+972 Magazine » Analysis http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 14 Feb 2016 13:57:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 This land has been here longer than you and me http://972mag.com/the-land-has-been-here-longer-than-you-and-me/116985/ http://972mag.com/the-land-has-been-here-longer-than-you-and-me/116985/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 10:09:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116985 Even if we can’t accept each other’s historical narratives, it is still possible to acknowledge that there are both Israelis and Palestinians living here today.

By Alex Stein

Orthodox Jews look out over the Palestinian village of Silwan in East Jerusalem. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Orthodox Jews look out over the Palestinian village of Silwan in East Jerusalem. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

MK Anat Berko (Likud) kicked off a storm in the Knesset last week when she pointed out that Arabic doesn’t have a ‘P’ sound, meaning that Palestinians themselves can’t pronounce Palestine (Arabic softens Ps into Fs, which is why the Arabic word for Palestine is Falastin). This led to uproar in the Knesset, with MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) shouting out “Are you for real?” and several members of the Joint List walking out. Much of the media incorrectly reported Berko as saying that, as a result of this consonant deficiency, the Palestinian nation didn’t exist. Berko clearly didn’t say that, but, given that she was speaking on the same day as Prime Minister Netanyahu once again said that the time wasn’t right for a two-state solution, it’s no surprised that there was disquiet following her remarks.

On a factual level, her point is correct. Palestine is quite clearly a pre-Arabic name for the area between the river and the sea, probably derived from Philistine, although there are some other interesting theories, including the wonderfully ironic idea that it’s actually a Greek pun on the name Israel! And while it’s clearly not particularly constructive to point such a fact out in today’s Knesset, it’s important to acknowledge the context in which such notions take on importance, namely the systematic denial of the Jewish connection to historic Israel/Palestine, most recently with repeated and ludicrous assertions that the temple never existed. At the same time, this systematic denial of Jewish history needs to be understood in the context of the ongoing failure to establish a Palestinian state.

On one level, these arguments regarding historical claims are irrelevant. Even if one thinks there was no ancient Kingdom of David or that Palestinians didn’t exist before Zionism, it’s possible to acknowledge that there are currently Israelis and Palestinians living here today. But disputes about national legitimacy cut to the bone, and in order for there to be any possibility of a lasting peace, more thought needs to be put into reconciling these historical disputes. To achieve this, we need to get beyond the competing histories of Jews and Palestinians and begin thinking more deeply about the history of the Land itself.

One of the most surprising moments during my time studying to be a tour guide came when one of our lecturers, one of the pioneers of Land of Israel Studies and by no means a radical leftist, recommended that we buy one of the books produced by Zochrot, a far left Israeli group working to promote the Palestinian right of return. He said that he didn’t support their political positions but that the book was vital for understanding the history of the Land. A fluent Arabic speaker, he had also composed a map of Israel that included forgotten Arabic place names.

Palestinians put a sign marking the destroyed village of Lajjun in northern Israel, Nakba Day, May 15, 2015. (Photo by Omar Sameer/Activestills.org)

Palestinian citizens of Israel place a sign marking the destroyed village of Lajjun in northern Israel, May 15, 2015. (Photo by Omar Sameer/Activestills.org)

“Between Tanakh [the Bible] and Tashach [1948]” goes the old Zionist saying, as if the intervening centuries didn’t matter. It’s particularly ironic given the important Jewish events which took place between these eras, for example the composition of the Jerusalem Talmud in Tiberias or the Golden Age of Safed. But even without these, surely love of the Land should entail a passion for all its history, even those periods in which the history was made by non-Jews? Take the example of Daher el-Omar, who ruled northern Palestine in the mid-18th century. By securing autonomy from the Ottomans, he could be regarded as a forerunner of the Palestinian national movement. At the same time, he invited Jews to resettle in Tiberias and Akko, in the hope that they would promote economic growth. In the unlikely event of a one-state solution, he’d surely be prime contender for a place on one of the banknotes. And then there’s the fact that the only reason we know the location of many of sites inhabited by Jews in ancient times is that their names weren’t changed by the Palestinians.

The Palestinian national movement has frequently denied the Jewish connection to Israel/Palestine. Sometimes this denial has been particularly ridiculous. Take the Arabic name for Al-Quds, for example. It means “the holy” and is short for “Beit al-Quds”, or “Beit Ha-Mikdash” in Hebrew, the name for the Temple. When the Caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the seventh century, one of the first things he did was ask where Solomon’s Temple had been located. Indeed, in the first half of the 20th century, tourist brochures issued by the Waqf happily acknowledged that the Dome of the Rock was located on the site of the Solomon’s Temple, whereas now the Muslim authorities routinely deny that such a building ever existed.

Palestinian youth hold a Palestinian flag outside the Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, East Jerusalem. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Youth hold a Palestinian flag near al-Aqsa Mosque in the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, East Jerusalem. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In 2016, there is no Jewish history in Israel without Palestinian history, and there is no Palestinian history in Palestine without Israeli history. Instead of using our competing claims to score political points, we should acknowledge the rich Jewish and Palestinian histories here, not to mention the histories of peoples who belonged to neither group. Acknowledging these histories should not undermine our historical claims, at least not if efforts are redoubled to build a solution around the most obvious reality; namely that two national groups share this land and there will only be a solution when both their national rights are acknowledged. I’m aware that, in the midst of what I think is best understood as an intifada of attrition, that many people will dismiss these ideas as naive, and I’m happy to admit that right now there is little chance of educators in either camp trying to move in the direction I’ve suggested. But I still think it’s the correct approach, and if a lecturer in Israeli tour guide school can recommend a Zochrot publication without the world caving in, then others can make similar gestures.

Alex Stein is a tour guide and writer based in Jerusalem. He blogs at The Blog of Disquiet and his website is www.israelwithalex.com.

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Just another arbitrary detention of a Palestinian child http://972mag.com/just-another-arbitrary-detention-of-a-palestinian-child/116972/ http://972mag.com/just-another-arbitrary-detention-of-a-palestinian-child/116972/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 09:26:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116972 Soldiers detain a child in his pajamas and slippers, harshly interrogate him without a parent or attorney present, and then release him 12 hours later as if nothing ever happened. We can already tell you what the military’s investigation will look like.

By Yossi Gurvitz, written for Yesh Din

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers inside a Palestinian village. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers inside a Palestinian village. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

J., a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, lives in the West Bank village of Al-Janiya. One cold morning in the beginning of last December, wearing pajamas and slippers, J. left his house and went to collect items for his relative’s engagement party. A large carob tree stood nearby to where he went for the errand. J. was accompanied by A., a six-year-old child.

