+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 01 May 2016 14:57:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 What the Left can learn about anti-Semitism from Ken Livingstone http://972mag.com/what-the-left-can-learn-about-anti-semitism-from-ken-livingstone/118964/ http://972mag.com/what-the-left-can-learn-about-anti-semitism-from-ken-livingstone/118964/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 09:45:32 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118964 Why would the senior Labour member allow himself to be dragged into a debate about the Holocaust while his party is bending over backwards to fend off accusations that it is teeming with anti-Semites?

By Gilad Halpern

File photo of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone of the UK Labour Party. (Viktor Kovalenko / Shutterstock.com)

File photo of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone of the UK Labour Party. (Viktor Kovalenko / Shutterstock.com)

Ken Livingstone may not realize it, but he has done the progressive left a great service.

Livingstone, a veteran UK Labour Party politician and former mayor of London, was suspended from his party on Thursday for saying in a radio interview that Hitler was a Zionist. For his party, still reeling from a series of mini-scandals involving unsavory statements about Israel and the Jews, it was one borderline anti-Semitic remark too many.

Livingstone’s handling of the scandal that now bears his name is a textbook example of everything that’s wrong with the radical European left today. Because if you look at his initial comment, it was perhaps simplistic and crass, but not entirely mistaken.

“Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932,” he said, trying to defend fellow Labour MP Naz Shah who had herself been suspended for writing on Facebook that Israel should be relocated to the United States, “his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this was before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

This statement is riddled with inaccuracies: Hitler came to power in 1933, not 1932; Israel would not be established for another 16 years, and was then known as British-ruled Palestine; and most important, Hitler was already a murderous maniac in 1932. If he was ever sane, he went mad long before that.

But there’s an element of truth in what Livingstone said: although Hitler himself was most likely not a Zionist, the anti-Semitic European right of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Nazi regime in its early phase, saw eye to eye with Zionism on where Europe’s Jews belonged — not in Europe.

Edouard Drumont, the godfather of French anti-Semitism, congratulated Theodor Herzl in his 1891 book Jewish France and suggested that Jews should be “sent back to Palestine.” It became an instant bestseller. In 1933, the German government and the Zionist Organization signed an agreement that facilitated the immigration of 50,000 German Jews to Palestine. And in 1934, a delegation led by SS officer Leopold Von Mildenstein visited Palestine to assess the feasibility of resettling Germany’s Jews in it. The coordinator of the visit was Kurt Tuchler, the leader of the Zionist Federation of Germany, whose grandson Arnon Goldfinger made a fascinating documentary about it.

None of the above is meant to defend Livingstone’s jibe nor to criticize his suspension, which I view as fair and well-deserved, all the more so as he remains adamant in his refusal to apologize. The reason he came under so much fire was the subtext: assuming that issue had some relevance for 2016 Britain, he was talking about the present, not the past. It was his underlying intentions that were called into question. Why on earth would one evoke Hitler’s supposed warming to Zionism in a debate about contemporary politics, if it wasn’t to draw some sort of parallel, as awkward and far-fetched as it may have been, between Zionism and Nazism? And why would he allow himself to be dragged into a debate about the Holocaust at a time when his party is bending over backwards to fend off accusations that it is teeming with anti-Semites? Livingstone, an astute and experienced politician, took a plunge into an empty pool.

While all this might have been a slip of a tongue from a politician who’s no stranger to controversies, it is pitted against a dubious backdrop of his consistent effort to downplay positions within his party that could be branded, if not downright anti-Semitic, as bigoted and hateful.

He has repeatedly said that throughout his 47-year affiliation with the Labour Party, he has not once heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic. He continued to say that even as it emerged that party functionary Vicky Kirby tweeted that Jews had “big noses,” and that a local councilor called Hitler “the greatest man in history.” He himself said, in a hair-raisingly awkward attempt to defend his comrades – or perhaps himself — that a real anti-Semite hates Jews everywhere, not just those in Israel. Even in the off-chance that it doesn’t amount to anti-Semitism, an indiscriminate hatred for a group of people by virtue of their nationality sounds an awful lot like bigotry at its ugliest.

It seems that the fall from grace of a heavyweight of Livingstone’s caliber has convinced party leader Jeremy Corbyn that there’s more to Labor’s anti-Semitism problem than mudslinging by his Conservative rivals and centrist Labourites who have been unhappy to see their party taken over by a hardline socialist. Corbyn admitted that there is a problem – and as any addict would know, that’s the first step towards rehabilitation.

Yes, the vetting of old Facebook posts published by Labour representatives long before they dreamed of public office is disingenuous – let alone that only a year ago the leader of the party was the Jewish Ed Miliband. And as always, there’s a hefty amount of hypocrisy: on Saturday, as the scandal spiraled, the Israeli Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog called on his British counterparts to visit Yad Vashem. Strangely enough, he didn’t urge the Conservative Party leader to do the same when they struck down a proposal, tabled by a Kindertransport survivor, to accept 3,000 child refugees, in case anyone needed further proof who hasn’t learned the lessons of the Holocaust.

But the obsession of some people on the far-left with Israel that often boils over to outlandish conspiracy theories (of which “Israel and the Jews are running the world” is just one), is under much greater scrutiny. And that’s a good thing: sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant.

Gilad Halpern is a journalist and broadcaster, host of “The Tel Aviv Review – Ideas from Israel” podcast on TLV1 Radio.

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Hebron shooter called to ‘kill everyone in Gaza’ http://972mag.com/hebron-shooter-called-to-kill-everyone-in-gaza/118869/ http://972mag.com/hebron-shooter-called-to-kill-everyone-in-gaza/118869/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 06:56:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118869 Palestinian citizens are being incarcerated left and right for Facebook statuses. But IDF soldier Elor Azaria, indicted for manslaughter, wasn’t even taken in for questioning over tweets calling for massacres of Palestinians. On the double standards in Israeli law. 

