+972 Magazine » Lisa Goldman http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Tue, 31 Mar 2015 10:53:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 The paranoid ramblings of a leader who’s lost his grip http://972mag.com/the-paranoid-ramblings-of-a-leader-whos-lost-his-grip/104238/ http://972mag.com/the-paranoid-ramblings-of-a-leader-whos-lost-his-grip/104238/#comments Sat, 14 Mar 2015 12:09:50 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=104238 Days before national elections, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lays out an elaborate plot to unseat him, which he claims is being run by foreign liberals who want peace. ‘They’ll withdraw to the 1967 boundaries and they will divide Jerusalem — just as Tzipi and Buji promised they would do. They know that unlike Tzipi and Buji, the Likud and I will never surrender to pressure,’ Netanyahu writes in a long Facebook status.

Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: Activestills.org)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: Activestills.org)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent Facebook status, posted on Friday in Hebrew, is distinctly odd. It makes him sound like a rambling paranoid who’s off his meds, and local reporters have definitely noticed, with various Israeli journalists exchanging comments in Hebrew and English on social media platforms. In response to popular demand, I’ve translated the status into English (below).


A couple of explanatory notes: Noni Mozes is the publisher of Yedioth Ahoronoth, a veteran publication that for many years had the biggest share of newspaper readers until Sheldon Adelson launched Israel Hayom about five years ago, which is distributed for free. Israel Hayom is a serious newspaper, but its news and analysis follows an unswervingly pro-Netanyahu editorial line. For this reason it is often referred to as the “Bibiton,” which is a portmanteau of Netanyahu’s popular nickname and “iton,” the Hebrew word for newspaper.

According to the final pre-election polls, with results posted on Friday, Likud is down to 20, an all-time low in the polls this election season, while the Zionist Union (led by Tzipi Livni and Isaac “Buji” Herzog) is at 24. Netanyahu is now under tremendous pressure. He runs the risk of losing the election for Likud. And his party seems to be blaming him for running a disastrous campaign, including the heavily criticized speech to Congress that ended up generating a backlash in Israel.

The translated status:

The government of the Right is in danger. Leftist activists and the foreign and international media are conspiring to get Tzipi and Buji elected via illegitimate means, using innuendo and foreign money.

Their goal is to widen the gap so that the Zionist Union polls higher than the Likud. The only way to ensure they fail is for us to close that gap in the remaining days before the elections. Those who vote for the nationalist camp don’t have the privilege of voting for other parties. You must vote for the Likud.

We have received many reports from people who work for Yedioth Ahoronoth regarding [publisher] Noni Mozes, who is leading a carefully orchestrated campaign against me. He is aided by various organizations that function with the support of tycoons in Israel and abroad, and also with the support of foreign governments. A similar effort was made in 1999 [the last time Netanyahu lost an election].

Mozes and the Yedioth Group are working in full cooperation with the head of the Labor party. Tzipi Livni herself admitted this month at a public event that she had spoken with the publisher of Yedioth Ahoronoth, Noni Mozes, about pushing forward legislation that is meant to stop the publication of Israel Hayom [the pro-Netanyahu, free daily newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson].

According to the Zionist Union party’s manifesto, Tzipi and Buji are committed to closing down Israel Hayom. This was reported in The Marker [an Israeli financial newspaper that is published by the Schocken Group / Haaretz].

It’s well known that the Yedioth Ahoronoth Group levels allegations related to social-welfare issues at me and the Likud, but it’s less known that during the 2011 social justice protests, which were the largest Israel has seen, Mozes gave the order to bury reports about the protests. He thought the protests were harming his business with a drastic decline in advertising revenue during that period.

The public should know the truth: Noni Mozes is leading a campaign against the Likud and against me in the name of his business interests. He wants to bring back the dangerous, undemocratic monopoly that prevailed when his newspaper was the most dominant. Mozes’s goal is to bring a leftist government to power. Leftist activists in Israel and abroad are pouring tens of millions of dollars into organizations that are leading the “anyone but Bibi” campaign.

These organizations are working to persuade Arab voters to cast their ballots for the left. They have even initiated a house-to-house campaign in recent weeks.

The enlistment of foreign organizations is not for financial reasons or social reasons, but for political reasons. Those foreign organizations understand that if Tzipi and Buji are in charge, they will give up everything. They’ll withdraw to the 1967 boundaries and they will divide Jerusalem — just as Tzipi and Buji promised they would do do. They know that unlike Tzipi and Buji, the Likud and I will never surrender to pressure.

These foreign organizations understand that the only thing blocking a withdrawal to the ‘67 boundaries, dividing Jerusalem, the establishment of “Hamastan B” on the hills that overlook Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and all of Israel, and accepting a nuclear Iran — the only thing — is a Likud government.

The only response to Noni Mozes’s campaign of seduction and to the millions of dollars that are flowing in from abroad to leftist organizations, is to go next week and cast the only ballot possible: only Likud.

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Jewish teens attack Palestinians in two separate Purim incidents http://972mag.com/jewish-teens-attack-palestinians-in-two-separate-purim-incidents/104162/ http://972mag.com/jewish-teens-attack-palestinians-in-two-separate-purim-incidents/104162/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:16:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=104162 Such attacks have become more common in recent years but media coverage has thinned.

Two individual Arab-Palestinian men were assaulted by mobs of Jewish teens in Jerusalem last Thursday night. Both incidents involved victims who were set upon and beaten so severely that they had to be hospitalized. And in both cases the Israeli Hebrew media outlets that reported the story specified that at least some of the assailants were drunk and in costume. Thursday was Purim in Jerusalem. According to tradition, the festival is celebrated by dressing in costume and drinking to excess.

One of the incidents, reported in a short item by Walla! News, is described as a “suspected nationalist incident.” The Walla! report notes that some of the teens were drunk, that there were about 15 or 16 of them out celebrating the holiday raucously, in the middle of downtown, very late at night. Several people asked the loud celebrants to be quiet, including one young man in his 20s who happened to be an Arab. The teens assaulted him because he spoke Hebrew with an identifiable accent. “I don’t remember much,” he told the reporter. “It hurt a lot.”

I went outside to ask them to be quiet, and suddenly a whole bunch of people jumped on me. I woke up in the hospital and after that I made a report to the police. They [the assailants] saw that I was an Arab and they jumped on me.

In a separate but remarkably similar incident that occurred around the same time, another group of around 15 raucous, drunk, teen revelers were carousing around downtown, roughhousing with one another and, according to Channel 10, generally smashing things up. Then they spotted a restaurant worker clearing away an outdoor table, recognized that he was an Arab and jumped him. This time, someone recorded the incident with a mobile device, which Channel 10 broadcast (view a longer version here).


The faces of the assailants are blurred to protect their identities since some are minors, but the details of the assault are clear. The Arab man is going about his job when he’s suddenly jumped by the mob, who beat him, kick him and smash chairs over his head. The reporter says that eyewitnesses told police the assailants beat the Arab man on every part of his body, then dragged him along the pavement and beat him some more, even after he was lying prone and unable to defend himself.

Channel 10 called it a “near-lynch,” which upset some commenters on their Facebook page. Given the video evidence, they commented, what’s “ostensible” about it? (The Israeli media generally employs the term to refer to a severe physical assault rather than the specific type of torture and hanging of blacks committed by whites, which were once common in some southern U.S. states.)

Channel 10 also interviewed an attorney for the boys who said there is no evidence this is a “nationalist” crime or a “racial” crime, which is interesting because the Walla! report does not suggest the crime is “racial.” The Channel 10 report also specifies that some of the boys involved in the assault come from well-known organized crime families, members of which accompanied the boys to their court hearing.


