Jerusalem: Why should things not get worse?

David Shulman writes: These days Jerusalem is a sad and scary place. The city center has largely emptied out. Whether you are Jewish Israeli or Palestinian, there is a sense of lurking danger, random, episodic, entirely unpredictable. Although the number of stabbing incidents has decreased over the last few days, in the street you still sometimes look over your shoulder. People, even in extreme situations, manage to create a veneer of normalcy, easily torn away by the next explosion. But the police report a 2,000 percent increase in the public’s demand for handguns, and the government is easing the process of obtaining one. Once people have guns, they tend to use them.

Fear, also hate, makes for a light finger on the trigger, especially in an atmosphere of rabid nationalism that is deliberately fanned by government spokesmen and the prime minister himself. Army intelligence predicts the current violence will get worse; already, Hamas is said to have directed its forces on the West Bank to carry out suicide bombings. And why should things not get worse? As many of us have been saying for years, this situation is the natural and inevitable result of the Netanyahu world.

When it began some four weeks ago, much of the violence was initially focused on Jerusalem and clearly related to events on the Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary, containing the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque), which the Jews call the Temple Mount—the most sensitive spot in the Middle East and always a flashpoint for potential conflict. For the last several months, before the current wave of violence, there has been a small-scale Intifada in Palestinian neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city; young Palestinians have been battling police and soldiers there night after night. These confrontations escalated out of control in September and October largely because of the perceived threat to the Haram, especially the possibility that groups of religious Jews will be allowed to pray there or even to build some synagogue-like structure. There was also the matter of police raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque, allegedly to search for weapons and explosives.

Palestinian fears that the Zionists intend to harm, perhaps destroy, the Haram go back to the very earliest years of the struggle in Palestine, long before the creation of the state. This anxiety is not entirely baseless. Official Israel, under pressure from abroad, has reaffirmed (via mediation by Jordan) its commitment to the existing arrangements on the Haram, still largely run by the Waqf, the Muslim Endowment Board, with only collective Muslim prayer allowed there. But we have a Jewish extremist fringe, led by crazed and vicious men such as Moshe Feiglin—a convicted criminal, a settler, and also, to our shame, a current member of the Knesset—who are continuously trying to establish some form of permanent Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, including a building and ready access to the Haram by these hyper-nationalist fanatics. [Continue reading…]


We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel

Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl write: The West Bank is increasingly treated as part of Israel, with the green line demarcating the occupied territories erased from many maps. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin declared recently that control over the West Bank is “not a matter of political debate. It is a basic fact of modern Zionism.”

This “basic fact” poses an ethical dilemma for American Jews: Can we continue to embrace a state that permanently denies basic rights to another people? Yet it also poses a problem from a Zionist perspective: Israel has embarked on a path that threatens its very existence.

As happened in the cases of Rhodesia and South Africa, Israel’s permanent subjugation of Palestinians will inevitably isolate it from Western democracies. Not only is European support for Israel waning, but also U.S. public opinion — once seemingly rock solid — has begun to shift as well, especially among millennials. International pariah status is hardly a recipe for Israel’s survival. [Continue reading…]


Netanyahu, the Grand Mufti and the Holocaust: why it is important to get the historical facts right

By Rainer Schulze, University of Essex

In a speech to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem on October 20, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Haj Amin al-Husseini, former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, of “inspiring the Holocaust” and urging Hitler to exterminate the Jewish people.

Netanyahu then explained that he wanted “to show that the father of the Palestinian nation wanted to destroy Jews even without occupation.” These comments led to widespread condemnation and outrage. But who was al-Husseini, and what was his role and involvement in the Holocaust? Rainer Schulze sets the record straight.

Who was the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini?

Born in the mid-1890s, and appointed Mufti of Jerusalem in 1921 (Grand Mufti in 1922), Haj Amin al-Husseini was one of the most prominent nationalist Arab figures in Palestine during the time of the British Mandate. He opposed both British rule in Palestine, and the Jewish-Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland in the region, aiming instead to establish a pan-Arab federation or state with himself as the spiritual leader.

