Dorothy Online Newsletter


Dear Friends,
Please let me know if my message to you comes out blank.  Hoping  that on Sunday a technician will resolve the problem.  I am beginning to have an inkling of what might cause it—but have no idea of how to solve it.
As for today, there are 8 items below.
In the first of these an angry Amira Hass shows how an Israeli demolition firm takes pride in its work in the WB.  This reminds me of Hani Amer’s remark to me last week. I said something about talking to soldiers with the hope of making them think.  His response was ‘they don’t think.  They are just laborers who follow orders.”  The demolition firm merely takes pride in doing an excellent job.  I wonder if the company’s execs or those who perform the job ever think to themselves, ‘how would I deal with it if this happened to me?’  Probably not.  Else they would not be able to do what they are doing.
Item 2, a Haaretz editorial, is critical of Netanyahu.  He should, it lectures, end the anti-democratic witch hunt, referring to the bills on the table waiting to be made laws.
Item 3, “Stories from the old city” is more about the Sumarin family, but this time from the Independent.  Good that their tale gets wider distribution by publication in an international newspaper.
Item 4 relates that Israel faces the courts over not allowing residents of Gaza who are suing Israel or the military to leave so as to appear in courts .  May the suit win. 
Item 5 is a link (I was unable to copy the article) to a report titled “Women’s rights come under siege.”  The article is about the ultra-orthodox attempts to re-organize Israeli society.
Item 6 and 7 are on the identical subject—American Jewry is up in arms apparently over certain ads that Israel is putting on video so as to encourage Israelis to come home.  Item 6 relates straight-forwardly what is happening, and has the 3 videos (very brief) at issue.  Item 7 gives historical background that I was unaware of.  Worth reading both and seeing the videos.
Item 8 is Today in Palestine for December 1.  Lots on demolitions and prisoners and Gaza .  The section on bds is uplifting.  The rest is sad sad sad.
Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day.
1,  Haaretz  
Monday, November 28, 2011

Israeli demolition firm takes pride in West Bank operations
Having relatives in the West Bank is a problem. So is a school in the South Hebron Hills. The list of prohibitions is endless.
By Amira Hass
They passed by us proudly in their shiny shields and glittering wheels, these pot-bellied, gas-guzzling SUVs and a few jeeps with more modest engine sizes. They were returning from their operation’s destination. It was Thursday, November 24, 2011. We didn’t manage to see them in action, but we knew they were returning from routine demolition activity that doesn’t get reported in our parts and understood as yet another detail in the ever-expanding historical reckoning this land’s residents have with its masters.
The banal key words: Area C (South Hebron Hills), Civil Administration, military, Border Police, police, two bulldozers. Demolition orders for ICs (illegal construction ), trampled tents, tiny concrete structures in pieces. An adjacent water tanker, because hooking up to the water grid is against the law. And nearby, the glittering rooftops, set amid greenery, of the Jews’ houses at the settlement Susya. And the little pool for taking a dip that the occupants of Mitzpeh Avigail fill with water from the adjacent spring.
Discrimination familiar ad nauseam.
Still, we learned something new : The contracted demolition company was E.T. Law Services Ltd., as it said on the vests (fluorescent yellow ) that the half dozen workmen were wearing. Their job was to remove everything from the tents and little buildings earmarked for destruction: mattresses, sacks of flour and rice, more mattresses, an iron bed frame, pots, blankets, clothes, textbooks.
E.T. Law Services specializes in executing all the Bailiff’s Office actions, its website reports. Demolitions represent merely one of its several fields, which include repossessions, the impounding of vehicles and evictions.
“Building demolitions are generally carried out on behalf of engineering departments at municipalities, the Civil Administration in the territories, local building committees and the like …. After a suitable order has been received for executing the demolition of an illegal structure, its demolition is carried out by professional teams, in coordination with the relevant authorities such as the Israel Police , the Israel Defense Forces, Magen David Adom, suppliers of heavy equipment and so forth.”
A subcontractor brings the bulldozers. This is the second year in a row that E.T. Law Services has won the bid “from the Civil Administration in the territories to serve as the demolition contractor and the supplier of the mechanical engineering equipment and workers.” The company has also been surveyed by The Standards Institution of Israel and found to meet the requirements of the Israeli and international standard in bailiff’s office services, storage, building demolition and collection services for municipalities.
