Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"The Help," Netanyahu Edition

Nepalese caretaker says she was injured in an argument with the PM's wife. PM's office releases statements saying the woman, Tara Kumari, performed poorly. This is the second dust-up the Netanyahus have had with people working in their home. I guess no matter where you live, good help is hard to find.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Herb Keinon Crack Reporter

When I was a kid and before there was an internet I used to read the weekly edition of the Jerusalem Post at my grandmother's apartment in Racine, Wisconsin. So I've always had a sort of nostalgic fondness for the paper, even though the op-ed pages are filled with mostly right wing crazy talk. Caroline Glick, I'm looking at you. You can read about the Post's firing of progressive writer Larry Derfner here. But what I want to highlight is the Post's complete hackery, exemplified by the report out this evening, which borders on parody.

A little background first. The UN appointed a committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding Israel's raid on the ship Mavi Marmara, which was part of a flotilla launched from Turkey that sought to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. The UN report has been ready for some time, but it's been withheld to allow Israel and Turkey to try to work out their differences. This week Israel requested another 60 day six month delay and Turkey refused to go along. So the report will be made public Friday. Needless to say, Israel is quite concerned about the report's findings. Turkey too, but seemingly less so. Okay, got it?

This evening (Chicago time) Jerusalem Post's Herb Keinon writes that ahead of the publication of the report, Israel's Foreign Ministry is, well, I'll let Keinon tell you:
The Foreign Ministry is drawing up talking points and writing press releases in the run-up to Friday’s expected release of the Palmer Commission report on the Mavi Marmara incident.
Wonder what those talking points could be? Not to worry. Keinon tells us, only he doesn't really tell us. By that I mean, he identifies the report's conclusions. And gosh darn, if they don't turn out to be the Foreign Ministry's talking points. Keinon "reports" as follows, and stop me when you get to the conclusions criticizing Israel:
According to Israeli officials, the 102-page report comes to the following conclusions:
• Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal, as was the interception of vessels trying to break the blockade.
• The IHH activists behind the flotilla were looking for a violent provocation.

• Turkey had a role with the IHH in the flotilla setting sail.

• The IDF soldiers defended themselves after coming up against premeditated violence by those on the ship.

• The IDF soldiers used excessive force.
Got that? Israel's blockade was legal. The interception was legal. The flotilla's participants were looking for a violent confrontation.Turkey had a role in the flotilla. The IDF soldiers defended themselves against premeditated violence. And oh yeah, the soldiers used excessive force. Gee, I can hardly wait for the Foreign Ministry's talking points!

Look, I hope the report completely exonerates Israel and the IDF. I saw some of the clips of the incident and couldn't believe the Israeli soldiers weren't reaching for their sidearms when they were dropping from the helicopters into the arms of the IHH activists, swinging metal rods. I know I would have been shooting before I reached the end of the rope. And when you try to run a naval blockade, it's kind of hard to complain when the military does what it does to enforce the blockade.

But come'on. How 'bout some journalism here? Keinon reports that the Foreign Ministry is preparing talking points. Two paragraphs later he regurgitates what are obviously the talking points, but reports them as fact.

Don't worry Jerusalem Post, we'll always have Racine. 


Ynet is reporting that Jordan is urging the Palestinians to withdraw their UN bid. Somehow I'm not buying the proffered reason - that receiving UN recognition will jeopardize the Palestinian right of return. This seems like cover to me and that the real motivation is American pressure. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Would you go to a map maker if you weren't looking for a map?

Probably not. But what about Bibi?

Losing My Skepiticism

It appears that the Palestinians have finally come up with their draft resolution. Akiva Eldar reports in Haaretz that the resolution provides that Palestine's permanent borders will be determined in negotiations with Israel based on the borders of June 4, 1967. Eldar points out that this will make the resolution awfully tough to oppose for some countries. It's no accident then that the report in my last post regarding the arming and training of the settlers was leaked to Haaretz. Oh and there's this report that Israel is trying to influence the language of the proposed resolution. Like I said losing my skepticism that the Palestinians will go through with the vote. But my skepiticism is not lost. The key to reading any political situation, especially in Israel-Palestine arena, is to take the long view. Develop an overarching view and don't get distracted by the day to day. That said, you have to be flexible enough to spot when the day to day becomes the overarching. Still skeptical, but less so than yesterday.

Gee, what could possibly go wrong here?

Israel is arming and training the settlers to counter the expected Palestinian demonstrations in the wake of a UN vote recognizing Palestinian statehood. You don't have to have your own blog to know how this will end. In a word, badly.

And once the settlers are deputized, what makes the geniuses behind this plan think they will just hand back their badges when Operation FUBAR is over.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Foxman's Sour Grapes

If you want to know what's wrong with much of the current discourse on Israel, you could do worse than looking to Abe Foxman's recent Jerusalem Post op-ed patronizingly entitled, "Why Unilateral Statehood is Bad for the Palestinians, Bad for Peace." I'm sure the Palestinians have been waiting for Foxman to share his counsel with them for quite some time and are posting his piece on their Facebook pages right now. But then again, Foxman wasn't really writing for a Palestinian audience was he. Which raises the question -- when did we stop asking, "Is it good for the Jews?" (Sure by the time he concludes his piece, Foxman does recognize that unilateral statehood would be bad for Israel. But that's merely an afterthought in his argument.)

