Month: June 2017

Israel’s Irrational Rationality

Israeli policemen removing a protester during the eviction of Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Amona in the occupied West Bank, February 2017

Israeli policemen removing a protester during the eviction of Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Amona in the occupied West Bank, February 2017. (photo: Corinna Kern / NurPhoto / Getty Images)

By David Shulman / The New York Review of Books
June 22, 2017


No amount of coddling and reassuring, no increased bribes in the form of more money or military aid, will have any effect on Israeli policy for the simple reason that Israel considers any sacrifice that would be necessary for peace far worse than maintaining the current situation . . . . The assumption that Israel genuinely wants a peace agreement is simply wrong; the costs of such an agreement are tangible, immediate, and perhaps overwhelming, involving the loss of territory, an end to colonization, and potential political collapse, whereas the costs of maintaining the status quo are for many Israelis, if at times unpleasant, eminently bearable.


This June, Israel is marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War. Some Israelis, including most members of the present government, are celebrating the country’s swift victory over Egypt, Jordan, and Syria as the beginning of the permanent annexation of the entire Palestinian West Bank; others, like me, mourn it as the start of a seemingly inexorable process of moral corruption and decline, the result of the continuing occupation of the West Bank, along with Israel’s now indirect but still-crippling control of Gaza. As it happens, my own life in Israel coincides exactly with the occupation. I arrived from the US in 1967, not as an ideological Zionist but as a young student who had fallen madly in love with the Hebrew language. Sometimes I think it is my passion for the language that has kept me here for five decades, although I would now want to add the strong feeling that it is my fate and my good fortune to be able to fight the good fight.

The country I came to live in fifty years ago was utterly unlike the one I live in today. It was no utopia, but its society was broadly moderate and humane, a mildly Mediterranean version of a modern European social democracy. Despite what some would say, it was not a colonial settlers’ society. There was widespread fear and even hatred of Arabs, including Arab citizens of Israel, but it was nothing like the rampant racism one now hears every day on the radio or TV. Shame, sincere or not, had not yet disappeared from public life.

In those early years, most Israelis regarded the occupied territories — which included the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula as well as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — not as providing an opportunity for enlarging the boundaries of the state through colonization but as bargaining chips in an eventual and hoped-for peace settlement with the Arabs. There were as yet no Israeli settlements in the territories and hence no fanatical, messianic settlers; the Israeli army could still claim, with some justice, to be an army of defense, not a police force sent to ensure that the project of seizing Palestinian land take place without too much resistance from the local population.

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Jerusalem Police: Jewish Peace Activists Are Human “Garbage”

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Protesters at the Flag March on Jerusalem Day, May 24, 2017. (photo: Olivier Fitoussi)

When the police officer wrenched back my arm I couldn’t tell if it was breaking. Now I am more sure than ever of the need for more direct action for equality between Jews and Palestinians.

By Ori Weisberg / Haaretz
May 31, 2017


“At the fall of your enemy, do not rejoice; at his stumbling, do not gladden your heart” (Prov. 24:17)


No day of the year demonstrates the division of Jerusalem like Jerusalem Day, which was marked last week. Most Israelis see it as marking the city’s “liberation” and “unification,” but Palestinians, who make up a third of the population, and a minority of Israelis, see it as the beginning of its occupation.

The Jerusalem municipality annually authorizes a march through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, shutting it down for the protection of its residents. These Jerusalemites are forced to sacrifice a half day’s revenue, which many of them sorely need, while marchers punctuate their songs with chants like “Death to Arabs!”, “Mohammed was a pig!”, “Burn the villages!”, and “Burn the mosques!” Residents are locked into or out of their homes for the duration while marchers bang on the metal shutters of their closed storefronts, often causing damage that they must repair at their own cost. Even if such a march proceeds peacefully, it would be still be experienced by Palestinians as a form of violence.

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The Dovekeeper and the Children’s Intifada

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Ahmed Manasra being escorted into a courtroom in Jerusalem, in October, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty)

How a thirteen-year-old boy in Jerusalem became a Rorschach blot for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By Geraldine Brooks / The New Yorker
May 27, 2017


“Our children don’t have normal childhoods. From the minute they open their eyes they wake into a reality of checkpoints, soldiers, settlers insulting their mom. They see the news from Gaza, children like them, bombed and homeless. They hear about a boy their age, burned alive by Israelis. They are sad and afraid. It’s not a healthy environment.”


Their plans were quite precise: they wouldn’t attack women, or the elderly, or children like themselves. Their targets, they agreed, would be men in their late teens and early twenties — young men of military age. All this was settled between them before they left the house. Hassan Manasra, fifteen, took a carving knife from his mother’s kitchen, but his cousin Ahmed, thirteen, couldn’t find the long, daggerlike knife he’d intended to use for his weapon. It took him a while, but finally he located it, concealed in a cupboard, where his father had hidden it for safekeeping.

The Manasras live in a compound of multifamily homes occupying almost an entire block in the Jerusalem hillside neighborhood of Beit Hanina. In the shared courtyard, half a dozen bicycles of various sizes are propped against a tree or lie in the dirt by the tall entry gate. Ten brothers and their families share the compound, and the children move fluidly through each other’s apartments, which are furnished rather formally: prints of alpine landscapes, velvet-covered sofas, lacy tablecloths. They’re the homes of a modestly prosperous clan whose breadwinners owned a grocery store, or work in trades or in transportation. Until October 12, 2015, Hassan and Ahmed followed the same schedule as all the school-age cousins in the household: go to class, come home, eat, change clothes, and then go play in an area that their uncles had cleared for them on the unused land beneath the highway overpass that separates Beit Hanina from the adjacent neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev. Sometimes the cousins played soccer, but Hassan and Ahmed particularly enjoyed training for parkour; the concrete pylons and grassy embankments under the highway were ideal for practicing vaults and tumbles.

The highway divides two East Jerusalem neighborhoods — the House of Hanina and the Peak of Ze’ev — that face each other across a shallow valley. Both are long-settled places. Beit Hanina was home to a few farming families as early as Canaanite times; in Pisgat Ze’ev, excavations have uncovered ritual baths from the Second Temple period. Both neighborhoods have seen tremendous population growth since 1967, when Israel captured this territory from Jordan in the Six-Day War. Now the busy highway is all that marks the division between the Palestinian neighborhood and the Jewish one. Pisgat Ze’ev is the last stop on the Jerusalem tramline, Beit Hanina the second-to-last. Residents of the two neighborhoods live cheek by jowl, yet they inhabit two different worlds.

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