Likud MK: Israeli hikers can help in identifying terrorists

Posted: January 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right | Tags: , , | Comments Off

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.”

 


Israeli paper runs controversial NY Times ‘pinkwashing’ piece

Posted: January 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

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?

Read Also:
Rightist Propaganda Min. looking for Arabs, gays to represent Israel


Court okays Citizenship Law, legalizing discrimination of Arabs

Posted: January 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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.

Read also:
High Court ruling on ‘Nakba Law’ reveals its waning power
2012: The year democracy ends

 


Twitter reveals JNF’s approach toward Palestinian Bedouin

Posted: January 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

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.

Read also:
Protest against settler-friendly JNF expands, raises existential questions
Forced relocation of 30K Bedouin biggest dispossession since ’48


2012: Netanyahu’s shadow war for the GOP begins?

Posted: January 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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.


Hanin Zoabi and Israel’s point of no return

Posted: January 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Some more thoughts of the “death of democracy” scenario that might take place in the next elections

Susan Hattis Rolef has a piece in the Jerusalem Post dealing with the same issue I wrote about yesterday: the expected ban on MK Hanin Zoabi – and perhaps Balad and Raam-Taal parties as well – from participating in the next elections.

Hattis-Rolef seems to agree with me that this is a likely scenario, at least in the case of a personal disqualification of MK Zoabi.

There is no doubt that as elections for the 19th Knesset approach, right-wing parties will renew efforts to have Balad disqualified on the grounds that the party advocates turning Israel into “a state of all its citizens” – something they say essentially denies its existence as the state of the Jewish people. They also say Balad maintains contact with organizations that are defined in Israel as terrorist organizations.

In the past, the High Court of Justice has overturned Central Elections Committee decisions to disqualify Balad, but the last time the court ruled on this issue, it stated that Balad’s positions were problematic, implying that the party is walking on very thin legal ice. With the High Court’s more conservative makeup, and especially the approaching retirement of Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, it is quite likely that next time the court will uphold a committee decision to disqualify Balad.

To that we can add that the 2009 ruling on Balad was a split decision, with Justice Levi arguing that the party should not be allowed to participate in the elections. It should also be noted that the law regarding these issues is very vague and broad, so if the court choses to do so, it could easily ban all Arab parties (and not just them). This is also from Hattis-Rolef:

According to The Immunity of Knesset Members, their Rights and Duties Law, MKs enjoy full immunity for any act they perform within the framework of their parliamentary work. There are four exceptions to this rule: the act involves denying the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People; it denies its nature as a democratic state; it incites to racism based on race or national-ethnic origin or supports the armed struggle of an enemy state or terrorist acts against the State of Israel, or for such acts against Jews or Arabs because they are Jews or Arabs, in Israel and abroad.

Incidentally these are also the four grounds for disqualifying parties from running for the Knesset.

Currently, three parties – Hadash, Balad and Raam-Taal – are calling for “a state for all its citizens” model in Israel, so essentially, they could be seen as violating the first article in the law (opposing the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People). One could also claim that some religious and rightwing MKs incite to racism or deny the democratic nature of the state. Yet it all comes down to the fact that the decision won’t be a legal but a political one, and since the right enjoys an overwhelming majority in the Knesset and the Supreme Court is more conservative than ever, the effort to limit the political representation of Arab citizens is highly likely to succeed.

If I had to bet on it, I would say that in the current atmosphere Zoabi is likely to be disqualified; the ruling on her party Balad, can go each way; and Raam-Taal will be banned by the Central Elections Committee but later allowed to run by the Court. Such rulings will also increase the court’s tendency to search for “middle grounds” that would please the Jewish elites.

[Needless to say, I personally find all of Balad's known positions and actions, including Zoabi's, perfectly legitimate, even if I don't agree or support them all.]

In such an event, we will be faced with the following dilemmas:

-    Should Balad participate in the elections if MK Zoabi is expelled from the Knesset?

-    Should other Arab or left parties participate in the elections if MK Zoabi or Balad are disqualified?

-    Should Arab citizens of Israel vote in elections in which their representatives – or at least some of them – are not allowed to participate for political reasons?