Our minds are at rest. On November 24, the following demolitions were carried out in accordance with the international standard: two tents in which the Mughnem family lived on their land in the village of Susya; a small stone mosque in the little cave village Umm Faqara; a small residential structure belonging to one family; an improvised guest room of another family; and a rabbit pen.
Not in keeping with the standard, the demolition also damaged the residential cave in Umm Faqara, which is not illegal. Illegal electricity poles that were meant to connect Umm Faqara to the 21st century had already been uprooted on November 3. In Umm Faqara two teenage girls were arrested; an officer in the Israeli Border Police said they had attacked the detachment. One of two rabbits was killed. In Susya the demolition work was accompanied by silence.
There is no rest for the guardian of law and order. Only one day before the demolition in Susya, the Civil Administration posted more stop-work orders, the stage that precedes a demolition order. In danger of being demolished, then, are the school’s main building, the bathrooms, the water cistern (when the law prohibits you from hooking up to the grid you go back to water cisterns ), and the road leading to the school.
There is no dispute that the Palestinian school was built without permits from the Israeli Civil Administration (after all, there are no permits when there is no master plan, and a master plan exists for the settlement Susya and not for the Palestinian Susya ). The Civil Administration guy’s GPS also proved that the school, in its second year of operation, was built in Area C, 100 meters from Area B, which is under Palestinian civil-administrative jurisdiction.
Relatives in the West Bank
S., an American citizen who works for an international organization registered in Jerusalem , applied for a work permit from the Israeli Interior Ministry. Her fellow foreign nationals had already received such a permit. She received the following written reply: “Since first-degree relatives reside in the territories and your father is a former resident of the territories, the decision of the headquarters of the Population and Immigration Authority (at the Interior Ministry ) is to deny the request.”
Perhaps relatives in the West Bank is a sweeping criterion for not granting a work permit? According to Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the Population and Immigration Authority, “There is no criterion that distinguishes between foreign nationals of Palestinian origin and other foreign nationals in granting a work permit. However, with every application that is submitted for receiving a work permit, different parameters are examined, including the applicant’s intent of settling down, the applicability of the temporary order and so on and so forth.”
When S. applied for her work permit, she was required to specify in writing the names of all her relatives who live in the West Bank, to stipulate how frequently she sees them, and to detail the migration history of her father and mother (likewise from a Palestinian family ).
It was not of his own volition that the father, a West Bank native, became “a former resident.” Israel used various tricks to make sure that Palestinians who, like him, left after 1967 for school and work lost their residency status. The Interior Ministry never rests. It does everything it can to prevent the daughter from returning, heaven forbid, to her family’s home. She might settle down here and disrupt the demographic balance, God forbid.
2.  Haaretz
Friday, December 02, 2011
Netanyahu should end the anti-democratic witch hunt
PM’ s support for the revised bill to restrict donations by foreign governments to left-wing organizations is an ill-conceived attempt to exploit his parliamentary majority to undermine Israeli democracy.
Haaretz Editorial
Tags : Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a conference of jurists earlier this week raised hopes that perhaps the prime minister had decided to repel the recent wave of bills proposed by his right-wing coalition colleagues. Netanyahu used the occasion to make clear what should have been self-evident: “Democracy is not just majority votes and majority rule. There is no way to run a democracy without checks and balances among the different branches of government.”
But words are one thing, and actions are another: Netanyahu’ s support for the revised bill to restrict donations by foreign governments to left-wing organizations is an ill-conceived attempt to exploit his parliamentary majority to undermine Israeli democracy. Social-welfare and human-rights organizations are one of the pillars that help preserve the balance between the different branches of government.
The new bill, cosponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud, is even worse than the original version that Netanyahu agreed to shelve. This time, the right seeks to completely bar donations by foreign governments to organizations that reject Israel ’s existence, incite to racism, support armed struggle against Israel , support indicting elected officials or Israel Defense Forces soldiers in international courts, advocate refusal to serve in the army, or support boycotting Israel . Moreover, organizations that aren’t also funded by the Israeli government would have to pay a 45 percent tax on donations from foreign governments.
