One Democratic Secular State for all its citizens in Israel and Palestine


Posted January 26, 2011 at 11:01 pm

N E W   P A L E S T I N E    N E W S L E T T E R

No.4 — 26 Jan 2011

*** Students occupy Palestinian HQ in London to demand fresh elections and a political process that reflects and engages all Palestinians: see our call for an international Palestinian electorate and democratic Assembly ***

In this Newsletter:

ONE STATE News and Opinion ++  Haidar Eid at Scottish PSC ++  Ongoing Nakba Conference Reports ++  The 30% shrinking of Gaza in 1950 ++  ”Land Swaps”: how it was done before  ++  An International Palestinian Electorate  ++  The Ramallah Police Statelet  ++  Wikileaks on Gaza, the US and the PA  ++  Coexistence Projects: Disobedient Israelis  ++ Negev Forum and El-Araqib update  ONE Liners  ++  This Israel: Fridays in Israel  ++  Rabbis call for death camps ++ Certificates for race discrimination ++ Solidarity and News:  Stone-throwing, punishment and night raids  ++  Diplomatic Own-Goals  ++  Israel’s High Court ++  Committee on Un-Israeli Activities  ++  Time Magazine finds some oppositionists  ++  Tutu: Spreading Truth in a pond of crocodiles ++ BDS round-up

What’s New in our Newsblog

 ++ THE  PALESTINE  PAPERS, Al Jazeera’s spectacular and shocking leak of documents, maps and minutes of meetings “destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process” and also exposes the nasty, repressive police mini-state of the Ramallah regime. We look at the effects it might have, ask where do we go from there, and propose a 5-step plan of action to revive the Palestinian body politic.

++ The EU’s missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah propose some European sanctions and steps to witness and monitor what’s happening in East Jerusalem.

++ The Tunisian uprising, what Israel thinks about it, prospects in Jordan and Iran (and now the the democracy genie is out of the bottle in Egypt).

++  Ghada Karmi’s message of Return: “The plan for the declaration of a state might move the argument on a bit, but the argument remains the same. It’s about partition, it’s about two states.” Instead we need to return the dispossessed, restore the norms of justice and law, and end the existence of Zionism which has done nothing but damage our region and threaten world peace.”

ONE STATE News and Opinion

♦♦ Haidar Eid to speak in Edinburgh

Dr Haidar Eid, a founding member of the One Democratic State Group in Gaza, will deliver the keynote speech at the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign conference on Saturday 29 Jan in Edinburgh. He will analyse the bewilderingly rapid developments across the Middle East and how popular movements are the best — the only — defense against the incessant wars that the US and Israel have in store for the region. In an interview he gave to the Electronic Intifada in March 2008, he said: A diverse group of Palestinian activists from various backgrounds have come together to further peace with justice in the Middle East through setting up the One Democratic State Group. We believe that the one-state solution is the only viable option that guarantees comprehensive peace in the Middle East. We strongly believe that the establishment of a secular, democratic state on historic Palestine for all of its citizens regardless of religion, race, or sex—after the return of Palestinian refugees — is the solution to the Middle East conflict. That is exactly what happened in South Africa and Ireland. No exclusivity based on ethno-religious background. Establishing nation-states based on ethnicity, race, or religion is anachronistic.
  Ongoing Nakba Conference in London

 To mark Nakba Week, the Palestine Return Centre gathered an outstanding line-up of speakers on 15 January at SOAS. True to form, the Single State was hardly mentioned as such by most of the speakers, but there was much fierce criticism of the two state “peace” process which long ago relegated the refugees to the final status of being a symbolic lost cause.

We heard from geo-historian Dr Salman Abu Sitta whose work is crucial for understanding the central Nakba events, of 1947-49, and what happened afterwards to the villages, the lands and the people to make them all disappear. Film maker Rawan al Damin has delved into earlier days, to the obliteration of images of Palestinian life from that time, some of which she has retrieved for a full length documentary.

For those who can only see the Occupation, the continuing Judaisation within Israel (now re-branded as “development”) that brings demolitions and evictions each week in the Galil, the Negev, Haifa and Jaffa and Lod, and the attitude that legitimises it, were laid out by Ben White. And in a powerful, fast and very furious tour de force that brought an emotional standing ovation, Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who worked through the Cast Lead slaughter in Gaza’s Shifa Hospital brought us face to face with the heartbreaking results of calculated savagery. More on these speakers below.

