+972 Magazine » Lisa Goldman http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 25 Jan 2015 15:53:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 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

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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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Israeli police are exacerbating the violence with gag orders http://972mag.com/israeli-police-are-exacerbating-the-violence-with-gag-orders/93034/ http://972mag.com/israeli-police-are-exacerbating-the-violence-with-gag-orders/93034/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 18:27:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93034 Journalist Raviv Drucker takes Israeli police to task for failing to keep the public informed about its investigation into the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shuafat, in East Jerusalem.

The corpse of the 16-year-old Palestinian boy was discovered in the Jerusalem Forest three days ago, about an hour after CCTV cameras recorded his abduction from a quiet street near his home early in the morning.

Following an autopsy that was performed with a Palestinian forensic physician present, the Palestinian media published the shocking news that the boy had apparently been forced to drink gasoline and was then burned alive. But the police have not offered any updates regarding their progress toward finding the perpetrators. As a result, rumors are flying, the atmosphere of incitement is becoming increasingly dangerous and the Palestinian public increasingly suspicious.

The following is my translation (with permission) of Raviv Drucker’s Hebrew blog post.

Israeli police arrest a protester during the second day of protests that followed the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager, East Jerusalem, July 3, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli police arrest a protester during the second day of protests that followed the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager, East Jerusalem, July 3, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

It’s really ridiculous that I have to write this. Doesn’t anyone in the police understand the basics of media relations? We have a politically loaded, very sensitive event. The Palestinians have grave suspicions about the investigation and conspiracy theories are spreading rapidly. Obviously, the smart thing would be to provide accurate information. To demonstrate that the police are investigating the case rigorously and care about keeping the public informed. Instead, the police are making a terrible mistake by refusing to release any information.

The truth cannot be worse than a news blackout.

A senior police officer should provide updates to the media, on camera, every few hours — preferably in Arabic. He should explain the investigative measures the police are taking and show that they are dealing with this matter with the utmost seriousness. There is no need to reveal details that might harm the investigation, but it is essential to answer the media’s questions and to be available after the press conference to put to rest rumors and conspiracy theories.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) made exactly the same mistake when it placed a gag order on the recording of kidnapped Israeli teen Gil-Ad Shaer’s phone call to the police. If everyone knew from the beginning that there were audible sounds of gunshots [after he said he'd been kidnapped], then the public would have been able to moderate their expectations. That doesn’t mean that the search for the boys should have been halted, but perhaps there would have been fewer mass prayer vigils and empty speeches predicated on the belief that the boys were still alive. And perhaps there would have been less pressure from the public for a heavy handed [military] response from our decision makers. Perhaps, too, the wave of ugly incitement would have been a bit smaller

Read +972′s full coverage of the kidnappings

But now the Shin Bet and the police are nurturing this illusion that it’s possible to manage current events without interacting with the public. And perhaps one day they will deign to tell us exactly what’s happening. Then of course they will be very angry indeed if we don’t immediately accept their version and dare to cast doubt on their findings.

I don’t know, of course, if the horrific murder of the Palestinian boy was committed by Palestinians or by Jews. It’s obvious that if the police knew for certain that the culprit were a Jew, they would not have dared to suggest the theory that the murder might have been committed by Palestinians in the name of “family honor,” because the boy was suspected of being a homosexual, etc.

Whatever the case, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the most convenient finding for the Jewish public turns out to be true — i.e., that the murder really was committed by Palestinians. If the police were to announce in five days that this was the case, do you think anyone in Shuafat would believe them? And how many people will be injured before then, just because they’re convinced the police are covering up the truth?

Raviv Drucker hosts a political analysis magazine program on Israel’s Channel 10. He was a 2003 fellow at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

A premier failure: Where is Israel’s leadership?
Kidnappings leave a wake of ‘revenge,’ racist violence
How the public was manipulated into believing the teens were alive

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WATCH: Israeli Jews attack Palestinian on public bus http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-jews-attack-palestinian-on-public-bus/93003/ http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-jews-attack-palestinian-on-public-bus/93003/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 17:41:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93003 The following video shows an incident that took place on a municipal bus in the greater Tel Aviv area (near Bnei Brak, for those who know the territory). This was a couple of days ago, shortly after the bodies of three Jewish boys who were abducted in mid-June were discovered in the West Bank.

