You can find all my recent writing on +972 Magazine. The direct link to the Promised Land Blog is:
See you there,
You can find all my recent writing on +972 Magazine. The direct link to the Promised Land Blog is:
See you there,
The Knesset is outlawing Nazi references, but stupidity is still legal.
[Likud MK] Danny Danon – דני דנון
I held an emergency meeting in the Knesset on the Thailand travel warning for Israeli tourists. The Counter-Terrorism Bureau clarified that there are still high alerts. I decided to send a public letterthrough Chabad and other Israeli tourist connections, warning all Jews and Israelis traveling in Thailand. “Israeli hikers can help in identifing potential terrorists, and to asisst in this I distributed a sketch of the terrorist who is currently roaming freely in Thailand.”
A couple of months ago, the New York Times run an op-ed titled “Israel and ‘Pinkwashing,’” which accused Israel of using the issue of gay rights to whitewash its deteriorating human rights record. Quote:
In Israel, gay soldiers and the relative openness of Tel Aviv are incomplete indicators of human rights — just as in America, the expansion of gay rights in some states does not offset human rights violations like mass incarceration. The long-sought realization of some rights for some gays should not blind us to the struggles against racism in Europe and the United States, or to the Palestinians’ insistence on a land to call home.
Many Jewish-American writers, including progressive ones, attacked the Times for publishing this piece. Here is J.J. Goldberg and Jay Michaelson at The Forward and Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic; there are more examples. An adviser for Netanyahu even mentioned it in a public letter to the Times in which the PM declined to write an op-ed for the paper.
This seems to be one of those absurd cases in which criticism allowed in the Israeli conversation becomes taboo for the Jewish community in the United States: This weekend, Israel’s liberal paper Haaretz, which has exclusive rights over the Times content, ran a translation of the notorious pinkwashing piece in its news pages, as commentary responding to a feature that reported an online competition in which Tel Aviv was chosen the most desirable Gay destination in the world. “Gay rights became a PR tool for trying to hide violations of human rights in Israel,” was the lead quote chosen by the editors in Haaretz.
In the last few days, Israel’s most popular website, Walla.co.il, had two pinkwashing items of its own, dealing with the growing criticism on the Israeli use of the LGBT issue in its propaganda war with the Palestinians. One of the pieces, which also cited from Sarah Schulman’s Times op-ed, was titled “Israel – the most gay in the world, or just colored in pink?”
It seems that every state agency in Israel is becoming a tool in the effort to further colonize the West Bank and deepen the control over the lives of Palestinians.
Soon after the government reached an internal “deal” with the settler movement that would keep the families who settled in a so-called “illegal” outpost on the ground, the Government Press Office – once in charge of handling press cards and other bureaucratic duties – is now engaging in propaganda efforts on behalf of the settlers.
A few days ago, the foreign press corps received the following mail, inviting members to an ideological tour in the heart of the settler land – “Samaria,” in the north of the West Bank (links appeared in the original):
Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs
Government Press Office
Jerusalem, 12 January 2012
TO: Foreign Journalists in Israel
FROM: Israel Government Press Office
GPO TOUR OF THE SHOMRON (SAMARIA) REGIONAL COUNCIL
We are pleased to invite you to a tour (in English) of the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council on Thursday, 19.1.12, from 09:30-16:30. Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein will participate.
09:30 Departure from Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
11:00-11:30 Visit to community of Barkan: Briefing by local resident Natalie Hershkowitz on the history of the community, westward view to the Mediterranean Sea.
11:45-12:15 Barkan Industrial Park: Tour of plant that employs Palestinians, briefing on effect of Arab boycott on the plant.
12:35-12:45 Itamar; stop at Fogel family residence.
12:45-13:15 Itamar: Meeting with local resident Leah Goldsmith at her home. Briefing on her move from the US, the establishment of Itamar & life in the community.
13:30-14:15 Lunch at Giv’ot Olam Organic Farm, with participation of Minister Edelstein, and Shomron Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika and Asst. Chairman Yossi Dagan (responsible for Council Strategic Affairs Dept).
14:30-15:00 Overlook of Nablus, Joseph’s Tomb and local communities from Mt. Gerizim; guided by David Haivri & with participation of Minister Edelstein.
16:30 Return to Teddy Stadium.
Government Press Office
According to the 2003 law, Arab citizens of Israel who marry Palestinians will have to emigrate in order to live with their spouses.
