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In July of 2011, the Knesset passed a bill―the “Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott”―that made boycotting Israel a civil wrong and prevented the Israeli government from doing business with companies that sponsor or observe boycotts. In addition to opening up the sticky moral and legal issue of attempting to legislate against freedom of choice, the right-wing MKs who sponsored the legislation set Israel up for future economic difficulties with its trading partners.

One of these trading partners―in fact, Israel's largest trading partner―is the European Union, which, this past July, published new guidelines regarding Israel's settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights. The guidelines stipulate that any Israeli institution or organization desiring funds from an E.U. agency must first submit a statement declaring that it does not and will not operate in the occupied territories. In effect, the new regulations hold that any agreement between the European Union and the State of Israel will apply only within 1967 borders.

European flags fly in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on January 16, 2012. (Georges Gobet / AFP /Getty Images)

European flags fly in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on January 16, 2012. (Georges Gobet / AFP /Getty Images)

But by August the Europeans were already walking back the guidelines, after Israel curbed E.U. aid projects in the West Bank on July 26. “We stand ready to organize discussions during which such clarifications can be provided,” said a spokesman for E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, “and look forward to continued successful E.U.-Israel cooperation, including in the area of scientific cooperation.” That vaunted scientific cooperation has been a hallmark of Euro-Israeli relations since 1995, when Israel became the first non-European state to be accepted as a full member of the E.U.'s Fourth Framework Research and Development program.

The Prime Minister of Israel has been known to angrily decry anti-Israel incitement among Palestinians, and he is right to do so. If there's ever to be peace between the two nations, it will have to consist of more than negotiating terms and signing papers—the people involved will have to learn to see and treat each other as human beings, or the paperwork won’t last.

What, then, are we to make of two stories of incitement that came out of Israel just this week?

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Followers of the late Brooklyn-born Rabbi and founder of Jewish anti-Arab movement Meir Kahane pray at his grave at the Givat Shaul cemetery on the outskirts of Jerusalem October 26, 2010 (Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images)

The first, reported by +972, reveals that posters lauding Meir Kahane have been appearing on the walls of Israeli military outposts. Meir Kahane was not only a racist ideologue of the worst stripe, he actively encouraged anti-Palestinian violence. Baruch Goldstein, the settler who massacred 29 praying Palestinians, was a member of Kahane's Kach Movement; both the Israeli and American governments have designated Kach and its successor movements as terrorist organizations. The posters in question read “Kahane was right”; in one photo, a uniformed soldier can be seen casually leaning back against Kahane’s headshot, rifle in hand.

Quote of the day:
"They reached out and I responded."
--IDF spokesman Peter Lerner on his Twitter exchange with Hamas's military wing.

  • Israeli rightists tour Aqsa compound under guard - Israeli rightists toured the Al-Aqsa compound on Thursday escorted by Israeli police, witnesses said. An Israeli rightist, who had recently been banned from entering the mosque compound, tried to enter the area to pray, but was stopped by Israeli forces. (Maan)
  • IDF, Hamas correspond on Twitter, inadvertently create dialogue - Major Peter Lerner tweets regarding hit, dragging response from Hamas, to which he in turn replies on social media website. 'It's not dialogue,' Lerner insists. (Ynet)
  • What I learned in kindergarten today about the Holocaust - Education Minister Shay Piron’s controversial plan to introduce mandatory K-12 Holocaust studies has drawn a range of responses from educators. How do you teach the Shoah to preschoolers? (Haaretz+)
  • 'Courageous' novel set in West Bank outpost wins Israeli literary award - Israeli author Assaf Gavron wins prestigious Bernstein Prize for writers under 50, for his novel "The Hilltop." (Haaretz+)
  • In waiting mode: Israel grapples with unclear Iranian threat - At conference hosted by Tel Aviv University, even hawks see room for compromise over Tehran’s nuclear program. (Haaretz+)
  • Druze officer named commander of elite Golani infantry brigade - Col. Rassan Alian will command the Israel Defense Forces' Golani brigade, the second Druze officer to lead a regular infantry unit. (Haaretz+ andYnet)
  • Minister: Major earthquake in Israel could kill 7,000 - Contractors aren't being offered adequate incentives to reinforce public housing projects, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan admits. (Haaretz+ andIsrael Hayom)
  • Gaza students create energy-saving hospital cleaning device - Engineers hope device will soon be used to sterilize hospital rooms in Gaza. (Agencies, Haaretz)
  • Report: White House working to stop Congress from siding with Netanyahu on Iran - The Obama administration is reportedly worried that Netanyahu's warnings on Iran will be translated into action by the legislative branch. Senators concerned administration will ease sanctions on Iran to facilitate talks. (Israel Hayom)

