My first piece at Haaretz: Ariel Sharon, the recalcitrant and brutal.

I’ve decided (h/t Jen Marlowe!) to post the top of all of my Haaretz posts here, just so folks know they’re out there. This is hugely exciting for me, as Haaretz is really Israel’s paper of record, and I have long, long admired it. My work will be appearing online and occasionally in the English-language print edition (for instance, the editors liked this first piece enough to be running it in print tomorrow) and I imagine that if I do something really extraordinary (we can hope!), they may translate it for what I think of as “Real Haaretz,” aka: the Hebrew-language print edition.

The website is a subscription site but I think you only have to register (that is: not pay) to see opinion pieces. Click here for their subscription information. If you can subscribe, please do. They do terrific work, and terrific journalism requires funds and support. And they pay me! : )

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Arik the recalcitrant and brutal

Jewish America’s institutional leaders have been responding to the news of Ariel Sharon’s death with sorrow, admiration, and the occasional “We didn’t always agree, but…” This was to be expected, and in a way, is as things should be. The immediate aftermath of a person’s death is ordinarily a time to either praise, or be silent.

But as those leaders have all attested, Arik was no ordinary person. He was larger than life, his military actions and political decisions among the most determinative of Israel’s character today. Sharon’s shadow will long fall on any Jew, anywhere, who loves the Jewish State. Some people do not return to mere dust when they die.

The eulogies are full of references to the love many Israelis felt for Sharon, but little is said about the rage he induced among others. I live in Chicago now, but for a long time I lived in Tel Aviv; I can be numbered in that latter group….

To read the rest, please click here. Thank you!

 

 

How to put the Ethiopian-Israeli birth control controversy to rest.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_Government_Press_Office_(GPO)_-_Ethiopian_immigrant_women_celebrating_the_Sigad_holiday.jpgLast week Haaretz corrected its reporting of a story I covered in these pages: Ethiopian-Israeli women have been saying for years that they’ve been injected with Depo-Provera (long-acting birth control) by state-mandated health providers without their informed consent. That story—recently investigated by Israeli television and carried by many other sources in addition to Haaretz—led to global controversy, including scattered and unfounded accusations of sterilization and/or genocide.

Under a headline that read “Israel admits Ethiopian women were given birth control shots,” Haaretz wrote on January 27 that:

A government official has for the first time acknowledged the practice of injecting women of Ethiopian origin with the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera. Health Ministry Director General Prof. Roni Gamzu has instructed the four health maintenance organizations to stop the practice as a matter of course.

The next day, I wrote, “On Sunday it was reported that Israel has finally admitted to systematically depressing the fertility of the Ethiopian immigrant community…”

Haaretz followed up on February 28, reporting that the Health Ministry was launching an investigation into the practice, and last Wednesday appended a correction to that piece:

The original version [of this story] failed to state that [Gamzu’s] instruction was issued “without taking a stand or determining facts about allegations that had been made.

The upshot of this is that Haaretz made a mistake in its January report, one which I then replicated: The state didn’t “admit,” nor did a government official “acknowledge,” any responsibility for the allegations being made by the immigrants.

It is of course important to correct the impression that Israel acknowledged playing a role in this story, and as such, whether these events were systematic or haphazard is as yet unclear. If investigation reveals that there was no systematic effort, I will happily say so. If I’d known that the government had not acknowledged playing a role, I would’ve written my own post a little differently: “The government has acknowledged no fault, but activists and immigrants report that…,” for example.

The more important news here, though, is the actual reason for Haaretz’s follow-up—the Health Ministry investigation:

The [investigation] will check the reports that the women were given Depo-Provera shots to prevent pregnancy—often against their will and without being informed of potential side effects—in what was an allegedly deliberate effort to reduce births in the Ethiopian immigrant community.

The committee is being set up at the instruction of [Deputy Health Minister] Litzman, who had earlier denied that the phenomenon existed, after it was revealed by an Educational Television documentary by journalist Gal Gabai in early December.

Some followers of news out of Israel have seen last Wednesday’s correction as a vindication, suggesting that the entire story can now be seen as little more than an anti-Israel smear advanced by bad actors, and that potentially irreversible damage has been done to Israel because Haaretz wrote that a government office admitted to something to which it did not, in fact, admit—as if an official admission of culpability is the only valid source for the information at hand.

