As international pressure mounts on Israel the government assault on civil society is reaching new lows. Now it appears that the IDF and GSS [Shin Bet] are working in tandem with Im Tirzu, which over the weekend launched an unprecedented campaign reminiscent of Der Sturmer, against Prof. Naomi Chazan, President of the the New Israel fund. Here’s an excerpt from a report by Ben Caspit on Maariv’s website this morning.
Now it turns out that the materials exposed on the weekend are familiar to the IDF authorities and the legal authorities in Israel. Some of them were given half a year ago to the Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit.
He checked the material and gave it to the Atty. Gen., with a recommendation to open an official investigation. No such investigation has been made so far. The Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet; GSS] is also familiar with the material and the sensitive issue. Taking action against this is not simple because NIF is a registered association in the US. Also, it is noteworthy that a large part of the fund’s activities in Israel are devoted to social and public issues of the first order.
“It will be hard to connect this activity to political subversion,” said a security source, who is well familiar with the affair. “But on the other hand, there is clearly a worrisome pattern here that is causing Israel serious damage and helping its worst critics tie the IDF’s hands and undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state in general and its right to defend itself in particular.”
Im Tirtzu is now planning to launch a large public campaign, both against the New Israel Fund in general and personally against its head, Prof. Naomi Hazan. Dozens of movement activists demonstrated last night in front of Hazan’s house dressed up as Hamas activists and carryied signs thanking Hazan and the fund. As far as we know Hazan herself is presently in the U.S.
From a comprehensive investigative report in today’s (January 22 2010) Yediot (full text at bottom):
A Yedioth Ahronoth investigation reveals some very surprising facts concerning the funding of the new headquarters. According to our findings, only a small portion of the funding originates from the state. The bulk of the money comes from private organizations with a clear right wing orientation: the Bukhara Community Trust, and the Shalem Foundation — a subsidiary formed by the Jerusalem-based Elad NGO.
Uri Misgav, Yediot Friday Political Supplement, January 22 2008
On the hilltop stands a building, like a colonial palace in the Third World. Around it lie the barren pastures of the surrounding villages, a flock of sheep chewing the grass, and two Palestinian shepherds suspiciously eyeing the construction. A gazelle with sharp antlers, which finds itself on the road, gives a startled look and takes off. Welcome to the brand new Samaria and Judea District Police headquarters.
The road ascends the hill, revealing the impressive infrastructure: straight terraces, gravel and limestone beds smoothed into the rock, traffic circles, safety railings, electricity poles and lights. Large signs on behalf of the nearby city of Maale Adumim direct the drivers to “Mevasseret Adumim,” a new neighborhood, which today remains on paper only. The establishment of the neighborhood was approved by the Sharon government in 2004, but was quickly brought to a halt due to American pressure. If established, it will contain 3,900 housing units. To date no approval has been given to begin construction. A new and broad bridge which is to link Maale Adumim with the new neighborhood has already been built. Today there is still no traffic allowed on it.
The construction of the police headquarters began in 2005 and was completed in 2008. It was intended for an area known as E-1, which constitutes a bone of contention between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Americans. The construction of the police headquarters by the government was seen as a blatant violation of the political status quo, and sparked a wave of criticism. A petition filed by Palestinian residents and human rights organizations concerning the confiscation of land required for the construction, was dismissed. But this, it now seems, is only the tip of the iceberg.
A Yedioth Ahronoth investigation reveals some very surprising facts concerning the funding of the new headquarters. According to our findings, only a small portion of the funding originates from the state. The bulk of the money comes from private organizations with a clear right wing orientation: the Bukhara Community Trust, and the Shalem Foundation — a subsidiary formed by the Jerusalem-based Elad NGO. Read more…
Itamar Eichner, Yediot, January 20 2010
Israeli officials suspect that representatives of international organizations used their cars to bring millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip, taking advantage of their immunity. As a result, a decision has been made to intensify law enforcement regarding money laundering at the Erez border crossing in order to prevent the massive transfer of large amounts of cash to Gaza.
