Are the BDSers actually boosting the Israeli economy?

The anti-Israeli BDS (Boycott Disinvestment Sanctions) movement would have us believe that they’re having a major effect on the Israel. Indeed, some of the more excitable BDSers  have been insisting that their shoutin’ and flag-wavin’ and motion-proposin’ is costing the Israeli economy nearly 5 billion dollars every year. If that’s true, it should be wiping about 2% off Israeli GDP annually.

Is that happening? Nope – quite the opposite, my dears. The last few weeks have brought forth a swath of good news attesting to the glowing health of the Israeli economy. Firstly, there was the Bank of Israel’s annual report at the end of March outlining how over the last year, the economy grew by a strong and steady 4%. That’s “double the United States’ economic growth in the past year; […] 2.3 times higher than the average growth among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members; and 2.5 times higher than average growth in the Eurozone”. More importantly, it’s not a once-off performance. The Israeli economy has grown more than any other OECD country since 2011.

Unemployment has fallen to historically low levels of 4.3%, far below levels that pertain in most European countries where the percentage of people who are out of work is commonly at double-digit levels. Also, the OECD has recently reported that Israel is investing the highest percentage of its gross domestic product per capita among member nations.

Earlier in March, there was the enormous corporate acquisition of Israeli self-driving car firm, Mobileye by Intel. The takeover was worth US$15.3 billion and was a huge vote of confidence in the Israeli high-tech sector. It wasn’t the only Israeli corporate acquisition recently. There was also the purchase of facial recognition firm RealFace by Apple and the takeover of LightCyber by California-based company, Networks. China’s Midea has snapped up Israeli company Servotronix and US firm Kalytera has acquired Israeli medical cannabis firm Talent. All in the last few weeks.

However, it’s not all about abstract GDP statistics and the dizzyingly large numbers being bandied about in the world of corporate takeovers. More and more people are visiting Israel and the first quarter of 2017 saw record levels of foreign tourists (739,000) holidaying in the country. That’s a 24% increase on the same period in 2016 and is all the more extraordinary when one considers that Easter was late this year, falling in April while in 2016, it fell in March. All in all, the Ministry of Tourism expects that 2017 will be a record year for Israeli tourism.

Israel has recently been signing several deals with southern European states which will allow it to pump natural gas across the eastern Mediterranean to countries such as Cyprus, Greece and Italy. In the long term, Israel could be a crucial energy partner for the European Union which is far too dependent on Russia for its needs, especially since the Russians have a reputation for being very unreliable, using the relationship as one more weapon in its campaign to undermine neighbouring countries.

So, it’s no surprise then that Bloomberg rates the Israeli economy to be the third most stable in the world with only Hong Kong and South Korea ranking as more stable.

BDS: Does it stand for Boost, Develop, Strengthen?

BDS: Does it stand for Boost, Develop, Strengthen?

Of course, the BDSers will continue to trumpet their successes. Apparently, they managed to get some football player to declare he was boycotting Israel. However, in the grown-up world, this gesture politics counts for nothing in the long run. Most economic experts (such as this one and this one) agree that the BDS campaign is having little or no effect on the Israeli economy. Indeed, even in the cultural and entertainment sphere, the BDSers are clearly flagging with a “veritable airlift of artists […] on its way to Israel”. And if even Haaretz is saying it, you know it must be true.

The title of this article is, of course, meant in a humorous and rhetorical way but Israel’s peers will look enviously at the country’s vital statistics and wonder how and when this much-vaunted BDS effect is supposed to strike. As the above graph shows, Israel has been economically outperforming other wealthy, developed countries every year since this anti-Israeli campaign started. Bear also in mind that Israel is operating in a very hostile part of the world. Unlike most European countries, it doesn’t have wealthy, friendly neighbours with whom it can trade. No – in order to trade, Israel must seek partners that are thousands of kilometres away, and this makes its economic performance all the more remarkable.

This latter point may be changing – ever so slightly. Israel has recently signed gas supply agreements with Egypt, Jordan and indeed, the Palestinian Authority. And there’s the final absurdity: even the Palestinians, never mind other Arab nations are quietly abandoning this pointless campaign. Yet, on campuses across Europe and North America, the anti-Israelis still insist that Israelis must be boycotted.

What is the point, dear BDSers? Answers, please to Irish4Israel


Dáil Éireann’s Obsession with Israel

It’s been a busy first quarter for Irish pro-Israel advocates: the denial of Ambassador Ze’ve Boker to speak at a Trinity College forum; the grossly anti-Semitic Cork conference; the proposal by Dublin City Council for the Palestinian flag to be flown for a month in Dublin this summer, to protest the so-called “brutal occupation”.

