I tried deleting one or two of the items so as to send less, but in the end couldn’t decide which. So, if you haven’t time to read all, you select what seem most interesting. The initial item is barely a few lines, so it’s more like 8 ½ items than 9. The red underscoring is mine to call attention to a few specifics.
To get down to business: item 1 is typical of a good many reports on the subject published each year, sometimes by the press, sometimes only by a brief statement on one or another of the radio news programs. Seldom do they appear on Israeli televised news. The significance of these items is that the wall is not a security affair (just in case any of you thought it was). That is to say, all these reports are about Palestinians who have no permits, but are nevertheless caught inside Israel, not at the checkpoint, not trying to climb the wall, or digging a tunnel under it. They are usually caught by the police at their work place or on the way to it, but in Israel. I don’t have recent figures for how many Palestinians who have no permits work in Israel, but in the past (about 2-3 years ago) there were between 500-1000 a week coming in from the OPT.
Item 2 relates that IOF personnel are angry over the increase in investigations about war crimes or crimes against humanity. These terms are not used in the report, but that’s what the crimes have been called by Human Rights organizations and the Goldstone report. The officers, et al, are not upset about the incidents (e.g. 21 members of a single family killed by the IOF during the Gaza foray)! And this, mind you, is the ‘most moral army’ in the world, as the saying goes. No army that fights is moral. The IOF certainly is not, and one of the reasons for this is that instances of murder or other crimes committed against Palestinians are seldom investigated, and even less frequently do they bring charges and punishment. Not to worry. The IOF will not investigate, bring charges, or punish unless forced to.
I have included item 3 (a sad enough tale for several reasons, not the least of them being that the father wants his sons to ‘serve’ in the IOF) mainly for the statement made by a military jurist: the “Family needs to learn that in Israel, unlike in America, the citizens need to serve the authorities.” This is repeated again in slightly different terms. In other words, in Israel the individual is presumed to serve the government, unlike in America where the government is presumed to serve the citizen. Ah yes. To what degree the latter is true of actual practice in the US might be debatable, but in my day we were taught that the client is always right. In Israel the citizen is always told to serve the government. But then in militaristic societies this is to be expected.
Item 4 is from the Guardian, and is a fuller version of the incident that I forwarded 2 days ago about the woman who was killed in Gaza by IOF fire. Now we learn that she was a mother of 5 children. Notice also that ambulances were prevented from getting to the scene.
Item 5 is the struggle to Judaize east Jerusalem.
Items 6,7,8 are about pending legislation. I have no doubt at all (unfortunately) that the three will become laws. Item 6 is about the loyalty oath for Palestinians who wish to have Israeli citizenship (difficult for a Palestinian to obtain in any event)—they will be obliged to pledge loyalty not to Israel (which would be reasonable as things go) but to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The latter it decidedly is not, and if the government and Knesset keep passing laws that Jews in the Diaspora find distasteful, then eventually it will not be Jewish either—well, at least not the state that Jews want to associate with. Imagine that France or Belgium or other European country demanded that of Jews that obtaining citizenship required pledging to a Christian state democratic state! Item 8 is a vicious one. Israel’s infamous present Foreign Minister, Liebermann, wants to cut Gaza entirely off from Israel. Gaza is an integral part of historic Palestine, but stands now like a sore thumb in Israel’s scheme of things, primarily because Israel’s leaders have cut it off from the West Bank by colonizing between it and wherever else you look. Nevertheless if Liebermann manages to push this through, that is if the US and EU do not stop him, we will undoubtedly witness one or another reaction.
The author of item 9 wishes to boycott the Knesset for some of the laws being passed. Apart from that, towards the end he expresses a dislike of boycotting academic institutions. Well, I beg to differ with him. Israeli academic institutions are deep deep into research that supports the occupation, wars, and arms production. When our youngest son (in his early 50s) asked me incredulously a month or so ago, “You want to boycott me,” my response was “Yes, so that your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren won’t have to fight to save your life.” He got the idea. No one wants to hurt their loved ones, but bdsing is the lesser of all the evils that might save our kids—Israeli and Palestinian.—from more wars and injustice. Hopefully. Please keep working for bds!
