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Danny Ayalon to Norway: Why can’t you keep your artists under control?

November 16, 2010 4 comments

Ayalon

The Israeli government reaction to the homegrown cultural boycott of the West Bank settlement of Ariel was forceful and blunt: Threaten funding, establish a “Zionist Art Prize” and de-legitimize whoever takes part as fifth-columnists. This should not have been a surprise, coming from a government that has overseen an unprecedented assault on domestic freedom of expression and association. The campaign has been so successful locally that the Foreign Ministry is now trying it on the international stage.

Here’s how the Israeli Embassy in Santiago dealt with reporting about a Chilean tourist beaten half to death in Jerusalem because he resembled a Palestinian:

“The incident has been blown up here out of all proportion also by members of parliament of Palestinian extraction who took advantage of it to accuse Israel of racism after it was reported that he might have been attacked because of an Arab appearence,” [Ambassador David] Dadon told Haaretz yesterday [November 10 2010]. “Following our swift and tough response, the matter was immediately removed from the media’s agenda.”

Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon expects foreign governments to adopt the Israeli standard in its entirety, at least on all things Palestinian. This morning’s [November 15 2010] Yediot reports [full translation at bottom of post; Hebrew original here]:

A severe diplomatic crisis has erupted between Israel and the Norwegian authorities. Israel has accused the Norwegian government of financing and promoting blatant anti-Israel incitement.

The article then lists a series of of Norwegian of cultural projects funded by the Norwegian government that the Foreign Ministry doesn’t like. This has been going on for a while. What brought on the “severe diplomatic crisis”? Hutzpah, apparently. Not only did the Norwegians refuse the Israeli dictate, they had the gall to cite democratic principles:

The Norwegians informed Israel in response that this was a matter of freedom of speech and that the government did not meddle in artistic content.

One can hardly blame the Deputy Minister. In Israel, suppression of information and opinions at odds with government policy has become normative. Ayalon probably thought the Norwegians were sandbagging him.

Apparently, the trigger for the Israeli diplomatic assault was this sinister piece of propaganda:

According to reports that have reached the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the city of Trondheim, Norway, is paying for a trip to New York by a group of high school pupils who are taking part in a play called Gaza Monologues. The play deals with “the suffering of children in Palestine as a result of the Israeli occupation.” The play, which was written by a Palestinian man from Gaza, will be performed in the UN building.

The play’s website lists EED, Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst — Church Development Service, a government-funded association of the Protestant Churches in Germany. The government of Germany is also directly involved in funding the play through DED, the German development service. If Israel’s ire in the case of Norway was sparked by a municipality sponsoring a few kids trip to New York, what can the Germans expect when Ayalon’s staffers discover that the federal government is behind the play?

Read more…

Is Im Tirzu planning to sue author Meir Shalev?

August 26, 2010 3 comments

In February, I joined a number of other activists — Roy YellinYuval YellinNoam Wiener, Edan RingAri RemezTal Niv and Noam Livne — in establishing a Facebook group aimed at exposing the personae and motivation behind the  Im Tirzu smear campaign against the New Israel Fund. Entitled Im Tirzu — A Fascist Movement, the group served as an effective bulletin board for information and ideas, and it is still active today with over 3,065 members.

Ronen Shoval, Im Tirzu’s Chairman, was not happy. He personally demanded that we immediately drop the descriptor “fascist” from the group’s name. We refused, of course. To our delight, he proceeded to sue us for NIS 2.5 million, a rather extraordinary sum by Israeli standards. If the court does not reject the suit outright on free speech grounds, we look forward to demonstrating that the shoe fits.

Following Im Tirzu’s ill-advised attack on Ben Gurion University last week, a series of high-profile Israeli public figures have publicly agreed with our description of the movement.

Shalev

It began last Friday, with this blunt statement in author Meir Shalev‘s Yediot column [full translation of section at bottom of post]:

A few months ago the Education Minister appeared at an Im Tirzu conference and voiced his support for their path. Since then, it become clear what kind of movement and values we’re dealing with. Not just Zionist love for the motherland, but run-of-the-mill fascism accompanied by threats against the universities.

