“Air Flotilla” successful in exposing Israeli blockade of West Bank

Posted: July 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, unarmed protest | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Israeli authorities deployed hundreds of policeman in order to stop and deport pro-Palestinian visitors. Minister of tourism announced that “good tourists” will be greeted with flowers

Panic. There is no other way to describe the Israeli reaction to a plan by a few activists—no more than a thousands, according to the most generous estimates—to try and travel to the West Bank via Ben Gurion International Airport. A handful of those visitors got here (five of them already deported), and it seems that the whole country has gone mad.

Haaretz has reported a special deployment by hundreds of policemen and special unites both inside and outside the terminals, “in case one of the arrivals will try to set himself on fire.” The Petach Tikwa court, in charge of the airport area, is to have more arrest judges on alert, and the minister for Hasbara (propaganda) Yuli Edelstein demanded the government to take no chances, “because we should remember what happened on 9/11.”

All this, lets not forget, in order to welcome between a few dozens to a few hundreds Westerners (most of the quite old, according to reports), who would arrive on separate flights and on different hours, who went through extensive security checks before boarding their planes, and who openly declares their intentions to visit the Palestinian territories. This is the national threat that caught all the headlines for some days now in a country armed with one of the strongest militaries in the world as well as an extensive arsenal of Nuclear Bombs.

While events at the airport are more absurd than tragic (there is a torrent of jokes on twitter about this, like: “attention all units, attention all units, a Swedish woman is now getting off flight 465″, or “security personal have been ordered to report all those not singing ‘Heve’nu Shalom’ at landing”), one cannot watch the government’s handling of this situation and not question the judgment of Israeli decision makers, or wonder on the things they are capable of doing if and when they sense a more substantial threat. One of the sole voices of reason was Yedioth’s Eithan Haber, the former secretary of Prime Minister Rabin, whose commentary today had the title: “We simply lost it” (“ירדנו מהפסים”).

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The lunacy started at the top. Earlier this week, Netanyahu’s office has released a statement saying that “welcome to Palestine” campaign “is part of a continuing effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist.” This call for action was supposed to expire long ago from over use (I wonder what doesn’t make, in Netanyahu’s eyes “an effort to undermine Israel’s right to exist?”), but it did spark the desired result in the government. Internal Security Minister Itzhak Aharonowitz (Israel Beitenu) has put his forces on high alert, promising “not to let the hooligans enter Israel,” and senior police officers promised “harsh treatment” for those who will manage to board their flights to Tel Aviv.

The real nugget was revealed today, after Tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov has sent his people to the airport to hand flowers to those arrivals that are not planning to travel to the West Bank. “Handcuffs to the activists, flowers to the tourists,” one of the headlines read. The tourism office, it was reported, fears that arrivals to Israel will “meet unpleasant sights of riots and arrests.”

“My office will welcome ["normal"] tourists in a respectful way that will convey the message that Israel is safe, advance and attractive place to visit,” minister Mazesnikow told the press, in a statement that would have reminder the practices of the Soviet regime, if I wasn’t sure that Mazesnikow, a Russian immigrant, would know better.

There is a deeper point to make here: By dividing the tourists to “evil” ones and to “good” and “honest” ones, according to their political motivation and their views on the Palestinian issue, Israel is confirming the logic of the BDS movement – that any business or contact with Israel is political, and would probably serve Israeli policy. Much in the way the Israeli Foreign Office promotes on his Facebook wall articles on artist who plans to visit Israel next to pieces denouncing the Palestinians, the tourism office now views every visit to the county, be that for business, religious or personal reasons, as a sign of support in the face of “an effort to undermine our existence.”

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In recent days, government officials have made a single talking point regarding the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign: that every country has the right do defend its sovereignty. If the United States, France and Japan can reject people from entering their territory without bothering to cite their reasons, why can’t Israel? Yet these are the same people who on any other week of the year deny even the term “occupation”, claiming that since the Oslo agreement, “Palestinians control their own lives.” PR people and supporters of the Israeli government repeat this idea all the time, and while everyone familiar with the reality in the West Bank knows that the Palestinian Authority has more or less the authority of a local US municipality, it is always surprising how widespread is the notion that Israel has effectively removed its control from the territories.

Here, for example, is a quote the glossary section in the internet site of the Propaganda organization “Stand with US

Israel never formally annexed the West Bank or Gaza, and the Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and wish to have their own state. Today, Palestinians have their own government, the Palestinian Authority.

This is Morton Klein, head of Zionist of America, in often-cited 2002 article titled “There is no Occupation“:

Following the signing of the Oslo accords, the Israelis withdrew from nearly half of the territories, including the cities where 98.5% of Palestinian Arabs reside. The notion that the Palestinian Arabs are living under “Israeli occupation” is simply false. The areas from which Israel has not withdrawn are virtually uninhabited, except for the 2% where Israelis reside.

And this is another mouthpiece for the occupation, Washington Post’s blogger Jennifer Rubin:

Now ninety-five percent of Palestinians are under the jurisdiction of the PA, which is responsible for everything from local police to schools. Israel’s official interaction with West Bank Palestinians is limited to intelligence gathering and extraction of terrorists.

The Welcome to Palestine campaign was meant to prove that not only did Israel never remove its control from the Palestinians, the West Bank is effectively under an Israeli blockade, with every person or good entering the Palestinian Authority must be cleared first by Israel. Some might argue that this is a legitimate security precaution, but the history of this policy proves that it weren’t security concerns the determined whether people got permission to enter or leave the West Bank, but the political needs of maintaining the occupation. A couple of familiar cases were that of Prof. Noam Chomsky and a Spanish Clown that were denied entry for their support of Palestinian independence, but these kind of things happen on a daily basis.

