Posts tagged politics

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…)

‘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 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…)

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 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…)

The Shalit Deal: Israel and Hamas vs. Abbas

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Following the announcement of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas Tuesday night, Israeli television displayed a split screen showing crowds simultaneously dancing in both Jerusalem and Gaza City. One anchor on Channel 2 News commented, “It’s not often that you see people celebrating the same deal in Israel and Gaza.”

It would be wrong and skewed to suggest that the primary goal in reaching the prisoner exchange deal was driven by any motivation greater than the actual release of prisoners. But after five years of negotiations and amid the PA’s UN bid, the timing and alternative considerations involved are significant and potentially of great consequence.

As with everything in the Middle East, there is more to the prisoner exchange deal than what is immediately obvious. In the midst of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statehood bid in the United Nations, it is in the interest of both Israel and Hamas to undermine the PA president, something that was likely accomplished Tuesday.

Although Abbas’s bid for statehood is a bold move that excites Palestinians, most are aware that the diplomatic maneuver is unlikely to deliver any of the tangible results Palestinians demand, the least of which is technical statehood.

Up until today, Hamas has failed to actually improve the lives of Palestinians, both in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Although its resistance ideology has preserved its credibility, electorates (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…)

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