Earlier this week, around 70 students from Glasgow University organised a sit-in to protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza and the involvement of arms manufacturers with the university. The students occupied the computer science building, claiming this department to have major links with the British defence and aerospace company BAE systems. The Stop the War Coalition, which led the occupation together with Action Palestine and Amnesty International, presented a petition signed by over 1,000 students and staff, demanding that the university should sever links with such corporations, as well as boycotting all Israeli produce, such as Eden Springs water, which is currently sold on the campus. Raymie Kiernan, who has taken an active role in the sit-in, said: “We will remain in occupation indefinitely until our demands are met and will not negotiate with security guards.” The sit-in, which has seen students chanting slogans such as “Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation”, follows a wave of similar events across numerous British campuses. A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “The university respects the right to freedom of speech, but the rights of students and staff to engage in their normal business must always be respected. The university will take appropriate action if the occupation causes serious disruption to staff or students.”
After being cancelled because of heavy snow, University College London’s AGM has been rescheduled for a Friday afternoon — February 27. Two motions have been tabled on the Gaza conflict. The Friends of Palestine Society want to “mandate the UCL academic affairs officer to write to the Provost of the university on behalf of the union… condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza, as well as demanding that old books and computers are sent to universities in Gaza and scholarships offered to Palestinian students”. They also want “a wooden placard in the union building stating: ‘UCL Union is twinned with Al-Quds University (West Bank) and Al-Azhar University (Gaza).’” Daniel Sommer, a JSoc member who has tabled a motion calling for the union “to remain apolitical and neutral regarding foreign policy”, has called the union’s rescheduling of the AGM “insensitive and unfair, disenfranchising Orthodox Jewish students”. A union representative said: “While we are aware that the scheduling is deeply problematic for religious students, the timing of the meeting was largely determined by the space available at UCL.”
After a hard-fought campaign by Durham JSoc, a motion for their union to boycott Israeli goods has been defeated in a university-wide referendum by 726 votes to 525. Initially, the issue was due to be decided at a union council meeting, but the demand for a referendum was so high that all students were given the chance to vote. Durham JSoc, one of the fastest-growing JSocs in the UK, distributed around 4,000 flyers detailing their objections and held an emergency forum to give students the opportunity to debate the issue.
- Geoffrey Paul
Feb 12, 2009
Not the best of times in interfaith relations. Muslims in Britain, I am told by one of them, are filled with anger over what transpired in Gaza and, he predicted, pictures from that conflict will be used by extremists to recruit amongst Muslim youth in Britain. Then there was the Pope, compounding a couple of misplaced steps in interfaith relations, by opening the way back into the Church for a rebel bishop who doesn't believe the Holocaust really happened.
Yesterday, adding to this sour stew, the Synod of the Church of England, having adopted a paper which, in theological terms, depicts Christianity as the recipient of the blessings God promised to the Jews but did not deliver, called on the bishops to come up with “examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.”
This must have brought a wry smile to the face of the Chief Rabbi, a joint president with the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Council of Christians and Jews. Sir Jonathan, you will recall, had to respond to charges of heresy from within the Jewish community for writing that "God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims." He added: "No one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth; no one civilisation encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind ... In heaven there is truth; on earth there are truths ... God is greater than religion. He is only partially comprehended by any faith."
- Geoffrey Paul
Feb 11, 2009
There is someone who must be praying – literally – for Bibi Netanyahu to become Prime Minister of Israel. A theme of Netanyahu's election campaign was that “We have demonstrated in the past, and will continue to demonstrate, our commitment to a complete, undivided Jerusalem.” Which is just what veteran Christian evangelist Pat Robertson wanted to hear.
Speaking last week on the Christian Broadcast Network, Robertson warned that the Battle of Armageddon will take place not in Megiddo, in the Galil, but in Jerusalem if “the forces of all nations come together and try to take Jerusalem away from the Jews.” He said he had been in touch with Netanyahu who promised him that Jerusalem as Israel's capital was “non-negotiable.”
The plain implication of this is that Robertson envisions Bibi as an agent of Christianity who, by holding fast to Jerusalem, will hasten Armageddon, the conversion of the Jews and the coming of the Christian messiah! I don't know how the Likud leader feels about this but for my part, rather than encouraging Armageddon later,I'll settle for Moshiach Now!
- Geoffrey Paul
Feb 9, 2009
Do we now have the detailed outline of President Obama's plan for an Israel-Arab peace? Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Obama's foreign policy and security advisor in the run up the election and regarded as eminence gris of American geo-strategic thinkers, spoke in November at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, in London. What he said then was strictly off the record. But now Chatham House itself has put on the record an edited version of his November address on “Foreign policy challenges for Obama.” The Israel-Palestinian peace process, he says, must be given priority. Since the parties to the conflict can never themselves reach a solution, they will need America, with the help of Europe, to spell out the fundamental requirements of “a genuine peace of reconciliation.”
