A Palestinian Hanukkah

"For the fighters against occupation!" Photos: Rachel Avnery/Gush Shalom

“For the fighters against occupation!” Photos: Rachel Avnery/Gush Shalom

Many Jewish people this week are celebrating the 8-day festival of Hanukkah that commemorates the military victory of the Maccabees, a small group of Jewish rebels that defeated the oppressive Syrian overlords of ancient Palestine.

According to tradition, after the temple was liberated, the one-day supply of oil used to light the perpetual flame lasted for eight days.

Jews of faith celebrate this miracle by lighting candles placed on a Menorah or ‘Hanukkia’ (a nine – branched candelabrum) at sundown during each of the eight days. Though there are different interpretations of what Hanukkah means, for many it is the time to remember the victory of a people who fought a war of national liberation against a powerful occupying power.

So today, as Israelis are illegally occupying Palestine, many see the struggle for Palestinian liberation comparable to the ancient struggle for Jewish liberation.

The report and images below of a 2006 action that took place on the last day of Hanukkah are courtesy of the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom (“the peace bloc”), self-described as ‘the hard-core of the Israeli peace movement’ founded in 1993 by Israeli journalist, writer and former politician Uri Avnery.

Celebrating Hanukkah with today’s Maccabees

The soldiers and settlers who looked on from a distance did not believe their eyes: Some seventy Israeli peace activists, members of Gush Shalom and sympathizers together with Palestinians among them a lot of children, lighted the candles of a huge Hanukkia at the Palestinian ‘outpost’ put up by the villagers of Bil’in on their land, only a hundred yards from the houses of the Modi’in Illit settlement.

The action took place on the eighth evening of Hanukkah, the first day of 2006 – as an expression of solidarity with the Bil’in struggle as well as a message to Israelis.

“Perhaps it seems strange that we light the candles of a Jewish holiday at this place” Uri Avnery said, “but we are standing here on the land of the Maccabees. It is here that they were born and here they started their revolt.”

The rebellion of the Maccabees is not only a Jewish symbol, long ago it has become a world-wide symbol of the struggle against oppression, occupation and injustice. The people of Bil’in are the Maccabees of these days, and the occupation is Antiochus (Antiochus Epiphanes was the Greek king of Syria, against whose tyrannical rule the Maccabees rebelled 2174 years ago).

The Hanukkia, more than two meters high, was constructed on the spot from irrigation pipes, on an idea of kibbutznik Teddy Katz, who brought the pipes with him. Some days ago the villagers of Bil’in have set up an ‘outpost’ on their land that lies between the ‘separation fence’ and the settlement – a large area that has been effectively cut off from the village by the Wall, in order to build their new neighborhoods of Modi’in Illit, which is already a huge settlement.

The settlers, all Haredim (orthodox Jews), have been put there by real estate speculators, some of them Canadian companies, who have earned many millions by selling the stolen land.

Muhammad Khatib of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall, described to the Israeli activists how the outpost – a brick structure – was set up in one single night:

First we put up here a trailer; after 36 hours the Civil Administration (CA) came and took it away. We collected money for a second one – thanks also to Gush Shalom for helping out. It was a rainy day and the army only noticed the new one in the evening; the CA officer came, but he didn’t have the right form.

He told us: This will not help you long; I will return in the morning. We asked, why are you so hot about our one trailer? What about the 750 houses the settlers are building over there without permit, illegal even according to your own law? He said: well, with fixed structures the procedure is more complicated…

That gave us the idea, but we had only a few hours. We did it, Palestinians, Israelis and internationals and, yes, also one sympathetic settler living in Modi’in working through the whole night: Bringing over the building materials, struggling through a lot of rain and mud; the window panes we got from a Bil’in resident who let us remove them from his home.

Imagine the face of the CA officer at eight in the morning…

It was decided to call the place ‘Center of Joint Struggle’. And every night, some Bil’iners, accompanied by Israelis as well as internationals, sleep in the structure to guard it.

After these inspiring words, eight of the visitors lighted the ‘candles’ – actually torches – each one making a short statement:

“I light this torch for the fighters against occupation and oppression, in the spirit of the Maccabees, who were the sons of this soil!”

“I light this candle against injustice and discrimination, in the spirit of the best spiritual leaders of Judaism throughout the ages!”

“I light this candle for human dignity and human rights!”

“I light this candle against the settlers who take by force possession of the land that belongs to others, contrary to the Jewish values they profess to honor!”

“I light this candle in honor of the State of Israel within the Green Line, a state of liberty and justice!”

“I light this candle against the hooligans who cut down Palestinian trees and steal the olives, and who last year destroyed 5000 Palestinian homes, who besmirch the honor of Israel.”