What these people are failing to note is that the source of the controversy is not one mistaken mischaracterization by one news source—the source of the controversy is the women themselves. As I wrote in January, many, many Ethiopian-Israeli women report being threatened or lied to about the Depo-Provera injections: “We didn’t want it,” one woman is quoted as saying in the February 28 article. “We refused and objected. We said we didn’t want to.” (More such comments can be seen herehereand here).

Thus, while accuracy is always important in reporting and Haaretz was right to issue the correction, what we really have here is a classic case of vulnerable citizens complaining of governmental abuse, their government denying that abuse, and a group of observers privileging the government’s version of events over that of the people complaining. It is precisely these kinds of stories that we pay journalists to cover; that’s why we call journalism the fourth estate.

We are right, of course, to take issue with those who characterized this story as one of forced sterilization or genocide. Controlling a woman’s fertility with long-term contraceptive drugs without informed consent is a terrible thing, but it’s a long way from forced sterilization.

But unless and until it’s established that the immigrants in question are lying, I will listen to the many women who say they were frightened or misled into accepting the administration of Depo-Provera. It’s my opinion that the stories of real women’s lives damaged by the acts of a few people in positions of power are more important than one newspaper’s (corrected) mistake.

If Israel wants to see this controversy put to rest, it will investigate these deeply troubling allegations thoroughly, and address any issues raised with transparency.

HaAretz editorial: “UN probe must take West Bank out of Israeli hands”

Today I’m going to totally cheat, and just lift an entire HaAretz editorial from the site – because I couldn’t say it any better, and maybe — MAYBE — since it’s coming from Israel’s newspaper of record, the following will be greeted with the gravitas it deserves*:

Not for nothing is the government going out of its way to thwart the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to investigate the settlements.

The map of “available” land for settlements, revealed in Haaretz on Friday by Akiva Eldar, shows that while successive Israeli governments have trumpeted their desire to establish a sustainable Palestinian state alongside Israel, they have spared no economic effort or legal creativity to thwart this solution.

The map shows that for decades the Civil Administration has been seeking and mapping West Bank land that outdated Ottoman law defined as “state land.” Much of this land has been used to set up settlements and even illegal outposts.

Some parcels of land have been named after settlements to be established in the future within certain local and regional councils in the West Bank – and beyond them. In some places, boundaries of “available” land spill beyond the separation fence, which Israel calls the security fence.

Most of the reservoir of land, including 569 sites covering 620,000 dunams, or 155,000 acres (about 10 percent of the West Bank ), is east of the separation fence and the “settlement blocs” that Israel wants to annex in a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Since the interim Oslo 2 agreement, which gave the Palestinian Authority control over civilian affairs in areas A and B, the Civil Administration has mapped land while “legitimizing” outposts and neighborhoods only in Area C, which is under Israel’s complete control.

The division into three areas was intended as a temporary arrangement. But successive Israeli governments have treated Area C – about 60 percent of the West Bank – as an inseparable part of Israel. The Civil Administration, the Israel Defense Forces and the State Prosecutor’s Office are doing everything possible to restrict the Palestinians living in this area, and are too charitable toward infractions of the law by settlers, as in the case of Migron.

In any case, no UN investigative committee is needed to understand that the West Bank belongs to another people and its lands are not available to a Jewish and democratic state.

*BWAhahahahahaha! Oh, I kid! HaAretz is routinely treated like a traitorous rag of traitorous traitorous-ness by those who disagree with its editorial board, because you see, to question the wisdom of official Israeli policy is to be dangerous, radical, and vaguely (if not out-right) anti-Semitic. Did you forget?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this dangerous, radical, and vaguely (if not out-right) anti-Semite is going to go back to cleaning her house for Passover. That hametz won’t just run away out of fear, you know!

PS HaAretz is, in fact, an excellent source of information on Israel — please do click through and even bookmark.

image source

On Israel & Iran.

I have roughly zero time to post today, but I suspect some folks might be coming by to see what I think about President Obama’s AIPAC speech, or about his talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, or about the whole Israeli effort to lead the world into a cataclysmic war with Iran. The thing is I don’t have time to write about any of that, or anything else! (Though I may have just tipped my hand with the use of the word “cataclysmic”).