His political activism led him to organise and support protests against Jewish immigration and Jewish settlements, which peaked in the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine. In 1937, in order to evade arrest, he fled Palestine and took up residence first in the French Mandate of Lebanon and then in Iraq. In October 1941, he escaped to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

[Read more…]


The convenient lie that helps many Israelis and their friends avoid facing the truth

There’s a common deceit that individuals and groups of people have employed throughout history as a way of avoiding accepting responsibility for their own actions. Here’s how it works and it’s amazingly simple:

If you do things that offend others, you can ignore their complaints by insisting that their grievance is based, not on what you have done, but on who you are.

By claiming that you are a victim of animosity based on your identity, you instantly become blameless.

Following Benjamin Netanyahu’s absurd claim that a Palestinian inspired the Holocaust, Jay Michaelson writes: comments like Netanyahu’s are made all the time on the Israeli Right. They’re meant for domestic consumption, to inspire the nationalist base. The Arabs hate us, anti-Zionism is just anti-Semitism, and most importantly, the Intifada is about Jew-hatred, not resistance to the occupation.

Such claims may seem controversial to outsiders. But they are all catnip to the American and Israeli Right, and to most of Netanyahu’s audience at the World Zionist Congress. (The congress was established by the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, in 1897. Nowadays it is mostly ceremonial, but millions of philanthropic dollars are at stake.)

These claims are central to the ultra-nationalist narrative. Palestinian violence isn’t resistance—it’s bigotry. Thus, peace is not the answer, because it won’t eradicate the Jew-hatred. Only Jewish strength is the answer. (Of course, blaming Palestinian violence on anti-Semitism also stokes deep Jewish fears, and collective trauma about the Holocaust.)

This was the ideology of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of revisionist Zionism (and the fan of Jewish fascism) as well as Netanyahu’s own father. Force is all the Arabs understand, because they hate Jews and will keep hating Jews no matter what. [Continue reading…]


‘Netanyahu joins a long line of people that we would call Holocaust deniers’

The New York Times reports: Israeli historians and opposition politicians on Wednesday joined Palestinians in denouncing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for saying it was a Palestinian, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who gave Hitler the idea of annihilating European Jews during World War II.

Mr. Netanyahu said in a speech to the Zionist Congress on Tuesday night that “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews.” The prime minister said that the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, had protested to Hitler that “they’ll all come here,” referring to Palestine.

“ ‘So what should I do with them?’ ” Mr. Netanyahu quoted Hitler as asking Mr. Husseini. “He said, ‘Burn them.’ ”

Prof. Meir Litvak, a historian at Tel Aviv University, called the speech “a lie” and “a disgrace.” Prof. Moshe Zimmermann, a specialist of German history at Hebrew University, said, “With this, Netanyahu joins a long line of people that we would call Holocaust deniers.”

Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition in the Israeli Parliament, said the accusation was “a dangerous historical distortion,” and he demanded that Mr. Netanyahu “correct it immediately.” [Continue reading…]


The weakness behind Israel’s power

Saree Makdisi writes: It’s no wonder that this video clip went viral earlier this month. It shows a masked Israeli soldier throwing a sobbing Palestinian child to the ground, holding him in a headlock, squashing him, and then grappling with an assortment of women and girls as he tries — and ultimately fails — to wrest the terrified boy away from his mother.

Those few moments of footage revealed for all the world to see the sordid reality of Israel’s everyday war against the Palestinian people. An army that is equipped and ostensibly prepared to take on other armies — but that was last tested against a real army over four decades ago — continues to be unleashed against a largely defenseless civilian population. And it continues to fail abysmally at its assigned task of bringing that population under control and breaking its will to resist. Indeed, in political terms, the ending of the video is as instructive as the beginning: as the child is finally freed, the Israeli soldier, stripped of his coward’s facemask, is forced ignominiously to slink away, defeated — though not before sullenly and gratuitously flinging a parting stun-grenade into the faces of the child and his family, having, for all his brutality, accomplished precisely nothing.

