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Former Israeli AG: We should have evicted Hebron settlers

In an interview, former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair says he considers the situation in Hebron a form of Apartheid, refers to ‘Price Tag’ attacks as Jewish terrorism and regrets consenting to the construction of West Bank bypass roads for settlers.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

Former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

Former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

About a month ago, I met with Michael Ben-Yair for an in-depth interview offering him a chance to share his thoughts on issues of highest national importance. Ben-Yair is best known to the public as a former attorney general who served in that position under Rabin’s second government. He is also a member of Yesh Din’s Public Council. The following text is a record of our conversation, with some unavoidable omissions.

A few weeks ago, we marked the 20th anniversary of the massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs. You were there when the government decided how to respond. You effectively approved an arrangement that you later called Apartheid. How did this happen?

In the aftermath of the Goldstein massacre, there were two important steps I believe should have been taken: one which should have been taken but never was; and another that was, but was eventually only loosely implemented. Let’s start with the thing that wasn’t done: The Jewish settlers in Hebron were not removed following the massacre.

Would an eviction have withstood the test of the Supreme Court?

Shuhada Street in Hebron (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

Shuhada Street in Hebron (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

There were tense relations between Jews and Palestinians in Hebron even before the massacre. The removal of the Jewish settlers was not intended as an act of punishment. The plan to evict the Jewish settlers in Hebron, which was later restricted to the settlers in Tel Rumeida, was intended for prevention rather than punishment. There was a desire to prevent the very tense relations between Jews and Muslims in Hebron following the massacre. The massacre formed part of the tension that had already existed in the city.

I am not talking about the evacuation of the settlement of Kiryat Arba but about the Jewish settlers in Hebron, who were fairly few at this time, and about those living in Tel Rumeida. The subject was considered and ultimately not implemented for what I assume were political reasons – the desire to avoid extreme tension between the government and the settlers. But if you ask me, it was a mistake not to do it at the time because today the reality is truly anomalous: there are places such as Shuhada Street that are closed to Muslims, while the road itself is open to a handful of Jews and the soldiers who accompany them. The Muslim neighbors live in cages and have to move from house to house like animals in a compound.

This is what you once referred to as Apartheid.

Apartheid refers to segregation in the sense of one law for some people and another law for others. So if Muslims are not allowed to walk along a road and Jews are, then that’s truly Apartheid. There’s no way around it, and it’s a real pity that this situation was created.

I’m not one of those who think that Jews should be prevented from visiting Hebron. But I [do] believe that if you come to settle in the heart of a hostile social environment, and the relations in that area are certainly hostile, and even if you do not do this out of spite but out of a desire to return to ‘Abraham’s home,’ or something like that, the result will still be a serious concern of bloodshed. And that concern is the reason for this segregation. So in my opinion, the authority responsible for security and public order should think carefully before allowing Jews to settle there, thereby creating this tense relationship. That completes the part about what wasn’t done.

What was done after the massacre? We drafted a procedure for enforcing the law on settlers and imposing public order. The procedure was fiercely criticized at the time. In my opinion it enhanced enforcement rather than impeding it, and that’s just what was needed. But I am not sure how strictly this procedure was followed after my period of office.

Is there anything that you regret?

Hebron (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

Hebron (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

Yes – two main things. At some point the OC Central Command told me that they wanted to create security components around the settlements, including by-pass roads. What is a “security component?” It’s a fence around the settlement with a kind of road three meters inside the fence. I said, “OK, so what do you want?” He replied that they wanted this fence to be situated 50 meters from the outermost house in the settlement, in order to prevent shooting attacks. I told him that if the objective was to prevent shooting, a much greater distance would be needed. So then he said it was to prevent attacks with Molotov cocktails. I replied, “So build a higher fence. Do you realize how much land you are confiscating?”

Many of the settlements are situated on privately owned Palestinian land. An additional confiscation for this security strip is a serious disruption – the land will be taken from Palestinian farmland. Even if we claim that this is state land, we are not talking about the State of Israel. I recognize that there are security needs, but we have to apply some kind of discretion and reach a rational compromise between security needs and what the law allows. This is a matter of the right to property, which is a basic right of the landowners – which the settlers are not.

I told him that in my opinion five meters from the outermost house was sufficient, though that is a lot of land. In some places there are deserted areas and there is no reasons why the fence should not be closer. The argument went on for months until Rabin – this was before his assassination – took me to one side during a reception at his home and told me to resolve the matter. So I agreed to compromise on 25 meters, though I did so with a very heavy heart because I knew what that entailed. I’ve been told that after I left the position the fence was moved out to 400 meters; I don’t know how true that is.

I regret those 25 meters. It was too much – it wasn’t the right decision. The settlers didn’t even want the fences, because they restrict the settlement’s expansion. They wanted the area to be wide open. So my position wasn’t about what the settlers want, but a critical position based on what should be genuine security needs. Why do you need a fence at a distance of 50 meters when it means taking land from someone who won’t be able to farm it anymore?

And what was the problem with the bypass roads to the settlements?

The bypass roads are an extremely serious problem. In this case, despite my self-criticism and anger, I was more ‘generous.’ I accepted the argument that bypass roads were needed in order to prevent settlers driving through Arab villages. The army argued that the settlements were a fact on the ground. Neither they nor I had built them, but they exist and we have to respond to their security problems. They need to drive from one place to another – many of the settlers work in Jerusalem or inside the Green Line. At present they have to drive through Arab villages, and this means that the journey is dangerous. I accepted this argument and agreed to build the roads, under various restrictions. Each case required my approval. I sat down with the maps and approved the bypass roads. Today we know that these roads are used by settlers or by the army, and that they were built on land confiscation from Palestinians. If there is anything I regret it is these kinds of issues – the violation of human rights and property rights of the Palestinians.

Freedom of incitement

Graffiti in Hebron: 'Gas the Arabs / JDL' (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Graffiti in Hebron: ‘Gas the Arabs / JDL’ (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

I strongly regret the very liberal interpretation of freedom of expression during the period before the assassination of Rabin. I think we acted in an extremely liberal manner and argued that the statements made during the demonstrations against Rabin fell within the limits of free speech. We recognized that the statements were outrageous and annoying, but we did not feel they required criminal sanctions.

Today I believe that there is a distinction between freedom of expression and freedom of incitement. There was certainly incredible incitement at the time, and there must be limits. When expression falls into the category of racism or grave injury to the foundations of democracy – not the expression of a political opinion, but an attack on democratic foundations – then democracy must defend itself. We should have reacted much more strongly, and I very much regret this. For me, the assassination of Rabin goes beyond its political meaning. First and foremost, it was an extreme attack on the essential foundations of Israeli democracy, and in this respect I think we were a bit too liberal.

Following the Goldstein massacre, you declared the organizations Kach and Kahane Chai terrorist organizations, but their members simply re-branded themselves as “Kahane’s People” and went ahead as usual. On the other hand, the authorities have recently begun to use interrogation techniques on Israelis that were previously reserved only for Palestinians. A specific example is Yehuda Landsberg from Havat Gilad. What is your position on this issue?

After I published my opinion, and after the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had provided its professional opinion as a basis for discussion and the head of the Shin Bet presented the information available at the time regarding planned activities by Kach and Kahane Chai, we recommended that the government declare Kach and Kahane Chai terrorist organizations in accordance with the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance. The government did so. Following the declaration, we used a wide range of means, including detentions, against Kach activists – Noam Federman, Baruch Marzel, and others whose names I cannot recall. They escaped, and Baruch Marzel was arrested in Haifa. Then we prevented them from entering the entire area outside the Green Line. We took all kinds of measures and this went on for six to 12 months, and then we came to the point of Rabin’s assassination.

