INDEX (stories follow)
from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by email@example.com (Democracy Now!)
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Dimi Reider at +972 reports that the tent protests are such a profound movement inside Israeli society that they are blowing away ethnic distinctions. And he says they threaten not just the occupation, but the ideologies of the Jewish state. Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies! is one chant. And Tahrir has informed the protests. See the sign above, which was taken by Oren Ziv at Active Stills, and says “Go! [the big slogan in Tahrir]” and “Egypt Is Here.” Reider:
First, a tent titled “1948″ was pitched on Rothschild boulevard, housing Palestinian and Jewish activists determined to discuss Palestinian collective rights and Palestinian grievances as a legitimate part of the protests. They activists tell me the arguments are exhaustive, wild and sometimes downright strange; but unlike the ultra-right activists who tried pitching a tent calling for a Jewish Tel Aviv and hoisting homophobic signs, the 1948 tenters were not pushed out, and are fast becoming part of the fabric of this “apolitical” protest.
A few days after the 1948 tent was pitched, the council of the protests – democratically elected delegates from 40 protest camps across the country – published their list of demands, including, startlingly, two of the key social justice issues unique to the Palestinians within Israel: Sweeping recognition of unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev; and expanding the municipal borders of Palestinian towns and villages to allow for natural development. The demands chimed in perfectly with the initial drive of the protest – lack of affordable housing.
The demands chimed in perfectly with the initial drive of the protest – lack of affordable housing. Neither issue has ever been included in the list of demands of a national, non-sectarian movement capable of bringing 300,000 people out into the streets.
And, finally, on Wednesday, residents of the Jewish poverty-stricken neighbourhood of Hatikva, many of them dyed-in-the-wool Likud activists, signed a covenant of cooperation with the Palestinian and Jewish Jaffa protesters, many of them activists with Jewish-Palestinian Hadash and nationalist-Palestinian Balad. They agreed they had more in common with each other than with the middle class national leadership of the protest, and that while not wishing to break apart from the J14 movement, they thought their unique demands would be better heard if they act together. At the rally, they marched together, arguing bitterly at times but sticking to each other, eventually even chanting mixed Hebrew and Arabic renditions of slogans from Tahrir.
Yesteday’s mega-rally was also where Palestinian partnership in the protests came to a head, when writer Odeh Bisharat spoke to nearly 300,000 people – overwhelmingly, centrist Israelis Jews – of the grievances of Palestinians in Israel and was met with raucous applause.
Some of my Israeli friends are literally weeping from the joy, exhilaration, and sheer decency of last night’s J14 protest through the streets of Tel Aviv. The rally drew almost 400,000 people, well over twice as many as last week’s. Sol Salbe, who was there, said it was the largest demonstration he’d ever attended.
Demonstrators chanted, under the influence of the Tahrir revolution, “The people wants social justice.” They marched for a higher quality of life and standard of living. They rallied against the deterioration of housing, educational, and job opportunities, the decline in quality of health care. They demonstrated against a slavishly capitalistic, laissez-faire government which cares only for corporate profits and a draconian anti-Arab foreign policy.
Thanks to Sol Salbe for translating this portion of a Haaretz article (Hebrew) quoting the protest movement’s founder, Daphni Leef’s address to the crowd [Sol’s and my interjections are in brackets]:
Daphne Lief who addressed the crowd at the end of the rally said: “We are not in love with protest as protest, but we are in love with the kind of future that we need to have here. We’re in love with the spirit of freedom. The Knesset may have gone on recess but the spirit of freedom will reach its destiny there. Lief finished with the [movement slogan]| “The people demand social justice.”
[As a sign of broadening of the movement, a Rabbi addressed the rally. Hitherto the only mass rallies addressed by rabbis have been right-wing ones.]
“Blessed be the Holy One that we have arrived at this time,” said Rabbi Benny Lau. “We’re two days before Tisha B’Av and usually do not recite this blessing [because of an approaching fast day]. But when you see hundreds of thousands who have come out from their homes, and are joined by tens upon tens of thousands across the country, we realise that something has happened in this country. I came to offer a big thank you.”
[An even more remarkable development has been the appearance of a Palestinian citizen of Israel on the platform]
Writer and journalist Ouda Basharat who also spoke at the Tel Aviv rally said: ”That‘s the way revolutions happen: they sneak upon you and spread out like a flood. Long live the youth revolution. The miracle of July arose in the sauna of heat and humidity. The movement, long dead and buried, has come back to life. It is time to make this the struggle of all the oppressed, Jews and Arabs. Arabs and Jews refuse to be enemies.”
Now that’s a revolution I can get behind! Could this be the beginning of the end of the Netanyahu government? And if it is, can there be something better in store? Dare we hope?
Yediot Achronot published on its front page David Grossman’s meditation on the meaning of the new movement,A Window to a New Future (Hebrew). And don’t trust the bulls(&t peddled by Ethan Bronner in his NYT article yesterday in which he claimed that Grossman all of a sudden has regained favor inside Israel after being out of style for some time. Grossman may not always be right given his classical liberal views and he’s certainly worth wrestling with, but he never goes out of style.
from Mondoweiss by Jeff Halper
The demonstrations currently roiling Israel constitute a grassroots challenge to Israel’s neo-liberal regime. Beginning as an uprising of the middle classes – especially young people who have trouble finding affordable housing – it has spread to the working class, the poor and the Arab communities as well, though not the religious as yet. Many of the working sectors have joined the three-week protest: doctors, single mothers, parents demanding free education, taxi drivers upset with the price of petrol, even the police. The Histadrut, Israel’s general trade federation, and many municipalities have joined as well. Last night’s protests brought some 320,000 people into the streets.
