The week in brief, 18th-24th October – a summary of recent postings

October 24, 2010
Richard Kuper


More on developments within Israel as assessments from a number of critical political commentators all pointing the same direction:

  • Acri reviews the forthcoming legislative programme before the Knesset and argues that “A source of great concern is the fact that one of the key rings in which the Israeli democracy is threatened is the parliament itself – the very heart of democracy;
  • Carlo Strenger writes: “Isaac Herzog is wrong when he says that fascism lurks at the fringes of Israeli society. It is now in the mainstream.”
  • Uri Avnery’s assessment too is that we must take the threat of a fascist turn very seriously, though he remains optimistic that “Israeli society can yet sober up in time and mobilize the democratic forces within itself.”
  • Richard Silverstein presents the results of a recent poll in Yediot Ahronoth which show a very divided Israeli public but generally leaning rightwards and comments: “I am usually loathe to use words like “fascism” in this blog to denote anything about Israel since the term is loaded, incendiary and draws fierce rebuke from apologists for Israeli policy here. But when I read polls like this one and see powerful graphics like this one published with the poll, then I realize there are many thoughtful Israelis who are thinking and publishing the same thoughts I have.”
  • Tony Karom explores Israel’s demand that Palestinians recognise it not only as a “Jewish state”, but as “the national home of the Jewish people”.
  • Rachel Shabi writes movingly on the experience of Palestinian Israelis and the double bind they find themselves in: “On the one hand, the state is saying to us that, as Arabs, we are a danger and not welcome here,” said Said Abu Shakra, the director of Umm al-Fahm’s art gallery. “But on the other hand, we are constantly asked to prove our loyalty to the state.”

Meanwhile Israel has become the idol of the English Defence League demonstrating in its support at the weekend. To their credit, leading groups in the British Jewish community expressed their horror and dismay at this development. We hope they will express similar disgust at the fascist trends in Israeli society identified in the various postings above.

And in this one: You couldn’t make them up – Israeli rules for its siege on Gaza. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act petition submitted by Gisha, Israel, having first denied their existence for one and a half years and then claiming that revealing them would harm “state security”, has now revealed its rules for permitting transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip prior to the May 31 flotilla incident. They beggar belief and, as Richard Silverstein comments, “It’s truly worthwhile reading extended passages of the document to understand the true nature of the ghoulishness of Israel’s siege and the way it is imposed and enforced…”

In the US the American Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has produced an official list of the “top 10 anti-Israel groups in America” – including Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) a group with which JfJfP has many affinities. JVP has produced a brief rejoinder to the ADL smear. It takes on the accusations of being anti-Israel and of using Jewish identity to protect antisemites, among other things, in its short but effective rebuttal.

Karma Nabulsi writes hauntingly about the Palestinian movement of the past and the nadir it has reached today: “There is, at this moment, no single body able to claim legitimately to represent all Palestinians; no body able to set out a collective policy or national programme of liberation. There is no plan.” Nabulsi provides no answers, but her lucid and unyielding ability to look reality in the face provides an important reference point for the future.

A new report issued by “Who Profits from the Occupation”, a research project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, analyses the ‘the direct involvement of Israeli banks in illegal Israeli settlement activity and control over the Palestinian banking market’. The report shows that the services provided by the banks support and sustain the occupation in many ways and that the banks are well aware of the types and whereabouts of the activity carried out with their financial assistance.

The debate on the academic boycott between Ran Greenstein and Robert Fine continues and the exchanges contribute greatly to clarifying some of the issues at stake.

We’re delighted to report that John Dugard, the South African international lawyer who was United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Palestine for seven years, has been awarded the Peter and Patricia Gruber prize for Justice for 2010. At a ceremony at George Washington University, Washington on October 11 Dugard’s record during the apartheid era was lauded. His human rights involvement with Israel and the occupied territories also featured in the tribute…”

Finally, Mike Leigh has cancelled a scheduled trip  to Israel to teach a master class in Jerusalem as part of the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School’s “Great Masters” programme. He said that for him the proposed Loyalty Oath was the last straw…

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