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi famously said that “Israel is indeed a Jewish-democratic state: it is democratic for Jews and Jewish for all the rest.”
This rings truer than ever after Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected yesterday (again) the petitions against the Citizenship Law, one of the first measures to make racial discrimination against the Arab minority not just common practice, but part of Israel’s legal codex.
The High Court rejected the petitions against the Citizenship Law in a split, 6-5 decision. The incoming head of the High Court, Justice Asher Grunis, wrote in the decision that “human rights shouldn’t be a recipe for national suicide.” You can read the full verdict here [Hebrew, PDF]. Justice Edmond Levy, a religious and somewhat conservative judge, harshly criticized Grunis for his language, claiming he misled the public as to the nature of the citizenship law.
The Citizenship Law, which technically is a temporary order, came into effect in 2003. It determines that Palestinian non-citizens who marry Israeli citizens will not be eligible for Israeli residency or citizenship. The couple will only be able to unite outside the borders of Israel.
The practical meaning of the law is that Arab citizens of Israel who marry Palestinian non-citizens – something that happens quite often, since these are members of the same nation, and sometimes of the same communities – won’t be able to live with their wives or husbands. If they want to unite, they will have to leave the country. By doing so, the law achieves two (racist) objectives against members of the Arab minority: (a) it prevents non-Jews from entering the country and applying for permanent residency or citizenship and (b) it makes it harder for Israeli Arab citizens to build families in their own community or in their own country, thus encouraging them to leave Israel. Arab Palestinians comprise roughly 20 percent of Israel’s population.
It is important to note that it is not the right of the non-citizen wife or husband that is being violated (since the state has no legal obligation towards them), but that of the citizen, who should enjoy the possibility to form a family and live with his loved one in his own community.
When the citizenship law came into effect, during the second Intifada, a security pretext was used to justify it, claiming that Palestinian terrorists could use marriage to become Israeli citizens. Yet this argument doesn’t hold: even without the law, the security establishment can veto any demand for citizenship or residency. It’s clear – and the public debate around the law doesn’t even try to conceal this fact – that “demographic” issues were the real motive for the legislation, and more specifically, the desire to limit, and ultimately even reduce, the number of non-Jewish citizens in the state.
Until the citizenship order, the only major piece of Israeli legislation that made a clear distinction between Arabs and Jews was the Law of Return, which makes it possible for Jews to immigrate to Israel and become citizens instantly, while non-Jews aren’t allowed to do so, even if their families originally hailed from this land. The 2003 law marks perhaps a new era, in which discrimination against the Arab minority is not only a common practice – for example, in the prevention of Palestinians from buying or building on state land, through the use of state agencies such as the JNF – but an explicit part of the body of laws that apply to the citizens of the state.
The new Nakba Law, which allows the state to penalize institutions that commemorate the Palestinian national disaster of 1948, is further evidence of this fact. The High Court also rejected petitions against the Nakab bill, just last week.
Yair Lapid left his position in Channel 2 News and announced his intention to enter politics. He is likely to split the secular vote in a way that won’t allow anyone but the Likud to form the next government
One of the questions that has dominated the political landscape in Israel in the last couple of years received an (almost) definite answer this week, when the most popular journalist in Israel, Yair Lapid, resigned from his post as Channel 2′s Friday evening anchorman in order to enter politics.
If he had it his way, Lapid would have waited for new elections to be called – probably later this year – but the Knesset legislators forced him to reveal his cards. A bill subjecting every journalist to a full “cooling off” period of a year before entering politics was about to become a law, and Lapid, who probably made up his mind on his political future a while ago, had to leave his comfortable position in front of a prime-time audience. The official announcement came in the form of a resignation letter to his bosses at the station.
Lapid, 49, is the son of the late journalist-turned-politician Yosef (Tommy) Lapid and novelist Shulamit Lapid. He grew up in Tel Aviv and London, served as a reporter for the IDF’s magazine Bamahane, and later started working for his father’s paper, Maariv. His star rose in the 90′s, when he acted in an Israeli film and hosted popular TV talk shows on Channels 1 and 2. Lapid wrote books and a TV mini-series, led TV campaigns for Israel’s largest bank, and since 2008 hosted the prestigious weekly news magazine on Channel 2. Lapid also writes the leading full-page column in Yedioth Ahronoth’s Friday edition, the most widely read paper in Israel.
