The week in brief, 25th October-1st November – a summary of recent postings

October 31, 2010
Richard Kuper

jfjfpIn a posting ‘The academic boycott of Israel revisited’ a fortnight ago, we carried part of a renewed debate on the topic, with a contribution by Ran Greenstein and a response by Robert Fine. Since then there have been many responses and rejoinders. A lot of the discussion and disagreement does not concern the academic boycott issue narrowly conceived but ranges widely, over the nature of Zionism as a national movement, the question of the nakba and the issue of ‘ethnic cleansing’, the  ‘singling-out’ of Israel, the nature of a ‘Jewish’ state, and much else besides. None of these issues is new but the Fine-Greenstein exchange approaches the themes in challenging and respectful ways. We reproduce that debate in its entirety and provide links to the other contributions. In a related posting, Jeremiah Haber discusses Israel’s ‘Arab Problem’. It was not, he argues, “the inevitable creation of Zionism, or even of the Jewish state idea. It was created by the specific kind of Jewish state that was founded in 1948, a state that embodied the exclusivist ethnic nationalist ethos of the founders, who passed and implemented ethnically discriminatory laws and policies in the early years of the state – and in recent days.” In subsequent postings he will investigate the various solutions on offer from transfer to replacing the Jewish ethnic state with a liberal democratic state…

In Israel itself a new Knesset bill will efectively consolidate the exclusion of Palestinian citizens from access to most housing. Some years ago, when comparisons between Israel and South Africa were resurfacing in the face of Israel’s discriminatory policies, the Q’aadan case was often cited to establish the clear difference between the two regimes. In the 1990s, you may recall, the Q’aadans wanted to build a house in Katzir on government land leased to the Jewish Agency. But they were not Jews. They took their case against discrimination to the Supreme Court and after five years they won, and Israel’s liberal credentials were, it was claimed, in good order. That was then. In reality Katzir simply refused to implement the ruling and it took another seven-and-a-half years to get the Court to award the Q’aadans their land. End of story? Not a bit of it: a new bill has just been approved by the Law and Justice Committee of the Knesset. It is nicknamed the “Q’aadan bypass bill” and will ensure that nothing like this occurs again…

Gideon Levy discusses the mood in Israel after the Wikileaks revelations that the Americans and British have also committed war crimes. Our “noisy propagandists” are “inflamed”, he said: “Where is Goldstone, they rejoiced, and what would he have said? They were relieved. If the Americans are allowed to do it, so are we… Our rejoicing propagandists have changed their tactics now: no longer “the most moral army in the world,” a contention any reasonable person can see is ridiculous. Now they say: “We are terrible, like all the rest.”

A march by Jewish fascists took place through the streets of the Arab-Israeli town of Umm al Fahm. The event was heavily policed with 1,500 police  reportedly stationed in the town to protect the march and special paramilitary forces  used against the Arab counter-demonstration, as well as an undercover unit usually deployed at Palestinian protests in the West Bank. And the schools’ budget was reshaped by cutting monies used for civics classes and redirecting them to Jewish studies.

Noam Sheifaz provides a short guide to the subtleties of the Hebrew press, particularly helpful for those who know only Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post.

In the occupied territories, the olive harvest is once more upon us. So are settler attacks on those carrying out the harvest. Harriet Sherwood reports for the Guardian. And Robert Serry, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, condemned attacks by Jewish “settler extremists” on Palestinians’ olive trees and called on Israel to “combat violence and terror by Israelis.”

A new campaign Peace Starts Here has been launched for UNRWA featuring “15 short, personal stories about Palestine refugees from all over the Middle East – which collectively, is not a group that people often see. The project goes a long way to humanize the Palestinian issue…”

Jared Malsin reflects on the PA’s decision to keep the Goldstone UN Fact Finding Mission report in Geneva, away from the relatively more powerful UN bodies in New York. “[W]ith peace talks going, they don’t want Goldstone anywhere near the agenda,” said Fred Abahams of Human Rights Watch. So the PA backed a resolution giving Israel and Hamas officials in Gaza six more months to investigate crimes documented in the Goldstone report – a delay which is likely to make it much harder to hold Israel accountable.

Amira Hass reflects on two wonderful new books by Palestinian writers: Raja Shehadeh’s “A Rift in Time: Travels with my Ottoman Uncle” and Afif Safieh’s “The Peace Process – from Breakthrough to Breakdown”

With regard to the BDS campaign: Zeek Media in the States has just published a debate between Jewish Voice for Peace and the New Israel Fund on the merits of BDS; we sent a letter to the UK Jewish Film Festival protesting about its acceptance of sponsorship from Ahava, a company based in the occupied Palestinian territory, signed by a number of JfJfP signatories in film and theatre; and, potentially most significant of all, Caterpillar is reported to be withholding delivery of new D9 bulldozers to the IDF, the very kind involved in the killing of Rachel Corrie.

Finally, the Russell Tribunal’s hearings on “Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Violations in International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law” will take place in London on 20-22 November. They are open to the public.

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