Friday, October 29, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Gaza War Crimes Revisited
Remember the Goldstone Report. Remember how it was reviled as "anti-semitic" for its highlighting probable Israeli war crimes in Gaza, and for demanding that Israel instigate credible and independent criminal investigations of these allegations or face the International Criminal Court.
In Defense of the Two State Solution
Amira Haas quotes former PLO Ambassador Afif Safieh new book "The Peace Process - from Breakthrough to Breakdown":
"Besides my doubts about the feasibility of this proposal (one state ), I have serious reservations about its desirability. A fanaticized Israeli Jewish community is hardly a partner one would seek with relish as co-citizens. The disparity between both societies...makes the one state formula a mechanism for the perpetuation of the domination of one community by the other."This makes sense to me. Not to mention the visceral pride that the nation state can bring. Even Canadians are not immune to the thrill of having the flag flying and the national anthem playing at the Olympics. Why should the Palestinians be denied that pride?
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Not By Might Nor By Power, But By Spirit ...
A chilling article in Haaretz makes it clear that the continued Israeli occupation and the continued - and increasing - racism against Arabs within Israel proper - is not only an ethical problem but a strategic and possibly existential problem as well.
The conclusion to be drawn from this is not the necessity of a preemptive strike. Necessity lies elsewhere. Israel, which is being pulled into a racist, antidemocratic identity, is not "only" an ethical tragedy. Such a racist entity isolates itself, makes itself illegitimate in a way that deprives it of its capabilities of both deterrence and self-defense.
All paths to reducing the danger of the apocalyptic-messianic scenario require Israel to end the diplomatic isolation to which its racist policy sentences it and to become a welcome, legitimate member of the global community.
It is the same for the strategic umbrella from the West, with Israel's inclusion in NATO - which is conditional on the signing of a regional peace agreement a la the 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative. And also for any last-minute attempt to foil the Iranian nuclear program, whether by a dangerous Israeli military gamble, by an action that will bolster regime change or by more aggressive action by the West.
All this gives the moral imperative, necessary to Israel's very existence, of a change in policy - dismantling the religious autonomy threatening to swallow Israel; returning to the post-War of Independence borders and ensuring the Declaration of Independence's promise of "complete equality of rights irrespective of religion, race or sex" - the force of an existential imperative.
The crude swipes taken at this imperative show that the racist and fascist winds blowing in Israel have reached the stage where they even allow themselves to violate the survival instinct. ...
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Cup Still Half Full. But For How Long?
At Least 25% of Israeli Jews Can Objectively be Considered Fascist
A shocking new poll published by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Achronot shows how far and how fast the mood among Israeli Jews has shifted towards outright fascism.
36% of Israeli Jews wish to revoke the voting rights of non-Jews;
55% support abrogating the right to free speech during times of "political difficulties;" [And when in recent memory has Israel not been in "political difficulties"?]
57% support banning all demonstration during times of "military operations;"
25% would support transferring all power to a dictator during times of war. [And let's remember that Israel has been in legal state of war since its creation in 1948, and in an active shooting war, with one party or another, for much of the past decade.]
Monday, October 11, 2010
Loyalty Oath Is About Hatred Of Liberal Values
This appeared in Haaretz. It is worth spreading far and wide, which is why I am reproducing it in full. It's truth is self evident to anyone who follows Israeli politics closely, but it is not often stated so clearly.
There is nothing left to say about how bad, harmful and useless the new citizenship law is: Labor Party Minister Isaac Herzog has warned that it is another step towards fascism; legal experts like Mordechai Kremnitzer have pointed out that it doesn’t serve any identifiable purpose except making Arabs feeling even less at home in Israel. Likud Ministers Benny Begin and Dan Meridor have pointed out how harmful the law is for the relation with Israeli Arabs and for Israel’s standing in the world.
Both Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu have already declared that they see this law as just a first step in a general attempt towards ensuring loyalty to the state by legislation. The time has come to ask what really stands behind this rising tide. The obvious answer seems to be that it is directed against both Israel’s Arab citizenry, whom Avigdor Lieberman is alienating and insulting almost every day, and Palestinians who want to gain Israeli citizenship.
But I think that this is not the whole story. Consider this strangest of alliances between Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas; one is a completely secular, ultra-nationalist, the other an ultra-Orthodox party. What do they have in common? Why are they lately so effectively cooperate with each other, together with other extreme-right parties?
I believe that what unites them is less a fear of Israel’s enemies (and Israel does have enemies). It is a visceral hatred for the Western values and the liberal ethos. They all hate freedom; they all hate the idea of critical, open discourse, in which ideas are discussed according to their merit. They keep criticizing what they see as the liberal bias of the media and academia, and they have made sustained attempts to curtail freedom of speech at the universities.