“I light this candle for peace between the two peoples, sons of this country!”

“I light this candle for the love of human beings, wherever they are!”

"For human dignity!" - Yoshua Rosin of Gush Shalom lights a candle. Next to him: Teddy Katz, who constructed the Hanukkia

“For human dignity!” – Yoshua Rosin of Gush Shalom lights a candle. Next to him: Teddy Katz, who constructed the Hanukkia

"For peace between the two peoples!"

“For peace between the two peoples!”

"Against the hooligans who cut down trees!" - Adam Keller, Gush spokesman, lights a candle

“Against the hooligans who cut down trees!” – Adam Keller, Gush spokesman, lights a candle

Israelis and Palestinians in front of the "outpost" that was built in one night

Israelis and Palestinians in front of the “outpost” that was built in one night

Inside the "outpost"

Inside the “outpost”

The army looks on from a distance

The army looks on from a distance

The houses of Modi'in Illit, a short distance away

The houses of Modi’in Illit, a short distance away

Bil'in Childrens near the lighted candles

Bil’in children near the lighted candles

A peaceful and happy Hanukkah to all our Jewish visitors!

UK marchers pledge solidarity with Gaza

On Saturday between 10,000 – 15,000 Londoners turned out in solidarity with Gaza, marching from Downing St to a rally near the Israeli Embassy on Kensington High St

PressTV Sunday Nov 25, 2012

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have held a demonstration in central London to vent their anger at the Zionist regime of Israel and their supporters in the British government.

Between 10,000 to 15,000 protesters marched from the British prime minister’s office on Downing Street to the Israeli embassy to show their solidarity with the people of the Gaza Strip and condemn the recent Israeli onslaught on the coastal area which killed more than 160 Palestinians and injured some 1,200 others.

“After eight days of brutal bombardment, which left 160 Palestinians dead, around 40 of them children — our commitment to show Gaza that it was not alone was not dampened by the ceasefire called two days ago,” said Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition, which organized the event.

“The demonstrators were united in their determination not just to protest at this latest outrage by Israel but to call for an end to the siege of Gaza and to see the day — after 65 years of occupation and brutal repression — when justice will be achieved for all Palestinians,” she added.

The protesters who were carrying anti-Israel placards and Palestinian flags also condemned the distorted media coverage, especially by the BBC which tried to pass the Israeli bloodshed in Gaza as an act of self-defense.

Some of the placards read “Stop Israel State Terrorism”, “We Will Not Forget You Gaza”, “End Israel’s attacks on Gaza” and “End the Siege on Gaza, Free Palestine.”

The National Demonstration in Solidarity with Gaza was held despite bad weather conditions and incessant rain in London.

The Stop the War Coalition further said they seek to let everyone know that “the green light they [the British government] give to Israel’s crimes is not in our name.”

The campaign group also pledged to continue to fight for “freedom for Palestine” as the Israeli regime is not expected to stick to the current ceasefire, which it accepted under international pressure, for long.

“There is no such thing as an Israeli ceasefire where Gaza or the West Bank are concerned. Our campaign is but another step in the path to freedom for Palestine. Campaigning will go on — for a boycott of Israeli goods and against any future wars in the Middle East,” German said.

Her comments follow revelations by Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which also participated in the Saturday protest march, that the Israeli regime keeps killing Palestinians under the cover of western media blackout, dismissing officials’ remarks that Israel has been committed to a ceasefire and has launched the onslaught only to revenge Palestinians’ sporadic rocket fire.

“We write to express our astonishment at your statement of 15th November, when you said that Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis. It is difficult to square that with the recorded pattern of attacks or with the resulting deaths and injuries, and impossible to square it with the first-hand account of cease-fire negotiations,” the group wrote in a letter to British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

“The statistics provided by OCHA (the UN Office for the Protection of Civilians) is the most authoritative record of the intensification of the conflict. They show a pattern of mutual attacks during the year to the end of October 2012, with 73 Palestinians being killed while no Israelis were killed. Israeli forces also carried out incursions into Gaza together with destruction of crops and the targeting of fishermen within Gaza’s Oslo-recognized maritime exclusion zone,” it added.

AMR/HSN/HE

PressTV report:

Why was I censored by Hackney Council from speaking against Veolia?

Something’s amiss at Hackney Council

Occupy News Network

By Caroline Day

Yesterday (21 November-Ed.) I was meant to speak at a Hackney Council meeting about the potential selection of the multinational Veolia for a colossal multi-billion pound waste management contract, an issue I wrote about last week for the ONN.

Veolia is guilty of grave misconduct in the course of its business in providing vital services to the Israeli settlements therefore abetting Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestine. It also has a perilous financial standing and appalling health, safety and environmental record that should concern any resident of north London.

