UN panel concludes Israeli settlements are illegal
Fact-finding mission’s report says settlements exist exclusively for Israeli Jews’ benefit creating system of total segregation
A UN fact-finding mission says the Israeli government’s settlementpolicy has clearly violated the rights of Palestinians and breaches one of the Geneva Conventions.
The panel’s report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva – the UN’s first report on the subject as a whole – says the settlements exist for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews, creating a system of total segregation.
“Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. It must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT (occupied Palestinian territories),” said a report by the inquiry led by French judge Christine Chanet.
The settlements contravene the 1949 Geneva Conventions forbidding the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory, which could amount to war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it said.
In December, the Palestinians accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of planning to commit further “war crimes” by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de factoUN recognition of statehood and warned that Jerusalem must be held accountable.
Israel has not cooperated with the probe set up by the Human Rights Council last March to examine the impact of settlements in the territory, including east Jerusalem. Israel says the forum has an inherent bias against it and defends its settlement policy by citing historical and Biblical links to the West Bank.
The independent UN investigators interviewed more than 50 people who came to Jordan in November to testify about confiscated land, damage to their livelihoods including olive trees, and violence by Jewish settlers, according to the report.
“The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand,” it said.
About 250 settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have been established since 1967 and they hold an estimated 520,000 settlers, according to the UN report. The settlements impede Palestinian access to water resources and agricultural lands, it said.
The settlements were “leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” it said.
After the General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians status at the world body, Israel said it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – areas Palestinians wanted for a future state, along with the Gaza Strip.
The UN human rights inquiry said that the International Criminal Court had jurisdiction over the deportation or transfer by the occupying power of its own population into the territory.
“Ratification of the (Rome) Statute by Palestine may lead to accountability for gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law and justice for victims,” the UN report said, referring to the treaty setting up the Hague-based UN tribunal which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
AP and Reuters contributed to the report
In 2007 a Palestinian girl died two days after being shot by a border police officer near Anata.
According to the notices, residents can demur before Feb. 17.
A Ma’an reporter said about 200 Palestinians live in the neighborhood which is located to the west of a large Israeli military base called Anatot.
The Israeli forces plan to remove the neighborhood because it is close to the base.
In 2011 a young Bedouin girl suffered severe injuries after being shot in an incident her family blamed on the Israeli military, which denied involvement at the time.
In 2007 a Palestinian girl died two days after being shot by a border police officer near Anata.
YES: Mark Gardner
On Holocaust Memorial Day 2013, the Sunday Times ran a cartoon by its famously acerbic cartoonist, Gerald Scarfe, that depicts Binyamin Netanyahu using blood to cement a wall that he is building, that has parts of bodies trapped within it. (See it here, on the Commentator website).
The bodies trapped in the wall seem to be more living than dead. They appear to be of various religions or ethnicities, with the youth at the bottom looking as if he could well be Jewish, perhaps wearing a kippah. Women in headscarves can be clearly seen.
The blood drips off Netanyahu’s trowel and oozes between the laid bricks, like wet concrete. The blood is so central to the image that it will, inevitably, bring many Jews (and non-Jews also) to think of the antisemitic Blood Libel: the infamous medieval charge that Jews take the blood of others for religious purpose.
The blood imagery, sometimes explicitly as Blood Libel, is commonly found in obscene anti-Israel propaganda in Arabic and Iranian media. Scarfe’s image comfortably fits within this canon of extreme contemporary anti-Israel hatred.
In response to initial complaints, the Sunday Times pointed out the obvious – that the cartoon is typical Scarfe, that it depicts Benjamin Netanyahu rather than all Jews and that it has been run following Netanyahu’s Israel election victory: This is a typically robust cartoon by Gerald Scarfe. The Sunday Times firmly believes that it is not antisemitic. It is aimed squarely at Mr Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people.
It appears today because Mr Netanyahu won the Israeli election last week. The Sunday Times condemns antisemitism, as is clear in the excellent article in today’s Magazine which exposes the Holocaust-denying tours of concentration camps organised by David Irving.
As ever, we are immediately drawn into the old “is it antisemitic, isn’t it antisemitic” routine – as if anybody could ever prove what actually goes on in Gerald Scarfe’s head; and as if what goes on in his head is the most important thing in all of this.
For sure, Gerald Scarfe has “a thing” about blood. It is a theme that repeats in his cartoons. For example, his Sunday Times cartoon of 26 February 2012, literally shows Syria’s President Assad guzzling blood from a cup that has “children’s blood” written on it. So, he has not singled out Benjamin Netanyahu for the blood treatment and he is perfectly capable of drawing a full-on blood libel should the mood take him. Neither has Scarfe singled out Netanyahu for physical disfigurement. This is how he draws people, regardless of their nationality or religion.
Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists — antisemites and antisemitism also have “a thing” about blood; and especially about the allegation that Jews murder others (children in particular) in order to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose. It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of antisemitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and antisemites today. The actual intentions of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times count for very little within this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist impacts.
So, the cartoon, regardless of the wishes of Scarfe and the Sunday Times, regardless of it specifically being anti-Netahyahu rather than anti-Jew, will seriously distress many Jews and will give pleasure to many antisemites. (Indeed, CST has already received many calls and emails on this cartoon from upset and angry members of the public.) This is, after all, how antisemitism actually works, for its victims and its proponents. For those practical reasons, this cartoon will (like the Dave Brown/Independent cartoon of Ariel Sharon eating babies) be perceived as part of the canon of contemporary antisemitic imagery, as are the many other cartoons that associate Israeli leaders with blood in hideous ways.
And, with the cartoon having been published on Holocaust Memorial Day, its power to offend and upset the emotions of Jews is greatly worsened.
(For more information about the grotesque use of blood in contemporary anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda, see the book “Cartoons and Extremism: Israel and the Jews in Arab and Western media”. Written by Joel Kotek and published with the support of CST, European Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League. Some of its images may be viewed here).
• This article originally appeared on the Community Security Trust blogand is republished with permission
NO: Anshel Pfeffer
A cartoon that appeared in this London’s Sunday Times this week depicting Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, building a wall with blood-red-coloured cement, trapping in between the bricks Palestinian-looking figures, is causing the latest “is-it-or-is-it-not-antisemitism” furore.
The usual suspects have all weighed in: the Anti-Defamation League, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, clamouring for the venerable cartoonist Gerald Scarfe’s head and asking how the pro-Israel Sunday Time’s proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, could allow such a travesty.
The accusation is straightforward enough. Scarfe’s drawing is classic antisemitism using typical motifs of judeophobia, and is doubly hateful for having appeared on international Holocaust Remembrance Day.
