Daily Archives: June 22, 2010

Tel-Aviv school principal to face Knesset Committee on 21 June over his outspoken views against the occupation

How I was summoned to the Knesset

by Ram Cohen
Ynet Hebrew, June 18 2010
Translation Adam Keller

On Monday, June 21, I am to appear before the Knesset Education Committee and the Minister of Education, Mr. Gideon Saar, following my unequivocal words to my students, condemning the 43 year-old occupation and rule over the life of the Palestinian people.

A school principal should have a clear and unequivocal moral position about any subject and issue on the agenda of Israeli society. A principal is not an educational clerk. A principal must have, for example, something to say about the deportation of the children of migrant workers, trafficking in women, the separation fence, the withdrawal from Gaza, minimum wage law, settlers attacking Palestinian villagers to exact a `price tag`, the removal of Arabs from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, the siege on Gaza, corruption in government, or the relations of religion and state.

It is the duty of a school principal to take a stand and to defend it if necessary. A principal can not rest content with nodding and mumbling when students ask questions about the conflicts in Israeli society. The one who gives evasive answers is a hollow person, not worthy of being called an educator. Being an educator means to uphold a set of universal and national values which deserve to be part of the state`s symbols.

Being at the storm center of controversy, I was recently obliged to introduce for discussion at our school a spectrum of opinion for and against our presence in the Occupied Territories, and I must admit that this was very difficult for me. When I believe that our country does not respect International Law and its own laws, nor does it have proper regard for human rights – I frankly find it hard to admit into the school representatives of views which support the status quo. Since the expulsion from Paradise it is our duty to distinguish right from wrong. It is my duty to point out the wrong, and to strongly condemn it.

Those who demand that I prepare students for recruitment should know that my duty is also to tell them that they would enter a territory which was occupied 43 years ago, in which human rights are being shamefully violated on a daily basis by means of our military superiority. In future, these children will have to account for themselves, and they will ask if their school has revealed to them the terrible secret called occupation. Yes, occupation. An occupation, not a liberation, not a return to an ancestral land. Not even a return to dry water holes which have been re-filled with tears. *

In the school which I run, there is no entry to proponents of the racist Kahane ideology. There is no place for people who advocate the use of drugs for relieving stress, nor to rabbis who argue that discrimination of Sephardi girls is justified due to the internal codes of their religious community, to those who promote a multiculturalism which includes female genital mutilation – and to those who justify the discrimination against Arab residents of this country or the `encouraging` of them to emigrate.

Wherever there is a conflict, any decision will be a political decision. When I decided seven years that this school would teach Arabic rather than French, that was a political decision. The same when I decided that school hikes will not include the `City of David` settlers.**

On the other hand, also school principals who let their students go to a protest against the withdrawal from Gaza and who present it as the deportation of Jews from their land are performing a political act. To talk to students about a holy duty of settling Jews from the sea to the Jordan River, on the basis of a Divine promise, is a political act. Expressing opposition or support to the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilead Shalit – what is that if not taking a political stand?

So what are the limits of freedom of expression at school? My answer is: everything is permitted provided that it does not contradict such basic values as democracy, universalism and humanism, as well as observing the laws of the State of Israel which should conform to the norms of the Family of Nations.

I can not end this statement without noting that this Knesset debate would probably not have taken place had Professor Yuli Tamir still been Minister of Education and Haim Oron Still headed the Education Committee***. The obvious conclusion is that free speech in the schools is not determined solely by the innocuous expedient of `examining the boundaries`. Rather, it varies according to the political perceptions of those who at the moment occupy the top positions in the educational system, the Knesset and the government.

Ram Cohen is an educator and principal of the Aleph High School in Tel Aviv.

* This is a reference to the song `Jerusalem of Gold`, embodying the nationalist euphoria of 1967, which includes the words `We have come back to the waterholes`.

** The settlers group known as `Elad` have established themselves at Silwan Village, directly south of the Old City of Jerusalem, where they claim King David had his palace 3000 years ago, with the proclaimed aim of `Judaising` it. They have expelled Palestinian residents from several homes and took them over, and the `archeological` diggings conducted by settlers undermine the foundations of many other houses. The `National Park` maintained by the settlers is recommended by the Ministry of Education as a venue for school hikes.

