Making a ‘fair’ critique of settlements.

West Bank settlement of Teneh Omarim.

In Gil Troy’s response to my recent post about the U.N.’s settlement report—in which he accuses me of “demonizing Israel” and “validating every maximalist Palestinian demand,” neither of which I’ve ever actually done—Troy, like the Israeli government, chooses to ignore that which is visible to anyone who cares to look. It’s an unfortunate fact that when given a chance to talk to the U.N. about its settlement project, Israel did what it regularly does: it refused. And then, when a report came out anyway, Israel did what it regularly does next: it declared to the world that the people to whom it had refused to talk were one-sided.

This is part and parcel of a larger refusal, shared by many Israelis and supporters of Israeli policy, to look at and grapple with facts that make us look bad—facts like the those laid out by the U.N. in the settlements report (facts which, again, were all public knowledge before they were gathered into one place, many of them first revealed by Israelis, and in at least one case, by a current government minister).

But there are other facts that are routinely ignored in the constant drumbeat to say that the territories are “disputed” rather than under military occupation and that applications of international law to Israel are acts of hostility or possibly anti-Semitism.

One rarely hears, for instance, that in September of 1967, Theodore Meron, legal counsel to Israel’s own Foreign Ministry, found that

civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

One rarely hears that the US government expressed unequivocal opposition to settlements as far back as 1968 and that the State Department held that settlements are “inconsistent with international law” as far back as 1979.

Another thing one rarely hears is an honest assessment of Palestinian reality. Whatever bias that anyone on earth may or may not have toward Israel, none of it changes the actual, documented, plain-as-day facts of state violence and discrimination toward the millions of Palestinians over whom Israel rules and who have no say in that rule.

There is a sense among many that in order to be judged ‘fair,’ any and all critique of Israel policy must devote a magical number of words to acknowledging that the Palestinian leadership has always been a party to the conflict, that the Palestinian people are not themselves angels on high, that terrorism is a horrifying thing, and that Jews have rights too, you know.

Those things are true, and they have been said over and over and over for 46 years, by Americans and Europeans and Israelis and even plenty of Palestinians (while we’re at it)—and their truth in no way mitigates the horrors of the occupation or the wildly disproportionate power that the state of Israel holds over the stateless Palestinians it has occupied since 1967. If I regularly give these truths but one or two sentences in a 500- or 800-word blog post, it’s because what needs to be heard is not the widely recognized truth, but the truth that no one wants to talk about.

One accusation that Troy levels against me is, however, accurate: I do think that this “territorial dispute” is much simpler that the government of Israel wants the world to believe it to be. Because it actually is.

There are two peoples. The land between the river and the sea belongs to both of us. We have been waging a war of competing nationalisms for close to a century, and to the extent that either side has won (in that it has established a durable state) that side is Israel. Both peoples continue to behave as if we are still at war, because we are, which means that both sides continue to behave badly—but only one side has an actual army and the single most powerful country on earth at its side. Only one side physically and literally controls the lives of the other. Only one side is in a position to continuously take land from the other in an open and widely acknowledged effort to create “new facts on the ground.”

Legal or not, disputed or not, Jewish history and our own grievous wounds do not make Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands right. Palestinian actions do not remove from our shoulders the responsibility for our own, nor do they change the actual, lived facts of the actual human beings under Israel’s military rule.

Moreover, I’m not entirely certain what UN document Troy read, because he writes that

A report highlighting the real problems, such as anti-Palestinian violence, illegal land seizures, and unfair bureaucratic obstacles to Palestinian building would have been much more effective.

That’s exactly what the report did. It can be read in its entirety here.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

On HuffPost Live about the UN settlements report.

I’m happy to say that I was able to appear on HuffPost Live again, this time to discuss the UN settlements report about which I wrote, below. If you’d like to watch the segment, you can click here; if you’re my mom, I start at roughly the 3 minute mark. There’s a lot of agreement and pessimism. Alas.

The UN settlement report: just the facts.

un_logo11There’s something bracing to official Israel’s decades-long insistence that it will reject the world’s reality and substitute its own.

