Haaretz’s publisher: US president can’t act against Israeli Apartheid

Posted: November 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Haaretz’s publisher Amos Schocken had a very strong op-ed this weekend titled “The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy.” Schocken is referring to the settlers’ ideology as “promoting Apartheid” and accuses all Israeli governments, except Rabin’s during Oslo and Sharon’s during the disengagement, of playing along.

Schocken has also something to say about the United States’ role in the process (my bold):

… The fact that the government is effectively a tool of Gush Emunim and its successors is apparent to everyone who has dealings with the settlers, creating a situation of force multiplication.

This ideology has enjoyed immense success in the United States, of all places. President George H.W. Bush was able to block financial guarantees to Israel because of the settlements established by the government of Yitzhak Shamir (who said lying was permissible to realize the Gush Emunim ideology. Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech a lie of this kind? ). Now, though, candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are competing among themselves over which of them supports Israel and the occupation more forcefully. Any of them who adopt the approach of the first President Bush will likely put an end to their candidacy.

Whatever the reason for this state of affairs – the large number of evangelicals affiliated with the Republican party, the problematic nature of the West’s relations with Islam, or the power of the Jewish lobby, which is totally addicted to the Gush Emunim ideology – the result is clear: It is not easy, and may be impossible, for an American president to adopt an activist policy against Israeli apartheid.


Read the rest here.




Haaretz’s publisher: US president can’t act against Israeli Apartheid

Posted: November 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Haaretz’s publisher Amos Schocken had a very strong op-ed this weekend titled “The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy.” Schocken is referring to the settlers’ ideology as “promoting Apartheid” and accuses all Israeli governments, except Rabin’s during Oslo and Sharon’s during the disengagement, of playing along.

Schocken has also something to say about the United States’ role in the process (my bold):

… The fact that the government is effectively a tool of Gush Emunim and its successors is apparent to everyone who has dealings with the settlers, creating a situation of force multiplication.

This ideology has enjoyed immense success in the United States, of all places. President George H.W. Bush was able to block financial guarantees to Israel because of the settlements established by the government of Yitzhak Shamir (who said lying was permissible to realize the Gush Emunim ideology. Was Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan University speech a lie of this kind? ). Now, though, candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are competing among themselves over which of them supports Israel and the occupation more forcefully. Any of them who adopt the approach of the first President Bush will likely put an end to their candidacy.

Whatever the reason for this state of affairs – the large number of evangelicals affiliated with the Republican party, the problematic nature of the West’s relations with Islam, or the power of the Jewish lobby, which is totally addicted to the Gush Emunim ideology – the result is clear: It is not easy, and may be impossible, for an American president to adopt an activist policy against Israeli apartheid.


Read the rest here.


Haaretz’s pundit takes on US envoy Ross for aiding Netanyahu

Posted: July 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Akiva Eldar, an expert on the peace process, avid supporter of the two-states solution and author of “Lords of the Land,” a history of the Israeli settlement project, harshly criticizes the White House’s envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, for backing the demands of an extreme rightwing Israeli government.

In an Haaretz article, Eldar also advises to Palestinians to continue their UN bid, and if it fails, dismantle the Palestinian Authority and let Israel face the consequences of direct control over the West Bank’s Palestinians. I think this piece is important, because it shows that following the Palestinians, the Israeli left might be also losing its faith in the American-sponsored never-ending, nowhere-going “peace process.”

For years he [Ross] has been nurturing the myth that if the United States would only meet his exact specifications, the Israeli right would offer the Arabs extensive concessions.

During the years he headed the American peace team, Israeli settlement construction ramped up. Now Ross, the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute, is trying to convince the Palestinians to give up on bringing Palestinian independence for a vote in the United Nations in September and recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people – in other words, as his country, though he was born in San Francisco, more than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed.

(…)

If Obama really intended to justify his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, he would not have left the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the hands of this whiz at the never-ending management of the conflict.

Read the rest here.


Israeli Wikileaks: Journalists demand not to try Haaretz reporter

Posted: May 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has summoned Haaretz journalist Uri Blau to a formal hearing – the last procedural step before prosecuting Blau in a criminal court. The 7th eye website reports [Hebrew] that the hearing will take place towards the end of the month. Last March, The Tel Aviv Office for the General Prosecution announced that it was considering prosecuting Blau for unauthorized possession of classified information.

