City of Brass

City of Brass


Israel under siege – enforces consensus, jettisons democracy

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This is a guest post by Richard Silverstein of Tikkun Olam blog. The text is of a prepared talk Richard gave on Friday at a conference in Seattle focused on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

I have the unenviable task of telling you tonight about the state of the State of Israel. In short, it’s not good. I’ve been following Israeli politics since I was a teenager in 1967 and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alarmed and depressed about what is happening within Israel.

We all knew when Bibi Netanyahu became prime minister that we were in for a far-right government. But sad to say I think we were spoiled by the more centrist governments that preceded them. We thought that since both Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert were former Likud political leaders that Bibi would perhaps be a slightly more conservative version.

But Bibi has been a revelation, and not a good one. Under his rule, the Israeli peace and human rights community have come under fire as never before. The leader of the New Israel Fund, a relatively tame advocate of Israeli civil society and democracy, was vilified in all the major Israeli newspapers in an ad displaying a caricature of her with a rhino horn sprouting from her forehead. It was an ugly display worthy of some of the lowest propaganda of the Nazi anti-Semitic publication, Der Shturmer.

A few months ago, Uri Blau, an Israeli journalist writing for Haaretz was forced into exile because he received secret documents from an IDF soldier named Anat Kamm. These memos documented major military violations of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling barring targeted killings of Palestinian militants who could be apprehended non-violently. Not only did the Israeli intelligence service, Shabak, threaten to prosecute Uri Blau, Haaretz’s military correspondent now residing in London, they did prosecute Kamm, threatening her with a life sentence. Essentially, this woman is an Israeli Daniel Ellsberg, yet she faces calls from the Israeli far-right for hanging.

An Israeli Palestinian Knesset member, Haneen Zoabi, joined the Gaza flotilla and sailed on the ill-fated Mavi Marmara. If she’d been a regular Israeli citizen she could’ve been arrested and imprisoned for her action. Luckily for her, she had parliamentary immunity. When she returned to the Knesset, right-wing MKs called her a traitor and killer. She arose to defend herself and all hell broke loose. A Jewish female Knesset member lunged at her and would’ve taken her down if she hadn’t been restrained by Knesset security. Everyone knows how fractious and dysfunctional the Israeli parliament can be. Many of us have seen the shouting matches and bad behavior. But this was a different order of magnitude. Even an Israeli TV newscaster called it a “near-lynching.”

The Israeli security apparatus has gone to war against Israeli Palestinian political leaders. This goes back to an announcement in 2007 by Yuval Diskin, Shin Bet chief, that he planned to wage all-out combat against Palestinian nationalists. He viewed even legal political activities that advanced views that were detrimental to the notion that Israel was solely a Jewish state, as anathema. He made clear as part of this crusade, he would pull out all the stops. And he has done so.

In the past month, the Shin Bet arrested the director of an Israeli Palestinian NGO named Ameer Makhoul. They came to his Haifa apartment in the dead of night, ransacked it, and confiscated all the electronic equipment in it, including cell phones and computers belonging to his teenage daughters. They slapped a gag order on his arrest. No Israeli reporter could say what had happened to Makhoul. He essentially disappeared into the maw of the secret police.

One of my jobs as a blogger is to break such gag orders and I’m pleased to say that with the help of Israeli sources I did. After my reporting, we knew who had been arrested. We found out about the preposterous charges against him, that he had consorted with known Hezbollah agents and offered to spy against his country.

The identity of the alleged Hezbollah agent was also under gag order. But I broke that too and revealed that Hassan Jaja was so dangerous that he was a landscape designer and nurseryman in Amman who ran an Arab environmental NGO.

Despite the ludicrousness of the charges, this didn’t stop the Shin Bet from torturing Makhoul during the three weeks when they held him incommunicado, preventing access to his lawyers or family. He was deprived of sleep, tied to a chair that was bolted to the floor and forced to confirm a narrative that his interrogators dictated to him. It reminds me of a Teheran show trial.

This is how low Israel has gone. In an effort to combat the international campaign to hold Israel accountable for its actions its actions in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the nation has inflicted upon itself and the rest of the world a sort of pathological madness.

It called Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the UN report on the war, a traitor to his people. Accused him of a blood libel against Israel. Accused him of being a moser, a Jew who during the Holocaust ferreted out Jews in hiding and betrayed them to the Gestapo. They tarnished Goldstone’s record as a South African anti-apartheid judge by comparing him to Josef Mengele.

