CiF Watch readers need no introduction to anti-Zionist Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, but may be less familiar with his co-author of the May 7th CiF article, Simon Mohun. The latter is a Professor of Political Economics at Queen Mary University of London and appears to have a penchant for Marxism and signing letters denouncing Israel to British newspapers.
Shlaim and Mohun’s claim that “It is vital therefore that the OECD makes Israeli accession conditional on tangible improvements in its human rights record and a commitment to embark on a credible peace process” is in fact nothing more than a ‘new economist’ argument, employing precisely the same tactics as Shlaim and his fellow ‘new historians’ : the distortion and selective presentation of facts to suit a specific political agenda, gift-wrapped in seemingly respectable academic packaging.
In the statement quoted above, the authors deliberately ignore the fact that Israel has embarked upon several peace processes in the past – Oslo, the Roadmap and others – each of which crumbled due to ill-considered choices made by the Palestinian leadership at the time. They both ignore the fact that for any credible peace process to get off the ground Palestinian infighting must come to an end, and seek to put the onus for the previous and current lack of progress on the diplomatic front exclusively upon Israel, thereby absolving the Palestinians of any responsibility whatsoever for their past, present or future as well as sweeping the glaring Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel’s existence under the carpet.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is a radical Islamist organization that uses the language and techniques of a human rights lobbying group to promote an extremist agenda. Formed in 1997 by its current chairman, Massoud Shadjareh, the IHRC supports jihad groups around the world, campaigns for the release of convicted terrorists and promotes the notion of a western conspiracy against Islam.
Shadjareh and the IHRC subscribe to the radical Islamist belief that Jewish conspiracies are afoot to undermine Muslims, and they compare Jews and Israelis to Nazis. Members of the IHRC’s board of advisors have even called on Muslims to kill Jews. They include the Saudi Islamist Muhammad al-Mas‘ari and Muhammad al-‘Asi, an American convert to Islam who was banned from preaching at his mosque in Washington, DC, and has been a frequent visitor to Britain.
The IHRC organizes the annual Quds day demonstration in London, on the last Friday of Ramadan, initiated by the late Ayatollah Khomeini to protest the Zionist “occupation” of Jerusalem. At the IHRC-organized demonstration against the Israel solidarity rally in Trafalgar Square in May, participants called for holy war against Israel, recalling the battle of Khaybar waged by the followers of Muhammad against the Jews, and declared their loyalty to Usama bin Ladin and Shaykh Ahmad Yasin.
Of course this is not the type of organization with which one would expect British academics to be expressing solidarity, but the topsy-turvy world of Middle East politics makes for strange bedfellows these days.
Shlaim and Mohun go on to attempt to reinforce their arguments with claims of “breaches of human rights principles and of international humanitarian law, whether during the Gaza offensive in the winter of 2008-09 or through the continuous expansion of its settlement project in the West Bank, “ (of course unproven in any International Court of Law) and conveniently ignore the background to the partial Israeli embargo upon Gaza calling it “a form of collective punishment, clearly proscribed under international law “ . The fact that the residents of Southern Israel have had their human rights abused for almost a decade by terrorist groups based in Gaza completely escapes these two brilliant intellects, as apparently does the Israeli government’s responsibility to defend and protect its citizens. The Fourth Geneva Convention’s definition of collective punishment (article 33) hinges upon the definition of ‘protected persons’.
Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals. But it explicitly excludes Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention and the citizens of a neutral state or an allied state if that state has normal diplomatic relations within the State in whose hands they are.
Given the fact that Israel has not been an ‘occupying power’ in the Gaza strip for almost 5 years, and that the Hamas regime in Gaza is not a High Contracting Party, one cannot but call into question Shlaim and Mohun’s comprehension of the term ‘clearly proscribed’ in this instance.
