"All those verbal and legal gymnastics of the right-wing won’t change reality: the term occupation does not relate to land alone, but also to the people living on it, who are held by us like prisoners."
--Commentator Noam Sheizaf writes in Maariv and in English at +972Mag.
- Female student injured by settler vehicle in Hebron - Alaa Diab Hasan received serious leg injuries after being knocked down by a settler riding a motorcycle near Beit Ummar. A crowd of people prevented the motorcyclist from leaving the area but Israeli forces who arrived at the scene let him go, locals said. (Maan)
- Tel Aviv University slammed over Nakba Day seminar - University's plan to host seminar on Arab commemoration of "catastrophe" of Israel's inception vexes social media users. National Democratic Assembly Chairman Jamal Zahalka to face Ethics Committee for saying "Zionism has no future in the Middle East." (Israel Hayom)
- Israeli border policeman convicted of robbing Palestinian store in West Bank - Saeed Malashe is accused of swiping chewing gum, cola and cigarettes from a convenience store, holding up his weapon and intimidating the checkout clerk so he could leave without paying. (Haaretz+)
- Israel demolishes shelters near Hebron - Israeli bulldozers on Tuesday demolished shelters and a water well in the al-Duryat area east of Yatta, saying the area was a closed military zone. Separately, in the Jericho area, Israeli forces told eight families in Ein al-Hilweh to demolish their homes. (Maan)
- Settlers set fire to olive trees near Hebron - A number of settlers set fire to 10 olive trees east of Yatta near Maon settlement. Settlers showered farmers with stones while planting and insulted them. (Maan)
- Israeli forces uproot 300 olive, almond trees in Hebron - Agricultural committee coordinator in Hebron Murad al-Jabarin told Ma'an that Israeli forces destroyed the trees in al-Rahwa village south of Hebron. The village is constantly targeted by Israeli forces, he added. (Maan)
- Turkey continues to act in NATO against Israel - After the apology, Jerusalem believed that Ankara would drop its opposition to Israel cooperating in a forum that holds dialogue between Mediterranean countries and NATO. But Turkey made a new veto against Israeli participation. (Maariv, p. 14/NRG Hebrew)
- Amos Gilad: Turkey against a nuclear Iran - Head of Defense Ministry’s diplomatic security bureau says reconciliation with Erodogan important; reveals that ‘additional crises’ were avoided. (Ynet)
Last week the Emergency Committee for Israel posted a public letter it had sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This was in response to an earlier letter organized by the Israel Policy Forum, also delivered to Netanyahu and printed in Haaretz. The original statement called on Netanyahu to work with Secretary of State John Kerry “to devise pragmatic initiatives, consistent with Israel’s security needs, which would represent Israel’s readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace” and explicitly referenced the two-state solution. It was signed by 100 prominent U.S. Jews, ranging from businesspeople to scholars to rabbis. Many of them, though not all, are active in national Jewish governance and advocacy institutions.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
As the American Jewish community has undergone social, political, and religious changes and splits, some have begun to wonder whether Zionism’s traditional “big tent” can still be large enough to encompass the increasingly divergent groups crowding the Jewish pro-Israel space. ECI has, apparently, decided that the tent should rather be shrunk, to include only those it defines as “pro-Israel.”
A close look at the language of ECI’s letter to Netanyahu gives a good indication of this. Language is useful for delineating acceptable discourse, for isolating some and including others. Emotive words and evocative phrases give language its power. To this end, ECI’s purpose has been to control the public discussion on Israel, pushing leftwing groups out by delegitimizing them and pulling powerful centrist groups like AIPAC into its own orbit.
The Front—that is, the front of my home in Abu Tur, Jerusalem, right off the main artery known as Derekh Hebron.
This past Saturday at around 4 o’clock, during my quiet Shabbat afternoon nap, a group of Arab youths went through the neighborhood smashing the windows of some 20 “Zionist” cars. An Arab neighbor later explained, totally deadpan, “They are protesting the cancer death of the Palestinian inmate in Israeli prison.”
A steering wheel is shown through the smashed window of a Chevrolet in this photograph taken on June 24, 2006. (Chris Riebschlager / Flickr)
Some Zionists fixed their car windows pretty quickly. Mistake. On Yom HaShoah night, during the Holocaust memorial service, those fixed cars were re-smashed—including the car parked in front of the house belonging to the next-door neighbor. That neighbor is a “Buchenwald child,” one of the members of that group who survived, came to Israel, and built a lovely, large family. I know, Dear Reader, that there is “absolutely no connection,” but somehow my neighbor wasn’t surprised by the broken glass.
