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Maariv: Geert Wilders to express support for “Jordan is Palestine” at Tel-Aviv conference

November 8, 2010 8 comments
There’s more to this. Israeli adulation for the Dutch ultra-nationalist is not limited to the National Union: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Chairman of the Board of Fellows at Dore Gold’s neoconservative power-house — The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs — has been a leading cheerleader.

Dutch reinforcement for National Union

Arik Bender, Maariv, November 8 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Cooperation between the extreme right wing in Holland and Israel: Dutch anti-Muslim nationalist Geert Wilders will come to Israel in order to support the idea that “Jordan is the Palestinian nation state,” which is being promoted by MK Arieh Eldad (National Union).

Eldad, chairman of the Hatikva party, one of the constituent parties of the National Union, is convening a special conference of his party in order to discuss an “alternative foreign policy plan,” which mainly consists of recognition of the fact that Jordan is the Palestinian state, while only one state will exist between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea—the State of Israel.

MK Eldad will present the main points of his idea at the conference, which will be held in Tel Aviv at the beginning of next month.  Eldad will be followed by a guest speech by the Dutch nationalist Wilders, in which he will voice support for the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan.  Former defense minister Moshe Arens and former GSS director Ami Ayalon were invited to the conference in order to respond to the speeches.

The party led by Wilders, the Dutch Party for Freedom, currently holds 24 of the 150 seats in the lower house of the Dutch Parliament.  Wilders, who is opposed to Muslim immigration to Europe, sparked a furor following the film “Fitna” that he wrote, produced and directed in 2008.  In the film, he presents Islam and the Koran as a religion that supports terror.  Since then, he has received many death threats and is under heavy security.

Read more…

Im Tirzu becomes a right-wing liability (and sparks a neocon-theocon proxy war?)

August 24, 2010 6 comments

Ronen Shoval, Im Tirzu Chairman

Im Tirzu apparently overplayed its hand when it went after Ben Gurion University (BGU). Even the usually timid heads of the Israeli academe felt they had to react: Their institutions were under threat. One by one they gave interviews and published op-eds. As Hebrew University’s Avner de-Shalit writes in this morning’s Haaretz, these students have simply gone too far:

But now the cat is out of the bag. Im Tirtzu is no longer calling for changes in curriculum content; it is waging an ugly political battle over staffing: It wants the lecturers replaced.

The movement’s campaign has thus undergone an enormous shift. At first, it complained of (leftist) political considerations in the appointment of lecturers and said this must not be permitted. Now, it says (rightist) political considerations should govern the appointment of lecturers.

De-Shalit is careful, however, to frame his criticism patriotically and to imply that they have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (!):

Moreover, Im Tirtzu prides itself on its Zionist orientation. This writer is also a Zionist, and proud of it. But Zionism, like any national movement, has different shades and expressions. And Im Tirtzu’s shade appears to be blatantly anti-patriotic. Instead of being proud of the scholarly achievements of Israeli researchers, the movement is threatening to stop donations by Jews abroad.

Maybe this is a Zionist act, according to their understanding of Zionism, but it is certainly not a patriotic one. In practice, Im Tirtzu is joining those who call for a boycott of Israeli universities.

Shaul Mofaz, a populist former IDF Chief of Staff and current rival for the leadership of Kadima, is also patriotically appalled: “Im Tirzu thugs” went after BGU’s funding. From an op-ed in this morning’s Maariv [full text translation at bottom of post; Hebrew original here]:

The members of this organization clearly love the State of Israel. They speak of Zionism with sparkling eyes and are prepared to fight for it. But the main difference between them and the folks of the university is precisely the main difference between Ben-Gurion and others who speak daily about the importance of settling the Negev: they spoke, he acted. So one moment before somebody rushes on a journey to stop the donations from America, he or she will be better off undertaking a Zionist act and going for a journey across the Negev. The journey will end with a tour of the university. Anyone seeing and getting to know this glorious and important institution will realize that no lecturer, as anti-Zionist as he or she may be, can bring it down. The most important and powerful Zionist movement in Israel today includes more than twenty thousand students, and it both researches and creates social involvement. It’s name is Ben-Gurion University.

Hagee

This is too much for Pastor Hagee, a major Im Tirzu funder (and, the Jerusalem Post reports this morning, also a contributor to BGU) and he drops them like a stone:

“Im Tirtzu misrepresented its focus when they told us their mission was strictly Zionist education,” Ari Morgenstern, the spokesman for JHM [John Hagee Ministries], said.

“We had no prior knowledge of Im Tirtzu’s political actions and we never seek to involve ourselves in Israel’s internal political debate.”