The scene sums up on a small scale the past decades of Israeli violence, and it captures the lesson that the Israelis seem incapable of getting into their heads once and for all: that the sheer capacity for brute force — at which they admittedly excel—does not, in itself, translate into political gain, and can, indeed, backfire politically to produce the opposite result from what was intended: courage instead of fear; steadfastness instead of collapse; defiance instead of submission. [Continue reading…]


One country that won’t be taking Syrian refugees: Israel

The Los Angeles Times reports: For many Israeli Jews, even the smallest number of additional non-Jews is a potential threat, and the Syrian refugee crisis and the debate about Israel’s role has reawakened the country’s most deep-seated fear — that of losing the Jewish majority and subsequently the character of the Jewish state.

Even those in support of opening the gates to refugees say they mean 10,000 at the most, with some calling for a token action such as that taken by former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who in 1977 took in about 70 refugees from Vietnam.

However, Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin accused Herzog of gambling on Israel’s strategic interests for the sake of “one minute of favor” in international media. He also expressed the fear that the refugee crisis could give Palestinians an opening to bring the so-called right of return, which would allow Palestinians to return to land they occupied before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, in “through the back door.” [Continue reading…]


Israeli terrorists, born in the U.S.A.

Sara Yael Hirschhorn writes: On July 31, in the West Bank village of Duma, 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burned alive in a fire. All available evidence suggests that the blaze was a deliberate act of settler terrorism. More disturbingly, several of the alleged instigators, currently being detained indefinitely, are not native-born Israelis — they have American roots.

But there has been little outcry in their communities. Settler rabbis and the leaders of American immigrant communities in the West Bank have either played down their crime or offered muted criticism.

It’s worth recalling the response of the former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to another heinous attack two decades ago, when an American-born doctor, Baruch Goldstein, gunned down dozens of Palestinians while they prayed in Hebron.

“He grew in a swamp whose murderous sources are found here, and across the sea; they are foreign to Judaism, they are not ours,” thundered Mr. Rabin before the Knesset in February 1994. “You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out.”

The shocking 1994 massacre was, at the time, the bloodiest outbreak of settler terrorism Israelis and Palestinians had ever seen. Less than two years later, Mr. Rabin himself would be dead, felled by an ultranationalist assassin’s bullet.

Suddenly, a group of American Jewish immigrants that had existed on the fringes of society became a national pariah. A former president of Israel, Chaim Herzog, labeled the United States “a breeding ground” for Jewish terror; the daily newspaper Maariv castigated American Jews who “send their lunatic children to Israel.” One Israeli journalist even demanded “operative steps against the Goldsteins of tomorrow” by banning the immigration of militant American Jews.

But tomorrow has arrived. [Continue reading…]


Israel’s non-democratic destiny

Michael N. Barnett writes: Believing in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is a little like looking for unicorns on the moon — it doesn’t matter how much you search, you still won’t find any. As recognition of this fact has become increasingly widespread, grappling with its implications has been hampered by the lack of normatively attractive or politically viable alternatives. In his review of Padraig O’Malley’s “The Two State Delusion,” Peter Beinart calls the book and its research impressive but nevertheless faults the author for not telling us how the story ends.