What is this Irish obsession with Israel, you might ask!

A quick look through Dáil Éireann parliamentary questions and answers at www.kildarestreet.com  will provide some interesting insights. Type ‘Israel’ into the search engine and you’ll notice that almost every day Israel is mentioned, overwhelmingly in a negative light.

On 5th April, Seán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein) asks about the supposedly unfair arrest of BDS founder Omar Barghouti. There is no mention of the fact that this man was arrested for $700K worth of tax evasion, lives legally in Israel as an Arab Muslim, studies at an Israeli university and profits from his freedom in Israel.

On 4th April Darragh O’Brien (Dublin Fingal, Fianna Fail) asks for a statement to be made on the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 regarding Israeli settlements. Charles Flanagan answered that he “very much welcomed and supported this important Resolution” and that Ireland “continues to participate actively […] to defend and reactivate the two-state solution.

On 30th March, Richard Boyd Barret (Dún Laoghaire, PBPA) ludicrously conflates the destruction of cultural artefacts by Daesh in Syria and Iraq with the destruction of mosques in Gaza by Israel during its “recent assaults”.

On 29th March, Mick Wallace, (Wexford, Independent)  questions the situation “where we are giving legitimacy to an illegal occupation” with regard to the Golan Heights. He then states that Israel is exploiting Syrian natural resources in terms of oil drilling, winemaking and water resources. He goes on to make the outrageous statement that “our troops are being used as cover for Israel’s illegal activities.”

Clare Daly, (Dublin Fingal, Independent) comments that Israel is “imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on Syrian citizens” before Mick Wallace plays the Israeli “apartheid” card.

On 28th March, Micheál Martin, Tommy Broughan and Darragh O’Brien ask questions relating to the resignation of former UN Under-Secretary, Rima Khalaf, because of the UN’s failure to accept Israel’s description as an “apartheid regime.”

On the same date, Seán Crowe questions the Israeli government’s decision to ban BDS advocates.

On 21st March these same issues were also raised and discussed… and so it continues. Take a look and you will see for yourselves.

Compare this to questions about the real threats to our world: Iran, Russia, Turkey for example, and the dire situation unfolding in Venezuela? Practically nothing!

No, our elected representatives continue to harass and demonise Israel, the only democratic state in the Middle East, where freedom of expression is an inalienable right.


The Cork conference organizers just can’t help themselves.

The controversial conference in Cork discussing the legitimacy of the State of Israel is due to kick off tomorrow (March 31st) and to finish up on April 2nd. There has been much discussion on social media about the bland sounding title (“International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility”) and the motivation behind those involved in it and now would be a good to give a quick summary of what we know they say and do.

Dr. Piaras Mac Éinrí is a Cork-based academic who seems to be the most active organizer on social media. Here we see him promoting the conference and the first three recipients on his tweet are anti-Jewish and Holocaust denying accounts.

Screen-Shot-2017-02-08-at-07.51.25-300x296

This is what “MLK Studios” has to say about Jews and the Holocaust.

Screen-Shot-2017-02-08-at-07.59.13

The Twitter account called “Cool Anti-Zionist” is happy to repeat old conspiracy theories about Jews and money.

Screen-Shot-2017-02-08-at-07.58.341 Screen-Shot-2017-02-08-at-07.56.05

And Rudd1971 fulminates against “kikes” – a well known term of hatred for Jews.

Screen-Shot-2017-02-08-at-07.59.01

More recently, as described here, there was a violent attack on the president of the Israel Society in Maynooth University. When, Irish4Israel tweeted a video of the incident, Dr Piaras Mac Éinrí – in a completely unsolicited intervention – dismissed it as “bullshit”. We understand that he has since deleted that tweet.

P Mac E

One of the conference speakers will be Richard Falk who will be known to readers as a vociferously anti-Israel figure at the United Nations. What they might not know about is his flirting with anti-Semites and their themes. In 2011, Falk published a cartoon showing a dog wearing a Jewish religious yarmulke with a Star of David, urinating on Lady Justice and chewing on a dead body.

falk-cartoon

Falk endorses and promotes a bizarrely anti-Jewish book written by Gilad Atzmon (“The Wandering Who”) which, amongst many other things asserts that the Holocaust “was not at all a historical narrative” and chillingly that the “accusations of Jews making matzoh out of young Goyim’s blood” may be true. People can read more here about the author of that book and how at a recent event in London, he sneered at some Jewish students as they were leaving saying, they were “being chucked out for causing trouble, just like you lot were in Germany”.

