Israel

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.

(more…)

Six Days of War, 50 Years of Occupation: Israel Still Occupies Palestinian Land 50 Years After Six-Day War

20170520_srp072_1

(photo: Magnum)

Israel has become powerful and rich, but has not found peace with the Palestinians — nor with itself.

Special Report: Six Days of War, 50 Years of Occupation / The Economist
May 20, 2017


The decades of the “peace process” brought much process and little peace. For Israelis, land for peace became land for suicide-bombs and rockets.


In the beginning they destroyed Egypt’s air force on the ground and knocked out the planes of Jordan, Iraq and Syria. That was Monday. Then they broke Egypt’s massive defenses in Sinai. That was Tuesday. Next, they took the old city of Jerusalem and prayed. That was Wednesday. Then they reached the Suez Canal. That was Thursday. They ascended the Golan Heights. That was Friday. Then they took the peaks overlooking the plain of Damascus. In the evening the world declared a ceasefire. That was Saturday. And on the seventh day the soldiers of Israel rested.

In just six days of fighting in June 1967, Israel created a new Middle East. So swift and sudden was its victory over the encircling Arab armies that some saw the hand of God. Many had feared another Holocaust. Instead Israel became the greatest power in the region. Naomi Shemer’s anthem, “Jerusalem of Gold,” acquired new lines after the war: “We have returned to the cisterns / To the market and to the market-place / A shofar [ram’s horn] calls out on the Temple Mount in the Old City.”

(more…)

Israel’s New Bill “Portrays Institutional Racism as Entirely Normal”

de57060fd8ae4cf3904f9a18a9e1bc77_18

Among its provisions, the legislation revokes the status of Arabic as an official language, even though it is the mother tongue of one in five citizens (photo: Reuters)

Israel’s Knesset has passed its first vote on a new bill defining Israel as “a national home of the Jewish people.”

By Jonathan Cook / Al Jazeera
May 11, 2017


“The aim is to portray institutional racism in Israel as entirely normal, and make sure the apartheid reality here is irreversible. . . . It is part of the right’s magical thinking — they are in denial that there is an indigenous people here still living in their homeland. We are not about to disappear because of this law.”
— Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament


New legislation to cement the definition of Israel as a state belonging exclusively to Jews around the world is a “declaration of war” on Palestinian citizens of Israel, the minority’s leaders warned this week.

The bill, which defines Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people,” passed its first vote in the Israeli parliament on Wednesday, after it received unanimous backing from a government committee on Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to get the measure on to the statute books within 60 days.

Among its provisions, the legislation — popularly known as the Jewish Nation-State Bill — revokes the status of Arabic as an official language, even though it is the mother tongue of one in five citizens.

Israel’s population includes a large minority of 1.7 million Palestinians.

The legislation affirms that world Jewry has a “unique” right to national self-determination in Israel, and calls for the government to further strengthen ties to Jewish communities outside Israel.

It also increases the powers of so-called “admissions committees” that block Palestinian citizens from living in hundreds of communities that control most of Israel’s land.

(more…)

Pence: Israel Embassy Move Under “Serious Consideration”

20jerusalem-master768

The United States Embassy in Tel Aviv, where all other countries have their embassies. (photo: Jack Guez / Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

By The Associated Press / The New York Times
May 2, 2017


“The president of the United States, as we speak, is giving serious consideration into moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. . . . To be clear, the president has also personally committed to resolving the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.”
— Vice President Mike Pence


President Donald Trump is giving “serious consideration” to moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday, the day before a scheduled White House visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump is also “personally committed” to becoming the U.S. president who finally ends the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pence said.

Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a politically charged act that would anger Palestinians who want east Jerusalem, which was captured in 1967, as a future capital and part of their sovereign territory. Such a move would also distance the U.S. from most of the international community, including its closest allies in Western Europe and the Arab world.

[Editor’s note: There are 82 foreign embassies in Israel, none of which are in Jerusalem.]

