RAMALLAH—As frustration at Israeli military violence and the lack of progress in unarmed protests builds in the occupied West Bank villages bordering Israel, Palestinian residents feel they are being pushed towards armed struggle.
Killed by the Israeli army in a cave last Tuesday following a shoot-out on the edge of the village of Bi’lin—where weekly unarmed protests against Israel’s separation wall have raged for 9 years—Islamic Jihad fighter Mohammed Assi, 28, has become an instantly admired symbol of resistance.
Palestinians carry the body, draped in an Islamic Jihad flag, of Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant Mohammed Assi during his funeral procession on October 23, 2013 in the village of Beit Liqya. (Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)
Thousands of people from the surrounding villages gathered on October 23 in Assi’s small hometown of Beit Liqya, about ten kilometers from Bi’lin, to remember the fallen fighter accused of involvement in the Tel Aviv bus bombing in front of Israel’s Ministry of Defense at the end of the last Gaza war.
In a rare display for the Fatah-controlled West Bank these days, mourners carrying Assi’s body from the morgue in Ramallah to Beit Liqya fronted their procession with Islamic Jihad and Hamas flags.
A few hours ago, the Israeli Prison Service released 26 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom had spent more than two decades behind bars. Among those freed are the killers of Ian Feinberg, a young lawyer who was hacked to death in 1993 while working with a European aid group in Gaza, as well as the man convicted of murdering hikers Revital Seri and Ron Levy in 1984.
The release was vehemently opposed by right-wing parties Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi, the latter of which attempted, unsuccessfully, to block it. CBS reported that over a thousand people protested the release on Monday, 50 of them in front of the West Bank prison where the 26 were being held. Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett expressed his worries in typically evocative fashion: “Israel is going down a slippery slope. First, we released one terrorist for one soldier. Then 100 terrorists for one soldier, then 100 terrorists for a corpse, and now 100 terrorists for nothing.”
A released Palestinian prisoner, Muaed Hajji, is greeted by relatives on October 30, 2013 in the West Bank village of Burqa, west of Nablus. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP / Getty Images)
Bennett has a point, but, in a perilously obtuse way, he's also missing the point. Israel is indeed getting nothing concrete in return for this action, which is the second of four planned releases that began in August. It is intended, rather, as a show of badly-needed Israeli goodwill toward the Palestinians; the releases were a Palestinian precondition to the new round of peace talks that began during the summer.
Quote of the day:
"We don't like it, but we have a responsibility as a government to steer the country according to long-term strategic considerations."
--Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners last night.
- Israeli forces raid African-Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem's Old City - Israeli forces raided the African neighborhood of the Old City and assaulted Moayyad Salaymeh, 22, before detaining him on Tuesday, leading to clashes with locals. (Maan)
- Obama, Netanyahu discuss Iran; Kerry: We won't succumb to fear tactics - White House says leaders also discussed Israel-PA peace talks. US secretary of state on Israeli demand for more pressure on Iran: 'Some have suggested that somehow there's something wrong with giving diplomacy a chance.' (Agencies, Ynet)
- Knesset speaker boycotts Hollande's Israel visit - Yuli Edelstein orders cancelation of French president's visit to Knesset after latter decides withdraws plan to address plenum in favor of other venue. (Yedioth/Ynet)
- (Governor of BoI) Flug calls for more Arabs, haredim in workforce - In her first public speech as Governor of the Bank of Israel, Karnit Flug said, "The economy is in good shape," but warned that current demographic trends would reduce annual growth by 1.3%. (Globes)
- Report: Elderly in Israel – poorest in Western world - Prior to tax, pensions, poor are in great shape in relation to global situation. After – picture changes completely. Taub Center report says one fifth of Israel’s elderly live below poverty level – seven times more than in most developed countries. (Ynet)
- Controversial civil union bill tabled, precipitating coalition tumult - Habayit Hayehudi vows to oppose civil union bills, threatens a split with ally Yesh Atid over the issue. Former Supreme Court judge says the lack of civil marriage constitutes a violation of the constitutional right to marry. (Israel Hayom)
In his response to my article about a Yeshiva University panel he participated in last week, Bret Stephens writes that I “grossly mischaracterized” his remarks. He offers two examples of my gross mischaracterization: the 2013 Israeli Nobel laureates he mentioned were awarded the prize in chemistry—and not in physics, as I wrote; and he did not say that Pakistan had produced “absolutely” nothing in its entire history. He correctly points out, using the video of the discussion (21:30), that he actually said Pakistan had produced “almost” nothing in its entire history—and not “absolutely.”