Has this sparked a kind of American conservative donor proxy war? Shuki Balas of Latma, Caroline Glick’s Hasbara outfit, which is funded by Frank Gaffney‘s neoconservative Center for Security Policy does not mince words to describe what he thinks of the Christian Zionist leader (emphasis mine):

Following the storm, the central funder of the Im Tirzu movement has stopped the flow of funds [link in original to Hebrew version]. Let’s ignore, for now, the repeated lie that Im Tirzu demanded the dismissal of lecturers at Ben Gurion University, and that they were critical of “left-wing bias” when their letter talked about “right-wing bias”. Natasha Mozgoviya [Haaretz's DC correspondent] that Preacher John Hagee, the same one who was called “marginal”, “extremist”, “apocalyptic” and many other compliments, will stop his contributions to Im Tirzu. (In my opinion, that’s a good thing and it’s about time.) But this seems proof that Im Tirzu’s agenda, in contrast to what left says in its criticism, is incompatible with the agenda of the infamous Hagee.

Only in Israel, as they say.

—-

Im Tirtzu thugs

Op-ed, Shaul Mofaz, Maariv, August 24 2010

Settling the Negev has always  been one of the guiding principles of the Zionist movement. The man to have exalted this principle more than all others was David Ben-Gurion, the most wise and Zionist leader the state could have sought. Ben-Gurion viewed the settlement of the Negev as a primary social, economic, and national undertaking. Contrary to those who speak eloquently about values and Zionism but in practice do nothing, Ben-Gurion acted according on his belief and joined Kibbutz Sde Boker.

Recently an organization called Im Tirtzu has begun a tough campaign directed against the university named after Ben-Gurion. This organization has even informed the university’s president Prof. Rivka Carmi that in the event that she fails to dismiss faculty members with “left wing agendas” it will approach foreign investors and ensure that they cut off their donations to the university. This organization has been conducting its campaign in the name of Zionism. In the name of Zionism it is threatening to harm one of Zionism’s most beautiful, important and successful enterprises in Israel.

Ben-Gurion University and the adjacent Soroka Hospital are among Israel’s most successful and great institutions. The university is the main reason that youth leave central Israel and move to the Negev. The university conducts extensive and invaluable social activity among Israel’s southern communities. Beer Sheva’s university students are the most socially active, the most familiar with their communities and involved in them.

I am not familiar with these youths of the Im Tirtzu movement. It may be fairly presumed that they are indeed conducting their activity with the profound belief in the justice of their ways and love for the State of Israel. I believe, truly and honestly, that Israeli lecturers who publish articles that call for an academic boycott on Israel are unworthy of academic posts that are financed by the Israeli taxpayer. But from here to attacking Ben-Gurion University and to employ thuggery that may jeopardize the very existence of the university and its students, the distance is great. Very great.

The donations received by the universities are used for research and development. Many students from southern Israel study at the university for whom it is the only possibility to pursue studies in a top ranking institution and still remain in their parents’ home. The donations also help create scholarships for poor students. Anyone with clear vision can see that such a process [attacking the university] spells throwing out the baby together with the bath water, and causing damage to a great many people. These students are the ones who hear the very lecturers against whom Im Tirtzu’s campaign ranted. Some of them are no less Zionist than the members of Im Tirtzu. Most of them served in the army, continue to serve in the reserves and care about Israel. They understand no less than many of us the essence of Zionism, as they live in the Negev on a daily basis. Does anyone believe that these students lack the ability to tell right from wrong? Does anyone believe that some delusional lecturer like Niv Gordon will cause this or that student to stop doing reserve duty? Are Im Tirtzu the only Zionists left out there? The answer is no. Unequivocally no.

Read more…

Hudson’s co-founder, the Israeli academic purge and the subversion of US Middle East policy

August 22, 2010 10 comments

Evidence is mounting that the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS) — an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing” — is a creature of  The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies.

Hudson is the primary financial backer of the IZS, providing at least half of the organization’s total reported multi-year funding, but the connection does not end there.

Max Singer

Max Singer, co-founder of the Hudson Institute, its former President and current Senior Fellow, is also the IZS’s Research Director. At least according to his bio on the Hudson website: The IZS site only identifies him as a member of the Advisory Committee. Its 2006 brochure (page 8), however, states that he is a member of the International Board of Governors and is one of the ex-officio members of the Projects Committee, which “as such, are invited to all deliberative sessions and events.” According to the IZS’s verbal report to the Israeli Registrar of Associations for 2008 (the last one filed), Singer’s wife, Suzanne, is one of three members of the NGO’s “Council”, the sovereign decision-making body under Israeli law.

