The Chomsky affair: Israel has showed the world today that the West Bank, not just Gaza, is under siege

Posted: May 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments »

noam_chomskyMuch has been written on Israel’s decision not to allow entry to Left-wing linguist Noam Chomsky today, and I guess even more will be written. Form the official Israeli response, it is not clear who made the decision in this case – a top government official or a low level bureaucrat – and it seems that Chomsky might still be permitted to enter the West Bank, once some people will realize the PR damage to what’s left of the reputation of the only democracy in the Middle East. But that’s not the important issue here.

According to Chomsky, what bothered Israeli officials at the Allenby crossing was not only his views, but the fact that he intends to visit the West Bank, and not Israel. Later it was said that the IDF authority might end up granting him a visa. But whatever way this affair ends, it is clear that Chomsky made a better case against Israel today than in anything he said or wrote. He practically proved that the Palestinians are far from being autonomous, and that the West Bank is in reality under siege, with Israel dictating who and what might leave or enter.

When the Spanish clown Ivan Pedro was denied entry by the Shin Beit into the West Bank, some people tried to make a national security case out of it, claiming Pedro refused to submit information regarding his contacts in the West Bank. I hope nobody is planning the same line with the Chomsky. Israel simply decided not to let him in because he is pro-Palestinian, like it does every day to many others. The only difference is that in those cases nobody alerts Reuters.

There is no arguing that Israel is now viewing certain ideas, not just actions, as existential threat, and is willing to make use of its powers in order to suppress them. It is important to understand this point: Some people think that the state made a stupid mistake today, when it chose to refuse Chomsky a visa. But That’s only true if you judge the affair in terms of actual security – then you conclude that making such a fuss over a speech in Ramallah by an aging linguistic that no one would even notice is pure madness. But if you are obsessed with the persecution of “dangerous ideas” and constantly searching for ideological menaces, then Chomsky is a threat. In this context, not allowing him to enter your country might be logical and even legal – again, if you consider Israel’s control of all entrances to the West bank legal – but it is also scary is hell.


Why the Israeli case against boycott is so weak

Posted: May 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Left, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Regarding the discussion we had here on Gil-Scott Heron’s decision to cancel his show in Tel Aviv, here are some wise words from Gidon Levy. The real boycott, argues Levy, is the one that Israel is leading against the Palestinians and their supporters:

… entry into Israel and the West Bank is being affected by the recent frenzy of [Israeli] boycotts. Anyone who is suspected of supporting the Palestinians or expressing concern for their lot is boycotted and expelled. This group includes a clown who came to organize a conference; a peace activist who was due to appear at a symposium; and scientists, artists and intellectuals who arouse suspicions that they back the Palestinian cause. This is a cultural and academic boycott on all counts, the type of boycott that we reject when it is used against us.

Yet the anti-boycott country’s list of boycotted parties does not end there. Even a Jewish-American organization like J Street, which defines itself as pro-Israel, has felt the long arm of the Israeli boycott. It is permissible to boycott J Street because it champions peace, but we can’t tolerate a boycott of products made in settlements that were built on usurped land. Denying a visiting professor entry into Gaza for an appearance at a university does not qualify as a boycott, but cutting off ties with Israeli institutions that provide fast-track degree programs for army officers and interrogators in the Shin Bet security service – people who are often viewed around the world as complicit in war crimes – is viewed as verboten.

Read the full article on Haaretz.


Jerusalem day | remember the words of Mayor Kollek: Arabs are second and third class citizens here

Posted: May 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Jews on "heritage tour" in Shikh Jerrah

Yesterday Israel marked “Jerusalem Day”. Established by the government in 1968, this was supposed to become a national holiday, celebrating out return to the most sacred city for Jews and the unification of the Israeli capital. But Jerusalem is anything but unified, and Jerusalem Day is a partisan rightwing celebration, marked through provocative “heritage tours” by ultra-nationalists groups in the Arab neighborhoods, and met with indifference with the rest of the public.

