Analysis, Boaz Okon, Yediot, December 8 2010 [front-page; Hebrew original here and at the bottom of this post]
In 1834, a clothes salesman in London refused to sell an article of clothing to a customer. The refusal stemmed from the fact that the buyer was “just a Jew.”The Jewish buyer sued the salesman, but the court in the Timothy case supported the salesman. It was not a just trial, but the judge employed a sacred principle, the freedom of contracts, according to which a person can choose with whom he wants to enter into a contract and whom he does not. This sanctity was a disgrace and a refuge for ugly prejudice. The court’s non-intervention only supplied ammunition to the strong and violent versus the human and the weak, and the usual outcome of giving “freedom to wolves,” as Prof. Isaiah Berlin put it, is “death for sheep.” Since then, the sanctity of the freedom of contracts has been made subject to the demand of good faith. It can no longer serve as a refuge for racists. In the Israeli ruling in the case of Naamne vs. Kibbutz Kalia, Judge Miriam Mizrahi ruled that one cannot rely on freedom of contracts to prevent Arabs from entering a water park.
Now Jewish clerics are using a different sanctity, the sanctity of the Torah, to cover their racist shame. They will find that the sanctity cannot legitimize the ugliness. Their prejudice will also be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with the ridiculous ritual that surrounds it.
The infamous Nuremberg Laws forbade, in 1935, mixed marriages between Jews and Germans, and barred Jews from employing German maids (under age 45) and laborers. This prohibition was intended to portray the Jews as a kind of pest, not quite human. They became a persecuted bloc on the basis of generalizations and slander. Gideon Hausner, the prosecutor at the Eichmann trial, would later say that in Israel, “we do not make ethnic distinctions.” But here, rabbis, who receive their pay from the state coffers, forbid people to rent apartments to Gentiles, to Arabs, because it “causes evil and makes the public commit the sin of intermarriage,” and because they have among them “enemies and people who persecute us to the point of endangering lives.”
A minimal sense of sense of history appears to have become an unrealistic expectation when it comes to Israeli policy makers. Some things should not be done, period. No matter how effective they are. But if Jewish leaders can propose labor camps for refugees, why not use dogs against civilians?
The newly coined term, “popular terror,” may indicate, however, that the IDF is concerned that some Israeli audiences, perhaps even some soldiers, would still be upset at the prospect. What better way to dehumanize a teenager throwing stones at soldiers blocking a protest against theft of communal land than to label him a “terrorist”?
Morality is not the only argument against the use of attack dogs in a civilian setting. This photo shows what can result even when the target is armed militants.
Writing recently in Tablet on the Kamm affair, Yossi Melman, no bleeding heart leftist, reminded the Israeli elite that “image and good name also contribute to the security and prosperity of Israel.” Indeed, for years, senior officers and officials have told us that perceptions are critical to victory in “asymmetric warfare”. When it comes to making actual operative decisions, however, other considerations consistently trump strategic insight.
Amir Buhbut, Maariv, April 8 2010
The IDF has come up with a new weapon against popular terror: dogs of the Oketz unit will catch shooting cells and firebomb throwers and stone-throwers. “The dogs are a non-lethal weapon,” explained a high-ranking officer in the unit.
Disturbances have increased throughout Judea and Samaria in recent months, and despite orders to make the rules of engagement stricter to prevent an escalation, IDF soldiers killed four Palestinians in two incidents. A Central Command inquiry found that their killing could have been prevented.
In wake of the incidents, the commander of the Oketz unit, Lt. Col. S., approached the commander of the Samaria Brigade, Col. Itzik Bar, and suggested the services of a new Oketz company comprised of dogs and combatants. This unit earned praise in the brigade-wide exercise of the Givati Brigade last month on the Golan Heights.
Col. Bar approved the plan and began to put it into practice on a problematic route where stones and firebombs are regularly thrown at Israeli civilians and security forces. Because of the mountainous topography and the proximity to a Palestinian village, it is difficult to catch the suspects in real time.
