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How the ADL went from working with Facebook to leading a boycott against it – Forward

Posted By on July 6, 2020

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(JTA) It was when Mark Zuckerberg said he would allow Holocaust denial on his platform that the Anti-Defamation League realized its partnership with Facebook wasnt working.

The social media giant and the Jewish civil rights group had been working together for years to curb hate speech online. In October 2017, Facebook headlined a new ADL initiative to start a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab in collaboration with Silicon Valleys biggest companies.

Then, nine months later, Zuckerberg told the tech site Recode that while he personally found Holocaust denial deeply offensive, he said, I dont believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.

People who monitor anti-Semitism criticized Zuckerberg for what they saw as undeservedly giving anti-Semites the benefit of the doubt as if they were making an innocent mistake rather than propagating a deliberate lie. Thats when the ADL realized that Facebook wasnt going to change on its own and needed to be pressured.

Holocaust denial is somethingthat weve been talking to Facebook about forI think its11 years at this point, Daniel Kelley, associate director of the ADLs Center for Technology and Society, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Weve told them Holocaust denial is hate. It is not misinformation. And they have not only not changed, but in several instances doubled down on treating Holocaust denial as someformof misinformation.

So the ADL has changed tacks as Facebook, according to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives.

After years of seeing the largest social network in the world as a partner, it is now treating Facebook as an adversary. That shift has culminated in an ADL-led campaign urging companies to stop advertising on Facebook for the month of July in collaboration with the NAACP and other civil rights groups.

The campaign has attracted a growing list of leading brand names. More than 230 companies have signed onto the pledge, and last week Facebooks stock dipped more than 8%, though it has since rebounded.

Apparently shaken by the boycott, Zuckerberg has announced a series of changes to Facebooks hate speech policies, which he said come directly from feedback from the civil rights community. He also pledged to meet with the organizers of the boycott.

Facebooks changes include labeling posts regarding voting access, flagging posts that target immigrants, banning members of the far-right antigovernment Boogaloo movement and placing warnings on hateful or false posts from public figures that the network still feels are newsworthy.

Im committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues, because I believe we can make more progress when we hear each other, Zuckerberg wrote Friday in a Facebook post. But I also stand against hate, or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and were committed to removing that no matter where it comes from.

Those moves have not lessened the ADLs commitment to pressuring the company, which makes nearly its entire $70 billion in annual revenue through ads.

Facebook says it will take meaningful steps to address the hate on its platform, Greenblatt tweeted after the announcement. Weve been down this road. Dont let them refuel for another hate-filled trip.

Fighting tech companies is a change for Greenblatt, who came to the ADL job in 2015 following a career as a social entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Greenblatt founded a bottled water company that donated a portion of its proceeds to clean-water access, as well as All for Good, an open-source platform that aggregated volunteer opportunities online.

The ADL had been pushing tech companies to get more serious about combating anti-Semitism for decades. Greenblatts predecessor, Abraham Foxman, complained in a 2013 interview with JTA about the geniuses at Palo Alto and said, The providers need to take greater ownership. They dont want regulation.

Under Greenblatt, the ADL increased its focus on tech, and at first tried to curb online hate through partnership. The group expanded its presence in Silicon Valley in 2016 and founded the Center for Technology and Society in 2017 to combat cyberhate. Greenblatt said he hoped to collaborate even closer on the threat with the tech industry.

Later that year, the ADL announced its partnership with four tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to create the Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. The idea was to work with the companies on technical solutions to improve detection and removal of hateful posts, with the ADL providing guidance on how to spot bigotry and address it.

But according to Kelley, the effort went nowhere. Facebook, he said, never acted on any of the advice provided by the ADL.

They were happy to sign onto a press release and to say, well, were working with ADL. We did have several meetings, Kelley said. Its the same story of us coming to the meeting with real ideas for how to approach the problems on their platform and them walking away not promising anything. We tried to work with them.

Facebook did not respond to an email request for comment. But the company has disputed that it has a poor record on addressing hateful posts. It points to a recent study from the European Union showing that Facebook is the quickest among the major social media platforms in addressing notifications of hate speech coming from European users. It found that Facebook assessed 96% of the notifications of hate speech within 24 hours, compared to 76.6% for Twitter. Facebook removed 87.6% of the flagged content, compared to 35.9% for Twitter.

But Kelley said that while Facebook does release transparency reports, it does not give outside researchers access to the data, unlike Twitter. So he said theres no real way to confirm Facebooks claims of transparency.

As months and then years passed, activists in Myanmar and elsewhere were complaining that Facebook was allowing public officials to encourage human rights violations. In 2018, the shooter at the New Zealand mosques livestreamed the massacre on Facebook.

But while Facebook made some modifications to its hate speech policies, it did not appear to change course philosophically. In October, Zuckerberg said in an address at Georgetown University that he was proud that our values at Facebook are inspired by the American tradition, which is more supportive of free expression than anywhere else.

Using the speech, the Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen compared Zuckerberg to a restaurateur gladly serving neo-Nazis.

If he owned a fancy restaurant and four neo-Nazis came goose-stepping into the dining room and were talking loudly about wanting to kill Jewish scum, would he serve them an elegant eight course meal? Or would tell them to get the f*| out of his restaurant? Cohen wrote. He has every legal right, indeed a moral duty, to tell them to get the f*| out of his restaurant.

A month later, the ADL gave Cohen its International Leadership Award. The comic actor used the opportunity to give a keynote address to excoriate social media companies.

I say, lets also hold these companies responsible for those who use their sites to advocate for the mass murder of children because of their race or religion, he said. Maybe its time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies: You already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar, do it again and you go to jail.

A wrinkle in this story came a few weeks before Cohens speech. Following the October attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, the ADL accepted a $2.5 million donation from Facebooks COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Greenblatt said, upon accepting the donation, that he was grateful for her commitment to fighting hate in all of its forms.

Sandberg posted on Facebook that It means so much to me to be able to support this vital work at this critical moment.

Facebooks mostly hands-off approach to posts does have notable defenders.

David Hudson, an advocate of expansive First Amendment rights, said that free speech protections should be extended to Facebook because its size and breadth gives Facebook the power of a government.

Certain powerful private entities particularly social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and others can limit, control, and censor speech as much or more than governmental entities, he wrote for the American Bar Associations Human Rights magazine. A society that cares for the protection of free expression needs to recognize that the time has come to extend the reach of the First Amendment to cover these powerful, private entities that have ushered in a revolution in terms of communication capabilities.

But Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, who spoke out against Zuckerbergs remarks on Holocaust denial, said a boycott was the right way to go.

Facebook is a private entity and no private entity is obligated to post hate speech, she said. Generally I dont like boycotts, but if this is the only thing to which Facebook is going to respond, then you have no other choice. You can choose where you put your money.

This year, in testimony to Congress, Greenblatt cited his work in Silicon Valley in calling on tech companies to work harder. He called tech an amplifier, an organizer, and a catalyst for some of the worst types of hate in our society, and said Facebook and Twitter need to apply the same energy to protecting vulnerable users that they apply to protect their profits.

Despite the measures Facebook has taken, the ADL says that hasnt happened. And thats why, after years of trying to collaborate with Facebook, the ADL is now trying to disrupt its revenue stream in the hopes of forcing change.

Theres a common understanding that Facebook is a company that puts revenue above all else, but I think this is a very clear-cut example, the ADLs Kelley said. All of these changes, the minor tweaks that Mark Zuckerberg announced on Friday, were things that the civil rights community have been asking for for years, in addition to larger structural changes to the platform.

It took a massive pause on advertisement by major companies to get them to move an inch.

The post How the ADL went from working with Facebook to leading a boycott against it appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continued here:

How the ADL went from working with Facebook to leading a boycott against it - Forward

How the ADL went from working with Facebook to boycotting against it – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 6, 2020

(JTA) It was when Mark Zuckerberg said he would allow Holocaust denial on his platform that the Anti-Defamation League realized its partnership with Facebook wasnt working.The social media giant and the Jewish civil rights group had been working together for years to curb hate speech online. In October 2017, Facebook headlined a new ADL initiative to start a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab in collaboration with Silicon Valleys biggest companies.Then, nine months later, Zuckerberg told the tech site Recode that while he personally found Holocaust denial deeply offensive, he said, I dont believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.

People who monitor antisemitism criticized Zuckerberg for what they saw as undeservedly giving antisemites the benefit of the doubt as if they were making an innocent mistake rather than propagating a deliberate lie. Thats when the ADL realized that Facebook wasnt going to change on its own and needed to be pressured.

Holocaust denial is something that weve been talking to Facebook about for I think its 11 years at this point, Daniel Kelley, associate director of the ADLs Center for Technology and Society, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Weve told them Holocaust denial is hate. It is not misinformation. And they have not only not changed, but in several instances doubled down on treating Holocaust denial as some form of misinformation.

So the ADL has changed tacks as Facebook, according to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives.

The campaign has attracted a growing list of leading brand names. More than 230 companies have signed onto the pledge, and last week Facebooks stock dipped more than 8%, though it has since rebounded.

Apparently shaken by the boycott, Zuckerberg has announced a series of changes to Facebooks hate speech policies, which he said come directly from feedback from the civil rights community. He also pledged to meet with the organizers of the boycott.

Im committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues, because I believe we can make more progress when we hear each other, Zuckerberg wrote Friday in a Facebook post. But I also stand against hate, or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and were committed to removing that no matter where it comes from.

Those moves have not lessened the ADLs commitment to pressuring the company, which makes nearly its entire $70 billion in annual revenue through ads.

Fighting tech companies is a change for Greenblatt, who came to the ADL job in 2015 following a career as a social entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Greenblatt founded a bottled water company that donated a portion of its proceeds to clean-water access, as well as All for Good, an open-source platform that aggregated volunteer opportunities online.

Under Greenblatt, the ADL increased its focus on tech, and at first tried to curb online hate through partnership. The group expanded its presence in Silicon Valley in 2016 and founded the Center for Technology and Society in 2017 to combat cyberhate. Greenblatt said he hoped to collaborate even closer on the threat with the tech industry.

Later that year, the ADL announced its partnership with four tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to create the Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. The idea was to work with the companies on technical solutions to improve detection and removal of hateful posts, with the ADL providing guidance on how to spot bigotry and address it.

But according to Kelley, the effort went nowhere. Facebook, he said, never acted on any of the advice provided by the ADL.

They were happy to sign onto a press release and to say, well, were working with ADL. We did have several meetings, Kelley said. Its the same story of us coming to the meeting with real ideas for how to approach the problems on their platform and them walking away not promising anything. We tried to work with them.

But Kelley said that while Facebook does release transparency reports, it does not give outside researchers access to the data, unlike Twitter. So he said theres no real way to confirm Facebooks claims of transparency.

Using the speech, the Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen compared Zuckerberg to a restaurateur gladly serving neo-Nazis.

If he owned a fancy restaurant and four neo-Nazis came goose-stepping into the dining room and were talking loudly about wanting to kill Jewish scum, would he serve them an elegant eight course meal? Or would tell them to get the f*** out of his restaurant? Cohen wrote. He has every legal right, indeed a moral duty, to tell them to get the f*** out of his restaurant.

I say, lets also hold these companies responsible for those who use their sites to advocate for the mass murder of children because of their race or religion, he said. Maybe its time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies: You already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar, do it again and you go to jail.

A wrinkle in this story came a few weeks before Cohens speech. Following the October attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, the ADL accepted a $2.5 million donation from Facebooks COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Greenblatt said, upon accepting the donation, that he was grateful for her commitment to fighting hate in all of its forms.

Facebooks mostly hands-off approach to posts does have notable defenders.

David Hudson, an advocate of expansive First Amendment rights, said that free speech protections should be extended to Facebook because its size and breadth gives Facebook the power of a government.

But Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, who spoke out against Zuckerbergs remarks on Holocaust denial, said a boycott was the right way to go.

Facebook is a private entity and no private entity is obligated to post hate speech, she said. Generally I dont like boycotts, but if this is the only thing to which Facebook is going to respond, then you have no other choice. You can choose where you put your money.

Despite the measures Facebook has taken, the ADL says that hasnt happened. And thats why, after years of trying to collaborate with Facebook, the ADL is now trying to disrupt its revenue stream in the hopes of forcing change.

Theres a common understanding that Facebook is a company that puts revenue above all else, but I think this is a very clear-cut example, the ADLs Kelley said. All of these changes, the minor tweaks that Mark Zuckerberg announced on Friday, were things that the civil rights community have been asking for for years, in addition to larger structural changes to the platform.

It took a massive pause on advertisement by major companies to get them to move an inch.

