Newsletter 03 Oct 2008
The Independent Jewish Voices book “A Time to Speak Out” is published on Monday. It really is worth reading and the special offer made in the last mailing is still available.
“The Middle East Quartet: A Progress Report”, a joint report by 21 leading aid agencies, was published on 25 September. It warns that ‘key areas the Quartet committed to improving remain unchanged or have deteriorated since the Annapolis Conference last November, when the group launched its major bid for peace in the Middle East’.
It is eight years since the Israeli police shot dead 13 citizens of Israel – who happened to be Palestinian; eight years in which justice has been denied. Adalah, the Legal centre for Arab Minority Rights has produced a timeline entitled ‘October 2000 Killings and the Struggle for Accountability’.
There was an attempt to assassinate Israeli historian and left-wing Zionist Ze’ev Sternhell, it is assumed by right-wing settler fanatics. Almost universally condemned, it has nonetheless provoked widespread reflection on what has become of Israel and the Zionist dream.
A few days later the officer heading Central Command, General Gadi Shamni, who is responsible for the entire West Bank ‘leveled harsh criticism against extremist West Bank settlers who have attacked Palestinians and IDF soldiers in recent weeks’.
Olmert’s abject failure in office is highlighted even more forcefully by an interview he has just given: ‘Israel would have to withdraw from East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights if it was serious about making peace with the Palestinians and Syria.’
The previous newsletter reported on issues of antisemitism and the concept of the self-hating Jew. The debate has continued and some additional links are included below.
1. A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity
(eds Anne Karpf, Brian Klug, Jacqueline Rose and Barbara Rosenbaum)
The book is really good! It contains a large number of extremely interesting and unusual essays, combining personal and political approaches to a wide range of themes connected with Israel, Zionism and what it means to be Jewish today.
REMINDER: we are selling the book at the reduced price of £8.75, post free, of which around £3 will be given to a good Israeli cause, such as the new Shministim (school-leaver) Refuseniks, or Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.
Send your cheque, payable to JfJfP to: JfJfP, P O Box 46081, London W9 2ZF.
2. “The Middle East Quartet: A Progress Report”
A new report was released on the eve of a crucial meeting of the Quartet members in New York to discuss the future of the Middle East peace process. The coalition of 21 aid agencies and human rights organisations – including CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Oxfam International, Save the Children UK and World Vision Jerusalem – warns that key areas the Quartet committed to improving remain unchanged or have deteriorated since the Annapolis Conference last November, when the group launched its major bid for peace in the Middle East:
* Settlements: The Quartet has failed to hold the Israeli authorities to account for the continued expansion of illegal settlements…
* Access and Movement: The Quartet has had negligible impact in their stated goal of improving Palestinians’ ability to move freely in their own territory, to work, reach their schools or access basic services and to import and export goods…
* Gaza: Despite the cessation of violence in Gaza… 80% of Gaza’s population remains wholly or partially dependent on aid and stalled emergency relief projects have yet to be resumed.
David Mepham, Director of Policy, Save the Children UK said: “Today’s study shows that the Quartet has fundamentally failed to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground…
Report downloadable here.
3. Justice Denied: The October 2000 Killings and the Struggle for Accountability
It is eight years since the Israeli police shot dead 13 citizens of Israel, between 1st and 8th October – citizens who happened to be Palestinian. These are eight years in which justice has been denied. Adalah, the Legal centre for Arab Minority Rights has produced a timeline entitled ‘October 2000 Killings and the Struggle for Accountability’.
Here are some extracts:
18 October 2000- Adalah wrote to the Attorney General demanding that he order Mahash (The Ministry of Justice’s Police Investigation Unit) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the killings of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel during the protest demonstrations of October 2000.
1 September 2003- The Or Commission published its report, recommending that Mahash open an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the 13 Arab citizens. The Or Commission determined that the opening of fire in all of the death cases was carried out by police officers and that the opening of fire was illegal.
18 September 2005- Mahash delivered its report and decision announcing that there would be no indictments of any police officers or commanders.
May 2008 – Prof. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions criticized the Attorney General’s decision in the October 2000 killings cases in his report to the UN Human Rights Council. The UN Special Rapporteur concluded that the decision not to issue indictments “would appear to fall short of the international standards.”
4. Attempted assassination of Israeli historian and left-wing Zionist, Prof Ze’ev Sternhell
(a) The Magnes Zionist’s headline to his blog on the topic captures it well: ‘The Attempted Assassination of Professor Sternhell – So Why am I Not Surprised?
