March 29, 2008

Women bring green educational institute to Arab sector. The role of a boycott is…?

Posted in boycott, british greens, cooperation, education at 12:30 pm by Mira Vogel

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports on a joint initiative between a group of 17 Israeli Arab women and the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel to establish an educational institute in the Galilee region that will teach environmental conservation, recycling and ecology:

The women, aged 30 to 35, come from varied backgrounds – Druze, Moslem and Christian. They are being instructed by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

“This is the first group of Arab women to learn about environmental issues,” said Muadi. Explaining that in her neighborhood, environmental awareness is still in its infancy, she added: “We therefore decided to start with activities in the schools, because change has to begin with the students.”

After completing an SPNI course on environmental education, the women joined the staff of SPNI’s field school, which runs the environmental program in the village’s elementary school. The women gave several lessons to every grade, covering environmental topics such as nature, water, recycling, air pollution and ecology. Last week, the women and students went on a field trip that included a clean-up operation.

“The women’s involvement as part of SPNI’s teaching staff,” said Vasil Hazima, director of SPNI’s field school in Maghar”

The Green Party’s boycott Resolution C05 – part of a wider boycott and divestment initiative – currently acts against these types of partnerships. It is an entirely negative force that promotes hostility and inevitably contributes to pressure on Israel’s Arab (or Palestinian – depending on how they self-define) to turn their backs on such initiatives.

This pressure is evidenced in the experience of a delegation of philanthropists who were visiting Israeli Arab villages and institutions to research how best they might contribute to the kind of inclusive, equal society which is prerequisite of any kind of conflict resolution. There was a small but loud call to boycott the delegation. Here’s what Ami Nahshon, one of its members, had to say:

While the call to boycott fell on deaf ears among the vast majority of Arab public and civil society leaders, it taught all of us an important lesson: that the lines of conflict in Israel are not between the Arab and Jewish communities, but rather between those Jews and Arabs who embrace a vision of an inclusive and just society, and those who seem intent on pursuing an agenda of separatism and alienation. Our visit convinced us that it is our duty, as diaspora leaders, to embrace and support those who share this inclusive vision, and not to allow ourselves to be distracted by the separatist voices at the political fringes of both communities.

There is also the experience of peace activist Mohamad Darawshe part of an Israeli Jewish and Arab fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland who was boycotted by a Northern Irish International Relations academic for being Israeli.

And the experience of the Palestinian and Israeli workers and promoters of the Peace Oil initiative, a charity which was subject to a Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) sabotage attempt.

“Anything that the Zionist Federation could get excited about would be bound to inflame the PSC. Pro-boycotters tend to act jealous when Palestinians cooperate with Israelis and frequently attempt to break things up. Targetting Israeli-Arab-Palestinian cooperation and making an issue out of the only product in the Good Gifts catalogue with an Israel connection is a wedge-driving tactic and part of the general boycott strategy. It’s of a piece with their hard work to stop OneVoice dual peace concerts in Tel Aviv and Jericho, and their condemnation of Israeli academics for apathy while simultaneously encouraging and pressurising Palestinian academics to have nothing to do with them.”

OneVoice is a citizens’ Israeli-Palestinian peace movement which was sabotaged by boycotters when they attempted to stage joint peace concerts in Tel Aviv and Jericho.

What contribution has the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement had on improving Palestinian lives and advancing towards a just resolution to the conflict? None. It’s logic is to polarise, not reconcile. And meanwhile Israel’s reprehensible settlement activity in Har Homa and Givat Ze’ev continues, in the face of the Annapolis agreement to freeze activity, and despite the long-overdue evacuation of 18 ‘outposts’. The security barrier’s mission creep endures, causing it to bite deep into Palestinian territory. Hamas consolidates power in Gaza, tolerating or promoting the persecution of Christians, journalists and Trade Unionists. Gazan women take up the veil to avoid negative attention. Fatah, the secular political force in the West Bank weakens as the clerical, anti-democratic parties of Hamas and Hizb ut Tahrir gain ground. Iran funds weapons for Hamas and Hesbollah.