Although Beinart and others committed to a two-state solution make it sound like the alternatives are a great mystery, the search for unicorns has been distracting them from increasingly plausible outcomes. As the two-state solution fades into history, its alternatives become increasingly likely: civil war, ethnic cleansing or a non-democratic state. Although all three are possible, the third is rising on the horizon. Whether it goes by the name of an apartheid state, an illiberal democracy, a less than free society or a competitive authoritarianism, the dominant theme will be a Jewish minority ruling over a non-Jewish majority. Although such an outcome would be an emotional blow to those who favor the two-state solution as a way to maintain Israel’s democratic and Jewish character, it looks quite familiar in a world where liberal democracy not only remains the exception but has actually lost ground over the last decade. [Continue reading…]


Israel’s president tells West Bank settlers: ‘Our right to land’ is beyond debate

The Times of Israel reports: President Reuven Rivlin told a gathering of settler leaders Monday that Israel’s right to the land is beyond political debate, and that this is a basic fact of Zionism that no one should ever doubt.

At a meeting in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem with chairmen of West Bank regional councils, Rivlin praised the resilience of settlers in the face of recent Palestinian attacks against settlers and soldiers.

“Our right to the land is not a matter of political debate,” he declared. “It is a fundamental fact of modern Zionism. We must not let anyone have the feeling that we doubt our right to the land.

“In the last few months, and especially in the last few days, the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria has been dealing with grave terror attacks,” Rivlin said, using the biblical term for the West Bank regions. “Thus, in these days our meeting is especially important. As always, the pioneers walking ahead of the camp meet the toughest resistance, and pay, together with IDF soldiers, a heavy price.

“We have to cope,” he continued. “We have the ability to cope with the current wave of terror, to fight against it, and not to give anyone the power to disrupt daily life. We must be an iron wall, a strong shield against those who wish to rise against us.” [Continue reading…]


Fearful of Jewish settlers, Palestinians deploy night watchmen

The Washington Post reports: The men of this hilltop town who gather at night with clubs and flashlights stress they are not afraid. But they say something changed after the recent arson attack that left a toddler dead in a village just a few miles away.

“You don’t sleep so well,” said Ibrahim Wadi, 54, a chemical engineer who was out on the town’s southern perimeter at midnight this week, carrying a rusty steel bar and scanning the horizon.

Wadi and 30 to 40 other men, farmers and shopkeepers and construction workers, were fanned out across a rocky ridge, their flashlights winking on and off in the open fields. Some of the men carried shepherd’s clubs, others pickaxes, hoes and canes. [Continue reading…]


Jewish terrorism targeting Palestinians is nothing new

The Daily Beast reports: Raphael Morris, a 20-year-old religious settler from the outpost of Ahiya, has for years engaged in a “holy war,” he tells The Daily Beast. He’s battling to rid Israel of its non-Jewish elements and expand the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria—the biblical term for the land on the West Bank of the Jordan River that once belonged to the ancient kingdom of Israel.

Six years ago, Morris arrived at a nearby outpost with 10 other teenagers and learned to work the vineyard, build houses, and “in a number of instances” created a line of defense against the surrounding Palestinian villages. “The Arabs knew not to mess with us,” he says.

This area of the West Bank is home to dozens of outposts initiated in defiance of the Israeli government by mainly Orthodox teenagers and young families known as “hilltop youth.” But these communities are also breeding a zealous culture of Jewish militancy that has led to intensifying attacks on Palestinian towns.

Ahiya is only a short distance from the village of Duma, where on July 31 Jewish extremists firebombed two Arab homes in the dead of night.

One of the houses was empty, but in the other four members of the same family were sleeping in one bedroom. Eighteen-month-old Ali Saad Dawabshah was immediately burned to death, and his father, Saad Dawabshah, succumbed two weeks later to the third-degree burns that covered more than 80 percent of his body. The mother, Reham, and her four-year-old son, Ahmad, remain in critical condition in an Israeli hospital and few family members expect them to survive.

On the walls of the house the arsonists left graffiti reading “Revenge!” and “Long Live the Messiah” next to a Star of David.

