In a recent post, I discussed the controversy over the “Disappearing Palestine” Vancouver transit ads. While much of my analysis centered on the ethics of attempting to delegitimize the sovereign expression of one nation versus another, various commenters expressed the view that the maps contain lies.
Let’s take a closer look at the veracity question.
A screenshot of the 'Disappearing Palestine' maps as seen on the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign website.
It’s not the first time these particular maps have reared their head in the blogosphere. Back in 2010, bloggers Jeffrey Goldberg and Andrew Sullivan traded barbs over the maps, which Sullivan apparently borrowed from Juan Cole’s blog. As the Economist noted in its roundup of the debate, the maps fail “to distinguish between land that is owned by Jews or Palestinians, and land that is controlled by Jewish or Palestinian political entities.”
I would go a little deeper and broader than this. First, I would argue that the maps conflate the issues of state control, sovereignty, land ownership and demographics. This is what makes those on each “side” of the issue see the maps so differently. On the other hand, given that these maps are being used in the service of political debate, it’s important to look to an entirely different type of truth contained in the maps, something that might be called experiential truth—part experience, part memory, part nostalgia. Understanding these narratives is a crucial step in explaining and predicting strategic behavior.
"The question is, what is the message to commanders who are at the frontline, doing the dirty work and not hiding behind screens..."
--Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner reacts to his 'severe' punishment for beating a peace activist: two months of community service without pay and forced early retirement from the army
- IDF offcer who struck activist: My trial is unjust - Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner who was documented striking Danish activist addresses his plea deal in email to friends: 'The question is, what is the message to commanders who are at the frontline.' (Ynet + VIDEO)
- Hackers pledge to attack Israeli websites on September 11 - AnonGhost, group evidently protesting Israeli policies toward Palestinians, urges followers to vandalize and flood Israeli sites with traffic. (Haaretz+)
- EU considering softening the boycott on Israel (settlements) - European officials stated that they will try to show flexibility in the article that declares that every agreement between Israel and the EU, including the 'Horizon 2020' program, will only be applicable within the Green Line. (NRG Hebrew)
- Russia reprimands Israeli military attache over ballistic missile test - Russia’s Defense Ministry protests secret Israel-U.S. missile test carried out last week, tells military attache to convey message to the Israeli army command that restraint is appropriate. (Haaretz+ and Israel Hayom)
- EU announces €52 million development package for PA - The funding was announced during caretaker prime minister Rami Hamdallah's visit to Brussels. (Maan)
- Gas mask distribution halted in Tel Aviv to allow camera crew to film reality show - Hundreds, including elderly people, pregnant women and children, are locked out of distribution center; 'it was unreal,' says waiting woman. (Haaretz+)
- Elkin rejects report that blames ministers for EU settlement shock - Foreign Ministry report blaming politicians for failure to anticipate EU sanctions sparks the ire of Deputy Foreign Minister MK Zeev Elkin, who decides to shelve it. Foreign Ministry officials: Elkin is looking for a scapegoat among ministry staff. (Israel Hayom)
- Israeli documentary film chosen for festival in Afghanistan - 'White Night,’ directed by Irit Gal, follows Palestinian women who are forced to infiltrate the separation fence to reach their cleaning jobs in Israel. (Haaretz+)
Im Tirtzu, the rightist organization known for painting the New Israel Fund and Israeli human rights groups as enemies of the state, just got a lesson in the risks of suing for libel. Before Rosh Hashanah, the Jerusalem District Court mostly dismissed Im Tirtzu's suit against a Facebook group that labeled it a "fascist movement." That wasn't libel, the court said, nor was saying that Im Tirtzu's caricature of the NIF's former president, with a horn sprouting from her forehead, was in the "style of [the infamous Nazi tabloid] Der Stürmer."
The judge did rule that one respondent crossed the line by implying that Im Tirtzu espouses Nazi race theory. This shouldn't comfort the movement or its leader, Ronen Shoval. A libel suit reverses the roles of plaintiff and defendant; the former must defend itself against the latter's charges. Shoval's movement failed. The judge said the defendants could reasonably argue that calling Im Tirtzu "fascist" was a "truthful public statement."
A man holds an Israeli flag in Jerusalem (Sisse Brimberg / Cotton Coulson / Keenpress)
In its suit, Im Tirtzu said the movement's aim was to warn the public about anti-Zionist activity, especially when carried out by groups falsely presenting themselves as Zionist. Criticizing the judgment, the movement's lawyer, Nadav Haetzni, said it allowed "proclaiming every Zionist a fascist." In other words, every real Zionist is in Im Tirtzu's corner.
