Thursday 22 April 2021

Israeli dates


Sir Keir Starmer pulled out from attending an interfaith event on 21 April after the Board of Deputies informed him that one of the organisers was found to be refusing to eat Israeli dates. The Board’s Tal Ofer tweeted he was “glad to see that after I raised this issue Keir Starmer withdrew his participation from the event.”

Here are a few others who are not eating Israeli dates and support the Boycott and Divestment Sanctions movement, from refusing to eat dates to supporting a cultural boycott.

Stephane Hessel, the late German-French Holocaust survivor, diplomat, author   "[BDS] campaigns around the world present the most promising way to overcome the failure of world governments to stand up to Israel’s intransigence and lawless behaviour."


Ahmed Kathrada, the late South African anti-apartheid leader, after visiting the occupied Palestinian territory "In our short stay here we have seen and heard enough to conclude that Apartheid has been reborn here. In its reborn form it is however worse than its predecessor. Even during the worst days of Apartheid we did not have walls to divide and control people."


240 Jewish & Israeli scholars, responding to the Bundestag’s attack on BDS in 2019 "The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU Member States' territory, including with regard to BDS actions."


Angela Davis, Black American social activist, academic, feminist and philosopher "Palestinian activists have long supported the Black people’s struggle against racism. When I was in jail, solidarity coming from Palestine was a major source of courage for me. In Ferguson, Palestinians were the first to express international solidarity. … We have a profound responsibility to support Palestinian struggles."


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African anti-apartheid and human rights leader, Nobel Prize winner "Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel."


Haifa Zangana, Iraqi novelist, poet, artist and activistSupport for BDS is a moral responsibility and an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation and assertion of their human rights.”


Vina Mazumdar, Arundhati Roy, Aijaz Ahmad, Vivan Sundaram, and tens of other leading academics and artists who signed the Indian Call for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel "Just as it was in the case of the international call against South Africa in the apartheid years, we are confident that [BDS] will be effective in contributing to international pressure on Israel to abandon its oppression and expulsion of the indigenous population."


Lina Meruane (Chile), Jesús Abad Colorado (Colombia), Daniel Devita (Argentina), + 500 Latin American artists who signed a pledge for the cultural boycott of Israel   "We, the undersigned Latin American artists, declare that from this moment on we will reject any invitation made to us to appear in Israel or in any event financed by this government that leads to the ‘normalization’ of apartheid.…" 


Brian Eno  " It’s often said by opponents of BDS that art shouldn’t be used as a political weapon. However, since the Israeli government has made it quite clear that it uses art in exactly that way – to promote ‘Brand Israel’ and to draw attention away from the occupation of Palestinian land – I consider that my decision to deny permission (to use his music in Israel) is a way of taking this particular weapon out of their hands."


Naomi Klein, Canadian author, social activist and filmmaker   "The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa."


Movement for Black Lives (US)   "Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people."


Roger Waters of Pink Floyd   "BDS is a non-violent movement trying to make clear that this is an absolutely antiquated form of imperial colonialism ... that there is a more modern way of looking at things, which is that all human beings are equal: a Jewish child and an Arab child are equally precious and important."


Michael Bennett, American Super Bowl Champion, activist   "One of my heroes has always been Muhammad Ali. ... Ali always stood strongly with the Palestinian people, visiting refugee camps, ... and always willing to be a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ I want to be a ‘voice for the voiceless,’ and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel."


Kamila Shamsie, award-winning British novelist of Pakistani descent   "I do not want to cross the picket line formed by Palestinian civil society, which has asked everyone who wants to change the situation to not cooperate with organisations that are in any way complicit with the Israeli state."


Elvis Costello   "There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung ..."


Talib Kweli, award-winning Black American rapper and activist   "Boycotting, divesting and sanctioning are peaceful solutions to the crisis that destroys Palestinian homes and lives. … It worked to make South Africa a fairer and more equal nation and it could work in Israel."


Mira Nair, Indian-American filmmaker  " I am opposed to any appearance in Israel that is used for nationalistic or other propaganda purposes to cover up its occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights. I’ve been involved in activities to hold Israel accountable for its international law violations since before the BDS movement took shape. While I have some tactical differences with the BDS movement, I strongly support the actions and continue to participate in them."