Do you still think it was right to use administrative detentions?

Look, administrative detention is problematic and anyone who denies that is mistaken. On the other hand, it isn’t a black and white matter either. You have to weigh things and find a balance between conflicting basic rights – and such conflicts occur frequently. One right is not to be subject to detention that is not based on evidence.

In the security sphere there can be no doubt that Kach and Kahane Chai are clear cases of security offenses. It’s Jewish terrorism. In this field you don’t always have evidence. You have intelligence information – and if you don’t use that information for the purpose of prevention when you don’t have evidence for criminal prosecution, then what’s the point of having an intelligence service?

It’s a classic problem – the contradiction between intelligence and gathering evidence.

Your aim is to provide prevention, not punishment. If you don’t restrict a given person’s freedom of movement, either with an order preventing him from entering various places or by administrative detention, then what tools do you have? Are you just going to let something happen?

Even administrative detentions, and certainly administrative detentions of Jews, are subject to judicial review. They were not detained in accordance with the Defense Regulations – they were detained on the basis of Israeli law, and this includes the obligation to bring them before a judge within a relatively short period. So there is judicial review. In some cases, this tool is vital.

You object to administrative detentions because you are thinking of a different situation – the period when thousands of Palestinians were subjected to administrative detention. Tens of thousands, even. I’m not talking about that kind of inflation in the use of administrative detentions, which is certainly intended to silence the population and I’m sure was not based on security needs or substantiated intelligence. Much of the intelligence that is received from Palestinian informants is actually about settling personal accounts, and the IDF and Shin Bet are trigger happy when it comes to these detentions. But there was no such inflation in the case of Jewish terrorism. Only a handful of people were detained. If there was evidence enabling prosecution, then of course it would be preferable to prosecute them, but the fear is of actors who can lead to bloodshed. I’m not trying to justify it; I just want to point out that sometimes there is no alternative. You cannot claim that the protection of human rights is absolute and that you don’t take into account what the consequences may be in terms of the disruption of public order. It’s the same dilemma as in the case of freedom of expression, as I mentioned earlier.

No gatekeepers: Jurists and the occupation

The settlement of Efrat (Photo by Activestills.org)

The settlement of Efrat (Photo by Activestills.org)

If I am not mistaken, during the Rabin period there was a real construction freeze.

That’s correct. Firstly, after the second Rabin government was formed it decided to change the priorities and to transfer budgets from the settlements for the development of the Galilee and the Negev. I remember that a decision was taken to freeze construction in the settlements, including internal expansion. I submitted an opinion ahead of the discussion regarding Givat HaTamar or another neighborhood (I can’t remember in which settlement) and following the discussion a complete freeze was imposed on construction, including tenders [already issued – YG].”

Did the Supreme Court approve the freeze?

I don’t think it even reached the Supreme Court. All I can remember was the sit-down strike by MK Yahalom and other members of Knesset from the National Religious Party (which still existed at the time) outside the Prime Minister’s Office. But as everyone knows, Rabin wasn’t moved by this – and he eventually paid with his life.

You were interviewed for Drucker’s series (a follow-up to the film, “The Gatekeepers”) but you weren’t pleased with the end result. What bothered you?

They interviewed me for five hours and eventually included just a few minutes. I didn’t even want to be interviewed and I didn’t think the whole business was serious. The first time Drucker contacted me, he told me, “Look, ‘The Gatekeepers’ didn’t deal with the real gatekeepers – the attorneys general are the true gatekeepers.” I told him that in my opinion it would be a very boring interview and that you couldn’t compare it to the film “The Gatekeepers.” What was interesting and important about “The Gatekeepers” was the contrast between the everyday work of the heads of the Shin Bet and the things they had to do and their own political opinions. It was a very important film, I think, particularly because the heads of the Shin Bet expressed political opinions that differ from those you would expect to hear given their functions.

This doesn’t apply in the case of the legal advisors. It’s more about gossip than any ideological impact. I don’t like the media and I even turn down offers for attractive interviews. But I told Drucker that if the other attorneys general agreed to be interviewed I wouldn’t break ranks, because that would be a bit arrogant, as if I were cutting myself off from the public. I wouldn’t exclude myself, because to do so would mean excluding others.

I thought they would raise a wide range of issues including the criminal sphere and areas that are important to me, such as the Shin Bet and other aspects of the conflict between law and security. Those are areas where my views are slightly unorthodox. For example, regarding operational accidents in the IDF, my position was that if there was negligence, the officer should be held accountable – including in the case of operational accidents and not only accidents during training, assuming there was negligence.

Or the Shin Bet and the subject of torture: during my period of office we restricted the use of shaking. My position later formed the basis for the High Court ruling in the petition submitted by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. We also amended the penal code and introduced a stricter penalty for a holder of custody when a subject of interrogation is injured under his custody.

In your book Sheikh Jarrah, about the neighborhood of the same name, you refer to the laws that have been used there as unjust laws. But laws must be interpreted and implemented. In “The Law in These Parts,” Ra’anan Alexandrowicz claimed that without jurists there would be no occupation. How do you see things?

Israeli settlers move into the home of an evicted Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah (Photo by Activestills.org)

Israeli settlers move into the home of an evicted Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah (Photo by Activestills.org)

When there is an unjust or a discriminatory law, the judge is entitled to say that he thinks that the law is discriminatory or unjust and violates accepted foundations. He can decline to act in accordance with the law. He cannot strike out the law, because it was enacted under the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. But otherwise the result will be unjust and irrational. A judge is not a workman; he is an artist, not a craftsman or a technician. He should create something that is right and just and use legal tools to create a just outcome.

For example, In 1950 the Absentee Property Law was enacted. The law effectively establishes that properties held by residents who had fled to an enemy country or territory at the time the law was enacted are defined as absentee properties and transferred to the management of the Custodian of Absentee Property. In most cases, the Custodian transferred the property to the Development Authority or sold it. Prior to the enactment of the law many of these properties were known as “abandoned property” and were allocated to Jews within Israel and in West Jerusalem. For example, my family received two apartments and a shop in Sheikh Bader.

In 1970 the Legal and Administrative Administration Law was enacted, in the aftermath of the Six Day War. This law states that properties that were held by the enemy’s Custodian of Absentee Property – i.e. property abandoned by Jews who fled to the territory of the State of Israel – may be released by their historical owners, i.e. Jews, and transferred to the Custodian General. These properties can be released once the historical owner presents proof of ownership. The law was worded in a way that means that the Custodian General, who effectively acts in the place of the Jordanian Custodian of Absentee Property, has no discretion regarding the release of the property.

The third law is the Absentee Property Law (Compensation), 1973. This law establishes that an absentee who becomes a resident – in other words, an Arab resident of East Jerusalem – who held property in West Jerusalem and fled to the Jordanian-held territory and thereby became absent is entitled to request compensation for his property from the Custodian of Absentee Property. The value of the property is according to its value on November 29, 1947, with a modest and very limited revaluation that is far below the current value of the property. In other words, there is one law for abandoned Arab property and another for abandoned Jewish property. This is unjust legislation.

But these laws were not the only thing that affected the situation. What else happened in Sheikh Jarrah at the time?

