Monday, August 31, 2009
The South African struggle was between a large majority and a small minority. Among a general population of almost 50 million, the Whites amounted to less than 10%. That means that more than 90% of the country’s inhabitants supported the boycott, in spite of the argument that it hurt them, too.
In Israel, the situation is the very opposite. The Jews amount to more than 80% of Israel’s citizens, and constitute a majority of some 60% throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 99.9% of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel.
They will not feel the “the whole world is with us,” but rather that “the whole world is against us.”
In South Africa, the world-wide boycott helped in strengthening the majority and steeling it for the struggle. The impact of a boycott on Israel would be the exact opposite: it would push the large majority into the arms of the extreme right and create a fortress mentality against the “anti-Semitic world.” ...
Peoples are not the same everywhere. It seems that the Blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis, and from the Palestinians, too. The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath, as could have been predicted, but on the contrary: to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. Those who appeared before the commission and admitted their misdeeds were pardoned. That was in tune with Christian belief, and that was also in tune with the Jewish Biblical promise: “Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
I told the bishop that I admire not only the leaders who chose this path but also the people who accepted it.
ONE OF the profound differences between the two conflicts concerns the Holocaust.
Centuries of pogroms have imprinted on the consciousness of the Jews the conviction that the whole world is out to get them. This belief was reinforced a hundredfold by the Holocaust. Every Jewish Israeli child learns in school that “the entire world was silent” when the six million were murdered. This belief is anchored in the deepest recesses of the Jewish soul. Even when it is dormant, it is easy to arouse it.
(That is the conviction which made it possible for Avigdor Lieberman, last week, to accuse the entire Swedish nation of cooperating with the Nazis, because of one idiotic article in a Swedish tabloid.) ...
The Holocaust will have a decisive impact on any call for a boycott of Israel. The leaders of the racist regime in South Africa openly sympathized with the Nazis and were even interned for this in World War II. Apartheid was based on the same racist theories as inspired Adolf Hitler. It was easy to get the civilized world to boycott such a disgusting regime. The Israelis, on the other hand, are seen as the victims of Nazism. The call for a boycott will remind many people around the world of the Nazi slogan “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” – don’t buy from Jews.
That does not apply to every kind of boycott. Some 11 years ago, the Gush Shalom movement, in which I am active, called for a boycott of the product of the settlements. Its intention was to separate the settlers from the Israeli public, and to show that there are two kinds of Israelis. The boycott was designed to strengthen those Israelis who oppose the occupation, without becoming anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. Since then, the European Union has been working hard to close the gates of the EU to the products of the settlers, and almost nobody has accused it of anti-Semitism.
ONE OF the main battlefields in our fight for peace is Israeli public opinion. Most Israelis believe nowadays that peace is desirable but impossible (because of the Arabs, of course). We must convince them not that peace would be good for Israel, but that it is realistically achievable.
When the archbishop asked what we, the Israeli peace activists, are hoping for, I told him: We hope for Barack Obama to publish a comprehensive and detailed peace plan and to use the full persuasive power of the United States to convince the parties to accept it. We hope that the entire world will rally behind this endeavor. And we hope that this will help to set the Israeli peace movement back on its feet and convince our public that it is both possible and worthwhile to follow the path of peace with Palestine.
No one who entertains this hope can support the call for boycotting Israel. Those who call for a boycott act out of despair. And that is the root of the matter. ... Click to read full piece online at the Gush-Shalom.org site.
Friday, August 28, 2009
featuring special guest:
Through teaching and continued activist work with Israeli Human Rights NGOs like Machsom Watch, Mirkam Azori, Darom4Peace, and Rabbis for Human Rights, Leah works tirelessly to bring the values of peace, equality, human rights, and social justice to the next generation of Israelis.
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
$10 Donation requested at the door
Presented by Meretz USA
this event will be held at
The Village Temple
33 E 12th St
New York, NY 10003
(between University Place and Broadway)
RSVPs should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 242 - 4500.
Leah Shakdiel, a modern orthodox woman at the forefront of the peace and feminist movement in Israel was born in Jerusalem in 1951 to a family of Modern Orthodox Pioneers. In 1978 Leah moved to a small development town in the Negev Desert with a group committed to Halacha, social responsibility, peace, and ecology. She received her degree from Bar Ilan University and went on to teach Hebrew and Jewish studies; creating teaching materials and coordinating and directing projects and institutions in the areas of education and community.
Throughout all of her political and social activism she has worked on behalf of peace, empowering the disadvantaged, civil and human rights, and feminism, and published academic and popular articles in all these areas.
In 1988 she became Israel's first female member of a local Religious Council, following a successful struggle that ended with a landmark Supreme Court decision.
Currently she teaches in Sapir College near Sderot, in the Overseas Students Program in Ben Gurion University, and in various post-high school pre-military programs. She is also a dedicated member and activist for Israel Human Rights NGOs such as Machsom Watch, Mirkam Azori, Darom4Peace, and Rabbis for Human Rights.