The brutal attacks have shocked Israel, prompting nation-wide “soul searching” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians condemn the act as “Jewish terror.” But such incidents are neither so new nor so isolated as these denunciations would make them seem. [Continue reading…]


Israel continues crackdown on Jewish extremist network in West Bank

The New York Times reports: The Israeli authorities on Sunday continued their crackdown against the young Jewish zealots believed to be associated with the Revolt, a shadowy network described by its members as an anarchistic vision of redemption.

The extremists’ working plan calls for fomenting unrest to bring about the collapse of the State of Israel, with its democratic system of government and courts, and establishing a Jewish kingdom based on the laws of the Torah. Non-Jews are to be expelled, the Third Temple is to be built and religious observance is to be enforced, initially in public spaces.

“The starting point of the Revolt is that the State of Israel has no right to exist, and therefore we are not bound by the rules of the game,” write the anonymous authors of the manifesto of sedition that lays out these ideas, which the Shin Bet internal security agency recently discovered.

Six-month administrative detention orders were issued Sunday against two high-profile activists from the radical right, Meir Ettinger and Eviatar Slonim, both in their early 20s. [Continue reading…]


How Israeli taxpayers subsidize ‘Jewish terror’

Natasha Roth writes: What do Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, the murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the arsonists convicted of setting fire to Jerusalem’s Jewish-Arab Hand in Hand school have in common, apart from their violent extremism?

All have received legal representation or some other form of assistance from Honenu, a self-proclaimed “Israeli Zionist legal aid organization.” Based in Kiryat Arba, a settlement next to Hebron that is home to the grave of Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein (itself located in a park named after leader of the Kach terrorist group Meir Kahane), Honenu has tasked itself with a clear vision: to come to the aid of “[s]oldiers and civilians who find themselves in legal entanglements due to defending themselves against Arab aggression, or due to their love for Israel.” In Honenu’s eyes, they are defending “noble citizens” who have “acted on behalf of Am Yisrael [the people of Israel].”

To explore Honenu’s past and present client list of “noble citizens” is to read a timeline of some of the most heinous acts of Jewish terrorism in recent memory. Chances are that if you have read about a “price tag” attack, a violent assault on or killing of Palestinians by Jewish Israelis, or any other “ideological crime” of this nature in recent years, the perpetrators have been assisted in some way by Honenu. [Continue reading…]

BBC News reports: Israel has taken the unusual step of jailing a suspected Jewish militant without trial, amid a tightening of measures against Jewish extremists.

Mordechai Meyer, a resident of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, has been placed under administrative detention for six months.

He is suspected of violent activity as part of a “Jewish terror group”. [Continue reading…]


Jewish terrorism: Toddler dies in West Bank attack

The New York Times reports: A Palestinian toddler was burned to death and his 4-year-old brother critically injured early Friday morning in an arson attack on their home in the West Bank that witnesses and officials attributed to Jewish extremists because of Hebrew graffiti sprayed nearby. “Revenge!” was written on one wall, next to a Star of David.

The attack was branded as terrorism by Israeli and Palestinian politicians, and shocked consciences on both sides of the simmering conflict that has boiled into renewed violence in recent weeks.

Residents of Duma — a hilltop hamlet of 3,000, many of whose men, including the children’s father, work building homes in nearby Israeli settlements — milled with stony faces around the charred home, where relatives threw a baby bottle still sloshing with milk and photographs of the young family atop a pile of blackened furniture and burned blankets. The parents were also hurt in the fire.

“The atmosphere here is very grave,” Sakariya Shadeh, a human rights worker from a nearby village who was at the scene, said on Army Radio. “People are angry over what has happened, over what has brought upon this act.”

Officials and neighbors identified the dead child as 18-month old Ali Saad Dawabsheh, and said his parents, Saad, 32, and Riham, a 27-year-old mathematics teacher, were being treated in Israeli hospitals along with their other son, Ahmad.

Witnesses said that they saw four masked men in black clothing throw firebombs through the windows of two homes near the village entrance around 2 a.m. and that Duma residents had chased them toward the nearby settlement of Maale Efraim; two witnesses said they saw two of the men standing over the burning bodies. [Continue reading…]


World Jewry ever more uneasy with Israel, major study finds

The Times of Israel reports: World Jewry is finding it increasingly difficult to support Israel due to its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, leading many communities to shun discussing the Jewish state altogether, a new major study has found.

The trend is eroding the Diaspora’s support for the Jewish state, warns the report by the Jewish People Policy Institute think tank, to be formally published next week.

While most Jews sympathize with Israel’s needs to wage war in self-defense and believe that its army acts according to high moral standards, there is growing discomfort with some Israeli policies they believe unnecessarily perpetuate conflict, according to the 100-page report by the JPPI, which was made available to The Times of Israel.

Diaspora Jews are not convinced that Israel is doing enough to prevent military conflicts and are troubled by the number of civilian casualties they often produce, though they generally blame Israel’s enemies for the bloodshed. The accusation of the use of “disproportionate force” makes it difficult for these Jews to defend Israeli actions. Somewhat paradoxically, however, Jews in the Diaspora are disappointed that Israel doesn’t manage to end its wars with decisive victories.

“Many Jews doubt that Israel truly wishes to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians, and few believe it is making the necessary effort to achieve one,” according to the study’s author, Shmuel Rosner. [Continue reading…]


Michael Oren’s passion for re-writing history

Ron Kampeas writes: It’s a compelling hero-takes-the-fall narrative: Valiant little country takes the lead in rescuing a battered people and gets snubbed when it’s time for kudos.

It’s the picture Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., paints of Israel’s 2010 Haiti rescue operation in “Ally,” his book excoriating President Barack Obama’s treatment of Israel. Haiti’s devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which struck outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed hundreds of thousands (though the official death toll is disputed) comes at a pivotal moment in the book, when Oren believes the U.S.-Israel relationship is on a downward trajectory.

There’s a problem, though: Except for the part about the uncommon valor of Israeli rescuers, none of it appears to be based on anything that actually happened.

The passage appears on pages 132-133, in a section punningly headlined “Tremors” and that describes tensions over Israeli-Palestinian peace, “as the White House and the Prime Minister’s Office pitched toward collision”:

“My foreboding only deepened on January 15, when Obama issued an official statement on Haiti. ‘Help continues to flow in, not just from the United States but from Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic,’ the president declared. Omitted from the list was Israel, the first state to arrive in Haiti and the first to reach the disaster fully prepared. I heard the president’s words and felt like I had been kicked in the chest.”

• Israel was not “the first state to arrive in Haiti.” Israel arrived on the evening of Jan. 15. According to this CNN timeline, the United States, Iceland, Canada, Spain, China, Argentina, Cuba and Brazil had rescue teams in place by Jan. 13 and 14. The Dominican Republic was first. (I’m also not sure what Oren means about Israel being the first to reach the disaster “fully prepared.” According to the CNN timeline, an Argentine field hospital had treated 800 people by Jan. 13.)

• Obama delivered his remarks between 1:08 and 1:14 PM on Friday, Jan. 15. The Israeli rescue teams arrived on Jan. 15 – in the evening, according to Walla News. And, according to multiple news sources, including JTA, the Israeli army’s field hospital was not set up set up before Saturday morning, Jan. 16.

So why would Oren have “felt kicked in the chest”? Israelis did not rescue or treat a single Haitian until after Obama delivered his remarks; there was no Israeli team in place when he spoke; what would have led Obama to cite Israel that Friday afternoon? [Continue reading…]

Without questioning the good intentions and noble efforts of individual Israeli relief workers, there’s little question that the Israeli government and media viewed the tragedy in Haiti as a wonderful PR opportunity.

“Haiti’s disaster is good for the Jews,” declared a site run by Israel’s popular Hebrew daily, Maariv.