We also have to consider the reality on the ground as well as the law. All the [Jews] who fled from Sheikh Jarrah received compensation from the reserve of abandoned properties in the west of the city. You can’t start preparing property surveys during a war. My cousin, who died some time ago at the age of 90, fled from Sheikh Jarrah like the rest of us and received an Arab home in Katamon. He undoubtedly received compensation that was several times the value of the property he abandoned. Even in 1948 that house was worth more than the house he fled from in Sheikh Jarrah.

In the case of Sheikh Jarrah, at least, I know for certain that everyone who fled the neighborhood received compensation from the abandoned property in the west of the city. So if you received compensation, how can you demand the historical property? You want to have the historical property and compensation? Is that moral? And then the property is sold to a right-wing association that receives support from international organizations and from Jews. By the way, the [Palestinian] residents made a mistake in court. They claimed that they were protected tenants, but they should have stated that they were the owners and that they acquired ownership during the War of Independence.

The court should act wisely. The court cannot discuss such matters on the basis of property law, but on the basis of commonsense. When we received the payment, we did not sign any waiver, but we never thought of demanding our house back. The court should accept this and rule that the law does not provide a response to a situation created by war.

You rarely give interviews but you are very active on Facebook, and the media shows a lot of interest in your page. That is fairly rare among jurists. How did this come to be?

I am already far removed from the world of law. I don’t deal in law any more. After I resigned from my position as attorney general I worked in arbitration for a while, but I no longer accept new cases. I don’t consider myself a public figure but I am involved in life; I have an opinion and I express it. I think Facebook is a good tool – I don’t belittle it. If you use it properly as a tool for communication with a wide circle of friends, it is effective. I have many Facebook friends whom I don’t know personally, but after a while I realize that we have a lot in common and that we are interested in the same subjects. I devote about half an hour a day to Facebook. My comments on my Facebook account are mainly in the political sphere, although I haven’t been a party member since 1968.

Which party was that?

Rafi (Ben-Gurion’s breakaway party from Mapai) – although today I am far removed from that party’s opinions. I was one of those who admired Ben-Gurion as a youth and as a student. I write from a human rights perspective, and I am particularly interested in the field of education. For example, I was very interested by the affair surrounding Adam Verta, the ORT school network, and Education Minister Shai Peron. The education system is in very poor shape. I am a graduate of the military boarding school in Haifa, and on my Facebook page I protested the fact that the cadets will be spending Shabbat in Efrat. Their mere presence there is a political statement. Is anyone checking what people will tell them there over Shabbat dinner with the families? This is political indoctrination of high school students in an occupied territory that is the subject of disagreement even within Israeli society. This is certainly not an appropriate way to handle cadets who will later form the backbone of the standing army. I corresponded with the commander of the school and pointed out that even the official position of the State of Israel is that this is not its territory, but occupied territory.

Thank you very much.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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    1. Bar

      Interesting interview. Thanks.

      By the way Yossi, I wonder if you could reflect on the following statement by Ben Yair:

      “Today I believe that there is a distinction between freedom of expression and freedom of incitement. There was certainly incredible incitement at the time, and there must be limits. When expression falls into the category of racism or grave injury to the foundations of democracy – not the expression of a political opinion, but an attack on democratic foundations – then democracy must defend itself.”

      I’m wondering whether NGOs (some of which receive foreign funding) that seek to undermine Israel’s democratically elected government as well as its army and courts, in contradiction with what the majority of Israelis have indicated (through the ballot box), fall under Ben Yair’s concern?

      To be more specific, if an NGO or, say, a magazine, claims that Israel is dealing with ethnic cleansing, apartheid, “illegal” blockade, war crimes, targeting of civilians and other untrue claims that because of their stridency might encourage parties, or at the very least provide those parties with an excuse, to plan or launch attacks on Israeli targets or even in the diplomatic international arena, is that the same as the incitement to which Ben Yair refers?

      Or is overwhelming Israeli courts with lawfare, or accusing the state, the IDF, the PM and/or the Defense Minister of a variety of significant crimes considered kosher and not incitement?

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        Explain to me how NGOs reporting abuses or campaigning against actions or policies they find objectionable is “incitement.” George Orwell had choice words for such euphemistic justification of the unjustifiable:

        “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

        Also, the “NGOs are all foreign agents” canard is getting old fast. Sad to say, it has more credibility coming from the lips of the President of Venezuela, than you.

        Also, I like how you ignored EVERYTHING ELSE in the interview, but zeroed in on ONE paragraph that you twisted to sorta kinda not really justify silencing dissent against the Occupation.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bar

          !. I zeroed in on something that I found interesting. I actually disagree with Ben Yair on the question of incitement. I think speech should be free.

          2. However, if you agree regarding his position on inciting speech, then there’s no question that there’s a lot of that going around and it’s being done on purpose. If you read a recent Al Haq document, you’ll learn that you’re supposed to constantly mention “ethnic cleansing” when discussing Israel. The Goldstone Report was influenced by a great deal of faulty information provided by NGOs that function in Gaza and outside of it. Goldstone eventually walked back from his report but it caused significant damage and, like many stories about Israel, may have led some to more extreme views AND ACTIONS against the state.

          3. Many Israel-critical NGOs are funded by foreign money. What do you want me to do about that? Lie? I’ll bet that if Israel began to fund NGOs that target European court systems and launch a large number of lawsuits that their governments have to defend, or programs that question the underlying principles of their statehood, that a fairly loud outcry would take place. Why does Israel have to contend with this, then? And why can’t I mention it? Because you’re tired of hearing facts?

          Let me tell you about Orwellian language. Orwellian is when a country is democratic but called undemocratic, where it raises everyone’s standard of living and life expectancy but is called an ethnic cleanser and borderline genocidal, when it has to fight a war of survival to exist but is called the initiator of the war, etc.

          Anyway, if your objective was to respond to my question, you did a poor job.

          Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            It raised everyones standard of living and life expectancy.

            Except the Palestians’, of course, which had to endure Israeli rule for almost 50 years now, and who now have one of the lowest standards of living in the Arab world.

            GDP per capita in the West Bank, which I’ll repeat is under Israeli rule for almost 50 years, is lower than in ALL of Israel’s neigboring countries.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            Funny, because in the 1990s, the Palestinian per capita income was twice that of Egypt’s. I guess launching wars against Israel isn’t helpful to one’s economy.

            Perhaps you can boycott the PA, because the last time the EU checked, which was a few months ago, they noted that 2 billion Euros of their aid had disappeared. That’s a lot of money…

            Anyway, what can I say, the Palestinian economy was sprinting ahead under Fayyad over the past few years with growth of 7-10%. Then they pissed off many of their benefactors, got rid of Fayyad, went to war against Israel…and these are their economic rewards. It’s not for nothing that people keep saying the Palestinians never miss an opportunity…

            By the way, the per capita GDP for the West Bank is always bunched up with Gaza’s and both economies have large unreported segments – for example, the PA recently accused Hamas of creating 1700 new millionaires since taking over the Strip, mostly through the tunnel economy.

            As for standard of living in the West Bank, it’s a little funny because I have in the past pointed people to Trip Advisor’s West Bank section’s traveler photos. There were about 3800 of them and most showed a fairly robust economy, with gleaming new buildings and quite a few massive homes. I guess somebody was reading my stuff because I just went back and it’s down to 1100 photos and many of the nice ones are gone and only the religious ones are left. Wouldn’t want to give anybody the right impression…


            Haha. Anyway, for a better economy, the Palestinians would be wise to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

            Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            No it wasn’t. Sorry to bust your bubble.

