Reader Post: The Lies of Rajah Shehadeh To Commemorate SOAS’s Centenary

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Rajah Shehadeh is a writer and lawyer. He is frequently to be found at literary and cultural events. He presents himself as a moderate but Meron Benvisti – no supporter of Israel’s actions over the years – sees Shehadeh differently, speaking of the ‘…hatred that does not know any bounds, and that blinds the eyes of the … fighter for human rights…’. He deplored Shehedeh’s resort to ‘groundless propaganda that he hears and fabricates.’

Shehadeh co-founded a ‘human rights’ organisation, Al-Haq, in 1979. Al-Haq specialises in distorting the facts to promote demonisation of Israel. It never reports on human rights violations perpetrated by Palestinians on each other. More recently it has had links to terrorism. The head of Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin, is prohibited from travelling abroad by Jordan and Israel due to his substantive involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Shehadeh left al-Haq in the 1990’s but his time at the organisation is something of which he is proud, with mention of it in seemingly all of his bios in a variety of publications.

Shehadeh was one of the lecturers chosen by SOAS of London University (School of Oriental and African Studies) to honour its centenary (ironically it was founded in the same year as the Balfour Declaration was signed!). On Thursday evening (9 March 1917) Shehadeh was feted at SOAS by the Principal, Baroness Amos, who introduced him to a room full of about 500 people, including three rows of VIPs at the front (including SOAS staff). His title: Does Israel Fear Peace?

The lecture (which I attended) was an absolute disgrace. A solid hour of lies and vilification of Israel, with no Q and A. It was not part of Israel Apartheid Week – it was organised by the University. But it was every bit as distorted and mendacious as any of the three IAW events I have attended (blogging three of them). It can be viewed here.

Below I transcribe the worst of the distortions. (The transcription is not precisely verbatim but includes all the main text of the falsehoods). I fisk many of them (see the Comments). The rest I hope are self–evidently lies to all but the most biased of readers – they can be easily shown to be so.

“50 years ago …I sat with my father … as he dictated .. a plan for ending the .. conflict. The core was a Palestinian State ..following the lines of the 1947 Partition Scheme with East Jerusalem as its capital. Refugees would be compensated according to UN Resolution 194. The Plan had the support of some 50 Palestinian Leaders. However it was not accepted by Israel”

He speaks of its rejection as if Israel refusing to return to the November 1947 position because 50 Palestinians asked nicely was extreme or irrational – as if the Arabs had proposed something valid and Israel – the aggressor – had refused. But remember, this is not about a return to the 1949 armistice position, but the lines of the November 1947 partition plan. The Arabs had all flatly rejected this plan – which was what led to the conflict!

The Plan was neither accepted nor even considered by the Israeli government which since the Occupation has been dodging one peace offer by the Palestinians and the Arab States and in the words of the historian Avi Raz ‘practising a policy of deception’… Most of the PLO supporters of the plan were assassinated by Israel, amongst whom were my father.

It is not known who killed his father in 1985 – as he says in his book. But of course it suits his narrative to blame Israel.

As time passed, most of the PLO supporters of the plan were assassinated by Israel, amongst whom were my father [Aziz Shehadeh], Issam Sartawi, Said Hammami, Naem Hader (sp?), Azadin Chalak (sp)? Now 50 years later it is what the PLO and most of the countries of the world are calling for. How much suffering would we all have been spared, had gone through then.

Issam Sartawi was assassinated in 1983, in an attack claimed by the ‘Abu Nidal’ Organisation. Said Hammami was assassinated in 1978, also by ‘Abu Nidal’. The last two names may have met a similar fate, but I was unable to identify them.

As David Collier points out, all were murdered – but not by Israel. They were killed by other Arabs for not being extreme enough! The truth is, that like everywhere around Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and, Libya, political opponents have a short shelf life. Being moderate and placing yourself against radical terror organisations, tends to impact on your ability to stay alive. How on earth can Shehadeh stand on a platform at SOAS in friont of around 500 people – including many academic staff – and calmly blame Israel for Arab clan wars, Arab extremism, the lack of democracy and their inability to live with those that think differently?

There was new thinking which declared a new Palestinian State alongside Israel.’
‘The refugees were not defined within the UN Refugee Convention as refugees. Palestine ceased to exist.

Not true. The UN defines not just those who left in 1948 as ‘refugees’, but their children and grandchildren too.

