The week in brief, 2nd-8th August – a summary of recent postings

August 8, 2010

jfjfpThe occupation grinds on in its macabre, merry way. We carry two ‘life-under-occupation’ reports: one about water in Gaza where the question is how to provide safe, clean drinking water – under siege conditions with the main aquifer long since polluted by sewage; the other about 8 teenage stone-throwers (actually they were not throwing stones) who spend 27 days in goal and over a year before the case against them (in the military courts) was dismissed.

Laila El-Haddad, recently returned to Gaza, says asking whether there is a humanitarian crisis there or not is the wrong question: “The message I’ve been hearing over and over again since I returned to Gaza is this: the siege is not a siege on foods; it is a siege on freedoms…”

Tony Judt died this week after a long illness. He will be sorely missed. You didn’t have to agree with him to recognise a fine mind at work, and his recent account of his struggle against motor neuron disease was very moving and incredibly life-enhancing.

The Lebanon border skirmish in which an Israeli officer, two Lebanese soldiers and a local journalist were killed is looked at critically by Gideon Levy and the IDF’s double standards exposed. What the Lebanese soldiers (probably) did is what Israeli troops do on a daily basis in Gaza and the West Bank. And suddenly Israel cries ‘foul!’.

But this incident is only one of many destabilising factors in the region. Paul Rogers writes that  Israel has opted for permanent insecurity with its (futile) quest for absolute security, where a minority that “advocates a different path involving negotiation and compromise…is very much on the margins of public debate…”

Comedian Mark Steel mocks the Israeli enquiry into the Mavi Marmara massacre : “One possible difficulty in proving the optically murderous gang’s intent could be that none of them had guns. But the IDF dealt with that by saying the ‘mercenaries’ preferred to use ‘bats, metal bars and knives, since opening fire would have made it blatantly clear they were terrorists and not peace activists’…”

Of course ethnic cleansing begins at home and Oren Yiftachel, researcher and human rights activist, writes more about the expulsion of the Bedouin that we had already reported on last week: “Even veterans of human rights struggles cannot recall such a horror show as took place in the Negev Desert, 10km north of Beersheba, last Tuesday…It was a violent showcase operation designed to display force and sow fear…

Jermiah Haber asks against universities disciplining faculty members who call for an academic boycott of their own institutions; the RealNews Network has produced an excellent 10-minute video about the proposed ‘boycott law’; and Bradley Burston, Haaretz’s ‘a-special-place-in-hell’ columnist, is opposed to boycotting Israel but is grateful, nonetheless, to the Olympia Food Coop’s decision not to store Israeli goods, for they coupled it with a strong stand against antisemitism.

Hagai El-Ad, Executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, was invited to chat by Shin Bet (Tea is not the custom; it’s ‘just a conversation…): “Alongside crude attempts to gather information, the essence of these Shin Bet “conversations” appears to be a touching effort to assist well-meaning, if naïve, citizens not to mistakenly stray from the straight and narrow path… George Orwell himself could not have framed this better…

On the right of return, Palestinian and Israeli:

Ahmed Moor poses difficult and painful questions about what the right of return means to Palestinians in 2010 for, while “The Palestinian right of return is enshrined not only in international law, but in the hearts and minds of all refugees” in reality, many will not wish to return. Sami Hermez takes the conversation further…

We also link to an extended debate on the Israeli right of return, sparked off by Ran Greenstein’s critique of the Israeli Law of return of 1950 as discriminatory, and labeling Israeli scholars who defended it (like Gavison and Yacobson among others) as ‘pseudo-liberal’. A long virtual debate among Greenstein, Gavison and Yacobson ensued.

An argument rumbles on through the courts as to who controls unpublished manuscripts by Franz Kafka, located in Tel Aviv. The national library is making claims that the documents are the property of the state of Israel. Just to prove they’ve internalised the lessons Kafka wrote about so eloquently, Firas Maraghy is being put through a Kafkaesque ordeal. His family has lived in Jerusalem for generations; he is currently in Berlin with his German wife and daughter. The Israeli Home Office refuses to register his marriage; or his daughter (on the grounds that her mother is German); or to let them live with him in Jerusalem. And say they will take away his Jerusalem residency unless he returns alone…

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