Posts tagged human rights

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…)

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 housing protests: The normalization of occupation

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In the absence of peace and war, domestic social struggles are spilling out into Israeli streets. The outburst of “normal” social struggle in Israel this year is, however, not a welcome sign. Despite claims that the recent social struggles are representative of the normalization of Israeli society, they are actually the ultimate representation of the normalization of the occupation and permanent conflict.

Doctors have been on strike for over 100 days. A massive boycott of cottage cheese brought the country’s attention to the high cost of basic food goods. Orthodox and religious Jews mounted mass protests against the police questioning of two rabbis. On Saturday, tens of thousands of youths and otherwise distraught Israelis took to the streets to demand affordable housing and social welfare amid an incredible and seemingly never-ending real estate bubble.

“The current protests are a sign of a return, at least temporarily, to normalcy,” Jerusalem Post diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote in an insightful and enlightening analysis (more…)

A Discussion with J Street (Part I): BDS and the Boycott Law

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This piece is the first part of a series of articles exploring the relationship of American Jews with Israel, with a special focus on J Street. The remainder of the series will be published here in the coming days.

Earlier this week, the Knesset passed a law that made calling for boycotts against West Bank settlements a legal cause of action. Prior to the new law, the merits and goals of settlement boycotts and the broader Palestinan-led global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign have become particularly divisive in Diaspora Jewish communities in recent years. Very few American Jews, however, have come out against the tactic of boycott itself. Doing so would be difficult as boycotts represent the successes of many of the last 70 years in American liberal causes.

Boycotts remain one of the most powerful tools in the hands of civil society when engaging in social struggle. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott during the 1960s Civil Rights era, to the César Chavez-led Grape Boycott in the 1980s, to the fall of South African Apartheid in the early 1990s, boycotts have played an integral role in (more…)

Flotilla 2011: Dueling narratives of the Gaza blockade

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The blockade on Gaza is oversimplified by those most active in supporting and protesting against it. Public relations branches of the Israeli government argue that the land and sea blockade on the coastal strip is necessary to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza that would threaten Israeli civilians living near the Strip. Those protesting the blockade, including participants in the upcoming flotilla, say that the blockade on Gaza is an illegal form of collective punishment on the citizens and civilians who live there, unnecessarily and painfully harming every aspect of life in the Strip. Both sides are correct, but neither is willing to allow the entire picture to enter their narrative.

From the time that Israel first occupied the Gaza Strip in 1956 and for more than three decades after its continuous occupation began in 1967, there was near freedom of movement for Palestinians and goods between the Strip, Israel and the West Bank. In 1991, that started to change as Israel implemented (more…)

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel: Something’s missing

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With Holocaust Remembrance Day upon us once again in Israel, I thought I would republish a piece I wrote two years ago. I’ve decided not to make any changes because, unfortunately, not much has changed and the spirit of the piece remains true to the day.

As a second-generation survivor of the Holocaust, Yom HaSho’ah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) has always been of great importance to me; its lessons were etched into my conscience from the earliest times in my childhood memories. The words, “never again” represent the values I was most deeply instilled with. However, those very values, which I once thought were universal, appear to be lost on so many. Perhaps my understanding of the values and memories of the Holocaust differ from others’; never again, not to anyone, ever.

As a child, I received the same Holocaust education as most other Jews. I heard first-hand memories from my grandmother and less so from my mother – both survivors of Nazi death camps. I went on to hear nearly identical stories in Holocaust museums all over the world, one such museum even has an exhibit specifically about my mother. Over several years, I helped my grandmother put her story onto paper and video so they would not be lost once she left this world. The value of those stories remain close to my heart and (more…)

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