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As The Times of Israel reported this week, one Swedish woman is trying to bring attention to what she perceives to be rising anti-Semitism in Sweden by applying for refugee status—in her own country. Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is concerned about the longstanding ban on kosher slaughter (outlawed in Sweden since 1937), proposals being floated in parliament to outlaw ritual circumcision, and sporadic demonstrations by neo-Nazi movement members.

Rising anti-Semitism in Sweden has become an increasingly talked-about topic, with much of the spotlight focused on the city of Malmo. Malmo’s Jewish community members believe that the city’s Muslim residents are mostly to blame for the sharp uptick in anti-Semitic incidents over the last few years, partly enabled by what the Jewish community sees as a hostile mayor. Jews reacted strongly against Malmo Mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s comment to a Swedish newspaper that “When people say that we have a right to take your land because we have some form of thousand-year promise from God that this is our land, then it creates conflicts.”

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Sweden's Minister for EU affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson (C), Willy Silberstein of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism (R) and Joshua Kaufman (L) walk outside a synagogue with several hundred Jews and non-Jews during a 'kippa walk' through Malmo on August 18, 2012, to call attention to what they claim is an increasing wave of anti-Semitism in Malmo. (Drago Prvolovic / AFP / GettyImages)

I couldn’t independently verify in time for this piece whether Muslims are most behind the anti-Semitic attacks in Sweden. Nor is that kind of information necessarily publicly available. But here’s what we can say about the situation.

Quote of the day:

Mohammed and Michal to be wed at the Shahid wedding hall in Ramallah.

--Radical right-wing activities reach new level in Jerusalem as they try to discourage romantic relations between Jews and Arabs.

  • Israeli Arab undergoes 'humiliating' security check at airport - East Jerusalem businessman Hani Almi's trip to Paris this month turns to theater of humiliations as security personnel force him to board without 'suspicious' shoes, wallet, attaching agent to him in terminal halls. (Ynet)
  • Israeli court once again puts off ruling on discriminatory airport security checks - Petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, first filed in 2007, maintains that current checks are discriminatory and humiliate Arab citizens. (Haaretz+)
  • Border Police destroyed your car? You pay - Suheir Hasima, whose car was damaged by the Border Police, was shocked to discover that when she went to the police to make a complaint for the purpose of receiving compensation, the case was closed due to lack of public interest.  (Yedioth Jerusalem supplement, p. 54)
  • Gaza food industry struggles from lack of electricity, fuel - The food industry is struggling in Gaza due to the ongoing Israeli economic blockade and intermittent access to electricity. (Maan)
  • Over 100,000 Palestinians work in Israel - Over 100,000 Palestinians work in Israel with around 20,000 working exclusively in Israeli settlements. Of this number, 51,100 had an Israeli-issued permit, 34,600 worked without a permit, and 17,600 had an Israeli identity card or foreign passport. (Maan)
  • Students from Arab countries registered for the course at the Technion - Hundreds of students from Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia registered for an online course in nano-technology given in Arabic by Prof. Hossam Haick begins in March in Israel. "It will help bring us closer," say Technion people involved in creating the course. (NRG Hebrew)
  • Fictitious marriage radical right-wing style - In an attempt to increase awareness to break up romances between Jewish girls and Arab guys, the radical right-wing distributed a flyer announcing the fictitious marriage between 'Mohammed and Michal to be wed at the Shahid wedding hall in Ramallah' and under the names of the parents it was written 'we hope this is not you. They also published a photo of an Arab laborer who spoke with a girl studying in an ultra-Orthodox school, claiming they caught him with a kippah in his pocket and that he was trying to court Jewish girls. Recently they also began targeting business owners who hire Arab employees distributing flyers calling them derogatory names. Radical right-wing activities in Jerusalem have reached a new level. (Moshe Heller writes in Yedioth's Jerusalem supplement)

Nearly two years after an Israeli court halted state plans to sell the last uninhabited pre-1948 Arab village, the site continues to crumble.

Lifta, burrowed in the slopes at the Western entrance to Jerusalem, was temporarily saved as is: pastoral, dilapidated and frozen in time. The Jerusalem court ruled in February 2012 that the Israel Land Authority could not sell to luxury developers until they contracted the Israel Antiquities Authority's conservation wing to survey more widely.