As I arrived at the council an hour before I was due to give my speech to the Council, I was heartened to see a large gathering of local people from the No 2 Veolia action group protesting at the shortlisting and possible selection of Veolia. In contrast, just two Zionists appeared to wave Israeli flags and shout ‘Support Israel! Support Veolia!’

The speaker of the council introduced the deputation as planned but whilst I was sat ready to give my speech inside the Council chamber, at this very late stage, an unprecedented cross-party procedural motion was tabled by Conservative Cllr. Linda Kelly of Haifa Twinning and seconded by Labour Mayor Jules Pipe. Mayor Pipe gave a speech, which I have since heard is aberrant in the case of seconders of procedural motions, claiming that my deputation should not be heard at council.

Jules Pipe claimed there was no ‘freedom of speech’ issue but I regard this as a clear act of political censorship. I was forced to leave the chamber without having uttered a single word, despite having submitted a delegation that was approved at every level of council procedure. The legal officer for Hackney Council advised the councillors that the delegation WAS legitimate.

The councillors chose to ignore this and voted for the motion, although it must be stated that all Labour councillors were whipped, meaning that to vote against the motion would have resulted in suspension from the party. Because of this we’ll never know how many were able to vote with their conscience.

The Council have since issued a joint statement which I would like to respond to here. I will also publish here the full text of my censored speech which I will also send to all the 57 councillors who were prevented from hearing it last night.

The Council statement begins:

“At Wednesday night’s Full Council meeting, the Mayor and councillors of all three political groups voted not to receive a deputation from a group wishing to raise issues concerning NLWA.”

The North London Waste Authority is made up of elected representatives from each of the seven north London boroughs. Those councillors are responsible for representing the interests and concerns of their constituents. Their voting decision on the huge £4.7bn waste management contract being considered should be guided by what is best for the people of their boroughs. The constituents of the boroughs concerned should have a right to address their elected representatives on matters that affect them, such as who handles their waste and how £600m of taxpayers money, including their own, is spent by each borough on such an undertaking.

“Elected members felt that to receive the deputation could give the incorrect appearance that they were open to lobbying on procurement issues and would be in turn be prepared to lobby an external organisation about its procurement.”

My response:

It is important to distinguish between secretive lobbying, which regularly has detrimental consequences for the public interest, takes place behind closed doors, often on behalf of powerful vested interest groups who seek to gain financially from the result of decisions, and the right of a local constituent to put forward views on important ethical, environmental and financial matters in a public forum and on behalf of concerned residents from the borough who signed the deputation.

“Elected members also said that it was inappropriate for Full Council to debate what is intrinsically an international political issue which the local authority is in no position to resolve.”

Can the councillors and Mayor Jules Pipe explain to me how Veolia’s dire financial situation and the risk this poses to the taxpayer who will foot the bill in the event that the company goes into administration “intrinsically an international political issue”?

How is Veolia’s dire health and safety record (including a notorious industrial accident which closed both the M5 and M6 motorways) and the risk this poses to their employees and the public “intrinsically an international political issue”?

How is Veolia’s lack of an environmentally friendly combined heat & power (CHP) solution (which the NLWA itself regards as best practice), and the apparent lack of the necessary capacity to carry out recycling for the area the NWLA covers, “intrinsically an international political issue”?

Representatives of all three party groups issued a statement that said:

“We are here to represent residents and do not shy away from difficult debates on local issues, about services and issues that directly affect our borough.”

Fundamentally, this IS an issue that affects all residents of the borough as it regards the use of THEIR money. The issue being considered IS a local service, that of local waste management. It is hard to see how there could be an issue that affects residents less since all residents are affected by the issue of waste management. Veolia’s bid trebles the amount Hackney is currently paying for waste disposal, and this will clearly impact other services, cutbacks will presumably have to be made elsewhere.

“We believe, however, that although technically acceptable, to have received this deputation would not have observed the spirit of the Council’s constitution and went beyond what was reasonable for Members to consider.”

In other word’s a political decision was taken by Jules Pipe not to hear a deputation that conformed to the letter of the Council’s constitution and a whip which would have seem members voting against suspended from the Labour Party was required to enforce this political decision. What is ‘reasonable for the Council to consider” seems not be determined by the fair and reasonable council procedure but by the political beliefs of the mayor and others. Since many Labour councillors were under the intimidation of being suspended from the party we don’t know how many voted according to their beliefs and how many were forced into this embarrassing and unnecessary censorship of a local resident.

Here is the full text of my censored speech for you to read. Why was Hackney so scared to even hear the following?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about this very important issue.

It is vital that Hackney councillors’ are aware, and that it is on public record that selecting Veolia will treble the current costs of waste disposal and expose the taxpayer to significant risks. This contract is likely to last over 25 years and represents a £4.7bn investment of taxpayers’ money.

