I am a hardcore foodie, which means I love to eat. I was also born with Cerebral Palsy, which means I shake all the time—so cooking is not my thing, as I am banned from being around knives and fire. Those who cannot cook, watch, and I am obsessed with cooking shows. Forget Paula Dean; when it comes to on-air celebrity chefs no one makes my stomach go pitter-patter more than Chef Anthony Bourdain. He is absolutely fearless. He eats and smokes things I'd never have considered touching before I saw him do it first on No Reservations. No Reservations is no more, and the beautiful Bourdain has relocated to CNN. Parts Unknown, his new show now in its second season, is hands-down the best, most informative show on cable news. There is simply no competition, unlike on Bravo's Top Chef Masters where Chef Anthony happens to be my favorite judge.
A screen capture from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's episode entitled “Parts Unknown: Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.”
By now you realize I am a fan of Anthony Bourdain, but this past Sunday night I fell even more in love with the man with the salt-and-pepper hair and the year-round tan. Bourdain has traveled to many places even a U.S. drone wouldn’t dare infiltrate. He has showcased cuisine that almost put him in an early grave, but he has never done anything more controversial than what he did during the kickoff episode of the second season of his Emmy award-winning show. Bourdain said the word “Palestine” and he wasn’t even sorry. The episode was titled “Parts Unknown: Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.” The fact that neither Palestine nor Israel is mentioned in the title is quite telling. Instead of force-feeding the audience, Bourdain served up something so delicious viewers on either side of the fence couldn't resist digging in.
The show kicks off with Tony, who has one Jewish parent and absolutely no faith, visiting the Wailing Wall. He is welcomed with open arms and I believe bar mitzvahed. This fascinated me. Here is Bourdain, with zero connection to Israel, welcome to live in Jerusalem if he chooses while Palestinians living 5 minutes away in Bethlehem are banned from even visiting. While touring the old city, Bourdain's guide Yotam Ottolenghi addresses one of the most controversial questions in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Is falafel Israeli and can fried chickpeas have a nationality? Foreshadowing Bourdain’s descent to the Palestinian dark side, Yotam suggests that falafel is more Palestinian than Israeli because the Palestinians have been frying it since before modern-day Israel was even born. Bourdain, who donned a kippah at the top of the episode, passes on placing a crown of thorns on his head lest he muss up his heavenly hair.
As recently renewed negotiations continue between Israeli and Palestinian officials for the first time since 2010, the agreement that initially led to negotiations, the Oslo Accords, turned 20 years old on Friday. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the anniversary and context of recent talks is that now nearly half of the 4.4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are under 18, and have come of age in Oslo’s shadow.
Instead of growing up with a law-based, negotiated settlement founded on universal human rights principles, justice and respect for human dignity; Palestinian youth have had their futures stifled and suppressed by systemic discrimination, constant settlement expansion, and prolonged military occupation.
Salah el-Vaddiy, his 3 wives and 19 children live in a dilapidated shanty in Gaza deprived of humanitarian needs due to the Israeli embargo. (Credit: Ezz Zanoon / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images) (Anadolu Agency)
While the US-dominated Oslo negotiating process should have concluded by May 1999, it has dragged on for decades. The guise of a “peace process” has enabled successive Israeli governments to pursue and implement policies that have crushed the dreams and aspirations of an entire generation.
On Monday, I was extremely heartened to see that upon returning from their Yom Kippur recess, the Israeli High Court of Justice unanimously overturned a draconian law that allowed the government to indefinitely detain all African asylum seekers arriving in Israel for a minimum of three years without even a trial.
The court ruled that the June 2012 amendment to the “Anti-Infiltration Law” violated the Basic Laws of Israel by denying migrants the right to liberty. The judges ordered the state to individually review each person for release within 90 days.
African asylum seekers from Ivory Coast and Eritrea gather at a public park in Tel Aviv on March 13, 2008. (Jack Guez /AFP / Getty Images)
There are nearly 2,000 African migrants held in internment camps in the Negev desert as a result of the Anti-Infiltration Law. The vast majority of these men, women, and children are Sudanese and Eritreans seeking political asylum in Israel.
