Tzipi Livni throws cold water on prospects for peace

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Tzipi Livni, the only person in the soon-to-be-formed Israeli government who genuinely believes in the importance of the two-state peace process, splashed cold water on the prospect of it ever happening Tuesday. It’s time to start looking at alternative plans in case a two-state solution with the Palestinians proves impossible, she said.

Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Livni said for the umpteenth time that the two-state solution is the only acceptable path for Israel.

But, and this is a big but, she admitted that it might not be a realistic goal and that Israel needs “to prepare interim measures or other measures, or unilateral ones that can lessen the damage, which can reduce the pressure a little.”

When those politicians who have dedicated much of their careers to advancing the peace process begin to express doubts about the viability of their own project, anyone who believes in those leaders and their political programs should be worried.

Former settler leader Dany Dayan drove the sentiment home, assuredly saying that (more…)

EU diplomats to Brussels: Put your money where your mouth is

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At face value, the European Union heads of mission report on the Israeli settlement enterprise is a scathing indictment and call to action against Israel’s illegal settlement activities. In between the lines, however, the report reflects a frustration by European diplomats and bureaucrats at their own governments’ inaction. They are not implementing the existing legislation, decisions and declarations they themselves regularly make against Israel and its settlements.

The EU’s rhetoric against Israel’s settlement policies has always been damning, but its actions have never lived up to its words.

Read the full report here

“The EU and its member states now face the urgent challenge of translating the observations and recommendations of their own senior diplomats into concrete and effective policies that indeed maintain the possibility of the two-state solution,” a document obtained by +972 stated.

Reflecting the (perhaps naïvely optimistic) sense of a closing window for resolving (more…)

Hunger-striker Samer Issawi is another statistic in an unjust legal system

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Samer Issawi, the Palestinian prisoner who has been on an intermittent hunger strike for over 200 days, had his day in court on Thursday. According to the sentence handed down by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, one might ostensibly believe that Issawi would be released on March 6, when his prison term is completed. But Samer Issawi is Palestinian, and therefore subject to a multi-layered legal system in which his fate is not determined by civilian judges, but rather by three IDF officers.

Before Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinians in exchange for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, the army quietly modified Article 186 to Military Order 1651. Article 186 codifies special military tribunals that have the power to cancel early releases. The panels operate using secret evidence and do not even reveal to Palestinians what they are accused of.

So while according to Thursday’s sentencing hearing in the Magistrate’s Court Issawi is to be released within weeks, he will likely (more…)

As Palestinian hunger strikes come to a head, world begins to take notice

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All anyone in Israel has spoken about for the past week is ‘Prisoner X,’ the Jewish-Israeli-Australian Mossad agent held secretly by his own country, who supposedly took his own life in prison two years ago. But only a few miles from Israeli newsrooms in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, outrage over a different type of prisoner in Israeli jails has been mounting for months and is coming to a head.

Four Palestinian men in Israeli prisons are currently in the late stages of prolonged hunger strikes protesting the legal basis of their imprisonment: administrative detention and military committee sentencing decisions based on secret evidence. Both amount to imprisonment without knowledge of what they are accused and without the right to a trial.

In recent days, at least one of the prisoners reportedly intensified his hunger strike, refusing all medical treatment, including vitamins and minerals. Their health is said to be deteriorating.

Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets throughout the West Bank in recent weeks, leading to violent clashes with the IDF and including (more…)

Why Israel is – and will continue – trying to keep ‘Prisoner X’ a secret

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This piece was first published on +972 Magazine.

As details about the life, work and untimely demise of ‘Prisoner X’ unravel, the most intriguing unanswered questions remain: why did Israel secretly imprisoned him and why he is dead? But the details of the story appear to be making one thing clear; Israel’s security services likely had every reason in the world to (try to) keep the affair and Ben Zygier’s identity a secret.

Like most spy stories, nothing about Prisoner X, his true identity, what he did or didn’t do for Israel’s Mossad or even how he died is known with any degree of certainty. But as various reports and accounts – mostly from Australia, but others from Israel and around the world – come out, pieces of a puzzle begin to take shape into a picture that resembles a spy thriller, possibly gone horribly wrong.

