Skip to content

Youth Speaker Sparks Controversy


Jewish Chronicle misled claims Leanne Mohamad was disqualified from speech on Palestine

15-year-old Leanne Mohamad has won international praise for her impassioned speech on Palestine as part of the national ‘Speak Out’ competition. However, things took a downward turn when the Jewish Chronicle published an article falsely claiming that she was disqualified from the final. Leanne has faced unacceptable online harassment and vilification as a result.

The JC ARTICLE published on 29 May stated that Leanne was “unanimously” taken out of the competition after her “anti-Israel” speech, further stating that the  speech was “anti-Israel.” Thus, according to the JC, anyone who speaks out against Israel’s violations of international and human rights law is automatically deemed anti-Israeli. The decision to ‘disqualify ‘ Leanne supposedly followed complaints by blogger Edgar Davidson to the Speakers Trust. Davidson is the same man who labels racist, violent campaigners from the EDL as ‘Patriots’ and undermines the right of the Palestinians to exist as a people. However, this is not mentioned in the article.

Julie Holness, CEO of the Speakers Trust has been directly quoted in the article saying that Leanne breached two fundamental rules of the competition. These included providing a positive and uplifting message, as well as never to inflame or offend the audience, specifically referring to propaganda being ruled out.

However, in a statement issues by Speakers Trust on 31 May  they said, “In terms of progression in the competition – all 37 talented Regional Final champions were entered into the semi-final on Saturday 21st May. Only 15 of these can reach the Grand Final stage. A panel of judges selected the top 15 speeches without any external influence or input and prior to any of the issues that emerged this weekend.” Speakers Trust emphasised that the decision was made without any external influence and prior to the complaint from Davidson, but the JC claims otherwise.

Friends of Al-Aqsa spoke to a representative from the Speakers Trust earlier this afternoon asking them for clarification on the issue. Speakers Trust confirmed that they never gave a statement to the JC. However, they did not comment on the selective quotes that were used by their CEO and the conversation with Davidson. FoA feels that Speakers Trust must be clearer about their position. Failure to do so will stir up more ambiguity about the matter.

Furthermore, the JC must issue an apology for its false reporting and use of inflammatory language in calling Leanne’s winning speech “anti-Israel.” The speech was empowering, moving and instilled a sense of urgency to this pressing issue many Palestinian children face.

Ireland latest EU state to defend BDS

In another blow to the Israeli campaign to criminalize Palestine solidarity activism, the Irish government has affirmed that the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement represents a “legitimate” means of protest “intended to pressure Israel into ending the occupation.”

In the Irish parliament on Thursday, foreign minister Charles Flanagan stated that “while the government does not itself support such a policy,” the BDS movement holds a “legitimate political viewpoint” and that the government does “not agree with attempts to demonize those who advocate this policy.”

Second blow in a week

This is the second major setback Israel has suffered this week to its campaign to delegitimize and criminalize the global movement within the European Union and other Western states.

Ireland is the third EU government to make such a statement in recent months.

Earlier this week, Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders said that “statements or meetings concerning BDS are protected by freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as enshrined in the Dutch constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

In March, the Swedish foreign ministry stated that BDS “is a civil society movement. Governments should not interfere in civil society organization views.”

At Israel’s urging, governments in the US, UK, France, Canada and elsewhere are attempting to introduce anti-democratic legislation, and taking other repressive measures to undermine the BDS movement.

Israel has also said that it is using its intelligence services to spy on BDS activists around the world.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli cabinet minister charged with combating the global movement, described BDS activists as threats, saying they must “pay the price” for their campaign work.

“With the Netherlands and Ireland joining Sweden in defending the right to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS, Israel’s attempt to get BDS outlawed in Europe and to bully its supporters into silence have been dealt a serious blow,” said Riya Hassan, Europe coordinator for the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

“Israel’s attacks on our movement appear to be backfiring as they have led to European governments and some of the world’s most famous human rights organizations and political organizations across Europe and the world speaking out in defense of our right to advocate BDS,” Hassan added.

“Across European civil society, there is a fast spreading recognition of the BDS movement as a legitimate form of nonviolent, grassroots human rights advocacy for the UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people,” Hassan said.

Ireland “deeply concerned” about Omar Barghouti

The Irish foreign minister’s comments came in the context of a parliamentary debate concerning Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement Omar Barghouti, who is facing politically motivated repression by Israel.

