Media Roundup: BDS, Pride & Palestine, and 1-800 Mossad

Jerusalem. © palestinephotobank.com.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign published an open letter – which also serves as a policy statement – addressed to Israeli-American billionaire and Democrat party donor and fundraiser Haim Saban (who recently held a fundraising dinner for Mrs. Clinton) expressing the presidential aspirant’s opposition to BDS. Mr. Saban has teamed up with Republican donor/fundraiser and fellow pro-Israel partisan Sheldon Adelson to set up and fund anti-BDS efforts.

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Mr. Saban and Mr. Adelson’s efforts notwithstanding, the last several days have brought an extraordinary deluge of news surrounding the global BDS movement to hold Israel accountable for its nearly fifty year long occupation of the Palestinian territories.

First, those in solidarity: 

“Thurston Moore Explains Nixed Tel Aviv Gig, Israel Boycott,” by Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone – 26 June 

Two months after Thurston Moore canceled a Tel Aviv, Israel performance without explanation, the guitarist has opened up about the “conscientious decision process” behind the nixed gig. In Moore’s letter, published within The Quietus’ larger story about musicians boycotting Israel over the treatment of Palestinians, the Sonic Youth rocker writes that he canceled the Tel Aviv concert both due to his support of the BDS Movement and his belief in “empowerment through choice of non-violent activism.”

“With apology and thanks to everyone I work with professionally, as this decision incurs difficult rectification, and to every individual with a wish to hear us play live, I’ve made the decision,” Moore wrote (via Stereogum), “with certitude, to fully acknowledge the dedication of the boycott until the time comes for it to be unnecessary.”

Moore admits that he first began refusing offers to perform in Israel in 2005, when the BDS Movement was established. However, after a decade of turning down shows in the Middle Eastern country, “With cursory knowledge of the boycott’s principles and not exactly concurring with the aspects of requesting certain limitations on cultural exchange I reconsidered and accepted a kind offer from promoters in Tel Aviv,” Moore wrote.

After scheduling the April 27th Tel Aviv performance at the Barby Club, and after “serious deliberation,” Moore “arrived at the personal conclusion that to perform with my band in Israel was in direct conflict to my values.” The BDS Movement has called for the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

[…]

Moore joins an ever-growing collection of artists who have either boycotted or canceled Israel concerts in recent years; The Quietus puts the number at 1,000 British musicians alone, including Roger Waters, who for over two years has been at the forefront of the boycott. “They are running riot,” Waters said of the Israeli government’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 2013, “and it seems unlikely that running over there and playing the violin will have any lasting effect.”

“Foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 50% in 2014 and expert says it’s due to the Gaza war and BDS,” by Annie Robbins, Mondoweiss – 25 June

Foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 50% in 2014 according to a 2015 World Investment Report issued yesterday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

[…] 

Newsweek cites one of the authors of the report, Dr. Ronny Manos from the Open University of Israel, as speculating the declining investment is fallout from the Israeli military onslaught on Gaza last summer and “international boycotts” against Israel for “alleged violations of international law.”  Ynet adds that, according to Manos, “these are only conjectures that can explain the sharp decline”

As we reported in 2013 investment committees for European banks were considering recommending their institutions bar loans to Israeli companies that have economic links with the Palestinian occupied territories. At the time Haaretz reported the investment committees “submit a report to their clients with recommendations about where to invest − and where not to invest. The process of examining the Israeli companies that operate in West Bank settlements involved the exercise of due diligence.”

“Boycott-hit Orange may dump Israeli partner by mid-2017,” by Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada – 1 July

Palestine solidarity activists are welcoming an announcement that the French multinational Orange could dump its Israeli affiliate within 18 months.

But campaigners in France and Egypt say they will maintain their call for boycott of the telecom company until it actually ends its complicity in Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.

“Protests close four factories owned by Israeli arms firm Elbit,” by Hilary Aked, Electronic Intifada – 6 July 

Protesters today shut down four different factories owned by Israel’s biggest arms company, Elbit Systems. The protests mark the one-year anniversary of the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza.

Police issued an injunction against protests at one of three UK sites, a drone engine factory near Shenstone, Staffordshire. Despite this, a number of activists have been locked-on at UAV Engines Limited (UEL) since early this morning, blocking the road and entrance to the factory. Hundreds of Palestine solidarity campaigners are supporting them. Police have made at least 10 arrests.

How a Norwegian Pension Fund Gets It: 

The Norwegian pension fund KLP recently announced it will be excluding the Israeli company Heidelberg Cement and Cemex from its investment portfolio “on the grounds of their exploitation of natural resources in occupied territory on the West Bank. In KLP’s opinion this activity constitutes an unacceptable risk of violating fundamental ethical norms.”