The big argument is whether it should be “political” or not. I attended the demonstration last Saturday night, and while the main slogan was “We demand social justice,” (although chants of “Mubarak, Assad, Netanyahu” could also be heard), it was clear that most of those attending wanted the movement to remain “non-political,” rooted squarely in the mainstream consensus. Its thrust is anti-neo-liberal, though not framed in those exact words. Instead, issues are still defined in more narrow, technical ways: affordable housing, affordable education, etc. This may be an effective beginning strategy, since it does bring in the wider public. Many of those support the protests, the taxi drivers for example, tend to vote for Netanyahu’s Likud. The politics of it all are just under the surface. “Bibi [Netanyahu] go home” is all over the place, from posters to leaflets to chants.
(Actually, there is an éminence grise behind Netanyahu for whom these are by no means the first mass protests. Stanley Fischer, the Governor of the Bank of Israel, figures prominently in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. From 1990-2005, Fischer, one of Milton Friedman’s “Chicago Boys,” served as the Chief Economist of the World Bank, First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, a member of the Washington-based financial advisory body, the Group of Thirty and President of Citigroup International, the world’s largest financial services network which handles, among other things, “global wealth management.” According to Klein, it was Fischer at the IMF who urged Yeltzin to “move fast” and sell off as many public companies and resources as possible, leading directly to the economic take-over of the Oligarchs and their allies, the Russian Mafia; “Mafia Capitalism” it was called. He also oversaw the “structural adjustments” of Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea in 1997, where 24 million lost their jobs and the middle classes were devastated. In 2005 Fischer was appointed Governor of the Bank of Israel by Ariel Sharon; Netanyahu was appointed the Finance Minister.)
There are those of us from the left who are trying to push the protests into a more political direction, though we are sensitive to the fact that a gradual process of political consciousness-raising has to occur. In our statements and in discussions we have in the tent cities around the country we try to put the finger on neo-liberalism as a fundamental cause of inequality in Israeli society; neo-liberalism as the dominant government ideology, as its overarching set of policies, as a system and not merely a disjointed collection of policies from which one can pick and choose. We also link the issue of social equality and allocation of resources to the Occupation and Israel’s massive military budget ($16 billion, or $2,300 per person, the highest ratio of defense spending to GDP among the industrialized countries).
This is being resisted, especially by the Tel Aviv Students’ Union that has taken on some of the amorphous leadership. So far there is a conscious effort by the majority of protesters and organizers to exclude the Occupation from the discussion and to keep the protests “non-political.” Israel flags fly galore and every rally ends with the national anthem (“A Jewish soul still yearns/To be a free people in our land/The Land of Zion and Jerusalem”). Ironically, it is the settlers who are pushing the protest into taking a stand on the Occupation. At first they opposed the protests, arguing that the movement is only a guise to weaken Netanyahu in anticipation of the Palestinians’ call for statehood at the UN in September. But last week the extremely right-wing and racist settler youth set up tents at the protest site in Tel Aviv (under the slogan “Tel Aviv is Jewish”) to push the idea that the solution to the housing crisis is to build massively in the Occupied Territories. In the meantime, 42 Knesset members of the right have sent a letter to Netanyahu urging him to solve the housing problem by building massively in the West Bank.
So two questions remain open. First, will the protests stop when they hit the glass ceiling of really confronting the neo-liberal system, including the Occupation? Can social justice be attained for all, structurally as well as ideologically, as long as Jews claim privileged rights over Palestinians and other citizens of Israel – all the while keeping millions of Palestinian non-citizens living under occupation or stuck in refugee camps? Are the protesters capable of genuinely calling into question the fundamental premises of the system and its policies?
The reality is that the vast majority of protesters serve in the army and are, genuinely and sincerely, part of the consensus. At the tent city in Tel Aviv I encountered a seven-year veteran of the IDF who tried to convince me that Che Guevara (pictured on a poster with an X across his face) could not be a role model for revolution because he was violent. My interlocutor, who saw himself as liberal and enlightened, simply could not grasp the connection between serving in the Israeli army – which falls under the rubric of the national “consensus” – and his non-violent beliefs. Without a will to finally break out of the Zionist Box, the protesters might get half-way, perhaps to a return to some form of a welfare state. But true inclusion, full equality and genuine democracy will evade them.
The other question is: where can this movement go? After Ehud Barak & Co. finally dismantled the Labor Party, which twenty-five years ago had already gone neo-liberal, Israel lacks a major social democratic party. (Meretz doesn’t even count at this stage.) Dov Khenin of the Community Party is perhaps the clearest and most respected voice against neo-liberalism in the Knesset and is very popular among the protesters (he is one of the few Knesset members even allowed in the tent city). But his party, which is identified almost exclusively with the Arab community, cannot serve as that vehicle. A very real and interesting possibility is that Arye Deri, an ultra-orthodox Mizrahi founder of Shas with great credibility even among the secular middle classes, will found such a party. As of now, however, the protests have no vehicle for grounding their movement. This, of course, is the Establishment’s hope: that the uprising will just die once a few demands are accepted, others doomed to interminable committees and summer vacation ends.
Still, there’s potential here. Some of the discussions are becoming political (the tent city in Tel Aviv includes a 1948 tent) and it remains to be seen what will happen as the government stonewalls and pushes back. This is an uprising worth following. Not an Arab Spring perhaps, but a promising Israeli Summer. Not a true revolution, but a return to a welfare state that is nonetheless structurally discriminatory. A process of consciousness-raising has begun amongst mainstream Jewish Israelis who for generations have been locked in “The Box” of conformist thinking. Process, flux, potential are still the order of the day. One test of how far the protests can go will come in September when the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories initiate massive protests around the UN vote. What will happen if the tent protests survive and develop into September? Will they link up with their Palestinian counterparts? Will we in the critical left, who are engaged in both movements, be able act as a bridge between them? Imagine a mass march from Tel Aviv to Ramallah – and back! Now that’s when paradigms get smashed and possibilities of an entirely new social, political and economic order open up. Let’s wait and see what September brings.
Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at
from Mondoweiss by Abir Kopty
If you are Palestinian, it will be difficult to find anything to identify with in Tel Aviv’s tents’ city on Rothschild Boulevard, until you reach Tent 1948. My first tour there was a few days ago, when I decided to join Tent 1948. Tent 1948’s main message is that social justice should be for all. It brings together Jewish and Palestinian citizens who believe in shared sovereignty in the state of all its citizens.
For me, as a Palestinian, I don’t feel part of the July 14 movement, and I’m not there because I feel part. Almost every corner of this encampment reminds me that this place does not want me. My first tour there was pretty depressing, I found lots of Israeli flags, a man giving a lecture to youth about his memories from ’48 war’ from a Zionist perspective, another group marching with signs calling for the release of Gilad Shalit, another singing Zionist songs. This is certainly not a place that the 20% of the population would feel they belong to. The second day I found Ronen Shuval, from Im Tirtzu, the extreme right wing organization, giving a talk full of incitement and hatred to the left and human rights organizations. Settlers already set a tent and were dancing with joy.
The existence of Tent 1948 in the encampment constitutes a challenge to people taking part in the July 14 movement. In the first few days, the tent was attacked by group of rightwing activists, who beat activists in the tent and broke down the Palestinian flag of the tent. Some of the leaders of the July 14 movement have said clearly that raising core issues related to Palestinian community in Israel or the occupation will make the struggle “lose momentum”. They often said the struggle is social, not political, as if there was a difference. They are afraid of losing supporters if they make Palestinian issues bold.
The truth is that this is the truth.
The truth is, this is exactly what might help Netanyahu, if he presses the button of fear, recreates the ‘enemy’ and reproduce the ‘security threat’, he might be able to silence this movement. The problem is not with Netanyahu, he is not the first Israeli leader to rely on this. The main problem is that Israelis are not ready yet to see beyond the walls surrounding them.
Yet, one has to admit, something is happening, Israelis are awakening. There is a process; people are coming together, discussing issues. The General Assembly of the encampment decided on Friday that it will not accept any racist messages among its participants. Even to Tent 1948 many Israelis arrived, read the flyers, listened to what Tent 1948 represent and discussed calmly. Perhaps if I was a Jewish Israeli I will be proud of the July 14 movement. But, I am not a Jew, I am not Zionist, I am Palestinian.
I don’t want to beatify the reality, or hide anything for the sake of ‘tactics’ and I will not accept crumbs. I want to speak about historical justice, I want to speak about occupation, I want to speak about discrimination and racism, I want to put everything on the table, and I want to speak about them in the heart of Tel Aviv.
Social justice can’t be divided or categorized. If it is not justice to all including all Palestinians, then it is a fake justice, elite justice or “Justice for Jews only” exactly as the Israeli democracy functions “for Jews only”. July 14 is a great opportunity for Israelis to refuse to allow their state to continue to drown into an apartheid regime.
Abir Kopty blogs here. Follow her twitter feed @abirkopty. A media analyst and consultant and political activist, she is a former city council member in Nazareth & former spokeswoman for Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel.
The frustration, and joy, of Walt and Mearsheimer’s golden spike of 6 years ago — The Israel Lobby– was that it should have rung in a golden age of journalism about the Israel lobby. How large a force is this in our public life? How much of our foreign policy has it affected? Georgia? India/Pakistan? Do our universities really need Israel Studies departments? When did the American Enterprise Institute convert to Zionism? Do George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter believe that they were one-termers because they went up against the lobby? Ask them. How much of American Jewish donorship has a pro-Israel bias? Talk to the money-boys. Etc. Etc.
These are great stories, and I thought that Walt and Mearsheimer would inaugurate a feast of reporting.
Well it didn’t happen. But maybe it’s starting to? The Washington Post’s Peter Marks does some fine reporting here on the decision by the D.C. Jewish Community Center to end the hosting at its Theater J space of Peace Cafes organized by Andy Shallal, a charismatic Muslim restaurateur who runs Busboys and Poets. It is funny to me that the most important part of the story is in a parenthesis (the funding issue!), but Marks is correct to say that the incident is “further evidence of the corrosive turn that the political and artistic dialogues over matters related to Israel have taken of late in this country…” Yeah: it’s a huge story, and the grass roots are pushing it in.
Now to the censorship.
[S]uddenly, a few months ago, a curtain was drawn. The [Jewish] community center’s then-chief executive officer, Arna Meyer Mickelson, told Shallal that the Peace Cafe could no longer use the facilities of the center, at 16th and Q streets NW. “She said, ‘We appreciate what you’ve done, but we can’t have Peace Cafes at Theater J anymore,’ ” Shallal recalls. “I think she was waiting for the right moment to cut the strings.”…
In cities such as New York and Washington, ad hoc watchdog groups have formed to pressure Jewish federations to cease funding nonprofit groups that they deem critical of Israel. Locally, a portion of their ire has been directed at Theater J, one of the nation’s most successful — and dramatically adventurous — theater groups operating from within the structure of a Federation-funded Jewish community center.
In March, a group calling itself Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, headed by Potomac lawyer Robert G. Samet, asked that the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington look at imposing curbs on financing for Theater J. As evidence of the theater company’s intent to produce works that “demonize Israel and the Jewish people,” Samet cited “Return to Haifa,” a work by an Israeli playwright, Boaz Gaon, that was performed at Theater J last winter by Israel’s most renowned company, the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv…
In a March 6 letter to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art said the play [Return to Haifa] “distorts history” by comparing the death of a Jewish child in the Holocaust “to the fabricated and utterly fantastical story of an Arab child allegedly abandoned by his fleeing parents in Haifa in 1948.” Arguing that through its Peace Cafes, Theater J had featured “groups and speakers . . . intensely hostile to the existence of the State of Israel,” the group questioned “the appropriateness of Federation funds being used to support activities by its partner agencies that undermine Israel’s legitimacy and security.”… (The Washington Federation gives about $600,000 a year to the DCJCC, which in turn supports Theater J by giving it a theater space, the Goldman, and providing other amenities such as utilities, officials say. Theater J balances its $1.4 million annual budget through ticket sales and donations.)
