Coteret contributor Noam Sheizaf is live blogging on the Gaza flotilla affair at Promised Land Blog.
The back page of Yediot’s daily magazine supplement, “24 Hours,” sports a mysterious full page advertisement for a tourism package to Syria. You can view the orginal here and bottom of post. Here is a translation of the text:
A captivating journey to the antiquities of the ancient city of Tadmor.
Syria, from $329, including flights, three-star hotel and a vehicle for four days.
The ad is pricey (at least $15,000) and is obviously a teaser — there is no phone number, URL or any identification of the advertiser. The question is, a teaser for what? A travel agency, perhaps, or, more likely, a full-blown campaign calling for resumption of peace-talks with Syria.
H/T Dana Zimmerman
Sheldon Adelson’s tabloid freebie, Israel Hayom (cynically called by many the “Bibiton” — “Netanyahu paper”) provided a platform for someone who has until now was almost unknow in the Israeli public debate: Newt Gingrich. The cover of this weekend’s (May 28 2010) Friday political supplement, Israel Hashavua (Israel This Week) displays a full page photo of Gingrich, with the banner headline: “The Obama Administration is Denying Reality.” Here is the caption:
Exclusive to “Israel Hayom”: An article by Newt Gingrich, one of the leading Republicans in the US. The former Chairman of the House of Representatives attacks the blindness of the Western Elites: “Evading the confrontation with Evil may bring a second Holocaust, the mistakes made by the White House will exact a terrible price.”
The article itself, on page 4, is headlined “Denying Reality”. Here are the sub-headlines:
The behavior of the Obama administration regarding Iran and terror is characterized by a complete disconnect from reality. Gingrich, a prominent Republican Party leader, warns that the Western Elites are evading a confrontation with Evil and that the flight from reality could bring a second Holocaust to the Jewish People. An alarm bell, before it’s too late.
The full Hebrew original can viewed here and at the bottom of this post.
In a tangentially related development, this morning’s (May 30 2010) reports that Netanyahu is frantically scrambling to block legislation that could shut-down Adelson’s paper (Dershowitz, Foxman and Sharansky have already been recruited in this effort):
Tova Tzimuki and Zvika Brott, Yediot, May 30 2010 [page 18; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is expected to vote today on a bill banning the distribution of newspapers for free for a period of over a year. It is predicted that due to the heavy pressure applied by the prime minister, Likud ministers will oppose the bill — and it will fail to pass.
In recent days the Prime Minister’s Bureau has worked around the clock in order to thwart the bill proposed by Marina Solodkin (Kadima). Ministers told Yedioth Ahronoth that Netanyahu’s associates were applying much pressure on them so that they oppose the bill. Netanyahu is not interested in seeing the bill turn into law, because of the support he receives from the freely distributed paper Israel Hayom owned partially by Sheldon Adelson. As part of his attempts, Netanyahu sent bureau chief Natan Eshel to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to convince him to instruct Shas ministers to oppose the bill.
A report on this matter was broadcast already Friday by Channel Ten TV News. The report stated that the Prime Minister’s Bureau was “hysterical.”
The bill’s sponsor, MK Marina Solodkin wishes to change the law so that a nationally circulated paper may not be distributed free or at an extremely low cost for a period of over one year. “Our concern is that money talks and that through money a person of means will be able to purchase public opinion on a matter he or she holds particularly dear, as is done in undemocratic states,” some MKs explained.
In the bill’s preamble Solodkin states: “the phenomenon of distributing newspapers nationally for free over such a long period severely harms written journalism and can, in the future, produce the rise of monopolies in this sphere and a strike a severe blow to the freedom of speech. This, is in view of the fact that newspapers distributed for free create unequal and unfair competition with those newspapers that are sold for a price.”
She further states that distributing a newspaper nationally for free over such a long period could cause the bankruptcy of newspapers that are for sale.
Cross-posted from Promised Land.
Two more Palestinian families from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood received this week eviction orders. According to Haaretz’s report, the families were ordered to leave their houses within 45 days. No alternative residency was offered to them.
“Failure to comply [with the order] will force my client to act against you with all means available according to the law [...] in such a way as may cause distress, anxiety and large and unnecessary expense,” the notices said.
The lawyer who served the order, Anat Paz of law firm Eitan Gabay, informed the families they would be liable to a fine of NIS 350 for each day the remained in their homes beyond the eviction deadline.
Each family was also ordered to pay NIS 12,000 per year for each of the last seven years. The notices did not reveal names of the claimants to the properties.
The Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah are refugees who fled their homes in Jaffa and West Jerusalem in 1948. They were offered a land in Jerusalem to build their homes on by the Jordanians in exchange for agreeing to give up their refugee status (ironically, that’s what Israel always demanded that Palestinians in Arab countries do). Israel conquered and annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and, recently, the pre-1948 Jewish owners of the land in Sheikh Jarrah authorized a right-wing settlers group to have the Palestinians evacuated and the neighborhood settled with Jews.
Israeli courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of the Jews claiming land based on pre-1948 documents — while at the same time the Palestinians were forbidden from claiming back the houses they left in 1948. Unable to have their old houses, evacuated from their current homes — Jerusalem’s municipality plans on building there 200 housing units for Jews — the Palestinians have literally nowhere to go. They don’t even have refugee status.
The injustice in East Jerusalem is so evident, that the struggle to stop the evacuation of the Palestinians became a new symbol for many Israelis. What has began as a very local grassroots effort by a handful of activist (many of them Anarchists) is now drawing a crowd of hundreds each week – and sometime more people and more than once a week. Here is a video from the protest two weeks ago, when some 30 demonstrators were arrested by police, and one had his arm broken.
Personally, I find the struggle in Sheikh Jarrah to be the best thing that has happened to the Israeli left in years. The number of the people present there doesn’t seem that impressive, but the crowd grows each week, and it is clear that the police and the municipality will find new evacuations very hard to carry out.
More importantly, this struggle is becoming an inspiration to many who all but gave up on political activism — and not just in Israel. And it’s happening without any political party or a left-wing organization supporting it, and under some very radical massages. For the first time I can remember in years, the left doesn’t try to “move to the center” in order to win the support of the more conservative public, or engage in all sorts of competitions in patriotism with the right — ones that we obviously will never win — but rather sticks to its principles without apologizing or justifying itself.
There is no common platform in Sheikh Jarrah except for this very specific struggle. Nobody asks if you support one or two states, if you are a Zionist, Post Zionist or anti-Zionist. People just come each Friday to Jerusalem and stand for what they think is right – and so far, it works well enough. Sometimes even I get the sense that if this thing wasn’t happening in here, it would have happened somewhere else. The energy feels bigger than this specific incident, as if there are finally enough Israelis who say that things have been going in the wrong direction for far too long — that a line had to be drawn, and it happened to be drawn in Sheikh Jarrah.
I took those two pics on the weekly protest last Friday, to which author Mario Vargas Llosa paid a visit.
The best way to support the protest in Sheikh Jarrah is to simply come each Friday (more detailshere). If you don’t live in Israel, you can make a donation, as legal expenses for the defense of arrested activists and organizers are mounting.
Yediot: Shift in US-Israel policy result of Jewish financial pressure on Democrats ahead of mid-terms
This morning’s Yediot expands on the PMO’s description of how ‘Netanyahu defeated Obama.’ The headline is a little misleading because the article itself describes Democratic fears of losing Jewish funding, not votes, ahead of the November mid-terms.
Itamar Eichner, Yediot, May 27 2010 [page 5; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
After an entire year in which he gave him the cold shoulder, is it possible that President Obama has suddenly taken a liking to Prime Minister Netanyahu? Top Israeli officials believe that the change in attitude stems entirely from domestic American political considerations.
Midterm elections will be held in the United States in November for the entire House of Representatives, one-third of the Senate and some of the state governors. Those elections, in which the Jewish vote can be very influential, are of great concern at present to Obama and his supporters.
According to reports that reached Jerusalem, it is no coincidence that Obama and his staff have suddenly begun to speak warmly about Israel, to compliment it for the good will gestures it extended to the Palestinians and mainly to admit that they had erred by treating Israel unfairly in Obama’s first year. It appears that the Obama administration’s attack on Netanyahu after the publication of the tender to build 1,6000 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo backfired.
Information that was received by Israeli sources would seem to indicate that the principal reason for the change in approach to Israel is pressure from Democrat lawmakers who are running for election and are finding themselves hard put to enlist Jewish donors to their campaigns. There is a great deal of anger at Obama within the Jewish community and disappointment over his policy toward Israel. Officials in the Democratic Party are afraid that the Jews will take revenge in the midterm elections, which is the reason for the vigorous courting of Israel. In other words, the fear is that the Jewish vote will gravitate away from Democratic candidates to Republicans.
Furthermore, the Americans are afraid of a clash with Netanyahu as September draws near, which is when the settlement construction freeze that was declared by the Israeli government is to come to an end. A clash on that matter could be very damaging to the party. The hope is that Obama will be able to persuade Netanyahu to extend the construction freeze by means of a friendly request and thereby avoid a damaging confrontation.
This morning’s (May 27 2010) Maariv runs an extravaganza on a purported change in US-Israel policy, which begins with a huge headline on the front-page — “Netanyahu: I won.”
