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Archive for April, 2009

You can now read the Israel chapter I wrote in Not In My Name here.

I hope you enjoy it.

There is a fantastic comment from ‘Israeli Nurse’  over at Harry’s Place about Caryl Churchill’s racist play Seven Jewish Children.

What really annoys me about the Caryl Churchill play is this:

I’m an Israeli parent – which is who, in fact, the play is criticising. I have raised 5 children in Israel, which is no easy task, over and above the normal difficulties of parenting. Like the majority of Israeli parents I have wrestled with the dilemma of how to raise happy, balanced children in an environment with so many instances of violence and fear.

One has to cope with the fears of a child whose father and/or brother has gone to war. One has to cope with the anxieties of children forced to wear a gas mask for hours at a time for weeks on end and forbidden to leave the house. One has to cope with the nightmares resulting from seemingly unending terror attacks. One has to decide on a balance between the freedoms a teenager demands and the obvious dangers. One has to comfort teenagers who have buried friends.

But all the while, from their infancy one tries not to opt for the easiest route. So one buys children’s books promoting Arab-Israeli co-existance. One takes them to play with the children of Arab friends. One encourages them to study hard in Arabic lessons in school. One discusses current affairs and politics taking care to present the other point of view. When they go to the army one makes sure that they discuss their difficulties and moral dilemmas over a shabbat meal.

And then along comes Caryl Churchill and makes a complete stereotypical lie out of all those years of parenting and all those sleepless nights of dilemma.

Well said.

Some readers might recall the post I wrote about George Galloway’s ridiculous Comment programme on the vile Press TV (and the hilarious angry response to it posted by one reader.) The format of the show is simple: people phone, email or text in to slag off Israel and the Jews and to defend Hamas and the Iranian regime, which funds the channel.

When Galloway is too busy spreading hate or handing money to Hamas to appear on Comment, he is stood in for by arch hypocrite Jeremy Corbyn MP.

Say what you like about Galloway and his hideous politics (though be careful, the poor little dear is very touchy and trigger-happy with the old writs!) but at least he makes the Comment show entertaining. So it’s a clever move of his to get Corbyn to cover for him, because as well as being a hypocrite Corbyn is also a completely incompetent broadcaster.

Witness the opening call on last night’s show…

Caller: “Hello?”

Corbyn: “Where are you calling from?”

Caller: [Indecipherable.]

Corbyn: “Yes, can you….give us your message?”

Caller: “Hello?”

Corbyn: “Hello?”

Caller: “Hello?”

Corbyn: “Hello caller, you’re….through to Comment.”

Caller: “I can’t hear…”

Corbyn: “You’re through to……camera….”

Caller: “Hello?”

Corbyn: “You’re through to me now.”

Caller: “Hello?”

Corbyn: “Give me a…call…please….”

Caller: “Hello, can you hear me?”

Corbyn: “Yes, I can hear you!”

Caller: “Hello?”

[Long pause, Corbyn sweating and not knowing what to do.]

Corbyn: “Erm, can you turn the television down in background because I’m not sure you can hear me?”

[Long pause, Corbyn worrying that Ahmadinejad will have his guts for garters if he doesn't sort this out soon.]

Corbyn: “Okay, we’ll have to leave that one.”

Caller: “Hello?”

It was the most intelligent exchange I have ever heard on Comment!

The Israel Defence Force has released a video explaining the background to Operation Cast Lead.

I think we’re all enjoying the guest posts from Alex Dwek at Durban this week. Indeed, one Daily Telegraph blogger is enjoying them so much that they have restored her faith in the worldwide web.

Kol HaKovod, Alex!

This is a guest post from Alex Dwek who is at the Durban Review conference.

9 am – We discovered that our passes had been taken away from us, due to the actions of certain students the previous day. So whilst we were trying to regain our accreditation we decided to do some media work and see what the coverage of the conference had been like.

In the build up to Durban II, the only press giving the conference substantial coverage were the Israeli newspapers and the Jewish Chronicle. Well now every paper worldwide was talking about the UN anti-racism conference. Every paper from the Times (where it made front page), to the Sydney Herald, South African Times, Washington Post, Le monde and Le Figaro. Every paper was talking about the three Jewish students dressed up as clowns who stood up to Ahmadinejad.

The three French Students who had been involved in ‘Clowngate’ had been released without charge and were given a hero’s welcome. They even eventually received full accreditation back into the UN. Even though it was the following day they were still wearing their wigs!

News had got back that the British mission weren’t planning on leaving, so we decided it was time to pile up the pressure, launching a Facebook campaign demanding that they withdraw, along with many phone calls to local MPs and the FCO. It got to the point where the Commons switchboard was refusing to transfer people to their MPs if it was about Durban.

