Archive for the ‘the Law’ Category.

Glasgow shop worker attacked with irritant chemical

We were shocked that a young stall-worker had an irritant chemical dropped on her head in a Glasgow shopping centre, simply for working at a stall selling Israeli goods. While not dangerous, the incident was both painful and frightening, and is the latest of a series of incidents of violence, intimidation and harassment against shop workers around the UK. We welcome the police’s decision to consider it a racist attack.

This August, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign called for “freelance harassment by passers-by, groups of friends” against Kedem and similar stalls in order to “drive them all out”.


Please see an except of the media coverage below.

Coverage from today’s Scottish Sun

Norman Finkelstein slams the “BDS cult”

This video clip of Norman Finkelstein laying into the BDS Movement has made waves since appearing (and mysteriously disappearing and then reappearing) on Tuesday.

In the clip Finkelstein is being interviewed by prominent BDS activist Frank Barat at Imperial College. Finkelstein’s conclusion is that the BDS movement is a ‘cult’ (a word he repeats a number of times) which must be honest about its objectives – the abolishment of the State of Israel.

After the clip gained plaudits from the anti BDS movement, it was made private and was then taken down. A coincidence I’m sure!  For all those wishing to hear Finkelstein’s whiny voice and to see Barat’s nervous body language, it has since reappeared. It was quite difficult not to take pleasure at the sight of Barat visibly squirming in his seat. He was shifty and uptight as he desperately (and rather feebly) tried to respond to Finkelstein’s attacks on the BDS Movement.

Finkelstein’s main points were:

-          If you are going to use the law (i.e. that the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem are Palestinian territory), then you can’t be selective about it; Israel (1967 border) is a state and that is the law

-          If you want to promote one state, that’s fine but don’t pretend you are trying to enforce the law when really you want to selectively enforce the law

-          The so-called ‘solidarity movement’ never pushes the ‘two-state-solution’ and is thus not part of the answer

-          The solidarity movement is not reaching the mainstream public

-          I support BDS but it will never reach a broad public until and unless it is explicit on its goals and that has to include recognition of Israel

-          The BDS Movement has had very little victory despite claiming otherwise

-          If the BDS Movement really represents Palestinian civil society, why can it never get a rally with more than 500 people?

Finkelstein is a notorious Israel basher and has a nasty reputation surrounding Jewish issues. He has endorsed Hezbollah and claims that the Holocaust has been manipulated. A point which may have been missed behind his slurs over the Movement’s tactics, he actually supports BDS!

So why the plaudits? Have we set the bar so low that we applaud recognition of Israel’s right to exist? Or an acknowledgement that destroying Israel is unpopular? Really? That low?

What should be highlighted from this video is nothing that hasn’t been said before – the BDS and ‘Palestine Solidarity’ movements’ goal is to destroy Israel. Finkelstein highlights the failure of the BDS movement, despite its claims of victory. He shows that they are not nearly as influential as they pretend to be; and he effectively tells them that they have done nothing to accomplish their stated goals of providing any justice or peace for Palestinian Arabs.

He exposes the deceptiveness of the ‘leftist posturing’ of the BDS Movement. It takes one to know one!

Keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict out of British courts

by Jeremy Newmark

The matter-of-fact Office of Judicial Review ruling, reprimanding Judge Bathurst-Norman for making observations based upon personal political views, may seem a little lame. Despite the involvement of the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice, this will not overturn the trial verdict itself; it is very hard to retry people once they’ve been found Not Guilty.

Nevertheless, coupled with last week’s confirmation by William Hague that Parliament will now consider new laws to prevent abuse of Universal Jurisdiction, this decision represents a significant setback to those working to import the Israel/Palestine conflict into our judicial systems by engaging in what has been aptly described as “Lawfare”.

Groups including the Board of Deputies and Zionist Federation were right to pursue a series of official complaints against Bathurst-Norman. This was always about more than the grotesque comparison between Israeli actions and Nazi atrocities. This was the thin end of the wedge. It opened the possibility of UK Foreign Policy being made in our courtrooms, circumventing the democratic process.