The video shows a Palestinian man (wearing a baseball cap), presumably a citizen of Israel. Three men in military uniform (they are not combat soldiers, but probably employees of the ministry of defense— i.e., bureaucrats) form a human barrier between the Palestinian man and a group of Jewish-Israeli men. The man in the white shirt is shouting, “Filthy Arabs!”;  ”Filthy Arab murderers of children!”; “I’ll take your heads off!”; “Fuck your mothers!”; “This is our country and not yours!” The Palestinian man is outraged – he shouts and indicates that he wants to respond physically, but the men in uniform who have created the physical barrier tell him to be quiet, sit down and wait for the police to arrive.

In the background, some of the passengers are muttering things like, “Shut up, you donkey!” and “Idiot!” at the Jewish man, while others try to push the uniformed men aside in order to attack the Palestinian. In the end, the bald man in the striped shirt succeeds in pushing aside the uniformed men who are trying to create a physical barrier around the Palestinian man. He reaches across and slaps the Palestinian man. It’s very easy to imagine how this scene could have devolved into something much, much worse.

The Facebook comments in response to the video are diverse. Some express horrors and shame, while others jeer, say they’re sick of the bleeding hearts (who, naturally, should go live in Gaza) and that those Arabs deserve what’s coming to them.

Also today, Palestinian-Israeli author Sayed Kashua, who has written both critically acclaimed Hebrew novels and is the creator for the hit television show “Arab Labor,” who lives in West Jerusalem and sends his children to a mixed Arab-Jewish school, writes in his weekly column for Haaretz that he no longer believes Jews and Arabs will ever be able to live in peace. He says that he is leaving Jerusalem, and that he might not return to the country following his planned year-long sabbatical in Chicago.

Two days ago, Ayman Siksek, a Palestinian-Israeli literary critic and author of the successful Hebrew novel “To Jaffa,” wrote a Facebook status in which he describes grimly the terrifying atmosphere of incitement in the country as a whole, and in Jerusalem specifically. A week after Siksek’s mother was attacked at a local grocery store in Jaffa, a friend in Jerusalem told him to cancel his planned visit to the city, because it was too dangerous. “The city is sick,” she wrote him.

Mobs of hyper-nationalist Jews are roaming the streets of downtown West Jerusalem, past people sitting at outdoor cafes, shouting “death to Arabs!” with impunity. The police are not enforcing the anti-incitement laws against Jews. But in East Jerusalem, the police are shooting Palestinian demonstrators, who are out protesting the abduction and murder of 16 year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, with foam-tipped rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. They are beating them, often very badly,and arresting them. People are barricading themselves in their homes, afraid to leave.

This is a terrible, frightening time. Perhaps a point of no return.

WATCH: Disturbing footage of police beating Palestinian in Shuafat
Photos of the week: A chronology of two kidnappings
Why this isn’t a ‘new’ intifada

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The occupation doesn’t have an ‘image problem’ http://972mag.com/the-occupation-doesnt-have-an-image-problem/90386/ http://972mag.com/the-occupation-doesnt-have-an-image-problem/90386/#comments Sat, 03 May 2014 15:23:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=90386 In a January 2014 New York Times op-ed that I somehow just noticed now, a South Africa-born Jew insists that Israel is not an apartheid state. Hirsh Goodman, a journalist and political commentator who immigrated to Israel in 1965, agrees that the occupation must end. Not because it’s evil to deprive a whole nation of its basic civil rights, but because it looks bad.

Sodier arresting child in Beit Omar, 2010 (Anne Paq / Activestills)

Sodier arresting child in Beit Omar, 2010 (Anne Paq / Activestills)

For Goodman, the problem is not the human rights abuses committed by Israel, but rather that anti-occupation activists, “some of whom have graduated from the best universities in the world,” are waging a campaign to “delegitimize” Israel by using the “buzzword” of apartheid. This is a false label, he asserts, which is sticking because Israel’s enemies are good at propaganda. Then, in a remarkable feat of unawareness, he goes on to make the case that Israel does preside over an apartheid-like system.

In apartheid South Africa, people disappeared in the night without the protection of any legal process and were never heard from again. There was no freedom of speech or expression and more “judicial” hangings were reportedly carried out there than in any other place on earth. There was no free press and, until January 1976, no public television. Masses of black people were forcibly moved from tribal lands to arid Bantustans in the middle of nowhere. A “pass system” stipulated where blacks could live and work, splitting families and breaking down social structures, to provide cheap labor for the mines and white-owned businesses, and a plentiful pool of domestic servants for the white minority. Those found in violation were arrested, usually lashed, and sentenced to stints of hard labor for a few shillings per prisoner per day, payable to the prison service.

