Not many postings in a week that marked the second anniversary of the start of Cast Lead, but there is much valuable material to mull over. Three major publications have just appeared or been announced for early in the new year: Breaking the Silence has released a new document, “Occupation of the Territories – Israeli Soldier Testimonies 2000-2010”; the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has released a new report on the situation in Gaza; and the publication of an edited collection “The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict” is due on 11 January 2010. In Israel itself the debate around the racist rabbis continues to reverberate. Paul Rogers provides an analysis of the dangerously different accounts of the conflict in the greater Middle East as seen on the street and in the media in the West and in the wider Arab and developing world. And Tony Karon reports for Time magazine of the Palestinians’ search for new forms of leverage in the conflict. For links to all this and more click on the heading above.
NB: Please note there will be limited postings over the next ten days, and no weekly summary at the end of next week. We wish all our readers of all religious persuasions and of none a happy new year for 2011.
Mondoweiss has published an adapted excerpt of the Editors’ Note from “The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict” to be published on 11 January 2010. The collection includes a substantial but abridged version of the Report itself and about a dozen wide-ranging essaysThis week we reproduce an adapted excerpt of the Editors’ Note from The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict to be published on 11 January 2010. The collection includes a substantial abridged version of the Report itself and about a dozen wide-ranging essays, critical and supportive. Contributors include Raji Sourani, Jules Lobel, Moshe Halberthal, Jerome Slater, congressman Brian Baird, Henry Siegman, Ali Abunimah, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Laila el-Haddad and more. It is awaited with anticipation…
An interesting report in Time magazine in which Tony Karon writes that “Israel is worried, according to press reports in the country, that the United States will not ‘rush to veto’ a planned U.N. Security Council resolution condemning ongoing Israeli settlement construction…” But whatever the outcome of this particular initiative, he argues, Palestinians are seeking new forms of leverage: “And that, combined with hardening Israeli positions, suggests that a winter of discontent awaits the Holy Land.”
The rabbis in Israel have stirred up a hornets’ nest and the question of what it is to be Israeli is firmly on the agenda. Israeli society is rapidly closing in on itself and voices that anywhere else in liberal democracies would be mainstream are becoming more an more dissident in Israel. But the naked malice and racism of the recent 300 rabbis’ statement has encouraged many to speak out and reflect, particularly in the pages of Ha’aretz and we reproduce four recent discussion pieces on the interrelated themes of what it is to be a Jew, and Israeli, a citizen and indeed a mensch…
In an article commissioned by the Jewish Socialists’ Group and just published in Jewish Socialist no 60, Diana Neslen describes why, in the wake of the Israeli military’s lethal attach on the Mavi Marmara, a group of Jewish activists took to the high seas on the 10-metre catamaran Irene. She writes of the activity of JfJfP and like-minded others: “We are symbolically acting for all the Jewish community in the hope that it will spur some to capture this moment and begin to turn towards humanity, towards justice and human rights, and against bigotry and human abuse. Only then will emancipation truly be accomplished.”
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has released a new report on the situation in Gaza. It provides a searing account of the ongoing situation in Gaza and a damning indictment of the international community for allowing it to continue.
Breaking the Silence has released a new publication, “Occupation of the Territories – Israeli Soldier Testimonies 2000-2010”, as part of the organization’s wider goal of increasing access to information on the daily reality in the Occupied Territories. The 431-page volume is made up of testimonies from 101 male and female soldiers who served in the Territories over the past decade. Joseph Dana of +972 provides a brief commentary on the publication and its significance.
Between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, over 1400 Palestinians were killed by Israel in a brutal and illegal attack on the Gaza Strip, destroying lives and infrastructure. Two years on, Gaza’s infrastructure has still not been repaired due to Israel’s blockade. Families are still living in tents. UN schools are unable to rebuild as Israel blocks concrete and building [...]
Paul Rogers, professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford, looks at what is “an era of war and conflict” in the greater middle east: Iraq with at least 120,000 civilian deaths and still deeply violent; an Israeli-Palestinian conflict remaining a source of anger and tension across the middle east; and ongoing war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He shows these conflicts are reported very differently to various audiences, with western sources tending to emphasise coalition successes, while channels such as al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya include an extended accounting of civilian casualties. Rogers argues how, “ based on an ineluctable reality”, civilian suffering is capable “of being made into a narrative of western aggression and injustice that linked the occupation of Iraq in particular to the interests of Israel and Zionism”; and how such considerations “can help to explain, if they cannot remotely justify, the actions or attempted [individual jihadist actions] actions in Stockholm, Portland, Baltimore and elsewhere.”
This week we offer more thoughts on the “peace” process. Gershon Baskin of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research hopes the US has actually plotted a new course for the process; Geoffrey Aronson of the bimonthly US e-publication Settlement Report rather doubts it; Uri Avnery predicts that the current euphoria in Israel cannot last, that Israel is heading for a fall; Israel’s premier military historian, Martin van Creveld thinks that the West Bank is entirely superfluous to Israel’s current security needs; and Mitchell Plitnick argues that, whatever ones personal view, the Palestinian right of return cannot “just be removed from the table before negotiations. It can and must be discussed.”
