When Netanyahu lost the election after his first premiership, crowds exulted. It had been a ‘total catastrophe’. Now he has perfected his salesman’s patter (different products for home and US audiences) and displayed his affinity with the far right, today’s Israel can’t get enough of him. Uri Avnery looks at how Netanyahu became what he is. Or perhaps isn’t.
Mahmoud Abbas has chosen now to write a succinct Op-Ed on why now is the time. For Palestinians it’s now because of the referral to the International Criminal Court. By enclosing the Palestinian demand for statehood tightly within a framework of international law he hopes, at the least, to wrong-foot those who oppose the demand. Gershon Baskin comments on Abbas’ argument. He believes that disputed issues can be resolved, if the negotiations are conducted in secret.
When it comes to elections in ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ Israel is more like Africa than like any of its European parents. Analysis of results showed that it is not a melting-pot nor indeed that Jews have more in common with each other than with any other. Most voted on tribal lines, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi. The latter two make up more than half of Israel’s population and the left in particular lost out because of its contempt for the greater religiosity and tribal adherence of the poor under-classes.
Arthur Goodman, JfJfP’s diplomatic liaison officer, grew up as a conventional, Israel right-Arabs wrong, Jew. Then came the startling and courageous rebellion of the 1st intifada and the re-telling of Israel’s story by Israel’s new historians. After that, it was JfJfP and his work as an incessant campaigning diplomat in the EU and parliament.
This is a fascinating article from 1967 extolling the role of the UK in supporting the establishment and development of Israel and the need for British Jews (most of whom did not want to move to Israel) to support their brethren who did. Palestinians and the ’67 occupation are not mentioned. It is such a different world, when all events took place in the context of the Cold War and the UK still fancied itself as a Great Power.
Regardless of how much land it seizes, how many Palestinians it imprisons, settlements it builds, international laws it breaks – there are no costs for Israel, hence its drift towards extremism. Whatever Palestinians do to assert and protect themselves, Israel will punish them and tensions will rise. This, says Ghassan Khatib, is inevitable. Only outside pressure might have an effect.
Declarations of deadly intent towards, and from, each other constitutes the public relationship of Iran and Israel. In this latest round, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi is reported by Israeli TV (so far no other news publication has bothered to translate it) to have said yet again that Israel will disappear from the map though whether through its own inherent instability or military force is unclear. Nonetheless PM Netanyahu has lapped it up eagerly as proof that the nuclear talks with Iran should not be happening. Self-publicising Shmuley Boteach uses the speech to liken those in talks with Iran to Chamberlain appeasing Hitler, momentarily forgetting that the mouthy Brig. Gen runs a volunteer militia, not a country. And is pro-Palestinian Saudi Arabia, bombing Iranian allies in Yemen, now Israel’s friend?
In a quick overview of Jews in Britain Tablet magazine harangues the left for pushing policies against the existence of Israel. In fact, Labour is true to the Balfour declaration (see post) which specified that ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious’ rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country’. Those who appeal to the Balfour declaration appear not to have read it. To criticise the idealised Israel is not to wish for its extermination. Obviously.
Here there is a long jeremiad by Jeffrey Goldberg convincing himself that European Jews are all doomed and had better move to Israel (where more Jews were killed in 2014 than in all Europe). He squeezes a few facts to get the juicy points he wants and ignores the rest. He never mentions the history of French colonialism in N. Africa which left a strong legacy of Arab hostility to the French state. Antony Lerman delivers a sharp, and informed, rebuke.
Only the Palestinian people, who are politically impotent, have a profound interest in ending the rift between Fatah and Hamas. To the Israelis in particular, and most other actors, the rift is a Godsend. As long as Fatah and Hamas are at war, they need do nothing. Here Daoud Kuttab gives his usual intelligent strategic ideas of the way forward for the PA. In the same issue of Al Monitor is an account of the bitter rivalry with Hamas, where the military wing has gained the upper hand. The Ramallah leaders are not the innocent victim of this – if they had authorised elections, movement might have taken place.
The designation Salafist (eg at Charlie Hebdo) has come to mean a particularly ruthless form of violence against the West – and fellow Muslims. As in all fundamentalist groups, the greatest enemies are brothers who become heretics not Israel or the West. Several people explore the phenomenon.
Anshel Pfeffer welcomes the place the holocaust has gained in common knowledge. But the corollary of its being publicised as a human tragedy is that it has become a phenomenon that Jews can no longer hug to themselves as their own peculiar history.
Nothing excuses mass – or individual – killings in the name of Islam, and this post is not intended to. But as regular readers know, the most provocative acts carried out in Israel are the acts of Jewish youth – ‘price-tag graffiti’ and desecration of mosques. In the USA, the usual killers of young white people are other young white people. What ideology is to blame? And, says Gideon Levy, it was not a Muslim who sent him a chilling (and pompous) death threat.
The dwindling of the ‘Israel right or wrong’ position that was once dominant in the US has received much comment in recent years. Ben White charts the shift by examining a variety of opinion polls discovering that human rights is a greater concern than Israel’s security.
Political thinker Michael Walzer and Fathom editor Alan Johnson discuss The Jewish Political Tradition – an exploration of the political ideas of Jews, excluded from government, scattered throughout European ghettoes.
‘Clean Break’ was a report addressed to new PM Netanyahu 1996 by a group of policy wonks – academics and ‘opinion formers’ on how to rejuvenate Israel’s economy and take control of the region. There is no academic objectivity in it. It is a blueprint for Israeli supremacy – justified by romantic mythology about The Jews.
This is an article from The Nation in 2002 about the hard-line groups organising for a more hawkish US foreign policy – and their ascent to power. Their enemies were Russia and all Arab states. It’s of more than historical interest as those policies became embedded in the US’s political institutions.
The Jews who were the first citizens of Israel were choosing a civic identity. They hoped to leave behind religious separatism for a state where their Jewishness was not an issue. The embrace of the Basic Law, says Kai Bird, is an attack on secular equality in Israel and outside it.
Or rather, the particular form of Zionism that faithfully followed US foreign policy from the 1960s was an aberration for progressive Jews in the US argue two writers from JVP; now the young generation can’t accept that their politics makes an exception of Israel.
For Jews in Europe and the USA, Israel no longer stands as either the sacred and redemptive destination or the only safe homeland. Outside Israel, argues Alan Wolfe, Jews can better continue their tradition as bearers of universal values and enlightened religion.