Then Ghada Karmi boiled down the whole complexity of it all into one principle. “The essential problem that has not been solved is the dispossession of the Palestinian people. And you put it right by returning them to the land they came from. That is how you end the conflict. … What we are talking about is one state. The only and the ultimate aim has to be to return Palestine to what it was, Palestine was one state and we want that to happen again, and we are against dividing up our homeland and our country.”  Read more of her speech in our Newsblog

♦♦ Ben White on forcible displacement and expulsion in Israel

On a cold, rainy day in mid-winter, seven family homes were demolished at Lod, in central Israel. Lod’s rabbi said it was “to ensure that Lod stays Jewish”.

The mechanisms are many and growing: Ottoman and Mandate laws; not zoning Palestinian areas as residential, leaving them “unrecognised” so they have received no infrastructure services and are now being demolished and planted over; not having a Planning Masterplan which means no planning permission, so all building is “illegal”; certainly no new allocated communities (apart from those where displaced Bedouins are to be concentrated) compared with 1000 new Jewish ones. There are old Mandate laws allowing confiscations of land “needed for public purposes”, now amended so that if the original public purpose is defunct, the land still doesn’t return to its original owner. And recent “land reform” includes privatisation, making it more tricky to get restitution.

There is just one policy that holds all these devices, laws and regulations together, and that is racist dispossession. It’s reckoned that one in four Palestinian Israeli citizens are internally displaced since 1948. These 300,000 people who never even left the country have been just as much deprived of their right of return. They’re crowded into ghettoes they have long outgrown, often within sight of their original homes.

Ben warned of the rising racist discourse about the “demographic problem”, a preparation for ethnic cleansing coming not from the outer fringes but from government ministers: “It’s in the national interest for Jews to move to areas where the Arab population is on the rise” as “there is a risk of having more Arabs than Jews in these areas”.

These hard-pressed Israeli Palestinians face the same pattern and the same policies as the West Bank: settlements with lookout towers and walls for Jews, denial of building permits, fragmentation, demolition for Palestinians. We need, he said, an analysis and a response that isn’t about two competing nationalisms and two-state solutions, but is about international law and human rights, that’s anti-racist, anti-apartheid, anti-colonial: until the state framework that has existed for over 60 years for the benefit of one group of people against another, a state that was built on the rubble of Palestinian society in 1948 and continues the Nakba every day until now, until that is changed, there will never be justice or peace.

♦♦ Dr Salman Abu-Sitta on Mechanisms of Expulsion

In the 4th Century the Bishop of Caesaria documented hundreds of villages. 17 centuries later, Dr Abu-Sitta has documented their demise and their names (139 of them matching those charted in 313 AD) and locations, the names of their inhabitants, and where they are now. He’s tracked down how their contents were removed by organised looting (ranging from household items to high class villas to factories, workshops, stores and libraries, while “the Haganna removed 1800 truck-loads deom Lydda alone”);  how the archaeologists were sent in next in the hope of finding any signs of previous Jewish life to back up the Zionist myth of “return”.  How the forests and national parks have replaced them all over the landscape; and the laws put into place to prevent return.

None of the Israeli and Western plans to bring “peace” to the region comply with international law. Instead all aim to complete the unfinished ethnic cleansing (itself a war crime) by coercion, siege, starvation and financial promises and political pressure on Arab leaders.

If a two state solution is agreed, one of the states will be “Israel as a Jewish state”, which will be a licence to expel, destroy and disenfranchise its Palestinian citizens whenever the Zionists see fit, indefinitely, in order to maintain a Jewish majority.

 Two other interesting points (out of many) stand out

♦♦ How Gaza’s border was quietly moved

“Self defence” against Kassam rockets was a pretty feeble excuse for killing twice as many Gazan civilians in 22 days as Israel lost through all the years of the second Intifada and its suicide bombings, and four times as many children. In fact maps from Israel’s early days show that the rockets were actually falling on what, even after 1948, had once been Gaza itself.