By John Brown*

A destroyed quarter in Shujaiyeh neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, during a ceasefire, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A destroyed quarter in Shujaiyeh neighborhood in the east of Gaza City, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

On the Facebook page belonging to the IDF soldier who shot and killed the wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron, one can find calls to massacre everyone living in Gaza, and support for Jewish terrorist Meir Kahane. His father also expressed support for Kahane and for the call to “kill everyone.” His mother suggested killing women and children, first among them, Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi.

Elor Azaria Tweet: Bibi, you fairy, no ceasefire, hit them hard! Charlie Azaria: Way to go, they need to be hit hard. Elor Azaria: Yes kill them all.

Elor Azaria: Bibi, you fairy, no ceasefire, hit them hard!
Charlie Azaria: Way to go, they need to be hit hard.
Elor Azaria: Yes kill them all.

 

Elor Azaria Tweet: May their memory be blessed. Kahane was right! Charlie Azaria: The righteous Kahane was right, may a new generation continue his path

Elor Azaria: May their memory be blessed. Kahane was right!
Charlie Azaria: The righteous Kahane was right, may a new generation continue his path

 

Oshra Azaria: Death to all those who hurt Jews. No more being humane. If needed, women and children should also be killed – first among them [Haneen] Zoabi.

Oshra Azaria: Death to all those who hurt Jews. No more being humane. If needed, women and children should also be killed – first among them [Haneen] Zoabi.

 

If a Palestinian wrote something similar, he or she would probably have been caught by the security services’ monitoring systems. For example, Suheib Zahda, 32, was arrested for a Facebook status expressing support for a boycott of Israel and called on Arabs not to enlist in the IDF. In October 2014, Sami Da’is uploaded to his Facebook page the logo of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a party democratically elected in Palestine, and added the words, “The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” He got six likes and an indictment from the State of Israel.

Photograph Amir Abed Rabbo was interrogated after calling Nir Barkat “Mayor of the occupation” on Facebook. Mohammed Asila, who identifies as a Palestinian comedian, wrote: “I opened a tourism company for cars that run people over, every day I get a driver or two who go out to commit ramming attacks and come back.” And then later on: “Stay away from Al Aqsa and leave us alone, we’ll stop ramming…into the concrete blockades you positioned as a solution: We’ll switch from cars to motorcycles.” The honorable Justice Rivka Friedman-Feldman read the translation of his words, and agreed with the State that he posed a danger so severe that he could not remain under house arrest but must be jailed until the end of proceedings.

This month poet Dareen Tatour’s trial began. She was charged with incitement to violence for her poem “Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum,” “Resist my people, resist them.” The state prosecutor claims she incited to violence and terror and expressed support for a terror organization. Tatour spent over three months in jail and is now under tight house arrest.

But Israeli law is not applied equally to Arabs and Jews. The cases mentioned here are a small portion of the indictments that are piling up against Arabs for incitement on Facebook. Not only was Elor Azaria not interrogated for his incendiary status, but a month later, he was drafted into the army and stationed in the heart of a Palestinian population he is supposed to protect. His mother was not arrested for incitement to kill a Knesset member in Israel, and his father was not only not arrested, but even had the privilege of getting a phone call from the prime minister.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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The road to ending occupation is incremental http://972mag.com/the-road-to-ending-occupation-is-incremental/118901/ http://972mag.com/the-road-to-ending-occupation-is-incremental/118901/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 06:46:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118901 Israel leftists should not sit around and wait for the international community to save Israel from itself. There are no quick fixes. The way to bring about a better future for Israelis and Palestinians is to gradually reduce the ails of occupation.

By Yariv Mohar

An Israeli soldier stands watch at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. (IDF Spokesperson)

An Israeli soldier stands watch at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. (IDF Spokesperson)

It seems like more and more of my leftist friends feel that the solution to the occupation won’t come from inside Israel, which is increasingly radicalizing, but as a result of something external, some kind of international pressure — a deus ex machina, a tremendous foreign power, a UN resolution, the boycott, isolation or a combination of them all. They hope that the good and merciful world will compel the Jewish State to end its discriminatory military regime in the West Bank and the mechanisms of control over the Gaza Strip.

Encouraging international pressure to end the oppressive regime is legitimate (even if I personally oppose some of its forms, such as a sweeping boycott of Israel). The problem is that the notion of external salvation takes the appeal of international pressure as one tool in the struggle to end occupation, and turns it into the only remaining hope. According to those who subscribe to the external salvation approach, support among Israelis for the peace process is diminishing, and you can no longer even bring up the issue of Palestine.

As such, the most one can do is yell out some furious prophecies that are technically geared towards Israelis but don’t actually make any effort to engage them. Part of the argument is that Israel’s legal and administrative institutions – including the Supreme Court – only serve the occupation so hopes cannot be pinned on them. Indeed, there is a lot of truth to that.

Those who advocate external salvation often express concerns and reservations about struggles and processes whose objective is to gradually reduce the levels of Israeli oppression in the territories – the traditional role of human rights organizations. If the objective is external pressure then any gradual steps of improvement undermine the central goal. This approach makes the absolute end to the occupation regime not only the shared, desired goal for all of us, but also the only relevant call to action. It confuses the end goal with other worthy objectives along the way.

