+972 Magazine » Dahlia Scheindlin http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:42:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Wedding crashers: Do anti-miscegenation protesters hate or love Judaism? http://972mag.com/wedding-crashers-do-anti-miscegenation-protesters-hate-or-love-judaism/95680/ http://972mag.com/wedding-crashers-do-anti-miscegenation-protesters-hate-or-love-judaism/95680/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:29:56 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95680 With chants of “Death to Arabs” and “Mohammed is dead” in the background, the 30-something couple spoke earnestly, their faces worried. “As far as I’m concerned,” said the woman, an economist who didn’t want to be named, “I came to a funeral. The father is in mourning. I’m here to support the family in their pain with our presence.”

They have come to a grimy parking lot outside a tacky mall in Rishon LeZion, deep in the center of Israel, to protest the wedding of an Arab Muslim Israeli and an Israeli woman born Jewish, who converted to Islam. The wedding is in a hall about 200 meters away from the protest, as per a court order. About 200 protestors have gathered in the thick, hot air. The couple talking to me come from Rishon; they say they are secular.

Right-wing activists from the anti-miscegenation group Lehava protest outside the wedding ceremony of a Muslim man and a Jewish woman in Rishon LeZion. (photo: Activestills.org)

Right-wing activists from the anti-miscegenation group Lehava protest outside the wedding ceremony of a Muslim man and a Jewish woman in Rishon LeZion. (photo: Activestills.org)

The band of youth who have been chanting close by start jumping, in formation, screaming: “There are no classes in Gaza/because there are no kids in Gaza!” – referring to the hundreds of children killed by Israeli forces during Operation Protective Edge – and “Jews have souls; Arabs are sons of bitches!” The secular husband gestures towards them. “I don’t agree with that ‘death to Arab’ stuff. It’s too bad this has become a platform for extremism.” He bounces a giggling, pigtailed toddler. “We are here to give the bride’s family hope, to remind them: it’s reversible.”

The ingredients are all there for an explosion. Large placards with elaborate slogans, such as “what future can there be for someone who forgot her past?” are spread on the ground for participants who might want one. A 15-year old girl in a long skirt holds a huge canvas sign speaking of shame. The core of the protest is a group of wild-eyed teenage boys, dotted with far-right stalwarts such as former MK Michael Ben Ari and Kahanist Hebron settler Baruch Marzel. A left-wing counter-protest in support of the wedding is taking place across the way; one of them murmurs that the anti-wedding group is from La Familia, the thuggish sports fans widely thought to have been behind the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, in July.

Mahmoud Mansour celebrates in Jaffa before heading to out to his wedding reception. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Mahmoud Mansour celebrates in Jaffa before heading to out to his wedding reception. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Many of the protestors are wrapped in Israeli flags, draped over black T-shirts of “Lehava: The Jewish honor guard.” Lehava is a self-anointed “anti-assimilation” movement. The previous week, the group posted Mahmoud and Morel’s wedding invitation on the Internet, exhorting followers to come demonstrate. Mahmoud and Morel sought a court injunction.

Emotions rose: On the day of the wedding, the court ruled that the demonstration would be permitted at a distance of 200 meters from the hall, and the activists would not be allowed to communicate with the couple for 90 days. President Reuven Rivlin condemned the demonstration as racist incitement, and writing on his Faceboook page, gave the couple his blessing.

Fearing violence, earlier reports said the couple was forced to hire 33 security guards at their own expense – for NIS 15,000 (over $4,000). In addition, the parking lot is full of police who push the demonstrators back when they try to get closer to the wedding hall. Still they advance; within an hour, Lehava activists are just across the street from the entrance. An angry counter-protestor demands that a policeman enforce the 200-meter distance. The policeman responds that he does not have a copy of the court order on him, although it has been widely reported in the press.

The counter-protest supporting the couple is a gaggle of barely 50 people holding motley clusters of flowers, raggedly cut. They dangle small construction-paper signs saying “Freedom of Love!” decorated with hearts. What they lack in organization, they make up for in joy: they are singing a robust unaccompanied version of “The Flower in my Garden,” an iconic, fast-paced love song played at nearly every (Jewish) wedding in Israel. Whenever a wedding guest walks by, they cheer and clap “Mazal Tov!!” The guests, with women in high heels, head coverings and glitzy jewellery, smile with slight embarrassment and hurry toward a group of burly security men waiting to search them at the door.

Counter-demonstrators show their support for Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka on their wedding day. (photo: Activestills.org)

Counter-demonstrators show their support for Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka on their wedding day. (photo: Activestills.org)

Something about the situation has struck a nerve. Many of these counter-protestors tell me that they are not political and generally don’t go to demonstrations. I run into my neighbor, a 34-year-old man named Uriel who grew up in a Haredi family in Kfar Habad. About a decade ago, he defected from his community and became secular. He says this is his first demonstration ever. Nir, also 34, works for the appliance company Tadiran and says he is usually not an activist, but Lehava’s protest made his blood boil. “Next time it could be against people for the color of their eyes.” Meirav and Assaf, a young couple from Tel Aviv, echo the sentiment. Next, they say, it could be against Ashkenazi and Mizrahi marriages.

Lehava’s theme of “anti-assimilation” appears to be a sanitized label to win legitimacy for an organization known mainly for harassing people. One woman at the counter-protest has a partner from Darfur. She says she has been shoved and hit by Lehava members. When they threatened her with further violence on the Internet, she says she went to the police, who told her there was nothing they could do – she should hire a lawyer.

Those protesting the wedding are concerned about more than assimilation. Some say that the bride herself doesn’t realize her awful mistake. “Somewhere deep in her heart, she knows it is wrong,” says Simcha, a 51-year-old religious woman who immigrated from France in 1981. “You can’t convert to Islam – you’re born a Jew, you have a Jewish soul.” Others tell me that Jewish women have been manipulated, brainwashed or otherwise trapped into converting to be with Muslim men. Simcha says that Muslim men beat women and drag them by the hair.

The bride, Morel Malka, takes part in pre-wedding festivities in Jaffa. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The bride, Morel Malka, takes part in pre-wedding festivities in Jaffa. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Another resounding theme is that the bride’s children, Jewish according to Jewish law, will be raised Arab. That makes them potential terrorists. One sign says: “You wanted a grandchild? You got a Shahid!” (martyr). The wife in an older religious couple from Kochav Yair, a well-heeled suburb in central Israel says, “The children could all turn out to be Hamas! They might be Jews killing Jews, and they wouldn’t even know it.”

What about the idea that a woman has a right to choose, that it’s the couple’s private business? Tiferet, the 15-year-old from Beit Shemesh carrying a sign, is shy but firm. “Just because someone jumps off a roof doesn’t mean I’ll let her. She’s not only hurting herself. She’s hurting all of Am Yisrael.”

