“I will never call IDF the most moral army” – top Army lawyer. Hamas will hand over officials to ICC

Jerusalem Post reports that Hamas says willing to cooperate with ICC to advance Palestinian cause

Hamas announced on Friday that the Palestinian Islamist group is willing to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to advance the Palestinian cause, indicating that it would hand over officials to the international tribunal.Hamas official Khalil al-Haya in a state said “the referral to the ICC is not inconsistent with the organization’s [Hamas’] continued resistance [against Israel] in all its forms, as it carries the goal of garnering all rights, including that of armed resistance.”

He added that the terror group which controls Gaza was confident of a victory over Israel in “legal conflict.”

Over at Haaretz, Amos Harel and Gili Cohen interviewed the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni to discuss his tenure and the investigation of various incidents during Protective Edge.

“You will never hear me say, ‘The IDF is the most moral army in the world,’” declares Efroni, who refuses to adopt the mantra decreed by then-Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz during the second intifada [2000-2006] and recited ever since, as though it were holy writ, by the top levels of the government and the army. “I think that our army has good values, but some of this has to do with the fact that it investigates and examines suspected offenses in a professional way. If we don’t do that, the IDF’s values will very much be thrown into question.”

If Efroni’s investigations are considered independent and thorough by the ICC, it may refuse to consider the Palestinian Authority’s appeal. And this is important due to the sheer death and destruction wreaked upon Gaza by the IDF last year.

Even according to the mildest version of events, more than 1,000 Palestinian civilians were killed by IDF fire, among them hundreds of children. The Israeli government is hoping that the work by the military advocate general and his people will allow to it to fend off at least some of the criticism in the international arena.In right-wing parties, though, as well as, to a large extent, among IDF field commanders, there has been strong opposition to the investigation policy. Why, they ask, does the prosecutor’s unit need to examine a field commander’s judgment during a war?

The elephant in the room is the number of children murdered in their homes by IDF pilots dropping largely US-made precision bombs on them. And in case you still (somehow) believed the IDF does not have a policy of targeting homes with sleeping children inside, let’s let Efroni enlighten you.

One of the most controversial measures implemented by the IDF during the war was a systematic attack on the homes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders, on the grounds that the residences were used for “command and control purposes” because the commanders turned their homes into operations rooms of a sort. Thus, scores of houses were demolished and, in a number of cases, many civilians were killed as a result of hitches in the “knock on the roof” procedure aimed at evacuating civilians from the building before bombing it.Efroni confirms that the prosecution “is examining the attack policy in Operation Protective Edge. Under the rules of international law, it is permissible to attack a target if it is a military target. A home does not become a target because of a telephone line that is used for operational communications by the enemy. But if the commander is directing the battalion’s fighting from there, and his subordinates are coming to his house to consult with him, it is a military target. We didn’t decide to bomb all the commanders’ homes. There were homes we didn’t approve for attack.”

The MAG adds that, sometimes, an attack that gains relatively high legitimacy does not conform to the rules of war. “Suppose you made sure no one was in the house and then you destroyed the commander’s home, without casualties. The international community will not protest, but from the legal point of view you must not bomb it unless military use of the home has been proven.” According to Efroni, the demolition of multistory buildings was legally approved only because it was proved that those buildings were serving as Hamas operations rooms. “We did not permit punitive actions against buildings unless there was an operational context for that,” he adds.

“Hitches in the knock on the roof procedure” is a bit disingenuous when we’re discussing a deliberate policy of targeting and destroying houses. Home demolitions are illegal collective punishment in and of themselves. Home demolitions while families are in them is murder plain and simple.The use of the term “commander” should also be questioned. The IDF has an interest in suggesting these targets were both actively engaged in military action, and senior leaders. The goal is to present the murder of hundreds of children in the course of assassinations as somehow excusable.

Yes, the killing of these children was murder. It was pre-meditated. It cannot be justified. It was carried out with malicious intent. And the entire command heirarchy of the IDF is culpable.

Not convinced? Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine Hamas had bombs capable of targeting IDF commanders’ homes and justified it by saying they took phone calls or met with soldiers there? Or maybe they bomb a random person’s home that an Israeli target happened to be visiting? Or a home in a kibbutz by the Gaza border that the IDF was using as a base which still had elderly residents living among the soldiers and their equipment?

No? Still think there’s something special about the children of Hamas members that excuses their murder? Well then how about if Palestinian militia had bombed the homes of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir at Passover in 1945, killing their entire extended families? They were senior leaders of terrorist organizations that bombed markets, buses and yes, homes as well.

If you recoil at that, you should recoil at the sanitized, high-altitude, high-tech version of the same deed that the IDF employed.

Efroni has the decency to admit that the “most moral army” claim is laughable since the IDF has a calculated policy of murdering entire families. But he can’t help himself from claiming some absolution is possible because “we didn’t decide to bomb all the commanders’ homes”. They bombed just enough homes to let everyone know the IDF could at the push of a button destroy their entire family, root and branch, and had no compunction doing so.

The people of Gaza are not just “Israel’s enemies”. They are the people who were expelled 67 years ago from their land by the militias that became the IDF. They have lived under a brutal Israeli military occupation for 48 years. And in case you’re wondering how the IDF knows so much about what goes on in Gaza, yes, they operate a surveillance state which relies on blackmailing gays and those seeking medical care to turn them into informants.

Children and other civilians do not lose their protected status as civilians just because someone in their family is fighting a brutal military occupation by making calls and taking meetings from the next room.

The big question, in my mind, is whether or not the very highest echelon of the IDF gets prosecuted for this policy. Till that happens, prosecuting grunts for stealing credit cards is a fig leaf.

You might wonder how a supposedly professional army, commanded by a supposedly democratic civilian government can arrive at the point where it thinks it routine to murder entire families without batting an eyelid? To wrap our heads around that, we’ll have to look at a far smaller incident, in the West Bank.

Haaretz found time to interview a young Palestinian boy who had been arrested in the West Bank by the IDF in a particularly brutal fashion.