Considering all this, it’s clear that even before a dozen activists landed here, the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign won the day. Israel has played it part in it perfectly, spreading threats and promising to immediately deport anyone who would state his intention to visit the West Bank or would cite a political motivation for his travel. Israel has even prevented a couple of Dutch pro-Israeli journalists from boarding an El-Al flight, perhaps fearing that they might report something Jerusalem won’t like.

When the first news items on the “air flotilla” appeared in the Hebrew media, some of the comments by Israelis wondered why the activists won’t enter the West Bank through the crossing point at the Jordanian border, believing it to be controlled by the Palestinians themselves. The myth of the Oslo withdrawal was so successful, that even some Israelis took it as a fact.

After a week of headlines on the activists’ invasion, everybody knows that even more than Gaza—which can be entered through Rafah, where there is no Israeli presence—the West Bank is under an Israeli blockade.


Jennifer Rubin comes up with the neo-con argument for one-state solution

Posted: February 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Washington Post’s conservative blogger visited the West Bank and returned home convinced Israel should keep it. Many on the left would agree, though not for reasons that would please Rubin

For some time now, settler leadership has been undertaking a PR campaign, designed to improve the way that Jews living in the West bank are presented in the media, and to fight attempts to boycott or isolate them. As part of this effort, Israeli and international celebrities, politician and journalists are taken to tours between holy sites and flourishing settlements in the West Bank. Their goal is to show that settlers are “ordinary Israelis” rather than the violent fanatics you sometimes get to see on TV.

This VIP treatment was recently given to the Washington Post’s Jenifer Rubin, who visited Israel a couple weeks ago for the Herzelia Conference. Rubin visited Ariel, passed by Nablus and stopped at a local winery. Tremendously impressed, she shared her experiences with her readers.

…What I saw surprised me. Even well-informed consumers of international media imagine that the West Bank is crowded, dangerous and replete with roadblocks and officious Israeli security forces. So when one leaves Jerusalem, crosses the Green Line — a cement wall and a checkpoint (not unlike the set-up for an agent at a U.S. border) — and travels up and down the highways of Samaria (the portion of the West Bank extending north), you realize how little non-Israelis know about the Jews who live in territory that is the focal point of so much international attention.

The media terminology doesn’t comport with one’s direct observations. “Settlements” are not hovels tended by goat herders. Settlers are not uniformly religious. The Palestinians who demand the right of return are generally the descendants of those who left Israel proper in 1948; the region is still sparsely populated and was even more so in 1967.

Naturally, Rubin wasn’t taken by her hosts from the Yesha Council (the settlers’ representative body) to Palestinian towns or villages, and the only non-Jews she met were two workers in a Jewish-owned factory. She praises the Israeli landlord for the salary he pays his Arab workers, and engages in a short conversation with the Palestinians, in which she tried to expose them as Hamas-sympathizers, and ends up declaring that “at least for now, economic cooperation has not inspired political realism.” Oh, those ungrateful Arabs.

Rubin is a radical neo-con, so it’s not surprising that her trip to the West Bank reads like a journey to the segregated south, hosted by a hospitable Klan member. Traveling on the Jewish-only highways, Rubin portrays a picture of a pleasant co-existence; she spots a Palestinian in a grocery store and concludes that the boycott attempts goes against the will of ordinary Palestinians. Obviously, she knows nothing about the military courts, the arrests of children and the tortures, the severe limits on traveling from and to the West Bank or the limited access of Palestinians to Jerusalem. At one point, Rubin claims that 95 percent of the Palestinians have no interaction with the IDF. It’s not clear whether it’s her ignorance that fails her, or if she knows the truth – Palestinians encounter soldiers daily, at checkpoints, during nightly raids, in Jewish Hebron and more – but prefers to engage in propaganda.

All this was not that interesting, if it wasn’t for the the political sub-text of Rubin’s post. Even if she doesn’t say it in so many words, it’s obvious that Rubin accepts the settlers’ narrative, according to which (a) the West Bank is the heart of the land of Israel, part of Israeli life and of Jewish history and that (b) for security reasons Israel cannot leave the West Bank. The Zionist-Liberal line was always that Israel prefers not to rule over the Palestinians, but is forced to do so because of the effect of extremist – settlers and Palestinians – on the political dynamic. Rubin presents a different narrative: The West Bank belongs to Israel, but it’s actually not that bad for Palestinians as well.

We are left with the unpleasant issues of equal rights. There are over 2 million Palestinians living in the same territory as the settlers, subject to military control, and with no political rights. Even after Oslo and the establishing of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians can’t travel freely; they are tried in military courts and are subject to the decisions of the regional military commanders. Ben-Dror Yemini, a conservative rightwing columnist for Maariv and the Jerusalem Post, calls it Apartheid (though he blames the Palestinians for it). So who are we to argue?

Much like Rubin, I am not happy with the demonization of the settlers by the media. The occupation is an Israeli project, initiated and executed by government agencies. Blaming it on the settlers, like most liberals do, is making life way too easy. But if the territories are indeed part of Israel, as the settlers’ leaders claim, then the only possible solution would be along the lines of “one person, one vote.” This is one issue the rightwing neo-cons refuse to deal with, and when they do – they come up with the craziest ideas.

A year ago, I interviewed a group of rightwing people who were experimenting with these ideas; among them were former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and former Chief of Staff for PM Netanyahu, Uri Elizur. It’s no surprise: One cannot think of another sustainable solution that wouldn’t include the evacuation of most settlements. If Jenifer Rubin’s political sympathies truly lie with the settlers, she should be honest enough to extract the full meaning of her views, that Israel should apply its laws on the entire West Bank population rather than just the Jews, and become a bi-national state.