In a spirited debate about the relative merits of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, versus the creation of a single bi-national entity, Peter Beinart and Yehouda Shenhav addressed issues of ethics and ethnicity, historicity and history, pragmatism and idealism. The event was held at Columbia University on Monday night. Shenhav, an Israeli sociologist who teaches at Tel Aviv University, recently published Beyond the Two-State Solution. Beinart's article The American Jewish Coccoon, which addresses the failure of the Jewish establishment to include Palestinians in the debate about Israel-Palestine, was published in the most recent edition of the New York Review of Books.
For Beinart, the two-state solution is simply the only practical solution. He acknowledged several times that dividing the land into two separate states was unjust in many ways—it would mean uprooting thousands of settlers from their homes, for example, and Palestinians who were made refugees in 1948 would largely have to give up their dream of returning to their towns and villages because they were located inside the state of Israel. But the alternatives, said Beinart, were worse. The status quo is obviously immoral, because it involves an ongoing military occupation of civilians. And a single state would, he posited, lead inevitably to civil war.
Yehouda Shenhav (left) and Peter Beinart at Columbia University (photo: Lisa Goldman)
The history of bi-nationalism, pointed out Beinart, was not an inspiring one. It had failed in Czechoslovakia and “barely worked” in Belgium. Besides, the Jewish people had a legitimate right to self-determination, particularly given their history.
President Barack Obama’s insistence that “My credibility is not on the line”—as plaintive a cry as Bill Clinton’s after the 1994 Republican sweep that he was still “relevant”—reflects a disturbing distraction inflaming the Syria debate. Millions are dismissing Obama as “weak and indecisive.” Transforming this difficult decision into a barometer of presidential credibility reflects a peculiarly American obsession with presidential potency.
Presidential power is surprisingly personal, contingent, and transient, not just institutional and consistent. America’s superpower status provides great potential, but each presidency depends on the incumbent’s skills. Presidential power, like a muscle, can strengthen if exercised effectively—or shrivel.
Russias President Vladimir Putin welcomes US President Barack Obama at the start of the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg. (Eric Feferberg/AFP via Getty)
This Syrian mess—exacerbated by Vladimir Putin’s haughty lecturing Obama about Americans “relying solely on brute force”—confirms what the Democratic Congress’s dictating of the health care bill, the growing Democratic chorus of complaints, House Speaker John Boehner’s forcing the president to give his job speech to Congress a day later than Obama requested, Republican obstructionism, Iran’s impunity, and other insults already proved: few fear this president. Obama seemingly overlooked Machiavelli’s teaching: “it is much safer to be feared than loved.”
Peter Beinart’s recent New York Review of Books piece, “The American Jewish Cocoon,” makes an important point about the Jewish community’s lack of understanding of Palestinians. However, while it initially reads as a progressive call for deeper understanding, at its core it continues to reflect many of the damaging assumptions of the mainstream Jewish community that he claims to assail.
One of Beinart’s central theses is that Palestinians need to be listened to—but primarily so that Jews in the U.S. can better articulate their own positions. He says: “The American Jewish community is hamstrung in its ability to respond by its own lack of experience with Palestinian life under Israeli control.”
A protester waves a Palestinian flag in front of Israeli troops at the wall separating the West Bank village of Bilin and the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, near Ramallah. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)
While Beinart mentions many examples of the ways that ordinary Palestinian lives are constrained, he does so without the crucial context of the Occupation or the constant degree of violence perpetrated by the Israeli government. Without challenging his readers to recognize this overarching framework and by asking only that American Jews listen to Palestinians—not challenge and change their positions—he avoids the deeper issues of injustice.
Number of the day: 10.