Six Palestinians residing illegally in Israel have been arrested in Petah Tikvah. Two were detained at a resting home at which they worked and an additional four, also employed there, were caught in a nearby apartment.
A preliminary investigation revealed false ID cards in their possession, as well as items suspected to have been stolen. The manager of the resting home has been summoned for interrogation. (Raanan Ben-Zur)
2. Ynet Friday, July 16, 2010
Anger in IDF over surge in probes
Senior IDF officers angered by excessive military investigations of battlefield incidents in Gaza, West Bank. ‘Probes aimed at appeasing United Nations help Hamas, show we scrutinize officers,’ says official
Senior IDF officers are furious over “the military prosecution’s excessive involvement in operational matters,” following a growing number of probes into battlefield incidents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – especially during Operation Cast Lead.
As part of their criticism, the officers suggested that the investigations damaged the IDF and served the interests of Hamas. Others claim that they are aimed at appeasing the United Nations following the Goldstone Report, and show that “officers are being scrutinized.”
On top of the controversial decision to indict a combat soldier for killing a mother and daughter in Gaza, the military court recently decided to try a Golani Brigade commander for an incident in which his subordinates used a Palestinian civilian as a human shield.
Another debated issue is the decision to probe an event mentioned at length in the Goldstone Report, in which a Gaza house was bombarded, resulting in the deaths of 21 people.
Recent information revealed that the investigation will focus on Air Force personnel as well as former Givati Brigade Commander, Colonel Ilan Malka.
In addition, the military prosecution on Thursday convicted a regiment commander and a soldier for shooting a bound protester in Naalin.
‘Officers are scared to operate’
The current situation has stirred discontent among the IDF’s commanding ranks. “Undoubtedly, the rubber bullet affair was not good,” said a senior officer who has served as a brigade commander in the past few years.
“It would have been better if it never happened, but we can honestly say that in this case the officer didn’t just go wild, but rather made a mistake – and now he will get stained for life. This is something that seeps down, and as a result officers are scared to operate,” he said.
Lt. Col. Omri Burberg was relieved of his command after the incident, and an upcoming promotion. If no changes are made, he will also leave the IDF with a criminal record that will accompany him for 17 years.
The senior officer noted that the IDF was fighting its battle in a populated area, which makes it extremely difficult to distinguish between a terrorist and a civilian. Terror organizations, the officer claimed, used this fact to conceal traps that target the IDF.
“When an officer nabs a Palestinian taxi driver without cause – it is a criminal act –not wrong judgment. But there is no fault when a regiment commander allows a civilian who asked not to demolish his house, to enter and check if there are hidden terrorists,” he said.
“The aforementioned regiment commander was brought before a disciplinary hearing led by GOC Northern Command Gadi Eizenkot, and walked away with a warning – the most symbolic punishment that can be given. This alone shows the General’s disagreement with the decision to discipline the commander,” said the officer.
“The officers on the ground fight in very complex conditions, and when you examine it later in an air-conditioned office through a neat presentation – there are always some remarks. We must not transmit the message that every mistake is a hanging rope.”
‘Decorated officer turned criminal suspect’
Currently, the military police is investigating the January 2009 bombardment of the al-Samouni house in Gaza’s Zeitoun neighborhood, which killed 21 people (out of 29 family members killed during the operation).
Among those to be summoned for explanations is Colonel Ilan Malka, whose promotion is on hold due to the forthcoming investigation. Colonel Malka instructed the Air Force to bombard the house, assuming there was a terrorist cell seeking shelter inside – but no civilians.
According to an officer who served in Givati, this is a sad case. “They turned a decorated officer into a criminal suspect. This is very unpleasant – to say the least.”
Other field commanders admitted behind closed doors that the military prosecution must be given the legitimacy to probe, but advocated using the right balance.
A senior military official remarked cynically that “investigating the event mentioned at length in the Goldstone Report serves as a good response from the IDF, who is expected to hand the UN an updated report soon. It is convenient to show them we are scrutinizing senior officers.”
3. Haaretz Friday, July 16, 2010
Aliyah of U.S. family goes sour as sons arrested for IDF desertion
Military jurist: Family needs to learn that in Israel, unlike in America, the citizens need to serve the authorities.
