Posts Tagged Palestinians

Palestinian women, silencing domestic abuse and unconscious antisemitism

When I read the article this week in the Forward by Jay Michaelson on his break with the extreme anti-Israel “left”, I knew that I had to write something about it. Michaelson has been active for years in the LGBT movement and is well-versed in the social science theories of discrimination that are popular with the far-left and that I have been reading a lot of recently, so I recognised straight away what he was referring to and really connected with the striking observations that he was making about the anti-Israel movement.

I recommend reading the full piece, but I also want to concentrate on the following points:

When the Right Is Right About the Left – Forward.com.

Just as I try to remind myself of my white privilege, my economic privilege and my male privilege in my anti-oppression work, so, too, anti-oppression activists should be aware of the reality of anti-Semitism and the way it informs political discourse. If you single out the Jewish state for criticism among all countries in the world, the onus is on you to demonstrate that your discourse is free from conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Even if you’re Jewish.

For those who don’t quite follow, what Michaelson is referring to is a phenomenon known as “unconscious oppression” — people who are not members of a disadvantaged group are often completely oblivious to behaviour that is actually prejudiced towards someone from one such group.

This is the source of all of the arguments against things like black people being constantly portrayed as thugs and gangsters in movies, or the amount of scenes on TV showing a woman falling apart and crying hysterically while a man comforts her, or joking about how your new Asian friend must be good at maths. It’s the kind of subtle prejudice whose criticism has certain people saying things like “come on love, we were just joking!” or “oh God, the PC-brigade are at it again!”

Michaelson makes the point that the people who champion this idea more than any other at the same time are doing precisely the same thing to Jews. This links in to another point that Michaelson made and a news item from today.

Michaelson:

But the flattening of Palestinian society is even worse. Ironically, given the critics doing it, it’s Orientalist to depict the Palestinians … as noble victims of European colonialism, free from blemish and fault. Such oversimplifications are no different from those of noble “Indians,” noble poor people, or noble savages in general and are offensive to Palestinians and Israelis alike.

For example, in one of the accounts of an LGBT trip to the Palestinian territories last year, one participant expressed dismay at being told not to be visibly affectionate with her female partner. This naiveté is revealing. Palestinian society is patriarchal, homophobic and conservative. The Palestinian Authority has done little to prosecute so-called “honor killings” (that is, murders of LGBT people or unmarried women suspected of sexual activity), and there are hundreds of LGBT Palestinians living, legally and illegally, in Israel as a result. … There’s pinkwashing on both sides of the political fence.

As if on cue, Angela Robson had this story in the Guardian yesterday on the terrifying prevalence of domestic abuse in Gaza (my bold):

Women in Gaza: how life has changed | World news | The Guardian.

Before the blockade, my husband used to make good money working in Israel,” she says. “With the blockade, that all stopped. When he can’t find any work and we have nothing to eat, he blames me. He is a like a crazy animal. I stay quiet when he hits me. Afterwards, he cries and says, if he had a job, he wouldn’t beat me.” …

Violence against women has reached alarming levels. A December 2011 study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, PCBS, revealed that 51% of all married women in Gaza had experienced violence from their husbands in the previous 12 months.

Two thirds (65%) of women surveyed by the PCBS said they preferred to keep silent about violence in the home. Less than 1% said they would seek help. Mona, my 22-year-old interpreter, is astonished when I later ask what support there is for women such as Eman. “If her husband, or in fact anyone in the family, knew she had talked about this, she’d be beaten or killed. As for places for a woman to run to safety, I don’t know of any.”

Clearly, the implication is that Israel is responsible for this abuse because it imposes a blockade on Gaza. As a letter this morning from one Abdul Hamed demonstrated, this was not lost on the Guardian’s readership:

Letters: Israel, Hamas and blame for the plight of women in Gaza | World news | The Guardian.

Reading Angela Robson’s depressing report (Behind the blockade, G2, 31 July), one could be forgiven for thinking that the horrors she describes are self-inflicted and largely attributable to the election of Hamas. This would be wrong, because long before that election the Israelis were systematically making any cross-border movement, particularly economic activity, unpredictable and arduous. … As a result, economic conditions in Gaza worsened, ensuring the election of Hamas. Today, that election is held up as the stumbling block to peace by the Israelis, just as Yasser Arafat was before his death.

Hamed believes that Israel deliberately stifled Gaza’s economy to get Hamas elected so that there could be an excuse not to negotiate a peace deal with a Palestinian Authority that is currently refusing to negotiate with Israel. Riiiiiight.

Putting to one side the crazy conspiracy theories and the argument over whether or not Israel is justified in blockading Gaza, Hamed seems to be implying that Hamas is responsible for all these abuses anyway. Well this is true to an extent, but unfortunately the other side of the Palestinian divide does not seem to be faring much better:

Palestinian women outraged by Bethlehem market murder | The Times of Israel.