For such a public figure, Lapid’s political views are extremely vague. His father, a Knesset member and then government minister, was known for his militant secularism, both in public and in his personal life. Lying on his deathbed, Yosef Lapid refused any treatment that would prolong his life and eventually starved to death. Like his father, Yair Lapid is hostile to the ultra-Orthodox establishment, although even on this trademark family issue, his tone is much more restrained. Yosef “Tommy Gun” Lapid was an Archie Bunker-like conservative; Yair Lapid is his business-oriented, politically-correct alter ego.
If figuring out Yair Lapid on social issues is a complicated task, making sense of his views on diplomatic and regional politics, on human rights and democracy, is close to impossible. From his columns, it seems that Lapid is at the center of the secular consensus (some say that he is the center) – i.e. he supports in theory of the two-state solution; he is somewhat critical of the settlements and clearly hostile towards the “extreme” religious settlers, but he has no special affection for human rights organizations and he hasn’t showed unique interest in the current wave of anti-democratic legislation.
Lapid wrote a couple of times that Israel should have supported, rather than opposed, the Palestinian UN bid, but I don’t remember hearing a real out-of-the-box idea from him, one like Shaul Mofaz’s (Kadima) support for negotiations with Hamas. Lapid is not a rightwing hawk nor a dove; one more thing he inherited from his dad is a hatred of “the lefty media,” which he confessed again recently.
Lapid updates his Facebook followers on the progress of his Knesset bid. Unlike pages of other Knesset members, Lapid’s wall is lively and exited. According to one of his latest messages, he hasn’t formed his party yet. He will probably skip the option of leading his father’s party – Shinui – which wasn’t able to pass the Knesset threshold in the last elections. There is little sense in forcing oneself to deal with the party’s dysfunctional machine, plus I would imagine that Lapid aims higher than the narrow appeal of Shinui, which will always be constrained by its free market, secular Ashkenazi image.
It is somewhat ironic that Lapid, the privileged son of the Israeli elite, would be one of the first to benefit from the summer’s social protest. Yet there is no doubt that the growing discontent in Israel’s middle class played a major part in his decision to enter politics now. As I have written here in the past, the J14 demonstrations – also known as the tent protests – were, more than anything, a show of middle-class disappointment with elected Knesset members, and especially with Kadima.
While Israel’s right is filled with would-be leaders and Knesset backbenchers who compete for attention by introducing racist bills or conducting bizarre public stunts, and while the left has no voters or public appeal whatsoever, the amorphous promised land of the moderate center is up for grabs. Shelly Yachimovitch, the surprise winner of the Labor primaries, was the first to take a bite, and Lapid might be the one to deal Kadima its coup-de-grace.
The man who is likely to benefit the most from this process is one Benjamin Netanyahu. Lapid can draw votes from all of Netanyahu’s potential challengers – including Avigdor Lieberman – but he is not likely to hurt the Likud too much. The result will be a fragmented Knesset, in which the Likud is a single big party and four or five others – Lapid, Labor, Lieberman, Kadima and maybe Shas – are competing for a place in the coalition. Since Netanyahu will only need between two and three of those parties, and since they won’t be able to form an alternative coalition due to a lack of a central, agreed-upon, leading force, they won’t have any bargaining position. It will be Bibi or nothing.
Early polls suggest that this is the most likely scenario. There were three polls conducted right after Lapid’s announcement – by the dailies Maariv and Yedioth, and by Channel 10. The results varied, but the general picture was the same: Likud was the only party to pass the 20-seat threshold, polling between 27 and 30 of the 120 Knesset seats (Likud has 27 MKs now). Lapid had 11-16 seats, Kadima 13-15 (28 now), Labor 12-18, Israel Beitenu 14-15 and Shas 9-11. In such a picture, the old division into two competing blocs – left-center and right-religious – becomes meaningless.
On a deeper level, Lapid’s entry into politics could be seen as representing a new stage in the Israeli culture war, one in which the dominant social group – secular middle class – has left behind the hope to lead the political system and is settling for a sectarian representation of its interests, spread between several parties. Except in the case of an unexpected event such as war or a deep economical crisis, we are likely to be left with Netanyahu as prime minister; or with a fragmented system in which nobody can really govern. Yair Lapid therefore is not the answer to Israel’s existential crisis – more than anything, he is a representation of the problem.
