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Protesting in the Square

From Michael Prior

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The efforts being made by the rather absurdly named Head of Neighbourhoods, Mr. A. Pitts, to resurrect the efforts to move Chris Drake from her protest in St. George’s Square are obviously outrageous. I would like to use the HebWeb to challenge the three public officers involved in the altercations on Wednesday and Thursday this week on a number of matters.

I would ask Neighbourhood Pitts just why the two-year old efforts to evict Chris Drake have been resurrected? Have you received any complaints about her and, if so, what was the basis of any such complaint? Why did you simply cut-and-paste a previous letter sent in August, 2015 by another Council officer, the equally wonderfully titled Director—Economy and Environment, without bothering to check if the allegations in that letter referring to a “seat” and plural lamp-posts were true? Are you not aware that your pompous references to taking legal action against Chris would undoubtedly collapse if for no other reason than the initial letter contained false allegations? Have you or any of your officers actually visited the Square to check what Chris has been doing? Do you think it is appropriate to continue to use Mr. M. Smith to deliver your letters when a formal allegation of assault, true or not, has been made against him?

I would like to ask Highways Enforcement Officer M. Smith if he is aware that taking away material belonging to another constitutes theft and that it is not sanctioned by any Highways Act? I would also like to ask him whether his belligerent attitude towards Chris Drake, based upon my personal observation, is appropriate for a Council worker towards a local tax-payer.

I would like to ask an unidentified Community police Officer whether it is normal police procedure when a woman makes a formal complaint of assault against a named man in the immediate vicinity to take no action other than to have a long, private conversation with this man? Is it not normal at least to take down the name and address of the complainant?

Chris takes up a very small footprint in the Square for nine of twelve hours a week. The three cafés in the Square use up far more by paying the small sum of £242 annually whilst there are numerous pieces of unlicensed signs taking up much the same space as Chris. we need to offer her all support as she is adamant that she will not give way to intimidation by the boorish Council worker who tries to steal her posters.

And perhaps our local councillors can ask Neighbourhood Pitts just what lies behind his renewed efforts, two years after Economy Thompson gave up?

From Vikki Uttley

Sunday, 16 July 2017

We need people like Chris. We need free speech. This is how change starts, be it apartheid,  gay rights,  fights for equality for us all, the list could be endless.

One man in front of a tank, one woman stood in a town square. It's a start its important.

From Amanda Pumo

Sunday, 16 July 2017

In my opinion Chris should be applauded for her vidgilance and sheer Yorkshire grit. 

The council are just pathetic bullies. One single person who pauses to look in a shop window takes up more space than Chris does. 

I've witnessed Chris diplomaticlly putting up with abuse from fanatical Christain groups, who just don't get it!

Leave her alone. Shes a good woman with a social conscience who is prepared to stand by her beliefs, on behalf of people who have no voice.
Well done Chris. 

From Andrew B

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Unlike those above, I actually disagree with the fact that one person can take over part of the town square- if this were a group of youths there would be cries of ASB and intimidation.

This woman rams her views down our throats and I for one, along with others I have spoken to have had enough. Perhaps she could visit other towns, maybe spread her word wider and give us a break?

From Vikki Uttley

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Mr Andrew B states, "The lone lady has taken over the square!!" What, all of it?

"Group of youths" etc. It is not, and anyway youths are a mixed bunch like us 'grown ups'.

"This woman" -  that would be Chris - "rams views down throats" - as you are doing on Hebweb Mr B.

Fed up with it (read 'it' as protest) as others are I have spoken to..... everyone is entitled to their opinion on this subject for or against and that opinion is to be respected.

And finally, "give us a break and go to another town", or as I translate that statement, shift it out of sight because I do not agree with what is being said/ done.

But we can say/write about this issue because we have a voice. It's called free speech. 

From Graham Barker

Sunday, 16 July 2017

I’ve just reread the lengthy September 2015 thread on Christine’s protest and not much seems to have changed. She still divides opinion and I’m on the side that sees her activities as more of a vanity project than one that tells us anything we didn’t already know about Palestine. Like Andrew, I suspect that if she were really committed she’d tour her protest and not confine it to nice, safe, relatively comfortable George Square.  

From Jonny Gale

Monday, 17 July 2017

The message of the protest in the square is one of hate. We are being asked to hate the state of Israel, hate western governments for their support of Israel, and by extension, hate anybody who appears to side with Israel. We are confronted with hateful images of dead children. We are told that Israel operates a system of Apartheid, and that if we are neutral, we side with the oppressor. 

Hebden Bridge is a town where people care. There is injustice all over the world and it is right that we should care about this. The Kurds have been oppressed for years by Iraq, Syria and by our ally, Turkey. They are now in the front line against Saudi and Qatar backed ISIS, who are in turn massacring non-Muslims, and Shia Muslims. Tibet has been annexed by China, who oppress falun-gong. The President of Zimbabwe has engaged in brutal long-running suppression of his opposition. In Chechnya at the moment, there appear to be concentration camps for homosexuals, who are treated scarcely better in Russia, where the leader of the opposition is in prison. Black individuals are killed by US police on an almost monthly basis. Our own war machine, and those of our allies periodically rain down destruction on poorer countries, and causes deaths of innocent non-combatants, albeit unintentionally and we cannot pretend there is no injustice in our own country. While Israel was the subject of this protest, only a short distance away, Assad's and bombs utterly and indiscriminately destroyed his own great Syrian city of Aleppo, and its inhabitants, killing more people in 2 weeks than in several years of the Israel-Palestine conflict. We should be conscious of all of this, and all of these things have an equal right to impinge on our lives as we walk across our town square. 

But we are daily exhorted to hate the State of Israel and those who give it support. Alongside the photographs of dead children, accompanied by home-made captions (we must take their provenance on trust) is a poster informing us that "Zionists" are responsible for the world banking crash, 9/11, owning the US government, and aggressive espionage. That particular poster is headed "Rothschild" and features a satanic looking figure sporting a swastika and a star of David. I photographed that poster on a lamp-post outside the tea rooms in April 2017.  The word "Genocide" features large on another poster often affixed to a public litter bin. To most people, genocide is a deliberate attempt to wipe out an entire race. And yet there are many Palestinians living in Israel, who are afforded full constitutional rights (one of the many facets of "the other side of the argument" from that put forward by the protest). Such a strong military power, if it made a deliberate attempt to wipe out the Palestinian people, would have taken much less than 70 years to do it. Surely the fact that there is a Palestinian State, is testament to the fact that, at the very least, there is no deliberate attempt to wipe out the Palestinian People.  Most people, including the UN, which is critical of Israel accept, though I cannot prove it here, that the Israeli government does not deliberately target children. The word Genocide is wholly inappropriate, and, like much of what is said in the context of this protest, misleading, not to mention offensive to anyone truly affected by genocide, such as Rwandans, Armenians and Jews.