The  Armistice lines agreed as a Treaty in 1949, though having no permanent legal validity, became the Green Line. Meanwhile Israel worked to extend this border, doing deals by threats and persuasion with foreign custodians of the land, Egypt and Jordan. Supposedly temporary, the new borders acquired permanence by “Modus Vivendi”, known to Israel as “facts on the ground”.

A large chunk was taken out of the West Bank, another at Jerusalem, and in 1950 the Armistice Line was pushed back all around the Gaza strip, shifting its boundary to give Israel an extra 193 sq km and narrowing the Strip by up to a half of its original width. This further theft of land from a region already jampacked with refugees from 247 villages could explain why the earliest stirrings of defiance and retaliation for the Nakba came from Gaza.

The main lesson of this is that Israel was always dedicated to expansion, and to making the temporary into the permanent. Deals, wars and settlements were some of the means. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening today, with renewed momentum and in broad daylight. And now it’s been revealed by Al Jazeera that they are offering to give this stolen land back to Gaza in exchange for Jerusalem!!!

How Israel does “Land Swaps”

As these are back on the Two State agenda, it’s worth looking at some old land swaps Israel did. “In the case of Jordan (when it ran the West Bank) the Israelis trespassed into Jordanian territory up to the length of 10 k.m. and a variable width of half to 5 km. Jordan had to accept annexation of some of its lands to Israel against theoretical compensation of Palestinian land in Israel. Israeli pressured Jordan to accept drawing of Jordanian water from about 12 wells inside the Jordanian territory, up to 10 million cubic meters per year…  The Treaty calls for compensation of this water for Jordan from other Israeli sources. But it is not clear whether this compensation took place or not.” (Salman Abu-Sitta)

♦♦ An international Palestinian Electorate might …

While self-determination is often used as another word for state, before settling for that state the first thing for Palestinians to determine is whether they wish to sub-divide Palestine or not. As it is posed now by even the best peace proposals, for the refugees that would be a question of whether they can go back home or whether they have to crowd into the West Bank at best, or half of it at worst. To have any chance of such self determination, Palestinians must have a registered electorate. And this, Dr Abu-Sitta told us, was an absolutely achievable project. He told us that it is underway, and that the aim is to get all Palestinian adults registered to vote, and to set up an international Palestinian assembly. This will prove that a two state deal is not a precondition for self determination, and will also be the best means for Palestinians to have a voice and determine their own future.

♦♦  … help rescue the West Bank from the Ramallah police statelet

Doubts about the Ramallah state have focused almost entirely on the issues of sovereignty, refugees, borders, Jerusalem. But Aisling Byrne in Foreign Policy puts the character of such a state under the spotlight. Cloaked by the foreign occupation that it serves, the significance of the PA’s cancelled elections over the past two years may have been missed. Read this important expose of the security and economic regime that’s gaining plaudits from Washington, Tel Aviv and Strasbourg. It is, she writes: ” With little to no domestic transparency or accountability … a police state is what is being assiduously constructed in Palestine, disguised as state-building and good governance.”

♦♦ Wikileaks on Gaza, the US and the Palestinian Authority

 Shortly before the start of the onslaught on Gaza, US Ambassador Cunningham cabled Washington. Not to get the attack stopped, but to rehearse a response and “press guidance”, talking points and what to do at the UN Security Council. “Our recommendation is that the US start with putting the blame on Hamas … and support for Israel’s right to defend itself, while also emphasizing our concern for the welfare of innocent Palestinian civilians and U.S. readiness to provide emergency humanitarian relief.”

During the attack the US embassy reported on moves to keep the West Bank quiet. “PA commanders said they told IDF officers that President Abbas and PM Fayyad both directed them to avoid situations that could develop into confrontations with the IDF.  … PA commanders noted they have no control on over B/C areas such as Qalandiya and Nil’in, and would need IDF approval to move PA forces to those areas to prevent clashes between protesters and the IDF. PA commanders said both sides agreed that Hebron is a problem, and cooperation on a case-by-case basis is critical. PA commanders said their IDF counterparts agreed to expedite coordination and movement requests and exchange information on possible disturbances, as both sides have an interest in preventing West Bank violence. They said both sides also agreed not to leak substantive discussions about the meeting to the press, given the sensitivity of security coordination in a time of Palestinian outrage over events in Gaza.”

