+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:09:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 In my name, in your name, in all of our names http://972mag.com/in-my-name-in-your-name-in-all-of-our-names/97161/ http://972mag.com/in-my-name-in-your-name-in-all-of-our-names/97161/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:09:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97161 We talk endlessly about equality and feminism while putting up with a bunch of greedy pyromaniacs controlling the Middle East and running a war over our heads, a war in which we are but extras. And yet the role they assign us is instrumental: we are factories for their cannon fodder.

By Naamit Mor Haim (translated from Hebrew by Dr. Assaf Oren)

During this recent Gaza war and its various ceasefires, I found myself astonished at the catch-phrase popular among the Israeli left – on banners at demonstrations and plastered social-media profile pictures, bold white letters against a black background, in three languages: “Not in my name!”

OK, I thought, I never passed my high school matriculation exams. My academic career ended around the fourth grade. I can vaguely remember a single lesson in government I attended during my school years, and in that lesson I kept asking Rakefet, who sat next to me, what the hell they’re talking about. No wonder it has taken me decades to figure out what democracy is and how it relates to me. To understand that it’s not just the job of a smug bunch with suits, cigars and a mandate to run each and every single thing; that it is also my responsibility. But I wonder what excuse are all the nerds who did go to all those lessons and crammed for their matriculation exams claiming? Where is everyone with a college degree, or those who have worked in civil service? Haven’t you learned about the government by consent of the people? Everyone is a lamb led to the ballot?

I am most troubled by the situation among women, who have been collapsing emotionally for the past few months, to an extent not remembered since the jolly days of Lebanon. At first I thought it was the manner of fighting and its oversight, with needless casualties on a daily basis, disrupting the existence of at least half the nation on multiple levels, with neither a clear resolution nor a horizon for the future.

But during those two months of war I realized that the horror has risen among my female friends of all walks of life, at the fact that all this was being carried out without our involvement, that our way of thinking is absent from the decision-making circles, that our values and priorities are declared illegitimate whenever they contain a hint of the womb and the compassion associated with it. We have to contend with dismembered babies, with destruction on a mythical scale, with the knowledge that our sons will enlist in two years – and all this, without being represented. This war was run by men on both sides, while on their backs ride those who gain the most from the financial-political arrangement known as a State, an Authority, or a Terror Organization – all of whom are men as well.

For many years we have been scattered and disarmed. My female friends and I, preschool teachers and artists, psychologists and housemaids, waitresses and women of academia, have thus far not envisioned a serious, deliberate and substantial venture into the world of policy shapers. Most of us are not brought up to think on such a scale; instead, we are content with achieving the pinnacle of our professional ivory towers, or else barely surviving in the dark for fear of the debt collectors.

Now this is changing. I’m not talking about individual women sneaking into positions of power, protected by political parties’ “guaranteed women quotas.” We need a far greater force, commensurate with our position as a majority of the population – a decisive force that can change the map and the priorities. I look back at the huge electoral potential of the “Four Mothers” movement, and my heart breaks. We talk endlessly about equality and feminism while putting up with a bunch of greedy pyromaniacs controlling the Middle East and running a war over our heads, a war in which we are but extras, a stage setting for missiles. The role they assign us is instrumental: as factories for cannon fodder.

The few women who do walk the corridors of power, function at times of war as cheerleading squads with minimal impact, even less impact than in ordinary times. I couldn’t care less whether they are on the “Right” or the “Left,” because these definitions are not relevant for me anymore. I dismissed “Right” and “Left” at the same moment I noticed that in the center of the political arena, just like on the basketball court, there are heaps of masculine power and money, with the women prancing on the fringes, exposed at any moment to sexist sniping about their dress, their voice, or the way they blink, just like the last of the cheerleaders.

All this is flung in my face even more strongly at times of war, and it indicts me for not having taken responsibility. I have not created an alternative during my adult life. Neither I, nor you women or you men have done so. I once thought that this was a job passed hereditarily to the princes of Likud and Labor, that I better focus on what I’m good at, and have meanwhile deserted the field. This was definitely not a war I desired, this was a war in which it pains my every limb to assume responsibility for as if I was the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades. But I really don’t have a choice, because one thing’s for sure: without a doubt, contrary to the popular slogan, this war was carried out in my name.

What did I do to prevent it? And the one before it? Did I hobble to the ballot box with distaste? Did I deign to show up at a demonstration or two? All of my actions were disconnected and removed from the powers that be, who over the past 20 years have built up so many ties to the financial world, which in turn disconnect them from their constituents – just like a spaceship that has left the mother planet and is now cruising with goals and interests that are independent and often opposite of those for which it was originally launched.

But who am I, an uppity woman lacking training, knowledge or connections? After all, there’s a terror organization here, tunnels, a clear and present danger, “no partner” – what would you have done? That’s what everyone asks me whenever I open my mouth. Suppose you are Bibi, give us a 10-step plan now!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz and then Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan watching a military drill. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz and then Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan watching a military drill. (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Here’s the thing: I am not Bibi. And that’s the point really, that I am not him. I would have not held 1.5 million people, going on 2 million, under siege since 2007. It would have never happened, because I’m a nag. Not a month would have passed without me offering an agreement and insisting on discussing it. Don’t want to discuss? I’ll nag! You can ask all my exes.

I hate seeing unresolved issues and irrational situations. If I knew about tunnels being dug into the kibbutzim in the South, with Channel 1 reporters mapping them out before the IDF does it, shame would have devoured me: I would have had Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and the UN on their feet, seeking a solution. I am not shy like Bibi. I would have driven everyone crazy, together with my female foreign minister and female defense minister.

Sounds far-fetched? Such female nags – a social worker and an economist from Liberia – ended a bloody war that had been devouring their country for many years, precisely in this manner, replete with a Nobel Prize and a headdress-wearing female prime minister. People dismiss nagging, and wrongly so.

For example, what would I have done on the eve of this war, when Hamas had its economic back to the wall, and threatened that if its money transfer from Qatar is blocked that it will explode?

I admit, it would have been tempting to put my feet up on the office desk, with flip-flops on, light a hand-rolled, low-grade tobacco cigarette, cough, and ask my loyal male secretary to let in those representatives of Israeli weapons manufacturers, who have forever been stuck waiting for me outside. “Darlings,” I would tell them, “I understand that you are the State and the State is you. I understand it looks great to you, to rain a display of your weapons upon Gaza, followed by a nice worldwide sales surge; and it is tempting to escalate when the Hamas monster is crippled in the corner, crawling into a unity government with Fatah like a pussycat.”

“But please listen for a moment,” I would whisper quietly. “My friends’ sons are enlisting right now, and there’s no way I’m sending them in there for a ground assault, or placing them like sitting ducks on the border, and I also have friends living around Gaza who feel like living normal lives, even if their entire lives are not worth a single year’s worth of sales of an optical component you manufacture.”

“I understand it might be considered treason, what I’m telling you now.” I would lower my voice and look straight into their eyes, “but it will also really pain my womb to see Gazan babies blown to smithereens, even if saying so betrays your big money, you bunch of death-dealing ticks. So do me a favor and get the fuck out of my office. Or, better yet, go and raise some money for our collective rehabilitation from the destruction you have already sown, and only after that, leave.”

Once I catch my breath, I would call President a-Sisi. “We’ve got a bunch of crazies over here. How are your crazies doing, my man?”

