Getting boycott ethics right

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Why does the Co-op pick Israeli companies to boycott? It doesn’t add up.

This morning in Manchester I found myself demonstrating outside the HQ of a major supermarket chain.

It wasn’t the HQ of a profiteering capitalist supermarket chain though. I was demonstrating outside the HQ of the Cooperative Group, an organisation which prides itself on its ethical standards. A mutually owned organisation I am proud to be a member of, alongside six million others.

The protest today outside the Co-op was because it has allowed itself to get dragged into the complex and fraught arena of the Middle East conflict.

Under pressure from anti-Israel activists from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (an organisation heavily influenced by Leninist groups such as the SWP and Socialist Action which have an ideological objection to Israel’s existence), the Co-op has adopted a policy of boycotting all the produce, wherever it is sourced, from four Israeli companies which source some produce from Israeli settlements. These companies include one that is the main exporter for the Kibbutz (communes/cooperative farms) movement – an icon of the global cooperative tradition – and one that is the main exporter for Palestinian farmers. All of their produce is now blacklisted by the Co-op.

The Co-op’s boycott position is unlikely to have any economic impact on Israel. Israel and the UK have increased their trade with each other by 30 per cent in the last year to almost £4bn.

But it is one part of a global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign by anti-Israel activists which is aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy by comparing it to apartheid South Africa and using the same tactics against Israel that were used against South Africa.

This is pernicious because Israel is the only stable parliamentary democracy in the Middle East, with freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, a vibrant multi-party debate, freedom of worship and sexual orientation, and full civil rights for minorities, including its Arab citizens. It is a society which bears no relation to the racist police-state, ruled by a small and privileged minority group, that was apartheid South Africa.

The boycott also impacts on the UK’s Jewish community. The vast majority of British Jews consider themselves Zionists (supporters of a Jewish state in Israel), and feel a profound personal and emotional attachment to Israel. When they hear the Co-op is joining in with the BDS campaigners it alienates them from the Cooperative movement and makes them feel unwelcome in Co-op stores. Throughout history the Jewish people have been subjected to boycotts by host communities, culminating in the Nazi boycott of Jewish shops and businesses.

Anything that carries echoes of that by boycotting Israeli businesses is understandably incredibly distressing for Jewish people.

I’m not Jewish, but as director of We Believe in Israel, a grassroots network of non-Jewish and Jewish supporters of Israel, I was making my distress about the boycott known to the Co-op alongside local activists from within the Jewish community in Manchester.

We are not asking the Co-op to ignore the issue of settlements and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank since the 1967 six day war. My organisation strongly supports a two-state solution, with a lasting peace delivered through the negotiated creation of a Palestinian state in return for Israel getting the security it needs. After all, if you are a Zionist and believe in the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, it follows that the Palestinians should have a state of their own, and the only place this can happen is in Gaza and the West Bank.

But a simplistic approach that merely condemns the settlements and hangs a boycott policy on that ignores the fact that the future status of the small percentage of West Bank land where Israeli settlements are sited is a key issue for any peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. All serious peace plans have involved ‘land-swaps’ where some settlements become part of Israel. This isn’t a simple issue which can be decided by campaigners in the UK.

I strongly believe that the Co-op should not take sides in the complex Middle East conflict by boycotting Israeli companies. It should engage and trade with both sides and work for peace. It should particularly work with the Israeli and Palestinian co-op movements to foster economic engagement and joint projects that build confidence and trust between the two peoples.

Particularly troubling is the way that Israel has been singled out for this type of treatment. The Co-op’s boycott is hinged on an ethical policy which, rather than making objective judgements about the scale of human rights problems in a country, has, as one of its four criteria, a clause about there being an international consensus about illegal occupation of territory. This catches Israel and only one other area, the Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara. The West Bank is almost sui generis as its legal status was confused by the previous occupying power, having been Jordan from 1948 to 1967, whose rule was only recognised by two other countries. Other high-profile cases of an occupation of questionable legality – China’s rule in Tibet and the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus – are not similarly treated as they fall outside the narrow definition set by the Co-op, largely because the Co-op relies on the viewpoint of the UN, which has an entrenched anti-Israel majority, making political rather than moral judgements. It is almost as though the Co-op either subcontracted its ethical policy to ethically dubious views of the UN General Assembly, or wrote a policy specifically designed to target the world’s only Jewish state.

The ethical double standard is that the Co-op has no problem trading with companies sourcing from some of the most pernicious dictatorships and human rights-abusing regimes in the world. It holds 60 per cent of the share capital of a pharmaceutical company incorporated in China. It sells ‘romantic honeymoon packages’ to Communist Cuba. It sells bananas from Ivory Coast, which Freedom House says is ‘not free’. It says Oman, also ‘not free’, is a travel ‘must see’. It has no policy against buying petrol from Saudi Arabia (the Co-op is in partnership with Texaco petrol stations thanks to its purchase of Somerfield).

As far as I can establish, while it proactively boycotts four Israeli companies, the Co-op has no policy stopping it buying produce from Syria, where the regime is using death squads, tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and bombs against its own civilians.

If you are a member of the Co-op and think it is wrong that it should boycott companies from Israel, a rare beacon of freedom and democracy in the Middle East, please make your views known to your elected representatives in the Co-op structures and help us push the Co-op to develop a policy more worthy of its proud ethical traditions. Please email me at luke@webelieveinisrael.org.uk if you are interested in this campaign or would like to be on our mailing list.

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Luke Akehurst is a constituency representative on Labour’s NEC, a councillor in Hackney, writes regularly for Progress here and blogs here

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Photo: Chris in Plymouth

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Comments: 72...

  1. On August 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm Anonymous responded with... #

    It’s simple: get Israel to retreat from the illegally held and occupied lands, stop any future settlements in such lands and the Co-op hasn’t got a leg to stand on. Israel and its Zionist apologists should devote more effort in finding a solution to the Middle East conflict, rather than exacerbating it.

  2. On August 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm Anonymous responded with... #

    A profoundly mischevious and misleading article in so many ways:

    1) The boycott is of goods produced in illegal settlements on Palestinian territory. The Co-op stresses this is not an Israeli boycott and that it will sell Israeli goods from other companies that (unlike the four suppliers used previously) can guarantee they don’t export from illegal settlements. To my mind this gets the boycott ethics precisely right – targetting the illegal settlements.
    2) The reference to Kibbutz produce is particularly specious. No Kibbutz based illegally on occupied territory is, in my opinion, ” an icon of the global cooperative tradition”.
    3) It is true, according to a 2010 survey of the opinions of British Jews that 72% “of British Jews consider themselves Zionists”, but the same survey shows three-quarters oppose settlement expansion in the Palestinian occupied territories, two-thirds favour giving up territory for peace, and just over half see Israel is an “occupying power” in the West Bank, and think that it should negotiate with Hamas. In reality Luke speaks for the government of Israel not grassroots Jews in Britain.

    Luke’s organization may be in favour of a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it is opposed to any practical steps which will assist the Palestinian people getting their state. This boycott is an entirely legitimate example of just such a step.

    • On August 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm John McCormack responded with... #

      I have to agree. It is morally right to boycott produce from occupied lands.

      • On August 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm Luke Akehurst responded with... #

        then why doesn’t the Co-op boycott Chinese goods over the occupation of Tibet, or goods from Turkish-occupied North Cyprus?

        • On August 22, 2012 at 11:27 am Sam responded with... #

          Does the Co-op sell any goods produced in occupied Tibet? If so I immediately offer you my support as a Co-op member in a campaign to get them to stop.

        • On August 22, 2012 at 9:22 pm David responded with... #

          Not even remotely analogous situations:

          170+ Palestinian civil society organizations have called for the boycott (as was the case with South Africa, etc.) http://www.bdsmovement.net/call
          When something similar is heard from a broad spectrum of Cypriot, Tibetan etc. civil society organizations (right now, the few calls for boycotting Turkey seem to come from Zionist lobbyists… not terribly concerned about Cyprus) then Co-op members will naturally have the opportunity to bring those forward for consideration by their democratic decision-making bodies (that is how co-ops decide things — not by slandering people in public as “Nazi”).
          Until such a time, this repetitive whataboutery is simply a feeble attempt at distraction from the issues: we do not have to wait for a boycott call against every occupation to join the campaign against a very well-documented (and long-standing) occupation. On the contrary: the growing success of BDS solidarity with Palestine may in fact contribute to building other liberation struggles (assuming you actually care about them, that is).

