Zionist history: A short quiz

Neve Gordon
Neve Gordon

Neve Gordon

Take this test to find out how much you know about the gradual shift in Israeli political thought over the decades.

Not long after Israel celebrated its 64th Independence Day on April 26, a friend prepared a quiz of sorts. She read out loud political quotes to about ten guests who were having dinner at my house, and asked us to identify the politician who had uttered each statement.

Truth be told, none of my guests did very well on the quiz, but I thought that readers acquainted with Zionist history might do better and would be able to identify the source of each of the following statements. There is only one rule to this game: all search engines, including Google, are off limits. Continue reading


Israel Apartheid

This afternoon, in a bold ruling defending the right to freedom of
expression and political speech, the South African media watchdog, the
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), unequivocally dismissed all
complaints relating to a radio advert that calls for the boycott of Israel
and compares Israel to Apartheid South Africa.

In February this year, during the South African tour of the UK dance band,
Faithless, a radio message featuring Dave Randall (lead guitarist of
Faithless) was broadcast on 5fm, a mainstream South African radio station
with over 2 million listeners.
The advert was in support of a local group,
the South African Artists Against Apartheid collective. In the advert
Randall says:

“Hi, I’m Dave Randall from Faithless. Twenty years ago I would not have
played in apartheid South Africa; today I refuse to play in Israel. Be on
the right side of history. Don’t entertain apartheid. Join the international
boycott of Israel. I support southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com
<http://southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com> “

In an official complaint to the ASA, the South African Jewish Board of
Deputies (SAJBD)
attacked the radio advert and alleged that the view
expressed that Israel is an Apartheid State is “untrue, not supported by any
evidence… and contains a lie which amounts to false propaganda”.

The SAJBD sought an order requesting the SABC to apologize for broadcasting
the radio advert.

Today the ASA dismissed each and every complaint made by the SAJBD against
the advert and instead ruled in favor of the submissions made by SA Artists
Against Apartheid
, who were represented by Webber Wentzel Attorneys. The ASA
also refused to provide any sanctions in favor of the SAJBD.

Reggae DJ, “The Admiral”, and member of the SA Artists Against Apartheid
collective, welcomed today’s decision:

“The ASA decision is significant due to our own history of Apartheid. The
decision sends a clear message to the Zionist lobby that the time has come
for an end to the baseless accusations of “discrimination” and “hate speech”
whenever criticism of Israel is voiced. Calling Israel an Apartheid state is
legitimate because Israel practices Apartheid. The boycott of such an
oppressive regime should be supported as it was in our own Anti-Apartheid
freedom struggle.”

South African Palestine solidarity groups have celebrated the ASA ruling
claiming it as a “legal victory” for the boycott of Israel movement. Fatima
Vally from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Working Group said in
a press release: “This is the second major boycott of Israel decision coming
from South Africa in less than six months. The first being the historic
decision by the University of Johannesburg to sever its Israeli ties. The
boycott of Israel campaign is the new Anti-Apartheid Movement, and its
growing rapidly.”

The SA Artists Against Apartheid collective welcomes this positive decision,
an adverse ruling could have had detrimental consequences for freedom of
expression in general, and Palestine solidarity in particular.

The original advert flighted on 5fm is available for viewing here:

Below is a short summary of the four main issues dealt with by the ASA.

1. Discrimination
Responding to the SAJBD complaint that the radio advert
resulted in discrimination, the ASA rejected the complaint entirely, stating
that the reasonable person would clearly understand that: “[The
advertisement] is a call to all listeners irrespective of their
circumstances, race, gender and the like, to support the [cultural boycott
of Israel] cause…if anything, it [the advert] is condemning the actions and
events in Israel, rather than victimizing or castigating people of Israeli
origin. Put differently, it is condemning oppressive actions…”

2. Freedom of expression and political speech
SA Artists Against Apartheid
submitted that the ASA should take into account the fact that the radio
advert was a form of political speech which is protected by the right to
freedom and expression under section 16 of the South African Constitution:
“Political expression is of particular importance in a democratic society
because it has a bearing on each citizen’s ability to formulate and convey
information, ideas and opinions about issues of public importance.
International campaigns such as the cultural boycott of Israel have a
domestic implication as well, as South African citizens are entitled to
express their views on the stance that should be adopted by South Africa in
relation to Israel.”

3. Offensive advertising
Responding to the complaint that the advertisement
constituted offensive advertising, the ASA ruled that a reasonable person
who is neither hypercritical nor hypersensitive: “…cannot reach a conclusion
that this commercial was intended to offend. There are no calls for
violence, no derogatory comments flung about, and no implication that all
Israelis should be condemned. The commercial states the artists’ reason for
not performing in Israel, and invites people to join in the cause promoted.”

