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Ed Webb

On British colonialism, antisemitism, and Palestinian rights | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Palestine was not lost in the late 1940s, as is commonly believed; it was lost in the late 1930s, as a result of Britain’s savage smashing of Palestinian resistance and support for Jewish paramilitary forces
  • Churchill held Arabs in contempt as racially inferior. His description of Palestinian Arabs as a “dog in a manger” is shocking, but not entirely surprising; racism usually goes hand in hand with colonialism.
  • In British eyes, a Palestinian state was synonymous with a mufti state; accordingly, Britain’s hostility towards Palestinians and Palestinian statehood was a constant factor in its foreign policy from 1947-49.
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  • Britain gave a green light to its client, King Abdullah of Transjordan, to send his British-led little army into Palestine upon expiry of the British mandate, to capture the West Bank - which was intended to be the heartland of the Palestinian state. The winners in the war for Palestine were King Abdullah and the Zionist movement; the losers were Palestinians. Around 750,000 Palestinians, more than half the population, became refugees, and the name Palestine was wiped off the map.
  • When Jordan formally annexed the West Bank in 1950, Britain and Pakistan were the only UN members to recognise it.
  • Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter, the reassessment of Britain’s colonial past and the drive to decolonise school curricula, some scholars have leapt to the defence of the British Empire. Nigel Biggar, the Regius professor of theology at the University of Oxford, for example, defends the British Empire as a moral force for good. Referencing Cecil Rhodes and the campaign to remove his statue from Oriel College, Biggar conceded that Rhodes was an imperialist, “but British colonialism was not essentially racist, wasn’t essentially exploitative, and wasn’t essentially atrocious”. The British Empire’s record in Palestine, however, is rather difficult to reconcile with the benign view of the learned professor. 
  • Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) is by far the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Britain, and its membership includes around 80 percent of Tory members of parliament. Since the May 2015 general election, CFI has sent 24 delegations with more than 180 Conservatives to visit Israel.  The last three leaders of the Conservative Party have been uncritical supporters of the State of Israel. Former Prime Minister David Cameron described himself as a “passionate friend” of Israel and insisted that nothing could break that friendship.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a slightly more nuanced take on Britain’s record as a colonial power in Palestine. In his 2014 book on Churchill, he described the Balfour Declaration as “bizarre”, “tragically incoherent” and an “exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”. This was one of the rare examples of sound judgement and historical insight on Johnson’s part. But in 2015, on a trip to Israel as mayor of London, Johnson hailed the Balfour Declaration as “a great thing”. 
  • Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary in 1917, undertook to uphold the civil and religious rights of the native population of Palestine. A century later, the House of Commons added national rights as well, voting in October 2014 - by 274 votes to 12 - to recognise a Palestinian state. Cameron chose to ignore the non-binding vote
  • The Conservative government’s adoption in 2016 of the IHRA’s non-legally-binding working definition of antisemitism falls squarely within this tradition of partisanship on behalf of Zionism and Israel, and disdain for Palestinians.  The definition states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
  • The definition does not mention Israel by name, but no fewer than seven out of the 11 “illustrative examples” that follow concern Israel. They include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”; “applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”; and “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. 
  • antisemitism was singled out for attention and punishment by a Conservative government that is renowned for its intensely relaxed attitude towards Islamophobia. 
  • Many left-wing Israelis regard Israel as a racist endeavour. B’Tselem, the highly respected Israeli human rights organisation, issued a closely argued position paper in January titled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”
  • Right-wing Israelis continue to hotly deny that Israel is an apartheid state and reject any comparison with apartheid South Africa. But there is no law against calling Israel an apartheid state, and progressive Israelis do so all the time. Comparisons with Nazi Germany are also not proscribed by Israeli law. Such comparisons are less common in Israeli political discourse, but they are occasionally expressed in newspaper editorials and even by politicians. 
  • To achieve consensus on the document within the IHRA, it was necessary to separate the statement from the illustrative examples that followed. Pro-Israel partisans, however, have repeatedly conveyed the false impression that the examples are an integral part of the definition.
  • What the non-legally-binding IHRA document does do, with the help of the examples, is shift the focus from real antisemitism to the perfectly respectable and growing phenomenon of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is sometimes described by pro-Israel stakeholders as “the new antisemitism”. It is essential, however, to distinguish clearly between the two.
  • Anti-Zionism is opposition to the exclusive character of the state of Israel and to Israeli policies, particularly its occupation of the West Bank. Antisemitism relates to Jews anywhere in the world; anti-Zionism relates only to Israel. 
  • the definition’s very vagueness confers a political advantage. It enables Israel’s defenders to weaponise the definition, especially against left-wing opponents, and to portray what in most cases is valid criticism of Israeli behaviour as the vilification and delegitimisation of the State of Israel.
  • Israel is not a democracy. Even within its original borders, it is a flawed democracy at best, because of discrimination at multiple levels against its Palestinian citizens. But in the whole area under its rule, including the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel is an ethnocracy - a political system in which one ethnic group dominates another. 
  • In the Orwellian world of the post-full-adoption Labour Party, many of the members who have been suspended or expelled for the crime of antisemitism were themselves Jewish. Several Jewish Labour Party members have been investigated since 2016, nearly all on the basis of allegations of antisemitism. This made a mockery of the claim of Keir Starmer, who succeeded the allegedly antisemitic Jeremy Corbyn as leader, to be making the Labour Party a safe place for Jews.  
  • In the rush to burnish its pro-Zionist credentials, the Labour Party turned against some of its most progressive Jewish members. Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli British anti-Zionist, was expelled and then reinstated in 2017 after the Guardian published a letter of protest undersigned by 139 Labour Party members, including eminent Jewish lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, dismissing the insinuation of antisemitism as “personally offensive and politically dangerous”.
  • The 11 examples make a series of unwarranted assumptions about Israel and world Jewry. They assume that all Israelis adhere to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state; that Israel is a “democratic nation”; that Israel is not a racist endeavour; and that all Jews condemn the comparison between Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.
  • In a letter to the Guardian published in November 2020, a group of 122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals expressed their concerns about the IHRA definition. Palestinian voices are rarely heard in the national debate on antisemitism and Israel-Palestine.
  • Through ‘examples’ that it provides, the IHRA definition conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists, and that the state of Israel in its current reality embodies the self-determination of all Jews. We profoundly disagree with this. The fight against antisemitism should not be turned into a stratagem to delegitimise the fight against the oppression of the Palestinians, the denial of their rights and the continued occupation of their land
  • Another call on universities to resist the government’s attempt to impose the IHRA definition came from an unexpected source: British academics who are also Israeli citizens. I am a member of this group, brought together by outrage at Williamson’s rude and crude intervention. It came as a surprise to discover that there are so many of us but, on the issue of his threat, we were all on the same page, regardless of our diverse academic disciplines, ages, statuses and political affiliations.
  • Our demarche took the form of a long letter sent in the last week of January to all vice chancellors of English universities and many academic senates. Since then, our letter has been signed by an impressive list of 110 supporters, all Israeli academics outside the UK, including many from Israel. We tried to reach a wider public beyond the academy by publishing our letter in the mainstream media. Our request was either rejected or ignored by no less than 12 national newspapers and other media outlets. We were rather surprised and disappointed that not a single national paper saw fit to publish our letter or to report our initiative. But the letter was eventually published by the Jewish leftist online journal, Vashti.
  • In our letter, we said: “Fighting antisemitism in all its forms is an absolute must. Yet the IHRA document is inherently flawed, and in ways that undermine this fight. In addition, it threatens free speech and academic freedom and constitutes an attack both on the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the struggle to democratise Israel.”
  • The Loach affair vividly demonstrates the damage that the IHRA document can do to free speech on campus. The document was used to smear a prominent left-wing critic of Israel and a defender of Palestinian rights, and to try to deny him a platform. The attempt at no-platforming ultimately failed, but it caused totally unwarranted pain to the artist, placed the master of his old college in an extremely awkward position, stirred up a great deal of ill-feeling on both sides of the argument, wasted a great deal of time and energy that could have been put to better use, and, worst of all, in my humble opinion, was completely unnecessary, unjustified and unproductive. All it did was sour the atmosphere around an imaginative cultural event.
  • it must be emphasised that antisemitism is not a fiction, as some people claim. It is a real problem at all levels of our society, including university campuses, and it needs to be confronted robustly wherever it rears its ugly head. Secondly, it would be quite wrong to suggest that Jewish students who protest about antisemitism are inventing or exaggerating their feeling of hurt. Jewish students genuinely feel vulnerable and have a real need for protection by university authorities against any manifestation of bigotry, harassment or discrimination. 
  • the definition is implicitly premised on Jewish exceptionalism - on the notion that Jews are a special case and must be treated as such. This gets in the way of solidarity and cooperation with other groups who are also susceptible to racial prejudice, such as Arabs and Muslims. To be effective, the fight against racism needs to take place across the board and not in isolated corners.
  • Despite its claim to the contrary, Israel does not represent all Jews globally, but only its own citizens, a fifth of whom are Palestinian.
  • British Jews are not collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct, but the IHRA definition implicates them in Israel’s affairs, and encourages them to target anyone they consider to be an enemy of the Jewish state.
  • do we need a definition of antisemitism at all? My own view is that we do not. The very term "antisemitic" is problematic because Arabs are Semites too. I prefer the term "anti-Jewish racism". What we need is a code of conduct to protect all minority groups, including Jews, against discrimination and harassment while protecting freedom of speech for all members of universities. 
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    Opinion of an Israeli academic at Oxford University
Ed Webb

