+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 26 Nov 2014 21:37:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Gaza quiet shows Hamas’ pragmatism http://972mag.com/gaza-quiet-shows-hamas-pragmatism/99269/ http://972mag.com/gaza-quiet-shows-hamas-pragmatism/99269/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:18:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99269 Despite violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, for the past three months Hamas has maintained calm on the Gaza border — curbing rocket-fire against Israel.

By Aaron Magid

A Palestinian youth holds a mock rocket as thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas' 25th anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 14, 2012. This is the first time since 2007 that the Palestinian Authority has allowed Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in the West Bank. (photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth holds a mock rocket as thousands of Palestinians celebrate Hamas’ 25th anniversary in the West Bank city of Hebron, December 14, 2012.
This is the first time since 2007 that the Palestinian Authority has allowed Hamas to celebrate its anniversary in the West Bank. (photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Opponents of Hamas often accuse the Islamist organization of acting irrationally. In a National Review article titled, “Hamas’ Suicidal Tendencies,” the author writes, “[w]hy is Hamas pursuing such a self-destructive strategy? Ideology.” Yet, in the months since the Gaza war, Hamas’ leadership in Gaza has repeated its pragmatic approach by not launching rockets into Israel, instead choosing to downgrade its ideology so that it may fight Israel more effectively in the next war.

After the bloody summer war, the Gaza-Israel border has remained remarkably quiet. Hamas has deployed a special unit to guard its border with Israel and prevent smaller militant groups from shooting rockets at Israel. A Hamas security source told Al-Monitor, “Gaza’s border will not be violated by group firing rockets at Israel in light of a national consensus for a cease-fire.” Hamas security forces have been successful in preserving the calm — only one rocket has been fired in three months at Israel — despite the growing unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank. After this rare cease-fire violation on October 31, Hamas criticized those responsible and quickly arrested the five suspected individuals. This dramatic reduction in Gaza attacks dispels another myth: that Hamas is incapable of cracking down on other Gaza militants.

Read also: How Israel taught Hamas that violence is effective

Although Hamas leaders have offered mixed appraisals about future violence, senior official Ahmad Yousef emphasized that with the growing reconstruction needs, the current situation “mandates a cessation of armed operations for two or three years in order to close the door on Israeli excuses and lift the people from the catastrophe that fell upon them.”

This calm is hardly fortuitous. The year following the November 2012 conflict saw the fewest amount of rockets launched into Israel since 2003. Following that conflict as well, Hamas established a police force near the Gaza border to prevent rocket fire and preserve the shaky cease-fire.

An Israeli police officer and reporters take cover during a rocket attack in the southern town of Sderot, Israel on December 30, 2008 (photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahim / CC BY-SA 2.0)

An Israeli police officer and reporters take cover during a rocket attack in the southern town of Sderot, Israel on December 30, 2008 (photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahim / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hamas’ realism was apparent when in September its deputy chairman, Mousa Abu-Marzouk, surprisingly suggested direct talks with Israel for the first time due to the difficulties of Egyptian mediation during post-war negotiations in Cairo. Although others in the organization rejected his idea, Abu-Marzouk broke a taboo within Hamas on a sensitive topic, preferring pragmatism over ideology. Similarly, former Hamas Prime Minister Ishmael Haniyeh sent his daughter into Israel for emergency medical treatment last month. While Haniyeh previously praised Hamas fighters in their battle with the “enemy” Israel, this did not stop him from making a cold-calculated move to save his daughter’s life.

PHOTOS: In Gaza, rebuilding is still over the horizon

Hamas’ current rational approach stands in stark contrast to the movement’s previous hardline record. Hamas and other militant groups launched approximately 1,035 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel from January to mid-November 2012 before Operation Pillar of Defense.

Some would suggest launching a massive war against Israel this past summer contradicts the thesis that Hamas acts pragmatically. Nonetheless, Israel repeatedly shows that it rewards those who utilize violence efficiently. Only after the 2014 war when Hamas managed to mainly shut down Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport for one day and kill over 70 Israelis did Israel considerably ease the siege around Gaza. For the first time since 2007, Gazans were permitted to sell sweet potatoes to Europe in addition to allowing the transfer of more goods to the West Bank. Furthermore, only after the summer war did Israel permit the Palestinian reconciliation government to meet in Gaza, despite Netanyahu’s earlier declarations that this same government “strengthens terror.” Similarly, by October for the first time in seven years Gazans were allowed to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Although Israelis declare that they won’t reward “terrorism,” Hamas understands that only after painful violence will Israel ease its siege.

Palestinians walk through the Shujayea neighborhood of Gaza City, nearly three months since a cease fire ended Operation Protective Edge, November 16, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians walk through the Shujayea neighborhood of Gaza City, nearly three months since a cease fire ended Operation Protective Edge, November 16, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Hamas’ refrain from using violence from Gaza does not mean that the movement has become conciliatory. After a stabbing last week in Tel Aviv, Hamas spokesman Husam Badran exclaimed, “the attack is part of a welcome plan that reflects the tenacity of our people to resist the occupation.” Following the recent Gaza war, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar has repeatedly called for armed resistance to spread to the West Bank. Hamas leaders in Gaza understand that despite all of its inflammatory rhetoric supporting attacks in the West Bank, Israel has yet to target Hamas officials in Gaza. While Israel has increasingly arrested West Bank suspects — after the painful summer — Israel has no interest in opening up another front in Gaza due to the growing deterrence Hamas established.

