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Sunday, 3 July 2016

I’ve just been verbally abused – tell me again how racism played no part in Brexit

Natalie Pitimson

He told me to 'f*** off back to Israel with the other yids'. Nobody in the packed rush hour carriage reacted, despite almost certainly having heard

I’ve carried my book bag back and forth to the library three times a week for about two years. I bought it from the Jewish Museum in North London because I liked it. The word “schlep,” written on the side, perfectly describes my regular hour-long trek through central London with heavy stuff for a day in the library. It also makes me smile. It reminds me of growing up in a lively Jewish family where such phrases littered otherwise very English sentences.

On a train I noticed a lad and his girlfriend looking at me and my bag, which was on my lap. When they spotted me looking back at them, he told me to “fuck off back to Israel with the other yids”.

Nobody else in the packed rush hour carriage reacted, despite almost certainly having heard. We were, after all, sitting in that very particular silence that befalls a morning commuter train. I got off at the next stop, not really even noticing that I was several short of my destination; I was shaking and very upset. I thought about nothing else for the rest of the day.

I have never been targeted in this way before, but my experience, it is quickly becoming apparent, is not an isolated one in post-Brexit Britain.

I know there were racist people before the referendum campaign and I know there would have continued to be had the country voted to remain in the European Union. But we must comment on the fact that so much of the pro-Brexit campaign rested on mainstreaming the most toxic views about “outsiders” that have swirled around in public discourse for a long time. Phrases such as “project fear” and “project hate” were bandied around by both Remain and Leave activists, and I think it is precisely this oversimplified, soundbite politics in particular that means we keep missing the point.

What we’re seeing is not really hate or fear. I don’t think the lad on the train was frightened of me, nor do I think he hates me. That assumes that he saw a person when he made his comment. And I don’t think he did.

What the Leave campaign actually did in the run up to the referendum was to tap into a broader current of dehumanisation – of a generalised “other” that has been creeping in for some time. The space for proper discussion and debate about immigration, asylum and humanity was utterly diminished by that campaign and replaced with the rhetoric of the non-human – of the parasite.

This alarming anti-human narrative has found some level of legitimisation in recent months. A parasite arrives uninvited and unwanted, takes without giving, disrupts the local environment and lays claim to that which is not its own. This is the narrative some factions of the right in particular have encouraged support for. Depicting Britain as a bunkered state, cowering under the weight of refugee “swarms” and apparently at “breaking point,” there seems to have been a systematic stripping away of humanity here. Individual stories of war, desperation, or simply seeking a better life in a more prosperous country get bulldozed by blanket narratives of pestilence.

It has been argued that nationalised violence and aggression towards particular groups is preceded by a denial of the victim’s reality as a human being. So when that lad on the train had no problem voicing his thoughts on my heritage to me, as has been happening all over the country over the past couple of days, I do not, as I said, believe this was because he hates me or is frightened of me. It is because he does not see me. Not me, the person. He sees me, the parasite, the me he has been told to look out for, the me that needs to be eradicated.

I know my experience does not come close to that of those fleeing war-ravaged countries only to find themselves arriving now in increasingly hostile places of refuge. I was able to get up, walk away, be upset, discuss my experience on social media and then go about my peaceful and charmed life once more. I must register my frustration with myself for not confronting him and challenging his comment to me. But more than anything I am so sorry that now, perhaps more than ever in the UK, so many people are going to have to fight just to be seen as human.

-Natalie Pitimson is a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Brighton, UK. This article was first published at

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

Photo: A rail passenger waits for a train on the platform at Clapham Junction train station in south London, on 19 January, 2012 (AFP).

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, dies at 87

Elie Wiesel in 2002. Photo by Reuters

Elie Wiesel in 2002. Photo by Reuters

Holocaust survivor, activist and writer Elie Wiesel, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for becoming the life-long voice of millions of Holocaust victims, has died, Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem said on Saturday.

Wiesel, a philosopher, speaker, playwright and professor who also campaigned for the tyrannized and forgotten around the world, was 87.

The Romanian-born Wiesel lived by the credo expressed in "Night," his landmark story of the Holocaust - "to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time."

[Quotes from Elie Wiesel]

In awarding the Peace Prize in 1986, the Nobel Committee praised Wiesel as a "messenger to mankind" and "one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world."

Wiesel did not waver in his campaign never to let the world forget the Holocaust horror. While at the White House in 1985 to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, he even rebuked U.S. President Ronald Reagan for planning to lay a wreath at a German cemetery where some of Hitler's notorious Waffen SS troops were buried.

"Don't go to Bitburg," Wiesel said. "That place is not your place. Your place is with the victims of the SS."

[Excerpts from works of Elie Wiesel]

Wiesel became close to U.S. President Barack Obama but the friendship did not deter him from criticizing U.S. policy on Israel. He spoke out in favor of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and pushed the United States and other world powers to take a harder stance against Iran over its nuclear program. Wiesel attended the joint session of the U.S. Congress in 2015 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the dangers of Iran's program.