These mob assaults on random Palestinians have become increasingly common over the past year or so, although two in one night sounds extreme. But while these assaults are reported, they do not grab headlines and they do not garner international coverage. This is perhaps because news outlets are currently saturated with coverage of the upcoming elections. Or it could be general fatigue and consequent loss of interest in a type of incident that seems to play out according to a script: Arab passerby going about his business assaulted by mob of teens described in media reports by a combination of code words that convey “low class Mizrahi, possibly related to organized crime, and therefore not representative.” Police make arrests (sometimes), which offers the false comfort of justice having been served, and then we’re back to status quo ante. Until the next assault.

But imagine being a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem who is terrified of riding public transport or going to work in the western, majority-Jewish part of the city, because each trip outside their home means they run the risk of being violently assaulted by random strangers just because they look or sound Arab.

This reminds me of a story I once read by Isaac Bashevis Singer, in which he describes a Jewish man at a Warsaw barber shop during the late 1930s, who is afraid to speak when the man wielding a straight-edge razor over his face launches into an anti-Semitic rant. What if the barber were to hear that his customer speaks Polish with a recognizably Yiddish accent?

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Netanyahu speech: A dilemma for U.S. Jews — not for Israelis http://972mag.com/netanyahu-speech-a-dilemma-for-u-s-jews-not-for-israelis/103269/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-speech-a-dilemma-for-u-s-jews-not-for-israelis/103269/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 20:49:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=103269 For the first time, American Jews are getting the feeling that they might have to choose between Israel, and their loyalty to the country in which they were born and have become successful to a degree almost unprecedented in the history of the Jewish people.

In remarks that shook American Jewish leaders with their bluntness, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on Tuesday that Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to address Congress on March 3 was “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between the United States and Israel. Rice was speaking to Charlie Rose on his PBS news magazine show Tuesday evening; her interlocutor was so taken aback by her comment that he repeated it back to her in a tone of astonishment, pausing between each word.

Speaker Boehner holds a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Congressional leaders following his address to a joint meeting of Congress. May 24, 2011. (Speaker Boehner / CC-BY NY 2.0)

Speaker Boehner holds a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Congressional leaders following his address to a joint meeting of Congress. May 24, 2011. (Speaker Boehner / CC-BY NY 2.0)

Rice responded by pointing out that until Netanyahu accepted Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress, the relationship between Israel and the United States had “…always been bipartisan and we have been fortunate that the politics have not been injected into this relationship.” Speaking emphatically, she said:

“What has happened over the last several weeks by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks before his elections is that on both sides there have been injected some degree of partisanship.

“It is not only unfortunate but it is also destructive of the fabric of the relationship. It has always been bipartisan and we want to keep it that way. When it becomes injected with politics that’s a problem. We want the relationship to be strong regardless of which party may be in charge in each country.”

Rice made her remarks on the same day that Netanyahu rejected an invitation from Democratic senators for a closed-door session, presumably so that he could express his concerns about the Obama administration’s Iran policy, rather than deliver a divisive address to Congress.

John Boehner, the Republican House Speaker, invited Netanyahu to address Congress regarding U.S. policy toward Iran. Boehner supports a bill that calls for new sanctions against Iran, while the Obama administration is deeply involved in the delicate multilateral talks with Iran that are known as P5+1, which face a crucial deadline at the end of March. Last year the U.S. and its European negotiating partners lifted some sanctions on Iran as a confidence-building measure. In exchange, Iran suspended part of its nuclear development program; President Obama has said that he would veto a bill for new sanctions.

The dilemma of American Jews

Over the past few weeks, since Netanyahu accepted Boehner’s invitation, the White House has expressed its anger with one snub after another. First Obama said he would not meet with Netanyahu during his visit to DC, which coincides with the annual AIPAC conference (Netanyahu will speak at AIPAC as well). The official reason: given that the Israeli election is to take place only two weeks later, it would be inappropriate for Obama to meet with the incumbent candidate. Secretary of State Kerry announced that he would be abroad during Netanyahu’s visit, and spokespeople for Joe Biden said the vice president would also be out of town that week.

The administration also leaked that it had stopped giving Israeli officials full briefings on the ongoing talks with Iran. And on top of that, 26 Democrats — 23 from the House and three senators — have announced that they will not attend Netanyahu’s speech. The overt insult to the president (and the institution of the presidency) by a supposedly loyal ally was too much to overlook, even in the name of supporting the special friendship with their most important ally in the Middle East. But note that even the Democrats who said they will not attend Netanyahu’s speech have hastened to emphasize the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, pointedly eschewing the term “boycott.”


Nonetheless, American Jewish leaders are worried. The mainstream Jewish community votes Democrat and is unequivocally supportive of Israel, which means that it ends up being liberal on pretty much every issue except Israel. Until now, it was easy to live with this cognitive dissonance, since the U.S. position on Israel was unswervingly supportive. For the first time, American Jews are getting the feeling that they might have to choose between Israel as their identity totem, and their loyalty to the country in which they were born and have become successful to a degree almost unprecedented in the history of the Jewish people.

But while the New York Times put its report about Rice’s remarks on its homepage, and while Jewish American journalists who write frequently about Israel expressed shock and dismay at Netanyahu’s refusal to accept the Democrats’ invitation for a closed-door meeting, the Israeli response has been quite different. As of this writing, nearly one day after Rice’s remarks were broadcast, tweeted and widely reported in the U.S., none of the Hebrew media outlets have put their report about her conversation with Charlie Rose on their homepage. Rice’s blunt comments led the news for a few hours in the morning, but then were quickly knocked off the top of the news hour by the much-anticipated release of the state comptroller’s housing report, in which Netanyahu is accused of exacerbating the country’s catastrophic housing crisis. It was the housing crisis that precipitated weeks of protests in the summer of 2011, and economic issues continue to be the leading concern for Israeli voters.

One standing ovation after another

Many Israeli commentators have been deeply critical of Netanyahu’s having insulted the Obama administration by accepting Boehner’s invitation. But Netanyahu’s core voters are like the people in the United States who base their worldview on Fox News: they are deeply suspicious of the “liberal” mainstream media, and their loyalty to the Likud party is as unswerving as their support for their favorite soccer team. It is part of their identity. Netanyahu is betting that with the support of his core voters he will win enough seats and have sufficient allies on the right to form the next governing coalition.

According to the polls, Likud and the Zionist Union, headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, are virtually tied. But while Netanyahu campaigns on security and the Zionist Union campaigns on the economy, the fact is that the Herzog-Livni team have not tried to challenge Netanyahu on his Iran policy. That is because it’s too risky a move. They might be able to mock his hawkishness in their most recent campaign clip, by making a cynical joke about “going to war every two years,” but Herzog and Livni supported every Israeli military campaign against Gaza since Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9.

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

The center-left objects to Netanyahu’s crass, combative style, but they don’t really object to the substance of his message. They might agree with Israel’s Intelligence establishment, which continues to insist that Iran does not present an existential threat to Israel, but they know it would be unwise to test populist sentiment by expressing that view in the political arena. The economy might be the number one issue that drives people to the streets, but if there is a war, those protestors will without question go home, put on their uniforms and report to their reserve units. Security trumps all concerns in Israel, by default.

Given what I have heard so far on Israeli radio programs, I suspect that Netanyahu’s spokespeople will frame Susan Rice’s remarks as an example of the Obama administration’s callous disregard for Israel’s security. They will push the idea that Rice has put weapons in the hands of the enemies of Israel, who will have taken note that there is a rift with its American protector. This kind of interpretation plays very well in Israel, and it could find a ready audience among Jewish Americans as well. Israelis do care deeply about having a good relationship with the United States — just not at the expense of their security, which they naturally believe only they truly understand and care about. And for some (perhaps many), it hasn’t quite sunk in that without America’s friendship, they are not secure.