Hamas leaders say they are rebuilding its tunnels to attack Israel following the summer war. Yet, one cannot ignore the massive Israeli damage inflicted on the movement’s military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, and its arsenal. Hamas found itself further isolated after Egypt established a buffer zone along its own border with Gaza this month, dramatically impacting Hamas’ supply routes for weapons. The Islamist movement needs time to refurbish its long-range rocket supply along with restoring its tunnels to a pre-war levels. Otherwise, a weak military performance would lead to declining support from Gazans and no meaningful reduction of the siege.

Following the 2012 conflict when Hamas only killed six Israelis, Netanyahu did not significantly alter the Gaza siege, all while increasing Israeli incursions into the territory. With such limited military success in 2012, Hamas was unable to establish deterrence vis-a-vis Israel. Hamas leaders realize that only by again staging an especially lethal operation like this summer’s, in contrast to 2012, will Hamas receive tangible concessions from Israel. In order to obtain such military achievements, Hamas requires additional time without disruption by Israeli attacks, which would be the case if it shot rockets into Israel. The current cessation of rockets into Israel is part of Hamas’ more sophisticated planning.

With violence spiking across Israel and the West Bank through stabbings and car attacks, ironically the volatile Israel-Gaza border is one of the only locations experiencing calm. Hamas’ intentional choice abstaining from launching rockets during these tensions demonstrates the movement’s pragmatism in its continued clash with Israel — at least until it gains enough strength to powerfully confront the Jewish state.

Aaron Magid is a graduate student at Harvard University specializing in Middle Eastern Studies. He has written articles on Middle Eastern politics for The New Republic, Al-Monitor and Lebanon’s Daily Star. He tweets at @AaronMagid.

How Israel taught Hamas that violence is effective
A siege of inertia: Israel’s non-policy on Gaza
Space for perpetuating the conflict: Tunnels, deterrence and profits

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Israeli forces kill first Palestinian in Gaza since ceasefire http://972mag.com/israeli-forces-kill-first-palestinian-in-gaza-since-ceasefire/99229/ http://972mag.com/israeli-forces-kill-first-palestinian-in-gaza-since-ceasefire/99229/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:51:58 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99229 In the first such killing since the ceasefire that ended Israel’s offensive last summer, troops shoot and kill a Palestinian farmer near Gaza’s border.

Palestinian workers salvage building materials near Erez Crossing at Gaza’s northern border, Beit Hanoun, May 11, 2014. Human rights organizations have documented dozens of cases of Israeli army gunfire at persons who posed no threat and were well outside the 300-meter so-called “no-go zone” imposed by the Israeli military inside Gaza’s borders. In many cases, no warning was given before soldiers opened fire. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers salvage building materials near Erez Crossing at Gaza’s northern border, Beit Hanoun, May 11, 2014. Human rights organizations have documented dozens of cases of Israeli army gunfire at persons who posed no threat and were well outside the 300-meter so-called “no-go zone” imposed by the Israeli military inside Gaza’s borders. In many cases, no warning was given before soldiers opened fire. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli forces shot and killed Palestinian farmer Fadel Mohammed Halawa, 32, near Gaza’s border with Israel on Sunday. Relatives say he was searching for songbirds that fetch high prices in Gaza markets.

An Israeli military spokesperson said that troops warned two Palestinians to leave the border zone and first fired warning shots. “Once they didn’t comply, they fired towards their lower extremities. There was one hit,” a spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

Gaza medical officials told the BBC that Halawa was shot in the back, and that the shots appeared to have been fired from an Israeli border watchtower.

Halawa is the first Palestinian to be killed since the ceasefire that ended the Israeli offensive known as “Operation Protective Edge.” According UN statistics, Israeli attacks killed some 2,200 Palestinians in seven weeks, most of them civilians. Rockets from Gaza killed five civilians in Israel, and 66 Israeli soldiers died in the fighting. Israeli forces have shot and wounded several Palestinians since the start of the ceasefire.

Two of Nizar Al-Wan’s sons look on as he recovers in his home in the Gaza village of Jabalya the day after being shot by Israeli forces near the northern border, May 12, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Two of Nizar Al-Wan’s sons look on as he recovers in his home in the Gaza village of Jabalya the day after being shot by Israeli forces near the northern border, May 12, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

As a B’Tselem report from the start of 2014 indicates, the shooting of unarmed Palestinians near the Gaza border constitutes an ongoing pattern of excessive lethal force:

Israel completed the disengagement in September 2005. From then until the end of July 2006, soldiers have killed fourteen unarmed Palestinians near the perimeter fence [as of January 1, 2014]. Five of the fatalities were minors, one of them an eight-year-old girl. Eight of the dead did not even try to reach the fence, and were shot at a distance of from 100 to 800 meters from the fence. Four other civilians were shot when they tried to cross the fence and sneak into Israel to work, and two were shot near the Israeli border. The IDF’s announcement confirms that none of the persons killed were carrying weapons or objects with which they could mount an attack. B’Tselem’s research also indicates that Israel ‘s security forces did not warn the Palestinians to go away from the area, and they were not given the opportunity to hand themselves over to the soldiers. The IDF Spokesperson’s Office only announced that the soldiers opened fire when they suspected that Palestinians intended to fire at them or sought to place explosives near the fence. …

A primary principle of international humanitarian law is the distinction between combatants and civilians. … Automatically opening fire at every person who enters a certain area, regardless of the person’s identity or the circumstances of the incident, such as in the cases described above, is “indiscriminate firing,” which is liable to constitute a war crime.