And there at the heart of the summer circus lies the core: a struggle to define, re-define, own or appropriate Judaism in the state of Israel today. Uriel, the formerly ultra-orthodox man, explains that Judaism is fundamentally racist, while a fellow pro-wedding protester chants “Judaism is not racism.” A Lehava activist shouts at cars looking for parking. “Whoever goes to the wedding is destroying Am Yisrael!” while others insist that assimilation is more dangerous than physical persecution.

Legal scholar Aeyal Gross, in an excellent Haaretz article, argues that the state itself set the stage for such attitudes by denying legal frameworks for religious intermarriage in Israel. Yair Ettinger, also in Haaretz, writes that the real problem in Israel is assimilation through alienation or apathy, not intermarriage. How many Israelis simply detest Judaism for all it has come to represent socially and politically here? In my experience, Uriel, now a sworn atheist, represents many secular people with less dramatic stories.

But last night what might have been a healthy debate looked for all the world like anti-miscegenation activities from some of the ugliest days of American not-so-distant history. Gross writes that the very fact of a public discussion about such a wedding is shameful. Meanwhile, one protestor said, “We want the bride to have a pinch in her heart. We want her to know that she’s missing something.” What? Membership in the community of Lehava?

Deep in their own hearts, the protestors, too, know about secular Israeli alienation from Judaism; but they may not know or recognize their culpability. One older religious woman referenced the “Sh’ma” as she spoke to me, perhaps the most important prayer in the Jewish canon. She paused and said “do you know that sentence?”

Court to allow anti-Arab protest outside Jewish-Palestinian wedding
Palestinian-Jewish couple hires wedding security for fear of anti-miscegenation group
Jewish anti-miscegenation groups distribute racist, sexist flyers

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IDF reservist sentenced to military prison for refusing draft http://972mag.com/idf-reservist-sentenced-to-military-prison-for-refusing-draft/95227/ http://972mag.com/idf-reservist-sentenced-to-military-prison-for-refusing-draft/95227/#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 12:39:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95227 Update: The reservist has since decided to expose his identity. He is Gilad Halpern; the name has been updated here.

An IDF reservist was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport Wednesday upon returning to Israel after fleeing call-up orders to serve in Operation Protective Edge. He was later sentenced to 21 days in military prison.

Gilad Halpern, one of three reservists who spoke to +972 Magazine recently for an article about refusal (before he left the country), spent 15 days abroad following a military order to appear for active duty. When he received the order, just as the ground operation was starting, he communicated with his superiors for several days about his intention to refuse on ideological grounds. But the army insisted he report to his unit, and finally told him he must appear within the hour. Instead, he left the country. An IDF representative came to his house just after he had left the country.

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from a position near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Augost 1, 2014 after the proposed three-day truce that began at 0500 GMT collapsed amid a deadly new wave of bloodshed and the apparent capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas (photo: Activestills)

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from a position near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Gilad stayed with friends in the Netherlands, then traveled to France where his family, including his wife and two-year old son, met him. When he returned on Wednesday he was stopped at passport control. Along with the border guards who actually arrested him was a “deserter catcher” – a permanent role within the IDF. It was the same person who had come to his apartment the day he had left.

Because Gilad had communicated his intention to refuse by fax rather than reporting to his unit in person, and then left the country, he was considered AWOL rather than a soldier refusing an order. Gilad says he didn’t realize that the means of communication mattered, and he now believes that had he formally reported and then declared his ideological refusal, the army would have been less likely to give him a severe punishment. He is not an officer, and the IDF might prefer to avoid publicity about incidents of refusal, especially from those in the lower ranks.

From the airport Gilad’s guards took him to a military base in the south. The officers considered transferring his case to a military tribunal, but in the end he was tried the following day by a colonel. Gilad explained that a brief length of desertion warrants a less formal military procedure. Longtime deserters – upwards of a few months – face a full military court proceeding, with an indictment and harsher penalties.

Gilad was sentenced to 21 days out of a maximum of 28, which he will serve in Israel’s Military Prison 4 beginning on Sunday. He told +972 Magazine by phone from the base where he is being held near Beersheva:

The verdict is pretty much what I expected, so I was relieved. I have done this as an act of solidarity with the people who really suffered in Gaza and lost a lot, including loved ones, but also with the other reservists. This is my service. They had to leave their lives and families from one day to the next and go down south and spend weeks here, so I’m doing just the same. I’m not just a ‘mishtamet [a deeply pejorative term implying dropout or deadbeat, usually in the context of military service - ds]. This is my service to society.

Who are the Israelis refusing the call of Protective Edge?
IDF to jail ultra-Orthodox Jew for refusing to serve
Israeli teens tell Netanyahu: We will not take part in occupation

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Who are the Israelis refusing the call of Protective Edge? http://972mag.com/refusing-the-call-of-protective-edge/94884/ http://972mag.com/refusing-the-call-of-protective-edge/94884/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 09:03:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94884 On Saturday evening, another anti-war demonstration was held in Tel Aviv. A few hundred people marched and chanted and hoped that rumors of a drawdown were true.

With minimal numbers and attention, the demonstrations have had little impact. But there doesn’t seem much else that those opposed to the war can do.

Soldiers and reservists have another option: civil disobedience, refusal to participate.

Israeli tanks on the Israel-Gaza border. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli tanks on the Israel-Gaza border. (photo: Activestills.org)

It is a huge taboo. The idea of avoiding IDF service in a society whose mythical founding narrative is about protection from existential destruction is anathema even in normal times.

To refuse a draft order in wartime is practically incendiary. When I posted a status asking for contacts to refuseniks, a friend shot back “Why would anyone refuse?”

Refusal then and now

Back in 2005, when some soldiers refused service in order to avoid evacuating settlements from Gaza, I thought about when refusal is seen as legitimate.

To use the potentially explosive tool of refusal effectively, while causing the least damage, certain terms need to be met. Refusal challenges the legitimacy of democratic institutions. Refuseniks need to demonstrate acceptance of those institutions in all other matters to preserve their legitimacy. Next, refuseniks should take full responsibility for their actions – undergoing a deeply personal, decision-making process that should be as free and independent as possible.

I revisited those words now, to assess the thoughts of few individuals who refused to participate in Protective Edge. They asked that details about them be kept vague as a condition for being interviewed. Their names have been changed here.

‘You can’t change things from the inside’

Tamir is a 28-year old who served in a combat unit and as a reserve soldier. He fought in the previous Gaza war, Pillar of Defense, in 2012. But his doubts began already during his regular service. “I wasn’t politically active before being drafted. I thought the occupation wasn’t good, but I thought we had to control the Palestinians so they wouldn’t blow up buses. The army caused me to become political, when I was confronted by the occupation in the West Bank, and also when I served in Gaza and saw what happened there.

He thought that it was important to do reserve duty in order to change things from the inside. But “Little by little I realized it doesn’t matter. You can’t change things from inside, only from the outside, by voting or demonstrations. And then I realized that that doesn’t work either.”

