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The Settlement Legality Debate: FAQ

May11

by: Nathaniel Berman on May 11th, 2017 | No Comments »

I. Why Now?

The resurgence of debates about legality, particularly the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has become an unexpected feature of public discussion of Israel/Palestine over the past decade. This resurgence has been primarily the work of two kinds of forces. On the one hand, pro-settler advocates have been asserting that the pervasive international view of the illegality of the settlements is simply wrong. Such advocates range from a 2012 Israeli government “Report on the Status of Building in the Region of Judea and Samaria” (the “Levy Commission Report”), to articles published in the right-wing press, to activists relentlessly advancing such views in social media. On the other hand, the illegality of the settlements has been vigorously asserted by those active in international campaigns critical of Israel, especially the BDS movement. This article will primarily focus on the pro-settler use of the legality argument, evaluating its soundness and considering the contextual significance of its resurgence.

The revival of the legality debate is surprising because it seems, at first glance, at odds with current global developments. To be sure, there was a period, roughly between 1990 and 2003, when international debate about the use of force was pervaded with legal argumentation. In retrospect, it is astonishing how much of the debate about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August, 1990 and the US-led military response in January, 1991, was framed in terms of legal argument. The decade that ensued was something of a golden era for public international lawyers. The conviction that the end of the Cold War meant that the international law governing the use of force could “finally” be implemented, that the Security Council could “finally” play the role for which it was intended, became quite widespread. Even as such hopes became tarnished as the decade continued – most egregiously by the international failure to stop the 1993 Rwanda genocide – international legal discourse remained a key shaper of world opinion about the use of force. Every intervention – or lack thereof – was accompanied by fierce debate about its legality. The 1999 NATO invasion of Kosovo, despite – or perhaps precisely because of – its questionable legality, produced volumes of creative legal discussion.

That period now seems long past, though it may not be possible to identify the precise moment of its demise. Kosovo played a role, as did the decision of the US not to seek Security Council approval for the invasion of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, both of these actions could be plausibly (if not uncontroversially) justified under longstanding doctrines (humanitarian intervention in the former case, self-defense in the latter). But it was the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent, if grudging, acquiescence to it by much of the world, that signaled that international norms about the use of force had lost their power to shape international policy. With the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, both of the erstwhile “superpowers” had firmly demonstrated their contempt for such international norms. To be sure, many condemned that invasion in terms of its blatant illegality, but such terms seemed out of touch with the new discursive character of international debate.

In the Israel/Palestine conflict, legal debate has long played a central, if intermittent, role. While I cannot rehearse the entire history here, suffice it to say that the conflict has been decisively shaped by the debate over, and adoption of, such international instruments as the 1922 Mandate for Palestine, the 1947 Partition Resolution, the 1967 Security Council Resolution 242, and so on. But there have been periods when questions of legality seemed more or less irrelevant to ongoing political developments.

In my view, it was the 1993 Oslo agreements and their aftermath that largely encouraged the most recent (if temporary) sidelining of the core legal issues of the conflict, such as the legitimacy of the State of Israel, the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, legality of the settlements, and so on. The twin recognitions of Israeli statehood and Palestinian peoplehood by Rabin and Arafat in 1993 promised to set aside zero-sum debates over rival, totalizing legal claims. In their stead, Oslo seemed (however briefly) to augur a focus on pragmatic adjustment of interests, the establishment of complementary Palestinian and Israeli societies, and the gradual oblivion of incommensurable claims over the land and its history.

The death of Oslo had both its sudden and gradual dimensions, with causes far too complex to discuss here. The second intifada sealed its demise – even though some of its form

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Making a Long-Standing UN Vision for Compassion a Reality

May11

by: Noah Tenney on May 11th, 2017 | No Comments »

Heralding Article 25: A People’s Strategy for World Transformation

By Mohammed Mesbahi

Troubador Publishing Ltd, Leicester, UK, 2016

In the years following the death and destruction of World War II there were a number of key developments in the efforts to rebuild and to prevent major future conflicts. Two of the most significant developments occurred in 1948. In June of that year, the Marshall Plan—a United States aid initiative to rebuild Western Europe’s economy (named for then Secretary of State George Marshall)—went into effect, and the following December the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (the UN having been established three years earlier at the end of the war).

