At a meeting yesterday with Israeli President Shimon Peres, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stepped in it a little bit when talking about the prospects for peace in the Mideast. "I think there is an opportunity. But for many reasons, it’s not on the tip of everybody’s tongue," he said. "People in Israel aren’t waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there’ll be peace, because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and a sense of prosperity."
This will of course remind of Karl Vick's 2010 Time article, "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace," at the outset of another stillborn Obama administration peace push. What did Israelis think of that effort? "They're otherwise engaged; they're making money; they're enjoying the rays of late summer," Vick wrote. What is "prosperity"—Kerry's term—if not banking some coin and enjoying some sunshine?
Vick's article got him labeled anti-Semitic by American Jewish groups. "The insidious subtext of Israeli Jews being obsessed with money echoes the age-old anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews care about money above any other interest, in this case achieving peace with the Palestinians," the Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman wrote to Time when Vick's story came out. It's difficult to see how that exact same rationale doesn't apply to Kerry's remarks. So can Kerry expect to come in for the same treatment? Probably: the Israeli news site Times of Israel was already baiting AIPAC for a response to Kerry's comments on Twitter.
I don’t usually recommend academic books to “the general public,” but I’ll make an exception in this case for American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society. Its author, Shaul Magid, is a specialist in Lurianic Kabbalah and Hasidism who has just happened to write one of the most important books on American Judaism written of late. A veteran contributor here at Open Zion and at Times of Israel, Magid has a keen eye on the politics of change and renewal as they impact Israel and the American Jewish community.
In a nutshell, Magid’s bold thesis is very simple. Its starting point is the old paradigm that defined the American Jewish scene for pretty much most of the 20th century. Once upon a time what defined American Judaism and American Jewish identity was an ethnic notion of Jewishness, based on a common notion of shared ethnic origins, purpose, and destiny. It was a secular model of Jewishness and Judaism, ethnicity being the common glue that held the Jews together as a people, regardless of what they thought about God and the mitzvoth that they either observed or did not observe. It was commonly understood by just about everyone—liberal Jews, Orthodox Jews, atheist Jews, left-wing Jews and right-wing Jews—that Judaism and Jewish culture were steeped in the group life of a people and its particularities.
Dan Gillerman (C), Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, speaks with Abraham H. Foxman (L), National Director Anti-Defamation League, Harold Tanner (2L), Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein (2R), Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents and the Rev. Paul A. Keenan (R) at a press conference. (Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images)
According to Magid, American Judaism today is “post-ethnic.” To be clear, the claim is not the more radical one made by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand that there is no such thing as a Jewish people or Jewish identity. Magid argues instead that the group life of a shared and common ethnic community no longer by itself constitutes the center of American Jewish life the way it once did. In a globalized world, even Jewish identities are trans-ethnic, trans-national, and multi-racial. “Multi-culturalism” and “pluralism” are not even the right words, if by that one means the sitting side by side of separate and discrete identities. It’s back to “the melting pot” because today these once separate identity formations fuse into each other down to the root.
"I want everything. I'm all in." That was the big quote out of American Secretary of State John Kerry's first day in Israel and Palestine. It wasn't about U.S. pressuring the parties to resume negotiations, the ever-present goal of Kerry's shuttle diplomacy. The quote was about a shwarma. Some garlic sauce, fresh and pickled veggies and maybe even some hots. It was nice that Kerry could have "everything" on his sandwich, because the peace process, so far, has been a big nothing-burger. But the trip has seen some accomplishments. Did I mention that after the shwarma, Kerry threw dental caution to the wind and stopped in across the street for some legendarily sugary Palestinian sweets? Between the two purchases, a couple of Palestinian shopkeepers probably just came into about 20 shekels, around five bucks worth of economic peace. Oh, and no deal was inked, but Kerry did manage to sign Israeli President Shimon Peres's guestbook.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of their meeting on May 23, 2013 in Jerusalem. (Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)
That his trip wouldn't go very well seemed clear from the weeks leading up to the visit, Kerry's fourth to Israel and the West Bank as Secretary of State. All you needed was to read the New York Times curtain-raiser on the trip: "Support for Kerry’s Mideast Peace Efforts on Eve of Visit." The headline is somewhat absurd: there isn't much in the way of support. An anonymous Israeli official told the Times's Isabel Kershner, “Are we there yet? I’m afraid not, but we might be very close"—and that's as supportive as things get. A Palestinian offical said the Israelis were balking at their conditions for talks, which include freezing settlements. The Palestinian official added, "I would prefer to say I am hopeful, even though I have nothing to base that hope on." Then Kershner helpfully reminds readers of Israel's recent announcement that construction of 300 new settlement homes would go forward.
