Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category


An edited version of this article appeared at LobeLogGaza_house_destroyed

The moral high ground is always a tenuous piece of property. It is difficult to obtain and is easily lost. It is seen, however, as crucial because most people, all over the world, cannot accommodate the notion that life is composed of shades of grey; they desperately need to see black and white, good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, in every situation. Nowhere is this truer than in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

It has become even more important for Israel to fight this rhetorical battle because, while it can always count on mindless support from Washington and from the most radically nationalistic and zealous Zionists around the world, the current escalation and ugliness is going to be very difficult to defend to even mainstream pro-Israel liberals, let alone the rest of the world. The hasbara (propaganda) has been flowing at a rapid pace, even more so than usual, as Israel struggles to maintain the treasured hold on the “moral high ground” that its own actions have increasingly undermined. (more…)

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It is a nightmare day for the Khdeir family, in East Jerusalem and in Tampa, Florida. It’s worth taking a close look at the conditions

Tariq Khdeir before and after his encounter with Israeli police

Tariq Khdeir before and after his encounter with Israeli police

they are facing in light of crimes committed against some of their youngest members that most of us will, thankfully, never have to come close to experiencing.

On Friday, it was revealed that Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the 16-year old boy from the Shu’afat refugee camp in East Jerusalem died not from the blows to the head he received, but was burned alive. The revelation comes from a Palestinian Authority autopsy, and Israel, which initially had control of the body, has not issued a denial, so that seems as conclusive as anything gets in this arena.

On the same day, amid protests in East Jerusalem which saw a number of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, several masked Israeli police officers were caught on videotape viciously beating 15-year old Tariq Khdeir during a protest in East Jerusalem. The video clearly shows a number of savage blows being delivered to Tariq while he was helpless on the ground. And then it shows him being dragged away to jail where his family could not contact him and he did not receive medical treatment for hours. (more…)

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An edited version of this piece appeared at LobeLog. If you missed Part I, check it out here.

In part one of this piece, I began sketching the picture that emerges from the words of U.S. diplomats to an Israeli reporter. There’s

As Abbas and Obama grimly cast their eyes down, Bibi savors a triumph over hope and peace.

As Abbas and Obama grimly cast their eyes down, Bibi savors a triumph over hope and peace.

more here, and the image that emerges is one where the United States is ultimately the responsible party for the failure of not only this round of peace talks, but one after another of them. I’ll start here by completing the analysis of what was reported in YNet.

On the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” the group of anonymous U.S. diplomats told Israeli reporter Nahum Barnea: “We couldn’t understand why it bothered him (Abbas) so much. For us, the Americans, the Jewish identity of Israel is obvious. …The more Israel hardened its demands, the more the Palestinian refusal deepened. Israel made this into a huge deal – a position that wouldn’t change under any circumstances. The Palestinians came to the conclusion that Israel was pulling a nasty trick on them. They suspected there was an effort to get from them approval of the Zionist narrative.”

Seeing this in print really did shock me. There were three objections to this idea from the Palestinians. They were there all along, yet the U.S. speakers seem aware of only one of them. That one is the validation of the Zionist narrative over the Palestinian. The other two were that such recognition (a thing unheard of in international relations, one hastens to add, and something which Israel demands only from the Palestinians and no one else) would necessarily give a Palestinian stamp of approval to discrimination against non-Jews in Israel, most of whom are Palestinian; and that it would, by definition, preclude the question of the return of Palestinian refugees, a matter Abbas may be resigned to, but which he wants to deal with in negotiations in the hope that some redress for the refugees can be settled upon. (more…)

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An edited version of this piece appeared at LobeLog.

On May 2 Israel’s most widely read newspaper, Yediot Ahoronot, published an article that blows the lid off of the failure of United 4688994752_853e3d2f46_bStates Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Nahum Barnea, one of Israel’s best known reporters, got several U.S. officials who were involved with the talks to open up to him, anonymously, about what happened.

Barnea says that the version the U.S. officials present “… is fundamentally different to (sic) the one presented by Israeli officials.” The implication from Barnea, and the way most will read the U.S. revelations, is that it was basically Israel’s fault that the talks failed. But a more sober and critical reading of what these officials say paints a different picture than the ones that the Israeli government, Barnea, or most of the initial reactions do.

In fact, what comes out is that Israel was not the primary culprit here. As has long been the case, the main reason for the failure of talks was and is the United States.

Combining amazing ignorance not only of the Palestinians but also of Israel and its politics, with a hint of anti-Semitism and a contemptuous attitude toward the Palestinians, tossing in some willful blindness to the realities on the ground and in the offices of politicians, the United States initiated a process that put the final nail in the two-state solution as it has been understood for years. Some, myself included, might consider that a good thing, as it raises the opportunity for re-thinking all the options, including other ways to conceive of two states (which I favor), as well as one state ideas. But the way this has come about has strengthened hard-liners in Israel, made the United States Congress even more myopic in its blind support for Israel and made it less likely that there will ever be a negotiated, rather than a violent, resolution to this conflict. In any case, this latest episode has quite likely kicked any resolution even farther into the future than it already was. (more…)

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An edited version of this article appeared first at LobeLog.

They were dueling op-eds, one in the New York Times and the other in the Jewish communal magazine, Tablet. The question being

Nationalistic signs at Salute to Israel Day in New York, July 2006 Photo by Rabih/Public Domain

Nationalistic signs at Salute to Israel Day in New York, July 2006
Photo by Rabih/Public Domain

bandied between them was whether Israel is becoming a theocracy. Not surprisingly, both pieces missed the mark. It’s not theocracy but unbridled nationalism that is the threat in Israel.

The Times piece was authored by Abbas Milani, who heads the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University and Israel Waismel-Manor, a lecturer at Haifa University who is currently a visiting associate professor of Political Science at Stanford. Their thesis is that Iran and Israel are moving in opposite directions on a democratic-theocratic scale, and that they might at some point in the future pass each other. Milani and Waismel-Manor are certainly correct about the strengthening forces of secularism and democracy in Iran, along with a good dose of disillusionment and frustration with the revolutionary, Islamic government that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ushered in thirty-five years ago. But on Israel, they miss the mark by a pretty wide margin.

Waismel-Manor and MIlani posit that the thirty seats currently held in Israel’s Knesset by religious parties shows growing religious influence on Israeli policies. But, as Yair Rosenberg at Tablet correctly points out, not all the religious parties have the same attitude about separation of religion and the state. Where Rosenberg, unsurprisingly, goes way off course is his complete eliding of the fact that the threat is not Israel’s tilt toward religion, but it’s increasingly radical shift toward right-wing policies, which are often severely discriminatory and militant. (more…)

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