Ewa Jasiewicz replies
If you read the Times and the Mail, you will know they have been conducting a witch hunt all week against Ewa Jasiewicz, an activist on many issues, including Palestine. Below are Ewa's responses to the attacks on her.
Ewa Jasiewicz replies 1
Today's Daily Mail article and the intensification of the attacks on The World Transformed, Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn, through me, demands a response.
The Mail continues to recycle the false tropes of a memorial site or perimeter wall being vandalised by myself and Yonatan rather than a pre-existing and regularly used site of free expression and artwork in the territory of the old ghetto which covers a substantial area of the city of Warsaw. We would never take this kind of action at a memorial site. We recognise also the indescribable pain of the trauma which happened there.
I can see how my actions eight years ago lacked awareness and I apologise for the pain they caused. I am still learning and need to unlearn my lack of awareness, and learn from people affected and living through racism and anti-Semitism.
I want to make it absolutely clear that neither myself nor Yonatan Shapira were holding all Jewish people or those who were murdered in and through the ghetto as responsible for the actions of the Israeli state. We felt this was implicit but it clearly needs saying. We don't believe this and we didn't intend this message through our action and are deeply sorry for our role in how it is being experienced.
Yonatan can speak of his experience and intentions as an Israeli Jew and former Air Force Officer whose Polish grandparents perished in the holocaust and who was raised in Israel.
I won't speak for him, but I know his perspective on the action and its' meaning today is different from mine today living in the UK and in a climate where anti-Semitism is intensifying and is also being weaponised by the Right and establishment interests to undermine progressive agendas for transforming the UK into a more egalitarian country and for a more assertive UK role in working for a justice for Palestine.
The Times' decision to publish a de-contextualised, misinformation loaded hit piece designed to offend Jewish people on Rosh Hashanah is insensitive by design and can be read as a deliberate tactic to inflame anxieties and experiences – historical and present day – of anti-Semitism in the UK.
The Daily Mail goes another step further today, in using a photograph of me that I believe taps into and feeds anti-Muslim racism. The same photo – of me in Turkey at the funeral of nine people massacred by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, the tenth dying from his injuries years later – was used in a Daily Telegraph hit piece on myself and a Pakistani friend five years ago to discredit our anti-fracking activism in Lancashire. The trope was the same – outsiders, foreigners, not part of our communities – all an attempt to discredit us.
The right wing media playing with and manipulating lived experiences of racism and anti-Semitism when they are on the rise is disgusting. Gilligan and his fellow hit-piece specialists are architects of 'dehumanisation journalism'. Dehumanisation journalism serves to allow for certain populations and communities – in my case Palestinians – to be more expendable. I'm proud to be part of a journalistic tradition and movement that is committed to the opposite.
I am mindful that as the press attacks have continued to use anti-Semitism and othering in their construction of a continuing argument of Jeremy Corbyn as unworthy as a leader and future prime minister of this country, that people might view anxieties around my actions as dismissable in the service of supporting Jeremy. I really ask people to step back and pay attention to what my Jewish comrades are saying on this and stay with it. We need empathy and exploration and navigation which doesn't produce rejection or polarisation or assumed ideas of privilege.
For everyone too, pay attention to Palestinian experience, history, and the colonial ghettoisation Palestinians are facing right now. Colonisation, escalating apartheid and collective punishment of Gaza, as well as the continuing denial of the right of return for Palestinian refugees is intensifying. “They're just looking at us” is what survivors of Israel's war on Gaza 2009 kept telling me about the world outside. We need to redouble our efforts of solidarity in this direction – through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as well as maintaining it between one another.
Again, apologise again for the genuine pain I have caused people. Love and solidarity.
Plus two earlier responses:
I am aware that another story is coming out about me tomorrow, in which I am accused of encouraging people to hurt Israeli politicians. I want to provide some context and clarification for this.
The flippant comment which The Times is referring to was in a private email which ended up being published on the PalSolidarity website in 2002 as was the case at times with emailed reports on Israeli occupation activity back then.
I wrote the email aged 24 following the witnessing of the murder of a 13 year old boy – Baha Al Bahesh – at the hands of an Israeli soldier who shot him in front of me from an Armoured Personnel Carrier in Nablus.
I subsequently witnessed armed soldiers shooting and wounding children in the street, home demolitions by armed bulldozers and explosives, wanton destruction of property including water and electricity infrastructure, aerial bombardment, violent arrest and violent house to house searches and oppression of Palestinian people by Israeli occupation forces in Jenin refugee camp.
This was just months after a massacre had been committed there by Israeli occupation forces, killing at least 52 people, and the trauma and the risk of repetition of which was still being felt by the camp's inhabitants.
It's important to take into account the role of trauma in impacting my thinking at the time in relation to what resistance – armed and unarmed - to colonisation and occupation means, looks like, and could be by both those enduring occupation and those who are in solidarity with them. It is also important to remember that an occupied people – the Palestinian people in this case - have a right to resist military occupation.
I re-iterate that this was a private email to a network of activists which was subsequently posted unedited – as the rushed style shows - on the PalSolidarity website.
I do not and never have, advocated the harming of anybody and this was definitely not the intention of the comment in the email. I apologise for any harm or upset this has caused and I ask people to understand it in the context that it was written, both as a flippant comment in a private email and under conditions of a violent occupation.
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Mine and Yonatan Shapira's action at a site of creative expression near the site of the Warsaw ghetto eight years ago was intended in the spirit of anti-fascist resistance, exemplified by Warsaw ghetto fighters, to the ghettoisation and dehumanisation of Palestinians in Palestine, including the world's largest open air prison – the Gaza Strip.
The graffiti at the wall which was regularly used by artists, was later included in an art exhibition. We both believe that Never Again is not a slogan but an action, a vigilance and a solidarity with all people facing ghettoisation and oppression for collective liberation – which is why we chose to write Liberate All Ghettos.
We both come from families that have experienced the impact of fascism and have learned we need to fight it. Yonatan is an Israeli former IDF airforce captain and refusnik whose family perished in the holocaust. My father was a soldier in the Polish army when the second world war broke out, fighting fascism, and was jailed in a Stalinist gulag whilst his two brothers, partisans aged 15 and 17 were killed by Nazis in the forests of Eastern Poland. We have also both experienced directly the violence of occupation and apartheid in Palestine and Israel both in terms of being shot at, bombed and assaulted by Israeli armed forces and witnessing this happening to Palestinians and other people, and this has been traumatic.
There is a lot to reflect on in relation to this action and it is understandable why some people have been offended and hurt by it. It was never our intention to cause harm and we hope to repair the trust, in time, that has been broken with those who have been hurt by this.
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For an example of real journalism about living under Israeli bombardment, as opposed to the hatchet jobs of the millionaire press, read this.