Friday, October 11, 2013
Monday, October 7, 2013
On Yair Lapid
In Ha’aretz, the indispensable Yossi Verter:
Lapid will come to the first session of the Knesset’s winter sitting next Monday not as someone whose target for the next election is the premiership. He is now fighting tooth-and-nail to restore his party to the top slot in the center-left bloc. In polls, Yesh Atid is consistently losing seats to Labor and Meretz.
Everyone who has been following Lapid’s pronouncements of late discerns a powerful need on his part to differentiate himself from Netanyahu. He came out against Jewish housing construction in East Jerusalem against the background of the release of Palestinian prisoners, and he spoke against the walkout by the Israeli delegation to the United Nations during the speech by Iranian President Rohani. This week, in his interview with Rose, he made it clear that he is against Netanyahu’s demand that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians be conditional on the recognition by the latter of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Lapid is looking for something to run with. He is discovering that the social-justice banner is being tightly gripped by Yacimovich. The peace-process flag is being proudly hoisted by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the leader of Hatnuah. Gal-On is the standard-bearer of human and civil rights. It’s only in the peace-process arena that he sees some opportunity to recoup some of his party’s lost votes. There he will position himself, in the winter session, or until he adopts a different agenda.
Friday, August 2, 2013
More than half a million mourners on Monday attended the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, religious scholar and kingmaker of Israeli politics.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Israel will never be a ‘normal’ nation
Whether it is desired or not, Israel will always be an exceptional nation.
It is in the nature of Israel’s birth – of Israel as the manifestation of a dream, or several dreams, and the yearning and investment those dreams hold. The awakening of a Jewish national consciousness within the galut, the revival of the Hebrew language, the founding of Tel Aviv and the kibbutzim, the greening of the land, the victories in existential wars fought on multiple fronts – it is a secular, pioneering achievement unparalleled in modern history.
But that’s not even the half of it. As a Jewish state, Israel will be exceptional simply because it is a state for Jews. On one level this is benign – every nation has its qualities that make it different or unique. In the case of my country of birth and residence, the United Kingdom, it would be the English language and our literature, as well as our contributions to the rule of law, good governance, and fair play. For the United States, it would be their documents – the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights – and the ideas of liberty and democracy embedded within them.
For Israel, it would be that Judaism and Jewish civilisation has sustained itself, as Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger have recently persuasively argued, not as a bloodline but a textline. “Jewish continuity has always hinged on uttered and written words, on an expanding maze of interpretations, debates, and disagreements,” they write in Jews and Words. “In synagogue, at school, and most of all in the home, it has always involved two or three generations deep in conversation.”
The Jewish propensity for argument and self-criticism, interpretation and reinterpretation, is essential to the Israeli national character, the Israeli chutzpah, as well as Israel’s political culture, its social fabric, and its literature. Alive and ever-evolving, the textline makes Israel a subject of fascination for those who have an interest in such things as Jewish history and culture. Judeophilia will, since it affects Jews, inevitably impact upon the Jewish state as well. I can attest to this, writing as a non-Jewish Zionist who cannot help but find the idea of a textline both enchanting and enthralling.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
by Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz, May 3, 2013
Undoubtedly, there has been a cost. But if the intention was to isolate Israel and Israelis and to influence Israeli policies, it has been a total failure. The movement’s small success, mainly on university campuses and in a few places in Britain and South Africa, has been to remind Israelis and their Jewish supporters that they cannot ignore the Palestinian conflict. In effect, they tried to do what the Arab national movement failed at − deny Israel normalization. And to a large degree they have also failed.
Even under successive right-wing governments, Israel has expanded its trade relations, membership in international bodies, cultural and sporting ties. More crucially, they have provided a cause around which Jewish organizations and individuals (all but a small fringe of anti-Zionists) can rally, a cause that unites them, a cause in which they have the support of the great majority of Western governments in fighting against Israel’s “delegitimization.”
…The BDS campaign is little more than a minor nuisance to Israel’s current policies; a movement whose successes include empty resolutions, heckling concerts and forcing Jewish students to dance in hiding. They have joined Jewish settlers in the West Bank as obstacles to peace. Read their literature and you will see how similar both groups are. They both oppose a two-state solution, both believe that Western media is biased against them, both abhor the Palestinian Authority and any real effort being made to improve the daily lives of Palestinian citizens, both see the Obama administration (any American administration, for that matter) as a hostile entity, and while both deny racist tendencies, they are riddled with bigots and maintain contacts with dubious regimes and political parties.