We have 600 people already signed up today but we need to get as many as possible to put pressure on the British delegation. So please join the group.

By the afternoon we successfully managed to convince UN security to reaccredit us.

At 5pm the day finished with a large protest for Darfur in the Palais des Nations outside the UN. This was widely attended by students and community members from all over the world, along with a group of Darfuri refugees. The rally was a huge success with buses and cars honking their horns in support as they drove past. The genocide in Darfur, where more than 300,000 people have killed, is a wake-up call – this is the sort of issue the UN should be talking about at Durban II. The fact is that Darfur has not been mentioned even once.

Overall, a very different atmosphere to the previous day, but exciting nonetheless.

Alex is an Economics and Politics student at the University of Manchester. He represents the University of Manchester at the National Union of Jewish students. He is in Geneva as part of a world Jewish student task force and will report for Oy Va Goy throughout the week.

This is a guest post from Alex Dwek who is at the Durban Review conference.

Wow what a day…

So I’m sure by now that all of you reading this blog would have seen the news reports about the walk-out of EU nations during Ahmadinejad’s speech. However I want to give you a look at what happened from inside the walls of the conference, in one of the most bizarre days I have ever experienced.

The day began at 8am where the doors of the UN opened and participants were invited to pick up passes. We learned that each NGO was entitled to two passes for the conference floor known as the plenary, whilst the rest were told that they could watch the speeches from a designated room for NGOs.

The morning involved a protest led by the European Union of Jewish students against human rights abuses taking place all over the world. This involved standing outside in the square. It focused particularly on the oppression of women and the hanging of homosexuals, I wonder which country that was aimed at? The protest was widely attended and received coverage on the BBC website.

At about midday, whilst walking between two UN buildings, I start to hear sirens…this could only be one thing, the arrival of the only head of state attending the conference, the President of Iran. As the police convoy entered through the gates I suddenly realised that myself, along with two other students, were standing in the middle of the road obstructing the path of the convoy. We stepped back and watched the series of police bikes followed by an unmarked blue Mercedes (I’d say about 10 years old) with an Iranian flag on the front of the car.

Could this really be him?

As patrol drove past us at no faster than walking pace I glanced at the back seat and saw none other than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sitting in the back with one aide. This man who has denied the Holocaust, who has sanctioned the execution of countless homosexuals, who has called for my very destruction because of my religious beliefs was sitting in a car about two feet in front of me.

It was a surreal experience. If I was ever going to have the chance to ‘bump off’ a brutal dictator this would be it, although I didn’t fancy taking on the armed Swiss police, and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard which I’m sure would have been waiting for me.

As I went back into the conference building, I stumbled across none other than Aaron Cohen, a member of Neteuri Karta UK, who was at the conference representing Islamic Human Rights Commission. For those who don’t know, Aaron Cohen along with other Neteuri Karta members went to Tehran to attend Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial exhibition. I approached Mr Cohen and challenged him on this, his response was that by embracing Ahmadinejad, he was responsible for saving Jewish lives. How he was saving Jewish lives by encouraging Holocaust denial is beyond me, but I had no time to argue, the speeches were about to start.

At this point, we had no idea how different countries would react to Ahmadinejad’s speech, particularly in the case of the UK. Whilst David Milliband had released a letter on Friday making it very clear that the UK would walk out should any of Britain’s red lines be crossed. These included any reference to Holocaust denial and equating Zionism to racism. However whether Britain would actually walk out would be another matter….

Everyone started to take their seats. I was in the NGO room, situated right next to the plenary. Both rooms were packed. The group of students had decided that as soon as Ahmadinejad started to speak they would walk out in protest. They spread themselves around the room for maximum effect. I and another student on the other hand decided that we would stay in the room and transcribe the speech, updating it online in order to see what the response would be like (press coverage of the conference had not been particularly high at this stage and we were unsure what was going to be in the speech).

So Ahmadinejad was introduced by the president of the conference. The room was tense, emotions were on edge. We had no idea what was awaited us. At this point I looked around the room and saw that Elie Weisel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner was sitting a few rows in front. I had always wondered what it must be like for a survivor of the Holocaust to witness 60 years on the President of a country denying that such atrocities ever took place.

Ahmadinejad began to speak. No sooner had he got a few words in when there was shouting and chaos. Two men in clown wigs were shouting and running towards the stage throwing clowns noses as the President of Iran! (The two guys, were members of the French Union of Jewish Students, who had managed to get onto the plenary floor!)

