Sep 08, 2010
The ADL is not happy with Time. They sent the magazine a letter today in response to its current cover article, “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” The gist of the article is that Israel is doing so well economically that affluent Israelis don’t really care about making peace with the Palestinians. The ADL finds this thesis (wait for it . . .) anti-Semitic.
From the ADL press release:
In a letter to Managing Editor Richard Stengel, ADL called on the magazine’s editors to issue an apology to readers, both for the timing of the article and its calling up age-old anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money.
The insidious subtext of Israeli Jews being obsessed with money echoes the age-old anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews care about money above any other interest, in this case achieving piece with the Palestinians,” wrote Mr. Foxman. “At the same time, Time ignores the very real sacrifices made by Israel and its people in the pursuit of peace and the efforts by successive Israeli governments of reconciliation.
Money aside, is there really a way to tell how much Israelis prioritize peace? Actually, I guess there is. Here’s a poll that was published in today’s Maariv:
Q. In your opinion, what are the most important subjects for the coming year?
Education—36%; the Iranian threat—13%; the war on corruption—12.7%; peace with the Palestinians—11.3%; traffic accidents—11.2%; dealing with poverty—7.9%
The poll by Teleseker questioned 500 people. The margin of error is 4.4 percent.
Sep 08, 2010
All the best from your friends in Israel/Palestine. In that spirit, I was surprised to hear of your planned participation in With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East. While at first blush it might seem to have something in common with the work of ICAHD and other Israeli and Palestinian peace groups — attempting to build bridges between peoples — it is actually something quite different.
One of the lead partners in the effort is the Jewish National Fund, which is responsible for the allocation of land in Israel. As such, it is a mainstay of the ever-increasing apartheid system there. Among their most recent activities has been the planting of a forest to cover a Bedouin village in the Negev from which the residents have been forcibly removed. They are in fact engaged in various tree-planting exercises that brand them as an environmental organization, when in fact their purpose is to secure the land of Israel, if not all of Palestine, for Jews only. That is their historical role, and so it remains. Efforts to paint Israel as environmentally concerned are mere greenwashing. Israel has repeatedly torn down Palestinian neighborhoods by declaring them green zones.
As you know, Israel has doggedly pursued a policy of settlement expansion, home demolition, and gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians throughout Israel proper and its occupied territories. Millions of Palestinians languish in internal and external refugee camps. In the wake of brutal assaults on Gaza and aid flotillas, the world is increasingly outraged.
A broad array of Palestinian civil society groups called in 2005 for a program of boycotts, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to conform to international law and stop blocking justice for Palestinians. This call has received widespread support. But the boycott includes a cultural and academic boycott as well. The purpose of this effort is to deny Israel the ability to brand itself as a normal nation while flouting the law and suppressing an occupied people. Brand Israel is their strategy; ours is to insist on no business as usual with the regime, as was done successfully in the struggle against apartheid South Africa.
In recent months, increasing numbers of artists have decided to forego performing in Israel. Gil Scott-Heron and Elvis Costello have explicitly stated that they will not participate in the whitewashing, greenwashing, or any washing of this rogue regime. Many others have quietly scuttled their planned tours.
I hope that you will decide to join these artists of conscience and once again make a bold stand for justice. The movement is gathering strength, the violators of civilized norms are fearful, and change is in the air.
Thanks for giving me a hearing,
Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
Sep 08, 2010
According to the Telegraph, Netanyahu hopes to kick the Palestinian state can down the road by as much as 30 years.
Mr Netanyahu is reportedly hoping that the agreements reached under an accord would be phased in stage-by-stage over as much as 30 years.
Israel reportedly hopes that a protracted timetable would test the viability of a peace deal by gradually building confidence that its security needs would be met even as it withdrew from territory that would become part of a Palestinian state.
But Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai was completed within 36 months. So does Bibi want the glory of reaching a deal, but none of the heat of actually implementing it? Or, is this a way to inject a poison pill to make a deal unworkable?
