Tel Aviv - Dozens of Palestinian-made Qassam rockets landed on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard last week, placed there by students from the heavily shelled Negev town of Sderot. The graphic street exhibition was planted on the placid tree-lined artery in an effort to focus public attention on the nearly daily barrage of Palestinian rockets raining down on Sderot and other Israeli communities along the Gaza border.
Since the outbreak of the second intifada, some 4,000 rockets have been fired on the western Negev, claiming the lives of at least 10 Israelis and taking an increasing toll on the lives of countless others. To a group of students from Sderot's Sapir College, the majority of Israelis living beyond the Qassams' reach have exhibited an unacceptable indifference toward the violence afflicting Israel's border towns, and the time has come to shake the Israeli public out of its apathy.
"This lack of solidarity was never before present in Israel," said Lavi Vanounou, a film student at Sapir College and the producer of the Qassam exhibit. "People today are much more self-absorbed. We just want to tell them, 'Hey, we don't live in another galaxy, we live just 50 minutes away from you.' And with all due respect, the Qassam is becoming more and more sophisticated. Once, it would barely reach Sderot; now it is hitting farther north, up to Ashkelon. It won't take too much more time until the rockets are able to reach Tel Aviv. So wake up."
Judging by the reactions of Tel Aviv residents this week, the exhibit has had far from the explosive effect its creators had hoped for.
"When I hear on the radio that more rockets hit Sderot, it's like hearing the weather forecast. I don't even pay attention," said Shai, 31, while strolling past the Qassams. "This exhibit is more like a freak show than something that's real. The section with the sofa and the teddy bear illustrating a private house was very manipulative. People are being forced to see this stuff when they leave restaurants here."
The rockets along the Tel Aviv boulevard are cordoned off by police tape and displayed in a variety of communal settings. Some appear to have impacted directly into the cement sidewalk; others are surrounded by household furniture, while one Qassam appears to have slammed into a café.
Notations made by police sappers are scrawled on each rocket, recording the date of attack and the location of impact. Some of the Qassams bear inscriptions in Arabic or Hebrew, written by the Palestinian militant organizations Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Resistance Committees.
The exhibit is destined to fall on deaf ears, one passerby commented, suggesting that rather than taking the rockets out of Sderot, it would be better to take those in harm's way away from the rockets.
"Tel Aviv residents are too cynical to relate to such a thing. We are too cynical to even notice what happens outside the city. I'm just not interested," said Gabi, 28. "I think people simply need to move out of Sderot."
Tzachi Dvora, 33, didn't think the exhibit went far enough in illustrating the direness of Sderot's situation.
"It covers just a small section of the boulevard. It should have been more serious," he said. "I'm saddened by what is going on but this won't change what I feel when I hear on the radio that rockets hit Sderot. We are always disconnected here in Tel Aviv from what's going on."
Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal is also full of harsh criticism of the reaction to the bombardment of the western Negev. His ire, however, is directed not at Tel Aviv but at Jerusalem.
"All Israel is together in a very small boat. The problem is not people. It is policy, policy, policy," Moyal told the Forward. "We have been abandoned by the government."
To date, the Israeli military has been unable to find effective operational means by which to prevent the rocket fire on southern Israel. The Qassams, manufactured in Gaza metal workshops, are highly inaccurate, carry relatively small warheads and do not travel very far. But they are mobile and can be fired by small, elusive teams of gunners, making it difficult for Israel to destroy them before they are launched.
The military has resorted to a number of tactics in an effort to prevent the rocket fire, including artillery shelling, air strikes and ground operations by small elite units. Prior to Israel's disengagement from Gaza in 2005, ground units also periodically occupied areas in northern Gaza across the border from Sderot, and as the city's mayor sees it, such drastic measures are the only way to stop the Qassams.
"I am against war, but we don't have a choice," Moyal said. "The Israeli army must totally reoccupy the Gaza Strip to clean out the terrorists."
What is behind the strange reluctance of Jews to leave places where they are in obvious danger? Iran is ruled by a Holocaust -denying bigot. It is not a got place for ethnic Persians to live. It can't really be a good place for Jews, yet Iran's Jews are apparently obstinate.Why do Jews always wait until it is too late?
Text of report by web version of Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv on 8 July
Israel is trying to find new ways of encouraging immigration from Iran in the wake of a lack of desire on the part of thousands of Iranian Jews to leave. In order to do this, an expatriate group of Iranian Jewish donors, which is behind a special fund to encourage aliyah from the land of the ayatollahs, is now offering approximately $60,000 to every Jewish family that comes to Israel, which will be in addition to the regular absorption basket.
Only a few months ago, the fund decided to grant an incentive of $5,000 to every new immigrant, but this did not persuade Iranian Jews, many of whom are comfortably off, to leave.
The fund has now decided to double the sum for every new immigrant, and to offer $10,000 in the hope that it will persuade Iranian Jews to come to Israel.
If the Jews do decide to come to Israel as whole families, they will also receive thousands more dollars: $2,000 for a head of family and $1,500 for a mother and each of her children. More than $1 million has been invested in the fund, and it is operated by means of one of the major aliyah organizations in Israel. Unconnected with the grants, the new immigrants also receive the regular absorption basket like other immigrants, as well as mortgages on easy terms.
The news of the grant has been published on an Israeli Internet site in Persian, which has been launched in order to convey vital information on the process of aliyah. It has also been reported on Israel Radio's Persian-language service, and is being passed on by means of various organizations and relatives to Jews in Iran.
Some 20,000 Jews live in Iran, mostly in Tehran. It is the largest remaining Jewish community in the Arab states. According to reports, many of them are comfortably off and free to practise their religion and provide religious education for their children. Given that, most are not interested in leaving Iran. However, Iran's Jews visit Israel a lot to see their relatives, and Israelis of Iranian origin pay family and business visits there. Iranian Jews who live in the United States also make frequent visits to family in Iran.
"In contrast to the previously laughable sum, we are now talking about a sizeable sum, and if a whole family decides to make aliyah, they will receive tens of thousands of dollars - a serious sum that could really persuade Jews to leave there and come to Israel, and assist in their absorption here," Ma'ariv was told by sources that are dealing with Iranian immigrants.
Delusion is defined by the science of Mental and Psychological Disorders as a false belief that is firmly maintained in spite of incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence. A delusion is a detachment from tangible and lived reality, from the facts and the environment, and from the capabilities available to the inflicted individual. It is a thought or thoughts which can be neither addressed nor corrected through logic or persuasion. The most frequent types of delusions are the "Delusion of Grandeur", the "Persecutory Delusion", the "Nihilistic Delusion", and "Guilt".
It is only on the basis of the scientific definitions of the underpinnings of this "delusion", and specifically here the "Delusion de Grandeur", that one can comprehend and interpret Hezbollah's delusional claim of victory against Israel in the July 2006 war. A war it initiated and waged on orders from the rulers of the two Axis of Evil countries, Syria and Iran, to serve their terrorist, fundamentalist, criminal, and expansionist plans.
Hezbollah made a unilateral decision to wage war against Israel without consulting the legitimate Lebanese State and by bypassing its institutions including the Cabinet, the Parliament, the army, and the judiciary. It acted with a self-prescribed "Divine" superiority and with the logic of the state-within-the-state empire it built in Lebanon, against the will of the Lebanese people and the constitution and laws of the country. This is the State of the "Faqih" [Islamic Jurisprudent], which is fully and exclusively affiliated with the regimes in Tehran and Damascus, and which is subservient to the rulers of those two countries. Naim Qassem, Hezbollah's second in command, openly admitted in a recent interview (Al-Kawthar TV, April 16, 2007) that every action that Hezbollah has undertaken since its founding in 1980, immediately after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, is vested exclusively by the "Jurisprudents" of Iran, and not by any other consideration such as Lebanon's national interests.
Hezbollah is simply an Iranian Army in Lebanon, period. In terms of its ideology and doctrine, its web of financial networks and activities, its authority of reference and armament, there is nothing Lebanese to Hezbollah, except for the plastic ID cards of its Mujahideen.
The illusion of victory against Israel which Hezbollah celebrated at this first anniversary of the July 2006 War, and with it Syria and Iran and their mouthpieces and peons in Lebanon, is an exercise in delusional absurdity and childishness, which would be funny if not for the deaths and destruction they visited on Lebanon. This celebration perpetuates the tradition of all previous Arab "victories" against Israel since 1948, where actual Arab-Islamic defeats were always turned - with lies, deceit, and yes delusion - into victories. Celebrating Hezbollah's "divine" victory is nothing short of scandalous and a shameful mockery of the intelligence of the Lebanese people. It stands as an absolute contradiction to reason, logic, and facts.
The ordinary Lebanese citizen who is genuinely concerned with the sovereignty of his country could not care less about the victory or defeat of Israel. Nor with the delusions of Hezbollah's leaders in victory, conquest, and slaughter à la Don Quixote. What matters to the Lebanese are the losses incurred as a result of a war that killed 1,200 people, injured thousands more, and caused large scale destruction of infrastructure estimated at over 20 billion US dollars. Lebanon has also lost 250,000 Lebanese to emigration. The country was set 20 years backward.
When we assess the results of the July war by every measure of reason and fact, it is doubtless evident that Lebanon and the Lebanese alone paid the price of the Syrian-Iranian mad adventure executed by Hezbollah. They paid that price with the blood of their children, their properties, their economy, and the future of their posterity.
As for Hezbollah, with its delusion of "Divine Victory" and all the slogans of liberation, resistance, slaughter of the enemy, and conquest, and despite all the catastrophes and calamities it has caused, it persists in its Iranian-Syrian mission to undermine the institutions, the constitution, the liberties, the democracy, and the very existence of the Cedars Homeland. Hezbollah's actions do not deserve celebration; they deserve the prosecution of its leaders, the seizure of its funds and assets, and the disbanding of its militias. Today, not tomorrow.
It is no longer acceptable to accommodate this illegal organization, give false praises to its disturbed leaders, repeat and reinforce their delusions, and exaggerate their superiority in their delusional victory of July 2006, and before it their charade of "liberation" in 2000. Hezbollah had only liberated the south from its Lebanese people, replaced the country's institutions with its own instruments of dependency, banned the Lebanese army and security forces from setting foot in the south, and then erected its own State within the State.
It is a crime against truth, conscience and logic for the Lebanese political leadership to continue kowtowing to Hezbollah and propagating its lies, and to practice Taqiyah [dissimulating one's true opinion] and Dhimmi submission, through an idiotic marketing of Hezbollah's delusional victories of July 2006 and June 2000.
Facts must be called for what they really are. We can no longer hide the truth, for he who witnesses to the truth, the truth shall set him free.
I conclude with the Lord Christ's response to those who asked him to silence his disciples: "If my disciples went silent, the stones would speak".
**Elias Bejjani Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC) Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator. Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
(Due to the nature of YouTube, these links may be taken down in the coming days. If you intend to watch it I would advise watching it as soon as possible.)
The BBC shelved this program when they heard it would focus on British anti-Semitism, and it was instead shown on Channel 4.
While some mainstream reviewers in the British media welcomed Littlejohn's program, some on the left were extremely nasty about it. No doubt they felt uncomfortable having their anti-Semitism pointed out to them and tried to change the subject. One reviewer in the Guardian, for example, started talking about "Israel's war crimes against the Palestinians" -- an interesting remark given the fact he was meant to be writing about British anti-Semitism -- and called the subject of anti-Semitism "tedious".
On British radio, George Galloway, MP dismissed the program by saying: "Richard Littlejohn is a driveling guttersnipe who long ago fell out of the gutter into the sewer. This man is a moron."
As Littlejohn, a leading British journalist, is finding out, when non-Jews condemn anti-Semitism, they can themselves become the target of anti-Semites.
One of the problems is that the mainstream media just don't report many anti-Semitic attacks in the UK, which are only mentioned in the Jewish media. For example, a British ultra-orthodox Jew was thrown into a river in north London by a gang making anti-Semitic remarks two weeks ago. They smashed his glasses on the ground before doing so, so that he wouldn't be able to see clearly once in the water. He was rescued by a couple that walked past shortly after.
Still, anti-Semitism in Britain remains below that of other countries. For example, in Ukraine yesterday, there were three anti-Semitic attacks in a single day. No serious injuries were sustained.
In related developments:
* The latest prominent international personalities to sign a petition condemning the proposed British academic boycott of Israel are the Dalai Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev.
* The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed a resolution criticizing the proposed British academic boycott of Israel. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D- Pennsylvania) is the resolution's prime sponsor.
Rumors of strange realignments in French foreign policy, bringing the French closer to the Aoun faction in Lebnon, seem to be confirmed. The French foreign ministry has announced that Hizbullah is not a terror group. Rather they are really very nice fellows after all. Quoting Jerusalem Post:
"Hizbullah is part of Lebanese politics and must not be regarded as a terror organization, said the French Foreign Ministry in a statement Thursday night.
The statement was an apparent about-turn by France after President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Hizbullah was indeed a terrorist group when he met with the captured IDF soldiers' families in Paris last week. Thursday's statement was prompted by protests from Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah."
Not since a former French Foreign Minister claimed that Iran was a force for stability in the Middle East has French diplomacy been so "creative." The implications go well beyond Hezbollah. It seems that in the French definition, any group that becomes part of politics is no longer a terror organization. Therefore, if the Mafia or Al-Qaida run candidates in US elections, it seems that France will accept their legitimacy.
The statement was undoubtedly connected to France's attempts to mediate a solution to the Lebanese crisis. Of course, you can only believe it is possible to mediate a solution if you are satisfied that all participants, including Hezbollah, are really decent chaps and legitimate organizations.
On the other hand, tomorrow may bring yet another denial.
(Source: ddi Indian Government news; issued July 13, 2007)
India will jointly develop and co-produce a new generation of medium range surface-to-air missiles with Israel to secure the country's strategic assets from growing threats posed by aerial attacks and the proliferation of missiles in the region.
The setting up of a joint venture for producing the missiles at an estimated cost of Rs 10,000 crore (2.5 billion dollars) was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security, which met in New Delhi on Thursday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
According to highly placed defence sources, the new generation missile with the capability of hitting aerial targets 70 km away would be developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Indian Air Force and Israel Aerospace Industries.
The DRDO will be the "prime contractor" for the project, which will have an indegenious component of Rs 2,300 crore.
The new generation missile will replace the IAF's ageing Russian-made Pechora missiles.
TEL AVIV, Israel, July 13 (UPI) -- Israel is keeping an official silence on why Prime Minister Ehud Olmert paid a secret visit to Jordan, where he met King Abdullah II.
Israel's Channel 2 TV reported that Olmert went secretly to Jordan on Wednesday. But it was not clear why he helicoptered there, what they discussed and why the visit was considered secret. The Prime Minister's Office would not comment on the report.
The Haaretz daily, however, said that Olmert had told his ministers he would focus on bilateral issues. Relations have been usually good, and on July 5 Israel removed another hindrance when it handed over four Jordanians who had been serving life sentences for killing two Israeli soldiers. They did so before the two countries formally concluded peace in 1994 and Amman has been pressing for their extradition.
The deal provided Jordan would jail them for 18 months. The Jordanian government said this was a "positive achievement and substantial shift."
According to the TV report, Olmert also intended to discuss rebuilding a bridge over the Jordan River at Damiya. That would be a step towards opening another crossing between the West Bank and the Hashemite Kingdom, which currently share only one crossing, the Allenby Bridge near Jericho. Damiya is in the northern West Bank, along the road from Nablus to Jordan, and a crossing there had existed in the past.
The two leaders want to help Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Olmert is supposed to meet next week. One topic that would involve Jordan calls for strengthening Abbas by sending over the Palestinian Army's Badr Brigade that has been based in Jordan. Abbas also reportedly wants armored personnel carriers for his security forces.
None of the above would have justified a secret visit, of course.
Joining in the spirit of the evening, Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Eric Yoffie surprised the crowd of several hundred olim, who gathered here for a sendoff this week, with his outspoken Zionism.
"Those of us who live here live in galut, and to live in Israel is to live a fuller Jewish life," Yoffie said. "For an American people that does not understand the importance and centrality of Zion, you are an important bridge."
Yoffie's words reflected noticeable changes in the Reform Movement's approach to aliya. Traditionally, aliya has not been a major component of the movement's platform, but increasingly over the last few years, it has been placing greater energy on their Israel-related activities, including hiring a full-time aliya emissary for the first time.
Brett Willner, 22, who will make aliya at the beginning of August and start his army service, is in many ways a poster child for the movement. He went to Reform summer camp and religious school, and grew up in the youth movement. It was also the Reform Movement that first brought him to Israel, in 2002, during his junior year of high school.
The evolution of Reform Judaism to support of Aliya is a gratifying and important historic development. Reform Judaism has come a long way from resolutions such as those of the Philadelphia convention and the odious Pittsburgh Platform. Unfortunately, when Reform Jews get to Israel, they may find that it is hard to be a reform Jew here. Israeli society and culture evolved from the early beginnings of Zionism, in which secular and religious Jews united against the anti-Zionist reform movement. As reform Jews were not interested in Zionism, Zionism was not interested in them for a long time. Rabbi Yoffe himself heard from ex-President Katsav himself that a reform rabbi is not a rabbi. Nobody really protested against Katsav's dictum.
A recent initiative by the Jewish Agency to pass a resolution that would recommend that the state of Israel honor reform conversions was quashed for technical reasons.
I have always wondered about different explanations of why the Palestinians voted for Hamas. There are so many excuses to explain why a substantial part of the Palestinian public voted for a genocidal, fanatic organization. They can hardly be surprised that the Hamas will not recognize Israel, since that is what the Hamas promised, nor should they be surprised by announcements of Islamic states, as Hamas promised that too.
Khaled Toameh offers two contradictory excuses. Here is version 1:
"The January 2006 election that brought Hamas to power was mostly about: "Let's punish these Fatah thieves." Hamas was building schools and kindergartens and clinics, while the PLO was building a casino and villas for its leaders. I believe some 30-35 percent of the Palestinians who voted for Hamas did so as a vote of protest because they were unhappy with the way the Palestinian Authority was running the show. "
And here is version 2:
"Hamas came to power a few months after the unilateral disengagement because the man in the street was saying: "This is wonderful. Hamas has managed to drive the Jews out of Gaza with rockets and bombs, while the PLO has been negotiating with the Jews and they didn't get as much. Look at what Hizbullah did in Lebanon. Kill them and they'll give you more." This is what worries me. Israel's unilateral disengagement undermined the moderates throughout the Arab world. "
Which is it? Were Palestinians angry about corruption, or were they angry that Fatah was not sufficiently committed to murdering Jews?
Toameh's idea of what Israel should do is this:
What should Israel do at this stage? Nothing. Israel should stay away from the internal affairs of the Palestinians. There is no one to deal with on a serious basis on the Palestinian side. Abbas doesn't even have control over his own Fatah militias, so what are you going to talk to him about? Israel should just sit and wait. Don't repeat the mistake of unilateralism, when Israel left Gaza to Hamas and Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
This seems very strange to me. There are many things Israel could do without giving up territory, unilaterally or otherwise. Israel can make prisoner deal, and allow more freedom for Palestinians in the West Bank or it can attack the Hamas in Gaza or it can open peace talks. Toameh says Israel should just sit and wait. Do not do anything? Wait for what? Not doing anything at all, means that we wait for the Hamas to take over and drive the Fatah out of power completely.
Within a few months after Abbas came to power, Palestinians started realizing that he was not delivering. Instead of fighting corruption, he surrounded himself with the same Arafat cronies. There was a decrease of perhaps 30-40 percent in the level of corruption but an upsurge in internal violence.
The January 2006 election that brought Hamas to power was mostly about: "Let's punish these Fatah thieves." Hamas was building schools and kindergartens and clinics, while the PLO was building a casino and villas for its leaders. I believe some 30-35 percent of the Palestinians who voted for Hamas did so as a vote of protest because they were unhappy with the way the Palestinian Authority was running the show.
Let Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO and Fatah start rebuilding their institutions, reform themselves, get rid of the corruption, and come up with a new list of candidates. Then run in another free and democratic election and offer the Palestinians a better alternative to Hamas.
The Palestinians do not need more guns and military training. If the U.S. has $86 million and wants to help the Palestinians, then help them build civil institutions, help them build freedom, educate them about good things. What's the point in taking 200 Presidential Guards to Jericho to train them? Who are they going to fight at the end of the day? In Gaza they were defeated.
What should Israel do at this stage? Nothing. There is no one to deal with on a serious basis on the Palestinian side. Abbas doesn't even have control over his own Fatah militias. Israel should just sit and wait. Don't repeat the mistake of unilateralism, when Israel left Gaza to Hamas and Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
It is ironic that the West is supporting the guys who are suppressing the moderates and people who want democracy. The West is actually undermining its own goals.
When Abbas Took Over the PA
In the post-Arafat era there was a lot of hope among the Palestinians that the Palestinian Authority would become a better body. There was much talk of reforms and democracy, good governance, and an end to financial corruption. Mahmoud Abbas' 2005 election campaign was about ending financial corruption and building good institutions. Palestinians saw Abbas' agenda as aimed at repairing all the damage that Arafat had done.
Within a few months after Abbas came to power, however, Palestinians started realizing that he was not delivering. Instead of fighting corruption, Abbas surrounded himself with the same Arafat cronies. There was a certain decrease in the level of corruption, but it wasn't enough.
Instead of bringing democracy and restoring law and order in the Palestinian areas, there was an upsurge in internal violence in 2006. For the first time, the number of Palestinians killed in internal fighting was even higher than the number of Palestinians killed in fighting with the Israelis. If a judge can't issue an order because he's afraid or if a Palestinian security commander can't return a stolen bicycle, what kind of an authority is this?
Hamas Wins in Parliamentary Elections
In January 2006 - at the request of the United States, the Europeans, and the international community - there were parliamentary elections and Hamas decided to run for the first time. Hamas actually copied the platform of Mahmoud Abbas from a year earlier and promised the Palestinians reforms and democracy. Hamas' list was called Change and Reform, and Hamas fielded a very impressive list of candidates that included university professors, doctors, and engineers. If I were living in Gaza back then, I would have also voted for Hamas, not because I support suicide bombings and want to eliminate Israel, but because the January 2006 election was mostly about: "Let's punish these thieves." I know Christians, secular Palestinians, and PLO people who voted for Hamas because they were unhappy with the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinians felt they did not have much to lose by voting for Hamas. It is true that Hamas is a terrorist organization and a very dangerous ideological, religious, fanatic group. It's true that Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Yet when I go to the West Bank and Gaza, I and most Palestinians still see the other side of Hamas, providing a vast network of social, economic, education, and health services. I have seen Hamas doing what the Palestinian Authority should have been doing with the international aid. Hamas was building schools and kindergartens and clinics, while the PLO was building a casino and villas for its leaders. So this is one reason why Hamas won the hearts and minds of many people in the election campaign.
But not all of those who voted for Hamas did so as a protest vote. Of course Hamas has its own supporters, especially in Gaza. There are many who really believe in Hamas' ideology and that Israel can be eliminated. However, I believe that 30-35 percent of the Palestinians who voted for Hamas did so as a vote of protest against Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.
It is amazing that Condoleezza Rice did not see what any Palestinian child could see on the eve of the elections, namely, that Hamas was going to win. One day before the January 2006 election, I was asked by the Wall Street Journal to write a small op-ed about the elections and I wrote that the Palestinians were headed toward a regime change. Everyone here knew that Hamas was going to win.
So Hamas came to power and again there was some hope among the Palestinians. Maybe the Islamists would succeed where the secular PLO had failed? Maybe the Islamists would at least bring good governance?
Hamas Would Defeat Fatah If an Election Was Held Today
Yet the election created tensions between Fatah, who refused to give up power, and Hamas. I am confident that if we held another free and democratic election tomorrow in the Palestinian areas, Hamas would win again, and this time by a larger majority, because the man on the street is saying that no one gave Hamas a chance to rule. Besides, why should any Palestinian vote for the same Fatah people he voted out of office 18 months ago?
Immediately after the elections, the international community should have come to Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah and told them they lost the election because they are thieves, because their people don't trust them anymore, because they failed to deliver. Let them start rebuilding their institutions, reform themselves, get rid of the corruption, and come up with a new list of candidates. Then run in another free and democratic election and offer the Palestinians a better alternative to Hamas.
This remains the main issue for the Palestinians: reforms and good governance - even more than ending the occupation. There is a feeling that members of the Palestinian security forces are responsible for a lot of the anarchy and chaos on the Palestinian street and this also applies to Gaza.
Palestinians Need Good Governance, Not Guns
The Palestinian Authority continues to be the largest employer in the Palestinian areas. Many institutions are continuing to function including the Ministry of Health and the Foreign Ministry. The Palestinians have 79 ambassadors around the world - much more than Israel. The real problem with the Palestinian Authority is not the civilian aspect as much as the security and judicial systems. This is where we have seen a near total collapse. The Palestinian security forces behave more like militias. Their loyalties are not known. In the fighting in Gaza, many Palestinian security officers refused to participate and there are reports that hundreds defected to Hamas during the fighting.
We didn't have this under Arafat because he was a strong and charismatic figure who brought the Palestinians together. There was a feeling back then that you don't mess around with the Palestinian Authority because Arafat is ruthless. But today you have Abbas who is very hesitant and weak and unwilling to carry out serious decisions. So people no longer relate to the Palestinian Authority in a serious fashion.