“You want to tell us everything we have gone through just now is about the arms industry making a windfall?” serious, experienced people ask me. I roll the question straight back to them, and to you: who else aside from these scoundrels has gained anything, my friends? Please read details of the ceasefire and enlighten me.

At face value, it sounds complicated to bark at all of them, and then to embark on years of a gradual constructive process until everyone emerges feeling reasonable – from the female settlers to the last of Palestinian women. Right around now, as I and many other women are in the process of setting up a political movement that doesn’t see Right or Left, but only quiet for everyone between the River and the Sea, we really wonder what stopped Bibi from doing that 70 deaths ago – two thousand deaths ago.

My working assumption is that it’s only because he has a grand lifestyle to sustain. He needs tons of finance around him, and therefore, has no time for the cultivation of broad public interests. By contrast, my lifestyle is rather frugal. I don’t need empty houses with swimming pools, I like going to the beach, which is still (mostly) free. Do you still give Bibi 107 percent support, 89 percent support, 38 percent support, or have you woken up a bit?

Please let me know later. Right now Qatar is on the phone.

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on the NRG website. It is republished here with the author’s permission.

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PHOTOS: Gaza’s children face an uncertain future http://972mag.com/photos-gazas-children-face-uncertain-future/97129/ http://972mag.com/photos-gazas-children-face-uncertain-future/97129/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:31:40 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97129 Israel’s latest offensive on the Gaza Strip killed more than 500 children. Those who survive must endure ongoing trauma and displacement.

Photos by Anne Paq and Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org
Text by Anne Paq

Mohammed, age 11, stands in the remains of his home in the Al Nada Towers of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes. The towers had 90 flats, the homes of many families.

Mohammed, age 11, stands in the remains of his home in the Al Nada Towers of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes. The towers had 90 apartments, home to many families. (photo: Activestills.org)

I visited Al Nada towers in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip after they were destroyed by Israeli strikes. The towers had 90 apartments, home to many families. Mohammed, an 11-year-old child, was sitting on top of rubble, waiting to go to school. As I was working on a series of images of destroyed bedrooms, I asked him to bring me to his home to show me his room. We climbed together over more rubble to access the second floor of the tower. Almost nothing remained of his room. It was completely burned and the walls had been blown off. Mohammed told me what he misses the most is “everything” — but especially his computer and his books. Since that encounter, I keep asking myself: what will Mohammed’s view of the world be after his little universe was destroyed this summer? A home can be rebuilt, but what about the psychological impact on his generation?

In Gaza, where the population is very young (over 60 percent of Gazans are under the age of 25), children are everywhere — and they are also the most vulnerable in conflict. Stuck in Gaza, these children only know the occupation and many have already witnessed several Israeli military operations. The latest Israeli offensive, named Operation Protective Edge, lasted for seven weeks and killed more than 500 children. More than 3,000 were injured, and 1,500 lost at least one parent. Most are traumatized. According to the UN, 373,000 children in Gaza are in immediate need of psychological assistance.

Their feeling of insecurity has worsened as many children lost what they consider to be their safe haven: their homes. More than 18,000 housing units were destroyed in the war, leaving 108,000 people homeless. The majority of them are children. The number of Palestinians who fled their homes was the largest seen since 1967. Nearly a third of the population of Gaza, about 500,000 people, were displaced by the offensive.

Displaced families have been crammed into UN schools in very difficult living conditions. Some children also had to sleep in parks, shops, or with relatives. Today, despite a long-term truce, there are still 50,000 Palestinians who remain living in schools. Many cannot live in their houses, which have been either partially or fully destroyed, and help to rebuild is slow to come. Some families have returned to their half-destroyed homes, despite having no running water or electricity. With the winter and the first heavy rains expected within the next two months, it is likely that some of these buildings will collapse and become completely unlivable.

According to the UN, 22 schools were completely destroyed and 118 damaged. Despite a three-week delay, there was a tremendous effort to open the schools as soon as possible so that the children could go back to studying. The classes first focused on recreational and therapeutic activities so that the children can express their feelings after having undergone such traumatic period. Many parents wanted their children to return to school in order to regain some sense of normalcy and routine. But the concept of normalcy remains quite relative for Palestinians who have lived in Gaza under a tight Israeli blockade since 2007. How can we expect these children to grow up normally and look to the future with hope when they are the witnesses and victims of this level of violence? A whole generation of children now live with the trauma of war and fear of further shelling.

An evaluation by the United Nations and humanitarian organizations estimated it will take at least 20 years under the import restrictions currently imposed by Israel to rebuild the Gaza Strip. But how long it will take these children to overcome their trauma? When will they finally live free from the fear of occupation and future Israeli attacks?

During the Israeli military operation known as "Protective Edge", almost a third of the population of Gaza, about 500,000 people, were displaced.

During the Israeli military operation known as “Protective Edge”, almost a third of the population of Gaza, about 500,000 people, were displaced. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Palestinian children carry goods that were rescued from the village of Khuza'a, which has undergone of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive.

Palestinian children carry goods that were rescued from the village of Khuza’a, which has undergone of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A woman holds an injured child from Khuza'a in Khan Younis hospital. Residents of Khuza'a found refuge in the hospital in Khan Younis after fleeing intensive Israeli bombardements of their village. Many residents were killed or wounded as they fled.

A woman holds an injured child from Khuza’a in Khan Younis hospital. Residents of Khuza’a found refuge in the hospital in Khan Younis after fleeing intensive Israeli bombardements of their village. Many residents were killed or wounded as they fled. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

UNRWA schools were opened to house 289,000 Palestinians displaced by the offensive, but they were not equipped to deal with such numbers. UNRWA schools themselves have been targeted while they were sheltering displaced Palestinians, including a school in Beit Hanoun on July 24 (11 killed and more than 200 wounded), a girls school in Jabaliya on July 29 (15 dead, over 100 injured), and a preparatory school in Rafah on August 3 (10 dead).

UNRWA schools were opened to house 289,000 Palestinians displaced by the offensive, but they were not equipped to deal with such numbers. UNRWA schools themselves have been targeted while they were sheltering displaced Palestinians, including a school in Beit Hanoun on July 24 (11 killed and more than 200 wounded), a girls school in Jabaliya on July 29 (15 dead, over 100 injured), and a preparatory school in Rafah on August 3 (10 dead). (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Makeshift shelters built around Al Shifa Hospital served as a refuge for hundreds of Palestinians during the offensive.

Makeshift shelters built around Al Shifa Hospital served as a refuge for hundreds of Palestinians during the offensive. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A Palestinian boy brings water and blankets inside the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius in Gaza City where Palestinians have sought refuge. He was wounded in the head by an Israeli attack on the adjacent cemetery.

A Palestinian boy brings water and blankets inside the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius in Gaza City where Palestinians have sought refuge. He was wounded in the head by an Israeli attack on the adjacent cemetery. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Nader Obu Odeh, age 6, gathers wood from destroyed houses to make a fire, Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip. The Abu Odeh family, 33 people including 21 children, live in a three-story building that has six apartments. They were forced to flee their house, along with the residents of Beit Hanoun, due to the Israeli attack. They took shelter in the Jabalya Secondary School for boys, in Jabalya Refugee Camp, but returned to their bombed home because of harsh conditions in the school. Since then, they are living in the remains of their damaged house without electricity and gas.