Critics both domestic and foreign have been quick to lambast President Barack Obama for consulting with Congress before authorizing military action in Syria. Some label this strategy spineless, claiming he is afraid to unilaterally strike Syria; others argue that this decision emboldens Syrian President Bashar Assad and other rogue leaders. Nonetheless, Obama was right to request congressional approval. This course of action is what the Constitution envisions and also slows down the hasty rush to war.
Prominent conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity rebuked Obama for asking Congress to authorize intervention in Syria, saying, “Why now? Is he trying to push the blame if this goes wrong onto you guys in the House and Senate?” Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld critiqued Obama for his handling of the Syrian crisis, referring to Obama as the “so-called commander-in-chief” and claiming, “He has not provided leadership.”
In 2011, Obama failed to request congressional approval before launching strikes against Libya that eventually led to the toppling of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. This was met with skepticism among many Republicans, including Senator Rand Paul, who asked in a Washington Times op-ed, “Why did he (Obama) thrust our American soldiers into this battle without the consent of Congress?” Paul and other leading voices were justifiably disappointed with Obama for not submitting this issue to a congressional vote. Obama was determined not to repeat this same mistake again. Yet when he abided by the request of politicians to first consult Congress, many Republicans mocked him for this same exact act. In the bitter world of Washington partisan politics, some are willing to criticize Obama no matter what he does.
I have read your recent piece in the New York Review of Books and I agree with much of it. I certainly agree that Palestinian and Arab-Israeli representatives should be met and heard out, while I share your uncertainly as to the likely political impact of this on American Jews. And I have doubt no that there is often a lack of empathy towards the Palestinians on the part of American Jews, not necessarily those considered right-wing. But I want to take issue with the way you describe Ahmad TIbi's position on Israel as a Jewish State. You write:
"Third, the deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, Ahmad Tibi, an Arab Israeli citizen, has publicly proposed turning Israel from a Jewish state into one with no religious identity. He presides over sessions of the Knesset but, according to Hillel’s guidelines, couldn’t address an American Jewish group on a college campus."
MK Ahmad Tibi (Knesset page photo)
I have repeatedly accused Mahmoud Abbas of not listening to the Palestinian people, especially since the Israeli Palestinian Peace Talks Reunion Tour kicked off this summer in Washington, D.C. I admonished Abbas when Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu went to the Knesset to push through a law that would allow the Israeli public to vote on any peace agreement, and questioned why Abu Mazen didn't show the Palestinian people the same respect.
Apparently, I was the one who was not listening. On July 22, before the Palestinians officially returned to negotiating table, Abbas told the Jordanian newspaper Al Rai that any deal with Israel would be put to a vote amongst the Palestinian people. Unlike Netanyahu, he didn’t waste any time getting a bill passed, because that’s not how Abu Mazen rolls. He does what he wants and answers to no one. Abbas also has a history of suppressing dissent. Yet here he was clearly stating that the Palestinian people would get the final word and that he and the PLO were just negotiating on their behalf.
Majdi Mohammed / AP Photo
On Labor Day, Abbas reiterated his commitment to putting any agreement with Israel to a referendum, this time in a meeting with the Fatah Revolutionary Council. He stated that not only would any deal be put to a popular vote but that Palestinians everywhere would have a say. It’s fabulous that Abu Mazen, whose term as president is long up, finally seems to want to give the people the opportunity to have their voices heard. I highly doubt, however, that Palestinians everywhere or anywhere will get to vote on their fate in the foreseeable future.
Last week the world reeled as we learned that the number of Syrian refugees had passed the two million mark.
Which is to say: Two million people—the equivalent of the combined populations of Boston, Detroit, and San Francisco—have fled their homes and country to what can only be called an uncertain fate in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and North Africa, with no idea whatsoever when or if they might ever return. Many refugees actually depend on the kindness of family and friends and never register with humanitarian aid organizations, so it’s likely that “two million” is, in fact, a low estimate.
Syrian refugees fill cans with water at a pump inside a camp for Syrians who have fled the fighting in their country on June 28, 2013 in Baalbek, Lebanon. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
Yet as horrifying as that is, as heartbreaking as the needs of the people fleeing and the people receiving them are, we must remember that those two million actually represent less than a third of all who have run for their lives in the course of this war.
The European Commission Humanitarian Office reports that an estimated 4.25 million Syrians are internally displaced persons—people forced out of their homes and communities by the violence, but who haven’t yet made it across a border. Thus, a total of 6.25 million Syrians—fully one third of the country’s population of 21 million—are, in fact, wandering.
