The week in brief, 12th-18th July – a summary of recent postings


July 18, 2010
Richard Kuper

jfjfp

Developments in Israel

David Landau’s horrified reaction to developments in the Knesset is undoubtedly the story of the week. In a thunderous declaration Landau, former editor-in-chief of Haaretz, calls for a boycott of the Knesset and demands that he be the first person prosecuted under the new bill which calls for the punishment of “any Israeli calling for a boycott of any Israeli individual or institution, whether in Israel or in the territories… I call on parliaments throughout the democratic world, and interparliamentary associations, to boycott Israel’s parliament, once the pride of the Jewish people, until it buries the bill and recovers its democratic heritage.”

Landau is not alone. 500 academics, including two former education ministers, have signed a protest petition against any government action against those who support the campaign for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions). While the vast majority of the signatories do not support an academic boycott of Israel, they have joined forces over what they regard as the latest assault on freedom of expression in Israel…

A secret video of Netanyahu speaking to settlers at Ofra in 2001 has now been made public. In it he claims that in 1997, with the Hebron agreement, “I stopped the Oslo Accords”. He calls then-U.S. President Bill Clinton “extremely pro-Palestinian,” and says the Palestinians “want to throw us into the sea”. This from a man who claims he wants to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. As Gideon Levy puts it: “The man in the video betrays himself in his own words as a con artist…”

Uri Avnery, too, weighs in: “[A] paradoxical situation has arisen: parliament, the highest expression of democracy, is itself now posing a dire threat to Israeli democracy…No doubt can remain that Kahanism – the Israeli version of fascism – has moved from the margin to center stage…”

As well as proposing to prosecute people calling for boycott, a vengeful Knesset has stripped MK Hanan Zuabi of parliamentary privileges for having taken part in the Gaza flotilla. “I have the right and the duty to fight for my rights and my values,” Ms Zuabi said, adding that “my positions are often different from those of the Likud, Kadima and most of the MKs. That’s why I don’t represent Kadima, the Labor Party or the Likud, but those who voted for me…”

Israel is contemplating how to deal with the United Nations committee charged with examining the efficiency, independence and professionalism of Israel’s court system and its adherence to internationally accepted standards. Some Israeli officials have already begun describing it as “a second Goldstone committee” but the foreign and justice ministries are both pushing for recognition of the probe and full cooperation with it…

Commentator Bernard Avishai laments the state of Israel’s media: “I find myself cringing not because of the way Netanyahu’s people answer questions so much as because of the way mainstream journalists ask them, or fail to follow up–the implicit “consensus” this seems to imply.”

Jonathan Cook argues that Israels’ courts are being increasingly ignored by the government and that the rule of law is being called into question. He reports: “Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper went further, warning recently that, in ’slandering the judiciary’, government officials had provoked a crisis that could ‘lead to the destruction of Israeli democracy’.”

Meanwhile Israeli NGOs remain under pressure. The threat to them is shaping up with the demand, now likely to become law, that all Israeli non-profit associations, including NGOs, human-rights organisations and peace groups, as well as charitable corporations such as theatres and cultural organisations, report within 30 days to the Registrar of Associations on every sum of funding they receive from a foreign government or government-funded donors. Right-wing and settler groups, not funded by foreign governments but by private funds, will not be exposed to this increased scrutiny and bureaucratic harassment

One such NGO, the Coalition of Women for Peace has been instrumental in setting up the group ‘Who Profits from the Occupation?’ Merav Amir and Dalit Baum describe the outcome of their work to date: “As we complete our mapping, one fact becomes very clear: any clear-cut distinction between the Israeli economy as a whole and the economy of the occupation can no longer be justified. The Green Line border has all but disappeared from the corporate activity map…”

What is the way forward?

Bernard Avishai (already cited this week) revisits the one-or-two-states debate and, while arguing for two states, sets out issues which any solution will have to take into account: “In any peaceful resolution, Israel and Palestine will constitute one commercial ecosystem. At present, some 90% of Palestinian imports come from Israel, and 80% of Palestinian exports go to Israel. The two states would interlock into one large urban landscape… connected to global and regional networks, but with two distinct cultural nodes — a Hebrew north-south megalopolis along the coastal plain, anchored by Tel Aviv, and an Arab megalopolis along the highlands of the West Bank, anchored by East Jerusalem/Ramallah. What jurisdictions could either state exercise in peace without the institutional cooperation of the other? The answer is not many. Think of security, water, bandwidth, transportation, airspace, electricity, tourism, labor mobility and currency policy — you name it…”

Joseph Dana responds to the rather patronising call by Irving Kristol for Palestinians to adopt a non-violent resistance strategy by pointing to “the widespread unarmed Palestinian campaign of resistance” and telling the story of “Another Palestinian Gandhi Crushed by Israel”; and Ofer Neiman, an Israeli citizen who participates in Sheikh-Jarrah solidarity actions and a co-editor of the Occupation Magazine, writes about the deep roots of Palestinian non-violence.

In the UK:

A survey newly published survey by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research shows British Jews have ‘deep levels of attachment to Israel’ but are not uncritical. The JPR press release says: “Jews in Britain strongly identify with and support Israel. They are ready to see Israel swap territory for peace and to talk with Hamas if it will advance the cause of peace. At the same time, they are concerned about Israel’s security, support the separation barrier/security fence and viewed the 2008/09 operation in Gaza as “a legitimate act of self-defence…”

On 17 June 2010 Swansea City Council took the historic decision to bar future contracts with Veolia on the grounds of its illegal activities in the West Bank. It is the first resolution of its kind to have been passed by any UK authority making explicit its reasons for ruling out any future contracts with Veolia…

The quarrel that the ‘Jewish community’ has picked with the Methodist Church (see last week’s “Methodist report carried”) rumbles on. A JfJfP letter to the JC was not published but is reproduced here, together with a letter that did appear.

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