Though Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, government officials and Jewish bloggers continue to speak of a united city were all citizens are equal, the truth is that Arabs in Jerusalem are not citizens not equal, and most none religious Jews who adore Jerusalem and celebrate its holiday live on the other side of the Atlantic.

While PM Netnayhu chose to carry a hard line political speech at Merkaz Harav” Yeshiva – the birthplace of the settler movement – It was Likud’s Knesset speaker Rubi Rivlin, of all people, who told it like it is, acknowledging that Jerusalem’s Arabs are greatly discriminated, and that the oaths to the “eternal capitol” are no more than empty words:

“We ill-treated Jerusalem. We ill-treated it by becoming addicted to poeticizing it. We ill-treated it by endlessly longing for a distant ‘Zion’ while Zion is alive here and now. We ill-treated it by endlessly debating its borders and outlines and not debating enough current substance and vision.

“We ill-treated it by writing checks we never cashed in. Checks such as ‘The Reunited Town,’ which, 43 years on, is hardly united.”

But you don’t really need Rivlin to know that. Some twenty years ago, Teddy Kollek, legendary mayor of Jerusalem, admitted – while still serving! – that the city never cared for it’s Arab citizens [PDF, the quote is on page 39 of the document]. His words are worth repeating, since the only thing that changed from his days is that now Israel is kicking Palestinians from their homes and constructing new neighborhoods for Jews in East Jerusalem, so that a territorial compromise would never be possible:

“We said things half-mindedly and never fulfilled them. We’ve said again and again that we will make Arabs’ rights equal those of the Jews – empty words… both [PM] Eshkol and [PM] Begin promised equal rights – both broke their promises… they [Palestinians] were and remain second and third class citizens.”

Q: And this is being said by the mayor of Jerusalem, who labored for the city’s Arab citizens, built and developed their neighborhoods?

“Nonsense! Fables! Never built nor developed! I did do something for Jewish Jerusalem in the last 25 years. But for eastern Jerusalem, what did we do? Nothing! What did I do? Schools? Nothing! Pavements? Nothing! Culture centers? Not one! We did give them sewage and improved the water supply. You know why? You think [we did it] for their own good? For their quality of life? no way! There were a few cases of Cholera and the Jews were scared that it might reach them, so we installed sewage and water.”

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We also got yesterday another absurd moment regarding Jerusalem, this time from the Israeli authorities. Mordechi Vanunu, the nuclear whistleblower, was sentenced to for community work for violating his outrageous release terms (last time he was put on trail for “contacting a foreign citizens” – it happened to be his girlfriend). Vanunu asked the court to be permitted to carry out this work in East Jerusalem. The state argued that he must work “inside Israel” – ignoring the fact that we declare on a daily basis that East Jerusalem is Israel. The state won. Vanunu was sent to prison. So much for the “united city”, or for Israeli justice.

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We also had this: two protesters arrested in Sheik Jerrah, for attempting to carry out a small protest against a settlers’ march in the Jerusalem neighborhood, whose residents are mostly Palestinian refugees.

And to end the day in a positive note, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon spoke at the Irvin Moskowitz awards ceremony (honoring the US rightwing billionaire, who finance the most radical colonization attempts in Jerusalem and Hebron), and said that the city will remain under Jewish sovereignty forever, and all the talk about dividing the city are no more than “dust in the wind”. But remember, it’s the Palestinians who refuse any compromise.


Gag order partly lifted: Makhoul and Said suspected of espionage, contact with Hezbollah agent

Posted: May 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The Petah Tikva district court had partly lifted the gag order on the arrest of two Arab activists, Ameer Makhoul from Haifa and Omar Said of Kfar Kanna. The two are suspected in espionage, contact with Hezbollah agent

Yedioth Ahronoth’s site, which filed the appeal to lift the gag order, reports:

Fifty-two-year-old Ameer Makhoul from Haifa, a well-known figure in the Arab community in Israel, and 50-year-old Omar Said of Kfar Kanna, were arrested on suspicion of committing serious security offences, including espionage and contact with a foreign agent from Hezbollah. A gag order on the matter was partially lifted at Ynet’s request on Monday, meaning some of the affair’s details are still confidential.