Read the rest here:

How the ADL went from working with Facebook to boycotting against it - The Jerusalem Post

Which companies have pulled their ads from Facebook so far? – NBC News

Posted By on July 6, 2020

The next culture war will be over climate change – Spectator.co.uk

Posted By on July 6, 2020

It is steadily becoming clear where the woke brigade will go once the current moral panic over racism has run its course (which cant be long, following the newsthat London estate agents have stopped using the term master bedroom to avoid its connotations with slavery). A week ago Andrew Willshire wrote hereof how the activist group Hope Not Hate has now decided that climate change denialism is now a hate crime.

Now comes another sign that climate change is becoming the next woke battleground. Earlier this week, an environmental campaigner, Michael Shellenberger wrote a mea culpa on the website of Forbes.com. On behalf of environmentalists everywhere I would like to formally apologise for the climate scare we have created over the past 30 years, it began. Climate change is happening. Its just not the end of the world. Its not even our most serious environmental problem.

Shellenberger, who has been campaigning against the destruction of the rainforest since the age of 16, has not given up his campaign. On the contrary, that is the very reason he has changed his mind. Previously, he worked as an advocate for renewable energy persuading the Obama administration to invest $90bn (72bn) into renewables, he says. But he has now changed his mind. He has calculated that at present, 0.5 per cent of land on Earth is used for the production of energy. If the world switched to 100 per cent renewables, however, we would have to use 50 per cent of all land on Earth for wind farms, solar farms, growing biofuels or forest plantations to feed wood-burning power stations and so on. The devastation this would cause has led him to the conclusion that if we are going to reduce carbon emissions the only practical way is via nuclear power.

Now you may or may not agree with that conclusion. Personally, I have serious misgivings about using nuclear fission to provide the worlds energy needs, given the economic devastation that another Chernobyl or Fukushima would bring to a densely-populated country. Nuclear fusion, if we could get it to work on a commercial scale, would be a different story although everyone has been promising that for the past half century, and there is a limit to how many billions you can throw at a technology in the hope of a breakthrough.

Anyway, that is by the by. What is surely true is that the worlds future energy needs, and the extent of the damage wrought on the climate by man-made carbon emissions, are areas of legitimate debate. If you do disagree with Shellenberger, you have every right to do so. But that is not, of course, how woke politics functions. The aim now is not to engage with political opponents but to attempt to put them beyond the pale, to try to delegitimise their opinions by making out that they belong on some far-right fringe from which the general public needs to be protected.

I know that the above facts will sound like climate denialism to many people, Shellenberger wrote prophetically in his Forbespiece. Not half. His piece has now been taken down by Forbes. A US journalist who tried to find out why was issued only with the following statement: Forbes requires its contributors to adhere to strict editorial guidelines. This story did not follow those guidelines, and was removed.

It is not hard to decode: a bunch of climate alarmists decided that Shellenberger is inconvenient to their cause and have tried to cancel him by complaining to the website and the website caved in. Fortunately, Shellenberger has reposted his piece, so you can still read it here and judge for yourself what editorial guidelines Forbesjudged it to breach (after initially passing it for publication).

The attempt to classify climate change denialism as a hate crime has been coming for quite a while. The very use of the word denial is an attempt to put anyone sceptical of climate alarmism in the same pigeonhole as holocaust deniers. Incidentally, I recently wrote a novel, The Denial, about a meteorologist who falls foul of climate activists because he values observation over alarmist predictions. I intended it as a satire set in the near future, but by the time it is publishedin September it looks as if it may well have become the present.

Read more from the original source:

The next culture war will be over climate change - Spectator.co.uk

Wyden backs bill to help seniors in federally assisted housing amid COVID-19 – KTVZ

Posted By on July 6, 2020

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Thursday co-sponsored legislation that would provide $1.2 billion to ensure federally-assisted senior housing facilities have the resources to protect residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seniors in Oregon and across the country face serious dangers from both COVID-19 and inaction from the federal government to protect them,Wyden said.Congress must ensure seniors can remain in their homes and have the proper safeguards to stay healthy. The Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act would provide those urgently needed resources for federally-assisted senior housing facilities to protect their vulnerable residents.

The Emergency Housing Assistance for Older Adults Act of 2020 would provide $1.2 billion to the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance programs, including $845 million for obtaining PPE, cleaning and disinfecting properties, hiring additional staff and providing rental assistance.

The average age of residents in Section 202 properties for older adults is 79, and nearly 39 percent of residents are older than age 80. Their average annual income falls below $14,000 and there are profound disparities in both COVID-19 infections and virus-related deaths.

The bill also includes:

Wyden joined Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., to introduce the bill, as well as Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The legislation is endorsed by AARP, Leading Age and B'nai B'rith International.

Earlier this week, Wyden introduced theCoronavirus Housing Counseling Improvement Actto expand access to critical assistance programs and services for millions of families struggling to remain in their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout. According to research, homeowners who receive counseling have a better chance at avoiding default, protecting their credit scores, reducing debt and securing mortgage modifications.

A copy of the bill text is availablehere.

Read more:
Wyden backs bill to help seniors in federally assisted housing amid COVID-19 - KTVZ

Why The Black Lives Matter UK Tweet Was Antisemitic – GLAMOUR UK

Posted By on July 6, 2020

In the aftermath of George Floyds death, anti-racism protests have rippled across the world. 'Black Lives Matter' has become a rallying cry for the rights and equality of Black people and many people around the world sat up and took notice for the first time this summer.

So, when I saw a recent tweet from the Black Lives Matter UK Twitter account, my heart sank.

'As Israel moves forward with the annexation of the West Bank, and mainstream British politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism, and Israels settler colonial pursuits, we loudly and clearly stand beside our Palestinian comrades.

FREE PALESTINE.'

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As a Black Jewish woman, the antisemitic undertones of the tweet made me feel as though I was torn between two communities, and that the two sides of my identity were being pitted against each other. Being part of two marginalised groups is difficult enough on a daily basis as it is, let alone when racism or antisemitism comes from within one of my communities.

Not only was the tweet upsetting to me as a Black Jew, but it was also dangerous because it would have two major consequences: to stoke division between Black people and Jewish people who found the tweet harmful; and derail a very important message about Palestinian liberation as Israel plans to annex the West Bank. But what made it so damaging?

