March 26, 2011

EDITOR: Settlements are the problem!

More and more it becomes clear to the few Israelis who have not forgotten how to think independently, the the illegal settlements built over the last four and a half decades are the problem rather than the solution, as the government wants them to believe. Abroad, this has been clear to most people for a long time, but Israel seems trapped in time warp, escaping from history into a pre-modern, colonial era where gun-boats resolve conflicts.

Supporting settlement freeze has been labeled ‘subversive’: Haaretz

Enlisting Jewish communities against the peace process is within the framework of the “conventions” in relations between the communities and Israeli governments, and a praiseworthy act.
By Akiva Eldar
This week marked 16 years since the time when 93 American Senators wrote to President Bill Clinton, calling on him to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. A few weeks later, the prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who had gone to Washington to address the conservative pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC, discovered that his hosts had prepared a surprise for him. The Jewish activists had collaborated with their colleagues in Likud to turn this call into legislation in Congress. Rabin’s face turned red with anger. He said later, in a private conversation, that it was clear to all that the president would use his authority to delay the implementation of the legislation, and he had no doubt that the initiators wished to drive a wedge between the government and the Palestinian Authority.

The following day, when he addressed the convention, Rabin spoke highly of them. After all, how can an Israeli prime minister condemn people who are interested in the welfare of a united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel? As we all know, the U.S. Embassy is still located on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv.

Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, who at the time was Israel’s ambassador to the United States, can tell how AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America and Orthodox rabbis tried to undermine the efforts of the Rabin government to enlist economic aid for the PA that was aimed at strengthening its position vis-a-vis Hamas. Rabinovich, who in those days headed the Israeli team that was negotiating with Syria, was forced to deal with the campaign of incitement being carried out in Congress by those organizations against the proposal to position American forces on the Golan Heights as part of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

I was reminded of these events when I read the news item saying that MK Otniel Schneller had initiated a debate this week in the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, about the “breaking of conventions of behavior between Jewish communities in the world and the governments of Israel by the Jewish-American organization J Street.” The anger of this resident of Ma’aleh Mikhmash in the heart of the West Bank, a former secretary general of the Yesha settlers’ council, was directed at the organization in the wake of its call on U.S. President Barack Obama not to impose a veto during the vote in the United Nations against expanding settlements.

Schneller, a member of the right wing who decided to settle in the Kadima party, condemned his colleagues from the faction who participated in J Street’s annual conference in Washington and described this as “an act of subversion against the state [of Israel].”

From now on, one must say that enlisting Jewish communities against the peace process is within the framework of the “conventions” in relations between the communities and Israeli governments, and a praiseworthy act. On the other hand, support for freezing the settlements in order to further the negotiations means “breaking conventions” as well as “a subversive act against the state.”

EDITOR: A voice in the wilderness

Even ardent Zionists like Carlo Strenger find the recent changes in Israel totally unacceptable, and cry in isolation, but without any chance of affecting anyone, as the Israeli public is trapped in its dream, or rather, in its favourite nightmare.

Israel’s problem is the settlements, not J Street: Haaretz

It needs to be made clear that the choice is not between a safe Israel that occupies the territories and an unsafe Israel alongside a Palestinian state.
By Carlo Strenger
The Netanyahu government’s refusal to meet with the leadership of J Street during its visit this week reflects a deep and truly worrying process, in which Israel’s government and the Knesset are progressively locked into a deep bunker with no communication with the outside world. The assumption is that J Street creates a problem for Israel, and that if Israel delegitimizes J Street, the problem will go away.

But Israel’s problem is not J Street. The problem is that an ever greater proportion of U.S. Jews feel that they are forced to choose between their values and their involvement with Israel. Their identities are defined by the idea of universal human rights and the equality of all human beings beyond race, religion and gender.