So instead, I bring you the opinion of the editorial board of Israel’s newspaper of record, HaAretz:

Obama, who was playing on Netanyahu’s home court at the height of an election year, criticized the excessive talk about war with Iran. Hinting at both Israeli government officials and the Republican presidential candidates, who have been vying with each other in calling for war, Obama said this was causing oil prices to rise, which in turn helped finance Iran’s nuclear program. The president said that excessive public discussion of the Iranian issue not only undermined the security of both America and the world, but Israel’s security too.

The unnecessary statements by Israeli leaders are drawing fire on Israel. The government would be wise to listen attentively to President Obama’s advice and adopt the sage counsel of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” The U.S. president carries the biggest stick in the world.

The government would also do well to internalize another important statement by Obama: “As president and commander in chief, I have a deeply-held preference for peace over war.”

This worldview is also appropriate when it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians, which has been pushed aside by the Iranian issue. It must be hoped that Obama will utilize his meeting with Netanyahu Monday to underscore the consequences that a collapse of the diplomatic process and a violent conflict in the territories would have for the American and international effort to halt both Iran’s nuclear program and its terrorism.

I share the opinion of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, that “Iran is a rational actor*,” and thus believe that the real danger to Israel’s future is not Iran (unless Israel should decide to attack, then all bets may be off), but rather the settlement project and the requisite occupation of the Palestinian people.

Unless and until Israel understands that having a “deeply-held preference for peace over war” is the only way to actually end war and make Israel secure, Israel will continue down a path to self-destruction that I believe will ultimately see the Jewish State become just one more disaster on the long list of Jewish disasters.

And anyone (like the men and women of AIPAC) who aids and abets Israel’s efforts to ignore that excruciating fact will be complicit in the disaster.

In my always humble opinion.

*If you’re interested in reading some of the books that led me to the shocking conclusion that Iran might just be a rational actor (no! I know!), here are some suggestions: Iran Reading List.

“Over Netanyahu’s New Israel, the BS light is on”

Bradley Burston

The always excellent Bradley Burston in HaAretz, on the Israeli Knesset’s wave of “Black Flag” legislation designed to severely curtail a long list of democratic freedoms:

With the occupation came the overarching need to ignore, to confabulate, to misdirect. With the occupation came the self-protective urge for marketing, for rebranding, for selective vision, for a shrill form of self-esteem based on the idea that we alone, with our experience, can understand and thus speak the truth.

With the occupation, with the settlements, with the night raids and the administrative detention and the roads just for settlers and the buses just for settlers, with the destruction of Palestinian crops and the expropriation of Palestinian property and the cramping off of Palestinian life, came the need for something bigger than the words for lie and falsehood and deception.

With the occupation came the need for that word. For BS in all its forms. With the occupation came the need for playing the victim, for playing the saint, for playing the pompous preacher, for acting the misunderstood street punk, for denying demography, for fostering segregation, for intimidating the press, for discriminating against Arab citizens while noting that many of them work in high-tech, for building walls high enough that we can’t watch what we ourselves are doing.

“For building walls high enough around that we can’t watch what we ourselves are doing….”

Please read the rest, by clicking here.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Insufficient memory.

Note: I spent last week dealing the world’s Horrible Things and though they’ve hardly abated, I’ve decided that this week, I won’t write about them. I’ll tweet, or comment elsewhere, but this space will be Horrible-free — except at the end of each post, where there will be a few links to Your Day In Horrible, should you feel the need.

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Note the second: Sooo. The day got entirely away from me, in ways so many and varied, that I wouldn’t want to begin to explain where it went. So I won’t! But I’m allowing myself the luxury of re-upping a column I wrote a few years back in the Dallas Morning News about the fact that — resist the truth as I might — I am an irredeemable birdbrain. No — you read the following (about which very little has changed in the intervening years, other than the girl’s need for a binky), and then try to think otherwise of me. I challenge you.

Insufficient memory

(It's forget-me-nots. Get it? Plus: So pretty!)

Recently, I was forced to come to the conclusion that, deny it as I have tried my whole life, I am, inarguably, an airhead.