Thirty police officers arrived last week at the Be’er Sheva home of Elizabeth and Natan, business owners and immigrants from Los Angeles. The officers came there to arrest all of the couple’s four sons for army desertion – the latest stop in an absorption process gone amiss.
That day, the officers arrested two siblings, who are now in military prisons. Police are still searching for the remaining two brothers. Natan – who asked his last name be withheld from this article – says that his sons’ desertion was the result of the state’s failure to integrate them into Israeli society.
“I told them they would become Israelis before they know it,” he says about his four army-age sons. “But in high school they never even got the hang of the Hebrew language. I’ll never forgive myself for what I’ve done to them by bringing them here. If they leave the country when this is over, I’ll understand, sell the business and come with them.”
Three of the couples’ children – twenty-year-old triplets – are accused of failing to report for army duty for the past two years. A fourth brother, aged 19, reported for duty last year but then deserted.
Elizabeth and Natan say their sons – whom they describe as intelligent and delicate individuals – decided to desert after realizing the army had earmarked them to serve at an army base intended for delinquent youths. The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson unit said Corry’s “problematic” service record at the base proves the army was justified in sending him there.
A military jurist familiar with the case said that “much of the family’s difficulties are because they’re having a tough time letting go of an attitude that they are the client and that the authorities need to serve them. It’s different here in Israel.”
Natan, who was born in Israel in 1955, met Elizabeth in the native U.S., where she was born, in 1979. They lived there for seven years before immigrating to Israel. They had the triplets here in 1990, but raising them through the Gulf War was “too stressful,” according to Natan, and they all went to Los Angeles.
“I decided we should move back to Israel when the boys were about 15,” he recalls. “I wanted them to grow up as Israelis. They didn’t want to come here but I pushed them to it.”
Natan, the distress evident in his voice, told his story while taking a taxi to visit one of his sons at Military Prison 6 near Atlit. Another is jailed in Prison 4. “We settled in Be’er Sheva, my hometown and where I have family,” he says.
The boys were picked on at school and taunted because they were different, Natan adds. “Every week I was at school to speak with the counselor. We transferred them to new schools three times. They were traumatized and in the process they fell between the system’s cracks. They never quite learned Hebrew. I have one son who to this day can’t recite the Hebrew alphabet.”
Posted with ‘animals’.
These problems at school resulted in poor grades and low performance at the army test which determines suitability to various units. This earmarked Corry, the first son to enlist, to serve at the Havat Hashomer base in the Galilee, which trains underprivileged and delinquent youths and integrates them into the army.
“I was told by the army that my boys would go to Hebrew school and finally improve their language skills,” Natan says. “Then my son calls me and tells me he’s with people who behave like animals, who constantly pick on him and steal his stuff.”
The family’s attorney, Ron Solkin, a serving reservist in the Military Advocate General, says that sending Corry to serve at Havat Hashomer was an error in judgment on the army’s part.
“If you talk to these boys, you can very quickly see they don’t belong with delinquent youths,” he says. “You hear it in their language and you see it in how they behave. These are not troubled kids and now the system put them in jail instead of trying to deal with the issue.”
Corry, according to the IDF Spokesperson, “was posted to Havat Hshomer in light of his personal data and an assessment regarding his chances of adapting to service, which indeed proved to be problematic.”
At Havat Hashomer Corry “did not cooperate with his commanders and was absent without leave on three occasions,” the IDF Spokesperson said, adding that “the base specializes in absorbing and training soldiers with a recruitment profile and personal data that require a supportive framework which empowers soldiers and allows them to carry out a normal service.”
Natan says he will bring his two sons to the army to face trial this week. Solkin says he hopes the army will devote more attention to solving the four siblings’ predicament after the trial.
“The army has mechanisms for reintroducing court-martialed prisoners back into regular service and I hope the boys’ special situation will become apparent to the army’s social workers,” he said. The siblings can expect prison terms of a few weeks, according to Solkin.
But Elizabeth and Natan are less optimistic. “I fear very much that one of my sons might try to harm himself in prison,” says Natan, who served in the Israel Defense Forces. “They are in a pretty desperate state right now. I just hope this thing ends soon and we can go on with our lives.”
