Benjamin Netanyahu receives two reasonable requests

December 28, 2017


Earlier this month, MEP Molly Scott Cato added her signature to a ‘bill’ to the Israeli prime minister, coordinated by SNP MEP Alyn Smith. It requires Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to repay the EU at least €1.5m for the demolition of homes, schools, playgrounds and water and electricity infrastructure that were funded by the EU.

She explained: “The EU is a generous donor to infrastructure and services that improve the lives of people in Palestine. Netanyahu’s visit to Brussels is an excellent opportunity to remind Israel that we expect them to pay for the destruction to those projects, paid for through European taxes, that his violent policies in Gaza and the West Bank have destroyed.

“The EU continues to support Palestinians’ right to lead a decent and secure life in a state of their own. We continue to condemn the actions of the Israeli government in attempting to drive Palestinians out of the land that is rightfully theirs.”

Details of the humanitarian aid projects which Israel has been demolishing are listed on her website. Since Netanyahu became PM in 2009, Israel has demolished 5293 Palestinian structures in the West Bank, displacing 8540 people from their homes. At least 400 of these have been EU and member state funded structures, worth almost over € 1.5m, though these figures only cover the EU contribution to the humanitarian structures, not their full cost.

A Palestinian man inspects the ruins of a playground demolished by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank village of Zaatara, near Nablus

The Jerusalem Post and Le Monde report that in October EU members, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Luxembourg, Ireland and Denmark, the donors of a European humanitarian consortium, decided to formalize their frustration in writing after the destruction of school equipment and the confiscation of solar panels they had financed in the West Bank.

The signatories of the letter delivered to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, set out a claim for compensation for the damage suffered, ie 31,252 euros, writing: “We are still hopeful that our requests for restitution can be met without preconditions as soon as possible, otherwise Israel will have to provide compensation without delay”.






Peaceful resistance

October 24, 2017

 Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store has withdrawn Israeli settlement products

The American Herald Tribune reports that earlier this month, the hundred year old store was scheduled to host an event featuring Israeli wines, including wines made in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen land – see United Nations’ reaffirmation in 2016. After Japanese civil society raised concerns, Mitsukoshi shortened the event and removed all wines which Palestine Forum Japan activists indicated were made in Israeli settlements. A spokesperson for Japan’s Palestine Forum said:

“We warmly welcome this principled decision by Mitsukoshi department store to pull products made in illegal Israeli settlements from its shelves. By refusing to sell these products, the store is complying with international law and Japanese foreign policy. It is also respecting human rights and advancing justice and peace.

“Mitsukoshi’s action serves as a model to other Japanese companies trading with those in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land. Japanese companies must immediately end their complicity in Israeli violations of human rights by stopping all trade and cooperation with Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid, or increasingly face both reputational damage and financial losses”.

Simulation of an Israeli checkpoint outside Muji store

The Jerusalem Post recalls that the first protest of this kind was held in 2010, when civil organisations in Japan, including the Palestine Forum Japan, campaigned for seven months against the plan of Muji, a Japanese retail chain, to open stores in Israel – a plan which was eventually cancelled.

Last year the Israeli embassy in Japan had been planning to hold an Israel Wine Seminar at the Osaka Office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Some of the Israeli wineries attending were located in or used grapes from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank or the Golan Heights.

Palestine Forum Japan sent a fax to JETRO about providing their facilities for the promotion of illegal settlement businesses and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry informed Palestine Forum Japan that the Ministry had advised JETRO of the significant legal and moral risks associated with promoting illegal settlement businesses as outlined by the United Nations Human Rights Council. JETRO staff called Palestine Forum Japan and informed them that they would be withdrawing from the event which would not be going ahead at JETRO’s facilities.

In July 2017, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a warning on its website, advising that “settlement activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are in violation of international law, and one must be aware of the financial, reputational and legal risks when involved with economic activities in these areas.”

In September the Boycott, divestment and sanctions website reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was beginning to send letters to 150 companies in Israel and around the globe, warning them that they could be added to a database of complicit companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements based in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Japanese BDS activists are calling on the Japanese government to implement sanctions against Israel until the military occupation is ended, Palestinian citizens of Israel enjoy equal rights and Palestinian refugees are permitted to return to their homes and their land.




30,000 Israeli Jews and Arabs gather to oppose their government’s policies

August 2, 2017

At the end of May, Peace Now reported that 30,000 Israelis (above) raised their voices against 50 years of occupation and in support of a two state solution.

Peace Now is a movement of Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens who see the pursuit of peace, compromise and reconciliation with the Palestinians on the one hand and with the Arab states on the other, as necessary to guarantee Israel’s future security and its identity as a state.

30,000 Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, old and young, arrived from all across Israel to show that many support a two state solution, oppose the government’s policies and seek to end the occupation, which is hurting Palestinians and deteriorating Israel’s democracy.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in Jewish-only colonies, which are deemed illegal by international law, throughout occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.

