Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’

Prescription for Survival

May 7, 2010

Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian Israeli citizen who lives in Haifa has been arrested and a gag order has been placed over the case, demonstrating that the embarrassing Anat Kamm affair taught Israel nothing. I wrote about this and the implications for Israeli democracy for Zeek Magazine.

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Principled Opposition

April 16, 2010

This article was printed in Zeek Magazine.

I am not a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. For a number of years, I had direct contact with many of the international peace and solidarity groups that make it up. There’s a lot of diversity in those organizations, and amongst the people who participate in them. But for someone like me, who believes in a two-state solution, with one of those states being a democratic Jewish homeland, and who finds a great deal of fault for the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict in all parties, there is more to it than I can live with.

Berkeley students pack an auditorium to debate divestment resolution

However, as I pointed out in an earlier articlein Zeek, pro-peace supporters of Israel do ourselves a disservice when we give in to the radical rhetoric that considers it anti-Israel for anyone to use citizen-based economic action to protest or try to end the occupation.

We’ve seen a striking example of it this week at UC Berkeley. A proposed bill in the student union called for the university to divest its holdings in two American corporations that the students said were profiting from Israel’s occupation. The bill passed by a 16-4 vote.

And then things got interesting.

A wide array of pro-Israel groups (mostly those who obstruct any pressure on Israel to end its occupation, but including, unfortunately, a couple of pro-peace groups as well) came out in opposition and mobilized on campus. The ASUC president, whom I’m told was initially quite supportive of the bill, vetoed the measure.

To override the veto, the 20-member Senate needed 14 votes. In the end, the vote was 13 for overriding, 6 against and one abstention. The motion was then tabled and will be reconsidered next week. But the week leading up to the vote, and especially the night it happened, featured a vigorous and passionate debate on the issue on the UC campus.

What Kind of Divestment?

The attack on the UC senate’s decision offered little of substance. It said the bill was “based on misleading and contested allegations that unfairly targets the State of Israel while also marginalizing Jewish students on campus who support Israel.” But it never addressed the substance. (more…)

Forcing Peace

April 9, 2010

(A version of this piece appears in Zeek Magazine)

Now, here’s a sequence of events.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu states that Israel would not be bullied into peace. The implication, that peace is something the Netanyahu government is, at best, not enthused about, was lost on most of the media.

Where did this tough stance in the face of pressure come from? Well, it turns out that he was referring to an idea that was soon reported by David Ignatius in the Washington Post. According to Ignatius, President Barack Obama is seriously considering putting forth an American peace plan that would be accompanied by American pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians to accept it in principle.

One day later, Netanyahu decided not to attend a summit on nuclear weapons being organized by Obama in

Netanyahu is increasingly being forced to make it clear that he just doesn't want peace

Washington. The excuse he offered was that Arab states intended too bring up Israel’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its possession of nuclear weapons. Bibi defines this as “Israel-bashing,” a fairly absurd characterization since Israel is well-known as having nuclear weapons (and really makes no secret of it), and it’s more than fair that this be brought up.

More to the point, Bibi surely knew that Arab states would raise this issue in a private meeting long before he accepted the invitation to attend. No, his reason for cancelling is the ongoing tension with Washington over building in Jerusalem, the fact that he would not have had a personal meeting with Obama on the trip and the new idea of an American peace plan.

What can be gleaned from these events? The most obvious point is that the Obama Administration is forcing Netanyahu to make it more and more obvious that he does not want peace. The mantra that Bibi has repeated — “Israel desperately desires peace but has no partner”– has been exposed as paper-thin dissembling. The current Israeli government has no interest in evacuating any settlements, sharing Jerusalem in any way or withdrawing Israeli troops from any of the West Bank. They certainly have interest in finding a way to connect Gaza to the West Bank, much less see the establishment of a Palestinian state. (more…)

The Crisis of Jewish Democracy

April 2, 2010

In my latest piece in Zeek, I look at the new clarity of so-called “pro-Israel” voices which are not actually pro-Israel but rather anti-peace. These voices are taken to represent Israelis and American Jews and in fact are not at all representative of either group, but stand for views that the majority of those groups reject.

Readers may also want to check out MJ Rosenberg’s latest piece, which appeared just after I posted mine. It’s got a similar theme.

Make Up For the Letdown

March 6, 2010

Maybe proximity talks are about to start between Israel and the Palestinians. Here’s my take, and why I don’t think, in and of themselves, such talks mean very much at all.