Since Israel violates these ideals, and demands unconditional support for its policies, these Jews basically have two choices: Either they adhere to their ideals or support Israel. The result, as Peter Beinart has argued in a much quoted essay, is that many Jews of the younger generation simply disengage from Israel.

J Street tries to solve this problem by giving America’s liberal Jews another option: you can be engaged with Israel, and it can be central to your Jewish identity even as you criticize Israel’s actions. It doesn’t take rocket science to see the logic behind this; true friendship often involves voicing frank and direct criticism. Nobody would have said that those who criticized U.S. policy during the McCarthy era or human rights violations of the G.W. Bush administration delegitimize or hate the U.S.

But like McCarthy, the Netanyahu government and many right-wing Knesset members throw sand in the eyes of Israel’s citizens by selling them an outright lie: that there is no connection between Israel’s policies and its isolation; that all criticism of Israel is equal to delegitimizing its existence. While it is true that there are anti-Semites who hate Israel no matter what, this is simply not the position of Europe’s mainstream, nor that of the many liberal-leaning Jews who criticize Israel.

The primal sin of the Netanyahu government is that it links Israel’s security concerns with settlement policy, with the expropriation of Palestinian property and the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem, a tactic that the world perceives as nothing less than ethnic cleansing. What the world sees is a country that tramples human rights and seeks territorial expansion. And it doesn’t see any logical connection between Israel’s security concerns and the current government’s racist rhetoric and actions, because there is no such connection. The Netanyahu government has a vested interest in maintaining this confusion, because many of its members do not want the two-state solution.

This systematic conflation of Israel’s security concerns with indefensible policies creates an unbridgeable communication chasm between Israel and the rest of the world. Israel’s citizens feel that the world doesn’t understand them, because they don’t realize that the Netanyahu government is delegitimizing Israel’s security concerns by the linkage to colonial expansion.

Hence it is up to Jewish liberals, in Israel and abroad, to create clarity. Mainstream Israelis are primarily worried about security. Since the second intifada and the shelling of southern Israel from Gaza, they ask the simple question, can anybody guarantee that there will never be any terror attacks on Israel from a future Palestinian state along the 1967 borders?

If J Street wants to reach the hearts and minds of Israel’s citizens, it needs to tell Israel’s citizens that its security concerns are legitimate. It also needs to tell the truth – that there are indeed no iron clad guarantees that there will never be any terror attacks after a final status agreement.

Moving towards peace means taking a calculated risk: Leaving the occupation behind opens the possibility of safety and peace in the long run, but also entails the risk of terror attacks. Yet horrible as these may be, they do not endanger Israel’s existence.

As opposed to that, continuing the occupation dooms Israel’s long-term future, because it will drive Israel into ever deeper isolation. It will lose its friends in the free world, and will live in everlasting conflict with the Arab world. And this does endanger Israel’s long term survival.

It needs to be made clear that the choice is not between a safe Israel that occupies the territories and an unsafe Israel alongside a Palestinian state. It is between an Israel that takes a limited security risk for long-term peace, and an Israel that threatens its own long-term existence.

It is this kind of straight talk that has been missing in Israel’s discourse. Israel’s left has disappeared because it never squarely addressed the risks involved in peace-making. If J Street commits to clarity of thought and an honest approach, it may create the model for a new Israeli left with a viable message.

EDITOR: History and memory outlawed

In one of its typical, defying gestural outburst, the Knesset has taken on history, memory and rememberance, in this latest of its logic-defying moves. There can be no better proof of the Nakba’s presence in every bit of Israeli and Palestinian reality, than this bizarre act of denial and erasure. Waging war on history is the last refuge of the politically deluded.

Silence over Nakba Law encourages racism: Haaretz Editorial

The apathy of the MKs that did not show up to the Knesset votes on the Nakba Law and Admission-Committees Law encourages the instigators of racism.