It is hard to argue that 68 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the hatred of Jews has disappeared from the civilised nations of western Europe, but there are more than enough real manifestations of racism and xenophobia, directed at Jews and other religious and ethnic groups in Britain and the rest of the continent, for us to be spending our efforts confronting. Pillorying Scarfe and his cartoon cheapens a noble cause, as this was not antisemitic by any standard. Here are four reasons why.
1. It is not directed at Jews: There is absolutely nothing in the cartoon which identifies its subject as a Jew. No Star of David or kippa, and though some commentators have claimed Netanyahu’s nose in the cartoon is over-sized, at most this is in line with Scarfe’s style (and that of cartoonists) of slightly exaggerating physical features. Jew noses are prevalent in truly antisemitic cartoons that routinely appear in Arab newspapers – you can find them easily on the web. They are big, bulbous and hooked snouts, and look nothing like Netanyahu’s nose a-la-Scarfe. Furthermore, Netanyahu is an Israeli politician who was just elected by a quarter of Israeli voters, not a Jewish symbol or a global representative of the Jews.
2. It does not use Holocaust imagery: It has become generally accepted – justifiably I think – that comparing Israel’s leaders and policies to those of the Third Reich is borderline, if not full-on, antisemitism. Not only because there is no comparable genocide in human history, but because choosing it to describe the actions of the Jewish state is a nasty slur identifying Israelis as the successors of the Holocaust’s victims turned into perpetrators of a second Holocaust. But there is nothing in Scarfe’s cartoon that can put the Holocaust in mind. Perhaps someone thinks that the wall should remind us of the ghetto, but don’t forget, Scarfe is the original designer of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Should the Sunday Times have not published the cartoon on International Holocaust Memorial Day? Only if one believes that is a day in which Israeli politicians have immunity from being caricatured. Such a belief would certainly cheapen the memory of the Shoah. The Sunday Times, as it names indicates, appears only on Sundays and this was the end of elections week in Israel – when else did you expect them to feature a cartoon of Netanyahu?
3. There was no discrimination: if Gerald Scarfe had been a benign and gentle artist, treating the subjects of his cartoons with due respect and reverence, sharpening his pencil only on Israeli and Jewish figures, there would be grounds here for assuming he was tainted by the most ancient of hatreds. Anyone who has had even a casual glance at Scarfe’s oeuvre of over half a century knows that is not the case. Netanyahu’s depiction is grossly offensive and unfair, but that is only par for the course for any politician when Scarfe is at his drawing-board. Scarfe has spent his entire career viciously lampooning the high and mighty – Netanyahu is in illustrious company.
4. This is not what a blood libel looks like: Some have claimed that the blood-red cement Netanyahu is using in the cartoon to build his wall indicates a blood libel motif. Well of course it’s blood but is anyone seriously demanding that no cartoon reference to Israeli or Jewish figures can contain a red fluid? The classic European blood libel, like many other classic European creations, had a strict set of images which must always contain a cherubic Gentile child sacrificed by those perfidious Jews, his blood to be used for ritual purposes. It was a direct continuation of the Christ-killer myth.
Scarfe’s cartoon has blood-cement but no blood-libel components – it almost seems he was careful not to include any small children among his Palestinian figures (one of the eight is arguably an adolescent) so as not to have any sort of libel scenery. The blood libel was a terrible feature of Jewish life in Europe up until the beginning of the 20th century, and the myth still occasionally emerges from between the cracks in some east European backwaters to this day. To ascribe Scarfe’s cartoon with any of its features distorts another chapter of Jewish history.
• This article originally appeared on the Haaretz website and is republished with permission
The Cartoon and Anti-Semitic ‘Mission Creep’
By Eddy Portnoy
When it comes to cartoons, it’s usually Muslim fundamentalists that throw hissy fits. But, in a turn of events, some of our storied communal defenders, Abraham Foxman and Marvin Hier among them, have taking the lead. Indiscriminately tossing around accusations of anti-Semitism, our fearless leaders have attacked at least three editorial cartoonists over the past few months on charges that they have defamed the Jewish people.
Representing important institutions, you’d think that Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, and Hier, who represents the Simon Wiesenthal Center, might have figured out how to differentiate an anti-Semitic cartoon from an editorial cartoon that criticizes Israeli policy. Although both are undoubtedly experts on anti-Semitism, they both seem to take leave of their senses when it comes to criticism of Israel. And yet both claim to be ardent supporters of free speech. Except when it comes to that one thing, that Israel thing.
So when the London Times published a cartoon showing Benjamin Netanyahu cementing Palestinians between bricks of a wall, it was a perfect opportunity for Foxman to pipe up, accusing the cartoonist of evoking the blood libel. Britain’s Chief Rabbi opined that the cartoon caused “immense pain to the Jewish community in the UK and around the world.” The Israeli ambassador to Britain, who also chimed in on behalf of the International Jewry, argued that the cartoon added insult to injury, as it was published on European Holocaust Memorial Day.
Okay, so the cartoon and its timing were a bit ham-handed, for which Acting Editor of The Sunday Times Martin Ivens apologized. Gerald Scarfe, who has been visually excoriating British politicians since the late 1960s, was the artist behind Pink Floyd’s, The Wall. It appears, walls are, when all else fails, his fallback metaphor.
Sure, his cartoon wall dripping with Palestinian blood references the separation wall, which incidentally, isn’t particularly newsworthy right now, so it doubles as a symbol of Netanyahu’s recalcitrance vis-à-vis the peace process and how it crushes Palestinian life. Netanyahu comes in for some harsh criticism here, but so do all the other public figures Scarfe has drawn over the years. In fact, compared to Margaret Thatcher, Bibi gets off easy. It’s an obnoxious cartoon, but it’s not anti-Semitic. It’s also been removed from the Times website.
It’s not a particularly clever cartoon, but, thanks to a distinctly Jewish hysteria that raises its hackles when Israel or its leaders are on the receiving end of a perceived slight, it’s garnered a huge amount of press. The inaccurate accusations of blood libel and anti-Semitism seem to be attempts to stifle such commentary, and, perhaps more importantly, to get figures like Foxman and Hier in the spotlight. Press coverage such as this cartoon has received and, even better, Rupert Murdoch’s tweeted apology for it are fundraising gold for their organizations.
Are Jewish leaders and politicians off limits for editorial cartoonists? Are only the most milquetoast criticisms of Israel permitted in an editorial field that is notorious for its brutal critiques? It bears repeating that not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. To slap that label wantonly on anything they don’t agree with, Israel’s supporters risk degrading the meaning of anti-Semitism.
It goes without saying that the ADL and the Wiesenthal Center have done great work combatting anti-Semitism and racism. But when they overreach, as they’ve done here, it’s a huge disservice to their cause.
