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…]


The occupation is destroying Israel, too

Assaf Gavron writes: We seem to be in a fast and alarming downward swirl into a savage, unrepairable society. There is only one way to respond to what’s happening in Israel today: We must stop the occupation. Not for peace with the Palestinians or for their sake (though they have surely suffered at our hands for too long). Not for some vision of an idyllic Middle East — those arguments will never end, because neither side will ever budge, or ever be proved wrong by anything. No, we must stop the occupation for ourselves. So that we can look ourselves in the eyes. So that we can legitimately ask for, and receive, support from the world. So that we can return to being human.

Whatever the consequences are, they can’t be worse than what we are now grappling with. No matter how many soldiers we put in the West Bank, or how many houses of terrorists we blow up, or how many stone-throwers we arrest, we don’t have any sense of security; meanwhile, we have become diplomatically isolated, perceived around the world (sometimes correctly) as executioners, liars, racists. As long as the occupation lasts, we are the more powerful side, so we call the shots, and we cannot go on blaming others. For our own sake, for our sanity — we must stop now. [Continue reading…]


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…]


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…]


Most of the drivers of regional destruction have little to do with Iranian-Saudi rivalry

Rami G Khouri writes: [Regional] destruction is painfully visible every day in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Bahrain, and Yemen, at the very least. This spectacle of multiple fragmenting states is bad enough; it is made even worse by the latest troubling development — it is too early to call it a trend — which is the spectacle of repeated bomb attacks and killings of government officials and security forces in three of the most important regional powers that should be stabilizing forces in the Middle East: Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Add to this the ongoing war in Yemen, and the erratic battle against “Islamic State” (ISIS) forces in Syria, Iraq and other tiny pockets of ISIS presence around the region, the massive refugee flows and the stresses they cause, and the dangerous sectarian dimensions of some of the confrontations underway, and we end up with a very complex and violent regional picture that cannot possibly be explained primarily as a consequence of Iranian-Saudi rivalries.

A more complete explanation of the battered Arab region today must include accounting for several other mega-tends: the impact of the last twenty-fix years of non-stop American military attacks, threats and sanctions from Libya to Afghanistan; the radicalizing impact of sixty-seven years of non-stop Zionist colonization and militarism against Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians and other Arabs; the hollowing out of Arab economic and governance systems by three generations of military-led, amateurish and corruption-riddled mismanaged governance that deprived citizens of their civic and political rights and pushed them to assert instead the primacy of their sectarian and tribal identities; and, the catalytic force of the 2003 Anglo-American led war on Iraq that opened the door for all these forces and others yet — like lack of water, jobs, and electricity that make normal daily life increasingly difficult — to combine into the current situation of widespread national polarization and violence.

Most of these drivers of the current regional condition have little to do with Iranian-Saudi sensitivities, and much more to do with decades of frail statehood, sustained and often violent Arab authoritarianism, denied citizenship, distorted development, and continuous regional and global assaults. [Continue reading…]


Vatican formally recognizes Palestinian state by signing treaty

The New York Times reports: The Vatican on Friday signed a treaty with the “state of Palestine,” a development that the church hopes will lead to improved relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The accord, the result of 15 years of negotiations, covers “essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in the State of Palestine,” the Vatican said in a statement.

The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the agreement could be a “stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties.”

He also called for the two countries to take “courageous decisions” so that the “much desired two-state solution may become a reality as soon as possible.” [Continue reading…]


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…]


Palestinians giving up on statehood, Israeli ex-security chief says

The Times of Israel reports: The death of the two-state solution among the Palestinians is no secret to the Israelis, nor is it mourned by government officials. To the political echelon, the threat of a binational state is not sufficiently tangible, and the possibility that radical Islam will take over the West Bank if there should be a peace agreement seems more real.

But things sound different in the defense establishment, and particularly among those who have left it. Quite a few former generals, Shin Bet directors and Mossad chiefs have warned any number of times that maintaining the status quo in the territories, which has become a kind of strategy in Netanyahu’s era, could change the face of the State of Israel.

“I’m hearing from various Palestinian officials with whom I am in contact that they have given up on the two-state solution as an option for resolving the conflict,” says former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, 59, who now owns a hi-tech firm in Herzliya. [Continue reading…]


Palestine Football Association drops bid to ban Israel from FIFA

Middle East Eye: After several years of pushing for Israel to be banned from FIFA, the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) abruptly dropped its bid on Friday at the international football association’s 65th congress in Zurich.

PFA’s leader Jibril Rajoub told gathered delegates that that he had dropped the motion for Israel’s expulsion after the Israeli Football Association (IFA) offered a set of compromises over Thursday night.

“I have decided to drop the suspension,” Rajoub said.


Palestinians refuse to back down on FIFA vote to expel Israel

AFP reports: Palestine’s football chief on Wednesday continued his refusal to back down on a threatened vote to suspend Israel from football’s governing body after talks with increasingly desperate FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

“Nothing has changed, the vote is still on the agenda,” Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub told AFP after the meeting with Blatter and as the countdown to Friday’s vote gathered pace.

“The meeting lasted about one hour, there were no results,” Rajoub said.