I acknowledge and apologize for my errors.
With attacks increasing against Israeli and Palestinian civilians, leaders from both sides must take dramatic action to curb this recent wave of terrorism. Otherwise the tenuous calm that has remained in the region during the past few years may evaporate.
Three cars were set ablaze in the West Bank village of Burqa and a mosque was defaced three weeks ago in a suspected “price tag” attack. “Price tag” attacks refer to extreme right-wing Jewish violence against Palestinian and other targets in response to perceived unfavorable actions by the Israeli government or Palestinian leaders. This was not even the only “price tag” attack to occur on October 9. The Jerusalem Post reported that Jewish terrorists launched an attack against the Palestinian village of Jalud, vandalizing an elementary school and even injuring an Israeli soldier. During the past year, over 150 “price tag” attacks have been recorded with targets including Christian cemeteries, Palestinian school buses, and Israeli cars. At the scene, Jewish terrorists have written “get out or else” on Arab vehicles and “Jesus is a monkey” at Christian holy sites.
Neighbors mourn outside the Fogel family home on March 12, 2011 at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Itamar, where five family members were murdered. (Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)
In a recent solidarity visit to one of the sites of a “price tag” attack in Abu Ghosh, Israeli President Shimon Peres said, “I come in the name of the people of Israel to not only condemn this act of terror, but to praise the people of Abu Ghosh for the pride they bring in Israel.” Speaking to the Israeli Police Head General Yohanah Danino, Peres asked him to strengthen efforts to catch those behind the attack. While some Jews may wince at the term terrorism being referred to actions by Jews, there is no better word to describe the act of burning mosques, churches, and schools with the intention to intimidate than terrorism.
Arabic-speaking IDF wunderkind Maj. Avichay Adraee managed to set the Arabic-speaking Internet aflutter once again last weekend with a poorly-thought-out Facebook post featuring the late Lebanese singer Fairuz. Adraee posted a YouTube video featuring Fairuz singing “I Loved You In Summer,” one of her most famous songs, provoking outrage less than two weeks after his hectoring Eid al-Adha message to the world's Muslims expressed his hopes that “all those who celebrate this holiday will fulfill its meaning.”
Adraee posted the video, apparently intended to mark the switch to daylight savings time, with the message in Arabic that “wintertime work begins tomorrow at dawn in Israel” and wished everyone a “fun and successful” week. Al Bawaba and Ma'an reported just some of the indignation that ensued thereafter on the major's Facebook wall. A commenter named Mohamed Fadda asked, “How much do you hate Fairuz that you would rape part of her country?”
Lebanese diva Fairuz performs at Lebanon's Platea theatre in Sahel Alma north of the capital Beirut on December 9, 2011. (Anwar Amro / AFP / Getty Images)
This, of course, is precisely the kind of reaction that a more discerning public relations officer might have anticipated. The post directly above Fairuz soberly reports the IDF's latest airstrike against Gaza, while an earlier one proclaims that “Instead of reconstructing Gaza and restoring its buildings and schools and supporting its hospitals, Hamas spends its money on terrorism.” True this may or may not be, but it isn't quite in the same vein as Major Adraee's daylight savings message. After all, Avichay Adraee is a public relations officer, and his page is a propaganda page.
Quote of the day:
"The first thing needed to make peace is to respect the other side, to see the other side in human terms, as an enemy but not as demonic.''
--Uri Avnery, the 90-year-old peace activist and former politician, talks about whether Israel has what it takes to exist in the future.
- Will Israel still exist 90 years from now? Should it? (Bradley Burston, Haaretz+) Uri Avnery has lived a life as forward-thinking peace activist. At age 90, he may still be ahead of his time, and also right, both about Israel's future and the present.
