Archive for the ‘Israel/Palestine’ category

Jews Behaving Badly

April 13, 2007

From the Department of Self-Promotion: Why is it so damn hard for some people to get married in Israel?



March 14, 2007

That is the percentage of private land that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are constructed on. (All about a few percentage points represent privately-held Palestinian land). This is according to Israeli government documents that were the source of a legal battle between the advocacy group Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) and the Israeli Civil Administration. It was reported today in The New York Times. This is a scandal and an outrage.

I quote from Steven Erlanger’s staggering piece:

Some of the land listed as private has been seized legally, though supposedly temporarily, by the Israeli military for security purposes. Many settlements were built on such land, even though it is supposed to be returned to its owners. The military simply signs a renewal of the seizure order every few years. But the military keeps secret how much land is under such temporary seizure orders.

In a 1979 court case, the Israeli Supreme Court declared that the seizure of private land for establishing settlements for security purposes is illegal. But the official data shows that 32 percent of the land in settlements established after 1979 is private land.

ps. Haaretz is reporting the figure at 32%. Not sure what the discrepancy is all about. Probably an attempt to incorporate estimates about how much land is privately help in Jewish hands. The margins matters little. That roughly a third of settlement territory has been illegally confiscated is a damning revelation.

My Italics

March 12, 2007

From the New York Times:

The Human Rights Council has been widely criticized for being no more effective than the discredited Human Rights Commission it replaced this year, and whether it takes action on Darfur or not is being seen as a measure of whether it can start to build credibility during its formal session, the fourth it has held, that began Monday.

All eight previous condemnations of human rights performance that it has issued since its creation in June have been against one country, Israel.

In the four years since the Sudanese government began fighting separatist rebels in Darfur province, violence in the region has left more 200,000 villagers dead and 2.5 million people homeless.

A Vicious Bind

March 10, 2007

Pity the Gazans. In a lengthy front-page dispatch from Gaza City in today’s Washington Post, Scott Wilson traces the deepening disconnect between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Since the unilateral Israeli pullout from Gaza the situation for Gazans has deteriorated from bad to worse. The economic picture Wilson paints is bleak: While overall Palestinian unemployment is at roughly 26 percent, nearly half of Gaza’s population is without work; even those who have jobs have not been paid in full because the government is bankrupt; Gaza’s export industries have also lost a higher proportion of jobs than the West Bank, because of Israel’s frequent closure of the cargo crossing at Karni, which last year was shut entirely or partially for 129 days. (40 Gaza export businesses have reportedly folded since Israel’s withdrawal.)

Part of this despair is of their own doing. Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, reported that Palestinians fired 1,726 crude rockets from Gaza last year — more than four times as many as in 2005. And the streets of Gaza have been repeatedly bloodied by factional violence between Hamas and Abu Mazen’s Fatah, which maintains a much stronger grip on power in the West Bank than in Gaza, where Hamas has the affection and loyalty of the people.

At the core of this dilemma is a nasty double-bind that is illuminated by a quote from Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin: “We have very strong security interests in not allowing strong ties between Gaza and the West Bank. If you open channels between the areas, you will see an increase in terror in the West Bank.” This is no doubt true and explains the imperative behind the security measures Wilson highlights. But what Diskin does not acknowledge is that the implosion of Palestinian peoplehood is a disaster for Israel. This is the crux of the double-bind: while short-term security risks compel the division of Gaza from the West Bank, in so doing Israel further imperils the prospect of ever achieving a two-state solution.

And lets be clear: two-states is the only viable future for Zionism and for Palestinian nationalism. Israeli nationalism necessitates the creation of a Palestinian state as much as Palestinian nationalism does. And vice-versa. As many on the left have long pointed out, the decades-long occupation (the interminable “seventh day” of the Six Day War) is slowly strangling Israel, eroding the legitimacy of Zionism, deteriorating the state’s democratic foundations, and giving rise to new initiatives. The good news is that ranks of those on the absolutist, “Greater Israel” right are thin and thinning. The bad news is that progress is hostage to a vexing dynamic that stymies progress at every turn.

What is to be done? I do not know. But I do know that this double-bind serves no faction’s interests more clearly than that of Hamas, who benefits the most from an Israel continually tied down in the territories.

Hamas and Art

March 6, 2007

I am anxious to see how this plays out. In the most direct attempt by Hamas to bring their rigid interpretation of Islam into the Palestinian public square, the Hamas-run Education Ministry has banned an anthology of Palestinian folk tales because it reportedly contains sexual innuendo. Hanan Ashrawi, that stalwart from the days of the PLO, is enraged, calling the ban “outrageous.” “If this is what is to come, it is extremely alarming.”

The anthology was put together by Sharif Kanaana, a novelist and anthropology professor at the West Bank’s Bir Zeit University, and by Ibrahim Muhawi, a teacher of Arabic literature and the theory of translation.

Will Palestinian and Arab intellectuals please stand-up?

(Incidentally, you can get your very own copy of Speak Bird, Speak Again, over at Amazon. The book was initially published in 1989 by the University of California Press. But if your sensibility demands a new copy, it will cost you dearly.)

The Passion of Pinter

February 6, 2007

Haaretz brings word this morning of an assembly of prominent British-Jewish artists, intellectuals, and academics who have started a new group because they feel the mainline Jewish organizations in Britain do not represent their views – and worse than that, they maintain that their views are being muzzled. This is them speaking truth to power.

Thankfully, Norm Geras, Shalom Lappin, and Eve Garrard have fired back with a stinging assault on the group’s pretensions (a group, I hasten to add, that boasts Harold Pinter as a distinguished member of their number). Many of the principles upheld in the Independent Jewish Voices Charter are praise worthy, but the hypocrisy is rank. Geras et. al. have a good laugh about it:

What a hoot! What a kingsize, mouth and trousers, peaches and yoghurt, tractor and bright scarlet pyjamas belly laugh.

(What a sentence!)

Salafist Solipsism

January 10, 2007

“This is a reality but I won’t deal with it in terms of recognising or admitting it.”

-Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on the existence of Israel.