Another speaker, Oren Ben Dor is well-versed in anti-Jewish tropes speaking of Jews’ “desire to be hated” and “[sense of] supremacy” towards all others. He also muses that Jews somehow sought or even caused the Holocaust! The official conference Twitter account states that there will be an “opportunity to raise these […] matters […] over the days and evenings of the conference”.

There'll be lots of time to discuss how Jews provoked the Holocaust.

There’ll be lots of time to discuss how Jews provoked the Holocaust.

So, there we have it. A conference that facilitates a discussion about how Jews feel superior to everyone else and wish to be hated is still somehow not anti-Jewish! This is turn might explain why the far-right hatred-mongering folks over on Aryan Street have fully endorsed this conference.

When he was informed that he’d been promoting the conference to anti-Jewish and Holocaust denying Twitter accounts, Dr. Piaras Mac Éinrí asserted that anti-Semitism would not be welcome at the conference. And yet, in the last few days, the official conference Twitter account has been found to be retweeting material from a far-right account called RealFKNNews.

image1

It takes only a few seconds to see the sneering anti-Jewish and Holocaust-denying hatred that RealFKNNews spews out but there’s no point in informing the organizers of the Cork conference. Others, perhaps a little smarter, would be more mindful of criticisms made and seek to mitigate the situation rather than fueling the flames. However, those behind this pseudo-academic venture are who they are and they just can’t help themselves.

Cork Israel conference

The sort of Twitter account that the Cork conference organizers retweet from.


Campus intimidation shows that Israel-haters fear losing control of the narrative.

Another week has passed and there’s been another incident at an Irish university of anti-Israel violence and intimidation. This time it was in Maynooth where the president of the Israel Society in the college was assaulted and had his phone smashed.

He had been manning a kosher delicacies stall at a cake sale which was raising money for charity as part of Peace Week – hardly a contentious political act. Suddenly, an attacker came up and started screaming obscenities at those who were there yelling at them to get out of there.

A polite request for Israel to be f**ked.

A polite request for Israel to be f**ked.

Alan Lyne, the victim of the attack goes on to describe how “At first it was just the usual stuff — he was shouting, ‘F*** Israel,’ ‘Free Palestine’ — but then he got very close to me. He didn’t listen when I told him to step away, so I took out my phone to start recording. Then, suddenly, he was on me”. A couple of bystanders pulled the attacker away but he was able to break free, attacked Alan a second time, grabbed his mobile phone and smashed it against a wall.

Readers may already be familiar with another incident at another university (Trinity College in Dublin) a few weeks ago when a group of protesters turned up to physically prevent an evening of discussion and debate from taking place because the Israeli ambassador was participating. Such was the intimidatory nature of their behaviour that the Gardai and college security decided that the debate/discussion event had to be cancelled because the safety of the ambassador couldn’t be guaranteed.

Clearly, there’s a myriad of points of view on the Israel/Palestine issue and it’s not surprising that emotions are heightened at times. However, there are notable differences in tone and approach between the pro-Israel and anti-Israel sides. Pro-Israel groups don’t engage in intimidation or violence, they don’t disrupt events and absolutely avoid any discriminatory comments or behaviour targeting any nationality.

However, anti-Israel groups and their supporters have for a long period been using harassment and physical force to close down the debate and control the narrative. Whether it’s shouting down speakers at debates, targeting children’s events, harassing shoppers, shopping staff and cinema-goers, or even – ridiculously – turning up to protest at a football match (!), anti-Israel groups seem to driven by the belief that the rest of us, the mere mortals, are expressly forbidden from taking part in any activity with a connection to Israel unless it involves intimidation and/or roaring slogans that are nothing short of racism.

It was clear several years ago that anyone who opposed the dominant anti-Israel narrative at third-level colleges faced intimidation. In 2014, the student’s union at NUIG (National University of Ireland – Galway) held a referendum calling for a boycott of Israel. The proposal was passed on a laughably low turnout but those arguing against it faced a hysterical campaign of vandalism and threats.

March 2014: Defaced Israeli flag lies in front of white doors at NUIG having been snatched from campaign stall

March 2014: Defaced Israeli flag lies in front of white doors at NUIG having been snatched from campaign stall.

Unfortunately, this is the way it’s going to be. For so long, anti-Israel groups have dominated and controlled the narrative on Irish third level campuses; for so long that they believe it’s their God-driven right to have their view, and only their view heard. Hence the bad-tempered response to anyone who challenges them.