For the full News from Israel

 

Yeshiva University Panel

Israel as a Totem for Jewish Identity

Jews are smarter than everyone else. A Chinese woman who visits a synagogue is surely shopping for a Jewish husband. Pakistan has “managed to produce absolutely nothing" in its entire history [besides nuclear weapons]. A two-state solution would be a good idea if the state on the other side of Israel's border was Canada. The Palestinians have to “earn” the right to self determination. Thus spake Bret Stephens, former editor of the Jerusalem Post and current Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist, at Tuesday night's Yeshiva University panel discussion on the future of the Jewish people.

The Lamport Auditorium at the university's Washington Heights campus was packed with men wearing yarmulkes and women in modest dress who applauded these and similar remarks made by Stephens, who won a Pulitzer Prize—which I know, because moderator Shmuley Boteach (“America's rabbi”) mentioned the fact several times.

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Panelists at "Will Jews Exist?" hosted at Yeshiva University on October 22, 2013. L to R: Yeshiva University president Richard M. Joel, Bret Stephens, Shmuley Boteach and Sheldon Adelson (Ian Sterling)

In Memoriam

Tony Lewis, American, Jew, Remembered

Anthony Lewis will be remembered at the Kennedy Library in Boston on Monday evening. The time of tributes and obituaries has passed; this is the time of missing.

For about 15 years, Tony was a regular at a lunch group we started, just around the time Reagan was first elected. It was a moment when Boston-based writers and journalists felt that we were going into a kind of internal exile. Tony hardly missed a meeting; that's because, if he couldn't make it, we'd usually find another time.

Partly, of course, that was because he was the great veteran and carried the charisma of the Times. But the latter wore off after a while; and Tony's humility (which is distinct from modesty) made his presence a simpler pleasure than we younger writers could imagine at first. We wanted him there because our conversation needed a gyroscope. And in the months since his death, it's occurred to me often that he was that for his readers, too.

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NY Times managing editor Jill Abramson, journalist Rom Wicker, journalist Anthony Lewis and 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt in New York City on October 29, 2003. (Matthew Peyton / Getty Images)

Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson made plenty of headlines the other night when he took part in a Yeshiva University panel on the subject “Will Jews Exist?”

When he wasn’t denying that Palestinians are a people or suggesting that the United States nuke Iran, Adelson let drop that he was putting some of his money into a new website, Rethink Israel, aimed at making Israel “cool, not uncool.”

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Screen capture showing some of the different stories featured on the Rethink Israel website as seen on October 24, 2013.

It’s certainly a slick production with features as disparate as how Israeli beaches have Wi-Fi and how there’s a new TV channel for Israeli dog lovers. Other sections showcase hot Israeli shoe designers, how friendly Israel is toward gays and how Israel is developing a bike made of cardboard.

Highlighting positive aspects of Israel, a country that truly is innovative and interesting, does help develop a fully-rounded picture. And this is surely a better use of Adelson’s money than funding Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign or subsidizing a free Israeli newspaper that relentlessly glorifies the image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But if Adelson imagines that this kind of “beyond the conflict” publicity will change public perceptions of Israel in the United States or Europe, he’s sadly mistaken. It’s been tried before many times and it has never succeeded.

News from Israel

EU Backs Away From Settlement Sanctions

Number of the day: 1 million.
--The amount of dollars billionaire Power Rangers creator Haim Saban said he would donate to Israeli soldiers if Simon Cowell would sing 'Go Go Power Rangers.