The brutal killing of a battered wife in front of horrified witnesses in an open-air Bethlehem market prompted angry accusations Wednesday that Palestinian police and courts ignore violence against women. Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had her throat slashed Monday after seeking a divorce from her abusive husband of 10 years. …

Zaboun was regularly beaten by her husband … at times so severely that she had to be hospitalized … Even so, [he] was never arrested. Police only made him sign pledges he would stop hitting his wife …

But see, the PA are better than Hamas. Sure they do nothing to prevent husbands from beating their wives, but they at least punish husbands for killing their wives rather than killing the wife for speaking-out about being abused.

Last year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a decree that ended a long-standing practice of treating killings within a family with leniency. Justice Minister Ali Mohanna said such killings are now treated as any other slaying, and claims of assailants that they were protecting “family honor” are no longer taken into account.

Before I make my final point, I want to note these disgusting comments by an Arab-Israeli Member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and the Jerusalem Post editorial accompanying it:

Zoabi’s incitement – JPost – Opinion – Editorials.

It sounded quite unthinkable, but Knesset member Haneen Zoabi (Balad) blamed Israel for the recent slaying of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. “Israel is not a victim, not even when civilians are killed,” she declared in an interview with Channel 10.

Zoabi elaborated: “Israel’s policy of occupation is at fault. If there was no occupation, no repression and no blockade, then this wouldn’t have happened.”

This, again, is a common theme amongst anti-Israel groups that has been adopted by the anti-Israel “left” — the idea that innocent Israelis and Jews who are killed by terrorists claiming to act on behalf of the Palestinians somehow had it coming to them because of what Israel does. (I say “and Jews” because, as Mohammed Merah made very clear a few months ago by shooting some kids at a Jewish school in France to “avenge Palestinian children”, most terrorists do not see any difference.)

Remember that line I highlighted before where the abused wife’s husband blamed his unemployment for his beating her? Could there be a parallel mentality, in that the criminals are represented as the victims?

Put it this way, in blaming all evil on Israel and absolving the Palestinians of any of their own wrongdoing, the narrative of the anti-Israel “left” is horribly similar to the way the Nazis used to blame all of Germany’s woes on the Jews using many of the same tropes.

In saying that, however, I am opening myself up to the very common accusation of trying to silence critics because “to Zionists, any criticism of Israel is antisemitic”.

This is why Michaelson’s criticism was so incredibly perceptive and on-point. For the feminist movement — with which most of the anti-Israel “left” identify — “lighten-up love, we were just joking” is one of the worst things that a man can say. No one knows better when they are being discriminated against than the victim and, often, no one knows worse than the perpetrator. Discrimination is not something that is always done consciously, it flows from internalised preconceptions of how a group of people “must be”.

The anti-Israel “left” know this, and yet they still dismiss every charge of antisemitism that is raised at them.

Hamed’s letter effectively absolves Palestinian men from the horrible abuse that they are perpetrating and encouraging. Worse, it lays the blame on a group of people who have historically played the role of scapegoat for all manner of crimes: Jews.

That Michaelson quote that I began the piece with spoke of putting-aside his privilege to see the discrimination that he was really perpetrating. As most feminists would tell you, the way to end domestic violence is for men to be able to put-aside their societal conditioning and stop seeing women as weak objects to serve and be controlled by men.

Sadly, it seems that these same people are unable to put-aside their societal conditioning that when things go wrong it is the Jews that are to blame. In fact, they refuse to even recognise it.

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UPDATE: I’ve been accused of not practising what I preach/being full of unconscious anti-Arab prejudice/not acknowledging Palestinian suffering. I did quote a few people speaking about this without contradicting them, but I guess that wasn’t enough for some people.

So apparently I need to say this: Israelis are responsible for a lot of Palestinian suffering, there is a lot of racism in the Zionist movement and here are some things that I have written on that subject. It just wasn’t the focus of this post.

 

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Why the Levi Report would help Palestinians

Back on this theme, some detractors (who probably didn’t read the report before detracting) have attacked the Levy Report for bringing an end to the two-state solution and taking away Palestinian land rights.

For a quick and easy, cut-and-paste style rebuttal, I figured I would take a post by Benedict Roth on the latest uproar in the West Bank, followed by an excerpt from the Levy Report’s conclusions, then some commentary.

To wit (my bold):

The Prayers of Susya – The Daily Beast.

Susya is a tiny Arab village–more a shanty-town than a village–sandwiched between two Jewish settlements at the southern edge of the West Bank.  It has been repeatedly demolished by the Israeli army since its creation in the 1980’sIt is about to be demolished again, by court order, because it is sited on agricultural land and its residents have not been granted permission to build.

The Arabs whose shacks are being demolished have documents attesting title to their land. Ironically, they also hold title to the site of one of the Jewish villages, a few hundred yards away.  Indeed they lived there until the early 1980’s.  But they were ordered to leave by the military government after archaeological remains were found.  So they camped on their fields nearby.

