Thursday, May 31, 2012


Despite efforts of the UK Guardian, the boycotters and the BDS lobby to claim that they disrupted the Israeli group, Habima, Shakespeare performance at the Globe last night, the reality was very different and their attempts to disrupt failed miserably.

When there WAS a small disruption the performers were unphased and pre-briefed, and the Globe staff handled the situation quickly and effectively and are to be greatly congratulated, not just for handling a potentially explosive situation so well, but also for not giving in to huge pressure they received to cancel the invitation to Habima.

Theatregoers in the main were angered by the intrusion and later by the shouting and obstruction they were subjected to as they were leaving the theatre after the performance,

There was a large and peaceful pro Israel counter demo with music and Israeli dancing in the streets, which was in huge contrast to the shouting abuse and demonisation of Israel of the anti Israel demonstrators.

Habimah were delighted by the warmth of their welcome from the community and Christian groups and although they won't admit it the Palestinian Solidarit Campaign, (PSC), the Boycott Israel Network and Jews for Justice for the Palestinians must be really disappointed.

Their main achievement was that they ensured two sellout performances for Habima, something they and the Globe can't fail to be pleased about. Hopefully, despite the extra work this provided for the Globe, it is hoped the outcome empowers them to know that inviting Israel performers gains more support than opposition, and they will invite Habima back again.

For once, there was a tremendous communal effort, together with Anglican Friends of Israel, Christian Friends of Israel and individual Christians who turned up as they always do to stand up for Israel, to counter the attempts of the boycotters, who first tried to get the Habimah invitation cancelled, supported by some ill-informed fellow artists, and then to cause effective disruption during their performances.

The Globe are to be congratulated for standing firm and putting in place all the necessary security to contain any disruptions. There is the added bonus of Habimah getting glowing reviews for their performance.

The comment in the article in the Guardian from Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, co-ordinator with the Boycott Israel Network is ludicrous. Israelis and Israeli Arabs performing in the UK are not whitewashing anything. They are using their talents to promote peace and harmonious co-existence. Just what do the boycotters think they achieved for the Palestinians last night. They just made a lot more people aware of the futility and aggression of the BDS campaign and, perhaps, did Israel a great favour.

Congratulations are due to all the organisations who worked so well together to achieve this outcome, from the Zionist Federation in London and StandWithUs UK who were proud to work alongside all the organisations who came together on this and helped to achieve this result.

Hopefully one outcome will be that more Israeli groups will be invited to the UK which would be the best outcome of all.

Please do not allow the false impression that the disrupters succeeded to gain credence.

There is massive social media traffic on Twitter and Facebook congratulating Habima and the Globe, (@habima and @globe) and the pro Israel demonstrators and those attending the perfomance last night are to be congratulated for their restraint in not rising to the disrupters.

Reviews and audience reaction have been amazing, congratulations are due to the Globe management and to everyone who supported either inside or outside the theatre on both nights.

This was a real blow to the BDS movement and a great example of cross community cooperation to get the strategy right with the cooperation of the Globe management It has been a boost for those of us who were starting to be wary of having major Israeli events and productions because of the anti activity they generated but this has shown what can be done and the experience of all working together has been a great one and certainly the way forward to greater success.

A strong recommendation – contact or email the Globe to thank them for the way they handled things last night or Tweet @theGlobe and @habima

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7902 1400

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ignoring the Jewish “Nakba”

May 21, 2012 12:24 by GuestPost

This guest post was written exclusively for HonestReporting by Lyn Julius, the co-founder of Harif, a UK group representing Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.

This year, as every year, the international media noted Nakba Day, the day when Palestinians mark the anniversary of the ‘catastrophe’ of Israel’s independence and the flight of 700,000 Arab refugees from the newborn state of Israel. Noticeable by its absence was any mention of the contemporaneous Jewish ‘nakba’, the flight of around 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Isabel Kershner of The New York Times is among the offenders. Leo Rennert wrote in American Thinker: “A fair reading of history demands that equal attention be paid to this Jewish “naqba.” But fairness is in short supply in The New York Times. There’s also no indication in Kershner’s piece about the different outcomes of these two “naqbas.”

Although the refugees were displaced in roughly similar numbers, the western press and media remain deaf, dumb and blind to the Jewish refugees. Do a search for “Palestinian refugees” on the influential BBC website and you get 1,197 results. Do a search for “Jewish refugees” and you get only 187 results.

Of these, the BBC contained only one story about Jews from Iraq and two references to Jewish refugees from Arab countries, neither of them emanating from BBC programs. With the exception of a 2011 radio program fronted by BBC2 controller Alan Yentob about Iraqi Jews, the only Jewish refugees discussed by the BBC website have been Holocaust survivors.