Oh and by the way, Theater J is an outfit (I believe there are others) that declined to stage David Zellnik’s glorious n magnificent treatment of Zionist history, Ariel Sharon Hovers Between Life and Death and Dreams of Theodor Herzl. When will I get to see this play on a big stage?
from Mondoweiss by annie
An Israeli mission to South African campuses is expected to arrive on August 11. Palestinian students have written to South African colleagues asking them to challenge and boycott the Israeli delegation. Three South African student bodies– the South African Union of Students, the South African Student Congress, and the Young Communist League of South Africa issued the following statement at a joint press conference yesterday at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The groups included South Africa’s oldest and most representative student bodies.
JOINT STUDENT STATEMENT
There is no doubt, Israel is an Apartheid state; There is only one word, boycott!
We, students and youth of a post Apartheid South Africa, who bear the scars of a racist history and who continue to fight for complete liberation, have a duty and responsibility to stand in solidarity with those facing oppression worldwide. Israeli apartheid is one such form of oppression.
Israeli media boast that a mission of 150 Israeli propagandists will be sent to universities in 5 countries to fix Israel’s “serious image problems”. The Israeli mission will begin on South African campuses on the 11th of August, with a delegation that includes at least two aides from the Israeli parliament. A delegation member was clear about the intention of their trip: “We have to create some doubt in their [South African students’] minds.”
Don’t patronize us! We lived apartheid, we suffered apartheid, we know what apartheid is, we recognise apartheid when we see it. And when we see Israel, we see a regime that practices apartheid. Israel’s image needs no changing; its policies do! We urge Israeli students to instead join the growing and inspiring internal resistance to their regime, particularly the boycott from within movement, rather than waste time and money on these propaganda trips to deceive us Black students, South Africans have no need for these Muldergate-like trips.
A “major focus” of the Israeli trip will be the University of Johannesburg (UJ). On 1st April 2011 UJ’s Senate, with the full backing of UJ’s Student Representative Council, terminated its institutional relationship with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. Indeed, UJ set an academic boycott of Israel precedent that all other South African and international universities can follow.
Following UJ’s decision, and in response to a letter sent to us by Palestinian students, we urge all SRCs, student groups and other youth structures to strategize and implement a boycott of Israel and its campaigns. We declare that all SA campuses must be Apartheid-Israel free zones.
As with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, international solidarity is key in overcoming Israeli Apartheid. In Nelson Mandela’s words: ‘It behoves all South Africans, erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice….we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.’
FOR THE RECORD
A. On Education
1. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has had disastrous effects on access to education for Palestinians. Palestinian students face poverty, harassment and humiliation as a result of Israeli policy and actions.
2. Israel mounted direct attacks on Palestinian education, including the complete closures of two Palestinian universities in 2003 and the targeting and bombing of more than 60 primary and secondary schools during the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2009.
3. Israel’s assault on the education of Palestinians is illegal under international law. The right to education is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments.
4. The Israeli blockade of Gaza has had a detrimental impact on students. Gaza’s electricity supply is controlled by Israel and shut-down for several hours most days, making it difficult for students to study. Moreover, the blockade means insufficient quantities of educational equipment, such as paper, desks and books, reach students.
B. On Israeli Apartheid
5. Several of our senior leaders have compared Israel to Apartheid South Africa, including Comrades Kgalema Mothlantle, Blade Nzimande, Zwelinzima Vavi, Rob Davies, Jeremy Cronin, Ahmed Kathrada, Winnie Mandela, Ronnie Kasrils, Denis Goldberg, the late Kader Asmal and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
6. Both the former and current United Nations Special Rapporteurs for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have requested that Israel be investigated for the crime of apartheid.
7. In an official report commissioned by the South African government in 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council confirmed that Israel, by its policies and practices, is guilty of the crime of apartheid.
8. In November 2010, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation called upon the Israeli government “to cease their activities that are reminiscent of apartheid forced removals…”
C. On Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
8. Palestinian civil society, including student groups, have called for a policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it abides by international law.
9. This call has the endorsement of the largest and most representative coalition of civil and political society in Palestine. The call also has the support of a growing number of progressive Israeli groups.
10. In 2010, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Professor Richard Falk, said: “It is politically and morally appropriate, as well as legally correct, to accord maximum support to the BDS campaign.”
11. COSATU, South Africa’s largest trade union federation was one of the first unions to endorse the BDS call. Subsequently, numerous other international trade unions have also adopted a pro-BDS position.
12. Several international groups have began to advance the BDS call in the cultural, consumer, sports, economic and academic spheres. Earlier this year the largest student union in Europe, the ULU, passed a motion in support of BDS.”
ISSUED AT WITS UNIVERSITY ON THURSDAY THE 4th OF AUGUST 2011 BY
South African Union of Students, South African Student Congress and the Young Communist League of South Africa
* SASCO is South Africa’s oldest and largest student organization.
** The SA Union of Students (SAUS) comprises all South African university Student Representative Councils and is the most representative student union in the country.
*** The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL) has local branches at all South African universities
NOTE: Thanks to readers who’ve expressed concern about not hearing from me for the past week. No fear. My family went away for a week to the Oregon high desert where we enjoyed a rafting trip, hiking, and swimming near Bend. I found it too difficult to both enjoy a vacation and give the undivided attention that is necessary in writing blog posts. Not to mention that it’s frustrating trying to use an iPad to do all the technical things you must do when you blog. The world seems to have muddled along while I was away. But there are important issues to talk about and so I return to the fray.
For decades I have thought (along with a number of other observers of Israeli society) that the impact of the existential threat faced by Israel in its battle with its neighbors has created an artificial sense of unity within the country. The result is that citizens who might ordinarily have little in common politically, band together out of a sense of national solidarity. This distracts the populace from the profound inequities and flaws that lie at the heart of the country’s identity. As long as there is a perceived security threat, most Israelis are content to ignore the nation’s flawed democratic system, the oppression faced by Israeli Palestinians, the huge income gaps between the wealthiest and poorest, and the ethnic tension between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews.