At a moment when Israel is speeding toward the edge of a cliff, all Foxman can do is offer his unsolicited advice to the Palestinians, or alternatively, to point the finger of blame at them. Putting aside the question of whether he is right (he's half right - there's enough blame to be apportioned to all concerned), I wonder what he is going say if Israel drives off that cliff, destroying its future as a Jewish and democratic state. Will he write another op-ed telling us that it was Arafat's fault Israel drove of the cliff? Will that be enough to assuage the loss of the Zionist enterprise, "knowing" that the Palestinians had their chances for peace but blew it? Will it be enough to "know" that had only Abbas uttered those six words - "I will accept a Jewish state" --  that Netanyahu demanded in his speech before Congress the Jewish and democratic state of Israel would have been around for our grandchildren? And incidentally, does Abbas's refusal to speak the magic words justify Israel's continued occupation, a word he dare not mention, of the Palestinian people? How exactly does one go around assigning blame here without addressing the occupation?

Let me back up a bit and offer that Foxman deserves some credit here. He does not recite the old canard that the 1967 borders are indefensible. Nor does he repeat the mantra that Jerusalem must remain the "eternal and undivided" capital of Israel. He recognizes that Israeli prime ministers have negotiated on both of these points. Foxman dispels the notion, though perhaps not intentionally, that Barak offered Arafat everything the Palestinians could ever have hoped for. He says Barak offered more than 90% of the West Bank and Gaza and Olmert offered even more, which of course is true. (Foxman asserts that Abbas never got back to Olmert, but fails to mention the reason - Olmert under investigation for bribery resigned two weeks after making the offer. Not so much credit here.)

But it's not nearly enough to move away from the long debunked talking points of the rejectionistas (Hebrew pl. rejectionistim) only to peddle their latest ploy, the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Foxman argues:
Because the truth is today (and I would argue, going back over 64 years) the key ingredient for ending the conflict and bringing a two-state solution into reality is the need for the Palestinians finally to recognize the fundamental right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
Funny, but I'm old enough to remember when the demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel had nothing to do with its Jewish character. All the way back during his first term Netanyahu was quite satisfied to have the Palestinians accept Israel's right to exist. Period. No mention then of the Jewish state. But now that the Palestinians have done that, as the result of negotiations mind you, not as a precondition for the privilege of sitting at the table, Netanyahu and Foxman want more -- a Palestinian hechsher on Israel as a Jewish state. Is the utterance of the six words really of existential magnitude? 

Foxman apparently accepts a two state solution as being in Israel's interest. But then he hands the Palestinians, who he has accused of making one classic mistake after another, a poison pill to kill it. The same Palestinians who he says are trying to delegitamize and destroy Israel. So the question I have is this: why would you create an obstacle to acting in your own self-interest, and then count on your "enemy" to remove it? With Israel failing to attain a two-state solution, has Foxman convinced himself that it was not worth it in the first place, at least not without those six words. Read this line from Foxman and you tell me: "I said that Israel saw such a [Palestinian] state as 'a goal of negotiations.' I emphasize the word 'a, not 'the' key ingredient."

The larger point here is that nowhere in his op-ed does Foxman impute any responsibility (other than "recognizing Palestinian claims") on Israel to act in its own self-interest by restarting negotiations. Having recounted past missed opportunities, Foxman feels he has the luxury of assigning blame and throwing his hands up until the Palestinians choke out those six words. But taking Foxman at his word, how about Israel "recognizing Palestinian claims" by agreeing to negotiate on the 1967 borders and freeze settlement activity for two or three months. That's the way leadership that believes in a two-state solution would act. And that's what people who understood what's good for the Jews would demand.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Moral Majority?

In the 1980's Jerry Falwell made a mockery of these words. Considering their affinity for the American Christian Right, it's not surprising that Bibi and the Likudniks have now recycled the words with no less mockery. Ynet runs down where various countries stand with respcet to a potential UN vote recognizing Palestinian independence, with Israel trying to capture a "moral majority" of about 30 countries of the 193 UN member states.

BTW, still skeptical that the Palestinians will actually go the distance and seek a vote. Here's Abbas, once again saying he'll hold off if Israel returns to negotiations based on the '67 borders and stops settlement activity.

The march goes on

Seven days until the protesters in Israel stage their Million Man March. Meanwhile this evening, Israelis hit the streets for the six consecutive week. Among tonight's participants was Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, who  addressed the thousands of protestors:
My family and I are amazed at the wonderful protest spread all across the country, with hundreds of thousands of residents pleading (for the government) to listen to them. Social justice is also restoring the values that generations of fighters were educated by – we do not leave IDF soldiers behind.
Did our leaders forget these values? Camaraderie, mutual guarantee – are they planning to privatize these values as well?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gilad Shalit's 25th Birthday

Gilad Shalit turns 25 on Sunday. His parents published an open letter to him. It begins:
Our dearest Gilad,
With the burning sun beating on our heads, on the sidewalk adjacent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home, we are trying to digest the fact that 1,890 days have passed and you still are not with us.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Chicago Way

J Street Chicago in Action (via M. Yates)
From Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March:
I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn't any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.

