Mondoweiss Online Newsletter



How Israel deals with nonviolent Palestinian protest

Jun 14, 2011

Adam Horowitz

Watch this video from Nabi Saleh:

You might recognize the woman in the video. She is the same mother who fought as her 11-year old child was abducted by the Israeli military (video below). This is yet another tactic Israel has used to try to break the back of the nonviolent protests in the West Bank.

I was recently in Nabi Saleh during the delegation I co-led with Anna Baltzer. I met the brave people of Nabi Saleh who face this level of abuse week in and week out for protesting the theft of their land. As I sat with the families’ missing loved ones in Israeli prisons and they showed these videos, I watched them not only as a journalist and activist, but also the father of young children. I was horrified and couldn’t keep from crying.

As I listened to the stories in Nabi Saleh I marveled at the protesters’ courage, persistence and discipline at maintaining nonviolent protest in the face of such barbarity. I doubt I would be able to make the same choice.

Inside the Military Repression of Nabi Saleh: Arrest of Children from Joseph Dana on Vimeo.

Tales of a fourth grade Zionist

Jun 14, 2011

Adam Horowitz

The Awl has run a wonderful piece by Village Voice film editor Allison Benedikt on coming to reconsider everything she was taught growing up about Israel. The piece begins when Benedikt is in third grade, and discusses the special role that Jewish summer camps played in creating her Jewish identity and connection to Israel. It ends with her making a decision on how to raise her own kids (“My best memories from childhood are from camp, and I will never, ever send my kids there.”) This isn’t a unique story for this site, but rarely is it told so well. You really need to read the whole thing (and the comments are great too), but here is a longish excerpt from Benedikt’s piece “Life After Zionist Summer Camp“:

The summer before college I return to the camp of my youth, in Wisconsin, as a counselor. I get the sense that it’s not a good idea to tell the campers that I’m not going to Israel in the fall, or that, though I do expect to make aliyah eventually, I’m not 100% sure. It’s a great summer. I am a Jewish leader! I’m still not really sure who Jabotinsky is, but the important thing is that the kids don’t know that I don’t know. It seems a little late for me to ask a friend.

College: I opt to live in the “Jewish dorm,” Markley Hall. I have trouble making friends. I gain a lot of weight. In November, Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated and I am sick not to be there. I talk to my friends on the phone long-distance and feel very removed. I don’t fit in anywhere. I hate college. I should have gone to Israel.

Freshman year happens. Sophomore year happens. Finally, my chance: I return to Mount Scopus, this time to attend Hebrew University for my junior year abroad. I make friends immediately, get a boyfriend, Craig, and feel like myself again. Early on, there’s a bombing in the shuk. The next week my friends and I go as a group to that same shuk—we will not be cowed. There are no other major attacks that year, at least as far I know. I don’t read the newspaper or watch the news while there, but Craig’s parents awesomely ship the “Seinfeld” series finale to him. We all chip in to rent a hotel room for the Oscars. My older sister comes to visit and looks up a friend from college who recently moved to Tel Aviv. I get the sense that they are more than friends.

I turn 21 in Jerusalem and must at this point know about the occupation, but who can say, really? I’m “not political.” But I have picked up the bullet points: In 1948, the Palestinians chose to leave Israel and now they want it back. They were offered part of the land and turned it down. Their Arab brothers in Jordan and Egypt won’t take them. They don’t “help their own” like we do. Israel has been at war for its entire existence, and the price of losing that war is another Holocaust. “Haven” is the word my parents always use. The world hates the Jews. We need a “haven”—and America isn’t it.

I rent a car with friends for a weekend up north, and know that there are certain places we shouldn’t drive. We take a trip to the Sinai and play cards with the really cool Arab hostel workers who give us drugs, and our guide for the trek up Mt. Sinai is very friendly, so we tip him well. I go to Jordan for a weekend with another girl from school, meet two sketchy Israeli guys at a café, and wisely decide to go camping with them in some remote patch of desert that night. If they are Israeli, they must be safe. I spend a couple of weekends with old friends from camp who are now serving in the IDF. I feel this weird sadness/emptiness/nausea in my stomach whenever I am with them. They look like they are playing dress-up in their uniforms. I should feel proud, but I don’t.

I go back to Ann Arbor. Senior year. I work at Zingerman’s, its own kind of cult, and fall for a coworker who spells his name not Marc but Mark. All of a sudden, I’m dating a non-Jew—a term he thinks is really funny. As if the world is divided like that! (It isn’t?) My parents aren’t too happy about Mark-with-a-K. “If you don’t date them, you won’t marry them,” they always said. I knew at least one couple who got divorced “because the wife wasn’t Jewish.” I didn’t want to get divorced.

Mark says something mean about Israel and I am confused. Or he is. He must be. I better find out. But I don’t, really. Or I do, but just a little. I find out just enough to know that I don’t want to know more. I graduate with my Jewish identity intact!

That summer, something happens. I start lying to my parents. I know how this sounds—whoa, lying!—but really, I had always aimed to please. I tell my parents I’m headed to Columbus to visit Shayna when I’m really headed to Ann Arbor to visit Mark. I take an LSAT class but in my gut know that I’m not going to law school. I tell my sister that when I move to New York in the fall, I’m going to “do my own thing.” I’m not going to live on the Upper West Side like she does or go to B’nai Jeshurun on Friday nights. I read about dance parties in New York magazine and think this might be something I’d like to do instead. I start berating my parents for the Jewish community work they’ve been doing all their adult lives. Why the fuck are we helping our own? We don’t need any help! We’re rich! I am so right.

New York. I rent a cheap place in Brooklyn with a Canadian friend from Hebrew U. I get a job as a paralegal, eventually split with Mark, and go on some awkward blind dates with nebbishy Jews and fratty Jews but only Jews. My sister decides to move to Jerusalem. I am proud. I take a car with her to the airport, cry hysterically when she gets on the plane, and then go to the ATM to take out money for my cab ride home. The ATM must be broken: It won’t give me any money! Some really cute guy sees me breaking down at the cash machine, we start talking, and he offers to share a car with me back to Brooklyn, his treat. His name is Josh Mensch, so, yeah—I’m safe. I eventually go on a few dates with this Josh Mensch character, who it turns out is not a member of the tribe. What are the odds?! He also has some pretty funny ideas about Israel and is in a band. Swoon. It doesn’t last, but it is starting to seem like I have a type and that type is not Zionist.

I do well on my LSATs but have not actually applied to law school, so clearly I am not becoming a lawyer. Through sheer force of will and also nepotism, I get a magazine job. I start flirting with John, one of the few staffers who isn’t Jewish (after flirting with another of the few). He flirts back! My sister visits New York and I blow off a Shabbat dinner in her honor and instead get drinks with John. This time it lasts.

John fills my head with allllllllllllll kinds of bullshit. Stuff about the Israelis being occupiers, about Israel not being a real democracy, about the dangers of ethnic nationalism—a term I really hadn’t heard applied to Israel before. (Okay, fine, I hadn’t heard it at all.) My parents worry that I’m being brainwashed. We get in huge fights on the same topic over and over again and have terribly awkward dinners where John insists on bringing up Israel and pissing off my Mom. I act as moderator and it is the worst. John buys every book about Israel that’s ever been published, and then reads them all so he can win any argument with my family. What he doesn’t realize is that my parents don’t do facts on this issue. They do feelings. Israel is who they are. Gradually, and then also all of a sudden, it’s no longer who I am—and I am angry.

Read the entire piece at The Awl.

UN: As Gaza siege enters its fifth year, unemployment stands at 45%

Jun 14, 2011

Adam Horowitz

From UNRWA’s Gaza blockade anniversary report:

As the Gaza blockade moves into its fifth year, a new report by the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, says broad unemployment in the second half of 2010 reached an unprecedented 45.2 per cent, one of the highest in the world. The report released today, finds that real wages continued to decline under the weight of persistently high unemployment, falling 34.5 per cent since the first half of 2006.

“These are disturbing trends,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, “and the refugees, which make up two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population were the worst hit in the period covered in this report. It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.”

The UNRWA report finds that the private sector was particularly badly hit compared to the government sector. In the second half of 2010 businesses shed over 8,000 jobs, a decline in employment of nearly 8 per cent relative to the first half of the year. By contrast, the Hamas-dominated public sector grew by nearly 3 per cent during the same period.

“Our research indicates that since 2007, Hamas has been able to increase public employment by at least one-fifth,” said Gunness. “Even more striking, in what should have been a relatively good year for the Gaza private sector with the supposed easing of the blockade, the public sector generated 70 per cent of all net job growth as between second-half 2009 and second-half 2010. If the aim of the blockade policy was to weaken the Hamas administration, the public employment numbers suggest this has failed. But it has certainly been highly successful in punishing some of the poorest of the poor in the Middle East region.”

Download a PDF of the full UN report here .

In Gaza, young Palestinians lead a global movement

Jun 14, 2011

Joe Catron

On a warm, sunny afternoon, I met Eman Sourani and Rana Baker in an airy outdoor café several blocks from the port of Gaza. Both are members of the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI). Sourani, a 22-year-old English literature student at Al-Aqsa University, cofounded the group after Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, while Baker, a 19-year-old blogger and a business administration student at the Islamic University of Gaza, joined it during Israeli Apartheid Week, a global event in March 2011.

PSCABI is the student arm of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), itself part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee. Since its July 2005 founding by Palestinian organizations from Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and the diaspora, BDS has grown into a formidable global movement with an impressive record of victories.

In the last month alone, the University and College Union (UCU) and the University of London Union (ULU), respectively the largest academic labor union in the United Kingdom and the largest student union in Europe, voted to support it and sever their ties with Israeli institutions;  UK Prime Minister David Cameron quietly resigned his post as Honorary Chairman of the Jewish National Fund, implicated in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian lands; students at the United States’ DePaul University voted by a nearly 80% margin (although without reaching the necessary quorum) to remove Sabra hummus, linked to the Israeli military, from their campus; the French-Belgian bank Dexia announced the impending sale of its Israeli subsidiary, “even at a loss;” and musicians Andy McKee and Marc Almond cancelled appearances in Israel.

Although not all acknowledged the role of the campaign in their decisions, each was a target of it. Meanwhile, battles rage against the US pension fund TIAA-CREF; Israeli national institutions like the Histadrut and State of Israel Bonds; the Israeli produce exporter Carmel Agrexco; the French construction firms Alstom and Derail Veolia; the beauty suppliers Ahava, Estee Lauder, L’Oréal, and Seacret Dead Sea; and dozens of other institutions complicit in Israeli crimes, as well as performers like Paul Simon and Jello Biafra, who plan to violate the cultural boycott by playing Tel Aviv.

