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The biggest loser in this election: Liberal Zionism

Israelis consistently vote against the idea of a Jewish and democratic Israel alongside a Palestinian state. It is now impossible to see how that could ever be realized.  

On Sunday Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, met with President Reuven Rivlin to announce his party’s noteworthy decision to endorse Benny Gantz, chairman of the Blue and White party, as prime minister. In an effort to thwart another Netanyahu term, Ayman Odeh did what no other Israeli politician is doing — he articulated a vision for the country’s future: “We want to live in a peaceful place based on ending the occupation, the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, true equality, on the civil and national level, social justice and certainly democracy for all.”

This is not a new or radical position. If anything, it represents the spirit of the Israeli peace camp in the 1990s. It is a bedrock liberal Zionist approach, but the only Israeli politician articulating it is a Palestinian Muslim politician from Haifa. Odeh chairs the socialist Arab-Jewish Hadash Party, which together with the three Arab-dominated parties forms the Joint List; having won 13 seats following last week’s election, the Joint List is now the third largest party in the Knesset.

Odeh’s op-ed in The New York Times Sunday translated for an American audience what many Palestinian citizens and a paucity of Jewish citizens believe: “[T]he only future for this country is a shared future, and there is no shared future without the full and equal participation of Arab Palestinian citizens.”

If you are a champion of liberal democracy, or even just a realist, it is hard to argue with this statement, especially given that Palestinian citizens make up 20 percent of Israel’s population. Yet it remains not only a minority position in Israel, but a persecuted and delegitimized one. With or without Netanyahu, there is no realistic prospect of the Joint List being invited to join a governing coalition (since the founding of the state, no Palestinian-Israeli party has been in the government) or even of heading the opposition. Palestinian citizens of Israel have shown they have enough power to be on the political map, but not enough to change it.

After election results came in last week, Netanyahu spoke of the need for a “strong Zionist government” (code for Jewish-only) and labeled the Joint List “anti-Zionists.” Similarly,...

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Israeli settlements are a regular destination on Birthright trips

For years, Birthright has been taking participants into the occupied territories, usually without their knowledge or consent. ‘At the end of the day, we Israelis always have been less than truthful about where those lines and boundaries are for tourists,’ one former tour operator says.

Before Zachary Popkin-Hall embarked on his Birthright Israel trip in December 2016, he went over the itinerary and Googled the locations he would be staying in. He noticed that one spot was not in Israel at all, but in the occupied West Bank: Kibbutz Almog. Because of its proximity to both Jerusalem and the northern edge of the Dead Sea – a staple destination of every Birthright trip – it is convenient for tour groups to stay in the guesthouse in Kibbutz Almog, an Israeli settlement established in 1977.

Popkin-Hall mentioned this to a few participants before they arrived, and word spread fast. “Once some people figured out where we were, they were uncomfortable about it,” said Popkin-Hall, adding, “I was uncomfortable because it had not been explicitly stated.” From what he remembers, someone approached one of the tour guides, who brushed it off as no big deal. Popkin-Hall, who was on a culinary-oriented trip run by Birthright tour operator Israel Experts, said he does not remember if any of the staff confirmed that the group was in fact residing for two nights in a settlement in the West Bank.

While rarely spoken about openly or reported on, Birthright – a nonprofit that provides free trips for Jews to Israel in an attempt to foster Jewish identity and a connection to Israel – has been taking participants over the Green Line (Israel’s pre-1967 borders) for years. Whether driving through or staying the night, these trips quietly normalize travel to the occupied territories and the Israeli settlements in them. Trip operators often do so without the participants’ knowledge or consent. The impression from the dozen participants I interviewed – all Jewish Americans, some reached by social media – is that what bothers them most is that they were not informed of their whereabouts at the time, and thus had no say in the matter.

Canada Israel Experience, which operates Birthright tours for Canadian participants, specifies on its website that it does not enter the West Bank, but an itinerary seen by +972 Magazine shows a stay at Kibbutz Kalia, a West Bank settlement near the northern shore of the...

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In Germany, the anti-BDS zeitgeist has taken over

The growing attacks on the BDS movement in Germany, which led to the resignation of the director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum last week, are a dangerous sign that critics of Israeli policy should be afraid for their futures.

It has been a month since the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, passed a symbolic, non-binding resolution designating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) anti-Semitic. The decision is already having a detrimental impact on people’s careers and lives.

