Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Turkel Bites!
(well he just nibbles for now)

I was wrong.

Yesterday (see my previous blog entry) I predicted that nothing would come of Gush Shalom's suit before the Israeli Supreme Court demanding that the Turkel Commission into the flotilla fiasco be given an expanded mandate and powers.

The case was to be heard today. But as I was writing my prediction of nothing much happening, the State Prosecutor was asking for a 10 day delay in the hearing because of "an expected change to the mandate"

Turns out (see here and here) that Judge Turkel was threatening to quit if the mandate and powers of the committee where not expanded and Netanyahu and Co. are inclined to give in - at least a bit. According to Haaretz:

The government on Tuesday looked set to widen the scope of an inquiry into Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, after a judge leading the probe threatened to resign unless his powers were increased.

Earlier this week, retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel approached Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, citing legal grounds to support a demand to extend his remit. According to Turkel, paragraphs 8 and 8a of the Basic Government Law grant an independent committee of inquiry the right to conduct a full judicial investigation, including the authority to subpoena any witnesses or evidence it requires and to take testimony under oath.

By late Tuesday, there were indications that the government would bow to Turkel's demand. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is believed to have discussed the issue with Neeman, as well as with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Defense Minister Ehud Barak – with all four agreeing that Netanyahu should formally consider the request.

The debate in government follows a petition handed to the Supreme Court this week by Gush Shalom, a campaign group, also demanding a broadening of the inquiry.

And according to a later article:
In addition, Turkel said he wants to expand the committee from three members to five, not including the two foreign observers.

Turkel's demand for wider powers comes amid widespread media criticism that has painted the committee as being designed mainly to retroactively justify the blockade of Gaza, the use of force to maintain it and the bloodshed on board the Mavi Marmara when naval commandos were attacked by passengers wielding knives and iron bars. The commandos, who had been ordered to seize control of the ship and divert it to Ashdod Port, opened fire in self-defense.

But it appears that what really moved Turkel to demand change was the criticism from other jurists about the panel's limited mandate, as well as a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Gush Shalom movement demanding that the committee be given broader powers. The court was to hear that petition today, but received an urgent request for a 10-day postponement from the State Prosecutor's Office yesterday on the grounds that the government is currently considering expanding the committee's mandate, which would make the petition unnecessary.

The request also noted that in light of the possible change in its mandate, the Turkel Committee will not hold its first session until July 11. Netanyahu is expected to be the first witness.

The Prime Minister's Office said in a press statement yesterday that it sees no reason why Turkel's demand for greater investigative powers cannot be met. But it stressed that these expanded powers would not include the right to question soldiers.
Was Turkel motivated by inner conviction, by being embarrassed in front of the legal community, or by the fear having change forced on him by his former colleagues the Supreme Court? Will he agree to an expanded mandate if it does not allow him to question soldiers? After all how can the committee learn the truth re disputed facts, if it cannot interview the people who where there.

So, we will have to wait and see. Does this Turkel have a bite - or only a nibble.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Israel's Turkey Commitee Begins Its Work

According to Haaretz:

Israel's internal committee investigating Israel's [flotilla] raid - headed by retired Supreme Court justice Jacob Turkel - held its first meeting in Jerusalem on Monday.

One of the international observers, Lord David Trimble of Northern Ireland, said at the start of the meeting that the investigation would be serious and rigorous.

We have already noted in a previous blog entry that Trimble is hardly a neutral observer, having, on the very day of the flotilla raid, announced his joining the "Friends of Israel" group whose state goal is to prove to Europeans that Israel is their first line of defence against radical Islam. Well here he is - on the very first day of the committee's work - issuing the conclusion about exactly what he is supposed to be observing. He is not a there to do the committee's work, but to observe and report on exactly how serious and rigorous that work is. But he already knows the answer.

The article continues:

Turkel expressed hope that the committee would complete its duty fast, and that the prime minister, defense minister and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff would shortly be summoned to testify before the committee.

So, as claimed by many, the committee chair wants to issue a quick - rather than a thourough - report. The point being to close the book with as little fuss as possible.