“Even some South Africans like Desmond Tutu have said that what they did in thirty years, the Palestinians did in three,” Sourani told me over tea. “The boycott is a lesson of the success of the South Africans. And why not? Nothing is imposible. When people hear that Palestinians are doing something like this, that we are taking action, they believe in the idea and the issue much more.”

Baker agreed with her about the importance of South Africa. “We like to address apartheid,” she said. “We like to use this word, because it really emphasizes what is happening. Of course we have the apartheid wall. We have the checkpoints like they had in South Africa. What does an apartheid wall represent but apartheid? What else do checkpoints represent?”

“We think that BDS is a very effective way to resist Israel,” Baker continued. “Why? Because the pillars of BDS represents all Palestinians. The core issues of the Palestinian cause are the right to return, the ending of the occupation, and equality between Palestinians and Jews within the Israeli state or borders. So we think that being a real Palestinian-led movement that represents all Palestinians is very important. And this makes it able to grow, makes it able to expand within each and every cause. It represents every Palestinian in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Israel, and in the diáspora. BDS is established on those pillars. And the most important pillar, in my opinion, is the right to return. This movement, the march of return, is also a powerful campaign to make people understand that we have not forgotten our right to return. When Ben-Gurion said that old would die and the young forget, he was totally mistaken! Of course the old will die, but they have children, they have grandchildren, and we will never forget. We are Palestinian.”

”We have Palestinian identity, and Palestinian identity is a great responsibility,” Sourani added. “So we have to act. We have to fight Zionism. We have to be aware of what is going on, because being aware means that we are alive. It gives meaning to our lives. I myself give the definition that life is politics here in Gaza. It is all of what we live.”

How does PSCABI fight Zionism, I asked? “We as youth and students address youth and students about the academic boycott, and connect it with the cultural boycott,” Sourani answered. “We make videos to send to universities and have video conferences with them. We just tell people that we are here. You should know about Gaza, and you should know about Israel and the reality of its apartheid. Some of our biggest successes are the University of Johannesburg boycotting Ben Gurion University, or the biggest student union in London refusing to deal with Israel.”

“We also write letters to celebrities who are going to perform in Israel, asking them not to entertain apartheid, and we are actually succeeding in this,” said Baker. “Many, many of them have been stopped from performing in Israel, and some actually became BDS advocates.”

How do they work with BDS activists elsewhere? “I think is important that we talk with them, that we have a discussion about BDS here and BDS there,” said Baker.”  We want to see what they do there and learn from them, and they might also see what we do and learn from us. So we can share our experiences in BDS, our stories, and they can use our stories and spread them out to gain more support for BDS.”

“The young Palestinians nowadays are very creative, in writing, blogging, video making; many, many things,” said Sourani. “I am very proud of my generation. They are so creative, really. I meet and talk to anyone who does anything: maybe blogging, a site, a Facebook account, a Twitter. Youth everywhere are doing fantastic things. They just need to be linked with Palestinians ourselves.”

“We want more links with people outside,” said Baker. “We want more actions and more communication. The more you communicate with people, the more the idea becomes big and it grows. And BDS is growing. Citizens, and students, and young, and old, are engaging themselves in BDS, outside and inside and everywhere. It is actually, in its core, a popular struggle, and it is civil resistance.”

What do they ask of outsiders? “The important thing is that they take action,” Sourani replied. “This is what we are looking for. We don’t look for passion, we don’t look for tears, we don’t look for romantic speech. We just look for actions. Whatever small action you can take is something beautiful. This is the basis of BDS, that we don’t wait for talk.”

“Let’s mention here the the recent action taken by people in the United States during the AIPAC speech,” said Baker. “I think this was really effective, when young students stood up and spoke out for Palestine, students who had no relation to Palestinian identity, except that they understood the issue, they understood what is right and what is wrong, and they took action. Even if they knew that they might be harmed, or might get fired from somewhere. We think that this is really important, and this is a success for BDS.”

“An important thing we do at the end of every video conference is to give them a request: Come to Gaza,” said Sourani. “People will not act before understanding. You can come, live with us, and see how students can’t get get books, how students can’t get scholarships abroad, how students would die to go, but have nightmares about Rafah Border before going to London, for example. We can’t go to places in our own country! We can’t study, for example, in Bethlehem, in Ramallah, in Najah University. I actually was planning for that, but of course it is imposible.

“This is about human rights and international law, how the world Works,” she added. “As you live there peacefully, Palestinians have the right to live. The rights your students have to move, to learn, to travel everywhere, to get scholarships, we also need. So we need people to understand, to study the issue, and to act. This is what we are doing.”

And other Palestinians? “I want all Palestinians, not only us in BDS, to engage in boycotting Israel,” Baker replied. “I want all of them to become politically aware. And this is also something we work on in BDS. We don’t just discuss BDS in the meetings of our core group. We talk about it in our universities. We invite people to our events. In the future, we really hope that each and every Palestinian becomes aware of BDS, and implements BDS so that it becomes a part of his or her life.

“We also like to participate in events that are held worldwide, like Israeli Apartheid Week,” she said. “We had one here this year, and it was really successful. We try talk to many academics and important activists, like Ilan Pappé and Ramzy Baroud. It’s really good how many people here want to know about BDS. They really want to listen.”

“The amazing thing about PSCABI is that all the political blocs here support it and agree on the academic boycott,” added Sourani.

What else, I asked in closing? “We want people to know that we’re not dying of hunger,” said Baker. “We’re not begging. We’re not shedding tears. We’re taking action on our own behalf. We’re trying to raise awareness, to link people, to make them understand and make them more involved in independent political groups that are peacefully resisting Israel and the occupation.”

“BDS is a Palestinian voice,” said Sourani. “This is what people need to hear, to listen to everywhere. We refuse occupation. I’m proud of doing this work. I’m a Palestinian; I’m not silent. That is the idea.

“I don’t want peace before justice. I’m looking for justice. And justice means the end of apartheid, the end of racism, and the end of occupation. So I need justice first, and then, when we are all equal people, we will look for peace.”

Joe Catron is a resident of Brooklyn, New York and a current member of the International Solidarity Movement – Gaza Strip. He writes in a personal capacity.

Rightwing Israelis stage race-baiting action, bringing Sudanese refugees to posh Tel Aviv pool

Jun 14, 2011

Philip Weiss

Picture is from nrg online. And here’s a video of the action. And the report in the Jerusalem Post:

Right wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir and MK [Member of Knesset] Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) brought dozens of Sudanese refugees to the pool at Tel Aviv’s Gordon Beach on Sunday. They intended to make a statement about the refugee situation in south Tel Aviv.

From a settler website, contrasting the southern and northern sections of Tel Aviv.

MK Michael Ben Ari of the National Union gave Israel’s smug leftist elites some food for thought Monday when he led 40 Sudanese infiltrators into Tel Aviv’s Gordon Pool, a favorite watering hole for the city’s posh set….

[H]e intends to show what he says is the Israeli leftists’ hypocrisy, in demanding that infiltrators be allowed to live in Tel Aviv, when they know that their own neighborhoods are not the ones that have to absorb the problematic foreign population.

From the JPost story:

“You northerners care about human rights? Then give them human rights in Gordon, Afeka, and Ramat Aviv,”said Ben-Gvir to a group of pool-goers. He continued, “south Tel Aviv is the back yard of the State of Israel… and we want to make the division equal, refugees everywhere, not just in Tikva neighborhood,” Army Radio reported.

For several months Ben-Avi and Ben-Gvir have claimed that north Tel Aviv residents only support the rights of refugees when they stay in their own neighborhoods.

Thanks to Seham and Dena Shunra for pointing us to this story!

Egypt charges American citizen with being spy for Mossad

Jun 14, 2011

Philip Weiss

Reuters: “An alleged Israeli spy arrested in Egypt is an American immigrant to Israel who once wrote that he hoped to promote Israeli policies in the Arab world, according to information he and others provided on websites.” At Facebook, the guy said he was “preaching” at Al Azhar University in Cairo. BBC: Israel says the student has no connection to its intelligence agencies.

From State Department briefing yesterday, before the subject got changed.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on an American citizen, a student in Egypt, who’s been arrested and accused of being a Mossad spy?

MR. [Mark] TONER: I do, but it’s very preliminary information. But we are aware that U.S. citizen Ilam Chaim Grapel was detained on June 12th by Egyptian authorities. A consular official did visit Mr. Grapel on June 13th at the prosecutor’s office; that was in New Cairo. He’s – we’ve confirmed that he was in good health. Mr. Grapel’s family is aware of his arrest and I refer to you Government of Egypt for details on the charges against him.

QUESTION: Do you have any opinion on those – on the accusations of him being a spy?

MR. TONER: Well, again, the – right now, our function, as we would in the case of any American citizen held overseas, is to provide him with consular services, work with local authorities to make sure he’s being treated fairly under local law, provide information about the local legal system and facilitate communication with his family and friends. The Egyptian authorities did give us almost immediate consular access, and as I said, he’s in good health. And I believe now that they’ve got a number of days to carry out an investigation and elaborate on the charges against him.

QUESTION: You have reason to believe that he is innocent or guilty?

MR. TONER: Again, no. We don’t have any opinion as of yet. I mean, they’re carrying out an investigation, and we’ll wait to see what that —

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. TONER: Sure.

Israel’s harassment of US-Mexico border human rights activist raises many questions

Jun 14, 2011

Gabriel Matthew Schivone

On May 16, a 19-year-old American student from a Southwest university was stopped by Israeli security agents and held for several hours as she attempted to enter the occupied Palestinian West Bank with 17 other schoolmates and two professors. At one point in a grueling interrogation that lasted until 2 am, she was harassed about her affiliation with No Más Muertes/No More Deaths, a humanitarian group that operates along the U.S.-Mexico border. 
No More Deaths is a prominent U.S. humanitarian group, well known for its numerous volunteers who have been indicted over the years by the federal government (though all acquitted) for advocating fundamental change in U.S. Immigration and Border Enforcement policies and, in the process, helping save the lives of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. So why is Israel so concerned about a human rights group that operates in a humanitarian border crisis zone several thousand miles away?
A report in recent weeks by Israel’s leading newspaper, Ha’aretz, suggests a possible answer, or at least provides some interesting insight on Israel’s efforts to deal with what it perceives as “delegitimization”: people and groups around the world opposing Israeli state crimes, organizing a mass withdrawal of support for them, and attempting to press accountability for such crimes under international and domestic law.