Israel is refusing to renew the travel document of Barghouti, a Palestinian born in the diaspora married to a Palestinian citizen of Israel, preventing him from pursuing his campaign work internationally. He has been told that his permanent residency status is being reviewed.

The human rights groups Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Front Line Defenders have all made statements concerning Barghouti’s liberty and safety, with Amnesty and Front Line Defenders designating him a human rights defender.

Responding to a question from the Anti-Austerity Alliance member of parliament Mick Barry, the foreign minister said that “the EU delegation in Israel has asked for clarification of [Barghouti’s] position and we will follow all developments in the case.”

Flanagan added that the government was “deeply concerned about wider [Israeli] attempts to pressure [nongovernmental organizations] and human rights defenders through legislation and other means to hinder their important work. We have raised this both at EU level and directly with the Israeli authorities.”

The minister also promised that the Irish government “will monitor the ongoing developments in this case in conjunction with the EU delegation and as part of our broader engagement in support of the role of human rights defenders and the protection of civil society space.”

Flagging friend of Israel

The Irish government’s position will perhaps be especially galling for Israeli officials as Flanagan is considered to be very friendly towards Israel, having formerly been a member of the small Friends of Israel grouping in the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament.

Before becoming foreign minister in July 2014, as chair of the governing right-wing Fine Gael party, Flanagan was a vocal opponent of the BDS movement.

In 2013 he publicly criticized the Teachers’ Union of Ireland for its adoption of a motion to support the academic boycott of Israel.

In 2012, Flanagan lambasted Trocaire, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland, when it began a campaign asking the Irish government to ban products from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law, calling the move a “very partisan political campaign that is beyond their remit.”

In a 2013 interview with pro-Israel columnist Carol Hunt, Flanagan made clear his belief that “Israel has been demonized by an Irish media slavishly dancing to the Palestinian drumbeat for decades.”

“Israel has a far better and more progressive record on human rights than any of its neighbors,” Flanagan claimed. “The truth must be told.”

But now it would appear that even for certain officials and governments with sympathies towards Israel, including Flanagan, the latest attacks on the civil society BDS campaign are proving either too anti-democratic or too embarrassing to defend.

Notably, in the Irish general election earlier this year, Israel lost three of its most vocal parliamentary friends; disgraced former minister for justice and defense Alan Shatter of Fine Gael and Joanna Tuffy of the Labour Party lost their seats, while former education minister Ruairi Quinn, also of Labour, did not contest the election.

Tuffy was vice-chair of the small Oireachtas Friends of Israel group.

Meanwhile, a pre-election campaign initiated by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign saw around 40 candidates who were ultimately elected to Ireland’s 158-seat parliament sign pledges opposing the Irish arms trade with Israel and supporting the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement due to Israel’s human rights violations.

Israeli funding booted from literary festival

This wasn’t the only bad news for Israel’s propaganda, or hasbara, efforts in Ireland this week.

On Tuesday, the Listowel Writers’ Week Festival announced it would be refusing funding from the Israeli embassy in Ireland to bring an Israeli writer to the festival.

The issue came to light on Sunday when members of Ireland’s artistic community began highlighting on social media that the festival’s brochure listed an event in which the Israeli embassy was explicitly thanked for its support.

After having been contacted by concerned individuals, including many artists, the organizers announced that the fesitval would honor its commitment to host the Israeli writer Savyon Liebrecht, but was rejecting the Israeli embassy funding.

This move is in line with cultural boycott guidelines issued by PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which call for a boycott of Israeli institutions, not individuals.

“As a Palestinian woman who is exiled from her homeland, I thank the festival for refusing to take Israeli state funding for this event,” IPSC chair Fatin Al Tamimi said, “This decision is courageous, principled and absolutely the right thing to do. This is a small, but certainly significant, positive gesture that will be appreciated by the Palestinian people struggling for freedom, justice and equality, whether under Israel’s apartheid regime or living in exile.”

Source Electronic Intifada

Right-wing Israelis enter Al-Aqsa Sanctuary after ‘Jerusalem Day’ violence

On Sunday, an Israeli court denied a petition to ban the ‘Jerusalem Day’ march from taking place in the Muslim Quarter in the occupied East Jerusalem. Hundreds of right-wing Israelis entered the Al-Aqsa Sanctuary, while thousands gathered around the Western Wall.

Settlers were protected by heavily armed Israeli police creating inevitable hostility on the ground.  Israelis marched down the Old City with Israeli flags chanting nationalist slogans causing violence and disruption for worshippers, shop owners and locals.

