August 27, 2010

Gideon Levy in conversation with Jon Snow: PSC

by Palestine Campaign UK

Gideon Levy in conversation with Jon Snow from Palestine Campaign UK on Vimeo.

Israel’s sad slide from democracy: The JC

Israelis rightly take pride in the existence of the Knesset but they now need to take action to restore its reputation
By Hagai El-Ad, August 26, 2010
In June, Israeli MK Miri Regev (Likud) shouted, in Arabic, at her fellow MK, Haneen Zoabi (Balad): “Go back to Gaza, traitor!” as Zoabi tried in vain to address the Knesset on her return from her participation in the “Free Gaza” flotilla.
In July, the Knesset decided by a 34-16 vote to strip Zoabi of her parliamentary benefits.
In August, the release of a heavily edited video clip by the army led to renewed calls in the Knesset to revoke her citizenship.
These moves in the Israeli parliament meshed well with public opinion: a Facebook group was set up entitled “execute MK Haneen Zoabi”. Security guards were assigned for her protection.
While the MKs may have believed they were shaming Zoabi, the real victim of this public humiliation was Israeli democracy. The removal of Zoabi’s parliamentary privileges simultaneously undermined the hope for full civil equality for all Israeli citizens.
To restate the obvious: in a democracy, members of its parliament must not be punished for fulfilling their roles as representatives of the public – even when their positions clash with the majority view. In a democracy, we are supposed to argue, not silence opposing voices. Democracy gives overriding priority to preserving free political expression, especially by publicly elected officials. As long as MK Zoabi has broken no laws, she has every right to continue expressing her views, however unpopular.
The treatment she received underscores a basic misunderstanding about the nature of democracy. In their haste to label her an “enemy of the state,” Israeli MKs forgot the principles of freedom of expression and the right to dissent. And, sadly, Zoabi’s treatment is just one example within a disturbing trend unfolding before our eyes in the current Knesset. The rules of democracy are crumbling.
The Knesset is passing more anti-democratic laws than ever before — targeting the Arab minority; predicating basic civil rights on declarations of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state; and limiting the ability of citizens to protest against government policies.
McCarthy-style parliamentary committee hearings on academic freedoms have led to panic-driven responses by Israeli universities. Harassment of human rights organisations is now a commonplace in the Knesset, where one black day for democracy seems to follow on the heels of another.
In this extreme atmosphere, the anti-democratic display against Zoabi was regarded merely as a routine performance. The Israeli parliament is no longer an arena in which the struggle for human rights can be advanced; rather, it is a place where democracy itself has become a punch-bag, and defenders of human rights are fighting to hold the defensive line. The rot set in some time between Operation Cast Lead and the openly racist election campaign that followed.
When the supposed stronghold of democracy abuses its role, this is not a matter to be confined within its own sphere. It is the business of all citizens. Israelis who despair as their elected officials pull the democratic rug from under their feet should fight to protect and strengthen the basis of democracy that still exists and to create a space for democracy where it is lacking.
Concerned citizens should become involved in the struggle for human rights and social justice for all, whether in Tel Aviv, Araqib or Sheikh Jarrah.
There are a number of appropriate avenues – including participation in December’s Human Rights March – where such concerns can be expressed. If enough Israelis want to build together a future of equality, democracy and human rights, then it will become a reality.
To Jews in the UK, and all supporters of Israel who are engaged in passionate discussions about the country’s future, it is surely self-evident that attempts to silence opposition through legislation are catastrophic for any democracy. The only way out of the current impasse is open, respectful debate of all viewpoints.
Israelis who find their own space for debate constricted can draw inspiration from diaspora Jews who understand that what is at stake here is not the prevalence of any single opinion but the right to hold and express an opinion at all.
Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel

Hamas: PA can’t give up Jerusalem in direct Mideast peace talks: Haaretz

Speaking at fast-breaking meal in Gaza, Hamas PM Haniyeh says Palestinians worldwide do not support ‘absurd talks with Israel.’