The bill would authorize the finance minister and the Knesset Finance Committee to exempt certain organizations from this tax, based on criteria that haven’t yet been set. In that way, the cabinet and Knesset would essentially acquire judicial authority over civil society organizations, whose purpose is to provide oversight of the executive and legislative branches.
Moreover, the bill discriminates against human rights organizations identified with the left, as well as against peace organizations: It doesn’t apply to groups that get donations from foreign organizations or individuals – donations that serve to bolster the settlements and finance right-wing extremist activity.
A survey published by Haaretz yesterday found that only a minority of Israelis (37 percent) support proposals to restrict leftist organizations, the Supreme Court and the media. The public is aware of the danger looming over Israeli democracy. If the prime minister is sensitive to the public’s mood, he must immediately put an end to his colleagues’ witch hunt.
3.  Independent
Wednesday 30 November 2011
Stories from the Old City : ‘We are not living like human beings’
A 60-year-old law is being used to evict Palestinian families and expand Jewish settlements in the coveted suburbs of East Jerusalem
Catrina Stewart 
At the top of a steep and ramshackle street in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, a rusty, battered gate opens into an unremarkable house. Less than a quarter mile away, though, stand the Al Aqsa mosque and the Wailing Wall, two of Jerusalem’s most venerated holy sites, making it a very attractive piece of real estate indeed.
For Mohammed Sumarin, 52, whose late uncle owned this house, this is home. He was born here, raised here, and has never lived anywhere else. But now he faces losing his home of more than half a century to the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an Israeli charity that claims the house for its own and is battling to evict the family.
Silwan, sprawled along the southern flank of Jerusalem ‘s Old City , is the politically sensitive epicentre of the struggle for East Jerusalem, coveted by Palestinians as the capital of their future state, and claimed by Israel , which annexed the eastern sector after the 1967 Six Day War, as an integral part of an undivided Jerusalem .
The evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem are widely seen as deliberately aiding Israeli settlers in staking the Jewish claim to the eastern part of the city to thwart a final peace agreement that could cleave the city in two.
For the past month, the Sumarins have been living with the knowledge that they would have to leave their home by the end of the month or face forcible eviction. “We are not living like human beings,” Mr Sumarin, a severe diabetic who is bedridden for much of the day , says. “We cannot sleep at night. We live in fear. We expect them to come at any moment and throw us out.”
Waiting in the wings is Himnuta, the shadowy arm of the JNF, which declares itself the owner of the house. Himnuta, unlike the Fund, seeks to acquire property across the Green Line. Israeli and Palestinian activists fear that if Himnuta gets hold of the house, it will, as it has many times before, lease the house to El’ad, an extreme religious settler group that has established a bible-inspired archaeological park in the area and covets this neighbourhood for the Jews.
For the moment, though, the Sumarins can breathe a little more easily. Hours before an eviction order expired earlier this week, an Israeli judge suspended the ruling in response to a counter suit by the family’s lawyer. It has given Himnuta until 18 December to decide whether it intends to go ahead with the eviction or not, amid mounting international pressure on the JNF to back down.
Like so many Palestinians who have lost their homes in recent years, the Sumarins are victims of an old Israeli law that allows the state to confiscate property of absentee Palestinian owners living in an “enemy” state following the creation of Israel in 1948. Problematically, the law predates 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, and those states classified as enemy states include the occupied West Bank , Jordan (which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994) and almost every other Arab nation.
When the owner of this house – Mr Sumarin’s uncle – died in 1984, somebody spotted an opportunity. The owner’s sons, the legal heirs to the property, then lived in Jordan , the United Arab Emirates and the United States , while Mr Sumarin and his family continued to live in the property with permission of their relatives.
The Custodian for Absentee Properties confiscated the house a few years later with the help of the 1950s law, subsequently transferring it to Himnuta. In 1991 began a lengthy court process that would drag on for 15 years. The Sumarins initially fended off the action by Himnuta, but a negligent lawyer failed to defend an action against them in 2005, not even informing the family that a suit to evict them had been filed. The Israeli court ruled in favour of Himnuta, and ordered the family to pay Himnuta 1 million shekels (£170,300) in rent and interest, which has since risen to 2 million shekels (£340,600).