Following “an upsurge in worldwide efforts” of these sorts, according to Ha’aretz which cited senior Israeli officials and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) officers whose Military Intelligence (MI) research division “created a department several months ago that is dedicated to monitoring left-wing groups” overseas and that “will work closely with government ministries.”
The Israeli officials were not reluctant to admit that the monitoring unit was created in the wake of a supposed intelligence failure prior to Israel’s lethal raid on the humanitarian convoy “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” last May in which nine international civilians were shot to death “in the manner of summary execution” and dozens were seriously injured, according to a UN fact-finding mission that investigated the attack.
According to the Ha’aretz report, the intelligence unit has been participating in high-brass discussions preparing for Flotilla 2. The unit’s interest might well be piqued, then, by the fact that the main No More Deaths Tucson General group announced last month on its website its support for two volunteers traveling to break the siege of Gaza, one being this author and the other a Palestinian student wishing to remain anonymous.
Ha’aretz described an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office explaining that the unit’s “quality of information” about foreign targeted groups has “improved” and the “quantity” of such information “has increased in recent months.”
One Military Intelligence (MI) official explained to that “[t]he enemy changes, as does the nature of the struggle,” and so “we have to boost activity in this sphere.” Doubtless the intelligence unit is doing its job. But whether Israel regards No More Deaths and its volunteers and supporters as enemies of the state remains unconfirmed.
What other information in the public sphere has the unit been—or would be—able to “collect” on No More Deaths in order to “adequately prepare” for challenges posed to Israeli policy by civil society actions such as the flotilla?
Probably most relevant to the case of the student who was interrogated for her involvement with the group concerns the No More Deaths University of Arizona (UA) chapter (UANMD), which has been leading the No More Deaths community in fulfilling its commitment to “Global Movement Building.”
In November 2010, UA NMD allied with fellow campus groups Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace in organizing tours of the U.S.-Mexico border, starting with Nogales, AZ-Sonora, a border community bisected by the border wall. The effort aimed to highlight the “concrete connections” between the U.S. and Israel in their monetary and material exchanges in security technology, training and resources in maintaining state policy in both areas.
The groups followed their border tours with a national student conference, Concrete Connections, held in February, in which students and teachers from nearly a dozen states from across the U.S. attended to discuss comparisons and differences between US/Mexico border issues and the Israel/Palestine conflict and how solidarity movements can internationalize their commitment to each other’s struggle for justice in both areas.
One of the topics discussed by some activists was a “mock wall movement” to employ atcampuses across the U.S., modeled off the “mock shanty towns” that proliferated on U.S. campuses during the mid-1980s to symbolize student support for divestment from companies supporting South African Apartheid. On March 21—incidentally the same day Ha’aretz ran the above report—the largest mock apartheid wall in the U.S. was erected, dividing the 40,000-student UA campus for ten days, sponsored by numerous groups but chiefly organized by none other than the UANMD, Students for Justice in Palestine, and Jewish Voice for Peace. Numerous other schools across the country followed suit with their announcements of erecting similar walls later in the spring and this coming fall.
South African Archbishop Desmond sent a letter of support to the students, echoing their call for mock walls to spring up across the country. In April esteemed public intellectual Dr. Cornel West echoed Tutu’s call for divestment, in particular supporting the students’ Ethnic Studies solidarity program bringing together youth from Arizona and Palestine to exchange experiences and strategies of resisting U.S./AZ and Israeli state attacks on education.
Whatever Israel’s intention, it is clear that groups such as No More Deaths pose a serious threat to Israel’s ability to carry out state crimes and policies of illegal settlement and occupation unimpeded.

Gabriel Matthew Schivone lives in Tucson, Arizona. He is a Chicano-Jewish American and native Tucsonan, a volunteer and media/policy analyst with the U.S./Mexico border humanitarian organization No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, and an AZ coordinator of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. He is a passenger and a U.S. representative for the AZ/Southwest on the upcoming “Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2″. He is also co-editor and a contributing author of the forthcoming book, Concrete Connections: Militarization, Migration, and the Political Economy of Human Rights in the Mexico/U.S. and Palestine/Israel Borderlands. Schivone may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter @GSchivone

Why the ‘Jewish State’ now?

Jun 14, 2011

Raef Zreik

This article originally appeared in the current issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 40, no. 3 (Spring 2011):

During its peace negotiations with Egypt and Jordan, Israel did not ask for recognition for itself as a Jewish state, and such recognition does not appear in the peace treaties with either state. With regard to negotiations with the PLO for the final status of the Palestinian territories, the demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state or as a state of the Jewish people (which are different concepts [1]) was not on the table at the 1991 Madrid conference, during the Oslo talks of 1992–93, or even at the failed Camp David summit of July 2000, or the subsequent negotiations at Taba in early 2001. This demand was put forward for the first time in a negotiation context at the 2007 Annapolis conference by the Olmert government in its last days in office. The current Israeli government, by contrast, has made recognition of the Jewishness of the state one of its principal negotiating demands, on occasion even presenting it as a precondition for the negotiations themselves. 
Nor has the growing emphasis on the demand been restricted to the negotiating sphere. Projects aimed at affirming the Jewishness of the state through legislation [2] have increased in recent years: amendments to the citizenship law require persons seeking Israeli citizenship to swear allegiance to a Jewish and democratic Israel and limit family unification between Israeli Palestinians and their spouses from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. [3] Proposals for a population swap in the context of a final settlement are becoming increasingly legitimate in the public discourse, [4] while amendments to other legislation include restricting Palestinian citizens’ commemoration of the Nakba [5] and de facto restrictions on the right of Palestinian citizens to purchase homes in (Jewish) communal settlements.[6]
So what is happening here? At the level of Israeli domestic politics, and with regard to the now-stalled negotiations with Palestinians, one could say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been keen to divert attention from divisive issues in Israeli society, such as settlements and Jerusalem, to nondivisive issues such as the Jewish state. Netanyahu knows well that negotiations may fail, but he would prefer that they fail by being dashed against the rock of the Jewish state, which enjoys absolute majority Jewish support, than because of the absence of a settlement freeze, which would have led to claims that had there been one, there might have been progress in the negotiations and possibly even a peace agreement. According to this line of reasoning, Netanyahu’s demands for the recognition of the Jewishness of the state is a tactical, even a partisan maneuver—his way of torpedoing the negotiations over an issue that is not controversial in Israeli society so as to consolidate his position not only as the leader of the Israeli Right but also as the leader of Israeli society as a whole.
In my opinion, however, the above analysis does not fully explain the stridency of the Israeli discourse on the subject of the Jewish state. This essay is an attempt to offer a more penetrating analysis, one that examines the discourse on the Jewish state to reveal the internal dynamics and horizons of its evolution.

First Was the Ethnos
Israel was born as a Jewish state, established by and for the Jews. The body that issued the proclamation of statehood, the National Council, was made up solely of Jewish bodies representing not the Jews of Palestine but the Jewish people everywhere. The Jewishness of the state was therefore part of its genetic makeup, the raison d’être of the whole project, the living spirit of the proclamation itself. It was not deemed necessary to codify it into formal law, because from the very outset it was taken for granted that Israel was the state of the Jewish people—a state not for the people living inside its borders but for a people most of whom lived outside.
In other words, the mandate of the new state was not to act as the guardian of its citizens, both Arab and Jewish, but to safeguard the interests of the Jewish people wherever they were. This fact, a priori, determined the moral and political duties of the state. Consequently, one could say that Israeli citizenship was deformed at birth, genetically flawed as it were, since Israeli citizenship per se was almost irrelevant. What determined the lives and fortunes of those residing in the country was not citizenship but ethnic-national affiliation.
The founding of the State of Israel was a major milestone for the Zionist project, but its ultimate goal was in gathering the Jews of the diaspora into the new state as the solution to the “Jewish question.” In other words, its aim was not to solve the problem of the Jews in Palestine alone but to solve the problem of the Jews worldwide. And in the process of building the state, Zionism entertained a second mission, which was to effect a radical transformation of Jewish identity and the life of the Jewish people—to create the new Jew, the new soldier, the new farmer, the new sabra. Consequently, the establishment of Israel was merely a stage, albeit an important one, in the long-term Zionist project, in effect, a continuous revolution. The state as conceived was but an instrument in the service of the ongoing Zionist revolution, subservient to its logic.
But in order to function, a state needs state institutions, which by definition are for all citizens (barring a declaration of apartheid from the start). Prior to the establishment of the state, Zionism’s sole concern had been the ethno-national movement, but from then on it was charged with a statehood project that included non-Jews as citizens. Thus the National Council, which represented both the Yishuv (the prestate Jewish community in Palestine [7]) and the Jewish people as a whole, and was responsible solely to them, transferred its powers to the newly elected Knesset, a state institution and as such representing (at least formally) all the citizens of the state, including the Arabs. This move in effect marked the transition from a pure ethno-national logic to a civic logic, from the expansionist dynamic of the Zionist revolution to the normative, bounded constraints of the state—in short, the transition from ethnos to demos. But from the start there was a clear tension between ethnos and demos, as well as between the locus of the problem (i.e., the Jewish question, mainly in Europe) and the locus of the solution (Israeli statehood, in Palestine).
Paradoxically, the fact that 150,000 Palestinians remained inside what became Israel at the end of the 1948 war represented a sort of historical miracle for both sides. The Arabs who remained found their situation to be miraculous compared to the fate of their brethren, the some 750,000 Palestinians who had lost their homes, lands, and country and became refugees overnight; for them, it was enough that they were left standing in their homeland to feel that God had come to their aid. For the newly created Jewish majority, too, it was a miracle, considering that the number of Arabs within the borders of the Jewish state awarded by the UN Partition Plan might have reached 600,000 but instead was reduced to one-fourth that number by a war that simultaneously considerably enlarged the territory of the Jewish state. Such an achievement was thus to be celebrated, having far exceeded the wildest hopes of the state’s founders.

