Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


Naftali Bennett’s ‘more Jewish’ zealotry lulls the American media

Jan 19, 2013
Annie Robbins

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Naftali Bennett Jan. 10, 2013 (Photo: Oded Balilty)

Take a look at the modern face of Jewish extremism. The meteoric rise of Naftali Bennett toward Israel’s election on Tuesday threatens to tear the secular facade off Israel, exposing a fanatical Zionism that’s lain beneath the surface for decades.

In a remarkably revealing interview with Time Magazine‘s Karl Vick, Bennett’s confidence draws you in. Bennett would have you believe he’s a reasonable guy and a straight shooter; the tell it like it is, Mr. “I’m open.” In Bennett’s world there is no occupation, and annexation is a mere formality, and all the land already belongs to Israel.

“[I]t’s ours, it’s always been ours for 3,800 years we have Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria since we first got it, 3800 years ago.”

Bennett explains his political rise by saying it’s about “returning to the basic Jewish and Zionist values…Jewish-based Zionism”. While Vick describes Bennett as “the modern man of Israel”–even though he’s a biblical literalist regarding Jewish ownership over all of Mandate Palestine. Here he is, being Mr. I’m Open, we’re all open:

“‘Listen, I’m not going to argue whether it’s good or bad, I’m just: assume for a moment, let’s hypothesize, let’s say it’s [two state solution] not going to happen. What do you do? Are we going to keep bashing our heads against the wall, or are we going to try to figure out some form of imperfect reality? But stable. Or do we try to enforce illusions on reality and bring about another round of violence?’ Which is what happened already several times. I’m not suggesting that this plan is the only possible plan. There’s a few others. I’m open, we’re all open. But what I urge the West is to think openly about this. And I regret Netanyahu’s profound mistake in accepting a two-state or a Palestinian state… If you say you support a Palestinian state, then you can’t be surprised if everyone’s pressuring you to do it. In my experience, I lived in America quite a few years, it’s okay to disagree but be straight”

The misrepresentation here is the claim of openness and reasonableness: Israelis have not been bashing their heads against the wall trying to figure out how to make two states, they’ve been evading it and pushing it down the road for decades.
And as for the Palestinians’ complete absence of rights in Bennett’s vision of the future? That’s just “a tragedy,” he said in a recent debate, but, “we cannot give a full-blown state”– an idea he repeated to Vick:

Vick: [We were having lunch with a settler] and she was telling us about the Palestinians, and … I said they’d want them to have rights of their own. And you jumped in and said, ‘They can’t, unfortunately. It’s a tragedy.’
Bennett: Right.
Vick: Which was just: straight up.
Bennett: Look. I’ll tell you. It’s just not going to happen.

Simultaneously being a modern man and a biblical literalist regarding Jewish ownership over all of historical Palestine, Bennett has had a pied piper effect on Israel’s youth and rightwing seculars, eroding Netanyahu’s Likud base. A recent review conducted by Bennett’s party revealed there are now an additional five more Knesset seats up for grabs from the Likud in Tuesday’s elections, and though many Israelis are freaking out, zealots like Caroline Glick cannot suppress their glee. It’s “The second Zionist revolution,” she explains (at The Hill):

“Next week we’re going to vote and it is already clear that Israel is in the midst of the Second Zionist Revolution. The first Zionist revolution was a socialist revolution. The second Zionist revolution is Jewish. Israel is coming into its own. Judaism is flourishing, changing, living and breathing here like it never has anywhere since the destruction of the Second Commonwealth. The secular left has been eclipsed by the Jewish right. I don’t call it the religious right because that is too limiting. What’s happening isn’t just about religion, it’s about everything, and that is why non-observant hipsters in Tel Aviv are voting for the Jewish Home party. Non-observant and observant Jews are joining forces and the anti-religious are being left behind.”