When will you go back to leading a regular life, we asked him this week. “God knows,” he replied indifferently.IDF soldiers sicced dogs on Hamzeh last December. Two months later, the ultranationalist former MK Michael Ben Ari posted a video clip documenting the event on his Facebook page, writing, “The soldiers taught the little terrorist a lesson.” His purpose in posting the clip, he explained, was to ensure “that every dinky terrorist who plans to harm our soldiers will learn that there’s a price [to be paid].”

Soldiers from the Oketz canine unit were seen in the clip taunting the petrified boy as one of their dogs sank its teeth into him and held him in a vice-like grip. “Who’s a chicken, who’s a chicken, you son of a bitch,” they yelled at the teen, urging the dogs on.

The video generated a furor. The IDF, admitting that what had happened was a “serious incident,” suspended the use of dogs to neutralize stone-throwing children, at least temporarily. But no one thought to free the victim of the attack after what he’d gone through. Hamzeh remained in prison. His parents were not allowed to visit him even once. Their only contact with him was in the form of hurried encounters from a distance in the courtroom, once when the boy was brought to have his remand extended, and then at his trial on a charge of throwing stones at soldiers.

Hamzeh is 16 years old.When Israeli politicians call children “little terrorists” the process of de-humanizing them is well underway. It is difficult to order someone to murder a sleeping child. But ordering a pilot to drop a bomb on the home of a sleeping “little terrorist” is somewhat easier.

Hamzeh is still alive, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be treated like a child by the IDF “military justice” system.

The medical personnel wanted to let him at least speak to his parents by phone, he says now, but the soldiers refused to allow him even one call. For his parents to visit him in the hospital was out of the question, of course. Security considerations.
After Hamzeh was discharged from hospital, the “dinky terrorist” was interrogated by the Shin Bet. He was asked about other stone throwers, and about his brothers and his family.It’s hard to get more details from him. He explains that he was required to sign a confession stating that he threw stones that hit soldiers. But this week back at home, he said he didn’t throw any.

Be that as it may, it was only three weeks after he was wounded and arrested that his parents were allowed to visit him.

Their home has had its share of arrests. In 2012, the father and three of his sons were detained by the Israeli forces. This was Hamzeh’s third fourth jail sentence for throwing stones – the previous ones were shorter. In court, he had a momentary meeting with his brother Mohammed, who, a few weeks earlier, had been sentenced to 14 months in prison.

Another brother, Yusuf, now enters the living room; he was released from prison five months ago.

Let’s call this policy of arresting children by the dozens and hundreds and locking them up away from their families, what it is. Kidnapping by a well armed, well oiled tyranny.And let’s be absolutely clear. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is illegal, though sometimes Israel’s legal system can’t decide whether or not there is, in fact, any such thing as an occupation. The people paying the heaviest price for this occupation are Palestinian children who find themselves, their society and their families persecuted and brutalized. Followed by the not-much-older than children Israel slaps uniforms on and sends them to enforce with brutality.

And if you didn’t think it could get any worse, here’s the American view (doubtless informed by our own drone program’s complicity).

Last November, some two months after the war in the Gaza Strip ended, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey surprised a few people. Speaking at a conference in New York, he said Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” to prevent injury to innocent people in Gaza. “The Israel Defense Forces is not interested in creating civilian casualties. They’re interested in stopping the shooting of rockets and missiles out of the Gaza Strip and into Israel,” he added.

Sure, and we weren’t “interested in creating civilian casualties” when dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.The Israel Defense Forces is not interested in creating civilian casualties. They’re indifferent to them. That’s because they’re the wrong kind of dead civilian. The Palestinian kind. The “little terrorist” kind.

Haaretz also asked some pointed questions about previous investigations which are widely judged to have been toothless by human rights organizations.

About six months ago, two human-rights organizations, B’Tselem and Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, claimed that the investigation system in the IDF is a failure and that Israel “is not interested and not capable of investigating violations of Palestinians’ human rights by the security forces.” B’Tselem, which the military prosecution often turned to for help in reaching Palestinian witnesses and evidence, is refusing to help, on the grounds that the investigations aren’t arriving at the truth. Thus, for example, B’Tselem staff have reported that, out of 52 Military Police probes opened after Operation Cast Lead, only three culminated in the filing of indictments – and the severest punishment was for a soldier who stole a credit card.Ben Eliezer rejects these claims outright, saying he doesn’t accept “populist claims and the use of statistics. It’s not relevant to show the number of indictments that were filed or the people who were tried. In the end, it’s a detailed examination of the evidentiary material and a concrete decision. Statistics are meaningless in this matter. It’s demagoguery,” he says.

He does, however, agree with one claim by the human-rights organizations. The IDF investigatory system, says Ben Eliezer, should work faster. The prolonging of probes has often meant that soldiers who were key suspects in cases of Palestinian deaths were demobilized, and after half a year were outside the jurisdiction of military law, which can cause the case to take even longer. “In the end, because of the complexity, things take time,” he explains.

Since the war, the examining committee – initially headed by Maj. Gen. Tibon and, following his retirement from the IDF, now by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Eitan – has looked into some 120 incidents in which suspicions arose of transgression of military law. Of them, 65 incidents were forwarded for examination by the military prosecution, which has opened investigations into six of them and, in the meantime, closed 17 additional cases without launching criminal probes. At the prosecution’s initiative, another 13 investigations that did not go through the General Staff committee are also underway. These investigations deal, inter alia, with complaints of looting, torturing of detainees, and harm to a civilian woman who was carrying a white flag.
In the same breath, he adds, “The explanation I sometimes hear, to the effect that everything we do is aimed only at protecting the soldiers from the court in The Hague, is a miserable statement. A Military Police probe is not an insurance policy for the IDF. If the probe is a whitewash and not a true investigation, nothing will stop the ICC.”

Blog Stream Groups Following Profile Filastin Week: Segregated Streets in Hebron, Palestinians observe Land Day

This is a roundup of news related to Palestine with a particular focus on grassroots action and peaceful civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories and within the borders of Israel proper.