In this light, the granting of Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who remained within the new state constituted a sort of truce, a (negative) compromise accepted by both sides, each for its own reasons: the Palestinians were content because citizenship at least guaranteed that they could remain in their homeland, and the Jews were content because there were relatively few Palestinians to whom citizenship had to be granted. In fact, of course, neither side was really happy with this shotgun marriage. After all, the Palestinians had not wanted to be Israeli citizens in an Israeli state, and Israel had not wanted to have Palestinian citizens at all. Moreover, neither side took this citizenship seriously: the Palestinians did not consider the Israeli state to be theirs, and Israel did not see the Palestinians as real and genuine citizens. [8] Still, I believe that in those early days, when the Palestinians were living on the margins of the state without being part of it, both sides were comfortable with this formula. 
Up until the late 1970s, the Palestinian presence did not represent a theoretical, legal, or conceptual challenge to Israel, or the kind of jarring anomaly that might have forced Israeli Jewish society to come to terms with itself and the definition of the state. Palestinian society, having lost its cultural, intellectual, and legal elite, had been defeated from within and had implicitly accepted that the condition for remaining in their homeland was that they not disrupt the serenity of the new state project.
Like the Zionist project in general, Israel was more revolution than state in the early decades. It had no constitution or anything like a constitution. Its borders, which were little more than an embodiment of the military balance of power, were not recognized either internationally or by its neighbors on the grounds that they had been extended by force beyond those stipulated by the UN partition plan. The Jewish potential citizens that the state intended to in-gather were still outside, whereas the actual Arab citizens were not quite full citizens. In this sense, Israel was a state on hold.
As for the land, its acquisition and settlement in prestate days had been among the tools for winning sovereignty. That achieved, the real battle for the land began, since at the war’s end most of it still belonged to the Palestinians, either refugees or citizens of the new state.[9] From then on, instead of land and settlement being an instrument for attaining sovereignty, sovereignty became the instrument through which land title could be obtained and the settlement project continued and expanded. The refugee land, the first target for transfer to Jewish hands, was expropriated under a series of laws that declared the refugees to be “absentees” (including those still within the borders of the state [10]). At the same time, the agricultural lands of the Palestinians who had stayed put in their villages were gradually confiscated. Thus the takeover of Palestinian land inside Israel went forward as internal colonization. In this sense, Israel in the early decades continued the Zionist project under the Mandate aimed at acquiring as much land and absorbing and settling as many Jewish immigrants as possible, with one difference: with the capture of the state apparatus, the Zionist movement was able to pursue these goals without the limits imposed on it from the outside by the Mandate authorities. Nonetheless, as we shall see, this Zionist project ultimately became subject to the laws of the very state it had itself created.
In such conditions, any talk about equality between Palestinians and Jews in Israel was meaningless. There was a winner and a loser: one people had lost a homeland and another had gained one; one people had ended their condition of exile, the other had begun theirs. What could equality possibly mean in the context of such a zero-sum struggle?
Thus, when in the early 1950s the Israeli government offered loans and tax incentives to encourage Israeli citizens to settle the border areas in order to prevent Palestinian “infiltrators” (i.e., refugees in bordering states) from returning to their deserted villages, what could possibly be offered to approximate equality? Or when the state offered incentives to encourage new settlers to move into the houses left by the Palestinian refugees, what could the Palestinians ask for that would mirror such benefits? Likewise for land expropriations, which were “explained” at the time by the “demographic surplus” and “shortage of land” for the arriving Jews and the opposite situation for the Palestinian citizens, with the result that the incoming immigrants needed housing and the suitable land just happened to be in Palestinian hands. In such circumstances, what does citizenship mean? And what kind of equal treatment could be envisaged to parallel the laws that provided loans and grants for anyone who had participated in the war effort to establish the State of Israel? Could the Palestinians, for example, ask for economic aid and fiscal benefits for those who had participated in the war effort against the establishment of the state?
In fact, given the absence of any common ground or any common denominator, the question of equality, or even of citizenship, seldom arose in the early decades of the state. All the more so in that there were no explicitly discriminatory laws at the time. There had been no need to spell out in legislation that Israel was a state for the Jews when this was the operating premise of the entire state apparatus, the project in whose service the entire state was organized. There is no need to assert what is taken for granted.
Indeed, discrimination was not in the text of the law but in the intent of the legislator. Discrimination both preceded and followed the drafting of the legal text and was present in its implementation. Scores of Israeli laws did not even mention the words “Arab” or “Jew” but granted privileges that applied either exclusively to Jews (e.g., Holocaust survivors, avocado farmers, residents of border regions or “development areas”) or largely to them (i.e., persons serving in the army). Since each of the groups singled out had specific characteristics, all these laws could be justified as having been passed not to benefit Jews per se but to address the needs of a particular group.
The net result was that Israel had no need for an apartheid system. Discrimination against a group is an indication of that group’s existence, and because a large part of the Palestinian population had already been expelled or had left out of fear during the war, there was no obvious Palestinian presence in the new state. Having been placed under martial law immediately after the war, they lived within a separate legal order up until 1966 (when military rule ended) and were concentrated in limited geographic areas, their movement considerably restricted. Meanwhile, the State of Israel, essentially a continuation of the Yishuv (which under the British Mandate had operated as a state within a state), was heir to its (exclusively Jewish) institutions, which comprised the health system, the banking system, labor unions, and so on. In such conditions, there was no need to refer to separation between Jews and Arabs, because Jews and Arabs lived in geographic and economic realities so different that they might as well have been living in different countries.
For precisely the same reasons that apartheid or any formal separation had been unnecessary in Israeli legal texts, so had explicit mention of the Jewishness of the state been unnecessary. This remained the case for almost four decades, not because there was no Jewish state but because its existence was self-evident—a historical, geographic, and natural phenomenon.

Toward the Logic of Statehood

The first stirrings of Arab challenge to the Jewish nature of the state occurred in 1965. That was when an Arab political movement called Al-Ard (The Land), formed in the late 1950s, decided it wanted to participate in the Knesset elections. Suddenly the entire Israeli legal system was hit by the realization that no Israeli legal text granted any state body the authority to bar a political party from running for the Knesset, even if that party at least implicitly challenged the validity of the state’s Jewishness. The Israeli High (Supreme) Court therefore had to resort to legal theories and arguments based on natural law, rather than positive law, to justify its decision to ban the party from participating in the elections and indeed to ban the party altogether.[11] The absence of a positive law granting the Election Committee authority of this nature shows that the need for such a law had not even occurred to anyone, testifying to the mindset of the architects of an Israeli legal system for whom such legislation would have been redundant, so deeply internalized was the absolute Jewishness of the state. Beyond that, what the incident plainly showed is that if ever a Palestinian citizen were to decide to take the promise of citizenship seriously, he or she would find the Jewish state fully mobilized to block the way.
From the moment of Israel’s founding, the invisibility of the Jewish state in the legal texts went hand in hand with the invisibility of the Palestinians in the land. Only when this situation changed would that which had been taken for granted—the Jewishness of the state—need to be asserted. A series of developments, mostly involving the weakening of the logic of the Zionist “revolution” in favor of the logic of statehood as governed by civic institutions, laid the ground for both the emergence of a civic discourse of citizenship and for the mounting challenges to the Jewishness of the state, which ultimately led Israel to define itself as a Jewish state in legal texts. I briefly review those developments below.
First: The 1967 war resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, reuniting what had been Palestine in a single geopolitical unit. The occupation created a duality between two important concepts: the Land of Israel on the one hand and the State of Israel on the other, for although the State of Israel is located within the Land of Israel, the two are not synonymous. The 1967 war expanded Israel’s military borders, even while it gave political meaning to the 1948 borders for the first time. Thenceforth, instead of merely tracing the 1948 armistice lines (by definition temporary), what was later known as the “Green Line” became the internationally accepted political border of a recognized state. In a sense, Israel was normalized (legitimized) within the 1967 borders through displacement of the site of contestation to the occupied territories.
Thus, as a result of the 1967 war, Nazareth, conquered in 1948, and al-Khalil (Hebron), conquered in 1967, became part of the same physical political unity, both subject to Israeli control. It was precisely this new “unification,” however, that allowed the difference between the “here” (Israel) and the “there” (the occupied territories) to appear, and that difference was citizenship: here (in Israel) there are citizens, both Palestinians and Jews (however unequal), and there (in the occupied territories), there are noncitizens only. This distinction between the Palestinians in Israel and those in the territories made the concept of Israeli citizenship visible, and in this sense, the meaning of citizenship in Israel was constructed from outside.[12] By the same token, whereas previously the significant boundary within Israel had been between Jews and Arabs, the 1967 war added a new boundary: between Israeli (Arab and Jew) and non-Israeli (Palestinians in the territories).[14] It was thus that 1967 and its consequences made the discourse about the concepts of “Israeli” and “citizenship” possible.
Second: The 1977 Knesset elections brought the victory of the Likud party over Mapai (Labor), which had ruled Israel without interruption since the establishment of the state. Most of those who voted for Likud were oriental Jews who had emigrated from the Arab countries in the 1950s, after Israel was established. Thus, for the first time, the state could no longer be seen as an extension of the Yishuv and its political, social, and economic institutions. With Labor ousted, the seemingly organic link between the state and the deeply entrenched (Ashkenazi) Labor founding fathers was broken, and it was henceforth the Israeli people as a whole—essentially a new polity—who would control and lead the state organs. This crucial juncture marked the triumph of the state (and its institutions) over the revolution that had given birth to it. In other words, the offspring—the state—having reached maturity and gained the confidence to manage on its own, rebelled against its fathers/founders.
Third: The privatization and emergence of a free economy relatively independent of state control was achieved by separating the state from the market as well as from the quasi-state conglomerates, such as the Histadrut (which besides its function as Israel’s labor federation also owned numerous companies and factories, for a time making it the country’s largest employer), Eged (transport), Tnuva (food industries), and Kuppat Holim (health insurance), all dominant in their fields. These virtual monopolies, controlled by Labor, not only played a major economic role but also offered their members numerous benefits and acted as social organizations and solidarity groups (imbued with a certain ideology). Labor’s control of these powerful bodies, combined with its previous hold on the government and military, bespeaks the high level of congruence between the groups that held political, military, social, and economic power.
Ironically, it was the economic liberalization led by the Likud, albeit inspired by the international neo-liberalism of the mid-1980s, that made possible the development of an Arab economic elite in Israel. This in turn fostered the emergence of a middle-class Palestinian intelligentsia, increasingly imbued with a national consciousness that would increasingly challenge Israel’s status as a Jewish state.
Fourth: While political liberalism and economic liberalization are not intrinsically linked, in the Israeli case they marched together during the 1980s and 1990s. [14] The 1973 war—several years before the Likud victory—had sundered the Zionist national consensus, forcibly rousing it from the intoxication of the 1967 war, and critical voices inside Israeli society increased. This was the beginning of a certain separation between Israeli Jewish society and the Israeli state, hitherto virtually synonymous, and this likewise contributed to the emergence of a civic discourse.
Fifth: The aforementioned transition from the ethno-national Jewish institutions to “state institutions” ostensibly representing all citizens had progressed in the years since the establishment of the High Court in 1948 and of the Knesset in 1949. As time went on, it had clearly no longer been possible to run the state on the logic of revolution: a victorious revolution inevitably ceases to be a revolution, transforming itself into state institutions. Thus, other state bodies followed the High Court and the Histadrut, including, among many others, the lower court system, the Attorney General’s office, the state ombudsman’s office, and the Interior Ministry (in charge of issuing IDs and passports). The Histadrut had begun gradually opening its doors to Arab labor as early as 1959. Bit by bit, a common roof—the state—was built, a site of commonality despite the communal differences.
Sixth: The final event that seemed to mark the end of the Zionist revolution, while giving some flesh to the civic discourse, was the signing of the Oslo accords by Israel and the PLO in 1993. The accords were initially seen as providing for two entities or states. This would have meant, among other things, setting limits and establishing agreed-upon permanent political borders for the State of Israel. Furthermore, Oslo, by putting Israel within reach of recognition by all its neighbors and the Muslim world, permitting it to normalize its presence in the region at last, also gave Israel the confidence to tolerate the wider range of discourse made possible by the other developments enumerated above.
Discourse and Counter-Discourse
Meanwhile, other important developments, which sometimes went unnoticed, were taking place in the legal domain, particularly at the High Court. By the 1980s, the state’s formative period was drawing to a close: Israel’s existence had been consolidated and the Jewish collective right to self-determination had been established. Against this background, the High Court apparently decided that it could now turn to matters relating to self-determination for the individual citizen. On this basis, the Court issued a number of rulings that granted political liberties to citizens, limited the state’s power to intervene in their personal affairs, and placed curbs on military and political censorship. Important rulings of a technical nature had the effect of allowing any citizen to approach the Court and ask for a ruling on matters relating to the rule of law, the violation of rights, or bad governance. This had two important consequences. First, it opened the door to the proliferation of civic rights groups and nongovernmental organizations representing the interests of various groups and speaking on their behalf, thus laying the groundwork for the development of a relatively active civil society. Second, it led to a culture of legalization, where the Court became the main adjudicator in public (i.e., political) controversies or disputes.
The new culture of legalization, which by its very nature puts limits on politics and subjects the power of the majority to judicial review, reached its climax in the early 1990s with the enactment of two Basic Laws that were the centerpiece of what became known as the constitutional revolution. In a way, the rise of constitutionalism in Israel was meant to signal a shift from simple majoritarian politics dominated by the Jewish majority to a more liberal politics that subjects the judgment of the majority to certain restrictions.

