Posts tagged democracy

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…)

Israel admits ‘administrative detention’ is unnecessary

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Less than three weeks after at least 1,400 Palestinians in Israeli prisons launched a widespread hunger strike, Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Thursday made several astounding admissions regarding Israel’s use of administrative detention. In private meetings with security officials, Aharonovitch called for reducing Israel’s use of the practice, applying it “only if there is a need and not in all cases,” according to a Haaretz report.

He was in effect admitting that the practice is being used even when it is not necessary, assuming it is ever necessary. Furthermore he seemed to be conceding that Israel uses administrative detention instead of carrying out thorough criminal or intelligence investigations.

In a presentation to Israel’s Defense Ministry, Justice Ministry, the IDF, Shin Bet and Prison Service, Aharonovitch recommended that authorities “exhaust investigations and evidence collections” in order to allow the application of criminal proceedings against Palestinian arrestees, something one shouldn’t have to advocate in a democracy.

The official public explanation of the use of administrative detention, the practice of arresting and (more…)

One state, two state, three state, four – Part II

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Read part one of this series here

Many supporters of the two-state solution are apprehensive that its failure would eventually lead to one state, bringing to an end its Jewish character. However, there are several well-articulated alternatives that should be examined.

The two-state solution has faced a number of problems that appear to be becoming more and more insurmountable. The question of territory and geographic boundaries lies at the heart of many of those concerns. Israel’s continued settlement enterprise eats away at the territory slated for a future Palestinian state. Furthermore, much of mainstream Israeli thought says that withdrawing to the 1949 Armistice Lines (the Green Line) would leave Israel with “indefensible borders.”

Equally important is the question of whether an independent Palestinian state within the Green Line would actually be viable. The lack of territorial contiguity between the West Bank and (more…)

One state, two state, three state, four – Part I

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More than two decades since the start of the peace process, the two-state solution has become the only acceptable path for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in contemporary discourse. But while the two-state solution may be the only one currently sitting on the table, many others continue to linger around it, waiting for someone to pick them up. The most recent such attempt was the One State Conference held at Harvard University earlier this month, promoting the idea of one liberal state for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The conference was derided by all colors of Israelis and American Zionists as “delegitimizing” Israel. Discussing a one-state solution, some said, “is a euphemism for ending the existence of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.”

The likes of World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Dan Diker, along with various Israeli and world Jewish leaders, dismissed the conference as “anti-Semitic theater.” Jerusalem Post columnist (more…)

Why Netanyahu is wrong about Fatah-Hamas unity

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“You can either have peace with Hamas or peace with Israel,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a public statement Monday, hours after Abbas signed an agreement to form an interim government with Hamas ahead of Palestinian elections. The ultimatum, however, is fundamentally flawed; even if peace with Israel was around the corner, it would not be possible for the Palestinian president to reach a deal with Israel before mending ties with Hamas.

The only solution to the conflict currently on the table – although many others are lurking in the background – is the two-state solution, which by definition necessitates one unified Palestinian leadership. The goal of the two-state framework is the establishment of the State of Palestine, not two separate states in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But there are other more important issues involved. Mahmoud Abbas is not Yasser Arafat. Abbas’s credibility on the Palestinian street has been consistently waning. Currently entering the seventh year of a four-year (more…)

MKs reveal the true purpose of Israel’s Citizenship Law

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Israel’s High Court on Thursday upheld a law that specifically excludes Palestinians from applying for permanent residency or Israeli citizenship by virtue of marriage to an Israeli. The Citizenship and Entry Law, originally passed nine years ago as a temporary order to prevent what is commonly referred to as “family reunification,” has been renewed and expanded ever since and regularly challenged on the grounds that it is discriminatory.

The most recent petition that the court rejected this week, argued the law should be struck down because it almost exclusively harms Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israeli-Arabs are inherently targeted by the law, the petition argued, because they are the group most likely to marry Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line due to their historic and continuous ethnic, religious, familial, social and provincial ties to one another.

