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JfJfP comments


06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011



What’s the difference between Florida and Israel?

This posting has these items on Israel at 66 and its journey from ‘safe haven’ to settler-colonialism in the name of ‘the Jewish state’.

1) Jewish traditions picture caption on the safe homeland Jews have created in Florida;
2) Al Monitor: Israel, at 66, losing its creative national spirit, Akiva Eldar on Israel’s path not taken – the one which would have led to recognition of a Palestinian state;
3) Jewish Press: Defining Israel as the Jewish State, the idea, says Yitzhak Klein, is to protect the zionist project from the law which judges apply;
4) Haaretz: On Israel’s 66th Independence Day, an urgent question for liberal Jews, a strong clear article from Rebecca Steinfeld insisting liberal Jews face up to Israel’s entrenched settler colonialism;
5) Huff Post: As Israel Turns 66, a Shifting Focus for the Jewish State, a surprising contribution from Abe Foxman of the right-wing Anti-Defamation League – Israel should turn from being a security state to a welfare state (of sorts);

The vast (by UK standards) shop in Jewish Florida for buying Jewish tradition (yes you can). “Jewish Gifts started in 1991 with a humble 10 x 10 booth at the Festival Flea Market Mall….The store flourished—and not just because of the heavy tourist traffic or Traditions’ huge assortment of Jewish gifts. Though a customer may walk in for a mezuzah pendant or a silver-plated menorah, they’d find themselves lingering to share memories or swap stories with Louise. The engraved rings reminded them of their own wedding day; the Torah gifts, of their own bar mitzvahs. It wasn’t a store built only on sales. It was a store built on traditions.”

Florida, like New York – and many other cities outside Israel, is a home of both authentic and ersatz ‘Jewish traditions’. Added bonus at no extra charge: human rights generally observed – pace Trayvon “Trey” Martin, 17, shot dead by a passing vigilante. But there was a trial and an outcry. How many deaths of Palestinian youngsters, killed by Israeli police, soldiers, settlers, receive international media coverage?

Israel, at 66, losing its creative national spirit

Once a young, creative and peace-aspiring country, Israel is missing the spirit that animated its founders.

By Akiva Eldar, trans. Ruti Sinai, Israel Pulse /Al Monitor
May 05, 2014

The first 66 years in the life of a state are a period of mentoring and adaptation, of putting down roots and of growth. Not so in Israel’s case. Few states, if any, have reaped a comparable harvest of accomplishments in the first seven decades of their existence. A state born on the morrow of the Holocaust, on a land poor in resources but saturated with the blood of its fighters, became in an instant fertile soil for new Hebrew creation, for a flourishing industry and a burgeoning scientific hothouse. The security threat that kept hovering over the young state, as well as the economic, social and cultural challenges, turned it into a vibrant, creative, ambitious entity.

The Middle East arms race, Palestinian terror and Arab refusal to make peace sucked up the best of the state’s human resources. Defense considerations and the politics of fear left no room for diplomatic initiative and the politics of hope. For most of its first 40 years, the Western world — with the United States at its head — stood unquestioningly at Israel’s side. In the first 20 years after its conquest of the territories, Israel was the darling of the international community and, of course, of the Jewish communities around the world. The settlement enterprise was considered in those years an integral part of the “startup,” dubbed in Orwellian parlance “enlightened occupation.”

Since the first intifada, which broke out at the end of 1987 and was accompanied a year later by the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, the roles keep reversing. Israel started showing early signs of weariness and complacency, and the Palestinians took the initiative and started displaying creativity. From a terror organization with which contact was banned by Israeli and US law, the PLO turned into a recognized ruling party whose diplomatic representatives are scattered around dozens of world capitals. The UN repeatedly condemns the construction in the settlements, and more and more states and organizations around the world are joining the boycott of settlement products. The Palestinian signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993 brought about a split of Israeli society and division among the Jewish communities in the West. The member states of the Arab League and of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are adhering to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and providing the Palestinians with total backing to proceed, guided by the beacon of this plan.

In 2006 The Financial Times named Akiva Eldar, above, among the world’s most influential commentators. Eldar was a chief political columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz for 35 years.

