New Pappe book highlights plight of forgotten Palestinians

[Book review for EI] Historian Ilan Pappe addresses the plight of Palestinians who remained in the new State of Israel following the Nakba in The Forgotten Palestinians.

Published by the Electronic Intifada, 7 December.

Asa Winstanley| The Electronic Intifada | 7 December 2011

After the Nakba, Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing operations, only approximately 160,000 Palestinians were left within the borders of what became Israel. Their numbers grew to 600,000 by the mid-1980s (152), and to about 1.2 million today. They struggled for Israeli citizenship, and won the right to vote in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), but were kept under the thumb of strict military rule until 1966.

Thanks partly to the growing international notoriety of their representatives and activists (such as current and former members of the Knesset Haneen Zoabi and the exiled Azmi Bishara) in recent years there has been more attention paid to the situation of these Palestinians. But in the western solidarity movement, there is still a learning process to be had of understanding that “the Palestinians” includes more than the people of the West Bank and Gaza. As such The Forgotten Palestinians, Ilan Pappe’s latest work of popular history, is a welcome contribution.

Pappe contextualizes the book as almost a sequel to his most celebrated work: “this book continues my research on Palestine and Israel, which I began in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006). It is only through a history of the Palestinian minority in Israel that one can imagine the extent to which the long-lived Zionist and Israeli desire for ethnic supremacy and exclusivity has brought about the current reality on the ground” (11). This approach very much pays off. Through the prism of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, Pappe explores the general Palestinian condition.

The Forgotten Palestinians ably displays Pappe’s main strength: his ability to relate a strong historical narrative. He ties many threads together, giving some much-needed perspective.

The Nakba, continued

Pappe addresses the plight of Palestinians who remained in the new State of Israel following the Nakba. In urban areas, “cordoned off with wire and fences,” Pappe writes that there were Israeli “attempts to concentrate Palestinians who had lost their homes but remained within the boundaries of the hometown … supervised by Israeli officers, who called these confinement areas ‘ghettos.’” These “ghettos” would not disappear until 1950 (18).

Like the rest of the scattered Palestinian community at large, this was a deeply traumatized people. “If they lived in rural areas, they belonged to a hundred and so villages left intact out of more than five hundred whose inhabitants were evicted and in 1949 were wiped out by the Israeli tractors, turning them into either recreation parks or Jewish settlements,” Pappe states (19). The ethnic cleansing operations went on into the 1950s.

Characteristic of Pappe, there are plenty of challenges here to the idea of “left wing” Zionism, including: “the [Palestinian] people of Khirbet Jalami, who were evicted following a demand by the newly founded left-wing kibbutz of Lehavot Haviva in March 1950” (34).

In this early phase (1948-57), even the presence of the Palestinians in Israel was under threat: “the very existence of the community was in question. Their presence was regarded by important figures in the Israeli regime as ‘unfinished business,’ and quite a few of the politicians and heads of the security services still contemplated the removal of the Palestinian citizens from the Jewish state” (47).

This threat later receded somewhat, but it never truly went away, and has very much been revived during the rise of Avigdor Lieberman, arch-racist and current foreign minister of Israel, whose party Yisrael Beiteinu made electoral gains by calling for Palestinians citizens to be made to swear oaths committing to a Jewish state, with the slogan “no loyalty – no citizenship.”

In October 2010, Pappe records, “Israeli police simulated a scenario whereby parts of Israel in which Palestinians lived were appended to the West Bank — while the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank were incorporated into the Jewish state” (5).

Pappe says it was only in 1958 that the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion “conceded in an official document that the option of transfer was not applicable any more” (31).

By 1955, Ben-Gurion’s second “advisor on Arab affairs” Shemuel Divon would have to concede that “There is no way the Arabs of Israel will be loyal to the state. It would have been advantageous if the state could either expel them or convert them to Judaism, but these are not realistic options” (31). Ben-Gurion seemed to agree (33). It is very interesting that Zionist leaders still entertained the delusion that Palestinians could be converted to Judaism late into the 1950s. This is also quite a challenge to the narrative of “secular” Israel.

All this goes some way to explain why the community’s struggle in this first phase was not for national or cultural rights as Palestinians, but simply to stay in their homes and to win citizenship.

The struggle for citizenship

In its propaganda, Israel likes to boast that it benevolently gave its “Arab Israelis” citizenship. But something that comes across strongly in this book is the extent to which this is not true: many had to struggle for even this basic right.

In 1953, the new Israeli citizenship law cynically declared that only those registered in the November 1948 census would be automatically given citizenship. Partly because Israel did not yet have full military control, “out of 160,000 Palestinians, 100,000 were not registered by November 1948.”

This was a racist law, because it did not apply to Jews (from anywhere in the world) who are still automatically granted citizenship under the “Law of Return.” The upshot of this was that a majority of the “Arab Israelis” were not benevolently “granted” citizenship as Israel likes to claim, but in fact had to struggle for it, often in the courts (35-7).

The military regime in the 1948 areas

Another key challenge to the Israeli narrative of democracy is that, until 1966 it kept its Arab citizens under a military rule similar to that now in effect in the West Bank. This is still a traumatic memory for people in the community until this day.

Making use of British Mandate laws, “the [military] governor had the right to arrest people without a warrant and detain them without trial for long periods; he could ban their entrance to a place or expel them from their homes; he could also confine them under house arrest. He could close schools, businesses, newspapers and journals, and prohibit demonstrations or protests” (49).

Amazingly, many of these laws are still on the books, and the army still has the power to declare parts of the country “closed military zones.” Since 1996 a legal change has required an annual renewal of the laws (264).

In the 1950s, a special committee met to coordinate military rule. At its first meeting, the Palestinian citizens were defined as a “hostile community” that needed to be closely watched, a “fifth column.” Members of the committee included agents of the Shin Bet (Shabak), the Israeli General Security Service; the prime minister’s advisor on Arab affairs; officials from the military rule unit and, interestingly, representatives from the Histadrut — Israel’s general trade union (which until 1953 banned Arabs from membership (69). This committee met until the end of military rule in 1966 (48-9).

The Palestinian citizens of Israel today

The book spans the complete historical narrative of the Palestinians of 1948, bringing things right into the present day. Pappe concludes that, although the 1950s threat to expel the remaining Palestinians from Israel was later backed away from, this thinking has returned. The head of the regional council of lower Galilee, Motti Dotan (from the “left-wing” Zionist Labor party) in 2008 said, “If we lose the Jewish majority in the Galilee this is the end of the Jewish state … I would like to imagine a Galilee without Arabs: no thefts, no crimes … we will have a normal life” (257).

If the book has a weakness, it is something about which I have criticized Pappe’s work previously: sometimes there is lack of direct quotes. One is left to trust in the historian’s judgment. This does make for a more readable, flowing narrative, but I would have liked more specifics at times. For example, he says that the Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua “famously invited [Palestinian novelist Anton] Shammas to leave the country if he was unhappy with the Zionist regime and the success of Jews in dispossessing the Palestinians” (190). I would have liked to have read the exact words of Yehoshua here.

Apart from this and a few other very minor quibbles, I have no hesitation in recommending this book. It’s a great read, especially for those new to the topic. Those more familiar with the situation will still learn new things, and gain some important perspectives on the situation and history of this neglected, but key part of the Palestinian people.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who writes about Palestine. He edited the new book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation and regularly contributes to The Electronic Intifada, where he also has a blog. His general website is www.winstanleys.org.

Boycott Israel campaign grows among UK unions, despite Zionist backlash

[Electronic Intifada feature] So many UK trade unions have now passed motions in support of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that even the often conservative Trades Union Congress has been compelled to change policy.

Exclusive to The Electronic Intifada, 30 Nov.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | London | 30 November 2011

Over the last few years, UK trade unions have expressed solidarity with Palestine more and more explicitly. Union after union has overturned a previous orthodoxy of balance between “two sides” when it comes to policy on Israel and the Palestinians. So many unions have now passed motions in support of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that even the often conservative Trades Union Congress (TUC) has been compelled to change policy.

In 2009, TUC policy on Palestine was — for the first time — brought closer to the policy of member unions. A motion calling for a targeted boycott of Israeli settlement goods was passed at the September congress. It instructed the TUC to “develop an effective Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign by working closely with the PSC [Palestine Solidarity Campaign] to … encourage trade unionists to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in the illegal settlements.”

Each year since has brought progress on BDS, according to trade union official and Palestine solidarity activist Hugh Lanning. “Big players who’ve not had positions before, say like Unite, the largest union — but also little ones — are discussing the issue for the first time,” he said.

Lanning is deputy general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), and also chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He has a relaxed air about him, but constructs persuasive arguments. It’s clear to see why he has been able to win so many union activists over to the BDS movement.

The 2010 TUC motion on Palestine moved the focus to “companies who profit from illegal settlements, the occupation and the construction of the wall” Israel is building in the West Bank, rather than just companies based in the settlements.

In September of this year, the TUC annual meeting passed a motion reaffirming previous boycott policy, with an amendment calling for unions to “review their bilateral relations with all Israeli organizations, including Histradrut,” the Israeli trade union federation. This latter point marks this year’s slow, but steady BDS progress in UK unions.

But it’s not the first time Histadrut has come in for criticism from UK unions for its involvement with Israeli war crimes. The 2010 motion stated that TUC “condemns the Histadrut statement of 31 May which sought to justify” the deadly Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, while that Turkish ship was attempting to break the blockade of Gaza.