Wiesel and his foundation both were victims of the wide-ranging Ponzi scheme run by New York financier Bernie Madoff, with Wiesel and his wife losing their life's savings and the foundation losing $15.2 million. "'Psychopath' - it's too nice a word for him," he said of Madoff in 2009.

Wiesel was a hollow-eyed 16-year-old when he emerged from the newly liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945. He had been orphaned by the Nazis and their identification number, A-7713, was tattooed on his arm as a physical manifestation of his broken faith and the nightmares that would haunt him throughout his life.

Wiesel and his family had first been taken by the Nazis from the village of Sighetu Marmatiei in the Transylvania region of Romania to Auschwitz, where his mother and one of his sisters died.Wiesel and his father, Shlomo, ended up in Buchenwald, where Shlomo died. In "Night" Wieselwrote of his shame at lying silently in his bunk while his father was beaten nearby.

After the war Wiesel made his way to France, studied at the Sorbonne and by 19 had become a journalist. He pondered suicide and never wrote of or discussed his Holocaust experience until 10 years after the war as a part of a vow to himself. He was 27 years old in 1955 when "Night" was published in Yiddish, and Wiesel would later rewrite it for a world audience.

"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed ...," Wiesel wrote. "Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live."

Asked by an interviewer in 2000 why he did not go insane, Wiesel said, "To this day that is a mystery to me."

By 2008, the New York Times said "Night" had sold an estimated 10 million copies, including 3 million after talk-show hostess Oprah Winfrey made it a spotlight selection for her book club in 2006.

In 1985 Wiesel helped break ground in Washington for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the following year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In typical fashion, he dedicated the prize to all those who survived the Nazi horror, calling them "an example to humankind how not to succumb to despair."

Wiesel, who became a U.S. citizen in 1963, was slight in stature but a compelling figure when he spoke. With a chiseled profile, burning eyes and a shock of gray hair, he could silence a crowd by merely standing up.

He was often described as somber. An old friend, Chicago professor Irving Abrahamson, once said of him: "I've never seen Elie give a belly laugh. He'll chuckle, he'll smile, there'll be a twinkle in his eye. But never a laugh from within."

A few years after winning the peace prize, he established the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, which, in addition to Israeli and Jewish causes, campaigned for Miskito Indians in Nicaragua, Cambodian refugees, victims of South African apartheid and of famine and genocide in Africa.

Wiesel wrote more than 50 books - novels, non-fiction, memoirs and many with a Holocaust theme - and held a long-running professorship at Boston University. In one of his later books, "Open Heart," he used his 2011 quintuple-bypass surgery as impetus for reflection on his life.

"I have already been the beneficiary of so many miracles, which I know I owe to my ancestors," he wrote. "All I have achieved has been and continues to be dedicated to their murdered dreams - and hopes."

He collected scores of awards and honors, including an honorary knighthood in Britain. Obama presented him the National Humanities Medal in 2009.

Wiesel was attacked in a San Francisco hotel in 2007 by a 22-year-old Holocaust denier, but not injured.

Wiesel and wife Marion married in 1969 and their son, Elisha, was born in 1972.


WHILE addressing the parliament of the European Union this week, Nigel Farage suggested they should "grow up" in respect of the Brexit vote result.

In response, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker asked Farage: "Why are you here?".

Should that question not have been better asked of Mahmoud Abbas, following his outrageous accusation of Israeli rabbis calling for the poisoning of Arab wells, rather than him being given a standing ovation?

Stanley Grossman,
Honorary Secretary,
Scottish Friends of Israel,

Friday, 1 July 2016

Understanding the ‘Human Evolution’ of a Hamas Terror Leader’s Son

Mosab Hassan Yousef. Photo: Screenshot.

Mosab Hassan Yousef. Photo: Screenshot. – Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas terrorist leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef and author of a 2011 New York Times bestseller memoir, recently re-emerged in news headlines when he spoke at the annual conference of the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

The so-called “Green Prince,” Yousef is a Palestinian born in Ramallah and raised by one of Hamas’s most dangerous leaders. The younger Yousef was arrested by Israel, but rather than becoming further hardened in prison, he became enlightened about the ruthless and shocking ways of the Palestinian terror group. Yousef became a spy for Israel and later defected from his whole community for a new life outside of Ramallah.

Yousef called his journey one of “human evolution.”

“At some point, I thought the Jewish people were the enemies of humanity and the enemies of the Palestinian people,” Yousef told a captivated audience during his Jerusalem Post conference speech. “That was until I experienced what the Jewish nation is, witnessed a real democratic model in an ocean of darkness.”

Following Yousef’s speech in May, three YouTube videos of his remarks have combined to garner more than 22,000 views.

Yousef challenged himself, his family — who disowned him — and, as he puts it, “the entire Muslim world…to transcend the conditioning of my society.…I have seen death and came from hell, and it is very dark.”

But what made this “Son of Hamas” — the title of his memoir — defect from the Palestinian terrorist culture? How does someone who was raised with privileges among the elite ranks of Hamas choose to leave?