The ILA and IAA did not answer questions about when a new survey will begin. But dozens of Israeli and Palestinian architects, engineers, urban planners, sociologists, anthropologists, ecologists, zoologists, and university students have already started independent professional surveys―as volunteers.


Yaaqub Odeh, A Palestinian man originally from the village of Lifta (background), which was abandoned during fighting in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, speaks to the press near Jerusalem on February 10, 2012. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP / Getty Images)

The Coalition to Save Lifta, founded three years ago, is comprised of concerned Israelis and Palestinians as well as Lifta descendants and natives who fled or were expelled during the 1947-8 war; many live in nearby east Jerusalem or Ramallah.

Quote of the day:

“The test is not what the writer meant but what the reader understands.”

--Justice Edna Arbel said in response to State Prosecutor, which does not want to indict far-right-wing rabbis on incitement for book, 'The King's Bible,' which they wrote about conditions in which killing a non-Jew is permitted.

  • Editors of extremist Jewish website to be charged with incitement - Announcement of pending indictment against editors of 'Hakol Hayehudi' comes as state prosecutor delays decision to charge far-right rabbi in another case of alleged incitement to violence. (Haaretz+)
  • 11-year-old Palestinian boy detained in Jerusalem for throwing rocks - Malik Daana, 11, was handcuffed by Israeli forces and taken to a police station from a barber shop in Ein al-Lawza neighborhood in Silwan, E. Jerusalem for allegedly throwing rocks, his father said. (Maan)
  • Israelis ask: where have all the mall guards gone? Rumors of a reduction in the number of guards at important public and commercial institutions are making the public feel less protected. (Haaretz+)
  • University students rally for Arab cleaning lady suspended from job - Fatma Shitawi, a Hebrew University worker, fought on behalf of other workers who complained of sexual harassment and lack of vacation days. The contracting company who employed her: a complaint was filed against her for theft. The students: They are falsely accusing her. (Maariv, p. 14/NRG Hebrew)
  • Brandeis suspends partnership with Palestinian university over Nazi-style march - Boston university to re-evaluate relationship after march at Al-Quds' Jerusalem campus. (JTA, Haaretz)
  • Ancient coin that Bennett flashed on CNN was illegally removed from Israel - The antiquities law bars the removal of any antiquity from the country without written permission. (Haaretz+)

The spelling and pronunciation that one uses to refer to one of the Mediterranean's oldest continuously inhabited sites are telling choices. Since the Crusaders, Western maps have labeled it Acre. Its Hebrew spelling is pronounced “ah-koh,” while the Arabic is best transliterated as “Akka.” The choice of the filmmakers behind "It's Better To Jump" to include the Arabic transliteration in their publicity materials is the closest they come to declaiming a determinate political stance.

The ongoing gentrification of Akka is the issue at the center of the film, which premiered this week as part of the Other Israel Film Festival in Manhattan. The city is the site of a number of other struggles as well: economic, political, cultural, historical―even culinary, as attested by a coda about the origins of hummus. That there is a culture war happening in Akka is never so evident as when Arab inhabitants of the city, speaking to the camera in English, use the Hebrew pronunciation of its name.


A still shot showing children preparing to jump off Akka's sea wall in the documentary 'It's Better To Jump' (Courtesy of Other Israel Film Festival)

The ostensible focus of "It's Better To Jump" is the sea wall that the eighteenth-century ruler Daher al-Omar erected as a deterrent to would-be invaders. For centuries, the viewer is told (and eventually shown, although he is made to wait), the Palestinian children of Akka have participated in a rite of passage that consists of taking a running leap off the wall and into the water thirty feet below. The running start is necessary to avoid the rocks that, a Palestinian subject tells the camera, once nearly broke his back.

Last Friday in the West Bank village of Qaddum, Israeli security forces detained four Palestinian children, aged four through nine. According to the children and other witnesses, the boys were standing by and watching as local young men burned tires at the village's weekly anti-occupation protest. SocialTV, an independent Israeli initiative that places its reports on YouTube, interviewed the children, below.