Following the procedures against Blau, dozens of Israeli journalists have signed a petition, demanding not to put Haartez’s reporter on trail (my translation from Hebrew).

We – journalists and media people who fear for our professional freedom – call upon the Attorney General not to prosecute Haaretz’s journalist Uri Blau for holding classified documents. Some of us have our reservations regarding the conduct of Blau and Haaretz throughout the affair. Yet we are all concerned about the consequences of the Attorney General’s decision regarding the work of all journalists in Israel.

Putting a journalist on trial for possession of secret documents constitutes significant injury to the independence of the media. The immediate significance of the decision will be in putting restraints on our ability to reveal injustice and corruption [...] This precedent would severely harm the [ability to conduct] investigative journalism, which is at the heart of the free press. It is impossible to expose corruption—in any field—without holding documents, also those that are considered classified [...]

Uri Blau, an investigative reporter, received hundreds of classified IDF document from former soldier Anat Kamm. Blau published several pieces in Haaretz based on the documents, including one story which revealed that senior IDF officers—including Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazy—might have knowingly violated a Supreme Court decision when they ordered targeted killings of Palestinian militants even when those could have been captured alive.

The story was approved for publication by the Army Censorship.

Later on, the Internal Security Service (Shabak) conducted an investigation which led to Anat Kamm, a former soldier at central command HQ, as the source for the leak. Kamm has been under house arrest for more than a year now. She recently agreed to a plea bargain with the prosecution which would mean up to 9 years in prison.

Following Kamm’s arrest, Blau left the country to London. Attorneys for Haaretz have negotiated his return with the Shabak; according to the agreement between the two sides, Blau will return the documents to the state. The Security Service later claimed that Blau violated the agreement. According to Blau, all the documents Anat Kamm handed him were returned to the Army. Blau also agreed to have his computer destroyed by the Internal Security Service.

Blau is to be charged according to article 113C of the criminal law (holding secret information), which is part of the espionage law.

Technically, every reporter in Israel who has witnessed or held a secret document can be charged with the same offense.

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The organizers of the petition against the prosecution of Uri Blau urge foreign journalists to support their call to the Attorney General. If you are a journalist or a media person and you wish to add your name to an English petition (to be published soon), please send your full name and organization to the following e-mail: kelev.shmira@gmail.com


Let’s not talk about it: American Jews’ problem discussing Israel

Posted: April 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: the US and us | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments »

My piece on last weekend’s Haaretz Magazine, and some other thoughts on the issue

USA and Israel Flags at Pro-Israel Rally in Downtown Chicago (photo: Josh.ev9/flickr)

USA and Israel Flags at Pro-Israel Rally in Downtown Chicago (photo: Josh.ev9/flickr)

While visiting New York last year, I got into a long political conversation with a friend, after which he invited me to dinner at his house. “But you must promise me we won’t discuss Israel,” he warned me. “It might ruin the evening.” About the same time, a friend wanted to introduce me to her new Jewish-American partner. “The one thing we can’t talk about is Israel,” I was told.

I wasn’t the last time I heard such comments. In other cases, I saw people get extremely upset, even hostile, when arguing about Israel. I knew that Israel was a complicated issue for Jews, but it seems that in recent years, the debate over Israel has become so polarized and tense, that it’s gotten to a point where many people would rather avoid it altogether.

When I got back to Israel, I offered my editors in Haaretz to write a piece about this issue. I spent a long time speaking to scholars, community leaders, activists and writers. Some of them were quoted in my piece, many weren’t. The interesting thing was that nobody – not even one person – denied the problem. Furthermore, once the article was published, people commented on one detail or another, but once again, the feeling that reform and conservative Jews have a tough time reaching a consensus over the role of Israel in their community was something that everyone shared:

“Our communities have really been torn apart surrounding Israel,” says [retired Rabbi Sheldon] Lewis. “People have attacked each other personally, friendships have ended, people have left synagogues because of it and have even disappeared entirely from the community. When I was a community rabbi I experienced that myself. The film festival may have been the most dramatic and well-known incident, but things have been going downhill for years.”

