July 11, 2010

Israel Inquiry, by Khalil Bendib

EDITOR: BDS is taking a hold and dictating the new agenda

Not a day passes without some major news on the BDS issue, from all parts of the globe. This rising movement, with supporters in most countries, and with growing effect, is now assisting the isolation of the Israeli regime of militarised, brutal colonial settlement. While Israel’s universities and colleges do all they can to support the coniued occupoation, there are many academics who are increasingly voicing their opposition to the regime and its war crimes. This struggle is likely to intensify, as the regime is moving to stop all crticism by using the legal machinery to silence academics. This vert act is a proof on the increasing efficacy of the BDS campaign.

Israeli academics hit back over bid to pass law that would criminalise them: The Observer

Backlash over threat to outlaw supporters of boycott movement aimed at ending the continued occupation of the West Bank

An academic backlash has erupted in Israel over proposed new laws, backed by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, to criminalise a handful of Israeli professors who openly support a campaign against the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has gained rapid international support since Israeli troops stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships in May, killing nine activists. Israeli attention has focused on the small number of activists, particularly in the country’s universities, who have openly supported an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

A protest petition has been signed by 500 academics, including two former education ministers, following recent comments by Israel’s education minister, Gideon Saar, that the government intends to take action against the boycott’s supporters. A proposed bill introduced into the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – would outlaw boycotts and penalise their supporters. Individuals who initiated, encouraged or provided support or information for any boycott or divestment action would be made to pay damages to the companies affected. Foreign nationals involved in boycott activity would be banned from entering Israel for 10 years, and any “foreign state entity” engaged in such activity would be liable to pay damages.

Saar last week described the petition as hysterical and an attempt to silence contrary opinions. While the vast majority of the signatories do not support an academic boycott of Israel, they have joined forces over what they regard as the latest assault on freedom of expression in Israel. The petition states: “We have different and varied opinions about solving the difficult problems facing Israel, but there is one thing we are agreed on – freedom of expression and academic freedom are the very lifeblood of the academic system.”

Daniel Gutwein, a history professor at Haifa University who is one of the signatories, described the minister’s intervention as an attempt “to make Israeli academia docile, frightened and silent”.

Although the BDS campaign – in various forms – has been running for over half a decade, it has become an increasingly fraught issue inside Israel in the past year since a small number of academics publicly declared support for a boycott, including Neve Gordon, author of Israel’s Occupation and a former paratrooper who was badly injured while serving with the Israeli Defence Force.

Speaking to the Observer last week, Gordon said that many Israelis saw support for the BDS as “crossing a red line”. Adding that he had received recent death threats, he said: “I am worried about what is happening to the space for debate in Israel. I find that there is a proto-fascist mindset developing. One of the slogans you hear a lot now is no citizenship without loyalty. It is an inversion of the republican idea that the state should be loyal to the citizen.”

Israeli campaigners believe the Gaza flotilla incident represents a tipping point in raising support for boycotts. Musicians including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron and the Pixies have cancelled shows in Israel. Hollywood actors also snubbed Jerusalem’s international film festival and internationally acclaimed writers have supported the BDS movement, which is gaining support in dozens of countries.

“It’s a different world to what it was even a month ago,” says Kobi Snitz, member of an Israeli BDS group. “Suddenly, all sorts of people are supporting it – people that you wouldn’t expect.”

What is most interesting, however, has been the impact in Israel itself. Israeli journalist and blogger Noam Sheizaf wrote recently that such actions are now forcing Israelis “to think about the political issues and about their consequences… For a country in a constant state of denial regarding the occupation, this is no small thing.” Sheizaf does not promote the boycott, but says: “I will gladly return concert tickets if that is the price for making Israelis understand that the occupation cannot go on.”

Adi Oz, culture editor on the Tel Aviv weekly Ha’ir, appeared on Israeli national radio explaining her support for recent boycott activity. “When the Pixies cancelled their concert here I was disappointed,” she says. “But I was not critical of the Pixies, I was critical of our government, because they are responsible for Israel’s isolation.” She adds that, post-flotilla, the cultural boycott is “something that everyone has a stand on – and some people are realising that they are in favour of it, without having thought about it before.” There has also been a spate of boycott-related discussion in the financial press. The daily business newspaper Calcalist ran an uncritical profile of the Israeli campaigners behind Who Profits, an online database of Israeli and international companies involved in the occupation of the West Bank.

The project’s co-ordinator, Dalit Baum, of the Coalition of Women for Peace, says: “Every day there is an article about this issue in the Israeli media, which creates a discussion about the economy of the occupation and raises the fact that there’s a problem.”

Lebanon UN force urges co-operation with peacekeepers: BBC

The head of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon has appealed for calm, following recent incidents in which villagers attacked soldiers.
Locals were angered by what they saw as plans by the UN force to undermine the Hezbollah militant group in the event of a renewed conflict with Israel.