Enlightened occupation

A Palestinian woman carries balloons during a peace march along the West Bank’s major north-south artery, Highway 60. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman carries balloons during a peace march along the West Bank’s major north-south artery, Highway 60. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I believe that the incremental struggle to end oppression of Palestinians is the most effective model, and it should be expanded from a struggle against specific grievances to a struggle against Israel’s overarching policies in the West Bank – for example, discrimination in planning and development. This is the first step in shifting the dynamic between the two peoples. I contest the external salvation approach, which expects a “quick fix” to the occupation here and now, because of the importance I see in incremental steps.

I understand the concerns of those who believe only in external salvation, primarily that just improving the situation of Palestinians under Israeli military control could create the illusion of “an enlightened occupation.” But to anyone who champions democracy, the denial of basic human and civil rights is immoral, no matter how “nice” it may be.

Such a situation could also improve Israel’s negative image in the international community, minimizing the gravity of its control in the territories. It could slow or halt international pressure on Israel. Another claim is that in Israel, the temporary is permanent, so what appears to be a gradual process for improvement will just remain a Bennett-style permanent status of occupation-lite, throwing the Palestinians a few bones while maintaining systemic control. This is also a strong argument.

However, there are a few problems with this anti-incremental approach. First, relying on the hope of international pressure makes us passive. In the reality that exists outside the messaging of incendiary right-wing groups like Im Tirtzu, the Israeli left has zero influence on the most powerful institutions in the world. We tend to sit around hoping to have minimal impact; if it works, great and if not, there isn’t much we can do about it. But that’s not how a political camp conducts itself; that is more like how a religious, messianic one conducts itself.

Second, international pressure is not necessarily imminent. The international community is fickle and unclear, and the rising influence of China and India means we can’t really know if or when substantial pressure might have an impact. The threat of global jihad also works in Israel’s favor in the West, while it works against the Palestinians.

Furthermore, the approach that opposes “improving” the reality of occupation is saturated with the notion that “it must get worse so it can get better.” That is gambling with all our lives – especially Palestinian lives, as they would suffer much more.

Lowering the level of violence

Lastly, it’s true that it’s easier to oppose a military regime whose violence is visibly blatant. But this also has a flipside: the attempt to challenge Israel to at least start honoring Palestinians’ basic rights here and now could expose how much its control isn’t actually about security that stems from concerns that “Hamastan” will be established in the West Bank.

If Israel miraculously decides to end violating Palestinian rights, even within the current framework, this would actually make it harder to maintain the occupation. Improving human rights in the territories — not just with isolated economic benefits, but a fundamental change in approach that includes upholding Palestinian rights to land, property and development – could put the brakes on settler takeovers of Palestinian land. It could put a stop to the transformation of the West Bank into a breeding ground for Jewish-Israeli development at the expense of Palestinians and their rights.

Improving Palestinians’ rights might also improve relations between Israelis and Palestinians and thus lower the level of violence. The spreading of racist, right-wing views in Israel has a direct correlation with waves of Palestinian violence. Improving Palestinian rights creates an opening for lowering the level of hatred and violence, which makes room for reconciliation and the ability to imagine a different future.

International pressure is still a device we can pull out of our toolbox. If the incremental approach can foster less violent, saner relations between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli government will have a harder time rationalizing the continued control over the Palestinian population. Presently, the security card is still strong and convincing in Brussels, London and Paris, who are all too familiar with terror – not just at AIPAC conferences in Washington.

When the road to a peace agreement is blocked and the option of international pressure is shrouded in fog and beyond our control, the incremental approach is an option that encourages the Israeli left to be proactive.

Yariv Mohar works as a spokesperson for human rights organizations. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here

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The single worst way the EU could combat anti-Semitism http://972mag.com/the-single-worst-way-the-eu-could-combat-anti-semitism/118924/ http://972mag.com/the-single-worst-way-the-eu-could-combat-anti-semitism/118924/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 16:47:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118924 The newly appointed European Commission Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism spoke at a Jerusalem conference that was a thinly veiled platform for bashing pro-Palestinian activists. Above all, it sent an alarming message about how she perceives her own role. 

By Ben White

A senior European official spoke last week at an Israeli government-hosted conference in Jerusalem where human rights defenders were denigrated and smeared as anti-Semitic.

The International Conference on Online Anti-Semitism was organized by the pro-Israel group Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism (ISCA). The group’s director, Ido Daniel, is a veteran hasbara activist who believes in “exact[ing] an economic and personal cost” from Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists.

The conference participants included Katharina von Schnurbein, appearing in her official capacity as European Commission Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism, a role created last December.

The second panel of the day was on the topic of “How the left was lost: Durban, online left-wing anti-Zionism, the BDS movement and the perversion of human rights.” Speakers on the panel, moderated by an official from the UK’s Community Security Trust, included Gerald Steinberg of Israel advocacy group NGO Monitor and London-based anti-BDS campaigner David Hirsh.

NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg speaking at the ISCA conference. (ISCA Facebook page)

NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg speaking at the ISCA conference. (ISCA Facebook page)

In a video of his talk, Steinberg can be seen denigrating and smearing a host of Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights defenders and NGOs. Those targeted included global anti-poverty charity Oxfam, Medical Aid for Palestinians, and Human Rights Watch, whose director Ken Roth was singled out for particular criticism.

The head of NGO Monitor also attacked Palestinian and Israeli groups such as Zochrot, Badil, and Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Steinberg even lashed out at Jewish Voice for Peace, a group with more than 200,000 online members and 60 chapters across the U.S.

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NGO Monitor’s role in the intensifying intimidation of human rights activists in Palestine/Israel is well-documented, including on this website. As Noam Sheizaf wrote last year, one of the goals of the group is “to attack what they see as the last political platform for anti-occupation activity inside Israeli society.” Steinberg himself has worked as a consultant to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

When I contacted von Schnurbein about the attacks on human rights defenders made during the conference, her office refused to comment, simply saying that she “does not comment on Israelis politics” [sic].