We use the name Filasṭīn, since that is the pronunciation preferred by Arabic speakers (irrespective of faith) for their homeland.

+972mag – The Month in Photos: Gaza, elections, and Land Day

Thousands of people participated in a march commemorating Land Day in the village of Deir Hana in northern Israel, March 30, 2015. . Land Day is held every year to mark the deaths of six Palestinians protesters at the hands of Israeli police and troops during mass demonstrations on March 30, 1976, against plans to confiscate Arab land in Galilee. (photo: Activestills.org)

Thousands of people participated in a march commemorating Land Day in the village of Deir Hana in northern Israel, March 30, 2015.Land Day is held every year to mark the deaths of six Palestinians protesters at the hands of Israeli police and troops during mass demonstrations on March 30, 1976, against plans to confiscate Arab land in Galilee.

B’Tselem – Military renews segregation on main street: wide part – for Jews, narrow, rough side passage – for Palestinians

Israeli soldiers demolish home in East Jerusalem of two brothers, both are blind

Nureddin Amro and his brother Sharif Amro and their families were awakened at 5:30 am by over a hundred Israeli soldiers who came to demolish their home in the Wadi Al-Joz neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Both men are blind. The brothers live with their ill 79-year-old mother, their spouses and children. Nureddin has three young children, Sharif has four; all are under 14. Israeli soldiers pointed their guns in through the windows of the house while the children were still asleep and cut the electricity and phone lines to the house.“We were asleep. They banged on the doors and shouted. Soldiers completely surrounded the neighborhood. There were dogs and aircraft. It was frightening,” said Nureddin. “There was no advanced notice. No reason given. They announced that they came to demolish the house and they started doing it while we were still inside.”

Haaretz – Israeli city with 19% Arab population has no Arabic library books

Although 19 percent of the residents of Upper Nazareth are Arab, municipal libraries in the northern Israeli town don’t have a single volume in Arabic. On Monday, two local residents filed a formal administrative complaint in the hope of changing the situation.

Nazareth (an-Nasira in Arabic) is Jesus’ home-town. It’s home to 80,000 people, 30% of whom are Arabic-speaking Christians, the rest are Arabic-speaking Muslims. Prior to 1947/48, this ratio was inverted (70% Christian). Nazareth absorbed large numbers of Palestinian refugees during the Nakba which changed its demographics. It is the largest predominantly Palestinian town within IsraelUpper Nazareth is a newer planned Jewish town built on land overlooking Nazareth and appropriated by Israel for this purpose. The land was acquired under eminent domain, supposedly to build government facilities, but eventually 90% of the land was used to build housing for Jewish residents. The town was in the news a couple of years ago when the mayor declared there would be No Arab school here as long as I am in charge

Four people shot in the first 5 minutes at Nabi Saleh protest

The weekly Friday protest in Nabi Saleh was met with extreme violence by Israeli Occupation Forces. Four people were shot in the first five minutes of the protest. One man and one woman were shot and wounded by snipers using .22 caliber live ammunition. Both were shot in the leg. Two others, including a 14 year old girl, were later hit with rubber bullets. 6 more hours of protest saw two more  injured protesters, private homes attacked with stun grenades, and live fire from M16 assault rifles during the army’s invasion of the Nabi Saleh village.

+972mag – Israeli fakes own kidnapping, Palestinians pay the price

Thursday night, reports came out about the suspected kidnapping of an Israeli in the West Bank. Irregular details about the case immediately raised the suspicions of the security establishment, and when Israelis woke up Friday morning it turned out that 22-year-old Niv Asraf had not been kidnapped as feared. The whole thing was a prank of sorts, meant to impress a special someone.
Israelis were enraged by the ‘prank’ yet somehow managed to ignore the army’s violent response of house-to-house searches, closures and arrests.
Imagine if Israel had implemented the same standard practices it uses in the occupied territories to catch the the Bar-Noar murderers. Tel Aviv would have been put under closure and special forces would have combed the streets, going door to door with their guns drawn, arresting people left and right. But that didn’t happen. No one thought to collectively punish all the residents of Tel Aviv and its suburbs. And rightly so.

Haaretz reports on the continuing expulsion of villagers in the West Bank from land coveted by settlers: Israel seeks to demolish Palestinian village on ‘archaeological’ grounds

Residents of Sussia granted temporary injunction against demolition in 2014, but state wants to move them to nearby Yatta.
The state opposed the court’s temporary injunction against demolition, despite the fact it often supports such temporary injunctions when they are made against illegal Jewish outposts.
Attorney Kamar Mishraki-Asad, representing the Sussia residents, told Haaretz, “It’s incredible, but with the settlements, it was already ruled that Sussia land is privately owned and thousands of dunams of land in the area are privately owned by Palestinians. Despite this, for many years the army has prohibited residents from setting up their homes in the area, and has rejected any request for construction or planning permits, in order to keep them away from the Sussia settlement and to allow the settlers to continue seizing the agricultural lands, and expel the residents to Areas A and B.”“Now, after residents made great efforts and prepared plans for their village, the army continues its policy while cynically relying on planning concerns,” Mishraki-Asad added. “For years, the army has forbidden water, electricity and drainage infrastructure to be built, and now claims that expelling the residents is for their own good.”

Haaretz – March for Bedouin rights ends at President’s Residence in Jerusalem

A four-day, 130-kilometer march from the Negev to Jerusalem that was organized to draw attention to the unrecognized Bedouin communities in southern Israel yesterday reached its destination, the President’s Residence in the capital.Around 100 marchers arrived at the official residence of President Reuven Rivlin yesterday afternoon, after staying overnight in the village of Abu Ghosh, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. They were joined by Knesset members from the Joint List, whose leader Ayman Odeh was one of the march’s organizers.

