For most of her career, Professor Ruth Kark (Hebrew University), an internationally renowned historical geographer and a recipient of the prestigious Jerusalem Prize has considered herself apolitical.
All this has changed when Kark testified for the state in a trial to settle a suit brought by Bedouin families in the Negev. Testifying for the plaintiffs was Oren Yiftachel, a political geographer from Ben Gurion University. The presiding judge took the unusual step of criticizing Yiftachel for poor courtroom performance. In her view, Yiftachel, who served as a consultant to the plaintiffs, did not do his “homework,” producing shoddy and conflicting evidence.
This should not come as a surprise, as Yiftachel, a self -proclaimed critical political geographer is also a self-acknowledged neo-Gramscian - a follower of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Communist who urged intellectuals and academics to use their commanding role in societal discourse to fight for progressive causes. As Yiftachel admits in page 6 in his book Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel and Palestine, that his “own approach draws from neo-Gramscian perspective.”
On his homepage, Yitachel boasts on trying to "combine teaching and activism for social and political activism” and co-founding “a range of organizations working to assist Arab-Jewish peace, anti-colonialism and social equality in Israel/Palestine.”
All this did not prevent Yiftachel from attacking Kark for her alleged political agenda. In a blog published during the trial, Yiftachel impugned Kark’s academic credibility and took credit for “'unpacking' the main state expert.“ When the judge pointed out to his sloppy evidence, he accused her of siding with Kark and the state.
Yiftachel’s contempt for Kark’s expertise has extended beyond the courtroom. Gadi Algazi ,a veteran radical activist from TAU and other pro-Palestinian activists in Israel and the United Kingdom have complied an eBook “JNF Colonizing Palestine since 1901.” In the first chapter “Al-Araqib - All Palestine" Salman Abu Sita wrote “Yiftachel argued that Kark, in quoting these travellers, was biased and deceptive which is not befitting of a university professor.” Abu Sita added that “Yiftachel was closely monitoring this Zionist expert who was well-practiced in falsification.”
The JNF book became “required reading” for a large number of pro-Palestinian groups in Great Britain. Indeed, a number of them banded together and sent it to Prime Minster David Cameron and other political figures.
Mike Napier, the head of the Scottish Solidarity Campaign for Palestine based in Edinburgh used the disparaging comments about Professor Kark to protest against her participating in the conference “Communal Pathways to Sustainable Living” of the International Communal Studies Association (ICSA) at Findhorn Community in Scotland in 26–28 of June 2013.
Stating that Israel has committed "savage crimes" against Palestinians, he goes on: "The crimes are ongoing, promoted by Ruth Kark and other Israeli academics. This is not an antiquarian exercise, history for history's sake. Some of the ICSA presenters at Findhorn are still actively involved in promoting Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as part of the openly discussed effort to move land into exclusively Jewish ownership, a racist project that has gone on since the founding of the State of Israel. Let us take, as an example the shocking case of Zionist academic, Ruth Kark, who will be presenting at this conference." Not only did Kark support the racist claim that Jews have rights to land that trump those who "have lived there for many generations" but she fabricated evidence in support of a standard, and academically discredited, Zionist claim that Palestine had been empty before Zionist colonisation... Kark puts her dubious "expertise" firmly in the service of the Zionist narrative used to justify the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians."
It would be easy to dismiss Napier as radical "nut job" as one commentator put it. What is worrisome is that Yiftachel and other Israeli academics have started the process of tarnishing Kark's reputation as a "Zionist expert." By besmirching the names of scholars who do not agree with their interpolation of events, they have provided material used by radical pro-Palestinian activists such as Napier.
Gramsci understood that scholars and intellectuals legitimize the public discourse by providing a patina of respectability to "mere activists." Yiftachel, the self-proclaimed scholar-activist, has done Gramsci.
UPDATE: Findhorn Foundation statement
Many supporters of a militaristic movement which was central to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians are among those presenting papers at a conference which "The Findhorn Foundation and community will proudly host" in less than a week (26–28 June). Kibbutzim are based on stolen land whose owners were driven out with great violence, and virtually all kibbutzim operate a stringent racist policy of refusing membership to Palestinian citizens of Israel. Some of the presenters are still active in the Israeli State campaign to move the Palestinian Bedouin of the Negev into concentration zones to facilitate the ongoing seizure of their lands.