PSC’s director Sarah Colborne said the 2008-09 Histadrut support for the Israeli attack on Gaza was another turning point: “You don’t expect that from any trade union — to be supporting a war of aggression. So I think that was quite a shock for people.”

But after several years of bitter battles, the pro-Israel wing of the unions has dwindled to such a degree that it seems to have given up the battle against BDS. At congress, no one even spoke against the 2011 TUC motion, said Lanning.

Israel lobby’s backroom tactics

But this does not mean the Israel lobby has given up. Backroom tactics, appeals to union official to “see sense” and smearing activists as anti-Semitic seem to be the order of the day.

This year, the Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote to Brendan Barber, the TUC general-secretary, calling for him to revoke the leadership’s support for the motion. “This is a moment for principled leadership to prevail,” the Board wrote in conjunction with the Jewish Leadership Council (another pro-Israel group) (Press release, “Board and JLC write to TUC General Secretary,” 13 September 2011).

In June, there was a landmark defeat for the pro-Israel camp. At their conference, the leadership of the Community union (an recent amalgamation of remaining steelworker and knitwear unions) attempted to pass a motion pushing back against the BDS movement.

The text was a throwback to the era of “balanced” TUC policy on Palestine, including the line “there must be full engagement with both sides.” Eric Lee of the anti-boycott Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine (TULIP) admitted afterwards there was “no point in trying diminish the size of this defeat … we have a lot of work to do” (“What happened at the Community union conference,” TULIP, 8 June 2011).

Community’s chairman Michael Leahy co-founded TULIP in 2009. Lanning describes it as a “global trade union friends of Israel.” In an email to The Electronic Intifada, Lee responded that this characterization was inaccurate: “We are what we say we are … That having been said, I think we would consider TUFI [Trade Unions Friends of Israel] to be an ally, as we would similar groups in other countries,” he wrote.

In its founding statement, TULIP lists its first goal as to unite groups “fighting within the labor movement against the boycott of Israel.”

Asked to comment on the successes of BDS in the unions, TULIP’s Lee said: “I agree with Hugh Lanning that the BDS campaigners have scored some impressive victories … This doesn’t mean that the average British trade unionist [is] more, or less, committed to BDS now than he or she was last year. It means that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has done an excellent job of mobilizing and lobbying British union conferences, including the TUC’s.”

The Electronic Intifada then asked Lee if TULIP has received or solicited funding from any of the following: the Israeli government or any of its embassies; pro-Israel lobby groups in the West; Israeli think tanks such as theReut Institute; or the Histadrut.

Lee responded: “TULIP receives — at the moment — no funding from anyone and is run on a volunteer budget. There are no links between TULIP and any of the groups you mention, though of course we were delighted that Histadrut leader Ofer Eini spoke positively about TULIP, as we have reported on the website. TULIP — like many other organizations — was interviewed by Reut as part of their research projects; I think they cite us but I’m not sure.”

Lanning was invited to debate Lee at the June Community conference. He said that the pro-Israel camp had set him up to be the fall guy at whom members were supposed to be disgusted and therefore vote against. Instead, some seemed open to BDS. During the debate, one delegate, Simon Brears, attacked the leadership for aligning the union to Israel.

“Since 2009, Community has been part of TULIP without a mandate from members.” Brears said. “This motion is a retrospective mandate for TULIP, which acts as an apologist for war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the Israeli government … [rejection of TUC policy would] isolate the union and send a message to the movement that Community is a nasty, right-wing union” (“Keep boycotting Israel say delegates,” Morning Star, 7 June 2011).

The motion was defeated. “I think they were overconfident,” said Lanning, who added that the leadership was expecting the motion to be approved.

But this failed anti-BDS strategy in the unions has been only one strand of the campaign by Israel’s advocates. This year, there has been a detectable return to an old strategy by Israel’s supporters: accusing critics of Israel of anti-Semitism.

Smear campaign revived

The main thrust of the Board of Deputies’ letter to Brendan Barber was to accuse the PSC of anti-Semitism. Lanning said these attacks are just an example of the pro-Israel camp “believing their own mythology” and emphasized that the vast majority of support for Palestine comes from people who simply don’t like the crimes of Israel. People demonstrating against Israel’s attacks on Gaza, for example, took to the streets because they didn’t like what they saw on TV, not because of supposedly latent anti-Semitism.

Lanning told The Electronic Intifada that these attacks will only make the movement stronger, because they are purely negative and often backfire. He also acknowledged that “there are people who attach themselves around Palestine who are driven by the wrong thing” but that it was PSC’s job to make it clear they are not part of the solidarity movement, which is based on solid anti-racist principles.

Colborne is all too aware of the negative strategy. She described it as the anti-BDS camp’s “delegitimization strategy … they are trying to distance people from PSC.” She pointed out that an influential Israeli think tank, the Reut Institute, dedicated five pages to the PSC in a key 2010 report on Palestine solidarity campaigning in London (“Building a Political Firewall Against the Assault on Israel’s Legitimacy,” Reut Institute, November 2010).

“You can almost see the cogs being put into place from the Reut Institute report,” said Colborne.

That report branded London “the ‘hub of hubs’ of the delegitimization network.” It also argued that a successful anti-BDS strategy should challenge BDS campaigners “by forcing them to ‘play defense’ … The goal is to eventually frame them, depending on their agendas, as anti-peace, anti-Semitic, dishonest purveyors of double standards.”

BDS goes mainstream

Since BDS is “becoming a mainstream issue,” said Colborne, the pro-Israel lobby wants to drag Palestine solidarity campaigners into an “Alice in Wonderland world” so that they focus on reacting to attacks, rather than pushing forward the BDS agenda.

“We’ve issued very clear statements opposing anti-Semitism,” Colborne stressed, but despite that, the PSC continues to be attacked constantly. Unions have mass appeal, which is why the Israel lobby is worried at the inroads BDS is making, added Lanning. Reut seems to agree: “With millions of members and a national presence, trade unions can potentially … turn BDS into a potent economic weapon against Israel” stated its report.

But despite such attacks, Colborne said that there is still a great deal of interest amongst trade unionists on Palestine. “Palestine has become this iconic struggle internationally,” she explained. This is not an achievement to be sniffed at, especially in a year that union activists are focused on more bread-and-butter issues of pay, conditions, pensions and the general climate of austerity coming from the UK government.

Despite these successes, Lanning said that although union policy on BDS is now strong, “what we haven’t yet done is translate that into activism at the local level” on a mass scale. Unions are “sort of oil tankers” that take a long time to change, he argued.

Lanning said the next stage of the BDS movement’s advance in the unions will be on the level of global union federations, which have been the “traditional stronghold” for the pro-Israel camp, with the Histadrut being present. In 2016, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) meets again, and Lanning is hoping for a better debate by then.

South African union federation COSATU raised BDS with the ITUC last year, but it was rebuffed. TULIP’s Lee said that “the Histadrut’s leader was elected a vice president” of the ITUC during its most recent congress. Winning the debate is a long term goal that could take five to ten years, said Lanning. But he considered it a good sign that Israel’s only support in the unions now is largely based in the “Anglo-world” — mainly the US and Australia.

Both Lanning and Colborne are hoping for advances on the level of activism, building on the strong policy victories. They are pushing for individual unions to start organizing members to address links their companies have with Israeli firms. For example, the Communication Workers Union has spoken out against British telecommunications firm BT’s links with Israel’s Bezeq over its services to illegal settlements in the West Bank.

To build towards such activism, Colborne said the PSC has started to organize trade union delegations to Palestine, with the next such trip likely to take place during Easter next year. The PSC had also been planning to hold a conference of union activists last month to discuss BDS tactics. But after a 30 November joint day of action on saving workers’ pensions was agreed, the conference had to be postponed so that activists’ efforts were not split. Lanning is hoping it will push ahead early next year.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He edited the book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

Palestine is Still the Issue | The Question of Palestine: liberation or independence?

[Ceasefire column] Asa Winstanley asks some fundamental questions about the very nature of the Palestinian idea.

My monthly column for Ceasefire Magazine, 26 November.

By

I was interested this week to read on The Electronic Intifada two articles about the recent Palestinian “Freedom Ride”. This was the recent attempt by six activists to ride segregated Israeli buses all the way to Jerusalem.

Due to the system of Israeli apartheid in effect in the West Bank, they were dragged off the buses by the Israeli occupation forces at a checkpoint. But the appeal to drawing a parallel with the US civil rights struggle of the 1960s seemed to generate a large amount of media coverage (a fact that sent the Zionist fanatics at “Honest Reporting” into a rage, much to my amusement).

The first opinion piece was by Nour Joudah, a Palestinian-American who grew up in Tennessee, praising the action and explaining its resonance for her – “my histories and my homes merged in a new way.” The second was by Palestinian blogger and recent graduate Linah Alsaafin (who is also a fellow-blogger of mine at Electronic Intifada). While commending the Freedom Riders for their courage, Alsaafin asked some tough strategic and tactical questions. At the core of her critique is the idea that: “our struggle is not a civil rights one. It is a struggle against a foreign occupation… [and] for the liberation of an indigenous population under a devastating settler-colonial rule.”

This key point actually goes to the heart of the current cul-de-sac that the divided Palestinian political leadership finds itself in. Fatah, ruling the West Bank, has put armed resistance aside in favour of fruitless “negotiations” with Israel that have now dragged on intermittently for 20 years. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas too now enforces a ceasefire with Israel – to the point of arresting rival groups of fighters who have challenged Hamas’s interpretation of the ceasefire by launching home-made rockets into Israel.