The military occupation of the West Bank impacts runners and hikers as +972mag reports:

Running between the walls in the Palestine Marathon

Some 3,200 Palestinian and international runners participated in 10K, half marathon and full marathon races under the title “Right to Movement”. Full marathon runners had to complete two laps of the same route, as organizers were unable to find a single course of 42 uninterrupted kilometers under Palestinian Authority control in the area.

In the occupied West Bank, even hiking is political

For many Palestinians, recreational hiking is an odd thing to do. The political geography makes it complicated and Israelis and Palestinians fight over the right to mark trails. And yet, a hike through Wadi Qelt is still worth it.

Haaretz reports on Temple Mount activists slaughter lamb in public ‘rehearsal’ of Passover sacrifice

Several hundred people on Monday attended a “rehearsal” for the Passover sacrifice, held in a schoolyard in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem. The lamb was slaughtered by kohanim (members of the priestly class) who performed the various stages of the sacrifice through the roasting of the lamb and eating it.It was a show of strength by Temple Mount activists – and this year they had additional reasons to celebrate, including the recovery of senior activist Yehuda Glick from an assassination attempt and the possibility that the next cabinet will include three ministers (Habayit Hayehudi’s Uri Ariel, and Likud’s Miri Regev and Tzipi Hotoveli) who enthusiastically support changing the Temple Mount’s status quo to allow Jewish prayer.

Netanyahu wants Jewish state just like ISIS wants Islamic State says a senior Palestinian official.

A senior Palestinian official compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in an interview on Saturday.”Al-Baghdadi wants an Islamic State and Netanyahu wants a Jewish state, and his policy led to the immolation of the boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, same as they burn people in Daesh,” PLO executive committee member Saeb Erekat said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
Erekat said that the Palestinian Authority has already opened proceedings at the ICC, which will focus on the first stage on the settlements and on incidents that occurred during the summer war between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“We’re now a country under an occupation, like Denmark or Belgium during the Second World War,” Erekat said.

+972mag: Masked settlers throw stones at Israeli activists

Settlers from the illegal outpost Havat Maon in the southern West Bank hurled rocks at a group of Israeli activists on Saturday, just one week after a six-year old Palestinian girl was attacked and wounded in her head in the exact same place.Three settlers, who appear to be quite young, used slingshots to hurl stones at the group of activists. No one was hurt in the incident.

In the video, you can hear Guy, a documentarian of the occupation and veteran activist from Ta’ayush, a Jewish-Palestinian activist group that hold weekly nonviolent activists in the occupied West Bank, calling the police to come quickly. They arrived within 10 minutes, he told +972, but didn’t make a genuine effort to find the assailants.

A debate about the treatment of people seeking political-asylum is roiling Israel. An editorial in Haaretz discusses some of the issues: Israel’s new inhuman measures against asylum-seekers stain its moral image

If it wasn’t enough that the Israeli government had violated its obligations to African asylum seekers by setting up the Saharonim and Holot facilities and by pressuring them to leave the country under threat of detention, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority is taking the undermining of human and legal norms relating to this population to a new level.Until now, the authorities tried to at least make it seem as if the asylum seekers leaving the country were doing so of their free will, although it was clear that a choice made under the threat of detention could hardly be one made freely; those who refused were generally sent to Holot, where their movements are restricted, though they are not incarcerated in the usual sense. But now the authorities are doing away with even that illusion; now Eritrean and Sudanese citizens who come to renew their visas will be given a choice: leave or be sent to Saharonim Prison for an indefinite period.

B’Tselem – Bassem Abu Rahmeh’s mother demands decision in appeal on closing case of her son’s killing

The mother of Bassem Abu Rahmeh, a resident of the West Bank village of Bil’in killed when a soldier fired a tear-gas canister at him, petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice yesterday demanding that the Court compel the Military Advocate General (MAG) and the Attorney General to reach a decision concerning the appeal over the closing of the investigation file, and to indict the soldier who fired the canister along with any others bearing military command responsibility for the killing of her son. In the petition, filed jointly with Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Yesh Din, Subhiya Abu Rahmeh demanded that the Court put an end to the foot-dragging and the avoidance of conducting even the most basic investigative acts that could shed light on the identity of the persons responsible for killing her son.

Salman Masalha writes in Haaretz about the complex identity crisis Mizrahi Jews face in Israel: If Sephardic Jews want to end their discrimination, they must become proud Arabs

Ashkenazi Zionism, which established the country in an ongoing confrontation with the Arab world, created a serious emotional crisis for Jews from Arab countries.There was an uproar over remarks made by Prof. Amir Hetsroni against those who voted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, including Hetsroni’s suggestion that it would not have been so awful if Moroccan Jews had been “left to rot” in North Africa rather than coming to Israel. But if we translate his statement into the more nuanced official language of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, it sounds very familiar.

“We are Europeans. We are refined [and] don’t eat as much as you Moroccans do.” This comment was reportedly directed by First Lady Sara Netanyahu at one particular Moroccan, Meni Naftali, former chief caretaker of the Prime Minister’s Residence, who is suing the Netanyahus.

This is a roundup of news related to Palestine with a particular focus on grassroots action and peaceful civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories and within the borders of Israel proper. The goal is to provide a bi-weekly update on the non-violent resistance movement.

Diplomatic negotiations and actions by armed resistance groups are covered quite widely by the mainstream press and in other diaries on DKos so they will rarely be included.

We use the name Filasṭīn, since this is the pronunciation used by Arabic speakers (irrespective of faith) for their homeland. The more familiar Palestine is the Hellenic or Roman variant. Filasṭīn refers to the geographic entity roughly encompassing Israel and Palestine. It is a likely cognate of “Philistine”, the name used in the Hebrew bible to describe a rival of the Jewish kingdom of that era.

+972mag: Herzog’s Anti-Arab Campaign, Bill Maher and the One-State Solution

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it:

+972 is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a group of journalists, bloggers and photographers whose goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine. Our collective is committed to human rights and freedom of information, and we oppose the occupation.The name of the site is derived from the telephone area code that is shared by Israel and Palestine.