On Thursday the United Nations published a report regarding Israeli settlement policy, a report that revealed nothing that wasn’t already public knowledge—indeed, much of the information was first brought to light by Israelis. At the end of its report, the U.N. calls on Israel to do something to which Israel in fact committed a full decade ago: “Cease all settlement activities without preconditions.” If you don’t remember that the Government of Israel [GOI] committed itself to precisely that back in 2003—in an agreement also signed by the Bush Administration, the EU, the U.N., and Russia—let me remind you:

GOI immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001. Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements). [parenthetical in original]

This was in a little document called the Road Map to Peace. It was signed by the godfather of the settlements, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the commitments of neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority were to be contingent on compliance by the other party.

Of course, history shows that Sharon began to undermine the commitment he’d made well before the ink on it had dried; history also shows that in the intervening 10 years, the settler population has grown by well more than 100,000. So you know: commitment, schmommitment.

Moreover: facts, schmacts.

The meat of the report—the text itself, minus cover page, contents, etc—is 19 pages long. Nineteen pages of unassailable, concentrated truth.

In those pages, you’ll find land and water theft perpetrated by both settlers and the state; you’ll find Palestinian children detained and held in prisons inside Israel; you’ll find settlers who rain violence down on Palestinians with impunity; you’ll find systematic “dispossession, evictions, demolitions, & displacement”; you’ll find that

the legal regime of segregation operating in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories] has enabled the establishment  and the consolidation of the settlements through the creation of the privileged legal space for settlements and settlers. It results in daily violations of a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians in the OPT, including incontrovertibly violating their rights to non-discrimination, equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

You’ll find Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz saying on Israeli radio, just this past November, that

we’ve doubled the budget for Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. We did this in a low-profile manner, because we didn’t want parties either in Israel or abroad to thwart the move.

The Israeli government and the settler movement know exactly what they’re doing. They know that, as the U.N. reports, 94 percent of Palestinian requests for building permits have been rejected in the last 20 years. They know that “in the event of a water shortage, valves supplying Palestinian communities are turned off”; they likewise know that “this does not happen for settlements.” They know that the identities of settlers who attack and intimidate Palestinians are known to authorities, and they know that more than 90 percent of criminal complaints brought by Palestinians against settlers are closed without indictments being served. They know that the U.N. is telling the truth.

So, as one, they stick their collective fingers in their collective ears and sing “la la la” very loudly. They say that the report is “counterproductive and unfortunate” and serves merely as evidence of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s “systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel.” They refuse to cooperate with the U.N. on compiling the report (thus also failing to allow themselves the opportunity to respond to its findings). And they accuse you of being anti-Israel (read: anti-Semitic) if you don’t agree.

And yes: The U.N. has made rather a habit of looking at Israel’s human rights abuses very closely while often ignoring those of other countries.

And yet: Our abuses and perfidies do not magically become something else as a result.

The only way to be comfortable with the information held in this report, with commitments made and commitments broken, with walls built and lives broken, is if we fully accept the idea that the Jewish people’s past in Judea and Samaria is more binding on us than international law, and that moreover, Jewish lives are somehow more special than anyone else’s.

Whatever explanation there may be for any one story, any one incident, any one abuse, there’s simply no way to explain away the entire corpus of Israeli actions in the occupied territories—not security needs, not anti-Semitism, not structural maltreatment. The abuse is what it is. It’s just the truth.

Ever since 1967, the supporters of Israel’s settlement project have worked mightily to reject the reality all around them, even while trying to build a reality more amenable to their ideology and vision for the future. To a certain, frightening extent, they’ve succeeded.

But not completely: Israel will never be able to make the occupation genuinely moral, just, or right, and it will never be able to wish away the consequences it is having in the blood and bone of millions of people who live the occupation’s reality every day.

And keeping a low-profile can’t change any of that.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Israel restricts foreigners in the West Bank.

palestinians fence

Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency

If your goal is to control another people, encourage them to abandon their homes, and prevent anybody else from having anything to say about it, you have to use many tools. Military might is important, but you’ll also need access to that people’s finances, an effective bureaucracy, and isolation. That last one is immeasurably important. You have to make sure that the people whose lives you hope to control have as little contact with the outside world as possible, and all of your other tools can help you achieve that.

Military might will allow you to build and maintain walls and road blocks, isolating that people from folks on the other side of those walls, while also serving to keep them from each other. Keeping a hand on the economic spigot helps keep government and citizens financially strapped, making it difficult to do much in the way of travel or outreach. And bureaucracy? Well, the sky’s the limit with bureaucracy, but your single, most effective contrivance is to condition any travel on obtaining the right permit, and then make those permits increasingly narrow and difficult to achieve.