Israel is not beyond criticism, but the singling out of Israel, and alleged equivalences with Nazi Germany or Apartheid South Africa, combined with the accusations against "Zionists" set out in the recent poster make it hard to avoid the conclusion that, despite the protestations otherwise, there is an element within the anti-zionist movement which is motivated to some degree by anti-semitism.  

I would finish this section by asking those who hate Israel, before giving a list of all respects in which you say Israel is an oppressive state, and before giving chapter and verse on all Israel's sins, genuinely because I do not have the answer to this, "what would you do?" And I mean positively. I know what you would not do. You would disband the settlements. OK. Even that is not so simple, mechanically, to attempt to prevent Jews from settling on land which was intended for a Palestinian State under the Oslo Accords, and over some of which Israel has no jurisdiction. OK, But then what? If you were in charge of Israel now. What would you do? Then consider and really think through the short, medium and long-term consequences of whatever it is you decide, for the current population of Israel. Most of us would favour a 2-state co-existence between Israel and Palestine. But the difficulty is how you get there, and telling people to hate one side or another is probably not helpful.

Finally, we have freedom of speech and, as a price for that, we have to tolerate public statements which we may find to be offensive, and which in many cases we think are downright misleading. But as a matter of fact, the Council is clearly not trying to stop the protest. Nor is anyone trying to prevent Mrs Drake from saying the things she says. Reading the letter in the article, it is clear that they are concerned only with the use of council property (which is public property belonging to us all) to put forward views which are clearly not those of the Council, but of Mrs Drake. It is obviously unacceptable for posters similar to the "Zionist" poster, referred to above, which clearly has its antecedents in Nazi propaganda and earlier antisemitism, to be allowed to be fixed to council property. 

From Adrian Crowther

Monday, 17 July 2017

On the Wednesday when this kicked off, we were on the square watching - and in a moment of supreme irony, several people people were stood around a lady who usually stands quietly holding a sign whilst at the same time, an amped up busker began to strum loudly and tunelessly!

From J Swift

Monday, 17 July 2017

I would consider myself a supporter of the Palestinian cause, but think that in many ways Ms Drake's protest is misguided and counter-productive.  However, the fact is that when the organs of the state are used to prevent a peaceful protest on spurious grounds, anyone who believes in the values of a liberal democracy should be concerned.

Calderdale's actions in this matter feel far too much like those of a repressive regime for comfort.

From Karen Wilson

Monday, 17 July 2017

I work in the square. I see Chris in the square on a regular basis. It's absolute rubbish that she has posters everywhere and takes up a lot of space. It's one lampost, and a small amount of floor space. 

I believe that the real issue is people don't like the truth. The message she conveys is about oppression and injustice., and sadly there are those in our community who simply wish to sweep this issue away along with Chris. 

Keep it up Chris. 

From Amanda Lindsey

Monday, 17 July 2017

I've just read Jonny Gale's comments. Well, it seems to me Mr Gale has his own agenda. He clearly is devoid of understanding over the vigil that Ms Drake undertakes, with dedication and compassion for the people of Palestine. 

She is not anti-semetic . 

Everything that happened in the Warsaw Ghetto is happening in Gaza right now. 

If people can't tolerate looking at genuine authentic pictures of Israeli abuse, then don't look. Turn away and pretend it's not happening. Happy la la land.

From Michael Prior

Monday, 17 July 2017

Hebweb readers may be interested in the following email which I have sent to Neighbourhood Czar Pitts.

Dear Mr Blake
I am writing in connection with the recently publicised efforts (see HebWeb News 14 July) to remove the posters place by Ms. C. Drake on the surface of St. George's Square in Hebden Bridge. I have three questions:

1) Did you write to Ms. Drake on 7 July solely "further to correspondence and contact with you" or have you or any Council officer received any complaint about her activity? I note that the correspondence you refer to appears to refer to a letter sent in September, 2015 by another Council officer. In this context, can you explain how you can "remain very concerned about the use...of items of street furniture"

2) Are you aware that the letter you have sent refers erroneously to the use by Ms. Drake of a "seat" and "lamp posts". Did you try to obtain from any Council officer up-to-date information about Ms. Drake's actual usage? Do you think it was appropriate to simply cut-and-paste a letter sent by someone else two years ago rather than find out the true situation?

3) Are you aware that Ms. Drake has made an official complaint of assault against Highway Enforcement Officer M. Smith? Do you think it is appropriate to continue to use Mr. Smith as your on-ther-ground messenger in view of this allegation? Are you aware that if Mr. Smith takes items which belong to Ms. Drake and keeps them then this, in the view of the police, constitutes theft?

Michael Prior
40, Spring Grove
Hebden Bridge

Mr Pitts email is andrew.pitts@calderdale.gov.uk. I will post any reply in full though I am not holding my breath 

From Jonny Gale

Monday, 17 July 2017

Dear Amanda Lindsey,

I would very much like to hear what you think my agenda is.

Do you really mean that everything that happened in the Warsaw ghetto is happening in Gaza right now?

The Warsaw Ghetto was established in order for the Nazis to "purify" the district by transporting all Jews there from the surrounding areas where they lived until 1943. In the end it was liquidated by the Nazis, who destroyed it systematically and killed everyone in it.

When the State of Israel was established in 1948, many Palestinians opted to stay and become Israeli citizens. They and their descendants are still Israeli citizens and can live anywhere in Israel. They have rights to benefits, health and education as Israeli citizens. They can vote in elections and have political parties which are represented in the Israeli Parliament. 

Others chose to live outside the new state. They went to Jordan and to Egypt. They were not welcomed. Instead, they were housed, by Jordan and Egypt, in Gaza and the West Bank, which had been taken over by those countries during the War of Independence. Israel took those territories in 1967 but has not annexed them to Israel. Instead they were occupied. In 1995 Israel withdrew from most of the territories and handed them over to Palestinian control, though there are some areas which are still occupied. Those territories are intended under the Oslo Accords to form the basis of an independent, free, Palestinian State.

In 1943, the Nazis entered the Warsaw Ghetto and systematically destroyed every part of it. They killed or deported every person living there to the network of extermination camps which they had built in order to carry out their "final solution" which was to try to exterminate all the Jews.

Every half dozen or so years, the Israeli government has launched a campaign where it attempts to prevent gradually increasingly resourced rocket attacks, where some of the occupants of Gaza, with the full and open support of the elected Gazan government, controlled by Hamas, are pursuing their openly stated policy of war against what it openly and publicly calls "the Zionist Entity". Bombing raids are carried out with the object of destroying stockpiles of weapons and killing those it considers to be militants who are planning to use those weapons, the last of these raids being in 2014. The Gazan Government chooses locations such as schools and hospitals in order to make it harder for the Israeli's to target the weapons and fighters. During these campaigns, there are almost certainly civilian casualties. However, it is very hard to ascertain the nature and extent of these, owing to the tight control of information by Hamas, and the fact that, on every occasion, the death toll is found, on independent investigation by the UN, to be less than that stated initially by the Palestinian Authorities in control. However, it is admitted and accepted that these attacks cause tragic and unacceptable civilian deaths including the deaths of children. None of the people  who are targeted in these raids are children, and Israel would never deliberately target people who are not thought to be planning to attack Israel.