Another Zionist fanatic who’s wild about Bennett is Ronn Torossian. He was once written off by Jeffrey Goldberg as “the lunatic fringe,” but good luck to Goldberg, because Torossian and his friends are not recognized as fringe in Israel. Israel has been riding right for years under the international claim that “most Israelis want a two-state solution,” as Robert Siegel said to Goldberg last night, when the political reality is obviously very different. Even as Israelis told the world they had no “viable Palestinian partner for peace“–as Goldberg said to Siegel— well the Israeli “left” was just as opposed to relinquishing the biblical “land of Israel.” Politically, the left has deferred to Bennett’s ideas of Jewish sovereignty.
As to our media, the Vick interview and the New Yorker piece on Bennett’s rise are good first steps, but I don’t see how the mainstream press can justify saying so little about freaky religious Jewish nutcases (religious settlers) and their supporters when there’s no comparable inhibition around extreme Islam, or Christian extremists. It’s time that reporters, anchors, and commentators start talking about Jewish extremists in language we can all understand because our country’s ‘special relationship’ is with a government being overrun by religious nuts, and if you think I’m exaggerating, read about the many “scary” Israeli candidates at the Jerusalem Fund. NPR’s Siegel can talk about the majority of Israelis being reasonable all he wants, but that hardly matters if the religious extremists are taking over the government.
And what pray tell is this fanaticism–this biblical literalist religious extremism– couched as? “More Jewish,” to quote Bennett. He explains that his message is a “centrist” appeal to a country that gets “more Jewish” all the time:

We are the real “centrists”– loving our heritage is centrist, loving the Land of Israel is centrist, loving the Jewish People is centrist – that is what most Israelis feel, but there were those who made them feel ashamed to say so out loud. We are getting them to speak up.

We are the real centrist party because Israel is more Jewish than it has ever been.

More Jewish than it’s ever been? A country with 20 percent non-Jewish population that in turn governs another 4-5 million non-Jews under occupation? Oh but that’s a “tragedy,” the sad upshot of Palestinians not being Jewish in a state that grows “more Jewish” by the minute. Sorry, this zealotry doesn’t resemble the values of the American Jews I know. What are they, chopped liver?
(Hat tip Mondoweiss commenters Sean McBride and American)

Re-elect Netanyahu and you get international boycott, Livni warns

Jan 19, 2013

Philip Weiss

BDS goes mainstream
BDS goes mainstream

Yesterday we posted a Naftali Bennett video for the upcoming Israeli election that treats the boycott movement, BDS, as a force that Israel has to contend with.
Well here’s more evidence of BDS’s effect in Israel, from Tzipi Livni’s facebook page (thanks to Ofer Neiman, but link unavailable to me). The bus ad translates:

Bibi and Lieberman: international boycott
Tzipi Livni: political agreement

Brought to the public as food for thought by Hatnua [Livni’s “The Movement” party]

In Budrus, grief stings
Jan 19, 2013
Allison Deger

Palestinians mourn Sameer Awad during a funeral in Budrus, Tuesday, 15 January 2013. (Photo: Allison Deger/Mondoweiss)

The final act of every Palestinian funeral is a military incursion into the deceased’s village, at least since the 2012 Palestinian bid for non-member observer status with the United Nations.
In the case of Sameer Awad, the 16-year-old killed by the Israeli army in occupied Budrus after taking his exams last Tuesday, the military began firing tear gas into the village while Awad’s peers were still mourning over his grave.
Similarly two months ago, Rushdi Tamimi, 31, from Nabi Saleh was killed by Israeli-fire during a protest over the bombardment of Gaza– and then Tamimi’s loved ones were hanging over his headstone as the Israeli military walled in the village with tear gas. And then an epilogue: within five minutes of the last funeral speech the distinct crack of live-fire bullets was heard. Anyone from outside of Nabi Salah who traveled to pay respects was trapped for the next few hours.

Martyr’s poster, Sameer Awad.