            In 1989 (which I know isn’t the 90s, but close. And it’s pre Oslo, so after 22 years of full Israeli administration) the GNP per capita (ICP, which is similar to PPP) in Gaza was 1325$, of the West Bank 2250$, and of Egypt 3100$ (in 1997 Dollars).

            So sorry, you’re wrong.

            (Source: The Palestinian Economy: Between Imposed Integration and Voluntary Separation, 1997, page 14)

            All teh other neighboring countries of Israel had an even higher per capita GNP than Egypt.

            Are you suggesting these numbers changed dramatically between 1989 and 1992? Or the mid-90s?

            The nominal numbers and incomes may have been lower in Egypt, but people could actually buy more stuff for that money. Mainly because they didn’t have to cope with Israeli commodity prices.

            Of course you knew that already, which is why you didn’t mention it.

            If you can find other reliable data for the late 80s and early 90s, that actually includes PPP, then I’d really like to see it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            You are an extremely poor researcher.

            Here is official UN Data.


            You can search by filter and year. So, for example, if you enter the 1993 filter and select your relevant countries, you can see the per capita GDP for that state, converted into current US dollar values.

            Entering the appropriate filters, one finds that in 1993 the following per capita GDP applies:

            Syria $1147
            Jordan $1417
            Iraq $264
            Egypt $854
            “State of Palestine” $1170

            Oh, and by the way, this data allows you to research as far back as 1970. In other words, 3 years after Israel took over Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

            In 1970, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan all had much higher per capita GDPs than the “State of Palestine.” So we know that the Palestinians under Israeli occupation not only finally got universities and other higher learning institutions, but Israeli presence increased Palestinian standards of living to the point where they outperformed many of the surrounding countries’ per capita GDP. Certainly on a percentage basis, Israeli rule helped the Palestinian income grow much faster than the surrounding economies.

            Since the numbers begin to drop after Oslo and especially after the Palestinians launch their suicide attacks, what we can learn is that violence doesn’t work. In fact, in 1999 the Palestinians are still leading Syria but by 2003 their economy is decimated and the other Arab states take a lead. If you then look at the “State of Palestine” in the years from 2008-2012, years in which violence mostly subsided and Israel attempted to help Fayyad with his economic plan, the Palestinian per capita GDP grew again…by 33% on a per capita basis (despite the Palestinian population having grown incredibly quickly).

            Anything else you need to learn?

            Reply to Comment
          • Apa

            Bar, two faults with your analysis:

            1. It is not twice that of egypts according to those numbers, it is 37% higher than Egypts number.

            2. It does not take into account purchasing power parity (or PPP) – and therefore doesn’t say anything conclusive about the living standards.

            Presuming that Egypt had significantly lower prices, Per Capita GDP adjusted for PPP is likely to be significantly lower in the occupied territories.

            For example, in this data from CIA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita), Egypt has roughly twice the PPP-adjusted per-capita income compared to the West Bank and Gaza.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            Looking at your link, if I look at the CIA’s numbers for Egypt and West Bank/Gaza, I see a very similar ratio to per capita GDP so I doubt that there’s a significant disparity in purchasing power.

            If it helps understand the situation, consider that a few years ago when the Egyptian side opened its borders to Gaza, there were some news stories about Gazan men easily finding wives in Sinai because they were relatively affluent compared to the Sinai residents.

            If you go back to my 1970 numbers, there is little doubt that cost of living was like Arab neighboring countries because Judea and Samaria had been “West Bank” and directly linked to Jordan just a couple of years earlier.

            I also encourage you to take a look at photos of Ramallah and even of towns in Gaza. Sometimes you can’t tell whether you’re in Israel or not.

            Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            Most of the time, it will be very easy to tell.

            There’s nice modern buildings in North-Korea as well. Does that mean that North Korea has a working economy?

            And what does your following statement have to do with PPP? Please explain it to me.

            “Looking at your link, if I look at the CIA’s numbers for Egypt and West Bank/Gaza, I see a very similar ratio to per capita GDP so I doubt that there’s a significant disparity in purchasing power.”


            Just because the UN’s and CIA’s date match, still doesn’t mean snot when it comes to PPP.

            And just by using common sense, you’ll have to admit that 850$ could probably buy you more in Egypt in 1992, than it could in the Palistinian territories. Just because they received almost all of their goods from Israel, a developed first-world economy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            Blah, blah, blah. I provided you with data and clear analysis of the data posted by your friend. If you want to make some point, which, to remind you, is your claim that Palestinian standards of living haven’t improved, then you need to provide actual data that proves what you’re saying.

            Let me help you get going: All the Palestinian universities presently active in Judea, Samaria and Gaza became universities after Israel took over in 1967. Palestinian life expectancy was far lower in 1967 than the Middle East average and today is higher than the Middle East average. Infant mortality rates in 1967 were far worse than the Middle East average and today are much better. Literacy rates have skyrocketed and are far better than most Arab countries.

            Oh, and I forgot, under Israel, the Palestinians have become governed under Palestinians. Neither Jordan nor Egypt permitted this to happen.

            So there you go, I’ve given you the initial underpinnings of your report to us all about how Palestinian standards of living haven’t improved under Israeli rule and life is just like in North Korea. Good luck with your essay!

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            Hass Bar,

            You seem to have just one issue;

            “The Palestinians shouldn’t complain because they eat better than some other Arabs”.

            Actually the same is going on with Jews since 1945.

            After WW2 there were abour 13,5 million Jews left,and today that number is the same.

            Based on Jewish birthrates since WW2 there should be about 30 million Jews world wide today.

            Where have they gone? Why do Jewish men and women marry outside Judaism and refuse to give their kids a Jewish education?

            Joining the Zionist bandwagon gives you acces to money and power where ever you are,but 17 million Jews refused to be slaves of you and your rich Bankers.

            These Jews are like Palestinians; It’s more important to live in freedom and dignity,not being slave of anybody,especially not a bunch of European Bankers,or their henchmen.

            Even if Palestinian GDP rises tenfold,they will refuse to be slaves.

            Jews like you can be bought,Palestinians can’t.

            17 million Jews,and at least 30 percent of Jews that are still left (5 million)rejected the political program called “1897 Zionism”.

            1897 Zionism has managed to make 17 million Jews turn their backs on Judaism(temporarily?).

            As long as no Zionist can give an explanation for 17 million Jews leaving Judaism(3 Holocausts),you shouldn’t be surprised you are hated by non-Zionists and the silent mayority(70 %) of Jews alike.

            You are part of the Tribe that doesn’t mind being Bankerslaves,when the Bankers go down,you will be the first ones that will be sacrificed by them.

            The mayority of Judaism has taken distance from you and your sponsors,waiting for you to drown in your toxic brew of hate and exeptionalism.

            The rest of Judaism will pick up the pieces and will overcome this disaster called “1897 Zionism”.

            1897 Zionism will be a footnote in history and a source of shame for Judaism forever.

            Judaism has dealt with fakes like you forever,so we will overcome you as well.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            You’re an antisemitic piece of dirt.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            Now you’re talking!

            More refined,more subtile.

            You should really figure out what a Semite,and a “Pro-Semite” is,before calling someone an “Anti”.

            I can assure you that what you are doing is not good for Semites.

            You already called for a Palestinianrat,and now this stuff about GDP.

            Ugly stuff.

            If you cross the border ,I’ll remind you there is one,that’s all.