The votes on the so-called Nakba Law and the bill allowing small communities to set up admission committees, which the Knesset approved late Tuesday, add a shameful page to the parliament’s history. The two laws are the latest in a growing list of disgraceful legislation whose entire purpose is to discriminate against Israel’s Arab citizens, intimidate them and deny them their rights.

These laws – the parts that have been approved (such as the Nakba and admission-committees laws ) and those still pending (the bill to revoke citizenship for disloyalty and the bill on investigating human rights groups ) – are dangerously chipping away at Israeli democracy. The people directly responsible for this process are the same Knesset members from Yisrael Beiteinu, Kadima and Likud who sponsored the bills, as well as their colleagues from Shas, National Union and United Torah Judaism who voted for them. But the 60 MKs who did not take part in the vote are no less responsible.

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and the whole faction but five MKs did not bother to show up for the vote on the Nakba Law. Nor did Atzmaut chief Ehud Barak and his entire faction, and most Likud MKs, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Culture Minister Limor Livnat. Even the few remaining Kadima MKs were absent from the vote on the admission-committees bill, save for Shlomo Molla, who voted against it.

Their thundering silence enables the extreme right to lead parliament and all Israeli society on a path of incitement against an entire community, infringing on its rights for the imaginary purpose of protecting the state and its values. The silence is no less worrying and outrageous than the laws themselves.

No excuse will hold water – neither coalition agreements nor an attempt to display a “Zionist” or “national” image. Certainly not fear of the political damage that openly siding with the Arab community could incur. The apathy of the 60 silent MKs encourages the instigators of racism, creating a convenient fertile ground for them to continue their disastrous activities. They must wake up before it’s too late.

Hamas says ready to halt rocket fire if Israel stops Gaza strikes: Haaretz

Spokesman for Hamas says Gaza militants committed to ceasefire as long as ‘the occupation was committed’ during meeting of faction heads over surge in cross-border tensions with Israel.

Hamas said on Saturday that Gaza militants had agreed to halt their rocket fire at Israel if Israel in turn stops launching strikes against targets in the coastal territory.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Rudwan said after a meeting with faction heads over a surge in cross-border tensions with Israel, that militants were “committed as long as the occupation [Israel] was committed” to restore a de-facto ceasefire.

Israel’s Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Tal Russo earlier on Saturday assessed that Gaza is in a state of anarchy, saying that neither Hamas nor other militant groups have control over the area, explaining the reason for the recent barrage of rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip.

Asked if the IDF would launch a large ‘Operation Cast Lead 2′ type of military operation in Gaza as a response, Russo said that it is not dependent upon Israel but upon the other side. “We are trying to afford citizens of the south normal lives, and these aren’t exactly normal lives,” he said. “We will bring these citizens peace and quiet. That is our aim.”

Russo added, “The situation has eroded since Cast Lead. The other side is starting to get forgetful. I hope that they get a hold of themselves.”

On Saturday evening, a Qassam rocket fell in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council in the western Negev.

Overnight Friday, a Qassam rocket landed outside a family home in that same community, causing heavy damage, but no causalities. A second rocket fell overnight in an open field nearby, causing no damage to people or property.

The rocket attacks came hours after Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz announced the activation of the Iron Dome defense system in the south of the country. Barak said he approved the deployment of the system as an operational experiment and the IDF has said it will be operational in a few days.

Southern Israel has suffered several rocket and mortar attacks over the last week, and the Israel Defense Forces launched several strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’ intensification of rocket fire at Israel earlier this month is a move analysts link to efforts of political rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to heal a four-year rift with the group, which some in Hamas may perceive as a threat.

Abbas held a round of reconciliation talks with Hamas lawmakers on Saturday in the West Bank. He urged the group to resume its calmer stance towards Israel and avoid rocket attacks, the Palestinian news agency, Wafa reported.