Palestinian negotiators are not mandated to surrender Jerusalem or any part of Palestine, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency quoted Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as saying on Friday, with the Hamas strongman dubbing upcoming direct peace talks as the latest in a string of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

On Tuesday, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal said that the upcoming U.S.-backed direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were illegitimate and the result of coercion by Washington.

Talks between the two sides had been were shelved two years ago, but the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is hoping for a breakthrough during the new rounds of negotiations set to begin September 2.

Speaking in Ramadan fast-breaking meal in the Gaza town of Khan Younis late Thursday, Haniyeh claimed that “no negotiator who would give up Jerusalem has a national mandate,” adding that “Palestinians across the globe will not support any movement holding absurd talks with Israel.”

The Hamas prime minister, referring to the Palestinian prisoners’ families present at the meal, said that the “prisoners, the injured and the families of martyrs will not authorize anyone who wants to give up Palestine and Jerusalem after they have sacrificed for years and struggled to keep it.”

“The occupation has failed to break the will of the Palestinian people, not by increasing its attacks or increasing the number of dead, not by injuring prisoners or isolating the resistance from its people,” the Hamas leader said.

“Israel is trying in dozens of ways to achieve its goal, and now it is through negotiations,” Haniyeh added, saying that next upcoming negotiations were the latest in a long list of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

On Monday, Haniyeh said the Palestinian people will gain nothing from direct Middle East peace talks with Israel.

Speaking at a Gaza Strip mosque on Monday, Haniyeh said that the scheduled negotiations would not restore Palestinians’ rights or give them control over religious sites, saying that they “should trust God, who will be an ally of the Palestinians.”

According to the Ma’an report, Haniyeh also praised the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the face of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying the Palestinians were a “model for the Arab nations and Islamic countries.”

EDITOR: Good to know whose side they are on…

The following report has the sound of truth about it… When those US diplomats spenda long time with Israelis, they start speaking and behaving like them. You have to ask yourself: If Israel can destroy everyone around in few hours, why are they so terrified of the smallest thing?

‘IDF can destroy Lebanon army within 4 hours’: YNet

Lebanese paper says US envoy’s advisor threatened Lebanese army chief with Israeli contingency plan following deadly border skirmish
An senior advisor to US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has threatened Lebanese army commander, Jean Kahwajim that should his army initiate additional fire exchanges with Israel, the IDF would annihilate his military within four hours, Lebanese newspaper al-Liwa reported Friday.

According to the report, Frederick Hof spoke to Kahwaji on August 9, following the deadly border skirmish between Israel and Lebanon and informed him of the IDF contingency plan.

The report further quotes Mitchell’s aide as telling the Lebanese commander that Israel had decided to carry out a plan “which would completely destroy the Lebanese army’s bases, centers and offices within four hours.”

Lieutenant-Colonel (res.) Dov Harari was killed in the border skirmish earlier this month and another officer was seriously injured. Firing began when IDF forces entered a border enclave in order to uproot a tree. Lebanon later blamed Israel for violating UN Resolution 1701.

Hof advised the Lebanese army chief to show restraint in any future border conflict with Israel.

US sources said a UNIFIL report which ruled that the tree was on Israel’s side of the border sheds new light on the possible danger caused by the proximity between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah.

Leaked CIA memo cites U.S. Jews among exporters of terrorism: Haaretz

Wikileaks releases a CIA memo titled ‘What if Foreigners See the United States as an Exporter of Terrorism?’ in which American Jews in Israel was one of four groups mentioned.
The Wikileaks website released a CIA document on Wednesday that examines the trend of Americans committing terrorist acts overseas, including American Jews in Israel.

American Jews in Israel were one of four groups mentioned in the classified report, titled “What if Foreigners See the United States as an Exporter of Terrorism?”

“Some American Jews have supported and even engaged in violent acts against perceived enemies of Israel,” the report reads. “In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American Jewish doctor from New York, emigrated to Israel, joined the extremist group Kach, and killed 29 Palestinians during their prayers in the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron which helped trigger a wave of bus bombings by Hamas in early 1995.”