Makhoul was arrested in his home in Haifa last week in front of his wife and children. He is suspected of being in contact with a Lebanese element of the Hezbollah terror group, espionage and contact with a foreign agent. Several computers were confiscated from his home.

Said was arrested in April. The affair is under investigation by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police’s international crimes investigation unit. The probe is being carried out with the attorney general and state prosecutor’s knowledge.

Note that the actual offenses were not revealed, and only the charges were made public. Without knowing much on the affair, I estimated here yesterday that the charge against the two will be “contact with a foreign agent”, since it is the textbook offense used to criminalize public figures in Israel. This specific law has such a broad definition, that you can basically charge anyone who ever met an Iranian or a Libyan government official or a proxy to someone in the political arm of the Hizbollah with this offense, and throw in espionage while you are at it.

Such charges make very good headlines in the tabloids, but in most cases, the offenses turn out to be extremely trivial, sometimes absurd. As long as we don’t know what is it exactly that Makhoul and Said supposedly did, it’s hard to rule whether the arrest was justified, or is it another chapter in the persecution of political activists in Israel.


Arab human rights groups to protest against Makhoul’s arrest, gag order

Posted: May 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Haaretz reports today that several Arab human rights group are planning a large rally in Haifa today to protest the arrest of activist Ameer Makhoul. A gag order is preventing Israeli media from reporting the arrest itself.

Makhoul, director of the Israeli Palestinian human rights NGO Ittijah, was arrested in his Haifa home at 3.00 am last Thursday. The family’s computers, cell phones and several documents were confiscated. The charges against him were not made public.

Arab MK’s are also planning to raise Makhoul’s issue in the Knesset, and if necessary, to appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court so it would lift the gag order and allow Makhoul to defend himself against the Shin Beit charges.

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In a different issue, today begins the trial of eight activists who took part in the protest in Sheikh Jarrah, the Jerusalem neighborhood being colonized by extreme rightwing settlers (with the support of Jerusalem’s mayor). The court has ruled in the past that most of the actions carried out by the Jerusalem police against the protesters were illegal, yet the effort to prosecute and deter the demonstrators continues.

Read more on Sheikh Jarrah here.


Shin Beit continues to make citizens disappear: activist Ameer Makhoul arrested; Israeli media not allowed to report

Posted: May 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Ameer Makhoul, director of the Israeli Palestinian human rights NGO, Ittijah, was arrested last week by Israeli police. The arrest happened Thursday, on 3 AM. According to his wife, Jnan, 16 policemen took part in the raid. They confiscated all the computers in the house, as well as documents, cell phones other personal material. The following morning the police also raided the offices of Ittijah and confiscated computers.

A gag order has been issued on the affair. Makhoul is an Israeli citizen; he lives with his family in Haifa.

The arrest has been reported by Richard Silberstein and JTA. Hebrew bloggers Idan Landau, Rehavia Berman and Yossi Gurevitz also wrote about it.

A day before his arrest, Makhoul announced his support for boycotting Israeli products from the settlements. Yet according to his wife, the warrant for his arrest was signed on April 23ed, so the reason for the arrest remains unclear. Since the charges against Makhoul are not made public, it is impossible to know whether it is another example to how Israel is beginning to persecute and arrest people for their views and for none-violate actions, or is it indeed a real case of national security. I guess that the gag order was an attempt to avoid exactly those kinds of questions.

Read the rest of this entry »


They are deporting clowns now

Posted: May 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

Ivan

It seems that Israel’s security services have lost their mind in their hunt for subversive elements:

Ivan Prado, the most famous clown in Spain, did not expect to be put on a return flight back to Madrid soon after arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport late last month, after spending six hours with officials from the Shin Bet security service and the Interior Ministry. The officials accused Prado of having ties to Palestinian terror organizations.