Recently, the Customs Authority instituted an obligation to report any sum of money greater than NIS 90,000 that is brought into the Gaza Strip in order to prevent a situation in which some of the money aids terrorism. Because most of the people who enter Gaza by car through the Erez border crossing are diplomats and employees of international organizations, a multi-party discussion was held at the Foreign Ministry several days ago about how to minimize the chances of confrontations and diplomatic incidents.
This week, the strategic department of the Foreign Ministry will convene all the foreign diplomats in order to receive a briefing from the ministry’s legal adviser about the new regulations. The legal adviser will explain the law, which views an amount of money divided among several vehicles as a single quantity, and will tell them that from now on, they have an obligation to report any amount greater than NIS 90,000.
Taub in Yediot: Get a grip — unless Israel launches its own credible investigation now, it faces the full brunt of universal jurisdiction
As the danger of the application of universal jurisdiction over the Gaza war crimes becomes more tangible, the buzz regarding an independent Israeli investigation is increasing.
Israeli strategy remains confused, however. Yediot reported on December 28 2009 that a limited inquiry, aimed at stemming the “political and economic tsunami” caused by the Goldstone report, would be launched “within two weeks.” The has yet to happen. A January 19 2010 report in Haaretz may help explain why: Retired Chief Justice Aharon Barak has stated that only a full-fledged commission of inquiry, with subpoena powers, would be acceptable to him. His unequivocal position is probably deterring other eminent jurists.
Apparently Israel would like to make some concrete announcement before, or along with, its official response (due apparently on February 5 2010.) Meanwhile, Israel’s advocates abroad are gearing up. A draft response to Goldstone by Alan Dershowitz has been circulating in the internet for few days. Mondoweiss publishes an excerpt, which reveals some desperation. No longer is there an attempt to deny the existence of war crimes. Rather, focus is on defense of the top brass, through the shifting of responsibility to “rogue soldiers.”
Israeli pragmatists are losing patience. In a Yediot op-ed this morning (January 20 2010; full text below) centrist author Gadi Taub after blasting Goldstone, tells the Israeli government to get a grip: Without a credible independent investigation now, Israel will bear the full brunt of universal jurisdiction.
Time is running out
Op-ed, Gadi Taub, Yediot, January 20
International law makes it possible to prosecute Israelis who are suspected of war crimes allegedly committed in Operation Cast Lead, in courts belonging to other countries. This option is subject to one restriction: It is valid if and only if Israel has not launched an independent investigation into the matter itself. This option has a time limit, and time is running out. Israel was given six months from the publication of the Goldstone report, and this period will end on March 15.
The accusations of Judge Goldstone appear to be mostly groundless. Goldstone’s method, in which clearly biased testimonies were accepted without question or further examination, is not only unfair, but absolutely scandalous. Goldstone himself admitted, in an interview to the American Jewish newspaper The Forward, that there was nothing in the report that would stand up as proof of a war crime in court. Moreover, the commission acquitted Hamas of deliberately using civilians as a human shield for fighters, and did not accuse it at all of a blatant war crime: Firing rockets at civilian targets. Instead, the report speaks about rockets fired by “armed Palestinian groups.” This is a manipulation that omits, as commented by independent journalist Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi, the entire cause of the operation against Hamas and turns Israel into an indiscriminate aggressor.
Israel erred by choosing to boycott the commission. But its choice not to honor the terms of the international community and to launch its own investigation by an independent agency, is much more severe. Such an agency could be a commission headed by a judge, or an inquiry by the State Comptroller’s Office. Read more…
UPDATE: January 18 2010 — Broken link to recording fixed.
Note that the only substantial question from the interviewer is about the danger of cancellation by the Iranians following the local media exposure.
This report may come in handy for journalists when and if pressure builds for comprehensive trade sanctions. Glass houses and all that.