The Green boycott is the opposite of helpful. Any green activist should understand that it has no place in a movement which purports to support ecological and environmental activism. Its logic is conflict, separatism and alienation, and we should get rid of it as soon as possible.

The Green Party should turn its back on anything that contributes to this pressure by rescinding Resolution C05. If we care about a peace beween Palestinians and Israelis, we should work on an alternative vision. And we will.

March 26, 2008

Fencing Israel

Posted in conflict at 6:05 pm by greensstoptheboycott

An unpolemical piece by Haim Watzman in Orion Magazine about the impact of the security barrier on desert life. It ends:

“Like Boral (and Bar-Hai and all the other Israelis I quote here), I have fought for this land in wars and conflicts. When a piece of land is part of your history, your religion, your identity, when you’ve defended it and seen people die for it, you want to protect it, preserve it—and possess it. And yet these feelings do not trump the fact that another people live on this land and feel no less powerful an attachment to it. I do not wish to be a part of a society founded on an injustice, so I support the Palestinians’ right to have their own country, even if it means giving up this place to which I am so fiercely attached.

As a former soldier, I know that added security for my country often means misery for the Palestinians. The fence is meant to protect me, but it will scar the land we share. As a lover of and frequent hiker over its mountains and through its canyons, I cannot bear to see the desert also under attack. But I do not want to return to the days of the bus bombings, when I had to fear for the lives of my children when they took public transportation to and from school. There are no ideal solutions here, only risks, and a choice between a set of unattractive options. That is part of our tragedy.”

March 25, 2008

BDS would end funding and partnership for anti-pollution project

Posted in cooperation, pollution, water at 12:12 pm by Mira Vogel

Cooperation along the lines of the Stream Restoration Project undertaken by Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Ben Gurion’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Palestinian NGO Water and Environmental Development Organization (WEDO), and Tel Aviv University’s Institute for Conservation and Nature Research.

Background in last December’s Haaretz.

The ultimate aim of this research is to lay the foundations for an effective river restoration strategy for Israel and Palestine. This research is funded by the Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

MERC projects must include at least one Israeli and one Arab partner. It’s obvious that the “broad” boycott, divestment and sanctions “similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era” as called for by the BDS campaign and supported by the Green Party in Resolution C05, would harm this project, its developing partnerships, the state of the water, and the plants and animals living in it.

BDS looks less and less like good Green policy.

Hat tip: Hamish Q Cumber.

March 23, 2008

Harry’s Place post on Greens Against the Boycott

Posted in boycott, british greens at 9:45 pm by Mira Vogel

Harry’s Place is a good place to be seen. Go and follow the comments to this post.

March 22, 2008

Green leadership, Stop the War Coalition and Ken Livingstone

Posted in british greens at 3:00 pm by Mira Vogel

Stop the War is an exceptionally bad, exceptionally immature critique of the War on Terror. For a better one, go and listen to Dan Hind speaking at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts on How Enlightenment was Hijacked and How We Can Reclaim It.

Critiques don’t come nicely packaged. Just because the war for Iraq was wrongly-premised, it doesn’t mean we should pull out of Afghanistan. It doesn’t mean that Hesbollah are heros.

Why is our speaker Caroline Lucas associating with StWC in such a desperately populist way? Why, in this video, does her bid for the mainstream sound so much like the futile, robot anti-Imperialism of the Socialist Worker Party and RESPECT? Where is the environmental critique? Where, since she has stepped up to the podium in her capacity as a politician, a policy-maker, are the answers? Her only answers: demand justice for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. Suspend the EU agreement with Israel. There has never been a time like the present time for British Greens, but Caroline Lucas is looking vaguely abroad without insight.