He writes: ‘The pipe-bomb that was set to kill Prof. Zeev Sternhell, Israel prize winner and authority on fascism in Europe and in Israel, was most likely set by a rightwing terrorist. That is simply because in Israel there are no leftwing terrorists. Not only does all the Jewish terrorism come from the right, so too all the hate mail, the threatening letters, the physical violence. When was the last time one of the Hebron settlers was awaken in the middle of the night by an angry leftwinger? When was the last time a rightwinger was struck or harrassed by a leftwinger?
He goes on to reflect on ‘why actual acts of terrorism, not to mention harrassment, threatening letters, eggs thrown, etc., is virtually the exclusive territory of the rightwingers.’
(b) Uri Avnery makes this the topic of his 27 September essay “It Can Happen Here!”
‘THE GERMAN name Sternhell means bright as the stars. The name fits: the positions of Professor Ze’ev Sternhell indeed stand out sharply against the darkness of the sky. He warns against Israeli fascism. This week, Israeli fascists laid a pipe-bomb at the entrance of his apartment and he was lightly injured…
[T]heir main purpose is to influence public opinion. That is the main battlefield, and there the man of letters has an important part to play.
On this battlefield, two visions confront each other, two visions that are as far apart as the West is from the East. On the one side: An enlightened Israel, modern, secular, liberal and democratic, living in peace and partnership with Palestine as an integral part of the region. On the other side: a fanatical Israel, religious, fascist, cut off from the region and civilized humanity, a people that “dwells alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers, 23:9), where “the sword will devour for ever” (2 Samuel 2:26).
Ze’ev Sternhell is one of the outstanding guides of the enlightened vision. His positions are bright as the stars, resolute and incisive. Not a surprising target for the Neo-Nazi pipe-dreamers and pipe-bombers.’
(c) And Ha’aretz carried the powerful ‘I Accuse’ by Prof Carlo Strenger, philosopher and psychoanalyst, lecturer in the psychology department of Tel Aviv University:
‘I accuse those Jews, inside Israel and outside, who run websites that track “dangerous left-wing intellectuals” in Israel. They call people like Zeev Sternhell “anti-Semitic,” “self-hating Jews” and “enemies of Israel.”
‘I accuse those in the Israeli right who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to those among them who say that the law does not apply to them; to the settlers who break Israeli and international law and moral values on a daily basis, who harass Palestinians, beat them and sometimes murder them. The right-wing establishment is forgiving toward them. “Aren’t they idealists? Don’t they do what they do because of lofty ideals, because of the holiness of the Land of Israel?”
‘I accuse not only those who performed religious rituals condemning Yitzhak Rabin to death; not only those who carried posters of Rabin clad in SS uniform at demonstrations. I also accuse those who created the atmosphere that allowed for it, continued to speak at the demonstrations, and after Rabin was killed said they hadn’t seen the posters…
(d) And finally, Prof Sternhell himself speaks out in an interview with Akiva Eldar (Haaretz 29 September). In response to the question: ‘Will you use the bombing to increase your influence?’ Sternhell replied:
‘My job is to criticize. I have no intention of returning to politics. I’m glad my injury shocked the cabinet and Knesset. But what remains of [prime minister Yitzhak] Rabin’s murder, which caused a much greater shock? A one-day annual festival.
‘ The politicians must declare war on the extreme right and occupation – that’s the swamp where those mosquitoes breed. Otherwise they won’t even be a footnote in history.’
5. IDF West Bank commander: Rightist violence encouraged by settler leaders
Under this heading Amos Harel reports in Haaretz (2 October) that:
‘Israel Defense Forces GOC Central Command Major General Gadi Shamni has leveled harsh criticism against extremist West Bank settlers who have attacked Palestinians and IDF soldiers in recent weeks.
In an interview with Haaretz over the Rosh Hashanah holiday, Shamni said the radical behavior among rightists has grown in light of encouragement they receive from the settler leadership, rabbis and public. As the officer heading Central Command, Shamni is responsible for the entire West Bank.’
See also A schizophrenic state by Aluf Benn
6. Olmert: Israel must quit East Jerusalem and Golan
In an interview with the daily Yediot Aharonot, Ehud Olmert said:
‘Israel would have to withdraw from East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights if it was serious about making peace with the Palestinians and Syria…
“Ariel Sharon spoke about painful costs and refused to elaborate,” Olmert told the daily. “I say, we have no choice but to elaborate. In the end of the day, we will have to withdraw from the most decisive areas of the territories. In exchange for the same territories left in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the State of Israel.”
See report in Ha’aretz (1st October).
7. Is the call for an academic boycott of Israel antisemitic?
Under this heading we reported last time on the debate between Martin Shaw and David Hirsh and also between Norman Geras and Martin Shaw. Geras returned to the fray with a further contribution.
And Shaw responded.
We also quoted from Antony Lerman’s article in the Jewish Quarterly ‘Jewish Self-Hatred: Myth or Reality’ which was unfortunately not available on line. It is now.