(…)

Prado, director of the International Clown Festival in Galicia, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on April 26 with a Spanish national of Arab origin. They planned to go to Ramallah to help organize a similar festival, but at passport control Prado was taken aside by a Shin Bet officer who asked him about his planned visit to the West Bank and about his connections to various Palestinian organizations. He and his female companion were held for six hours, during which they were questioned repeatedly, and their passports were confiscated.

They were sent back to Spain after an Interior Ministry official informed them that they would not be permitted into Israel.

Read the full story in Haaretz.

Beside the grave PR mistake by the Israeli Authorities, the important issue here is that in today’s Israel, being a friend of the Palestinians, traveling with an Arab or expressing critical views on Zionism is enough to get you in trouble. And if the only argument this government’s supporters can come up with is “in Iran and Gaza things are much worse”, it tells you a lot about the point we’ve reached.


Knesset moves to outlaw human rights organizations in Israel

Posted: April 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Something very troubling is happening to “the only democracy in the Middle East”

More than 20 MKs, including members of opposition party Kadima, proposed a new bill which will make it possible to outlaw the important human rights groups in Israel. Among the organizations mentioned in the proposed bill are Doctors for Human rights, The Coalition of Woman for Peace, The Public Committee against Torture in Israel, and Adalah: the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights. All these organizations receive funds from the New Israeli fund.

According to a report in Maariv, the new bill will outlaw any organization “which is involved in activity intended to lead to the prosecution or arrest of IDF officers and government officials for war crimes.”  the word “involved” makes it a very broad definition.

Two weeks ago, an article by Maariv’s Ben Caspit suggested that NIF sponsored organizations that are linked to an international effort to investigate and prosecute senior IDF officers for war crimes.

The introduction to the new bill declares that:

“… “Those organizations help foreign organizations that seek to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli officials, either by means of providing information—the preponderance of which is erroneous and even mendacious—to foreign groups, or by publicly agreeing and lending credence to the accusation that Israel is guilty of war crimes.”

More than 20 MK’s signed the offer. Among them are known parliament members from Tzipi Livni’s opposition party Kadima, former head of Shin Beit Avi Dichter and members from Likud and NRP.

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From all the anti-democratic measures I’ve been writing about here, this is by far the most extreme. Even if a mild version of this law passes, defending human rights in Israel – a difficult task as is – will become practically impossible. Merely proposing this bill will harm grassroots efforts and freedom of speech, as both the media and the public are becoming more and more hostile to people and groups who are portrayed as unpatriotic or anti-Israeli.

Much of “the case for Israel” is based on the notion that this is a democracy – the only one in a hostile environment. But Israel is changing. This is not something that you see on a one week vacation in Jerusalem or from the Tel Aviv beach, but if you pay close attention to the news, you can easily notice it.

Read the rest of this entry »


New Knesset bill on banning Burqas / it’s not feminism, it’s racism

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

burqa

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) is proposing a new Knesset bill that will make it illegal for women in Israel to wear Burqas (the Islamic dress coveting the entire body and face) or Niqabs (a veil covering the face).

“I just came back from a visit to southern France and I was shocked to see so many Muslim women entirely covered in black, with only their eyes seen,” said MK Solodkin. “I congratulate president Sarkozy and all the European administrations who believe that in the 21st century there shouldn’t be a place for an outfit which so terribly humiliates women, and I want to initiate something similar in Israel… I am not anti-Muslim and I intent for this law to be imposed on Jewish women as well.”

This law is aimed against the Arab-Israeli minority. There isn’t but one group of a dozen or so Jewish women who cover themselves with Burqas, so it’s obvious that this law, if passed, is meant to deal with the Palestinian population.

I don’t really get MK Solodkin’s logic: if she saw all these terrible Burkas in southern France, why does she want to present her bill here? Burkas are not that common in Israel, especially not in mixed towns, so why take such extreme measures? By the way, even France didn’t ban Burkas altogether (yet), but only in schools.