StWC is a bad association. It is an organisation that suppresses dissent, whitewashes Iran – indeed Caroline Lucas whitewashes Baathist Iraq before 2003 as a “proud country” – which invites speakers from antisemitic terrorist organisation Hesbollah, and one of whose central personalities is George Galloway, a demagogue who supports lying, upholds the values of Stalin and courts the votes of ultra-conservative Muslims by selling out on gay people and evolutionary theory.

StWC, Respect, Respect Renewal, the Socialist Workers Party and Caroline on behalf of the Greens all blame UK foreign policy for the London bombings (while neglecting to consider the role of, say, Saudi Arabia and its funding of hard Islam for September 11th, Madrid or London acts of terror to name only three). Here’s what Hassan Butt, former Al Quaeda member who now works to argue young men out of Al Quaeda, has to say about people who do this:

‘How we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy,’ Butt recalled in an outburst that stuck in my mind. ‘By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the “Blair’s bombs” line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamist theology.’

[I decided that my comment on London Greens recommendation about the mayoral elections was out of my remit for this site. MV]

March 20, 2008

Adrian Windisch on the Green Party boycott resolution

Posted in boycott, british greens at 8:56 pm by greensstoptheboycott

Adrian Windisch is a Reading Green Party member. On his blog he rejects the boycott as the answer to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Greens should recognise that climate change is an international threat requiring international cooperation – no exceptions

Posted in climate change, cooperation at 4:21 pm by greensstoptheboycott

Here’s an example of international cooperation – people from different parts of the worlds learning about each others’ environmental successes and failures by going hiking together.

The boycott is un-Green.

Islam and Judaism in historical context – Tobias Green

Posted in religion at 4:10 pm by greensstoptheboycott

One aspect of the Israel-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts is its religious dimension. In fact religion is a minor factor but one which is advanced with an intensity which has come to dominate the wider perception of relations between Israel and its neighbours, leading to the assumption that these two religions have always been in conflict. This is contrary to the truth, and indeed one of the greatest tragedies of the conflict of the Middle East is that it has polarised two great religions which have a great deal of shared histories and rituals.

The shared histories of Islam and Judaism can easily be seen in, for instance, their history in the Iberian peninsular in the medieval period. During the almost 8 centuries during which there were Islamic kingdoms in Iberia, Jews and Moslems lived side by side. In the Moslem caliphate of Al-Andalus, some Jews were viziers and major generals for the Moslem leaders, and there were entire towns famed for being populated by Jews. Jewish culture in turn was heavily influenced by Moslem civilization, as can be seen in the Islamicised architecture of the great syangogue that still stands in Toledo, and in the harmonies and musical style of Sephardic songs and liturgy.Meanwhile, those Jews and Moslems who lived under Christian kingdoms were treated in a similar fashion, each having their own legal codes for certain aspects of communal laws, and each suffering the same proscriptiosn and prohibitions. Moreover, both Jews and Moslems were expelled from Spain within 10 years of each other, in 1492 and 1502 respectively.

From this point on, in fact, Jews generally fared far better under Moslem than under Christian rule. Many of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 ended up in the lands controlled by the Ottoman Empire, where they lived in secure communities under protection from the Ottoman emperors and established thriving centres in cities such as Salonica, Dubrovnik, Smyrna, Istanbul and Sofia. Many spanish Jews also fled to Morocco where they lived with Moslems in important settlements in Fez, Casablanca, Essaouira and Mogador. A party of 5 ambassadors sent in 1528 by the emir of Tremecen to negotitate with the Spanish Christians at Oran included two Jews – a typical example of the co-eistence of the faiths at this time.

The fact that Jews generally fared much better in such placed than theyd id in Christian Europe may partly be owing to the fact that Islam and Judaism share many ritual practices in common. The deitary prohibitions are remarkably similar, for instance, as are the colours of mourning and the emphasis on swift burials. Both faiths pray int he direction of their holy cities – Mecca in the Islamic case, Jerusalem in the Jewish case. Mystics of both faiths believe that the scripts of the holy texts of their laws – the Qu’ran and the Torah – hold secrets which can resolve any number of earthly problems if correctly interpreted by sages.

