I would not have expected to be so pleased by Professor Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott a major conference in Jerusalem in solidarity with the Palestinians. But I was.
I say that because I do not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). Or to be precise I do not support it as applied to Israel itself in contrast to the occupation. I have strongly backed the efforts (most notably by church groups and specifically by the Presbyterians) to divest from corporations that sell Israel the equipment needed to maintain the occupation. I also support the multidenominational effort to link U.S. aid to Israel to its ending the occupation.
But I personally have drawn the line on boycotting Israel itself. Since I support the existence and security of Israel within the 1967 lines, I am not comfortable with actions that punish the Israeli people at large. I don’t think Israel is South Africa. Like President Jimmy Carter, I limit my use of the label “apartheid” to the occupied areas. I do not view Israel as an “apartheid state.”
by: William K. Barth on May 17th, 2013 | 18 Comments »
If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.
- Ehud Olmert, former prime minister of Israel
While international attention has shifted to the war in Syria, little media focus is given to the recent successful initiative at Blair House in Washington, D.C., between Secretary of State John Kerry and Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani on behalf of Arab League states. Sheikh Hamad agreed with Secretary Kerry to endorse the American backed proposal for a two-state solution that partitions Israel in order to create a new Palestinian state. As Arab state representatives retreated from their prior demands that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders, the Arab League initiative represents progress toward a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Graffiti marks the wall dividing the Palestinian city of Bethlehem from Israelis in the West Bank. Credit: Creative Commons/Montecruz Foto.
Currently, Israelis and Palestinians live interspersed together within non-contiguous borders. However, the problem with partition is that it divides the population based upon ethnic, racial, religious, or linguistic characteristics. Partition actions use types of profiling to assign people to states based upon their human characteristics. The use of profiling contradicts human rights because equal treatment requires that people be recognized as individuals irrespective of their ethnic, racial or religious identity. So, Israelis and Palestinians must reject obnoxious forms of human profiling should they agree on a partition plan. This poses a particular challenge for Israel because it is the homeland of the Jewish peoples who are themselves a persecuted religious group.
by: Robert Cohen on May 15th, 2013 | 10 Comments »
On March 21, 2013, President Obama delivers a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Centre to the Israeli public. Credit: Creative Commons/Pete Souza.
“Put yourself in their shoes,” said President Obama. “Look at the world through their eyes.”
Good idea. And easily the best lines in his Jerusalem speech delivered on 21st March.
Put yourself in their shoes.
It was a direct challenge to Jewish Israelis (and Diaspora Jews too).
Look at the world through their eyes.
But how hard is it to imagine the world of the Palestinian ‘other’?
Today – May 15 – marks the 65th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba – ‘Catastrophe’. The date follows one day after the anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. What better moment to take seriously the Obama shoe-swapping challenge.
Sometimes it is instructive to listen to what Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says because his way of seeing the Israel-Palestinian conflict is typical of the thinking of both the Netanyahu government and its lobby here. I say “sometimes” because most of Dershowitz’s opinions can be found in a dozen other places — from AIPAC, the “major Jewish organizations,“neocon websites like Commentary, and in statements and tweets from the Israeli government itself.
But sometimes Dershowitz inadvertently provides solid insight into the mentality that continues to enable a 45-year occupation that, even Dershowitz admits, has proven so destructive to Israel.
Over 10,000 Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv this evening to protest new austerity measures in the country’s budget, echoing (and perhaps renewing) Israel’s historic social justice protests from two years ago.
Over 10,000 Israelis took to the streets on Saturday, May 11 to protest austerity measures. Photo by Haggai Matar.
Many activists who played a central role in those protests were involved in this evening’s renewed call for Israelis to march in the streets against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and their budget, which proposes cuts in social welfare programs and raised taxes on lower- and middle-income workers.
by: Galina L. De Roeck on May 10th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Tucsonans arrive in the International Airport of Tel-Aviv. Credit: Paul Afek.