By Pillar of Defense, he confronted a growing gap between the portrayal of army missions versus reality. “What was being described in media was not reflective of reality. What is a  ‘legitimate Hamas target?’ It can be anything that the IDF decides to blow up: a house, an orchard, a junction. They say, we’ll drop leaflets on neighborhoods so that when you go in, you can shoot anywhere, so that we can drop artillery on neighborhoods.”

Palestinian man stands in his destroyed house overlooking the bombed  Shujaiyeh neigborhood, Gaza City, July 26, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Palestinian man stands in his destroyed house overlooking the bombed Shujaiyeh neigborhood, Gaza City, July 26, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

When he was called up for Protective Edge, Tamir told his officers that he would not go, and he told them why. He packed a bag for jail, but they simply let him go. Tamir wonders if they somehow relate to the problem. “They have questions themselves. What are we about to do in Gaza? It’s in their DNA to fulfill orders, but I think they understood.” He says he’s not the only one; he heard about four or five others who refused. Together with refusal from the right, he thinks his superiors are familiar by now with the issue.

Zeev didn’t get off so easily. A 32-year old reservist, he did his mandatory service in the height of the Second Intifada – “my regiment was everywhere possible in the West Bank.” He did reserve duty; he fought in Cast Lead. By 2012, he had decided to resist the draft during Pillar of Defense, but he was not mobilized for combat.

For him, refusing is a personal political statement, not about creating a public symbol or movement. “It’s like being a vegetarian, you know you’re not going to save animals, it’s just a political statement. My very own action won’t change anything.”

He tackles the counter-argument sometimes heard among the left, that it’s better to serve so that Palestinians under occupation can encounter more humane individuals and better treatment. “In the end, it’s not the personality of the soldier that matters, it’s the whole pattern around it.”

Israeli soldiers detain Palestinian men at the Gush Etzion junction, a settlement next to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem ,on June 16, 2014 , June 16, 2014.  Over 150 Palestinians were arrested in the last nights and a tight closure was imposed on the southern West Bank city of Hebron. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers detain Palestinian men at the Gush Etzion junction, a settlement next to the Palestinian town of Bethlehem ,on June 16, 2014 , June 16, 2014.
Over 150 Palestinians were arrested in the last nights and a tight closure was imposed on the southern West Bank city of Hebron. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Still, Zeev straddles a public statement and a completely personal choice. He wanted “to feel better about myself in the future.” He explained: “When I did go for Cast Lead, I gave the army the benefit of my doubt. Now, when I tell people that I took part in it, I feel ashamed.”

The thought process was transitional for him.

It’s a springboard for introspection. I see myself as a law abiding citizen. The participation of citizens in the government and laws is essential. It is after all a democratically elected government that reflects the current political climate in Israel  and as someone committed to democracy I have to respect that. I was taken aback by my own radicalism. Looking at myself in the mirror and saying, ‘wow, I’ve really done that.’ It’s contrary to the way I was brought up and what I believed in.

Zeev has a family and a two-year old. He knew the army could either ignore him or imprison him. After five days of communication with the army, his superiors told him to report to his unit within one hour. Instead, he left for Europe and when the IDF went to his home, he was already gone.

I spoke to a third refusenik, Roni, after he had been released from nearly three weeks in prison.

Roni, 31 years old, was also a combat soldier in his mandatory service. Over the years he realized he did not want to be part of the system.  It wasn’t a matter of one specific incident or turning point. “The whole thing was arbitrary violence, senseless violence against a civilian population.”

For him, personal reasoning spills over into social responsibility.

From my service in the Second Intifada, in the West Bank the whole time, as an officer, no one can tell me that what’s happening there is moral and that it’s a matter of security for Israelis. It’s not moral and it’s a system of control. It’s not something I can erase. I just can’t. It’s beyond my personal responsibility, I have a responsibility to my society, Palestinian and Israeli –  we have to stop.

So when he received a call-up order for Protective Edge, he reported only to say that he would not accept the draft. His officers told him:  “’If you’re here you need to go.’ I said I won’t. He said, ‘you know what that means.’”

Roni was sentenced to 20 days and was put in a prison with 15 other people from mandatory service who were there for various problems, not related to ideology or politics.

The prison staff knew the reason he was there, but otherwise, he kept it to himself. “The other prisoners didn’t know what I was in for. I decided ahead of time that if I had to sit with 15 soldiers in mandatory service I wouldn’t get out of it…I couldn’t get involved in the whole militarist conversation…they would just say with total conviction that we have to kill women and children, and it was clear that I couldn’t share this with them.”

Aside from the experience of imprisonment, humiliation, lack of freedom, and toilet-cleaning, Roni chafed under the mentality.

It was a pretty desperate experience. All we got was [the free right-wing newspaper] ‘Israel Hayom.’ The soldiers only knew the Israeli narrative. It was the most militarist, aggressive, racist narrative that I ever confronted. If we read internet comments and Facebook comments, and ask if they reflect the views of the people… I came out of prison with very serious concerns.

Roni sounds sadder than the other two as he describes the social isolation of refusing. His family is full of men who served proudly in combat – from his grandfather down to his brother. They accepted any direction of his political thinking, except for this. He clashed with his older brother. “It’s one thing to be a good Israeli, but to be a good family member, you have to go. It’s the most basic thing.”

The Left and the law

For other left-wingers, these arguments don’t hold. Some who are critical of Israel’s policies and even actively opposed, do not believe in refusing a call up in wartime, or at all. They had no problem being identified in full.

Yariv Oppenheimer, the director of Peace Now but also a combat soldier and reservist (although he was not called up), told me that he sees several reasons why those who are critical of Israel should in fact serve. The first is simply – as Zeev pointed out – that in a democratic society, people must fulfill legal obligations. Such participation also gives credibility to the left-wing claims against right-wing refusal.

Uriel Ferera, a 19-year-old orthodox Jew from Beer Sheva, enters the Tel Hashomer military induction base, where he will officially announce his refusal to draft to Israeli army service, April 27, 2014. He is expected to be sentenced to military prison. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Uriel Ferera, a 19-year-old orthodox Jew from Beer Sheva, enters the Tel Hashomer military induction base, where he will officially announce his refusal to draft to Israeli army service, April 27, 2014. He is expected to be sentenced to military prison. (Photo: Activestills.org)

“The government is sovereign. Just as we sometimes ask soldiers and the army to evacuate settlements or territories, we must do this. The way to influence policy is not through refusal. In a democracy, the elected level makes decisions.”

He believes critical individuals who serve should be a check and balance on the army’s conduct.

“Soldiers have a very meaningful role in asking questions about orders, not to fulfill illegal orders, and to influence how the orders are undertaken. If we decide it doesn’t suit us and we leave the field for those with other opinions, maybe they’ll be more trigger-happy and commit worse crimes.”