Sep 08, 2010
My wife knows I’m using her on this trip and she resents it. I wanted her to see the Middle East because she’s much more intuitive than I am. I wanted her eyes and ears because I’m clueless about people. I should never have admitted this to her.
She’s already held it over me several times, saying that she wanted a vacation and she’s being taken to an unhappy place for my selfish purposes. For twenty minutes in the cab ride she didn’t talk to me, angry about what she was getting in for. Then on the plane, going over our too big Mastercard bill for last month, she said, Well 2,000 of that was for your trip. Half of that’s yours, I said. No, this is your trip.
It’s been better in the day we’ve been in Jordan. She likes heat and Arab culture and hummus, and she enjoys the rites around Ramadan and seeing all the the different ways women wear hijab. In the hotel restaurant some guys were getting drunk (yes) and singing and she said, Do you think they’re going to dance? I shrugged but a minute later sure enough two of them were dancing, delicately holding one anothers’ hands in the air. They soon called over the waiter. My wife wanted me to dance too but I was too tired.
It’s kind of a boys’ club here, she said. And is that a bad thing? I ventured. She said, It’s just the way it is, in Syria and Morocco too. I don’t mind it. It’s never impacted me negatively. But that’s the culture. The women are all somewhere else. I pushed her and I could see her backing away at having her brain picked. I used to know a lot and now I know a lot less, she said elliptically, referring to when she studied anthropology and thought she understood a culture.
I woke up a couple hours ago and found these helpful statements on a political level, where I operate more than she does. This place is other, as Edward Said pointed out to us so long ago, and it sure is different. My culture’s not a boys’ club. Women have a different role, and I like that role. Big deal. All cultures are different. Then you think of what has been done to us in the west by ideologues: The idea that you could demonize one whole culture and one entire religion– to what end? To justify killing them? It’s crazy.
And of course so much of it is about a real estate venture, all to justify an ongoing landgrab, by a superior culture.
At the hotel bar, before the dancing, we watched a report on the TV about American Islamophobia. There was a long piece on the church that plans to burn the Koran. And because my ears are sensitive I picked up the constant references on the TV, and in conversation, to Israel and Palestine. So many of the people we’ve met in just half a day are surely the children of refugees.
At the bar, my wife said she was disappointed in me for not speaking more Arabic. You really ought to be learning Arabic. I thought about all the mulitilingual people you meet here, I thought about my college professor Michael Walzer learning Hebrew in his 50s, burrowing down into his Jewishness, and developing political theories that justified his ethnocentrism. I realized my wife was right. It’s a daunting challenge, but I’m already glad I brought her on my trip.
Sep 08, 2010
Having connections to the settlements is really becoming a scarlet letter, isn’t it? Adalah-NY reports that the international humantarian organization CARE USA has dropped a member of its board of directors over their relationship to Lev Leviev’s Africa Israel which builds homes in West Bank settlements.
From the Adalah-NY press release:
A member of the board of directors of the leading international humanitarian aid organization CARE USA has taken a voluntary leave of absence from CARE’s board due to the involvement of his employer, Africa Israel, in Israeli settlement activities. The move last week came after a July 12 letter to the Atlanta-based non-profit by the rights group Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel that outlined Africa Israel’s settlement ties, followed by letters from Jews Say No, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) andCODEPINK, and meetings and discussions between representatives from CARE and Adalah-NY and JVP.
Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY explained, “We thank CARE USA for acting swiftly to appropriately address this issue once it was brought to their attention. Representatives from CARE USA told us that they have approved the Board member’s request for an indefinite leave of absence while he remains in any way affiliated with Africa Israel. While on leave, we have been assured that the member in question will not attend or vote at Board meetings, receive Board information, or play any other role on the CARE USA Board.” . . .
Aaron Levitt from Adalah-NY said, “CARE’s response upheld the organization’s reputation for integrity, and was consistent with its more than 60 years of principled service to individuals and families in many of the poorest communities in Palestine and worldwide. It is our understanding that the Board member in question had no knowledge of Africa Israel’s involvement with settlement construction prior to Adalah-NY’s letter. The board member was already serving on the CARE USA Board when he established his connection with Africa Israel. We accept CARE USA’s assurance that the organization would never knowingly appoint a person associated with Israeli settlements to the CARE board.”