This said, it’s an absolute mystery as to why they missed the chance to attack Guardian cartoonist, Steve Bell’s mid-November piece, which showed Netanyahu as a puppet master, holding up small versions of Tony Blair and William Hague on a podium. Perhaps they felt their British counterparts could handle it on their own, which they did, with the same type of overreactive aplomb.
Again, Bell’s cartoon was aimed only at Bibi and his perceived British minions and not the Jews at large. But, London’s Jewish Chronicle brought out the anti-Semitism charge, and it caused a ruckus. This time, the charge at least had some rationale as Bell unwittingly used an anti-Jewish puppeteer trope that has been around since the Nazi era. While Bell obviously didn’t intend it as such, hypersensitive sensibilities perceived it as crossing a line. Even the Guardian’s Readers Editor agreed. But where were our hall monitors?
At the time, Hier was busy fulminating over a different cartoon, one by Brazilian cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, which showed Netanyahu standing over a ballot box, squeezing votes out of a dead Palestinian child. Hier was so incensed that he put Latuff the No. 3 slot in the Wiesenthal Center’s hokey, year-end top 10 list of anti-Semites, right behind the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran.
“[It’s] almost worse than an anti-Semitic cartoon,” said Hier in response to the cartoon. What might be worse than an anti-Semitic cartoon isn’t made clear. But, according to Hier, this one nearly crosses the red line that’s apparently after that other red line. The irony is that this isn’t an anti-Semitic cartoon at all. It is an attack on Benjamin Netanyahu that accuses him of wringing votes out of Palestinian deaths during the recent conflagration in Gaza. In case the Wiesenthal Center needs a reminder, editorial cartoons typically use extreme exaggeration, as this one does, to make their points. The question this cartoon so indelicately raises is whether it’s possible for a country’s leader to initiate attacks on an enemy in order to gain votes in an upcoming election. Yes, it’s a vicious, one-sided attack, but vicious is standard fare — and should be — for an editorial cartoon.
That’s really the point here, that editorial cartoons are the angry delinquents of the opinion page, there to ruin the party with their vulgar displays. They pull their political targets apart in ways that text can’t. Their visual lexicon is part joke and part serious. They bend reality in ways that allow barely recognizable figures perform the impossible and still maintain credulity. Most people understand that political cartoons are an integral part of a normative editorial page and accept their distortions as a unique form of critical commentary. The context in which they appear is also important: The Guardian and the London Times are not Der Stuermer. Their existence as part of a free press in a liberal democracy precludes that. Why the ADL and the Wiesenthal Center can’t grasp that is a mystery.
Slapping “anti-Semitism” on every obnoxious editorial cartoon that criticizes Israeli policy is mission creep for Foxman and Hier. There’s plenty of real anti-Semitism out there for them to deal with, and they know it. Genuine, truly rank anti-Semitic cartoons are published frequently throughout the Arabic, Farsi and other presses, cartoons that are not satire, but propaganda. Both organizations know this. But getting an apology Tweet from Rupert Murdoch garners a lot more press than one from an unknown Bahraini editor.
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Court orders police to pay Kahanists for unlawful detention
After negotiations between the parties, it was agreed that the police would compensate the Kahanists for their detention and court fees, for a total of NIS 62,500.
The Israel Police will pay NIS 62,500 in compensation to three Kahanist activists for their unlawful detention in 2008, under an agreement affirmed Tuesday by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
The incident occurred after the terror attack at Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva in March 2008.
In that attack eight students were shot to death by a Palestinian gunman, who was himself shot dead at the scene.
The three activists, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Noam Federman and Baruch Marzel, subsequently announced that they planned to patrol in the Arab neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber, where the murderer’s family lived.
Policemen were waiting for the three at the Armon Hanatziv promenade to head them off; they arrested and questioned them, then jailed the trio in the Russian Compound lock-up overnight.
The next day, the magistrate’s court released the three without any restrictions.
They filed suit against Israel Police, saying it had violated their rights, subjected them to false arrest, and jailed them under inhuman conditions.
The case dragged on over several years, but after hearing the evidence, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Vice President Irit Cohen advised the police to compensate the claimants.
During the hearings the judge had expressed wonder at why it had been necessary to detain the three of them overnight.
After negotiations between the parties, it was agreed that the police would compensate the Kahanists for their detention and court fees, for a total of NIS 62,500.
“I hope the officers of the Israel Police will absorb the message and stop arresting right-wing activists for no reason,” said Ben-Gvir.
“We had the right to demonstrate to demand that the mourner’s tent for the terrorist in Jabal Mukkaber be dismantled, but even if the police thought otherwise, its people have to internalize that you don’t change people’s opinions by arresting them.”
Crowd Control: Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank
Crowd control weapons are supposed to be non-lethal, enabling authorities to enforce the law without endangering human life. In fact, however, they are dangerous weapons that can cause death, severe injury and damage to property if used improperly.
This report details the crowd control weapons used by Israeli security forces in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem).
Tear gas is a chemical irritant that severely affects the eyes and the respiratory system. It is the predominant crowd control weapon in use by Israeli security forces and is dispersed through several types of grenades manufactured in the United States: A rubber tear-gas grenade (known as “400″ or “skittering grenade”), which can be hand-thrown or fired from a launcher mounted on a rifle, and a 40mm aluminum canister (known as “gas rocket”) which is fired from a launcher. In East Jerusalem security forces also use the splitting tear-gas grenade which separates into three sub-canisters. 40mm-caliber canisters are fired from several different types of launchers. Some are mounted on soldiers’ rifles and can be fired one grenade at a time. Others are stand-alone launchers which can fire from one to six grenades in quick succession. Israeli security forces also have at their disposal a jeep-mounted system that enables firing salvos of grenades, which can cover a large area with tear gas.
Stun grenades are also a predominant crowd control weapon. They are a diversionary measure, whose explosion emits a bright light and a thunderous noise. The grenades are designed to cause panic, thereby enabling security forces to overpower people. Like the tear-gas grenades in use by Israeli security forces, the stun grenades are also manufactured in the United States.
Rubber-coated metal bullets are utilized primarily against stone-throwers. Security forces use two types of bullets made of a metal core coated with either rubber or plastic, and fired from launchers mounted on rifle-barrels. These so-called “rubber” bullets are manufactured by Israel Military Industries Ltd. The Orr Commission prohibited the use of rubber-coated metal bullets within Israel’s borders. In East Jerusalem, since the prohibition, Israel Police has been using 40mm-caliber sponge rounds imported from the Unites States.