This is from writer Eric Alterman:

“In the past, you could say to liberal friends who criticized Israel ‘What would you do if you were in their place?’” says Alterman. “After all, no country would agree to undertake security risks [like] those that are required from Israel. But in recent years it’s more and more difficult to say it. It’s much more complicated to justify the raid on the Turkish flotilla, or the way Israel handled Gaza, or the attacks on human rights organizations. It looks like we we’re reaching a point where liberal American Jews will be forced to choose between their values and their emotional attachment to Israel. And many, alas, are going to stick with their values. There’s a sense of failure of an idea with regards to Israel. This is something very painful for me to say.”

You can read the entire piece here.

———————-

Defining the problem is easier than reaching a conclusion on its political implications. More than anything, I felt a growing cultural gap between Israel and American Jews, and cultural issues manifest themselves politically in unexpected ways.

What was most interesting for me was to hear so many people saying that violations of civil and human rights in Israel contradict Jewish values. I expected people to speak of political values, and identify themselves as Liberals, and therefore at odds with the current trends in Israeli politics, but I realized that what I call liberalism was, for many people I’ve spoken to, part of their cultural and even religious identity as Jews.

Which makes things even more complicated.

Israel was never a very liberal place. Until the 80′s, the Israeli left had nothing to do with liberalism (one could probably argue that the Likud was more liberal than Mapai, the old Labor party). Liberals (in the American sense of leftwing politics) took the lead in Israeli politics only for a brief moment in the 90′s, when, during Rabin’s government, they got some important laws passed and benefited from a very active Supreme Court.

By the end of the decade, it was all over. Netanyahu’s government with its racist laws and the toxic atmosphere it spreads is just part of a process that has been going on for more than a decade. In a way, I think that liberal Jews in the US wanted to see something of them in Israel, and recently, they are having a hard time finding it. That is the reason for all the anger and frustration.

I would be very careful to conclude that this process will damage Israel’s ability to gain political support in the US, or to advocate its policies in Washington. Many people I’ve spoken to said that the evangelical right more than makes up for the loss of Jewish support for Israel – if there is such a loss. I tend to agree. Also, Israeli politicians are extremely capable at manipulating the anxieties of American Jews, as Netanyahu’s successes in confronting pressure from the White House regarding construction in East Jerusalem has taught us. Yes, many Jews resent Avigdor Lieberman, but only a few would translate these feelings to positions that have something to do with the political reality.

This is not to say that Israel doesn’t face a major diplomatic crisis – only that this crisis has to do with the growing desire in other parts of the American establishment to see the end of the occupation. Even more important is the rest of the international community, which is clearly impatient with Jerusalem. But this dynamic won’t be affected by the difficulties of a Newton synagogue with hosting a political debate or by the backlash following a show at a Jewish theater in DC. The problem of liberal American Jews with Israel will remain what it is – a problem of American Jews.


Akiva Eldar vs. AIPAC and “self-loving Jews”

Posted: December 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Following House resolution 1765, which I wrote about yesterday, Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar goes after AIPAC:

The dominant view among the centrist group of the Jewish community – that “we support every Israeli government, right or wrong” – reminds one of a situation in which a parent finds out that his child is addicted to drugs and hands him his credit card.

The activists of Peace Now and the moderate group J Street, are called “self-hating Jews” by members of the Jewish establishment. People at AIPAC and their allies in Congress are, on the other hand, “self-loving Jews.” Indeed, they love themselves. Especially themselves.

Jews who truly love Israel go to synagogues in New York and tell people that if Jerusalem will not be the capital of two nations, it will never be recognized as Israel’s capital.

Jews who love themselves may know there is no two state solution without dividing Jerusalem, but they prefer to receive enthusiastic applause when making the empty declaration that “a unified Jerusalem is Israel’s capital forever.”

Read the rest here.


Should Israel go public about its nuclear capacities?

Posted: October 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

On Dr. Avner Cohen’s new book, “The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb”

My featured story about Dr. Avner Cohen’s new book on Israel’s nuclear policy was published today in Haaretz. In his book, Dr. Cohen discusses the opacity policy – the Israeli-American understanding the Israel “shall not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East” – and concludes that currently the costs of this policy outweigh its benefits. Israel, argues Cohen, should be more open about its nuclear program.

What’s interesting in Dr. Cohen book is his determination to examine the nuclear policy not only as an issue of international relation, war and peace, but to also to consider its impact on Israeli democracy, freedom of speech, government accountability and decision making processes.

Reading the book and listening to Dr. Cohen can make one grasps how nuclear weapons affect out existence as human being and as citizens in many ways which we never imagined. The fact that our leaders have the ability to destroy the entire region, if not the world, is not only a security or military issue, but also something that changes the nature of democracy and society’s balance of power.

