+972 Magazine » All Posts http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Mon, 24 Nov 2014 07:58:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 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.

Playlist:

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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IDF trainer: ‘No need to give mouth-to-mouth Palestinians’ http://972mag.com/idf-trainer-no-need-to-resuscitate-palestinians/99132/ http://972mag.com/idf-trainer-no-need-to-resuscitate-palestinians/99132/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 12:59:48 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99132 An IDF medic was surprised to hear two new guidelines given by his superiors, which include shooting attackers as they flee.

New orders in the Israeli army? D., a combat medic in the ground forces, was surprised to find out during training ahead of deployment in the occupied territories last week that at least two orders typically given to soldiers were ostensibly modified by his commander.

Illustrative photo of IDF medics. (photo: IDF CC BY-SA 2.0)

Illustrative photo of IDF medics. (photo: IDF CC BY-SA 2.0)

“During the refresher course the instructor, who works as a medic on the base, told us that the orders of the IDF are not to give mouth-to-mouth respiration to people we do not know. When asked about it he said that it basically means that we do not need to give mouth-to-mouth Palestinians,” says D., who took part in the course at the Lakhish base in southern Israel. D. has since then left for duty in the West Bank.

“It sounds strange but he repeated it twice, so I have no doubt that that was what he meant. I was very surprised by the order not to give mouth-to-mouth to anyone who needs it. Since then I have come to understand that Magen David Adom (Israel’s national emergency ambulance service) came up with the order regarding mouth-to-mouth respiration several years ago. The emphasis on the Palestinians was probably the instructor ‘thinking ahead.’ I assume that he goes these trainings all the time. That’s worrying.”

Furthermore over the course of the week, D. participated in a refresher on the rules of engagement, where he said he was given permission to kill people who no longer pose a threat. “They told us that the order regarding someone who stabs, ditches the knife and begins running is shoot to kill. The company commander said he doesn’t want anyone like that ‘to see a judge.’”

Did anyone protest or critique these orders?

“The company seemed very bitter over the rules of engagement. The company commander almost apologized every time he forbade. So when he finally gave us permission to shoot an unarmed terrorist, most of the company was okay with that.”

It was only two weeks ago that Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich made a public statement to a similar effect in the wake of the vehicular attack in Sheikh Jarrah. Two days later police shot Kheir Hamdan to death in Kafr Kanna.

The IDF Spokesperson has yet to respond to the above claims.

Correction:
A previous version of this article used a mistaken translation in the headline and text. The Hebrew word for artificial respiration (or mouth-to-mouth) was mistakenly translated as resuscitation. We apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused.

Related:
Why soldiers don’t ‘break the silence’ to the IDF
Criminal accountability for IDF soldiers: A baseless system

Read this article in Hebrew on +972 Magazine’s sister site here.

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PHOTOS: Palestinian home set ablaze in overnight attack http://972mag.com/palestinian-home-set-ablaze-in-overnight-attack/99122/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-home-set-ablaze-in-overnight-attack/99122/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 10:33:32 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99122 Text by Yael Marom
Photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Huda Abu Ghani in her home. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Huda Abu Ghani in her home. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Residents of Khirbet Abu Falah, near Ramallah, reported Sunday morning that settlers set a house in their village on fire, while a 50-year-old Huda Abu Ghani was inside. No one was injured, although the building was heavily damaged. The words “we will get revenge” and “price tag” were found spray painted on the walls of the house.

The attackers spray painted "death to Arabs" on the outer walls of the house. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The attackers spray painted “death to Arabs” on the outer walls of the house. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

At approximately 3 a.m. Abu Ghani woke up to the sound of someone trying to break into her house. She then heard voices outside speaking in Hebrew, followed by the shattering of windows. After a failed attempt at breaking in, the attackers allegedly spilled flammable liquid and lit the house on fire.

The home that was burned in Khirbet Abu Falah, north of Ramallah. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The home that was burned in Khirbet Abu Falah, north of Ramallah. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Related:
WATCH: Soldiers protect settlers attacking West Bank village
WATCH: IDF soldiers escort settlers attacking Palestinian village
Settler violence: It comes with the territory

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Why religious Jews are divided over the Temple Mount http://972mag.com/why-religious-jews-are-divided-over-the-temple-mount/99090/ http://972mag.com/why-religious-jews-are-divided-over-the-temple-mount/99090/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 18:34:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99090 As tensions between Jews and Muslims come to a head in Jerusalem, it is worth remembering that one of Israel’s most prominent rabbis strictly forbade Jews from visiting Judaism’s holiest site in the wake of the Six-Day War.

By Nissim Leon

Recent news reflects a surge in conflict between Muslims and Jews in Israel surrounding the question of control of the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif (the “Noble Sanctuary”). Against this background, some of the country’s leading Mizrahi-Sephardic rabbis are voicing a strident position forbidding Jews from visiting the site. Thus, alongside the Jewish-Muslim conflict in this regard, there is also an internal debate going on within religious Jewish society in Israel. On one side are mainly ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) rabbis calling, in the name of Jewish law, for Jews to be prevented from visiting the Temple Mount. On the other side are mainly Religious-Zionist rabbis and activists demanding, in the name of Jewish sovereignty, recognition of their civic and religious right to visit and pray on the Temple Mount.