Last Friday, director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin Peter Schäfer, a highly-respected scholar of Jewish studies who took the position in 2014, announced his resignation after coming under severe pressure by Jewish community leaders in Germany and the Israeli government, who have accused the museum of engaging in what they deem to be anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities.

Schäfer’s forced resignation came following a tweet by the museum on June 6 endorsing an article in the progressive German daily Die Tageszeitung, which reported on a letter signed by 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust who reject the notion that BDS is equivalent to anti-Semitism. The letter was submitted to the government after the resolution, urging it not to formally implement it; the scholars argued that drawing that equivalence is not effective and even undermines the fight against anti-Semitism:

Neither the museum nor Schäfer have ever endorsed BDS; doing so in Germany is akin to committing career suicide. But staunch anti-BDS advocates in Germany, Israel and the U.S. have managed to portray it as such, creating a feedback loop that presents misinformation as fact. Following the museum’s tweet, The Werte Initiative, a Jewish lobby in Germany that staunchly championed the anti-BDS motion, tweeted its condemnation of the “anti-Jewish” museum — a term first coined by NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg — after the Jewish Museum hosted a talk by philosopher and BDS supporter Judith Butler in 2012 (before Schäfer was director).


Benjamin Weinthal, a fellow with the hawkish neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the European Affairs Correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, published an article earlier this month deceptively titled, “’Anti-Jewish’ Museum in Berlin under fire for supporting BDS.” The American Jewish Committee’s office in Germany also tweeted its condemnation while Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff tweeted his two cents, making it appear as if the museum endorsed BDS.

There have been several efforts to push back since Schäfer’s resignation. But unlike in...

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There is no good vote in a paralyzed society

For years, Israelis have allowed values of equality, justice, and peace, to go by the wayside. Tuesday’s vote reflects not only the impotence and absence of a left, but just how paralyzed Israeli society is.

In some ways, Tuesday’s election is predictable. Netanyahu and his right-wing camp are expected, according to most polls, to secure the 61-seat majority needed to form a governing coalition. And yet the results remain impossible to predict, especially because the smaller parties hovering around the election threshold could determine the outcome.

While polls may give us a sense of where the wind is blowing, people are still undecided and, they do not provide insight into the nuts and bolts of coalition building once the results are in. Likewise, there is no way to know what either Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud or Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, the two biggest parties polling at around 30 seats each, will do once the victor is tasked with forming a government.

Despite the rivalry between Netanyahu and Gantz, one should not rule out the possibility of the two forming a unity government. The truth is, that may still be better than the current forecast in which Netanyahu forms a government with outwardly racist, anti-democratic, and homophobic parties.

Should some of the smaller right-wing parties — among them Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, or Naftali Bennett’s New Right party — not pass the threshold, Netanyahu may not have enough partners with whom to form a coalition. Blue and White, on the other hand, has already alienated both the ultra-Orthodox parties (Yair Lapid, Gantz’s second in command, is avowedly anti-Orthodox) and the Arab parties. Thus, even if they get the most votes, it is unclear with whom they could form a coalition beyond Labor and Meretz.

Many Israelis who are interested in doing whatever they can to thwart a far-right government find themselves in a dilemma. Some still do not know who to vote for. There is a sense they feel they have no choice but to vote for Blue and White in order to replace Netanyahu; but if no one votes for the smaller centrist or left-wing parties — Labor, Meretz, the two Arab slates, Gesher or Kulanu — Gantz won’t have a coalition to govern with any way. Meanwhile, if Blue and White doesn’t have a clear majority of votes against Likud, it won’t have any chance of forming a coalition in the first place. The bottom line? There is no good tactical vote this time around, which...

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Women's March Jewish outreach director: 'Anti-Semitism can be unlearned'

In her first interview since calls began for the Women’s March leadership to resign amid allegations of anti-Semitism, Jewish director of communications Sophie Ellman-Golan speaks about confronting anti-Jewish prejudice within the movement, the attempts to delegitimize the organizers, and how the March is putting forth a more inclusive vision.

After the mass shooting of 11 American Jews in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, the first person who called Sophie Ellman-Golan — the communications director for the Women’s March — was Linda Sarsour, in tears. She asked Ellman-Golan, “What are we going to do?” and said her next call was going to be to the Islamic Center in Pittsburgh to talk to people there about ways to support the Jewish community.