Coexistence Projects

Disobedient Israelis: An act of hope and defiance

“Any act of rebellion, any physical defiance … anything that seeks to draw the good to the good, nourishes our souls and holds out the possibility that we can touch and transform the souls of others. Hope affirms that which we must affirm, and any act that imparts hope is a victory in itself.”  Chris Hedges

If this coexistence project has a name, the Facebook page Supporting Ilana Hammerman and Disobedient Israelis is as good as any. Ilana took three teenagers for a trip to the seaside at Tel Aviv.  There, these girls “sat down, took off their sandals, rolled up their pants and waded in the dark waters, refusing to budge” and later they “ran and ran, back and forth, in zig-zags, along the huge beach, ponytails flying in the wind.”

All this innocent fun was illegal. The escapade was a crime that Hammerman had methodically planned and committed: the three Palestinian girls did not have a permit to enter Israel. Ilana was forbidden even to collect two of the girls from PA territory. But they made it through, and back, and Ilana then had the chutzpah to write it all up in Haaretz Weekend magazine, saying “it wasn’t the last time I’ll do something like this. Because I do not recognize the legality of the checkpoints and fences, or the legality of military rule over the places that Lin and Aya and Yasmin are from”.

For what she did, and being so unrepentant, upfront and disobedient, she could get a two year prison sentence. An extreme right wing settler group Legal Fund for the Land of Israel is demanding that she be prosecuted. She was called in for police questioning.

But there’s a problem for the authorities. Ilana was bombarded with requests from journalists in Holland, France, Germany and USA, German TV and even the BBC World Service, all desperate to tell the story. One described it as a “vital and transformative event”. Another said “Peace will come with such random acts of simple kindnesses and recognition of the basic humanity we share.” Another called for a National Day for Disobedient Israelis in which hundreds of others could join. It’s gone round the world on Facebook with over 700 supporters.

In response to the police action, two dozen Jewish and West Bank women and children went to the sea. And then they too wrote about it, and paid to have their account and their names printed in Haaretz, where they said the law they broke is itself upholding illegality, and robs Palestinians of the right to visit places with which they have deeply rooted family, heritage and national connections. And they say to others: “do as we have done”. Full text and signatories

It’s the sheer everyday ordinariness of the action that inspires and illuminates. Heavy politics but no flags, no banners, no speeches. That a day out with “the wrong people” is illegal says everything about racism, as did Rosa Parks when she went down in history for sitting in the front seat of the bus.

Negev Coexistence Forum update

Haia Noach, director of the Negev Coexistence Forum, and three Bedouin residents of El Alaqib have been charged with “forcibly invading/holding state property” (that should make an interesting court case!) after a violent confrontation at the tenth demolition of the village. Others were gassed and injured and arrested as bulldozers removed every vestige of their property with the intention of planting a forest to make the clearance irreversable. Yet with the help of volunteers, these 300 valiant villagers have vowed to keep rebuilding their village until the Israeli government recognises their rights to their land. There is now a coalition of over a dozen Israeli* and American Jewish* groups using court actions  (they gained a temporary injunction to stop further work on the site, but the court caved in to pressure and failed to make it permanent), and two international petitions, one calling on the Israeli government and the Israel Lands Administration, and the other addressed to the Jewish National Fund, demanding to acknowledge the villagers’ rights.

Petition to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Lieberman and ILA Leaders:  End the destruction of Negev Bedouin villages in Israel
Petition to JNF Leaders in the US and Israel: End JNF Complicity in displacing Israel’s Negev Bedouin

The petitions have been supported by 7,500 signatories so far. PLEASE ADD YOUR NAME. The supporting organisations are:

* From Israel: ■ Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality ■ Rabbis for Human Rights ■ Shatil – Leading Social Change, An Initiative of the New Israel Fund ■ Physicians for Human Rights – Israel ■ Hit’habrut-Tarabut – Arab-Jewish Movement for Social and Political Change ■ The Local Committee – Alsira Village ■ Ta’ayush: Arab-Jewish Partnership
* From the US: ■ Jewish Alliance for Change ■ Rabbis for Human Rights, North America ■ Jewish Voice for Peace ■ The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeiter Ring ■ Tikkun Community ■ Network of Spiritual Progressives ■ The Shalom Center