Last November a group of us from Tucson, Arizona, went on a trip to Israel/Palestine. For the last four years I have been a member of a local Tikkun discussion group. Before that I had not known much about Zionism or the foundation of Israel, or the condition of the Palestinians. I became impressed with people who were assertively Jewish, but equally passionate about questioning the policies of the state of Israel. And so I became invested in learning about the Israel/Palestine situation, and when the occasion presented itself, I decided to undertake this trip, which brought together participants in the Jewish-Muslim Peace Walk of Tucson, members of the International Center for Peace and Justice, and our Tikkun discussion group.
The ancient religious aura of Jerusalem and the rest of “The Holy Land” can be felt everywhere. To enter the Holy Sepulcher which encloses Golgotha, the mountain where Jesus is said to have been crucified, and which was founded by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, or to gaze at the magnificent Dome of the Rock, or to watch Orthodox Jews praying so fervently at the West Wall is to witness a place where people strive to touch the immaterial, where, perhaps, they long for immortality.
by: Kate Johnston on May 10th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
In Israel, the Masada Desert overlooks the Dead Sea. Credit: Creative Commons/Steve Drasco.
There have been a few times in my life when the kindness shown to me from a stranger has humbled me deeply. The immense feeling of gratitude served to restore my faith in humanity, when ‘life’ happened and I had forgotten.
One such moment occurred during my time as a volunteer activist in Ramallah, Palestine. Visiting the territories had become an obvious next step after having dedicated a year of my life to the Palestine cause in Australia where I volunteered with three organizations spanning media, the refugee issue and advocacy. Prior to going to Palestine, I had been living in Egypt and had just finished a three month scholarship I had been awarded from university to study Arabic in Cairo.
Last Tuesday, on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), I debated an American supporter of Likud in front of 200 students at the Kushner Academy yeshiva high school in Livingston, New Jersey. Everyone — including my opponent — was polite and friendly, and the teachers repeatedly exhorted the students to be civil and open to hearing a view they may disagree with. Three boys came up to me after to shake my hand and tell me that they were perhaps the only “liberals” in the school.
Although personable, my opponent was loose in his interpretations and misinformed on relevant events in Palestinian-Israeli relations. He even referred to the Boston Marathon bombing of the previous day, before we knew anything about the perpetrators, as if this were relevant to our debate. I don’t recall his exact words, but he insinuated that it proved how violent and undependable “they” are — by which he must have meant Muslims, Arabs and/or Palestinians.
Such generalizations are wrong, of course, but the extremist Jihadi script is out there; sadly, this constitutes a distinct behavioral model for disaffected and maladjusted individuals to embrace for meaning in their lives. From what we know of the Tsarnaev brothers, this seems to be true of the older brother, with the younger pushed along by the overpowering force of the older’s personality. I’m impressed with J. J. Goldberg’s thoughtful piece on this in The Forward, “The Deadly Identity Crisis Along Islam’s Borders.”
Image care of Ma'an News Agency
Binyamin Netanyahu garnered much attention during the height of the Arab Spring for calling Israel “the only real democracy in the Middle East.”
On Tuesday, as Israelis celebrated the country’s 65th birthday, Jerusalem police demonstrated just how measured one should be when applying the word democracy to Israel.
According to Ma’an News Agency:
Israel on Tuesday detained and interrogated five Palestinians for raising Palestinian flags on their cars in Jerusalem.
Two of those detained were released on bail of 5,000 shekels ($1,378) and on condition that they do not raise Palestinian flags as Israel celebrates Independence Day.
Eight others were pulled over by traffic police and fined 250 shekels for having Palestinian flags on their cars.
It is customary for Congress to pass resolutions commending Israel on the anniversary of its founding in 1948. Once these resolutions were innocuous with references to “making the desert bloom” and “ingathering” Jewish refugees. Standard “pro-Israel” boilerplate. No more.
In recent years Congress, with the Israel lobby’s eager assistance, has coupled salutations and congratulations with increasingly strident language about terrorism, Palestinians, and now, Iran. (For an excellent analysis on how the concept of being “pro-Israel” has degenerated in recent years, see this smart piece by Michael Koplow, program director of the Israel Institute at Georgetown University.)