Ok, I’m an intellectual snob, too, so let’s call me “absent-minded.” Like a professor, only without a teaching position. Or office hours.

I may approach it with humor, but it’s a truth I actually loathe. I’ve spent my life devising and maintaining systems by which to mask the fact of it (from myself primarily, I guess. The world’s probably caught on).

I’ve tried everything from calendars with copious notes, to lists on the door, to (and I mean this literally) keeping a running total in my head of the things I left the house with, so that I don’t leave anything behind. It can become a bit of a mess if I leave the house with something that was intended to be left behind. Like, you know, the dry cleaning.

And yet, in spite of these efforts, I am always forgetting things – objects, plans, dates. Thank God, I have yet to forget people, but my (two) children know I may forget their names. When my son was three years old, if I posed the question “What would Mommy do if she could take her head off?” he would say: “Lose it.”

I will say that, at the very least, this forgetfulness has granted me a deep faith in people. I’ve left my backpack in a cab in Istanbul, my camera in a store in Tel Aviv, and (my personal favorite) my sister-in-law’s pearls in a taxi in Washington, DC. Around the world, people have consistently saved me from myself and returned these items to me, often going out of their way to do so. The kindness of strangers, indeed.

On a recent morning, a stranger – a county official with whom I had an appointment in order to appeal my property taxes, a date you might think I’d want to keep – called to ask where I was. Not to reprimand me for blowing her off, but to suggest with a smile in her voice that perhaps I should make my way down to her offices.

Then, on the way there, I drove nine blocks the wrong direction, because, after living in my town for more than seven years – five of which were spent three blocks up from the address to which I was headed on the same street – I got confused about where the north/south demarcation starts on our grid.

As I started to compose the “I’m so sorry for being even later” in my head, I heard myself thinking “I don’t want to seem so disorganized,” and it hit me: I am. I am just that disorganized.

Anyone who has ever: had her babysitter look for her wallet so that she can get on a plane; left that same wallet at home on her way to a store 40 minutes away; forgotten her debit card in the hands of the gas station attendant, is a complete space-cadet. Bona fide.

When I got pregnant with my son seven years ago, having just moved to a new place, new friends kindly chalked my muddle-headedness up to pregnancy, and then to post-partum, and then to exhaustion. And then a second pregnancy. With two kids running around the house, they now say, who can remember anything? You lose a piece of your brain with each placenta.

I’m happy to leave them their delusions, and I will certainly concede that all of those things have not helped. I will even admit, with some genuine pride, that when it comes to the kids, I’m mostly on top of who needs what and has to go where (even if I don’t, as I say, reliably remember what we’ve called them). It’s my own stuff that goes missing.

Seriously, I take some comfort from that. Because there are days when it feels like all of this means that really, underneath my carefully constructed façade, I’m out of control. One misplaced piece of paper from the unraveling of my entire life.

But if I can keep it together for my children – old What’s-Their-Names – I figure that will have to be enough. Just admit the truth, accept who you are, and move on. I can make it without my coat; my daughter, on the other hand, would be lost without her binky.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer living outside of Chicago. As far as she can remember.

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Your Day in Horrible:

  1. Bradley Burston at HaAretz wrote a heartbreaking column about the uses to which the horrific murder of children have been put in the last week in Israel: “[M]ost of us, on both sides, are people who, despite everything – despite their grief and their rage and their one-sided, blind-eye narrative and their truly unjust history and the guaranteed injustice of any possible solution – actually want the same thing: a future for their children in an independent country living alongside and at peace with the people who are now their enemy. For every child. Both sides. For every child.”
  2. Bullets Stall Youthful Push for Arab Spring – “The Arab Spring is not necessarily over,” writes the New York Times [which will soon be behind a paywall, not that I’m bitter], “but it has run up against dictators willing to use lethal force to preserve their power.”
  3. OH! And another thing the GOP apparently hates (in addition to: workers, women, the Special Olympics, puppies, and the earth itself): Parks. “This week, in an unreleased portion of [Gov] Kasich’s proposed budget, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be given authority to lease 200,000 acres of state park land for oil and gas exploration.”

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Where angels fear to tread.

The astute reader will have noticed that this blog (often touted — by others, not by me! — as an “Israel/Palestine blog”) has been very light on the Israel/Palestine stuff of late. Ever since our return from Israel/Palestine, in fact. Well over a month ago.