On Thursday, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas met Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal in Cairo for talks on a unified leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Meshaal told AFP that Hamas would now start to focus on peaceful popular resistance, while reserving the right to armed resistance. “We believe in armed resistance but popular resistance is a programme which is common to all the factions,” he said.

Time will tell whether or not this is as much empty rhetoric as Abbas and unelected Prime Minister Salim Fayyad when they make similar noises about popular resistance. Nevertheless, the fact that Mehshaal even seems to think such statements will increase his popularity is important. It is indicative of a rising tide of popular Palestinian resistance.

Aside from the false Fatah-Hamas dichotomy, the wider Palestinian liberation movement is facing existential questions about its nature.

While it’s true that, as an anti-colonial struggle, the situation is not the same as the US civil rights struggle, I humbly submit that there is a civil rights aspect to it. Alsaafin notes correctly that “the indigenous population of Palestine is occupied by a colonial settler population”. She says this is a crucial difference – Native American activists might justifiably disagree this factor is so different from the USA.

Nevertheless, real structural differences remain, and cannot be brushed aside. Furthermore, Alsaafin’s critique of appeals to the sensibilities of western liberals is an insightful one. Some Palestinians in the first intifada raised the slogan of American revolutionary colonists who split from Britain: “no taxation without representation”. But this appeal was mostly unsuccessful in generating new allies in the US.

This is not to argue against Palestinians making grassroots connections in the West (after all, many Palestinians in exile actually live in the West). But it does mean that only hypocrites or racists would insist that the Palestinians rely on begging for outside help to save them. The task for those in the West who would express solidarity with the Palestinian struggle is to follow the Palestinian lead.

While it’s true this is made more difficult by a lack of unified leadership, it is no less of an important principle. Furthermore, the lack of a single political leadership actually has an advantage: resistance to political co-optation.

The question that Alsaafin raises is both a new and an old one. In his insightful memoir “My Life in the PLO” the late Shafiq al-Hout wrote that the first intifada was the culmination of a long process that had changed the Palestinian national movement “from a national liberation movement to a national independence movement” (p. 234).

With the long-dead Oslo process still being periodically disinterred from its ever deeper grave, Palestinians are now more and more questioning the relevance of “national independence” in ever-shrinking parcels of land in the West Bank – to say nothing of the Gaza Strip ghetto.

The logic of new trends such as the energetic boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – while being agnostic on the exact contours of a political solution – tilts the balance back towards national liberation once again. The emphasis is on three key principles: the end of occupation, the return of the refugees and full equal rights. Whatever the political solution, and whatever a joint Palestinian programme would look like, these three points are immutable.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” has been published by Pluto Press. His Palestine is Still the Issue column appears monthly. His website is www.winstanleys.org.


Free speech and Palestinian cause a test for UK courts

[The National, opinion] Last month, a British immigration court decided that Sheikh Raed Salah, a popular Palestinian leader, could be deported. Sheikh Salah has lodged an appeal in a higher court, hoping to block his removal. But he is no asylum seeker, and has no desire to live in Britain. Sheikh Salah is appealing in order to clear his name of anti-Semitism slurs. He also says deportation would be used by the Israeli authorities to continue a campaign of politically motivated arrests.

Published in The National.

Last month, a British immigration court decided that Sheikh Raed Salah, a popular Palestinian leader, could be deported. Sheikh Salah has lodged an appeal in a higher court, hoping to block his removal.

But he is no asylum seeker, and has no desire to live in Britain. Sheikh Salah is appealing in order to clear his name of anti-Semitism slurs. He also says deportation would be used by the Israeli authorities to continue a campaign of politically motivated arrests.

Described by supporters as “The Gandhi of Palestine”, Raed Salah is leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel. His group is one of the most popular political forces among Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinians. He is renowned in the Arab and Muslim worlds for a popular campaign in defence of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque against Israeli encroachment.

He was visiting the UK for a speaking tour, and entered legally using his Israeli passport on June 25. He spoke at public events in London and Leicester, as well as a roundtable in Parliament organised by the Liberal Democrat peer  Jenny Tonge.

But three days after his arrival, Sheikh Salah was abruptly arrested by officers from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for “immigration offences”. This stopped him attending a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting titled “Building Peace and Justice in Jerusalem” at Parliament’s Grand Committee room. He had been due to speak there on June 29.

How is it that an Israeli passport holder legally entering the UK – invited to speak to British lawmakers – can be arrested for immigration offences?

 

It turned out that Home Secretary Theresa May had on June  23 secretly banned the sheikh from the country. But the Home Office failed to inform either him or his people. In the 24 hours before his arrest, the notoriously raucous press got wind of the story and started putting out lurid stories of a “banned extremist” who had “waltzed” through Heathrow Airport border controls.

Sheikh Salah was detained for almost three weeks, released on conditional bail only after an appeal to the High Court. In September, a judicial review found his arrest and part of his imprisonment to have been unlawful (he had not actually committed immigration offences, as government lawyers were forced to admit).

But the case didn’t end there. Now the government is seeking to deport Sheikh Salah from the country “at the earliest opportunity”. What were they actually accusing him of?

The government has banned Sheikh Salah because his presence is deemed “unconducive to the public good” due to alleged “unacceptable behaviour”. This a part of the controversial “prevent” anti-terrorism strategy, brought in under a Labour government, but expanded by the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

This elastic term “unacceptable behaviour” is a reference to allegations of anti-Semitism circulated by right-wing and pro-Israel bloggers before the Sheikh’s arrival.

 

But these allegations were based on deeply flawed evidence at best, and outright fraud at worst.

In the exclusion order, the central justification for the ban is the accusation that he wrote a poem beginning with the line: “You Jews are criminal bombers of Mosques”.

But in fact, this line first appeared in a 2009 Jerusalem Post editorial which both the exclusion and deportation orders pointed to as their source. The Post cited an Islamic Movement periodical as the source of its quote, but a look at the original reveals that portions were altered and misrepresented.

An Arabic poem Sheikh Salah did write several years ago, called A message to the oppressors, was also grossly distorted and recast as a racist attack on Jews – when in fact it was no such thing.

The editors of the Jerusalem Post are not exactly known for their sympathy towards Palestinian political activism, so you’d think the Home Office would have checked the quote. But the UKBA case worker responsible admitted under cross- examination that the agency had not been aware of the original text.

After being presented with the evidence, the judges who made the First Tier Tribunal ruling in favour of deportation conceded that the original poem was not racist. They said they “must accept” expert evidence the poem was “not directed at the Jewish people as a whole but only at those among them who aim at Israeli territorial expansion and control at the expense of the Palestinians”.

The tribunal’s decision to allow the deportation is both deeply flawed and politically motivated.

Anticipating criticism, the judges defensively wrote: “It is not our task to rubber stamp” government decisions. Nevertheless, they write, it was “not our responsibility to find that the Secretary of State has proved each item of evidence upon which she relies”.

It seems that when it comes to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, the British government considers them guilty until proven innocent. Or in this case, guilty when proven innocent.

The UKBA has insisted the case was purely about “protecting the public”. But the judges expressed “concern that apparently the Secretary of State did not consult with any Muslim or Palestinian organisations”. They did not consult Jewish groups critical of Israel either.

Should this ruling be upheld in higher courts it would set a deeply worrying precedent for the British justice system. It means visitors accused by politicians of “unacceptable behaviour” can be expelled from the country, even when accusations against them are proven wrong in a court of law.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist based in London. He edited the newly-released book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation

Exclusive: Leaked emails show Israel role in UK plot to ban Raed Salah

[Electronic Intifada] A UK immigration court ruled yesterday that popular Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah could be deported from the country, after being banned by Home Secretary Theresa May in June. The Electronic Intifada can now also exclusively reveal new details of an Israeli government role in the UK plot to exclude Salah.

My report, exclusive to the Electronic Intifada.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | London | 27 October 2011A UK immigration court ruled yesterday that popular Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah could be deported from the country, after being banned by Home Secretary Theresa May in June.

The Electronic Intifada can now also exclusively reveal new details of an Israeli government role in the UK plot to exclude Salah.

Following yesterday’s decision, Salah could now take his appeal to a higher court, and meanwhile will remain in the UK on bail. Salah’s lawyer told The Electronic Intifada yesterday that his legal team were considering the judgment very carefully and could not comment further for the time being.

The judgment that Salah could be deported for “unacceptable behavior” comes as The Electronic Intifada reveals new details of the Israeli role in Salah’s June-July detention by the UK government. Government emails obtained by The Electronic Intifada contain evidence that the Israeli embassy in London gave information to the British government later used in an attempt to deport him from the country.

“Victim of unfairness and procedural irregularity”

In their ruling the First Tier Tribunal judges accepted that Salah “has behaved lawfully throughout this matter, and that he has been the victim of unfairness and procedural irregularity … [and] was detained unlawfully for a period of time.”

The judges wrote that their decision was a “balancing exercise” between the public interest and the interests of Salah. The ruling addresses each of five main points the government used to ban Salah, reiterating the case on each side, but for the most part it does not rule on the central facts, agreeing with the government’s argument that the five points did not need to be proven.

But on one of the five points, the judges wrote that a poem by Salah “is not directed to the Jewish people as a whole but only at those among them who aim at Israeli territorial expansion and control at the expense of the Palestinians.”

