Thursday, December 30, 2010

"But those Arabs who do serve in the IDF are respected and honored" -- Not

With regard to the Arab population of Israel, there do exist issues. Nobody's denying that, but they're the result of the conflict and of the Arab unwillingness to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Those who do serve, however, get the same privileges as the Jews do in all walks of Israeli life.

This is the kind of nonsense Zionists can peddle with impunity because, logically, we can't trace every last Israeli Arab who served in the army to see if they're granted the same rights as the Jews. We'll have to make do, then, with those who make it to the headlines. A few days ago, Ynet reported:

Arabs flee home due to racist threats

Five residents of the north, four Muslims and a Druze, were forced to leave their apartment in southern Tel Aviv due to threats and persecution by their Jewish neighbors, Ynet learned Thursday.

"I felt humiliated by the hatred," said Ganem Abbas, the young Druze man, who has served in the IDF.(...)

[T]hree days ago the friends returned home in the evening to see that their main water pipe had been broken. Gas bottles had been stolen.

"The landlady told me that people from the neighborhood had threatened to torch the house and attack her if we don't get out, because we're Arabs," Abbas said.

He also described a particularly humiliating moment. "The neighbors came out and started to yell that they don't want to see Arabs in the neighborhood, and that it is for Jews only," he recounted.(...)

"This act destroys coexistence. I feel humiliated from this intolerable cruelty. Despite serving in the army and telling the neighbors this, but [sic] they didn't care and only gave us the evil eye. I have heard stories about Arabs who were fired for speaking their mother tongue – even that disturbs the racists."

Please note that the young Arab was kicked out of the apartment not because the attackers didn't know that he was an IDF veteran, but in spite of such awareness.

One can only pity the Druze community, who made many years ago the decision to allow the IDF to recruit their children, maybe in the hope that one day the Jews would accept them as part of the mainstream Israeli society. Bad news for them: Israeli Jews are not interested in any Arab, IDF service or not.

The bright side, though, is that the Tel Aviv municipality, in a face-saving effort, apologized to the young Druze and offered to find accomodation for him in a less hostile neighborhood.

Just kidding!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Israel heeds Goldstone

The Goldstone report was a pack of lies. Everything in it is hearsay unsupported by any hard evidence. That has been the standard Zionist line since the document saw the light of day. But do they themselves believe it?

Looks like not, according to a recent Jerusalem Post story. Reports the rightwing newspaper:

IDF officers finish course on reducing civilian casualties

In what some in the IDF are banking on as the key to preventing another Goldstone Report, the IDF this week wrapped up its first-ever training course for a new military post aimed at helping Israel minimize harm to civilians during future operations in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

How cute, they had previously almost convinced me that they did everything within their reach to minimize civilian suffering, and it turns out they are only now offering courses on the subject.

The officer in charge explains:

According to the commander of the school, Lt.- Col. Hatib Mansour, if such officers had been deployed inside IDF battalions during Operation Cast Lead two years ago, the criticism against Israel might not have been as severe.(...)

During the course, the officers were taught how to assist battalion and brigade commanders in planning operations while taking into consideration the effect these operations will have on the civilian population.

So you see: after 43 years of occupation they're considering the effects on civilians. Who knows, maybe in another 50 years they'll stop using human shields.

The most interesting part, though, was...

“If a field commander needs to conquer a city or a neighborhood, our officer will be there to explain what the sensitive targets are in the area of operations and what to look out for,” Mansour explained.

“We are adding the humanitarian side, like which road needs to be kept open so civilians can evacuate if needed.”

Wow, not only is the IDF the most moral army in the world; they're now adding the humanitarian side as well.

The rationale for the course proves what many NGO's had stated over the years, namely that Israel drops warning leaflets but doesn't allow the civilians any exit route. At last they seem to be realizing that.

And they owe it to Goldstone. The report can't be fallacious inasmuch as Israel is taking measures to minimize harm to civilians based on what the document says. Goldstone may be a self-hating Jew and the Goldstone report may be antisemitic. But thanks to it, a few select Israeli soldiers are being taught how to kill fewer civilians.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tiny minorities and even tinier ones

By now no one denies the existence of a deeply racist segment within the Israeli Jewish society, which operates with a freedom unseen in any other advanced democracy. Belgian priests signing a document against intermarriage with Muslims, for instance, or American politicians suggesting that Mexicans should not be allowed in certain neighborhoods, would be met not only with oprobium, but also with legal actions. Not so in Israel, where the housing minister can claim that the Arab and Jewish populations should not mix with hardly an eyebrow being raised.

The standard Zionist line of defense is that such elements are a tiny minority in Israel, and that the vast majority of Israeli Jews repudiate their discourse.

The events last Monday in Bat Yam, a suburb of Tel Aviv, would, however, suggest otherwise. As the Jerusalem Post reported:

Hundreds gathered at a demonstration in Bat Yam on Monday evening to protest the presence of Arab residents in the suburb south of Tel Aviv, and to warn against what they said was a worrying trend of Arabs “defiling” Jewish girls there and across Israel.

Posters advertising the protest said “The Arabs are taking over Bat Yam, buying and renting apartments from Jews and taking Jewish girls, whom they defile.” They also stated that “15,000 Jewish girls have been taken to [Arab] villages!” and “What would you do if an Arab man hit on your sister? We’ll put an end to this!”

The demo got the support of extremist politicians:

Far-right MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) attended the rally with his aide and fellow activist Itamar Ben-Gvir in tow. Ben-Ari said he had come “to see the Jews who are standing up for themselves. We are standing before a disaster, and our politicians are more concerned with ideas like democracy, ideas that our enemies exploit in order to attack the State of Israel.”

Moshe Ben-Zikri, a community administrator from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, who recently waged a campaign against the quarter’s Arab residents, told The Jerusalem Post, “Today, the Arab enemy is taking over all over Israel. They act innocent, they say we’re only here to rent an apartment, and then they take over house by house. Our girls fall victim to their temptation. Not only that, but crime and drugs, all of it comes with the Arabs; none of that stuff takes place in a Jewish area until the Arabs come.”

Like so many political loonies, these gentlemen had a conspiracy theory to explain it all: the Arabs are undermining Jewish society by taking their unwitting women.

Ben-Zikri said Arabs posed a special threat to innocent Jewish girls, who were easy prey.

“These Arabs, they speak Hebrew, they look just like us and they tempt our women,” he said. “Some guy named Arafat says his name is Ofer, and so on. Our girls don’t know these guys are Arab and they fall victim to them and families are destroyed. They [the Arabs] don’t have to kill people to destroy families.”

But according to their own probably inflated figures, just 15,000 Jewish women, of a total of some 3,000,000 in the country, are married to Arabs -- i.e., one-half of one percent. Irrational fears of minorities have always been a specialty of racists.

It's not that the Jews have any obligation to be more moral than other peoples, but if anything remotely close to this gathering had taken place in Western Europe or North America it would have been instant news worldwide; and if the target of the speeches had been the Jews the outrage would have been universal. Double standards anyone?

Ah, but what about the Jewish reaction against this atrocious demonstration? It did take place -- but see:

A counter-protest was held a few hundred meters away, where several dozen demonstrators chanted such slogans as “Bat Yam: A city for everyone” and “Down with racism.” One protester there held a sign reading, “I love Arabs, ask me how,” while another placard showed a picture of a smiling couple under the words “I married an Arab!”

Barak Sella, a 25-year-old organizer for the southern branch of left-wing youth group Hano’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed, said he had come with several other group members “in order to show our opposition to the other protest, but also to get across our message of unity, which is that we will keep Bat Yam Jewish and democratic.”

As can be seen, opponents to the racist gathering could be counted in the dozens, while the racists themselves could be counted in the hundreds. There's an order of magnitude of difference between the hateful camp and the tolerant one, which would suggest that if the former is a tiny minority, the latter is downright marginal. Furthermore, the tolerant gathering was made up of those people no one would think of as representative of Israel, and who are often described as self-hating Jews.

However they try to spin it, the phenomenon of unabashedly racist (and highly vocal) Jews in Israel is there to stay, to the shameful inaction of the rest of the society.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Anti-Arab hate festival continues; AP sanitizes

Israel President Shimon Peres is agonizing over the recent racist document produced by several dozen State-paid rabbis. He understands it's terrible publicity. But he also understands that the rabbis can't be fired, because what they propose is basically what Israel was built on: denying Palestinian Arabs a place on earth.