IBA Radio, Economic Newsmagazine, January 14 2010 16: 13 [Listen to recording Daronet has sold 70 trade and content systems to websites, including Tehran’s Chamber of Commerce. The million dollar deal was carried out by a company branch in Brussels. Our industry correspondent Shimon Vilnai reports.
Shimon Vilnai: an Internet deal between Israel and Iran. Tehran’s District Chamber of Commerce bought 70 trade and content systems to build websites, developed by the Israeli group Daronet. The deal went through three weeks ago through a branch of the Israeli company in Brussels. With us is Daronet’s CFO Yaacov Harpaz.
Yaacov Harpaz: the contract was signed with a European businessman from Holland, apparently a representative of the Tehran district Chamber of Commerce. We understood it was Iran when we were asked to convert our trade and content systems into Farsi. The Iranians paid a $200,000 advance on the product. The total value of the deal is about $1 million. It will be paid out in 10 payments in 2010.
Shimon Vilnai: are you afraid the publicity on Israel radio will prevent the money from continuing to come in from Tehran?
Yaacov Harpaz: not at all because it is a round-trip transaction through the European businessman I mentioned before whose head office is in Holland.
Shimon Vilnai: in the last month Daronet has sold content systems for business websites to the chambers of commerce of Jordan and Oman.
Cross-posted from Promised Land.
I had some interesting responses to my post on the “split personality” of American liberal Jews. One of them was from Rabbi Jason Miller from Detroit, Michigan, who posted on his blog some of his thoughts regarding this issue. Among other things, he refers to “the seemingly ironic position that so many liberal American Jews find themselves in concerning their views on Israel.”
Admittedly, I am in this category. I never criticize Israel or its government’s policies publicly, because, well, it’s Israel — my Israel, my homeland. The Jewish state has enough critics, I reason; it could use more people playing defense for the team. But when it comes to religious pluralism, I have no problem expressing my frustration for the control that the ultra-Orthodox wields in Israel. A monopoly by one denomination of a religion for all official religious acts is not democratic.
I think that Rabbi Miller is being very honest here about his views on Israel. In a different post, he refers to the acceptance of Gays and Lesbians by the Jewish community as one of the most important development of the decade. This is another example of something that the religious establishment in Israel wouldn’t even consider doing – in fact, Rabbis and religious MKs here led the fight against Gay rights – and Rabbi Miller has no problems speaking against Israel’s orthodoxy.
I wonder, however, what is the different, in the eyes of a liberal person, between Gay and Arab rights. I understand Jews’ hesitations to come out publicly against Israel on issues that involve national security, but when it comes to minorities’ rights, the current government in Jerusalem is far worse than any administration America had in the past fifty years, yet Jews – who took part in some of the great civil rights fights in the US – remain very careful not to criticize Israel on these matters.
Just recently, the Knesset passed a law which would allow Jewish settlements inside Israel (not to be confused with West Bank settlements), build on public state land, to forbid Arab citizens from purchasing a home within them. At the same time, the Knesset turned down a bill that was meant to make the state allocate land to Jews and Arab on an equal basis.
Doesn’t the fact that Rabbi Miller views Israel as his homeland only makes it more urgent to protest when this country is marching down the “separate but equal” road?
Going back to the national security issue, my question to Israel’s liberal supporters is if they can imagine a time in which it would be justified to come out publicly against Israel.
Naturally, this is something liberal Israelis ask themselves all the time – when does it become justified to speak against our country, even our community. Often I wonder how would a certain post or news item I might quote here be viewed, used or misused or taken out of context when people around the world read it.
Among leftist bloggers who write in English, we joke that after one raises some critical or controversial issue, you start by being praised by those fighting for peace and civil liberties, than by anti-Israelis, later on by anti-Semites, and finally Holocaust deniers. Naturally, many of these responses are not exactly what we aim for, but still, we think that some of Israel’s actions – more and more lately – deserve to be criticized publicly. The truth – about the West Bank, or about Gaza, or about civil liberties in Israel – must be told, even if it occasionally leads to some unfortunate consequences.