What emerges repeatedly from these incidents is a theme of young hotheads taking a very black and white view of what is a very complex issue. Based on probably nothing more than a few heavily slanted leaflets and that Incredible Shrinking Palestine Map (debunked here), they’re convinced that they understand it all and that anyone who differs from them is so utterly wrong that they deserve only to be shouted down and bullied off the stage.

This is about more than lack of tolerance and disrespect for the principles of free speech: it’s about a basic need for maturity and a greater sense of adulthood. If they ever leave college (and as the roaring fool in the above video says he’s been on “his” campus for 10 years), they’ll realise quickly how much growing up they have to do and that such a simplistic attitude cuts no ice in the real world.


Cork university magazine denies right of reply to Irish4Israel.

The student magazine at University College, Cork (UCC) recently did an interview with Professor James Bowen, one of the organizers of a conference scheduled to take place at the end of this month discussing the legitimacy of the State of Israel. The article contained outrageous inaccuracies and permitted Professor Bowen to make a number of dubious points that were left unchallenged. Attempts by Irish4Israel to respond to these points have been rejected by the magazine and it seems that at least one individual on the editorial team is unable to do a simple search on the internet.

On February 24th last, Motley, the UCC student magazine published an interview with Professor James Bowen about a conference that is to take place in Cork at the end of this month. The article contained and still contains a number of inaccuracies and the author, Hassan Baker, the magazine’s current affairs editor makes no secret as to where his loyalties lie.

The title of the article (“On the Legitimacy of Israel under International Law”) makes it clear that Hassan Baker accepts that Israel’s legitimacy is a topic for debate in the conference. Yet, in the third paragraph, he himself dismisses these claims as “”gross misunderstandings or propaganda of sorts”.

It gets much worse. In a reference to an incident at Trinity College earlier in February when self-styled pro-Palestinian students staged an intimidatory protest to prevent an evening of discussion taking place because the Israeli ambassador was attending, Hassan Baker made the following astonishing allegation.

A “motley” group of alternative facts

A “motley” group of alternative facts

Firstly, there’s a none too subtle attempt to play down the importance of the incident with the use of the phrase “on the day of”. The protest actually was held at the exact same time as the discussion in the exact same venue.

Secondly, as was widely reported in the Irish media, the discussion was cancelled by the Gardai and the college authorities (NOT by the Ambassador) because the behaviour of the protesters was deemed to be a danger to His Excellency.

Hassan Baker has since quietly corrected that particular error on the online version of the article, claiming that “it was a mistake on [his] part” and that “[he] can’t find where [he] read that”. But, in the nature of fake news, it was already in the public domain and the damage had already been done. At the point of writing, no-one in Motley has expressed any intention to apologize to the Ambassador or to publish a retraction.

Hassan Baker didn’t get around to asking Professor Bowen why one of the conference organizers was promoting the conference to Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis on Twitter. Nor was there any mention as to why Oren Ben-Dor – whose outrageous anti-Jewish views are well-documented (such as here and here) –  is being given a platform at this conference if it’s going to be merely an academic discussion of international law.

Faced with such an obviously accommodating interviewer, it’s no surprise that Professor Bowen metaphorically kicks off his shoes and gives full vent to the standard narrative about this conference; that only the Israeli embassy has criticized the conference (as far as he’s “aware”) and that lots of pro-Israel speakers were invited but refused to come. We’ve asked who these pro-Israel speakers are but no-one seems to want to divulge this information.

Irish4Israel did subsequently contact Hassan Baker who – as mentioned – corrected the misrepresentation of the TCD incident but defended the unchallenged statements by Professor Bowen because it was “an interview piece”. He did state that if Irish4Israel had “an opposing view”, we could “rhetort (sic) to it”. Irish4Israel agreed and Baker sent a list of interview questions which were duly returned to him. That was on March 10th.

Hassan Baker’s response was that there was “no problem” and that he’d let Irish4Israel know when the article was to be published. Ten days later, there had been no further communication so Irish4Israel contacted him again. Once again, there was the confirmation that the article would be published and that “it should be up this week”.

This morning (March 24th) brought a long message from Hassan Baker with the information that Motley could not publish the article. Hassan Baker took issue with various replies to the interview questions stating that “there’s a lot of very specific things that [he] can’t find any evidence to back up”. Irish4Israel was given no opportunity to provide evidence to back up the “specific things”. It was a blanket and total refusal.

Readers will note the sharp contrast with the line taken on Professor Bowen’s questionable statements where his right to have his unsubstantiated statements reported is defended as it is an “interview piece”. He isn’t expected to substantiate his claims, Irish4Israel is – but then isn’t given the chance to.

For the record, the claims that Hassan Baker took issue with are listed below. The relevant sources are provided just to show how easy it is to find the sources that Baker claimed are so hard to find.

 

  1. On the issue of Gazan attacks on Israel, Irish4Israel stated that “Israel left Gaza in 2005 , dug up their dead family members from their graves and left behind only the greenhouses and irrigation units” and that subsequently “Hamas took control of the Strip, destroyed the greenhouses and irrigation units and fired over 15,000 rockets at Israel civilians.” Hassan Baker whether deliberately or in error chose to interpret the 15,000 rockets figure as referring to 2005 and rejects the figure on that basis. In fact the figure refers to 2005 and subsequent years and is well documented in this Huffington Post article (hardly a source that’s sympathetic to Israel) not to mention here and here. A quick check in Google would have highlighted these.
  1. Hassan Baker also took issue with the claim that far right groups, racists and Aryan supremacists support the conference insisting that he “can’t find any evidence of it”. Really? As with issue no. 1, readers are invited to check for themselves. Search for “aryan irish conference israel” in Google and here it is right at the top of the search list:  Aryan Street: YES! Irish University to Hold Conference Called “Israel Has No Right to Exist”  

I won’t dwell any further on “Aryan Street” but a website that hisses about “Jews slithering around” and “destroying our society” should require little explanation. Either Hassan Baker can’t use Google or doesn’t consider such statements to be racist or far right.

  1. In response to the claim by Professor Bowen that he’s “not aware” of others having contacted UCC apart from the Israeli embassy, Irish4Israel said, “”We wrote to both the previous and current President of UCC. We didn’t receive a reply. Many of our supporters in Cork and across Ireland did the same “.

Hassan Baker rejected this stating that the communication had been “one-way”. Hence “in that regard, [he doesn’t] see any merit in [our] response to Bowen’s claims that they (sic) are not aware of Irish4Israel’s attempts to communicate with UCC”. To be utterly frank, I don’t follow the logic of this point and I don’t think there is much logic to be followed.

All in all, the message is pretty clear. Supporters of an anti-Israel conference hosting speakers of dubious pedigree are given free rein to push their point of view in the Motley magazine. However, attempts to offer an opposing point of view get rejected for utterly spurious reasons.

Motley_Logo - Copy

If only we’d known….

As a gesture of goodwill, Irish4Israel would like to state that if Hassan Baker or anyone from Motley wishes to respond, they may do so below in the Leave a Reply section. The right to reply is a courtesy that we extend to everyone.

 


We don’t like to see OUR national legitimacy being challenged.

It’s been a funny old week in politics. Recent elections in Northern Ireland and statements by Scottish nationalist leaders seem to have had an unnerving effect on the British media. The London Times, in particular, lashed out in an editorial that questioned the very legitimacy of Irish nationhood. Inter alia, the Irish ambassador to the UK got involved in the ensuing row and, given the predictable fury from the Society for the Easily Outraged (branches worldwide), it’s just as well that the article was thin on arguments and struggled to sustain itself as long as it did.

Imagine then what the outrage would have been had the newspaper decided to get together a carefully pre-chosen and utterly loaded list of speakers and extend its theme to a three day conference. Imagine if it had been granted access to a major British university and the city hall in one of Britain’s largest cities to explore the topic further. Imagine if some of the speakers had a history of making anti-Irish statements. Imagine if one of the organizers had been caught out on social media promoting the conference to some notoriously anti-Irish Twitter accounts. The outrage would have been measurable on the Richter Scale.

Yet, that is analogous to what is happening in a few weeks’ time. The difference is that it’s not in a British city but in Cork, the university is University College Cork (UCC) and the state whose legitimacy is up for discussion is the State of Israel. This came to light – also this week – at a surreal “news conference” in Dublin to which no news organizations appear to have been invited.

Like his Irish counterpart in London, the Israeli ambassador in Dublin has gotten involved in the controversy but has been duly slapped down by the usual suspects who accuse him of opposing academic freedom. So it seems that this is the deal:

  • If you write an opinion piece in a newspaper, it’s open season on you
  • If you can sneak into some respected academic institution with the same idea, you’re protected from all criticism under the guise of “academic freedom”

We’d need a diagram to illustrate the differing levels of hypocrisy. Those who lambasted the Israeli ambassador’s intervention nevertheless fully supported a menacing protest by a small number of students at Trinity College in Dublin which forced the cancellation of a discussion evening at which His Excellency was due to speak. Apparently, there are some more clauses to that deal:

  • Writing polite letters is a gross affront to academic freedom
  • Occupying a room intended for an academic discussion and shouting down those wishing to take part isn’t

The Irish Examiner, which is published in Cork takes an implicitly strong stand against the London Times editorial but is quite blasé when the same theme is extended to a three day conference in its very own city. And there’s the rub: fundamentally it’s not just the veneer of academic respectability that UCC is according this conference, it’s the fact that it’s about Israel, not Ireland.