There's no mention in the Times of the four "outpost" settlements—illegal under Israeli law—that Israel just koshered. Nor of the recent squabbles in the Israeli parliament between various members of the ruling coalition about whether the official position of their government supports the two-state solution. Nor that Israeli and Palestinian officials have recently been griping to the Israeli press about Kerry's full head of steam. That ingratitude's surprising, especially from the Israelis. Late last month, Kerry extracted concessions from the Arab League in their re-vamped Arab Peace Initiative offer; that development was met with evasiveness by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who's been silent on the matter. Last week, Kerry went at Israel's behest to prevail upon the Europeans to refrain from labeling products from West Bank settlements as such—with the delay justified by the prospects of resumed talks.
"I have treated thousands of Jews and tomorrow I could treat the mother of one of those who expelled me or I could save his brother."
--Dr. Aref Khirallah, an Israeli Arab doctor who was among those attacked by settlers during a fun day for Clalit HMO doctors.
- Settler runs over Nablus teenager - An Israeli settler ran over Marwan Zakaria Asaous, 14, from Burin, a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank district of Nablus, medics said Thursday. Marwan was seriously injured with fractures to his skull. (Maan)
- Jerusalem 'price taggers' damage Jewish, Arab cars - Most likely targeting Arabs, 'price tag' act hits segregated Jerusalem street, causing damage to both Arab, Jewish property. Local residents slam racist act: 'Whoever wanted to harm Arabs got confused, though we as neighbors don't advocate such segregation.' (Ynet)
- Israeli minister apologizes for accusing U.K. of 'disguised anti-Semitism' - Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz says comments to Telegraph newspaper - saying British perceptions of Israel were more negative than those of other Western or European countries - were taken out of context. (Haaretz)
- Gen. John Allen appointed U.S. security envoy in peace process - Former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan to formulate U.S. security policy in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. (Haaretz+)
- Kerry stops for shawarma after talks with Abbas in Ramallah - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wandered the streets of the central West Bank city of al-Bireh (near Ramallah) Thursday, ate shawarma and Palestinian sweets and drank Arabic coffee at a local restaurant following a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas. (Maan)
- Bill protecting IDF from slander passes first Knesset reading - New law will allow for defamation lawsuits to be filed against people or groups who slander the IDF, without having to go through the attorney-general, as is the case today. The bill aims to protect the IDF from libel by Israel detractors. (Israel Hayom)
- NYT: Israel assisting Syrian Druze - As civil war rages, Israeli sources tell paper IDF is providing humanitarian assistance to Druze on Syrian side of Golan Heights, engaging in intelligence gathering, but not arming. (Ynet)
- Jordan hands back border-hopping ultra-Orthodox family - Couple and their six children, barred by the courts from leaving Israel, crossed illegally into Hashemite kingdom en route to join Jewish cult in Canada. (Times of Israel)
President Obama’s challenge to the thousand Israeli students he addressed in Jerusalem was clear: “Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see.” The President, once a community organizer himself, understands the importance of grassroots momentum to change the status quo.