Sometimes I get the feeling that many American Jews exempt themselves from this dilemma by simply accepting Jerusalem’s view all the time. So again, my question to them is this: Can they think of an event that will make them come out against Israel, both privately and publicly?
Maybe there are signs of change. Here is something I read at James Besser’s blog on The Jewish Week, And Besser is far from being anti-Israeli or a radical lefty:
…there’s something disturbing about the growing determination to stifle debate in an American Jewish community with a multiplicity of pro-Israel views. Israelis engage in vigorous debate about these issues all the time, but apparently our own leaders believe that support for Israel is so shaky here that we can’t raise issues like whether or not the Gaza blockade is in Israel’s long-term security interests.
Interestingly, Besser makes the same point I had: that some of the stuff written on the Israeli mainstream media would be unacceptable for American Jews had it appeared at their town’s paper. After quoting the Haaretz editorial calling to reconsider the siege on Gaza, he wonders:
Wouldn’t any American Jewish group making such an argument be tarred as a violator of the pro-Israel orthodoxy, shunned, called “dangerous” to the Jewish state?
What do you think?
Please comment at Promised Land.
Yesterday (January 11 2010,) Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon gave the Israeli public a tangible demonstration of what his Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, meant when he told 150 ambassadors convened in Jerusalem that “the era of groveling is over.” Ayalon summoned the Turkish ambassador to reprimand him for an instance of non state-sponsored incitement on Turkish TV. This is what ensued, according to a report in this morning’s Yediot (full text after the cut):
When the ambassador was finally asked to enter the room, his hosts instructed him to sit on a low couch opposite the higher chairs in which they were seated. The hosts, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Europe, Naor Gilon, and Ayalon’s office director, David Segal did not smile at their guest and refused to shake his hand. When the photographers suggested a handshake, the Foreign Ministry officials refused. “That is precisely the issue,” said Ayalon. Ayalon made sure that no one could have any doubts that the humiliation of the ambassador was anything but deliberate: “The important thing is that people see that he’s low and we’re high and that there is one flag here,” he said to the photographers.
Just to make sure all Israelis got the message, Sheldon Adelson’s Yisrael Hayom ran this photo on its front-page this morning (the text reads: “The Height of the Humiliation.”)
Alon Liel, a former Israeli Ambassador to Turkey, wondered on IDF radio this morning where this new school of diplomacy would escalate to next: “ordering the ambassador to get on his knees an crawl across the room?”
It may be, however, that the only appropriate response is satire.
Itamar Eichner, Yediot, January 12 2010
The course of action that was taken yesterday with the Turkish ambassador most probably will never be taught in schools for diplomacy. The ambassador was summoned to be reprimanded for a series that was broadcast on Turkish television. However, Foreign Ministry officials decided not to make do with a routine reprimand and added insult to the injury.
It began with the fact that the meeting was not held in the Foreign Ministry building, as is the norm, but in Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s office in the Knesset, where Ayalon was spending the day because of no-confidence motions. Contrary to protocol, Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol was forced to wait in the corridor for a number of minutes while Foreign Ministry officials set up the deputy minister’s office for the meeting. The Foreign Ministry officials, who noticed that Ayalon’s office staff had set out refreshments for the meeting, asked that the refreshments be removed from the table.
When the ambassador was finally asked to enter the room, his hosts instructed him to sit on a low couch opposite the higher chairs in which they were seated. The hosts, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Europe, Naor Gilon, and Ayalon’s office director, David Segal—did not smile at their guest and refused to shake his hand. When the photographers suggested a handshake, the Foreign Ministry officials refused. “That is precisely the issue,” said Ayalon. Ayalon made sure that no one could have any doubts that the humiliation of the ambassador was anything but deliberate: “The important thing is that people see that he’s low and we’re high and that there is one flag here,” he said to the photographers.
