Friday, April 23, 2010

The Response of the Sheikh Jarrah Activists to the Elie Wiesel Letter on Jerusalem

Haaretz reported this yesterday, but I wanted to bring the full text of the Sheikh Jarrah activists's response to the Elie Wiesel letter on Jerusalem with the following comments.

First, look carefully at the signatures, and you will find some of Jerusalem 's most prominent residents, including philosopher Avishai Margalit, Jewish studies scholar Moshe Halbetal, and a whole slew of people who are liberal Zionists. Although I do not always agree with these people, and in particular, I disagreed with Halbertal over the Goldstone report, their signatures show how out of touch Wiesel is with what is going on over here.

Second, and I say this with great caution, Wiesel's ill-informed comments on Jerusalem will be seized on by others to attack his credibility as a witness. This would be most unfortunate. Wiesel has spoken eloquently on the role of the writer as witness, but his letter shows plainly how often a writer can bear testimony to fiction and myth.

Third, this letter should be published immediately in the same newspapers where Wiesel's letter was published. Every American who read that letter should read this as well. Will donors be found?

Dear Mr. Wiesel,

We write to you from Jerusalem to convey our frustration, even outrage, at your recently published letter on Jerusalem. We are Jewish Jerusalemites – residents by choice of a battered city, a city used and abused, ransacked time and again first by foreign conquerors and now by its own politicians. We cannot recognize our city in the sentimental abstraction you call by its name.

Our Jerusalem is concrete, its hills covered with limestone houses and pine trees; its streets lined with synagogues, mosques and churches. Your Jerusalem is an ideal, an object of prayers and a bearer of the collective memory of a people whose members actually bear many individual memories. Our Jerusalem is populated with people, young and old, women and men, who wish their city to be a symbol of dignity - not of hubris, inequality and discrimination. You speak of the celestial Jerusalem; we live in the earthly one.

For more than a generation now the earthly city we call home has been crumbling under the weight of its own idealization. Your letter troubles us, not simply because it is replete with factual errors and false representations, but because it upholds an attachment to some other-worldly city which purports to supersede the interests of those who live in the this-worldly one. For every Jew, you say, a visit to Jerusalem is a homecoming, yet it is our commitment that makes your homecoming possible. We prefer the hardship of realizing citizenship in this city to the convenience of merely yearning for it.

Indeed, your claim that Jerusalem is above politics is doubly outrageous. First, because contemporary Jerusalem was created by a political decision and politics alone keeps it formally unified. The tortuous municipal boundaries of today's Jerusalem were drawn by Israeli generals and politicians shortly after the 1967 war. Feigning to unify an ancient city, they created an unwieldy behemoth, encircling dozens of Palestinian villages which were never part of Jerusalem. Stretching from the outskirts of Ramallah in the north to the edge of Bethlehem in the south, the Jerusalem the Israeli government foolishly concocted is larger than Paris. Its historical core, the nexus of memories and religious significance often called "the Holy Basin", comprises a mere one percent of its area. Now they call this artificial fabrication 'Jerusalem' in order to obviate any approaching chance for peace.

Second, your attempt to keep Jerusalem above politics means divesting us of a future. For being above politics is being devoid of the power to shape the reality of one's life. As true Jerusalemites, we cannot stand by and watch our beloved city, parts of which are utterly neglected, being used as a springboard for crafty politicians and sentimental populists who claim Jerusalem is above politics and negotiation. All the while, they franticly "Judaize" Eastern Jerusalem in order to transform its geopolitics beyond recognition.

We invite you to our city to view with your own eyes the catastrophic effects of the frenzy of construction. You will witness that, contrary to some media reports, Arabs are not allowed to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem. You discover see the gross inequality in allocation of municipal resources and services between east and west. We will take you to Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes to make room for a new Jewish neighborhood, and to Silwan, where dozens of houses face demolition because of the Jerusalem Municipality's refusal to issue building permits to Palestinians.