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As J. would later describe it, upon reaching the tree, several soldiers jumped on the children and began hitting them. The altercation attracted the attention of an adult, who arrived and began yelling at the soldiers. The soldiers released A. but held onto J.

J.’s mother rushed to the scene and tried to dislodge the child from their grasp. In response, one of the soldiers pressed his rifle barrel to her chest. The mother, who suffers from a medical condition, lost consciousness. In the ensuing chaos, the soldiers threw stun and tear gas grenades, taking off in a vehicle with J.

Meanwhile, at home, J.’s father heard the news from children who came to his door in tears. He and his relatives would spend the next few hours in desperate attempts to talk to the Palestinian District Coordination Office (DCO) to try and find out where his son was.

J. was first taken to a military base, where – as he later described – the soldiers blindfolded him with a gun cloth, and then tied his hands and beat him with their rifle butts. The soldiers demanded he admit to throwing stones. J. denied the allegation, pointing to the fact he was in pajamas and slippers. One of the soldiers threatened that he would not be released unless he confessed.

The tactic of taking children away and demanding they incriminate themselves, while isolating and denying them access to their parents is nothing new. In 2011, Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem published a report titled “No Minor Matter,” which documented this phenomenon. The report found that the children, isolated and often tortured (yes, the beating of defenseless children may in some cases amount to torture), are required time and again to agree to a Kafkaesque deal: confess and incriminate others and be released immediately; or, refuse and remain in detention. Since the children have no adult or lawyer to consult with, and because 13-year-olds are rarely human rights scholars, many believe what they are told.

The result is often coerced incrimination, of themselves and others. And there is almost no exit route from a confession in what we usually call the justice system: B’Tselem’s report found that out of 835 indictments of Palestinian juveniles, only one was acquitted. Note that in Israel, parents of a detained juvenile must be informed of the detention (their presence in an interrogation is mandatory), and the interrogator must be a trained juvenile interrogator, there are no such rights for Palestinians in the West Bank. Any soldier may thus serve as an interrogator.

Yet despite it all, J. refused to confess to the allegations against him and continued pleading his innocence. In turn, his captors increased the pressure. He says he was put in a cold room with the air conditioner fully on. He does not know how long he was left there – a blindfold will cause the loss of sense of time – but he was freezing. That didn’t work either, so the soldiers later took him out of the room, handcuffed him in a particularly painful way, trussed him in a car and drove to a different military base where they delivered him to the police. “There they did not beat me,” J. said.

The time was around 8:30 p.m., some 12 hours since J. was kidnapped by the IDF, at least as far as he and his family were concerned, since they had no idea where he was. He was then turned over to the Palestinian DCO and went home. J. was not summoned for a second interrogation; he simply left his home one cold morning in pajamas and slippers, ran into some IDF soldiers, was captured, beaten, and released. There is no discernable process here. Suspiciously, J. was released after precisely 12 hours – the maximum length of time soldiers may detain a juvenile without having to obtain authorization.

So here we have here an incident of disappearing a juvenile without informing his family — who is now looking for him in a panic — which ends suddenly after 12 hours. What was the point? It’s unclear. No one said anything.

In the beginning of January, Yesh Din filed a complaint on behalf of J.’s father with the IDF’s Operation Affairs Prosecutor. From previous experience, unfortunately, we can even chart the complaint’s future route and ultimate demise:

First, the prosecution will take a few months, perhaps even a year or more, to think it over. Was a crime committed? Is there truly a need for an investigation? After who-knows-how-many-months, when becomes clear to all that there is no chance of an actual investigation, the prosecution will either close the case without investigating it, or send it to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID), which will also take its time.

The passing time will allow the soldiers responsible for the act to be discharged, thereby avoiding military justice. It will also cloud the memory of everyone involved. You say we detained some kid in slippers two years ago? I really don’t remember, the soldier will say. And he truly won’t. But wait a minute – could the kid even identify those who beat him? He had a blindfold over his eyes, did he not?

So the military prosecution will decide in three or four years that something may have happened. And it may have been improper, possibly even lamentable. Perhaps we should even condemn it, and at one point there may have been a time for some judicial action, but there is nothing we can do about it now. And anyway, we haven’t the foggiest idea who was involved.

We have seen all of these excuses. When it comes to inaction, the military investigative system is brilliant. When it comes to indicting criminals who harm Palestinians – unless they harm the army’s own effectiveness – much less so.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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The life and death of the Israeli peace camp http://972mag.com/the-life-and-death-of-the-israeli-peace-camp/116979/ http://972mag.com/the-life-and-death-of-the-israeli-peace-camp/116979/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 09:08:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116979 Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog is channeling the same tropes and spin Ehud Barak used to destroy the peace process 15 years ago. Will we have to wait another decade and a half for him to admit what he’s done?

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

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

On a balmy evening in October of 2000, Ehud Barak, then the Israeli prime minister and Labor Party chairman, held a press conference in Tel Aviv where he made a rattling announcement that would leave its imprint on the Israeli establishment for years to come. Israel, he said, has no partner for peace.

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It had been only several months since the Camp David peace talks came to a stuttering halt, and like every politician worth his salt, Barak realized that his political future depended on convincing the Israeli public he was not at fault for the failure of the talks. So he and his political advisors devised a mantra that would come to define the last decade and a half, and haunting the Israeli peace camp.

The spin worked, and for good reason. One week earlier, Palestinians in the occupied territories had launched the Second Intifada. Israel’s Palestinian citizens were taking to the streets en masse to protest in solidarity with those in the West Bank and Gaza. All of a sudden Barak, who defeated Benjamin Netanyahu in the 1999 elections and received a mandate to reach an “historical agreement” with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, found himself in a bind.

His government had collapsed even before the talks launched, and he knew he would be facing inevitable elections regardless of the talks’ success. While the “no partner” spin may not have been good for the future of peace talks — which resumed in various constellations after Camp David — or even in the general interest of the country, Barak saw it as his political lifejacket.

Israelis, for their part, had good reason to believe Barak. Deep distrust of Arafat coupled with a brewing uprising that would go on to become far deadlier than its predecessor undid much of what the peace camp had achieved over the previous decade during the heyday of the Oslo years.

Ehud Barak, President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat meet in 1999. (photo: Sharon Farmer)

Ehud Barak, President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat meet in 1999. (photo: Sharon Farmer)

Yet Barak’s insistence on turning dictum into common sense gave his “no partner” spin near-mythical powers, so much so that it essentially set the tone for successive Israeli governments over the next 15 years. From Ariel Sharon’s one-sided Gaza disengagement — Sharon’s top political advisor, Dov Weissglas, would famously admit that the disengagement supplied “the amount of formaldehyde necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians” — to Shelly Yacimovich’s insistence on speaking about the cost of living rather than the cost of occupation to the Netanyahu government of today, the Israeli consensus has been molded around the idea that conflict cannot be solved, it can only be managed.