Religious fanaticism, by definition, has no limitations in its demands. Its appetite for authority is insatiable. Its quest for purity is endless. Its arbitrary, sadistic codes of conduct and demands for strict obedience can never be satisfied, because, they say, God always wants something more.
So when religious fanatics attain power, restrictions multiply exponentially. Requirements pile up without respite, especially since those who act in the name of God will always try to outdo each other in the enforcement of virtue and the prohibition of vice.
With God, not only are "all things possible." All things are also equally plausibly required or forbidden. And the best part for the enforcers of righteousness is that their dictates never have to be explained in any meaningful sense. They are simply proclaimed by those with the alleged authority and practical power to enforce decorous conduct and prohibit wickedness.
Palestinian artist Salwa Sbakhi paints using coffee at her studio in Gaza City on January 13, 2013. Salwa, who lives in the southern Gaza Strip, has studied fine arts at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, and participated in numerous local exhibitions in an attempt to market her art. (Mohammed Abed / AFP / Getty Images)
For a contemporary manifestation of this moth-eaten brand of tyranny, look no further than Hamas-ruled Gaza. There, Hamas officials clearly devote impressive quantities of time and effort to deciding what new things the unfortunate population—who are already naturally pious and conservative, but, apparently, not sufficiently—living under their increasingly theocratic tyranny mustn't be allowed to do, all for their own good of course. "Mercy is not itself, that oft looks so; Pardon is still the nurse of second woe," after all.
It always begins with the women, since religious fanaticism and misogyny are virtually synonymous.
“Come here,” a young boy beckoned to me in Arabic. I followed him to a pile of rubble at the foot of the wall—the concrete separation barrier, 14-feet tall here, that divides the West Bank from Israel, which Israelis can cross freely but most Palestinians can't. The boy picked up a jagged stone, placed it into a makeshift slingshot and started whipping it around, making it gain momentum. He launched the stone towards the two Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers guarding the nearby checkpoint.
Palestinians youth throw a stone towards Israeli forces at the Qalandia checkpoint, in the Israeli occupied West Bank, on November 21, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/APA, via Landov)
The stones can cause serious injuries and even death, particularly when thrown at cars and causing accidents. But, this time, as is usually the case, they missed the mark. Instead of hitting the soldiers, the stone ricocheted off of the Wall. The soldiers immediately responded by firing teargas canisters and chasing the children—mostly young Palestinian boys, colloquially known as shabaab, or youth—away with a billowing cloud of noxious chemical fumes at the mercy of the wind.
The occasion last Friday was Palestinian Children’s Day—a day to commemorate the enormous youth population of Palestine, and acknowledge the struggle of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), children under the age of 18 make up almost half of the population ofthe West Bank and Gaza. Statistically, 20 percent of them—and 40 percent of the males—will be arrested, detained and likely imprisoned. For some, this process has already begun: as of January 1, 2013 there were 193 Palestinian children in prison with 26 under the age of 16. “They will arrest them for anything, even just standing there,” Ahmad Qareen of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan told me.
"The patient thought I was Yemenite and asked me to treat him instead of the (Arab) medic that was with me."
-- Muawiya Kabaha shares stories from being an Arab-Israeli paramedic who rescues Jews.
- Medical staff that treated Palestinian who later died 'didn't know he had been shot' - Palestinian was mortally wounded by IDF gunfire when trying to illegally cross into Israel in January, but the soldiers told their commanders and the medics they had only fired in the air and 'there was no way' he was shot. (Haaretz+)
- IDF chief in Poland: We will never again stand unready to defend ourselves - Benny Gantz makes a speech to thousands of youths marching at Auschwitz-Birkenau in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Haaretz)
- U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to visit Israel in April - The defense secretary's first visit to Israel since taking office, expected to take place April 21-23, is meant to bolster the allies' cooperation in the Middle East. (Haaretz)
- New York's Yeshiva University engulfed in controversy over Jimmy Carter peace award - America’s preeminent Modern Orthodox academic institution distances itself from 'student-initiated' award as critics call for financial pressure to cancel ceremony. (Haaretz)
- Open letter calls for female Israelis to join committee for drafting ultra-Orthodox to IDF - Deborah Forum: Issue has 'far-reaching political, social, economic and social implications' for Israeli society. (Haaretz+)
- Hackers target Haaretz's Hebrew website in cyber attack - Efforts by hackers to disrupt Israeli web traffic causes only minor problems, far short from their stated goal to 'wipe Israel off the map of the Internet.' (Haaretz+)
- Gaza rights group denounces Hamas police for cutting youths' hair - The Palestinian Center for Human Rights says Hamas police have arrested, beaten and cut the hair of youths it deems 'unbecoming.' (Haaretz+)
In a statement marking the occasion of Margaret Thatcher's passing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "She was a great leader, a steadfast friend of Israel and the Jewish people." The statement is true on both counts. Thatcher was renown for her closeness to the British Jews of her North London parliamentary district, staunchly backed Soviet Jewry, and even took in an Austrian Jewish refugee of the Nazi takeover of Europe. She was indeed a "steadfast friend of Israel," having staked out an early position by criticizing the U.K.'s reluctance to ship weapons to Israel in its 1973 war against regional Arab powers.