No Pizza Hut for Them

via Y. Shapir
Making me proud, Israelis demonstrating against Glenn Beck outside his "Rally to Restore Courage." You can read the blow by blow here and here. Estimates put the number at Beck's rally between 1,000-1,700. Hopefully we can now move on to something more important.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Egyptians involved in last week's attack

As discussed last night, Yossi Gurvitz at +972 cast doubt on the claim that the terrorists came from Gaza and suggested that they came from Egypt. Haaretz is now reporting that at least three were in fact from Egypt.

Day of Action

Don't Mess with Texas - J Street Austin
J Street's Day of Action. 1000+ J Street activists delivered 40,000 calls for a two-state solution to 100+ congressional offices in 37 cities--all on one day.

Dersh Jumps

In case there was any doubt left, this seals the deal. Dershowitz jumps the shark. Oy vey, Alan! Glenn Beck?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Who is responsible for the terrorist attacks near Eilat?

Yossi Gurvitz at +972 posits that the attackers came not from Gaza, but from Sinai. And I think he makes a pretty convincing case. Gurvitz however doesn't stop there and raises the question of whether Bibi and Barak intentionally deceived the Israeli public. But considering their restraint - Israel didn't launch a ground offensive into Gaza and has apparently accepted a cease fire - might the better explanation be that they just got it wrong? I'm willing to believe the worst about Bibi, but the logic of a pretext would seem to suggest a more aggressive response, not a cease fire.

Colette Avital on a two-state solution

Pinch me

Iran apparently is suspending payments to Hamas? Hamas is in a cash crunch? Hamas is becoming Israel's partner in restoring quiet in the south? Read about it here. Meanwhile Bibi hasn't ordered ground operations?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Video from last night's march in Tel Aviv

Zoe at Aliyah and Away has terrific video forwarded from @Elizrael. A group of demonstrations played off the chant, "The people demand social justice," turning it into the "The people demand a cease fire." I echo Zoe's expression of pride at seeing this. Though not everyone there was thrilled, one man in particular. What amazes me about Israeli society is that regardless of how "in your face" someone gets, very rarely does it come to blows. Imagine a confrontation like the one in the video happening in Chicago or New York. Fists would be flying in the first minute. Anyway, that's besides the point. The important thing for me is seeing the connection being made by at least some of the demonstrators between social justice and peace, with the recognition that Gazans enjoy the same rights.

Cease fire reached

Apparently. Never quite sure with these things until they take hold. What should be emphaiszed here is that Egypt helped broker cease fire. Funny, so many people were ready to trash the treaty with Egypt. Then after Israel expressed its regret at killing three of their police officers, the Egyptians played the peace maker. Diplomacy, what a strange notion.

Update: The PRC rejects agreement.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quick note to my friends in Israel

I know you're all busy trying to hold your country together right now. But you may have heard about this guy Glenn Beck. (Or as I mistakenly read his name in Hebrew -- Galan Bak -- when an Israeli friend of mine wrote me, seemingly endorsing his views. My head almost exploded as it dawned on me who she was writing about, giving rise to this post. Apologies in advance. Morgan Fairchild in the 80's, I could almost understand. Almost. Granted, there are a lot of things about the 80's that are embarrassing. But really, Pizza Hut?)

Or maybe you haven't heard, which is just as well. His lunatic ravings are well documented, not the least of which was this rant against the hundreds of thousands taking part in the J14 demonstrations. Anyway, he's one of these extreme right wing nutjobs we seem to be in no short supply of in the US and he's hosting a rally in Jerusalem on Wednesday, August 24, called "Restoring Courage." Two requests. First, don't go. Second, if you have time, attend the counter demonstration organized by Peace Now.

Wait, don't throw out the peace treaty just yet

A bit of good news. Egypt is denying earlier reports that it was recalling its ambassador from Israel. Egypt and Israel announced a joint probe into the deaths of three Egyptian policemen killed as Israel pursued the terrorists involved in the Thursday's terrorist attack near Eilat. (h/t Rika)

Extra, Extra, Extra! Status Quo! Read All About It!

The "status quo" is holding so well.
The price of a non-existent peace process is more violence. God forbid the Netanyahu government should take the initiative to end this madness. After all, what can't be solved with force, can certainly be solved with more force. And if more force doesn't work, there is always an endless supply of even more force.The predictability of the current situation is rivaled only by its irrationality.

Update: Man killed, 9 year old and 4 month old injured in latest barrage to hit southern Israel.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Protests in Israel go on despite ongoing attacks

The J14 movement will stage a silent march tomorrow evening in Tel Aviv.

Warning: Viewer Discretion Is Advised

This video is intended for a mature audience. The clip you are about to watch contains uncomfortable and hard truths. Viewing could be hazardous to long held beliefs based on empty propaganda. Members of Congress are cautioned against operating heavy machinery within 30 minutes of watching.

For more information about Professor Yaron Ezrahi and our meeting with him in May, click here. 

. . . and the now Palestinians

Rocket fired from Gaza into Ashdod. 10 hurt.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time to Recall Rabin's Counsel

Israel must “pursue the peace process as if there is no terrorism, and fight terrorism as if there is no peace process.”

And Israel Responds

Ynet reports waves of assaults on Hamas targets in Gaza.

5k and counting

5,000 page views is not entirely bad. I'd ask for some comments re content, what works, what doesn't, what you'd like to see more of, less of, etc., but since this crowd seems to be a reserved bunch, I'll just thank everyone for visiting.

