Israel’s Moral Decadence

June 1, 2010

Israel’s moral decadence
Yariv Oppenheimer | May 31, 2010
(published in Ma’ariv, Hebrew only)

Even if the fleet to Gaza is irritating and outrageous, a sovereign state cannot treat every act of protest as a terror event that has to end in bloodshed

Tonight Israel marked a new low point in the way it chose to contend with its domestic and external policy dissidents. A state that will not let its citizens protest, demonstrate and demand justice, a state that is busy composing loyalty tests for its citizens and passing laws to limit the freedom of expression, failed again in the real test and stopped a protest fleet of civilian ships at the cost of more than ten lives.

The fleet that left Turkey a few days ago managed to anger even me. Hundreds of pro-Hamas activists challenged Israel blatantly and outrageously. Not a word of censure of the Hamas government, not a word about Gilad Shalit and not a word about the desire for peace. Nonetheless, a sovereign state cannot treat every show of protest, however outrageous and irritating it is, as a terror event that has to end in bloodshed. Instead of using the fleet to generate an internal Israeli discussion about the effectiveness of the policy of the siege of Gaza and its moral and political implications for Israel, all of the government spokesmen chose to focus on the handful of activists on the ships and grace them with the title of existential threats to Israel’s security. From here to unnecessary bloodshed the path was short.

It is not the soldiers’ fault, nor the commanders’ nor the heads of the IDF’s. Israeli society as a whole is responsible for the grim results of the IDF takeover of the protest ships. The radicalization of Israeli society is yielding its fruit. The message to the soldiers and police is crystallizing. When Arabs are involved in an activity, the hand on the trigger is light. Determination boards the ship while sensitivity stays in the water.

But have no fear, the domestic Israeli propaganda machine began to work and in just a few hours every Israeli will be recounting how Hamas helicopters took over a Jewish ship and shot illegal immigrants in all directions. With the use of our repression mechanisms and the encouragement of the IDF spokesman we will again dissociate from reality and the world and manufacture our own unique script in which we are the victims and the whole world is against us as usual. Will the outcome of tonight’s confrontation end with an official commission of inquiry? No chance.

Israel justifies its brutal and violent image

The price for the unfortunate results of the fleet will be paid primarily by the families of those who were killed at sea last night. Next in line to pay the price will be the residents of Israel who want peace and the end of the conflict with all their hearts, and who wish to stop the cycle of bloodshed and live in a saner country. We, the silent majority, watch with despair as Israel with its own actions justifies the brutal and violent image it acquired in the last years and gives our biggest enemies in Hamas and Iran a reason to rejoice.

If the miserable naval clash had any winners, they are in Tehran, in the bunkers of Beirut and in the Hamas headquarters in Gaza. The Hamas government succeeded with the Israeli government’s active support to receive international recognition, to gain the support of the Arab world and to be seen as a hero standing up to Israel.

The enemies of peace and the extremists on both sides can again find reasons to attack each other and deepen the hatred and hostility between Jews and Arabs in Israel and outside of it. Again the moderates on both sides are silenced and the voice of reason is drowned out by the voices of incitement and hatred. Without a loud voice of protest by a patriotic Israeli public calling on its leaders to change course, we will all find ourselves in a morally and politically decadent country, slowly sinking into the depths.

Appreciation to Sol Salbe from ME News Service who provided the link (http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=195&fld=694&docid=4675) to access this piece.

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BDS VICTORY – UK GOVERNMENT BOYCOTTS ISRAELI DIAMOND MOGUL

March 5, 2009

Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East

UK Government Boycotts Israeli Tycoon
Lev Leviev over Settlement Construction

Decision a Victory for Coordinated Campaign in Palestine,
US, UK and Israel

New York, NY, March 4 – The government of the United Kingdom has decided to
boycott Israeli diamond and real estate mogul Lev Leviev over his companies’
construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the Occupied West
Bank, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz Daily (1) reported today. The decision

by the UK government followed a coordinated advocacy  campaign by human
rights advocates in New York, the UK, Palestine and Israel demanding that
the UK government end plans to rent the new UK Embassy in Tel Aviv from
Leviev’s company Africa-Israel.

The UK’s Tel Aviv Ambassador notified Leviev of the decision by letter,
following a British parliamentary debate, and inquiries with Leviev’s
company Africa-Israel over its activities in the West Bank,  Ha’aretz
reported. According to Ha’aretz, “The embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed the
details of the story.”
Read the rest of this entry »


Paul McGeough on Hamas

February 12, 2009

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Middle East correspondent, Paul McGeough, is interviewed by Katia Bachko in the latest issue of Columbia Journalism Review.  McGeough is working on a book that explores Hamas’ 20-year history, and so in this interview he reflects on what it means to represent key players in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the face of the kinds of gross simplifications that often circulate in the media, but he also looks at what Hamas is, what the organization means to Palestinians, and what it means to Israelis.  Here’s an excerpt:

To simply state that somebody is a moderate or somebody is a militant, and expect the reader to use that as the sole description or descriptor of an individual or an organization, doesn’t deliver all that could be delivered. You’re talking about Hamas? Hamas are militants, yes, they are militants who appealed to Palestinians at an election that was supervised by Western observers and deemed to be fair, and Palestinians chose the militants not necessarily because of their militancy, but because of their belief in them on a whole range of issues. And then you have to ask, “if they’re militants, if they are terrorists, how did they get to be allowed to contest an election? Who let them contest an election?” Israelis allowed them to contest the election, Americans allowed them to contest the election, Fatah allowed them to contest the election.Right up until that first election that Hamas contested in 2006, Hamas had been saying, “We represent about fifty percent of Palestinian public opinion, therefore we should be accorded that level of representation in various Palestinian forums.” And everyone laughed, and said no, that’s not true, that’s not right, and so they allowed them to contest the election. Even though they had refused to renounce violence. There’s not too many militant or nationalist or liberation groups that have been allowed to contest elections without renouncing violence. They were allowed to do so, and they won the election. That has to count for something in your assessment in where Hamas stands in Palestinian affairs, and in the region.

