Tikkun Magazine

Israel update Aug. 28, 2015

Editor’s note: In reporting on Israel’s latest outrages I do not mean to suggest that Israel is worse than many many other countries in regard to its abuses of human rights, but only that as a rabbi and champion of Jewish values it is particularly painful to me to witness Judaism being associated with such unjust and outrageous behavior. I feel the same way about the attempts by Donald Trump and many others to send back 12 million “undocumented” refugees in America to the countries from which they fled –mostly because of oppressive conditions created by American trade agreements that impoverished much of their countries or the police and army abuses (that American-trained at Ft. Benning Georgia’s School of the America ) officers organized against their own people. It is precisely because I care so much about the U.S. and about Israel that I feel the need to focus on behavior that so violates what most Americans and most Jews believe to be the realities of American and Israeli life. I have met those who hate the US or hate Israel, and they joyfully expose abuses. For me it is with great sadness that I report these developments.–Rabbi Michael Lerner

Israel Leaves 80 Children at Mercy of August Sun

In one of its more widespread acts of demolition, the Civil Administration last week left 127 men, women and children without shelter in 42-degree-Celsius heat.

Gideon Levy and Alex Levac

Aug 27, 2015 4:22 PM

Hudeifa crawls across the barren, rocky ground. She’s receding into the distance. Every so often, her father goes after her and brings her back to the only bit of shade in view, under the only tree in the area. Sometimes he even ties her leg to the tree trunk, to keep her from crawling away again.


The 1-year-old baby is covered in dust from head to foot. She no longer has a home, a roof, not even a tent. Nor does her father, Ali Hussein Abdullah. Or any of the 24 members of her family, some of whom are also sheltering in the shade of the tree, along with chickens that survived the raid. They have nowhere else to go. Since personnel from the Civil Administration – Israel’s governing body in the West Bank – left their property in ruins last week, they no longer have a home, not even a tent, not even a water container. They sleep on this hard, rocky ground, under the tree.


It was hot this week in the Jordan Rift; 42 degrees Celsius. But last week, when administration forces arrived to demolish and destroy, the valley was broiling hot. That was of no interest to the troops: They were just doing their job. Well, someone has to do the dirty work. Nor was the whole incident of any interest to the commanding officers or to those who dispatched them – the law-and-justice folks, the Civil Administration chiefs. They are part of a brutal and vicious mechanism that leaves no stone unturned in its efforts to uphold the laws of the occupation, and sees to it that every article of them, however minor, is rigorously enforced.


And here’s the result: Hudeifa crawling across the sand under the blazing August sun of the Jordan Rift. A sweet baby who likes to suck her thumb, she has actually been homeless for more than a week. She’s one of 127 people suffering the same plight, 80 of them children and infants, in the two sites of last week’s devastation – in the Jordan Rift and next to the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, close to Jerusalem. Not by chance, of course: These are two of the three sites of Israel’s ethnic-cleansing efforts (the third is in the South Hebron Hills). These sites are meant to be annexed to Israel one day, to come under its sovereignty; until then, they need to be made ready, cleaned out.


The Bedouin population in these areas is the weakest link, so naturally, they were chosen by the administration to bear the brunt of its malicious abuse. It’s all done under the law and by its enforcers, those bureaucrats of the occupation.


The village of Fasayil is divided into three compounds, two of them built up. Between them is an area in which the Civil Administration doesn’t allow permanent homes to be built – so the people live in tents here, although that’s also prohibited. There’s an archaeological site on the other side of the sandstone trail that leads to the compound. To the south is the settlement of Tomer and to the north the settlement of Fasael, the Labor Party’s settlements of so-called consensus and legitimacy (“moshavim,” “kibbutzim”), which are, of course, perfectly legal.