… So, today, nearly every Palestinian construction site is “illegal” and is subject to demolition while the Jewish settlement programme proceeds apace, fuelled by a ready supply of building permits and funds.  By controlling Area C through its civil administration, Israel obtains all the benefits of annexation without incurring any obligation to grant its Arab residents legal and political rights.  Water, electricity, land, public services and votes are all reserved for Jews.

Levy:

a. The area of municipal jurisdiction of each settlement, if not yet determined, must be determined by order, taking into due consideration future natural growth.

f. In the event of conflicting claimants to land, it would be appropriate to adopt a policy whereby prior to any determination by the state regarding petitions for eviction or demolition, a thorough examination of the conflicting claims be conducted by a judicial tribunal dealing with land issues. This is all the more necessary with respect to claims of prior purchase or prescription, or where the possessor acted in a bona fide manner. Pending such determination, state authorities should be instructed to avoid taking any position in land conflicts and carrying out irreversible measures, such as eviction or demolition of buildings on the property.

g. To this end and with a view to facilitate accessibility by local residents to judicial tribunals, we suggest the establishment of courts for the adjudication of land disputes in Judea and Samaria, or alternatively, extending the jurisdiction of district court judges in order to enable them to handle in their courts, land disputes in Judea and Samaria.

h. It is necessary to draft into the security legislation a right for the public to review data banks administered by the various official bodies, including the Civil Administration, concerning land rights in the area of Judea and Samaria.


j. The composition of the Appeals Committee should be changed. It is presently manned by uniformed reserve officers, jurists, who are, of necessity, perceived at the least to be subordinate to, and even under the command of the Head of the Civil Administration. We feel that this situation is not proper, and therefore recommend that the Appeals Committee be composed of non-uniformed jurists, a factor which would contribute to the general perception of the Appeals Committee as an independent body, acting according to its own discretion.

k) The “Procedure for Dealing with Private Land Disputes” must be revoked. Such disputes must only be considered and adjudicated by a judicial body.

So let’s recap. A huge part of the problem (which, by the way, is a huge problem — I completely agree that the way the people of Susya are being treated is a disgrace) is that the people of Susya have been arbitrarily moved around and denied the right to enjoy land over which they hold title. This has been made possible due to the current Israeli Civil Administration in Area C; which has an Appeals Committee that is not a proper court and is essentially made-up of Administration officials; and which is overly secretive, extremely bureaucratic and very difficult for Palestinians to work with — whether they seek information or building permits.

I will note that I have a lot of (completely anecdotal) reason to believe that the difficulty in attaining building permits is not all down to direct discrimination, there is a significant amount of bureaucratic incompetence and corruption that presents hurdles to people who can’t “work the system” like Israelis can.

So what does the Levy Report recommend? That the Appeals Committee is abolished and replaced by a proper independent judiciary; that no new construction or demolition may take place without prior approval of this judiciary; that the judiciary is given the power to examine the land ownership rights that are currently ignored; and new freedom of information laws to make the whole process more transparent.

That, to me, looks a lot better for the people of Susya than the opaque, corrupt system they currently face, in which their claims are adjudicated by the people that they are going up against.

Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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World’s gone mad and it don’t seem right

I sleep in a little on one Sunday morning and everything’s gone crazy.

1. Vandalising in the name of “social justice”

From what I gather, some of the “social justice protesters” in Tel Aviv from last year tried to put up tents in Rothschild Blvd again, but were arrested as the government didn’t want the whole of central Tel Aviv to shut down for a second year in a row. This sparked a whole new protest, which blocked Ibn Gvirol and marched south, joining-up with some kind of anti-homophobia protest.

At some point, the whole thing went out of control and the protesters started just smashing things. The police responded with what has been alleged to have been “police brutality”. It’s hard to tell either way, but I can say this: breaking into and smashing-up banks is not a good way to defend “social justice” or to get any kind of point across.

Haaretz report HERE, more photos HERE.

2. Flare-up around Gaza

There has been another of what are becoming routine flare-ups in violence around the border between Gaza and Israel. Jerusalem Post reporter Yaakov Katz even argues that this one is half-hearted compared to the last ones.

It is a very sad state-of-affairs that this kind of language can be used about an incident that has killed 14 Palestinians so far and has forced a million Israelis to be living in bomb shelters for a week, with rockets seriously damaging a school in Sderot, amongst other things.

However, I have heard reports privately that the IDF General Staff has been pulling all-night meetings and could be planning another large-scale Gaza incursion. That is not going to be fun for anyone, but may be necessary in order to stop these perpetual flare-ups. I’m not sure which is the bigger evil, in all honesty.

That brings me to…

3. Third Intifada

Nathan Thrall argued in the New York Times Sunday Review that a third intifada is inevitable. For some reason, this was released online on Friday, but it has caused a stir amongst a lot of analysts who accuse Thrall of actually supporting the idea.