Secretary of State John Kerry has since made important progress towards reviving the two-state agenda: On the political front, the Israelis appear to have agreed to impose a settlement freeze of sorts, while the Palestinians have temporarily agreed not to pursue international legal actions against Israel. On the economic front, a private sector team of business leaders now stands ready to examine investment opportunities within the West Bank. And regionally, the Arab League has revived its 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, demonstrating that there is still Arab support for the idea of two states.
Thaer Ganaim/PPO via Getty
Yet, despite these promising developments, the Israeli and Palestinian publics are no closer to believing that peace is on its way.
The latest Pew polls report that 61 percent of Palestinians believe there is no way for an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully with Israel. Within Israel the figures are somewhat better—only 38 percent see no way to coexist—but the whole peace process was still virtually ignored in Israel’s last elections.
Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of History at Columbia University, is frustrated. For more than two decades, he has researched the Palestinian people and their cause. His book Palestinian Identity pointed to a distinct notion of “peoplehood” among those living in Palestine to the latter decades of the nineteenth century—around the same time as the emergence of Zionism—to put to rest the mythic notion that the Palestinians were not a people, an idea that was common parlance in Israel until the late 1970s (and is still used by some today). His book The Iron Cage explored the ways the British Mandate created conditions that made a Palestinian State almost impossible, and the way Palestinian leadership consistently abandoned their people in crucial moments for their own benefit. Brokers of Deceit is the third part of Khalidi’s trilogy, honing in on U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama to show that, in almost every administration, the U.S. was acting as Israel’s “lawyer” more than the honest broker it claimed to be, that it was involved in “conflict management” rather than conflict resolution.
President Harry S. Truman accepting a gift from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (seated) and Ambassador H.E. Abba Eban of Israel on May 8, 1951. (Abbie Rowe / Truman Library / National Park Service)
A solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict (the term itself is biased, as it excludes “the Palestinians”) was always founded on the notion that both sides needed a mediator and “honest broker” that could push them toward a final agreement. When U.S. presidents and legislators continually voice the idea that “there is no light between the U.S. and Israel,” Khalidi suggests we take them at their word; and that is precisely the problem. Although not mentioned in his book, in some way Brokers of Deceit is a critical response to John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt’s The Israel Lobby (2008), which argued the Israel lobby has disproportionate influence on U.S. policy against U.S. interests. Khalidi writes, "[I]t is not primarily the Israel lobby that drives U.S. Middle East policy.” Rather, it is the trifecta of “the total lack of pressure from the Arab Gulf monarchies; the impact of U.S. domestic politics driven by the Israel lobby; and an unconcern about Palestinian rights” that lies at the core of the U.S.’s deceitful claim to be an honest broker in favor of a just peace for the Palestinians, and by extension, a secure peace for the Israel. President Truman said in 1945, “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.” Khalidi implies this statement filters through every subsequent administration, suggesting U.S. policy is not driven by any overly influential lobby; it is U.S. self-interest that lies at the core of the “no light” dogma between the U.S. and Israel.
The book is divided into three moments: Menachem Begin and Palestinian autonomy in 1982, Madrid-Washington in 1991 to 1993, and Obama and Palestine in 2009 to 2012. In each moment, Khalidi claims, with small deviations of Carter toward the Palestinians and George W. Bush away from them, each administration basically took the same position; keeping Palestinians on the margins of all negotiations and keeping Israel at the center, fused at the hip to the U.S. Even at Camp David II (where Khalidi participated as a consultant), almost all U.S. positions were first vetted with the Israelis.
Last weekend, I read the Jerusalem Post’s patriotic celebration of this Knesset’s only Druze member, Hamad Amar. He belongs to right-wing Israeli political party Yisrael Beiteinu. That party’s name, translated into English, reads: “Israel, our home.” Attached as it is to a nationalist, right-wing party in Israel, the subtext of the name, at least in the ears of many, rings out as follows: “Israel is our home, the Jewish home; if you’re not willing to accept this basic fact, then get out!” Of course, the fact that the party has advocated for oaths of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish State only served to underscore this connotation of their name.