Before I get back to doing what I do when I'm not blogging Israel, I just want to draw your attention to a new feature. Below each post is an email icon to enable you to email posts of interest directly from the blog to your friends (or enemies). I usually just copy and paste the link into an email, but whatever works for you. Also don't forget to share posts via facebook!

Newly Discovered Blogs

Don't know what's going on this morning with all the quick hit posts, but I want to draw your attention to two blogs I just discovered, both written by David Steiner. The Radish and The White Spaces. Here's the Radish, with the first paragraph from his most recent post:
Today I’m feeling like I decided to remain with the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh on the other side of the Jordan. It’s hard to live in the Diaspora, especially in a time of great pride for all Israelis, really all Jews.
I'm sold.

August 23rd Day of Action Update

Go here to find the nearest event near you or to find out how else you can be involved.

Someone asked for more Ibish?

Today Hussein Ibish writes on nationalism and his piece begins:
For those in the grip of its authority, a clearheaded understanding of how nationalist ideology actually operates seems extremely difficult.
All contemporary nationalisms are based on constructed and imagined narratives about history, geography, culture, ethnicity and religion.
Such narratives invariably involve a great deal of what can only be described as fiction. In particular, reading the past—whether real or imagined—as a justification for present-day political projects is, by definition, intellectually treacherous territory.

Situation in the South

For some background on what has been going on in southern Israel for the past few weeks, go to beyondzerosum where my good friend Mark has been keeping an eye on the situation.

Terrorist attacks in Israel

Series of attacks in southern Israel. Terrorists fire on bus near Eilat and launch mortars from Sinai.

Update: Seven Israelis killed, 26 wounded.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Classic Moments in Jewish Debate

Read my friend Jeff's new post at Bumpspot, where he bears witness to a debate on Israel between two friends on a plane to Philadelphia, while the Palestinian Chicken Joint episode from Curb plays in the background. One of the friends offers up this retort to the other:
It’s all like rituals to you. Got my tallit? Check. Play golf every Sunday at 7:30. Check. Come home. Check. Have a sandwich. Check. Find some lies on the internet. Check.  Email them to my friends. Check. Cut my AIPAC check. Check. Play the victim. Check.
Not sure where Jeff's going as he leaves us hanging until his next post. But in the meantime, Jeff, thank you for capturing this moment.

August 23rd Day of Action

On August 23rd J Street will be holding a day of action. Local J Street activists across the US will rally to demonstrate their support for active American involvement in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians back to the table. Get in touch with your local J Street office to find out more. Hundreds of thousands around the globe are in the streets advocating for change. Will you?

Can you say grand bargain?

Ynet is reporting that the PA is negotiating with the EU to forgo its planned request for international recognition in return for an upgrade in the PLO's status at the UN. (Linked to article is in Hebrew. Will post a link to an English edition once it is up.) Meanwhile, the EU is urging Israel to allow the PLO to reopen its headquarters in East Jerusalem. And oh yeah, the IDF is recommending good-will gestures to the Palestinians. Still haven't seen the draft language for that UN resolution . . . .

Update: English version of the first linked to article is here.

Ilan Baruch on a two-state solution

Monday, August 15, 2011

You want him, you got him!

In all his youtube glory! Danon, you can thank me later.

Yasher Koach, Glenn Beck!

Beck, who will be hosting his "Rally to Restore Courage" in Jerusalem on August 24, goes after the hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets of Israel. He's making himself real popular in Israel. Proposes building in "Judea, Jew-dea, Jew Dea, Judea, Judea and Samaria" to ease the housing crisis in Israel.Get it? Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, is for Jews. It says it right there in its name. Also suggests protestors are backed by "leftist global financing" and that the Islamic movement and the protesters are joining forces. At this rate, even Likud nutjob Danny Danon will be running from him. Or will he? Danny? Danny? You there?

Also More Facts on The Ground

This time in Ariel. Read it here for yourselves. As Bibi pursues the unilateral settlement enterprise, he complains of the unilateral Palestinian effort for international recognition. It truly boggles the mind.

More Broza

Found this looking for video from this weekend's concert at Masada. If you find a clip from this weekend, let me know and I'll post it.

BTW, seeing Steely Dan at Ravinia was very cool. Though the highlight may have been listening to them rehearse "Black Cow" Saturday afternoon while walking my dog.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

J14 meets S20

I've been wrestling with the question of whether a movement calling for social justice can succeed when it chooses not to confront the occupation. I suppose answering that question depends on how the J14 movement defines its objectives. (J14 stands for July 14, the date Daphne Leef set up her tent on Rothschild Avenue, marking the beginning of the movement.)

But consider this, how will the movement respond if on September 20 tens of thousands of Palestinians come out in the streets demanding an end to the occupation, as they are apparently planning? And what if some of them or a lot of them march under the banner of "social justice"?

Saeb Erekat has denied reports that the Palestinians are backing away from September 20, saying they have reached a point of no return. In light of Bibi's posture, maybe he means it. (I remain skeptical.)

I have zero confidence in the Netanyahu government being able to direct traffic at the tzomet (junction) of J14 and S20. Perhaps Bibi is counting on using S20 to split and defeat the J14 movement. But I really wonder if it is even on his map.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bibi Caught Telling the Truth

Prime Minister Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian announcement that they would seek UN membership on September 20, saying that he "still believes that only through direct and honest negotiations – not through unilateral decisions – will it be possible to advance the peace process." He called it "expected but regrettable." So if Netanyahu believes in negotiations, why did he order Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to cancel his meeting two weeks ago with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which they were to discuss re-starting negotiations? Disingenuously, he expressed "regret" at the Palestinian announcement. But somewhat honestly he said it was "expected." And who said Netanyahu can't ever tell the truth? 