There is still no word in Hebrew for Naqba.

Its commemoration was made illegal by law

This is untrue. The Nakba Law does NOT make ‘commemoration illegal’. Rather, it grants the finance minister the power to reduce the budget of state-funded bodies that openly reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, or that mark Independence Day as a day of mourning.

Israel describes the War in 1948 as the War of Independence. This was long before the culture of false truth had emerged. By doing so, it is claiming that it got its independence from the British.

The real reason why Israel makes this claim is because the new country wanted to position itself within the group of decolonised nations. The newly established country reinvented a history that excluded any recognition of the indigenous non-Jewish inhabitants, forcing out most of them and erasing any sign of their former presence and history in the land.

As has often been noted, the conceit goes that prior to the ‘return’ of the exiled Jews there was nothing there. The Palestinians who happened to be on the land only came when the first Zionist colonisation began, because it created economic opportunities for them. Otherwise the land was fallow, empty, desert – waiting for 3000 years for the return of its original and true owners, the Jews, to arrive and populate it.

No coincidence that this ‘terra nullius’ is the exact justification given by colonists the world over

In other words, in 1948 there was an attempt at rewriting the entire history of Palestine. It was akin to year zero, after which a new history begins with the ingathering of the Jews into their historic homeland, Israel.

The conceit of an empty land did not only apply to 1948.

Consider the song Jerusalem of Gold, written by the Israeli national poet, Nomi Shemer. It describes East Jerusalem in 1967 as ‘an empty place without residents. The water wells ran dry. The market square is empty’ In her eyes the Arabs were merely transparent figures.

    It’s a lie. Here are the words: ‘We have returned to the cisterns, to the market and to the market-place’. And Shemer was not a ‘national poet’, she was a musician and songwriter.

Nothing about ‘an empty place without residents’

The first version of Jerusalem of Gold does indeed speak of an empty market square, etc. It was composed just before the Six Day War. It refers to the Old City of Jerusalem, then empty of Jews (due to ethnic cleansing by the Arab Legion in 1948). Shemer rewrote that verse after the war, with the words quoted above replacing the “empty place” lyrics. The ‘return’ she speaks of is the return of the Jews to the Old City.

This view is not exclusive to Israel. Many in the world go along with the belief that Israel is not a historic country, established 69 years ago by UN Resolution. But rather a biblical State. Much derives from this ahistoric view. If it is 3000 years old then it has not taken anyone’s land; it does not need to empty the land of its Palestinian inhabitants and take over their place.

In the West Bank, public land and places with meaning – as well as archaeological sites that do not show any evidence of Jewish settlement – are being systematically destroyed or renamed. Because our memories are not recognised by the Jewish settlers who are intent on transforming the land to reflect only their own.’

It all derives from the refusal to recognise the Naqba.

The Israeli version of what happened in 1948 is the dominant narrative of the events of that year. It was against this story supported by the most popular of books the Bible and with the sympathy from one of the worst atrocities in modern history, the Holocaust, that the Palestinians had to tell the world their version of what befell them in 1948 and to this day alas we are still not successful in getting it across, we have no voice.

I was born after the Naqba in Ramallah, to which my family was exiled from their coastal home in Jaffa.

This is a lie. His family has a summer house in Ramallah and when hostilities began they chose for safety’s sake to move to Ramallah. They were not ‘exiled’.

The second Naqba started soon after 1967 with the occupation of the rest of Palestine. From the early 80s I could not imagine that it could end in any other way than as apartheid.

Ariel Sharon planned to deal with us similarly to how the apartheid regime dealt with the black majority. In 1981 he secretly visited South Africa. He told his aide that what he most wanted to know about was the Bantustan. How they are structured and administered. He was obviously planning for a similar state for the Palestinians. He invited one of the Bantustan Presidents to visit Israel, where he was met with great pomp and ceremony. This President also visited one of the settlements and in his speech called this ‘a historic day’. It was then that I realised that Israel was learning from the apartheid regime and that the future they planned for us was similar to the homelands which apartheid South Africa designated for the black population. In time I was proven right.

Sharon did visit South Africa for 10 days in 1981. It was not a ‘secret visit’ – it was widely reported at the time. If he told ‘his aide’ that what he most wanted to know about was the Bantustan, neither Sharon nor ‘his aide’ ever reported it, and it is not clear how Shehada would know (unless he is claiming to be that aide!). The purpose of the visit, which was widely reported, was to deepen defence ties, and had nothing to do with apartheid or Bantustans.