A Druze man and his children as they look at the nearby Syrian village of Jebata al-Khashabn on July 24, 2012 in the Golan Heights. (Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)
The presence of Hamad Amar on the slate of Yisrael Beiteinu complicates matters somewhat. Of course, Israel’s detractors can easily write this off as a cynical manipulation of the minority. Apartheid South Africa had black policemen (albeit of restricted rank) enforcing the apartheid laws. Ahmadinejad can call himself a friend of the Jews by hugging a rabbi or two from Neturei Karta at a Holocaust denial conference. And Yisrael Beiteinu can claim to have multicultural credentials with their Arab Druze MK. But we all know that the black policemen in South Africa took their jobs out of dire economic need and were pawns in a much bigger game; and their existence could in no way imply that the apartheid government had the consent of the black population—to argue otherwise would have been ludicrous, as ludicrous as Ahmadinejad claiming to be a philosemite on the basis that he draws the most despised fringe-minority of the Jewish world close to him.
The detractors of Israel will make the same claim about Hamad Amar. The fact that a nationalist Israeli party has on its slate a member from the Druze population, a population that is a fringe minority of the Arab world, a minority that have no national aspirations of their own, cannot be used as a smokescreen to obscure the persecution of Israeli Palestinians and Bedouins. If anything, it suggests that Israeli Arabs can only win acceptance when they give up on any national aspirations of their own. I think this critique would be unfair.
This week, the Israeli government released a report aimed at discrediting the story of a shooting death amid riots in the Gaza Strip in 2000 (yes: 13 years ago). In the incident, 12-year-old Muhammad Al-Dura was reportedly shot and killed by Israeli forces while cowering behind his father. The incident gained prominence after the French television channel France 2 ran a report showing footage of Al-Dura's apparent shooting. The young boy became a symbol of the Second Intifada. The new document from the Israeli government sought to undermine the original French report and the reporter who produced it, the French-Israeli journalist Charles Enderlin. The Israelis initially said its military's gunfire caused the death, but within weeks blamed Palestinian gunfire instead. By 2007, the Israeli government already declared the boy's death at Israel's hands a "myth." Now, a respected press advocacy organization is coming to Enderlin's defense in his battle with the Israel's Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy.
Yesterday, the press advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) took issue with the report and questioned the review's independence. “While the Israeli government has the right to respond publicly to a media report it regards as damaging, the nature and substance of this report are questionable and give the impression of a smear operation,” said Christophe Deloire, RSF's secretary-general. "Charles Enderlin has always said he would be ready to testify to a commission of enquiry in conditions that guaranteed impartiality and independence. These conditions were not respected, and Enderlin was not asked to testify." Enderlin said on Twitter that the Israeli committee did not attempt to question him, France 2, their cameraman in Gaza or Al-Dura's father. The Guardian reported that Enderlin and Al-Dura's father were willing to take polygraphs, and Al-Dura told Haaretz he would "do anything to reveal the truth, including opening my son’s grave."
Jamal al-Dura and his family (L), clean grave of their son Mohammed, in the central of Gaza Strip, on May 20, 2013. (Mohammed Abed/ AFP / Getty Images) French Israeli Charles Enderlin (R), journalist for France 2, poses on October 4, 2010 at his editor's offices in Paris. (Joel Saget / AFP / Getty Images)
Though it's only rekindled the controversy, the new Israeli report, by frequently relying on suggestion and innuendo, sought to put the issue to rest, even floating the notion that the affair was staged. Using the footage in the France 2 report and "rushes"—18 minutes of raw footage, though the report claims only 55 seconds of the recording were "ever released"—the Ministry claims variously that movements by the boy after he was reportedly shot, the size and location of blood stains and other factors show either that the al-Dura was either not injured as France 2 claims or not shot at all. Short on dispositive evidence, the report frequently uses the language of open speculation: parts of France 2's narrative are found to be "highly-doubtful" five times in the document; the movements of Al-Dura and his father were "inconsistent with what would be expected" after being wounded, the report said. In the case that Al-Dura his father were shot, "it appears significantly more likely that Palestinian gunmen were the source of the shots," added the report, concluding that Enderlin is responsible for "inspir(ing) terrorists and contribut(ing) significantly to the demonization of Israel and rise in anti-Semitism in Muslim countries and the West."