One point that has been repeatedly made is that another intifada would pose little real threat to Israel, but could well unseat the current Palestinian leadership (not a bad outcome IMO). Fatah and Hamas know this, so they have been doing everything they can to avoid it and to keep their peoples’ attention on Israel.

There also seems to be a threat from within that is coming to unseat Mahmoud Abbas – Salaam Fayyad has just announced that he may challenge the Palestinian Authority presidency in the event that elections ever actually happen.

4. Egypt: the tale of two presidents

The results of Egypt’s presidential elections are rumoured to be coming any minute. This has not prevented both candidates announcing victory and the supporters of both holding huge, angry riots against each other.

Essentially, the country is polarised. Half hate the old regime candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, and half hate the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed  Moursi. Whoever wins, there will be mass dissatisfaction and possibly violence.

5. And the rest

I’m getting a little tired of writing out these short summaries, so to conclude: Sudan is exploding and Turkey is about to go to war with Syria over what was probably a stunt to prevent further Syrian airforce pilots defecting (shooting down a plane is a good way to do it).

Gotta love the Middle East.

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WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME??

Max Read in Gawker  on the “race war”

Are You Prepared for the Race War?.

If nothing else you’ve probably noticed that “race relations are probably worse now among the average person on the street than they were the day President Obama was elected,” as activist Ward Connerly tells McKay Coppins in Coppins’ “In Conservative Media, A ‘Race War’ Rages,” an excellent summary of the current state of conservative journalism. Connerly is filled with pearls of wisdom: “Obama has been more racial than any white president has ever been in my lifetime,” he tells Coppins in an attempt to explain his perception of a current low ebb in American race relations. What a wonderful way of putting into words the conservative problem with Obama! He’s more racial than other presidents.

But maybe you haven’t experienced the Race War at all. Maybe you’ve somehow managed to avoid the dangerous gangs of black teens, flash-mobbing across the country in their insatiable search for white flesh. It’s okay. I myself didn’t know there was a Race War on until I read Sowell’s most recent column and learned that “the authorities and the media seem determined to suppress” the plain fact that “the hoodlum elements in many ghettoes launch coordinated attacks on whites in public places.” How frequently do these “coordinated attacks” take place? As McKay Coppins points out, Sowell’s column doesn’t “cite any statistics, relying instead on anecdotal evidence.” But what anecdotal evidence …

The local media might try to sweep these episodes under the proverbial rug, through its sophisticated false-flag tactic of “immediately and extensively covering these episodes,” but the national media will have trouble ignoring them when we have intrepid minds like Sowell (once called “our greatest contemporary philosopher” by no less a thinker than David Mamet) on the case. So long as someone is willing to do the hard, boots-on-the-ground journalistic work of visiting the Drudge Report, the truth of the Race War will never go unknown.

This brought to mind Randa Abdel-Fattah’s missive last week on The Drum:

What must Palestinians do to get your attention? – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Dear Western leaders and the international media, what must a Palestinian do to get your attention?

I ask this question as I recall watching Gandhi with my parents when I was a teenager. With the confident zeal of an adolescent, I vividly recall telling my father (born in Palestine in 1945 and dispossessed of his land in 1967) that what the Palestinians needed to do to draw international attention to their plight was simply go on a mass hunger strike.

… since April 17, 2012, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, there have been more than 2,000 Palestinian hunger strikers demanding an improvement in their living conditions in Israeli prisons, family visitations, education, an end to solitary confinement, repression and night searches.

And yet, in the face of this dramatic expression of Palestinian non-violent resistance, the media and our leaders remain unmoved.

That’s a very good question Ms Abdel-Fattah, what could Palestinians possibly do to get peoples’ attention? Because they definitely don’t have it now.

I mean, they could maybe try and get all of the major international newspapers to base their Middle East bureaus in Jerusalem. Or perhaps they could try and win sympathy from some major press outlets — like the BBC, or CNN, or our very own ABC and SBS. Maybe even that new Al Jazeera network that seems to be quite popular for its Middle East coverage — I’m sure it could be convinced to air a story or two about Palestinians.

Well yes, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict gets more media coverage than just about anything else on the planet. What Abdel-Fattah is really complaining about is that the coverage by-and-large does not reflect her worldview.

You can criticise someone for ignoring a problem (like I criticise people for ignoring Africa), but your criticism sounds a lot more hollow when you’re just complaining that no one agrees with you. It’s a common message from people on the extremes of the political spectrum — they all complain that their publications don’t sell and they aren’t given column inches in The Australian, therefore the media must be “biased”.

What never seems to occur to them is that they may just be wrong.

Think about it, Ms Abdel-Fattah. Maybe it’s not censorship. Maybe you’re being ignored because your views are based fringe ideas that people who know what they are talking about dismiss as misinformed and not worth giving a pedestal to.

