Israel passed a controversial law about settlements. Where did its parliament get the support?

Devorah Manekin and Guy Grossman, The Washington Post, February 13, 2017

An Israeli soldier stands guard in a monitoring cabin in the Israeli settlement of Beit El near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Jan. 25. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Last week, Israel’s parliament passed a law allowing the state to seize private Palestinian land on which Jewish settlements have been constructed and transfer it to the settlements’ exclusive use. The law could retroactively legalize several thousand homes of Jewish settlers and suspend any demolition proceedings previously initiated against them. Israel’s legal establishment has announced its opposition to the new law, saying it violates Israeli and international law and could lead to international repercussions. Israel’s president also came out against the law, arguing that it would “make Israel look like an apartheid state.” The law already has come under heavy criticism from several of Israel’s allies and has been challenged in Israel’s High Court, where it could eventually be overturned.

Yet despite these far-reaching political implications, the law was backed by Israel’s entire ruling coalition, with only one dissenting member. Even the Kulanu party, which bills itself as a moderate, pragmatic party, voted for the law, leading to a final count of 60 in favor, 52 against. What explains this widespread support?

Our own research, co-written with Tamar Mitts of Columbia University, sheds light on how a minority of voters can have an outsize influence on controversial policies that may carry a heavy cost.

Traditionally, analysts of Israeli politics contended that the Israeli right is split over control of the West Bank. The first, more ideological, camp is attached to the land for religious and symbolic reasons, viewing the land of Israel as God-given to the Jewish people and therefore indivisible. A second, more pragmatic camp supports territorial control over the West Bank for security reasons. According to this latter view, it is essential for Israel to hold onto the West Bank until a viable and credible peace deal is on the table.

The distribution of voters across this divide has considerable policy implications: If the pragmatic camp is sufficiently large, a bargaining space exists that allows leaders to negotiate land for peace. If, however, the ideological camp dominates, such a bargaining space between Israeli and Palestinian leaders narrows substantially.

Our study, based on surveys of more than 3,000 Jewish adults, was explicitly designed to measure the relative size of these camps. We found, first, that about 53 percent of our respondents supported deepening control over the West Bank through settlement expansion, while about 47 percent supported a settlement freeze. Those who opposed settlement expansion thought it would lead to increased violence and escalate the conflict, but, perhaps surprisingly, many who supported settlement expansion generally thought the same thing.

What could motivate a majority of the public to support a policy of expansion that they thought was likely to worsen the security situation? Using multiple experimental methods to disentangle strategic motivations from symbolic ones, we found that a majority of right-wing respondents (about 55 percent) would prefer to deepen Israeli control of the West Bank even if that meant violence would increase substantially, the economy would be severely harmed, and funding for health and education would be reduced to enable military expansion.

Thus, while the Israeli right does in fact appear divided, the majority of its constituents, approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of the general Jewish-Israeli public, could be classified as ideologues, prioritizing control over the West Bank over security and material considerations.

These findings suggest that Israel’s ideological right is not a radical fringe but a substantial segment of the public. Nevertheless, it remains a minority. Why, then, is it able to exercise such powerful influence on the Israeli leadership? Our research offers one answer to this puzzle: ideological voters are not concentrated at the far right, as many commentators assume, but rather vote for parties across the right-wing political spectrum. Consequently, Israel’s political leadership is constrained not by its coalition partners at the far right but by voters that form its core base.

Our findings are reinforced by public opinion polls on the Land Confiscation Law. One such poll not only found that 82 percent of voters for Israel’s Jewish Home party supported the law — as would be expected — but that 62 percent of Likud voters and 64 percent of Kulanu voters supported it as well.

Given such public attitudes, it is not surprising that Israel’s politicians have used symbolic rhetoric to justify the law. Speaking on behalf of the government on the evening of the vote, Israel’s Science and Technology Minister and Likud member Ofir Akunis stated, “The argument tonight is about who this land belongs to, and about our basic right to the land. … We are voting about the connection between the Jewish people and its land. I am happy that the public believes in us and not in [the opposition], meaning that it too believes that the land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel.”

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Israel Bulldozes Democracy

AYMAN ODEH, The New York Times, February 11, 2017

A Bedouin woman reacts to the destruction of houses by Israeli authorities on January 18, 2017 in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near the southern city of Beersheba, in the Negev desert. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

HAIFA, Israel — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is expected to visit Washington this week to meet with President Trump, presumably to discuss the political philosophy they share: power through hate and fear. A government that bars refugees and Muslims from entering the United States has much in common with one that permits Israeli settlers to steal land from Palestinians, as a new law that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament last week did.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government’s racist, unjust land use and housing policies.

Arabs make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, yet only 2.5 percent of the state’s land is under Arab jurisdiction. And since the founding of the state, more than 700 new towns and cities have been built for Jews, while no new cities have been built for Arabs.