I’ve always believed (and indeed feared) that Israel could never resolve the social, economic and political problems with which it is riven until it could make peace. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always supported the peace movement. It’s also one of the reasons I’ve always despaired that the most basic of Israel’s problems might ever be addressed because the chance of making peace has always seemed impossibly remote.
Israel’s J14 tent protest movement which began on Tel Aviv’s chic Rothschild Blvd. (Uriel Sinai/Getty)
That’s why the J14 tent protest movement that began last month in Tel Aviv and spread to all of Israel’s major cities and towns has given me renewed hope. Not that I believe all the issues of social justice it reflects (decline in standard of living, education and health, high housing costs, poverty, etc.) will necessarily be resolved by this protest; but rather that Israel’s young people who started this movement influenced by the Egyptian youth of Tahrir Square, understand too that their country needs justice internally for its citizens as much as it needs peace externally with its neighbors.
It has “only” taken the foreign media a month to begin to sense to importance of the J14 phenomenon. Dimi Reider and Aziz Abu Sarah achieved a breakthrough, publishing an op-ed in the NY Times a few days ago, which was the first murmur from the Gray Lady on the issue. This too stirred the Great Leviathan, Ethan Bronner from his slumbers, impelling him to write a story about the movement in today’s paper. As usual, his report veers every which way and never provides a coherent narrative framework within which to understand the social movement. But at least he’s made a foray, no matter how flawed it may be.
All of this, reinforces how critical it is that Israel proceed on a path that addresses both a domestic social agenda and one that achieves long-term peace and security. As long as there is a threat from the outside, there can never be peace inside. Once there is peace, there must be a profound examination of the meaning of the State: what is its purpose? Who does it serve? How does it operate? If we think that the violence Israel faces in its battles with its enemies is great, this may be dwarfed by the monumental struggle that is bound to take place inside Israel over the shape of the future state after peace.
I hope against hope that this great struggle to re-define Israel will result in a democratic state which embraces all its citizens equally regardless of ethnicity, religion or class. This is more or less what happened in the U.S. during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. It moved a country that was mired in Jim Crow, segregation, poverty and injustice and transformed it into one that began to transcend the barriers of race. It was Martin Luther King who helped make American a more democratic and more just society.
Unfortunately, in Israel similar leaders face even greater forces of reaction and repression. Azmi Bishara, one of the most formidable leaders of the Israeli-Palestinian community was hounded out of the country by the Shabak on trumped-up charges which were never proven. Whenever a leader arises who might take on a mantle close to the one worn by MLK, the security forces find ways to sabotage him or her. In a way, this is what the FBI tried to do against King and Malcolm X. But the Shabak seems far better at the job perhaps because it faces fewer obstacles in the form of democratic guarantees and civil rights.
One senses that Israel’s leaders like Bibi Netanyahu understand the danger they face in retaining power, which is why they would rather fight wars with Arabs than address the domestic ills which lurk just beneath the surface and threaten something like a civil war when they finally are addressed.
Conversely, the leadership of the tent protests senses perhaps unconsciously how fraught the national security issue is and so far has been content to allow it to sit on the periphery of consciousness. The injustice of Occupation, the enormous economic burden it places on the Israeli economy, settlements, ultra-Orthodox entitlements, all these issues are present but not central to this social justice movement. For this reason, J14 leaves some Israeli progressives a bit discomfited. They realize that a movement that addresses only one of these issues and ignores the other, is doing a grave disservice to political reality. But many of these same progressives also realize that a movement that blazes away at both issues simultaneously might sentence itself to political oblivion. It’s a very fine line you walk in Israeli politics.
From the Angry Arab (thanks to Seham), “Another reason to love the people of Palestine.”
If an Israel terrorist sent a bag of potato chips to the starving people of Somalia, the New York Times would have put that on the front page and US TV news networks would have scrambled to interview the guy. Yet, the people of Gaza (who are still under siege), have been organizing acollective campaign to help the people of Somalia and I did not see anything about it in the Western press. (The poster above says: From gaza…hand in hand: Let us save the children of Somalia”).
from Mondoweiss by Paul Mutter
“It is high time we cemented Israel’s Jewish nature and symbols by law, especially given the constant attempts by anti-Zionist elements to disavow the country’s Jewish and Zionist elements, which were once a given.”
“This is the time to clearly declare that the State of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people and this is our basic right.”
The bills’ sponsors are saying that in giving “constitutional status to State symbols,” the bill “will cement an existing situation by law.”
The “existing situation” of Israel’s fundamental character is anything but cemented – but with this bill, the right hopes to not merely defend Israel from her detractors, but to make criticizing Israel’s “Jewish character” a matter of state security (such a law would presumably make it impossible for anyone to seriously advocate a bi-national solution, as that would impugn the “Jewish character” of Israel).
And, regarding the question of dissent, this Knesset has already passed an anti-BDS law to criminalize “delegitimizers” and proposed legislation that would have further criminalized dissent by subjecting nonprofit groups to political inquiries regarding the security implications of their work.
The success of this bill, though, could make such a political inquiry unnecessary. There simply would be no questioning of any of these matters, or any alternative to the present one-state-and-two-quarantined-dependencies solution.
Alarmist? Possibly. But with this Knesset, is it wise to brush this bill off as “just” a codification of the status quo?
JPost reports that the bill affirms “the State of Israel has a democratic government.” Presumably, as part of this affirmation, the bill will legally “cement” the existing situation of democratic governance in the West Bank.
from Mondoweiss by Omar Barghouti
This insightful research by respected Israeli scholar Nurit Peled-Elhanan will confirm what Palestinian researchers have always known: Israel’s prevailing culture of fanatical racism, fundamentalism, support for war crimes, and apartheid against Palestinians is mainly a product of an educational system that indoctrinates Jewish-Israeli students with militant colonial values and extreme racism that turn them into “monsters” once in uniform.