The last diplomatic initiative with which Israel has been credited in the arena of the conflict was its unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005. Since then, Israel excels at imposing punishments and making threats in response to Palestinian initiatives. In November 2012, 138 states voted in favor of Palestine’s acceptance by the UN as a nonmember observer state. Besides Israel, only the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau voted against the resolution, which grants Palestine a status similar to that of the Vatican. In addition to its symbolic significance, the move strengthened the Palestinians’ international standing and their demand for an end to the occupation. And what did Israel do? It berated the world for failing to demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, it continued to expand the settlements and display helplessness in dealing with violent settlers who perpetrate acts of terror known as “price tag.” Despite it all, the Palestinians insisted on staying at the negotiating table, showed restraint and rubbed their hands in glee at the international community’s growing criticism of Israel.

The expected failure of the initiative by US Secretary of State John Kerry found Israel once again with no alternative diplomatic plan. While Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni dashed from one television studio to another in a pathetic attempt to excuse her continued participation in the right-wing government, the Palestinian Authority (PA) joined a series of international treaties. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was working hard to keep his coalition whole, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was taking advantage of Hamas’ weakness to establish a unity government. The reconciliation agreement was designed to refute claims by those opposed to the recognition of a Palestinian state that the PA does not control significant portions of.

An exhaustive opinion written in 2012 by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies regarding the issues raised by the Palestinian application to the UN stresses that the lack of clarity or the dispute over borders do not negate the existence of the state.

The study notes that a Palestinian state could provide the International Criminal Court with authority to try the war crime of transferring the population of the occupying state to the occupied territory — the main reason why Israel is not part of the ICC Statute was the inclusion and wording of this article. Nonetheless, the Palestinian state will be held responsible for violations of international law on the part of organizations operating from its territory, or for failing to prevent armed activity.

In addition, with the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders, Israel will not be considered an occupying power of certain areas in the West Bank. The Palestinians will be responsible internationally for whatever takes place there, which will increase the mutual interest of coordination and cooperation to a high degree, even without a permanent agreement.

independence-day israel 2014
Marking Israeli Independence Day, May 2014, soldiers march at Mt. Herzl. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem

But it does not occur to anyone in the government in Jerusalem that Israel should welcome the establishment of a Palestinian state and conduct serious negotiations with it over borders, Jerusalem, security and the refugees. They prefer to sanctify the status quo and bequeath the conflict to future generations.

Kerry’s apology for using the term “apartheid” does not change the fact that the status quo works in Israel’s disadvantage. As Kerry said, “a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens, or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”

Data issued by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in advance of the state’s 66th Independence Day, along with data of the Palestinian CBS, indicate that Israel is a “Jewish state” only because the residents of the territories who live under its occupation are devoid of basic political rights. Out of a total of 12,610,000 residents between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, 6,135,000 are Jews (48.65%), 5,824,000 are Arabs (46.19%) and 651,000 (5.16%) are defined as “others” — non-Arab Christians, members of other religions and those with no religious affiliation.

After the UN vote on the Partition Plan on Nov. 29, 1947, which allotted Israel 55% of mandatory Palestine, the small Jewish community in the land welcomed the decision with song and dance. The Arabs reacted with war declarations and opened war on all fronts. The political leadership in Israel was divided. The commander of the pre-state military underground organization Etzel, Menachem Begin, expressed the revisionist stance, which demanded to battle over all the land of Israel’s territories. “We are not happy. And in our great sorrow lies our greatest historic mission,” he declared. ”Because the homeland has not been freed. The homeland was bisected.”

David Ben-Gurion, then-chairman of the Jewish Agency, adhered to a pragmatic approach. He knew that the freeing of the entire homeland would not enable implementation of the historic mission of establishing a Jewish and democratic state. Ben-Gurion, who later became Israel’s first prime minister, said the partition resolution was “the greatest achievement of the Jewish people in a single moment of its long history since becoming a nation.” And indeed, the UN resolution paved the way for the establishment of an independent, prosperous State of Israel. Sadly, 66 years after the establishment of the state, the current state leadership is following in Begin’s footsteps, while the Palestinian leadership has adopted Ben-Gurion’s legacy.

Akiva Eldar is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He was formerly a senior columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz and also served as the Hebrew daily’s US bureau chief and diplomatic correspondent. His most recent book (with Idith Zertal), Lords of the Land, on the Jewish settlements, was on the best-seller list in Israel and has been translated into English, French, German and Arabic.