We, the people of Jerusalem, can no longer be sacrificed for the fantasies of those who love our city from afar. This-worldly Jerusalem must be shared by the people of the two nations residing in it. Only a shared city will live up to the prophet's vision: "Zion shall be redeemed with justice". As we chant weekly in our vigils in Sheikh Jarrah: "Nothing can be holy in an occupied city!" Respectfully,

Just Jerusalem (Sheikh Jarrah) Activists

1. Ada Bilu 2. Alon Harel 3. Amiel Vardi 4. Amit Lavi 5. Amit Miller 6. Amos Goldberg 7. Ariela Brin 8. Assaf Sharon 9. Avichay Sharon 10. Avishai Margalit 11. Avital Abudi 12. Avital Sharon 13. Avner Inbar 14. Avrum Burg 15. Barbara Spectre 16. Bernard Avishai 17. Daniella Gordon 18. Dani Schrire 19. Daniel Argo 20. Danny Felsteiner 21. Daphna Stroumsa 22. David Shulman 23. Diana Steigler 24. Dolev Rahat 25. Dorit Gat 26. Dorit Argo 27. Edna Ulman-Margalit 28. Eitan Buchvall 29. Eli Sharon 30. Freddie Rokem 31. Galit Hasan-Rokem 32. Gideon Freudenthal 33. Gil Gutglick 34. Guga Kogan 35. Guy Feldman 36. Hagit Benbaji 37. Hagit Keysar 38. Haya Ofek 39. Hillel Ben Sasson 40. Ishay Rosen-Zvi 41. Itamar Shappira 42. Jonathan Yaari 43. Judy Labensohn 44. Judy Labensohn 45. Julia Alfandari 46. Levi Spectre 47. Liran Razinsky 48. Maya Wind 49. Mical Raz 50. Michael Ritov 51. Miriam Farhi-Rodrig 52. Mirit Barashi 53. Mirit Barashi 54. Moshe Halbertal 55. Naama Baumgarten-Sharon 56. Naama Hochstein 57. Nadav Sharon 58. Neria Biala 59. Nili Sharon 60. Noa Lamm-Shalem 61. Oded Erez 62. Oded Na'aman 63. Ofer Neiman 64. Omri Metzer 65. Paul Mendes-Flohr 66. Peter Lehahn 67. Phil Spectre 68. Ra'anan Alexandrowicz 69. Ram Rahat 70. Ray Schrire 71. Reuven Kaminer 72. Roee Metzer 73. Ronen Mandelkern 74. Roni Hammerman 75. Sahar Vardi 76. Sara Benninga 77. Sharon Casper 78. Shir Aloni Yaari 79. Shir Sternberg 80. Shlomi Segall 81. Silan Dallal 82. Silvia Piterman 83. Tal Shapira 84. Tamar Lehahn 85. Tamar Rappaport 86. Uri Bitan 87. Yafa Tarlowski 88. Yaron Gal 89. Yaron Wolf 90. Yehuda Agus 91. Yonatan Haimovich 92. Yoram Gordon 93. Yotam Wolfe 94. Yuval Drier Shilo 95. Zehava Galon 96. Zeev Sternhell 97. Zvi Benninga 98. Zvi Mazeh 99. Zvi Schuldiner

Thursday, April 15, 2010

13 Reasons Why Liberal Zionists Should Give Guarded Support to the BDS Movement

J-Street, the organizational voice for liberal Zionists in the US, has gone to the barricades against the Berkeley student government divestment resolution. Read here. Frankly, I was surprised by their militancy. I understand that the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel is a difficult pill to swallow for liberal Zionists (those who believe that the Israel should exist as an ethnic state of the Jewish people, yet are interested to see a Palestinian state arise). I understand the arguments against academic boycott. I also appreciate the existential fears. And I certainly accept the political pressures on organizations like J-Street.

But forget about J-Street. I am addressing this to my liberal Zionist readers – those who are pained and disillusioned by Israel’s actions, but who want to preserve what is good about the Jewish state, and to help it become a just society. You are nervous about BDS because it seems so drastic and unbalanced to you – and because you have been misinformed that is motivated by hatred for Israel.

Those Jews who have spoken in favor of BDS are mostly post-Zionists, anti-Zionists, non-Zionists, and/or known leftists. Yes, their voices are important, and I believe they have been on the correct side of history longer than I have. But I don’t need to convince them to support BDS. So why should you, as a liberal Zionist, consider supporting the Global BDS movement? Here are 13 reasons.