Thus in the 1990s, Israel from a legal standpoint appeared to be on the verge of becoming merely a state, an abstract entity—abstracted from the revolution that created it, from the market, from society; a state that transcended its ethno-religious affiliations instead of being an extension of them. This trend toward the logic of the “statehood” qua statehood culminated in the 2000 High Court ruling in the case of Adel Qa‘dan, an Arab citizen who had appealed to the Court after his request to live in a Jewish settlement on state land had been rejected. The Court ruled in Qa‘dan’s favor, holding that discrimination between Jewish and Arab citizens in the use and allocation of state-controlled land was impermissible. [15] The trends within the court system undoubtedly influenced the public discourse, at least for a time. Moreover, the courts speak the language of rights, which is the language of citizenship.

The Jewish and Democratic State Discourse
The first mention in an Israeli legal text of Israel as a Jewish state (in its nationalist sense) occurred in a 1985 amendment to the Basic Law: The Knesset, which was originally passed in 1958. The amendment stipulated that any party that denied the existence of the State of Israel as the “state of the Jewish people” or that incited to racism would be barred from participating in elections for the Knesset. The drive behind this amendment was mixed, but the clause affirming Israel as a Jewish state was a response to a bid to run for the Knesset by the Progressive Movement, [16 a Palestinian political formation whose emphasis on Arab citizenship rights and full equality was seen as posing a challenge to the Jewish character of the state. The racism clause, on the other hand, was a response to the racist discourse manifested in the platform of the Kach party (led by Rabbi Meir Kahane): the 1985 amendment was the result of the Knesset’s attempt to find a compromise between two camps, Left and Right, by restricting both. In fact, the Progressive Movement was ultimately not found in violation of the law and was allowed to participate in the elections, whereas Kach was banned.
Two Basic Laws passed in the early 1990s by the Knesset in its capacity as Constituent Assembly were the first laws to characterize Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”; with these laws, the tension between the Jewish and democratic elements of the Israeli state not only was acknowledged but was elevated to a constitutional level. The two laws—Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992, amended 1994) and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation (1994)—were identical in their stated purpose as stipulated in their texts: “to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Meanwhile, within the Arab community, there was a growing awareness that in order to win full citizenship and equality, it would be necessary to mount a more forceful challenge to the Jewish nature of the state. That challenge came to fruition in 1996, when the National Democratic Assembly [18] raised the slogan of Israel as “a state for all its citizens.” The slogan soon figured prominently in the agendas of all Arab political formations in the country, and while the Jewish majority was far from embracing the discourse, a certain debate was initiated (with several groups maintaining that Israel was both a Jewish state and a state for all its citizens). The maturation of civic discourse—especially about rights and the state—gave specific meaning to the discourse about citizenship, namely that the state could potentially become a legal and political entity above ideology and religious, ethnic, or national affiliations.
Thus, what happened in the 1990s, and particularly as of the middle of the decade with the relative success of the “state for all its citizens’” slogan, was that the idea that there could be something other than a Jewish state was on the table for the first time. In the wake of the Oslo accords, and with the Jewish majority bolstered by the influx of about a million new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Israel was sufficiently confident to allow the discourse of rights and citizenship to take place and even, to a degree, to engage in a debate that centered on concepts such as “liberal civic state,” “citizens’ state,” and “neutral state.”
The Ethno-Religious Discourse
In parallel to the emerging discourse about citizenship and rights, with its promise of greater inclusiveness, another discourse had also been developing. Particularly after the 1967 war, religious forces, which proffered theological interpretations of the occupation, reasserted themselves, and the religious underpinnings that had always existed in the Zionist discourse resurfaced with unprecedented intensity. [19] A messianic Jewish religious discourse emerged as a counterweight to the civil discourse. Political questions were now formulated as theological dilemmas. Withdrawal from Hebron, for example, was no longer to be decided by secular considerations such as the political balance of forces, but by theological considerations, such as the permissibility of evacuating sites sacred to the Jewish people. The most forceful expression of this discourse was within nationalist religious circles and within nationalist religious seminaries (yeshivot). Gush Emmunim was one of its clearest manifestations.
The religious discourse did not shrink from incitement, targeting those with opposing views, and its first major victim was Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated in 1995 by a young yeshiva student who justified his action by invoking the Oslo agreement, which Rabin had championed and which had passed in the Knesset only thanks to the support of its Arab members. For the assassin, Yigal Amir, and others of like ideas, the Oslo agreement was a sign that the Jewish people had lost their power of self-determination by delegating it in part to the Arabs. According to this logic, the Jewish people were no longer in control of the decision-making process and therefore were no longer the sole and uncontested masters of the country.
As long as the optimism of the peace process remained alive, the religious Right’s ethno-religious/national discourse was held in check, and civic discourse appeared to have the upper hand. Furthermore, developments such as the March 2000 High Court ruling in the Qa‘dan case mentioned earlier seemed to place Israel on the brink of becoming a state qua state with its inevitable implications in terms of weakening the Jewish majority dominance.
Less than six months later, however, the Camp David peace negotiations collapsed and the second Palestinian intifada—seen as proof that there was no Palestinian “partner for peace”—broke out, fueling the already growing perceptions of threat to the Jewishness of the state. The Israeli Right regained its confidence, and the ethno-religious/national trend swept through Israeli society. From then on, the mere thought that Israel could be anything other than a Jewish state was anathema to the Jewish majority, but in contrast to earlier decades when it had been taken for granted, the challenge by the Palestinians made it necessary to aggressively assert it with unprecedented force. The “state for all its citizens” slogan was buried, and the achievements of the 1990s in the direction of greater democracy, a more equal and plural society, and the rise of constitutionalism within Israeli legal and political discourse were subjected to a fierce and relentless assault. The relative ease with which the Israeli Right was able to restore the ethno-religious discourse of the Arab demographic threat is indicative of the fragility of the gains that had been made during the past decade. At the same time these gains, however modest and limited, had been sufficient to unleash powerful forces to restore an ethno-national-religious right-wing discourse demanding first and foremost loyalty to the Jewish state.
Back to Negotiations
In looking to the future, and assuming that negotiations between Israel and the PLO will eventually resume, it is interesting to consider the demand for recognition of the Jews as a nation from the standpoint of its having been pushed forward by the Likud, successor to the Herut party, which in turn was the offspring of Zionism’s Revisionist movement founded by Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky. In his famous 1923 article “The Iron Wall,” Jabotinsky argued that there was no point in trying to win Palestinian or Arab acquiescence in the Zionist project because, like all indigenous peoples, they would not accept a Jewish national presence in Palestine or voluntarily give up their right to their homeland. Consequently, he continued, there was no choice but to use force against them, to erect an “iron wall” of bayonets between them and the Jewish state to be. To achieve that, he wrote, the Zionists would have to rely on the support of a major world power. What is most significant about the article is the absence of any hint that winning Arab recognition of Jewish rights might be needed or even desirable. In Hegelian terms, Jabotinsky’s position could be reduced to the conviction that to be the master does not require the recognition of the slave but only of other masters such as the great European powers and the United States—and let the slave be damned.
The question to be asked today is: Has there been any change in the role of the Palestinian slave in the thinking of Jabotinsky’s heirs within the Likud and the Israeli Right? Rather than respond with a yes or a no, I will simply note that the Israeli Right (and most of the Israeli body politic) is no longer content with the language of force and of the fait accompli; it also wants the language of recognition, that is, the language of rights. It wants the Palestinians to recognize the right of the Jews to self-determination in their own state (a state in which moreover Palestinians have a sizable presence). At the same time, Netanyahu insists that any settlement reached must be final, the end of claims, the closing of all files.
But herein lies the paradox of power. It was Israel, thanks to its overwhelming superiority in the balance of power, that imposed the terms of the negotiations, that dictated strict adherence to the issues of 1967, that excluded all but lip service to international law, the language of rights, any history prior to 1967. Israel wanted (and wants) to reach a historic compromise without facing history, to get the Palestinians to give up their right of return without even recognizing that such a right exists, to reach a radical solution without going back to the roots of the conflict. Netanyahu’s “addition” to the above, in the form of his insistence on the recognition of the Jewish state, is precisely his transition to the language of recognition and rights. But in this new language, and in raising the question of the rights of the Jews themselves, he is quite unintentionally returning the struggle to its beginnings. His emphasis on rights and recognition has inadvertently highlighted the fact that for any settlement to be final it will have to resolve, once and for all, not only the issues of 1967 but also—and perhaps especially—those of 1948. Netanyahu’s problem is the same as that which has always faced the “masters”: he wants to gain by force and power what can only be given freely. He wants to buy the settlement of the 1948 question with the currency of 1967.
There is yet another interesting aspect to Netanyahu’s insistence that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is an essential component of a final settlement. In so doing, perhaps without even being aware of it, he has made the rights of the Jews in Palestine a subject for negotiations. Not only that, in so doing, he is inviting the Arabs and the Palestinians to intervene in the question of the nature and the form of the Jewish state.
Netanyahu’s intention in demanding recognition has no doubt been to torpedo the negotiations. Yet at the same time, the insistence on rights and on Palestinian recognition constitutes a tacit acknowledgment that securing the recognition of the master overseas is no longer enough for the Jewish state project to succeed in the long run, and that there is no substitute for recognition by the victim himself. Of course there is considerable difference between recognizing Israel as the state of the Jewish people and recognizing the collective national rights of the Jews in Palestine, and between presenting a concept (the Jewish state) as a natural right to be recognized a priori (and even made a precondition for negotiations) and presenting the same thing as a right that needs to be demonstrated and negotiated with the possibility of being agreed to as an outcome at the end of the negotiations. It is imperative that the Palestinian negotiators recognize these essential distinctions, and that they are very clear about what they are accepting or rejecting, and why.
When all is said and done, the fact that the language of recognition and rights is resurfacing should not frighten the Palestinians. It is clear that any historic solution with Israel (as opposed to a mere settlement) must clarify what Jewish rights are—and the rejection of the Jewish state as presented by Netanyahu need not be confused with a rejection of the collective rights of the Jews of Palestine. Thus, in my opinion, if and when negotiations resume, the Palestinian negotiator can accept Netanyahu’s challenge and engage him without fear: “You, Netanyahu, want to discuss Jewish rights in Palestine. Be our guest. And the following are our conditions for recognizing your rights.” However, this is not at all a simple task, because it requires the Palestinians to decide on their conditions for a historic reconciliation with Israel.