Today I will outline 5 reasons why Hackney Council should not select Veolia.

1) Grave Misconduct

The Jerusalem Light Railway connects West Jerusalem with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. By connecting West Jerusalem to the settlements, the JLR violates article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into occupied territory. By confiscating and destroying Palestinian property on the route of the JLR, it contravenes Article 53, which prohibits an occupying power from destroying property in the occupied territory. In November 2012 Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt affirmed that: “The UK has been consistently clear that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.”

Veolia Transport Israel also operates bus routes 7, 19, 109, 110, 422, and 425 connecting communities in Israel to illegal settlements in the West Bank. A subsidiary company, the Israeli Veolia group, owns and operates the Tovlan landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley.

The NLWA have advised in communications that activities of Veolia’s subsidiary companies cannot be taken into account. This is incorrect according to both EU and UK law. Veolia’s revenues and profits are calculated as a whole and are listed as such on the Paris and New York stock exchanges. In reporting results, Veolia considers subsidiaries to be divisions of itself, and its subsidiaries’ contracts as its own contracts. Legally Veolia and its subsidiaries in the UK, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories should be treated as a single entity.

The NLWA have also advised that they cannot consider the location of a company’s activities. But this is irrelevant, as it not the location per se that is the issue, but the fact that Veolia’s business activities in that location violate international law.

Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories and numerous experts in international law stress that any decision by the NLWA to provide access to public funds to Veolia may contravene the UK’s international legal obligation not to facilitate violations of international law.

2) Discriminatory Practices

Racist recruitment: Veolia advertised jobs on the JLR requiring both Hebrew to a “mother tongue” standard and military service, a discriminatory requirement that excludes Palestinians.

Gender segregation: Veolia operates a segregated bus service on route 322 from Ashdod to Tel Aviv. Women enter through the rear of the vehicle and the men from the front. They cannot touch each other or sit next to one another.

3) Environmental

Veolia’s proposal is limited to incineration, competing bids offer the more environmentally friendly Combined Heat and Power solution which emits less Co2 into the atmosphere.

Despite claiming to be ‘CHP ready’, Veolia have made no provision for a CHP solution and no obvious potential for this exists in the site they have selected.

Most Councils, including Hackney, wish to increase the amount of waste they recycle. For this reason it would be perverse to select Veolia to handle waste management since its strength and technical capabilities are in incineration. At present the UK capacity of Veolia’s co-mingled recycling plants is less than 20% of that required for north London.

Competing companies in the bidding process are operating recycling facilities that can process around 250,000 tonnes a year, close to the amount required for north London and around 5 times larger than any plant operated at present by Veolia in the UK.

The incinerator proposed by Veolia has an electrical output of 50 MW, over 25% higher than that of rival bidder E.On, and an indication of Veolia’s prioritisation of incineration over recycling.

4) Health and Safety

Veolia have an appalling health and safety record.

In 2005 they pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 6 and 9 of the Dangerous and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations Act 2002, after a huge chemical explosion at a Veolia facility resulted in the closure of the M6 and M5 motorways.

In May 2009 an explosion at waste recycling plant in Ohio injured two workers and damaged adjacent buildings.

In April 2011 the collapse of a sewage holding wall at a Veolia plant in Tennessee, spilled 1.5 million gallons of polluted water into a river and killed two workers.

In November 2011, a Veolia plant discharged raw and toxic digester gas into the atmosphere in Point Richmond California.

5) Financial concerns

The NLWA currently operates the Eco Park at Edmonton, recycling some waste, with the rest either incinerated to generate electricity or sent to landfill. Current costs for disposal and treatment are around £75 a tonne. Veolia will almost triple this, charging close to £200 per tonne.

Harrow Council actually make a profit by operating their waste and recycling services in-house, conversely Brent is prevented from doing the same by being locked into a contract with Veolia.

Veolia faces serious financial problems. Its share price has dropped below 8 Euros — compared with above 60 Euros five years ago — while debt has risen to above 15 billion Euros. Veolia is facing a major lawsuit from competitor EDF over the ownership of Dalkia. Veolia has pledged to sell billions of euros of assets and pull out of dozens of countries in a bid to lower debt and reverse losses.

The risk posed by outsourcing contractors going into administration is amply demonstrated by the case of Barnet Homes, where taxpayers subsequently picked up the bill. This is even more pertinent in the case of the north London waste contract as the duration and financial value of the contract are so considerable.

At a time of unprecedented cuts to Council budgets, selecting Veolia is not a gamble any Council can afford to make with taxpayers money.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

If you live in Hackney, contact Mayor Jules Pipe and express your outrage at this block as well as your Council Tax being used to support Veolia, a company complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and human rights.