(more…)

German Foreign Minister Calls Netanyahu’s Bluff

3175

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel (left) with Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, in Jerusalem on April 25, 2017. (photo: Sebastian Scheiner / AP)

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel will learn far more from his meetings with B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence than from meeting with Netanyahu.

By Dahlia Scheindlin / +972 Magazine
April 25, 2017


“You never get the full picture of any state in the world if you just meet with figures in government ministries.”


Given an ultimatum of meeting with Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem or meeting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel very simply made the right choice to forego Netanyahu. And not in order to “defy” Netanyahu, as per a breathless Bloomberg headline, or to give any message at all.

He was right simply because what would he have actually learned from Netanyahu? Those organizations will give Gabriel concrete information: B’Tselem will update him on developments regarding the 50-year-old occupation and its most current manifestations, in the form of data, documentation and analysis. Breaking the Silence will give him human experiences of occupation, and tell the truth about growing attempts to intimidate and suppress the group for daring to oppose Israeli policies. (more…)

The Longest-Serving Palestinian Prisoner in Israel

1474847845

Nael Barghouti as a prisoner in 1993 (right) and as a long-haired youth in 1978. (photo: Alex Levac / Haaretz)

He was released in a prisoner swap after serving 33 years, then sent back in on a technicality.

By Gideon Levy / Haaretz
April 29, 2017


[After being returned to prison,] Nael was sentenced to 30 months in prison for violating the conditions of his release. But when that term ended, he was not set free. Then, two months ago came the astounding news that he would have to complete his life-plus-18-years sentence, originally meted out in 1978.


The three photographs on the chest of drawers at the entrance to the living room tell the whole unbelievable story. The first shot, from 1978, shows a long-haired youth. The second, taken 15 years later, is a portrait of a prisoner between his two aged parents, both of whom lean on canes. It was taken the last time they met. The third is of an elderly man, at the time of his release from prison.

Thirty-nine years separate the first and third images, and Nael Barghouti, the man in all of the photos, spent most of that time incarcerated in an Israeli prison for murdering Mordechai Yakoel, a bus driver, in 1978. There is no longer-serving prisoner than Barghouti, and no crueler arbitrary treatment by the authorities than that demonstrated in his case. (more…)

Swift Reaction to U.N. “Apartheid State” Report

3461261913

U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf was fired after refusing to withdraw a report declaring Israel an “apartheid state.” (photo: Mohamed Azakir / Reuters)

Heads roll after publication of damning report.

March 26, 2017

Reaction has been fast and furious to the publication of the report, “Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA).

This report concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. Aware of the seriousness of this allegation, the authors of the report conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.

Israel and its allies condemned the report and its authors. (Independent)

“The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie.”
—Danny Danon, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N.

“The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”
— Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

Newly-installed U.N. Secretary General Antonió Guterres demanded the retraction of the report, which U.N. Undersecretary General Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the UN-ESCWA, refused. She was subsequently dismissed, and the report was withdrawn. Read her resignation letter here. (New York Times, Haaretz)

After giving the matter due consideration, I realized that I too have little choice. I cannot withdraw yet another well-researched, well-documented U.N. work on grave violations of human rights, yet I know that clear instructions by the Secretary-General will have to be implemented promptly. A dilemma that can only be resolved by my stepping down to allow someone else to deliver what I am unable to deliver in good conscience.