The affair broke out on Dec. 7 when some 36 rabbis signed a letter calling on their flocks not to sell or rent apartments to non-Jews -- meaning, in an Israeli context, basically Arabs. By Dec. 9, two separate developments had taken place: on the one hand, secular Israeli Jewish politicians were quick to denounce the rabbis; on the other hand, some 240 other religious figures expressed their support for the racist ruling. Now for all the disclaimers the secular politicians may make, the sad fact is that they have failed to take concrete action against the rabbis. They understand the rabbis may be crazy, but their craziness is quite mainstream: up to 46% of Israeli Jews don't want to live next to an Arab.

The curious thing is how news agencies try to present a "balanced account." Associated Press, in first reporting the racist ruling, claimed:

Israeli Jews have increasingly been questioning the loyalty of Arab citizens, who legally enjoy the same rights but tend to be poorer and discriminated against in state funding and job opportunities.

Arabs do not enjoy the same rights as Jews. Jews are entitled to the benefits of the Law of Return; Arabs are not. How can this influence someone's life? By affecting their ability to remain a citizen. Israel's Nationality Law provides that:

# 11. (a) Where an Israel national -

* (1) became an Israel national on the basis of false particulars; or
* (2) has been abroad for seven consecutive years and has no effective connection with Israel, and has not proved that his effective connection with Israel was severed otherwise than by his own volition; or
* (3) has committed an act constituting a breach of allegiance to the State of Israel,

the District Court may, on the application of the Minister, annul his nationality.

As can be seen, an Arab Israeli who pursues a career abroad may have his nationality revoked and loses any further right to it, while a Jewish Israeli in a similar situation can reapply for it under the Law of Return. Hardly the same rights for both groups of people.

AP goes on to report:

Meanwhile, some members of the Arab minority have become radicalized by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and are openly speaking about turning the Jewish state into part of a binational state that would be home to Israelis and Palestinians both.

You see, one outrage cancels the other. The rabbis may want to deny housing to the Arabs, but the Arabs want a country for all. Both equally worrying forms of hate.

Still more from the venerable Associated Press:

Rabbi David Rosen, the interfaith adviser to Israel’s chief rabbinate, described the rabbis’ action as “disturbing” but said he did not think that the majority of the country’s rabbis would agree and called it a product of the lingering conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The rabbinate as a whole isn’t xenophobic or hostile to Arabs,” Rosen said. “As long as the conflict goes on here, it’s logical to assume that the attitudes of all sides will harden, which is deeply regrettable.”

That this kind of logic can be presented without objections is striking. Of course, the Catholic clergy as a whole is not paedophilic, but child-molesting priests taint the whole Church so long as action isn't taken against them. At the very least, that "majority of the country’s rabbis" could produce a counter-document and shun their hateful colleagues. It hasn't happened. It won't happen.

Also, the "hardening" of positions is of a very diferent nature and significance when one group can hurt the other with its hard positions but not the other way round.

On Sunday, the hate festival seemed to continue as the rabbis of the Israeli Jewish city of Rosh Ha-Ayin, including the chief rabbi, declared a ban on hiring Arabs at stores which employ Jewish girls. "They want to steal our daughters" -- sound familiar?

Since the story was published in Hebrew and not picked up by main news agencies, Peres felt in no hurry to repudiate the incident.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Different boycotts, different standards

Kauft nicht bei Juden – “Don’t buy from Jews” – was the Nazi call to boycott Jewish businesses. It is also the phrase used by former British MP Denis MacShane to describe the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to isolate Israel for its crimes against the Palestinians. Claims MacShane:

Once again, as the tsunami of hate against Israel rolls out from the Right and the Left, from Islamist ideologues to Europe’s cultural elites, the demand is to punish the Jews.

This gentleman is bluntly stating that it is antisemitism, and no other factor, that is driving people to support BDS. He then goes on to indulge in unadulterated whataboutery, describing the many countries that behave worse than Israel does. Since Israel is the self-described Jewish state, this would mean that BDS proponents are antisemites.

MacShane's only problem is Apartheid South Africa. The Apartheid regime was subjected to international sanctions like no other country was at that time. Of course, there existed far worse human-rights offenders, like Mozambique. I'd like to ask Mr. MacShane: would he have supported sanctions against Mozambique, not South Africa, even if they weren't likely to improve a single bit the human-rights situation there? Would he be contented with a situation in which South Africa is still under Apartheid and Mozambique is still undemocratic, but subjected to sanctions -- for the sake of a "worse offenders first" approach to sanction-imposing? On another note, does he believe that the sanctions against South Africa, and only South Africa, reflected a visceral hate against Afrikaners?

MacShane seems to believe that calls for sanctions must be based first and foremost on moral considerations. This politician (does the phrase "the art of the possible" ring a bell?) rules out any possibility of a reality-based approach, in which only those boycotts that are likely to have an effect are advocated for. If a country is irrational and doesn't care for its economy, or for the well-being of at least part of its citizens, sanctions and boycotts are useless. But Israel is rational, and cares for the well-being of its Jewish citizens, so that BDS has a chance, however slim at present, of pressuring the country into becoming a democracy for all people under its control.

But while we're at it -- what about other boycotts that, unlike BDS, have involved physical violence against certain people? Case in point, the many boycotts decreed by -- ehm, uhm -- how to say this -- Jews. Very prominent Israeli rabbis --i.e., State-paid servants-- have called on their flocks to boycott Arab stores or deny lodging to Arab students. In the latest instance, chief Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and other prominent rabbis called not to rent or sell apartments to non-Jews. Spurred by the ruling, local Jews gathered in front of a building where a number of Arab students dwelt. Reports Haaretz:

The mass group of Jewish youths began shouting "death to Arabs", "stinking Muslims" and "a Jew has a soul and an Arab is a son-of-a-bitch" at the house. They began throwing bottles and stones at the student housing.

One of the bottles soared through an open window, shattering glass in an apartment where a number of students were sitting at the time.

This is a certainly frightening episode, yet Denis MacShane, in a glaring case of double standards, does not deem it fit to denounce these boycotts decreed by Israeli state employees that involve violence and calls for genocide. Instead, he describes the rise of several marginal neo-Nazi parties in Europe and, making a completely unwarranted association, gravely warns:

And now Europeans, of all people, once again cry Kauft nicht bei Juden. (...) As Europeans we must reject the old language of boycott and economic campaigns against Jews.

Nazi analogies should never be made unless a genocide is involved, like in Rwanda. But since MacShane himself brings up the subject, allow me to ask: between a peaceful call for BDS that hurts no one and a residential boycott that results in mobs calling for the death of Arabs and glasses in their buildings being shattered, which is more reminiscent of Kristallnacht?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Darfur refugees fable

Why, please tell me, oh why do they insist on arguing for Israel's holiness? It would be so much easier to defend the country under a realism-based approach! But no -- they need to claim that Israel is uniquely good. A light unto the nations -- sound familiar?

The latest such defense was put up by Gabriel Latner, a 19-year-old Cambridge student, at a recent debate of the prestigious university’s debating society centered on the motion that “Israel is a rogue state.” His speech was called by The Irish Independent “the most brilliantly audacious defence of Israel since Moses parted the Red Sea.”

This is why blogs like this are needed. Latner's speech is brilliant only in how skilfully it exploits the public's ignorance and the general perception among the educated elite that Jews are particularly moral. Latner contends that Israel is, in fact, rogue, but in the definition of the word as “aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time.” And how is Israel anomalous? Well -- by being exceptionally good.


The second argument concerns Israel’s humanitarianism, in particular, Israel’s response to a refugee crisis. Not the Palestinian refugee crisis -- for I am sure that the other speakers will cover that -- but the issue of Darfurian refugees. Everyone knows that what happened and is still happening in Darfur is genocide, whether or not the UN and the Arab League will call it such. (I actually hoped that Mr. Massih would be able to speak about -- he's actually somewhat of an expert on the crisis in Darfur, in fact, it's his expertise that has called him away to represent the former dictator of Sudan while he is being investigated by the ICC.)

There has been a mass exodus from Darfur as the oppressed seek safety. They have not had much luck. Many have gone north to Egypt -- where they are treated despicably. The brave make a run through the desert in a bid to make it to Israel. Not only do they face the natural threats of the Sinai, they are also used for target practice by the Egyptian soldiers patrolling the border. Why would they take the risk?

Because in Israel they are treated with compassion -- they are treated as the refugees that they are – and perhaps Israel's cultural memory of genocide is to blame. The Israeli government has even gone so far as to grant several hundred Darfurian refugees citizenship. This alone sets Israel apart from the rest of the world.