If Israel wanted to carry out a liquidation of Gaza, in the manner carried out by the Nazis in 1943, this would be much much easier than what Israel is trying to do, which is to destroy the weapons and militants who openly, not in secret, prepare attacks on Israelis, with the full support of their own government. Gaza is a police state, where the information is tightly controlled (as western journalists who were embedded there will attest), and where civilians are threatened and coerced by their own government into cooperating, for fear of being executed for "collaboration", and where hatred of Israel is taught to children in schools.

I have to say that by and large I do not agree with the policies of the Israeli government on this, though I understand the reasoning behind it as it is far more logical and cogent than the reasoning behind, for example, our decision to attack Afghanistan in 2001, or to kill Osama Bin Laden in 2013 which did not seem to me to serve any practical purpose. Members of the ruling Israeli Likud Party would say that such raids have prevented attacks on Israeli civilians. I am not sure that the evidence is sufficient to justify that conclusion, and I would very much like to see a different policy pursued there. To that extent, I share an "agenda" with Mrs Drake, though I have not heard anything about what her policy would be, and I, along with the Israeli opposition, am struggling to come up with a practical alternative.

But whatever your views on the bombing raids, it is nothing like what happened in the Warsaw Ghetto. There are no gas chambers. There is no death penalty. There are no apparatus, legal, conceptual or practical, for anything resembling the mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis. Such a suggestion compounds layers of hurt on a bloody and nightmarish situation for all concerned.

As for the extent of Mrs Drake's protest, I have a photograph of a poster which was placed, along with others, on a lamppost across the square from the place by the litter bin occupied by Mrs Drake. It is one of many posters which have at various times adorn lampposts and other items all over the square. This one is notable by, among other things, the fact that it is headed "Rothschild". Beneath the heading is a sketched figure of a demonic skull with a swastika embossed star of David on its forehead. In large letters below the skull is the word "Zionist". It contains the following text: "False Flag Experts, Attack on USS Liberty, 911, Hijacked Judaism, Print Money out of thin air, Zionism is not Judaism, Genocidal Tendancies, Possesses Illegal weapons of mass destruction including chemical, biological and nuclear, Aggressive Spying on the United States, Israeli Lobby own the US Government, Propaganda experts, commit war crimes daily. Judaism is a religion of peace, Below it in large letters it reads: Zionism =racism; Israel= Apartheid. I would like to show it but cannot seem to post a picture to this forum. 

Why the references to banking? Why the conspiracy theories about 911? Why the reference to Rothschild? I would like your thoughts on this please.

The square belongs to all of us. These are messages of hate, whether or not you happen to believe that hate is justified. It is true that nobody can attach a poster to private property without the owner's consent, I would certainly not place an anti-zionist poster on my own wall, though you are free to do so. But nobody asked the consent of the people  whether we agree for our square to be co-opted to air these views.

We can criticise Israel. I have no problem with that, (nor, clearly, does Calderdale Council who expressly allow protest to continue against Israel, and, on occasion as I recall, against China.)

But I repeat: If you were Israel today, what would you do?

From Andrew B

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Vikki Utley, you evidently changed my post to something that you wanted to respond to, I stated "I actually disagree with the fact that one person can take over part of the town square"

Not quite "The lone lady has taken over the square!!" What, all of it?

Quite far apart if we're entirely honest, don't you think?

In my opinion the photo's are not something any adult or child should be forced to look at because quite frankly they do get stuck to lamposts, propped up on the backrests of benches and laid out across the floor. Why not display them privately where anyone interested can go and view them?

I'm not sure what one would hope to achieve by laying out a gallery of graphic images in the Square.

From Phil M

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

I love to see protest and causes promoted in such paces as the square, making people think and encouraging discussion. As long as they are well thought out, use only images and wording which are proven and well balanced and they are well targeted (i.e. they do not expect a continuous audience for years on end).

I do not think Ms Drake's activities are any of these things and as a resident of Hebden Bridge I ask her to rethink her approach. 

From Vikki Uttley

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

I would like to apologise for misquoting Andrew B I misread his contribution. I should, as Andrew pointed out have said 'part of the square' and not taken over 'the

From Paul Clarke

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Aside from the unrelenting tattiness of Chris Drake's posters, the really astonishing thing is that after three years this pointless 'protest' has failed to persuade Mahmoud Abbas, Yahya Sinwar and Netanyahu to put aside centuries of conflict to make peace.

Who needs a lasting negotiated  two states solution when you all you really need is a few dodgy posters in a West Yorkshire town square to secure peace.

From Dave R

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Perhaps the fact that the same arguments pro and anti Ms Drake's protest, sum it up. People are not being given opportunity to get both sides of the story. They are instead constantly bombarded by Ms Drake's propaganda. She isn't reaching 'new audiences' nor 'educating' anyone. She is quite simply using one public space relentlessly for her own vanity project. 

The images have been seen so often that we have become unaffected by them. The home made signs relentless strung across lampposts (yes often 2) benches, bins, and the floor are merely tatty and irritating. 

We can all see images of war; of atrocities in real time daily. 

Ms Drake needs to pack her protest in her rucksack and move on. I have never seen her in any other position than in the Square. I feel that speaks volumes about her passion and need to spread the word.

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 20 July 2017

As usual, a sneering,sectarian and belittling attitude emerges to Chris's stoic efforts from the "left". Rather than criticising the usual apologists and defenders of Zionism and the reality of the apartheid Israeli state we are offered the two states "solution". Unfortunately this simply ignores, and therefore implicitly justifies, the illegitimate and immoral creation of Israel in the first place and presents us with a defeatist and essentially racist argument that rests on the assumption that Palestinians and Jewish people are incapable of living side by side together in peace.

From Jewel C

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Seems to me Chris Drake must be doing something really right to expose this extent of narrow-minded vitriol from certain local residents, all apparently men offended by a woman publically visible and supported by other women. 

As so clearly identified, the only possible cases are against the council in disallowing legitimate freedom of expression and police for assault and failed duties – so why isn't such anger directed against an aggressively weak and incompetent state? 

But of course the real issue is whether we want our pretty little square sullied by reminders of the real world of oppressive violence, where whole nations of millions are still being removed and silenced, losing their lives, homes and livelihoods alongside any faith in a better future. I wonder how many of these gallant defenders of our glorious peace have actually been themselves to find out what happened to Palestine and Palestinians? 

It's just 100 years since imperialist Brits cracked our old chestnut of defending the Holy Land by imposing their Jewish problem on ancient Islamic Palestine, double-dealing the Arabs. Balfour asserted in 1917 that 'nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.' 

Is it not important that in this and many deals since, we appreciate our responsibility for harm caused to those impacted? Whichever way you look at it, there's lots of people suffering and needing human support. Isn't it worth finding out the facts before attacking? Or facing up to our real demons?