Amnesty International  " The three main goals of BDS – ending the occupation, full equality to the Arab citizens of Israel and the right of return of Palestinian refugees – adhere to international law.... We are shocked that demands for equality and compliance with international law are considered anti-Semitic."


and these are a few of many Israelis who support the BDS movement

Nur Masalha, writer and academic

Tanya Reinheart, writer and academic

Ronit Lentin, sociologist and writer

Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Professor of language and Education

Neve Gordon, Professor of International law

Gideon Levy, journalist

Miko Peled, writer

Ilan Pappe, Professor on Internationalk Studies

Jeff Halper, anthropologist

Daniel Boyarina, historian

Udi Aloni, filmmaker

Aharon Shabtai, poet

Eva Jablonka, geneticist

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Flashman Johnson

“The meanest people are the weakest people, for they do not even have the strength to believe in goodness.” ―Sean Patrick Brennan

It’s like we are all living inside Tom Brown’s School Days with Flashman Johnson replacing Sleazy Dave as head prefect. While we are all being bullied Flashman and his mate are enriching themselves. Their delight at popping champagne escalates to Mafia levels of personal, political and economic corruption.



Sunday 11 April 2021

Off With Their Heads


After The Guardian asked its readers to “share your tributes and memories of the Duke of Edinburgh, I blogged this:I am proud to say I turned down an invitation to meet him and his wife. In 1994, and as a Director of War Child, I was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace for NGOs involved in the Bosnian war. We were operating a mobile bakery to feed hungry families in Mostar and delivering insulin for diabetic children in Sarajevo. Others at War Child didn't share my Republican values and did attend. When the Duke asked them what War Child was doing he was told about the bakery. He quipped, "I bet they steal the bread." He was then told about the insulin deliveries to Sarajevo and added, "I bet they steal that as well."


That was all I wanted to say, but then a friend sent me this in response to my words, “Just think if he’d lived to 100. We’d have had all this and then repeated when he died. Every cloud.” 


Social media were now full of “We are North Korea” comments and the BBC had to issue a special complaints form after so much public anger over the corporation pulling its TV schedules for Friday 9 April.


The media and politicians, from Boris Johnson to Sir Keir Starmer, went into overdrive to explain away the Prince’s racist, sexist and other abusive comments as ‘gaffes’, as off-the-cuff’, and as ‘well-intended’. 


The obsequious, forelock-tugging, was  now on the defensive and the door has been opened to those of us who are opposed to the ‘cap-doffing’ offered up to the remaining vestiges of feudalism in this country. That stretches from the royal family to the unelected House of Lords, to wealth and land ownership.


It is time to resurrect the Commonwealth of Britain Bill first introduced to Parliament 30 years ago by Tony Benn and seconded by Jeremy Corbyn. It proposed a “democratic, federal and secular Commonwealth of Britain”. The monarchy would be abolished, the Royal Family pensioned off, the honours system disbanded, and the Crown Estates nationalised. Supremacy would rest in two democratically elected chambers.


Off with their heads’ has a royal origin, since it was made by the Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll's ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’. She went on to say, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 


I used to think a Republic was an impossible thing both before and after breakfast, but after the last few days I am not so sure. Tony Benn’s Bill needs to return. 


It will be difficult since the only person who has come closest to having his head removed is Benn’s seconder and the official Opposition is led by the ennobled. But perhaps it’s an impossible thing we have to believe in if we want to see who won Masterchef.

Friday 9 April 2021

Who is the real Prince?



The Guardian asks its readers to “share your tributes and memorie of the Duke of Edinburgh … Did you meet him? What effect did he have on your life?”


I am proud to say I turned down an invitation to meet him and his wife. In 1994, and as a Director of War Child, I was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace  for NGOs involved in the Bosnian war. We were operating a mobile bakery to feed hungry families in Mostar and delivering insulin for diabetic children in Sarajevo. Others at War Child didn't share my republican values and did attend. When the Duke asked them what War Child was doing he was told about the bakery. He quipoped, "I bet they steal the bread." He was then told about the insulin deliveries to Sarajevo and added, "I bet they steal that as well."


No tears for him. I keep them for yesterday’s sad departure of Jovan Divjak


Monday 5 April 2021

An ineffective Protestor


Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the London Kill the Bill rally the other day was a poweful rebuttal to his detractors who claim that he has spent his life protesting ineffectively and that protests never change anything.


He gave a summary of a long history of protests, from the Tolpuddle Martyrs in the 1830s to the Chartists in the 1840s, to the Suffragettes in the 1920s, to Cable Street in the 1930s, to the fight against anti-trade union legislation in the 1970s, to the ongoing anti-racism protests of Black Lives Matter and the climate change activism of Extinction Rebellion. 


The current protests against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which seeks to outlaw protests altogether, fits into this history and as Jeremy reminds us - not only does protest work, but without protest things don’t change.