The committee members, including Shabtai Rosenne, a professor of international law, and Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Horev, met to create panel guidelines and a schedule for hearing witness testimony, and determine the extent to which the observers will participate in the hearings.

What!? The observers will only be allowed to observe parts of the committee's work - presumably the parts that will not embarrass anyone, or bring the committee's conclusions into doubt. What is the point of observers then? It seems that having hand picked apriori-sympathetic observers, the Israeli government - who gave the committee its very restrictive and detailed terms of reference - still does not completely trust Trimble and Watkins to tow the line.

The committee will also examine the security-related reasons for Israel's imposition of a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, which the flotilla was launched to protest, and the conduct of Turkey and the flotilla organizers.

How they are going to do the latter, when there are no plans to interview anyone who was actually on the ships or organized them is a mystery.

Meanwhile, tomorrow, Wednesday June 30, the Israeli Supreme Court will hear an appeal to dismantle the Tirkel Committee and replace it with a Judicial Commission ofInquiry.

The following is a press release from the Israeli peace and reconcilliation group Gush Shalom. I agree with there argumenst almost entirely, and I hold out almost zero hope that the Supreme Court will rull in their favour

Uri Avnery: "Even if the United States government was convinced to agree to a powerless, meaningless investigation, we as Israeli citizen concerned for the future of our country absolutely don't agree."

Tomorrow, Wednesday June 30, at 9am Judges Naor, Meltzer and Dantziger of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem will hear the appeal of the Gush Shalom movement to dismantle the "Tirkel Committee" and replace it with a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, independent of the government and fully empowered to investigate the circumstances of the Israeli Navy takeover of the GazaFlotilla. The appeal is signed on behalf of Gush Shalom by former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, and the movement's spokesperson Adam Keller. It is represented by lawyers Gaby Laski, Lymor Goldstein and Neri Ramati.

The main argument in the state's answer, presented to the Supreme Court, is that the government has an unlimited power to decide whether or not to investigate a certain event at all, in whose hands to place theinvestigation and what powers to give the investigators, and that in the past the Supreme Court rejected appeals seeking to impose on the government the creation of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry.

The state also described to the court at great length the negotiations conducted between the government of Israel and the government of the U.S. Initially, the U.S. tended to support an International Commission of Inquiry under auspices of the U.N., but eventually came to endorse the creation of the "Tirkel Committee" in Israel. To underscore this point the State went as far as presenting to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem as an exhibit, the statement issued by the White House spokesperson on this subject, as well as the full text of a TV interview by the American Ambassador to the U.N.

"The State's answer exposes the main purpose for which the Tirkel Commission was formed: not the wish to investigate what really happened on the boat and how nine of its passengers came to be killed, but the intention to appease, at the cheapest price, the world governments and public opinion, and especially the government of the U.S." says Uri Avnery. "The U.S. government has its own considerations, having to do with worldwide strategic interests and possibly also with internal American considerations of elections due in November.

"We, as Israeli citizens who act to improve the society and the country in which we live, have a supreme interest of our own: to have a thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances of a grave political and military fiasco, which caused preventable bloodshed, which severely hurt Israel's position in the world and whose long-term implications might be felt in many years to come. Only a thorough and truly independent investigation has the chance to prevent similar fiascos from recurring - if not worse ones. With all due respect to the U.S. government, it has no authority to forgo on behalf of the citizens of Israel an investigation which is vital to ensure proper public norms in the State of Israel.

"The respectable people who have been gathered into the Tirkel Committee cannot carry out such a thorough investigation even if they want to, because the government has not given them the needed authority. I in no way share the absolute trust which the State representatives give to the internal investigation by the armed forces of their own deeds, whose results will be given ready-made to the Tirkel Committee without its members having any way of independently checking them. The rule which the State asks the Supreme Court Judges to endorse, that the investigation of soldiers about their acts in the field should be carried out solely through the debriefing carried out by the army itself and that statements made during debriefing should not atall be passed to anyone outside the armed forces, is a dangerous erosion of the principal of civilian control over the armed forces, a cornerstone of any democratic regime.

"In Article 16 of its answer to the court the State claims that only passengers of the Mavi Marmara were hurt by the takeover of the boats by Israeli troops. This assertion is in complete contradiction to many testimonies, published all over the world, about brutal behavior of the troops also to passengers of the other boats, though luckily not coming to the point of fatalities. Moreover, the very fact of the State already presenting factual assertions on a subject in which the Committee is supposed to investigate and present conclusions testifies to the State not taking seriously the investigation which is supposed to be conducted.

"The mandate given to the Tirkel Committee by the government included among other things the task of investigating and reporting on the identity and theactivities of the Flotilla organizers and participants. In practice, the Committee is active for more than a week already, and there is no mention of any intention to contact the Flotilla organizers and participants and heartheir testimonies. The Committee has not offered to Flotilla participants the option to come and testify in Israel while having immunity from arrest by the police - and indeed the Committee has no authority to offer such immunity. Nor did the Committee announce any intention to go abroad and there hear the testimonies of the Flotilla organizers and participants - and also here the Committee was not at all given the authority to go abroad and collect testimonies outside the boundaries of Israel. All this gives rise tothe strong suspicion that the Committee intends to discuss the identity andactivity of the Flotilla activists, reach conclusions and publish a report about them - without hearing a single testimony from the people concerned themselves. Such a procedure denies in advance any credibility to a report which the Committee would eventually publish on this subject.


Uri Avnery +972-50-5396440
Adv. Gaby Lasky +972-54-4418988
Adam Keller +972-54-2340749

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Large Jewish/Arab Demo - Against Home Demolitions in Silwan

Somewhere between 500-1000 Jews and Arabs marched in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, to protest the planned demolition of 22 Palestinian homes in order to build an archeological park and other tourism facilities.

The only slogan I can clearly make out is "Fascism shall not pass", but there are others in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

The signs read "Stop Ethnic Cleansing", "East Jerusalem Discrimination = Racism", "Settlements in East Jerusalem are a Barrier to a Solution", "Thou Shalt Not Steal - Free Sheikh Jarah", "Stop the Settlements In East Jerusalem", "Stop the Occupation", and "Jews and Arabs Refuse to Be Enemies."

You can read more about the particular issues in Silwan here and here. (Suffice it to say it is another instance of evicting Arabs to the benefit of Jews.) Silwan is only one of a number of flash points in East Jerusalem where Arabs are being moved out by the Israeli government and/or the Jerusalem municipality.

Nor are these current flash points likely to be the last. Today's Haaretz reports on a new Jerusalem master plan that calls for massive expansion of Jewish neighborhoods across the eastern part of the city - particularly near the "holy basin" - while restricting building for Palestinians to the extreme north and south of the city, and to only half the number of units deemed necessary to account for the natural population growth of the city's current Palestinian residents.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why's Everybody Always Pickin' On Me?

"Fee-Fee Fi-Fi Fo-Fo Fum ... Why's everybody always pickin' on me?"

That's what a lot of Israeli's, and supporters of Israel, ask every day. And its not an unfair question. There are worse countries and worse crimes in the world than those perpetrated by Israel.

A recent article in the Guardian provides an answer I think. It may not be the whole answer, but it is an original insight and explains a lot. It is written from a British perspective, but applies equally to Canada and the U.S, I believe. Read the whole piece to get the full idea, but below are a few highlights.

... why do I, so far away and so much a product of my own country, take such an interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict? Where does my disproportionate interest come from, considering that other conflicts around the world are equal or worse in their unpleasantness?

I devour articles about Israel-Palestine on Cif; I look at Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, al-Jazeera and other commentaries. When things heat up, it is close to an addiction. Why am I not so worked up about Zimbabwe? North Korea? Sudan? Tibet? Burma? ...

I have many Jewish friends, I went to school with boys from Jewish backgrounds and consequently I do not think of Jews as being foreign. It would be as absurd for me to call my Jewish friends foreign as it would to call my Quaker friends foreign; they are as English as I am. ...

The trouble is that Israel promotes itself as the state for all Jews, ... And because some of my friends are Jews and it is therefore their country, it is in some subliminal sense my country too. ... I do not think of Israel as truly foreign... It is foreign, of course, but not emotionally, not like Thailand orUzbekistan, and I do not respond to it as I do to most other foreign states. ...

