The week in brief, 8th-14th November – a summary of recent postings

November 14, 2010
Richard Kuper

jfjfpFour postings this week cover overlapping ground in their efforts to get to grips with the current mood in Israel.

American academic Todd Gitlin took part in the “Conference on the Future of the Jewish People”, organized by the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem last week. In his conference strand on the topic of delegitimization – involving cabinet members, leaders of Jewish organizations in Israel, North America, Europe and Australia and journalists – he found an “intense brew of paranoia, smugness, cynicism, cruelty, panic and denial in Israel’s approach to the Palestinians…” That accords well with the mood expressed so well by Uri Avnery’s taxi driver, that “there is no partner for peace”. It is, says Avnery, a convenient attitude: “If there is no chance for peace, there is no need to rack our brains about it, much less to do anything about it… And while we are at it, if there is no chance for peace, why not build settlements? Why not Judaize East Jerusalem? Why not forget about the Palestinians altogether?”

In separate articles Seamus Milne and Ben White focus more on the effects of Israeli policies of Judaisation on Israeli Palestinians. Both see Israeli Palestinians moving centre stage; both see the unity of the Palestinians inside and outside Israel as growing in reponse to Israel’s increasingly strident demands to be recognised by all and sundry as a ‘Jewish state’ – a demand not dreamed of in the past when peace treaties were signed with Egypt or Jordan, for example.

Jeffrey Goldbert recently sought to justify Israel’s vice-like grip on Jerusalem by asking in a recent blogpost “Would Muslims Give Up Control of Mecca?” Jeremiah Haber shows quite how miscast this question is in the context of Jerusalem’s history and reality today.

Gisha continues its sterling work on monitoring freedom of movement by asking Who Controls the Palestinian Population Registry? It will come as no surprise to learn that yes, it is Israel. Despite the Oslo Agreement and despite a recent Palestinian Supreme Court ruling, the Palestinian Interior Ministry finds it has no authority to change the addresses of the 35,000 Palestinian residents who live in the West Bank but whose registered addresses are in Gaza and who therefore live under the constant threat of deportation.

Jews from Arab lands are rarely talked about except in relation to compensation claims and to trading off the Palestinian right of return against these Jewish migrations of the forties and fifties. It is therefore good to see the London Middle East Institute hosting an exciting and wide-ranging two-day conference on the topic, featuring Prof Sami Zubaida and others.

In Germany we had the unedifying spectacle of the Central Council of German Jews losing its cool over the choice of Alfred Grosser to give the Reichskristallnacht memorial talk at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt. His crime? He has criticised Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. He has said: “As a Jewish boy in a Frankfurt school, I was despised, and even beaten. I can’t understand how Jews can scorn others.” And, in September 2009, he gave an interview to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger in which he accused the Central Council of German Jews of silencing critique of Israel. “As soon as a voice against Israel rises up, it’s immediately called ‘antisemitic’ … the worst is the Central Council of Jews.” Even Emmanuel Nahshon, the deputy chief of mission for the Israeli Embassy in Germany, put his oar in saying that Grosser’s “extreme opinions are tainted by self-hatred.” Despite all this huffing and puffing, the talk went off without incident.

Developments within Israel/Palestine may be dire, but internationally it was an interesting week for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. CodePink reports on the successes of its Boycott Ahava campaign to date and call for renewed energy and exertion in the months ahead… Seven Brooklyn rabbis wrote to the campaign claiming that the kibbutz Mizpeh Shalom, where Ahava is based, is in Area C of the West Bank, so it is all right. Brooklyn for Peace answered politely but firmly, pointing out the error in the rabbis’ position… Dutch pension funds are following the example of those in Norway in divesting from the occupation. ABP, the largest Dutch pension fund, has divested from the Israeli company Elbit Systems; and the other major pension fund, PFZW, which held shares in thirteen Israeli companies was earlier in the year reported as developing a “new policy on how to deal with investments in companies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” On 8 November the Electronic Intifada received confirmation of PFZW’s divestment “from almost all Israeli companies”…

In Britain, meanwhile, a campaign – launched and supported by A Just Peace for Palestine, War on Want, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and Palestine Solidarity Campaign – is calling on BT to hang up on the Occupation by breaking its links with Israeli telecommunications company, Bezeq International, which provides services to illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints and army bases in the Occupied West Bank.

Finally, a new Jewish youth movement and a new campaign  is emerging in the United States: YoungJewishProud. Associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, its first outing was at General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans last week with a sustained set of interruptions to Bibi Netanyahu’s speech about  the delegitimisation of Israel. “The occupation delegitimises Israel” was one of the refrains of the protest…

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