And what about the Palestinians?

The organizers of the protests in Israel have been careful not to link their demands for social justice to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is an ongoing debate as to how or whether social justice can be advanced without addressing Israel's 44 year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. (As September 20 approaches, we may see a new virtual intersection, where Rothschild Avenue meets United Nations Plaza. I know, it's such a Tom Friedman thing to write. But when he riffs on this later, remember where you read it first.)     

In response to this article from Dissent Magazine, which argues that social justice cannot be "re-imagined or expanded" without addressing the Israeli-Palestinian question, Yonathan Shapir shares his insights with us:
It Does NOT Come Back to the Occupation Now (but it Will, Eventually). 

Zonszein and Sheizaf are not grasping the essence of the protest movement. Looking at it through the prism of the Israeli-Arab conflict is missing the forest while focusing on one bush. It is reductionism to the absurd. The truth that any large movement, as this one, will have eventually to confront this conflict is obvious. But to focus on this aspect now is missing something much larger. What is happening is a paradigm shift in the conscience of a large core segment of the population. It is a cry to a more humane society where caring for each other will be the norm, rather than the present "everyone for himself" prevailing ideology. The youngsters in the tents on Rothschild and elsewhere expect the Government to provide more than the bare minimal safety net. They call for a decent living, education, health care, and especially access to housing, for everybody. Philosophically it is the opposite of where Netanyahu has been leading since 2003, when he served as Finance minister in the first Sharon government. Then he imported Reaganism and Thatcherism to Israel. These protesters are yearning for a modern European-style social-democracy. So while here in the US this model is denigrated by those who oppose Obama, there it is the unrestrained free market which is being abandoned. The paradigm shift has already occurred, no matter what happens next on the ground. It might take time until the body politics is transformed, but I am ready to bet Bibi will not be prime minister three years from now.
How it will affect the Israeli-Arab conflict?

It can only hasten the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank for two reasons. One conceptual and the other practical:
Conceptually - The motto of this uprising is "Tsedek Chevrati", meaning Social Justice. True social justice cannot exist within only one segment of the population, or in one location but not ten miles hence. This means that non-Jewish citizens, and the Palestinians in the West Bank, will be viewed more and more as human beings who deserve the same justice.
Practically - As the State will try to look for the funds necessary to elevate the social services and make housing accessible, the citizenry will become aware of the enormous sums of money going to subsidize the settlements at their expense.
So, yes, eventually this social paradigm shift will have profound effects on the occupation. But to illuminate conflict-related marginal skirmishes, is to set oneself blind to a much brighter light. 

Protests continue throughout Israel

In Israel, they call the places outside Tel Aviv and Jerusalem the "periphery." Right now, in the periphery - places like Haifa, Netanya, Nahariya, Afula, Modi'in, and Be'er Sheva - 60,000 are in the streets. Catch it live.

David Broza at Masada 1993

A date has been set

On September 20 the Palestinians will appear before the UN and seek membership, according to their foreign minister. Count me as still skeptical.

Friday, August 12, 2011

From the Outside Looking In

My thoughts, ideas and opinions about Israel - as much as I try to get an insider's perspective - are those of an American Jew looking in. As I have said before, perhaps there is something to be gained from this vantage point. Maybe the distance allows us to see things in a way that some or most Israelis don't.

On the other side of that coin, Israelis looking in at the American Jewish Community may be able to see things that some or most of us don't. Well, Haaretz's Akiva Eldar interviews political psychologist Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal. Here's Bar-Tal's take after spending a year in the U.S.: 
When I arrived in the United States, I assumed I would find a receptive audience in the Jewish community, and a willingness to discuss the processes taking place in Israeli society. To my great regret, in most of those communities I found paralysis. The most progressive Jewish circles there - those who demonstrate against any American injustice, protest the undermining of human rights in Iran and Sudan and of freedom of speech in China and Russia - turn blind, deaf and dumb when it comes to the lack of social justice, or oppression and discrimination, in Israel. They don't want to know what's happening, and for the most part refuse to conduct a rational discussion about the deterioration of Israeli society.
There's a combination of existential fear, a desire to hold on to the symbol at all costs and quite a bit of strong-arm tactics on the part of people with money and influence. I saw how a wealthy businessman threatened the rabbi of a Reform temple in a small town, Newton, near Boston, that if the president of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, spoke in his synagogue, he would discontinue his donations to the community. The rabbi panicked and canceled the lecture.
It's hard to believe that in the strongest democracy in the world, such a destructive process is taking place. The same Jews who followed the greatest critics of American society, such as Louis Brandeis or Martin Luther King, Jr., are losing their principles and their way when it comes to Israel. They prefer to ignore the deeds of their 'wild relative' and don't understand that if they don't cry out in time, this behavior will only increase and they will be left with a symbol empty of any moral and humane value.
But I also met courageous, open and active groups that are ready to fight for their principles and to warn against the path of Israeli society. Recently, Brandeis University hosted the annual conference of the Association for Israel Studies [comprising scholars in the social sciences], which by the Israeli Foreign Ministry's definition could be considered the greatest anti-Israel conference in the world. At dozens of sessions, penetrating criticism was heard about the behavior of [Israeli] society in all areas of life, from the deterioration of democracy and the institutionalization of discrimination against the Arab minority, to the reinforcement of the economic gap and the loss of the moral compass, and up to the destructive influences of the occupation and the militarization of society.
You can read Akiva Eldar's entire interview with Prof. Bar-Tal here.

