The week in brief, 14-20 March 2011 – a summary of recent postings

March 20, 2011
Richard Kuper

jfjfpWe reported last week on the Itamar settlement murders (Outburst of racist hate following settlement murders). This week we link to further discussion of  Israeli responses. At the funeral Motti Fogel, brother of murdered Udi Fogel, eulogized his younger brother “but warned that his death cannot be used as a tool in a national struggle”. He seems to have been almost universally ignored. Nathan Jeffay reports in the Jewish Forward that  Settlers Blame Left For Itamar Murders. Jeremiah Haber expresses his dismay at the response: ‘Demonization dishonors; revenge killings and destruction of property dishonor; making political and hasbara hay dishonors; building settlements on Palestinian land dishonors. I wasn’t happy when I got gruesome pictures; I certainly am not happy when Israel dances on the blood, to use the Hebrew expression, in order to win points and to provide cover for building settlements.” And Yossi Gurvitz, too finds The Itamar victimization dance disgusting. He writes: “The leaders of the settlers went into a seizure, challenging each other to be more ruthless. The prize goes, as usual, to the representative of Kahane and Rabbi Wolfa in the Knesset, Michael Ben Ari: “I call upon the government to carry out a ‘price tag’ [euphemism for pogrom – YG] and expel the residents of the village from which the murderers emerged, and to demolish the village and build in its place apartments for young couples of army veterans.””

Uri Avnery in his latest column heaps derision on Netanyahu, Lieberman, Barak, Eli Yishai, Tzipi Livni, Shimon Peres and their ilk, “the dwarves” of the Israeli political establishment, whose only response to the upheavals in the Arab world is to demand vast additional sums of money from the US for defence and  to declare (Netanyahu) that “the Israeli army would never ever leave the Jordan valley…”

Israeli artists speak out. Israel Prize laureate David Tartakover, singer Rona Kenan, poet Meir Wieseltier and others – have have joined a struggle organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace against the bill punishing Israel boycotters. This bill will cover such things as people calling for a consumer boycott on settlement products, and artists refusing to perform in Ariel, beyond the green line. A letter to the Knesset speaker and members on behalf of 53 organisations says: “Instead of holding a democratic discussion on issues which are on the Israeli public agenda, this bill is being used to silence political rivals and block the possibility of a public discourse.”

The petty cruelties of the occupation are without end. Journalist Ilana Hammerman’s provides us with an in-depth account of the conditions of Gaza Strip residents who need to leave that area to obtain urgent medical treatment. Her moving account focuses on the case Hibah Abu Khamer (24), trying to reach Ramallah for treatment; her illnesses include diabetes, and being almost blind. Hammerman describes the journey, accompanying her from the Erez crossing to Ramallah and back again. It is not a story with a happy ending.

And, on the West Bank, we have an act of routine terrorism. Three buses of settlers from Bat Ayn and Kiryat Arba Settlements stopped on Route 60 near the entrance of Beit Ommar village. The settlers entered some residences and smashed everything in sight… Israeli soldiers also occupied the house of Saleh Abu Ayyesh and used it as a vantage point to shoot tear gas and sound bombs at villagers who tried to defend their homes from the settler attack…

But Israeli weapons have the distinct advantage in the international marketplace of being “battle-tested’. In a  good piece of investigative journalism Jimmy Johnson reveals how the US Dept of Commerce and the US embassy in Tel Aviv are co=promoting an Israeli trade mission with Airlift Inc, an aerospace and consulting firm based in an illegal settlement in East Jerusalem – in explicit contravention of US policy and international law…

In the States the mood among the Jewish community is definitely shifting. MJ Rosenberg has produced two fine contributions this week. In the first, he casts his eye over the latest moves by AIPAC, by far the most influential pro-Israel pressure group in the US, and assesses its and Netanyahu’s strategy (which it faithfully reflects). He believes that stopping a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence is now Netanyahu’s number one goal. So: smear the Palestinian Authority and place the onus on the PA for the impasse in order that, once again, he can repeat the tired old mantra: ‘there is no partner for peace’. Rosenberg’s second contribution appears in the Huffington Post. Here he deals with the latest contribution by David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker and arguably the most influential Jewish American journalist writing today. Having traditionally given Israel the benefit of the doubt Remnick has now moved decisively against the “Israel First” brigade: “For decades, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and other such right-leaning groups have played an outsized role in American politics, pressuring members of Congress and Presidents with their capacity to raise money and swing elections. But Democratic Presidents in particular should recognize that these groups are hardly representative and should be met head on.”

Boycotting the occupation has claimed another victory. This time it is G4S in Denmark. Via its Israeli company Hashmira, G4S supplies baggage-scanning equipment and body scanners at major checkpoints on the West Bank. Not any more. In a response to public pressure, following on the work of the Coalition of Women for Peace, and its monitoring project “Who Profits?”, who had exposed the situation, G4S has said it will not supply materials for use beyond the green line.

Finally, Abu Rahmah, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for organising non-violent resistance at Bil’in, has at long last been released from an Israeli military gaol. On his release he renewed his commitment to the non-violent struggle against the occupation.

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