None of this even remotely exists in Israel or the occupied territories.

In fact, almost all of these conditions exist in the territories controlled by Israel. Tweak this paragraph a bit, and you have a pretty accurate description of the system over which Israel has presided for 47 years —five years longer than apartheid existed in South Africa. Here’s the Israel-Palestine version:

Masses of Palestinians were forcibly moved from their ancestral lands to arid Bantustans in the middle of nowhere. An opaque permit system stipulates where Palestinians can live and work, splitting families and breaking down social structures, to provide cheap labor for the settlements and Jewish-owned businesses, and a plentiful pool of manual labor for the Jewish minority. Those judged to be in violation, even children as young as 8, are arrested by soldiers, usually beaten, tried in a military court that has a conviction rate of 99 percent and sentenced to stints of jail time for a few shekels per prisoner per day, payable to the prison service.”

Israel has been displacing Palestinians from their ancestral lands since the state was founded. After it conquered the West Bank in 1967, it systematically uprooted Palestinians from their homes there, starting with those who had the bad luck to occupy homes near the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City (Moshe Dayan gave the order to raze those homes, which stood where the plaza leading to the Western Wall is today). Over the past year or so, the army has been in the process of forcibly removing 27,000 Palestinians from their homes in Area C of the West Bank, most of whom have lived in the same place for at least 50 years. The human rights NGO B’Tselem has documented this extensively, as has Haaretz journalist Amira Hass. Soldiers evict the families by force and destroy their homes with bulldozers. Sometimes a whole village is bulldozed, including the local school. No alternative housing or compensation is provided. “Go to Area A or B,” the Palestinians are told. If anyone tries to stop the soldiers or offer aid to the newly homeless families, they are forcibly removed from the scene or arrested. Including EU diplomats.

A woman from the Palestinian Ghaith family stands amidst the remains of her home,  demolished by Jerusalem municipality workers in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of At Tur, April 29, 2013.

A woman from the Palestinian Ghaith family stands amidst the remains of her home, demolished by Jerusalem municipality workers in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of At Tur, April 29, 2013.

In Jerusalem neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah, settlers protected by court orders and paramilitary police forcibly evict Palestinians from the homes they have lived in for decades, tossing the residents’ belongings on the street and leaving them homeless, with no recourse and nowhere to go. In the Negev, the Israeli government is trying under the Prawer Plan to uproot Bedouin from their ancestral homes, which have been systematically deprived of  amenities, like electricity and running water, that illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank are granted as a matter of course, and herd them forcibly into urban areas. Paramilitary police have demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib several dozen times.

In the West Bank, the Israeli army regularly deploys soldiers to carry out pre-dawn arrests, rousting minor youths from their beds at 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning, as documented in this video (there are dozens of similar videos). The children are cuffed, taken in an army vehicle to a police station, and questioned aggressively, with neither a guardian nor a lawyer present. It is not uncommon for children as young as eight to be arrested by soldiers on suspicion of throwing stones. As this illustration shows, there is a stark disparity in the way Israel’s justice system treats Palestinian children, as compared to Israeli children who live in the same territory. A Palestinian child, for example, can be detained in military prison, an adult facility, for 180 days without being charged.

It’s true that since the separation barrier went up a decade ago, Israelis have largely replaced cheap Palestinian laborers with guest workers from places like the Philippines. But with the Palestinian economy crippled by Israel’s control over its borders and resources, unemployment is sky high and people are desperate for work. Some obtain permits to do construction work on Jewish settlements, enduring the humiliation of building houses for Jews on land that was stolen from them just so they can put food on the table for their children. A very lucky few obtain permits to work in Israel, queuing up like cattle early in the morning to pass through Israel’s military checkpoints. Still others, unable to obtain permits, travel for hours via circuitous routes that circumvent the checkpoints, then sneak through the porous parts of the wall in search of a day’s manual labor. Sometimes, they get shot and killed by border police as they are sneaking in. All for a day’s work that might pay $25 or so.