And now for something completely different . . .

Republican Presidential Debate: The Highlights (via

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Big Music Weekend

David Broza returns to perform another sunrise concert at Masada. Me, I'll make do with Steely Dan at Ravinia.

The Miracle of Israel

As recent events have shown, Israel has not lost its ability to inspire. Professor Shapir sent me the above photo of a poster announcing the August 6 demonstration. In it is Shapir's 94 year old uncle, Philippe Szyper, with his 22 year-old granddaughter, Julie.

Shapir relates that Philippe was a Trotskyist in 1930's Belgium and is still now, which didn't prevent him from becoming a successful businessman in Brazil and later in Israel. Under Nazi occupation he was a leader in the underground in Brussels. Philippe and his wife jumped from a train headed to Auschwitz, leaving her father who remained on the train. She would later write a book (available in Hebrew and French) recounting her experiences, "Looking Back: a Jewish Fighter in Occupied Belgium."

Philippe was 23 when he told Shapir's father at 17 (his mother was 15 at the time) to escape Brussels when the Nazis called on him to show for "work". Shapir writes that: "My dad and mom (and thus us) owe him their life."

After a tortuous path, Shapir's parents made it to the Swiss border at a time when they could still cross. Shapir's mother was the only survivor from her family.

Shapir is now a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Rochester in New York and his brother Nimrod lives in Tel Aviv. And of course, Philippe, now 94, continues the struggle for social justice in Israel.

As I said on another occasion, what more can one say? Except this - I sure hope people understand what's at stake here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'Power to the People'

Fowarded by Caroline Beck. If you want to know what's going on in Israel, check out Caroline's post. And if you leave some comments, I'm sure we can convince her to write another.

'Peace and Prosperity'

Former Ambassador Ram Aviram on a two state solution. You know, I'm really getting tired of these Israelis who think they know best.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are the Palestinians backing away from their UN bid?

A report surfaced that the Palestinians were planning to delay their initiative; Saeb Erekat denies the report. Haaretz runs it down here. Blog Zahav raised suspicions here in a post with the creative title "September Vote?" Still anybody's guess, but it does seem strange that no one appears to know what the proposed resolution would say exactly. 

'The Palestinians will have their sovereignty'

Member of Knesset Zehava Galon (Meretz) on two states.

Meanwhile, Facts on the Ground

Read and learn:
With negotiations hopelessly stalled and the deadline for a potential confrontation at the United Nations in September rapidly approaching, the Israeli government apparently decided that now would be the appropriate time to announce a major expansion of one of its most provocative settlements. Interior Minister Eli Yishai said last week that final approval has been given for 900 new units in the Jerusalem "Har Homa" settlement, an area known to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim.

Monday, August 8, 2011

This is what it looked like Saturday night

There are better videos out there of Shlomo Artzi performing "A New Country" from Saturday night, but none that gives the sense of being there that this was one does. Enjoy.

'Join Us'

Israeli Knesset Member Shlomo Molla (Kadima): "We cannot agree to occupy another society."

From Rothschild Boulevard

Tel Aviv, August 6, 2011
Nimrod Shapir, who has been in contact with some of the leaders of the protest, submits this post about Saturday night's demonstration:
It was amazing, but what most thrilled me was to rub up against, in the heat and humidity for hours, 300,000 Israelis, most of them young, singing, bellowing slogans, angry, but all in a good spirit, with giant smiles on their lips, with a feeling that from now on, we, the demonstrators control our fate and that the government has no choice but to satisfy our demands.
It’s clear that this is not what happens, but this was the feeling of elation and the sense of power that this convergence gives. (See Freud, The Psychology of the Masses).

But 300,000 huddling Israelis, not pushing, not cursing, and smiling to each other – such a thing I have never experienced in Israel, given the heterogeneous composition of the demonstrators (in contrast to the Left’s demonstrations that are “all in the family”).

At the demonstration last evening, there were many students, youth movements, but also groups of Arabs, Ethiopians, Russians, and of course, gays and lesbians (on one of their signs it was written “I haven’t come out of the closet because I don’t have money for an apartment.”)

The demonstration was not political in nature, and only a few signs clearly called for Bibi’s resignation or were against the settlements. Despite this, there were almost none among the demonstrators that wore kippot, despite the speech of Rabbi Benny Lau. The religious, that to my regret deal only with the question of the Messiah and the whole Land of Israel, have disassociated themselves from the Israeli consensus. And perhaps this is a good thing, as it will be more difficult for them to play the wronged Cossack.

Our accomplishments are endangered here. Unfortunately, poor management of your political system, in the United States brought a reduction in your rating by S&P. Yes, once again, a lack of American decisions are screwing us!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

David Grossman: Window to a New Future

With apologies to Dr. Hoffman, my high school Hebrew teacher, and to the rest of the Hebrew speaking world, including most sincerely, David Grossman, himself, below is my attempted translation of Grossman's article published Friday in Yediot Ahronot, which can be found here in its original Hebrew. For those of who don't know, Grossman is one of Israel's pre-eminent authors. And finally, I invite the Hebrew speakers out there to improve upon my best efforts.