From Will Kaufman

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Sorry, Allan Keep, but you and I are on opposing sides of this, Old Friend. There's nothing "stoic" about planting yourself in the cushy little square of cushy little Hebden Bridge on sunny days for a few hours a day, drinking tea and intimidating the town's children (Jewish and otherwise) with disgusting images that we all know about, strategically placed at a child's eye level. There's nothing "stoic" about lecturing us with the pompous phrase, "Turning away won't make it go away." (Thanks, Christine, I wouldn't have known that, had you not pointed it out.)

Most importantly, there is nothing "stoic" about circulating the same old anti-Semitic tropes in the name of anti-Israeli commentary - tropes already enumerated by Johnny Gale, tropes that would not be at all out of place in Henry Ford's "The International Jew" and the Tsarist forgery, "Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

If Christine truly wants to be a warrior, let her take her take it into the belly of the beast, like Rachel Corrie did.

From Michael Prior

Thursday, 20 July 2017

First, I suggest to Messrs Gale and Kaufmann that if they see posters displayed by Ms. Drake that they consider an offence to public order or decency then they should report this to the police. We have serious laws in this country banning such things which include material frightening to children. Mr. Kaufmann has made these complaints before but not sought the appropriate remedy. It is the responsibility of the police not the Council to make such judgements.

Second, I think it is deeply offensive to use the name of brave Rachel Corrie as part of an attack on Chris. I was in Palestine in 2003 working with the International Solidarity Movement when Rachel was slaughtered by an Israeli army bulldozer whilst also working with ISM. I can testify to the extreme non-violence of ISM activity and the violence used by the Israeli army. I believe that if Rachel were to be here here today then she would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Chris. 

From Will Kaufman

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Michael Prior - I'm sure neither of us are equipped to speak for Rachel Corrie, one way or the other. She might well join Christine in the Square. She might also advise her to rethink her imagery. 

You ask in an earlier post whether or not the Council is acting on complaints from the public. Rest assured they are.

From Jonny Gale

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Dear Allen Keep, 3 points. 

Your choice to place “left” in inverted commas is apt. I shall not go into the question of how “left” are the men (for they are all men) who are in charge of Gaza. I would disagree that Mrs Drake is really on the “left" here. The Square belongs to the people. It does not seem very “left” to treat a public square as private property in the way that Mrs Drake has done, however “stoical” her insistence on the rightness of her cause.

Secondly; your position seems a little self-contradictory. Jews and Palestinians can indeed live together in peace. And they do. In the State of Israel, which you refer to as an “illegitimate and immoral creation”. I was not present at its founding back in 1948, and I cannot comment on whether its creation was any more immoral than that of any other nation state in the world, but it is here now and has a sizeable population of Jews and Arabs, including Muslim, Christian, gay, straight, men, women, all of whom have full citizenship and democratic rights that would be associated with any liberal democracy. One can only imagine the logical conclusion of the idea that the state of Israel is an illegitimate, immoral creation.

Thirdly: I asked Amanda Lindsey some questions. I was not sneering, nor am I now. Those questions are still hanging in the air: 

a. Why the references on Mrs Drake's material to Rothschild and printing money, 911 and USS Liberty (is that representative of the “left” as you see it? and 

b. If you were in charge of the State of Israel today (and I do not want an answer couched in the negative, nor do I request a tirade against what Israel is doing that it should not be doing) What Would You Do?

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 20 July 2017

 I suspect we are far from diametrically opposed Will - I'd hope not. I do however think there's plenty to be admired when someone shows courage and perseverance to further a just cause even if it's in a cushy square. 

I'm unashamedly anti -Zionist and support the Palestinian cause and there is therefore common ground so I will defend Chris against those who support the Israeli state as I will against those whose arguments are essentially small minded or are simply unduly personalised (I don't mean you Will!). 

I have been an anti-racist all my life and taken to the streets to defend Jewish people under attack. Anti-semitism disgusts me. However, I've been called an anti-Semite many times before for simply opposing Isreal. It's really important not to conflate the two. 

Of course, being overtly anti - Zionist does not mean one is somehow immune from being anti-semitic. I haven't seen the posters Will and Jonny refer to but they sound wholly inappropriate to say the least, I agree. I would certainly not defend Chris if she is displaying anti-semitic material and as a father I certainly don't support the intimidation of children by anyone.

Jonny - I didn't identify Chris as on the left although I would have thought she is. I was referring to others on the left who take an unfortunate sectarian position towards her and anyone else they don't agree with. And I certainly believe Palestinians and Jewish people can live side by side which is why I reject the two states theory. However, you continue to defend Israel and to see that state as an exemplar of liberal democracy and equality which is quite bizarre. It's not good enough to say you weren't around when the state was created - I wasn't around when we had slavery, I wasn't around when we had Nazism and the holocaust -but I know it was wrong. 

By the way, Jonny what do you see as the "logical conclusion" of describing the state of Isreal as illegitimate and immoral (something a great many anti-zionist Jewish people agree with)?...are you suggesting that view is somehow anti-semitic? 

And as for asking what would you do if you were Isreal?.... it's as pointless as asking what would you do if you were Trump. 

The question is what you should do if you are an anti-racist who opposes anti-Semitism wherever it arises and who believes in freedom, equality and justice for the Palestinian people. Whatever you can would be my thought, even if you are a man.

From Vivienne H

Saturday, 22 July 2017

 I thought some people might be interested in this  Arab-Israeli point of view:

An Arab-Christian Diplomat and Attorney Speaks about Arabs, Jews and Peace

From Will Kaufman

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Vivienne - thank you for posting the link to this uplifting and even-handed article. I hope that Christine and her defenders will read it.

From Irene K

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Jewel C asserts that Christine Drake’s detractors are “all apparently men offended by a woman publically visible and supported by other women.” I beg to disagree. I have taken extreme exception to her language and imagery over the past two years. I know that a number of women have signed their names to the latest complaint to the Council, and I know of still others who object to Christine’s protest but who do not want to face the onslaught of her aggression. (Oh yes - Christine is quick to cry “assault”, but there is such a thing as verbal assault, and I have witnessed Christine delivering that in spades to anyone who dares to challenge or question her position. I’ve also seen her sending children fleeing from the Square in tears because they, too, have taken exception to her words and pictures.)

Reading back through this thread, I can see that only one of Christine’s defenders has engaged with the charge of her anti-Semitic imagery - that is Amanda Lindsey, who declares flatly: “She is not anti-semetic [sic].” Christine may think that about herself, but her recent posters have suggested otherwise. Rothschild behind it all - really? No Rockefellers, J. P. Morgans, Credit Suisses or any other bastions of international capitalism who happen not to be Jewish? No, let’s exclusively raise the spectre of the “International Jew” with his hook nose and grasping, vampiric fingers, straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (Hell, even on The Simpsons, they were even-handed enough to give their caricature of Rothschild a decidedly patrician, WASP-sounding name: Montgomery Burns.) 