Note emphasis in the translated text below: The shift in policy is explained by Democratic fundraising fears ahead of the November mid-terms. This seems to be a PMO talking point — Yediot elaborates further in an article I will post later this morning.
Ben Caspit, Maariv, May 27 2010 [page 2 with front page lead; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
In the course of intimate conversations over the past few weeks with top political officials and civil servants, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said, according to his interlocutors, that he managed to defeat the US administration.
Netanyahu is pleased by the fact that the Americans failed, so he said, to twist his arm and that ultimately, in the duel between him and the Obama administration, he was the one who emerged with the upper hand. We did not make concessions on our red lines and they failed to make us fold and to drag us to places we didn’t want to go, said Netanyahu, according to people who heard him speak.
Netanyahu is convinced that he is not going to be forced to extend the settlement construction freeze, which is due to expire in September. According to senior officials in Jerusalem, an agreement has already been reached with the administration that the Israeli government will not announce an extension of the construction freeze in the territories, and the Americans will “make sure” that the Palestinians do not withdraw from the talks. Israel, however, will not take “aggressive” action and construction will be resumed only in areas that are clearly within the consensus inside the settlement blocs.
The Prime Minister’s Bureau vigorously denied the above report. “The statements attributed to the prime minister are incorrect,” said a spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Bureau. “They were not said by Netanyahu in any forum. The reason is simple: the prime minister does not think that, Prime Minister Netanyahu holds in great esteem the commitment by President Obama and the administration to Israel’s security and their efforts to renew the peace process in our region.”
Eli Bardenstein adds: The formal invitation that Netanyahu received yesterday to meet with President Obama next week might attest to a radical change in the White House’s attitude towards him. Political sources in Israel described the planned meeting as “the peak of the campaign for Israel and the Jews that has been pursued by the Obama administration in the past number of weeks.” The sources said that the meeting was geared to put an end to the grave crisis that erupted some two months ago between the Obama administration and Netanyahu over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and particularly over the continued construction in East Jerusalem, and to mend the mistaken impression that was received as if Israel was “no longer an absolute ally of the United States.”
That crisis, which was initiated by the Americans, elicited fierce criticism in the United States, and sparked a desire among members of the Obama administration to rectify the situation. Another reason for the administration’s desire to end the crisis is the fear of failure in the upcoming Congressional elections in November. “The Democratic Party’s coffers are empty. Many Democrat members of Congress and Senators have complained that if the hazing of Israel were to continue, they would be unable to obtain donations from Jews and were liable to lose the elections,” said one source in Washington.
The prevalent assessment is that Netanyahu will be received far more warmly in Washington next week than he was two months ago. This time the meeting will be covered by the media and the two leaders are expected to have their picture taken together and to give statements to the media.
That said, sources in Washington noted that “Netanyahu is leery of the meeting with Obama and of walking into a trap once again. He knows that the smiles notwithstanding, behind closed doors he is going to have to give answers to very difficult questions, like ‘how do you envision the end of the negotiations with the Palestinians.’”
Netanyahu is to begin his political travels today in Paris, where he is to attend the ceremony in honor of Israel’s acceptance into the OECD. The prime minister will be arriving in a city that is on strike, which is liable to impede his movement through the city streets to the center of Paris for his meetings.
Below is an e-mail sent out today by Israel’s official Government Press Office (GPO) to international correspondents. Unfortunately, I received it without the links and attachments.
Funny? Dignified? Professional? We report, you decide.
From: Andy Lutterman
Subject: Restaurant in Gaza
Sent: May 26, 2010 12:35 PM
GPO Recommended Restaurant in Gaza
In anticipation of foreign correspondents traveling to Gaza to cover reports of alleged humanitarian difficulties in the Hamas run territory, and as part of efforts to facilitate the work of journalists in the region, the Government Press Office is pleased to bring to your attention the attached menu and information for the Roots Club and Restaurant in Gaza.
We have been told the beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup are highly recommended. You may wish to enquire of a possible discount upon presentation of a valid press card.
There is also the possibility of an enjoyable evening on the Greens Terrace Garden Cafe, which serves “eclectic food and fresh cocktails”.
A video of the club’s luxurious facilities may be viewed here.
Booking in advance is advisable, and as the website states, the Roots Club is fully equipped for hospitality and corporate events.
Correspondents may also wish to enjoy a swim at the new Olympic size swimming pool as reported in the Palestinian media to have been opened last week.
Rahm Emanuel is in Israel with his family on a private visit. Yesterday they toured the Golan Heights. Maariv (May 26 2010, page 5) runs a (here and at bottom of post) of his family exiting a military Blackhawk helicopter with a shoulder shot of Rahm inset.