There is no evidence of a Bantustan ‘president’ visiting Israel shortly thereafter at Sharon’s invitation.

There is evidence of Sharon inviting the South African Defence Minister but none of an invitation to a Bantustan president. There’s also an article in the Journal of Palestine Studies from 1986 which is typically critical of Israel entitled ‘Israel and the Bantustans’ which documents great South African displeasure with Israel’s foreign policy toward the Bantustans, and, in particular, Israel’s refusal to recognise the Bantustans as independent states. The article mentions a 1985 visit of a Bantustan chief minister (Zulu chief Gatsha Buthelezi) to Israel, but it does not record that he or any other Bantustan president visited a settlement, and, of course, the article makes no claims about the alleged Israeli ‘learning from the apartheid regime and [planning] the future … for [the Palestinans] similar to the homelands which apartheid South Africa designated for the black population.’

Israel learnt to avoid the mistakes of the white regime that they figured had led to the failure of apartheid, that is, the dependence of the economy on black labour. Thus in the early 1990s Israel proceeded to reduce the dependence on Palestinian labour by closing the borders between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, and importing workers from abroad, even though it was more expensive for them to do so. Through the Oslo Accord, Israel managed to further the implementation of the apartheid model. This it did by repackaging the occupation, without ending it, transferring civilian matters to a newly created Palestinian Authority, while keeping the majority of the land under Israeli de facto sovereignty, controlling the borders and creating Bantustans for the Palestinians with a security fence, subcontracting certain powers to leaders it did not choose – and yet in some way it did, by assassinating those whom it did not like.

Lies. The borders were secured to stop suicide bombers. The assertion that Israel ‘assssinates those whom it does not like’ is simply beneath contempt.

After winning the 1967 War, Moshe Dayan declared “we are now an empire” and proceeded to act with imperial arrogance. Some might say, Israel is still drunk with victory.

This is presumably sourced from a book by Avi Raz, a leftwing Israeli historian. There is no corroboration of this quote elsewhere else.

The legal adviser to Rabin conducted peace negotiations as if he was a lawyer, doing a real estate deal, when the two sides are unlikely to ever meet. How inappropriate to Israel and Palestine, who are fated to live side-by-side.

Peace would mean a restructuring of the myth on which the Israeli State has been established, and possibly large amounts of compensation for the dispossessed Palestinians and sharing the land with them. There is also the possible loss of some of their most lucrative exports, of weapons and weapon systems. Beyond this commercial consideration, there is another matter.

The war footing perpetuates the fear that acts as the glue that holds the various contradictory strands of Israeli society together. In this, Israel is different from apartheid South Africa. Where in South Africa the Master Race was homogenous, in Israel it is polarised, politically economically and socially.

Israel needs the conflict for its very existence.

The establishment media favours a distorted view of balance. During the Gaza War in 2014, I was interviewed by BBC Today. I noted that Gaza is still occupied. Instead of asking what are the implications of this, the programme brought in Dore Gold who denied it. Rather than expose the deception, the BBC was propagating it. I thought the BBC’s mission was to educate the public.’

Gold was right, Gaza is not ‘occupied’. Notice how Shehadeh thinks that a two-way discussion is ‘deception’….

There is hardly any international pressure on Israel to lift its siege of Gaza. Here is how one observer described it. ‘Gaza is cloaked in desperation. You feel it the minute you cross the border. It’s like travelling to another world. Already at the crossing you see seriously ill people. Mainly cancer patients, waiting in line in a hall. They are hoping for some compassion and permission to cross the border and receive treatment. You go by car and see ruins. Thousands of destroyed houses, factories in ruins. Sewage flowing through the streets. There’s terrible poverty, there is no money. Not for food or medication, not for warm clothes for children. People light fires in order to keep warm. It is quite common to see a fire outside a tent, standing next to a ruined house. Water sources are contaminated. Gaza is on the brink of as humanitarian disaster.’ ‘

This quote is from Salah Haj Yahya, a member of Physicians for Human Rights which has a record of distortion and publishing unverifiable evidence. Evidence from shopping malls in Gaza certainly does not corroborate his description.

Despite the power of the Israeli Empire and its 50-year-old attempt at imposing on the world its status in the occupied territories is not that of an Occupier, but the fulfilment of the wish of the Almighty, the world continues to refer to it by its correct name – ‘Occupation’.