Email: mayor@hackney.gov.uk
Tel: 020 8356 3220

DANCING ON THE GRAVES OF GAZA: Batsheva in London

Batsheva performs at London’s Sadler’s Wells

UPDATED: 22 NOV

The Batsheva Dance Company performed the first of three performances at London’s Sadler’s Wells theatre Monday evening.

This Israeli dance ensemble receives funding from the Israeli government and is seen as part of ‘Brand Israel’ – a propaganda attempt by the Apartheid State to whitewash their war crimes and atrocious human rights record by showing Israel’s prettier face to the world.

In addition to receiving coverage in the The Guardian, BBC and Haaretz, the London Evening Standard also included a mention of Batsheva’s performance:

In London, an Israeli Dance Company was facing protests tonight over the crisis in Gaza. Demonstrators were planning to march from the Israeli Embassy in Kensington to Sadler’s Wells where the Batsheva Dance Ensemble was due to perform. Eleven UK performances have been interrupted, with the Islington dance venue the target for the next three nights as campaigners accuse the company as acting as a “cultural fig leaf for the atrocities.”

Arriving at 7:15, the first thing noticeable aside from the large police presence was the very long queue that snaked up the street and around the corner. Ticket holders expressed relief when it was announced that the sold-out show, scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm was postponed until 8:00 pm, as it was impossible for everyone to be seated in such a short space of time.

It shouldn’t be long now.

About 400 pro-Palestinian protesters were directly across the street shouting: “YOUR TICK-ETS ARE COV-ERED IN PALESTINIAN BLOOD!” and “HEY-HEY, HO-HO, THE OCCUPATION HAS GOT TO GO!”  A large white trailer parked in front of the theatre partially obstructed the protester’s view of the queue. Further up the road penned in quite a distance away was a much smaller group of Zionist counter-protestors who were outnumbered by their Israeli flags and according to the police, left as soon as the performance began.

The large pro-Palestinian contingent.

Working the queue was Jonathan Hoffman trying to save face after losing his position as Zionist Federation Co Vice-Chair, as well as the equally repulsive Martin Sugarman who positioned himself at the entrance to the theatre, both distributing flyers while desperately on the lookout for pro-Palestinian trouble-makers and thus prevent the performance from being disrupted by human rights activists.

This is Zionist Martin Sugarman who positioned himself at the entrance, ready to point out pro-Palestinian activists – like us – to the police and theatre security.

There were more Israeli flags than counter-demonstrators. Wherever you find Zionists, you’ll also find the police.

The Zionist “Culture Unites” flyer that equates culture with a two-state solution. We came across a pile of these scattered on the pavement. (click for pdf)

Blind to reality: Jonathan Hoffman, FORMER Co Vice-Chair of the UK Zionist Federation.

Hoffman was so busy thrusting flyers at everyone and arguing – even with fellow Zionists – that he passed a group of people in the queue that he should have recognised and Sugarman was in a stupor after being told off by a police constable for loitering. There were also several pro-Palestinian campaigners who were distributing their Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid full colour flyers (below) and others publicising Saturday’s national demonstration for Gaza.

Click for the four-page booklet (pdf).

In the lobby of Sadler’s Wells, there was a battery of security guards behind tables, frantically checking bags that often tested the patience of those waiting.

It was gratifying to see ticket holders experience both the inconvenience and indignity of what thousands of Palestinians are forced to endure at checkpoints every single day. Also it was nice to know that the money to pay for all this additional security has to come from somewhere – hopefully out of Batsheva’s pocket!

After a quick inspection by one of the guards and being allowed to pass into Sadler’s Wells foyer, there was an usher handing these out, something you don’t see every day:

A unique souvenir. (click for pdf)

Inside the auditorium there were dozens of stern-looking security staff and ushers who were positioned by every exit. Everyone knew something was going to happen and a feeling of anxiety permeated the audience.

In a way, this too was gratifying, because the audience – and no doubt the dancers and crew – were also feeling anxious, not knowing what will happen which is a common occurence for many Palestinians: A house demolished, homelessness, an olive grove uprooted, sewage dumped into a water supply, arrest, administrative detention, torture and even death.

The draconian security arrangements inside the theatre included a complete ban on the use of mobile phones and during the interval, a guard was overheard saying he was going to kick out someone who was continuously texting.

Sure enough, it wasn’t that long after the performance began when a group of activists started shouting: “FREE, FREE PALESTINE!” After some screaming and yelling, they were quickly ushered out while the performance continued.

What was also worth mentioning about the performance was a highly charged militaristic dance sequence featuring female dancers in marching formation. Given the current political climate, not in the best of taste.