If the U.S. really wanted to help, the Palestinians do not need more guns. Everyone has guns, there are too many guns on the streets. The Palestinians don't need more military training. If the U.S. has $86 million and wants to help the Palestinians, then help them build civil institutions, help them build freedom, improve their education system, teach them something positive. What's the point in taking 200 Presidential Guards to Jericho to train them? Who are they going to fight at the end of the day? In Gaza they were defeated. Palestinians need good governance, better media, freedom and democracy, and to rebuild their civil institutions. They don't need more guns, militias, and Force 17s. This is what I hear in the Palestinian street.
Arafat used to tell the international community: "Give me more millions and I will kill Hamas and Islamic Jihad; I will prevent all the suicide bombings." He took the money and under him Hamas became even stronger. Hamas is in power today because of Arafat and Abbas. Giving Abbas guns and more millions of dollars is not going to help. Indeed, just by announcing that the West is going to give Abbas money, this is backfiring and causing him a lot of damage on the Palestinian street. It makes him look like a puppet and makes Hamas even more popular.
Al-Qaeda's Limited Penetration of Gaza
In Gaza we are seeing attempts by some Palestinians to imitate al-Qaeda more than the actual penetration of al-Qaeda. Various groups in Gaza are operating al-Qaeda-style. One is the Army of Islam, another is the Righteous Swords of Islam. Yet there is no real evidence that al-Qaeda itself is in Gaza, but some of these groups may be funded by al-Qaeda-linked organizations or global Jihad institutions. In the past six months over fifty Internet cafes have been bombed in Gaza. Women have had acid thrown in their faces. Four women were killed by Islamic groups in Gaza in the past four months. There is reason to worry because the border with Egypt is practically open and there are all these elements coming in and out.
Some of the reports about the presence of al-Qaeda bases are exaggerated. We saw how Fatah lied when it said it raided the Islamic University in Gaza and claimed that it found an Iranian general there. Some of these reports are being spread by Fatah as part of the war against Hamas and to frighten the West - "If you don't give us money, look what you're going to get in Gaza."
Iran and Fatah
We hear about Iranian money coming into Gaza, but we don't see any Shi'ite influence. There were individuals in Gaza and even in the West Bank who tried to establish Shi'ite groups, but we don't see any impact.
Hizbullah is also involved, but most of the people taking money from Hizbullah are from Fatah in the West Bank. According to Hamas literature, Hamas doesn't like Shi'ites and doesn't like Hizbullah either, so Hamas is not taking money from Hizbullah. But I've interviewed several armed Fatah groups, especially in Nablus, and most of them were on the Hizballah payroll and said it openly. So money plays a very important role.
What Should Israel Do?
What should Israel do at this stage? Nothing. Israel should stay away from the internal affairs of the Palestinians. There is no one to deal with on a serious basis on the Palestinian side. Abbas doesn't even have control over his own Fatah militias, so what are you going to talk to him about? Israel should just sit and wait. Don't repeat the mistake of unilateralism, when Israel left Gaza to Hamas and Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.
I'm one of those who argued before Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza that this would send the wrong message to the Palestinians and empower Hamas. Hamas came to power a few months after the unilateral disengagement because the man in the street was saying: "This is wonderful. Hamas has managed to drive the Jews out of Gaza with rockets and bombs, while the PLO has been negotiating with the Jews and they didn't get as much. Look at what Hizbullah did in Lebanon. Kill them and they'll give you more." This is what worries me. Israel's unilateral disengagement undermined the moderates throughout the Arab world.
I also don't see any Arab country willing to send forces to maintain order in Gaza. The feeling in the Arab world is to try to disengage from the Palestinians
The Palestinians need to get their act together and find a way to resolve their problems, and then Israel can talk with them. But under the current circumstances, if I was Israel I wouldn't pull out from one inch of land because there is no strong and reliable partner on the other side.
* * *
Khaled Abu Toameh is Palestinian Affairs correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a correspondent for US News and World Report. He has also produced several documentaries on the Palestinians for the BBC and other international networks. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on May 24, 2007 - before the Hamas takeover of Gaza in mid-June.
Will talk lead to action? asks the Jewish Telegraphic Agency of the 2007 Conference on the Future of the Jewish People, sponsored by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.
The short answer is "probably not." If talk could lead to action, then there would probably have been no need for a conference on the future of the Jewish people. The future will be like the past. The "important people" will gather at conferences to show themselves and to be seen, to make statements and to be important. The work will be done by others, if at all. As it is written "The work of the righteous is done by others." Who can be more righteous than these leading lights of the Jewish community? So they are waiting for others to do the work.
As the article notes:
Some of the more effective Jewish initiatives in recent years have started outside the organized Jewish community, such as birthright israel. That program, which in bringing more than 100,000 young Diaspora Jews to Israel has helped bolster Jewish identity as well as ties to Israel and among fellow Jews, was adopted by the organized Jewish community only after much resistance...
And the guarantee that the conference will have no result is given here:
Perhaps the follow-up to this conference some sort of task force is planned will determine whether or not the next great idea will emanate from the people who came to Jerusalem this week.
They did not even have the moxie to form a real committee to do nothing, just "some sort of task force."
We can see how this will work. "Ladies and gentlemen of the some sort of task force. We have called you to some sort of meeting to make some sort of decision."
By the time this task force makes some sort of decision, there may only be a dozen Jews left outside Israel.
An article in Ha'aretz tells us that the Visit by Egypt, Jordan FMs will not be an Arab League mission. The foreign ministers are to discuss the Arab peace initiative. But if it is not an Arab League mission, then what is the point? After all, Israel has diplomatic relations with Jordan and Egypt, and the respective representatives will only be presenting the viewpoints of their own countries.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said his visit to Israel with his Jordanian counterpart, planned for July 25, would only be on behalf of their respective countries.
"This is not a visit where the Arab League flag will be raised," Aboul Gheit told reporters. "This is a matter of principle."
On Wednesday the head of the 22-nation Arab League, Amr Moussa, also said the two foreign ministers would not be representing the League.
What principle is that, exactly? How many square kilometers of Israel's huge area must be given up in order to get the Arab League to raise a flag here? (Perhaps all of it?)
The Arab peace initiative seems to recede into the desert as one approaches it. This phenomenon is very much like a mirage.
The same article tells of cancellation of Condoleezza Rice's upcoming visit. Important things must be happening in Washington. Probably all bad.
In this reply to Shlomo Avneri's article on Post Zionism (See Post-Zionism: the bumph that wouldn't die ) Uri Avnery claims that it is he who invented the term "Post-Zionism." For him, Post-Zionism is not anti-Zionism. Rather, he takes the tack that Zionism accomplished its purpose in building the state, and now we must move on and address other issues. Quoting Ben-Gurion, he tells us that Zionism is the scaffolding that was used to build the state of Israel. Now the scaffolding must be removed.
Apparently, the bumph really has nine lives or more.
Ben-Gurion did not, obviously, mean that after the Jews have a Jewish state, the Jewish state must be abolished, and replaced by a non-ethnic non-national state. Ben-Gurion was always insistent that every Jew should come on Aliya. How could he believe that the purpose of Zionism is accomplished, when most Jews still live abroad? Moreover, Ben-Gurion could not, and did not, foresee some of the problems we have now, some of which are partly his own creation. The original Zionists of Hibbat Tziyon, the Maskilim faction, feared that Zionism in the land of Israel would be overwhelmed by orthodox Jewry and the ghetto, Halukka mentality of the ultraorthodox Jews of the old Yishuv, or by messianists wishing to rebuild the temple. We can see this nightmatre coming true. In five years, state education will be overwhelmed by the non-Zionist, ultra-orthodox schools (see Anti-Zionist plot: End of State Education ). At the same time, the voice of extremists who want to rebuild the temple and institute animal sacrifice, still a tiny minority, grows stronger within the "Zionist" movement, simply because moderates are less and interested in the fate of Israel.
The scaffolding cannot be removed until the work is really done.
A week ago, Haaretz published an article by Shlomo Avineri, a respected professor and former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Office. I tried to refute his views in a letter to the editor.
Being restricted by the format of a letter, my remarks were necessarily brief. Haaretz cut the letter even more. I am sending here the ...full (unabridged) text of my letter.
Post-scaffolding for Israel A letter of Uri Avnery
In response to The Lie of post-Zionism [Hebrew title of article] by Shlomo Avineri (Haaretz 4/7)
In 1976, a Jerusalem periodical wrote that I and my colleagues - i.a. Gen. Matti Peled, Eliyahu Elyashar, Col. Meir Pa'il - the founders of the "Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace", are anti-Zionists. We sued them for libel, won the case and were awarded considerable compensations.
In the course of the proceedings, I testified at length, on the basis of my book "Israel Without Zionists". When the judge interrogated me about my attitude towards Zionism, I used, for the first time, the term "Post-Zionist".
"Post-Zionism" in its true meaning is a long way from "anti-Zionism". It recognizes Zionism's historical achievements: the formation of a new society, the revival of the Hebrew language and the creation of the state [of Israel.] It does this without ignoring the dark aspects the historical injustice done to the Palestinian people.
The essence of post-Zionism lies in recognizing that Zionism had fulfilled its role with the foundation of the State of Israel. Since then a new nation was born, the Israeli nation, composed of the citizens of Israel, much as the American nation is composed of the citizens of the United States. Jewish citizens feel a natural affinity to the Jewish world while Arab citizens feel a natural affinity to the Arab world.
An Israeli who is asked abroad "What are you?" answers automatically: "I am an Israeli." It would not enter his mind to say "I am a Jew", unless asked specifically about his religion.
David Ben-Gurion said that the Zionist Federation played the role of the scaffolding in the building of the state of Israel. That is true for Zionism as a whole. A building is not the anti-scaffolding, it is the post-scaffolding.
AB Yehoshua explains that the second Lebanon War was a just war in Yediot Ahronot. This coincides with Ehud Olmert's defense of the decision to go to war. But Yehushua also reveals that from the beginning, the purpose of the first Lebanon war was to conquer Beirut:
And then in shock I heard the officer, who had just come out of the "bunker," openly deliver the message of war, which at the time was named Operation Peace for Galilee.
A few weeks and months later, then Prime Minister Menachem Begin would contend that he knew nothing of the plan, and even opposition leader at the time Shimon Peres, who voted in favor of the war with his faction, maintained that he did not know that this was the original plan.
However, we, among many others, knew very well from the outset what the ambitious plan that was executed and failed was all about: To destroy the small Fatahland in the south of Lebanon; to reach Beirut and take it over; to join up with the Christians and Druze and to establish a new government that would make peace with Israel.
At the time, there was no mention of a 40-kilometer exit strategy, but rather, the takeover of Beirut; the occupation of an Arab capital -something Israel did not dare do until then.
A week later, I was sent home with a few other colleagues, including my friend Professor Avi Ravitzki. The chief education officer realized that a soldier could be sent to fight in a war that he doesn't believe in, but that there is no way to force someone to justify the war in front of soldiers, when he himself sees it as a foolish, vile and unnecessary act from day one.
And indeed, the years that have elapsed since then proved right those who from the outset doubted the necessity and war of choice: The thousand of soldiers who were killed and injured, the vast resources that went into the war, the Sabra and Shatila affair, the undermined peace atmosphere vis-a-vis Egypt, the rise of the Shiites in the south and the formation of Hizbullah, and particularly that same PLO that was ousted from Lebanon only to return via Tunisia to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Will Galilee ever have peace?
Much blood was shed for naught, the chaos in Lebanon increased, and the diplomatic atmosphere in the region deteriorated even further. Hence, during the difficult years that followed the original name of the war faded, and Peace of Galilee simply turned into the Lebanon War.
A year ago, on July 12th, Hizbullah - the Lebanese military organization that advocates Israel's destruction launched an attack on Israel from the international border. It killed eight soldiers and captured two and began barraging the northern part of Israel with Katyusha rocket fire. I shall not repeat what happened last year, as it is well known.
Israel's forceful response to the attack was morally just, and this is also how it is perceived by most of the world, including parts of the Arab world. It is true that despite its justification, it lasted longer than it should have and revealed a host of weaknesses both in the army and in the fortification of the home front.
However, weaknesses and failures are not necessarily moral defects, just as victories and achievements are not proof of a moral advantage.
In stark contrast to its elder bloody sister, this war, which is still being called the Second Lebanon War, is actually Operation Peace for Galilee. It is taking back the original name of the first Lebanon War, which was desecrated with blood and destruction by the Begin government.
Will the Galilee ever have peace? I don't know. If this war, whose first anniversary we're marking, turns not only into a punching bag but also into a long list of urgent acts that need to be addressed, including rectifying military shortcomings, fortifying northern communities, formulating a Security Council agreement on the international border, and particularly bold moves to reach a peace agreement with Syria there is, after all, a real chance for future peace in the north.
After all, the north is much broader than we think it extends from Metula and Nahariya to the outskirts of Tel Aviv.
State schools are dying, and we know why explains Yossi Sarid. Ultra-orthodox education is taking over budgets from state schools. The result will be to turn the Zionist dream into the Zionist nightmare - the triumph of the "Old Yishuv" over Zionism.
The ultra-Orthodox parties have been disconnecting the terminally ill patient from the life support machines. This is not mercy killing, it's deduction killing: They're deducting from the state education system and adding to the ultra-Orthodox education.
About a month and a half ago, the Knesset enacted the Nahari Law, which requires local authorities to finance the ultra-Orthodox schools. This week the Knesset passed in preliminary reading the bill presented by United Torah Judaism abolishing the link between state financing and the core study program, and paving the road for generous budgetary increments.
How many times has it been said that the future is in education and nothing is more important than our children's education Not a bit of it. A stupid war and Qassams fired at Sderot bring people onto the streets, albeit not enough. A wretched decision by the attorney general brings demonstrators to the city square. The slogan, 'You're corrupt; we're fed up with you' generates a minor protest here and there. But when national education is handed to plunderers, no one utters a squeak. What do we care if our children are raised as ignoramuses, and our grandchildren as illiterates?
The mercy killing is not carried out by ultra-Orthodox Knesset members alone. Without the support of secular MKs, they would not have succeeded in pulling it off. Again they're kowtowing to Shas and UTJ. For without Shas in the coalition and without UTJ in reserve, Ehud Olmert has no government, just as Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have no chance of setting up their own governments.
Thus they are willing to sell their own mothers for their personal ambitions, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren too, while they're at it. Oh, mother, mother, what children you have raised, they are sinning against us.
This government, too, declares that education tops its priorities. In reality, it is dragging it to the lowest depths.
The politicians are selling our birthright for a mess of coalition votes.
...[CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said]"the inability of the government to govern seems irreversible," adding that he could not "point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around,"
"The government is unable to govern," Hayden concluded. "We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government that is balanced, and it cannot function."
Later in the interview, he qualified the statement somewhat: "A government that can govern, sustain and defend itself is not achievable," he said, "in the short term."
Hayden's bleak assessment, which came just a week after Republicans had lost control of Congress and Bush had dismissed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was a pivotal moment in the [Iraq] study group's intensive examination of the Iraq war, and it helped shape its conclusion in its final report that the situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating."
Among the 79 specific recommendations the Iraq Study Group made to Bush was withdrawing support for the Maliki government unless it showed "substantial progress" on security and national reconciliation. And it recommended changing the primary mission of U.S. forces from combat to training Iraqis so that combat units could be withdrawn by early 2008.
Hayden's description of Iraq's dysfunctional government provides some insight into the intelligence community's analysis of Maliki and the situation on the ground. Five days before his testimony, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley had written a memo to Bush raising doubts about Maliki's ability to curb violence in Iraq, but his assessment was not as bleak as Hayden's.
Asked by former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a member of the study group, if she was aware of the CIA's grim evaluation of Iraq, Rice replied, "We are aware of the dark assessment," but quickly added: "It is not without hope."
It gets worse...
But we knew all that already. Anyone who did not understand the nature of the disaster in Iraq, has to be deaf, dumb and blind. It is not just the Iraqi government, unfortunately, that is at fault. It is defective and amateurish US intelligence, and policy decisions that result in turning a blind eye to Syrian and Iranian meddling. It is defective US administration that keeps pouring money into a black hole, and more.
In "Israel Academic Boycott threatens Academic Freedom," John Furedy takes issue with Israel academic boycott protesters who try to reverse boycotts based on Israel's presumed lack of innocence. That is not the point, he writes. The boycotts threaten everyone's academic freedom. Anyone should have the right to speak up as they wish on any topic.
That is his opinion, but do we really want to leave ourselves defenseless against professors who teach linkage between race and intelligence based on bad data, against Holocaust deniers and other miscreants? How about even less acceptable doctrines? Does a university have the right to fire a professor who teaches the flat earth theory? Does a theology journal have the right to reject an article that insists that Molokh is the real god, and human sacrifice is the only good form of worship?
Radically principled vs. compromisingly political reactions to the academic anti-Israeli boycott: "Welcome to the fight".
At end of the classic film, "Casablanca", when Rick finally decides to abandon his neutrality with regard to the Nazi and Vichy regimes, the resistance fighter Victor Laszlo says, "Welcome to the fight." Victor's words seem apt as the academic anti-Israeli boycott, that abuse of academic freedom, continues. Anti-Semitism and other dark impulses may likely motivate the boycott. Whatever the motives for the boycott may be, however, the boycott threatens the central mission of any genuine university. That mission is the search for truth through the conflict of ideas. For academics, then, a phrase from the theme song of Casablanca is also relevant: "The fundamental things apply."
Opposition to the boycott, indeed, is incumbent on all who value a free society, in which freedom of speech is a central tenet. This tenet was recently formulated by Nathan Sharansky, who distinguished between free and "fear" or totalitarian societies. He noted that in a free society, even the most outrageous opinions can be publicly stated without fear of criminal punishment.
For those who believe in a free society, then, academic freedom on campus and freedom of speech off campus should be closely related. In particular, non- academics should not make the mistake of treating academic freedom as merely an "ivory tower" issue. Another mistake is to minimize the boycott on the grounds that it merely places Israeli professors in a sort of academic Coventry. The essence of academic freedom is, as I have argued, the right of all members of the academic community (students and faculty) to be evaluated solely on their academic performance, and not at all on their politics, religion, or citizenship. The boycott denies this right, and is therefore properly labeled an abuse of academic freedom. Those who are not direct victims of this abuse (in this instance those who do not hold Israeli citizenship or are not Jews) should not treat the boycott with indifference, or worse still, join, even in a partial way, those who threaten academic freedom. Like justice, freedom is indivisible.
It is about time someone wrote this article, called Post-Zionism doesn't exist. I wrote one like that a while back (2004): Post-Zionism: Requiem for an intellectual fad, but nobody seemed to be listening. Yoav Gelber wrote about it in Midstream, and that didn't make much of an impression. Even before all of those, Dalia Shechori wrote in Ha'aretz, in 2004 Post-Zionism is dead or in a deep freeze, and nobody paid much attention either. One of the most interesting aspect of Post-Zionism is that it is a term that seems to be applied to people, who insist that they are not post-Zionists at all. Ilan Pappe insists he is not post-Zionist. Those, like Avneri, who criticize his "post-Zionism" may be tilting at shadows. Can someone find an actual person who will say "I am a post-Zionist?" No matter, there is a lot of Israel hate around, and a lot of it shelters in the benevolent canopy of "post-Zionism."
Avnery's arguments are not quite like those of Yoav Gelber on Post Zionism , but they are pretty similar. In fact, it would be surprising if Avnery's article was not inspired by Gelber's which appeared first. However, Avnery's argument, while generally correct, is not very deep. Here's the opener:
In recent years a phenomenon called "post-Zionism" has developed in the political-intellectual discourse in Israel. Fundamentally, this is a radical criticism not just of Israel's policy; at its base is total denial of the Zionist project and of the very legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish nation-state.
Firstly, post-Zionism is no longer so recent. Uri Ram claims to have invented the term in 1993. Secondly, we can't say that Avnery is right, because there is not one, but many "post-Zionisms" - in fact, there might be as many "post-Zionisms" as there pretenders to be "post-Zionists," and they operate on two or more dimensions. Ephraim Nimni wrote:
Definitions of post-Zionism are hard to find, and when they appear they are often not consensual. Supporters and detractors attribute to it different and sometimes conflicting meanings. Chaim Waxman (1997) identifies three contrasting contributions to the term. The first is the anti-colonial argument sustained by old radical 'anti-Zionist' groups in Israel. The second results from a generational change in Israeli universities, as the generation of the 'founding fathers' retires and a new more 'eclectic' generation takes over. The third contribution results from an 'a-Zionist' interrogation of fundamental questions of Jewish nationalism, Judaism and ethnicity questions that, according to Waxman, accompanied the Zionist enterprise from its origins.
That is fair enough, and there are other dimensions too. But if that is the case, then it makes no sense to discuss "post-Zionist" critiques of Israel and Zionism as if they were all based on the same premises or had the same ideas. That didn't prevent Nimni from singing the praises of "post-Zionism." He can't tell us what it is, but he is sure it is good. Avneri probably can't tell us what post Zionism is either, but he is sure that it doesn't exist, while Gelber can't tell us what it is, and he is sure that it is bad. Here is more of Avneri:
The arguments called "post-Zionist" have various aspects - not only political but also cultural. They view Zionism as a colonial phenomenon, not as a national movement that is contending with another, Palestinian, national movement over its claim to the same territory. Some of those who are called "post-Zionists" go even further in their argument that the very existence of a Jewish people is a "narrative" that was invented in the 19th century, and that the Jews are at base a religious community. The attitude of Zionism, which has most of its roots in Europe, toward Jews from the Muslim countries is also perceived in the context of colonial exploitation.
Avneri is wise to write "The arguments that are called 'Post Zionist,'" but there is in fact a collection of such arguments and they have different bases. Avnery tells us:
This approach also wants to de- legitimize Zionism's conceptual world: Because some of the so-called "post-Zionist" arguments are drawn from the post-modernist discourse, their spokespersons understand that the terms they use have a force of their own. He who controls the terms controls the debate. Therefore they insist on referring in Hebrew to pre-1948 Eretz Israel as "Palestine;" Jews who come to live here, whom Zionist discourse calls "olim" (from the Hebrew root "to ascend"), are "immigrants," and so on.
Avneri hints at one of the problems of some "post-Zionism." Some of the "post-Zionists" like Ilan Pappe are post-structuralist and post-modernist. Neither of these terms can be defined either exactly. Attempts to define them generally go on for pages and pages with no conclusion, beyond repetition of the statement, "there is no meta-narrative." Ok, so there is no meta-narrative. There is no "God's plan" that can be discerned in history or sociology. But if there is no meta-narrative, then the Marxist meta-narrative cannot be a true description of reality either. People like Pappe, despite his denial of "post-Zionism," and other anti-Zionists like Nadia al-Hajj, turn post-structuralism and post-empiricism into post-logicalism. They are talking words and making sentences, but they don't make any more sense than Dadaism, because they start from false premises and use false syllogisms to arrive at whatever conclusions they like. They use "post-empiricism" as a blanket license to simply invent whatever suits their fancy. That is a good program for English literature, but it is disastrous as a way to analyze history and society. Pappe has said that facts only interest pedants, and that attitude is quite evident in his treatment of historical materials. There is no way to argue about facts with someone who insists that facts don't matter.
This use of post empiricism is of tremendous value to Pappe. The problem of classical Marxist critiques of Zionism was that every one of their predictions regarding Zionism turned out to be false. They predicted that no Jews would come to the land of Israel, that if they came, they would be unable to defend themselves against the Arabs, that if they were able to defend themselves against the Arabs, the Jewish state would nonetheless not be economically viable, and that it would fall apart because of irreconcilable differences between Sephardic or "Mizrachi" and Ashkenazi Jews. None of these predictions came true. It is the Arabs of Palestine who have been unable to form a cohesive society, and who have drained away billions in foreign aid with nothing to show for those sums except a proliferation of explosives and small arms. But if we can ignore facts, then none of these circumstances presents a problem to critics of Israel.
The other meaning attached to "post-Zionism" is that the Zionist movement achieved its goal in 1948, when the state was founded and we are therefore in a post - Zionist period. The notion that this can somehow support the claim that Israel ought to be dismantled is absurd. Israel is not a Lego project built by children, that was created for the sake of creating it, and that should now be dismantled.
Avneri is quite correct about the following:
At the same time, those who are careful not to accept the Zionist narrative sometimes accept the Palestinian narrative without question. To them it is clear that there is a Palestinian people, that what happened in 1948 is exactly what the Arabs say happened, and that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is, on the one hand, a Zionist "narrative," and on the other, "facts" that are precisely identical to the Palestinian narrative. This of course is absolute folly, and contradicts the principles of post-modernism itself.
More than that, any human rights violation committed by Zionism is automatically attibuted to the evil nature of Zionism itself, while even the most brutal and flagrant evils committed by Palestinians, from suicide bombings of Israelis to butchering other Palestinians and sending the "steaks" to their families, is either blamed on Israel somehow, or it is put down to an excess of revolutionary zeal or to "desperation."
Avneri misses the boat here entirely:
But there is also another aspect to all this: Those who call themselves "post-Zionists" are simply anti-Zionists of the old sort. The term "post-Zionism" sounds as though it is something innovative, which came after Zionism. However, here lies a grave mistake: For the term "post-Zionism" to be meaningful, it is necessary to start out from the acceptance of Zionism as a fact and a reality and to try to go beyond it. Thus, for example, post-modern criticism starts out from the acceptance of modernity, grapples with its dialectical outcomes and its contradictions and tries to go beyond it. This is not the case for those who call themselves "post-Zionists": They do not see Zionism and the State of Israel as a reality that has come to pass, but rather as something that is not legitimate from the outset and that must be eliminated down to its very foundations.
It is not at all necessary to accept the legitimacy of a state or social movement in order to admit that it exists. Hamas leaders admitted many times that Israel exists, but never admitted that it is legitimate. I admit that Fascism existed, but I don't admit that it was legitimate. It was a fact. Avneri is right however, that under the rubric of the various post-Zionists and post-Zionist claims, we can usually find the same old anti-Zionism.
The whole debate over whether Post-Zionism is dead, or whether it never existed, or whether it is alive and well(and perhaps hiding in Argentina) sounds a bit like the old debate over whether God is dead, or perhaps God never existed, or whether God is still going strong. These are not the sort of questions we should need to ask about social or political movements. But the term "post-Zionism" doesn't go away so easily, despite its repeated burials since 2004. Perhaps it is simpler if we leave aside some legitimate critiques of Israel and legitimate attempts to re-examine history such as those of Zeev Sternhell, Benny Morris and the late Baruch Kimmerling. They may be right or wrong, but they are not the hard-core anti-Zionists like Ilan Pappe and Jeff Halper, and the late Tanya Reinhart. None of these people may call themselves post-Zionists, but somehow their anti-Zionism has more "moxie" to it then the old Zionology line put out by the late USSR. It is the same, but different. Avneri tells us:
However, in this their claims are identical to those of the old-style anti-Zionists. These were, for example, the classical arguments Communists and to some extent also those of the Bundists: that there is no Jewish people (see, for example, Stalin's doctrine), that Zionism is an ally of imperialism and that the Palestinian Arabs are victims of Zionist aggression. Not all of these arguments are entirely baseless, and those who disagreed with them also knew that the debate was a legitimate one.
There is no reason not to repeat these arguments today, if one considers them to be correct. The intellectual dishonesty is in the attempt to create a sense of something new, supposedly "post" and fashionable: This is simply an old car they are trying to sell as though it has just this minute come off the production line of the latest intellectual innovations.
Indeed? There are two important differences. One of them is the success of Israel, which makes it vulnerable. Fifty or sixy years ago, almost every fair person (not necessarily a majority) would admit that the Jews were victims and Israel was considered an "unviable client state." Today, however, anti-Zionists can insist that the Israeli Jews are oppressors rather than victims, and Israel is considered a dangerous military monster, an affluent heartless society that exploits the poor Palestinian Arabs. Formerly it was easy to point to the Holocaust as solid proof of the insecurity of Jewish life and the correctness of the Zionist thesis. Today most of the Jews of the Diaspora have today achieved at least the illusion of comparative security. The situation of American Jews is almost as good as that of German Jews in the years preceding the rise of Adolf Hitler, though there have not yet been really highly placed Jewish officials in American life.
The Holocaust can be forgotten in the mists of time and obscured by the anti-Holocaust industry of people like Norman Finkelstein. The pogroms belong to another era entirely -- they happened a long time ago, on another planet. The Poles, the Hungarians and the Rumanians don't need to have anti-Semitic legislation. Hitler solved their Jewish problem for them. Jews can at least enjoy the illusion of "social progress." Whatever anti-Semitism still exists, can be ascribed to the evils of the Zionists. Indeed, as long as Zionism or support for Israel remains the identifiable ideology of the majority of the Jewish people, anti-Zionists have "protection" - they are mascots to be trotted out as examples to "prove" that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, and to decorate Holocaust denial conferences. Neturei Karteh ultra-orthodox reactionary extremists, who in their garb and demeanor most resemble the anti-Semitic caricature of the Jew, are ideal show-pieces for so called "anti-Zionist" projects. It is hard to imagine that someone like Hector Carreon or Hutton or Mel Gibson or Mahmud Ahmadinejad or Professor Mearsheimer for that matter, has any greater love for Neturei Karteh than they do for the Meretz party or the Likud, but it is a convenient fiction to believe that these miscreants only hate "Zionists."
There is one other circumstance that makes post-Zionism, rather than anti-Zionism, so very attractive, despite the fact that it doesn't exist. "Anti-Zionism" is a dirty word in Israel and in much of Jewish society, and in fact, in a lot of decent society of any type. It is identified with extremists, communists and bigots. "Post-Zionism" sounds ever so much more genteel and refined. "Anti-Zionism" is not really a logical position for an Israeli Jew, because an anti-Zionist Jew, who insists that Zionists stole the land of the Arabs, should not be living here at all if they carry their beliefds to their logical conclusion. A Post-Zionist Jew sounds like an entirely different proposition, even though it amounts to the same thing.
Let's say that these people have not an old car, but a horse and buggy. A horse and buggy is not too useful in the modern world, but it might be if we run out of oil to make gasoline. That explains the renewed success and virulence of modern anti-Zionism or "post-Zionism."
Iran's national interest would be to regard Israel as a strategic ally and partner because Iran does not want a Middle East which is entirely Arab. But the Islamic Republic wants to lead the Muslim world, create an Islamic superpower, and save mankind from a Judeo-Christian conspiracy. Jerusalem contains the al-Aqsa Mosque, but it is a Sunni mosque. Iranians are Shi'ites and cannot pray there because their prayers would not be accepted. So liberating Jerusalem is a totally useless project from an Iranian religious perspective.
The majority of the Shi'ite clergy, in Iran and elsewhere, are against the Iranian regime. There are more Iranian mullahs in prison today than workers or intellectuals. All of the grand ayatollahs are now bitter enemies of the regime because it is a distortion of Shi'ite theology.
Those who are fighting the regime inside Iran are mostly industrial workers, who have been on strike in many areas. Another group fighting the regime is women, who are very active, especially in hundreds of NGOs. The regular Iranian armed forces, as distinct from the Revolutionary Guards, are also unhappy with the present situation.
The real issue in Iran is how it can find a way to emerge from its revolutionary experience, keep part of it, discard other parts, and really become a nation state. Once Iran has become a nation state, instead of a country devoted to an abstract cause, then it will display normal behavior and not be an existential threat to anybody.
If there is no news, you can make your own, if you publish a large newspaper. UN denies requesting control over Shaba Farms reads the Ha'aretz headline. What happened? Ha'aretz published a report that the UN had decided Shaba farms belongs to Lebanon, and had requested control over it. Apparently, they didn't bother checking with UN sources first. So now, they get another story, which denies the first one:
The United Nations and the government denied a Haaretz report on Wednesday that said the world body had requested Israel transfer the disputed Shaba Farms area on the Lebanese border to UN peacekeepers.
"The UN has not asked the government of Israel to hand over the Shaba Farms to the UN," a UN official said.
"The UN's cartogropher continues his work and will be visiting the area shortly. The secretary-general remains engaged on the issue."
Jerusalem also denied the report.
According to the Haaretz report, printed on Wednesday, the United Nations transmitted messages to Israel in recent weeks that the organization's mapping experts have determined that the Shaba Farms on Mount Dov, now controlled by Israel, is Lebanese territory.
The report said that the UN, which has communicated to Israel that the disposition of the Shaba Farms should be dealt with as soon as possible, has proposed to senior government officials that Israel withdraw from the area and that it be considered international territory to be controlled by UNIFIL.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert oppose the idea, Haaretz said. The size of, and sovereignty over, the Shaba Farms has been a matter of controversy due to the way the border between Syria and Lebanon was marked during the French Mandate between the two world wars.
Can we think of more headlines that will bring hasty denials?
"Bush: I have ordered the U.S. Embassy moved to Jerusalem"
"King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: Saudis to open embassy in Jerusalem"
"Olmert: Israel is annexing the Golan"
"Hezbollah: We have decided to make peace with Israel"
"Livni: Israel has decided to allow Palestinian refugees to return to Israel"
"Hanniyeh: I have decided to become a Jew"
"Paris Hilton: I have discovered I am gay"
"Bruce Willis to have sex change operation"
Of course, all the above are nonsense. No doubt, each of the above would get the attention of many many readers, and sell whatever products Ha'aretz or another large newspaper is selling. And then, they can issue a denial and get a second article out of it.
Business is business after all.
Of course, the Independent and people like Robert Fisk discovered this idea a long time ago and have exploited it quite well, as has Uzi Mahnaimi at Sunday Times. Thanks to them, the world knows about imaginary Israeli uranium bombs in Lebanon, a super-imaginary ethnobomb, imaginary attacks on Iran and many more bits of journalistic fiction. It sells the product. Who cares if it is true? Somewhere there is a group of people who want it to be true, and that is enough. As Ilan Pappe tells us, "Facts are for pedants."
For some reason, this cartoon controversy doesn't get a great deal of media attention. This time, the cartoons are offensive to Jews, but they don't riot in the streets and burn embassies. Their leaders don't set them against the newspapers that published them or against Quebec which has a history of antisemitism.
There's a new cartoon controversy -- this time in Canada. And the controversy is that there hasn't been one. Some three weeks ago, in close succession, anti-Semitic cartoons-- at least two of which appeared to have been borrowed from Der Sturmer -- were published on the editorial pages of three mainstream newspapers in the Canadian province of Quebec. The cartoons concerned the meeting between Mario Dumont the leader of Quebec's opposition party, the Action Democratique du Quebec , with fundraisers who had traditionally supported Quebec's Liberal Party -- the party currently in power. Some of the fundraisers were Jewish businessmen.
"Without 'fear' tackle Tehran " - Is that headline from the N.Y. Sun, or the Washington Times, the N.Y. Post, Israel National News or Front Page Magazine? What do you think? Was the article written by a born again Christian Neocon or a Zionist settler (From Brooklyn - all Zionists are from Brooklyn, right? and they are all religious of course). Here is what this Islamophobic son of dogs and pigs and apes writes:
After Hamas, using weapons, separated Gaza from the West Bank, the Palestinian issue has become a property of Tehran. By seizing control of Nouri Al-Maliki's government Iran has made Iraq a pawn in its hands. As a result Iran is in a position where it can match the presence of the Unites States in Iraq. In other words, Tehran will gain complete control over Iraq when the US-led coalition forces leave Iraqi soil. The issue of Lebanon, which is fighting for freedom, sovereignty and independence, has also become a trump card for Iran due to Hezbollah which played the role of a Trojan horse in allowing Tehran's influence sneak into the Lebanese fort.
The battle is no longer between Iran and the United States. It now includes Iran, Israel and all Arab countries on the question of the stolen rights of Arabs. Whenever the US forces Iran into a corner over its nuclear programme, Tehran works hard to shift this battle to Arab countries. All Arab countries, except Syria, are convinced that Iran has stolen their issues.
Who is this intruder in the placid Middle East, who dares to write such things about the beloved Islamic Republic of Iran?? Who is trying to sunder the monolithic unity of the great Arabic Ouma? Is it Victor Hanson perhaps, or Alan Dershowitz, or maybe it is Dennis Ross? Perhaps it is someone like John Hagee? Fuad Ajami?
No, my friends, it is Ahmed Al-Jarallah, editor in chief of the Arab Times in Saudi Arabia.
It is worth reading the whole article, so here is the rest of it, and you can write and thank him:
THE entire Arab world is in danger after becoming the epicenter of Iran's policies. Iranian dictator Ayatollah Ali Khameini's aggressive policies confirm our fears. Many issues, which concern only Arabs, have now fallen into the hands of Iran. After Hamas, using weapons, separated Gaza from the West Bank, the Palestinian issue has become a property of Tehran. By seizing control of Nouri Al-Maliki's government Iran has made Iraq a pawn in its hands. As a result Iran is in a position where it can match the presence of the Unites States in Iraq. In other words, Tehran will gain complete control over Iraq when the US-led coalition forces leave Iraqi soil. The issue of Lebanon, which is fighting for freedom, sovereignty and independence, has also become a trump card for Iran due to Hezbollah which played the role of a Trojan horse in allowing Tehran's influence sneak into the Lebanese fort.
Currently Iran is trying to extend its aggressive policies to all Gulf countries and Egypt in a bid to use this economically vital region as an ace up its sleeve in its negotiations with the United States, when the time comes. This raises the question: why are Arab countries not taking any steps or holding a summit to wrest control of these issues, which essentially belong to them? Arab countries have not done anything except send Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Mussa to Lebanon where he achieved nothing. Leaders of all Arab countries should hold a summit to prevent Iran from stealing Arab issues. They should tell Tehran to focus on its internal affairs instead of interfering in the affairs of other countries.
The battle is no longer between Iran and the United States. It now includes Iran, Israel and all Arab countries on the question of the stolen rights of Arabs. Whenever the US forces Iran into a corner over its nuclear programme, Tehran works hard to shift this battle to Arab countries. All Arab countries, except Syria, are convinced that Iran has stolen their issues. Iran policies, which were active in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon are now expanding to cover Egypt and Gulf states. We cannot forget the three islands which rightfully belong to the United Arab Emirates, the recent assault on a Kuwaiti diplomat in Tehran or who made the Palestinians die twice once at the hands of Israelis and the second time at the hands of their own brothers. Are these reasons not enough for the holding of an Arab Summit to hit the head of the snake in Tehran without any fear?
In Whose suffering is greater? Yoram Kaniuk meditates on the reciprocal relations between Jews and Palestinians. Citing Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, he notes:
Darwish is an extraordinary poet; he is bitter, often hateful, has a sense of humor and much wisdom, and hints that the Palestinians don't really interest the world. Those who actually interest the world are the "bad" Jews and their treatment of the Palestinians. And who on earth really takes an interest in the Arabs of Bahrain or in the suffering of the Arabs of Saudi Arabia where women's repression and religious fanaticism is rife? Who takes an interest in the Sudanese, who are currently killing more people a day than the number of Palestinians killed in a year?
Had it not been for Israel, even the Syrians would not have known that they threw live people out of planes. And when Jordan massacred thousands of Palestinians in what was termed Black September, the matter didn't spark much international interest either.
And he goes on to say:
If Darwish's interpretations are correct, then the Israeli-Palestinian covenant is a blood covenant and the bloodshed turns the two peoples into one inseparable chunk. Perhaps one day we'll join forces against the world and then they won't be liked either. I am not talking about who is more right.
The late Israeli-Palestinian author Emile Habibi maintained at the time that what really preoccupies us is who is suffering more. I once attended an Israeli-German-Palestinian meeting in Germany. A poet or perhaps a Palestinian author said passionately that "you the Jews don't know what suffering is." Ida Fink, the great Jewish Polish author who attended the meeting, said that we do in fact know a little about suffering. ...
Although I do not regard myself as a man of morals and I don't really believe there is any justice in history or politics, I sense and honor Darwish's harsh justness. Perhaps now, with the passing of so many years, he understands that the Jews haven't been particularly liked over the past 2000 years but because of them, the Palestinians are now liked a little more. After all, overseas news broadcasts are headed by two Palestinians shot by Israelis.
Perhaps the Palestinians are fortunate; if they are now liked so much worldwide, they should allow us to keep acting brutally, insensitively and cruelly in our hundred year war. And perhaps they will get lucky and win; perhaps then we'll throw them into the sea.
There is so much self hate amongst us that it's hard to believe that our just attempt at Zionism will succeed in the long run. And when we lose our faith in our justness, and we shall no longer be around, they will become the victors and they will be less liked, and we perhaps will be liked a little more. And the party suffering more will once again be us, not them, despite the fact that when we were being murdered no one took an interest in us.
Ben Gurion said (not verbatim), "Never mind what the gentiles think. The question is, what are we going to do?" Don't we need more Ben-Gurion thought?
Predicting that war with Syria could erupt if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not begin peace negotiations with Damascus, the latest IDF assessment also states that such a conflict would be "at least 10 times worse" than last summer's conflict with Hizbullah.
IDF has other work too:
Military Intelligence is also identifying and pinpointing targets for the IDF in the event that a strike is launched against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Another study by The Israel Project (TIP, it was briefly mentioned in my Friday column) gives me an opportunity to delve, yet again, into the complicated issue of America's public opinion toward Israel. The study was conducted by Stan Greenberg of Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner and Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies. Bottom line: A marked increase is evident in Democrats' support of Israel. But there's much more to it than just that.
1. Support has increased among Democrats by six points (35 percent in January, 41 percent in June), but decreased among Republicans (three points) and Independents (five points)....
But here's the most interesting phenomenon: When the question of providing utilities is asked separately, and the interviewees are given two options ("Despite the fact that Hamas wants to destroy Israel, Israel still has a humanitarian obligation to continue to provide Gaza with electricity and water" or "Because Hamas wants to destroy Israel, Hamas should be forced to get electricity and water from Egypt, or on their own, unless they recognize Israel's right to exist"), most Republicans (64 percent), Independents (56 percent) and Democrats (54 percent) think that Hamas should be on its own.
However, if the same question is asked in a different manner - "do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Despite the fact that Hamas wants to destroy Israel, Israel still has a humanitarian obligation to continue to provide Gaza with electricity and water" - Republicans tend to disagree (55 percent), Democrats to agree (59 percent).
Among Israel strong supporters, the second version will provide for only a small majority of people supporting the option of severing all ties (53 percent to 42 percent).
The same thing is true regarding how news is presented. "Israel kills five Gaza Teenagers" is not going to get the same reaction as "Israel kills five terrorists trying to launch Qassam rockets." Unfortunately, the first version is the headline most likely to appear in most media.
But Olmert, speaking at a joint press conference with Prodi, said, "Israel's position is clear: we will never be able to resign ourselves to the possibility that a state threatening the destruction of Israel will have nuclear capabilities."
"Iran, through the voice of its president [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, calls almost daily for the destruction of the State of Israel. A country like this cannot, under any circumstances, possess unconventional capabilities, and everything must be done to prevent this," Olmert continued.
At the press conference, held at Olmert's Jerusalem residence, Prodi echoed the prime minister, saying "Iran must not develop nuclear military capability. Because Iran is a regional power, it must act responsibly, and give up any nuclear military program."
Does this mean Israel would have no problem if Saudi Arabia or Egypt acquired nuclear weapons? Saudi Arabia is officially still at war with Israel, but they don't call daily for the destruction of Israel, while Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel. Suppose that Iran were to build a sufficiently threatening conventional army and navy, wouldn't that be just as bad as nuclear weapons, or worse? The likelihood that Iran would use nuclear weapons in the vicinity of Jerusalem is much smaller after all, then the likelihood that it might try to attack Israel with proxy guerrilla forces, as it did this summer, or by other means that can be equally destructive.
Aren't we focusing on the wrong aspect of the problem? Iran is a danger to Israel and the region because of what it believes, with or without nuclear weapons. It is not the case that Iran would be dangerous if it acquired nuclear weapons. Rather, Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons because it is a dangerous pariah state.
The trend toward delegitimizing Israel's existence as a Jewish state is growing not only in Europe, but also in the United States, according to Jewish-American academics and community leaders.
You don't say? Our fearless leaders have discovered what was under their noses, and has been growing thanks to their own neglect. Palestinians and their supporters understood that enlisting the support of outsiders: "progressives" and especially Jews, would be a key factor in aiding the violent struggle that was contemplated in 1998.
"Popular resistance, which is likely to bring back the intifada, will simultaneously lead to building alliances and grassroots organizations, like the ones that emerged spontaneously in the early days of the original intifada (which was snuffed out by the PLO leadership in Tunis). If this succeeds by the turn of the century, this new post-patriarchal liberation struggle will regain the human face of the first intifada and win the support of progressive forces the world over, including the support of progressive Jewish forces in Israel and the United States."
A self-fulfilling prophecy.
The strategy of attacking "apartheid" and seeming to attack the occupation while actually attacking the existence of Israel was enunciated clearly many times. For example, this was described as the basis of the Boycott Israel campaign:
"- The legitimacy of Israel's regime must be challenged...
- There is no chance to change Israeli society from within, we are at a dead end and Israeli society is becoming increasingly fascist.
- We are dealing with the dismantling of power, and the question is how to convince this power to voluntarily dismantle....
Targets of boycott and sanction should be the state of Israel, but also Zionist organizations and corporations:
- There is corporate responsibility related to sanctions, divestment, boycott. For example, Caterpillar and Intel (on Iraq al-Manshiyya.). Campaigns should also target the Zionist organization ('National Institutions'), such as WZO, JA, JNF, which are major perpetrators and maintain discrimination inside Israel."
Jewish groups did nothing as divestment and boycott campaigns were set up, and the Electronic Intifada and other Web sites were started, and meetings were organized on campuses, in labor unions, churches and other interest groups. The strategy of subversion was admitted and explained by ISM-PSM, which is one of the most successful efforts. They told their people to enter church groups and act like Ned Flanders.
In any case, the "Israel advocates" are swamped by hundreds of well run extremist Web sites (and corresponding campus, union and church activism) of every persuasion: Leftists, Fascist anti-Semites, pro-Palestinians, Jewish anti-Zionists. From Stormfront to Israel Shamir, from Neturei Karteh to Indymedia, from Susan Blackwell to Stephen Sizer and Ali Abunimah, from counterpunch to abbc.com and radioislam, the politics and religion do not matter. They all have in common the fact that they hate Israel.
I described the situation on the Web two years ago, when the Zionism Web project was started:
Systematic delegitimization of Zionism has been "Politically Correct" since the infamous UN "Zionism is Racism" resolution of 1975, and it has not abated. This situation is mirrored on the World Wide Web. Depending on the day, five or six of the ten first links retrieved by a Google search for "Zionism" are anti-Zionist polemics, including some obnoxious racist diatribes. "True Torah Jews Against Zionism," the top-ranked Web site, represents a tiny minority of medieval Jewish religious fanatics who insist that only their view is correct and brands every other view as heresy. Another site offers us the following enticing introduction: "What Zionism is -- and its pernicious influence upon the USA."...Here is another: "A Crude Attempt To Equate Anti-Zionism With Anti-Semitism ... Jewish Persecution - A Primary Tool Of International Zionism."... Many of the Web sites that insist they are not racists and that criticism of Zionism is not racist, have links to Mein Kampf, Protocols of the Elders of Zion and similar racist materials.
The situation is hardly better today, though we have managed to make a tiny difference for the keyword Zionism.
But these puny little efforts, on both sides, did not seem to merit the attention of grandiose self-important functionaries, who insisted on business as usual. "Israel advocacy" has been largely confined to organizing lectures to preach to the converted, to taking out advertisements in mainstream media and issuing hysterical press releases at press conferences. This may flatter the egos of the advocates and enrich their organizations, but it does little for the cause.
A small group of volunteer Zionist activists, many of them right wing extremists, generally represent the cause of Israel on the Web, on campus and elsewhere. They can't possibly communicate with ordinary folk who do not share their right wing views, don't want to buy "I am a conservative" T-shirts and don't think God promised Israel to the Jews from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. Their efforts tend to confirm the anti-Zionist slander that all Zionists are neo-con reactionaries intent on conquering the Middle East. Extremist "Zionist advocacy" played right into the hands of the campaign to delegitimize Israel, by insisting that Zionism is identical with support for the occupation and extremist positions.
Those who think the Web is not "real" need to understand: The Web then, in 2004, represented "reality" in the making. The people reading about "Israeli Apartheid" and the "pernicious nature" of Zionism were not virtual people, but real people.
What we saw at the end of 2004 and in 2005, the flood of unrestrained hatred on the Web, is now being translated into a flood of Boycott Israel resolutions and initiatives. The constant repetition of the phrase "Israel Apartheid" in Web sites, in campus demonstrations and literature derived from Web sites, and at little meetings everywhere filtered its way up through the echelons of respectability, until the time was right for Jimmy Carter to take Israel-Hate Mainstream. According to this article, Abe Foxman of the ADL believes" that Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which was published last November, had a much greater impact than did other publications." That is true, of course. But Carter's book built on all the grass roots "contributions," and so, of course did Walt and Mearsheimer's, "Israel Lobby." What was once hidden is now respectable.
It will get worse, unless something is done. Evidently the people responsible for defending Israel do not understand how public opinion is nurtured, how little grass-roots efforts are pooled and maginified to culminate in a large effect. They will go on with the old model of Israel advocacy, which seems to be mostly about appearing at "functions" and collecting honors, and launching empty PR campaigns like the "Israel Branding Campaign" with maximum visibility and minimum effect.
To quote the article:
'Reinharz [Jehuda Reinharz, President of Brandeis University] said that he is worried by the lack of effective response to anti-Israel publications.
"I see no combined effort to fight this by the Jewish organizations, and in truth, I myself don't know how this could be done," he said.'
Professor Reinharz, it is not rocket science, to coin a cliche. If the other side is winning and we are losing, we must be doing something wrong. In fact, we are doing just about everything wrong.
Study what the other side has done so effectively, and do the same.