Meretz chair Chaim Oron called on PM Netanyahu to, “remove the Foreign Minister from his position”. Oron explained: “At the head of Israel’s diplomatic front is a man who is clueless when it comes to civics and democracy. Lieberman is operating daily to foment discord with Israel’s Arab citizens and to isolate Israel from the international community”.
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz declared that, “Lieberman continues to incite against entire sectors of Israeli society, out of crass racism and discrimination, without offering them any real path toward social integration.” Horowitz proposed a comprehensive national service program that would allow all Israelis to enjoy equal rights based on equal civic obligations.
For more on the Meretz website, click here.
Back in October 1997, freshman Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in trouble. Just one year into his term, the public’s confidence in him was plummeting and his coalition was already unraveling.
Scampering to reinforce his base of support in the right-wing and religious sectors, while finding a message that might also appeal to centrist ears, Netanyahu remarked publicly to the late Rabbi Yitzhak Kaddouri, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party: Israel’s “leftists have forgotten what it means to be Jewish”. These same leftists, he said, were willing to, “place our security in Arab hands”.
Netanyahu’s remarks, of course, were not directed at the religious faith of the Israeli left, nor its secular cultural identity. They were intended to cast doubt on the left’s patriotism, to tarnish its image, to depict its members as standing outside the ring of solidarity and mutual responsibility that kept the Jewish people safe.
Five years later, during the government of Ariel Sharon, a similar line of attack was applied to Yossi Beilin – who had helped guide the Oslo Process and was then crafting the breakthrough Geneva Initiative. Beilin was an ‘agent of foreign governments’, the right began to argue, ‘exposing’ the fact that the non-profit he headed, the Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF), had received contributions from the European Union.
No evidence was ever provided, of course, that Beilin ‘sold out’ Israel’s interests – but the damage was already done. The Geneva Initiative, unveiled the following year, faced an uphill struggle against a lingering public perception that its Israeli advocates were somehow un-Israeli.
Flash forward to 2009. The Israeli human rights group, “Breaking the Silence” (BTS, for short), is now under attack, once again being depicted as in the pay of foreign interests.
The attack began a month ago, a week after the group published a compilation of 30 soldier testimonies that raised serious questions about the moral conduct of Israel’s military during the December-January Gaza War, “Operation Cast Lead”.
In reaction, Israel’s Foreign Ministry, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, decided to punish the group, placing pressure on three European nations that had supported BTS – the Netherlands, Great Britain and Spain – to terminate their funding.
But rather than seeking to accomplish this goal through quiet diplomacy, Lieberman’s officials made sure to spread the news to the press in an effort to undermine BTS’ credibility. “A friendly [foreign] government cannot fund opposition bodies,” a Foreign Ministry official explained to the media, suggesting that a hostile foreign regime certainly would.
In reality, Breaking the Silence (“Shovrim Shtika” in Hebrew), whose US tour Meretz USA helped promote last year, is composed of men and women who have put their bodies on the line for Israel’s security: Its activists are all veteran IDF soldiers. They care about their country. About its security. About its character. About its future.
Accusing one’s political rivals of ‘consorting with’ or ‘serving’ the enemy is not a new ploy, of course, nor is it unique to the Israeli political system. But with the image of the “self-hating Jew” so visceral in Jewish and Zionist discourse – as we are reminded by the recent flap over whether Netanyahu so branded Obama aides, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod – the accusation carries particular weight in the Israeli context.
Progressive friends of Israel and progressive Israelis, like the people of Breaking the Silence, need to relentlessly drive home the message that we are no less concerned over the welfare of the Jewish people and Israel than those who brook no criticism of Israeli government policy.
As former Senator George McGovern once said: “The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain”.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
In the US, this post might be interpreted as right-wing, because the right is anti-government. For Israel, however, this should be read as a commentary on the bloated nature of governing coalitions, especially the current government that has a record number of ministers and deputy ministers to accommodate its constituent parties. -- R. Seliger
This was forwarded (from an email long circulating the Web) by Haifa resident, Zeev Raphael, a retired mechanical engineer who worked at the Technion from 1961 until 2000:
Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.
Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.
This characteristic of moron's promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates as much energy as Governmentium because it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Gal Beckerman worked briefly at Meretz USA before attending the Columbia University School of Journalism. He frequently writes for The Forward. Newly available online is an analysis of the Iran nuclear issue entitled “With Each New Assessment, Iran’s Nuclear Clock Is Reset”; it has this descriptive subtitle: “Politics Plays a Role in How Intelligence Is Interpreted.”