Lieberman’s disdain for these ideas breaks through at every possible moment: lately he has insulted French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, telling them they should take care of their own problems in Europe before they come to advise Israel. This has been typical of him for a long time: Lieberman thinks that Israel should turn east; that it should no longer define itself as a Western country, and should finally shake off Israel’s original commitment to be part of the Western world.
Shas has made clear for decades that it just plays along with democracy; that it doesn’t believe in the idea of citizens thinking critically: they believe that only their spiritual leader, Ovadia Yossef, must determine what is right and what is wrong. Other ultra-rightists have been feeling for a long time that the commitment to universal values is undermining their program for the greater Israel in which Palestinians should have no political rights.
They cannot stand the idea that a liberal democracy should be based on rational legislation and is open to criticism by all. They are furious that tribal loyalty is not above criticism. Just lately, national religious rabbis have claimed that studying at universities is a danger for young religious people, because they internalize too many enlightenment values.
We are really talking about a right-wing anti-liberal coalition united by an instinctive hatred against the idea that there are universal standards of rationality and of morality. They do not want to hear criticism of their worldviews that relies on ideas that have, for a long time, been common to the free world. What we are seeing is a fight about Israel’s cultural and political identity.
It may be frightening, but it’s time to realize where we live. Isaac Herzog is wrong when he says that fascism lurks at the fringes of Israeli society. It is now in the mainstream. After all, even the majority of Likud ministers have voted for the shameful new citizenship law amendment.
Israel is now facing a fateful question: will it remain a liberal democracy, or is it on the way to becoming a totalitarian ethnocracy? This is not a rhetorical question. Democracies do not turn into autocratic regimes from one day to the next; it mostly happens step by step. The ugly wave of anti-liberal legislation we are witnessing shows that Israel has embarked on a slippery slope; and we cannot know where it will end. The day may well come when Lieberman and Yishai will argue that critical articles about the government are disloyal to the state, and must be forbidden; and the day may come where the repeated attempts to shut off academics who do not show sufficient “loyalty” will succeed, and they will be fired or jailed.
It is a truly terrible tragedy: we Jews have suffered throughout history from repressive, authoritarian regimes that accused Jews of not being sufficiently German, French, Russian or Spanish. We Jews have experienced the blessing of the enlightenment ideals that allow Jews around the world to live dignified lives and participate in liberal democracies. And the Jewish state is about to gradually erase these values, enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
The likes of Eli Yishai and Lieberman cannot possibly be influenced by arguments like this. After all, they hate Enlightenment values and the principles of liberal democracy. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom I disagree in many respects, is, at heart, a believer in classical liberalism. He must ask himself whether he can live with the fact that, for the sake of political short-term gain, he is harming Israel’s democracy irretrievably.
And Isaac Herzog must understand that giving interviews saying that fascism is becoming a danger in no way absolves him from the responsibility of being a member of the government that is gradually burying Israel’s democracy.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Check It Out
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Israeli Loyalty Oath Set To Pass
The Israeli cabinet recently approved a controversial right wing proposal to have new Israeli citizens swear loyalty to "Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."
Friday, October 01, 2010
This Is Happenning In Jerusalem - "The Eternal Capital of the Jewish People"
What's shocking about this story is not that it happened (sadly it is all too common in Gaza or the West Bank), but where it happened.
This happened in Jerusalem - "The Eternal Capital of the Jewish People." In an area within Israel "proper" (at least according to Israel), subject to Israeli law (not military law), and whose victims are legal residents of Israel (with legal papers to prove it) and some of whom are Israeli citizens (residents of East Jerusalem were automatically given Israeli residency status after Israel's 1967 annexation; they were also given the right to apply for, and easily receive, Israeli citizenship, though only some availed themselves of this right.)
Read the full story on the Tikun Olam site (and follow the links for more background on the "Silwan Riot", itself caused by the killing of an Arab resident by a Jewish security guard), but here is an excerpt. It gives you an idea of how even Israeli Arabs (as opposed to "occupied Arabs") are treated.
Recently, I was on the ground and witnessed soldiers urinating and defecating on the roofs of private Palestinian homes, throwing bottles (water and beer) on to Palestinians pedestrians on the street and breaking windows left and right. From the ground [live] I tweeted:
“Soldiers are trashing roof tops with urine and feces in Silwan. We are cleaning up and putting the waste in front of the settler house”
“The police have no shame at all. They have broken a window now and poked their heads into the house demanding coffee”
“They are also throwing bottles from roofs on to the main streets.”
By way of a thought experiment, imagine the L.A. police acting this way during and after a riot in a black neighborhood. How would America have reacted - even in the 60's? And how has Israel reacted? Despite widespread reporting of these incidents in the Israeli media, the police defend themselves, the government takes no action, and the public is indifferent.