The long-time reader, however, may have also noticed that I do this periodically — I just check out. Can’t handle it. Choose not to handle it. Take an unplanned and entirely unintended Break From The Insanity.

Indeed, just writing this much has been no barrel of laughs, and I haven’t actually written anything yet.

Here’s the thing: When you’ve been observing, studying, writing about, and living in/with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 30 years (ellaesther – losing her damn mind since 1982! [tm]), you’ve seen a thing or two. You’ve seen it a time or two. You seen it over and fucking over, and even though each time it is, incredibly, unbelievably, incomprehensibly, worse than the other time or two or twenty or three hundred that you’ve seen it? It’s all stuff you’ve seen before, and have, moreover, predicted. Time and time and time and time again (again, again, again). After all these years, it is occasionally, simply, very hard to write about it again (again, again, again).

– Israel’s Prime Minister telling the entire world about how much he wants peace while simultaneously doing everything he can to prevent the Palestinians from getting anything they want and/or need? Check/check.

– Israel creating hell on earth for Palestinians under their control while simultaneously a) denying that it’s hell and b) insisting that it’s the Palestinians’ own damn fault? Check, check, and check.

– Israel doggedly building settlements in the face of massive international opprobrium? Check.

– Israel’s government doing nothing so much as maintaining its own existence? Check.

– Israeli society rejecting out-of-hand anyone who suggests that the occupation is Bad For The Jews? Check.

– Israel roiling with racist hate speech? Check.

– Violence — whether State-sponsored (read: war) or intra-Israeli (read: ideologically motivated murder) — increasingly on the horizon? Check and check.

– Famous (and increasingly irrelevant) politician splitting off from a major party in an attempt to salvage his or her own career? Check.

– The Labor Party shrinking to an ever-smaller sliver of a shadow of its former self? Check.

– Former members of Labor saying some version of “I knew Ben Gurion and you, sir, are no Ben Gurion?” Check.

– The Israeli people writ large complaining about how shit everything is and yet taking active part in seeing that it stays that way? Check (and also: check).

I just – can’t. I cannot. I cannot with this government. I cannot with this people. I cannot with the same old self-deception and self-imposed horror. I cannot bear to bathe in the endless stream of caricatured awful that my beloved country has allowed itself to be reduced to. Perpetuates. Appears to ask for. I just can’t.

So instead, I bring you the one slim ray of hope I have seen emerge from my benighted home in time out of mind: a column by the always, always excellent Bradley Burston.

The other day, the man who recently wrote the chill-inducing, elegiac “When the Messiah comes, Israel will deport him,” wrote the following:

I know you’re out there. I feel for you. The person with the good heart and the generous conscience, for whom Israel has become passion turned quiet shame. A person with genuine compassion for Palestinians, who may at this point seem more understandable, certainly more deserving of sympathy than these people, my friends, your cousins, the Israelis.

I have some idea what it feels like, a powerful, not easily comprehended fondness for Israel, a love which feels of late to have been stomped on, twisted, abused, manipulated, silenced, belittled, ridiculed, and, again and again, betrayed. A person who has begun to think that Israel, this Israel, is a lost cause.

You’re in luck.

In a piece he provocatively titled “Think Israel’s a lost cause? Ten reasons to think again,” Burston argues that “for the first time in a long time, something good, the decency that still somehow informs people here, has a chance of taking wing,” and lists some fairly reasonable reasons for admitting hope back into the heart — including “Avigdor Lieberman may be a lost cause,” and “Greater Israel and settlements are a lost cause,” and “The American Jewish community has begun to speak its true mind.”

I don’t know that he’s right, but I very much hope that he is, and I would encourage you to read the whole thing (why look, here’s another link!) — it’s not long, and it is wise. (And Burston is such a good writer that, generally, developing a Burston habit is a good thing).

Go, read, come back and tell me what you think. Or don’t. Whatevs. I’ll be here, either way.

Stewing in my juices, insisting I’ve run out of patience, hope, and will, even as I continue to obsess and pray for miracles.

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Earlier:

Israel/Palestine: The basics.

Israel/Palestine: A reading list.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy: Places to start.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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