Gal proves the point that this contentious matter is complicated by uncertain intelligence on when Iran may go nuclear and if it is actively pursuing a weapons program. The latest issue of ISRAEL HORIZONS has two articles dealing with Iran on the nuclear question, one by Prof. Robert O. Freedman and the other by Gidon D. Remba (the latter included on this Weblog). I also suggest that you check out National Public Radio's focus this week on this vital subject.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Don't misunderstand me: I believe that Israel does, indeed, need to move toward a society which is less influenced by religion and where non-Jewish citizens feel more at home, but peacemaking with the Palestinians should not require this change, which needs to come as a result of dialogue, debate and democratic decision-making among its own citizenry.
According to his email discussion with Israel Policy Forum's David Halperin, Malley did not mean to question Israel's Jewish character or the desirability of a two-state solution. This is good to know, but Malley could have made this more clear. He also needs to address the fact that a Palestinian right of return should be restricted to a new Palestinian state and not to Israel within its pre-1967 borders – something that he does not do even in this interview.
This is the critical part of Halperin's email exchange with Malley:
… Some analysts have interpreted the op-ed as arguing that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is not possible unless Israel loses its Jewish nature. Is that what you are saying?
MALLEY: No. What we are saying is that Israelis insist that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state, that Palestinians insist that the rights of the refugees be respected and that a sustainable outcome somehow will have to take those two views - shared by vast number on both sides -- into account. Neither of those issues involves the borders of a future Palestinian state or its sovereignty. Israel is a Jewish state and that's a fact.
Some also have interpreted the op-ed as calling for a right of return. Are you saying that?
MALLEY: We are merely restating the fact that Palestinians insist on recognition of the refugees' rights. We are not calling for the right of return. It is not the same thing.
Your article was entitled "The two-state solution won't solve anything." Is that your view?
MALLEY: The title was unfortunate and was not of our choice. A two-state solution would bring the occupation to an end. That would be of huge consequence. The question is whether an end to the occupation on its own will end the conflict once and for all and bring about a lasting, sustainable peace.
Friday, August 21, 2009
I first met Gordon when I participated in the Meretz USA Israel Symposium in 2003. He spoke to our group at that time. I remember vividly how, when asked about the possibility of a one-state solution, he spread his arms wide and said "We are living in a one-state solution." He knew, as most of us agreed, that two warring ethnic groups being forced to share one state would lead only to continued conflict and the domination of one people by the other.
I'm glad that he hasn't changed this particular perspective, but I see his viewpoint as expressed at CommonDreams.org problematic in assuming that the conflict is only the fault of Israel. My feeling is that responsibility for the ongoing nature of the conflict is shared. Although Israel's behavior in Gaza and elsewhere has been deplorable at times, the Intifada launched in 2000 was basically a self-defeating tact by the Palestinians-- as was the idiotic spate of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Gaza, after Israel had completely withdrawn from there.
I think that a boycott demonizes Israel and Jews in ways that I'd hate to see. I also don't know that it would work. What it may do is further influence educated and talented Israelis to leave Israel so that the country becomes poorer, more right-wing and extreme. (Israel's political makeup is a total refutation of Marxist class theory: the more working class or poor you are in Israel, the more right-wing and "patriotic" you are likely to be.)
Besides, Gordon is not entirely correct that Israel is increasingly right-wing today, although I could see why he'd think so. Israel is more splintered today and more at sea as to what direction to go. After all, most of a decade of a peace process cost hundreds of civilian lives in several waves of terrorism and ended in dismal failure; and a unilateral withdrawal also ended in more attacks on Israeli towns.
Its two largest political parties at the moment (Kadima and Likud) together received less than 50% of the vote! Its centrist opposition party (Kadima) actually won more votes and seats than the governing Likud did. Gordon is correct that the left and center-left are shattered.
If boycotts worked to bring peace and a two-state solution, I'd feel differently. But aside from being unfair to most Israelis, I don't think they'd work. And if Israel were forced to retreat in weakness, I think that there's a good likelihood that the Palestinians and other Arabs (plus Iran) may see Israel as rife for the kill. The Palestinians deserve to live free of occupation, but-- thanks to the Intifada and electing Hamas-- they have not proven to most Israelis that they can co-exist in peace.
My hope is with Obama, international diplomacy, good sense and good luck. In other words, my hopes are not great, but I don't see things as hopeless. Gordon's support for boycotts is an act of desperation.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Holding its first convention since 1989, before the inception of the Oslo process, Fatah decided in Bethlehem earlier this month that its goal is the creation of a State of Palestine alongside a sovereign State of Israel in the pre-1967 borders. (The umbrella PLO had already made such a decision, years ago.)
So why isn't the Israeli government applauding -- especially after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu begrudgingly adopted a watered-down two-state formula back in June? Click here for this entire commentary by Meretz USA's executive director, Ron Skolnik.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," declared White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.Last winter's war between Israel and Hamas was definitely a serious crisis, and it led peace researcher Dr. Simcha Bahiri, who has always believed in launching creative initiatives in the midst of chaos, to initiate an Israeli-Palestinian youth essay for peace contest, organized by the Palestine-Israel Journal, which was open to Israelis and Palestinians aged 17-24.