Id just like to start by saying: it is not antisemitic to criticise the actions of the Israeli government; the Israeli government is planning to annex the West Bank, which will be a gross violation of Palestinian human rights and international law. Black Lives Matter critiquing this isn't the issue, and many Jews and Israelis are against it as well. And, while Zionism means the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel, it can be critiqued when extremist politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu manipulate it for political ends or if you oppose the concept of ethno-nationalist states in general, and do not single out the only Jewish state in your critique; however, this can sometimes become a sensitive issue when put in the context of Jewish persecution over millennia, and must be navigated carefully. So, it was not the expression of solidarity with Palestinians, or even the critique of Zionism, that was the issue.

The part of the tweet that was problematic was the language surrounding 'gagged'.

A long-standing, well-known antisemitic conspiracy theory is "Jews control the world" and contemporary antisemites often exchange the word 'Jews' with 'Israel' to hide their bigotry; a prime example is the 'Israel did 9/11' conspiracy theory, or the idea that 'Zionists control the world'. Therefore, when BLM UK said "British politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism" it immediately set off alarm bells in my head; 'gagged' by whom?

If someone is being 'gagged' there must be an omnipotent 'gagger'. Then, when you ask that question, it begins to become clear that the language of the tweet has a sinister angle to it it was playing into the old trope that Jews control the media and global politics. Not only that, but it was a bizarre choice of words in the British political context right now - given all major political parties have condemned the looming annexation, and Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy (who is also the Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine) has called for sanctions on Israel should they move forward with annexation.

And this is why the wording of the tweet became an issue. The poor choice of language slipped into an antisemitic trope - perhaps without BLM UK even realising; modern antisemitism can be very insidious as the issues in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn demonstrated. And the tweet had real consequences: I, and other Black Jews, were subjected to an onslaught of abuse online - with some calling me a "white supremacist zionist wh*re" for highlighting the problematic language of that tweet.

It was particularly painful for Jews in my position because it felt like our identities were suddenly incompatible - making us feel as though we can be Jewish or Black, but not both. As I anticipated, the tweet became a fertile environment for division and a battleground for racists - for those who are anti-Palestinian, for those who that were antisemitic, for those that were anti-Black, and for those who were all of these things.

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A lot of Jewish people who support the Black community began to feel deeply uncomfortable with aligning themselves with Black Lives Matter. Political opponents to Black Lives Matter manipulated the situation to suggest BLM was an antisemitic endeavour, and far-left antisemites began to suggest Jews were making their concern up about the tweet and that it was because they didnt care about Palestinians. The row continued - meanwhile, neither Black people, Jews, or Palestinians gained anything from the situation; the only people that benefited were racists.

And that is why the use of language was so disappointing in the tweet - because it triggered a sequence of behaviour that was so easy to avoid but so difficult to remedy. It also demonstrated how imperative it is for left-wing movements to educate themselves on how to speak about Israel without being antisemitic, and how to recognise modern antisemitism.

Because, until this happens, anti-racism movements will undermine themselves, important conversations about anti-racism and liberation will continue to be derailed and ultimately, it will continue to benefit the oppressor, not the oppressed.

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Why The Black Lives Matter UK Tweet Was Antisemitic - GLAMOUR UK

The Chief Justice, the Bible and Palestinian real estate – Daily Maverick

Posted By on July 6, 2020

The whole land of Canaan I will give to you as an everlasting possession to you and your dependents after you.

It is claimed that God spoke those words to Abraham almost four millennia ago. Very convenient for 20th century Zionists whose founding fathers from Herzl to Ben Gurion were either agnostics or atheists from Europe whose ambitions and plans were to supplant through colonial settlement, the indigenous Palestinian people who had lived there for centuries.

A Jewish state would be a protective wall for Europe against Asian barbarism declared Herzl. We will spirit the penniless Palestinians across the border when the time comes, he averred. Whats good for the Jews stated Churchill, is good for the British Empire.

There were then, and to this day, other interests and claptrap motivating the land grab, culminating in Donald Trumps Deal of the Century and annexation by Israel of a huge slice of what the Bible calls Samaria and Judaea. Those Zionist non-believers became quite adept at cynically manipulating the biblical narrative for their own ends. The Abrahamic prophecy continues to be debated by theologians, historians and politicians to this day with an unholy, racist alliance having developed between USA-based, anti-Semitic evangelicals and Zionism.

The latest self-serving episode has seen two South African Chiefs, our learned Justice of the Constitutional Court, Mogoeng Mogoeng, and the countrys orthodox Jewish religious leader, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, in cosy discourse for the Israeli-mouthpiece, the right-wing Jerusalem Post. From their learned dialogue, which has caused an uproar, it appears that neither gentleman has learned much from our liberation struggle or Freedom Charter, which begins with the inclusivist words, South Africa belongs to all who live in it.

If you choose to believe that real estate promise from on high, you really ought to present factual evidence other than the utterance of words by an invisible deity some 4,000 years ago. That is if you are making a highly contested case on behalf of one people over another as the learned Chiefs from South Africa have sought to do.

Reference to a land called Canaan is most intriguing. The Biblical Old Testament teaches that Moses en route to the Promised Land, despatched his spies into that territory to report on the terrain, the populous, agricultural production, the military power of the state etc. Hardly showing that the result was all going to depend on the will of Jehovah, the God of Israel. It is evident that even according to the biblical narrative there was no land without a people awaiting a people without a land, as modern Zionists claimed when speaking of Palestine in the 20th century.

The people we know as Palestinians today had lived in that land for centuries, tilling their fields, developing towns and trading centres, art and culture. This was a thriving populous, according to British census figures. There were 1,033,314 Palestinians in 1932 compared to 174,606 Jews. That minority had grown from a few thousand in 1882 when the Zionist project was launched from Europe [Edward Said: The Question of Palestine.] Owing to the increase of Jewish settlers in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust, the number jumped to half that of indigenous Palestinians by 1948. The increase was because the US, Britain and even South Africa accepted only a token number of Jewish refugees who preferred those destinations over a Zionist homeland.

That fateful year of the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic ) saw over 700,000 Palestinians ethnically cleansed from the land of their birth; hundreds massacred and almost 500 ancestral villages destroyed the names removed from Israeli maps. [Illan Pappe: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine]. For those who are not prepared to accept claims based on a biblical narrative, history speaks. What do we know, from historical and archaeological research about this land of Canaan? I recall when I first visited the West Bank in 2004, as a government minister, being greeted by the mayor of Qalqilya, (almost entirely enclosed by Israels monstrous Apartheid Wall) with his proud words: Welcome to our old Canaanite town.

