London, 11 July 2008 — In the first London meeting, with standing room only, of the new anti-Zionist initiative, the International Jewish Solidarity Network (IJSN), 120 people heard from activists organising in Egypt , Israel ,France, US and the UK. Below is the complete video; a summary and information about the panelists follows the video (you can click on each speaker’s name to view his/her segment only).
Selma James (IJAN UK) in the chair, opened by stating that the task is not only to be against Zionism but to show active opposition, and to take leadership from the Palestinian resistance against Zionism.
Michael Kalmanovitz (IJAN UK ) summed up the many enthusiastic and the (very) few hostile responses to the publicity for the meeting.
Daniel Machover renowned human rights lawyer, described how evidence from activists in Gaza had been gathered to use the “principle of universal jurisdiction” to indict Israelis suspected of war crimes. Notably, in 2005, his firm gave evidence to the London police about General Almog’s responsibility for dropping a one tonne bomb on Gaza , killing 15 civilians, nine of whom were children.
Although they ensured that a judge issued an arrest warrant for Almog when his plane landed in the UK , and although the police should have arrested him, the Israeli Embassy had warned him, and he returned to Israel on the same plane. Despite this, there is a long list of suspects, and it is only a matter of time before someone is arrested, in the UK or elsewhere.
Hossam El-Hamalawy, Egyptian journalist and activist, reported on the biggest strike wave in Egypt for 50 years, centred on the textile factories in Mahalla where women had shamed men into going on strike. Later tax collectors, doctors and university professors had also gone on strike — and won.There are 49 people from the Mahalla uprisings still in prison –support is urgently needed.
Mr El-Hamalawy stated that the Palestinian Intifadas had encouraged Egyptian people to resist their repressive government. Besides the strikes, there are other signs that they are winning: Egypt has been forced to withdraw from various agreements with Israel, including selling cement for the building of illegal settlements.
He considers that the IJAN’s uncompromising anti-Zionism is crucial in breaking with the monolithic image of Jewish people being for Israel and against Arab people.
Liliane Kaczerginski (IJAN Europe) is based in France. Her father was prominent in the armed resistance against the Nazis in Lithuania. She said that Zionism dishonours the genocide of European Jews. There is a Jewish tradition of organizing with dispossessed people, many Jewish people were Communists and Socialists, not Zionists.
She said that although there has been a Zionist invasion of Jewish minds we say no to a Jewish State because it means Jewish supremacy; we say no to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. We are committed to the right of return for Palestinians and to a boycott, sanctions and disinvestment of Israel . Free Palestine in a Free World!
Sue Blackwell, from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP),said that it is nonsense that universities in Israel are bastions of free speech. She quoted Palestinian academics who say that the Israeli academics serve in the army, including at the 600-plus check-points.Palestinian academics and students have not only been prevented from attending schools and universities, but hundreds have been imprisoned and killed.
The academic boycott campaign in the UK – calling for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including universities built on confiscated land — has met with a lot of hostility from the Zionist lobby, including death threats. Nevertheless the campaign has had had alot of success – watch this space!
Professor Moshe Machover,co-founder in 1962 of Matzpen, the Israeli Socialist Organization, said that opposition to Zionism was a necessary consequence of opposition to the colonialist nature of the State of Israel.
He said that Zionism accepts the premises of anti-Semitism: that Jewish people have to be kept outside of the societies where they live. Zionists promote the idea that you can have a Jewish identity only if you are religious or you are Zionist, even though many religious Jews are against the existence of the State of Israel.
He said that IJAN cuts through the debate between the one-state and the two-state solutions.This is a regional issue in an area where the political map was designed by French and English imperialists, including the map of Palestine. Present regimes in Jordan and Egypt are colluding with Israel in the repression of Palestinians. Professor Machover stressed we are not for the destruction of Israeli people — the State of Israel must be overthrown, it is the State structure that must be destroyed.
A lively discussion followed: the meeting heard about the campaign for the boycott of Israeli goods at Rainbow Health Food Coop in San Francisco (RBIG); Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) quoted their slogan — “It’s kosher to boycott Israeli goods”; Islington Friends of Yibna (IFY) described their campaign to twin Islington with Yibna, a Palestinian village destroyed in 1948; and Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) reported how Lord Rogers was told by the Israel Lobby that projects worth billions of dollars were in jeopardy unless he stated his support for the Apartheid Wall, which he promptly did.
Selma James, in her closing remarks said that we have to organize as Jews to undermine the identification between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism;and finally, “If you oppose racism and war and neo-liberal and neo-conservative and genocide and fundamentalism in one place, it’s across the board. And that’s where our struggle begins.”