Head of responsible investment at KLP, Jeanett Bergan, added: “From the perspective of international law, an assessment of this case has proved more difficult than similar assessments with respect to Western Sahara. Nevertheless, the international legal principle that occupation should be temporary has carried the most weight. New exploitation of natural resources in occupied territory offers a strong incentive to prolong a conflict.” (emphasis mine)

Military occupation is legal under international law, but its prolongation along with attendant Israeli settlements raises the prospect not of an occupation with a future end date, but of apartheid. This observation is hardly novel among many Palestine/Israel observers, but remains outside the realm of mainstream public discourse in the United States, which continues to prop up the idea of a negotiated two-state solution with the expectation that Israel will withdraw from the occupied territories. While paying vocal support for such a resolution, Israeli state policy renders its actualization farther and farther remote everyday through the construction of settlement housing and the exploitation of resources; including water, raw minerals and arable land. A Norwegian pension fund can see the writing on the wall, but the obvious impermanence of the occupation – and the need to rethink the contours of an equitable solution to the conflict – is still lost on many.

“US church votes by landslide to divest from Israeli occupation,” by Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada – 30 June

The United Church of Christ (UCC) today overwhelmingly passed a resolution to support boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The landslide vote – 508 in favor to 124 against, with 38 abstentions – took place at the church’s general synod, or legislative assembly, in Cleveland. An additional resolution which would label Israel’s practices “apartheid” gained a majority, but did not pass by the two-thirds needed for formal adoption.

UCC is a mainline Protestant denomination with more than 5,100 churches and 1.1 million members in the United States.

The United Church of Christ Palestine/Israel Network, which led the campaign, celebrated today’s decisions as “the culmination of a process that began in 2005, to end the church’s complicity in Israel’s nearly half-century-old occupation and other abuses of Palestinian human rights.”

“It also comes as a response to the Christian Palestinian community’s call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, as embodied in the Kairos Palestine document, which seeks to achieve Palestinian freedom and rights using peaceful means, inspired by the US Civil Rights and South African anti-Apartheid movements,” it added.

UCC follows in the footsteps of the Presbyterian Church USA, which passed similar measures last year and theUnited Methodist Church whose pension board last year divested from prisons and security firm G4S.

But it was not a unanimous victory for Palestinians: 

“US protestant churches not yet won over to divestment,” by Ryan Rodrick Beiler, Electronic Intifada – 6 July

But despite hope that the UCC vote represented a “tipping point,” the Mennonite Church USA and the Episcopal Church failed to approve resolutions presented at their national gatherings.

At the Mennonite Church USA meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, delegates did not vote down the resolution that called for “withdrawing investments from corporations known to be profiting from the occupation and/or destruction of life and property in Israel-Palestine.”

But in the same session that saw near-unanimous support for a ban on drone warfare, delegates voted instead to table the Palestine-Israel resolution until the next convention in 2017.

Sources within the Mennonite Church USA blamed overconfidence and poor planning for the stalled initiative. With controversial votes regarding LGBTQ issues also being considered, those planning the agenda believed the Palestine-Israel measure would pass early and easily. However, once deliberations began, it was clear that delegates were divided and poorly informed.

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Gaza beach. © palestinephotobank.com.

 Next, those called upon to join BDS: 

An Open Letter to entertainment personality Oprah from Adalah, the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. 

US megastar and social justice philanthropist Oprah Winfrey wore diamond earrings made by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev on the cover of the May 2015 edition of O, the Oprah Magazine. She wore the earrings despite the fact that Leviev’s companies have been involved in brutal human rights abuses in the diamond industry in Angola and in the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. On May 29, Adalah-NY emailed the letter below, signed by nine organizations and 34 individuals from the US, Palestine, Israel and South Africa to: Ms. Winfrey [and her executives at O and the OWN network]. The letter calls on Ms. Winfrey to demonstrate that she does not support Leviev’s abusive business practices by publicly distancing herself from his companies. Following email exchanges and phone calls between letter signers and executives from O and OWN over the course of more than three weeks, Ms. Winfrey’s representatives have failed to provide a promised response to the letter.

The letter reads: 

[…] 

In Palestine, since 2000, Leviev’s company Africa Israel, its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus, and Leviev’s company Leader Management and Development have built thousands of settlement homes in the Israeli settlements of Adam, Ma’aleh Adumim, Har Homa, Mattityahu East, Gilo and Zufim in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In West Bank Palestinian villages including Jayyous and Bil’in, Leader Management and Development and Africa Israel built Israeli settlements on the agricultural land that Palestinian residents depended on for their livelihoods. Even today Jayyous’ farmers are fighting in court against the seizure of additional village farmland for the continued expansion of Zufim settlement. All Israeli settlements violate international law and impoverish Palestinian communities by seizing vital land and resources and trapping Palestinians in isolated bantustans.