Raef Zreik is co-director of the Minerva Center for the Humanities at Tel Aviv University, and a lecturer at the Carmel Academic Center in Haifa. This article originally appeared in the current issue of the
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 40, no. 3 (Spring 2011).
1 The debate about the “state of the Jewish people” versus the “Jewish state” sheds light on the difference between the two concepts. The first focuses on the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, which is Israel. Here the focus is on the national aspect, and the emphasis on the right implies exclusion of the Palestinians and denial of their equal rights in the same territory. These dimensions are best captured in “the state of the Jewish people.” The “Jewish State,” on the other hand, puts the focus on the nature of the state, and because there is no further qualification, the formulation leaves open the possibility that the state can have a religious character, and that religion and religious law can have an official public role. In this sense, the debate with regard to the Jewish state is more internal.
In my opinion, when Israel today demands that the Palestinians explicitly recognize it as a Jewish state, what it has in mind is the sense of the first formulation, with its implication of ownership and exclusivism. Thus the attempt by some Palestinian spokesmen (perhaps as a means of facilitating an agreement?) to portray the Jewish state issue as an internal Israeli matter for them to decide is both misleading and dangerous.
2 For a general review of these developments, see Adalah, “New Discriminatory Laws and Bills in Israel,”
3 HCJ 7052/03 Adalah et al. v. The Minister of the Interior (2006).
4 Barak Ravid, “Lieberman Presents Plans for Population Exchange at UN,” Ha’Aretz, 28 September 2010,
5 Clause 3b(a)(1) of the Budget Law (Amendment—Illegal Expenditure), 2009, Bill No. 1403/18.
6 Bill for the Amendment of the Communal Settlements Order (Amendment No. 8), 2010, Bill No. 1740/18.
7 The Yishuv included both the immigrants who had arrived since the 1880s and the tiny preexisting Jewish community.
8 While the Palestinian citizens were granted equal voting rights from the first election and enjoyed, on the formal level, certain political and civil rights, the issue here is that the new state did not see the Palestinian citizens’ needs, aspirations, and interests as essential state concerns.
9 For an excellent account of Israel’s takeover of land from its Palestinian owners, see Alexander Kedar, “The Israeli Law and the Redemption of Arab Land, 1948–1969” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1996).
10 Internal refugees are those Palestinians who were displaced from their home villages and towns in 1948 but remained within the State of Israel as Israeli citizens. Also known as “present absentees,” they were not allowed to go back to their villages, and were unable to reclaim their lands. For further review, see Nur Masalha, ed., Catastrophe Remembered: Palestine, Israel and the Internal Refugees (London: Zed Books, 2005).
11 For the story of Al-Ard, see Ron Harris, “Jewish Democracy Arab Politics: Al-Ard Movement in the Supreme Court,” Plilim (December 2001), pp. 107–55 [in Hebrew].
12 On the dialectics of the 1967 war, see Azmi Bishara, “On the Question of Palestinians in Israel,” Theory and Critique 3 (1993), p. 7 [in Hebrew].
13 For the religious right, yet another politically significant distinction resulting from the 1967 war and the occupation was that between the citizens of Israel on the one hand and the people of Israel on the other.
14 In fact, it was the collapse of the so-called peace process after the failed Camp David negotiations in 2000 that signaled the separation of the two tracks. While the economic liberalization continued and even accelerated, political liberalism is on retreat and on the defensive.
15 See HCJ 6698/95, Ka’adan v. Israel Land Administration (1995), 44 (1) PD 264. In actual fact, the decision was not able to change the discriminatory practice, and even the petitioner himself never managed to build his house in the settlement.
16 The Progressive Movement is a political movement that arose at the beginning of the 1980s and put forward the principle of the citizen state and spoke of a Palestinian identity. Muhammad Mi’ary and Many Bilo were among its leaders.
17 This amendment shows that the ideological map was expanding, but it also embodies the extremes of the spectrum on the state, with Kach’s all-Jewish extreme on one end and the Progressive Movement’s total democracy on the other.
18 The National Democratic Assembly is an Arab political party established in 1996 that contested the elections that year. Since then, it has had representatives in the Knesset. Its most prominent demand is turning Israel into a state for all its citizens and cultural self-determination for the Palestinians in Israel.
19 The growing influence of the post-1967 religious forces is shown in a change of terminology used in legal texts, from “state of the Jewish people” (as formulated in the 1985 amendment to the Basic Law: Knesset) to the “Jewish state” formulation in the 1992 and 1994 Basic Laws. The change was motivated in part to appease the religious groups by hinting at a shift from the national dimension of the state (state of the Jewish people, expressing their right to self-determination) to a definition that might bear religious interpretation.

London is turning into Israel’s laboratory in preparation for 2012 summer Olympics

Jun 14, 2011

David Cronin

The current issue of muckraking journal Private Eye reports that Heathrow Airport will have shiny new equipment for screening passengers installed with the help of several Israeli firms as part of preparations for next year’s Olympic Games. The sporting event affords an opportunity to run a “live test” on the Total Airport Security System (TASS), a 14.5 million euro ($21 million) project mainly financed by the European Union. 
As it happens, details of the project were announced almost exactly a year ago. In a June 2010 statement, the consortium behind TASS bragged that it had won formal EU authorisation for the scheme, which uses “real-time sensors” and various other tools to monitor aircraft, people, cargo, and restaurant areas in an airport separately and then blend all the resulting data in a “multisource labyrinth”.
The project is being coordinated by Verint, an Israeli supplier of surveillance equipment (or “actionable intelligence solutions”,according to its own bumph). Another participant in the consortium is Elbit, which made many of the pilotless drones that Israel used to devastate Gaza during 2008 and 2009. Elbit also helped install an electronic spying system into the annexation wall that Israel is building in the West Bank (illegally, according to a 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice).

This is by no means the first indication that Israel’s shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to security has caught on in London. Metropolitan cops who killed an innocent Brazilian man Jean-Charles de Menezes in 2005 had received specialist training in Israel. One year earlier, the aforementioned Verint won a contract to provide a video system to keep a watchful eye on users of the London Underground. Verint has also been tasked with putting a newclosed circuit TV network into Earl’s Court – a world-famous venue for exhibitions and events – ahead of the Olympics.
The Palestinian organisation Stop the Wall, meanwhile, has complained this week about how EU officials appear determined to keep on subsidising Israel’s war industry.
The Union’s executive arm, the European Commission, has recently invited comments on the future of its science policy, as part of a “public consultation exercise” about what priorities it should follow after 2014, when its current multi-annual programme for research expires. Israel is the most active non-European participant in that programme. And while the Commission received numerous pleas to declare Israeli firms such as Verint and Elbit ineligible for further grants, it has omitted any reference to them in the 24-page summary that it compiled of public responses.
Jamal Juma’a, coordinator with Stop the Wall, described the omission as “deeply disappointing”. He said: “By providing research funding to companies involved in constructing and maintaining Israel’s apartheid wall, the EU is undermining its own stated commitment to international law and a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.”
Informed citizens in the US have long been aware that Israel’s military machine is oiled with dollars. It is clear now that the same machine is oiled with euros, too, and that the Brussels bureaucracy is refusing to even acknowledge that this state of affairs is legally and ethically problematic, to say the very least.
David Cronin’s book Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation is published by Pluto Press.

Bahrainis should sue the U.S… “US defense sales to Bahrain rose before crackdown”

Jun 14, 2011


US defense sales to Bahrain rose before crackdown (AP)
AP – A government report says the U.S. approved $200 million in military sales from American companies to Bahrain in 2010, months before the pivotal Persian Gulf ally began a harsh crackdown on protesters. 
Detained poet ‘beaten across the face with electric cable’
Bahraini security forces beat the detained poet Ayat al-Gormezi across the face with electric cable and forced her to clean with her bare hands lavatories just used by police, members of her family said yesterday in a graphic account of the torture and humiliation suffered by those rounded up in the Gulf nation’s crackdown on dissent.