Since a general boycott of the elections by the Arabs would have grave consequences on the national conversation – it would surly help promote Lieberman’s plan to transfer the Palestinians to the future Palestinian “state” – and since there is no hope of ever forming a center-left coalition in Israel without a strong showing by the Arab parties, I believe that the Zoabi-Balad case might turn out to be one of Israel’s most critical moments of truth.


High Court allows Israel to mine Palestinian Territories

Posted: December 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

In rejecting a petition regarding Israeli-owned quarries in the West Bank, the court rules that they benefit the Palestinians as well

Who owns and is allowed to use the sand and rocks of the West Bank? This question was at the center of a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice, submitted by Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din in 2009. Yesh Din asked the court to stop the operations of eight quarries under Israeli ownership, claming that they take away valuable resources from the Palestinian people and from a future Palestinian state.

Some 94 percent of the materials produced in the Israeli quarries in the West Bank is transported to Israel, accounting for the needs of more than a quarter of the market.

The petition relied on an article in the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, allowing an occupier to use the resources in the occupied land only for the needs and benefits of the occupied people.

Art. 55. The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.

Yesterday (Monday) the Israeli High Court rejected the petition, allowing the quarries to continue their work.

Here is a link to the full ruling [Hebrew only]

Some of the arguments the court gives are very strange, if not entirely corrupt: The court accepts, for example, the claim that since Palestinians are employed in mining work for the Israeli companies who own the quarries, one could say that Israel is actually helping the local economy. It also notes the fact that the quarries pay (low) taxes to the army’s administrative authority in the West Bank, which uses the money for its daily operations in the area.

In other words, the quarries not only take advantage of the the Palestinians’ natural resources, they are also used to cover the expenses of maintaining the occupation, which makes them even more profitable for Israel.

The court also cites previous cases, in which it declared the circumstances of the Israeli occupation “unique,” in a way that demands certain “adjustments” to the rights and duties of the occupiers. What is the reason for this unique situation? Among other things, that the Israeli occupation has been going on for so long. Israel, the court says, “is responsible for the development and growth of the area, in various ways” (article 10 in the ruling). Only in the Orwellian language of the occupation can developing the area be interpreted to mean profits through the shipping of its natural resources to Israel.

Addressing these arguments, Attorney Michael Sfard, legal advisor for Yes Din, said of the ruling, “Quarrying natural resources in an occupied territory for the economic benefit of the occupying state is pillage, and the court’s reasoning that a long-term occupation should be treated differently cannot legalize an economic activity that harms the local residents.”

Finally, the verdict also quotes the fact that in the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians agreed to let the quarries operate until the final agreement on the status of the land. The court fails to mention that the final agreement should have been signed, according to the Oslo Accords, by 1999. Still, this rationale demonstrates the destructive role the Palestinian Authority currently plays by allowing Israel to avoid the full legal implications and political consequences of its policies in the territories it occupied in 1967.

The Court concludes that the petition should be rejected for the reasons above, in addition to a few others. The head of the court, Dorit Beinisch, wrote the ruling herself. It was accepted unanimously by the two other justices hearing the case.

————

The Israeli High Court is often praised as a liberal institution and a unique model of judicial supervision in the toughest of circumstances. The Court has in fact registered some achievements in Israeli society and even with regards to the Arab minority of Israeli citizens, but in the West Bank and Gaza, it has done nothing but provide Israel with a cover of legitimacy for its activities.

The High Court’s track record is very clear: It never questions or stops Israeli policies. At best, it asks for some adjustments to be made.

In the late seventies, the High Court approved the settlements, only adding limits to the State’s ability to confiscate private land belonging to Palestinian individuals; a decade later, the court sanctioned torture (but also issued some vague rules over the circumstances in which it could be used); it allowed targeted assassinations; and it approved the construction of the separation wall deep inside Palestinian territory, only demanding it be moved it in a few cases.

In short, the High Court has never been a venue to challenge the occupation, but quite the opposite – it is one of the branches that institutionalized it, by setting rules and providing a legal cover to colonial policies, for political persecution and for oppression. One can only conclude that in the context of the West Bank, the High Court has been and still is a fundamental element in the construction and maintenance of what is, in essence, apartheid.