One of the most crucial components of the UDHR is Article 25, which states that everyone has a right to the basic needs for an adequate and secure living standard. Unfortunately, the global community is far from recognizing fundamental rights and needs for all; however, in the past decade or so there have been renewed pushes to address this.


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A ‘cli-fi missionary’ with Jewish roots who is fighting global warming

May9

by: Danny Bloom on May 9th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

I’m a climate change literary activist and gadfly, and I’d like to talk to you today about something I call ”cli-fi”.

I’m close to 70, graduated from Tufts University in 1971 with a major in Yiddish literature, and promoting the literary fortunes of cli-fi is now my life work. And I’m Jewish, and my Jewish education and family life in western Massachusetts in the 1950s and 1960s plays a central role, even today, in my climate activism.

So what’s ” cli-fi ”? It’s a subgenre of sci-fi, according to some observers, and a separate standalone genre of its own, according to others. I feel that cli-fi novels and movies can cut through the bitter divide among rightwing denialists and leftwing liberals worldwide over the global warming debate. I’m not into politics; I’m into literature and movies.


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The President Was Right About Improving Our Relationship With Russia

May3

by: Arkady Mamaysky on May 3rd, 2017 | 2 Comments »

The elections are over but debates about the issues raised and promises made by Candidate Trump are in full swing without any signs of subsiding.

The following is an analysis of his intention to work towards establishing a good relationship with Russia.

To avoid misunderstanding, I should start by saying that I don’t like Russia, nor do I like Ukraine. I was born in Ukraine, but during many years of my life in the Soviet Union, I had more than enough “pleasant” interactions with Russian and Ukrainian reality and people, along with the nationalism and anti-Semitism of a good portion of the population.

One of many derogatory epithets directed towards Jewish and other non-Slavic people is, “you’re no Russian,” a statement meant to diminish its target’s sense of worth as a human being.

Of course, as in any other nation, there are good and bad people people in Russia.


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Curiouser and Curiouser

May3

by: Victor Grossman, Tikkun's Correspondent in Berlin on May 3rd, 2017 | No Comments »

A story worthy of a mystery author – or dramatist – has been hitting German headlines. It began when police at the Vienna airport in Austria arrested a first lieutenant of the German Bundeswehr army when he picked up a pistol hidden some weeks earlier in a bathroom. He denied it was his and was released. But his fingerprints somehow matched those of a refugee who had applied for German asylum two years earlier.

 

Like Alice in Wonderland when she got bigger and bigger, the story turned “curiouser and curiouser” and here too, odd language was important. This young blond German officer, 28, had been registered in the German states of Hesse and Bavaria as a refugee from Damascus in Syria. He had said he was Catholic but the men of ISIS had persecuted him and killed some of his family because of his partially Jewish background and Jewish name – “David Benjamin”.Strangely enough, he spoke little or no Arabic and was questioned in French – with a German accent. No-one had ever been suspicious, or so it was claimed. He then seems to have commuted between his job as officer in a mixed French-German unit in French Alsace and his false existence as a Syrian refugee in Germany.

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The Process of Creation as the New Paradigm for our Civilization

May3

by: Gennady Shkliarevsky on May 3rd, 2017 | 3 Comments »

There is a wonderful process at work in our universe.  As we look around, we see its remarkable creations:  particles, atoms, stars, planets, galaxies, life, and much else. The roots of this process go to the very nature of our universe.

The main property of our universe is its uniqueness:  it is all there is.  There is nothing outside it; in fact, there is no outside.  As there is nothing outside our universe, nothing can come into it and nothing can disappear from it because there is nowhere to disappear.  Consequently, everything must be conserved.  Conservation that is fundamental to our universe originates in its uniqueness and gives rise to the process of creation.