Some of us attended the last SABEEL conference held here in this Cathedral and heard Israeli Professor Neve Gordon’s address. He, several months ago, electrified observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by publicly expressing his support for the global BDS movement in the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian. For this, he too was excoriated. The president of Ben Gurion University where he teaches, claimed he had crossed a red line that no professor had a right to cross, doing damage to the State. Israelis across the political spectrum attempted to make the case that academic freedom did not entitle someone to speak ill of Israel or Zionism. They suggested not so subtly Gordon might be happier living elsewhere (a fate that befell Ilan Pappe and Tanya Reinhardt).

Ben Gurion’s President Carmi essentially said she would fire Gordon if she could. But of course she couldn’t since there is such a thing as academic freedom still honored in Israel.

Add to this, the fact that a British trustee of Ben Gurion told a Jewish newspaper that Prof. David Newman, a colleague of Gordon’s should die because he criticized Israeli policy in a British TV documentary. 140 faculty members protested to the president about the trustee’s irresponsible statement and she promptly ignored them.

Speaking of dying, last week Neve Gordon received a bona fide death threat from an anonymous source, calling him a traitor and warning him that the writer would come to the campus and kill him. While Pres. Carmi denounced the act, she also in effect blamed Gordon for bringing it on himself by his “irresponsible” behavior.

In light of the repression and paranoia I’ve outlined above, it isn’t surprising that the IDF perpetrated the debacle it did on the Mavi Marmara. I don’t know exactly what happened. But in the most charitable interpretation I imagine that after it faced resistance from some passengers and the belief among the assault team that some members were captured, I believe there was a general breakdown in unit discipline and chaos ensued. While I don’t believe the IDF planned to execute anyone and engage in cold blooded murder, the stage was certainly set by spokespeople who threatened that Israel was prepared to use force to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza.

Now, a word on the Israeli investigation of this disaster. In short, it too is a disaster. Netanyahu has appointed three Israelis and two foreign “observers.” The panel is chaired by Yaakov Tirkel, a 75 year old retired Supreme Court justice who has said publicly that he holds the honor of the IDF above “the enemy.” The justice is known for siding with the government on national security cases. Another Israeli panelist is Amos Horev, an 86 year-old retired general who, in 1943, was accused of castrating a Palestinian villager who sexually harassed a Jewish woman. The third member is Shabtai Rosenne, a 94 year-old former diplomat who counseled the Israeli prime minister after the notorious Kibya massacre orchestrated by Ariel Sharon to lie to the world by claiming that Israeli civilians perpetrated the killings and not the army. An Israeli newspaper photographed this poor man at his home wearing the type of summer shorty pajamas worn by elderly folks and tended by his Filipino caretaker. I call this the geriatric commission. They should hold the sessions in a retirement home rather than a government conference room.

One of the foreign observers, Lord David Trimble, just co-founded a European pro-Israel advocacy organization whose mission is to oppose “delegitimization” of Israel within Europe. The second observer is a former judge in the Canadian army.

In short, the fix is in. No one really believes this body will satisfy anyone except Israel. Haaretz has editorialized to that effect. Ban Ki Moon has warned the commission isn’t credible. We need a true international investigation. Nothing less will suffice.

Now, I’d like to turn to U.S. policy. As an American Jew and supporter of Israeli-Palestinian peace, I had high hopes of Barack Obama. I still do. But I’ve become doubtful that any of those hopes will ever be realized.

When faced with the intransigence of the Israeli government, whether the settlement freeze, the Goldstone Report or the Gaza flotilla massacre, the operative mode seems to be keeping things quiet and under control. There never seems to be backbone when it’s called for.

When the Goldstone Report was first issued, the U.S. attempted to block it and threatened a Security Council veto if it was brought up there. When Turkey and the nations of the world demanded an international investigation of the Mavi Marmara murders, the U.S. said an Israeli investigation would do. When things got hot and heavy in the aftermath of the killings and pressure mounted to end the Gaza siege, the Obama administration made do with merely easing the suffering rather than ending it completely.

This is an administration satisfied with half measures. There are times when half-measures may work to quiet a crisis if it isn’t terribly severe. But we’re way past severe when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The situation calls for backbone, for perseverance, for fortitude. Instead we get waffling, and zig-zagging.

Finally, I want to note that today is the fourth anniversary of the capture of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants. During that time, there have been negotiations between Israel and Hamas over his fate. Essentially, the latter demanded the release of several hundred jailed Palestinians. Israel balked. While everything about the case is veiled in a fog, from what I’ve read the sides were close to agreement a number of times. But negotiations foundered over which detainees would be released and how many. Israel balked when faced with the prospect of releasing those with blood on their hands.