In a tweet that was later deleted, the Jewish National Fund says Bedouins in unrecognized villages are “living on someone’s land illegally.” The JNF has been taking part in evacuations of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and in foresting actions aimed at preventing the Bedouin from accessing their lands; last month, a JNF board member resigned, citing “violation of human rights” by the organization
In recent months, we have reported here on the Jewish National Fund’s role in attempts to take over Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and in the evacuations of Palestinian Bedouins from their homes in the Negev desert.
The Fund – originally established to buy lands in the early days of Zionism – is today a quasi-government agency that controls 13 percent of the land in Israel. Since the fund only sells lands to Jews, the government occasionally transfers real estate in disputed areas to the fund, so it can carry out discriminatory policies that the government is forbidden from exercising directly. Such are the cases in East Jerusalem.
In the south, the fund does foresting work on the lands of unrecognized Palestinian villages, aimed at preventing Bedouins from rebuilding their homes. Last week, the Abu al-Qian Bedouin clan protested plans to evacute them from their homes in the Yatir area in order to make room for another JNF forest.
Last Thursday, there was an interesting tweet from the JNF USA office, essentially admitting that the Fund sees the Bedouin citizens of Israel as illegal invaders in their own land:
After several followers re-tweeted this message, the tweet was deleted. A new tweet directed readers to a public statement by the fund, claiming that the Bedouin issue “is too complicated to debate in 140 [characters].”
“The issue” is in fact not that complicated. When Israel was established, it chose not to recognize Bedouin ownership of lands that they cultivated or lived on, making them illegal residents in their own home – even in cases where those settlements predated the state itself. More than 60 years after, the state still tries to evacuate the Bedouin, while refusing to connect them to infrastructure such as electricity and water. Yet in the world of the Jewish National Fund, its not even a disputed territory: All lands belongs to Jews by default, and people – Israeli citizens! – living there are doing so “illegally.”
The Jewish National Fund is knowingly and willingly taking an active role in taking over the lands of indigenous population in different parts of Israel and the occupied territories. Lately, JNF board member Seth Morrison resigned from the organization, calling its evacuations of Palestinians in East Jerusalem a “violation of human rights.”
Rabbis for Human Rights have launched a campaign against the Jewish National Fund’s attempts to take over Palestinian homes and evacuate Bedouins from their lands. You can read more about it here.
F. W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, explains why the “multi-state solution” to apartheid didn’t work in his country, and why it would probably fail in Israel/Palestine
One of the ways the whites in South Africa tried to preserve the ethnic separation of apartheid was by introducing autonomous regions for the black minorities, known also as Bantustans. Some of the Bantustans even received “independence,” and unlike the Israeli government, the South African actually tried to have the international community recognize them. It even wanted them to have a seat at the UN but the trick didn’t work – the Bantustans weren’t sovereign nor separate; it was just another form of ethnic segregation and ethnic control. Curiously enough, Israel was the only country in the world to express some sort of limited recognition of their independent status, and one Bantustan even opened a trade mission in Tel Aviv under its own flag.
In an interview last week, the last white president of South Africa and the man who canceled the Bantustans, F. W. de Klerk, told the BBC what made the South African “multi-states solution” fail:
What I supported as a younger politician was exactly what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine, namely separate nation states will be the solution. In our case we failed. There were three main reasons. We failed because the whites wanted too much land for themselves. We failed because the majority of blacks said this is not how we want our political rights. And we failed because we became economically totally integrated. We became an economic omelet and you can never again divide an omelet into the white and the yellow of the egg. And we realized in the early eighties we had landed in a place which has become morally unjustified.
Is this where the two-states solution is also headed? All evidence points at this direction. The Jews want too much land for themselves, and their power allowed them to bring the settlement project to the point of no return; despite efforts on both sides, the economies are still linked to each other. One could claim that Israel is not as dependant on the Arab work force as South Africa was on the black work force, yet it still desires the land in the West Bank and the resources that come with it. The only real difference is between the black leadership in South Africa, which didn’t play along with the idea of the Bantustans, and the PLO, which is only too happy to run its own fantasy of an autonomous Authority. It’s not just President Abbas: Palestinian politics is still very much committed to the idea of a nation-state.
According to de-Klerk’s logic, a shift in Palestinian politics towards a consensus around the one-state solution might be all it takes to end any possibility of an ethnic/demographic separation in Israel/Palestine.