        • On August 23, 2012 at 11:19 am snickid responded with... #

          ANSWERS

          1. The Tibetan government does not support a boycott of Chinese goods (even those made in Tibet) – as anyone involved with Tibet knows.

          2. No organisation (not even the Greek Cypriot government calls for a boycott of Turkish Cypriot goods).

        • On August 23, 2012 at 11:19 am snickid responded with... #

          ANSWERS

          1. The Tibetan government does not support a boycott of Chinese goods (even those made in Tibet) – as anyone involved with Tibet knows.

          2. No organisation (not even the Greek Cypriot government calls for a boycott of Turkish Cypriot goods).

        • On August 23, 2012 at 11:19 am snickid responded with... #

          ANSWERS

          1. The Tibetan government does not support a boycott of Chinese goods (even those made in Tibet) – as anyone involved with Tibet knows.

          2. No organisation (not even the Greek Cypriot government calls for a boycott of Turkish Cypriot goods).

      • On August 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm Luke Akehurst responded with... #

        then why doesn’t the Co-op boycott Chinese goods over the occupation of Tibet, or goods from Turkish-occupied North Cyprus?

    • On August 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm Luke Akehurst responded with... #

      Jon
      you are factually incorrect. From 2009 to 2012 the Co-op Group only boycotted settlement-produced goods. It now boycotts all produce, wherever sourced, from 4 Israeli companies because they source some produce from settlements.
      As I’m not Jewish I would never claim to “speak for” grassroots Jews, but your point 3 is misleading as I know many Jews in the UK and Israel, and indeed non-Jews, who “oppose settlement expansion in the Palestinian occupied territories, favour… giving up territory for peace, and …see Israel is an “occupying power” in the West Bank” but totally abhore boycotts as a tactic.
      Luke

      • On August 21, 2012 at 11:34 pm Anonymous responded with... #

        Luke:
        I don’t accept what you say about the Co-op’s four former supply companies. The Co-op explains it thus:

        “Following an audit of the group’s supply chain, it will no longer do business with four companies, accounting for £350,000 worth of sales, as there is evidence that they source from the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

        “However, the group will continue to trade with Israeli suppliers that do not source from the settlements, and currently has supply agreements with some 20 Israeli businesses, a number of which may benefit from a transfer of trade. The group will also continue to actively work to increase trade links with Palestinian businesses in the occupied territories.”

        The Co-op has sensibly decided to minimise “the additional costs involved in the tracing and auditing of all produce supplied by these companies” and to increase orders from other suppliers dealing in Israeli but not settlement goods. It is not seeking to boycott gods from Israel.

        As to your other claim, what is wrong with boycotts in principle? They were widely supported against apartheid and played a real role in bringing it down. Surely the important questions are (i) are they directed against the right targets; (ii) are they capable of attracting widespread support? and (iii) will they be effective?

        Personally, I am not in favour of general boycotts against Israeli goods or academic boycotts because they fail all three tests. I think boycotts of settlement goods pass all three tests. They are specifically targetted at illegal settlements that are almost universally condemned (intermediaries like these four companies who might be caught up in a boycott are perfectly able to take a commercial decision to stop importing settlement goods). The arguments against generalised anti-Israel boycotts used by people employed to undertake PR effectively in support of the Israeli government position such as yourself are frankly not persuasive in relation to boycotts targetted at illegal settlements. And they will hurt illegal settlements financially. Rightly so.

        Should boycotts be used in relation to other issues? Perhaps, if they pass the tests. But against Chinese products? It’s just not realistic is it, Luke? I dare say that there were other dictatorships in the world besides Iraq that you would have supported bombing, but you didn’t insist on bombing them all at once, did you?

  3. On August 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm Joshua Fenton-Glynn responded with... #

    The argument that people shouldn’t be involved because it’s too complicated is the same used by the Leninist groups you so criticise to opose westen intervention in Libya for example, it demeans you to use that argument.

    I think the main point here is that the boycott is aimed at companies that use illigally occupied land, a distinction I believe Oxfam also make as to sell things from there is tantamount to handeling stolen goods.

    • On August 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm Luke Akehurst responded with... #

      I want people in the UK to get involved with the issue by engaging with it in all its nuance and complexity and supporting pro-peace actors on both sides, not by demonising and boycotting one side.

      • On August 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm Tom Miller responded with... #

        Or excusing one when it is clearly in the wrong? How does this strengthen the Israeli left?

      • On August 24, 2012 at 11:24 am David responded with... #

        Boycotts “demonize” nobody — they put economic and political pressure on those they hold power, in support of oppressed people calling for our help, which is something progressives should always be ready to do.
        Comparing boycotters campaigners to “Nazis” on the other hand — that truly IS demonization, as well as a cheap shot. This type of knee-jerk slur is why the “anti-semitism” trope is wearing thin through over-use. This systemic Zionist over-use (and deliberate mis-use) of the term now means fewer and fewer people believe in it anymore, which is a pity because we actually need the term “anti-Semitism” when used meaningfully, as opposed to just trying to bully all criticism of Israeli policies into silence with a single conveniently lazy slap-down. So when progressives have to combat real anti-Semitism, now we also have to explain that the term doesn’t mean what folks like Luke have tried to make the public believe (i.e. any and all criticism of Israeli policies or practices).
        If the boycott campaign were even remotely anti-Semitic, we would not see Jewish progressives in the BDS movement, nor the Boycott from Wthin campaign by Jews in Israel http://boycottisrael.info/
        So can we stop with the unjustified “Nazi” comparisons please? They contribute nothing to the debate, and they cheapen an otherwise useful term.

  4. On August 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm Ben White responded with... #

    Comparison to the Nazis? How long did it take to think of that one? Disgraceful.

  5. On August 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm Ben White responded with... #

    The comparison to the Nazis is absurd and disgraceful.

    • On August 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm Luke Akehurst responded with... #

      Why can’t you understand the uglyness and insensivity of boycotts as a tactic against a Jewish state given the history of the Nazi use of boycotts? The comparison is regularly raised by ordinary Jewish audience members at meetings I have spoken at.

      • On August 22, 2012 at 11:26 am Sam responded with... #

        Boycotts of German goods were also a key weapon used by the Jewish
        diaspora against Nazi Germany in the 1930s. They have been used by great
        individuals from Gandhi to Martin Luther King as a form of non-violent
        resistance to actions which we find morally wrong. The idea that because
        the Nazis did something the action itself is eternally evil is facile.
        Hitler wrote a book, are all authors fascist dictators?

      • On August 23, 2012 at 3:38 am David responded with... #

        The Nazi comparison is *only* raised by ZIonists desperate to slur solidarity movements by trying to make the tired “anti-semitic” trope stick, when in reality it has less and less traction every day. Jews in the BDS movement, Independent Jewish Voices etc. as well as other progressives know what we all can learn from the history of social movements: that boycotts have a long history of use as a means of nonviolent resistance to oppression. Picking on one oppressive example from the 30s to try to smear BDS is transparently selective and ahistorical.

    • On August 22, 2012 at 10:39 am Andy Gill responded with... #

      Aren’t you the Ben White, the racist journalist who said “I am not an anti-semite, but I can understand why some people are?” You’ve got a nerve whining about Nazi comparisons,

      • On August 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm Progressive responded with... #

        Spot on!

    • On August 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm zkharya responded with... #

      ‘The comparison to the Nazis is absurd and disgraceful’

      You and the Nazis share the desire to deconstruct the state of the largest Jewish community in the world, for their alleged crimes against humanity.

      More locally, you desire to dissolve the one Jewish state in the world for qualities allegedly apartheid which every Arab, islamic state or society in existence, including the Palestinian, has or has had with regard to Jews, at least, for the last 100 years, or more.

      In other words, you would dissolve the one Jewish state in the world for crimes, sins and misdemeanours you overlook in her Arab Christian and Muslim enemies.