The children of the Abdullah family were still asleep last Tuesday morning when administration personnel rode in on 15 standard and two all-terrain vehicles. Their mission: to eradicate the homes. It took them about an hour. No especially heavy machinery was needed; tractors, their tread marks still visible in the earth, are enough when it comes to wrecking tents. Fourteen of the structures at the site – tents and shacks – were demolished, based on some incomprehensible logic. Why this tent but not that one; everyone here received a demolition order.


Since then, Hudeifa and her family have been living under the tree. Several other families were made homeless, too. There’s a wrecked playpen, smashed black water containers and two refrigerators that survived the raid intact but are now standing useless under the pitiless sun.


The International Red Cross quickly supplied two white tents, but aside from that, the residents here have been abandoned to their fate. Only a few women from the peace organization Machsom Watch, among them the activist Daphne Banai, have visited since the homes were razed. A new blue UNICEF schoolbag, donated ahead of the start of the school year, hangs on a fence.


The father of the family, Ali Hussein, works as a farmhand in the settlers’ fields, earning 70 shekels (about $18) a day – exploitation wages, far below the legal minimum wage. He and his family have never hurt anyone, he says in his defense. “Israel is so strong. Why the abuse? Our life is already so hard.”


Life is hard, too, in the second site of destruction – in Wadi Sneysel, opposite Ma’aleh Adumim – but not quite as bad. Twenty-three Bedouin families from the Jahalin tribe have lived here since 2000, enduring ordeals similar to those experienced by others of their community who have been forced out of the Negev since the 1950s. These residents received demolition orders in May, and last Monday the wrecking crew arrived, nearly 200 people. It took two hours.


In contrast to the Jordan Rift, the people here felt more protected, thanks to the activity of their attorney, Shlomo Lecker, whom they call “our mukhtar” (village headman). But it turned out that the Civil Administration’s reply to a letter from Lecker in an effort to stop the demolition was sent to the wrong address, according to the (peculiar and ridiculous) claim of the administration. One way or the other, even as the correspondence continued, nine structures were destroyed here, some of them tents and the others animal pens and kitchens. A wrecked toilet structure, donated by the European Union, also lies on the hard desert ground.


Yusuf Said, from the nearby community of shepherds, Maskob 2 – where several structures were also demolished last week – speaks in the name of the newly homeless. “What did we explain to the children? We don’t have to explain anything to them. They saw it for themselves. There’s no need to go into it. If I tell my son the exact why and how of the demolition, there will be chaos when he grows up. What I say to my son is that it’s not so terrible, we will rebuild, we will put things back, it’ll be alright.”

The newly homeless sent their children to the tents of neighbors and relatives in the compound, which lies along Highway 1 to Jericho. This is a relatively “advanced site” – it even has running water. There’s a small, verdant vegetable patch next to Said’s home – okra, zucchini and tomatoes are grown here in the desert. There are also some 2,000 sheep and goats, the community’s prime source of income. To help make ends meet, Said works as a night watchman at the Rami Levy supermarket chain in Ma’aleh Adumim.


“Look how we live – for this we have to be chased out?” he says. “Look at the villas of Ma’aleh Adumim. I have nothing against them, but we should be allowed to stay in our place. Is there a law for demolishing people’s homes? In the sun? When they are not bothering anyone? Tell me, who are we bothering?”


But this is area E1, which is meant to split the West Bank and prevent movement of Palestinians between its northern and southern sections. Hence the demolitions.


A spokesperson for the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the West Bank said in response, with respect to the two demolitions: “These are illegal structures that were built without a permit in violation of the law, some of them in recent years. The structures were demolished after the process of enforcement was completed and the appropriate orders were issued.”

The tents are planted in a wadi that is hit by floodwaters in winter. A few donkeys take refuge from the sun in small caves that line the valley. The wailing of an infant rises from the encampment of shepherds at Maskob 2, which is separated from Wadi Sneysel by a barren hill. The school year started here on Monday. The heroes of the hour were, of course, the homeless children, who told their friends what had happened to them at the end of the summer vacation.


