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Archive for May, 2010

This is a guest post by Joel Weiner, who has written to the Prime Minister about today’s events.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I am writing to you regarding the incident of May 31st when a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza was intercepted by the Israeli navy.

I understand that there is a strong temptation to blame Israel for this unnecessary loss of life. But I believe that this is an incredibly one-dimensional view of the event, and the truth is very often overlooked in favour of populist condemnation of the Middle East’s only liberal democracy.

In truth, the only humanitarian party in this incident is the Israeli Government and its defence forces. I have been to Sderot, the Israeli town in which people live in dreadful fear of the abhorrent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip which take place almost daily, sometimes several times a day, aimed at their nurseries, hospitals and playgrounds.

Israel has every right therefore to inspect the contents of aid convoys, as there is the very real threat that they may be carrying lethal rockets from Iran or Syria. The ‘humanitarian’ movement, on the other hand, only wants the world to play into the hands of the murderous terrorist regime of Hamas.

During the recent UK election, I campaigned for the Conservatives because we, the Jewish community, were assured that if elected, you would stand by Israel’s right to exist in security within its borders.

Please, I implore you, don’t give in to the populist pressure to condemn Israel. The Hamas PR machine is very well-funded by Islamic extremist groups worldwide and has been fantastically successful in galvanising the support of millions around the world with its hurtful lies about Israel and Jews.

Please don’t give in to this pressure. This is not about being pro-Israel or against her. This is about standing up for the truth; for freedom, human rights and liberal democracy over lies, terror and defamation.

Yours sincerely,

Joel Weiner
Winner of the Jewish National Fund’s ‘Ambassador’ Programme

I recommend you read Ron Ben Yishai’s account on Ynet and also the Bicom briefing.

What an upsetting day. My thoughts and prayers are with the injured commandos and their families.

This is a guest post by Israelinurse.

The ‘Free Gaza’ flotilla with its cargo of civil rights activists and humanitarian aid is due to reach Israeli waters on Saturday morning, but recent developments would appear to confirm what many of us have suspected for some time: that the concept of human rights has been hijacked by certain elements for political ends and that in the eyes of certain ‘human rights activists’, some humans are apparently more deserving than others.

An article on the ‘Ynet’ Hebrew website reports that lawyer Nick Kaufman, acting on behalf of the Shalit family, approached the organisers of the ‘Free Gaza’ campaign and pledged the family’s support on condition that in addition to their demand to lift the partial embargo on Gaza, they would also work opposite Hamas to demand that international organisations be allowed to visit Gilad Shalit and pass on to him letters and packages from his family.

Mr. Kaufman’s proposition was turned down by the legal advisor of ‘Free Gaza’ and he is quoted in the article as saying “I thought that this organisation supported human rights, as it declares about itself, but this reaction would indicate that it is interested in creating provocations and expressing support for a terrorist organisation and is really not interested in human rights”.

Gilad has of course been held in captivity by Hamas for four years under conditions which violate international law and conventions and deny him even basic humanitarian rights such as regular contact with his family through letters and visits from the Red Cross.

If the concept of human rights is to have any meaning whatsoever it must be applied universally, regardless of nationality, religion, colour, sexual orientation, gender or any other criteria, otherwise it becomes nothing more than empty rhetoric. That politically motivated groups supporting terror organisations which brazenly mock internationally accepted conventions are allowed to cynically manipulate the subject of human rights reflects miserably upon the international community’s commitment to the importance of the universality of that principle.

The many respectable charities and organisations which work in the area of humanitarian aid and human rights need to urgently reclaim their field from those who seek to misuse it purely for political ends. If they shirk this admittedly unpleasant responsibility they not only risk being tarred with a brush which is ultimately very damaging to their own aims, but are selling out the people who really need their help. Sadly, there are still too many of those people in our world today and one of them is called Gilad.

Last night I went to see a film about Israeli sumo wrestlers. Like you do. A Matter Of Size is a wonderful film about four fat Israelis who decide to become sumos. It manages to be touching, moving and hilarious all at once. It is definitely one of the best films I’ve ever seen, I recommend it. It was a great night all round actually. A group of us had dinner at White House Express first and we were therefore delighted that the film includes some shawarma-based humour. Great food, great film and above all great company – I had a blast. 

Next week Amnesty International is staging two events in London to demonise Israel’s security barrier: an art exhibition and the launch of a book which collects images of graffiti sprayed on the barrier. Between them these two events will bring together some of the worst elements of Britain’s Israel-bashers: ghastly self-indulgence, wilful dishonesty and a shameless contempt for the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Lets deal with the self-indulgence first. It is so easy for your Amnesty type to be a fan of graffiti because few of them live in areas that are decimated by vandalism and therefore they rarely understand that it is the ordinary man and woman who pays – via increased council tax -  to have it cleaned up. It’s not so easy to marvel at ‘groovy’ graffiti when it’s on your own doorstep.