Other groups mentioned were Irish-Americans who supported the Irish Republican Army; a group of Muslim-American men who traveled to Pakistan last year to engage in Jihad; and a Pakistani-American man, David Headley, who conducted surveillance for the Lashkar-i-Tayyiba terrorist group ahead of the attack in Mumbai, India in November 2008 that killed more than 160 people.

The leaked report was compiled in February 2010 by the CIA’s Red Cell, which, according to the memorandum, was tasked with “taking a pronounced ‘out-of-the-box’ approach that will provoke thought and offer an alternative viewpoint on the full range of analytic issues.”

Wikileaks, an online whistle-blowing website, recently published tens of thousands of classified military documents related to the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Boycott Heineken Music Conference in Tel Aviv

Europe’s economic boycott of Israel expanding: YNet

Recent months see sharp rise in number of European companies withdrawing investment from Israeli firms for political reasons. ‘The damage is huge,’ says glass factory owner from Ariel
The decision by Norway’s oil fund to withdraw its investment from Africa-Israel and Danya Cebus citing their involvement in settlement construction is the latest step in an ever expanding list of European private and governmental companies boycotting Israeli firms for political reasons.

Most of the cases pertain to claims of products being manufactured outside the Green Line and therefore in “occupied territory.” Some of the cases serve as political protest against Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians.

Yet, one point is uncontested: Recent months have seen a climb in the scope of the boycott of Israeli products imposed for political reasons.

“Since the Palestinians declared a boycott of settlement goods, there has been a 40% drop in production,” Avi Ben Zvi, owner of the Plastco glass factory in Ariel said. “Export to Europe has ceased in its entirety and traders from the territories have stopped working with us. The damage is huge,” he added.

According to Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman, the region’s factories have taken a massive hit. “We need to initiate a wide-scale governmental campaign threatening the boycotting countries they will not participate in the political process,” he said.

Last March, a large Swedish pension fund decided to boycott Elbit Systems for its part in the construction of the separation fence. The fund declared it had sold its Elbit holdings after its ethics committee recommended pulling out investment from companies involved in a violation of international treaties.

In September, Norway’s governmental pension fund made a similiar move and divested from Elbit.

Last May, Germany’s Deutsche Bank announced it had sold all its Elbit stocks, apparently after being pressured by anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian organizations.

Two years ago, Swedish giant Assa Abloy, owner of the Israeli company Mul-T-Lock Ltd., issued an apology for the fact that its factory in the Barkan Industrial Park was located outside the Green Line. The company promised to move the plant into “Israeli territory” following pressure from a Swedish-Christian human rights group.

Isolated events?
Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers Association, said Tuesday that “from time to time, organizations, mainly Scandinavian, boycott certain Israeli bodies. At the end of the day, these are isolated occurrences which do not affect the whole trade with Israel.”

Soda Club was also hit by boycott: The city of Paris was forced to deny the Israeli company’s participation in a large-scale fair for the promotion of tap water after receiving threats from pro-Palestinian elements.

On July, it was reported that the French transport firm Veolia, which operated the light rail project in Jerusalem had decided to sell its shares in the project without citing any motives. The decision may well be connected to the fact that several months earlier a French court agreed to discuss a lawsuit against Veolia and its involvement in the rail’s construction in east Jerusalem.