1. You already support two of the three central aims of the movement, which are

1. Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;

Where you may disagree is over:

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

But note that the phrase “as stipulated in UN resolution 194” weakens the statement since even Israel never rejected 194. And even if you don’t recognize the right of return, you recognize the importance to the Palestinians of claiming that right. And haven’t you have signed petitions with which you are not in complete agreement because you beiieve in the broader goal? There are many people who agree with you here who support the tactics of BDS.

2. You don’t have to sign on to all of BDS.

You don’t like academic boycotts? Good, neither do I. You are nervous about calling for sanctions? Don’t. But what about partial divestment from companies profiting from the Occupation as a symbolic and non-violent act of protest? What about boycotting settler’s wine and other products? How can you be opposed to the Occupation and support the Occupiers.

3. You want to support non-violent Palestinian protest.

BDS is first and foremost a Palestinian action. “If only,” you have said countless times, “there were a Palestinian Gandhi or Nelson Mandella.” Well, the tactics of BDS are the tactics of Gandhi and Mandella. Even if you are apprehensive about the aims of some of the movement, don’t you understand how important it is to support non-violent protest?

4. There is no slippery slope here.

If you support BDS today, you say to yourself, what will happen when it really gets up steam – perhaps you will be hurting Israel? Yet the chances of that happening are nill, and you know it. Who has the power?

5. BDS is becoming effective as a tactic.

In the beginning it wasn’t, and this is what kept me off the BDS wagon for a long time. And I am still not entirely on it. But successes recently have been impressive, both in their own right, and as a morale booster for the Palestinians.

6. If you oppose them you stand with AIPAC and the ZOA

Sure, you may not like the rhetoric of some Palestinians and their allies. But you also don’t like some of the rhetoric of the Jewish rightwingers. So who do you stand with on this one? The human rights folks -- or AIPAC and the Zionist Organization of America? Do you really want to hear the neocons crowing over their victory as they simultaneously demonize your ilk?

7. BDS actually strengthens the hand of the pro-peace camp in Israel.

Israel is very sensitive to its public image. Whenever it is criticized, there are elements in Israeli society that point to Israel’s loss of standing and argue that only a just and peaceful solution will stop the decline. This also answers the objection that it is unfair to single out Israel. And the people who makes this argument are always singling out Israel for preferential treatment.

8. BDS does not materially hurt the average Israelis

I find it odd that many liberal Zionists who call for sanctions against Iran – a regime that is not engaged in the systematic deprivation of human rights to the extent that Israel is engaged – think that a cultural boycott or a divestment from certain American companies will hurt the average Israeli. The effect of the protest is symbolic; the message is what is important.

9. Other tactics have failed repeatedly.

If you genuinely believe in a two-state solution, wouldn’t it be good idea to see if BDS helps end the Occupation? Or are you one of those liberal Zionists who want a two-state solution In theory, but is pretty ineffectual about ending the Occupation.

10. It is important to express solidarity with, and sympathy for, the Palestinians, after all their suffering. BDS victories provides them with that.

They don’t have an army. They are not allowed by the world armed resistance. Where else, besides in some world organizations, can they score victories? I realize that this is am impure motivation, and my point is not to ask you to sacrifice your principle to make them happy. It is to stand with them not because you are convinced they are right, but you are convinced that they have been wronged.

11. You are appalled at the lies and disinformation of the anti-BDS movement.

The BDS movement does not seek to destroy the state of Israel. BDS is not even anti-Zionist. Stop listening to the Big Lies.

12. Many Jewish and Israeli human rights activists support it.

They are doing your job for you in Israel. They allow you to be hopeful about the state. Shouldn’t you be listening to therm here?

13. You are sick up to here with the news coming out daily from Israel.

Isn’t it about time you gave back a little? There are consequences for their misdeeds.

If you are unconvinced by the reasons above, but uneasy about circling the wagons with the likes of AIPAC, ZOA, Aish ha-Torah, etc. then you have another option: oppose BDS, but don’t be strident about it. Don’t rain on the Palestinian parade.