MAD ISRAELIS section

EDITOR: It is Friday again, and Ynet feeds the web with more junk! Friday is the best day for Mad Israelis, as they are most welcome on Israel’s main daily, Yediot Achronot, where they freerly spout right wind and deluded poison every weekend. Israelis read this stuff like junkies, and it makes them feel special, it seems – they are the ‘only democracy’ and the ‘only reliable ally’ in the Middle East. It seems that the speeding up of the Arab Spring, has also quickened the pace of Israeli delusional change.

Guy Bechor is a frequent contributor to this section of the website…

Welcome to new Mideast: Ynet

Op-ed: As it turns out, Arab-Israeli conflict a marginal issue, not the key to regional stability
Guy Bechor
A terrible thing happened to the Middle East: The only glue that brought together all the sects, religions, tribes, nationalities and minorities – who all hate each other – was Israel, yet this glue no longer works.

Ever since Israel was established, we got accustomed to hearing global experts and the Arabs themselves claiming that Israel is at fault for the Mideast’s sorry state, that the Arabs are preoccupied with the struggle against Israel to the point of having no time for themselves, and that should Israel’s conflict vis-à-vis the Arab world be resolved, cosmic tranquility will sweep through the region, ushering in progress, prosperity and happiness.

This doctrine allowed Arab world leaders to make a living and also allowed Western states to blame us for all the region’s ills. This is the outdated doctrine that still guides Obama’s close associates. For example: The need to press for the establishment of a Palestinian state, as though that would bring stability to the Middle East.

This doctrine was false to begin with. It was created in order to slam Israel, secure a bogus common denominator for the Arabs, and prevent them from looking in the mirror. However, many people fell in the trap, even here. To this day, Shimon Peres claims that a solution to the Palestinian conflict will serve to stabilize the whole region.

The problem was proving that Israel has little to do with the disaster faced by the Arabs. This was the case until the arrival of the new era; the current age of revolutions and rebellions. Suddenly, it turned out that Israel is a rather marginal element in the Mideast and certainly does not constitute the heart of the conflict.

Israel has nothing to do with the Libyan civil war, Egypt is burning domestically, Syria approaches a violent regime change, Lebanon is being cooked in its own juices, Yemen is reaching boiling point, Saudi Arabia is shaking, Bahrain is battleground between Shiites and Sunnis, and so are Tunisia, Algeria and other states facing uprisings.

West’s only regional ally
The pathetic rulers of these countries attempted to blame us. This is what Yemen’s president, Iran’s shaky president and the murderer of his own people in Libya did – yet nobody in the region buys into these fables anymore. Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that Israel will clash with the Palestinians, it will merely be yet another regional conflict amid many others, and certainly not the most brutal or lethal one.

Many people are having a tough time coping with the collapse of the “heart of the conflict theory” – for example, the Arabs and some Israeli and global leaders, who relied on this doctrine for many years. Yet one cannot argue with the facts. The United States, France and Britain are bombing and brutalizing the Arabs in Libya much more than Israel does. Perhaps these Western states are now the heart of the conflict?

The implication is that Israel, which until now was perceived as a problem, is turning into a sort of solution. As opposed to the sea of tribes, sects and religions in the Middle East, Israel is a stable, reliable, credible and democratic force. One can work with it and trust it to serve as the stabilizer of Western, democratic and international interests.

Once upon a time, people would say that there are some pro-Western rulers in the Middle East. Yet where are they today? Ranging from Mubarak to Ben Ali and from Gaddafi to the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, they have all evaporated or greatly weakened. From now on, they shall keep their distance from the vengeful West. Israel is now not only the West’s most reliable regional ally, but its only ally in fact.

With Israel now clearing itself of the “root of all evil” blood libel and the demonization that surrounded it, the Jewish state can look straight ahead, hold its head up high, and resumes its relationship with the world on a new basis. We must repeat this insight everywhere: It has been proven that the old doctrine, whereby the Israeli-Arab or Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to Mideastern stability, is false, and apparently was never true.

For the Arab world, these are days of new self determination; as it turns out, the same is true for Israel as well.

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