But remarking on Thatcher's steadfastness in her friendship toward the Jewish State highlights what has become an absurd debate in 21st century America about what it means to be a friend to Israel. Contra Israel's right-leaning supporters, being Israel's friend does not mean never criticizing Israel; it does not mean never trying to push Israel into policy changes that you think might be beneficial for the region, the world, and even the Jewish State itself; and it does not mean subverting one's own state interests to those of Israel, especially its right-wing government of the moment. Thatcher was not one to sugar-coat her objections, and this held true of Israeli actions she perceived as unhelpful just as it did of her broader disdain for Communism. Thatcher, if she was Prime Minister today, might well have the same hostility for Netanyahu that she had for his Likud forebear, Menachem Begin.
Documents released by the British archives reveal Thatcher as a hard-nosed opponent of Israel's West Bank settlement project. Just weeks after taking the premiership in May 1979, she hosted Begin, the Israeli leader who'd formed the country's first right-wing government in 1977, at No. 10 Downing Street. The meeting was reportedly tense: Thatcher's foreign minister railed against the settlements. Thatcher, as many world leaders then did and today do, believed that settlements imperiled a potential deal that could end the Mideast conflict. But Begin was not convinced: Thatcher "commented after Mr. Begin's call that it was clear from the discussion that Mr. Begin had no comprehension of the broader aspects of security and that there was no basis on which he could be persuaded to change his narrow concept of it," said official notes from the meeting. "She was apprehensive that Mr. Begin's attitude could kill the whole process of the search for a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East."
Thatcher's view of Begin became more clear in a meeting with her French counterpart later that year. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing of France said he found Begin's "approach fanatical and unrealistic," since-released British documents revealed. Thatcher said she "agreed entirely with what President Giscard had said about Mr. Begin." She'd "never had a more difficult man to deal with," she told Giscard. (This, of course, will remind of Barack Obama's griping to then-French President Nicholas Sarkozy about having to deal with Netanyahu.) What's more, Thatcher was explicit with Giscard that she viewed Begin's policies in the West Bank with disdain: she
called them "unrealistic" and said, "All efforts to convince Mr. Begin that his West Bank policy was absurd, and that there should not be Israeli settlements on the West Bank, had failed to move him." Begin, she recalled, responded "that Judea and Samaria"—the settlers and Israeli right's name for the West Bank—"had been Jewish in biblical times and that they should therefore be so today." In 1981, just after Israel had seized a huge swath of land near the West Bank city of Nablus for settlements, Thatcher responded in parliamentary questioning that the incident "illustrates the importance of trying to secure an agreement on this long-standing problem."
The headline of an April 5 article in Open Zion proclaimed: "Sympathy—Not a Useful Metric." In the article, columnist Emily L. Hauser questioned the relevance of recent Gallup and Pew polls showing widespread American sympathy for Israel.
As a regular participant in AIPAC’s annual lobbying days on Capitol Hill, I know that the opposite is the case. Last month about twelve thousand of us spent a day meeting with our legislators. AIPAC’s ability to mobilize activists to actually show up and do something is one of its greatest strengths. J Street, let alone Jewish Voice for Peace, cannot match AIPAC in terms of numbers.
People arrive to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington on March 3, 2013. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)
The widespread American sympathy for Israel over the Palestinians (64 percent versus 12 percent, according to Gallup) means that we citizen lobbyists will often have won before we even walk through the door. The legislator or staffer we will meet is probably going to be part of that majority.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a Passover Seder with hundreds of other people on a kibbutz not far from Haifa. As I looked at the faces of those around me in this year’s recounting of the exodus from bondage to liberation, I couldn’t help but think about the many ways in which we were reading the same Passover story, yet understanding it in massively different ways. As a critical educator, I spend a lot of time thinking about how people think about things.