- Israeli attacks on Palestinian olive groves kept top secret by state - Olive orchards are being destroyed in the West Bank, but defense and media officials have agreed yet again that everything should be done to respect the public's right not to know. (Haaretz+)
- Yeshiva students from abroad will receive funds in exchange for studying Zionism - In coalition agreement, Yesh Atid was adamant to completely cancel the high payments. But Yesh Atid leader Lapid and Hatnua MK Stern decided: Ultra-Orthodox who arrive in Israel will be funded on condition that they visit IDF bases and battle sites. (Maariv, p. 18)
- Assad's 'spy device' - weather meter from Beit Dagan - Syrian rebels boast they locate an ‘Israeli bug’ which parachuted via Syrian army airplane, ‘a collaborator of Zionists.’ What they do not know yet is that Israel's Meteorological Service would be happy to get it back. How did it get there? (Ynet)
- Paula Abdul to mark bat mitzvah in Israel - American singer-dancer, 51, who says she always felt proud being Jewish, arrives in Holy Land for first time, as a guest of the Tourism Ministry. Visit to include coming of age ceremony at Western Wall, meeting with President Peres. (Haaretz and Ynet)
- Ex-U.K. FM denies anti-Semitic remarks on 'Jewish money' - Jack Straw says he has always 'strongly supported' Israel 'and its right to live in peace and security.' (Haaretz+)
- Jewish support for U.S. Iran strike drops, AJC poll shows - Smaller drop recorded for an Israeli attack in case diplomacy fails to halt nuclear program. (JTA, Haaretz)
- Netanyahu to Kerry: Let Iran buy fuel rods from third nation - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry: Iran must not be allowed to enrich uranium. Senior Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi: Iran will never agree to shut down nuclear facility at Fordo. (Israel Hayom)
- Israel army intel chief: Iran undergoing 'significant, strategic' changes - Yet despite reformist shift, Tehran still seeks 'nuclear threshold' capacity, IDF position paper states. Netanyahu received paper a few days before he left for US in late September. But both in his UN address and in other speeches, interviews and statements that he gave in the following days, he made almost no reference to the internal changes happening in Iran, and when he did mention them, he downplayed their importance. (Haaretz+)
A new reporter’s guidebook released on October 23 aims to balance media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a field that often spirals into semantic mudslinging at the cost of clear news coverage.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) published Use With Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict after a year of joint work between six anonymous Israeli and Palestinian media veterans. The two sides worked on separate content submissions, which IPI then combined through several months of back-and-forth editing.
Israeli soldiers detain a foreign photographer during a protest against the confiscation of Palestinian land by Israel in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah on November 2, 2012. (Abbbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)
The glossary comprises some 150 terms ranging from “terrorist” to “martyr.” Each word or expression is presented in English, Arabic and Hebrew, with an explanation of why it might be sensitive to Israeli and/or Palestinian audiences. Most entries include a suggested alternative term.
Every week, on the Sabbath, Jews around the world read a portion of the Torah. This past Sabbath, we read a section known as Chayei Sarah, or The Life of Sarah. Poignantly, the portion doesn't deal with her life at all, but with her death and its aftermath. It was at that time that Abraham had to buy the first Jewish property in the land of Israel: a burial plot for his deceased wife. The plot, which became a tomb that would one day house all of the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs apart from Rachel, was in the city of Hebron.
Accordingly, it has become a custom among Israeli Jews of a certain religious and political persuasion to spend the Sabbath of Chayei Sarah in the city of Hebron and in the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba—to pray, and to read the portion of the Law in the very spot in which Sarah was buried. Hebron has been on my mind lately.
Palestinian village (front) Israeli outpost (back) in the South Hebron Hills (Rachel Cohen)
I have a dear friend from my student days called Melanie Ward. She has been working as a Human Rights Observer in the city of Hebron. Melanie is a principled, ideological, and ethical person. She didn't come to the conflict with a bitter anti-Israel bias. As a national student leader, she toured Israel with the Union of Jewish Students, and while holding a deep compassion for Palestinian suffering, she was, and is, well aware of the Israeli narrative as well. And yet, her time in Hebron, which she has documented most beautifully on her blog, has been nothing short of shocking.