Years later Barak’s top advisors would come to lament the role they played in creating that spin. As Peter Beinart notes in his book, The Crisis of Zionism, Barak aide Tal Ziberstein admitted that the “no-partner” campaign was one of the things he regretted most. Eldad Yaniv, Barak’s former campaign adviser and well known politico who has worked closely with politicians of all stripes added: “Ten years later, there are still people who say, ‘We gave them everything at Camp David and got nothing.’ That is a flagrant lie… I was one of the people behind this false and miserable spin. It may have been justified to a certain extent to stir the Palestinians to revive the negotiations, but it’s false.”

But by the time Barak’s aides came clean, it was too late. The death knell of the Israeli peace camp, whose entire raison d’être was to take part in negotiations in good faith with a Palestinian partner, had been sounded.

The “no partner” motto reverberates to this very day. Just weeks ago, Zionist Union Chairman Isaac “Buji” Herzog presented his party’s new diplomatic program at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies. According to the plan, Israel would complete the separation barrier first erected by Ariel Sharon in the early 2000s, building it around existing settlement blocs so as to annex them to Israel. It would also give more autonomy to Palestinians in Areas A and B of the West Bank (Area A is under full control of the Palestinian Authority, Israel handles security control in Area B), and push off East Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Issawiya and Shuafat — which have been under Israeli control since 1967 — to the Palestinian Authority.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog addresses the annual Herzliya Conference, June 7, 2015. (photo: Erez Harodi/Herzliya Conference)

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog addresses the annual Herzliya Conference, June 7, 2015. (photo: Erez Harodi/Herzliya Conference)

Herzog also criticized the Netanyahu’s government for being too soft on the Gaza Strip, where he claims the government is only bombing empty spaces rather than human beings.

“That is the kind of co-existence that is possible right now,” Herzog told the crowd, as if Zilberstein and Yaniv themselves wrote the speech. There is nothing “new” in Herzog’s vision — upon closer examination it looks to be the Netanyahu doctrine on steroids. More than that, however, it is reminder not only that the Israeli Left has never fully recovered from Barak’s self-sabotage, but that it has played a crucial role — perhaps just as crucial as the Right — in burying any chances for the two-state solution.

One couldn’t help but laugh along with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week when he mocked Herzog in the Knesset plenum: “Good morning Buji, I’m glad you have woken up. Good morning Labor, welcome to the Middle East. The alarm clock has rung and maybe you’re beginning to understand where we live.”

In some sense, one can chalk up Netanyahu’s seemingly endless grip on the premiership to the groundwork laid years ago by Herzog’s own party. Instead of proposing a real end to Israel’s military dictatorship in the West Bank, Herzog proposes a plan built on 15-year-old stilts made of spin that should have collapsed long ago. Instead of calling on his opposition to put up a fight against ethnic separation, Herzog and his party have doubled down and adopted the “no partner” adage in a cynical attempt to sway voters away from Netanyahu.

When it comes to received political wisdom, narrative nearly always wins over facts. But for those who believe Palestinians and Israelis can live in this land as equals, the truth is essential. And when our so-called leaders — the ones who call themselves “leftists” — try to convince us otherwise with spin and lies, it’s on us to fight back.

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Did police downplay threats against Ayman Odeh? http://972mag.com/did-police-downplay-threats-against-ayman-odeh/116977/ http://972mag.com/did-police-downplay-threats-against-ayman-odeh/116977/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:01:43 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116977 When Joint List head Ayman Odeh received a death threat and police arrested a young settler, police strangely issued a press release about threats against Avigdor Liberman — from a month earlier.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo by Activestills.org)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo by Activestills.org)

Something very strange has been happening here over the past few days. On Thursday at 1:56 p.m., the Jewish-Arab Hadash party published a report on its Arabic Facebook page, in which it claimed that a settler had been arrested for threatening Hadash Chairman and head of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh.

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The police spokesperson, which releases numbous press releases every day and keeps the public appraised of its work via social media, did not publish a word on the incident. Several journalists, including myself, asked the spokesperson for details on the suspect’s arrest. We all received the same answer: “Response to follow.”

And then the strangest thing happened: within two hours of Hadash’s post, the police spokesperson sent a message to reporters (some of which also appeared on the Israeli Police Twitter account) announcing that a Palestinian who threatened Avigdor Liberman had been indicted.

A look at the message revealed that the threats against Liberman were over a month old, that they had already been covered by the press, that the suspect had been arrested three weeks ago, and that he was indicted last week.

None of that prevented the same media outlets from publishing the threats against Liberman for a second time.

Only on Friday, and after I asked time and again, did the spokesperson send the following statement:

There is indeed an investigation into the issue of threats against MK Ayman Odeh in the Hebron area by the West Bank police, during which an Israeli minor who resides in one of the settlements in Judea and Samaria and who was released with a number of court-ordered restrictions including a restraining order. Meanwhile the investigation continues.

This message was sent to me personally and was not published by the spokesperson, nor did it appear on its Twitter. Interesting.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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The roots of Palestinian and Israeli teenage violence http://972mag.com/the-roots-of-palestinian-and-israeli-teenage-violence/116975/ http://972mag.com/the-roots-of-palestinian-and-israeli-teenage-violence/116975/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:31:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116975 The violence we are witnessing among Israeli and Palestinian teenagers is a response to a system that limits their independence through power and control.

By Gil Gertel

Palestinian protesters throw stones during clashes with Israeli forces in the neighbourhood of Abu Dis, east Jerusalem, October 11, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters throw stones during clashes with Israeli forces in the neighborhood of Abu Dis, East Jerusalem, October 11, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Three different news items on teenage violence were aired in the Israeli media recently. The first was a hearing in the Special Committee for the Rights of the Child on violence by teachers toward students. Following that came a report by the Education Ministry that tracked the level of violence in schools. Finally, Channel 10 aired a four-part series that looked into what motives Palestinian teens to carry out violent attacks against Israelis.

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When reality is violent, teens are violent

In the second part of the Channel 10 series, a number of (Jewish) experts explain that violence by Palestinian teens stems from lack of authority on the part of the parents; a weak Palestinian educational system; incitement from Palestinian media and social networks; and the admiration by teens for those who are seen as heroes, and their desire to be like them. All these explanations present the phenomenon as entirely disconnected from their surroundings: children are exposed to poor education and incitement, and the hatred and violence just erupts out of nowhere. And what drives the education and incitement? They do not inquire.