In the days and weeks following the massacre, even as much of mainstream media was reporting on the disproportionally high levels of white nationalist violence in the U.S., attention pivoted back to the Women’s March’s failure to directly condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for his anti-Semitism, specifically referring to Jews as “termites” in a speech late last year.

Allegations of anti-Semitism within the leadership intensified after the Jewish American magazine Tablet published a report in which unnamed sources claim that co-presidents Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez said Jews played a significant role in the African slave trade, and that they berated march co-founder Vanessa Wruble for her Jewish identity. Women’s March denied both allegations.

As a Palestinian-American and vocal supporter of BDS — which the Israeli government and its advocates equate with anti-Semitism — Sarsour has been targeted since joining the Women’s March. But as opposed to Mallory and Perez, Sarsour does not have a relationship with Farrakhan and has worked closely with Jewish communities for years.

The allegations against Mallory and Perez led to calls for the Women’s March leadership to resign, culminating in the withdrawal of partners ahead of the recent march, held on January 21, by the Democratic National Council and National Organization of Women, among others.

The only senior Jewish staff member on a small staff of about a dozen in Women’s March, Inc., Ellman-Golan, 26, is in a difficult position. She has in many ways taken upon herself the responsibility of serving as a go-between of sorts between the organization — which has become a symbol for all things left — and the Jewish community in the United States, which is diverse and increasingly polarized. On several occasions, Ellman-Golan expressed her desire for a firmer public...

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Not just Canary Mission: SF Jewish Federation bankrolls these hate groups

The Federation’s tax filings reveal a litany of radical-right and anti-Muslim groups that have received its support for years. The Federation says its review process has recently been strengthened but refuses to account for its funding of notorious Islamophobic hate groups.

Following the revelation last week in The Forward that the San Francisco Jewish Federation gave $100,000 to Canary Mission, the shadowy website that blacklists and intimidates students and professors who criticize Israel, the Federation assured its constituents that it was a “one-time grant” that would never happen again. But Canary Mission is just the tip of the iceberg.

An extensive review by +972 of the Federation’s tax filings shows that the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco and the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which the former controls and which it used to fund Canary Mission, have bankrolled an extensive list of extremist, far-right, anti-Muslim organizations in recent years.

The systematic pattern of financially supporting hate groups appears to also violate the SF Federation’s own guidelines, which specify that it will not fund organizations that “endorse or promote anti-Semitism, other forms of bigotry, violence or other extremist views.”

Among the extremist, radical right-wing, and anti-Muslim groups that received funds from the SF Federation, both directly and through the Diller Foundation, and some of which have received substantial and repeated grants over the years, include: Project Veritas, The AMCHA Initiative, The American Freedom Law Center, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, The David Horowitz Freedom Center, and the work of Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders (through the International Freedom Alliance Foundation). Others include the Clarion Fund, the Center for Security Policy (Frank Gaffney), the Middle East Forum (Daniel Pipes), the Tea Party Patriots Foundation, and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Project Veritas, which the Federation gave $100,000 in 2016, is responsible for falsifying sexual misconduct allegations against Roy Moore last year to The Washington Post in hopes of entrapping the liberal mainstream media

The AMCHA Initiative, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the SF Federation and the Diller Foundation in recent years, operates similarly to Canary Mission, except that it primarily goes after faculty, not students.

The David Horowitz Freedom Center, which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years, has been condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center as promoting anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant attitudes.


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Birthright walk-offs get a taste of settler violence in Hebron

Eight Birthright participants who walked off of their trip earlier this week to learn about the occupation were on a tour with Breaking the Silence when settlers began harassing them, culminating with paint thrown on their guide’s head.

If the settlers of Hebron were trying to show a group of Birthright participants who had walked off their trip earlier this week that their views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are skewed, it’s safe to say that they failed miserably.

Halfway through a tour of occupied Hebron that the eight Birthright participants were taking with Israeli anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence on Monday, a settler child, who appeared to be between eight and 10 years old, threw yellow paint onto the head of tour leader Frima “Merphie” Bubis.

The incident followed at least half an hour of harassment by adult settlers, accompanied by children, as part of their routine attempts to disrupt and drown out Breaking the Silence tours in the city.

Bubis was shaken but required no medical attention. Eight Israeli soldiers who were present did nothing to stop or apprehend the child.