Window to a New Future

Last Saturday evening, at the demonstration in Jerusalem, I looked around me and saw a human river flowing in the streets. Thousands of people were there whose voices haven’t been heard for years, who had lost hope for change, who had closeted their troubles and despair. It wasn’t with ease that they joined the roaring groups of young people with loudspeakers. Perhaps it was the embarrassment of someone who wasn’t accustomed to hear his own voice at this level and was afraid to shout, and more than this recoiled from shouting with the crowd. At these moments, I felt that we, the marchers, looking at ourselves with amazement and a little doubt, didn’t completely believe ourselves what was coming from inside us: whether we are really “the masses,” the angry masses, a wave of fists, like we see at similar demonstrations in Tunis, and in Egypt, in Syria and in Greece? Whether we want to be the masses like this? Whether we are seriously ready for what we are shouting for in rhythm here: “Rev-o-lu-tion!”And what will happen if we succeed “too much,” and this fragile state cracks. And what if the protests and the passion turn to anarchy?

But after a few steps, something happens, the blood moves. The rhythm, the momentum, the togetherness. Not a threatening faceless togetherness. But rather a togetherness that is not uniform, but mosaic, chaotic, familial with a strong sense of - here, we are doing the right thing, finally we are doing the right thing.

And then also rises the amazement- where were we until today? How did we allow this to happen? How have we put up with governments that we have chosen turning our health and our children’s education into luxuries? How did we not shout when the Treasury officials crushed the social workers, and before them - the disabled, the Holocaust survivors, the old, and the pensioners? How for years have we pushed the hungry and the poor into soup kitchens and charities and to lives of humiliation for generations. And how have we abandoned the foreign workers to the abuse of their persecutors and exploiters, to the slave trade and the trafficking of women. And how have we put up with the destructive instances of privatization, and among them the privatization of everything dear to us - solidarity, responsibility, mutual aid and the sense of belonging as a people?

To this indifference, there are known to be many reasons, but the deep rift around the question of the occupation has, in my eyes, impaired more than anything the warning and control systems of Israeli society. In this area, rose our bad side and the sickness of our society. And we - perhaps because the fear of standing with our eyes open across the full reality of our lives - have enthusiastically surrendered to dulling our senses to relieve the reality. Sometimes we look at ourselves: some of us loved very much what he saw, and some flinched, but those who flinched said, this is how it is, sighed and called it the “situation” as if it was our fate or a heavenly decree. Additionally, we allowed our commercial television channels to fill most of the space of our collective identity, to put ourselves in terms of fighting for survival and predation, and to pit us against each other, and to despise everyone who is weaker and different than us, and “not beautiful” and not clever and not rich. And already for many years we have stopped talking to each other, and certainly stopped listening, because how can you - in this environment of “grab as much as you can” - not disparage and rob each other. After all, they say and show us in every possible way - one man alone to his fate.

And as we exhaust ourselves with non-stop squabbling, we’ve become easier to rule and manipulate, stupid, victims of “divide and rule” invisible and efficient. Like this, from capital to riches, from capital to power, and to the newspaper, the business grew about the fatal questions that became “who loves the state and who hates it,” “who is loyal to her and who is a traitor,” “who is a good Jew and who forgot that he is a Jew;” and all the rational discussion was baptized with the paste of sentimental kitsch, kitsch patriotism and nationalism, kitsch righteousness and victimhood, and little by little sober criticism about what was happening here was blocked, and at the end of it, Israel finds herself acting and behaving - like thousands of her citizens - completely against the values and worldviews that were once the essence of her uniqueness.

But here it is, suddenly, against all expectations, something arose, and we, awakened people, will be opening something -  however, it is not completely clear, what, to where, and still there are no words to describe it exactly or to understand it fully, although it is clarified that by a reading of these passwords slogans that we are suddenly saved from the bark of the cliche and have become alive, “the people demand social justice”, “we want justice not charity” and other words likes these and calls from other periods, and at these moments there are hints in the air of possible recovery and repair and a return to us, this forgotten thing, our self respect, of a united and whole Israel.

There is enormous power, it’s also a bit deceptive and intoxicating, in this awakening. It is tempting to be carried away with euphoria - and the renewal of the young people - that the movement pours.

It’s easy to err in the illusion that here we go again destroying the old world to the core. But it’s not exactly this way. The old world also had great accomplishments, among them the realization of some of the aspirations of the protest movement and the freedom in which it is possible to express these aspirations. Therefore, this struggle needs to speak in a completely different language that than struggles that came before. Above all, it must be based on dialogue, that is inclusive and does not exclude; principled and not opportunistic and partisan and not “every man in his own tent.” This way the movement can keep much the public support it has won. Precisely because of the particular ambiguity of the protest movement, that allows each group to hold political opinions and different beliefs that oppose each other, in any event to recognize for the first time in decades, a common platform, civil and humanistic, and even to sense pride of membership in this community. Who in Israel is able to afford for himself to give up these scarce resources?