My family, like many others, spills a drop of wine for every one of the ten plagues that were visited upon the Egyptians. It is a small way in which we temper the joyful feeling of liberation with the memory that the Egyptians, another group of human beings, suffered in the wake of the ride to freedom.
A man reads a prayer while holding greens dipped in salt water in advance of a Passover seder service. The Passover liturgy recited at the seder meal similarly demands that you experience the Exodus as if you yourself escaped from Egypt - not your great grandfather or your Orthodox Uncle Max - and you owe the Almighty undying gratitude as your personal liberator. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
As we reached that point in this year’s Seder, I noticed that only a few other people in the room were spilling wine to symbolize our sorrow at any spilled blood, even that of enemies. At that moment, I found myself thinking forward to the upcoming Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), which Palestinians call the Nakba (Catastrophe).
"Our accumulated experience should teach us a lesson that is the opposite of 'A nation that will dwell alone and not reckon with the nations.'"
--Haaretz Editorial today gives examples of the Holocaust’s lessons for Israeli diplomacy.
- Settlers spray graffiti on Bethlehem-area mosques - Settlers also slashed the tires of two cars. Residents also said Israeli soldiers had guarded the settlers who participated in the vandalism. (Haaretz+ and Maan)
- IDF soldier jailed for exposing buttocks to Palestinians in Hebron - Incident recalls similar event in 2008, also by members of the Kfir Brigade. (Haaretz+)
- Court awards damages to Bedouin who lost arm to cluster bomb - Prosecutors argued the plaintiff should have bought survey maps, never mind that the Negev firing zone was not posted. Court disagreed. (Haaretz)
- Rocket hits Shaar Hanegev on eve of Holocaust Day - Rocket explodes in open area; no injuries, damage reported. 'We're used to disruptions,' resident says. (Ynet)
- For first time, Israeli to be appointed ambassador in Turkmenistan - In last four years, the government in Ashgabat has rejected two candidates out of suspicion that they are connected to the Mossad. (Maariv, p.1, NRG Hebrew)
- Palestinian youth says kaddish for a Holocaust survivor? - New German film shows friendship that develops between a Palestinian immigrant youth and an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor in film by director Leo Beck called "Kaddish for a friend." (NRG Hebrew + VIDEO)
- Israeli government promises universal draft bill by May - Committee's mandate: To bring Arabs and Haredim into the military and workforce. (Haaretz+)
- Australian Jewish group slammed for urging boycott of West Bank settlement goods - The Australian Jewish Democratic Society recently launched an online campaign, 'Don't Buy Settlement Products'; Jewish groups may vote to bar it from leading body of Australian Jewish organizations. (Haaretz+)
A controversial panel on whether Israel is a democracy, originally scheduled to take place at the Ansche Chesed synagogue in Manhattan, took place last night at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah instead. One thing emerged clearly from the discussion: Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, the leader of Ansche Chesed who attempted to cancel the event for fear that it might touch on BDS, needn’t have worried. The bogeyman he imagined would haunt the discussion wasn’t its focus at all; in fact, “BDS” wasn’t uttered until 8:59 pm, exactly one minute before the panel was scheduled to end.
What’s more, the central question and ostensible raison d'être of the panel—can Israel be a Jewish and democratic state?—wasn’t addressed head-on until the very end, when an audience member raised it in the Q&A period. “Is there not a basic contradiction between a democracy and an ethnic definition of a state?” she asked, and was greeted by applause from an audience apparently equally hungry to hear the answer.
Israel's security fence snakes along the Green Line border with the West Bank, as it turns north-east from the Israeli red-roofed community of Bat Hefer on January 30, 2004. (David Silverman / Getty Images)
“I don’t have an answer to that question,” panelist and Americans for Peace Now board member Kathleen Peratis answered honestly. She joked that though this was the event’s central question, it was one she was hoping no one would ask. “I still want to figure out a way to maintain a Jewish majority. I don’t know how I square that with my civil liberties values. I want a Jewish state, and I want equality for Palestinians. I’m struggling with that.”
President Obama's recent speech in Jerusalem laid out a convincing case of why peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is necessary, just, and possible. But the speech contained scant reference to an issue that all sides acknowledge is the major stumbling block to a real agreement: The status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It is therefore time for some fresh thinking on the issue of settlements, and I have a proposal: Allow the settlements to remain, but at a price that will promote a peace settlement.