Technically, Israel is acting within the bounds of its own law, but it is, claims Daniel Siedeman, an Israeli human rights lawyer, a transparently “government-backed settler endeavour which is of highly questionable legality”. “A system that operates in such a way is not driven by the… law but the calculus of a national struggle,” he adds.
Since the early 1990s, Himnuta has taken legal ownership of at least eight Palestinian properties in Silwan, and in almost every case documented by Israeli activists has leased them to El’ad, a registered charity funded by wealthy donors whose identities are shielded by a web of offshore companies. Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich attended a 2005 fundraiser for the group, according to Israel ‘s Haaretz newspaper.
El’ad has been open about its vision for the neighbourhood. In an interview with an Israeli publication four years ago, director Doron Speilman gestured towards Silwan and said: “Our goal is to turn this land you see behind you into Jewish hands.”
With the backing of the Israeli government, the settler group has worked to achieve that vision through archaeology, establishing a national park called City of David in the upper part of Silwan. El’ad claims that archaeological finds in the area provide proof that King David, a legendary Hebrew figure, existed and established a city on this site in 1,000 BC.
Some Israeli archaeologists have disputed the settlers’ conclusions, arguing that there is no evidence to prove their claims. But it does, says independent archaeologist Yoni Mizrahi, help create a national consensus over the historical significance of the site.
“El’ad can say: ‘We’re not taking over Palestinian land. We’re coming back to where our ancestors lived,'” he says. “Many Israelis are against the taking over of [Palestinian] houses, but they support the archaeology.”
But El’ad insisted this week that the Sumarin family had no legal rights to the property, claiming that they forged ownership documents that they used to prove a legal right to their relatives’ house.
“The facts are that they illegally seized a property, used forged documents to try and deceive the courts, and are now refusing to leave a property which they never owned in the first place,” El’ad director Doron Spielman said in an emailed statement. “It is time to pull the cover off this charade and understand that this is a premeditated criminal scheme to illegally seize control of property which does not belong to them.”
Hagit Ofran , an activist with the NGO, Peace Now, confirmed that the courts had ruled in 2004 that a document transferring ownership to the family was forged, but said that the Sumarins did not have the money to appeal the decision. She added: “When the court said the document was forged, the court did not say that the family had no rights to the home.”
The document “was only one of the sources of their right to the property. Himnuta’s right to the property is much more questionable,” she said.
Over the past two decades, El’ad has expanded its presence in Silwan, commandeering confiscated Palestinian homes and bringing in settler families, whose 500-strong presence is heavily defended by gun-toting security guards, who frequently clash, sometimes fatally, with Palestinians in the area. The lawyer Mr Siedeman, says the consequences of the settlers’ actions cannot be overstated. The Sumarins’ plight “is emblematic of a conflict that is careering out of control,” he says. “The two-state solution is being endangered… and the radicalisation of the conflict is morphing from a political one into a religious one.”
Meanwhile, the fate of the Sumarins is in limbo. Himnuta now has a choice: it can decide not to press for the family’s eviction or it can continue its fight.
Shortly before the court halted the eviction order, Himnuta said that it was open to dialogue with the family, but insisted that the family would have to pay the 2 million shekel debt and an undetermined level of rent if it wanted to remain.
Given the family’s straitened financial circumstances, activists are sceptical that the offer was meant seriously, and fear that Himnuta will continue to seek the eviction.
Jawad Siyam, a local activist , says the situation in Silwan is becoming intolerable, with the rights of the dead given precedence over those of living Palestinians. “Why do settlers who came here 20 years ago have the right to take over? Just because King David was here 3,000 years ago?” he says. “We can’t breathe here because of the political situation.”
4.  The Guardian
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Israel Israel faces legal challenge over block on Palestinians exiting Gaza to sue stateHuman rights body says those seeking damages for actions of Israeli military are refused entry to the country to appear in court
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, Thursday 1 December 2011 19.34 GMT  larger | smaller Article history
Israel says it does not have a legal obligation to allow Gaza residents to cross the border, pictured during the January 2009 war. Photograph : Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
An Israeli human rights organisation has launched a legal challenge to the state’s policy of denying Palestinians permission to leave Gaza to pursue claims for damages resulting from military action, which has led to dozens of cases being dismissed by the Israeli courts.