Every disaster needs a hero, the report said, and the heroes in Haiti are the Israelis. And as I wrote at the time:

The message that Israel is saving Haiti was likewise captured in an editorial cartoon in Yediot Aharonot which shows American soldiers digging for earthquake survivors. A voice from beneath the rubble calls out, “Would you mind checking to see if the Israelis are available?”

Bnei Akiva, the largest religious Zionist youth movement in the world, in partnership with Latet, an Israeli humanitarian aid organization, launched a Haiti appeal saying: “We are not only helping Haitians with their tragedy, but uniting the Jewish world and demonstrating the Jewish values of the State of Israel. We believe that it is a Jewish duty to help the people of Haiti. As the representative of the Jewish people, the State of Israel is leading the relief effort.”

An Associated Press article I linked to yesterday describing the exodus of Haitians fleeing from the ruins of Port-au-Prince, strangely was subsequently replaced by a report describing the rescue of a 22-year-old man by an Israeli search team 10 days after the earthquake leveled much of the capital.

In Haaretz, Bradley Burston writes:

Over the past week, the work of the Israeli medical team has become a kind of Rorschach for how people view Israel and Israelis. Most of the comment, it must be said, is supportive. Even on the part of those who cast the humanitarian misery in Gaza in contrast.

But for a shocking number of others, the bottom line is simple: Israel, and Israelis, can do no right.

In its most extreme form, there are those who have accused Israel of using the Haiti catastrophe as a new reservoir for harvesting organs.

But even many of those who shun blood libels, have seized on the Haiti mission to bash Israel, revealing in many cases a hatred – and a bigotry – that borders on the visceral.

Would Burston lump me in with the anti-Israel commentators? Maybe.

Do I think the Israeli doctors, nurses and rescue teams now working in Haiti are all toiling away purely in the service of Israel’s international image? I doubt it. I would expect that for most of these individuals, their response is like that of most of the other foreigners now providing relief to Haitians: it is above all a human response to human suffering.

Is there such a thing as an Israeli response or a Jewish response or an American response to human suffering? If so, it is laced with vanity.

To say this is what we do because this is who we are is to preen oneself in front of a mirror of self-praise. It is undignified. It spies a reward in someone else’s loss.

In this mirror, Israel now sees an image of itself as a big-hearted nation admired around the world for its humanitarian efforts in Haiti. But the self-satisfaction will be short-lived. Before long this glimmer of goodwill will once again be overshadowed by the enduring reality that in the minds of most Israelis the suffering of others seems just as likely to provoke callous indifference as it does an open heart.

The big Israeli heart shrivels at the sight of a Palestinian.

Maybe Oren felt kicked in the chest when heard Obama’s words because he’d been busy sending out press releases to all and sundry hailing the imminent arrival of Israelis in Haiti, imagining that the whole world would be in awe at the mere fact that they had been sent.


Is BDS the only pro-Israel option left?

Mark LeVine writes: Just a year ago, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement was no more than a minor irritant in the eyes of the majority of Israeli and Diaspora Jewish leaders. The boycott of settlement products — with a value of $30 million per year in a GDP of $36 billion — while politically worrisome, was limited. The Knesset and the country’s National Science Foundation both released studies declaring the academic boycott’s impact marginal, and the number of artists refusing to play Israel remained manageably small.

What a difference a year makes. Today BDS is described as an existential threat to Israel; its potential cost is estimated at upward of $5 billion per year. Entire ministries are being tasked with combating it. The self-described “richest Jew in the world,” casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has convinced other wealthy pro-Israel Jews to commit upward of $50 million to setting up programs on college campuses to aggressively fight it.

There are four reasons the “noise” — as Fitch Ratings financial analyst Paul Gamble described it for The Jewish Week — of BDS became a roar. First, the occupation of the West Bank has become so concentrated that it can no longer be dissolved into a larger narrative of a modern, Western Israel. Israel’s matrix of control is so dense that it is simply impossible to hide from the occupation or pretend it doesn’t exist. [Continue reading…]