Why Is This Veto Not Like All Other Vetoes?

It has become something of a sad and pathetic ritual at the UN Security Council. Other countries, including European ones, try to craft a resolution to try to get Israel to change its destructive and self-destructive course and the US uses its veto power, or the threat of using it, to make sure the resolution is never passed.

The scene has been played out so many times that it is fair to ask why anyone is even making a big deal about it this time. The Palestinians conferred with other countries, some on the Security Council, and pieced together a resolution which should be uncontroversial. It condemns Israeli settlement activity as illegal and calls for a halt of such activity and renewed efforts toward ending the occupation and creating a viable Palestinian state.

US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice confers with Hillary Clinton

No country, including the United States though excepting Israel, disagrees with that stance in any measure. That, however, has been true of many resolutions the United States has vetoed in the past. And those vetoes have frequently employed the same, horribly weak excuse: “We do not feel the Security Council is the place to resolve these issues.”

That contention is absurd on its face, as MJ Rosenberg points out. The UNSC is precisely the place where violations of international law need to be dealt with, and it is also the body that bears the most responsibility for keeping the peace in the world. If this is not what the UNSC is for, then what purpose does it serve?

But this has all been true in the past. Yet there is something different in the air today as the US veto looms.

And loom it does. We hear that loud and clear in the testimony Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg gave to the House of Representatives on February 10: “We have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues…We have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that arise there. And we will continue to employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen.” Continue reading

We Diaspora Jews Paid For This! Negev Village Destroyed for 17th Time

When I was a kid, my family, friends, and school all passed various hats, boxes and pledge cards around to raise money for the Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, or Jewish National Fund. This was all about planting trees in Israel.

As I became a teenager, and on into my early 20s, and the situation in Israel became somewhat more fraught for me, I still saw giving to the JNF as one sure way to promote something good without the political entanglements of so many other causes.

This is what a "rebuilt" home in al-Aqaba looks like and the villagers are not even allowed this. (Photo by Joseph Dana, posted at Electronic Intifada)

Boy was I wrong.

In the town of al-Araqib, in the Negev desert, a JNF bulldozer is standing poised at the village cemetery, ready to plow it down in order to make way for…wait for it…a “peace forest.”

This is the 17th time the village has been razed by the Israel Land Authority, which controls all state land, some of it in partnership with the JNF. The Bedouin claim to this land has been in dispute since 1951 when, the villagers say, they were forced out. Israel claims the land was abandoned, a very familiar claim regarding Arab lands in the wake of a war from which many families, not wanting to get shot or blown up, did flee, expecting to return.

Al-Araqib is one of many so-called “unrecognized villages” in the Negev. By definition, all construction in these villages is illegal in Israel, because the state will not grant a building permit in a village which, technically, “does not exist.” Continue reading

Meretz USA: Buy Israel – Don’t Buy Settlements (They’re not the Same)

It is a very fine line to try to walk for a group that wants to take concrete action for peace and still identifies as a Zionist organization. Meretz USA does an admirable job of taking on that tension with their nuanced statement here. There are certainly critiques to be made, and I’m sure people will make them. But there is something more important here.

That something, which is all too often lost in the various political debates in Israel-Palestine, is a sincere attempt to reach across lines while maintaining one’s own identity.

Meretz USA Board Chair and actor, Theodore Bikel

Meretz USA is trying to do just that, in my view, with this statement. I particularly like the fact that the state they “denounce” attempts to bring down the state of Israel (kind of goes without saying if you’re pro-Israel, and I agree with them) while saying they merely “disagree” with using BDS as a tactic within the Green Line. I find that kind of nuance refreshing and it opens important doors for groups of various different views to be able to work together in areas they can without being bogged down about issues they disagree on.

I know many of my readers will find things to object to in Meretz USA’s statement, from a variety of different approaches to this vexing issue. I have my critiques as well, and I’ve shared them with Meretz USA. But let’s just for a moment, try and see where we have common ground rather than focusing on where we differ. Ultimately, I think a Zionist group trying to find a way to use economic pressure against the occupation is a very promising step forward that should be welcomed by all.