            Happy hunting ,Cowboy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            The existence of Israel is a great response to scum such as you. In fact, it is a necessary response. You make this abundantly clear.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            “Scum such as me”?

            We represent 22 million people born Jewish rejecting your politcal program to destroy Judaism.

            Most(17 million)turned their backs on Zionist hyjacked Judaism in silence,others(5 million)are Jews that see you(8 million) as a bigger threat to the lives of our children than all Arabs and other perceived enemies together,and are vocal.

            Live with it ,because these 22 million Jews will not go away,and most will return to organized Judaism once this 1897 Zionist nightmare is over.

            When it’s safe for our children again to be proud of being Jewish.

            We’ll wait untill you drown in your hate and exceptionalism,and return to real Jewish values.

            You’ll be a footnote in history and a shame for Judaism forever.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            …and aliens from Mars are green. You need help, dude.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            They’re not,Dudette.

            Reply to Comment
        • Hear, hear!

          I would add that Bars are quite willing to accept aid to universities or corporations for research and development from the EU or anyone else. Foreign is not actually the problem; it is the human rights agenda as such. But neutrality in civil access must allow the same entity, here the EU, to offer grant competition uniformly so long as violence is eschewed. In my view, the State can ban the EU entire, but accepting some of the competition, it must allow its citizens access to all of EU competition, with the criminal violence limitation noted.

          Thus requires, however, commitment to full equality in social and political rights.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            Israel isn’t a charity case. If a university receives a grant, typically this involves research that will benefit the grantmakers. If a company receives an investment, typically this involves commerce that will potentially benefit the investors. If a “human rights” NGO determines that as a strategy it is going to clog up Israel’s court system or challenge Israeli democratic political outcomes, then that is interference in a country’s functioning and an entirely different type of “foreign investment.” It is unethical for other democracies to interfere with the internal functioning of another democracy precisely because this undermines the democratic choices made by that country’s citizens.

            Reply to Comment
          • I was, and am, referring directly to the EU grant competitions. There are competitions covering universities, corporations, and NGO’s like Yesh Din (not all together). In these competitions there is no “return on investment” for the EU; it is a grant for development. The EU recognizes human rights work as part of legal and social development. That Israel is indeed developing legally I submit for your consideration the African Refugee cases–regardless of outcomes, development is indeed underway.

            My point has been exemplified by your reply:

            ‘If a “human rights” NGO determines that as a strategy it is going to clog up Israel’s court system or challenge Israeli democratic political outcomes, then that is interference in a country’s functioning and an entirely different type of “foreign investment.” It is unethical for other democracies to interfere with the internal functioning of another democracy precisely because this undermines the democratic choices made by that country’s citizens.’

            First, there is no reason to believe Yesh Din has resolved to “clog” the courts and so applies for an EU grant. It could just be following what it sees as human rights principles with a view of evolving law. You implicitly assert that such law suits are inherently “anti-Israeli,” which limits speech to your approved ends.

            Second, “Israeli democratic political outcomes” are distinct from jurisprudence; if they weren’t it would be impossible to strike down much legislation, as it will be a “democratic political outcome.” Under your reasoning, when the Court affirms a Yesh Din (or other group) appeal, the appeal should be voided if funded by foreign money.

            Third, private political agents in Israel often take foreign help. Much through the global Jewish community, but also from non-Jewish groups, like GodTV, which proudly has a sign in the Negev saying it is funding a forest there. Nor is the global Jewish community exempt from the label “foreign,” for quite often contributors are not Israeli citizens. A non Israeli Jew is a Jew but still foreign. If you want to remove this objection, then, 20% of your citizenry being Arab, outside Arab sources are not foreign either. Such groups try to influence Israeli political outcomes. Foreign is not the problem. The litmus test is a certain definition of (un)wanted political outcome.

            The way around all this is to hold civil neutrality in foreign grant competition. That is, if one kind of grant is open for competition under State approval, such as R&D, all such competitions from the same entity must also be open, with a bar on direct violence. In this way the State cannot pre-determine civil society, save for banning the granting entity completely. So if the State really wants to avoid EU Yesh Din funding, ban all application of EU grants. I would actually still have a problem with this ban, based on other foreign money generally allowed, but may stop here as the point is made.

            I understand that labeling one’s position with an “ism” is insulting. Nonetheless, I find in your logic a nationalism trump which allows you to mold civil society to that end. Similarly so in the Boycott and Nakba Laws. The first is certainly not “democratic” by the standards of the US and EU; the second could be reframed, as I have advocated other times, to remove “funding the destruction of Israel” as objection.

            You are all for free speech, but not for an equal civic playing field. You take the need for outside (foreign) funding as evidence that groups like Yesh Din could not survive in Israel otherwise, so would restrict funding domestically. Yet you will continue to take other civic foreign funding when it meets your definition of improving Israel, even though Yesh Din also has a definition of improving Israel.


            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            I like how you conflate science or industry with politics. They are not the same thing. Solar energy or even research into the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, much less funding a for-profit enterprise, are not the same as attempting to game the political system.

            The two types of foreign investment are entirely different, not only from a practical standpoint but particularly from an ethical standpoint. And since you seem to think that I’m allowing politics that are closer to my point of you to color my judgment, be assured that I think that when Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Netanyahu (and other politicians) have taken political funding from foreign sources, this has tarnished and diminished Israel’s democracy. There is currently a case in the US where a foreigner funded some political campaigns with serious backing. He is on trial and will probably end up in prison. Israel should be the same on this issue.

            Foreign money should not play a role in the workings of a democracy, precisely because outsiders do not have the moral right to undermine the determinations of the democracy’s populace. Do you think that Russia should presently fund anti-nationalist parties or organizations in Ukraine? Is that fair to Ukrainians? Should a wealthy Saudi be permitted to influence British policy by funding organizations that seek to change the manner in which England treats, say, Muslim authoritarian regimes? Does that seem fair? Shouldn’t the Saudis live in England as citizens or permanent residents first? Why should their views have priority over those who live in England, pay taxes there, vote for their representatives and have to live with the consequences of legal and political changes?

            Yet, that is precisely what you’re advocating. And you’re shamelessly comparing this type of intervention in a democracy with funding of research or of businesses. Really?

            In addition to the problems I list above, Israel is in a particularly sensitive situation because it has a relatively small population, a relatively small economy and a much more volatile situation than, say, European states. This permits outsiders to have outsize influence on Israeli society that they couldn’t have on their own societies with similar levels of funding.

            As for clogging up the courts, I’m not familiar enough with Yesh Din to be discussing this particular group. It’s also irrelevant whether it’s Yesh Din or Adalah, the point is that the courts represent another arm of the governance of a country. The country’s citizens should have free and unfettered access to their courts. However, using foreign funds to pursue cases that seek to change the law of the land or to clog up the courts is unconscionable precisely because it causes delays to the citizens of the state in their pursuits of justice.

            A typical Israel who has a pressing legal matter has to wait far longer to gain access to a court date, to the follow up dates, appeals, etc. than she would if she weren’t competing with cases funded by foreigners who have no tangible outcome in the cases they are funding. That’s without getting into the pernicious effects on costs, availability of lawyers, pressures on judges and more broadly on the system itself that are now facing the typical Israeli applicant to the courts.

            The courts’ decision also ultimately force politicians to have to adjust their focus to address outcomes of these foreign-funded cases even though they were elected to focus on other matters. Again, this is an unethical interference in the rights of the democracy’s citizens to enjoy the benefit of electing the representatives they have chosen.