  • Youths smash hole in Israel's separation wall near Abu Dis - Dozens of young Palestinians smashed a hole in Israel's separation wall near Abu Dis on Wednesday, as clashes broke out in the town for the second day in a row, in protest against a house demolition in Abu Dis late Monday. (Maan)
  • Simon Cowell steals the show in Friends of IDF fundraiser - TV personality teased into singing on fundraiser by Haim Saban in Beverly Hills, raises $1m for cause. (Yedioth, p. 20/Ynet)
  • EU strives to skirt diplomatic row with Israel for the sake of scientific cooperation - Israel, the only non-European country that has been asked to join Horizon 2020, threatens not to sign if EU settlement guidelines aren’t softened. (Haaretz+)
  • Ariel: Annex territories, give Palestinians limited citizenship - In magazine interview, Housing Minister Uri Ariel urges Israel to annex Judea and Samaria, says demographic threat is not a concern. Ariel proposes offering Arabs citizenship but holding them to certain criteria to avoid "apartheid" label. (Israel Hayom)
  • Head of Egypt's intelligence in 1973: Israel's agent was answering to Sadat - Former head of Egyptian intelligence Fouad Nassar says Ashraf Marwan helped deceive Israel ahead of the Yom Kippur War. (Haaretz+)
  • Report: Israel's 'startup nation' status at risk - Government must increase investment in scientific research if Israel is to remain one of the world's most technologically advanced nations, says Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Country's scientific potential remains untapped, study finds. (Israel Hayom)
  • Senior official says Iran has halted 20 percent enrichment - No immediate comment from the UN nuclear agency that regularly inspects Iranian nuclear sites, though one diplomat in Vienna says unaware of any halt. (Agencies, Haaretz)

For the full News from Israel.

CAIRO-—Increasingly isolated, co-opted and paralyzed to act, Egypt’s labor movement has begun to unravel since the army ousted Mohammed Morsi from the presidency.

In February 2011, workers led general strikes that proved fatal to the regime of Hosni Mubarak during its final days. Independent union organization was galvanized by the revolution. But now a leading organizer is saying that the polarization between the army backed interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood has reset workers campaigns for social and economic rights to the days of dictatorship as the army forcefully takes the side of management.

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Workers end their shift at a textile factory in Mahalla el-Kubra, 125 miles north of Cairo, Egypt. In February 2011, 15,000 workers went on strike at the Misr Factory (Carsten Koall / Getty Images)

“It’s a battle between the businessman with the beard and the businessman with the cap,” said Hoda Kamel, describing the current struggle between Islamists and the army. A middle aged executive committee member of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) and head of the organization’s strike committee, she described the army’s role in breaking strikes in Suez while companies fire union activists from their jobs for organizing.

The News From Israel

Israeli Forces Set Up Checkpoint in Jenin Village

"...history's judgment will doubtless be damning. And it will cite, inter alia, his obsessive demand for Palestinian recognition as proof that he always intended to avoid a pragmatic, two-state solution, despite his Bar-Ilan declarations."
--Journalist and commentator David Landau explains in Haaretz+ why Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel "as the Jewish state" is proof of his disingenuousness regarding peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

  • Settlers uproot 53 olive trees in Qalqiliya, attack farmer in separate incidents - Israeli settlers from the Karni Shomron settlement uprooted around 53 olive trees belonging to Suleiman Jaber in Kafr Laqif village. In a separate incident, settlers from Yitzhar settlement assaulted and beat Mohammad al-Zein from Burin village while he was cultivating his land. (Maan)
  • IDF says terrorist killed in cave 'threatened forces for months' - After anti-tank missiles take out Islamic Jihad operative Mohammed Assi, who was hiding in cave near Bilin, army warns of 'terror atmosphere' in West Bank. Israel Police's counter-terrorism forces identified the man as 28-year-old Mohammed A'atzi, one of the people responsible for Tel Aviv terror attack during Operation Pillar of Defense. (Ynet and Haaretz)
  • Clashes in Abu Dis following Israeli house demolition - Clashes broke out overnight Monday and continued into Tuesday morning after Israeli bulldozers accompanied by over 30 military vehicles demolished aPalestinian home in the Jerusalem town of Abu Dis. (Maan)
  • Israeli forces set up checkpoint in Jenin village, sparking clashes - Israeli forces raided the Jenin village of Qabatiya on Tuesday and set up a military checkpoint. Eyewitnesses said that four Israeli military patrols and a military vehicle carrying 20 soldiers were stationed at the southern entrance to Qabatiya. Clashes broke out as local villagers reacted to the military checkpoints' presence. (Maan)
  • Palestinian Minister: Israel refusing to release sick prisoners - Prisoners minister Issa Qaraqe on Tuesday said that the Israeli government refused Palestinian Authority requests to release prisoners facing serious health problems. He also said the PA was working to fight "medical negligence" in Israeli jails. (Maan)
  • Bennett calls opposition 'an economic terror attack' - In a fiery debate in the Knesset plenary, economy and trade minister blasts opposition parties for "anti-entrepreneurial policies."  How many jobs have you created in your lives? Bennett asks Meretz MKs. (Israel Hayom)

For the full News from Israel.