This is a load of lies. Since the Darfur crisis started, Egypt has taken 2 million Sudanese refugees. The comparable figure for Israel would be 200,000. Instead, Israel has a meager 17,000 illegal residents from all of Africa. Indeed, Israel, one of the richest countries in the world, is set apart from Egypt, one of the poorest, in that the latter has been immensely more generous in absorbing Darfur refugees. It is also set apart from other advanced economies: it has the lowest percent of temporary refugee status requests granted compared to western states - 1% in 2005, under 0.5% in 2006, and in 2007, 350 refugees got temporary protection, 805 others were denied, and 863 were under review, after which most were rejected.

It's true that Israel granted citizenship to a few hundred Darfurians -- but only after it announced that all further refugees would be blocked from entering the country. As the Washington Post reported:

CAIRO, Aug. 19 -- Israel closed the door Sunday on a surge of asylum-seekers from Sudan's Darfur region and from other African countries, the largest influx of non-Jewish refugees in the modern history of the Jewish state.

Authorities announced that they had expelled 48 of more than 2,000 African refugees who have entered illegally from Egypt in recent weeks. Officials said they would allow 500 Darfurians among them to remain, but would deport everyone else back to Egypt and accept no more illegal migrants from Darfur or other places.

In accordance with this policy, Haaretz reported one year later:

Israel to expel 2,000 African refugees who fled to Eilat

The Interior Ministry has decided to expel from Eilat some 2,000 asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, and prohibit them from working if they do not hold work permits.

They are among some 11,000 asylum seekers in Israel who will continue to live in the country since they are exempt from deportation while the United Nations decides whether to recognize them as refugees, though they will not be able to earn money legally.

Human rights groups condemned the "Interior Ministry's unrestrained conduct" Tuesday. "This draconian decision contravenes international and Israeli law on impairing basic human rights[."]

Not content with that, the government instituted a policy called "Gedera-Hadera," whereby refugees were blocked from living in Tel Aviv and the center of the country (i.e., where they were most likely to find jobs) -- hardly a "compassionate" move. The policy (illegal under international standards) was later rolled back -- not because of humanitarian concerns, but because the North and the South complained.

Also, no "cultural memory of genocide" prevented the Israeli government from attempting to enact an Infiltration Prevention Bill which called for the jailing for up to five years of all people illegally entering the country, including asylum-seekers. The bill was pulled after it was pointed out by human rights organizations that it constituted a blatant violation of Israel's commitments as a signatory of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

What do the refugees themselves have to say? Nothing very complimentary of Israel. Writing in the Jerusalem Post, one of them noted:

The [Israeli] authorities treat us not like refugees escaping danger and death, but like criminals and infiltrators or like people who came here for work. It seems that they could not care less about our welfare.

The local community, on the other hand, seems to understand that we are, indeed, refugees and accepts our situation. But, by labeling all foreigners as immigrant workers, I sense that the authorities are trying to set Israelis against us, as a threat to their work places and homes, and I deeply regret that.

In sum, Israel has done next to nothing to absorb asylum seekers, and has even attempted a few illegal steps to keep them outside of its borders. Please, tell me that Israel's situation is difficult; that reality trumps ideals; that it faces challenges unknown to other democracies; whatever you want along those lines. But don't present it to me as a compassionate refugee heaven with a better record than any other country in the world because that is utter bullshit.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Israeli violence: ongoing, systemic and apologized for

I respect blogger Norman Geras because of this post. That said, most of his blog consists of more or less crude Hasbara, but the fact that he seems to enjoy a certain degree of prestige justifies taking an occasional look at, and duly criticizing, the contributions he publishes.

One of Geras' guest writers is British professor Eve Garrard, who in her latest post takes on writers Fintan O'Toole, from Ireland, and Iain Banks, from the UK. OK, none of these people is particularly famous as a Middle East commenter, but I'm concerned about arguments, especially when they're often repeated in essentially the same form. Garrard:

Fintan O'Toole thinks that Israel regards itself as 'exempt from the demands of common humanity' (via Z Word Blog). Iain Banks thinks that 'simple human decency' means nothing to Israel (see this normblog post).

Not what either author said, and here we've got one basic Zionist tactic: slight misrepresentations that change a lot the "outrageousness" of a statement. As can be checked by following the links, O'Toole says:

Once you decide that your group is especially exempt from the demands of common humanity, there is virtually no limit to what you will do to others. Lanzmann shows, through a slow accumulation of banal detail, the ways in which the attempted extermination of an entire people became normal.

His assertion is about the Nazis, not about Israel. He goes on to reflect, accurately, that because of the Jews' genocide, Israel prioritizes security over a fair treatment of the Palestinians, and adds:

In Israel itself, the tension between the two imperatives (safety and common humanity) has gradually weakened.

Which is a far cry from stating that Israel has declared itself beyond common humanity concerns.

Banks, for his part, states:

[A]ppeals to reason, international law, UN resolutions and simple human decency mean – it is now obvious – nothing to Israel[.]

It is the appeals, not the decency, that mean nothing to the self-called Jewish state.

Having slightly, but importantly, misrepresented both authors, Garrard proceeds with her criticism:

Two well-known writers, very anxious to tell the world that Israel lacks humanity. Israel's not like the rest of us, the rest of the human family. Compared to other nations, it's inhuman.

This is not a misrepresentation; it's a lie. Neither author compared Israel to other nations. This is Zionism's big straw man: the claim that because we antis (anti-Zionists or antisemites; I don't care what they call us) criticize Israel and only Israel we're implying that the country is the only human rights violator in the world. It's like claiming that physicians who only treat AIDS patients are in denial of the existence of malaria.

Garrard goes on with an all-too-familiar littany:

Sri Lanka, at the same time that Israel was fighting in Gaza (around 1300 dead) killed about 25,000 of its own civilians in the course of repressing an insurgency. But Israel thinks it's exempt from the demands of common humanity.

Sudan has killed something in the order of 200,000 people in Darfur, with countless rapes and tortures alongside. But Israel lacks simple human decency.


Congo: what can one say about Congo? More than that 5 million - 5 million - people have been killed in its wars, alongside innumerable rapes and hideous tortures? But Israel lacks simple human decency.

These counterexamples are fallacious. Zionists complaining that Israel is more slammed than Congo is like Tiger Woods complaining that his extramarital affairs are more exposed than his next-door neighbor's. Israel is famous and Congo is not, and if Garrard doesn't like fame to be a fundamental attractor of attention she should criticize human nature, not anti-Zionism. (By the way: so concerned as she is with the Congo genocide, has she ever penned any reflection on how all those Holocaust museums haven't helped prevent other mass killings?).

Her other examples are more relevant:

Now, here's one especially for Iain Banks: the USA and the UK initiate a war in Iraq in which more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians are killed. But Israel thinks it's exempt from the demands of common humanity.

France trained and armed the Hutu genocidaires who killed around 800,000 civilians in the Rwanda genocide, and continued to protect them even as they lost power to the incoming Tutsis. But Israel lacks simple human decency.

But they're also fallacious. In the first place, Israel can consider itself exempt from humanitarian concerns and lack simple human decency even as other famous countries are worse offenders in either area. Even if Bank's and O'Toole's argument had been what Garrard claims it to be, there would be no contradiction.

But in the second place, Garrard speaks as if there was nothing distinguishing the case of Israel from that of other advanced economies that also violate or help violate human rights. Which, of course, is not true. Israel's oppression of the Palestinians is unique as it displays three simultaneous features:

  • It's ongoing.
  • It's systemic.
  • It's apologized for.

OK, whenever you use bullets you've got to explain each bullet (exception: the Israeli Defense Forces). So here we go. Israeli oppression is ongoing. It is, thus, different from France's support of the Hutus, which is horrible and regrettable but, in the end, past history.

Israeli oppression is systemic. Israel needs to devour ever more Palestinian land and resources to keep its system going. It also needs to deny the Palestinian refugees any measure of justice. It futher needs to control West Bank Palestinians while denying them the vote. It even needs to deny its own Arab citizens, described as present absentees, the right to recover the property that was confiscated from them by the State. In all this Israel is different from, say, the United States. Granted, the US killed far more people with Napalm in Vietnam (or in the current Iraq war) than Israel has in all its wars. But the Vietnam war ended in defeat and the American system didn't fall apart. Zionist Israel, by contrast, would collapse if West Bank Palestinians were given the vote, or if the lands on which the highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was built (for instance) were restored to their Palestinian owners.