Moreover, Oppenheimer is concerned that refusal will fail to generate political change – and it may have the opposite effect. “In the end, we have to realize that policy change won’t come from refusal. The opposite: I think it can make it irrelevant. [Change] can only come from the ballot box and public discussion around and during the operations.”

Uri Zaki, 39, has been an active member of the left-wing political party Meretz for over a decade. He has devoted his life to political activity – he was head of the youth faction, and was number ten on the Meretz candidate list. He spent nearly four years as the representative of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem in Washington, D.C. He is struggling to reconcile the terrible circumstances of the war and the deep problems he sees with refusal.

I’m very, very disturbed and I hope that Israel will investigate itself over …the targets, private homes, and attacks on schools and hospitals and media outlets. Still we are talking about an attack on Israel that we can’t ignore. I don’t think Israel is in a position to give up on IDF – the ‘defense’ part. You can’t ignore Israel’s right to respond when missiles are being fired at it. We can’t just turn the other cheek.

The war is distinct from ongoing occupation, in his eyes. “The West Bank is not at all about defense, no matter how much they try to sell it,” he says. “Maybe to some extent it’s defense of settlements, and of course [settlers] are citizens and they deserve protection. But that creates many more questions for me about whether to serve, to maintain the number one danger to the State of Israel.”

Perhaps the most compelling part of Uri’s story and his personal grappling, is how his mandatory army service transformed him. When he was drafted, he was not only right-wing but he was actually a young member of the Likud party. During his service, “I really served the occupation.” He worked in a prison holding Palestinians convicted of “light security offenses,” such as stone-throwing and membership in Hamas. “I realized that we are a foreign occupier and I am part of a machine whose whole role is to suppress legitimate demands for freedom. As a Zionist, who believes in the right to self-determination, I realized I was part of a system of both national and daily suppression.”

One common thread of these men’s experience is that their service as combat soldiers led them to critical conclusions about the policies that brought them there, though they reached differing answers about how to change them. But there is no easy conclusion from this observation. Uri says:

Do I say you should serve the occupation in order to change your political colors? Not necessarily. Some became more militaristic, they started out left-wing and became more skeptical, more right wing. If they were to call me to reserve duty in the West Bank today, I suppose I would go out of personal obligation to the system, but I’m not sure. I would have lots and lots of deliberations. I can’t say definitely. And I’m normally a very decisive person.

Unknown citizens

What is clear is that the number of refusals is very small. It turns out that W. H. Auden’s “Unknown Citizen” –  “When there was peace, he was for peace – when there was war, he went” describes the very well-known citizen-soldiers of Israel. Those who don’t go remain far lesser-known.

IDF to jail ultra-Orthodox Jew for refusing to serve
Israeli teens tell Netanyahu: We will not take part in occupation

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Who are the Israelis fighting this war? http://972mag.com/who-are-the-israelis-fighting-this-war/94780/ http://972mag.com/who-are-the-israelis-fighting-this-war/94780/#comments Sat, 02 Aug 2014 11:25:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94780 This is Israel. These are the people I live with – children who become soldiers, and adults who have been soldiers. I want to see what became of those children, and what happened to make the adults around me who they are. This is a snapshot.


An improvised IDF camp in southern Israel. I drive down to visit my cousin, taking his girlfriend with me, who has come by bus from Jerusalem so I can give her a lift from Tel Aviv. It is 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), hotter in the dusty, beating sun of the south, even at 5:30 p.m.

The camp has the atmosphere of parents’ day at summer camp, or a Scouts retreat. There are clusters of people camped out under scraggly trees and mesh-net green tarps. Soldiers are directing cars of visitors to parking areas linked to each battalion.

Girlfriends kiss boyfriends at length, parents look on adoringly. Ecstatic followers of Rabbi Nachman of Uman park a van blaring techno music, their wild-eyed missionaries shove boxes of popsicles at passing cars, offering them for free. One of them walks among the groups of soldiers in flowing robes, blowing a long, winding shofar.

An Israeli tank is seen before entering the Gaza Strip near Israel's border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

An Israeli tank is seen before entering the Gaza Strip near Israel’s border with the Gaza strip on July 24, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

We ask a few soldiers if anyone knows my cousin, C.

“Which C?” says one.

“The American,” I say.

“That one! Sort of blond, always cheerful? Red cheeks?”

“That’s him.”

“His group is over there.” He points to a clearing with more trees, tarps and clusters of green bodies lying around on black yoga mats.

We pick our way through sleeping soldiers, lounging soldiers, boxes of half-eaten pizza. It could be the morning after a frat party except there are too many parents and no alcohol – one soldier triumphantly pulls an energy drink from a backpack and dangles it in front of the others. The rest are lying among heaps of packs and equipment, communication devices, guns, helmets, baggy helmet netting, boxes of canned food, food in boxes, whole fruit and fruit rinds. Garbage.

We find my cousin but he is in a briefing. We sit down to wait, and two soldiers gallantly offer us black foam yoga mats to sit on instead of the thorny, desert-dry grass and sand. One of them speaks to us carefully in English. I switch to Hebrew, but his Hebrew is not native either, and I ask where he is from. He comes from a country not normally associated with Jews or Israel. What brought him here? He smiles wearily. “Long story.”

Soldiers horse around with each other. They wake up and stretch, showing smooth and adolescent skin underneath wrinkled uniforms. There is a smell of deodorant. Two soldiers are working hard to push a huge piece of equipment into a rucksack, but it sticks way out. By this time my cousin has joined us and I ask what the equipment is. He tells me it is a sniper rifle.

Soldiers pacing as they talk on the phone, soldiers in Ray-Bans, soldiers hugging, hand-slapping, smoking, soldiers sitting and staring. Soldiers wrestling, collecting trash, eating doughy Yemenite jachnun and commenting on its quality; soldiers waiting.

Booms punctuate the air but nobody around me seems to notice.

Soldier, southern Israel (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin, July 2014)

A soldier resting, southern Israel (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin, July 2014)

They appear ageless. They look mostly like they are in mandatory service – roughly 18-21 years old – but although I am 20 years beyond that they do not look like babies to me. Yet the older I get, even the MA students I teach look young. These look like men. Why? Is it just the uniforms, and their unshaven chins? It’s their posture, I decide, slightly stooped, shoulders hulking as they walk, arms arched along their sides, not dangling. It is their sleeves rolled up midway to expose meaty forearms, and their stares.

From a small distance, I see one of them flash an angel smile at someone he is talking to, maybe a family member, maybe his mother. Groups of people and things separate us but for a moment his face takes up my frame of vision and in my mind I see that adorable face, in a passport-sized photo in the newspaper with the grainy distance from which I gaze at him now. Sixty-three soldiers have been killed so far.

A group of soldiers sitting in a ragged circle have begun playing guitars, together with a girl wearing a white T-shirt and army pants. They are playing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”: “Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom…” From there, they break into a well-known song by Ahinoam Nini, whose lyrics were written by the Israeli poet Leah Goldberg: Night Psalm.