The renewed suppression of Palestinians organizing burials recalls a commonplace tactic during both the first and second Intifada. Just the other night a Palestinian friend told me about the funeral of her cousin during the second Intifada where she and her family were assaulted with tear gas before reaching the grave site. Now Israeli government officials decrying a third Intifada—which Palestinian leaders have yet to call for—and their labeling of a time of troubles coincides with flourishing crackdowns on any Palestinian organizing with even the slightest political tenor.
The circumstances around Awad’s death showcase this ramped up military response to relatively inconsequential and nominal acts of resistance. The day of Awad’s death he and his classmates had just finished the first day of final exams. It was 10 am; the students left their school, which happens to be adjacent to the village cemetery, and headed toward the seam line. Sometimes a concrete wall, sometimes a fence, in Budrus the separation barrier is a metal chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, and an unpaved military road. Beyond the fence is a thick forest.
“Every day there is a problem between the children and the soldiers,” said Ayed Morror, 50, who told me he witnessed Awad’s death. Habitually after school the youth go to the only open plot of land in the village and throw stones at the fence, or soldiers. On the day of Awad’s murder the students pelted the fence. According to Morror, “the children didn’t see any soldiers because they were hidden in the trees” and even moments before Awad was shot there were “no clashes at all.” His narrative of the events leading up to Awad’s death differs from both the official statement by the IDF, and a press release by Palestinian sources from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
After the first bullet hit Awad’s leg, he and the other youths sprinted uphill to the cover of Budrus’s stone houses, said Morror. Then shots two, three and four entered Awad’s leg, back and head, respectively.
“I think this is the last string. It’s the highest pressure to get the children to not go to the fence,” said Morror, who indicated that the evening prior the military had raided the village. Their purpose? Morror said they did not come to arrest anyone; rather they spoke to parents admonishing them for allowing their children to be in the Western part of Budrus closest to the separation fence.

gas funeral
Tear gas fired into Budrus by the Israeli military shortly after the funeral of Sameer Awad.

All photographs are by the author.

Watch: Israeli-American on Bennett’s list for Knesset imagines blowing up Muslim holy site

Jan 19, 2013
Alex Kane
Video has emerged (see above) that shows a candidate from the HaBayit HaYehudi party, or Jewish Home party, speaking to a church in Florida and contemplating what would happen if the Dome of the Rock was blown up in Jerusalem. The candidate is Jeremy Gimpel, an American-born Israeli.
+972 Magazine’s Noam Sheizaf posted the video yesterday after another Israeli journalist, Yehuda Nuriel, dug it up. Sheizaf writes: “Gimpel seems to want the Dome of the Rock to be blown up, making way for the third Jewish Temple. According to most recent polls, Gimpel is expected to enter the next Knesset.”
Gimpel was speaking to the Fellowship Church in Winter Springs, Florida. The church is a strongly Christian Zionist institution. “Our first steps in identifying with Israel included participation in cooperative, pro-Israel activities with the local Jewish community,” the church notes on their website.
I’ve transcribed the relevant portion of Gimpel’s speech; as he jokes about blowing up the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim holy site, you can hear the American crowd chuckle:

This is where it gets good. They lay the cornerstone of the temple in Jerusalem. You could imagine, imagine today, if the Dome, the Golden Dome–I’m being recorded so I can’t say blown up, but let’s say the Dome is blown up, right? And we laid the cornerstone of the Temple in Jerusalem. Can you imagine what it would, I mean, none of you would be here, you would all be like “I’m going to Israel,” right? No one would be here, it would be incredible.

And this was no anomaly. Sheizaf posts a second video today of Gimpel talking about why the Dome of the Rock “doesn’t belong where it is”:
Gimpel is no stranger to the mainstream Jewish community. He is a “scholar in residence” at Palm Beach Synagogue in Florida. An announcement for an event he did there shows up on the Jewish Federations of Palm Beach County website.
Sheizaf provides some context to Gimpel’s remarks:

Between the years 1982-1984, Israeli security services uncovered no less than three plans by Jewish extremists to blow up mosques on the Temple Mount. The most advanced was prepared by The Jewish Underground – a terror organization made up of settlers who were responsible for several murderous attacks on Palestinians across the West Bank. The Jewish Underground was caught in 1984 when its members attempted to place explosives under five Palestinian public buses in Jerusalem.