But finally, and very importantly for an intellectual, Israel is apologized for. It's not just that the system has created a racist country; it's also that such racism is defended by an army of writers, pundits, lecturers and bloggers. And it's an unconditional defense based on outrageous falsities, like the claim that Israeli soldiers put their lives at stake to prevent civilians from being harmed. Other countries' wars are occasionally defended too, but not with such insistence or with such egregious lies. You don't see commentators supporting Russia's onslaught of the Chechens with the argument that Russians never targeted civilians.

But as Garrard would have it, intellectuals should focus on the human rights violations that are undisputed, rather than on the unique case in which a horde of dishonest authors with polished arguments are trying to convince the world that black is white, up is down and Israel is a light unto the nations. She simply doesn't get the basics of intellectual pursuit.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Israeli Jews' sudden solidarity with the Armenians

Belatedly --but better late than never--, Israeli Jews are beginning to acknowledge the extermination of over 1 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915-18. At a Tel Aviv demonstration Monday night, they event went so far as to compare the events to the sacrosanct Holocaust:

Cynics are claiming, though, that those Jews never gave a damn for the Armenians and nor do they now, and that they're just using them to bash Turkey for its support of the Gaza flotilla.

But this is antisemitic, since the demonstrators have also called for the resignation of their own president, Shimon Peres, over his 2001 denial of the Armenian genocide.

Just kidding!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Zionists and the flotilla fiasco: let the masturbation begin

There are several aspects to Israel's assault on a Gaza-bound flotilla with humanitarian aid yesterday that left about 10 civilians dead. The least important one is whether the attack was technically legal or not. It is unimportant for the same reason that it is irrelevant whether the Chinese repression on Tiananmen square in 1989 was done within or beyond the boundaries of the law. What is most relevant is, in both cases, that the tragedy was a corollary to a history of major human rights violations. Curtailment of freedoms and harsh repression of political dissent in one case; the inhumane, pointless and grotesque siege of a defensless people by a nuclear power in the other.

Regardless, Zionist bloggers have been working overtime to revive obscure pieces of wartime legislation buried here and there, or to undig this or that article in the naval code of country X, to defend the indefensible, namely an attack on an unarmed ship in international waters.

Others, like Shmuel Rosner at the Jerusalem Post, have taken a different approach, bringing up the Jenin "massacre" reports to tarnish all and any critic of Israel, as though the fact that a lie was disseminated (possibly by the IDF in the first place) in 2002 could offset the satellite images showing an attack that took place outside the territorial waters of Israel. This is part of a troubling trend of Zios copycating Holocaust denial techniques (a single Holocaust lie, like that the Nazis made soap from Jews, proves that the Holocaust itself is a lie; a single bogus Holocaust survivor, like Binyamin Wilkomirski, proves that all survivors are impostors).

Still other Zionists indulge in unrestrained self-victimhood. "Israel is slammed for the attack because the world is biased against Israel" (as proven by the recent, unanimous approval of the country's entry into the OECD). A Yediot Ahronot (Israel's leading newspaper) article is titled A brutal ambush at sea! You know -- if you break into my house and I hit you with a bat I'm ambushing you. I don't recall meanings being twisted so amusingly since "present absentee." Come on, why stop at "ambush"? What those people on the boat did was a downright pogrom! Or, better still, a Holocaust! Don't dare deny it or you'll be a Holocaust denier.

But the most striking feature here is the masturbatory nature of these Zionist efforts. They know their endless posts quoting self-appointed military experts will make next to no impression on the general public because:

  • Israel attacked the boats not the other way round.
  • The attack was not done to protect Israel from imminent danger.
  • No weapons were carried by the boats.
  • The blockade of Gaza is irrational as it has arbitrarily included over the years items like pasta, dresses or cattle.

I.e., there are too many common-sense issues to be counterbalanced by a purely legalistic approach. All the same, they publish the posts. I agree that the internal front is important, and that convincing others involves in the first place convincing your own troop. But the whole thing is so pathetically overdone that it amounts to preaching to the convert. For the arguments to have any efficacy, they would have to be used by someone mainstream, which, in turn, would require for said arguments not to be ridiculous. But Zionists often confuse "I can make a case for Israel, albeit ludicrous" with "I can make a winning case for Israel."

Much to their chagrin, more gigs will be cancelled in Tel Aviv, more Israeli professors will be disinvited by foreign universities and more countries will become forbidden land for Israeli war criminals. They'll say they don't give a damn because so far BDS hurts very little. But with actions like the attack on the flotilla, that small amount of pain is set to increase rather than diminish.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Arabs, Jews and dogs

There are words. Words can chill. Like the morning I went out into the street and found two intoxicated teenagers daubing obscene graffiti on the hood of my car. "I'm gonna kill you," I yelled at them. "I'm gonna hang you both from that light pole." The drunk youngsters capped their spray-paint cans and meandered away mumbling incomprehensible things, maybe because they were scared by my words, or maybe because they were already done drawing their giant penis. I was myself scared by the enormity of what I had said. I knew I'm incapable of hanging anyone from anywhere --I weigh 55 kg--, but the violence ingrained in the society --the concept that minor offenders deserve Draconian punishments, including capital-- had surfaced in an individual who prides himself in being nonviolent.

Fast forward, and eastward, to today's Jerusalem. If I were a Jewish activist fighting for the Arab residents' increasingly eroded rights I wouldn't be comfortable at all hearing them shout, as they occasionally do at their demonstrations, "Jews are our dogs." I don't believe for a moment those Arabs would turn on their Jewish supporters because they're Jewish. In fact, it's quite probable that the very same Arabs whose aunt shouted those words were sipping tea with honey and mint leaves with their Jewish supporters moments before the protest. It's the society's ancestral prejudices that speak through that middle-aged lady, and it would be good for the Jerusalem Arabs to gain consciousness of what needs to be fixed in said society. Although I agree it shouldn't be necessarily their top priority, it's disturbing to see next to no internal Arab reaction against the supremacist discourse seeping into legitimate protest. Or, from another perspective, it's startling to see how unaware Arabs are of the political correctness that prevent Westerners from overtly expressing the horrible sentiments they also subscribe to. (I always recall how exultant many Argentinians were that the Twin Towers had been blown up and the Yanks had been taught a lesson. But they didn't celebrate in the street, God forbid.) Because you know, words can scare.

Then there are actions. Actions can scare more than words. In fact, actions can kill, which words can't, not at least on an individual basis. And in the I/P conflict, it's the Israelis who can carry out actions, not Palestinians. Despite the ever more occasional terrorist attack, it's the Israelis who harass and degrade Palestinians on an everyday basis. Stopping someone for 5 hours at a checkpoint when you could have stopped him for 1 hour, while not as spectacular as comparing him to a canine, is much more hurtful.

I don't know if Israeli Jews have called Arabs dogs. Snakes, monkeys, donkeys, cockroaches -- yes. But not dogs that I know. However, I do know of interactions between Arabs, Jews and dogs that take place not in the realm of words, but in that of actions. Like the following one:

This is a video of an Israeli Defense Forces dog attacking an elderly Palestinian lady. Notice how, as the canine savagely bites the woman’s hand, the soldiers try to pull it away, most probably causing her even more pain, instead of hitting the animal in the head with their rifle butts or directly shooting it to prevent further harm to the human being attacked.

One life is more important than the other here, and it's clearly not the woman's. In a very literal sense, Palestinians are worth less than dogs to Israeli soldiers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Inflammatory" mosques

The Arab- and Muslim-bashing community features numerous charlatans inexplicably described as scholars, thinkers or even philosophers. We have already dealt with Alan Dershowitz, but he pales beside a deranged rabbi by the name of Shmuley Boteach.

In a column carried by The Jerusalem Post, Boteach informs us that:

Tempers are heating up in the New York City area over the plans by the American Society for Muslim Advancement and another Islamic group known as the Cordoba Initiative to build a $100 million, 13-story, Islamic cultural center and mosque just two blocks from Ground Zero. And if that were not inflammatory enough, the plan is to inaugurate the new center on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

There are many ways in which building things can be inflammatory. For instance, if you build a settlement on private land belonging to someone else, that's inflammatory. If you build apartment blocks in defiance of both international law and the commitments signed by your country, that's also inflammatory. But what can be inflammatory about building a religious center in compliance with the existing laws and regulations? Let Boteach explain:

[I]t would be the height of insensitivity, not to say an outright provocation, for the Islamic community to build a giant Islamic shrine at the resting place of 3,000 innocent Americans who were murdered by Islamic terrorists.