The tour on Monday was part of several actions in the West Bank so far this summer organized or facilitated by IfNotNow, an American Jewish anti-occupation group. The movement’s “Not Just a Free Trip” program, which has already seen two groups of Birthright participants walk off their trips, aims to challenge Birthright’s narrative while inviting participants to learn about Israel’s military regime during their 10-day free trip to Israel.


The Birthright attendees, almost all of whom were affiliated with IfNotNow before the trip and their decision to leave it, documented the incident on their phones. They handed their footage over to Israeli police in support of a criminal complaint filed by Bubis.

“Today, Birthright participants saw exactly what [the trip] tried to hide from them — a group of violent nationalists who are forcefully taking over the center of a Palestinian city,” said Breaking the Silence executive director Avner Gvaryahu.”

The age of criminal culpability is 12 for both Israeli and Palestinian children under Israel’s segregated civilian and military legal systems in the West Bank, so police couldn’t have arrested the child for the assault even if he had been located. However, the incident highlighted the stark contrast between how Israeli forces treat Palestinian and...

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Ad for Israeli maternity ward portrays fetus as future soldier

Militarism begins at conception? An ad for a maternity ward in one of Israel’s top hospitals depicts a fetus wearing a military beret and saluting.

An advertisement for a maternity ward in one of Israel’s top hospitals, published in the right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon this past week, has been making the rounds on social media.

The ad for Lis Maternity Hospital, part of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, shows a fetus wearing a military beret, with a caption reading: “Recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence, 2038.”

Portraying an unborn child as a soldier is disturbing in its own right, regardless of country. In Israel, an occupying power whose military has for over five decades been primarily concerned with maintaining control over a civilian population, this ad is even more charged and offensive. Furthermore, its timing is especially disturbing, considering that the IDF killed 60 Palestinians and wounded over 2,400 in a single day in Gaza, while continuing to exert control over millions of stateless Palestinians.

The notion that a good hospital will produce good soldiers is pathological. That a top hospital believes the best way to get women to choose their maternity ward is by convincing them their baby is destined to be a successful soldier in the Israel Defense Forces is also a genuine indication of just how militaristic Israeli society is. As if women don’t have enough on their minds as they approach birth, now they must be reminded that in 18 years, their child will be conscripted into the army. Regardless of their politics, Israeli mothers (and fathers) go through hell when their children — specifically their sons — serve in the army.

Israel, which consistently attacks Palestinian leadership and society for giving birth to “terrorists” and educating children to hate, seems to conveniently forget the deep militaristic, violent roots of its own society. This ad is just one indication of that.

Some Israelis on Facebook have expressed their disgust and outrage, demanding the hospital pull the ad. When asked for comment, Ichilov Hospital Spokesperson Avi Shushan wrote in an email: “This was a one time ad published in Makor Rishon.” He did not respond questions about those who were disturbed by the ad.

Update (Thursday, May 24, 7 p.m.):
Ichilov Hospital spokesperson Avi Shushan sent me another email about 12 hours after his initial response stating that due to the hospital’s “attentiveness to the feelings of the general public and following complaints, we have ordered the advertising firm to immediately take...

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Human Rights Watch sues Israel in first challenge to anti-boycott travel ban

This is the first application of the 2017 amendment to Israel’s entry law in which a foreign national already living and working in Israel has had their work permit revoked for alleged support for BDS.

Human Rights Watch and its Israel and Palestine director, U.S. citizen Omar Shakir, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the Israeli government following the Interior Ministry’s decision to revoke Shakir’s work permit and expel him from the country for his alleged support for a boycott of Israel.

The lawsuit against the deportation order is the first legal challenge of the use of Israel’s “boycott travel ban,” which is a 2017 amendment to the Prevention of Entry into Israel Law, authorizing the interior minister to withhold temporary visas or residency to any non-Israeli citizen who has publicly called for or pledged to participate in a boycott of Israel. HRW is being represented by Israeli human rights attorneys Michael Sfard, Sophia Brodsky and Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man. Shakir is supposed to leave the country by Monday May 21, pending the suit’s outcome.

UPDATE: On Thursday a Jerusalem District Court judge rejected Shakir’s request to remain in Israel until the end of the proceedings, instead ordering him to leave the country by May 24.