The Skunk is a foul-smelling liquid developed by the Israel Police for the purpose of dispersing demonstrations. It is sprayed from truck-mounted water cannons. The odor is so offensive that it forces any person in its vicinity to back off. The report also details the relevant orders of the military and the Israel Police which regulate the use of these weapons, and which the security forces refuse to divulge. In addition the report surveys the implementation of the regulations in the field and the detrimental results of violating them.
This report has found that there are two main problems with the use of crowd control weapons in the West Bank. First, the wording of the open-fire and safety regulations is ambiguous, and in some cases the regulations cannot be properly followed. Second, when security forces in the field violate the regulations, even systematically, practically no action is taken to put an end to this wrongful conduct. Senior-ranking officers deny that violations of the open-fire regulations are the norm and classify injury to civilians from improper use of crowd control weapons as “exceptions to the rule”. Furthermore, even in the rare instances in which investigations into such incidents are conducted, most are closed without the perpetrators or their superiors being held accountable. Following are some of the report’s findings:
The unlawful use of crowd control weapons by Israeli security forces is accompanied by further restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of speech and their freedom to protest the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. These restrictions include the arrest and prosecution of demonstration organizers; the dispersal of demonstrations using force, even when demonstrators were not violent in any way; and the deportation of foreign nationals participating in the demonstrations. Areas in the West Bank where demonstrations are held every Friday are declared closed military zones for the time scheduled for demonstration. Specific orders designating closed military zones enable security forces to keep Israeli activists from taking part in the demonstrations and to make them liable for arrest and prosecution. These disproportionate restrictions deviate from the instructions issued by the Legal Advisor for the West Bank, which prohibit the declaration of an area a closed military zone to a specific group, such as activists at demonstrations.
Members of the security forces who are faced with stone throwers, sometimes in large-scale events, have the authority to use the various weapons detailed in this report. However, the authorities must ensure that the troops on the ground obey the open-fire regulations and use crowd control weapons within the parameters that keep them non-lethal. It follows that every soldier, officer, or police officer violating these rules must be prosecuted. In addition, B’Tselem demands that Israeli security forces:
Murdoch apologizes for ‘grotesque’ Sunday Times cartoon
‘Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times,’ Rupert Murdoch tweeted in response to criticism by Jewish groups, who said the drawing was reminiscent of anti-Semitic blood libels.
Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns the Sunday Times of London through a subsidiary, said the paper should apologize for printing what he called a “grotesque” cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Murdoch, the founder and CEO of News Corp., made his remarks Monday on Twitter about the cartoon that appeared the previous day. Netanyahu is depicted as building a brick wall with the blood of Palestinians as mortar.
“Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times,” Murdoch tweeted, referring to the cartoonist. “Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
Murdoch’s statement was made in response to criticism from leaders of the Jewish community in the U.K. who said the drawing was reminiscent of anti-Semitic blood libels.
Jon Benjamin, the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, called the cartoon “appalling” and said it was similar to the offensive images of Jews “more usually found in parts of the virulently anti-Semitic Arab press.”
Benjamin said its appearance in the broadsheet on International Holocaust Remembrance Day added insult to injury.
Earlier on Monday, the Sunday Times defended the cartoon, saying it was “aimed squarely at Mr. Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people.”
The Anti-Defamation League, which earlier condemned the cartoon as blatantly anti-Semetic, welcomed Murdoch’s apology, however criticized the newspaper’s senior editors, who “vigorously defended the cartoon as a form of legitimate criticism.”
“The cartoon, which is so shocking and reminiscent of the virulently anti-Semitic cartoons we see routinely in the Arab press,” the statement said, “is clearly indefensible.”
Another report from the Associated Press can be read HERE.
See my post from yesterday dealing with this.
1. It is not directed at Jews: There is absolutely nothing in the cartoon which identifies its subject as a Jew. No Star of David or kippa, and though some commentators have claimed Netanyahu’s nose in the cartoon is over-sized, at most this is in line with Scarfe’s style (and that of cartoonists) of slightly exaggerating physical features. Jew-noses are prevalent in truly anti-Semitic cartoons that routinely appear in Arab newspapers – you can find them easily on the web. They are big, bulbous and hooked snouts, and look nothing like Netanyahu’s nose a-la-Scarfe. Furthermore, Netanyahu is an Israeli politician who was just elected by a quarter of Israeli voters, not a Jewish symbol or a global representative of the Jews.
2. It does not use Holocaust imagery: It has become generally accepted – justifiably I think – that comparing Israel’s leaders and policies to those of the Third Reich is borderline, if not full-on anti-Semitism. Not only because there is no comparable genocide in human history, but because choosing it to describe the actions of the Jewish state is a nasty slur identifying Israelis as the successors of the Holocaust’s victims turned into perpetrators of a second Holocaust. But there is nothing in Scarfe’s cartoon that can put the Holocaust in mind. Perhaps someone thinks that the wall should remind us of the ghetto, but don’t forget, Scarfe is the original designer of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Should the Sunday Times have not published the cartoon on International Holocaust Memorial Day? Only if one believes that is a day in which Israeli politicians have immunity from being caricatured. Such a belief would certainly cheapen the memory of the Shoah. The Sunday Times, as it names indicates, appears only on Sundays and this was the end of elections week in Israel – when else did you expect them to feature a cartoon of Netanyahu?
3. There was no discrimination: If Gerald Scarfe had been a benign and gentle artist, treating the subjects of his cartoons with due respect and reverence, sharpening his pencil only on Israeli and Jewish figures, there would be grounds here for assuming he was tainted by the most ancient of hatreds. Anyone who has had even a casual glance at Scarfe’s oeuvre of over half a century knows that is not the case. Netanyahu’s depiction is grossly offensive and unfair, but that is only par for the course for any politician when Scarfe is at his drawing-board. Scarfe has spent his entire career viciously lampooning the high and mighty – Netanyahu is in illustrious company.
4. This is not what a blood libel looks like: Some have claimed that the blood-red cement Netanyahu is using in the cartoon to build his wall indicates a blood libel motif. Well of course it’s blood but is anyone seriously demanding that no cartoon reference to Israeli or Jewish figures can contain a red fluid? The classic European blood libel, like many other classic European creations, had a strict set of images which must always contain a cherubic gentile child sacrificed by those perfidious Jews, his blood to be used for ritual purposes. It was a direct continuation of the Christ-killer myth. Scarfe’s cartoon has blood-cement but no blood libel components – it almost seems he was careful not to include any small children among his Palestinian figures (one of the eight is arguably an adolescent) so as not to have any sort of libel scenery. The blood libel was a terrible feature of Jewish life in Europe up until the beginning of the 20th century, and the myth still occasionally emerges from between the cracks in some East European backwaters to this day. To ascribe Scarfe’s cartoon with any of its features distorts another chapter of Jewish history.