Edinburgh 21 June 2013
Palestinian refugees on the move in 1948Can anything deserving of the name of a humanistic experiment in "communal living" take place after the experimenters have violently expelled the indigenous tillers of the soil? The Findhorn Foundation needs to answer this question unambiguously.
Communal Pathways to Sustainable Living is the 11th Conference of the International Communal Studies Association (ICSA), which was jointly founded in 1985 by the US-based Communal Studies Association and the Kibbutz Studies Centre of Israel. The ICSA Secretariat address is in Israel at Yad Tabenkin, which is also the address of the Research and Documentation Centre of the United Kibbutz Movement.
Attendees will hear no less than 17 presentations over three days from active supporters of the kibbutz movement, who will be keen to conceal the nature of their "experiments in communal living" on land stolen after it was ethnically cleansed of its owners, many of whom live till today in refugee camps.
Some of those expelled remained in Israel after the population dispersals in 1948 and can today see and even visit their property, but they cannot recover it since it has been consigned to exclusively Jewish ownership, enshrined in Israeli law.
All Israeli kibbutzim enforced until recently a bar on membership against Israel's 1.25 million Arab Palestinian citizens and virtually all still enforce such a rule. The late Israel Shahak, President of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights from 1970 to 1990 noted that:
The Israeli organization which practices the greatest degree of racist exclusion is ... the Kibbutz. The majority of Israelis have been aware of the racist character of the Kibbutz as displayed not only against Palestinians but against all human beings who are not Jews, for quite a time.
The kibbutzim share in the general Israeli policy of forced residential separation of Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel whereby 93% of all Israeli land cannot be sold or leased to non-Jewish citizens of the Jewish State. One only has to imagine how almost everyone would react if Jews in Scotland were only allowed to live in small designated areas, but such a system of apartheid – legally enforced residential segregation - is the hideous reality of Israel today.
The savage origins of the kibbutz "utopian community"
From the beginning, the kibbutz was a militaristic community designed to seize and hold Palestinian land as part of the process of colonisation that saw Palestinians driven out of most of Palestine. One ICSA presenter, Aharon Azati, has been a member of Kibbutz Beit Haemek since 1971; he must serve as an example of those who benefit from theft, dispossession and ethnic cleansing and who are determined that the legal owners of their kibbutz land must be deterred from returning, if necessary by violence. A similar story can be told for many other of the ICSA presenters and their kibbutz, but lack of time means that Kibbutz Beit HaEmek must serve as a representative example.
In January 1949, Kibbutz ha-Bonim, later renamed Beit HaEmek, was established on the ethnically cleansed village lands of the Palestinian village of Kuwaykat. Its settlers were Jewish immigrants from England, Hungary and the Netherlands.
Palestinian Kuwaykat had repulsed several Jewish attacks in January and February 1948 but was finally cleansed of its owners by Israel's Sheva' and Carmeli Brigades in early July, after heavy bombardment which resulted in several deaths. The villagers fled, fearing massacre after the series of exemplary mass killings of Palestinians carried out by Jewish militias bent on driving out Palestinians to make way for Jewish colonists from Europe. The Deir Yassinmassacre, for example, had taken place only two months earlier.
Those Kuwaykat villagers who were too elderly to flee were later expelled to Kafr Yasif to make way for the Jewish kibbutz and the experiment in communal living. Many of the Kuwaykat villagers ended up in the refugee camp of Bourj el-Barajneh in Lebanon.
Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi described the village in All that Remains (1992):
Little remains of the village except the deserted cemetery, completely overgrown with weeds, and rubble from houses. Inscriptions on two of the graves identify one as that of Hamad 'Isa al-Hajj, and another as that of Shaykh Salih Iskandar, who died in 1940. The shrine of Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Qurayshi still stands but its stone pedestal is badly cracked.
This is the Arab-free zone that conference presenter Aharon Azati celebrates as an experiment in communal living.
One other quick note can underline how the same story applies to other kibbutz presenters at the ICSA Conference. Yaakov Oved was a founding member of the ICSA and served as its executive director from 1985 until 2004.. Oved has been a member of Kibbutz Palmachim since its establishment in April 1949 on the lands of the Palestinian village of Nabi Rubin. Eight months before Oved joined the kibbutz, in August 1948, the local Israeli military HQ issued the order for Mivtza Nikayon (Operation Cleaning), aiming at ´cleansing [letaher]´Palestinians from the newly conquered area which included Nabi Rubin. Many similar examples can be given.