This is not just a matter of Israel Advocacy. Lawfare also threatens to impact upon our lives as British Jews. Other recent cases have used legal justifications which argued that vandalism and disruption in the UK can be legalised by political anger at events in the Middle East. Ironically, they claim that international law gives them the right to commit these crimes. This trend surfaced in the assault on BICOM’s office during Operation Cast Lead, the attacks upon Carmel Agrexo warehouses, and vandalism of Starbucks branches during anti-Israel protests. Less dramatically, but arguably more significantly, attempts to challenge the legal status of Jewish schools based upon their teaching of Zionism show how prevalent Lawfare is starting to become.

The Office of Judicial Review may appear to have only slapped Bathurst-Norman on the wrist. In fact it has established an important precedent – that political attitudes to the State of Israel will never be an acceptable defence for criminal activity. This is a serious setback for those who seek to institutionalise the delegitimisation of Israel in the UK.

Jeremy Newmark is Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, and a member of the Board of the Fair Play Campaign Group

UCU activists on Masuku

A UCU activist and former National Executive Committee member was concerned about her Union inviting Bongani Masuku. She wrote to the Activists List:

Sent: 08 December 2009 18:50
To: UCU activists e-group
Subject: [activists] speakers at UCU meetings

I believe that UCU does genuinely try to put equality at the heart of everything it does, which does not mean that mistakes do not occasionally happen. In general, everyone to whom we provide a platform as part of a UCU event should have a positive record on equality issues or at least not be guilty of making prejudiced or otherwise hate-motivated public statements. I am not suggesting that we vet speakers. However, when information about speakers becomes available we should evaluate it to determine both its reliability and seriousness. With regards to the reliability of the information its source is particularly important.

In this case of Mr Masuku, an invitation to the international secretary of a Congress of Trade Unions should not have been problematical. However, when further information became available from the South African Human Rights Commission we should have acted on this, unless we felt that there had been a miscarriage of justice or that the SAHRC is not a reputable body. I am assuming it is, though willing to be corrected on this. When a speaker who had made homophobic comments was invited to a stop the war conference that we were involved with, we and other trade unions very rightly made representations to stop the war and the speaker was withdrawn.

Her queries are well-made. We would answer some of her comments:

  • Mr Masuku’s remarks were publicly available all over the Internet and reported in the South African media. In a Google-search for “Bongani Masuku”, the first result is a report of these remarks, dated March.
  • Mr Masuku was proactively invited by UCU to attend the private boycott conference. This was not a situation where UCU simply failed to do its research; it must have done some research on Mr Masuku, otherwise why invite him in the first place?
  • Mr Masuku has not denied making the comments in question. He can’t, as some of them are in writing and some of them were recorded at the time.
  • The South African Human Rights Commission is a respected body in South Africa, run by veteran anti-apartheid campaigners and human rights lawyers. It is a key part of the post-apartheid settlement in South Africa.

Gavin Reid is a pro-boycott campaigner and UCU activist who chaired the BRICUP event in Leeds last night. Mr Masuku was originally supposed to speak at the event but he didn’t turn up. Gavin Reid answered the UCU Activist above as follows:

Gavin Reid
To: UCU activists e-group
Subject: RE: [activists] speakers at UCU meetings

I chaired a meeting tonight in Leeds ‘Israel, the Palestinians and Apartheid’. Around 200 people attended from the Yorkshire region to listen to speakers from ANC, Cosatu, War on Want and the Palestinian campaign for BDS. I can assure the list that everybody at the meeting contributed with respect for each other’s positions, indeed I made it a requirement of their continuing presence at the meeting. In case the question arises, Leeds UCU did not contribute any funds to the meeting and a collection was taken to cover costs.

Mr Masuku was not present as he has since returned to South Africa via Botswana at the weekend. I understand that he categorically denies any accusations of racism and that Cosatu has issued a statement relating to this in SA today. It goes without saying, I hope, that UCU would not share any platform with any known racist. I certainly would not do so either.