The Electronic Intifada previously published private documents proving that this accusation of anti-Semitism was fabricated, as it rested on what seemed to be a malicious mistranslation of Salah’s original words. But the judges have neglected the point that it was not just a mistaken quote, but a deliberate Israeli attempt to smear Salah. They state that video evidence shown in court proved that Salah was “the victim of serious [Israeli] police harassment” but that this was “not a matter which is relevant to the central issues in this appeal.”

Opaque criteria for “unacceptable behavior”

The judges concluded that Salah’s words came within the government’s anti-terrorist “Prevent” policy, because he “engaged in the unacceptable behavior of fostering hatred.”

They did not specify on this point, saying they had reached the decision from the evidence “viewed in the round.” They elaborated: “it is not necessary to satisfy the criteria of unacceptable behavior for words and actions to be racist as such … This might be achieved by words and actions which are not necessarily racist.” They also explain that the list of “unacceptable behavior” specified by the government (including racism) was indicative and not exhaustive.

In a striking turn of phrase, the judges wrote that “although it is not our task to rubber stamp a decision by the Secretary of State [Theresa May]” it was nevertheless her decision to make rather than the court’s.

From the beginning, Salah claimed Israel had a hand in the exclusion, arrest, unlawful detention and attempt to deport him from the UK. “Israel carries the full responsibility for his detention in the United Kingdom,” a press release said at the time.

Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), at the time said to the press: “The primary cause for the arrest is Israeli pressure and the pressure of Zionist elements inside Britain” (“Raed Salah arrested after UKappearance,” Ynet, 29 June 2011).

Concerns that Israel using UK case against Salah

Salah refused to consent to voluntary deportation — the UK Border Agency (UKBA) tried to persuade him to drop his in-country appeal. Salah was concerned that, once he returns home, the Israeli authorities would use a successful deportation from Britain in their long-standing campaign against him.

In June, right-wing Israeli parliamentarian Alex Miller used Salah’s arrest to build support for his so-called Raed Salah bill, according to daily Israel Hayom. “If the British government refuses entry for this individual because of his extreme views and the fear that he might use public and academic venues to incite violence and racism, there is no reason why Israel should allow him and his kind to enjoy such activities either,” he is reported to have said (“MK Ben-Ari urges Britain not to release Sheikh Salah,” 20 June). Miller is a member of the extreme right-wingYisrael Beiteinu party, and lives on an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Relying on dubious Israeli sources, elements of the British press accused Salah of anti-Semitism — an allegation now ruled false by the court which also formed the basis of the exclusion order. Three days after legally entering the UK on 25 June for a well-publicized speaking tour, Salah was abruptly arrested in his hotel room. This prevented him from attending a public meeting in Parliament the next day, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

At the police station, UKBA officials served an exclusion order on Salah dated 23 June. The letter cited a 2009 Jerusalem Post editorial which attributed a fabricated anti-Semitic comment to Salah. The editorial said Salah wrote a poem including the comment “You Jews are criminal bombers of mosques” but the original Arabic text of the poem was in fact addressed at the Israeli occupation forces. The words “You Jews” were not in the poem and The Jerusalem Post appears to have added them.

In a July High Court hearing for bail, significant doubt was cast on this and other statements attributed to Salah in the Israeli and British press. The judge, Justice Nicholas Stadlen then freed Salah on restrictive bail. Conditions included a ban on public speaking. In September, the High Court ruled in a separate judicial review that the first few days of detention had been unlawful, and Salah was entitled to compensation.

Details of the plot against Salah emerged as the case went on. The Electronic Intifada uncovered evidence that the government had acted in collusion with pro-Israel lobbying groups in the UK.

But today, The Electronic Intifada can reveal new details of an Israeli government role in the plot.

Israeli government’s role

In a 22 June UKBA advice document used by Home Secretary Theresa May to justify her ban of Salah, case worker Jonathan Rosenorn-Lanng stated that although “this case is very finely balanced,” Salah’s alleged views had the potential to foster “inter-community violence” in the UK. Rosenorn-Lanng also said the British Embassy in Tel Aviv had been consulted: “The FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] in Israel has also confirmed that SALAH is considered to be an extremist.” Presumably, this view was based on Israeli press reports, or on consultation with Israeli officials.

Only one day before Salah flew to London’s Heathrow Airport on 25 June, a UKBAofficial emailed Alan Stewart, an official with the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, telling him about the ban and detailing British-Israeli efforts to collaborate on the case.

UKBA official Rebecca Hadlow attached a copy of the exclusion, along with a border warning from the Risk and Liaison Overseas Network (RALON), part of the UKBA’s International Group. Hadlow said the RALON notice had been issued to airlines flying direct from Tel Aviv to the UK: “If they identify him, they will not carry him.”

The alert was disseminated to the Israeli state airline El Al in Tel Aviv. But it turned out that Salah traveled on a British Airways flight.

Even then, on 24 June, the British government had still not been able to serve the exclusion order on Salah: “we did not until this morning have an address for him (I am grateful for the assistance of the Israeli Embassy in London for this).” Hadlow then gave Salah’s address and asked Stewart to arrange for the exclusion order to be couriered to him, while acknowledging that “he may not receive it before he travels.”

The same email was copied to Philip Boyle, an official at the British Embassy in Amman, who replied to Hadlow that he had “passed details of the exclusion notice to a contact in the Israeli Immigration Intelligence [sic – there is no known organization by that name] and asked to be notified if they encounter the subject leaving for the UK on an indirect route.”

The text of the RALON border warning makes it clear Salah did not know he was banned — “He has not yet been notified of his exclusion.” The UKBA knew his passport number, therefore it is logical to assume they got this information from the Israeli government, perhaps via the Israeli embassy in London. Yet somehow, the UKBA got his full name wrong, mixing up two of his names.

On 5 July, Claire Lawrence, Head of the “Middle East Peace Process/Palestine/Israel” desk at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, wrote to Rosenorn-Lanng, saying: “Our Embassy in Tel Aviv have just let us know that a very high level delegation intend to call on our Ambassador early tomorrow, to discuss the Salah case amongst other issues.” Who exactly was part of this delegation was not revealed, although it seems a likely reference to Israeli government ministers or security officials.

Salah and his legal team are due to meet and will decide whether or not to pursue his appeal against deportation further. It remains to be seen if any higher court would act as anything other than a “rubber stamp” of the political decision to expel Salah from the UK, apparently with the cooperation of Israel.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He edited the newly-released book Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

Palestine is Still the Issue: Pro-Palestinian activist…or police spy?

[Ceasefire column] “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not after you”. Asa Winstanley reflects on recent revelations about police spies within the activist movement. Pro-Palestinian groups, he warns, should take note.

My monthly column for Ceasefire Magazine, 22 October.

In Thursday’s Guardian (20th Oct) there was an important feature article describing a “mounting crisis” in the Metropolitan Police’s spying outfit targeting activist groups. This comes on the heels of a series of dramatic journalistic revelations this year that have unmasked several police officers who had infiltrated environmental, anti-fascist and anarchist activist groups.

The revelations began late last year when former friends of activist “Mark Stone” became suspicious of his conduct, eventually confronting him. He was, it turns out, Mark Kennedy, an undercover police officer sent to disrupt non-violent activist groups. His former friends published their findings on Indymedia and, not long after, the mainstream media got wind of the story and, in an attempt to catch up, started to do more digging.

The Guardian‘s article sums up the current state of what has been uncovered thus far. Again, several secret police agents who had posed as activists were named: as well as Kennedy, there was Jim Boyling, who operated undercover within Reclaim the Streets, as well as “Mark Jacobs”, “Lynn Watson”, “Pete Black” (all three are fake identities) and Simon Wellings.

These people went to extraordinary lengths to subvert perfectly legal protest groups. Kennedy even had a long-term activist girlfriend while Boyling married a fellow campaigner. Some have stated that Kennedy, far from being a mere passive observer, had in fact acted as an agent provocateur, trying to goad activists into more assertive direct action in order to entrap them into offences they could be prosecuted for.

It seems Kennedy’s sham came to light after suspicions were raised when a trial of activists had, somewhat unexpectedly, collapsed – police presumably did not want to reveal how they knew so much about the protests in question. The latest revelations in the Guardian is that Boyling allegedly committed perjury in court by giving false testimony under oath.

But the name that most caught my eye in recent police spy revelations was Robert Lambert. For the past few years, Lambert has been an academic, with particular expertise in Islamophobia, at the University of Exeter. He had previously been head of the Muslim Contact Unit, an anti-terrorist unit set up to “build relations” with the Muslim community after 9/11.

However, last weekend, the Guardian named him as a spy who’d infiltrated Greenpeace in the 1980s, later becoming head of the unit which worked on such infiltrations.

This caught my attention, because of Lambert’s connection to the case of Sheikh Raed Salah, the Palestinian leader who the UK is currently attempting to deport. On Electronic IntifadaI have been closely covering Salah’s case, exposing the bizarre way the UK government has been acting towards him.

In Salah’s appeal against deportation, his lawyers called Lambert as an expert witness. Lambert duly testified to the unreliability of the Community Security Trust (CST) when it comes to Muslim criticism of Israel. The CST seems to have provided the vast majority (if not all) of the material used by Theresa May to secretly ban, and then order, the deportation of Salah. The CST’s secret reports to the government on Salah are often based on dubious sources – including highly hostile Israeli sources.