The NGO room went absolutely crazy, cheering and screaming. Ahmadinejad continued, but the NGO room was still going mad with people out of there chairs running around. The sound for the English interpretation was not working. The students were going mad, along with Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who was also in the NGO room. There were shouts of: “This is a deliberate attempt to prevent us from hearing him” and “This is a breach of our human rights”. There were also calls from others in the room that this was all part of the Zionist’s plan. This developed into a minor confrontation. However cleverly a student next to me had found the online stream of the interpretation and was vigorously transcribing the speech.

The students, along with Alan Dershowtiz and Elie Wiesel left the NGO room and stormed towards the plenary. In the midst of all the chaos the security on the front door of the plenary assumed that these group of people were all diplomats and proceeded to allow them entry to the main floor! Only after a few had entered did they realise this error and lock the doors. But it was too late, Alan Dershowitz was heading to the stage informing the room that the interpretation was not working (he was subsequently chucked out of the UN, although he has vowed that should the two French students be prosecuted by the Swiss authorities, he will personally defend them in court!)

Ahmadinejad’s speech started getting more interesting:

“After WWII, the Europeans made a whole nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering. They sent migrants from Europe to set up a racist nation in Palestine.”

On hearing these words the French Ambassador for the Human Rights Council decided that enough was enough, got out of his seat and started to walk out. He was followed by the UK and then 21 other states and organisations including the EU, Morocco and Jordan. At this point there were huge cheers in the NGO room. Never had I thought the UN to be this entertaining!

As the Ambassadors walked out of the plenary, the group of students outside started applauding them. They all had huge smiles on their faces, as if this was the most exciting thing that they had ever experienced in their entire career!

Following the end of the speech, Ahmadinejad intended to have a press conference. Jewish students had other ideas. They proceeded to block the entrance to the press conference shouting ‘Human Rights’ in Farsi (this phrase was given to them by some of the Iranian dissidents who were also in attendance). Eventually security stepped in and forced a gap to allow him through. Ahmadinejad appeared unfazed and started gesturing peace signs to the crowd.

These events however contrasted greatly from the extremely moving Yom Hashoah service in the Palais des Nations outside the UN. Speakers included Elie Weisel, and Bernard Henry-Levy followed by a candle lighting. This proved to be a fitting ending to the day, driving home the underlying point of this conference, that it’s so easy just to sit back and let racism take place around you. Racists should be challenged, and this is what the EU states showed today by walking out during Ahmadinejad’s speech. As a British citizen, I am proud that the Britain delegation walked out. I do however question what the next step should be, whether they should indeed walk out of the conference altogether, or stay and help combat the racism and Human rights abuses that exist in such countries as Iran.

A few hours ago we met with the French Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, he described the days events as “something I will always remember for the rest of my life”.

I certainly will never forget the events of 20th April 2009.

Alex is an Economics and Politics student at the University of Manchester. He represents the University of Manchester at the National Union of Jewish students. He is in Geneva as part of a world Jewish student task force and will report for Oy Va Goy throughout the week.

“On all that I have seen, Bowen’s reporting from the Middle East has been informed and scrupulous. The judgement against him is an unwarranted slur on his professionalism and a threat to the notion of objective journalism.”

I kid you not. This is Oliver Kamm on Bowen, whose coverage of Israel is, apparently, informed, scrupulous, professional and objective.

What an extraordinary post!

There is an interesting article by David Brooks in the New York Times called A Loud And Promised Land.

An extract:

Israel is a country held together by argument. Public culture is one long cacophony of criticism. The politicians go at each other with a fury we can’t even fathom in the U.S. At news conferences, Israeli journalists ridicule and abuse their national leaders. Subordinates in companies feel free to correct their superiors. People who move here from Britain or the States talk about going through a period of adjustment as they learn to toughen up and talk back.

Ethan Bronner, The Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, notes that Israelis don’t observe the distinction between the public and private realms. They treat strangers as if they were their brothers-in-law and feel perfectly comfortable giving them advice on how to live.

One Israeli acquaintance recounts the time he was depositing money into his savings account and everybody else behind him in line got into an argument about whether he should really be putting his money somewhere else. Another friend tells of the time he called directory assistance to get a phone number for a restaurant. The operator responded, “You don’t want to eat there,” and proceeded to give him the numbers of some other restaurants she thought were better.

Read it in full here.

There is also interesting news about Israel’s current position on Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions in The Times today.

Any thoughts on these articles?

I listened to Michael Neill’s Effortless Success CDs recently and found them very interesting and useful. He has a unique take on what it means to be successful and I have found his ideas extremely helpful indeed.

So I am looking forward to meeting him and hearing him speak at this event in London next month. I am not usually a fan of such events – far from it actually – but Michael impresses me tremendously.


© Copyright Chas Newkey-Burden. All Rights Reserved. Thanks to Chris Morris.