The week in brief, 22nd-28th November – a summary of recent postings

November 28, 2010
Richard Kuper


We haven’t carried a report of ‘Life under occupation’ for some weeks. It’s not that there aren’t stories – it would be easy to post half-a-dozen or more each week. It’s just that so many of them are so dishearteningly banal, the pettiness, the daily humiliation and dehumanization so ingrained into the mentality of the occupation forces, whether police or army… Anyway, here’s (yet another) story from Defence for Children International/Palestine section: Msallam from the al-Bustan neighbourhood of Silwan, seized by three men in civilian clothes, punched, hands tied behind his back and taken to al-Mascobiyya interrogation centre where he was threatened with being sent to gaol for throwing stones – which he hadn’t done. Under Israeli domestic law which is applied by the Israeli authorities to occupied East Jerusalem, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is twelve. Msallam is all of ten years old…

Under the title Publish it not, Jonathan Cook provides a lengthy account, based on personal experience, of how the ’story’ coming out of Israel has been controlled over time by a mixture of censorship and veiled threat running right through to the everyday occurrence of journalists losing sight of, or having no awareness of, the fact that they are purveying one-sided and distorted accounts of reality, not balanced interpretation. He has quite harsh things to say about the Guardian and the International Herald Tribune, but most of the article discusses the detailed mechanisms of Israeli control. The article is long, but important. It should be widely circulated and discussed.

Former Prime Minister Rabin’s son, Yuval Rabin, together with Koby Huberman, has produced an Israeli Peace Initiative (IPI) in response to the Arab Peace Initiative (API) proposals of 2002: “The IPI should articulate Israel’s own long-term vision, to be achieved after successful and gradual implementation of all permanent status agreements. Publishing such an IPI would demonstrate a transformational shift in Israel’s strategy, realizing that only by ending the regional Arab-Israel conflict will Israel achieve its fundamental interests, attain its security goals and eliminate existential threats. Such a vision should also demonstrate that these long-term fundamental interests (such as security, identity and acceptance in the region) are achievable in accordance with the API core concepts, with bridgeable gaps…”

If that news is positive, Uri Avnery’s analysis of the role of religion in Israeli society today is not. In The  original sin he writes about how Zionism was, “among other things, a secular nationalist rebellion against the Jewish religion”. But the failure to separate religion and state, Ben-Gurion’s cooption of the “national-religious” camp with the establishment of its own separate educational system, and the emergence of Gush Emunim (the Bloc of the Faithful) following the occupation, have changed all that. Today we have a virtual fusion of the Orthodox and the national-religious into one bloc bearing little resemblance to the Orthodox or the Reform models of the diaspora. “It must be said: the Jewish religion in Israel is a mutation of Judaism, a tribal, racist, extreme nationalist and anti-democratic creed”…

In a discussion as to whether you have to love Israel as a Jewish state to be part of the Jewish community, Jeremiah Haber writes about Ameinu, a supposedly liberal Jewish organisation in the United States, which just so happens to regard our friends in Jewish Voice for Peace as beyond the pale. Haber questions Ameinu’s liberal credentials…

While we’re on the subject of American Jewry, Bradley Burston reports on a tour he undertook for J Street in American Jews are divesting from Israel…: “This is what I was to see in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Marin County, Portland and Seattle. It’s not that they’re getting involved in significant numbers in the divestment movement. It’s that American Jews are divesting emotionally. They are quietly – but in terms of impact, dramatically – withdrawing altogether. Not just Jews. Americans..”
And in a follow-up report he adds: “BDS is a symptom. Flotillas are a symptom. Emotional divestment from Israel is a symptom. Occupation is the disease.”

Meanwhile, back in the UK it’s fun and games – at last – in the wider Jewish community. Last week we reported on the call by Mick Davis, head of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, for critical debate in the Jewish community, under the title A dam has burst… This week it’s all Lord Kalms’s fingers to the dyke! “Mick Davis’s recent comments show a startling lack of leadership and sense. Everybody is entitled to their opinion but can anybody really hold a straight face and say the UK Jewish community is unwilling to criticise Israel?” But Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Lord Janner and others are much more receptive to Mick Davis’s call…

An Early Day Motion from Richard Burden draws attention to the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and calls on the government to “remind Israel that the continuation of trade and other preferences under the EU-Israeli Association Agreement is dependent on it implementing its own obligations to respect the human rights of Palestinians and to uphold international law”. Ask your MP to support it.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine took place in London last weekend, its theme Corporate Complicity in the Occupation. Expert and witness presentations for these sessions are now available online.

On the international level, the Elders have been at it again. An independent group of global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace-building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu (Chair). Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders. Last week they called on the United States and the rest of the international community to insist on an end to all Israeli settlement activity. Singling-out Israel for unfair treatment?

Finally, pressure on Israeli football. Israel is strangling Palestinian football, refusing to allow players to leave Gaza to join the national team and refusing the national team permission to travel to its fixtures. Sporting and other clubs and societies in Gaza written to Michel Platini, head of Uefa, reminding him of his recent critical words: “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behaviour.” They call on him and Uefa to suspend Israel’s participation in European football until its racist policies are ended and it abides by international law.

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