Minutes later, another disruption: A voice shouted out “FREE PALESTINE!” Security guards and ushers waving torches ran past. More screaming, shouting and clapping.

After the interval, a female voice, close by, shouted: “END ISRAELI OCCUPATION!” Turning around, I saw that the guards had to struggle and had a hard time removing her. One later said to an usher that she had a scarf that was tied or wrapped around her seat which made her more difficult to remove.

At the start of the question & answer session held after the performance, it was made clear that any questions answered would only be about the company and not other issues associated with the tour. Ohad Naharin, the Artistic Director, boasted that some of the dancers were Spanish, Japanese and American (but of course not one dancer was Palestinian). During the company’s appearance in Edinburgh, a woman was shouted down by the audience for daring to ask a question about Israeli Government funding.

So much for questions and answers.

It was at that point we left disgusted, thinking how anyone with a molecule of conscience could remain passive while sitting through one of the most nauseating spectacles ever.

A news report from Monday

ON TUESDAY:

Soprano Deborah Fink was one of the people who disrupted Tuesday’s performance. As  was the case on Monday, the performance was halted while security staff removed the protesters.

Deborah said:

As part of the show, a voice said, among other things, ‘Ignore Beethoven’, so I just had to sing ‘Ode to Boycott’ again, (Sung to the tune of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’: “Israel end your occupation, there’s no peace on stolen land) – the parody with which we disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at last year’s prom!

Within seconds, security guards yanked me out of my seat and whisked me off down the stairs. They took me so fast that my feet barely touched the ground – am not joking. But I carried on singing the Ode, as well as I could, under the circumstances, as well as slogans in operatic recitative style.

I’d been in the upper dress circle so I had 3 flights of stairs to go down.

Ten minutes later, two more women emerged having unfurled a colourful banner bearing the words, “Israel dances while Gaza burns.”

One of them, Teresa said:

I took this action to give a voice to the Palestinian people whose culture is silenced.

Fellow Londoner Anne said her message was, “Remember the blood of Gaza” and “Brand Israel off the stage.”

Compared to the over 100 pro-Palestinian protesters who turned up on the second evening, the Zionist counter-protesters numbered just four.

AND ON WEDNESDAY…

Around 20 minutes into Wednesday’s performance, a Palestinian student from Ramallah unfurled a Palestinian flag and called out: “Stop the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians” and brought to a halt the performance while he was removed.

A second protester, Georgie, held up a banner declaring: “Israel dances while Gaza burns”. She later said:

“People were sitting watching dancers while the country that sends them is slaughtering innocent Palestinians, stealing their land and bulldozing their homes,”

The theatre’s chief executive and artistic director Alistair Spalding refused to meet academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) who had asked to discuss the invitation to Batsheva with him.

Batsheva’s next and final leg of its UK tour is Plymouth where they can expect more of the same on the 23rd and 24th Nov.

Leaving. Good riddance Batsheva!

Veolia ends sponsorship of photography exhibition

Hoardings like this one in a tube station that publicised Veolia’s exhibition were often supplemented with additional information

16 November 2012

Veolia Environnement recently announced it will not be renewing its sponsorship of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, thus ending its four-year association with the competition.

Outside London’s Natural History Museum

The exhibition, held since 1964, is an annual international wildlife photography competition owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife which receives some 48,000 entries from around 98 countries.

The announcement was welcomed by BDS and human rights campaigners who frequently held protests outside London’s Natural History Museum and at venues wherever the exhibition was on tour, such as Bristol’s City Museum and Science Oxford.

Veolia Environmental Services chief executive Estelle Brachlianoff, said:

“It has been rewarding to see the competition grow over the course of our sponsorship and to support the exhibition and tour which have enabled so many people to see the wonderful photography that highlights the fragile nature of the world around us. However after four successful years we feel that we have taken this partnership as far as we can and that it is time to review our sponsorship commitments as our brand continues to grow and evolve. We are confident that the competition and exhibition will continue to capture the minds of nature lovers across the world.”

Oxford’s Women in Black outside Science Oxford, where the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition was on tour

Veolia, a French multinational, has been targeted by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigners for its complicity in apartheid Israel’s violations of international law.

Veolia helped to construct and currently operates a tramway that links illegal settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel; a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention that forbids an occupier from transferring its own civilians into the territory it occupies. The Jerusalem Light Rail system tightens Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, ties the settlements more firmly into Israel and undermines any chance of a just peace for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Protest against Veolia’s sponsorship of Wildlife Photographer of the Year outside Bristol City Museum

In addition, Veolia supports the infrastructure of illegal settlements by transporting refuse to the Tovlan landfill site in the Jordan Valley. Though Tovlan was sold by Veolia in 2011 to the settlement of Masua, the company is still involved in management and consultancy roles.