A quick internet search of the CARE USA website would seem to indicate that the board member in question is Richard A. Marin, the Executive Chairman and CEO of Africa Israel Investments USA. Although he isn’t currently listed on their website, he does appear in this cached version.
This campaign follows similar efforts by Adalah-NY to isolate Leviev for his settlement construction activities. In the past they have been successful in getting Oxfam, UNICEF and other charitable causes to distance themselves from Leviev over Africa Israel.
Here’s more from Adalah-NY on Africa Israel’s role in the settlements:
From 2000 -2008, Danya Cebus, the construction subsidiary of Africa Israel, built homes in the settlements of Har Homa, Maale Adumim (two different projects), Adam, and Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bil’in. According to Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, Africa Israel owns a percentage of the Alon Group, which has facilities and supermarkets in a number of Israeli settlements through the company Blue Square. In late December, 2009, Africa Israel sold Anglo-Saxon Real Estate, a company that sold settlement homes. Another Leviev-owned company, Leader Management and Development, owns and operates the expanding settlement of Zufim, built on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous. Leviev has also been a donor to the Israeli groups the Land Redemption Fund and the Bukharan Community Trust, both of which have been involved in expanding Israeli settlements.
Update: Here is an official statement from CARE USA on the issue:
Rich Marin is voluntarily taking a leave of absence from his position on the CARE USA board of directors.
Mr. Marin has been a long-time supporter of CARE, playing key roles in the former CARE Corporate Council and in several fundraising efforts. After joining the CARE board in 2008, Mr. Marin was hired as the CEO of Africa Israel Investments USA (AFI USA), a real estate investment company that invests in the United States and Panama. The parent company of AFI USA is Africa Israel Investments Ltd.
Recently, a grassroots organization called Adalah-NY notified CARE and Mr. Marin that some companies under Africa Israel Investments Ltd. have been connected to building settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law. Although Mr. Marin and AFI USA do not build settlements in the West Bank, Mr. Marin did not want even the appearance of a connection to hinder CARE’s work, especially in West Bank and Gaza, so he voluntarily stepped aside from his CARE USA Board obligations.
CARE opposes illegal settlement building and encourages all parties to redouble their efforts toward a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Marin remains committed to CARE’s work in the West Bank and Gaza and to CARE’s global vision: a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and all people live in dignity and security.
We continue to thank Mr. Marin for his service to CARE and to the people living in extreme poverty around the world.
Sep 08, 2010
We’ve been following the ongoing debate over the disgraceful anti-Semitism conference held at Yale University that seemed more interested in ending criticism of Israel than challenging anti-Jewish sentiment. Earlier we posted the exchange between US PLO representative Maen Rashid Areikat and Yale President Richard Levin’s office. Areikat has a letter today in the Yale Daily News addressing the controversy:
Regarding my letter to President Levin last week, we do not object to Yale hosting a conference on anti-Semitism, undeniably an important field of study. We object to the clear political agenda behind a number of the conference’s presentations and the attempt to conflate Palestinian identity and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
In addition to defaming Palestinians, the conference also took aim at Jews deemed insufficiently loyal to Israel with presentations like “Beyond Criticism and Dissent: On Jewish Contributions to the Delegitimation of Israel,” “Self Hatred and Contemporary Antisemitism,” and “Scourges and Their Audiences: What Drives Jews to Loathe Israel Publicly and What To Do About It?”
Itamar Marcus’ participation was particularly troubling. Marcus lives in the Jewish-only West Bank colony of Efrat located on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law. In addition, he heads a propaganda outfit known as Palestinian Media Watch and is also closely tied to the New York-based Central Fund of Israel, which supports some of the most extreme and violent elements of Israel’s settler movement.
Finally, Marcus has spent much of the past two decades producing dubious reports claiming to document Palestinian incitement against Israel. As a colonist living on stolen land, he has a vested interest in demonizing Palestinians and preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. As such, Marcus and the views that he represents pose a threat not only to the lives, rights and property of Palestinians, but also to the official policy of the American government.