Lambert’s supporters point to the fact he had never made a secret of having been part of Special Branch before his retirement and subsequent move into academia. This is of course true, but for many it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions, the first of which is this: who are the active spies today?

Indeed, although we now know a lot about police subversion and infiltration of the protest/activist movement, virtually nothing has emerged so far on whether UK pro-Palestinian groups had, or have, been similarly infiltrated. In theory, it seems a likely possibility. For example, London is regarded by influential Israeli thinktank the Reut Institute as a global “hub of delegitimisation”.

From talking to activists in Palestine solidarity groups, many have for years suspected the presence of spies within the movement, presumably working in a similar way to Kennedy and the rest: mostly engaging in low level disruption and intelligence gathering. The Guardian says the spies named above were involved in infiltrating Stop the War (although so far they’ve not gone into much detail on that aspect). Considering STW’s considerable involvement in the Palestinian cause over the years, I would certainly like to know more, notably whether similar infiltrators are currently moving in pro-Palestinian circles right now.

Having said that, it’s clearly important for campaigners and activists to bear in mind that paranoia (however justified it may prove to be in some cases) can be paralysing, and getting too obsessive about “alleged” spies cannot be healthy. Of course, should proof of cases similar to Kennedy’s come to light, it would be yet another telling indictment of the state and its often immoral methods.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” has been published by Pluto Press. His Palestine is Still the Issue column appears monthly. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

 

I talk to al-Hiwar TV about the Raed Salah affair

Al-Hiwar’s English language programme Jussor (Bridges) had me on to speak in some detail about the political persecution of Palestinian political-religious activist and leader Raed Salah in the UK.

Revealed: UK government plotted with Israel lobby to ban Salah

[Report] The Electronic Intifada has obtained email correspondences between Israeli lobbyists and British governmental officials which prove a plot to ban Palestinian political leader Sheikh Raed Salah from the UK.

Exclusive to Electronic Intifada.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | Birmingham | 6 October 2011

As Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah’s appeal against deportation concluded in a Birmingham court this week, new details of the UK government’s deep links to the Israel lobby have emerged.

This follows a separate High Court ruling in London on 30 September, when a judicial review into the government’s June imprisonment of Salah ruled he was entitled to damages for “wrongful detention.”

While a panel of two immigration judges is expected to deliver a verdict within 10 days of the hearing, internal government emails obtained by The Electronic Intifada show Home Secretary Theresa May moved quickly to ban Salah not long after the pro-Israel group Community Security Trust (CST) sent a secret report on him. The report contained quotes ascribed to Salah with the word “Jews” inserted into his rhetorical attacks on Israeli occupation forces, in an attempt to paint him as an anti-Semite.

In court on Monday, government barrister Neil Sheldon said, “There is no question of this being a doctored quote, or a cooked-up quote,” although he conceded that the words “Jews” did not appear in the original poem written by Salah. AJerusalem Post report cited by the government against Salah “may well have got it wrong,” Sheldon stated (“Civil Liberties,” 20 June 2009).

But Sheldon seemed to argue that this fact did not matter because that is how the poem was reported in a “respectable media outlet in Israel.”

This and other similar misquotes were then used by May as a principle source for her banning order against Salah. Salah entered the UK legally on 23 June. Neither he nor his organizers were aware of the ban, because the government had not managed to serve it on him in time.

Conservative Party funder on board of group that pushed for Salah to be banned

The Electronic Intifada can reveal that Poju Zabludowicz, a billionaire real estate magnate who bankrolls the ruling Conservative Party (to which May belongs), is named as a CST board member in a report by an expert witnesses called by Salah’s lawyers. The emails obtained by The Electronic Intifada appear to show that CST played a key role in the banning of Salah.

As well as personally funding UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, Zabludowicz’s family used to own Israeli arms company Soltam (now part of Elbit). And he has owned a minority holding in British Israel, a company with several malls — including one in the illegal West Bank settlement Maaleh Adumim.

David Miller, a sociology professor from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, was called by Salah’s lawyers to testify as an expert witness in the case. His report on the CST was entered into evidence. It includes a list names of the CST advisory board from June 2010. In court, he said the list was available in the public domain, and later showed The Electronic Intifada where it could be viewed publicly.

A spokesperson for the CST refused to comment when asked by The Electronic Intifada if Zabludowicz or several other members of the list were still board members. Sheldon said Miller’s conclusions that the CST is not a reliable source on the matter belied the list, which includes several members of parliament, lords and former and current senior police officers.

Pro-Israel group CST pushed privately for Salah to be banned

In a 17 June email to the deputy director of the Special Cases Directorate (SCD) of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), Michael Whine, a CST director, said he was writing following the request of an official from another government department. Whine attached a CST report on Salah “who plans a speaking tour of the UK from the end of next week.”

The report claimed that Salah’s “record of provocative acts and statements carry a risk that his presence in the UK could well have a radicalizing impact on his audiences.”

Only 17 minutes after this report was sent, Faye Johnson, Theresa May’s private secretary, emailed SCD Director Andrew Jackson about “a parliamentary event on 29 June” at which Salah was due to speak. Johnson then asked if there was “anything that we can do to prevent him from attending (e.g. could we exclude him on the grounds of unacceptable behavior?).” It is not clear where May had first heard about Salah.

A few hours later, Jonathan Rosenorn-Lanng at the SCD sent an email askingUKBA colleagues for more information on Salah that could be used to exclude him. But it seems this request was a token, as Rosenorn-Lanng insisted he would be “going with what I’ve got in any event” — seemingly a reference to the CSTreport on Salah.

Pro-Israel lobby group asked for court sources

The previous Monday, Rosenorn-Lanng was the only witness called by the government lawyers in their response to the appeal. Under cross-examination, he had said that, although he was “not expected to be an expert on the actual issues I’m dealing with,” the recommendations he presented to the Home Secretary on exclusions from the UK were checked by people who were experts.

In court, Sheldon also named pro-Israel lobby group the Board of Deputies of British Jews as a further source for the document put together by Rosenorn-Lanng. This document led to May personally signing the order for Salah’s exclusion from the UK.

But it’s likely this is a confusion borne of out of Michael Whine’s dual roles at both the CST and the Board of Deputies. As well as being director of “Government and International Affairs” at the CST, Whine also holds a director’s position at the Board of Deputies and has written a journal article for the CST on European governmental responsibility toward “combating anti-Semitism” (“Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Diplomatic Progress in Combating Antisemitism,” 2010 [PDF]).

Although Whine sent the report on Salah from a CST email address on 17 June, and with the CST mentioned in his signature, the deputy director of the SCDreferred to him as “Mike Whine at the Board of Deputies.”

Although CST predecessor, the Community Security Organization, used to be part of the Board of Deputies, the CST established itself as a charity independent of the Board in 1994 following certain changes in charity law. The CST was granted a special dispensation by the Charity Commission allowing it to withhold public release of the names of its trustees.

Goverment’s only source was anti-Palestinian group

Salah’s barrister Raza Husain had asked why Salah’s hosts in the country had not been consulted by the government or their advice sought on Salah. He also asked why they had not consulted a group like Jews For Justice For Palestinians, who issued a statement in favor of Salah’s right to speak in the country.

Pressed by Husain on this point over the whole three days of hearings, the government was unable to point to a single outside group whose advice it had drawn on, apart from the CST and the Board of Deputies (taken in the context of the emails, it seems both were via Whine).

Husain told the court he was not aware of any primary document in the report to Theresa May compiled by Rosenorn-Lanng that was not from the CST (apart from a “communities impact assessment” from the another government department). Sheldon’s reply was that, if that was the state of the evidence, “that’s the evidence.”

He later said it was “simply not the case” that everything from the CST was “taken at face value,” and he gave the example that a CST report referred to Salah’s presence on the Mavi Marmara as part of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Rosenorn-Lanng had said the government discounted an accusation used in a CSTsubmission that Salah might have been involved in indoctrination that led to an attack on Israeli naval commandos as a “rumor.”

But it also emerges from the emails that even May recognized that the case was “very finely balanced.” May’s private secretary Faye Johnson said as much in an email dated 23 June, 4:26pm, to SCD Deputy Director Rod McLean, thanking him for his submission. This submission is seemingly the documents assembled by Rosenorn-Lanng, who had in court described the CST as a “principal source.” But once Salah had been arrested on 28 June, some civil servants advised May against deportation because he had a ticket to leave the country on 5 July anyway, and arrest would only attract more attention to the case.

Husain’s argument was: if the case was so finely balanced even when only a report from a group biased against Salah had been received, how did the scales tip now that Salah’s side of the story had been heard in court?

Salah’s exclusion order an an affront to free speech

Sheldon’s argument was that the exclusion decision taken by May was something she is democratically accountable for, and that the Tribunal should be “very slow” to substitute its own view for hers, because it had an incomplete jurisdiction. He argued that the accusations against Salah in the document assembled by Rosenorn-Lanng were not counts of an indictment that had to be proved, and that the question for the Tribunal was, was there sufficient evidence for May to base her decision on. He characterized the evidence as disputed.

Husain took exception to that, saying the judges had to deal with the material on its own terms. He argued that the true aim of the exclusion order was to block free speech, pointing to Faye Johnson’s emailed reference to Salah’s scheduled meeting in the Houses of Parliament.

Sheldon argued that Salah’s presence in the country would have the effect of radicalizing “elements of the Muslim community.” Sheldon said Salah had been convicted in Israel of funding charities linked to Hamas and that it was a misrepresentation of a revised indictment to say this related only to charitable work.