When the media does feature Sephardi or Mizrahi suffering in Arab lands, the implication is that Zionism caused their troubles. Before Israel, so the myth goes, ‘Jews and Arabs coexisted peacefully’ through the centuries.

According to David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, the western media are accomplices in a campaign to ‘deny or extinguish a Jewish presence deeper in the region’. A seasoned Middle Eastern affairs journalist had been surprised to discover that Harris’s wife had, as a Jew, been forcibly expelled from her native Libya. The journalist had no idea that Jews had ever lived in Libya nor that every trace of the millenarian Jewish presence had been obliterated almost overnight. So un-newsworthy was the story at the time, that The New York Times, Harris says, devoted exactly two tiny news briefs in 1967 to the end of the Libyan Jewish community.

The net effect of this bias by omission is that the average viewer, listener or reader has no clue that Jews lived in the Middle East and North Africa well before the Arabs, let alone were brutally ejected. He or she could be forgiven for thinking that Israel was established to atone for European sins, at Arab expense. But 50 percent of the Jewish population of Israel are there not because of the Nazis but because of the Arabs.

A jaw-dropping BBC reply to a complaint I made about the lack of coverage of Jewish refugees is that they simply aren’t enough of a stumbling block to peace:

The specific issue of Palestinian refugees is generally seen as one of the key stumbling blocks to finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . … Jewish refugees… is not something that is generally viewed as a central issue in the peace process in the same way the Palestinian refugee issue is. Should the issue of Jewish refugees become an integral part of the negotiations in the Israeli-Arab peace negotiations or a stumbling block thereto, we would of course look at them in a more in-depth fashion.

Are we to conclude that if Jewish refugees blew themselves up in Arab supermarkets, they would get the attention they deserve?

In other ways, Jewish refugees are too much of a stumbling block. The media do not want the complication of the exodus of a million Jews from Arab countries, and their unresolved human rights, to cloud their simplistic ‘narrative’ of who the bad guys are in this conflict. You will scour the mainstream press in vain for reference to Jewish claims for compensation or restitution of property in Cairo, Jerusalem or Hebron.

The persistent failure of the media to give context to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and certainly to cover any history before 1967, means that Jews from the East are invisible. When Jerusalem Day is celebrated, you can bet that there will be more sob stories in the press about Palestinians wrongfully ejected from their homes.

Jews have neither presence nor rights in Arab countries, nor in eastern Jerusalem, and those parts of the West Bank where Jews lived before 1948. As far as the media are concerned, all Jews are settlers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Real Root of the Christian Exodus

By David Parsons, the writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

With his recent segment for 60 Minutes, CBS News reporter Bob Simon has once again stoked the perennial debate over why so many native Palestinian Christians have been leaving the Holy Land in recent decades. Sadly, he addressed this important issue with a very superficial brand of journalism.

The report relied mainly on one local Palestinian cleric – notorious Israel-basher Rev. Mitri Raheb – to single out the “Israeli occupation” as the scapegoat for this Christian flight. There was no need to dig deeper, since Simon knew the report was sure to be a sensation from the moment Israeli ambassador Dr. Michael Oren caught wind of the production and intervened with his bosses at CBS News.

If Bob Simon had truly wanted to know why Arab Christians have been fleeing in droves from Palestinian areas, he should have asked those émigrés now living in Toronto, Sydney and Santiago. Because that is where the majority of Palestinian Christians now reside – in dispersed communities in Canada, Chile, Australia, Germany, the United States and elsewhere.

The disturbing truth is that more than 60 percent of the Arab Christians born in Palestinian areas over the past several generations now live abroad. Yet the same holds true for Lebanese Christians, as a similar 60% of their beleaguered community now live in foreign lands.

Indeed, there has been a widening Christian exodus from all the surrounding Arab countries, with Iraq’s ancient Assyrian Christian community collapsing from 1.5 million to as few as 250,000 since the Second Gulf War commenced in 2003. The Coptic Church in Egypt is also losing tens of thousands of parishioners in the wake of the Arab Spring.

So it is indisputable that Arab Christians are fleeing all across the Middle East, and surely the Israeli occupation is not to blame. Rather, this flight has been primarily due to local conflicts and the rise of Islamic militancy, as noted by Ambassador Oren, and the Palestinian Christians are no exception to this trend. The lone exception, in fact, happens to be the State of Israel, the only place in the entire region where the community of Arab Christians is growing and where Arab Christians are afforded their democratic rights.

Still, some Palestinian clerics insist that Muslims and Christians would co-exist in perfect harmony if not for the Jews and their settlements. That, sadly, is a living portrait of a people in denial. How else to explain that Palestinian Christian flight from the Holy Land predates the “occupation” by decades?