Palestine, which has been a FIFA member since 1998, wants the governing body to suspend Israel over its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players, and opposes the participation in the Israeli championships of five clubs located in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, illegal under international law.

The vote is scheduled for Friday and needs a simple majority of over 50% of the 209 members to succeed.

Blatter has been lobbying furiously to try to avoid the vote, travelling to the Middle East last week to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Mahmoud Abbas. [Continue reading…]

Other reports say the vote would require 75% in favor to pass and one report says a two-thirds majority. No doubt FIFA officials are more preoccupied with other questions right now (such as how likely it is that they will end up in jail), but is it really that difficult for the press to establish one basic fact?

Daoud Kuttab adds: Blatter told Palestinians that he has received new concessions from the Israelis regarding the travel issues of Palestinian players. A committee has been created, including a Palestinian, an Israeli and a FIFA representative, who meet on a monthly basis to review the situation.

“Our issue with the Israelis is not only about the movement of our players. We can’t accept that the Israeli Football Association includes five clubs from settlements and the racism in Israeli stadiums,” Rajoub said. Israeli soccer teams and their fans act and tolerate a high level of racism against Arabs in the stadiums. FIFA has a strong policy against racism and conducts campaigns to root it out of the game.

FIFA statutes include the protection of its associations from others playing in its country. Settlements are considered illegal according to international law and therefore, Israeli soccer teams would need the approval of the Palestinians to play in the settlements built in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Eamonn McCann notes: Palestinian footballer Sameh Maraabah was arrested last Thursday by Israeli security agents at the Allenby Bridge, the only crossing point available to Palestinians between the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the outside world.

The team had been en route to Tunisia for a training camp in preparation for a game against Saudi Arabia on June 11th.

The incident came within 24 hours of talks between Fifa president Sepp Blatter and Israeli and Palestinian officials in Tel Aviv and Ramallah about a Palestinian bid to have Israel suspended from Fifa for persistent harassment of Palestinian players and allowing teams from illegal West Bank settlements to compete in the Israeli league.

On Thursday evening, the head of the Palestine FA (PFA), Jibril Rajoub, wrote to Blatter complaining: “The Israeli government’s promise [at the talks] to facilitate the movement of our players is having its first test . . . Player Sameh Maraabah has been detained for two hours now . . . The team has decided it will not leave without him.”

The team was able to resume its journey an hour later. The Israelis insisted that Maraabah had been delayed solely as a security risk and accused the PFA of “provocation”.

Iyad Abu Gharqoud, who plays for the Palestine national team, writes: Soccer is a beautiful game, but it can be cruel, too — and not just in the near-misses and penalty shootouts. One of the ironies of my professional career is that it has brought me tantalizingly close to Beersheba, the city in southern Israel once known as Bir Saba — an Arab community that was expelled in 1948, my family included.

Today, our players are frequently arrested and detained. Last year, two of our most talented young players were shot and wounded by Israeli forces at a checkpoint. The border police reported that the young men were about to throw a bomb; in fact, they were on their way home from training at our national stadium in the West Bank. According to The Nation, they were both shot in the feet, sustaining injuries that have ended their soccer careers.

Israel has also tried to block players from other countries from entering Palestine to play against us. And during last year’s Gaza conflict, Israeli jets bombed our soccer fields and recreational areas. Israel’s policies have succeeded in making the beautiful game ugly.


Village of Bedouins faces eviction as Israel envisions a village of Jews

The New York Times reports: Salim al-Qian settled back on his white faux leather couch strewn with pink cushions and took a sip of tea, clearly comfortable in his tiny home in this ramshackle hamlet in the dusty hills of southern Israel. The sense of permanence suggested by his comfort, however, looks to be short-lived.

Mr. Qian and the other members of some 70 Bedouin families are likely to be evicted soon from their homes in the hamlet of Umm al-Hiran, where they have been living since the 1950s. In their place, the Israeli government plans to build a community with nearly the same name, Hiran — but its expected residents will be religious, Zionist Jews.

The government says Umm al-Hiran is on state-owned land that it would like to develop, and it has fought a long legal battle to have the Bedouin families, about 1,000 people, relocated. This month, the Supreme Court ruled in a 2-1 decision that the families would have to leave. The court gave no date for when evictions could begin, and residents intend to appeal the decision.

The Bedouins say they do not want to leave land on which they have been living for more than half a century after being resettled there by the Israeli military. The government has promised compensation in the form of cash and land elsewhere, but the Bedouins say the decision to move them reflects discriminatory policies.

“It is not possible to order one home demolished because it belongs to an Arab and build another for a Jew,” said Mr. Qian, 57, a trader and community leader. [Continue reading…]


Marie Alphonsine Ghattas and Mariam Bawardy — two saints from Palestine

BBC News reports: Pope Francis has canonised two 19th Century nuns who lived in Ottoman-ruled Palestine, making them the first Palestinian saints in modern times.

Marie Alphonsine Ghattas and Mariam Bawardy were among four new saints declared in Rome’s St Peter’s Square.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and over 2,000 Christian pilgrims from the region attended the ceremony.

The move is seen as a token of Vatican support for dwindling Christian communities in the Middle East. [Continue reading…]


Vatican officially recognizes ‘State of Palestine’ in new treaty

The Associated Press: The Vatican has officially recognized the state of Palestine in a new treaty.

The treaty, which was finalized Wednesday but still has to be signed, makes clear that the Holy See has switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine.

The Vatican had welcomed the decision by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state. But the treaty is the first legal document negotiated between the Holy See and the Palestinian state and constitutes an official recognition.


The United States and Palestine

Rashid Khalidi writes: As with many other unresolved issues in the modern Middle East, it was Great Britain rather than the United States that initially created the problem of Palestine. But in Palestine, as elsewhere, it has been the lot of the United States, Britain’s successor as undisputed hegemon over the region, to contend with the complications engendered by British policy. And as elsewhere in the Middle East, in the end the United States significantly exacerbated the conflict over Palestine that it inherited from Britain. The outlines of the problem can be simply stated: with the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, Great Britain threw the weight of the greatest power of the age, one which was at that moment in the process of conquering Palestine, behind the creation of a Jewish state in what was then an overwhelmingly Arab country, against the wishes of its inhabitants. Everything that has followed until this day in that conflict-riven land has flowed inevitably from this basic decision.

Woodrow Wilson was the first American president to support Zionism publicly, and his backing was crucial to the awarding of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine to Britain. This in turn led to the inclusion of the text of the Balfour Declaration in the terms of the Mandate, committing the entire international community of that era to the establishment of a “Jewish national home.” Wilson extended the United States’ support to Zionism in spite of the results of the American King-Crane Commission, which discovered the majority Arab population of Palestine to be overwhelmingly opposed to the establishment of a Jewish national home — which they rightly feared would inexorably develop into an exclusively Jewish state in their homeland and at their expense.

Although the United States withdrew from active involvement in the League of Nations and from many other aspects of international politics soon afterwards, the impact on Palestine of these key post-World War I decisions in which the United States played a crucial role was to be lasting. Under the protection of the British Mandate, and with its invaluable support, and with financing which largely came from contributions raised from American donors, by 1939 the Zionist movement had created the nucleus of a viable, independent Jewish state. This American financing, from private and later governmental sources in the form of economic and military assistance, has been crucial to the success of the Zionist project and the state of Israel from the very beginnings and until the present day. [Continue reading…]


Netanyahu’s ‘no-Palestinian-state’ vow raises questions about security coordination

McClatchy reports: Khawla Zeitawi is pregnant with twins, and her husband is not at her side.

Instead, her husband, Jasser Abu Omar, is in an Israeli prison, accused of being part of a terrorist cell that crafted explosives in a Nablus apartment. Zeitawi asserts that her husband is innocent, jailed on bad information from Palestinian law enforcement as part of ongoing security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“Security coordination is treason,” Zeitawi said in her home in Jamain, a village near Nablus in the West Bank. “The Palestinian Authority is giving Israel a service for free.”

Since the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, its security organizations have worked closely with Israel to share intelligence, arrest suspected militants and limit demonstrations in the West Bank. That cooperation was suspended during a Palestinian uprising known as the second Intifada, but has been a robust part of life in the West Bank since 2007 – and a lightning rod for complaints among the Palestinian public for almost as long.

Earlier this month, the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Council voted to suspend security coordination. That vote was to protest Israel’s withholding of tax revenues, an action Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered earlier this year to punish the Palestinians for applying for membership in the International Criminal Court.

On Friday, Netanyahu ordered the release of the tax revenues, which Israel collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf at a rate of $127 million a month. But that’s unlikely to silence Palestinian doubts about the security agreement, especially after Netanyahu won reelection in part by vowing never to allow a Palestinian state to rise while he’s prime minister. [Continue reading…]


Palestinian statehood: a lost cause?


How the U.S. blocked Palestine’s bid for statehood in the UN Security Council

Marwan Bishara writes: The US has defeated the PLO at the UN Security Council (UNSC) by a first-round knockout, without even using its veto power.

But the humiliation won’t go unnoticed in a region that has been seeking divine intervention when its repeated calls for international intervention had failed to stop aggression and bloodshed.

Behind the UN commotion is a leadership failure on the part of the three concerned parties.

Once again, Palestinian gullibility, American cynicism and Israeli bullying, have degraded the role of the UN in putting an end to the longest case of illegal occupation in memory. [Continue reading…]


U.S. will veto Palestinian UN bid

Ben Caspit writes: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Rome on Dec. 15, in an effort to formulate a joint position in response to planned moves by the Palestinians at the United Nations in the coming weeks.

Following the meeting, the big question still lingered: Would the Americans cast a veto over a potential Palestinian request that the United Nations’ Security Council recognize Palestine as an independent state? Netanyahu did not divulge to reporters who accompanied him on the plane whether he received an American guarantee for the sought-after veto. White House officials said the issue was still being debated.

On the night of Dec. 16, however, it became known that the decision has been made. The Americans will indeed cast a veto over the Palestinian request. This veto will be welcomed with satisfaction in Jerusalem. Surprisingly enough, Ramallah will also receive it with understanding. [Continue reading…]