Newsletter 23 Sep 2008
Summary of reading
1. By the narrowest of margins Tsipi Livni defeated her rival and darling of the military, Shaul Mofaz, in internal party elelctions to become leader of Kadima. It’s nice to know that the only thing separating us from an Israel led by a war criminal – according to highly respected Prof David Kretzmer who has recently called for Mofaz’s indictment – was 432 votes
2. B’tselem has just published a comprehensive report ‘Access Denied: Israeli measures to deny Palestinians access to land around settlements’.
3. The latest Middle East Report is called Waiting: the Politics of Time in the Middle East: ‘To go on everyday errands, let alone to achieve their national aspirations, Palestinians are forced to wait and wait and wait, to the point that life in the occupied territories is literally slowing down.’
4. As a new wave of Refuseniks hits Israel’s military, with the new intake of school-leavers into the army, a criminal investigation has been launched against New Profile – an organization that stands for the ‘civil-isation’ of Israeli society.
5. In yet another restrained yet devastating report, the World Bank indicts Israel for strangling Palestinian economic development.
6. Yet another Palestinian woman was forced to give birth at a checkpoint – to a baby that was stillborn. After an outcry, the officer responsible was sentenced 14 day.
7. Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, founder of the Palestinian-Jewish Listening Circle in Boulder, laments the gap between her understanding of Judaism and the realities of the occupation.
8. Yet again, the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza is highlighted as human-rights activists are denied permits to leave Gaza to attend a respected International Human Rights Conference.
9. Finally, there have recently been an interesting debate on the issue of antisemitism, where Martin Shaw engages with David Hirsh in the online magazine Demokratiya and, in a follow-up, with Norman Geras of Normblog. And, relatedly, Tony Lerman writes about the concept of Jewish self-hatred.
1. Tsipi Livni will lead Kadima into the next Israeli elections in 2010
It is hard to know what Livni’s victory portends, but Uri Avnery comments on it, astutely as ever:
‘Years ago, the Revisionists used to tell this joke: rewarding David Ben-Gurion for founding the state, God promised to grant him one wish. Ben-Gurion asked that every Israeli should be honest, wise and a Labor Party member. “That’s too much even for me to grant,” God replied, “but every Israeli can choose two of the three.” So a Labor member can be wise but not honest, a Labor member can be honest but not wise, and somebody who is wise and honest cannot be a Labor member.
Something like this is now happening to the Revisionists themselves. They ask for three things: a Jewish State, a state that encompasses all of historic Palestine and a democratic state. That is too much even for God. So a Revisionist must choose two of the three: a Jewish and democratic state in only a part of the country, a Jewish state in all the country that will not be democratic, or a democratic state in all the country that will not be Jewish. This dilemma has not changed over the last 41 years.’
See ‘Fly Tsipora, fly‘
And on Prof Kretzmer’s call for Olmert to be indicted see the Independent (8 September) which reports:
‘David Kretzmer, emeritus professor of international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says that accounts of the briefing by Mr Mofaz give rise “to a grave suspicion” that he “committed serious offences, some of which at least, fall into the category of war crimes”.’
2. B’tselem report: ‘Access Denied: Israeli measures to deny Palestinians access to land around settlements’
In a new, comprehensive report B’tselem states that: ‘For years, Israeli authorities have both barred Palestinian access to rings of land surrounding settlements, and have not acted to eliminate settlers’ piratical closing of lands adjacent to settlements and blocking of Palestinian access to them. Blocking access is one of the many ways used to expand settlements. In recent years, Israel has institutionalized the closing of such lands in an attempt to retroactively sanction the unauthorized placement of barriers far from the houses at the edge of the settlements.’
3. Waiting: the Politics of Time in the Middle East
Middle East Report 248, Fall 2008:
‘Walls. Checkpoints. Long lines in the hot sun. To go on everyday errands, let alone to achieve their national aspirations, Palestinians are forced to wait and wait and wait, to the point that life in the occupied territories is literally slowing down. Meanwhile, bypass roads and the like are speeding up the lives of Israeli settlers. The fall 2008 issue of Middle East Report, “Waiting: The Politics of Time in Palestine,” ticks off the ways in which time itself has become a dimension of differential power.’
Some of the essays in the Report are available on line.
4. Web site for IDF draft dodgers faces criminal probe
Amos Harel reports in Ha’aretz (15 September 2008):
‘Attorney General Menachem Mazuz recently ordered the police to open a criminal investigation against the New Profile organization – the first time a criminal probe has ever been launched against a group that encourages draft dodging.