A mother of five was killed by Israeli artillery fire when she went to fetch her two-year-old son from outside her village home close to the “buffer zone” created by Israel along its border with Gaza.
Three of her relatives were wounded in the shelling earlier this week, but Red Crescent ambulances were not permitted to reach the family for several hours.
According to the woman’s husband, Nasser Abu Said, 37, the attack began without warning at about 8.30pm on Tuesday with two shells being fired as the family of 17 sat outside their house in the village of Johar a-Deek. Apart from Nasser and his 65-year-old father, the entire group was women and children.
“It was completely quiet, there were no rockets being fired or we wouldn’t have been sitting outside,” he said, referring to Qassam missiles launched by militants into Israel.
His sister and his brother’s wife were injured by shrapnel. The family moved indoors and called an ambulance. “About 10 minutes later the ambulance called back to say the Israelis had refused them permission to come to the house,” said Nasser.
His wife Ne’ema, 33, soon realised their youngest son, Jaber, was not among the children she was attempting to calm down, and was probably asleep on a mattress outside that he often shared with his grandfather.
As she went to fetch the toddler, another shell landed. “I called to my wife three times,” said Nasser, who realised his father had also been badly injured in his leg and stomach. “I could hear small noises coming from her. I knew she was dying.”
Via Palestinian co-ordinators, the IDF told the family that anyone going outside the house would be shot dead. Nasser began to tend to his injured father, knowing he could not reach his dying wife.
“I was holding myself in, especially in front of the children,” he said. The children were crying hysterically and some had wet themselves, he added.
After two hours, an ambulance was allowed to reach the family. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which investigated the incident, said Ne’ema and her wounded relatives were taken to al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah, where it was confirmed she had died from shrapnel wounds.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) said it had identified a number of suspects close to the border. “An IDF force fired at the suspects and identified hitting them,” it said. The incident was being investigated, it added, but declined to say why ambulances had not been allowed to reach the family.
Since the three-week war in Gaza that began in December 2008, the IDF has continued to fire on Palestinians it suspects of launching rockets at Israeli civilians or attempting to attack Israeli forces. It created a 300m-wide buffer zone on Palestinian farmland adjacent to the border with Israel and warned it would shoot anyone seen within the forbidden area.
The Abu Saids say their land is not used by militants to fire rockets as it is open ground in full view of an Israeli watchtower at the border 400m away.
In the first five months of this year, 22 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the buffer zone, according to the PCHR. The IDF says one soldier and a Thai farmworker were killed and two soldiers lightly wounded in militant attacks in the first half of this year.
Palestinians have been unable to harvest their crops in the zone, which has swallowed about 30% of Gaza’s arable farmland. The Abu Said family have lived in the area for 40 years, but have had to abandon the part of their land inside the zone. “Everyone is afraid to come to this house,” said Nasser.
The house, isolated down a rutted track, was riddled with shrapnel damage from Tuesday’s shelling, and dried blood still lay in the sand where Ne’ema had been killed.
The PCHR condemned the shelling which, it said, “constitutes the highest degree of disregard for Palestinian civilians’ lives”. This was not an isolated incident but “part of a series of continuous crimes committed by the [Israeli military]”.
5. BBC Thursday, 15 July 2010 Last updated at 22:13 GMT
BBC Middle East editor No piece of ground on the planet is more contested than Jerusalem
Sometimes you can see just why it is so difficult to make peace in Jerusalem.
This city excites strong passions.
Not only is it holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians. It is also a national symbol for Israelis and Palestinians.
No piece of ground on the planet is more contested. It has changed hands violently many times.
On a dusty, narrow and steep street on the Israeli occupied eastern side of the city stands a battered seven-storey building. Scorch marks smudge the stonework around some of the windows.
When cars pull up, security guards wearing flak jackets emerge from the building’s heavy door to escort the passengers inside.
Quite often patrols from Israel’s paramilitary border police trudge past, wearing combat helmets, carrying M-16 assault rifles, with rubber clubs shoved inside their backpacks.
The building’s name is Beit Yonatan, Hebrew for Jonathan House. It is named after Jonathan Pollard, who has served 23 years in an American prison for spying for Israel.