Let me see if I get this straight. Some Muslims who did nothing wrong must refrain from building mosques near the place where other, completely unrelated Muslims crashed planes into buildings. This must be because all Muslims are responsible for what all other Muslims do, right? I can think of another religious group, with which Boteach may not be completely unfamiliar, that has been fighting this kind of logic for some two millennia.

But it seems this wise man is not alone in his paranoia:

New Yorkers seem overwhelmingly opposed to the plan, comparing its insensitivity to the German government opening, say, a Bach appreciation museum right outside Auschwitz, or Toyota opening a car factory by the Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu.

He may have meant Wagner not Bach, and one wonders why the German government would want to open a music museum in a place inside Poland. But in any event, the fact that the Nazis acted as the elected leaders of Germany obligates all successive German governments to be very sensitive to Jewish feelings. This is hardly true for the Muslims of New York, who are in no way obligated by the choices of 19 men unrepresentative of Islam.

Having established that Muslims share collective responsibility for the original sin of the Twin Towers, Boteach proceeds to explain how they could redeem themselves:

I HAVE a simple, elegant, and deeply moral solution. Let the Islamic cultural center be built. Let the mosque be included. But, the Muslim organizations building it should commit right now to making the principal focus of the building a museum depicting the rise of Islamic extremism, its hate-based agenda and how it is an abomination to Islam.

The museum would feature exhibits showing the major fomenters of Islamic hatred worldwide and the cultural and religious factors that have gained them so wide a following.

Of course, it's a matter of everyday experience to walk into a Catholic church and see the pictures of child-abusing Catholic priests, along with an explanation of how that's an abomination of the institution of celibacy. Similarly, you may recall when you were last invited to a Jewish wedding and you saw a museum dedicated to rabbi Meir Kahane inside the synagogue, which explained how his anti-Arab hate is an abomination of Judaism, and denounced --complete with the pictures and videos-- the stoning of Palestinian schoolgirls and the burning of olive trees carried out by his followers. Because you know, all Catholics are tainted by their rapists, and all Jews by their racists, and they must exorcize themselves by repudiating those sinners in their houses of prayer.

More Boteach:

The museum would feature exhibits showing the major fomenters of Islamic hatred worldwide and the cultural and religious factors that have gained them so wide a following. It would have exhibitions on some of the terrible atrocities committed by these Islamic fundamentalists, focusing specifically on the slaughter at Ground Zero on 9/11.

In other words, guilty until proven innocent. All Muslims must be considered terrorists unless they subject themselves to public self-flagellation in their own cultural centers.

Nothing new there. Try boarding a plane with a hooked nose and thick eyebrows, let alone a keffiyeh. But it's scary to see how mainstream such racist stereotypes have gone, and how cheerfully popular rabbis espouse them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Letters to a Zionist friend (5): The Gaza candy bars/computers

Sometimes you post pictures of Gaza on your blog. Not of the zones devastated by Israeli bombing, or of the children with missing limbs or white phosphorous burns. You post pictures of market stands full of candy bars and other yummy things, or of schoolchildren learning to use brand-new computers.

If Gazans can eat candy or use computers, then the so-called Israeli blockade can't be that bad, can it? The world is lying and the measure doesn't essentially affect the Gazans' lives. Or so you argue.

Certainly, candy and computers are luxuries not everyone can afford. So are symphony orchestras. Therefore, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto led luxurious lives! See:

A poster for a concert by the Jewish Symphony Orchestra in the Warsaw Ghetto on August 2nd, 1941

The Nazis can't have been that bad inasmuch as they allowed the Jews not only to own musical instruments, but also to play them in public concerts, for which they were even permitted to print posters, using paper, a scarce commodity in wartime. True, they were not allowed to play Jewish music, but that didn't detract much from their pleasure. The Jewish contribution to symphonic music is almost negligible, but even if we take into account the works of composers of other religions with Jewish ancestries, the restriction still allowed them to enjoy a terrific number of pieces. Anyone who can attend classical music performances, even if Christians of Jewish background like Mendelssohn and Mahler are left out, is almost as privileged as, well, someone who can put his fingers on a computer keyboard.

No. I'm not comparing Israel to the Nazis. I'm comparing you to a Holocaust denier, and I think it's an apt comparison. For you nitpick Gaza images that might convey normalcy as though they represented the whole Gazan reality. Or you point to the export of strawberries and flowers as though the external sales of any item but those two were not strictly forbidden. Very much like Holocaust deniers cite the countless Holocaust myths, canards and hoaxes to "prove" that the claim that six million Jews were exterminated is itself a lie.

Israel has banned imports of livestock for nine months at a time, and of footwear for three straight years. Neither cows nor shoes can be used to make bombs. The blockade of Gaza is collective punishment at its worst, targetting young children, elderly persons and disabled individuals for the sole reason of being Gazans. The fact that certain forms of punishment that could be implemented are not doesn't cancel the cruelty of those measures, viciously designed to cause pain, that do get put into effect by Israel.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Circumcision in a nutshell

A Jew mutilates another Jew (and a newborn one to make matters worse), and a third Jew moans...

...that being Jewish hurts!

How antisemitic the world is.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A more dishonest man than Dershowitz? Try Elie Wiesel

A few weeks ago there was talk that Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu had enlisted Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel to pressure US Prez Barack Obama on Jerusalem, where 1,600 new housing units for Jews have been authorized against international law. Shortly afterwards, Wiesel published an ad in The International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal under the title "For Jerusalem." Basically it was a regurgitation of Hasbara clichés designed to explain why the Jews have more right to the city than others. The piece has been thoroughly picked apart and responded to elsewhere, so I'll only give you a taste of it before I proceed with my own critique of the paragraph that particularly irked me.

For instance, Wiesel claims:

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture—and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming.

So what? Religious books are not deeds. And the fact that someone thinks a lot about something does not confer on him any right to it. Otherwise, Gibraltar would be Spanish, the Falklands/Malvinas would belong to Argentina and my sister in law would have already been intimate with me... wait a minute, I didn't mean that last one. On another note, one wonders why he makes reference to the Qur'an only, as though all Palestinians were Muslim (a sizable minority belongs to the Christian faith, whose books also mention Jerusalem a lot of times).

Wiesel then argues:

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

The intellectual dishonesty here would make Alan Dershowitz blush. While it is accurate to say that certain Christians and Muslims (i.e. those who hold Israeli citizenship) are allowed to build homes in West Jerusalem, it is obvious that the people most likely to want to build in a city are those born there. In the case of Jerusalem, the Arab residents of East Jerusalem, who were born in the city and are children and grandchildren of people also born there, are not allowed to build homes in West Jerusalem. By contrast, Jews who are not Israeli citizens, and who have never set foot in the city, are granted permits to build houses. Racial privilege trumps longtime legal and lawful residence in Jerusalem.

In another paragraph, Wiesel states:

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again, when under Jordanian occupation, Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon’s temple.

This Holocaust survivor has no idea of the history he claims to be bound by. There's no vestige at all of Solomon's First Temple; the Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is basically part of the Second Temple erected by Herod, a Jewish king particularly known for having murdered his own children and who may also have massacred a number of newborns.

Which leads us to the following conclusion in which bad faith reaches new heights:

It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the war against Israel, the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.

If you and I ever meet eye to eye, please don't come to me with drivel like this. It makes me very angry, and due to a still undiagnosed condition, my skin turns green and I begin to throw up white phosphorous that might hit you in the face.

There's nothing holy or saintly about the Jews that prevents them from killing, be it for Jerusalem or for lesser causes. They have killed innocents for Deir Yassin; they have blown women, children and elderly people into smithereens for Haifa; they have even massacred farmers returning home on their bikes for the sake of keeping a curfew. Why wouldn't they kill for Jerusalem? In fact they did -- or how does Wiesel think that East Jerusalem was illegally occupied by Israel?

What happened before 1967 is that Israel, like all other countries, was aware that wars of aggression are not widely appreciated, and that they had to wait for a casus belli to arise in order to take over East Jerusalem. The war they started against Egypt, with which Jordan had a mutual defense treaty --a war that was skilfully presented as a preemptive, rather than aggressive, one--, provoked the intervention of the latter country, thus providing Israel with the perfect excuse to occupy the remaining of the so called City of Peace. Strategic restraint must not be confused with a wish not to kill.