David Gardner: A poisoned process holds little hope: IOA

By David Gardner, Financial Times – 25 Aug 2010
www.ft.com/

Israeli Peace Plan, by Carlos Latuff

As the caravans of Middle East peace negotiators rumble into Washington next week for the umpteenth time, the pervasive cynicism and sense of deja vu all over again is overwhelming – and with good reason.
The Middle East peace process long ago turned into a tortured charade of pure process while events on the ground – in particular the relentless and strategic Israeli colonisation of occupied Palestinian land – pull in the opposite direction to peace. “We have all been colluding in a gigantic confidence trick,” is how one Arab minister puts it, “and here we go again”.
While many factors had combined to hand veto powers to rejectionists on both sides, the heart of the question remains the continuing Israeli occupation. It is essential to remember that the biggest single increase of Jewish settlers on Arab land – a 50 per cent rise – took place in 1992-96 under the governments of peace-makers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres at the high-water mark of the Oslo peace accords. Many Israelis will point to the perfidy of the late Yassir Arafat, who wanted to talk peace but keep the option of armed resistance dangerously in play. But what killed Oslo was the occupation. The second intifada that erupted a decade ago was essentially the Oslo war.
A decade on, the Israeli settlement enterprise has turned the occupied West Bank into a discontiguous scattering of cantons, walled in by a security barrier built on yet more annexed Arab land and criss-crossed by segregated Israeli roads linking the settlements. Last month, B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, published a study showing Israel has now taken 42 per cent of the West Bank, with 300,000 settlers there and another 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The siege of Gaza has turned that sliver of land into a vast, open-air prison.
The main feature of the present situation is the disconnect between the high politics of the utterly discredited peace process and these – in Israeli parlance – “facts on the ground”.
At last month’s White House summit, where Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu massaged their long estrangement into a political armistice, the US president praised the Israeli prime minister as a leader “willing to take risks for peace”.
But there is no evidence for this whatsoever. True, in June last year, in response to Mr Obama’s Cairo speech denying any legitimacy to Israel’s settlements, Mr Netanyahu forced himself to utter the words “Palestinian state” – but he surrounded them with barbed-wire caveats that voided them of meaning.
Indeed, the words all sides use – peace, resolution, security, and so on – may be the same; but what each side means by them is different.
The mainstream Palestinian leaders, President Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, the prime minister, and the Quartet made up of the US, the European Union, the UN and Russia, talk of a negotiated resolution. This means two states living in peace and security, and a Palestinian homeland on the 22 per cent of Mandate Palestine taken by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. East Jerusalem would serve as the capital of the West Bank and Gaza, with marginal land swaps to preserve some Israeli settlements near Jerusalem. But what does Mr Netanyahu mean?
He has been most clear on what he does not mean. For a start, he has set his face against any concessions on Jerusalem. He wants to keep most settlements except for the far-flung “ideological” ones and the 100-plus “outposts” established as pawns to be traded once the chess game began. His idea of a demilitarised Palestinian state is more like a sort of supra-municipal administration than a self-determined, independent government.
Will he surprise us, on the hackneyed Nixon and China principle that holds it is politicians of the right who most easily close difficult deals? There is little to suggest that.
The thinking of Mr Netanyahu, son of a celebrated promoter of Greater Israel, has always been profoundly irredentist. While his nationalist Likud faces the constraints of being in coalition with an assortment of ultra-rightist and ultra-orthodox parties as well as Labour, that was plainly his choice; the centrist Kadima party was (and remains) an alternative. To be fair, Israel’s electoral system – with a low threshold for entry into the Knesset that makes multi-party coalitions inevitable – means lobbies such as the settlers can take the national interest hostage. But Mr Netanyahu magnifies this by his choice of partners and by diligently firing up the ultra-hawks in the pro-Israel lobby in the US.
As risks he has taken for peace, Exhibit A is the much-hyped moratorium on settlement-building, which expires next month and has, in any case, been speciously interpreted. While the bulldozers to build settlements have been idling, moreover, the bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes have been roaring: the rate of demolition in and around Jerusalem has doubled this year, while the army has just razed the village of al-Farisiye in the Jordan Valley, in line with Mr Netanyahu’s strategically obsolete obsession with keeping the valley as Israel’s eastern border.
As diplomacy struggles to keep alive the viability of a two-state solution, three rival systems of control have crystallised in the occupied territories that would make up a future Palestinian homeland: the settlements; the crimped Palestinian Authority of Mr Abbas and Mr Fayyad; and then Hamas, which Israel and its Arab and western allies have tried and failed to marginalise. Time is short for a negotiated outcome; it may even have run out.
The outlines of a deal are clear, in the (Bill) Clinton parameters of 2000 and Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, endorsed by 22 Arab and 57 Muslim countries (as well as Hamas, as part of the 2007 Mecca accord). There has to be an end to the occupation, and the US and Quartet cannot just allude to this; they must demand it.
The writer is the Financial Times international affairs editor

Any bastard can be a rabbi: Haaretz

These masters of Jewish law act as if they have not heard of Shmaya, and contrary to his recommendations in the Mishna tractate “Avot” (Ethics of our Fathers ), they actually very much like the rabbinate.
By Yossi Sarid

Some 30 years ago, the Hebrew slogan was coined: “Medinat halakha – halkha hamedina,” which means more or less that if Israel becomes a state governed by Jewish law, that will be the end of the state. Is the end near? It is coming.