One of the advantages of opacity is that it enables people not to think about these matters. But suppression is never a good idea, not for individuals and surly not for nations. In the long run, secrecy is not the way to address fundamental questions.

An issue that wasn’t mentioned on the English edition of my interview with Dr. Cohen – but did exist in the original Hebrew version – is the connection between Israel’s nuclear project and the peace process. Dr. Cohen believes that the present of nuclear weapons made Israelis somewhat arrogant and reluctant to agree to diplomatic offers – such as the Saudi peace plan from 2002 – that they would have gladly welcomed a few decades ago.

At the same time, Cohen raises what seems as a contradicting argument, but one that he views as the other side of the same coin: that opacity, meaning the fact that those weapons are never discussed, makes Israelis feel more threatened and weak than they really are. Israelis are ignorant of the affect the “Dimona Project” has on their history and politics, Cohen says.

To illustrate this poinhe brings in his book a couple of historical episodes when, according to his sources, Israeli leaders felt so threatened that they considered demonstrating the state’s nuclear capabilities.

Because of issues involving the military censorship, In the Haaretz article I cited these episodes from Cohen’s book without discussing them.

The first story concerns the development of a nuclear device and a military plan to use it in the days leading to the 67′ war:

“At a time when Israel was preparing temporary burial sites for thousands of soldiers, it was unthinkable that the leaders of the nuclear project would sit idle,” writes Cohen in his book.

“Prime Minister Eshkol was not in a position to stop them, and he must have authorized special emergency activity. In the few days before the war, Israel did something it had never done before. In an intensive crash effort, Israeli teams improvised the assembly of the nation’s first nuclear explosive devices. As Israeli scientists and technicians were ‘tickling the dragon’s tail,’ meaning assembling the first nuclear cores for those devices, only a few of them were even aware that there was a military contingency plan in the works. As Israeli leaders contemplated the worst scenarios – in particular, the failure of the Israeli air force to destroy the Arab air forces, and/or the extensive use by Egypt of chemical weapons against Israeli cities – authority was given for preliminary contingency planning for ‘demonstrating’ Israel’s nuclear capability.

“The idea was to create the technical possibility of demonstrating Israel’s nuclear capability over some remote desert area as a political signal, not to actually use the devices militarily. Israel wanted to be in a position to send a signal to Egypt and to the superpowers that if all else failed and Israel’s existence was in peril, Israel would have a doomsday capability to inflict great harm on Egypt. The final step in the assembly process, arming the devices, was never taken … These were the most dramatic moments for those involved, especially the project’s leaders. It was seen as the moment when Israel actually became a nuclear power. From their perspective, it was also an irreversible moment.”

The second story happened during the 1973 war:

The toughest test of the policy of nuclear ambiguity occurred in 1973, just four years after its principles were agreed upon by Meir and Nixon. According to Cohen, Defense Minister Dayan apparently requested during the first days of the Yom Kippur War to carry out a “nuclear demonstration,” and he summoned IAEC (Israel Atomic Energy Commission, the agency in charge of the nuclear project) director general Freier to a meeting of the war cabinet.

“Dayan feared that Israel was approaching a point of no return, and he evidently wanted the United States to take notice that Israel had reached that point,” Cohen writes in his book. “According to one person’s testimony [Arnon 'Sini' Azaryahu, a confidante of Israel Galili, who waited for Galili outside the conference room, and heard the report of events immediately after the meeting ended], at the end of the war cabinet meeting in the late morning of October 9, a day after the IDF had failed miserably in its first counterattack in the Egyptian frontier, Dayan suggested discussing some options involving a nuclear demonstration. On hand was Shalheveth Freier, the IAEC’s director general, who was waiting to provide a briefing. As soon as Dayan made his suggestion, Ministers Allon and Galili told the prime minister that such discussion was premature and uncalled for. The prime minister agreed with them, and Freier did not address the forum.”

In the book’s section on the Yom Kippur War, Cohen relies on the testimony of Prof. Yuval Ne’eman, an adviser to the defense minister in this period and a veteran researcher of the nuclear project, and confirms estimates published in foreign sources that during the 1973 war, Israel took steps whose implication was that its level of nuclear preparedness was upgraded.