            If you want to talk about Orwell, then it seems to me that comparing what I’ve just described to a research grant is more apt.

            Reply to Comment
          • “The courts’ decision also ultimately force politicians to have to adjust their focus to address outcomes of these foreign-funded cases even though they were elected to focus on other matters. Again, this is an unethical interference in the rights of the democracy’s citizens to enjoy the benefit of electing the representatives they have chosen.”

            No, Bar, a court does not decide a case one way or another because its preparation has foreign funding. The court decides based on the merits decided and on internal law. It makes no difference where the advocates got their money for the decision as such. To call this “an unethical interference in the rights of the democracy’s citizens to enjoy the benefit of electing the representatives they have chosen” is to claim that a court decision may be annulled by the Knesset when it interferes with MK wishes–which I think is where you are going.

            Each case has a Israeli plaintiff. The Israeli asks for justice, just as those you would focus upon. Crucially, the Court under Barak held an general standing doctrine which allows just about any Israeli to petition a violation of law. Moreover, many Yesh Din type cases go directly to the High Court, while most Israelis begin in the lower courts, so the clogging you charge is far from clear on your own terms.

            In the US and EU cases can have foreign funding. The most obvious example is when a foreign national files suit. The funding might be private, or not, not as when a government itself is party to a suit.

            Funding of political campaigns and contributions to elected officials is a wholly other matter. Many if not most States, certain the US, have laws prohibiting foreign contributions to campaigns, and as a matter of principle the State usually does not allow its officers to accept contributions or gifts for fear of true outside influence. Once again, in the case of Yesh Din and other groups going to the courts, the court itself receives no outside funding at all; the parallel you have attempted fails.

            Having placed political campaigns and government officials aside, I again note that the issue at hand was neutral access by civil society to foreign funding. You ignored the case of non Israeli Jewish contributions and entities like God TV, for you approve of their political goals, mostly; and planting a forest where the Bedouin reside, or providing supplemental funds for new Jewish villages, are political goals. Your argument that Israel is small so vulnerable to foreign money fails since you also welcome foreign support precisely because Israel is small. These groups, however, are not governmental. The real focus is the EU.

            So to the EU grant competition for R&D. Recipients have enhanced power within their communities, and this is an indirect political outcome, just as in the case of Yesh Din’s enormous number of field workers preparing an onslaught of unnecessary court cases which have no factual basis. You approve of the former outcomes so say they are distinct. In doing so, you segregate outcomes into pro and anti Israel, which pre-defines competition in civil society. This, apart from direct work towards violence, the State cannot do, for State policy is defined by political competition within civil society.

            As to other foreign governmental money, I do not claim that all must be admitted under a measure of civil neutrality. Rather, all grants to civil society by a government may be banned. But once civil aid is admitted by a specific foreign government, all of its programs, meeting the violence proviso, must be allowed as well. So, e.g., the US may have banned all Soviet aid, or all Iranian aid until lately (I actually don’t know). These total bans retain civil neutrality and meet the condition of autonomous border control. My view is that once a foreign State is allowed or even entreated to provide civil aid, Israel must allow all of that State’s granting programs (with the violence proviso), for otherwise the State of Israel is building up one part of civil society without giving other parts the same opportunity, passively (passively because there may be no appropriate grant, or those applying may lose the competition).

            What is at issue here in background is the pending NGO bill which would hobble NGO’s taking foreign money if deemed hostile to Israel as defined by the sitting government, which, I suppose, would nix those legal groups focusing on the occupation–EVEN THOUGH THE COURTS HAVE NO PROBLEM ACCEPTING, AND SOMETIMES SUSTAINING SUCH PETITIONS. If you want that end, then ban all EU grants.

            Alternatively, Israel could ask that the money from the EU go directly to the State, with it then allocating it as it sees fit. If the EU would agree, then the need for civil neutrality vanishes; the money just becomes another government program. I do not think, however, that the EU would agree, partly because it will want to enforce its own selection criteria even restricted to the corporate or university R&D.

            The present and immediately past governments seek to lock in changes to Israeli civil society which, in the reigning coalition’s view, will prevent future disasters such as the suicide campaigns of 2000-4 with some earlier. Essentially, the left, having betrayed Israel unto vulnerability, must be blotted out. Both the NGO bill and Boycott law are to this end; Nakba, by identifying an enemy within, is of similar intent. It is not enough to control the government; opponents must be removed. I think I understand the motivation, but it is a serious mistake which derails constitutional process by favoring a nationalist veto, for nationalism thrives by silencing some in the nation.

            By the way, I think the Saudis have funded civil society outcomes in the UK, say museums and other art projects, and certainly mosques, and this is perfectly acceptable. You may know of the (academic?) institution which accepted money for Gaddafi, returning it (or saying it would) after the Libyan campaign began. Your sketch of the EU and US is not accurate in this area.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            As to your first point, the issue isn’t that a court decides one way or another because of foreign funding, the point is that without this funding the matter would have never gone up to the court in the first place. Once the court decides on this case, the Israeli political system needs to address and adjust. Without the foreign interference, that case might have gone forward at some point, but realistically there would be far fewer such cases in total and the ELECTED government which was voted into power to work on certain issues of concern to the electorate could focus on what they got elected to do, not on what some extremists helped by Swedish and Dutch money decide is important.

            Your point about most cases going to the High Court proves my point. Why do you imagine that it isn’t critical that this critically important court not have a slate filled with cases funded by foreigners? Don’t average Israelis have a right to expect that when they have a case, that it won’t take years to get heard just because Michael Sfard runs a case-filing machine?

            I don’t know the UK’s high court but I know the US Supreme Court and it is extremely differently run than Israel’s in that direct petitions are rare and the process of being heard in that court typically requires years of lower court challenges. As you know, Israel’s High Court can be approached directly from a case’s filing. Additionally, the size of both the US and UK economies means that outside forces have a tough time out-matching local forces, but Israel has a tiny economy relative to those countries and the foreign money has an impact far in excess of its amount. That’s without getting into the ethics of foreign governments forcing the Israeli government to constantly face more and more cases that they sponsor. Imagine if you were a Dutch national and you learned that your government had to spend twice as much on its legal workforce and caseload as it would without some other country’s funding of endless court cases? Wouldn’t you feel that they are abusing your taxes, as well as forcing your government to focus on matters that may be important to a foreigner but not to you? Even if there is a local person at the spear-front of these cases, let’s not play games about what’s going on here: a small minority that cannot get its way through free and open elections is attempting to get its way through the courts and using foreign funds to accomplish their goals.

            Reply to Comment
          • First, this conversation shows that people who disagree can talk civilly, and I thank you for that. It is rarely the case here.

            The US Supreme Court has, constitutionally, very limited first review jurisdiction, limited to disputes among the States or among foreign governments and the United States. It is meant to be a review court, mostly, unlike the Israeli High Court. I High Court has, I think, always allowed first instance jurisdiction and has evolved criteria for what kind of cases it will so hear. This actually, as I said earlier, acts against a clogging the court argument, as most Israeli cases can get provisional relief from below.

            Rights are rarely majoritarian when first implemented. Almost by necessity, most cases articulating the US Bill of Rights come from cases where a majority of legislators approve something which the courts then strike down. And of course those legislators would rather the case be not brought at all. If a right has been violated, it really doesn’t matter that the legislature must now focus on its error, for errors must be corrected, and those making them tend to resent this.