Not only did the EU’s anti-Semitism envoy decline to condemn the conference’s branding of human rights defenders as purveyors of “hate speech,” but in a copy of speaking points provided by her office, von Schnurbein appears to legitimize Steinberg’s claims, stating: “We also recognize that anti-Semitism often hides behind anti-Zionism.”

It is disturbing that a European official would speak at, and give credence to, an Israeli government-hosted attack on NGOs and BDS campaigners, especially at a time when – as recently highlighted by Amnesty International – Israeli authorities are escalating repressive measures and threats against civil society activists.

It is also bodes ill for how exactly von Schnurbein conceives of her role, at a time when the Israeli government and its allies in North America and Europe are seeking to close down the spaces for Palestine solidarity activism in the guise of fighting a redefined anti-Semitism.

Ben White is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’. His articles have been published by Middle East Monitor, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Huffington Post, The Electronic Intifada, The Guardian’s Comment is Free, and others. He tweets at @benabyad.

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IN PICTURES: Life unraveled as Israel demolishes Palestinian home http://972mag.com/in-pictures-life-unravels-as-israel-demolishes-palestinian-home/118907/ http://972mag.com/in-pictures-life-unravels-as-israel-demolishes-palestinian-home/118907/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 13:18:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118907 Hassin Mohammed Hassin Abu Gosh, 17, stabbed an Israeli woman to death and was killed in the act. Last week, in retaliation, Israel demolished his home in the Qalandia refugee camp. The ruins are a silent testament to a once thriving life.

Text and photos by Tamar Fleishman

qalandia7

The ruins of the Abu Gosh family home in Qalandia

A demolished home is a testament to a once thriving life.

Last week, a large IDF contingent entered the Qalandia refugee camp in the West Bank and demolished the home of Hassin Mohammed Hassin Abu Gosh, a 17-year-old Palestinian who was killed in January after stabbing a settler to death.

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The demolition of their third-floor apartment, on the night of April 20, went on for three hours, during which their downstairs and next-door neighbors listened with dread to the sounds of walls being shattered and household appliances smashed.

When the sun rose, it shone on the empty, dilapidated third floor that stood out like a severed limb of an otherwise functioning body.

qalandia5

Nine people lived there: two adults, four girls and three boys. It wasn’t hard to guess, according to the colors of the walls, which rooms were the boys’ and which the girls’.

qalandia3

The rooms were bereft of life, of content, of a homey ambiance.

The walls were decorated not with paintings, but with ugly black inscriptions, probably written by the troops as instructions to their comrades.

Between the broken pieces, between the nothingness and the lifelessness, through the shattered walls, one’s eyes are focused on a stove that stands in the middle of what used to be the kitchen.

qalandia4

Like a character in the theater of the absurd, the stove stands in the middle of the scene, unscathed.

And life around the house goes on, because that’s what life does – go on. New laundry has been put out to dry in the floor below, and across the street people pass by, look up, and nod their heads in despair.

The front door through which one is invited into the scene barely hangs on its hinges. It was locked by a member of the family who shoved the key deep into its pocket, holding on to it like the only remnant of a life that once was. The key to the house, as generations of Palestinian refugees have learned, is sometimes the only remaining witness.

On the backdoor, two posters of martyrs are billed. One is of Hassin Mohammed Hassin Abu Gosh, and the other of Ahmad Abu al ‘Aish, who was killed by IDF fire six months ago, while protesting against a house demolition nearby.

qalandia6

The house was demolished “in keeping with the government’s decisions,” the IDF said. But why?

Can these be seen as a just punishment at all? The criminal is no longer alive, so his family is being punished for something they didn’t do. Can anyone call this justice?

There’s no deterrence in it either, and this is something that both Israeli security experts and residents of the refugee camp say.

The only justification is the need for an image of enforcement. The IDF needs to show that it can and will do “justice” to those who engage in violence.

But its interlocutor isn’t the Palestinians; they are aware of the “justice” the IDF can and does. The IDF hopes that this message will not fall of deaf Israeli ears.

Tamar Flesichman is a photographer and anti-occupation activistThis article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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The making of a hasbara superstar, Israel’s new ambassador to the UK http://972mag.com/the-making-of-a-hasbara-superstar-israels-new-ambassador-to-the-uk/118860/ http://972mag.com/the-making-of-a-hasbara-superstar-israels-new-ambassador-to-the-uk/118860/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 14:31:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118860 For the past decade Mark Regev has become Israel’s preeminent government mouthpiece. Now, as the world prepares to mark 50 years of occupation, Netanyahu appoints a hasbara heavyweight to represent him in the UK.

By Yoni Mendel

I’m not sure Mark Regev is a name Israelis are too familiar with. But around the world he seems to be one of the people most closely identified with this country, and certainly with its recent governments. A Google News search for “Mark Regev” produces only 180 results in Hebrew, but roughly 12,000 in English. Pretty bizarre for a man who worked so closely with Israeli governments over the last decade, yet not too surprising considering the focus of his work.

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Regev began serving as a foreign media adviser to the prime minister in 2007 under Ehud Olmert. A year later he was already appearing all over international television. It was during Operation Cast Lead, which ended with 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed, that Regev gave interview after interview to all the international media outlets, managing to rationalize the horrible death toll while emphasizing that Israel did not use excessive force.

Regev was in effect Israel’s chief “hasbarist,” its executive spokesman to the world. When it came to anything regarding hasbara, propaganda, spin, conveying messages and everything in between – it seemed there was no one else better for the job, certainly not in English. In his countless interviews to the international media, Regev always kept his cool and did – at least as far as he was concerned – a credible job.