Providing another example of the terrible impacts of Israeli settlements, Human Rights Watch’s recent report“Ripe for Abuse: Palestinian Child Labor in Israeli Agricultural Settlements in the West Bank” describes abuses against Palestinian children as young as 11 years old, who work in Israeli settlements. The report quoted one child worker as saying “If you sit down while you’re working with peppers or grapes the supervisor will come and tell you to stand up and not take a break.” In the accompanying video report, researcher Bill Van Esveld said that “Some of the children … come from villages where their families used to have their own land farms, and the same land farms has been taken over and given to settlement farmers. They have no option to work on Palestinian farms. Most of [these farms] don’t exist any more.”

Africa Israel and Danya Cebus’ settlement construction were twice carefully investigated (1st and 2nd) by the Norwegian Government, leading to decisions by the Norwegian Government to exclude those companies from Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFP). Leviev has also donated to Israeli settlement organizations like the Land Redemption Fund that aim to further Israeli settlement expansion. In the last months, perhaps in an effort to dampen global boycotts, murky information has emerged about his companies’ current involvement with settlements.

[…] 

Given your strong record of support for social justice, we feel certain that you did not intend to convey support for Leviev’s companies, with their terrible human rights records. Now that you are aware of this information, we urge you to take steps to ensure that your peers and the public are not left with the understanding that you have endorsed and lent your credibility to Leviev’s companies.

The letter was signed by, among others, Adalah-NY, BDS National Committee (BNC), CODEPINK Women for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, and US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

And, lastly, the counterattack and its consequences: 

The U.S. Congress added an amendment to a passed trade bill that encourages American officials to lobby Europeans nations against any boycotts efforts directed toward Israel, including those aimed at the illegal settlements. The pro-Palestinian legal support group, Palestine Legal, lays out a summary of the legislation and its consequences:

The final version of the law is troubling. But unlike earlier versions, its effect will likely be symbolic. While the new law does require the U.S. to take an anti-BDS position during ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union, it does not include any affirmative requirements, like the reporting requirements described in the FAQ below. Further, allaying concerns that the law could be interpreted to include boycotts against goods produced in Israeli settlements, the Obama Administration has re-iterated that the “U.S. government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements or activity associated with them, and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them.” This is a strong indication that the Obama Administration will not interpret the law to include settlements, which are illegal under international law. While this is a positive sign, we are disappointed that the law could still be used to discourage European BDS campaigns against Israel.

[…] 

The Amendment:

·      Does not prohibit you from exercising your First Amendment-protected right to advocate for BDS, including on college campuses.

·      Does not pull or threaten to pull federal or state funding from any institution that endorses BDS.

·      Does not divest government assets from companies that endorse BDS.

Any effort to restrict, prohibit or chill BDS activities in the US would raise serious First Amendment concerns. The US Supreme Court has clearly stated that peaceful political boycotts are protected First Amendment speech, assembly and associational activities.

And the battle for hearts and minds rages on 

On Twitter, the anti-BDS Stand With Us and the pro-BDS US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation circulated competing petitions encouraging/dissuading the American band Bon Jovi to perform/cancel their planned concert in Israel, respectively:

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US Campaign petition link. 

Confiscated Olives 

“A month in Palestine,” by Tom Blanx, Middle East Monitor – 4 July

Marda is in the Salfit district which is biggest producer of olive oil in Palestine. The village is effectively a ghetto, with reinforced steel gates at each end for when the army want to shut it down and a high metal fence and barbed wire around it, although some of these had been damaged and removed. There used to be resistance here, but like in lots of the rest of Palestine, occupation has become normalized. These days the village is quiet and peaceful. People work and children go to school, cats wonder around the place looking for food and donkeys everywhere sound like they’re dying. The village sits directly under the hilltop Ari’el settlement, the 4th biggest in the West Bank. Murad said he used to play there with his friends when he was young before Zionists confiscated and destroyed 9000 dunams of it, in the late 70s to build luxury homes, streets and a university for Israelis and Jewish immigrants. The juxtaposition of the two towns, is a powerful thing to see and its something that you can’t help but see, every day.

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Palestinian olives. © palestinephotobank.com.

 Who You Gonna Call? 

“1-800-mossad,” by Nicola Perugini, LRB Blog – 3 July

In a cafe in Ramallah recently, an interesting page in Arabic popped up on my computer while I was reading the news. ‘The chance of your life’, it said. There were scrolling photomontages of a man with an earpiece, an intelligence room, an aerial picture of a targeted assassination; wads of dollars; a handshake, between two piles of passports; a man wearing a hoodie, his face obscured, in a virtual tunnel of binary numbers. I carried on reading:

Do you have any information? We can help you!

[Call] 1-800-800-319

Who We Are

Our responsibility towards the two peoples [Israelis and Palestinians] is to preserve security and safety. We want to ensure a life of dignity and freedom for all.

