The Return of “the BBC’s” Paul Martin

Sometimes a great story is just handed to you on a plate. And so it was with Paul Martin/Paul Cainer/Paul Martin Cainer/Cainer Paul Martin/”Sayed Anwar”. I was following up some tips and unused leads for my story about him from last month, when Martin emailed me demanding I do an interview with him (“I hope you have the guts”).

And thus this freelance reporter who works for the BBC and others mainstream UK media managed to dig himself in deeper with an utterly weird performance. This article is the product of over a month’s research. Enjoy:

“Why does The Electronic Intifada attack every single western news organization?” he complained, reeling off a long list of examples. “Admit what you are: a bunch of propagandists, don’t attack the other media … I’m a journalist, you’re a propagandist … You find two things that you think are ‘questionable’… and you want to try and ruin my whole 35 years of excellent coverage,” he said.

Book review: how Israeli school textbooks teach kids to hate

I have reviewed Nurit Peled-Elhanan’s import study of Israeli school textbooks for EI. It’s been going viral online, especially on Twitter (sometimes I’m not quite sure why certain articles take off more than others). I previously blogged a video of her being interviewed too. Here’s an extract of my review:

In an important new book, Palestine in Israeli School Books, Israeli language and education professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan buries the second part of Livni’s myth once and for all.

Peled-Elhanan examines 17 Israeli school textbooks on history, geography and civic studies. Her conclusions are an indictment of the Israeli system of indoctrination and its cultivation of anti-Arab racism from an early age: “The books studied here harness the past to the benefit of the … Israeli policy of expansion, whether they were published during leftist or right-wing [education] ministries” (224).

Update: this article was pretty popular, probably my most popular book review. It has been translated into Flemish Dutch (I can’t vouch for the translation and know nothing about the website). I think it was translated into French as well, but I can’t find the link now.

School “buddies” raise awareness about Palestine in UK

Go and have a read of this nice little story about CADFA I wrote for EI:

Palestinian schoolchildren come here, and British schoolchildren and teachers go to Palestine. For seven consecutive summers, children have been brought over from Palestine. The focus is educational, with the English kids learning first-hand. The children go to events together and have “amazing conversations.” At one Wiltshire camping trip during this soggy-wet English summer, the kids came back as “ambassadors for the Palestinians,” she said.

Perhaps the main strength of such low-key, unglamorous projects is that they involve people beyond the usual activist suspects. By “always reaching new people,” as Dowson puts it, they help raise awareness about Palestine at a local level.


My review of a new film from the makers of Budrus

So yea, short version: I didn’t like it, sorry.

Maybe the Palestinians in East Jerusalem love being swamped by hordes of young liberal Israelis banging drums in their front yard. But we simply can’t know because the Israelis in the film are too are busy explaining their feelings.

Bacha’s earlier film Budrus was also problematic in similar ways, but at least you could learn about Palestinian stories and struggles, and at least it succeeded as a film in itself, even if it did overly pander to American liberal sensibilities. My Neighborhood has all the negative aspects of Budrus, magnified but with few of the redeeming features.

Read the whole thing here.

The Palestine lobby?

EI published my latest feature this morning, on Palestine in mainstream politics. Here’s the intro:

On Wednesday, 4 July, a public meeting took place in the British Parliament’s Grand Committee room. Speaking on the panel of members of parliament were a Conservative former career soldier, a senior minister in two previous Labor governments, and a member of Labor Friends of Israel. What could they all possibly have had in common?

They had assembled to speak at a meeting about the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. This followed a trip they had participated in, organized by the Council for Advancing Arab-British Understanding.

Earlier that same day, during a Westminster Hall debate, the Foreign Office minister responsible for relations with the Middle East had — for the first time — strongly hinted that a ban on importing goods made in Israeli settlements could be on the way.

The events of that day were only the latest examples of how views critical of Israeli policy have entered the mainstream of UK politics.

Read on…

My review of Norman Finkelstein’s new book

 My review of Knowing Too Much was published by EI yesterday. Here is a short extract:

The best chapter in the book is the one dedicated to giving Benny Morris a good kicking. Morris gained fame as one of the “new historians” who dived into the Israeli archives and reassessed old Zionist myths about the establishment of Israel. Morris’ exposure of the deliberate and calculated nature of Israel’s mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 remains significant.

If Knowing Too Much had come out in 2008 (as originally intended), the central argument may have been more controversial, but as Finkelstein notes it has by now almost passed into conventional wisdom (299). A more interesting question, though, is why this shift in liberal opinion has happened, and here Finkelstein is most unconvincing.