As the IZS’s Research Director, Singer would presumably be responsible for the research that pressured the President of Tel-Aviv University to take the extraordinary step of examining the syllabi of his institution’s Sociology Department for “left-wing bias”. The introduction to the IZS’s 2006 brochure (page 1), which Singer co-signed, indicates that he saw this type of activity as part of the organization’s strategic purpose:

IZS 2006 Brochure

The IZS will help liberate the public discourse in Israeli society from the self-imposed constraints of the prevalent dogma and internalized notions of the politically correct. Israeli society needs to be freed from the acceptance of double standards so that we can become comfortable asserting our own national purpose as a sovereign Jewish community.

This goal would fit well within the stated purpose of a Hudson Institute project, which was launched at the same time as funding of the IZS began (emphasis in the original):

The Future of Zionism. The Center for Middle East Policy is launching a multi-year project to examine the future of Zionism and its implications for the State of Israel. Israel faces an ideological crisis: As the recent Gaza pullout showed, societal divisions between secular and religious Israelis and between left and right wing camps have become so pronounced that they threaten to overpower the Zionist consensus that traditionally unified the nation. [Hudson Institute Form 990 Report to the IRS for 2005, page 23].

For a generation, Singer has been involved in designing and promoting aggressive US foreign policy. In the early 1980’s he was on the board of Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (PRODEMCA), a controversial organization involved in the Iran-Contras scandal. In 2002, he published The Many Compelling Reasons for War with Iraq.

A Democratic administration is in power in Washington and Singer has moved to Jerusalem, so he has found a new instrument for beltway influence: The government of Israel. From a July 17 policy note published by the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University (emphasis mine):

To prevent Obama from bringing America behind his different view of the world, Israel needs to help Americans appreciate the way that Obama sees things differently than they do. The views of most Americans, and of most of the American political world, are much closer to Israel’s understanding of Middle Eastern realities than to Obama’s perceptions. Israeli actions can help Americans to recognize the conflicts between what they believe and the premises of Obama’s proposed policies. The critical element in Israel’s policy concerning the US is the degree to which Israel is able to recognize, stimulate, and get the benefit of the parts of the American policy-making system that do not share President Obama’s radically different ideas about the world. Israel does not have to act as if Obama’s views will necessarily determine the policy of the US, and it certainly does not have to assume that Obama’s current views will dominate US policy-making for many years. Israel has the power, if it has the fortitude, to influence the degree to which Obama is able to make the tectonic change in American policy that he would like to make.

Netanyahu’s Senior Diplomatic Adviser, Ron Dermer, seems to have acted on this advice, incurring the wrath of Rahm Emanuel. From Ben Caspit’s August 19 column in Maariv:

Emanuel was angry, he claimed, because Dermer briefed certain Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, against the President and Emanuel himself.

Hudson Institute, Uzi Arad (and Iran) ctd.: The money piles up

August 22, 2010 1 comment

Last Thursday (August 19 2010) Coteret demonstrated that The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies, has been the largest financial backer of the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS) — an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing.” Hudson provided at least half of the NGO’s total reported multi-year funding, dwarfing all other sources of income.

The post also mentioned that, in the 2006 tax year, Hudson  provided $600,000 to the Atlantic Forum of Israel (AFI), an opaque, security-oriented, organization founded by the Israeli National Security Adviser, Uzi Arad, and run by him until last year.

Hudson Institute form 990 for 2008

Further analysis of Hudson’s IRS filings shows that this was not an isolated transaction. The institute’s form 990 for 2008 (page 10) lists the AFI as the fifth “highest paid independent contractor for professional services”  for the previous tax year, when it received $110,000 for “public policy research.”

Beyond raising the total value of the relationship between the Hudson Institute and Arad’s outfit to at least $710,000, this information also reveals a multi-faceted relationship: AFI was both a grantee and a contractor for the institute.

Thursday’s post made the following case for a full disclosure of the relationship:

  • The question of whether Israel should attack Iran and whether the US should support such a move is very tangibly on the (publicly perceived, at least) policy agenda of both governments.
  • Numerous Hudson Institute scholars, past and present, have taken very hawkish positions on this question (see this very recent article for one example.)
  • Uzi Arad has publicly articulated his (hawkish) position on the issue.
  • The Hudson Institute recently provided an opaque, security-oriented, NGO founded by Uzi Arad and, until last year, run by him, with over half a million dollars of funding.
  • The Hudson Institute is a central component of an active and ideological neoconservative opposition to the foreign and security policy of the current US President; Uzi Arad serves as National Security Adviser to the current Israeli Prime Minister.