The implications of this are staggering. As the region’s nations face historic internal turmoil and grapple with the sudden influx of hundreds of thousands of strangers—sometimes at a rate of thousands a day—the social and cultural fabric of Syrian life has been shredded beyond recognition beneath bombs and chemical weapons.
"In the end, they will still be sitting in Washington and because of them, the Israelis will be going down to the shelters."
--Maariv political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi on AIPAC's 'help' in getting the U.S. Congress to support a U.S. attack on Syria.
- Document confirms World Zionist Organization allocates land to settlers in Jordan valley - Government coordinator in the territories confirms: Settlers farming over a thousand acres of lands belonging to absentee owners in Jordan Valley. (Haaretz+)
- Not worried about being evacuated: Sharp jump in housing prices in Samaria (northern W. Bank) - Itamar, Alon Moreh and Har Bracha are considered settlements that it is doubtful will remain in Israel's hands in framework of a future peace agreement, but that does not bother many families from grabbing any available house. (Maariv, p. 6/NRG Hebrew)
- Israeli forces issue 4 demolition orders in Jerusalem - Israeli municipality staff and police issued four demolition orders for commercial properties in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Sunday. (Maan)
- Israeli forces clash with Al-Quds university students - Israeli forces stopped and searched several students at the main gate of the university in Abu Dis, inspecting identity cards and detaining several students for over an hour. Clashes broke out after university staff prevented Israeli forces from entering the campus. (Maan)
- Israel refuses to let Polish aid worker back into country - Attorney to appeal to Supreme Court after district court rejects motion for release by Kamil Kandil, a Pole of Palestinian descent, who is in detention at Ben-Gurion Airport. (Haaretz+)
- Proposal: Equip all police officers with mini video cameras to wear during arrests - According to Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, who has sought the public security minister’s cooperation, the bill would protect both protesters’ and police officers’ rights by reducing violence and false complaints. (Haaretz+)
- Israeli forces raid Nablus village - Around 15 army jeeps entered several neighborhoods in Beta village, south of Nablus, Sunday and fired tear gas and stun grenades. (Maan)
For the full News from Israel.
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, two bits of seemingly contradictory news emerged from the Jewish State.
On the one hand, a new poll shows that 61 percent of Israeli Jews favor separating religion and state, a hefty nine percent rise over last year. Eighty-three percent of those with an opinion said Israel should grant its citizens freedom of religion and conscience, and 62 percent think any kind of wedding, religious or civil, should be recognized by state authorities (currently, unless held overseas, only wedding ceremonies conducted by Orthodox rabbis are). Perhaps the most remarkable (and telling) figure is this: 51 percent of those surveyed said that the relationship between Israel’s ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews “is the most difficult conflict in the Israeli society,” with right-left political tensions coming in at a distant second (23 percent).
On the other hand, we have this:
Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home Party, delivers a speech at the Tel Aviv International Salon on December 23, 2012. (Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images)
The government on Sunday gave the go-ahead to the Religious Services Ministry to establish the "Jewish Identity Administration," an ambitious new initiative meant to foster a stronger connection to national Jewish heritage among Israelis.
The new, 5-million-shekel ($1.4-million) initiative was one of Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett's demands for joining the government coalition.
That is, even as Israel’s Jews are becoming more comfortable with the notion of letting folks decide for themselves just what being a Jew means, Israel’s government is investing what little money it has in teaching Israelis how to be Jews.
But of course, these things are not so much contradictory as joined at the hip.
“This can’t be good for anyone.”
It was May of 2012. The manager of my congressional campaign, a Jewish lawyer from Washington, D.C., had found his daily dose of angst dangling from the mirror of my solid, union-label Ford Flex: an air freshener brandishing red, white, green and black in the form of the Palestinian flag. My husband Marty had picked it up at the Middle East food market, less as a sign of solidarity, more as a sign of irony—he liked to ask people riding with us in the car if they knew to which country this flag belonged.
This can’t be good for anyone, our campaign manager said again, even after listening to Marty’s protests. The air freshener went into the glove compartment. It’s probably still there. My husband, the activist, a repeat visitor to Israel/Palestine, was a nuanced thinker frustrated by the sound-bite reality of a national congressional campaign. We both assumed I was pro-Israel: we supported peace, and we were shoestring relatives of prominent Jewish Senator Carl Levin and his brother Congressman Sander Levin.