“Whether my essay will win or not, I want to thank you for causing me to put my feelings down on paper," enthused one of the Israeli participants.
The winning Israeli essay by 19 year old Maya Wind from Jerusalem, advocated the creation of “a joint Israeli-Palestinian Doubt Forum which would provide a way for Palestinians and Israelis to directly interact with each other before they reach the opposite sides of a checkpoint or a wall…and would refresh the framework of the political debate… Though young people have a natural tendency to rebel against the previous generation's values, opinions among them regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remain static… Developing the notion of doubt increases the capacity to think in new directions and to translate these ideas into innovative actions that can change the political reality of the region.”
The winning Palestinian essay by 19 year old Khadrah Jean Jaser AbuZant from Tulkarem, called for a process of “healing, engagement and reconciliation.” She emphasized the importance of “compassionate listening and programs like ‘Creativity for Peace’ and ‘Combatants for Peace’ whose members, despite losing things most precious to them, a loved one or their freedom, can bring the strength and stamina needed to get through the toughest of times ahead… Although youthful innocence can never be regained, hope and humanity have a chance for restoration by allowing time for healing, engaging in compassionate dialogue, reconciling through support of rebuilding efforts, reaching mutual accord, new policies and agreements… After all, worse can always follow…there is no time to lose.”
Second prize winner Naomi Mark, 21 from Be'ersheva, quoted from Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize speech: "The majority of politicians… are interested not in truth but in power…To maintain that power it is essential that people live in ignorance of the truth…" "What did we really know about the "Cast Lead Operation," and about the people of Gaza?...The Israeli media bubble around the attack in Gaza was almost hermetic, and the reports in the foreign media were only available to those who sought them out…Youth should break out of the political-media bubble that we live in, to think about the education we received, the environment we grow up in…Critical thinking will require of us to examine anew our schools…the orientation towards the military in our education… As an alternative "to despair or routine, I choose a third way, to act…"
Neriya Mark, 21, from Tel Aviv, shared the second prize: "Beyond the images of horror that I saw…it was hard for me to see how the Israelis saw themselves as the victim…with the distorted thought that we were facing an existential danger…The "Cast Lead Operation" revealed to me the level of fear that is being cultivated within Israeli society…which causes defensiveness and a justification for the lack of sensitivity towards other people…We must strengthen trust and our connection with the Palestinians, we have to change the basis for teaching the Arabic language in Israel… to overcome the sense of alienation that Israelis feel towards the Arabs… When teaching history, a tremendous emphasis is placed on the Holocaust…but if they teach us to love humankind, and to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself, we should also learn about other struggles and conflicts… To be able to confront and fix current problems in Israel and the world, we have to be prepared to be thinking people, who do not act as a result of brainwashing, fear and revenge…"
Palestinian second prize winner Omar Nada wrote a "Letter to an Israeli Friend": "When I watch all those scenes of violence and killings on TV, I remember a saying of my grandfather's… "Blessed are the youth"…I, as a Palestinian youth, yearn to live out my youth, to chart my future and live my dreams. And in all certainty, this is what you wish too…My friend, you and I are the fuel of wars. Politicians ignite us. We are its instruments, and unfortunately we are the ones that get burned… I do not believe, and you should not believe, that what has happened in Gaza is a war with vanquished and victor…We have an Arabic proverb which says that a hand cannot clap alone. Your role and my role must complement each other…Let us work hand in hand. The road of a thousand miles starts with one step…Let us begin with electronic mail…to every Israeli youth, I am a youth like you…Let us together create our dreams, create that light at the end of the tunnel."
"All we are saying is give peace a chance," sang singer Danny Amir at the close of the awards ceremony in Tel Aviv, adding a few words of his own, one of them being “Obama.”
Monday, August 17, 2009
This article takes the form of a letter by Theodore Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, to his dear friend, William H. Hechler. I attempted to add very little to Herzl’s own words. Therefore, almost everything is a quotation (in italics) from one of his works: Altneuland, Der Judenstaat, or his personal diaries. I just made minor grammatical changes to fit tense and person.-- Moises Salinas
So it’s been over 100 years since my demise, (almost 80 from yours) and from this place, far away, I look back to reflect on my great accomplishment, Zionism. And I’m sad to say that if I had to summarize it all in one word, that word would be "disappointment."
When I founded the Zionist Organization in Basel, I envisioned a state for the Jews that would be “A light unto the Nations.” I believed that we must hold fast to the things that have made us great: to liberality, tolerance, love of mankind. Only then is Zion truly Zion! Indeed, I was sure that the world would be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity. Because only here the Jews could build up a free commonwealth in which they could strive for the loftiest human aims.