He has hidden all the stars/the crescent has been wrapped in black/from the North through to Yemen/there is no ray of light/This morning a faithful widower/straps a gray sack to his waist/from the North through to Yemen/there is no ray of light.”

Nini’s version has a seductive, haunting hand-drum in the background. One of the soldiers leans in toward the girl playing guitar and gets swept up in the song. He closes his eyes and beats the drum rhythm on his Tavor assault rifle.

My cousin and his girlfriend have gone for a walk. One of his friends begins talking to me. He seems to want to tell me everything without telling very much – as if there’s too much to be told. He has been “in,” as they call it, for two weeks, now he is here.

“We are doing a lot of damage there. We may be making it worse. But then you think about it, and one week ago, they were shooting at us.”

He says that the guys talk a lot about Etzel and Lehi, the Jewish pre-state militias. “Hamas, Fatah, the competition between them? It’s exactly the same.” He proudly tells me that this is the most left-wing unit around, and motions to the group of soldiers playing guitars and singing. Then he turns back to me, sullen.

“I want it to be over already. Every day that goes by – I’m different.” Maybe he is worried he won’t be able to go back to who he was. What was that? He looks stuck for words. “I was different.”

Soldiers. Near us one is sitting cross-legged, Indian style. Another one is lying on his back with one knee up, his head in the lap of the first. The one lying down has a deep tan, blue eyes and straight honey-colored hair. They are doing nothing, just staring. The soldier sitting up strokes the hair of the one lying in his lap.

Israel during wartime: Loving our soldiers to death
Hamas: Missing soldier likely killed in Israeli air strike

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Beyond protest: War and the Israeli Left http://972mag.com/beyond-protest-war-and-the-israeli-left/94656/ http://972mag.com/beyond-protest-war-and-the-israeli-left/94656/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:00:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94656 This article first appeared in Dissent Magazine.

Many Israelis who define themselves as “on the left” (about 20 percent of the population on a good day) support Operation Protective Edge. It’s a small and lonely subset that is both left wing and opposes the war. Over the last month, this little constituency has faithfully staged demonstrations of a few hundred—with last Saturday’s rally reaching somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000, by organizers’ estimates—and has written articles of protest. But the demonstrators tend to use such general slogans as “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” or “No, no, we won’t let fascism come to pass” (the latter chanted at right-wing counter-demonstrators). The anti-war left in Israel is clearly upset, but it has neither generated a coherent line of critique about the war nor formulated demands or proposals for alternate approaches other than calling for a ceasefire. Its influence, as a result, is severely limited.

There are three main reasons why it is so hard to create an effective opposition line, let alone gather supporters and momentum: the circumstances of this particular war (and the two previous rounds); the general climate of opinion in Israel; and the left’s own weaknesses, including baggage of the distant past.

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

First, the current circumstances make opposition very difficult, on the surface. Hamas is a miserable political regime that imposes religious fundamentalism on Gazans, stifles women, and kills collaborators. It has fired rockets at Israeli towns for over a decade and dragged Gaza into wars that were bound to kill its civilians. Not content with rockets, it has dug tunnels for terrorists targeting Israeli civilians. It is not hard to understand, in these conditions, the case for a forceful response on Israel’s part.

Unless, that is, one considers history before June 30, when the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens were found. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was already outraged by a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal made in late April that created an interim technocratic government without Hamas and called for Palestinian elections. That would have meant a more unified Palestine, something Netanyahu has worked hard to destroy. Using the abducted teens as a pretext, without providing evidence of Hamas’ involvement—an Israeli police spokesperson allegedly admitted this weekend that it wasn’t directly responsible—the prime minister ordered a sweeping West Bank operation against the organization, just as much a provocation as Hamas’s later actions. Rockets fell on southern Israel like clockwork. Before that, Gaza was under various forms of blockade for seven years. Even moderate Palestinians in Gaza would rather die now, I have had some tell me, than suffer slow suffocation. This alternate reality is rarely discussed.

Second, the Israeli climate of opinion is hostile. There has been right-wing rage and violence before: in 1983, a Peace Now demonstrator was killed; in 1995, a prime minister was assassinated. For now, extremists on the right are content to express hatred of the left, call them traitors, and call for their death, along with Arabs. There have been violent scuffles. As unpleasant as this environment is, though, the recent larger demonstration shows that it probably don’t intimidate anyone still committed enough to oppose the war.

The deeper scourge is apathy;  Israelis on the whole show little interest in either peace or Palestinians. They didn’t pay attention to the peace negotiations and they aren’t paying attention to a few thousand demonstrators against a war they believe was forced upon them. “What is, is what will be,” goes a Hebrew saying. The counter-demonstrators may even be doing the antiwar camp a favor by getting them into the paper. Meanwhile, a Channel 10 poll shows that 87 percent of Israelis prefer to continue fighting rather than accept a ceasefire—a 14-point rise from a survey conducted before the ground operation began.

 Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

But the left itself also bears some responsibility for its weak impact. First, opposition to the war can easily appear as a knee-jerk reaction rooted in habit rather than reality. The lack of a coherent critical message feeds that image.

There are deeper problems, too. For most of its history, the left has argued that peace would bring security. In practice, that didn’t work. Israelis largely believe this conflict is symmetrical, but they reject equal Israeli and Palestinian responsibility for the failures of peace efforts. They instead blamed the aborted peace processes – Oslo and the Camp David negotiations of 2000 – for the security they never received. In recent years, they’ve ignored Palestinian Authority security cooperation and nonviolent Palestinian political tactics, and credit only the separation barrier for (relative) calm inside Israel.

The left needs to update its arguments. “Peace brings security” is inaccurate and unrealistic. Instead, the case needs to be made that a diplomatic solution is the only way to stop inevitable escalation by extremists and full-blown wars every few years. No country has eradicated violence. The question is how to contain it.

Justifiably losing patience, the left has searched for sticks, toying with boycott and international pressure—but those just reinforce the bitter accusation of betrayal among Israelis. Carrots—incentives—are a necessary alternative, but they are hard to find, since Israel has all the allies, alliances, and trade relations it wants.

Still, there are tactics that haven’t been tested: pressure from within—for example, in the form of civil disobedience—has not been widespread beyond a handful of draft refusers. Outside pressure from “our own”—imagine liberal American Jews appealing directly to their Israeli kin—is more likely to resonate with most Israelis than UN condemnations that make Israelis dig in and change nothing on the ground.

Different approaches must be found. Israel needs them—and Palestine, too.

‘No more deaths’: Thousands of Israelis protest the Gaza war
How can you possibly oppose this war?
Israel has alternatives to this war

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How can you possibly oppose this war? http://972mag.com/how-can-you-possibly-oppose-this-war/93924/ http://972mag.com/how-can-you-possibly-oppose-this-war/93924/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 14:33:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93924 Someone asked me an innocent question: “What is the position of Israelis who are against the war?”