The full report can be read HERE
The stupidity of counting on outcome of Israeli polls
By Khalid Amayreh
Some Palestinian and Arab officials are hoping that the results of recent Israeli elections may lead to the reactivation of the moribund peace process with Israel.
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who only two weeks ago threatened to dissolve his Ramallah regime, reportedly extended an invitation to Yair Lapid to visit Ramallah. Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid (or there is future) won 19 seats out of 120 seats comprising the Israeli Knesset or parliament.
Similarly, US Secretary of State nominee John Kerry has voiced the hope that Israel’s election results will lead to the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, languishing for decades under Israeli military occupation.
We all hope that there are still genuine chances for peace in a region long tormented by occupation, violence and war. However, a closer look at the results of the Israeli elections shows that there is virtually no chance the upcoming Israeli government, which may not last long anyway, will significantly enhance prospects of peace in occupied Palestine.
Many media outlets, especially in the West, keep parroting reports from Israel claiming that both the right and left camps won equal numbers of seats in the Knesset. This is simply not true. It amounts to a scandalous, though not necessarily deliberate, falsification of realty.
First of all, the classification of political groups and parties in Israel into “right and left” shouldn’t be taken at face value. It often reflects the inherently racist Israeli-Zionist ideology. In fact, “leftist” parties in Israel differ little from other right-wing parties. An Israeli leftist party would be viewed as decidedly fascist in a European setting. Similarly, rightist, let alone extremist right-wing parties would have no chance to be licensed in any European country that respects its laws and principles.
Take for example Tzipi Livni’s Tnu’ a party, which is classified in Israel as part of the Left camp.
This party advocates the annexation into Israel of most Israeli colonies established ever since the 1967 Arab Israeli war. Needless to say, all these colonies are illegal and illegitimate under international law.
More to the point, the party is absolutely opposed to the repatriation of millions of Palestinian refugees uprooted from their ancestral homeland at the hands of Zionist invaders from Eastern Europe and Russia.
And as if this were not enough, the leader of this “leftist” party said on several occasions that in case a Palestinian state was established, Israel would have a definitive right to expel Israel’s Palestinians (nearly 25% of the population) to the would-be Palestinian state.
So, how in the depth of hell could we describe a Nazi-like party that advocates ethnic cleansing and lebensraum as “Leftist?”
Some people might think that Livni’s party represents the exception rather than the norm.
But, nay, the truth of the matter is that Livni and her party stand to the left of her other “leftist” parties such as the Labor Party, headed by Shelly Yachimovich and Kadima, headed by the certified war criminal Shaul Mofaz who on several occasions called for the destruction of Gaza and annihilation of its people.
As to Yesh Atid, its founder and leader, Lapid, has objected to classifying his party as leftist. He said his party was not leftist but rather “centrist”?
Then there is the celebrated Mermaid Meretz, which has garnered only 6 seats. Well, these people may be leftist in the sense that they support gay marriages, equal workers’ wages. Women rights and a peaceful solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. However, it is well known that most if not all these liberals-rather-than leftists are hard-core Zionists who oppose the dismantling of Jewish settlements and especially the repatriation of significant numbers of Palestinian refugees back to their homes and villages in what is now Israel.
It is really very difficult, if not outright impossible to be truly Zionist and truly leftist at the same time. It is really a stark oxymoron, an obscene contradiction in terms.
Which leaves us with the stark reality that more than 90% of the Israeli Knesset members are outright fascist.
For those who might be prompted to raise their eyebrows upon reading my words, I’d like to remind them of the following. Both the right and left in Israel are against the establishment of an egalitarian state in mandatory Palestine in which Jews and non-Jews enjoy equal rights.
Both the right and left in Israel would rather support apartheid that sees Israel become a binominal state, especially if Israel’s “solid” Jewish majority is threatened.
And both the Israeli right and left are decidedly against the return to the lines of the fourth of June, 1967. This is in addition to their absolute rejection of any notion suggesting the repatriation of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN resolution 194.
Interestingly, it was the so-called Israeli left that started the settlement enterprise. It was the Israeli left that started and intensified the Judazing of Occupied East Jerusalem and it was the Israeli left that rejected all Arab gestures for peace. Remember, the Israeli left ruled Israel nearly 30 years before the advent of the right in 1977.
In light, it would be more than naïve and more than stupid to really think that the results of Israeli elections will expedite peacemaking.
I don’t blame the Americans and Europeans for issuing optimistic and breezy statements, welcoming the elections’ outcome. These people have been doing this for ages. Beside, these statements don’t cost Europe and the U.S. a penny.
However, the big disaster occurs when some Palestinian and Arab leaders start making similar statements.
It is often said that wise people learn from other people’s mistakes. The less wise, learn from their own mistakes. But the true calamity occurs when people neither learn from their mistakes nor from other people’s mistakes. That is a real disaster.
Does the current Palestinian Authority fall under this category. I hope not, but I am not sure. The next few days and weeks will provide a satisfactory answer.
I hope that my fears and apprehensions are misplaced, but an inner voice tells me otherwise.
London Times Cartoon Depicts Benjamin Netanayahu Building Bloody Wall
Image Comes on Holocaust Remembrance Day
An editorial cartoon showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall on the bodies of Palestinians and using their blood as cement was published in London’s Sunday Times.
The caption on the cartoon reads: “Israeli Elections… Will Cementing Peace Continue?” The cartoon was drawn by Gerald Scarfe, who drew the cover illustration for Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters has been a critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
The cartoon published Sunday – International Holocaust Memorial Day – is “sickening” and “offensive,” the European Jewish Congress said in a statement.
European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor called for an apology from the Sunday Times on Sunday.
“This cartoon would be offensive at any time of the year, but to publish it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day is sickening and expresses a deeply troubling mindset,” Kantor said. “This insensitivity demands an immediate apology from both the cartoonist and the paper’s editors.”
“Amazingly, as this cartoon was published days after the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel, underwent fully democratic elections, as others in the Middle East were being butchered by the tens of thousands, the Sunday Times focuses its imagination solely on the Jewish State,” Kantor said in the statement.
HonestReporting called the cartoon “a blood libel on a day when the millions of victims of the Holocaust are remembered.”
“Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember the most appalling atrocities carried out in modern history. It should also be a day when the media remembers that Israel’s actions to defend its citizens bear no relation whatsoever to the genocidal crimes of the Nazis. On any day, this cartoon’s imagery is an assault on the real victims of genocide, demeans their suffering and insults their memory. The Sunday Times should be mindful that what started as cartoons in the 1930′s ultimately led to violence and unspeakable tragedy. This is a lesson that The Sunday Times has clearly not absorbed,” said HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams in a statement issued Sunday by the organization.