♦ ♦ Meanwhile another village, in the South Hebron hills, Daqeiga, “in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the desert”, little more than a collection of tents, simple breeze-block homes and (always a top priority among Palestinians) a school, worked on a zoning plan for itself together with Rabbis for Human Rights. RHR Secretary Arik Ascherman writes: Today, perhaps as a “quid pro quo” for demolitions in the unauthorized outpost “Eish Kodesh,” the army demolished some 16 homes and a school room. I received different estimates as to how many people were left homeless — between 50-100. Women asked me where they and their children were supposed to go. I could only tell them that there would be tents from the red cross and that we would see what else we could do.

Before long Arik Asherman himself found a gang of settler goons demonstrating on his home doorstep and issuing threats.

ONE Liners

♦♦♦   “Is Israel’s conduct in East Jerusalem bad, or merely bad for peace? It is indeed bad for peace, but more importantly, it is just bad. “  Jeremiah Haber

♦♦♦   There is a remote possibility that Abbas will manage to avoid … irrelevancy by coming clean with his people and offering a new real innovative approach (like dissolve the PA and call for an anti-Apartheid struggle led by new leaders).  Mazin Qumsiyeh

♦♦♦   “Even mainstream commentators are now talking of a single-state solution, with one democratic, secular country based on “one person, one vote” for all citizens regardless of ethnicity or faith, situated between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea”  Ahmed Tibi

♦♦♦   The only way to take all the eggs out of the American basket, out of Congress and out of AIPAC and the American Jewish leadership is to disband the PLO/PA and Fatah and for the people to pursue a One State Solution.  Sami Jadallah

♦♦♦   “Many have taken the view, and I have taken it for a long time, that the answer is a single state, where Jews and Palestinians can live together, and I think that probably offers us the best hope, but to do that you have to dissolve Zionism.”  Tony Benn

♦♦♦   Many in the Palestinian diaspora doubt whether a two-state solution is attainable or desirable. Instead they are calling for a single secular, bi-national democratic state that is co-terminus with the historic Palestinian mandate, and alone has the inherent capacity to reconcile contemporary ideas of democracy, human rights, and a belated realisation of Palestinian rights, including the long deferred claims of Palestinian refugees.  Richard Falk

This Israel

♦♦Eva  hates Fridays in Israel !! Grrrr!!
Ela  me too. And Saturdays
Eva  Yes – sure. But Fridays are worse. Do all your shopping before 2pm! … Religious coercion, damn it!!!
Ela  I agree. I hate it too. But since we discovered a grocery store in Beit Safafa open all Friday and Saturday, it’s not so bad. But you gotta have a car to get there.
Pamela  Oy vey, such a religious country!
Eva Terrible. The Ultra-Orthodox rule here — besides the Army..
Sameh  hates Saturday in Israel
Jesse  I hate apartheid in Israel
Eva  That too, and targeted killing, and “collateral damage”, and F16s, and White Phosphor, and tear gas, and the siege, and house demolitions, and “administrative detention”, and Liebermann, and racism, and child imprisonment, and and and and and and … 

♦♦ Rabbis disgrace themselves again

In a grotesque mix of modern and archaic, an Orthodox “family magazine” called Fountains of Salvation suggests that “extermination camps” might be needed. Having poured scorn as “pollitically correct” on those who attacked the Safed Rabbi and his followers for urging Jews not to rent or sell homes to Palestinians, they speculate whether “assembling” the enemy will be left to others, or “whether they will declare that wiping out” this enemy is no longer relevant. The mix of ancient and modern is in the use of words. The names given to the enemies are the biblical Amalekites. But the other idioms (“extermination camps” and “politically correct”) are horribly present-day. Under cover of these quaint old names, a very modern genocide is being called for, using modern camps and modern weapons, against the modern-day Palestinians not some long-gone hostile tribe that might have been put to the sword with God’s approval two or three millenia before the Holocaust. The rabbis involved in this publication and their ilk are all state funded. They may be a small minority, but the hatred they express is all over the place, and there were, according to Red Cross records, “assembly” camps for Palestinians in the 1947-48 Nakba period, though they were merely for forced labour and not for extermination. 