Gettin' An Education

Rick Perry To Announce Texas A&M Campus in Nazareth

Former-and-current U.S. Presidential hopeful Rick Perry is in Israel to burnish his pro-Israel bona fides in advance of the 2016 campaign, and also to announce plans for Israel’s first non-Israeli institution of higher education. As The Texas Tribune reports:

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Rick Perry listens during a press conference with American and Israeli Jewish leaders and supporters of Israel on September 20, 2011 in New York City. (Michael Nagle / Getty Images)

On Wednesday in Jerusalem, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp are expected to announce plans to establish a Texas A&M campus in Nazareth. It will be called Texas A&M Peace University.

… “Our side of the equation is to locate and make available land, which is a scarce resource in Israel,” said [Manuel Trajtenberg, chair of Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education].

Trajtenberg said he anticipates significant student interest. “Of course, we would appeal to potential students in the area, but also Jewish Israelis of all sorts…” he said. “I suspect there will be a strong demand for this institution from students who would prefer to study in English and are comfortable in a multicultural environment.”

Though a first for Israel, Texas A&M has maintained a presence beyond American borders since 2003, with a branch campus in Qatar. The primary difference between the Qatar and Israel campuses is funding: The Qatar institution is supported entirely by the Qatar Foundation; the Israeli branch will depend on international donors. Fundraising help will come from (among others) Chancellor John Sharp, who is Catholic and told The New York Times that he’s wanted to take this step since taking his position in 2011: “I wanted a presence in Israel… I have felt a kinship with Israel.”

When the Israel Defense Forces announced it discovered an underground tunnel running from Gaza into Israel last week, the IDF said Hamas built the tunnel and planned to use it to attack Israelis on their own soil. Hamas confirmed that to be the case for this tunnel, but there are many leading from Gaza, and Palestinians have more than one reason for building tunnels.

More than half of Gaza’s population is “food insecure,” meaning they lack “physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food,” as defined by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Gazans’ motivation for building tunnels is more about smuggling consumer goods, construction materials, foodstuffs and other necessary supplies than weapons-making materials to hurt Israelis. In other words, the impetus is economic.

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The entrance of a tunnel reportedly dug by Palestinians beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and recently uncovered by Israeli troops. (David Buimovitch / AFP / Getty Images)

Of the 1.2 million refugees living in Gaza, those in need of food assistance has grown eightfold since the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000, according to Margot Ellis, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency’s deputy commissioner.

“And why? It's because of the blockade in Gaza. It's a man-made humanitarian catastrophe,” she said during a recent interview from Amman.

The Anti-Defamation League is like a wonderful, kind, and successful leader who happens to have a nasty meth habit. They do fantastic work on combating bigotry, racism, and homophobia, earning respect all around. And then Abraham Foxman starts talking about Israel, and all respect is lost.

First it was the ADL’s outrageous opposition to the “Ground Zero Mosque”—not a mosque, not at Ground Zero, but an Islamic center run by exactly the sort of progressive Muslims whom America (and Israel) should support. Then it was the increasing cascade of claims that opposition to Israel—or indeed, Israel’s policies—is anti-Semitism. And now, as in recent years, the ADL once again trots out its ridiculous list of “the top ten anti-Israel groups based in America,” including Students for Justice in Palestine, Code Pink, and Jewish Voice for Peace. Come on.

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ADL National Director Abraham Foxman attends the Anti-Defamation League's Centennial Entertainment Industry Award Dinner at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 8, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

Here’s the part of the article where I rehearse, once again, my own centrist bona fides. I am a two-stater, J-Streeter, and progressive Zionist. I have been vilified by some on the Left for being an apologist for colonialism, racism, and genocide. I do not support BDS, and do not believe the State of Israel is inherently immoral. Okay?

But this is ridiculous.

Nuclear Negotiations

Where Does Geneva Leave Us?

The P5+1 negotiations in Geneva ended last week on a positive note, with White House spokesman Jay Carney announcing to reporters that the Iranians had presented “a new proposal with a level of seriousness and substance that we had not seen before.” E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton referred to the talks as “very intensive and very important” and Iranian foreign affairs minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed hopes for the “beginning of a new phase” in relations between Iran and the West.

This latest round of negotiations, which will resume November 7, seems to have included serious discussion about the so-called “additional protocol”―the implementation of snap inspections of nuclear facilities―although an Iranian negotiator denied that his delegation had accepted the protocol. In fact, for all the optimism expressed by the parties involved, little, if any, tangible progress has been made. In May of 2012, after the collapse of negotiations in Baghdad, the very same Baroness Ashton told reporters that negotiators had found “common ground” and―familiarly―referred to the process as “very intense and detailed.”