To my ears, it consistently has some of the most interesting and sensitive opinion coming out of I/P. Much of it resonates with me. I am also far more willing to credit their views because the collective has Palestinian members. Their views on contemporary Palestinian society are grounded in first-hand observations rather than the pre-judice engaged in by many other Israelis and Palestinians living in their segregated towns.

In many ways, the writing, themes and narratives remind me of our own country’s struggle with equal rights for American Indians, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Abolitionist movement.

For instance, Edo Konrad asks today – Why did we forget about Herzog’s anti-Arab campaign?:

The media, of course, rightfully panned Netanyahu for his remarks. But while Bibi’s racism was clear as day, it was Herzog’s utter indifference toward Israel’s Palestinian minority, not to mention the 47-year military dictatorship in the occupied territories, that received little media attention.In fact, the only time Herzog’s campaign really made an effort to spotlight Israel’s Arab citizens was in a video featuring IDF veterans who served alongside him in the prestigious Unit 8200, which is part of Israel’s vaunted intelligence corps. In the video, the veterans laud Herzog as someone who “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.”

If that wasn’t enough, Herzog and the Zionist Camp also supported the disqualification of MK Haneen Zoabi from the elections, joining the chorus of far-right extremists who have been inciting against her for years. Perhaps Herzog hoped that by attacking Zoabi he would be able to steal some seats away from centrist parties, which lean to the right on security issues. In doing so, however, Herzog only proved that he is willing to delegitimize an entire public for the sake of a few votes.

I do not know whether Netanyahu or Herzog harbor a deep hatred for Arabs, or whether they simply know what brings in votes. What is clear is that Netanyahu, who took a page out of Meir Kahane’s book, was roundly criticized, while Herzog — who rubber-stamped the delegitimization of Israel’s Palestinian citizens — was mostly let off the hook.[…]

By warning against “buses full of Arabs,” Netanyahu crossed the line from Likud hawk to Marzel-type incitement. Herzog, on the other hand, remained strictly within the confines of “good taste” — and lost.

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man concludes – No, Bill Maher, Bibi’s campaign was indeed racist:

Maher continued: “I think that would be a good analogy if America was surrounded by 12 or 13 completely black nations who had militarily attacked us many times, including as recently as last year. Would we let them vote?”[…]

“I don’t know,” Maher continued. “When we were attacked by the Japanese we didn’t just not let them vote, we rounded them up and put them in camps.”

And finally, Yonatan Amir says – It’s time for a one-state solution:

There is no use convincing the Jewish public to support the two-state solution, especially when over 500,000 settlers live beyond the Green Line and there is no guarantee that a Palestinian state will not be the source of terror against Israelis. The only way forward is to grant full equality to all.

Every time I say that the two-state solution is no longer realistic, and that we need to think about new approaches to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, center-left voters respond with anger, condescension and pity. They claim that this is a far-fetched idea, not to mention dangerous and cruel (!) — an idea that proves the desire to destroy the State of Israel, and is disconnected from the will of the “sane Jewish majority.”Let’s start with a reminder: the new Knesset includes 107 members belonging to Jewish parties. Seventy-eight of them oppose the two-state solution, and are divided between those who have no qualms about their stances (Likud, Jewish Home, Kulanu, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beiteinu), and a minority that talks about a solution but creates obstacles to ever achieving one (Yesh Atid). On the other side we have the supporters of two states: five MKs from Meretz and 24 from the Zionist Camp. All in all, 29 versus 78.

These are the statistics. We aren’t talking about a difference of 2-3 seats that could make a difference in the future, not a “majority,” not “sane,” no “support” and no “solution.” The majority of Israelis oppose a two-state solution. Welcome to the negligible minority.

Even if we assume that we can convince a large percentage of settlers to evacuate the West Bank, and assuming the Israeli economy will be able to deal with the price, and assuming that a state that was unable to take care of thousands of Gaza evacuees will be able to take care of hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Judea and Samaria, and assuming that both sides will agree to allow visits to each other’s holy sites, and assuming the Palestinians will be satisfied with a demilitarized 21 percent of their historic homeland, and assuming that they will agree to give up on the right of return, and assuming we find a solution that will reconnect Gaza and the West Bank, and assuming that the agreement will be accepted by the majority of Palestinians (and not just a handful of suits in Ramallah). Even if we assume all these to be true, after Oslo and the disengagement, who can guarantee that missiles won’t strike central Israel a month after an agreement is signed? The Zionist Left has no good answer beyond its belief that things will eventually work out. So is it really a surprise that so few buy their plan?As opposed to the Zionist Left, the Right actually understands that the Palestinians and their demands aren’t going anywhere. The problem is that the Right doesn’t offer any logical plan to deal with the situation. As a result, what is called “Israeli policy” today is nothing more than a hysterical combination of Netanyahu-style paranoia and childish, folksy behavior à la Naftali Bennett. What we end up with are mantras about maintaining Israeli security alongside infantile slogans such as “the eternal people do not fear a long road.”

Most of the settlers are far from the violent messianism of Kahane. They came to the settlements because of their belief in God or settling the land, a desire for better quality of life, or simply the option to buy a home for a decent price. We can disagree with them, but we need to start learning how to work with what we’ve got. Speak to the average settler about evacuation because “it is the decent price to pay so to make it better for all of us,” and they will slam the door in your face. Speak with them about equality for the Palestinians they meet every day, and you will find the beginnings of cooperation.

Instead of organizing conferences where people mingle and discuss ways to divide the land, a Left that wants to have political influence must work with the Right to advance equal master plans in Arab villages. Instead of entrenching ourselves in its comfort zone, it must work with people and organizations that promote dialogue and coexistence.Instead of chasing after the well-respected general turned successful arms dealer who can explain that stopping negotiations on a two-state solution only isolates Israel and harms it economically, it must join those on the Israeli Right and the Palestinian Left in order to advance equality in the workforce and education. Instead of trying to sell the Right on fantasies of dividing the land, which are destined to fail, it must work with it to bring about one state with equal rights for all residents on both sides of the Green Line.