Our goal is to fight all forms of terrorism and violence, and to promote peace. We have considerable capabilities, most importantly our human resources.

What We Request

You have the chance to earn a lot of money if you will provide us with information about:

1. Terrorist activities
2. Tunnels under borders
3. Planned attacks
4. Hostages and missing people

I called the 1-800 number, only to get a message in Hebrew telling me I had reached voicemail. Is Mossad slipping or am I missing something?

Breaking the Silence 

“This is How We Fought in Gaza: Soldiers’ testimonies and photographs from
Operation “Protective Edge” (2014),” Breaking the Silence – 2015

Israeli human rights organization Breaking the Silence has collected 111 testimonials from IDF soldiers who served during the most recent war on Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. What they convey is a systemic disregard for Palestinian civilian life and a military culture of wanton destruction and impunity, along with a nationalist pride when inflicting such devastation on the people of Gaza.

The organization operates as a dissident voice in Israel seeking to raise awareness about human rights abuses and war crimes committed against Palestinians by the IDF. For its troubles, it has been denounced by the Israeli right-wing as an effectively treasonous organization providing resources for Israel’s critics and enemies, and perhaps material for the recently opened investigation by the International Criminal Court into Israeli and Hamas conduct during the summer war.

What the hell, why did you have to shoot him again?

Unit: Infantry • Rank: First Sergeant • Location: Northern Gaza Strip

We were in a house with the reconnaissance platoon, and there was some soldier stationed at the guard post. We were instructed [during the briefings] that whoever’s in the area is dangerous, is suspect. Especially if it’s a vehicle – in that case you really pound it with bullets, everybody stationed in the posts. [There was one case where] a soldier who was in one of the posts saw an old [Palestinian] man approaching, so he shouted that some old man was getting near. He didn’t shoot at him – he fired near him. What I know, because I checked this, is that one of the other soldiers shot that grandpa twice. A big hoopla got going, everyone got their gear quick and wanted to go outside because, like they say in the IDF, ‘strive for engagement.’ I went up to a window to see what was going on out there, and I saw there was an old man lying on the ground, he was shot in his leg and he was wounded. It was horrible, the wound was horrible, and he looked either dead or unconscious to me. So we went down and told that entire force –these guys were all truly twisted – “Enough, there’s no reason to shoot him, get a grip, he’s dead.” And so an argument starts up [between the soldiers]: “What makes you an expert on death? What are you, some doctor?” And then after that, some guy from the company went out and shot that man again, and that, for me, was the last straw. I don’t think there was a single guy in my platoon who wasn’t shocked by that. It’s not like we’re a bunch of leftists, but – why? Like, what the hell, why did you have to shoot him again? One of the problems in this story is that there was no inquiry into it, at least none that I know of. Not a word was spoken to us about it later on – nobody told us how we were expected to behave. So we hashed out our own conclusions – that the first two bullets were justified because if he had an IED on him, then what?

What was it for, really?

Dead checking. I don’t buy it. You leave [the Gaza Strip] and the most obvious question is, ‘did you kill anybody?’ What can you do – even if you’ll meet the most left-wing girl in the world, eventually she’ll start thinking, “Did you ever kill somebody, or not?” And what can you do about it, most people in our society consider that to be a badge of honor. So everybody wants to come out of there with that feeling of satisfaction. That’s what shocked me the most. We have guys in our company walking around with X’s marked on their straps, it’s a sort of culture. Maybe it sounds to you like I’m exaggerating, but… I’d like for this whole thing of X marks – even if it’s somebody who just saved an entire Israeli family – to be forbidden. Because when it comes down to it, when we don’t need to use fire, then people – even if they are very good people – something in their mind just jerks.

Michael Oren’s Book Tour

Erstwhile Israeli ambassador to Washington and current Knesset member, Michael Oren, recently penned a memoir, Ally, relating his time as Israeli Premier Netanyahu’s emissary to the Obama administration. Mr. Oren’s view of those years may be summoned by his own editorial headline in the Wall Street JournalHow Obama Abandoned Israel

Mr. Oren argues that while both Netanyahu and President Obama committed missteps in their public diplomacy, “only one leader made them deliberately.” There’s no guessing who that leader is. Mr. Oren charges President Obama with cardinal sins against the U.S.-Israel ‘special relationship’:

The first principle was “no daylight.” The U.S. and Israel always could disagree but never openly. Doing so would encourage common enemies and render Israel vulnerable. […] And yet, immediately after his first inauguration, Mr. Obama put daylight between Israel and America. 

[…] 

The other core principle was “no surprises.” President Obama discarded it in his first meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, in May 2009, by abruptly demanding a settlement freeze and Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution. […] 

Israeli leaders typically received advance copies of major American policy statements on the Middle East and could submit their comments. But Mr. Obama delivered his Cairo speech, with its unprecedented support for the Palestinians and its recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear power, without consulting Israel.