The area is a Hezbollah stronghold.
In an open letter to residents, Maj Gen Alberto Asarta Cuevas said the best way to deal with any concerns was through dialogue, not by beating peacekeepers.

In the latest of the clashes, villagers on Saturday disarmed a French patrol of UN peacekeepers in the village of Tuline and attacked them with sticks, rocks and eggs before the army intervened.
Residents have complained that Unifil has stepped up its patrols in southern Lebanon, which has been under the de facto control of Hezbollah since the withdrawal of Israeli forces in 2000.

Open letter
“As you all know, some recent incidents have cast a shadow on the positive environment in which Unifil peacekeepers have been working, in close co-ordination with the Lebanese army, for your safety and security,” Maj Gen Cuevas said in a rare open letter released on Thursday.

The UN commander said Unifil respected the privacy and property of the villagers in the south, and that problems should be resolved by discussion “not by obstructing the work of the peacekeepers or by beating them”.

Tensions in southern Lebanon have increased after recent Israeli claims that weapons were flowing in to Hezbollah fighters.
On Wednesday, the Israeli military published an aerial photograph purporting to show Hezbollah weapons caches in the southern Lebanese village of al-Khiam.
Following the recent clashes, Hezbollah – which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel – urged the peacekeepers to stick to their mandate.
“Unifil should always carry out its role… in a way so as not to arouse mistrust and worry of citizens as was the case during the latest exercises,” Hezbollah’s number two, Naim Qassem, said in a newspaper interview.
The UN Security Council is due to meet later on Friday, at France’s request, to discuss the confrontations and reaffirm the peacekeeping force’s right to free movement.

The UN force was originally formed in 1978 after Israeli troops entered southern Lebanon and began a 22-year occupation.
Security Council Resolution 1701, that ended the 2006 war, expanded the mandate of Unifil and paved the way for the Lebanese army to deploy in the sensitive border area.

Racism in the name of halakha: Haaretz Editorial

Rabbis are exploiting fears and inflaming emotions under pretense of enforcing Jewish religious law.
The letter circulated by three rabbis in south Tel Aviv in which they direct residents not to rent their apartments to migrants and refugees trying to settle in the city makes a pretense of concern for the welfare of the residents and compassion for asylum seekers. But it hardly manages to conceal the blatant racism lurking between the lines.

The rabbis warn residents not to give access to their homes to “illegal workers,” but it is clear that maintaining the rule of law is not their concern, inasmuch as they are not demanding similar treatment for Israeli citizens. As for the argument that the presence of the foreigners is causing a rise in crime and intermarriage, the rabbis are even taking the law into their own hands and bypassing city hall and the police.

The weaker population groups living in south Tel Aviv find themselves pressed to take in refugees, migrant workers and collaborators. This situation creates troubling friction that aggravates the residents’ sense of unfair treatment and alienation. It’s hard to ask the inhabitants of these deprived neighborhoods to take in the outcasts of the world with open arms without feeling threatened. In this complex reality, the role of religious and secular leaders is to try to bridge the gaps and find creative ways of living together.

The rabbis who signed the letter are not civil servants. However, the public is greatly influenced by their opinions. The Tel Aviv municipality has expended more than a little effort in taking care of migrant workers and could have used the rabbis’ help in making contact with the migrants and their leaders and attempting to integrate the newcomers into the neighborhood in the ways that have been done in many other countries. The rabbis, however, prefer to exploit residents’ fears and inflame emotions in the name of halakha, Jewish religious law.

Over the weekend, a courageous leader, Rabbi Yehuda Amital, who founded the Meimad political movement, passed away. His party carried the banner of tolerance, humanism and the search for peace in the name of religious faith, and though the members of his movement were always a minority, they provided an important alternative to ultra-Orthodox-nationalist radicalization.

In recent years, Rabbi Amital’s students and followers have fallen silent, and the status of rabbis such as those who wrote the letter about the migrants has grown stronger. It can be hoped that the municipality will understand the damage they are doing and will publicly disassociate the city from their questionable activities and instead provide the option of an alternative, one of coexistence for all of the city’s residents – both temporary and permanent – a coexistence free of fear and racism.

A peace crime: Haaretz

What more can Assad say that he hasn’t already? How long must he knock in vain on Israel’s locked door?
By Gideon Levy
It couldn’t have been spelled out more explicitly, clearly and emphatically. Read and judge for yourselves: “Our position is clear: When Israel returns the entire Golan Heights, of course we will sign a peace agreement with it …. What’s the point of peace if the embassy is surrounded by security, if there is no trade and tourism between the two countries? That’s not peace. That’s a permanent cease-fire agreement. This is what I say to whoever comes to us to talk about the Syrian track: We are interested in a comprehensive peace, i.e., normal relations.”

