Little shifts, bigger shifts
1. Equal Rights in Israel
Both the wording and the content of Washington’s definition of a future Israel have been changed, adding another challenge to the Two State “process”. Obama’s new National Security Strategy now defines the Israeli half of the deal to include “rights for all Israelis”. As we have shown this would require, at the very least, legal changes within Israel. The wording is also significant, since in Israeli law there is no such thing as an Israeli (a description that could be used to define any citizen equally), there are merely those who are Jews (with rights) and those who are not Jews (with lesser rights). Was this a deliberate challenge to Netanyahu? Or is the White House about to have a rude awakening? That’s unlikely, as Israel has been badgering the USA to get the Palestinians to recognise Israel’s identity as a Jewish State (try saying “white state”…) for the past ten years.
2. Israel and US “Drifting Apart”
Meanwhile Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, briefing Netanyahu on what to expect when he next met up with Obama, expressed the special relationship as not in a crisis because a crisis is something that passes: “Relations are in the state of a tectonic shift in which continents are drifting apart.” Not that you’d notice from the new batch of weapons systems coming Israel’s way. But it could be another piece of the jigsaw.
And the Wall Street Journal reports at some length on the fact that both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon have been bowled over by the massive repercussions of the Freedom Flotilla killings, realising that “there is more to gain by getting Israel to draw international condemnation through its own use of force, rather than by attacking the country”. A good definition of non-violent struggle, which in Gandhi’s theory works by provoking more and more disproportionate violence from the oppressor until it’s no longer sustainable.
While not explicitly renouncing armed struggle, senior members of both movements have gone on record with statements showing they’ve learnt a lot since they characterised non-violence as being “for women”: “We saw that this kind of resistance has driven the Israelis into a big plight”.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Mark Regev, Israel spokesman and master of twisted logic, is complaining that: “People who are provoking violence are using peaceful protest as a cover.”
Work that out, Wall Street!
3. World Zionists v. Settlers
At the conference of Zionism’s global body the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) there was an angry walk-out as this venerable body voted to support the Two State solution (no, not the One, that really would be a revolution, we’re talking of little shifts here…) and also called for a settlement-building freeze. Of course it didn’t call for the separation wall to be halted or for an end to the vigilante evictions and official demolitions in Jerusalem (not classed as settlements but “part of Israel” in Zionist-speak). But it will not have pleased Natanyahu one little bit.
The question is, will WZO confront Israel when building re-starts in September after a temporary halt, with the planned building of 2,700 new houses? Netanyahu will no doubt be happier to cross WZO than the settlers, who after all have both guns and votes and are on the warpath against even the temporary halt let alone a long term freeze. But in this very long term WZO is the power behind Israel: the donations, the defence of its actions right or wrong, the shock troops at the ready to mobilise in every city, college campus, and media and in every walk of civil society on behalf of Israel and against its detractors and critics.
4. Methodists stand up to Zionist lobby
In Britain the Methodist Conference (representing 330,000 independent Christians) stood up to extreme pressure from pro-Israel Jewish organisations to give overwhelming support for a detailed report on Justice for Palestine and Israel, which condemned the Israeli state for “illegal and immoral action”, called on Israel to withdraw from its occupation, settlements and East Jerusalem, and to demolish the separation wall now. It further called for the lifting of the Gaza siege, a full arms embargo on all sides, an end to visa restrictions and restrictions on residential rights for Palestinians; supported the Goldstone Report into the Gaza invasion of 2008-09; called for freedom of movement for Muslims, Christians and Jews to travel to holy sites; and expressed “deep concern that the rights of Palestinian refugees should be upheld”. And it called for a boycott of Settlement goods.
The Jewish Chronicle was incandescent with rage, threatening a rift in inter-faith relationships. One Democracy had written in to support the report and urge the Methodists “not to be browbeaten by the experienced and slick professional persuaders … who will use any weapons to prevent Israel being called to account, including intimidation, mudslinging, accusations of anti-semitism, outright falsehoods and, if it suits the occasion, soft-soap about inter-faith relationships.”