And more news from the Arab uprisings:

Bahraini activist jailed for reading poem
A military court in Bahrain has sentenced a woman activist to a year in prison after she read out a poem criticizing the government.
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Bahrain woman gets year in jail for critical poems (AP)
AP – A 20-year-old woman who recited poems critical of Bahrain’s rulers — and later claimed she was beaten in jail — was sentenced Sunday to a year in prison as part of the kingdom’s crackdown on Shiite protesters calling for greater rights.* 
Bahrain medics on trial over protests
Trial of 48 medical workers accused of attempting to topple the monarchy opens amid condemnation by rights groups.
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Over 30 people face military hearings in Bahrain
Bahrain now where more than 30 people faced hearings in military courts on Sunday. The government has charged them with carrying out “illegal activities” during weeks of pro-democracy protests. Aljazeera’s Charles Stratford has the story.
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Bahrain puts two Shiite ex-MPs on trial (AFP)
AFP – A Bahraini special court began on Sunday the trial of two former Shiite MPs accused of calling for regime change and spreading rumours linked to pro-democracy protests crushed in mid-March.*
More torture reports loom in Bahrain
More people have complained of human rights violations in Bahrain where the Saudi-backed government forces reportedly engage in torturing and humiliating opposition detainees. Female Bahraini poet Ayat Ghermezi, who remains in custody of the regime’s security forces, has been beaten across the face with an electric cable.
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Thousands rally for reform in Bahrain (Reuters)
Reuters – Thousands of Bahrainis shouting “we are victorious” gathered for a rally for political reform on Saturday, in the first large demonstration since the Gulf Arab state crushed a democracy protest movement in March.*
Formula One boss in last-ditch Bahrain bid: FIA (AFP)
AFP – Bernie Ecclestone made a last-ditch bid to save the Bahrain Grand Prix shortly before the event organisers conceded it was impossible, Formula One’s ruling body, according to the FIA.*
A question about Bahrain
A regular and reliable source on Bahrain sent me this:  “So after the crown prince went on a PR tour and was praised by Obama and Cameron, it turns out he won’t even lead the national dialogue that is set to begin in July. Instead, the sectarian idiot MP Khalifa Al Dhahrani will be leading the dialogue. This is like having dialogue between Israel and the PA with Netenyahu being the moderator. What a joke. Al Dhahrani has been responsible for the sham investigations against many prominent figures that are seen to be sympathetic to the opposition.  The government couldn’t have sent a clearer message that it wasn’t serious about dialogue (for those who still had hope. I definitely didn’t). My question to you though is, what the hell was the point of the meeting with the crown prince though? From the press releases, it seems that the US assumed that the Crown Prince would be heading the dialogue. So either the US didn’t know that he will not be heading the dialogue which means that its puppet is out of control, or the US knew and thus is in complete support of the regime.” My answer: the US does not give a damn about what happens in Bahrain and how many are killed and whether dialogue is replaced with beheadings or not.
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Egypt arrests Mossad agent on espionage charges
Egypt has detained an Israeli man suspected of spying and trying to recruit youths to act in anti-state activities during protests that took place in Tahrir Square after the removal of Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt’s military clamp down on bloggers
Egypt’s Ministry of Justice has suspended the investigation of two judges for speaking out against the country’s military in an apparent victory for free speech activists. But in recent weeks, journalists and bloggers have been increasingly questioned by the military for their criticism of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Cairo.
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Post-Tahrir Cairo, Day 1
Bill the spouse and I had an informative, short conversation today with the longtime MB spokesman Dr. Esam El-Erian, who is also the deputy head of the newly emerging, MB-backed Freedom and Justice Party. (You can find descriptions of interviews I conducted with Dr. El-Erian in early 2007 and early 2009, and a lot of other useful background on the Muslim Brotherhood and other aspects of Egyptian politics, here.)
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The Imagination as Transitive Act: an Interview with Sonallah Ibrahim
Last month, the Egyptian novelist Sonallah Ibrahim sat down with Jadaliyya to talk about revolution, literature and the imagination. As always, the author was generous — presenting a broad view of literature politics, and life. (Recorded in Cairo, May 14, 2011; the Arabic text can be found here.)
Saudi Arabia and Tantawi
The pressures on Egypt from Saudi Arabia has only been increasing.  There was the cash payment of $4 billion but there were also pressures.  Saudi Arabia suddenly announced 10 days ago that all labor contracts in Saudi Arabia that are older than more than 5 or so years, won’t be renewed.   That was a threat to expel more than a million Egyptian workers in the kingdom of horrors.  The announcement is typical from the polygamous Gulf countries: they always threaten (or blackmail) countries regarding the presence of their nationals in those countries. This has been a typical Saudi tactic, in Lebanon.   What is funny in Lebanon is that supporters of March 14 (who shout about democracy) blatantly call on Lebanese to never criticize Gulf countries for fear of expulsion of the Lebanese in the Gulf.  So is it surprising that those governments that still behead citizens in public squares resort to blackmail?  Shortly after Saudi cash payments and threats, Tantawi ordered the “discovery” of an Iranian espionage network featuring one person.
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Egypt: a constitution first, Issandr El Amrani
We must get back to the true path of democratic transition and reform the constitution before, not after, we have elections. A group of Egyptian NGOs, echoing calls from various political parties and youth groups, have issued a statement backing the Tunisian model of transition, namely that a new constitution should be drafted before parliamentary and presidential elections take place. This is a position that is gaining traction among a lot of people, reflecting in part a lack of trust in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and in part the fear of an Islamist-dominated parliament in the next elections.
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Iraq asks U.S. congressman to leave after he says they should ‘repay’ for war
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi authorities have asked for a US congressman to leave the country after he called for Baghdad to repay part of the money spent by Washington since the 2003 invasion, a spokesman said on Saturday. Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher’s remarks at a news conference in Baghdad stood in stark contrast to those by senior American officials, who have pressed Iraqi officials to decide soon whether they want US troops to stay beyond a year-end withdrawal deadline.
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Iraq government says Congress delegation “not welcome” (Reuters)
Reuters – Iraq said on Friday a visiting Congress delegation was “not welcome” in the country, citing reports its leader called on Baghdad to pay compensation to Washington for years of war since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.*
King of Jordan: pelted with stone
So all Arab media and Arab internet websites reported that the convoy of King PlayStation was pelted with stones by angry protesters.  Yet, Western media are so enamored with the family that has been on the payroll of Zionists and others since its colonial founding, that the BBC website carried silly denials along those lines: “”What happened is that a group of young Jordanians thronged the monarch’s motorcade to shake hands with him,” he said.  He explained that when police “pushed them away, there was a lot of shoving“.”  I mean, would the Western media carry such obvious and blatant lies if they were about the Syrian or Iranian potentate?  Now will his wife, Queen Youtube tweet on that? She should write this: oh, today, while were driving, the people threw stones at us and made obscene gestures at us.  Oh, our people really love us.  Will tell you more about next Davos, if I am allowed to leave the country again.
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Jordan’s king promises democratic change
Abdullah meets popular demand for elected cabinets but offers no timetable, saying sudden change could lead to “chaos”.
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Protecting Jordanian dictatorship
Do you notice that Western media, especially US media, protect their beloved Jordanian potentate but ignoring news of protests in Jordan? Did New York Times say a word about protests in Jordan this last Friday?
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Kuwait arrests man over Twitter posts: source (Reuters)
Reuters – Kuwait has arrested a Kuwaiti Shi’ite Muslim man for publishing criticism of the ruling families in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on social media site Twitter, a security source said on Saturday.* 
Libya rebels ‘armed via Tunisia’
Libyan rebels are being helped to smuggle weapons into the country through Tunisia, the BBC has learned.