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

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

The position of religiously-observant and traditional Sephardic Jews is based on a clear and unequivocal ruling by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013), the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and one of the most prominent 20th century scholars of Jewish law, as well as the spiritual leader of the Mizrahi religious political party Shas. Behind recent headlines lies an ongoing ideological conflict between him and the more outspoken nationalist approaches among some (primarily Ashkenazi) Religious-Zionist circles in Israel.

During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel seized control of East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Thus the site returned to Jewish hands for the first time since the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 C.E. The latter event marked the beginning of a long exile of Jews which, in the eyes of many secular and religious Jews alike, ended with the establishment of the State of Israel.

Many Israelis perceived the conquest of the Temple Mount as the climax of the Six-Day War and one of the defining moments of modern Jewish sovereignty. Some even interpreted this outcome as an overt sign of divine intervention, which was preceded by a period of tremendous anxiety and dark predictions in Israel. Similar nationalist and religious sentiments pervaded the central stream of the ultra-Orthodox public in Israel, affiliated with the veteran Agudat Israel party.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Ze’evi (right) and Gen. Uzi Narkiss walk through the Old City of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967, during the Six Day War. (Photo by GPO/Ilan Bruner)

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Gen. Rehavam Ze’evi (right) and Gen. Uzi Narkiss walk through the Old City of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967, during the Six Day War. (Photo by GPO/Ilan Bruner)

The results of the war raised some concerns amongst the Israeli leadership. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and others viewed Israeli control of the Temple Mount as a possible recipe for political and religious entanglement. The main concern was that Jewish control of the site would turn the Arab-Israeli conflict from a national clash into a religious one. No more would the State of Israel be the enemy of Arab states; now, the Jewish State would be the enemy of the Muslim world. Surprisingly enough, the political leadership’s reluctance was joined by a conservative coalition of Haredi and Religious-Zionist rabbis who issued an explicit blanket prohibition against Jews ascending the Temple Mount. Their reasoning was not political but rather halakhic (pertaining to Jewish law). Their official stance had been debated in meetings of the Chief Rabbinate, and summaries of these discussions were published by the religious and general press. Against the background of a clear legal decision, there emerged the famous dissenting view of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was serving at the time as a judge on the Supreme Religious Court in Jerusalem.

In a lengthy legal treatise that appeared four months after the war, and occupied half an issue of the Haredi-Mizrahi Kol Sinai newspaper, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef set forth the prohibition on Jews entering the Temple Mount precinct. Inter alia, he wrote:

It is forbidden to enter the Temple area at this time… because we are all [considered] ritually impure as a result of contact with the dead [for which there is no possibility of purification in our time]… since the holiness of the Temple [site] derives from the Divine Presence, which never leaves there… Therefore one who enters the Temple area at this time is guilty of a transgression whose sin is [spiritual] excision, and this should be publicized in order to remove a [possible] stumbling-block from the path of our people.

At the center of Ovadia’s justification for prohibiting the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount stands the principle of the place’s inherent sanctity. But among some extremist Religious-Zionist circles this very sanctity is the source of the desire to draw close to the Temple Mount. In Ovadia’s view, the sanctity of the Temple continues even after its destruction, and since Jews today cannot follow the biblically-prescribed purification rituals required in order to approach the Temple, they are all considered ritually impure. Since the boundaries of the site of the ancient temple are not sufficiently clear, anyone who goes to any part of the modern-day Temple Mount is punishable by death at the hands of heaven, for having transgressed the laws of ritual purity and impurity governing the site of the Temple.

Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef (Wkimeida Commons CC BY SA 3.0)

Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef (Wkimeida Commons CC BY SA 3.0)

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s strident warning and prohibition against Jews visiting are anchored not only in his detailed halakhic justifications, but also in the style of his article and presentation of the halakhic ruling itself.

Haredi society attaches great importance to the written word, and the manner of its presentation is no less important. In other words, the editing or literary form of the halakhic opinion or ruling can serve as a body of interpretation even for seemingly cold and objective legal arguments.

A review of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s ruling concerning Jews visiting the Temple Mount cannot but take note of the thin, dry and condensed language crammed with references to religious legal works. This legalistic presentation aided Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in his attempt to temper the great swell of religious sentiment and enthusiasm that came in the wake of the military victory. In the spirit of the period in which it was written, one might have expected him to include a brief narrative introduction bridging his ruling and the pathos of the nationalistic, religious sentiment that the Temple Mount conquest aroused among Jews, both religious and secular. It was an event widely perceived as nothing short of miraculous – and yet Rabbi Ovadia provided no such introduction to his article. The effect of his ruling was to transform the question of visiting the Temple Mount from a matter of national import, relating to what even then was perceived as a formative religious event, to a somewhat dry legal discussion treated just like any ordinary question of religious practice.