Is the devil you know better than the one you don’t?
For Israel, there's no clear answer. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected this week a report that Israel prefers President Bashar al-Assad over Islamic rebels as the ruler of Syria, this has not always been the case.
For the first year of the civil war, some Israeli defense officials privately claimed that Israel would be better off with Assad. The viewpoint stemmed from a tactical assessment of Israel’s borders and the fact that the Syrian front had been its quietest, even more than the so-called peaceful borders with Jordan and Egypt. Yes, Israel fought a major war with Syria in 1973, but since then, the line of demarcation had been peaceful.
Israeli infantry soldiers of the Golani prepare their Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) as they take part in exercises during their deployment in the Israeli annexed Golan Heights, near the border with Syria, on May 7, 2013. (Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty Images)
These officials also warned that the alternative to Assad would be a splintered country that could turn into Libya, or, even worse, into something of a Somalia.
Another reason for preferring Assad in those initial months of the uprising was that for intelligence services, it is easier to predict what a country will do by tracking a single clear hierarchical leadership. If that leadership falls and the country descends into chaos, tracking one’s enemy and predicting what they will do becomes extremely complex.
"In the Border Police, [murderer at the Beersheva bank, Itamar] Alon learned not just how to shoot but how to behave rudely, violently and to solve problems with weapons while receiving respect and glory for doing so."
--Haaretz's Gideon Levy looks at the string of Israelis who serve in Israel's Border Police and later feel they have license to act violently also outside of the Palestinian Territories.
- Be'er Sheva bank shooter dismissed from IDF post for attacking Palestinians, released from reserve duty - Friends, neighbors describe Itamar Alon as strange, surprised such a person had been an IDF officer. (Haaretz+)
- Man behind Israeli report on infamous killing of Mohammed al-Dura has right-wing ties - Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser previously worked for the Israel Law Center, which sought to prevent the reporter who broke the story from continuing to work in Israel. (Haaretz+)
- MKs: Permit (extremist Likud MK) Feiglin to enter the Temple Mount - 14 MKs from Likud and Habayit Hayehudi signed a petition calling on Netanyahu to cancel the prohibition on Feiglin. They claim: "Giving in to the demands of the Waqf hurts our sovereignty." (NRG Hebrew)
- Palestinians: IDF arrests men involved in Joseph's Tomb shooting - Sources say IDF arrests three members of Palestinian security forces, suspected of killing Limor Livnat's nephew; they were imprisoned by PA in past, released after year later. (Ynet)
- In wake of Netanyahu's bed debacle, state comptroller launches probe - A recent report revealed that PM spent $127,000 of taxpayer money on installing a 'resting chamber' on a flight to London for Margaret Thatcher's funeral; MKs requested the investigation. (Haaretz+ and Ynet)
- Germany backs terror label for Hezbollah - Britain launches bid to add Hezbollah to EU's list of terror groups after discussions on Burgas bombing; Germany says supports initiative. (Agencies, Ynet)
- U.S. House committee approves measure to back Israel in case of nuclear Iran attack - New sanctions package targeting Iranian oil exports affirms U.S. support for Israel's self defense if confronted by a nuclear Iran. (Agencies, Haaretz)
If anyone out there was still clinging to the notion that the Israeli government officially supports a two-state peace with the Palestinians, Barak Ravid’s account of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussion on Tuesday should be enough to shatter that illusion.
The discussion saw government coalition members vociferously challenging Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s assertion that Israel’s policy is one of “negotiations based on two national states which will bring an end to the conflict."
MK Orit Strock from Habayit Hayehudi cut Livni off. "Two states for two peoples is not the government's official position," she said. "It is not part of the government's guiding principles, and for good reason. This is perhaps Netanyahu's position and your position, but it has not been accepted as the government's position."