The Israel-Hezbollah Channel - 0 views

  • Israel and Lebanon have a long history of tension: officially, they have been at war without interruption since 1948, and they have not agreed on an officially demarcated border—nor, after several wars, have they formally agreed to a cease-fire. Nevertheless, a strange forum for conflict management has grown up between them. Since 2006, when UNIFIL was reauthorized by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, peacekeepers have presided over more than one hundred tripartite meetings, which bring together officers from Israel, Lebanon, and UNIFIL to manage disputes and technical issues along the Blue Line.5 The primary belligerents along the border are Hezbollah and the Israeli military, but the Lebanese military serves as Hezbollah’s interlocutors in what has become known as the Tripartite Process.
  • In a region rife with standing conflicts between belligerents who have little or no direct channels of communication, UNIFIL provides a rare example of conflict management in an extremely unstable and opaque environment. Its track record offers some suggestions of promising approaches to manage and mitigate conflict, while avoiding unwanted escalation. But it also offers stark warnings of the limitations of a narrow and indirect approach in the absence of enduring cease-fires, treaties, or other more robust conflict-resolution mechanisms
  • its newly muscular force with strong international political backing created perhaps the only sustained, regular, and efficacious channel of communications between Middle East belligerents in an active conflict
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  • UNIFIL makes a precarious model for conflict management. Despite its successes, both Israel and Hezbollah routinely attack UNIFIL’s legitimacy in public. The population of southern Lebanon expresses widespread skepticism about the peacekeeping mission’s intentions and loyalties, despite the benefits they reap from UNIFIL, which not only reduces conflict but serves as the area’s largest employer.11 Many residents of southern Lebanon and supporters of Hezbollah believe that UNIFIL serves Israeli and American interests and is unlikely to act to protect civilians during future conflicts
  • The original UNIFIL mission deployed in 1978 with three missions: to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, to restore “international peace and security,” and to restore the authority of the government of Lebanon in the border region. None of these missions were achieved. Israel never fully withdrew, and in 1982 extended its occupation deeper into Lebanese territory. On the Lebanese side, state authority no longer existed, as the nation was riven by the 1975–90 civil war. A quisling militia eventually known as the South Lebanon Army served as an Israeli proxy.13 Hezbollah formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli occupation, and over the following decade grew into the dominant local force fighting Israel. Lebanon’s national army was reconstituted after the Taif Agreement of 1989 paved the way for an end to the country’s civil war. Even as other militias disbanded or had their fighters absorbed into the regular military, Hezbollah alone maintained an autonomous militia. Israel still occupied about one-tenth of Lebanon’s territory, along the southern border, and Hezbollah continued to lead the armed resistance. In 2000, Israel finally withdrew from most of Lebanese territory, but continued to occupy high ground on the mountain of Jabal al-Sheikh, known as Shebaa Farms, as well as the village of Ghajar, which contains critical water sources.14 Later, it also claimed some Lebanese territorial waters in an area where underwater oil and gas exploration is underway.15 Citing Israel’s continuing occupation, as well as the Israeli air force’s daily overflights of Lebanon, Hezbollah spurned calls from some of its Lebanese rivals to disarm or integrate into the national army.16 Tensions regularly flared along the border, and finally boiled over into war in July 2006.
  • Initially, Hezbollah preferred a UN resolution that would leave it sovereign in southern Lebanon. But Lebanon’s government, and significant quarters of Lebanese public opinion, wanted to reassert state sovereignty in the zone of southern Lebanon that hitherto had been solely under Hezbollah’s control. Israel and the United States, by contrast, entered the cease-fire negotiations with unrealistic hopes that they could achieve through peacekeeping what they had failed to do through violence: disarm Hezbollah
  • UNSCR 1701, which led to a cessation of hostilities on August 14, 2006
  • Immediately upon implementing the cease-fire, UNIFIL peacekeepers initiated a process that was not specified in the new mandate but which has become, in the eleven years since the cessation of hostilities until the time of this writing, the most successful element of the mission: the standing, direct negotiations between the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, under UN auspices
  • this somewhat informal mechanism has now met more than one hundred times without a single walkout from either side. It appears to be the only place where Israeli and Lebanese officials formally and directly interact
  • In the context of the Middle East, this forum is especially remarkable. Most of the region’s running conflicts lack even tactical communication between adversaries. Relatively straightforward arrangements such as temporary cease-fires, prisoner exchanges, or safe passage for civilians have been tortuous and at times virtually impossible in regional conflicts. Belligerents often refuse to recognize each other even on a most basic level. If Israel and Lebanon (and, by extension, Hezbollah) have managed to build a rudimentary channel despite their history and the political obstacles to communication, then perhaps—using a similar approach—other belligerents in the region might also inaugurate conflict-­management channels or CBMs.
  • Its approximately 10,500 troops generate economic activity for southern Lebanon; after the Lebanese government, UNIFIL is the largest employer in the area.
  • Hezbollah is a regional military power, operating in tandem with Iran as infantry or trainers in Iraq, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere. In Syria, Hezbollah has played perhaps the most critical military role on the government’s side. Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has moved from being a strong faction to being the strongest, today holding the balance of power domestically, with the ability to dominate the complex political negotiations that determine who holds the presidency. In 2013, the European Union as a whole joined Israel, the United States, and some individual European governments in listing Hezbollah’s “armed wing” as a terrorist group. (Hezbollah itself denies it has any separate armed wing, making such a designation tantamount to naming the entire organization.)
  • UNIFIL’s best direct relationship is with the Lebanese Army. It cannot officially communicate with Hezbollah, and its channels to the Israeli military, while stronger than before 2006, are still limited
  • On one hand, Hezbollah and Israel have both benefited from UNIFIL’s core functions: development projects for poor denizens of the border region; demarcation of the Blue Line; deconfliction, de-escalation, conflict management, and communication between belligerents; intelligence gathering; and a unique forum in which armies from two nations at war routinely meet for direct talks and resolve technical issues even as the political conflict between their governments continues unabated. On the other hand, both belligerents routinely have undermined UNIFIL, attacking its legitimacy and performance in public forums while praising it in private; engaging in prohibited military operations; and refusing to extend any political support to the negotiations that they joined at a military level.
  • “It’s a conflict-management institution, not a conflict-resolution institution,” observed Timur Goksel, a UNIFIL veteran who worked with the mission over the course of two decades and has been based in both Israel and Lebanon. “It offers adversaries a way out. They can use UNIFIL as an excuse. It opens a way out of major conflict. This is what UNIFIL is all about.”
  • The disputed village of Ghajar, which has long been a flashpoint between the two sides, exemplifies the limits of the existing channels of communication and negotiation. The Blue Line passes directly through the village. Its inhabitants are Alawites who previously lived under Syrian rule on territory that today is claimed by Lebanon.36 Israel currently controls the entire village. Israeli presence in the northern half of Ghajar entails a permanent violation of the Blue Line. The situation is further complicated by the lack of pressure from the village’s residents, who appear content to operate as part of Israel. Israel has committed in principle to withdrawing from the northern portion of the village, but the details of how to do that have eluded all parties.37
  • Hezbollah operates in southern Lebanon with full independence. It might defer to the Lebanese Army or UNIFIL in order to avoid embarrassment or minor mishaps, but it can freely circumvent even the most symbolic of checks
  • Hezbollah continues to hold sovereign power of arms and operates without limitation from the government of Lebanon, UNIFIL, or any other force
  • Hezbollah has greatly increased its military capacity since joining the Syrian war as a pivotal combatant in 2012. The Lebanese nonstate actor has emerged as the premier urban combat and infantry force on the side of the Syrian government. It has engaged in wide-scale maneuver warfare, and has engaged in integrated warfare, involving air force support, with professional forces from Iran, Russia, and Syria. Hezbollah has helped form new militias and has led coordinated assaults with militia support involving groups and fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere.45 Reports suggest that Hezbollah has also acquired a new arsenal of long-range missiles and land-to-sea missiles, which greatly increases its deterrent capacity against Israel and could enable it to threaten more Israeli targets than it could in 2006
  • With the Syrian war potentially entering a closing phase, from which Hezbollah and the Syrian government will emerge victorious, several analysts have refocused their attention on the latent Israel-Hezbollah conflict
  • Israel and Lebanon are formally still at war, and no closer to a permanent cease-fire than they were when UNSCR 1701 came into force on August 14, 2006. Whereas the Israeli government and military are unitary actors on one side of the Blue Line, the other side has a bedeviling array of potential belligerents with competing interests. These possible participants include but are not limited to Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, Palestinian factions, the Syrian government, and possibly some Syrian rebel factions, although most Syrian rebels in the Golan have either cooperated with Israel or remained neutral. UNIFIL can call the Lebanese Army to settle a crisis, but then must rely on the Lebanese Army, itself strained by pressures stemming from the war in Syria, to make effective contact with other players
  • Whether technical talks and a bare-bones conflict-management channel can, in fact, shift the political opportunities is precisely the question raised by UNIFIL’s record since 2006. UNIFIL’s example suggests that military-military talks have utility but are unlikely to drive political resolution. The UNIFIL model may be a promising approach for conflicts between belligerents with strained or nonexistent diplomatic relations, but it is a model for managing conflict and avoiding unintended escalations, not for resolving conflict and reversing escalations that are intentional or are based on mistrust and miscalculation
  • “It’s the only mission that speaks to two countries that are still at war,” noted one UNIFIL official. “This works if parties don’t want to go to war. It can’t prevent a war from happening.”
  • Unless a government or nonstate actor has openly and expressly deputized a military channel to negotiate a political resolution, there is no evidence that technical talks will prompt a political dialogue—simply because some participants hope for it to do so—much less a resolution
  • UNIFIL’s record as an arbiter or honest broker does not appear to have changed any policy position on the part of Hezbollah or the government of Israel. A technical channel cannot create a new political climate
  • UNIFIL’s conflict-management paradigm may, paradoxically, increase risks by leaving political problems unresolved. “There is no doubt the UNIFIL mission has acted as shock absorber for local tensions and maintained a negative peace, that is, it has prevented the escalation of minor incidents into large-scale conflict,” the researcher Vanessa Newby concluded after conducting fifty interviews of UNIFIL officials and others who deal with the mission.54 “But its presence appears to be sustaining the conditions of conflict more than it is resolving them.”
  • successfully bolstered the Lebanese military’s function and standing as a state institution
  • If either Hezbollah or Israel shifted its cost-benefit calculus and decided it was more preferable to go to war than maintain the status quo (as Israel had in advance of the summer of 2006), then UNIFIL’s mechanisms would provide almost no peacemaking or conflict-avoidance potential
  • Many of the Middle East’s conflict areas are plagued with similar problems and thus are ripe for UNIFIL-like channels, managed by neutral third parties that can avoid accidental escalations, act as a clearing house for airing grievances and seeking technical solutions to relatively small technical problems, and potentially manage aspects of open conflict if it emerges. Such channels could pave the way for delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen or exchanging prisoners in Syria. The model is for a standing body that is not ad hoc nor of limited duration, and thus can establish trust over multiple iterations of dialogue and conflict management.
  • the UNIFIL case illustrates the broader problem with applying a military (or security, or conflict-management) paradigm to inherently political problems. Such a forum can be an effective long-term intermediary, but only for tactical matters. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is a political one
  • The field of critical security studies has pushed the field of academic political science to incorporate political concerns into its definition of security, but minimized the hard security concerns that make life dangerous in conflict zones.55 The balance of security and politics is not merely a theoretical concern; it drives the persistence of deadly conflict in the Middle East. Both hard security and political grievance must be addressed, even if unfairly, in order to resolve a conflict. A similar dynamic shapes the need to address process as well as policy. A satisfactory forum is required for belligerents to talk at all. Forums like UNIFIL, or the Madrid Peace Conference (where parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict met in 1991), create the space and relationships that are a precondition for any substantial negotiation. Yet process does not suffice if no common policy framework can be reached on the central matters of dispute. No amount of tripartite meetings at the UNIFIL headquarters will compel the political leadership in Israel or Hezbollah to reformulate their core goals
  • The Middle East needs more UNIFILs, but it is crucial to keep in mind the limitations of a conflict-management approach if such forums are to be useful for advancing long-term security. They are no substitute for politics.
Ed Webb

The F-35 Triangle: America, Israel, the United Arab Emirates - War on the Rocks - 0 views

  • deepen what were heretofore covert ties across the full spectrum of civilian sectors from business to science to agriculture and even space. The Emirati-Israeli agreement builds upon years of “under the table” cooperation between security and intelligence professionals driven toward strategic alignment by a shared perception of the major regional threat — Iran.
  • the U.S. sweetener appears to be a commitment to sell it F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as other advanced weaponry long sought by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
  • When Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, it secured the second largest military aid package in the Middle East after Israel, which continues today. When Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, the announcement came along with debt relief and the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft — and, like Egypt, Jordan remains a top recipient of American assistance
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  • Reactions to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 have largely focused on whether Israel will support such a sale and the related requirement in U.S. domestic law to ensure Israel’s military superiority against all other countries in the Middle East. The longstanding policy term, later codified in law, is “qualitative military edge.” From the Emirati point of view, if they have entered into full diplomatic relations with Israel — with a promised “warm peace,” in the words of Emirati officials — and both countries share the same threat perspective, then Israel should have confidence that these advanced weapons will not be turned against it and should therefore not object to the sale. Moreover, unlike Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates has never attacked Israel.
  • Weapons sales are a leading area of competition in the Middle East, and in the words of the former Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow: Arms transfers are foreign policy. When we transfer a system or a capability to a foreign partner, we are affecting regional — or foreign internal — balances of power; we are sending a signal of support; and we are establishing or sustaining relationships that may last for generations and provide benefits for an extended period of time.
  • selling the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates would say much more about the Washington’s partnership with Abu Dhabi than it would about the evolving Emirati-Israeli relationship
  • Selling the F-35 to a country ought to be a signal that the United States has the highest measure of confidence in that country’s warfighting capabilities, decision-making on the use of force, and commitments to protecting sensitive technology. The Emirati record on each of these issues does not, however, inspire the highest confidence. The record is mixed.
  • As former government officials serving in the State and Defense Departments as well as in Congress, we are confident that the process going forward will be messy and time-consuming, specifically because the current case breaks precedent in so many ways.
  • competitors in the global arms export industry — particularly Russia and China — also leverage arms sales, but by and large with no strings attached for their use. Both governments use arms sales to challenge U.S. market dominance and to undermine American partnerships in the region
  • Reflecting a long-held U.S. policy view, during his nomination hearing Washington’s envoy to Abu Dhabi noted that the country “is a moderating and stabilizing force in one of the world’s most volatile regions.” The United Arab Emirates stands out among other militaries in the region for having contributed military forces to many U.S.-led coalitions since the first Gulf War — Kosovo (late 1990s), Somalia (1992), Afghanistan (since 2003), Libya (2011) and the anti-ISIL coalition (2014 to 2015). Indeed, Jared Kushner set a new precedent for framing the American-Emirati partnership when he effectively equated it with that of America and Israel, terming them comparably “special” during his most recent visit to the Middle East.
  • Emirati regional policies have been the subject of increasing congressional concern in recent years, largely focused on the country’s actions in Yemen and Libya. Since the beginning the Saudi-led coalition’s 2015 intervention in Yemen, most congressional action focused on the Saudi role in the conflict and not the Emirati one. But in 2018, congressional concern peaked in response to Emirati plans to launch an offensive to seize the Yemeni port of Hudaydah. The Trump administration subsequently declined to provide military support for the Emirati operation, given the risks of worsening an already severe humanitarian crisis, concerns regarding the complexities of the proposed military operation, and the likelihood of mass civilian casualties
  • In both Yemen and Libya, Abu Dhabi has not succeeded in leveraging its robust military investments toward political processes that would end the conflicts. In both contexts the divergent policies of the United States and United Arab Emirates — including use of military force, conduct in combat, and utilization of U.S. defense articles — should be considered as part of the F-35 deliberations.
  • Since the Yemen war’s inception in 2015, members of Congress have raised concerns about the conflict and U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition, in which Abu Dhabi was a partner and to which it contributed forces until withdrawing in the summer of 2019. These concerns, and the Trump administration’s refusal to address them, culminated in Congress mandating a report on steps taken by both governments to reduce civilian casualties and comply with laws and agreements governing the use of U.S.-origin weapons — indicating skepticism that either country was doing so
  • protecting Israel’s military superiority consists of both legal requirements and longstanding political and process steps that, while not mandated by law, have paved the way for decades of bipartisan congressional consent to arms sales in the Middle East, including of advanced fighter aircraft. The requirement to protect Israel’s “qualitative military edge” is enshrined in 2008 naval vessel transfer legislation, although it had been implemented as a matter of policy between Washington and Jerusalem since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
  • Presumably, the United Arab Emirates and Israel entering into formal relations affirms that the former does not pose such a military threat. The Israeli perspective at the moment, however, has been complicated by the continuing murk over whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blessed the U.S. commitment to sell the Emirati government the F-35 — without the knowledge of his own defense minister. Tensions in Netanyahu’s fragile governing coalition and a larger uproar in Israel’s defense establishment have prompted an awkward pas de deux among American, Emirati, and Israeli officials. Netanyahu — responding to concerns raised by the Israeli defense establishment — stated emphatically during an Aug. 24 joint press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he had not consented to any arms deal as part of normalization. Given Netanyahu’s close relationship with Trump, it is safe to say that no one in either country finds this claim credible. The public spat over Israeli consent to Emirati acquisition of the F-35 escalated when Netanyahu publicly vowed to go to Congress in opposition to the sale, and the United Arab Emirates in response cancelled a planned meeting between the Israeli and Emirati ambassadors to the United Nations.
  • extensive discussions should be expected between Israeli and U.S. technical and military experts to agree on the appropriate mix of offsets to ensure Israel’s military superiority. The offsets may involve discussions of quantity (how many F-35s the Emiratis will acquire versus the Israelis), technical variations in the F-35 platform, or additional sales and assistance to Israel. This challenge is not insurmountable, but it will be time-consuming and extend pass the upcoming American electoral cycle
  • The standard for this level of consultation with Israel before moving forward with arms sales packages to others in the region was set by the Obama administration — first in 2011 with the sale of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, and later in 2013 with the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates along with stand-off weapons to both the Saudis and the Emiratis. Concurrent with 2013 sales, the Obama administration negotiated a package for Israel to maintain its military edge that included V-22 Osprey aircraft, advanced refueling tankers, and anti-air defense missiles.
  • Though Israel has no legal right to  block the United States from selling a weapon to another country in the Middle East, Israeli support is critical, particularly during the period of congressional notification. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will consult with the Israeli government, and will prefer to support a sale that earns a clear green light from the Israeli government. Members are likely be left unsatisfied by ambiguous and lukewarm Israel responses to the question of selling the F-35 to the Emiratis, precisely because technical talks have not yet begun. All parties risk being stuck between the divisive politics of the moment, and the deliberative, lengthy policy considerations that such arms transfer packages usually entail, opening the door to a further erosion of bipartisanship on a key issue of national security importance — the what, when, and how of a decision by the United States to provide advanced weapons systems to partner states in the Middle East.
  • Arab capitals are closely following whether the United States will follow through on its apparent commitment to sell the F-35 (and assorted other high-end systems) to Abu Dhabi, and whether American deliverables are sufficiently compelling to consider bringing their own relations with Israel into the daylight
  • The historical record from Egypt to Jordan and now the United Arab Emirates — across administrations of both political parties — is that formal relations with Israel facilitate strategic consistency from Washington
  • Will Egypt and Jordan request the F-35 in light of their existing peace treaties with Israel? Will countries in closer geographic proximity, like Saudi Arabia, request the F-35 and additional advanced U.S. weapons as part of their normalization package?
  • For Israel, Iran and Turkey represent sobering examples in that regard — previously solid security partners within seemingly stable governance structures that became hostile.
  • military edge risks eroding as Arab governments, whether blocked from purchasing certain weapons from the United States or in addition to acquiring them, turn to China, Russia, and other weapons exporters not obligated to maintain Israel’s military superiority
  • Competition in the Middle East between the United States and its adversaries is intensifying — particularly in the weapons sales arena
  • Washington may find itself in an escalating — and unsustainable — cycle of supplementing and upgrading support, technology, and other military offsets to Israel.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