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Israeli riot policemen arrest a Palestinian boy, identified by locals as Mohammed Taha, in the east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Issawiya on May 15, 2012 (Ahmad Gharabali / AFP / GettyImages)

The arrest of children is not a new phenomenon in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In July the Israeli media obtained footage that shows soldiers arresting a 5 year-old boy in Hebron. The Israeli human rights organization B'tselem has also published video showing soldiers waking children up at 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning to take their photographs and note their names. According to B'tselem, this is far from an isolated incident. 

Driving through the Jordan Valley, it’s easy to think no one lives in this sparsely populated northeastern region of the West Bank. The landscape is stark and monochrome, a burnt yellow scene. But when you stop along Route 90 at a Palestinian village or farm—or even an Israeli settlement—you realize something: People live in the Jordan Valley. But some live better than others.

In “The Fading Valley,” director Irit Gal brings Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley and their economic struggles into sharp relief. Against beautiful shots of desolate landscapes, with hills cut by lines of shadow and light, and a topical focus on water access, Gal uses intimate character portraits to show the challenges of life and labor under Israeli military occupation.


A still shot showing a Jordan Valley Palestinian farmer in the documentary 'The Fading Valley.' (Courtesy of Other Israel Film Festival)

Quote of the day:

"I heard one of them saying he's in favor of human rights but not civil rights [for Palestinians]. Meaning, they shouldn't be allowed to vote. It’s like in South Africa."

--Former cabinet minister Dan Meridor wonders what happens to the morals of his party, Likud.

  • Israeli soldiers get six months in jail for beating blindfolded Palestinian - Military judges ruled the soldiers had harmed the man's body, his dignity and 'the IDF’s image as a moral army.' (Haaretz+ andYnet)
  • Bedouins call on court to save their Negev village - 'The court could avoid making a clear ruling,' says attorney for Umm al-Hiran villagers. 'The bench is very mixed and anything could happen.' (Haaretz+)
  • Palestinians cast first-ever vote in UN General Assembly - After status upgraded last year, Palestinian delegation participates in international decision-making. (Agencies, Ynet)
  • Former Likud minister bashes own party for pushing apartheid legislation - In an interview with an American student, Dan Meridor laments Likud’s departure from its roots. (Haaretz+)
  • Palestinian father of IDF soldier gets Israeli ID after nine-year wait - Hussein married and later divorced an Israeli woman, but his son's IDF service made him eligible for permanent residency. (Haaretz+)
  • Israel Air Force strikes Gaza in response to rocket fire - Israeli military attacked empty building, Hamas says; no casualties reported. (Haaretz)
  • As US clout wanes, Russia inks arms deal with Cairo - Russian Technologies chief Sergei Chemezov says Egypt also expressed interest in combat jets and helicopters. The deal comes as U.S.-Egyptian relations continue to waver over Washington's criticism of the July 3 military coup. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
  • In rare public display, Iranian Jews rally in support of nation's nuclear program - Iranian Jewish community, the largest in the region outside Israel and Turkey, tends to keep a low profile. (Agencies, Haaretz+PHOTOS)

Israel’s Bedouin population is in the hearts and minds of American Jewish clergy this week, as 780 rabbis, cantors, and rabbinical and cantorial students have signed a letter demanding that the government of Israel withdraw the Prawer-Begin plan. Under the proposed legislation, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Bedouin would be displaced from their homes in the Negev.

“It is precisely because of our deep commitment to the State of Israel and the prophetic values of liberty and justice on which it was founded, that we, as rabbis, are so distressed by the potential for the use of force to resettle Bedouin and destroy their villages,” said Rabbi S. Ayelet Cohen, vice chair of T’ruah, in a press release.


Bedouin protesters gather during a demonstration against the Israeli government's plans to relocate Bedouins in the Negev desert, in the southern town of Rahat, in the Israeli Negev desert on August 1, 2013. (David Buimovitch / AFP / Getty Images)

Other North American Jewish groups have issued similar calls, including the Reform and Reconstructionist movements. In recent days, Ameinu, on whose board I sit, has also jumped into the fray: “as Zionists who never forget the eternal bond between our people and the land of Israel, we are extremely sensitive to Bedouin Israelis’ ties to their traditional villages,” its call to action states.

The decision by Minister of Environmental Protection Amir Peretz to include a map of Israel’s pre-1967 borders in a new planning document made headlines in Israel this weekend and took the far-right by surprise. Yet too many on the center-left have regrettably overlooked what amounts to an (unfortunately) rare action to support peace rather than just talk about it.