Asked by The Electronic Intifada for a response to the accusations heard in court, Mark Gardner of the CST wrote, “It is a disgraceful slur to claim that CST’s attitudes to antisemitism are based upon the assumed religion or ethnicity of those concerned. We completely reject any insinuation that CST used ‘doctored’ quotes. You should note that there was a Guardian article which carried similar accusations to those you are making. They changed it following our legal intervention.”

This last comment seems to be a reference to a Guardian article by David Hearst, who also had access to some of the government emails, to which an amendment notice is appended (“May warned of weak case against Sheikh Raed Salah,” 26 September 2011).

Should Salah win his appeal, the government is likely to challenge the ruling. Since he is a well-known leader of peaceful popular resistance against the Israeli occupation, UK government collusion with Israeli authorities has already caused a great deal of damage to Britain’s reputation in the Arab world. A deportation would only increase such damage.

When the law has just been changed to allow Israel’s former foreign minister and war crimes suspect Tzipi Livni to freely visit Britain even while Salah remains on restrictive bail, one can accuse the UK of rank hypocrisy.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He edited the book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation,” out in October. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

 

UK government conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in Salah trial

[Court report for Electronic Intifada] Two days of testimonies in the trial of Sheikh Raed Salah reveals that the UK has named as a “principle source” in its deportation case against the Palestinian leader a pro-Israel lobby group with a history of smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semitic.

Published by Electronic Intifada.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | Birmingham | 30 September 2011

Renowned Palestinian activist and religious leader Sheikh Raed Salah was at theUK’s Sheldon immigration court in Birmingham this week. His appeal against the government’s decision in June to ban him from the country is now being heard in earnest, with testimonies from Salah and several expert witnesses on Monday and Tuesday. In a related development, the High Court in London today ruled that part of Salah’s dention in June was unlawful.

For the first time, the government named as a “principle source” in its case against Salah the Community Security Trust (CST), a registered British charity with a record of smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semitic, and the only non-government source named in court. A day-one promise to check on further sources was not fulfilled on the second day.

Leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Salah entered the UK legally on 25 June for a speaking tour that included the Houses of Parliament. While Home Secretary Theresa May later said she banned him on 23 June, the Home Office now admits it had not told anyone about the exclusion order — least of all Salah or his tour organizers.

Salah was arrested on 28 June and detained for almost three weeks until released by a High Court judge on restrictive bail conditions. The Home Office is seeking to deport him, but were initially blocked from doing so when Salah launched an appeal.

The Electronic Intifada was in Birmingham, closely following the two-day proceedings. A panel consisting of Senior Immigration Judge N.W. Renton and Immigration Judge C.J. Lloyd listened quietly as witnesses were called by the legal teams of Salah and the Home Office.

Day one: Government witness cross-examined at length

Acting for the government, barrister Neil Sheldon called a single witness: Jonathan Rosenorn-Lanng, a senior case worker with the UK Border Agency (orUKBA, a part of the Home Office). Acting for Salah, Raza Husain then spent almost the entire day Monday cross-examining Rosenorn-Lanng.

Rosenorn-Lanng was the case worker from the UKBA’s Special Cases Directorate who prepared the secret document presented to the Home Secretary used as the basis for the exclusion order against Salah. Although he repeatedly emphasized under cross-examination that he was just a case worker and “would not pretend to be an expert at all” on Israel and the Palestinians, he said evidence he presents to the Home Secretary in such cases is always checked by experts in the relevant country or by “community experts.”

Husain pressed him to reveal precisely who had first asked for Salah to be banned from the UK, and who were the sources. Rosenorn-Lanng said he didn’t know how the case first came to the attention of the Home Secretary, but he claimed “the Jewish community” had felt threatened by Salah’s presence. Husain asked who exactly he meant by “the Jewish community,” pointing to several passages from the document. Rosenorn-Lanng confirmed four specific portions were obtained either directly from the CST, or from the CST via the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government.

Husain then questioned the credibility of the CST, citing the testimony of their witness Dr. Robert Lambert, retired head of the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit. Dr. Lambert testified that the CST “often tends to be biased” when it comes to Muslim criticisms of Israel, regularly conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Rosenorn-Lanng said the UK government considers the group to be “fair and balanced.” At one point he commented that “we haven’t used every single thing the CST sent to us” and also pointed to a “small [UKBA] research team that has access to a number of websites.”

Salah’s attorney pressed Rosenorn-Lanng on places the CST (and hence also theUKBA) had misquoted, misrepresented and taken out of context Salah’s words to make it appear as if he was an anti-Semite. The UKBA document even has quotes from Salah in which the word “Jews” is inserted, it was said in court. Husain asked if the witnesses considered it misleading that in one version of a quote he had rendered the words “you Jews” outside of quote marks whereas in another version it was inside quote marks. Rosenorn-Lanng said it wasn’t misleading, characterizing it as a different presentation based on updated evidence.

Husain said the actual target of Salah’s condemnation was not Jews in general but the Israeli state, saying he was clearly not referring to notable Jewish critics of Israel such as Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe or Geoffrey Bindman (a British lawyer who put up some bail money for Salah).

Rosenorn-Lanng attempted to defend the credibility of the CST, at one point making the Freudian slip of describing it as a “eminent Israeli organization” before correcting himself that he meant to say “eminent Jewish organization.”

Salah accuses his critics of deliberately misquoting him

On Tuesday, proceedings accelerated as Salah’s team squeezed three DVDs of video evidence and all four of its witnesses in before the end of the two-day slot allocated by the court system. Dr. Stefan Sperl, an expert in Arabic poetry from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, gave an analysis of the original text of a poem by Salah called “A Message to the Oppressors” saying it was addressed to all “perpetrators of injustice,” whether Jews or not. He said aJerusalem Post article characterizing it as anti-Semitic was deliberately misleading. A version with the words “you Jews” inserted into the poem seems to have been used in the UKBA document.

Dr. Lambert, the retired head of the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit, testified in person that while the CST had a good record in the realm of public safety in terms of its role in providing security for Jewish communities, it was difficult for it to understand that legitimate political grievances with Israel and anti-Zionism were quite distinct from anti-Semitism.

David Miller, a sociology professor from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, submitted his report on the CST as part of the evidence, and provided a copy of that report to The Electronic Intifada. It gives a short history of the CST and its “controversial monitoring of pro-Palestinian activists,” summarizing that it has a “tendency to treat denunciation of Israel or Zionism as evidence of anti-Semitism.”

Although perhaps most famous for its role in recording anti-Semitic incidents, and providing security for the UK Jewish community, the CST has been accused by some in that community of having a deeply pro-Israel agenda. Tony Greenstein, an anti-Zionist activist and blogger with a strong record of criticizing anti-Semites, has written about occasions when CST security have removed or barred Jewish anti-Zionists from public meetings. Greenstein also says the CST refused to record an anti-Semitic attack left on his blog because the commenter was a Zionist (see “CST Thugs Violently Eject 2 Jewish People from Zionist ‘Environmental’ Meeting”, “Community Security Thugs Bar Jewish Opponents of Gaza War from Liberal Judaism Meeting” and “When is an anti-semitic attack not anti-semitic? When it’s a Zionist who is being anti-Jewish,” Tony Greenstein’s blog).

But the centerpiece of the second day was the testimony of Raed Salah himself. Confidently speaking through a court translator, Salah assertively challenged Sheldon’s cross-examination and the government evidence for misrepresenting his words. On several occasions, he challenged Sheldon to quote him more fully and in context, questioning why he stopped some quotationss short.

For example, the words “you Jews” had been inserted into the original text of Salah’s poem (without even square brackets), seemingly by the Israeli press (“Civil liberties, The Jerusalem Post,” 20 June 2009).

That Jerusalem Post article was cited by UK bloggers who campaigned against Salah, such as Michael Weiss, to misleadingly portray him as an anti-Semite. Rosenorn-Lanng had earlier admitted that the UKBA had not sought the original text of the poem, relying instead on Internet sources (“PSC comes to Parliament …,” The Telegraph politics blog, 29 June 2011).

But Salah was clear that the poem was addressed to all perpetrators of injustice, regardless of religion, race or group. He pointed out that his poem also addressed Arab oppressors with certain references to the Quran, and also addresses Pharaoh as an oppressor. Salah said according to a certain historical interpretation of the Biblical and Quranic stories, Pharaoh was an Arab. And that he had oppressed the followers of Moses. “God is not a racist,” Salah said.

Aside from the mangled version of his poem, the other main citation the government gave was a speech Salah gave in Jerusalem in 2007, in which he had talked about Israeli soldiers shedding the blood of Palestinians. The citation had reportedly included the line: “Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the holy bread.”

Hostile press coverage in Israel inserted the word “Jewish” in square brackets before the words “holy bread” (“Islamic Movement head charged with incitement to racism, violence,” Haaretz, 29 January 2008).

But Salah’s legal team argued that he was actually referring to the Spanish Inquisition.

When Sheldon accused Salah of invoking the classically anti-Semitic blood libel, Salah countered: “this interpretation is out of bounds, and has no origin in fact.” He then went into some detail, saying that his purpose had been to liken the Israeli occupation forces to the inquisitions in Europe that used to shed the blood of children, and which used religion to perpetuate injustice.