In the first episode Channel 10 interviews Eid Muhammad, the father of Rukia Abu Eid. Thirteen-year-old Rukia left her home in Anata with a knife in hand, and attacked the security guard at the nearby Anatot settlement. The security guard shot and killed her. Channel 10 reporter Or Heller (one of the creators of the series) gave a full disclosure: “I have no answer to the question ‘why did she take a knife and attack.’” But this is not exact, as her father explains: “I cannot answer that question. This is an act of God… I cannot even imagine why Rukia went. The occupation is the reason. I told you. The reason is the killing of children. Why do they kill children?”

So Eid Muhammad does, in fact, have an answer, and I think it is the right one: the occupation is the driving force behind the violence of Palestinian teens. In the third episode in the series we see a mother from Anatot gently stroking her son’s head and explaining: “We raise our children to believe in peace, they raise their children to hate.” But even those who believe that the entirety of the land belongs to us cannot deny reality: that Israel controls the occupied territories by military force. Force that denies Palestinians their independence and basic rights.

Israeli policemen search a Palestinian man at Damascus gate, in Jerusalem's old city, October 18, 2015. Israel set up checkpoints in the Palestinian neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem and mobilised hundreds of soldiers as a collective punishment after recent attacks by Palestinians. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen search a Palestinian man at Damascus gate, in Jerusalem’s old city, October 18, 2015. Israel set up checkpoints in the Palestinian neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem and mobilised hundreds of soldiers as a collective punishment after recent attacks by Palestinians. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

In fact, Anatot’s very existence rests on the use of force against Palestinians. Anatot’s very existence is violence. The mother from the series is deluding herself. There is no way to educate toward peace, tolerance, or acceptance of the other while acting violently.

Violence in our schools

Now let’s speak about education on this side of the Green Line. Statistics on violence by students and staff are not new. But where does this violence stem from?

Successful teaching-learning takes place when both the teachers and students truly delve into a subject. When they analyze it from various points of views and allow students to progress in their learning unhindered. The education system functions in the exact opposite way. Textbooks are meant to enforce one type of content. Enforcement is also violence.

A successful moment of teaching-learning is one in which the teachers and the students are interested in what they are doing. When dozens of students are put in a single classroom and are expected to be interested in the exact same thing at the exact same hour in a high-pressure environment, means of control will inevitably be used. Pressure and control are violence.

This violence, which is built into the school system, is not only unkind toward students, it prevents teachers from doing what they know how to do. They are too busy overseeing the students when they should be teaching. The philosopher John Amos Comenius knew this well when he wrote the following in 1632:

The method used in instructing the young has generally been so severe that schools have been looked on as terrors for boys and shambles for their intellects. The only result achieved was the following. For five, ten, or more years they detained the mind over matters that could be mastered in one. What could have been gently instilled into the intellect, was violently impressed upon it, nay rather stuffed and flogged into it. What might have been placed before the mind plainly and lucidly, was treated of obscurely, perplexedly, and intricately, as if it were a complicated riddle.

And this is the issue: the education system creates a permanent, violent threat against teachers and students. The pressure placed on their independence is what causes them to act violently. They are shouting: give us freedom, let us live.

Israeli teens, like Palestinian teens, exist in an environment that treats them with violence. Their violence is a reaction to that reality. Want violence to decrease? Free them.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he/she is a blogger. Read it here.

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Why Herzog’s diplomatic plan looks an awful lot like apartheid http://972mag.com/why-herzogs-diplomatic-plan-looks-an-awful-lot-like-apartheid/116946/ http://972mag.com/why-herzogs-diplomatic-plan-looks-an-awful-lot-like-apartheid/116946/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 14:23:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116946 Looking closely at Labor’s plan, the logic behind it becomes clear: since it is difficult to envision a Palestinian state in the foreseeable future, Israel should no longer be ashamed of putting Palestinians in Bantustans.

By Neve Gordon

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

On Sunday night, Israel’s Labor Party unanimously approved their leader’s diplomatic plan.

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Labor’s premier Isaac Herzog laid out his vision a few weeks earlier at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, telling the audience that he “wish[es] to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible.” Herzog continued by explaining that “we’ll erect a big wall between us. That is the kind of co-existence that is possible right now… Ariel Sharon… didn’t finish the job. We want to finish it, to complete the barrier that separates us.”

Examining Labor’s new plan more closely, what becomes bitterly clear is that “We are here, they are there” does not signify the withdrawal of Israeli power from Palestinian territories, but rather a devious way of entrenching the colonial enterprise even further.

Herzog’s underlying assumption is that under current conditions a two-state solution is impossible. He is, however, adamantly against a one state solution, whereby Jews and Palestinians live together as equals. His objective is to formulate a plan that guarantees the continued existence of a Jewish state, with about five million Palestinians living within its territory.

On the one hand, then, Israel should not take steps that would undermine the two-state solution, because sustaining the two-state chimera is crucial for preventing the alternative: a democratic state between the Jordan Valley and Mediterranean where Palestinians, like Jews, enjoy full citizenship. On the other hand, Herzog realizes that the two-state solution is no longer an option. He therefore lays out the blueprint of a plan that is in effect an apartheid regime.

Palestinians dressed up as Santa Claus demonstrate at the separation wall, Bethlehem, December 18, 2015. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians dressed up as Santa Claus demonstrate at the separation wall, Bethlehem, December 18, 2015. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The specifics informing the plan, which the Labor Party approved, are not really new, but the fact that they have been outlined in writing is another crucial step in the consolidation and legitimization of apartheid rule.

The plan unabashedly promotes Palestinian Bantustans. Herzog notes that Palestinians will gain more autonomy to run their daily lives in areas A and B, which comprise only about 40 percent of the West Bank. “Palestinians will have total freedom in civil but not military matters,” he said. “They’ll be able to build new cities and expand existing ones, to develop agriculture, industry, employment.”

In order to ensure the consolidation of the division of the West Bank into archipelagoes, the plan emphasizes the importance of completing the separation barrier around settlement blocs in the West Bank. The blocs, according to Herzog, will always remain under Israeli sovereignty and “will be part of the permanent solution.”

In order to get rid of Palestinians who are residents of Israel and have an Israeli identity card, Herzog endorses cutting off Palestinian villages from Jerusalem. As he put it: “Issawiya is not and won’t be part of Israel’s eternal capital. Neither is the refugee camp in Shuafat. We’ll separate from them. We’ll build a wall. Terrorists won’t have access to Jews. Those who want to work and make a living rather than stabbing people – we’ll leave those for the consideration of the defense establishment.”

A Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem walks into a checkpoint that separates the entirely walled-off neighborhood of Shuafat Refugee Camp, East Jerusalem, December 27, 2011. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem walks into a checkpoint that separates the entirely walled-off neighborhood of Shuafat Refugee Camp, East Jerusalem, December 27, 2011. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Finally, the IDF, according to Herzog, should continue to control the entire West Bank.

With respect to Gaza, Hamas, in Herzog’s words “will have no immunity and for every attack they’ll pay a heavy price. This won’t mean dummy bombings of empty areas.” Herzog thus criticized Netanyahu’s government for being too soft on the Palestinians – the Likud government, he maintains, is not really bombing Palestinians in Gaza, but only empty spaces. He went on to announce that if gains power he will employ an “iron fist,” including shutting down their radio and TV stations and ensuring that Palestinians won’t have internet or mobile phone services.

Looking closely at Labor’s plan, the logic informing it becomes crystal clear: since it is difficult to envision a Palestinian state in the foreseeable future, Israel should no longer be ashamed for adopting a Bantustanian approach.

It is crucial to remember that the Bantustans in South Africa were classified as “self-governing” and that the Africans living within these territories did not have South African citizenship and thus did not enjoy the most basic political rights. Moreover, because no viable economy could be developed in the Bantustans, these areas were kept afloat by massive subsidies provided by the South African government. Similarly, the Palestinians are currently being kept afloat by the EU, U.S. and a few other countries. By concentrating large parts of the African population in Bantustans, the white supremacist Apartheid regime did manage to sustain itself for many years. This, in a word, is Herzog’s vision, as well.

Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa. A beach for Whites only near the integrated fishing village of Kalk Bay, not far from Capetown. January 1, 1970. (UN Photo/KM)

Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa. A beach for Whites only near the integrated fishing village of Kalk Bay, not far from Capetown. January 1, 1970. (UN Photo/KM)

The Labor Party, which is the only viable alternative to the current Likud government, and which is considered by many both in Israel and among international leaders to be a progressive substitute, has, in other words, unanimously supported a plan that would have been applauded by Apartheid South Africa.

Given this reality, it does not seem likely that a just solution to the Palestinian plight will come from within Israel. Indeed, at this historical juncture, international pressure is perhaps the only hope and is desperately needed.

This article first appeared on Al Jazeera. Neve Gordon is the author of Israel’s Occupation, as well as The Human Right to Dominate (co-authored with Nicola Perugini).

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Israeli Polls: Jews want to ignore the conflict, Arabs think nothing will change http://972mag.com/israeli-polls-jews-want-to-ignore-the-conflict-arabs-think-nothing-will-change/116918/ http://972mag.com/israeli-polls-jews-want-to-ignore-the-conflict-arabs-think-nothing-will-change/116918/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 15:58:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116918 The majority of Jewish Israelis think the international community will impose some sort of ‘substantial pressure’ on Israel soon. But they are disinclined to let such criticism affect the country’s policy.

A section of Israel's separation wall in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

A section of Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

A majority of Israelis see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an existential problem, according to January’s monthly Peace Index survey conducted by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. Indeed, a stabbing a day and a war every two years is no way to live. Yet Israeli Jews regularly vote for parties who perpetuate the same policies, and rarely protest Israel’s military rule over the Palestinian people in any significant numbers.

Spoiler: recent surveys do not solve the puzzle. But they do highlight some of the competing attitudes driving Israeli political behavior.

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When asked if the conflict can continue more or less like today without threatening Israel’s security or existence, 52 percent of the public disagreed in the Peace Index poll. Among Jewish respondents, fully 61 percent disagree that Israel can live with the conflict as it is today.

Arab respondents (the survey asked just a small sample) saw things very differently: over three-quarters think Israel can continue to live with the status quo. They probably base this on the last 50 years, when Israel has experienced regular injury to its security and existence in the form of wars, terror attacks and perceived international de-legitimization — and nevertheless essentially maintained its grip over the Palestinian people.

Indeed, the Jewish sense of the conflict as a grave threat barely translates into support for changing policies. The backbone of the occupation is Israel’s martial law over Palestinians in the West Bank, implemented through the army and the military courts, whereas Jews in the same territory live under civil law. But when asked about this “unequal application of the law” (referring to the U.S. Ambassador’s recent statement), half of Israeli Jews justify the situation; 40 percent oppose it (the 10 percent remainder who said they don’t know are unlikely to be agitating for change). Among the self-defined right wing, fully two-thirds justify this situation. More striking is that fact that among Jews in general, only 40 percent believe that “unequal application of the law” is the case today and a majority of 53 percent say this is not the case. Yet this is among the most basic facts of the situation – which are are not hidden, but apparently rarely seen.

International pressure

If Israeli Jews do not see the need to change policies of their own accord, will international pressure change anything? Half of Jews do not believe the world will treat Israel like South Africa; 39 percent say it will. Twice as many Arabs (50 percent) believe the world will soon treat Israel like South Africa as those who do not agree (24 percent), according to the Peace Index.

A slightly higher majority, 56 percent of Jews, think the international community will impose some sort of “substantial pressure” on Israel soon. But they are disinclined to let such criticism affect Israeli policy. The same portion of Jews – 56 percent — say Israel should not take international criticism too seriously, for an obvious reason: when asked if such international criticism takes Israeli and Palestinian interests into account equally, fully 82 percent of Jews say it does not. It’s clear which side Jews think the international community favors. Judging from Israel’s (lack of) policy change so far, the majority of Jews will get their wish.

Again, Arab respondents in the Peace Index express the opposite results: nearly 70 percent think Israel should take international criticism seriously, but precisely 70 percent see very low chances that significant pressure will actually happen. Once again, Arab respondents appear to interpret critical measures to date as toothless, and express low hopes for change, apparently based on experience.

What to do about the land?

What then do Israelis think should happen with the entangled people and territories? In recent months, the notion of annexation is increasingly part of the national and media discourse. Government ministers and settler leaders alike now discuss it routinely.

The Peace Index asked if Israel ought to finally annex the territories following nearly 50 years of occupation. Israeli Jews were in a dead heat: 45 percent said that it should, and 45 percent said it shouldn’t. The remainder simply didn’t know. The survey did not ask Arabs. But this general finding accords with a Makor Rishon/Maariv poll from early January showing that 44 percent of the full sample (Arabs and Jews, but only 500 in total) support the gradual extension of Israeli law to “the territories in Judea and Samaria,” although in that Internet poll, 38 percent were opposed and 18 percent didn’t know.

That percentage drops somewhat when the Makor Rishon survey gave greater detail, specifying “all territory in Judea and Samaria” and dropping the word “gradual” – 38 percent support that and nearly half (46 percent) oppose it. Similarly, the idea of annexing Area C (more than half the territory of the West Bank containing most of the settlements) is supported by 34 percent, and 47 percent oppose it.