Who said this to whom? Syrian President Bashar Assad to the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir last week. These astounding things were said to Arab, not Western ears, and they went virtually unnoticed here. Can you believe it?

What more can Assad say that he hasn’t already? How many more times does he have to declare his peaceful intentions before someone wakes up here? How long must he knock in vain on Israel’s locked door? And if that were not enough, he also called on Turkey to work to calm the crisis with Israel so it can mediate between Israel and Syria.

Assad’s words should have been headline news last week and in the coming weeks. Anwar Sadat said less before he came to Israel. In those days we were excited by his words, today we brazenly disregard such statements. This leads to only one conclusion: Israel does not want peace with Syria. Period. It prefers the Golan over peace with one of its biggest and most dangerous enemies. It prefers real estate, bed and breakfasts, mineral water, trendy wine and a few thousand settlers over a strategic change in its status.

Just imagine what would happen if we emerged from the ruins of our international status to sign a peace agreement with Syria – how the international climate regarding us would suddenly change, how the “axis of evil” would crack and Iran’s strongholds weaken, how Hezbollah would get a black eye, more than in all the Lebanon wars. And maybe even Gilad Shalit, held by the Damascus-based Hamas, would be freed. Sound too good to be true? Maybe, but Israel is not even trying. A prime minister who ignores this chance is no less than a peace criminal.

Instead of the Shalit march that has just ended, a different march should have set out this week, one more massive and determined, calling on the Israeli government, the peace refuser, to do something. Hoarse shouts should have gone up: Peace with Syria now. But this march will not go forward this week. Apparently it will never happen. Singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi, Zubin Mehta and the respectable demonstrators who marched on behalf of one soldier will not do so to support a move that could save the lives of many soldiers and civilians. Why? Because that takes courage. Why? Because Assad was right when he told La Repubblica in Italy: “Israeli society has tilted too far to the right, and it is not capable of making peace with Syria.”

True, they say the Mossad chief thinks that Assad will never make peace because the whole justification for his regime is based on hostility toward Israel. Our experts are never wrong, but similar things were said about Sadat. True, Assad also said other things. Other? Not really. He said that if he does not succeed through peace, he will try to liberate the Golan through resistance. Illogical? Illegitimate? Not a reason to try to challenge him? What do we have to lose but the chance? Even the latest fig leaf a few prime ministers have used here – the assessment that the U.S. opposes peace with Syria – is absurd. Does anyone see U.S. President Barack Obama opposing a peace move with Syria? What a pity that he is not pressing Israel to move ahead with it.

And then there is the old refrain: “Assad doesn’t mean it.” When Arab leaders make threats, they mean it; when they talk peace, they don’t. And also: “We’ll return the Golan and end up with a piece of paper and missiles.” Remember how that was said about Egypt? But we persist: The prime minister is criminally missing a historic chance for peace, and we yawn apathetically. Sounds logical, right?

Mossad agents murdered my husband, says widow of billionaire arms dealer: The Observer

In 2007, Ashraf Marwan fell to his death from his balcony in London. Mona Nasser explains why she is sure he was pushed
He was accused of being both an Israeli spy and an Egyptian double agent. Three years after his death, Ashraf Marwan’s career and mysterious death in London remain among the most intriguing unsolved riddles of modern espionage.

The billionaire arms dealer, who was the son-in-law of Egypt’s second president, fell to his death from a fifth-floor West End balcony on a summer’s day in 2007. His death in the heart of wealthy London made world headlines.

An inquest this week will attempt finally to unravel the circumstances of Marwan’s fatal fall. In an exclusive interview, his widow has told the Observer that in the days before he died her husband believed his life was in danger. After Marwan died, his family discovered that the draft manuscript of his memoirs – which threatened to expose secrets of the Middle East’s intelligence agencies – had disappeared from his bookshelf.

Mona Nasser, Marwan’s wife of 40 years and one of two daughters of the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, said that her husband confided that he was being pursued by assassins nine days before his death. She believes he was killed by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, and is expected to be a witness at the coroner’s inquest that opens on Monday.

Nasser has also criticised the investigation by the Metropolitan Police into Marwan’s death as negligent. The shoes that Marwan was wearing when he died – which may have provided vital DNA evidence to show whether he was murdered or jumped – were lost by investigating officers.

Since his death, there has been intense speculation over the secretive life of Marwan and his role in the Yom Kippur war, waged between Israel and a coalition of Arab states backing Egypt and Syria in 1973. Mossad agents say Marwan was their heroic spy at the heart of the Egyptian government. But both Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s current president, and the former head of Israeli military intelligence have indicated that Marwan was a double agent feeding misinformation to the Israelis.

Marwan, 63, was found dead in June 2007 on the pavement beneath his exclusive Carlton House Terrace flat, a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square. At least one witness claims to have seen two men of Middle Eastern appearance on his fifth-floor balcony seconds after he fell.