Defining Israel as the Jewish State

The proposed law goes to the heart of the basic issue that divides Israeli society: Is Israel a Jewish state, meant to protect the interests of the Jewish people, or is it a generic-brand democracy in which a lot of Jews happen to live—perhaps like Florida?

By Yitzhak Klein, Jewish Press
May 05, 2014

On Thursday, May 1st, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his intention to press for the adoption of a “basic law” that would define Israel as a Jewish state.

Even though Israel was founded as a Jewish state—the 1947 UN resolution on the partition of the British mandate describes it as such—Israel has yet to adopt the definition in its own legal code. Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu’s Justice Minister and erstwhile negotiator with the Palestinians, announced she would oppose the law.

The proposed law goes to the heart of the basic issue that divides Israeli society: Is Israel a Jewish state, meant to protect the interests of the Jewish people, or is it a generic-brand democracy in which a lot of Jews happen to live—perhaps like Florida?

milan 2013-jewish-culture-festival
International festival of Jewish culture, Milan 2013

The great majority of Israel’s Jews want to live in a Jewish state. For them, Israel is their state, meant to protect what is dear to them. At the same time the great majority of Israel’s Jews want to live in a free country, where every individual’s rights are respected and leaders are elected or dismissed at the ballot box.

As against the majority, a vocal minority insists that to define Israel as a Jewish state, charged with protecting the Jewish people’s interests, is undemocratic by definition.

This week Ha’aretz, Israel’s hard-left [sic] daily newspaper, published an editorial arguing that the main purpose of the proposed law was to eliminate Israeli democracy and legitimize “the occupation, the settlement enterprise and the apartheid regime [sic] imposed on the Palestinian population.”

A lot of symbolism is thus involved in the “Jewish State” law’s passage, or defeat. But the law is not just about symbols; it’s about power.

Political power in Israel is divided between two poles. At one pole are the people’s representatives, elected at the polls, who form the Knesset and the government. At the other, are a range of unelected elites who dominate academia, the press, and most significantly the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice.

Unlike the United States, in Israel, judges are appointed by other judges. The people’s elected representatives have little to say about who sits on the bench. For the last 30 years the judiciary and Justice Ministry have been dominated by Israel’s wealthy, secular, liberal left-wing elite. They are a bastion of those who believe that Jewish identity is, at best, a private matter for individual citizens. The believe the state of the Jews should not be defined as either Zionist or Jewish. As a rule of thumb, Israel’s secular left-wing elites lose at the polls but win in the courts, which usually have the last word.

In 1992, the Knesset passed a civil rights law, the “Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom.” The courts have interpreted “human dignity and freedom” to mean “liberalism,” usually in the sense of “not Zionism.” The courts have stymied policies approved by the Knesset and government that do not fit the judiciary’s liberal agenda. Right wing politicians such as MK Yariv Levin, chairman of Netanyahu’s Knesset coalition, accuse the judiciary of working consistently to weaken Zionism in Israel.

The proposed new law is meant to even the balance a little. By formally defining Israel as the Jewish state, and defining the Land of Israel as the Jewish homeland, supporters of the law hope to make it hard for the courts to rule against policies rooted in the Zionist idea—from using public land to create communities for Jews to upholding the Law of Return. Furthermore, while the judiciary has traditionally been dominated by Israel’s secular left-wing elite, this dominion has been weakened of late.

Israel’s Supreme Court now has a few junior judges of a conservative bent—conservative not only in their philosophy, but in their view of how the courts should respect elected representatives’ authority to decide public policy. Proponents of the law hope that eventually judges such as Neal Hendel and Noam Solberg will use the “Jewish State” law as a tool to reverse some of the Supreme Court decisions of the past generation.

Netanyahu can pride himself that at least he tried. On the other hand, if the law does pass in the Knesset, it would leave an enormous question mark hovering over the democratic nature of the state.

The meaning of this is simple: Netanyahu is prepared to gamble on the democratic nature of the State of Israel to stay in office and reap political benefits. The very person who came out in his previous term against the uninhibited laws proposed by Knesset members from the right…has abandoned all that is left of revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s respectful…manner [toward democracy] and the heritage of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the Likud.

On Israel’s 66th Independence Day, an urgent question for liberal Jews

Whether to go toward a Jewish or a democratic one-state is a serious challenge for liberals in and out of Israel.