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Libyan rebels push forward
Libyan pro-democracy fighters push towards the city of Zlitan – one of only three towns separating the rebel-held Misurata from the capital, Tripoli. Meanwhile, Libyan state TV reports that leader Muammar Gaddafi has once again said he has no intention of leaving the country. Al Jazeera’s Tarek Bazley reports.
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Fierce fighting continues in Western Libya
Muammar Gaddafi’s forces are shelling rebels in western Libya. Al Jazeera’s James Bays and his team came under fire while reporting near the town of Rieina.
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Libyan rebel fighters suffer losses
Germany’s endorsement of opposition council tempered by news of at least 21 deaths near the eastern city of Brega.
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Gaddafi’s tribe urges him to step down
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Libyan, Arab, and Western sources have stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that secret attempts are under way to persuade Colonel Mummer Gaddafi to step down in return for a safe passage.
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Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia Urged To Halt Beheadings After Spike In Executions: Amnesty International
CAIRO — Amnesty International is condemning what it says is a sharp rise in beheadings in Saudi Arabia and is urging authorities in the kingdom to halt executions. Amnesty said in a Friday statement that the kingdom has executed at least 27 people this year. That’s equal to the total number put to death in all of 2010. The rights group says more than 100 others are on death row. Many of them are foreigners.
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Saudi Arabia’s Freedom Riders
If Muslim women could ride on camels 14 centuries ago, why shouldn’t they drive cars today?
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In Saudi Arabia, Pushing the Comedy Envelope
Young Saudis are producing comedy shows on YouTube and performing live, offering material that edges closer to being, well, edgy.
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Syrian TV shows mass graves
Syrian state television has shown new pictures of what it claims is a mass grave grave containing the bodies of 120 government security personnel killed by armed gangs. Al Jazeera’s Caroline Malone reports, with a warning that viewers may find some of the images in this report disturbing.
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EU presses Syria to allow aid agencies in
EU foreign policy chief voices concern about the humanitarian crisis the crackdown on protesters has created.
Syria warns against UN criticism of crackdown
Foreign minister justifies measures to quell protests, saying resolution against crackdown will embolden “terrorists”
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Syria army ‘takes control’ of Jisr al-Shughur
Heavy clashes reported in northern flashpoint town where activists say troops have fought army defectors.
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Al Jazeera talks to a resident in Jisr al-Shughur
Jamil Sayib, a resident of Jisr al-Shughur in Syria, talks to Al Jazeera about the situation there.
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Syrian Troops Pursue “Scorched Earth” Policy; Videos Document Children Tortured to Death
The Syrian army has taken control of the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour following what state media has described as heavy fighting by “armed groups,” who residents say are mutinous soldiers defending the town. Our guest Neil Sammonds, Syria researcher for Amnesty International, is interviewing refugees who have fled the violence by crossing into Turkey. They tell him Syrian military forces have destroyed houses, burned crops, slaughtered livestock and contaminated water supplies. We speak with Razan Zaitouneh, a lawyer and human rights activist based in Damascus. She has documented that children are among those killed by snipers, or kidnapped by security forces, tortured and killed. [includes rush transcript]
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Saudi newspaper publishes a computer generated image of ‘Syrian activist’ fighting tyranny’
Syrian opposition websites (with integrity) have been exposing the torrent of lies and fabrications … Most recently, western media has been flooded with news of ‘Syrian soldiers and gendarmes’ being shot for mutiny … Most names provided (of the killed) are those of living and active members of the Syrian armed forces and security services.
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Inside Story – Is Syria exposing Security Council divisions?
The world spotlight is once again on the United Nations at a time of crisis in the Middle East – this time in relation to Syria. And once again, the Security Council – and the divisions within it – are being exposed. It is the classic split – trans-Atlantic powers on one side, China and Russia on the other. There are 10 other Security Council members, but none of them have veto power. And it seems that is what China and Russia will use against a proposed resolution on Syria by Britain and France. But, even if the weak resolution – which makes no mention of action or sanctions – is passed, what will it achieve? Inside Story discusses.
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Maher Arar: My Rendition & Torture in Syrian Prison Highlights U.S. Reliance on Syria As An Ally
As Syria continues its brutal crackdown on demonstrators, we speak to a Canadian citizen who was repeatedly tortured by Syrian authorities after he was rendered to Syria by the United States in 2002. Maher Arar was seized at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in September 2002 and sent to Syria, where he was tortured and interrogated in a tiny underground cell for nearly a year. He now works as a human rights advocate in Canada. “The cooperation with the Syrian government, as well as other dictatorships post-9/11, gave some legitimacy to those dictatorships,” says Arar. He calls on the United States and the United Nations to declare the Syrian regime illegitimate, and refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.
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Syrian opposition website exposes the lies and fabrications of the Saudi media
A Syrian opposition websites exposes the lies and fabrications of Saudi media (Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat–mouthpiece of Prince Salman and his sons–in particular) regarding Syria.
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The Syrian Army
Unsurprisingly, my confidential Syrian source tells me that it is a joke: that it is “ill-equipped and unemployed for a long time.  And corruption penetrate security [services] and all apparatuses of the state.  There are no strong men in the Army, only Mafias revolving around in the atmosphere of corruption.  And Mahir Al-Asad is the facade.  Mahir is an idiot and empty and does not know how to talk with others.  [He mentioned the incident when Mahir shot at Asaf Shawkat, his brother-in-law].  [He also tells me about Muhammad Qasim, who is deputy commander of the Presidential Guard, but is the actual commander.  He is a corrupt man who has no direct link to Bashshar.]  The state and its apparatuses are completely out of order.  No strong men except the men of corruption.  What postpones everything is that Shaykh Muhammad Sa`id Al-Buti runs Damascus, and Mufti of the republic, Ahmad Hassun controls Aleppo.  All is postponed until Libya falls.  And God is all-knowing.”
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Israeli propaganda in Saudi media (and in the media of Syrian Muslim Brothers)
Saudi media clearly are taking the script from Israeli propaganda.  Media of Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and of the Saudi state are now repeating a story that members of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and of Hizbullah are participating in shooting at protesters in Syria.  Now why? Why would the Syrian Army need help from Hizbullah?  I mean, is there a shortage of people in the Syrian security services who are willing to shoot at people? What would a handful of Iranians or Hizbullah fighters (trained to fight Israel) bring into the repression festival in Syria? This is very much a typical Mossad lie.  Did you forget that the liars of the Mossad claimed in 2006 that they found the bodies of 3 Iranian revolutionary guards but then they failed to produce the bodies?  We are used to Israeli lies.  The Syrian Muslim Brothers is a tool of not only Saudi Arabia, but of Israel too.  Make no mistake about it.
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Lies about opponents of the US and Israel
Let us say this: when the US goes against a regime, it adheres to no standards of ethics, morality, accuracy, or truth.  We know how much lies were spread about Iraq by successive US administrations.  We remember the propaganda story about babies taken from incubators in Kuwait–only to learn that a PR firm on K street in DC invented the story.  I am sure that there are many lies being said about Libya’s army (as much as I despise the regime and want its downfall).  Don’t be intimidated: tell them when they lie, even if it does not fit into the US/Israeli propaganda stories.  I have been looking at a particular video aired around the world showing Syrian soldiers stomping on bodies of Syrian civilians.   Saudi media are having a field day with them.  Let me say this: the Syrian army of Al-Asad family is capable of the most heinous crimes and atrocities.  They have committed crimes against Syrians and Lebanese and Palestinian civilians over the year. But this video seems more like an acted scene designed by either a US or a Lebanese PR firm.  I mean, in the age of war crimes prosecutions (only against enemies of US and Israel of course), it is most unbelievable that Syrian soldiers would pose for a camera phone while they are stomping on the bodies.   They all but announced their names and gave their addresses.  Lying is a staple of the Syrian regime: but it is also a staple of the opponents of the Syrian regime (I am talking about the Muslim Brothers and their regional and international sponsors).
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Who is behind the violence in Syria?

Now this is the key question.  I have been asking and talking and thinking and here are my conclusions: 1) The regime is the major and primary culprit of violence in Syria. There is no question about it.  The notion that there are “criminal gangs” roaming the country and killing protesters and soldiers alike is a clear fabrication.  It does not even make sense. Why would they do that? Who are they, and how did the regime allow them go grow and spread?  There are civilians who are shooting and killing but they belong to the people.  But the regime bears double responsibility for all the killing in Syria: this oppressive regime drew its legitimacy from its bragging about its ability to provide security to the people of Syria, and thus they are responsible for killing by opponents of the regime (if they are directed at the people as regime propaganda claims) too.  2) Why do you assume that the Muslim Brotherhood is a peaceful organization?  The rebellion of the Brothers back in the late 70s and early 80s was not peaceful and I dont expect them to have stumbled on the theories of the funny guy, Gene Sharp (who the New York Times believes inspired the Arab uprisings), and decided to suddenly shun violence.  The Jordanian regime admitted in the early 80s that they have armed the Brothers and they also got weapons from Israel (through the Phalanges).   Back then, the Brothers not only targeted regime armed men, but they went indiscriminate on innocent `Alawites.  Their sectarian violent campaign only solidified `Alawite ranks and turned even those `Alawites who were opposed to the regime in its favor.  3)  There are from what I am hearing Wahhabi and Salafite groups with money and weapons who have been active in Syria.  I won’t be surprised if the Harirites are involved too.  I find it very likely, in the service of Hariri agenda.  A reliable informant of this blog in Syria tells me (I am translating from Arabic):  “Yes, there are professional, trained, and organized gangs which are controlled by clerics who all have lived in Saudi Arabia, like `Adnan Al-`Ar`ur, and they kill and use violence against other sects…In Latakia, there are professional elements which used to live a normal life like sleeper cells and they perpetrated acts of sabotage and sectarian sedition and I saw that myself as i was there then…In Tell Kalakh, there are splinter groups from Fath-Islam which are moved by Hariri money, and not Hariri men as spread by Syrian media.  In Banyas, it is said that there are officers from Saudi Arabia and UAE and a Mossad element who are now in custody of the security service.  There were booby traps there because it has a generator and an oil refinery and a pipe line from Iraq.  In Homs, there are extremist pockets from prior to Ba`th and it has been reactivated and is still strong with Saudi money.  Now Idlib is all in flame and Turkey is supplying all with weapons and with fighters.  Army is facing difficulty advancing because all passages and bridges have been booby trapped.”  This last passage is from my informant and I have no way of verifying the information.  And as they used to end books of Islamic theology, I say: And Karl Marx is the all-knowing.
PS Nir Rosen added this:  “there is also the iraq and zarqawi factor syria was a key staging area for zarqawi types, they had safe houses in damascus and allepo, they had a network of facilitators, as the americans like to say and i’d love to know whats happening in the border area with iraq’s anbar where families have close ties on both sides and where zarqawi people had safe houses. the town of abu kamal for example, which borders the iraqi town of husseiba in al qaim. the americans raided abu kamal a couple of years ago and killed some key al qaeda guy. abu kamal had an uprising against the regime a couple of weeks ago. i think the zarqawi factor is an important one. these people always spoke about how the final battle will be in Sham”.
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Yemeni forces in deadly clash with fighters
Trouble in southern Zinjibar province, while president is said to be “recovering” in Saudi Arabia.
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Protesters may not get a say in Yemen’s future
Despite their tenacity and desire to fashion a new order, protesters face a threat that it is the contest between President Saleh’s family and a rival clan that will decide what change, if any, comes. For months, the protesters have made their home in Change Square, a colorful patchwork of improvised tents, generators with snaking wires, bags of mildly narcotic khat leaves slung over handles of ceremonial daggers and stalls selling the ubiquitous snack of egg-and-potato sandwiches.,0,2908874.story 
Gays, Islamists, and The Arab Spring: What Would A Revolutionary Do?
This past May, the blogger behind the “Gay Girl in Damascus” site responded to an alarmist front-page article by CNN International on the future of LGBT rights in the wake of the Arab Spring. The crux of the blogger’s response centered on the ways in which gay rights rhetoric is being used to undermine the revolutions sweeping the region and with them, the first tangible possibilities of democracy in states that have suffered under decades of brutal authoritarian rule. In the past few days, news has spread like wildfire that Amina Arraf, the blogger mentioned at the beginning of this article, is in fact a fabrication. Arraf, a self-described out Syrian-American Muslim lesbian living in Damascus, rose to meteoric stardom in the West after she posted an incredulous story entitled “May Father the Hero”, in which she claimed that an eloquent and firm speech delivered by her father shamed the Syrian secret police into not arresting her. The post got little circulation in the Arab world, with many immediately suspecting that the story was contrived. Meanwhile, Amina was hailed by none other than the Huffington Post as a “heroine of the Syrian revolution”.
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Three Powerfully Wrong–and Wrongly Powerful–American Narratives about the Arab Spring
The “Arab Spring” that actually began in the dead of winter has spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria…and the year only half over. As the media, policymakers, and global audiences struggle to make sense of changes that have inspired hundreds of millions to “just say no” to decades of dictatorship, a number of narratives have taken hold in the US—evident in remarks on cable news talk shows, at academic and policy symposia, and on Twitter—about precisely what is happening and what these massive crowds want. While elements of these narratives have some foundation in truth, they also present such a simplified view as to obscure crucial dimensions of the power struggles across the region. Below we unpack three of the most common narratives whose “truth” has become almost conventional wisdom, tossed out at cocktail parties and across coffee shops and metros. We aim to highlight what kinds of politics are made possible (and what kinds of challenges to power are foreclosed) as these narratives become part of the “common sense” that shapes our understanding of these extraordinary events.
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