[…] "The government has not even decided that it supports two nations for two peoples," [Habayit Hayehudi MK Yoni] Chetboun told Livni.
MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) continued the thought, saying, "Two nations for two peoples is disconnected from reality."
Alexandra Boulat / VII
What’s disturbing about this is that these Knesset members are actually right: official commitment to the two-state solution isn’t in the coalition agreement, nor is it spelled out in the government’s ruling party’s platform (Likud-Beytenu didn’t bother to create one this past election cycle). And this isn’t the first time that omission has lent strength to Israeli politicians who oppose two states—not just in far-right, pro-annexationist Habayit Hayehudi, but in the Likud itself. Back in January, Likud MKs stated that their party does not support a two-state solution, Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar Ilan speech notwithstanding. As the Times of Israel reported:
The right-wing Israeli group NGO Monitor is very, very concerned with the possibility that some non-governmental groups that have received money from the U.S. government do work that stands in opposition to U.S. policies. So concerned, in fact, that NGO Monitor went and drafted a report about it and, this week, presented that report to the U.S. Congress. The report says, "In many cases, these NGO activities directly contradict American policies in support of peace efforts." In its recommendations, the report says that "potential recipients should be evaluated for consistency with U.S. policy." It should be noted that these NGO's targeted by NGO Monitor—which casts a wide array of activities as "anti-Israel"—don't necessarily use the U.S. government funding to work at cross purposes with the U.S. government, but rather engage in these activities outside those programs supposed by donor cash.
US pastor John Hagee speaks during a visit with Evangelical Christians to Ariel Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory on April 3, 2008. (Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images)
This all makes sense: it's completely reasonable for the U.S. government to take a careful look at groups that get benefits from it but work in direct opposition to its goals and policies. Here's one example you probably won't see NGO Monitor doing a report about:
As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.
A New York Times examination of public records in the United States and Israel identified at least 40 American groups that have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade.
A phenomenon is sweeping the Middle East. Arabs young and old are voting in record numbers—and this time it's not for the Muslim Brotherhood. Armed with nothing but their cellphones, they have set aside their differences and united to watch and vote for the next Arab Idol.
Palestinians watch as Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf from the Gaza Strip participates in the Arab Idol competition at a restaurant in Gaza City on April 26, 2013. (Mohammed Abed / AFP / Getty Images)
If Pan-Arabism died with Jamal Abdel Nasser, the Arab incarnation of the Idol franchise has officially resurrected it. Now in its second year, Arab Idol is a bizarro version of American Idol in its glory days, when Simon Cowell would berate Paula Abdul as she slurred and slumped in her chair. The Idol of days long gone by, that launched the careers of future megastars like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. I am a huge Arab Idol fan, not because I love cheesy covers of the Egyptian Songbook, but because it defies every single orientalist stereotype. The judges’ panel is made up of legendary Arab superstars from a variety of countries and faiths: proof that not all Arabs are Muslim. The two men and two women sit right next to each other on the panel and the audience is mixed too, because except for the lunatic fringe that is how we roll in the Middle East.
Ragheb Alama, the Lebanese Elvis who lived, plays the Simon role and anchors the judges’ table. Unlike Simon, he is a charming, masterful mentor and a singing legend. The two female judges, Nancy and Ahlam, look like the Real Housewives of the Middle East. They are Dolly Parton meets Cher. Loud and covered in diamonds, they are the antithesis of the oppressed Arab woman—the one that’s veiled in black—that the Western media fixates on. Nancy and Ahlam are scantily clad and forego the hijab, but it wouldn’t be an issue if they chose to wear one. Anything goes in the world of Arab Idol. Rounding out the panel is Egyptian Producer, Hassan El Shafei. He's the Randy Jackson of this crew, so there’s really not much else to say about him.
"What is worrying me is not a Palestinian state but the existence of the Jewish state. I am in doubt. Time is not on our side."
