The week in brief, 21st-27th June – a summary of recent postings

June 27, 2010
Richard Kuper


We all know that the blockade of Gaza has been eased. Gisha shows how little has changed, how much is hot air… Zvi Bar’el writes that the mandate of any international enquiry should be to establish “how Israel managed to sell its destructive policy to the countries of the world, how they agreed to the jailing of 1.5 million people without a UN resolution.” And veteran commentator on the Middle East Phyllis Bennis asks whether that the recent flotilla crisis is one of those turning points that occur in every campaign for human rights and equality.

In Israel the attack on both Palestinian citizens of Israel and on critical academics is being stepped up. Israel’s Education Minister Gideon Saar says he plans ‘to examine in depth’ a report published by right-wing group ‘Im Tirtzu’ – a report which Haifa University’s Rector says ‘smells of McCarthyism’. Im Tirtzu is one of a number of currents that Tony Lerman discusses in his analysis of ideological revivalism with Zionism today and some counter trends.

Three bills are now before the Israeli Knesset which, if passed, will seriously damage the financial viability of NGOs and their ability to function legally in Israel and the OPT. They will criminalize some NGOs’ activities as well as those of volunteer peace activists and intellectuals who work together with groups overseas for human rights and social justice.

The debate on boycott, divestment and sanctions continues. A Methodist Church ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ report, which talks of ‘an increasing consensus calling for the imposition of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a major strategy of non-violent resistance to the Occupation’ has been severely criticized by the Chief Rabbi and others; and defended by 30 individuals and organisations including JfJfP.

Meanwhile, Maariv has reported that targeted boycott and divestment actions — Israeli, Palestinian and international — are pushing an increasing number of Israeli companies out of the West Bank settlements and into Israeli proper. On the merits of the strategy, the Magnes Zionist (Jeremiah Haber) blogs as to why he feels the need to take Bernard Avishai, ‘one of few consistently interesting writers on Israel/Palestine on the left’ seriously when he uses economic considerations to oppose boycott and divestment – and why he disagrees with him. And the European Court of Justice ruling in February, that West Bank products are not covered by the EU-Israel Association Agreement, provides sound legal justification for a boycott of these products.

Robert Fowke asks why he, “as an average sort of Englishman …[ takes]… such an interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict? Where does my disproportionate interest come from…” He provides a number of insights into his concern.

And finally Ali Abunimah finds confirmation from “diplomatic sources” for a number of rumours we’d rather weren’t true – such as that US envoy George Mitchell once again put severe pressure on Egypt and other parties NOT to allow a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal to proceed…

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