      And, like Hitler, you do so in the name of ‘justice’.

    • On August 22, 2012 at 9:06 pm zkharya responded with... #

      Truth be told, I am less concerned about Coop than I am about Ben White and the BDS movement generally.

      It isn’t very clear what its precise goals are, but Norman Finkelstein clarified, critically, that logically they end in ultimately no-more-Israel.

      I don’t think that is a very realistic outcome, though Ben White’s kind of anti-Zionist ideology-driven-zealotry, which can brook no compromise with the (anti-Christian) evil he sees as ‘Zionism’, can only likely exacerbate the conflict.

      That kind of faith-based nuttiness, which works hand-in-glove with Islamist-eliminationists like Hamas or Hizbullah (or indeed Ahmadinejad of Iran, whom Ben White began his illustrious career defending) is a kind of modern useful/useless idiocy, even as Ben White’s ‘Zionism is Racism’ is a legacy of old school Soviet state sponsored anti-Zionism/antisemitism.

    • On August 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm zkharya responded with... #

      Just been banned from Ben’s thread, so I’ll paste this here:

      Writes Ben White:

      ‘I can only assume BDS was designed to maximise distress, insult and anguish for the Jewish community’

      Well, it is intended (as Finkelstein understands your goals) to deconstruct the state of the second or largest community of Jews who survived the deconstruction of the state of European and Arab Jews, those of Old World Christendom and Islam, in the 19th and 20th centuries.

      You do seem to be a bit spectacularly ignorant of the history of all of this, Ben.

      But, then, what would one expect from a man who began his journalistic career by reducing it to ‘understanding why some people are antisemites’?

      You certainly began as you meant to go on, Ben.

  6. On August 21, 2012 at 10:08 pm Michael responded with... #

    Ben White complaining about a Nazi slur? This is a man who had a problem with Howard Jacobson’s face (too Jewish Ben?), who could ‘understand’ ant-semites and makes cringeworthy apologies for Iran and Hezbollah. Chutzpah.

  7. On August 22, 2012 at 10:36 am Andy Gill responded with... #

    Good for you Luke. The Co-op boycott is immoral and one-sided. It has become apparent in recent years that the BDS movement is largely motivated by racism. Even Norman Finkelstein, a massive critic of Israel, has expressed his disgust with the dishonesty of the BDS goons.

  8. On August 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm Ben White responded with... #

    So much nonsense here, it deserved it’s own blog post http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/08/22/why-the-cooperative-is-still-right-to-boycott-israeli-settler-produce/

  9. On August 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm ZazaFl responded with... #

    Palestinian civil society has called for a boycott and people of conscience should respect that call. This narrative should be about what oppression, apartheid and war crimes the Palestinian people are subjected to. Until that ends, then the BDS call should be respected. As with apartheid South Africa, justice should be the first concern. I’m sure that white South Africans who wanted to maintain the apartheid state similarly disparaged those who joined the boycott and engaged in whataboutery.

  10. On August 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    To Zaza

    Ok explain to me about this “apartheid” you speak of. Is it the apartheid of Arab Muslim counties like Palestine and Gaza and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Bahrain etc where no Jew is allowed to live or to hold office or to own land or is it Israel where 1.3MILLION mainly Muslim Arabs live with full and equal right as any Jew. Indeed where a Muslim woman sits at the highest level of judiciary The Supreme Court – and indeed where many Muslim and Christians sit in the Israeli Parliament

    Now tell me why when Jordan owned the west bank betwen 1948-67′ no Palestinian flag was flown and no independent Palestinian state was proclaimed- ie they are NOT a separate nation they are Arabs mainly Jordanian and the vast majority immigrated to Israel to find work and better health conditions AFTER the Jews came in the late 19th century. Jews who raclaimed the previous swamp and desert so it became habitable

    The ignorance and lack of research of some on here is truly appalling – or is it simply racism

    Don’t believe the guff and propaganda from the Arabs and willing dupes like the PSC -do your own research!

  11. On August 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    Ok jonlansman, I’ll play

    Show me how these communities in Judea and Samaria are “illegal” Quote me chapter and verse where and how that is so.

    Now, show me on what basis it is “Palestinian territory ” when it became palestinian territory was this before 1948′ before 1967 or when these Palestinian Arabs we’re invented by yasser arafat

    Why when Jordan owned the land between 48-67 was it not claimed as Palestine. Why not 100 or 200 years ago?

    Land for peace eh? When the Jews gave up Gaza which they won in a defensive war what peace did they get? Try the carpet bombing of a million Israelis by Palestianian terrorists

    Before the Jews set foot back in their ancient homelands of Judea and Samaria (which they were able to do post 1967 have been ethnically cleaned probiously by the ruling Jordanians ) was their peace? Was their pizza parlour suicide bombings before any hint of “occupation” or night club bombings etc

    • On August 22, 2012 at 3:20 pm Anonymous responded with... #

      Try this decision of the International Court of Justice.

      • On August 24, 2012 at 11:29 am David responded with... #

        Or all the U.N. resolutions calling for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Lots of chapters & verses show the illegality of all the settlements, if anyone bothers to look.

  12. On August 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    Hamas in Gaza call for the annihilation of all Jews – it’s in their Protocols, article 7. If any on here agree with this please let us know

    The PA in the west bank call for the eradication of Israel to be replaced by a sharia muslim Arab state- the 23rd in the region -If any on here agree with this please let us know

    Mahmood Abbas is clear that any Palestinian state will be Jew free- JUDENREIN if you will-If any on here agree with this please let us know

    The Arabs throughout the middle east practice apartheid racism homophobia misogyny are undemocratic have zero free speech zero freedom of religion for all but Muslims zero free and fair elections, zero free judiciary -If any on here agree with this please let us know

    The Arabs have colonised 99.5% land mass of the entire middle east now they wish to colonise the ram aiming 0.5% the don’t own- If any on here agree with this please let us know

  13. On August 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm Ed Davie responded with... #

    I didn’t really get why so many Labour people dislike Luke Akehurst but likening the Co-op with Nazi Germany has enlightened me

  14. On August 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm DarrenNaylor responded with... #

    The replies by luke and ‘progress’ are disappointing. You say you want dialogue and for people to be involved. But when they do read your posts and then reply they are just attacked rather than engaged with any sort of adult conversation. Just one reason i cancelled my membership with ‘progress’.

    • On August 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm Steve responded with... #

      Reading Luke’s article just made me think it was more about Luke trying to make a name for himself than the realities of the Coop boycott. As a member of the Coop myself as well as a Labour Party member I fully support any action it takes to bring these matters to the open. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to comment on the issue but I if Progress is involved then I have to wonder what Luke and they are up to.

  15. On August 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    To Sam

    When you single out the Jews and ONLY the Jews its disgusting decrepit vile JEWHATE

    If you don’t agree tell us all why this is different from the nazis JEWHATE

    It’s not as if thousands of Muslims arent being annihilated all over the middle east/ Africa by other Muslims, or Christians killed for being Christians and hundreds of churches being torched- oops my bad!

    Quick man the flotillas boycott the lot of them!

  16. On August 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    Theres only one thing that the über left and the far right (together with islamic sympathisers and terrorists) agree on, Jews! More specifically hatred of Jews

    QED.

  17. On August 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    Old gold you sound a Like a throw back from 1930s germany. Time to go home

  18. On August 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm John Snowdon responded with... #

    Where to start with this litany of inaccuracies, falsehoods and sly innuendo?

    The Co-op’s policy change to include companies complicit in Israeli violations of international law is a progression of their 2009 policy which banned goods from settlements declared illegal under international law. It has been welcomed by organisations as diverse as Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Israeli citizens from Boycott from Within http://www.boycottisraelnetwork.net/?p=1063 and the Palestinian agricultural organisations http://www.boycottisraelnetwork.net/?p=1070. To characterise the Co-op’s ethical stance as akin to Nazi policies is offensive and undermines the suffering of Jews and others during the Third Reich. Shameful.