Something like this has never happened before, even though it seems as if everything possible has already happened – two rabbis being summoned to a police investigation, and announcing that they will not go. Even settlers are kind enough to turn up. True, they are instructed to remain silent, to lead the police astray, but they show up. Rabbis, on the other hand, are even more important people, and if a rabbi is also a settler, there is no one with greater airs than he. Even after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the authorities dealt with the killer but left alone those who had killed wisdom.

Only rabbis permit themselves, with the authority of the Torah, to pass their sacred water in public without fear, and the police keep quiet about this, as do the attorney general and the head of the prosecution, and the legislators and law enforcers.

Not only have they not reported to the police, they are assembling communities of supporters – 250 of their species gathered last week to lend support to their colleagues, Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef, who have approved the book of abomination, “Torat Hamelech” (The King’s Torah ) written by one Yitzhak Shapira from the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva in Yitzhar.

This theological treatise is a kind of guide to the perplexed – when it is permitted to kill Gentiles in general and babies in particular, and all of this according to Jewish law. Even the Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, who does not particularly like police investigations, has declared the rabbis who did not report to the police as being in the right.

At the conclusion of the gathering, rabbis from among the religious Zionists who, as civil servants, get their salaries from the taxpayer, had the following to say: “The moral values of the Torah have to be the moral code for the Israel Defense Forces … Our holy Torah is not a subject for investigation or trial by flesh and blood.” Even their colleagues from the holy city of Qom would have been hard pressed to produce a more enduring manifesto.

With this in mind, let us reexamine the meaning of certain terms:

“Rabbis” – Judaism has never been blessed with so many rabbis; how happy is this generation to have so many. No other country has such a rare and generous ratio of clergymen per capita.

“Find yourself a rabbi” [as the Mishna says] – so they find one, why not? Just so there should be someone. Any good-for-nothing can be a teacher for them and any charlatan who gets a number of students together is called a rabbi. It is not clear who has ordained him, and it is not clear whether the one doing the ordination is ordained to ordain, and according to which principles. It is easier to be a rabbi than a professor, and even that is not very difficult.

“Halakha” – If the Torah has 70 faces then halakha (Jewish religious law ) has 700. The sages said that everything can be understood on different levels and in different ways, and everything is included, and if one person has given an interpretation, another can come and overturn it. After all, there is no religious authority that is recognized and accepted by all in these times, to whom people listen and according to whom people act. The halakha says that any bastard can be a rabbi, and he can even give his own kashrut certificates in return for money. And the Chief Rabbinate in Israel is nothing but a depleted organ in a body that is bruised all over.

These masters of Jewish law act as if they have not heard of Shmaya, and contrary to his recommendations in the Mishna tractate “Avot” (Ethics of our Fathers ), they actually very much like the rabbinate. Their halakha looks the kingdom straight in the eye, and the kingdom is humiliated.

An artist’s pledge to boycott: The Electronic Intifada

Dave Lordan, 27 August 2010
I am proud to be among the many Irish and Ireland-based artists from across creative disciplines who have chosen to publicly support the growing campaign of boycott against apartheid Israel. Compared to the imprisoned Palestinian people themselves and to those taking part in flotillas and other perilous anti-apartheid activities in Palestine our contribution and risk may be justly considered small. At most we might lose the chance of lucrative invitations to read, perform or display our works in parts of the US where apartheid Israel’s supporters hold the power of censorship. Departments of foreign affairs and ministries of culture may also not include us among those artists they can rely upon to project a lying image of a harmonious, bon vivant and, above all, harmlessly apolitical intelligentsia. We are sure to be slandered and ridiculed by the hired bullies of the global media empires.