The crimes are ongoing, promoted by Ruth Kark and other Israeli academics
This is not an antiquarian exercise, history for history's sake. Some of the ICSA presenters at Findhorn are still actively involved in promoting Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as part of the openly discussed effort to move land into exclusively Jewish ownership, a racist project that has gone on since the founding of the State of Israel. Let us take, as an example the shocking case of Zionist academic, Ruth Kark, who will be presenting at this conference.
Kark's words were acted upon - Arakib Village was demolished more than 30 timesKark is an active participant in the programme of the Israeli State to concentrate the Negev Bedouin in restricted zones and deliver their lands to exclusively Jewish ownership and use. According to the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality "Kark had presented an expert opinion, supporting the state's position that the Bedouins have no ownership rights over their lands in the Negev even if they have lived there for many generations."
Not only did Kark support the racist claim that Jews have rights to land that trump those who "have lived there for many generations" but she fabricated evidence in support of a standard, and academically discredited, Zionist claim that Palestine had been empty before Zionist colonisation: "There are no Palestinians or anyone else here. There were shepherds who brought their sheep from Saudi Arabia, and then returned."
Kark puts her dubious "expertise" firmly in the service of the Zionist narrative used to justify the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, that they are all recent arrivals to a previously empty land that only European Jewis colonisers had the ability to make productive. This academic fraud produced an opinion for the Israeli Government that there "had been no permanent settlements in the northern Negev, and that there was no evidence that any lands in the area were owned by anyone".
One ought to ask why Findhorn is hosting a dodgy academic who still defends the proposition put forward in an utterly discredited work which, according to Noam Chomsky, led "Every major journal, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review, the Observer everybody" to conclude that "this doesn't even reach the level of nonsense, of idiocy".
Against Kark's absurd claims of an empty land on the shores of the Mediterranean prior to Zionist colonisation,Amnesty described the programme Kark endorsed as "a conscious Israeli government policy of dispossession ...despite the residents' Israeli citizenship and their long-established claims to their lands" and called on the Israeli government to "stop its policy of home demolitions both in communities inside Israel, such as Al-'Araqib in the Negev, and also in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem". Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel described the current plan to forcibly remove tens of thousands of the Naqab 's non-Jewish population as "a declaration of war on the Bedouin in the Negev."
The Coalition of Women for Peace joined with many other human rights groups to protest "the destruction of Al-Arakib" Village. They reported that "large police forces destroyed the village of Al-Arakib for the 11th time*, using violence, including the use of sponge bullets, beatings and arrests...The demolitions in Al-Arakib are part of the plan of the Government of Israel to "Jewdise" the Negev.
The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) rejected an application by the Jewish National Fund USA, a supporter of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities, for consultative status with thousands of other NGOs on the grounds that the JNF's work in the Negev and elsewhere violated the principles of the UN Charter, which emphasizes respect for human rights and equality.
So it's Ruth Kark against Amnesty, HRW, Women for Peace and the UN's ECOSOC. Why has Findhorn provided a platform for Kark and her ilk to greenwash their commitment to ethnic cleansing and racism? Kark is an example of the complicity of the great bulk of Israeli academics in supporting, equipping, defending and seeking to justify Israel's illegal occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing and helps to explain why Palestinian civil society has asked for its counterparts worldwide to support their call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it ends its violations of Palestinian human rights.
It also helps to explain why the Church of Scotland recently took a stand for the human rights of the Palestinian refugees whose property was stolen by the kibbutzim where many conference presenters live, why the Scottish Trade Union Congress has declared its opposition to Israel's racist policies, and why the Friends of the Earth andGreen Parties in Scotland, England and Wales have condemned the greenwashing of Israeli
policies of forced population removals.
The Findhorn Community should not aid and abet such greenwashing of ethnic cleansing and state-enforced residential segregation, i.e. apartheid.
* As of end of June 2013, Arakib Village had been destroyed 51 times.
Edinburgh 21 June 2013
Among the presenters at this conference are
- Michael Livni of Kibbutz Lotan
- Graham Meltzer who spent two years on a Kibbutz not identified
- Menachem Topel, a member of Kibbutz Mefalsim near Gaza
- Jan Martin Bang a member of Kibbutz Gezer
- Aharon Azati a member of Kibbutz Beit Haemek
- David Leach once lived on Kibbutz Shamir
- Ruth Kark
- Shula Keshet, a member of Kibbutz Givat Brenner
- Yaakov Oved, a member of Kibbutz Palmachim
- Yuval Dror was a member of Kibbutz Hamadia, which took its name from nearby Palestinian village of Al Hamadiyya, destroyed in 1948 by local Zionist militias to prevent Arab villagers returning.