Instead, the State of the Jews, which is called Israel today, became-- to many-- a pariah among the nations, one that is considered by too many inhabitants of this earth as a danger, and an example of oppression and racism. But let me tell you, my dear William, where my disappointment lays:
I envisioned the state of the Jews as a peaceful country. I believed that the Jews, once settled in their own state, would probably have no more enemies. Jerusalem would be a city of peace. In it’s midst, a splendid Peace Palace, where international congresses of peace-lovers and scientists were held, for Jerusalem was now a home for all the best strivings of the human spirit: for Faith, Love, Knowledge. This Peace Palace, is an international center for great undertakings. Its activities are by no means limited to Palestine and the Jews, but include all countries and all peoples.
I conceived the Jewish State as a neutral one. It would therefore require only a professional army, equipped, of course, with every requisite of modern warfare, to preserve order internally and externally. This is what I thought: The army of the Company's officials will gradually introduce more refined requirements of life. (Officials include officers of our defensive forces, who will always form about a tenth part of our male colonists. They will be sufficiently numerous to quell mutinies, for the majority of our colonists will be peaceably inclined.)
I was unequivocally opposed to the acquisition of land through force and invasion. I said, regarding reaching an agreement to settle Palestine: One thing is to be adhered to inviolably: the agreement must be based on rights and not on sufferance. Truly we have had enough experience with sufferance and protection which could be revoked at will. Consequently, the only reasonable course of action is to work for publicly legalized guarantees. I am a confirmed opponent of infiltration. My program, far more preferable, is to stop infiltration and concentrate all our strength upon an internationally-sanctioned acquisition of Palestine.
To achieve this, we require diplomatic negotiations. In order to be able to integrate with the local Arab population, and become their allies instead of their enemies, I believed we could offer the present possessors of the land enormous advantages, assume part of the public debt, build new roads for traffic, which our presence in the country would render necessary, and do many other things. The creation of our state would be beneficial to adjacent countries, because the cultivation of a strip of land increases the value of its surrounding districts in innumerable ways.
Well, William, as you know, we have fought many wars, have no real peace with most of our neighbors, and became on occupying power over another people.
I saw a modern state, an example of egalitarian, secular rational law worthy of the upcoming 20th century. Religion would have been excluded from public affairs once and for all. The New Society did not care whether a man sought the eternal verities in a temple, a church or a mosque, in an art museum or at a philharmonic concert.
No, indeed. Faith unites us, knowledge gives us freedom. We shall therefore prevent any theocratic tendencies from coming to the fore on the part of our priesthood. We shall keep our priests within the confines of their temples in the same way as we shall keep our professional army within the confines of their barracks. Army and priesthood shall receive honors high as their valuable functions deserve. But they must not interfere in the administration of the state which confers distinction upon them, else they will conjure up difficulties without and within.
Every man will be as free and undisturbed in his faith or his disbelief as he is in his nationality.
And if it should occur that men of other creeds and different nationalities, we should accord them honorable protection and equality before the law. Instead, we have become a theocratic state, in which religious parties hold the balance of power, and impose their will over the secular majority.
Human and Civil Rights
My dream was one of a state for the Jews that would be a model of human rights and equality. I thought that no member of the Jewish state will be oppressed, every man will be able and will wish to rise in it. In our New Society, the women would have equal rights with the men. Arabs would be better off than at any time in the past. They would support themselves decently, their children would be healthier and be educated. Their religion and ancient customs in no wise be interfered with. They would have become more prosperous-that was all. I believed that they would say: The Jews have enriched us. Why should we be angry with them? They dwell among us like brothers. Why should we not love them? Yet we still discriminate and attack each other in the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and sexual orientation.
I envisioned a state that would take care of its citizens, based on the ancient Jewish principle of mutual responsibility. Health care would be a universal right. This was my vision: We are thus able to care for every sick and needy applicant. The needy sick have only to apply to the public charities. No one is turned away. You must remember that our workingmen, as members of the New Society, are automatically insured against accidents, illness, old age, and death. Their savings-capacity is therefore not split up by provision for these contingencies.
We would learn from the mistakes of unbridled capitalism to create a balanced, progressive society: Here the bread of the poor is as cheap as the bread of the rich. There are no speculators in the necessaries of life. You know how in the co-operative method has, indeed, become one of the strongest motives in the new Palestinian colonization, due chiefly to the efforts of the organized labor movement.
Since I wished to join the New Society, I had to submit to its land regulations. Its members have no private property in land.
Instead, our experiments in cooperative societies, the kibbutzim and moshavim, are failing; our national industry and even our public land are being privatized, and the social gap between rich and poor is widening.
Even 100 years ago, I understood that the smart use of natural resources and forestation was key to the success of the state of the Jews. I said: We think nothing too costly for our parks, because they benefit the growing generation. However, we did not plant old and expensive trees like these everywhere. For instance, we brought eucalyptus trees from Australia which grew very rapidly. Our first funds for this purpose came from a national tree-planting Society which collected money in all parts of the world. People in the Diaspora contributed money for trees whose shade they were afterwards to enjoy in Palestine. I also thought of using natural sources for the production of energy: I thought that we must study the power of water, and appreciate the forces of electricity. Instead, our beaches are polluted, our land and rivers contaminated, and not really making progress in environmental issues.