Max Abrahms, an assistant professor of political science at Boston-based Northeastern University, where he researches and teaches on asymmetric conflict and international relations theory, said that a lot of terrorists eventually have “buyer’s remorse” and “would like to return to their society.” For fighters from various countries who get swept into Islamic State or other groups and travel abroad to train, he said many of them “want to return home and lead normal lives.” They might get older and tired, and putting their lives at risk no longer seems palatable. Other times, once someone joins a terrorist group or rises within its ranks, he or she becomes disillusioned with the organization.

“They may see that what the organization is saying is untrue or that it is not as virtuous to its stated ideals as the person would like,” Abrahms told “There might be disagreements over doctrine, disagreements over tactic. Sometimes there are personal disputes.”

But Abrahms said that defecting from a terrorist network is not an easy task — personally, emotionally or from a safety perspective. He said that when someone joins a terrorist organization, the group’s members become like fraternity brothers or even relatives.

“They effectively cut themselves off from the rest of the world when they become terrorists.…They become very insular,” said Abrahms. “It would take a lot of inner strength [to leave the terror group]. The defector is seen as going against their loved ones.”

Similar dynamics were at play for Israeli-Arab teenager Muhammad Zoabi, who had to go into hiding for several months during the summer of 2014 — when Israel was at war with Hamas in Gaza — after publicly describing himself as a “proud Israeli-Arab Muslim Zionist” who opposes antisemitism as well as “Islamic and Arab extremism.”

“I had to hide, go underground, keep a low profile, like what [I would do] if I had done a nasty crime,” Zoabi wrote in a Facebook post soon after coming out of hiding.

More recently, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that senior Hamas member Bassam Mahmoud Baraka defected to Israel, turning himself and his family into Israel during the first week of June. He brought his laptop and secret maps that showed Hamas’s cross-border attack tunnel infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, information that has benefited Israel’s security forces.

To escape from Gaza, Baraka needed to lie to his extended family, saying he was going out to run errands and would return in the evening.

In his speech in May, Yousef admitted that on a personal level, he still has a loving father. But when his father puts on his “Hamas mask,” said Yousef, “he is a monster, he is something else.”

He continued, “The problem with that society is conditioning. You take anyone in Hamas on the side, as an individual, and they are just human beings. Any of us could have been brought up in that environment and been conditioned in the same way.”

Yousef called on the world to take action against this radicalization.

“We see waves of violence and darkness taking over and we choose to stick our heads in the same in the name of political correctness,” he said. “The truth is, we are afraid and we are trying not to provoke them more. We are trying not to create a religious war. But there is a religious war whether you like it or not….The better way to face it is with courage.…What is the alternative?”

Former Mossad chief: Hamas will benefit from Turkey-Israel deal

Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy said on Thursday that Hamas will benefit greatly from a deal signed between Israel and Turkey to restore ties after six years of a rift.

“It is true that the deal has great strategic importance for Israel in the long term, and the points outlined by the prime minister are of course important and provide for commercial, informational and security exchanges,” Halevy said in an article published in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

According to Halevy, although the naval blockade of Gaza which Ankara had wanted lifted remains in force, Ankara will now be able to transfer humanitarian aid and construction material to Gaza via Israeli ports which would create an economic boom in the enclave.

“The construction materials and jobs that will be available to start rebuilding the enclave, including the construction of a power plant and hospitals, will lead to a higher standard of living in Gaza, and could possibly lead to arguing the feasibility of the naval blockade,” he said.

Halevy also believed that Hamas’ shares have risen in many countries including Turkey which hosted the movement’s Chief Khaled Meshaal in Istanbul two days before concluding the agreement, but chose to brief the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas two days after the agreement.

Halevy also feels that the Hamas and Turkey relationship has received the blessing of Israel when Ankara proposed to mediate the retrieval of the bodies of two Israeli hostages held by Hamas and the release of other Israelis who had infiltrated into the Gaza Strip.

He believes Israel would think twice before it wages another war on Gaza if it does not have the permission of Ankara and Moscow, which has a special relationship with Hamas.

However, the ex-Mossad chief warned that the agreement will leave Israel without a security policy to deal with Gaza in the future.

Palestinian Mother Overjoyed Her Son Murdered Jewish Child

As Golda Meir said:

“We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."


Palestinian Mother Overjoyed Her Son Murdered Jewish Child

Is this the Palestinian society with which Israel is expected to find a genuine and lasting peace?



“My son is a hero. He made me proud. My son died as a Martyr defending Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. …Allah willing, all of them will follow this path, all the youth of Palestine. Allah be praised.”

Those were the words of Mohammed Taraireh’s mother to Palestinian media hours after he butchered a 13-year-old Israeli girl, Hallel Yaffe Ariel (pictured). Mohammed was shot and killed by security officials responding to Hallel’s screams.

While Mrs. Taraireh proudly owned her son’s savagery, official Palestinian Authority media suggested the attack might not have taken place, and that Israeli forces killed Mohammed for no reason.

It is this Palestinian society with which Israel is expected to find a genuine and lasting peace. As seen in these in these two examples, Palestinian society is either celebrating violence against Israel, or denying it altogether.