*** Yuli Tamir and Haim Oron, of respectively the Labor Party and the Left-Zionist Meretz Party, held the positions mentioned until the accession of Binyamin Netanyahu to power.

Vigils, Gallipoli Barracks, Thursday afternoons.

Hi friends and comrades,

A message from Merv Langford who was closely involved in organising the community vigils in Brisbane during the Israeli assault on Gaza last year.

Ross Gwyther

Friends, for some years there has been a vigil / protest held (almost) weekly on Wardell St, Enoggera – near the corner of Lloyd St. This is the last intersection closest to the main entrance to Gallipoli Barracks.

As I understand it, it came out of both the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) and the Catholic Worker movements – both groups with long traditions of anti-war actions. It has been very focused on both the Afghan and Iraqi wars.

And with the barracks’ being a last jumping off point for Australian troops heading to the Middle East, focusing on this is very appropriate. Sometimes we even have the pleasure of fit looking young men with “short, back and sides” wandering along to set us straight. Explaining why “we” have to kill people in Afghanistan and Iraq to keep Australia “safe”, of course.

On rarer occasions, worried looking young women – with young children –
stand on the other side of the road and watch these men passing on to us what they have obviously been told – in their classrooms at the barracks.

However, we have mainly been making our point to the passing commuters with placards – and it is a fairly busy road.

In discussions with some of the recent attendees, it seemed best to spread the word to a wider circle of peace activists so as to increase the numbers of possible participants – and so help increase the impact of what we are doing.

Consequently, Thursday afternoon has been made the afternoon of choice.

I would like to invite all anti-war activists to keep in mind what you are doing on Thursday afternoons and see if you can include becoming a regular placard waver, as part of your day —4pm – 5pm Thursdays, Wardell St, Enoggera, close to Lloyd St (the intersection where the Matilda servo is). Easy parking in Lloyd St.

Please pass this info on to your friends. Look forward to seeing you there,


Left and Right in Contemporary European Politics

You are invited to a meeting on Wednesday the 23rd of June at 7pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, to be addressed by two visiting left scholars who are briefly in Brisbane, Peter Thomas, recently the author of The Gramscian Moment and well-known to many of those who were familiar with Brisbane radical politics in the nineties, and Sara Farris, who is well-known for her work on Weber and on Italian political theorists.

The topic will be Left and Right in Contemporary European Politics.

The discussion will be introduced by two brief talks, the titles and summaries of which appear below.

‘Project Europe’ and the Radical Left.
The Western European Radical Left has gone through important experiences of regroupment and recomposition over the last 15 years. Waves of social struggles in individual nation-states (most prominently, France and Greece) have interacted with European-wide and international protest movements (e.g., the movement against the EU constitution; the alternative globalisation and anti-war movements).

These movements have given rise to the emergence of new political formations and actors in number of Western European nation-states (particularly in France and Germany), which are struggling to develop a radical alternative to the increasingly aggressive (post) neoliberal dimensions of ‘Project Europe’.

Other political cultures (such as England and Italy) have witnessed arguably less successful but nevertheless significant attempts at the consolidation of political formations to the left of traditional social democracy. The deepening of the global economic crisis and its regional articulation as a crisis of the Eurozone, both economically and politically, can only be expected to pose further difficulties – but also opportunities – for these projects of ‘refoundation’ of the radical Left. This talk with provide a brief and selective survey of the history and of some of the most significant recent initiatives of Western European Radical Left to develop a socialist alternative to the ‘New Old World’.

Peter Thomas is a Lecturer at Brunel University, London. He is a member of the editorial board of ‘Historical Materialism: research in critical Marxist theory’.

