The week in brief, 13-19 December – a summary of recent postings

December 19, 2010

jfjfpThis week we offer more thoughts on the “peace” process. Gershon Baskin of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research hopes the US has actually plotted a new course for the process. Geoffrey Aronson of the bimonthly US e-publication Settlement Report rather doubts it. He surveys “almost two years of energetic but stillborn diplomacy [in which] the Obama administration has been unable to make progress on ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state at peace with Israel. The president’s attempt to rein in settlement expansion and his effort to place settlements at the heart of a negotiated end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict have failed.”

Uri Avnery argues that the current euphoria in Israel cannot last. He compares it to that which followed the six-day war in 1967 – until 1973. Today, too, he sees Israel as riding high in every way – economically, in terms of security and politically where “[t]he Israeli government rules Washington DC more firmly than ever”. But, he predicts, pride will have its fall. And, unlike in 1967, “[w]hen the inevitable crisis arrives, world public opinion will no longer be on our side. It will be on the side of the Palestinians.”

Israel’s premier military historian, Martin van Creveld takes a hard-nosed approach to war and defence. So his opinion that the West Bank is entirely superfluous to Israel’s current security needs is of more than passing interest…

Finally, Mitchell Plitnick argues that, whatever ones personal view, the Palestinian right of return cannot “just be removed from the table before negotiations. It can and must be discussed.”

Within regard to Israel itself, some of the Palestinian firefighters coming to be honoured for their role in helping fight the Carmel fire, were turned back at the border. Apparently it was a bureaucratic bungle; the border guards just didn’t know that these Palestinians weren’t to be treated like all other Palestinians who come to the border…

Jeremiah Haber writes about the debate initiated among religious Jews by the racist fatwa prohibiting the sale or letting of property to Palestinian Arabs. He approves, for instance, of those progressive rabbis who, under the good title, “No to Racism in the Name of Judaism,” see the rabbinic manifesto as part of a struggle against humanistic values, and the love of humanity. But he is critical when their response goes on to call for love of resident strangers (”for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”) – in effect treating the Israeli Palestinians as resident aliens. Haber argues that “here in a nutshell we see the moral limitations of a Judaism informed by liberal statist Zionism”. Two more petitions against the rabbinical manifesto appeared shortly after, both originating from modern orthodox Jewish circles, one from Israel; the other from America. Haber comments interestingly on these as well. And Lawrence Davidson in Tikkun Magazine finds the sentiment expressed by the rabbis’ ‘decree’ as “not unusual. It is, in fact, uncomfortably mainstream. This sort of discrimination is a structural part of the Israeli public and private practice…”

The newly elected Kahanist “community administrator” Moshe Ben Zikri at Pisgat Ze’ev clearly wasn’t upset by the original fatwa. He actively wants to get rid of his Arabs. For Zikri, Richard Silverstein writes: “there is an Arab ‘fire’ (yes, it appears the Carmel fire has become the reference du jour in the Israeli press) consuming Pisgat Ze’ev. His goal? To keep the neighborhood Jewish. That means, Arabs raus…” Pisgat Ze’ev, remember, is part of East Jerusalem, the final stop on  Jerusalem’s new light rail system.

The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) has issued a report highlighting the gender-specific impact of Israeli policies in East Jerusalem on the lives of Palestinian women.

More broadly, Rachel Shabi examines the Israeli government’s demand that Palestinians recognise exiled Arab Jews as refugees. While acknowledging that there are undoubtedly compensation claims to be made by Jews whose properties and possessions were impounded when they left some Arab countries Shabi argues that “to Israel, the experience of Jews from Arab lands exists only to be hijacked and hocked for cheap, political point-scoring…”

Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, argues that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is “not an end in itself but a vehicle to get us down the road to a just peace built on equality for Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s policies, typified by the disingenuous diversions of [Deputy-Prime Minister] Ayalon, have left us with no other choice.”

As radicalism spreads among Jews on campus “chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace have been sprouting on campuses like mushrooms after the rain”. Local Hillels are sometimes sympathetic but the elders in Hillel’s community are having nothing of it. JVP is beyond their pale. Yet Hillel’s mission. according to its website, “is to enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.” So, as Jeremiah Haber comments, “making adherence to Zionism a litmus test for participation at Hillel, of all places, is counterproductive. Hillel should be inclusive of all Jewish groups and all Jewish ideologies, Zionist, non-Zionist, anti-Zionist.” You’d think it went without saying…

In the UK the parliamentary skirmish over universal jurisdiction opened during the second reading of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. Gerald Kaufmann MP intervened: “I wish, however, to concentrate on clause 151, which has been smuggled in to fulfil a Conservative election pledge made in a full-page advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle during the general election, namely the change in the administration of universal jurisdiction in this country. There is no need whatsoever to change the law. To obtain an arrest warrant for a suspected war criminal, it is essential to surmount a high hurdle, and that rarely happens. Such applications are made rarely, and are granted even more rarely. This change in the law would never have been proposed if it were not for the case of Tzipi Livni, the war criminal daughter of a terrorist father, who was scared off coming to this country because of the danger of an arrest warrant being issued for her…” Other contributions to the debate are also worth reading.

Finally, the extent to which Israel is losing world public opinion is clearly shown in the case of Svein Sevje, Norway’s ambassador to Israel. In 1968, a few months after completing high school, Sevje went as a volunteered to kibbutz Mishmar Ha’emek. He returned three years later to study Hebrew. He is clearly deeply attached to Israel and strongly opposed to boycotting it. But he says equally bluntly: “If Israel wants to be a normal country with its face toward the West, it has to respect universal values.”

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