Veolia also operates Connex bus services that link settlements to Israel via special apartheid roads that Palestinians are forbidden to use.

Campaigners have vowed to continue their campaign against the multinational until it completely divests its business from Israel and the OPT.

Another of Veolia’s hoardings publicising their exhibition

No further comment is needed

BATSHEVA: Dancing on the Graves of Gaza

(Palestine Poster Project)

Controversial Israeli dance troupe Batsheva will be performing at Sadler’s Wells theatre for three days starting Monday 19 November.

A legitimate target for BDS campaigners, Batsheva receives funding from the Israeli government, is a component of ‘Brand Israel’ and serves as a ‘cultural ambassador’ for the racist, apartheid state.

Sadler’s Wells recently sent this email to all ticket holders informing them that they are going to introduce tough “security and safety measures” including bag searches to deter any action and turn itself into one giant checkpoint:

Checkpoint security at Sadler’s Wells

At this point, the only logical ‘”security and safety measures” that Sadler’s Wells could now take is to cancel Batsheva’s performances.

The decision to take any type of non-violent direct action is used only as a last resort. Months of intensive letter-writing, petitions and emails, coupled with appeals by artists and performers have taken place over the last few months, but sadly to no avail.

Sadler’s Wells

This is not the first time activists have targeted Israeli government-funded artists and performers.

Many may recall back in March 2010 at London’s Wigmore Hall, the Jerusalem Quartet, described as “IDF Distinguished Musicians,” were disrupted during a “very tense” concert that forced the BBC to pull its broadcast off the air. Another disruption took place during their Brighton gig this past May.

In September 2011, despite bag searches, the Israel Philharmonic’s performance at the BBC Proms was repeatedly disrupted in the Royal Albert Hall, forcing the Radio 3 Prom broadcast to be taken off air for the first time in history. The concert had “the atmosphere of a riot” according to one audience member.

And at Shakespeare’s Globe this past May, with airport-style metal detectors in the foyer and a search of the audience’s bags, two performances of Israel national theatre Habima’s Merchant of Venice were non-violently disrupted by activists, a few who were disgracefully strong-armed out of the theatre by security thugs for doing nothing more than making peace signs and wearing tape over their mouths.

Protests and disruptions against Batsheva took place in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Brighton, where one performance was cancelled for “security reasons”.

And now in London, dubbed the “Hub of Hubs” by Zionists as the centre of the global de-legitimisation campaign against Israel, hardcore activists are promising to raise the bar with one unnamed source saying: “Batsheva’s audience and performers have good reason to feel uncomfortable and expect the unexpected – just like Palestinians do every day.”

No doubt with Israel’s recent murderous attacks on Gaza, Batsheva’s performances at Sadler’s Wells will act as a lightning rod for all people of conscience wanting to express their anger and outrage over Israel’s wanton disregard for human life and international law.

Protest Batsheva, Israel’s ‘Ambassadors of Apartheid’ at Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TN

This Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 19 – 21 November from 6:30pm

Please bring torches, candles or lightsticks.

Directions:

By Bus
Routes 4, 19, 30, 38, 43, 56, 73, 153, 205, 214, 274, 341, 394, 476

By Tube
Angel (Northern Line City Branch) is a 250-metre walk from Sadler’s Wells. Trains run every few minutes northbound to Kings Cross and Euston, and southbound to Bank and London Bridge. To plan your journey, visit TfL’s Journey Planner.

This didn’t deter anyone

The Globe’s letter warning of similar security measures (click to enlarge) that was not only emailed, but also posted to every ticket holder.

…and neither did this:

This article was published in the London Evening Standard on 1st Sept 2011 prior to the disruptions of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall.

‘Brand Israel’ at World Travel Market 2012

Welcome to the WTM!

The World Travel Market (WTM) is a major four-day travel exhibition that recently took place at the East London ExCeL centre.  Held since 1979, this huge event annually attracts around 50,000 travel industry professionals, government ministers and members of the international media and is the place suppliers in the travel and tourism industry come to negotiate business contracts.

Judging by their publicity, Reed Travel Exhibitions, the organiser of the WTM, likes to think of themselves as an advocate of responsible tourism, which immediately made us question why they allowed Israel - a country condemned by virtually the entire world for their appalling and irresponsible record on human rights -  to promote themselves here.

The apartheid state always had a difficult time promoting itself in London. It is virtually impossible for any of their billboards or hoardings to appear without it being altered in some way, as our Dec 2010 post entitled Diversion: Advertising Apartheid shows.

Many will recall that in 2009, after receiving over six hundred complaints, Transport for London removed Israel Ministry of Tourism posters displayed at London Underground stations showing a borderless map of Israel that included the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, misleadingly implying that the Occupied Palestinian Territories were all part of a greater Israel.

