Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Einstein On Zionism

Found these two quotes in the book " Einstein Before Israel

Seems not much has changed re the JNF at least. Does the JNF represent all of Zionism? No. Does it represent a dominant trend? Sadly, yes.

And a bit later, this one.

H/T to Eric

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Tale of Two Videos

This video has all of Israel in a tizzy. A seven year old girl harassed by ultra-Orthodox men. Even Bibi Netanyahu claims to be shocked, and has ordered the police "to enforce the law."

(You can see the same video with English subtitle at 972mag.)

* * *

And this video has raised almost no fuss. Thousands of Palestinians experience this daily, on their way to work, to shop, or to visit friends and relatives in another town or neighbourhood. It been going on for years.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Watch What He Does, Not What He Says

Politicians are slippery beasts, and Bibi Netanyahu is a politician.

The headlines - especially those for foreign consumption - say that Bibi is planning to crack down on Jewish extremists in light of there recent attack on an Israli army base. (See "Israel to crack down on Jewish extremists after attacks" in The Star .) But - at the same time - Bibi is planning to legalize most of the illegal outposts - even those built on private Arab-owned lands. (See "Israel ministers to weigh bill meant to legalize West Bank outposts" in Haartez .) And, this is of course, is the very thing that the Jewish extremists have been rioting about. It is because of settlers worries that the government might actually enforce the law and remove some illegal settlements that they have been burning mosques and attacking army bases. So while Bibi says he will crack down on them in the future, for the present he is acquiescing to their demands.

When dealing with shysters, con artists and politicians it is best to watch what they do, not what they say.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More on the Gingrich-Adelson Connection

The photo above is the front page of Sheldon Adelson's Israeli daily, Yisrael Hayom.

Since it looks like Newt will become the Republican nominee by default (everyone else seems unacceptable to the Republican base), and therefore has a reasonable chance of becoming the next U.S. President (God help us all!) - his close ties with and huge support from Sheldon Adelson becomes even more significant.

Read more about it at Tikun Olam and the Forward.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Israel Culture Wars:
Is The Glass Half Full, Or Half Empty?

Two diametrically opposed views of Israeli domestic politics and society appeared by "left wing" commentators this week. One says all is lost, the other says that the barbarians have been stopped at the gates.

Writing for the doom and gloom side, is Gideon Levy in Haaretz:
Anyone who says this is a matter of a few inconsequential laws is leading others astray; anyone who claims a reversible procedure is being deceptive; anyone who states reassuringly that this is a passing phase is trying to put one over. Even the person who thinks it's just an attempt at regime change is under a delusion. What we are witnessing is w-a-r.

This fall a culture war, no less, broke out in Israel, and it is being waged on many more, and deeper, fronts than are apparent. It is not only the government, as important as that is, that hangs in the balance, but also the very character of the state. ...
The ferocious combined assault is highly effective. It targets women, Arabs, leftists, foreigners, the press, the judicial system, human rights organizations and anyone standing in the way of the cultural revolution. ...

There is no single guiding hand mixing this boiling, poisonous potion; many hands stir the revolution, but they all have something in common: the aspiration to a different Israel, one that is not Western, not open, not free and not secular. ...

You can't see the forest for the trees, and the forest is dark and deep. Take, for example, Friday's paper. The news pages of Haaretz reported on a few such rotten trees: the managers of dozens of businesses in Sderot have begun requiring their workers to dress modestly; in Mea She'arim, the polling places are gender-segregated; nonobservant Jews in Jerusalem have been asked to wear a kippa at work; Carmiel's Palmach School has been turned into a religious school; discrimination against Sephardic girls at schools in Jerusalem, Modi'in Ilit, Betar Ilit and Bnei Brak; withdrawal from a physicians' training program for Palestinians as a condition for tax relief; the government's new plan to fight illegal immigration. And one final touch: The foreign minister gave his imprimatur to the Putinist election in Russia. All in a single day, one ordinary day.

... The right has been in power for a long time now, but it lacked the self-confidence to launch this crucial assault. But now, in its 35th year in government, in the 64th year of the state, it has turned to the task of reshaping the country's character and faces almost no opposition.

We'll meet again in a few years, in that other Israel, that will be different and distorted beyond recognition.
In the other corner, arguing for the "don't worry be happy" position, is Larry Defner writing in 972.
In all the (well-placed) wailing over the totalitarian legislation being pushed in the Knesset by the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu, the good guys don’t seem to have noticed that all their wailing has had a tremendous effect. I’m almost afraid to say it, but the Left, ... seems to have turned the tide against the neo-fascists.

The latest and possibly most decisive evidence was reported today: Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein wrote Netanyahu a letter saying that if the Knesset legislation aimed at stifling left-wing NGOs becomes law, he won’t defend the bills against challenges in the Supreme Court because they’re indefensible from top to bottom.
“They deal a harsh blow to a long list of constitutional rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to equality,” Weinstein wrote. ...

Not a lot of air in that statement. I don’t see where MKs Ophir Akunis, Fania Kirschenbaum, Ze’ev Elkin, Yariv Levin, Danny Danon and their henchmen can go now in their campaign, which seeks to shut off foreign government funding to B’Tselem, Adalah, Breaking the Silence and all the other Israeli NGOs that expose abuses of Palestinians.