Hudson Inst primary financial backer of NGO behind campaign to purge Israeli universities of “leftists”

August 19, 2010 29 comments

Shira Beery provided significant research for this post.

—–

Newly uncovered documentation reveals that The Hudson Institute, an influential and activist neoconservative think-tank, has provided nearly $500,000 to the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), an Israeli NGO at the forefront of an ongoing campaign to purge Israeli Universities of faculty and programs deemed “left-wing.” The grants represent more than half of the IZS’s total reported multi-year funding and position Hudson as the organization’s largest donor.

In addition, the documents indicate that Hudson provided $600,000 to The Atlantic Forum of Israel, an opaque, security-oriented, organization founded by the Israeli National Security Adviser, Uzi Arad, and run by him until last year.

—–

Partisan pressure on the Israeli academe has been building up for a few months, but came to a head over the past few days. Much of the public’s attention has focused on Im Tirzu’s blunt threat to go after the funding of Ben Gurion University unless it acts immediately to remove “post-Zionist” faculty from its Political Science Department. The week began, however, with a report that the President of Tel-Aviv University was examining the syllabi of his institution’s Sociology Department, following advocacy by the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS), a right-wing organization established by settler leader Israel Harel (profiled by Coteret here). In an article in this morning’s Haaretz, Or Kashti asserts that the two events, and the NGOs behind them, are closely related:

Im Tirtzu chairman Ronen Shoval and the organization’s spokesperson, Erez Tadmor, took part in a Young Leadership program run by the Institute for Zionist Strategies several years ago, seemingly contradicting the two men’s earlier assertion that they were not acting in concert with the institute in their public campaign against the “anti-Zionist bias” in Israeli universities.

[...]

The IZS report on sociology departments is reminiscent of Im Tirtzu’s report on political science departments. Not only is the methodology of the two reports identical (an examination of syllabi and a classification of lecturers into categories such as “Zionist” and “anti-Zionist” ), but the conclusions they reached about the state of Israeli academia are similar.

Until the final months of 2009, both Im Tirzu and the IZS were nearly unknown in the Israeli public sphere and, until now, their sources of funding have remained obscure. On Wednesday, Calcalist, a business daily published by Yediot, revealed that Christian Zionist John Hagee’s CUFI had channeled $120,000 to Im Tirzu through the Houston Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency [a full translation of article can be read here, courtesy of Judaism Without Borders.]

Previously unpublished documents, analyzed in this post, demonstrate that The Hudson Institute, a major Washington based neoconservative think-tank, which played an active role in shaping the Bush administration’s Middle East policies, has been the largest financial backer of the IZS, providing at least half of the NGO’s total multi-year funding and dwarfing all other sources.

Hudson Institute form 990 for 2007

Hudson’s form 990 report to the IRS for 2006 (page 17) states that the institute transferred $230,000 in the previous tax year to “support Israeli public policy research.” Form 990 for 2007 (last page) states that a further $256,185 were transferred in the previous tax year for “consulting/research.”

According to the IZS’s own reports to the Israeli Registrar of Associations, the Hudson Institute provided 100% of the organization’s external funding in 2006 — $105,881[1] — and 2007 — $325,462[2]. External funding for 2008 (the last year reported) was $50,351[3], coming exclusively from a rather bizarre source: The Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF)[4].

The IZS was established at the end of 2004 (registration document here). Its 2006 financial report states that donations worth $431,597[5] were received in 2005. The Hudson Institute’s form 990 for 2005 does not provide details of external grants. Therefore, confirming that it was also behind these funds requires the IZS’s 2005 report, which Coteret has not yet obtained. Even if this year is discounted, however, Hudson has provided over 53% of IZS’s total reported funding and is its largest donor.

Wurmser

Instead of detailing its grants in the 2005 report, Hudson provides a narrative report of its programs, broken down by the resident scholar responsible for their implementation. On page 23, under “Planned Projects” for Senior Fellow Meyrav Wurmser (if the name does not strike a bell, I encourage you to follow the link), of the institute’s Center for Middle East Policy, appears a brief description that may hint at the purpose of the institute’s support for the IZS (emphasis mine):

IZS financial report for 2007

The Hudson Institute’s involvement in controversial and partisan battles in the Israeli public sphere is legitimate. What is not is the fact that it is hidden from the public eye. The organizations share information on their financial relationship with their respective regulators but not with the general public. Both the IZS and the Hudson websites do not mention the organizations’ connection. In Hebrew, the IZS site simply states that its funding is “private.” In English, it refers potential donors to a newly established (it has registered but not yet filed with the IRS) US charity,  “Friends of the Institute for Zionist Strategies.” Indeed, identifying and documenting this connection required many days of work spread over the better part of a year.