[…] 

The abandonment of the “no daylight” and “no surprises” principles climaxed over the Iranian nuclear program.

The book was widely reviewed and discussed in the American press, what follows are snippets of some reviews:

Writing in the New Yorker, Israeli scholar Bernard Avishai takes a very critical approach to Oren’s critique of Obama’s policies:

From the moment the President took office, Netanyahu’s envoy saw him as promoting “an agenda of championing the Palestinian cause and achieving a nuclear accord with Iran.”

Oren doesn’t bother explaining what’s wrong with an American President pursuing an agenda of this kind. He insists, implausibly, that it “would have put him at odds with any Israeli leader.” He also doesn’t explain how a mistake can be made “deliberately,” which seems oxymoronic, something like a “planned accident.” But Oren’s formulation is no less quotable for being imprecise. It is obviously meant to achieve the same response as Mitt Romney’s statement that the President had “thrown allies like Israel under a bus.” For America’s “friends of Israel,” especially organized American Jews, putting “deliberately” and “abandoned” on the same page is enough. The juxtaposition bypasses the brain, going straight to the solar plexus.

Oren’s case proceeds from two principles he thinks foundational to relations between allies. There should be “no daylight” between leaders and “no surprises” from either of them. Public positions should appear to be identical, so as not to “encourage common enemies,” a principle Obama violated as early as 2009, presumably, when, even before meeting Netanyahu, he openly criticized settlements beyond the Green Line as precluding a two-state solution. And neither leader should surprise the other (even in private, apparently) by telling him what he is not prepared to hear. Oren says that, when the two leaders first met, Obama shocked Netanyahu by demanding, well, a settlement freeze and a commitment to a two-state solution.

I am not sure how a statement that obvious could also be surprising, but never mind. Again, Oren is trying to make a substantive point in terms familiar to readers of AIPAC congressional briefings and press kits: that the reason a two-state solution has not come about is the fault of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians, not Netanyahu.

Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed Oren and discussed the latter’s speculation that Obama’s outreach to the  Muslim world was rooted in the consciousness of being “a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.”

Mr. Goldberg produced the transcript of the discussion on The Atlantic‘s website:

Jeffrey Goldberg: So what’s with all the torn-between-two-Muslim-daddies psychobabble about Obama?

Michael Oren: In retrospect, I probably should stay away from psychoanalysis. I’m not a psychoanalyst. But these were questions I asked myself while trying to understand the president’s revolutionary approach to the Muslim world.

Goldberg: What’s so revolutionary about it?

Oren: It’s completely revolutionary.

Goldberg: It’s not.

Oren: I think President Obama would be the first person to agree that it was revolutionary. It was transformative.

Goldberg: But wait: Any president who followed George W. Bush would have sought to reset relations with the Muslim world, with Muslim nations, just to try to lower the temperature. So I don’t get how revolutionary this is. And I just don’t get how this veered into analysis of Obama’s relationship with his Muslim father.

Oren: In the book it’s more qualified than the piece I wrote for Foreign Policy. I wrote, “I don’t like armchair psychoanalysis.” I do it with Bibi too, I talk about hisrelationship with his father.

Goldberg: So how are you trying to resist psychoanalysis?

Oren: I try to resist it, but it is tempting for anyone who is trying to analyze these complicated figures. But anyway, you asked what was revolutionary about [Obama’s approach to the Muslim world]. First off was this very basic assumption that there’s a thing called the Muslim world, which is actually an Islamic concept. No American’s ever done that. There are only two other leaders who did this. One was Napoleon in 1798 and one was Wilhelm II in 1898. So it’s unusual.

Goldberg: That’s not the highly controversial part. The controversial part in that is your speculation that he’s trying to reconcile with the Muslim world because he was abandoned by two Muslim fathers.

Oren: I said that I should stay away from the psychoanalysis. But in fact he writes extensively about his time in Islamic countries. He says in the Cairo speech, “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the place of its birth … where it was revealed,” even using that line, “revealed.” The fact that he gives a speech in Cairo, which is one of the great seats of learning of Islam—he mentions this in his speech. He didn’t give this speech in Washington, he gave this speech in Cairo, and it’s more than twice as long as the first inaugural address. It’s very long and very detailed. But there’s nowhere in that Foreign Policy article, or even in the book, where I say that reaching out to the Muslim world is bad for Israel. Never said that.

[…]

Goldberg: Just stay with me here on Obama and his Muslim background. Do you believe that President Obama seeks reconciliation with the Muslim world for these deeply personal reasons having to do with unreturned love from Muslim father figures, and that he saw distancing the U.S. from Israel as a way to bridge the gap with—

Oren: The answer is no.

