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.
A not-so-crazy speculation for the new year: A date for new elections will be set; at least one major Arab party won’t be allowed to participate in them, resulting in a call for boycott in the Palestinian public and the Jewish left. With the Arabs out of the Knesset, the right will enjoy a much bigger majority, forever
If you leave out the West Bank, Israel is still a functioning democracy. New bills are threatening freedom of speech, minorities’ rights are not defended and specific laws targeting non-Jews effectively make them second class-citizens.
But still, the core elements of a functioning democracy – most notably political representation of all citizens – are still there.
Yet even this somewhat flawed system could disappear this year.
The common wisdom in the Israeli political system is that a new date for early elections – later this year or in the first half of 2013 – will be set in the coming months. Some claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to hold general elections in Israel before November 2012, because the prospect of Barack Obama winning another term might hurt the Israeli premier in the polls. Others cite the police investigation against Avigdor Lieberman as a reason.
According to the Israeli system, the Central Elections Committee has the right to forbid parties who support terrorism, racism or oppose democracy from participating in the elections. But the committee is a political body, composed of Members of Knesset, and is currently controlled by the right. In the past, it has tried to use this article in the law for political purposes, but has failed. This time it may succeed.
It is very likely that the Central Elections Committee may ban the two major Arab parties, Balad and Raam-Taal, from participating in the elections. Given the public hostility to Balad, and especially to its MK Hanin Zoabi, letting Balad participate would be a huge surprise.
As expected, the Supreme Court overruled the Central Election Committee’s decision and allowed the two Arab parties to take part in the 2009 elections that brought Netanyahu into power (same thing happened in 2003). Balad won three seats and Raam-Taal four. One could even argue that members of the Knesset knew in advance what the Court’s ruling would be.
The public atmosphere in Israel has changed, and so has the Supreme Court, which is more conservative than it has been in the last couple of decades. If faced with a similar scenario in the next elections, I believe that is very likely that the court will not overrule a Knesset decision to disqualify Balad and perhaps even Raam-Taal.
The result would almost certainly be a call for all Palestinian citizens to boycott the elections. And to be honest, I am not sure that any Jewish progressive should participate in an election in which the ruling coalition bans opposition parties. Arab parties that would be allowed to run – if there are such – would be faced with a major problem, as would Jewish democrats – the few that are left.
Historically, the dilemma whether to boycott elections or leave the parliament in protest of anti-democratic laws has always been a major crossroad on the way to authoritarian regimes.
Low Arab turnout, and perhaps even full non-participation, would hand the right a landslide victory in the elections (the left has not won a majority in the Jewish public since 1973, and currently it is far from it, even with the Arab vote). Such events would surely benefit Avigdor Lieberman, by framing the elections around the Palestinian citizens. Lieberman’s racist proposals surrounding the issue could attract many new voters to his party.
The 19th Knesset will be much more rightwing then the current one. More importantly, Israel won’t be able to go on claiming that it respects minority rights after forcing their representatives out of the Knesset. The left will be torn apart and the Palestinian minority will be forever alienated.
It’s easy to forget Gaza. The strip is sealed from all directions, and only few can enter or leave it. Since the raid on the flotilla, more food is allowed in—at least that’s what Israel claims—but for all other purposes, the closure persists.
There are no reports in the mainstream media on life in Gaza. Very few journalists travel there. The only exceptions occur during military escalations, or when an event like the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni takes place. When you only hear of people in the context of war and murder, it’s very hard to think of them as human beings.
In modern Hebrew, “go to Azazel” (“לך לעזאזל”) means “go to hell.” Azazel is a biblical name that represents either a real place near Jerusalem or a demon. But the first part of the name, “Aza”, sounds and is written exactly like the Hebrew name for Gaza (עזה). So you could sometimes hear people say “go to Aza” (“go to Gaza”) as an abbreviation for “go to hell.”