As for Netanyahu, it seems that he cares only about being re-elected. If his concern were, as he continues to insist, protecting Israel from an Iranian threat, then surely an opportunity to make a serious presentation to senior American legislators would be the most effective means of conveying his position. But what Netanyahu really wants is prime time television coverage in Israel that shows him speaking in perfect English to members of the American Congress as they give him one standing ovation after another. And if he can’t have that, then he’ll take the second-best option — the sight of empty seats belonging to Democrats who chose loyalty to Obama over concern for Israel’s security.

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Netanyahu campaign video: A victory for the Left means an ISIS invasion http://972mag.com/netanyahu-campaign-video-a-victory-for-the-left-means-an-isis-invasion/102703/ http://972mag.com/netanyahu-campaign-video-a-victory-for-the-left-means-an-isis-invasion/102703/#comments Sat, 14 Feb 2015 22:26:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102703 In the latest Likud campaign video, released online Saturday, the message is that voters who cast their ballots for parties to the left of Netanyahu are throwing open Israel’s borders to an invasion by the so-called Islamic State, which in Israel and much of the Arabic-speaking world is called Da’esh.



The video opens with bearded men traveling in a pickup truck, flying the black IS flag with its distinctive white calligraphy. The driver of the truck pulls up beside another car and honks for the other driver’s attention. The IS guy in the passenger seat leans out the window and asks him, in Hebrew with a comically exaggerated Arabic accent, “Hey bro, how do you get to Jerusalem?” The driver of the car shouts back (in Israeli Hebrew), “Take a left!”

Then there’s the slogan, in red Hebrew letters emblazoned on a gray, bullet-marked background: “THE LEFT WILL SURRENDER TO TERROR.”

One of the IS guys fires celebratory bullets skyward and the driver peels off, ostensibly in the direction of Jerusalem, as they all shout exultantly in Arabic, “Shukran, ya ward!” (“Thanks, bro!”). The camera pans briefly to the rear of the truck to focus on a popular Israeli bumper sticker that reads, “Anyone but Bibi.”

The tagline: “It’s us, or them. Only the Likud. Only Netanyahu.”

The snatch of Arabic rap lyrics is excerpted from a song by an Amman-based Palestinian group called Torabyeh: “I want to be buried in the same cemetery that my grandfather was buried in. Since my childhood I’ve been dreaming of becoming a soldier and as time passed I discovered who I wanted to belong to: Mahmoud Abbas, Fateh, Hamas or…Jabha [the DFLP] …”

Netanyahu has for years been promoting his message about the threat to Israeli security posed by Islamist extremism, never missing an opportunity to list Hamas along with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and even Fateh, mixing them all up so that the average Israeli Jew reflexively associates Arabs and Islam with terror. Like all accomplished populists, he understands the power of repeating a mendacious slogan, and he is an expert at exploiting popular fears and racism.

There is plenty of evidence in popular culture to show that Netanyahu’s tactics work; that his rhetoric has penetrated the mainstream. Never mind that the Islamic State has not expressed any particular interest in Israel or in Palestine. It’s far too busy slaughtering Arabs in Iraq and Syria — decapitating, shooting, crucifying and immolating them in their hundreds. Or, as two IS fighters captured by the Peshmerga told Israeli reporter Itai Anghel in a report he made for Channel 2′s news magazine “Fact,” , they’re not particularly interested in killing Israelis. They just hate everybody who’s not like them.

But the Bibi banter works. Channel 10, for example, recently broadcast a series of pre-election clips in which candidates drive taxis while discussing politics with their passengers. In this clip, the blonde woman sitting in the back seat tells Meretz candidate Tamar Zandberg that she won’t vote for the Left (“it’s not personal! I don’t mean to insult you!”) because if the Left gets into power, Da’esh will overrun Israel.

The popular Israeli narrative is so reactionary and confused these days, that if one were to walk the streets asking average citizens if there was a difference between Fateh and Al Qaeda, most people would be hard-pressed to answer coherently. Go ahead and try to explain to an Israeli audience that Hamas is a small offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, that it is basically a technocratic political party, that it is extremely unpopular in Gaza and that it has nothing to do with expansionist jihadism. Try telling people that if Israel were to lift the siege on Gaza, disgruntled Palestinians would probably kick Hamas out of power immediately. Just try. The best you can hope for is to be told that you’re a traitor who should go live in Gaza.

And by choosing music created by Palestinian-Jordanian rappers with lyrics about the dream of being buried in one’s ancestral homeland, the video’s creators drive home the message: Palestinian aspirations = terrorism = ISIS = the end of Israel. So vote Likud or, as Netanyahu writes on his Facebook introduction to the video, it’s: “Us or them, the ISIS version. Vote for Likud with Netanyahu at its head or for a weak, submissive government with Tzipi and Buji at its head.”

*Thanks to Mohamed El Dahshan and IB for identifying and translating the Torabyeh song.


No, Hamas isn’t ISIS, ISIS isn’t Hamas
Fight occupation, anti-Semitism, Islamic State at the same time

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Arab, leftist high schoolers walk out on Naftali Bennett’s speech http://972mag.com/arab-leftist-high-schoolers-walk-out-on-naftali-bennetts-speech/102447/ http://972mag.com/arab-leftist-high-schoolers-walk-out-on-naftali-bennetts-speech/102447/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2015 20:35:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=102447 Bennett suggests Arabs steal Jewish property during conference for Israeli high schoolers who will be voting in their first elections. Activist says he was threatened by Shin Bet outside the event.

Naftali Bennett speaks at an event for high schoolers voting for the first time, Tel Aviv University, February 8, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

Naftali Bennett speaks at an event for high schoolers voting for the first time, Tel Aviv University, February 8, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen)

Dozens of Arab and Jewish-leftist high school students walked out on a speech by Naftali Bennett after he suggested Arabs are car and property thieves during a conference held on Sunday at Tel Aviv University.

The leaders of several Israeli political parties spoke at the conference, put on by the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel, which was convened for Israeli high school students who will be old enough to vote for the first time when Israeli elections are held on March 17.

One of the students who walked out says he was then questioned by Shin Bet officers who demanded to see his identity card. The student, who is also an activist in Meretz, told Haaretz’s Yarden Skoop: ”They told me that I was suspected of attacking a government minister, and that I should expect a phone call from the Shin Bet.”

The students walked out in the middle of Bennett’s speech after he made the following remarks, which Hebrew speakers can view and hear on this video clip (translation/summary immediately below the video):


People who drive to the Negev know that they can’t park their cars near popular tourist sites because they will certainly get broken into. [In response to an approving prompt from someone in the audience, Bennett affirmed, "In Petah Tikvah, too!"] And in the Galilee, and they steal tractors from farmers. And in East Jerusalem! In East Jerusalem you can’t even go to Mt. Scopus or the Mt. of Olives anymore. And in every Arab village and in every Arab city. And by the way this hurts the Arabs too! Because the State of Israel has decided that the law should only be enforced in places like Tel Aviv and Ra’anana [prosperous, liberal cities in the center of the country]. And that is why [when/if the Jewish Home is asked to join the next governing coalition - LG] we will demand the legal affairs and domestic security portfolios, so that MK Ayelet Shaked will be the Minister of Internal Security.