As always, the Zionists make extraordinary assertions about the Israeli Jews' unsurpassable morality, only to shout "double standards" when one wants to look into the validity of those claims.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The "Judenrein" canard

The word "Judenrein" was invented by the Nazis. Its most fervent users, however, are the Zionists. Their logic goes as follows: if a Jew takes over Arab property, and the Arab owners want him to get the hell out of there, then the Arabs are Nazis because they want to make the property Judenrein. Quod erat demonstrandum!

A recent example was provided by Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, he made the following remarkable statements:

If we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the [Palestinian] insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and the Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?

There's no equivalence, and Ya'alon knows it well, between the Arabs who were already living in the Negev in the Galilee when Ya'alon's ancestors roamed the Pale of Settlement and the Jews who have illegally moved into the West Bank, in many cases stealing private Palestinian land, be it to erect the homes, as "security zones" or to build the roads to the settlements. The idea that the Arab citizens of Israel have a legitimacy issue that somehow cancels out with the very concrete illegality of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank is both immoral and absurd.

That aside, no Palestinian negotiator has ever asked to receive a territory ethnically cleansed of Jews. Unfortunately some people are living where they're not authorized to and they'll have to leave the place to comply with international law, not to satisfy the antisemitic designs of anyone. No ethnic cleansing there: thieves are thieves, not an ethnic group. What is being demanded is not a Judenrein territory; it's a squatter-rein one.

But not only that; the Palestinians are even prepared to allow the settlers to remain in the West Bank, provided that they accept Palestinian sovereignty. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has declared: “Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine will enjoy those [democratic] rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel.”

This is not precisely Ya'alon's idea. As the JPost goes on to report:

Ya’alon said that if Israel and the Palestinians were truly headed down the path of peace and coexistence, “Jews living in Judea and Samaria under Israeli sovereignty and citizenship” should be possible.

Under Israeli sovereignty? What is to be negotiated, then? The two-state solution means a state for the Jews and a state for the Palestinians, not a state for the Jews and another state also for the Jews. If the settlers want to remain in the West Bank, it is the Palestinians who will dictate the terms, not the State of Israel.

It is not through the free use of Nazi analogies to demonize the Palestinians that peace will be achieved. The "Judenrein" canard must be dropped immediately, and the fact that Ya'alon is not called out over his using it speaks volumes about the Israeli government's true commitment to peace.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dershowitz clears anti-Zionists

Why do we slam Israel, and only Israel, when Iran executes gays, Saudi Arabia lets girls die in a blaze rather than allow them to flee the burning place immodestly dressed, and Syria suppresses dissent and intervenes in Lebanon? The Middle East being such a mess, why do we focus on the Jewish state? It used to be because we were antisemites.

Not any more, according to a recent Alan Dershowitz blogpost. The piece is intended to make some point about the Catholic church trying to fend off widespread criticism of sexual abuse by priests, and using antisemitism in the process. Mirroring Zionist tactics, Catholics might ask why so much is being said about unpunished sexual violence within their faith and so little about abuse coverup in other religious communities. Dershowitz senses that, but has a response:

It is true that there is stereotyping and anti-Catholic bigotry in some of the criticism of the Pope for conduct of which he's probably unaware. It is also true that sexual abuse by those in positions of authority is widespread in many religious and secular institutions, and the focus on the Catholic church seems unfair. But the Catholic church is the most powerful religious institution in the world, and much of the criticism comes from disappointed Catholics.

So, according to this Dershowitz doctrine, selective slamming is allowable under two conditions: (a) that the criticized entity is powerful; (b) that abundant criticism comes from the people said entity claims to represent.

So that to apply the doctrine to the case of Israel, it is true that Iran or Saudi Arabia are worse human rights abusers than Israel. But with over 200 nuclear warheads Israel is the most powerful country in the Middle East, and much of the criticism for its policies comes from disgruntled Jews, including many Israeli ones.

It's official: we're not antisemites. Israel deserves to be preferentially criticized for about the same reasons that the Catholic church does.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"... very similar to nationality laws in place in Germany, Ireland, Greece..."

Who can say there's anything wrong with the Israeli citizenship law? After all, its provisions are similar to the German, or Irish, or Greek nationality laws, all of which prioritize descent over birthplace. In Germany, in particular, the Volga Germans, who live in faraway Russia, are given automatic citizenship just because somewhere in their genealogy there's a person who came from Germany; while people of Turkish descent born into families that have been living in Germany for decades are denied it.

Or so argue Israel apologists. But it's a dishonest argument, beginning with the fact that some of its premises have long ceased to be true.

The bulk of the counterargumentation has already been provided by The Magnes Zionist. To put it succintly, the German constitutional clause which granted citizenship to people of German stock living in Eastern Europe, including Russia, was designed to cover cases of expulsions and forcible transfers. This was later extended to people of German extraction living under oppresive Communist regimes. It did not apply to the numerous Volga German communities in Argentina or Brazil (for instance). It was a temporary remedy. As TMZ comments:

In fact, while couched in ethno-national language, the German “right of return” was not an open invitation to ethnic Germans to help rebuild a German commonwealth, but a humanitarian gesture to rescue co-ethnics from “oppression” under Soviet rule. The rhetoric of ethnic solidarity on the part of German conservatives was also an attempt to legitimize a German ethnic nationalism after its being discredited as a result of the Nazi period.

In any event, the “right of return” was limited spatially to those ethnic German living the Soviet Union and temporally to those who suffered as a result of the expulsions and living in a hostile environment. With more liberal emigration laws, and then the demise of the Soviet Union, the “right of return” was challenged both by liberals, who were opposed to preferential treatment of co-ethnics, and by conservatives, who feared the influx of Russians of German descent. As a result of legislation in 1993, preferential treatment in immigration was almost entirely curtailed.

May it also be added that despite the difficulties in acquiring nationality, non-Germanic foreigners did apply for, and obtain, it in large numbers. According to official figures, between 1995 and 2004 1,278,524 foreigners gained German citizenship -- 608,450 of them from Turkey alone. The comparable figure would be 10,000 non-Jews gaining Israeli citizenship each year, which we know is not happening.

But I'd like to point out two additional aspects in which Israel's citizenship law is radically different from other countries'.

In the first place, the German, Irish, Greek, etc., laws refer to people who emigrated from their respective countries at a time when nationality, citizenship and ethnicity were approximately coincident, and the respective countries were fairly homogeneous. Irish emigrants to the United States, for instance, tended to be white English-speaking Catholics, not brown-skinned Sikhs who spoke Punjabi at home. Same with Germans, who were white and German-speaking. The internal differences that did exist (for instance, between Protestant and Catholic Germans) translated into no additional rights or restrictions under the law. And the current versions of those European laws make no difference by race, religion or mother tongue.

This is not the same as the case in Israel. When Israel was founded, it was already inhomogeneous; it already comprised a fairly large Arab-speaking minority of the Muslim, Christian and Druze faiths alongside the Hebrew speaking Jewish majority. Furthermore, the State's creation itself originated a diaspora -- people who were born in the territory on which Israel was declared, and whose ancestors had been living for generations there, but who were not covered by the Nationality Law. Those (forced) emigrants are the equivalent of the Irish, German or Greek emigrants whose children have the right to citizenship under the respective laws. However, the Israeli law doesn't grant them the right to citizenship accorded to Jews. It's like if the German law accorded citizenship to Protestant emigres, but not to Catholic ones.

The second big difference is that while in Germany the process to become a citizen may be long and tiresome, down the road there's always a point from which you have exactly the same rights as a blue-eyed, blond and Christian German. A child born in Germany to a foreigner who has been a legal resident for 8 years, for instance, is granted temporary citizenship, but he must apply to retain it when he turns 23. I don't agree with such a provision; I prefer the Argentinian system whereby a child born in the country is forever a citizen. That said, once that German-born person successfully re-applies for citizenship, he becomes undistinguishable from any other German, and he can pass his German nationality on to his offspring on an equal footing with all other Germans.

That's hardly the case in Israel, where an Israeli-born Arab is a citizen but does not enjoy the rights that can be acquired through the Law of Return -- which detracts from his ability to remain a citizen. Thus, Israel's Nationality Law provides that:

# 11. (a) Where an Israel national -

* (1) became an Israel national on the basis of false particulars; or
* (2) has been abroad for seven consecutive years and has no effective connection with Israel, and has not proved that his effective connection with Israel was severed otherwise than by his own volition; or
* (3) has committed an act constituting a breach of allegiance to the State of Israel,

the District Court may, on the application of the Minister, annul his nationality.

This is not egalitarian, because the Arab Israeli who pursues a career abroad has his nationality revoked and loses any further right to it, while a Jewish Israeli in a similar situation can reapply for it under the Law of Return. Similarly, only the children of an Arab Israeli can apply for Israeli citizenship, while in the case of the Jewish Israeli, his children and grandchildren --at the very least-- can do so, again because of the Law of Return, and the right extends to further generations provided they marry other Jews.

In sum, despite the superficial similarities existing between the German and Israeli nationality laws, the results have been radically different, the former creating an ever more diverse society with equal rights for all, and the latter ensuring Jewish supremacy in a society with two de facto citizenships, one of higher quality than the other.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Enforcing Pesach

My wife has a Jewish friend called Mimí. When my daughter was a little girl, Mimí used to treat her to lunch at a quickfood, so that they became friends too. Now my daughter is a señorita and has a boyfriend to take her out, but she has remained very fond of Mimí, who was the only non-relative adult to be invited to her quinceañera.

On one occasion, Mimí traveled to Israel and brought us back a present: a big box of matzah. Although this foodstuff is also known as unleavened bread, it would be better described as a totally flavorless cracker that sticks to your molars. At first I tried to render it palatable by making sandwiches of prosciutto and swiss with it -- a desecration raised to the power of two. But then my wife had a better idea: she bought two cans of Iranian pistachioes and a few bars of chocolate. Then she spread the chopped pistachioes on the matzah, poured molten black and white chocolate on them, et voilà!, a tasty dessert came to life. Whoever said there can be no Israeli-Iranian collaboration?

It's not likely, however, that Mudabbah Mahmoud Rayik will be able to buy the necessary ingredients to make his matzah tastier. This Israeli Arab, who is serving time for a criminal offense in a prison that houses both Arab and Jewish inmates, has asked to be served bread, not matzah, during the Pesach festival that began last night and lasts eight days. His petition has been rejected by a district court and, on appeal, by the Supreme Court. Haaretz reports:

The Israel Prison Service claimed that facilities with mixed populations are kosher, and that his request cannot be ranked above that of Jewish inmates who wish to follow the rules of their faith, which forbids the consumption of leavened bread over the holiday[.]

But Mr. Rayik doesn't want Jewish inmates to stop following the rules of their faith. He wants to eat bread, just as he does during the rest of the year. Why should the superstitions of certain inmates trump the eating habits of others?

Haaretz goes on to report that

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said in his ruling that no one disagrees about the importance of bread, but that the state is only obligated to provide inmates with food, not a specific type of food and that there is no harm in substituting one food for another for a matter of days.

"Therefore, there is no legal offense in not providing bread during Passover to wings in which non-Jews reside with Jews in a Jewish and democratic state, especially when a suitable food is being provided," Rubinstein said.

If the State is not obligated to provide inmates with a specific type of food, why is it that matzah is being provided instead of the usual bread? And when Ramadan comes, are Jewish inmates in the same wing asked to fast from dawn to sunset, out of respect for Muslim prisoners?

This is how the official status of Pesach in Israel is different from, say, that of Christmas in Argentina: in its coercive nature, which forces people to do things they don't like for the sake of other people's irrational beliefs. Any analogy between the role of religion in Israel and in the West is more bad faith from the Zionists.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Israeli racism (update 3): Lecturing the natives

Credit where credit is due. Israel intends to allocate NIS 700 million for accelerating economic growth in 10 Arab, Druze and Circassian communities who comprise 30% of Israel's total population of minorities. Cynics will say that similar promises made in the past were never fulfilled. But even so it's encouraging to see that the welfare of Arab citizens is present at least in the discourse of Israel's ruling coalition.

There are people in Israel, however, who oppose the plan. Where are those people, you'll ask? In the settlements? In the Talmudic academies? No: in the very same ruling coalition. As Ynet reported:

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov slammed Saturday a multi-annual aid plan for the non-Jewish sector to be debated in the cabinet on Sunday.

The plan calls for roughly NIS 800 million (about $220 million) to be invested in 10 Arab communities in the next four years.

"Government aid to minorities must not be granted to communities whose public leaders' loyalty lies with the State of Israel's enemies, while not being granted to communities loyal to Israel such as the Circassians, Druze, and Bedouins," the minister said. "This program is distorted and rewards disloyalty."

So that this Moscow-born politician has no issue with submissive natives who behave well and fight Israel's wars of aggression. His problem is with the bad natives, the ones who get assertive and dare to denounce the State discrimination against their community, and sometimes even speak Arabic over the cell-phone while on a Jewish bus. For those Arabs, he recommends the collective punishment that the State has already been inflicting on them for the past 60 years, i.e. the most absolute neglect and underfunding.

It's good that someone in the State of Israel has realized that the State needs to invest more in its Arab community. It's bad that the real test --implementation-- is likely to be failed once again by the State. It's even worse that the only concrete outcome from all this will probably be the Tourism Minister's racist outburst.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Flags, holidays and anthems

The same document that we critiqued in our previous post presents a very common Zionist argument regarding the national symbols of the State of Israel:

The crux of the accusation against Israel is encapsulated in the often-repeated charge that the racism of Israel “is symbolized most clearly in Israel’s Jewish flag, anthem and state holidays.” The accusers have not a word of criticism against the tens of liberal democratic states that have Christian crosses incorporated in their flags, nor against the Muslim states with the half crescent symbol of Islam. For a Western state, with Jewish and Muslim minorities, to have Christmas as a national holiday is permissible, but for Israel to celebrate Passover as a national holiday is somehow racist. For various Arab states to denote themselves as Arab Republics is not objectionable, but a Jewish state is racism and Apartheid.

Arguments by analogy are notoriously weak because before we can determine if the argument is sound we must first check if the analogy is valid. In this case it's clearly not, since the author is comparing apples that are unquestionably apples with other apples that look, taste and smell like oranges.

As with most Zionist arguing, the paragraph quoted above makes a petitio principii, also known as begging the question, in that it assumes that people who criticize a country are obligated to write a treatise on all other countries that behave similarly. This is patently absurd.

More to the point, even if we criticized the Western countries that have crosses in their flags or celebrate Christmas, the criticism would have to be of a very different nature than the one directed against Israel, and for multiple reasons.

The flags that contain crosses were created at a time when the notion of equality between all citizens (or subjects, as they were called back then) of a country was not firmly established. Also, at the time that they were created the cross actually reflected the reality of homogeneously Christian nations. Furthermore, these nations had evolved over a long period of time before adopting their flags.

While it can be argued that Denmark --for instance-- would do well to drop the cross from its flag out of respect for its non-Christian citizens, there are also a number of arguments that can be presented against this idea. In the first place, there exists a long tradition of the Danes using the same flag, which was adopted in the 14th century. In the second place, the cross in the flag is a desemantized symbol (i.e., it has lost its meaning). The people see it and don't think of Christianity, among other reasons because it's in a horizontal, rather than vertical, position. This is also true of all crosses in Western national flags, none of which looks very much like the cross that you see upon entering a church. Thus, the cross in the Greek flag has its horizontal arm longer than the vertical one; that in the Swiss flag has equal-sized arms; and the British flag presents a mix of straight and diagonal crosses. These are crosses based on the Christian religion, but they don't remind you very much of the faith.

None of this is true in the case of Israel. The country was created from scratch in 1948; i.e., there was no tradition to uphold. It was by no means religiously homogeneous. The principle of equality between citizens had already been established as a requisite for a democracy. The flag with the Star of David was adopted in the full awareness that a significant percentage of the population rejected it, without consulting that segment of the citizenry. Its religious meaning was reinforced by the menorah being adopted as the country's coat of arms. Accusing Israel's critics of not criticizing the crosses in Western flags is, thus, like accusing Saudi Arabia's critics of not criticizing Britain or Spain, whose heads of State are as unelected as King Abdullah.

We have the same problem with regard to Christmas. While it is true that it's a Christian holiday, its celebration is, once again, desemantized. There are no legally enforceable rules that apply to it. In Israel, on the other hand, the holiday of Pesach (to give the author's example) is regulated by the chametz law, whereby all people living in a Jewish-majority town, even if they're not Jewish (for instance, an Arab baker) are forbidden from showcasing leavened bakery products.

The author also wants us to criticize the Arab countries that append "Arab" to their names. This is hardly the same as Israel defining itself as Jewish. Anyone can become an Arab by learning Arabic, because Arabness is a linguistic, not religious, concept. This is not true of Jewish identity, which is defined by rigid criteria and can't be acquired by, say, an atheist. There's a world of difference between an inclusive identity, that can be added to your previous one (I can become an Arab while continuing to speak Spanish with my children), and an exclusive one like Jewishness, which forces you to abandon your previous convictions.