Time after time in the last decade – during which Israel provided plenty of fodder for criticism (i.e. the siege on Gaza, the offensives against it, and excessive use of force; the Mavi Marmara incident; shooting Palestinians in the occupied territories; home demolitions, continued settlement building, encouraging Jews to pray on the Temple Mount and changing the status quo there, and on and on) – through all this, Regev has gone in front of the cameras and calmly relayed his message. I’m not sure Regev succeeded at convincing the foreign journalists who interviewed him, but he said what Israelis wanted to hear, and he consistently managed to turn criticism of Israel around on the Palestinians.

I’m not sure if Regev should be seen as the designer of Israel’s hasbara line of last decade — Israel always just “responds” to Palestinian violence, it is a victim of course, the Palestinians don’t want peace, there is no siege on Gaza and the only kind of “occupation” happening is the employment of Palestinian laborers — or just its most talented mouthpiece. Regev excelled, and he did so in English.

I wouldn’t have needed such a long intro if Regev hadn’t just begun serving in what is probably the second-most important Israeli diplomatic posting — as ambassador to the UK. He was appointed after faithfully serving Netanyahu, a politician who also knows a thing or two about propaganda in general, and in English in particular. Netanyahu was apparently the first to identify that someone who was so good at hasbara work would also excel at deceiving hundreds and thousands of journalists around the world – and no one is more fitting for the role.

 

It would seem that Regev’s appointment is a response to increasing criticism in the UK of Israel’s occupation, criticism that Netanyahu knows will only grow next year — when all the countries in the world except for Israel will mark 50 years of military occupation in the West Bank. It is because of the challenging task awaiting all Israeli representatives abroad in 2017 that Regev skipped a few classes and was promoted from media adviser to ambassador.

As far as Netanyahu is concerned it is a genius move. Mr. Hasbara is now in the most important and possibly the most difficult diplomatic posting when it comes to criticism of Israel. On the other hand, the fact that Israel is working on the story it tells itself, honing its messaging, won’t change a thing about the facts on the ground. In short, words cannot change Israeli actions.

It seems like Israel’s foreign service has become a sophisticated hasbara machine that operates according to the prime minister’s whims and phobias. Take four recent important international postings: Washington, New York, Rome and London. In New York, former settler leader Dani Dayan was appointed consul general after Brazil refused to accept him as ambassador due to its opposition to Israel’s continued control of territories it never annexed, and the occupation. Not far from Israel’s consulate in New York, Danny Danon is representing Israel in the United Nations – he previously served as a minister and was fired as deputy defense minister for criticizing Netanyahu because the latter did not strike Gaza even harder.

In the U.S. capital, Netanyahu’s good friend and former senior adviser Ron Dermer is serving as ambassador to the U.S. despite American opposition. Meanwhile, the Italians are still trying to cope with the crisis over Israel’s decision to send an ambassador to Rome who less than a decade again was a member of parliament in Berlusconi’s party.

The March of Folly did not begin here. Israel is trying to find cures for its problems by concealing its disasters — it is doing everything except actually coping with and solving the political issues at hand.

For example, when criticism grew in Norway over, among other things, discrimination against Arabs in Israel, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman was quick to pull a rabbit out of his hat: he sent a Druze ambassador there. Or when the UN grew increasingly critical of the siege on Gaza, Israel responded with cartoons of bombs and recordings of sirens and even 40 seconds of scolding silence. And now, the same in London. Netanyahu was quick to pull out Mark Regev, the superstar of Israeli hasbara.

But the sleazy talk, eye rolling and deflecting blame will not help Israel; it will only further entrench the illusion the government is trying to sell us. The well-oiled hasbara machine, the tricks and shticks, only achieve one thing: they distance Israel from being able to cope with reality, and increase the gap between real life and the imagined one that public officials sell us.

Yoni Mendel is the projects manager of the Mediterranean Unit at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, and co-editor of the book review section of the Journal of Levantine Studies (JLS). This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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Hebron shooter’s indictment is an exception that proves the rule http://972mag.com/hebron-shooters-indictment-is-an-exception-that-proves-the-rule/118837/ http://972mag.com/hebron-shooters-indictment-is-an-exception-that-proves-the-rule/118837/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 13:18:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118837 When Sgt. Elor Azaria was caught on camera finishing off a wounded Palestinian knifeman and indicted for manslaughter, the IDF said rogue soldiers would always be brought to justice. The case of Bassem Abu Rahme, an unarmed protester who was fatally shot by an unknown soldier in 2009, shows that when given an opportunity to be lenient, the army will seize it. 

By Yesh Din (written by Yossi Gurvitz)

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who has been charged with manslaughter for shooting an incapacitated Palestinian stabbing suspect in Hebron, is seen in a military court, March 29, 2016. (Pool photo/AFP)

Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who has been charged with manslaughter for shooting an incapacitated Palestinian stabbing suspect in Hebron, is seen in a military court, March 29, 2016. (Pool photo/AFP)

 

On April 17th 2009, Bassem Abu Rahme was demonstrating against the separation wall in his West Bank village, Bil’in. After Israeli troops fired crowd-dispersal weapons and one demonstrator was hit, Abu Rahme shouted at the soldiers and Border Policemen that the person was wounded. Seconds later, a person in Israeli uniform (it is unclear whether he or she was an IDF soldier or a Border Police officer) fired a tear gas canister directly into Abu Rahme’s chest; the wound was fatal, and within hours Abu Rahme succumbed.

Until recently, these were uncontested facts. Even so, almost seven years after his death, no one has been held responsible for Abu Rahme’s death. Seven years of foot-dragging and investigation ducking (read more here and here.)

This is what happens when a member of the security forces shoots an unarmed man — who everyone agrees posed no danger — and the three cameras that documented the event are not aimed directly at the shooter.

