Palestine

Fear and Loathing in the Gaza Strip

by Cygnus

The Israeli state is now responding obediently to the rabid colonist chants of ‘Death to the Arabs’ and to the graffiti around al-Quds that in English and Hebrew reads ‘Gas the Arabs’. In a backdrop of systematic starvation, a ground invasion of tanks, assisted by the deployment of toxic gas has begun this week, with homes and hospitals being destroyed and entire families being wiped out.

As expected, the corporate media have buried any mention of the Palestinian experience of colonisation: the ongoing Nakba remains absent, resistance is terrorism, and the Israeli state is merely ‘responding’ to rockets from Palestinians who break ceasefires they didn’t even hear about. Thankfully, Palestinians in Gaza have challenged the imperial and colonial narratives by using social media, such as Twitter, and writing on news/analysis sites, such as Electronic Intifada. Without this, many people in the world would remain lost in the undignified and distorted world of the Zionist narrative.

Sadly, there one notably unsavoury character who has modelled himself as a promoter and defender of the ‘Palestinian perspective’, while in reality expertly fashioning himself into an institution. Harry Fear is a beneficiary of Palestinians being denied – as Edward Said termed it with clinical accuracy – “permission to narrate”. He has carved out an orientalist niche somewhere between the unabashed, self-congratulatory rich kid talking about his gap year volun-tourism shit with ‘the poor’, and the embedded war-reporter who pretends to give a fuck about the whirlwind of carnage prop that makes his 5-minute report for the evening news so “oh, dear” inducing for his audience.

He made this niche during the Zionist slaughter of Gaza in November 2012, and subsequently went on a world tour to talk about Gaza. At the outset, many of us watching his reports thought he was a welcome alternative to the corporate media coverage. This was quickly proved false. He describes himself as a “documentary maker & activist” – a slightly ambiguous description of someone who simply actively documents his white male self amid a colonial ethnic cleansing campaign of Arab people.

Look at his website. It is exhaustingly hard to believe that this site is about anything other than him. Gaza is the background to his show. No links to activist groups. No reblogging of or reference to works by Palestinians (or any other people, for that matter). No reference to Palestinian organisations or individuals working with him. There are two different links take you to the same page – his blog. Five different tabs on the left, with his smug, pasty face looking back at you from the right side of the page. He’s even got his own fucking logo – an ‘H’ next to an ‘F’, because these are the initials of his name. Harry Fear. HF

Harry got invited to do a TEDx talk in Copenhagen. The theme was ‘challenging realities, the mainstream media & you’ – because he is the alternative to mainstream, remember? He does not come across as a passionate activist or documentarian. He is self-indulgent, and well warmed and nurtured by his white, male, upper-class privilege. His body language and speaking style convey an absurd degree of self-satisfaction, with his annoying pursing of lips, and sharp intake of breath to punctuate points, like a 1960s BBC reporter, doing a piece on the monarchy, and trying to make it seem acceptable to the proles. If viewed for the first time, having never heard of him, in the context of a pub, for example, he’s what you’d call a wanker.

Indicating the point where he left Gaza for an extended trip up his own arse, Harry makes a video entitled ‘Harassed in Gaza: Internationals Under Threat’. Basically, it’s 2 minutes 47 seconds of him walking up to an Israeli state controlled border and getting warning shots fired at him. He stoically concludes “all in a day’s work for an international journalist.” Harry has the luxury of entering and leaving Gaza when he wants. A “day’s work” is choosing to use the IOF to show how dangerous Gaza can be for ‘Internationals’ (ie. Harry) in an unnecessary provocation of Zionists (who, admittedly, shouldn’t be there anyway).

Harry’s suspect motivations and ideology have already been identified by Palestinians and other (decent) international activists. Last year, he put up a list of books on his facebook page about Palestine that he recommends people to read, because he is an authority on the matter, after all. This list of books included one Palestinian and no women. Comments on his page highlighted this but he deleted whole lot. Fortunately, some comments were saved here: https://o.twimg.com/2/proxy.jpg?t=HBgpaHR0cHM6Ly90d2l0cGljLmNvbS9zaG93L2xhcmdlL2NuMGljZS5qcGcU-AgUrgoAFgASAA&s=mLosYlbJ0EadOdVNiu6oat7M0Dhi2YnAx75GcNUjpI0 (copy & paste into address bar to read). Speaking at the Islamic University of Gaza, he is challenged by a young woman about this. He responds with the usual condescending style, chiding the woman, saying, “firstly, I want to say that I don’t appreciate the confrontational tone.” He then goes on to expound a bit of orientalist theory with: “I do not believe in freedom of speech 100%… and judging by the hijab on your body, you probably also don’t, because neither does Islam.” Muslim women: Harry can identify your political ideology just by gazing at your head.

