The week in brief, 28 March – 3 April 2011 – a summary of recent postings

April 3, 2011
Richard Kuper


It has been a busy week and a number of important developments have occurred which we haven’t time to add to the website in time for the weekly mailing. They will be posted from tomorrow onwards. These include a partial recantation by Richard Goldstone on his UN Goldstone Report – though what he has backed down on is actually not so obvious as many commentators have already made clear; a JNews blog on the emergence of Canada as Israel’s new best mate; a victory for the BDS movement with the decision of Ahava to close its flagship store in Covent Gardens as a result of the demonstrations against it; and a report on the new Early Day Motion about the JNF. There is also a new International Crisis Group report on “Radical Islam in Gaza” which complements its Report on the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel, posted this week.

Other postings this week are varied, but mainly concerned with developments within Israel. Shmuel Eliyahu, Safed’s chief rabbi, who is among other things opposed to Jews renting rooms to Palestinian citizens of Israel, is NOT a maverick, argues Zvi Bar’el, in The hate-mongering of the Safed rabbinat.

Gideon Levy writes that what delegitimises Israel are Lieberman, Israel Beiteinu, Netanyahu and their flood of anti-democratic laws, the unbridled Israel Defense Forces and the settlers who know no boundaries. Groups like B’tselem, Breaking the Silence and the others are responsible for whatever little sympathy Israel manages to garner in the world today…

Israel no longer denying the nakba!: “When the Knesset approves legislation banning the Nakba commemoration, it seems surreal”, writes Palestinian Israeli Oudeh Basharat. “Yet, there is also something good in this commotion. At least, there’s no denial of the Nakba…”

Roi Maor writes: “The Knesset passed a segregation bill today. Palestinian Israelis are not allowed to live in Jewish localities built on land confiscated from them.” It is apartheid in all but name, but building on a racial segregation that has long existed in Israel’s unequal and unholy allocation of land to it citizens. Ben White’s Open Democracy article Land, citizenship and exclusion in Israel, has been added to this post.

In Are the settlers annexing Israel? Uri Avnery reflects on these “two obnoxious racist laws” that the Knesset has finally adopted, both directed against Israels’ Palestinian citizens. But he reserves his most vitriolic comment for a third bill, that to outlaw the boycott of Israel – which includes “the boycott of Israeli institutions and enterprises in all territories controlled by Israel”. This includes, of course, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Vengeance is mine sayeth the Israeli state. Israeli investigative journalist Uri Blau who published top-secret IDF documents leaked to him by Anat Kamm is to be prosecuted. The state is clear that it is not pursuing Haa’retz and its publisher, but going all out to criminalise investigative reporters as such: “[W]e thought it was more correct to go for the precedent-setting move of prosecuting a journalist for retaining stolen documents…”

Amira Hass argues against those who oppose the occupation but believe that “public criticism of the tactics used in the struggle of an occupied and dispossessed people is taboo”. It is time to say clearly, she argues, that Qassam rockets do not ensure Palestinians a life of dignity; they “merely feed Israel’s madness”.

In the wider world the British government looked set to amend the law on universal jurisdiction because of its ‘abuse’ (and indeed, since this posting, it saw off an attempt to amend its bill by a large majority in parliament). As Daniel Machover, chair of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, argues “Ten applications for arrest warrants in 10 years, with two being successful, hardly suggests that judges are unable to weed out bogus cases.” The effect of the new law will be to grant ‘friends’ of Britain immunity from prosecution…

In South Africa the University of Johannesburg took the momentous decision last week to break off institutional relations with Ben Gurion University. We posted materials on the debate around this issue last October. In this posting there is a news report on the decision and immediate reactions to it, John Strawson’s Engage posting critical of the decision; and Ran Greenstein’s reflective analysis of some issues around the academic boycott, sparked off by this recent decision.

Pressure grows on the Brandeis Hillel Student Board (BHSB) to reconsider its ban on Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). On the latter’s web site it states,” Hillel at Brandeis University provides a rich and vibrant Jewish life on campus“. A thousand students and faculty members have petitioned the BHSB to reconsider but till now unavailingly. The author’s tip to JVP: get yourselves elected to the governing body of BHSB. (There was a previous posting on this theme on 10th March, Divisions in the US Jewish community surface at Brandeis.)

Letty Cottin Pogrebin is a founding editor of Ms. Magazine. There is nothing new in her opinion piece, published in the American Jewish Forward written after a visit to Hebron. Breaking the Silence, the Ecumencial Accompaniers and others have been chronicling these realities for many years now. But it is still shocking.

The film ‘Miral’ is a portrait of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seen through the eyes of an orphaned Palestinian girl. “Maybe,” says Danielle Berrin on her Hollywood Jew blog , “it’s the simple fact that a high-profile film written by a Palestinian is cause enough for Jewish opprobrium…Or, maybe a cultural malaise has taken hold that’s made it impossible for Jews to empathize with anyone but each other.” Whatever it is, mainstream US Jewish groups are outraged…

Finally, Jewish Voice for Peace issued a statement on the recent escalation of violence: “In mourning the nine lives lost in Gaza and the one life lost in Jerusalem this week, we reject the pattern of condemning the deaths of Israelis while ignoring the deaths of Palestinians. We do not discriminate. One life lost is one life too many–whether Palestinian or Israeli…”

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