I want Gilad Shalit to return to the bosom of his family. But I also want Israel to recognize Hamas and end its siege. I want the residents of Sderot to be safe from Qassam rockets. But I also want the residents of Gaza to be free from paralyzing fear and anticipation of the next war.

There is a way out of this mess. The 2002 Saudi initiative proposed Arab acceptance of Israeli in return for a withdrawal to near-1967 borders. Israel has rejected this peace plan, which is still on the table. There is only one way to save Israel: to make peace. Everyone knows the parameters of the future settlement. The only question is how many will have to die before Israel comes to its senses and agrees to it. To quote a Jewish saying: “may it happen speedily and in our day.”

Richard Silverstein is a mensch of a journalist-blogger who is credited with exposing the Anat Kamm case and censorship of the Israeli press to the global news media. Summary articles about Anat Kamm have been written by Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Judith Miller, and reported by the JTA and the Daily Telegraph, all crediting Richard by name for his work in bringing the facts of the case to light while the Israeli press remained silent.

Richard’s blog Tikkun Olam remains the best source of further information on the Anat Kamm case, Mr X., the case of Ameer Makhoul, and the Gaza Flotilla. Subscribe to his RSS feed here.



  • Antonius Magnus

    Israel has asked and asked for peace, and the Arab response is unrelenting violence, terrorism, and missles fired by Hezbollah and Hamas towards innocent Israeli civilians. Even if you do have a problem with the policies of the Israeli government (which I don’t) you cannot reasonably think that terrorism against civilians is justified; nor can such violence go unanswered by the Israeli military.

  • Jessica

    I am a student of religion and have been for several years. The conflict between the Israelis and Palestanians cannot be based on religion, simply because Muslims view both “practicing Jews and Christians” as people of the Book.
    This is not a religious war but a war over land aquired unjustly back in 1948 so that sincere but possibly misquided individuals could fulfill what was/is believed to be an end-time prophecy.
    Just as people are prejudiced over the color of one’s skin despite the fact that their inner soul has no color and the flesh is only a shell that protects it and eventually perishes, believing that a God who made both the heavens and the earth could not provide a place for “his people” without the help of rockets and murder (which God is oppossed to, especially in His name), seems contradictory.
    My family grew up on a farm and I know that if people came and tried to take the land away, we would fight to keep it. If we were forced off of it and sent to live in a place that was not only sub-standard, but guarded militarily, we would be angry, perhaps filled with hatred for the people who took away what was rightfully ours.
    I wonder how the inhabitants of the State of Israel feel if they could just stop their hatred and sense of entitlement for only a moment and think about how many of them felt when the Germans came into their towns and uprooted them, stole from them, treated them like sub-humans and killed so many of them. This is apparently how the Palestinians now feel. Despite the political policies that allowed a “jewish state” to be established after 2,000 years of being displaced, it does not address the plight of the Palestinians that inhabited that land for those 2,000 years.
    I guess, from a Christian stand point, I could ask, “what would Jesus do?”
    Would he treat the Palestinians like sub-humans, neglecting their feelings and forcefully eject them from their homes and villages?
    According to UN estimates, 711,000 Arabs, or about 80% of the initial Arab population of the area that became Israel, were expelled or fled the country during the conflict.[80] The fate of these Palestinian refugees remains a major point of contention in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel)
    Since God is everywhere, why was it so important for a group of people to lay claim to an area that is not only already populated, but also knowingly causing a situation where war will be emminant.
    If God gave the State of Israel His blessing, then wouldn’t there be peace instead of never ending bloodshed?
    The insanity of this never ending war, which was created by outside governments that did not care about the consequences of their actions or did not anticipate the consequences of their actions if you want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
    Mother Teresa once said, “…if you are Muslim, be a good Muslim, if you are Hindu, be a good Hindu, if you are a Christian, then be a good Christian…” What she was trying to express to those who hated each other based on religious differences was that if you honestly followed your religion as you profess, you would love God above all else and then love your neighbor as yourself. You would not covet what your neighbor has but instead look to benefit him as you would yourself. You would see your “enemy” as a creation of God with flaws and needs, the same as yourself.
    GOD GIVES ALL THE BREATH OF LIFE SO THAT WE CAN ALL KNOW HIM, WORSHIP HIM, PRAISE HIM AND CARE FOR ALL HIS CREATIONS, INCLUDING EACH OTHER.
    HISTORICAL FACTS:
    The modern State of Israel has its historical and religious roots in the Biblical Land of Israel, also known as Zion, a concept central to Judaism since ancient times.[12][13][14] Political Zionism took shape in the late-19th century and the Balfour Declaration of 1917 formalized British policy preferring the establishment of a Jewish state. Following World War I, the League of Nations granted Great Britain the Mandate for Palestine and the responsibility for establishing “the Jewish national home” within it.[15]
    In November 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of the partition of Palestine, proposing the creation of a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a UN-administered Jerusalem.[16] Partition was accepted by Zionist leaders but rejected by Arab leaders, leading to civil war. Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948 and neighboring Arab states attacked the next day. Since then, Israel has fought a series of wars with neighboring Arab states,[17] and in consequence occupies territories, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, beyond those delineated in the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but efforts to resolve conflict with the Palestinians have so far only met with limited success and some of Israel’s international borders remain in dispute.