“It also appeared that on two or three occasions during the war,” writes Cohen, “a ‘strategic alert’ (a euphemism for nuclear alert ) was declared, twice in the first week of the war and the third time on October 17 or 18, in response to a state of alert of Soviet SCUD missiles in Egypt. It is believed that those states of alert involved certain readiness ‘dispositions’ such as mobilizing the Jericho missiles from their shelters, fueling them, and other related activities.”

Finally, I want to point readers to an interesting observation Dr. Cohen makes regarding Israel’s nuclear ambiguity. Iran, Cohen says, is actually following Israel’s footsteps with its own version of opacity:

“The bitter irony is that right now, ambiguity serves the interests of Israel’s rival in the Middle East. Iran is creating its own version of ambiguity: not the concealment of its project, but rather ambiguity with regard to the distinction separating possession and non-possession of nuclear weapons. It reiterates that it has no intention of building a bomb, but that it has the right to enrich uranium, and even come close to developing [nuclear] weapons – while still remaining true to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is straddling the line, and in my opinion, Iran wants to, and can, remain for some time with the status of a state that might or might not have the bomb. Iran is a state of ambiguity.”

Read the full article here.


The political line of Israeli papers (a reader’s guide)

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth showing the same headline (photo: yossi gurvitz)Newspapers in Israel have always been of great importance. One of the first things early Zionists did in Palestine was to create their own Hebrew papers. Every major political faction had its own publication, usually a national daily. Even today, with the decline of printed journalism, papers are still widely read, especially among opinion makers.

The Hebrew papers raise issues and frame political questions; Knesset members often quote news items and op-eds during Knesset debates, and Knesset committees conduct debates on issues exposed by the printed media. It is worth noting that Israel has never had strong local daily papers, so the printed media always tended to deal with national questions of diplomacy, politics and security, and less with local issues such as crime and local policies. So if you want to understand Israeli society and Israeli politics, you need to understand Hebrew printed media.

The old party papers died over the last two decades or so, and today’s papers don’t have a certain partisan affiliation. Papers in Israel usually don’t endorse candidates or parties, but they do have a political line. In the cases of Haaretz and Yisrael Hayom this line is very clear. With Maariv – and especially with Yedioth – it tends to be more subtle, and has changed over the years.

Here is a short guide to the political lines taken by Israel’s newspapers these days. Remember that these assessments are subjective as well, and reflect my own views and knowledge. Disclaimer: I worked for Maariv and for Yedioth’s internet division in the past, and in the past six months I have written a few stories for Haaretz.

Yedioth Ahronoth

Market Share* (June 2010): 35 percent on weekdays, 43.7 on weekends.

Internet site: Ynet (English edition here).

Politics: After years of dominating the printed media market, Israel’s leading tabloid has met a fierce rival – the free paper Yisrael Hayom, launched three years ago by gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Many people believe that this is the reason for the sharp anti-Netanyahu tone Yedioth has taken over the past year. The paper is constantly publishing articles attacking the Prime Minister, his staff and even his wife. Star pundit Nahum Barnea is especially hostile to Netanyahu; in fact, I think there is only one columnist in Yedioth – Hanoch Daum – who is an open Netanyahu supporter and a proxy to the Netanyahu family.

Leaving Netanyahu aside, Yedioth is a fairly centrist paper. It tends to be conservative on military and security issues, but more open than other tabloids when it comes to dealing with civil rights issues. The campaign the paper launched against the State Prosecution and the Supreme Court for their intervention in policy issues and nominations of high ranking officials seems to have calmed down recently.

I think people outside Israel don’t pay enough attention to Yedioth. For years, the paper was known for its ability to capture the voice of the average middle class Israeli. The front page story of the papers’ weekend magazine always presented “the man of the moment”, or the story that would be discussed during the following week. Yedioth is not as strong today – but it is still the most important media organization in Israel. Yedioth’s internet site (Ynet) is by far the most popular news site in Israel.

Yair Lapid, channel 2 anchorman and a possible candidate in the next elections, has a widely read column in Yedioth.

The bottom line for Yedioth Ahronoth: Conservative on security and Supreme Court; critical of the government and Netanyahu himself; slightly more liberal than the two other tabloids.

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Yisrael Hayom

Market Share (June 2010): 35 percent on weekdays, 25.7 on weekends.

Internet site: Yisrael Hayom (Hebrew, printed edition only).