--Length in centimeters of the biggest date in the world, a Saudi Arabian variety, that will be on display in Israeli President Shimon Peres' sukkah. (NRG Hebrew)
- Injured Palestinian construction worker left to die on Tel Aviv street - Building contractor denies that he dumped the worker, saying that he attempted to resuscitate him for an hour without success. Witnesses say otherwise. (Haaretz+)
- IDF stops stationing troops in towns on north and south borders - The decision to no longer station soldiers was made for operational reasons and not out of budget concerns, the army says; security at West Bank settlements to continue. (Haaretz+, Ynet and NRG Hebrew)
- History in Brussels: Settlers held special session with E.U. legislators - Settlers get E.U.'s Foreign Affairs Committee to hold first of its kind session on ways to avert the planned E.U. sanctions against Israeli settlements. MK Ayelet Shaked tells 15 E.U. MPs: Delegitimization of parts of Israel by Europe is the new anti-Semitism. (Israel Hayom)
- IDF troops kill Palestinian during West Bank arrest raid - Soldiers open fire on suspect after he attempted to escape, the army says; similar incident occurred during arrest operation in Jenin three weeks ago. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
- Straight from Russia: First parachuting Palestinian women - Four female combat soldiers in their early twenties, members of the 'National Guard,' completed battle parachuting course. "We don't have planes or helicopters, so the only place we can parachute from is tall buildings." (Maariv, p. 1/NRG Hebrew)
- Border community rearms in protest of IDF withdrawal - Kadesh-Barnea decides to rearm emergency squad in protest of IDF's decision to withdraw soldiers protecting border community from area. 'We have families; we're working people; we don't have time, abilities or manpower to protect ourselves,' resident says. (Ynet)
- Amnesty International 'comfortably numb' to Roger Waters' anti-Israel sentiments - The former Pink Floyd bassist is known for his calls to boycott Israel, and regularly labels it an apartheid regime. Some Jewish media outlets have denounced Waters' stage props during his performances as anti-Semitic. (Israel Hayom)
- Not just Netanyahu: Abu Mazen will also meet with Obama next week - Palestinian Authority Chairman (President) Mahmoud Abbas will meet with U.S. President before the U.N. General Assembly. (Israel Hayom, p. 7)
Ian S. Lustick’s commentary, "Two-State Illusion,” in this weekend's New York Times dismisses not only the present round of U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but the whole concept of a negotiated two-state Israeli-Palestinian agreement. He describes it as a fantasy that “blinds us and impedes progress,” as if Israelis and Palestinians faced a smorgasbord of interesting and attractive options for resolving the conflict.
Secretary of State John Kerry watches as Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, right, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat shake hands during a meeting on the Middle East Peace Process Talks at the Department of State on July 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat joined Kerry in some of the first direct talks in three years between Israel and Palestine. (Win McNamee/Getty)
However, as the latter part of his article makes clear, his "new ideas" are mainly an incoherent jumble of imaginary scenarios, all of which require an alternative reality to emerge at some point in the future. Nothing he suggests can be built on under present circumstances. None of it holds together as a coherent or even semi-coherent counterproposal.
Worse still, most of what he envisages requires by his own admission decades, if not centuries, to become possibilities, and further Israeli-Palestinian conflict is inevitable.
So not only would we have to wait scores of decades, if not centuries, for any of these "alternatives" to begin to emerge, they could only be the product of further wide-scale bloodshed.
Despite Prof. Lustick's passionate dismissal, the two-state solution remains the only viable option for ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His counterfactual musings don't provide any practicable, coherent or implementable alternatives. It's an interesting thought experiment to dismiss the global consensus, stated position of all relevant parties, logical implementation of international law, and only practicable means of achieving the minimum goals of each party in favor of flights of fancy. But it has no political value whatsoever. Indeed undermining the only plausible conflict-ending scenario, while not suggesting any serious, practicable alternatives, is actually harmful.
It’s only been a week since Quebec’s government released its Charter of Values—a proposal that would bar public workers from wearing conspicuous religious symbols—but the province’s religious communities are already finding common cause in the struggle against it.
Spearheaded by Premier Pauline Marois, the leader of the ruling Parti Québécois, the charter is presented as a means of promoting gender equality and religious neutrality in a part of Canada that bears a uniquely fraught relationship to religion. Yet its method of creating a secular society is being deemed discriminatory, xenophobic, and downright unconstitutional by experts around the country.
Government of Quebec
Under the Charter of Values, public employees like teachers and doctors would be forbidden to wear any of the “ostentatious” religious symbols shown above. Smaller—and, it’s worth noting, much rarer—objects, like a ring bearing the Jewish Star of David or earrings bearing the Muslim crescent, would be permitted.
Polls show the charter has boosted the Parti Québécois’s popularity and has won strong support in Quebec’s outlying regions, lending credence to the notion that this proposal is Marois’s way of currying favor in those ridings. But it’s sparking a public outcry in the province’s two biggest cities, Montreal and Quebec City. It’s also eliciting some pretty clever and creative responses from Canadians at large. Here are 10 favorites.
"This right-wing is sitting in the government and speaking about two-states for two peoples, release Palestinians prisoners and is making diplomatic moves. This is very surprising and, of course, it is the result of the Oslo Accords."
--Yossi Beilin, an author of the interim peace agreement, says it made the right-wing more left-wing.
