Tuesday, February 25, 2014

[ePalestine] Knesset passes bill...Anyone surprised? Racism at its best!

“This is an important historic move that can balance Israel and bring us closer to the Christians, and I am careful not to call them Arabs, because they’re not Arabs."


Knesset passes bill distinguishing between Muslim and Christian Arabs

Critics slam law as effort to 'divide and conquer' Israeli Arab population.

By Jonathan Lis
Feb. 25, 2014

The Knesset on Monday passed a controversial bill into law that distinguishes between Muslim and Christian Arab citizens for the first time and increases the involvement of Christians in Israeli society.

The bill, which passed its second and third readings on Monday, was sponsored by coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu). Critics slammed the law as an effort to “divide and conquer” Israel’s Arab population – an allegation Levin seemed to confirm in a recent interview with the newspaper Maariv.

“This is an important historic move that can balance Israel and bring us closer to the Christians, and I am careful not to call them Arabs, because they’re not Arabs." He added that Christians “are our natural allies, a counter-balance against the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within.”

The law will have a minor impact on the makeup of the advisory committee that is appointed under the Equal Employment Opportunities Law, expanding it from five representatives of groups that promote workers’ rights under the law, to 10 members, which will include representatives of Christian, Muslim, Druze and Circassian employment groups.

The law passed 31-6 even though Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair had made it clear in a committee discussion of the bill two weeks ago that she opposed it and viewed it as superfluous, “in the same way I wouldn’t be interested in separate representation for Lithuanian Haredim and [Sephardi] Haredim,” she said. “What’s more, there are no groups promoting employment for different groups in the Arab population, only for the Arab population as a whole.”

Haim Katz, chairman of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, introduced the law in the plenum on Monday, saying, “The aim is to take care of populations that have a hard time in the labor market and to give them a representation on the advisory committee.”

But opposition MKs weren’t convinced, “Perhaps we should also divide the Jewish population into Poles, Yemenites and Moroccans?” asked Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On. Meretz MK Issawi Freij added, “We are essentially in a situation where they are trying to define the state by religions, and here they are trying to say that there’s a difference between Muslim Arabs and Christian Arabs.”

The law passed after several weeks of charged Labor Committee debates. During the last debate two weeks ago, Balad chairman MK Jamal Zahalka criticized Levin. “Arab rights don’t interest Yariv Levin,” he said. “There’s no specific Christian or Druze employment problem, only a problem of the general Arab population. Levin is interested in cruelly dividing the Arab public, which is oppressed as it is. We will not be his lackeys.”

According to Levin, “Christians can be directors of government companies, they will get separate representation in the local authorities, they will get equal employment opportunities. The first law I will pass will give Christians representation on the advisory committee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

Levin added, “We and the Christians have a lot in common. They’re our natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims that want to destroy the country from within. On the other hand, there’s a message here. We will use an iron hand and demonstrate zero tolerance of Arabs who tend to identify with the terror of the Palestinian state.”

SOURCE: http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.576247


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Friday, February 21, 2014

[ePalestine] Supporting Palestinian women writers...new book release

Dear friends,

Those of you who know me personally know how much I respect the written word. It is in this spirit that I write you as part of my ongoing efforts to support Palestinian culture and arts, especially writing, and more specifically women writers.

One of the up and coming woman writers whom I’m supporting is Fida Jiryis. Fida is from the Palestinian village of Fassouta, near the border with Lebanon. She is a dear friend and dedicated colleague.

Fida recently wrote this article about Palestinians living in Israel. A few years back, she and I penned this joint piece about Land Day in Haaretz.

Fida’s second Arabic collection of short stories, titled AL-KHAWAJA, has just been released by a publisher in Haifa, Kul Shee Library. It is getting rave reviews as you can see at: http://bit.ly/al-khawaja

AL-KHAWAJA is a sequel to Fida’s first book of short stories titled Hayatuna Elsagheera (OUR SMALL LIFE). Both books depict daily life in a Palestinian village in the Galilee, which could be a village anywhere in the world. With wit, humor and an always present sense of reality, Fida brings villagers and their daily trials and tribulations to life in a light, comic setting.

As part of supporting this new publication, I’m reaching out here to the Palestinian Diaspora communities and our communities of solidarity to help get this book distributed. The book is in ARABIC and is an easy read.

We are asking for each community to commit to selling 10 or more copies. If you are not an Arabic reader, consider ordering the book and passing it on as a gift to those who are. The funds received from book sales are going to cover the costs of publication, distribution, and getting the book into Palestinian high schools, along with book readings.