But the adults are fearful for their future and the fate of their homes. “This is no way to live,” Said says. “You go to sleep at night and think: What will happen tomorrow? Will I have a home tomorrow morning or not? We are in the year 2015, and a person goes to sleep and doesn’t know if he will have a home the next day. This is barely a home to start with – and they destroy even that.”


I can’t get the image of Hudeifa – the baby who hasn’t had a roof over her head for nearly two weeks, crawling across the hot sand – out of my mind.



GAZA CITY, (AA):  More than 1,000 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip sustained permanent disabilities during last year’s 51-day Israeli military onslaught, according to Defense for Children International (DCI), an NGO devoted to children’s rights.


In a report entitled “Operation Protective Edge: A war waged on Gaza’s Children”, released on Tuesday, DCI’s Palestine unit said last year’s Israeli offensive had led to the injury of more than 11,000 Palestinians, including 1,000 permanently disabled by the violence.

The children’s rights organization also noted that, a full year after the Israeli assault, thousands of victims — including a number of children — continued to suffer from their injuries and the attendant psychological trauma.


The Gaza Strip, with some 1.9 million inhabitants, is known to be the world’s most densely populated area.


On July 7, 2014, Israel launched a major offensive against the coastal territory — dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” — which finally ended on August 26.


Over 51 days of fierce bombardment by air, land and sea, more than 2,147 Palestinians were killed, including 578 children, 489 women and 102 elderly persons.


Another 11,000 Palestinians were injured during the onslaught, 3,303 of whom were children, according to a report by the Palestinian Health Ministry.


[Photo: thousands of Palestinian children, including many injured, taking shelter in UNRWA premises during Israeli bombing last summer in Gaza]




JTA - August 25, 2015

Lawmaker Wants Israel Aid Suspended Over Killings of Palestinian Teens

(JTA) — A Minnesota congresswoman called on State Department officials to investigate whether the killing of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli soldiers requires the withholding of U.S. military aid.

Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat, in a letter made publicMonday sought the probe over whether the May 2014 deaths of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Daher constituted violations of the Leahy Law, which bars the State and Defense departments from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.

If so, she wrote, the “38th Company of the Israeli Border Police should be ineligible to receive future U.S. military aid and training and all border police involved in this incident should be denied U.S. visas as stipulated by the law.”

The teens were killed hours apart in the same location during a demonstration in the West Bank town of Beitunia for the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, marking Israel’s successful bid for statehood.

In December, an Israel Border Police officer was indicted on manslaughter charges for the killing of Nawara.

McCollum asked that a State Department official be present at the trial of the officer “to ensure appropriate standards of justice are achieved.”

McCollum said her letter, which was dated Aug. 18, was sparked by a visit to her office by Naddem Nawara’s father, Siam, who asked for her assistance in finding justice for the death of his son.

“The murders of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Daher only highlight a brutal system of occupation that devalues and dehumanizes Palestinian children,” McCollum wrote. “It is time for a strong and unequivocal statement of U.S. commitment to the human rights for Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.”


60,000 American Jews Live in the West Bank, New Study Reveals

Scholar Sara Yael Hirschhorn calls group ‘strikingly over-represented’ in settler movement.

Judy Maltz

Aug 27, 2015 10:42 PM

Roughly 60,000 American Jews live in West Bank settlements, where they account for 15 percent of the settler population, according to figures revealed Thursday by an Oxford University scholar and expert on this population.

“This provides hard evidence that this constituency is strikingly over-represented, both within the settler population itself and within the total population of Jewish American immigrants in Israel,” said Sara Yael Hirschhorn, the author of the upcoming book “City on a Hilltop: Jewish-American Settlers in the Occupied Territories Since 1967,” scheduled for release by Harvard University Press in 2016.


The number of American immigrants living in Israel, including their children, has been estimated at about 170,000.