Nader Obu Odeh, age 6, gathers wood from destroyed houses to make a fire, Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip. The Abu Odeh family, 33 people including 21 children, live in a three-story building that has six apartments. They were forced to flee their house, along with the residents of Beit Hanoun, due to the Israeli attack. They took shelter in the Jabalya Secondary School for boys, in Jabalya Refugee Camp, but returned to their bombed home because of harsh conditions in the school. Since then, they are living in the remains of their damaged house without electricity and gas. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Ten days after the announcement of the long-term truce, a Palestinian child sits among clothing collected by his family in the rubble of their destroyed house in the At-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City, which was heavily attacked during the Israeli offensive.

Ten days after the announcement of the long-term truce, a Palestinian child sits among clothing collected by his family in the rubble of their destroyed house in the At-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City, which was heavily attacked during the Israeli offensive. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A Palestinian child with a kite stands in front of the destroyed Al Nada towers in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip. The towers had 90 flats.

A Palestinian child with a kite stands in front of the destroyed Al Nada towers in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip. The towers had 90 flats. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

A Palestinian child from the Maadi Hassanin Kamal family plays in his destroyed house in the At-Tuffah neighborhood east of Gaza City, 10 days after the announcement of the long-term truce. The family of eight returned to live in a house that has been nearly destroyed and threatens to collapse because of the damage. Their house, like most the buildings in the area, now has no running water or electricity.

A Palestinian child from the Maadi Hassanin Kamal family plays in his destroyed house in the At-Tuffah neighborhood east of Gaza City, 10 days after the announcement of the long-term truce. The family of eight returned to live in a house that has been nearly destroyed and threatens to collapse because of the damage. Their house, like most the buildings in the area, now has no running water or electricity. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

Eleven members of the Amal Al-Athamna family of Beit Hanoun live in an empty store without windows or toilets near the Kamal Edwan hospital in Jabaliya.

Eleven members of the Amal Al-Athamna family of Beit Hanoun live in an empty store without windows or toilets near the Kamal Edwan hospital in Jabaliya. (photo: Activestills.org)

 

The Gaza school year began three weeks late because many schools were damaged. The first weeks of classes focused on recreational and therapeutic activities so that the children could express their feelings after underoing such a traumatic period.

The Gaza school year began three weeks late because many schools were damaged. The first weeks of classes focused on recreational and therapeutic activities so that the children could express their feelings after underoing such a traumatic period. (photo: Activestills.org)

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Israel’s newest Supreme Court justice and rule of law in Israel http://972mag.com/meni-mazuz-and-the-borders-of-the-rule-of-law-in-israel/97114/ http://972mag.com/meni-mazuz-and-the-borders-of-the-rule-of-law-in-israel/97114/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:46:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97114 Menachem ‘Meni’ Mazuz’s recent appointment to the Supreme Court reveals, yet again, that the borders of the rule of law lie only with those who are considered part of the ‘Jewish nation,’ not all of Israel’s citizens.

By Salah Mohsen

The appointment of Menachem “Meni” Mazuz to the Israeli Supreme Court did not raise any debate within the Israeli public. If this was a truly democratic society, which emphasizes the importance of respecting the opinions and status of its national minority, this appointment would never have been made at all.

There are many reasons why Meni Mazuz should not have been accepted into the Supreme Court. The most important of these is that Mazuz, in his capacity as attorney general, was the person who decided in January 2008 to close the investigation files into the killing of 13 young Palestinian citizens of Israel by the police during the October 2000 events. Mazuz made this decision despite the strong and clear recommendations of the State Commission of Inquiry, headed by former justice Theodor Or, which stated that some of the cases held enough evidence to indict the officers responsible, while other cases warranted further investigation.

Menachem "Meni" Mazuz, Israeli Supreme Court justice. (Photo: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Menachem “Meni” Mazuz, Israeli Supreme Court justice. (Photo: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The timing of the appointment of Mazuz to the Supreme Court – just two weeks before Palestinian citizens mark the 14th anniversary of the October 2000 killings – is indicative of the contempt towards Israel’s Palestinian minority, and adds to their growing feelings of frustration and anger. A week after Mazuz’s decision in 2008 to close the investigation files into the October 2000 killings, Palestinian citizens organized the largest demonstrations since “Land Day” in 1976.

Mazuz is not the only person responsible for the failure of the October 2000 investigations to then be promoted to higher positions in Israeli institutions. For example, another current Supreme Court Justice, Elyakim Rubinstein, served as attorney general at the time of the killings and did not fulfill his duty to advance investigations into the events. Other individuals responsible include Shai Nitzan, the deputy attorney general who headed the sub-committee that recommended the closure of the files, who was promoted to state prosecutor; and Benzi Sau, the police commander of the Wadi ‘Ara region, who faced wide criticism for his use of snipers that killed three of the 13 Palestinian victims, yet was promoted to the post of police commander in the Tel Aviv region.

In addition to his role in the closure of the October 2000 files, Mazuz helped draft, approve and defend many discriminatory laws that were enacted or proposed by the Knesset, some of which were blatantly targeted or racist against Palestinian citizens, and were deliberately aimed at undermining their rights. For example, in 2003 Mazuz promoted the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which prevents the family unification of tens of thousands of Palestinian families if one of the spouses or their children is from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The law was approved twice by the Supreme Court, both in 5-4 rulings, despite harsh criticisms from human rights organizations and the four minority justices. This law directly discriminates against Palestinian citizens and violates their basic right to family life. The law is also an attack on the fundamental right to citizenship for Palestinians in Israel, which should be inalienable in any self-proclaimed democracy. The approval of this legislation, of which Mazuz was a crucial part, helped to pave the wave for further discriminatory and harmful laws to be enacted.

Furthermore, in 2007, Mazuz approved the proposal of the Admissions Committees Law, which effectively prevents Palestinian citizens from living in 434 small communities on Israeli state lands, giving the green light for the practice of segregation in housing that already exists in practice between Palestinian and Jewish citizens of the state. Ignoring the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2000 Ka’adan case, which sparked a public debate on the exclusive control of state lands by Jewish citizens, Mazuz helped the new law circumvent the court’s ruling. The Admissions Committees Law was recently upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling, despite criticism against it. The verdict on the case was issued just two weeks after the court rejected a request to appeal by the 1,000 Arab Bedouin residents of Atir and Umm el-Hieran, two unrecognized villages in the Naqab/Negev, against the government’s plans to demolish their homes in order to build a Jewish town called “Hiran” over their ruins. The court rejected the residents’ request, claiming that there was “no public interest” in their case. Apparently, the fate of a thousand Bedouin citizens of Israel, who have lived in a village established by the state since 1956, is of no interest to the government, the public or even the Supreme Court.

The series of decisions made by Mazuz as attorney general was not the result of careful legal and professional considerations, but was a reflection of his worldview that greatly influenced his decisions in relation to Palestinian citizens. The absence of public debate over the appointment of Mazuz illustrates an important lesson about the notion of the rule of law in Israeli society. Many have praised the courage of Mazuz in filing charges against a former prime minister and other government officials, but have completely ignored the absence of such courage regarding the October 2000 killings, despite the strong recommendations of the Or Commission. Mazuz’s appointment to the Supreme Court thus reveals, yet again, that the borders of the rule of law lie only with those who are considered part of the “Jewish nation,” not all of Israel’s citizens.