I know it’s a harder truth to deal with than the idea that everyone is being sucked-in by some mass conspiracy that doesn’t want you to be heard, but it’s also far more realistic…

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EXCLUSIVE LEAK: Palestinian Authority letter to Netanyahu

BIG NEWS!

After years of refusing to negotiate or meet with the Israelis, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has sent Israelis Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu A LETTER!

PM Netanyahu meets with Saeb Erekat and Majad Faraj 17-Apr-2012.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving peace. This evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with representatives from the Palestinian side who gave him a letter from President Abbas. Within two weeks, a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be given to President Abbas.  Both sides hope that this exchange of letters will help find a way to advance peace.

Against all odds, the letter itself has been leaked to Major Karnage and is reproduced below in its entirety:

Dear Bibi,

I know I haven’t been in touch for a while, but I thought that it may be time to give it another go.

I have to admit, I never got over Olmert — even after he was indicted for corruption and then launched that whole “Gaza incursion” thing. I just… I guess I was so hung up on him that I didn’t give you a chance.

You know, it’s sometimes so hard to accept that someone can change. We used to fight all the time when we were younger. It was just so hard to believe that you were serious when you said you wanted a two-state solution too. And there’s the whole settlement thing of course.

I feel so stupid now, I should have trusted you. I know it couldn’t have been easy to come out like that! I know your dad has always been against the whole idea and you’re the first Likkudnik to take this step. I know how important Lieberman and Yishai are to you, you must have been under so much pressure!

I’ve had to come a long way too, you know. I can see why you would doubt that I had really renounced terror — especially when I’m still putting on parades for released terror convicts and naming schools after suicide bombers. But I’ve grown up, really. All that’s in the past, it’s not worth us sulking like this.

Look, I can’t promise that I can reign-in the other guys, but I have finally realised that I have to do this. I guess we both have to take a leap of faith, but let’s face it, we’re not getting any younger.

Anyway, I’ll understand if you need time to think about it, but please write back. I can’t face not hearing from you for another three years.

 

Sincerely,

Abu Mazen

xxox

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The real crisis is the America-centric Zionism

Jordan Chandler Hirsch has given the best review that I have seen yet of Peter Beinart’s new book The Crisis of Zionism (UPDATE: except this one) (disclaimer: I have not read the book myself). For those who don’t follow these things, for the past couple of years, Beinart has been trying to pioneer some new form of “liberal Zionism” that, for reasons explained below, I find deeply flawed.

Before I get into that, I would just like to highlight one important point that Beinart has backtracked on. In the New York Review of Books essay with which Beinart originally launched his campaign, he had a premise that was very popular with quite a few of the Jews who were inclined to agree with his position anyway (hi Liam): that the reason American Jews have become increasingly alienated towards Israel is that they cannot “blindly support” Israel the way AIPAC does (which AIPAC doesn’t actually do).

This is understandably an attractive prospect for Beinart and his followers — who wouldn’t want to believe that everyone naturally agrees with them and if only the establishment were different, they would be super popular. Unfortunately for Beinart (and Liam), this assumption is not grounded in reality.  He has since been proven wrong and quietly moved away from this position:

Diaspora Divided > Jewish Review of Books.

Beinart—though he doesn’t explicitly admit to it—largely walks back his theory of political distancing in The Crisis of Zionism. In fact, in direct contradiction to his article in The New York Review of Books, he endorses Cohen’s argument that, for the vast majority of American Jews whose ties to Israel are weakening, intermarriage is a more important factor than politics. Noting that the intermarriage rate among Jews today is “roughly 50 percent,” Beinart admits “the harsh truth is that for many young, non-Orthodox American Jews, Israel isn’t that important because being Jewish isn’t that important.” Later, he states, quite rightly, “it would be wrong to imagine that young, secular American Jews seethe with outrage at Israel’s policies.” “For the most part,” he writes, “they do not care enough to seethe.”

Hirsch goes on to explain the important flaws in Beinart’s thesis. He more-or-less describes my point of view as well: rather than addressing the problem, Beinart is just presenting Read the rest of this entry »

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Your depressing Israel reading for the weekend

Just when things were starting to get more happy around here, these came up.

Numero uno: an article by MK favourite Diaa Hadid on the issue of detaining Palestinian children that has been getting a lot of exposure over the last couple of months. As usual, Hadid presents one of the most balanced perspectives out there and her reporting is appropriately damning of all sides.

There is, for instance, disgraceful treatment of children by the IDF:

Israel policy of detaining kids questioned – The Denver Post.

BEIT UMAR, West Bank—When Mahmoud al-Alami was 9 years old, an Israeli soldier caught him throwing rocks, took him out of his uncle’s arms, slung him over his shoulders and carried him away.

Mahmoud, now 10, says he was subsequently blindfolded and shackled, slapped and ordered to confess to throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers and identify other children doing the same.