For the last two decades, it was assumed that a settlement would result in the dismantling of most of the more isolated settlements and the retention of a number of large settlement blocs, perhaps with land swaps to compensate the Palestinian state. However, with the ascendant power of the settlers and their supporters in Israel’s present governing coalition, it seems increasingly unlikely that the parties can arrive at this resolution.
Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinian stone throwers at the al-Arub refugee camp North of the West Bank city of Hebron on April 3, 2013. (Marco Longari / AFP / Getty Images)
The following proposal recognizes one of the central claims of the settlers: That Jews should have the right to live anywhere in the historic Land of Israel. But it simultaneously recognizes the claim of Palestinians and the Israeli peace movement that the settlement project of successive Israeli governments since the 1970s is both legally dubious and founded on the injustices of military occupation. Finally, it addresses the Palestinian demand for “the right of return” of refugees while simultaneously protecting Israel’s Jewish majority.
Every now and then an American polling institution will ask Americans to choose who they “sympathize with” more: Israelis or Palestinians? Gallup Polls conducted such a survey in February; Pew Research followed in mid-March.
In both cases, as in every poll of this type that I’ve ever seen, Israel emerges the clear winner: Gallup finds 64 percent of American adults sympathize more with Israelis, vs. 12 percent who sympathize more with Palestinians; Pew’s numbers break down as 49 percent vs. 12 percent.
A Palestinian protester argues with an Israeli soldier during a weekly demonstration against the Israeli separation barrier and the expansion of Jewish settlements, in the West Bank village of Maasarah, near Bethlehem, on March 29, 2013. (Musa al-Shaer / AFP / Getty Images)
The numbers get a little odd as one looks at them more closely, though: Gallup’s only options were “Israelis,” “Palestinians,” or “no opinion”—and yet 16 percent of respondents went out of their way to volunteer either “both” or “neither” (seven percent chose “no opinion”).
--Jerusalem Municipality worker wrote on Facebook under picture of Palestinian children in a tent.
- Anat Kamm suing Haaretz for revealing her as paper’s source - According to suit, Kamm, who is serving three and a half years for leaking classified military documents to Haaretz journalist Uri Blau, realized that if Blau had not made the agreement with the Shin Bet, the documents could not have been used against her. (Haaretz+)
- Air France fined for kicking pro-Palestinian activist off Israel-bound flight- The woman, a 30-year-old student, was attempting to fly to Israel last April as part of the 'Welcome to Palestine' fly-in protest; French prosecutors said the incident was a clear case of discrimination. (Haaretz+)
- Shopping in Beit Hanina, E. Jerusalem - Low prices, variety of merchandise, merchants who go out of their way to give service to customers: This is how the main road in the Arab village became the popular shopping area for Jews in north Jerusalem (Yedioth 'Bonus' supplement)
- New source of tension near the 'Tolerance Museum': a park for dogs above, a Muslim cemetery below - Islamic movement angry over intention to establish dog park on top of Muslim cemetery. In Islam, dogs are considered impure. (Yedioth Jerusalem supplement, p. 32)
- Ancient site unearthed in Iraq, near biblical home of Abraham - Archaeologists say the site dates back some 4,000 years to around the time Abraham would have lived there; it's believed to be an administrative center for Ur. (Agencies, Haaretz)
- Yesha settler council against 'Haaretz' - Activists demonstrated on Schoken Street in front of the newspapers offices with a big sign of a photo of Asher Palmer and his son who were killed when their car crashed after a Palestinian man, recently convicted of murder, threw a block at the car. Haaretz's Amira Hass wrote an Op-Ed supporting Palestinians' right to throw stones. (NRG Hebrew)
Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the Middle East this weekend for yet another round of meetings. Following on the heels of President Barack Obama's trip to the region, Kerry has embarked on a campaign of intensive shuttle diplomacy. But the State Department is at pains to stress that he is not yet presenting any new American peace initiative.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in 2010 in Jerusalem. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)
Kerry, who has embraced this issue with a heartening degree of enthusiasm, will undoubtedly try to elicit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas what inducements would get them to consider a return to the negotiating table.
Apart from the fact that he's walking into a situation on the ground that is increasingly volatile—with two Palestinian teenagers recently shot and killed in violent clashes with Israeli occupation forces—there are two structural obstacles facing Kerry in talking about talks with both leaders.
Matthew Kalman broke the story of physicist Stephen Hawking’s boycott of Israel. Then Cambridge University tried to falsely deny it.