world allows itself to hold and to use bodies as a card for negotiation and political bargaining. These practices violate international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law, including the UN Convention against Torture, which absolutely prohibits such cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
Israel currently holds corpses of 51 Palestinians, according Muhammad Alyan, representative of the families whose sons or daughters have been held since April 2016.
Adalah represented family members of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and who are being held by the state before the Israeli occupation Supreme Court. Adalah stressed that, “We will challenge this decision and work to rescind these instructions before Israeli courts and internationally, including through the UN human rights treaty bodies and other forums.”
On 9 September, the Israeli Supreme Court, in a 4-to-3 decision reversed an earlier judgment and ruled that the State of Israel may continue to hold the bodies of Palestinians as bargaining chips. The ruling confirmed that Israeli emergency regulations permit the Israeli military to order the interim burial of bodies designated as deceased enemies, based on considerations that take into account state security, civil order, and the need to negotiate for the return of the bodies of Israeli soldiers.
The Supreme Court had ruled previously on 14 December 2017 that the state has no authority to hold the bodies of Palestinians as bargaining chips, and that it must transfer bodies to the families of the deceased for burial. It reversed this decision following the state’s 2018 request for a second hearing.
In Adalah’s view, the 2019 Supreme Court ruling was one of the most extreme judgements since 1948 and marked “the first time in history that a court – anywhere in the world – authorizes state authorities to hold the bodies of individuals under its control, to which international laws governing occupation apply, and to use them as bargaining chips. It undermines the most basic principles of universal humanity, and violates both Israeli law and international law, it said.