“We began this activity last week,” explained a senior officer. “The Oketz dog is the non-lethal weapon that will chase the suspects from the moment they are spotted, taking advantage of its greater speed. In the future, the goal is to let Oketz act to prevent shooting attacks on problematic roads and searches in the casbah.”
Fitting that this proposal was circulated in the run-up to Passover by an “observant” MK. It is becoming increasingly clear that for the fundamentalist strain of Jewish Orthodoxy and its secular nationalist allies, the only problem with our history of persecution is that Jews were the victims.
How can this extreme moral exceptionalism be reconciled with the belief of many, if not most, Jews worldwide that our values compliment a cosmopolitan and humanistic world-view? It cannot. A Jewish schism is just a matter of time.
The establishment of an “infiltrators’ city” next to the border with Egypt that would be built by illegal residents from Africa, which would be the only place they could live; hiring these refugees and immigrants to do state sponsored labor such as building the new border fence and paving roads for the benefit of the residents of southern Israel — these are just some of the proposals raised by MK Yaakov (Katzele) Katz of the National Union and chairman for the Knesset committee to examine the problems of the foreign workers, to battle the phenomenon of the infiltration of tens of thousands of refugees and African work immigrants into Israel.
In a letter filled with harsh expressions that was circulated by Katz on the web, he explains: “It could well be that these jobs will be hard on the infiltrators and this will cause them to advise their relatives not to follow them to Israel. Tens of thousands of immigrants, the majority from Eritrea, have infiltrated Israel and another million are on the way,” Katz wrote. “In 100 years of labor Israel built a Jewish state here, and in ten years, the infiltrators could cause this all to go down the drain.”
Katz begins his letter with a call to the residents of Tel Aviv to “wake up,” since, by his predictions, within six to seven years there will be about 100,000 illegal infiltrators in the city. He also explains who is responsible for the phenomenon: “The rulers of Sudan and Eritrea, together with the Egyptians, are gradually taking over the State of Israel (…) the infiltrators move into the Hatikva neighborhood, they deluge southern Tel Aviv and every day they advance a few dozen meters closer to Dizengoff, on their way to Akirov and Ramat Aviv.”
“There is no avoiding the need for the prime minister to declare a state of emergency,” Katzele said, and even called to order IDF soldiers to shoot any infiltrator trying to enter Israel. He also proposes to fine anyone who employs infiltrators from Africa illegally hundreds of thousands of shekels.
Organizations that assist refugees and asylum seekers were shocked by MK Katz’s proposals. Activist Elisheva Milikovsky said that they “express moral obtuseness and cruelty toward asylum seekers who came to Israel because of the danger posed to them in their own countries. We are astounded that on the eve of Passover of all times, Katzele does not remember the biblical injunction ‘because you were strangers in the land of Egypt,’ which expresses our obligation to treat all strangers among us with respect.”
Attorney Oded Feller from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said: “This surreal letter by MK Katz only proves what human rights organizations have been screaming for months: ever since Katz was appointed chairman of the committee for foreign workers, the committee’s discussions have deteriorated to an unprecedented low and have become a display of racist hatred and inconceivable cruelty, led by him. In Tel Aviv, as in all of the State of Israel,” Feller added, “there are Jewish refugees who fled for the lives from Europe, and for them, asking for asylum is a tangible and painful memory.”
Einat Weizman is an actress living in Tel Aviv. She has a Masters in Culture Research and Political Communications from Tel Aviv University and writes regularly for Maariv.
[Hebrew version here.]
Earlier this month (on March 3 2010) an expanded panel of High Court of Justice judges debated the petition against the “Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law (Temporary Provision).” This is a “temporary provision” that for the past eight years, hour after hour, has been preventing Israeli citizens from being united with their spouses who are residents of the West Bank and Gaza, by barring the latter from entering Israel and residing therein. The law, which the court refrained from disqualifying in the past on the grounds that it serves a “temporary security purpose,” is presented as security legislation, but it is not intended to protect the residents of Israel against enemy attacks. Its purpose is to protect the vision of the Jewish state against the “demographic threat.”