Nasser, speaking from her home in Cairo, said that Marwan told her three times in the four years before he died that his life was in peril. The last time he did so, they were alone together in their London flat. “He turned to me and said: ‘My life is in danger. I might be killed. I have a lot of different enemies.’ He knew they were coming after him. He was killed by Mossad,” she said.

Those fears were at their most intense just days after an Israeli court ruled that Major-General Eli Zeira, who headed Israeli military intelligence during the 1973 war, had exposed Marwan’s identity as an Israeli spy. “I was worried, of course, but in our life together we had been in many dangerous situations. He was determined to carry on as normal,” she said.

Nasser met Marwan, a tall, handsome chemist, in August 1965 in Cairo, where they were both students. He was, she said, charming and quietly spoken. They were married the following year. He soon began working closely with her father. “My father would send my husband to missions in foreign countries. My husband refused to give me sensitive information about his trips because that would have put me in danger,” she said.

Speaking of her husband’s alleged role in the Yom Kippur war, Nasser said that she confronted her husband in 2003 but he had denied that he had any direct contact with Mossad agents.

However, since Marwan’s death Nasser said she had learned from Egyptian intelligence officers that he did have a role in feeding Mossad with false information. She still does not feel as if he lied to her. “My husband was a hero who served his country. He only did what was asked of him to perfection,” she said.

After Anwar Sadat, who had succeeded Nasser as president in 1970, was assassinated in 1981, Marwan and his family moved to London.

Nasser said that the police investigation following her husband’s death had been a sham. “The investigation was extremely negligent. They did not seal the area properly. They did not take fingerprints. They lost the shoes he was wearing when died. This was all vital information,” she said.

The shoes may have carried clues as to how he died, because he suffered from neuropathy in his feet. This meant that he could not lift them higher than a few inches without help. “If he was supposed to have climbed over a metre-high balcony rail, there would have been scuff marks,” she said.

A police spokesman said that the three-year investigation into Marwan’s death, which was removed from one set of detectives and handed to the Specialist Crime Directorate after Marwan’s shoes were lost, continues.

The coroner’s inquest has been scheduled to last for at least three days, and is expected to hear testimony from police officers and from former business partners of Marwan.

On the day that Marwan died, he had been working hard on his memoirs of his role in the 1970s, according to family members. His wife said the lock on the front door had been left on the latch by one of their household staff. A housekeeper in the flat was the only other person present in the 15-room apartment, giving an intruder ample time to find Marwan and kill him, she claimed.

“I believe that the intruders took him to the bedroom, they hit him and they threw him out of the window over the balcony. Someone on a fourth-floor balcony who gave evidence to the police heard him scream before he fell. Do people committing suicide scream before they fall?” she said.

Nasser said that the couple had been looking forward to holidays with their five grandchildren, and had made many plans for the long and short term.

“He was happy. We were happy. There is no way he killed himself. It is so painful to think about one’s husband being thrown over a balcony. It is so horrible. I am talking about it for the first time because the truth should come out,” she said.

Another Palestinian Gandhi Crushed by Israel: Huffington Post

Joseph Dana
Few people other than Palestinians visit the Ofer Israeli military prison in the West Bank. Part military prison and part military courthouse, the Ofer prison complex feels like a desert version of Guantanamo Bay. Palestinians families wait for hours inside the prison walls while their loved ones stand trial in makeshift courthouses before military tribunals. The soul crushing layout of the courtrooms mimics the architecture of the occupation itself: intimidating, segregated and devoid of contact between Israelis and Palestinians. On the 7th of July 2010, five Palestinians from villages throughout the West Bank stood trial for the involvement in unarmed struggle against Israel’s continued military occupation. Those on trial had been snatched from their beds in the middle of the night, accused of stone throwing or participation in an illegal protest and interrogated in unnamed Israeli military bases . They are the latest to be caught in Israel’s recent wave of repression directed at the popular unarmed resistance in the West Bank.

The names of the Palestinian detainees never came up in the recent talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and President Obama. However, Palestinian society is intently focused on the fate of the most prominent figure on trial, Adeeb Abu Rahma. Abu Rahma is a resident of Bilin, a West Bank village that has been a nexus of unarmed resistance to the Israeli military occupation for over five years. Bilin’s struggle began as reaction against the construction of Israel’s separation wall, which will annex significant portions of the village’s agricultural land if completed. Thousands of Israelis, Palestinians and international supporters including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Desmond Tutu and Naomi Klein have joined in Bilin’s weekly demonstrations since they began. The village’s struggle is the subject of a riveting documentary, “Bil’in, Habibti,” by Israeli filmmaker/activist Shai Pollak.