By giving questionable characters like Itamar Marcus a platform from which to smear Palestinians — who are Semites themselves — and critics of Israel as anti-Semitic, conference organizers debase the term, much to the dismay of those truly concerned with combating bigotry and prejudice in all its forms.
Yale Law School student Yaman Salahi, who also challenged the conference in the pages of the Yale Daily News, continues to press the issue, now in response to a charge from the vice president of Yale Friends of Israel that Salahi’s desire to hold Israel to “extreme double-standards” constitutes anti-Semitism. From Salahi’s responds on his blog:
[Vice president of Yale Friends of Israel, Yishai] Schwartz’ suggestion that a holistic criticism of Israel is illegitimate is really a declaration that Palestinians should not possess the political, social, and human rights that all other people in the world can claim. No interest — academic, intellectual, or moral — is served by such a deliberate blindness to the logic of Israeli state ideology, except Israel’s interest in escaping fair scrutiny.
Schwartz’ letter is based on a number of problematic themes. First amongst these is the idea that criticism of Israel is based on double standards, and that no other country in the world is criticized for the same reasons. That is blatantly false. Many groups at the forefront of holding Israel accountable — like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross — regularly publish reports and perform research on human rights violators all around the world. They make no special exceptions for Israel — rightly. The fact that some critics of Israel may be motivated by anti-Semitism does not disqualify others from making fair claims.
As a related point, Schwartz makes the very strange claim that people who criticize Israel’s attacks on Gaza — which killed over 1,400 Palestinians and prompted a UN Report by Judge Richard Goldstone that found evidence of war crimes — are hypocrites for not criticizing “NATO operations in Afghanistan.” Does Schwartz live under a rock? Civilian deaths in Afghanistan are flying through the roof. Activists and human rights organizations around the world vociferously criticize those attacks including the legitimacy of the US-led war and occupation itself. Many of those are the same people monitoring Israeli human rights violations. The existence of great injustice in the world outside of Israel should motivate us to more action both in and out of Israel, not less action.
Through all this, it apparently does not strike Schwarz as hypocritical to invoke “every other nation’s right to self-determination” when defending Israel, which for decades has actively thwarted the realization of Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
The second main logical error animating Schwarz’ letter is his equivocation between Israel — a modern nation state represented by institutions like a parliament, government ministries, a police and a military — and “the Jewish people.” Of course, Israel does not belong to the Jewish people. One need not even invoke the legitimate claims of expelled Palestinian refugees to make this point, for 20% of Israel’s population by citizenship is not Jewish, but rather Arab Palestinians of Christian or Muslim background. By any contemporary notion of legitimate governance, no one ethnic or religious group can or should ever claim ownership of a state that is home to a diverse population. Additionally, it should not be necessary to state that not all Jews around the world are citizens of Israel. It is therefore not at all true that an attack on the Israeli government, no matter how hypocritical, no matter how unrestrained, is an attack on “the Jewish people.” It is in most cases nothing more than an attack on a powerful political entity that has birthed far too much injustice for the world to remain silent. (And one can–must–say that even while unequivocally rejecting any anti-Semitic or bigoted sentiments that some critics may harbor).
Wrongly and without any basis whatsoever, Schwartz attributes to me a number of views that I do not hold (including, for example, the idea that the rights of Jewish Arabs should not be recognized by Arab governments — or the regrettable implication that violation of the rights of Jewish Arabs by non-Palestinian Arab governments “cancels out” the rights of Palestinian refugees who were not responsible for such violations in the first place). The overall thrust of the letter completely ignores my column’s point, that it is impossible to fight one form of hatred (anti-Semitism) by promoting anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States, or by refusing to criticize anti-Palestinian racism in Israel. Indeed, Schwartz’ silence on Israel’s entrenched institutional racism against Palestinians, even as he criticizes those who try to point it out, tells the whole story. It is unfortunate he had to accuse me of anti-Semitism, something I have always opposed, in order to make his point.