This protest movement and its aftershocks offer the possibility of dialogue between those who haven't spoken for decades. Between different and remote social strata.  Between religious and secular, between Arabs and Jews. In this process of identifying what’s in common and achievable, it’s possible to open between the right and the left a realistic and more empathetic dialogue - for example the left’s indifference toward the thousands that were displaced from Gush Katif, the open wound of the settlers - a dialogue that can perhaps save what can still be saved, a sense of mutual responsibility that our state in our situation may not give up on. In other words, if the spirit of the movement is true, in the lines of Amir Gilboa, “Suddenly, arises a man in the morning, and he feels he exists is a nation and starts to walk,” he needs to continue and to sing and "to everyone he meets on his way, to say ‘Shalom’.” 

It is easy to criticize the pace of the young movement and to question it. In general, it’s always easier to find reasons why not to do something resolute and courageous. But he who listens to the roar - the hearts of the demonstrators - not only on Rothschild Boulevard, also in south Tel-Aviv, in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, in Ashdod, in Haifa, and Maalot-Tarshiha - will understand that perhaps a window is open to us for a different future. The time is due for this move, and surprisingly, it also finally has troops. Perhaps in this vein, a young woman approached me at the demonstration in Jerusalem and said: The leadership is still empty, but no longer are the people.

300,000 is a lot of people

Read about it here and here. Doesn't look like this is going away any time soon.

Protests Under Way

Watch live here.

Yonathan Shapir's Interview on Reshet Bet

Friend of the blog, Professor Yonathan Shapir, was interviewed on Israeli radio last week. (Yonathan shared his thoughts on last week's demonstration here on the blog.)

You can listen to the interview in Hebrew as Yonathan discusses how those outside Israel can follow the protests and participate in what's going on there through the internet. The interview starts at 1:25.45 and runs about ten minutes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

'The People Demand Social Justice'

Check in tomorrow. Demonstrations start at 9:00 pm Israeli time (1:00 pm Chicago time).

Nice try Greta!

Via Think Progress. Now that Israel's Defense Minister has explained it to her, what are the chances Greta Van Sustren and the rest of the Fox wrecking crew will stop saying that Obama called on Israel to return to the 1967 borders? Or that they will stop pretending that Obama's speech in May called for anything different that what the Israelis themselves have already accepted? Or that Obama is anti-Israel? 

A New Voice for Israel

J Street's president Jeremy Ben-Ami has written a book, "A New Voice for Israel." Palestinian professor and president of Al-Quds University, Sari Nusseibeh, reviews the book in today's Washington Post, heralding it as "a compelling last call" for a two-state solution. Nick Kristof of the New York Times wrote about the book in his op-ed column yesterday. You can buy the book here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

'We have a partner'

Here's Yaakov Peri former head the Shin Bet and currently of the Israeli Peace Initiative.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dai Kvar (Enough Already)

Responding to the protests, Bibi promises "to change the face of the country." Tell me if you can make heads or tails of this:
"This can be our great opportunity," Netanyahu was quoted as saying. "No one can complain about the economy. The economy is working. But there are complaints, justified complaints, about the hardships of daily life, about the high cost of living.
"Everyone is asking me how I plan to deal with the political situation. My political strategy for the coming year is simple: Take real and serious care of these problems. My goal is not to dismantle the tents. They will not be dismantled. They are there to be there."
He's got no answers and even less credibility.

Seidemann on Two States

Here's Danny Seidemann who took us around Jerusalem. You can read about it here.

Thursdays and Saturdays . . . . What have you got to lose?

Israeli protestors return to the streets Thursday and Saturday. Am I the only one who thinks of Suite: Judy Blues Eyes when I hear Thursday and Saturday put together? From Woodstock to Rothschild Boulevard.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

'Please Intervene!'

Here's Yehuda Bauer, Holocaust scholar and Israeli Prize laureate. You can read about our visit with him in Israel here.

But, but, but . . . .

Regardless of whether reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to negotiate based on the 1967 borders are true, now is a good time to ask a question. When Israel eventually does negotiate on the 1967 borders, what are all those people who jumped up and down screaming hysterically when President Obama had the temerity to suggest it as a way forward going to say?

I think it's time to start making a list. Here's a run down of statements from GOP candidates from Politico on May 19:
1. Mitt Romney:  “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”

2.  Michele Bachmann: “[Obama] betrayed our friend and ally Israel. Obama’s call for 1967 borders will cause chaos, division & more aggression in Middle East and put Israel at further risk.”

3. Tim Pawlenty:  Obama's call for negotiations based on the 1967 borders was "a mistaken, a very dangerous demand."

All you eager commenters, feel free to add some more names. Bonus points for statements from self-appointed leaders of the Jewish community.

P.S. The land swaps negotiated by Barak and Olmert have no connection to the defense of Israels borders, as Gen. (Ret.) Sharoni told a group of us last week. It is purely a matter of demographics. The swaps have no impact on security, and are simply meant to bring as many settlers as possible within internationally recognized borders.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Will Bibi play his trump card?

With the protestors digging in their heels, Bradley Burston asked the question this morning, calling "peace" Netanyahu's trump card. Israel Radio is now reporting that Netanyahu has agreed to negotiate a possible withdrawal to pre-1967 borders. Reuters is out with a similar report. However these reports shake out, the next two months are not going to be boring. A word of warning - there will be plenty of head fakes and false reports, but if you turn away, you may just miss the real thing. And be sure to go on record! (Pssst, that's what the comments are for.)