The American media has largely ignored the widespread unarmed Palestinian campaign of resistance, preferring to cover continued Israeli defiance over the creation of new settlements throughout the West Bank. If it were to examine Abu Ramha’s case, the mainstream American press would quickly discover a truly Kafkaesque system of laws governing the Palestinian population in the West Bank which contradict Israel’s bluster about upholding democratic values in a sea of tyranny. Indeed, the creation of settlements is less of issue than the maintenance required to control the Palestinian population. Instead of focusing on the settlement issue as the main threat to the so-called peace process, the Obama administration should begin establishing some degree of justice for average Palestinians. The White House could start by denouncing the increasing repression of grassroots unarmed Palestinian resistance.

Adeeb Abu Rahma’s story offers a stark view of the bureaucracy of occupation. A taxi driver and father of nine who has been active in the unarmed resistance in Bilin from its outset, he was arrested in Bilin on July 10, 2009 while taking part in one of the weekly Friday protests. The Israeli army accused him of participation in ‘violent demonstrations’ against the Israeli separation wall, presence in a ‘closed Israeli military zone’ and disturbing the public order. Abu Rahma’s conviction relies heavily on coerced testimony gleaned from four teenagers arrested in a night raid in Bilin on charges of stone throwing. Following their arrest, the teens were interrogated late at night, under harsh conditions and without their parents or lawyers present. According to the Israeli army’s version of events, they eventually declared that Abu Rahma told them to throw stones during a protest in Bilin.

The popular struggle committee of Bilin, of which Abu Rahma is a member, officially discourages stone throwing at protests, preferring to encourage non-violent demonstration. During Abu Rahma’s trial, the teens insisted that their testimony was illegitimate and coerced. In addition to the coerced testimony, Israeli military prosecutors argued that they had videotape footage of Abu Rahma directing stone throwers at a protest but when asked to release the footage to the court, the tapes were mysteriously deleted. Despite the questionable legal application of all of the testimony presented by the prosecution, the court accepted the testimony and ‘footage’ as legitimate in the persecution of Abu Rahma.

On July 7, 2010 Abu Ramha was sentenced to one year in prison which he had already served. Israeli military prosecutors quickly filed an appeal against the verdict, calling it “too lenient” and asking that Abu Ramha remain in custody until the appeal process is finished. Their request was granted by a military judge named Lieutenant Colonel Benisho from the military court of appeals. Benisho argued that “this appeal fails to set the proper punishment in a unique case in which a general punishment level which has not yet been set.” In other words, the judge argued that there was no legal precedent to help him decide whether Abu Ramha should remain in prison during his appeal period. However, the judge’s statement was discredited by previous legal precedents in similar cases in which defendants received harsher punishments than Abu Ramha. Abu Ramha will have to remain in prison for an unknown amount of time while the appeal is filed despite already serving his sentence.

According to the Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky, who represents many of popular struggle leaders in Bilin, Abu Rahma is the latest example of Israeli military efforts to completely repress any popular unarmed resistance to Israel’s occupation and separation wall. The maintenance of occupation and continued settlement expansion have forced the Israeli military to target nonviolent Palestinian leaders and use occupation law to incarcerate them for long periods of time. Amnesty International has said in a recent statement regarding Abu Rahma’s case that, “The broad scope of Israeli military orders mean that Adeeb Abu Rahma could be imprisoned solely for legitimately exercising his right to freedom of expression in opposing Israeli policies in the West Bank… If this is the case, we would regard him as a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally”

Commentators of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often complain that there has not yet been a legitimate Palestinian Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. to emerge from within Palestinian civil society. The reality is that there are many Palestinians engaged in popular unarmed resistance to the Israeli occupation, preferring organized demonstrations in the West Bank to suicide bombs in Tel Aviv. Common people like Adeeb Abu Rahma could become the non-violent leader everyone claims to be waiting for. However, the Israeli government seems to recognize how much damage such a figure could do to their international image and to the occupation they will defend at any cost. And so hundreds of Palestinian Gandhis are brought before draconian Israeli military tribunals each year, only to face long sentences that nearly ensure that the world will never learn their names.

EDITOR: Professors against silencing Israelis, but less concerned about Palestine

Many of the professors signed on to this petition are not on the left by any stretch of the imagination; Haifa University rector Prof. Yossi Ben Artzi is on the hard right, and has been instrumental in making life difficult for a number of academics in his university, who were criutical of the continued occupation. Many are mainly worried about their own rights, rather than those of Palestinians, but this developemnt is certainly most welcome.

Israeli professors slam education minister over stance on academic boycott: Haaretz

Petitioners include Haifa University rector Prof. Yossi Ben Artzi, Israel Prize laureates professors Benjamin Isaac and Yehoshua Kolodny, and former education minister Prof. Yuli Tamir.
Hundreds of Israeli professors and academics have signed a petition slamming Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s stated intention to take action against professors who support an academic boycott of Israel.