Palestinian women wait to cross from Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem to attend the Ramadan Friday Prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 19, 2013. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Palestinian women wait to cross from Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem to attend the Ramadan Friday Prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 19, 2013. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens of Israel (often referred to as “Israeli Arabs”) who marry Palestinians from the occupied territories are prevented by law from obtaining residency or citizenship for their spouses. This means that families are torn apart, just as South African families were sundered by the apartheid policies Goodman describes. The same applies to West Bank Palestinians married to Gaza Palestinians. Israel controls the borders and population movement for both places, and refuses in all but a handful of cases to issue permits that would allow families to live together in one of the two territories.

Fortunately, Israel has a free and lively media that does often report on these violations of Palestinian human rights. But unfortunately, the Israeli public is not sufficiently moved to express vociferous disapproval, as witnessed by the fact that these reports elicit mild protest but never change. In fact, the situation of Palestinians has steadily deteriorated with the years, with more land confiscations and increased limitations on their freedom of movement.

The asylum seekers from countries like Eritrea and Sudan, writes Goodman, should be treated better. Not because helping people who survived desperate journeys across the desert after escaping war and torture is the right thing to do. And not because Israel has a legal obligation as a signatory to the 1951 UN treaty on the treatment and status of refugees. Rather, because jailing these poor souls instead of providing succor results in  ”…reams of footage to those who want to prove Israel is a racist society.” Goodman neglects to mention the racist incitement of members of Knesset like Likud’s Miri Regev, who infamously referred to the African refugees as “a cancer in our bodies.” According to a poll carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute, 51 percent of Israelis agree with Regev. No wonder Israel has a reputation for being a racist country.

African asylum seekers participate in a silent demonstration in front of the African Union office in Tel Aviv, calling for international support in their struggle for recognition as refugees, January 22, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

African asylum seekers participate in a silent demonstration in front of the African Union office in Tel Aviv, calling for international support in their struggle for recognition as refugees, January 22, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

But for Goodman, Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and the asylum seekers are not a problem because they are cruel or deeply unjust. Nope. They’re just bad for hasbara. They make him worry about his image abroad. That is a shockingly immoral perspective. The occupation is not bad because it makes Israel look bad. It’s bad because it’s evil.

Don’t like the term apartheid? Okay. What’s in a name, after all? So here’s the question: What do you call a system by which a colonizing government has controlled 2.5 million people for 47 years, depriving them of their basic civil rights based on their ethnicity?

It’s the occupation and Israeli bigotry that are anti-Semitic
If this isn’t apartheid, then what is it?
State Department stumbles: If not apartheid, then what?

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‘There was no generous offer’: A history of peace talks http://972mag.com/on-palestinian-positions-israeli-pundits-are-all-spin/90137/ http://972mag.com/on-palestinian-positions-israeli-pundits-are-all-spin/90137/#comments Sat, 26 Apr 2014 11:30:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=90137 Raviv Drucker, a prominent journalist who co-hosts a well-known television magazine program on Channel 10, wrote a tough blog post in which he takes some of Israel’s best known journalists to task for presenting a completely erroneous interpretation of the Palestinian position regarding a negotiated agreement for a two-state solution. I have translated his post with permission. 

By Raviv Drucker

Ari Shavit has written another one of his fabulous treatises in his exemplary prose style that is, as his articles often are, completely detached from the facts. According to Shavit, Mahmoud Abbas is an intransigent negotiator who fails every time he is put to the test. The pièce de résistance of Shavit’s treatise comes at the point where he accuses Abbas of not having signed off on the Geneva Accord. Readers might recall that the Geneva Accord was a foreign affairs initiative between Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabo. But according to Shavit’s logic, the second most important person in the Palestinian Authority should have risked his own political credibility by signing off on concessions, in order to protect Yossi Beilin.

Yair Lapid gave a truly heartrending speech, in which he wondered aloud if Abbas had any desire to achieve statehood. Again and again, Lapid intoned, the president of the Palestinian Authority uses evasion tactics, refuses to sign agreements, avoids dealing with the end game. The peak of Lapid’s speech comes when he says:

 Just about a year ago we agreed to join the governing coalition only after we received a commitment that we would return to the negotiating table on the basis of two states for two peoples.