            I think the underlying issue here, apart from foreign funding, is the scope of judicial review in Israel. For some time now I have viewed Israel as in a slow motion constitutional crisis over the standing of judicial review. Other branches of government, including the IDF, often delay implementing High Court decisions and at times outright ignore them. The African Refugee cases have accelerated this crisis, largely through the spectacular ineptitude of the Knesset response to the Court’s first decision. What happens to Holot will, in my estimation, significantly affect the trajectory of Israeli judicial review; the Court must declare itself an independent entity, which will be painful given the compromise history of much of Israeli politics.

            In the past, the courts have tinkered with major policy rather than asserting a fundamental incompatibility and waiting for reply (as the first African case actually does). What Yesh Din type cases are doing is forcing a decision on which court style is fundamental. So you say that the government must deal with court decisions you would rather not have ever occurred; such dealing has largely been incremental, often getting around the court point to achieve the same end. My impression, mostly derived through 972 reporting, is that some Justices are getting tired of this. Their orders go unimplemented, or the government redefines things to get around the order.

            The national right has indeed been advocating a populist democracy (although its coalitions are not really that overwhelming), and you are correct that an independent Court will go against that concept. People in the US also argue that the courts are abused and overloaded, and indeed lawsuits are usually not brought to make a better world but for personal advantage, and some suits are dismissed as frivolous or summarily. All court systems endure abuse.

            I can only really speak to the Yesh Din reports I have been reading hereon such their inception. I have found the positions clear and not frivolous at all. Nor do I see in their resolution a danger to the security of Israel, rather the reverse, to which I turn in my reply to your second comment.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            As to your second point which is that foreign funding is acceptable outside of political campaigns because foreign funding for a group that seeks to turn Israel into a pariah state, or the IDF into an entity hobbled by war crimes charges, etc., is the same as giving money to projects that are accepted by mainstream Israel such as JNF funding or some public programming, I think you underestimate the potential for mischief.

            If I am an anti-Israel advocate living in an Arab country or in a Western country, of course I’d do everything in my power to use Israel’s freedoms against it. And there are some Israelis who are angry and bitter about their country and feel they are perfectly justified, after being unable to convince their fellow citizens to vote with them, in joining forces with those hostile forces. They dress up their agenda with the language of freedom and human rights, and maybe sometimes they truly matter and make a difference, but mostly they add to the anti-Israel discourse out in the world. As we saw in Germany in the ’30s, and as we see now in Russia, the first rule of a democracy is to defend its own democracy. These groups are seeking to undermine the majority vote and use foreign funds to assist them precisely because they can’t get similar funds locally. How can you support this?

            Finally, your claim that a research grant might have an impact on the economy and therefore might also be construed as playing a political role is a valid claim, but only if you really push the point to its extremes. These aren’t the early days of Yishuv Zionism. This is an established state with established institutions. Businesses are businesses and universities are universities. They are there to conduct research or to make a profit. Why should there be a pretense that the money they receive is the same as organizations that actively promote political agendas?

            Let me conclude by saying one last thing: I don’t think this pushback by Israel against these NGOs would be as fierce if many of these organizations hadn’t abused their role by seeking to undermine a national consensus that has been voted upon in election after election and especially if they weren’t aligned with the activities of Israel’s enemies.

            The sense is, and in my opinion it is a correct analysis, that these groups serve Israel’s enemies who are not doing their best to improve Israeli society but rather to destroy it altogether. In many cases, their agendas are aligned with the NGOs that are coming under fire and the NGOs are happy to continue to take the foreign money and continue as if the hostile elements aren’t there or don’t use their data/reports/court battles to their advantage.

            It’s not enough to cover your ears and say, “But what they do with our work doesn’t matter because we are doing right by Israeli society.” There is a war going on and Israel is not in a position of strength for many reasons, not the least of which is historic animosity towards Jews generally, and where we’ve gone now is to a world where the anti-Israel drumbeat is extremely loud and driven by Israel’s enemies. These NGOs know very well how their actions will be used and sometimes actively seek to encourage this activity. That is what is inexcusable and that is why there is so much opposition. Let’s not play naive.

            Reply to Comment
          • Here are some thoughts about your second comment reply.

            The principle of civic neutrality I advocate doesn’t rest on present conditions. It doesn’t matter that now business research is for the good of all (I am not as sanguine as you in that view, but, no matter). The principle rests on not disabling any part of the society to compete on the same largely policy neutral terms. That is, if the State allows Israeli businesses to compete internationally, then it must allow other civil groups to do so as well in application to the SAME foreign entity, the only exception being direct incitement to violence, which is very narrow.

            Future development is open ended. You may think that the trajectory of civil society is settled, but once a State implements that view it seeks to lock itself into power. This is what the NGO bill does by having a particular definition of “against the Israeli State”; so too for the Boycott law. Those who might want to advocate boycott in Israel (and I suspect them rather few) may well believe it is best for Israel’s long term security and health. You advocate the will of the electorate; well, let Israelis decide against boycott by ignoring it. Proscribing that speech is an attempt to pre-define societal outcomes. So too with the NGO bill. Israelis apply for these EU grants, just like Israelis apply for EU development grants and, as I said earlier, I think the EU sees human rights as a form of development. And I again stress that under my logic the State could either completely bar grant competition with a foreign entity, or ask that the entity deliver all funds to the State for its own allocation. I think the EU would pass on the latter; competitive liberty has its restrictions.

            The Yesh Din reports I have followed on 972 rarely if ever focus on endangered Israeli security. Rather, they treat abuses which could be remedied without loss of security. And one may make the argument that so doing could enhance Israeli security by draining away a bit of the resentment over lived occupation. I have come to see Greater Israel as inevitable. The abuses Yesh Din documents cannot abide indefinitely in Greater Israel. People will not live that way forever, and you will not want to become what you will have to become to force them to. Not every prior resident is responsible for suicide bombings. As I’ve said in an earlier comment, you cannot make people pay for what you think “the people” have done. You’ve won more of the old war than you may realize, and winning changes things–for all.

            I’ll end by speaking to this point:

            “As we saw in Germany in the ’30s, and as we see now in Russia, the first rule of a democracy is to defend its own democracy. These groups are seeking to undermine the majority vote and use foreign funds to assist them precisely because they can’t get similar funds locally. How can you support this?”

            Germany in the 30’s is not a good example. After the Reichstag fire the Weimar Constitution was suspended, all legal, with devastating consequence. And, in any case, there is nothing violent at all in the Israeli law cases, nor does the High Court see those they agree with as dangerous to Israel. There is no emergency order here at all.

            Present Russia is a more direct case. Nationalism is being used there to stifle speech; a recent legal change blocking some journalism was indeed used in the Crimea case, within Russia. I see in Lieberman the same authoritarian streak, and suspect it is derivative of a common Soviet past. As with Israel, I see no support in the claim that Russia is being destabalized by foreign advocates of free speech and plural society. Rather, there, I see the attack on pluralism, including the “teaching prohibitions” on homosexuality, as a State attempt to impose order by silencing alternative, people defining a common ground by repressing someone else in common. The populace enjoys force–so long as others pay. In the US, the Iraq invasion was at first wildly popular. I see the Russian State trying to construct socio-economic stability through nationalism. Crimea in outcome is sort of happenstance, making the best of a failed greater gambit, but the appeal to the “greater Russian people” is not done. I see nothing to recommend to Israel from the Putin regime.