“If the higher education system in Israel wants to maintain a high quality it must also include opinions that are not acceptable to everyone, social and political criticism, and critical and even controversial research and instruction,” the petition, signed by 542 college and university professors, states.
Petitioners include Haifa University rector Prof. Yossi Ben Artzi, Israel Prize laureates professors Benjamin Isaac and Yehoshua Kolodny, and former education minister Prof. Yuli Tamir, who is now president of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.

The petition was initiated by the Forum for the Protection of Public Education.

Haaretz reported a few weeks ago that Education Minister Sa’ar vowed to punish Israeli professors who back an academic boycott of Israel.

“When an Israeli academic preaches for academic boycott he crosses a red line,” Sa’ar said at the time, adding that he discussed taking measures – mainly disciplinary – against these professors with the head of the Higher Education Council’s Planning and Budgeting Committee.

Sa’ar added that he would also discuss such measures with the heads of the academic institutions directly.

The petition states: “We have different and varied opinions about solving the difficult problems facing Israel, but there is one thing we are agreed on – freedom of expression and academic freedom are the very lifeblood of the academic system.”

“Israeli academia will suffer great damage if politicians dictate to it what is right and wrong to say, think, research and teach, and force it to adopt that kind of criteria for admitting, promoting or rejecting researchers and professors. Your statement about intending to use your authority to act against professors who support an academic boycott of Israel are causing just such damage,” it says.

The petition also makes reference to the education minister’s support of the recently distributed Im Tirzu movement report that claims political science teachings at Israeli universities are tainted with a “post-Zionist bias.”

These reports, purporting to be scientific, have been distributed by “people pretending to care about Zionist values, but who are advancing under this guise a culture of gagging and intimidation on campuses,” the petition says.

Braverman: Israel should embrace its Arabs, Haredim: Haaretz

Minister of Minority Affairs says Israel has the most unequal society amongst western nations.
Israel should do more to integrate its Arab and Haredi sectors, Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman said on Tuesday, the third day of the “Democracy and its Challenges” conference sponsored by the French Embassy in cooperation with Haaretz.

“David Ben Gurion wanted Israel to be a light onto the nations – a moral leader and a nation of justice and equality,” Braverman said. “This requires long-term vision, which is tough in a world where what is pressing pushes aside what is important, when we are enslaved by ratings and finances.”

Braverman said that the Haredim should be embraced in the workplace and that more resources should be allocated for Arabs. He said he is working on a plan for the coming decade incorporating those goals.

“Thus we will realize Ben Gurion’s vision of a nation that is a renewable light unto the nations,” he said.

“We have more startups than Europe. We succeeded in building a terrific state – the state of Tel Aviv. But Israel is Carthage, without the Negev. We have the most unequal society among western nations. When we founded the nation, we were one of the most equal societies.”

Regarding the situation with the Gaza flotilla, Braverman said there is much tension in the Israeli Arab community.

“It is absolutely legitimate in a democracy for there to be demonstrations but Israeli Arab leaders have promised to act with restraint and I also told the Internal Security minister that the police should act to avoid contact with the Arab population,” he said.

Nine arrested in latest Sheikh Jarrah clash: Haaretz

Former MK Zahava Gal-On says author David Grossman was pushed by police.
Police have clashed once more with demonstrators in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, arresting nine people. Some 300 demonstrators took part in the weekly protest on Friday, among them author David Grossman.

Every week for the past nine months, the demonstrators have protested against the takeover of homes in the neighborhood by settlers.
Unlike previous demonstrations, the protesters tried to approach a home that has been taken over and is in an area the police cordon off every week to keep the demonstrators out.

Left-wing activists say they wanted to protest that they are discriminated against by the police, who allow settlers and their supporters to reach the site.

Also among the demonstrators trying to break through the police cordon were former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair and former Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On.

A small group of demonstrators managed to get passed the police, who drove back the others.

“This was one of the more violent incidents I remember,” Gal-On said. “We wanted to enter the neighborhood, but the brutality of the police has reached new heights. They pushed and I was hit, too. They simply kicked the young people lying on the floor.”

Gal-On and other activists said the police also pushed Grossman.

Ben-Yair asked to talk with the officer in charge to calm the situation, but a policeman told him he refuses to negotiate.

The nine who were arrested agreed to sign a promise not to come to Sheikh Jarrah in the next two weeks.

The police say that only eight protesters were arrested and that all will be indicted.

“Once again, as in past weeks, the leftists are complaining after they broke the law,” said a senior source in the Jerusalem police. “Dozens of protesters left the protest area set by the court, blocked the road and tried to break into the homes of the Jews. The police force ordered them repeatedly to go back to the protest area and they refused.”

Haaretz reported early last week that a letter signed by senior legal experts and public figures was sent to the attorney general calling on him to investigate the conduct of the police toward the Sheikh Jarrah protesters.