It would be interesting to know who gave him that commitment. It’s not written anywhere in the guidelines of the government he joined. That commitment was intentionally (Naftali Bennett) excluded from the guidelines. Lapid did not insist upon it, which he probably does not even recall.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, July 29, 2013 (Photo: Tali Mayer/ Activestills.org)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, July 29, 2013 (Photo: Tali Mayer/ Activestills.org)

The veteran political analyst Nahum Barnea wrote in a column published on Friday [in the print edition of Yedioth Aharonoth] that the ink in Mahmoud Abbas’s pen has been dry since 1993 and the Palestinian leader won’t sign any further agreements.

You read these things and they can make you slowly lose your mind. People who are intelligent, knowledgeable, and experienced simply do not know their facts. Or perhaps they have an interest in distorting them?

Mahmoud Abbas has never been presented with an agreement which, in the view of people who know Palestinian society, he would have regarded as acceptable. Never. It could be true that he doesn’t have the political support necessary for the signing of a permanent agreement, but that claim has never been tested. On the other hand, the Israeli leader has been tested for five years and there is no doubt — he is not signing any agreement, ever.

Check out +972’s full coverage of the peace process

These are well-worn and tedious facts. But the Lapid-Shavit-Barnea-Livni spin machine is so irritating that we must go over them again.

For 26 years, Abbas has presented the same set of conditions for a permanent agreement. A Palestinian state established on the pre-1967 lines with its capital in East Jerusalem, and a mutually agreed upon resolution to the issue of the refugees. That is the price. He has not moved a fraction of an inch since 1988. Those are the conditions he presented in Oslo in 1993 and that’s what was on the table during a series of talks that took place when Ariel Sharon was foreign minister during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister in the 1990s (is there anyone who even remembers those talks? There was a meeting-and-a-half or so). That was Abbas’s position at Camp David in 2000, at Taba in January 2011, and at Annapolis in 2007. The Palestinian position has consistently been that Israel would take 2-to-4 percent of the West Bank and compensate them for every yard of territory. In the eyes of the Palestinians, this is a huge concession compared to what was granted them under the partition agreement of 1947, and in light of their historical rights. You can agree or you can disagree, but that is their price and apparently there is no way to maneuver around it.

And yet generations of Israeli politicians who should have known better have tried to bargain over that price, as if they were in a Middle Eastern bazaar. The attitude of the Israeli negotiators seems to be, “The Palestinians say they want 100 percent of the territory that was conquered in 1967, but they’ll close the deal for less.” In 1999 Ehud Barak sketched a map that included 50 percent of the territory. Then [former deputy prime minister] Haim Ramon said he could close a deal with them for 80 percent. Peres said he could bring home an agreement for 90 percent, Barak suggested 92 percent at Camp David, Livni suggested the same number and Olmert went as high as 94 percent.

But Lapid, Shavit and Barnea keep coming back to the Camp David talks in July 2000, when Abbas supposedly got “cold feet.”

Ehud Barak (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

Ehud Barak (photo: Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org)

So here’s the thing. Abbas really did play a negative role at Camp David. There were all sorts of petty political considerations at play (the power games between Arafat and Abu Ala) that put him in a position of being passive and not very smart during those talks. At the same time, I have gathered from quite a few conversations over the years that the Israeli participants knew going into those talks that there was absolutely no chance of Abbas or Arafat signing the agreement that was presented to them. Barak made an amazing offer, particularly given Israeli public opinion. He agreed to divide Jerusalem, including the Old City, and he agreed to shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.

But Barak knew going into those talks that no Palestinian leader could ever bring home an agreement that included only 91 percent of the territory of the West Bank (and an additional 1 percent in land swaps). Especially when a substantial portion of that territory (the Jordan Valley) would be leased back to Israel for decades in order to meet its security concerns. I am not absolving Arafat of responsibility for the failure of those negotiations. He sat passively at Camp David, and he never explained to his people the size of the risk and concessions that Barak was prepared to make. One can accuse Abbas of failing to clarify that point, but Abbas was not the leader at Camp David and anyway it’s absolutely clear today that no Palestinian leader could have signed that agreement — then or now.

Between 2000 and 2008 no agreement was ever presented to Abbas. During the Second Intifada, Abbas, with unprecedented courage, preached against violent resistance and acts of terrorism. It is largely due to his efforts that, since he took over as leader of the Palestinian Authority, Israelis have enjoyed some of the quietest years in the occupied territories. And there have been no suicide bombers. I am not brushing aside the shooting attacks [carried out by Palestinians] in the occupied territories, but look at the numbers. According to the Shin Bet, we haven’t had such a protracted period of quiet in the West Bank since before the First Intifada. But in Israel Abbas gets practically no credit for this achievement. Isn’t this our first and primary demand from the Palestinian Authority — an end to violence?