Those who see this as an aberration of Zionism seem to lack sufficient understanding of what Zionism really is and the central role it plays as a patently racist ideology in justifying ethnic cleansing and racist domination over Palestinians.
One should not wonder then why, at the height of the Israeli massacre in Gaza 2008-09, a Tel Aviv University poll (reported in the Jerusalem Post, Jan. ’09) of Jewish-Israeli opinion showed a shocking 94% support for the assault, despite full knowledge of the enormous suffering this Israeli aggression had inflicted upon the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the Gaza “prison camp” and of the massive destruction of their civilian infrastructure.
Guardian: Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain bias “Nurit Peled-Elhanan of Hebrew University says textbooks depict Palestinians as ‘terrorists, refugees and primitive farmers”
“Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has studied the content of Israeli school books for the past five years, and her account, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, is to be published in the UK this month. She describes what she found as racism– but, more than that, a racism that prepares young Israelis for their compulsory military service.
“People don’t really know what their children are reading in textbooks,” she said. “One question that bothers many people is how do you explain the cruel behaviour of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, an indifference to human suffering, the inflicting of suffering. People ask how can these nice Jewish boys and girls become monsters once they put on a uniform. I think the major reason for that is education. So I wanted to see how school books represent Palestinians.”
In “hundreds and hundreds” of books, she claims she did not find one photograph that depicted an Arab as a “normal person”. The most important finding in the books she studied – all authorised by the ministry of education – concerned the historical narrative of events in 1948, the year in which Israel fought a war to establish itself as an independent state, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the ensuing conflict.
The killing of Palestinians is depicted as something that was necessary for the survival of the nascent Jewish state, she claims.”
As in every other colonial system, only sustained and effective pressure from within as well as from without can put an end to this downward spiral of criminality, impunity and unspoken racism. More BDS is needed to end Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Other than the obvious benefits to indigenous Palestinians, suffering more than six decades of this three-tiered system of Israeli oppression, an end to this system of oppression may well transform most Israelis from colonial “monsters” into normal humans.
(ed note: Nurit Peled-Elhanan is author of Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education. International publisher I.B.TAURIS description: “She analyzes the presentation of images, maps, layouts and use of language in History, Geography and Civic Studies textbooks, and reveals how the books might be seen to marginalize Palestinians, legitimize Israeli military action and reinforce Jewish-Israeli territorial identity. This book provides a fresh scholarly contribution to the Israeli-Palestinian debate, and will be relevant to the fields of Middle East Studies and Politics more widely.”)
from Mondoweiss by Samah Sabawi
Naomi Paiss, director of communication for the New Israel Fund offered no new ideas in her response to my article debunking Naomi Chazan’s talking points against the Boycott Divestments and Sanctions campaign. Paiss simply repeated Chazan’s words “BDS is a counter-productive and inflammatory strategy” without trying to persuade the readers as to why this may be the case. It is clear the NIF does not appreciate the gravity nor time-sensitivity of the Palestinian situation. Like many Jewish Israeli citizens who live comfortable lives with preferential treatment, their faith in Israel’s democratic liberal values is exaggerated.
Israel’s left continues to have a blind spot when it comes to Israel’s foundations – a state built on the ruins of a people’s rights and freedoms. This blind spot is evident in the Israeli left’s insistence that boycotts against the settlements are justified but a general boycott of Israel demonizes and delegitimizes the state. Are Israelis not aware that the settlements do not exist in a vacuum and that if it were not for state funding and protection they would not be there? Do they not see that it is their 18-year-old children dressed in soldier uniforms carrying big guns paid for by the state who are protecting these settlements? This pattern of selective vision that plagues Israel’s left hampers the process of change in Israel.
Consider Chazan’s statement in Haaretz regarding the passing of the Boycott Law: “We view it as one of the most antidemocratic, if not the most antidemocratic, to be enacted in Israel.” An astounding example of selective vision that ignores a history of far more devastating and anti-democratic bills passed by the state of Israel targeting Palestinians which have separated families and destroyed lives.
Take for example the Nationality Citizenship Law passed in 1952, which grants automatic citizenship to Jews who immigrate to Israel, while excluding non-Jewish native-born Palestinians who under this law must prove residency and pass other tests. Or the “family unification” laws passed in 2002, which in essence is a discriminatory system that prevents the applications for residency or citizenship from Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens. These are only two of many examples of undemocratic laws passed by the Israeli Knesset which favor one group of people in Israel – the Jewish population – and strip another group – non Jewish Palestinians of fundamental rights and freedoms.
Israel’s left refuses to acknowledge that by their silence and lack of innovation they are responsible for Israel’s actions. They reject BDS and insist on “peace building” projects and “joint Palestinian-Israeli” initiatives as if they have just discovered the kryptonite for the conflict. They have not. There is nothing new about joint peace initiatives or peace building projects. Such initiatives have existed since the 1970s and increased in 1993 and throughout the Oslo years.
A study by Everett Mendelsohn that examined the impact of peace projects concluded that such efforts were not successful at making peace and that most breakdowns took place in 2000 when the Oslo process negotiations broke down. During this time it was Palestinians, as individuals as well as organized groups, who began to withdraw and to postpone such initiatives.
Since the 2000 break down, Palestinians have shifted their focus to grassroots movements that aim to change policies and effect change. Even though so-called peace initiatives continue to attract some people on both sides, there is a consensus amongst most Palestinians that such efforts do more harm than good by normalizing oppression and prolonging Palestinian suffering.
These efforts have allowed Israel to evade international pressure by projecting a façade of normalcy and an illusion of progress while providing Israel’s left with a fig leaf allowing them to believe they were working on peace when in truth, their efforts should have been aimed at ending the occupation. The reality is that decades of such projects have not changed Israeli policies: settlements have grown at rapid rate, Palestinians have been walled in losing more rights, land and water than ever before.
