The week in brief, 6-12 December – a summary of recent postings

December 12, 2010

jfjfpThe “peace” talks, which have been going nowhere for the last year are now going nowhere again. The Obama administration has given up on trying to get an extra 90-days of settlement building freeze, though what they hoped to achieve in that 90 days was always a complete mystery and the price they were prepared to pay absurdly high. Perhaps the US has a secret strategy; perhaps Obama now has the necessary excuse for putting the screws on Israel without giving the pro-Israel lobby a field day. Perhaps…

New pressure might conceivably come from the European Union, where as Javier Solana put it “Israel “is a member of the European Union without being a member of its institutions.” A group of 26 senior European leaders – including former heads of state, ministers and heads of European organizations – who held power during the past decade are calling for strong measures against Israel in response to its settlement policy and refusal to abide by international law. They expressed their position in an unusual letter sent a few days ago to the leadership of the European Union and the governments of the EU’s 27 member states. Brussels-based journalist Khaled Diab discusses the EU’s relationship with Israel, drawing critically on David Cronin’s recently published book “Europe’s Alliance with Israel”. And One Democracy looks at the options ahead in its website article, Talks expire but Two-State Process is still Undead.

But does Israel want peace? Akiva Eldar argues that “Israel is basking in the light of the delegitimization… It is much easier to give the world the finger when the whole of it is against you… Indeed, it is necessary not to dismiss the increasing delegitimization of Israel in foreign countries. But instead of whining and blaming the messengers, the captains of the ship of state would do well to change its direction.”

Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee, has languished in prison for a year for nonviolent civil disobedience in the West Bank. His sentence has just ended but an Israeli military court refused to release him. The grounds – he would resume his protests if freed!

As we have continually been chronicling, a flood of discriminatory legislation has been introduced in the Knesset since the elections in February 2009 brought Netanyahu’s far-right coalition government to power. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has produced a paper providing a list of 20 main new laws and currently-tabled bills that discriminate against the Palestinian minority in Israel and threaten their rights as citizens of the state, and in some cases harm the rights of Palestinian residents of the OPT. And the Coalition of Women for Peace has just published its comprehensive new report: “All-Out War: Israel Against Democracy.” This documents the increasing political persecution of peace and human rights organizations and activists, and describes the connections between the assaults led by Israeli government officials, security forces, courts, journalists, and extreme-right organizations in this well-orchestrated offensive on democracy.
Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, writes about the escalation of efforts to undermine the solidarity movement, describing “a well-coordinated, escalating Israeli government-endorsed effort to vilify individuals and cripple organisations that criticise Israel’s human rights record and call for it to respect Palestinian rights and international law…”

All of these developments have been grist to the mill of Israeli racism which is reaching new heights of open, naked hatred towards Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Dozens of top municipal rabbis, their salaries paid by the state, signed a religious ruling to forbid renting homes to gentiles – a move particularly aimed against Arabs – and defended their decision with the declaration that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews. “Racism originated in the Torah,” said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva/Madrassah. “The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended…” Prime Minister Netanyahu harshly condemned them and said such declarations were unacceptable. It will be interesting to see what he does about it. The Magnes Zionist reviews developments and writes of the “downhill slide of much of modern orthodox Jewry into what one may call ‘Kahanism lite’.” And, finally on this topic,  Richard Silverstein has just revealed details of a rabbinical fatwa in the largely Yemenite city of Rosh Ha-Ayin against the employment of Arabs at stores which employ Jewish girls

In the aftermath of the Mount Carmel fire Uri Avnery writes bitingly: “What was revealed this week for all to see was a shocking landscape of incompetence and inability, irresponsibility and ass-covering, lack of planning and lack of foresight, lack of ’staff work’ and lack of coordination between the various government offices. Many years of party corruption have led to a situation where at every crucial point the wrong person occupies the wrong position…”

Nearer home it took a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission by campaigners for Palestinian rights to force the Jewish Chronicle to modify an article alleging anti-Jewish racism during a public meeting at the School of Oriental and African Studies last December.

As news comes in that Breaking the Silence is planning a major new publication to mark ten years since the start of the second intifada, we reproduce a substantial Ha’aretz feature article, Crying out loud, on the organisation and its work.

Israel and its allies say repeatedly that Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel and opposed to a “two-state solution”, that is, to Israel continuing to exist within 1967 borders. David Morrison investigates what Hamas has actually said on this and related issues.

Finally Gaza. Always Gaza. Ocha reports that since the blockade of Gaza was ‘eased’ in June, the Israeli authorities have reduced the amounts of wheat and animal feed allowed into the Gaza Strip. The blockade, of course, is supposedly about “security”. How come then, that Israel has just announced it will allow limited exports – of agricultural products, furniture, textiles and ceramics – from Gaza. Indeed, if security is the issue why have any exports ever been banned?

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