Speaking at the first of a two-day Limmud event in Jerusalem, Hirschhorn noted that the main focus of her research has been American Jews who immigrated to Israel in the 1960s and 1970s and became active in the settlement movement. She said her findings disputed many of the widely held presumptions about this group, namely that these immigrants had been unsuccessful back home and came to Israel for lack of any other alternative, that they were very Orthodox and supported right-wing causes in America.


“In fact, these assumptions are patently false,” said Hirschhorn, who serves as the University Research Lecturer and Sidney Brichto Fellow in Israel Studies at the University of Oxford. “What my studies reveal is that they were young, single, highly-educated – something like 10 percent of American settlers in the occupied territories hold PhDs, they’re upwardly mobile, they’re traditional but not necessarily Orthodox in their religious practice, and most importantly, they were politically active in the leftist socialist movements in the U.S. in the 1960s and 70s and voted for the Democratic Party prior to their immigration to Israel.”


Based on 10 years of studying this group, she said, the portrait that emerges “is one of young, idealistic, intelligent and seasoned liberal Americans who were Zionist activists, and who were eager to apply their values and experiences to the Israeli settler movement.”


As case studies in her upcoming book, Hirschhorn focuses on three settlements that had American immigrants among their founders: Yamit (which was evacuated in 1982 following the Israeli-Egyptian peace accord), Efrat (one of the biggest today, with about 10,000 residents) and Tekoa.


She noted two common, yet contradictory caricatures of American immigrants in West Bank settlements. “One prevalent image is of the zealot for Zion, the most fanatical ideologues within the movement,” she said. “On the other hand, there is the prevalent image of the immigrant suburbanite of occupied Scarsdale, a settler stripped of ideological significance who’s just some kind of new-age yuppie living the American dream over the Green Line.” Neither, she said, provides a “satisfying portrait” of this group.





Jewish settlers take over homes in Arab part of Jerusalem

A man is seen from a window as Israeli flags fly on top of a house in Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Ultra-nationalist Israelis have taken over the building in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem, raising fears of fresh violence in the tense area. A small group of activists from the Ateret Cohanim settler organization moved into the building on Thursday. It was the latest in a wave of settler advances since nationalist Jews began buying up properties in Palestinian neighborhoods two decades ago. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Ultra-nationalist Israelis took over a four-story building in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem on Thursday, raising fears of fresh violence in the tense area.

A small group of activists from the Ateret Cohanim settler organization moved into the rundown white stone building. It was the latest in a wave of settler advances since nationalist Jews began buying up properties in densely populated Palestinian areas two decades ago.

The building is located in Silwan, a rundown neighborhood that is home to several hundred Jewish residents and some 50,000 Palestinians. Israeli soldiers were guarding the latest wave of settlers.

“I have 11 people inside the house, where should I go?” said Jawaf Abu Sneineh, the only Palestinian resident who has still refused to vacate the building. He said he already paid the year’s rent.

Abu Sneineh said his children were afraid of the Jewish settlers suddenly living above them.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war.

It subsequently annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. East Jerusalem, particularly the Old City and its sensitive holy sites, is often a flashpoint of violence.

Silwan is adjacent to the Old City, and Israel has developed an area there called the City of David, where Jewish tradition holds that King David established Jerusalem as Judaism’s central holy city.

Jewish real estate deals in the contentious Silwan area have long been murky. Purchases are often made through intermediaries, which those involved says protects the Arab sellers from being attacked by their neighbors. Many cases end up in court, with Palestinians claiming the municipality and legal process are biased in favor of settlers.

Ateret Cohanim says it legally purchased the properties. Palestinian residents say they are being unfairly evicted and illegally bullied into leaving.

Daniel Luria, executive director of Ateret Cohanim, said there are now about 100 Jews living in five buildings in the Batan al-Hawa area of Silwan, where the settlers moved in on Thursday.

Tensions were high as male residents and children loitered in the streets, discussing the latest acquisition.