- Rami Degani, a member of Kibbutz Nir David, founded in 1936 as the first 'tower and stockade' type of military structure to enable colonisation.
- Anton Marks a member of Kibbutz Mishol, situated in Nazareth Illit which, according to the director of the IDF Planning Department, Yuval Ne'eman, would "safeguard the Jewish character of the Galilee as a whole, and... demonstrate state sovereignty to the Arab population more than any other settlement operation." Historian Geremy Forman wrote that Jewish Upper Nazareth was meant to "overpower [Arab] Nazareth numerically, economically, and politically."
- Lee Cahaner, born and raised in Kibbutz Magal, which was a militarised settlement set up in 1953 by the Nahal Infantry Brigade, which also set up illegal settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and the West Bank with the explicitly racist and illegal goal of changing the ethnicbalance of these regions.
- Yuval Achouch, a member of Kibbutz Hanita, founded in 1938 in the teeth of Palestinian opposition as a militarised colony on the border with Lebanon
- Judith Yoel, a kibbutz member since 1982
The Press and Journal Moray, Friday, June 28, 2013
Community defends itself in ‘racist speaker’ storm
Conference: Palestine supporters critical of invitation to guest
BY KAYE NICOLSON
A Moray spiritual community has defended itself after claims that it invited an anti - Palestinian academic to a conference.
The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign raised concerns about the Findhorn Foundation’s Communal Pathways to Sustainable Living event, which ends today.
The conference, at the community’s Universal Hall, was organised to share academic research and experience about environmentally- minded communities such as housing co-operatives and kibbutzim.
However, several residents of the Findhorn ecovillage approached the SPSC after hearing that Israeli academic ProfessorRuth Kark was one of the speakers, alongside a number of representatives from Israeli kibbutzim.
The SPSC claimed on a recent blog that Prof Kark was an academic who supported a “racist claim that Jews have rights to land that trump those who have lived there for many generations”.
The blog also claimed that kibbutzim share in a general policy of forced residential separation of Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Mick Napier, of SPSC, met with Findhorn Foundation representatives yesterday, calling on them to support Amnesty International and Church of Scotland views on the sensitive situation in Israel.
A spokesman for the Findhorn Foundation said yesterday: “After a constructive meeting with both local and national representatives from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Findhorn Foundation wishes to clarify that it unambiguously supports the principles enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Earth Charter,
the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and all UN conventions, and instruments and principles of internationallaw that relate to the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.
“We also wish to state our unequivocal support for racially inclusive communities and communities that honour and celebratethe full diversity of humankind.
“We look forward to future dialogues to ensure a deeper understanding of the issues involved.” Mr Napier said: “Most ofthe people from inside the community who registered their great unhappiness were non-members of SPSC, but there were some members too.
“There will be a discussion between management and Findhorn community members to discuss the implications of this.
“Our members of the campaign inside the community will be trying to push that forward.”
Defence: Controversial Jewish professor hits out at ‘raft of untruths’ in Scottish campaign’s blog
Professor Kark, a historic geographer, said the SPSC’s blog featured a raft of “untruths”.
Prof Kark, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, recently gave expert evidence to Be’er Sheva District Court, Israel, for a case in which a Bedouin citizen claimed he owned land in the northern Negev Desert.
The man claimed his family held the land for generations until the state took it 1951.
Prof Kark said she had conducted extensive research into that particular plot of land, and found that it had not been owned by the Bedouins.
The SPSC said Prof Kark “fabricated evidence in support of a standard, and academically discredited, Zionist claim that Palestine had been empty before Zionist colonisation”.
But she said last night: “I never claimed that Palestine was empty. In general most of the Bedouin don’t have title deeds to land.
They did not in this case. These areas were really occupied by Nomadic people.” She added: “I am apolitical. I’m a professor.
I have never had an agenda against or for the Bedouins. My work is very serious – I checked hundreds of documents and historical maps.”
Prof Kark, who has written 20 books on historical geography, said the SPSC’s sources were biased.
“They are not interested in historical facts,” she added. “They needed some target – but I can stand by every word that I wrote. Some of the things they said, I never said and never wrote. “I am not responsible for the Israeli court or other organisations. I would be happy to have a dialogue, but they don’t seem to want a dialogue. I am not against Bedouins or Palestinians.”