He also asks: what is Fatah, that Hamas could beat them in this election?  He does a good job of showing us the complexities behind easy words like “moderate” and “terrorist,” what makes Hamas as an organization that uses terror different from a terrorist organization like al-Qaeda, and how deeply hated corrupt Fatah had become by the time it was elected out of power.

–L.L. Wynn


Two reviews of “Waltz with Bashir”

February 10, 2009

There are a couple of good reviews of the film “Waltz with Bashir” which recently won the Golden Globe for best foreign film.  The New York Times calls it “a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power,” while Salon.com’s Gary Kamiya writes about the parallels between Israel’s war with Lebanon in 1982 and the recent massacre in Gaza:

Folman’s film is not political. It does not preach or pass judgment. Yet in its artistic integrity, it unintentionally reveals the grim parallels between Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and its complicity with the Sabra and Shatilla massacre and its current onslaught — parallels that, if Israel and the U.S. heeded them, would lead them to understand that the Gaza campaign is both morally appalling and politically self-destructive. Israelis justifiably regard their leaders’ role in enabling the Sabra and Shatilla massacre as one of Israel’s darkest moments, a permanent stain on its character. Of course, Israel’s moral culpability for the 1982 massacre is not the same as its moral responsibility for the civilians killed in the current war. But there are painful similarities. …

Then as now, Israel went to war in the deluded belief that it could defeat a nationalist movement by smashing it into submission. Then as now, America signed off on this wrongheaded tactic. Then as now, Israel won a short-term tactical military victory that ultimately weakened its security and severely damaged America’s interests. And then as now, both Israel and America justified massive civilian casualties by incessantly invoking “terrorism” and dehumanizing the Palestinians.

One thing that strikes me in reviews of this film (I haven’t seen the film itself) is the focus on the psychological and moral impact of war on Israelis, an important topic which gets neatly elided by jingoistic celebrations of war as “defense.”  Would anyone who has seen the film like to comment?

–L.L. Wynn


Humanitarian aid for Gaza.

February 6, 2009

As if the blockade against Gaza and the war against Gaza were not bad enough ……

Israeli Navy intercepts aid boat bound for desperate Gaza

BEIRUT: A Lebanese aid ship bound for Gaza was fired upon and boarded by the Israeli Navy on Thursday, the trip’s organizers and journalists onboard have said. Israeli officials initially refused to verify the reports, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak then confirmed that the ship had been boarded and was being escorted to the Israeli coastal town of Ashdod.
….
The Togolese-flagged Tali was trying to deliver about 60 tons of aid, including medical supplies, food and children’s toys, to the besieged Gaza Strip, still in the midst of a humanitarian crisis after Israel’s three week bombardment on the impoverished territory in December and January that left over 1,300 dead and thousands homeless.
….
Al-Jazeera journalist Salam Khoder, who was aboard, said the ship had been boarded and that crewmembers were being assaulted. “There are Israeli soldiers who actually have boarded the vessel … They are … beating and kicking us,” he said before, according to Al-Jazeera, the line went dead.


Australian Academic Boycott.

February 4, 2009

While the call for a boycott of Israeli academics in Australia is not a new one the following statement is an indication of the renewed vigour for such action in the wake of the Gaza attack. Ali Abunimah explains, in a recent article, that the time is ripe to pressure Israel to end the brutality of its occupation. In this Mission Statement  Australia joins other countries in an “unprecedented expression of support for boycott, divestment and sanctions from major trade unions in Italy, Canada and New Zealand”.

Mission statement: Australian Academic Boycott of Israel

We are an Australian campaign focused specifically on a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions.

We do so because we support the call made by Palestinian civil society to join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This was delineated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI http://www.pacbi.org/campaign_statement.htm) in the following statement:

Read the rest of this entry »


George Mitchell and the ‘peace process’.

February 3, 2009

The appointment of Mitchell by the Obama administration as Middle East envoy brings renewed hope of an even-handed approach with regards to a peace settlement. There are, however, several substantial obstacles to overcome.

Like Irish nationalists, Palestinians will never recognize the “right” of another group to discriminate against them. Like Protestant unionists did, Israeli Jews insist on their own state. Israel’s “solution” is to cage Palestinians into ghettos –- like Gaza –- and periodically bomb them into submission just so Israeli Jews, their relative numbers dwindling, can artificially maintain a Jewish state.

If Mitchell is allowed to apply Northern Ireland’s lessons, then there may be a way out. But he goes to Jerusalem with few of the advantages he brought to Belfast. The Obama administration remains committed for now to the failed partition formula of “a Jewish state” and a “Palestinian state” and maintains the Bush administration’s misguided boycott of Hamas, which overwhelmingly won Palestinian elections in 2006. And the Israel lobby — much more powerful than its Irish American counterpart — warps US policy to favor the stronger side, an intransigent Israel committing war crimes. If these policies don’t change, Mitchell’s efforts will be wasted and escalating violence will fill the political vacuum.

Read the rest of Ali Abunimah’s article here.