This is first case of its kind in which a foreign national already living and working in Israel with an existing visa has had their work permit – and thus visa – revoked for alleged support of boycott. There have been cases in the past, including recently, of foreign nationals being denied entry to Israel upon their arrival to Ben-Gurion Airport. Last year, Israel denied entry to Amnesty International staffer Raed Jarrar. And there was an incident a few years ago when Dutch journalist Derk Walters was forced to leave the country because his GPO credentials were not renewed for tweeting articles critical of Israeli policies. But kicking someone out who already lives and works in Israel is unprecedented.

Asked about the petition, Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) spokesperson Sabine Haddad replied, “We will respond in court.”

The lawsuit’s main argument is that this is Israel’s way of muzzling dissent. “The motivation for the decision to remove the Petitioner is not his alleged past support of boycotts, but the drive to prevent an institution that is critical of the policies of the Government of Israel from carrying out research activities here and in the Occupied Territories.”

The lawsuit also claims that the deportation order goes beyond the authority of the law, since the law does not allow for revoking visas...

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We are all accomplices to Israel's massacre in Gaza

There has been no outrage. We all let this happen. But it is not too late to speak out.

As of writing this, 52 Palestinian unarmed protesters in Gaza have been shot dead by Israeli snipers on Monday, and 2,238 have been wounded, over 1,000 by live ammunition, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Among those killed are eight children under 16 years old. The hospitals in Gaza are at breaking point, and cannot treat gunshot wounds as they pour in. The number of dead and wounded is likely to continue to rise.

Since March 30, when the Gaza protests began, 101 Palestinians have been killed and well over 10,000 wounded, many maimed for life. Not a single Israeli injury and not a single rocket fired at Israel, even as Israel has bombed Gaza several times in recent weeks.

It doesn’t matter which numbers you want to believe or how many stones have been thrown (not a single injury caused by them), or even how many Hamas officials have called on Palestinians to protest. This is a massacre of a stateless population living under military siege. And we are all accomplices for not doing more to stop it.

On Monday, Israel’s top human rights organization B’Tselem issued a statement calling the shootings “an appalling indifference to human life.” It’s hard to explain it any other way.

The overwhelming majority of the Jewish Israeli population has not spoken out. According to an Israel Democracy Institute Peace Index poll from April, 83 percent of Jewish Israelis find the IDF’s open fire policy in Gaza “appropriate.” Just hours after the massacre, thousands went out into the streets to celebrate the Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai in Tel Aviv.


Only a few dozen Israelis have gone down to southern Israel where the fence separates it from Gaza to hold up signs opposing Israeli actions and calling for a lift of the siege. These are the Israelis who will go down in history as the last vestige of humanity and forward thinking in Jewish Israeli society.

Everyone who participated in the formal U.S. Embassy inauguration in Jerusalem at the exact same time that just a few miles away, people were being shot down, also have blood on their hands. The participation of Christian bigots and anti-Semites Robert Jeffress and John Hagee adds insult to injury, and could not better demonstrate the current seamless...

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Israel denies entry to four American civil rights leaders

The delegation is in Israel and the West Bank to learn about the human rights situation on the ground. Three of the four deported already received their visas, but were taken back in.  

Four members of an American human rights delegation to Israel and the West Bank, were detained at Ben Gurion Airport, denied entry, and deported by Israeli authorities on Sunday. The rest of the delegation was allowed through.

Two of the four deported are Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and Katherine Franke, chair of CCR’s board and Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University. The two others who were deported did not want to be named or interviewed. Franke was accused of being affiliated with the BDS movement; Warren appears to have been deported simply by association.

The “Justice Delegation” of 19 prominent civil rights and social justice leaders from the U.S., most of whom have not been to the region before, include Howard University Law Professor Justin Hanford, who heads the Thurgood Marshall Center for Civil Rights, and Women’s March co-chair Tammika Mallory. The trip was organized by CCR with the stated goal to “witness the human rights situation in Israel and Palestine, including the history of systematic displacement and institutional racism, as well as the work of human rights defenders there.”

A source within the delegation says none of them is on any designated Israeli blacklist related to BDS activism and that the purpose of the tour has nothing to do with BDS. There are two Jewish members of the delegation — one of whom was deported.