A little over a month ago, the average Israeli was suffering from tremendous anxiety. The headlines screamed: tomorrow, in a few hours, the Americans will attack the Syrian chemical weapons program and the Syrians could retaliate against Israel. There were long lines at the gas mask distribution stations.
Just a few months ago, Israeli-Palestinian relations were frozen, with no signs of progress on the horizon. And in June, Mohammed Morsi was still President of Egypt, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust and threatened Israel in public, was President of Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line on a graphic of a bomb while discussing Iran during an address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2012 in New York City. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Today, thanks to the persistence of Secretary of State John Kerry, we have Israeli-Palestinian negotiations scheduled to last nine months. General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is leading Egypt, and Hassan Rouhani is President of Iran. Instead of an American attack on Syria, we have a Russian-American agreement, backed by a U.N. Security Council Resolution, to remove chemical weapons from Syria. And we have an Iranian president and an American president talking to each other on the phone for the first time since 1979—a first step toward serious negotiations about the Iranian nuclear program.
On Friday, just before midnight, I was shivering in the Hebron chill, trying to make sense of the day’s events, including the fact that a group of seven of us were arrested in the mid-afternoon sun for learning Torah in Hebron.
That morning I had climbed onto a southbound bus in Tel Aviv-Yaffa to catch the ride to Hebron in order to learn about Jewish literature, history and the occupation as it manifests in that city. With the long rectangular box holding the tent that we were going to study in under my arm, I held on to an open bus railing and felt as if all eyes were on me. I felt as if I was carrying something dangerous. I wondered if anyone could guess where I was heading or if anyone cared.
Members of the All That's Left Collective hold up a sign reading "Segregation Is Not Our Judaism" in Hebron on October 25, 2013. (A. Daniel Roth)
The group I arrived in Hebron with was made up of members of the All That’s Left Collective. While we are active members, we don’t speak for the group. Our aim was to jump into the sea of Jewish pilgrims marking the annual reading of the Torah portion called Hayei Sarah, in which Abraham buys a burial plot in Hebron for his wife, Sarah.
"I loved you in summer."
--The song, by Lebanese singer Fairouz, was posted on Facebook by Israeli forces' Arabic public relations spokesman Avichay Adraee, causing a storm among Arabs. (Maan)
- Israelis raze agricultural lands near Nablus to expand settlements - Israeli bulldozers razed Palestinian agricultural lands in the village of Jalud south of Nablus on Sunday morning due to their proximity to the two Israeli settlements of Shiloh and Shvut Rachel. (Maan)
- Israeli forces assault Palestinian school bus driver near Hebron - Israeli forces stopped Mufid Abu Qbaiyta, 27, and beat him up while he was picking up school children in the Masafer region east of Yatta in the southern West Bank early Sunday morning. They also damaged the bus tires to prevent him from continuing to pick up children. (Maan)
- After 1.5 year boycott, Israel resuming cooperation with U.N. Human Rights Council - Israel to take part in the periodical hearing in Geneva on Tuesday; scores two major victories in negotiations to rejoin. (Haaretz and Israel Hayom)
- Bill legalizing preferential treatment for Israeli soldiers goes to the Knesset - Bill would prefer ex-soldiers in job hiring, higher education and real estate purchases; opponents says it legalizes racism and discrimination. (Haaretz+)
- Palestinian accused of killing soldier 'tortured in jail' - Nidal Amar, 42, who is suspected of kidnapping and killing Israeli soldier Tomer Hazan, said that he was tortured in ways "only seen in movies," but refused to go into details. (Maan)
- The Natan Zach storm, anger over the poet who said people should emigrate - Storm has erupted over statements famous Israeli poet made in interview with Yedioth. MK Shimon Ohion (Likud) demanded Education Minister remove Natan Zach's poems from the education program: "His remarks were anti-Zionist and outrageous." (Yedioth, p. 18)
- Netanyahu halts distribution of 'loyalty' poll to U.S. Jews, Israeli expats - Prime minister's order follows Haaretz report of questionnaire being distributed in America asking respondents to indicate where their allegiance would lie in case of Israeli-U.S. crisis. (Haaretz+)
For the full News from Israel.