This move will not abrogate Palestinian national aspirations. It will not put an end to either Jewish or Arab terror and will not solve all of Israel’s essential problems. But it will help build a more stable and fair infrastructure based on democracy and equality, which so crucial for the existence of a healthy society.

Amir’s is a hard-headed pragmatic analysis. I tried to write about the one-state solution in human, personal terms yesterday. We’ve been having a one-state vs. two-state discussion on this site for some time (perhaps mostly instigated by me).

I used to believe in a two-state solution as well.  But I stopped seeing it as the only game in town a number of years ago. My own rough-sketch view of how it might work is in this comment from a while ago. It’s a phased approach over 18 years.

I’ve been reading analysis and advocacy for a single, bi-national, federal, secular state for the past decade. I’ve looked at it with a critical eye (after all, I had to be persuaded too), and I find it difficult to refute the logic of its inevitability, I find it virtually impossible to deny the inherent justness of a single state with equal rights for all. That is what we have in the US for the most part. We continue to struggle towards a more perfect union. And perhaps it is naive, but this is the sentiment I think Israelis and Palestinians will have to embody to succeed:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

That is an enormous demand, perhaps greater than most men and women can meet. But what alternative is there?

Lastly, believe it or not, Palestinians and settlers in the West Bank can talk like neighbors.

ADL says Obama is being “nasty” to Netanyahu

Bib Netanyahui’s statements about Arabs “voting in droves”, using settlements to separate Jerusalem from Palestinian Bethlehem and his rejection of the two-state plan shocked many Americans, including many American Jews.

The fallout is also likely to have a lasting effect on the way many Americans, particularly liberals, view various organizations.

There’s some damage control underway, as reported in the Forward today – Jewish Groups Seek To Paper Over Differences on Benjamin Netanyahu Reelection:

American Jewish groups moved to calm continuing tensions between Jerusalem and Washington in the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive reelection this week. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League all released statements Thursday welcoming Netanyahu’s affirmation of support for a two-state solution.

But, AIPAC and the ADL also expressed their irritation that the president refused to give Bibi a pass on the racist remarks towards Arab voters and his contradictory statements on the two-state process.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, noting that Netanyahu had “clearly reaffirmed” his support for a two-state solution, criticized the Obama administration for having “rebuffed” the prime minister’s efforts to put relations with the United States back on track.

In an interview, Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, called the administration’s stubbornness “unbecoming.”“To say we won’t forget,” Foxman said, “that’s nasty.”

But the story is actually much bigger than AIPAC or the ADL. Bibi’s words seem to have created rifts among American Jews in a way that not even last year’s bombing of Gaza did.

Continue reading “ADL says Obama is being “nasty” to Netanyahu”

What we’ve learned about the Israeli electorate from the election.

I’m going to focus only on the question of Israel’s policy towards Palestinians and the Occupied Territories. I’m going to ignore economic issues since frankly they have limited interest to most who don’t live in Israel. This is myopic and I’m the first to admit it.

First off, things really didn’t change much. Israel is split pretty much down the center between Left-ish parties and Right-ish parties.

Likud won 25% of the vote which was more than they did last time, the broader right won around 50% which was about the same. For the most part, the broader right shares Netanyahu/Likud’s vision of a greater Israel and settlement expansion in the West Bank. In general these parties believe the two-state peace process is a useful distraction, to be indulged when there’s something to be gained, or a loss to be prevented. The news (if you can call it that) is that Bibi said it out loud into a microphone.

The fact is that Israelis look across their borders and see a terrifying civil war in Syria, and a vicious guerrilla war in Iraq. Netanyahu stoked fears that any devolution of powers to a Palestinian state would bring this state of affairs to the West Bank. I would argue Palestinian society is not really fertile ground for ISIS and their ilk, in the same way Lebanon and Turkey are not (essentially they’re all Mediterranean cultures). Nevertheless, this is a reasonable concern that reasonable people may have. [* See Below]

Whether or not such concerns can retro-actively legitimize a permanent occupation and arrogation of the rights of Palestinians was not a subject of discussion in this election. There was no event that made the Israeli electorate at large sit up and notice the banal injustice of the occupation and how the country has arrived at this juncture. With the exception of the usual suspects on the far left, Arab Jews/Christians and subscribers to Haaretz (who really are suspects or worse in the eyes of many).

Here’s the silver lining. Despite the concern of wider Middle-East unrest arriving to the West Bank of the Jordan, roughly 50% of the population voted for parties that continued to tacitly support a devolution of power to Palestinians and a negotiated withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. This half of the country (including the fifth of citizens who are of Palestinian Muslim and Christian descent) voted for engagement, despite the risks. They did not rush into Bibi’s arms despite his fear-mongering about barbarians at the gates (Hamastan in the West Bank) and enemies within (Arabs voting in droves).

The 2014 war in Gaza and its impact on Palestinians was largely ignored. There was no real discussion of the propriety of Israeli action (including home bombings, indiscriminate shelling and the targeting of designated safe zones) except obliquely from the Joint List and the far, far left. This should not come as a surprise to anyone given the narrative focus on Hamas rockets and “terror tunnels” last summer. Netanyahu’s framing of the war as “Israel’s right to defend itself” is largely unassailable in the public sphere.

* To provide some context. We (as in the USA) are still waging a War by Drone all across the world with many civilian casualties and mum’s the word state-side. If there were rockets (however ineffectual) launched from New Jersey landing on the Upper West Side, I suspect many of my neighbors would be all for pummeling the Garden State into dust. If New Jersey were a Native American reservation (or had the racial makeup of Ferguson), I shudder to think what options might be on the table. All that said, we’ve overcome most of our worst injustices from the past. It took a Civil War and many faltering steps, but the US no longer has that kind of relationship with its indigenous population or minorities. Then again, if FARC were in Pennsylvania (our hemisphere’s rough equivalent), with a risk it might spill over to NYC, I think my liberal bastion of a city might even bring Giuliani back.