Is Israel betting on the collapse of international law? It might well be so.

The Israeli government’s latest law legalises the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land on which settlements were built. In effect, it makes the illegal, legal.

The settlements are not illegal. No Court has ever said this (I exclude the ICJ which is not a proper Court). The new law simply enforces land-use regulations accompanied by the payment of complete compensation.

What I find most unpalatable is the extent of the meanness and utter Kafkaesque absurdity that is so often displayed by Israel. The Israeli authorities refuse to allow children from Gaza to come for cancer treatment accompanied by their mother or any other relative, unless they are over 55 years of age.

Of all Shehadi’s lies, this was the most egregious and vicious, playing as it did on the audience’s natural sympathy for children with cancer.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) produces a monthly report about patients allowed out of Gaza for treatment. Look what it says (this is the Report for November 2016):

42.7% of all companions’ applications were approved and only 6.8% denied. It is hardly likely that these approvals were only for companions of adult patients or for companions of sick children who did not have cancer. And here is a report of a child cancer patient from Gaza with a mother who is surely under 55 (‘Neumann introduced me to a mother from Gaza whose eight-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with an abdominal tumor at the age of one year and three months’). And here is 6 year old Aya from Gaza being treated for leukaemia in Israel, accompanied by her Mum, Ibitsam Abbad Al-Aall. Watch the video. Do you think her Mum is over 55? If so, Gaza has the best cosmetic surgeons on the planet!

Note by the way that Hamas utilises child labour in the construction of its terror tunnels. Nearly 200 have died while constructing those tunnels since 2012.

An Israeli regulation allows visitors to prisoners to bring in five photos. A visitor brought a photo of five family members. Upon inspection the visitor was told he could only take that one photo – because it showed five people, so counts for five photos.

Anecdote – no evidence.

A 32 year old lived with his ailing mother in a West Bank refugee camp woke up as soldiers burst into the house. They shot him 11 times, claiming he threatened them with a knife and locked his mother Fawziya in the bedroom.

According to the IDF – which was conducting an arrest raid – Muhammad a-Salahi rushed at the soldiers with a knife in hand and did not heed calls to stop. A-Salahi had served time in Israeli jail. Explosive devices were thrown at the troops and they were shot at during the raid.

Israel rules by fear – by keeping Israeli Arabs in fear that their houses will be demolished.

The sad fact is that Israel does not want peace.

A lie. Israel has proved time and again that it wants peace. It concluded peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt. It forced Jews out of Gaza and the Sinai in the interest of peace. It developed Iron Dome to protect its population and in order that it should not have to engage in offensives in Gaza unless absolutely necessary.

If Israel wanted peace, it would teach its people Arabic.

He is wrong. Spoken Arabic is mandatory in all Jewish primary schools in Israel. It became mandatory in secondary schools years ago.

Israel recruited collaborators who helped to kill Palestinians who called for peace.

Israel was greedy for land. Its leaders were full of hubris. Their policies encouraged extreme violence.

Defence Ministry official Amos Gilad said “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”

Ghandi’s relationship with Jews and Israel was troubling.

Before Zionism, Arabs and Jews lived together in peace.

Not true. There was frequent Arab aggression. For example in 1929 – 19 years before the creation of Israel – some 67 Jews were murdered in Hebron by Arabs, incited to violence by false rumours that Jews were planning to seize control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

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A hard-hitting feature by Rosamund Urwin in the Evening Standard exposed the sad truth that most British Jews have long known: that SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, might just as well be named the ‘The School Of Organised AntiSemitism’.

Back in 2015, Jewish students at SOAS said they were too scared to go to lectures, following a campus vote to boycott Israel. I experienced some of that after the Shehadeh lecture. In protest at the lies and demonisation, I showed the Israel flag and shouted about the lies (not during the lecture – after he had finished speaking). I was promply escorted out by security. On the way a man told me I was a ‘f*cking idiot’. Outside, as I was making a call, the same thing happened, from another very aggressive man.

Memo to Baroness Amos: No, it’s not just ‘different opinions’ (as you said to me Thursday evening). SOAS at 100 has few Jewish students. Unless things change – and they must – SOAS will be Jew-free many years before the bicentennial.

Jonathan Hoffman is a blogger who has written for United With Israel, CiFWatch (now UK Media Watch), Harrys Place and Z-Word.

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