Flame: the Israeli propaganda war spreads to cyberspace

My new special feature on the Flame cyber-weapon was published by The Electronic Intifada last night. I take an in-depth look at who may have been behind the computer worm that snooped on thousands of computers from the West Bank to Iran. I bring to light evidence that Israel’s teasing intimations it created Flame may be more about propaganda and regaining its lost “deterrence” capabilities against Arabs. Here’s a brief extract:

World-renowned security and cryptography expert Bruce Schneier told The Electronic Intifada that Flame was “much more sophisticated than the typical worm.” Over email, he commented that while it “seems definitely the work of a large, well-funded, well-coordinated team” there was also “some hype” about it on the technical level.

Flame is able to take screenshots, switch on the microphone and record audio conversations, snooping on Skype calls, for example. Screenshots are triggered when sensitive information is likely to be revealed: such as when instant messaging software is running. It can intercept keystrokes, search for passwords and steal files.

Flame zeroes in on certain files: images, photos with geographic data, presentations, project files and PDFs. Later, more detailed analysis by Kapersky revealed that Flame’s controllers seem especially interested in stealing digital blueprints: “the attackers seem to have a high interest in AutoCAD drawings,” the report said (“The Roof Is on Fire: Tackling Flame’s C&C Servers,” 4 June 2012).

I will be following-up on this story, looking at the possibility that Flame could be used for more aggressive purposes than spying, so watch my EI blog for that later in the week.

UPDATE: the follow-up story on my blog is here.

New feature: Israel’s kangaroo courts for Palestinian children exposed in FCO-backed report

I was quite surprised this week to learn about the publication of a new report that accuses Israel of being in violation of international law. Yes: yet another report, you might well say. But this one is funded by the British government and written by some serious establishment figures. So: interesting. But the question remains:

Karmi later told The Electronic Intifada that the report is “toothless in the end” because there is no way to compel Israel to comply.

“Palestinians are fed up of being studied,” she said. What they really want to know is “how will I get help to end” the abuses of the military occupation. Karmi did however conclude the report was a good thing and the delegation was a “very interesting mission” because it was backed by the foreign office, who could not be accused of anti-Israel bias in the same way that Israel has managed to taint UN missions with “the usual slanders.”

Read my full feature over on The Electronic Intifada. And you can read the full report here.

Review of Tom Hurndall’s first and last photography book

 Tom Hurndall, the British photography student and ISM activist was murdered by an Israeli sniper in 2003. His family and friends got together to put out a book of his photography and writing. Here is my review of it for Electronic Intifada:

The photography here is accompanied by entries from Hurndall’s diary, emails he sent back home and articles he wrote in a student magazine. There are photos from Iraq and Jordan, but half of the book is dedicated to his Gaza work. This high-quality glossy book has been lovingly curated and put together, and judging from the acknowledgments page, his family, friends and supporters even stumped up the money. The design of the book is beautiful, even though the subject matter is often brutal and stark. It is an almost-macabre artifact.

Read the whole review here.

Feature on Palestine Place, London

Palestine Place is a new, temporary squatted social centre in London, expressly focused on the occupation of Palestine. It’s points of unity are the three principles of the BDS movement: end of the 1967 occupation, equal rights for everyone, and full return of the refugees.

Here is my new feature about it: Palestine Place brings resistance to heart of London, The Electronic Intifada, London, 8 June 2012:

“At first I couldn’t really comprehend it, or understand how London squatting can be connected to Palestine,” he said. In the Palestinian context one might normally associate “squatting” with Israelis settlers, I offered. The idea of “a land without a people” is “the base of the Zionist movement,” he said. “But then [I thought] … to be able to create this kind of free space for discussion, for organizing, is fantastic … because solidarity with Palestinians in London has been trapped in certain circles … not to say anything bad about them, but this is new [and will bring in new people].”

You can read the full article here.

My review of the new biography on Leila Khalid

My latest book review, published by The Electronic Intifada last night:

Leila Khaled was only a small child when her family fled Haifa before the Zionist ethnic cleansing operations could reach them. Her father briefly joined the Palestinian resistance before the family ended up refugees in Lebanon, like thousands of other Palestinians (14). There she and others in her family joined the Arab National Movement founded by George Habash, from which the PFLP emerged in 1967.

Eventually, she persuaded the Marxist-Leninist group to train her as a guerrilla fighter in Jordan. Irving describes Khaled’s time camping in the hinterlands north of Amman, learning how to use grenades and to shoot: “I was so happy that for the first three days and night I could not sleep,” Khaled said (29).

Read the full review here.

Feature on the Palestinian family that has four members in jail

Four brothers jailed by Israel for prisoner solidarity activism, published by the Electronic Intifada, 6 May 2012:

This is a scene all too familiar for many Palestinian families living under the boot of Israeli occupation. But there is one difference for the Halabi family that night: all three of Rami’s brothers were already imprisoned by Israel. In a translated interview with The Electronic Intifada, their mother Samira recounted her plea to the soldiers not to part her from her last free son: “I went to hug my son, and I said, no, you’re not taking this one, you have three already, leave this one!”

You can read the full article here.