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?

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Government committee approves bills limiting funds to human rights organizations

Posted: November 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation have approved two bill proposals aimed at limiting the ability of the UN and foreign governments to financially support human rights organizations in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the bills, increasing the likelihood of a Knesset majority for both legislative initiatives.

The first bill, sponsored by Likud MK Ophir Akunis seeks to limit all foreign funding for “political organizations” to 20,000 NIS (some 5,000$) per year while the other, proposed by Yisrael Beitinu’s MK Fania Kirschenbaum seeks to levy a 45 percent taxation rate on all foreign state funding of NGOs. The Knesset is expected to vote on both bills in the coming weeks.

Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of The Israeli Association for Civil Rights, has said in response to the decision that “the current government is leading an attack on the foundations of democracy – the Supreme Court’s very independence was endangered today, as are the freedom of operations for human rights organizations.” Read his related post on +972 here.

Haaretz reported on Sunday that the European Union and the United States are exerting pressure on Israel to scrap the bill in light of its ramifications for Israeli democracy.

UPDATE: Dr. Ishai Menuchin, Executive Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel:

Approval of the Law Proposal limiting foreign funding for NGOs by “the Ministerial Committee on legislation” places Israel in step with non-democratic societies in the world. With this decision we have slipped further down the slippery slope of eliminating democracy in Israel. The eleven ministers who supported the proposed law (amongst them the education, culture and welfare ministers!) demonstrated a basic lack of understanding of the concept of freedom of association in a democracy, an abject lack of commitment to democracy and the strongest desire to stifle voices of those with dissenting opinions.

UPDATE II: Likud MK Danny Danon posted the following message on his Facebook page:

The Ministry Committee for Legislation’s decision to approve the bill that restricts left-wing organizations from receiving funding from foreign groups is good news for all supporters of Zionism. An Organization which advocates against the State should be outlawed. Ceasing their funds is the first step in removing the peripheral leftists from Israeli society. This who are against the investigation of the source of financing of these leftist organizations will have to accept that the law will ultimately end the interference of foreign countries in internal affairs of the State of Israel!


Forget the peace process (part II)

Posted: September 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

There were interesting comments to my previous post, regarding the future of the struggle to end the occupation. My basic point was that though the two state solution remains the most popular – and even most likely – idea on the table, we might have reached some dead end, at least as far as the Israeli public is concerned (and to be honest, right now the Palestinians don’t seem too enthusiastic about restarting negotiations as well). My point was that maybe we should stop thinking, at least for some time, about the desired political structure (one state? Two states?), and go back to dealing with the basic human and civil rights problems which are at the heart of the matter. I think that with time, this approach might even lead us out of the political deadlock.

There was one issue, raised in the comments by Aviv and Judy, which I like to answer here. Judy writes: “isn’t there such a body as the Palestinian Authority that the Palestinians of the West Bank vote for?” And Aviv adds:

That the Palestinian’s internal national institutions are less than democratic is not Israel’s problem – civil rights have to be earned in hard work of Palestinian nation building. (In this case it would have to be the first Arab civil society, which is even harder).

This argument – that the Palestinian got their civil and human rights within the PA so that the international criticism on the matter should not be directed at Israel – is very popular with the Israeli right and among Israel’s supporters in the world. The irony is that these are the same people – Netanyahu, Bennie Begin, etc. – who rejected the idea of a Palestinian autonomy during the 90′s, and now they use the autonomy to support their claim that “there is no occupation”.

The problems is that as my right-wing Professor Martin Sherman use to say, sovereignty’s main characteristic is that it cannot be divided. You can divide authorities or jurisdictions, but at the end, in the current international system, there isn’t but one sovereign. In most cases it is the state apparatus, which represents – even in undemocratic regimes – the people. And it is within this sovereignty that civil rights are given.

Now, who’s the sovereign in the West Bank? I don’t really think there is any question. Last month I gave some examples from my own experience, but here is something from today’s paper:

Tensions are mounting between Israel and the Palestinian Authority following Ramallah’s call on the International Court at The Hague to examine claims of “war crimes” that the IDF allegedly committed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip… Israel has warned the Palestinian Authority that it would condition permission for a second cellular telephone provider to operate in the West Bank – an economic issue of critical importance to the PA leadership – on the Palestinians withdrawing their request at the International Court.

The Palestinian “authority” can’t even decide over the deployment of a cellular provider without an Israeli approval – which comes with very specific, and not at all related, conditions – let alone issues such as air and ground travel, export and import, construction and commerce, and much more. Even more important is the fact that for more than forty years, Palestinians are tried in Israeli army courts, were suspects’ rights are considerably reduced. A fight for civil rights for the Palestinians could start with the demand to incorporate them into the Israeli civilian system.

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