Making Bibi Sing

In my latest piece for Zeek Magazine, I explore the question of temporary borders for a Palestinian state, and the Obama Administration’s determination to make a peace process work.

Principled Opposition

This article was printed in Zeek Magazine.

I am not a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. For a number of years, I had direct contact with many of the international peace and solidarity groups that make it up. There’s a lot of diversity in those organizations, and amongst the people who participate in them. But for someone like me, who believes in a two-state solution, with one of those states being a democratic Jewish homeland, and who finds a great deal of fault for the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict in all parties, there is more to it than I can live with.

Berkeley students pack an auditorium to debate divestment resolution

However, as I pointed out in an earlier articlein Zeek, pro-peace supporters of Israel do ourselves a disservice when we give in to the radical rhetoric that considers it anti-Israel for anyone to use citizen-based economic action to protest or try to end the occupation.

We’ve seen a striking example of it this week at UC Berkeley. A proposed bill in the student union called for the university to divest its holdings in two American corporations that the students said were profiting from Israel’s occupation. The bill passed by a 16-4 vote.

And then things got interesting.

A wide array of pro-Israel groups (mostly those who obstruct any pressure on Israel to end its occupation, but including, unfortunately, a couple of pro-peace groups as well) came out in opposition and mobilized on campus. The ASUC president, whom I’m told was initially quite supportive of the bill, vetoed the measure.

To override the veto, the 20-member Senate needed 14 votes. In the end, the vote was 13 for overriding, 6 against and one abstention. The motion was then tabled and will be reconsidered next week. But the week leading up to the vote, and especially the night it happened, featured a vigorous and passionate debate on the issue on the UC campus.

What Kind of Divestment?

The attack on the UC senate’s decision offered little of substance. It said the bill was “based on misleading and contested allegations that unfairly targets the State of Israel while also marginalizing Jewish students on campus who support Israel.” But it never addressed the substance. Continue reading

B’Tselem strongly condemns execution of two Palestinians in Gaza Strip

Press release from B’Tselem:

B’Tselem strongly condemns execution of two Palestinians in Gaza Strip

B’Tselem strongly condemns the execution today of two Palestinians convicted of collaboration with Israel, by the Hamas government in Gaza. The death penalty is immoral and violates the basic right to life of every human being. B’Tselem holds that under no circumstance must it be imposed.

In addition to objection in principle to the death penalty, today’s execution was based on a trial that did not meet even minimal standards of due process. Gazans charged with collaboration are unable to mount a proper defense or to appeal the verdicts and punishments imposed upon them.

Today’s execution is the first official execution in Gaza since Hamas’ takeover. Reports by media and Palestinian human rights groups indicate that 14 people were sentenced to death in Gazan military courts in 2009 for collaboration with Israel, treason and murder. Additionally, according to Human Rights Watch, during Operation Cast Lead, 32 Palestinians were executed without trial by Palestinian armed groups apparently associated with Hamas, for allegedly providing Israel with information.

Israeli Democracy: Under Attack on Both Sides of the Green Line

It’s time to ask the question: what is happening to Israel?

While the so-called “mainstream” Jewish-American groups work overtime to deny the frightening direction Israel is taking and screaming to the heavens about the “de-legitimizers,” the Jewish state is losing its democratic identity in large steps.

Almost every day, we find more and new examples of this disease that is rotting Israeli democracy. The Anat Kam case, Im Tirzu’s fanaticism, and the aggressive attempts to squash protests in Sheikh Jarrah are examples inside of Israeli jurisdiction. The siege on Gaza, the IDF measures to prevent Israelis and internationals from participating in protests in West Bank towns against the Separation Barrier, and now new directives which will permit mass expulsions from the

Anat Kam, Israeli, IDF vet, Zionist, and patriot. But being a journalist got her into big trouble.

West Bank are examples in the Occupied Territories.

On April 9, in Sheikh Jarrah, the writer David Grossman put it better than I ever could:

“I think that we are all beginning to grasp — even those who maybe don’t really want to — how 43 years ago, by turning a blind eye, by actively or passively cooperating, we actually cultivated a kind of carnivorous plant that is slowly devouring us, consuming every good part within us, making the country we live in a place that is not good to live in. Not good not only if you are an Arab citizen of Israel, and certainly if you are a Palestinian resident of the Territories — not good also for every Jewish Israeli person who wants to live here, who cherishes some hope to be in a place where humans are respected as humans, where your rights are treated as a given, where humanity, morality, and civil rights are not dirty words, not something from the bleeding-heart Left. No. These are the bread and water, the butter and milk of our lives, the stuff from which we will make our lives, and really make them lives worth living here.” Continue reading

Forcing Peace

(A version of this piece appears in Zeek Magazine)

Now, here’s a sequence of events.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu states that Israel would not be bullied into peace. The implication, that peace is something the Netanyahu government is, at best, not enthused about, was lost on most of the media.

Where did this tough stance in the face of pressure come from? Well, it turns out that he was referring to an idea that was soon reported by David Ignatius in the Washington Post. According to Ignatius, President Barack Obama is seriously considering putting forth an American peace plan that would be accompanied by American pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians to accept it in principle.

One day later, Netanyahu decided not to attend a summit on nuclear weapons being organized by Obama in

Netanyahu is increasingly being forced to make it clear that he just doesn't want peace

Washington. The excuse he offered was that Arab states intended too bring up Israel’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its possession of nuclear weapons. Bibi defines this as “Israel-bashing,” a fairly absurd characterization since Israel is well-known as having nuclear weapons (and really makes no secret of it), and it’s more than fair that this be brought up.

More to the point, Bibi surely knew that Arab states would raise this issue in a private meeting long before he accepted the invitation to attend. No, his reason for cancelling is the ongoing tension with Washington over building in Jerusalem, the fact that he would not have had a personal meeting with Obama on the trip and the new idea of an American peace plan.

What can be gleaned from these events? The most obvious point is that the Obama Administration is forcing Netanyahu to make it more and more obvious that he does not want peace. The mantra that Bibi has repeated — “Israel desperately desires peace but has no partner”– has been exposed as paper-thin dissembling. The current Israeli government has no interest in evacuating any settlements, sharing Jerusalem in any way or withdrawing Israeli troops from any of the West Bank. They certainly have interest in finding a way to connect Gaza to the West Bank, much less see the establishment of a Palestinian state. Continue reading

The Crisis of Jewish Democracy

In my latest piece in Zeek, I look at the new clarity of so-called “pro-Israel” voices which are not actually pro-Israel but rather anti-peace. These voices are taken to represent Israelis and American Jews and in fact are not at all representative of either group, but stand for views that the majority of those groups reject.

Readers may also want to check out MJ Rosenberg’s latest piece, which appeared just after I posted mine. It’s got a similar theme.