Annexation is definitively viewed as a right-wing policy: 61 percent of the right in the Makor Rishon survey supported extending Israeli law to all the territory. Typically, young respondents mirror the trends on the right: 60 percent of them support this policy. Between 58 percent and 67 percent of the self-identified left-wing respondents, reported Makor Rishon, opposed applying Israeli civil law to the territories, depending on which specific question was asked.

Democracy?

If Israeli law were extended to all people in the West Bank, there would be de facto annexation. In that case, would Israelis support full democracy, including voting rights? The Peace Index didn’t ask. But it does show that that a strong majority, two thirds of Jews, said that Israel’s hold over the territories today does not prevent it from being a real democracy (76 percent of Arabs think it does prevent democracy). By this logic, one wonders if annexation of the West Bank without voting rights would bother Israelis either.

Even in the more democratic part of the region – “Green Line Israel” – the ingredients and values of democracy are waning. In a January survey for IDF radio among Jews only, 45 percent said they do not support equal rights for Arab citizens of Israel and just 43 percent supported equal rights. The two-point gap is within the margin of error but it does not bode well that more were opposed to equal rights than supportive. Perhaps one slight silver lining is that only about one-fifth (roughly 20 percent) of Israelis define themselves as left-wing in most surveys, and even fewer among Jews. Therefore, a large portion of equality-supporters must hail from the center or the right.

Jews are still apparently concerned for democracy. In the IDF radio poll, a strong majority, 69 percent, say that Netanyahu’s multiple ministerial positions harms Israeli democracy. Twice as many Jews prefer Israel to be more democratic than Jewish (33 percent), compared to those who wish it was more Jewish and less democratic (17 percent). But in a survey of Israeli Jews for the pro-Netanyahu paper Israel Hayom, over 90 percent supported some sort of action against Arab parliamentarians who met this week with the families of terrorists – either expelled from Knesset or prosecuting them. This week, the MKs were suspended, so the respondents (partially and temporarily) got their wish.

In my reading of public opinion, the various findings reflect a consistent central narrative in the Israeli (Jewish) public mind: the conflict is awful, but it is primarily the Palestinians’ fault and there is nothing Israel can do to change the underlying cause. We keep our sanity by trying not to think about it or know too much. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Settlements and politics have totally obscured the Green Line, but we can draw it again every time we wish to point out how democratic the country is, looking here and never there. We erase the line at all other times. There is some concern for the democratic institutions of society such as concentration of executive power; but the moment Palestinians or Arabs are brought into the debate, the principles related to democratic governance vanish.

In the coming days I will write an update of Palestinian public opinion based on recent surveys. The sample information for the surveys cited here as made available in media reports appears below.

Peace Index: n=600 (Jews and Arabs), telephone survey, 26-28 January 2016. Data collection: Midgam Research. Margin of error: +/-4.1 percent

IDF Radio: n=503 (Jews only), published 19 January, no methodology or margin of error reported.

Maariv/Makor Rishon: n=511 (Jews and Arabs). Data collection: Panels Politics.  Published 8 January 2016. No methodology or margin of error reported.

Israel Hayom: n=500 (Jews only). Published 8 February, 2016. No methodology reported. Margin of error: +/-4.4 percent.

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Israeli settlements have created a ‘state within a state’ http://972mag.com/israeli-settlements-have-created-a-state-within-a-state/116862/ http://972mag.com/israeli-settlements-have-created-a-state-within-a-state/116862/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:41:57 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116862 Not only physical settler violence goes largely unpunished — the structural violence of those driving the settlement enterprise, in the form of open land theft and everything it entails, also goes largely unaddressed. What keeps the long arm of the law at bay?

Right-wing Israeli settlers demonstrate after marching from Ma'aleh Adumim settlement to the E1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, during a protest calling for an expansion of Jewish settlements in E1, West Bank, February 13, 2014. (Activestills)

Right-wing Israeli settlers demonstrate after marching from Ma’aleh Adumim settlement to the E1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, during a protest calling for an expansion of Jewish settlements in E1, West Bank, February 13, 2014. (Activestills)

A primetime investigative news program revealed to all of Israel last week widespread forgery in the purchase of Palestinian land by Jewish settlers. The program, Channel 10′s “Hamakor” (“The Source”), fronted by investigative journalist Raviv Drucker, uncovered corruption, distortion, manipulation and outright criminal activity on the part of buyers, lawyers and so-called “straw men” who helped push the fraudulent deals through.

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The forgeries are nothing new. Just last month settlement expert Dror Etkes gave an example that is typical of the kind of murky deals revealed on “Hamakor,” wherein a Palestinian “signed off” on the sale of his plot of land 43 years after his own death.

Also not new is the revelation on “Hamakor” that corruption in favor of settlement building reaches right into the upper stratosphere of Israel’s political elite, in this case via Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever, prominent settler leader, former Jewish Underground member and welcome face in Israel’s corridors of power. Right-wing settler organization Elad, to give just one example, has done very well out of the government body that deals with the “requisition” of Palestinian land (which more often amounts to expropriation) in recent years. There, too, issues of falsification and fraud abound.

Yes, the settler company Drucker investigated, Al-Watan (which, as an extra poke in the eye, means “homeland” in Arabic), that allegedly made most of its acquisitions using forged documents, is a particularly egregious example of the kind of hooliganism that tends to accompany the takeover of Palestinian land.

But what “Hamakor” revealed isn’t the real story, or at least not the whole story. The real knockout of Drucker’s investigation is what happened afterwards — or to be more precise, what didn’t happen. The Israeli media — like media everywhere, never quick to shy away from a scandal — remained almost entirely silent. Beyond a few perfunctory articles reporting on the facts the program laid out, there was minimal coverage of the implications of what Drucker uncovered.

In order to understand how significant this is, we need to rewind one month and recall the mass media and political brawl that erupted following the airing of another investigative news program, ”Uvda,” on competing Channel 2. That program was based on undercover footage by a pair of “spies” whom a right-wing organization embedded with anti-occupation and human rights activists in the West Bank. One section showed high-profile veteran left-winger Ezra Nawi making grotesque comments about turning in a Palestinian selling land to a settler, and that the PA would execute the seller. 