In this context, at the same time the assault on pluralism in the Israeli academe intensified this week, the “NGO Transparency Law” — a thinly veiled attempt to suppress Israeli human rights groups — was making headway in the Knesset (probably not coincidentally, the IZS godfathered the bill along with Gerald Steinberg’s NGO Monitor.) Writing in this morning’s Jerusalem post, Hagai El-Ad, Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) observes:

In recent months Israelis have witnessed an unprecedented barrage of anti-democratic campaigns, from Im Tirzu to the Land of Israel Forum. All of these campaigns are funded by unknown sources.

[...]

It is the funding of those wishing to silence Israel’s human rights groups that is hidden from the public.

Arad

It appears that the Hudson Institute’s opaque involvement in Israeli affairs is not limited to “democracy” issues and encompasses high-level geopolitics as well. Its form 990 for 2007 (last page) reports on the transfer of $600,000 to the “Atlantic Forum of Israel” in the previous tax year. Trying to understand what this organization does is no easy task. Its website is “under construction”. The website of the (now defunct) American Jewish Congress explains that it is Israel’s official non-governmental representative” to NATO. An October 2009 article in Haaretz reports that Uzi Arad resigned as President of the Forum before assuming the position of Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser. The Saban Forum 2007 itinerary (page 9) adds that Arad founded the NGO.

Why is this significant? It may not be, but there are any number of important reasons why this information should be fully in the public domain and subject to further scrutiny. Consider this one, for example:

  • The question of whether Israel should attack Iran and whether the US should support such a move is very tangibly on the (publicly perceived, at least) policy agenda of both governments.
  • Numerous Hudson Institute scholars, past and present, have taken very hawkish positions on this question (see this very recent article for one example.)
  • Uzi Arad has publicly articulated his (hawkish) position on the issue.
  • The Hudson Institute recently provided an opaque, security-oriented, NGO founded by Uzi Arad and, until last year, run by him, with over half a million dollars of funding.
  • The Hudson Institute is a central component of an active and ideological neoconservative opposition to the foreign and security policy of the current US President; Uzi Arad serves as National Security Adviser to the current Israeli Prime Minister.

The facts listed above may be unrelated. That cannot be confirmed, however, without full disclosure. All involved (and given what’s at stake, that includes you and me) have an interest in moving that process forward.

——

Footnotes

  1. NIS 471,858 at an average yearly exchange rate of 4.4565. Click here to view original report, data on page numbered 8.
  2. NIS 1,337,031 at an average yearly exchange rate of 4.1081. Click here to view original report, data on pages numbered 3 and 7.
  3. NIS 180,650 at an average yearly exchange rate of 3.5878. Click here to view original report, data on pages numbered 3 and 7.
  4. A UK  charity “founded in 1865 and is the oldest organization in the world created specifically for the study of the Levant.” Its grants, however, are made to individual researchers, and the 2008 grant list does not mention the IZS or anyone associated with it.
  5. NIS 1,936,922 at average yearly exchange rate of 4.4878. Click here to view original report, data on page numbered 3.

Israeli NSA Arad on-record: Two states? That’s a zero-sum game!

June 23, 2010 11 comments

Yesterday (June 22 2010), In a speech to the Jewish Agency, Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, asked Israelis to ‘curb their enthusiasm’ about a two state solution to the conflict, saying that legitimizing a Palestinian State is tantamount to de-legitimizing Israel:

Arad also leveled veiled criticism at the two-state solution. “On the one hand, most of the people of Israel see the two-state solution as the path to a peace agreement. There are even quite a few Israelis who have mobilized for a Palestinian state and the promotion of its legitimacy, and are winning converts to it.

“What they do not notice is that this claims a certain price. The more you market Palestinian legitimacy, the more you bring about a detraction of Israel’s legitimacy in certain circles. They are accumulating legitimacy, and we are being delegitimized. If we were aware of that, perhaps we would be less enthusiastic.”

Anyone who read Arad’s ‘Dr. Strangelove’ interview last year, cannot really be surprised by anything he says. This is an important reminder, however, of who has the Prime Minister’s ear on Israeli-Palestinian issues. I think journalists who repeat ad nauseum that Palestinian rejectionism is the only obstacle to peace breaking out would find it useful. Also, Gidi Ginshtein at the Reut Institute might want to add the speech as a reference in his latest report, which contends that the mortal danger currently facing  Israel is from forces trying to undermine the legitimacy of the two state solution.