Part of what is wrong is the sociology of Jewish organizations, and the Israeli government and the way they make decisions. Campus activism, Internet, union activism and interfacing with local church groups are all "small potatoes." They aren't glamorous enough for organizations that need to have splashy annual meetings to show the Jewish lobby at work, and honor the "machers," the Jewish functionaries. They are beneath the dignity of people who are used to fixing matters in private audiences at Number 10 Downing Street and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. These people won't listen to new suggestions. "Why spend ten thousand dollars on unproven schemes, when we can spend a hundred thousand on splashy PR and speaker programs that we know certainly don't work? Where is the "kavod" (honor) in an Internet Web site or a demonstration?" "Why enlist leftist Zionists in defending Zionism? They are all traitors anyhow?"
Something can be done, but it won't be done unless Jewish leaders change their way of thinking, or unless we get different Jewish leaders. Israel advocacy has to start speaking to unconvinced people in the language that they understand, and in the places where they listen: on campus, in the internet, in unions and women's groups and church groups. We are fighting genocidal barbarians who throw people from the roofs of buildings, and yet they manage to make out that we are the "bad guys." We must be doing something wrong. We have an almost air-tight case that is based on international law and human rights, but almost nobody is making that case, because they are too busy defending the occupation and fighting "leftists."
The trend toward delegitimizing Israel's existence as a Jewish state is growing not only in Europe, but also in the United States, according to Jewish-American academics and community leaders.
Anti-Israel attacks are even beginning to affect Jewish supporters of Israel, who have been accused of trying to silence public debate, they said.
This trend toward delegitimization will be one of the topics discussed at a conference on the future of the Jewish people that opens in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning.
The conference, which will be attended by researchers, heads of Jewish organizations and senior Israeli politicians, was organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.
Avinoam Bar-Yosef, JPPPI's director general, said that anti-Israel attacks in the U.S. constitute a "long-term threat" to Israel's standing, American Jewish organizations and the pro-Israel lobby.
"Public attention is currently focused on Europe, due to initiatives like the British academic boycott," he said. "In the U.S., the problem is still under the radar. But as a planning institute, we believe that it is necessary to formulate policy on this issue now."
Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz told Haaretz that American academics are at the forefront of those denying Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
Veteran advocates of this position, such as Tony Judt and Noam Chomsky, were joined last year by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, both from reputable academic institutions, who charged that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) dictates American foreign policy.
Their article, which generated shock waves, is being turned into a book, which is slated to be published in September. The fact that a respected publisher paid Walt and Mearsheimer an advance that is thought to have totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars attests to how hot the publisher thinks this issue is, Reinharz said.
"My feeling and that of many people following Walt and Mearsheimer and other publications is that we are at the start of a new era with regard to attitudes toward Israel in the U.S.," he added.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, believes that Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which was published last November, had a much greater impact than did other publications.
"In the past, people who said that Jewish supporters of Israel control the media and politics belonged to the margins," he said. "But after former president Carter said it, it gained legitimacy in the mainstream.
Today, the debate is already on questions such as to what extent the Jews dominate."
Foxman said that Jews who challenge anti-Israel attacks find themselves accused of undermining freedom of expression.
"I received letters from professors who claimed that when I accuse someone of anti-Semitism, I am trying to silence public debate," he said. "When the president of Harvard University said that the delegitimization of Israel helps anti-Semites, he was accused of silencing public debate.
No one would have dared accuse him of this had he been talking about racism or xenophobia."
Reinharz said that he is worried by the lack of effective response to anti-Israel publications.
"I see no combined effort to fight this by the Jewish organizations, and in truth, I myself don't know how this could be done," he said.
'Come to Jerusalem to talk' was the message of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in an historic interview to Saudi satellite station Al Arabiya, aired by Channel 10 Monday evening.
In his first appearance on a major Arabic news station in over six years, Olmert, speaking in an office adorned with the blue and white Israeli flag, told his Hebrew-speaking interviewer: "Bashar Assad, you know You know I am ready to hold direct negotiations with you and you also know that it's you who insists on speaking to the Americans. The American president says: 'I don't want to stand between Bashar Assad and Ehud Olmert. If you want to talk, sit down and talk."
Assad has "heard many things from me already," Olmert added.
When asked where he would hold such talks with Assad, Olmert said "any place he [Assad] would agree to meet," hinting that Assad would even be welcome in Jerusalem.
Channel 10 analyst Zvi Yehezkeli remarked that Al Arabiya's broadcasts are transmitted following approval from the Saudi government. He added the network was planning to follow up on Olmert's interview with interviews with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal and eventually, Assad himself.
Several weeks ago, during Olmert's visit to the US, American President George W. Bush, in Olmert's presence, was asked if he would mediate between Israel and Syria in an attempt to warm the truce the two countries observe since 1973 into a full-blooded peace treaty. Bush's response was that Olmert "is plenty capable" of achieving such a goal without US help. The Syria Accountability Act, isolating Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism, was passed during Bush's tenure. Despite visits to Damascus by house speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressmen earlier this year, Bush keeps contacts with Syria cool. However, the US still keeps an embassy in Damascus.
Participants in the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism work on innovative ideas at the program's home in Jerusalem
By Uriel Heilman
JERUSALEM (JTA) When Eli Winkelman first had the idea of transforming her weekly challah sale at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., into a charity benefiting Sudanese refugees, she thought it would be a cool way to sell a few extra peanut-butter loaves.
Winkelman never thought the idea would galvanize hundreds of students to write letters to their lawmakers about the genocidal campaign in Darfur, raise $30,000 for the refugees, spark interest in replicating her Challah for Hunger program at campuses from coast to coast and earn her a mention in a speech by former President Bill Clinton.
"People who aren't involved anywhere else in Jewish campus life think baking challah to help people in Darfur is cool," she said. "It becomes a steppingstone for people who are getting in touch with their Jewish roots."
Two-and-a-half years after starting Challah for Hunger, and weeks after graduating from college, Winkelman, 22, is pondering her next big move. She is one of 18 fellows spending time in Israel this summer participating in the PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism.
The brainchild of another pair of young innovators, Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz, both 27, the institute is a six-week summer program in Jerusalem for a select group of enterprising 20- and 30-somethings from Panama to the West Bank all of whom are looking for ways to change the Jewish world with fresh ideas.
Organizers of the institute hope the program, which they dreamed up several months ago, will serve as an incubator for creative Jewish concepts.
The idea is to produce great Jewish achievements not just as a result of the training the fellows receive in such fields as Web publishing, podcasting, grant writing and business development, but also as a result of the synergy among talented people working together.
"There is so little Jewish leadership development," Beery said. "There is so much talk about it, but there isn't really an intensive skill-building workshop for these kids to come in and get the skills they need. We want to open up new paths for them. The idea is to have professional development for these innovators.
"It's the next paradigm for Jewish collective existence," he said.
It's basically the same idea as another recent gathering in Jerusalem, the Global ROI Summit, where 120 young Jewish innovators from all over the world assembled for a four-day meeting of the minds.
Run under the auspices of birthright israel and the Center for Leadership Initiatives, the summit also offered participants workshops in building online communities, publishing webzines and making films.
But the primary goal appeared to be networking. Computer geeks mingled with bloggers, filmmakers dissected Kafka with doctoral students and artists shared their creative visions with anyone willing to listen over a glass of wine.
"The idea is to train emerging leaders in the Jewish community," Yonatan Gordis, director of programs at the Center for Leadership Initiatives, said over cocktails at sunset in the Israel Museum sculpture garden. "Here in Israel they have a chance to engage, cross-country and cross-topic. They think collectively."
Participants came from Russia, Latin America, Israel, the United States, Australia, South Africa pretty much anywhere there are Jews. There were TV reporters, Webmasters, Hillel directors, CEOs of start-up companies, environmental activists, Israel advocates, museum programmers and, of course, an assortment of Jewish community professionals.
A few of the Creative Zionism Institute fellows were there, too. "It's an interesting group," said Jeremy Kossen, 34, founder of the recently launched Jewish culture and entertainment site JewTube.com.
Promoted as "Facebook meets YouTube for Jews," JewTube aims to become the central address for Jewish entertainment, culture, education and advocacy insofar as it can fit into a five-minute video clip.
Kossen said he originated the idea when he couldn't find relevant, interesting Jewish multimedia content on the Internet. He said the summit was helpful mainly in getting his new Web site widespread attention in the Israeli media.
Philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, who sponsored both the ROI summit and the Creative Zionism Institute through the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, said participants in these events are the rising stars of the Jewish people.
"I'm sorry I don't have the time to sit and visit with each and every one of them," she said.
Schusterman said it's no coincidence that the programs are in Israel.
"One of the tracks of the summit is Israel advocacy," she said, "and Israel is the Jewish people's home." Horwitz, of the Creative Zionism Institute, said Israel should be the creative platform for the Jewish people. As the co-editor of BlogsofZion.org, he also was one of the ROI fellows.
"Israel is a hub for the Diaspora. In Israel we have the spirit, wisdom, knowledge and social capital to take the next step forward in Jewish collective life," he said.
Beyond all the argot and hype, it appeared as if something indeed was being accomplished at 3 HaRan St., where the Creative Zionism Institute is housed in an apartment turned dormitory with a broadband Internet connection.
Wires crisscrossed the floor where one fellow sat tapping out computer code for an easy-to-use Web-based publishing system, while another, Matt Barr, worked on Bible-inspired rap music (http://mattbar.com/music-43.html).
Horwitz said the institute is modeled on high-tech incubators, where people with promising ideas are given the resources they need to succeed and make money for their investors.
In this case, he and Beery said, the dividend is new and improved Jewish life. "We're trying to create 360-degree solutions for Jewish problems," Beery said, speaking rapidly and peppering his monologue with the latest buzzwords.
"The Jewish world is at a crossroads right now, with the information age affecting entire humanity, but specifically the Jews, who are spread around the world," he said. "We're trying to unify the Jewish world and create new ways for the Jewish world to think, act, work and program."
A lofty goal, Beery acknowledged as he took a breath, but one worth aiming to reach.
Perhaps, he admitted with a yawn, it's why he finds so little time to sleep.
NGO Monitor tells us about French funding of political NGOs, and in part they are right. However, let's face it, attacking Doctors without Borders is like attacking mom's apple pie. Only the attacker stands to lose. Apple pie is still going strong.
French Government Funding of Political NGOs
Summary: The French government provides local and international NGOs with substantial financial support, in addition to its support for the Palestinian Authority. Many of these NGOs, which claim to promote human rights, democracy, and development are in reality engaged in intense political advocacy campaigns directed against Israel, in contravention of French governmental funding guidelines. This report provides an overview of French funding mechanisms and NGO recipients in a method similar to previous NGO Monitor analyses of NGO funding by the European Union, Norway, UK, and Sweden.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversees development aid and NGO assistance for the French government. Direct oversight is handled by the Ministry's Directorate General for International Co-operation and Development (DGCID) . The Mission for Non-Government Co-operation (MCNG), which reports directly to the DGCID, is the direct contact for NGOs, local authorities, and enterprises looking for French development co-operation funds. The French Development Agency (AFD) implements and directs funding to NGOs for activities relating to health and education.
Separately, the French Government gave €1,500,000 in 2005 to the PA for "social development" through its Development Aid Fund. This money, given over a period of 48 months, was directly channeled to Palestinian civil society in supporting 29 projects of Palestinian NGOs and 9 projects of Palestinian municipalities. The names of the NGOs that received these funds are not available on the French government website, reflecting a lack of transparency. 
In addition, the French Consulate in Jerusalem lists projects supported by the Social Development Fund in 2006 - 2008. (1) a water project in Qabatya, (2) financing of agriculture near Jéricho, (3) development of the Palestinian Farmers Union, (4) different activities in three refugees camps, and (5) three cultural projects. (The NGOs involved in these projects and supported by the SFD –are not listed on the website of the French Consulate in Jerusalem.) 
The League of Human Rights (LDH), one of the most important members of FIDH, claims to be "fighting against every form of violation of human rights, in all the fields of civilian, political and social life."However, the LDH provides frequent one-sided condemnations of Israeli responses to terror and is active in publicizing calls for political action to be taken against Israel, in direct contradiction of EU funding guidelines.
LDH's selective use of emotive terminology such as "war crimes,""collective punishment," and "violations of international law" when referring to Israel reflects the NGO's political and ideological bias. Not only does the subjective application of these terms constitute a violation of LDH's mandate as a French government funded human rights network, but is evidence of the NGO's prevailing double standards.
Another document of the Platform, entitled "Elections 2007: The position of the Platform of French NGOs for Palestine,"  calls for sanctions against Israel, Israeli respect of international law, the recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of the PA, and the destruction of the "Wall." Additionally, the document states that the "cycle of violence imposed by Israel since the election of the Hamas…requests action by the International Community."
However, the CCFD's response to the 2006 Lebanon war clearly demonstrates the politicized stance this NGO adopts with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict. During the war, CCFD chose to focus exclusively on Israeli actions, virtually ignoring the numerous internally displaced citizens in Israel and Hezbollah's deliberate targeting of civilians. The emotive language of the following titles indicates CCFD's bias: August 12, "Lebanon under the bombs;" August 5, "Ravaged Lebanon, fragile Lebanon and fearsome projects;" August 3, "Days of darkness;" August 1, "Lebanon, let's pray for Peace and Justice;" July 27, 2006, "Lebanon, if an immediate end of hostilities is possible, it is then a duty;" July 27, 2006 "Middle East: let's stop violence, fear and hate;" July 19, Lebanon-Gaza, "The two faces of a same war;" July 15, 2006, "The real aim of the war in Lebanon;" July 15, 2006, "Hostage taking, Lebanese arrested in Israel and Israeli strikes in Lebanon;" July 13, Peace in the Middle East, "Stop violence, protect civilians and ending warring speeches."
Since its creation in 1994, Coordination SUD has amassed a membership of roughly one hundred NGOs, including the politicized CCFD and Care France. Coordination SUD has two central missions: (1) helping French NGOs to be more involved in international debates through better work with French public authorities and (2) strengthening French NGOs and facilitating their access to funding. In 2003, Coordination SUD received 423,300 euros for "public development" from the MFA. 
In November 2006, Coordination SUD published an article called "Stop the massacre of the Palestinian people," which stated that "the brutality of Israeli aggression against Lebanon has traumatized the international community." The article also described Gaza "as a real prison where the inhabitants are always under a pitiless blockade and ceaseless raids of the Israelis." Also in November 2006, Coordination SUD published an article called "Massacre in Gaza," which discussed the "disproportionality of Israeli attacks" and the "strategy of asphyxiating Gaza."
III. French Funding for International NGOs
In addition to the mainly French-language NGOs it funds, the MFA provides significant financial support to France-based organizations with strong international mandates. Furthermore, the MFA's website indicates clearly the close relationship it has with politicized Palestinian NGOs such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
MdM is a humanitarian medical NGO founded in 1986, with the motto "There are no right or wrong victims." Funded by the MFA, MdM's 2005 budget was nearly €40 million, 72% of which came from private sources.
Additionally, MdM joined 21 other politicized NGOs including Christian Aid,Oxfam, and World Vision Jerusalem, in signing a statement "expressing…alarm at the continuing construction of the Wall in occupied Palestinian territory and the misery it is causing the Palestinian people." The statement included emotive descriptions of the security barrier, the "irreparable damage to the economy and living standards of Palestinians" and the "irreversible trends to the social fabric of the West Bank." However, the statement made no mention of the separation barrier's role in preventing terrorist attacks or of Hamas-led PA's continued refusal to renounce violence or recognize Israel.
By funding NGOs that promote radical anti-Israel political positions, rather than structural change within the Palestinian framework, the MFA undermines its humanitarian goals. In addition to the close relationship between the MFA and PNGO, the politicized Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is supported financially by the MFA through the General Consulate of France in Jerusalem, having received $78,460 in 2004. PCHR was founded in 1995 as "an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law, and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territories." While PCHR is active in criticizing the Palestinian Authority's failure to protect human rights, NGO Monitor reports have demonstrated the extent of PCHR's political activities and propagation of an anti-Israel agenda in the media and international organizations. In its publications, PCHR routinely accuses Israel of committing war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and collective punishment, while also actively participating in boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel.
The French government should seek greater accountability of the NGO recipients of MFA development funds to ensure that its NGO partners are utilizing their funding in conjunction with the aims of the MFA. The creation of new guidelines to prevent misuse of French governmental funds would help to remedy this situation.
This portrait of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni in the New York Times is truly inspiring. It is certainly not the Tzippy Livni you will find in the hysterical rants of Caroline Glick. On the other hand, so many of our leaders sound good, but don't translate the sounds into action.
Soon after our first meeting in her Spartan office in Jerusalem, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, called me. Something was on her mind. A lawyer by training, she does not like to leave loose ends. I had asked her if the four years she spent in Mossad, the intelligence service, made her a disciplined person. Livni had seemed taken aback by the question, which interrupted the cascade of her pronouncements on Israel and its Palestinian nemesis. After a long hesitation, she said: "I don't like this phrase, a disciplined person. I don't know. I don't know."
Now, an hour later, she wanted to set the record straight. "I was thinking about this idea of me as a disciplined person," she began. I perched myself on a stone wall near the King David Hotel and listened through a blustery desert wind. "There are other parts of me that are different. I prefer jeans to a suit, sneakers to high heels, markets to malls. You've just returned from Paris: I prefer the Quartier Latin to the Champs Ãlysées. In general, I don't like formality at all. It is just part of what I do. You know, when I was young, I went to the Sinai and worked as a waitress."
I had not known this detail about a woman who entered Israeli politics only 11 years ago, the first to serve as foreign minister since Golda Meir and a potential prime minister. Nor was it easy to imagine the tall, well-groomed 48-year-old I had just met, in her gold-belted black pants, her crocodile-skin shoes and her snug black jacket, donning denims and sneakers and hitting a flea market.
But Livni's phone call was telling. Israelis these days fret about how they are seen. They like to convey the spirit of the underdog that of Israel's heroic beginnings as if discomfited by the adornments of an increasingly moneyed, Americanized and postheroic society. More powerful than ever, Israelis are also more anxious than ever, a paradox with U.S. parallels that they find maddening. Israel's strength and wealth grow, but the country's long-term security does not grow with them. The shekel rises; so does the billowing smoke just over the border in Gaza. Two Israeli withdrawals, from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005, have ended up bolstering two groups that the West and Israel brand as terrorists Hezbollah and Hamas. Some Israelis, watching the black-masked militia of Hamas take over Gaza, have taken to calling the benighted sliver of territory "Hamastan."
The mother of all conflicts the 59-year-old battle for the same land of Zionist and Palestinian national movements has become even more tangled. It has been dragged into the wider crisis of Islamic civilization that daily spawns fervid death-to-the-West jihadists. To a Palestinian national struggle for a homeland, there is an answer, at least in theory. To a religious and annihilationist campaign against Israel, there is none. One of Livni's catchphrases is, "There is a process of delegitimization of Israel as a Jewish state." She sees herself in a race against time.
To manage that race, she wants to lead. Her diplomatic energy, not least in helping put together the multinational United Nations force now in Lebanon, has impressed in capitals from Washington to Europe. Her restiveness is clear. After the spring publication of the Winograd Commission's interim report on the 2006 Lebanon war, which lambasted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for lacking "judgment, responsibility and prudence," Livni told him he should quit but did not resign herself. She also said she would one day stand for leadership of their centrist Kadima Party. This unusual act of defiance toward her boss, widely criticized as only half an insurrection, was a measure of Livni's ambition, impatience and lingering uncertainties.
"Stagnation works against those who believe in a two-state solution," Livni said in our first conversation. The West, she suggested, needs to tell Hamas, the Islamist movement battling Fatah for control of a Palestinian movement now split between Gaza and the West Bank, that it must not only recognize Israel's right to exist but also "the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, which is not that obvious anymore."
The Jewish state has been tied to the Livni family with a special bond since zero hour. For Livni, personal history is national history. Her parents were among the first couples to marry in the newborn state, the day after its foundation, on May 15, 1948. Her father, Eitan, served as operations chief for the Irgun, the Zionist guerrillas who used what would today be called terrorist methods to blast the British out of Mandate Palestine. Her mother, Sarah, was also an Irgun fighter; she suckled her daughter on visions of Eretz Israel, the biblical "Land of Israel," including Judea and Samaria on the West Bank. Territorial compromise for peace had no place in the family lexicon. It was the weak talk of the peaceniks.
Yet here is Livni wanting to follow Meir and become the second woman to serve as Israeli prime minister, precisely in the name of a peace that would involve the surrender of West Bank land. On the face of it, she has moved a long way from her political starting point. "I want things to happen," she said, "especially when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel's values, the way I believe is the right way." And to achieve that, you want the top job? "Only for this," she replied. "I don't like the exposure, the respect and so on."
Her voice trailed away. Livni's ambition is matched by only her bouts of self-effacement. You feel her presence in a room. She is striking, in a raw rather than a refined way, broad-faced, pale-eyed and slender. She is also strikingly confident in her lucid expositions of what she believes the Middle East needs. Stretched tight, like the membrane of the drums she recently took up playing, she exudes a tense energy. But when the conversation turns to her personal feelings, she shrinks, the "eehhhs" and "ummms" drawn out as she gathers her thoughts.
What she has, at a time of disorientation and seeping corruption in Israeli politics, is an image of absolute integrity, the distinction of being a woman on a male-dominated political scene and a wholesome quality that stands in contrast to the slick, wheeler-dealer style of Olmert, whose approval ratings have plunged into the single-digit zone.
Genuineness is her thing. At Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial museum, Livni, who is married with two sons, had this to say two years ago: "Being a Jewish mother is to understand with the birth of the second son how impossible and inhumane is the choice between the two." And this: "Being an Israeli is to know that you have risen from the ashes of those who were killed and knowing you have a responsibility for the coming generations."
Gil Samsonov, an advertising executive who has known her for many years, put it this way: "Her brand is clean. She's not looking left and right to see whom to please." But Israelis are looking desperately for someone who can please them. The report on the Lebanon war crystallized the country's disorientation. How could Hezbollah have repulsed the Israeli Defense Forces? How could the country's defense minister at the time, Amir Peretz, have had, as the report put it, no "knowledge or experience in military, political or governmental matters?" How can Olmert and his finance minister be facing investigations for corruption? How is it that the former justice minister got himself in trouble over sexual-harassment charges, the same issue that just brought down the president, Moshe Katsav? Is Israel far from David Ben-Gurion's model state of "working people, at home on the soil" becoming just another tawdry commercial country with an oversize army?
To all these interrogations, Livni, competent and decent, seems to provide a possible answer. "She comes from a different place with a special, strong love of Israel," says Dita Kohl-Roman, a friend. Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist, agrees: "There is an Israeli authenticity about her."
Authenticity was a core quality of Ariel Sharon, Livni's political mentor, the last of the heroic breed of warrior-politicians. He liked her industry and loyalty. His imprimatur bolsters her because at a time of national self-questioning, his loss is keenly felt. It was with Sharon that Livni made her fundamental ideological break: from a defender in the right-wing Likud Party of an Israeli state on all its biblical land to the idea of land for peace, embodied in the evacuation of Gaza in 2005 and the promise of a further withdrawal from the West Bank.
This shift the reason for Sharon's, Livni's and Olmert's centrist Kadima Party, created in late 2005 was rooted in a simple calculation: an Israel that wants to remain Jewish and democratic cannot also be despotic on occupied territories where Palestinian demography is against it. "There were three ideological goals for families like Livni's and mine: Greater Israel, a Jewish state and democracy," says Arye Naor, a political scientist whose father also fought in the Irgun. "Well, it became clear you could have any two of them, but adding a third condemned the enterprise."
That is logical. A Greater Israeli democracy will end up not being Jewish because there will be more Arabs in it than Jews. Livni likes logic. As her adviser Tal Becker put it to me, "She believes constructive ambiguity can become destructive ambiguity." So it was she who, working for Sharon, wrote the program of the now-governing Kadima. And it is she who pushes hardest to spell out to Palestinians the concessions they must make.
"Just as Israel was established for the Jewish people and gave refuge to them from European and Arab states, so a Palestinian state is the homeland of the Palestinian people, those who live in the territories and those who left in 1948 and are being kept as political cards in refugee camps," she told me. "This is the national answer. The solution for Palestinians is the Palestinian state. Israel is not part of the solution."
Or, put another way, there can be no "right of return," a central canon for Palestinians since the war of Israel's foundation in 1948. That year, the United Nations declared in Resolution 194: "Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date."
History moves on, of course. About 1 in 10 Palestinians alive today and registered as refugees with the United Nations was born in Mandate Palestine. A Palestinian return en masse would condemn the Jewish state. In that sense, Livni is only stating the obvious. Whether such bluntness is helpful is another question. Palestinians are not about to trade one of their biggest chips up front. "What Livni wants us to do is give up before we start negotiations," says Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. "I feel sorry for her. She wants to remove all risk, all fears, before engaging in discussion."
But Livni can be relentless a "nudnik," or nagger, in the words of Igal Galai, a friend of Sharon's. When Livni called me back after our first meeting, something else was eating at her: "I was minister of immigrant absorption in 2004, and I convinced Sharon that it was important that I go see Condoleezza Rice in Washington. So I went, and I saw how she was interested in the depth of the conflict, in finding a real process and doing what was right and just. I had the opportunity to convince Rice, then national security adviser, and so make a contribution to the statement President Bush made soon after."