Sometimes this use is intentional: It is not uncommon to read comments on the internet calling for a lefty or an Arab to “go to Aza,” and when Palestinian MK Hanin Zuabi was attacked by other Knesset Members for her support of the flottila, she was told by several MKs to go to Aza—one of them even telling her this in Arabic. It’s interesting that Zuabi wasn’t “sent” to Ramallah or even Jenin, but to Aza. Those MK’s clearly wanted Zuabi to leave the Israeli Parliament, but they also wanted her simply to go to hell.
In short, for many Gaza is hell, a demonic place which represents your deepest fears and to which you send—at least in your mind—your worse enemies. In a way, the rise of Hamas to power in Gaza made it easier to maintain this mythical view of the strip. Gaza is hell, and it is governed by the devil. Building walls around it and shooting anyone who comes near them actually makes sense this way. You don’t want to devil to spread its evil doings.
We’re told that the aim of the blockade on Gaza is to “contain” the problem and ultimately, bring Hamas down. Even Israeli leftists sometimes think that this is the only way to have peace: You should negotiate with the Palestinian Authority and fight Hamas. It all sounds so very logical. I’m no fan of Hamas, as I don’t care for any religious ideology, but there is something about this theory which feels too self-centered and rooted in this mythical view of Gaza and its people. In short, I am not convinced. I don’t have a solution for the immediate political and diplomatic problems, but I there are a few questions which nobody seems to be asking.
Looking back, wasn’t it better to let Hamas enjoy its victory in the 2006 elections? People argue that Hamas is not ready to abandon the armed struggle and become a political movement – but when it actually did, the election results were canceled and the political leaders of Hamas put under Israeli arrest. So instead of political confrontation, the fight between Hamas and Fatah became a civil war. Shouldn’t we encourage the politicization of Hamas, as oppose to its militarization, as we do now?
Second thought: Isn’t isolating the strip just making Hamas stay in power? This is pretty obvious—when Gaza is disconnected from the world, and no elections take place, who is there to challenge Hamas? And how exactly could one do so? It seems to me that by isolating Gaza, we are actually making it much easier for Hamas to exercise complete control.
If we break Hamas (I’m not sure how this can be done, but still)–are we going to like those who will replace them? What if it is a group like the Salafi who killed Vitorrio?
What is there to be lost from talking to Hamas? This is something I really don’t get. Even if Hamas is all about destroying Israel, who says that by talking to it we are excepting its views or even aiding it in any way. Some might think we shouldn’t “legitimize” Hamas – yet to me it seems that Hamas, having won the general elections, is seen by Palestinians as a legitimate political force, and does not need Israel’s approval. More over, it seems that currently, talking to Israel is a way to delegitimize a Palestinian leader, and not the other way around.
As for the rockets, nothing prevents Israel from retaliating against them, even if it’s in the process of negotiating with Hamas or with a united Palestinian government (which I think is the best option). More than anything, the rockets seems like a desperate attempt to get attention – and such attempts are likely to go on, even if Israel develops more high-tech defensive systems or retaliates with more force. You cannot lock up more than a million people and expect nothing to happen. What positive incentive do you leave them with? Needless to say, I don’t support Hamas’ goals or its tactics of targeting civilians. I just wonder, what other options do the people have right now if they want the world to hear their voice and take them seriously?
The blockade is not just a stupid policy, it’s simply morally wrong. Locking up 1.5 million people in an open air prison in order to bring a political change of their leadership cannot be justified. It does not advance peace, but rather convinces people that Israel is exercising forms of control over the Palestinians even after leaving some of the territory intended for their state. It actually makes people wonder how independent will a Palestinian state be, and quite rightly so.
I think we should begin by remembering the real people living in Gaza. When I was a kid, we used to see the day workers from Gaza in the street corners, waiting to be picked up by their employees. It was a form of exploitation and economic control, yet there was contact between Palestinians and Israelis that made it harder to dehumanize the people of Gaza the way we do now.
More than anything, I get the feeling that people simply want Gaza to disappear—not very different from those who want the Jews to disappear from the Middle East—and until it does, we prefer to communicate with its people by ways of bombs and rockets. After all, it’s a form of dialogue we think we have the upper hand in.