Before this, Netanyahu was obliged to freeze the two bills Weinstein referred to. ... Netanyahu also pulled back the worst of all this wrecking-ball legislation – Levin’s bill that would give the Knesset ultimate power to appoint Supreme Court justices, God help us.

Between the anti-Supreme Court bills, the anti-NGO bills and the anti-media bill, together with the spectacle of women being forced to ride in the back of Israeli buses and facing walk-outs by Orthodox Jews when they dare to sing, there’s a vivid sense that Israel’s democracy is being shredded. And the backlash has been fierce – from Israeli civil society, media, academe, Knesset opposition, the “Likud princes” (Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin and cabinet ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin) and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish. It spread overseas to the foreign media, U.S. and European ambassadors to Israel, American Jewish bigwigs Abraham Foxman, Jeffrey Goldberg and Martin Peretz, and finally to Hillary Clinton. ...

The great putsch is faltering in the face of opposition, to the opponents’ surprise.

What lessons can be drawn? That there are limits to what a country that purports to be democratic, that values its ties to the West, can do.

... Smile, comrades; it seems like we’re actually winning one.

Not living in Israel, its hard to know if the glass is half full or half empty, but experience tells me, sadly, that you won't often go wrong re Israel by predicting the less progressive outcome. And one thing at least is for sure, the amount of beer in the glass is not at a state of equilibrium. A battle is indeed a-raging, and the winner is yet to be determined.

Follow The Money

At last night's Republican debates, Newt Gingrich repeated and defended his assertion that the Palestinians are an "invented people", who do not deserve a state of their own. As such he has staked out a controversial position that is to the right of the official Israeli government position. While this may be good politics, in that it appeals to the evangelical Christian Zionist's who are the heart of the Republican Party in Iowa, and to Jewish Republican's in Florida - both states being key early tests in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination - it seems this is not the whole story.

Turns out that one of Newt's largest financial backers is none other than the "richest Jew in America"*, Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is also a primary financial backer of Bibi Netanyahu, and his wholly owned Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom is fawningly pro Netanyahu. It is also the number one Israeli daily measured by average weekday circulation.

In 2010, Adelson donated $1,000,000 to Gingrich's American Solutions institute.

For the record, none of the other Republican candidates had the guts to refute Newt's claim, though several said it was undiplomatic and unwise to say so out load.

- - -
* Adelson got this title in 2008 when he was also the 3rd richest person in America, coming in just after after Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. But the real estate collapse has hurt the casino mogul's ranking and as of Sept 2011 he is ranked "only" as the 8th richest person in American, in a virtual tie with George Soros. Adelson's net worth is estimated at 21.5 billion.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Real Reason So Many Republicans HATE Obama

This image must drive those crackers crazy!

(To get the full effect, click on the picture to see it full size.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Noam Chomsky is 83 today. "Ad meah v'esrim" and Happy Birthday!

BTW, did you know that the worlds largest garden gnome is named "Gnome Chomsky". Read all about it, and its illustrious namesake here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Peter Beinart Strikes Again!

I don't know how Peter Beinart does it! He seems to be the only seriously dissenting voice on Israel that gets an audience inside the halls of the North American Jewish establishment. Heck, the Jewish community even paid to make and distribute the video above.

Here are some of the money quotes from Beinart's session at the recent General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America:

I guess the question that comes to my mind… is how you are defining Israeli… The Palestinians of the West Bank have been under Israeli sovereignty since 1967. So to my mind that makes them, whether we like it or not, till we have a Palestinian state, Israelis. There is only one state that has sovereignty and dominion over their lives.. They’re not Israeli citizens, but Israel is the state that controls much of their lives. ...

Believe me I want to defeat Israel's delegitimization as much as anyone in this room. I want Israel to remain a Jewish state for my children and grandchildren... At the core of Israel’s legitimacy is the fact that it was founded as a democratic and Jewish state….and delegitimization of Israel will rise in direct proportion to the degree that people believe that Israel is no longer living up to its own founding principles. If Israel can become again a country that offers citizenship to everyone in its borders, irrespective of race, religion, sex annd ethnicity, it will not need PR firms. Because although there will still be hard core anti-Semites and lunatics out there, pro Israel people will be able to go into any room and debate anyone and win. Because democracy is the language of our time, the lingua franca of our time… even in the Arab world. [If the occupation is permanent] and Israel becomes in some fundamental way not a democratic state, you can get 100 PR firms and you will gradually lose that debate and more and more empower those people who believe that the creation of a Jewish state was a mistake to begin with. ...

When I say Israel, I mean all the territory under Israeli domain. Some parts of which I wish were not under Israeli sovereignty. That is Israel. The people there might not be Israeli citizens, but that’s Israel. We have to take ownership of the fact that until a Palestinian state is created, that’s Israel…
Sadly this kind of thing still cannot be said by most people at most Jewish institutions.

You can read a fuller commentary and analysis at Mondoweiss, or just watch the full video above

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Democrats Winning Strategy - Frankly!

Congressman Barney Frank has always been frank. And now that he has announced he is retiring, even more so. You gotta love this clip above, part of his response when asked how the Democrats can win in 2012. (Sorry about the ad at the start; couldn't figure out how to get rid of it. Just hum loudly till its over.)