Another government accusation against Salah was that he had encouraged Palestinians to become “shahids” (martyrs) in defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Rosenorn-Lanng had repeatedly used the Arabic word instead of the obvious translation. Salah again patiently went into some detail to explain the meaning of the word martyr. He clearly stated that, should the Israelis ever demolish al-Aqsa Mosque, he and other Muslims would refuse to leave the mosque, even it it meant their martyrdom at the hands of the Israelis.

There was a similar government attempt to misrepresent the word “intifada,” which Sheldon classified as dangerous language. Salah explained he was referring to a civic uprising against injustice, and as proof of this pointed to his call in the relevant speech to lawyers, heads of state, scholars and political parties to join the intifada.

At the end of the second day, the hearing was adjourned until Monday, 3 October, when the two attorneys will sum up their cases. After that, a judgment is expected within ten days.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Raed Salah is still living in London on bail, and must regularly report to the authorities, wear an electronic tag, refrain from addressing the public and observe a night-time curfew. Salah could return to Palestine if he chooses, but is staying in order to clear his name, and challenge the government ban.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. He edited the book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation”, out in October. His website is www.winstanleys.org.


Pappe reassesses legacy of Palestinian dynasty

[Electronic Intifada book review] Ilan Pappe’s new political biography, The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian Dynasty, profiles the history of one of Jerusalem’s predominant Palestinian families.

Asa Winstanley | The Electronic Intifada | Thursday, September 8, 2011 – 15:51

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and dissident living in semi-voluntary exile in the UK. He is most famous for The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, a seminal work which, although based on his own research, was more original for the sweep of its historical narrative rather than any groundbreaking new findings. It was a widely influential work in that it convinced people around the world that “ethnic cleansing” is the phrase that most accurately describes what Zionist militias did to the Palestinians in the course of the 1947-48 Nakba (Catastrophe).

Pappe’s latest book The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian Dynasty, only appeared in this English translation last year; it first appeared in Hebrew in 2002.

The Rise and Fall is a political biography of the Husaynis: an aristocratic Palestinian family that dominated the Palestinian political scene in both the Ottoman and British Mandate periods. While Hajj Amin al-Husayni, the leader of the Palestinian national movement during the Mandate period, is probably the most famous, there are a host of other interesting figures here. They include Jamal al-Husayni, foreign minister in the “All-Palestine Government,” the first ever declared “state of Palestine” in October 1948 (340); Musa Kazim al-Husayni, Ottoman functionary and mayor of Jerusalem from 1918-20; and Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, the famous Palestinian guerrilla warfare leader and son of Muza Kazim.

In explaining the renown of Abd al-Qadir in Palestinian collective memory, Pappe quotes the following highly poetic account of his birth from a work in Arabic titled The Mother Palestine and her Noble Son Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini: “The sun entered the alleys of Jerusalem and lighted its streets, and in that month in 1910, in the neighborhood of the Husaynis, was heard the cry of a newborn baby. It filled the air of the holy city and blended with the ringing of church bells and the muezzins’ musical call — it was the voice of the heroic warrior Abd al-Qadir Musa al-Husayni” (145).

A primary strength of the book is Pappe’s fluency in Arabic, which allows him to make wide use of original sources, along with Palestinian and other Arab historiography — especially from the Ottoman era. The sections on the various Palestinian peasant uprisings against the Ottoman Empire (1824) and later Egyptian rule (1834) make for highly enjoyable reading (pp 60-77).

Effects of Zionism go unexplained

The pace sags somewhat during the account of the Ottoman reform period. A bigger problem here is a lack of explanation as to what Zionism meant for Palestinian peasant farmers (the fellahin) in practice during the late 19th century.

Pappe does analyze the duplicity of some of the notable Palestinians, including some Husaynis, who sold land to the Zionist movement (e.g. Rabah al-Husayni, 118). But the reader learns nothing about the all-too-common reality of such transactions. As Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi has described, the fellahin often had “long-standing traditional rights of tenure.” Yet the Zionists would often remove them by force (Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, Columbia University Press, 1997, pp 98-9).

At the end of the 19th century, such Ottoman-Zionist collaboration led to the Palestinian fellahin embarking on the earliest protests and even armed uprisings against their displacement or disenfranchisement.

Pappe’s book is a history of the Husaynis, not a history of the Palestinians as a whole, but a passing mention of this reality would have improved the chapter. This lack of context diminishes later sections of the book. For example, Pappe writes of Palestinian demonstrations and armed resistance in the Mandate period: “Wherever young urban and country men were frustrated in their search for employment and housing, political bitterness came to the fore” (218). This begs the question of why they were unemployed in the first place. If he had pointed out the simple fact that many of the fellahin (in a predominantly agricultural society) were unemployed precisely because Zionism had displaced them from the land by force, this passage would have made a lot more sense.

Reconsidering Mufti’s legacy

The pace of Pappe’s narrative picks up significantly during the British Mandate period, reflecting the fast-moving regional events of the time. The Husayni notables, always primarily interested in maintaining their class interests, tried their best to cozy up to the new British occupier and to pacify the wider population. In contrast to the common Israeli demonology of the mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, Pappe makes this key point quite well: “The calm [of 1921-29] was achieved thanks mainly to the creation of the Supreme Muslim Council” (222). The British created the Supreme Muslim Council and co-opted Hajj Amin to lead it: “With an annual budget of 50,000 to 65,000 Palestine pounds (drawn mainly from the religious properties), al-Hajj Amin was able to increase his influence throughout Palestine” (223). It seems this was done partly to undermine the more nationalist Palestine Congress — based on the nationwide Muslim-Christian associations — to which 27 delegates were first sent in January 1919 (175).

Ultimately, the British were not enthusiastic about the old notables. As the late Palestinian writer and activist Ghassan Kanafani put it in his brilliant study of the 1936-39 uprising, the formal Palestinian leadership had in the past eulogized Ottoman imperialism and praised the way it had treated them as compared with British imperialism. They had been the bulwark of the Sultan, but British imperialism removed them as chief agent, because it found a more highly organized agent in the Zionist movement.” (“The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine”, Committee for a Democratic Palestine, New York, 1972).

The Rise and Fall in general naturally shows that its original target audience was Israelis — Pappe was clearly seeking to provoke his society and make them rethink certain things. Often, figures and groups that would be familiar to an informed Israeli audience are dropped into the narrative with little or no explanation for the less familiar leader. For example, key Zionist leader (and future first president of Israel) Chaim Weizmann appears claiming to Kamil al-Husayni in 1918 that “the Zionists had no intention of taking over the country … Weizmann later wrote in his diary that Kamil had been polite but disbelieving — and for good reason” (173). Even the Balfour Declaration, under which Britain promised to set up a “Jewish national home” in Palestine, is dropped into the story without explanation.

History from below?

The Rise and Fall also suffers from a severe lack of direct quotes. The most damning evidence against Zionism often comes from their own archives, and critical Israeli historians like Pappe have been central in bringing these to light. But, for some reason, this book often lacks direct quotes, tending to prefer reported speech. For example: “[Menahem] Ussishkin was the paragon of the new Zionist leader. Unlike some of his colleagues, he openly discussed Zionism as a colonialist project and declared on more than one occasion that any indigenous resistance to the Jewish colonization of Palestine would have to be met with force, coercion and even expulsion” (172). Here, the reader would benefit from an example of what Ussishkin said in his own words.

One final point must be made. Since this book was likely being completed at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, Pappe’s aim to publish in Hebrew a more realistic historical approach to the extensive (and often hostile) literature on Hajj Amin was admirable. And his approach of looking at the wider family rather than an undue focus on the mufti alone is highly successful. However, compared to leftist Palestinian studies like Kanafani’s, I couldn’t help but think that his analysis is a little optimistic in places. He concludes the final chapter saying that at one point in history, notable families such as the Husaynis had “enable[d] social transformation in a moderate fashion” (341). For me, the wider findings in the book itself do no show that. That’s not to say Pappe is uncritical, by any means: there is a decent section on Hajj Amin’s failed attempt to work with Nazi Germany during the 1940s, when he was in exile and marginalized from the Palestinian national movement.

I do recommend this book to those interested in the topic, but as supplementary reading, alongside other more basic outlines of Palestinian history of the periods in question. Despite Pappe’s characteristic effort to orient the book as much as possible to a “history from below” approach (7), this is ultimately the history of the predominant aristocratic family in Palestinian history up until 1948: those who Kanafani refers to as the “feudal religious” leadership of the national movement.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” will be published by Pluto Press in October. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

Palestine is Still the Issue: The Zionist left in theory and practice

[Ceasefire column] In this week’s column, Asa Winstanley takes a look at Israel’s J14 tent movement and argues that attempts to separate Zionism into a “left wing” and a “right wing” are largely an illusion.

My regular column for Ceasefire Magazine, 3rd September.

By Asa Winstanley

Since its inception in the latter half of the 19th century, Zionism has always been a schizophrenic ideology. It is supposedly a secular nationalist movement: yet on establishment its offspring, the state of Israel, handed the Orthodox rabbinate sweeping powers over civil affairs. To this day, non-Jews are barred from marrying Jews in Israel.

A more frequently cited division in the Zionist movement is between its “left wing” and its right wing. But in reality this division is largely an illusion.

To the extent that they even think about Palestine/Israel, people in the West often hold out hope for change happening within Israeli society itself, and earnestly point to the existence of Israeli hippies, liberals and left-wingers.