With regard to Israel itself, Palestinian firefighters coming to be honoured for their role in helping fight the Carmel fire, were turned back at the border. Jeremiah Haber writes about the debate initiated among religious Jews by the racist fatwa prohibiting the sale or letting of property to Palestinian Arabs – something that won’t upset the newly elected Kahanist “community administrator” Moshe Ben Zikri at Pisgat Ze’ev who actively wants to get rid of his Arabs… And the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) has issued a report highlighting the gender-specific impact that Israeli policies in East Jerusalem have on the lives of Palestinian women.
More broadly, Rachel Shabi examines the Israeli government’s demand that Palestinians recognise exiled Arab Jews as refugees; Ali Abunimah says Israel leaves us no choice but to boycott and, in the States Hillel regards Jewish Voice for Peace as beyond the pale. For links to all this and more click on the heading above.
Uri Avnery compares the euphoria in Israel today to that which followed the six-day war in 1967 – until 1973. Today, too, Israel is riding high in every way – economically, in terms of security and politically where “[t]he Israeli government rules Washington DC more firmly than ever”. But, he predicts, pride will have its fall. And, unlike in 1967, “[w]hen the inevitable crisis arrives, world public opinion will no longer be on our side. It will be on the side of the Palestinians.”
Martin van Creveld is Israel’s premier military historian, who takes a hard-nosed approach to war and defence. So his opinion that the West Bank is entirely superfluous to Israel’s current security needs is of more than passing interest…
Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, argues that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is “not an end in itself but a vehicle to get us down the road to a just peace built on equality for Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s policies, typified by the disingenuous diversions of [Deputy-Prime Minister] Ayalon, have left us with no other choice.”
Mitchell Plitnick argues that, whatever ones personal view, the Palestinian right of return cannot “just be removed from the table before negotiations. It can and must be discussed.” Meretz USA, on whose blog this appears, describes itself as a “a progressive Zionist organization dedicated to a durable and just peace between Israel and all its neighbors, especially the Palestinian people, based on a negotiated two-state solution… and to the realization of human and civil rights, equality and social justice for all of Israel’s inhabitants.”
Rachel Shabi examines the Israeli government’s demand that Palestinians recognise exiled Arab Jews as refugees. While recognizing that there are undoubtedly compensation claims to be made by Jews whose properties and possessions were impounded when they left some Arab countries Shabi argues that “to Israel, the experience of Jews from Arab lands exists only to be hijacked and hocked for cheap, political point-scoring…”
Richard Silverstein writes about Moshe Ben Zikri, recently elected “community adminstrator” for the neighborhood Pisgat Ze’ev (“It would be as if David Duke actually won that election when he ran for governor of Louisiana”). Zikri believes “there is an Arab ‘fire’ (yes, it appears the Carmel fire has become the reference du jour in the Israeli press) consuming Pisgat Ze’ev. His goal? To keep the neighborhood Jewish. That means, Arabs raus…”
As radicalism spreads among Jews on campus “chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace have been sprouting on campuses like mushrooms after the rain”. Local Hillels are sometimes sympathetic but the elders in Hillel’s community are having nothing of it… Jeremiah Haber comments.
Geoffrey Aronson, editor of FMEP’s bimonthly Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories, surveys “almost two years of energetic but stillborn diplomacy [in which] the Obama administration has been unable to make progress on ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state at peace with Israel. The president’s attempt to rein in settlement expansion and his effort to place settlements at the heart of a negotiated end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict have failed. As Obama surveys the future, he might recall Machiavelli’s wise counsel, “He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.”
Gershon Baskin of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information asks some hard questions about peace: “Has the US actually plotted a new course for the peace process, or was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Saban Forum speech simply rehashed merchandise, as some Palestinian Authority officials have stated? Is a return to proximity talks a retreat in the peace process? Is Israel’s refusal to again freeze all settlement building recognition that the two-state solution is no longer viable? Can a peace process get anywhere if the conflicting parties are not speaking to each other directly? …”
More and more people, including religious leaders, have come out against the fanatical rabbis’ fatwa calling on Israeli Jews not to let or sell property to Israeli Palestinians. But Jeremiah Haber is not happy with the assumptions that many of them make and is particularly critical of an advertisement sponsored by forty-two Jewish organizations that promote the study of Jewish religion in Israel, or are guided by it. Under the good title, “No to Racism in the Name of Judaism,” it sees the rabbinic manifesto as part of a struggle against humanistic values, and the love of humanity. But it goes on to call for love of resident strangers (“for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”) – in effect treating the Israeli Palestinians as resident aliens. Haber argues that “here in a nutshell we see the moral limitations of a Judaism informed by liberal statist Zionism”. Two more petitions against the rabbinical manifesto appeared shortly after, both originating from modern orthodox Jewish circles, one from Israel; the other from America. Haber comments on these as well.
And Lawrence Davidson in Tikkun Magazine finds the sentiment expressed by the rabbis’ ‘decree’ as “not unusual. It is, in fact, uncomfortably mainstream. This sort of discrimination is a structural part of the Israeli public and private practice…”