In 2005, Palestinian civil society embraced a call for boycotts divestments and sanctions against Israel. For Chazan and others in Israel’s left to dismiss it as “counter productive” and “inflammatory” while only offering more joint Palestinian Israeli initiatives as the only option on the table is disingenuous and ignores the recent history of the conflict and the realities of the occupation.
The BDS campaign appeals to the intellect. It is an idea that is being embraced by the masses because it is one that makes sense. Naomi Chazan and others on Israel’s left, need to understand that the only way to defeat this idea is by presenting the Palestinians with a better one that can bring an end to their suffering. So far, all I hear from them is the same tired old rhetoric.
Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian writer from Gaza. She is the Public Advocate of Australians for Palestine.
 The Peace Makers: NGO Efforts in the Middle East 1948 – 2001 http://www.cdainc.com/cdawww/pdf/casestudy/rpp_mideast_case_study_set_1_Pdf.pdf
from Mondoweiss by Lillian Rosengarten
We are by now too familiar with the label anti-semite aimed towards all who dissent from the deplorable policies of Netanyahu’s right wing disaster. It does not matter if the resistance to Israeli occupation and ongoing collective punishment arises from the actions of Jews, Muslims, aetheists, socialists or any human rights activists. In addition, Jew against Jew has created a deeply disturbing divide that pits Jews against one another and seriously questions what it means to be Jewish within a context of compassion or as a fear reponse to having once been dehumanized and thoroughly victimized. How can this justify the continuous role of Israel as victimizer in the form of an obscene collective punishment, an entire population marginalized, hated, left war torn and homeless without freedom. What is the message to the world after decades of this occupied prison ?
I personally have been called an antisemite and nothing could be farther from the truth. My motives are not-anti Jewish but rather anti what I see as fascism in the form of an extreme nationalistic zionism. This behavior cannot help but destroy the soul of Judaism, a spiritual religion that ascribes to tolerance, compassion, does not kill and has the courage to reflect on its way of life. It is by now known that the Knesset , the core of Israeli government has thrown out a female Arab Israeli member, Hanin Zoabi, who had the audacity to participate in a protest against her country’s actions. She witnessed the brutal murder of 9 unarmed activists on the ill fated Mavi Marmara that attempted to break the Gaza siege. She is now threatened with the loss of her Israeli citizenship.
Yes it is me again– Jewish refugee from nazi Germany shouting to the world, “Never again, not in my name.” Every day I am bombarded with news of some other atrocity in the name of protecting the “democratic state of Israel.” I want to awaken from this nightmare. I no longer can tolerate to hear, “Palestinians do not recognize Israel and wish to destroy us.” How much longer can we hear Netanyahu’s mantra (US complicity here) we will never recognize the terrorists Hamas ( legally elected by a majority of Palestinians.) I want to reiterate, those who call others terrorists must reflect on the terrorism within themselves. The US is grossly guilty of similar careless projections of the label “terrorist”while refusing to acknowledge its own use of terrorism. Tragically Israel and the US both suffer from inordinate forms of extreme denial on the nature of their own violent behavior to keep wars and human suffering going and cannot reflect on their egomaniacal political agendas. Other countries aid violence by selling arms and contribute powerfully as destroyers of human life in exchange for exorbitant payments.
Recent news has induced a cringe response. Germany sold a torpedo submarine to Israel, capable of deploying nuclear missiles and firing a nuclear holocaust. How is this possible? Can it be a form of German restitution to assuage unconscious (or conscious) guilt by association with their infamous history when nazi insanity and rabid antisemitism coupled with Aryan delusions of grandeur ruled Germany? I do not claim to know yet recognize the sheer lunacy to send weapons to Israel. Do we need more killings and endless suffering? Where is the resistance, the outrage? I need to hear more, louder, stronger. Does the Israeli agenda now include a nuclear war with Iran? Has Israel completely lost all reality? I can say much the same for the US that would engage mindlessly with Israel, for we are Israel’s strongest ally for an exorbitant corrupt price. Is the agenda of Netanyahu’s right wing hoodlums to blow up all their neighbors to become the only country in the middle east and the “only democracy?” Let Israel not become victim to its own self fulfilling prophecy by its own hand. Such a nightmare, calling for the destruction of Israel, cannot happen. Israel along with its Palestinian neighbors MUST change political direction. As of now, Israel is drowning in a sea of paranoia and fear. How can a democracy and brutal occupation exist together? How is it so many remain blind? It has happened before in the 30’s but this time it occurs with a twist of fate. Racism lives in a different form yet is equally virulent. I am afraid. Left undisturbed, this myth of democracy will support a continuous unending tragedy for both Palestine and Israel. They must, in order to survive, face each other with honest dialogue and sincere attempts at mutual understanding and compromise.
Now I end with some comments on Israel’s harsh decision to build a museum over a century old Muslim graveyard. For years Muslims struggled unsuccessfully to prevent this construction. The irony is the “museum of tolerance” is being built to promote coexistence and is a project of the Simon Wiesenthal (nazi hunter) center. Ultra orthodox Jews claim ancient Jewish graves were once located there. Instead of tolerance, one sees arrogance, racism, infantilism, and utter righteousness in action. Can it be this provocative and destructive decision serves to reinforce the tragic rise once again of world wide antisemitism?
from Mondoweiss by Philip Weiss
This is a piece in the Forward defending the Israeli law that has so alarmed liberals in America, the law that punishes those who speak out for boycott. The piece is purportedly about how boycott is everywhere, even on the author Oren Safdie’s vacation in Mexico. The Forward doesn’t identify Safide’s nationality, just says he’s a playwright. Wikipedia says he’s Canadian-American-Israeli. Whenever I read pieces like this, I reflect on what tremendous freedom American Jews and Israeli Jews have–Mexican vacation– at a time when a Palestinian has to show a teenager with a gun his papers just to tie his shoes.