Hoping to boost the liberal image of country, Israel has increased efforts to use the gay community for advocacy and PR assignments.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first to appoint a government minister in charge of propaganda, advocacy and international public relations. Minister Yuli Edelstein has taken this position at the head of the Hasbara office so seriously that he has even asked Netanyahu to be relieved of other government duties so that he can concentrate on advocacy and propaganda.
Edelstein, a member of Likud, is known for his rightwing views. Recently, he posted a status message on his Facebook page referring to the Arabs as a “despicable nation.” Asked by +972 blogger Yossi Gurvitz to clarify this statement, a spokesperson for the minister said that Edelstein did in fact mean “all the Arabs.”
Yet this doesn’t keep the minister from to look to some of those despicable Arabs to represent Israel abroad. In an ad published recently on the Ministry’s official website, Arab and gay candidates were invited to apply for advocacy work abroad.
The office for Hasbara and Diaspora […] is announcing the widening of the pool of candidates for Hasbara [propaganda] activities abroad. The office invites candidates who are meeting the following requirement conditions to send an application for the pool, and especially would like to receive applications from people who represent the diverse faces of Israeli society, such as members of minority groups, representatives of the gay community, people who represent the variety of opinions in the Israel society, etc.
It should be noted that Minister Edelstein and his party are not very hospitable to gays either. When Yisrael Beiteinu introduced legislation allowing marriage-like status for non-Jews, Likud joined the Orthodox parties in blocking an attempt by the left to add gay and lesbians to this arrangement. Yet it’s no secret that Israel has found the gay rights issue especially useful in its propaganda campaigns.
In recent years, speakers for Israel have been advised to compare the status of gays in Israel to Muslim countries, and advocacy groups give prominence to this point in their publications; Israel is using targeted advertising campaigns for the gay community, and has recently put a four-page ad in the last issue of Attitude, the most popular gay magazine in Europe. A few months ago, a PR man connected to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office promoted a Youtube video in which an LGBT activist named Mark encouraged human rights organizations not to support the Gaza-bound flotilla. Mark was soon exposed by the site Electronic Intifada as an Israeli actor.
A recent op-ed in the New York Times titled “Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’” dealt with the efforts to use the gay rights issue to conceal the massive human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza. This piece drew heavy criticism from Jewish writers – including liberal ones – and was even cited by an aid for Netanyahu in a public letter detailing Netanyahu’s decision to decline an offer to author an op-ed in The Times.
Israel’s National Security Council calls U.S. President Barak Obama “naïve,” Israel’s pro-Netanyahu daily reports
Israel Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu free tabloid published by Jewish-American gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, published a story today on recent criticism dealt by Israel’s National Security Council of US President Barak Obama’s policy towards Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
U.S. President Barack Obama is “naive” and needs to face up to the threat presented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East, Israel’s National Security Council concluded during a strategic discussion several days ago.
The council, responsible for providing the prime minister and cabinet ministers with strategic assessments, said it was concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt, especially in light of the group’s world view and pronouncements from its officials, repeated as recently as this week, that call the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty into question.
As the article states, the NSC is not an independent think-tank but a strategic assessment body, operating under the Prime Minister’s Office. The head of the NSC is retired IDF general Yaakov Amidror, who was a regular contributor for Israel Hayom until his appointment.
According to numerous reports in the Israeli media, Binyamin Netanyahu sees another Obama term as clear political threat to himself, to the point where he is mulling on calling early election in Israel, so that a possible Democratic victory in November doesn’t affect his standing in the polls.
Israel Hayom, which is very supportive of Netanyahu, is likely to throw its weight behind the Republican candidate. The paper has recently launched an English site, with translations of pieces from its Hebrew edition.
The coverage in Israel Hayom of Newt Gingrich’s campaign – who is considered the closest to Netanayhu of all GOP candidates and a personal favorite of Mr. Adelson – is extremely favorable, thought the even paper admitted today that Gingrich’s chances of winning the Iowa caucuses are practically non-existent.
Last year, Israel Hayom’s editor, Amos Regev, conducted a personal interview with Gingrich, in which the former House speaker called a possible Israeli attack on Iran “an act of self defense.” The paper’s response to the candidate’s hostile remarks towards the Palestinians was extremely favorable: One op-ed in Israel Hayom praised Gingrich for his “historical accuracy,” while another was titled “thank you, Mr. Gingrich.”
Sheldon Adelson recently backed Gingrich, saying that calling the Palestinians an “invented people” is correct.