(Another) Knesset Speaker endorses one-state solution

Posted: December 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Former Knesset Speaker Abrum Burg has an op-ed in Haaretz in which he not only endorses the one-state solution, but calls the entire left to do the same. Burg has flirted with the idea in the past, but he was never so explicit:

So enough of the illusions. There are no longer two states between the Jordan River and the sea… we [the left] must consider how we can enter into the new Israeli discourse. It has intriguing potential. The next diplomatic formula that will replace the “two states for two peoples” will be a civilian formula. All the people between the Jordan and the sea have the same right to equality, justice and freedom. In other words, there is a very reasonable chance that there will be only one state between the Jordan and the sea – neither ours nor theirs but a mutual one. It is likely to be a country with nationalist, racist and religious discrimination and one that is patently not democratic, like the one that exists today. But it could be something entirely different. An entity with a common basis for at least three players: an ideological right that is prepared to examine its feasibility; a left, part of which is starting to free itself of the illusions of “Jewish and democratic”; and a not inconsiderable part of the Palestinian intelligentsia.

The conceptual framework will be agreed upon – a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens. The practicable substance could be fertile ground for arguments and creativity. This is an opportunity worth taking, despite our grand experience of missing every opportunity and accusing everyone else except ourselves.

The rest of the article is interesting as well; Burg writes against the habit of Jewish leftists to argue on behalf of the state and even the government abroad, thus helping the right carry out its policies undisturbed: “Let the right-wing MKs, the Katzes and the Elkins, travel around the world and show the beauty of their faces without the deceptive layer of makeup we  provided.”

A year ago, asked by +972 whether it’s time to move from a two-state vision to a one-state model, Burg said:

In Israel, there is a real fear of confrontation with the armed messianic forces living among us. Anyway our government policies are drawn from the power of the settler vision. It seems that the only way to balance this is an alternative suggestion of one state between the Jordan and the sea.  Secular, democratic, egalitarian and civilian.

It looks like recent developments and the expansionist policies of the current government have convinced Burg that it’s time to join the growing one state camp.

It’s interesting to note that the current Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin (Likud), a rightwing hawk, also prefers a single state to two, arguing that “this land is not divisible.” Rivlin doesn’t support the “one person, one vote” model Burg is referring to, but mulls over what seems like a multi-national entity, possibly with two parliaments.

This is from an interview I did with Rivlin a year and a half ago:

“There is a conflict in the Middle East between two entities, and they’re both right, each in their own way. This is our only home, and therefore all kinds of solutions can be found. One could establish a system in one state in which Judea and Samaria are jointly held. The Jews would vote for a Jewish parliament and the Palestinians for an Arab parliament, and we would create a system in which life is shared. But these are things that will take time. Anyone who thinks that there are shortcuts is talking nonsense. As long as Islamic fundamentalism thinks that Jews are forbidden to settle in the Holy Land, we have a problem. It will not be resolved by an agreement, even if we obtain a promise from all the Arab states that it will be fine.

“So if people say to me: Decide − one state or division of the Land of Israel, I say that division is the bigger danger.

Who’s next in line?


The undeniable Palestinian right to resist occupation

Posted: December 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, unarmed protest | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off
Slingshot found on Palestinian protester Mustafa Tamimi (photo: IDF Spokesperson)

Following the killing of Mustafa Tamimi in his village Nabi Saleh, Spokesperson for the IDF presented pictures of a slingshot Tamimi had on him when he was brought to the hospital. This was to be the indicting evidence that the protester was taking part in hostile action against the army – i.e. throwing stones – and therefore responsible for his own death.

Only in the context of the occupation can throwing stones at a bullet-proof army jeep be seen as an offense deserving the death penalty, carried out on the spot (clearly, the soldiers weren’t acting in self-defense). Furthermore, as recent attacks by settlers on soldiers – including a brick thrown from close range on the IDF regional commander – demonstrated, the army’s treatment of Jews is very different (to be clear, I don’t call for shooting Jewish stone-throwers either). But there is a larger issue here, concerning the whole notion of “legitimate” resistance to the occupation.

Facts and context are important: Israel took over the West Bank and Gaza more than 44 years ago. Since then, the Palestinians have been under military occupation, which denies their basic human and civil rights. The Palestinians can’t vote. They are tried in military court, where the conviction rate is astonishing. They don’t enjoy due process. Their property rights are limited, and their lands – including private lands – are regularly seized by Israel. All this is well-known and well-documented.