On Tuesday, political scientist Yaron Ezrahi asserted in a Yediot op-ed (Hebrew original here) that:

The concerted effort by far-right activists, supported by elements of the government and Knesset, to subject professors students and artists to loyalty tests that they design, is no other than a vain attempt at the fascization of Zionism.

On Wednesday, Prof. Hannan Hever was similarly unambiguous in Haaretz:

These are clear symptoms of fascism: Enforcement of unified opinion and suppression of any criticism regarding the founding myth of the state.

In this morning’s Maariv (Hebrew original here) Prof. Dan Caspi chose an arguably even more loaded term:

The Im Tirzu organization functions as the right’s “Cultural Guard.”

Since all of the above appeared in the mass media and, therefore, undoubtedly damaged Shoval and his colleagues much more than our lowly Facebook group could, Im Tirzu’s lawyers must be working overtime this week.

And for dessert

Excerpt from column, Meir Shalev, Yediot Friday Political Supplement, August 20 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

A few months ago the Education Minister appeared at an Im Tirzu conference and voiced his support for their path. Since then, it become clear what kind of movement and values we’re dealing with. Not just Zionist love for the motherland, but run-of-the-mill fascism accompanied by threats against the universities.

Its too bad that the universities woke up too late and without assertiveness required. In this respect, the Rector of Haifa University, Prof. Yossi Ben Artzi, should be complimented for speaking up clearly and courageously about this phenomenon before all his colleagues. The statement by the Council of University Heads, who do not need to prove their love for the country, is also completely superfluous. Universities do not need be tested for their love of the motherland and do not need to advocate for it. At most they need to teach the study of the land among other subjects, and they must forcibly reject any aggressive political attempt to scrutinize their curriculum.

But the main question is the way the Minister of Education has conducted himself. The Minister began by supporting Im Tirzu and he is now as silent as a fish. His only reaction to Im Tirzu’s threat to approach university funders was to express his opposition to any targeting of funding. Thus Mr. Saar proved that while he may be a worthy Deputy Director General for Finance in the Ministry, he is not a Minister of Education. A very strange smell emanates from the way he has conducted himself.

Read more…

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.

Channel Two TV news demonstrates how to railroad a non-violent protest movement

June 27, 2010 54 comments

The Sheikh Jarrah protest movement pulled off an impressive demonstration on Friday (June 25 2010.) More than five hundred Israelis and Palestinians marched in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, to protest the planned demolition of 22 Palestinian homes.” Bernard Avishai has posted an interesting account of the event at TPM Café. Here’s a short video clip, which shows a powerful, non-violent, protest:

Israeli TVs didn’t show. Since the event was extraordinary, however, Channel Two TV News had to mention it in the evening newscast. Here’s the clip:

Yair Lapid

The script, delivered by aspiring politician Yair Lapid, is matter-of-fact:

Some five hundred leftist activists and Palestinians demonstrated this afternoon in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem in protest of the approval by the Local Planning Committee in Jerusalem of the King’s Garden plan, which includes the planned demolition of 22 Palestinian homes in the neighborhood to make way for the construction of a new archaeological garden.

Channel Two did not have its own footage. They had options, however. They could have bought footage from the wires or Arab TVs, who were there in force. They could have approached the organizers and gotten free footage.

Instead, they used B Roll from the archive. Fair enough. They could have used, for example, their own footage from previous protests and marked it as archival.

Not only was the B Roll not labelled. It was highly unrepresentative of the event — prayers at an open-air mosque, followed immediately by children throwing stones at Police jeeps. End result: For the the lay viewer, the protest is associated with violence (preceded by Islamic religious incitement, no less).

Was this done with intentionally? As documented in-depth by Max Blumenthal last week and demonstrated in a Coteret series a few months ago, the Israeli mainstream media tends to serve as dutiful stenographers of government information, especially on security and foreign policy issues.