Israel’s presence at the WTM is all part of “Brand Israel”, a campaign attempting to sell the pariah state as a world-class tourist destination, whitewashing its brutal occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people.  Israel, just like its predecessor, apartheid South Africa, tries to divert the attention of international public opinion away from their continuous violations of  international law by any means possible. Whitewashing, greenwashing, pinkwashing, you name it.

Israeli officials enjoy boasting how buoyant their tourism industry is and even though there are many thousands of visitors every year who visit and choose to ignore the oppression of the Palestinians for one reason or another, it’s becoming more and more difficult to sell the apartheid state to the tourist market, as the country’s highly publicised image is extremely tarnished due to its institutionalised racism, heavy-handed treatment of Palestinians, both within Israel and in the OPT, segregationist and apartheid culture and the continuing inhuman blockade of Gaza.

In Travel Weekly, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, himself a controversial figure, admitted Israel suffers from an “unfair image”, but suggested this could be rectified by offering subsidised trips, where travel agents, tour operators and journalists are wined, dined and shown around in a sort of hasbara love-in.

These guided tours, like the one that Brighton Argus reporter John Keenan was recently treated to courtesy of SodaStream, avoids the harsh reality of Israel and guarantees favourable publicity.

All through last week we were tweeting that WTM’s claim for supporting responsible tourism were at odds with allowing apartheid Israel to promote themselves. WTM eventually replied:

A tweet that sums up the WTM’s attitude towards responsible tourism

Which makes you wonder if apartheid South Africa ever exhibited at the WTM when it was held at Olympia. 

The following is a brief account of a visit that took place on October 7, ironically the WTM’s World Responsible Tourism Day: 

Shortly after distributing flyers, we paid a visit to the Israel pavilion which was once again in the European section, close to the Czech Republic and Romania.  

The pavilion was divided into a number of stands representing hotels, resorts, municipalities and tour companies, with the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism being the largest. A small refreshment area, empty of people, was in the centre that served free Israeli wine, soft drinks and savouries.  

It was not long before we were treated to Hasbara in action; as if out of nowhere, a crowd of exhibition visitors suddenly materialised and a group of musicians started playing  ‘Hava Nagila’ with a woman who was  encouraging everyone to clap.

But as is often the case with Israel, things aren’t always what they seem. The ‘crowd’ turned out to be mostly Israeli exhibitors, instantly recognisable by their distinctive badges, who were hoping to attract attention. They didn’t really succeed; and sure enough, immediately after the musicians stopped playing, almost everyone went back to their stands. 

Illegal settlement cosmetics company Ahava, perhaps considered too much of an embarrassment, was not present this year to promote and flog their products as they did during 2011. However, one cosmetics company returning to promote themselves was their clone Premier Dead Sea, who sell their overpriced lotions from shops, spas, concessions and kiosks, often using questionable and unethical sales tactics.

Premier’s stand was unmanned, so we helped ourselves to a colourful booklet that gave no clue to the origin of the natural resources that they claim are in their products – and left a few flyers of our own for others to read.

At the Jerusalem stand, there was a flyer advertising the 2013 Jerusalem Marathon. A noticeable absence was Adidas, a  major sponsor in the past, that suggests that they perhaps have distanced themselves from this controversial running event due to take place on 01 March 2013.  

Along with the usual tourist kitsch, brochures and maps, we found what turned out to be an Israel Ministry of Tourism air freshener (probably to mask the foul odour of apartheid) and also most bizarrely, a pile of UNWTO ‘Responsible Tourism’ badges.   

From the Dead Sea Tourism stand, we collected a tourist map bearing the logo of Megilot Dead Sea Regional Council, the administrative region in the OPT where the illegal settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia are located.  No literature made any distinction between Israel and the West Bank, which is referred to as ‘Judea’ and ‘Samaria’, nor did any literature mention checkpoints, segregation, guarded colonies, or the apartheid wall.    

What certainly set the Israel pavilion apart from others in the exhibition was the highly overt security; large number of plainclothes, earpiece-wearing security guards wearing loose-fitting suits with blue ties who definitely outnumbered the exhibitors, constantly pacing back and forth and closely watching anyone who approached.  It didn’t do much to encourage anyone to stay very long. How visitors could feel comfortable or relaxed here is anyone’s guess.

Last year, one Israeli security guard chased our photographer around the exhibition for having the audacity to openly photograph the Israel pavilion, demanding the images be deleted, but as our post from 2011 entitled: A visit to London’s World Travel Market proves – they weren’t!

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The video below features a BDS action at the Israel stand inside the BTExpo 2011 travel exhibition in Brussels, similar to the WTM: