Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

July 19, 2010

Behind the Smiles and Handshakes

Broad smiles and firm handshakes are staples of any meeting between world leaders documented by journalists and cameras. But in these diplomatic relationships there is always a gap between the symbols of alliance or trust and the true power dynamics between nations and their allies. In the case of the American-Israeli relationship, a recently- released video of Binyamin Netanyahu from 2001 reveals which partner the Prime Minister believes really holds the reigns.

The video, aired Friday on Israel’s Channel 10, shows PM Netanyahu speaking candidly with Israeli settlers about Israel’s relationship with the United States, it’s image on the world stage and using loopholes in the Oslo Accords to continue occupying the West Bank. His remarks, even in translation, are direct and clearly demonstrate the extent to which Netanyahu felt, and likely still feels, Israeli actions are safe from world and especially American criticism.

“Woman: wait a moment, but then the world will say “how come you’re conquering again?”

Netanyahu: the world won’t say a thing. The world will say we’re defending.

Woman: Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?

Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right correction…They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way.”

On the topic of the Oslo Accords and maintaining Israel’s occupation of the West Bank Netanyahu said “I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it? …No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.”

The words truly speak for themselves in revealing the chasm that exists, at least from the Israeli side, between Netanyahu’s photographed smiles and the strength of his handshake.

June 21, 2010

Democracy and Equality in Israel

The Israeli Declaration of Independence states that Israel: “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”

This was Israel back in its idealistic days, when it advertised itself as a land of egalitarianism and democracy.  Israel now, as Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman puts it, has the most “unequal society among western nations.”

Israeli Arabs are marginalized and discriminated against in Israeli society, though they make up about 20% of the population.  Just to highlight a few aspects of discrimination, the State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report on Israel and the Occupied Territories states that: “Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, Palestinian Arabs, non-Orthodox Jews, and other religious groups continued, as did societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. Women suffered societal discrimination and domestic violence. The government maintained unequal educational systems for Arab and Jewish students.” (more…)

June 14, 2010

Rabbi Speaks on Human Rights and Zionism

Today, Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbi’s for Human Rights gave a lecture at the Middle East Institute concerning the definition of  Zionism and its impact on human rights in Israel and the  Occupied Palestinian Territories. Rabbi Ascherman started off his presentation by explaining the fact that within Israel there is a question over the ideological identity of the state. For quite a while there has been a battle between more right-wing zionists and a more liberal non-zionist left.

Ascherman defined  Zionism as the idea that Judaism is not simply a religion, but that the Jews are a people themselves and that their homeland is in Israel. He also explained that this idea existed long before it was called Zionism, and that this can be seen by the fact that for thousands of years the Jewish Holidays and other aspects of the Jewish calendar have been based upon the agricultural calendar of Israel. (more…)

June 10, 2010

The Separation Barrier

A mix of Palestinians, West Bank settlers, environmentalists and developers, have all united in opposition to the construction of the separation barrier in an area around Jerusalem (Haaretz).

Environmentalists and settlers of Gush Etzion are opposed to the destruction of the natural landscape.  Also, a development company called Givat Yael, though self-interested, drew up an alternative route that Israel rejected.  The alternative would have met security goals, had a smaller impact on the Palestinian village of Al-Walaja, and allowed the company to continue with its development plans (Haaretz).  Israel’s rejection of the alternative gives more credence to the idea that the wall is not motivated by security, but rather demographics, as the proposed placement of the barrier blocks off the village. (more…)

June 8, 2010

Rising Jewish Extremism

In the media, extremism is often associated with the Muslim world.  Rarely is it ever associated with Jews in Israel.  However, recent events demonstrate not only how extremism is infiltrating Israel, but how such a trend threatens even more the unstable social fabric of the region.

Just today, while trying to appear as if Israel is enforcing a building freeze in the West Bank, security forces clashed with settlers in the settlement of Beit El over the demolition of an illegal structure.  About 100 teenagers tried to block the forces and threw rocks, against the advice of their rabbi. And one officer was injured.  The fact that the next generation is so unyielding in their views that they are willing to fight, even their own people, is very worrisome. (more…)

June 7, 2010

An Abused Generation

Over 100 imprisoned Palestinian children have reported that they were mistreated by the IDF while in custody.  The Palestinian section of the Geneva-based human rights group, Defence for Children International (DCI), has collected the affidavits and is asking the UN to probe the assaults.

The testimonies of the minors follow a fixed pattern.  The minors reported that they were beaten, verbally abused, blindfolded, coerced into confession, threatened, and some even reported sexual abuse.  Indeed, 97% were handcuffed for long periods of time, 92% were blindfolded for long periods of time, and 69% were beaten.  You can click here for the full list of statistics. (more…)

June 1, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla

The international community is in a furor after yesterday’s events on the Gaza flotilla that left at least 9 activists dead by the hands of the IDF.  Major protests were sparked around the world, from Paris to Istanbul, against the actions of Israel.  Strong condemnation was elicited from the UN, though the U.S. had it watered down a bit, Turkish PM Erdogan, who called the raid a “massacre,” the EU, and many other nations.  It is clear that most of the world is united such condemnation of Israel, and the state is facing further isolation than ever before.

It is difficult to fathom what went wrong on this humanitarian mission, and the UN has called for an impartial inquiry into the raid.  Naturally, there are two differing narratives.  The Free Gaza flotilla left Cyprus with the intention of trying to open up three year blockade on Gaza by delivering  10,000 tons of aid.  Israel intercepted the flotilla 40 miles away from the Gaza coast, though its formal blockade of Gaza only extends 25 miles off the coast.  When the flotilla said its destination was Gaza and would not stop, Israeli forces proceeded to board the ships.  Under the UN Charter on the Law of the Sea, a vessel can only be boarded in international waters if it is suspected to be transporting weapons or weapons of mass destruction.  Seaborne special forces, which are trained for combat and not crowd control, proceeded to board. (more…)

May 18, 2010

Nonviolence: a feasible strategy?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.” But can nonviolence be the answer to the contentious issue of occupation in the West Bank?

Over the past few months, a grassroots boycott of settlement-produced goods has gripped Palestinians in the West Bank.  The boycott has recently become more organized, with volunteers (mostly students) campaigning door-to-door, distributing brochures, and burning settlement-products.  So far, the boycott of over one thousand products has resulted in the destruction of $5 million worth of settlement products.  It is estimated that $200 million worth of settlement goods are sold in the West Bank each year, which is a small portion of to Israel’s $200 billion GDP.  Although the economic effects of the boycott have been relatively minimal, it is the social and political effects that are crucial. (more…)

February 3, 2010

Ehud Barak uses the A-word. WaPo buries it

Filed under: Apartheid,Discourse in America,Discourse in Israel — Helena Cobban @ 7:44 am

Israel’s much-decorated defense minister Ehud Barak yesterday told a high-level audience in Israel that unless Israel can reach a peace deal with the Palestinians it will indeed be running an apartheid system:

The simple truth is, if there is one state [including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza] it will have to be either binational or undemocratic. … if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.

Hullo!!

Shouldn’t Barak start running scared of the kind of massive backlash that Jimmy Carter met when he first, timidly, suggested that what was happening in the occupied territories– though not, in his view, in Israel itself– could be headed toward some kind of apartheid?

Nah, I guess it’s only people in the United States who need to worry about that. The general public discourse on matters Palestinians is still far more free and open inside Israel than it is here in America. (As MJ Rosenberg and Matt Yglesias have already pointed out.)

Another case in point. Barak’s use of the A-word was pretty big news in Israel. But here in the capital of the free world, if you wanted to learn about his characterization of the situation from the venerable Washington Post you’d have to read right down to the bottom of this article— which headlined Salam Fayyad’s appearance at the Herzliya conference, not Barak’s.

(Talking of Barak, this pointed little commentary arguing that he prefers hanging onto his cabinet seat rather than averting Israel’s next war with Syria is also worth reading.)

January 28, 2010

Israeli TV satire on the IDF team in Haiti

Filed under: Discourse in America,Discourse in Israel — Helena Cobban @ 7:52 am

Do check out the whole three minutes of this hilarious clip from Israeli Channel 2’s leading satire program.

And when you’ve seen it all, you could ask yourself whether satirical pokes like this one at the IDF’s incredibly over-hyped “compassion” and “morality” would ever be aired on the mainstream media in the U.S.

…. Just asking.

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