The original ABC investigative report, which revealed Ben Zygier as the highly-censored ‘Prisoner X,’ identified him as an Australian-born Jew who emigrated to Israel in his early twenties. From his age at the time he immigrated and pictures of him in an IDF uniform, it is safe to assume that he was drafted into the army soon after arriving in the country. Those details, though unconfirmed like every other part of the story, are the most reasonable (more…)

Could UNHRC’s settlement report put the ‘S’ back in BDS?

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The UNHRC-sanctioned International Fact Finding Mission’s report on Israeli settlements is by no means the harshest UN document on Israel. But its last paragraph introduces one element that previously existed only in small pro-Palestinian and human rights activist circles. Namely, it puts the “S” back in BDS.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign has had mixed, but limited, success since its official launch in its current iteration nearly seven years ago. Divestment and boycott campaigns have claimed small victories after targeting educational and labor pension investment funds, transportation companies serving Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territories, academic conferences and musical and cultural events. But many “big-picture” observers will admit that its successes have led to little if any change in Israeli policy, and subsequently, in the Palestinian reality.

While former international officials have called for limited sanctions against Israel should it fail to cease its settlement enterprise, and current officials have hinted at limited travel sanctions against violent settlers, the notion of sanctions against Israel has largely taken a back seat to the more constricted and arguably less impactful boycott and divestment campaigns.

Last week’s UN report, however, advanced the prospects of – and possibly laid the beginnings of (more…)

Settling Palestine: The ‘latest colonizing adventure’

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The following is an excerpt from a documentary detailing the tactics employed by Jewish settlers in Palestine:

“When a new settlement is established, it must withstand attack from the very first day of occupation. A system of defense has been evolved, in which these experienced settlers play an important part.

“When the proposed site has been marked out, members of the established settlements in the vicinity move off to congregate in the village nearest the scene of the latest colonizing adventure. From all around they come. Men, who have themselves recently made pioneering history, by cars, lorries and wagons, they all move to the (more…)

Netanyahu, E-1 and the problem with democracy

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One big problem with democracy — in most of its forms — is that leaders can be tempted to put their own re-election above the state’s civic and diplomatic interests. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision-making in recent days may be one of the finest examples of the phenomenon.

Every Israeli government for the past decade has deferred to international diplomatic pressure not to advance construction in the “E-1” zone outside Jerusalem. Every Israeli prime minister since Ariel Sharon knew that such a move would cause a diplomatic uproar, and for good reason.

One of the foundations of the Oslo Peace Process, the Clinton Parameters and the Road Map for Peace, all of which have long passed their expiry date, is that East Jerusalem will in some form or another become the capital of Palestine. But that becomes all-the-more impossible if Israel builds new settlements in E-1, further sealing Palestinian East Jerusalem and cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank. Construction in E-1 would (more…)

Honest, ugly discourse: Gilad Sharon and John Stewart Mill

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One of the responsibilities of the news media is to set the parameters of acceptable discourse in society. But while media outlets have the unique ability to demarcate what is and isn’t acceptable to print, in doing so, they walk a fine line and risk masking the ugliest – but real – faces of society.

Last week, in the midst of the latest round of deadly violence between Israel and Gaza, The Jerusalem Post printed an op-ed penned by Gilad Sharon, a man who has pushed himself into the public eye solely by virtue of the name and legacy of his father, former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

In a hyper-nationalist tone, Sharon advocated escalating the limited military operation into what would be the 21st century’s first instance of genocide:

“We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”

There is no need to delve into the plethora of reasons Sharon’s words and ideas are appalling. If he were a man of any influence, his writings might be considered criminal under the Genocide Convention; a cursory reading (more…)

Gaza: New rules in an old war

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There’s something different about the most recent flare-up between Israel and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians’ modus operandi appears to have changed, and Israel seems to be unsure of how to respond.

In the past month, armed Palestinian groups in Gaza launched a string of three, seemingly well planned and ultimately successful attacks against IDF forces along the border. Planted explosive devices, a massive and unprecedented tunnel detonation and an anti-tank missile left a total of eight Israeli soldiers injured, some seriously.

Already there was something strange. Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, has declared for some time that it was focusing on military targets, a change from its rocket attacks on Israeli civilian centers. Nevertheless, to have nearly a month go by without rocket attacks on civilians is almost unheard of in recent years.

The IDF’s responses to the attacks were also uncharacteristically restrained considering the Israeli casualties, limited to immediate defensive fire and late-night airstrikes on empty buildings and tunnels. Following the (more…)

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