There are obvious answers.

First, this is a disproportionate war that harms huge numbers of civilians. The IDF is bombarding an area that it has already imprisoned by occupation from 1967, and then through suffocating border, movement, import and export control since 2007. Its residents have been stateless since 1948. It is attacking by air, land and sea, while Hamas attacks civilians in Israel through rockets and now through terrorist infiltration, at an increasingly frenzied pace.

Right-wing nationalists attacking left wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing nationalists attacking left wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Second, escalation breeds escalation. The south of Israel has not been at peace for a decade, but in this war, the whole country is under attack. And “Protective Edge” made things even worse for the south; all the Israel casualties so far – as of today two civilian deaths, numerous wounded (including children) and one soldier killed – have been in the south. “Code Red” warnings in Sderot all these years were awful, but death is worse. On a good day, there is suffering in Gaza; now the death and destruction there is indescribable.

Third, most of the stated goals of the war seem impossible to fulfill. Israeli Foreign Minister Liberman’s blustery call to take down Hamas is hot air, unless Israel wants to full-out occupy Gaza (it doesn’t) or watch even more extreme groups take over. Destroying the “infrastructure of terror” also falls apart upon close inspection, since, as I have heard some say, “you can’t kill an idea.” The stated goal of the ground operation is to destroy tunnels into Israel where terrorists have tried to infiltrate over the last few days (following the air war). I certainly support preventing terrorists from reaching Israel. But tunnels can be destroyed, as many of the Rafah ones were by Egypt late last year, without going to war.

Fourth, the political and social consequences of the war will be a disaster in the short, medium and long term. In the short term, Hamas could easily become stronger, having become the defiant face of military resistance against Israel as diplomacy crumbles.

Palestinian women cry after Israeli air strike on Gaza Strip. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian women cry after Israeli air strike on Gaza Strip. (photo: Activestills.org)

In the medium term, the best hope for the two-state political resolution in years is dead: that was the Fatah-Hamas agreement, which removed Hamas from government and could have led to elections. Jerusalem Post writer Gil Hoffman, speaking at a Limmud conference in Australia just a few days before the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, optimistically predicted that peace talks would resume immediately following Palestinian elections.

           Read +972′s coverage of the latest round of violence

None of that will happen now. The chances of a negotiated two-state agreement are even lower than when the Kerry talks broke down, if that’s possible. The internal Palestinian reconciliation process appears dead in the water. Once again, Israel will spend the next decade saying there is no partner, because if Hamas gets stronger, Mahmoud Abbas only gets weaker.

In the long term, I shudder to think about the souls of people who lost two, three, or 18 family members to Israeli bombs. The sobbing father who begged his child to wake up because he had brought new toys; the woman who told her sister in England to stay away and live, so that at least one of the family members would survive. I see what national trauma has done to the Jewish people more than 60 years following their darkest moments. The manifestations of Palestinian suffering in future generations will be terrible.

The fifth and final reason to oppose the operation is that previous wars have failed. Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 begat Pillar of Defense in 2012, begat Protective Edge in 2014. Hamas was not toppled, Gaza was not disarmed. The only thing changing is the accelerating pace of the wars.


But those reasons fall flat in the face of another simple question: past and future notwithstanding, what else can Israel possibly do when Hamas is firing rockets at its civilians? At me? Of course we prefer a political resolution in the long term. But first we must stop the aggression against Israelis today. “Ein ma la’asot” –  there is no other way.

This is the argument made by friends, family, the news, the cabinet, elected Parliamentarians of the left and the right alike.

Here is my extremely unpopular answer. There is no such thing as today devoid of yesterday and tomorrow; it is a fiction. The measures of the last ten days grow directly out of the measures in recent years. They will have devastating consequences in years to come. My criticism of this war is not “I told you so,” because some of us have warned for years that the status quo is illusory. Opposition to this war means finding a different response to predictable situations, so that there won’t be a next time, and in two years Israelis won’t have to say “this is no time to analyze the past.’”

Mourners at Dror Khenin's funeral. Khenin was killed near the Gaza border by mortar fire while delivering food to Israeli soldiers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Mourners at Dror Khenin’s funeral. Khenin was killed near the Gaza border by mortar fire while delivering food to Israeli soldiers. (photo: Activestills.org)

Finally, what do those opposed to the war propose instead? Israel already agreed to a ceasefire that was rejected.

With humility, because I simply don’t have perfect answers – find me someone who does – here are two observations:

First, Cast Lead ended with a unilateral, not agreed upon, ceasefire. The idea has already been raised by some commentators, as well as Meretz leader Zehava Gal-on, but has so far been ignored.

Second, like in 2012, there was another way: the reconciliation deal could have been cautiously welcomed; rewards and incentives could have encouraged Hamas pragmatism. The murder of three Israeli teens did not have to be disguised as a hostage-rescue effort for three weeks and leveraged to provoke the predictable violence of Hamas. Wrongful escalation from both sides could have been contained – of course, a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement would be the best mechanism for that. Eventually Palestinian elections could have been held; stabilization could have followed.

They say the best treatment is prevention. But nobody seems to care.

Update: Since the publication of this article, Israeli media has been given permission to report on two more soldiers who were killed earlier today.

PHOTOS: Police arrest 30 Palestinians in anti-war protest
This is a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice
On dual standards and the hypocrisy of peace

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Israel, state of all its victims http://972mag.com/israel-state-of-all-its-victims/93614/ http://972mag.com/israel-state-of-all-its-victims/93614/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 09:40:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93614 Like the failed peace process or the policy of severing Gaza from the West Bank, the plight of the Bedouin in Israel is one more long-term problem that there is just no time to solve.

Two Israeli sisters, 10 and 13, were wounded yesterday by Hamas rocket fire in the Negev. One of them is in critical condition with stomach wounds and underwent emergency surgery in Be’er Sheva, according to Israeli news. Maram and Atir Wakili are Bedouin; their grandfather Ibrahim, interviewed on Channel 10, explained that they live in far-flung areas where they are unable to hear sirens. And if they had heard one, they had no protected area where they could take refuge.

Ibrahim heads a council that represents unrecognized Bedouin villages. These clusters of tents and shacks scattered around the region lack basic infrastructure and services, including water lines and electricity grids, because they do not formally exist. Some have been destroyed by government order dozens of times; after more than six decades of neglect, recent government attempts to formalize their status were roundly criticized by human rights organizations and some Bedouin groups. They argued that the community had not been sufficiently consulted in the process, and that the solutions were coercive and unfair as a result.