As far as Israel is concerned, this situation can go on forever. Israel is not attempting to leave the West Bank – it actually strengthens its hold on the territory – and it doesn’t plan to give the Palestinians equal rights within the state of Israel.

The Palestinians therefore have a moral right to resist the occupation. It’s as simple as that.

——————

Asked how what form of protest against the occupation Israel can allow, Peter Lerner of the IDF spokesperson unit wrote this tweet:

To start, this is simply a lie. Israel doesn’t allow any form of protest in the West Bank (well, except for settler protest). Military law demands IDF permission for any demonstration of more than 10 people. The IDF regularly declares the villages of Nabi Saleh, Bil’in and Ni’lin, where protests take place, as Closed Military Zones, and it charges Israelis who attempt to join those demonstrations with violating of this order. Palestinian protest organizers are tried for long prison terms in military courts.

But more important, the kinds of protest Major Lerner is suggesting are effective under civilian authority, not under military control. Major Lerner is part of Israel’s media war for the hearts and minds of Westerners, and the answer he gives is something that people in democracies can identify with. But this is not the situation in the occupied territories: For all Israel cares the Palestinians can have sit-ins and rallies until second coming; it wouldn’t affect Israeli policy one bit. It is worth remembering that in the two decades following 1967, strikes, rallies and general assemblies were the main protest methods in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel used these years of relative calm to introduce its massive settlement project. The only thing that made Israelis notice the Palestinians and start seriously discussing their rights is the the first Intifada.

In recent years, it seems that the West’s favorite sport is to tell the Palestinians what constitutes a “legitimate” way to fight for their rights, and what doesn’t – as if the Palestinians were full members of society and not subject to a form of control that Amira Hass rightly calls “Israeli dictatorship.” Nobody would denounce Egyptian or Tibetan protesters for such acts, but reports of unarmed Palestinian resistance are usually met with Israel claiming evidence of Palestinian “violence” – mostly stones thrown at soldiers, with the occasional Molotov cocktail. As if those could justify the occupation, while in reality they are the reaction to it.

The same goes for those organizations and Israeli propaganda units specializing in the hunt for “Palestinian incitement.” Any suggestions of the Palestinians not  viewing IDF soldiers in a positive light is presented as proof of the fact that “they are not ready” to enjoy their rights to justice, freedom and dignity – as if those are someone’s to give. What is the meaning of the word “rights,” if they can be denied collectively for half a century? Is freedom a trophy you need to win from your oppressor? What do people expect of a prisoner to think of his or her guards? Good relations and understanding can be built after the resolution of the occupation – not in the midst of it. Yet Palestinians are expected by the world not only to live under Israeli military control, but also to like Israelis.

Strange as it may seem, even critics of Israel repeat such demands, or ask, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?,” as though a failure to present one means that Palestinian demands are not to be taken seriously.

By the way, the Palestinians have their share of Gandhis - you can find them in Israeli prisons.

I oppose violence, in whatever form. More than anything, I oppose violence against civilians. I think that the Palestinian choice of unarmed resistance and of civil society campaigns against the occupation is both wise and heroic. But the real violence is the occupation, and all its victims are civilians.

It is not for Israel to tell Palestinians how to resist our occupation.


The strategic use of the “anti-Israeli” label in US politics

Posted: December 15th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Republicans recognize Israel as one of their most powerful tools in the coming elections. Liberals, and especially Jews, shouldn’t fall for this trap

No doubt, American election year is officially here. Two democratic organizations – Center for American Progress (CAP) and Media Matters – are under attack. The charge: anti-Semitism, no less. In a story on Politico, Ben Smith reported on “a rift in the Democratic Party” because of “anti-Israeli” positions expressed by some of CAP and Media Matters staffers. The Washington Post’s neo-con blogger Jenifer Rubin clarified: “These views are not merely anti-Israel, they are anti-Semitic.”