    The 2005 call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions comes from Palestinians themselves: refugees, those under occupation and those denied their rights by the Israeli State. The ‘conflict’ situation isn’t ‘complex’ as Akehurst would have us believe, nor is it a conflict! It’s really very simple. Palestinians are subjected to a regime comprised of three elements: Colonisation, Apartheid and Occupation by the State of Israel: a belligerent settler-colonial regime with a nuclear arsenal, overwhelming military strength and the full backing of the US and EU. In contrast, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions is the tactic Palestinians have chosen to help them attain freedom, justice and equality.

    The Co-op’s position is principled and is part of the ethical tradition of the Co-operative movement. As Co-op members we refuse to stand by as our fellow human beings in Palestine are imprisoned without trial, have their land and water stolen, suffer death, indignity and loss of freedom at the hands of the Israeli State. Palestinians have asked for our support; this is our response.

  19. On August 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm Anonymous responded with... #

    @thetruthhurtseh:disqus

    I think you should change your name to Thetruthisanalienconcepttome.

    Israel is nothing short of a terrorist state, it sends Mossad to kill political enemies (using stolen UK passports from time to time), it steals people’s land, bulldozes their houses and murders individuals on a daily basis.

    Palestinians ‘carpet bombing’? Are you insane? Where is their airforce? Who is it who has the helicopter gunships, Hammas or Israel?

    I think the Co-op should boycott Israel in its entirety, I certainly do.

  20. On August 22, 2012 at 7:04 pm Sholah Patrick responded with... #

    I found this article
    completely lacking in any intellectual honesty and seemed to be a propaganda
    piece.

    Cllr Akehurst, who resides in London, a councillor in Hackney from one of the
    most deprived wards in London (Chatham Ward) found himself so motivated about
    an issue that he travelled half-way across the country to join in a
    demonstration outside the Co-Op HQ in Manchester. I wonder if Mr Akehurst has
    demonstrated against other issues which he has concern over and more
    importantly his constituents have such as the tax avoidance of retailers like
    Top Shop, or those dealing in blood diamonds or dirty chocolate in his own town
    of Hackney. I hope his constituents are aware of what really motivates Cllr
    Akehurst instead of dealing with issues so far away in Manchester.

    Coming back to the article, I haven’t seen an article so liberally sprinkled
    with propaganda twists and falsehoods, I cannot seriously believe Cllr Akehurst
    actually believes what he writes.

    Cllr
    Akehurst tries to redefine and rewrite history by trying to justify the illegal
    and brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He portrays the West Bank as being a disputed territory instead of being
    occupied. He stated that “The West Bank
    is almost sui generis as its legal status was confused by the previous
    occupying power…” He continues by saying that the UN general assembly, which incidentally
    voted Israel into existence is somewhat biased against it.

    He
    legitimises the illegal occupation by the extreme Settler movement who have
    built settlements on Palestinian land in their dream of Greater Israel ignoring
    the plight of Palestinians to return to their land. He promotes the idea of ‘land
    swaps’. He ignores the predicament of the occupied Palestinians who are treated
    like prisoners (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/22/alleged-hate-crime-in-israel-part-of-larger-trend.html).
    He says Israel is a beacon of parliamentary
    democracy but fails to mention the Likud led government is so right wing, its
    partners are extremists and fundamentalist parties such as the Yisrael Beiteinu which wants to see the expulsion
    of Arabs from Israel, or the Shas Party, led by the fundamentalist Rabbi Ovadia
    Yosef whose views on women’s rights, homosexuality, Arabs and non-Jews are
    shocking. I’ll let you do the research
    on them.

    He
    then states ridiculously because most UK Jews are Zionists they will be offended
    and put off going to the Co-Op therefore to use his own logic it would be
    alright to offend British Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians because the vast
    majority of them are pro-Paletinian and have an emotional and religious
    attachment to the Palestinian people.Then
    he puts the icing on the cake reverting to
    Godwins Law and makes a Nazis comparison.

    It’s
    a bad article which shouldn’t have been published.

  21. On August 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    To sholah Patrick

    Yet the PSC travel all over Britain to deny Jews and Jewish charities their right to work and live in peace. The PSC who happily fraternise with neo nazis and spread antisemitic

  22. On August 22, 2012 at 8:44 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    Israel is AT WAR.  Israel is carpet bombed on an almost daily basis by the Gaza terrorist Islamist leadership, Hamas, and their acolytes Islamic Jihad, Al Asqua, al Sunni Salafists etc. One million Israels within range have just 17secs to find cover from these deadly rocket and mortar attacks. This is collective punishment on a civilian population and is in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention.

    Oh and by the way, the “blockade” is LEGAL.
    The Israeli commission of inquiry into the Israeli Navy’s interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla found that the naval blockade of Gaza does not break international law.

    The report found that Israel’s enforcement of the naval and overland blockade complies with international law, including its attention to humanitarian conditions. 

    Go ask the normally anti Israel UN – they say it’s legal too! 

    The UN sponsored Palmer Report confirmed that “Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is “LEGAL“, “appropriate”, consistent with international law, and that IDF Naval forces have the right to stop Gaza-bound ships in international waters.”

    PS: Is this the same blockaded Gaza that just underwent a 28% growth in its Gross Domestic Product. Weird huh? Where obesity is one of the highest rates in the ENTIRE middle east?

    “ILLEGAL SETTLEMENTS”

    On what basis? Under which binding authoritative law(s). As Goebbels claimed, keep saying it and you’ll be believed. Not any more Sir. Lies about Jews and the Jewish state cannot and will not stand with impunity.

    At what point will you lot stop propagating the same old canards and outright lies, and read the binding and presently in force agreement between Israel and “Palestine” the so called OSLO ACCORDS. They contain no prohibitions whatsoever on the building or expansion of “settlements”. On the contrary, they specifically provide that the issue of settlements is reserved for permanent status negotiations, which are to take place in the concluding stage of the peace talks. The parties expressly agreed that the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction or control over settlements or Israelis, pending the conclusion of a permanent status agreement.  So called “Area C” is in the play here.  Who rightfully controls Area C? How much of the  disputed Judea and Samaria area does it encompass ( according to Erekat  – a pittance of about  1.1%!) 

    OSLO acknowledges the STILL BINDING international legal instrument which divided the territory in the region of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza which was the League of Nations Mandate of 1922, (following San Remo) which explicitly recognized the right of Jewish settlement in all territory allocated to the Jewish national home in the context of the British Mandate. These rights under the British Mandate were preserved by the successor organization to the League of Nations, the United Nations, under Article 49 of the UN Charter.

     Also still binding,  UN RESOLUTION 242 offers no solace either for you über lefties.

    SO, NOT ILLEGAL!  Any thing else to discuss here?

    “OCCUPIED TERRITORIES”

    Which? Where? Who “occupied” these territories previously. Methinks he  needs a short history lesson.

    The Six Day War of 1967, in which Israel recaptured (Gaza and) ‘the West Bank’, including Jerusalem, was an act of self defence. It had been attacked in all sides by Egypt Syria and  Jordan. ‘Palestine’ had barely been invented back in 1967 and certainly owned no land anywhere on the planet – far less in the Middle East.  The land that you lot refer to as The West Bank was ruled by Jordan who occupied it ILLEGALLY. It is certainly worth noting that in all the time that the Jordanians owned Judea and Samaria, between 1948-67,  NO PALESTINIAN FLAG WAS FLOWN OVER THE AREA. Now why is that precisely? I know you know!

    So, when did the West Bank and East Jerusalem become part of this mythical country called Palestine? The answer is: never! Legal title reverted to Israel. 

    It is also “unhelpful,” not to mention morally repellent, for those on here to argue on the Palestinian side, that the West Bank, like Gaza, will eventually be made Judenrein, totally absent of Jews, OH YES JUST LIKE THE NAZIS, that, as Mahmoud Abbas has loudly announced on more than one occasion, the future Palestinian state would not have one Jew living within its borders. Putting aside the fact that it is Israel that is continually derided for being racist and exclusionary (despite having 1.3 million mainly Muslim Arab citizens with full and equal rights under the  Law- apartheid my ass), only in a world turned upside down would dupes and JEWHATERS uphold a principle that Jews—and only Jews—not be allowed to live in certain territories, and particularly those areas to which they have irrevocable and inalterable biblical, historic, and legal claims.