Salah Mohsen is the media director at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. This article first appeared in Hebrew on Walla.

Related:
Contradicting its own ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court legalizes segregated communities
For Arab citizens, Israeli government suffers from split personality
PHOTOS: A decade on, Citizenship Law still denies Palestinians their rights

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Why it may be time to rethink Abbas http://972mag.com/why-it-may-be-time-to-rethink-abbas/97106/ http://972mag.com/why-it-may-be-time-to-rethink-abbas/97106/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 18:10:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97106 There is great desire and momentum for change in Israel and Palestine, yet a dire lack of leadership to harness it. If given the international support he needs, could Mahmoud Abbas be the one to guide that change?

By Abraham Gutman

Last week, on my way to listen to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speak at Cooper Union, I was talking to my sister on the phone. I told her that I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel going into the speech. As an Israeli, I tend to automatically get defensive when it comes to issues of Israel and Palestine. But as a strong proponent of the two-state-solution, and one who believes that peace is possible, I was excited to hear what Abbas had to say. One of the first sentences of his address, which also became one of the main themes of his speech, was “I came here to ask you to rethink Palestine.” I am writing this now to ask you to rethink Abbas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses students at the Great Hall of The Cooper Union, New York City, September 22, 2014. (photo: Abraham Gutman)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses students at the Great Hall of The Cooper Union, New York City, September 22, 2014. (photo: Abraham Gutman)

Unlike Netanyahu, Abbas doesn’t have a perfect American accent when he speaks English, nor the charm and charisma of Barak Obama, but when was the last time that either of them received a standing ovation from a room full of both “pro-Israel” and “pro-Palestine” students? “Prime Minister Netanyahu: End the occupation, make peace!” Abbas repeated. I was sold.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think Netanyahu was just waiting for Abbas to demand an end to the occupation, and now that’s it, problem solved. But as an Israeli it is so rare to feel part of the solution. Most of the time I find myself defending the problem with statements I don’t really believe, just because I feel trapped and on the defensive.

Abbas shared with the audience his prayer for peace: “Will you join this old man in his prayer? Will you help me to build a peaceful world? I am sure your answer is yes, we will.” Israel lacks leadership, and Israel’s government lacks moral fiber. What if Abbas is the leader the Middle East needs? What if Abbas is the leader the world needs? In this time of identity politics and wakening of self-determination movements all over the world, from Palestine to the Basque lands, Scotland to Taiwan, the world needs a symbol. Let’s make this old man a symbol, a champion of diplomacy, self-determination, conflict resolution, equality and non-violence.

As expected, some on Twitter weren’t as excited about the speech as I was. Criticism ranged from Abbas being “too soft,” to him “normalizing the occupation.” I disagree. I believe Abbas dared to dissent from Netanyahu’s approach to peace negotiations. By making a habit of pointing fingers at the Palestinian Authority and blaming it for the failure of negotiations before they even begin, Israel’s leaders have repeatedly shown that it’s Israel that isn’t a partner for peace. It would be pointless for Abbas to take the same approach and blame the Israelis; how does a rejection of peace talks serve the Palestinian people?

It’s clear, however, that the tide is turning on Israel. This past summer, during the Gaza war, voices emerged in the U.S. that hadn’t been heard before in the mainstream discourse. Groups such as ‘If Not Now’ seem to have become the voice of American-Jewish Millennials, a voice that does not automatically support Israeli government policies, a voice that believes self-criticism is grounded in Jewish thinking, a voice that calls for an end to the occupation. And still, it seems that the pro-peace community is deeply divided.

“In the language of youth, there is no such word as tired. In the vocabulary of youth, there is no such word as failure,” declared Abbas. We must pressure Israel to end the occupation and honestly join the negotiating table. We must act so the international community will join that pressure. I believe that Abbas can lead that movement, but we have to allow him.

The day before Abbas’ Cooper Union speech, I was at the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish community center in New York City, for the annual Social Good Summit. One of the panels was about a new social initiative and film titled Beyond Right and Wrong, which presents stories of reconciliation from all over the world. On the stage, next to the producer, were three parents who had lost children in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They all denounced the occupation. “People aren’t free in Palestine; it is not Jewish, and opposing it is not anti-Semitic,” said Rami Elhanan, who lost his daughter in a terror attack in Jerusalem in 1997. He added that between hate and forgiveness is a space called reconciliation; that is the space that we should aspire to.

There is great desire and momentum for change, yet a dire lack of leadership to harness it. Let’s rethink Abbas as a leader. Some might dismiss him as having lost legitimacy among his own people, but that doesn’t prove anything. With no change in the status quo, wouldn’t you, as a Palestinian, be frustrated with your leader? Abbas isn’t inherently illegitimate; he can regain his relevance in Palestine if there’s a break in the status quo, and a true process for peace is initiated. Others might say that Abbas makes inflammatory statements, such as the genocide comment in his UN General Assembly speech last week, but there was a wider message and more than one sentence in that speech.

As the international community, it is up to us to empower Abbas and his message of non-violence. Most importantly, when Abbas reaches out and extends his hand, let us all demand that Israel does the same, so it too can become a real partner for peace.

Abraham Gutman is originally from Tel Aviv, and is currently enrolled in a dual BA/MA program in economics in New York City. He tweets from @abgutman.

Related:
Accusing Israel of ‘genocide’: Major fail
Watch out war criminals, Mahmoud Abbas is coming for you
Now is the time for American Jews to speak up on Israel

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Accusing Israel of ‘genocide’: Major fail http://972mag.com/accusing-israel-of-genocide-major-fail/97099/ http://972mag.com/accusing-israel-of-genocide-major-fail/97099/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:23:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97099 And deservedly so, because it’s a false accusation. This is not how to fight the occupation, this is how to help strengthen it.

Mahmoud Abbas’ speech last Friday at the United Nations General Assembly gave the highest-profile-ever exposure to the accusation, popular among anti-Zionists, that Israel practices “genocide” against the Palestinians, and that the war in Gaza was a genocidal one. That’s the highlight of the speech that was picked for the headline in any number of major international news outlets; in Israel the speech is already known, and will be forever, as Abbas’ “genocide speech.” That one word seems to have overshadowed everything else he said at the UN podium, which is a pity, because his basic message – that 21 years of internationally-sponsored peace negotiations have screwed the Palestinians, and they will stand for no more – is right and true, and must be heard, in exactly the furious, combative tone he adopted.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UNGA during the general debate, September 26, 2014. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UNGA during the general debate, September 26, 2014. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

If his use of the term “genocide” to describe the occupation and the war in Gaza were truthful but “impolitic,” that would be one thing. But it’s not true – it’s plain false. And on top of that, it’s impolitic in the extreme – it’s politically suicidal, precisely because it’s so clearly false. It’s an Achilles heel in the argument against the occupation. It allows the right wing to sweep aside everything else, in this case every true thing that Abbas said at the UN, and zero in on that one blatant falsehood. It stamps the anti-occupation cause with fanaticism, with reckless disregard for the truth, with hysterical hatred for Israel. That one stupid word.

Using it against Israel may work well to “energize the base” in closed, anti-Zionist circles; it may also get some  college kids to join a protest. But now that Abbas has, for the first time, put the term out in the mainstream, it is so painfully obvious that accusing Israel of genocide is to shoot oneself in the foot, if not the head.