Israel’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA) spokesperson Sabine Haddad told +972 only three were deported while the fourth volunteered to leave. Haddad says one person was barred entry for “BDS activism, as per the recommendation of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, and the other two — for lying about the reason for their trip.” The deportation order issued to Franke specifies the reason for deportation as “prevention of illegal immigration consideration.”

According to Franke and Warren, the notion that someone left voluntarily is categorically false. All four were informed they were being deported. Warren, however, did not actually receive a physical deportation order, which could explain why Haddad claims one person left of their own volition.

According to Warren and Franke, who spoke by phone on Wednesday, they had already gone through passport control, had their...

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The strange catharsis of hopelessness in Israel

There are no negotiations on the horizon, no deals on the table and no calls to end the violence. This moment in Israeli politics is dismal, yet sobering. 

It was hard not to feel just a bit giddy in recent weeks about the possibility that corruption investigations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may eventually bear fruit. It was also hard not to feel some excitement about the prospect of early elections due to a coalition breakdown, which would mean the possibility, however minute, of ending Netanyahu’s nearly decade-long reign. Even though Netanyahu’s conviction is still out of reach, and general elections, whenever they happen, are no reason to rejoice —Netanyahu’s Likud Party continues to dominate the polls, and the alternatives are all variations on the same theme — it was tempting to feel there might be a minuscule ray of light in the endlessly dark tunnel. A sudden bit of oxygen in the room.

For those of us who have been living, following and writing about Israeli politics for many years, the current moment is significant. Not because there is anything new, but precisely because nothing is new. For those of us who internalized some time ago that Israel’s occupation is not an unavoidable situation or a temporary condition, but, in fact, the country’s largest national project; for those of us who have for years scoffed at the notion of an American-mediated “peace process” — this moment is significant.

For the first time since I can remember in my brief lifetime, we are squarely in a period where there is not only no peace process, but no facade of one, no developments to look forward to except for further violence. There are no negotiations on the horizon, no deal on the table, no set of parameters, no scheduled summits, no backdoor meetings, no time-frames, no guiding principles, and no calls to end the violence. The Trump Administration’s entrance a year ago, and its subsequent policy decisions, has made this all the more evident. While it is refreshing that there are no longer any smokescreens, it is also utterly depressing.

Growing up in the 1990’s, I remember there was always some benchmark in Israeli politics and its conflict with Palestinians to look forward to, always some ball in motion, some hurdle to cross, something to somehow feel hopeful about. When I was 12, Rabin and Arafat shook hands on the White House Lawn,...

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Israel to bar U.S. Jewish group from country over BDS support

As part of Israel’s anti-BDS campaign, officials say members of Jewish Voice for Peace, one of the fastest growing Jewish organizations in the U.S., will not be able to enter Israel.

An Israeli government ministry confirmed on Saturday that the American Jewish organization, Jewish Voice for Peace*, is among 20 organizations from around the world that have been placed on a BDS blacklist, which means its members will be barred from entering Israel. JVP is the only major Jewish organization in the U.S. that openly advocates for and identifies with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

As part of its war on BDS, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry, headed by Minister Gilad Erdan, has been compiling a list of pro-BDS organizations whose members will be barred from entering the country. Last March, Israel passed a law preventing those who promote or support BDS from entering Israel, and in July, it prevented five activists from an interfaith delegation from boarding  plane to Israel — including a rabbi, Alissa Wise, the deputy director of JVP.

JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson, whose husband and children are Israeli citizens, told +972 Magazine:

Israel’s decision to specifically ban JVP leaders from entry is disconcerting but not surprising, given the consistent erosion of democratic norms as well as increasing fear of the BDS movement in Israel.  JVP members are now joining Palestinians, Muslims from around the world, people of color and other activists who are often barred from entry.

Our JVP members have no doubt about the justice of fighting for equality and freedom for all people in Israel/Palestine, and the legitimacy of BDS to bring that closer.  We will not be bullied by these attempts to punish us for a principled political stance that increasing numbers of Jews and all people worldwide support.

As someone with considerable family in Israel, this policy will be a personal hardship. But I also believe it is an indicator of the BDS movement’s growing strength and hope that it will bring the day closer when all people in Israel/Palestine will live together in equality and freedom.

According to the report in Haaretz, the ministry has refused to name the other 19 organizations that are on the list, which will be completed in March of this year. Reports in Israeli media noted that groups on the list are from all over the world, including South America, South Africa and Europe.

Erdan’s decision...

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