Abdallah Abu Nab, a resident, said Jewish settlers had been bothering him and his brother for weeks, filing eviction orders that can lead to fines and offering money to try and force them out.

Jerusalem’s Arabs, while free to live wherever they want, say they often encounter resistance or discrimination when trying to buy or rent properties in Jewish areas in the city.

Past takeovers have led to clashes and violent Palestinian demonstrations.






Outrage at Israeli Plan to Build on Historic Muslim Cemetery

By Jonathan Cook


Officials in Jerusalem have approved a massive construction project, including plans for housing, shops and a hotel, on one of the largest and most historically important Islamic cemeteries in the Middle East.

A previous project to build a courthouse at the site, part of Mamilla Cemetery, was scrapped two years ago after it provoked a storm of protest.

The graveyard, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, is said to be the final resting place of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions as well as thousands of Saladin’s warriors who helped expel the Crusaders from the Holy Land nearly 1,000 years ago.

It also served as a cemetery for leading Palestinian families in Jerusalem until the city’s division in 1948, when Mamilla fell just within the borders of the newly established state of Israel.

Jerusalem City Hall triggered huge controversy seven years ago when it approved a Museum of Tolerance over another section of the cemetery, requiring the hurried disinterment of as many as 1,500 remains.

Zaki Aghbaria, a spokesman for the northern Islamic Movement in Israel, said the new project was effectively an extension of the Museum of Tolerance development and would lead to further “desecration” of the site.

“Israel is determined to intensify its Judaisation of this area and of the whole of Jerusalem. It has given no thought to how important the cemetery is not only to Palestinians but to the whole Muslim world,” he told Middle East Eye.

He added that the project should be seen in the context of Israel’s “continuing efforts to seize control of Jerusalem’s Islamic holy sites”, including the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa Mosque compound close by.

Dangerous developments

The plan to develop the Mamilla Cemetery comes as the Arab Leagueannounced that it would hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss what Palestinian officials have called “dangerous developments” at the mosque site.

Some 19 Palestinians were reported to have been injured in the Al-Aqsa compound last Sunday after Israeli police stormed the area to allow Jewish worshippers, including an Israeli government minister, to enter.

The new construction plan, approved this month by Jerusalem’s local planning committee, requires building nearly 200 houses, as well as a 480-room hotel, shops and parking over the graveyard.

Gideon Suleimani, an Israeli archeologist who worked on the Museum of Tolerance excavations but has since become a critic of the work, said the new plan continued a long-term process.

“The policy is to dismantle what is left of Islamic heritage in Jerusalem piece by piece to clear the area and make it Jewish,” he said.

Meir Margalit, a researcher at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem and a former city councillor, said the next and final stage of approval – by the regional planning committee – was all but a foregone conclusion.

“There seems to be nothing now to stop the project going ahead,” he told MEE. “Building work is almost certain to begin next year.”

He added that the city council had been seeking ways to develop the site after its original plan, for a courthouse, was overruled by the then-president of the Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch.

Margalit said that behind the scenes she had come under great pressure from European jurists, who wrote to her to protest against building on such a sensitive site.

The switch to a commercial project at the same spot, he added, meant it would be much harder to pressure developers to withdraw.

Part of the development site is currently occupied by a school built in the 1970s. Much of the rest of the cemetery now lies under Independence Park, established to celebrate Israel’s victory in the 1948 war.

Work on the Museum of Tolerance began in 2011, despite vocal opposition from Islamic groups, dissident Israeli archeologists and Palestinian families.

‘Erasure of Muslim past’

When the courthouse project was proposed five years ago, the Antiquities Authority – Israel’s national archeological body – conducted six preliminary excavations in the school grounds to determine whether there were graves.

In five of the six digs, graves and bones were identified. Margalit said archeologists and the municipality had tried to hush up the findings at the time.

In the earlier work on the Museum of Tolerance, the Supreme Court approved the construction after officials promised that only “a few dozen graves” would be found at the entire site.