When you accuse Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians, you are accusing it of deliberately, systematically executing them en masse, hundreds of thousands or millions of them. You’re accusing Israel of an attempt to exterminate an entire people, like the Nazis did the Jews, like the Ottoman Turks did the Armenians, like the Hutus did the Tutsis in Rwanda. That’s what people think of when they hear the word “genocide.”

That was not the war in Gaza, and that’s not the occupation.

But many anti-Zionists disregard the common understanding of the word, and instead point to the “official” definition adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, and still used at The Hague:

[G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (f) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

As Mitchell Plitnick just wrote, “Now, it is easy to state that Israel would love to see the Palestinians gone. But have their actions been motivated by the ‘intent to destroy’ them? If so, they’ve done a lousy job of it as the Palestinian population has grown significantly and consistently over the years.”

And if the UN definition of genocide does fit Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, or the war in Gaza, then what unjust rule of one nation by another, or what unjust, one-sided, devastating  war, was not genocide?

No, the term, either in its colloquial or UN-approved meaning, misses the truth by a great distance.

It seems “genocide” has entered the far Left’s vocabulary for no other reason than to satisfy its own rising fury at Israel. Sorry, the rising fury is absolutely justified, but it’s still not an excuse to talk bullshit. Especially when there are so many harsh terms that can be applied to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians that are indeed accurate. The ones I use – sparingly, though, because otherwise they lose their effect – are “military dictatorship” and “colonialism” (for the West Bank), along with “tyranny” and “oppression” (for the Palestinians as a whole).

One of the other terms Abbas used in his speech was “ethnic cleansing.” It hurts me as an Israeli to hear it, but I have to admit it’s a true characterization of the Nakba. And while current Israeli policies toward Palestinians in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank’s Area C don’t fit the popular image of “ethnic cleansing,” they do fit the literal meaning.

And let’s not forget “apartheid.” I don’t use the term because it’s based on racial supremacism, while the occupation is based on national supremacism, and this is a major difference. But the most significant feature of apartheid – that of one people officially, as a matter of policy, keeping another people down by force – is the most significant feature of the occupation, too, so the comparison is certainly more true than false. Besides, good Zionists like Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon and star newspaper columnist Nahum Barnea have made the comparison, so it can’t be dismissed as another exercise in slanderous Israel-bashing by the “loony Left.”

Not so with “genocide.” Using it puts you an inch away from equating Israel with Nazi Germany. This sort of rhetoric will not stand the light of day. When Abbas used it in his UN speech, he might as well have put a “kick me” sign on his back as he left the podium. And I’m just dreading to hear Bibi take him up on that inadvertent offer when he makes his own speech at the UN later Monday.

Related:
Israel, Armenians and the question of genocide
Abbas’ generous offer to Israel
The Israel-apartheid debate

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What to expect from Netanyahu at the UN http://972mag.com/what-to-expect-from-netanyahu-at-the-un/97089/ http://972mag.com/what-to-expect-from-netanyahu-at-the-un/97089/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 01:08:44 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97089 In the past three years we’ve gotten crocodiles, Medieval villains, cartoons and unnaturally pointy pearly whites.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UNGA plenary, September 23, 2011. (Photo by UN/Marco Castro)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UNGA plenary, September 23, 2011. (Photo by UN/Marco Castro)

What should you expect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say in his speech to the UN on Monday?

Seven words: Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.

Okay, he’ll probably say a few more things than that: Iran. (It will be interesting if Netanyahu accidentally completes his logic game and concludes that if ISIS = Hamas, and Iran = Hamas, then it must hold that ISIS = Iran. Spoiler alert, Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post last week that, “The biggest threat without question is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, which means Iran.”)

Let’s take a look back at the past three speeches Netanyahu has given at the annual UNGA General Debate.

In 2011, the prime minister took a stab at animal allegory in an attempt to show the world just how silly its demands on Israel are, and of course to impress upon us that militant Islam is no joking matter (although he provided plenty of fodder for comedians and single-issue Twitter accounts):

[C]ritics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel’s security. They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen. They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out, or at the very least jam an iron bar between its gaping jaws.

In 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu went medieval on all of us to drive home just how bad these primitive forces of radical Islam really are, and that Israel is the polar opposite. (2012 was also the year of the classic ACME bomb cartoon):

[T]oday, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval. The forces of modernity seek a bright future in which the rights of all are protected, in which an ever-expanding digital library is available in the palm of every child, in which every life is sacred.

The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified. These forces clash around the globe, but nowhere more starkly than in the Middle East. Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity.

In 2013, the Israeli prime minister took it old school and brought back the animal characters we got to love two years earlier. The new radical Islamic president of the Radical Islamic Republic of Iran, you’ll remember, smiled much more than his predecessor and Netanyahu was terrified that the world would be charmed by his unnaturally pointy pearly whites:

[T]he only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Rohani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the eyes — the wool over the eyes of the international community.

So, what will Netanyahu give us this year? Will he use props? Will we be introduced to fun new animal characters? Will we learn more about nuclear physics through cartoonish infographics?

Or perhaps the answer lies right under our eyes. Upon boarding his plane to New York Sunday morning, Netanyahu told reporters: ”In my address to the UN General Assembly, I will refute all of the lies being directed at us and I will tell the truth about our state and about the heroic soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world.”

Just don’t forget, he’s been doing this for a while.

Then Israeli Ambassador to the UN Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the GA during a “debate on the situation in the Middle East.” (Photo by UN/Saw Lwin)

Then Israeli Ambassador to the UN Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the GA during a “debate on the situation in the Middle East.” (Photo by UN/Saw Lwin)

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The illusion of religious freedom in Jerusalem http://972mag.com/the-illusion-of-religious-freedom-in-jerusalem/97081/ http://972mag.com/the-illusion-of-religious-freedom-in-jerusalem/97081/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 23:49:50 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97081 Official Israel loves to boast of the complete freedom of worship it grants to members of all religions. In reality, however, it’s just another deception brought to you by your local ‘hasbara’ dealer.

By Orly Noy

Israeli Border Police officers stand at the entrance to Jerusalem's Old City, as they prevent Muslim Palestinian worshippers from attending Friday prayers in Al Aqsa mosque, September 26, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli Border Police officers stand at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City, as they prevent Muslim Palestinian worshippers from attending Friday prayers in Al Aqsa mosque, September 26, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

One of the main tools in the Israeli hasbara toolbox is the ‘religious freedom’ discourse. As subscribers of the “villa in the jungle” worldview, Israel advocates never miss an opportunity to emphasize the religious freedoms that Israel supposedly gives to believers of all faiths, unlike its Arab neighbors. Prime Minister Netanyahu, especially, loves to make this claim — and he repeats it ad nauseam. For instance, in a special message at the dedication ceremony for the Hurva (“Ruin”) Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem a few years ago, he said:

[…] For the first time in generations, we allowed members of the other religions to pray in Jerusalem and to restore their places of worship. To pray in complete freedom of religious worship […] We returned to our cities, we came to build our houses of worship, but at the same time, we are also giving the same freedom of worship to other religious. That is the uniqueness of the nation of Israel: we preserve our own heritage while at the same time allowing others to do the same.