Even the Palestinians have taken issue with it.  When the childish graffiti guru ‘Banksy’ first travelled to paint on the security barrier  he set off full of enthusiasm, describing his trip to the West Bank as “the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers”. But the wind got taken out of his sails when a furious Palestinian approached him at the barrier. “You’ve made it look beautiful,” the man told him. “Oh, thanks,” replied Banksy. Angrily, the Palestinian explained: “We don’t want it to look beautiful. We hate it. Go home!”

The dishonesty of Amnesty’s criticism is fulsome. It begins with the very word they use to describe it – the “wall”. Only around three per cent of it could sensibly be described as a wall. This is around the same percentage of the English population that is between the ages of five and seven years old. So in reality the barrier is as much a ‘wall’ as England is a country populated by five-to-seven year olds. But, as so often happens, when it comes to criticism of Israel any slur will do.

Just as they lie, so do they ignore obvious facts: that most of the barrier conforms to the ‘green line’; that many Palestinian farmers have successfully petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to have parts of it moved; that almost every country in the world has borders and many have walls too, from Saudi Arabia to America. What is it about this ‘wall’ that uniquely offends them? That it has so effectively saved Jewish lives?

I hope that’s not it, of course. But until any of the barrier’s bitter opponents manage an even half-sensible suggestion as how to stop suicide attacks on Israel in its absence, we will have to wonder.  Before it was constructed there was regular bloodshed in Israel. Over a thousand Israelis were murdered or severely injured in suicide attacks in the six years leading to its completion. There has been a reduction of over 90 per cent in such deaths as a result of the barrier.  If the barrier were torn down then not only would deaths of Israeli civilians rise, so too would deaths of Palestinians because there would be inevitable responses to any new terror attacks.

When I’ve seen Palestinians being detained as they cross the barrier and other checkpoints I’ve felt sad for them. When I’ve seen Israeli school-buses ripped to pieces along with the bodies of the children they once contained, I’ve felt absolutely sickened. I have nothing but contempt for the people who are so bitterly opposed to the temporary measure that has effectively and peacefully stopped this sort of thing from happening.

It is no coincidence that efforts to delegitimize  Israel have been stepped up since the construction of the barrier. Starved of the ability to destroy Israel with bombs, its enemies are now determined to destroy it with lies. We need to respond to this tactic here just as Israel responded to the suicide bombings over there: with zero tolerance.

The above is my latest column for Jewish News. You can read the paper online here. Please note Jonathan Hoffman’s comment below about how you can help defend Israel from Amnesty’s distortions.

Matisyahu’s wonderful single One Day is released in the UK on June 21*.

Matisyahu – One Day from 100% on Vimeo.

*My birthday!

Elvis Costello recently spoke out against musical boycotts, but within weeks he caved in under intimidation from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and cancelled his dates in Israel. The latest artist to face this round of harassment is Sir Elton John, who is due to play in Tel Aviv in June.

I hope Sir Elton fulfils his commitments in Israel and ignores the intimidation. Unlike most of Israel’s critics, I have witnessed first-hand what a remarkably tolerant approach the country has to gay rights. I have interviewed countless people there about it. These include politicians, soldiers and ordinary Israelis gay and straight, Jewish and Arab.

All are justly proud of the country’s record on gay rights which makes it a beacon of hope in a dark region. I will always remember the looks on the faces of the gay Israeli Arabs and Palestinians who told me that Israel is a “lifesaver” for them. Please don’t let them down, Sir Elton.

The Hilltops is a forthcoming film that takes an insider’s look into the lives of those who live on the Hilltops of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. The director, Igal Hecht, is interested to hear from anyone who can support the film. You can contact Igal via chutzpaproductions@hotmail.com

From the Chabad website:

‘The first day of Shavuot this year – Sivan 6, 5770 – May 19, 2010 – marks the 250th anniversary of passing of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the chassidic movement.

‘Through his teachings – and perhaps even more so through his passionate love – the Baal Shem Tov permanently transformed the Jewish landscape. Forevermore changed was the Jewish perspective on G-d, the Torah, the Jewish nation, and every one of G-d’s creations—and the essential unity within all these previously-thought-to-be disparate components. ‘

As I wrote in this much-discussed post, I’m fascinated by the stories of the Baal Shem Tov (who is sometimes known as the Besht) and other parts of the Hasidic and Jewish mystical traditions. Two of my favourite ever books are the Tales of the Hasidim by Martin Buber and the Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov by Yitzhak Buxbaum. I try and read a story from one or other of them every morning and they always inspire me.

So here’s to the Besht, a wondrous man who brought so much light to the world and continues to guide and inspire. And happy Shavout to all my Jewish readers. Have a sweet one!

Some Palestinians have been violently ejected from their homes by armed thugs. The homes were then demolished because they had been illegally built.

Poor people. Why isn’t the ‘pro-Palestinian’ movement protesting about this? Find out why here. And if you want chapter and verse on this sort of hypocrisy, you might like to read my lengthy essay here.

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