Israel may not have a government, but the election settled one thing: both the governing coalition and the opposition will be led by and mostly composed of parties who range from indifference to ending the occupation to outright hostility to the very suggestion. I explore this in Souciant this week.
In this week’s piece at Souciant, I look at Akiva Eldar’s revelation that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refused an invitation to address the Arab League in 2007 in order to promote a regional peace process with the goal of fully normal relations between Israel and all Arab League members. It serves as a reminder that, while the Netanyahu government is so radically right wing and makes an easy target, Israeli obstruction of any steps that might lead to an end to occupation runs much deeper than the current government.
Later today, perhaps by the time you read this, or perhaps tomorrow, the plenary session of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly will vote on the recommendation of its Committee 15 to divest from three corporationsthat are profiting from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, and its concomitant violations of Palestinian human rights.
Jewish Voice for Peace has been a key player supporting the divestment resolutions. But they face opposition not only from the major Jewish and pro-occupation groups, but also from the Zionist peace groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.
J Street has been consistent in opposing any kind of pressure on Israel. Their program seems to be to find ways to ask Israel, with more and more “pretty pleases” all the time, to end their occupation.
But APN has supported limited boycotts of settlement programs, products and institutions in the past. Still, one can argue that divestment in general has always been opposed by APN, so the case can be made that their call for PC(USA) to defeat the divestment resolution is also consistent with their positions.
I’m sure they think so.
APN is a wonderful institution. No one does better work in documenting the activities of AIPAC and other pro-occupation lobbying groups on Capitol Hill. They are an indispensible source of information on settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. They have done a huge amount of good on this issue, as much as any group, and more than most. I am proud to have worked with them and proud to call several of their staff members and others affiliated with the group both colleagues and friends.
But this time, they are dead wrong.
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.
Americans for Peace Now sent a letter to President Obama today, urgently pointing out what should be obvious to him: “Engage NOW to get Jerusalem under control.” The full text of the letter can be found here.
The letter lays out the problem clearly enough. And, indeed, the solution is for President Obama to get Prime Minister
Netanyahu to rein in the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. I’ll take it further—Barkat is as big a threat to Israel’s future as any individual in the world.
Barkat, a businessman, became mayor in 2008, and many thought that as a secular Israeli, coming on the heels of a very religious mayor, he would be more pragmatic. Such has not been the case.
Barkat has gone out of his way to enflame the conflict with the Palestinians. Jerusalem is the most emotional of all the issues setting Israelis and Palestinians at odds, and the mayor of Jerusalem, therefore, has more direct power than anyone to cause flare-ups.
Barkat does not pay much mind to this fact. In his campaign for mayor he made it very clear that he felt strongly that Jerusalem remain the “undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish people.” And, much more than his Haredi predecessor, he has taken bold steps to ensure that outcome. Continue reading
Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now blogs about how the ongoing protests at Sheikh Jarrah are a “microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
She’s right of course. And she’s right in observing that this relatively small piece of the conflict demonstrates how the occupation is eroding Israeli democracy.
I’d like to go a little deeper into that point, from a slightly different angle.
The protests in Sheikh Jarrah were sparked by a group of Jewish settlers buying some property which, it was claimed, once belonged to Jews before 1948. When two Palestinian families, encompassing 53 people were evicted from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, the US and much of the world protested along with the Palestinians. The area has seen increasing protest since.
One of the subtexts of all of this is the counter-claim by settlers and Israeli officials: to quote Yakir Segev of the Jerusalem municipal council, “These are not actions made by Israel or the Israeli government. This is a matter of the court. It is a civil dispute between Palestinian families and those of Israeli settlers, regarding who is the rightful owner of this property … Israeli law is the only law we are obliged to obey.” Continue reading
My latest piece in Zeek Magazine explores the implications of the threatened unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians and the Israeli decision to expand the settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem. I explain how it amounts to one of the final challenges and opportunities for the Obama Administration to save the two-state solution.