Finally, although the author reports the anti-Zionist mention of Israel's anthem as another tool to segregate the Arab population, for some reason he fails to address the charge. Maybe because it's kind of difficult to spin the lyrics of Hatikva:

As long as deep in the heart,
The soul of a Jew yearns,
And forward to the East
To Zion, an eye looks
Our hope will not be lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

How can Arabs be expected to love the country that forces them to say they're Jewish is beyond my comprehension. (Incidentally, the anthem is also discriminatory of Oriental Jews, who, however, don't take offense, busy as they are hating the other Arabs, the ones with the wrong religion.)

Israel's exclusionary Jewish nature is evident in all aspects of the country's business, but the national symbols are unquestionably evidence A.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The problem is with the hasbara, not with the audience

In the final years of the Apartheid era in South Africa, Coloreds and Indians enjoyed political representation. They elected a Colored Parliament, with 85 MPs, and an Indian Parliament, with 45 MPs.  The whites, for their part, elected a white parliament with 178 MPs. The three chambers combined formed the electoral college that appointed the President and the Cabinet. Thus, Colored and Indian MPs could give speeches, criticize the government, enact laws that applied to their communities, etc., but when it came to actually holding power, the result was inexorable: the President and the Cabinet ministers where all white, courtesy of the absolute majority the whites enjoyed in the electoral college. Indeed there were three parliaments, but one was all-important and the other two were irrelevant.

The Israeli Knesset combines both systems in one and the same legislature. There are around 110 Jewish MKs, who make the decisions that affect the country, and 10 token Arab MKs, who can give speeches and complain all they wish, but who can never influence any act of government, much less one that affects them.

This similarity (yet another one) between Apartheid South Africa and Israel sprang to my mind upon reading (at this prompting) a purported rebuttal to claims of Israeli apartheid. This document is a very interesting example of what Saree Makdisi (here) calls the linguistic contortionism of Israel apologists. I'd like to focus today on the following extraordinary paragraph from the executive summary:

Israel is a multi-racial and multi-colored society, and the Arab minority actively participates in the political process. There are Arab parliamentarians, Arab judges including on the Supreme Court, Arab cabinet ministers, Arab heads of hospital departments, Arab university professors, Arab diplomats in the Foreign Service, and very senior Arab police and army officers. Incitement to racism in Israel is a criminal offence, as is discrimination on the basis of race or religion.

The verb participate  is broad enough that a bull can be said to participate in a bullfight, or a slave in human trafficking. Whoever said that participants in a process are equal to each other? The paragraph above simply  takes advantage of this ambiguity to distort the truth.

It would be accurate to say, for instance, that Jews actively participate in the political process in Argentina. In the last mayoral election in Buenos Aires, the incumbent, Jorge Télerman, was Jewish, as was one of his rivals, Daniel Filmus. The third contender, Mauricio Macri, was Catholic. Mr. Macri won the election -- because he convinced the electorate, not because of any limitation on the Jews' political rights.

Similarly, in my city Roberto Miguel Lifschitz defeated Héctor Cavallero to become Rosario's first Jewish mayor ever, and proceeded to appoint Mirta Levín as his Planning Secretary, as well as several other Jewish advisors. Other examples abound. Jorge Alperóvich is the governor of Tucumán (possibly the country's most heavily Catholic province), Héctor Tímerman is the ambassador to Washington, Carlos Kúnkel one of the most prominent lawmakers from the governing party. The Jewish participation in Argentinian politics means that they can effectively influence events.

This is hardly the same as the situation in Israel, where Arabs can participate to elect an irrelevant Arab caucus in the Knesset, but can't expect to become mayors of Tel Aviv, ambassadors to Washington or key Cabinet members. The quoted paragraph contorts language in presenting events that have happened once or twice in the country's history (like the token appoointment of an Arab to a minor ministerial position) as if they were normal occurrences, and by including in the category, "Arabs," the Druze, who are less discriminated against than Muslims and Christians, and who form the totality of all those "very senior Arab police and army officers" (the State itself recognizes the Druze as a separate nationality).

But the most egregious distortion is the phrase "Incitement to racism in Israel is a criminal offence, as is discrimination on the basis of race or religion." Of course such practices are banned by the legislation, but the laws are never enforced against the Jews. Very senior officials have incited against the Arabs without facing any retribution. Case in point, housing minister Ariel Attias, whose reflections on Arab Israelis were recently reported by Haaretz:

Housing Minister Ariel Atias on Thursday warned against the spread of Arab population into various parts of Israel, saying that preventing this phenomenon was no less than a national responsibility.

"I see [it] as a national duty to prevent the spread of a population that, to say the least, does not love the state of Israel," Atias told a conference of the Israel Bar Association, which focused on a reforming Israel's Land Administration.

The Shas minister referred to Harish, a housing project built for the Haredi community in northern Israel, saying that the Arab population from the nearby Wadi Ara was spreading into the Harish area.

Atias went on to address the issue of the Galilee, saying that "if we go on like we have until now, we will lose the Galilee. Populations that should not mix are spreading there. I don't think that it is appropriate [for them] to live together."

Remember, this is the Cabinet minister who decides who will live where. This key official promulgates an explicit policy of preventing the "spreading" of Arabs "who don't love Israel" (not a single word against Jews who reject the State, like the Neturei Karta) to certain parts of the country and their mixing with Jews, yet there's no Apartheid in Israel!

Israel's Hasbara officials often vent their frustration that their efforts fail to convince their target audiences. They publish booklets, support rabid organizations like CAMERA and MEMRI, go on TV, even enlist Israeli tourists for the cause, but the world keeps talking about Israeli apartheid. They tend to conclude that prejudice against the Jews is so deeply ingrained that all explanatory efforts are doomed.

A better idea would be to stop taking the public for idiots and making ludicrous denials that are disproved by an even cursory look at the Israeli press.  The problem is not with the audience; it's with the intelligence-insulting hasbara that is served them.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The right price for peace

"Israeli Jews will never accept a one-state solution." This is a Zionist tenet indefatigably repeated every time someone proposes that equal rights be granted to Jews and Palestinians under a single polity between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the statement is accurate. It is also accurate to state that Rosarians (is that the demonym for my city?) are not prepared to pay $7 for an orchid. The result: orchids are not available at Rosario's flower kiosks.

Peace, like flowers, is a commodity. You want to have it, you've got to pay for it. Now it's not that Israeli Jews reject the idea of paying a price altogether. They would be happy to give the Palestinians a collection of cantons with no contiguity, no borders with any country other than Israel, no freedom of movement and no army, very much like Rosarians would be happy to buy orchids for $1.5 apiece. The problem, of course, is that the price of things is not set by the potential buyer; it's set by the market.

I know nothing about the culture of orchids, but I guess they don't grow as easily as roses. It takes more time, space and care to produce them; hence their exorbitant price. Analogously, peace in the Middle East doesn't grow as easily as in, say, Scandinavia. Whatever the wishes of Israeli Jews, you can't have peace without a reasonable measure of justice. Gerrymandering intricate borders around confiscated territories and declaring them your own may be an attractive idea to some, but it is thoroughly unfair to many more, and it is dellusional to believe that it will bring peace just because the people harmed by the scheme are in a weaker position.

There are several conditions for peace in Israel/Palestine to be achieved. Among them:

  • No people should be uprooted from where they were born.
  • Property confiscated should be returned to their owners.
  • People with a legitimate claim to land or houses somewhere should be allowed to move there if they so wish.
  • People should be able to move around with ease.
  • The interests of some citizens shouldn't be prioritized over the interests of other citizens.

These conditions, and other similar ones, can't be met outside of a single-state solution. While the Jewish settlers in the West Bank could in principle be thought of as the fiercest opposers to such a solution, at least some of them are beginning to reconcile with the idea of coexistence with Palestinians. One country with equal rights for all is the right price that needs to be paid --by both sides-- to achieve peace.

To state that Israeli Jews don't want a binational country is, thus, to state the actual problem: they don't want peace. They see that the status quo works very well for them and have no problem keeping it. It hasn't yet sunk in that, just like peace with Egypt brought enormous benefits, so would peace with the Palestinians under a binational state. That more money could be spent in education; that they would spend less time doing military service and reserve duty; that the task of raising the living standards of Palestinians would create a huge boost for the economy as a whole.

If Israeli Jews want orchids, they'll have to pay what orchids are worth. Otherwise, they'll get roses, or, more likely still, thorns.