In that groundbreaking statement of April 14, 2004, George W. Bush declared: "It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel." No American leader had ever so explicitly trashed the "right of return" of the Palestinians. "That was my contribution," Livni revealed to me. "I did the right thing and so did Bush."
Livni seems to share many things with Rice, who calls the foreign minister a "friend" and a woman of peace. They have the same intensity and work ethic, the same difficulty in thinking beyond a doctrine once it has been formed, the same disciplined intelligence that sometimes appears to lack the subtlety of wisdom and the same penchant for talking about "values" and what is "right."
But I found myself thinking, What good was the "right thing" or plans for Palestinian refugees festering in camps or Bush's two-state road map or Rice's principles or Livni's good intentions, when the whole area spiraling downward with a devilish energy, developing ever-more-divergent Israeli and Palestinian narratives, splintering and radicalizing in the image of Iraq, threatened by a resurgent Iran, permeated by jihadists without borders was going up in recrimination-clogged smoke? I believed in Livni's good faith, her energy, her honesty, her determination. What I was not sure about after our first meeting was her grasp on reality. The fact is, Israelis and Palestinians have parted company. I could see little evidence that Livni, for all her lucidity, was any exception to this.
When you drive from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv on Route 443, which cuts through Israeli-occupied West Bank territory, walls accompany you. Not merely the "security barrier," as Israel calls the 430-mile-plus high-tech fence it is building to keep out Palestinians (who call it "the racist, separating wall"), but a variety of other bulwarks, of wire and concrete and brick. The barriers exist in the name of security, security, security no escaping the Israeli mantra. To some degree, they have delivered. Palestinian suicide bombings have all but ceased. But of course they betray insecurity, a gnawing condition Israelis once thought they might overcome but now tend to view as inescapable.
Also accompanying you along the route is a procession of concrete pillars holding aloft the high-speed-train track that will one day connect the two cities in a half-hour or so and perhaps relieve the clogged traffic and swearing drivers inching across the country. Israel, as this megaproject and national bottleneck suggest, is booming. Its stock market keeps climbing. Areas north and south of Tel Aviv amount to the Middle East's Palo Alto. An emblematic act of the new Israel was the decision of Dan Halutz, then the armed-forces chief, to offload his stock on the eve of the Lebanon war. Materialism now does battle with Zionism for the Israeli soul Moshe Dayan requiescat in pace.
I suppose this is natural enough. After double-whammy intifadas, Oslo's aborted peace process, Camp David's near thing in 2000 and repeated illustration of the prodigious Palestinian penchant for self-destruction, the temptation to imagine you are in California-with-fences is understandable. Israelis once conducted a daily argument of Talmudic intensity about how to settle with the Palestinians. Now many just say, To heck with them and their festering stew of a failed and now bifurcated Hamas-Fatah prestate!
"The left saw that its outstretched hand had failed, and the right saw that its iron fist has failed, and they have both veered toward a center that now says: 'Go away. Let's build a bunker and wait and see,' " Shlomo Avineri told me. "The fact is, Yasir Arafat did not set up a state; he set up a means to continue the struggle. And Israel did not prepare for Palestinian statehood; it went on building settlements. Each believes only the language of force works in the end."
This ultimately futile belief is part of what makes Israel such a jangled place these days, its "fantastic economic bubble," in the words of the former diplomat Itamar Rabinovich, hovering over unease. "The country is in good shape, and the mood is in bad shape," Shimon Peres told me. Peres, who joined Kadima from the left rather than Livni's right, says he believes the mood is sour "because we have failed to bring Israel and the Middle East into a new age." No kidding. Islamist fanatics rave about restoring the Caliphate, and Hamas talks of seeing off Israel the way Crusaders were once seen off: you can hardly get more "Old World" than that. But a "new age" Israel is equally vigorous, if less often in the news.
After meeting Peres, I found myself at a dinner party with Yossi Vardi, a dot-com millionaire who made a bundle from one of the first Internetwide instant-messaging services. "Israel became very fertile ground for young people with ideas," Vardi told me. "More than $1.4 billion in venture capital came in recently. The place is crazy a technology boom alongside a very unacceptable political situation and chaos in Gaza, where most of the population is living on under $2 a day. It's not right or sustainable." He took a sip of a respectable cabernet sauvignon Israeli winemaking is on the rise (from a low base) before adding: "You know, power corrupts, and occupation is the ultimate manifestation of power. There are no checks, no balances. Occupation, after 40 years, corrupts absolutely."
Livni has a different view. "I don't think the way Israel behaves is against Israeli values," she insists. In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March, she said, "I believe that we are defined as individuals, as leaders and as nations by our values and by the choices we make to defend them." She sees Israel side by side with the United States in "a struggle for the future of the free world."
As this language suggests, a lot of her intellectual energy goes into placing Israel within the Bush administration's post-9/11, us-and-them Weltanschauung, as an integral actor in the war on terror, battling on the side of liberty against a Palestinian threat that gets agglomerated with Al Qaeda and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran regardless of the differences between seeking Palestine and seeking the annihilation of the West. Livni sometimes seems to pursue the development of a Pavlovian response to the Middle Eastern conundrum. Say "Israel." Ping! American values. Say "Palestine." Ping! Terror. "I would like to remind the world that they entered our restaurants, our discotheques; they killed children in their beds," Livni told me. "I can understand, and I can feel, the grief of a Palestinian mother. The loss of a child or a family member is awful. It is the same pain. But in any legal system, there is a difference between premeditated murder and somebody who kills by mistake."
She continued: "These terrorists are looking for children to kill while we are trying to avoid it. It is unfair to pitch together in the same package, to say there are victims on both sides, circles of violence and so on. That does not contribute to a solution. When the Palestinians think that the world's judgment is 'O.K., this can happen,' they will never stop. They need to know that the world cannot accept it, that terror is terror is terror."
It is precisely to stop terror, Livni emphasized, that the wall has been built against the wishes of the Israeli far right, who saw in it a division of Zion: "Yet when I am in Europe, I hear Palestinians saying this is ghettoization, this is the Berlin Wall. And I say, at the end of the day, when you are talking about a two-state solution, what do you think? There is going to be a border, a fence, something."
But where? Livni brought out a map to make her point that a return to the precise 1967 lines as U.N. resolutions and the Arab peace plan reiterated this year in Riyadh demand was impractical. Given certain Israeli settlements, what Bush in 2004 called "already existing major Israeli population centers," and the eventual need to somehow link Gaza and the West Bank (Livni favors a tunnel), the border would have to shift some. So, she said, perhaps the barrier, which often zigzags inside the West Bank to separate Jewish settlers and Palestinians, could even be helpful.
"Palestinians oppose this even before they know where the line would be," she mused. "There sometimes seems to be a contradiction between what Palestinians demand, what they claim and the way they act." Palestinians, however, have no monopoly on self-contradiction. Israelis Americanized but still in an existential struggle, terrified of annihilation but now the region's overwhelming superpower, often blinded by the wall to what is perpetrated behind it can sometimes resemble studies in unreason garbed in the practiced language of Western reasonableness. At times I wondered to what degree Livni had really moved from her hard-line, Likudnik beginnings.
At the Nahalat Yitzhak Cemetery in Tel Aviv, lilac petals lie scattered on the dusty earth, and old cypresses form a solemn cortege. It is a beautiful oasis in an unlovely city. At one corner is a gravestone with an unusual engraving that of the whole biblical Land of Israel with a gun and bayonet cutting through the center and the words "Only Thus!" This is where Livni's father, Eitan, who died in 1991, is buried. He insisted in his will on this Irgun symbol.
He was a tough purist, and his only son, Eli Livni, the foreign minister's brother, appears to have inherited some of his no-nonsense directness. "In the Livni family," Eli says breezily, "your father and mother never hug you. What they give you is a good, formal education." This upbringing involved occasional beatings with a belt (for him) and rigorous instruction in honoring principles. The Livnis were outsiders, a test of their moral fiber. Throughout the children's education, the Labor Party was dominant. The left-wing Palmach, whose commanders included Yitzhak Rabin and Dayan, held places of honor in accounts of the state's creation. The rightist Irgun, by contrast, was marginalized. Its political successor, the right-wing Herut Party, founded by Menachem Begin and others in 1948 and destined to evolve into Likud, was also sidelined. As an Irgun hero, Herut militant and close friend of Begin, Eitan Livni long stood on Israel's political margins.
"Tzipi got into trouble at school at the age of 12 when a teacher was talking about the glorious role of the Haganah and Palmach, and she stood up and said, 'What about the Irgun and the Stern Group?' " Eli says. "Her teacher contacted my mother and said Tzipi should not argue about facts."
Most Saturdays, the Livnis would go to Begin's tiny Tel Aviv apartment. Tzipi (short for the biblical name Tziporah) recalls conversations centering on "stories from the past, frustration from the present and hopes for the future." The frustration was about exclusion: the way promotions in the army depended on being in the Labor Party and getting ahead meant praising the Labor prime minister, Ben-Gurion, rather than Vladimir Jabotinsky, the spiritual father of Likud and a Livni family hero.
"In the history books, they were not there; they were the enemy in a way, being rightists," she told me. "On May 1, which is Labor Day, everyone was out with their red flags, and I was the one walking with the Israeli flag."
From an early age, in other words, Tzipi Livni lived with the sense of being distinct, the need to be willful if she was to be heard and the example of a hero-father not about to hug her. Mirla Gal, who would reach the top of the Mossad during a 20-year career, met Livni in first grade. She recalls the curiosity of other kids at Livni's membership in the Betar scouts, a group founded by Jabotinsky. Gal, like most Israeli children, was in the mainstream scouts movement, called Tzofim, where the songs and heroes were different.
"We were curious because her world wasn't ours," Gal said over lunch at a beachfront Tel Aviv restaurant. "Even then she was principled. When I was 12, she turned vegetarian and has been ever since." Gal gazed out across the broad beach to a glittering Mediterranean hard to believe it was the same tranquil sea a few miles away in seething Gaza before adding, "You know, she drives herself very hard and always demands a lot of herself."
"Too much?" I asked.
Gal paused. Prudence gets ingrained during two decades in Israeli intelligence. "What Tzipi asks of herself, she asks of others," she said finally. "She has a very high threshold for trust, but once it's there, you're O.K. I understand because I am the same way. You have to be straight. She was raised in a house where these things were fundamental. She grew up in a very Zionist home. She loves this country so much. That is what drives her."
The driven quality was quickly apparent. Livni was a very good soccer player, a very good basketball player, a tomboy who would go nuts when her brother hung her beloved cat out the window. Her father was rarely around, working nonstop in a glucose business, trying to raise money after work for the widows and war-injured of the Irgun. He was a dreamer a quality Eli also sees in his sister, who has hung a photograph of their father, in pensive profile, as the only adornment of her foreign minister's office.
"My father expressed a combination of values," she told me, sitting in that office. "There was the understanding that the whole land of Israel was our heritage, but the other part was the need to respect others, not to control others' lives. And because of the need to make a combination of these values, not to bring them into contradiction, I got to my own conclusion, that there is a need to divide the land." That step was a long time coming. After the 1973 war, as a teenager, she took part in demonstrations against Henry Kissinger's peace plans. Giving up land, any land from Sinai to the Golan Heights, was unacceptable.
In the army, Livni excelled, and at training school she was twice elected most-outstanding officer. Gal took part in the same training; she observed a toughness that impressed everyone. This, combined with impeccable nationalist credentials, made Livni an ideal candidate for the Mossad, which she joined in 1980 at the age of 22. "I brought her to Mossad," Gal says. "She was very good at everything she did and only left by her own choice. She could have had a 20-year career there too. The smartness, the coolness, the speed of analysis, the straightness these are prized qualities in Mossad."
Livni will acknowledge only that she served in Paris. Did the Mossad experience influence her? "No, no, no," she said, laughing uneasily. Nothing? Nothing, she insisted.
Her brother once visited her in the French capital and found her enrolled as a student in the Sorbonne, behaving in the strangest ways. "I came all the way from Lagos, where I was working in construction, and stayed for two days, and I think I saw her for one hour," he recalls. "She would get these phone calls and say, I have to go, I have to go, and she'd rush off, and so in the end I said, O.K, I'm out of here."
Livni wanted a more normal life. She left Mossad in 1984 and settled down in Israel. She completed a law degree and married Naftali Shpitzer, who now owns an advertising agency. They took up residence in a small apartment in Tel Aviv, not far from where she grew up. A first son, Omri, now in the army, was born soon after; a second, Yuval, followed. When I saw Livni a second time, in Tel Aviv, she said the seashore was where she felt at home. "But," she added, "my existence here comes out of the connection between me and Temple Mount. This is the umbilical cord. It comes from Jerusalem."
The biblical Jewish heritage again: you cannot take it out of Livni; it is part of her Likud inheritance. As she says, "Likud was my home, almost literally." Her father had an office in the Likud building; her own law office was also there. Just before Begin's rise to power in 1977, ending three decades of Labor hegemony, her father was elected to the Knesset, but politics did not grab Livni until the Oslo peace accords of 1993 cast her into inner turmoil. Once again, as in childhood, she felt alienated.
"Society was split and full of hatred, and I found myself in between two camps," she told me. "One was the historical right of the Jews on the whole land of Israel and keeping the entire land." Livni touched her heart. "This was my history, my heritage. On the other, I saw the left wing thinking we could live in a new Middle East, happily ever after. But I thought they were unrealistic, even if I saw we would have to give up some land to preserve the dream of Israel."
On balance, she could not support Rabin's push for peace. Oslo, even before Rabin's assassination in 1995, was an illusion to her because it involved signing a memorandum while leaving the tough issues Jerusalem, land and refugees to last. The lawyer in her bridled. "The advice can never be just to sign and leave the most difficult parts to the end," she said.
Livni's first campaign for the Knesset, in 1996, failed narrowly, but she caught the eye of the Likud prime minister, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, and served as the head of a privatization program that helped stir Israel's current economic boom. Netanyahu ceded to Sharon as mentor after Livni was elected to the Knesset in 1999. At various ministries Regional Cooperation, Agriculture, Housing and Construction, Justice and Immigrant Absorption she acquired a broad political education. Her efficiency and energy paid dividends. A vicious clash as justice minister over Supreme Court appointments she delayed the naming of anyone after her own choice was resisted and so drove some judges crazy amounted to one of few ripples.
"She was a Likud princess, coming from the family she did, and Bibi pushed her, and then Sharon pushed her, and here we are," says Zalman Shoval, a prominent Likud member and former ambassador to the United States. "I don't know whether Sharon ever thought of her as a future prime minister. I doubt it, because he only thought about succeeding himself. But she was good for him."
As the collapse of Oslo and Camp David ended the left's dreams of a warm peace and the second intifada hardened views across the country and 9/11 cemented Israel's antiterror alliance with the United States, Livni came to represent a realist, rightward-shifting center. Disengagement from Gaza became the new face of firmness, a "test case" on the road to possible statehood for the Palestinians. She glided upward, spared most of the rough and tumble of politics.
As a result, doubts have lingered about whether she has what it takes to prevail. "There's nothing Clintonian about her, no familiarity or touch with crowds," says Majalli Whbee, a Druze Knesset member who served as her director-general at the Ministry of Regional Cooperation. "I've talked to her about this, told her not to put herself behind glass, and she agrees." Shuval also wonders if she has the needed "fire in her belly." Still, looking ahead to an election that is most likely to come within a year, given the government's weakness, he acknowledged, "A Kadima Party led by Livni is much more formidable opposition for Likud than one led by Olmert."
That Livni will realize her ambition is possible. She could be chosen to lead Kadima into the next election and triumph. Israeli politics are unpredictable. But her motivational dream of a two-state peace one at odds with the Greater Israel map on her father's grave still seems far-fetched. Putative Palestine is remote and riven and receding. Whether Palestinians, even the moderates now gathered in an emergency West Bank government, will prove susceptible to her ideas is far from clear.
You don't so much drive into the Palestinian territories these days as sink into them. Everything, except the Jewish settlers' cars on fenced settlers-only highways, slows down. Donkeys, carts and idle people replace Israel's first-world hustle-bustle. The buzz of business gives way to the clunking of hammers. The whole desolate West Bank scene, described recently by the World Bank as "a shattered economic space," is punctuated with shining garrisonlike settlements on hilltops and checkpoints where Palestinians see themselves reflected in the stylish shades of Russian-immigrant Israeli soldiers. If you are looking for a primer on colonialism, this is not a bad place to start.
In Jericho, where thousands of foreign tourists would arrive daily when the "peace of the brave" of Rabin and Yasir Arafat still held, a luxury hotel is almost empty; Palestine-in-embryo is a hard sell for tour operators. On a windblown street stands a rundown building with the Orwellian name of Negotiations Affairs Department. In it sits Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.
He looks brisk in his yellow tie. When the phone rings, it is the Jordanian foreign minister; they discuss Rice's postponing another trip. Erekat, a senior Fatah member, has an acerbic wit. "I try my best to understand the Israelis' fears and aspirations, but they can get too complicated for me," he said. "Every day there's something going on, like the cats outside my window at night, and I never know if they're making love or fighting or both!"
Erekat laughed. There was desperation in his hilarity, a trace of the hysterical. "But the Palestinians are worse!" he continued. "All you hear is shouting; all you see is chaos and lawlessness, the mess in Gaza." He paused, eyes flitting to the Yahoo e-mail account on his computer screen. "But amidst all this, something else is developing. There are 70-percent-plus of Palestinians who go with the two-state solution, even if nearly 50 percent of Palestinians voted for Hamas. Those same people condemn suicide bombing. Look, negotiations are over. It's time for decisions!"
He has a point. One odd thing about the Middle Eastern impasse is that a clear majority of people on both sides agree more or less on the outcome: two states, Israel and Palestine, divided along the 1967 borders adjusted to conform with agreed territorial swaps; an inventive deal on Jerusalem allowing both sides their measure of the sacred; massive compensation for Palestinian refugees not wishing to return to nascent Palestine; and perhaps a stabilizing role for a third-party force.
Unlike in Ireland, where peace has broken out without agreement on whether Ulster should ultimately be Irish or remain British, the bedrock lineaments of an accord exist. In that sense, Israel-Palestine is easier than Ireland. But the loud, absolutist, ruthless minority always prevails, and Bush's with-us-or-against-us school in Washington does not believe in probing absolutism, as currently embodied by democratically elected Hamas, to find where it might cede to compromise.
Erekat calls himself the "most disadvantaged negotiator since Adam negotiated Eve." He has no army, navy or economy. His society is split. "I don't stand a chance with a U.S. senator," he noted. The impact of Israel-loving evangelicals, the Jewish lobbyists of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the post-9/11 conflation of global and Palestinian terror has made selling Palestine in Washington about as easy as selling the North Korean economic model. That has simplified life for Olmert and Livni.
Any real U.S. pressure on Israelis to reach out to Palestinians has been intermittent at best. This, along with finding viable Palestinian representatives, is a core problem that Tony Blair will confront in his new post as special Middle East envoy for the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The cause of peace has paled. After "Gaza first," at the time of Israel's disengagement in 2005, has come the new cry of "West Bank first." It has the ring of desperation.
"Palestinians are tired of the no-partner-for-talks symphony," Erekat said. "Livni has an interlocutor in me and Abbas. We don't ask why Israelis choose Labor or Kadima; she doesn't need to ask about Hamas. With a decent peace accord, we can go to a referendum. Moderates would win. That would be Hamas's fig leaf. But Livni has to learn that peace and settlements don't go together, walls and peace don't go together and nothing is solved until everything is solved."
Livni says it is the Palestinians, especially those in Hamas, who must do the learning. They need to learn to side with moderates against jihadists. They need to accept the West's basic demands: renunciation of terror, recognition of Israel and respect of previous Palestinian-Israeli accords. They need to learn that pushing for refugees to return to Israel amounts to questioning Israel's existence: a 1948 rather than a 1967 issue.
Arab states, unlike at Camp David in 2000, can help the Palestinians to make these compromises "by saying publicly what they say behind closed doors." They can contribute to a "political horizon" a favorite Livni-Rice phrase by "opening bureaus of interest in Israel." If they fear a nuclear Iran, as Sunni states from Jordan to the gulf do, they should support Israel as a bulwark of moderation.
Since the collapse of the Palestinian national unity government, Livni says she is more hopeful. She welcomes Blair's arrival. The new emergency government in the West Bank, headed by a Palestinian she admires, Salam Fayyad, "offers a clear distinction between moderates and the extremists of Hamas in Gaza." As a result, she says, "we can negotiate, starting with short-term issues, like freeing up money and easing life for Palestinians in ways that do not affect our security."
At the same time, she continues, "we can start looking at long-term issues, the nature of a future Palestinian state, our common denominators." But can Abbas and Fayyad deliver when Hamas controls Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians live? "As usual, we are choosing between bad options," she says. "But we must grab this chance if we don't want to lose the West Bank to Hamas. The Arab League, the world, must work with the moderates and strengthen them right now."
Livni's ideas are clear. But, I asked her in our first meeting, are you good at persuading people? "Eehhh, ummmm, yes, I am good at persuading people," she managed in that quieter voice, before declaring that she does not like to speak about herself and finally mustering, "In convincing the other, I try to start from their point of view, so it's easier for me to find a common denominator."
Their point of view: this is the key. I tried to imagine Livni donning her jeans and sneakers and, instead of hitting a market, taking a look at the scene outside Erekat's place: the dry riverbed with its pile of plastic bottles and discarded tires, and beyond that a brick factory going to seed, and beyond that the sleepy sprawl of Jericho, and beyond that the checkpoints with their daily humiliations, and still farther the snaking path of the wall-cum-fence cutting the beauty of the ancient hills like a blade. What, I wondered, would she feel and how might all this impact her formulas?
Palestinians have failed themselves. Their hand in their misery is decisive. They could have had about half of the land back in 1948. At various points since then, they could have had more than the roughly 22 percent now up for negotiation. But Israelis, justifiably proud of their open society, need to scrutinize the closed autocracy just over the wall. If they will not look at the devastating physical evidence of 40 years of occupation, it is unclear how they can grasp, and so perhaps begin to turn back, the rise of Hamas and Islamic extremism.
"Hamas is ready for a two-state solution," says Barghouti, who served as information minister in the Hamas-Fatah unity government. "They will say so when Israel recognizes Palestinians' rights as equal human beings. But the Palestinian government that Israel wants is a government of collaborators working as subagents for Israeli security. And I can promise you they will never get that."
Sitting in his Bethlehem office, he continued, "No walls are ever permanent, and this one destroys the idea of a two-state solution because it kills the option of a viable Palestinian state. In fact it leads to only one alternative: a binational state in which we are a majority because our population grows at 4.2 percent a year and theirs at 1.7 percent." It won't happen, of course, but the insidious one-state talk is a measure of the conflict's dangerous drift.
In May, the month before the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza from Fatah, Livni gathered international ambassadors to Israel for a briefing at a Tel Aviv hotel. Hamas rockets launched from Gaza were raining down on the Israeli town of Sderot; Livni's message was that the situation had become unbearable. "Enough is enough," she declared, appealing for determined pressure on terrorists "so that the Palestinian people will understand that this is something which is not tolerable."
She also gave expression to a particular Israeli disquiet: "Israelis must know that the international community does understand we are under attack. It is so important to Israel to know that our right to defend ourselves is supported and that you understand that there is suffering here, and not just among Palestinians."
Israel built on the Zionist dream of gathering in the Jews and so normalizing their status through the attainment of sovereignty was supposed, as Avineri has written, not only to take the Jewish people out of exile but also ensure that exile was "taken out of the Jewish people." After the millennia of marginalization and Auschwitz, it was supposed to create what Ben-Gurion called "a self-sufficient people, master of its own fate," rather than one "hung up in midair." In some measure, it has.
But as Livni's appeal for sympathy suggested, all the great achievements of Israel have not yet ended Jewish precariousness, Jewish annihilation angst the inner "exile" of the Jew. Israel remains, in Livni's words, "a nation struggling to realize our basic right to a peaceful coexistence." She told me that "in a Europe without borders, people are questioning what the meaning is of a Jewish state."
Its moral authority compromised by a 40-year occupation, its kibbutznik uniqueness compromised by a globalized consumer culture, its future compromised by the gathering appeal of jihadist dogma, Israel stands at a crossroads. "Something deep has to change," says Dahlia Scheindlin, a pollster. "We can't any longer be the victims rushing to proclaim we're being obliterated and ending up obliterating others." The Diaspora Jew did not go to Zion to build the Jew among nations.
Livni, with her umbilical attachment to the Zionist idea, gets this. She gets the need to hurry to some resolution with the Palestinians in order to stop the erosion of the Israeli raison d'etre. Watching her in that hotel conference room, beneath the attentive gaze of dozens of ambassadors, I had to admire her. Each point was made with punch, not least that Hamas was rearming in Gaza with Hezbollah in Lebanon as a model. "She is very professional, in good standing and taken very seriously," Jakken Biorn Lian, the Norwegian ambassador, told me.
