With Eyes On Egypt, Anti-Democratic Bills Progress in the Knesset

This article was originally published at the Meretz USA blog

Given the momentous events taking place now in Egypt, it’s important for those of us who care about Israel to remember that the assault on Israeli democracy from within is continuing to move forward.

Luckily, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is maintaining its vigilance. They sent a chilling update regarding three bills that are moving forward in the Knesset. I include their brief reports on each bill (in italics below) followed by own comments on each.

Continue reading

EU Ambassador in Jerusalem Post: Gerald Steinberg is a Liar

The following letter appeared in the Jerusalem Post of January 19. Please share with anyone gullible enough to believe that NGO Monitor has even the slightest shred of credibility.

Sir, – Gerald Steinberg, in “Europe needs a parliamentary inquiry on NGO funding” (Comment & Features, January 10), claimed that the European Union “blatantly violates the basic rules of funding transparency” and talked of “an impenetrable shroud of secrecy” obscuring its funding procedures.

In fact, as Prof. Steinberg is fully aware from the various conversations we have had with him, funding of projects by the European Union worldwide is carried out by open and public calls for proposals published on EU websites, including the website of the Delegation of the European Union to the State of Israel. This is the link to where they are published: http://ec.europa.eu/delegations/ israel/funding_opportunities/ grants/index_en.htm.

The guidelines for project applicants clearly state the aims and objectives of the programs and are open for all to see. After a proposal has been selected it is included in the list of accepted projects, and remains on line throughout the entire length of the project. Here you will find the precise size of the grant, the name of the implementing organization, the duration of the project and a description of the project.

Moreover, all recipients of EU funding are contractually obligated to make publicly known the source of this funding.

A list of projects currently being funded by the European Union in Israel can be found via the following link: http://ec.europa.eu/delegations/ israel/projects/list_of_p rojects/projects_en.htm.

This list does not include the hundreds of projects funded in the field of scientific research, which are published separately.

Respect for and promotion of human rights are fundamental values shared by Israel and the European Union. This is enshrined in the Israel-EU Association Agreement that forms the basis of our relations.

AMB. ANDREW STANDLEY
Tel Aviv
The writer heads the Delegation of the European Union to the State of Israel

Is Lieberman the New Israeli Mainstream?

(Note: This was cross-posted at Meretz USA’s blog.)

In an interview given to Newsweek, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the following, quite chilling statement: “I am the mainstream. When I started with my vision, I was really a small minority. Today we’re the third [largest] party in Israel.”

Lieberman is certainly no stranger to bluster, so it’s easy to dismiss this as more of Yvet’s (as he is called) hubris. But is that really the case? There’s a good deal of evidence to suggest that Lieberman is absolutely right.

Avigdor Lieberman

Each piece of that evidence is another massive blow to the teetering ship that is Israeli democracy. The latest was a proposal introduced this past week by Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, to set up a Knesset committee to investigate the funding sources of progressive, and only left-wing, NGOs.

Israeli journalist and blogger Yossi Gurvitz likened the event to the burning of the Reichstag, implying that this was the point where Israel slipped from democracy to fascism. Gurvitz may be overstating the case (I’d certainly say he is), but he is not exaggerating how anti-democratic this action and this Knesset are. Nor can it be reasonably denied that, whether Gurvitz is right or not today, if Israel continues on its present course, there is no doubt he will be someday and probably not in all that distant a future. Continue reading

Prescription for Survival

Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian Israeli citizen who lives in Haifa has been arrested and a gag order has been placed over the case, demonstrating that the embarrassing Anat Kamm affair taught Israel nothing. I wrote about this and the implications for Israeli democracy for Zeek Magazine.

Addendum to "The End of Hasbara"

A reader asked me about the use of the word “sabotage” in the Reut report and what i made of that. Since I didn’t include that question in my article, here is my response to that reader.
On sabotage, I don’t think it means what Ali Abunimah at Electronic Intifada thinks it means. It is not referring to physical sabotage, web attacks and the like. In Hebrew, the word is שיבוש which means disruption. In the context of the full paragraph, it seems clear this is referring to causing a split between the “de-legitimizers” and what Reut is referring to as the “critics.” At most, this seems to mean infiltration, and that is the harshest definition that seems at all reasonable to me in the context of the full paragraph. Moreover, in Hebrew, the word for the verb “to sabotage” is לחבל. This word does not appear in the Hebrew version of the report, and if physical sabotage was the intended meaning, I don’t see how they could avoid that word, as the word for disruption would not carry the implication of physical sabotage. Occam’s Razor suggests that the intention is to direct the recommended hasbara toward splitting the various groups along the lines of critics and de-legitimizers, because they seem to feel (probably quite correctly) that without the “critics” the “de-legitimizers” would have little chance of having political impact.