By Rebecca Steinfeld, Haaretz / Jewish World blogger
May 07, 2014

Now is supposedly crunch time for liberal Zionists. The latest diplomatic attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appears to have failed, and with it the two-state solution upon which liberal Zionism depends. As a result, political scientist Dov Waxman says liberal Zionists must confront a painful question: “if a two-state solution is now impossible, should they support, however reluctantly, a one-state solution?” If so, should they prioritize their Zionism in favour of a Jewish one-state, even if this means foregoing their liberalism? Or should they prioritize their liberalism in favour of a democratic one-state, even if this means forgoing their Zionism?

Whether to go right toward a Jewish one-state or go left toward a democratic one-state is a serious challenge for liberal Jews both inside and outside Israel, who are committed to liberal values such as equality and civil rights. It is also an important question for diplomats, as reflected in U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent remarks that Israel could become an apartheid state.

On Israel’s 66th Independence Day, in the 47th year since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war brought large numbers of Palestinians under Israeli control, there has never been a more urgent time to ask – and more importantly, to answer – these questions. Yet, I would argue that these questions are neither new nor confined to the area beyond the “Green Line.”

Historically, alongside a push for democracy, Zionism has also been driven by two illiberal forces: ethno-nationalism and settler colonialism. Zionism is premised on the belief that Jews constitute an ancient nation that requires self-determination in its historic homeland, Eretz Israel, in order to protect itself from ubiquitous and annihilationist anti-Semitism. Since Jews were dispersed across the globe and the area identified for Zionist settlement, Palestine, was already inhabited, Zionism could only be realized through a process of mass migration, territorial acquisition, population displacement, and the assertion of political control – a process known as settler colonialism.

In fusing nationalism with settler colonialism, Zionism was not unique. The Pilgrims to New England also saw themselves as fulfilling a prophetic mission and establishing a model society; settler colonists in Australia and South Africa were also predominantly white Europeans living amid a mass of relatively impoverished natives; and settlers to both Palestine and North America first worked through, and later threw off, their British imperial backers. This is partly why the historian, Derek Penslar, argues that “the Zionist project was historically and conceptually situated between colonial, anti-colonial, and post-colonial discourse and practice.”

The critical difference is that, unlike these other examples, which have at least formally dismantled the legal and institutional systems that privileged settler status, Israel’s settler colonial history is ongoing and intensifying, both within the “Green Line” and beyond it. The contradictions of liberal Zionism are particularly severe and stark in the West Bank, where prolonged military rule since 1967 means Palestinians there live without a right to vote for the government that controls the majority of their land and most aspects of their lives. But even describing the Palestinian Arab population that now remains within Israel’s recognized borders as a “minority” reflects and legitimizes facts on the ground. The dual message is this: If settlers arrive in sufficient numbers to become the majority in a part of the territory they control, they cease being colonizers, and once indigenous people become a minority in that territory they cease being colonized.

Some might respond by pointing to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which promises to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex,” or by pointing out that those Palestinian Arabs who remained inside “Israel proper” after the 1948 war were granted Israeli citizenship and voting rights. There is also evidence that the efforts of some officials to promote equality have narrowed some material gaps between Arabs and Jews.

But these efforts, however worthwhile, gloss over a system whose structures give special privilege to Jews – not only Jewish citizens, but Jews all over the world. Jews have almost automatic and subsidized access to Israeli citizenship via the Law of Return combined with the Citizenship Law, while Palestinian Arab refugees who fled or were forced to leave their homes in 1948 have been barred from returning and are regarded as a “demographic threat.” Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has documented more than 50 Israeli laws, and numerous others pending, that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Access to land stands out. Jews are given preferential access to land (including that of barred would-be returnees) via the Absentees’ Properties Law, Jewish National Fund Law, and Israel Land Administration Law. Administrative practices in areas like education, health and housing also reveal extensive and well-documented discrimination, both overt and covert.

Both this history and practice point toward a fundamental contradiction at the heart of liberal Zionism. Liberalism stands for equality and individual rights; Zionism, by contrast, aims to maintain Jewish sovereignty in an area populated predominantly by Palestinian Arabs. It is impossible to square this circle: granting exceptional privilege to one group on the basis of their historical experiences and membership in an ethnic, national or religious group is inherently at odds with a political philosophy premised on universal equality and individual rights. It is illogical to claim that everyone is equal, yet some are more equal. A state founded by and for the Jewish people, living both within and outside of its territory, cannot also be a democratic state for all its citizens within territorial limits.