PRICE (shipping and handling included when purchased directly): $12 each


  1. USA/CANADA: Send check payable to SAM BAHOUR along with return mailing address to:
Sam Bahour
2909 Biscayne Ave.
Youngstown, OH 44505-2111

  1. PALESTINE: available at the following bookstores

  1. eBay: http://bit.ly/buy-alkhawaja-ebay2

  1. eKtab: ebook version at http://bit.ly/buy-alkhawaja-ektab

  1. REST OF WORLD: contact Sam at sbahour@gmail.com


P.S. Fida has also recently completed her first English manuscript of a non-political, women's fiction novel and is seeking to get it published, so we would be grateful to anyone who can link us to a publisher/agent.


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Sunday, February 16, 2014

[ePalestine] NYT: A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel (A MUST READ)

"Professor Krieger, who supports the B.D.S. movement, will not rise in synagogue for the traditional prayer for the state of Israel. "I think nationalism and religion together are toxic," he said."

New York Times 

FEB. 14, 2014 

A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel 


There is no question that Charles H. Manekin is a rarity. Not because he is an Orthodox Jew who keeps the Sabbath, refraining from driving, turning on lights, even riding in elevators on Saturdays. Rather, this philosophy professor at the University of Maryland is rare because he believes that his Orthodox faith calls him to take stands against Israel. 

Professor Manekin, 61, became Orthodox in college and became an Israeli citizen in the 1980s. Yet in an interview this week, he denounced Israel's "excessive reliance" on military force, its treatment of Arab citizens and its occupation of the West Bank. Although not a member of the American Studies Association, he was pleased when the group voted in December not to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions — the "academic boycott." He is "sympathetic" to B.D.S., as the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel is known. 

"As a religious Jew," he said, "I am especially disturbed by the daily injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians." 

From left, Daniel Boyarin of Berkeley, Corey Robin of Brooklyn College, Rabbi Alissa Wise and Charles H. Manekin of the University of Maryland, all observant Jews who have found that their views on Israel differ from those of family members and friends. The vast majority of Jews consider themselves supportive of Israel. They may quarrel with various Israeli policies, but since the state's founding in 1948, and especially since the 1967 war, Zionism has been a common denominator of world Jewry. 

And while there have always been anti- or non-Zionist Jews, today they cluster on the less observant end of Judaism, among secular or religiously liberal Jews. In such a world, Professor Manekin — a modern Orthodox Jew in a skullcap whose religion moves him to oppose Israel — is exceedingly rare. 

Zionism was not always the norm among American Jews. Nevertheless, those committed to Jewish practice but openly at odds with Israel are now likely to find themselves at odds with their friends and family. In the past couple of months, events like the American Studies vote and the endorsement by the actress Scarlett Johansson of a seltzer-maker in the occupied West Bank have multiplied the opportunities for tense family dinners. 

Professor Manekin spends about half the year in Israel, where his children and grandchildren live, so he is hardly boycotting the country with his own dollars (or shekels). But since 2007 he has regularly offered criticisms of Israel on his blog, The Magnes Zionist. It is named for Judah L. Magnes, an American rabbi who, until his death in 1948, argued that a Jewish return to the Middle East did not require a nation-state. 

"People look at 'non-statist Zionism' as the type that lost," Professor Manekin said this week, referring to Rabbi Magnes's philosophy. "But I found a lot of what they were saying resonated today, and a lot of their predictions about endless war had come to pass." 

Stefan Krieger, 67, teaches law at Hofstra University, on Long Island. He refrains from work on the Sabbath, keeps kosher, and studies a page of the Talmud every day. But his views on Israel have always been unusual. 

"My parents were very sensitive to the issues of Palestinians," Professor Krieger said. "My mom had a book called 'They Are Human Too,' and my memory is she would take it off the bookshelf, as if this was some sort of scandalous tract she was showing me, and show me pictures of Palestinians in refugee camps." 

Professor Krieger, who supports the B.D.S. movement, will not rise in synagogue for the traditional prayer for the state of Israel. "I think nationalism and religion together are toxic," he said. 

So far, he said, the fallout has been minimal. "I was worried it would destroy some relationships. I don't think it has yet." At a synagogue Professor Krieger used to attend, one woman would not enter the sanctuary when he was seated on the bimah, or stage. When he placed some literature from Rabbis for Human Rights, a liberal Israeli group, on a table, "she threw it out." Alissa Wise, 34, grew up in Cincinnati, in what she calls a "modern Orthodox or Conservative kind of background, a very right-wing Zionist background." In 1999, she arrived at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. On her first day of classes, there was a pro-Palestinian rally on campus. 