Even I am tired of writing about Livni and Olmert’s offer. But for those who don’t have the energy to go read my old articles, let me just repeat for the millionth time: Olmert made his super generous offer (and I am not being cynical) when he was already an outgoing prime minister with no political power or legitimacy. President Bush and Condoleeza Rice told him then that no agreement would result from his offer. Even a leftist like me would have objected to the signing of an agreement at that time, given the total lack of political support in Israel. The senior politicians would have rejected the agreement completely. Netanyahu, who at the time was head of the opposition and knew he had a serious chance of being elected prime minister, announced in real time that he would not honor the agreement if it were signed. Livni abstained from mentioning it at all. Bottom line: Even then, Abbas did not get cold feet, was not afraid and did not run away.

The Israelis have not made a single offer since 2008. Perhaps it is time for Lapid, Shavit and Barnea to take a look at the Israeli side of this story. For five years Netanyahu has been saying, “Just give me an opportunity to be alone in a room with him [Abbas] and I’ll surprise you. I want an agreement.” I’ve never doubted for a moment that Netanyahu had absolutely no surprises to offer and that all that talk was just more of his charlatan’s spin. After all, nothing was stopping him from sending an envoy to the Muqata’a in Ramallah to inform Abbas that he, Netanyahu, agreed to sign off on Olmert’s offer. Then we would have been able to see if Abbas really was a coward.

In the end, Abbas submitted to negotiations under the Kerry initiative. He knew he would be manipulated, he knew Netanyahu was not serious, but he thought — at least I’ll obtain the release of some of the political prisoners. For nine months there were negotiations, and guess what: Netanyahu didn’t even make a territorial offer. He wouldn’t offer a map. And he made security demands — that is, Defense Minister Moshe [Boogie] Ya’alon made demands — that were more draconian and more stringent than those made in the past by the very same security establishment. Then Barnea looks at all this and claims that Netanyahu was more generous than in previous rounds of negotiations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech to released Palestinian prisoners, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 14.  (Photo: Yotam Ronen/ Activestills)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech to released Palestinian prisoners, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 14. (Photo: Yotam Ronen/ Activestills)

You can claim that the Palestinian demands are excessive, that the State of Israel cannot pay this price, that it presents an untenable threat to its existence. Personally, I think it’s worth the risk because of a million other considerations. But that’s another matter. The thing that we know absolutely for certain is that when the leaders of the Israeli delegation, Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molho, entered the negotiating room, they knew exactly what the Palestinian price was. If they knew they had no intention of meeting that price, then these negotiations have been a fraud from the beginning. When you want to buy an apartment and the owner says the price is $1 million, you don’t offer him half a million. And you definitely don’t try to engage him in a long series of negotiations if he refuses to name his price at all.

The saddest thing is that Tzipi Livni, who until recently was a fairly decent politician, knew in 2011 how to call out Netanyahu for his response to negotiations with the Palestinians. But today she is, embarrassingly, trumpeting Netanyahu’s line.

Ari Shavit and the failure of the Kerry process
Israel suspends talks, and Washington’s hypocrisy on Hamas

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Selective prosecution: In Israel, not all citizens are created equal http://972mag.com/in-israel-not-all-citizens-are-created-equal-on-selective-prosecution/89824/ http://972mag.com/in-israel-not-all-citizens-are-created-equal-on-selective-prosecution/89824/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:41:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89824 What does it say about a democracy when a law is enforced selectively in order to further a political or personal vendetta against a private citizen?

Illustrative photo of an interrogation room (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of an interrogation room (Photo by Shutterstock.com)

In Israel there is something called the Prevention of Infiltration Law, which prohibits citizens from traveling to a list of so-called “enemy states.” The law is little known and almost never enforced. In fact, it is common and widely accepted practice for Israeli businesspeople and journalists with additional citizenship to travel to “enemy” countries using their alternate passports. Some journalists, like Channel 2′s Itay Anghel, are famous for having used alternate passports to report from places like Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and, most recently, Syria. They are regarded as intrepid reporters who bring valuable insight to Israeli news consumers.