A succinct summary of the deeply problematic nature of Harry’s comments, approach and behaviour is given by Maha Rezeq here. “As Palestinians,” she writes, “many of us are extremely offended by his inaccurate accounts and exaggeration, presumably to simply boost careers potentials.” Despite these very serious problems, expressed by Palestinians, Harry continues to gain media coverage. In its coverage of the recent spate of massacres in Gaza, Russia Today has been praised by activists for its anti-Zionist angle. However, they invited the self-promoting, one-man-institution for an interview, as they have done many times before. There are 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, but they choose the white upper-class Englishman.

It has been established that the corporate media values an Israeli life over a Palestinian life. Looking at the comments on Harry Fear’s videos, it would seem that for some people, a privileged white voice is of more value than a Palestinian voice. Comments on his videos regularly feature gushing praise and sycophantic compliments, from people of all backgrounds. What really is the appeal here? Harry is offering nothing in terms of news and analysis that Palestinians in Gaza cannot. Is it perhaps that people, realising the very real danger the Zionists pose to Gaza, find some sort of muted amusement in the fact a white posh kid with a comically over-inflated ego is actually in the besieged enclave? Or, perhaps more likely to western viewers, the boy deserves kudos for ‘reporting’ (read: vlogging on himself) in Gaza while being more ‘like them’ than a Palestinian?

Those who identify as activists no longer have any excuses for behaving like a Harry Fear (not that he qualifies as an activist). A good start for those who are still lost would be Ramallah Bantustan blog by Mariam Barghouti. Written with such clarity, empathy and political nous, one article methodically works through the various political and cultural problems and issues that have emerged with westerners becoming involved in Palestine solidarity activism. Harry Fear epitomises virtually all the negatives enumerated by Mariam.

Harry is back in Palestine again. Zionist oppression of Palestinians is again another few lines on a curriculum vitae. There are many activists and international ‘journalists’* who have in fact heeded the guidance of Palestinians. They see them as intellectual and moral equals, and respond to their demands accordingly. They do not need to do a world tour and they do not need a logo. The work for the liberation of Palestine as a secondary, complementary element of the struggle, led by Palestinians themselves.

*In Palestine, code for any white person with a camera, ability to use a word-processing document, and internet access.

The Bonds With Zionism

By Cygnus

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to economically pressure the Israeli state to adhere to international law has been gaining traction since its inception in July 2005. From individual to organisational boycotts, divestment by universities and pension funds, there are an increasing number of successes. While companies complicit in human rights violations – such as G4S – are an excellent boycott target, less attention has been paid to a more obscure form of economic security for Zionism in Palestine. The BDS movement has paid scant attention to bonds, but Israel Bonds has acknowledged BDS.

A bond is ‘A debt investment in which an investor loans money to an entity (corporate or governmental) that borrows the funds for a defined period of time at a fixed interest rate. Bonds are used by companies, municipalities, states and… governments to finance a variety of projects and activities.’[i] To buy a bond from Israel Bonds, then, is to assist in strengthening the apartheid state; this method of support is currently being aggressively marketed and juxtaposed against the BDS movement by Zionist agencies.

The US-based Israel Bonds – or the Development Corporation for Israel – was established by president Ben-Gurion in 1951. It is a broker-dealer member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Writing an op-ed in the Zionist organ, the Jerusalem Post, in January this year, CEO Israel (Izzy) Tapoohi Israel Bonds was described as a “record-breaking, strategic asset for Israel”. The article goes on to boast that bond sales of that financial year surpassed $1.12 billion – an increase of 37% from the previous year. The most interesting part is the political:

“A value-added aspect of investing in Israel bonds is the powerful statement it sends to Israel’s adversaries, especially the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Knowing Israel will never be defeated on the battlefield, BDS supporters employ confrontational economic tactics on a wide variety of fronts.”

Tapoohi concludes: “Yet, each and every Israel bond investment sends an unmistakable message to BDS advocates: Israel’s economy will remain strong.” Israel Bonds is hailed as a “dedicated, independent financial pipeline” for the Israeli state.[ii]

For those of us supporting the BDS movement or active within it, this is very flattering and a signal that we must be doing something right. Were the movement a simply a disorganised and incoherent fringe group, it would be ignored, or perhaps mocked.