However, an investigation by the daily Haaretz newspaper revealed that, amid great secrecy, some 1,500 graves were disinterred with little proper oversight. Workers told the paper that the dig was done so quickly that skulls and bones disintegrated and other remains were stuffed into cardboard boxes.

Rafi Greenberg, a professor of archeology at Tel Aviv University, said time pressures meant it was likely the new excavations at the school site would be conducted in a similar manner and almost certainly lead to hundreds more graves being destroyed.

“The problem here is that no one in an official position appears concerned about the rights and dignity of the dead,” he told MEE.

“The Jerusalem municipality knows it is easier to get past religious objections when it affects a Muslim graveyard because the Muslim population [in Jerusalem] hold a far weaker political position.

“If this was being done properly, all the stakeholders would have a say in what happens. Can we imagine a Jewish graveyard being dug up in Europe without there first being a very serious discussion with the local Jewish community?”

The Jerusalem municipality told MEE that, if the development went ahead, “the private contractor who wins the bid to develop the site will be obliged to take any sensitivities into account”.

False claims

Fears have nonetheless been heightened by a report published this month by Israel’s National Academy of Sciences that accuses Israeli officials of making false claims about archeological sites. It suggests that Israeli archeologists have conspired to advance political agendas, especially in Jerusalem where they have worked closely with settler organisations.

The report, written by one of Israel’s leading archeologists, Yoram Tsafrir, also highlights Israel’s double standards in archeology. There are severe restrictions on carrying out excavations if they threaten to unearth Jewish remains.

Aghbaria said there were few hopes of challenging the new plan after the northern Islamic Movement and others failed to persuade the Supreme Court to block the construction of the Museum of Tolerance in 2008.

“Now our only hope is by protesting and trying to bring international pressure to bear on Israel,” he said.

He added that the Islamic Movement was currently considering its response.

Efforts to stop development at the Mamilla Cemetery have largely fallen to the Islamic Movement, because since 2000 Israel has cracked down on most organised political activity in the city by Palestinian organisations.

Israel has expelled Hamas leaders from the city and barred any activities connected to the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, a report by the Washington-based think-tank the International Crisis Group noted.

However, the Islamic Movement too has struggled to maintain a presence in Jerusalem, with restrictions placed on many of its top officials.

The movement’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, has been repeatedly banned from the city, and jailed for his activities there. In March he wassentenced to 11 months for incitement over a sermon he delivered in Jerusalem.

According to Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, many Islamic sites in Jerusalem have over the years been “turned into garbage dumps, parking lots, roads and construction sites”.

Rami Nasrallah, head of the International Peace and Cooperation Centre, a Palestinian organisation in Jerusalem, said the city suffered from “extreme partisan planning”.

“The policy for 48 years now has been designed to erase Jerusalem’s Palestinian identity and replace it with a Jewish identity,” he said. “The challenge for us is how to stop such a policy when it is enforced by the state and endorsed by the courts.”

• Article first appeared in Middle East Eye

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East(Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan’s website.






Israel’s Thug at the UN

By Jonathan Cook
August 25, 2015


The appointment by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of one of his most hawkish and outspoken rivals as Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations has prompted widespread consternation.

As one Israeli analyst noted last week, Danny Danon’s appointment amounts to a “cruel joke” on the international community. The new envoy “lacks even the slightest level of finesse and subtlety required of a senior diplomat”.

Last year Netanyahu sacked Danon as deputy defence minister, describing him as too “irresponsible” even by the standards of Israel’s usually anarchic politics. Danon had denounced the prime minister for “leftist feebleness” in his handling of Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer.

Danon is a UN official’s worst nightmare. He is a vocal opponent of a two-state solution and has repeatedly called for the annexation of the West Bank.

Back in 2011, days before the UN General Assembly was due to vote on Palestinian statehood, Danon dismissed the forum as irrelevant: “Even if there will be a vote [in favour], it will be a Facebook state.”