But Gaza won’t disappear. Quite the opposite. As one Fatah member I once met told me, Gaza might even be the center of everything. It is populated mostly with refugees, who carry the memory of the 48′ Nakba. It’s the place where the first Intifada started. It is the largest urban center in the land, after Tel Aviv. Gaza is not hell, nor it is heaven. It’s a place with real people, who deserve to be free from oppression and fear.
Lift the blockade now. It’s the right thing to do.
After weeks in which Israel refused to release the media confiscated form the journalists on the Gaza-bound flotilla, a short clip is posted on the IDF radio site, just at the perfect timing for Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi’s needs
Israeli chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi testified this week before the Turkel committee, the investigating panel Israel has formed to look into the events surrounding the deadly raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.
In what seemed like a strange coincident, while Ashkenazy was testifying, IDF Radio released another short clip from the videos taken on the the Mavi Marmara and later confiscated by the army. This new video, it was claimed, shows Arab Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi “in the presence of armed men on board the ship”. The Israeli media immediately jumped on the story, and Ashkenazy was temporarily forgotten.
MK Zoabi, who was on the Mavi Marmara, was the target of unprecedented public outrage in the Jewish public. She was almost physically attacked by Knessent Members, and later striped of some of her privileges as a member of the Israeli Parliament.
The head of the IDF Spokesperson unit, brigadier general Avi Bnayahu, is the closest ally of Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, among high ranking officers.
As can be seen below, the clip the IDF released was heavily edited. MK Zoabi is seen passing on the deck when two men with sticks are passing, later she is seen with other men carrying sticks, but this is apparently after the IDF soldiers boarded the ship. Yet the headlines describing the clip in the Hebrew media declared that unlike what Zoabi told reporters after the raid, “She knew the passengers were armed“. Even Haaretz site claimed that the film proved MK Zoabi knew of the existence of weapons on the ship.
Leaving aside the fact that calling people carrying sticks and polls armed – especially when they face battle ships and commando soldiers – is taking it a bit far; there is little doubt on my mind that by releasing the film IDF spokesperson tried to provoke public anger against an Israeli Member of Parliament in order to silence the growing criticism over the army’s performances, and especially the talk regarding the actions of Chief of Staff Ashkenazy, who remained at his home and didn’t supervise the attack from Central Command in Tel Aviv.
If the Israeli army had serious allegations against MK Zoabi, he should have turned them to the state prosecutor’s office, rather than post them on the IDF radio’s site (As far as I know, it’s the only Mavi Marmara video not released officially on the army spokesperson’s site, but through the radio station). But it is the timing tells the real story: there hasn’t been a Maramara clip released in weeks now, and suddenly, when the chief of staff faces some public criticism, suddenly there are new “evidences” Israelis must see.
These are not easy days for the IDF’s commander, who is caught in an ugly public battle with defense minister Ehud Barak over the identity of his successor. Barak whishes that GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant will take over the Israeli army and Ashkenazi wants anyone but Galant. Affairs turned toxic last week after channel 2 published a document detailing a PR campaign to boost the chances of Galant winning the job (Galant claimed the document is fake and that this is a set-up intended to smear him). This led to a police investigation, and current suggestions are that the source for the leaked document was army spokesperson Avi Bnayahu.
It seems that Bnayahu, maybe even Ashkenazy, used the oldest trick in the handbook for the Israeli politician: Faced with troubles, find an unpopular Arab and attack him.
The release of the new video by the Army spokesperson – this time, it seems, not to help Israel’s case in the world but for the army’s local political needs – should remind us that Israel is still holding the evidences that could have shed light on the events that took place on the Mavi Marmara and led to the death of nine people.
As they were led off the ships in the Israeli port of Ashdod, around 60 journalists who were present on the Gaza-bound flotilla had all their electronic items taken from them and all recorded media confiscated, never to be returned. Kürşat Bayhan, a Turkish reporter, told Zaman newspaper that he tried to hide his camera’s flash memory card under his tongue, but it was discovered and confiscated during a medical examination. Iara Lee, a Brazilian-American filmmaker who managed to smuggle out of Israel an hour-long video, said in a news conference at United Nations that another memory card she had was discovered and taken from her.
