Report on the UK launch of the IJAN Charter


L to r: Tahrir Swift, Dr. Ghada Karmi, Michael Kalmanovitz, SelmaJames,
Professor Moshé Machover, Dr. Mike Berry, Cristel Amiss, Yael Kahn


A hundred people came together for a historic occasion -- the public launchin the UKof the Charter of the International JewishAnti-Zionist Network (IJAN).  The meeting was to say how theCharter could be of use for different sectors; and to propose direct actionthat could be taken together. 

SelmaJames (IJAN) from the Chair opened by pointing out the amazinggreetings that IJAN had received from “Jews, Palestinians and manyothers”.  She referred to Early Day Motion 2332 welcoming IJAN,tabled in Parliament by JohnMcDonnell MP. 

Michael Kalmanovitz (IJAN)quoting the Charter said: “Ourcommitment is to the dismantling of Israeli apartheid, the return ofPalestinian refugees, and the ending of the Israeli colonization of historic Palestine.” The Charter was not a plan but a basis for a relationship with thePalestinian movement.

Professor Moshé Machover,co-founder of the Israeli Socialist Organisation Matzpen sent greetings from comrades in Israel, both Jewish and Palestinianwho had long fought against Zionism.  He said it was very important forcivil unrest to exert pressure on Israel and for a Jewish civilnetwork to oppose the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.

Dr. Ghada Karmi,Palestinian doctor of medicine and author of Marriedto Another Man, gave complete support to Jewish colleagues whowere prepared to confront the “evil” of Zionism; she said thatPalestinians always hoped Jewish people would turn against it.  She toldabout the WHO mental health conference due to be held in Gaza to which sheand other medical practitioners from all over the world had been invited– until Israel refused them all entry into Gaza at the last minute. Togreat applause, she said many of the doctors were going to mount a publicprotest there.

Yael Kahn, of Women’s Organization for Political Prisoners(WOFPP) and Islington Friends of Yibna,spoke about support and protests for women political prisoners – thosewho resist the Israeli occupation, including Palestinian citizens of Israel,women kidnapped from Lebanon, and Israeli refuseniks.  WOFPP beganbecause women prisoners were moved frequently, no-one knew where they were,no-one could visit, giving a free hand to the Israeli forces to torturethem.  Currently there are 16-year-olds in administrative detention– that is, there are no charges against them yet their imprisonment isindeterminate.  WOFPP organise demonstrations to release all womenprisoners including minors.

Dr. Mike Berry,co-author of the acclaimed Bad News fromIsrael (Glasgow University Media Unit) spoke about his researchinto how the media discusses the conflict and how this affects beliefs. Reporting concentrates on current violence with little reference to thehistory of the conflict in the region; editors claim people have ‘lowattention spans’ and do not want too much bad news!  The result isthat people are unaware why there is fighting and who the refugees are; thereis no discussion of human rights abuses, military occupation, deprivation ofwater, that Palestinians are not allowed to move freely, etc.

Cristel Amiss, of Black Women’s Rape Action Project,said the Charter was a tool for all in the anti-racist movement – tohelp defend ourselves against false charges of anti-Semitism.  Ms Amisscompared Zionist NGOs and other NGOs which assist repressive governments,wars and occupations (Haiti,Iraq, and Darfur, and NGOsin the UKwhich implement brutal government immigration policy – for example, theRefugee Council which implemented Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigrationand Asylum Act.

Tahrir Swift, of Solidarity for an Independent and Unified Iraq,enthusiastically welcoming the Charter said Iraqi Jews had opposed Zionismfor a long time, mentioning the League forCombating Zionism, established in 1945.  The bombing of Iraqisynagogues in 1951, making Israelseem like a safe haven in comparison, was in fact orchestrated by Mossad (Israel’snotorious secret service).  Ms Swift said the ‘illegal’ warwith Iraq made Israel a super-power in the region in theinterests of US and Europe.  Israeliswere openly involved in the conflict, even training US marines.  Nowthere was pressure on the Iraqi government to normalise relations with Israel. 

Maggie Ronayne, National Universityof Ireland, Galway,raised that there was already a National Boycott Day, the Irish Congress ofTrade Unions had voted for a boycott, and peace activists had smashed upRaytheon, the arms manufacturer based in Derry, suppliers of weapons to Israel during the Lebanon war.  She connectedthe struggle of the Palestinian people to the 800-year struggle of the Irishpeople against ’savage colonialism’.  She warned againstseparatism and nationalism which had led to the defeat of the Irishrevolution.  She highlighted women’s role in the Irish revolution,only now beginning to be recognised, and urged that it not take so longfor Palestinian women’s experience and struggle to be acknowledged.

Michele Hanson, Guardian columnist, said she that shehad given up her right of return to Israel and whenshe was there in1967: young Israelis were rude; she was policed in the Negev by Israeli soldiers; and she was very aware ofthe ill-treatment of Palestinians.  Ms Hanson said she would like towrite more about the Palestinian struggle but was sometimes“discouraged from writing seriously”.  She had even heard aBBC Radio report that said that in the same conflict an Israeli had been‘killed’, but a Palestinian had ‘died’. 

There was discussion about whether some known Zionistswith a history of intimidation should be asked to leave, the meeting resolvedto continue with the Q&A and there was no further disruption.  Therewas a suggestion to protest against Shimon Peres if he comes to London to receive anhonorary knighthood.  The Chair pointed out that an anti-Zionistactivist had travelled from Liverpool to attend this meeting, that alsopresent was Ayo Omotadewho’d been arrested for standing up for a man being violently deportedon a British Airways plane, and OmarDeghayes who had been held in Guantamano and was asked if hewanted to speak – he said he was very impressed and gave his support.

The collective action proposed was a regular protestagainst the Jewish National Fund while attacking its charitable status. Tony Greenstein was invited togive a brief history of the JNF.  It has bought up land for exclusiveJewish ownership to the point that it now owns 93% of the land in Israel. The JNF has played a crucial role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine –initially in the planning and now by the fact that its “forests”cover up the ruins of Palestinian villages and towns.  Last year’sJNF B

ill prompted even the Israeli press to speak about “a racistJewish state".  The chair proposed, to great interest, anorganising meeting to which people will come with their own proposals to bediscussed and collectively agreed on.

And finally the chair read out messages of support forIJAN from Joel Kovel, author of Overcoming Zionism; Owen Manda, one ofthe South African signatories to We foughtapartheid; we see no reason to celebrate it in Israel now!; andPhil Shiner, Public Interest Lawyersand Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights.





Click here to download the 120-report which exposes the funders of Zionist backlash on campuses and in communities