    • On August 24, 2012 at 1:47 am David responded with... #

      False, from your first line: Israel has never been “carpet bombed” (the Palestinians have no air force, can’t “carpet bomb” anyone: the proportion of ordinance from Israel to Palestinians outnumbers any that arrive in the other direction, many times over… the only thing in the area resembling “carpet-bombing” would be the regular shelling of Gaza by Israeli forces). The rest of your rant continues in a similarly anti-factual fashion, right to the end (there are dozens of Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel — try doing a bit of research).

    • On August 24, 2012 at 1:47 am David responded with... #

      False, from your first line: Israel has never been “carpet bombed” (the Palestinians have no air force, can’t “carpet bomb” anyone: the proportion of ordinance from Israel to Palestinians outnumbers any that arrive in the other direction, many times over… the only thing in the area resembling “carpet-bombing” would be the regular shelling of Gaza by Israeli forces). The rest of your rant continues in a similarly anti-factual fashion, right to the end (there are dozens of Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel — try doing a bit of research).

  23. On August 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm naomi woodspring responded with... #

    I take issue with much of what is said in this misleading and, at points, reactionary blog but as a Jew and a human with a great interest in history equating ethical trade practices with Hitler’s atrocities is a profound misreading of the Holocaust.

  24. On August 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm Thetruthhurtseh? responded with... #

    And et al.  I think you should change your name to silly little boy. Obama went to Pakistan to get OBL killed is America a terrorist state

    America and Britain use drones to kill people thousands of miles away . Is America a terrorist state?

    13500 bombs raining  down in jews- yup carpet bombing any anyone’s language!

    The Arabs refuse any Jews living in most of the middle east and are killing Christians or kicking them out for practicing their religion. Are they all democratic states. 

    You lot talk of “extreme” settlers. Lol lol. PRETTY MUCH EVERY PALESTINIAN ARAB IS EXTREME- they call daily for the killing of Jews being as they are inculcated with hatred of Jews ( and to some extent Christians) pretty much from cradle to grave. They laud suicide terrorists, they name building and roads after them. They fete them in the media they consider them heroes. And you lot side with THEM.  Sick or what !

    Under Oslo and UN resolution 242 and 383 the Palestinians are in constant conflagration of the Geneva convention, they illegal occupy parts of the disputed territories including Jerusalem and transfer millions of Arabs into a war zone!

    There is NOT ONE international law in regards the west bank that Israel contravenes, and some on here can keep lying about it but it still doesn’t make it truth

    The PA rules Palestine Hamas rules Gaza. These are your brutes!  Oh and Gaza shares a border with Egypt, Palestan with Jordan. Funny you über lefties forget that eh?

    The Palestinains have rejected. EVERY PIECE OF LAND THEY HAVE EVER BEEN OFFERED – they own nothing, never have!  

    The land was owned by the Ottomans who lost it in WW1 to the allies, then by the Brits who subsequently in 1923, offered 77% of the land promised to the Jews  under Balfour to the Arabs. 

    In  1947  The Jews accepted their remaining measly 23% ; the “Palestinian” Arabs rejected their offer. Why? They attacked the Jews and threatened to annihilate them. In 1948 after the Jews declared independence they were attacked again by seven Arab armies who again threatened to annihilate all Jews. They failed. They’ve been warring and failing and rejecting peace ever since. Will these Arabs  EVER learn. Apparently not.

    Every political party whether right or left has tried to appease the Arabs and obtain a lasting peace with them. Every offer is rejected by the Arabs- no Jews in the  neighbourhood seems to be their mantra.  Ironic that for the first time in history the VICTOR sues for peace not the vanquished lol lol lol.

    Palestinians are NOT a people? They are Arabs – nothing distinct from other Arabs. Not in terms  of culture history religion language currency etc. they were invented in 1964 by Yasser Arafat and his cronies as a weapon to bash Israel and to steal the Jewish states new found independence.  The Arabs already control a mere 99.5% of the entire middle east. But that’s not enough…

    Jews have lived in Israel for over 4000yrs. The Arabs, oh around 1300 yrs – and the Palestinians  have been around  for about 43 yrs. Stateless despite being offered their state numerous times. Mere pawns in the Arab oil barons and despotic tyrannical dictators,  deflecting their 220million masses who cow their own populations into submission using JEWHATE as a device- lying to them about eradicating the  Jewish state and reconstituting Palestine over Israel- even though the country of Palestine has NEVER EXISTED in history. EVER.

    Suggestion. Make peace not wars.

  25. On August 23, 2012 at 12:31 am Anonymous responded with... #

    “Israel is carpet bombed on an almost daily basis by the Gaza terrorist
    Islamist leadership, Hamas, and their acolytes Islamic Jihad”

    Gone beyond shark jumping there, more like shark dressage.

  26. On August 23, 2012 at 4:55 pm DerekW responded with... #

    If Mr Akehurst had witnessed the brutality and vindictiveness of Israel he would take a more enlightened view. Having seen what Israel did in Lebanon many years ago – 30,000 Palestinian refugees and Lebanese citizens were slaughtered in a seven months aerial bombardment – he would be less inclined to be critical of the Co-op boycott of settlement goods. In my view Israel’s illegal Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, its seige of Gaza, its frequent incursions into neighbouring countries and its continued disregard for International Law, is sufficient to ban everything from Israel.
    I know little about Akehurst, but it is cause for concern that he hold such views as a member of the Labour Party.

  27. On August 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm Tom Miller responded with... #

    “…and full civil rights for minorities, including its Arab citizens.”

    You can’t marry a Palestinian though, right? And they want to demand a ‘loyalty pledge’ to be given or to maintain citizenship?

    And what about all those roads in the occupied areas that Israel says are not Palestinian (because it refuses to accept the existence of Palestine), and it continues to occupy, outside of Israel – while banning access to Palestinians? How about the location of that wall?
    This? http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel-bans-arab-parties-from-running-in-upcoming-elections-1.267987

    I support a two-state solution, but I hate it when support for national rights descends into the uncritical backing of obviously perserve unjustifiable government policies, with clear civil rights implications.

    The best way to support a just peace is to oppose the right wing of both populations, and to accept that Israel is in the stronger material position and should therefore probably go to the table with a reaslistic offer first. Repeat Oslo. Things are different now.

    Sticking up for Israeli governments all the time, uncritically, simply legitimises the repeated choice of the Israeli people since Rabin was assasinated to electect hardliners in the peace process, and people less tolerant of civil rights within Israel itself.

    This process leads to Israel advocates of all sorts of political affilliations acting against the long term interests of the state – interests synonymous with the word ‘peace’.

    • On August 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm Tom Miller responded with... #

      Further to that, fundamentally, military aid should be cut the more often it is used. Many Israelis are resigned to many people worldwide hating them, and get on with bashing the Palestinians anyway.

      That is sad, on one level. On another, I wonder if they would feel the same if they were actively punished for aggressive behaviour by the international community in the same way that some of Israel’s enemies are.

  28. On August 23, 2012 at 6:08 pm Ian Lowery responded with... #

    Israel a democracy? A kleptocracy more like it
    Well done the Co-Op standing up against bullies – makes me proud to be a member

  29. On August 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm thomas cartwright responded with... #

    Strange that the boycott against indubitable Israeli oppression has to overcome a host of comparisons, whereas (fore example) the AngloAmerican unprovoked aggression against Iraq, based on a slew of lies (both aggression and lies still endorsed by Mr Akehurst) , must never take second place just because there are many other cases of oppression. No delay for Bush’s, Blair’s and Akehurst’s aggressions “we must do what we can” regardless of comparisons…No – the world-domination policy of Anglo-american imperialism (explicitly endorsed by Mr Akehurst in Hampstead at a debate against CND , to support his policy of an aggressive nuclear policy) requires systematic double standards in almost every major policy issue. It would be pleasant to imagine that the revolt of most of the Israeli defence establishment against the Netanyahu-Barak policy of unprovoked aggression against Iran might re-orient Israeli politics – away from the racist ethnic cleansing on which Zionism was and is based – a reorientation Mr Akehurst resolutely opposes….

  30. On August 24, 2012 at 11:54 am David responded with... #

    One of my earliest memories (political or otherwise) is of participating with my family and other progressives in a boycott of Californian table grapes and lettuces; with other progressives, we went on to work on boycotts of Chilean and South African products , in support of the opposition movements in those countries.