Israeli left-wing activists protest outside the Russian compound police station in West Jerusalem, calling to release the three anti-occupation activists under arrest at the time: Ezra Nawi, Guy Butavia and Nasser Nawaja, on January 21, 2015. (Activestills.org)

Israeli left-wing activists protest outside the Russian compound police station in West Jerusalem, calling to release the three anti-occupation activists under arrest at the time: Ezra Nawi, Guy Butavia and Nasser Nawaja, on January 21, 2015. (Activestills.org)

The press blew up, the prime minister posted about the case on his Facebook page, and Nawi was arrested, as were subsequently Nasser Nawajah — also embroiled in the affair — and Guy Butavia, who was not but is a close associate of Nawi. They were all initially denied the right to meet with a lawyer and had their detention extended numerous times.

In the end all three were released after the police were unable to scratch together a single coherent or substantive charge against them.

Compare that to the aftermath of the airing of “Hamakor,” which brought far more pervasive and concrete findings. Despite multiple documented instances of fraud leading to theft with the names of those responsible on record, not a single person has been arrested. The forgeries are under investigation by the state prosecutor after the police closed the case, but the conviction rate in settler criminal cases is abysmal.

Benjamin Netanyahu did not write a Facebook post about the scandalous facts reveled on the show and Hever is not public enemy number one, despite being a man of the establishment (compared with Nawi, who is poor, a plumber, and of Iraqi descent). The media did not have a field day.

‘The illegality is institutionalized’

But this is about more than forgeries, fraud and hidden cameras. It’s about more than Hever, as effective as he may be. This is about the strange reality that comes to rest on a country when a project of the scale and scope of Israel’s settlement enterprise is itself based on illegality.

Construction takes place in the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa in between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Construction takes place in the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa in between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, West Bank. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The illegality is not just in terms of international law. Talia Sasson, a former member of the State’s Attorney’s office, notes in an upcoming documentary about the history of the settlements that the government employs a system whereby it is ‘unaware’ that state funds are being poured into outposts that even Israel considers illegal. As Sasson says in the interview, ”the illegality is institutionalized.”

The settlement project — the biggest undertaking in Israel’s history since the founding of the state itself — is, because of the vast military apparatus required to sustain it, akin to the building of a state within a state. Maintaining, expanding and increasing the settlements prompts the government to break some laws while creating others, to say one thing while doing another.

And that’s only half the mess. The insistence that the settlements are an integral part of the self-styled liberal democratic State of Israel comes with its own demands. Intense contortion and airbrushing are required to try and normalize the administration of a territory that operates parallel legal systems depending on one’s ethnicity, with 2.8 million people living under military occupation and half a million living under civil law. Karl Rove may have been speaking about the U.S. government when he told a reporter, ”when we act, we create our own reality,” but it is something one could just as easily imagine coming out of Netanyahu’s mouth.

Moreover, impossible sums of money have been poured into settlement building. Disproportionate resources are available to the settlement enterprise and the army, police, intelligence services, the law and the government at best turn a blind eye, and at worst abet wrongdoing. So is it any wonder that physical and structural crime are out of control, and that the various perpetrators enjoy almost total immunity?

As two very different shows in the space of a month proved, there is almost total acceptance of this reality, to the point where barely anyone thinks to question it anymore. And for those who do question it? Neither the law, nor the media, nor the state are on their side.

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Jewish pundits can’t decide if they’re happy about Bernie Sanders’ win in NH http://972mag.com/jewish-pundits-cant-decide-if-theyre-happy-about-bernie-sanders-win-in-nh/116895/ http://972mag.com/jewish-pundits-cant-decide-if-theyre-happy-about-bernie-sanders-win-in-nh/116895/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 09:25:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116895 Can an American politician who was born to Jewish parents just be an American politician who happens to be Jewish? Is Israel becoming less important in American politics?

File photo of Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (A Katz / Shutterstock.com)

File photo of Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (A Katz / Shutterstock.com)

NEW YORK — Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, won the Democratic primary in the state of New Hampshire on Tuesday night. Sanders, who identifies as a social democrat, is Jewish.

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But when he spoke about his background in his victory speech he mentioned only that he was the son of Polish immigrants who were poor and little-educated, making it sound as though they might have been eating kielbasa and pierogi for Sunday lunch instead of challah and tsimmes for Friday night dinner.

He highlighted his own success as an illustration of the national narrative that Sanders called “the promise of America” — the idea that one should be able to achieve one’s goals based on hard work and merit.

“My friends,” said Sanders,

I am the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money. My father worked every day of his life and he never made a whole lot.

My mom and dad and brother and I lived in a three and a half room rent controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York. My mother, who died at a young age always dreamed of moving out of that apartment, getting a home of her own, but she never realized that dream. The truth is that neither one of my parents could ever have dreamed that I would be here tonight standing before you as a candidate for president of the United States.

This is the promise of America and this is the promise we must keep alive for future generations.

Several Jewish observers on social media were unhappy at Sanders’ failure to emphasize that his parents were Jews, and that he is now the first Jewish American to win a Democratic primary. (Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee in the 1964 election, had a Jewish father but was raised Episcopalian, although he acknowledged his Jewish heritage.)

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Sanders has never denied that he is Jewish. Nor could he, even if he wanted to, given that he bears an uncanny resemblance to practically every other 70-something Jewish man who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

He has spoken about spending a few months volunteering on a kibbutz during the mid 1960s, although since entering the presidential race he has tantalized journalists  by refusing to name the kibbutz. The information became a bit of a holy grail for Jewish journalists, until a Haaretz reporter finally discovered it last week in a 26 year-old interview Sanders gave to the paper.

Sanders married the Jewish American woman who traveled with him to the kibbutz, but they did not have children and divorced in 1966, less than two years into the marriage. He has been with his second wife since 1988;  she is not Jewish.

Sanders is also not the kind of Jewish legislator who advocates for tribal causes. He does not, for example, give speeches or make appearances at events on behalf of Jewish federations or Israel advocacy NGOs like AIPAC. Vermont, the state he represents in the senate, does not have a significant Jewish population — although my friend Allison Kaplan Sommer, the Haaretz columnist, discovered that one of his closest friends and advisors is an Orthodox Jew who teaches at the University of Vermont.

Most recently, Sanders made self-deprecating Jewish jokes in a Saturday Night Live skit with Larry David, whose parody of Sanders is so accurate that many claim it has become a contemporary comedic trope (Sanders comes in at 2:15 in the video embedded below).

American Jews vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic party, and plenty of them support Bernie Sanders. But their affinity for the candidate is based on his political views, which are primarily about social justice and and social welfare. His single mention of the Middle East in his New Hampshire speech was a reference to the group that calls itself Islamic State, or ISIS, and the need to destroy them without sending American soldiers to fight another war there. He did not mention Israel at all. So Jews who are on the fence about Bernie are wondering if they should be proud that one of their own could be president, or irritated that he’s not rushing to embrace the tribe.