Politics: According to most estimates, Sheldon Adelson’s free tabloid, which is circulated in 250,000 copies, is losing money. But Adelson’s intention in launching the paper was not to gain profits, but political influence.

Adelson’s paper is edited by a former proxy to Netanyahu, Amos Regev. Under Regev, Israel Hayom is extremely supportive of the Prime Minister, constantly pushing stories that present Netanyahu and his family in a positive way. Recently, the paper is taking on an even more nationalistic editorial line.

[A more detailed post about the ties between Yisrael Hayom and Netanyahu can be found here.]

Yisrael Hayom is very hostile to the Palestinians; it tends to emphasize security threats and to present a favorable coverage of some of the new Knesset bills which are aimed against the Arab minority, Arabs members of Knesset and leftwing NGO’s (though one could find in it from time to time an occasional op-ed expressing different views).

Yisrael Hayom is supportive of the State Prosecution and the Supreme Court, but only on corruption issues, not civil rights ones.

Yisrael Hayom doesn’t have its own publishing house, so the paper has outsourced its printing and distribution to Haaretz. There are rumors that this move saved Haaretz from bankruptcy.

The bottom line for Yisrael Hayom: Conservative on security, diplomacy and civil rights; highly supportive of Netanyahu.

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Maariv

Market Share (June 2010): 12.5 percent on weekdays, 16.1 on weekends.

Internet site: nrg (Hebrew only).

Politics: for years, Maariv was Yedioth’s greatest enemy (when I moved from Ynet to Maariv in 2003, I was told by one of the senior editors that I would never write for Yedioth again), but now both papers join hands in the battle against Yisrael Hayom.

Maariv ran into financial difficulties more than six years ago, and since then it has been changing its editors and CEO’s frequently. A new team of editors (Yoav Zur and Yoav Golan), and a new co-publisher (businessman Zachi Rachiv) seem to have stabilized the paper a bit recently.

Under its new editors, Maariv has taken a sharp turn to the right. The paper’s subtle criticism of Netanyahu could be a bit misleading. Maariv keeps a very nationalistic and conservative line. It was Maariv that launched the campaign against the New Israel Fund by publishing the Im Tirzu reports. The paper is extremely hostile to the Arab population and to human rights organizations, and recently, it shows a hospitable attitude to the settlement project (a recent double spread all but invited people to live in Tapuach, a settlement formally known as the stronghold of Kahane supporters). Among Israeli papers, Maariv is the most supportive of Avigdor Lieberman’s policies, and it usually presents a somewhat favorable coverage of the bills Israel Beitenu is trying to pass in the Knesset.

Rumors have it that it was a conscious decision by Maariv’s editors and managing board to take an editorial line that would exploit the current nationalistic trends in the Israeli society. The promotion of conservative contributors such as Kalman Livskind and Ben-Dror Yemini support this theory. Yemini is known for his campaigning against “lefty” influence in the Israel academia and media. He has repeatedly called to hold state funds from critical movies and from artists and professors who are “anti-Israeli”. Last week he published a double spread attacking Haaretz journalist Gidon Levi for an interview he gave to the Independent.

The bottom line for Maariv: Highly conservative on security; anti-civil rights, anti-Supreme Court; slightly critical of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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Haaretz

Market Share (June 2010): 6.4 percent on weekdays, 7.4 on weekends.

Internet site: Haaretz (English site here).

Politics: Haaretz was Israel’s liberal paper for many years, and one could claim that it’s the only paper committed to supporting civil rights and promoting democratic values. By Israeli standards, Haaretz is very critical of the IDF, thought in the past few years the paper was criticized for pushing Palestinians’ civil right issues into its back pages. Many leftwing activists and politicians are also dismayed by the liberal line Haaretz tends to take on economical issues.

Haaretz’s editorial line is very critical of Netanyahu and Lieberman, though some important contributors, such as Ari Shavit and Yoel Marcus are less clear on the issue. Haaretz journalist Amira Hass is especially known for her work on Palestinian rights issues.

Haaretz’ circulation is not substantial – it’s almost similar to that of the unimportant free tabloid Israel Post – but it is widely read and discussed by public opinion makers, politicians, diplomats and the international press, so it has a more substantial weight than its numbers. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that very few Israelis actually read Haaretz.

The bottom line for Haaretz: liberal on security, civil rights and economy; supportive of the Supreme Court; very critical of Netanyahu’s government.