I further understand that the position adopted by the SA Human Rights Commission was apparently taken without Mr Masuku being allowed to refute the ‘charges’ and is, therefore, likely to be subject to legal action in SA. Certainly there will need to be a more careful analysis than that currently being presented as fact by others.

The Pro-Israel lobby tried unsuccessfully to have the meeting banned on the basis of the reports of Mr Masuku’s position. The University of Leeds has a protocol on Freedom of Expression that has provided a strong framework for ‘controversial’ meetings to take place, despite making an almost prohibitively expensive charge for the use of the room!

Mr Reid’s response gives a misleading impression. He says (above):

“I further understand that the position adopted by the SA Human Rights Commission was apparently taken without Mr Masuku being allowed to refute the ‘charges’”

Note the scare-quotes around the word ‘charges’. But the SAHRC Ruling, available online since Friday and in the possession of UCU, speaks clearly in paragraphs 23 and 25 about:

“[Masuku's] response to the allegations put to him by the South African Human Rights Commission”

He also says (above)

“I understand that he categorically denies any accusations of racism”

Mr Masuku does not deny making the comments, comments found by the SAHRC to be Hate Speech. Does UCU believe that someone accused of racist Hate Speech has to actually admit that his comments were racist before it will take action?

Bongani Masuku, hate speech and UCU: A statement from Jewish community organisations

The following statement was issued by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council:

As British Jewish community organisations, we believe that racism in all its forms must be confronted. We have a history of working together with allies throughout British civil society, to foster an atmosphere of tolerance and respect where racists are unable to succeed.

We are appalled that the University and College Union brought Bongani Masuku to Britain. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) recently found that Mr. Masuku’s statements amounted to hate speech against Jews and Israelis. Furthermore, the SAHRC found that he “surely intended to incite violence and hatred”.

UCU hosted Mr Masuku, the International Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, as a participant in a ‘private’ conference on boycotting Israel. During his visit to the UK for this conference, Mr Masuku is also touring the country to promote a boycott of Israel on university campuses.

As the largest Union in Further and Higher Education and a self-proclaimed campaigner against racism, it is irresponsible and grossly offensive of UCU to bring Bongani Masuku to the UK, given his track record.

UCU has chosen to connect its boycott activities to antisemitism by hosting a man who was found to have engaged in hate speech against Jews. It was unacceptable for UCU to ignore Mr Masuku’s well-publicised remarks before choosing to invite him. The scornful dismissal by UCU of Jewish concerns over the presence of Masuku on British campuses is simply not good enough.

Every year since it was founded, UCU’s Congress has voted to boycott Israeli academics. As well as harming both Israelis and Palestinians and putting up unnecessary barriers to peace, such a boycott effectively discriminates against Jews, both in Israel and in the UK. UCU’s own legal advice says that a boycott of Israeli academics “run[s] a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation” and “would be unlawful and cannot be implemented”.

Given this, UCU’s decision to organise and fund an Israeli boycott conference is bizarre in the extreme. A UCU invitation to Mr Masuku, presumably to share his experience and expertise on the boycott is especially troubling as, in addition to the recent SAHRC finding, he has called for the targeting of “any business owned by Israel supporters” in South Africa – a term that includes most Jewish-owned businesses.

UCU’s hosting of Masuku and their refusal to engage with the concerns of the Jewish community follows a pattern: the Union refused to address the resignations of large numbers of Jewish academics from UCU in recent years, and summarily rejected members’ complaints of antisemitism. UCU has allowed its politics on Israel to override the concerns of its Jewish members and students. It appears that UCU simply does not care about the anti-Jewish impact of its activities.

It is now hard to see how UCU can continue to play a constructive role in the Government Group on Antisemitism and Higher Education when its latest actions are likely to encourage antisemitism. The Government should review UCU’s membership of this group as it has failed to oppose antisemitism inside its own structures. UCU cannot credibly be a part of the solution to antisemitism while its activities are encouraging the problem.