4. The claim that Israel is an apartheid state
SA Artists Against Apartheid
submitted that the view that Israel is an apartheid state “is based on a
sound factual matrix and the connection between apartheid South Africa and
Israel has been made numerous times in the South African media. The claim is
therefore justified […] “

SA Artists Against Apartheid successfully disputed the allegation that the
reference to Israel being an apartheid state can only be justified by a
ruling of an International Court: “The term “apartheid” is clearly not an
exclusively legal term and is recognized as a descriptive term to refer to a
situation that exhibits segregation and inequality.”

The ASA noted that extensive evidence was submitted in favor of the case
that Israel is an apartheid state. Some of these submissions included
“reports by a UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories
as well as a copy of the International Court of Justice [ruling] concerning
the [Israeli Separation] wall in Jerusalem”. In addition substantial
academic studies, newspaper articles and political cartoons (several by
popular South African cartoonist, Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro) were also
submitted justifying the ability to express the view that Israel is an
apartheid state.

Furthermore, sworn affidavits by Israeli Professor, Uri Davis and former
South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils were also attached to the
SA Artists Against Apartheid submission.

Significantly, the 2009 South African government Human Sciences Research
report, that found Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid, was also
an official submission.


Israel’s new laws promote repression

Israeli Pirate Flag Silwan - (June 26 2010, Rebecca Fudala)

As Arabs across the region struggle for freedom and democracy, Israeli law seems to be headed in the opposite direction.

Neve Gordon, 11 May 2011

“Bad laws,” Edmund Burke once said, “are the worst sort of tyranny.”

The millions of people who have been protesting – from Tunis, Egypt and Libya, to Bahrain, Yemen and Syria – appear to have recognised this truism and are demanding the end of emergency law and the drafting of new constitutions that will guarantee the separation of powers, free, fair and regular elections, and basic political, social and economic rights for all citizens.

To put it succinctly, they are fighting to end tyranny.

Within this dramatic context it is also fruitful to look at Israel, which is considered by many as the only democracy in the Middle East and which has, in many ways, been an outlier in the region. One might ask whether Israel or not stands as a beacon of light for those fighting tyranny.

On the one hand, the book of laws under which Israel’s citizenry live is – with the exception of a handful of significant laws that privilege Jews over non-Jews – currently very similar to those used in most liberal democracies, where the executive, legislative and judicial powers are separated, there are free, fair and regular elections, and the citizens enjoy basic rights – including freedom of expression and association.

Israel’s double standard

However, on the other hand, the Israeli military law used to manage the Palestinians are similar to those deployed in most Arab countries, where there is no real separation of powers and people are in many respects without rights. Even though there has been a Palestinian Authority since the mid-1990s, there is no doubt that sovereignty still lies in Israeli hands.

One accordingly notices that in this so-called free and democratic country, there are in fact two books of laws, one liberal for its own citizenry and the other for Palestinians under its occupation. Hence, Israel looks an awful lot like apartheid or colonialism.

But can Israel’s democratic parts serve as a model of emulation for pro-democracy activists in the neighbouring Arab countries?

The answer is mixed – because as Arab citizens across the region struggle against tyranny, in Israel there appears to be an opposite trend, whereby large parts of the citizenry are not only acquiescent but have been supportive of Knesset members who are drafting new legislation to silence public criticism and to delegitimize political rivals, human rights organizations, and the Palestinian minority. The idea is to legally restrict individuals and groups that hold positions at odds with the government’s right-wing agenda by presenting them as enemies of the State.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel recently warned that the laws promoted by the Knesset are dangerous and will have severe ramifications for basic human rights and civil liberties. The association, which is known for its evenhanded approach, went on to claim that the new laws “contribute to undemocratic and racist public stands, which have been increasingly salient in Israeli society in the past few years”.

New wave of repressive laws

Here are just a few examples of approximately twenty bills that have either been approved or are currently under consideration.

• The Knesset approved a new law stating that organisations and institutions that commemorate Nakba Day, “deny the Jewish and democratic character of the State”, and shall not receive public funds. Thus, even in the Arab schools within Israel, the Nakba must be erased. So much for democratic contestation and multiculturalism.

• Another new law states that “acceptance committees” of villages and communities may turn down a candidate if he or she “fails to meet the fundamental views of the community”. According to ACRI, this bill intends to deny ethnic minorities’ access to Jewish communities set up on predominantly public lands. So unless the new Arab pro-democracy movements want to base their countries on apartheid-like segregation, this is also not a law to emulate.

• The Knesset has approved a bill that pardons most of the protesters who demonstrated against Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. Although legislation easing punitive measures against persons who exercise their right to political protest is, in principle, positive, this particular bill blatantly favours activists with a certain political ideology. This does not bode well for the basic notion of equality before the law.

• An amendment to the existing Penalty Code stipulates that people who publish a call that denies the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state shall be imprisoned. This extension of the existing law criminalises political views that the ruling political group does not accept. It is supported by the government and has passed a preliminary reading. Burgeoning democracies should definitely shy away from such legislation.

• There is currently a proposed bill to punish persons who initiate, promote, or publish material that might serve as grounds for imposing a boycott. The bill insists that these people are committing an offence and may be ordered to compensate parties economically affected by that boycott, including fixed reparations of 30,000 New Israeli Shekels (US$8,700), without an obligation on the plaintiffs to prove damages. This bill has already passed the first reading.

• Finally, a bill presented to the Knesset in October would require members of local and city councils, as well as some other civil servants, to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Democracy for a few

There is a clear logic underlying this spate of new laws; namely, the Israeli government’s decision to criminalise alternate political ideologies, such as the idea that Israel should be a democracy for all its citizens.

Hence, one witnesses an inverse trend – as the Arab citizens in the region struggle for more openness and indeed democracy, toppling dictators and pressuring governments to make significant liberal reforms, the Israeli book of laws is being rewritten so as to undercut democratic values.

Israelis celebrating the state’s 63rd birthday should closely examine the pro-democracy movements in Tahrir, Deraa and across the Arab world. They might very well learn a thing or two.

Neve Gordon

Neve Gordon

Neve Gordon is an Israeli academic. He has been a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the Watson Institute at Brown University. During the first intifada, he was the director of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. Gordon is the co-editor of Torture: Human Rights, Medical Ethics and the Case of Israel, the editor of From the Margins of Globalization: Critical Perspectives on Human Rights, and most recently the author of Israel’s Occupation. His writings have appeared in numerous scholarly journals as well as in publications like The Washington Post, LA Times, The Guardian, The Nation, Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, Chronicle of Higher Education and The National Catholic Reporter.

First published in Al Jazeera

Anti-BDS Bill passes first reading in the Knesset


Palestine Monitor, 16 February 2011

On Tuesday, 15 February, the Knesset voted to approve a bill in its first reading that would criminalize actions that support boycotts against Israel. The bill was originally introduced in June 2010 by a 25 MK’s from the Likud and Kadima party.

According to a report by the Alternative Information Center, the bill will prohibit citizens from initiating or encouraging participation in a boycott against Israel.

If the bill is passed, citizens of Israel supporting BDS could face fines up to 30,000 NIS, roughly 8,200 USD.

According to AIC, non-citizens taking part in BDS activities in Israel are subject to being denied entry into Israel for at least 10 years.

According to YNET, the bill caused a heated debate in the Knesset. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel reported that before the vote was made, MK Dov Khenin of the left-wing Hadash party suggested the bill be renamed to “Prohibition on Freedom of Expression Bill,” emphasizing its censoring nature.

Since the international BDS movement was first formed in 2005, Israel has increasingly voiced its concern over the potential threat it poses to Israel. In June 2010, the Reut Institute, a privately funded policy group based in Tel Aviv, published a report titled, “The BDS Movement Promotes Delegitimization against Israel.” The report discusses the growing popularity of the movement, and its underlying purpose to oppose “Israel’s right to exists as a Jewish and democratic state.” The Reut Institute’s report charges all boycotts—both partial and full—with delegitimizing Israel.

YNET has reported that the Foreign and Justice ministries admonished against the bill, stating that it could lead to poor relations with other states.

Read AIC’s full report

This is America, the beacon of freedom

Islam is NOT the ENEMY

Kourosh Ziabari, 12 Sept 2010

The ninth anniversary of September 11 attacks coincided with the offensive insults of the Americans to the holiest book of 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe. According to reports by the Reuters, near Nashville, Tennessee, evangelical Pastor Bob Old and another preacher used lighter fluid and a lighter to burn at least two copies of the Quran. Old called Islam “a false religion.”

It was also reported that the American protesters objecting to the construction of an Islamic center and a mosque adjacent to the Ground Zero site tore pages from the Holy Quran and set them alight. Reuters also dispatched reports from the similar abuses to the Holy Quran in Lower Manhattan.

The terrifying plan of burning the holy book of Muslims was initially proposed by the pastor of an obscure, small, non-denominational church in Gainesville who had announced that he would be burning copies of the Holy Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 attacks. The plan was described by the global media as a publicity stunt by someone whose desire for gaining some reputation and attention by the international media propelled him towards thinking of such an evil action.

Although a global wave of protests which erupted immediately after Pastor Jones announced his plan for burning the Holy Quran on September 11 dissuaded the attention-seeking preacher from realizing his mischievous intention, he inspired other people to go ahead with the plan and abuse a Holy Book which is venerated and adored by millions of people in the four corners of the world.

Insulting the holy book of Muslims in the United States put an emphasis on the fact that those who consider themselves the harbingers of mutual understanding, religious toleration, peaceful coexistence and freedom of expression are merely making unfounded and baseless claims which they perpetually fail to adhere to in practice. These are only claims which are designed to portray an idealistic image of the United States and its culture. Burning a holy book is the clear manifestation of an uncivilized and barbaric action for which there can’t be any justification or explanation.

Muslims around the world are subject to the most unfair convictions and unjustifiable discriminations. They’re usually labeled as extremists, fundamentalists and radicals. They’re always judged with pessimism and negativity. Every terrorist operation is attributed to them and the most offensive charges are leveled against them as unjustly as possible. So, what’s the reality of Islam? Is it a religion of violence and barbarism, as the Americans claim? Does it further and spread terrorism and extremism? Is Islam a “false religion”, as the evangelical pastor has claimed? A general investigation of the Islamic scriptures and Quran can provide the response to all of these questions. There are numerous indications that Muslims are among the most pacifist and peace-lover people in the world. Islam has categorically rebuffed violence and aggression towards the people and condemned those who use force against others and undermine their esteem.

The most fundamental pillar of Islam is based on sociability, interaction with the other people and respecting their prestige and stature. The Holy Quran on several occasions has underlined the importance of revering the humankind as the most prestigious and valuable creature of the Almighty God. In the verse 70 of the chapter Al-Isra’, the Almighty God introduces the man as His most admirable and brilliant creature, saying that he is superior than all of the other beings on the Earth: “It is a favor that We have honored the sons of Adam and blessed them with conveyances on land and sea and provided them with good and pure things and exalted them above many of Our other creatures.”

As a vanguard ideology, Islam has always emphasized the essentiality of behaving with the followers of other religions with respect and admiration. It was once asked from Imam Reza, the eighth Twelver Shiite Imam and the seventh descendant of Prophet Muhammad that how should one pay tribute to the Jews and Christians who don’t follow the religion of Islam? He answered: “tell them may the Almighty God bless the world for you.”

Those who claim to be the guardians of human rights have so far killed more than 1 million innocent civilians in Iraq since they launched their so-called War on Terror. One may wonder whether these 1 million people have been human or not. Islam has never claimed to be a charter of human rights, but in actuality, it is the most comprehensive and all-inclusive declaration of human rights. It pays attention to each and every aspect of human’s dignity and disallows the destabilization of man’s decorum. In the verse 12 of the chapter Al-Hujuraat, the Almighty God prevents the believers from backbiting, being suspicious about the others and spying: “Believers, avoid being excessively suspicious, for some suspicion is a sin. Do not spy, nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? (by backbiting) You would surely detest it. Have fear of Allah. Surely Allah is much prone to accept repentance, is Most Compassionate.”

In the verse 13 of the same chapter, the Almighty God has highlighted the fact that the most venerable and esteemed people are the ones who fear Him the most and do good deeds as a result of this fear. This shows that people, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender and language, are equal in Islam and their decency is the basis of judging their actions: “Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you.”

Islam has also stressed the importance of respecting the followers of other religions and called the holy books of Jews and Christians divine revelations which should be treated with esteem and respect. In the verse 46 of the chapter Al-Ma’idah, we read: “And We sent Jesus, the son of Mary, after those Prophets, confirming the truth of whatever there still remained of the Torah. And We gave him the Gospel, wherein is guidance and light, and which confirms the truth of whatever there still remained of the Torah, and a guidance and admonition for the God-fearing.”

With these descriptions, it will become clear that Islam is a religion of toleration, peace and friendship. It pays tribute to all of the religions which had preceded it and obliges the Muslims to live along with the followers of other religions peacefully. Islam confirms and verifies the authenticity of previous holy books and asks the Muslims to be benevolent and compassionate with the “people of faith”.

Burning a holy book which is full of instructions for a peaceful, serene, pure and happy life indicates nothing but ignorance and animosity. More than 1.5 billion people around the world read the Holy Quran to learn from its insights and teachings. Burning such a book simply indicates the lack of tolerance and freedom in a country which considers itself a beacon of freedom.

Thanks God, Muslims have always treated with the followers of other religions respectfully. They never drew insulting cartoons of Prophet Jesus nor did they desecrate the Bible and Torah. The mainstream media in the West portray the Muslims as terrorists and extremists, but the Muslims around the world have righteously demonstrated that they are worthy of praise and admiration for their excellent demeanor and their peaceful disposition.

  • Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian freelance journalist, and  regular contributor to RamallahOnline.com