There';; be none of nationhood-challenging sauce for the Irish gander!

There’ll be none of that nationhood-challenging sauce for the Irish gander!

 

We will facilitate and support a whole weekend of poking and prodding Israel to see if that tiny state has a right to exist. But try the same on us – even in just a wee article – and boy, will we come out swinging?!  What’s sauce for the Israeli goose is utterly unacceptable to the Irish gander.


Academic Forum or Anti-Semitic Farce?

The aborted “eliminate Israel” confab that was to be at the University of Southampton 2 years ago has been reincarnated in Cork. This was announced at a curious press conference Tuesday at which no press appeared to be present.

Now, normally those of the far left pro-Palestinian persuasion take great offence at any attempts to connect their anti Zionism to antisemitism but not this lot, it seems. Not only have far right white supremacists given their endorsement – see Aryan Street and theuglytruth.com, (delightfully subtitled “intelligent ‘anti-semitism’ for the thinking Gentile”) but one of the Irish organisers was caught promoting the event to Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis on twitter. Piaras Mac Einri was then forced to make an announcement that antisemites and Holocaust deniers were not welcome at the event.

This is going to be quite hard to enforce, I imagine, when one of the chief organisers and keynote speakers has this to say about Jews and the Holocaust. Yes, you heard that right:

there is something so Jewish in that which has provoked the Holocaust and the dealing with which has been so successfully postponed by the Holocaust.

And indeed the official twitter account for the conference seems quite unfazed by these revelations and appears to consider these views legitimate topics for academic discussion.

There'll be lots of time to discuss how Jews provoked the Holocaust.

There’ll be lots of time to discuss how Jews want to be hated and think they’re better than everyone else.

Oren Ben Dor won’t be able to accuse them of excessive surrender to political correctness that separates the zionist question from the Jewish question and risks leaving the Jewish pathology unaddressed and only dealing with the “symptom” (zionism) of this eternal primordial disease. No Siree! In fact, he might have found his true home among some of the Irish organisers of the Cork edition of this hatefest. There is a fascinating account here of how James Bowen’s tolerance for antisemitism was too much even for Tony Greenstein, a notorious Jewish anti Zionist recently suspended from the UK Labour Party for suspected antisemitism himself!

Lest one is inclined to say that perhaps Ben Dor’s views on Jews and their “pathology” is unrelated to the topic of this conference and unlikely to come up, bear in mind that the whole sordid speech was recorded at a conference titled “One State for Palestine / Israel: A Country for All Its Citizens?” at the University of Massachusetts in 2009.

Sarah Brown has more on Ben Dor here.

It all makes Mac Einri’s claim that the conference is not even anti-Israel more absurd by the minute. Every speaker to a man, except for the two token Zionist speakers (who I believe the organisers felt forced to include after the fact as they were not on the original Southampton schedule) call for Israel to desist existing as a Jewish state. For a rundown of the speakers and their views see David Collier’s thorough account. Indeed the the original call for papers was framed in such a way as to assume Israel’s guilt at foundation from the outset. One could say it is academically loaded or even that it is an activists’ powwow with academic window dressing. One only has to look at the following statement:

For its initial existence, the State of Israel has depended on a unilateral declaration of statehood….

to realise that this is no academic conference on international law. Any academic with an interest in international law and presenting and exploring the truth would not omit any mention of numerous elements of international law including the Balfour Declaration of 1916, the San Remo decision of 1920, the League of Nations Mandate decision of 1922, and UN Resolution 181 of 1947 that provided for both a Jewish state and an Arab state. Now, whether you agree with these decisions of international law or not, it is extremely nonacademic to not even mention them in a conference on international law. Unless when they say they want to “reimagine” international law, they mean retroactively!

They seem determined to have some sort of university imprimatur. They could easily have convened in a hotel or the IPSC offices in Dublin (or a beer hall in Munich) but insist on including an overpowering photo of Cork University on their Facebook page when in reality they have only rented space there as a venue. Perhaps UCC and City Hall in Cork (the alternate venue for two of the 3 days) will come to regret giving this conference an air of respectability. The decision to go ahead has already enabled one organiser to claim, despite a spokesman for UCC stating that the university was not sponsoring or promoting the event, that the conference is a UCC event and will carry the UCC logo!