Inside the Pro-Israel Information War - 0 views

  • a rare public glimpse of how Israel and its American allies harness Israel’s influential tech sector and tech diaspora to run cover for the Jewish state as it endures scrutiny over the humanitarian impact of its invasion of Gaza.
  • reveal the degree to which, in the tech-oriented hasbara world, the lines between government, the private sector, and the nonprofit world are blurry at best. And the tactics that these wealthy individuals, advocates, and groups use -- hounding Israel critics on social media; firing pro-Palestine employees and canceling speaking engagements; smearing Palestinian journalists; and attempting to ship military-grade equipment to the IDF -- are often heavy-handed and controversial.
  • The final group consists of those who are "reflexively pro-Israel, kind of ‘Israel, right or wrong.’" Members of this group "are not actually very knowledgeable," so they needed to be equipped with the right facts to make them "more effective in advocating for Israel,” Fisher said.
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  • Members of the hasbara-oriented tech world WhatsApp group have eagerly taken up the call to shape public opinion as part of a bid to win what’s been described as the “second battlefield” and “the information war.”
  • The group, which also includes individuals affiliated with the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), has tirelessly worked to fire employees and punish activists for expressing pro-Palestinian views. It has also engaged in a successful push to cancel events held by prominent Palestinian voices, including an Arizona State University talk featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is the only Palestinian-American in Congress. The group has also circulated circulated a push poll suggesting Rep. Tlaib should resign from Congress and provided an automatic means of thanking Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., for voting for her censure.
  • J-Ventures has also veered into an unusual kind of philanthropy: shipments of military supplies. The group has attempted to provide tactical gear to Israel’s equivalent of the U.S. Navy SEALs, known as Shayetet-13, and donated to a foundation dedicated to supporting the IDF’s undercover “Duvdevan” unit, which is known for infiltrating Palestinian populations. Many of the shipments intended for the IDF were held up at U.S. airports over customs issues.
  • Israel would soon lose international support as its military response in Gaza kills more Palestinian civilians, noted Schwarzbad, who stressed the need to refocus attention on Israeli civilian deaths. “Try to use names and ages whenever you can,” she said. Don’t refer to statistics of the dead, use stories. “Say something like, 'Noah, age 26, was celebrating with her friends at a music festival on the holiest day of the week, Shabbat. Imagine if your daughter was at Coachella.’”
  • The Israel-based venture capitalist outlined three categories of people for whom outreach, rather than attacks, is the best strategy. The first group is what he dubbed “the impressionables,” who are "typically young people, they reflexively support the weak, oppose the oppressor," but "are not really knowledgeable." For this category of people, the goal is not to "convince them of anything," but to "show them that it's much more complicated than it seems." Seeding doubt, he said, would make certain audiences think twice before attending a protest. "So it's really about creating some kind of confusion,” Fisher continued, “but really, just to make it clear to them that it's really a lot more complicated."
  • Fisher repeatedly noted the need to offer accurate and nuanced information to rebut critics of Israel's actions. Yet at times, he offered his own misinformation, such as his claim that "anti-Israel" human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch "didn't condemn the October 7th massacre."
  • One participant even suggested that they appeal to the university’s “woke” aversion to exposing students to uncomfortable ideas.   The participant drafted a sample letter claiming that Tlaib’s appearance threatened ASU’s “commitment to a safe and inclusive environment.” The following day, ASU officially canceled the Tlaib event, citing “procedural issues.”
  • efforts to discredit HRW stem directly from its outspoken criticism of Israel’s record in the occupied territories and its military conduct. An HRW report released the same day as Fisher’s remarks cited the World Health Organization’s conclusion that the IDF had killed roughly one child in Gaza every 10 minutes since the outbreak of violence in October.
  • members of the J-Ventures group chat also internally circulated a petition for Netflix to remove the award-winning Jordanian film ‘Farha,’ claiming that its portrayal of the actions of IDF soldiers during the 1948 displacement of Palestinians constituted “blood libel,” while another said the film was based “antisemitism and lies.”
  • Last year, the Israeli government revoked funding for a theater in Jaffa for screening the film, while government figures called for other repercussions to Netflix for streaming it.
  • One member noted that despite the controversy over a scene in the film in which Israeli soldiers execute a Palestinian family, Israeli historians have documented that “such actions have indeed happened.” The critique was rejected by other members of the group, who said the film constituted “incitement” against Jews.
  • a variety of automated attempts to remove pro-Palestinian content on social media
  • Over the last two months, dozens of individuals have been fired for expressing opinions related to the war in Gaza and Israel. Most have been dismissed for expressing pro-Palestinian views, including a writer for PhillyVoice, the editor of ArtForum, an apprentice at German publishing giant Axel Springer, and Michael Eisen, the editor-in-chief of eLife, a prominent science journal. Eisen’s offense was a tweet sharing a satirical article from The Onion seen as sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.
  • The WhatsApp chats provide a rare look at the organizing efforts behind the broad push to fire critics of Israel and suppress public events featuring critics of the Israeli government. The scope is surprisingly broad, ranging from investigating the funding sources of student organizations such as Model Arab League, to monitoring an organizing toolkit of a Palestine Solidarity Working Group – “They are verrrry well organized”, one member exclaimed – to working directly with high-level tech executives to fire pro-Palestinian employees.
  • "President Biden seems incapable of using the one policy tool that may actually produce a change in Israel's actions that might limit civilian deaths, which would be to condition military aid that the United States provides to Israel,” Clifton added. He partially attributed the inability of the U.S. government to rein in Israel’s war actions to the “lobbying and advocacy efforts underway.”
  • Lior Netzer, a business consultant based in Massachusetts, and a member of the J-Ventures WhatsApp group, requested help pressuring the University of Vermont to cancel a lecture with Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer for The Nation magazine. Netzer shared a sample script that alleged that El-Kurd had engaged in anti-Semitic speech in the past.The effort also appeared to be successful. Shortly after the letter-writing campaign, UVM canceled the talk, citing safety concerns.
  • The WhatsApp group maintained a special focus on elite universities and white-collar professional positions. Group members not only circulated multiple petitions to fire professors and blacklist students from working at major law firms for allegedly engaging in extremist rhetoric, but a J-Ventures spreadsheet lists specific task force teams to "get professors removed who teach falcehoods [sic] to their students." The list includes academics at Cornell University, the University of California, Davis, and NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, among others.
  • Many of the messages in the group focused on ways in which to shape student life at Stanford University, including support for pro-Israel activists. The attempted interventions into campus life at times hinged on the absurd. Shortly after comedian Amy Schumer posted a now-deleted satirical cartoon lampooning pro-Palestinian protesters as supporters of rape and beheadings, Epstein, the operating partner at Bessemer Ventures Partners and member of the J-Ventures WhatsApp group, asked, “How can we get this political cartoon published in the Stanford Daily?"
  • The influence extended beyond the business and tech world and into politics. The J-Ventures team includes advocates with the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC. Officials in the J-Ventures group include investor David Wagonfeld, whose biography states he is “leading AIPAC Silicon Valley;” Tartakovsky, listed as “AIPAC Political Chair;” Adam Milstein, a real estate executive and major AIPAC donor; and AIPAC-affiliated activists Drs. Kathy Fields and Garry Rayant. Kenneth Baer, a former White House advisor to President Barack Obama and communications counsel to the Anti-Defamation League, is also an active member of the group.
  • Other fundraising efforts from J-Ventures included an emergency fund to provide direct support for IDF units, including the naval commando unit Shayetet-13. The leaked planning document also uncovers attempts to supply the mostly female Caracal Battalion with grenade pouches and to donate M16 rifle scope mounts, “FN MAG” machine gun carrier vests, and drones to unnamed IDF units. According to the planning document, customs enforcement barriers have stranded many of the packages destined for the IDF in Montana and Colorado.
  • the morning after being reached for comment, Hermoni warned the WhatsApp group against cooperating with our inquiries. “Two journalists … are trying to have an anti semi[tic] portrait of our activity to support Israel and reaching out to members,” he wrote. “Please ignore them and do not cooperate.” he advised. Shortly thereafter, we were kicked out of the group
  • Victory on the “media battlefield,” Hoffman concluded, “eases pressure on IDF to go quicker, to wrap up” and “goes a long way to deciding how much time Israel has to complete an operation.”
Ed Webb

Israeli citizen stands trial in Jordan as tensions simmer - 0 views

  • The trial of Israeli citizen Konstantin Kotov started Dec. 2 in the State Security Court of Jordan. He stands charged with crossing illegally into Jordanian territory last October.
  • “Legitimizing settlements and moving to annex the Jordan Valley is not an Israeli decision, it is an American decision. Israel cannot take this step without US approval. Therefore, it is with the US that Jordan has a problem.”
  • Jordanian army held military exercises simulating an Israeli invasion Nov. 25. The drill was dubbed “Swords of Karama” after the battle near Karama village that Israel lost to the Jordanian army and Palestinian factions in 1968. The exercise was attended by King Abdullah and security leaders and members of parliament.
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  • On Nov. 10, Jordan recovered from Israel the Baqoura lands in the Jordan Valley by refusing to renew a 25-year lease under a peace agreement between the two countries. A day later, Abdullah publicly prayed in his military uniform.
  • According to analysts who spoke to Al-Monitor, the source of the tension lies far beyond the borders of the Middle East. It has to do with the US administration proposing its "deal of the century," which favors Israel at the expense of the peace process it purports to further. Jordan sees the two-state solution as a fair solution consistent with its interests.
  • Kotov’s trial comes in the context of high tensions between Jordan and Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing his intention to annex the Jordan Valley and repeated Israeli violations of Jordanian sovereignty over holy sites including incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque, settlement expansion and the administrative detention of Jordanian citizens in Israel.
  • “Jordan deals with Israel based on political and economic issues. It is at odds with Israel regarding the Palestinian cause but is moving forward with bilateral economic projects.”
  • Jordan has a strong relationship with members of the US Congress, but not with the administration. Abdullah has met President Donald Trump only once because of his position toward Israel.
  • A quarter of a century after the signature of the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel on Oct. 26, 1994, their relationship remains lukewarm amid popular and parliamentary demands pressuring the Jordanian regime to end it.
  • Jordan is courting the European Union to condemn Israel’s violations and face the US bias toward Israel
Ed Webb

JDA - The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism - 1 views

  • The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism responds to “the IHRA Definition,” the document that was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Because the IHRA Definition is unclear in key respects and widely open to different interpretations, it has caused confusion and generated controversy, hence weakening the fight against antisemitism. Noting that it calls itself “a working definition,” we have sought to improve on it by offering (a) a clearer core definition and (b) a coherent set of guidelines. We hope this will be helpful for monitoring and combating antisemitism, as well as for educational purposes. We propose our non-legally binding Declaration as an alternative to the IHRA Definition. Institutions that have already adopted the IHRA Definition can use our text as a tool for interpreting it.
  • The IHRA Definition includes 11 “examples” of antisemitism, 7 of which focus on the State of Israel. While this puts undue emphasis on one arena, there is a widely-felt need for clarity on the limits of legitimate political speech and action concerning Zionism, Israel, and Palestine. Our aim is twofold: (1) to strengthen the fight against antisemitism by clarifying what it is and how it is manifested, (2) to protect a space for an open debate about the vexed question of the future of Israel/Palestine. We do not all share the same political views and we are not seeking to promote a partisan political agenda. Determining that a controversial view or action is not antisemitic implies neither that we endorse it nor that we do not.
  • The guidelines that focus on Israel-Palestine (numbers 6 to 15) should be taken together. In general, when applying the guidelines each should be read in the light of the others and always with a view to context. Context can include the intention behind an utterance, or a pattern of speech over time, or even the identity of the speaker, especially when the subject is Israel or Zionism. So, for example, hostility to Israel could be an expression of an antisemitic animus, or it could be a reaction to a human rights violation, or it could be the emotion that a Palestinian person feels on account of their experience at the hands of the State. In short, judgement and sensitivity are needed in applying these guidelines to concrete situations.
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  • Definition Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).
  • B. Israel and Palestine: examples that, on the face of it, are antisemiticApplying the symbols, images and negative stereotypes of classical antisemitism (see guidelines 2 and 3) to the State of Israel.Holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct or treating Jews, simply because they are Jewish, as agents of Israel.Requiring people, because they are Jewish, publicly to condemn Israel or Zionism (for example, at a political meeting).Assuming that non-Israeli Jews, simply because they are Jews, are necessarily more loyal to Israel than to their own countries.Denying the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance with the principle of equality.
  • C. Israel and Palestine: examples that, on the face of it, are not antisemitic(whether or not one approves of the view or action)Supporting the Palestinian demand for justice and the full grant of their political, national, civil and human rights, as encapsulated in international law.Criticizing or opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism, or arguing for a variety of constitutional arrangements for Jews and Palestinians in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. It is not antisemitic to support arrangements that accord full equality to all inhabitants “between the river and the sea,” whether in two states, a binational state, unitary democratic state, federal state, or in whatever form.Evidence-based criticism of Israel as a state. This includes its institutions and founding principles. It also includes its policies and practices, domestic and abroad, such as the conduct of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, the role Israel plays in the region, or any other way in which, as a state, it influences events in the world. It is not antisemitic to point out systematic racial discrimination. In general, the same norms of debate that apply to other states and to other conflicts over national self-determination apply in the case of Israel and Palestine. Thus, even if contentious, it is not antisemitic, in and of itself, to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid.Boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.Political speech does not have to be measured, proportional, tempered, or reasonable to be protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights instruments. Criticism that some may see as excessive or contentious, or as reflecting a “double standard,” is not, in and of itself, antisemitic. In general, the line between antisemitic and non-antisemitic speech is different from the line between unreasonable and reasonable speech.
Ed Webb

25 years on, remembering the path to peace for Jordan and Israel - 0 views

  • When the secret talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were divulged in 1993, Jordan’s King Hussein felt betrayed. For years he had been secretly meeting with the Israelis to broker peace; now he discovered that they were secretly meeting with the Palestinians and making a deal without consulting him. The PLO, fellow Arabs, had not consulted the king either. He was devastated.
  • In September 1993, Rabin secretly came across the border from Eilat to Aqaba to address King Hussein’s concerns and assure the Jordanians that they would be kept informed about the future of the Oslo process. The meeting was arranged by Efraim Halevy, the deputy director of the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad. Hussein had been dealing with the Mossad and Halevy for years as a trusted clandestine back-channel
  • Clinton supported the peace process enthusiastically. A Jordanian treaty would get his support and help him sell the revival of bilateral relations with Jordan to Americans still angry over the Iraq war, especially in Congress
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  • Jordan had long held back from a peace treaty with Israel because it did not want to get in front of the Palestinians. It did not want a separate treaty with Israel, like President Anwar Sadat had done for Egypt. But now Arafat was engaging in direct talks with the Israelis to make a peace agreement: Jordan would not be alone. Even the Syrians were engaging with Israel via the Americans. Jordan was free to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel after decades of clandestine contacts begun by Hussein’s grandfather King Abdullah without fear of a backlash from the other Arabs
  • Jordan and Israel would keep the Americans informed, but the king did not want Washington using its leverage in a negotiation process given the Americans’ closer ties to Israel.
  • Rabin had met with the king secretly for almost two decades
  • The Rabin-Hussein relationship was crucial to the success of the negotiations. Both trusted the other. Hussein saw Rabin as a military man who had the security issues under his command. He was convinced that he had a unique opportunity to get a peace treaty and Rabin was central to the opening.
  • The king also saw the negotiation process as almost more of a religious experience than a diplomatic solution to the passions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He spoke movingly of restoring peace between the children of Abraham. He wanted a warm peace, not the cold peace between Egypt and Israel.
  • Jerusalem was also a core issue for the Hashemite family. Despite losing physical control of East Jerusalem in 1967, the king had retained influence in the Muslim institutions that administered the holy sites in the city. The preservation of Jordan’s role in the administration of the third holiest city of Islam was a very high priority of Hussein then, and still is for his son King Abdullah today
  • Clinton had studied the Jordanian wish list carefully. The top priority was for debt forgiveness, amounting to $700 million dollars. Clinton told Hussein that this would be a tough lift on Capitol Hill. If Hussein would meet Rabin at a public ceremony in the White House hosted by the president, Clinton said he could get the debt relief and progress on Jordan’s other requests.
  • The king told his aides that this was the best meeting he had had with an American president since his first with Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959. On July 9, the king told the Jordanian parliament that it was time for an end to the state of war with Israel and for a public meeting with the Israeli leadership. He wanted the meeting to take place in the region.
  • The Jordanian and Israeli peace teams met publicly on the border to start the rollout, followed by a foreign ministers meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan — a way to bring Peres into the photo op but not the negotiations.
  • The Americans got a copy only on the night before the White House ceremony.
  • On July 25, 1994, Clinton read the declaration on the White House lawn and Rabin and Hussein signed it. It terminated the state of war. Israel formally undertook to respect the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem. All three gave speeches, but the king’s address got the most attention. His speech included a clear and unqualified statement that the state of war was over. He spoke of the realization of peace as the fulfillment of his life-long dream.
  • Clinton spoke of the king’s extraordinary courage in pursuit of peace. He compared him to his grandfather, who had been assassinated for his talks with Israel
  • Rabin and Hussein addressed a joint session of Congress. Hussein spoke about his grandfather’s commitment to peace. “I have pledged my life to fulfilling his dream.” Both received standing ovations. Behind the scenes, Halevy was lobbying Congress for debt relief. He returned to the region on the royal aircraft with the king and queen.
  • Teams from the two countries met every day, mostly at the crown prince’s house in Aqaba. Hassan supervised the day-to-day talks for his brother.
  • The toughest issues were land and water.
  • The final issues were addressed at another Rabin-Hussein summit meeting in Amman on the evening of October 16. The two leaders got down on their hands and knees to pour over a large map of the entire border from north to south and personally delineated the line. Two small areas got special treatment: Israel would lease the two areas from Jordan so Israeli farmers could continue access to their cultivation. By 4am, it was done.
  • On October 26, 1994, Clinton witnessed the signing of the treaty on the border by the prime ministers of Israel and Jordan. It was only the second visit to Jordan by a sitting American president
  • Many Jordanians felt it was dishonorable to make peace with Israel while the occupation of the West Bank continued. Some argue that it legitimates the Israeli occupation. It has gotten progressively more unpopular in the 25 years since the signing ceremony
  • Two years later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched a Mossad hit team to Amman to poison a Hamas leader. The botched murder attempt created a crisis in the new peace, and Halevy had to be called back from his new job in Brussels as ambassador to the European Union to smooth out the disaster and get the Mossad team released. He would then be appointed the head of the Mossad.
  • Hussein never trusted or respected Netanyahu after it, and the peace has been cold ever since
  • Hussein’s strategic goal of restoring bilateral relations with the United States was achieved
  • in December 1999, I traveled with Clinton and three former presidents to attend Hussein’s funeral in Amman in a strong demonstration of America’s commitment to Jordan.
  • The Trump administration has tilted dramatically toward Israel on all the issues that concern Jordanians about the future of the Palestinian issue, especially the status of Jerusalem. The movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem was a particularly important shock to the peace treaty. If Israel begins to annex parts of the West Bank, as Netanyahu has promised, the Jordanians will be in a corner. The treaty may be more endangered today than ever before.
Ed Webb

Jadaliyya - 0 views

  • in exchange for a slew of Palestinian strategic concessions, Israel magnanimously agreed to negotiate the PLO’s terms of surrender.
  • The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, as the Oslo Accord is formally called, is only a few pages long and largely free of technical jargon, and well worth reading for those who haven’t done so. It contains not a single reference to “occupation”, “self-determination”, “statehood”, or anything of the sort. Rather, Palestinians were to exercise limited autonomy, within limited areas of the occupied territories (excluding East Jerusalem), from which Israeli forces would “redeploy” rather than withdraw
  • the issues that had the greatest impact were the effective abandonment of the refugees, who constitute the majority of the Palestinian people, by the leadership; the political-institutional fragmentation of the Palestinian people; the indefinite suspension of the national agenda in exchange for economic reconstruction that was unlikely to materialize (as it stands the Palestinian economy is today but a shadow of what it was in 1993); and the transformation of the national movement into a local authority
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  • Things have turned out very much worse than Oslo’s bitterest critics could have imagined, particularly in the Gaza Strip and Jordan Valley
  • The second enabling policy was Israel’s relentless campaign of mass violence throughout the occupied territories, and the Gaza Strip in particular, to crush the 1987-1993 uprising. It didn’t succeed, but as Graham Usher perceptively noted at the time, it did lay the basis for widespread Palestinian acquiescence, and quite a bit of enthusiasm, in these territories for the false promises of Oslo. 
  • Colonization of course commenced immediately after Israel occupied and initiated the “creeping annexation” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June 1967, but Oslo was nevertheless a critical turning point. Although the settlement enterprise constitutes a grave breach of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (which is the primary reason Israel refused to ratify it), the Oslo Accords as a matter of design make no reference to international law. Further, the sponsor of the Oslo process, the United States, has spared no effort to ensure that international law is not applied to Israeli conduct towards the Palestinians beyond the confines of Oslo, that it is not held accountable for its actions, and that it can continue to act with unrestricted impunity. In other words, the United States ensured that Oslo was implemented beyond the purview of the norms and rules established to govern international conduct. 
  • Israel’s response to the 1994 Hebron Ibrahimi Mosque massacre by a fanatic Israeli-American settler, which it instrumentalized to further entrench its control over Hebron and the mosque rather than confront the settlers, provided an early, definitive indication in this regard. It bears recalling that this response was led by Rabin, his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres, and their military commander Ehud Barak, not Binyamin Netanyahu or Itamar Ben-Gvir.
  • Every time Israel engaged in a new act of colonization, such as the construction of the Har Homa settlement on Jabal Abu Ghnaim in 1997, it was tolerated on the pretext of keeping the process alive
  • If, for the sake of argument, we take claims that Oslo was supposed to conclude with Palestinian statehood seriously, ignoring reality on the ground on the pretext of preserving the diplomatic process helped ensure its failure.
  • A second key Israeli policy enabled by Oslo is Palestinian fragmentation
  • Israel succeeded in making Oslo’s transitional phase a permanent arrangement, in the process transforming the Palestinian Authority (PA) into a local subsidiary of the Israeli state
  • if a Palestinian from the West Bank or Gaza Strip seeks to pursue a claim against Israel for an act committed between 1967 and 1995, let’s say against the Israeli military for unlawful use of force in 1976 or during the 1987-1993 uprising that rendered the claimant quadriplegic, the PA is under an obligation to ensure that the claimant brings the case before a Palestinian rather than Israeli court, and that any financial judgement by that court in the claimant’s favor is paid out by the PA rather than Israel. If the claimant despite the above brings the case before an Israeli court, and an Israeli judge rules in the claimant’s favor, on account of unlawful actions by the Israeli military years before the PA even existed, the PA is required to immediately reimburse Israel the full amount of compensation awarded to the Palestinian by the Israeli court. Article XX perfectly encapsulates the thoroughly lopsided nature of Oslo, the imbalance of power it codified, Israel’s insistence upon achieving retroactive impunity, and its determination to hold its victims responsible for its crimes against them. In my view nothing better demonstrates that this is a conflict between occupier and occupied and nothing else.
  • the enormous economic windfall Israel derived from the Oslo Accords and its integration into the global economy. Most importantly it led the Arab League to renounce its boycott of Israel and – crucially – of companies that do business with Israel. For all its shortcomings this boycott was exponentially more effective than the current Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and for example kept major Japanese and South Korean firms out of Israel and quite a few Western ones out of the Arab world. It is often forgotten that during the 1970s and 1980s Israel was something of an international pariah, but in the wake of the 1991 Madrid Middle East diplomatic conference and thereafter Oslo was able to normalize relations with much of Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia
  • While Oslo promised Palestinian economic development in exchange for political paralysis, growth materialized only temporarily from the desultory baseline where it stood in 1993 at the conclusion of a prolonged uprising. A sharp reversal in fact commenced in the years leading up to the 2000 eruption of the Al-Aqsa Intifada on account of Israeli policy, and this deterioration has continued at an accelerated pace ever since. What Oslo did achieve was to catapult Israel into the ranks of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which it has since 2010 been a full member. It is virtually inconceivable Israel would have acquired this status without Oslo.
  • Palestinians, whether within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, within Israel, in its prison system, or in the diaspora, have been organizing and resisting in myriad ways. Most importantly, they have despite massive and systematic state violence and repression, and betrayal by their own leaders and Arab governments, refused to surrender – putting into practice “the power of refusal” advocated by Said. In doing so the Palestinians have retained the overwhelming support of the international community, and even in the West public opinion increasingly recognizes that Israel is a structurally racist, colonial state
  • when the succession commences Israel is likely to promote a model where different Palestinian population concentrations – Hebron-Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus-Salfit-Jenin, Qalqilya-Tulkarm – are administered by a series of local chieftains
  • even this model, a regional version of the failed Village Leagues of the 1980s, may prove unpalatable to the lunatics currently running the Israeli asylum. These are forces agitating for wholesale, formal annexation and then some, and which thanks to the inexorable rightward shift of Israeli society, and international and regional support and acquiescence (not unrelated phenomena) are only gaining in strength and power.
Ed Webb

Pushed out by Israel, asylum seekers find only limbo in Uganda | +972 Magazine - 0 views

  • Our small delegation is made up of members of Knesset Mossi Raz and Michal Rozin of Meretz, two of their spokespeople, refugee rights attorney Asaf Weitzen, and myself.
    • Ed Webb
       
      Meretz is a secular left party in Israel, further left than Labor.
  • Our plan is to trace the path of the asylum seekers whom Israel plans to deport — and those it has already pushed out — and try to learn any information we can about the secret agreements reportedly reached between Israel and both Rwanda and Uganda. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments deny that any such deals even exist
  • During our time in Kampala, I spoke with eight refugees who were forced out of Israel. Their stories are nearly identical: when they arrived at the airport in Uganda they were greeted by an unidentified official who confiscated the travel documents they received in Israel and then sent them to a hotel for two or three days. There, they were instructed to fill out asylum applications, but explicitly told not to write that they came from Israel. After several days, they were instructed to call someone to pick them up from the hotel, or to find another way out themselves. Without any documents, from then on, they were on their own — foreigners in a strange country, without any legal status or safety net.
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  • Tesfay says he left Eritrea at a young age to escape forced military service. Eritreans can be conscripted for decades at a time, which is often indistinguishable from slave labor. After five years in Israel, he was imprisoned in Holot for a year. That’s when he decided to leave. Since arriving in Uganda he has struggled to survive without any legal status or support. His savings, as well as the money he received as a departure grant from Israel, didn’t last him very long. Today he lives on the street. He says he has been robbed five times since he arrived. As a foreigner, he is easy prey.
  • Uganda, a country of 40 million people, actually takes in a large number of refugees — around 1.4 million of them. The thousands of “Israeli” refugees, however, cannot go to refugee camps. They are undocumented, and their chances of finding even the most menial kind of work are almost nonexistent.
  • “Either the agreement involves transfer through the country, without the possibility of residency, or the government is so embarrassed by the existence of this agreement with Israel that it has not set up any system for absorbing the refugees and will not give them legal status.”
  • “I understood that Israel is simply committing crimes. According to all of the testimonies from people who were deported, as well as from international aid organizations and local groups, people arrive in Rwanda and are basically smuggled into the country from the airport. They don’t even pass border control in an orderly way. They have no means of appealing to a court. They cannot request status or anything like it. Then they are smuggled again. They are stuck in these two countries without any status.”
  • “They told me ‘welcome,’ and gave me a month-long visa,” Dawit recalls. He says he moved to Petah Tikva and spent most of his time working for a local grocer. Dawit was on good terms with his boss and made friends with a number of Israelis, many of whom he still keeps in touch with by telephone, he says, smiling, but with a sense of loss. “I lived with Israelis and [Israel] is like my second country. They love me and I love them. I was successful at my job. I loved life.” “After four-and-a-half years [in Israel],” Dawit continues, “I was told that I had to go to Holot or to a third country. I did an interview at Holot, but then decided not to go. I continued to work.” Dawit’s boss kept him on for three more years but the deportations, the new laws targeting asylum seekers, and pressure from the government all took their toll. A few months ago, Dawit’s boss told him he couldn’t work there anymore.
  • The detained refugees seem moved by the fact that two Israeli parliamentarians traveled to see with their own eyes what awaits them there.
  • “Why should Uganda take in the people Israel doesn’t want?” asks Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, a Ugandan member of parliament
  • “Uganda will not become a dumping ground that whoever thinks they cannot host people — that you throw them in another country.”
  • Rwanda is not a final destination for the refugees Israel is sending there. There is a well-oiled machine that pushes them out of the country as soon as possible. Of the several thousand asylum seekers that Israel has already deported to Rwanda, we are told that only eight remain there. The rest crossed the border into neighboring Uganda
Ed Webb