The BDSers have only one advantage over the settlers − we can totally ignore them. Any undue attention to this rabble of misfits, cranks and conspiracy theorists only serves to aggrandize them and provides the settlers and their supporters with ammunition. Anyone who is serious about achieving lasting peace in the region should let them languish in obscurity.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Gideon Levy, single-minded
Gideon Levy has long cut a melancholic figure within Israeli journalism, as if he is carrying the burden of all Israel’s indiscretions upon his shoulders. His work covering the indignities of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank for Ha’aretz has been admirable, and for it, Levy has become foreign media’s go-to guy for grim, matter-of-fact quotes about the state of the State, giving out bleak pronouncements on matters ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the position of Tel Aviv within Israel as a bubble, separated from the main.
As a loyal reader of Ha’aretz, I adopted the same deference, and continued to read his columns even as the tone grew darker, the voice more monotonous, the claims bolder. Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps I should have stopped after October 23, 2012, when Ha’aretz published a frontpage splash of Levy’s under the headline, “Most Israelis Support Apartheid Regime in Israel,” even though as it transpired the polling data didn’t even back-up Levy’s premise. As Erez Tadmor covers in his essay in The Tower, Ha’aretz was compelled to issue the following retraction:
The wording of the main headline, “Most Israelis Support Apartheid Regime in Israel” (Haaretz, Oct. 23), did not precisely reflect the findings of the Dialog poll. The question to which a majority of respondents answered in the negative did not relate to any current state of affairs, but to a hypothetical future one: “If Israel were to annex the territories of Judea and Samaria [i.e., the West Bank], would you support granting 2.5 million Palestinians the right to vote in Knesset elections?”
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
"What else should they call it? Forced Passover vacation for Arabs?"
Foreign Policy has a profile of Israeli Arab novelist and screenwriter Sayed Kashua that it worth your attention:
The show was commissioned to do a second season and then a third, when it really took off. Viewership in the third season jumped 40 percent over the previous run. Seventy-two percent of Jewish Israeli households tuned in at least once, and according to Keshet, Avoda Aravit's average share of viewers in its time slot was 40 percent. At the annual Israeli Academy of Film and Television awards in January, its third season picked up five trophies: best comedy, best lead actor in a comedy, best lead actress in a comedy, best director, and best screenplay. Kashua quipped at the fete, “We get about 20 percent of the prizes, just like our percentage of the population.”
He was referring, of course, to the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who define themselves as Palestinian. The vast majority of this community lives in Israel’s Galilee region and in an area known as the Triangle, a swath of clustered towns and villages in the eastern Plain of Sharon, straddling the Green Line that separates Israel proper from the Palestinian territories.
It was here, in the Triangle city of Tira, that Kashua grew up. In 1990, when Kashua was 15, he was accepted into the Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA), a Jerusalem boarding school for highly gifted teens. Pushed by his parents, he left the Triangle and plunged into the heart of Jewish Israeli society, creating the existential paradox that confounds him to this day. He realized quickly that his very presence aroused suspicion.
"I hated the city as soon as I entered it." Kashua wrote of moving to Jerusalem. “On my first bus ride, a soldier got on and immediately pegged me as an Arab: a boy leaving his village for the first time, with an Arab’s clothes, an Arab’s thin moustache, and most tellingly, the frightened look of an Arab. That was the first time I was taken off the bus and searched. It took me a while to blur my external identity.”
Monday, March 18, 2013
by Sayed Kashua, Ha’aretz, March 28, 2013
Everyone wanted to talk about identity, about nationality and foreignness, about detachment, self-determination. They wanted to hear about language, about humor and fears, and the future. And I drank a lot and thought about myself, and this thing called a Palestinian citizen of Israel.
I thought about Israelis who are searching for a kind of understanding (in the best case) and words of thanks (in the extreme case), and about the Arabs who are seeking an apology and clarification. And at first I really did feel a powerful desire to apologize to every side, because I’ve always been the self-protective type, one of the skeptics, with a lack of self-confidence − at least when it comes to national pride. But for some reason I didn’t give in, and I wasn’t prepared to tolerate the criticisms of the Israelis and Arabs.
I thought about my grandmother who had nothing left after the war and yet still did everything for the sake of her son’s education. I thought about my father and mother, who worked hard all their lives for the sake of their children’s future. I thought about Tira, about the Triangle, the Negev and the Galilee. About us, who without anyone asking what we thought, became Israeli citizens.
I thought about that weak population of the villages who lost their land and were orphaned overnight, about those fellahs cut off from the wider Arab world and trampled by the Zionist vision.
I thought about us for a moment, and realized that I didn’t want to apologize to anyone − not to an Israeli Jew when I talk about the rape and oppression, and not to the Arab and Palestinian who accuse me of exploiting my citizenship and castigate me for using the Hebrew language.