Mad Israelis section

EDITOR: Just to prove that it is not always the YNet and Jerusalem Post who give space to right wing aand fascist lunatics, Haaretz is also allowing Karni Elad, a well established ranter of the settlements and the right, to vent her anger aginst Dorit Beinish of the Supreme Court, hardly a left-winger…

Who is the High Court of Justice for?: Haaretz

Dorit Beinisch is for the left. That’s okay, as long as she does not bring her opinions to court and allow them to interfere with her legal judgment.
By Karni Eldad
One evening, when my brother was staring at an important game between Narnia and Mongolia, his son asked him, “Dad, who are you for?” If you would direct the question to the president of the Supreme Court, the answer would be clear. Dorit Beinisch is for the left. That’s allowed. Almost half the nation tilts left. The other half, and maybe a bit more than the last elections proved, tilts right. That’s okay, as long as she does not bring her opinions to court and allow them to interfere with her legal judgment and the preservation of equality before the law.

But a comparative study done by Regavim (an NGO that monitors and documents illegal activities on state land throughout the country ) shows that Beinisch’s decisions, and the decisions of the Supreme Court as a whole, are blatantly biased. The report examines cases that mirror one another: petitions submitted by Arabs and extreme leftist organizations against illegal construction by settlers, and petitions submitted by rightist organizations against illegal Arab building.

It is true that each case should be examined on its merits, and they are not identical. That is why the report examined the process’ procedural elements, which are constant and measurable, like the time given to respond, the number of hearings held, the time elapsed between hearings and the composition of the panels of presiding judges. These elements are part of the judicial process even before the issues at hand are examined deeply, and they reflect the starting point from which the judges consider the issue. Thus it is impossible to attribute the profound differences as reflected in the report to scholarly legal nuances, the quality of the lawyer or the mood of the judge. And the result is shocking.

This is not a single petition, but all petitions submitted in the last five years on this topic. The trend is blatantly discriminatory, and it appears that none of the judges have made an effort to hide it.

For example, how much time on average does the High Court of Justice give a respondent to submit a preliminary reply? If the petition comes from the left, it is 25 days. On the other had, if the petition comes from the right, the respondents can go to the beach. They have 88 days to reply. Even before the arguments have been heard, the court can issue an interim injunction. Here the finding is perhaps the most glaring: In 90 percent of petitions submitted by the left and the Arabs, the court issued an interim injunction, while in cases of petitions by the right the number is zero. Not once.

Now for the hearing itself, before a three-judge panel. The claim is that the considerations when choosing judges are completely practical. If so, why is it that in 60 percent of the petitions submitted by the left, Beinisch is present at the hearings, as opposed to zero when the petitions are from the right?

If you think all this is coincidental, see how many days it takes the court to set a date for a first hearing: 389 days for a petition from the right, 177 for a leftist-Arab petition. Even when it comes to interim injunctions, the gap is glaring: 35 percent of leftist petitions produce such injunctions, zero in cases of rightist petitions. In the hearings themselves, the court is quick to decide when considering rightist petitions: The average number of hearings held are 0.5 for the right and 1.9 (almost four times more ) for the left.

Justice Shimon Agranat said “there is nothing more destructive to a society than a sense among its members that they are subject to a double standard. The sense of inequality is one of the harshest feelings.”

Well, that’s how most of the public feels about an institution that is supposed to uphold precisely the opposite values.

Editor: Occupation is fun…

Apparently, the ‘dancing soldiers’ are a sign of normality, according to Sima Kadmon, one of the senior correspondents of Yediot Aharonot. What can you say to people who hold such views, apart from sending them to see a specialist in a hurry? Israelis in this condition are totally devoid of irony, another sign of the disease.

Our best ambassadors: YNet

Op-ed: Dancing troops in Hebron show world young people under IDF uniforms
Sima Kadmon
Published:     07.09.10, 14:24
It has been a while since we felt the kind of joy we experienced when we saw the six Nahal Brigade soldiers dancing in Hebron’s streets.
It was not only the world that suddenly saw IDF soldiers from a different perspective. We also saw it. It did not matter how many times they showed us the clip, it was not enough for us.
How should I put it? Suddenly there was a feeling of normalcy around here; a sense of having the right perspective about life. When was the last time we saw an Israeli combat soldier in a pose that is not meant to kill, detain, search, or thwart an attack?

Yet there it was, under the military uniforms and helmets, the protective vests and the M-16 rifles – for a few moments we saw the emergence of young, funny people who view the world not only through the sights of their weapons.
We saw people who understand that there is life beyond the alleyways of Hebron.
The clip presented IDF soldiers in such manner that had these troops not existed in real life, the IDF would have had to invent them.
If I were a Foreign Ministry official, I would rush to recruit these six young men to the ranks of the Foreign Service. Unless the Bat Sheva dance company signed them up already, of course.