Does UCC know that its image and logo is all over this "conference"?

Does UCC know that its image and logo is all over this “conference”?

The question asked by David Hirsh about the original Southhampton event needs to be asked of the President of UCC and the Lord Mayor of Cork:

How is it that a man who blames the Jews for provoking the Holocaust, and who blames Jewish use of the Holocaust for preventing the Jewish disease from being properly treated, is organising a conference about Jews and their state?

From David Hirsh again:

Is there a necessary connection between Ben Dor’s view – which is that Zionism is a manifestation of age-old Jewish evil – and the conference which he is organising – on the unique evil and criminality of Israel?

Err. yes. Do you think it is just a coincidence that the antisemitic conference is being organised by a person who specializes in antisemitic rhetoric?

If the conference is not antisemitic, why is it tolerating the pivotal role of such a person?


A salute to Israeli women on International Women’s Day.

The Middle East/North Africa region is not a shining light when it comes to women’s rights. No other region has fewer women in parliament. No other region offers its female citizens fewer protections against domestic violence and sexual abuse. Even sub-Saharan Africa has a far better record in this regard.

The one exception to this is tiny Israel – a democracy since 1948 which has afforded its women full equality for nearly seven decades.  It couldn’t have been any other way. Faced with enemies on three sides and the sea on the fourth, this was a country beset by challenges from the very start. All hands were needed on the pumps, all shoulders were needed at the wheels.

And Israeli women have stepped forward and taken advantage of this freedom to contribute to their country as soldiers, politicians, trade unionists, judges, scientists – the roles are too many mention.

One could speak of Golda Meir, the first female prime minister of a western country and only the third in the whole world. She provided decisive leadership for her beleaguered country during the Yom Kippur War of 1973 when it seemed that Israel was going to be overwhelmed by the armies of seven Arab countries.

One could also mention Dorit Beinisch, who was President of the Israeli Supreme Court from 2006 to 2012. She was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1995 having served as Attorney General since 1989. Internationally, the judicial sphere is notoriously dominated by men so Israel is quite unusual in that a slight majority of its magistrates and district court judges are women.

Science is another area where men tend to predominate internationally. Indeed, in the past, the scientific community has sadly often disregarded the contribution of female scientists. Of the four women who have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, one is Ada E Yonath, born in Jerusalem in 1939 and whose groundbreaking work on crystallizable ribosomes won her the prize in 2009.

Unfortunately, there is no space here to list all of the Israeli women soldiers who have given their lives in defence of their country. According to the Israeli Defense Forces, 535 female Israeli soldiers had been killed in combat operations between the period from 1962 to 2016. However, this figure does not include the dozens of female soldiers killed in Israeli service prior to 1962. Each death was a sad story of a mother, sister, wife, girlfriend or daughter who never came home and each one is another tile in the vast mosaic of contributions that Israeli women have made to their country, in making their tiny state what it is today.

 

Just four of the millions of Israeli women who have made their country what it is today.

Just four of the millions of Israeli women who have made their country what it is today.

This day – March 8th, 2017 – is International Women’s Day 2017 and during these 24 hours we would do well to remember that any nation that oppresses its women and refuses them the opportunity to contribute to their full ability is poorer, less intellectually developed, more backward, and weaker as a result. The economic gap between Israel and its neighbours provides a good example of this. And with a respectful nod back up this article to Ada Yonath, consider the startling statistic that Israel typically produces 20 times as many scientific and technology patents as the entire Arab world combined. The difference isn’t all because of women but should Arab countries ever wish to address that yawning gap, they need to address the issue of rights for Arab women – not just to close that chasm but because it’s the right and just thing to do.


The Hate-Fest at Trinity College: A Closer Look.

In their rush to reject all things Israeli, anti-Israel hate groups have embraced the intolerance, violence and anti-democratic methods more characteristic of most Arab countries.

The anti-Israel groups have done it again. Last night, at Trinity College in Dublin, the Israeli ambassador, His Excellency Ze’ev Boker was to be a guest of the college’s Society For International Affairs (SOFIA) for an open discussion on the Middle East. However, a group of 40 people calling themselves Students for Justice in Palestine took over the second floor of the Arts Building where the discussion was to be held. Such was their intimidatory behaviour that the Gardai felt they had no option but to force the cancellation of the event to safeguard the ambassador.