Israeli army launches retaliatory attack in Syria after Iranians strike Golan Heights -... - 1 views

  • the Israeli border with Syria
    • Ed Webb
       
      Absent a peace agreement, there is no Israeli *border* with Syria. There is a ceasefire line from the 1967 war. All land in the Golan Heights controlled by Israel is occupied territory according to international law, for all that Israel has announced its annexation of that territory.
  • This is the first time Israel directly accuses Iran of firing towards Israeli territory. During the Syrian Civil War errant fire struck the Golan several times; usually local organizations in southern Syria that are affiliated with Iran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime were behind those attacks
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Wednesday that Israel has attacked targets of the Syrian military on the outskirts of Quneitra in the Golan Heights. 
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  • a Syrian report Tuesday accusing Israel of carrying out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. According to reports, Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israe
  • The Israeli military set out on an extensive retaliatory attack against Iranian targets and military bases in Syria early Thursday morning after Iranian forces fired 20 rockets at army outposts on the Golan Heights overnight.  
  • Israel attributes the Iranian attack to members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. No injuries were reported as a result of the strike on Israeli territory
  • A source in the Israeli security establishment said this attack was the largest carried out by Israel since it signed on a disengagement agreement with Syria in May 1974. 
  • According to local reports in the Golan area, some of the targets attacked by the Israeli army were army posts as well as Iranian and Hezbollah militias in the Syrian Golan
  • The Israeli military further stated that the attack was specifically targeting Iranian posts in Syria and not in Lebanon
  • intelligence assessments earlier in the week anticipated that after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear accord, Israel was likely to be targeted by rocket fire and Iran would try to retaliate
  • Tehran has issued several threats over the past month, saying that it would hurt Israel in response to a slew of attacks that were ascribed to the Israeli air force. The latest attack, carried out on May 9, claimed the lives of seven Iranians in the Syrian air force base T4.
Ed Webb

Countering Christian Zionism in the Age of Trump | MERIP - 0 views

  • As Christian Zionists—Hagee is the founder of the main US Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Jeffress regularly preaches the ideology on Fox news—the two men’s remarks reflect their belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. This belief centers around the idea that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture. Not all will benefit from this end of times scenario: While Christians will be saved and “live forever with Christ in a new heaven and earth,” those adhering to other religions who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell.
  • Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians—including those who are Christian—is either ignored or perceived as required to achieve the end result. In this vein, Christian Zionists consider Israel’s expansion into the West Bank via illegal settlements a positive development and even support Israeli expansion into Jordan’s East Bank.
  • Jeffress, for example, once said that Judaism, Islam and Hinduism “lead people…to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and Hagee suggested in a 1990s sermon that Hitler was part of God’s plan to get Jewish people “back to the land of Israel.” Yet when questioned about the decision to include such speakers in the ceremony’s lineup, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said, “I honestly don’t know how that came to be.”
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  • About a quarter of US adults identify as evangelical Christian, and 80 percent of them express the belief that the modern state of Israel and the “re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel” are fulfilments of biblical prophecy that show the return of Jesus is drawing closer. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, argues that Christian Zionism is now the “majority theology” among white US evangelicals.
  • the US media and political analysts often approach the Israel lobby as if it were composed solely of Jewish supporters, whose numbers are in fact far smaller than Christian Zionists—AIPAC only boasts 100,000 members, for instance, compared to CUFI’s reported five million—and who are also deeply divided on US policy on Palestine-Israel
  • Not only do other lobby groups, such as CUFI, wield as much or more influence as AIPAC (financial and otherwise), but AIPAC, as MJ Rosenberg wrote in The Nation, “is not synonymous with Jews.” Of its 100,000 members, he explained, “most are Jewish but…many are evangelical (and other) Christians.”
  • Activists argue that while Christian Zionism may be a broadly held belief, it is not deeply held. “For most people who espouse this theology, it’s not the center of their belief,” Jonathan Brenneman, a Christian Palestinian-American activist, told me. “When people are confronted with the reality of what is going on in Palestine, the theology often falls apart.”
  • While the specific tenets of today’s Christian Zionism emerged in the nineteenth century, the movement’s ideological roots go back centuries, to the era during which Christianity became part of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the third century AD, stretching to the Crusades and then European colonialism—all cases in which plunder was accomplished under the cover of Christian ideology, namely the idea of the righteousness of Christian domination over non-Christian land and people
  • evangelist John Nelson Darby, who through missionary tours across North America popularized the end of times narrative and Jews’ role in it. In 1891, fellow preacher William Blackstone petitioned US President Benjamin Harrison to consider Jewish claims to Palestine “as their ancient home”—five years before Theodor Herzl’s call for a Jewish homeland. Subsequent influential evangelists, such as Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, preached how the first telltale sign of the world coming to an end would be Jews returning to the Holy Land. Scofield’s widely read 1909 annotated Bible proclaimed these tenets.
  • Falwell and fellow Christian Zionist preachers like Pat Robertson of The 700 Club emphasized the idea that God will only support the United States if the United States supports Israel. “Robertson has described hurricanes and financial prosperity in the US as related to the US position on Israel,” said Burge, “and Falwell used to say that if America backs away from supporting Israel, God will no longer bless America.”
  • Christian Zionism’s merging of religion and politics has been the driving force behind its more recent influence on US policy. While Trump does not purport to hold evangelical beliefs, he carefully caters to his white evangelical base, gaining their support through the US embassy move and support for Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, as well as through the choice of Mike Pence as vice president.
  • A 2017 poll by Lifeway Research, for example, demonstrated the generational divide. Only nine percent of older respondents considered the “rebirth” of Israel in 1948 as an injustice to Palestinians, while 62 percent disagreed and 28 percent said they weren’t sure. Among younger evangelicals, nineteen percent said that Israel’s creation was an injustice to Palestinians, 34 percent disagreed, and almost half weren’t sure.
  • “Christian Zionism is an extremist ideology, but it’s also incredibly broadly held and is part of a larger Christian package of belief,” he said. “Most people who hold it don’t realize they’re holding really hateful beliefs; it’s very much based on ignorance and insularity.” Brenneman adds that such beliefs are rarely challenged, particularly because the mainstream media plays into them by emphasizing, among other tropes, the idea that Israel is always in grave danger from the Palestinians or surrounding Arab states. The result: When Christian Zionists learn of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, their belief system is vulnerable to disruption.
  • “The vast majority of people in the American church want to honor God and are pursuing the goodness of the world,” Cannon told me. “They are open to their mind being changed, but their underlying concern is they think if they shift their political perspective, they won’t be faithful to theology.” Cannon says using the example of Israeli settlements is productive in this regard. “It’s straightforward to show people that they are not following the basic Christian tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’ if they are supporting those who build a settlement on Palestinian farmland that’s been in that family for decades or a century,” she said. “The current realities speak for themselves. We show them that they can honor God while advocating for Palestinian rights, too.”
  • “Christian Zionism is not just the John Hagee’s of the world, but is found in Protestant mainline churches, including those that have divested from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation,” he said. “It’s a more nuanced and diffused theology found at the level of hymns as well as in the pulpit.” This phenomenon is also part of what liberation theologian Marc H. Ellis calls the “ecumenical deal” between Christians and Jews, in which mainline Christians are silent on Israel’s abuse of Palestinians to repent for Christianity’s historic anti-Semitism.
  • Abuata says the Christian movement for Palestinian rights has grown significantly in the past decade, noting that 10 years ago he wouldn’t have been welcomed into 80 percent of the mainline Christian denominations and churches with which he now coordinates.
  • While Christian Zionism has certainly internationalized in recent years, growing in popularity in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Abuata says the movement countering Christian Zionism has as well.
Ed Webb

The Israeli right's new vision of Jewish political supremacy - 0 views

  • The settlement project's success has led to an intertwined Jewish and Palestinian population, reviving the problem Israel tried to solve through expulsion in 1948. Now, the right's priority is segregation.
  • a new trend has emerged within the dominant stream of the Israeli political right: the nation, rather than the land, is now at the heart of right-wing discourse
  • This has manifested in the progression of anti-democratic legislation, incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel and left-wing organizations and activists, and in emphasizing the idea of the “Jewish state.”
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  • The culmination of this process was the passing of the Jewish Nation-State Law in the Knesset in July 2018.
  • The Zionist project is committed to a well-defined ethnic-religious group, at a defined point in space and time. In that, Zionism is not unique, of course: the commitment of nationalistic movements in general is limited and defined a priori, and therefore exclusion, marginalization of, and separation from the Other (not to mention expulsion of that Other) are inherent to them and are their by-products
  • why the Jewish Nation-State Law was enacted 70 years after the state’s establishment rather than immediately thereafter
  • The common explanation for the rise of this new discourse is that years of occupation have weakened liberal values in Israel, and the nationalist right-wing governments are stronger than ever. As such, the right is now able to implement its ethnocentric and anti-liberal ideology and weaken the democratic character of the state’s institutions.
  • the nationalist discourse serves to shore up a new electoral project led by the right-wing political parties.
  • The logic is simple: if it is no longer effective to talk about the indivisible land (as belonging to the Jews), let us instead talk about the indivisible nation and mark external and internal enemies. According to this understanding, the wave of anti-democratic legislation, especially the Jewish Nation-State Law, serves as propaganda that bolsters the coalescing of the right wing around an ethnocentric agenda. In other words, the messianic-nationalist energy is directed inwards rather than outwards.
  • a state that grants a privileged status to Jews is no longer regarded as a self-evident phenomenon
  • the old tools that served to maintain Jewish political supremacy are no longer sufficient, and there is a need for active separation and active legitimization. Separation is no longer the result of history; rather, it must be inscribed on the political body by law and politics and must be enforced.
  • For a short time, from the beginning of the 1990s until the beginning of the Netanyahu era in 2009, it seemed possible to talk about the right of self-determination for both peoples, and the two-state solution appeared to be at hand.
  • The notion of “two states for two peoples” that took root in the collective Israeli consciousness as an optimal, realistic, and implementable solution to the conflict created an illusion of separation between the two populations — as if they were separate political entities. Although this separation was to be fully implemented at some point in the future and was repeatedly postponed, Israelis felt that the two-state paradigm implied that the Palestinians in the occupied territories were over “there,” on the other side of the border, on the way to their independent state with an anthem, a flag, and independent prisons, outside of “our” (i.e. of the Israeli-Jewish national collective) responsibility. Israel’s decision to restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement between the territories and Israel during the First Intifada, and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority pursuant to the Oslo Accords, contributed to this experience of separation.
  • With the promise of the preservation of a Jewish majority within the ’67 boundaries — albeit through a future solution not yet fully implemented on the ground — it appeared easier for Israel to move, however slowly and tentatively, along the liberal path in their attitude toward Palestinian citizens. This tendency expressed itself in the “constitutional revolution” and the policies of the Rabin government in the early to mid-1990s. These policies strengthened the “democratic” aspect of the “Jewish and democratic” equation and began to advance the status of the Palestinians as citizens with equal rights, even if only rhetorically.
  • That era, which was one of partial optimism for Palestinian citizens and for human and civil rights in Israel, continued until the beginning of the 21st century, when the Second Intifada broke out during Ehud Barak’s government and Israeli police shot dead 13 Palestinian citizens as they were protesting in October 2000. This event marked a new rupture regarding the place of Palestinians in Israeli society. A few years later, with Netanyahu at the helm, a tendency to continually incite against Palestinian citizens of Israel developed, and the cautious optimism evaporated.
  • The crumbling of the two-state idea and the blurring of the Green Line led to a de facto single geopolitical entity in which both populations are mixed to some degree. The sharp distinction between the Palestinians “there” and the Israeli Jews “here” became hazy. Before, the two-state solution created the illusion of separation into two independent entities and removed the Palestinians from the Israeli political awareness; now, even this “calming” sensation diminished. Before, it could be claimed that the Palestinians in the territories were headed for their own separate and independent state; now, it has become clear that the territories are here, in a de facto Greater Israel, and so are the Palestinians.
  • two groups figure prominently between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea: the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank
  • The new nationalist/ethno-religious discourse, and in particular the new law, which has been assiduously promoted for many years, is not merely a replay of history or its direct continuation. They are not merely expressions of anti-liberal and ethnocentric trends enabled by the strengthening of the right, or a mere reaction to the Palestinians’ vision documents. And they are not merely intended to create further political bias or to redefine the limits of political legitimacy. Rather, they constitute an innovation in the Israeli right’s political project, by serving the need to actively and legally enshrine Jewish privileges, despite the fact that these exist anyway, and to give them a new constitutional framing and anchoring. This effort has successfully rallied a significant part of the Jewish-Israeli population.
  • The Jewish settlers, for their part, strengthened their presence in the occupied territories, and are no longer marginal or temporary inhabitants. The more their presence in the territories is perceived as natural, the more they bring the territories into Israel, creating a new geographic unity.
  • the Israeli right has had to pay a significant price for this success: in this unified space (unified only for Jews because Palestinians cannot move freely within it), the Jewish majority is no longer self-evident. The settlement project brought back the problem that Zionism solved through expulsion in 1948.
  • Expelling the Palestinians from the territories is no longer an option that can be openly discussed; neither can the Palestinians be offered full citizenship (though this possibility can be bandied about for propaganda reasons). The first possibility is untenable because of international pressure, the second because of the Jews. We are stuck in the situation that had existed during the British Mandate: one geopolitical entity with two peoples mixed together. This time, however, we are not under the Mandate, but under Israeli rule.
  • All of this helps clarify the role of the new nationalist/ethno-religious discourse: it is a discourse of segregation.
  • with the crumbling of the two-state paradigm, the blurring of the Green Line and the continuing effort to extend the Jewish state over the entirety of Greater Israel, the settler right sees a need to conceptualize Jewish privileges, this time within a patently non-democratic regime between the river and the sea, which is expected to be based on a Jewish minority. The 1948 expulsion, which was a solution to the demographic problem, is no longer feasible, and therefore the need arises to establish a new-fangled apartheid regime. The Jewish Nation-State Law embodies the core of this attempt
  • In contrast to the classical discourse of Greater Israel, which was focused on “unifying” two separate regimes on two separate tracts of land — Israel and the occupied territories — the new discourse is an attempt to push for the legal segregation of two populations intermixed within the same territorial framework.
  • The segregation inspired by the law is not a division between “here” and “there” but between “us” and “them” — between Jews and Palestinians, no matter where they live between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. It is not based on dividing the territory into two territories, but dividing the two people within one single territory.
  • True, the two-state paradigm is also a paradigm of separation, but it is a separation of two distinct political frameworks. Apartheid, on the other hand, separates populations that share a territory within one comprehensive political sovereign framework. Acting within a unified entity, such separation is surgical — i.e. violent and destructive.
  • the question of the Jewish democratic state and that of Greater Israel — the internal question and the external question — become two aspects of the same project: to legitimize the privilege of Jews over Palestinians between the river and the sea.
  • With the blurring of the Green Line and the return of the demographic threat, the logic of separation from the Palestinians has been abandoned and replaced with the logic of a segregating regime. It is a regime in which one group clearly dominates another; in which that domination is comprehensive and permanent, rather than temporary and security-based; and which is maintained by a legal system and reinforced by a violent and forceful state.
  • This dominating logic and the fact that the plan arranges for segregation, not separation, is clear when looking at the map included with the proposal. The Palestinian entity is surrounded on all sides by Israeli sovereignty: in the air and on the ground, from the north, south, east, and west. Segregation based on ethnicity, religion, and nationality, rather than on territory, is complemented by two other aspects in the plan, reflecting the demise of the Green Line: its treatment of settlers, and of Palestinian citizens in Israel
  • the current plan discards territorial logic and treats Palestinians’ citizenship as a problem to be solved, and the status of settlers as a given and immutable fact
  • it departs from the conflict management paradigm in order to impose a one-sided American-Israeli vision to “end” the conflict, or rather eliminate it without solving it.
Ed Webb

Israel's Religiously Divided Society | Pew Research Center - 0 views

  • a major new survey by Pew Research Center also finds deep divisions in Israeli society – not only between Israeli Jews and the country’s Arab minority, but also among the religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.
  • Israeli Arabs are highly skeptical about the sincerity of the Israeli government in seeking a peace agreement, while Israeli Jews are equally skeptical about the sincerity of Palestinian leaders. But there is plenty of distrust to go around: Fully 40% of Israeli Jews say their own government is not making a sincere effort toward peace, and an equal share of Israeli Arabs say the same about Palestinian leaders.
  • secular Jews in Israel are more uncomfortable with the notion that a child of theirs might someday marry an ultra-Orthodox Jew than they are with the prospect of their child marrying a Christian
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  • The vast majority of secular Jews say democratic principles should take precedence over religious law, while a similarly large share of ultra-Orthodox Jews say religious law should take priority.
  • When asked, “What is your present religion, if any?” virtually all Israeli Jews say they are Jewish – and almost none say they have no religion – even though roughly half describe themselves as secular and one-in-five do not believe in God.
  • Sephardim/Mizrahim are generally more religiously observant than Ashkenazim, and men are somewhat more likely than women to say halakha should take precedence over democratic principles. But in many respects, these demographic differences are dwarfed by the major gulfs seen among the four religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.
  • Most non-Jewish residents of Israel are ethnically Arab and identify, religiously, as Muslims, Christians or Druze
  • Israeli Arabs generally do not think Israel can be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time. This view is expressed by majorities of Muslims, Christians and Druze. And overwhelmingly, all three of these groups say that if there is a conflict between Jewish law and democracy, democracy should take precedence
  • Fully 58% of Muslims favor enshrining sharia as official law for Muslims in Israel, and 55% of Christians favor making the Bible the law of the land for Christians
  • Roughly eight-in-ten Israeli Arabs (79%) say there is a lot of discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims, who are by far the biggest of the religious minorities. On this issue, Jews take the opposite view; the vast majority (74%) say they do not see much discrimination against Muslims in Israel
  • Nearly half of Israeli Jews say Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, including roughly one-in-five Jewish adults who strongly agree with this position
  • Nearly all Israeli Jews identify with one of four categories: Haredi (commonly translated as “ultra-Orthodox”), Dati (“religious”), Masorti (“traditional”) or Hiloni (“secular”)
  • The vast majority of Jews (98%), Muslims (85%), Christians (86%) and Druze (83%) say all or most of their close friends belong to their own religious community
  • Israeli Jews overall are more religiously observant than U.S. Jews. Politically, American Jews are more optimistic about the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution and more negative about Jewish settlements in the West Bank than are Israeli Jews
  • Israel is no longer a predominantly immigrant society; at present, roughly three-quarters of Israeli adults are natives, and just one-quarter were born abroad. Yet with virtual unanimity, Israeli Jews of every kind – native-born and immigrant, young and old, secular and highly religious – agree that all Jews everywhere should have the right to make “aliyah,” or move to Israel and receive immediate citizenship.2 This overwhelming support for Jewish immigration may be linked, in part, to perceptions about anti-Semitism. Fully three-quarters of Israeli Jews (76%) think that anti-Semitism is both common and increasing around the world, and roughly nine-in-ten (91%) say that a Jewish state is necessary for the long-term survival of the Jewish people.
  • A solid majority of Haredim (62%) favor gender segregation on public transportation, such as buses and trains, used by members of the Haredi community. Among Hilonim, meanwhile, just 5% favor this policy. The vast majority of Hilonim (93%) are opposed to enforcing gender segregation on any public transport, even when it is used by Haredim
  • The survey asked Jews whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Roughly half of Israeli Jews strongly agree (21%) or agree (27%), while a similar share disagree (29%) or strongly disagree (17%).3 Datiim are especially likely to favor the expulsion of Arabs. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) say Arabs should be transferred. Hilonim lean in the other direction: Most (58%) disagree and say Arabs should not be expelled from Israel, including 25% who strongly disagree. But even among these self-described secular Israeli Jews, about one-third (36%) favor the expulsion of Arabs from the country
  • Seven-in-ten Haredim (70%) and roughly half of Datiim (52%) say being Jewish is mainly a matter of religion, while 3% of Haredim and 16% of Datiim say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. Among Hilonim, by contrast, only 4% see being Jewish as primarily a matter of religion, while 83% say Jewish identity is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. However, at least some members of all of these groups see their Jewish identity as bound up with both religion and ancestry/culture.
  • Arabs in Israel – especially Muslims – are more religiously observant than Jews as a whole. Fully two-thirds of Israeli Arabs say religion is very important in their lives, compared with just 30% of Jews. Israeli Muslims (68%), Christians (57%) and Druze (49%) all are more likely than Jews to say religion is very important to them, personally. In addition, more Arabs than Jews report that they pray daily and participate in weekly worship services.
  • Religious intermarriages cannot be performed in Israel (although civil marriages that take place in other countries are legally recognized in Israel).7 This is reflected in the rarity of marriages between members of different religious communities in the country. Nearly all Israelis in the survey who are married or living with a partner say their spouse or partner shares their religion. Relatively few married Muslim, Christian and Druze residents (1%) say their spouse has a different religion, and only 2% of married Jews say they have a spouse who belongs to a non-Jewish religion or is religiously unaffiliated.
  • About one-in-six Muslims say they have been questioned by security officials (17%), prevented from traveling (15%) or physically threatened or attacked (15%) because of their religion in the past 12 months, while 13% say they have suffered property damage. All told, 37% of Muslims say they have suffered at least one of these forms of discrimination because of their religious identity in the past year
  • While Muslims living in Israel, overall, are more religious than Israeli Jews, they are less religious than Muslims living in many other countries in the region. For example, about two-thirds of Muslims in Israel (68%) say religion is very important in their lives – higher than the comparable share of Lebanese Muslims (59%), but lower than the share of Muslims in Jordan (85%), the Palestinian territories (85%) and Iraq (82%) who say this.
Ed Webb

The Deportation of Omar Shakir: The Israeli Supreme Court and the BDS Movement - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Two judgments handed down just days apart—one by the Israeli Supreme Court and the other by the European Court of Justice—highlight a growing jurisprudential divide between Israeli and international courts on the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank
  • On Nov. 12, the European Court of Justice ruled that Israeli food products from the West Bank and Golan Heights must be explicitly labeled as coming from “Israeli settlements,” rather than from Israel itself. The ruling, which cited European Union regulations designed to allow consumers to make informed choices about their food purchases, held that since international humanitarian law limits Israeli jurisdiction in these territories to that of an “occupying power,” it would be misleading to represent such products as being “from Israel.”
  • stakes of the long-anticipated Israeli Supreme Court judgment in Human Rights Watch v. Interior Minister, handed down just a week earlier. In its judgment, the court upheld a government decision to expel Human Rights Watch’s (HRW’s) Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, from the country, based on a law barring entry by foreigners who promote boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements. The case marked the first time the court was called upon to rule on the law’s application to boycott-related activities directed primarily at the settlements, rather than at Israel itself.
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  • In 2015, in Avneri v. The Knesset, a divided court upheld most of the 2011 law, striking down a provision providing for punitive damages in civil tort cases and construing the law narrowly in order to limit liability to instances where there is a proven causal link to concrete damage. (For more on Avneri, see here and here.) Most significantly for our purposes, a majority of justices in Avneri upheld the law’s contentious provision (which applies equally to the 2017 amendment), equating settlement boycotts to boycotts against Israel as a whole.
  • A boycott directed at an individual company due to its specific behavior, by contrast (for example, because it engaged in discrimination or in some other problematic activity), would not risk running afoul of the law.
  • If actively promoting HRW’s stance on settlements is enough to demonstrate ongoing promotion of boycotts, any new employee could face similar consequences. Israeli employees of HRW, too, could face civil or administrative ramifications simply for implementing HRW’s stated policy of calling on businesses “to stop operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as part of their duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses.”
  • Back in 2016, when HRW first requested a foreign expert visa for Shakir, an American citizen, the Foreign Ministry objected on the grounds that HRW itself was biased against Israel, “falsely waving the flag of human rights” in the service of “Palestinian propaganda.” Shortly thereafter, the ministry withdrew its objection, citing political and diplomatic considerations, and the Interior Ministry granted Shakir his visa. An administrative petition by the right-leaning organization Shurat HaDin, among others, led to an additional reversal, and the visa was revoked. The new decision was based on a memorandum issued by the Strategic Affairs Ministry (charged in Israel with heading up the fight against BDS), which argued that the problem was Shakir himself—who had called in the past for boycotts of Israel and the settlements—rather than HRW
  • The appellants, for their part, challenged the constitutionality of the 2017 amendment, arguing that even though foreigners don’t have a right to enter the country, they should not be denied a visa or fear deportation for expressing unpopular views. Mainly, they claimed, the law violates the free speech and equality rights of Israelis (and Palestinians), whose ability to engage freely with foreigners the government doesn’t agree with is limited by the law. They also argued that Shakir’s activities—particularly those undertaken on behalf of HRW—shouldn’t be considered boycott activities, since they were motivated by a desire to combat specific human rights violations and to encourage private corporations to respect their human rights obligations under international law
  • While once again acknowledging that the law doesn’t apply to boycotts targeting specific behaviors, the court stated: An individual who negates the very legitimacy of the State of Israel or its control of the Area, and seeks to undermine it through a boycott, is [included in the law], even if he disguises his position with the rhetoric of human rights or international law. The test is a substantive one, and the words the de-legitimization campaign wraps itself in do not grant it immunity.
  • Several amici from both sides of the political spectrum, including NGO Monitor, Shurat HaDin and Amnesty International, submitted briefs to the court. A group of former foreign service officials also joined the proceedings as amici, arguing that removing Shakir would cause substantial and lasting damage to Israel’s image as an open and democratic society.
  • In Human Rights Watch, the court clarified that what is at stake is also, potentially, the “delegitimization of Israel and of its policy” (emphasis added).
  • the boycott laws, coupled with the court’s continued acquiescence to the law’s conflation of Israel with Israeli settlements, threaten to impair the ability of citizens and noncitizens alike to engage in free discourse on one of the most difficult issues facing the country. They risk undermining the ability of human rights groups to defend human rights and promote respect for international law when their positions and interpretations of the law do not align with those of the Israeli government. They also threaten to further erode the all-important distinction in a democracy between delegitimization of the country itself and criticism of government policy
  • a growing disconnect between the discourse on settlements in Israel (and now, perhaps, the United States) and abroad
Ed Webb