The ruling concerning the Temple Mount, which Rabbi Ovadia Yosef never retracted, understood the historic event from a broader perspective of the new reality and its halakhic significance. However, the wording, the presentation, the language – all of these played up to the reactionary ultra-Orthodox position of leading Rashei Yeshiva (heads of religious academies) in Haredi society at the time, who sought to lower the level of nationalistic enthusiasm that was manifesting itself in their communities. In their view, while the events of the war might indeed be important and can even be viewed as miraculous, the conquering of the Temple Mount was not the long-awaited Final Redemption. This was yet another war in Israel, with results that were certainly evidence of divine aid, but which had not changed the essentially “transient” situation of the Jews who were still considered “in exile” – even in the Holy Land, among other Jews.

Right-wing activist Yehuda Glick holding a book depicting the Jewish Temple while standing in front of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing activist Yehuda Glick holding a book depicting the Jewish Temple while standing in front of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The question of the Temple Mount, and later Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s ruling permitting the relinquishing of territory for peace, are both decisions of far-reaching public significance. In both instances Rabbi Ovadia Yosef gave a detailed ruling, citing considerations and justifications – not merely a concise ruling relying on obedience to the halakhic authority. On one hand, by issuing his ruling, he (along with his followers) adopted an independent halakhic and national position that was not isolationist, as opposed to the one adopted by the Haredi stream. On the other hand, it was specifically through involvement in political questions that he engaged directly in sharp polemic with more overtly nationalist and extremist religious trends within Religious-Zionist society at the time.

The vehement position adopted by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef with regard to the Temple Mount exposed the ideological conflict, which would deepen over time, between Sephardic religious Jewry and extremist groups within Religious-Zionist society. He expressed misgivings regarding the ideological and political aspirations of these groups to lead the Zionist enterprise. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s approach, like that of classic ultra-Orthodox Judaism, seems to prefer the secular Zionist control of the political framework of the Jewish State to control by Religious-Zionists – not only because of the political competition that they represent, but also as a matter of principle. While secular Zionism is widely perceived in the Haredi worldview as the result of a lack of proper Jewish education, and secular Jews might still be shown the way back to tradition, Religious-Zionism is perceived as a sort of half-breed, a distortion that cannot be repaired. Indeed, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and his followers expressed misgivings concerning Religious-Zionist ideology – although not rabbinic figures within it – on many occasions and in many sermons.

The rulings of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and the ideological position underlying them, have become a central halakhic approach among leaders of mainstream Sephardic Haredi Jews in Israel. His followers who continue his legacy are generally understood to maintain a similar position – specifically his family members, such as Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, member of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi David Yosef, as well as prominent Sephardic halakhic authorities such as former Chief Rabbis Amar and Bakshi-Doron. This same stance is taken by the Sephardic Haredi rabbis as another way of distancing themselves as much as possible from Religious-Zionist society. As noted, this aim is not altogether separate from their ideological stance. However, we must also take into consideration the bitter political struggle over the past two years in Israel between the Haredi political parties, which – to their great chagrin – find themselves in the opposition, and the representatives of the Religious-Zionist Jewish Home party, who hold key positions in the current Israeli government. The ultra-Orthodox parties view the Religious-Zionist representatives as having conspired with Yair Lapid’s secular Yesh Atid party, which demanded a government devoid of Haredi parties. Thus, the internal Jewish schism is defined not only by ideological gaps, but also by difficult contemporary political struggles.

Nissim Leon teaches sociology and anthropology at Bar-Ilan University. This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

Related:
Why the status quo on the Temple Mount isn’t sustainable
The fraud that is the Temple Mount movement
How Likud became the Almighty’s contractor at the Temple Mount

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A West Bank water crisis for Palestinians only http://972mag.com/a-west-bank-water-crisis-for-palestinians-only/99058/ http://972mag.com/a-west-bank-water-crisis-for-palestinians-only/99058/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 13:15:04 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99058 When Israel’s national water company operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriates Palestinian water resources and controls the valves, is it any surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements?

By Stephanie Westbrook

Qarawat Bani Zeid is a small Palestinian town of 3,500 north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. There are no Israeli settlements in the immediate vicinity. The route of Israel’s separation wall does not run through the area and Qarawat is in Area A — under the full control of the Palestinian Authority. And yet, Israel’s military occupation and discriminatory policies manage to cut into everyday life.

Children bring water from home to the school in  Qarawat Bani Zeid where water from the school’s well is not safe to drink. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Children bring water from home to the school in Qarawat Bani Zeid where water from the school’s well is not safe to drink. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

“Our biggest problem is water,” explained Sabri Arah, a member of the town council.

Qarawat sits atop the Western Aquifer, the largest and most productive sub-basin of the Mountain Aquifer, the main groundwater source in the West Bank, yet 80 percent of the town’s taps are dry. “Water is pumped out before it arrives to the town,” noted Arah.

New water infrastructure in the Jordan Valley. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

New water infrastructure in the Jordan Valley. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

The company pumping the water out is Mekorot, Israel’s national water company. Mekorot not only operates more than 40 wells in the West Bank, appropriating Palestinian water resources, Israel also effectively controls the valves, deciding who gets water and who does not. It should be no surprise that priority is given to Israeli settlements while service to Palestinian towns is routinely reduced or cut off.