Throughout the course of the entire meeting, the Turkish ambassador was ill at ease. Ayalon protested the television series “Valley of the Wolves,” in which Israel and Jews are cast as baby-snatchers and war criminals. He said that television series of that kind were unacceptable and were the product of the grave statements made by top Turkish officials, first and foremost Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ayalon said that this placed the lives of Jews in Turkey in danger and was liable to damage relations between the two countries. The ambassador’s efforts to argue that the series was being broadcast on a privately-run commercial television station were not received with sympathy. Read more…
It appears that Palestinian incitement is back in Israel’s public advocacy arsenal.
From a Jerusalem Post report on Sunday’s (January 10 2010) Israeli cabinet meeting:
Basing himself on information provided by the Palestinian Media Watch, Netanyahu said that “incitement continues in the Palestinian media and education system; in its official media outlets and in the schools under its supervision. These serious actions represent a harsh violation of the Palestinians’ international obligation to prevent incitement. I say to the chairman of the Palestinian Authority [Mahmoud Abbas]: Stop the incitement. This is not how peace is made.”
From a report in the January 7 2010 edition of Haaretz:
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a complaint to the White House several days ago lamenting ongoing incitement against Israel by Palestinian leaders.
In the complaint, senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office urged their American counterparts to demand that Palestinians President Mahmoud Abbas cease to glorify the memory of terrorists who murdered Israelis. The complaint went on to insist that the Palestinians live alongside Israelis peacefully and spread peace. [...]
This complaint is the first of its kind — against Palestinian incitement — to gain media attention in Israel, after many years during which Israel largely refrained from making official complaints, or delivered these complaints discreetly to the Palestinian president.
Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar demonstrates this morning (January 12 2010; full annotated text after the cut) that on this issue Netanyahu is throwing stones from within a glass house:
“Shabbat Beshabato,” [is] a weekly pamphlet on the Torah portion distributed in thousands of copies to synagogues all over Israel. Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, the founder of the Conversion Authority and head of the Tsomet Institute of Halacha and Technology [Hebrew], wrote in the most recent edition that “the time has come ‘to declare war’ on the Israeli Arabs, and of course on the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria, who are not loyal to the state, using clear tests to determine this, and to designate them as ‘enemies.’” [...]
What kind of enlightened democracy finances a body that is behind the publication of unacceptable remarks against its citizens? The Tsomet Institute, like quite a few “rogue elements” (such as the Od Yosef Hai Shechem yeshiva, whose rabbi, Yitzhak Shapira, permits the killing of gentile babies) receives thousands of shekels annually from the state. In 2007-2008, Tsomet received from the Science and Technology Ministry over NIS 580,000, and another NIS 100,000 or so from the Ministry of Education, as well as NIS 200,000 from the Gush Etzion Regional Council.
Yisrael Rosen and his institute are known in the US for their Kosher technological solutions the problems posed by a modern observant life. In Israel, the Rabbi serves as an official consultant to a range [Hebrew] of government bodies, including the Police and the IDF. Incitement, however, is also a regular Rosen product: In 2006 and 2008 he published Halacha interpretations equating Palestinians with Amalek and calling for their destruction.
Column, Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, January 12 2010
The prime minister complains, and rightly so, that the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas took part in a ceremony naming a square after a female terrorist. Really the time has come to change the name of all the squares named after suicide bombers and members of the pre-state undergrounds, murderers and freedom fighters. Benjamin Netanyahu protests, and rightly so, the incitement-filled publications against Israel distributed by the Palestinians.
Indeed, as he said two days ago to American senators, “this is not how you make peace.” This is not the time to encourage religious fanatics and fund extremist organizations that incite against their Jewish neighbors.
Among us, those who incite against the Arab neighbors are always “rogue elements.” So why do Israeli governments irrigate them with public water? Take for example, “Shabbat Beshabato,” a weekly pamphlet on the Torah portion distributed in thousands of copies to synagogues all over Israel. Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, the founder of the Conversion Authority and head of the Tsomet Institute of Halacha and Technology [Hebrew], wrote in the most recent edition that “the time has come ‘to declare war’ on the Israeli Arabs, and of course on the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria, who are not loyal to the state, using clear tests to determine this, and to designate them as ‘enemies.’” Read more…
Eitan Haber, Rabin’s former press secretary and a veteran Yediot columnist is, about as centrist as you can find in the Israeli punditocracy. This morning (January 11 2010) he expresses anguish at how Israel has become “a new, modern Sparta, while we wanted so badly to be Athens.”