To understand the significance of Peretz’s decision, it is important to view it in context. The fact that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians support the two-state solution is as well known as the fact that enthusiasm for peace between both peoples has drastically and consistently plummeted. That’s no surprise, considering some of the negative facts on the ground, which have been polluting the environment outside the negotiating room since the latest peace talks began.


Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)

Almost seven years since the violent Hamas coup in Gaza, few are optimistic about the prospects of a contiguous Palestinian state, even if the Israeli government does its share. Similarly, even if the PLO was to accept all the demands presented by Prime Minister Netanyahu, the complete removal of settlements (the population of which has tripled in the last 20 years) has become a non-starter.

Remember Silvio Berlusconi's Holocaust misstep, in which the former prime minister compared his experience of being convicted for tax fraud to the persecution of Jews under Nazism?

Berlusconi has tried to settle the issue in the Italian fashion, that is, around a restaurant table.

On Sunday night, the media tycoon-turned-politician showed up at one of Rome's most famous Jewish restaurants, where the head of the Jewish Community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici, also happened to be dining. Apparently, Berlusconi invited Pacifici to his table and seized the occasion to apologize for his inappropriate remarks, which appeared in a recent book by Bruno Vespa, Italy's most famous TV anchor. Berlusconi also promised that Vespa would remove the statement from the future editions of his book.


Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi smiles as he leaves after the People of Freedom (PDL) party's national convention in Rome on November 16, 2013. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP / Getty Images)

Part of the meeting was caught on camera, leading to speculation that it might have been staged.

Earlier last week, Berlusconi's young girlfriend also “accidentally” dropped by a Jewish restaurant in Rome. When asked by paparazzi what she was doing inside the Ghetto, one of Europe's oldest Jewish neighborhoods, 28-year-old Francesca Pasquale answered: “You eat well here." To her credit, the cuisine of Roman Jews, the so-called “cucina giudaico romanesca,” is particularly renowned and draws many non-Jewish fans.

There has been much talk about the potential for natural gas discovered in the East Mediterranean to change the regional geopolitical status quo. A noticeable shift has certainly occurred regarding the Israel-Cyprus-Greece entente, but defining Levant Basin gas as the game changer that transformed the equation severely overdetermines the role of energy as a factor that makes or breaks the structure of a complicated part of the world. The existence of significant offshore natural gas reserves has undoubtedly altered the political calculus, but the elements of the Arab uprisings and Turkey’s behavior contributed to these changes to a much greater degree.

Israel’s relationships with Cyprus and Greece have improved measurably in the past few years. Both states were known for aggressively backing the Arab and Palestinian causes since the creation of Israel up until the twenty-first century. One very low point occurred in 2002, when a Cypriot parliamentary delegation was denied entry into Israel after attempting to meet with Yasser Arafat, then under house arrest in Ramallah.

OZ_Natural Gas

The Tamar drilling natural gas production platform is seen some 25 kilometers West of the Ashkelon shore in February 2013 in Israel. (Albatross via Getty Images)

While Greece and Cyprus still do support the Palestinians―Cyprus having given Palestine full diplomatic status this year and Greece having voted to accord it non-member observer status at the UN General Assembly in November―they have also warmed considerably towards Israel. Cypriot-Israeli exchanges have become particularly frequent since 2011 and occur at the presidential and prime ministerial levels. Moshe Katsav was the first Israeli president to visit Greece in 2006, and in 2010 Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou went to Israel in a bid to repair relations. Since then, similar bilateral diplomatic exchanges have increased.

The screening of Dove’s Cry in New York this week as part of the Other Israel Film Festival couldn’t have come at a better time. As more young American Jews express an interest in studying Arabic—a trend highlighted in the New York Times last month—the American Jewish establishment is being forced to consider whether, how, and at what age it will give them the chance. That makes this a perfect moment for U.S. audiences to see Dove’s Cry, a documentary about an Arab Israeli woman teaching Arabic to Jewish kids.

