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the only democracy in the middle east

  • Between south Hebron, the Jordan Valley and Israeli democracy

    A couple of West Bank incidents from the last few days, and one final thought: 1. Israeli singer Ehud Banai, who was due to perform in the archaeological, Jews-only site of Susya in the south Hebron Hills, cancelled his gig following left-wing protests, then canceled the cancelation, stating that his decision (not to perform) “fanned the flames of hatred for nothing.” His performance is due to begin as I write this post. In his statement, Banai used the Jewish expression of Sinat Hinam (שנאת חינם, “hatred for nothing”), which in Jewish tradition refers to the internal quarrels that brought about…

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  • Why I oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state

    A country can, at least in theory, be 'Israeli and democratic.' It cannot and will never be 'Jewish and democratic.' Early into his second term as prime minister, as he was presenting his conditions for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a new demand for any final status agreement, one which was absent from every previous round of talks, both formal and informal. Unlike his predecessors, Netanyahu wasn't satisfied with Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel, something the PLO did in 1988, and once again as part of the Oslo Accords. He wants them to…

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  • Knesset approves bill that could push Arab parties out

    After a stormy night session, the coalition was able to pass the necessary amendments and election laws that would make it more difficult to topple a government and eliminate small factions. Left-wing and Palestinian members of Knesset protested the legislation in 'silent speeches.' Ultra-Orthodox MK Eichler spoke to the Arab public in Arabic, saying 'we are with you.' (video below) During the last session of the Knesset before its summer recess, the coalition was able to pass a first reading of the “governance legislation,” - an amendment to Israel's Basic Laws - which would make it more difficult for the…

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  • In Israel's trade catalog, arms and asylum seekers are equal commodities

    With arbitrary arrest and detention, forcible transfer, withholding of basic human rights, the imposition of birth control measures and now an arms-for-asylum-seekers deal which amounts to little more than human trafficking, Israel has become a theater of horrors for Africans. By Natasha Roth Sudanese immigrants pose in front of an enlarged photo of the Saharonim Prison, in which 2,000 African immigrants are being detained, during the International Refugee Day event in Tel Aviv on June 20, 2013. (Photo by: Keren Manor/Activestills.org) A report in yesterday's Yedioth Aharonoth (originally in Hebrew, and translated into English for their website) revealed that the Israeli government…

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  • Pilot begins for Israel's National Biometric Database program

    New database will allow immediate access by security forces, without court order, to the face scan and finger prints of every Israeli. After several delays, the Interior Ministry on Monday will commence the two-year pilot stage of Israel's National Biometric Database Program. When completed, the database will include the biometric information - a face scan and fingerprints - of all Israeli citizens, accessible without court order to the police and security forces, including the army, the military police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). In addition, a court could also order the transfer of individual biometric information, and even…

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  • When the conversation over occupation feels outdated (part 2)

    Last week I wrote about the outdated feeling the debate over the occupation renders. One commenter wondered why both Larry Derfner (who also commented on the article) and I are “disappointed” with Knesset members from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, even though they say the very same thing we write about on this site. I didn’t vote for Lapid, but his pact with the extreme right is enough of a reason to dismiss any hope that he will contribute to the end of the occupation in the foreseeable future. However, the issue here is not the existence of one, or…

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  • On 'occupation denial' and the case for international pressure on Israel

    An Israeli decision to continue the occupation is illegitimate, even if it was reached through a democratic process. Democracy has no meaning when the population at hand is not allowed to take part in it. This is a slightly modified translation of my weekly op-ed in the Israeli daily Maariv. "Occupation denial" is the latest trend in the Israeli (and American) conversation regarding the conflict. Conservative scholars are presenting a revisionist reading of the Fourth Geneva Convention, claiming that it never applied to the West Bank and Gaza, while politicians are claiming that the term "occupation" is biased. Yet all those…

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  • WATCH: A 'Jews only' street and a Palestinian dirt path in Hebron

    I have posted in the past about the policy of ethnic separation around the Jewish houses in Hebron. Shuhada street - once the location of a central market - was first closed to Palestinian cars, and now even Palestinian pedestrians must walk along a tiny dirt road, while Jewish settlers and their guests get the rest of the street. The pretext might be security, but the policy (like in the rest of the West Bank) is ethnic segregation. Watch this B'tzelem video to see what's going on not far away, on the road near the Tomb of the Patriarchs: For more context on…

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  • 'A Jewish and Democratic state is a zombie idea'

    Israeli novelist Nir Baram, on his Facebook page: Arafat Jaradat died because “he ate too much.” Issawi was arrested for eight months for traveling in the West Bank. Hassan Usruf was viciously attacked because he met the wrong youngsters. Many more Arabs are held without trial because they are Arabs. One and a half million Palestinian Israelis are separated and humiliated in the airport because they are Arabs. The settlers who shoot and burn are protected because they are Jews. The IDF serves them like a slave because the IDF is Jewish too. Just like them. And it all goes back to…

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  • Who gets to vote in Israel's democracy?

    If we exclude Gaza, one in every 4.5 people living under Israeli rule doesn't have the right to vote in the coming elections; that one person is (almost) always Palestinian. If Gaza is included, it's one in three who is not represented. The Israeli Knesset is the sole sovereign between the sea and the Jordan River, with the possible exception of the Gaza Strip, which exercises a certain degree of independence since the 2005 disengagement. As for the rest of the territory, according to all acceptable parameters of sovereignty and independence - it's under complete Israeli control. The Israeli government…

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  • Poll: Israelis support discrimination against Arabs, embrace the term apartheid

    A majority of the public wants the state to discriminate against Palestinians, says a poll published in Haaretz. The findings don't reflect a failure in education, as some might argue, but rather the inherently discriminatory nature of the state and the result of decades-long occupation. Gideon Levy reports in Haaretz today the findings of a survey that reveals deeply-rooted racism in Israeli society, and a desire of most of the Jewish public to practice ethnic segregation between Arabs and Jews. This is the front page story of Haaretz today. The poll was conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs, one of the…

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  • Response to Burg: Israel's democracy flawed from inception

    The New York Times continues to push the myth that Israel was once liberal and democratic, and is now growing detached from these values. Now it publishes an op-ed by a former Knesset speaker, which promotes this notion and similar misconceptions about the United States and the U.S.-Israel relationship. Only a couple of weeks after its unusual editorial arguing that Israel’s democracy is in peril, the New York Times has published an op-ed in the same vein, written by a prominent Israeli public figure. Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, who almost became leader of the Labor party in the early 2000s,…

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  • Occupation comes home: What was a military surveillance vehicle doing in TLV last night?

    Protesters taking part in the #J14 march last night couldn't help noticing a large army vehicle near the route of the protest, on the corner of Ibn Gvirol and Frishman streets (basically under my house). The car, nicknamed Raccoon, is a modified Hummer with special surveillance equipment. It is often used in the occupied territories against unarmed Palestinian protesters (you can see it used in army training in this link). Update: Before reaching the corner of Rabin square, where this picture was taken, the vehicle waited opposite the Defense Ministry on Kaplan St., accompanied the march to Azrieli junction, and only then reunited…

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