September 11 - really? The “International Jews” were behind that? What’s that even doing on a poster about the Israel-Palestine conflict? The Star of David with a Nazi swastika superimposed upon it? Christine apparently doesn’t know this (or maybe she does, and that’s the point), but the Star of David is NOT the emblem of Israel: it is the emblem of the Jewish people. True, the founders of Israel appropriated it for their flag – they would do that, wouldn’t they? When Christine chooses - ignorantly - to superimpose the swastika on the emblem of an an entire people – when she chooses to equate Jews, as a group, with Nazis, well then, why should anyone suspect that she is not an anti-Semite?

And there’s the huge red button Christine knowingly pushes when she invokes the “genocide” inflicted on the “Palestinian children.” Why can’t she simply say “Stop the killing of Palestinian children” and leave “genocide” in the ownership of those who have truly been its intended victims - Rwandans, Native Americans (North and South), Armenians — and yes — Jews?

Finally, Jewel C mentions the “imperialist Brits” who imposed “their Jewish problem on ancient Islamic Palestine.” I’ll leave the historians to engage with the historical claims of Islam in what is now Palestine - Islam, a religion dating from the seventh century A.D. - and that of the Jews of thousands of years previously. I’m not suggesting that Muslims have no claim at all to what is called “Palestine”; but neither am I suggesting that the Jews have no claim there either. No, my immediate concern is the “Jewish problem” that some people appear to be having right here in Hebden Bridge. Recently, on a day when Christine was drawing renewed attention and numbers of people around her in the Square, there was a racist lunatic on the Bridge just around the corner, raging about the need to “get rid of all the Jews.” This was right here in Hebden Bridge. We need to ask ourselves to what extent Christine - knowingly or otherwise - is an enabler of such rubbish. 

In a town that embraces the LGBT community and, I would like to think, other minorities and people of all religious affiliations or none, it distresses me deeply to see one woman acting so disruptively and selfishly in a small square which should be a neutral public space and a reflection of Hebden’s warm spirit.

From Paul D

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Israel is a relatively new expansionary state. It faces very real existential threats. It occupies territory illegally and has and still does violently suppressed dissent. Israel to me is ultimately a post-war/Cold War construct. It exists like Kuwait in some weird settlement that ignores social, cultural and historical reality. It's imperialist and exists only through violent imperialism.

Merely stating that makes me (an avowed anti-racist) a fascist in warped Zionist logic. They truck no dissent. That's all you need to know. They will not accept free speech - ever. Not in Israel, not here. Not in the square. Their square. Because they like to expand their interests, power and control to territory where they really should just let peaceful people live in peace - and argue with each other. Democracy - they despise it.

From Michael Prior

Sunday, 23 July 2017

This thread is drifting into areas which, whilst interesting, are not relevant to the original and urgent issue: should Calderdale Council stop Chris using one side of a waste bin, a lamppost and a square metre of the Square to display posters.

As the inept letter from the Head of Neighbourhoods Pitts emphasises, their intervention is, allegedly, not based on any political motive. Presumably, they would make the same intervention against anyone taking up the same space with posters saying Vote Labour/ Conservative/ Raving Loony. Yet do we believe that?

It needs repeating that public displays of anti-Semitism are criminal offences as are some of actions described concerning public order. The appropriate authority for complaints about these allegations is the police. There is ample CCTV coverage of the Square and the police would be obliged to follow up such a complaint. Why has this  not been done by one or more of those who make these allegations here?

It now appears that a letter of complaint signed by a number of people has been sent to the Council. Could this be made public? Is it concerned simply with the problem of access to a waste bin or the use of a lamppost? Does it contain the kind of inaccurate information about the extent of Chris' use of the Square which led Pitts to make false allegations in his letter? 

Like it or not, and clearly there are some who want to avoid the issue, this is a question of free speech and the defence of anyone wishing to express opinions so long as they do not offend laws on racism or public order.

From Paul Clarke

Sunday, 23 July 2017

I think we are missing a trick as we need to use Ms Drake's undoubted skills as an international peacemaker to heal the divisions in our community.

Putting aside the irony that is her pointless protest that has caused these divisions we need to use her warm interpersonal skills, proven diplomatic talents when she engages with people and obvious ability to see both sides of an argument to bring us back together.

Maybe she can create a tatty poster calling for peace in Hebden Bridge?

From Will Kaufman

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Paul D - a serious, respectful question: What is your definition of a Zionist?

From Graham Barker

Sunday, 23 July 2017

This is all getting absurdly out of hand. Let’s face it, Chris’ protest is and always has been superfluous and more self indulgent than altruistic. It’s not as though Palestine is some dirty little secret known to only a select few.

The only question for Hebden Bridge - and nowhere else, because Chris seems not to do inconvenience - is at what point, if at all, does a charmless eccentric become a public nuisance. That’s for the relevant authorities to sort out because it’s part of the job we pay them to do. We don’t have to like their decisions but there is no other civilised way of resolving some matters. Firing off pompous and arguably vexatious letters to Calderdale trying to escalate a very local matter into something it isn’t will not help.

There may be a straightforward remedy for all this. It’s a useful convention that when the messenger becomes the story, the messenger is a distraction and has to go. I’d guess we’re actually long past that point. Chris clearly has sympathisers, so perhaps it’s time for one or two of them to show their support by taking over from her for a trial couple of years with a less divisive approach. If Chris genuinely has the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, maybe she’ll see some merit in this.

From Jonny Gale

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Dear Allen Keep,

You turn my question back on me and ask why I think is the logical conclusion of your position. Forgive me, but why must you, and why must Mrs Drake, leave it to others to contemplate exactly what it is you and she are calling for? Why do you not come out and say it? Is it perhaps because you wish to leave yourselves room to row back from the position when it is shown to be untenable?

But by failing to follow this through yourselves, and by failing to answer the simple question implicit in which is the goal of your protest, ie  “what should Israel do?”, anti-zionists are either failing to engage fully with the issue an examine what they themselves are calling for, or are being intellectually dishonest about their intention. In the circumstances, and taking into account the actual material on display in the square, it is little wonder that they have to fall back on the person of the “Jewish anti-zionist” to defend themselves from the understandable charge of anti-semitism.

It does not matter what I think is the logical conclusion of your position, but let us look at what is available for all to see about the position which you have adopted.

You maintain that the State of Israel is an “illegitimate immoral creation”. You reject a 2-state solution. You say that it is pointless asking what you would do in Israel’s shoes, but instead say as anti racists you should “do whatever you can”.

Though you and Mrs Drake do not seem to show the candidness to spell it out, it appears that you and Mrs Drake hate the State of Israel simply for existing. “Whatever you can” appears, in the absence of any constructive criticism, to be to protest and boycott until the State of Israel no longer exists.  Such a position is reserved only for the Jewish State. No other state on earth has its very legitimacy questioned in this way after being in existence for so long. 