I only learned about the law’s existence when the police accused me, during an interrogation that took place in November 2007, of having violated it when I traveled to Beirut, where I reported for Israel’s Channel 10 one year after the July 2006 war.

It is not pleasant to be interrogated by the police. At the time I felt angry and also vulnerable, because I was a freelancer without the protection of familial ties in Israel. But in retrospect the interrogation itself was not really traumatic. Two plainclothes detectives, who I suppose were low level Shin Bet officers, gave me coffee and asked me some not particularly intelligent questions for three hours or so, while one of them painstakingly pecked out my responses on a computer keyboard, using his two index fingers. A couple of weeks after the interrogation one of the officers informed Israel Radio that I was under investigation, which was the lead story for a few hours or maybe a day. At the shuk, the guy I bought peppers and tomatoes from yelled that I was a troublemaker who had endangered the state’s security. So I bought my vegetables from another seller, the story eventually died and I heard nothing further from the authorities.

Going into the interrogation, I did not understand why I had been singled out. But about an hour into the questions, one of the officers showed me a letter from Danny Seaman, then director of the Government Press Office. He had sent the police a DVD recording of my Channel 10 report, together with a letter outlining the Law Against Infiltration. A year earlier, I had filed a formal complaint against Seaman with the Civil Service Commission. I accused him of using threatening and abusive language against me, and of pursuing personal vendettas against qualified journalists by withholding their press credentials. That is how I came to understand that this law against infiltration had been dusted off and was being used indirectly by a senior civil servant who was pursuing a vendetta against me.

Flags and masks of Lebanese politicians at a Beirut shop, 2007 (Lisa Goldman)

Flags and masks of Lebanese politicians at a Beirut shop, 2007 (Lisa Goldman)

This week, a 24 year-old Palestinian-Arab citizen of Israel named Majd Kayyal was accused of breaking the same law. Like me, Kayyal traveled to Beirut. He attended a journalism conference sponsored by As-Safir, a veteran Lebanese publication for which he is a contributing writer. But unlike me, Kayyal did not receive a summons to visit the police station four months after his trip. He was not given coffee and questioned for a few hours in a well lit room with an open window, before being allowed to return home. Kayyal was arrested immediately upon landing. He spent five days in a windowless cell, without a bed, the overhead light kept on ’round the clock so that he would lose his sense of time. He was interrogated aggressively and not allowed to see his lawyer. He was accused of having made contact with enemy agents, and with having violated the Law to Prevent Infiltration, but his lawyers were not allowed to be present during the initial court hearing. And a judge granted the Shin Bet’s request for a gag order, so the media did not report on the arrest either.

Today (Thursday), Kayyal was released on bail. The charge of contact with an enemy agent was dropped, but he is still accused of having violated the Law to Prevent Infiltration. In other words, a law that is not enforced at all against prominent, male Jewish Israeli journalists and only used slightly to intimidate a female Jewish freelancer who is an immigrant without any real connections, is enforced to the fullest, cruelest extent against a native-born Israeli citizen who happens to be a Palestinian Arab.

Kayyal is a political activist. He participated in one of the attempts to break the Israeli army’s blockade of Gaza by boat. He is the editor of the website for Adalah, a NGO that works to protect the legal rights of Arab minority citizens of Israel. Last week he traveled openly to Beirut, writing about his trip in Arabic for the website Jadaliyya. In other word he pissed off the security establishment, which dislikes dissent in general — but particularly dissent from Arabs. And because Kayyal’s activism and his ethnicity frighten those who regard “Arab Israelis” as a potential fifth column, most Israeli Jews will accept the Shin Bet’s claim that he represents a security risk, despite the lack of evidence to support this claim. They will turn a blind eye to the fact that Kayyal was denied his legal right to see an attorney. They will somehow justify his having been thrown into a windowless cell and interrogated for five days, even though the only law he is accused of breaking is the one Jewish Israelis violate with impunity, on a regular basis. They will forget that he is a citizen, who is supposed to have the same rights as they. Because in Israel, not all citizens are created equal.

Every Israeli high school graduate knows what happened in 20th century Europe when laws were enforced selectively based on a citizen’s ethnicity or religion. They know this is wrong and anti-democratic. But somehow when it comes to current events in their own country, they can’t connect the dots.

Read more:
Arab journalist freed after being held incommunicado by Israel
Israel’s double standard on cross-border loyalties

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