Consider the latest example of this last truth:

Israel recently renewed restrictions on the freedom of movement of foreign nationals who live and work in the West Bank that prohibit them from entering East Jerusalem or Israel.

…Some of these individuals are Palestinians who were born in the West Bank and whose residency status was rescinded by Israel prior to 1994 due to their prolonged residence abroad. Others are married to Palestinians, while still others work in the West Bank, often as university teachers.

…Beyond the restriction itself and the discrimination it represents, the prohibition against leaving the West Bank creates other problems for foreign nationals. It limits academics’ access to archives and research institutions in Israel. Foreigners cannot drive cars with PA license plates, and the “Judea and Samaria only” restriction bars them from maintaining vehicles with Israeli license plates. Foreign citizens are also unable to reach their consulates in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Israel also retains the power not to grant such individuals work visas, but rather only tourist visa, although the authorities know full well that many of these individuals have come to the PA to work, either as business people, academics or in various civil organizations. The people with whom Haaretz spoke complained about ambiguity, lack of transparency and difficulty in obtaining information from the authorities.

Such regulations cut many ways. The most obvious, of course, is that they create an entire new class of human beings who may not travel freely into Israel: Not just Palestinians, but anyone who dares to have anything to do with Palestinians. Fall in love with a Palestinian, pursue your degree at a Palestinian university, take a position with a Palestinian NGO—you can forget about the bright lights of Tel Aviv, and to hell with your passport.

Regulations that sharply circumscribe a person’s opportunity and literal range of motion also act to discourage folks from considering such steps in the first place. This, in turn, effectively limits the access Palestinians have individually or collectively to the wealth of humanity, and further serves to encourage Palestinians to pull up stakes. Academic institutions can’t be world-class without world-class researchers; NGOs can’t be effective if their activists literally can’t get where they need to go; and why try to build a family on the West Bank if your partner has an American passport?

And if folks don’t leave? Well, you’ve tied them up for hours and days as they scramble to get the necessary paperwork to travel ten miles, or five, or one, or across the street, leaving them no time or energy to do anything about it and nothing dramatic to show the international community.

Just a bunch of Palestinians subject to Israel’s every whim, in an ever-narrowing vise.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

The one book you need to read: The Unmaking of Israel – Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg

I am late to this, but The Unmaking of Israel (published 2011) is that one book that you need to read on Israel, if you read no others.

And if you read others, you should still put Unmaking at the top of the pile.

And if you read nothingnothing else?

At least read the first chapter. It’s only 14 pages, and it’s a brilliant little précis of the book’s entire argument.

Plus the book’s short, and honed razor-sharp, and a pleasure to read, to boot. (And look! It’s only $10.94 on Amazon!)

Gorenberg is an American-Israeli like myself, except he stayed. He’s been there for more than 30 years, is Orthodox, lives in Jerusalem, and he’s a very, very good writer — I often recommend his short-form work, and over on the right you’ll see a link to his blog, South Jerusalem. Before I go any further, though, a caveat: I agree with virtually every single word in Unmaking, and the only reason I say “virtually” is because I’m sure there’s some small point that I would have handled differently, because surely there has to be. I just can’t remember which one, just now.

So it’s possible that part of why I recommend this book so highly is simply because it is such a relief to read something that to me feels like the very finest of common sense. But even so, having gotten that out of the way: It’s a great book, with an excellent summary of Israeli history that manages the supposedly impossible task of respecting the Palestinian narrative as well right in that first chapter, and you really should read it.

Gorenberg’s bottom-line point is this: The settlements, and everything that led up to and is flowing from the settlements, is pulling apart the positive good that is Israel, and has been so doing since 1967 — and it’s not just Israel that’s suffering, but Judaism itself.

The trends I’ve introduced here did not grow out of one carefully premeditated policy. Some resulted from ignoring commonsense warnings about long-term rule of another people. Some are the completely unintended consequences of seemingly safe decisions, or of choices made to solve immediate problems. Many are the product of continuing to sanctify values that made sense before 1948, when Jews were seeking self-determination — and that make no sense in an independent state.