♦♦Certificates for racial discrimination

An enterprising News Agency is helping to circulate a certificate issued by the Committee Against Assimilation in the Holy Land, that businesses can put up to assure their Jewish customers that no Arabs are employed in the establishment. In case you’re wondering what their “Arab” customers might think of this, I guess they’ve been excluded too. No, this isn’t a new-fangled right wing idea. Back in the 1930s the left Zionists and the Histadrut trade union movement led the way in enforcing “Jewish labour only” policies, and boycotted (and roughed-up) any Jewish business that had other ideas. In fact the whole of the Zionist movement could have called itself the Committee Against Assimilation in the Holy Land.


Solidarity and other news

♦♦ Stone-throwing and punishment

1. Self Defence

Sometimes a death stands out from the others. Jawaher Abdul Rahma’s death at Bil’in sent shock waves around the world. Israel’s press gave over its front pages to the IDF’s “off the record” (i.e. no need for evidence) propaganda counter-offensive, a range of far-fetched and scurrilous reasons for her death. Everything the army spread as a rumour, the press printed as fact. The IDF now claims that yes, she did die after inhaling tear gas but her death was caused by wrong hospital treatment, which they have not proved either, and is just as far-fetched. The general drift remains, in the minds of the gullible and prejudiced, that her death was all just a trick to defame their beloved IDF.

21 people have died at the hands of the IDF during the unarmed resistance to the wall. Hundreds have been injured. The army uses increasingly dangerous weaponry, citing self-defence against stone-throwing. Journalist Noam Sheizaf comments “In my own army service I faced real riots in the West Bank, when hundreds of people were hurling stones at us in a small city alley.  Scary as it was, we didn’t use as much fire power as the army now does in Bil’in and in other villages I visited. What is surprising is that there have not been more deaths.”

2. Night raids at Nabi Saleh

We reported (Newsletter 3) on the scandal of Israel’s child abuse, with thousands of boys imprisoned, some as young as seven.  Stone-throwing is the commonest charge, and it can carry sentences of several years: that is, if they even get a trial. In this report from 972mag, Joseph Dana shows how it’s been turned into a system. (Full report here.)

Twice this week, soldiers raided the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. From midnight until 3 in the morning, soldiers in full combat equipment raided houses to photograph people, mostly young men, and check ID cards. No arrests were made. The pattern has been used many times against villages that resist. The army raid a house in the middle of the night, photograph a 15 or 16 year-old, and match the photograph with ID information. Then, some days later, during the weekly nonviolent demonstration, soldiers go from house to house with a picture book of people to arrest, whether the suspect is in the middle of the demonstration or inside the house watching television.

They then create a story that the person was throwing stones or ‘rioting.’ No evidence is needed in the Israeli military court: the soldier only needs to say that he saw the person throwing stones. No photographic or video evidence is needed. Not even another witness. As far as the IDF and its court are concerned, all young men are on the “Wanted” list.

Last night’s raid was the second time this week for Nabi Saleh. Bassam Tamimi, one of the Popular Committee leaders of Nabi Saleh, said that the army has raided almost every house in the village this week. Every male between the ages of 12 and 22 has been photographed by the army and their ID numbers taken.

These night raids are used throughout the West Bank against villages that are engaged in unarmed resistance. Away from cameras and activists, Israeli soldiers dish out this collective punishment.

♦♦ Israel’s Own-Goals
It’s heartening to see Israel’s apparent invincibility puctured by its own incompetence. Enjoy!

1. Penny-pinching

Diplomatic events, visits abroad by Israeli dignitaries to firm up their zionist outriders and do dirty deals, and also the hosting of foreign dignitaries to Israel, are delayed or cancelled because of a strike over pay and conditions by workers at the Foreign Ministry. Appeals to the strikers to relent have been smartly blanked with the message “no can do”, and they have refused a compromise offer of a 10% pay rise.

A month into the strike, 25 senior ambassadors have written to Netanyahu asking him to intervene, and saying their salaries are “humiliating”.

The one gain for Israel is that Tsipi Livni could cancel her trip to South Africa without admitting she’s afraid of being arrested as a war criminal for complicity in the Gaza mass-murders of two years ago. Serious moves were afoot to have her banged up, and she now has an excuse to stay at a safe distance.