- Settlers hurl stones at car carrying Maan board members - Tareq Jabara, a member of the board, told Maan that settlers from Bet El hurled stones at their car on the Ramallah-al-Jalazun road. No injuries were reported. (Maan)
- Israeli teachers fear civics textbook biased by right-wing reviewer - There is only one academic adviser reviewing changes to primary civics textbook, and no Arab input. (Haaretz)
- Under pressure, popular Israeli folk singer cancels performance in settlement - Concert was to take place in Susya community in Judea and Samaria. Ehud Banai chose location to promote dialogue in a controversial place despite personal views, and "has said more than once that he does not boycott concerts beyond the Green Line." (Israel Hayom)
- Public broadcaster removes 'right-wing murderer' promo after outcry - Promo for new satire show featuring the characters Yigal Amir, Baruch Goldstein and Yona Avrushmi singing and prancing between rainbows sparks harsh condemnations. Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked: This is what our tax money pays for? (Israel Hayom)
- Legal term for interim PA cabinet expires Tuesday - The interim Palestinian Authority cabinet of caretaker prime minister Rami Hamdallah will convene on Tuesday for the last time before the expected announcement of a new permanent cabinet. (Maan)
- Israeli group wants Facebook to unlike Iranian ministers - 15 Iranian ministers recently opened Facebook accounts. Current sanctions prevent any American company from providing services to Iranian government officials. Facebook is a California-based company and is thus subject to U.S. law. (Israel Hayom)
- Hamas to produce film about Gilad Shalit - Islamist group's culture ministry announces it will produce film about Gilad Shalit's years in captivity; will emphasize that force is the right opposition. (Ynet)
Alas, it was too good to last. As, perhaps, we could have predicted.
On Thursday, I wrote that I rather surprisingly found myself in agreement with Israel’s Minister of the Economy, Nafatali Bennett—a far-right politician with whom I am typically at ideological loggerheads on all matters political, cultural, and religious. Bennett had launched an investigation of businesses that employ migrant workers; he was reported to have said: “We are doing right by exploited workers [working] under substandard conditions.” I suggested that this was a good start to dealing with enormous labor problems that include not just migrant workers (legal or otherwise), but also Palestinian laborers (legal or otherwise), and Israeli citizens. I even quoted Yom Kippur-specific Scripture in which the prophet Isaiah calls on us to “untie the cords of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free.”
Israel's newly sworn-in Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor and head of Israel's Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett arrives for the first Cabinet meeting after the swearing in of the new Israeli government, at the Prime Minister's Office on March 18, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Credit: David Vaaknin-Pool / Getty Images) (Pool)
Twenty years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israeli and Palestinian leaders are still negotiating with no end in sight. It's as though the process were caught in a timeless prism separated from reality, with the U.S. sponsored talks moving forward alongside Israeli settlement expansion and increased segregation of Palestinians. But few are asking if the patron of the negotiations is interested in peace or just managing Middle East conflicts.
When the Americans mediated the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt, a new approach to American power in the Middle East began unfolding. As close relations between Israel and Egypt’s security forces developed, Egypt became the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the Middle East after Israel. The country at the center of professed pan-Arabism became an essential tool in dividing the Arab world.
Palestinians wave their national flag during a protest against the Paris Protocol and the Oslo Agreement in the West Bank city of Ramallah on September 11, 2012. (Photo: Abbas Momani /AFP / GettyImages)
By the time the Oslo process began in the early 1990s a newly divided Middle East provided the U.S. with an opportunity to entrench its interests through brokering a new round of Israeli peace negotiations. A bankrupt Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) in exile had few options with a divided Arab world and the assertion of U.S. dominance following the First Gulf War.
As Israel positions itself as a natural gas exporter, the Palestinian Authority, which lacks a source of cheap fuel, is poised to become one of its first customers. But while selling gas to the Palestinians—and theoretically rescuing them from the social, political, and economic issues that accompany high oil and gas prices—may be seen as a positive development and a sign of improving bilateral relations, in reality it is needed precisely because of restrictions imposed by the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza, or Oslo II. If Israel does indeed send gas to the Palestinians as is predicted, such a dynamic will only perpetuate the problem of energy dependency created by the Oslo Accords.
