NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: February 25

Al Jazeera: Focus on Gaza: A crime of war?

‘We are such an angry people’

SPIEGEL: Mr. Burg, a majority of Israelis voted for right-wing parties, and now Benjamin Netanyahu is prime-minister designate. As someone who supports the Israeli left, are you feeling a bit lonely these days?

Burg: I feel I am losing my political, ideological and spiritual home. My political home today, the Meretz party, shrank to only three seats in the Knesset. As an Israeli I feel lost because so many of my fellow countrymen are in love with war — as the solution for everything. But the most existential loss is spiritual: For me, being a Jew is being a universalist, a humanist. I can’t understand any Jew who votes right-wing. I can’t understand how a Jew can speak a language of xenophobia. And yet so many of them just did. [continued…]

Avigdor Lieberman’s chutzpah

A reliable friend and colleague swears that he saw the following incident in the Israeli-occupied territories a couple of years ago. A Palestinian physician, in urgent need of permission to travel, was trying to persuade a soldier at a roadblock to allow him to hurry on to the next town. He first tried the stone-faced guard in Hebrew, in which many Arabs are fluent, but he received no response. He then made an attempt in English, which is something of a local lingua franca, yet he fared no better. After an unpleasant interval of mutual noncommunication, it transpired that the only word the Israeli soldier knew was no, and the only language in which he could speak it was Russian.

The words occupation and dispossession are flung around pretty freely, but I invite you to picture a life under occupation in which your unfriendly neighborhood cop did not even speak the language of the state that he served, let alone any tongue known to you. There is, by the way, a fair likelihood that the soldier was not even Jewish; it’s an open secret in Israel that tens of thousands of Russian immigrants used forged papers as a means of exiting their country of birth, pretending to exercise the “right of return.” So here is yet another insult to heap on those whose great-great-grandparents were born in Palestine yet are treated as if they live there only on sufferance. [continued…]

Coalition theory

“ACTA ALEA EST” – the die is cast – said Julius Caesar and crossed the River Rubicon on his way to conquer Rome. That was the end of Roman democracy.

We don’t have a Julius Caesar. But we do have an Avigdor Liberman. When he announced his support the other day for the setting up of a government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, that was the crossing of his Rubicon.

I hope that this is not the beginning of the end of Israeli democracy. [continued…]

Reflect on this, Pastor Hagee: Religious Jews in Israel say Judaism is closer to Islam than Christianity

The survey was conducted by the Smith Institute among 500 respondents that constitute a representative sample of the adult Jewish population in the country.

According to 54% of seculars, Christianity was closer to Judaism than Islam, while only 17% of religious respondents agreed to this statement and 48% said that Islam was in fact closer. Meanwhile, 43% of seculars defined the Catholic Church’s attitude towards Judaism and Jews as positive, while 65% of religious said that it was negative.

Sixty percent of religious and ultra-orthodox respondents said the sight of a person wearing a cross disturbed them, whilst 91% of seculars said they did not mind it.

On almost all issues seculars exhibited an open-minded approach towards Christianity, whereas religious respondents were less than tolerant. Sixty-eight percent of seculars said that Christianity should be taught in schools, and 52% believed that the New Testament should be studied as well. Meanwhile, religious and haredim ruled out any reference to Christianity in school curriculums, 73% and 90% respectively. [continued…]

‘Waltz With Bashir’ passed over for Oscar

For Israelis, an Oscar win would have meant almost as much as the country’s first Olympic medal. Folman, his wife and four animators attended the Oscar ceremony, while some 60 supporters, including Israeli diplomats and media, as well as the two German producers who raised half of the film’s budget, watched the broadcast at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

“Waltz With Bashir” focuses on a moment of national shame – the murder of scores of Palestinians by Lebanese Phalangists in the Israeli army-controlled Sabra and Shatila refugee camps – yet was embraced in Israel, drawing large audiences there. And on an official level, not only was the movie, like most Israeli films, financed with government funds, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has been actively promoting “Waltz With Bashir,” with diplomats insisting that it will actually help to bolster Israel’s image abroad.

“Our only problem is that Sony Pictures Classics doesn’t let us be more involved and help a little more,” said Yoram Morad, the Israeli consul in New York for cultural affairs, a few days before the Academy Awards ceremony.

The cultural arm of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency’s education department, in partnership with the New York-based Foundation for Jewish Culture, produced a viewer’s guide that is to be distributed through various American Jewish groups. And a description of the film on the Web page of Israel’s culture office in New York calls the film a “gripping” and “powerful denunciation of the senselessness of all wars.” For a nation that much of the world sees as brutal and militaristic, that’s either an astonishing admission or a savvy PR move.

Unless, of course, it’s both. [continued…]

Iran sought Turkey’s help to mend links with US, says Erdogan

Iran has asked Turkey to help it resolve its 30-year dispute with the US as a possible prelude to re-establishing ties, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has told the Guardian.

Iranian officials made the request while George Bush was in office, Erdogan said, adding that he had passed the message to the White House at the time. He said he was considering raising the matter with Barack Obama, who has said he wants to engage with Iran at a G20 summit in London in April.

Speaking aboard his prime ministerial plane during a local election campaign trip to the south-eastern city of Mardin, Erdogan also renewed his criticism of Israel’s recent offensive in Gaza and challenged the Israeli prime minister-designate, Binyamin Netanyahu, to recognise Palestinians’ right to have their own state. [continued…]

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