PHOTOS: Life and death in Gaza’s border zone
PHOTOS: Palestinian worker shot by Israeli soldiers near Gaza border

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Bill aims to strip citizenship, curb speech — a bellwether of Israel’s Right http://972mag.com/bill-aims-to-strip-citizenship-curb-speech-a-bellwether-of-israels-right/99249/ http://972mag.com/bill-aims-to-strip-citizenship-curb-speech-a-bellwether-of-israels-right/99249/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:15:08 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99249 A senior Likud MK is proposing to suspend much of Israeli democracy. His bill has zero chance of passing muster, but it does show where the Israeli Right thinks the future of the conflict lies. 

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), chairman of the House Parliamentary Committee, is pushing a new directive — temporary legislation — to “combat terrorism” that amounts to perhaps the most sweepingly anti-democratic legislative project in recent years, whether implemented or proposed. The directive is extraordinarily harsh even by Israeli measure, and is almost certainly unconstitutional on several levels. It is meant to apply both to the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel proper.

According to Ynet, the provisions of the bill include:

• “Terrorists,” which includes anyone throwing a Molotov cocktail, will be stripped of their citizenship or residency and expelled to the Gaza Strip.

• Stone throwers, inciters, and anyone displaying the Palestinian flag or flags of terrorist organizations will be arrested and held until trial — without bail.

• Anyone convicted of terrorism will be denied national insurance benefits and will lose their driver’s license for 10 years.

• The homes of accused terrorists’ families will be demolished within 24 hours of the terrorist act.

• Bodies of terrorists will not be delivered to their families, and will be buried secretly, without funeral rites.

• Citizenship/residency will be stripped from family members who express support for the terrorists.

• Businesses that print [sic] publications supportive of terrorism will be shut down.

• Employers summarily firing workers with a record of “security” offenses will not be liable for compensation claims.

The bill is so off the wall that it’s nearly comical. Some details have very little grounding in Israeli law (what constitutes an “inciter,” for instance?) or in 21st century realities (confiscating printing presses? go right ahead.) It also contradicts several basic laws and overrides existing criminal law, which already sets punishments for many of the listed offenses.

That is probably why Levin is  proposing it not as a law in its own right, but as a “temporary directive.” Regardless, it’s highly doubtful it will make it even to a preliminary vote, much less so further down the legislative process — through committees, three more votes, and finally into the books and possible review by the High Court of Justice. In other words, this is more likely to be a spin rather than a legislative proposal: Levin is putting it out there to show how “tough on terrorism” he is,  while relying on his fellow MKs to check his pace. He can then blame these fellow MKs for hampering his efforts and make them look less tough on terror in comparison.

Nevertheless, it is interesting and alarming. A few years ago, such legislative deformities would be produced by the margins of the margins of the Israeli Right — provocateurs like Michael Ben Ari, for instance, who used them mostly to stir controversy and secure some airtime. Yariv Levin, conversely, is a stalwart of the Likud, the former coalition chairman and probably a future minister. The audience he is aiming to impress isn’t radical settlers, but center-right and right-wing voters floating between the Likud and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party. If this is where the center-right is shifting, it doesn’t bode well for anyone.

The specific concern that the legislation pretends to address — while actually fanning it — is more alarming and interesting still, and is revealed in the bill’s frequent references to the revocation of residency and citizenship. These measures are overwhelmingly directed at citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem as opposed to residents of the occupied Palestinian territories; they aim, therefore, to respond to the disquieting realization of many on the Israeli Right that getting rid of the two-state solution did not make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict go away, but rather brought it closer to home. The bill, like many other pieces of far-fetched legislation, is a weather balloon: it is one more early indicator that with the creeping demise of the Palestinian statehood project, the focal point of the struggle is beginning to spread, if not shift, inside the Green Line — with everything that implies for the “Jewish and democratic” state structure.

Read also:
Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all?
Israel’s UN ambassador puts another nail in the two-state coffin
Israeli gov’t votes to support annexing West Bank settlements

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PHOTOS: Sudanese refugees protest gender violence http://972mag.com/photos-sudanese-refugees-protest-gender-violence/99219/ http://972mag.com/photos-sudanese-refugees-protest-gender-violence/99219/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 22:54:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99219 Photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Sudanese asylum seekers protest outside the European Union Embassy, November 25, 2014, Ramat Gan, Israel. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Sudanese asylum seekers protest outside the European Union Embassy, November 25, 2014, Ramat Gan, Israel. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Approximately 200 Sudanese asylum seekers marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Tuesday by demonstrating against the European Union’s lack of action regarding Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The protest comes in the wake of the mass rape of hundreds of women and girls in Darfur at the hands of al-Bashir’s soldiers over the last several months.

The demonstrators marched from Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv to the building that houses the European Union delegation to Israel in Ramat Gan, demanding that the EU intervene in order to stop the rape and ethnic cleansing in Sudan, as well as try al-Bashir for war crimes.

Mutasim Ali, one of the leaders of the asylum seeker movement in Israel, explained in the lead-up to the protest that demonstrators decided to target the EU because “the UN is in Sudan but not doing anything.”

Sudanese asylum seekers march to the EU Embassy in Ramat Gan, November 25, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Sudanese asylum seekers march to the EU Embassy in Ramat Gan, November 25, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

“The African Union is also here, but they are hiding,” says Ali. “They do not want to properly investigate and are actually cooperating with the regime. The European Union can call on the government of Sudan to put a stop to this.”

Israel hasn’t recognized one Sudanese refugee
The origins and politics of Israel’s refugee debate

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The Beaten Path: Framing the story at Yad Vashem (part 8) http://972mag.com/the-beaten-path-framing-the-story-at-yad-vashem-part-8/98449/ http://972mag.com/the-beaten-path-framing-the-story-at-yad-vashem-part-8/98449/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:00:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98449 Exploring Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum allows us to understand the way in which the Zionist narrative deals with the destruction of European Jewry. But is it the whole story? Part eight of Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey through the Holy Land’s most popular tourist sites.