Can an American politician who was born to Jewish parents just be an American politician who happens to be Jewish? In the country that considers the right to re-invent oneself a defining value, surely that is Sanders’ right. It’s not as though he’s pretending to be something he’s not. He simply doesn’t seem to feel that his Jewishness is an important factor in his political views.

On the other hand, a Jewish American who is deeply committed to the values of social justice,  especially one with a distinctive Brooklyn accent, is in very much a “type” that most Jewish Americans identify with deeply. Often called “red diaper babies” for the social-democratic values they were raised on, they played prominent roles in the major social justice causes of the 1960s, most notably in the civil rights movement. The collective memory of their involvement in social justice causes is a powerful chapter in the Jewish American narrative, often portrayed in Hollywood films. The liberal branches of Judaism in the United States even identify social justice as a Jewish value called “tikkun olam,” or healing the world. Which is why so many American Jews are convinced they remember an Uncle Sheldon who looked and sounded just like Bernie, and who dominated political conversations at their Passover seders or their Friday night dinner tables. You can see the female equivalent portrayed by “Aunt May,” the secular socialist schoolteacher in the seder scene of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.

File photo of Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (Crush Rush / Shutterstock.com)

File photo of Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (Crush Rush / Shutterstock.com)

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Sanders’ candidacy is, as he has said on several occasions, that he has shown it’s possible to raise money for a presidential campaign without taking money from the big financial institutions or the oligarchs. But he has also shown that a candidate need not curry favor either with donors or with the electorate by visiting or mentioning Israel. Do voters not care about Israel anymore? We’ve hardly heard about it in this campaign.

Compare this year’s primaries to the 2008 campaign, when then-Senator Obama felt compelled to visit Israel and be photographed placing a note in a crevice of the Western Wall, even before he was nominated as his party’s candidate for the presidency. And remember the unseemly one-upmanship between Biden and Republican candidates over who was really a BFF of Bibi’s? This time ’round, no candidate is mentioning her or his friendship with the Israeli prime minister. In fact, they’re not talking about Israel much at all. Donald Trump even managed to get away with making borderline anti Semitic jokes during his speech at the Republican  Jewish Coalition — and he still won his party’s primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday night.

And while it’s very common to encounter Jewish Americans who espouse deeply liberal social views but swing disconcertingly to the right on Israel, the interesting thing about these “Progressive Except for Palestine” (PEP) Jews  is that they do not vote for  candidates based on their views on Israel — which is why Bernie Sanders can appeal to Jewish voters without mentioning his affection for Israel or rushing off to Jerusalem to give Bibi a hug.

Is it important that the Democratic party’s candidate for president in 2016 might be a Jew for the first time? In historical terms, of course it is. But I don’t think its significance is that the age of discrimination against Jews has passed, any more than the age of discrimination against African Americans passed with the election of Barack Obama.

Bernie hasn’t tested his secular social democratic views in the Bible belt states yet. But in terms of the impact Israel policy has on the U.S. electorate, what is significant is the fact that Sanders managed to trounce Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire without once mentioning the only democratic state in the Middle East ™, Golda or the right to self defense against terrorists. Perhaps what we are seeing is the decline of Israel as a major factor in U.S. domestic politics.

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Palestinians don’t need incitement to know they are occupied http://972mag.com/palestinians-dont-need-incitement-to-know-they-are-occupied/116822/ http://972mag.com/palestinians-dont-need-incitement-to-know-they-are-occupied/116822/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 20:38:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116822 Israelis refuse to understand what drives Palestinians to violence. After all, it is far more convenient to dehumanize them than face reality.

A Palestinian youth throws stones during clashes with the Israeli army in Bethlehem, West Bank, December 4, 2015. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth throws stones during clashes with the Israeli army in Bethlehem, West Bank, December 4, 2015. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

There’s something self-righteous about calling Palestinians who violently resist occupation “terrorists,” while referring to the ones occupying them, also violently, as mere “soldiers.” It becomes even more grotesque when the people committing these desperate acts are minors, or even children. Even at the tender age of 11 and 13 they are still terrorists, even in so-called “liberal” newspapers like Haaretz. The fact minors that cannot be held criminally responsible for their actions is suddenly no longer relevant to these alleged liberals.

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Nobody wants to understand the motives of people resorting to violence. It is far more convenient to call them names and dehumanize them — it makes facing reality much easier. Everything is easier to handle when you don’t see the other side as human, like you.

It becomes even easier if you convince yourself you are liberal enough because you object to the occupation (of the West Bank and Gaza, of course not the lands occupied in 1948). But such liberalism is not at all progressive or liberal, since it enables believers to ignore their own side’s wrongdoings, all the while blaming the other side for how free-thinking individuals choose to resist.

Many so-called “liberal Zionists” recognize the occupation but refuse to recognize that the horrors caused by their own countrymen are the sole reason for most acts of Palestinians violence. Apparently, they think that if it truly was the occupation’s fault, then all Palestinians would be committing these acts. Again, this demonstrates just how too many so-called liberals see us as one “native” group; they refuse to see that we are a collection of individuals with personal agency and different views of reality. It’s similar to a “they all look alike” attitude combined with painful ignorance of our traumas and experiences.

An Israeli Border Policewoman at the scene where three Palestinians carried out a shooting attack outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. The three were immediately shot dead by Israeli security forces, February 3, 2016. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

An Israeli Border Policewoman at the scene where three Palestinians carried out a shooting attack outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. The three were immediately shot dead by Israeli security forces, February 3, 2016. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

In fact, there are no shortage of types of experiences, traumas and oppressions under Israel’s occupation. Palestinians living inside Israel, those living in the West Bank, residents of East Jerusalem, and the 1.8 million under siege in Gaza — we all live under different levels and types of occupation.

Not all of us suffer from the same humiliations, and occupation means a different trauma for each of us. A few months ago I wrote in these pages that Palestinians see the wave of recent stabbings and other violent acts of resistance as a way out of their hell, rather than a way to get to heaven. A week later, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency released a report saying the exact same thing. Just last week, Ban Ki-moon made an identical assertion: “History proves that people will always resist occupation.”

Of course Palestinians already knew that. We know our people; we know our experience. Violence is not a result of incitement. No Palestinian man, woman or child needs to turn on the television or go online to know that somebody was killed in an army raid on a refugee camp somewhere in the West Bank. Nobody needs incitement to know that they are occupied, poor, unemployed, humiliated, and full of hatred for their oppressor.

Until the so-called liberals fully understand the daily humiliations these people go through, and until they understand what these Palestinian “terrorists” have endured, they should stop dehumanizing them with convenient labels just to make it easier for them to sleep at night.

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