Rabbi Wise — she was later ordained in the Reconstructionist branch of Judaism — was shocked to learn of the West Bank occupation. "I had gone to Jewish summer camp and Jewish day school my whole life and had no idea," she said. 

Today, Rabbi Wise works for Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that endorses some boycotts against Israel. Her views make her a minority in her family. 

"I still believe the way I believe," said her father, Ron, who works for Osem, an Israeli food company. "I am open to how she believes, and I listen to her." 

But, he continued, "At the same time, Israel needs to be protected." 

Daniel Boyarin, who teaches Talmud at the University of California, Berkeley, attended Orthodox synagogues for 30 years. He believes that Zionism was always flawed. 

"The very concept of a state defined as being for one people was deeply problematic and inevitably going to lead to a moral and political disaster," said Professor Boyarin. "Which I think it has." 

Professor Boyarin, 67, is still observant, but he has dropped out of synagogue life. "I have been so disturbed by the political discourse," he said, "that I felt that I couldn't participate." 

Skepticism toward Zionism used to be common. Before World War II, Reform Jews tended to believe that they had found a home in the United States, and that Zionism could be seen as a form of dual loyalty. Orthodox Jews generally believed, theologically, that a state of Israel would have to wait for the Messiah's arrival (a view some ultra-Orthodox Jews still hold). In the 1930s and '40s, the persecution of European Jews turned many American Jews into Zionists. Major organizations, like the American Jewish Committee and Hillel, the Jewish campus group, turned toward political Zionism after the war. 

"When Hillel was founded, it took a clear non-Zionist position," said Noam Pianko, who teaches Jewish history at the University of Washington. "What you see is a shift in the American spectrum: from non-Zionism with a few Zionists, to a situation, by the 1960s, where the assumption is that any American Jewish organization is also going to be clearly Zionist." 

Corey Robin, 46, a regular at a Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn, writes a blog about his opposition to Israeli policy and his support for the B.D.S. movement. "There are lots of ways to be Jewish, but worshiping a heavily militarized state seems like a bit of a comedown from our past," Professor Robin, who teaches political science at Brooklyn College, said in an email. 

He said that he tries not to get into arguments with friends, but he has become very "vocal and visible" in his writings. In response to such views, Professor Robin is often accused of despising Judaism. 

"As my mother, who is very pro-Israel, will tell you, I love being Jewish," Professor Robin said. "I love when I'm walking down the street, and my 5-year-old daughter's skipping next to me, singing to herself some tune in Hebrew that we sang in shul. 

"I can't listen to that tune and the words we sing when we close the ark without a shudder. I love being Jewish. I just don't love the state of Israel." 

mark.e.oppenheimer@gmail.com; twitter: markopp1 

A version of this article appears in print on February 15, 2014, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel. 



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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

[ePalestine] Cleveland.com: Israel's waiver to discriminate (By Sam Bahour)


February 11, 2014

Israel's waiver to discriminate

By Sam Bahour

Preferential treatment of Israel has, sadly, come to be expected in the United States. Too often, the United States turns a blind eye as Israel discriminates against American citizens, then rewards Israel for this unacceptable behavior.

The so-called visa waiver bill would reward Israel by allowing Israelis to travel to the United States without a visa — a privilege that is supposed to hinge on Israel reciprocating the gesture.




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Monday, February 10, 2014

[ePalestine] ABC (Australia): Stone Cold Justice

Monday 10 February 2014

ABC (Australia)

Stone Cold Justice


The Israeli army is both respected and feared as a fighting force. But now the country's military is facing a backlash at home and abroad for its treatment of children in the West Bank, occupied territory.




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Monday, February 03, 2014

[ePalestine] BARGHOUTI & BURG: Two key op-eds on BDS, one Palestinian, one Israeli (A MUST READ)

"Would justice and equal rights for all really destroy Israel? Did equality destroy the American South? Or South Africa? Certainly, it destroyed the discriminatory racial order that had prevailed in both places, but it did not destroy the people or the country." ~Omar Barghouti

"The answer is clear. On the very day that nonviolence becomes Palestine’s official policy, Israel’s violent occupation policy is over. The current hysteria over boycotts and sanctions testifies to this." ~Avraham Burg


NEW YORK TIMES - Sunday Review - Op-Ed Contributor

Why Israel Fears the Boycott


JAN. 31, 2014

JERUSALEM — IF Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail because of Israel’s continuing construction of illegal settlements, the Israeli government is likely to face an international boycott “on steroids,” as Mr. Kerry warned last August.