It’s doubtful if anyone was briefing in this instance, however. My hunch is that someone at Channel Two was pandering to his audience’s sensibilities (or to his own), consciously or subconsciously averting cognitive dissonance. For many months and years, Israeli audiences, of Channel Two TV in particular, have been subject to nightly conditioning: The only opposition to government policies on Palestinian issues is from violent Muslims and their lunatic-fringe Israeli sympathizers. Images of masses of young and “normal” Israelis (some of them religious!) marching peacefully to protest patent injustice, would move viewers outside their comfort zone, and on a Friday night to boot.

This is a large part of the answer to the question of where the Israeli peace movement has been for a decade. It would still be dormant if the new media had not allowed activists to break free of the restrictions of the MSM and top-heavy NGO structures. The demonstration at Silwan, like the dozens in Sheikh Jarrah that preceded it, was organized with nearly no outlay using Facebook and other social media.

Facebook also enabled many supporters who could not be present to support the demonstrators.  Not only through the sharing of reports and images. On Saturday afternoon, one of the organizers — Daniel Dukarevich — sent out a note (Hebrew) describing what Channel Two had done and asking readers to e-mail the relevant ombudsmen with complaints. Twenty-four hours later, he reported that the Israel Press Council had received the largest number of complaints over a single incident ever and that Channel Two News had contacted him: They had gotten the message and really needed to unclog their inbox.

Yediot: How an Israeli college succeeded in shutting out Arabs from student body elections

June 23, 2010 4 comments

In this morning’s (June 23 2010) Yediot, Uri Misgav reports on how the management of an academic college in northern Israel intervened in the student body elections in a successful effort to shut-out Palestinian-Israeli representatives. His conclusion:

The Emek Yezreel College is currently holding its end of year exams. Students are being tested on their academic achievements in the departments of political science, communications, behavioral sciences and education. I think they can be canceled. The message the college management gave its Jewish and Arab students is much louder than any research question. Sixty-two years after its founding Israel is farther than ever from the ability to bravely confront the democratic challenge of integrating its Arab minority.

Misgav’s dose of contemporary Israeli academic reality is supplemented by Avirama Golan’s glimpse of the Knesset Education Committee’s slide into McCarthyism and, earlier in the week, Education Minister Gideon Saar’s vow to punish to punish Israeli professors who back academic boycotts, which came hot on the heels of his endorsement of the Im Tirzu report urging a purge of ‘anti-Zionism’ in Israeli Universities.

Another dot for Boaz Okon, Yediot’s legal editor, to connect in his picture of “the emergence of apartheid and fascism” in Israel.

A democratic failure

Op-ed, Uri Misgav, Yediot, June 23 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

The Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel resides in a green lung next to the village of Tel Adashim. In the last two decades it has enjoyed substantial growth and development. The college calls itself “the Academy of the North,” and 5000 students study there for BA and MA degrees. Among other things the college has a popular political science department. At the beginning of the month the campus was supposed to hold a small celebration of democracy: elections for the student association. From my personal experience I know those elections are not really important. Israeli student councils don’t have a real effect on the academy or the country. But what happened at the Emek Yezreel College within a few days is an amazing and very sad political parable.

At the beginning of the election campaign two lists were competing for control of the council. One represented the incumbent association and the other a vocal opposition that wanted to unseat it. The latter ran a vigorous and aggressive campaign against the incumbent representatives. As students do, they promised a “revolution” and talked about a “cleanup.” Many of the students got interested in the elections..

At some point the Arab students got into the picture. There are about 1000 of them at the college, which serves the areas of Nazareth and the valleys. They may be a minority but have high political awareness and high voting rates. At first the Arab students negotiated with both existing lists to join one of them. They were rejected and set out to establish a separate list. Even after the deadline for submitting the lists the negotiations continued. Samir Baranseh, chairman of the Arab list, held simultaneous negotiations with the two competing lists in order to create a coalition bloc that would decide the close elections.

One day before the elections members of the two Jewish lists were summoned to urgent talks with the college CEO, Yoram Raz, and with a senior lecturer. At the end of the meeting their members, who until that moment were quarreling loudly, announced they were running together on a single list. The Arab students claimed that in a conversation they had with Raz he admitted that the initiative for the urgent union came from the college management. “Imagine if you had won all of the seats in the association or most of them,” he told them. “The news would have reached not only the Israeli press but also the world press, even the Turkish press. It is inconceivable for the Arabs, who constitute 20% of the students, to represent all of the students of the college.”