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a press conference closing two days of closed-door nuclear talks on October 16, 2013 in Geneva. (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images)

The 2012 talks crumbled after the P5+1 (known in Europe as the E3+3) offered what Iranian negotiators saw as an uneven compromise: Western negotiators wanted Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, to ship all such medium-enriched uranium out-of-country and to close the Fordow enrichment facility. The P5+1 insisted on these concessions before it would reciprocate by offering medical isotopes, peaceful nuclear cooperation and commercial aircraft parts. The chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, then characterized uranium enrichment as an “irrefutable” right.

"It looks like a terrorist act."
--Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reaction upon seeing his creamy calorie-laden surprise birthday cake at the Likud-Beiteinu meeting yesterday. (Israel Hayom, p. 11 and NRG Hebrew)

  • Clashes in Silwan after Israeli guard stabbed - Clashes broke out Monday evening in the East Jerusalem area of Silwan between young Palestinian men and Israeli forces after an Israeli security guard stationed at the entrance to the illegal "House of Honey" settlement outpost was stabbed. (Maan)
  • Israeli forces detain young Bedouin shepherds in Jordan Valley - Israeli forces detained two young Bedouin shepherds from Al-Malih village in the northern Jordan Valley after they were chased by settlers from Maskiot settlement while pasturing their herds on Monday. (Maan)
  • Medics: 8 workers injured after chase with Israeli military - Eight Palestinian workers were injured on Monday after a bus they were traveling in collided with an Israeli military vehicle south of Hebron. Witnesses said that the accident occurred after an Israeli military patrol chased the bus carrying laborers, leading to a collision. (Maan)
  • Israeli forces raid Gaza border area, raze agricultural land - Five Israeli military vehicles crossed into a border area east of Gaza City on Monday and razed agricultural land. (Maan)
  • Palestinian NGOs call on Palestinian Authority to withdraw from joint World Bank Red Sea - Dead Sea project - The coalition of NGOs claims that the joint project with Israel and Jordan undermines Palestinian water rights and legitimizes Israel's unilateral control of water resources. (Maan)
  • 'Bored' Holon kids throw stones at buses - Group of young (Jewish) boys suspected of throwing stones at buses, private cars, elderly woman. (Ynet)
  • Palestinian(-Israeli) youth, jailed by Israel for Facebook statuses, released - Razi al-Nabulsi, 23, a Palestinian political activist who lives in Haifa, was released Wednesday after a week-long detention as a result of Facebook posts Israeli authorities argued constituted "incitement." (Maan)
  • Poll: Israeli Arabs dissatisfied with local services, but would still choose kin over competence - 165 women are running for office in Arab towns, and 93% of voters said they'd elect a female mayor if she proved she could do the job. The survey, conducted by the Mada al-Carmel Center for Applied Social Research, found that the most important issues for Arab voters are education, followed by housing for young couples. (Haaretz+)

For the full News from Israel.

I have much respect and personal fondness for Kathleen Peratis, and so I read with interest her thoughtful piece, “If You Want Two States, Support BDS." I share Kathleen’s sense of urgency to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before it is too late, but I categorically differ with her conclusion about the efficacy and appropriateness of the BDS movement.

I have just returned from ten days of meetings in Israel and the West Bank. I led members of my congregation in talks with Israelis on the left and right, settlers, human rights activists, journalists, and members of the Knesset, as well as with Palestinian Authority officials and Palestinian business and community leaders, excluding Hamas. Our purpose was to gain a deeper understanding of the current situation and of the attitudes of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as to express our American Jewish support for a resolution of the conflict that includes two states for two peoples.

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A man looks at AHAVA Dead Sea cosmetic products manufactured in the Israeli Kibbutz settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. (Gali Tibbon / Getty Images)

We spent an afternoon touring the West Bank with Leor Amichai, the director of the “Settlement Watch Project” for Shalom Achsav, and saw for ourselves the extent of settlement construction in Ariel and evidence of dozens of illegal Israeli “outposts” (i.e. small settlements) that are flourishing everywhere with full infrastructure provided by regional settlement councils and are condoned by the Israeli military authority.

About the Editor

Author headshot

Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily Beast, is associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His new book, The Crisis of Zionism, was published by Times Books in April 2012.

Open Zion's Take:

Boycotting Israel

Academics Say No To Israel

Academics Say No To Israel

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.

Bastardized Boycott?

Who Defines the ‘B’ in the BDS Movement?

Mixed Motivations

What Does the ASA Boycott Mean? They Don’t Know.

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