But let us imagine you succeeded. What would the disbanding of the State of Israel mean? What would happen to the 6.5 million Jews who live there? What would happen to the 1.5 million Arabs including Palestinians, and including the Palestinian Members of the Israeli Parliament and including the Palestinian judge who sits on the Supreme Court of Israel? Do you think they would be spared, or would they be condemned as “collaborators” by Hamas and all the people whipped up into hatred by those taking the same extreme position as you have chosen to take?

Would it help the Palestinian people, to disband Israel? Would it bring peace? There are wide conflicts in the Islamic world today, and Hizbollah and Hamas are on opposite sides of one of the most significant, that being between Shia and Sunni organisations.

If you think the disbanding of the State of Israel would make for a good humanitarian solution then read the material put out by the elected representatives of the Palestinian people. Look at what school children learn about in schools run by the Gazan government. Or perhaps you think the UN could step in and keep the peace, like some old colonial power.

Israel is the one country in the region where all, including Palestinians (who are, after 70 odd years, no longer refugees in that country, having been assimilated, and no matter what their religion), are treated with full citizenship rights. It is not surprising that  Israel is hated by theocratic fundamentalists and extreme nationalists. However, for that hatred to be adopted by some people on the “left” who call themselves anti-racists is very surprising. 

We should be working for freedom, equality and justice for all Palestinians, Including those whose parents chose Israeli citizenship. Including those who are Christian, female, gay. Hamas is not doing that. Hizbollah is not doing that. No boycott-supporting country, Saudi, Qatar, Iran, is doing that. The delegitimisation of and hatred towards Israel is not doing that.

The only way to achieve that is by having 2 states; a State of Israel and a State of Palestine, which can work together to pursue their common goals and act in the interests of all their citizens. Anti-zionists such as yourself are unclear about what are your goals, though destroying one of the states would be counter-productive and would lead clearly to war and more misery. Zionists such as myself are very clear that we aspire, though sometimes hopelessly, to the very distant far off goal of cooperation between all the nations, religions and races in the middle-east.

Either way, hatred should be doused and not fueled as it is being by the protest.

By the way, the article posted above by Vivienne H is interesting and it would seem that it is the disgraceful behaviour of the UN which should be the target of protests. Instead of caring for Palestinian refugees, as it does for refugees of other nationalities, the UN, supported by the majority of oil-rich Arab states, seems intent on keeping them destitute and full of hate for Israel so that it can turn their children into human bombs to use against Jewish children.

Since its inception, Israel has faced calls for its disbandment. I ask again. Be honest about your protest. What Should Israel Do to bring about peace?

From J Swift

Monday, 24 July 2017

All the well rehearsed arguments here from supporters of Israel are irrelevant. The question is whether a peaceful protest should be prevented by the state.  It wouldn't matter if it was about dog mess, Trident, or the fact that our rulers are lizards. 

Ms Drake is at worst a minor irritant.  Transforming her from harmless eccentric to martyr by heavy handed intervention by the powers that be is foolish and likely to be seen by the conspiracy minded as 'proof' of anti-Semitic tropes regarding cabals in high places.

From Jenny B

Monday, 24 July 2017

I have to say that I am not aware of all of the facts around the politics of this matter. I am however, aware of this lady's constant harassment of passers-by.

It has got so bad that I avoid the Square if I see she is there.

My children should not be subject to such images as we go to feed the ducks. And, before the 'take your blinkers off brigade' even start to tell me to raise my children in the real world, I would rather they kept their innocence as long as they could thank you.

That woman is a bit like the kiddy catcher in Chitty chitty bang bang - one that kids are scared off. 

There is free speech and there is harassment.

Fair play to the council for acting upon people's concerns. 

From Michael Prior

Monday, 24 July 2017

I have not received any response to the email to Mr Pitts I post a week go so I have just sent the following:

Dear Mr Pitts

One week ago I sent an email to you concerning the letter you sent to Ms. C.Drake about her use of Council street furniture. I append this in case you did not receive it.

You have made no response to this even to acknowledge receipt. I am disturbed by this failure as the email pointed out what seems to be a very serious failing on your part, that is that you threatened a member of the public living in Calderdale with legal action based upon allegations that were demonstrably false. The email spells out just what these false allegations were and points out other serious problems with your handling of this matter.

I feel that you are required to answer these things.

Since sending this email, postings in the Hebweb discussion of this matter that a letter of complaint signed by more than one person has indeed been sent to you. I think in view of the nature of the forum postings to ask you whether this letter complained solely about there use of Council furniture or whether it was concerned with the content of the material posted by Ms. Drake and with her personal conduct. I think it reasonable to ask you whether, if it was the latter, you informed the complainants that this was a matter outside your competence as you are concerned only with the use of street furniture. Did you inform them that matters concerning content and conduct were properly a matter for the police? I note that in the letter of 7 July, you make it clear that you are taking no "position" on the issues raised by Ms Drake nor constrain her rights of freedom of expression. Presumably this means that you are actively considering action against all the other persistent users of street furniture in and around St. George's Square.

I have copied the local Calder councillors into this as your failure to respond to legitimate concerns by a local tax-paying resident about actions taken over your signature and with no other obvious authority comes very close to a dereliction of your democratic duty.

Michael Prior

From Emily L

Monday, 24 July 2017

On Sunday I was in the square and saw a young religious Jewish boy in a yarlmulke walking past this so-called protest. What do all the wonderfully welcoming and right-on people of Hebden Bridge think he felt about the symbol of his religion and culture being covered by a swastika?

As a Jewish person myself I find Ms Drake's resort to the worst sort of anti-Semitic tropes to be offensive and disgusting. The association of the Jewish Star of David with the swastika is the equivalent of putting a pig's head in front of a mosque. You wouldn't call that the act of a harmless eccentric would you? 

And of course there is a world of difference between protesting the actions of the Israeli government and presenting Israel - and its people - as uniquely evil in the world.

I am very glad that some people in this town are taking a stand against this woman - where do I sign up? 

From Will Kaufman

Monday, 24 July 2017

Andrew Pitts is on leave and we're all waiting for him to get back. Meanwhile, rest assured that the division of powers is in operation: the Council is dealing exclusively with the issue of public space and furniture, and the Police are dealing with the issue of content.

From Eleanor Land

Monday, 24 July 2017

My late husband made a polite request to Mrs Drake to raise her posters above my young grandchildren's eye level, only to receive an aggressive tirade stating she would provide photos of children with their heads blown off if he wanted.  

I avoid her like the plague, because I would not lower myself to have a conversation with someone who is doing her own cause no good by her attitude.  

From Kez Armitage

Monday, 24 July 2017

Can I suggest to Michael Prior that, if he wants to guarantee a response, he sends a letter (yes - one of those old fashioned things on paper and posted in a letterbox!), and sends it recorded delivery.

Yes, it costs more, but in my experience it always gets a reply. Letters carry a certain gravitas that emails never can (simply because it's almost too easy, too shallow, to send an email, and the recipient has to sort out the proverbial wheat from the chaff).