Janus Korczak Memorial, Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem. (Yuval Ben-Ami)

In the early years of the 11th Century, the Holy Land was taken over by ISIS. The religious militants came from the north, their faces covered. They pillaged every town through which they passed, beheading “heathens” and abducting women. Their sense of self-righteousness and the blessings of fundamentalist clergymen made them entirely blind to their atrocities.

They did not call themselves “ISIS” or “ISIL” or even “The Islamic State.” They called themselves Crusaders, and are celebrated today as noble knights. As part of this series, I had the idea of visiting Acre, capital of the second Crusader kingdom, checking out its various crusader-themed sites and discussing how we romanticize history.

Eventually, I chose to stick to the list of sites chosen by my trusty editor Michael. It skips Acre, but does feature Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust museum. On the way there I wonder whether that would be the perfect place to explore the theme of “romanticizing history.” Clearly, Yad Vashem does not cleanse wrongdoers. Nor does it diminish history. The museum provides a very serious educational experience, and is invaluable in preserving the memory of the Holocaust. As a teenager I spent hours in Yad Vashem’s archives searching through sheets of microfilm for survivors among my grandfather’s family members who disappeared from southern Slovakia in the early 40s, almost without a trace.

At the same time I cannot escape the way in which Israeli culture ceremonializes the memory of the Holocaust, boxing it away it from the rest of history and distilling our emotional reaction with its every mention. It seems to me that Israeli politicians appear to ceaselessly use this emotional reaction in order to enhance our sense of vulnerability and ostensible dependence on their polices.

We also beautify the Holocaust, leaving out that which we find “unbecoming” of the canonized memory. Consider the experiences of sex slaves in the camps. Women survivors who have been through unimaginable horrors must go on being ashamed, hiding their stories and the tattoos that attest to them. Their pain is almost never told. My great aunt was enslaved in a different fashion: working in a Siemens factory that operates until this very day. The dehumanized slaves did not receive basic living conditions and died of typhus. My great aunt died on the day of liberation. I don’t hear much talk about that either. We now buy Siemens; we even cook our meals with their appliances. Discussing “labor camps” without mentioning brand names is considered more “becoming.”

The way Israel deals with the Holocaust has changed over the years from silent shock, through the catharsis of the Eichmann trial, to our present day discourse. There was always bias in how it was told. No society or individual can deal with such a catastrophe without some degree of moderating manipulation. This is why Anne Frank’s diary is so popular. We can deal with one girl. A million children – that is a lot harder. This is probably why “Schindler’s List” was shot in black and white, providing some distance, and why it focuses on the story of a man who risked himself to save others, and not on that of a killer.

Reaching for the light

Yad Vashem (the name can be generally translated as “a memorial and a name”) is a large campus situated on a hill on the green, western outskirts of Jerusalem. The grounds host various structures and pieces of public art. The most central of those is the museum, designed by architect Moshe Safdie is the 1990s.

Safdie’s museum is a prism of concrete that runs through the hill. Visitors zig zag through the prism, exploring the interactive exhibition while gradually nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. Having gone through, they stand on a balcony overlooking the beauty of the Jerusalem corridor. The tunnel summarizes the Zionist narrative vis-a-vis the Holocaust quite briefly: it was a hard time, but it’s over. Now we have our own country and never again will we be subject to such evil.

Read parts onetwothreefourfivesix and seven of ‘The Beaten Path.’

Having emerged from the tunnel, visitors frequently head for the children’s memorial, a striking installation in which the light of three candles is multiplied through a play of mirrors into a galaxy of small flames. They are also invited to walk down the hill and visit “the valley of the communities” — a stone labyrinth, whose walls are adorned with the names of towns and cities where Jews once lived (and may still live). Otherwise they may or climb up to Mt. Herzl, Israel’s principle military cemetery and the pantheon of the nation’s greats, from Herzl to Rabin.

Along with the prism, the hill also presents the Zionist narrative. At its foot is the Jewish past – the Diaspora — which the Israeli perspective views as a thing of history. Halfway up is the Holocaust, the turning point. And at the very top? The Arab-Israeli conflict, with its own death toll, representing the present. (Sadly and perhaps prophetically, the hill possesses no higher peak; that would be reserved to honor a future of peace and normality.) The diaspora is a maze — a claustrophobic reality. The Holocaust is a straight corridor: a single, solid, defining event that leads elsewhere. The cemetery is an open air garden, somber but free, and of course – superior.

So the story goes

I am here today with one of the groups I guide. We try to give them as much time as possible to explore on their own. I take that time for myself. After visiting the museum I walk through the grounds of Yad Vashem, visiting my favorite spots. Most of them are dedicated to acts of bravery: the tree planted in honor of the Danish nation, the moving statue of legendary teacher Janus Korczak and the children of his orphanage. Korczak, who like the children was Jewish, was given several opportunities to escape Poland. He chose to remain with his children and ended up being carted to the camps along with them.

Sitting at the foot of the moving depiction of Korczak hugging the children, I realize that Yad Vashem does not romanticize the Holocaust. It neither over-dramatizes nor significantly under-dramatizes it. Instead, it frames.

Consider Korczak’s story. He was not the only one who stayed with the children and met his death at the hands of the Nazis. There was a woman there too, Stefa Wilczynzka, Korczak’s partner in running the orphanage. Wilczynzka had actually moved to Palestine in the 1930s, when dark clouds began to cover Europe. She became a member of Kibbutz Ein Harod, but chose to leave in order to care for Jewish children in Poland. Like Korczak, she was offered refuge and refused. She was murdered in Treblinka in 1942.