From 3000BC to 1000BC a Canaanite Kingdom covered historic Palestine and what is Israel, Lebanon and much of Syria and Jordan. By the time of Roman rule, the people were a potpourri of farmers, traders, artisans and townspeople, nomads, pagans, old Canaanite tribes Hebrew, Persian, Samaritan, Arab, Greek and from the seventh century AD, converts to Islam. [Marcia Kunstel and Joseph Albright, Their Promised Land]. Many Jews had been expelled by the Romans in the 2nd century and prospered for centuries among the Arab people in neighbouring lands. An example of good neighbourliness destroyed by the rise of Zionist Israel.

Our chief justice ought to beware of mixing his faith with politics and choose his company more wisely. He has committed a grave disservice to the universal principles of inclusivity our democratic country and Constitution is founded upon, but a disservice particularly to the Palestinian people. He needs to prostrate himself before them and beg forgiveness.

The ancestral heritage of the present-day Palestinian people is the Canaanite parent tree which became Arabised by the 7th-centuryspread of Islam with the outcome that the melting pot of people are now so completely Arabised that we cannot tell where the Canaanites leave off and the Arabs begin.[Illene Beatty: Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan] From intermarriage that took place over centuries it is more than likely that the many of the ancient Hebrews are a component of this racial mix. Apart from the biblical claims, historical research proves these facts, as do archaeological digs which attest not only to the Canaanite Middle Bronze Kingdom, but that the site of Jerusalem was a fortified Canaanite town in 1,800 BC. [Dr. Ronny Reich: The Jewish Bulletin, 31 July 3 1998]

Despite frantic and sustained Israeli archaeological efforts, no evidence has been forthcoming of any comparable advanced Judaic civilisation in Jerusalem or the Holy Land as claimed existed in the mythical Kingdom of Solomon and David around 1000BC as descending from Abraham. There are no relics or historical record to show this existed, not even simple pottery shards nor any sign of monumental architecture [Finkelstein and Silbermans The Bible Unearthed Archaeologys New Vision of Ancient Israel; Shlomo Sand: The Invention of the Jewish People; John Rose: The Myths of Zionism].

Even Simon Schama, highly respected international scholar, himself a Zionist, has been forced to come to terms with some of the new research that undermines so much of the Zionist claptrap about the ancient world. Whatever the biblical belief system how on earth can any sane human being recognise the ancient kingdom of David and Solomon as a model for the map of todays Middle East? Jostein Gaarder, Norwegian writer and one-time friend of Israel has stated.

Israel today, with all its power, and support of the US, Britain and to a lesser degree the EU, which glibly assume Israels right to exist, whether they use the Bible or realpolitik for justification, have given the Zionist state the impunity to unleash what Illan Pappe has termed incremental genocide of the Palestinian people. Our chief justice ignores the plight of the dispossessed Palestinians and bestows on Israel, as though he is the hand of God, the sole right to ownership of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Even if we ignore the volumes of historical research referred to and simply speak of Israels divine right to the real estate of the land once called Palestine, take heed of what the Jewish philosopher, Erich Fromm had to say as Israel manoeuvred to seize much of Palestine in 1948. He stated of Israels claim to exclusive ownership: If all nations would suddenly claim territory in which their forefathers had lived two thousand years ago, the world would be a madhouse.

The chief justice, who has a fundamentalists belief in everything biblical, should at least have the morally correct sense of accepting in todays real world the rights of a people who have lived in the Holy Land for all those centuries Christians, Muslims and Bedouin nomads not only the once upon a time dispersed Jews. He has come down on the side of a people given the right of return from any corner of Earth never having set foot in Israel. On the other hand, Palestinian refugees driven out of their homes in 1948 and 1967 by the barrel of a gun are denied such rights. Where is the chief justices sense of justice?

He has allowed himself to be played for a sucker by the chief rabbi, a fanatical Zionist who once declared to me that Israel had the right to the land wherever Abraham had left his footprints from Cyprus to the surrounds of Cairo, to Jordan, parts of Iraq and Syria along with the Lebanon. How generous Israel was, the learned rabbi told me, to only claim such a small percentage of all that territory. Our chief justice ought to beware of mixing his faith with politics and choose his company more wisely. He has committed a grave disservice to the universal principles of inclusivity our democratic country and Constitution is founded upon, but a disservice particularly to the Palestinian people. He needs to prostrate himself before them and beg forgiveness.

The current plight of the people of the Holy Land, where asymmetrical force and resources, injustice, state brutality and human suffering of the dispossessed abounds, forces us to confront ignorant biblical fundamentalism, a curse that undermines true faith and morality. DM

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The Chief Justice, the Bible and Palestinian real estate - Daily Maverick

Annexation (even delayed) is the great truth teller on Israel/Palestine – Mondoweiss

Posted By on July 6, 2020

The July 1st deadline has come and gone, and annexation hasnt arrived. But dont celebrate yet. Its delayed not cancelled. The Trump White House is divided on the details; the international protest is stronger than expected; and Israel has a renewed coronavirus crisis that ought to be getting its governments full attention.

But with Donald Trumps polling numbers in the US tumbling and rumours that Trump may even drop out of the November election if he thinks he cant win, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be wanting to get the ball rolling on annexation as soon as possible.

And once its on the Knesset statute books will it ever come off? Like the Settlements project, annexation will creep forward month by month and year by year until the desired new status quo is achieved. That means enlarged Israeli sovereignty/apartheid (ultimately including the Jordan Valley), total control of security from the river to the sea and disconnected, semi-autonomous Palestinian Bantustans. Trump will have been the enabler, but the political legacy will be Netanyahus to enjoy and the Palestinians to endure.

If youre looking for a simple explainer for whats coming, try this 7-minute video from the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence.

Whats been notable over the last few months, is the way in which even the prospect of annexation has revealed so much about the nature of the Israel/Palestine situation. There is a parallel to be drawn with how Covid-19 has also been an exposer of truths about the unfairness and inequalities of societies around the world. Perhaps, annexation is just a subset of the surfacing of injustice which weve seen across the globe in 2020 and which has stirred locked-down populations to question their tolerance for institutionalised immorality.

Heres three examples of truth telling which annexation has revealed.