If you care about a subject, a written letter shows you've made the effort and mean business.

From Vivienne H

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I agree that Calderdale is being petty in harassing Christine Drake. Freedom of speech is precious, & to be protected. 

However, I also feel that it's very lazy to imagine that what Ms Drake says is the whole truth about a complex problem. 

Jonathan Gale makes some reasonable, factual  points. And here's what a Christian Israeli Arab has to say

Those people who uncritically support the Palestinians need to ask themselves, for  example, why they are so exercised about the expulsion of Arabs, but haven't a word to say about the ethnic cleansing of almost a million Jews from Arab countries around the same time? Do the Jews expelled from Arab countries have a right to compensation, or a Right of Return with restitution of their stolen properties?

Do Palestnian sympathisers protest the existence of Pakistan or Jordan, other countries invented/established at around the same time? The creation of Pakistan involved the displacement and killing of large numbers of Hindus, swiftly followed by the killing of many Muslims, but no one appears to mind the country's existence. Look at the Hindu population figures for Kashmir in the 1940s, and compare them with the figures now. That's a situation to which terms such as genocide or ethnic cleansing can meaningfully be applied: the Palestinian population in contrast has increased 8-fold since Israel was established. 

Jordan was invented when the British separated out some two thirds of the land they'd promised to the Jews, and gave it to the Arabs as a new kingdom (ruled by an imported Saudi). The sliver that was left, around the size of North Yorkshire, was allocated to the new state of Israel. Jordan was supposed to be the Palestinians' state in exchange for the much smaller Israel. (Jordan is 4 times Israel's size.)

In Israel, Arabs have worked as judges and joined the diplomatic service. How many Jews represent Arab countries, or make rulings on Muslim populations in Arab countries? 

Many of the Arabs who fled from what is now the State of Israel did not own land in the first place: they were tenant farmers on land owned by Ottoman Turk absentee landlords, who were happy to sell it to Jews. Some of the Arabs now in Israel/Palestine are the children of relatively recent immigrants, who moved there because the Israelis were investing money in the country and building it up. It's simply contra-factual to imagine that every Palestinian has ancient roots in the country.

As for Jerusalem, it had very little significance for Muslims even after they invaded and conquered what is now Israel. Their dynasties ruled from Baghdad, Damascus, and Istanbul, not from a provincial backwater. It only became the "3rd holiest site" once it was understood how important it was to Jews. That the area around the Temple Mount/Wailing Wall has now been re-named after Mohammed's magic flying horse would be a joke, except that erasing Jewish culture has all too often been a prelude to exterminating Jews. 

Nothing I've said detracts from the point that Arabs on the West Bank and in Gaza suffer hardship and injustice. ( I am not calling them "Palestinians", to make the point that this concept, too, is a recent invention. The revolts against Israel in the 1940s were based on specific, very local grievances, but these were subsumed into the cause of pan-Arab nationalism. The region historically had been part of Greater Syria, not a separate country, and the "Palestinians" wanted it to return to that.)

Do you want to stand   with this guy, & his colleagues at Al Azhar?

Or with the editor of the Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat, who expresses the view of Arab progressives, & engages in reflection, responsibility and self criticism?

People who make decisions about this issue based on Christine Drake's images of dead children should be aware that they're choosing to adopt a very one-sided position.

From Ron Taylor

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I should point out from the beginning that I am a fervent supporter of Palestinian rights, as some readers of Hebweb will know (See Postcards from Palestine), and have spent long periods in the West Bank of Palestine as a volunteer/activist, most notably with a group called Ta’ayush, the Arab-Jewish partnership - Israelis and Palestinians striving together to end the Israeli occupation and to achieve full civil equality through daily non-violent direct-action.  

Michael Prior is right to say that there is an issue concerning free speech. But as we know the right to free speech is not an absolute one and its exercise brings with it responsibilities. I agree with Allen Keep that, as described, the content of the posters is inappropriate and, I would add, its display anywhere wholly wrong. My opposition to anti-semitism is as strong as it is to any form of racism.

The use of such material, in my view, causes harm to the very cause it purports to support. It also serves strengthen the hands of those who wish to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-semitism in order to suppress legitimate criticism of the Israeli system’s treatment of the Palestinian population (incidentally, just to be clear, I do not accuse Jonny Gale or Will Kaufman of that).

With that in mind I paste below a piece that came to me few days ago written by a contact who is a Jewish Israeli now living in Europe. It expresses my views on Zionism far more eloquently than I could ever hope to do.


When 'Westerners' hear the word 'Zionist', most are inclined, via their indoctrination, to immediately associate it with Jews having been historically persecuted, seeking escape from that.Therefore, when people like US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer or French PM Emmanuel Macron talk about anti-Zionism, they have a rather easy task equating it with anti-Semitism. They easily cement this idea.

But we should remember what Zionism means and has meant for Palestinians. It's often a whole other notion.For Palestinians, Zionism is the name for the motivation informing their dispossession. It is the ideology behind their expulsion, their demonisation, their disappearance as humans, their massacres, tortures, kidnappings, arbitrary arrests and daily oppression.

That's what Zionism means to so many of them.So when they hear 'anti-Zionism', there's often a positive notion to it, in that it suggests the liberation from this horror. It's a double-negative turning positive.So many Palestinians are highly aware of the distinction between Jew and Zionist, although to make that distinction when being so oppresed, when so many Jews support your oppression, requires some serious moral fortitude.

Yet when the Schumers and the Macrons of the world equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, they want to erase that distinction, to make Zionism synonymous with Jews.Equating Jews with Zionism would mean that Jews and Judaism will inevitably be known as synonymous with oppression and cruelty, amongst those who have experienced the fist of Zionism and the pressure of its boot, first-hand.This conflation is telling them to aim all of their grievances against Judaism and Jews. It is informing them to become 'anti-Semites'.

The only way for Jews to escape the anger and wrath that comes from those who suffer under the Zionist injustice, is to relinquish Zionism once and for all. Not because they are forced to by practical circumstances, not because they deem it useless, but because it is wrong. It is wrong to use the pretext of persecution to persecute others.

If this is done, then not only will Zionism's victims be liberated - also Jews may finally be saved from its cruel legacy. There may even be some forgiveness, a future may open up, one of peace.But if the gate is locked, if Zionism and Judaism are one, if anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism, then that future is barred. No liberal-Zionist sugar-coating will be able to open it, and we will together be consigned to a future of perpetual horror, oppressed and oppressor together.

It is a highly moral and caring thing to do, to fight the Israeli apologetic conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Those who do so are often regarded anti-Semites (or self-haters) simply due to their attempt. Amongst many Jews today, amongst nearly all of them in Israel, being anti-Zionist is one of the worst things you can be known for. It's often synonymous with treason. But it is for Jews to take this step. Those who pioneer it must for the time being live with the label of being societal outcasts, who bring but shame to their families and many of their old friends. But it's a small price to pay for what it can win for our future. Those people will be known as those who have fought against the gushing river of Zionist propaganda in order to actually forge a better and viable future. A future not only for those oppressed who have been deprived of one by the force of Zionism, but also for Jews and Judaism, so many of whom have deluded themselves, that Zionism would save them.

Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism. It is the opposite. It is a separation of Jews from being oppressors. And you cannot escape oppression by being an oppressor. You can only fight oppression. It's a one thing, and it has to include all.”

Jonny Gale has made a number of points that I take issue with but there is not enough space here to do that (I would though willingly meet Jonny somewhere, some time to discuss all those points should he wish to do so).

However, I must challenge him here over his saying that  “there is a Palestinian State”. Whilst it is true that over 130 countries have recognised the state of Palestine, which is now a "non-member observer state” of the UN, it is largely a symbolic gesture which expresses the right of the Palestinian people to their own state. It has though enabled the Palestine Authority to join a number of international organisations including UNESCO and the International Criminal Court, which is currently considering an allegation that Israel has committed war crimes against the Palestinians through its building of settlements on occupied territory. What exists on the ground is a limited from of self-government in a part of the West Bank the majority of which is under full Israeli military control.

Finally, (and I do apologise for the length of this post) in response to Jonny’s question, “If you were Israel today, what would you do?”, I suggest the following. Firstly, as a prerequisite to any progress towards a just settlement, I would publicly acknowledge that the creation of the Israeli state came about through the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. Secondly, I would begin to talk to Hamas. After all, as someone once said, "You don't make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies." 

From Will Kaufman

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The Council are not arbitrarily "harassing" Christine Drake. They are responding to, and acting upon, received complaints - as it is their job to do.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Jonny, this is a forum -not a dialogue between you and me. I'm not sure why you have singled me out to respond to by name. It's almost impossible to reply to your "open letter" to me not least because, forgive me, I struggle to make a great deal of sense of it, and partly because it would take great lengths to do so which I suspect would be of no great interest or help to others here - which is the point of a forum really. 
However, you have called me out in public so I'll make a few points:

I turned your question back on you because I felt there was a sense from you (that I am all too familiar with) that anyone opposing the Israeli state is somehow a closet anti-Semite and wants to see Israeli men, women and children driven into the sea. I was exploring and challenging that notion with you because, as I have said a number of times, it is a very dangerous notion indeed to assume that those who are against the state of Israel are essentially anti -Jewish or that somehow Isreal is off-limits to criticism, severe criticism, because those that who do are “targeting” Israel exclusively - which emerges as your belief and which I reject entirely. 

I imagine you think I have no problem with any other state in the world – would you like a list?! I took to the streets against the Apartheid regime in South Africa and against the British occupation of my own country and I identify with many struggles, thank you.

Of course this argument is not new and has picked up very recently in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA (people who know a bit about racism) who have taken a position (argued by a Jewish American I believe) that Israel is practising apartheid against the Palestinians, something I recall Naomi Wolfe echoing a while back. I also recall an advert in the New York Times a few years ago by Holocaust survivors and their descendants (people who know a bit about persecution) claiming that Israel was practising a genocide (their words) and arguing that Israel was pursuing the “racist de-humanization of Palestinians”(sic). Would you accuse these people of anti-Semitism as you effectively do me?  They too have no reason to criticize Israel have they… apart for the fact they simply hate the state? I’m not hiding behind the fantastic tradition of Jewish anti-Zionism.  I’m inspired by it and in order to illustrate that your attempt to de-legitimise opposition is entirely erroneous. To you, opposition of Israel is not about justice, equality, freedom – it’s not about politics, campaigning or demonstrating – it’s about hate, the hatred of Jews. Sorry Jonny, not guilty. Never.

You could of course counter the allegations of Apartheid and Genocide as part of the DNA of Israel as many do very well but your defence of Israel appears to amount to not much more than you can’t really comment on its history, which is fundamental to understanding the nature of the state, because you weren’t there. Not good enough I’m afraid. Let me ask you about something I’m sure you are very aware of - what is your view on the Nabka? 

Where do you stand?  Let’s turn the question around – what does make Israel a legitimate and progressive state?

You will have to do better than your claim that some Palestinians chose to leave the new state (which you say has been there a long time, as it that makes any difference, but is in fact younger than my sister) and some chose to stay as an explanation - and you’ll have to explain your position on the Palestinian right to return. You’ll also have to improve on the frankly absurd claim that the Palestinians who chose to stay have equal rights in Israel.  I suppose they have equal opportunities, life chances, outcomes and they have the same voice in the “only democracy in the middle east” do they?  Just as black and white people have in the USA I suppose – the “most advanced democracy in the world” and Israel’s biggest ally.

I object to you simply bracketing Chris Drake and I together as indeed others have done here. There's quite a range of individual people, strains of political thought and organisations that essentially defend the legitimacy of the Israeli state, some of whom are active protagonists and supporters and some who are extremely critical - the article that was posted here and Will recommends illustrates that very well.  I happen to disagree with the author on a number of issues but I don't lump him (or those that do happen to agree with him) or indeed yourself in with the Zionist racist zealots within the state of Israel that perpetrate the xenophobic hatred of Arabs.

Why then do you lump me in with not only Chris but “theocratic fundamentalists and extreme nationalists”? Perhaps all opponents of Israel are essentially the same?

It reminds me of a time, not long ago, and not far away, when if you dared to question the state of Northern Ireland, the “consensus” on its legitimacy, the role of the British in creating it and its perpetuation (by occupation no less) of inequality and discrimination of its minority population - or supported a march or a protest or waved a few placards around (which I did) you were obviously a paid up member of the IRA who advocated the killing of British civilians.

As for two states?....it's a "solution" advocated by many including much of the mainstream left, Zionists like yourself, sections of the Palestinian elite and, until Trump decided that "what the hell, one state, two states whatever you guys over there want" so did the USA. You'd think that with that degree of consensus it would be a done deal. However it rests, in my opinion, on an essentially racist assumption that ordinary Arabs and Jews in the region have differences that can never be resolved and which can only be managed by keeping them away from each other, apart from each other. In other words, institutionalised division – I don’t accept that, I’ve fought against it all my life.

I won’t change anything much but I will do what I can. I will support boycotts and demonstrations and campaigns against the oppression of Palestinians and against anti -Semitism, as I always have. I do take sides - I’m against both. 

It will however be the  mass of ordinary people of the region, Jews and Arabs together,  that will ultimately shape the future there which I hope will be a united, secular, democratic state. 

Finally Jonny, thanks for pointing out that anti -Zionists like me are totally unclear about our goals which are counter- productive anyway while Zionists like yourself are completely clear about your sometimes hopeless aspirations and distant goals (your words). That really helps.

See also

HebWeb News: Council again attempt to move Chris Drake from the Square (14 July 2017)

HebWeb Forum: Christine Drake's protest (Sept-Dec 2015)

HebWeb News: Vigil in the square: posters and banners banned (Sept 2015)