The area where Beit Yonatan stands is more commonly known as Silwan
I was given a tour of the building by Daniel Luria, an Israeli who works for a Jewish group called Ateret Cohanim. He said the marks round the windows were made by petrol bombs
Ateret Cohanim is an organisation that helps Jews buy houses, flats and land from Palestinians. Usually they pay well over the market rate.
The newly rich Palestinians who sell often have to disappear – usually abroad – because they are considered traitors.
Mr Luria said it was just business.
“An Arab wants to sell, a Jew wants to buy. It’s that simple. We help them do it.”
The building’s residents call their section of Israeli occupied East Jerusalem the Yemenite Village, after a small group of Jews who lived there until 1938.
The district, which is overwhelmingly Palestinian, is more commonly known as Silwan.
The Israelis who live there, including families with young children, are highly motivated religious nationalists.
They believe that they are doing God’s will. They want Beit Yonatan to be the beginning of a Jewish community in Silwan.
Mr Luria said that if local Palestinians didn’t like that, they should leave.
The Israeli state has worked long and hard, and spent a great deal of money, to make the walled Old City and the territory it captured in and around Jerusalem in the 1967 war more Jewish.
Daniel Luria insists that Jerusalem is the centre of the Jewish world.
Its project started as soon as the shooting stopped in 1967, and it continues. Ateret Cohanim regards itself as a vital player in a national struggle.
I asked Mr Luria if he was fighting house-by-house to control the place he says is no longer Arab Jerusalem. He said it was inch-by-inch.
The state helps in all sorts of ways.
The vehicles that pull up outside Beit Yonatan are armoured. The government pays for the private security company which shuttles the residents in and protects the building.
In a court petition, government lawyers justified the expense by saying their lives were in danger.
An order was issued more than two years ago for the Jews who live in Beit Yonatan to leave and for the building to be sealed, as it was built illegally. But the police have never carried it out.
Settlers who go to live in the heart of Palestinian communities in Jerusalem are regarded as trouble-makers by many Israelis who believe in making peace. Their presence raises the tension considerably.
But Mr Luria, sat in an armoured land rover as we were driven through streets he regards as hostile, dismissed the idea, insisting that his views were shared by most Israelis.
Some Palestinians have agreed to sell their houses, but many others are staying
“Land for peace doesn’t work… The world has to wake up to reality that Jerusalem, it’s impossible to divide.
“Jerusalem is the centre of the Jewish world. For a Jew, for generations, the best thing they could do is to sing ‘next year in Jerusalem’ on Passover. Today they have the opportunity to live close to God’s house, near Temple Mount.
“Every Jew wants a piece of the action, wants to be here, close to God in the heart of Jerusalem,” Mr Luria said.
Just down the road from Beit Yonatan, behind a dented steel gate, is the home of the Palestinian Abu Nab family.
Three brothers and their wives and children live there, 45 people in all. The family has rented the property since 1948.
Ateret Cohanim, which is eyeing the property, says the building once was a synagogue.
Abdullah Abu Nab, one of the brothers, said that a year ago they were offered $1m (£647,306) to move out. They refused.
“I told him that even if you pay for every single centimetre in gold I won’t agree to leave. I’ll only leave my home dead – or they’ll have to throw me out in the street,” Mr Abu Nab said.
“Those who have no religion will sell, but those who have faith won’t give up their land – the land of our Palestinian grandfathers. Money isn’t tempting, because money comes and money goes.”
His family have now been served with an eviction notice. The Palestinian community in that part of Silwan reacted with fury and there were serious clashes with Israeli security forces. The area is still tense.
Even though some Palestinians have taken the money that is on offer from Ateret Cohanim and its wealthy supporters, many others have not. The Palestinians have learnt over the years that if they leave their land, Israel is not likely to allow them back.
Mr Luria says his side is winning. But there is no chance of peace in Jerusalem if Israel ignores Palestinian rights in the holy city that both sides believe is their birthright.
The cabinet is expected to approve a series of measures on Sunday that would make it harder for Palestinians to acquire permanent residency or citizenship in Israel. The most notable would require Palestinians to declare their loyalty to “a Jewish and democratic state” before being granted Israeli citizenship.
The measures will primarily affect Palestinian men and women who marry Israeli citizens and then seek citizenship on the basis of family reunification.
Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel yesterday protested the proposed wording of the loyalty declaration. In a written statement, the group said “it views the conditioning of entry into Israel on a declaration of loyalty to a Jewish and democratic state, and of respect for the laws of the state, very gravely, because it requires all non-Jews to identify with Zionism and imposes a political ideology and loyalty to the principles of Judaism and Zionism.”
The other restrictions to be imposed on Palestinians wishing to gain residency or citizenship are not actually new; they are part of a law enacted in 2005, originally for one year, that has since been renewed annually. On Sunday, however, the cabinet is expected to approve its extension for yet another year.
One restriction in that law bars Palestinians married to Israelis from joining their families here before the Interior Ministry agrees to their right to live in Israel. The law also denies residency rights to any foreign spouse or his children if he is married to other women in addition to his Israeli wife.
Finally, it requires Palestinians who seek citizenship to provide financial guarantees and prove that they have a home in Israel.
The explanatory notes accompanying the proposed restrictions state that their purpose is to make it harder for Palestinian terrorist groups to recruit Palestinians who have acquired Israeli citizenship to carry out attacks.
“An examination of the security reality since the outbreak of armed confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians revealed growing involvement by Palestinians who took advantage of their status in Israel, received on the basis of their family reunification process with Israelis, to become involved in terrorism and abet suicide bombing attacks,” the notes said.
“The Israeli identity cards granted to [these] Palestinians provided them with freedom of movement between Israel and the [Palestinian] Authority and thus made them into the terrorist organizations’ preferred population for carrying out hostile actions in general and inside Israel in particular.”
A separate section of the proposed regulations deals with asylum seekers, and would require them to file their asylum applications within a year of entering Israel. Until now, an asylum seeker could file his application at any time. The main purpose of this change is to prevent legal foreign workers from filing asylum applications after their work visas expire, thereby gaining additional time here.
WHO is a Jew? It’s an age-old inquiry, one that has for decades (if not centuries) provoked debate, discussion and too many punch lines to count — all inspired by what many assumed was the question’s essential unanswerability. But if developments this week are any indication, theIsraeli parliament, the Knesset, might soon offer an official, surprising answer: almost no one.
On Monday, a Knesset committee approved a bill sponsored by David Rotem, a member of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, that would give the Orthodox rabbinate control of all conversions in Israel. If passed, this legislation would place authority over all Jewish births, marriages and deaths — and, through them, the fundamental questions of Jewish identity — in the hands of a small group of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, rabbis.
The move has set in motion a sectarian battle that is not only dividing Israeli society but threatening to sever the vital connection between Israel and the American Jewish diaspora.
The problem is not simply that some of these rabbinical functionaries, who are paid by the state and courted by politicians, are demonstrably corrupt. (To take the most salacious of a slew of examples, an American Haredi rabbi who had become one of the most powerful authorities on the question of conversion resigned from his organization in December after accusations that he solicited phone sex from a hopeful female convert.) Rather, it is that the beliefs of a tiny minority of the world’s Jews are on the verge of becoming the Israeli government’s definition of Judaism, for all Jews.
It is hard to exaggerate the possible ramifications, first and foremost for Jewish Israelis. Rivkah Lubitch, an Orthodox woman who is a lawyer in Israel’s rabbinic court system, painted a harrowing picture of the future in a recent column on the Israeli Web site Ynet.
“Even if you didn’t go to register for marriage, and even if you didn’t go to a rabbinic court for any reason, and even if you didn’t pass by a rabbinic court when you walked down the street — the rabbinic court can summon you, conduct a hearing about your Jewishness and revoke it,” she wrote. “In effect, the entire nation of Israel is presumed to be Not-Jewish — until proven otherwise.”
Why are the rabbis doing this? The process is not being driven, as some say, by a suspicion of new converts — they’re simply a wedge issue. Nor is it, as others argue, a reaction to the influx of Russian Jews, who when they seek permission to wed in Israel are often asked for evidence that their families were registered as Jews in the old Soviet Union.
No, what is driving this process is the desire of a small group of rabbis to expand their authority from narrow questions of conversion to larger questions of Jewish identity. Since what goes for conversion also goes for all other clerical acts, only a few anointed rabbis will be able to determine the authenticity of one’s marriage, divorce, birth, death — and every rite in between.