These days, Israel seems as terrified by the “exponential” growth of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (or B.D.S.) movement as it is by Iran’s rising clout in the region. Last June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively declared B.D.S. a strategic threat. Calling it the “delegitimization” movement, he assigned the overall responsibility for fighting it to his Strategic Affairs Ministry. But B.D.S. doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel; it poses a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, which is the root cause of its growing worldwide isolation.

The Israeli government’s view of B.D.S. as a strategic threat reveals its heightened anxiety at the movement’s recent spread into the mainstream. It also reflects the failure of the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s well-endowed “Brand Israel” campaign, which reduces B.D.S. to an image problem and employs culture as a propaganda tool, sending well-known Israeli figures around the world to show Israel’s prettier face.

Begun in 2005 by the largest trade union federations and organizations in Palestinian society, B.D.S. calls for ending Israel’s 1967 occupation, “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,” and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and lands from which they were forcibly displaced and dispossessed in 1948.

Why should Israel, a nuclear power with a strong economy, feel so vulnerable to a nonviolent human rights movement?

Israel is deeply apprehensive about the increasing number of American Jews who vocally oppose its policies — especially those who are joining or leading B.D.S. campaigns. It also perceives as a profound threat the rising dissent among prominent Jewish figures who reject its tendency to speak on their behalf, challenge its claim to be the “national home” of all Jews, or raise the inherent conflict between its ethno-religious self-definition and its claim to democracy. What I. F. Stone prophetically wrote about Israel back in 1967, that it was “creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry” because of its “racial and exclusionist” ideal, is no longer beyond the pale.

Israel is also threatened by the effectiveness of the nonviolent strategies used by the B.D.S. movement, including its Israeli component, and by the negative impact they have had on Israel’s standing in world public opinion. As one Israeli military commander said in the context of suppressing Palestinian popular resistance to the occupation, “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”

The landslide vote by the American Studies Association in December to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, coming on the heels of a similar decision by the Association for Asian-American Studies, among others, as well as divestment votes by several university student councils, proves that B.D.S. is no longer a taboo in the United States.

The movement’s economic impact is also becoming evident. The recent decision by the $200 billion Dutch pension fund PGGM to divest from the five largest Israeli banks because of their involvement in occupied Palestinian territory has sent shock waves through the Israeli establishment.

To underscore the “existential” danger that B.D.S. poses, Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. This unfounded allegation is intended to intimidate into silence those who criticize Israel and to conflate such criticism with anti-Jewish racism.

Arguing that boycotting Israel is intrinsically anti-Semitic is not only false, but it also presumes that Israel and “the Jews” are one and the same. This is as absurd and bigoted as claiming that a boycott of a self-defined Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, say, because of its horrific human rights record, would of necessity be Islamophobic.

The B.D.S. movement’s call for full equality in law and policies for the Palestinian citizens of Israel is particularly troubling for Israel because it raises questions about its self-definition as an exclusionary Jewish state. Israel considers any challenge to what even the Department of State has criticized as its system of “institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens as an “existential threat,” partially because of the apartheid image that this challenge evokes.

Tellingly, the Supreme Court recently rejected an attempt by Israeli liberals to have their nationality or ethnicity listed simply as “Israeli” in the national population registry (which has categories like Jew, Arab, Druse, etc.). The court found that doing so would be a serious threat to Israel’s founding identity as a Jewish state for the Jewish people.

Israel remains the only country on earth that does not recognize its own nationality, as that would theoretically avail equal rights to all its citizens, undermining its “ethnocratic” identity. The claim that B.D.S., a nonviolent movement anchored in universal principles of human rights, aims to “destroy” Israel must be understood in this context.

Would justice and equal rights for all really destroy Israel? Did equality destroy the American South? Or South Africa? Certainly, it destroyed the discriminatory racial order that had prevailed in both places, but it did not destroy the people or the country.

Likewise, only Israel’s unjust order is threatened by boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights activist and the author of “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.”

SOURCE: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/01/opinion/sunday/why-the-boycott-movement-scares-israel.html?hpw&rref=opinion&_r=0



What’s wrong with BDS, after all?

Israel will be helpless when the discourse moves from who’s stronger/tougher/more resilient to a discourse on rights and values.

By Avraham Burg

Feb. 3, 2014

Talk of sanctions has been filling the air lately. Israelis, as always, are certain that the whole world is against us (psycho-national nonsense that will be more broadly discussed here in the future), and that all the world’s overt and covert conspiracies are focused solely on us – out of hatred and anti-Semitism, of course.