The head of the Arab list understood the situation and went to the joint Jewish list with a last offer: combining forces in one list, based on a formula of one in every five representatives. That offer too was rejected. At that point Baranseh and his friends announced they were boycotting the elections and establishing a separate Arab students’ committee. On election day, which was supposed to be a face-off between three competing and ambitious lists, only one list ultimately stood for election. Just like in Syria. The students responded accordingly. Only 15% of them bothered to go vote. One, who happens to be a Jew, voted with a blank ballot, on which he wrote: “A dark day for democracy.”

Read more…

Yediot’s legal affairs editor on “the emergence of apartheid and fascism” in Israel

June 23, 2010 22 comments

Yediot’s legal affairs editor, Judge (ret.) Boaz Okon, lists a series of undemocratic events in the Israeli public sphere and urges his readers to come to contemplate what they mean when seen together:

Okon

These dots are growing evidence of the lack of the spirit of freedom and the emergence of apartheid and fascism. If you look at each dot separately you might miss the bigger picture. Like a child watching a military brigade march, and after seeing the battalions, the batteries and the companies, asking: “And when is the brigade finally coming?” the answer is that while he watched the marching of the battalions, batteries and companies, he was actually watching the brigade. So is the situation in Israel. You do not have to ask where the apartheid is. These events, which are accepted with silence and indifference, together create a picture of a terrible reality.

—–

Draw me a Monster

Op-ed, Boaz Okon [legal affairs editor], Yediot, June 22 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Just like in a children’s connect-the-dots coloring book, where connecting random dots creates a picture, so in Israel, if you connect a number of horrifying, multiplying incidents, you begin to see a monster.

Dot number one: a school in Emmanuel segregates students along ethnic lines. The court, upholding the principle of equality, orders the segregation to be canceled, but is held in contempt by an entire prejudiced community. They rely on the old defense plea “tu quique” — “you too” — meaning you too maintain hidden segregation. That is a pathetic and perverse defense, but it is disturbing because the number of mizrahi Jews in academe, the legal institutions and the senior civil service is too low.

Dot number two: MK Hanin Zoabi joined the flotilla to Gaza. As a result, Knesset members shouted at her “go to Gaza.” Zoabi is an Israeli citizen. Even if her actions are infuriating, you cannot incite against her and call for her expulsion. In the US, when an elderly journalist suggested the Jews in Israel go to Poland, the president condemned her and she had to step down. Our legislators are trying to pass laws to block the funding of bodies such as the New Israel Fund or B’Tselem, only because they dare tell us the truth to our faces.

Dot number three: in Hebron there is segregation between Jews and Arabs, and entire streets are blocked to Arab Palestinians. This decree was passed after the Jewish Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Arabs. And as if that weren’t bad enough, Israeli Arabs are not allowed to walk around the streets of Hebron. It turns out that Arab identity in itself constitutes a provocation and pretext for disturbances by Jews. The situation is considered normal, and therefore the segregation regime on Highway 443, which the court canceled on paper, continues to exist in practice.

And another dot: among the senior civil service in Israel, in the courts as well as in academe, the number of Arabs is minute. And another dot:  punishment of Arabs is harsher than of Jews. And another dot: at the Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations police are heavy-handed with the demonstrators for Arab rights and gentle with the demonstrators for Jewish rights. And another dot: a judge places obstacles on two men who wish to bring their children born to a surrogate mother to Israel, because of their sexual orientation. And another dot: violation of suspects’ rights is widespread, and more than once false confessions have been extracted from suspects, usually members of minorities, foreign workers or Ethiopians. Nobody investigates the police. The evil spirit, which is quick to convict and loaths differences of opinion and the presumption of innocence, has become part of the culture.