But then, there is the disgraceful use of violence in protests that Palestinians and their sympathisers try to spin as “peaceful”:

Israel’s military points out that rocks Palestinian youths throw can be dangerous and even deadly. In September, an Israeli settler and his year-old son were killed in a car cash after stones were thrown at their vehicle on a highway that crosses the West Bank.

“It doesn’t matter if it was thrown by a 12-year-old or a 20-year-old if it killed somebody,” said an officer in Israel’s military justice system, speaking on condition of anonymity under briefing regulations. “We still have to take minors to trial. It’s still a serious offense for us.”

Then, of course, we have the disgraceful inculcation of a violent mindset into Palestinian children, which creates this whole cycle in the first place:

Mahmoud denies he was throwing stones at soldiers when he was detained for several hours in February last year. He says he was hurling rocks at friends pretending to be Israeli soldiers—a game the children call “Arabs and Jews”—near a military watchtower in his home village of Beit Umar. Nearby soldiers thought he was targeting them, he said.
“It was just a game,” the fifth-grader said.

And, as usual, we finish by being reassured that nothing will change:

The arrests warp relations in tightknit villages too because children are bullied to confess against their neighbors. Parents fight over whose child squealed on whom, said Fatima Awad, 50, whose son Mohammed was imprisoned for six weeks at age 14 for throwing rocks.

Mohammed, who is now 15, said his mother doesn’t let him attend demonstrations anymore.

“All of us throw stones, it is not one or two children,” Mohammed said. “If they take a few kids, will it stop? No. There will be others.”

*sigh*

Meanwhile, Israeli journalist Dimi Reider has written a piece on Israeli democracy for the New York Review of Books. Reider’s piece does not exactly give a balanced perspective, but nevertheless makes some frightening observations. I feel that I have to point out both what is good and bad about Reider’s piece, so bear with me Read the rest of this entry »

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The Middle East trust deficit

Don’t you love it when someone succinctly puts exactly what you feel? Gershon Baskin using the “both sides” equivalency, but being right:

Encountering Peace: Q&A on the fu… JPost – Opinion – Columnists.

Q: The Palestinians breached every agreement they ever signed with Israel, how can we trust them?

A: Israel and the PLO, representing the Palestinian people, signed five agreements. Every one of those agreements was breached by both sides. Neither side fulfilled its obligations, and the breaches were substantive in all of the agreements.

…Breaches upon breaches piled up and created a total breakdown. The failure of both sides to implement in good faith and to repair the damage in real time led to a total collapse of trust between the parties. The basic idea of an interim period (of five years) was to develop the trust that would be required to negotiate the main issues in conflict.

That trust never developed – quite the opposite. Today, objectively speaking, there is absolutely no reason why Israel and Palestine should trust each other – they have completely earned the mistrust that exists between them.

… There is no possibility for progress without negotiations, yet while both sides recognize this truth it seems that the complete absence of trust, what I call the “trust deficiency,” is more powerful than the desire to reach an agreement at this time. This is enhanced by the complete belief on both sides of the conflict that there is no partner for peace on the other side. Both sides say that they want peace, and both sides blame the other for lack of any progress.

Yup, that’s pretty much the situation. Abbas doesn’t trust Bibi; Bibi doesn’t trust Abbas; neither of them trust Obama; Obama is sick of them both; Obama, Abbas and Bibi all don’t trust Hamas and Hamas’ leaders don’t even trust each other, let alone anyone else.

The Israelis don’t trust the Palestinians because Israeli concessions are just met with violence and condemnations; the Palestinians don’t trust the Israelis because no one in Israel can agree on anything and the same government seems to have 5 different policies; the Palestinians don’t trust each other because every second person is an informant for Israel or secretly working for whichever of Hamas/Fatah the first person is worried about; the Jordanians don’t trust the Palestinians because Arafat tried to overthrow King Hussein in the ’70s; the secular Egyptians don’t trust the Palestinians because Hamas is too close to the Muslim Brotherhood; the Israelis don’t trust the Egyptians because they think they’re all Muslim Brotherhood; The Muslim Brotherhood don’t trust Fatah because they’re against Hamas…

I’m going to stop here, you get the picture. Anyone see a way out?

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A warning for Arab women, hope from Palestinians but in spite of everything, Israel still way out in front

In an article that I will probably discuss later, Israeli academic Eyal Gross rebuts a theory by another academic that, in his words, “what he calls the ‘racist’ narrative of gay-friendly Israel versus homophobic Palestine confirms Israeli perceptions of the collective others by representing the queer Palestinian as a helpless victim of Palestinian homophobia in need of the benevolence and protection of the Israeli state.” As Gross notes, the reality is that this is true: there are a lot of persecuted gay Palestinians who would find some kind of solace in Israel. Of course, Israel does harbour some intolerance and it is not fair to stereotype all Palestinians as homophobes, but it is equally true that mainstream Israeli society is against homophobia, whereas Palestinian society is a very difficult place to be gay – openly gay Palestinians are quite literally risking their lives.