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We do not know who shot Abu Rahme and what unit he or she belonged to. We do, however, have forensic evidence pointing to where the shooter stood. The IDF carried out a ballistics examination that concluded that “the only possibility of this sort of armament hitting the target is only by direct fire and using a flat angle – no more than three or four degrees.” The examination effectively ruled out the possibility of Abu Rahme being hit by a canister shot according to the IDF’s regulations and hitting him by mistake; even if the canister ricocheted off a fence, it would still be fired directly, in defiance of the regulations.

In 2013, the head of the IDF’s Photo Reconnaissance Unit told the Military Police’s Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID) that direct fire of tear gas canisters is forbidden and that it should hold a lineup to determine where each of the shooters stood. The MPCID has yet to do so.

Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court heard an appeal by Yesh Din and human rights NGO B’Tselem, in which we demanded that the shooter be indicted, or at least that the army indict his commander. The hearing was held ex parte because the prosecution was striking. We suspect that the respondents would have argued that the shooters cannot be identified; what’s more, they would have probably played down the fact that for no less than 15 months, the MPCID and the military prosecution did their utmost to refrain from investigating the case, until being forced to in the wake of our first petition to the High Court of Justice. The government is likely to claim that the canister that hit Abu Rahme’s chest ricocheted off something – and will play down the fact that even if it did, its own ballistic diagnosis ruled that the firing was against the army’s own rules of engagement.

The government is further likely to argue that it has no clue as to whom it should prosecute, hoping the judges will not assign too much importance to the fact that it stifled the investigation for years. Our demand is simple: even if there is no chance to indict the shooters themselves, and we contend this claim since the MPCID’s failure to investigate rendered the case no longer investigable, the commanders should still bear responsibility.

So far, none of this has happened. The justices decided to rescind the petition, since, in the wake of the Turkel Commission report, a decision of the military prosecution can be appealed to the Attorney General – a provision that did not exist when we first submitted our appeal. Justice, it seems, will have to wait.

Unarmed, Abu Rahme posed a danger to no-one. It is important to emphasize this fact time and again. He was protesting an injustice in his village – an injustice recognized as such by the High Court of Justice itself. And yet, an Israeli security officer, perhaps more than one, fired at a demonstrator in a life-threatening manner and caused his death. We note that one of the suspects said in his interrogation that he never received proper training with the weapon he was using. The commanders of these warriors, who are responsible for their actions, continue to dodge their responsibility to this day.

Last month’s murder of a Palestinian by an Israeli soldier in Hebron, which was caught on camera, has been labeled exceptional, unrepresentative, and isolated by all. Every person of conscience should wonder whether this is so; whether the decisive statement in the case was not made of by Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, but rather by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who phoned the shooter’s father and told him (Hebrew) to “trust the IDF investigation.”

What ought an Israeli security officer to understand from the prime minister’s remarks? A reasonable interpretation would be: “Don’t worry, our investigation will find you acted properly.” This, after all, is the unwritten contract between the government and its soldiers: We send you to do the dirty work of oppressing a civilian population, and in return we will turn a blind eye if you sometimes overstep the mark – unless you are caught red-handed, that is. Let the investigation charade begin.

Yesh Din is a volunteer organization working to defend the human rights of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation.

]]> http://972mag.com/hebron-shooters-indictment-is-an-exception-that-proves-the-rule/118837/feed/ 1 Indignity, grief and mourning on the Gaza border http://972mag.com/indignity-grief-and-mourning-on-the-gaza-border/118745/ http://972mag.com/indignity-grief-and-mourning-on-the-gaza-border/118745/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 07:20:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118745 A woman from Gaza is told during a visit to Israel that she must terminate her advanced pregnancy. The Israeli army and courts effectively refuse to allow her to mourn with her husband by her side.

By Nomi Heger

Illustrative photo of a woman in mourning. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of a woman in mourning. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Over the last two weeks, while everyone in Israel was talking about the segregation between Palestinian and Jewish women in post-natal care, we here at Gisha (an organization that promotes the freedom of movement of Gaza residents) provided legal assistance to one pregnant woman, who just happens to be Palestinian and could not care less who was lying next to her, where that woman was from or what sort of partying her hospital room mates would be doing. These privileges were the last thing on her mind. She wanted one thing and one thing only – which to us seems self-evident – she wanted to hold her spouse’s hand while the doctors induced her fetus’ demise.

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The woman in question entered Israel from Gaza, with a permit, to visit family. She was in week 28 of her pregnancy. Because health care services in Israel are more advanced than in Gaza, she went to get a second opinion about her pregnancy while in the country – something any of us wold do when it comes to a major medical decision. The doctors recommended an abortion immediately due to fetal defects. An abortion this far into the pregnancy is, in fact, a birth, performed as a C-section, at the end of which the fetus is injected with a substance that stops its heart.

Due to the urgency, we contacted the Israeli military unit in charge of issuing permits to exit Gaza, the DCO, on that same day, a Wednesday, asking them to let the woman’s spouse enter Israel immediately, to be by her side during these difficult moments. We knew he was under some vague security exclusion, barring him from entering Israel but the details were never explained and he never had a chance to counter whatever it was. We thought that the situation was humanitarian enough that he would be allowed to enter.

The border between Gaza and Israel. (Activestills.org)

The border between Gaza and Israel. (Activestills.org)

We were wrong. The army had lots of time to consider the request, but they were in no hurry to answer, so on Sunday, we filed an urgent petition to the Beer Sheva District Court, which hears cases of Gaza residents wishing to enter Israel. We discovered, to our surprise, that the court was in no hurry either. On the contrary, the judge chose a late date for the hearing, too late, eight days after the petition was filed, when the woman, by now in mourning, desperately needs her husband by her side, now, to face the hardship together, and to take care of the burial. Our request to move up the hearing was to no avail.

