The settlers of Yitzhar in the Nablus district of the West Bank are a stereotype of the worst sort; violent, racist, convinced they are kings of the mountain where the writ of the police does not run. On April 8th, Israeli police set out to assert their authority by demolishing some of their illegal structures. Obviously, the settlers – who believe they are directed by God from their ‘sacred’ yeshiva – fought back and demolished an IDF outpost. The reaction in Israel ranges from shock through outrage to hysteria.
The life of people in Gaza is bound up with the politics of Egypt. They have been enthused by talk of pan-Arab nationalism throwing off colonial oppressors, and stunned and impoverished by the policies of Field Marshal al-Sisi. In between they have looked to Egypt for sanctuary and supplies – but Egyptians have long centred their energy on themselves. Two articles on Egypt’s leaderships cults and shifting politics.
Labour leader Ed Miliband will have completed a three day visit to Israel and Palestine by the time of posting this. Coverage has been more on the nature of his Jewish background, identity and connections to Israel than his policies on a Palestinian state. His statements on the illegality of Jewish settlements and their block to peace were reported as was his opposition to boycott.
Here are a lot of words spent on what many in the PA and Israeli government see as essentially symbolic acts – the PA’s signing up to 15 UN protocols and Israel’s ruling that it must take punitive retaliation: a ban on (minor) officials of both governments talking to each other and the withholding of tax transfers. Even if the punishment is largely symbolic it does not help Israel’s image.
Billions of dollars are sent to Israel every year by Jewish philanthropists which equals a lot of trees in the Negev (and displacement of Bedouin). Younger Jews are more inclined to send money to NGOs which promote a 2-state solution. Few give money to the underlying issue of Palestinian rights. Three articles from an Open Democracy discussion on funding.
The people of Lebanon are in a hard place. They are having to accommodate thousands of refugees from Syria; the effective power is Hezbollah which had proclaimed itself their principal protector through its ‘resistance’ to Israeli and American power in the region. But its military support for the Assad regime has damaged its reputation, as has its manipulation of Shi’ite/Sunni differences into a harmful sectarianism. (See Rachel Shabi below)
In their view, the Obama administration had no choice but to believe that hard work and good will would produce observable change in Palestine/Israel relations. They were wrong. Kerry saw Israeli intransigence and ‘poof’, hope went. Israeli hardliners crow at the failure of this ‘Arab lapdog’. With the US no longer a player, who, if anyone, will make the first move to break the status-quo?
Sectarianism – ethnic, religious, tribal – has been manipulated by political or military elites since “the intersection of 19th century European colonialism and Ottoman modernisation.” Differences that were once personal or familial have been made into bloody public conflicts while ‘minorities’ have been made marginal by Muslim majorities. Rachel Shabi deplores these labels.
For the third year, a Freedom bus set off in March to tour Palestine, carrying actors, writers, musicians. Organised by the Jenin Freedom Theatre, artists and activists helped rebuild demolished homes, offered protection to farmers and helped build cultural resistance through workshops and performances. The steady decimation of economic life and tangle of petty rules shocked Mark LeVine, who was on the bus.
Passover this year is sundown April 14 – sundown April 22. Its origin is a celebration of God’s help in freeing Jews from Egyptian slavery – a founding myth of Judaism and of Jews as being ‘chosen’. Robert Cohen questions the Jewish attachment to a myth of powerlessness while exercising considerable power over Palestinians. JfJfP adds “Pesach is about liberation, both physical liberation and mental liberation, including from outdated ideas and ways of thinking. It is also not possible to be free while other people are enslaved.”
We’ve come a long way from the Holocaust, world war 2 and the founding of Israel. Millions of Jews have been born since then and more of them live outside Israel than inside it. By choice. Many of these value the identity and traditions that have developed over 2,600 years in which, obviously, the state of Israel played no part; report of a debate in Canada on how to create open discussion among Jews about Israel and Zionism.
Kerry let Israelis believe that the US would never force it into recognising a viable Palestinian state – and the US always vetoes any UNSC resolution on the issue. It is clear the US can no longer ‘own’ the peace process writes Henry Siegman. As JStreet has always supported the strategy of a US-brokered settlement it is now faced with having to back a new approach says Jeff Halper.
There are facts on the ground throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank which the Israeli state wants to erase. These facts are Palestinian homes, the private property of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. But the laws of private property are no help when the state can claim the home is erected without permission, or land wanted for a national park. Jeff Halper on the demolition plan.
From the amount of energy and money the Israeli government and its supporters put into fighting the BDS movement one might conclude, despite Norman Finkelstein’s disparagement, that boycott is the most powerful tool in the campaign to make the Israeli state accept international law. Here, the Olympic Food Co-op wins its right to boycott Israeli goods in an appeal court, Washington.
To Israel loyalists, there is no problem; the huge number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons is simply evidence of their terrorism, including women and boys (Israelis are easily terrified). But as we know, there is often no evidence as they are held under ‘administrative detention’- just the say-so of a military tribunal. Amahl Bishara looks at who becomes a prisoner under Israel’s arbitrary military rule.
The American Studies Association vote to boycott Israeli institutions has had extraordinary repercussions in American politics. The most recent state assembly to present a counter-law penalising any American institution which permits boycott is Maryland. Despite heavy pressure to label BDS as racist and ‘delegitimising’ the state delegates would only support a more anodyne motion.
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.
Two pieces by Mike Marqusee explaining to a friend why there are campaigns in the USA, Europe and even Israel to impose boycotts and sanctions against Israel. To begin with, the Palestinians themselves have asked for it (unlike other oppressed people) and Israel is picked out for special favours by the USA and EU. Israelis feel betrayed because they are ‘people like us’ but our empathy is not with them.
In this April issue of B’Tselem’s newsletter, director Jessica Montell answers questions on International Women’s Day via Facebook – to which her basic answer is that human rights trump all issues. We can infer that the weaker you are, the harder they are to enforce – see B’Tselem’s report on the killing of Yusef a-Shawamreh, the boy who was gathering herbs on the wrong side of the fence.
Unless you’re a policy wonk, this posting on the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) is valuable for its glancing look at their rarefied world. An examination of their 58 person executive committee reveals a tranche of highly wealthy Jews, characterising Republican men of property rather than any Jewish values or practices. Their ‘rules’ include no reference to the oPt and no criticism of Israel.