There are deep and verifiable differences between the manner in which pro-Israel and anti-Israel groups conduct themselves. It’s about a lot more than the colour of the flags being waved. Pro-Israel groups like Irish4Israel don’t burn flags, we don’t call for any country to be wiped off the map and we pointedly avoid anything that could be construed as disrespectful to any nationality. We don’t turn up to prevent other groups from exercising their right to free speech and assembly and we don’t engage in violent or intimidatory behaviour.

To do so in support of Israel would not only be very wrong and against the values on which the Irish state is founded; it would also be very counterproductive. How could we credibly claim to be defending what is by far the most tolerant and democratic country in the Middle East by adopting such intolerant and anti-democratic methods?

By contrast, anti-Israel groups and activists have a long and ignoble history of using bullying and vandalism to “promote” their cause. Whether it’s shouting down speakers they don’t agree with, targeting children’s events, harassing shoppersshopping staff and cinema-goers, or even – ridiculously – turning up to protest at a football match (!), anti-Israel groups seem to be enraged at the prospect of anyone anywhere doing something they don’t approve of.

However, there’s another more subtle point to be made. While pro-Israel groups adhere to values of western democracies such as Israel and Ireland, it seems that anti-Israel groups are adopting standards that are a feature of intolerant, anti-democratic and frequently violent regimes that still plague much of the Middle East. It seems that  – in their wish to reject all things Israeli – these groups are hell-bent on embracing values that are utterly alien to Israel, Ireland and western countries in general.

The Trinity protesters look young and hopefully, they will in time read a few books, grow up, get some sense and look back with some embarrassment on their antics. For now, the message needs to be stated loudly and clearly by academics and politicians that while people have the right to protest, they don’t have the right to infringe on the rights of others to assembly and free speech. And if these “Students for Justice in Palestine” have a problem with that, there’s no shortage of countries in North Africa and the Middle East that they’ll find more in keeping with their ethos.

 

Students for the Suppression of Free Speech in Ireland

Students for the Suppression of Free Speech in Ireland

Indeed, if recent reports on human rights abuses by Fatah and Hamas are anything to go by, “Students for Justice in Palestine” will find lots to occupy them in that part of the world. Don’t hurry back, folks.


Why is the secretary-general of the Arab League dictating Irish foreign policy?

Readers may be aware that there are plans afoot for the Republic of Ireland to recognize the State of Palestine. It’s being pushed by Fianna Fáil, the largest opposition party in the Dáil and there seems – at this stage – to be little resistance to the proposal.

This article is not going to address the pointlessness, the hypocrisy, the lack of clarity and gesture politics aspect of such a move or how it could be very counterproductive. Others have addressed these issues here, for example. However, it is going to look at one other facet of the issue: how the whole affair seems to be driven by the head of the Arab League.

It was an Irish Times article (ironically enough) that first drew attention to the story. A group of Irish parliamentarians were in Cairo last month – ostensibly to push for the release of Ibrahim Halawa. However, they were also there to tout for support for the Irish bid to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2021-22 period.

Lo and behold, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit was there and duly informed the Irish that recognizing Palestine would boost Ireland’s campaign amongst Arab states. And so, as fast as their legs could carry him, the Irish trooped back onto the plane and are currently hellbent on doing his bidding.

For the Republic of Ireland to recognise Palestine would mark a major break with our EU partners. In western Europe, only Sweden has taken this step – with absolutely no effect it must be added. And it could all get very silly with the Irish going out on a limb with such a meaningless gesture only to find that the Arab votes have gone elsewhere.

Aboul Gheit’s comments smack so much of gesture politics that even a Fianna Fáiler might blink. The Arab League gives much vocal support to the Palestinians but has little to say about how its own member states treat their Palestinians as third class citizens. From Kuwait’s mass expulsion of Palestinians in the 1990s to the systematic discrimination in Lebanon and Egypt, from electoral restrictions against people of Palestinian descent in Jordan to the mass slaughter of Palestinians by Assad in Syria, the Arab League has had little to say – except when there’s some Israel-bashing to be done.

Ireland has in the past played the part of an honest broker in international affairs. We have a reputation for doing things because they’re the right thing to do – not on the expectation of a quid pro quo. To be engaging in an act of pointless symbolism and expecting favours in response will be injurious to this reputation and anyone who cares for our international good name should oppose it.

 

Ahmed Aboul Gheit: Secretary-General of the Arab League.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit: Secretary-General of the Arab League.

Irish4Israel is petitioning leading Fianna Fáil figures asking them to respect Irish neutrality and refrain from pushing recognition of a Palestinian state at this stage. Please sign it here. Meanwhile, Stand With Us Israel is petitioning all the main Irish political party leaders, Please add your name here.