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 idea that an air freshener could dampen my bid for U.S. Congress in mostly rural, conservative Northwest Ohio seemed ludicrous at best. There were few Jews and fewer Palestinians—it remains a district of stalwart Christians, most of whom are unengaged with the Middle East. And of course I was pro-Israel insofar as I was pro-peace; I was a Christian. I was about to learn that I wasn’t pro-Israel enough; at least, not enough to garner an endorsement or any cash support from the political action committee that spreads the wealth to Democrats and Republicans who promise unequivocal support for Israel. Our naivete would soon force me to make a decision that would tip the balance of the campaign.
Late in July, we traveled to Washington, where my campaign manager had scheduled a meeting with AIPAC in a spotless office on H Street. During the interview, I was presented with false dichotomies of the “you’re either with us—or you’re not” variety. I was asked to write a white paper showing my unflagging come-what-may support of Israel, her politics, and her military strategies. I found this deeply unsettling—how could I give a blanket endorsement for Israel when I was far from being able to do so regarding the policies and practices of my own government?
A decade or so ago, as Palestinian suicide bombers and snipers were destroying the hopes for peace that were launched by the Oslo peace process twenty years ago, I visited a Hillel in the Midwest. The students were upset because they had recently been attacked for a program called “A Piece for Peace.” Trying to appeal to other students’ hearts through their stomachs, the activists distributed a piece of cake with a list of Israeli attempts at peace—which Palestinians had spurned repeatedly, culminating with Oslo. Campus Progressives attacked the stunt as “one-sided,” accusing the students of ignoring the Palestinian narrative. I replied: “Do gays give out literature justifying homophobia? Do feminists make the argument for sexism? You are doing activism not academics. It’s legitimate to give your pro-Israel narrative—just as most Palestinians activists give their narrative without ever feeling guilty about ignoring our narrative—or even denying our legitimate national rights.”
I thought of those guilt-ridden activists while reading Peter Beinart’s recent essay critiquing the "American Jewish Cocoon” and calling for more “information” and “empathy” in approaching Palestinians. It is thoughtful—detailing some intellectual and moral blindspots in the mainstream American Jewish mentality. He is right that learning more about the Palestinian perspective and establishing dialogue with Israel’s critics can be informative and constructive. It is challenging—calling out some Jewish intolerance and insensitivity. But, the essay is also myopic—once again exaggerating Jewish guilt and minimizing Palestinian blame and responsibility.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington on March 3, 2013. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)
Beinart writes: “One can understand Palestinians’ reluctance to participate in events that make them appear to consent to an unjust occupation.” Why is it so difficult, then, for him to understand Jews’ reluctance to host events that make them appear to consent to an unjust repudiation of their most basic national rights? The widespread, systematic delegitimization of Israel and the less popular yet still prevalent genocidal agenda of many anti-Zionists, remain the proverbial elephants in Beinart’s room, and the mostly overlooked phenomena in his essay.
"After Assad goes, we'll talk on Facebook."
--Captain Shirin Sheli tells what one of the wounded Syrians she treated said to her upon being released from the secret IDF medical facility.
- Israel pledges to raze settler structures built on Palestinian land with forged deeds - The buildings, to be torn down by March, are part of a stone enclosure on the slopes of the Givat Ze'ev settlements, on the lands of the village of Jib. (Haaretz+)
- Israel, U.S. carry out joint missile test in the Mediterranean - Russia had detected the launch of two ballistic 'objects' toward the sea, Russian media reported earlier; U.S. Navy earlier denied having any involvement in the launch. (Haaretz)
- Italy donates 60 million euros to Palestinian Authority - The Italian government announced Wednesday that it will donate 60 million euros to the Palestinian Authority over a three-year period. (Maan)
- Joyriding Palestinian car thieves alarm Ben-Gurion Airport - Stolen truck broke through perimeter barrier and only stopped when its tires were shot out by a guard. Police suspect Palestinians lost their way. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- Officer who hit Danish protester to leave IDF - Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade who was caught on tape hitting a left-wing Danish protester with his rifle in April 2012, strikes a plea bargain involving two months of community service and his resignation. (Israel Hayom)
- Police to resume using tasers gradually, under tighter restrictions - Order caps two-week suspension of officers’ use of controversial stun guns, which came after cops used them repeatedly on man who did not resist arrest. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- WATCH: Israel Hayom editors review the Top 5 political flops of 5773 - The Israel Hayom English editors' panel discusses the top political blunders of the last Jewish year, including the muddy Chief Rabbinate race, Finance Minister Yair Lapid's repeated flubs, the Israeli Embassy in Ireland playing foul twice, and more. (Israel Hayom)
For the full News from Israel.