The rationalist nationalist: YNet

Op-ed: Israelis should not accept systematic de-legitimization of nationalist worldview

Yishai Fleisher

Published:     07.08.10, 23:58
Allow me to boil down the whole Israeli national political debate for you:

The majority of people who call themselves “doves” or “left wingers” believe in land concessions for the sake of peace. Most do not believe that Judea and Samaria is actually Arab land, but they do believe that acceding to world pressure and Arab demands is the pragmatic way to move forward.
The majority of people who call themselves “nationalists” or “right wingers” (whether secular or religious) believe that it is wrong to give up sovereignty of Jewish land, they are against evacuations of citizens, and they do not believe that land giveaways will bring peace.

However, while “left wingers” are seen as rational and pragmatic, “right wingers” are dubbed zealous, messianic, and unrealistic. This is because many think that a hard-line stance in opposition to world pressure is untenable. But while the fear of going against global coercion is reasonable, the stigma of irrationality that nationalists carry is not.

Some time ago, I was leading a tour of Israeli educators throughout Judea and Samaria. They were moved by the beautiful sites, the history, and the flourishing Jewish communities which attest to the two-millennia Jewish yearning for the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Bethlehem, Shilo, and Bethel.

In order to convince them of our rights to this land and its strategic importance, I spoke about our historical connection and the international legal recognition of the West Bank as an integral part of the territory of the Jewish homeland (San Remo Accords, ratified by the League of Nations and endorsed by the US Congress in 1922). I also talked about the military advantage the mountainous highland gives Israel, I explained that Judea and Samaria protect our capital from the east, north and south, and reminded them what happened after we gave away our land to Gaza terrorists.

But the educators still thought that keeping these sites under Israeli sovereignty was politically unfeasible. “Look”, said one of the teachers sneeringly, “I understand that you have a religious outlook, but the bottom line is that it simply won’t work in the real world.”

Yet did I base my arguments on religion? I am indeed a religious person and my faith does give me confidence, but it does not preclude me from thinking rationally (not unlike my secular nationalist colleagues.) I reminded him that I was trained as a lawyer and that my opinions were grounded in facts and reason. But to no avail. The look of condescension in his eyes, which was focused on my “messianic” beard, said it all: “No matter what you say, you base your whole thinking on theology; you are irrational and incapable of reasonable discourse.”

Irrational, zealous monkeys
It is one thing to argue and disagree, but it is quite another to dehumanize and discriminate. I was being discriminated against, judged not by the content of my thoughts but by the hair on my chin. And what was so irrational in my thinking anyway? Bowing to international demands may be logical, but standing up to them is no less so. Anyone who has fought a schoolyard bully knows that the act of defiance, while demanding some bravery, pays off real-world dividends.

The Middle East is a tough neighborhood. If you don’t stick up for yourself here, you are soon going to end up at the bottom of the food chain. Being tough is the norm here and it is only reasonable to act in accordance with the milieu of the place in which you live. Yet Israel’s “rationalists” refuse to think and act like Middle Easterners.

Come to think of it, why do these people feel so secure in their self-described role of “pragmatists” in the first place? Under their regime of appeasement, Hezbollah is now armed to the teeth, the Negev is almost totally overrun by Bedouins, we have a new neighboring Hamas terror state, and our once-ally, Turkey, sends hate flotillas to harass us.

Their decades-old “pragmatic” policies, specifically tailored to win over international opinion, have instead caused Israel to plummet in the world’s esteem. Their promise of a “New Middle East” has been unraveled and replaced by a tightening noose of angry radicalism. Not to mention that nuclear-tipped madman in Iran.

Indeed, the current political genuflect-generation has pushed us down a 40-year slippery slope in which we have lost land, prestige, and deterrence. Yet leading pro-prostration politicians shamelessly proclaim that ceding our land for the creation of a Palestinian terror state, whose goal will be to destroy Israel, is the “pragmatic” thing to do.
So why do Israeli “pragmatists” dehumanize nationalists? Because the only thing that stands in the way of the “pragmatists’” political success (and Israel’s failure) is the competition of the rationally-courageous nationalist who calls on Israel to claim her rights, assert her sovereignty, broadcast confidence, employ deterrence, and stand up to world bullies instead of selling out to them. In order to eliminate the competition of those ideas, the so-called “rationalists” perform character-assassination and make nationalists out to be nothing but irrational, zealous monkeys with beards.

The jury is still out on which direction will save Israel – appeasement or bold independence. However, as a society, we should not accept the systematic de-legitimization of the nationalist perspective. Moreover, those who believe in a more autonomous Israel should vehemently oppose being branded as irrational. Nationalism is rationalism, and in this pressing time, it is the pragmatic direction forward.

Yishai Fleisher is the Executive Director of Kumah, the Neo-Zionist movement

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