The petition follows a supreme court ruling in 2006 that Palestinians were entitled to sue the state of Israel for compensation for damages caused to civilians by the military outside of “acts of war”. Lawsuits were filed for death, injury, house demolitions, torture and cruel or inhumane treatment.
However, plaintiffs and witnesses have been refused permission to enter Israel to appear in court, give evidence and complete necessary legal processes, such as signing affidavits witnessed by their lawyers, for their cases to proceed. Israel tightly restricts entry from Gaza which it says is necessary on security grounds.
Adalah, a human rights and legal action centre, cites a case in 2009 where the judge concluded “there is no option other than to dismiss the lawsuit”.
The plaintiffs, he said, “live in Gaza City and are unable to enter Israel . Therefore, they cannot hold meetings with their lawyer or sign various documents in front of him. They cannot stand before the court to give their testimony, to prove their case … The situation cannot be expected to change in the foreseeable future.”
The petition, filed by Adalah on behalf of 13 plaintiffs from Gaza plus lawyers and human rights groups, must be heard by the end of February.
The cases include that of Mohammed Asad Mohammed Alloh, disabled after being shot in the head from an Israeli military helicopter at the age of 13 in 2004. He was refused entry to Israel to undergo medical examination by an expert witness, as required by the court. His lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, was forced to withdraw the case in 2010 after a five-year battle.
Hassan Lutfi Saed al-Bishawy was taking his pregnant wife to hospital with her sister and a neighbour in January 2005 when their car came under fire from Israeli soldiers. The neighbour was killed and Bishawy was shot in his thigh and hand. None of the nine plaintiffs and four witnesses in the case have been permitted to enter Israel to testify. The case is still pending.
Kamla Saleh Suliman Abu Said and her niece were shot dead while working in fields near the Gaza-Israel border. The case was dismissed in 2009 after five years of legal battles because three witnesses were not permitted to enter Israel to appear in court. A second case is now pending, but the witnesses are still being refused access to Israel .
“In all these cases, there is a good chance to prove the liability of the state of Israel ,” said Fatmeh El-Ajou, a lawyer for Adalah. “This is the way the state is trying to avoid accountability. The plaintiffs are banned from exercising their rights. And in this way [the state] is turning the supreme court ruling into a dead letter.”
Under Israeli law plaintiffs must also deposit a sum of money‚ “usually around 30,000 shekels (£5,000)‚” to guarantee the costs in case they lose their claim. The sum is forfeited if the case is dismissed. “This is another obstacle to the plaintiffs,” said El-Ajou.
Israel ‘s ministry of justice referred the Guardian to a letter it sent to Adalah prior to the petition being filed. The ministry said there was no legal obligation on the state of Israel to allow the entry of residents of Gaza .
It said there was “an armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terror organisations which are active in the Gaza Strip … Since June 2007 [when Hamas took control of Gaza] there exists alongside this conflict a terror government, which, as a result of a violent revolution which it carried out, which had turned the Gaza Strip into a “hostile territory’ for the state of Israel”. Claimants “have a wide array of methods to establish contact with their lawyers, among others, through telephone calls, faxes, and emails”.
5. In Israel Women’s Rights come under siege
6.  Ynet Friday,
December 02, 2011
Controversial PR?
 Netanyahu the Christmas ‘Grinch’ Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
US Jews veto anti-assimilation ad campaign
Video advertisements depicting assimilation process of Israelis living abroad stirs storm in American Jewish community. Jewish Federations: Insulting message could harm Israel-Diaspora relations
Yitzhak Benhorin Published:  12.02.11, 
WASHINGTON – An ad campaign launched by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to convince Israelis living abroad to return to Israel stirred a storm among many Jewish Americans who said the advertisements jeopardize Israel’s relations with its Diaspora.
Three videos produced by the Ministry depict “normal” scenarios from the daily lives of Israelis abroad, and urge them to “return home” before becoming “fully assimilated.”

Following numerous complaints by American Jews, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) issued the following statement: “…While we recognize the motivations behind the ad campaign, we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel. We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.
“For that reason, we have made our concerns known to Israeli officials in the United States , and are delivering a strong letter to the Prime Minister’s office asking the government to stop this initiative and to reconsider the strategy behind it. We have also offered to help play a role in rethinking this effort.”