A round-up of the punditry I found interesting below:

In Netanyahu won, but Israel was brought to its knees, Ari Shavit writes:

But the tribe known as the “white tribe” is the most primitive political tribe that exists in Israel. Time after time it blindly follows false messiahs and makes incomprehensible mistakes. This happened yet again on Tuesday. The decision of hundreds of thousands of people to vote for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid split the moderate bloc and gave the government yet again to Likud, to the right, and to Gush Emunim. Just as in 2013 Yair Lapid brought Naftali Bennett to power, this time, Lapid gave the power back to Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Netanyahu deserves the Israeli people, and they deserve him, Gideon Levy writes:

On Tuesday the foundations were laid for the apartheid state that is to come. If Netanyahu succeeds in forming the next government in his spirit and image, then the two-state solution will finally be buried and the struggle over the character of a binational state will begin. If Netanyahu is the next prime minister, then Israel has not only divorced the peace process, but also the world. Piss off, dear world, we’re on our own. Please don’t interfere, we’re asleep, the people are with Netanyahu. The Palestinians can warm the benches at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, the Israel boycotters can swing into high gear and Gaza can wait for the next cruel attack by the Israeli army.

In The Guardian: Netanyahu’s victory is clear break with US-led peace process

Ahead of Tuesday’s election, some Palestinian officials close to Abbas had intimated that a Netanyahu victory – not least in terms of his outright rejection of a two-state solution and his vow to continue settlement construction – would mark a clear break in a US-led peace process that has been on ice since it collapsed almost a year ago.Indeed a common sentiment among Palestinians in recent days is that the election campaign forced Netanyahu to reveal his opposition to a two-state solution.

“The Israeli elections forced Netanyahu to reveal his real position,” said prominent Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, reflecting the views of many.

In The Jerusalem Post: White House knocks ‘divisive rhetoric’ against Israeli Arabs in election:

The White House said on Wednesday that it was deeply concerned by the use of “divisive rhetoric” in the Israeli election that sought to undermine Arab Israeli citizens.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested on election day that Left-wingers were trying to get Arab Israeli voters out “in droves” to sway the election against him.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling on Air Force One that the United States would communicate its concern about the issue directly to the Israelis.

Earnest also told reporters on Air Force One that the administration will evaluate its approach on the Middle East peace process following Netanyahu’s recent statement that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch.

And the Jerusalem Post has noted the American press’s reaction to Netanyahu’s pre-election comments.Or if you prefer, the Guardian is carrying the same story: Obama snubs Netanyahu and criticises Israeli PM’s ‘divisive rhetoric’

Not sure whether it’s just the first stage of grief, but Peter Beinart seems to have changed his stance and writes With Netanyahu’s reelection, the peace process is over and the pressure process must begin

My entire adult life, American Jewish leaders have been telling Americans that Israel can save itself. Just wait until Israel gains a respite from terror, they said; then its silent, two-state majority will roar. Give Israelis constant reassurance; never pressure them. If they know “the United States is right next to them,” Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations promised Barack Obama in 2009, Israeli leaders will “take risks” for peace.Israel has been disproving that theory throughout the Netanyahu era. Now, with this election, Israel has killed it.

This campaign, in other words, offered an excellent test of the theory that the American Jewish establishment has peddled for decades. And look what happened. In the absence of Palestinian violence and American pressure, Jewish Israelis at first pretended the Palestinians did not exist. “As Israeli election nears, peace earns barely a mention,” noted Reuters. During a 90-minute debate in late February, eight candidates, together, mentioned the word “peace” only five times. And three of those mentions came from the Arab candidate.

“Power,” said the great American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “concedes nothing without a demand.” For almost half a century, Israel has wielded brutal, undemocratic, unjust power over millions of human beings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And as this election makes clear, Israel will concede nothing on its own. This isn’t because Jewish Israelis are different than anyone else. It’s because they are the same.

Elections have consequences: Netanyahu just won a mandate to kill the two-state process

It looks like Likud won 25% of Knesset seats after Bibi said this:

Under pressure on the eve of a surprisingly close election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Monday doubled down on his appeal to right-wing voters, declaring definitively that if he was returned to office he would never establish a Palestinian state.[…]

“I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel,” he said in a video interview published on NRG, an Israeli news site that leans to the right. “There is a real threat here that a left-wing government will join the international community and follow its orders.”

— NYT: Netanyahu Says No to Statehood for Palestinians

Some will claim (as indeed Bibi might tomorrow) that he is referring to the threat that ISIS or Hamas will set up shop in the West Bank, and that this is hopefully a temporary state of affairs. Except…

Netanyahu was then asked specifically whether he meant that a Palestinian state would not be established if he were reelected prime minister. He answered, “Correct.”

— WaPo: Netanyahu says no Palestinian state if he wins

Which is not really news to the Palestinians who have signaled for some time that they consider negotiating with a Netanyahu government on statehood a waste of their time.

By the way, Haaretz noted that:

the NRG website – which is owned by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and tied with the settler newspaper Makor Rishon – were a last-minute attempt to pull right-wing voters away from Habayit Hayehudi.

Netanyahu’s statements over the past week have made it very difficult for anyone to propose re-starting bi-lateral negotiations with a straight face. This probably means the Palestinian Authority will continue pushing to elevate it’s status in various international organizations to that of a member state.

I wonder whether our State Department can continue to stick with the official line of “We believe the only solution is bi-lateral negotiations within the two-state framework” given Bibi’s statements. Though anything’s possible within the two-state negotiations industry, after all the US has exhibited toothless opposition to settlements for decades now. Our happy-go-lucky official line was that they could be undone and do not put the Palestinian goal of a state in the West Bank with East Jerusalem as their capital at risk. Oh except the Palestinians have been telling everyone what Bibi confirmed this week:

During a campaign stop in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, Netanyahu promised to increase construction there, saying it was “a way of stopping Bethlehem from moving toward Jerusalem.”