            You have, in this comment, in my view correctly identified the real conflict over Israel civil society: it pivots on the power of nationalism and its constraint. There is no doubt that the ingathering of exhiles is powerfully nationalistic; I have already detailed earlier that I see this as foundationaly constitutional. Yet full equality in social and political rights is similarly foundational, for me–so the principle of civic neutrality in competition I have tried to outline herein. The question is where does post-Zionism begin. I say here. The question is whether the core of Zionism is lost upon the arrival of post-Zionism. I say no.

            Thanks for your time.

            Reply to Comment
      • Israel is involved in Apartheid policies, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. This are facts, not opinions. And it is the duty of human rights organization to report facts even though the public dislikes them. No public I am aware of ever agreed that its policies lead to war crimes and ethnic cleansing. If your yardstick is the public opinion *among the perpetrators*, then no war crimes ever took place.

        The duty of human rights organization is, by default, to question governments (which are the main source of human rights abuses) and to stand against public opinion when it supports such violations. This is so basic as to render your argument less than childish.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bar

          “Israel is involved in Apartheid policies, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. This are facts, not opinions. ”

          No, it’s opinion.

          “And it is the duty of human rights organization to report facts even though the public dislikes them.”

          Indeed it is. It is also their duty to be truthful.

          “No public I am aware of ever agreed that its policies lead to war crimes and ethnic cleansing.”


          “If your yardstick is the public opinion *among the perpetrators*, then no war crimes ever took place.”

          My yardstick is the facts. Regarding public opinion, my point is that you shouldn’t try to undermine the public opinion expressed in the ballot box just because YOU believe something different.

          “The duty of human rights organization is, by default, to question governments (which are the main source of human rights abuses) and to stand against public opinion when it supports such violations.”

          We agree on this point.

          “This is so basic as to render your argument less than childish.”

          Well, childish though it is, in your response you actually gave yourself carte blanche to proceed with lies if that’s what you believe. You advocate for truthful criticism of a government and providing a system that allows for checks against that government but then give us absolute statements about apartheid, war crimes, etc. It’s pretty hard to take anything you say seriously after that.

          You’d be in a much stronger position to argue what you’re claiming if you actually approached your claims without such a deep and hostile bias towards Israel and its governments, not to mention its political system which gives you the freedom to openly pursue your political agenda. There is a middle ground, you know. That’s where instead of always ascribing the worst motives and crimes, you reasonably understand the circumstances on all sides and approach your advocacy from that perspective.

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        • The articulation of human rights is not the creation of a constitutional right. Creation of the latter requires those who live in the no man’s land of the former. It is a brave and perilous place to be, and the latter rights rarely yield the full promise of the former.

          That’s why I admire these Yesh Din reports so much.

          I have yet to see, or be informed, of a fabrication in any of them. As to the hostility which Bar notes, which is indeed there at times, that’s what happens when no one wants to listen.

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    2. Y.

      Following Ben Yair’s ‘logic’, we need to deduct the expenses of refugee camps from refugees. Given that UNRWA has been operating for decades, while land value** has been relatively constant, there won’t been any compensations at all…

      P.S. Elsewhere, the far Left is apoplectic against ideas of deducting compensation – e.g. writings by Shenav (even though the proposition in question simply did not exist in the case he talked about). Apparently, the real problem was the lack of acceptable victim populations…

      ** Which is different from completed apartment value in major cities.

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    3. 1) “When there is an unjust or a discriminatory law, the judge is entitled to say that he thinks that the law is discriminatory or unjust and violates accepted foundations. He can decline to act in accordance with the law. He cannot strike out the law, because it was enacted under the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. But otherwise the result will be unjust and irrational. A judge is not a workman; he is an artist, not a craftsman or a technician. He should create something that is right and just and use legal tools to create a just outcome.”

      This seems a use of proportionality logic to expand nullification as applied. Until the Basic Laws there was no clear doctrine of nullification at all, save a principle of equality which tended to be applied per case in administrative review. The Court thereby set up precedents, but could argue they weren’t obliged to follow them, a new case being new. Chief Justice Barak somehow managed to get enough of the Bench to agree to employ nullification using Basic Law as constitutional standard, but he has also said that the Knesset has the power to forbid nullification; judicial review is derivative on the grace of the legislature.

      These views make implementation of the Declaration of Independence impossible. It’s guarantee of equality in social and political rights cannot be provided if the Knesset can remove review. Proportionality logic, along with the equivalent of case by case review as if administrative, try to cut around the core issue of Court constitutional standing. But under the present order the Knesset can simply annul the power which, in any case, is common law incremental without the ratchet binding effect of precedent, as “all cases are unique.” The real issue is the origin of judicial review, and proportionality logic, certainly when grafted onto administrative review, dodges the question entirely.

      2) “Today I believe that there is a distinction between freedom of expression and freedom of incitement. There was certainly incredible incitement at the time, and there must be limits. When expression falls into the category of racism or grave injury to the foundations of democracy – not the expression of a political opinion, but an attack on democratic foundations – then democracy must defend itself.”

      As I read these lines, the Boycott and Nakba laws came to mind; both exist purportedly for the protection of Israel as such, so its “democracy.” Bar, commenting above, presses the point further by obliquely referring to the NGO bill in process. I think Ben-Yair’s case causally weak. Banning affiliates of those predisposed to violence on the basis of words can actually induce violence, as terror networks, even two brothers, are rather small, looking for a trigger reason. Rabin was assassinated through poor security more than public discourse; his assailant was unimportant, yet right behind him–which wouldn’t be possible today. I can see that man just as ready to shoot, behind his hated foe, upon hearing that his beloved ideologues had been banned as a party.

      The problem, of course, is that nationalism can change the meaning of “endangered democracy.” Nakba, Boycott, and the NGO bill all rely on such a post second intifada shift. If anything, Ben-Yair is using that shift himself to fight back against the right, co-opting their logic. But, as Bar above gleefully notes, this genie will accept any command, including that of proscribing foreign grants unless approved as “for Israel,” not based on a neutral civil access criterion. You fight ideology with words, not by removing the words of your opponent.

      3) When the US President visits a US city some individuals may find officers coming to their homes. “Why did you send this email to the White House…” etc. In some case, they may be arrestrf for the few days the President is in town. That is administrative detention, subject at times but not always to an arraignment hearing. Detention for longer spans is a different matter, the problem being that as either detention or banning from locales increases in length, so too does the vagueness of its reason, soon proto-criminalizing personality. You can’t go to the West Bank because of who you are. This on top of an admittedly arbitrary settlement system. Adding another layer of fiat strikes me as taking another drug fix.

      One purpose of rights is to make the State honest. Israel suffers a deficit in this area at the moment.

      4) I cannot see why land confiscation law designed for war should be applied to life residents to Israel–which is what those in East Jerusalem are. If these residents are treated as war population enemies, you have yet another layer of Apartheid. There are some legal costs to winning a war. I do not know whether or how, however, this logic could play out in Israeli law.

      5) Certainly Hebron is State Apartheid. Letting the settlement therein grow has seemingly fixed the matter, as now removal or, for that matter, integration, has become a matter of religious freedom. Nationalism, certainly religious nationalism, never goes backwards, only forwards. So Putin tells us today.

      Wonderful piece.

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    4. directrob

      “I am already far removed from the world of law. I don’t deal in law any more. ”

      What is more Michael Ben-Yair was never involved in the world of law. Israeli law is where it touches Palestinian rights just an instrument to cover up injustice.

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