However, two months later, there was an incident at Abu Rajabs’ family home, in the southern occupied West Bank, raising tensions in the city. The clearest account is given by IMEMC News here.

In 2012, Israeli settler colonizers took over the top two floors of the home, forcing the Abu Rajab family to huddle into the lowest level of their home. The home has been the subject of a long-standing legal case, with settlers claiming that they legally purchased the property. The Abu Rajab family rejects that claim, and Israel’s civil administration has said the settlers have been unable to provide proof of that purchase.

Since that time, the Abu Rajab family has been continually harassed, including having their entrance and exit to the home blocked, being beaten and threatened, having soldiers occupy their home and assist the settler colonizers in their takeover, and having one of the sons of the Abu Rajab family abducted and put into prison without charge for years. Throughout 2015, Israeli settlers camped outside the home for months, harassing the Abu Rajab family and preventing them from leaving.

This video shows one altercation, but it is unclear what is happening. The most disturbunig shots were of a large crowd of y oung israels repeatedly calpp9ng and cheering..

IMEMC News reports that the family had filed six different complaints with the Israeli court system, which eventually ruled in their favour and ordered the settlers to evacuate.

Now, in 2017, the family finds themselves once again filing a complaint with the Israeli police, as the settlers have returned to force them from their home in violation of international and Israeli law.

Peace Now has called on the Israeli government to evict the settlers from the home.

Will the Israeli court see that their decision is upheld and implemented?

As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

June 7, 2017

It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.

Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”

Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?

There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.

A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.

But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.

“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.

He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.

Co-existence in Iran

In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.

As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:

“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.





Non-violent resistance: Israeli Arabs and Jews marched arm-in-arm yesterday displaying banners in Hebrew and Arabic, reading “Jews and Arabs together”

February 5, 2017


In Tel Aviv on February 4, 2017

An Agence France-Presse journalist said that around 1,000 protesters  – Israeli Arabs and Jews – marched arm-in-arm through central Tel Aviv on Saturday night, calling for the government to stop demolishing Arab homes built without permits that are rarely granted.

Israeli Arab leaders called for a general strike in all their towns and villages in response to the demolition. They say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has cracked down on unlicensed Arab construction to placate Jewish settlers angry at a demolition order against the Amona outpost in the occupied West Bank. Israeli public radio said that the strike was widely observed in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm, the country’s largest Arab cities, and in the mixed-population city of Haifa.

Netanyahu said: “The law must be equitable; the same law which obliges vacating Amona also obliges removing illegal construction in other parts of our country, therefore I have given orders to speed up demolition of illegal construction… in all parts of the country and we shall do that in the coming days.”

Israeli Arabs are descendants of Palestinians who remained after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. They now make up around 17.5% of the population and say the state systematically discriminates against them, making it impossible for them to obtain planning permission to expand their communities. The result is that many resort to building homes without permits, leaving them liable to demolition.


The Jerusalem Post reported that in January thousands protested in Kalansuwa near Kfar Saba following the  destruction of 11 buildings in the town by government bulldozers.

Haaretz adds that four local families who owned the buildings had been notified of the demolitions only two days before they were carried out and were not given sufficient time to respond through legal channels. Kalansua Mayor Abdel Bassat Salameh announced his resignation in the wake of the demolitions. He said he had fought for years to expand Kalansua’s master plan, which the Israeli authorities had refused to approve for decades.

Doha Baransi, a student from the nearby town of Taibe, added: “What they are doing is destroying the lives of the people. They should respect the people. They don’t respect us as Arabs and as citizens. If they wanted to respect us they wouldn’t destroy.”

Paris Peace Conference 2017

January 20, 2017





Vanderbilt Model UN website





Conceding the EU’s shortcomings, as individuals and as a nation we have much to gain from continued membership

June 16, 2016

A clear and persuasive article in the Friend, 17 June 2016


Over the years my wife and I have been to Vienna, Strasbourg, Prague, Amsterdam and Florence and walked across a Rhine footbridge into Germany into the small German town of Kehl. In all these places we were genuinely welcomed and felt a real sense of being Europeans.

While conceding that the EU has its shortcomings, we believe that as individuals and as a nation we have much to learn and to gain from continued membership. This view is shared by many financial, medical, cultural, trade and human rights organisations with a much greater insight than we can claim.

We would be deeply concerned if, in event of Brexit, the UK became even more dependent on the expansionist foreign and military policy of the United States, which, I believe, has a long record of ousting elected democracies by force.

The US accounts for almost half of all global spending on weapons; it sells to the UK the missiles needed for our Trident weapons of mass destruction, and it provides huge military support to Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries that, arguably, have fomented instability in the Middle East.

We believe it would be much harder to solve problems diplomatically if the UK were to leave the EU, and that such an exit would itself trigger serious political/financial instability within Europe, to the great cost of ordinary people.

The EU can do much to improve employment conditions and human rights, which could be greatly furthered by further international research and development collaboration, projects in transport, education and climate change prevention.

Ken and Kay Veitch

Cheshire East Area Meeting