5. World labour body shifts too
Elsewhere, the Socialist International shifted too. This is the International body of social democratic parties and many affiliated trade unions: not noted for either its bark or its bite, and with many member parties (such as the UK’s Labour Party) having long-term Zionist connections. The Palestine National Initiative’s website Al Mubadara reports that the Conference unanimously adopted a resolution from Fatah and the PNI demanding an Israeli withdrawal within a year from all land occupied in June 1967, and the establishment within this year of a democratic Palestinian state with full sovereignty and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This could be the cue for the parties that brought this resolution to put the same time-limit on their adherence to the Two State aim, and the signal to switch to a civil rights struggle if this does not happen.
The Conference further demanded that Israel completely stop all building of settlements, bypass roads and the separation wall and instead facilitate freedom of movement of Palestinians in their territories; the lifting of the siege of Gaza, and the release of all captives and prisoners of the conflict in Israeli jails as well as the Israeli POW Gilad Shalit: in other words, all the kinds of moves that a sincere partner for peace would be making.
And it decided to send its own delegation to the region to carry out the UN call to investigate the attack on the Freedom Flotilla, and report back to the Socialist International.
The Palestinian delegates, who included Dr Mustafa Barghouti, also advocated for the Palestinian cause in meetings with many delegations including from South Africa, India, Chile and Argentina, and several European and north African countries. So maybe we’ll see more trade union-led actions such as the refusal by dockworkers to unload an Israeli ship at Oakland, California, and in Sweden.
The BDS cause took a knock when Israel was recently allowed to join the OECD and get preferential trading rates in Europe, its biggest market. But if dockworkers take matters into their hands, that could be a very hollow victory for Tel Aviv.
6. Claiming back homes, claiming back Judaism
Friday afternoon in Jerusalem is Sheikh Jarrah day, when activists go to support Palestinian families turfed out of their homes by armed “settlers” using various semi-legal manoeuvres to Judaise the neighbourhood.
At the other Jerusalem front line of Silwan, more protesters gather weekly, with drums and banners, to stop demolition of Palestinian homes and workshops on a site now designated as a Jewish-themed park. Hebrew University professors have joined students to march to these front lines; others mobilising are from a variety of social and political groups including anarchists, communists, a few from the Meretz party.
These are the sort of people you’d hope would come, but no less welcome or brave (it can get quite rough) for that, and not at all to be taken for granted: in fact these events have been written up as a significant revival of a left that had for some years been a lot less visible. So this revival by a younger generation is a small shift.
But when support comes from a completely unexpected quarter, it counts for moret. Ha’aretz recently reported on a trend for some strongly religious Jews to join in too. Only a handful, but they represent a challenge to the brutal extremism and aggression that has claimed Judaism for its fiefdom and rationale, and reckon they can beat the bible-thumpers at their own game. One of them says “All the Jewish sources are on my side. Their whole activity is twisted. What they are doing is a desecration of God’s name.” Only trouble is, the others have got the courts, the army and the police on their side as well as God. But for many in Israel, it matters “to feel that Judaism is on my side, not theirs”.
Judaism has been claimed and distorted by the Zionists, much to the distress of many who value it. Even just chipping away on the edges of this ideological fortress is worth celebrating.
7. Druze community: “A Tale of Neglect”
Britain had the Ghurkas, Israel has the Druze: ultra-loyal and like the Ghurkas, taken for granted and abused by the state they have fought and died for. Rabin once told them “You’ve done your share … now it’s our turn to repay you. We owe you.” But instead of repayment, says Rafik Halabi (24 June, Ha’aretz) “the long list of shortcomings tells a tale of neglect”. After years of broken promises, now their lands in the Jezreel Valley are to be expropriated for a gas pipeline, a motorway and a railway track.
Further “pain and insult” was added two years ago, when military camps built in the 1950s on lands requisitioned from the Druze community were closed down. Instead of returning the land, it’s now had lucrative hi-tech industries build on it, with all the revenue going to the local government — which hasn’t even come up with a promised sports centre for the Druze. Now there’s a feeling that they are being treated with scorn and arrogance. There have been landowners demonstrations and even talk of a Druze Intifada. Though this is said to be unlikely, the discontent simmers on.
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