And this too: foreign workers are forbidden from multiplying here, as if they were draft animals. And another dot: gag orders are issued routinely and without justification, and wiretapping orders are issued with a light hand. There is no reaction to illegal wiretapping by the government. In the same way a law is passed to establish a biometric database, despite its violation of privacy, as is the “big brother” law, allowing monitoring of cellular phone calls, e-mail and Internet. And there are many more points concerning the cheapening of the democratic process, buying votes and buying entire parties with offices and benefits. Read more…

Yediot’s Shaked: Israel can’t turn into a fascist state — it lacks a dictator — but that won’t stop it from trying

June 21, 2010 9 comments

Raanan Shaked, a Yediot Magazine columnist, usually sticks to bitter-sweet satires of middle class Israeli family life. The past few weeks seem to have pushed him over the edge:

When do you realize that fascism — an overused word, so let’s use it — has already finished knocking on the door and then breaking it down, and is now sitting in your country with its feet on the table and treating some of its residents as a light snack?  Perhaps when extreme right wing hooligans march down Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv, curse and attack people sitting in cafés who have not done anything to them except for sitting there, as happened on Saturday two weeks ago?  Perhaps it is when MK Anastasia Michaeli takes time off between births to lunge like an irritable anaconda that has spotted a mouse in the grass at MK Hanin Zuabi in an attempt to throttle her microphone with her bare hands, and then says: “I have a right to say… she has no right to speak” — this, incidentally, being the precise definition of democracy in the Yisrael Beiteinu dictionary?

It’s a well done column and, although some readers may be baffled by all the colloquial references, worth reading in full for a sense of the current public atmosphere in Israel.

The cartoon captions (see the column for an explanation for many of them) read: (1) A Real Israeli doesn’t dodge IDF conscription! (2) I’m a deputy battalion commander in the paratroops; (3) A Real Israeli doesn’t sit in cafés on Ibn Gavirol [a Tel-Aviv boulevard]! (4) A Real Israeli doesn’t order Pixies tickets! (5) A Real Israeli is a fan of Beitar Jerusalem [football club], listens to Amir Benayun and venerates [MK] Anastasia Michaeli.

Who are you calling a fascist

Israel can’t turn into a fascist state — it lacks a dictator — but that won’t stop it from trying

Raanan Shaked, Yediot Friday Magazine, June 18 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]

Limor Livnat is one of the women — all right, I take that back; Limor Livnat is one of the men currently leading the broad political movement, in which Israeli politicians get up in the morning, and before taking their current backbone out of a glass, wet their finger, hold it outside the window, see where the wind is blowing — and it is always blowing hard to the right — and then go outside to bark with everyone in the desired direction and piss on the other side’s head.

Limor Livnat is the person who initiated last week’s historical reunion performance by Rita, Sarit Hadad, Shlomo Artzi, Dana International and Eyal Golan, which is supposed to compensate me for the cancelled performances of the Pixies and Elvis Costello in Israel.  Thank you, Limor, really.  What do I need Elvis Costello and the Pixies — dangerous people who contend, apparently under the influence of drugs, that Israel is imposing a siege on Gaza — when I have the great art of Sarit Hadad, as it peaked in her song, “I’m standing in the street and my heart is wet and sweet”? What has Costello done already that Eyal Golan did not do before him, and better, including Ilanit Levy?  What have these Pixies contributed to the world that Dana International did not contribute?  Come on, you are looking at a Eurovision winner here!  Have these Pixies ever won anything in their lives except for a bloated liver?

Moreover, as someone wrote last week, and I pray to his God that he was not serious [reference to column by Hanoch Daum]: “Who needs performances in the park when people from Or Akiva win a million shekels and Marina [a star of in the Israeli version Survivor] dances in a bikini in 3-D on prime time television?”  In other words: If the world turns its back on us, at least Marina will show us her behind.

When do you wake up and realize that your bed is located in a country that you don’t recognize?  When are you awake enough to start thinking seriously about leaving, because you really don’t want to remain the last sane Jew among millions of Haredim — in black or orange; patriots — the Israeli euphemism for hotheads; and online commenters — the updated name for surplus and second-rate goods?  When do you understand that your children are more important than you, and you are incapable of placing them indifferently on the doorstep of the violent Israeli education system and waiting for them on the other side — the day of the discharge from the IDF — with the hope that there will be something left of them that you will recognize?