The probe, launched in response to a request from the Israel Defense Forces, constitutes an intensification of the army’s war on draft dodging. It was prompted by concern over the growing extent of this phenomenon. Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit asked Mazuz to order the probe in February, and earlier this month, Mazuz acceded to his request.’
And see the related report (30 July) where ‘Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday Israel must return to the days when draft dodgers were publicly scorned as carrying “the mark of Cain.”‘
Real Mazali, an active member of ‘New Profile’ comments in relation to the Harel article in the 16 September Jewish Peace News mailing (unfortunately not available yet online):
‘Ratcheting up their campaign against so-called “shirkers”, Israeli authorities have declared a new front in their “war” – as it is termed by the news item below – on Israeli youth.
Growing numbers of young men and women currently find themselves unable or unwilling to accept or trust the worn Israeli dictate: “There’s no other choice”. Four generations and over six decades of repeated, unending “military solutions” have engendered an expanding movement of young people who experience and express excruciating inner struggles and rifts in face of the legal duty to serve. Despite the attempt of state courts, both military and civilian, to compartmentalize such processes as either ‘political’, (very rarely) ‘conscientious’, or ‘psychological’, these internal conflicts are both emotional and ideological, combining views, feelings, convictions, ideas, beliefs, questions, personality, life experience and sense-of-self. For some young people, they also involve highly dangerous levels of personal distress and indeed, in recent years, suicide has claimed the lives of more Israeli soldiers than all other causes-of-death combined.
Rather than listening to the voice raised by these future citizens, rather than fathoming the social change it reflects and responding with changed, innovative policies, Israel’s state institutions have chosen to wage a “war” against these youths and the developments they represent. Criminalizing the movement, state authorities will now attempt to seek out illegalities in open and legal resistance work, a move characteristic of a militarized state abusing its power in a bid to keep in place an old, cracking order.
You can subscribe to Jewish Peace News at http://www.jewishpeacenews.net/
5. Israeli restrictions undermine Palestinian economy: World Bank (AFP, 17 September)
In yet another restrained yet devastating report, the World Bank indicts Israel for strangling Palestinian economic development.
‘Burdened by Israeli restrictions that paralyse the economy of the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestinians have become more and more reliant on outside assistance, the World Bank said on Wednesday.
“As the Palestinian economy declines, it is becoming increasingly dependent on foreign aid,” the bank said in a report on economic prospects in Palestinian territories…
It pointed out that official poverty rates of 51.8 percent in Gaza and 19.1 percent in the West Bank soar to 79.4 percent and 45.7 percent respectively if remittances and food aid are excluded and the rates are based on household income only…
“With due regard to Israel’s security concerns, there is consensus on the paralytic effect of the current physical obstacles placed on the Palestinian economy.”
The network of Israeli barriers and checkpoints that riddle the West Bank and partition it from the Gaza Strip, Israel and the rest of the world are only some of the restrictions imposed by Israel, the bank said.
“In reality, these restrictions go beyond concrete and earth-mounds, and extend to a system of physical, institutional and administrative restrictions that form an impermeable barrier against the realisation of Palestinian economic potential,” the bank said.
6. Birth and death at a roadblock – impunity reigns
Abu Reeda was refused permission to cross the Huwara checkpoint outside Nablus to take his wife, in labour, through to the hospital. The baby was stillborn and the wife in critical condition.
‘After the issue was exposed by the media, an Israeli military spokesperson said that the officer in charge was sentenced to 14 DAYS imprisonment . He was also moved to a different battalion.’
It’s not the first time. The Palestine Medical Relief Society reported in July – when discussing the case of – that 76 Palestinian women had now had to give birth at the checkpoints with the deaths of 24 pregnant women during childbirth, and 27 babies.
The Magnes Zionist covered the story on 18 September, remarking: ‘I remember when this sort of thing was big news. Now, it doesn’t even make the Israeli papers.’ He reproduces the B’tselem report on the case.
See the report by Doha Alwazany, September 14, 2008 on IMEMC at ; and the PMRS figures, cited on 28 July.