This is part of the ethno-biological war that the state is waging, in which law and bureaucracy serve as the main weapons. In addition to the many people who have been directly harmed by this war, Israeli democracy can also be counted as one of its victims. The law illustrates in practice the inherent tension in the oxymoronic term “Jewish and democratic state.” In the clash between the two, the legislator has revealed that he prefers a Jewish and demographic state, and to hell with democracy.
In order to soften the long-standing temporary provision, it includes a framework for recognizing irregular cases-a “humanitarian committee,” intended to determine which of the married couples does not pose a danger to the state. But even this “humanitarian” exception shows the ethno-biological significance underlying this legislation, since the few who receive the sought-after permit to stay in Israel are usually ill and elderly people, so that only Palestinians who are incapable of producing offspring are entitled to reside in our midst. All the others are free to fulfill their love-but not in the state of the Jews.
The greatest threat that the law seeks to protect against is not the threat posed by the Palestinians who wish to be unified with their loved ones, but rather the threat posed by their potential offspring, who might, heaven forbid, exercise their rights and even vote. In order to prevent the realization of this horrific vision, the vision of democracy, the law tries to ensure that such children will not be born.
This law, like many others, illustrates the fact that the entire issue of marriage in Israel is subjugated to demographic thinking. This is an attempt by the state to control biology. It is expressed not only in mobilizing the law to protect against the threat posed by the Palestinian womb. In a state that wages battle in the field of biology, it is not surprising that the issue of fertility treatments, genetic fertilization and fetal tissue treatments is one of the most advanced in the world. The Citizenship Law, which was written and intended for the Palestinian population, is only part of an entire legal-technological complex aimed at the political manufacturing of nationality.
This is the flip side of the politics dealing with death and who should be killed, the politics of life-which life the state wishes to create and which life it seeks to prevent. The demographic war is a known matter, but it does not end with the numerical balance between Jews and non-Jews. A key element lies in the effort to prevent the creation of “hybrids,” Jewish-Arabs or Arab-Jews.
For the most part, the Israeli citizens who have been separated by the temporary provision from their family members in the West Bank or Gaza, are Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship (“Israeli Arabs”). But in some cases, this refers to mixed couples who have been waiting for many years for approval of family unification. These are usually Jewish women who fell in love with Palestinian men, and wander from one ministry to another in the hope of winning the state’s approval for a unification that is “out of the question.”
The policy of separation is not only walls that rise several meters high, but also microscopic walls that are built by the state at the level of the chromosomes of DNA. Alongside with the restrictions on Jews marrying non-Jews, the state is working to separate them from their closest neighbors and from their genetic codes, and actually trying to keep them from an exciting and attainable resolution to years of conflict. If, after more than a hundred years of Zionism, it would allow the freedom to create a new, mixed nation, that nation’s demands would be completely different and would require different politics, and a different situation.
Photo: Alon Schuster
Dimi Reider is a journalist and photographer, working from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. His articles have been published in the Guardian, Jerusalem Post, Index on Censorship, Counterpunch and Peace Reporter. Dimi co-edits Kav-Hutz – an attempt to provide fresh and engaging commentary and analysis on the world outside Israel. He currently works for Haaretz newspaper. He blogs at Dimi’s Notes.
Scroll down for update on this post.
Grassroots and governmental campaigning against interfaith mingling is nothing new in Israel: Just a few months ago there was a “task force” set up by the municipalioty of Petah Tikva, which is basically a suburb of Tel Aviv. The job of the task force was to patrol the city at night and break up Arab-Jewish dates. The London Times also covered the activities of a concerned parents’ group vigilante gang patrolling the rapidly integrating Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, intimidating mixed couples.
On top of that, we have the activities of a huge, quasi-paramilitary group called Yad Leachim that goes on army-style”rescue operations” of Jewish women from their Gentile husbands (homegrown terrorist Jacob Teitel boasts working with them for a while, which they deny), and, lest we forget, the insane Jewish Agency campaign about non-Jewish partners kidnapping 50% of the young Jews in the Diaspora.