Uzi Arad versus the world

Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, June 23 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Yesterday, National Security Adviser Dr. Uzi Arad fired arrows of criticism in every direction and made unusual statements on a series of current affairs. He sent barbs in the direction of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who, according to reports, is not allowing the National Security Council to do its job, aimed criticism at Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who believes that a peace plan will extricate Israel from the diplomatic impasse, said that Israel’s enthusiasm over the two-state solution is damaging to Israel’s legitimacy, and gave legal justification for a military attack on Iran.

In a speech to the members of the Jewish Agency Assembly in Jerusalem, Arad said of the peace initiative being pushed by high-ranking Kadima officials, “Some say that we need to offer a peace initiative, and I must assume that the leader of the opposition, Ms. Tzipi Livni, will agree to that. There is no need to think that this is the magic and promised solution.

“We must not believe that the moment we do this, things will resolve on their own and then we will be saved. Such an initiative is only liable to cause the Palestinians to reject it and wait for another initiative on the understanding that Israel only gives. And therefore, I propose the commandment of caution. Making projections about the implications of what might happen is political adventurism.”

Arad also leveled veiled criticism at the two-state solution. “On the one hand, most of the people of Israel see the two-state solution as the path to a peace agreement. There are even quite a few Israelis who have mobilized for a Palestinian state and the promotion of its legitimacy, and are winning converts to it.

“What they do not notice is that this claims a certain price. The more you market Palestinian legitimacy, the more you bring about a detraction of Israel’s legitimacy in certain circles. They are accumulating legitimacy, and we are being delegitimized. If we were aware of that, perhaps we would be less enthusiastic.”

Read more…

NGO Monitor warns against wave of Ultra-Orthodox “Lawfare”

June 21, 2010 3 comments

Steinberg

The headline is, of course, sarcastic. Gerald Steinberg’s interest in “Lawfare” is instrumental and limited to his campaign to suppress the Israeli human rights community.

Otherwise, why would reports on right-wing Israeli organizations whose activism is focused on legal activism be so conspicuously absent from his organization’s website? Try finding even an acknowledgement of the “Lawfare” activities of Shurat Hadin — Israel Law Center, The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, The National Land Protection Trust or Human Rights in Yesha and you’ll come up empty handed.

Therefore, any expectation that NGO Monitor will have something to say about this remarkable reaction to the current High Court-Ultra Orthodox crisis is pure fantasy:

The large Haredi [Ultra-Orthodox] community in Strasbourg, France, where Slonim Hasidim also live, is expected to bring a lawsuit, as is the Haredi community of Antwerp, Belgium. According to Salzman, the Haredim of Antwerp are now drafting a lawsuit against the State of Israel which they intend to bring in the international court in The Hague (Maariv, June 20, full translated text at bottom.)

Steinberg’s base hypocrisy — he’s even launched his own major “Lawfare” action in a European court — would be comic if it wasn’t so dangerous. Influential publications such as The New York Jewish Week regularly turn to him as a commentator on Israeli policy. More importantly, draconian legislation he designed to severely limit the freedom of action of any NGO that does not toe government policy is set to be enacted by the Knesset.

Also planned: Lawsuits against Israel from abroad

Amihai Attali and Yuval Goren, Maariv June 20 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The Slonim Hasids intend to “export” their struggle against the State of Israel abroad by bringing lawsuits in courts throughout the world against what they term “persecution and the violation of human rights on religious grounds in Israel,” Rabbi Pinhas Salzman, a major figure in the community, has told Ma’ariv.

According to Salzman, several high-ranking figures in the Haredi community abroad recently contacted the members of the community with offers to aid their struggle. The Satmar Hasidim in New York announced that it would ask the New York municipality for permission to hold a rally in front of the United Nations to protest “the persecution of religious Jews” by the secular authorities in the State of Israel.

In addition, the large Haredi community in Strasbourg, France, where Slonim Hasidim also live, is expected to bring a lawsuit, as is the Haredi community of Antwerp, Belgium. According to Salzman, the Haredim of Antwerp are now drafting a lawsuit against the State of Israel which they intend to bring in the international court in The Hague.