At this point the protesting students get up to leave. Based on what we can see in the video, they filed out quietly, with the Meretz supporters identifiable by their bright green T-shirts. Bennett shouted at them, “That’s always the way with the leftists. They run away. Go ahead! Run! We are staying here in this land! We are not running away!” Bennett supporters in the audience responded with cheers and applause.

Ayelet Shaked is notorious for having posted on Facebook that all Palestinians were enemy combatants, irrespective of their gender or age, and for referring to them as “snakes.” She has on many occasions expressed radically right-wing ideas which have been widely covered by the Israeli media.

Dror Feuer, an Israeli journalist for Globes newspaper, who is a supporter of Hadash, the Arab-Jewish socialist party, attended the conference and tweeted (in Hebrew), “Just coming out of the elections conference with several party leaders and a thousand high schoolers. It was pretty good, until Bennett got up and said all the Arabs were car thieves. He really did. The Arab students left and so did I.”

In response, Bennett posted a Facebook status addressed directly to Feuer. In very idiomatic Hebrew (which he translated into English as well), he calls Feuer a liar and threatens him with a libel suit if the journalist fails to delete the tweet within 24 hours. The media, Bennett writes, has been persecuting him for three years with lies about things he allegedly said or did, and these lies are having a negative effect on his reputation abroad. Bennett cleverly chooses three examples of cases where the media did level accusations that were later shown to be untrue, or at least open to debate. He ignores the many occasions on which he has made blatant, crudely racist remarks directed at Palestinians, including the time he said that he had killed plenty of Arabs and had no problem with that.

The whole incident is an excellent example of Bennett’s genius for populism and public relations. It is true that he did not specifically say that Arabs were car thieves; instead, he spoke in code. Imagine if a right-wing populist running for office in the United States were to give a speech that played on white fears by referring to the risks of driving around the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the south side of Chicago or East Los Angeles. Everyone would know he was referring to brown people, just as Bennett’s audience knew he was referring to Arabs. And how easy it is to play on the fears of the people in power as a means of deflecting from the reality of hooligans rampaging through Jerusalem, shouting “death to Arabs” with impunity, beating up random passersby because they look or sound Arab, even beating up Druze citizens who are serving in the Israeli army, because they were heard speaking Arabic.

In Israel the police are not punished for shooting unarmed Arab protestors in the back, or for beating them senseless — not even when there is videotaped evidence. Whites in America might be afraid of blacks, but the blacks are the ones who get shot, choked to death and jailed. And in Israel it is the Arabs who get beaten and jailed for protesting — or just for existing. And when they walk out of a speech given by a racist parliamentarian, they are allegedly questioned by the Shin Bet. And the Ashkenazi Jewish ex-combat officer parliamentarian who preaches racist incitement to an audience of high school students? Nothing will happen to him.

Naftali Bennett is not the problem
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United Arab slate thumbs nose at Liberman’s disqualification attempt http://972mag.com/united-arab-slate-thumbs-nose-at-libermans-disqualification-attempt/101775/ http://972mag.com/united-arab-slate-thumbs-nose-at-libermans-disqualification-attempt/101775/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:19:00 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=101775 After years of engaging in relentless, blatantly racist incitement against the Arab parties, the foreign minister may soon get his comeuppance.

Members of newly announced "United List" of Arab parties in Israel ahead of March 17, 2015 election Photo: Courtesy Balad)

Members of newly announced united Arab slate in Israel ahead of March 17, 2015 election. photo: Courtesy Balad)

Avigdor Liberman, head of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party and current foreign minister, is trying to get the new unified list of Arab parties disqualified from running in the upcoming elections. According to settler website Arutz Sheva, Liberman’s petition is based on the claim that Balad, one of the parties on the list, supports terrorism.

Liberman’s previous campaigns included a proposal to strip citizenship from Israeli citizens who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the Jewish state. His 2009 campaign slogans were “Only Liberman understands Arabic,” and “No citizenship without loyalty.”

But while Liberman’s views on Arabs in general and Palestinians specifically are still popular with a significant segment of Jewish Israeli voters, his party has not been polling well at all. According to the most recent polls, he is down from 15 seats to 11 — and he knows that number could decline over the coming weeks. Yisrael Beiteinu’s traditional voter base of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) has either died off, emigrated or become apathetic non-voters. Liberman’s strident message tends to be oriented toward security issues, while polls show that Israelis are far more concerned about economic and social justice issues.

There is actually a chance that Yisrael Beiteinu might not win sufficient votes to sit in the next Knesset. Meanwhile, the united Arab slate is polling at between 11 and 15 votes — and their voters are loyal.

The fact is that Liberman has brought this entire situation on himself. It was Yisrael Beiteinu that pushed last year for the passage of a bill that would require political parties to win 3.25 percent of the vote, or a minimum of four seats, in order to take their places in the Knesset (the previous threshold was 2 percent). It escaped no one’s notice that this would have pushed all the Arab parties out of the Knesset, since none of them had more than five seats. The 3.25 percent threshold also means that Hadash, the Arab-Jewish socialist party, would be eliminated, as would small niche parties such as Kadima. At the time, few thought the fractious Arab parties and Hadash would unite to form a single list. But that is precisely what they did, and now they are enjoying a good laugh.

In response to Liberman’s petition to have the slate disqualified from running in the coming elections, the party released the following response (translated from the Hebrew):

It is obvious that this so-called petition is another populist move by the racist Liberman… And it is even more clear that this petition is an expression of the fear that is gripping him as he watches his party crash in the polls in contrast to the United List. We will see the response to the racism of the Right on election day, when the United List wins more than 15 seats in the Knesset.

There is more than a little gleeful Schadenfreude in this response. But Liberman and the far right (as well as Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid) have for years been engaged in relentless, blatantly racist incitement against the Arab parties. They have pursued vendettas against Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, going so far as to sponsor legislation that would have her suspended from Knesset for allegedly offering rhetorical support for Israel’s enemies. Meanwhile, far Right MKs blithely suggest (without repercussions) that killing Palestinian civilians — even children — is correct and just. So to see the man who tried to get them kicked out of Knesset now facing that very fate as a result of the legislation he proposed — well, who can deny them a moment of satisfaction.

The Arab parties united? Great, now it’s time to get to work
Arab parties announce joint slate for upcoming election
+972 poll: Joint Arab list would raise voter participation

Special Coverage: 2015 Elections

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Paris victim Yoav Hattab died a Tunisian patriot http://972mag.com/yoav-hattab-son-of-chief-rabbi-of-tunis-died-a-hero-and-tunisian-patriot/101249/ http://972mag.com/yoav-hattab-son-of-chief-rabbi-of-tunis-died-a-hero-and-tunisian-patriot/101249/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 12:06:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=101249 Young Tunisians on social media extol a video of Rabbi Hattab comparing the tolerant atmosphere between Jews and Muslims in Tunisia to the hostile one in France, where his son was murdered by terrorists last week. There is, of course, some romanticizing going on.

“Tunisia is bereaved!” read the main headline on the front page of Sunday’s Le Temps, a French-language newspaper based in Tunis. Three of the people shot to death in Friday’s hostage-taking at a Parisian branch of the French kosher supermarket chain Hyper Cacher, were Tunisian citizens. One of them was Yoav Hattab, the 21 year-old son of the main rabbi of Tunis. Hattab, who was in Paris to complete his graduate studies, was a patriot: in a photo on the front page of Le Temps, he grins proudly while holding up a blue-inked index finger, proof that he had voted in his country’s first democratic election following the 2011 revolution.

(Rabbi Hattab has been widely described in French-language media as the chief rabbi of Tunisia’s small Jewish community.)