--Labor MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer at Knesset committee meeting which revealed how deep the divisions in the government are on the peace process.
- Settlers severely beat handicapped Palestinian boy near Hebron - Settlers from Maon outpost assaulted a 16-year-old handicapped boy in Yatta on Tuesday, leaving him bruised all over his body. He was taken to hospital for treatment. Last week, settlers from Maon torched two dunams of wheat fields in the south Hebron hills. (Maan)
- Clashes in Hebron as Israeli forces bodysearch Palestinian woman - Sundus al-Azza, 19, was called to be patted down by Israeli soldiers. Al-Azza demanded that a female soldier carry out the search, as is normal protocol, but the soldiers insisted on doing it themselves. The woman then shouted for help and locals in the area immediately rushed to her assistance. (Maan)
- Palestinian vehicle set on fire by settler Molotov cocktail near Beit El - Settlers from Beit El on Saturday evening threw a Molotov cocktail toward Palestinian passersby and vehicles on the Ramallah-Nablus road and near al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah. One car burned completely, but the driver was able to escape. (Maan)
- Israeli forces demolish 2 houses in East Jerusalem - Israeli forces forced the Shalan family to evacuate their homes early Tuesday before demolishing them. "The house was built 12 years ago on land that my parents bought a long time ago. We tried so many times to get a building permit but the Israeli courts kept refusing..." (Maan)
- Israel's defense minister defends al-Dura panel, calls second intifada incident 'a blood libel' - Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon says a French militant used the al-Dura affair to justify the killing of Jews, even though the special committee's report says otherwise. (Haaretz+)
- Gaza security forces to uphold 'standards of manliness' - Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip have been instructed to uphold standards of manliness. In April, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that Hamas had forced young men to get haircuts. (Maan)
- Israel hospitalizes hunger striker- Ayman Abu Daoud, 32, was transferred from Ramle prison clinic to the Haemek Medical Center in Afula. He has been on hunger strike since April 14. He was released in 2011 in the Shalit prisoner swap, but rearrested four months later and accused of violating his release terms by distributing financial allocations to persons affiliated with a political party. (Maan)
In a recent blog post, Rabbi Eric Yoffie set out to establish the kinds of “red lines” he thinks should govern the selection of speakers in synagogues, JCCs and Jewish Federations. On the correct side of the line, he argues, are those who support Israel’s existence as a “Jewish and democratic state.” On the wrong side are those who “promote hatred of other religious and ethnic groups” and those who promote BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel. Yoffie singles out well-known Islamophobe Pamela Geller as a purveyor of hate speech—hence she should be banned—and points to Peter Beinart and J Street representatives as examples of those whose views may be controversial in certain circles, but who, because of their support for Israel, should get the kosher seal.
I applaud Yoffie’s efforts to spur what is an important and increasingly urgent conversation, but I think there are some additional questions worth raising.
In this Sept. 11, 2012 photo, anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller, speaks at a conference she organized entitled; “Stop Islamization of America,” in New York. (David Karp / AP Photo )
On one hand is the question of how serious Yoffie is about excluding those whose actions undermine the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. I’m thinking of those who promote Israel’s addiction to occupation and are helping inch Israel forward towards West Bank apartheid, if it doesn’t already exist. This could include, say, the Israeli prime minster, various cabinet ministers, and many members of Knesset. It would also include various North American Jewish leaders, including some pulpit rabbis, no doubt, who maintain a second home in Israel, if that home is in a West Bank settlement.
On the other hand is the sticky question of BDS. Yoffie doesn’t directly mention “selective” BDS—meaning boycotting products strictly from West Bank settlements—a move that has seen increasing support from within liberal Zionist circles, including from Peter Beinart (who calls it “Zionist BDS”), Peace Now and various Israeli literary and cultural figures. As a liberal Zionist who wishes to see Israel maintain itself as a Jewish and democratic state, I have also written publicly about my own support for such a stance.
Yaakov Katz on what the delivery of advanced Russian missiles would mean for Israel.