Only in the 19th century, with the increasing pressure on Ottoman provinces caused by the rapid economic and political decline of the Ottoman Empire, did discord and difficultes begin to be wdiespread in this coexistence of Islam and Judaism. This should not obscure the many cultural and historical simialrities which should unite, rather than divide, the two religions. The fact that the current crisis in the Middle East obscures this fact may be but one of many tragedies, but it is a significant one – since only by rediscovering this coexistence can peace hope to return to the region.

Fletcher, Richard (1992): Moorish Spain. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Castro, Americo: La Realidad Historica de Espana. Mexico City. Editorial Porua (1954)

Tobias Green is an academic and Green Party member.

On Israel’s separation barrier

Posted in conflict, israel at 3:27 pm by greensstoptheboycott

One of the reasons cited by Green would-be boycotters is what they like to refer to as the ‘apartheid wall’.

‘Apartheid wall’ is a misnomer calculated to associate Israel with apartheid South Africa. For an examination of the difference between Israel and apartheid South Africa, there is a very cogent piece by John Strawson on Engage and a Z-Word essay on franchising apartheid by Rhoda Kadalie and Julia Bertelsmann about how the apartheid analogy has evolved and been contested in South Africa.

See also Mohammad Darawshe who reviews the good and improving state of Israeli law – and it is law which is important if you want to make an apartheid analogy – while criticising Israeli civil society for its lagging vision. Mohammad’s organisation, The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI), has brought about real, strongly-felt changes in Israeli society including changes in policing policy, partnerships between Jewish and Arab local government officials, and a vast increase in uptake of Arabic on the Israeli school curriculum. This doesn’t look much like apartheid to me. TAFI recently set up a UK office.

For a short critical assessment of the separation barrier which doesn’t insult its readers by serving up Israel as a cartoon villain read Israel’s separation barrier: the best of the worst by Haim Watzman.

March 17, 2008

Bristol climate change professor wins Tel Aviv University prize. And we’re supposed to object?

Posted in boycott, climate change at 1:39 pm by Mira Vogel

The Guardian reports that one of three prestigious Dan David Prizes of $1m has been awarded to paleoclimatologist Geoffrey Eglinton, Emeritus Professor in Earth Sciences at Bristol University‘s School of Chemistry, for his work on the history of climate change. From the Dan David Prize site:

Geoffrey Eglinton’s laboratory introduced “molecular stratigraphy” as a means of following variations in ancient climates and drew on the work of oceanographers, paleontologists, and geologists. He provided a basis for recognizing the origins of hydrocarbons in petroleum and other deposits. He led in the elucidation of the origins of complex, biologically diagnostic molecules found in sediments.

By studying how their structures were altered during storage in buried sediments, he established an entirely new means for examining the evolutions of sedimentary basins and their resident fossil fuels. He was first to recognize that molecular products of marine algae served as recorders of sea-surface temperature and thus of ancient climatic variations. Because these techniques rely on lines of evidence not previously exploited, they have particular power and impact, providing clearly independent tests of ideas about Earth history.

The Dan David Prize is an international initiative headquartered at Tel Aviv University which makes its annual awards in three areas of human achievement: past, present and future:

The Dan David Prize recognizes and encourages innovative and interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional boundaries and paradigms. It aims to foster universal values of excellence, creativity, justice, democracy and progress and to promote the scientific, technological and humanistic achievements that advance and improve our world.

Experts from France, Britain, the USA, Switzerland and Israel make up the committee which awards this prize. It is an example of international cooperation with a holistic outlook to reward progress. Does current Green Party policy seriously seriously propose that the world turn its back on this prize for no better reason than that Israel is involved?

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