Continue reading

The New York Times Shows Its Poor Journalistic Standards

Even when the New York Times gets it right, they get it wrong.

Democracy in the bed under the about-to-be-extinguished light of journalism

On February 3, the Times printed an article about Jewish Voice for Peace, and high time it was. Some will think my past association with JVP is coloring my view here, but I do not say it was high time because of my admitted affection for the group, but rather because the simple fact is that they are a national, impactful and important organization. Other such groups are reported on, and JVP’s remarkable growth has earned it this moment in the spotlight, that’s all. But the Times seems to have had second thoughts.

The article was not an endorsement nor did it wave a banner for the group. It gave plenty of space to JVP’s detractors. It is impossible to see where the article fails to meet the highest standard of journalism. Yet on February 11, a full eight days after the piece appeared, the Times felt compelled to add the following editorial note:

An article last Friday described the group Jewish Voice for Peace, whose support for antigovernment protests in Egypt has led to tensions among some Jews in the Bay Area. After the article was published, editors learned that one of the two writers, Daniel Ming, had been active in pro-Palestinian rallies. Such involvement in a public cause related to The Times’s news coverage is at odds with the paper’s journalistic standards; if editors had known of Mr. Ming’s activities, he would not have been allowed to write the article.

I’d be curious to find out if the Times also so vets anyone who writes about abortion, or same-gender marriage, or guns, or, for that matter, the “free market.” Now a journalist’s political views, rather than the content or the quality of his work are the issue? Continue reading

Views of Egypt show new Jewish discourse in USA

In a piece published at the UK news site JNews, I look at Jewish-American responses to the revolution in Egypt and examine how it reflects a new discourse within the Jewish community.

Addendum to “The Terrorists Have Won”

A number of readers have pointed to the Gallup poll that shows a wide majority of Americans in support of the Egyptian protesters. I was, of course, aware of this poll before I read about the Reuters/Ipsos poll I was citing in my piece. In fact, the Reuters article to which I linked, while not specifically pointing to the earlier Gallup poll, does address this issue.

What the polls taken together show is that Americans are supporting Egyptians rising up against a military dictatorship, as one would expect, but afraid of what form democracy in Egypt will take and, crucially, wanting our government to take steps, including slowing down the march toward democracy, in order to arrive at the outcome we desire, even if it is not what Egyptians desire. This was precisely the point of my piece.

The two polls are not contradictory, but complimentary.

The Terrorists have Won: Americans Abandon Democracy Out of Fear

People on the liberal/left side of the spectrum often don’t even like to use the word “terrorists.” But they exist, and folks, they’ve won.

The term “terrorist” has been badly and cynically abused, with some absurd folks (including Veep Joe Biden as well as more typically irresponsible and ignorant “leaders” like Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin even applying the term to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. But terrorism has a pretty clear definition: “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

Terrorism might have a variety of goals, but it is usually striving to get populations to abandon their values and act recklessly out of fear; it is often desired that their concern for others be diminished by their panic. This is useful because the target of terrorism is almost always a party that is more powerful than whomever’s cause the terrorists are championing. The more powerful party then acts with less concern than outsiders expect and this generates sympathy for the less powerful. It doesn’t always work (the Palestinians, historically, have had decidedly mixed results with this approach, which is why many groups have abandoned the tactic), but sometimes it does.

In the case of my country, the USA, the terrorists have clearly accomplished their goal. Fear that democracy may produce results we don’t like overcomes that most basic of American convictions: that everyone deserves freedom.

We can see this in the Reuters/Ipsos poll released today. 58% of those polled supported a “slow approach” by Washington regarding Egyptian democracy so we can manage it and forestall any “Islamists” taking power. Only 32% said that the US should support Egyptian democracy regardless of the risks.

Typically, Americans do not realize just how badly our hypocritical approach to democracy has hurt our international standing. The George W. Bush administration talked more about “spreading democracy” than perhaps any other president. Yet, when the Palestinians, in what was universally applauded as a free and fair election despite the obstacles of occupation, elected a majority of Hamas delegates to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, we brought the hammer down. Continue reading