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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Zizek on settlements and peace

August 19, 2009

From Zizek: Why and how settlements are a long-term obstruction to peace.

“When peace-loving Israeli liberals present their conflict with Palestinians in neutral, symmetrical terms – admitting that there are extremists on both sides who reject peace – one should ask a simple question: what goes on in the Middle East when nothing is happening there at the direct politico-military level (ie, when there are no tensions, attacks or negotiations)? What goes on is the slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians on the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parcelling up of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land (which goes from crop-burning and religious desecration to targeted killings) – all this supported by a Kafkaesque network of legal regulations”.

Read the rest of the article here.
“Quiet slicing of the West Bank makes abstract prayers for peace obscene”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/18/west-bank-israel-settlers-palestinians


The Pervasiveness of Race

July 22, 2009

Whilst the following news story (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/21/henry-louis-gates-jr-arrest-harvard) is not directly related to the Middle East I have decided to post it anyway because of a recent debate about racism and as it provides a convenient excuse to revisit the topic on this site. What this short news story suggests is that even though institutional and legally enforced racism is less pervasive today than in previous eras where the slave trade and European colonialism produced racist doctrines premised on the superiority of the white race, there is still a resilience to racial stereotyping and more subtle forms of racism in the US, at least. I would argue that subtle and insidious forms of racism remain pervasive in the modern world more widely than just in the US . The harsh reality is that racism is as pervasive internationally as it was a century or so ago when W.E.B. Du Bois suggested that the issue of race relations would be a defining motif of the twentieth century. The events of the twentieth century have shown us how prescient Du Bois was and how relevant his comments remain as we enter into a new millennium. Today, racial differences (ethnic and religious differences as well) continue to shape the world we live in.

Read the rest of this entry »


Astonishing European court ruling on boycotts of Israeli goods

July 20, 2009

The Jerusalem Post reports on an astonishing decision closing off yet another non-violent effort to exert pressure on Israel to end its brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine. Excerpt and link to original news report below.  I wonder when we can expect the North Korean, Iranian, Zimbabwean and Sudanese challenges to boycotts on the grounds that they are discriminatory?

Despite its long history of supporting Israel in defiance of multiple U.N. resolutions, somehow I can’t imagine that a ruling like this, which declares that it is neither illegal nor a violation of one’s freedom of expression for France to fine someone from calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, could ever be passed in the U.S., where freedom of expression is so central to the American political imagination — or at least it was during the Cold War, when freedom of expression was said to be what fundamentally distinguished America from the Soviet Union.

Jerusalem Post Jul 20, 2009
European court: Israel boycotts are unlawful discrimination

By HERB KEINON

Israel finally won one last week in an international human rights court. On Thursday, the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights upheld a French ruling that it was illegal and discriminatory to boycott Israeli goods, and that making it illegal to call for a boycott of Israeli goods did not constitute a violation of one’s freedom of expression.

The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg, has some 47 member states and is independent of the European Union. The court is made up of one judge from each member state, and the rulings of the court carry moral weight throughout Europe.

On Thursday the court ruled by a vote of 6-1 that the French court did not violate the freedom of expression of the Communist mayor of the small French town of Seclin, Jean-Claude Fernand Willem, who in October 2002 announced at a town hall meeting that he intended to call on the municipality to boycott Israeli products. …

–L.L. Wynn


Israel, Racism and the Durban Conference

May 22, 2009

An article recently published in Le Monde presents evidence of a very disturbing increase in the racist demagoguery in Israeli politics and a trend of state-sanctioned racist violence against Israeli Arabs. It seems from the evidence provided in the article that Israel is  rapidly transforming from a racist state into a racist society. When the two converge, that is institutional racism and popular racism, there is far greater potential for mass race-based violence to break out, as studies of genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid show.

It is little wonder Israel boycotted Durban II. But, the reason the Australian government gave was very unconvincing, citing concerns that Israel was singled out for special mention, giving no explanation for why this was a problem. While, I certainly agree that contemporary racism is not restricted to Israel (I wrote an earlier post about the increase of anti-African racism in Egypt) the institutionalized racism in Israel is qualitatively different than anywhere else in the world. It was for this reason and no other that Israel was “singled out” by those that framed the Durban conference. The claims that raising the issue of racism in Israel is anti-Semitic is a smokescreen as the organizers had widely stated that all forms of racism are equally deplorable, including Antisemitism.  I do not believe that anyone involved in the struggle against racism condones Antisemitism in any form, but this does not mean remaining vigilant against Antisemitism. But criticizing Israel for the state-policies that make the lives of non-Jewish Arab citizens of Israel different from Israeli-Jews is not anti-Semitic, just anti-racist. The fight against racism is universal but his does not mean that we cannot shine a brighter light of scrutiny on specific cases of racism, such as that occurring in Israel.

The article can be found at:http://mondediplo.com/2009/05/04israel

Noah Bassil


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