Netanyahu’s Coalition of the Unwilling

After Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprising victory in Israel’s national elections in March, he took until the last possible Bennettminute to complete the process of forming the government for his fourth term as Israel’s prime minister. For all the time he invested, despite making it just under the wire, Netanyahu ended up with a fragile, ultra-right-wing coalition and more work ahead of him to bring in at least one more party.

The government Netanyahu presented to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was a bare majority of 61 seats out of the 120-seat Knesset. There are no fig leafs in this coalition, no Tzipi Livni or Ehud Barak for Netanyahu to send to talk fruitlessly with the Palestinians. One might think this would make the coalition more stable, since it consists entirely of the right wing. In this, one would be wrong. Read more at LobeLog.

Hate Through Music

Ami Kaufman at +972 Magazine appropriately trashes the settler propagandist and pseudo-entertainer Orit Arfa in this article. But it is important that people see the “videos” she produced. It is a chronicle of hate. If you watch it be prepared–Arfa can’t even sing on key in much of it, and cannot sing well at any point. The music is childish and if you listen too long it will surely give you a headache. But put up with the assault on your senses and aesthetic sensibilities for long enough to recognize that Kaufman puts it very  well when he writes: “And inshallah, as Orit hopes, the Jews won’t stop. Because the more you do these things, the more the world sees what assholes live here.”

Kaufman’s words refer both to the horrifying trash Arfa produces, with a level of hate, propaganda and insane nationalism that would have made Nazi filmmakers proud, and the militarism, anti-peace activities and basic racism that Arfa promotes. These videos say better than any sensible article ever could just how far some Israelis have fallen into pure fascism. See Kaufman’s piece here.

African, American, Apartheid

The first African-American US President just went to Israel and said no matter how strong you make your system of discrimination and apartheid, our country will support you. How does that work? I explore in this week’s column at Souciant.

Saved By Demography

In this week’s article at Souciant I look at recent shifts in the Israeli political landscape within the context of how two-staters might start to seriously rethink their approach in a post-Oslo world.

Power Concedes Nothing Without Demand–and Neither Will Israel

I wrote a piece last week criticizing Americans for Peace Now for their stance on the Presbyterian divestment motion. But my criticism was as nothing compared to MJ Rosenberg’s, and he has now written a few piecesexploring this topic.

Protests against the Gaza War/Operation Cast Lead, in 2009

One difference between myself and MJ is that I spend little time worrying about the stance of J Street on this issue. I’m glad J Street is there; it’s a useful organization and I support it for what it does. But that’s not very much.

J Street is unalterably opposed to any sort of pressure on Israel. They are under the mistaken belief that if they prove they represent the majority of American Jews (compared to AIPAC, they do, but that majority is largely apathetic or lukewarm at best on Israel, while AIPAC’s backers, and those farther right, are zealously passionate and have a LOT more money devoted to their cause), this will convince Israel to change its policies. That’s well-intentioned, but naïve doesn’t begin to describe that view, one which is also completely insulated against political realities and, yes, pragmatism.

APN has a more nuanced approach, but as I pointed out, they still resist any real pressure on Israel, and ultimately, this is a strategy that has no hope to make the slightest dent in either US or Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians.

I must point out here that APN issued a clarification of their statement on the Presbyterian vote. I still think they have it wrong, but it does at least acknowledge that APN recognizes that the Presbyterians were trying to carefully target the occupation and not Israel as a whole.

I have no doubt that MJ is right in saying that keeping their donors from sending their dollars elsewhere is a big factor for APN. But I think there’s more here. I think there is truly a dedication to the notion that by publicizing the spread of Israeli settlements and of their impact; and by raising a Jewish, and Zionist, voice against them that they can get Israel to change its behavior.

To me, this stems from a basic misunderstanding of the words of Frederick Douglass, who said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

There are important truths in Douglass’ statement, but also some misleading wording.

By using the word “tyrant,” Douglass allows his American, and later Israeli, listeners to believe he is talking about some other people, not our own Liberal, democratic governments whom we love. He also equates “words” and “blows,” a grave error for inspiring social change, implying that words alone might be sufficient to make “power concede.” Doesn’t happen that way, I’m afraid. Continue reading

The Withering Away of the State(s)

In my latest piece for Souciant, I get a chance to really develop the view that the two-state solution has been killed, and what frustrated two-staters like myself, and maybe many of you, need to do to develop a new vision of a workable solution that addresses Palestinian freedom as well as the national and individual rights of all Israelis and Palestinians.

The Jeffrey Goldberg Problem

In my latest piece for Babylon Times, hosted by Souciant, I use a recent piece by Jeffrey Goldberg to examine how it is that some ostensible two-state, anti-settlement, so-called “pro-Israel” types seriously distort the daily realities life under Israeli occupation for Palestinians, particularly on the West Bank.