The same reader also posed the following question: Second, and more importantly, although I think this is first-rate analysis (and rhetoric), in one aspect it leaves me scratching my head: you say Israel is failing because it has a strategy with no endgame. But the rump state solution seems like an obvious and even successful strategy. Israel is turning the West Bank into Gaza. Soon it will be a problem capable of being managed, like East Timor, Tibet, or any other pocket of population without national rights. It seems the Israelis have decided recently that this is the best they can hope for.

Here is my response to that:

On your more important question…
The first problem with the “rump state solution” as you put it is the same as the one we have now–the settlements. Israel can’t turn the West Bank into Gaza without removing the settlements. Their continued presence will mean that the situation cannot be managed a la Tibet or East Timor. Moreover, the comparison to Timor and Tibet fails because China and Indonesia were not stirring up a regional tinderbox with their occupations (ongoing, in China’s case). The human rights issues were just as serious (in the case of Timor, they were far graver, in fact), but the political implications did not begin to compare. No one cared about East Timor. Many care about Palestine, in the region, in Europe and, increasingly, in the USA. So it wouldn’t work.

Then the question is, whether or not it would work, is this what Israel is, in fact, planning? Much of thinking, particularly that advanced by Noam Chomsky, on this question starts with the Allon Plan. But that plan was based in the notion that Jordan would take up the parts of the West Bank that Israel left out–and, perhaps more importantly, the Allon Plan envisioned actually absorbing significant numbers of Palestinians into Israel. Both of those notions are no longer applicable. So if, and I doubt it’s the case, Israel is still pursuing the Allon Plan, the issue i raise remains the same–they no longer have an endgame.

Otherwise, i think your formulation and mine end up in the same place–no real change in the status quo for decades to come until some calamitous event, whether a disaster for the Palestinians or for Israel, changes the conditions of the game. What I see is what I’ve seen for a long time–an occupation regime that sees only as far ahead as the necessity for maintaining the occupation takes it.

The Perversion of Herzl

Delving into the truly horrifying developments in Israel regarding the attacks by the contemptible group Im Tirtzu abetted by some friends of theirs in the Knesset and the daily newspaper, Ma’ariv. Fortunately, in the Knesset, cooler heads seem to have prevailed, but it’s worth noting that the major incitement there came from a Kadima MK while the properly legal view came from ministers further right. The article in Zeek can be found here. And thanks to new friends at PalestineNote.com, you can also follow my articles there.

Stupidity Runs Rampant

Mahmoud Ahmedinejad fulfilled all the promise he brought with him to Geneva for the Durban II conference.

He rambled about Israeli racism (whilst one wonders what a Baha’i observer might have been thinking) and said that the “pretext of Jewish suffering” was used to cover Israeli crimes. He firmly re-established his bona fides as an

Ahmedinejad apparently waving goodby to dozens of delegates

Ahmedinejad apparently waving goodby to dozens of delegates

anti-Semite and a demagogue, and in so doing seriously undermined the good efforts at Durban II.

The conference organizers really wanted to get past the 2001 conference. But their own short-sightedness doomed them. There was every reason to believe that Ahmedinejad’s speech was going to be just what it turned out to be-a full rehash of all the 2001 problems. Yet they welcomed him to the podium anyway. Now they have an even more formidable task of trying to overcome both 2001 and Ahmedinejad’s appearance.

In an interesting coincidence, the European Commission had just chastised some of its own member states for boycotting the conference in anticipation of Ahmedinejad’s appearance. And then most of the rest of the EU states walked out on the speech. Ahmedinejad, as this response demonstrates, dealt a serious blow to those who are advocating engagement with Iran and bolstered the case of those who contend, incorrectly, that the Iranian regime cannot be dealt with rationally. Continue reading