During the days following the raid, IDF spokesperson released short clips which appeared to have been taken from the footage confiscated from media representatives. These segments – who appeared to have backed some of Israel’s claims regarding the events – were released without stating who them, were and when.
At the time, I contacted the army spokesperson in request for an official explanation regarding the detention of journalists present on a foreign vessel and the confiscation of their recorded material.
In an official comment, IDF spokesperson stated that all media was taken from the journalists “for security reasons”, and that it was used later by the army “due to false allegations that were brought up.”
The army spokesperson chose not to comment on my question regarding the legal ground for these actions.
White house accepted the idea of an Israeli-led probe, but Jerusalem and Washington are still at disagreement over nature of the investigation
Almost two weeks since the IDF attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla, the government is yet to announce what form of civilian investigation it will conduct (the army has already started its own probe).
Reports in the Israeli media indicate that the reasons for the delay include disagreement with the White House over the investigating committee’s authorities. It seems that the US accepted the idea of an Israeli-led probe with international observers,and the problem is Jerusalem’s insistence that soldiers and low-level officers will not testify, and that the committee won’t have a legal authority to subpoena witnesses and material, and to issue conclusion regarding decision-makers. In other words, Israel wants the committee to deal with legal matters only. This way Netanyahu and Barak hope to contain political fallout from the raid both at home and abroad.
I believe the US should stay away from such an investigation – rather then lend it its own credibility and rescue the government from the trouble it brought upon itself – but it seems that the White House already decided to stand by Netanyahu, even if it means damaging relations with Turkey. The question for the US now is how to form an investigating panel that would look credible enough to European leadership.
UPDATE: PM Netanyahu confirmed reports that former Supreme Court justice Yaakov Tirkel will head the Israeli probe. Netanyahu didn’t announce the creation of the committee itself yet, probably due to disagreements with the US over the authorities of the comittee.
Haaretz’s editorial: “The government’s efforts to avoid a thorough and credible investigation of the flotilla affair seem more and more like a farce.”
Here is something an investigating panel should look into: It seems that Israel’s security forces confiscated all personal items from activists when they got off the ship. According to MK Hanin Zoabi, as well as other reports [Hebrew], credit cards, money and electronic gear were taken from the passengers, with almost none of them returned. I saw no official Israeli response on this issue, and there is at least one report of misuse of a confiscated credit card.
The flotilla’s passengers broke no low. Yet some of them were beaten, held in custody against their will, and had their valuables taken from them. Who should answer for this?
It should also be noted that Israel still holds almost all the photographed material from the Gaza flotilla – including tapes confiscated from journalists – editing it and releasing only what suits its own PR effort. Regardless of what we think happened on the Mavi Maramara or who is to blame for it, in the name of truth and freedom of press alone, the world need to make Israel hand back all confiscated videos and photographs.
Filmmaker Iara Lee have posted more then one hour of raw footage she was able to hide from the soldiers and smuggle out of Israel. You can watch the entire video on NYT’s The Lede blog. Here is a 15 minutes long edited version:
You don’t see much of the fight here, but you can get a feeling of the minutes after the soldiers took control of the upper deck. It seems likely that at least some of the casualties were shot later, during the soldiers’ attempts to find and rescue the two or three commandos held in the lower deck.
Since the Gilad Shalit kidnapping, there is a standing order in Israel not to let any IDF soldier to be captured alive, even if it means risking his own life – let alone the life of the people around him. Soldiers are instructed to use whatever means necessary to prevent another soldier being taken hostage, as such an event always turn into a major strategic problem for Israel. I wonder what orders were the soldiers given once it was clear that at least a couple of the commandos are missing.
Towards the end of the posted video, you can here MK Hanin Zoabi calling the soldiers to hold their fire.
● Believe it or not: Netanyahu’s and Liberman’s approval ratings surged this week.
House Committee recommended revoking special privileges from Arab MK Hanin Zoabi. Other Arab MKs received threats from public and house members alike
Today, Israelis took their anger and frustration over the disastrous raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla on Arab Members of Knesset.