Needless to say, the ADL was one of the first to join the chorus with the following (From) …
ADL Slams Sunday Times ‘Blood Libel’ Cartoon Published on Holocaust Memorial Day, Calls for Immediate Apology
In an email to The Algemeiner, the Anti Defamation League has slammed Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper for publishing a cartoon “with a blatantly anti-Semitic theme,” which appeared Sunday, on Holocaust Memorial Day, and has called for an immediate apology.
Raheem Kassam, Editor of The Commentator which first reported on the publication of the shocking image described the cartoon as depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “large-nosed Jew, hunched over a wall, building with the blood of Palestinians as they writhe in pain within it.”
“Penned by Gerald Scarfe (the cartoonist behind Pink Floyd’s The Wall), the caption reads: ‘Israeli Elections… Will Cementing Peace Continue?’” added Honest Reporting which also reported on the image.
“The Sunday Times has clearly lost its moral bearings publishing a cartoon with a blatantly anti-Semitic theme and motif which is a modern day evocation of the ancient ‘blood libel’ charge leveled at Jews,” Michael A. Salberg, ADL International Affairs Director told The Algemeiner. “There is nothing subtle about the caricatured image of Prime Minister Netanyahu using Palestinians and their blood to build a wall to ‘protect’ Israelis,” he added.
Salberg called for an immediate response from The Sunday Times saying, “The Sunday Times should be ashamed and should immediately apologize for its gross insensitivity.”
The ADL also made reference to the history of such gross portrayals of Jews and their role in fanning the hatred that led to their slaughter. “This is the stuff which historically justified hatred of Jews and led to the wholesale slaughter of Jews,” he said.
CEO of Honest Reporting, Joe Hyams, added criticism of the publication, saying, “Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember the most appalling atrocities carried out in modern history. It should also be a day when the media remembers that Israel’s actions to defend its citizens bear no relation whatsoever to the genocidal crimes of the Nazis. On any day, this cartoon’s imagery is an assault on the real victims of genocide, demeans their suffering and insults their memory. The Sunday Times should be mindful that what started as cartoons in the 1930′s ultimately led to violence and unspeakable tragedy. This is a lesson that The Sunday Times has clearly not absorbed.”
The Sunday Times of owned by News International which is in turn owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. In the past Murdoch has been recognized by a number of Jewish organizationsincluding the Anti Defamation League for his friendship to the Jewish community. Murdoch has been consistently listed by The Algemeiner as one of the “top 10 non-Jews positively influencing the Jewish future.”
When reached on the phone by The Algemeiner a representative of the News International Press Office would not immediately comment on the cartoon.
UPDATE: The Sunday Times responded to The Algemeiner’s request for comment, issuing the following statement: “This is a typically robust cartoon by Gerald Scarfe. The Sunday Times firmly believes that it is not anti-Semitic. It is aimed squarely at Mr Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people. It appears today because Mr Netanyahu won the Israeli election last week. The Sunday Times condemns anti-Semitism, as is clear in the excellent article in today’s Magazine which exposes the Holocaust-denying tours of concentration camps organised by David Irving.”
The Sunday Times marked Holocaust Memorial Day in a less-than-traditional manner, running a virulently anti-Israel cartoon depicting a big-nosed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu paving a wall with the blood and limbs of writhing Palestinians.
The cartoon included a caption beneath the image entitled “Israeli elections- will cementing peace continue?” Drawn by Gerald Scarfe, the cartoon appeared in the national paper on Sunday.
For a larger version of the cartoon, click here
“This cartoon would be offensive at any time of the year, but to publish it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day is sickening and expresses a deeply troubling mindset,” said European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor. “This insensitivity demands an immediate apology from both the cartoonist and the paper’s editors.”
“Amazingly, as this cartoon was published days after the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel, underwent fully democratic elections, as others in the Middle East were being butchered by the tens of thousands, the Sunday Timesfocuses its imagination solely on the Jewish State. This contravenes many of the criteria laid out in EUMC’s Working Definition of Antisemitism and is part of a worrying trend to legitimize the growing assault on Israel by opinion-shapers.”
British anti-Semitism has made headlines throughout the week after Liberal Democrat MP David Ward accused “the Jews” of inflicting violence on Palestinians on a daily basis,” and questioned how they could do this so soon after their “liberation from the death camps.”
He issued something of a backtrack on Saturday evening, in response to condemnation from his party and a huge backlash on social media. “I was trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust,” the MP posted on his website.
“I recognize of course the deep sensitivities of these issues at all times, and particularly on occasions of commemoration such as this weekend [Holocaust Memorial Day],” he said.
He added that his criticisms of Israel “remain as strong as ever.”
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton paid a special tribute to Holocaust survivors on Sunday, in a statement released on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Ashton said that the survivors of the Holocaust “remind us of this tragedy that we must never forget.”
Israel admits Ethiopian women were given birth control shots
Health Minister director general instructs all gynecologists in Israel’s four health maintenance organizations not to inject women with long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera if they do not understand ramifications of treatment.
Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 from 5:00 – 7:00pm.
111 8th Avenue, New York, NY
What is this about?
Cornell NYC Tech, a partnership of Cornell University and The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, has today started classes in 22,000 sq ft (with an option to expand to 58, 000 sq ft) of office space donated by Google (for free) for a one-year Masters of Engineering degree in Computer Science. This space will be used until 2017, when the first building of the permanent campus on Roosevelt Island (in the East River, between the UES and Queens) will be ready.
Cornell University and Mayor Bloomberg have stated that Cornell needed The Technion to win the bid for the new campus, due to The Technion’s history of spawning start-up companies. The Technion is bringing no money to the partnership, while Mayor Bloomberg is giving $100 million of our tax money and free land on Roosevelt Island. The project was fast-tracked without proper consultation with NY residents (including those on Roosevelt Island who will be especially impacted while construction takes place till 2037) or Cornell Faculty, who by Cornell’s own by-laws should be consulted about partnerships of this type.
The Technion is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and the rights of Palestinians, specifically by designing military weapons and developing technologies that are used to drive Palestinians off their land, repress demonstrations for their rights, and carry out attacks against people in Lebanon, Gaza, and elsewhere. The Technion also practices institutional discrimination against Palestinian students by severely restricting their freedom of speech and assembly, and rewarding Jewish students who, unlike most Palestinians, perform compulsory military service in Israel. This is in direct contrast to Cornell University’s founding values of universalism and inclusion embodied in the university’s motto “any person any study”.