In its defense of and justification for the law, the state cited its fear that Palestinian terrorists will exploit the possibility of marrying Israeli citizens in order to more easily carry out attacks against it. But the praise politicians showered on the court Thursday for upholding the law reveals its true purpose: to safeguard Israel’s delicate demographic balance by preventing any increase in the number of Palestinians living within its borders.

The High Court ruling, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) said, “articulates the rationale of separation (more…)

The vital role of Israel’s endangered NGOs

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In order to comprehensively report on the uglier sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the media relies almost entirely on civil and human rights organizations. Today these organizations are under threat of being crippled by new Israeli legislation targeting their funding. If the laws are passed, the vital information and research NGOs provide on the unaesthetic details of military occupation, settlement growth and human rights abuses may simply disappear, along with the press reports built upon them.

The Israeli media pays little attention to the human plight of Palestinians living under the full civil, administrative, economic and military control of the IDF (Occupation). Without NGOs providing video footage, testimonies and detailed reports, the little coverage that does exist would no longer be possible.

It is true, as right-wing politicians and organizations charge, that Israeli rights groups rarely portray the IDF and the Occupation in a positive light. But they should not be expected to; it is not their role (more…)

Israel’s flawed and dangerous ‘libel law’

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In the past year, a string of legislation has passed through Israel’s Knesset that chips away at free speech and expression using civil, monetary penalties. First the “Nakba Law” penalized any commemoration of the Palestinian narrative of the 1948 war, from which the State of Israel was born. Soon thereafter, lawmakers passed the “boycott law,” which permits civil suits against anyone boycotting, or advocating a boycott against West Bank settlements.

The latest piece of legislation seeks to modify an already-existing law against slander and libel. Considering recent attacks on independent news media in Israel using the existing law (and threats of using it), journalists are warning that changes made by the new legislation would deal a heavy blow to investigative reporting.

Of course, the targets of critical journalism – who would most benefit from the new law – would like you to think otherwise. The amendment to Israel’s Defamation Law is not a “libel law,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu quipped to the Knesset (more…)

Israel tries out ‘Occupy’: Fleeting notions of (social) justice

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Israel’s social justice movement, which was retaking city squares in the name of the average citizen months before Occupy Wall Street came along, attempted a comeback last week with its first mass protest after a two-month hiatus. Keeping to its “apolitical” social platform, the protest movement continues to carefully quarantine its definition of social justice, keeping it safe in the comfortable confines of the 1967 Green Line that shields the majority of Israelis from Palestinians. One mainstream Israeli politician, however, shattered that concept last week in a barely noticed and subsequently buried outburst in the Knesset.

The now-famous public faces of the Israeli social protest movement, first amongst them folk hero Dafni Leef, were present for the opening session of the Knesset’s winter session last week. As cameras panned to the social activists during the plenum’s widely-televised opening debate, politicians fulfilled expectations by vowing (more…)

The not-so-revolutionary spirit of Israel’s housing protests

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Something special is happening in Israel. There’s a revolutionary spirit in the air; people are fed up, and they’re realizing that others are fed up too. Furthermore, they’re not afraid to take to the streets to voice their ambiguous yet understandable demands: “The people want social justice!”

But while the spirit hanging in the agonizing mid-summer humidity of Tel Aviv may be revolutionary, don’t be fooled; there’s no revolution here.

Cautious references to and comparisons with the Arab Spring are being made by young Israelis inspired by the Egyptian revolution earlier this year. Signs at the protest epicenter on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Blvd. designate the protest camp “Tahrir.” Signs at a recent mass march that drew over 200,000 people read: “Mubarak, Assad, Netanyahu.”

Indeed, there are similarities between the two Facebook-organized protests of regular young people who are fed up with the hopeless realities of their countries. But it doesn’t need to be said, and Israelis don’t need to be reminded that their own hopelessness of economic success and social mobility doesn’t compare to (more…)

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