We need the Holocaust to be a story, and a well-defined one at that. We need it to be made up of familiar characters. In a typically male-centered telling of history, Wilczynzka was forgotten. Though she is commemorated elsewhere by Yad Vashem, her removal from the pages of history is cast in bronze in the major Korczak monument, which presents a solitary man hugging a group of children.

We need the Holocaust to be a story, a well-defined story. We need it to have a beginning. When did the Holocaust begin? I return to the museum in order to find out which exhibit is placed first in the museum’s chronological presentation. It is a plaque describing the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933. The next exhibit, however, takes us back in time with a plaque dating back to the Middle Ages, which describes historical anti-Semitism in Christian traditions. Yad Vashem admits that the story goes back — that Hitler did not emerge out of nowhere. But it chose to start in 1933 and only then look back, squeezing the history leading up to the Holocaust for the sake of coherence.

When does the Holocaust end? The victory of the Allies and the liberation of the camps ended the extermination of the Jews and of other populations (the latter are only briefly referred to among the exhibits). Is that really the right point to insert a “The End” caption? Was the war of 1948 not a ripple effect of World War II? Is contemporary worldwide anti-Semitism unrelated? What about the ongoing psychological and political scars left by those 12 years on Jews, Germans and others? Is the Holocaust entirely unrelated to later atrocities, such as the Rwandan Genocide and the Balkan massacres of the 1990s?

Nearly a decade ago an Israeli guide named Itamar Shapira stood on the concluding, comforting balcony with a group. He told them that in the serene landscape before them once stood a village named Deir Yassin, and that in 1948 Israeli militias carried a massacre there. To my understanding Shapira did not compare the event to any horror of Holocaust. He did, however, link it to the events that preceded it in Europe. German acknowledgement of the Holocaust was enormously important to both nations. Shapira expressed a hope that Israeli recognition of Palestinian pain would result in a healthier future for both societies.

Shapira was promptly fired from Yad Vashem. He told the story wrong, drawing the wrong conclusions. Framing a narrative makes history more accessible, more easily conveyed. But it also prevents that same history from being explored. It bars us from learning from it. We have framed the Holocaust too well — so well that we have barely become capable of asking the most difficult, humanist questions it brings up. Questions that the rest of humanity has been dealing with for over 70 years. As Jews we relate to the victims of the Holocaust, with whom we share so much. As humans, however, we almost never relate to its perpetrators, with whom we share so much. This is unfortunate. We have so much to learn, so much to be wary of.

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Israel’s UN ambassador puts another nail in the two-state coffin http://972mag.com/israels-ambassador-to-the-un-puts-another-nail-in-the-two-state-coffin/99201/ http://972mag.com/israels-ambassador-to-the-un-puts-another-nail-in-the-two-state-coffin/99201/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:51:02 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99201 ‘Imagine the type of state [Palestinian] society would produce. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy?’ Prosor said in a speech on Monday.

In recent years Israeli government officials have learned that rejecting the rights of Palestinians should always go hand-in-hand with a verbal commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state. But the consensus in Israel is moving toward the right, and Israeli officials are more explicit than ever in their rejection of Palestinian statehood or any form of equal rights for Palestinians, for that matter.

Since his appointment, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has made it clear that regardless of any political solution, the Israeli army should have the freedom to operate within the Palestinian territory. Prime Minister Netanyahu insists that Israel maintain control over the Jordan Valley for an indefinite period of time. Neither demand leaves much in the way of a sovereign Palestinian state, with Ya’alon even admitting as much in a recent interview, in which he said that this “state” will actually be an “autonomy,” regardless of how people choose to call it.

Another such acknowledgement came Monday in a speech by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor. Prosor attacked the European parliaments who are voting on the recognition of Palestine, dismissing the Palestinian issue as less important than the plight of other nations. After blaming Palestinians for celebrating and supporting terror, he rejected the mere idea of handing them their independence. Here’s the money quote:

Imagine the type of state [Palestinian] society would produce. Does the Middle East really need another terror-ocracy? Some members of the international community are aiding and abetting its creation.

Other nuggets include:

“Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free – and they are all citizens of Israel”.

“Israel learned the hard way that listening to the international community can bring about devastating consequences.”

And so on. You can read the rest here. The text is full of manipulations. Prosor claims Israel didn’t listen to the international community when it decided to withdraw from Gaza. In reality it was a unilateral move initiated as an alternative to the two-state solution promoted by the international community.

The speech, however, does capture the current mood in Israel. The two-state solution is simply not on the table anymore, nor is the idea of giving Palestinians their rights within Israel. For Ya’alon or Prosor, and certainly for Netanyahu, the status quo – keeping millions under a military regime without rights – is the solution. The world simply needs to accept it.

Ya’alon: I am not looking for a solution, I am looking for a way to manage the conflict
The occupation will last forever, Netanyahu clarifies
Replacing the peace process with a civil rights struggle

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Is the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill good for anyone at all? http://972mag.com/is-the-jewish-nation-state-bill-good-for-anyone-at-all/99192/ http://972mag.com/is-the-jewish-nation-state-bill-good-for-anyone-at-all/99192/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:03:09 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99192 A law seeking to prioritize and designate Israel as the Jewish nation-state is exposing the crazies in Israel’s government. This proposed basic law would codify and demarcate the state as something that belongs only to a subset of its citizens.

The cabinet on Sunday passed a preliminary reading of a law — with the weight of a constitutional amendment — that would declare Israel to be the nation-state of the Jewish people. In order to pass the vote, Prime Minister Netanyahu put forward 14 principles on which the basic law’s final wording will be based. Democracy is in there as an afterthought, equality treated weakly by guaranteeing individual rights, and allowing all people to preserve their culture and language.