I saw free, public, state of the art education, as the basis for the development of the state: Each generation is given a new start. Therefore, all our educational institutions are free from the elementary schools to the Zion University. All the pupils must wear the same kind of simple clothing until they matriculate into the secondary schools. We think it unethical to single out children according to their parents' wealth or social rank. There will be light, attractive, healthy schools for children, conducted on the most approved modern systems. Instead, we have segregated schools that are failing according to international standards, our universities are declining and tuition is ever more expensive, and a fair, egalitarian and modern educational reform seems further and further away.
In summary, my dear William, I’m so disappointed of this movement I founded over 100 years ago. I had so many expectations, so many dreams. I was convinced that given to Jews their rightful position as a people, they would develop a distinct Jewish cult national characteristics and national aspirations -which would make for the progress of mankind.
Is there time, still, my dear William, to correct it? Can Israel still become what I envisioned, dreamed all these years ago? I sure hope so, because otherwise, all of of it would end up being no more than a legend.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The Israeli left, too, is beginning to despair of Obama's tepid approach to peace-making. There is a growing feeling that the American President has failed to reach Israeli public opinion because he has yet to present a palpable peace plan that the people can "taste". As a result, I'm informed, a great many Israelis regard Obama's current policy as "idle talk". Indeed, the failure to connect the settlements problem to a specific plan makes many Israelis see the US-Israel sparring over this as 'evidence' of Obama's 'bad blood' towards Israel, rather than a logical prelude to bolder diplomatic moves.
Actually, the drawbacks of gradualism have been recognized for years. Within a year or two after the 1993 Oslo breakthrough, for example, Oslo architect Yossi Beilin was already pushing for expedited final-status talks. He recognized that, for all the confidence-building measures that the leaderships on both sides might generate, extremists on both sides would always do them one better, through acts of violence and incitement, by poisoning the air, and by continuing to create settlement facts on the ground (generally with the consent of the Israeli government).
I believe, by the way, that the American government actually understands all this. George Mitchell has already hinted at the potential 'deal' that the US could offer Israel: Either freeze all settlement activity at once; or reach swift agreement with the PLO on the future borders of the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine so that it becomes clear which parts of the West Bank will be incorporated - under bilateral agreement and based on land swaps - into Israel and where it will be legitimate for Israel to build.
Fleshler's argument, by the way, can also be a double-edged sword: Focusing on the big picture of a final deal, without Israel committing to a settlement freeze, takes us back to the years between the 1991 Madrid Conference and, well, the present, in which Israel agrees to negotiate but expands the settlements at the very same time. Let us not forget the candid words of Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir, as quoted in Maariv in 1992: "I would have carried out autonomy talks for ten years, and meanwhile we would have reached half a million people in Judea and Samaria".
A final-status deal must be pursued vigorously and at once, but there should be no concommitant license for settlement construction to continue.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Recently a good friend posed a challenge to me. I suppose that my regular insistence that the government of Israel was thwarting any movement towards peace irritated him. His strategy was to cut to the basics, asking: “how can there be any real peace if the Palestinians continue to teach their children to hate Israel and its citizens?” In other words, let us suppose that Israel, with the best of good will, signed a peace treaty; could this overcome the hatred that “their” children are imbued with? It is not a question to be answered lightly and it demands an informed response.
First, hatred is a serious problem, among both Israelis and Palestinians. A 2007 survey conducted by University of Haifa researchers revealed the extent of this malaise. 800 Israeli, Jewish high school students from 11 schools showed a deep contempt for Arabs. Seventy-five per cent said that Arabs were “uneducated” and the same number said they were “uncivilized”. Shockingly, 74 per cent responded that they were “unclean”. That constitutes clear, unadulterated racism. I had reacted negatively to the widely distributed video from journalist Max Blumenthal that showed the nasty racism of Israeli youth through select interviews in which they attacked not only Arabs but the skin color of President Obama. I believe you can find such louts in front of the clubs in any city of the world. However, the poll results indicate that Blumenthal’s sample may not have been unrepresentative. That same poll showed that Israeli Arab students were also racist but not at quite as high a level as their Jewish counterparts.
I have not been able to locate a similar study of Palestinian youth in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli propagandists have focused not on their opinions but on the text books they are exposed to. The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), a group which seems more interested in undermining rather than furthering peace efforts, has fueled the debate.
Akiva Eldar of Haaretz describes CMIP’s founder Itamar Marcus: “In recent years Marcus has been making a living translating and disseminating defamatory communications against Israel, extracted by his staff from Palestinian publications. Marcus, a settler, used to work for David Bar Illan, Benjamin Netanyahu’s PR chief, and served on the Joint Israeli Palestinian Anti-Incitement Committee. Marcus's center routinely feeds the media with excerpts from "Palestinian" textbooks that call for Israel's annihilation.”