The Knesset’s House Committee recommended revoking special privileges from Arab MK Hanin Zoabi, who was on the Mavi Marmara. Though it was never claimed that MK Zoabi had anything to do with the attack on the soldiers, and she definitely didn’t break any law by boarding the ship in Turkey, the decision against her was passed by a majority of seven to one, with only MK Ilan Gilon of Meretz opposing it.
During the debate, Committee Chairman Yariv Levin from Netanyahu’s Likud party expelled from the room Both MK Gilon and Hadash Jewish MK Dov Khenin who tried to defend Zoabi. Gilon later returned to take part in the vote (Khenin is not a committee member).
The Knesset committee recommended rescinding from Zuabi three key privileges usually granted to Knesset Members. One is the privilege to exit the country – which is supposed to prevent Zoabi from fleeing Israel if she commits a felony or has debts in Israel.
Another privilege is carrying a diplomatic passport, which according to the Knesset’s legal adviser, is a privilege that does not grant diplomatic immunity so revoking it would not make it more difficult for Zuabi to fulfill her duties.
The third privilege is the right to have the Knesset cover litigation fees of an MK if he or she is put on trial.
The revocation of Zuabi’s privileges is conditional on the approval of the Knesset plenum.
Zuabi has been receiving death threats in recent days, and there was even a Facebook group calling to execute her. She became the first MK to have bodyguards escorting her even inside the Knesset, after last week several Knesset members tried to prevent her from speaking, and came near to physically attacking her, as can be seen in this video:
UPDATE: Here the rest of MK Zoabi’s speech at the Knesset, this time with English subtitles. Notice the way Knesset chairman Rubi Rivlin (Likud) defended Zoabi (for most part); too bad he stood almost alone against so many house members. Rivlin also said today that the Knesset has reached an “intolerable low” this week.
Arab MK Ahmed Tibi also received death threats today. An anonymous called told his that “your days are numbered. If a beloved Prime Minister was murdered, what’s killing you compared to that?”. You can here the threats (in Hebrew) on the audio player in this report. Notice the comments to the article, many of them claiming Tibi “deserves it”. Arab MK Taleb el-Sana received today death threats by fax. There was also a Facebook group calling to burn him.
You don’t have to look far in order to find the people inciting the public against the Arab MKs. This morning, all Arab Knesset members received a letter from their colleague MK Michael Ben-Ari – a known racist and the student of the late Rabi Meir Kahana, whose movement, Kach, was outlawed both in Israel and in the US – informing them that:
“Tomorrow the Knesset committee will decide on revoking the immunity of the Knesset Members who are collaborating with the enemy. The first debate will be regarding your friend MK Zoabi, who led the terror flotilla to Gaza.
“After we deal with her your turn will come! The people had enough with the use of Israeli democracy to destroy the state. Tomorrow it will be Zoabi, and next week yourselves!”
● It seems that Israel will also appoint a legal inquiry committee into the flotilla, with international experts as observers. The panel won’t be able to collect testimonies from soldiers and officers, and will deal mainly with the legal aspects of the attack. Clearly, this is not the investigation the UN and European community demanded, and the question is whether the White House will accept it (I wrote here why it shouldn’t).
● Egypt authorities informed today that Gaza border will stay open indefinitely. This is a great victory for the flotilla, but Israel might benefit from this move as well, as it makes Gaza more of Cairo’s problem, something Egypt has been trying to avoid.
Flotilla dominating the protest as Palestinians and Israelis mark 43 years of Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza. Plus, one clip Israel wants the world to see, and one it doesn’t
Palestinians and Israelis marked today 43 years of occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The main rally today was near road 443, the Jerusalem-bound highway which goes through the West Bank and only a few Palestinians are allowed to travel on. Protesters wore T-shirts supporting the Gaza flotilla; the army used tear gas against them.
I was in Nebi Saleh, where the army arrested Ben Gurion University professor of Chemistry Eyal Nir (pictures below), and shot tear gas at protesters. Nir was taken into an army jeep for insulting a soldier.