These contradictions undermine the neat spatial and temporal delineations of liberal Zionists who characterize Israel as illiberal only beyond the “Green Line” and liberal within it. As the Israeli political geographer Oren Yiftachel asserts, portrayals of the existence of “Israel proper” within the “Green Line” as “Jewish and democratic” are both “analytically flawed and politically deceiving.” Instead, he argues that the whole entity, territorially and politically, ought to be characterized as an ethnocracy rather than a democracy. Israel’s High Court has rejected this argument, stating in 1988 that “Israel’s definition as the state of the Jewish people does not negate its democratic character, in the same way that the Frenchness of France does not negate its democratic character.” But, as Yiftachel points out, “This statement harbors a conceptual distortion: if France is French, Israel should be Israeli (and not Jewish) … the maintenance of a non-territorial (Jewish) form of self-determination structurally breaches central tenets of democracy. It constitutes, instead, the foundation of the Jewish ethnocracy.”

Others might respond by saying that self-preservation is more valuable than democracy; that maintaining a safe-haven for the sake of Jewish survival justifies the undemocratic means required to set-up and sustain it. Fair enough. But at least be honest about that trade-off. And if you do go right, and support a Jewish over a democratic state, ask yourself the following: Will anti-Semitism in particular, or racism in general, ever be truly resolved by perpetuating ethno-national difference?

My call is to those Jews who wish to salvage their liberalism. The most prominent American liberal Zionist, Peter Beinart, rightly says, “Denying people the basic rights necessary for a decent life because they are of a certain race, ethnicity or religion is wrong. Period.” Absolutely. But that same standard applies to the whole area under Israeli control, not just a part of it. So I say to liberal Jews who are genuinely committed to equality: Stop just hugging and wrestling. Recognize that assumptions about the possibility of a Jewish democracy have rested on sloppy or wishful thinking, with devastating consequences. Confront the logical impossibility of “liberal Zionism.” Demand civil rights for all. Go left.

Dr. Rebecca Steinfeld is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of History at Stanford University, and a BBC New Generation Thinker. She researches the history and politics of reproduction in Israel. She tweets @beccasteinfeld

As Israel Turns 66, a Shifting Focus for the Jewish State

By Abraham Foxman, Huffington Post
May 05, 2014

As Israel turns 66 years old, it is important to not only reflect on the country’s accomplishments, but also to look at and understand the direction in which the Jewish State is headed.

Six and a half decades after its establishment, it is worth noting that Israel is still a young country, especially compared with the U.S. and other developed western nations. Israelis have built a democratic state based on the shared vision of creating a safer and better future for the Jewish people. Though repeatedly attacked by outside enemies seeking its destruction, the Jewish state remained resilient and persevered, fighting for its survival while calling on enemies to sit down and negotiate peace.

In recent years — and with a population of over 8 million — many Israelis have started advocating a forward-looking approach aimed at improving the country’s future beyond the security realm by strengthening Israeli society.

This shift may well mark a defining moment in Israel’s growth and maturity, and is perhaps most evident in many of the issues being prioritized by Israel’s political establishment. While the recent nine month-long U.S.-led peace talks with the Palestinians was a top priority for the Israeli government, the Knesset, representing the interests of broader Israeli society, has been quite busy addressing a number of national social challenges. Issues like the drafting Haredim into the Israel Defense Forces, creating a more affordable housing market, and promoting religious equality dominate the debate across Israeli society. Israelis recognize that focusing on security issues alone cannot improve the lives of those who need adequate jobs or housing, or properly address social inequalities and diversity of religious practice.

To be sure, security issues — including threats posed by Iran’s nuclear program, the peace process and terrorism and rocket attacks from Gaza — still loom large and likely will for the foreseeable future. Yet Israelis also understand that the best way to counter those seeking to challenge the Jewish State’s existence is to build a stronger Israeli society, one that addresses security needs and domestic challenges while constantly innovating and sharing its ideas and creations with the rest of the world.

On the eve of Israel’s 66th birthday, the people of Israel have expressed an unquestionable desire to build a better future for their country, one where a diverse and robustly democratic society can flourish within the boundaries of a secure state. While many challenges remain for Israel and the Jewish people, as long Israelis continue believing in and working toward realizing their country’s potential, Israel will continue to be strong and vital for decades to come.

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