A Palestinian child plays among the ruins of buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes in the 2008-2009 war known as Operation Cast Lead, July 4, 2012. (Photo by RyanRodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian child plays among the ruins of buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes in the 2008-2009 war known as Operation Cast Lead, July 4, 2012. (Photo by RyanRodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The plan has been scrapped. The villages remain unrecognized and under-serviced. “We asked the government and the Home Command to provide us protection,” said Ibrahim Wakili, speaking of the rocket attacks. “But to this day, nothing has been done.” He continued, “We don’t want wars, we are against wars. We don’t want our children to die, not in Israel and not in Gaza.”

They are not the first Israelis physically wounded in the conflict. But perhaps because there have been so few, each story stands out. One elderly woman was at home when a rocket landed in her living room, she told reporters from her hospital bed, speaking in Russian through a translator. In Ashdod, a direct rocket hit on a gas station created a large ball of fire. One driver, partly disabled from injuries in the Yom Kippur war, was unable to flee his vehicle and was seriously wounded. A 16-year-old teenager in Ashkelon sustained medium to serious shrapnel injuries when a rocket landed about 30 meters away from him.

           Read +972′s full coverage of the operation in Gaza

It is hard to grasp each such sickening story among Palestinians, with over one thousand wounded - not to mention over 190 killed – and zero contact with any, hardly even through the news. Israeli psychology depends on their victims being numerous and faceless. Israel trembles at the thought of more individual symbols of Palestinian suffering. Just not another Mohammed Abu Khdeir, or Mohammed al-Dura. Eighteen family members in Gaza killed by IDF airstrikes are hardly discussed here.

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So what will the Bedouin sisters’ situation mean to most Israelis? They may confront two immediate thoughts: how terrible it is that the state doesn’t provide the Bedouin towns with sirens or shelters because it doesn’t recognize them; and how terrible it is that Hamas fires rockets at Bedouin just because it hates Israel. Most will reflexively relate only to the latter.

Further, another major news item will help blot out nagging doubts: the IDF released footage of an aerial attack on a Gaza target that was aborted when the pilot discovered there were children in the area. Broadcasters and headlines puffed with pride showing footage that was clearly supplied for “hasbara” purposes. This item has made its way across the airwaves all day yesterday, part of the barrage of narrative nuggets coming faster and thicker than rockets: Israel is precise. Israel is the most moral army. When there’s a war, we do better than anyone else.

But like this whole war, the obsession with daily strategy and short-term legitimacy means deeper and longer-term issues are the real victims.

The Bedouin of the Negev are cut off from Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank, distinct from other Arab communities in Israel, rebuffed by Jewish Israeli society. Now their children are among the youngest Israeli victims of the war so far, as a direct result of their status: “lower than fourth-class citizens,” their cousin told Haaretz.

Like the failed peace process, like the policy of severing Gaza from the West Bank, like the years of rocket fire on Israel’s southern residents, the 47-year military occupation of Palestinian territories and the stateless wandering of so many since 1948 – the plight of the Bedouin in Israel is one more long-term problem that there’s just no time to solve. We’re at war.

The unfolding lie of Operation Protective Edge
The occupation will last forever, Netanyahu clarifies
How Netanyahu provoked this war with Gaza

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Polls: Two-state solution was a casualty, even before the war http://972mag.com/polls-two-states-was-a-casualty-even-before-the-war/93418/ http://972mag.com/polls-two-states-was-a-casualty-even-before-the-war/93418/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 15:39:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93418 Turns out most Israelis support the establishment of a Palestinian state – until they read the fine print.

There is a natural obsession with short-term, immediate details of the situation in Israel and Palestine: where is the siren or rocket or bomb? How many bodies are piling up in Gaza? Israelis’ memory at present seems to go back only a few weeks, to the murder of three teens that they believe set off this cycle.

But for Palestinians, there was life before the Israeli kids were murdered, and it wasn’t good. Many are seething under a reality of no prospects, no citizenship or statehood, rage at their leaders, rage at their occupiers. What both sides share was a realistic lack of hope for the recent negotiations for long-term resolution.

While leaders again proved them right, public support for the two-state solution may become the long-term victim of the accelerated cycles of aggression.

Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres in Jordan, May 26, 2013 (Mark Neiman / GPO)

Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres in Jordan, May 26, 2013 (Mark Neiman / GPO)

Several new surveys paint a dismal picture for this paradigm.

A survey of Palestinians from June by the right-leaning Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that more than twice as many respondents now support “reclaiming all of historic Palestine,” than those who choose “end the occupation and reach a two state solution.” In response to +972’s query, the Institute says this is a new finding compared to similar (but not identical) questions asked in the past, when support for a two state-solution typically ranged between 40-55 percent. Here is the data (n= 1200 Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza, margin of error, +/-3%):

Please state your view about the main Palestinian goal for the next five years

- The goal should be to work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine from the river to the sea: 60%
- The goal should be to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and achieve a two state solution: 27%
- The goal should be to work for a one state solution in all of the land, in which Arabs and Jews will have equal rights in one country, from the river to the sea: 10%

Two further questions on this topic yielded similar data: one asked how people would perceive a negotiated two-state solution (accept that as end of the conflict, or continue seeking to liberate all of historic Palestine) and what people believe the leadership’s actual goal in such a case would be (to end the conflict, or liberate historic Palestine in phases). Again, roughly twice as many chose the “all of Palestine” option.

I usually advise against trusting a single survey for an unusual finding. The key is to see if other surveys show similar trends. They do. A Pew Research poll from April and May 2014 (with a sizable sample of 1000 each – Palestinians and Israelis) provides similar insight.

In this comparative poll, when asked “Do you think a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to co-exist peacefully or not?”

- 63 percent of Palestinians said “no.”
- Israelis were split in half (45% “no” to 40% “yes”)
- Jordanians, who have greatest interest in seeing such an arrangement, expressed skepticism: 39 percent said “no,” 29 percent said “it depends”  and 26 percent said “yes”- making Jordan among the most optimistic of the seven nations tested.

There is a certain irony here: According to the survey, Palestinians may retain a maximalist dream, but Israel is the one that is actually physically expanding its sovereignty over the territory under question.

        Read: The only two-state solution that might work

At first glance, a recent Haaretz poll showed different results. Sixty percent of Israelis said they support an agreement with the establishment of a Palestinian state (from a representative sample of 500 – which means that probably fewer than 100 Arabs were polled – and error of +/-4.4%).

“If the Prime Minister reached an agreement in the framework of which a Palestinian state would be established alongside Israel would you support or not support the agreement?”

- Support: 60%
- Do not support: 32% (Haaretz’s article uses this wording, rather than “oppose”)

Nir Hasson of Haaretz writes that compared to similar (not identical) polls in December 2012 (just weeks after the last Gaza war), the current data represents a drop from around two-thirds support then.

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However, when simple details are given about the two-state agreement, support crumbles. The basic outline in the subsequent question mirrors the Camp David talks from 14 years ago, and many doubt whether this formula is even applicable anymore.