My admiration was redoubled because May had been a bad month for her. Her high-wire act after the Winograd Commission report, telling Olmert he should go without going herself, had brought a wave of media criticism, much of it sexist. She was described as being fit only to run a women's volunteer group. The onslaught was a fair reflection of the sexism she also encountered within the heavily male cabinet as she tried to resist another bombing raid on Lebanon.
A few days after her not-quite-oust-Olmert push, Yariv Reicher, a consultant, told me: "I'll take her as my lawyer or friend, but to lead here you have to have something hard to describe, something Sharon and Begin and Rabin had, something from the innermost person that gives you hope, an answer to your pain. She needs to speak from her guts."
But it did take guts for Livni to tell her boss he should quit. Rows between Israeli prime ministers and foreign ministers are nothing new: each vies to control the Washington relationship, the one that counts. But Olmert-Livni represents a new level of poison. When Sharon had his crippling stroke last year, both she and Olmert were in position to take over the Kadima leadership. Livni stepped aside and was rewarded, she feels, with contempt. Livni's testimony to the Winograd Commission amounts to a portrait of humiliation. Requests for meetings with Olmert at critical moments in the war are refused; she is told to "calm down" when she does see him; she is forced to watch the prime minister chat to the chief of staff as she is talking; and she is long frustrated in her quest for a diplomatic outcome.
"The situation is very sensitive," she told me when I asked about Olmert during our first meeting, adding that in the end "it is not about me and the prime minister but the crisis in our society." What she had said "was exactly what I wanted to say, no regrets. I chose the words. I know that people want blood. That's nice, but. . . ."
Resilience tends to pay in Israeli politics. Netanyahu has bounced back at the head of Likud, and even Ehud Barak, the former prime minister who fell from grace after his peace efforts collapsed, has returned as Labor leader and defense minister. Many saw a rite of passage in Livni's grilling by the media. Her rise had been too smooth; this painful episode would toughen her. "Of course she will come back," says Igal Galai, the friend of Sharon's who watched her emergence. "Right now in Israel, I don't see anyone better."
Doubts persist over the future of Kadima, bereft of its creator, Sharon, and beset by corruption. But Livni says that she still believes in the neophyte party. She did not leave Likud to follow Sharon, she insists. She left "because there is a need to promote a peace process" and Likud is a party "whose ideology starts with the word 'no.' " Israelis are questing for new hope. Whether Netanyahu's Likud or Barak's Labor can provide that is open to question: both speak of yesterday.
Dita Kohl-Roman has watched her friend's evolution closely. Livni used to shut off any conversation about becoming prime minister, but the Lebanon war was a turning point. Such crises pose the question, Can you take this do you want the job enough? "And a few months later we sat in a Tel Aviv coffee shop," Kohl-Roman told me, "and she said she was ready to run for prime minister and that she had gone through an inner process and was prepared." She says she believes that to win Livni "must get over her uptightness, go through a process of loosening. And then I hope our society can encompass someone who represents something so good and decent as our leader."
Livni can rise above her inner constraints. In a speech in 2005 that riveted the nation on the 10th anniversary of Rabin's death, she declared: "I did not elect or choose Rabin, but he was elected to be the Israeli prime minister, the prime minister of my country. . . . Law, ladies and gentlemen, is not a technical issue. It is the full expression of a precious system. Specifically, in a time when Israel is fighting for its existence, we cannot allow ourselves to forget the aim, the common denominator and the shared values that are all the meaning of the existence of Israel: a national homeland for the Jewish people, a Jewish and democratic state. These two values are connected to each other. This is the thing that connects us with each other."
Those words in my head, I strolled through Rabin Square, which has all the beauty of Warsaw at the height of Communism. In one corner is a small shrine to Rabin at the spot where he was murdered on Nov. 4, 1995. An inscription says that here Yitzhak Rabin was murdered "in the struggle for peace." Another says, "Peace shall be his legacy."
Alongside these words is a photograph, seemingly from a faraway era, of Rabin shaking Arafat's hand beneath the sunny gaze of President Bill Clinton. I found myself fighting back tears: how much had been lost since then and how close Israelis and Palestinians had come. A peace of the brave it was; it is brave to see beyond grievance, hurt and history to the innocence in every child's eye.
Might Livni and Israel rise to bravery again and might Palestine find a leader to accompany such courage? There are few encouraging signs, but Livni has not given up hope. "Each of us can live with our narrative, so long as we are pragmatic when it comes to the land," she says. "I still believe in our right to the whole land, but felt it was more important to make a compromise. We cannot solve who was right or wrong in 1948 or decide who is more just. The Palestinians can feel justice is on their side, and I can feel it is on my side. What we have to decide about is not history but the future."
If Israel doesn't vacate the strategic Golan Heights before September, Syrian guerrillas will immediately launch "resistance operations" against the Golan's Jewish communities, a top official from Syrian President Bashar Assad's Baath party told WND.
The Baath official, who spoke on condition his name be withheld, said Damascus is preparing for anticipated Israeli retaliation following Syrian guerrilla attacks and for a larger war with the Jewish state in August or September. He said in the opening salvo of any conflict, Syria has the capabilities of firing "hundreds" of missiles at Tel Aviv.
"Syria passed repeated messages to the U.S. that we demand the return of the Golan either through negotiations or through war. If the Golan is not in our hands by August or September, we will be poised to launch resistance, including raids and attacks against Jewish positions (in the Golan Heights)," the Baath official said.
This is the latest in a mountain of reports that Syria is preparing to start a war, just as was announced last summer by Bashar al-Assad. These reports are greeted with equanimity by Israel, and seem to be ignored by the United States and everyone else. Of course, they could be a bluff If the war comes, everyone will be asking "what were we thinking?" It is doubtful that Israel has an effective defense against the missiles Syria is preparing, which may be armed with biological or chemical warheads.
What Syria wants, evidently, is not the Golan Heights, but rather negotiations over the Golan Heights that must be mediated by the United States. The United States doesn't want to 'engage' Syria, Therefore this route, which would probably yield nothing, is blocked. On the other hand, it doesn't want to really confront Syria either, over its role in the insurgency in Iraq, its role in the "accidents" that keep happening to its opponents in Lebanon or its role in fomenting problems in the Palestinian authority.
Israel should be actively offering and pursuing peace through direct negotiations, while at the same time preparing for war. Very likely, Israeli war plans revolve around the same failed "strategic bombing" policy of the Lebanon war. Bombing poor countries doesn't work. They don't manufacture their own weapons or industrial equipment. They import them from abroad. Bombing them only produces an international outcry about "civilian casualties."
The United States and the EU should make it clear that any Syrian attack on Israel will be considered a violation of Chapter 7 of the UN charter, and will be met by international sanctions and force if necessary.
Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, as well as Britain and other US allies outside the Middle East, have to face the fact that the US is not going to stay in Iraq, as voices within the Republican party are increasingly questioning continued US presence in Iraq, according to the New York Times:
White House officials fear that the last pillars of political support among Senate for President Bush's strategy are collapsing around them, according to several administration officials and outsiders they are consulting. They say that inside the administration, debate is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.
Mr. Bush and his aides once thought they could wait to begin those discussions until after Sept. 15, when the top field commander and the new American ambassador to Baghdad are scheduled to report on the effectiveness of the troop increase that the president announced in January. But suddenly, some of Mr. Bush's aides acknowledge, it appears that forces are combining against him just as the Senate prepares this week to begin what promises to be a contentious debate on the war's future and financing.
Four more Republican senators have recently declared that they can no longer support Mr. Bush's strategy, including senior lawmakers who until now had expressed their doubts only privately. As a result, some aides are now telling Mr. Bush that if he wants to forestall more defections, it would be wiser to announce plans for a far more narrowly defined mission for American troops that would allow for a staged pullback, a strategy that he rejected in December as a prescription for defeat when it was proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
"When you count up the votes that we've lost and the votes we're likely to lose over the next few weeks, it looks pretty grim," said one senior official, who, like others involved in the discussions, would not speak on the record about internal White House deliberations.
Of course, the pull-out proponents have to understand that a U.S. pullout from Iraq will mean the collapse of U.S. presence in the Middle East, with all that implies for every U.S. ally in the Middle East, and with all that implies for supplies of oil to Europe and the U.S., and yes, with implications for Israel too. That's the way the cookie crumbles. There is no way to avoid the issues in the long run.
Miliband: And I think that, I said on Tuesday that I thought the bedrock of the UK government's approach to the Middle East and specifically the future of relations between Israel and a future Palestinian state were threefold.
First, the two-state solution is something that we have to keep on reiterating our support for and not least in the context of what's happened over the last three or four weeks. It's nearly 40 years since the passage of Resolution 242. We've got to remain faithful to that.
Secondly, we've got to support the efforts of those who are peacemakers and those committed to peaceful processes, and thirdly we've got to engage in an economic social and humanitarian agenda. And I think in the short term that yields some very, very clear priorities, not least to support prime minister Fayyad and president Abbas in building Palestinian institutions that can represent the aspirations of all the Palestinian people. .... Well everybody wants to avoid a deepening pit of anarchy, as you put it. Every single state and every single person in the region has got a huge interest in avoiding that. Equally, the quartet principles ask for a basic measure of engagement and that's why I say that the first part of the bedrock of our approach is a commitment to a two-state solution, you've probably got tired of people saying it. But actually, given that we've got a very clear idea of what the final political end game can be in this, to pretend that the flexibility is about that and you talked about flexibility to suddenly say that there's flexibility about one of the two states having been there at all, I think is not a sensible way of proceeding. ... FT: ...Iran clearly on the way to developing its nuclear capability. In broad terms, what should the policy response be?...
DM: ...Iran has every right to be a secure, rich country. It doesn't have the right to set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and it doesn't have the right to undermine the stability of its neighbours. And that's why I think the E3 plus three approach, and you can choose your own metaphor, but it makes a very clear offer to the Iranians with big gains for them, as well as having sanctions if they defy the international community.
And I think that part of the answer to one of the first questions I was asked, which was the nature of our alliances, those are multilateral alliances that we take very, very seriously, and that I take very, very seriously. And I think two UN Security Council resolutions is very significant, I think they've sent a very clear signal, more than a signal, they are powerful levers, and I think that they present some clear choices for the Iranian leadership.
FT: However...nothing we've done so far has made them reconsider the longstanding strategic decision to go for the nuclear option.
DM: Well, there's a separate discussion to be had about the extent to which, what has it slowed down, and how has it slowed down, and what effect has it had since 2003, and while we can get into that, I don't particularly want to. I don't want to leave on the record that it's necessarily 100 per cent correct what you've said, but leave that to one side. We are ready to work with our partners on a third resolution, we think it's very, very important that the international community remains clear and united on this issue, and I think there's a very clear offer on the table for the Iranians.
FT: What do you think of Iran's complicity in attacks on British soldiers in Basra?
DM: Well, I think that any evidence of Iranian engagement there is to be deplored. I think that we need regional players to be supporting stability, not fomenting discord, never mind death. And as I said at the beginning, Iran has a complete right, and we support the idea that Iran should be a wealthy and respected part of the future. But it does not have the right to be a force of instability.
FT: Just to be clear, there is evidence?
DM: Well no, I chose my words carefully
FT: I know, but I'm now asking you.
DM: Well as you know, we are very careful about what we say about these things.
FT: And military action? Is it conceivable?
DM: I think that the whole of the international community wants a non-military diplomatic solution to this problem.
--- There are positive aspects to this interview, but it is discouraging that the Foreign Office is unwilling to face evidence that Iran is responsible for trouble in Iraq. As expected, he is playing the game of "answer the question you wanted them to ask, not the question they asked." Is military action conceivable, yes or no? Is there evidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq or not? You won't find out from a diplomat. He did seem to be saying that Britain will not be pulling out of Iraq any time soon. If there are differences from previous foreign policy under Tony Blair, it is hard to find them here.
Priceless Sudanese Humor: If you liked the jokes about babies from Bangladesh and babies from Ethiopia, you'll love this one. According to the Sudanese, their refugee crisis is all Israel's fault. Apparently the evil Zionists sent people to Darfur to propagandize them. The poor people got the strange notion that being raped and murdered is not good, and decided to leave.
By Amiram Barkat and Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondents
Sudan's Interior Minister Al-Zubair Bashir Taha was quoted Monday as saying Israel is encouraging his country's citizens to emigrate to Israel to tarnish Khartoum's image.
Israel Radio reported Bashir Taha dubbed the refugee crisis a "melodrama" manufactured by Israel, and threatened legal action against expatriated citizens who attempted to enter Israel.
"It's not clear where they're trying to reach, whether they want to continue from Israel to Europe or America. They know nothing about Israel," he said.
He added that some 3,000 Sudanese nationals try to reach Israel annually, of which 30 percent originate from the restive Darfur region, 40 percent come the predominantly Christian south and the rest from the mountainous Nubian areas in the north.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Agency for Israel announced it would fund temporary housing for 70 African refugees after the Prime Minister's Office stated it would not pay for the asylum seekers welfare.
The PMO announced it would not lodge African refugees in hotels, dormitories, or temporary camps, in order to send a message that Israel is not willing to absorb them.
The PMO added that deportation to Egypt is the state's only solution for the African refugees and foreign workers that infiltrated from Egypt, even though some of them are refugees who fled persecution in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.
According to the PMO, the deportation to Egypt has been delayed so far only because a full list of the refugees has not been compiled.
Earlier on Sunday, the PMO denied claims it had pledged to arrange and finance accommodations for Sudanese refugees who were bussed to Jerusalem from Be'er Sheva earlier in the day to protest the lack of government funding for the welfare of African asylum seekers.
Shortly after the 54 refugees arrived at the Wohl Rose Garden, across from the Knesset building, the government announced that it would transport the refugees back to Be'er Sheva and arrange accommodations for them, but only for one night. The Prime Minister's office later denied any such promises had been made.
The Be'er Sheva municipality, who had earlier bussed the refugees to Jerusalem for the protest, announced Sunday that it would transport the remaining 180 refugees still in Be'er Sheva to Jerusalem in the coming days saying it is no longer willing to bear the cost of their accommodations.
By providing accommodations in Be'er Sheva, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office has prevented refugee advocate organizations from setting up protest tents for the refugees across from the Knesset building, as was their intention.
The Prime Minister's Office and the Welfare Ministry had said Sunday that the refugees would be transferred to the "Beit Yatziv" guest house in Be'er Sheva. The refugees were put on buses heading for Be'er Sheva and the government pledged to pay for their accommodations for Sunday.
The prime minister's adviser on social and welfare affairs Vered Sued visited the refugees Sunday and promised to resolve their problem. According to activists present at the protest, they were promised that the prime minister's office would finance their transport to Be'er Sheva and their stay at the Beit Yatziv guest house. The Darfur refugee committee agreed to the transfer, despite the fact that no concrete solution had been found for them.
Once the refugees had gotten back on the busses and headed to Be'er Sheva, the Prime Minister's office denied having promised to finance the refugees' accommodations. It also became clear that the Prime Minister's Office had not coordinated the refugees' stay at the Beit Yatziv guest house, or at any other hotel in the city. Student activists are currently working to find accommodations for the refugees.
After many hours of waiting on a bus in Be'er Sheva, a temporary solution was found for the next few days. Shortly before midnight, the Jewish Agency agreed to house the refugees at a dormitory near the western Negev city of Sderot. They will be provided for during the next ten days, at the behest of the Prime Minister's office. Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielsky said "this is a humanitarian act of helping people in need."
The IDF have deposited growing numbers of mostly Sudanese and Eritrean refugees it caught illegally infiltrating Israel's border from Egypt in various southern towns without assuming responsibility for their welfare.
On Friday, the army left 44 refugees by the entrance to Be'er Sheva's city hall, despite the municipality's announcement it would not absorb any additional illegal immigrants until the government pledges funds for their care.
Indeed, Britain has the trade ties with Israel that are described below, and indeed, Israel probably benefits from them more than Britain does.
Calls for boycotting Britain by Israel alone are senseless. But not everything in this special pleading is quite as true as it should be. For example:
"Remember, too, that these boycotts in no way reflect official British government policy toward Israel."
"Official policy" can mean many things. The BBC for example, is an autonomous broadcasting service licensed by the British government. It has been a source of blatant anti-Israel agitation for quite a while.
Still, we don't boycott Egypt, where media are much more anti-Israel.
Israel is always in a precarious position and should not be initiating boycotts. Of course, that doesn't mean that the US teamsters union is obligated to unload cargoes that were shipped by their UNISON and Transport Workers Union counterparts. Israel is not the place for boycotts of course, but that doesn't mean that the US NIH has to open fellowships to British university applicants.
When people talk about good relations between countries, it is important to ask exactly what that means. As I see it, mutually-beneficial trade and investment links are an important part of the "meat" of a bilateral relationship. Major British companies such as HSBC, British Airways and British Gas have interests out here, and two-way trade was close to 2.4 billion pounds sterling (around $5 billion) last year.
In addition, many Israeli companies and businessmen see the United Kingdom as an attractive place to grow and expand their businesses. The UK, as an international financial hub, is the doorway to a world of opportunities for companies and entrepreneurs. More than 200 Israeli companies have set up operations in the UK, and that number continues to rise. Another encouraging figure: close to 40 Israeli companies have already chosen the AIM stock exchange to raise capital, rather than the more expensive and distant option of the U.S.
I am well aware at the shock and anger felt here in Israel by recent attempts by a handful of British organizations, such as UNISON and the University and College Union (UCU), to push for a boycott of Israel, particularly given the warm relations between our two countries. It is important to remember that attempts to boycott Israel generally fail or have no real impact on the strong ties between Britain and Israel. The decision reached by the UCU in late May merely calls on members to consider a boycott of Israel, and does not actually impose a boycott of Israeli academia. The motion passed by UNISON in mid-June simply reiterated the union's long-standing policy on the Middle East & a policy that has not stopped UK-Israel trade relations, or academic links, from flourishing in recent years.
Remember, too, that these boycotts in no way reflect official British government policy toward Israel. UNISON and the UCU are totally independent. The UK government cannot interfere in the their internal deliberations, but we certainly do not support attempts to boycott Israel and have made that clear. We firmly believe that the best way to solve conflicts is through negotiations and inclusive dialogue. I, therefore, firmly believe that calls from some in Israel to impose a counterboycott on the UK are highly regrettable, and I am glad to see that these calls, like those in the UK, do not seem to have broad support.
What the UK government does support is encouraging ties with Israel in key areas, such as science, education, trade and industry. These are not just words, but concrete, continuous activities. Just last month, Britain's Minister of State for Higher Education, Bill Rammell, visited Israel to promote academic ties between our two countries. We also hosted a group of six senior British scientists who attended a conference on stem cell research at the Weizmann Institute. The UK government last year sponsored a visit by our most famous scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking, to advance cooperation between our scientific communities. And we annually sponsor scholarships for Israelis to study in the UK under our Chevening Scholarship scheme.
The scope for continued cooperation between our countries is enormous, for example, under the European 7th Framework Program. Under the 6th Framework Program, in which Israel participated as an Associated Country, there were 262 projects featuring UK and Israeli partners with contracts to the value of 1.5 billion euros. I encourage Israeli companies to keep on investing in the UK, and British companies to realize the huge R&D, investment and business opportunities that exist in Israel. We now have a new government in the UK with a new prime minister, who brings with him 10 years of experience as chancellor of the exchequer. Israel, and this region as a whole, remain a top priority for Britain. And that includes ensuring that the commercial relationship between our two countries continues to prosper.
Richard Salt is director of UK trade & investment at the British Embassy Tel Aviv.
The Palestinian inhabitants of Hebron have grown accustomed to raids by the Israel Defense Forces, but the raid carried out by paratroopers of Brigade 202 last week was out of the ordinary.
The paratroopers were not searching for participants in any terror actions, but rather for the victim of thievery and illegal commerce: the rare Golden Eagle, which the paratroopers were searching for with the aid of Israel Nature and Parks Authority personnel.
All of this was part of a joint battle to save the population of raptors in the region, which has been suffering the depredations of wildlife rustlers and traders. In the wake of intelligence information obtained by the INPA about the illegal presence of Golden Eagles in a house in Hebron, the authority requested help from the IDF.
A paratrooper force set out for the house together with an INPA ranger, Aviam Atar. The force came to the suspect's house, but the eagles were not found there.
After questioning, the inhabitants of the house led the soldiers to a shop in the town, and there the two eagles were found in good condition, overall. Atar, who was equipped with special sleeves to protect his arms from the eagles' sharp talons, took them away to the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem.
There it will be decided whether to release them in nature or whether they will have to spend the rest of their lives behind bars. In the wake of the operation, two suspects were arrested, taken for questioning to the Hebron police station and subsequently released on bail.
The Judean Desert is one of the last big refuges for birds of prey in Israel - a number of species of large eagles (the Golden Eagle and Bonelli's Eagle) as well as a large concentration of vultures. These birds are threatened by poisoning, illegal hunting, the destruction of habitats by building and the dwindling of their natural food supply. The threat of poaching for purposes of commerce also harms the few nests they still manage to maintain in the desert.
Most of the birds that are trapped or stolen from nests are taken for sale in the territories or smuggled to the Gulf states, where there is considerable demand for these birds, some of which are trained to hunt.
It is estimated that in the past there were nearly 50 nesting pairs of Golden Eagles in the desert areas of Israel and the territories. During the past two decades their number has decreased by 50 percent, and this is a species that is in danger of extinction.
The Golden Eagle (which used to be known as the Rock Eagle) lives in pairs, each of which guards a territory of tens of square kilometers. It eats wild prey, including rabbits and foxes. It nests mostly on rocky ledges, and sometimes in one area there can be up to 10 nests.
The eagle pair will brood every year in one of them. The INPA rangers have discovered several cases of stolen raptor chicks and also instances of Palestinian inhabitants rappelling to the nests and taking young chicks from them. In one case, a nest that had been burned was found in the desert, apparently a reprisal action by Bedouin in the wake of INPA activity against illegal hunting. Last year Atar had help from another IDF unit in a search in a Bedouin locale in the desert, during which they found two Golden Eagles shackled in chains. Those eagles were taken to the Biblical Zoo and were not returned to nature.
Water experts say Israel pumping water from Golan Heights springs whose natural stream leads to Syria
Amir Ben-David Published: 07.09.07, 09:31 / Israel News
For years Israel has been pumping water from springs in the Golan Heights to the shrinking Sea of Galilee, depriving Syria of major water resources, experts said Sunday.
Water from some springs exploited by Israel would naturally stream downhill to Syria had it not been to human intervention on the Israeli side of the border, they added.
Experts fear Israel's continuous exploitation of water resources in the Golan Heights will irk Syria and up the chances of a war breaking out this summer between the two enemies.
Water disputes triggered military confrontations between Syria and Israel in the past. In 1964, Syria diverted the Hasbani and Banyas rivers, depriving Israel of major fresh water resources. Israel retaliated by launching airstrikes at Syrian constructions.
Three years later the Six-Day War broke out and Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria. The Golan Heights was officially annexed in 1981 when the Knesset voted in favor of making it Israeli territory.
Since last summer's war with Hizbullah, tensions have been running high between Israel and Syria, whose president recently threatened to free the Golan Heights by force if diplomacy failed.
The interesting part of this article might just be here:
In this respect American Jewry's support for Israel still runs along the tracks laid down in the early decades of the 20th century by the foundational thinkers of American Zionism, the great Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) and the great, if less-known, social philosopher Horace Kallen (1882-1974), who coined the term "cultural pluralism." These thinkers conceived of Zionism as a facet of the liberal Progressivism that they championed in the US. They saw American Zionism, indeed robust American Jewishness, not as a dual or contradictory, loyalty but as complementary features of a broader loyalty to the liberal ideal as a whole.
Kallen and Brandeis were making, in a sense, two arguments: That American identity, when thought through to its deepest roots and intentions, yielded a much broader harvest of loyalties, aspirations, affiliations and values than the distinctively Anglo-Saxon heritage of its founders; and that Zionism could and ought to be moving along the same basic continuum as Americanism, towards a liberal polity that would enable a range of people and minorities to flourish by the lights of their own historical experiences.
Actually, American Zionism, or "Christian Zionism" goes back further than that. It is much more specific, and it involved non-Jews far more than it involved Jews, beginnings with the pilgrims of the Mayflower and the early New England settlers.
The charge of 'dual loyalty' should force American Jews to think hard about the very real geopolitical dilemmas facing the US and Israel and about themselves and their lives, the meaning of their commitments to Jewish survival and to Jewish values
Yehudah Mirsky Published: 07.09.07, 07:26 / Israel Jewish Scene
"Dual loyalty" is back. No matter one's view of US Mideast policy as such, there is no doubting that the pejorative of "dual loyalty" by which is meant "contradictory loyalty" is in currency and increasingly credible in ways not seen in the last fifty years.
This is of course, a deeply chilling development. But it is also a spur to thinking about the broader issues of Jewish identity in America. Among the topics being taken up by the working groups at this week's Conference on the Future of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, organized by the Jewish People Policy Institute, are Geopolitics and Jewish Identity; this question is one in which both those issues are joined, in powerful, complex, and illuminating ways.
The Walt-Mearshimer affair, the controversy sparked in March of 2006 by an essay written by two very distinguished American political scientists in the London Review of Books, and argu ing that American supporters of Israel were monolithically advocating policies running very counter to America' national interest, was both catalyst and bellwether.