Haber’s commentary was sparked by Netanyahu’s decision to construct a fence along Israel’s last physically open border — with Egypt. Haber is just the latest exemplar of many of the old elite waking up to the reality of what the country they have spent their lives building and defending has become. Note, however, that Haber decries the symptom — the fence — and not the underlying reasons for its construction — in this case, the lack of a coherent immigration policy and the failure to negotiate an effective border regime with the Egyptians.
Like much of his generation, Haber cannot come to terms with his complicity in surrendering Israel to the leadership of those who believe that strategic policy decisions can be delayed forever and that, in the meantime, everything can be solved by force. Therefore, instead of offering an alternative, he resorts to fatalism: Our existence here is dependent on adopting the Spartan model, there is no other alternative.
We have already seen what kind of behavior this approach fueled in during the Gaza war. But the abandonment of any attempt to balance short-term security with any other values will lead Israel much further astray. To use Haber’s own analogy, remember what the Spartans did to their own sick and weak newborn infants.
Commentary, Eitan Haber, Yediot, January 11 2010
The first, instinctive, alarmed Israeli response to the prime minister’s statement that “the entire country has to be surrounded by a fence,” is “Oy vey, this is all we need.”
This is an understandable response. Every Israeli child, even every Jewish child around the world, is born with images of fences. These are the fences of the death camps in World War II. The association that automatically accompanies these images consists of the looks behind the fences, the eyes of the people going to the gas chambers and crematoria. Therefore, a proposal to surround the state by a fence is met in the first second by reluctance, fear, ghetto anxiety, thoughts of a garrison state.
But on second thought, almost every community that was established here during the time of the British Mandate surrounded itself, first and foremost, by a “tower and stockade.” Even before they cast the first roof, there were already a fence and a watchtower, to take precautionary measures against Arab marauders. So what is wrong with this? After all, we adulated the tower and stockade. We sang songs to them. We put on plays. The fence (stockade) and tower became one of the most prominent Israeli symbols in the history of the state-in-the-making.
On third thought, what is all this commotion about? After all, nearly the entire country is already fenced off in any case, hidden behind electronic fences. There is a fence in the Golan, opposite Syria; there is a fence on the Lebanese border; there is a fence in the Jordan Valley, opposite Jordan. The Gaza Strip is sealed off by a fence. There is also a fence (wall) along dozens of kilometers between the Judea and Samaria territories and the State of Israel. So what is the big deal? Now a fence hundreds of kilometers long will be built along the Israeli-Egyptian border, and that will be it — the entire land will be fenced off.
This may be the point: We hoped that at least one border would truly be a border of peace, a border without a fence, a kind of escape hatch for a state choking on fences. But even this dream — this small, unrealistic dream — is now being taken from us.
And the last thought: This is what is so sad. An entire state living behind fences, surrounded on all sides by an ocean of enemies. The thought that this is our fate can drive a normal person mad. And so the construction of a new, modern Sparta is completed, while we wanted so badly to be Athens.
Not to be outdone by Yediot’s two-day streak of leaks on Rahm Emanuel and Israel (“We’re tired of you” and “Obama to visit Israel by mid 2010,”) Maariv’s Ben Caspit has squeezed his own cable out of a Foreign Ministry source.
Excerpt from column, Ben Caspit, Maariv Friday Political Supplement, January 8 2010 [page 2]
Over the past few weeks, Rahm Emanuel has begun [background] briefing again and the summary of what he says, as received in Jerusalem, is: “Over time, we don’t see in Netanyahu a strategic partner. We have doubts about his seriousness and integrity. True, at this point the Palestinians are the problem, but we expected more cooperation from Israel as an ally.”