Maybe Tel Aviv should pay the strikers to stay off work longer.

2.  Sheer stupidity

While people are blaming Lieberman for the strike (he’s their direct boss), no-one but Bibi can be blamed for having journalists strip-searched on their way into his press conference. Menachem Kahane, a long-serving Israeli press photographer, decided to leave when they asked him to drop his trousers, “but they said I was in the middle of ‘a security process’ and could not leave.” Others were threatened with arrest if they did not cooperate.

As with the diplomats’ strike, no-one is claiming the credit. The Government Press Office director, instead of apologising, said the “mishaps” were not his responsibility. The Foreign Press Association, which represents all foreign media in Israel issued a formal statement:

 “The Foreign Press Association is outraged over the treatment members received at the hands of Israeli security personnel during Tuesday night’s invitation-only gathering with the prime minister. … It is not remotely acceptable to invite people for cocktails at a five-star hotel and then make them undress at the door. Several members were forced to remove their underwear, waiting for as long as 20 minutes in this humiliating situation while security checked their documents. Others, including the bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, were strip-searched and forced to take off their pants. A number of members walked out of the event in disgust. It is incomprehensible that anyone would think such humiliating treatment is necessary at such an event. All … card holders are known to authorities and have already undergone extensive background checks. All participants emptied their pockets, submitted their equipment to inspection and went through metal detectors to enter. … For a government trying to usher in a new era of relations with the foreign media, it is a peculiar way to start. We are confident the prime minister would not accept such abusive security checks for his  friends or family. We ask for assurances that this will not happen again or we will respectfully decline further invitations.”

♦♦ Israel’s High Court: Fine Words but there’s still no Butter on the Parsnips

It sometimes seems that Israel’s High Court is a last bastion left to uphold the fine principles of those parts of the constitution that talk about equality and human rights. Often it seems that the slide into political repression and unabashed racism or sexism (segregated buses, or the Reception Committees to vet new residents) is clawed back at the brink by a High Court ruling that says it’s illegal. Yet it still seems to happen. Merav Michaeli lays bare how this happens in “Israel’s racism has finally reached the High Court”.

♦♦ The Knesset Committee on un-Israeli Activities: Two responses

1. Interpal

Lieberman’s inquisition committee set up to investigate Israeli human rights NGOs’ funding has already got to work, issuing a blacklist of 163 foreign charities that supposedly support terrorism. One of these, Interpal, has already successfully fought off such allegations in the British High Court, winning lawsuits for libel after being accused of funding terrorist activities, and has forced an apology from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Interpal also point out that in any case they do not even fund any organisations in Israel. If the same goes for the other 162 charities, it shows up the move as primarily a PR stunt against the massive NGO sector, which is among the biggest in the world and, as far as the government is concerned, horribly independent of the drift of Israeli politics into racism, militarism and patriotic aggression.

 2. Rehavia Berman: such an Israel I shall betray

If being an Israeli means to forever rule another people, steal its land, deny it basic rights and trample upon its dignity, then yes – such an Israel I shall betray.

If being an Israeli means to strive for ethnic cleansing as a means of escaping the tightening death trap of occupation, then yes – such an Israel I shall betray.

If being an Israeli means leaving 20 percent of the population in an ever-worsening state of second class citizenship, forbidding them to import schoolbooks in their own language or to speak their ostensibly official language in mixed schools, condition their employment as teachers to their own children upon approval of the Shin Bet-Stasi – such an Israel I shall betray.

If being an Israeli means accepting a parliament that launches a witch hunt against perfectly transparent “funding sources” of organizations who save what’s left of out tattered international respect …  then yes – such an Israel I shall betray.

If being an Israeli means subscribing to the superiority of the Jew by virtue of birth as such and placing at the heart of the collective identity the persecution, victimization and woe-is-me attitude in a manner that Hitler himself would have viewed as a historical victory and vindication, then yes – such an Israel I shall betray.

If being an Israeli means treating the persecuted and the sanctuary seeker the same way we cried foul over when directed at us back when we were in their shoes, then yes – such an Israel I shall betray.