Here are seven of the main reasons why “Basic Law: Israel – the National State of the Jewish People” is wrong for Israel and should not be passed.

No solutions. The prime minister’s 14 articles do not deal with cost of living and they do not protect the residents of Sderot or the woman whose house was burned yesterday by violent Israeli extremists. It doesn’t lower tuition fees for students or the price of chocolate pudding, connect Negev Bedouin to the water grid or create jobs for factory workers laid off in Arad. It doesn’t address the growing chasm with the Western world and the crisis of relations with the U.S. Yet this is what the government is doing while its citizens wait, and suffer.

Freeze a flawed reality. While the proposed basic law will effect little tangible change, it will go a long way toward anchoring the current situation of de facto discrimination into law. I recently got into a big argument with a foreigner who accused Israel of being racist in its “DNA.” I was heated. “Like all human beings, people can change,” I shot back. “Bad regimes can turn to other directions.”

Now the law is making exclusivity and inequality part of Israel’s legal DNA. Yes we are changing – but not in the right direction.

Clinging to crazy. The debate over the proposed Jewish nation-state law exposes the deepening isolationism of the small clutch of extremists at the country’s helm. They long ago isolated Israel from the Western and Arab worlds. Now, just as the prime minister and his henchmen contradict their own security chiefs when the latter don’t fall into line, this bill pits its plotters against Israel’s attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein. Weinstein said the proposed Jewish nation-state law dilutes democracy, sharply criticizing the government’s intention to support it. To which Likud MK Yariv Levin, one of the bill’s sponsors, snarled back:

The attorney general’s statements are arrogant and have nothing to do with his position as attorney general or with the legal world. The question of the image of the state and its fundamental values on which it will continue to be built, are given, in a democracy, to the public and only the public through its elected representatives, and under no circumstances must it become the private realm of a group of jurists who are trying to place themselves above the Knesset. (As quoted in Haaretz — my translation.)

It seems that Levin, and probably numerous other ministers, has lost his marbles. The attorney general has overstepped his boundaries by providing a legal opinion to the government about the imminent passage of a law with constitutional status? The character of the state is to be determined in a way that rejects checks and balances? The Hebrew term for attorney general is “legal advisor to the government,” for crying out loud.

Then there’s Levin’s imaginary cabal of jurists levitating themselves above the Knesset. In fact, there is a very real gang of supremacist thugs leading the country into an abyss.

Constitutional-coup. The bill is part of a minority imposed creeping constitution instead of a healthy participatory process. Other basic laws were passed this way too, but those were more amendments; this one involves national self-definition that reads like the body of a constitution. The kind that should be put to wider public debate or at least not by an extremist coalition as part of coalition horse-trading.

What could the law mean if passed? Theoretically, but quite realistically, it could enable the High Court of Justice to uphold a law that violates the equality of Israeli citizens, since the Jewish nation-state law would provide constitutional foundations for privileging Jews over all others.

As normal as ethno-nationalism. Some insist that it is hypocritical and maybe even anti-Semitic to protest a simple law of national self-definition, when ‘France is for the French people,’ or ‘Germany is the land of the German people.’ Can we lay this argument to rest already? In those examples citizenship overlaps with nationhood. Yes, France is for the French. But what makes someone French is not birth or ethnicity alone, but citizenship.

This proposed basic law would codify and demarcate the State of Israel as something that belongs only to a subset of its citizens. State rights will not overlap with citizenship; they privilege a subset of citizens. Non-Jewish citizens have no route to sharing in the privileged national group. Being Israeli won’t be enough to live equally in this country. In fact, the state has consistently rejected the very idea that there is an Israeli nationality.

The true comparison is simple: the law says Israel is for the Jews, just as America once said America is for whites.

Avalanche of inequality. This is a time of worsening relations between Jews and Arabs/Palestinians in Israel.

Anyone who says this law is mainly a cover for coalition and electoral politics that won’t make a difference in real life, should look at another recent example. In 2009 a politician invented a fictional concept of Arab disloyalty, to arouse nationalist jingoism and get elected. The slogan itself, “No loyalty, no citizenship,” was a political marketing ploy. Once that politician entered the halls of power, it became his legislative vision, leading to a string of nasty, exclusionary, hate-inspired bills linked to this concept. Some of them passed.

The Nakba Law rejects the history of the Arab population; the Acceptance Committee Law rejects housing integration, the amendment to the Citizenship Law rejects their presence by keeping families apart. Now the foreign minister — recently joined by the prime minister — calls to strip their citizenship altogether, for no crime at all.

What will the nationality law be the beginning of?

Stoking rage. The prime minister says the law was devised to anchor Jewish identity in the face of growing challenges to the character of the state. Here is the challenge to my identity in Israel: rising strife, and the fact that a football match between Jewish and Arab teams requires one security person for every seven fans; frenzied chants of “death to Arabs” in a growing number of situations. Doesn’t the need for peaceful relations among fellow countrymen mean anything, or is the government only concerned with the phantom threats of “delegitimization,” which if it happens, is primarily due to developments like this?

This law is fearful. It is not closing the chapter on Israel’s tense relationship between Jewish identity and the State, as I once hoped possible; it is opening the window to acid rain.

It is creating a false god, a Judaism that is primarily political, material, imposed, devoid of humanity or humility.