But the most important thing is that Israel is not France or the Netherlands, for two reasons:

First, the Palestinians here are a native minority, meaning that they were here before the state was born. The common belief is that native minorities should be allowed to hang on to their culture and customs, even when they differ from those of the majority. There might be some logic in forcing immigrants to accept the customs of the country they came to – this is debatable as well – but there is certainly no reason to impose these ideas on a native minority, except in extreme cases.

Second, the attempts to ban Burkas in Europe are rooted in the French republican model, which is nothing like Israel’s. In short, the idea is that any immigrant can become as French as Napoleon as long as he knows and accepts the local culture, speak French, believes in individual freedoms, etc. But Israel is different: the base for citizenship and rights here is Judaism, and an Arab cannot become a Jew even if he gives up the Burka. Unlike in France, Palestinians here are not asked nor expected to be integrated. In this context, forcing them to give up their customs is nothing but another way of harassing them; showing them “who is in charge”.

And one last point: Hasidic women from eastern European origins are expected to shave their hair and wear a wig from the day they are married. Isn’t that diminishing? But don’t expect MK Solodkin to do something about it. Her feminism applies only to Arabs.


The Persecution of Haaretz

Posted: April 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily paper, has a status that exceeds its limited circulation. Israel’s supporters who whishes to portray it as a thriving democracy give Haaretz as an example; Critics of Israel use Haaretz when claiming that the US media is too easy on Israel (“The NYT would have never printed Gidon Levy’s op-ed“). Even after suffering loses during the financial crisis and going through major cuts the paper remains the best source for information on human right issues and on Israeli politics. It is also the only Israeli newspaper to have an internet site and printed editions in both Hebrew and English.

These days, Haaretz is under attack. Rightwing groups, pundits, politicians and competing media organizations go after the paper. They accuse it of being “too liberal”, “too lefty”, even “anti-Israeli”. The attack was triggered because of the Kamm-Blau affair, but the case against Haaretz is far wider and deeper, and has a lot to do with the dangerous nationalistic mood in Israel right now.

Two articles on the front page of Maariv’s weekend edition took shots at Haaretz: Ben Dror Yemini accused the paper of aiding “the industry which demonizes and delegitimizes the State of Israel,” and Columnist Menahem Ben simply called for the paper to be shut down and its editor and publisher arrested for treason.

After the exposure of the Kamm affair, MK Michael Ben-Ari, a former student of Rabbi Kahana, cancelled his Knesset subscription for Haaretz and called interior Minister Eli Yishay to use his authority and immediately forbid the printing of Haaretz. Surprisingly enough, Ben-Ari was joined by two MK’s from Kadima: MK Israel Hason, a former Shin Beit man, called for readers to boycott Haaretz, while MK Yulia Shmuelov wrote her own letter to minister Yishay demanding Haaretz to be shut down.

Radio Host Avri Gilad said last Sunday on the IDF station that “I mourn what happened to the Left and to the Left’s journal [Haaretz]… it is making the left irrelevant in Israel… every sensible person today understand that the Left has made the state of Israel its enemy.” There wasn’t even a slight protest heard.

And this is what rightwing columnist and editor for Jerusalem Post (who is rapidly becoming the Israeli Pravda), Caroline Glick, had to say:

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.

I agree with Hanoch Maramri, Haaretz’s former editor, who wrote in The 7th Eye that Haaretz will survive this attack. The paper suffered boycott attempts during the first and second Intifada, when its editors insisted on reporting cases of abuse and illegal actions by IDF soldiers. But these were different times for journalism, and the real danger is that the delicate financial situation affecting all newspapers will make Haaretz change its line a bit so it wouldn’t bleed too many readers.

Even more important is what these events teach on the current moment in Israel. Most people outside this country fail to notice it, but we are at the dangerous turning point in which words and ideas, and not just acts, are becoming illegitimate in this country, even criminal. Haaretz won’t be the last victim.