Israel: Warped Mirrors & White House Sofas

Israel: Warped Mirrors & White House Sofas
Dispatches From The Edge
Conn Hallinan
July 15, 2010
If anyone had doubts about the outcome of recent talks between Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barak Obama, they
were put to rest July 13 when Israeli authorities demolished three Palestinian
houses and announced the construction of 32 new homes in East Jerusalem.
According to the British Guardian, “A further 48 housing units are expected
to be approved next week.”
So much for the “freeze” on evictions and settlement building; so much for
the “peace process” According to Jeff Halper of the International Committee
against Home Demolitions, “The rule of thumb in this part of the world is
that in the run-up to the U.S. elections Israel has a free hand. Israel is now
taking advantage of that.”
The collapse of the “freeze”—which wasn’t a freeze in any case because
it did not cover East Jerusalem or “existing settlements”—will spike any
1
negotiations between the Netanyahu government and the Palestinians, and
accelerate Israel’s take-over of the West Bank. According to a recent study
by the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, that process is rapidly reaching
the point of no return.
The B’Tselem report found that settlers now control 42 percent of the West
Bank, far more than was previously thought, and much of the land seized
from private Palestinian landowners. Any settlement land in the Occupied
Territories is considered a violation of international law, but taking privately
owned land also contravenes rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court.
“The settlement enterprise has been characterized, since its inception, by an
instrumental, cynical, and even criminal approach to international law, local
legislation, Israeli military orders, and Israeli law, which has enabled the
continuous pilfering of land from Palestinians in the West Bank,” the report
states.
Settler councils have either fenced off or designated massive tracts of land
for future expansion, and they have seized 21 percent of the privately owned
land on the West Bank. This drive to take over the entire West Bank has
been greatly aided by Israeli government policies, including subsidized
housing, tax breaks, bypass roads, and the seizure of scare water resources.
2
Israeli groups that oppose the settler expansion, or are critical of government
policies vis-à-vis Gaza, are finding themselves increasingly under fire. In
recent months demonstrators have been arrested for peacefully assembling
and picketing, and a bill that demonizes non-governmental organizations
(NGO) that accused the government of war crimes during the 2008-09 “Cast
Lead” operation in Gaza is working its way through the Knesset.
The bill would outlaw any NGO that provides information to foreign or
international organization, like the United Nations, that results in a charge
of war crimes. When the Israeli government refused to cooperate with the
UN’s investigation of Cast Lead, groups like B’Tselem provided about 14
percent of the information that eventually went into the Goldstone Report.
The Report found that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes.
According to the Forward, “The proposed legislation would apply to
NGOs that provide information directly to accusers, or to NGOs that put
information in the public domain that leads to such accusations.”
Some 17 Knesset members from the Kadima Party and other rightwing
parties have signed on to the legislation. Some observers say it has little
3
chance of passing, but that will depend on the position of the government.
“Instead of defending democracy, the sponsors of this bill prefer to reduce it
to ashes,” reads a statement signed by 10 human rights NGOs.
Polls show the legislation—ram-rodded by Kadima Knesset member Ronit
Tirosh—has support. A Tel Aviv University survey found that 57.6 percent
thought that NGOs that exposed “immoral conduct” by Israel should not be
allowed “to operate freely.”
There is a growing chasm “between the slogans like, ’Israel is a great
democracy,’ and ‘the army is the most moral in the world’—and the reality,”
says Professor Daniel Bar-Tal who conducted the poll. Israelis, he says, “do
not look in the mirror” and do not wish to be reminded by NGOs about their
image. The result, he says, is that “the foundations” of democracy in the
country are under siege.
The mood to pull the wagons in a circle has helped revive a push by
rightwing Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to cancel Israeli
citizenship for the country’s 1.3 million Arabs, and transfer them to
a “Palestinian state.” The plan—which would violate international law—
was first proposed in 2003, but then shelved. In the current atmosphere,
4
Lieberman has dusted it off and put it back on the agenda.
The Obama Administration says Netanyahu accepts a two-state solution,
but the Prime Minister has filled his pledge with so many caveats that there
appears little possibility that such an entity could ever appear under his
government. Indeed, his national security advisor and close friend, Uzi Arad,
recently attacked the “magic” of the two-state solution and told a meeting of
the Jewish Agency, “The more you market Palestinian legitimacy, the more
you bring about a detraction of Israel’s legitimacy.”
Israel has never been so isolated internationally. Several nations recalled
their ambassadors in the aftermath of the Israeli commando raid on the Gaza
flotilla, and leading politicians, including Kadima leader Tzipi Livini and
Vice Prime Minister Mosche Ya’alon, have decided to curb travel to Britain
because they fear an arrest warrant.
This isolation is likely to get worse with the Goldstone Report coming
before the UN’s General Assembly in late July and Turkey assuming the
chair of the Security Council in September.
The current Israeli leadership is a major part of the problem. “Ever since the
assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Israel has been ruled by one of the
5
stupidest and least responsible leaderships in the world. Their failings have
been masked by propaganda and by Israel’s American insurance policy,”
says the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn.
Cockburn points out that the last Israeli military victory was the 1973 war
against Syria and Egypt, and that over the past 37 years Israel has lurched
from one failure to another. “Israel’s only victories these days are won on
the sofa of the White House.”
The reason, he argues, “is that Israelis believe their own propaganda and
their supporters abroad adopt a skewed view of events as if it was an article
of faith. Israelis, leaders and followers alike, acquire a wholly distorted
picture of the world around them. Hubris breeds self-righteousness and
arrogance robs Israel of friends and allies and repeatedly leads its leaders to
underestimate their enemies.”
None of that is likely to be changed by refusing to look in the mirror or by
killing the NGO messenger .