Tunisian newspaper_resized

In its report, Le Temps quotes witnesses who describe Hattab as a hero. Not only did he direct some women to safety in the cold storage room, where a Muslim employee from Mali protected them, but he also grabbed one of the weapons belonging to Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who stormed the supermarket, and tried to shoot him down. But Hattab didn’t have time to release the safety catch on the weapon before Coulibaly spotted him and shot him dead.

For young Tunisians on social media, Hattab has come to represent their hopes for their country. They are sharing and quoting a France 2 television interview with Rabbi Benjamin Hattab, the dead man’s father, in which he speaks passionately of the easy, mutually respectful relationship between Jews and Muslims in Tunisia. In contrast, he says sorrowfully, the atmosphere in Paris felt so hostile toward Jews that his son called him to apologize for being unwilling to run the risk of wearing his yarmulke in public. It was too dangerous, the young man told his father the rabbi (Haaretz reports that Yoav visited Israel this year, on a Birthright tour).

Shared many times is this excerpt from the interview, when Rabbi Hattab says emphatically, “”Les juifs sont respectés en Tunisie, on n’a pas de problèmes avant et après la révolution” (Jews are respected in Tunisia, we had no problems either before or after the revolution”).

Bearded, wearing a yarmulke and speaking in a voice made gravelly by exhaustion and grief, Hattab sits in the Paris television studio opposite Latifa Ibn Ziaten, a Moroccan-born French woman who wears a traditional Muslim headscarf. He describes his son as a young man who lived his life joyfully and with respect for his Jewish heritage. He only happened to be at the grocery store that Friday because he had been invited for Shabbat dinner and his father had taught him always to bring a bottle of wine as a gift for his hosts.

Mrs. Ibn Ziaten listens, her expression deeply sympathetic. Her son Imad, then a 30-year-old career soldier in the French army, was killed in 2012 by a French citizen who had become a radical Islamist. In March 2012 Mohamed Merah went on a shooting rampage starting with Imad Ibn Ziaten, whom he shot at point-blank range after the paratrooper refused to kneel down. Merah killed seven people altogether, including three children at the local Jewish school.

Read also: The real reason Bibi wants French Jews to move to Israel

Addressing Rabbi Hattab, the soft-spoken bereaved mother, who has become active in combatting extremism in France, offers her condolences. She describes her own loss and then ticks off her French credentials: she has lived in France for 38 years, was educated there, feels absolutely and proudly French, but she still experiences prejudice because of her Muslim headscarf. And then she launches into a passionate speech about making the country a better place “because there is no other country like ours.” With Hattab nodding and making sounds of agreement, she talks about the importance of protecting France’s liberty, of making it a better place for its young people, of tolerance and acceptance, and so on. “We must get to work,” she says, “because there’s nothing like the liberty we have in France.”

Tolerance for the French, patriotism for Tunisians

It’s quite an extraordinary scene. Two very dignified French-speaking North Africans, one Jewish and one Muslim, both made bereaved parents by Islamist terrorists — one because his son was Jewish, and the other because her son was a Muslim who served in the French army — both speaking about their shared respect and love for France and its values.

For French television, the image of the bearded rabbi and the Muslim woman in headscarf and the words of co-existence, empathy, and national solidarity expressed by Rabbi Hattab and Mrs. Ibn Ziaten probably seemed like the most important message to convey. But for young Tunisians on Facebook and Twitter who shared the clip of that interview, the important bit is where Rabbi Hattab compares the tolerant atmosphere between Jews and Muslims in Tunisia to the hostile one in France. Yoav Hattab is their hero not only because he died trying to take down a terrorist, but also because he was both a patriotic citizen of Tunisia and a proud Jew. And his father the rabbi is their prophet because, while clearly in anguish over the death of his son, he is still able to speak movingly about his love for Tunisia and the good relations between its Jewish and Muslim citizens.

There is some romanticizing and wistfulness here. For many young Arabs who supported the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings in 2011 and 2012, the exhilarating act of rising up against authoritarian leaders, and feeling a sense of agency over the future of their country for the first time, made them nostalgic for a multi-ethnic country that disappeared two generations before they were born. On social media they shared old black-and-white photos of a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic society where Jews and Muslims socialized at cafes and at the beach, the women wearing sleeveless dresses and stylish hairdos. They referred to books and films that make it clear Jews were prominent members of the political and economic elites. When I was in Cairo in 2011, people asked if I had read Andre Aciman’s Out of Egypt, or Lucette Lagnado’s Man in a White Sharkskin Suit, both memoirs by Egyptian-born Jews who were forced to emigrate in the 1950s and 1960s. The books were prominently displayed at Diwan, the posh Zamalek bookshop-cafe that sells English-language books.

Nostalgia for a bygone era

The subtext in all this longing for an imagined lost world was that once, before despots took over for the departing colonial powers and before Zionism destabilized the regional ethnic balance, Jews had been an integral part of the Arab world. This is not an inaccurate narrative, but it is somewhat over-simplified.

The nostalgia for that old world is shared primarily by secular, multi-lingual, urban millennials. On Twitter and Facebook these Tunisians in their 20s and 30s have posted angry comments about their government’s failure to issue an official statement regarding the Jewish citizens who were killed in Paris. Quite a few have noted with contempt that only the Islamist Ennahdha Party has extended condolences to the bereaved families. Yamina Thabet, president of the Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities (ATSM) and a friend of Yoav Hattab’s, told a journalist for the French daily Libération that the authorities’ silence was “hallucinatory.” “He was an extraordinary person,” she said of Hattab.“This is an enormous loss.”

So far, 3,600 people have indicated on Facebook that they will attend a memorial for Hattab, to be held January 17 on Avenue de la Liberte in Tunis, opposite the Great Synagogue. Called “Je Suis Yoav Hattab,” the event’s description is as follows (my translation from the French):

Yoav Hattab is a Tunisian patriot, the son of the chief rabbi of Tunis, originally from la Goulette [a suburb of northern Tunis - LG], killed in Paris by terrorists who took hostages at the Hyper Cacher grocery store. Yoav Hattab did not have French nationality. The only nationality he held was Tunisian. Let us honor him. Next shabbat we will gather together. Bring candles to light for the deceased. We will light them at 6.11 p.m. [after shabbat ends] in memory of Yoav.

The Israeli media has reported that the four Jewish men who were murdered at the Hyper Cacher will be buried in Jerusalem. But according to “Info du Jour,” a French-language Tunisian news site, Tunisia’s ambassador to France has confirmed that arrangements have been made to transport Yoav Hattab to his home country for burial. For the Tunisian millennials who have spent the past three days sharing photos of the young man with his blue-inked finger, and of another one that shows him wrapped in a Tunisian flag with a yarmulke on his head, this is simply the way it should be.

Update: According to a press release issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, all four Jewish victims of the market attack were to be flown to Israel for burial on Tuesday.

Correction: A previous version of this article carried the headline, “Yoav Hattab, son of Tunis chief rabbi, died a Tunisian patriot.” It was changed to reflect that Rabbi Hattab’s position as the main rabbi of Tunis’s small Jewish community is not officially a “chief rabbi” position.

Read also:
Re-learning history: A tribute to North Africa’s Jewish artists
The real reason Bibi wants French Jews to move to Israel

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Whither liberal Zionism & other phenomena: My list of notable 2014 articles http://972mag.com/whither-liberal-zionism-other-phenomena-my-list-of-notable-2014-articles/100724/ http://972mag.com/whither-liberal-zionism-other-phenomena-my-list-of-notable-2014-articles/100724/#comments Wed, 31 Dec 2014 12:48:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100724 So you read every single article in +972 this year? That’s great. Honestly, we thank you. But that’s not enough for Lisa Goldman. A comprehensive list of must-read articles you probably missed this year, covering everything from slavery reparations to Gaza to the crisis of liberal Zionism on the Upper West Side.

Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com

Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com

The other night my sister and I were talking about end-of-year lists and how much we enjoy reading them — the book and cinema critics’ picks, the news and photo editors’ choices and certainly the food and restaurant reviewers’ favorite articles. The New York Times Sunday Magazine‘s The Lives They Lived is always moving and interesting, too. Then we started naming articles we’d read over the previous year that had left a lasting impression. My sister pointed out that I’d posted an awful lot of articles about Gaza on Facebook. Could I choose one or two that I thought were the best? Hm.

The following is a list of articles that stayed in my mind after I’d read them. Most of them are about Israel-Palestine, but not all. They are listed randomly, with no ranking. I’ve also put together a sub-section of articles about the crisis among liberal Zionists, for reasons explained below.

Articles that are not about Gaza (some about Israel)

The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic

“Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state,” writes Coates near the beginning of this seminal, epic article for The Atlantic. But blacks were not just murdered and denied their civil rights. They were also robbed, systematically, of their property. A black person could spend his life working hard and acquiring property, only to have a white person arbitrarily take it from him — and there was no legal recourse. And even after Jim Crow, government housing and education policies have denied blacks their rights, exploited them and marginalized them. I read this article slowly, twice. And I’ll probably read it again. It started a discussion that has only come to seem more urgent over the past few months, with a series of high profile incidents involving unarmed black men dying at the hands of white police officers.

The Outcast, by Rachel Aviv for the New Yorker (alternate title: “The Shame of Borough Park”)

It’s well known that ultra-Orthodox Jews are an insular lot who keep their dirty laundry well hidden, dealing with crimes within the community via their own rabbinical court system. What’s perhaps less well known is the the extent to which leaders of Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community have colluded with the police and prosecutors, trading votes and influence for communal self rule. This is the story of how that dirty deal ruined the lives of ultra-Orthodox boys who were sexually molested by a member of the community, and how the victims were victimized over and over again — by the community, which marginalized and shunned them, and by the New York City prosecutor’s office shameful decision to deny them justice.

Tales of the Trash, by Peter Hessler for the New Yorker

The New Yorker‘s Egypt correspondent weaves a rich, insightful tale about post-Mubarak Egypt via the life and words of Sayyed Ahmed, his neighborhood garbage collector, or zabal. This story caused a minor furor among Egyptians on Facebook, particularly those who live in the author’s Zamalek neighborhood, who concluded that the illiterate garbage man knows far, far too much about their lives. But now we might know rather more about Sayyed’s personal life than he’d like, too.

Europe’s Jewish Problem: the Misunderstood Rise of European Anti-Semitism, by Yascha Mounk for Foreign Affairs

In which Yascha Mounk, author of Stranger in My Own Country — a Jewish Family in Modern Germany and a recent Harvard PhD, acknowledges the recent rise of European anti-Semitism but disputes the conclusion that it is caused by Muslim immigration to the continent. Money quote:

Tensions between Muslims and Jews are a real problem, and one that has been swept under the carpet for too long; but an even greater problem is the tendency of wily politicians to play Jews and Muslims against each other for purposes of their own. The real question of Europe’s future is not whether Muslim immigrants will learn to tolerate Jews, but whether, in countries such as Sweden, Italy, and Poland the majority can learn to think of Muslims and Jews as true members of the nation.

The Collapse of the American Jewish Center, by Sarah Posner for Religious Dispatches

The polarization of the American Jewish community is more apparent than ever following last summer’s war in Gaza. Sarah Posner’s big picture article shows that the institutions that once represented the Jewish communal consensus, no longer speak for the secular, progressive Jews who are critical of Israeli policy.

Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror, by Rukmini Callamachi for the New York Times

This, my friends, is real journalism. Rumini Callamachi’s deeply reported, carefully documented story opens with a German official bringing a suitcase full of euros to Mali. The money is officially for humanitarian causes, but in fact will be given to Islamic extremists for the release of European hostages. Callamachi’s story is not a binary, simplistic tale about the dangers of negotiating with extremists, but a nuanced, insightful tale of moral complexity and political realities. Callamachi’s personal experiences as a reporter in Mali are woven into the story, making for riveting reading.

Going the Distance: On and Off the Road with Obama, by David Remnick for the New Yorker

The New Yorker‘s editor-in-chief followed the president around for a few months and wrote this very thoughtful, insightful article about the man and the leader. This is the definitive article about the president and his presidency, I think. I was most struck by this observation, which is actually among the more prosaic bits of the article. But it made me think that Obama is not having much fun being president. Perhaps only people with what Remnick calls “near-pathological personalities” can really enjoy the job.

Obama can be a dynamic speaker before large audiences and charming in very small groups, but, like a normal human being and unlike the near-pathological personalities who have so often held the office, he is depleted by the act of schmoozing a group of a hundred as if it were an intimate gathering.

Re-learning history: A tribute to North Africa’s Jewish artists, by Ophir Toubul for +972 Magazine

This is a wonderful overview of the Jewish artists who were stars of the North African music scene up until the 1960s, by which time most had emigrated. But there was a time when their performances defined both the classical and the contemporary canon. The post includes video clips and some smart observations.

Why Russian Jews Don’t Want to Hear About Being Saved, by Lea Zeltserman for the Forward

When I was a child in the 1970s, saving the Soviet Jewry was the leading cause for the diaspora Jewish community, uniting us all. We were taught about heroic Jews who had sacrificed their jobs and their freedom to advocate for the right to practice Judaism or immigrate to Israel. Then the communist regimes collapsed and the Jews who wanted to leave, could. And did. Lea Zeltserman was one of them, immigrating to Canada with her family as a child. In this article she explains why Jews from the former Soviet Union don’t identify with the movement to rescue them. Money quote:

I’m going to just say it: Many Russian Jews feel patronized and condescended to when it comes to the Soviet Jewry movement. There is a sense that the harder part of their own lives’ journeys — the immigratzya itself — does not seem to matter to those who now own the story. After all, countless ordinary Russian Jews endured the real struggle, the trauma, the risks. Not surprisingly, Russian Jews are apathetic or uninterested in the movement as it is now presented.

So Long Israel; Hello Berlin, by Sally McGrane for The New Yorker

Finally, a nuanced and observant article about the wave of Israeli immigration to Berlin. No cliches about the hummus restaurant, the gay-Israeli disco or the Hebrew radio station. This is real insight about what draws Israelis to Berlin, and it’s not sentimental.

A Family’s Journey from Armenia to Syria and Back Again, by Alia Malek for Guernica

I’m cheating a bit because this article was actually published in 2013, but it didn’t receive enough attention at the time and that’s a huge pity, because it really is one of the most beautifully written, insightful articles about Syria I’ve read. Alia Malek focuses on an Armenian family that came to Syria to escape the genocide at the beginning twentieth century. They settled in and ultimately became prosperous Syrians, part of the fabric of that diverse country. Now they are uprooting themselves again to escape Syria’s civil war – but this time they are returning to Armenia. And somehow, going home has come to mean going into exile.

Feeling Good About Feeling Bad, by Nathan Thrall for the London Review of Books

Nathan Thrall wrote so many excellent articles about Israel-Palestine this year that it was difficult to choose just one (see, for example, his piece on the “delusions” of U.S. diplomacy toward Israel-Palestine that was published in the New York Review of Books). But I think his review of Ari Shavit’s much-praised book, “My Promised Land,” is really the best of the lot. The title sums up exactly why I disliked the book so intensely, but the body of the article explains in detail both its flaws and its errors, as well as why the very nature of its appeal to so many diaspora Jews exposes their tragic blindness to reality.