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(*) Maariv and Israel Hayom are the only daily papers in Israel to disclose their circulation figures. The common way to measure papers’ share of the market – and the one used to determine advertising prices – is through the TGI poll, conducted twice a year by the independent company TNS-Telegal. The figures in this post relate to the June 2010 poll.

For daily updates on the leading stories in the Israel Hebrew press, check out the daily media roundup on +972 magazine.


Jewish Diaspora Museum to honor rightwing site responsible for Obama-hating clips

Posted: September 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Caroline Glick’s “Latma” site will receive special honor from the museum on its yearly board of governors meeting next week

The Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv is about to honor the people behind the rightwing satire and media site Latma for the “we con the world” video they produced in the aftermath of the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. The evening will be hosted by the celebrated Liberal writer and TV pundit, Yaron London.

I must admit that when I saw this item for the first time on Richard Silverstine’s Tikkun Olam blog, I found it hard to believe. What does “Beit Hatfutsot” (the Hebrew name on the Diaspora Museum), a respectable establishment that sits at the heart of Tel Aviv University, has to do with a vulgar and extreme satire group like Latma?

As it turned, the honoring is being made by the Nadav fund, established by Israeli-Russian oligarch Leonid Nevzlin. A few years ago, the Diaspora Museum ran into financial difficulties, and Nevzlin had promised to donate to the museum, through the Nadav fund, a sum of 6 million dollars. Could it be that in return, the museum adopted a right-wing political line to better suit Nevzlin, who now sits at the head of its International Board of Governors? How else can we explain the museum’s decision to honor Latma during the annual Board of Governors’ meeting?

Latma’s favorite targets are left wing NGOs and Palestinian politician, who are often treated in the site’s satirical video’s in a way that borders racism. But more than anything, Latma loves to portray the US president as an anti-Israeli, anti-Semite Muslim. Take a look at this satirical video, in which Obama “admits” to hating Jews, and explains how he plans to join Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinajad in his quest to destroy Israel:

In another video a fake Obama in a black-face makeup sings lines like “dirty Jews won’t be missed by me.” and “I hate them, it so excites me” (h/t Richard Silverstein).

The editor in Chief of Latma is the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick, known for her radical right-wing views. Here is what Glick wrote about the Israeli Left and Haaretz newspaper when the Kamm-Blau affair was made public (and this is just one example out of many):

By collaborating with Kamm first by publishing her stolen documents and hiring her as a reporter, and finally by covering up her crimes while suborning Blau’s perjury, Haaretz has demonstrated that leftist traitors have a powerful sponsor capable of exacting painful revenge on the State of Israel for daring to prosecute them.

In facilitating and supporting treason, Haaretz itself can depend on a massive network of supporters in Israel and internationally. Reporters, self-proclaimed human rights groups, and the leftist blogosphere in Israel and throughout the world as well as foreign governments happily swallow whole Haaretz’s manufactured stories about Israel’s purported venality.

This lefty blogger would like to know what do the members of the International Board of Governors of Beit Hatfutsot – among them former head of Tel Aviv university Prof.  Itamar Rabinovich, notable businessman Dov Lautman and also the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg – think of the museum’s decision to honor Glick and Latma. What message will this event send to the Jewish community, who for most part is supportive of President Obama, and certainly opposes to portraying him as a Jew-hater?

It should be made clear that I believe Latma is a perfectly legitimate site and their internet TV show is and should be well within the limits of the political discourse in Israel. But I certainly don’t think that Latma’s xenophobic, vulgar and extreme face is the one an institution like the Diaspora Museum – which is all about the connection between Israel and the Jewish communities around the world – would like to show. Or is it?

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You can write Beit Hatfutson regarding their plan honor “Latma” on this link.


Now is the time to discuss the one state solution | A response to APN’s Lara Friedman

Posted: August 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now (APN), writes in the forward against even talking about the one-state solution:

Anti-Zionists and some post-Zionists imagine a Palestinian-majority, secular, democratic state; some Israeli right-wingers envision Israel annexing the West Bank, using ploys to disenfranchise its Palestinian residents and finally getting rid of Gaza.

(…)

Those of us who care about the future of Israel and the Palestinians should be doing everything we can to capitalize on this realism and to realize the two-state solution, before the opportunity is truly lost. And we should be pushing back hard against casual talk about post-two-state paradigms — because the “alternatives” are just illusions.