One of the videos shows grandparents in Israel with a Hanukkah menorah behind them, talking with their granddaughter on Skype. They ask her “what holiday is it today?” to which she cheerfully answers “Christmas.”
At the end of the video, a message appearing on the screen reads: “They will always be Israeli. Their children will not. Help them come home.”
Another video that angered American Jews, suggests that Israelis should not marry non-Israeli partners, because they will never understand Israeli holidays such as the Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day.
In a third ad, a child is shown trying to wake up his napping father by repeatedly calling out “daddy.” However, the father only responds when the child finally calls him “aba” (Hebrew for father).
American media outlets slammed the ad campaign, directing their anger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Business Insider magazine compared Netanyahu to the Grinch, a fictional character created by Dr. Seuss, which is used to describe a person opposed to Christmas time celebrations, while The Miami Herald published an article titled “Benjamin Netanyahu’s war on Christmas?”
The Atlantic correspondent Jeffery Goldberg expressed the Jewish community’s anger, writing: “The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik (if you don’t mind me resorting to the vernacular).
“The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid (and what a great show you put on at the AIPAC convention every year!) but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters,” he wrote.
7.  Haaretz Friday,
December 02, 2011
Controversial commercials show historic balancing act of Israeli and American Jews
In the words of David Ben Gurion : In the free and prosperous countries, Judaism faces the kiss of death, a slow and imperceptible decline into the abyss of assimilation.
By Chemi Shalev
Tags : Jewish World Jewish Diaspora Benjamin Netanyahu
Jacob Blaustein might be the richest and most important American Jew many of you have never heard of. He has been so thoroughly forgotten that Wikipedia doesn’t even have an entry under his name, the digital age equivalent of being expunged from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
Nonetheless, although he died over 40 years ago, Blaustein continues to exert great influence over American Jewish history, especially on days when three commercials of the Israeli Ministry of Absorption touch a raw nerve and spark such a lively debate about Israel-Diaspora relations.
Blaustein was a towering titan of industry who, together with his father, Louis, created what was once the world ’s biggest oil supplier, Amoco. He was a close confidant of President Harry Truman and often served as his diplomatic emissary. He was President of the American Jewish Committee during the establishment of the State of Israel and for many years thereafter. And, together with his surprisingly close friend, David Ben Gurion , Blaustein was the chief architect of a historical Jewish “Concordat” that has shaped and governed the delicate and complex relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community ever since Israel was born.
If he were alive today, Blaustein would probably be at the forefront of those who are so vigorously protesting the commercials that are aimed at persuading Israeli expats to return home, belittling in the process, so their detractors feel, the value of American Jewish life. He might even get on a plane, as he did several times during the 1950’s, to complain to the prime minister that Israel was violating the terms of the modus vivendi that he had carved out with Ben Gurion soon after Israel declared its independence. He might go so far as to threaten that American Jewry would unilaterally abandon this agreement, as he did in early 1961 after Ben Gurion told the 25th Zionist Congress in no uncertain terms what the commercials at the eye of the current storm have only subtly implied, if at all: “Those who are devoted to Judaism must see the danger facing Diaspora Jewry courageously and with open eyes. In the free and prosperous countries, it faces the kiss of death, a slow and imperceptible decline into the abyss of assimilation”.
This was no Israeli boy calling his father “daddy” instead of “Abba”, like he does in the commercials, nor a boyfriend perplexed by his Israeli girlfriend’s preoccupation with Yom Hazikaron and not even teary grandparents who don’t know it’s Christmas time at all until they are told by their Israeli grandchild in America. This was Ben Gurion, at his most characteristically blunt, expounding on the basic Herzlian Zionist tenet of “negation of the Diaspora”, sending American Jewish leaders into a tizzy and getting Blaustein on a plane to Israel to sort things out and put them back on track.