There’s an essential chapter about the utter lawlessness of the entire settlement enterprise — even by Israeli legal standards — and Gorenberg very clearly lays out the dangers of allowing a particular ideological group rise to the top of the military in a democratic state (especially when that group openly opposes government policy), as well as the danger in fostering the flowering of an entire sub-society, the ultra-Orthodox, that rejects the secular state, contributes nothing to it and consciously fails to prepare its children to ever contribute to it, all while depending on that state for its livelihood.

In his concluding chapter, Gorenberg writes:

For Israel to establish itself again as a liberal democracy, it must make three changes. First, it must end the settlement enterprise, end the occupation, and find a peaceful way to partition the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. Second, it must divorce state and synagogue — freeing the state from clericalism, and religion from the state. Third and most basically, it must graduate from being an ethnic movement to being a democratic state in which all citizens enjoy equality.

As someone who focuses almost exclusively on Gorenberg’s three-part #1, I must say I got a little bit of a frisson in my Israel-loving heart when I realized that hey now, he’s about to say that ending the occupation/settlements is not the be-all, end-all! Because of course it’s not. It’s the first, prerequisite step, but then there are these other messes that we’ll have to clean up.

In those final pages, Gorenberg presents a very, very reasonable plan (a series of very, very reasonable plans) to essentially save Israel from itself, and perhaps the greatest disagreement we have is in tone — merely by laying these things out, Gorenberg suggests their possibility, and I have become so disheartened that I have a hard time believing anymore in those possibilities. I would venture that Gorenberg probably has his bad days, too, though.

And even if it never happens, I believe there’s value in marking the place and saying “This is what might have been.”

At any rate: If you read nothing else about Israel, read Gershom Corenberg’s The Unmaking of Israel.

(And happy new year!)

Meanwhile, on the West Bank…

An Israeli border guard checks IDs on an Israeli bus.

In the hierarchy of Things That Are Bad, rockets and bombs flying/being flown across borders is right near the top. It’s possibly unsurprising, then, that no one has had much to say about the West Bank lately, other than to note that the Ramallah-based government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas is in trouble.

Still, the West Bank continues to trundle along under Israel’s military occupation, whether we take note of it or not. And in case that were in any doubt, consider this item from today’s Haaretz:

Police have begun ordering Palestinian laborers with legal work permits off buses from the Tel Aviv area to the West Bank, following complaints from settlers that Palestinians pose a security risk by riding the same buses as them.

The Transportation Ministry says it is considering adding bus lines between West Bank roadblocks and central Israel; these would be geared toward Palestinian laborers.

Anyone who knows anything about the occupation knows that it boils down to an enormous system of racial profiling, wherein Living While Palestinian is a suspicious act.

Yet it is occasionally enlightening to see that attitude given such clear and unequivocal expression. To wit: Palestinian laborers who have been granted a work permit by Israel’s extensive, exhaustive, and frankly Byzantine permit system—that is: laborers who have been vetted and re-vetted and likely re-re-vetted by the Israeli military itself—are a security risk, by virtue of their being Palestinian. Not so much of a security risk that we can’t let them perform manual labor for us, of course, but God forbid we ride the same buses!

However, it’s important to note that separate bus lines would in many ways simply represent the codification of an ad hoc system already in place. Haaretz reports that West Bankers are frequently ordered off of buses well ahead of their destinations, forced to walk several miles to the nearest official checkpoint and then, having already paid for the bus, pay for a taxi to get home. +972 reported a case in August in which an Israeli bus driver travelling from Tel Aviv to Ariel, the West Bank’s largest settlement, refused to allow Palestinians to board, and “was then instructed by police that he had to by law, but ultimately kicked them off later on anyway.”

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has already issued a statement calling the idea of bus segregation “appalling,” adding “the current arguments about ‘security needs’ and ‘overcrowding’ must not be allowed to camouflage the blatant racism of the demand to remove Palestinians from buses”—and any who might question the “racism” angle would be wise to consider comments left regarding the topic on the Facebook wall of Ron Nachman, Ariel’s mayor:

Commenters left offensive responses…with one referring to the Palestinian passengers as terrorists and another as monkeys.

“On the Ariel lines there are more terrorists than Jewish residents,” said one. A woman wrote that she couldn’t visit her parents in Ariel because she was too scared to get on the bus, and another commenter said “finally you remembered that we have buses filled with Arabs?”