Why I oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state
WATCH: Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, or an ‘ethnocracy?’
‘Religion and politics’ in Israel: The mythology of Jewish nationalism

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Abiding by international law — when it’s convenient http://972mag.com/abiding-by-international-law-when-its-convenient/99183/ http://972mag.com/abiding-by-international-law-when-its-convenient/99183/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:15:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99183 Israeli institutions seek to obtain the benefits of the international legal order while refusing to accept the corresponding burdens and obligations.

By Gerard Horton

For some time now the Israeli army’s Military Courts’ Unit has distributed a five-page briefing paper to foreign delegations visiting military courts in the West Bank. The briefing paper is intended to persuade the reader that the military courts — which have been used to prosecute approximately 755,000 Palestinian men, women and children since 1967 — were established, and are currently operating, in accordance with international law. The document commences with the following statement:

The Military Courts in Judea and Samaria (hereinafter: ‘The Military Courts’) were established in accordance with international law, and have jurisdiction to hear ordinary criminal cases and cases involving security offenses.

This statement is significant because the only provision of international law that authorizes the prosecution of civilians in military courts is the Fourth Geneva Convention (the Convention). Under Article 64 of the Convention the penal laws of the occupied territory should remain in force, but may be temporarily suspended and replaced with military law in cases of security or in order to facilitate the application of the Convention.

In circumstances where military law has been imposed, Article 66 of the Convention provides that persons accused of violating the temporary measures can be prosecuted in “properly constituted, non-political military courts.” These are the legal provisions the Military Courts Unit is referring to when it asserts that Israeli military courts “were established in accordance with international law.”

However, in circumstances that can only serve to undermine the rule of law, the political, military and judicial authorities in Israel refuse to apply the same Convention, for example, in relation to settlement construction or the transfer of Palestinian detainees to prisons inside Israel.

Article 49 of the Convention provides that Israel is not permitted to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, thus making all settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank illegal – a conclusion confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice.

Article 76 of the Convention prohibits the transfer and detention of Palestinian detainees outside occupied territory – a legal conclusion confirmed by the U.K.’s Foreign Office and senior government ministers. Be that as it may, approximately 90 percent of Palestinian prisoners continue to be transferred and detained inside Israel.

This gives rise to the untenable situation whereby Israeli institutions seek to obtain the benefits of the international legal order while refusing to accept the corresponding burdens and obligations. It may be that this inconsistency is of little concern in the region today, but no one should later express surprise if one day Israel finds that it has stumbled into pariah status.

Gerard Horton is a lawyer and co-founder of Military Court Watch. Gerard has worked on the issue of children prosecuted in the Israeli military courts for the past seven years and is the author of a number of leading reports on the subject.

The consequences of a culture of lies
Conviction rate for Palestinians in Israel’s military courts: 99.74%
Testimonies: Eyes on Israeli military courts

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Open Mic: Israel has failed to outlaw torture http://972mag.com/open-mic-israel-has-failed-to-outlaw-torture/99175/ http://972mag.com/open-mic-israel-has-failed-to-outlaw-torture/99175/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:15:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99175 Israel Social TV gave a microphone and a camera to Dr. Ishai Menuchin, executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCABI), and asked him to speak about Israel’s obligations under international treaties, its failure to outlaw torture, and its abysmal record of investigating allegations of torture by state agents.

Related articles:
Legal experts cannot erase Israel’s history of torture
What the bones remember: Israeli doctors talk torture
Knesset extends legislation that facilitates torture

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LISTEN: The rarest records, from India to Palestine http://972mag.com/listen-the-rarest-records-from-india-to-palestine/99118/ http://972mag.com/listen-the-rarest-records-from-india-to-palestine/99118/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 20:57:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99118 The members of Tel Aviv’s Fortuna Records have spent the last several years collecting some of the rarest records from the Middle East. The music runs the gamut from classical Egyptian to Palestinian folk to Greek-Israeli music. Check out a mixtape of their favorite rarities, accompanied by their stunning (and often strange) album covers.

By Fortuna Records

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Koko)

1. Koko – Koko

The debut album by Koko, an unknown singer on the Tel Aviv “Kol Dorit” label, and who sings in Greek, is without a doubt one of the best albums recorded in Israel during the 1970s. If you ask us, it’s also the best Greek album recorded in Israel, period. Koko, however, was never recognized as a “gifted” singer in the local scene at the time, as many claimed that he did not have the correct Greek accent.

On the cover: Koko dons a flowery, open shirt, flare pants and a golden Star of David necklace as he stands in the middle of “Mini Israel” in a million-dollar pose. No doubt one of the better album covers to come out of the genre.

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Oriental Dances)

2. Unknown Artist – Oriental Dances Past & Present

There is no information on this instrumental album that was released in 1974 on the Lebanese Duniaphon label. So little is know that even the name of the artist remains unknown. This is one of the strangest and most special albums that came out of Lebanon in the 70s. Trumpets and saxophones accompanies by darbukas and electric guitars. The beat is the traditional Arab one, but the mood is somewhere between Japan, Lebanon and Spain.

On the cover: The album was bought in a record store in Athens several months ago. Without listening, we just knew this album couldn’t remain in the story. Imagine a Lebanese version of Kill Bill. And it sounds just like it looks… killer!

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Ran Eliran)

3. Ran Eliran

A singer, songwriter and composer, Ran Eliran was one of the most famous wartime singers in Israel. After releasing nearly 25 records in the 50s, he decided to put aside the accordion in 1969 and instead pick up the electric guitar. This album, which does not have a name, is one of the best psychedelic rock albums recorded in Israel. Drums and guitars that compete with the best American rock bands of the time are accompanied by Eliran’s clever and romantic singing.

On the cover: Roni Ben Arzi’s spectacular flower child illustration, likely reflecting Eliran’s use of LSD. Putting aside album covers from the Mizrahi genre, this is our favorite album cover of all time.