Few notice the wonderful paradox whereby official Israel, together with mobilized world Jewry, fights the scourge of sanctions by whining and screaming anti-Semitism, Holocaust and Jew-hatred in chorus. Yet in the very same breath these exact same people utilize any possible tool to advance and intensify the sanctions against Iran, as they did against Hamas until recently. And with useful diplomatic hypocrisy they make every effort not to hurt Syria’s Bashar Assad too much, or Egypt, or another few corrupt targets of Israel’s foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is gaining momentum and is approaching the turning point (rather slowly, it must be said) in which the civic action from below will meet the official policies of governments and parliaments from above, and sanctions against Israel will become a fait accompli. Israel’s finance minister is troubled by the economic consequences, while the American secretary of state is trying to protect us from international isolation. Research institutions are already mapping out their boycotts and sanctions while offering avenues for formulating appropriate Israeli policies. The media are also making their serious or frenzied contributions. Among all this talk, what is conspicuously missing is a real discussion of the ethical meaning of sanctions and their alternatives.

Personally I’m a man of dialogue and believe that a boycott – any boycott – is not a legitimate tool. When my prime minister leaves the room as the Iranian president is speaking, I can’t decide whether he’s an idiot or just being childish, but what’s clear is that he doesn’t represent me at all. I believe in peace and I have no doubt that proper (if pointed) dialogue with the Palestinians will in the end bring two achievements: peace, and the end to the boycotts, ostracism and isolation under discussion. It’s the same with the Iranians, and even with Danny Danon.

But those who don’t want peace, or who want it but don’t trust the partner, or who want and trust but don’t have the public courage to stand up to the enemies of peace among us, must ask themselves different questions altogether. It’s clear that there’s a connection between the diplomatic reality and its economic manifestations. It’s permissible – despite the evil and folly of that approach – to decide that it’s worth holding the occupied territories, if only because at this point the price of international isolation or the harm done to the pockets of Mr. and Mrs. Israeli is not so terrible. After all, in the end, national policy is a system of constantly balancing risks and rewards, and for now – they say – the risks are tolerable.

But everyone else – the political impotents or the merely indifferent – needs a different approach. Put yourselves for a minute in the Palestinians’ place and try to understand what Israel “allows them” and consider what you would do in their position. A violent Palestinian rebellion? No way! Totally out of the question, not least because it will be put down by a much more violent force. (It’s an undeniable fact that more innocent Palestinians have been killed by Israel than innocent Israelis killed by Palestinians). A diplomatic agreement? You’ve made Naftali Bennett’s rear end and Benjamin Netanyahu’s lost senses laugh. So then what? Nothing? Should they just say thank you and shut up? Would we remain silent and capitulate unconditionally if we were in their place?

Suddenly it turns out that the boycott movement is not just an annoying effort to hit Israelis in the pocket, but a bold and innovative attempt to achieve real diplomatic gains. And in the areas in which I firmly believe require dialogue and solutions: an end to the occupation, the destruction of the separation barrier, recognition of the rights and equality of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and a solution to the refugee problem. It’s a local and international expression of a totally different type of Palestinian struggle, something new and not so familiar to us – nonviolent resistance. Is that also forbidden?

What emerges from all this is that of all the alternatives being suggested – as if anyone is asking us or has to care what we think – boycotts and sanctions are actually the most kosher. Silencing and repression are bad, and violence is worse. Compared to either method, nonviolent resistance and an unarmed popular uprising don’t sound so bad. The truth is that not all of their people are behind this (just like not all of our people support us), but the direction being outlined is clear, convincing and threatening. Deep down I’m convinced that the tough State of Israel has a response to any expression of force it may face. But it will remain helpless when confronted by a civil rebellion that moves the discourse from who’s stronger/tougher/more resilient to a discourse on rights and values. For this we have no answer.

What will the politicians and soldiers of the racist separation do on Hebron’s Shuhada Street, which is closed to Palestinians, if a thousand kids come with their bikes, soccer balls and cameras and ask to play on the street in front of their homes – a basic right of any normal child on any street in the world? What will be the response of the Sensible One if the parents of those children, along with hundreds or thousands of other people (me and my family among them) come to the wall of the Palestinian ghetto (known euphemistically as the separation barrier) and hold a vigil there before the international media, under clouds of tear gas, until it comes down?

The answer is clear. On the very day that nonviolence becomes Palestine’s official policy, Israel’s violent occupation policy is over. The current hysteria over boycotts and sanctions testifies to this.

Avraham Burg is former speaker of the Knesset.

SOURCE: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.572079



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