    Did these boycotts makes us “anti-Californian”, anti-Chilean or anti-South African in any of these cases? Of course not! Those boycotts meant we were opposed to fascist-inspired governments (in the latter two cases) and the brutal policies of a agro-businesses and their state enablers (in the former). If one day the Tibetan people’s organizations call for a boycott of Chinese goods, progressives will be proud to join in the same tradition (regardless of how difficult that boycott may be), and guess what? That will not make us “anti-Chinese” either.

    We supported the grape-lettuce boycott because farm workers organizations in California called for it, and the S. African and Chilean boycotts because the ANC (and allies) and the Chilean left opposition called for them, respectively. Progressives now support the BDS call for boycott of Israeli goods because Palestinian civil society organizations (http://www.bdsmovement.net/call) as well as courageous Israeli progressives (http://boycottisrael.info/) have called for this nonviolent means of resistance against the occupation. If we take our “progressive” politics seriously, we must heed them now.

  31. On August 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm David responded with... #

    Supporters of the beleaguered two-state solution (as Luke claims to be) have to ask themselves: what could possibly help bring such a thing about at this point? Since at least 1976, Israel (with constant US support, including successive UNSC vetos) has consistently rejected every real attempt at a credible, lasting 2SS, in the face of an overwhelming international consensus. Arab and Islamic governments, and the relevant non-state parties (including Fatah and Hamas) have reiterated their support for a 2SS, but the prospects are getting more remote each year. The real roadblock to peace remains Israeli rejectionism coupled with expansion of WB settlements — which are ALL illegal under the Geneva Conventions (please don’t take my word for it: this was the advice of Israel’s highest legal authority Teodor Meron, in 1967, which his government conveniently ignored — Gen. Moshe Dayan said in effect “we know settlement is illegal but that is not new” and they did it anyway).

    Boycotts are one of the (peaceful and effective) ways we can help bring pressure on the the occupying force which has blocked attempts at peace for decades. The BDS movement deserves our support — good on the Co-op for taking this principled step!

  32. On August 25, 2012 at 11:01 am cola di rienzi responded with... #

    Because Israel is oppressing the Palestinians. Freedom, democracy, land, property and often life are systematically denied to the Palestinians by the Israelis. Question completely and adequately answered.
    Comparison with other situations is relevant only to the question “why is the coop not boycotting other oppressive governments and regimes? – such as the USA, currently invading and occupying so many other countries, and boasting about the right of their monarch to murder anybody he dislikes – the murderously aggressive French regime, which helped create genocidal mayhem in Libya and is working with the US and the Brits to create a worse mayhem in Syria….”
    Settler democracies are notoriously oppressive and indeed genocidal – Afrikaner internal democracy under apartheid was actually less genocidal than American and Australian settler democracy against their luckless indigenes. Such democracy serves to make the settler ‘democrats’ complicit in the continuing crimes of their regimes; it is no virtue at all. Zionist national socialism (the ‘Jewish labour’ campaign to drive out Arab labourers in order to proletarianize Jewry, not to mention the savage campaign against Yiddish speakers) was and is more extreme in that it was founded on the lie that Palestine was a ‘land without people’, and Zionist barbarism has attempted ever since to turn this lie into a ‘fact on the ground’.

  33. On August 25, 2012 at 11:29 am William Cobbett responded with... #

    LA claims that:”The protest today outside the Co-op was because it has allowed itself to get dragged into the complex and fraught arena of the Middle East conflict.” As an internationally trading organization, the Coop MUST decide as to whether would-be suppliers are engaged in ‘false flag’ activities.
    LA DELIBERATELY chose to become dependent for his living on supporting the Zionist apparatus of oppression of the Palestinians. He does not have the excuse that he was born into Israeli society, or that he was forced to leave his home through anti-Semitic oppression. This shows little appreciation of the “fraught complexity” which would stop any rational person from gratuitously becoming dependent on parti pris and a commitment to double standards. Such a psycho(patho)logical conundrum requires a tentative answer. Perhaps a gentile anxiety about perceived anti-Semitism on one’s own part – a common explanation for gentile Zionism? Perhaps a simple admiration for the vigour of the Israeli “Defence” Force and the Mossad as attack dogs against the lower races? A further development in allegiance to the Military-Industrial Complex?
    When important and competent members of our Labour (and Cooperative) movement display such signs of derangement, comradely concern dictates an interest in diagnosis and, hopefully, therapy.

  34. On August 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm David responded with... #

    Luke’s contention that Israel provides “full civil rights for minorities, including its Arab citizens.” is patently false and misleading. There are dozens of Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israeli (let alone Palestinians who have lost the right to live in the land of their ancestors because of discriminatory expropriations), and scores of policies and administrative practices which further discriminate against them, in everything from housing to education to employment to public services. If Blacks or Asians in the UK (regardless of when they arrived — most of them rather more recently than Palestinians in Palestine…) had to carry ethnic ID cards which determined who they could marry, where they could live, how little funding their schools and services get compared to the dominant population’s, etc. etc., we rightly would call such a regime … apartheid. Numerous Israeli high court rulings have found such practices discriminatory but OK’d them because they protect against an “existential threat” — a clearly racist justification in any other context. How would Blacks or Asians in Hackney feel about a politician who identified them and their kids as “demographic threats”? This is exactly what Luke and his group support in Israel.

  35. On August 27, 2012 at 3:36 am David responded with... #

    Some of the distortions discussed here also occur in Luke’s piece:
    Israeli settlements and the United Church boycott: Responding to three common distortionshttp://rabble.ca/news/2012/08/israeli-settlements-and-united-church-boycott-responding-three-common-distortions

  36. On August 27, 2012 at 7:56 am Sheila responded with... #

    Well done, Co-op, for following UN policy. Israel should do the same and stop its illegal building of settlements on occupied territory!

  37. On August 28, 2012 at 8:32 am Anonymous responded with... #

    Pity Luke Akehurst has remained resolutely silent over such matters as Rachel Corrie’s death or Israeli children fireboming a Palestinian taxi

  38. On August 28, 2012 at 11:56 am Mike Homfray responded with... #

    Hardly surprising to see progress supporting the occupying illegal state of Israel. The only country which uses the same words for ‘murder’ and ‘accident’. Rachel Corrie’s death will not be forgotten

  39. On August 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm Anonymous responded with... #

    A little disappointed that Luke Akehurst is not supporting, if not initiating, a suit by the State of Israel and the Caterpillar Company for damages inflicted on their tractor by Rachel Corrie – especially now that internationally responsible body, the court of the state of Israel, has found in favour of the State of Israel and the Israeli “Defence” force.
    Nor has he yet added to the indictment against Iran that they have proposed (at the meeting of the non-aligned movement) the abolition of all nuclear weapons by 2025 – clear evidence of anti-Semitism…..
    Is he earning his wages?