A short follow-up on Syria. President Obama's decision to take his intended military action to Congress is constitutionally satisfying, and politically shrewd, for all the obvious reasons. But it has another virtue, if Obama and Kerry have the wit to exploit this. As Haaretz's Barak Ravid argues in this deft and largely ignored column, it reopens the diplomatic window, which is the only way Obama can contribute to the least of bad outcomes in the Syrian chaos.
The heart-breaking fact of Syria is that the regime will commit atrocities to avoid defeat. When you have the power, and the dread of being undone, you act with otherwise unimaginable cruelty; Thucydides knew this, Hobbes knew this, and no doubt Obama's read Thucydides and Hobbes. Egyptian generals just killed almost 1,500 people to thwart the Muslim Brothers and Israel killed almost 1,500 (and 400 children) in Gaza to try to end missile strikes in 2009. Chemical weapons are worse than phosphorous bombs, presumably, but mainly to bystanders.
Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks with reporters as he arrives for a classified briefing on Syria in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. (Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)
The question is, how to curtail the violence that produces more desperate violence? The McCain-Graham answer is that, ultimately, you end violence by killing violent people and supporting peace-loving people to victory. There is a grain of truth here; Grant's armies committed atrocities in defeating the South and Eisenhower's armies committed atrocities in defeating Nazism. McCain and Graham want us to believe that, while the Free Syrian Army, General Idris, etc., do not represent established democracies, they and their forces have democratic principles in mind—and can win. Just for the sake of argument, let's pretend that we never heard of Kanan Makiya and Achmed Chalabi.
On Friday I wrote that Israeli Finance Minister and Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid had forbidden his Members of Knesset from attending a holiday party scheduled for today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; Lapid was of the opinion that attending the event would undermine Israel’s negotiating position. I expressed some wonder at this decision, however, because just two weeks earlier, three Yesh Atid MKs had not only met with Palestinian officials in Budapest, they and the Palestinians had agreed that a future peace deal would look very much like the Geneva Accord, a draft agreement that includes two states based on the 1967 borders and a shared Jerusalem.
Well. It turns out that Lapid need not have worried: Abbas’s own people have put the kibosh on the party:
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas canceled a pre-Rosh Hashana toast with more than 30 ministers and Knesset members that was set for Tuesday because he came under pressure from the anti-normalization movement in Ramallah.
Abbas invited the Knesset’s Caucus on Ending the Israeli- Arab Conflict to his headquarters in Ramallah after a Palestinian delegation was greeted by 30 MKs and ministers and a Palestinian flag at the Knesset on July 31. That meeting emphasized the need to have a show of force in Ramallah to boost the nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
But the anti-normalization movement, which is strong inside Abbas’s Fatah party, criticized him for meeting such a high-profile Israeli delegation so soon after the IDF killed Palestinians in recent incidents in Jenin and Kalandiya.
Mahmoud Abbas gestures while exiting the stage after addressing the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2011 in New York City. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
As an American-Israeli Jew, I can’t presume to tell Palestinian nationalists how to approach my people. Me and mine are in the position of power in this conflict, and those who struggle against military occupation have a limited number of tools at their disposal. And indeed: The Israeli military just killed Palestinians—if Palestinians had just killed Israelis, it’s a good bet that Israeli parliamentarians would not be going to Ramallah for a pre-holiday toast. (Moreover, as Peter Beinart so eloquently documented in the New York Review of Books yesterday, American Jews have their own anti-normalization movement—we just don’t call it that).
Yesterday in these pages, Brent Sasley ran down some of the chatter around the position of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (or, as Sasley aptly said, lack thereof) on a Congressional vote about whether or not to strike Syria. Sasley relayed a quote from an administration official to the New York Times, where the official called AIPAC "the 800-pound gorilla in the room," underscoring AIPAC's influence and potential importance to the Syria vote.
Later Monday, the TImes updated the article with a paraphrased statement from an administration official to the effect that AIPAC had become active on the issue. It read like this:
Administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group Aipac was already at work pressing for military action against the government of Mr. Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel.
The New York Times logo is seen on the headquarters building on April 21, 2011 in New York City. (Ramin Talaie / Getty Images)
Today, that reference has been removed from the piece, by Jackie Calmes, Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt, with several others contributing. The latest iteration online doesn't even contain the quote about the "gorilla," though the simian reference lives on at a separate link in a version of the article that apparently appeared in the print edition today. I drew the now-entirely-missing line from the left-wing writer M.J. Rosenberg, the first person I saw to notice it'd gone missing. (You can examine some of the changed versions of the stories here, here, and here.)
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.