The reason I am relating this is to illustrate the unfortunate tendency in some parts of the Western “left” to reject as “racist” any criticism of non-Western (and especially Middle Eastern) societies. In their well-meaning eyes, they see all people as basically “good” and do not want to accept that, for instance, Arab society tends to be extremely sexist, homophobic and racist. Ironically, they attribute the belief that this is, in fact, the case to a “colonialist” attitude – white people thinking that non-whites are barbaric savages. Ironically, it is these “third-worldists” who are in fact taking a patronising/colonialist attitude. Even worse than stereotyping Arabs as “backwards”, they are taking their own interpretation of “good values” and imputing it onto the Arabs.

This patronising attitude has been showing-up everywhere since the “Arab Spring” began last year. As “the people” of Egypt, Libya and Syria were protesting dictators, the third-worldist wisdom was that they must want a more democratic society. Then suddenly, after decrying everyone who was worried about an Islamist takeover as “racists”, they are shocked when the Libyan National Transitional Council announce that they plan to implement Shariah. The reality is that the Libyan revolutionaries were always open about where they stood on Islamic law, the third-worldists just refused to listen to them when they criticised Qaddafi for discouraging women from wearing the veil and for being accepting of Jews and Christians.

How short everyone’s memory is. Even if you can’t think back to Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, remember what happened when the Afghans became free from Russian oppression? Well if your memory could use some jogging, Morwari Zafar has written an amazing obituary for her grandmother, Massouma Esmatey-Wardak, an Afghan leader and politician who was hit as hard as the rest of Afghanistan when the once relatively prosperous and modern nation was taken over by Islamists.

Determination Defined: Remembering an Afghan Pioneer – by Morwari Zafar | The AfPak Channel.

In the wake of her successes at the helm of AWC, President Najibullah Ahmadzai appointed Massouma as Minister of Education in 1990, though she was not a part of his contentious political party. Her appointment at a post formerly held by her husband, who supported her, was part and parcel of the political reformations in the country at that time. Under the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), the country was progressing socially in a way that seemed incongruous with Islam. And more than ever, Massouma was determined to secure access to education and promote literacy for women. The efforts were condemned by most Mujahideen [holy warriors] leaders, who perceived the developments as a communist endeavor destined to obliterate Islam from the country’s core values, and promote sexual anarchy.

Women’s rights disintegrated in the chaos of the civil war … After the Soviet withdrawal, President Najibullah agreed to transfer power to the Mujahideen in an effort brokered by the United Nations. Headed by President Mojadeddi, the former Jihadists took key ministerial positions in the new Islamic Afghan Government … The Taliban dealt the final blow to the social development and women’s rights of my grandmother’s generation. The current Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan maintains a sketchy record of human and women’s rights, and yet 50 years ago, even women in some rural areas had access to education and healthcare. Neither my grandmother nor my grandfather was born to wealthy families with vast social capital. They came from modest families that understood the value of education — especially for women — as a part of Islam, not divorced from it.

Afghanistan was starting from a better position than any of the “Arab Spring” countries: Wardak was the Minister for Education there, no “Arab Spring” country ever had a woman in a prominent leadership role. The only one that genuinely seems to be showing progress towards a more free and open society is Tunisia, where the Islamist al-Nahda was forced to join in a coalition government with secular parties. Egypt and Libya do not look so lucky, and by refusing to acknowledge how serious the situation there is, the third-worldist West is damning the women, Christians and other groups to some very unpleasant circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians seem to be actually making some progress against their retrenched prejudices. Jillian Kestler-D’Amours has reported on a Palestinian female-run radio station that could signify something extremely important (my bold):

FM Radio Spells Change, Success for Mideast Women – IPS ipsnews.net.

Launched in June 2010, Nisaa FM is an almost entirely female-run Palestinian radio station based in Ramallah, West Bank and the only radio station in the Middle East devoted solely to women’s issues. Its director Maysoun Odeh Gangat says that the station aims to inform, inspire and empower local women.

“Through the positive role that the women are playing in the society that we portray, we believe that we can empower women economically and then socially and politically. It could be any woman from the rural areas or the refugee camp, or a woman parliamentarian or minister,” Gangat told IPS.

In addition to suffering from a myriad of human rights abuses stemming from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, Palestinian women face challenges from within their own society.

According to a 2009 report released by the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre (PWIC) in Gaza, 77 percent of the women in Gaza had experienced some form of violence; 53 percent had been exposed to physical violence and 15 percent to sexual abuse.

The bolded paragraph is key: this fact is almost never admitted by anyone on the “pro-Palestinian” side. The Palestinian people have for decades remained in a self-perpetuated misery by blaming everything wrong with their lives on Israel and refusing to look within their own community. In a way, they have been simply believing what the third-worldists tell them; amazingly I have actually heard people blaming Palestinian oppression of women/homosexuals on Israel, in spite of the fact that the Palestinians are no different in that regard from all of the neighbouring Arab countries.

If the Palestinian Authority is now allowing a voice like Nisaa FM to start accepting some culpability and criticising their own culture for its flaws, maybe we will actually start to see progress in peace talks.  Addressing domestic violence and sexual abuse is a start, but a lot can potentially follow. That said, there is still a long way to go until they are even close to Israeli society, as was demonstrated recently. Despite all of the many issues with the ultra-orthodox and gender segregation, all three centre-left parties in the Knesset now have female leaders; this means that if anyone can unseat Netanyahu, Israel will have its second female Prime Minister by next year. Recognising the difference between the two societies is neither racist nor colonial, it is simply allowing yourself to see.

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Israel: more on Sudanese refugees and West Bank demolitions

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

I’ll end on the positive note. Bad news first then.

Remember those solar panels in the West Bank that the Palestinian Authority-controlled media said were “circumventing” Israeli policy? Well, Haaretz — i.e. Israeli independent media — has ironically published a far more damning protrayal of what Israel has been doing. Admittedly this comes from Akiva Eldar, a journalist who has been known to make questionable claims on scant evidence (for instance, he recently claimed that Australia’s Jewish community is being turned-off by Israel’s right-wing coalition’s policies, based on an interview with one person, who happens to be a member of a left-wing Israeli organisation).

Nevertheless, Eldar makes a very valid point: the impending demolition of these panels highlights the frankly unjustifiable dichotomy between the way that Palestinians and Israelis are treated in area C. In the excerpt below, Eldar is alluding to the settlement outposts that the Israeli High Court has actually ruled illegally built on private Palestinian land and issued demolition orders as a result. Coalition partners Israel Beitenu are currently in the process of retrospectively legalising these outposts so they are not demolished.

Israel demolishes West Bank villages as Jewish outposts remains untouched – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

It happened last Wednesday. Civil Administration officer Nabil Tafsh arrived at Youssef Awad’s hut accompanied by a bulldozer. Awad told Rabbis for Human Rights representatives summoned to the site that the official informed him he had one minute to leave the hut and remove the sheep from their pen. Two soldiers forcibly removed Awad and, in a flash, the bulldozer flattened his minimal possessions into a pile of rubble.

… Around 1,500 people in 16 communities, that have been in the area since the 19th century, now benefit from energy produced by these installations, which provide lighting and electricity to their modest dairy product business. A few weeks ago, the Israeli administration – the one that arranges to run high-tension lines over their heads to supply illegal outposts – decided to issue work stoppage orders to five installations. The demolition orders expected to follow will darken the homes of 500 people. Children will revert to straining their eyes as they do their homework in the light of oil lamps, and the women will go back to churning butter and cheeses with blistered hands.

…  Civil Administration officials are busy with Palestinians’ wind turbines and goat pens. No wonder, then, they have no time to deal with a few structures that settlers are building on stolen lands. Not just stolen from Palestinian landowners, but also from the Palestinian Authority.

Two days ago, Haaretz published a list of outposts that are moving into agricultural plots in Area B, which is under Palestinian Authority civil control. A petition submitted to the High Court of Justice on Monday by a resident of the northern West Bank village of Amatin, with the assistance of Yesh Din, shows that the name of the Havat Gilad outpost was omitted from the list.

The petition claimed that people from the outpost built two houses on Palestinian land, contrary to the law and the Oslo Accords. The inspectors are in no rush to go back there. The last time, they got out by the skin of their teeth. Regarding this matter as well, there was no comment from the Civil Administration.

And the good news? Well, remember the Sudanese refugees who flee to Israel through the Sinai, dodging Bedoins who kidnap and torture them, as well as Egyptian soldiers who shoot them on sight? Well, the Tel Aviv municipality and local residents have decided that they can’t let them sleep out in the cold any longer once they reach Israel, and have begun building shelters and supplying hot meals to them.

TA city hall builds shelters for homeles… JPost – National News.

The Tel Aviv Municipality and the organization “Lasova” on Monday opened a temporary shelter for the dozens of homeless African migrants sleeping in Lewinsky Park in South Tel Aviv.

The municipality said the two metal and canvass structures will be broken down each morning and reassembled at night until the end of the winter weather.

On Monday evening, around 50 Africans lined up for free soup handed out by missionaries from a local evangelical church, who also handed out bibles in a number of languages. A number of the migrants also milled around the two shelters, each of which included around 40-50 cots covered with thin foam mattresses.

This is definitely encouraging and hopefully signals a shift in the way these African refugees are dealt with. They present a very complicated situation for Israel to deal with, the reasons why are beyond the scope of this post but will hopefully be addressed in future. That said, it could simply be that the Secular and educated Israeli society that lives on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa is growing further and further away from the rest of Israeli society.

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