Sit on the fence and wait, if you must. But don’t fall on the side of AIPAC and ZOA.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Judge Goldstone Banned From His Grandson’s Bar Mitzvah

Words cannot express the sadness I felt in reading the post below – posted, I may add, by one of the great South African anti-apartheid and AIDS activists, Zackie Achmet.

What has happened to our people? Why are we doomed every so often to follow mindlessly the latest false messiah, perverting thereby our sense of decency, morality, and our adherence to the ideals of Torah?

As sad as I feel for Judge Goldstone and his family, I feel sadder for the "heresy" hunters and pusillanimous cowards who caved in to them.

This is a dark day for the South African synagogue, South African Jewry – and all Jews. I wait for the liberal critics of Judge Goldstone to stand up and say, "Enough" to the persecution of him and his family.

It is not clear from the article precisely what caused Judge Goldstone to decide to spare the family the uproar. Was the issue his attendance, or his receiving an honor (such as an aliyah)? There probably was no formal banning – just the insinuation that were he to attend, there would be a scene.

What is clear is that the South African Zionist Federation and the craven figure who calls himself a rabbi are the villains.

Here is the article.

Judge Goldstone has been banned by the South African Zionist Federation from attending his grandson's bar mitzvah. The Chief Rabbi a neo-conservative who has betrayed the tolerant tradition of the late former Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris has blessed this travesty.

Silencing critics of Israel's war crimes is not enough; they have to infringe Goldstone's equal right to practice his religion and his family life. Every decent person will sign a protest against this injustice. The tactics of the Israeli neo-fascists should not be allowed to dictate policy in South Africa. These were the people who supported apartheid and now they support the apartheid state of Israel.

How many people would be prepared to join legal action in the Equality Court against the South African Zionist Federation?

Zackie Achmat

THE AFTER-SHOCKS of the Goldstone Commission into the Gaza conflict continue, this time reaching into the heart of a family simcha. Mr. Justice Richard Goldstone is effectively being barred from attending his grandson's bar mitzvah, due to be held in Johannesburg early next month.

Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, where the event is due to take place, an agreement has been reached with the family. As a result, Justice Goldstone will not be attending the synagogue service.

Some of the role-players were tight-lipped. Avrom Krengel, chairman of the SAZF, said: "We understand there's a barmitzvah boy involved – we're very sensitive to the issues; at this stage there's nothing further to say." While Krengel said the SAZF had "interacted" on the matter with the chief rabbi, the Beth Din and others, his organisation was "coming across most forcefully because we represent Israel".

Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag confirmed that the Beth Din had not been officially involved – though there had been "private talks" – and had not been asked by the synagogue to give a ruling on the matter. "But I know that there was a very strong feeling in the shul, a lot of anger (around the issue of Justice Goldstone attending).

"I heard also that the SAZF wanted to organise a protest outside the shul – (there were) all kinds of plans. But I think reason prevailed."

Signalling his agreement with the turn of events, Rabbi Kurtstag said he believed Justice Goldstone had done "a tremendous disservice not only to Israel but to the Jewish world. His name is used by hostile elements in the world against Israel and this can increase anti-Semitic waves.

"I understand that he is a judge, but he should have had the sense to understand that whatever he said wouldn't be good and he should have just recused himself. People have got feelings about it, they believe he put Israel in danger and they wouldn't like him to be getting honour (in synagogue).

"I think (the agreement) was quite a sensible thing to avert all this unpleasantness."

Reached in Washington where he is currently based, Justice Goldstone was reluctant to comment save to say: "In the interests of my grandson, I've decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue."

Mr Justice Dennis Davis said that while he respected Justice Goldstone's decision, he assumed that pressure had been brought to bear on the family. "If that assumption is correct, then it is outrageous because it seeks to place a ban on somebody participating in his grandson's barmitzvah.

"Have we now got to the point that because we don't like what somebody says or does, we place a 'cherem' on them? What right do we have to do that? I would like to add that people who are gleeful about it must remember what Pastor Niemoller said: 'Who will speak up for them when they are finally excommunicated for some misdemeanor?'"

Retired president of the Constitutional Court, Mr Justice Arthur Chaskalson said it was "disgraceful" to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson's barmitzvah.

"If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than on Justice Goldstone. They should hang their heads in shame."



Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why I Was Right to Publish Secret Anat Kam Material

By Uri Blau

The telephone call I received about a month ago should not have been a surprise. "Your apartment in Tel Aviv has been broken into," the voice on the other end of the line said. "Everything's in a mess and it's not clear what has been taken."

Half an hour later, sweating in a Bangkok phone booth, mosquitoes flying around me, I spoke to the policeman who came to the apartment.

"Looks like they were looking for something," he said.

I had been told of Anat Kam's arrest earlier, in China, where I landed with my partner at the beginning of December. When I left Israel I had no reason to believe our planned trip would suddenly turn into a spy movie whose end is not clear. I certainly didn't think I'd have to stay in London and wouldn't be able to return to Tel Aviv as a journalist and a free man, only because I published reports that were not convenient to the establishment.

But the troubling information from Israel left me with no alternative.

Experiences I had read about in suspense novels have become my reality in recent months. When you're warned "they know much more than you think," and are told that your telephone line, e-mail and computer have been monitored for a long time and still are, then someone up there doesn't really understand what democracy is all about, and the importance of freedom of the press in preserving it.

When you discover that anonymous complaints about you containing a lot of detailed personal information have reached various investigation authorities, it is clear you have been marked by forces bigger and stronger than yourself. These forces won't hesitate to take steps reserved for states I don't think we want to resemble. So when they explained to me that if I return to Israel I could be silenced for ever, and that I would be charged for crimes related to espionage, I decided to fight. Sorry for the cliche, but this isn't only a war for my personal freedom but for Israel's image.

The Kafkaesque situation I found myself in forces me to return to basics. I am a journalist and my aim is to provide the reader as much information as possible and in the best way, with maximum objectivity. It's not a personal agenda, or a matter of Left or Right. In my years of work for Haaretz my name has appeared, alone and with others, above exposes dealing with public figures and institutions of all kinds, from Avigdor Lieberman, through Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak to the Peres Center for Peace. None of those exposes could have been published without the help of sources and corroborating documents.

All the exposes in military or defense matters were vetted by military censors before publication, whether regarding the time Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was a civilian and businessman or about the IDF's priorities in tracing Gilad Shalit. Or the story about how the IDF apparently violates the High Court of Justice's instructions regarding targeted assassinations. This story showed the readers authentic documents exposing the banality of executions with no trial.

It is clear to me that these reports were not always pleasant to read - neither to their subjects nor to the reader. But it doesn't matter, because the journalist's job is not to please his reader, employer or leaders. It is to provide people with the best tools to judge and understand the goings-on around them. Every journalist knows that exposes cannot be released without evidence - but no Israeli journalist has known until now that such exposes could have him declared an enemy of the state and find himself in jail.

Thank you, Richard

Richard Silverstein has been getting a lot of deserved publicity lately for his blogging on the Anat Kamm (or Kam) case. Not only did he force the State of Israel to drop its request for a gag order, but it seems, from what has been published today, that he has helped indirectly in the defense of Uri Blau, the Haaretz reporter, and Anat Kamm, the whistle-blower.

How so? I will explain. But first, those of you who read Hebrew should read the excellent post by Yossi Gurvitz here.

And if you don't have the time, here are Gurvitz's main points:

1. It's not espionage. Anat Kamm has been accused of spying, no less. But Shabak Chief Yuval Diskin does not claim that the Uri Blau Haaretz articles damaged Israeli security. (He can't, can he? After all, it passed military censorship) So he can only refer to the "thousands of documents" that Kamm has confessed to stealing, and which she passed to Uri Blau (according to Diskin). And what is the argument? "Those documents are full of security and operational secrets that would endanger the lives of soldiers were they to fall into enemy hands." But they haven't fallen into enemy hands, so this is not espionage, nor is there intent. They were leaked to a journalist who has them in his possession (according to the Shabak). So whatever Kamm did, it was not espionage.