And lest one imagine that this is just another battle between the more progressive Reform and Conservative denominations and the more observant Orthodox, it must be noted that the criteria used by the rabbinate are driven by internal Haredi politics, not observance. According to the Jewish Week, at one point the number of American rabbis who were officially authorized by the Israeli rabbinate to perform conversions was down to a few dozen. Even if you are Orthodox — and especially if you are Modern Orthodox — your rabbi probably doesn’t make the cut. (Don’t believe it? Go ask him.)
Given that the conversion bill is the latest in a series of similarly motivated efforts, it seems almost useless to note that the stringent approach to Jewish law that the Israeli rabbinate promotes bears little connection to the historical experience and religious practice of the majority of Jewish people over the past two millenniums. It will do little good, too, to point out that it is well outside the consensus established by Hillel — arguably the greatest rabbi in all of rabbinic Judaism and whom, as Joseph Telushkin argues in a forthcoming book, was willing to convert a pagan on the spot, simply because he’d asked.
And it doesn’t help to argue that giving the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate total control over Jewish practice will destroy religious life in Israel just as surely as clerical control hurt the Church of England and the Catholic Church in Spain and France. Or that the Zionist founders, from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Ben-Gurion, all believed passionately in the unity of the Jewish people and the need for a secular state.
But perhaps a more practical rallying cry will work: If this bill passes, future historians will inevitably wonder why, at a critical moment in its history, Israel chose to tell 85 percent of the Jewish diaspora that their rabbis weren’t rabbis and their religious practices were a sham, the conversions of their parents and spouses were invalid, their marriages weren’t legal under Jewish law, and their progeny were a tribe of bastards unfit to marry other Jews.
Why, they will wonder, as Iran raced to build a nuclear bomb to wipe the Jewish state off the map, did the custodians of the 2,000-year-old national dream of the Jewish people choose such a perverse definition of Jewish peoplehood, seemingly calculated to alienate supporters outside its own borders?
And, they will also wonder, what of the quiescence of diaspora Jewry? Many American Jews understandably see Israel as under siege and have not wanted to make things worse; they imagined that internal politicking over conversions and marriages was ephemeral, and would change. But the conversion bill is a sign that this silence was a mistake, for it has been interpreted by Israeli politicians as a green light to throw basic questions of Jewish identity into the pot of coalition politics.
The redemptive history of the Jewish people since the Holocaust has rested on the twin pillars of a strong Israel and a strong diaspora, which have spoken to each other politically and culturally, and whose successes have mutually reinforced the confidence and capacities of the other. Neither the Jewish diaspora nor Israel can afford a split between the two communities — a dystopian possibility that, if this bill passes, could materialize frightfully soon.
Alana Newhouse is the editor in chief of Tablet Magazine, which covers Jewish life and culture.
8. Ynet Friday, July 16, 2010
FM presents: 2nd disengagement from Gaza
Plan aimed at ridding Israel of any responsibility for Strip calls to lift blockade entirely, rehabilitate Hamas-ruled territory with European assistance
Five years after Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has proposed a new plan aimed at ridding Israel of any responsibility for the coastal enclave, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Friday.
Lieberman is troubled by the fact that despite the evacuation of all Israeli settlements in Gaza and a full IDF withdrawal, the disengagement was not acknowledged by the international community, which still demands that Israel provide the Strip’s residents with their basic necessities.
According to the FM’s plan, Gaza – with European assistance – will become an entirely independent entity. In this way, Lieberman believes, the world will finally recognize the end of the Israeli occupation there.
A confidential document sent to Lieberman recently states that “we must discreetly approach the US, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and renowned international law experts to examine their terms for international recognition of an end to the occupation.”
In essence, the FM’s plan shifts the focus from Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority to its relations with Hamas – the Islamist movement that rules Gaza.
Lieberman is against making further concessions to the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank’s Palestinians. “Regardless of what we offer them (PA), they’ll only increase their demands without the Israeli side getting anything in return,” the FM recently said in closed meetings. “Even if direct negotiations with (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas are launched, we should not expect anything to come from them.”
