Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category


This article originally appeared in an edited form at LobeLog

At what point is it legitimate and even necessary to dismiss the will of the people in the interest of peace and justice? This is a vexing fascismWarningSignquestion when it comes to Israel.

The latest edition of the Peace Index, produced by the Israel Democracy Institute, reflects some disturbing findings about the extent to which any effort to change Israel’s policies and actions in the Gaza Strip specifically, and in the Occupied Territories more broadly, is not merely a matter of changing the government’s actions. It necessitates rejecting the will of the Israeli people. Given the vast dichotomy between the respective weights carried by the wills of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, this is a real problem.

For much of the world, the Israel-Palestine conflict is not viewed as a struggle by an occupied and dispossessed people against their occupation. Rather, it is seen as a conflict between two peoples over a piece of land. The two formulations are important; one frames the conflict in terms of an imbalance of power, the other does not. Perhaps this is not so among the general global populace, but in the offices in Washington, Brussels and even the United Nations, it is. (more…)

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In this week’s column at Souciant you can see the second entry in my series on the causes and effects of the 1967 war and beginning of the occupation, as we near the 45th anniversary of those events. In this piece, I look as well at the recent race riots in south Tel Aviv and how the xenophobia of the rioters and, perhaps more importantly, the political leaders who inspire that hate, is connected to a culture of occupation.

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In this week’s entry at Souciant, I examine the implications of Israel’s heavy-handed, stupid and clumsy response to the intention of hundreds of activists to fly into Israel in order to join a Palestinian protest. The ironic thing is that Netanyahu trots out the standard “Israel is the region’s only democracy” argument to defend actions that both show how deeply flawed that democracy is and how seriously that democracy is threatened.

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In my latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I explore the reactions and potential impact of the massive Israeli economic protests, for Israel, the occupation and American Jews.

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Here in the United States, we have become only too familiar with the paranoid rantings of those who warn of “creeping sharia.” Sharia, of course, is the body of religious Muslim law. Neo-conservatives and their fellow travelers have had a good deal of impact scaring Americans about this non-existent threat.

Thankfully, numerous analysts and reporters, such as Matt Duss at Think Progress, have done outstanding work exposing this fear-mongering propaganda for what it is.

From Meretz USA's web site

Maybe, though, it’s time we American Jews, and our Israeli counterparts, woke up to the real threat in Israel of “creeping halakha.”

The Knesset is considering a bill now that would change Israel’s Basic Law defining Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state,” to promote Israel’s “Jewish character” as superior to its democratic nature.

In other words, as Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin, a leading figure in the anti-democracy movement in Israel, explains, the new law would frame “the state as the Jewish nation state in (court) ruling(s) in situations in which the Jewish character of the state clashes with its democratic character.”

Can we be any more blatantly anti-democratic than that? Actually, yes.

Because the bill contains another provision, one which would provide that “If the court sees a legal question requiring a ruling, and finds no solution in legislation, custom or clear analogy, it will rule in light of the principles of freedom, justice, integrity and peace in Jewish heritage.” In other words, as Ha’aretz puts it, the “…clause states that Jewish law will be a source of inspiration to the legislature and the courts.”

It may well be that this clause will not be part of the law that will be passed. It does have the whiff of a clause that was put in to stir up controversy so it can be removed and the rest of the legislation will be less targeted.

But even if that is the case, and one hopes that it is, the inclusion of this clause is a warning to us all of the increasing religious influence in the Knesset. This is a cause for grave concern for a number of reasons.

As Jews, we must all be concerned that the world’s only Jewish state would represent not a national state, but a religious one. We, better than any other people, know the dangers of religious states. Contrary to the dissembling on the right, most progressive Jews are very concerned about human rights abuses in theocratic countries, including, though not limited to, Muslim countries (we just don’t like it when those concerns are cynically used to shield Israel, or other countries, from legitimate criticism of their own human rights violations). (more…)

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Barack Obama’s much-anticipated speech has now come and gone, and those of us who had very low expectations for it were not disappointed.

There was nothing new, and much that was tired, familiar and demonstrably ineffective regarding Israel and the Palestinians, and a decidedly tepid response to the Arab Spring.

Obama presented a distressingly familiar, neo-liberal plan for economic assistance for Egypt and Tunisia, complete with a request for an International Monetary Fund plan, which generally includes strict austerity measures, for strengthening the local economies. Debt forgiveness and loan guarantees for Egypt, totaling $2 billion, as well as private sector stimulation initiatives were promised, but it seems likely that the agenda here is to re-establish American influence through economic controls.

Still, one shouldn’t entirely dismiss these measures—Tunisia and especially Egypt do indeed need economic help, and the measures announced will help, both in terms of debt reduction and in terms of stimulating the private sector.

But what was most important regarding the Arab Spring was what was not said.

While Obama criticized Bahrain and Yemen for their violent responses to protests, no action will be taken. And there was no mention at all of Saudi Arabia, an extremely repressive government that has squashed any hint of protest in its own country and helped Bahrain in their crackdown as well. (more…)

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I’ve pasted below the full text of what is, according to the Palestinian National Initiative (Mustafa Barghouti’s organization), the new Palestinian unity agreement. My thanks go to independent journalist Jared Malsin for alerting me to this translation, and to Ma’an News’reporter and English Editor George Hale for the list of signatory organizations.

Palestinians clearly want unity, but will this text bring it?

The translation is rough in some places, and there is a distinct lack of clarity in some areas, making me wonder if the former hasn’t led to some of the latter. But on the whole, this agreement doesn’t say much that hasn’t been reported already. I’ll just make a couple of points.

There is a good deal here about healing the rift that has developed between Gaza and the West Bank. It’s unclear how that can be accomplished while Israel lies between the two territories, and is not likely to be disposed to allowing passage between them. Elections could be a problem as well, although Israel did allow Hamas to campaign in 2005. Still, given that experience, it’s hard to count on such “largesse” again.

There are two passages that seem to be key, but are very vague in their wording.

Section 2 seems to indicate that Hamas is agreeing to allow the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to continue to be the representative of the Palestinian people in negotiations, primarily of course, with Israel. We should recall that, despite a blurring of the line between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, the two are different, albeit overlapping, bodies, and the PLO is still the only recognized representative of the Palestinian people (so recognized by Israel, the US and the international community, and at one time by the Palestinian people. Whether this remains true for Palestinians is problematic at best). This is what allows Hamas to straddle the line between dealing with Israel and its refusal to recognize the “Zionist entity.” It would seem this reaffirms Hamas’ stated position of years past that they would abide by an agreement negotiated by Abbas is it was approved by a popular referendum. (more…)

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