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Laila Nazmi)

4. Laila Nazmi – Laila Nazmi LP

Laila Nazmi belonged to a small group of Egyptian singers that used humor and satire in their songs. She was too much for the classical Egyptian tradition. Moaning, screaming and gibberish were essential to her music, but the people simply loved her. Despite a rather short career and a small number of records, Nazmi and her songs are still popular in Egypt, and have even been re-done. A sexy voice, light Arabic singing and words that don’t cause one to lose brain cells – all accompanied by a quick darbuka-led beat.

On the cover: A photo of the gorgeous Laila, with a clever smile and her head decorated with flowers. Perfectly reflective of the music on this album: fun, colorful and playful.

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Ajar)

5. Ajar – Mi She Sone Otach Yamut (single)

One of the rarest singles in our collection. To our knowledge, Ajar “the soul child” released only two singles. He was 13 years old when his first single came out, and much to our surprise (or perhaps not), it didn’t make a big splash within the genre. Aside from the single itself, the record has a special value for collectors. There are those who claim that Ajar was the proper answer to Shareef, the Druze child singer who was part of the Azoulay Brothers’ “Koliphone” record company.

On the cover: They couldn’t have spent more than five minutes on this cover. A black-and-white xerox of Ajar. But that was enough for him. How wrong can you go with a song like “He Who Hates You Shall Die?”

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Baligh Hamdi & Magid Khan)

6. Baligh Hamdi & Magid Khan – Indo Arabic Variations LP

An exceptional record, out of the thousands of Arabic albums that were recorded over the years. On this album Baligh Hamdi, an Egyptian composer and songwriter, as well as the husband of the diva Warda (and at one point the husband of Lebanese diva Sabah) plays alongside Pakistani sitar guru Magid Kahan. It is a special album that perfectly combines the classical Egyptian sound with the hallucinatory sounds of Indian sitars and tablas.

On the cover: Such an exceptional and important album needs an exceptional cover. A lovely illustration by French painter Dideya Clasa.

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Esther Jungreis)

7. Esther Jungreis – Heinkha Yehuda, Ura L’Israel

You wanted strange? You got it. Esther Jungreis, an American rabbi, resident of New York, Holocaust survivor and founder of the NGO Hineni is easily the weirdest entry on this list. This is a live recording of a performance at Madison Square Garden in front of a Hebrew-speaking Jewish audience, in which Esther tells a story of a young girl named Melanie. We’ll let you listen to the rest.

On the cover: This album has three different album covers: purple, blue and pale blue. Three covers for one album. The English version has the words “You are a Jew” on it, which made it impossible for us not to take it off the shelf. The Hebrew version that we chose is simply much more fun. In a thick American accent, Jungreis tells us that we are all Jewish.

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Faruk Salame)

8. Faruk Salame

We stopped counting the number of times we bought an album without prior listening – simply because the cover compelled us to – only to come home disappointed. That’s basically what happened with this Faruk Salame record. Salame was an Egyptian musician with very pieces in his repertoire credited to his own name. But there is one song that lasts a minute-and-a-half (not so typical for Egyptian composers of his time) hidden at the end of the record. This made the purchase worth everything.

On the cover: A typical cover from the Egyptian Sono Karo record label. There were a few artists, Salame among them, who were so poorly treated by the label that their faces did not appear on their own record cover (unlike the aforementioned Nazmi). Instead the cover consists of Cairo’s Ramses Square.

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (Sarah Badani)

9. Sarah Badani

Sarah Badani was one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of Hebrew music. For years she was known as the “Indian singer who played the bulbul tarang.” Badani owes her fame in part to Rami Danoch, who heard her sing and sent her straight to the Azoulay Brothers to record her only record.

On the cover: Badani photographed next to a bulbul tarang. Dudi Patimer, one of the biggest record collectors in Israel, told us that despite what we previously thought, Sarah never learned how to play any instrument. In fact, it is famed Mizrahi singer Ahuva Ozeri who plays the bulbul tarang on the album.

Cafe Gibraltar album covers (PLO)

10. Dancing and Singing Group of the P.L.O. – Palestinians Songs and Dances

Not far from Tel Aviv there is a small, dark and dirty room that, ironically, holds the most incredible collection of Arab records we have ever encountered. The owner has everything! Everything! Every record we have ever dreamed of seeing was just sitting on the shelf as if it just came out of the factory. This was the first record that caught our eye as we entered the room. Obviously it was important for us on a symbolic level. The record was pressed in Germany in the 1970s, and we still haven’t figured out whether this was a real band, or whether it is just a generic name for folk music from Palestine. The album itself is very diverse and includes songs praising the land of Palestine, Arabic folk songs and other interesting tunes. The specific song we chose is an instrumental piece composed of a darbuka and a zorna.


1. Esther Jungreis – Meet Melanie (Part 1)
2. Unknown Artist – Alhinna
3. Koko – Chily Chily
4. Dancing And Singing Group Of The P.L.O. – Gold Will Be Gold
5. Laila Nazmi – ?
6. Esther Jungreis – Meet Melanie (Part 2)
7. Baligh Hamdi & Magid Khan – Lahore
8. Sarah Badani – Ima Sheli
9. Ajar – Mi SheSone Otach Yamut
10. Faruk Salame – ?
11. Ron Eliran – Az Hu Haya Hayav Lo

This article was first published in Hebrew on Café Gibraltar.

More from Café Gibraltar:
Re-learning history: A tribute to North Africa’s Jewish artists
LISTEN: Classic Lebanese sounds, from jazz to Fairouz
Outside the jukebox: Female sounds of the Middle East

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