Marcus’s methods have come under serious fire from Prof. Nathan Brown of George Washington University, who contends that most of the words cited by Marcus were taken from the old Egyptian and Jordanian texts and not the newer Palestinian ones. Brown’s own conclusion was more optimistic, that the newer “books certainly contained material unfriendly to Israel, but they did not attack its existence or veer into anti-Semitism.”
In their joint project Prof. Ruth Finer of Hebrew University and Prof. Sami Adwan of Bethlehem University examined 13 Israeli and nine Palestinian texts in history and civics. Not surprisingly the texts were almost mirror images of one another. Each celebrates only its own victims, and ignores the human suffering of the other. Perhaps the utopian alternative was offered by Prof. Adwan and Prof. Dan Baron who authored a joint text with parallel narratives on alternate pages. I suspect, that sadly, it did not find its way into too many schools.
Unfortunately, more typical is the finding of Prof. David Bar-Tal of Hebrew University who found that in 124 Israeli textbooks, Arabs are presented as “primitive,” “cruel,” and “riffraff.”
So, perhaps that is enough of mutual charges of racism and cultivating hatred. Neither side has a monopoly on hatred and both could do more to eliminate it. Yet, while I believe that education has an important role to play, and that parents and peers also play influential roles; the most important teacher of hatred is the conflict itself. Suicide bombers and those who fire Quassem rockets on the one hand, and on the other, those who rob Palestinian lands, destroy olive trees and above all those who support the humiliation of occupation are the professors of hatred. By all means, change the textbooks, teach anti-racism, and bring Palestinian and Jewish youngsters together to recognize their common humanity, but I fear the changes will be negligible until there are real strides towards peace.
Rodgers and Hammerstein probably had it right in their [Broadway musical] “South Pacific”: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught.” Conflict is the great teacher of hate; peace is the best teacher of understanding.
Monday, August 10, 2009
On Saturday night, August 1, at 11 PM, a masked man entered the community center of the Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Association in Tel Aviv and began shooting indiscriminately.
Minutes later, the shooter walked out of the center and blended into the night, leaving behind him two dead youths - Liz Trubeshi and Nir Katz - along with 11 wounded, 4 of them critically, and an Israeli gay community in shock and in mourning.
With a court-imposed gag order preventing the media from reporting on the details of the police investigation, it is difficult for anyone to say for sure whether this was - as a great many in Israel suspect - a homophobic hate crime.
But what the murder has revealed is that, notwithstanding the largely tolerant atmosphere afforded by a liberal Tel Aviv ‘bubble', the members of Israel's GLBT community are still struggling for acceptance and equality within broader Israeli society - in both the Jewish and Arab sectors.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Fred Jerome, an anti-Zionist leftist who has written three books on Albert Einstein’s political activism, is trying, in his recent “Einstein on Israel and Zionism,” to reconcile his own beliefs with those of Einstein, a man he greatly admires.
Toward this end, Jerome contends that it’s a “myth” that Einstein was a Zionist or that he really supported the State of Israel. This is not a simple argument to make, since Einstein — even in writings extensively quoted in this book — calls himself a Zionist and was in fact offered the presidency of Israel in 1952, following the death of Chaim Weizmann.
Jerome ... deftly identifies his hero as a “cultural Zionist” rather than a “political Zionist.” He places Einstein (correctly) in the pantheon of other left and liberal Zionists who advocated a bi-national state in then Palestine before the violent Arab onslaughts in late 1947 and the first half of ‘48. These people famously included Hannah Arendt, Martin Buber, and Judah Magnes. They also included the Hashomer Hatzair socialist-Zionist movement. But this does not mean that they were not political Zionists who believed in the building of Palestine as the reborn Jewish homeland. ...
... Far from proving that Einstein was not a Zionist, Jerome reveals the depth of the scientist’s approximately 35-year commitment to Zionism, beginning in 1919. ... Click here to read the entire article.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Unfortunately, we've fallen behind in our publication schedule, but we are catching up; a preview of the Summer 2009 issue is newly available online by clicking here. Learn with a click of your mouse how to enjoy its entire contents by receiving it regularly.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Mr. Foxman might have added that the problem certainly isn't competing claims over Jerusalem; or conflicting narratives regarding the events that led to the redemptive (for Zionists) or catastrophic (for Palestinians) events of 1947-48; or division within the Palestinian ranks; or an Israeli political system that makes it difficult to make dramatic moves while maintaining a coalition of parties; or 42 years of occupation that have created destructive new facts on the ground, and that have spawned terrible, violent strains in both Israeli and Palestinian society.
But Mr. Foxman didn't mention any of these. Because really discussing the problems of the Middle East would cost so much ad space in the NY Times that even the well-funded ADL couldn't afford it. So instead they decided to reduce complex historical situations to singular causation. How wonderful.
In response, Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street has offered a nuanced rejoinder to Mr. Foxman, which is worth reading.