And note in the excerpts the implicit challenge to Jews not to speak out publicly in criticism of Israel, but do so privately. Excerpts:
it’s not as if… there’s any shortage of malcontented Jews and Israelis publicly attacking the policies of the present government.
With all the debate going back and forth regarding the passage of the new law in the Israeli Knesset, which penalizes those in Israel who call for the boycott of a fellow countryman’s products or specific region, it’s important to remember that the law does not take away one’s ability to choose what one buys or does not buy; it merely gives the boycottees some deserved protection.
from Mondoweiss by Udi Aloni
If we were to put our finger on the essence of the Palestinian popular struggle and summarize it, we could call it “a struggle for a home.”
No one who has revolutionary blood flooding in her veins can stay oblivious and unmoved by the protest wave of the last past weeks. Not one of us doesn’t hope that the crack opened in the Israeli ideological structure will grow wider and open the hearts of Israelis also to the decades-long oppression of Palestinians, both citizens and those under military occupation.
Yet every time I hear the slogan “We are not political,” or “Here there’s no Left or Right, just the people,” I become anxious, because in Israel, precisely the slogan “We are not political” is the ideological and political code-name meaning: the Palestinian is out of bounds, cast aside, irrespective of citizenship status. So was the case at the Gay community rally after the heinous murder in Tel Aviv (when two gay youth were shot dead by an unknown assassin), where the gay community’s heads shook Bibi’s hand, but wouldn’t let an Arab MK address the crowd, and so is the case now as well….Though now we can do it differetly.
In his recent article, prof. Nisim Calderon berates the protest and looks back regrettingly on behalf of the Israeli left which, he argues, always spoke of peace but never of justice. But what Calderon forgets, or chooses to ignore, is that he only speaks on behalf of the national(ist) left. The radical left’s slogan has always been “No peace without justice.” So was the case when they marched with the Black Panthers, and so is the case today when they return to Southern Tel Aviv to defend and stand in solidarity with undocumented workers and refugees, after exhausting struggles in Bil’in and Nil’in, where they stand side by side with Palestinian farmers whose land is stolen and expropriated by the Israeli occupation. This true left is the one that has been sitting for nearly a year in protest tents in Ramle and Lydd and Sheikh Jarrah, in solidarity with their brothers and sisters and so, even unnoticingly, has found an egalitarian and equal bi-national community fighting together against home demolitions of underprivileged families whose children are left homeless; a joint struggle for social and political justice for all.
Today, many young Israelis experience on their own flesh the meaning of being without a home. Perhaps upon looking at the Akirov towers symbolizing the theft and exploitation by the neoliberal elites they will take a minute to look up-to those who have always been oppressed, to those who were arrested and shot during their struggle for a not only a house, but also a home.
Maybe from Rothschild Avenue they will learn to reach out to the Palestinian and extend him justice before extending their hands for peace. For the time being not only isn’t there an extension of a hand, but there is, instead, a roaring silence. The essence of the Palestinian popular struggle is best captured as a “the struggle for a home.” The struggle in Bil’in is one. So is the one in Sheikh Jarrah. And so is the Lydd tent of families whose evicted houses stand idle for more then a half year, while 60 children are thrown to the streets. Land Day is a struggle for a home, so is the Right of Return.
This past February I called here for Israelis to join the Jasmine Revolution, to help create the possibility of a young and just democratic Middle East. In order to share the spirit of Tahrir, I argued and still do, we must think beyond the national paradigm. Thus, wheh Abed Abu Sahade and his friends established their bi-national tent for Palestinians’ housing rights as a dispossed community, as is the case in Jaffa, I at once found hope in it.
It is not self-explanatory and evident for a Palestinian from Jaffa to establish a bi-national tent, as many Palestinians justly hold that as long as their brothers across the Green Line are under occupation, and Israel’s regulations, bills and ordinances serve the perpetual and systemic theft of Palestinian land on both sides of the Linw, and its transfer to Jewish ownership, there is no justification for a joint struggle.
With all due respect to the Rothschild folks, a fight that ignores the Palestinian problem cannot truly be a fight for justice. And hence many hold that first there needs to be a struggle for the sake of a Palestinian identity, and only then, from a position of strength and equality, they ought join the general struggle, with the hope that this general struggle will join the broader and bigger struggle of the young Arab generation in the Middle East And so I thank the people of Jaffa for the very willingness to found their bi-national tent, which represents a certain leap of faith on their part.
Perhaps if the tent protest organizers added to their demands, the demand to freeze home demolitions and prohibit land theft on a national/ethnic basis, throughout the space between the River and the Sea, more Palestinians would join the struggle the Jaffa folks dared to bet on. > > As the protest heads told the prime minister, “we shall meet on the condition that your team includes women”, we say: we shall meet with you in Rothschild only if, as part of your demands, you include specific demands aimed at correcting the historical and continual injustice toward Palestinians, on both sides of the Apartheid Wall.
Indeed, in so doing you may lose many segments of Jewish society. But there is no other choice, for if you don’t operate based on a general sense of justice, this protest wave, like others before it, will end duplicating the racist ideological mechanisms in existence today, though perhaps with improved status for the ruling classes. Or worse, the protests and the wide-spread sentiment of dissatisfaction shall fall as ripe fruit into the hands of the extreme right who has now settled Rothschild too, much like rapists who join a demonstration for women’s rights.
During the writing of this article, it was announced in the media that both Kadima and the Labour have proposed a bill in the Knesset, according to which the Arabic language shall no longer be defined an official one, and hold the Jewish nature of the state above its democratic nature. Therefore, on Saturday, Jews who believe in justice and democracy for all shall march, in Arabic, side-by-side with their Palestinian brothers and sisters. Kadima and Labour people can march along Baruch Marzel and his racist brethren, for they have found their match. We, meanwhile, will set the ground in our tents for the next revolution of the Bi-National Front for Political and Social Justice from the River to the Sea!
This piece appeared in Hebrew on Ynet and was translated by Matan Cohen.