New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership (NYACT) are asking that Google not support this partnership, and that Cornell University and the City of New York ends their collaboration with The Technion, in line with the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanction of Israel.
IDF soldiers cast 8,000 votes for Ale Yarok party, which also favors shortening IDF service
Over the past year a sharp increase was registered in the number of drug related offences among soldiers.
A record number of cases in which dealers attempted to sell drugs within the army were recorded, and additional cases of pot smoking were registered in elite combat forces.
Google to Offer Free Wi-Fi in Chelsea
Google Inc. (GOOG), the world’s biggest Internet-search company, plans to offer free wireless Internet access in parts of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, creating the largest public outdoor network in the city.
The Wi-Fi network, which doesn’t require a password, is available today, Google said in a statement. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials attended an event to announce the service in Chelsea, where Google has offices.
Google has been working with New York to foster a technology hotbed in the city. Last year it agreed to donate office space to Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for an engineering school while the institutions build a permanent home on Roosevelt Island.
“New York is determined to become the world’s leading digital city, and universal access to high-speed Internet is one of the core building blocks of that vision,” Bloomberg said at the Manhattan news conference. “Free Wi-Fi across this part of Chelsea takes us another step closer to that goal.”
Google also benefits from wider access to the Internet, which it uses to deliver services to customers and advertisers.
The new network is part of an effort to cultivate Silicon Alley, a concentration of startups in Manhattan. Wi-Fi will be available to thousands of New Yorkers between Gansevoort Street and 19th Street from 8th Avenue to the West Side Highway, according to a statement.
“We all know New York’s next job-growth engine is the tech industry,” Schumer said at the event. “This is the future.”
The project with Google is a small step in a city that has a long way to go before it can boast about its Wi-Fi service, said Gale Brewer, who heads the City Council’s Government Operations Committee and has advocated for free Internet service for more than 10 years. Thick walls in older buildings will prevent Wi-Fi signals from penetrating inside, she said.
“The city’s digital divide is growing, with people packing libraries to use computers because they can’t afford $50 subscription fees for Internet at home,” the councilwoman said. “We have citywide service for first responders; we should be able to create a firewall for use by civilians and provide this service citywide.”
The network will cost $115,000 to build and $45,000 a year to maintain. Google will cover two-thirds of those costs, with Chelsea Improvement Co., a nonprofit neighborhood development group, paying the rest. The service will be operated as a pilot program for two years, said Dan Biederman, Chelsea Improvement’s president.
The service will be free of advertising except for a message that Google is the provider, said George Townley, director of information systems for Chelsea Improvement.
Google has been hosting a free Wi-Fi network in its home town of Mountain View, California, since 2006. Last year, it introduced a fiber network in the Kansas City, Missouri, area to deliver connections the company says are 100 times faster than typical high-speed Internet lines.
New York would like to extend Wi-Fi to all neighborhoods eventually, said the mayor, who is the founder and majority shareholder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
Normal racism: Election over, “centrist” kingmaker Yair Lapid shuns Palestinian citizens of Israel
A day after the Israeli general election, Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) list that won 19 seats making him the kingmaker in coalition talks, hit the ground running with a direct attack on Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Responding to talk (video in Hebrew) that Israel’s so-called “center-left” parties would join forces to block the reappointment of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, Lapid ruled out the possibility of working with Arab parties:
“I heard talk about establishing a preventative bloc – I want to take this option off the table,” Lapid said Wednesday. “We will not establish a preventative bloc with (Balad MK) Hanin Zuabi,” Lapid said, referring to the fact that if he were to try to form his own center-left government he would have to include the Arab parties.
Lapid also said Israelis had voted for “normality.” Indeed the normality he was endorsing with this statement was to continue the racist exclusion of Arab parties from political power in Israel.
Israeli Jewish public overwhelmingly supports exclusion of Arabs
Reflecting the populism that fueled his rise, Lapid was expressing mainstream sentiments. The Israeli Democracy Institute found in an October 2012 survey (PDF) that “a considerable majority of the Jewish public (64%) opposes the inclusion of Arab parties in the coalition to be formed after the elections.”
Haneen Zoabi was one of three members of the National Democratic Assembly (Balad) reelected yesterday. She has been frequently vilified, attacked and threatened by Israeli politicians for challenging their racism and calling for all citizens to have equal rights, a demand that contradicts Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish state.”
The electoral commission initially banned Zoabi from standing because she traveled aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010, and later banned a TV election broadcast from her party, but both decisions were overturned by the high court.
While four million Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip cannot vote in Israeli elections, 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are eligible to vote, but because they are shunned by Zionist parties that form the government, they are almost as powerless as the rest of the Palestinian population.
Arab parties hold their ground
As Palestinian citizen of Israel face increasing hostility and racist laws many feared their turnout at the polls would fall even lower than the 53 percent it hit in 2009.
But in the event Arab parties won 12 seats in the 120 Knesset; 3 went to Balad, 4 to Hadash, the Communist Party – both unchanged from 2009, and the United Arab List gained one seat for a total of 5.
Leaders of Balad said their party had won more than 95,000 votes, an increase of 11,000 from the 2009 election and that 8,000 of those new votes were in the southern Naqab (Negev) region where the indigenous Bedouin population faces intensified ethnic cleansing by Israeli authorities and the Jewish National Fund.
2,000 Israelis volunteer to vote for Palestinians
New initiative pairs up Palestinians and Israelis, who cast ballots according to their partner’s preference.
Ofer Neiman planned to cast a ballot in Jerusalem on Tuesday, but not for a party of his choosing. Rather, he decided to “give up” his ballot, as he put it, for an East Jerusalem Palestinian – a man who doesn’t have the right to vote in elections for the government under whose laws he lives, and which has the power to determine his fate.
That man is Bassam Aramin, who, like Neiman, is a peace activist. The two are part of a new initiative called Real Democracy, inspired by a similar movement that sprang up in the UK in 2010. There, supporters were asked to donate as it were their votes to people in countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh. In just ten days, the group says, about 2,000 Israelis have volunteered to give up their votes by being paired up with Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza.
“I always supported Meretz and Hadash,” Neiman explains. “But I came to the conclusion that specific parties by themselves will not bring about any change from the left, and it’s more important to emphasize in various ways that these elections are not actually democratic. For me, it’s part of an ongoing worldwide movement to let people know there’s no democracy here, so instead of these false hopes by voting for left-wing parties, I’m voting on someone else’s behalf.”
Critics might say that there is a flawed logic here. Palestinians have voted in elections; Aramin himself voted for the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1996 and in 2006. The latter wasn’t easy, because the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality didn’t want Palestinian Authority voting booths dotting the officially united capital, even though the right of East Jerusalemites to cast ballots was stipulated in the Oslo Accords. And with Hamas emerging as the victor, it was an election many pro-peace Palestinians and Israelis would just as soon forget.