The right to water was the focus of a recent delegation of the Italian Forum of Water Movements visiting Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Israel as part of the Beyond Walls project of Servizio Civile Internazionale, an Italian NGO committed to human rights and social justice.

Last December, during the Italy-Israel bilateral summit, a cooperation agreement was signed between Mekorot and Acea, Italy’s largest water utility.

Water tanker in the village of At Tuwani, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Water tanker in the village of At Tuwani, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Together with Palestine solidarity groups, Italian water movements have been waging a campaign calling on Acea, as well as the City of Rome, a majority shareholder in the company, to cancel the agreement due to Mekorot’s violations of international law.

The main goal of the trip was to gather documentation and direct testimony to support the campaign against the Mekorot agreement, identifying ways to further involve Palestinian groups.

Mekorot’s role in water privatization around the world was an added incentive for Italian water movements to get involved. Water as a common good has been their focus of the movements, which have been hugely successful, several times over.

Water tanker near the village of Nabi Saleh. (Cinzia Di Napoli)

Water tanker near the village of Nabi Saleh. (Cinzia Di Napoli)

In 2010, over 1.4 million signatures forced a national Italian referendum on the issue. In June 2011, over 26 million ballots were cast, meeting the quorum for the first time since 1995, with a crushing majority of over 95 percent voting in favor of keeping water public.

Despite what could not have been a more clear indication, successive governments have attempted to circumvent the public’s will and the referendum remains unimplemented.

The Palestinians we met were able to relate to this turn of events. They, too, have to continually fight for their rights. Evidence of Israel’s discriminatory policies, which create an artificial water crisis affecting only one people, was everywhere to be seen.

Well in the Bedouin village of al-Mufaqarah, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Well in the Bedouin village of al-Mufaqarah, South Hebron Hills. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Palestinian workers returning from Israel at the Nil’in  checkpoint. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Palestinian workers returning from Israel at the Nil’in checkpoint. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

At the Aida refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a cramped, overcrowded home to about 5000 people, nearly 40 percent under the age of 14, water from the mains comes an average of 6 hours per week.

In his award-winning short film “Everyday Nakba,” Mohammed al Azzeh, of the camp’s Lajee Center, captures the joy and the frantic rush to get the pumps working to fill rooftop tanks the moment the water comes on.

“Look at the settlement of Gilo next door. Do you see any water tanks on their roofs?” asked Azzeh. “They have water 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Rooftops jam-packed with water tanks in the Aida  refugee camp near Bethlehem. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Rooftops jam-packed with water tanks in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

The delegation also visited Palestinian communities within Israel, like Al Araqib where, despite being Israeli citizens, residents face nearly identical policies denying them access to water.

Tanker trucks bring water to trees planted by the Jewish  National Fund at Al Araqib in the Naqab (Negev). (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Tanker trucks bring water to trees planted by the Jewish National Fund at Al Araqib in the Naqab (Negev). (photo: Cinzia Di Napoli)

Across the world, as the part of the international campaign against Mekorot, those working for Palestinian rights have joined forces with those struggling against the privatization of water to denounce Mekorot’s role in both denying Palestinians access to water and in the commodification of a fundamental common good.

Stephanie Westbrook is a U.S. citizen based in Rome, Italy. Her articles have been published by Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Electronic Intifada, In These Times and Z Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @stephinrome.

Related:
PHOTOS: 13 days without water in East Jerusalem
WATCH: Jordan Valley settlements dry up Palestinian water supply
Visualizing Occupation: Distribution of Water

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Jerusalem posters call to ban Arab workers http://972mag.com/jerusalem-posters-call-to-ban-arab-workers/99060/ http://972mag.com/jerusalem-posters-call-to-ban-arab-workers/99060/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:35:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99060 Posters reading “Jews only employ Jews” were spotted near the entrance to Jerusalem Friday, three days after two Palestinians killed five Israelis in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

'Jews only employ Jews' poster in Jerusalem, Nov 21, 2014 (Photo: Guy Butavia)

‘Jews only employ Jews’ poster in Jerusalem, Nov 21, 2014 (Photo: Guy Butavia)

Above the slogan in smaller letters, at the top of the Israeli flag-shaped poster, it reads: “Biblical law determines” and at the bottom it reads: “Did you know?! The terrorists that committed the massacre in Har Nof – were employed in the synagogue and its surroundings.” One of the attackers indeed was reported to have worked in a grocery store next to the synagogue.

Whoever crafted the racist message grounded it in both religious scripture and practical empiricism.

Another poster found in the same area reads: “Employed an Arab? You endangered a Jew!”

"Did you employ an Arab? You endangered a Jew!' Poster in Jerusalem (Photo: Guy Butavia)

“Employed an Arab? You endangered a Jew!’ Poster in Jerusalem (Photo: Guy Butavia)

These messages echo the decision by the mayor of the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon a day earlier to ban Israeli Arab construction workers from jobs in and around schools in the name of security. The legality of his decision is in question and politicians from across the right-wing spectrum were quick to denounce the move as unacceptable. Prime Minister Netanyahu said discrimination won’t be tolerated, while Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett said that 99.9 percent of Israeli Arab citizens are loyal (read: reliable cheap labor).