Israel's non-foreign status is amplified by the extraordinary support it enjoys in the corridors of power in Britain. As many as 80% of Tory MPs are members of Conservative Friends of Israel. The same cannot be said for Conservative friends of Thailand or Uzbekistan.

... many of my rulers appear to be [Israel's] devoted citizens, ... All those shrill arguments over water or settlements, all that killing, all that fear and loathing, are not far away from me at all, no further away than Belfast.

So I judge this by domestic standards, not foreign ones. I do not expect Israelis to behave like Burmese generals; I expect them to behave like Englishmen, like my friends.

Supporters of Israel complain frequently and loudly that they are singled out for special attention and criticism. ... The number of news items about Israel-Palestine has created a self-reinforcing cycle – my appetite for yet more items is whetted by each new article or drama. All of which would appear to vindicate the complaints of the pro-Israel lobby – except that they should consider how they themselves contribute to this.

One reason why Israel is singled out for so much attention is because its supporters are so very vociferous, pushing their agenda at every opportunity. As a consumer of news, the speed of their responses and their sheer ubiquity inflames my interest and my antipathy. Why do they persist in trying to defend the indefensible?

Another reason for my disproportionate interest in this conflict is that
I feel I have been lied to, and I feel that people are still trying to lie to me
and I don't like it. ... I can remember a time back in the 1960s when I accepted a view of Israel as a plucky little state full of kibutzes busily taming the desert. ... Then I discovered the other narrative.

... if Israel had been described to me from the start as the product of remorseless expropriation of some else's land (not the full story, I know), I might well have lost interest by now. But having been told how heroic and wonderful it was and then to find out that... there is a different and more troubling story running in parallel, that affects me emotionally.

When I see Binyamin Netanyahu and his colleagues putting their side of some event, I do not see honest men and my emotions are the same as those I experience when I see ... con-men – distaste and disapproval. And yet they won't shut up. ...

He walks in the classroom cool and slow
Who called the English teacher Daddyo

Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown
He's a clown, that Charlie Brown
He's gonna get caught
Just you wait and see
Why's everybody always pickin' on me
... written by those nice Jewish boys, Leiber and Stohler. Released 1959, by The Coasters.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that despite everything, a majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza still want a peace agreement with Israel, (i.e. a two state solution) and believe that non-violent resistance (i.e. demonstrations, BDS, blockade running, combined with negotiations) is the best way to achieve it. The bad news is that 27% don't, and that we can assume that that number is larger among the large Palestinian refugee communities in Lebanon and Syria. And we can safely assume that many of this later group are quite radical.

According to a recent poll (taken between February and May, and before the flotilla fiasco) 73% of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza want a negotiated peace with Israel. 61% want a cessation of all rocket attacks on Israel. Most of those who had an opinion said they had more confidence in Fatah than in Hamas (though 30% expressed no opinion, and another, unspecified, percentage said neither.) 84% said they believed Fatah would win, if elections where held soon.

On the other hand - 27% do not want a negotiated settlement with Israel. Mahmoud Zahar - Hamas' Gaza based "foreign minister" was recently quoted as saying that rockets should be fired on Israel from the West Bank as well as Gaza. He goes on to accuse Abbas and Fatah of being qisslings and in the pocket of Israel. He also stressed that Hamas would never change its policy, even if it won the next elections, saying that the solution lies in "resistance."

"If we had been interested in forfeiting our rights, I would have been in Washington by now," Zahar told the Arabic newspaper, Al Quds.

Meanwhile in Lebanon, Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian-Palestinian businessman who heads the “Free Palestine Organization” and is funding a Lebanese Flotilla, said over the weekend on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station that he was more and more optimistic that one day these same boats would take “Europe’s refuse [the Jews] that came to my homeland back to their homelands.