We found the indifference shown by the District Court particularly astounding, especially given that last month, when we petitioned the High Court of Justice on behalf of a Palestinian woman from the Gaza Strip who was denied travel to the West Bank to attend her father’s funeral, for security reasons, the High Court, which is the instance that handles requests for travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, called us in for an urgent hearing on the very same day, in Jerusalem. That was on a Thursday afternoon, when the court had already emptied, when all hearings had ended, and still, three Supreme Court justices made the effort to hold the hearing because they thought the case was worthy enough and urgent enough to hear it at the end of a busy work week. Ultimately, despite the negative position taken by security officials, the justices ruled the woman must be allowed to enter the West Bank and mourn her father with the rest of the family.

This comparison between the two instances doesn’t necessarily indicate what the final outcome would have been. It might be that, at the end of the hearing at the Beer Sheva court, the petitioner’s spouse would still have been denied entry, but at least he would have had the chance to have a say about what happens to him in court. Instead, the judge made the petition irrelevant. The woman could not stay in Israel on her own and wait for the hearing for eight days. She rose from mourning, despite her physical and mental state, and returned to Gaza before the hearing took place. Since there was no longer a need to hear the case; we had to withdraw the petition.

So what have we learned from this sad tale? That Palestinian mourning is worth less in this country, that apparently it is acceptable to disrespect the grief of a mother who carries a child for 28 weeks, delivers it and then says goodbye forever; that it is also apparently acceptable to disrespect the grief of a father, and deny him entry into Israel to be by his partner’s side. They do have three other children in the Gaza Strip after all, and those ones are alive. Perhaps the main lesson here is that we still don’t know how much more suffering Palestinians will have to endure before the Israeli authorities recognize their basic rights, like the right to mourn the death of an unborn child.

Attorney Dr. Nomi Heger is the director of the legal department at Gisha, an NGO that promotes civilian and commercial freedom of movement into and out of Gaza. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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The diaspora is an integral part of Hebrew literature http://972mag.com/the-diaspora-is-an-integral-part-of-hebrew-literature/118757/ http://972mag.com/the-diaspora-is-an-integral-part-of-hebrew-literature/118757/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 07:11:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118757 There is a ceaseless movement of Israeli culture — and the diaspora experience is just waking up and testing its global limits.

By Mati Shemoelof

Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com

Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com

BERLIN — There is no such thing as “Hebrew literature written outside Israel” because the definition of “outside Israel” cannot address art in general or literature in particular.

Literature is created in a space that is not a state or a country. The categorization of literature that is written outside or inside a country is problematic.

As such, we should understand that Hebrew literature from the get-go belongs to every country in which there are writers writing in Hebrew, or Israelis whose experience with the Hebrew language has shaped their memory, or citizens of the world who consume Israeli literature in one way or another.

So forgive me, but I will instead use the term “diasporic literature” — that which is written at times from a place of exile; sometimes from a small space that exists between our Jewish life and our life within the local culture written in the various different languages.

Diasporic literature detaches the Hebrew language, Judaism and Israeli identity from national boundaries, sharpens the weight of exposure to new cultures and transforms it from a majority language to a minority language.

Sapir Prize Winner Reuven Namdar, who writes in Hebrew in New York; or the Israeli author Ayelet Tsabari, who writes in Canadian English about her experience growing up in Petah Tikva, and whose first book made it to the New York Times Editor’s Choice list; or Hanno Haustein from Germany, who edits “Aviv,” a Hebrew-German journal; Yousef Sweid, who writes a column in Hebrew in the Berlin magazine Spitz; and of course Sayed Kashua, the Palestinian Israeli who writes in Hebrew from the U.S.

They are all part of this diasporic culture. You don’t have to be Jewish, Hebrew, or Israeli to be part of this diasporic culture. It is one’s consciousness, not one’s origin, that decides.

Diasporic literature certainly has its own language because it is created within a set of values and terms that is entirely distinct from Israeli culture, yet remains associated with it and with the local culture. For example, the third part of my first book of short stories, “Remnants of the Cursed Book,” published by Zmora Bitan, is certainly connected to Berlin culture and constitutes an integral part of Israeli society, like all the stories of all the other immigrants in the city, who are part of Berlin culture even if they are not read there.

In my first year and a half in Berlin, literarily speaking, I wanted to celebrate my life in the multi-cultural metropolis – which is why I published an e-book of farewell poems, full of emotion and a first set of immigration poems called “Last Tango in Berlin.” On the other hand, I had a desire to document my new life, and that’s why I wrote the weekly Haaretz column, “An Israeli in Berlin.” But today I don’t celebrate emigration.

The continuation of diasporic literature is sometimes dependent on the next generation, which doesn’t usually continue writing in Hebrew. But there is a ceaseless movement of Israeli culture — and the diaspora experience is just waking up and testing its global limits.

My first full novel, which I have been working on the last few years, was written in the belly of an airplane of homesickness, with a passport of longing, en route to yearning. It reflects my gum-like soul, being stretched between Germany and Israel, and shows the way in which two cultures cannot be simply disconnected.

Something interesting happened to me recently, when I was among the organizers of multi-language performance and poetry “Hafla” slams in the city. I noticed that the poems I wrote in Hebrew were addressed to a Hebrew-speaking audience, not the local audience. For the first time in my life I decided to write one spoken-word poem in English for the next event. We’ll see how it works.