Remarkably clumsy and intellectually dreary accusations that American Jewry and its well-placed minions had willfully dragged America into a needless and draining war came from two of the country's most respected political scientists. The fact that genuinely eminent scholars were drawn to these formulations at all is an expression of the dark post-9/11 times in which we live, when the world seems unpredictably unsafe and the United States is less certain of its course in that world..
What does 'loyalty' mean here?
The question of "dual loyalty" is among other things an interesting point of entry into several dimensions of American-Jewish identity. But first, let's put some things on the table. What does it mean if Jews, some at least and perhaps many, might vote for an American president first and foremost based on his policies toward Israel and only secondarily, or, in rare cases, not at all, on what one thinks of his views on a range of issues? What would it mean for an American Jew to advocate a specific policy injurious to the US but helpful to Israel?
These are not unreasonable questions, and can fairly be asked of any discrete group, certainly one with strong ties to a foreign country. Indeed, the American idea of citizenship is premised on a shared civic identity binding together disparate groups with other sorts of identities, some primal, others less so. American political thinkers from the Federalists onward have tried to understand how this sort of essentially liberal and cosmopolitan citizenship can weave together a polity.
It seems to this writer fair to say that any American citizen who advocates a policy that can in no way reasonably be construed as serving America's interests, and indeed runs counter to America's interests, to the health and survival of American government and society, including its fundamental values, is no longer making a good-faith policy argument and can only justify themselves if at all on humanitarian grounds.
At the same time, just what is in America's national interest is not always self-evident. When I served in the State Department, for instance, we had passionate arguments over whether America should link its economic ties to China on that country's human rights practices. I strongly at times bitterly disagreed and fought with the people on the other side of that argument, but I never doubted either their patriotism, or the good faith in which they were putting forth their side of the argument as serving America's national interest.
Yes, American Jews are, as a rule, genuinely supportive of Israel, often though not always with greater intensity than their support of other causes and political programs, and this in turn results from the roles which Israel plays in their understanding of their own Jewish identity.
While American Jews differ, at times deeply, in their assessments of specific Israeli policies, they do as a rule fundamentally support Israel's essential survival and security. They are driven to this not only by a deep, even if regularly inchoate, commitment to Israel as the ultimate guarantor of the Jewish people's survival, but by an idea of Israel as well.
In this respect American Jewry's support for Israel still runs along the tracks laid down in the early decades of the 20th century by the foundational thinkers of American Zionism, the great Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) and the great, if less-known, social philosopher Horace Kallen (1882-1974), who coined the term "cultural pluralism." These thinkers conceived of Zionism as a facet of the liberal Progressivism that they championed in the US. They saw American Zionism, indeed robust American Jewishness, not as a dual or contradictory, loyalty but as complementary features of a broader loyalty to the liberal ideal as a whole.
Kallen and Brandeis were making, in a sense, two arguments: That American identity, when thought through to its deepest roots and intentions, yielded a much broader harvest of loyalties, aspirations, affiliations and values than the distinctively Anglo-Saxon heritage of its founders; and that Zionism could and ought to be moving along the same basic continuum as Americanism, towards a liberal polity that would enable a range of people and minorities to flourish by the lights of their own historical experiences.
For them Zionism was, in a deep and real sense, Americanism by another name and with a different, though not contradictory, historical inflection. Their commitments to Zionism and to Americanism did not, to their mind, conflict, because they sincerely saw each very much as a reflection of the other.
Subsequently, of course, the Holocaust deepened the American Jewish commitment to Israel, lending it power, and even terror, and the experience of the 1967 war further catalyzed American Jewry's support for Israel. However, the ways in which American Jews think about Israel and how their support for it registers with their Americanness still very much resonates along the lines of Kallen and Brandeis.
Interests and values and the present moment In other words, in defending Israel, the broad mass of American Jews are acting out of a sense of interests and values, from the belief that Israel guarantees the survival of both American and Israeli Jews both physical and cultural. In many ways, the Israel they are supporting is a reflection of their own liberal democratic values or at least not so far-removed as to make supporting it morally unacceptable (the continuing arguments over the present state and future disposition of the West Bank notwithstanding).
All politics is an amalgam of interests and values, and while the two never can be entirely divorced, it helps to sift them out for the sake of clarity. Interests are the imperatives dictated by physical survival. Values are the principles whereby we order our sense of what survival means, and what survival is for. They are the concepts with which we define the terms of meaningful survival and guide our purposive choices towards the kind of world we wish to see.
The oft-remarked question of the respective roles of interests versus values in foreign policy, though it ought to be a universal dilemma, is in acute fashion a peculiarly American dilemma. The commingling of these two sets of concerns is a hallmark, and to some, a fatal flaw, of American diplomacy and indeed of America's own sense of itself as a republic.
Thus while it is hard to imagine many European governments fundamentally supporting Israel, such as they do, in the absence of the staggering and nearly supernatural moral burden of the Holocaust, it is less difficult to understand why America would do such a thing, even when it seems to run counter to some of its bolder geopolitical interests.
American support for Israel reflects a confluence of both interests and values. What marks the present historical moment is that both those sources of support are beginning to give way to other currents. America's interests have been so badly damaged by the catastrophic mishandling of Iraq that for arch-Realists like Walt and Mearsheimer, the only possible explanation can be the malign influence of an ultimately foreign body which does not have those interests at heart.
On the value-side, we see the increasing illiberalism of the liberal classes, of whom Professor Tony Judt is perhaps the most articulate exponent. For those like him, the Jewish exercise in political sovereignty cannot be anything other than a retrograde chauvinism, for the sake of whose extirpation one may happily throw a flawed, if boisterous, democracy to the dogs. Taken together, the traditional basis for American support for Israel seems to be eroding, and those who persist in such support are more easily depicted as both unconcerned with American lives, and suspiciously immoral.
What does this all mean?
The ostensible dilemma of "dual loyalty" is in some ways one of the more wrenching forms of the contemporary identity dilemmas coursing through the world today. In many countries, the welter of forces as know as globalization, the increasing recognition of the complex and multi-layered quality of identities and the emergence of "identity politics" in its various forms, is forcing many, at times painfully, to think through the meanings of their belongings and the moral claims they can make on those belongings' behalf..
Thus the questions raised, however clumsily, by Walt & Mearsheimer and Judt should if nothing else, force American Jews to think hard about the very real geopolitical dilemmas facing the US and Israel and about themselves and their lives, the meaning of their commitments to Jewish survival and to Jewish values.
Indeed these challenges can serve as a spur and not only to US Jews persuasively to rearticulate core values of Jewishness and of Zionism in light of the moral and geopolitical complexities of the contemporary world.
The writer is a fellow of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, and a former US State Department official. This article is reprinted with permission from MyJewishLearning.com
On the side of St George's Town Hall in the East End of London, there's a mural commemorating the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, when tens of thousands of Jews and local trades unionists fought side by side to halt a march by Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists.
They poured out of the docks, factories and sweat shops to repel the Blackshirts, who were being given an official police escort. Their banners read: They Shall Not Pass.
By the end of the day, the police were forced to withdraw and Mosley's thugs had been routed. It was a crushing defeat, from which the Far Right never really recovered and was pivotal in preventing the cancer of Fascism and anti-Semitism then sweeping Continental Europe from establishing a meaningful foothold in this country.
In my previous incarnation as a young labour and industrial correspondent, I used to drink in the Britannia pub, in Cable Street, with an old friend, Brian Nicholson, former chairman of the transport workers' union, who lived a couple of doors down.
From the public bar, a few yards across the square from the old Town Hall, I watched with fascination as the mural was being painted. It took 17 years from conception to completion in 1993 and more than once suffered the indignity of being vandalised by moronic Mosley manques in the National Front and the BNP.
A couple of years ago when the BBC approached me to make what they called an 'authored documentary' on any subject about which I felt passionate, I proposed an investigation into modern anti-Semitism to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Cable Street last October.
My thesis was that while the Far Right hasn't gone away, the motive force behind the recent increase in anti-Jewish activity comes from the Fascist Left and the Islamonazis.
It was an idea which vanished into the bowels of the commissioning process, never to return. Eventually the Beeb told me that they weren't making any more 'authored documentaries'.
I couldn't help wondering what might have happened if I'd put forward a programme on 'Islamophobia'. It would probably have become a six-part, primetime series and I'd have been up for a BAFTA by now.
But I persevered and Channel 4 picked up the project. You can see the results on Monday night.
When some people heard I was making the programme, their first reaction was: 'I didn't know you were Jewish.'
I'm not, but what's that got to do with the price of gefilte fish? They simply couldn't comprehend why a non-Jew would be in the slightest bit interested in investigating anti-Semitism.
If I had been making a film about Islamophobia, no one would have asked me if I was Muslim.
The Labour MP John Mann told me that he experienced exactly the same reaction when he instigated a parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism.
'As soon as I set it up, the first MP who commented to me said: "Oh, I didn't know you were Jewish, John."' He isn't, either.
But the implication was plainly that the very idea of anti-Semitism is the invention of some vast Jewish conspiracy.
Mann's inquiry reported: 'It is clear that violence, desecration and intimidation directed towards Jews is on the rise. Jews have become more anxious and more vulnerable to attack than at any time for a generation or longer.'
That certainly bears out my own findings. After three months filming across Britain, I reached the conclusion: It's open season on the Jews.
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Ever since 9/11 I've detected an increase in anxiety among Jewish friends and neighbours in my part of North London. As I've always argued: just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
When I went to address a ladies' charity lunch at a synagogue in Finchley, I was astonished at the level of security. You don't expect to see bouncers in black bomber jackets on the door at a place of worship.
I soon discovered this wasn't unusual. Nor is it confined to London. The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Mike Todd, took me out on patrol with his officers and members of the Community Security Trust, which provides protection for the Jewish community.
These patrols are mounted every Friday night following a series of unprovoked attacks on Jews on their way to synagogue. We passed a care home surrounded by barbed wire.
At the King David School, there are high fences, floodlights, CCTV cameras and fulltime guards. It was the kind of security you associate with a prison.
They're even installing bombproof windows in many prominent Jewish institutions and running evacuation drills.
This sounded to me like Cold War panic. Surely it's all a bit over the top? Far from it, said Todd.
'We know that people carry out hostile reconnaissance. You do know that there will be attacks potentially and so what we're trying to do is make it a hostile environment to those people who want to engage in anti-Semitic attacks.'
In the past two years, Manchester police reported a 20 per cent rise in anti-Semitic incidents. I visited a Jewish cemetery in the north of the city which has been repeatedly desecrated - headstones and graves smashed, swastikas daubed on memorials. It was heartbreaking.
That type of cowardly vandalism is almost certainly the handiwork of Far Right skinheads. But the more serious threat comes from Islamist extremists.
Police and the security services say they have uncovered a series of plots by groups linked to Al Qaeda to attack Jewish targets in Britain.
As Channel 4's own Undercover Mosque documentary exposed earlier this year, anti-Jewish sermons are routinely preached in Britain. Anti-Semitic hatred is beamed in on satellite TV channels and over the internet.
On London's Edgware Road, just around the corner from the Blairs' new Connaught Square retirement home, I was able to buy a copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, translated into Arabic. It was on open sale alongside the evening paper and the Kit-Kats.
You don't even have to be Jewish to find yourself on the end of anti-Semitic hatred. I met a Jack the Ripper tour guide in East London who was beaten up by a group of Muslim youths, who took one look at his period costume - long black coat and black hat - and assumed he was an Orthodox Jew and therefore deserving of a kicking. They didn't want 'dirty Jews' in 'their' neighbourhood.
During the 2005 General Election, anti-war activists targeted Labour MPs who supported the invasion of Iraq. Fair enough, that's a legitimate enough ambition in a democracy.
But in the case of Lorna Fitzsimons, the member for Rochdale, the campaign to unseat her took a sinister turn.
An outfit calling itself The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) - basically two brothers above a kebab shop - published leaflets 'accusing' her of being Jewish, even though she's not.
'They said I was part of the world neo-Con Zionist conspiracy. I think it's deeply insidious and worrying that they felt there was so much anti-Semitism in the local community that it would galvanise the vote.' In the event, she lost her seat by a few hundred votes and is certain the MPAC smear campaign swung it.
Opposition to the war and loathing of Israel has led the selfstyled 'anti-racist' Left to make common cause with Islamonazis. And 'anti-Zionism' soon tips over into straight- forward anti-Semitism.
When The Observer columnist Nick Cohen - who has always considered himself of the Left and, despite the surname, isn't Jewish either - wrote a piece defending the toppling of Saddam he was deluged with hate mail.
'It was amazing anti-Semitism, you know - you're only saying this because you're a Jew.'
Cohen has also noticed the casual anti-Jewish sentiment around Left-wing dinner tables and in the salons of Islington.
He is appalled by the way in which his old comrades-in-arms have embraced terrorist groups like Hezbollah, one of the most anti-Semitic organisations on Earth.
Check out the way the National Union of Journalists singles out Israel for boycott, even though it has the only free press in the Middle East. Or the academic boycott of Israel by the university lecturers, which as the lawyer Anthony Julius and the law professor Alan Dershowitz argue, goes way beyond legitimate protest. The sheer ferocity and violence of the arguments is nothing more than naked anti-Semitism.
Under the guise of 'anti-Zionism', anti- Semitism is rife on British university campuses. But still the Government refuses to ban groups such as Hizb ut-Tahir, motto: 'Jews will be killed wherever they can be found.'
Then there is self-proclaimed 'anti-racist' Ken Livingstone, who said to a Jewish reporter, Oliver Finegold, who approached him outside County Hall: 'What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?'
When Finegold explained that he was Jewish and was deeply offended by the remark, Livingstone compared him to a 'concentration camp guard'.
Attempting to justify himself, Livingstone put on his best Kenneth Williams 'Stop Messing About' voice and protested that he wasn't being anti-Jewish since he was rude about everyone. That was his Get Out Of Jail Free gambit.
Funny how that excuse didn't work for Bernard Manning.
But under the Macpherson code to which Livingstone subscribes, a racist incident is one which anyone perceives as racist - intended victim or onlooker. It's curious how in multi-cultural, diverse, inclusive, anti-racist Britain, the rules don't seem to extend to the Jews. Livingstone would never have dreamed of being that offensive to a Muslim, or Jamaican, journalist.
Any Tory who made similar remarks would have been hounded from office - and Livingstone would have been leading the lynch mob.
Blaming Israel is the last refuge of the anti-Semite. Livingstone insists he's not anti-Jewish, he just opposes the policies of the Israeli government.
So perhaps he can explain what the hell the conflict in the Middle East has to do with calling a Jewish reporter a German war criminal and a concentration camp guard? Where exactly does the Palestinian cause fit into that equation?
'If you have people like the Mayor of London crossing the line, then making a half-apology, and stumbling through that, then it gives a message out to the rest of the community. That is why anti-Semitism is on the rise again - because it's become acceptable,' says John Mann, whose parliamentary inquiry team was shocked at the scale and nature of what it unearthed.
'Every single member of our committee was stunned at some of the things they found out. It wasn't a Britain that they recognised. It's almost as if it's a throwback. We thought these were things we'd seen in the past, and we hoped had gone.'
As a Labour MP he's appalled at the way many on the Left have become almost casually and routinely anti-Semitic. 'We wouldn't have seen this ten or 15 years ago. This idea that in some way there's a conspiracy of Jews running the world goes back to the Elders of the Protocols of Zion (a long since discredited book, though still popular in the Muslim world) in the last century. We've seen this before, and now it's resurgent.'
Seventy years after Cable Street, we've gone full circle. The Left who once stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Jews against the Blackshirts are now in the vanguard of the new anti-Semitism.
The Britannia has long since closed and the Jewish community has moved on, but the mural remains. The synagogues have been replaced by mosques.
Where the East End was once a hotbed of Far Right extremism, these days it's the stomping ground of George Galloway's Respect Party, a grubby alliance of Islamic extremists and the old Socialist Workers Party - at the heart of the new 'We Are All Hezbollah Now' activism.
While we were shooting the final sequence of next Monday's film in front of the mural, a scruffy-looking bloke wandered out of what used to be the Britannia and now seems to have been turned into some kind of glorified squat.
He recognised me, identified himself as a member of Respect, objected to what I was saying to camera and tried to disrupt us.
Outnumbered, he shuffled away again, shouting. He did not pass.
The Second Battle of Cable Street, it wasn't.
The War On Britain's Jews? is on Channel 4 on Monday at 8pm.
Britain's Transport and General Workers' Union has called upon its 800,000 members to boycott Israeli-made products based on what they term Israel's "criminal policies in Palestinian territories."
The decision to call for a boycott, reached at a union conference in Brighton, is declarative and does not include concrete steps to implement the boycott.
The TGWU is the second British union to call for a boycott on Israel this year - last month the British public services union UNISON also urged its members to refrain from purchasing Israeli products, basing the call on Israel's "criminal behavior in the territories," and Israel's responsibility for the Second Lebanon War.
In the last six months, Ontario, Canada's public services union also proposed a similar anti-Israel boycott, as did several professional unions in South Africa. In addition, Britain's University and College Union called upon its members earlier this year to consider an academic boycott of Israel, which would include holding funding from research projects run by Israeli professors and preventing Israeli lecturers from participating in seminars.
Histadrut International activities director Avital Shapira said Sunday afternoon that the Histadrut labor federation views the TGWU's boycott call with severity. According to Shapira, the Histadrut has decided not to cooperate with these unions. "They expect us to help them with everything surrounding joint activities with Palestinian unions, but in light of their behavior toward us, we will hold these activities without them."
The British embassy in Israel issued a response Sunday saying "the British government opposes boycotts of any kind."
"The boycott declared by the Transport and General Workers' Union will not harm the growing commercial relations between the two countries," the statement said.
The problem with this article on Post Zionism and Anti-Zionism is that it takes the contentions of people like Ilan Pappe too seriously. However, it is nonetheless a useful review of the use and abuse of the term "post-Zionist."
From its beginning, Zionism has provoked various adversaries whose common denominator was their objection to Jewish nationalism or, at least, to its linkage with the Land of Israel. Orthodox and liberal Jews regarded Zionism as a panicked response to anti-semitism, imitation of European nationalism and distortion of Judaism's true essence and image. Marxists claimed it was reactionary and endangered "the world of tomorrow" in which the Jews, too, would find their proper place. The opposition that accompanied Zionism was mainly a trend of the exile.
Present post-Zionism, by contrast, is mainly "blue and white"an Israeli product produced by people who were born and/or educated in Israel though now some of them may live abroad.
Since the 1980s, "postist" trends have penetrated into the public and academic debates in Israel. The post-Zionist criticism consists of two distinct versions. The first appears as a new chapter in the history of Israeli historiography. This is an internal development within the historical and a few other disciplines that emanates from the accessibility of new source material, the development of new research methods, and the suggestion of new interpretations. The discussions have taken place mainly in professional-academic circles, and the opposing stances have been published in scientific books and journals.
The second version is a meta-historical debate that has effect mainly in the media, in which post-Zionists assault the Zionist idea and the values, beliefs, assumptions, methodologies and objectivity of their Zionist colleagues. They accuse Zionist scholars of mobilizing in favor of Zionist ideology and in helping to impose the "hegemonic" Zionist concepts of Israeli culture and collective identity.
Like post-modernism, with which it has something in common, post-Zionism, too, is difficult to define and the definitions are not agreed upon. Uri Ram, a sociologist from Ben-Gurion University, has claimed the copyright for the concept "post-Zionism." However, his definition is vague, and apparently he regards it as a fashion. He underscores its cultural aspect that goes beyond the academic framework and penetrates into the public discourse through the media. Ram argues that post-Zionism should be discussed in the context of the changing world: the impact of globalization, post-structuralism and post-colonialism; the transformation of the concept "identity" and the challenges it faces from competing concepts such as "otherness," "difference," and "hybridism."
Ram focuses his criticism on the writing of Israeli history. Zionist historiography, he maintains, has been historicist, and like the historiographies of the European countries, it cultivated national memory and identity. Post-Zionism means also post-historicism, and dismantles the national identities and the "historical laws" in their basis. Historicist memory built nations, he says, and the post-historicist memory shatters them. Post-Zionist historiography writes the history of "others" and "otherness," while Zionist historiography gave room only to history of self-identity. In Ram's view, the controversies among historians are but one aspect of the national identities' crisis in the era of globalizationin the world as well as in Israel.1
Another post-Zionist sociologist, Avishai Ehrlich, regards post-Zionism as the Israeli articulation of the liberal anti-Zionism in the wake of assimilation in Western Europe and America. This post-Zionism of the liberal type represents in Ehrlich's eyes the capitalist globalization, and therefore he regards it as the opposite of religious-orthodox and socialist anti-Zionism.2
Israel Bartal, the Jerusalem historian, attaches the condemnation of the Zionist and Israeli establishment from the right wing to the post-Zionist wave. He relates especially to Yoram Hazoni's book The Jewish State and to the activities of Shalem Center in Jerusalem.3 Ram, on the other hand, distinguishes the right-wing's criticism from post-Zionism, and names it "Neo-Zionism." He links it with the emergence of Gush Emunim in the 1970s, a decade before the emergence of post-Zionism.4 Historian Tuvia Friling also differentiates between the two trends. He argues that the right-wing disapproval of left and center Zionism does not include any of the typical foundations of the post-Zionist criticism, and it directs its attacks against other elements of the political, social, and cultural Israeli way of life.5
Most Post-Zionists openly admit, like Ilan Pappé, the linkage between post-modernism and post-Zionism. Pappé points to "a jump from positivist pre-history to postmodern meta-history" in the development of Israeli historiography. In Israel, as in the world, the majority of participants in the post-modernists' debates of history are not historians. Nevertheless, Pappé asserts, the post-modernist discourse has indirect impact on historians through indicating ways "to dismantle the domination of the hegemonic, white and masculine narrative over the historical story of the "others" and "otherness" in this country.6
The gist of post-Zionism is the denial of Jewish nationalism, at least in its present form of a nation-state, and the demandapparently relying on the world "spirit of globalization"to turn Israel into "a state of all its citizens" in reduced boundaries. The post-Zionists repudiate the Zionist ideology and its basic assumptions lock, stock, and barrel. They disapprove of the Zionist movement's policies in all fields and all periods, and deny the very existence of a Jewish People. By "a state of all its citizens," they do not mean a pluralist society in the manner of the United States or Canada, but an invigorated version of the bi-national state idea of the 1930s and 1940s, or the Palestinian state that was envisaged by the British White Paper of May 1939 (and the Palestinians rejected). This is primarily a new form of old anti-Zionism.7
This new Israel should be devoid of any Jewish identity, secular or religious, and of any unique moral and social pretensions. This position denies the connection between historical Judaism and the State of Israel, and strives to transform the only state of the Jewish People into a "liberal," multi-national and multi-cultural state. The post-Zionists demand to abolish laws whose purpose has been to stress the Jewish nature of Israel, such as The Law of Return, and to change its Jewish symbols and make them acceptable to the entire population. At the same time, they strive to sterilize the Hebrew language by removing words, terms, images, and stereotypes that carry a "Zionist charge" such as aliyah or "The War of Independence" and replace them with apparently neutral terms such as "immigration" or "The War of 1948," or even adopt counter-terminology such as "colonialism," "ethnic cleansing," or "occupation."
Post-Zionist positions hardly derive from empiric research. Usually they are articulated in theoretical debates and in public polemic in the media. The purpose of the criticism is to destroy the "Zionist discourse" and portray it as a deliberate distortion of historical reality, or truth (that post-modernists usually deny its existence, but the Zionist case is apparently an exception). Furthermore, the post-Zionists strive to cause tremors in the Israeli historical consciousness, deconstruct Israeli identity, dismantle Israeli collective memory, and present it as a Zionist meta-narrative that usurped Jewish history and Israeli identity.
Modesty is not a conspicuous characteristic of Israeli "postists." Quite the contrary, they often flatter each other, compliment, grade and grant superlatives to themselves and their comrades, and usually ignore or belittle those who do not count among their ranks. Tom Segev, for example, asserted that the new historians "are the first to make use of archival source material It is the first generation of [true] historians. They plough a virgin soil."8 However, many historians of Zionism and the yishuv have worked in Israeli, British, American, and other archivesbefore the advent of the "new" historians (who are not all post-Zionists), simultaneously and subsequently. The difference between those who boast in their "innovativeness" and those who dispute them is not one between the use and non-use of archives. It is a difference between the ideological writing of the post-Zionists (though they sometimes innovate and illuminate) and the disciplinary writing (even if it sometimes entails deviation in various ideological directions) of those who do not rank among them.