Hadeel, a vivacious 27-year-old from the Wadi Ara region, teaches Arabic in a Jewish Israeli elementary school. An independent woman who resists her Muslim family’s constant urgings to marry, she is beloved by her students—who are often seen hugging, serenading, and cheering her on over the course of the school year—as well as by her Jewish co-workers. But Hadeel also endures instances of casual prejudice and racism at their hands, challenging her belief that she can effect positive change in Israeli society.


A still shot showing Hadeel from the documentary 'Dove's Cry.' (Courtesy of Other Israel Film Festival)

We first see Hadeel put to the test when, in an attempt to teach her class about Arab culture, she asks her students to build model mosques. The kids are enthusiastic about the arts and craft project, but their parents object. “I can’t do the assignment, because my parents won’t let me,” one student says. “They think it’s against our religion and they even sent an email [to the school].” Instead of supporting Hadeel, the principal yields to parental pressure and orders her to back down.

Another time, we see Hadeel reduced to tears after a student she’s punished throws a tantrum and calls her “a stinking Arab.”

A few months ago, Naftali Bennett published a video on the Internet that depicted his “stability plan” policy for the future of the State of Israel. Of all the factual imprecisions that characterized his political program, one in particular caught my eye as outlandish. At some point in the video, the narrator solemnly states that the Jordan Valley is used to buffer Israel against a possible tank attack from Iran. As someone who dedicated thirty years of his life in service of IDF command positions and the protection and security of the citizens of Israel, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I heard that.

I have no doubt that the propaganda efforts of the Jewish Home Party chairman have been successful, and that not a few Israelis walk around today with their argument for the eminent necessity of the Jordan Valley at the ready. In the last few weeks, with the renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the background, the question of Israel's ability to secure defensible borders in the context of a permanent status agreement found its way back onto the agenda. And then, just as soon as the negotiations began, the usual suspects began singing their old tune, a song known to be aimed at only one thing: provoking panic amongst Israel’s citizenry.

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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)

The time has come to bring the public conversation back to the rational, professional track. It is important to understand that the long and narrow state of Israel has never had and never will have "strategic depth". Any attempt to claim that the Jordan Valley provides such depth is patently absurd.

News from Israsel

Hamas Shows off New Tunnels in TV Report

Quote of the day:

"If, as the Prime Minister says, only Israel is responsible for its fate, it must actualize this responsibility at the diplomatic table and not just in the battlefield..."

--Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy in today's Yedioth on negotiations regarding Iran's nuclear program.

  • Israeli forces raid Abu Dis and attack al-Quds University, injuring 40 - Israeli forces shot 40 Palestinians including a large number of university students with rubber-coated steel bullets during a raid on a Palestinian village east of Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, while students were on their way to class. (Maan)
  • Israeli injured from stone-throwing - Israeli woman, 40, was lightly to moderately injured when a rock was thrown at her windshield near the settlement of Ofra. (Yedioth, p. 22)
  • Bolstered referendum law has MKs at each other's throats - Upgraded referendum law would make it harder for the government to cede land that has been annexed by Israel, including Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. (Right-wing MK) Yariv Levin: Such matters should be left to the people; that is how the EU decided on the euro. Arab MK Ahmed Tibi: "The Knesset has no legislative powers when it comes to occupied territory; this is arrogant behavior and it is void of relevance." (Israel Hayom)
  • Right-wing attacks Minister Peretz - Stormy reactions in right-wing following publication yesterday of Maariv story about book published in cooperation with Ministry of Environment that does not include Judea and Samaria. "The minister has no right to leave out a whole public or part of it from the map of activities of his ministry on the basis of his political views," said Likud Deputy Minister Ofir Ekunis, adding: "It's time the left-wing gets used to it: Judea and Samaria are part of Israel." (Maariv, p. 18/NRG Hebrew)
  • Hamas shows off tunnel-digging unit - Weeks after Israel demolishes tunnel network, Hamas reveals tunnel-excavation methods in Al-Jazeera report. (Haaretz+)
  • High Court to rule on administrative detainee held for over three years - Samar Albarak, who is suspected of being an Al-Qaida biological weapons expert, has been held in Israel since August 2010. (Haaretz)
  • Fearing party takeover, Likud wary of Lieberman’s return - A group of Likud activists wants to tweak the party's constitution in the foreign minister's favor; others propose strengthening Netanyahu's leadership. (Haaretz+)

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.

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