Articles about Gaza

Never Ask Me About Peace Again, by Asmaa Alghoul for Al Monitor

Asmaa Alghoul is a Palestinian journalist in Gaza, a mother and a feminist. She is worldly, open, conciliatory and openly critical of Hamas. During last summer’s Gaza war she, like so many people I know and/or follow on social media, suffered extreme personal loss that destroyed, or all-but destroyed, their interest in conciliation. Quote:

My father’s brother, Ismail al-Ghoul, 60, was not a member of Hamas. His wife, Khadra, 62, was not a militant of Hamas. Their sons, Wael, 35, and Mohammed, 32, were not combatants for Hamas. Their daughters, Hanadi, 28, and Asmaa, 22, were not operatives for Hamas, nor were my cousin Wael’s children, Ismail, 11, Malak, 5, and baby Mustafa, only 24 days old, members of Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine or Fatah. Yet, they all died in the Israeli shelling that targeted their home at 6:20 a.m. on Sunday morning.

On the Slaughter, by Peter Cole for the Paris Review

During the third week of the war on Gaza, Peter Cole wrote an erudite, subtle response to the manner in which Benjamin Netanyahu had interpreted a famous poem called “On the Slaughter,” by Haim Nachman Bialik (Bialik later became the poet laureate of Israel). Netanyahu quoted a line about revenge, using it as a means of justifying Israel’s military operation against the Palestinians. But Cole points out that the poem, its context and the word “revenge” meant something entirely different (not revenge!) from what Netanyahu implied. The poem, Cole points out, was not even Israeli. Quote:

 …it was written long before the state was founded and very far from it. “On the Slaughter” was the thirty-year-old Odessan Hayim Nahman Bialik’s immediate response to the April 1903 pogroms in the Bessarabian town of Kishinev, where some forty-nine Jews were slashed, hacked, and cudgeled to death, or drowned in outhouse feces, and hundreds were wounded over the course of several days. Women and girls were raped repeatedly. The Jewish part of town was decimated. Netanyahu quoted just two lines, carefully avoiding the one preceding them: “Cursed be he who cries out: Revenge!”

Three Men, a Tent and Some Shrubs: The Backstory of our Hamas Report, by Sreenivasan Jain for NDTV

At the tail end of the war last summer, an Indian reporter named Sreenivasan Jain and his team became famous in Israel for being the only reporters in Gaza who saw and filmed Hamas militants in the act of setting up a mobile rocket launcher from a civilian area. In fact, they were setting up the launcher right outside Jain’s hotel room. The video report went viral, becoming Exhibit A for the Israeli government because it lent support to their narrative — i.e, that the heavy civilian casualties in Gaza were unavoidable, because Hamas was using civilians as “human shields.”

In his response, Jain takes everyone to task. He wonders, for example, how he and his team were the only reporters who noticed the rocket launcher from their hotel room, which was in the same hotel where so many other foreign correspondents were staying at the time. And while he does not shy away from criticizing Hamas’s military tactics, he rejects proportionality between Gaza and Israel: “The death toll – close to 1800 Palestinians killed to about 60 Israelis – hardly needs restating. We know that compared to Israel’s firepower, Hamas’s rockets are a minor threat…The rocket we saw, in all probability, must have been the one of the 1000s that landed in open areas.”

Jain was upset at seeing his report used by Israel for propaganda purposes, and that is one of the main reasons he wrote his response, but of course it went almost unnoticed. The original narrative was too appealing to the propagandists.

Fairly soon after it aired, it was distressing to find that the  story had become Israel’s ‘I told you so’ moment, an independent endorsement proof. In their eyes, that the media has finally acknowledged Hamas’s dubious military tactics (the video was shared on the Israel Defense Force’s social media platforms; it was also featured as  a brief clip at a Netanyahu press conference). In turn this provoked sharp reactions from (some of) those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, who accused us of ‘betrayal.’ Just four days back, they praised us for our report from Rafah in south Gaza where the hunt for a so-called missing Israeli soldier had unleashed carnage. (The IDF did not re-tweet or ‘like’ that report)

In Fatal Flash, Gaza Psychologist Switches Roles, Turning into a Trauma Victim, by Anne Barnard for the New York Times

Anne Barnard did some of the very best print reporting from Gaza during the war. In this piece, she profiles Dr. Hassan al-Zeyada, a Gaza psychologist who specialized in PTSD and related trauma. Then on July 21 he became one of those victims. His mother, three brothers and two additional members of his family were killed when their family home was demolished in an Israeli air strike. Quote:

He took a mental step back, to diagnose the hallmarks of trauma in himself: He was exhibiting dissociation, speaking in the second person to distance himself from pain, as well as denial. When he heard about new shelling near where his family lived in the Bureij refugee camp, he picked up the phone to call his oldest brother there. He had forgotten that the house was already gone, his brother already dead.

 Whither Liberal Zionism?

The Gaza war sparked an anguished outpouring from Jewish journalists who identify with liberal Zionism, which basically advocates for a two-state solution along the 1948 demarcation lines — one for the Jews and one for the Palestinians. My feeling is that liberal Zionists, who are mostly English-speaking diaspora Jews living in North America, England and Australia, need to ask some more difficult questions pertaining to ethnic particularism and Jewish privilege, but that is a separate issue.

It seems that liberal Zionists are now having a very serious identity crisis, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the reality — that there will probably never be a negotiated two-state solution. But I’ve been impatient and not very compassionate with their identity crisis, because they’ve been ignoring that reality for far too long. And I often think they’re just upset now primarily because the gang around Netanyahu is so vulgar, and so rude to Obama. I wish they had spoken up a long, long time ago. And that they were less upset about their own identity crises and more about the people who are suffering on the ground from living without any basic civil rights, ground down under the boot of military occupation or reduced to second-class citizen status in the state of the Jews.

Following is a very partial list of articles about the much-ballyhooed death of liberal Zionism. Most are by distressed liberal Zionist journalists, who seem to be primarily Ashkenazi men in their 40s and 50s. But some are by critics of those who embraced the ideology in the first place. I list them in no order and without commentary. They really speak for themselves.

Zionism and its Discontents, by Roger Cohen for the New York Times

Liberal Zionism: It can’t be dead because it never existed, by Asher Schechter for Haaretz

Israel’s Move to the Right Challenges Diaspora Jews, by Antony Lerman for the New York Times

Can Liberal Zionists Count on Hillary Clinton, by Jason Horowitz for the New York Times

Israel’s One State Reality, by David Remnick for the New Yorker

The Perennial Dilemma of liberal Zionism, by Ran Greenstein for +972 Magazine

Is Liberal Zionism Impossible? by Bernard Avishai for the New Yorker

So You Really Think Liberal Zionism is Dead? by J.J. Goldberg for the Forward

Liberal Zionism after Gaza, by Jonathan Freedland for the New York Review of Books

Tragedy or Political Correctness? Ari Shavit and the Confusion of the Zionist Liberal Left, by Omri Boehm for the L.A. Review of Books

Israel’s Big Question, by Thomas Friedman for the New York Times

The Community of Expulsion: For Israel, a Time of Self-Scrutiny, by Roger Cohen for the New York Times

Why Americans See Israel the Way They Do, by Roger Cohen for the New York Times

What Will Israel Become? by Roger Cohen for the New York Times

Read more of +972′s year-end coverage:
The Year in Photos: Palestine-Israel in 2014
+972′s Story of the Year: Gaza
+972′s Editor’s Picks of 2014
The 25 most-read posts of 2014

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Investigation of Abu Khdeir murder tainted by racism, police incompetence http://972mag.com/investigation-of-abu-khdeir-murder-tainted-by-racism-police-incompetence/98758/ http://972mag.com/investigation-of-abu-khdeir-murder-tainted-by-racism-police-incompetence/98758/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 21:29:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98758 Between shoddy work and a culture of racism toward Palestinians, it is no wonder that the police failed to prevent the brutal murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

On Wednesday night, Israel’s Channel 10 broadcast a one-hour investigative report that delves deeply into the circumstances surrounding the murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Last July three Jewish Israelis, a 29-year-old man and two teenage boys, abducted Abu Khdeir into their car from a main street near his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Shuafat, beat him and drove him to a nearby wooded area where they burned him alive. Arrested and interrogated by police, the three suspects confessed to and re-enacted the murder, which they said was in revenge for the murders of three Jewish boys abducted by Hebron-area men who were linked to Hamas.

