Posts tagged Israel

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…)

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…)

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…)

Iran: A game gone too far

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The story of how Israel reached the – real or perceived – brink of war with Iran is not exactly what it appears to be.

At some point in recent years, Israeli decision-makers decided to play a game. Through a fairly innocuous and innocent lens, the game can be described as “good cop, bad cop.” At worst, it is a dangerous exercise in diplomatic and military brinksmanship that risks catapulting one of the world’s most well-armed regions into an unpredictable and open-ended war.

Either way, the game has gone too far.

Israel is terrified of a nuclear-armed Iran. Although less daunting than the prospect of a second holocaust, the danger Iranian nukes pose is real: they threaten the thus-far unchallenged regional hegemony the IDF has enjoyed for decades.

Earlier this year, the IDF’s top planning officer, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, explained how an Iran with nuclear weapons would change Israel’s strategic (more…)

‘Down with Oslo’ (and the PA?)

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Nearly two decades have passed since the Oslo Accords first gave the world hope for Mideast peace and an end to Israeli rule over the Palestinian territories; in the West Bank, the failed framework for peace talks has become directly associated with the occupation itself. When hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets last week to protest a (subsequently canceled) visit to Ramallah by Israeli Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, their chants targeted the former IDF chief, but the calls for an end to Oslo were even louder – an indirect attack on President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

Eighteen years after the Palestinian Authority’s creation, some Palestinians are questioning whether the Oslo-designed Palestinian quasi-government, which was only ever meant to exist as a five-year interim body, has outlived its raison d’être of achieving Palestinian independence and ending the occupation through diplomatic channels.

As far as a growing number of people are concerned, the Oslo accords, and their byproduct, the Palestinian Authority, have done little more than act as a political and security buffer for maintaining Israel’s (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…)

The Iranian threat: What Israel really thinks

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One of the biggest distortions about the Iranian nuclear threat is Israel’s explanation of its basis for fearing it. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cites Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying the Israeli regime should be wiped off the map, invoking powerful imagery to lead the Israeli public and the world to fear a second Holocaust. But is that really what he and his intelligence assessments fear?

The top officer in the Israeli military’s planning directorate, Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, presented Israel’s fear of a nuclear-armed Iran in a less existential and more strategic context last month. Israel, he said, would be deterred from entering into conventional wars with its traditional adversaries, Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, if their Iranian sponsor became a nuclear power.

Nuclear deterrence, Eshel explained, would dramatically alter Israel’s strategic military posture in the region. “If we are forced to do things in Gaza or Lebanon under an Iranian nuclear umbrella, it might be different.”

Another major fear, shared by the United States and regional actors in the Middle East, is that Iranian (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…)

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