“Gilad Schalit should go back to Paris and those murderers go back to Poland, and after that we will chase them until the ends of the earth to bring them to justice for their acts of slaughter from Deir Yassin until today.” Kashlak, a fervent Hizbullah supporter, called Israel a “rabid dog sent to the region to frighten the Arabs. He said he had a message for Israelis: ‘Get on the ships we are sending you and go back to your lands. Don’t let the moderate Arab leaders delude you, [you] cannot make peace with us. Our children will return to Palestine, you have no reason for coexistence. Even if our leaders will sign a peace agreement, we will not sign."

What the Israeli leadership must consider - as they refuse to significantly ease the blockade on Gaza, as they hang tough in the negotiations with Abbas, as they continue to confiscate Arabs' lands with the separation wall and settlements, as they continue displacing Arabs in Jerusalem, as they answer every threat with force and counter threats - is whose hand are they strengthening? - the 73% of Palestinians who are willing to accept Israel given a reasonable compromise, or the 27% who reject that possibility. Israel's policies and hasbara seem exclusively to deal with the later.

I sometimes get the feeling that the Israeli leadership would be happier if a clear majority of Palestinians where like Zahar and and Kashlik. Then they could more easily justify continuing on the hard nosed path.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not Everyone Hates Us.

And, no, as far as I can tell this was not made by Caroline Glick.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Israeli Inquiry Promises to be Pointless

Israel finally announced its internal inquiry into the flotilla affair. But don't hold your breath for any surprising results. 10:1 it supports the Israeli governments contention that all was legal and that the flotilla members where the aggressors - possibly trained terrorists.

This commission is not being established under Israel's Law of State Commissions of Inquiry - the format used by the Kahan commission or the Winograd commission, whose reports did have far reaching consequences. Had it been, such a format would have made the commission independent of the government, and with full powers of subpoena.

Instead this is an "Independent (sic) Public Commission", reporting to the government and with no power to subpoena anyone. Its report will be delivered to the government, the government will decide what to publish, and - if it desires - the government can disband or change the terms of reference of the inquiry at any time. (Though obviously that would be politically embarrassing, it gives the government a hammer should it feel it needs it.) The commission has been instructed to hold no public hearings or publish any material that "could jeopardize state security or foreign relations, or if it feels there is any other reason for not doing so."

The inquiry has no power of subpoena. It may only request that people appear. The government has made it clear in the terms of reference that it may not request that any members of the Israeli military, other than Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, to testify. It has also volunteered that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak will make themselves available if asked to appear. The commission may request military documents, but the military, at its sole discretion, will decide what to hand over. So much for ever definitively learning the truth about what happened on the boats to precipitate the killings.

The terms of reference limit the inquiry scope to two questions: Was the Israeli action legal under international law? And what was the motivation and behavior of the flotilla passengers? The first question is almost entirely one of legal theory, with very few disputed facts other than what precipitated the shooting on board the Mavi Marmama. Since Israeli soldiers will not be testifying and flotilla passengers are unlikely to appear at an Israeli internal inquiry, how will the panel ever learn the truth about that issue. As for the second question, again since they will not be getting evidence from anyone who was on the boats, how are they going to come to credible conclusions? From Israeli Mossad reports?

And the members of the panel, as well as the foreign observers, hardly inspire confidence or foretell any conclusion that might challenge the government or the military.
  • The head of the inquiry is Jacob Turkel, 75 years old - former Israeli Supreme Court justice, born in Tel Aviv in 1935, an expert in civil law retired from the bench in 2005. Described by Israeli pundits as a conservative jurist, who also say he has little experience in inquiry commissions. He still sits on a military court appeals panel.
  • Member, Shabtai Rosen, 93 years old - British-born professor of international law at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv. A former diplomat who served as Israel's deputy head of mission to the United Nations between 1967-71 and ambassador to the UN in Geneva 1971-74. An Israel Prize laureate for jurisprudence (1960), he won the Hague Prize for International Law in 2004.
  • Member, Amos Horev, 86 years old - A retired major-general in the Israeli army and former president of the Haifa Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. Also formerly chief scientist of Israel's defense establishment and a leading proponent in Israeli industry.
Thus the average age of the panel is 85. It only expert in international law - the key question the panel is asked to rule on - is 93. The chair is a known legal conservative who still serves as a military judge. Two of the three members have strong personal ties to the military.
  • Observer, David Trimble, (Northern Ireland) - The first minister of Northern Ireland. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he was instrumental in securing the Ulster power-sharing agreement - not as the honest broker (that was George Mitchell) but as the head of the Unionist Protestant side. Trimble recently helped found the "Friends of Israel" initiative launched in Paris some two weeks ago, along with John Bolton (former uber-hawk and U.N. ambassador in the Bush White House) and Dore Gold (former Israeli U.N. Ambassador and personal friend of Netanyahu.)
  • Observer, Ken Watkin (Canada) - The former head of the Canadian military's judiciary holding the rank of brigadier-general, Watkin was legal adviser to a Canadian military/civilian board of inquiry investigating the activities of the Canadian Airborne Regiment Battle Group in Somalia - where he defended the Canadian military. Later he was counsel in respect of various investigations and inquiries arising from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He has also served as legal adviser to the Canadian navy and to Canadian commanders in Bosnia. Most recently, Mr. Watkin refused to answer questions when called to testify in Canada's House of Commons about whether he was directed to authorize the transfers or had knowledge of Canadian diplomatic reports of torture, and claimed that solicitor-client privilege owed to the Government of Canada prevented him answering the House's questions.

Boycott Gaining Steam

After the recent flotilla fiasco the boycott movement in making significant gains.

But not in the way you might think. Rather Israeli's are boycotting Turkey! Turkey was a prime Israeli vacation spot. Israeli tour operators have cancelled $500,000 worth of room bookings in the past two weeks. Several Israeli coffee houses have stopped serving Turkish coffee (which doesn't really come from Turkey at all!) A campaign has started to have Israeli food conglomerate Elite re-brand its popular "Cafe Turki." And now two large Israeli supermarkets have announced they will stop importing Turkish goods. According to Haaretz:
A number of local supermarket chains are taking a political stand: They have decided to boycott products manufactured in Turkey.

The chains announced that they will stop working with Turkish suppliers. Among the firms involved is Blue Square, which operates the Mega, Mega in the City and Mega Bul stores, and imports flour and pasta from Turkey, through its own private label. ...

"The Mega chain is heeding the voice of the public and has decided to stop importing pasta and flour products under its own label, which are produced in Turkey, and will seek alternative sources for its products," Blue Square announced yesterday.

Rami Levy, owner of the eponymous chain of supermarkets, also decided to cut off ties: "For reasons of ideology and conscience, it would be unacceptable for us to do nothing when the Turkish people behave this way. This is the minimum that we can do."

Levy says that under a private label he imports pasta, paper plates and ketchup from Turkey, but, "We can easily import disposable dishes from China, pasta from Italy - and we will find somewhere from which to import ketchup, too."
What amazes me is that after Israeli soldiers killed 9 Turkish citizens in the process of blocking entry of the Gaza relief ships (which by now we know for certain contained no weapons or war material) and continuing its universally condemned overly-tight blockade of Gaza, many Israelis feel that it is they who are the victimized party!

Poor us. How dare the Turks embarrass us by forcing us to kill them! Not a whisper of regret. And certainly no apology to the families of the dead or the Turks as a whole. On the contrary, it is we who must punish the Turks for the troubles they have caused us.

People who are always self righteous victims will never learn. I work with people like this in the homeless shelter I volunteer at. They have a chip on their shoulder, always feel abused and therefore behave badly. Of course, when they suffer the consequences, they blame it on the other guy or "the system", which re-enforces their feelings of victim-hood, which just re-enforces their pattern of anti-social and dysfunctional behaviour. It is a positive feed back cycle - but it is only negative for those involved. In the end it is these dysfunctional homeless guys who pay the biggest price - not the society around them.

And just like the homeless guys, Israel has more to lose than Turkey from a rupture of economic relations. In 2009, Israel exported $1.5 billion to Turkey, while importing only $1 billion.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Is It Antisemtic To Feel Sympathy For Palestinians?

The face of the new antisemitism?