For instance, the last British census in 1948 recorded 29,000 Arab Christians living in Jerusalem, while the first Israeli census in eastern Jerusalem in 1967 found only 11,000. That means two-thirds of the Arab Christian population had fled during the 19 years of the Jordanian occupation of east Jerusalem.

The real root of the current exodus actually lies in the historic interplay between Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East ever since the Islamic conquests began in the seventh century. The region’s Christians and Jews became dhimmis – suppressed minorities living under Muslim dominance. They could keep their faith but had to accept second-class status. To survive, both communities adopted a code of silence which dictated that they never challenge the system or say anything bad about Islam in public.

This system of dhimmitude basically held until modern times. The Crusades may have brought temporary relief for some Christians, but only terror for the Jews.

When Ottoman rule over the Middle East began to wane, the dynamic finally began to change. The Great Powers of Europe moved into the region, each concluding deals with the Sultanate in Istanbul to provide protection to various imperiled Christian denominations. Western missionaries also brought with them schools, hospitals and other modern institutions.

With their better education and job skills, Arab Christians became more mobile and many began to migrate to the West to escape the prison of Islam. Thus the modern-day Christian exodus began.

Meanwhile, the Zionist movement arose with a dream of restoring Jewish sovereignty back in their ancient homeland. Israel’s emergence in 1948 challenged the system of Muslim dominance over Christians and Jews, an achievement the Arab world has never truly accepted.

For many Christians in the Middle East, the rebirth of Israel actually stands as a light and model of freedom from Muslim tyranny. But for Palestinian Christians, the conflict that seeks to destroy the Jewish state has been too close for comfort. They are powerless to end it and struggling to survive.

Thus many Palestinian Christian leaders have taken to patriotically waving the flag of Palestinian nationalism higher than even their Muslim neighbors, in the hope such loyalty to the cause will safeguard their flocks. They rail against the Israeli occupation and the settlements as the reason for their dwindling presence. The checkpoints and security barrier may create hardships for them, but they are not the core reason why proud Christian families who have weathered many turbulent centuries here are now pulling up roots.

We must all understand that they are employing an ancient survival mechanism ingrained through centuries of Muslim oppression. Unable to name the real culprit, Palestinian Christians often deflect Muslim anger away from themselves by directing it at the Jews. Meantime, Ambassador Oren is giving voice to the things they cannot say.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How I went from hating to loving Israel and the Jewish people

by Kasim Hafeez

I am a Zionist, a proud Muslim Zionist, and I love Israel, but this was not always the case. In fact, for many years I was quite the extreme opposite. I experienced the high levels of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity taking place on British university campuses, because I was the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel activist.

Growing up in the Muslim community in the UK I was exposed to materials and opinions at best condemning Israel, painting Jews as usurpers and murderers, and at worse calling for the wholesale destruction of the "Zionist Entity" and all Jews. In short, there was no accommodating a Jewish State in the Middle East.

To grow up around this constant barrage of hatred directed at Israel has a massive effect on an individual’s own opinions. More disturbingly, many of these people weren’t radical or extreme, but when it was about Israel the most vicious of rhetoric poured out, coupled with the casual anti-Semitism that seemed too prevalent, when the phrase "stop being a Jew" used as an insult.

My father, however, was much more brazen in his hatred, boasting of how Adolf Hitler was a hero, his only failing being that he didn't kill enough Jews.

By the time I had reached 18 I was completely indoctrinated to the fold of radical Islamism. My hate for Israel and for the Jews was fuelled by images of death and destruction, set to the backdrop of Arabic melodies about Jihad and speeches of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or Osama Bin Laden.

These views were reinforced when I attended Nakba Day rallies, where speakers predicted Israel's demise as Hezbollah flags were waved proudly in the centre of London.

The Case for Israel

Was there a case for Israel? In my mind, of course not, there was no shadow of doubt. Even the most moderate clerics I came across refused to condemn terrorism against Israel as unjustified; the Jews must obviously deserve it, I believed.

So what changed? How could I go from all this hatred to the great love for and affinity with Israel and the Jewish people? I found myself in the Israel and Palestine section of a local bookstore and picked up a copy of Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. Given my worldview, the Jews and Americans controlled the media, so after brief look at the back, I scoffed thinking "vile Zionist propaganda."

I felt a crisis of conscience, and began a period of unbiased research.

I did, however, decide to buy it, content that I would shortly be deconstructing this propaganda piece, showing that Israel had no case and claiming my findings as a personal victory for the Palestinian cause.