  40. On September 2, 2012 at 5:48 pm Anonymous responded with... #

    thought this might illuminate terrorist history (like that of Menachem Wolfowich Begin…):
    Obama’s Logic of War
    by Sheldon Richman, Posted August 31, 2012Despite the alleged difference between Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran, both embrace a position that logically commits them to war. If war is to be avoided, as Obama says he wishes, he will have to abandon his current stance.The difference between Obama and Netanyahu is more apparent than real. Both say Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon is “unacceptable.” Both have vauntingly put “all options on the table,” including the nuclear option. Both say they are willing to give harsh economic sanctions and diplomacy more time.Some difference seems to exist over where they would draw the “red line.” Netanyahu says he cannot tolerate Iran’s having even partially finished components and know-how; by that low standard, Iran has already crossed the line. Obama seems to draw the line at actual production or possession of a nuclear weapon. In practice that may be a distinction without a difference, since, if Iran were to decide to build a weapon, it certainly would not do it in the open. When exactly would Obama consider the line crossed?That is a big “if,” however. Neither American nor Israeli intelligence believes Iran has decided to make a nuclear warhead, and the many U.S. intelligence agencies have twice said Iran scrapped what may have been a weapons program in 2003, the year the American military toppled Iran’s nemesis, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, from power.For more than a decade, American and Israeli belligerents have warned in dire tones that an Iranian bomb is just a few years away. Yet Iran’s uranium, which is under the watchful eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has not been enriched to weapons grade. Iran complies with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran insists its nuclear research is for electricity and medicine, and no one has hard evidence to the contrary. Moreover, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for years has said that Islam forbids possession of nuclear weapons. In February Khamenei repeated,The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously, and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive, and dangerous.One may reasonably be skeptical of what the head of any government says, but one is obliged to present some evidence to contradict a particular claim, especially one made over many years and supported by American intelligence. Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons is highly inconvenient for those who want war with Iran.At best Obama has bought some time with Netanyahu. The last thing Obama wants before the election is a new war that would, as the least of its consequences, send gasoline prices soaring. It would also lead to American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention in Israel and, most especially, in Iran itself.But let’s not conclude that Obama deserves another Nobel Peace Prize just yet. The time he bought is time in which the Iranian middle and working classes will suffer greatly under the tightening sanctions, which impede the country’s ability to sell its oil and import needed commodities. Food prices have skyrocketed as the value of the Iranian rial plummets. Innocent people, particularly children, are suffering.The vise tightens each day. Under American prodding, Iranian banks have been shut out of the international payment network, which will make it even harder for Iran to obtain imports. The number of banks added to the blacklist is sure to grow. Where possible, Iran has resorted to barter, with all its inconveniences.This is reminiscent of the 1990s U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq that killed 500,000 children and fueled the anti-Americanism that led to the attacks on September 11, 2001. One recalls Bill Clinton’s UN ambassador (and later secretary of State) Madeleine Albright’s infamous comment that the murder of those children was “worth it” in the effort to drive Saddam Hussein from power, which it did not do. Will Secretary of State Hillary Clinton say the same thing some day? Will she say it before or after some horrible incident?
    Diplomacy?The other track Obama touts is diplomacy. But the big question is this: What is there to talk about? Iran’s government (with the support of the people) insists it may legally enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Indeed, it may do so under the NPT, which it — unlike Israel, with several hundred nuclear weapons — has signed and honored. But Obama and Netanyahu want Iran to end its enrichment program. A few years ago when Iran, seeking to defuse the situation, arranged to acquire enriched uranium for its civilian reactors in a swap with Turkey and Brazil — thereby ending its enrichment program — Obama scotched the deal (after claiming to favor such a compromise).So the United States and Israel are making a demand — cessation of the making of fuel for its medical and energy reactors — that Iran cannot accept without becoming subservient to them. That it will not do, though in talks it has shown a willingness to seek an accommodation. Iran, whether the United States and Israel like it or not, is a major Middle Eastern country, with close to 80 million people and 636,000 square miles. It is a traditional power, and it will not be eager to relinquish that status.What then? Considering what Obama (“I don’t bluff”) and Netanyahu demand, war is the only remaining option. Even if they sincerely do not want war, the logic of their position pushes in that direction. Speaking at the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC, the main Israel-Jewish lobbying organization), he declared, “I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power.” “All elements” includes the U.S. nuclear arsenal.For his part, Netanyahu continues to ratchet up the rhetoric, comparing the situation to Germany, 1938. “Seventy years after the Holocaust,” Netanyahu said, “many in the world are silent in the face of Iran’s pledges to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. This is a day in which the leaders of the world must commit not to allow another genocide.”His playing the Holocaust card is shameful. Iran, with a weak air force and army, is not Nazi Germany. Israel, in contrast, has an awesome nuclear arsenal, including a submarine-based second-strike capability, and a first-rate military financed and equipped by the American taxpayer to the tune of $3 billion a year. Iran’s leaders know full well that an attack on Israel would be the death of the Islamic regime, and Israel’s leaders acknowledge that Khamenei’s goal is survival not suicide. (That is echoed by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who calls the regime a “rational actor.”) Moreover, the charge that Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the face of the earth is false, although Iranian officials oppose the Zionist regime. Iran’s intentions may be judged by the fact that its ancient Jewish community practices its religion freely, with 25 synagogues in Tehran, and has representation in the Iranian parliament. (That is not to say that Iranians are politically and economically free, but within the sphere of religion and culture people have a good deal of liberty.)The demonization of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as the new Hitler is particularly absurd. Hoover Institution foreign-affairs expert Bruce Bueno de Mesquita estimates that Ahmadinejad is the 18th-most-powerful politician in Iran and has nothing to say about Iran’s military. His faction was dealt a big political setback in March’s parliamentary elections — at the hands of Ayatollah Khamenei. Following the elections, Ahmadinejad was summoned before the Parliament for questioning about his mishandling of the economy. Some members spoke of impeachment. Some Hitler.
    Restraining IsraelMany American observers believe the Obama-Netanyahu meeting in March defused the tension that had built up over Iran. After all, before the meeting, it was reported that Netanyahu said he would give Obama no notice of an attack on Iran. But are the accounts of Obama’s deft restraining of Netanyahu accurate?John Feffer of Foreign Policy in Focus isn’t so sure:But this story of Obama the diplomat standing up to Netanyahu the bully omits some important information. During Netanyahu’s visit, the Obama administration reportedly offered Israel a package of advanced military technology, including bunker-busting bombs and long-range refueling planes, as long as it postponed any attacks on Iran until 2013. In other words, Obama wasn’t only buying time, he was bribing Israel to prevent the kind of October surprise — or even July surprise — that might derail his reelection bid. And he was doing so with precisely the weapons that Israel could use to execute an attack on Iran.Is Obama against war or against war before the election? And has Netanyahu changed his strategic outlook? Apparently not. Reports Haaretz, a major Israeli daily,Since his return from Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has mainly been preoccupied with one thing: Preparing public opinion for war against Iran….In his speech before the Knesset on Wednesday, Netanyahu urged his colleagues to reject claims that Israel is too weak to go it alone in a war against a regional power such as Iran and therefore needs to rely on the United States, which has much greater military capabilities, to do the job and remove the threat.In other statements he insisted he does not need U.S. approval for the attack. He also attempted to connect the March violence between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to Iran, though there is no relationship. (The Palestinians there have been under Israeli rule since 1967.)In the past Netanyahu has bragged that he is able to manipulate Americans. He seems to be up to his old tricks. (For the record, former Israeli intelligence chiefs think an attack on Iran is a bad idea; the Israeli public is leery of going it alone.)In the end, Obama’s and Netanyahu’s objective — a subservient Iran — simply cannot be achieved except by regime change, something the Iranian government is not likely to facilitate. When (futile) diplomacy and sanctions fail, what will be left besides war?Obama’s adulators desperately want to believe he is a man of peace. They need to wake u

  41. On September 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm Anonymous responded with... #

    good sense from Israel about the sort of people Luke Akehurst supports:

    Master of Mischiefby Uri Avnery, September 03, 2012Print This | Share ThisAvigdor Lieberman has a restless nature. From time to time he has to do something, anything.As Minister of Foreign Affairs he should be doing something about, well, foreign affairs. Trouble is, Israel’s foreign affairs are managed by others.The most important sector of our foreign affairs concerns the relationship with the United States. Indeed, this is so important that Benjamin Netanyahu keeps it entirely to himself. Our ambassador in Washington reports to him personally, after being handpicked by Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire.Relations with the Palestinians are mostly (mis)managed by Ehud Barak, who, as minister of defense, is formally in charge of the occupied territories. The main actor there is the Shin Bet, which is under the authority of the prime minister.The relations with the Arab world, such as they are, are maintained by the Mossad, also under the authority of the prime minister. In practice, Netanyahu and Barak together make all the decisions, including, of course, The Decision concerning Iran.So what’s left for Lieberman? He can deal as much as he wants with Zambia and the Fiji islands. He can appoint ambassadors to Guatemala and Uganda. And that’s it.Except that he has a personal monopoly on relations with the countries of the former Soviet Union. How’s that? Well, he was born in Soviet Moldavia and speaks Russian fluently. Even though he came to Israel 34 years ago, just a few days after his 20th birthday, he is still considered by most Israelis as a “Russian,” speaking Hebrew with a heavy Russian accent and looking as foreign as possible. But his connection with that part of the world goes beyond cultural factors — he is an ardent admirer of Vladimir Putin and his doppelgängers, Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk and Victor Yanukovych in Kiev. He would dearly like to install the same kind of regime in Israel, with himself as the Putin lookalike.Most of his colleagues in Europe and around the world shun him because of his views, which many of them consider semi-fascist, if not worse.So how, of all possible jobs, did Netanyahu come to give him the job of foreign minister? Well, as the leader of a party essential for the formation of the right-wing coalition, he had a right to one of the three major ministries: defense, finance, or foreign relations. Who would dare to deny that defense is a God-given fief of Barak? Since Netanyahu considers himself an economic genius, he decided to keep the Finance Ministry in practice to himself. He found a doctor of philosophy, who had the advantage of being innocent of any knowledge of economics, and appointed him as his proxy minister of finance. That left only foreign affairs, a much-despised ministry, for Lieberman.As this ministry does not provide much activity, and even less that generates headlines, Lieberman is compelled every few months or so to do something to stir things up. He has already insulted many of his colleagues abroad, ably assisted by his deputy, Danny Ayalon, who boasted to journalists that he humiliated the Turkish ambassador by putting him on a low seat. Since at the time the Turkish army was still the closest partner of the Israeli army in the region, Barak was livid.Lieberman also needs something to divert attention from his famous corruption affair. For 14 years now, he has been under investigation about receiving millions of dollars from mysterious sources abroad. Some of the money went to straw companies abroad managed by his daughter, who was then in her early twenties. The attorney general still has to decide whether to indict him — which may compel him to resign.Now Lieberman has caused a stir again.Two weeks ago, Netanyahu and Barak were amazed to read in the newspapers that Lieberman had sent letters to the foreign ministers of the so-called quartet — the U.S., the European Union, the U.N., and Russia — who oversee the nonexistent “peace process.”In this message, Lieberman demanded that the four dismiss the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and call immediate elections in the West Bank.The idiocy of this message is mind-boggling, even by Lieberman standards.First of all, the quartet has absolutely no authority to dismiss anyone in Palestine, or for that matter, Israel. Nor can it order elections anywhere.True, Palestinian elections are long overdue. They should have taken place in January 2010. Hamas has already announced that they would not take part, so they would be held only in the West Bank. That would have finalized the split between PLO and Hamas — a split no Palestinian on either side wants to aggravate.Second, if Hamas did participate, the next Palestinian president would conceivably be the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, the man Israel tried to assassinate. With the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s mother organization, now ensconced in power in Egypt, the chances of Hamas in democratic elections would probably be even stronger than last time, when they won handily.Third, and most importantly, Mahmoud Abbas is by far the most peace-oriented Palestinian leader around. And that is the crux of the matter.Lieberman bases his bizarre demand on his contention that Abbas is the main obstacle to peace — an assertion that few experts around the world would take seriously. Lieberman’s real reason for his initiative may be the very opposite: that Abbas’s stance puts Israel in the uncomfortable seat of the peace-destroyer.Abbas’s conditions for the start of peace negotiations are well-known: Israel must stop all settlement activities. The world, by and large, agrees with that.Abbas’s terms for peace are also well-known. They were formulated long ago by Yasser Arafat: a state of Palestine side by side with Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital and a return to the Green Line border (with insubstantial and mutually agreed exchanges of territory). For the refugee problem, an “agreed” solution, meaning the symbolic return of a small number. The world, by and large, agrees with that too.If it wanted to, Israel could achieve peace with the Palestinians next week, followed the week thereafter by peace with the entire Arab world, on the terms set out in the Arab Peace Initiative, which are practically identical with the Palestinian terms.And that, of course, is the source of Lieberman’s hatred of Abbas. Like Netanyahu, he doesn’t dream of giving up Greater Israel. Therefore, he very much prefers a Palestinian leadership composed of Hamas — that is, as long as Hamas rejects peace.In practice, the Palestinian Authority led by President Abbas is actively cooperating with Israel in the one field that really matters to Israelis: security.Most Israelis believe that Palestinian violence (aka “terrorism”) has been stopped by the “security obstacle,” the combination of walls and fences that cut deep into the occupied Palestinian territories. However, a wall can be climbed, tunnels can be dug underneath, and militants can be smuggled through the checkpoints. As an American politician said about the wall between the U.S. and Mexico: “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.” I have seen Palestinian youngsters climb the wall even without a ladder.The real reason for the total cessation of acts of violence in Israel emanating from the West Bank is the intimate, day-to-day cooperation of the Palestinian security forces with the Israeli security services. On the orders of Abbas, the Palestinian police, which is actually a military force trained by U.S. officers, is mercilessly persecuting the militants of Hamas and other Palestinian factions favoring “armed struggle.”By following this course, Abbas is taking huge risks. Hamas and others accuse him of collaborating with the occupation and compare the Palestinian authority with the Vichy regime in France, which collaborated with the Nazi occupation. (The police of Marshal Henri Petain, a World War I hero, closely cooperated with the Germans, inter alia helping them to round up the Jews and send them to Auschwitz.)Abbas has come to the conclusion that the “armed struggle” has led the Palestinians nowhere. He hopes that the absence of violent acts will allow the West Bank population to build up their civil society, strengthen Palestinian institutions, raise the pitiful standard of living (far less than a tenth of the Israeli one), and assure the Palestinian Authority of foreign aid and legitimacy. Under the able stewardship of his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, this is working — for the time being.The risk is indeed great. The West Bank economy, such as it is, may founder any time. The creeping enlargement of the settlements is reaching a point where every Palestinian village is surrounded by them, making life for the Palestinians intolerable — especially since young settlers carry out almost daily acts of terrorism (so defined by Israeli security officials), physically attacking villagers; burning mosques, houses, and cars; and felling olive trees.Some day, the spirit of the Arab Spring may reach the West Bank, and even the PLO leadership will not be able to stem the tide.In something close to desperation, Abbas is seeking some respite by appealing to the U.N. for recognition. The application for the acceptance of Palestine as a member state is barred by the U.S. veto in the Security Council. The application to the General Assembly, where there is no veto, to receive Palestine as a member “which is not a state” has been called by Lieberman “political terrorism.”The Israeli government has condemned the Palestinian application as “one-sided,” as if the Israeli 1948 application for membership in the U.N. was “many-sided.” However, be that as it may, in the face of the dire Israeli and American threats, Abbas may have to drop this effort too, endangering his position even more.This week, Abbas has been invited by the Iranian regime to take part in the huge assembly of so-called non-aligned nations in Tehran. The Palestinian leader had to weigh whether to accept the invitation and gain some international status or to refuse, for fear of American reprisals. He decided to attend.In the meantime, Lieberman has already achieved his goal — a few days in the news, and his face, with his trademark shifty eyes and sinister smile, was on all TV screens.Now he will drop from the news again for a few weeks or months, until he can think up some new way to cause mischief…….

  42. On September 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm Anonymous responded with... #

    A fine example of parliamentary democracy a la Kremlin:
    Scared of Leaks, Netanyahu Mulls Forcing Cabinet to Take PolygraphsCancels Cabinet Meeting, Promises Investigationby Jason Ditz, September 05, 2012Print This | Share ThisHaving seen months of war rhetoric imperiled by recent US criticism, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be growing even more insular and distrustful of outsiders, even turning on his own security cabinet today, announcing that he is canceling meetings with them because he doesn’t trust them not to leak the details of the meetings to the press.It gets better. Apparently Netanyahu is so convinced of the existence of a mole inside his cabinet that he is discussing the possibility of asking Shin Bet, the nation’s spy agency, to compel the whole cabinet to take polygraph tests to prove their innocence.Netanyahu declined to identify exactly which media story set off this new round of concern, but speculation was that it was related to the planning attack on Iran. Since Israel’s military actively censors their media, it is also possible that whatever story it was didn’t even make the papers.The Israeli prime minister and other top officials on the hawkish side of the Iran issue have regularly lashed the media, both domestic and international, for reporting on the large number of opponents to the war, saying it was a threat to national security.

  43. On September 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm Jackie walker responded with... #

    a beacon of democracy? what world do you live on?

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