BDS gets further attention on the Israel Bonds website, in the ‘from the CEO’ section, entitled “Israel Bonds are a Strong Response to the BDS Movement”. It’s Izzy again. He dedicates a whole page to defending the Israeli state and venting spleen on the BDS movement. After going through the usual red-herring platitudes (‘Why pick on little Israel?’ and ‘It’s great for gays and women’) he asserts the real reasons for economic pressure by BDS are:

“First, knowing Israel will never be defeated on the battlefield, they view the economic front as an alternate means of attacking Israel. Second, Israel’s economy represents an outstanding success story. Nothing agitates Israel’s detractors more than another achievement for the Jewish state, and Israel’s economic success is truly an exceptional achievement.”[iii]

Ignoring for a second the trouncing of the IOF by Hizballah in 2006, it is true that economic pressure is a non-violent means by which people living in imperial countries can assist in resistance against Zionism. The second one is clearly a ‘through the looking glass’ moment for Izzy; it’s doubtful that anyone involved in BDS is really motivated through envy of Israel economic ‘success’.

In May this year, Izzy gets another platform to remind the world again:

“Not everyone is applauding Israel’s stellar economic achievements—most especially the BDS movement. BDS advocates employ confrontational economic tactics in the belief they will succeed in isolating and weakening Israel.”[iv]

He is losing sleep over this.

According to the ‘learn’ section of Israeli Bonds website, 75% of investors are retail clients, while 25% are “institutional investors, encompassing states, municipalities, financial institutions, corporations, labor unions, universities and foundations.”[v] In the ‘history’ section, the broker-dealer is said to have a “legacy of achievement”, with proceeds that have “helped cultivate the desert [more on this later], build transportation networks, create new industries, resettle immigrants, and increase export capability”[vi]

If accurate, this means that Israel Bonds is a key agency in advancing land theft, creating apartheid roads for colonies, supporting the arms industry, assisting colonists occupy Palestinian land, the selling of goods produced on usurped land. Not only that, but universities and unions around the world are funding this.

Thirty years after the establishment of Israel Bonds, the Development Company for Israel (UK) Limited (or State of Israel Bonds UK) was created. It is virtually identical to Israel Bonds in aims and in terms of where proceeds are channelled. The website informs the reader that State of Israel Bonds UK has “enabled extraordinary advances throughout Israel”, giving the example of crops being grown in the Naqab, complete with pictures of colonists in their greenhouses. It quotes Ben-Gurion’s European colonial tropes of ‘making the desert bloom’.[vii]

That bond proceeds are important to maintaining occupation, colonisation and apartheid is quite obvious, but in April this year, a new development brought it to the fore. The state revealed that it planned to relocate Israeli Occupation Forces training bases to a single new facility in the Naqab, near Beersheba – a site of recent attempts to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian population – this ‘Training Base City’ plan would be funded through the sale of bonds to meet the first 19 billion shekels of a 50 million total.[viii]

Dissuading people and institutions from buying bonds that fund the Israeli state should not be made a priority for those in the BDS movement, for a couple of reasons. The first is that boycotting and divesting from complicit companies is far easier and more accessible in terms of process and results. The second is that bonds are simply a less-common economic link to Zionism; finding out who bought what number of bonds and at what price could be tedious and unfruitful. However, this is not to say that people in the US should not look out for Israel Bonds activity and those living in the UK aware of State of Israel Bonds UK – both have direct links to the Israeli state, and are therefore unequivocal BDS targets. Those in universities and trades unions can now begin to investigate whether or not their institutions are complicit in Zionist colonialism. The fact that bonds are now being promoted as a panacea to BDS is a hint that bonds must be given more attention by those seeking to strengthen and amplify solidarity with Palestinians.

 

[i] Definition by Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bond.asp

[ii] http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/Israel-Bonds-A-record-breaking-strategic-asset-for-Israel-337529

[iii] http://www.israelbonds.com/about/from-the-ceo.aspx

[iv] http://jewishbusinessnews.com/2014/05/05/israel-bonds-celebrates-israeli-independence-calls-for-investment-in-the-future/

[v] http://www.israelbonds.com/learn/learn.aspx

[vi] http://www.israelbonds.com/learn/history.aspx

[vii] http://www.israelukbonds.com/israel.html

[viii] http://www.haaretz.com/business/.premium-1.583284