In the edited version of the Brzezinski speech published by Chatham House in its journal International Affairs, these are: a demilitarised Palestinian state, perhaps with a Nato presence on its soil to enhance Israel's sense of security; a territorial settlement based on the 1967 lines with “equitable exchanges” allowing Israel to incorporate the more heavily inhabited settlements on the fringes of those lines; acceptance by both parties of the fact that Palestinian refugees cannot return to what is now Israel but should be provided with compensation and assistance to settle, preferably, in the independent Palestinian state; and the “genuine sharing of Jerusalem as the capital of two states, with some kind of joint arrangement for the old city and a Palestinian flag over the golden dome.”
Light blue touch-paper and retire....
- Geoffrey Paul
Feb 6, 2009
Proud front page claim of the New York Times since 1897 is that it gives its readers “All the News That's Fit to Print.” In recent years, its critics have amended that to proclaim “All the News that Fits We Print.” Many British media outlets might be said to have further adapted this slogan to boast: “All the News that Fits Our Opinions We Print.” You'll remember that UNRWA school in Gaza the Israelis were said to have deliberately shelled causing upwards of 40 deaths? The one that Al Jazeera and its copycat newspapers suggested should be the subject of a war crimes inquiry? The fact is that no shells landed either inside the school or its yard. There were casualties in the street outside, not in the school. This has now been admitted to a Canadian newspaper by the senior UN official who, with a studied lack of clarity at the time, encouraged reports suggesting the school had been targeted. Have you read a correction and/or apology about it? Will you tell me where?
And where in the last week have you read that Egypt's President Mubarak blamed Hamas for causing the bloodshed in Gaza by miscalculating how the Israelis might react to their provocations.? He accused Hamas of following an Iranian agenda in the area. That's not all Hamas has been doing. According to a detailed report from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (yes, there is one, brave folks that they are), Hamas has taken advantage of the Gaza conflict to brutally bump off or hideously to maim their political (mainly Fatah) rivals inside Gaza. There is a detailed, grisly report from the Centre at http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/Reports/English/pdf_spec/Increase_rep.pdf. I may have missed any reference to it in the British newspapers or on TV. In which case, my apologies. I certainly missed any reference to the activities of two young Israeli women who launched an appeal for relief supplies to assist the women and children of Gaza. They were overwhelmed with offers from all over Israel, have already sent many truckloads into the refugee camps and have been offered storage facilities for their continuing collections by a Negev kibbutz which has itself been the target of rockets from Gaza.
This is in no way my personal effort to whitewash some of Israel's more extreme actions inside Gaza. It is, though, my puny attempt to try and do what newspaper editors once thought a prime purpose of their endeavour: to keep the record straight.
- Geoffrey Paul
Feb 5, 2009
Americans? You gotta love 'em. I loved one enough to marry her. But you must also agree that they boast more eccentrics than most among their number. An example is 79-year old Milton Sterman. On the day George W. Bush was re-elected for his second term, Milton vowed he would not have his hair cut so long as there was a Republican in the White House. With George W. gone and Obama elected, Milton had no choice but to submit to an upsherin, the name given to the ceremony in the ultra-Orthodox, usually chasidic community, when a boy receives his first haircut at the age of 3. Members of Congregation Beth Ami, Milton's Santa Rosa, California, Reform community, together with friends and family, gathered recently for what was advertised as a “schnip and schnor” session. For donations to charity varying from $1 to $10, they could snip an appropriately sized lock of Milton's unruly, long white hair. So many turned out for the privilege of shearing this bold soul, that $1000 was raised. According to the Jewish News of Northern California, where I read this epic tale, Milton'now rejoices in the fact that “Everyone says, when I take my hat off, that I look 10 years younger!” As I was saying, you gotta love 'em.
- Geoffrey Paul
Feb 1, 2009
You have to hand it to the hard Left for recognising global problems when they see them. Over the next month or so, the Socialist Party of Great Britain is offering a lecture series which will deal with “Capitalism USA,” “From Capitalism to Socialism” and “Global Capitalism.” But the first in the series deals of course with that most challenging of them all, “Israeli Capitalism.” Obsessives will be glad to know that admission is free and that the Guardian-and-sandals brigade is still on the ball.
- Simon Friend
Jan 30, 2009
This week saw scores of Jewish students head to Parliament to speak to their home and campus MPs about the state of antisemitism in British universities, as well as other general issues of student life.