Goldberg: But you wrote something in Foreign Policy that suggests this is—

Oren: —I was trying to figure out what are the origins of his feelings toward Islam. He has deep feelings about Islam, obviously. [He] talks about them—I’m not making them up—and he has a high regard for Islam. And I wanted to know where it came from. If George Bush all of a sudden came out and expressed very strong feelings about Islam, you’d want to know where they’re coming from. I think these were legitimate questions for an ambassador to ask and to inquire about, and think about.

[…]

Goldberg: But as you know, the controversy comes in part because these questions are so Dinesh D’Souzaish. I mean, why do you think you’ve stepped in it, to the degree that you agree that you stepped in it on this particular question?

Oren: Have I stepped in it? I didn’t know I’d stepped in it. I know there are people saying things that I didn’t say in the article, such as that Obama abandoned Israel to embrace Islam. It’s not there, it’s just not there. I wanted to show in this article how you go about analyzing his worldview. I thought what was interesting was the degree to which Obama’s relationship to what he called the Muslim world has not changed in light of all the profound changes that have swept across the Middle East over the past few years. For example, this is a very disciplined administration when it comes to lexicon. So you have violent extremists; we do not have Islamic terrorists. And I suggested in the opening article that one of the reasons the United States didn’t have much representation at that Charlie Hebdomarch was because the march was against Islamic extremism, which would have been a problem.

taxis
Taxis in Nablus. © palestinephotobank.com.

Wall Street Journal conservative columnist Bret Stephens commends Oren for “providing such comprehensive evidence of the facts as he lived them.”

Mr. Oren’s [Wall Street Journal] op-ed prompted Dan Shapiro,U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv, to call Mr. Netanyahu and demand he publicly denounce the op-ed. The prime minister demurred on grounds that Mr. Oren, now a member of the Knesset, no longer works for him. The former ambassador, also one of Israel’s most celebrated historians, isn’t even a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, which makes him hard to typecast as a right-wing apparatchik.

But it’s typical of the administration that no Israeli slight is too minor not to be met with overreaction—and not only because Mr. Obama and his entourage have thin skins. One of the revelations of “Ally” is how eager the administration was to fabricate crises with Israel, apparently on the theory that strained relations would mollify Palestinians and extract concessions from Mr. Netanyahu.

To some extent, it worked: In 2009, Mr. Netanyahu endorsed a Palestinian state, an unprecedented step for a Likud leader, and he later imposed a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction, a step not even Labor Party leaders like Yitzhak Rabin ever took.

But no Israeli concession could ever appease Mr. Obama, who had the habit of demanding heroic political risks from Mr. Netanyahu while expecting heroic deference in return. In 2010, during a visit from Joe Biden, an Israeli functionary approved permits for the housing construction in a neighborhood of Jerusalem that Israel considers an integral part of the municipality but Palestinians consider a settlement.

The administration took the Palestinian side. Hillary Clinton spent 45 minutes berating Mr. Netanyahu over the phone. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg “summoned” Mr. Oren to Foggy Bottom and read out his list of administration demands. What follows is one of the more memorable scenes in “Ally.”

“Steinberg added his own furious comments—department staffers, I later heard, listened in on our conversation and cheered—about Israel’s insult to the president and the pride of the United States. Then came my turn to respond.

“ ‘Let me get this straight,’ I began. ‘We inadvertently slight the vice president and apologize, and I become the first foreign ambassador summoned by this administration to the State Department. Bashar al-Assad hosts Iranian president Ahmadinejad, who calls for murdering seven million Israelis, but do you summon Syria’s ambassador? No, you send your ambassador back to Damascus.’ ”

“Ally” is filled with such scenes, which helps explain why it infuriates the administration. Truth hurts. President Obama constantly boasts that he’s the best friend Israel has ever had. After reading Mr. Oren’s book, a fairer assessment is that Mr. Obama is a great friend when the decisions are easy—rushing firefighting equipment to Israel during a forest fire—a grudging friend when the decisions are uncomfortable—opposing the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N.—and no friend at all when the decisions are hard—stopping Iran from getting a bomb.

Best friends are with you when the decisions are hard.

Palestine/Israel/Pride

First, in Berlin:

“Video: Activists heckle Israeli ambassador at Berlin gay pride march,” by Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada – 29 June

About two dozen Palestine solidarity activists interrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador to Germany at the Christopher Street Day LGBTQ parade in Berlin on Saturday.

The protest, organized by Berlin Against Pinkwashing, included banners visible in the video above that read “2,300 dead in Gaza, You can’t pinkwash this.”

Pinkwashing is the term critics use for Israel’s hasbara (propaganda) strategy of painting itself as LGBTQ-friendly to deflect criticism of its human rights abuses and war crimes against Palestinians.

Pinkwashing practitioners hope to win friends for Israel among liberal and progressive constituencies where support for boycott of the country is growing.