Reactions were so strong and across the board that it honestly felt at one point as if the mayor’s ban was a ploy to enable all these politicians the opportunity to resolutely declare to the Israeli public that the country is not anti-Arab – even as it prepares to push forward on Sunday the “Jewish nation state” bill in a version that does not guarantee equal rights for its non-Jewish citizens (the 20 percent of the population that is Palestinian).

However, a poll by Israel’s Channel 10 showed that 58 percent of Israelis supported the move (with 32 percent against), and several Ashkelon residents told TV reporters they are in favor. One young mother said she felt the move made her feel safer dropping her kids off at school, adding: “I have no problem with the Arab sector. Some of them are perfectly fine.” Another said, “I’d rather be racist than be a victim.”

UPDATE: I discovered a Facebook page called “Fighting for our country, for ourselves” which is filled with anti-Arab messaging, including this photo taken at a store (location unknown) with a sign reading: “Arabs not employed  here.” Many comments from Israelis on the photo express disgust and disdain, and while the photo has over 8,500 likes, the page itself only has around 600.

'We don't employ Arabs here,' photo of sign uploaded to Facebook page.

‘We don’t employ Arabs here,’ photo of sign uploaded to Facebook page.

Related:
Five killed in attack on Jerusalem synagogue
Welcome to Netanyahu’s ‘resolution’ to the conflict

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Roger Cohen thinks Israelis and Palestinians just need to get along http://972mag.com/is-the-nyts-roger-cohen-deliberately-misleading-his-readers/99062/ http://972mag.com/is-the-nyts-roger-cohen-deliberately-misleading-his-readers/99062/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:42:38 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99062 How a popular columnist fools readers into a false understanding of the situation in Israel/Palestine.

Oh man, is he smooth.

There is a reason Roger Cohen is a columnist in The Grey Lady: he is a fabulous writer. He is also extremely convincing, and his op-ed from yesterday, “Two Ideas of Israel-Palestine,” is no exception. It reads so well that I am sure he basically had most readers eating out of the palm of his hand.

And if that’s the case, boy, did they fall for it.

Because what Roger Cohen did yesterday is spoon-feed his readers one of the core principles of Liberal Zionism, without which they basically have nothing to say in their political arguments in living rooms all over the world, from Ramat Aviv to Brooklyn. And that core principle goes like this: the blame rests equally on both sides.

The “beauty” of this op-ed, focusing on the roots of the conflict, lies in its simplistic three-part structure. If you haven’t read the piece yet, you should – because the way it is built is crucial to understanding Cohen’s mindset.

I won’t deal much with the opening graph, mostly because Cohen himself is too lazy to put recent events into context. All he does is state that “the facts” – that Palestinians killed Jews in a synagogue during the recent wave of violence. Way to go for giving your readers a good picture about what’s going on Jerusalem, Cohen!

But the real gem is the second part of his piece, which include two long paragraphs in which Cohen attempts to bring up every argument possible from each side’s story. Both are equal in length, making the reader think that these are simply two parallel lines that will never meet. They’re just too entrenched in their own narratives. Everybody’s right.

The worst is his last paragraph:

Two children, one Israeli and one Palestinian, asked me if it is possible to have two ideas in your head at the same time. Not in the Middle East, I said. But it is important to try, because this is where you both have to live.

The sheer arrogance of telling us that “you guys just better get along already ‘cause you’re stuck with each other,” especially from one living in a country who has enabled the occupation of millions for almost 50 years, is shameful and enraging.

I’ve got news for you, Roger Cohen, this isn’t some kind of Cold War between two nuclear powers. This is a rich, armed-to-the-teeth colonial regime that has been stepping on the neck of an oppressed people for 47 years. That’s the narrative. That’s the story.

Your nice maneuver of putting two “narratives” opposite each other was indeed a sleek writing move. But I don’t fall for that stance any more.

No one should.

Related:
‘New York Times’ on Jerusalem violence: What occupation?
‘The New York Times’ investigates a Palestinian hobby
When ‘The New York Times’ embeds its reporters with the IDF

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Goodbye status quo: Israel’s impending moment of truth http://972mag.com/goodbye-status-quo-israels-impending-moment-of-truth/99051/ http://972mag.com/goodbye-status-quo-israels-impending-moment-of-truth/99051/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:10:13 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99051 There are no guarantees that the near future will herald freedom for Israel/Palestine. It will, however, shatter the perception of comfort that has paralyzed Israel since the beginning of the millennium.

By Ran Greenstein

When we look at the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a curious pattern can be detected. Every 20 or 30 years a major turning point is reached. This happens in part due to pure coincidence, and in part due to natural processes involving generational change, which takes two or three decades to mature.

The cycle started in 1897 with the foundation of the Zionist movement, which gave a political dimension to the quest for Jewish settlement of Palestine. It continued in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration and the creation of Palestine in its current boundaries, and then on to 1947, when the UN partition resolution led to the establishment of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba. That was followed by 1967 – the re-unification of Palestine under Israeli military control – the First Intifada in 1987 and the onset of the current phase of territorial inclusion combined with Palestinian demographic exclusion.