2. The Shabak's history of exaggerated accusations. Gurvitz points out that Diskin in his briefing said that the media should not compare Kamm to Tali Fahima. And why not? Because in several well-publicized cases, the Shabak and the media initially painted the accused as endangering the security of the state -- only to see that accusation wither away. Tali Fahima was accused of being an enemy agent, and planning terrorists attacks. When the trial began, the prosecution said (generously) that they would not seek the death penalty. Pretty good move, since she ended up getting a few years in jail. And let's not forget Sheikh Raad Saalah who was arrested in a big public way for contacting foreign agents, and ended up being convicted of some minor money crimes. In other words, the tactic scare the accused to death, then get a plea bargain. Gurvitz asks how credible is the charge that Blau has in his possession documents that will damage IDF soldiers, and he is refusing to return them? It seems more likely that he has potentially damaging documents to the IDF brass.

3. Discrimination based on rank. Gurvitz points out that other IDF brass have removed documents from bases, and in one case, Elazar Stern, the head of the Education Corps leaked classified documents to Yair Lapid, a columnist. Some of these people were disciplined; Stern had to pay damages to the soldier whom he had ratted on; but nobody has been brought up on charges of espionage. Many other lower ranks of soldiers have "informed" against their superiors to human rights organizations, and their military careers have ended as a result (Gurvitz did that himself during the first intifada.) But none of these were considered more than minor offenses.

So where does Silverstein's blogging come in? When asked why the Shabak decided to drop the request for the gag order now, Diskin said that negotiations with Haaretz and Blau had broken down. He did not mention anything about the worldwide publicity, and the embarrassment caused to Israel.

This indicates to me already the weakness of the "espionage" case against Kamm. After months of a house arrest (where Kam had full access to the internet, apparently) the police had still not been able to get everything they wanted from Kamm and Haaretz. By breaking the story early, Silverstein apparently broke the Shabak's ability, at least for the time being, to force Kamm into a plea bargain. They are now going to trial earlier than they wanted, if they go to trial at all. In the meantime, the gag order has turned the focus to what was leaked and not who leaked it. What the IDF didn't want was a public debate over the content of the documents.

Already, her lawyer, Eitan Lehmann, has spoken up:


"At the end of the day, we have a dangerous precedent here, whereby the handing over of material to an Israeli newspaper with the censor's approval is seen by the Prosecutor's Office as equivalent to contact with a foreign agent," Lehman said. "The very notion of presenting information to the Israeli public alone is taken as an intention to hurt national security."  

"This very argument is dangerous to anyone who believes in Israeli democracy and in the freedom of the press," he said. "Anat is not part of an extremist political group of any kind…she's Israeli, Zionist, and objects to conscientious objection."

It is clear now that the purpose of the gag order was to stop public discussion so as to force Kamm and Haaretz to cut a deal with the prosecution. It had nothing to do with Israel's security.

If Anat Kamm is ultimately convicted of anything it should be of improper use of classified documents. She should then pay the penalty that a decent, liberal democratic society exacts from those who blow the whistle on governmental lies and cover-ups.

Anat Kamm. Daniel Ellsberg. Donald Woods. What do they have in common?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Invest AND Divest: Where the Liberal Zionists Get BDS Wrong -- And What Their Position Towards It Should Be

A few minutes ago I got the following appeal for funds to combat yet another movement that threatens the very existence of the Jewish State. Here was the "scare" quote:

Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions is a loose international network waging a campaign to delegitimize Israel's very existence, comprised of Arab and Islamic groups, so-called post-Zionist Jews and Israelis and elements of the radical European political left. Their call has even been adopted by some elements of the Christian Church. Using language that sounds liberal and claiming to seek justice they negate Israel's right to exist and call for a combination of actions to cripple Israel. Pretending to be rooted in the movement that ended apartheid in South Africa they oppose the two-state solution hiding their ultimate goal, the destruction of the state of Israel.

Who was behind this? ZOA? Or maybe AIPAC? Or even Hillel because of college campuses? I was aware that the Jewish Council for Public Affairs was taking aim at the BDS movement, as reported here.

But then I saw that the folks raising money were….Ameinu, which calls itself liberal and progressive! I mean these are the same guys who had a gushing interview with Sarah Beninga, one of the Sheikh Jarrah Activists here.