Addendum to “The End of Hasbara”

February 19, 2010

A reader asked me about the use of the word “sabotage” in the Reut report and what i made of that. Since I didn’t include that question in my article, here is my response to that reader.
On sabotage, I don’t think it means what Ali Abunimah at Electronic Intifada thinks it means. It is not referring to physical sabotage, web attacks and the like. In Hebrew, the word is שיבוש which means disruption. In the context of the full paragraph, it seems clear this is referring to causing a split between the “de-legitimizers” and what Reut is referring to as the “critics.” At most, this seems to mean infiltration, and that is the harshest definition that seems at all reasonable to me in the context of the full paragraph. Moreover, in Hebrew, the word for the verb “to sabotage” is לחבל. This word does not appear in the Hebrew version of the report, and if physical sabotage was the intended meaning, I don’t see how they could avoid that word, as the word for disruption would not carry the implication of physical sabotage. Occam’s Razor suggests that the intention is to direct the recommended hasbara toward splitting the various groups along the lines of critics and de-legitimizers, because they seem to feel (probably quite correctly) that without the “critics” the “de-legitimizers” would have little chance of having political impact.

The same reader also posed the following question: Second, and more importantly, although I think this is first-rate analysis (and rhetoric), in one aspect it leaves me scratching my head: you say Israel is failing because it has a strategy with no endgame. But the rump state solution seems like an obvious and even successful strategy. Israel is turning the West Bank into Gaza. Soon it will be a problem capable of being managed, like East Timor, Tibet, or any other pocket of population without national rights. It seems the Israelis have decided recently that this is the best they can hope for.

Here is my response to that:

On your more important question…
The first problem with the “rump state solution” as you put it is the same as the one we have now–the settlements. Israel can’t turn the West Bank into Gaza without removing the settlements. Their continued presence will mean that the situation cannot be managed a la Tibet or East Timor. Moreover, the comparison to Timor and Tibet fails because China and Indonesia were not stirring up a regional tinderbox with their occupations (ongoing, in China’s case). The human rights issues were just as serious (in the case of Timor, they were far graver, in fact), but the political implications did not begin to compare. No one cared about East Timor. Many care about Palestine, in the region, in Europe and, increasingly, in the USA. So it wouldn’t work.

Then the question is, whether or not it would work, is this what Israel is, in fact, planning? Much of thinking, particularly that advanced by Noam Chomsky, on this question starts with the Allon Plan. But that plan was based in the notion that Jordan would take up the parts of the West Bank that Israel left out–and, perhaps more importantly, the Allon Plan envisioned actually absorbing significant numbers of Palestinians into Israel. Both of those notions are no longer applicable. So if, and I doubt it’s the case, Israel is still pursuing the Allon Plan, the issue i raise remains the same–they no longer have an endgame.

Otherwise, i think your formulation and mine end up in the same place–no real change in the status quo for decades to come until some calamitous event, whether a disaster for the Palestinians or for Israel, changes the conditions of the game. What I see is what I’ve seen for a long time–an occupation regime that sees only as far ahead as the necessity for maintaining the occupation takes it.

The End of Hasbara

February 19, 2010

In my latest piece for Zeek, I look at the recently release report by the Reut Institute, which looks at the BDS movement around the world. It has some points to it that are actually quite important, but it is fatally flawed, and it revives so many of the mistakes Israel has been making for many years.

What Israelis Can Do

February 12, 2010

In my latest piece for Zeek Magazine, I look at the prospects in the medium term, several years, and what the US, Israel and the Palestinians can do to come back from the brink. Europe is often overlooked in this equation, and I try to bring it in.

The Perversion of Herzl

February 6, 2010

Delving into the truly horrifying developments in Israel regarding the attacks by the contemptible group Im Tirtzu abetted by some friends of theirs in the Knesset and the daily newspaper, Ma’ariv. Fortunately, in the Knesset, cooler heads seem to have prevailed, but it’s worth noting that the major incitement there came from a Kadima MK while the properly legal view came from ministers further right. The article in Zeek can be found here. And thanks to new friends at PalestineNote.com, you can also follow my articles there.

Birth Pangs East Jerusalem

January 31, 2010

In my latest piece for Zeek, I examine some of the implications of the weekly protests in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and how they might signal the rise of a new, more credible Israeli left and what hope that might bring.