“The ruling of the High Court of Justice against the Slonim Hasidim raises tough questions connected to human rights, freedom of religion and conscience and the freedom to choose a school,” Haredi attorney Mordechai Green, who represents the Slonim Hasidim, claimed last night. “We believe that the hasidic community has a strong international legal case against the State of Israel on the grounds of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”

It also turned out that until the beginning of the Sabbath two days ago, the leaders of the Hasidic community prevented officials of the Welfare Authority from going to the 22 mothers who did not show up at the prison and their children. Later on, the members of the special task force that the Welfare Authority established for this purpose, which is directed by the ministry’s deputy director general, Menahem Wagschal, recounted that some of the family members and relatives of the imprisoned parents gave misleading information regarding the whereabouts and the situation of the women and children.

Among other things, the Hasidim allowed the women and children to return to their homes only shortly before the Sabbath began, thus preventing any possibility of their arrest. “They pulled quite a few tricks on us in order to keep us from knowing where each mother and child was, and we could not visit them,” said Wagschal. “On the other hand, they conveyed a clear message that each child and mother was in good hands.”

Read more…

Elliott Abrams to Maariv: Obama’s policies bad for Israel, prospects for peace slim

June 2, 2010 11 comments

Elliott Abrams and an associate

Last weekend, Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom featured Newt Gingrinch warning Israelis that Obama’s policies could lead to “a second Holocaust.” Now, Elliott Abrams is in Israel for an event organized by Dore Gold’s neoconservative institute, the JCPA, and the competition, Maariv, interviews him on Obama’s Israel policies.

Abrams  is brutally critical of Obama. This is not surprising, since he is seems to be developing a habit of using the opportunity provided by every crisis to tell Israelis how bad the President is for them.

This type of behavior — criticizing the policies of an administration on the soil of the foreign country in question — was deemed tantamount to treason by many US conservatives when Bush was in power. Chris Suellentrop, for example, reported for the new York Times in 2006 that:

As House Democrats David Bonior and Jim McDermott may recall from their trip to Baghdad on the eve of the Iraq war, nothing sets conservative opinionmongers on edge like a speech made by a Democrat on foreign soil. Al Gore traveled to Saudi Arabia last week, and in a speech there on Sunday he criticized “abuses” committed by the U.S. government against Arabs after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A burst of flabbergasted conservative blogging followed the Associated Press dispatch about the speech, with the most clever remark coming from Mark Steyn, who called the former vice president “Sheikh al-Gore.” The editorial page of Investor’s Business Daily accused Gore of “supreme disloyalty to his country.”

Any charges of Republican double-standards could be dismissed with the argument that there is a profound difference between a speech and an interview or an op-ed. I fail to see it, however.

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Former Bush administration official: “Obama was wrong to condemn Israel”

Ben Caspit, Maariv, June 2 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

“The current American administration made two crucial mistakes this past week: the first was its vote in the UN Review Conference, which called on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its installations for inspection. The second was its vote today in the UN Security Council’s condemnation of Israel, following the raid on the Turkish ship Marmarasays the deputy national security adviser under the Bush administration Elliott Abrams, one of senior officials of the Republican administration, and the man charged with Israeli affairs at the time. In a special interview to Ma’ariv, Abrams says that under the Bush administration this would not have happened and that the chances of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians are negligible under the current policy.

Abrams arrived in Israel yesterday in order to take part in a special conference of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs directed by Dore Gold. He is expected to deliver a blunt speech and to harshly criticize the Obama administration. This opinion was also reflected in the interview he gave us yesterday: “The United States today supported a condemnation by the UN Security Council concerning the naval operation,” says Abrams, “without having provided any opportunity to check the facts. I read that President Obama asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to conduct an extensive inquiry of the facts, and I have no problem with this, but how is it that the next day he’s seen supporting a condemnation, before such an inquiry? Should not time be allowed to understand what actually transpired there, before a condemnation is voted on?”

Abrams says, “the United States ought not have voted for the resolution that called on Israel to open its nuclear facilities to inspection. This is unacceptable. In 2005 we thwarted a similar resolution, and were right to do so. Last week’s resolution singles out Israel, while ignoring countries like Iran, Pakistan and India. I read that President Obama promised Netanyahu that the United States would not vote for such a resolution. I don’t know if this is true, but in any event America must not allow such a thing to occur. This is what we did in 2005 and we also informed our Arab allies that such a thing would not stand.”

Abrams is extremely critical of the fact that Obama has ignored President Bush’s letter to Ariel Sharon, in which he stated that the US would recognize demographic changes in the territories when concluding the final status arrangement (the letter essentially recognizes the settlement blocs). “This is an extremely dangerous course of action,” he says. “It is a grave mistake not to honor the letters of President Bush. Each American president will cause damage to both himself and his successors if he leads people to understand that an unequivocal letter in print by the American president is not to be honored. President Bush’s letter was not merely a dispatch, it was phrased and signed following long negotiations between the two countries, and was endorsed by large majorities in both houses of Congress. The message we are sending the Israeli public is that it’s not worth believing us, and this is a grave mistake, because also polls in Israel show that there is a lack of trust among the Israeli public towards the American administration. How does the Obama administration expect to convince Israelis to believe him as he seeks to advance the peace process, after he has broken a clearly worded presidential commitment?” asks Abrams, “and this happened twice within one week, both on the nuclear issue and the flotilla. This is a recipe for extremely difficult problems.”