The papal visit to Israel this year was yet another chance for Netanyahu to reiterate:

[The Pope’s] visit here is an opportunity to show the world the true Israel, the advanced, modern and tolerant Israel, in effect, the only country in the Middle East that ensures complete freedom of worship to those of all faiths, guards the holy places and ensures the rights of all – Jews, Muslims, Christians, everybody.

Of course, that tolerant paradise is not quite the reality we live in. The daily reality that the occupation brings to the Old City of Jerusalem is not that of free men of different religions who have unhindered access to their holy places; it is a reality of structured conflict between occupiers and the occupied. First off, there are the more than 2 million West Bank Palestinians living under Israeli military rule who need special permits to even enter Jerusalem, permits that we know are handed out sparingly at best.

However, even for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem itself, access to the Aqsa compound is not guaranteed: it is regularly restricted according to the whims of Israeli authorities. During the recent Rosh Hashana holiday, for example, Israeli police prevented Muslim men under the age of 50 from entering the compound; while flocks of Jewish worshipers flooded toward the Western Wall, Muslim worshipers stood facing down a wall of police separating them from the mosque.

Israeli Border Police officers prevent worshippers from entering the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, September 26, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli Border Police officers prevent worshippers from entering the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, September 26, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man performs Parkour at an Israeli police checkpoint in the Old City of Jerusalem, September 26, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian man performs Parkour at an Israeli police checkpoint in the Old City of Jerusalem, September 26, 2014. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli police officers block an alleyway in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli police officers block an alleyway in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Photo by Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

It’s not only during Jewish holidays that Israel restricts Muslim worshipers’ access to the Aqsa Mosque — it does the same during Muslim holidays, too. The excuse, as always, is security. It’s a viscous circle in which tens of thousands of people are prevented from accessing their holy sites out of fear of riots, which is ironic considering the hindering of freedom of worship itself feeds the feelings of anger that Israel fears so much.

Meanwhile, Jewish politicians and public figures make provocative visits to the Temple Mount from time to time to demand that Israeli sovereignty be exercised upon it. And that happens despite the traditional prohibition against Jews entering the Temple Mount compound for halachic reasons. That’s just how it is, it seems, when the man in charge of the two relevant government portfolios — the Religious Services Ministry and Jerusalem (and Diaspora) Affairs Ministry — is the same man who has already declared his intention to increase the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.

But of course it’s not only religious interests at play here. A short refresher course in the not-so-distant and bloody history of the conflict can remind us all how that is bound to end.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
Disturbing the ‘peace’ in Jerusalem’s holiest site
PHOTOS: Clashes in E. J’lem after police kill young Palestinian
Religion and politics during Ramadan in Jerusalem

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The perennial dilemma of liberal Zionism http://972mag.com/the-perennial-dilemma-of-liberal-zionism/97076/ http://972mag.com/the-perennial-dilemma-of-liberal-zionism/97076/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 14:50:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97076 For over a century, liberal Zionists have attempted to reconcile universal humanism with Zionist nationalism. A review of two prominent thinkers who failed.

By Ran Greenstein

The prospect of impending doom facing Liberal Zionism has been raised time and again in recent months, from the inane apologetics of Ari Shavit to the more sophisticated discussions of Jonathan Freedland in the NY Review of Books and Roger Cohen in the New York Times, culminating with the highly critical approach of Antony Lerman, also in the Times.

While the war in Gaza played a role in this wave of lamentation, it is in no way a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been a feature of discussions in the Zionist movement from its inception, forcing Liberal adherents to choose, at times of crisis, between their universal values and ethnic political loyalties. Historically, dropping the Liberal component has been the most common response to such dilemma, with only a few dissidents opting rather to abandon Zionism.

The core arguments used in such debates have changed little over the years. It would be instructive here to look at one movement, the epitome of Liberal Zionism in its time. Brit Shalom, which operated between 1925 and 1933 and was known for its advocacy of bi-nationalism, experienced tensions between its broad Liberal principles and the narrow demands of the Zionist project. These were captured in particular in the work of its founder, Arthur Ruppin, known as “the father of Jewish settlement.” He was torn between his Labor Zionist allies, who regarded Brit Shalom as “delusional,” and his radical colleagues who called for a representative government in Palestine, in line with universal democratic values but against the wishes of the Zionist leadership.

Arthur Ruppin

Arthur Ruppin

Ruppin’s concerns, expressed in his diaries from the late 1920s/early 1930s, stemmed from the “very serious contradictions of interest between the Jews and the Arabs.” It was impossible to reconcile “free immigration and free economic and cultural development” for Jews – the essential conditions for Zionism – with the interests of Arab residents of Palestine: “any place where we buy land and settle people on it, of necessity requires that the current cultivators be removed from it, be they owners or tenants.” Further, although the principle of Hebrew Labor was “in accordance with our national interests,” it “deprives the Arabs of the wages they used to earn.” Therefore, it became impossible to “convince the Arabs rationally that our interests are compatible.” Given a chance, the Arabs as a majority in the country “would take advantage of the rights guaranteed to them by the constitution to prevent any economic advancement of the Jewish minority,” thereby “putting an end to the Zionist movement.”

Ruppin’s dilemma intensified at times of acute conflict – following the 1929 riots. Violent clashes between mutually exclusive nationalist visions led him to distance himself from Brit Shalom and its bi-nationalism. His conclusion was stark: “we must recognise that in our entire history of relations with the Arabs we have not made an effort to find a formula that will satisfy not only the essential interests of the Jews but also the essential interests of the Arabs.” Paradoxically, this meant: “What we can get (from the Arabs) – we do not need, and what we need – we cannot get. At most, what the Arabs are willing to give us is rights of a Jewish national minority in an Arab state, similar to the rights of [minority] nationalities in Eastern Europe.”

The problem in that, he continued, was that minority rights could not be guaranteed:

The fate of the Jewish minority in Palestine will forever depend on the good will of the Arab majority holding power. Such an arrangement definitely will not satisfy Eastern European Jews who are the majority of Zionists; on the contrary, this would diminish their enthusiasm for Zionism and Palestine. A Zionism willing to reach such a compromise with the Arabs [making Jews a permanent minority in the country] will lose the support of Jews in Eastern Europe and will quickly become Zionism without Zionists.

What could be done then? In Ruppin’s view, using language that echoes all the way to the present:

No negotiations with the Arabs at present will allow progress, since the Arabs still hope to be able to get rid of us … it is not negotiations but the development of Palestine to increase our share in the population, and to strengthen our economic power, that might lead to reduction of tensions. When time comes and the Arabs realize that they are not called upon to grant us something we do not have already, but to recognize reality as it is – the weight of facts on the ground will lead to reduced tensions … It may be a bitter truth, but it is The Truth.

Ruppin’s words from 1936 illustrate the logic of creating ‘facts on the ground’ and building an “Iron Wall” (in Jabotinsky’s infamous words) to deter Arab opposition, a logic that continues to shape Israeli policy today. But, it is important to realize, not all Liberal activists moved in the same direction. A contrary example was that of Hans Kohn, who broke off with the Zionist movement and eventually left Brit Shalom following the 1929 uprising.