7. The Jewish state of irony (18 September)
Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, founder of the Palestinian-Jewish Listening Circle in Boulder, Colorado writes:
‘Last week I was stopped in my tracks by a letter from Mira. The four-story apartment building next door to her home in East Jerusalem, home to seven families in the Beit Hanina neighbourhood, was demolished before her eyes. Mira described watching border police, ambulances, fire trucks and police cars close off her street and surround Abu Eisheh’s house. They pulled out neighbours by force, beating those who refused to move and taking them to the hospital…
Coming from a family of Holocaust survivors, I understand Israel’s desperate need for security. Yet I chafe at the incongruity of these images of occupation, and at the confusion that places Jewish security above many of the ethics that our ancestors struggled with their lives to uphold. I believe that the right to a secure and sovereign Jewish state is clear and must be unquestioned. But the means by which that security is achieved must not fly in the face of our noblest Jewish tenets.
When I travel to Hebron and hear that stones are handed out in the settlement store before the Sabbath so Israeli settlers can throw them at Palestinian children as they exit their school on Saturday; as I sit with my Palestinian friends, Hani and Rema, and watch their children play in an enlarged metal cage that protects them against settlers’ attacks; as I look out the window of the home of my Christian friends in Bethlehem and see yet another hectacre of their olive orchards appropriated to the settlement on the hill-I have only one response. Choking with grief, all I can manage to utter is: I am so sorry. Please believe me, this is not Judaism!
8. Yet again, human-rights activists in Gaza has been denied permits to leave Gaza to attend an International Human Rights Conference.
‘Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza city, was this week denied a permit by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to leave the Gaza Strip in order to address a major human rights conference in Brussels, Belgium. The conference, hosted by Diakonia, a prominent Swedish Development organisation, was attended by more than sixty Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights lawyers, legal experts and advocates. It focused on ‘Making Monitoring Work: Enforcing International Law in Europe.’
Raji Sourani was invited to Brussels to present a keynote speech on universal jurisdiction at the Diakonia conference. However, despite interventions by the French and Belgium Governments, his permit was denied by IOF on 12 September, the day he was scheduled to travel to Brussels.
In addition to Raji Sourani being denied a permit to leave Gaza by IOF, Iyad Nasser, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza, and Issam Younis, Director of Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, were both also denied permits to attend the Diakonia conference. Shawan Jabarin, Director of the Al Haq human rights centre in Ramallah on the West Bank, was also denied a permit to travel to the Brussels conference.
Information from the PCHR 21 September 2008 mailing
Diakonia, by the way, provides an immensely readable and informative Easy Guide to International Humanitarian Law in the Occupied Territories (oPt)
9. Is the call for an academic boycott of Israel antisemitic?
There has just been an interesting debate on the issue of antisemitism, where Martin Shaw engages with David Hirsh in the online magazine Demokratiya and, in a follow-up with Norman Geras of Normblog. And, relatedly, Tony Lerman written about the concept of Jewish self-hatred.
It’s not easy to sum it all up briefly. Martin Shaw, like David Hirsh is an advisory editor of the online journal Demokratiya. The issue the exchange hinges around is not whether an academic boycott of Israel is advised – both writers are against it – but whether it is antisemitic. Hirsh restates the arguments long since rehearsed on the Engage website. Shaw dissents. Norman Geras, disappointed at the exchange (‘The two of them give us a general tour of the issues in a way unlikely to enlighten anyone unless they are quite new to the debate.’) weighs in against Shaw on what he believes are firmer grounds, to which Shaw provides a robust response.
In an article in Jewish Quarterly ‘Jewish Self-Hatred: Myth or Reality’ Antony Lerman questions the very concept of Jewish self-hatred:
‘The concept of the self-hating Jew strengthens a narrow, ethnocentric view of the Jewish people. It exerts a monopoly over patriotism. It promotes a definition of Jewish identity which relies on the notion of an external enemy, and how much more dangerous when that enemy is a fifth column within the group. It plays on real fears of antisemitism and at the same time exaggerates the problem by claiming that critical Jews are ‘infected’ by it too. And it posits an essentialist notion of Jewish identity.’
This article in unfortunately not available on the web; but a shorter, more recent piece by Lerman is. [Now it is – here]. In ‘Jews Attacking Jews‘, (Ha’aretz 12 September) Leman writes that in the past ‘We Jews knew who the enemy was. Since Jews do not cause anti-Semitism, we fought those who peddled theories of the world Jewish conspiracy, Holocaust denial, blood libels. Except at the very margins, we didn’t fight Jews.
How things have changed. Today, bitter arguments rage about what constitutes anti-Semitism. When Jew-hatred is identified, it’s mostly in the form of what many call the “new anti-Semitism” – essentially, anti-Zionism. Others (this writer included) fundamentally dispute that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are synonymous.’
If you are up for it, you can read the continuation of the Shaw-Hirsh discussion on the Engage website (93 comments to date).