And so yes, the very idea of establishing one bus line for Jews and another for Palestinians is appalling. And racist. And unfair. And wrong.

But here’s what it’s not: Shocking.

Because this is what occupation looks like. Appalling. Racist. Unfair. And wrong.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

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

My problem: I don’t know what to say.

Sue me - I boycott settlement goods.

Please note update, below.

So the other day, Israel proved to the world what many of us have long known: They’ve lost their damn minds.

How did they finally prove this on a global scale? By passing this bill:

According to the law, a person or an organization calling for the boycott of Israel, including the settlements, can be sued by the boycott’s targets without having to prove that they sustained damage. The court will then decide how much compensation is to be paid. The second part of the law says a person or a company that declare a boycott of Israel or the settlements will not be able to bid in government tenders.

That is: You post on your FB page that you won’t buy settlement-raised mushrooms and: boom! Lawsuit. At least in theory. (If you own, say, a restaurant, the theory becomes much more practice-y, I presume).

And so my problem is this: This law is so epically, Biblically awful, so utterly and thoroughly grotesque, so depressingly indicative all the everything that has gone wrong with the place since about 1994 — that I am at a complete loss. I have no idea what to say. The law is terrible. It’s not in the least surprising. It’s an indication of all that’s gone wrong with the place since about 1994. That’s all I got.

And trying to come up with anything more just makes me more depressed than I already am. (Remember that post I wrote last Friday about how sometimes I feel like I would undo my entire life, if only it would mean that I wouldn’t have anything to do with Israel anymore? Yeah…).

So I’ll cave to my own limitations and outsource the effort, via links:

  1. Bradley Burston (who I love so much it hurts some days) in HaAretz: “Israel’s boycott law: The quiet sound of going fascist”
    “This is the one. Don’t let what we like to call the relative calm here, fool you. When the Knesset passed the boycott law Monday night, it changed the history of the state of Israel…. This is the one. This is where the slope turns nowhere but down.”
  2. Noam Sheizaf in 972 Magazine: “Everything you (never) wanted to know about the boycott bill: A reader’s guide to democracy’s darkest hour”
    “How come this law passed three Knesset votes?
    The key moments in the legislation process was a decision by Binyamin Netanyahu’s government (and by him personally, as he told the Knesset on Wednesday) to have the entire coalition back the law. This means that the law will have the automatic support of most of the Knesset members, and that even coalition members who oppose it won’t be able to vote against it. Once the bill passed Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee—controlled by the right—it was clear for the two final votes, which took place Monday night. So, how did Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak vote? They didn’t. They avoided the vote. See the full roll-call from the Knesset vote.” What about the High Court? I hear that it is likely to strike down the law…. Many think that the court will kill the law or parts of it, and petitions on this issue has already been filed. Yet a verdict would take time… [and] already, there are threats from leading politicians to the court not to intervene in this issue, or else they would limit the court’s power. This has become a true watershed moment for Israel.”
  3. Joseph Dana, in 972 Magazine: “Knesset study: No democracy has similar anti-boycott laws”
    “On the surface, the Israeli anti-boycott bill is innovative in the way that it seeks to limit legitimate freedom of speech and expression under the auspices of democratic infrastructure. However, the Knesset’s own fact finding mission proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the bill has no parallel in other democracies.”
  4. Jerusalem Post: “US Jews say ‘Boycott Law’ hurts freedom of expression”
    “Backers of a new Israeli law penalizing anyone who targets Israel or West Bank settlements for boycotts tout it as a tool to fight back against anti-Israel campaigns, but American Jewish organizations seem remarkably united in deeming the measure an affront to freedom of expression.”
  5. Jerusalem Post: “Peace Now launches boycott of settlement products” (includes brief video of former Member of Knesset Mossi Raz speaking outside the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court).
    “Raz said that while Peace Now has never called for a boycott against the settlements, following the passing of the boycott law the organization ‘will call for a boycott of the settlements until the occupation is over and a Palestinian state is founded next to the state of Israel’.”
  6. HaAretz: “Israeli Left launches public campaign against new law banning boycotts”
  7. Peace Now anti-boycott page on Facebook: “Sue me – I boycott settlement goods”
  8. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel: “Knesset Passes Boycott Law; ACRI Plans to Appeal”
  9. Jerusalem Post: “Rights groups to appeal ‘Boycott Law’ at High Court”
  10. Update: Please also read the excellent piece of righteous anger that is “To the Knesset: How dare you not vote on the boycott bill,” by Dahlia Scheindlein at 972 Magazine, referencing the fact that fully 35 members of Knesset, including the Prime Minister, failed to show up for the vote:
    “I’d like to sue Prime Minister Netanyahu, for boycotting the State of Israel – after all what greater symbol of our state exists but our Knesset plenary? He abandoned our state at a critical hour. I can prove the damages, even though according to the law I don’t need to: just look at my tax returns. I pay your salary, Mr. Prime Minister, and you have scoffed at your duty to the citizens, made fool of the hardworking folks trying to close the month in order to pay you. Give us our money back.”