Kohn identified with Zionism as a “moral-cum-spiritual movement” that was compatible with his pacifist and anti-imperialist position. It became increasingly difficult for him to sustain this approach alongside the official Zionist line. The uprising of 1929, he said in private correspondence, was carried out by Arabs, who “perpetrated all the barbaric acts that are characteristic of a colonial revolt.” But, they were motivated by a deep cause:

We have been in Palestine for 12 years [since the Balfour Declaration of 1917] without having even once made a serious attempt at seeking through negotiations the consent of the indigenous people. We have been relying exclusively upon Great Britain’s military might. We have set ourselves goals which by their very nature had to lead to conflict with Arabs. We ought to have recognized that these goals would be the cause, the just cause, of a national uprising against us.

This attitude meant that: “for 12 years we pretended that the Arabs did not exist and were glad when we were not reminded of their existence. Without the consent of local Arabs, Jewish existence in Palestine could become possible only, “first with British aid and then later with the help of our own bayonets … But by that time we will not be able to do without the bayonets. The means will have determined the goal. Jewish Palestine will no longer have anything of that Zion for which I once put myself on the line.”

Kohn’s main concern was the development of Zionism into “the militant-reactionary wing of Judaism.” His colleagues, Kohn felt, were unwilling to take a decisive step in line with their values that would lead them away from Zionist practices, such as the “immeasurable barbarity” of evicting tenants from their land, led by people such as Ruppin. Instead, Brit Shalom formulated lofty peace proposals disconnected from concrete reality and bypassed the real issues. This, it “enveloped itself in a cloud of naivety” with no public impact. Under these circumstances, Kohn saw no point in continuing his membership of the movement.

Ruppin and Kohn offered opposite solutions to the same dilemma: the difficulty of reconciling universal humanism with Zionist nationalism. When crisis erupted, Ruppin chose nationalism while Kohn chose universalism. Other Liberal activists continued to believe there was no inherent contradiction between the two sets of principles, but their impact dwindled. Although they formulated a solid conceptual alternative to mainstream state-oriented Zionism, they failed to reach out beyond limited Jewish intellectual circles and did not gain any Arab support. Why? A number of reasons can be suggested:

Before 1948,  Liberal Zionists worked among the one segment of the Jewish people least willing to support integration. Jews happy to live together with non-Jews as equals, or uninterested in political sovereignty, stayed in their home countries or moved to other destinations that allowed them to live long and prosper without worrying about politics and nationalism, such as the U.S. or Argentina. On practical grounds, the Liberal Zionist case in Palestine was undermined further by the absence of an equivalent force among the Arab population. Many Jews regarded it as offering unilateral concessions that were not reciprocated, and thus were pointless.

Why, then, was it not reciprocated? The Palestinian Arab leadership rejected the compromises offered by Liberal Zionists because it feared that any concessions to the legitimacy of Jewish political presence in the country would undermine its own negotiating position, without curbing the forward expansion of the Jewish settlement project. This was the case since the Liberals were a minority in the Jewish community: agreements with them were not binding on the dominant forces in the Zionist movement, who continued to pursue their own agenda.

In addition, nothing was more fatal for the willingness of Jews to make concessions than the sense that Arab hostility would continue unabated regardless of political compromises. In particular, armed attacks against local integrated communities, as happened in 1929 in Hebron and Safed, reinforced internal Jewish solidarity, undermined dissent, and created a militant and militarist atmosphere that made the prospect of fruitful political dialogues increasingly remote.

Perhaps most crucially in retrospect, the responses of the one side shaped those of the other. Nationalists could embark on their own course of action unilaterally, but Liberals could not. Potential Arab partners responded not only to what Liberal Zionists said or did, but also – perhaps primarily – to what the leading forces on the Jewish side said and did. This reinforced the Liberals’ structural disadvantage: the dominant trends in both nationalist camps collaborated, so to speak, in making the environment increasingly polarised. This benefited those on either side who urged unilateral action and weakened those who argued for mutual consideration.

How these factors continue to shape the fate of Liberal Zionism today will be discussed in a follow-up article.

Ran Greenstein is an associate professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His book, Zionism and its Discontents: A Century of Radical Dissent in Israel/Palestine, will be published by Pluto Press, UK, in October 2014.

Related:
Can one be a liberal and a Zionist without being a liberal Zionist?
A sad commentary on the state of liberal Zionist discourse

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Watch out war criminals, Mahmoud Abbas is coming for you http://972mag.com/watch-out-war-criminals-mahmoud-abbas-is-coming-for-you/97061/ http://972mag.com/watch-out-war-criminals-mahmoud-abbas-is-coming-for-you/97061/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 16:18:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97061 The PLO chairman told the UN that he won’t allow war criminals to escape punishment. The only problem: He still hasn’t applied to join the International Criminal Court, the one act that could actually lead to such punishment.

By Talal Jabari

There was an image that circulated on social media a few years ago that showed the area most of us consider to be Palestine – meaning the land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as an archipelago. It’s really not that far off.

The permanent checkpoints across the West Bank make clear that travel for Palestinians is a privilege and not a right. And no, I’m not talking about the terminals used to enter, or rather prevent entry into Israel. I’m talking about checkpoints like the “Container” checkpoint that is opened or closed seemingly at the whim of the commanding officer, thus transforming it from a checkpoint into a roadblock, and disconnecting the southern islands of the archipelago from the northern ones.

I personally hold this checkpoint dear to my heart. I have driven through it many a time, and have returned to find it blocked on quite a few occasions as well.

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers closing an internal West Bank checkpoint, May 15, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Acitvestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers closing an internal West Bank checkpoint, May 15, 2012. (Photo by Ahmad Al-Bazz/ Acitvestills.org)

You can probably imagine, as the only road between the northern islands and the southern ones, this passage sees quite a bit of traffic. There are numerous private cars dotted between dozens of public orange taxi mini-buses. There are buses full of students visiting other islands for their school trips. But what always brings a grin to my face, are the Palestinian “National Security” Land Rovers and police cruisers traveling back and forth on this road. It’s not that I think those vehicles are particularly funny; what is amusing is that they have to cover their blue police lights with canvas, the officers inside need to be out of uniform, and of course they must be unarmed.

In fact, that’s the way they have to be whenever they travel outside of “Palestinian- controlled” territories. Yes, I put those words in quotes to highlight the farce that concept really is.

Here’s how ridiculous it can be: on one occasion a number of Israeli army jeeps drove into Hebron and stopped outside a Palestinian police station. Upon spotting the oncoming jeeps, the uniformed, armed Palestinian police officer standing outside the station quickly ducked behind the perimeter wall of the station. He must have thought the jeeps were going to drive past, after which he would return to his post. I can only imagine that they saw him duck in, because they parked their jeeps outside the station for a good 40 minutes while the officer just stood there hiding behind the wall. This was in “Palestinian-controlled” territory.

There are dozens more serious stories of Palestinian police officers being beaten, arrested, and even killed by the Israeli army. So you’ll understand if I am still scratching my head after Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UN on Friday, in which he stated to a rather empty General Assembly hall, other than the over-crowded Palestinian table, “we will not forget, we will not forgive, and we will not allow the war criminals to escape punishment.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UNGA during the general debate, September 26, 2014. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UNGA during the general debate, September 26, 2014. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

A wise man once said, don’t make a threat unless you’re willing to carry it out. So I can’t help but wonder how on earth Abbas plans to make good on his speech. Is he going to issue warrants for Israeli army officers that will then be carried out by the Palestinian police? I would hate to have that job! Is he going to announce a trade embargo on Israel in the hopes of pressuring them to turn over the accused?