I don’t miss those who are exclusionary. Like closing off the Sapir Prize to those who live outside Israel. Is that the same Zionism that wants one nation, with one language in one land? Are we really located in just one place in this age of Internet and globalization? Can we really reduce Israeli identity to its physical borders (whatever those may be)? Do we want to shed all the books written throughout time outside Israel?

Literature should be judged by its beauty, its power to imagine new life, and not the passport of its creators. That is how it has always been, and how it will always be.

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Israel’s covert war against Palestinian media http://972mag.com/israels-covert-war-against-palestinian-media/118717/ http://972mag.com/israels-covert-war-against-palestinian-media/118717/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 06:34:05 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118717 Palestinian journalists are increasingly threatened, arrested and interrogated just for doing their jobs. And for the most part, Israeli journalists remain silent. 

By Noam Rotem

A member of the media holds his arm after being injured from a live bullet while covering Palestinian clashes with Israeli army, following a protest supporters by Hamas  against the Israeli attack on Gaza,on July 25, 2014, in the DCO checkpoint near Ramallah, West Bank.

A member of the media holds his arm after being injured from a live bullet while covering Palestinian clashes with Israeli army, July 25, 2014, DCO checkpoint near Ramallah, West Bank. (Activestills.org)

On a Tuesday night in the beginning of April, Israeli armed forces raided a house in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. They woke up sleeping family and gave al-Hayat journalist Diala Jwehan a summons to appear for interrogation. Jwehan has been covering the uprising of recent months, primarily in East Jerusalem, and is one in a long list of Palestinian journalists who have been called in for questioning because of their media work – what the Palestinian Journalists Association calls an “Israeli offensive on Palestinian media.”

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Free press? Depends where

Israelis love to boast the free press index published by Freedom House organization, which ranks Israel in a relatively good spot with a grade of 70 – although it is the lowest among the category of free countries, but still high. A small detail mentioned in the report, in fine print, is that the index does not include the situation in the West Bank or Gaza. There, the grade given for the same index is only 16 – one of the lowest in the world, and a clear indication of the total lack of free press.

According to a report recently published by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, in 2015 there were 407 attacks by Israeli forces against journalists, some of which were physical assaults (42 percent) and the rest range from preventing access to some places and prevention of coverage, arrests, damaging equipment, using journalists as human shields, and more. These are not sporadic, but part of the daily reality for Palestinian journalists.

Ahmad al-Bitawi, a Palestinian journalist, was convicted in an Israeli military court of incitement that was, allegedly part of his journalistic work. Other journalists, among them Mahmoud al-Qawasme and Mohhamad Qaddumi, are both imprisoned in Israeli jails awaiting trial for the same charge. These tactics are only used against Palestinians journalists, never against Jewish journalists, some of whom publish similar incendiary materials, like for example Amnon Lord, who published a front-page article for the Jewish religious newspaper Makor Rishon a few weeks ago that included the statement, “killing a terrorist without grounds of immediate self defense is a natural situation during war.”

During the month of February, a long list of Palestinian journalists from both Jerusalem and the West Bank were interrogated, among them “Good Morning Jerusalem” producer Nader Bebars, Pal Media in Jerusalem’s bureau chief Ishaq Kasbe, WAFA photographer Ayman Nubani, and many other journalists, photographers, and media technicians.

The television show Palestine Today, which operated out of Bir Zeit, was closed by an Israeli military order on claims of incitement during broadcasts, and several journalists working there were arrested and are still being held by Israeli security forces. In addition, the veteran newspaper Sawt al-Haq wa al-Hurriya, as well as the news website PLS48 that operate inside Israel were closed by summary orders last year.

A Palestinian man wearing the likeness of hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq lies shackled to a bed. Al-Qiq has been on hunger strike for 83 days in protest of his administrative detention. Bil’in, February 19, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man wearing the likeness of hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq lies shackled to a bed. Al-Qiq has been on hunger strike for 83 days in protest of his administrative detention. Bil’in, February 19, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

At least three Palestinian journalists are currently being held in Israeli jails under administrative detention, without trial. None of them have been tried in a non-military court, and many believe they were arrested for doing their journalistic work. In the case of another administrative detainee, journalist Mohammed al-Qiq, which nearly reached the High Court of Justice, the judge ignored his work as a reporter and political analyst, chose to place his trust in the confidential materials Israeli security forces presented him with, and ordered to keep him in detention without trial.

Israeli journalists remain silent

The severe damage to freedom of Palestinian press is caused not only by Israel but also by the Palestinian Authority, whose security forces arrest, assault and injure journalists who criticize it or sometimes even Israel. The near total absence of solidarity by Israeli journalists is also disturbing, and considering the sheer volume of violations against freedom of press, it is astonishing that such opinionated journalists remain silent. More and more journalists are being arrested, questioned and threatened, yet there is barely any coverage by Israeli media. The Knesset has a Lobby for the Freedom of Press, but remains silent. The Union of Journalists in Israel could also be much more vocal about it than it has been up until now.

The claim Israeli security forces usually make when detaining Palestinian journalists is that they engage in “incitement.” But the war on incitement is only being waged against one side, against those who are deprived of rights and live under a violent military occupation. According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, between October 2015 and March 2016, over 148 Palestinians were arrested for Facebook posts. Freedom of speech, which before the current uprising was already limited, is increasingly restricted. As for freedom of protest – it is entirely forbidden under military law in the West Bank.

Journalism is considered the watchdog of democracy. I don’t know what that means under a military regime – but there is no doubt that without the press, the situation would be much worse. Israelis and Palestinians must stand together in support of journalists who are being persecuted and send a clear message that journalists must have the right to do their work without military interference in its content or tone. Just as no one can fathom the IDF interfering in Israeli media content, the same logic must be applied to Palestinian journalism.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog o139.org, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is also a blogger. Read it here.

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