On the face of it, Netanyahu’s timing could not be worse. Danon is to represent Israel as the Palestinians are expected to step up efforts at the UN to entrench recognition of their statehood. He will also be a leading spokesman as Israel tries to fend off war crimes investigations at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The generally accepted explanation is that Netanyahu’s move is driven by domestic, not diplomatic, calculations. Danon is the Israeli right’s poster boy, one who makes the prime minister look too cautious and conciliatory.

The two faced off for the Likud party leadership last November. Danon lost but Netanyahu doubtless fears, as his party and the Israeli public shift ever rightwards, that his rival’s time is coming.


The posting removes Danon as head of the Likud’s powerful central committee, dispatches him to a distant land, and should provide him with opportunities aplenty to self-harm.

But that is not the whole story. Danon’s appointment reveals something more significant about Israel’s deteriorating relations even with its international supporters.

It is hard nowadays to recall that Israel once took the UN very seriously indeed. It had to.

In the decade following 1948, Abba Eban, the country’s foremost diplomat, sought to carve out international recognition and respectability for Israel at the UN.

Eban often used deceit and misdirection – he is reported to have avowed that “diplomats go abroad to lie for their country”. But he never forgot the importance of creating a façade of moral justification for Israel’s actions, even as it launched wars of aggression in 1956 at Suez and again against Egypt in 1967.

Reality caught up with Israel when the UN adopted a resolution in 1975 equating Israel’s official ideology, Zionism, with racism. The resolution was only revoked 16 years later, after the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States emerged as the world’s sole superpower.

Washington arm-twisted the General Assembly with promises that Israel would engage in a peace process with the Palestinians, culminating a short time later in the Oslo Accords.

But as Oslo slowly unravelled, and Israel’s leaders – not least Netanyahu himself – were exposed as the true rejectionists, Israel was forced on to the back foot again.

Today, the consensus in Israel is not only that the UN is a bastion of anti-Israel prejudice but that it is an incubator of global anti-semitism, much of it supposedly spawned by Arab states. Israel is blameless, so this story goes, but the world has fallen under the haters’ spell.

The parting shot of Danon’s predecessor, Ron Prosor, last week was to accuse yet again a leading UN official, Jordan’s Rima Khalaf, of anti-semitism for pointing out the untold misery caused by Israel’s near-decade blockade of Gaza.

Earlier this year, after stepping down as Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren went further, arguing that the plague of anti-semitism had infected even America’s leading Jewish journalists. Their critical coverage of Israel was proof of self-hatred, he claimed.

The need for such desperate diplomacy has grown as Israel’s moral image has tarnished, even for its allies. But the hectoring and intimidation by seasoned diplomats like Prosor and Oren has produced diminishing returns.

Danon’s posting is part of a discernible pattern of recent appointments by Netanyahu that reflect a growing refusal to engage in any kind of recognisable diplomacy. Confrontation is preferred.

The trend started with Netanyahu’s decision in 2009 to let the thuggish Avigdor Lieberman lead the foreign ministry and Israel’s diplomatic corps.

Notably, Netanyahu picked Ron Dermer, a high-profile partisan of the US Republican party, to replace Oren in 2013. Dermer is widely credited with engineering Netanyahu’s provocative address earlier this year to the US Congress, in an undisguised effort to undermine President Barack Obama’s talks with Iran.

Danon’s appointment, like Dermer’s, indicates the extent to which the Israeli right has abandoned any hope of persuading the international community of the rightness of its cause – or even of working within the rules of statecraft.

Just as Dermer has turned Obama’s White House into a diplomatic battlefield, Danon can be expected to barrack, abuse and alienate fellow ambassadors at the UN in New York.

An Israel that has no place for negotiations or compromise wants only to tell the world that it is wrong and that Israelis don’t care what others think. Danon is the right man for that task.


tags: Israel/Palestine