Anti Berlusconi’s funny bone
For next weekend, in Rome, a large demonstration in support for Israel is planned. It is promoted among others by the Jewish Settler in Residence in the Italian parliament, Fiamma Nirenstein. I bet you didn’t know that the Italian Parliament has a settler in residence! Well, since 1996, Nirenstein divides her residence between Rome and the settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem. In Rome, she is a member of the “post” fascist “Freedom Party” of Silvio Berlusconi … On her blog she characterizes the coming pro-apartheid rally, whose title is “For Truth, For Israel” as a rally “against all intolerance and antisemitism“. http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/2010/10/berlusconi-funny-bone.html
Israel’s Arab helpers Israeli army chief visits Bethlehem
The Israeli military’s chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi met Palestinian Authority security officials in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday. Ashkenazi arrived in Bethlehem with a delegation of senior Israeli officers on a visit coordinated by PA security, Bethlehem Governor Abdel Fattah Hamiyel said. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=320476 Our man in Palestine / Nathan Thrall
… Referred to by Hamas as “the Dayton forces,” the Palestinian security services are formally under the authority of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and chairman of Hamas’s rival, Fatah; but they are, in practice, controlled by Salam Fayyad, the unelected prime minister, a diminutive, mild-mannered technocrat … In 2009, Palestinian and Israeli forces took part in 1,297 coordinated activities, many of them against militant Palestinian groups, a 72 percent increase over the previous year. Together they have largely disbanded the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a principal Fatah militia; attacked Islamic Jihad cells; and all but eliminated Hamas’s social institutions, financial arrangements, and military activities in the West Bank. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/14/our-man-palestine/?page=1
Refugees Jordan gave 51,000 passports to Palestinians in 2010
Jordan issued over 51,000 temporary passports to Palestinians in 2010, the head of Jordan’s Passport and Civil Affairs department told Ma’an on Sunday … The official said Jordan has been “giving facilitation” since 1948 to enable Palestinians traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj, in order to pass easily through the kingdom, adding that “Jordan treats the West Bank and the Gaza Strip residents equally depending on the historic national relationship between Jordan and Palestine.” The passports issued to Palestinians do not confer a Jordanian national security number so that West Bank and Gaza Strip residents are unable to vote in Jordanian elections. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=320306 AlJazeera English’s In Pictures: Remembering the right of return
Israel may be urging Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to continue faltering peace talks despite refusing to renew a freeze on illegal settlement building, but in the tinderbox Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon life is defined by an issue neither side has ever publicly expressed any willingness to compromise over: The right of Palestinian refugees to return home. Hugh Macleod. http://english.aljazeera.net/photo_galleries/middleeast/201092792844223326.html
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz is currently in Sydney for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and last night debated, in front of 2000 people at the Sydney Opera House, lawyer Geoffrey Robertson on The Sins of the Father; Should the Pope be Held to Account? over the massive number of child sex abuse cases. Robertson called for legal action while Dershowitz urged understanding of a “changed” Vatican.
Dershowitz has received relatively friendly media interviews in Australia (here and here) and his obsession with Israel is simply seen as an extension of a lifetime commitment to human rights. “The problem with Israel is that it’s too democratic”, he said last week on local radio.
After last night’s event I attended an after-party where Dershowitz made an appearance. I wanted to speak to him about his views on the Middle East. Our exchange lasted around five minutes, alongside his wife, and I began, after introducing myself as a journalist, by asking him if he would ever back boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. He said he would only do so after every other human rights abuse was condemned around the world “and Israel is the 177th on the list.” He wanted to know why there was such a focus on Israel at the expense of China, Africa and the Arab world.
But what if Israeli behaviour won’t change without serious external pressure, I countered. BDS would never be the solution, Dershowitz argued, because Israel “is a democracy”. He acknowledged that the Netanyahu government, with a far-right coalition, wasn’t the best placed to convince the world of the Jewish state’s seriousness towards peace “but I’ve known Netanyahu for many years and he recently asked me to be Israeli ambassador to the UN but I refused.”
“Tzipi Livni [Israel’s opposition leader] asked me to have dinner with her in Boston this Monday but I’ll still be in Australia.” He seemed to believe that peace was possible if she entered the coalition with Netanyahu.
I then asked if he feared BDS would continue to grow in international power. He thought it would. And then, after mentioning the current moves by the University of Johannesburg to end its relationship with the Israeli university, Ben-Gurion, unless certain conditions are met, he unloaded: “Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of the most evil men in the world. He never condemns China, rarely Zimbabwe or any other county, it’s only Israel. I was once in the same room as him and he said Israeli actions were ‘unChristian.’”
Tutu recently eloquently explained why Israeli behaviour in Palestine required a strong global response.
This was the Dershowitz I had expected, ferocious, irrational and utterly unwilling to allow anyone to condemn Israeli actions (something Jimmy Carter knows all about, saying in 2008 that there’s a “special place in hell for somebody like that.”)
It was a short but revealing encounter with a man who must wonder how the world has increasingly lost patience with Israeli excuses for violence and colonisation. Even during his presentation about the Pope, he regularly mentioned Israel and its supposedly democratic ways. And, in 2010, the groups in the world most in love with Israel are Christian fundamentalists, far-right politicians in Europe and Orthodox Jews. That’s quite a motley collection of friends.