The Far-Right in Europe. Hegemonic Project or Fragmentary Reaction to the Economic Crisis?
Recent European Elections have revealed at least two alarming phenomena: on the one hand, the increasing distance of EU citizens from the European Institutions, and, on the other hand, the dramatic growth of xenophobic and ultra-nationalist parties. The unprecedented success of far-right parties in Europe is certainly one effect of the failures of the process of European integration, although in a very contradictory fashion. Yet, more importantly, this success is especially the result of the economic crisis, the dismantling of welfare state services and the impoverishment of the population that has increasingly threatened the European working classes since the late 1990s. The far-right, and especially its anti-immigration and racist propaganda, has started becoming more aggressive. It has even managed to find support in social strata and territories that were once points of reference for the left. Can we speak of a hegemonic project of the far-right in Europe? How can we establish an hegemonic project for the left that will be able to challenge the threats represented by these xenophobic and right-wing organisations?

Sara R. Farris is a Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and senior research fellow of the Institute for Women’s History, Amsterdam. She is a member of the organisation Sinistra Critica (Critical Left), in Italy.

There will be food and drink, convivial interaction and a possible but not guaranteed absence of Leon. Bring your friends.

Solidarity forum: The roots of Australian racism

Solidarity forum:


Guest Speaker: Phil Griffiths, Academic and Historian

The recent hysteria around refugee boats has brought back some of the worst bigotry of the Howard years. Why does this racism persist? This meeting will attempt to explain the roots of Australian racism and why it’s in the interests of everyone to fight it.

All welcome.

2pm, Saturday 26th June
Meeting Room 2D, Level 2
Queensland State Library, Southbank

Presented by Solidarity

Veteran Group disgusted by patronising rhetoric about soldiers’ deaths

Veteran Group disgusted by patronising rhetoric about soldiers’ deaths

The Australian-based veterans group Stand Fast today rejected recent statements made by Defence Minister John Faulkner regarding the recent tragic deaths in Afghanistan of Australian soldiers.

Stand Fast spokesperson Hamish Chitts said the group, comprised of veterans and former military personnel who oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, regards the rhetorical remarks of Faulkner and others as a vile attempt to turn public opinion to support the war in Afghanistan.

“This war is primarily about having easier access to the oilfields in Turkmenistan to the North of Afghanistan, including a possible pipeline from these oilfields through Western Afghanistan to lucrative markets in Pakistan and India. It is about strategic real estate for the US military in a resource rich part of the world. Soldiers are sacrificing their lives so that others can earn a profit from it,” he said.

“To bury this war under the cloak of democracy and a war on terror is ridiculous. As veterans and ex-service personnel, we reject this attempt to say that anyone in Afghanistan has died for Australia’s security or international stability. We think Faulkner is looking after the interests of big business and dressing it up to look like the people of Afghanistan have the capability and desire to invade Sydney,” Mr Chitts said.

The veteran’s comments came after John Faulkner was quoted as saying; “While our mission in Afghanistan is difficult, it is vital for international stability and for the security of Australia.”

“Stand Fast would like to ask Mr Faulkner and Mr Rudd how is international stability and security achieved supporting US funded Afghan Government departments whose sole job is to offer bribes and government positions to the worst terrorist leaders of the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami? ”

“In this Faulkner and Rudd security, the very terrorist we were supposed to be afraid of is now offered rewards while between 8,768 to 28,360 innocent peasant farmers and their families have been slaughtered,” Mr Chitts said.

Stand Fast does not support the politics and religious fundamentalism of the Taliban. Initially the Taliban was easily defeated because they didn’t have the support of most Afghans.

Now their ranks are swelling, not by people who have suddenly been won over to the Taliban’s view of the world but by people who oppose rigged elections and the puppet regime of thugs and opium barons whose rule our troops help enforce.

“These Members of Parliament, both Labor and Coalition vie with each other to be seen as ‘the diggers friend’. Most have never served in the Defence Force nor left the comforts of their parliamentary offices. ”

“The fact that politicians use these deaths to sell their unpopular and unjustifiable war in Afghanistan is disgusting. As veterans our thoughts are with the families of the dead and all those still in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. No more blood should be shed for the profiteers, 6 out of 10 Australians oppose the war, bring the troops home now,” Mr Chitts said.

For further information
contact Hamish on 0401 586 923
or email standfast.au@gmail.com
or http://www.stand-fast.webs.com