  • BUTSeriously

    Here is a list of post-W.W.II crimes by Christians:
    1. The corruption of the Balfour Declaration. Here, the term 2-state *COMPROMISE* was used to carve off ’80%’ of a tiny land – this is nothing short of a genocidal act – and it occured after a host of Islamic states were created which never exosted 120 years ago. Israel is 220K SQKM; Saudi Arabia is 200M SQKM and only one of numerous ficticious states created by Britain. Israel was re-established at the UN with all nations voting – while the Islamic regimes were created in secret – for 30 barrels of oil. Who is the real Judas?
    2. Today, Christians call a deathly 3-state as a 2-state. This is blatant genocidal math.
    3. The name Palestinean was dumped on the Jewish homeland of Judea – not any Islamic or Arab homeland. It was perpetrated by pre-Christian Romans. Yet today’s Christians re-dumped this name on those openly calling for Israel’s destruction. This says the VE VERE NOT AVARE was a sham.
    4. A Pope bars the exiled Jews from returning to their land at the helm of the Holocaust, thereby advocating their demise in Europe and rejecting any mode of escape. That Pope is arguably responsible for the Holocaust – and is today being considered to Beatification:
    ‘WE WILL NEVER SUPPORT THE *RETURN* OF THE JEWS TO *THEIR HOMELAND* – BECAUSE THEY REJECTED JESUS’ – Pope Pious.
    Do Christians really want such figures as their Saints?
    That all Christians were silent of these evil deeds, with full knowledge what Europe perpetrated before, and that these are based on falsehoods and unquenchanable hatreds – makes *ALL* Christians guilty. Critical mass applies. Consider your ways while you can – for Mighty Rome was greater than Christianity and Islam combined.
    END THE PC HOLOCAUST AGAINST ISRAEL – BY EUROPE’S HEIL HITLER SALUTES AT THE UN. IT WILL BACKFIRE – EUROSTAN WILL HAPPEN.

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  • arabmuslimm

    DEMOCRACY IN ISRAEL
    There is no democracy in Israel as a state is illegitimate and illegal and not recognized
    Evidence of this if anyone wanted to write a comment in the Israeli websites
    Does not allow him or be there are many obstacles to prevent him from writing a comment The reasons for Arab-Israeli conflict is the occupation of Palestine in 1948.
    Palestine Arab Islamic state like the rest of the Arab and Islamic states surrounding
    Them. Means that there are Jews and Zionists in Palestine a big mistake, because this entity
    Zionist is not consistent with the surrounding area (such as language, customs, traditions and religion)
    The only solution to end the Arab-Israeli conflict is the expulsion of Jews from Palestine
    All of Palestine. The Jewish people will not rest and will not feel comfortable and stability
    But if it gets out of Palestine and the Middle East completely. If people continue to
    Jews in Palestine and the Middle East, the death and destruction will continue.
    Palestine Arab Islamic state and will remain

  • arabmuslimmm

    DEMOCRACY IN ISRAEL
    There is no democracy in Israel as a state is illegitimate and illegal and not recognized
    Evidence of this if anyone wanted to write a comment in the Israeli websites
    Does not allow him or be there are many obstacles to prevent him from writing a comment The reasons for Arab-Israeli conflict is the occupation of Palestine in 1948.
    Palestine Arab Islamic state like the rest of the Arab and Islamic states surrounding
    Them. Means that there are Jews and Zionists in Palestine a big mistake, because this entity
    Zionist is not consistent with the surrounding area (such as language, customs, traditions and religion)
    The only solution to end the Arab-Israeli conflict is the expulsion of Jews from Palestine
    All of Palestine. The Jewish people will not rest and will not feel comfortable and stability
    But if it gets out of Palestine and the Middle East completely. If people continue to
    Jews in Palestine and the Middle East, the death and destruction will continue.
    Palestine Arab Islamic state and will remain

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