These are tiny punishments indeed compared to the instant annihilation that Israel with its snipers and bombers and jet planes and tanks has visited on a daily basis upon Palestinian men, women and children for the last 62 years. The threat we come under for speaking out at a safe distance is nothing beside the threat apartheid Israel holds constant over every urban civilian in the Middle East with its 200-bomb-strong nuclear arsenal. Besides, to be ostracized and blacklisted by these last remaining friends of apartheid Israel, the gangster governments of west and east and their spies and ideological enablers, is to be reminded of the phrase of that great political artist William Blake, who tells us to “Listen to the fool’s reproach — it is a kingly title.”

The argument that artists should remain aloof from politics does not survive the most cursory of cross examinations. Over the centuries artists have taken every possible political stance both inside and outside their art. They have also performed every possible political action without it having the least negative effect on their own work or on art in general. Indeed, much great art has been produced out of intense engagement with political events and with social movements. One can look up the biographies of the list of Nobel prize winners in literature, or take a stroll around one’s nearest significant gallery if one needs any proof of this.

Artistic aloofness in relation to Israel-Palestine is without doubt a political stance, a signal that one will not stand in the way of the strong as they bear down with all their might upon the weak. But to perform in Israel, or to leave oneself open to performing there, is not simply remaining aloof. It is choosing the side of tyranny. It is a decision to ignore the cry of the oppressed.

Some artists will make this decision out of ignorance, or because they believe in or are confused by apartheid Israel’s untiring propaganda machine, which is so consciously assisted by the western media and politicians. To these artists I say, take a few days to look behind the headlines, give yourself some time to familiarize yourself with the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict in all of its contexts. Inform yourself properly, and then make your decision.

Obviously there are artists, motivated by fame and finance, who will perform in apartheid Israel knowing full well that their actions are an integral part of the war effort against the Palestinians, while of course loudly protesting otherwise. In the long run this may count against them. Their memory will be linked throughout posterity with all those images of rubbled apartment blocks, of old farmers shackled at crossroads, of sad-eyed children dying in makeshift hospitals for lack of basic medicines due to the illegal blockade.

Alongside the financial, political and military support of western rulers, the cultural support of western artists is a crucial link in the chain of oppression that tightens every passing minute around the neck of Palestine. Artists occupy a position of public privilege. What we think and feel as it is expressed through our art is elevated above ordinary discourse and seriously discussed at events, in classrooms, and in all kinds of media. Both individually within our local networks and communities, and collectively at a national and international level, we can and do have a disproportionate effect on opinion. We are, I think, perhaps the last significant body of people to enjoy large-scale public trust in most parts of the globe. Added together, what we say and do publicly in our art and in our lives as citizens is reflected upon by many people in a much more profound way than the utterances of most politicians. Our deeds and words ring louder then, and wider, and longer, then those of many others. But so do our silences, our non-actions. That is why both the tacit and the enthusiastic support of artists have been worth so much to dictators and criminal systems like apartheid over the centuries, and why we have been so brutally persecuted when we have refused to give it.

All an Israeli major has to do to unwind after a day directing the bulldozing of ancestral Palestinian homesteads is to change into her casuals and head out to see a platinum-selling rock group, or to clap along politely like everyone else is doing at the poetry of some prize-glittering western writer. Then she can feel as refined, as hip, and as justified, as any other liberal westerner. The presence of international artists in apartheid Israel normalizes and buttresses the apartheid system, contributing to its self-confidence and smooth functioning.

By performing in Israel, in despite of the clear call of the Palestinian artists and cultural institutions to boycott Israel, an international artist gives — whether or not they are conscious of it — a signal of approval to the settler-pirates and to the racially brainwashed conscripts who take pleasure in having themselves photographed beaming with national joy in front of blindfolded and humiliated Palestinians. Approval for these and countless other abuses and injustices is exactly how the appearance of international artists in apartheid Israel is interpreted by its politico-military leadership and, crucially, by its rank-and-file soldiers, boosting the morale of those who must implement the bloody practicality of apartheid on the ground.