But those elections don’t mean much under the circumstances, Neiman posits. “The Palestinian elections are meaningless, because they’re still under Israeli occupation and they have no sovereignty,” he says.
Aramin, whose 10-year-old daughter Abir was shot and killed in 2007 by a border policeman, is a co-founder of Combatants for Peace and is involved in the forum that brings bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families together. He knows that Real Democracy’s campaign will be dismissed by many as a fringe phenomenon. But he hopes that it will make people think twice about accepting the status quo.
“My hope is that a lot of Israelis will start to open their eyes and ask, ‘why are these crazy Israelis giving their votes to the Palestinians, to the ‘enemy,’” he quips. “I hope that through this, more people will realize that what we’ve been living with for almost 46 years is not a normal situation, and it is not democracy. Perhaps this campaign will open up some debate about it.” He asked Neiman to vote Hadash, “because it’s the most serious Arab-Jewish party, and because I like Dov Khenin. He’s always with us, fighting for real democracy and coexistence.”
Shimri Zameret, one of the activists, discovered late Monday that a group of nine Palestinians from Bil’in, a site of regular protests against the West Bank barrier, wanted to participate. Zameret put up a note on Real Democracy’s Facebook page asking for Israelis to give up their vote for the nine, but was skeptical that they’d have enough last-minute takers.
“In 45 minutes, we had nine Israelis come forward. We were all shocked at how fast people signed up,” he says.
Sometimes the Palestinian “match” for the Israeli voter says his or her choice is to boycott the vote altogether. That’s what happened for Zameret, who is voting on behalf of a man named Omar in Hebron.
“It’s a form of civil disobedience. Yes, people get angry at me and say, ‘how do you change the system if you don’t participate?’ But I don’t agree,” says Zameret. “Sometimes boycotting is a better way of highlighting the lack of legitimacy of the system.”
Shelly Nativ, 40, who lives in Tel Aviv and works at Open University, was casting a vote for Wajih Burnat, a Palestinian in Bil’in whom she knows from going to protests in his West Bank village. He decided to vote for Ahmed Tibi and Ra’am-Ta’al.
“To have a few million people decide the fate of double the amount of people, that’s not a democracy,” she says. “For me things here have gone so wrong, I didn’t feel comfortable to just go and vote, because I felt that the parties I might vote for couldn’t address the severity of the current situation. So the campaign made sense to me – I can at least give my vote to someone else.”
She hesitates, and moves away from the polling place where she just voted, concerned she could be accused of campaigning too close to the ballot box. “I hope it has some kind of impact,” she adds, lowering her voice. “The positive impact will be if it will somehow diversify the public debate about our state of affairs. It has been very narrow so far.”
U.S. Inaction, Mideast Cataclysm?
By BERNARD AVISHAI and SAM BAHOUR
Even so, Mr. Obama’s second term could offer a pivotal opportunity to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In his first term, he backed away from the process, figuring that America could mediate only if the parties themselves wanted to make peace — and that new talks were unlikely to be productive.
This is a mistake. The greatest enemy to a two-state solution is the sheer pessimism on both sides. Unless President Obama uses his new mandate to show leadership, the region will have no place for moderates — or for America either.
The rationale for inaction rests on four related assumptions: that strident forces dominate because their ideologies do; that the status quo — demographic trends that would lead to the enfranchisement of occupied Palestinians, a “one-state solution” and the end of Israel as a Jewish democracy — will eventually force Israel to its senses; that the observer-state status secured by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations is empty because his West Bank government is broke, dysfunctional and lacking in broad support; and that given the strength of the Israeli lobby, Mr. Obama’s hands are tied.
These assumptions seem daunting, but they are misguided. First, while Hamas, the militant Islamists who control Gaza, and Israel’s ultra-rightists, who drive the settlement enterprise, are rising in popularity, the reason is not their ideologies, but young people’s despair over the occupation’s grinding violence.
Last month, a poll by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, based in Washington, found that two-thirds of Israelis would support a two-state deal, but that more than half of even left-of-center Israelis said Mr. Abbas could not reach binding decisions to end the conflict. The same month, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, in Ramallah, found that 52 percent of Palestinians favored a two-state resolution (a drop from three-quarters in 2006, before two Israeli clashes over Gaza). But two-thirds judged the chance of a fully functional Palestinian state in the next five years to be low or nonexistent. In short, moderates on both sides still want peace, but first they need hope.
Second, the status quo is not a path to a one-state solution, but to Bosnian-style ethnic cleansing, which could erupt as quickly as the Gaza fighting did last year and spread to Israeli Arab cities. Right-wing Israelis and Hamas leaders alike are pushing for a cataclysmic fight. Mr. Abbas, whose Fatah party controls the West Bank, has renounced violence, but without signs of a viable diplomatic path he cannot unify his people to support new talks. If his government falls apart, or if the more Palestinian territory is annexed (as right-wing Israeli want), or if the standoff in Gaza leads to an Israeli ground invasion, bloodshed and protests across the Arab world will be inevitable. Such chaos might also provoke missiles from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group based in Lebanon.
Third, the Palestinian state is not a Fatah-imposed fiction, but a path toward economic development, backed by international diplomacy and donations, that most Palestinians want to succeed. It has a $4 billion economy; an expanding network of entrepreneurs and professionals; and a banking system with about $8 billion in deposits. A robust private sector can develop if given a chance.
Fourth, American support need not only mean direct talks. The administration could promote investments in Palestinian education and civil society that do not undermine Israeli security. Mr. Obama could demand that Israel allow Palestinian businesses freer access to talent, suppliers and customers. He could also demand a West Bank-Gaza transportation corridor, to which Israel committed in the 1993 Oslo accords.
America is as much a player as a facilitator. The signal it sends helps determine whether the parties move toward war or peace. The White House, despite its frosty relationship with Mr. Netanyahu, hasn’t set itself up as a worthy mediator by opposing Palestinian membership in the United Nations and vetoing condemnations of settlements.
In nominating Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon, Mr. Obama rightly ignored attacks by “pro-Israel” (really pro-Netanyahu) groups. He should appoint a Middle East negotiator trusted by all sides — say, Bill Clinton or Colin L. Powell. He should lead, not thwart, European attempts to make a deal. He has stated that the settlements will lead to Israel’s global isolation; he should make clear that they endanger American interests, too.
Washington has crucial leverage, though this won’t last forever. When it weighs in, it becomes a preoccupying political fact for both sides. If it continues to stand back, hopelessness will win.