As I read Dershowitz’s arguments and deconstruction of many lies I saw as unquestionable truths, I searched despairingly for counter arguments, but found more hollow rhetoric that I’d believed for many years. I felt a real crisis of conscience, and thus began a period of unbiased research. Up until that point I had not been exposed to anything remotely positive about Israel.

Now, I didn't know what to believe. I'd blindly followed others for so long, yet here I was questioning whether I had been wrong. I reached a point where I felt I had no other choice but to see Israel for myself; only that way I’d really know the truth. At the risk of sounding cliché, it was a life-changing visit.

No Apartheid State

I did not encounter an apartheid racist state, but rather, quite the opposite. I was confronted by synagogues, mosques and churches, by Jews and Arabs living together, by minorities playing huge parts in all areas of Israeli life, from the military to the judiciary. It was shocking and eye-opening. This wasn't the evil Zionist Israel that I had been told about.

After much soul searching, I knew what I had once believed was wrong. I had been confronted with the truth and had to accept it. But I had a bigger question to confront, what now? I’d for years campaigned against Israel, but now I knew the truth.

Israel is not just a Jewish issue ― it’s about freedom, human rights and all the values that the West cherishes.

The choice was obvious: I had to stand with Israel, with this tiny nation, free, democratic, making huge strides in medicine, research and development, yet the victim of the same lies and hatred that nearly consumed me.

Doing this is not easy and that’s something that has become very obvious. I have faced hostility from my own community and even some within the Jewish community in the UK, but that’s the reality of standing up for Israel in Europe today. It is not easy, and that’s what makes it so necessary.

This isn’t about religion and politics; it’s about the truth.

When it comes to Israel, the truth is not being heard, the ranks of those filled with blind hatred continue to swell, yet many have not been exposed to the reality, away from the empty rhetoric and politically charged slogans they are so fond of.

We can change this situation but we need to be strong and united. Israel is not just a Jewish issue ― it’s about freedom, human rights and democracy, all the values that Western nations cherish. It’s also about trying to be a light among nations.

Israel’s international humanitarian aid work speaks for itself, but if we don’t get the message out there, no one will. We don’t have to be head-bowed apologists leading with :Israel’s not perfect…" ― we should never be afraid to say: I am a Zionist and I’m proud. I stand with Israel. Now I ask, will you do that?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A lesson on Jerusalem

David Ha'ivri Published: 04.27.12,,7340,L-4221402,00.html

During my recent visit to the British Parliament, I heard concern from a number of members that Jerusalem's new light rail system was built as a "tool of Israel's apartheid.” This type of claim can leave one baffled - where do you start explaining, when an intelligent elected official hits you with a claim that is so totally off base? Aside from the issue of priorities, since people are being killed by Assad daily in Syria, it is so hypocritical for world leaders to ignore that massacre and waste their time and effort in seeking out something to pin on Israel.

In Israel's War of Independence in 1948, part of Jerusalem was captured by the British-trained Arab Legion of Trans-Jordan, who held the city for 19 years, until it was again united in the miraculous Six Day War of June, 1967. During the 19 years of Jordan's illegal occupation of Jerusalem, Jews were barred from access to holy places in the city. Jewish doctors and nurses were massacred while trying to reach the Hadassah Hospital, located on then-isolated Mount Scopus.

Only after Israel's Defense Forces reunited the holy city were members of all religions again allowed access to places holy to them (aside from the Temple Mount, which maintains limited access for non-Muslims.)

Jerusalem today is a city with total population of about 760,000 people - about 65% Jewish, 35% Muslims, Christians and others. Anyone who visits the city will see a mix of people from all ethnic backgrounds and all religions taking part in all aspects of the city's culture and commerce. Like it or not, apartheid is not a fitting description for the reality of Jerusalem today.

Hebrew and Arabic

The city of Jerusalem incorporated its light rail public transportation system this year. The light rail is intended to relieve traffic congestion, and to save the city from some of the air pollution of exhaust fumes from the cars and buses that it will replace.

The light rail is now 14 kilometers long with 23 stops. It starts in the Pisgat Zev neighborhood in the north and runs though Beit Hannia and Shuafat, passes by the Old City through the center of town, runs along Jaffa Street past the central bus station and ends at Mount Herzl.

The track passes through and stops in both Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. I have taken the train and noticed that both Jews and Arabs are regular commuters. All of the train’s signs, tickets, ticket machines, and public announcements are made very clearly in both Hebrew and Arabic. Signs of station names are posted in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Knowing the facts firsthand, it is strange for me to hear discussions in British Parliament about the light rail being segregated and a “tool of apartheid.” Why, I ask, do people buy into such baseless libel and propaganda?