Gimpel is a member of the Jewish Home party, a right-wing party which has garnered tons of media attention in Israel and the U.S. Its leader is Naftali Bennett, an Israeli born to American parents. In amust-read post, The Palestine Center’s Yousef Munnayer summarizes the scary views of all the major Israeli candidates, including the Jewish Home party:

This coalition of parties bases its platform on strengthening the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, fighting those who wish to transform Israel into ‘a state of its citizens,’ while claiming to still uphold the rights of Israel’s minorities; desires to annex Area C and leave Areas A and B and Gaza under IDF control; will work towards complete separation between the West Bank and Gaza; will promote the settlement of all parts of the country, including the Golan Heights, making it a national priority; will work to incorporate Arab citizens in who recognize the Jewish State of Israel; and will enforce law and order in the Negev and Galilee to tackle Bedouin construction of homes while strengthening Jewish settlement construction in those regions. (Source)
1. Naftali Bennett
On the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea:
“There is not going to be a Palestinian state within the tiny land of Israel… It’s just not going to happen. A Palestinian state would be a disaster for the next 200 years.” (Source)
2. Uri Ariel (MK)
On the Levy Report which would effectively annex the West Bank:
“One of the most worthy and just reports ever penned.” (Source)
3. Nissan Slomiansky (MK)
On the prospect of a new city for Arab citizens of Israel in the Galilee:
“It’s outrageous that while the government freezes the construction in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem, and fails to approve any additional Jewish community, the interior minister approves the establishment of an Arab city in the north. Then we hear claims about the Arabs being discriminated against and about the Galilee having no Jews. This is an irrational move and it should never have been approved.” (Source)

There’s a lot more where those came from, and it’s not just limited to the Jewish Home party. Gimpel’s casual contemplation of blowing up the Dome of the Rock shows you just how far-right the Israeli discourse has become.

No diversity: NPR’s ‘National Conversation’ on US-Israel future includes 5 Zionists, no Palestinians

Jan 19, 2013
Philip Weiss
Is this really the “discourse the nation deserves”? The NPR moderator of this completely-unbalancedJanuary 30 event at the Wilson Center has yet to be announced, but the forum offers itself as “The National Conversation, Discourse the Nation Deserves.” The five panelists and introducer include no Palestinians; I believe all are Zionists (and at least four out of five are Jewish). “Concern for Israel’s well-being had become part of me, like some sort of ethnic DNA,” writes Aaron David Miller. Samuel W. Lewis, who has advised Israel Policy Forum and J Street and worked at the Hebrew University, might also be characterized as liberal Zionist (though maybe he has at last fallen off the turnip truck). Horovitz and Harman are famously well to the right on Israel. Sachs is also on the right (see below).
Here’s the unbalanced event:

Allies at Odds: Obama, Netanyahu, and The State of US – Israeli Relations
Four years in, the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu remains a troubled one. What’s behind the tension, can it be alleviated and how will regional challenges such as Iran’s nuclear program or the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affect US-Israeli relations?
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:30 – 2:00 pm Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor, Joseph H. and Claire Flom Auditorium
Intro: The Honorable Jane Harman Director, President and CEO, Wilson Center
David Horovitz Founding Editor of The Times of Israel, a current affairs website based in Jerusalem and former Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post
Ambassador Samuel Lewis Career diplomat, former Ambassador to Israel and former President and CEO, US Institute of Peace
Aaron David Miller Vice President for New Initiatives and Distinguished Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center and former US Middle East negotiator Natan Sachs Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution
Moderator: NPR Host TBD
The National Conversation, a joint production of The Wilson Center and NPR, provides a nonpartisan forum for deep dialogue and informed discussion of the most significant problems facing the nation and the world.

Israel-centric: Here is panelist Natan Sachs telling Obama to love Israel to make it change (and show sympathy to Palestinians). And here he is saying that Hamas was trying to “open the gates of hell on Israel” last November, and justifying Cast Lead as a successful war of deterrence against Hamas, and explaining the Israeli public’s view of Gaza rocket attacks without a word about the Palestinian experience of occupation.

And yes this has something to do with funding, in my view, from an older Jewish generation for whom Israel was sacrosanct. Per this obit of the woman for whom the Wilson Center hall is named:“In 2006, according to federal records, the Joseph and Claire Flom Foundation gave $150,000 to the Jewish Communal Fund and $100,000 to the Hebrew Free Loan Society in New York. Other Jewish causes to which Flom donated included the American Jewish Committtee and Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago.” Spertus censored Palestinian art, and the American Jewish Committee is a proud member of the Israel lobby.

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