In the video, Israeli ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsman touts the Tel Aviv gay pride which he says was attended by around 100,000 people.

“I am sure that many of them came from Germany,” he said.

However he abruptly ends his speech. The man next to Hadas-Handelsman looks embarrassed during the Palestine solidarity chants but continues waving a small Israeli flag adorned with rainbow colors.

Berlin Against Pinkwashing said activists decided to stage the protest after a petition signed by 150 people calling on parade organizers to rescind the invitation to the Israeli government official was ignored.

The group decided to “challenge the event directly,” it says in a press release, and “to make their voices heard and object to the co-option of what is supposed to be an international day against inequality and state oppression.”

“The bombs falling on Gaza don’t differentiate between queers and non-queers,” Berlin Against Pinkwashing activist Malek Hamza said.

And now in occupied Palestine:

through_the_spectrum_2
Photo Credit: Khaled Jarrar.

“Why I painted a rainbow flag on Israel’s apartheid wall,” by Khaled Jarrar, Electronic Intifada – 2 July 

Earlier this week, I painted a section of the Israeli apartheid wall near Qalandiya checkpoint in the occupied West Bank with the colors of the rainbow flag. Later that night, some people from the community painted it over.

[…]

I painted the mural — which I titled “Through the Spectrum” — in broad daylight. Israeli occupation forces were not far away and Palestinians crossing back and forth through the checkpoint were all around.

In other words, life was “normal” in occupied Palestine, and the painting was executed in full view of passersby and local residents. Later the same day, news of my mural blew up on social media, and several Palestinians including a journalist seized on my action to encourage others to, ironically, go and save the racist Israeli wall from the “shame” I had brought on it.

A posting on Facebook used a photograph I had taken of the mural accompanied by the words “This filth will not see daylight. Tonight it will be painted over.” Following this incitement, and in the dark of night, a small group of Palestinian men whitewashed the rainbow.

Let me tell you what inspired my mural. Like people all over the world, I followed the news about the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States. Millions of people, including many of my Facebook friends from Palestine and all over the world, used the “celebrate pride” filter provided by Facebook, to add a semi-transparent rainbow overlay to their profile pictures.

[…] 

This got me thinking about all these international activists and ordinary citizens who were celebrating freedom for a group of people who have historically been oppressed, and the use of the rainbow as a symbol of freedom and equality and what it could represent for other oppressed groups.

[…] 

The apartheid wall, built in violation of international law, cuts across our land and our water. It divides farmers from their trees and crops, villages from cities, the faithful from their places of worship, parents from their children, children from their schools, and partners from one another. It stops people from getting married and living together and it destroys the possibility of living peacefully in an undivided country.

[…] 

I was heartened that the majority of Palestinians who contacted me as the controversy unfolded supported my actions. As the days passed, more and more of these voices became public and I have met many new people in my community who share the same love for freedom and our right to exercise our voices through creative means.

I also understand that the rainbow flag is a distinctive symbol often used for LGBTQ communities and has its own history and specific context. I am not shying away from any debate that our society should have by using these colors, but I believe the colors of the rainbow represent love, humanity and freedom. And yes, there were a minority who were confused by, or against, my actions. This minority was very vocal.

The whitewashing of the wall immediately brought the attention of world media. On 30 June, I spoke to the Associated Press and told them my intentions as I’ve written them here. I was dismayed when their article the next day used my action to anchor a narrative that highlights the alleged tolerance of Israel toward LGBTQ people, including Palestinians.

I felt that the entire story was hijacked by a pro-Israeli narrative that executed a “pinkwash” — essentially censoring what transpired, including my intentions. Pinkwashing is a form of distraction, using Israel’s supposedly gay-friendly policies as a smokescreen for the larger crimes of the occupation.

There was no mention of the outpouring of Palestinian support my action received and the complexities and diverse opinions that exist in our society as in others all over the world.

It claimed that Israel, because of its supposed tolerance, is a safe place for Palestinians who engage in same-sex relations, even though there are no laws that offer any sort of asylum to Palestinians in Israel and they are frequently subjected to particularly abusive treatment by Israeli authorities precisely because they are Palestinian. As the Israeli LGBTQ academic and activist Aeyal Gross has pointed out, the Israeli government is quick to exploit LGBTQ issues in its international propaganda while doing nothing to actively promote them at home.

As one astute observer noted on Facebook: “While the world celebrates gay marriage victory: in Israel, you can marry anyone as long she/he [is] not Palestinian.” That is true. In 2003, Israel passed a law, renewed every year since, that forbids its citizens from living in Israel with Palestinian spouses from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, or from several Arab states.

When Israel’s high court upheld the law in 2012, Human Rights Watch condemned it for blatant discrimination.