Youth from Aida Refugee Camp rest during a lull in clashes with Israeli forces near the separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, November 16, 2013. The wall, which divides Bethlehem's land is a frequent entry point for incursions by Israeli forces into Aida Refugee Camp, and often a site of clashes with camp youth. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Youth from Aida Refugee Camp rest during a lull in clashes with Israeli forces near the separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, November 16, 2013. The wall, which divides Bethlehem’s land is a frequent entry point for incursions by Israeli forces into Aida Refugee Camp, and often a site of clashes with camp youth. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Nothing remarkable happened in 2007, which means that 2017 is next in line. What can we expect then in three years’ time?

Three crucial processes are under way, guaranteed to produce changes that would make the current status quo untenable. But a word of caution is needed here: change is bound to happen, but it will not necessarily be of a positive nature. It will open up new opportunities while also presenting new challenges. The exact direction will depend on proper preparation of activists and movements to make the most of the emerging circumstances.

What are these processes? Let us examine each in turn.

The first involves Palestinian resistance in the post-Gaza war period. It is too early to talk about a third intifada, the unity government has hardly made an impact so far, and the Palestinian Authority continues to make noises about taking its diplomatic campaign to the UN and the International Criminal Court but does nothing concrete. And yet, the nature of the political debate is changing – the voices calling for continuation of the U.S.-sponsored and Israeli-dominated “peace process” have almost disappeared. It is clear to Palestinians that nothing of value can possibly come out of that process, even if a formal notice of termination of talks is not likely to be served soon.

A child coming out of his destroyed home in the village of Khuza'a, eastern Gaza Strip, November 7, 2014. Six family members stay in the living room, which is the only room which was not destroyed. Big holes in the walls have been barely covered by pieces of wood and plastic sheet. Many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip face hard living conditions following the seven-week Israeli offensive during which 2,131 Palestinians were killed, and an estimate of 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless.  Anne Paq/Activestills.org

A child coming out of his destroyed home in the village of Khuza’a, eastern Gaza Strip, November 7, 2014. Six family members stay in the living room, which is the only room which was not destroyed. Big holes in the walls have been barely covered by pieces of wood and plastic sheet. Many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip face hard living conditions following the seven-week Israeli offensive during which 2,131 Palestinians were killed, and an estimate of 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving more than 108,000 people homeless. Anne Paq/Activestills.org

What is the alternative then? Armed resistance has its symbolic attractions but exacts a very high price from the population with meagre results to show for it. Three months have passed since the last Gaza ceasefire without bringing residents any relief from the conditions that triggered the fire in the first place. Initiatives by individuals who use whatever means at their disposal to attack Israeli targets, whether military or civilian, grab headlines but remain isolated incidents. We may see more of these but they are very unlikely to bring about meaningful change.

With both the Oslo process and the armed struggle proving useless at best (if not outright damaging to the national cause), the only way forward is unarmed mass uprising, along the lines of the First Intifada, backed by a unified leadership. Conditions are still far from there yet, but encouraging signs are emerging, pointing to growing awareness of the necessity of this course of action. Direct action – protests, marches, building bridges over the apartheid wall (literally and metaphorically), boycotts of settlements and their products and refusal to become captive markets for Israeli products, forging political links across militarized boundaries – are some of the steps Palestinians have been taking already and will continue to take in an intensified form in coming years. And all that with a goal of making the Israeli regime ungovernable.

There is no telling how quickly, effectively and massively Palestinians will organize to pursue that goal. One thing, however, is clear: the delusion that the Oslo process can be salvaged has been laid to rest. Future efforts – on the ground and on the diplomatic scene – will take place outside its framework. It may take a while for the process to mature fully, and we can expect by 2017 to have embarked on a new paradigm of struggle.

Palestinians and international activists use make-shift bridges to cross the separation wall between Qalandiya and Jerusalem, November 14, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians and international activists use make-shift bridges to cross the separation wall between Qalandiya and Jerusalem, November 14, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The second process complements the first; it involves the global arena. Under U.S. leadership no international pressure has been applied on the Israeli regime to change its policies. The formal excuse for that is the notion that the 1967 occupation is a temporary arrangement that would reach a resolution through a process of negotiations, culminating in the formation of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. Any external interference in the dialogue between the two sides to the conflict would hamper the chances of a resolution. This notion is no longer tenable: there is no negotiation process, no dialogue, no movement toward a resolution. It is clear to global actors that Israel has no intention to withdraw from the occupied territories and that the U.S. – whether under Democratic or Republican administration – has no intention of using its power to make that happen.

This realization frees actors to pursue campaigns of external pressure on Israel, led by civil society organizations, academics, unions, solidarity movements – whether independently or under the label of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The European Union has set in motion plans to impose sanctions on Israel should it continues with settlement policies that obstruct the prospect of an independent Palestinian state. These are all in their early stages, without having had much of an impact so far.

While little chance exists of a change in official U.S. policy towards Israel in the near term, the U.S. itself is experiencing an epochal change, with the demographic decline of the traditional support base for Israel (older white people) and the rise of younger more critical voices – including in the Jewish community.