Most post-Zionists accept the post-modern approach that historiography is politics, and render a good service to the accusation that Israel was born in sin when they dismiss Jewish nationality, reject the negation of the Exile, describe the surviving remnant of the Holocaust and the oriental Jews as the prey of Zionist manipulations and the Palestinians as innocent victims of collusions and atrocities. This last "innocence" is unconvincing for anyone familiar with the source material, unless he is utterly prejudiced. Pappé, who has led this approach for years, has totally abandoned the academic disguise since the beginning of the present intifada in 2000, and has enlisted in the service of Palestinian propaganda in Israel and abroad, openly and wholeheartedly.9
The Denial of Jewish Nationalism
The post-Zionists' opposition to the Jewish nation state derives from their denial of the very existence of Jewish nationality. Their criticism of Jewish nationalism has been based on relatively new theories of nationalism and colonialism. Primarily, they quote Benedict Anderson, who regards the nation as an "imagined community"imagined by those who belong to it or are manipulated by bureaucrats and pedagogues. They also like to quote Eric Hobsbawm's claim that the allegedly old national traditions were invented in the 19th century to cultivate national myths. On the other hand, they tend to ignore other theories of nationalism, such as that of Anthony Smith (who regards nationality as the continuation of an older ethnic identity) or Ernst Gelner, for whom nationalism is an outcome of modernization. They hardly relate to earlier scholars of nationalism, such as Hans Kohn.10
Following the Palestinians' old claim from the early 1920s that Judaism is a religion, and religion does not need a national home, the radical post-Zionists also negate the very existence of a Jewish nation. A non-existent nation cannot have a national movement and does not need a nation-state. Thus, the way opens for a Jewish religious milet in a future Palestinian state as it existed in the Ottoman Empire. Non-religious Jews will assimilate with the Palestinian Arabs as they have assimilated with the surrounding people in Europe and America. Indeed, Pappé dedicates his recent book on the history of modern Palestine to his sons and wishes them a peaceful life in the modern Palestinian state that will be constituted on the ruins of the Jewish nation-state.11
Since he does not recognize Zionism as an authentic articulation of Jewish nationalism, Pappé theorizes on the essence of "Israeli nationalism." His principal argument is that this is a Middle Eastern phenomenon that should be studied in the framework of nationalism in the Third World. The purpose is evident: denying Zionism's origins in the Jewish question and affiliation to the Jews' plight in Europe and turning it into a territorial-colonialist local phenomenon.
In denying Jewish nationality and replacing it with "Israeli nationality" Pappé relies on a famous sourcethe Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. However, Hobsbawm is hardly an authority on Jewish or Middle Eastern history. His expertise is the history of Europe and Latin America. Long before Pappé, he denied the existence of Jewish nationality and Zionism as its representation. Hobsbawm coined the phrase "Israeli nationality," but deliberately refrained from stating to whom this nationality relates. Hobsbawm's position is nothing but a weird personal view that does not rely on historical evidence, erudition, or any expertise in Jewish history.12 There is more than a trace of fraud in Pappé's attempt to portray Hobsbawm's ideological and political stance as scientifically authoritative.
Pappé's approach to Jewish nationalism is not exceptional among post-Zionists, and many of his comrades share it to various degrees. Ram, for example, maintains that contrary to the conviction of the Israeli education system's graduates that a Jewish nation has always existed, the Zionist movement invented a tradition to a nation that did not exist and would not have been created without the Zionist initiative. Shlomo Zand, to give another example, regards Zionists as "a community of immigrant-settlers" that transformed the Bible from a holy religious canon to a national history textbook to give legitimacy to its claim for ownership of Palestine.
In Ram's eyes, Israel's Scroll of Independence articulates the gist of the "national narrative" that Zionist historiography invented. He admits that it was not "making up" and the materials from which the narrative was built were taken "from the real history of the Jewish communities," but states that "Jewish existence was split and varied, and during most of the period was not national. Only from an ideological national vantage point it was seen as necessarily national and having a national destiny."
Ram breaks into open doors and claims the self-evident: Until the 18th century, no nationalism in the modern sense of the word could exist in Europe. Nonetheless, the medieval and early modern Jewish corporation featured a high degree of solidarity among its members, a highly developed autonomous organization, communal and occasionally supra-communal, a religious affiliation to the Land of Israel and an expectation for the redemption of all Jews and their return to Zion that from time to time surfaced in the image of Messianic movements. Zionism translated all these into modern conceptsnot as "politics of identity," but as a response to constraints and pressures that Ram blatantly ignores.
The Jews' patterns of response to European nationalism and modernization were not "strategies of identity." They were not abstract texts, but real experiences. Zionism's principal purpose was solving the plight of the Jews, and only in the second place that of Judaism. The condition of Judaism in face of modernity preoccupied intellectuals like Achad Ha'am, but much less it bothered the activists that built the Zionist movement and the masses that joined it.
The plight of Judaism in face of modernity gave birth to various suggestions to construct a modern Jewish identity, such as the idea of "mission"the Jews' special mission to disseminate monotheism (or refined morality) in the world. None of them provided an answer to the existential distress of the Jewish masses in Eastern Europe. Only two answers were suggested to this distress: a national solution in the Land of Israel, and a pluralist solution through emigration to the New World. The American immigration laws of the 1920s halted the mass emigration, and indirectly had a crucial impact on the scope of the Holocaust and on the foundation of Israel.
The Colonialist Paradigm of Zionism
Israeli post-Zionists have joined Palestinian scholars and propagandists in an attempt to prove Zionism's colonialist nature, especially in post-1967 Israel.13 However, attempts to portray Zionism as a colonialist movement did not begin with post-Zionism. They have been almost as old as the Arab-Jewish conflict. The first attempt was made by the Palestinian Congress that convened in Jerusalem in January 1919, if not earlier as Rashid Khalidi claims.14
Since the shaping of the new order in the Middle East after the First World War, the Palestinians have portrayed themselves as a national liberation movement struggling against a foreign colonial power (the Zionist movement) supported by the military might of British imperialism and trying to usurp a land that belonged to others. The Palestinians raised their national and anti-colonialist arguments in the Palestinian congresses at the beginning of the 1920s, in their appeals to the British government, and in their official and non-official deliberations with the various commissions that sought a solution to the Palestine problem in the 1930s and 1940s. However, in a world in which colonialism was legitimate, their arguments did not attract attention and support. World public opinion did not consider them stronger than the Jewish plight in Europe before, and certainly after the Holocaust.
The circumstances changed after the completion of de-colonization. Since the late 1970s, the Palestinians' arguments fell on receptive ears, particularly in Western Europe that was torn by post-colonial guilt feelings as well as by quandaries about the role of collaborators and by-standers during the Holocaust. Under the inspiration of Edward Sa'id, the Palestinians endeavored to demonstrate the colonial nature of Zionism, particularly of "greater Israel" after the Six-Day war.
Post-Zionists cultivate the stereotype of the colonialist Zionist immigrant by comparing the settling farmer in Rosh Pina or the pioneer in Deganya to the Dutch settlers in the Netherland's Indies (now Indonesia) or the French "Colons" in Algeria. Similarly, they make up similarities between the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel and the Boers in South Africa. They equate the acquisition by the United States of Louisiana from France in 1803 and Alaska from Russia in 1867 with the purchase of Arabs' tracts of land by the Jewish National Fund. Similarly, they compare the attitude of the Jews to the Arab tenants that tilled these tracts with the Americans' handling of Hispanic settlers in Texas.15
"Political Zionism," Jerusalem sociologist Baruch Kimmerling asserted, "emerged and consolidated on the threshold of the colonial period in Europe, when the right of Europeans to settle in every non-European country was taken for granted."16 One should not be an expert on colonial history to know that the colonial era in European history had begun much earlier, in the 16th century. Zionism emerged toward the end of this era and not on its threshold, and West European colonialism had been preceded and paralleled by other colonialismsArab, Chinese, Turk and Russian. The resemblance of the transactions of Louisiana and Alaska to the land purchases of the JNF is dubious. Many problems would have been saved or solved if the Zionist movement had the means to buy the Land of Israel in a few steps as the United States did in the 19th century, and had Britain and other powers really supported Zionism in the manner that Kimmerling and others ascribe to them. Precisely the slow pace of the Zionist enterprise's development, because of the need to purchase the land and the scarcity of resources, testify to the non-colonial character of the movement.
For others, the comparison with the United States is redundant. In their eyes, Zionism is an occupying force in the manner of the Spanish Conquistadors in Latin America. Pappé compares Zionism to Christian missionary activities in West Africa and to previous attempts by Christians to settle in Palestine and expel the Arabs from the country (i.e. the crusades). He finds an "astonishing similarity" between the hidden hopes of Henri Gerren, the traveler and explorer of Palestine, and those of the Zionist leader Menachem Ussishkin: Gerren strove to renew the crusaders' Kingdom of Jerusalem and Ussishkin aspired to revive the kingdom of David and Solomon!
Drawing on odd and unverifiable sources, Pappé further asserts that Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel strove from the beginning to dispossess the Arabs. He brings a dubious quotation of the Rabbi of Memel (then a free German town in Lithuania), a "well-known" Zionist leader by the name of Itzhak Rielf, who, according to Pappé, called in 1883 (14 years before the establishment of the Zionist organization!) to expel the Arabs from the country. His second authority is Ussishkin's alleged ambition to purchase the bulk of the land of Palestine (as if he had the means to do it). The most "convincing" is his third authority: the Palestinian historian Nur Massalha, who collected quotations that in his view testify to Zionist intentions to dispossess and expel the Palestinian Arabs.17
A more serious endeavor to offer grounds for the formula Zionism equals colonialism was done by Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin in his Ph.D. dissertation that deals with Zionist historiography of the Middle Ages and its contribution to Zionist colonialism through the negation of the Diaspora. He argued that every historiographic project in the Land of Israel after the Balfour Declaration and the First World War aimed to distance the Arabs from the history of the land and portray it as a Jewish country either because of continuous Jewish presence in the country or because of the Jews' continuous affiliation, longings, and pilgrimages.
According to Raz-Krakotzkin, emphasizing the continuity of Jewish presence in the country, and the Jews' affiliation to the Land of Israel, aimed to serve the Jewish claim for rights on the country. He asserts that a clear linkage has existed between Zionist historical writing and diplomatic activity. The historical claims, he maintains, were the basis for the demand that Britain would adopt an exceptional policy in Palestine that would disregard the national aspirations of the indigenous population. However, history books by Zionist writers in the first half of the 20th century were not written in English or translated into it. Certainly, they were not against Lord Balfour's eyes when he wrote to Lloyd George after the opening of the Peace Conference in Versailles:
In the case of Palestine we refuse, deliberately and justly, to accept the principle of self-determination [ ] We regard Palestine as absolutely exceptional. In our view the Jewish question outside Palestine has worldwide significance, and the Jews have a right to a home in their ancient country, provided this home will be granted to them without dispossessing or repressing the present inhabitants.18
Zionist political demands were based on Jewish history, not on Zionist historiography, and Zionist diplomacy preceded the historiography by a generation at least.
In the eyes of Raz-Krakotzkin, even the Hebrew University in Jerusalem symbolized Zionist colonialism. It was not established for the indigenous population but for immigrants, and prevented the establishment of universities for the natives. Hence, he accuses the University of being "a political weapon that prevented education from the majority of the populace."19
He did not mean the graduates of Jewish high schools that until the Second World War usually went abroad for higher education, but the local Arabs. However, which education did Palestine's Arabs need? In 1925, the year of the Hebrew University's establishment, Palestine had 49 Arab elementary and high schools in towns (29 for boys and 20 for girls) and 265 rural schools (all elementary, of which 11 were for girls). They were attended by 16,146 boys and 3,591 girls. Most pupils attended school for four or five years. Twenty years later, in 1945, the total number of Arab pupils rose to 71,468, but only 232 studied in the 11th and 12th grade classes. Arab higher education had only 58 students.20 In the Mandate period, the Arab population did not need a university but elementary schools, and the British mandate did develop the Arab education system considerably. The argument that the establishment of the Hebrew University prevented higher education from the Arabs is simply ridiculous.
Zionism Is Not Colonialist
Put simply, Zionism essentially required immigration and colonizationjust as the Spanish settled in South America, or the Pilgrims and others in North America, followed by a long line of Europeans who occupied America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Africa and settled in the occupied territories. Zionism, for a while, also was assisted by an imperialist power, Britain, though the reasons for British support were more complex than pure imperialism. Here, however, the similarity ends, and the comparison with colonialism fails to adequately explain the Zionist phenomenon.
Unlike the conquistadors and their successors, Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel did not come armed to their teeth, and made no attempt to take the country by force from the native population. The pioneer immigrants conceived the normalization of the Jews in terms of return to manual labor, not in exercising military power. Until the First World War, the idea of creating a Jewish military force for achieving political aims was confined to a few visionaries, and even at the end of that war, volunteering into the Jewish battalions of the British army was controversial among young pioneers in Palestine.
If we take a semiotic approach, up until 1948 the Hebrew word kibbush (occupation, conquest) referred to taming the wilderness and mastering manual labor and the art of grazing; in its most militant form, it referred to guarding Jewish settlements. Terms such as g'dud (battalion) or plugah (company) did not refer to military but to labor units. The armed Jewish force emerged late, in response to attacks and threats on the part of the Palestinians and Arabs from the neighboring countries, and the key word in the process of building it was "defense." The ethos of using force was defensive at least until the Palestinian rebellion in the years 1936-1939.
Since the late 1930s, "defense" was not perceived necessarily in tactical terms. Tactically and methodically, the yishuv's youth became aggressive since the "emerging out of the fence" in 1937-1938. Yet, the use of the word "defense" symbolized a broader perception of the Zionist enterprise as constantly threatened by its Arab surroundings and, sometimes, also by other powers. The word implied that the yishuv was the responding side and not the initiator of the threats even if and when, tactically, it took the initiative and unleashed the first strike.
Unlike the whites' societies in the British dominions, to which the post-Zionists compare Zionism when they define it "national colonialism" or "colonialism that develops into territorial nationalism," Zionism voluntarily undertook restrictions compatible with democratic principles of self-determination. It strove to arrive at a demographic majority in the Land of Israel before taking political control of the country. Furthermore, the Zionists regarded a Jewish majority as a pre-condition for Jewish sovereignty. They believed that this condition was attainable through immigration, and not by expulsion or annihilation in the manner of the whites' attitude to the Native Americans or the Aborigines.
Economic theories of colonialism and sociological theories of migration movements are equally inadequate when applied to the Zionist experience. Palestine differed from typical countries of colonialist immigration primarily because it was an underdeveloped and primitive country. Usually, Europeans had immigrated to countries rich in natural resources and poor in manpower in order to exploit their wealth; by contrast, Palestine was too poor even to support its indigenous population. At the end of the Ottoman period, natives of PalestineJews and Arabsemigrated to seek their future in America and Australia.
Zionist ideology and the import of Jewish capital compensated for the lack of natural resources and accelerated the modernization of the backward country. Ideology and import of capital were totally absent in other colonial movements. Colonial empires generally exploited colonies for the benefit of the mother country and did not invest beyond what was necessary for that exploitation. By contrast, the flow of capital to Palestine went one way. Neither Britain nor the Jewish People derived any economic gains from the country.
A central argument of those who compare Zionism with colonialism concerns the taking over of Palestine's lands and the dispossession of the Arab tenants. However, until 1948 the Zionists did not conquer, butunparalleled among colonial movementsbought land in Palestine. Kimmerling shows how between 1910 and 1944, the prices of land in Palestine were multiplied by 52.5. According to Kimmerling's data, in 1910 the price of agricultural land in Palestine was twice its average price in the United States, while in 1944 the proportion was 23:1. Between 1936 and 1944 the land prices rose three times more than the cost of living index.21
Under these circumstances, the Palestinians could not resist the temptation to sell land to the Jews. Sellers included members of all the prominent clans of the Palestinian elite. Palestinian and some post-Zionist Israeli scholars tend to put the blame for the eviction of Palestinian tenant farmers on foreign landowners such as the Sursuq family of Beirut, concealing the role of resident elite families who led the Palestinian national movement.22
Upon the attainment of statehood, the circumstances changed. State land was requisitioned and private lands were expropriated. But the state compensated private owners, either with money or alternative tracts, and individual Arabs continued to sell off holdings. One of the Palestinians' biggest fiascos was their inability to check land selling, despite the violent steps they took and the numerous assassinations of land sellers and dealers throughout the 20th century.
By contrast to other countries of immigration and colonialist settlement, the Jewish immigrants did not wish to integrate into the existing, mainly Arab economy, and also did not try to take it over. They laid foundations for a new and separate economy, without the relations of mastery and dependence that characterized colonial societies.23 During the Mandate period and the early years of statehood, Jewish immigrants competed with (Arab) natives and immigrants from the adjacent countries in the urban and rural, public and private manual labor marketsas agricultural laborers, in the building industry, as stonecutters, road builders, porters, and stevedores.24 "Kibbush Ha'avoda" (occupying the Labor) had ideological, economic, social, and political motives, but such competition between white settlers and natives was inconceivable in colonial countries.
A cultural appraisal, too, excludes Zionism from the colonialist paradigm. Contrary to the colonialist stereotype, Jews who immigrated to the Land of Israel severed their ties to their countries of origin and their cultural past. Instead, they revived an ancient language and, on the basis of Hebrew, created a new culture. The revival of Hebrew began in Eastern Europe and preceded Zionism, but the Zionist movement and the yishuv implemented it fully. In the Land of Israel, Hebrew became the national language spoken by all: from the kindergarten children to the academy.
All over the world colonialist immigrants either quested after a lucrative future or sought to escape a dreary present. Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel shared these motives, but their primary, unique impulse, which distinguished them from colonialist movements, was to revive an ancient heritage.
The above should suffice to refute the identification between Zionism and colonialism. The seemingly historical argument, however, impinges significantly on the present. Long after most national-liberation movements have achieved their goals and thrown off colonialism, the Palestinianswho have enjoyed far greater international supportare still in the same place, if not worse. This fact alone should have led Palestinian intellectuals and their Western and Israeli sympathizers to re-examine their traditional paradigm. Instead, by cultivating the Zionist-colonialist prototype, Israeli historians and social scientists continue to provide the Palestinians with an excuse to avoid such re-examination, and encourage them to proceed along a road that apparently leads nowhere.
Post-Zionist Propaganda and Israeli Historiography
The post-Zionist tone of the public debates in Israel grew louder in the days of "The New Middle East"the era of euphoria and illusions after the Oslo accord. In those days, some post-Zionists proclaimed the end of the era of Zionist hegemony and the beginning of a new, post-Zionist, era. Other post-Zionists
About the author
Prof. Yoav Gelber is a historian, teaching at the University of Haifa where he is also head of the Herzl Institute for Research of Zionism. This year he is a visiting professor at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the winner of three Israeli prizes (Ben-Zvi, Ruppin, and Itzhak Sadeh [twice]) and the author of about 20 books on various aspects of the history of Israel, and 60 articles. His book History, Memory and Propaganda is coming out in Hebrew in these very days, and he is working now on an English version of the book.
By Aluf Benn and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and News Agencies
In a gesture to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the government approved on Sunday the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners from Abbas' Fatah movement.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the measure aimed at boosting Abbas' standing in the wake of rival Hamas' forcible seizure of the Gaza Strip would not hurt efforts to return abducted Israel Defense forces soliders.
"Without a doubt, this move won't hurt the chances to bring about the release of Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, and it might even create conditions that will ease the process," Olmert said.
Six ministers voted against the move: Itzhak Aharonovich of Israel Beiteinu, Kadima's Shaul Mofaz and all four ministers of ultra-Orthodox Shas.
According to Olmert, the approval comes after thorough deliberations and consultations with ministers and security officials.
"I think that this gesture is a fitting one, and not a product of some illusion," said Olmert.
Explaining the motives behind the move, the prime minister said, "We want to make use of all means to strengthen moderate forces within the Palestinian Authority, and to encourage them to follow the path that we believe can create conditions for real talks."
The list of prisoners slated for release is not yet final. It will follow criteria set by Ariel Sharon's government four years ago, starting with the ban on releasing any prisoners "with blood on their hands," meaning any who have murdered Israelis.
The prisoner release would be the first since February 2005, when Israel freed 500 in a similar move aimed at bolstering Abbas, who had just been elected PA chairman.
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai responded to the vote by saying, "If terrorists are being released, there is no reason not to also free Jews who have killed Arabs." Shas has lent its support recently to a Jewish group actively pursuing this call.
Mofaz maintained that the release would not strengthen Abbas, while MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) said the government decision was irresponsible and would harm the security of Israeli citizens.
Israel will consider releasing on humanitarian medical grounds several longtime prisoners from Fatah who were convicted of serious crimes and served in jail for many years. Similar gestures were made under Sharon.
Olmert on Saturday sent back the list of the Palestinian prisoners slated for release to the Shin Bet and Justice Ministry, demanding the removal of several dozen names. He ordered that a new list be drawn up of prisoners with more time to serve of their jail sentences.
Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Abbas, urged Israel to coordinate the release with the Palestinians. "We have not been consulted on this release, he said," adding that Israel has rejected calls to convene a joint committee on prisoners.
The Palestinians have urged Israel to release some of the most prominent prisoners, including Marwan Barghouti, a top official in Abbas' Fatah movement who is serving life sentences for involvement in five murders. Israel has rejected calls for Barghouti's release.
Riad Maliki, the information minister in Abbas' new government, said he expected the 250 prisoners to be former military men from pro-Fatah security forces. "If it was in our hands to choose...we would have chosen a group that more fairly represented the body of Palestinian prisoners, from all political groups," Maliki said.
In Gaza, where Hamas seized control last month, after which Abbas dismissed the militant group from the PA government, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said a release of Fatah prisoners signaled that Abbas is collaborating with Israel. "He should have refused any release unless it includes all Palestinian prisoners," he said.
A political source in Jerusalem said that the criteria for release will favor prisoners who have served two-thirds of their sentence, but that if not enough prisoners were found who met the rules, Israel would be flexible and release prisoners who had completed less than two-thirds of their sentence.
Spokeswoman for Olmert, Miri Eisin, said Israel would allow 48 hours for the releases to be challenged in petitions to the high court.
A team headed by Justice Ministry Director General Moshe Shilo will put together the list of prisoners with input from the Shin Bet, the police, Prisons Service and the army.
In a related development, The Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam reported Saturday that Ofer Dekel, Olmert's point man in the matter of Israel's kidnapped and missing soldiers, met with Samir Kuntar 10 days ago at Hadarim Prison.
Kuntar was jailed by Israel in 1979, following his conviction for murdering the Haran family in a terrorist attack in Nahariya. Hezbollah is demanding Kuntar's release in return for the release of the kidnapped Israeli reservists Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
Dekel reportedly told Kuntar that there had been progress in the German-brokered negotiations with Hezbollah, which Dekel said had been held up by Hezbollah's demand that Israel release Palestinian prisoners.
"Israelis and Bedouins collaborate in promoting tourism in the Negev," the headline read. This is good news, but would it not have been better to write that "Jews and Bedouins" are collaborating? Did the headline writer want to say that the Bedouins in the Negev are not Israelis?
This invalid use of the term "Israeli" is quite prevalent. There was already a newspaper headline that referred to a "romance between a Druze officer and an Israeli [female] soldier." This Druze officer serves in the Israel Defense Forces, not in the Syrian army. Should he be informed that he is not an Israeli? As is well known, Druze officers define themselves as Israelis more readily than Bedouins in the Negev. In any case, from the perspective of the Jewish majority, terminology suggesting that a group of the state's citizens is not "Israeli" should clearly be rejected. Proper semantics do not solve substantive problems, but poor semantics can definitely be detrimental.
One can assume that this is generally an insensitive habit of speech of a majority that regards itself as the general public, as a majority tends to do. There are surely those who are not prepared, in principle, to recognize that a non-Jew can be an Israeli. However, it seems that more often the problem exists in the opposite direction among those who prefer to call the national group that constitutes the state's majority "Israelis" and not "Jews."
"Israeli" sounds to them like a civic and secular term, while "Jew," in their view, is an ethno-religious definition. I have heard on numerous occasions, from people who are definitely enlightened, sentences such as: "I have Israeli and Arab students in the class." When asked "Aren't your Arab students Israelis?" the answer is always, in clear embarrassment: "Of course, Jews and Arabs." There is no intention here of claiming that Arabs are not Israelis, but rather an intention, or habit, of refraining from defining the Jews as Jews. After all, as noted, an enlightened, liberal and secular person in our times has learned to recoil from the term "Jew," which emits an odor of extreme nationalism and religious coercion.
Thus, the tendency to speak about the "Israeli nation" instead of the "Jewish nation" produces an absurd result, opposite the one intended by proponents of "Israeli nationalism." If the Jews and Arabs in Israel would see themselves as members of the same nation, the correct name would obviously be "Israeli nation." But when both the Jews and Arabs agree that there are two nations, when the Arabs proudly declare that they are an indigenous national minority, it is clear that if the majority is defined as "Israeli nation," the members of the other nation are not Israelis.
It would be best to leave the term "Israeli" as a civic label that applies, in principle, to all citizens of the state. Most people belonging to the majority do not care if they are called Jews, Israeli Jews, or "simply" Israelis: They regard these terms, in most contexts, as synonyms. From the perspective of relations with the Arab minority, it is actually better to call the members of the nation that comprises the majority "Jews" (or "Israeli Jews"), and to call all Israel's citizens, regardless of religion and nationality "Israelis."
But isn't the term "Israeli nation" preferable from a secular perspective? This is an illusion. No advocate of religious coercion would find it difficult to formulate his demands using purely "Israeli" terminology - in the name of the Torah of Israel, the religion of Moses and Israel, the spirit of grandfather Israel, and all for the sake of the people of Israel, of course. As noted, there are no semantic solutions for substantive problems. But it is always possible to make things worse.