Far too often in global political debate Israel/Palestine is presented as a conflict. A conflict between two sides; a conflict between competing nationalisms; or between a democracy and terrorism; or even a religious war between Judeo-Christianity and Islam. We constantly hear that both sides must make peace through direct negotiations as if they have equal standing and equal resources to make their case. Annexation has shown us how wrong all these presentations are. Israel/Palestine is about power who has it and who does not.

Only Israel has the power, and the powerful friends, to act unilaterally to change the course of history. The Palestinians have no Settlements on Israeli land. The Palestinians have nothing to annex and no sovereignty they can extend. The Palestinians did not take land in war and then use legalised theft to dominate the territory. Trumps Peace to Prosperity is not the deal of the century or even a realistic two-state solution, it is a final document demanding everlasting Palestinian submission.

This time though there is no convincing or coherent narrative of Israeli security to justify this expression of the power dynamic. There is no gathering of Arab forces on the border. There are no PLO terrorist vipers in Beirut. No suicide bombers in Tel Aviv. No Hezbollah threat in southern Lebanon. No Hamas rockets landing on Sderot. No nuclear weapons directed from Tehran. This is the simple application of power by one people over another and it exposes, for all the world to see, the true dynamic on the ground.

Israel is a state willing and able to ignore international law;willing and able to deny Palestinians freedom of movement and future access to their land;willing and able to create apartheid for Palestinians while maintaining democracy for Jews.

Annexation is a truth teller.

Theres a good reason why moderate (Liberal) Zionists have felt so concerned about the prospect of annexation. If it goes ahead, their preferred version of Zionism, one based on two states for two peoples, will finally get the decent burial service its needed for some time. And when that happens Liberal Zionism goes out of business.

It wont be the first version of Zionism that loses its meaning and its relevance.

The cultural Zionism of Asher Ginsberg was over by the 1920s, if it ever really had traction.

The bi-national Zionism of Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, and Henrietta Szold never took hold.

The socialist state building Zionism of David Ben-Gurion was only ever socialism for Jews and was over by 1977 when Likud first won power.

The Oslo Zionism of Rabin and Peres was murdered by a right-wing Jewish fanatic and anyway amounted to less than it sounded.

The only variety of Zionism still on offer is the ethno-nationalist creed of Benjamin Netanyahu and the many politicians in Israel who sit to his right in the Knesset.

Annexation has revealed that the notion that there is a spectrum of Zionism (from left to right or moderate to extreme) is in practice a myth, or at best wishful thinking.

So how will Annexation play out in the UK where Liberal Zionism is the dominant outlook across the Jewish community?

Theres already been much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands.

Meanwhile, the Board of Deputies, the body which purports to represent British Jewry to the wider world, has made a vow of silence on the issue, pleading that its job is to hold the community together and not take sides in a divisive debate. Its not a good look, nor, based on past behaviour, a very convincing one.

A letter by high-profile Jewish figures addressed to the outgoing Israeli ambassador to London, concluded by saying that annexation would: pose an existential threat to the traditions of Zionism in Britain. They are right about that. The relationship between British Jews and Israel is on the brink of imploding. Not even the Board of Deputies will be able to hold a convincing consensus together.

And to escalate an already dire situation for Zionism in Britain, Israel has just appointed Tzipi Hotovely, an extreme pro-Settler politician with zero interest in a two-state solution to be its new ambassador to the Court of St James. Its a truly disastrous appointment if you care about the survival of Zionism in Britain. But if, like me, you think Zionism has had its day, it will be fun to watch Hotovely pouring petrol on the fire.

Today, the only Zionism that matters is the version soon to arrive in London and primed to defend annexation. If you dont like it, its time to find a new vision for the Jewish future and a new way for Jews to relate to the State of Israel.

And theres a further conflict brewing between the Board of Deputies and the Labour Party. But this time the Board will not win. Last weekend, Labours shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy, announced that if Israel goes ahead with annexation, her party will call for a trade boycott against the West Bank Settlements.

It is a shameful proposition to which the UK cannot be a silent witness.

Its too little and too late, but it marks a significant shift in Labour policy and goes further than Labours last manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn. The president of the Board of Deputies was not happy.

The tactic of BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] is divisive and seeks to strike at the very legitimacy of the State of Israel, the Middle Easts only democracy and the worlds only Jewish State.

It was the usual boilerplate response to anyone calling for sanctions against Israel of any description, under any circumstances. But this time is sounds like a bum note from a busted instrument out of tune with how the public will view Israel, and indeed how a great many British Jews will see things too. Using words like legitimacy and democracy in the context of annexation and the further assault on Palestinian rights shows a shocking lack of ethical understanding, not to mention self-awareness. Sanctions against Israel may finally have come of age.

Annexation is a truth teller.

The annexation debate is revealing much that has always been peculiar and often incoherent about the nature of the relationship between Israel and Jews living in the diaspora.

If, like me, you grew up in synagogue community and a Jewish youth movement you would have learnt and been encouraged to feel that Israel is core to your Jewish identity.

In return, Israel gives us diaspora Jews a privileged status and the right of return to our ancestral homeland.

I can think of no other country that claims to be the state, not of its citizens, but of a global ethno-religious grouping. I can think of no other group of people who sees its relationship to a nation state as not just historic or religious but metaphysical in its dimensions and complexity. Its as if without this state I/we cannot truly exist, nor can my/our identity as a Jew be fully expressed.

In just 70 years a religious/political ideology, a reading of Jewish history, a world view about antisemitism, has created a deep emotionally constructed paradigm that now dominates every aspect of formal, organised Jewish life. No wonder we get so vexed about the politics of Israel and its global reputation. We have been super-sensitised to this state, and the Zionist thinking that underpins it, since the day we were born.

But annexation is cracking the paradigm open and surfacing truths that were always there if you were brave enough to look.

Our national refuge, our national redemption, has been built on the wrecked existence of the Palestinian people. And with annexation, we are about to begin the final phase of their long and tortured dispossession.

Our project of salvation was only possible through a colonialism informed by Jewish exceptionalism and an eccentric application of European nationalism. With appalling irony, we took the very elements that had plagued Jewish history for millennia and inflicted them on another people.

We cannot undo this history, but we can choose to confront it. Now would be a good moment.

Annexation is a truth teller.

COVID-19 is generating much reflection about values and priorities all around the world. We are awash with post-pandemic re-thinking. Our tolerance for poverty, racism, unfairness and inequality has worn thin during these last few months.