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

Participants in the Open Hillel Conference, Harvard University. (photo: Gili Getz)

By 2017 we can expect these trends to gain momentum and puncture the immunity that Israel has enjoyed, having been shielded from criticism and protected from suffering consequences for its violations of international law and UN resolutions. This would make it much more difficult to maintain its current course: the pretense of negotiations together with the unilateral determination of their outcome through the use of force. Eating the territorial cake while keeping all options open will no longer be viable.

The third process is internal, and involves the perennial choices: between the Jewish and democratic nature of the state, and between guns and butter. The 2011 summer protests opened up, for the first time since the 1970s, a prospect of social change from within. But they dissipated without bringing about any short-term improvement in people’s living conditions, let alone structural economic changes. With the cost of living as high as ever, housing unaffordable to many families with two working parents, budgets diverted from social services to spending on settlements and the military, as well as deteriorating public facilities, the costs of maintaining the current trajectory of the regime are becoming unbearable.

So far, the strategy of war mongering (invoking external enemies from Iran, Hamas and the Islamic State to Ebola, African migrants, and the draft of ultra-Orthodox Jews into the army) has worked for the government. Instead of working out solutions for their own needs and concerns the bulk of the Israeli-Jewish population has fallen prey to political “boogeymen,” whose ability to gain popular support depends on spreading fear among their constituencies. How long will this continue to be effective?

Since nothing has improved since the last round of protests, and many social and economic indicators are showing signs of further, rapid deterioration, it is difficult to see how fear will continue to block protest for much longer. By 2017 we can expect the social rebellion to have revived its strength and erupt again in a powerful form. But to make a difference and sustain the choice of butter over guns, people must deal with the other crucial choice and realize that the forced marriage between the Jewish and ‘democratic’ aspects of the state is not viable. Only a struggle that overcomes fear and turns away from the heavily militarized and settlement-oriented priorities of the state can bring about real social improvement. This struggle can succeed if it mobilizes masses of people in a democratic movement, which breaks through ethnic and religious boundaries. The full incorporation of Palestinian citizens – who were left on the margins in 2011 – will be the crucial test of that. Confining social protests to the Jewish bubble is a sure recipe for repeated failure.

Protest in favor of an equal draft to all Israeli citizens, including Arabs and ultra Orthodox, July 7th 2012 (photo: activestills.org)

Protest in favor of an equal draft to all Israeli citizens, including Arabs and ultra Orthodox, July 7th 2012 (photo: activestills.org)

Signs pointing in this direction are meagre. We have mostly experienced moves in an opposite direction – increased racism, exclusion and violence against dissidents. On their own, internal Israeli dynamics are unlikely to result in a progressive outcome. But combined with intensified Palestinian resistance and greater external pressure, which will raise the cost of defying international legitimacy, the balance of forces may begin to change. Three more years are sufficient time in which the new dynamics can work themselves out, just in time for the centenary of the creation of modern Israel/Palestine, and half a century since the extension of Israeli domination over its entire territory.

Of course, conditions of crisis, tension and pressure can result in contradictory outcomes: movement towards greater repression, more focused and powerful struggle for freedom, attempts to find comfort in the oppressive consensus that shuns dissent. Or perhaps it can result in more openness towards society’s others, in order to solve together our common problems, tightening the Jewish nature of the state while also broadening its democratic horizons.

There are no guarantees that 2017 will herald freedom, but it will shatter the comfortable holding pattern that has paralyzed Israeli society since the beginning of the millennium: no more negotiations that serve only to entrench the occupation, no more diplomacy as usual, no more pretending that neutrality between the two sides is anything other than siding with Israeli oppression, no more peaceful coexistence between Jewish ethnocracy and liberal democracy, no more guns and butter. Choices will have to be made – it is up to activists to ensure they are the right ones.

Ran Greenstein is an Israeli-born associate professor in the sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Related:
Welcome to Netanyahu’s ‘resolution’ to the conflict
There’s nothing static about the West Bank ‘status quo’
Apartheid or not, separation is the reality

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The mentality of conflict: Six steps to avoiding empathy http://972mag.com/the-mentality-of-conflict-six-steps-to-avoiding-empathy/99046/ http://972mag.com/the-mentality-of-conflict-six-steps-to-avoiding-empathy/99046/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:19:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99046 From Protective Edge to the Jerusalem implosion, the mentality of conflict has been pushed under a microscope. During that time I’ve noticed a few axioms about how Israelis experience these wars. I imagine other sides in other conflicts may share them too, although they require pretty close scrutiny and insider knowledge – so I won’t venture to generalize.

Here is what I’ve seen. “Our” in this case means “Israeli,” since I am one.

1. All our violence against their civilians is a matter of exceptions and anomalies, by bad apples and extremists. When they attack civilians, this represents the true nature of all their people.

2. They don’t believe our facts, because they want to incite their people. We don’t believe their facts, especially when they are filmed, because they are lying.

3. All our violence is justified as response, punishment, or deterrence from further attack. A good example is everything that happened in Gaza this summer. All their violence – such as everything happening in recent weeks – is unprovoked, arbitrary; because they hate us and want to exterminate us.