The Canadian Jewish Establishment has been quite successful in its recent campaign to tar any criticism of Israel as hateful and antisemitic. Examples abound, including:
  • The Canadian Parliamentary Commission to Combat Antisemitism which is busy investigating the "New Antisemitism" which apparently involves anyone who vocally criticizes Israel. (Never mind that 5 University presidents, called to testify about antisemitism on their campuses, denied that there was any serious problem.)
  • The unanimous resolution in the Ontario Legislature condemning the phrase "Israel Apartheid". (Actually on 31 of 105 members where present, but nevertheless.) Similar measures where introduced at the federal level and in the Manitoba legislature, but failed to get unanimous approval.
  • The Toronto District School Boards banning of anti Israel Apartheid groups from the schools.
  • The Toronto Pride Parade Committee's decision to ban Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from this years Pride Parade after the City of Toronto threatened to cut of funding if the city's anti-discrimination policy was violated. (How QuAIA disciminates was never made clear. They were, after all, protesting Israeli discrimination against Arabs.)
  • Endless attempts - some successful, some not - to get "pro-Palestinian" books removed from the reading list at various Ontario school boards.
I find this attempt to stifle all public criticism of Israel, as if it where ipso facto antisemitism - to be troubling and dangerous. And it upsets me that the Jewish Establishment has been so successful in getting the secular institutions of the state to go along with them.

But now, they have stepped it up a notch. Now they are claiming that just expressing human sympathy for Palestinians is biased, hateful, dangerous and possibly antisemitic.

I came across this story at the JTA.
A question on a provincial exam for 12th-graders in Manitoba will promote anti-Israel sentiment, B'nai Brith Canada says.

The question -- "Explain whether or not you think people in the entertainment industry have a responsibility for making the world a better place?" -- was in response to an article written by Canadian singer Chantal Kreviazuk in which she deplored the suffering of children in several armed conflicts, including those killed and maimed in the Gaza Strip by an artillery shell.

B'nai Brith Canada alleged that the question will promote anti-Israel feelings, the Winnipeg Free Press reported, and wants the Department of Education to check every student's paper and count the anti-Israel comments..

Winnipeg-based B'nai Brith Midwest region director Alan Yusim told the newspaper that most students would not have the knowledge to conclude anything other than that Israel victimized children.

"I don't see which other conclusion you could reach," Yusim said.

Manitoba Education Minister Nancy Allan said she shares the Jewish organization's concern, and has told department officials to find out how the question got on the exam and how "to make sure this doesn't happen again. We're taking this very seriously."
The National Post further elaborated:
B'nai Brith midwest region director Alan Yusim said Ms. Kreviazuk's description of injured children will promote anti-Israel hatred among some of the students who wrote the test.

Most students assessing that reading would not have the knowledge or the information before them to conclude anything other than that Israel victimized children, Mr. Yusim said. "I don't see which other conclusion you could reach.

"How many said Iran, Hamas, or the Palestinian Authority" were responsible for the events that led to the children's injuries, Mr. Yusim asked, adding he doubted whether many students would reach that conclusion.

Ms. Allan said: "The moment I found out about this, I started working with [B'nai Brith]. We're taking this very seriously.

"This is the very first time we have ever had concerns about test material, and we are evaluating the process."


"The article is out of a book of essays written by high-profile women, Dropped Threads," said Ms. Allan.

She said one student -- whom the province is not identifying -- became upset by the question while writing the exam, and will be evaluated on the rest of the test, with that question omitted.

B'nai Brith says the Department of Education should check every student's paper, and count the anti-Israel comments.

"Pull aside each one in which the student mentioned Israel as a victimizer," said Mr. Yusim.

And do what? Send them for re-education?

And what is the hateful article that is causing the ruckus? What is it that must be censored because it is so dangerous? The article, is by Canadian singer Chantal Kreviazuk who is active in the charity Warchild Canada, which provides aid to children in war zones. It tell what motivates her to be involved. Here is the last two thirds of the article where she mentions an incident in Gaza that particularly touched her. Judge for yourself if this is hateful, biased, anti-Israel or antisemitic, and needs to be banned from our schools. Is empathy now a hate crime?

(I has only able to capture images of this article, which I have included below. It appears in full in the book Dropped Threads III.)

issues stopped, I

Wrong and Stupid

I have written several times that Israel's blockade of Gaza is immoral, and many others have written about that more eloquently than I.