“The law violates Israel’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which applies not only to race but also to national or ethnic origin and among enumerated rights protects ‘the right to marriage and choice of spouse,’” the human rights group said.

Palestinian Citizens of Israel 

PBS’s Newshour program recently produced a well-crafted story on the Palestinian political faction within Israel’s Knesset:

The Loss of Bipartisan Support? 

“Israel losing Democrats, ‘can’t claim bipartisan US support,’ top pollster warns,” by David Horovitz, The Times of Israel – 5 July

A new survey of American public opinion toward Israel by veteran Republican pollster and media guru Frank Luntz presents a lot of insightful takeaways. Key among them: 1) Israel still retains significant support among Democrats, but bipartisan support is less robust than it has ever been. 2) Support for Palestinians is nearly nonexistent within the Republican base and trails support for Israel about 2-to-1 among Democrats. 3) BDS is largely unknown among American elites, which presents Palestinian solidarity activists with great potential to broaden the movement’s support base.

• Asked about Israeli influence on US foreign policy, an overwhelming 76% of Democrats, as compared to 20% of Republicans, said Israel has “too much influence.”

• Asked whether Israel is a racist country, 47% of Democrats agreed it is, as opposed to 13% of Republicans. Another 21% of Democrats didn’t know or were neutral (as opposed to 12% of Republicans), and only 32% of Democrats disagreed when asked if Israel is a racist country, as opposed to 76% of Republicans. (Overall 32% of those polled said Israel is a racist country.)

• Asked whether Israel wants peace with its neighbors, while an overwhelming 88% of Republicans said it does, a far lower 48% of Democrats agreed. Another 21% of Democrats didn’t know or were neutral (as compared to 7% of Republicans). And 31% of Democrats did not think Israel wants peace (as compared to 5% of Republicans).

• Asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a local politician who supported Israel and its right to defend itself, an overwhelming 76% of Republicans said yes, but only 18% of Democrats said yes. Meanwhile, only 7% of Republicans — but 32% of Democrats — said they would be less likely to support a local politician who backed Israel.

• Asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a local politician who criticized Israeli occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians, 45% of Democrats said yes, compared to just 6% of Republicans. Asked whether they would be less likely to vote for a local politician who criticized Israeli occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians, a whopping 75% of Republicans said yes, compared to just 23% of Democrats.

• Asked whether the US should support Israel or the Palestinians, a vast 90% of Republicans and a far lower 51% of Democrats said Israel. Another 8% of Republicans and 31% of Democrats were neutral. And 18% of Democrats said the Palestinians, compared to 2% of Republicans. Overall, 68% of those polled said the US should support Israel, and 10% said the US should support the Palestinians.

• Asked about which side they themselves support, 88% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats said they were “pro-Israeli” while 4% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats said they were “pro-Palestinian.”

• Asked if settlements are an impediment to peace, 75% of Democrats and 25% of Republicans agreed.

[…] 

Still more drastically, Luntz said the word “Zionism” could play no part in messaging designed to repair relations with US Democrats. There has to be an “end to the [use of the] word Zionism,” he said. “You can’t make the case if you use that word. If you are at Berkeley or Brown and start outlining a Zionist vision, you don’t get to make a case for Israel because they’ve already switched off.”

He also predicted that Israel is in for “a lot more trouble” from the BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) campaign. Once they had been informed about the BDS campaign, 19% of respondents supported it — 31% of Democrats and 3% of Republicans. And, stressed Luntz, 60% of America’s opinion elites said they were not familiar with BDS. “Israel is already having trouble with BDS, and Americans don’t even know what it means. Can you imagine how bad it will get?”

“AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): A week in photos, June 14-20, 2015,” Christian Peacemaker Teams – 26 June

Palestinian children play at Susiya playground, which is under demolition order, like rest of the village.

Another Day Under Occupation

“Israeli soldier kills Palestinian teen on his way to Al-Aqsa,” Middle East Monitor – 3 July

A senior Israeli army officer shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian early Friday morning by the Separation Wall near Qalandiya checkpoint.

According to Palestinian sources, Mohammad Kasbeh was killed by two bullets while trying to cross the Wall to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Initial reports from Israeli sources claimed that the teenager was part of a group throwing stones at a military patrol that was making its way to Qalandiya, damaging a vehicle’s windscreen.

Binyamin Brigade commander, Col. Yisrael Shomer, got out of the car and opened fire, killing Kasbeh and wounding one other Palestinian.

Israeli military sources claim that Shomer felt in “mortal danger.” No Israeli forces were injured.

An Israeli spokesperson said: “The forces called the suspect to halt and shot warning shots in the air. Once he continued hurling rocks at close range and in response to the imminent danger the forces fired towards the suspect.” The IDF Spokesperson said standard procedure was followed. (emphasis mine)

Media Roundup is a weekly feature of Palestine Square.