What Can We Learn from the Escalating Israeli Raids in Syria? - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Eyal Tsir Cohen is a visiting fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Tsir is currently on leave from the Israeli prime minister’s office, where he has served for the last 30 years in various senior positions. His career has focused on security and intelligence issues, and shaping policies and strategies on global terrorism.
  • While Israel has reportedly carried out thousands of strikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq in recent years, the frequency, intensity, and toll of these recent attacks are unprecedented.
  • Israel has come to see that Iran is not forsaking its project in Syria, and further may be pursuing more sophisticated means of threatening Israel’s northern border. This week’s report that Iran is moving missiles into Iraq only reinforces this perception
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  • To diminish Iranian capabilities being shipped to Hezbollah and other Iranian militias working to open a low-intensity military front threatening Israel’s northern border; To maintain Israel’s freedom of action and air supremacy in its neighborhood and the Middle East in general by minimizing Syrian military capabilities, more specifically anti-aircraft missile sites and their support systems; and To send a message of deterrence to three main actors in the region: Assad’s regime, Iran and its emissaries, and Russia.
  • air raids weaken the Syrian army’s capabilities; distract Assad’s capabilities from coping with opposition forces, ISIS, and al-Qaida in the north and east of Syria; and keep this war-ridden country in grave economic instability.
  • Israel also reportedly targeted significant air defense capabilities, especially surface-to-air missiles, that threaten Israel’s strategic dominance over Lebanese and Syrian airspace
  • Israel hopes its strikes will push Tehran to abandon its project in Syria. But Iran has shown no willingness so far to consider this. Instead, it has simply worked to make its arms shipments more difficult to detect. The search-and-destroy campaign demands excellent intelligence capabilities on Israel’s part to uncover clandestine shipments sent by air or land to Syria through Iraq. Fine-grained intelligence is also necessary to allow the airstrike to be effective and to minimize collateral damage and casualties. This poses a great challenge to Israel because, in time, Iran and its Syrian counterparts can find new, creative ways to mask their supply chain to Syria and avoid detection
  • While previous raids mostly damaged buildings and infrastructure, Israel probably expected this raid to inflict Iranian casualties, thus raising the stakes of the conflict.
  • As Iran faces unrest at home—and amid major popular demonstrations in Iraq—Israel is willing to match or even exceed Iran’s aggressive moves. For Khamenei, the prospect of large investments repeatedly being destroyed in Syria may be a difficult one, politically, as his domestic economy plummets. The contrast between these recent raids, which reportedly killed 16 Iranians, and the relative lack of an Iranian reaction highlights that it is difficult for Iran to respond in kind to Israeli escalations.
  • as Israel works to diminish the Syrian state’s military capabilities, it risks merely pushing the Assad regime deeper into its dependency on Iran
  • while Russia has been fast to criticize Israel for its strikes in Syria, it may quietly prefer to see Israel doing the dirty work of lessening Iranian power there. While they are partners in upholding the Assad regime, in some ways the Russians and Iranians are competitors in Syria, especially when looking toward state-rebuilding. Should Israeli strikes push the Iranians to play less of a role, the Russians would be the first to fill the void they would leave. Further, Israeli strikes in Syrian military facilities create business opportunities for the Russian arms industry. The Syrian regime will need to replace its destroyed weapons systems, and Russian manufacturers stand ready to supply new ones. Russia, while publicly opposed to Israeli strikes, might actually benefit from a laissez-faire policy toward these attacks.
  • Israeli raids in November sent a clear message to Moscow that unless the Iranian element is taken out of the equation, Syria will remain an unstable battleground. The raids are also a reminder of Russia’s commitment to Israel to keep the Iranian Quds Forces outside of the 50-mile radius from Israel’s border. These raids underscore that, if the Russians cannot uphold their side of this understanding, then Israel will wreak havoc in Syria. Putin seeks a political resolution and stability in Syria, and the Russians understand that Syria has no prospect of recovery from its civil war amid the constant friction between Israel and Iran.
  • When the fight between Iran and Israel in Syria moves closer to the Iraqi border, Israeli airstrikes become riskier, Iranian intelligence capabilities become stronger, and Iran’s ability to deny responsibility for missile launches becomes greater.
  • Iran cannot really be deterred by threats to the integrity of the Syrian state because it views the Assad regime only as a useful path by which it can increase its regional power
  • Given the gaps in its strategic messaging, Israeli deterrence, in and of itself, will likely not produce the total Iranian withdrawal for which Israel is hoping. The pressures Iran faces by demonstrations at home and in Iraq are perhaps the likelier trigger for Tehran to reconsider its strategy
Ed Webb

'A mass assassination factory': Inside Israel's calculated bombing of Gaza - 0 views

  • The Israeli army’s expanded authorization for bombing non-military targets, the loosening of constraints regarding expected civilian casualties, and the use of an artificial intelligence system to generate more potential targets than ever before, appear to have contributed to the destructive nature of the initial stages of Israel’s current war on the Gaza Strip, an investigation by +972 Magazine and Local Call reveals
  • The investigation by +972 and Local Call is based on conversations with seven current and former members of Israel’s intelligence community — including military intelligence and air force personnel who were involved in Israeli operations in the besieged Strip — in addition to Palestinian testimonies, data, and documentation from the Gaza Strip, and official statements by the IDF Spokesperson and other Israeli state institutions.
  • The bombing of power targets, according to intelligence sources who had first-hand experience with its application in Gaza in the past, is mainly intended to harm Palestinian civil society: to “create a shock” that, among other things, will reverberate powerfully and “lead civilians to put pressure on Hamas,”
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  • the Israeli army has files on the vast majority of potential targets in Gaza — including homes — which stipulate the number of civilians who are likely to be killed in an attack on a particular target. This number is calculated and known in advance to the army’s intelligence units, who also know shortly before carrying out an attack roughly how many civilians are certain to be killed
  • “The numbers increased from dozens of civilian deaths [permitted] as collateral damage as part of an attack on a senior official in previous operations, to hundreds of civilian deaths as collateral damage,”
  • another reason for the large number of targets, and the extensive harm to civilian life in Gaza, is the widespread use of a system called “Habsora” (“The Gospel”), which is largely built on artificial intelligence and can “generate” targets almost automatically at a rate that far exceeds what was previously possible. This AI system, as described by a former intelligence officer, essentially facilitates a “mass assassination factory.”
  • the increasing use of AI-based systems like Habsora allows the army to carry out strikes on residential homes where a single Hamas member lives on a massive scale, even those who are junior Hamas operatives. Yet testimonies of Palestinians in Gaza suggest that since October 7, the army has also attacked many private residences where there was no known or apparent member of Hamas or any other militant group residing. Such strikes, sources confirmed to +972 and Local Call, can knowingly kill entire families in the process.
  • “I remember thinking that it was like if [Palestinian militants] would bomb all the private residences of our families when [Israeli soldiers] go back to sleep at home on the weekend,” one source, who was critical of this practice, recalled.
  • there are “cases in which we shell based on a wide cellular pinpointing of where the target is, killing civilians. This is often done to save time, instead of doing a little more work to get a more accurate pinpointing,”
  • Over 300 families have lost 10 or more family members in Israeli bombings in the past two months — a number that is 15 times higher than the figure from what was previously Israel’s deadliest war on Gaza, in 2014
  • “There is a feeling that senior officials in the army are aware of their failure on October 7, and are busy with the question of how to provide the Israeli public with an image [of victory] that will salvage their reputation.”
  • “The emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy,” said IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari on Oct. 9.
  • “We are asked to look for high-rise buildings with half a floor that can be attributed to Hamas,” said one source who took part in previous Israeli offensives in Gaza. “Sometimes it is a militant group’s spokesperson’s office, or a point where operatives meet. I understood that the floor is an excuse that allows the army to cause a lot of destruction in Gaza. That is what they told us. “If they would tell the whole world that the [Islamic Jihad] offices on the 10th floor are not important as a target, but that its existence is a justification to bring down the entire high-rise with the aim of pressuring civilian families who live in it in order to put pressure on terrorist organizations, this would itself be seen as terrorism. So they do not say it,” the source added.
  • at least until the current war, army protocols allowed for attacking power targets only when the buildings were empty of residents at the time of the strike. However, testimonies and videos from Gaza suggest that since October 7, some of these targets have been attacked without prior notice being given to their occupants, killing entire families as a result.
  • As documented by Al Mezan and numerous images coming out of Gaza, Israel bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, the Palestinian Bar Association, a UN building for an educational program for outstanding students, a building belonging to the Palestine Telecommunications Company, the Ministry of National Economy, the Ministry of Culture, roads, and dozens of high-rise buildings and homes — especially in Gaza’s northern neighborhoods.
  • “Hamas is everywhere in Gaza; there is no building that does not have something of Hamas in it, so if you want to find a way to turn a high-rise into a target, you will be able to do so,”
  • for the most part, when it comes to power targets, it is clear that the target doesn’t have military value that justifies an attack that would bring down the entire empty building in the middle of a city, with the help of six planes and bombs weighing several tons
  • Although it is unprecedented for the Israeli army to attack more than 1,000 power targets in five days, the idea of causing mass devastation to civilian areas for strategic purposes was formulated in previous military operations in Gaza, honed by the so-called “Dahiya Doctrine” from the Second Lebanon War of 2006.
  • According to the doctrine — developed by former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who is now a Knesset member and part of the current war cabinet — in a war against guerrilla groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah, Israel must use disproportionate and overwhelming force while targeting civilian and government infrastructure in order to establish deterrence and force the civilian population to pressure the groups to end their attacks. The concept of “power targets” seems to have emanated from this same logic.
  • Previous operations have also shown how striking these targets is meant not only to harm Palestinian morale, but also to raise the morale inside Israel. Haaretz revealed that during Operation Guardian of the Walls in 2021, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit conducted a psy-op against Israeli citizens in order to boost awareness of the IDF’s operations in Gaza and the damage they caused to Palestinians. Soldiers, who used fake social media accounts to conceal the campaign’s origin, uploaded images and clips of the army’s strikes in Gaza to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok in order to demonstrate the army’s prowess to the Israeli public.
  • since October 7, Israel has attacked high-rises with their residents still inside, or without having taken significant steps to evacuate them, leading to many civilian deaths.
  • evidence from Gaza suggests that some high-rises — which we assume to have been power targets — were toppled without prior warning. +972 and Local Call located at least two cases during the current war in which entire residential high-rises were bombed and collapsed without warning, and one case in which, according to the evidence, a high-rise building collapsed on civilians who were inside.
  • According to intelligence sources, Habsora generates, among other things, automatic recommendations for attacking private residences where people suspected of being Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives live. Israel then carries out large-scale assassination operations through the heavy shelling of these residential homes.
  • the Habsora system enables the army to run a “mass assassination factory,” in which the “emphasis is on quantity and not on quality.” A human eye “will go over the targets before each attack, but it need not spend a lot of time on them.” Since Israel estimates that there are approximately 30,000 Hamas members in Gaza, and they are all marked for death, the number of potential targets is enormous.
  • A senior military official in charge of the target bank told the Jerusalem Post earlier this year that, thanks to the army’s AI systems, for the first time the military can generate new targets at a faster rate than it attacks. Another source said the drive to automatically generate large numbers of targets is a realization of the Dahiya Doctrine.
  • Five different sources confirmed that the number of civilians who may be killed in attacks on private residences is known in advance to Israeli intelligence, and appears clearly in the target file under the category of “collateral damage.” 
  • “That is a lot of houses. Hamas members who don’t really matter for anything live in homes across Gaza. So they mark the home and bomb the house and kill everyone there.”
  • On Oct. 22, the Israeli Air Force bombed the home of the Palestinian journalist Ahmed Alnaouq in the city of Deir al-Balah. Ahmed is a close friend and colleague of mine; four years ago, we founded a Hebrew Facebook page called “Across the Wall,” with the aim of bringing Palestinian voices from Gaza to the Israeli public. The strike on Oct. 22 collapsed blocks of concrete onto Ahmed’s entire family, killing his father, brothers, sisters, and all of their children, including babies. Only his 12-year-old niece, Malak, survived and remained in a critical condition, her body covered in burns. A few days later, Malak died. Twenty-one members of Ahmed’s family were killed in total, buried under their home. None of them were militants. The youngest was 2 years old; the oldest, his father, was 75. Ahmed, who is currently living in the UK, is now alone out of his entire family.
  • According to former Israeli intelligence officers, in many cases in which a private residence is bombed, the goal is the “assassination of Hamas or Jihad operatives,” and such targets are attacked when the operative enters the home. Intelligence researchers know if the operative’s family members or neighbors may also die in an attack, and they know how to calculate how many of them may die. Each of the sources said that these are private homes, where in the majority of cases, no military activity is carried out.
  • there is ample evidence that, in many cases, none were military or political operatives belonging to Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
  • The bombing of family homes where Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives supposedly live likely became a more concerted IDF policy during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Back then, 606 Palestinians — about a quarter of the civilian deaths during the 51 days of fighting — were members of families whose homes were bombed. A UN report defined it in 2015 as both a potential war crime and “a new pattern” of action that “led to the death of entire families.”
  • according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, by Nov. 29, Israel had killed 50 Palestinian journalists in Gaza, some of them in their homes with their families
  • The intelligence officers interviewed for this article said that the way Hamas designed the tunnel network in Gaza knowingly exploits the civilian population and infrastructure above ground. These claims were also the basis of the media campaign that Israel conducted vis-a-vis the attacks and raids on Al-Shifa Hospital and the tunnels that were discovered under it.
  • Hamas leaders “understand that Israeli harm to civilians gives them legitimacy in fighting.”
  • while it’s hard to imagine now, the idea of dropping a one-ton bomb aimed at killing a Hamas operative yet ending up killing an entire family as “collateral damage” was not always so readily accepted by large swathes of Israeli society. In 2002, for example, the Israeli Air Force bombed the home of Salah Mustafa Muhammad Shehade, then the head of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. The bomb killed him, his wife Eman, his 14-year-old daughter Laila, and 14 other civilians, including 11 children. The killing caused a public uproar in both Israel and the world, and Israel was accused of committing war crimes.
  • Fifteen years after insisting that the army was taking pains to minimize civilian harm, Gallant, now Defense Minister, has clearly changed his tune. “We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly,” he said after October 7.
Ed Webb