But it is also stupid, and counter-productive to Israel's own declared interests.

Three conservative newspapers have written about this recently

The Wall Street Journal reports that the blockade has “decimated Gaza's private sector”, and since businesses can't import raw materials or export finished goods, they are more reliant on Hamas-controlled smuggling: “All this has bolstered Hamas.” Read it here .

Similarly, The Economist reports that “the siege has given Hamas a free hand to mould the place…Hamas is making society in its own image. Huge amounts now pass through the tunnel shafts … creating a new economy from which Hamas creams a handsome share of the profits”. “The siege is a gift,” says a Hamas minister. Read it here.

Israel’s boycott of Hamas doesn’t seemed to have weakened it politically at all, “Rising up against Hamas is not an option, and people are not thinking about it." Read it here.

with thanks to Mark Bench

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

O Happy Days !

All praise to the most merciful, the most compassionate! The Israeli Government, of its own free will and kindness of heart - and not, it emphatically tells us, because of pressure in the wake of the flotilla – has decided to ease the embargo on food into Gaza.

According to Haaterz:

Israel is easing its Gaza embargo to allow snack food and beverages into the
Palestinian enclave … as of next week, Israel will allow a wider variety of
food, such as potato crisps, biscuits, canned fruit and packaged humous, as well as soft drinks and juice, into the Gaza Strip. ...

Commenting on the blockade, an Israeli security source said Israel aimed to remove all restrictions on imported food items for Gaza within a few weeks and noted that jam and several other products were approved recently.
After nearly five years of blockade, this is just too fantastic for words! I am sure Gaza residents will be SO greatful. And the international community too will see how generous Israel can be. Nothing like chips and pop to chase away the blues. And just in time for the World Cup! Lets just hope the electricity doesn’t go out during the game.

No word on whether Netnayahu and friends will allow more flour, beans, eggs, or meat into Gaza. And no mention of the non food items currently embargoed, like cement, copper and plastic pipe, nails, pencils, shoes, etc.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Another Antisemite Hits the Dust

This is truly a case where anti-Zionism leads to antisemitism.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

What to Say?

I hadn't written about the "Flotilla Massacre" yet because: (a) I have been very busy with work and life, (b) I didn't want to say anything until I understood what had happened, and (c) everyone else was saying so much that I didn't think I had anything original to add.

Well, nearly a week later, all three conditions still stand.

So I will just point you to some of the better articles on the subject that I have come across.

I will say that I think, that while the mis-handing of the interdiction, and the resulting deaths, is what is getting most of the headlines, and may in the end be the thing that causes the most fallout, it is not the main point. The main point is the wrong headed policy of a near total blockade of goods into Gaza.

But enough from me. If you are not sick of this topic yet, read the following:

  • The Tikun Olam blog tries to give other perspective on what actually happened on the boat. Turns out there is more than the one perspective: the video released by the IDF that we have seen endlessly on American TV news and echoed in this juvenile "defense" of Israel video that was actually distributed by the Israeli Government Press Office! And now the Guardian reports that Turkish forensic staff examining the bodies of the Turks killed on the ship are saying that several of them were shot in the head at point blank range after they had already been shot in the legs, arms or abdomen.
  • M.J. Rosenberg, writing in PoliticalCorrection, points out that the whole point of the flotilla was to break the blockade, and there is nothing wrong with that. He also notes that Israel is unlikely to transfer all goods on the ships, minus any weapons found (and there have been none found yet!), to Gaza - it actually never made such a promise - as it blocks many civilian goods on a daily basis.
  • The Globe and Mail's lead editorial on the subject, "Block the Guns, Not the Butter", argues - correctly in my opinion - that Israel's blockade is, and has been, too broad. One can quibble with the details of this editorial, but the basic principal (see the headline) is correct.
  • And finally Rick Salutin, also writing in the Globe and Mail, argues that (a) Israel is tone deaf to world opinion (see video discussed above), (b) that the tide has turned regarding what people will forgive Israel for, and (c) Israel's friends had better tell her so.