In a recent tirade against “Palestinian right-winger[s]” and the “international left” for failing to support the ongoing tent protest movement in Israel (known as J14), the normally sharp Israeli blogger Yossi Gurvitz wondered “just what sort of a leftist spends so much energy on opposing a protest intended to bring about a social-democratic regime”.

With that quote in mind, I shall very briefly review the historical reality of what “social-democratic” Israeli regimes have meant for Palestinians (though not before mentioning that Max Blumenthal wrote an excellent reply to Gurvitz on his website).

The first phase of Zionist colonisation of Palestine occurred in the 19th century. That first wave came with vague dreams about “going back to the land” (a land these mostly European and Russian Jews had in reality never lived in, since most were descendent of converts to Judaism).

Upon arrival, they found the reality of agricultural life in Ottoman Palestine tough and, more often than not, ended up re-employing Palestinian fellahin. Many of them left for Europe or America. As Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi has put it “They disappropriated the fellahin, but in most cases they did not fully dispossess them” (Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, Columbia University Press, 1997, p. 100).

The second wave of Zionist colonisation of Palestine (1904-14) showed qualitative differences. The settlers were more firm in their Zionist ideology, and many claimed to be socialists, often those from Russia. They arrived with the new ideology of “Hebrew labour” and “redemption of the land” (i.e. from its Palestinian inhabitants). What this meant in practice is that the Palestinians were thrown off the land so the colonists would be free to embark on their experiments in “socialist” communal living. And so the first kibbutz was founded in 1910.

As I have outlined in detail elsewhere, one academic, sympathetic with Zionism, even argues in a book that some of these early settlers were influenced by anarchism (Asa Winstanley, “The Receiving End of our Dreams”, New Left Project, 7 October 2010).

In the 1930s David Hacohen was the director of the construction company owned by Histadrut, the Zionists’ racist “trade union” federation (only Jews were allowed as members). He later recalled arguing in favour of racial segregation during his student years in London, not long after the First World War. I quote him at length because it illustrates well the schizophrenic nature of the Zionist “left”:

“When I joined the socialist students – English, Irish, Jewish, Chinese, Indian, African… I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism, to defend the fact that I would not accept Arabs into my trade union, the Histadrut; to defend preaching to housewives that they not buy at Arab stores; to defend the fact that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs there… To pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the markets and smash the Arab eggs they had bought; to praise to the skies to Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] that sent [Zionist Organisation agent Yehoshua] Hankin to Beirut to buy land from absentee effendis [landowners] and to throw the fellahin off the land… to do all that was not easy.” (David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, Nation Books, third edition 2003, p. 185.)

Artzi, one of the main kibbutz federations, nurtured the Palmach – the elite units of the Haganah militia, which were often based in kibbutzim. Both the Palmach and the rest of the Haganah were essentially the armed wing of leftist Zionism. And in 1947-8, both these “leftist” militias were massive perpetrators of war crimes as they ethnically cleansed Palestine of its native inhabitants – the Palestinian Nakba, or Catastrophe. You can read about this in Ilan Pappe’s book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited by right-wing Israeli historian Benny Morris.

So the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was done under the auspices the Zionist left. But so was the occupation of 1967. The Israeli aggression that led to the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 was initiated by a government dominated by the Zionist leftist parties – who indeed were a “social-democratic regime” for its Jewish citizens only.

The first illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank were not planted by the Likud but under Labour/Alignment governments. The Likud, traditionally understood as Israel’s right wing, did not reach government until 1977, but Israeli colonization of the Jordan Valley started soon after the conquest of the West Bank.

“Operation Grapes of Wrath”, the 1996 aggression on Lebanon was undertaken by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres. The Israeli minister of war in 2006 when Israel again embarked on a massive bombing campaign of Lebanon was Labour leader Amir Peretz – at one point held out as a great hope for “change”. I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point.

Almost from its inception, Zionism has been a movement based on the premise of “transferring” the native population from Palestine. In this respect, it is little different from other settler-colonial movements. The fact that the gunmen killing and expelling Palestinians could later go home and vote in their kibbutz’s internal democracies makes no difference to the material facts of their violent colonial nature.

In fact there is much to the argument that such pretensions, beautifying Israel’s image in the West actually make the Zionist left more of a threat than the openly fascist Zionist right-wing (represented by people like Israel’s current foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman) because they are more easily able to rally international support.

For all these reasons, Gurvitz shows plenty of chutzpah in expecting Palestinians and their international supporters to rally to the cause of building an Israeli “social-democratic regime”. AsPalestinian poet Dina Omar has put it “The paradox of this new movement for social justice is that the organizers understand full well that as soon as they speak about the Palestinians (the people most abused by Israeli society’s power) popular support is sure to plummet. What does social justice even mean when it is divorced from the equation of social equality?”.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” will be published by Pluto Press in October. His Palestine is Still the Issue column appears in Ceasefire every other Saturday. His website is www.winstanleys.org.

Palestine is Still the Issue: The projection bias of Israeli war crime apologism

[Ceasefire column] Israeli claims about supposed Palestinian crimes are often psychological deflection, argues Asa Winstanley.

My column for Ceasefire Magazine, published 20 August

By Asa Winstanley

Sigmund Freud defined ‘projection bias’ as a form of defence in which feelings are displaced onto another party, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. This is a phenomenon that you come across quite often when studying Israel’s apologists. Like the partisans of other colonial movements, Zionists are quite prone to denying their own crimes while at the same time projecting them onto their enemies.

Take “human shields”. This is a trope you come across quite a lot in the propaganda of the Israeli army when it is trying to explain and apologise for its war crimes. As in the case of their 2008-2009 attack on the civilian population of Gaza, they claim the civilian casualties were not their fault because Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups used Palestinians as ‘human shields’.

In fact, as Norman Finkelstein often underlines, multiple reports on the 2008-2009 attacks on Gaza, issued by respected human rights groups (such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International), as well as the UN’s Goldstone report, say otherwise. They found no evidence that any such thing took place – despite being highly critical of Hamas and other groups for armed attacks on Israel.

Yet the same human rights groups often document many cases of Israeli soldiers using Palestinian civilians as human shields to discourage armed resistance. There have been numerous instances of Israeli soldiers forcing Palestinians, often no more than children, to walk at gunpoint into houses which they then ransack and search. They sometimes take over such homes and hold the families inside hostage (see, for example, Amnesty International, “Gaza civilians endangered by the military tactics of both sides”, 8 January 2009).

The armed attack near Eilat (far in the south of Israel-Palestine – a long distance from Gaza,) on Thursday (18th Aug) reminded me of this phenomenon too. Although some Israeli press reports referred to an attack on a civilian bus, it seems from what evidence is available that the bus was full of Israeli soldiers moving from a base. The very first reaction the Israeli army press office put out on its official Twitter account was “5 #IDF soldiers injured from shooting @ #Israeli bus”, though this line soon changed. Press photos of the wounded, however, clearly show the casualties wearing Israeli army uniforms.

The Egged Bus company (who it seems operated this line) does run public transport in Israel. But you might well ask what the Israeli army was doing transporting its soldiers down to Eilat using the public transport system.

This is a common Israeli practice. When I lived in Palestine, on the few times I had to travel to Tel Aviv from the West Bank (via Jerusalem,) walking around the public bus stations I was struck by the sheer number of armed, uniformed soldiers who used the public bus system. Anyone who has used buses in Israel for any length of time will tell you they often have more soldiers than civilians on them.

The phenomenon is so widespread that it can only be a deliberate policy. Does some $3 billion a year in military aid from the US government not provide it with enough funding for its own troop transportation? So Israel not only uses Palestinians as human shields, but it even “hides” its soldiers amongst its own civilian population – exactly what Israeli spokespeople accuses Hamas of. Talk about projection.

Let us be clear: any attack on civilians, by any party, is against international law and morally wrong. Israel is the prime perpetrator of targeting Palestinian and other Arab civilians. Indeed, its very first instinctual “reaction” Thursday night was to bomb civilian targets in Gaza (including one home Israel said belonged to a fighter from the Popular Resistance Committees,) killing six Palestinians including at least one child.

The PRC have denied involvement in the Eilat attack: “The occupation wants to pin this operation on us in order to escape its own internal problems” a spokesman told the AFP agency. It is worth noting that the spokesperson also defended the Eilat operation, so it seems to make little sense that he would lie about any involvement.

The attacks on Palestinians go on, and the death count is rising as I type. Israel regularly bombs Gaza, just a few days ago, it invaded the central Gaza Strip and killed a teenager, shooting him “more than 10” times in the head and body, according to medical officials, but the Western press seem not to notice it, unless and until they have Israeli casualties to report too.

The conflict over Palestine will only end once Israelis face up to the reality that they are occupiers running an apartheid state, and stop projecting their own image onto the natives they are occupying. This change will not come from within Israeli society: there are no examples in history of an occupying power voluntarily giving up on colonialism.

It will only come about through Palestinian resistance, of various forms. Armed resistance against military targets is legal under international law, a right that everyone living under occupation can exert. Edward Said once said: “I think it’s important to attack occupation forces… occupation, apartheid has to be resisted”. Of course, the Palestinians also have, contrary to persistent Western illusions, a very long and remarkable history of non-violent, popular resistance, which we in the West can continue to sustain and support through the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’movement.

Asa Winstanley is a freelance journalist based in London who has lived in and reported from occupied Palestine. His first book “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation” will be published by Pluto Press in October. His Palestine is Still the Issue column appears in Ceasefire every other Saturday. His website is www.winstanleys.org.