I asked Abrams what Bush would have done in similar circumstances. “On the nuclear issue I don’t need to guess, because he acted, and thwarted a similar resolution five years ago. As for the flotilla,” says Abrams, “I can only speculate. I remember the uproar that ensued after Israel killed Rantisi, and then Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. In both cases we checked the facts and stated that Israel had a right to defend itself.”

Abrams expressed pessimism as to the prospects of a peace process under Obama, Clinton, and Mitchell. “The settlement construction freeze was also a grave mistake,” he says, “this was a completely impossible demand, I have no idea what was going on in the heads of Obama, Rahm Emanuel or George Mitchell when they introduced this idea. Everyone knows there’s no way you can attain this. At the time we realized that the most important thing was to prevent expansion of the settlements, and we therefore resolved with the Sharon government, as well as with Olmert, that there would be no construction beyond the present settlement’s master plan boundaries. This makes sense, this is reasonable, this ought to satisfy the Palestinians as well so long as there are negotiations. The demands on the part of the Obama administration, have caused damage to all parties,” he says.

[…]

Read more…

Gingrich on cover of Adelson’s Israeli daily: US polices could lead to a “second Holocaust”

May 30, 2010 12 comments

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):

Netanyahu sends bureau chief to Rabbi Ovadia to thwart bill outlawing free papers

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.

[…]

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The unnamed “senior Netanyahu aide” in the NYT article on suppression of dissent in Israel [UPDATED]

April 6, 2010 11 comments

UPDATE May 14 2010: Aluf Benn notes that Dermer is advising Netanyhau to wait Obama out until the Republican victory in the November mid-terms:

The opposing camp, personified by political adviser Ron Dermer and Netanyahu’s right-wing partners, is calling on the prime minister to wait for the Congressional elections in November. The Republicans are expected to win a majority in the House of Representatives, and the offended president, who will be starting to fight for his own reelection, will go easy on Israel. This approach says an excuse needs to be found for extending the freeze until November; to remain standing during yet another round and then to win the fight on points and remain in power without ceding a millimeter.

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This morning the New York Times covers a story that has been central to Israeli public debate for months: The ongoing campaign to silence dissent in Israel and suppress the local human rights community.

Reporter Isabel Kershner does not name the official associated with the campaign nor specify the venue where the statement was made:

A senior Netanyahu aide affirmed in an interview last year that Israel was “going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups.”

Here is the full quote from the original article, by Herb Keinon, in the July 16 2009 edition of the Jerusalem Post

“We are going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups; we are not going to be sitting ducks in a pond for the human rights groups to shoot at us with impunity,” said Ron Dermer, director of policy planning in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Dermer and friends

Dermer and Sharansky with Bush

Dermer was Natan Sharansky’s ghost writer for the 2004 book “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.” This neoconservative “democratization agenda” manifest was published by the Sheldon Adelson funded Shalem Center, whose alumni now staff many of the senior positions at the Prime Minister’s Office. Dermer used his extensive GOP connections to bring the book to the attention of President Bush, who in a 2005 interview advised anyone who wants “a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy” to read it.

As Finance Minister in the Sharon government, Netanyahu appointed Dermer to the post of Economic Attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and he has come to be known as one of the Prime Minister’s closest advisers. Maariv’s Shalom Yerushalmi reports that Dermer was a central figure in the drafting of the Bar-Ilan speech. His fellow columnist, Ben Caspit, cites Dermer and uber-hawk Uzi Arad  as architects of the Israeli agenda for the first Netanyahu-Obama summit. Frustrated at the meeting’s failure, Dermer famously told reporters on the flight back that “two states for two peoples is a stupid and childish solution to a very complex problem.”

The explanation often given by Israeli pundits for Netanyahu’s bankrupt US policy is that the self described “expert on Washington” was unable to fathom the immense changes within the beltway since Bush’s first term. The fact that his right-hand man on policy is a movement neoconservative with deep roots in the previous administration was probably not helpful.  In this context, it is interesting to note the similarities in style and strategy between Dermer’s current campaign and the push to silence dissent in th US ahead of the invasion of Iraq.

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