The deal between the two, first reached in 1950 in what came to be known as “ the Ben Gurion-Blaustein Exchange” was, in essence, a Jewish cease fire between what many have described as the modern-day equivalents of Jerusalem and Babel . In exchange for dropping the then non-Zionist and often antagonistic posture of the American Jewish Committee towards Israel, and thus enabling American Jewry to unite in financial and political support for the newly-established state, Ben Gurion agreed that Israel would refrain from speaking on behalf of the Jewish people, would recognize that American Jews owe their allegiance only to the government of the United States, would accept the legitimacy of American Jewry, would refrain from campaigns aimed at encouraging wholesale Jewish emigration to Israel and would even stop using the world “aliyah,” to ascend, as that implies a superiority of the Israeli-Jewish existence.
Ben Gurion agreed to the deal, which ran contrary to his core beliefs, because of the pragmatic need to enlist Jewish and American support in the fight for Israel ’s existence (as well as his Machiavellian wish to outflank his main rival for global Zionist leadership, Nahum Goldmann by negotiating with the non-Zionist Blaustein). But Ben Gurion repeatedly violated his own promises, for reasons of political posturing but also because they were so difficult for him to swallow – only to retract his words whenever Blaustein found out.
Thus, in the wake of his inflammatory “kiss of death” and “abyss of assimilation” statement, Ben Gurion was forced to reconfirm his 1950 “exchange” with Blaustein in an even more formal 1961 “Ben Gurion–Blaustein Agreement” – mainly because he wanted Blaustein to speak on Israel’s behalf to President John Kennedy , who was then contemplating potentially harmful measures concerning Israel’s nuclear industry and the return of Palestinian refugees.
And even though Ben Gurion was accused by his detractors of agreeing to a Faustian sell-out to American Jews, the blueprint he concluded with Blaustein worked out reasonably well for both sides, despite occasional glitches, though it has also undergone gradual but ultimately significant changes. Blaustein, for example, would have been horrified to hear Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declare, as he did in his speech before Congress in May of this year, “I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.” Blaustein had specifically demanded, and Ben Gurion had agreed, not to speak “on behalf of the Jewish people”, lest this buttress the accusations of “dual loyalty” regularly hurled by anti-Semites at American Jews.
As for the concept of Israel as a “Jewish state”, which has now become such a central demand in the Israeli and Jewish discourse on the peace process , it is indeed ironic that Blaustein’s representatives from the American Jewish Committee, who had been invited to voice their opinion on various aspects of a constitution that Israel had sought to enact when it was established, actually boasted of their success in removing the term “ Jewish state ” from the final drafts of the constitution – that was never enacted – and replacing it with the term “State of Israel.”
‘Bring them back home’
As for the commercials themselves, and the surprisingly vehement reaction to them, I am of two minds. On the one hand, the Americans who are objecting, including the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg , do “protest too much,” as Gertrude says in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, possibly because some of the situations portrayed in the commercials hit too close to home; possibly because the protestors fail to acknowledge or comprehend that Israelis who have immigrated abroad may indeed be prone to faster assimilation than American-born Jews; and just possibly because this is a good opportunity as any to vent some pent up anger at the current Israeli government without being automatically accused of “aiding Hamas and Hezbollah” or some such chauvinistic drivel.
On the other hand, one cannot ignore the insularity and self-centeredness that makes a growing number of Israeli politicians, government officials and opinion makers obtuse or oblivious to the effects of their actions on world public opinion, in general, and American Jews, in particular. Despite being forewarned, for example, so many members of the Knesset either couldn’t comprehend or couldn’t care less that the recent wave of anti-democratic legislation introduced to the Israeli parliament might alienate large swathes of liberal-minded American Jews.
Indeed, sometimes one suspects that for members of Israeli’s current ruling coalition, many of whom hail from distinctly non-democratic backgrounds and represent expressly anti-democratic constituencies, the estrangement and perhaps even the exclusion of American or Israeli Jews who support “leftist” policies or espouse “liberal” values (such as “human rights”, in quotation marks) is not simply “collateral damage” in the pursuit of loftier ideological goals – it is the end itself, the desired result, the outcome that they had intended to achieve in the first place.

As some of the reactions in Israel’s right-wing and religious blogosphere in the past 24 hours make abundantly clear, even if that was not their original intention, the misunderstood television commercials could still achieve a righteous aim by distancing “assimilationist” Jews from Israel and thus advancing the sacred goal, inspired by Deuteronomy, Chapter 23, to “let our camp be pure,” Amen.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev
8.  Today in Palestine
Dec.1, 2011

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