I don’t normally write on the beltway’s inside baseball on this blog, and I wouldn’t have addressed this issue if I didn’t personally know a couple of the people at the center of the Politico story. I consider Matt Duss and Ali Gharib of CAP friends, which would not be the case if they had any hint of anti-Semitism in them. In fact, in all my conversations with Matt and Ali – including those involving too many beers and therefore, less constraints – I don’t remember any one of them referring to the Jewish people in a generalizing political context. I also never heard from them any of those inflammatory statements about Israelis that one sometimes hears in progressive circles.

I haven’t read everything Matt or Ali wrote – they are both very productive people – but I always got the impression that their writing was about Israeli policies. I don’t remember hearing from them or reading anything they wrote that you couldn’t find in the political conversation inside Israel. But even the limited debate taking place in Israel seems rational and open-minded compared to what’s going on in Washington right now.

We should nevertheless remember the context of  the attacks on CAP and Media Matters. The Republicans have singled out Israel as an issue where they have an absolute advantage over the Democrats – all over the field.

For start, Israel is one of those few topics that can bring together the big business republicans, social conservatives and the neo-cons. Unquestioning support of Israeli policies is also a legitimate way to tap into the growing Islamophobia in American society; but most importantly, it splits the Democratic party into two, and hurts the president at the heart of his political base – Jewish liberals, who overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008. Hitting them with ridiculous talking points about the administration that “betrayed” Israel - when it’s clear that Obama’s policies are is no different then those of previous presidents - or spreading half-baked stories of progressives who are “supportive of Hamas” might not get those Jews to vote for Rick Perry, but it could sure drive away a lot of their political energy, and cast some doubts about “their guy” in the White House. In a close election, that might be all you need.

What troubles me the most right now is that Israel is not a foreign policy issue anymore, but an internal topic in the American culture war. Israel is the only spot on the political map where people like Abe Foxman or Elie Wiesel can find common language with evangelical politicians and neo-con writers – a fact that turns it into a powerful and dangerous tool. Even more than in the case of abortions or health care, the debate on Israel in the US is completely mythical, and has nothing to do with the facts on the ground. Sometimes the loudest “pro-Israeli” politicians are so ignorant of the situation here, that they make absurd statements (Herman Cain for a Palestinian Right of Return?); in other cases, they retreat from long-standing American principles – like the opposition to the settlements, including in East Jerusalem – and at times, conveniently forget their own actions and statements.

Who cares if ending the occupation is the ultimate Israeli interest, and the only way to avoid a South African-style collapse? Nothing matters in the crazy rush to the right, which often ends with American politicians taking positions that are more hard-line than those of the government in Jerusalem, improbable as it that seem with Netanyahu and Lieberman running the show. Want to score some easy points? All you need to do is to throw around the code word “Israel”, dip it in a sauce of anti-Semitism, and watch as the liberals go at each other’s throats.

The solution to this problem is clear: instead of running for cover, Democrats should draw a line in the sand against the cynical use of those charges; otherwise they are likely to come up again and again, targeting more and more people. After all, it’s not a coincidence that some American conservatives and current Israeli legislators share an admiration for one Joseph MaCarthy.

The sad thing is that Jews fall for this trap too easily. Just like the misguided ad Elie Wiesel published after the administration criticized Israel for provocative construction projects in the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which should be the first to worry about the widespread use of allegations of anti-Semitism as a political tool – something which in the longer run renders the term meaningless -  joined the charge on CAP.

Wiesel and the people at the Wiesenthal Center should know better. The rightwing bloggers or the republicans in Congress have no real interest in Israel. It’s just good politics for them. They all push for an attack in Iran, but I don’t think we will see them in the bomb shelters in Tel Aviv when missiles start falling. Just like we are yet to hear from Jenifer Rubin, who recently fell in love with the settlers, about her vision for a solution to the Palestinian issue – one that  extends beyond the ethnic cleansing that Mike Huckabee seems to advocate.

Unlike those political opportunists, Matt Duss and Ali Gahrib are extremely knowledgeable of the situation in the region, and of the dangers in maintaining the current status quo. Not only are they not “anti” – whatever such labels mean when discussing policies – they hold a genuine, deep concern for the future of this place and all those living in it. What I often hear from them is frustration – about the misguided actions of Israeli and American politicians, which might bring disaster on Israelis and Palestinians alike.

It is a feeling I share with them.