The Paris Protocol, which was incorporated into Oslo II, was signed in 1994 and intended to last for an interim period of five years. It established a customs union between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, not an economic border, which resulted in “a Palestinian economy integrated in and dependent on the Israeli economy.” Regarding fuel, the Protocol stipulates that the difference in the price of gasoline in the Palestinian territories cannot be more than 15 percent of the price of gasoline in Israel, despite the fact that GDP and average income in Israel are significantly higher than in the West Bank and Gaza. If prices rise in Israel, they also have to rise in the Palestinian territories.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA, ISRAEL - MARCH 28: In this handout image provided by Albatross, The Tamar drilling natural gas production platform is seen some 25 kilometers West of the Ashkelon shore on March 28, 2013 in Israel. (Albatross via Getty Images)
At some point, this burden becomes unbearable. The protests in September 2012 that resulted from then-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s announcement of increasing fuel and cooking gas prices, prompted days of demonstrations in the West Bank against the high cost of living. Protesters’ demands actually included terminating the Paris Protocol, but Fayyad was able to quell the upheaval by cancelling price hikes and cutting the value added tax rate—which is also pegged to Israel—by two percent.
"It is these facts on the ground, not the guidelines, which threaten to make a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.”
--Former EU leaders - including former Spanish foreign minister Miguel Moratinos, who is considered relatively close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - wrote a letter saying settlements harm peace and calling on the EU to stand firm on new guidelines forbidding any EU money to institutions or people linked to activities in the W. Bank, Golan Heights, or E. Jerusalem.
- Former EU leaders to Ashton: Stand firm on settlement guidelines - Letter signed by 15 former EU leaders counters attempts by Israel and U.S. to scrap or delay the move to stop cooperating with firms in the settlements. (Haaretz+)
- Ex-Shin Bet chief warns of 'next Yigal Amir' - Carmi Gillon criticizes authorities' handling of 'price tag' perpetrators, says any progress in peace talks will bring forth terrorist acts. (Ynet)
- To tweet or not to tweet? The IDF answers the question - Internal documents from the IDF Spokesman’s Office, obtained by Haaretz, reveal the thinking behind the army’s social media strategy. (Haaretz+)
- Watch: Bricks thrown at police near Jerusalem - Officers attacked by mob while trying to restore order after brawl erupts in Palestinian village. (Ynet)
- 'Homeland' Israel shoot moved to Morocco - The show's American producers, concerned over situation in Syria, contacted their Israeli counterparts Sunday to inform them of decision. Israeli production companies estimate a loss of hundreds of thousands of shekels over the location change. (Israel Hayom)
- Vacation in Israel: Only for the rich? - Hotels.com survey ranks Israel sixth in world in average price of hotel room, NIS 798 – more expensive than Switzerland, Norway, US, Italy, France, Holland. (Ynet)
- Did Netanyahu propose resettling Gazans in Sinai? Egyptian newspaper set to release tapes in which Egypt's Hosni Mubarak reportedly says Israeli PM offered him to resettle Gaza residents in Sinai but rejected proposal. (Ynet)
- Egyptian army destroyed 152 smuggling tunnels to Gaza since July - A spokesman said that the Egyptian army has clamped down on tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border following Hamas' support for Sinai jihadists. (Agencies, Haaretz)
- Iran says willing to build trust with US on nuclear issue - FM Zarif tells Lebanese network he hopes WMD disarmament plan has lifted threat of military strike on Syria, urges Washington to present 'genuine desire for peace and stop using language of threats.' (Ynet)
Last week a prominent multi-national Dutch engineering firm, Royal HaskoningDHV, announced that it would end its involvement in a project to install a wastewater treatment plant in East Jerusalem. This is a unique and interesting case in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It could well be a harbinger of the future of the occupation.
This case is interesting because it involves Israelis with good intentions; Palestinians who have no choice but to cooperate with Israel; and Europeans who have lost the ability to define their position regarding conflict. Alongside these actors are the usual suspects: Israelis whose priority is to strengthen the settlements; Europeans who want to make a profit out of providing aid to the Third World; and Palestinians who are struggling to liberate Palestine. And this case is unique, because most disputes over Jerusalem are of a win-lose nature, with the Israelis winning and the Palestinians losing. In this case it seems that Israel is losing, while the Palestinians are losing on one level but perhaps winning on another. But it is still too early to determine whether this incident indicates a serious change in the delicate balance of the relationship between Europe, Israel and Palestine.
A deal on Iran’s nuclear program and U.N. sanctions regime has been reached. But the U.S., Iran and Israel seem to be interpreting the same agreement quite differently.