Palestinian in Israel - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • “I don’t use the term Arab-Israeli,” said the 30-year-old journalist, who was born in the Galilee and now lives in the northern city of Haifa. “We are Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. It’s very important for us, the terms and the terminology we use.”
  • Arab-Israeli—the official media and Israeli government term for the 20 percent of Israel’s almost 9 million citizens who are Arab-Palestinian—is increasingly unpopular among the people it’s meant to describe. Only 16 percent of this population wants to be called Arab-Israeli, according to a 2017 survey by the University of Haifa professor Sammy Smooha provided to Foreign Policy.
  • Last summer’s adoption of the new nation-state law, which demoted the status of both the Arabic language and non-Jewish minorities in Israel, accelerated an ongoing shift in the public identity of the Palestinian population in Israel. It is a political statement to use Palestinian as a modifier—a link to cousins in the West Bank and Gaza and an identity distinct from fellow Jewish Israeli citizens.
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  • the increasingly assertive identity of Palestinians in Israel runs parallel to an ongoing reframing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a civil rights struggle, both in Israel and the occupied territories
  • Palestinian citizens of Israel—also now referred to as Palestinians inside Israel, ’48 Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian Israelis, Arab-Israelis—are part of the communities that remained inside the so-called Green Line drawn between Israel and Jordan after the 1948 war. They include Druze (a religious minority), Bedouins, Christians, and Muslims. This group, in theory, has the same rights as Jewish Israelis. In practice, though, they’ve long faced institutional discrimination, and about half of the population lives in poverty, the highest rate in Israel. Even the Druze, who have historically been the most integrated into Israeli society, including serving in the Israel Defense Forces, are furious that the new nation-state law targets them, too. (Among the different Druze communities, a minority is located in the occupied Golan Heights and still rejects Israeli citizenship and identifies as Syrian.)
  • with talk in Israel and the Palestinian territories of a two-state solution shifting now toward a one-state reality—be it either one binational state or one Jewish state where not all Palestinians have equal rights—some Palestinians inside Israel are asserting these two parts of their identity as the core of a more rights-based discourse
  • one significant finding of Smooha’s data is not simply that Arab-Israeli is an unpopular option but rather that more people are rejecting the Israeli part of the identity all together. Since 2003, about 30 percent of respondents have reported that they prefer the term “Palestinian Arab in Israel.” But while in 2003 just 3.7 percent said they prefer the term “Palestinian Arab” (which doesn’t reference their Israeli component at all), in 2017 that number rose to 17 percent
  • “We are not here nor there,” she said. “They [outsiders] think the ’48 [Arabs] live so well. We are poor! In the West Bank, they think that we ’48 Arabs are like Jews. … And here the Jews say we are Arabs.”
Ed Webb

The problems with an increasingly dominant definition of anti-Semitism (opinion) - 0 views

  • The problem, of course, is that when a state’s actions and its government’s policies cannot be critiqued, then the pursuit of knowledge and academic freedom are threatened. If successful, Israel’s use of the anti-Semitism charge to silence serious and well-grounded criticism could very well become the template for other countries, including the United States government, and powerful corporations to mobilize different kinds of hate-speech accusations to protect rights-abusive behavior.
  • the examples marginalize the kinds of anti-Jewish attacks in recent years -- from Pittsburgh to Halle, Germany -- that have resulted in mass casualties or the broader rise of fascism in the United States with its deeply ingrained anti-Semitism, as evidenced by the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
  • not surprising that concern about the IHRA definition has been growing. Professional associations, such as the British Society for Middle East Studies, student groups and more than 100 Palestinian and Arab academics and intellectuals have argued that the IHRA definition is being used to stifle not just criticism of Israel but also, and more widely, support for Palestinian rights. Roughly 200 international scholars working in anti-Semitism studies and related fields -- including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine and Middle East studies -- just drafted the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism, a new definition that responds to the IHRA one and is inspired by the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1969 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Their aim is twofold: 1) to strengthen the fight against anti-Semitism by clarifying what it is and how it is manifested and 2) to protect a space for an open debate about the vexed question of the future of Israel/Palestine. Meanwhile, 40 Jewish organizations including the fastest growing -- and explicitly anti-Zionist -- Jewish organization in the United States, Jewish Voice for Peace, have “unequivocally opposed” the IHRA definition, precisely because its focus on Israel gives the definition a “strong potential for misuse.”
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  • authorities have charged people who have criticized Israel with being anti-Semitic at several institutions in the United States where local jurisdictions have adopted the IHRA definition. There are currently ongoing investigations at Rutgers University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina, with another pending investigation at New York University. These attacks appear to be the harbinger of things to come. They are destructive not only for academic freedom but also for antiracist struggles on campuses.
  • Considering that most universities have robust guidelines that prohibit racist or anti-Semitic utterances, the adoption of the IHRA definition does not add substantive content that might help reduce hate speech on campuses. Moreover, antiracist working groups within universities that we have spoken to are all vehemently against adopting the IHRA definition. Even the primary author of the definition himself, Kenneth Stern, has declared that “right-wing Jews are weaponizing it,” nowhere more so than on college campuses. As he put it, the widespread use of the definition on campuses “will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.”
  • all of Israel’s governments, from 1948 until the present, have equated Israel with the Jewish people. The equation is based, however, on an empirical fallacy, since more than half of the worldwide Jewish population does not live in Israel, more than 20 percent of the country’s citizens are not Jews, and an additional five million stateless Palestinians live within the area that Israel controls
  • the fact that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance drafted the definition creates an immediate association with the Holocaust. That makes it exceedingly difficult to question the definition’s accuracy or motives.
  • institutionalized Jewish life in the diaspora has, for over half a century, focused on supporting Israel. Thus, the IHRA definition serves the purposes of mainstream Jewish organizations quite well, especially when it comes to policing speech in the media and in cultural spheres as well as on college campuses
  • while the IHRA document casts the definition as legally “nonbinding,” and therefore not capable of stifling free speech and academic freedom, it is packaged as especially relevant for law enforcement agencies and for “training police officials.” The impact of the document is thus clear: its “nonbinding” designation frames the definition as benign and distracts us from how it is being used to surveil and even criminalize critical speech about Israel.
  • it allows conservative and even moderate political forces to discipline, silence and marginalize progressive voices against racism, poverty, the climate crisis, war and predatory capitalism. Palestinians have managed to globalize their struggle for self-determination, and progressives of different stripes has championed their cause over the years. Yet now if Black Lives Matter, climate, Indigenous or feminist activists voice support for the Palestinian cause while criticizing Israel, they can be branded anti-Semitic, which can, in effect, delegitimize the other progressive issues such activists support.
  • “The official stance of Hillel against any collaboration with anti-Zionist or BDS-supporting (which is considered anti-Semitic according to the IHRA) groups on or off campus prevents Jewish students from working with other social and racial justice and interfaith groups, including progressive Jewish groups. We can't work to unite against white supremacy or engage with Black-Palestinian solidarity groups because these groups support BDS, even though many Jewish students support BDS as well.”
  • it also allows Israel to create alliances with anti-Semites
  • this kind of devil's bargain will not end up benefiting Jews, particularly those in the diaspora. Only the most honest and robust debate about Israel and Zionism, on campus as well as more broadly, will ensure Jewish students and the wider Jewish community are truly protected from anti-Semitism and can participate most fully in the struggles for social, racial, economic and climate justice that have finally been foregrounded today.
Ed Webb

Three Decades After his Death, Kahane's Message of Hate is More Popular Than Ever - MERIP - 0 views

  • on November 5, 1990, Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated in New York City, a seminal event in the annals of American and Israeli history. Years after his death, Kahane’s killing is considered the first terror attack of the group that would later coalesce into al-Qaeda.
  • Many of Kahane’s American acolytes followed him to Israel, including top JDL fundraiser and Yeshiva University provost Emanuel Rackman, who took over as rector, and then chancellor, of Israel’s Bar Ilan University. Under Rackman’s tutelage, Bar Ilan’s Law School became an incubator for the Israeli far-right. The most infamous of these students was Yigal Amir. Inspired by the Goldstein massacre, Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, dealing a death blow to Israel’s liberal Zionist camp. Amir carried out the murder on the five-year anniversary of Kahane’s killing.
  • The victims of JDL-linked terrorist attacks in the United States were usually innocent bystanders: the drummer in a rock band who lost a leg when a bomb blew up the Long Island home of an alleged Nazi war criminal; the Boston cop who was seriously injured during his attempt to dispose of another bomb intended for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; the elderly lady who died of smoke inhalation in her Brooklyn flat above a Lebanese restaurant torched after its owners were accused of sympathies with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); the young Jewish secretary who was asphyxiated when another fire burned through the Manhattan office of a talent agency that promoted performances of Soviet ballet troupes.
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  • Kahanists are the FBI’s prime suspects in the 1985 assassination of popular Palestinian-American activist Alex Odeh who died in a bombing outside Los Angeles because he called for a two-state solution (which became the official policy of the US government less than a decade later).[2] Odeh’s murder had far-reaching implications, scaring off a generation of Arab-American activists from advocating on behalf of Palestinians.
  • even many sectors of the Israeli right were embarrassed by Kahane’s shameless racism, and by the end of his first term in 1988 he was banned from running again.
  • Six years later, in 1994, the Israeli government, then led by the Labor Party, declared his Kach party a terrorist organization. But by that point, the Kahane movement had already been active for over a quarter of a century, leaving a wake of destruction. To date it has produced more than 20 killers and taken the lives of over 60 people, most of them Palestinians.[3] Credible allegations put the death toll at well over double that number, but even the lower confirmed figure yields a higher body count than any other Jewish faction in the modern era.
  • For decades, Kahanists—as followers of Kahane are called in Israel—have repeatedly attempted to leverage their violence to trigger a wider war and bog Israel down in perpetual armed conflict with its neighbors. And once Israel’s military might is truly unassailable, Kahanists say, Jewish armies must march across the Middle East and beyond, destroying churches and mosques and forcing their Christian and Muslim worshippers to abandon their beliefs or die at the sword.
  • Just months after the Oslo Accords were signed in Washington, DC on the White House lawn, a former candidate for Knesset in Kahane’s Kach party, Baruch Goldstein, committed the largest mass murder by a single person in Israeli history, shooting dead 29 Palestinians and wounding over 100 more at a mosque in Hebron. During the protests that followed, the Israeli Defense Forces killed perhaps two dozen more Palestinians. Exactly 40 days later, at the end of the traditional Muslim mourning period, Hamas began its retaliatory campaign of suicide bombings. Over the next three years this campaign would claim over 100 Israeli lives and harden many Jewish hearts against the prospect of peace with Palestinians. Today, Kahanists can convincingly claim credit for crippling the fragile peace process while it was still in its infancy.
  • In Hebron in 1983, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, Kahanist Israel Fuchs sprayed a passing Palestinian car with bullets. In response, Israel’s defense minister ordered Fuchs’s Kahanist settlement razed to the ground. A decade later in 1994, when Goldstein carried out his massacre, also on Purim, Israel’s defense minister put Hebron’s Palestinian residents under curfew and ordered the local Palestinian commercial district locked and bolted. The market has been shuttered ever since. Last year, Israel’s defense minister announced that the market would be refurbished and repopulated—by Jewish residents. On the same day, the state renovated nearby Kahane Park, where Goldstein is entombed, and where Kahanists gather every year to celebrate Purim and the carnage Goldstein wrought.
  • Kahane had spent the previous 22 years calling for Israel’s parliament to be dissolved and replaced with rabbinic rule over a Jewish theocracy, based on the strictest interpretations of the Torah and Talmud. He openly incited the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians—and all other non-Jews who refused to accept unvarnished apartheid—from Israel and the territories it occupied. He outdid all other Israeli eliminationists with his insistence that killing those he identified as Israel’s enemies was not only a strategic necessity, but an act of worship.[1] His ideology continues to resonate: In the September 2019 elections to Israel’s parliament the explicitly Kahanist Jewish Power Party (Otzma Yehudit) got 83,609 votes, putting it in tenth place in a crowded field of over 30 parties.
  • Both American-born followers of Kahane, Leitner and Ben Yosef went from armed attacks against Palestinians to court room advocates for their fellow religious extremists. Both enlisted at Bar Ilan Law School after serving short prison sentences. Together with his wife Nitzana Darshan, who he met there, Leitner established the highly profitable Israel-based lawfare group Shurat HaDin or Israel Law Center (ILC). After Ben Yosef earned his law degree at Bar Ilan, his American allies founded the Association Center for Civil Justice (ACCJ), a US-based lawfare group that has earned millions of dollars and has for years funneled significant sums to Fuchs, Ben Yosef and other Kahanists.
  • After Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995, his Labor-led government was replaced by the secular right-wing Likud party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who promptly appointed ex-Kahanists Tzahi HaNegbi and Avigdor Liberman to cabinet positions. But that did not satisfy the appetite of the Kahanists, who resolved to coax the Likud even further to the right. Founded by longtime Kahane supporter Shmuel Sackett, the Likud’s Jewish Leadership faction succeeded in catapulting its candidate Moshe Feiglin into the role of deputy speaker of the Knesset where he called on the government to “concentrate” the civilian population of Gaza into “tent camps” until they could be forcefully relocated.
  • Today, prior membership in the Kahanist camp no longer carries any stigma within the Likud.
  • the original Kach core group has rebranded itself to sidestep Israeli law, now calling itself Jewish Power, and are consistently courted by the rest of the Israeli right
  • Kahanists have had even greater success penetrating the halls of power at the local level where their representatives on Jerusalem city council have been included in the governing coalition since 2013. In 2014, Kahanist Councillor Aryeh King—now deputy mayor—used widely-understood religious references to incite an assembly of religious Jews to kill Palestinians. Later that very night, a group of religious Jews did exactly that, kidnapping and beating Palestinian teen Mohammad Abu Khdeir, forcing gasoline down his throat and torching him to death from the inside out.
  • After Kahane’s death, top Chabad rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, also an American immigrant to Israel, inherited Kahane’s position as the most unapologetically racist rabbi in the country. In 2010 Ginsburgh helped publish an influential and vicious religious tract authored by one of his leading disciples called The King’s Torah, which sanctions organ harvesting from non-Jews and infanticide (if a Jew suspects that the child will one day constitute a threat).[9] Ginsburgh’s frequent tributes to Kahane’s memory, including repeated proclamations that “Kahane was right” have cemented the loyalty of third-generation Kahanists, including the latter’s namesake grandson, settler youth leader Meir Ettinger.
  • Thirty years ago, even if Israeli rabbis thought like Kahane and Ginsburgh they would not dare to speak these sentiments out loud, much less publish and promote them. Under Netanyahu’s rule, however, such sentiments are routinely supported financially and politically by the institutions of the Israeli state. In 2019, Israel’s education minister presented Ginsburgh with the Torah Creativity award at an annual event sponsored by his ministry.
  • The principles that Rabbi Meir Kahane popularized—that liberal democracy is an undesirable alien idea and that non-Jews must be driven down, and preferably out of Greater Israel altogether—have seeped deep into mainstream Israeli society.
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