There is bound to be a lot more to write on this as the days and months unfold, by others and almost certainly by me at some point. In the meantime, those are all excellent places to get caught up on just how heinous the law is, and what some folks are trying to do about it.

Once more, with feeling: Israel forever slapping America’s face.

Yesterday Lara Friedman at Americans for Peace Now wrote a very pointed and accurate reaction to the fact that once again, on the eve of an important meeting with the US Administration, Israel has announced the expansion of settlements. She writes:

Does this all feel familiar? It should. We’ve seen this movie many times before. Some selected highlights include:

  • the announcement, coinciding with Secretary Clinton’s March 2009 visit to Jerusalem, of plans to demolish 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem;
  • the announcement, coinciding with Special Envoy Mitchell’s meeting with Netanyahu’s envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, in London in November 2009, of plans for massive new construction in Gilo;
  • the announcement, coinciding with Vice President Biden’s visit to Jerusalem in March 2010, of plans for massive construction in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo;
  • the announcement, coinciding with Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama in late March 2010,  of the issuance of permits to begin settlement construction at the Shepherds Hotel in East Jerusalem;
  • the announcement, coinciding with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with Vice President Biden in New Orleans in November 2010, of the opening of the settlement floodgates in East Jerusalem.

I wrote a post bemoaning this precise issue back in November (re: the last bullet point, above), and have been flogging it mercilessly since yesterday, because, damn it, the post was good and I am just so furious.

So here it is again. (Perhaps the most telling part of this re-up is that I could re-publish the entire post today and the only thing I would have to change to bring it up to date, would be to change the link from the November news story to the current one).


I often feel that I am absolutely out of words on Israel/Palestine. Out. Finished. Done. The well is dry, and the bucket has a hole.

But sweet baby Moses in the bulrushes, if Israel/Palestine doesn’t keep doing the same ol’ do, forcing me to search around in my bag for a little more verbiage. Woe, as they say, is me.

Of course, woe is them. Woe to the people who are constantly living in that absolutely solvable insanity, an insanity that no one has the stomach to solve. The stomach, the fortitude, the valor, the dash, the enterprise — nobody has it, apparently.

With this latest slap in the American Administration’s face (or, as it’s known in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: This latest incident of stealing land from people who have no home), I find myself almost punch-drunk with the ridiculousness of it all. Since about 1995, Israel has done nothing but piss in America’s cornflakes. And yet America seems pretty ok with that!


Israel: Buffeted by fate? Or a character in its own play? (Re-up)

I’m pleased and proud to say that as of today, I’ll be posting regular book recommendations at Americans for Peace Now. I’ll be away from my desk for most of the day though (until just before Shabbat, and this blog and I don’t roll on Shabbos) and won’t have a chance to post anything particularly pertinent for any new readers. So I’ve decided to re-up something pertinent from a few months back. If you’re a new reader, please poke around the place! I don’t only write about Israel/Palestine, and I’m even funny on occasion. I swear!


There is something very curious to the right-wing Israeli/Israeli apologist insistence that, say, settlement building isn’t what will wreck the peace process — if the Palestinians walk away over settlement expansion, it’ll just be another example of (as the Foreign Ministry took it upon itself to tweet me the other day) the Palestinians “once again miss[ing] an historic opportunity for peace.”

Or: The fact that there is no peace today doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Israel ignored the peace offer made by all 22 members of the Arab League in 2002 (and repeated in 2006) — it’s that the Arab countries rejected the division of Palestine in 1948, or attacked in 1967, or supported Lebanon in 1982, or call today for an end to Israel’s violent control of Palestinian lives.


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