But this is the first time officially sanctioned racism, funded by taxpayers, has come to Tel Aviv, Israel’s liberal heartland.
Moria Ben Yossef, Zman Tel-Aviv [Maariv Tel-Aviv Weekly Magazine] February 23 2010 [Hebrew original here]
The municipal finance committee decided three weeks ago to give NIS 250,000 [~$66,000] to what it refers to as “‘an aid program for immigrant girls at risk”. The program will be launched this month in the Shapira, Kiryat Shalom and Nevs Ofer neighborhoods. The committee said some of the project’s aims are ‘locating immigrant girls at risk… case-specific family and community intervention to locate the girls… and locating the appropriate figures in the community to treat the girls.’
The program is aimed to treat up to 120 young women under 22, and is jointly run by the Tel Aviv Municipality, the Absorption Ministry (which will sponsor 75 percent of it), and the World Congress of Bukharan Jews
…”the term ‘distressed immigrant girls’ is politically correct whitewash for the true destination of the budget,” a senior source in the municipality said. “This is a war against the trend of scores of Jewish girls getting together with minority men and with migrant workers, and then getting into trouble with their families and the families of the minority men, that often ostracize them for being Jewish.”
According to councilwoman Yael Ben Yeffet (City for All), who sits on the finance committee, municipality director-general Menachem Leibe said at the meeting that the girls in question belong mainly to the Bukhara community, who get together with criminals and minority men. “When I asked him if getting together with members of minorities constituted being at risk, Leibe replied: ‘For the families that ostracise them it is’”, Ben Yeffet said.
The decision to support the boycott appears to have resulted from lobbying by councilman Benjamin Babyuf (Shas), himself a Bukhara Jew and a resident of Kiryat Shalom. Babyuf approached some months ago mayor Ron Huldai with a request to set up a municipal organization to locate and treat the girls in question. In his request, Babyuf spoke of girls getting “assimilated,” and suggested increasing funding to part-time religious schools operate by Shas, which take up young women meeting with Arab men.
These girls come from a poor socio-economic background,” Babyouf explains. “They don’t get enough attention. Very often these are unpopular girls whose appearance is unattractive, and these men use this,” he said.
“It’s happening across the country and in Tel Aviv, too, but it’s particularly rife in Jaffa and the south of the city, where the population is more diverse,” said a Shas activists who had been running the part-time religious schools for 20 years and can only be identified as N. “They got out hunting for girls… we’re talking about local Arabs and Arabs from villages coming to Tel Aviv for work. At first they shower them with love and money, they spoil them, and then they take them back to their village – usually after getting married. From our experience we know this is where this Romeo and Juliet plot turns into an action movie. They become enslaved. We had some really hard cases of girls who approached us and we helped them. They were begging to leave but their Arab boyfriends wouldn’t let them.”
N said there were more than 10 part-time religious schools capable of taking care of the girls, but they were suffering from overload and lack of funds. “We’re collapsing. Hundreds of girls are going through this. Girl falling after girl,” he said.
“It’s a frightening thing, the girls also begin using drugs and alcohol,” said Yaffo activist David Machlouf. “About a year and a half ago I witnessed the shocking case of a 15-year-old girl. This Arab guy hit on her, she became pregnant and got an abortion, He took her to his village and they dressed her up in a galabiya (Arab Dress) but everyone treated her horrifically, calling her a Jew-Jew. At some point she complained against him so he beat her up really badly. After that we took her to an organization in Bnei Brak, but later she went back to him again.”
UPDATE: In a statement issued today, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) expressed shock at the racism of the Tel Aviv municipality, as reported in the Ma’ariv article.
Hagai El-Ad, the director of the ACRI, said: “Neither the municipality of Tel Aviv nor any other official body is responsible for ‘racial purity.’ The idea of the municipality interfering in the weaving of romantic connections is inconceivable.”
For further information from the ACRI, contact spokeswoman Nirit Moskowitz.
Phone: +972 3 560 8185
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.
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.