The Palestinians of Nebi Saleh try to regain access to a tiny pond that was taken over by settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement. As usual, the weekly demonstration started with a march toward the pond, which was stopped on the village’s main street by the Army. Then came some stone-throwing by several of the Palestinians, to which the soldiers responded with tear gas.
One thing that is worth noting is that the soldiers in Nabi Saleh fire the tear gas directly at the protesters (as can be seen here), and not in an arch, like army orders’ demand. Earlier this week, in a small demonstration against the raid on the Mavi Marmara, an American named Emily Henochowicz was hit in her eye from such a shot.
Here is a video of Emily being shot. I don’t often post such graphic images, but this week the IDF used every clip they could put their hands on to portray the soldiers who took over the Mavi Marmara as victims, so I think we need to put some things in perspective (shooting at 1:10 min. h/t: The Lede).
Later in the afternoon some 300 Israelis gathered in Sheikh Jarrah for the weekly protest. A coalition of leftwing organizations is planning an anti-occupation march tomorrow in Tel Aviv, and there are rumors that rightwing activist will try to confront it.
● This bizarre “satiric” video was sent to all foreign correspondent by no other than Government Press Office head Daniel Seaman. After a few minutes came another e-mail, claiming the video was sent “due to a misunderstanding”, and that “contents of the video in no way represent the official policy of either the GPO or of the State of Israel”
It’s not the first time Seaman is trying to crack these kind of jokes. As the flotilla was heading to Israel, he sent an E-mail to all foreign correspondents offering them recommendations on Gaza’s restaurants [Hebrew].
● British Rock group Klaxons canceled its planned performance in Tel Aviv, and so did Gorillaz Sound System. The gig’s organizers promised tickets holders a refund. Read the rest of this entry »
During the night: Israelis burning Turkish flags, vandalizing Turkish memorial site.
Is Israel ready to partly lift the Gaza siege? Earlier tonight Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that Israel will be willing to allow non-military goods into the strip, after inspection. At the same time, officials said that Israel would not allow the Rachel Corrie arrive at Gaza, and the ship will be led to the port of Ashdod, if necessary by force.
Right now, Israel is not letting most civilian items, including most food items and construction material, into or from Gaza. If a policy change will happen, it will be a tremendous victory for the organizers of the flotilla, after they had their first achievement when Egypt opened the Rafah crossing at the south of the strip.
UPDATE: There are reports the Rachel Corrie is turning back, and will not try to reach Gaza.
Casualties:Furkan Dogan, 19 years old, was the American who died on the Mavi Marmara. Reports in Turkey indicate that the NY born Furkan was shot four times in his head and one in the chest, all at close range. Here is the full casualties list. It doesn’t tell us much, but judging from their ages and family status, most of them don’t seem to fit the Shaheed profile (for a different opinion on this issue, see comments).
Nationalistic mood in Israel: Around 1,000 Israelis demonstrated in front of the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv (after the rally I saw some of them marching and singing football fans’ nationalistic songs on Ben-Yehuda Street). Protesters burned a Turkish flag, threw stones and even one smoke grenade at the embassy. Three of them were arrested. UPDATE: it seems that many of the protesters were fans of Beitar Jerusalem football team, know for there racism and nationalism.
Update II: Israelis sprayed pro-IDF slogans and tried to burn the Turkish flag in a Turkish memorial site in the town of Beer Sheva (Hebrew report and picture here).
Interior Minister Eli Yishy is asking to revoke not only the immunity but also Israeli citizenship (!) from Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (Balad) who was on board the Mavi Marmara. In a letter to the government attorney, Yishay has accused Zoabi with treason. Yesterday Knesset Members tried to prevent from MK Zoabi from speaking at the Israeli parliament; 12 of them – an all-time record – were expelled by the speaker during the heated debate (video).
Palestinians and Israelis will mark tomorrow (Friday) 43 years of Occupation in protests and rallies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A march is planned for Saturday night in Tel Aviv (I’ll be going to some of the events, so I probably won’t be blogging until the evening).