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…

Fellini in Bilin

June 7, 2010 12 comments

Watch this video from the suppression Friday’s  (June 4 2010) anti-Barrier protest at the West Bank village of Bilin. From 01:40 begins a scene which could have come straight from Satyricon: A group of helmeted, visored, and armored soldiers with long rectangular shields assaults a parade float of the Mavi Marmara decked with flags from around the world. They then charge down the roads at the fleeing crowd and grab an elderly lady. A protester on a wheelchair with a gas mask drives through them. A fire breaks out.

Most imagery from the village is much more banal in its horror. Like this one, of the arrest of a twelve-year old in the olive groves of the village on the same day.

Sheikh Jarrah: Time to act

June 1, 2010 16 comments


Louis Frankenthaler moved to Israel in 1995 and lives, with his family, in West Jerusalem. He has an MA in Jewish Education, is a doctoral student and works for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. His political writings have appeared in Zeek, Global Dialogue, the Electronic Intifada and in Ha’aretz. The opinions reflected in his essays are his own.

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Louis translated the activists’ statement, which was originally published in Hebrew on the Sheikh Jarrah blog, his commentary follows.

From the Sheikh Jarrah activists

Today is a difficult day for all of us, for the thousands who have stood over the months in protest in Sheikh Jarrah and to the tens of thousands who support this grave struggle, a struggle for the future of the society in which we live.

Today, adding to the physical police barriers in Sheikh Jarrah [the Jerusalem Magistrate/"Shalom" Court] Judge Ziskind added, in her decision, an additional barrier. Through its decision the Court is attempting to prevent core [Sheikh Jarrah] activists from taking part in any public event connected to Sheikh Jarrah for five months and even to issue a sweeping order preventing the activists from even appearing in the neighborhood during this period. With this the Court, in no uncertain terms, stands with the Jerusalem Police and has joined its efforts to repress and crush the struggle. We know now, like in the past, such repression will only strengthen us as we stand in resistance to injustice.

In the face of this newest challenge we will present the only response we have: solidarity. Solidarity with our Palestinian partners against the attempts purge the neighborhood of its Palestinian residents in favor of Jewish settlers; solidarity with our comrades in detention and against the attempts to repress their protests; solidarity with our fellow citizens/civilians who want only to live in a democratic society in which politically based law enforcement is inconceivable. All must be equal before the law. The law, when applied discriminatory, challenges is very legality [constitutionality].

In the name of solidarity we call on everyone to come to Sheikh Jarrah next Friday. Standing together we will deliver a loud and clear message to the Magistrate’s Court and to the settler’s police: You cannot kill popular resistance

This is the moment that demands of all of us to join the struggle, to call on our friends to join us as we stand shoulder to shoulder against the corruption of a law enforcement system infected by the Occupation.

Friday — 4pm/16:00 Sheikh Jarrah: We call on YOU to join us. More details to follow.

The Sheikh Jarrah Activists

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Commentary

There is little more that one can add to the morally just call from the Sheikh Jarrah activists. Over the past month or two I, normally cynical about demonstrations, have decided to frequent the neighborhood, to come out from behind my computer screen activism, my writing and my role as a full time human rights worker, to protest and to start visiting with the people beyond Friday afternoons.

The weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah are exciting and inspiring examples of a pure representation of democratic and human rights based activism. I have come by myself and witnessed (and was almost touched by) police brutality. I have come with my children (7 and 10) and faced their tough questions: “Why we are here? What is going on? Why are there so many police here and why do they have different uniforms on?” The simple answer I give them children reflects the relative simplicity of the struggle in Sheikh Jarrah. It is an answer that draws together a relatively large variety of people, mostly Israelis, some of them professors, authors, politicians but most of them regular people from regular homes in regular neighborhoods. The answer to my kids’ questions: we are here because what Israel is doing to the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah is wrong. Israel is hurting them and it is not fair. As for the police, to my children I am forced to answer them with a hint of sadness that says “normally we expect the police to protect us. If someone hurts you, you should call the police and they will protect you but today, they are helping the State do something bad.”

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