In contrast to the policy which sanctified the blockade on Gaza, Lieberman’s plan calls to fully lift the siege and allow ships to dock in the Strip without being inspected in Israel first. Ships that will undergo inspection in Cyprus or Greece will be allowed to continue towards Gaza. According to the proposal, Israel will also allow European countries to implement plans aimed at improving the lives of the coastal enclave’s residents. Israel’s border with the Hamas-ruled territory will be hermetically sealed.
The FM plans to present his plan to Catherine Ashton, the European Union commissioner for foreign affairs, during her scheduled visit to Israel next week. Ashton will be accompanied by six European foreign ministers.
Lieberman is expected to ask his European counterparts to propose that Hamas construct a new power plant to generate electricity, a seawater desalination plant and a wastewater purification plant.
The FM also supports any international plan for the mass-construction of apartments for Gaza’s residents.
Furthermore, Lieberman will propose that the Europeans send an international military force to the Israel-Gaza border crossings to enforce any agreement reached.
The Foreign Ministry’s confidential document also calls on the government to request that a force from the French Foreign Legion and commando units belonging to other European armies be deployed in the region to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Gaza.
9. Haaretz Friday, July 16, 2010
Boycott the Knesset
I am hastening to call for this boycott because I want to earn a footnote in Jewish history: He tried, Canute-like, to stand against the wave of fascism that engulfed the Zionist project.
A bill proposed by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud ) and the chairwoman of the Kadima faction, Dalia Itzik, together with MK Aryeh Eldad of the National Union, would punish any Israeli calling for a boycott of any Israeli individual or institution, whether in Israel or in the territories. The fine is NIS 30,000, plus any damages that can be proven. The bill passed its preliminary reading on Wednesday.
I therefore call for a boycott of Ze’ev Elkin and Dalia Itzik as individuals (no point in boycotting Dr. Eldad; he would thrive on it ), and of the Knesset as an institution. I call on parliaments throughout the democratic world, and interparliamentary associations, to boycott Israel’s parliament, once the pride of the Jewish people, until it buries the bill and recovers its democratic heritage.
That would also, of course, require revoking the infamous vote, also taken on Wednesday, in which MK Hanin Zuabi was deprived of parliamentary privileges because she took part in May’s flotilla to Gaza (believing it would be nonviolent ).
I am hastening to call for this boycott because I want to be the first person prosecuted under the new bill when it becomes law. This article will still be out there on the Internet, and I ought therefore to qualify. I want to earn a footnote in Jewish history: He tried, Canute-like, to stand against the wave of fascism that engulfed the Zionist project. I’m ready to pay NIS 30,000 for that.
Beyond that little vanity, perhaps a call to boycott the Knesset, if it gained any traction, could puncture that most smug and pernicious piece of propaganda: that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Israel is a democracy for Jews. “We’ll deal with your presence in the Knesset later,” MK Ofir Akunis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s longtime aide, informed Arab MK Ahmed Tibi ominously, unashamedly. True, he was admonished by the Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin. But Rivlin the democrat is a mere fig leaf now, a holdover from another age.
Meanwhile, at any rate, Tibi’s still there. But four million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation have no political rights at all. Plainly, as was predicted decades ago by the peace camp, it is the occupation that is eroding democracy inside Israel.
The settlers got it right, too. “Yesha zeh kaan” – “Judea and Samaria are right here.”
This article would not be complete without the ritual, required – and actually completely true – addendum: I deprecate and despise the people calling for boycotts of Israeli universities. I most especially disdain them if they themselves remain faculty members of those same universities. Israeli universities do not deserve to be boycotted.
I know that “deserve to be boycotted” opens up a whole other can of worms. Do settler wines, for instance, deserve to be boycotted? I was in a restaurant recently where a salesperson from Barkan Winery was promoting her products. When someone muttered something about “boycott,” she smoothly replied that the winery had long ago moved to inside the Green Line. It was not a settler business, and there was no reason, therefore, for anyone to boycott it. So boycotts work, apparently.
But things are not always all that simple, given the complicated lives we lead here, in the fifth decade of the occupation. My darling grandchildren live in a settlement (albeit within one of the “blocs” ). Do I call for a boycott of them? I had better not, or they’ll call for a boycott of me.