I shall betray it openly and without a shred of guilt. I shall advertise its shame the world over, and take the largest hatchet I can find to its false pretense of legitimacy. I shall hand over the names of its criminals – from general and minister to corporal and private, to anyone who will bring them to justice. I shall make sure you cannot set foot anywhere a civilized person would want to go. I shall do all this and more, and you can investigate me to your putrid hearts’ content. …

Read the Full Text at 972 Magazine; this is just a selection

♦♦  Time Magazine discovers the Israeli opposition movement

On 4 January, Time reported: The news of Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s death has highlighted a new alliance emerging between a small number of Israeli leftists and Palestinians engaged in unarmed mass-protest action. Scores of Israeli activists had actually joined the Dec. 31 demonstration, and they challenged the IDF claim that tear gas was fired only after stones were thrown by protesters. The news that Abu Rahmah had died brought hundreds of Israeli Jews to a protest in Tel Aviv on the night of Jan.1 outside Israel’s Defense Ministry. The symbolic weight of leftist protest in Israel is potentially far greater than its numbers. The image of Israeli police arresting Jewish Israelis dissenting from policies that the state insists are essential for security undermines government p.r. efforts to portray foreign criticism as part of an anti-Semitic campaign to “delegitimize” Israel (and) … unarmed Palestinian protests against the occupation are shifting the sympathies of Western public opinion increasingly impatient with Israel over issues like settlements.  Full Article here

♦♦ Spreading truth in a pond of crocodiles

It’s the cheapest courtroom trick: when you can’t dispute the evidence, cast doubt on the witness. They’ve now tried to pin the anti-semitism label on Desmond Tutu, and over 5,300 people have so far recorded their names for him against his South African Zionist slanderers who are trying to remove him as patron of the Capetown and Johannesburg Holocaust centres. Sign the Petition

  Denial of Israel’s policy of Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing and defamation of those who criticize it is as immoral as denying the Jewish Holocaust.

  I greatly appreciate the courage of Mr.Tutu who is spreading truth in a pond of crocodiles.

  I can’t believe that it has now come to this … Israel believes it is above the law, both international and human moral laws. Irony lives.

  Anti-Semitism once meant telling lies about Judaism in private…now it means telling truths about Zionism in public.

  When Bishop Tutu criticizes you, you have to look at what you’re doing.

  These personal attacks, are a sign of increasing desperation among Israel’s uncritical defenders.”

  … a slur on the memory of all those who died at the hands of the Nazis.

  No-one is better fitted than Tutu to be a trustee to museums that rightly exist to express our moral outrage at the Holocaust.

  Do Archbishop Tutu’s critics wish to reject his statements regarding the Holocaust along with his expressions of the same principles regarding Israel? These are human values that cannot be applied selectively.

  I’m signing in protest against the vilification of people who criticise Israel. Tutu, like Justice Goldstone, is an outstanding moral leader.

  Israel seems to have lost the real lesson of the Holocaust.

  If the Holocaust were in progress now he would speak up for its victims.

  A great man is being attacked in a disgusting manner by self-serving bigots. Shame, shame, shame on them.

BDS Round-Up

++ John Lewis (UK) and the big Bay chain in Canada have announced they will no longer stock Ahava products, because they’re “not selling well”.  

++ Vanessa Paradis cancelled an appearance at Tel Aviv: like John Lewish and Bay, she missed out on the chance to say why.  

++ British high-class “literary” novelist Ian McEwan is going to attend the Jerusalem Book Fair because he thinks he knows better (the usual ignorant nonsense about doing more good by going and saying a few critical words about Israel “though I’ve no time for Hamas either” as if that’s the alternative).  

++  The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, described as “Israel’s cultural ambassadors”, has a tour booked across the USA, which should get lots more activists drawn into the solidarity and BDS struggle: it’s a chance for those in striking distance to engage in person rather than just sending an email or clicking on a petition button. 

++ A singer called Macy Grey (who she??) says it’s just horrid what they’re doing to the Palestinians but she’s “gotta lotta” Israeli fans so she’ll go.

++ The “Disconnect BT” campaign is taking off, with an appeal from Israel’s Boycott From Within group to switch from the British telecoms giant for its work with Israel’s Bezeq which is deeply implicated in military and settlements infrastructure.

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