That makes Zionism (certainly the only version of it thats still left standing) looking more out of touch and out of date than ever before. Annexation will push it firmly over the line into the wrong side of history. Ideologies that use narratives of exceptionalism and security for one ethnic-religious group at the expense of another, need to be consigned to museums and academic history courses, along with statues of slave traders and confederate generals. Weve had enough of it, and enough of the people who find excuses for it.

In the short term, the future looks bleak. But if this year has taught us anything, its that change can happen rapidly, and public opinion can change radically. What looks unbreakable now can be shattered tomorrow.

Annexation is a truth teller. Listen to the truth.

This post first appeared on the Patheos site.

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Annexation (even delayed) is the great truth teller on Israel/Palestine - Mondoweiss

Perhaps its time those accusing the left of antisemitism look in the mirror – The Canary

Posted By on July 6, 2020

Labour leader Keir Starmer recently sacked shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey after she shared an interview on social media that he saidcontained an antisemitic conspiracy theory. Starmer claims he wants to send a strong message that under his leadership there will be zero tolerance of antisemitism.

In reality, hes just going along with the final chapter of a ludicrous, transparently manufactured, and politically-motivated smear campaign orchestrated by Zionist interests along with Tory and Labour right elements. Together, they had the shared goal of sabotaging Jeremy Corbyns chances of becoming prime minister and now want to raze any last remaining vestige of his term as Labour leader from frontline British politics.

As The Canary has previously argued, the underlying premise that criticising the violent actions of Israels state security forces is antisemitic which is what happened in Long-Baileys case is patent nonsense. But thats not all. Because closer examination reveals that perhaps its those who tacitly accept this narrative who are buying into antisemitic insinuations.

For one thing, the assumption that all Jews support Israels behavior, its current stance vis-a-vis the conflict or even its continued existence as a Jewish state, is completely false. Some of the most outspoken voices condemning Israels actions are themselves Jewish. This includes Norman Finkelstein, one of the worlds leading experts on the conflict in Palestine who is not only himself Jewish but also the son of Holocaust survivors. The Canary spoke to Finkelstein in an exclusive two-part interview last year in which he likened the antisemitism smear campaign against Corbyn to the Salem Witch Hunts.

Others include Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned linguist and political dissident, the late British historian Tony Judt and many other Jewish intellectuals and activists around the world.

In fact, some of Israels fiercest critics are themselves Israelis. Gideon Levy, for instance, is a columnist for the progressive Israeli newspaper Haaretz and has described the building of settlements within the occupied territories as the most criminal enterprise in [Israels] history.

Ilan Pappe, meanwhile, has written books with titles such as The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and Ten Myths About Israel, which condemn Israels foundation as a settler-colonial project that inevitably entailed the expulsion of the Palestinians. Both of them are not only staunch critics of Israeli policy, but also support a one-state solution to the conflict, which for them ought to establish a secular non-sectarian state with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians.

There is also an important historical context to keep in mind. Because long before Israels founding there were divisions about whether or not Jews should aspire to the establishment of a Jewish state. In fact, Zionism had major rival movements that called for Jews to fight instead for equal rights in the countries in which they already lived, such as the Bundists. As Pappe puts it:

Since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century, Zionism was only one, inessential, expression of Jewish cultural life. It was born out of two impulses among Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. The first was a search for safety within a society that refused to integrate Jews as equals and occasionally persecuted them.

The second impulse was a wish to emulate other new national movements mushrooming in Europe at the time. This was based on the ethnic-nationalist idea that nationhood is based on ethnic identity rather than sharing common borders and language.

In a strange irony, Zionism later shared this ideological feature with other influential ethno-nationalist movements of the early 20th Century, including German National Socialism. Ken Livingstone was effectively forced out of the Labour Party for pointing out this straightforward fact during a television interview in 2016. Finkelstein came to Livingstones defense, stating:

Livingstone maybe wasnt precise enough, and lacked nuance. But he does know something about that dark chapter in history. .

Hitler wasnt wholly hostile to the Zionist project at the outset. Thats why so many German Jews managed to survive after Hitler came to power by emigrating to Palestine. But, then, Hitler came to fear that a Jewish state might strengthen the hand of international Jewry, so he suspended contact with the Zionists. Later, Hitler perhaps contemplated a territorial solution for the Jews.

Livingstone is more or less accurate about this or, as accurate as might be expected from a politician speaking off the cuff.

In short, at various points in the 1920s and 1930s, Nazism and Zionisms respective leaderships were in agreement that Jews shouldnt live in Germany but rather in a state somewhere else, such as Palestine, albeit for different reasons.

To this day, many Jews reject this ethno-nationalist idea that Israel is where Jews rightfully should live simply by virtue of being Jewish. Equally, many also reject the notion that Israel should serve as some kind of safe haven where Jews can go and live as an ethnic majority. As Judtput it in an interview with The Atlantic:

Why is it ok for a Jewish minority to dominate an Arab majority, its leaders to call for expulsions of majority members, etc., but not ok for a democracy to have a majority and minority both protected under law?

He added:

[The fear of there not being a Jewish-majority state in the world] is the fear of the paranoid hysteric like the man at the dinner table in the story I wrote in the New York Review who had never been to Israel but thought I should stop criticizing it because We Jews might need it sometime.

I find this contemptible [people who take this view] are quite happy to see Arabs killed in their name, so long as other Jews do it. Thats not fear, that is something between surrogate nationalism and moral indifference.

Finally, the notion that all Jews support Israels behavior is not only false but also defamatory. Because Israel is one of the worlds worst and most prolific human rights violators. It occupies the West Bank and blockades the Gaza Strip while continuing to build settlements in the former in flagrant violation of international law and countless United Nations resolutions. It denies Palestinians living in these areas even the most basic of rights. So much so that many mainstream figures, including former US president Jimmy Carter, have described Israel as an apartheid state. And, worst of all, it frequently uses violence against this civilian population, including shooting dead unarmed protesters and even children as young as nine years old.

So by implying that criticism of Israel is a criticism of all Jews, those who buy into the tenets of the antisemitism smear campaign are, in turn, implying that all Jews support, or perhaps even are themselves implicated in, the above actions of Israel and its security state apparatus. This is every bit as outrageous as it would be to claim that every last member of the Chinese diaspora, including the roughly five million Chinese-Americans living in the United States, must by definition support the human rights violations of the Chinese government.