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Standing Rock in Colombia: A Real Vision of Peace After Decades of War and Displacement

May3

by: Sabine Lichtenfels on May 3rd, 2017 | No Comments »

I am writing this from Colombia, where we – a small group from the Global Campus from Tamera/Portugal, Bolivia, Brazil and Canada – have been invited to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the peace community San José de Apartadó. Peace activists, farmers, local indigenous people, representatives of embassies of various countries and of the United Nations, as well as human rights lawyers are meeting in the remote region in the tropical northern part of the country to honor a peace community, which has been in existence for twenty years – despite all attacks, violence and murders. It is horrifying to read the reports by the peasants and the indigenous people – the women and men who are daily risking their lives to counter the policies of displacement with their commitment to life and hope.

In this country, in which the FARC guerilla’s agreement to disarm is being celebrated before the eyes of the world as the beginning of a new time of peace, the misery of the poor people, the indigenous population and those persecuted has in reality increased. It is the same the world over: Those who have truly earned the Nobel Peace Prize and who have been practicing non-violent resistance for decades, these communities and committed peace workers are being persecuted and maligned and often have to pay for their commitment with their lives.


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Parashat Tazria-Metzora

May3

by: Lisa Rappaport on May 3rd, 2017 | No Comments »

[Editor's note: Some of the weekly Torah readings--called the weekly parasha-- are hard to relate to, and this past week's reading, Parshat Tazria/Metzorah, is among them. More difficult. Rabbinic student in the Aleph program Lisa Rappaport gave one of the most interesting approaches to it I haveve encountered, so I am sharing it with our readers.--Rabbi Michael Lerner]

This week’s parasha, Tazria-Metzora, is challenging, with parts that seem completely unrelatable to our lives. It is in this parasha that we learn about tzaarat, a spiritual affliction causing a white discoloration of the skin. It is often translated (or rather mistranslated) as leprosy. But leprosy is a physical condition with a physical cause, while tzaarat is a spiritual affliction that renders the sufferer tameh, or ritually impure.

Several things cause tzaarat, but the primary cause is leshon hara, translated literally as the evil tongue and commonly understood as negative speech (gossip). While tzaarat may seem strange and unrelatable, whatisrelevant in every era, in every generation, is the power of our words. Torah gives us the opportunity a couple times a year to examine our relationship to leshon hara-it comes up again later when Miriam is afflicted with with tzaarat. This is a good thing, because leshon hara is an insidious and destructive phenomenon. Of the 43 sins listed in the Al Chet confessional prayer, 11 of them are committed through negative speech.


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Equalitarianism

May2

by: Dan Brook on May 2nd, 2017 | 1 Comment »

There are, tragically, many insidious discriminations, aggressions, oppressions, and other social injustices — micro, meso, and, macro — based on a variety of socially-constructed divisions, fears, and hatreds. Just as tragically, we get caught up in these, to varying degrees and with devastating consequences. Perhaps Dr. Paul Farmer isolated the phenomenon: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” The antidote to this social disease is equalitarianism.

Instead of singularly focusing on the important individual problems of classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, islamophobia, ableism, looksism, or other forms of what Robert Fuller calls rankism that do not necessarily have a catchy name, and instead of negatively being against one or more of these tragically otherized divisions, we could positively embrace an all-encompassing equalitarianism and each be an equalitarian (a little-known term that has been around since about 1799).


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Nuclear is NOT an “Option”

Apr20

by: Lynn Feinerman on April 20th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

Digging in my tiny Jewish library this Passover season, I came across a short contribution to a published symposium, made by Rabbi Nehemia Polen, a well-known scholar, author and congregational rabbi.

Polen wrote his short piece in 1986, for the literary publication New Traditions. But his words were ominously current for me, discovered as if by what we Jews call “hashgachah pratit,” a kind of destined timeliness.

He was considering the phrase in Jewish prayer liturgy, “hem yevoshu ve’yehatu mi’gevuratam,” translated “may the nations of the world be put to shame and crushed despite their power.” He meditated on the meaning of this phrase, and its intention in prayer:


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