‘Jerusalem Day’ is an Israeli national holiday that celebrates the ‘reunification’ of Jerusalem and the beginning of Israel’s control over the Old City in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in June 1967. Many Israelis proudly celebrate this day despite condemnation by the international community on Israel’s illegal occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israel’s annexation over the area is illegal under international law.

Pro-Israel activists plot against the BDS movement at UN conference

Last week 1,500 activists attended a conference at the UN General Assembly in New York that aimed at stopping the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The conference highlighted strategies to name and shame those who support the BDS movement as a way of smearing individuals who support the cause. This is not a new idea Israel has been advocating this tactic for years. However, despite Israel’s efforts it has had little impact on the growing momentum of BDS. The aim was to speak young by targeting college students to counter the growing support for BDS and to  crush the Palestinian-led BDS movement by rebranding BDS as a hate group.

“For those who are still convinced that BDS isn’t working they simply need to look at the time, energy and money being spent to counter the BDS movement. We know that BDS is working because of the number of cases of individuals, institutions and companies taking action against Israel’s illegal occupation. The growing concern from pro-Israeli activist about the BDS movement shows that it is working. We urge everyone to join our campaigns and continue to support this vital human rights cause.” – FOA

BDS is growing because people are becoming increasingly aware of Israel’s human rights abuses and it’s continual violations against international law. Politically conscious citizens and organisations are taking a stand against Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Not only are people boycotting to stop Israel’s illegal occupation but because it is the Palestinians themselves who have called for a boycott.

Palestinian girl, 12, freed from Israeli jail

A 12-year-old Palestinian girl, imprisoned by Israel after she confessed to planning a stabbing attack on Israelis in a West Bank settlement, returned home on Sunday when she was freed early after an appeal.

Dima al-Wawi was greeted by about 80 relatives at her family’s house in Halhoul, a village near Hebron, a West Bank city that has been a focal point of violence. Relatives decorated the house with balloons and posters. Banners by the Islamic militant group Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas adorned the walls.

“I am happy to be out. Prison is bad,” al-Wawi told Associated Press. “During my time in prison, I missed my classmates and my friends and family.”

According to court documents provided by the military, al-Wawi approached the West Bank settlement of Carmei Tsur on 9 February with a knife hidden under a shirt. A security guard ordered her to halt and a resident instructed her to lie on the ground and told her to give up the knife, which she did.

An amateur video clip shown on Israeli TV showed the resident asking the girl, who was wearing her school uniform, whether she had come to kill Jews, and she said yes. She later pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter in a plea bargain and was sentenced to four and a half months in prison.

Al-Wawi is believed to be the youngest female Palestinian sent to prison.

Her case put Israel’s military justice system under the spotlight. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 six-day war and Palestinian residents they are subject to a system of military law that can sentence suspects as young as 12 to prison. By contrast, Israeli settlers in the West Bank, as well as Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, are subject to Israeli civil law, which does not allow anyone under 14 to go to prison.

The incident came amid seven months of violence in which Palestinians killed 28 Israelis and two Americans in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in Israel and the West Bank. At least 190 Palestinians have died from Israeli fire.

Source The Guardian

WATCH: Israeli soldiers kick knife towards body of man ‘executed’ in Hebron

A video has emerged that seems to show a knife being kicked in the direction of an alleged Palestinian attacker who is seen lying on the ground.

The new footage, obtained by Israel’s Channel Two, may show what happened shortly before an Israeli soldier shot the Palestinian in the head in March, despite him being wounded and lying on the ground. It is not clear who moves the knife in the video but voices are heard calling for the knife to be kicked closer to the body.

The March killing of 21-year-old Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif caused widespread shock and condemnation from rights groups and liberal Israelis, some of whom have dubbed the killing an execution.

Elor Azarya, the Israeli solider who shot the injured man in the head, has since been charged with manslaughter and inappropriate military conduct but has not been charged with murder. Segments of the Israeli public have also rallied to his side, with thousands of people protesting in support of Azarya, a dual Israeli-French national.

The controversy erupted after a Palestinian activist with Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem captured footage showing Sharif lying motionless on the ground and then an Israeli soldier approaching and shooting him in the head at close range.

An army investigation into the incident has revealed that Sharif was shot and left to bleed out on the street for eight minutes before the fatal shot.

Source: Middle East Eye