The boycott, if it gained momentum, could have just the opposite effect. It could remove the visage of respectability and normality which the leaders of apartheid Israel so desperately crave in order that they can continue with the dirty work of oppressing the Palestinians unperturbed by the moral opinion of the rest of the world. It could undermine the confidence of the military rank and file and cause significant numbers to question and refuse the implementation of apartheid policies. Above all, it could help to inspire the continuing anti-apartheid resistance of the Palestinian people, and contribute — similarly to how international solidarity with black South Africans did in their case — to the eventual collapse of the apartheid system. To have played even the tiniest of roles in such an outcome would be a greater honor than any prize, review, or invitation is capable of giving us.

Dave Lordan is an Irish writer. His latest collection of poetry is Invitation to a Sacrifice (Salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher, 2010).

Only force will stop force: Haaretz

If Yuval Steinitz and Gideon Sa’ar want Israeli Zhdanovism to be attributed to them, they should continue with their indolent attitude toward Im Tirtzu.
By Zeev Sternhell
The threats and pressures on the universities were to be expected. The struggle in the academic world is an integral part of the cultural struggle started by the right, parallel to its political successes. People on the right understand that, just as in the United States and Europe, to survive for long and strike roots they must exploit the regime’s institutions and destroy the left’s hold on the educated sectors of the population.
The right is correct in its diagnosis – the Israeli cultural world, including the universities, tends toward the left. It has been this way since World War II in the entire Western world. The centers of opposition to the war in Vietnam and the occupation of Iraq were the American universities; the Latin Quarter in Paris was the center of the struggle against the war in Algeria; and the student revolt of 1968 swept across America and Europe from California to the Berlin Wall.

In the West, however, the right began regaining its strength and gaining ascendancy in the form of neoconservatism, not especially in the universities but in the world of finance and the media. This has not been true of Israel, where many supporters of economic neoliberalism have fought against the occupation and the settlements and therefore belong to the “political left.” That is why the right’s grip on the secular cultural elite is close to zero; this is the real reason for the recent campaign of intimidation.

The struggle is taking place on two fronts. The Shalem Center is the academic arm and respected ideological laboratory, even if it is neither innovative nor original. The second arm consists of propagandists and demagogues from the Institute for Zionist Strategies and the Im Tirtzu student movement. The attempt to copy America has failed so far for one major reason – the Israeli neoconservative and nationalist right does not have scholars and cultural figures like its counterparts in the United States and Europe.

This sense of weakness and dissociation from the world of research, literature and art has spawned the current outburst of anger, and it is not the last. The real argument, however, is not with the propagandists but with the heads of the regime. The senior politicians know that there is no research without freedom, and they understand that a researcher’s first commitment is to the truth as he finds it, or believes he has found it, in his work.

They know that academic teaching worth its name relies on research, and that intellectual and cultural life in Israel and its research institutes is the country’s true showcase. But their future depends on the support of the street propagandists, and they will not man the barricades to defend the achievements of science and culture. Moral considerations will not help in this game, only considerations of force and immediate benefit. And as everyone knows, force can only be stopped by counterforce.

Therefore, it must be made clear to the finance minister, who called for the firing of university lecturers who support an academic boycott of Israel (which I strongly oppose), that any attempt to harm a lecturer’s status for political reasons will meet with a firm response from Israel’s academic faculty. The expected reaction from the international community, including the possibility of a boycott, could be no less painful.

It is worth explaining this to the education minister, because his plan to bring back talented researchers to Israel will have to address the following question: What researcher who grew up in an American academic environment will be eager to return to a reality that is starting to resemble the black years of the 1950s in the United States? Who will want to work in an institution that exercises the right of censorship to look into the syllabi of its courses? And how many Israelis pondering their future will decide that this is the straw that broke the camel’s back?

If Yuval Steinitz and Gideon Sa’ar want Israeli Zhdanovism to be attributed to them, they should continue with their indolent attitude toward Im Tirtzu.

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