There is another irony to this situation still. Because this insinuation is antisemitic even according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliances (IHRA) own definition. It states that Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel and that targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity constitutes antisemitism. Yet it simultaneously says that Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor also constitutes antisemitism.

As a result, its entire criteria appears not just ridiculous but also internally contradictory. Because it insists that Israel should be a state exclusively for Jewish people yet at the same time says that conflating Israel with all Jews is antisemitic. Finkelstein described the IHRA definition to The Canary as completely idiotic and said that Corbyns willingness to adopt it was a fatal mistake.

The IHRA definition is, in fact, so absurd that the line between parody and reality is getting increasingly blurred. The Skwawkboxs Steve Walker recently posted about a complaint he made to the Labour Party in which he reports Starmer for conflation of Jewish people with actions of Israeli government in breach of IHRA code. The complaint reads:

By describing Maxine Peakes criticism of Israel as an antisemitic conspiracy theory, Mr Starmer has collectively equated Jewish people with the Israeli state.

As a member of the Labour Party I am appalled at this casual antisemitism and lack of care by its leader.

Its difficult to discern whether Walker is joking or being deadly serious and perhaps thats the point. The charge of violating IHRAs code in this way could arguably also be levelled at other Labour right figures such as Nia Griffith, Stella Creasey, and Wes Streeting.

Clearly, the antisemitism smear campaign has now become so bizarre that reality has been turned on its head. Regrettably, both Corbyn beforehand, and now Long-Bailey, one of his only remaining allies in front bench British politics, have foolishly acted as if one can appease these ruthless forces. Obviously, its impossible to appease something whose goal is to destroy your political career by any means possible and irrespective of what you say or do.

The result has been that they have helped to banish themselves back to the backbenches and put the Labour-right back in the drivers seat. The left must now regroup, reassess, and reorganize for the battles ahead. Because these forces will no doubt do the same thing all over again next time a challenge to the status quo comes along. As Labour legend Tony Benn once said: every single generation has to fight the same battles again and again and again. Theres no final victory. And theres no final defeat.

Featured image via Flickr Israeli Defense Forces and Flickr Alicedare Hickson

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Perhaps its time those accusing the left of antisemitism look in the mirror - The Canary

J St U alums tell the Zionist org its strategy hasn’t worked, it’s time to reduce aid to Israel over annexation – Mondoweiss

Posted By on July 6, 2020

This is a great surprise. Israels annexation plans have put tremendous pressure on liberal Zionist organizations to finally put their money where their mouth is, or Americas money: and punish Israel for its occupation instead of just yapping. Now 1000 alumni of J Streets youth organization, J Street U, have told the parent organization, your methods dont work, its time to sign on, and sign on strongly, to any legislation that would reduce aid to Israel if it goes ahead with annexation.

The letter parallels the letter Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other congresswomen have written to the Trump administration saying the U.S. should withhold military aid from Israel if it moves to annex portions of the West Bank.

Here is the letter to J Street from more than 1000 alumni (first reported by the Intercept this afternoon). It says Nothing will stop Israel from annexing except real material consequences. So quit with the damn lip service, it doesnt work.

Time and again, J Street has organized letters of condemnation, Jewish communal pressure, and congressional measures that fall short of creating material consequences for Israels actions. Those efforts have not and will not impede Israels attempts to expand its control of the West Bank, so long as its primary means of supportAmerican aidis untouched.

The letter-writers say that this is an unprecedented moment and a decisive test for the progressive movement. Israeli leaders act with impunity.

Israels leaders are proceeding with annexation because they expect no real consequence for doing so. Now, as they threaten to make that control [of the West Bank] permanent, most American leaders and institutions have expressed outrage, but few have indicated that moving forward will result in material consequences: a tangible erosion of American monetary support.Israels leaders must understand, instead, that proceeding with annexation will come at a cost. Only when Israeli leadership feels that doing so will jeopardize a portion of its $3.8 billion in annual American assistance will it have a real reason to reconsider.

The signatories, who include public figures and Jewish professionals (rabbis, leaders of Jewish non-profits, elected officials, staff for elected officials, journalists, community organizers, lawyers) conclude:

We ask J Street to stand in strong support of any legislation that will reduce American assistance to Israel if it decides, once and for all, to annex the West Bank.

Time and again in recent weeks, American Zionists have pleaded with Israel not to annex because it will put wind in the sails of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The alumni letter shows just that, inasmuch as the signatories are endorsing a form of sanctions.

Their letter arrives at the same time as the letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pramila Jayapal, Rashida Tlaib, and Betty McCollum, now signed by 9 other congresspeople and Sen. Bernie Sanders. If Israel goes ahead with annexation, we should condition our $3.8 billion in military aid, and maybe withhold some of it, the letter says.

The rightwing Israel lobby group AIPAC, which has not had a critical word to say about annexation, is going haywire over the congressional letter, in a stream of tweets and a letter-writing campaign aimed at painting the congresspeople as operating against US interests and the two-state solution.

The Israel lobby appears to be fracturing. If J Street is under pressure from the left, AIPAC is under pressure from the center, with organizations like American Jewish Committee and ADL expressing criticism of Israels plans.

J Street has gotten away so far with equivocating on punishing Israel. On one hand, it has called out AIPAC for not condemning Israeli annexation. And it has said that annexation might cause some Democrats to seek to condition aid to Israel. But it has also repeatedly refused to take that position itself.

At the J Street conference last fall, its president Jeremy Ben-Ami welcomed the conversation among Democratic presidential candidates about conditioning foreign aid to Israel over human rights violations, but didnt endorse such conditioning.

This is definitely in the conversation now. Its really important. Does the United States provide anybody with money without restriction? Right, there are laws that govern how American aid can be used. Those laws apply to Israel just like every other country in the world. So the notion that we just provide this aid, we send the dollars over, and thats the last thing that happens, doesnt make any sense and so its really good to see several of the candidates raising the question Are we going to foot the bill for annexation, right, should American dollars be going to pay for the expansion of settlements? Should it be going to the demolition of Palestinians villages.

Its not a matter of reducing. Let me be really clear. J Street doesnt think theres a reason to reduce the level of the aid. The question is what is it being used for, should there be restrictions on it? We should be enforcing the laws that are on the books and have some transparency about what is going on.

The J Street U alumni are pressing Ben-Ami to take real action at last.

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J St U alums tell the Zionist org its strategy hasn't worked, it's time to reduce aid to Israel over annexation - Mondoweiss


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