Posts tagged Israeli public opinion

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…)

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…)

Taking the ‘peace’ out of the process

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The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been dead for years, but a revival of talks between the two sides this week in Amman proved that ‘the process’ still serves a purpose. For Israel, even topical engagement in the process is necessary to maintain its aura of righteousness – that the Palestinians are to blame for a perpetual state of conflict – thereby allowing it to continue presenting the status quo as the only viable option. For the Palestinians, returning to the table justifies the revitalization of a stalled push for statehood by pointing to the futility of negotiations, and in a way, also helps maintain the status quo that serves the Ramallah political elite.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak took to the Israeli airwaves to discuss the upcoming talks a day before the two sides met in Amman this week. He discussed the various strategic advantages for Israel in resuming contacts with the Palestinians and at the same time made clear he had no expectations from them. But most notably, never in the 15-minute interview did he once say the word “peace.”

Perhaps feeling the need to justify to a domestic audience the simple act of sitting at the (more…)

The Israel-US relationship: Where is the love?

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Speaking at the Israeli Presidential Conference earlier this year, former US Ambassador Martin Indyk described Israel’s psyche – of wanting not only to hear about but also “feel” the United States’ love for it – as “neurosis.” The truth is, Israel’s neurosis has long paid off. Successive US administrations, diplomats and presidential hopefuls spare no opportunity to shower their love and reiterate that the bonds between the two countries are “unshakeable.”

All healthy relationships require affirmation. When only one party expresses affection, praise and love, the other feels resentful and taken for granted. In the case of the “unshakeable” relationship between Israel and the United States, that affirmation is a one-way street.

For many Israeli opinion- and policy-makers, the United States can never love Israel enough. No matter how many times Washington says “I love you,” Jerusalem says “prove it.” When American leaders and (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…)

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 II): Why all the controversy?

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This piece is the second 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.

Click here to read Part I

Since its inception, J Street has been labeled as controversial and its place within the “tent” of American Jewry constantly questioned. But the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” American political lobby promotes and reflects the same views and policies of 30 percent of Israel’s Knesset.

J Street and Israeli political parties are strikingly similar and sometimes indistinguishable. Regarding the peace process, J Street’s policy goals are almost identical to those of Kadima, Labor and Meretz.

Kadima, Israel’s centrist political party, like J Street, was founded to advance a single issue. Though Kadima was initially formed to promote evacuation of settlements and withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, its leaders have been avowed supporters of the two-state solution.

The Labor and Meretz parties too have nearly identical stances to those of J Street vis-à-vis the Palestinian conflict – a negotiated two-state solution. Even Hadash, despite being a self-described non-Zionist party, prescribes a two-state solution.

But J Street is not an Israeli political movement; it is an American lobbying (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…)

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