— Times of Israel

But that’s never stopped us from maintaining our trademark American optimism. Hell, even after Israeli planes had pummeled Gaza to bits (with our ordinance), we suggested the Palestinians join Bibi at the negotiating table. So maybe it isn’t that outlandish to demand the PA sit down to negotiate something Israel’s leader has publicly said will not happen on his watch.

I suspect Netanyahu is fine with the status quo, and in the short-term this allows his government to shore up support on the right by green-lighting some more settlement expansion in the West Bank without worrying unduly about US/European opinion.

But in the medium to long term, does that mean a one-state solution looks more likely? Perhaps with just the West Bank annexed to make the demographics more palatable?

Netanyahu is Israel’s only hope against extremism… on literary prize committees.

It’s not just Iran that Bibi has to deal with, he is also tackling the existential threat posed by aging left-wing elites who keep awarding prizes to the wrong books. While we’re focused on the antics around the joint address to Congress, Bibi’s been busy dealing with these extremists in the only language they understand.

In Haaretz: Netanyahu: Israel Prize judges include too many anti-Zionist extremists

“The composition of the panel that selects Israel Prize laureates must be balanced and faithfully reflect the various streams, positions and strata of Israeli society,” Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page. “However, over the years, more and more radical figures, including anti-Zionists – for example, those who support refusal to serve in the IDF – have been appointed to the panel and too few authentic representatives of other parts of the nation.”

I’m relieved Bibi has finally put his foot down to let us know who is “authentic” and who isn’t.

The guys at Breaking The Silence illustrate why conscientious objectors (refuseniks) are considered “extremists” and “radicals”.

“The Israel Prize belongs to all of Israel,” Netanyahu wrote. “It is our national asset, and it must represent the entire nation: men and women, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, religious and secular, veteran citizens and new immigrants, Israelis of all stripes irrespective of political leanings one way or the other.”Netanyahu’s remarks follow the resignation of an entire panel of judges – for the Israel Prize in literature – over efforts by the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in the panel’s composition. The office vetoed two candidates to judge the prize, professors Avner Holtzman and Ariel Hirschfeld.

“This is an unparalleled scandal,” said Yigal Schwartz, a professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and editor-in-chief of the Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir publishing house. “I’m withdrawing my candidacy and urge other candidates to do the same. This isn’t a mistake; it’s a continuation of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s deliberate policy of undermining Israel’s elites to gain votes from other groups. This is sabotage that it’s impossible not to oppose. Even this institution, the Israel Prize, which had remained untainted, they have sabotaged.”

Haaretz has an editorial as well: Netanyahu trampled on the Israel prize and the Jerusalem Post covers the issue in Netanyahu: Israel Prize judges’ panel comprised of too many anti-Zionist elements

Continuing the take no prisoners theme (even if they are bespectacled, elbow-patch adorned, Hebrew Lit professors), Chemi Shalev writes about Bibi in: Netanyahu’s Cossack-inspired election slogan: ‘Smite the leftists and save Israel!’

If you like the New Israel Fund, you’re toast. If you support J Street, you’re out. If you’ve ever whispered a word of sympathy for conscientious objection or considered the pros and cons of boycotting settlements, you’re done. If you vote for the Zionist Union, you’re an anti-Zionist. If you read the wrong newspaper, you’re suspect. If you think Obama is right and Netanyahu is wrong, you’re a potential traitor and a self-hating Jew.

It’s a “my way or the highway” mentality, and “if you’re not with us you’re against us” approach. You can support Netanyahu, condone settlements, view Obama as a nemesis and Iran as an existential threat – or cast your lot with the rest of Israel’s evil-wishers. When you vote for a party left of the Likud, according to this logic, you are, in fact, acting against Israel’s better interests:

This is one of the backdrops to Netanyahu’s decision to ignore the protests against his planned Congressional speech and to press ahead, come what may. When the only people you trust are those who agree with your every word, everyone else is automatically suspect, their motivations dubious, their intentions on trial. In fact, the moment you criticize Netanyahu, you are almost by definition exposing your malicious intentions, all the more reason for him to ignore you and go the other way. It’s a vicious circle inside the echo chamber in which Israeli sentiments are forged and decisions increasingly made.

Meanwhile Peter Beinart asses the impact Netanyahu has had on Jewish organization in the US in Netanyahu’s real victim? The American Jewish establishment

Who are Benjamin Netanyahu’s American victims? Not Barack Obama. Despite Bibi’s best efforts, he’s still in office, and retains the affections of most American Jews. Not the left-wing activists who oppose a Jewish state within any borders: Bibi’s settlement mania has been a bonanza for them. “We’ve got to give credit to Netanyahu,” declared BDS leader Omar Barghouti last December. “Without him we could not have reached this far.”No, Bibi’s real American victims are the people who appear publicly to be his friends: The leaders of groups like AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress is simply the latest example. He’s destroying the old American Jewish establishment and building a new one in its place.

Huff Post poll finds Opinions On Netanyahu’s Speech Split Along Party Lines

Americans think that it was a breach of protocol for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress, but they still want members of Congress to attend his speech, a HuffPost/YouGov poll finds.In the survey, Americans say by a 23-point margin that it’s inappropriate for a member of Congress to invite a foreign leader to speak in the U.S. without first consulting with the White House, and by a 17-point margin that Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu, specifically, was inappropriate. In both cases, about a quarter of Americans said they weren’t sure.

Despite disagreeing with the handling of the invitation, though, Americans were also more likely than not to say U.S. politicians should still meet with Netanyahu during his trip.

Forty-six percent said that their member of Congress should attend Netanyahu’s speech, which is scheduled for March 3, while just 24 percent said they shouldn’t, with another 30 percent unsure. Fifty-eight percent said President Barack Obama should meet with Netanyahu, with only 19 percent opposed and 23 percent not sure.

And then of course, there’s the perennially entertaining “bottle deposit crisis”: Would you buy an empty bottle from this man?

I’ll give him this much, Bibi has a knack for getting under people’s skin and getting folks to talk about him. I can’t think of a foreign leader whose name would be recognized by three-foruths of a random selection of Americans.