I don’t at all mind being criticized, but is it too much to ask the writers at Open Zion to quote and characterize what I say accurately? Lisa Goldman apparently attended a Yeshiva University event this week at which I was a panelist. Among other things, she has me saying that “Pakistan has ‘managed to produce absolutely nothing’ in its entire history [besides nuclear weapons]”—the words within single quotes supposedly being mine. This has been the source of some indignant tweeting from Karachi.
For the record—and you can check the record, since there’s a YouTube clip of the entire event embedded in her piece—this is what I said, in connection to a question about Iran in which my main point was that mere possession of nuclear weapons was in itself a form of use of nuclear weapons.
The relevant section begins around the 21:30 mark:
When you have a nuclear weapon you can do things as a country that countries that don’t have nuclear weapons cannot. OK. North Korea is this impoverished, famished regime, but they have our attention because they have nuclear weapons. Pakistan is a country that has produced almost nothing in its entire history except, its most distinguished citizens always manage to leave the country, which is an interesting subject unto itself, but they have nuclear weapons, so they have our attention. They are important in a way that a Kyrgyzstan or a Turkmenistan simply is not. If Turkmenistan got nuclear weapons, believe me, we’d all become Turkmenistan experts.
On Tuesday I organized an event in New York City at Yeshiva University that addressed the two existential threats confronting the Jewish people worldwide: a nuclear Iran in the Middle East and assimilation in the West. The event, the full video of which is available here, was organized in response to President Obama’s recent overtures to Iran and the Pew Research study that painted a devastating portrait of the declining state of American Jewry.
The discussion, featuring the world’s leading Jewish philanthropist, Sheldon Adelson, Pulitzer-prize winning Wall Street Journal Foreign Affairs columnist Bret Stephens, and Yeshiva University President Richard Joel, was widely reported on and attracted scores of press. But one comment in particular made global headlines and lit up the blogosphere.
US gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson gestures during a press conference at the Marina Bay Sands complex in Singapore on June 23, 2010. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
In response to my question as to what the United States should do to show Iran that we are serious about preventing them from getting a nuclear device, Sheldon said that an atomic bomb should be detonated in an empty Iranian desert as a warning to the regime of the lengths to which we will go to stop them from obtaining nuclear weapons. The nuclear demonstration in a desert wasteland should “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes,” but should serve as a shot across their bow.
With the lifting of the U.S. government shutdown, social activists are back to pressing for legislative change. This week, the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable released a document called “A Congress of Immigrants” in which a handful of Jewish members of Congress share details about their ancestors’ immigration journey. On the heels of the Roundtable’s Hineni video—where Americans were asked to pressure their leaders to push for immigration reform, this new initiative brings legislators directly into the conversation.
If we were to word cloud the document, the resulting image would include terms and phrases like “dreams and opportunities,” “safe haven from persecution,” “empathy” and “freedom.” Little of this is surprising when we consider the central Jewish immigrant narrative to North America, a narrative largely shared by millions of other individuals and families who arrived on America’s shores from nearly all corners of the globe in search of a better life.
Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) is arrested by U.S. Capitol Police after blocking First Street NW in front of the U.S. Capitol with fellow supporters of immigration reform on October 8, 2013. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Three or four generations since arriving, the American Jewish community has, by all measures, achieved extraordinary material and social success. So successful has the American Jewish experiment been, that today the Jewish community fears for its survival due not to anti-Semitism, but to the assimilating arms of American society. Against this backdrop, it is tempting to let the door drift closed. Yet the immigrant parents and grandparents of natural-born U.S. citizens, you will hear from activist after activist, likely would not have been admitted if today’s U.S. immigration policies had been in place when they arrived. (See if you would qualify, here.) As Abby Levine, director of the Roundtable, put it, “The wait can be decades for people to come to this country, and that certainly wasn’t the case for most Jews coming to America.”
It’s OK for the American Studies Association to judge the country with a double standard. Denying the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state is another story.