All posts by Dick Pitt

Benefit dinner

benefit dinner

BDS and our critics

How do we persuade people to support BDS?  We point out the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948.  We point out the systematic theft of Palestinian land in 1967 to today with a further 25,000 new illegal dwellings in occupied East Jerusalem, announced in June.  We point out the theft of water in the West Bank and possibly the most serious is the establishment of an Apartheid state in the West Bank.  Finally we point out that the people who are oppressed by Israel, the Palestinians, via their organisations have asked us to do something non-violent to enable them to get basic human rights.

We rightly expect scrutiny of what we claim.  The most controversial is that Israel has established an apartheid state.  Are there separate roads for Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank?  Are there separate schools? Are there separate law enforcement systems for Palestinians and Israelis?  Are there separate residential areas?  As a matter of observable fact the answers to all these are yes.  These are sufficient for the system to be designated Apartheid.  Many of us opposed the South African Apartheid, as racist and oppressive, and see the same with Israeli Apartheid.

We meet opposition.  Douglas Murray is associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society. (Last Wednesday, 5th July, the BBC Today program called it a “highly respected” think tank, I beg to differ.)  The objectors raise three strategies.  The first is insult/slander.

“There are a lot of Nazi caparisons being thrown around these days. Where might they be most accurately directed? Toward the State of Israel? Or against the growing number of people who believe that it is permissible to boycott any herb, any product or indeed any tune if it comes from the hand or the heart of a Jew?”

I know of no individual or organisation that proposes a boycott of Jewish products.  The nasty piece of misinformation slanders us, and if taken seriously, spreads fear within the Jewish community.  It is pollution in the arena of public debate.

Secondly there is “Israel is wonderful” approach.  This is Douglas Murray again.  “How can a man as brilliant as Hawking boycott Israel when it makes the microchip that enables him to talk?”  This is called a non sequitur.  Israel has created some wonderful products therefore it can create an Apartheid state, really?

Finally there is the “other places are worse” here and here.

Can a burglar say let me go because there is a murderer free?   Or can a murderer say “Ah but I only killed one person.  Why pick on me when Assad/Bush/ Blair killed tens or even hundreds of thousands?” Of course not.

Douglas Murray believes the solution is a Palestinian state beside Israel with only some of the illegal settlements being removed.  Why on earth would Israel accept even this miserable compromise?  It is taking chunks of Palestinian land because it has the military power to do so.  It is robing Palestine of its natural capital, Jerusalem, by systematic building of Israeli estates because it has the power to do so.  It ignores the ICJ ruling on the illegality of the Apartheid wall because it has the power to do so.  Israel can do these things while ever it has Western Governmental support and cheerleaders like Douglas Murray.  He makes me think of a man on the flying Scotsman who professes to want to go to London, while heaping coal into the boiler of the Edinburgh bound train.

Israel has created an Apartheid state.  It robs Palestinians of land, water and freedom of movement.  Israeli Apartheid is not the only bad thing in the world.  But it is one that anti-racists, anti-Apartheid activists, and people who want dignity for everyone should campaign against.  Join us.

Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners


Saturday 6th May.  There was a lively protest outside Sheffield Town Hall in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.   We were joined by  Paul Blomfield, MP  (till a week ago and current candidate) for Sheffield Central constituency .  The prisoners are on hunger strike over such things as jailed children, family visits restricted to one a year, and administrative detention (jail with no trial).  For more information go here.

Claim that it is illegal to criticise Israeli illegal practices


A pro Israel Law lecturer, Lesley Klaff, has entered a legal opinion about Israel and the criticism of it.  

It is not about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, which  I believe is a crime against humanity.  Nor about Israel’s defiance of UN resolution 194 which allows for Palestinian refugees to return home.  Nor about the illegal annexation by Israel of East Jerusalem after the six day war in 1967.  It is not about the Apartheid wall, (separation wall) which in the opinion of the International Court of Justice is contrary to international law.  Nor about Israel’s Settlements, which “have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law” according to the  Security Council of the UN.  No it is not Israel’s illegal practices she objects to it is opposition to those practices which are illegal according to her.

She writes “Israeli Apartheid Week in Britain – Why Student Unions are acting illegally

Her core complaint is this.


Yes, a defender of Israel wants to set the limits as to what is legitimate criticism of Israel.  

My understanding is that for a charge of defamation to stick it must be untrue.

Is Israel Racist?  Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 are not allowed to return to their homeland.  Jews who have never been to Israel or Palestine have the right to settle there  (The Law of Return 5710-1950).  Is that racist discrimination?  It looks like it to me.  Adalah has listed 50 laws that it claims are discriminatory. Ehud Barak said in 2000 “Maintaining our sovereignty over Jerusalem and boosting its Jewish majority have been our chief aims, and toward this end Israel constructed large Jewish neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city, which house 180,000 residents, and large settlements on the periphery of Jerusalem, like the city of Ma’ale Adumim and Giv’at Ze’ev. The principle that guided me in the negotiations at Camp David was to preserve the unity of Jerusalem and to strengthen its Jewish majority for generations to come.”[

Ensuring that there is a big majority of Jews in Jerusalem is racist. 

There are Palestinian villages that are destroyed to make way for Jewish settlements.

There are plans to move 30,000 Bedouin from their homes in the Negev/ Naqab.  A UN report calls these policies racist. (Some U.N. officials have distanced themselves from the report)

‘According to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev is discriminatory and would legalize racist practices’.  I agree.

In the West Bank there are areas that are forbidden to Palestinians, there are roads that are forbidden, there are separate courts for Israelis and Palestinians.  That looks as though it satisfies the definition of Apartheid.

Even an Israeli ex Ambassador Alon Liel said the

 Joint Israel-West Bank’ reality is an apartheid state”.

Desmond Tutu wrote

 I am especially urging the Assembly to adopt the overture naming Israel as an apartheid state through its domestic policies and maintenance of the occupation”

“This report concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole… available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law..” unescwa   

So let us suppose that there is a meeting that decries the policies of Israel as racist and a form of Apartheid.  Ms Klaff states pic2

Attacks on the Government of Israel, its policies and actions are not attacks on Jews, as the many Jewish anti Zionist, pro Palestinian organisations show.  I am not surprised that pro-Israel students have negative feelings during Anti Apartheid week.  Their vision of Israel is being contradicted by well documented reality.  We believe that the more people who look at what is being done to the Palestinians the more they will agree that it is racist and a form of Apartheid.  Only respectful political debate and discussion can create a future for the peoples of the region.  The starting point for the discussion has to be the systematic oppression of the Palestinians.

There was another attempt to use the law to stem political debate.  In 2012 Mr R Fraser accused the Lecturers union U.C.U. of harassment and institutional Anti Semitism.  It centred on a whole number of resolutions that the union had passed that criticised Israel and encouraged BDS. 

One key sentence sums up the tribunals findings.

“Lessons should be learned from this sorry saga.  We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means. It would be very unfortunate if an exercise of this sort were ever repeated”

Ms Klaff is repeating the same tactic with this document.  The central issue is whether Israel is imposing an Apartheid state or not.  We believe there is ample evidence that it is.  It is a shame that Ms Klaff put no effort at all into refuting this.  Instead she hopes to silence criticism of Israel by resorting to the courts.