Israel was created, expanded and is sustained by military force. It is not democracy Israelis admire but the IDF. It is the one firm and protective father for whom Israelis yearn – and whose cruelties and errors they pretend not to notice. Yossi Sarid on Israel’s cult of the soldier-hero.
As cynicism about politics grows, the chances of government by an engaged, well-informed citizenry, shrinks. Into the space pours big money. There are few more powerful users of money to get the political result he wants than American Sheldon Adelson, especially in another people’s country, Israel. Not that Israel does not have its own money corrupters. Ehud Olmert for one.
Palestine has the longest history of Christianity in the world. It has survived the Crusades (Christian in name, W. European in fact), Saladin’s counter-invasion and capture of Palestine, the Ottoman empire and the creation of the excluding Jewish state of Israel. Their form of Christianity has been Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox giving them less in common with Protestant evangelicals than with Jews. They have turned to liberation theology as the richest combination of faith and political protest.
There was a leftist Jewish story of the creation of Israel – that American/UN support for the new state would liberate Palestine by driving out British imperialism. The debate on John Judis’s book about Truman’s role in making Israel is vitriolic – but some take up his question of why Jews, known for their liberalism, should so utterly have dismissed the Palestinians. Zionism or tribalism?
Netanyahu prevaricates and redraws his red lines (even the NY Times thinks pushing for ‘the Jewish state’ recognition is a step too far); Abbas is pressed by demands he cannot meet and keep the people on side, Kerry is run off his feet what with the Syria and now Ukraine crises to deal with as well. Obama wants these talks to go ahead. He cannot make them happen.
The major religions of the world welcome converts and entrants with open arms. What a cause of celebration that someone has been persuaded that your religion is for them! Except for Judaism whose authorities make joining the ranks an arduous and excluding process. Attempts to ease it (all those Russian immigrants) are being blocked. Who would Jews be if we did not exclude?
In report after report legal, medical and welfare bodies have picked out the terrorising treatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli military. The Four Corners programme of the Australian Broadcasting Commission went to find out and came back with a report, broadcast in February , which provoked a furore. Here its truth is attested to by Breaking the Silence and the reporter, who is attacked by Conservatives & Jewish establishment.
The existence of Palestinians is ignored in Israeli school books. Either all reference to them is excised or they are merged into the body of Arabs who are wicked thieves just waiting to rush in and seize the land. For Palestinian children who want to study science, following the Israeli curriculum may be their only hope of getting a professional qualification at the expense of knowing their own history. It’s occupation of our minds says a parent.
Students for Justice in Palestine are springing up in many American universities. They put on demonstrations of the Wall and military checkpoints, and join the movement for BDS. Enraged, the Jewish establishment is doing what it can to shut down or silence these activists. A handful of billionaires and the Israeli government fund re-education projects, professional advocates and legal cases – with little return on their investment.
In the latest of David Shulman’s illuminating reports, Ta’ayush volunteers try to engage in discussion the settlers and soldiers who are driving the Palestinian herders away. These men know nothing of international – or national – law; they live by the word of God (their unique interpretation) and of their commanding officer. In their ignorance of law, the soldiers terrify the shepherds by threatening to shoot them if they don’t go.
Israel is an anachronism. By the time the newly-entitled Jewish immigrants had worked out how to run their new state- a Law of Return and a Citizenship law – to ensure Jewish privilege, settler colonialism was being abandoned elsewhere as unworkable and unjust. In her highly-praised new history Shira Robinson argues that these laws perpetuate Jews’ settler status – it’s what gives them their privileges. Philip Weiss interviews her.
Tony Benn was the most English of men. His involvement in foreign politics was an extension of his domestic politics – a fervour for true democracy and against the silencing of injustice. In 2009 as Operation Cast Lead came to its gruesome end the Disasters Emergency Committee ran an appeal, as it does, for those whose lives had been shattered. The BBC management uniquely decided not to run it. In an interview on the BBC, Benn twice reads out the address for the appeal, making clear his outrage at the BBC decision. We salute him.
It’s not obvious why the UK Prime Minister went to Israel to address the Knesset – it was half empty due to the opposition boycott (not of him, but abuse of their own process.) Cameron delivered the ritual reprimand about settlements but the rest was a long schmooze – nation state of the Jewish people…absolute opposition to BDS…best of loyal friends…He was silent on the policies of his own Foreign Office and of the EU. Did anyone care?
The decades-old enthusiasm of American evangelicals for Israel and the Jews is fulsome – in the old meaning of the word, i.e. full of flattery insincerely meant. For what are Jews to such Jesus-lovers but a means to Christian End Times? Apart from that, younger evangelicals, venturing outside their parents’ hot-house, think they should hear both sides of the argument, especially as Israeli Christians are all Arabs. Bibi is fulsome in his embrace of Christians – but only if they are of the right, Israel-worshipping sort.
An angry Uri Misgav writes in Haaretz about ‘why I no longer want to live in the most racist state in the free world.’ The state has developed a racist hierarchy of groups. The rankings and exclusions are ‘like the Nuremberg Laws, only in reverse’. For Jews who do not wish to be claimed as members by The Jewish State, One Democracy has launched a petition to make this public.
There are places – Afghanistan, Palestine – where NGOs appear to have taken over the functions of the state and the people – NGOisation as Islah Jad memorably named the phenomenon. It can also seem to usurp national popular movements for change. Here, Fateh Azzam argues that NGOs and popular movements in Palestine should not be seen as two alternative models or realities. A really important discussion.
At the annual Israel-US love-in, the AIPAC conference, speakers politely refrain from uttering a critical word about Israel’s policies, preferring to reassure Americans, Israelis, that the country’s security is Americans ‘first concern’ (Kerry). Bibi has no restraint, delighting his audience with a no-holds-barred attack on BDS supporters as antisemites, bigots and in the tradition of those who used the blood libel. Robert Cohen and Ali Abuminah comment.
President Obama has given this interview to Jeffrey Goldberg knowing it will show Americans and Israelis that he takes Middle East peace very seriously, that he and the Israeli PM have sharply different assessments of the players and factors, especially in Iran and Palestine, and that such are the changing times Netanyahu must act to break the stalemate – and only he can do that.
The crisis between Russia and Ukraine has provoked much talk of antisemitism. But whether or not antisemitism is thought to be a factor splits along left/right lines. Thus Jewish agencies who are usually quick to cry ‘antisemitism’ dismiss the charge, while leftists, who remember the eager collaboration of Ukraine with the Nazis see antisemitism as a key to the conflict. Is this just a Jew-centric view of history or is antisemitism a live force in Ukraine?
The number of housing starts in West Bank settlements was at a ten-year high in 2013. As far as the Israeli government was concerned it, and the PA, had agreed to peace talks so it had nothing to lose. An Al Jazeera article points out that the buildings that are flung up in the West Bank – cheap because of subsidy and mass construction – are largely occupied by Mizrahi Jews who cannot find a place, socially or economically, in Israel itself.