I respect Peace Now’s work on the settlements issue in Israel, as well as APN’s lobbying for a more firm US approach towards Jerusalem (Lara Friedman herself is doing a great job on this issue). However, their insistence on regarding the two state solution as the only possible one is both mistaken and counter productive, even with regards to their own goals. Now more then ever, when the US is forcing the Palestinians to negotiate even when the two sides can’t agree what to talk about, it’s essential we discuss other approaches.

To me, it’s clear that even if you oppose it, the one state solution frames the debate better. The essential problem for the Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza is the lack of human and political rights, not the absence of an independent state. There are many ethnic groups in the world that are not independent, but he Palestinians are the only people without citizenship (not to mention under military rule). In the current international system, where rights go hand in hand with citizenship, this has a tremendous effect on their life. The Palestinian problem, at its heart, is a civil rights issue disguised as a diplomatic problem. An independent Palestinian state is a possible solution to this issue, but it’s nothing more than this.

Discussing the one state solution is essential, because is reminds Israelis that their choice is not between the status quo and two states, but between a joint state and ethnic separation. Right now, many Israelis might understand that, but it’s not a notion that shapes their political behavior.

Lara Friedman writes:

“…Still others are adopting a ‘variation-on-the-status-quo’ approach. They suggest that the current situation can be tweaked to be bearable for both sides, until Israelis and Palestinians evolve to the point where a permanent, conflict-ending agreement is possible. This idea is disconnected from reality.”

But the status quo is exactly what Israelis have been choosing for decades now, and will continue to choose as long as they can, because the cost of retreating is simply too high in the eyes of most of them, whether from security reasons or from ideological ones. In other words, faced with a choice between dismantling the settlements and leaving the West Bank or doing nothing, Most Israelis, and above all their leaders, will probably take the latter. On the other hand, if there was a clear choice between one or two state, things could have been different. So even from APN’s perspective, talking about one state might carry real political benefits.

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Like many in the Israeli Left, Lara Friedman praises the Oslo agreement and deems the one state solution as something that will promote violence and prolong the conflict. But in the last two decades, it’s the two state paradigm that led to bloodshed. After Oslo ended in the second Intifada and the Gaza withdrawal resulted in Cast Lead, what guarantee we have that the next round will be better? Yet the one state solution is still considered the dangerous one.

Here is just a thought: imagine the Israeli left had spent the time it argued for separating the two societies in fighting against the military laws enforced in the West Bank, and demanding the Palestinians to be tried in civil courts. Wouldn’t that have made the life of Palestinians – and ultimately, Israelis – much better?

This leads me to the most important point, which is the false tendency to see the solution in binary, mutually exclusive, terms. It’s not either the one-state solution or the two states. It could actually both, or neither. We could have a federation or one state with two parliaments, or a federal system, or a regional one. The two states could be a faze on the way leading to a joint system, or the other way around – we could have a civil rights campaign that will lead to the Palestinians gaining individual political rights, and only after that collective ones. That’s the power of looking into the problems in terms of people’s rights (like the one state solution suggests), rather than states’: a whole variety of ideas opens up.

Personally, I don’t consider myself either a two-state or a one-state person. I oppose the status quo, and I want to explore all other options.

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After my Haaretz piece on the growing support for the one state solution in the Israeli right was published, I got many responses, both from Israelis and Palestinians. Curiously enough, the only person to criticize me from the Israeli right was one of those opposing the one state solution whom I talked to (he argued that his views were misrepresented in the article). Even more surprising was the fact that the Palestinians I heard were actually pleased with the piece. They didn’t share the settlers’ vision of one big Jewish state, but nevertheless, they tended to see it as some sort of recognition of their problem, and ultimately, a step in the right direction.

When I talked to Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, he expressed his commitment to the two state solution, but he didn’t rule out the idea of a joint state. “I am ready to talk about it,” he said, and made it clear that the real problem is the occupation, not the nature of the solution. In a phone call from Gaza, the PLO’s Sufyan Abu Zaydeh expressed similar ideas.

The only real opposition my piece got was from the Jewish left. A torrent of articles, letters to the editor [Hebrew] and comments came, calling the rightwing people I interviewed “frauds”, questioning their motives and blaming me for asking them the wrong questions. Reading these comments, I started suspecting that at least some of these supporters of the two states solution never had the Palestinians’ freedom in mind, but something else completely.