Richard Falk, one of the authors of the report, Princeton University professor and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, describes the thorough process behind the report in an editorial. (The Nation)

Our report concludes that Israel has deliberately fragmented the Palestinian people . . . relying on systematic discrimination . . . to maintain its control, while continuing to expand territorially at the expense of the Palestinian people. On the basis of these findings — backed up by detailed presentations of empirical data, including reliance on Israeli official sources — we conclude that the allegation of apartheid as applied to the Palestinian people is well founded.

palestinian_woman_idf_rtr_img

A Palestinian woman argues with Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint south of Hebron on Aug 16, 2016. (photo: Mussa Qawasma / Reuters)

(more…)

New Entry Law Is a Reminder That Palestinians Live in Israel’s Prison

Bethlehem checkpoint

Palestinian workers stand in line next to a portion of the separation wall, waiting to cross through the checkpoint from Bethlehem into Israel. (Miriam Alster / Flash90)

The reality in the West Bank is one that resembles a prison, where Israel controls the law, the security, who can leave, and now who can visit.

By Noam Sheizaf / Local Call via +972 Magazine
March 7, 2017


There is no peace process, nor is there a real discussion over one state or two states. Even discussions on whether Israel is an apartheid state have become intellectual fodder for Jews and leftists. The reality is one that resembles a prison, and the prisoners will continue to be held by force . . . .


The Knesset passed a law Monday night denying entry visas or residency rights to foreign nationals who call for boycotts against Israel or the settlements. The law won’t have much of an effect on entry into Israel proper, but rather will mostly affect those trying to enter the West Bank — a solid reminder that the ban is yet another example of the way Israel holds Palestinians prisoners. After all, one can assume that most people who enter the Palestinian territories oppose the settlements or support some version of the boycott.

Because Israel controls every point of entry into areas under Palestinian control in the West Bank, Palestinians cannot leave (without a permit) or come back (without a permit). With the passage of the law, they are no longer allowed to have visitors. In other words: they are prisoners, and these restrictions are just the tip of the iceberg.

(more…)

172 Scholars Decry Israel’s Travel Ban

signatures

Signatures on the Israeli Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948. (image: Israeli Knesset)

As published on Mondoweiss.net
March 12, 2017


In spite of our different views, we stand in strong opposition to the new law. It will be bad for Israel, bad for the cause of democracy at this fragile moment, and bad for the principles of free speech and thought on which our scholarship is based.


We, the undersigned scholars of Jewish studies, write to express our dismay over the bill passed on March 6 by the Israeli Knesset that would bar entry to any foreigner who supports the BDS movement or supports boycotting settlements or goods produced in the occupied territories. We are researchers with a wide range of professional, social, and personal ties to Israel and a diverse array of ideological positions. But we are unified in our belief that this law represents a further blow to the democratic foundations of Israel, continuing the process of erosion wrought by a recent series of bills including the Regulation Law, the Suspension of MKs Law, and the NGO Law, as well as the earlier Boycott Law. This is unacceptable. (more…)

Israel Closes Palestinian Office Tracking Illegal Settlements

israelpalestinians-01cf3

A man takes a photo of the sealed offices of Khalil Tufagji, a prominent Palestinian cartographer, in East Jerusalem. Israeli police raided Tufagji’s office on Mar 14, 2017. His office is to remain closed for six months. (photo: Mahmoud Illean / Associated Press)

Israel briefly detains Palestinian cartographer, confiscates computers and files, and closes his office for six months.

By Joseph Federman / AP and The Washington Post
March 14, 2017


Tufagji is considered the foremost Palestinian expert on Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. . . . More than 200,000 Israelis now live in East Jerusalem, along with a similar number of Palestinians. Israel considers its developments to be neighborhoods of its capital, but the Palestinians and most of the international community label them as illegal settlements.


Israeli police on Tuesday burst into the offices of a Palestinian cartographer who tracks Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and detained him for several hours, accusing him of illegally working for the Palestinian Authority.

It was believed to be the first arrest of its kind since Israel banned the Palestinian Authority from carrying out official business in East Jerusalem in 2001. It also illustrated the deep sensitivities over East Jerusalem, an area with deep religious and strategic significance claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians.

Khalil Tufagji, a former Palestinian negotiator, said police entered his office early Tuesday and confiscated computers and files before taking him away. He was released after several hours. Tufagji denied working for the Palestinian Authority.

(more…)