Israel: Warped Mirrors & White House SofasDispatches From The EdgeConn HallinanJuly 15, 2010If anyone had doubts about the outcome of recent talks between IsraeliPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barak Obama, theywere put to rest July 13 when Israeli authorities demolished three Palestinianhouses and announced the construction of 32 new homes in East Jerusalem.According to the British Guardian, “A further 48 housing units are expectedto be approved next week.”So much for the “freeze” on evictions and settlement building; so much forthe “peace process” According to Jeff Halper of the International Committeeagainst Home Demolitions, “The rule of thumb in this part of the world isthat in the run-up to the U.S. elections Israel has a free hand. Israel is nowtaking advantage of that.”The collapse of the “freeze”—which wasn’t a freeze in any case becauseit did not cover East Jerusalem or “existing settlements”—will spike any1negotiations between the Netanyahu government and the Palestinians, andaccelerate Israel’s take-over of the West Bank. According to a recent studyby the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, that process is rapidly reachingthe point of no return.The B’Tselem report found that settlers now control 42 percent of the WestBank, far more than was previously thought, and much of the land seizedfrom private Palestinian landowners. Any settlement land in the OccupiedTerritories is considered a violation of international law, but taking privatelyowned land also contravenes rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court.“The settlement enterprise has been characterized, since its inception, by aninstrumental, cynical, and even criminal approach to international law, locallegislation, Israeli military orders, and Israeli law, which has enabled thecontinuous pilfering of land from Palestinians in the West Bank,” the reportstates.Settler councils have either fenced off or designated massive tracts of landfor future expansion, and they have seized 21 percent of the privately ownedland on the West Bank. This drive to take over the entire West Bank hasbeen greatly aided by Israeli government policies, including subsidizedhousing, tax breaks, bypass roads, and the seizure of scare water resources.2Israeli groups that oppose the settler expansion, or are critical of governmentpolicies vis-à-vis Gaza, are finding themselves increasingly under fire. Inrecent months demonstrators have been arrested for peacefully assemblingand picketing, and a bill that demonizes non-governmental organizations(NGO) that accused the government of war crimes during the 2008-09 “CastLead” operation in Gaza is working its way through the Knesset.The bill would outlaw any NGO that provides information to foreign orinternational organization, like the United Nations, that results in a chargeof war crimes. When the Israeli government refused to cooperate with theUN’s investigation of Cast Lead, groups like B’Tselem provided about 14percent of the information that eventually went into the Goldstone Report.The Report found that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes.According to the Forward, “The proposed legislation would apply toNGOs that provide information directly to accusers, or to NGOs that putinformation in the public domain that leads to such accusations.”Some 17 Knesset members from the Kadima Party and other rightwingparties have signed on to the legislation. Some observers say it has little3chance of passing, but that will depend on the position of the government.