Just before I was about to apologize, I realized that what I really wanted to do was shout at them all to go to hell, that I can say whatever I want and blame whomever I want. I’ve earned it. I wanted to shout that nothing good will come from the Israelis who hurl accusations of betrayal and disloyalty, just as nothing good will come from those Arabs who hurl accusations of betrayal and segregation.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
by Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz, March 18, 2013
The left’s claims are worn out and barely heard by the public − or they achieve the opposite of their goal. “The demographic threat” isn’t convincing − that Israel will become an Arab country with a Jewish minority once the Palestinians reach a majority between the river and the sea and demand equal voting rights. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are closed up behind walls and separation fences and don’t exist in the Israeli consciousness. There is zero chance that Hamas will ask to leave Gaza and run in the Knesset elections to change Israel’s character. Waving the demographic problem as if the increase in the number of Arabs endangered Israel only strengthens the nationalism and racism here.
The next claim − “an agreement is within reach” − doesn’t sound believable after the Palestinians rejected the peace proposals of Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. It’s hard to convince the people that the Israeli proposals weren’t generous enough. It’s even harder to convince them that the territories to be evacuated in the West Bank won’t be used as bases for launching rockets at Tel Aviv, as Gaza has been used. Even those who oppose the settlements don’t want to live under the shadow of warning sirens and explosions.
The final claim is that “the occupation corrupts and is seeping inside the Green Line.” This is true, but it only strengthens those who benefit from disproportionate rights − and want to bolster them under the guise of the slogan “sharing the burden.” If we’re the masters and the others are the servants, what’s the problem?
If the left wants to turn things around, it has to refresh its message and find a leader who will connect it to the mainstream − as the settlers found Naftali Bennett and the Rothschild Boulevard protesters raised Yair Lapid to great heights. That’s how it works in a democracy − not by false expectations for an American knight on a white horse who outflanks public opinion. And if Obama wants to strengthen his faithful in Israel, that’s what he has to tell them in his Jerusalem speech.
Monday, January 28, 2013
by Yoel Marcus, Ha’aretz, January 25, 2013
I know what Peres really thinks of Bibi’s past performance. He will therefore be very meticulous in his calculations before tabbing him to put together the new ruling coalition. Peres is familiar with all the tricks and intrigues of our politicians in their struggle to remain in power. It is not by chance that Bibi cooked up the union with Lieberman, or that he pathetically tried to grab on to the coattails of the popular ex-minister Moshe Kahlon, giving him a last-ditch appointment with the pretense of initiating a drive to lower housing prices for the middle class.
This is how things go when Bibi panics. Let’s assume that he does embark on a course of negotiations with the Palestinians, both for appearance’s sake and to appease Obama. Without Dan Meridor and with Moshe Feiglin and his ilk setting the tone, the present Likud will tie his hands in any case. If the smiling, lady-charming Naftali Bennett is in the coalition as well, Bibi will be even more paralyzed.
…This country is still dominated by the macho ethos, in all its political forms. The left is so unpopular that Shelly Yacimovich made every effort to distance herself from any talk of peace and the occupation. The biggest enigma is what made Bibi move up the elections. Did he sense that Likud was veering too far to the right, or did he want to open a new page in his relations with the United States? The most common guess is that he wanted to put off dealing with the state budget while still holding a strong command over his coalition. similar error was committed by Yitzhak Rabin in December 1976, when he fired two ministers from the National Religious Party for joining a non-confidence vote against the government they were serving in. (The issue then was the landing of newly arrived F-16 fighter jets on the Sabbath). Moving up the elections led to the fall of the government, the ascent of Menachem Begin and the peace treaty with Egypt.
Bibi’s move seems odd in retrospect. In any case, we suggest preparing for the next elections.
by Nehemia Shtrasler, Ha’aretz, January 25, 2013
Instead of wooing potential voters, she courted potential partners to the government she hoped to lead: the settlers and the ultra-Orthodox. She was always glancing to the right, and never said a single word of her own initiative about the peace process.
She thought that in doing so, she would draw in right-wing voters, but in reality she drove Labor’s traditional voters - those who think that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important job - out of the party: They moved to Meretz and Hatnuah. Zahava Gal-On said that Meretz’s best campaign was run by Labor.
And then, at the last minute, when she saw the right wasn’t coming, Yacimovich did a back-flip and announced that she would not join a Netanyahu government. She lost her credibility, and all those who wanted to vote for a party that would join the coalition and somewhat moderate Netanyahu voted for Lapid.
…It is also worth mentioning how Yacimovich betrayed the left by signing a surplus-vote agreement with Lapid instead of Meretz’s Gal-On. This was another mistake stemming from arrogance and ignorance. Under the Bader-Ofer Law on allocating surplus votes, a large party that signs such an agreement with a small party has an advantage when the votes are divvied up. Despite that, she signed with a bigger party, thereby losing an entire Knesset seat - or even two - for Labor and the left.