It's a pity they didn't ask Sarah and other Israeli activists where they stand on BDS. (Or maybe they did…)

It's also a pity that Ameinu can't raise money by talking about Sheikh Jarrah. I guess what brings in the money today is not countering Israeli injustice against the Palestinians, but saving Israel from imminent destruction

Look, there are reasonable people who oppose, on various grounds, the BDS movement. J-Street issued a sharply word-condemnation of the movement here and elsewhere. It has also has begun an innocuous campaign on campus called, "Invest, Don't Divest," which asks student to fork over two bucks (one for each of the two-states) to promote Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. It sure beats the Keren Ami money I forked over when I was in Hebrew school.

But there is a difference between opposing BDS on principled grounds and lying about it to raise money. And it's about time that both liberal Zionist orgs realize the following things about BDS:

First, BDS is a non-violent, mainly Palestinian movement. It brings together a lot of groups and is a big tent – including those who call for selective divestment from the companies that support the Occupation, or a partial boycott of Settlement products, to those who want a full-court international press against Israel. It has little real effect against an economic giant like Israel, but its symbolic importance is vital. It says that a price, even a symbolic one, must be paid for continuing injustice. And stopping injustice is its real goal, not a cover for the destruction of Israel. As the global movement website says here

BDS are the most effective non-violent, morally consistent means for achieving justice and genuine peace in the region through concerted international pressure similar to that applied on South African apartheid.

Second, while many of the BDS'ers are one-staters, many are two-staters. There is no inconsistency between calling for boycott and sanctions of Israel and being a Zionist. There is no inconsistency between divestment in some areas and investment in others. The BDS movement against South Africa did not hurt a single South African. Nor did it destroy South Africa. It set it on a progressive path. Just like Sarah Beninga and her fellow activists want to do with Israel.

Instead of demonizing the BDS movement, liberal Zionist organizations that call themselves progressive should offer reasoned and respectful arguments against it, if they like. They can stake out their opposition (both on principled grounds, and as a tactic to keep their place at the table) but they should also understand that true progressives must link arms in a broad-based coalition to focus on the real prize, which is the end of the Occupation, and the creation of just and decent societies in the Land of Israel/Palestine.

Most of all they should focus on the common enemy of the liberal Zionists and the progressive Palestinians the Status Quo-ers on the left and the right. I am convinced, for example, that on many campuses, liberal Zionists and Palestinians BDS'ers are on the same street.

And it is not J-Street.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Favorite Israeli Blog Post Violating the Anat Kam Gag Order

Since I am having a bit of Tikun Olam envy -- it seems like everybody and his sister is sending Richard Silverstein "classified" information from Israel --- I decided to scoop him and print what has got to be the most sensational news in the case so far.

I don't know if I can mention that the post below was copied and pasted from Room 404, Ido Kenan's blog -- oops, my bad, I mean, "Pedro's blog" -- but what the heck, I am writing this in Philadelphia, which is SO far away from Israel and Dubai.

Note to Yossi from the Shabak: I live in apt. 1616, 834 Chestnut St. My zip code? Hey, you guys can look it up.

Anyway, thanks for making me laugh, Pedro. The comments are a hoot, too.

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Of course, the subject itself isn't funny. I haven't written about it for the same reason that other Israeli bloggers haven't written about it -- we were told that Kam or her lawyer didn't want us, too. But that appears to have been part of the government's plan to wear her down, to squelch public discussion before the trial and/or the plea bargain. Already, the strategy has been successful.

The parallels to the publication of the Pentagon Papers are real -- except that the US had then a free press. Look what Reporters Without Borders printed about Israel in their 2009 Annual Report.

Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s military offensive against the Gaza Strip, had an impact on the press. As regards its internal situation, Israel sank 47 places in the index to 93rd position. This nose-dive means it has lost its place at the head of the Middle Eastern countries, falling behind Kuwait (60th), United Arab Emirates (86th) and Lebanon (61st).

Israel has begun to use the same methods internally as it does outside its own territory. Reporters Without Borders registered five arrests of journalists, some of them completely illegal, and three cases of imprisonment. The military censorship applied to all the media is also posing a threat to journalists.

As regards its extraterritorial actions, Israel was ranked 150th. The toll of the war was very heavy. Around 20 journalists in the Gaza Strip were injured by the Israeli military forces and three were killed while covering the offensive

Israel ranks below Jordan, Lebanon, and Kuwait, in freedom of the press. Way below.

Just wait until the 2010 report.