Perhaps he imagines this international intervention force, for which he repeatedly calls, and his latest speech was no different, will resemble the NATO-led Stabilization Force in the former Yugoslavia, and start hunting down war criminals the way they did with Radovan Karadzic.

In that case, however, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was involved. In fact, they are nearing a sentence for Karadzic right now. This is the same court, which Palestine has had the right to join for the past two years now. The same court Palestinians got so excited about joining when Palestine’s status at the United Nations was upgraded, especially in the aftermath of a previous war on Gaza. Joining the ICC would truly be a step towards bringing to justice those war criminals Abbas so boldly threatened.

But there is little cause for alarm.

Chief ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wrote in a Guardian op-ed last month, “[u]nder the laws of the Hague court, my office can only investigate alleged war crimes in Palestine if it grants us jurisdiction in its territory. It has not done so.” But clearly international pressure not to join far outweighs the “new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people,” as described to the UN by Abbas. I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering how a president talks about genocide but then doesn’t join the one entity that can at least discourage it from happening again.

So I supposed those war criminals Abbas referred to can sleep well at night. As long as they keep an eye out for police cars with canvas bags covering their lights.

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

Related:
A Palestinian ultimatum to end occupation?
Abbas just shot the Palestinian cause in the foot
In Gaza, justice delayed is justice denied

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Letter to the EU: Help! Everybody here has lost their minds http://972mag.com/letter-to-the-eu-help-everybody-here-has-lost-their-minds/97052/ http://972mag.com/letter-to-the-eu-help-everybody-here-has-lost-their-minds/97052/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 15:25:23 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=97052 An open letter to the president of the Council of the EU: Don’t give us any more money to pay for the salaries and air conditioners, not in Tel Aviv and not in Ramallah. As far as I’m concerned, my Horizon 2020 is stuck underneath some house in Gaza that collapsed atop all of its inhabitants from an Israeli missile strike.

By Yoav Shemer Kunz

Italian Prime Minister and President of the Council of the European Union Matteo Renzi. (File photo by the EU)

Matteo Renzi. (Photo by the EU)

To:

His Excellency Matteo Renzi
Prime Minister of Italy
Current President of the Council of the European Union

I regretfully inform you that the citizens of the State of Israel have completely and officially lost their minds. It is pathological. Regrettable news, indeed.

It happened not too long ago. We saw a deterioration or two earlier, of course. But ever since they spent three weeks looking for three bodies in an operation very movingly described as “Brothers’ Keeper,” they completely lost it. And after that? Protective Edge. I’m telling you, Israeli society has lost it.

Yes, saw it coming. There were warning signs. Thank you for the commiserations. Yes, it is official: the situation is terminal and incorrigible. It is over. Don’t try to talk to anyone here; they don’t recognize anybody. And don’t tell them I spoke to you; they’ll come up with some law that bans meetings with foreign prime ministers without the expressed approval of Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor.

No, really. You have nothing to do here. They’ll say that you punched Avigdor Liberman in the back and everybody will buy it. Let me remind you of our lovely bearded friend, German EU Parliament President Martin Schulz’s speech at the Knesset in Jerusalem. He made the mistake of momentarily mentioning a young man who told him something during his visit to Ramallah, and that was it. He completely burned himself with that. That’s how it is over here now. In German, no less!

To make a long story short, It’s gone to hell. We’re completely helpless. That which we have dreaded has finally come. Death has its own government. However you want to put it. Poems can be written about it. “Breaking the Silence” will publish it in a special edition translated into French and Italian even before Christmas as a solemn and nostalgic holiday gift book for an entire generation of Europeans who once dreamt of volunteering here in some Kibbutz. It was before I was born. The fancy book will have a special foreword by Stephane Hessel, rest in peace. And probably a picture or two of Rabin and Arafat. Both of whom are dead already. There will be beautiful black-and-white images of freckled, red-headed leftist girls in the center of Tel Aviv with well written signs in Arabic standing by three cops. Yes, it’s lovely, Very romantic. Very Sophie Scholl. But it doesn’t really help now. So listen to me for a moment, before they see me here in the building. They’re everywhere, you know. Thousands of operations per month.

We don’t want your money

I’m wasting my time by trying to convince the Israeli government. You don’t think I’ve tried? All they’ll do is sic the cops and secret police on me, frame me, and pull out all the stops in grandstanding political trials. You know how it goes. So dear Mr. Italian prime minister, all your aides and advisors shan’t tire me any more than I am fatigued and exasperated right now. I’ve got nothing to lose.

We need a responsible adult. You know how it is – learning to kill is a matter of habit. It doesn’t matter right now who started it and why. There are many books on the topic; roughly one every passing week. Forget about it right now; I don’t have the time. Netanyahu is already creeping up my back. I beg of you, as the current president of the Council of the EU, do impose upon us a political solution. Not back to negotiations or anything like that. Impose a political solution.

Did you hear of the Dayton Agreement? That’s the agreement that was imposed upon Yugoslavia by the international community to end the horrendous civil war that was raging there. You know how long the negotiations were? Twenty-one days; I checked. And here, peace negotiations have gone on since I was a high school student. Tell me, are you kidding us?

No, really. Do something. Look at what’s going on here. I’m sick of all of your nice statements about ending the “cycle of violence” and all of that, and going back to the negotiation table and all of that. I’ve just had it with you. You come here to meet us, ye knights of civil society. You nod, you encourage, you finance the offices, the salaries, the printing of reports on glossy paper. And I’ve had it. I’ve had it with all of your reports, with dulcet legal English about human rights and international treaty violations with plenty of footnotes. You come, write the report, and go back to your homes. To the Metropolis. To beer and football. Oh, and what football it is!

So listen to me for a minute, Mr. Renzi. I know you have nothing but good intentions, really, but I’m a little sick of it. It’s just not helping here. Don’t come. We’ll send you an email with an attachment. We’ll meet at the UN Security Council. No, really, forget about it. Real friends don’t let their friend commit war crimes and crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing without doing anything. A good friend does not come to visit, see you burning kids in wholesale, not just one or two, and then says nothing because it’s uncomfortable. The rockets here are also unpleasant! And explosions in buses and restaurants are unpleasant as well. And fascist neo-Nazi movements are unpleasant too, believe me. And if Sayed leaves, then Uzi Bar’am will leave, and then his son, and then Rogel Alpher, and then there’ll be no one left. Either help us out of this mess, or just leave us alone.

Don’t give us any more money to pay for the salaries and air conditioners, not in Tel Aviv and not in Ramallah. And don’t cover our travel expenses abroad; leave us be. We’ll manage in the heat, without an office and without A/C. And without flights to all of those conferences of yours. That’s it. We won’t clear your conscience anymore. No more peace conferences in Tel Aviv or elsewhere. And no more cooperation with the Israeli government. In any field. As far as I’m concerned, my Horizon 2020 is stuck underneath some house in Gaza that collapsed atop all of its inhabitants from an Israeli missile strike, and that’s where my horizon is until further notice.

In short, Mr. Renzi, they are all mad here, and I’m asking you to step in immediately. That’s it. I said my piece. Now you know how it is here and you can do what you want with the information. You have 21 days.

Andiamo!

Yoav Shemer Kunz is a PhD candidate in Political Science in Strasburg and Amsterdam Universities. He is also an expert on the EU’s relationship with Israel and Palestine. He is 35 years old and a Jerusalem native. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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