And Israel border policeman outside the Abu Khdeir home in Shuafat, East Jerusalem Sept. 7, 2014 (Photo: Tamar Fleishman)

And Israel border policeman outside the Abu Khdeir home in Shuafat, East Jerusalem Sept. 7, 2014 (Photo: Tamar Fleishman)

The abduction and immolation of Mohammed Abu Khdeir shocked Israelis and was the catalyst for violent demonstrations in East Jerusalem. Riot police responded by invading East Jerusalem and using crowd control methods ranging from tear gas and rubber bullets to severe beatings and mass arrests. The Gaza War distracted attention from the situation in Jerusalem for a while, but the violence never really abated. In recent weeks the situation has deteriorated even further, with the city now caught in a worrying cycle of violence that feels very combustible. Lone Palestinians have carried out stabbings and deliberate hit-and-runs against Jewish civilians, while paramilitary police have responded with increasing violence. Gunfire, tear gas beatings and mass arrests continue every night, into the pre-dawn hours.

Journalist Yisrael Rosner investigative report into the Abu Khdeir murder is presented — in Jerusalem, rather than from Channel 10′s Tel Aviv-area studios — by Raviv Drucker and Razi Barkai, both prominent veteran journalists. Summing up at the end, Drucker boils the story down to two elements: police incompetence and an ingrained culture of racism toward Palestinians.

Neither shoddy police work nor anti-Arab prejudice is new to Israeli society, and there is a tendency to shrug these things off with a disapproving click of the tongue and a sigh. But Abu Khdeir’s murder was so shocking that it did succeed in penetrating the mainstream Israeli consciousness, making the investigation relevant and timely. In his report, Rosner examines the question of whether or not the police could have prevented the murder. He also looks into one of the initial police claims, made at the start of the investigation and widely reported by the Israeli media, that Abu Khdeir might have been murdered by his own family because they had discovered he was a homosexual.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

The three men who murdered Mohammed Abu Khdeir had attempted the previous night to abduct someone else – a 7 year-old boy named Mousa Zaloum. This story was reported many weeks ago, by both the Israeli and international media, but without follow up. Rosner re-interviews the family and then the police spokesperson, and discovers that the police never investigated the attempted abduction of the little boy. Mousa’s parents, obviously still deeply shaken at having nearly seen their son murdered, recount the abduction attempt in detail that shocks the viewer. The would-be abductors had seen the boy on the street accompanied by his mother, who was pushing a younger sibling in a stroller. They grabbed him around the neck and tried to drag him, using a rope that left scars on the boy’s neck. The mother, hearing her son’s screams, ran to fight off his attackers. When she succeeded in freeing him they turned on her, beating her and smashing her mobile phone. Later, they told police that they’d beaten the mother in order to prevent her from having more children. Eyewitnesses and the mother told police the attackers had been Jewish Israelis who spoke Hebrew, and CCTV cameras on the street recorded the incident. But the police did not investigate or conduct any follow up until after Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s body was found.

The police also tried to imply, at one point shortly after Abu Khdeir’s body was discovered, that the Palestinian teenager might have been killed as a result of an internecine dispute — a clan-based fight (the Abu Khdeir family is the largest in Shuafat, with about 800 members according to various media reports). They had no evidence to support this claim, but they did have a source for that other claim, that Abu Khdeir’s own relatives had murdered him in a so-called “honor killing,” because he was gay. That source was a Facebook page discovered by an Israeli journalist.

According to Elinor Sidi, the executive director of the Jerusalem Open House, a reporter from Reshet Bet (Israel Radio) called her to ask if Mohammed Abu Khdeir was a member of the openly gay Jerusalem community. Sidi told him that she had never heard of Abu Khdeir and that he was not part of their community. The reporter’s source was a Facebook page attributed to the Jerusalem Open House, with a status expressing sorrow over the death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Sidi notes that the cadence of the writing is very similar to her own. But the Facebook page was fake and she did not write the status. The police know this now, but they never apologized to the family. Nor did they use the IP address to track down the person or persons who created the fake Facebook page, which after all ended up wasting police time and diverting attention and manpower from the investigation.

Palestinian residents of Shuafat stand above the body of Muhammad Abu Khdeir during his funeral. (photo: Activestills)

Palestinian residents of Shuafat stand above the body of Muhammad Abu Khdeir during his funeral. (photo: Activestills)

And despite eyewitnesses who said the would-be abductors had spoken Hebrew, not to mention the existence of color CCTV footage showing the three abductors from several different angles, the police investigators took seriously the racist fairy tales about internecine murders and honor killings.

The three murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir are now in jail, after having received due legal process. The murdered boy’s family is destroyed, the story of his parents’ horrified grief etched in deep lines on their faces. Meanwhile, young Palestinian protestors in East Jerusalem are arrested and jailed every night. As we have seen over and over, they are beaten and dragged to jail without any due process. Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s mother tells Rosner what she knows to be true: that if an Arab living under Israeli sovereignty had abducted, beaten and burned alive a Jewish boy, he would have been shot to death by paramilitary police and his family’s house destroyed. And for Israeli Jews, that would have been justice.

But it seems that we’re quite used to seeing Palestinians denied basic civil rights, and their humanity as well.

More on the Abu Khdeir murder:
Police threaten to destroy memorial for slain Palestinian teen
After Abu Khdeir murder, an ugly collision of homophobia and racism
An open letter to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir

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VIDEO: Hamas militants film infiltration of IDF base http://972mag.com/video-hamas-militants-film-infiltration-of-idf-base/94629/ http://972mag.com/video-hamas-militants-film-infiltration-of-idf-base/94629/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 22:28:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94629 Al Jazeera (Arabic) broadcast a video clip Tuesday night that it says was filmed by the Al Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, as it carries out a military operation yesterday (Monday) at the Nahal Oz army base on Israel’s border with Gaza.

The film shows a group of armed men, their faces hidden by black dots, emerging from a tunnel dug under the wall separating Israel from Gaza. They run over to the army base and open fire as they enter it. At one point one they surround and shoot an Israeli soldier, whose cries are audible. The militants then turn around and escape back into the tunnel. At the end, they display weapons that are clearly marked Israeli, with IDF serial numbers.

According to reports, five Israeli soldiers were killed in the Nahal Oz attack.

Warning: Graphic content

This scene of Hamas militants successfully infiltrating Israel is a huge collective fear, as Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren describes in an article for the New York Times.

WATCH: Whole Gaza neighborhood destroyed in an hour
Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas?
Not about tunnels: Israeli tanks take aim at central Gaza

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