“Instead of defending democracy, the sponsors of this bill prefer to reduce itto ashes,” reads a statement signed by 10 human rights NGOs.Polls show the legislation—ram-rodded by Kadima Knesset member RonitTirosh—has support. A Tel Aviv University survey found that 57.6 percentthought that NGOs that exposed “immoral conduct” by Israel should not beallowed “to operate freely.”There is a growing chasm “between the slogans like, ’Israel is a greatdemocracy,’ and ‘the army is the most moral in the world’—and the reality,”says Professor Daniel Bar-Tal who conducted the poll. Israelis, he says, “donot look in the mirror” and do not wish to be reminded by NGOs about theirimage. The result, he says, is that “the foundations” of democracy in thecountry are under siege.The mood to pull the wagons in a circle has helped revive a push byrightwing Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to cancel Israelicitizenship for the country’s 1.3 million Arabs, and transfer them toa “Palestinian state.” The plan—which would violate international law—was first proposed in 2003, but then shelved. In the current atmosphere,4Lieberman has dusted it off and put it back on the agenda.The Obama Administration says Netanyahu accepts a two-state solution,but the Prime Minister has filled his pledge with so many caveats that thereappears little possibility that such an entity could ever appear under hisgovernment. Indeed, his national security advisor and close friend, Uzi Arad,recently attacked the “magic” of the two-state solution and told a meeting ofthe Jewish Agency, “The more you market Palestinian legitimacy, the moreyou bring about a detraction of Israel’s legitimacy.”Israel has never been so isolated internationally. Several nations recalledtheir ambassadors in the aftermath of the Israeli commando raid on the Gazaflotilla, and leading politicians, including Kadima leader Tzipi Livini andVice Prime Minister Mosche Ya’alon, have decided to curb travel to Britainbecause they fear an arrest warrant.This isolation is likely to get worse with the Goldstone Report comingbefore the UN’s General Assembly in late July and Turkey assuming thechair of the Security Council in September.The current Israeli leadership is a major part of the problem. “Ever since theassassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Israel has been ruled by one of the5stupidest and least responsible leaderships in the world. Their failings havebeen masked by propaganda and by Israel’s American insurance policy,”says the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn.Cockburn points out that the last Israeli military victory was the 1973 waragainst Syria and Egypt, and that over the past 37 years Israel has lurchedfrom one failure to another. “Israel’s only victories these days are won onthe sofa of the White House.”The reason, he argues, “is that Israelis believe their own propaganda andtheir supporters abroad adopt a skewed view of events as if it was an articleof faith. Israelis, leaders and followers alike, acquire a wholly distortedpicture of the world around them. Hubris breeds self-righteousness andarrogance robs Israel of friends and allies and repeatedly leads its leaders tounderestimate their enemies.”None of that is likely to be changed by refusing to look in the mirror or bykilling the NGO messenger .

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1 Comment

Filed under FPIF Blogs, Israel

One response to “Israel: Warped Mirrors & White House Sofas

  1. The goal of US/Israeli policy may be to create a Palestinian state in name only, as a way to legalize apartheid.

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