But the best answer to Foxman might have been penned in the 18th century by the French philosopher, François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire. Reflecting on the concept of absolute 'truth' and certainty versus mere opinion, Voltaire wrote as follows:
"Such is the character of truth, which belongs to all time and to all men. It is only to be produced to be acknowledged, and admits of no opposition. A long dispute signifies that both parties are in error."
Mr. Foxman: It's a complex issue and there are no simple answers. Right and wrong are to be found on all sides, and the only way to make progress is for all sides to recognize that. Even Ehud Barak recognized that occupation has led to terrorism; even Ariel Sharon acknowledged that occupation stands in the way of peace. Not to mention the strides made and the words spoken by Misters Rabin, Peres and Olmert.
Israel has come a long way since the bad old days when Israel's role was perceived to be simply waiting for 'the Arabs' to 'change their ways'. Let's not let Mr. Netanyahu take us back there now.
First, he reminds readers of the 2002 report on development (rather the lack of same) in the Arab world:
"In 2002, the U.N. Development Program released its first ever Arab Human Development Report, which bluntly detailed the deficits of freedom, women’s empowerment and knowledge-creation holding back the Arab world. It was buttressed with sobering statistics: Greece alone translated five times more books every year from English to Greek than the entire Arab world translated from English to Arabic; the G.D.P. of Spain was greater than that of all 22 Arab states combined; 65 million Arab adults were illiterate. It was a disturbing picture, bravely produced by Arab academics.
"Coming out so soon after 9/11, the report felt like a diagnosis of all the misgovernance bedeviling the Arab world, creating the pools of angry, unemployed youth, who become easy prey for extremists. Well, the good news is that the U.N. Development Program and a new group of Arab scholars last week came out with a new Arab human development report. The bad news: Things have gotten worse ― and many Arab governments don’t want to hear about it. …"
But Friedman's come to the West Bank for the Fatah party convention to find cause for optimism in what he calls “Fayyadism,” named for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is understood to be making progress in creating more responsive and less corrupt governing institutions: “Things are truly getting better in the West Bank, thanks to a combination of Fayyadism, improved Palestinian security and a lifting of checkpoints by Israel.”
On the other hand, important elements of Fatah indicate that “armed struggle,” although not the current strategy, is still an option. The right-leaning Netanyahu government has noticeably eased security restrictions in the West Bank, but in being more ideologically resistant to a viable two-state solution for both peoples than its more centrist predecessor, there is little reason to expect dramatic progress in negotiations. When coupled with open talk in Fatah of the possibility of a return to violence by them (as opposed to Hamas or Islamic Jihad), there is cause for concern.
Monday, August 03, 2009
The panelists were Ziad Asali of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), Laith Kubba of the National Endowment for Democracy (and former spokesman for the Jafaari government in Iraq), and Tamara Wittes of the Brookings Institution. The moderator was Marc Plattner, co-editor of the Journal of Democracy and director of the International Foundation for Democratic Studies which hosted the event.
I first knew Josh Muravchik when we were both students at CCNY in the late 1960s. He was chair of the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL) at the time, the youth arm of the Socialist Party USA and then the Social Democrats USA. (I eventually became a "Yipsel" myself.)
While remaining a registered Democrat in the 1980s, he became a neoconservative think-tank intellectual, working at the American Enterprise Institute for many years. Recently, he became a fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
While I do not share Josh's general political outlook, I was pleased at the high level and civility of the discussion. Dr. Asali, president of the ATFP, is a partner with Meretz USA, and other groups of the pro-peace/pro-Israel camp, in advocating a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Dr. Asali was very precise in indicating that Israel is a democracy within its internationally-recognized borders but not in the occupied Palestinian areas. He also insightfully stated that the struggles for democracy and peace, while parallel, do not necessarily reinforce each other. (He gave the examples of the ongoing peace agreements between Israel and the non-democratic regimes in Egypt and Jordan.)
This brought to mind the narrow Hamas electoral victory in 2006. Yossi Beilin, the former Meretz party chair, had sharply criticized the Bush administration for allowing Hamas to run in those elections, without first having endorsed a negotiated peace as mandated by the Oslo Accords as the price of admission.
Tamara Wittes pointed out that democracy is not just about elections, it's also about having a tolerant and non-violent democratic culture. The heroic figures in the Islamic world whom Josh Muravchik discusses in his book are fighting for such a culture, which would likely help peace along if it prevailed.
Unless I missed it, however, there was no discussion of the threat to Israeli democracy manifested by measures advocated by the Yisrael Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman in the new government of Prime Minister Netanyahu: e.g., requiring loyalty oaths attesting to Israel's Jewish and Zionist character, with a loss of citizenship rights for refusing; and threatening criminal prosecution for Arab citizens commemorating the "Nakba" (the "catastrophe"-- as Palestinians regard Israel's victory in 1948 at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Arab homes at the time).