Ironically, the authors then go on to state that “The OECD Convention also stipulates that members “avoid developments which might endanger their economies or those of other countries”, and “reduce or abolish obstacles to the exchange of goods and services”. Anyone with a memory span of more than a decade cannot but recall the detrimental effects of the second Intifada upon the Israeli economy. The important tourism industry collapsed and some 50,000 people were made redundant. A friend of mine who owned a small business selling camping and outdoor gear at the time found himself literally overnight unable to get hold of goods which he had commissioned for manufacture in one of the West Bank towns and unable to retrieve the $100,000 he had already paid for them either. This pushed him into bankruptcy and, having been forced to sell his home, resulted in his having to send his wife (who was recovering from cancer and unable to work) and two small children to live with her parents abroad whilst he worked around the clock as a taxi driver and camped on friends’ sofas in an attempt to pay back to the banks the debts incurred. By no means was he the only small businessman to go under due to the sudden outburst of orchestrated Palestinian violence which consigned the Oslo accords to the back burner of history. Should any contemporary Israeli government even consider endangering the Israeli economy yet again by rushing to sign peace agreements with parties so clearly not interested in real peace and which do not even represent the whole of the Palestinian people or have control over terrorist factions within that society? No Israeli government can afford to repeat the mistakes of Oslo and the above clause from the OECD Convention is in fact an excellent example of why Israel cannot and should not be pressured to endanger herself yet again in the elusive chase after peace at the expense of concrete guarantees of her security.
Even more bizarrely, Shlaim and Mohun apparently see no contradiction in the fact that the second half of the statement they quote (“reduce or abolish obstacles to the exchange of goods and services”) cannot be expected of Israel when the Palestinian Authority is planning legislation to prevent Palestinians working for Israelis or buying Israeli-produced goods, but of course political zealotry such as that displayed by these two writers often blinds its holders to logic. In fact Shlaim and Mohun clearly give the game away in their final paragraph when they write:
“More generally, if the US and the EU learn to use their trade relations with Israel as leverage, they may discover that the much-sought-after incentive for peace is to be found there, if nowhere else.”
This is nothing more than bullying by means of BDS; albeit not the type of BDS which employs such crude tactics as harassing shop workers or trashing Israeli produce, but BDS with white collars, academic credentials and a peeling facade of pseudo-respectability. The content is, however, just the same.
Of course, as the estimable Santa Moniker points out, there are other ways of looking at Israel’s proposed joining of the OECD which one would think could have merited some academic analysis from Professors Shlaim and Mohun, but then again, that wouldn’t serve the interests of their narrative.
After all, as we are only too aware, for these ‘new historians’ and their fellow travelers, the narrative is far more important than the pesky facts.
Since this article was written, the OECD has announced its unanimous acceptance of Israel’s accession to the organization. However, not everyone is pleased by this decision and indeed some seem determined to continue to try to make political capital out of it. Jonathan Hoffman on his blog brings us the news that the Director of the IJV mouthpiece, JNews, Miri Weingarten, has sent out the following e-mail.
You will have already seen that Haaretz has reported a unanimous vote for Israeli accession to the OECD this morning.
FYI, the Palestinians hope to achieve a small technical delay based on a *legal argument* (below) by getting the legal advisors of one of the MFAs of a member country to request a legal opinion on this issue from the OECD legal department, and asking that the accession process (due to be finalised May 27) be suspended until this legal question is answered.
The bottom line of this argument is that the OECD would itself be breaching the 4th Geneva convention if it admits Israel under current conditions (i.e with settlement data, but without data on Palestinians in the OPT). By including settlement data it has actually forced itself to apply the rules of occupation (Geneva 4) to Israel, which include responsibility of the Occupying Power for the welfare of the occupied population. The only way that accession would be legal is a) if settlement/OPT data is totally excluded [total disaggregation] or b) if data from both settlements and OPT Palestinians is included.
A brief based on this argument has been sent to all Ministries of foreign affairs of member countries.
The legal argument will now be important for press purposes. Please feel free to send it around as another point of messaging to your lists.
[There follows the legal argument]
Miri Weingarten, Director
60 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3GA
Should we be surprised by this slip of the JNews “promotes understanding” mask? Considering that one of JNews’ patrons is none other than the co-author of the above CiF article, Avi Shlaim; definitely not. As almost inevitably happens, if one looks around long enough in any BDS pie, the same fingers usually come into view.