Yellow bubble on inset: With the family on a Blackhawk.
Zvika Brott, Yediot, May 26 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
There is no adolescent who doesn’t wonder about the question when his “first time” will be. A new initiative in the Knesset seeks to put an end to this deliberation, and simply decide for Israeli teenagers: You cannot have sexual relations before age 16.
The “abstinence bill” initiated by Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Carmel Shama (Likud) aims to toughen the currently existing law in Israel, which forbids having sexual relations before age 14. It states that sexual relations under age 16 will be forbidden, even among partners of the same age. “The lower the age that people begin to have sexual relations, the greater the physiological and psychological risks it entails,” MK Shama writes in the bill. “The age currently determined by law is too low, we must not forget that we are talking about children.”
It should be noted that the model proposed by Shama is in force in many countries around the world such as the US, Canada, Britain, Holland, Norway and Finland. However, there are also many countries that follow the rules that apply in Israel, including Spain, Hungary, Moldova, Croatia, Chile and Albania.
The bill does not specify the penalty that will be imposed on minors who have sexual relations beneath the permitted age, but it states that this will be proportional and coordinated with the welfare authorities.
The “abstinence bill” is important to MK Shama not only as a parliamentarian but also as a concerned parent. “Last week, my eldest son turned 14. I am horrified by the thought that he and his friends will have sex at this age, and with the consent of the State of Israel’s law book,” he explains. “There is no intention to go into the teenagers’ bedrooms, and certainly not to punish, but rather to convey the message that this is forbidden and has dangers. In the world of online acquaintance and liberal norms of partying and drinking, there are grounds for guiding intervention by the state.”
The bill enjoys the support of many MKs from the coalition and opposition, and it will be officially submitted to the Knesset secretariat this morning.
The new frontiers of Israeli (public) diplomacy, ctd.: Finnish travel agent humiliated after admitting that her fiancé is Egyptian
A travel agent from Finland was humiliated at the Eilat airport. She was stripped, her bra was taken for x-ray by a man and her personal effects were corrupted. She claims the reason for the nightmare is that she has an Egyptian fiancé.
The Israel Airport Authority: the case will be checked
Itamar Eichner, Yediot, May 25-10 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
A travel agent from Finland who visited Eilat with a group of travel agents from her country filed a strong complaint to the Israeli Embassy in Finland that she was severely humiliated during the security inspection at the Uvda airport when she was on her way back to Finland.
In her letter, Hannah-Maria Raudnafe, who works at a large and well-known travel agency in Finland, said that the problems began after in response to a question by the security inspector she said she has an Egyptian fiancé in Finland. From that moment, she says, she underwent “invasive questioning and rude and racist inspections,” and was treated with “a lack of elementary courtesy.”
Her suitcases and bags were taken from her without her approval and opened without her presence. She was stripped and her brassiere was taken by a man for an x-ray inspection in a public place. The inspection took an hour and during it she was given no explanation why she was being inspected. Furthermore, she received no response when she expressed her concern the airplane would take off without her.
In the end woman was sent to the plane without her two suitcases, her laptop, expensive jewelry and a wedding dress she bought in Eilat. After she returned to Finland she had to go to the Helsinki airport twice to receive her personal belongings. When she received the suitcases she found out that all of her belongings were bent and some of them were torn, broken or corrupted.
“I and my fellow travel agents will not be able to recommend travel to Israel. We personally will avoid it in the future if that is how they treat tourists,” she wrote.
The Israeli Embassy in Helsinki received two other complaints from Estonian nationals who flew from Talin to a holiday in Eilat on a charter flight and had similar stories. “The ambassador in Finland and the representative of the Ministry of Tourism in our area worked hard to set up Finnish charter flights to Eilat. An investigation is needed so that such events do not recur and the activity does not stop,” the Israeli Embassy in Finland stressed. The Ministry of Tourism invested millions of shekels from the beginning of the year to establish marketing agreements in dozens of countries. Impressive results were achieved in the Scandinavian countries and important agreements were signed.
Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov strongly condemned the event. He said “it is time for the government authorities in general to understand that tourism is a national resource, not a burden. The tourism industry is responsible for creating jobs and increasing state revenues and is an effective tool for improving our image in the world. Behavior that makes a tourist feel unwanted harms the efforts of the tourism ministry to increase the flow of tourists to Israel and causes Israel grave damage, both to its economy and to its image.”
Tourism Ministry officials said they received other complaints by tourists of rude treatment by security inspectors at the Uvda airport.
The IAA said in response: “The IAA operates on the directives of the directing bodies. The details of the case will be checked and if necessary acted on.”