- IDF Retracts claims about flotilla’s Al Qaeda links.
- Former US Ambassador Edward Peck: “I was deported for having violated Israeli law. And I said to the gentleman, “What law have I violated?” He said, “You have illegally entered Israel.” I said, “Well, now, wait. Our ship was taken over by armed commandos. I was brought here at gunpoint against my will, and you call that illegally entering Israel? You and I went to different law schools, guy.” (video here)
- The Mavi Marmara’s passengers’ accounts tell a different story from Israel’s, including claims that Israeli soldiers fired live bullets from the air on the people in the upper deck. As Israel confiscated all recorded material, these accusations cannot be confirmed nor denied right now.
- Daniel Luban has an interesting article in Tablet, a middle-of-the-road Jewish magazine, on the nature of the debate regarding Israel in the American Jewish community, and how it avoids moral and political issues.
Almost a riot in the Knessset as Jewish house members try to prevent Arab MK Zoabi from speaking:
Israelis behind the government, for now: Maariv daily paper published a poll in the morning, showing that 63 percent of the Jewish public think that the flotilla should have been stopped by other means, and that about half the public think Israel should establish its own inquiry committee to investigate the events at sea.
Still, support for Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains high, and a clear majority thinks that none of them should resign. This figure, however, might be a bit misleading. At times of national crisis or under international pressure the Jewish public in Israeli tends to rally behind its leaders and generals. Only later, when the initial shock passes, people start asking questions. They don’t necessarily become more dovish – quite the opposite sometime – but they might turn their anger at the leaders. This is exactly what happened after the 2006 war in Lebanon.
Media continues not asking questions regarding IDF clips: a new film released today shows activists throw plates and a firecracker at the soldiers (watch here). but didn’t the IDF earlier claimed the boats arrived only after the commandos dropped on the mavi Marmara? so who took that video from upper deck? If this is confiscated footage, why not say so? (h/t: Dimi Reider).
More ships to come: As the Rachel Corrie makes its way to Gaza. Organizers of the flotilla declared they raised the money for another ship, named Freedom II. There are some indications that Turkey is looking to diffuse the tension with Israel, so it’s not clear whether this ship will sail, but if it does, Israeli and US decision makers will face a major challenge, as the whole world will be closely watching this time. IDF sources boosted earlier this week that they will meet the coming ships with even more force, but these seems like empty words, intended for the ears of the public at home.
Administration under pressure: the flotilla incident caught the White House at a delicate moment. It hard for it to publicly denounce Israel, because the US was part of the failed Gaza policy, and it obviously can’t support it. The ball is in the American court right now: Will they cast their weight behind the calls for an international probe? Will they work to defuse tension between Turkey and Israel? One thing is clear – the White House and State Department need to act, before things escalate even further.
Godlstone report, round II? The UN Human Rights Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution this afternoon, on whether to send an international committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding Israel’s operation on the Gaza-bound flotilla. this is the same UN body which sent the Goldstone comittee to Gaza. I think it might be a good idea to let some other organization lead the investigation this time, so it wouldn’t suffer from the results of delgitimizing campaign Israel initiated against the Goldstone report.
UPDATE: UNHRC resolution regarding investigation passed. US, Netherlands and Canada Italy opposed it.
opinion round-up (I highly recommend the first item):
Fania Oz-Salzberger (daily Beast): “The army in which I served, which will soon enlist my children, is only good for one thing: to fight those who are aiming a gun at me. Not those who dislike me, demonize me, or hope to see me dead.”
Michael Godween (NY Post): President Obama should do what any American president would — protect our friend and ally from the predators who want to devour it.
Michael Tomasky (Guardian): this event really could be a tipping point in America.
Mark Steel (Independent): It’s time the Israeli government’s PR team made the most of its talents, and became available for hire.
Jeremiah Haber (The Magnes Zionist): Once again, you have the “progressive-on-everything-but-Israel” syndrome. When will that change? Probably not for some time now.
One more thing: more than 48 hours have passed since the raid on the Mavi Marmara took place, and Israel still hasn’t released the names and nationality of all casualties.