4. #3 justifies us supporting attacks on them, including civilians. When they support attacks on civilians, it’s proof that they are barbarians.

5. When they kill our civilians, they must condemn them – even when they do, it’s not enough. When we kill their civilians, condemning or even observing the events is the mark of radical leftists and traitors. It warrants cries of “death to Arabs and leftists,” heard frequently.

6. When they say bad things about us , it’s incitement; when we say bad things about them, it’s true.  Primitive, bloodthirsty, beasts, sexual predators, Islam as a religion of blood and death and worse – these are becoming daily fare.

What I am not saying here: There is no condoning terror and violence against civilians, ever.  There is no condoning incitement to terror and violence against civilians. I have nothing to say in support of such things.

But it is becoming maddening to hear and see the very behavior we fear among them, within ourselves, over and over – and lie that we are not doing it. That we are better, superior, above them. Accusing one side without realizing where we too are guilty is nothing other than a form of incitement itself.

Read also:
Our problem with selective sympathy for young victims
Blaming Palestinians for their own deaths
No one left for Bibi to blame – except, of course, Abbas

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Israel’s top news channel: Gov’t asked us to show more Gaza devastation http://972mag.com/israels-top-news-channel-govt-asked-us-to-show-more-gaza-devastation/99033/ http://972mag.com/israels-top-news-channel-govt-asked-us-to-show-more-gaza-devastation/99033/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:27:24 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99033 Israeli consumers don’t want to know what’s happening on the other side, the station’s foreign editor explains. ’We don’t serve the regime, we serve the consumerist regime.’

By Oren Persico / ‘The 7th Eye

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 salvaged from the Gazan village of Khuza’a, which underwent of intense attacks and was largely destroyed during the Israeli offensive, Operation Protective Edge. (Photo by Activestills.org)

During this summer’s Gaza war officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Ministry contacted Israel’s Channel 2 News, asking why they were not broadcasting more images of destruction caused by the army’s bombing in Gaza.

Speaking at a panel discussion at Netanya College last week, Arad Nir, the company’s foreign news editor, said the news channel did not comply with the government’s request, instead decided to show what its viewers demanded.

The panel, which also included journalists Dror Feuer, Prof. Motti Neiger and Attoney El-Ad Mann, dealt with freedom of speech in Israel and the Israeli media’s coverage of Protective Edge.

“The Israeli media allows itself to be controlled by its consumers — it does this of its own volition,” said Nir.

“My personal, in-house claim is that if we provide our audience with a different type of journalism, even in certain doses, if we make it good enough and interesting enough — the public will know how to handle it,” he continued. “The media here has a kind of patronizing and arrogant attitude toward the public.”

Nir also spoke about the differences between the Israeli media’s coverage of the war as opposed to global media coverage.

“In Protective Edge, out of the 15 hours of straight news coverage per day showing what happened in this war, there were only 10 or 15 minutes dedicated to what happened on the other side,” he said, adding that “only five minutes of out two hours of every prime time news broadcasts were dedicated to what was happening on the other side, and not always [even that].”

“As someone who sits in front of the screen all day, I see two completely different wars,” the Channel 2 News editor explained. “There is one war that you see on BBC, CNN and all those channels, and another war that you see on [Israel’s] Channel 1, Channel 2 and Channel 10. Totally different pictures.”

“I have some news for you,” Nir went on. “Even the decision makers in Israel […] wanted us to show what was happening on the other side — they were under the impression that the public doesn’t understand how much they were doing or how hard they were hitting the other side. So they complained to us.”

“It’s not that we are serving the regime, the government — we are serving the consumerist regime, and those are not necessarily the same interests.”

“I know for a fact that there were phone calls by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry in which they asked us: “Why aren’t you showing what’s happening on the other side?” he detailed.

“During all the wars we covered on Channel 2 News, during our post-mortem meetings there were many times that we made a mea culpa and admitted that perhaps the public’s feelings of bitterness in the wake of the war were because we did not show what was happening on the other side,” he admitted. “That is, we didn’t show the public the blood spilled in its name on the other side. Not because someone cared about what was happening there, not because someone thinks that this isn’t the way to behave, that we must think differently. Rather the opposite – because this is the way, because this is what we must do. But we didn’t show that.”

Channel 2 journalist Dana Weiss made a similar claim in a lecture at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies last month. (Hebrew)

At a different point in the discussion at Netanya College, Nir admitted that the “reign of the consumer,” as he terms it, causes Channel 2 News to not only shape its content to the will of the people, but also the identity of its presenteres. Responding to a question by Mann regarding the make-up of Friday night’s highly-rated, primetime “Ulpan Shishi” news show, Nir responded: “Friday’s panel is influenced by Saturday morning’s ratings — unequivocally.”

This article was first published in Hebrew by The 7th Eye media watchdog website. It is reproduced here with permission.

More on the Israeli media’s war coverage:
For the Israeli media, Gazan lives are little more than expendable
Dispatch from Gaza: Why Palestinians should speak to Israeli media
Gaza deaths aren’t worth a mention in leading Israeli newspaper

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