Consider that in the framework of an agreement, most settlers are annexed to Israel [sic – ds], Jerusalem will be divided, refugees won’t return to Israel and there will be a strict security arrangement, would you support this agreement?”

- Yes: 35%
- No: 58%

As a pollster, the contrast between the idea of a two-state agreement and the lack of support for the detailed version is dramatic enough to warrant methodological suspicion. When my polls show results like that, I automatically check for technical errors or glitches in data processing.

But supporting data from other polls and questions usually signal that there is no technical error, only the contradictions of human nature. Notably, there is little contradiction given findings from two polls nearly one year ago that are remarkably similar, which I wrote about then: when the Prime Minister presents a general agreement, 55 percent supported it; when the details are given (without mentioning the Prime Minister), precisely the same portion accept or reject it (38% to 56%) as this year.

Further, in the current poll, when asked if people would prefer to evacuate settlements for a peace agreement, or give up on an agreement to preserve settlements, Israelis are evenly split (45% to 43% respectively – a statistical tie). The 43 percent who resist dismantling any settlements, since the question didn’t specify, are probably mostly right-wing. It’s not hard to imagine another 15 percent drawn from the center or even self-described left who are in no mood for this arrangement at present.

There are other ominous findings: the majority of Israelis supports unequal rights for Palestinians:

If Israel were to annex territories, do you think it should give Palestinians living there full rights, including the right to vote in Knesset, or partial rights, without Knesset vote?

- Full: 31%
- Partial: 56%

So when shown the details, the majority of Israelis are opposed to a two-state agreement and support denying civil rights to Palestinians. This finding may be mitigated by the fact that 62 percent do not support Naftali Bennett’s plan of annexing Area C. But that itself is mitigated by the fact that Israel is already doing so.

It is worth noting that all three surveys were conducted just prior to the kidnapping of the Israeli teens and the current escalation. But there is little reason to think the events will have a strong impact on these specific questions, given long term trends in public opinion, and on the ground. But if they do, that impact is unlikely to favor the classic two-state formula.

After Kerry, only BDS may save the two-state solution
COMIC: Why even god can’t reach a two-state solution
The only two-state solution that might work

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Gaza is terrible? Try daily life http://972mag.com/gaza-is-terrible-try-daily-life/93284/ http://972mag.com/gaza-is-terrible-try-daily-life/93284/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:40:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93284 Gaza is unlivable and Tel Aviv is surreal. Then there’s all the rest.

I spent today at a meeting of Israelis and Palestinians in East Jerusalem, planned well before the current escalation. Around 7:30 a.m., I was showering when sirens went off, followed by three low booms. Since the shower is about the only comfortable place in the sticky coastal area these days, I didn’t move. It no longer seemed interesting enough to post on social media. At 8:30 a.m. I picked up two colleagues and we drove 38 miles (60 kilometers) from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. With a bit of morning traffic, we arrived just after 9:30 a.m.

H, a Palestinian conflict resolution expert in her 40s from a town near Hebron, was also supposed to attend the meeting. She left home, about 23 miles (37 kilometers) from Jerusalem as the crow flies, in time to be there at 9:30. At 10:30 the organizers began getting text messages from her.

I asked for her permission to publish them here, almost unedited. She agreed on condition that I do not use her full name.


“I am still trying to leave Hebron. Dura my home town is closed because of clashes last night after settlers kidnapping a 15 year kid beating him breaking his legs and tossing him way out of main road..Shabab got angry and it was a long night. Will do my best but please know I am trying. Writing after stopping on the side of the road too dangerous! ! Last night in gaza my family lost members of its extended clan!!crazy shit all around!!!!fuck this life I cannot take it anymore.”


“Ok. I gave up. I am back to Dura. My brother was with me and so he also decided not to continue to Bethlehem. Muhammad Dudeen, the kid who was killed in Dura two weeks ago was a cousin from my mom’s side. My 14 year nephew is talking about martyrism all the time.  My niece who speaks English, French and Arabic is not sure if she wants to leave home to do a one year study abroad. My brother tells me in an angry voice that those who call for another intifada do not know that we want to just live and hear nothing about death unless it is for natural causes! Cancer seems more human than being blown up to pieces while walking in the street.

How can we take that darkness out of our lives? How can we humanize ourselves and the other when children are paying the price of this senseless death. Did we fail as social justice activists to advocate for just peace and non-violent resistance? What and how can we pick up the pieces of our shattered humanity?! Is giving up an option? Is it even reasonable? How can we move forward when children are watching and witnessing and experiencing this loud noise of hatred and violence?”

Live blog: Escalation in Gaza – July 2014
‘They left us no choice’: On military escalation and its Israeli rationale
Nobody should be a number: Names of those killed in Gaza

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A portrait of the enemy in Tel Aviv http://972mag.com/a-portrait-of-the-enemy-in-tel-aviv/93202/ http://972mag.com/a-portrait-of-the-enemy-in-tel-aviv/93202/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:10:06 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93202 The enemy in Tel Aviv is a shapeless wail in the morning. It has no point of origin, it arises from the air, a warning without warning. A noise from a void.

The enemy is a tremble in coffee number one, a soft boom over bread and butter at the restaurant last night.  It is the grinning diners who twist toward me when I turn toward them: “Keeps things interesting,” they chuckle.

“How is the atmosphere in the South tonight?” asked the anchor on the news  to reporters in the South. “They’re used to it down here,” she gushes. “They’ve gathered all together, it’s almost like a happening of sorts. Would I go so far as to say the atmosphere is nice?  Yes! It’s nice,” she says.

The enemy is a fish tank in the shelter in my neighborhood park. Don’t be so cynical! That’s terrible. It probably means a lot to frightened children. Who wouldn’t be calmed by goldfish swimming circles in cool waters in the summer?

I know about being calmed by watching fish. My first teenage love and I sat at night in the dark, watching water that bubbled and glowed and fish moving silently in the tank in his tiny room, on a kibbutz in the South, 14 kilometers from Gaza. And I never felt so safe.

Late one night we left the kibbutz to pick up someone from a bus station somewhere. He put a pistol on his belt.

“Do you really need that?” I said.

“You never know,” he said.

“It’s not New York,” I said.

It was 1990 and I had stared at the faces of angry people on the subways for years. Here there is no face.

But we know what the enemy looks like: A pistol in his pocket, a siren in the morning. The only people we remember are the frozen photos of boys with bombs, dead already when their photos were found.

What enemy do they see from Gaza?

Ruins of a Palestinian home in the Az-Zaitoun neighborhood of Gaza city, destroyed during an Israeli airstrike, November 23, 2012. (Photo by: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Ruins of a Palestinian home in the Az-Zaitoun neighborhood of Gaza city, destroyed during an Israeli airstrike, November 23, 2012. (Photo by: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Live blog: Escalation in Gaza – July 2014
Dispatch from Gaza: You can never be emotionally ready
Why Netanyahu will lose this Gaza war, too


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