In Arab towns, the government has made building permits so difficult to obtain, and grants them so rarely, that many inhabitants have resorted to constructing new housing units on their properties without permits just to keep up with growing families that have nowhere else to go. As a result, Arab communities have become more and more densely populated, turning pastoral villages into concrete jungles.

In southern Israel, more than 100,000 Arab citizens face a particular crisis. In the Naqab desert, known in Hebrew as the Negev, there are 35 villages that are officially “unrecognized” by the state. The residents of these unrecognized villages have Israeli citizenship, yet the state has refused to provide even basic services like water, electricity utilities, paved roads and schools.

Worse, because the Israeli government refuses to recognize these villages’ existence, they all live under the shadow of demolition orders from the state. Residents never know when the police will come to evict them and bulldoze their homes.

These policies have existed for decades, but Mr. Netanyahu has turned them into a political bludgeon. Several weeks ago, when it became clear that the government would be forced to implement an Israeli High Court ruling to evacuate Amona, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank built on land stolen from Palestinians, Mr. Netanyahu vowed to destroy Arab homes throughout Israel in retribution.

The prime minister soon made good on his threat. That was why, a few weeks later, a huge force of armed police arrived to destroy homes in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran.

I first visited Umm al-Hiran not long after I had been elected secretary general of the Hadash party. I spent several weeks living in the Naqab and took part in a nonviolent protest against the demolition of another village, Al Araqib. I was beaten by police and arrested. I had to call my wife, Nardin, from jail.

Ayman Odeh lays on the ground after he was injured during clashes that followed a demonstration against home demolition in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, near the southern city of Beersheba, in the Negev desert, early on January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

After a long legal battle, the government has moved to destroy Umm al-Hiran so that a religious Jewish community can be built in its place. This new town would erase all traces of Arab presence, even replacing the town’s name with the more Hebrew-sounding Hiran.

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Violence: the language of a Jewish state

Jonathan Cook Blog, January 19, 2017

(copyright: Keren Manor)

Here is another image that conveys the situation of Palestinians – these ones Palestinian citizens of Israel – more completely than any words. The man on the ground is Ayman Odeh, a member of the Israeli parliament, the head of the Joint List, the third largest party in the parliament, and the highest-ranking Palestinian politician in Israel.

Israeli police have just shot him with rubber-tipped bullets, not once but twice – including to the face. Odeh is one of the least confrontational politicians among Israel’s large Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population. His message is consistently one of peace and amity between all Israeli citizens, whether Jews or Palestinians. That does not seem to have protected him from the shoot-first, ask-questions-later approach of Israel’s security forces towards Palestinians.

This image should be as shocking as seeing a bloodied Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn crawling in the dirt, watched impassively by US or UK police.

Context is important too. Odeh had joined the 1,000 inhabitants of Umm al-Hiran – all Palestinian citizens of Israel – early this morning in a demonstration to stop demolition crews destroying the 150 homes of their village in the Negev. Israel allowed these families to move to the area of Umm al-Hiran in the 1950s after it had driven them from their original, and much more substantial, lands during the Nakba. The pretext then for expelling them was that Israel needed their ancestral lands for an exclusively Jewish kibbutz.

That all occurred during a military government that ruled over Israel’s Palestinians for nearly two decades. More than 60 years later, exactly the same thing is happening again, but this time in front of the cameras. Umm al-Hiran is being destroyed so that an exclusively Jewish community, with the same name of Hiran, can be built over these families’ homes. Israel never issued Umm al-Hiran with a master plan, so now it can be declared illegal and its inhabitants called “squatters” and “trespassers”. The families are being ethnically cleansed a second time – not during hostilities or in a time of war, but by their own state in a time of peace.

They are far from alone. Thousands of other families, and their villages, face the same fate.

The truth is nothing has changed from the 1950s. Israel still behaves as if it is ruling militarily over its Palestinian citizens. It is still a Jewish state, one that privileges the rights of Jewish citizens over Palestinian “citizens”. It still treats all non-Jews as a threat, as an enemy.

Israel is not a normal kind of state. It is an ethnocracy, and one driven by an ideological variation of the ethnic nationalisms that tore apart Europe a century ago.

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Will Israel Echo South Africa’s Apartheid?

At this point, the South Africa example is most instructive. Recall the state of that country as the campaign to abolish apartheid built up steam — a privileged white minority ruling a black majority in a violent and brutal system. Economic and trade sanctions gradually beginning to strangle this nation that had historically been Africa’s most prosperous. The arrival of worldwide consumer boycotts, campaigns to sell off stock of any company doing business with this pariah state.

David A. Andelman, CNN, December 29, 2016

David A. Andelman, editor emeritus of World Policy Journal and member of the board of contributors of USA Today, is the co-author, with the Count de Marenches, head of the DGSE, of “The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage the Age of Terrorism.” Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN) — Israel, and by extension the United States, are poised at the entrance to a dangerous path. The model democracy of the Middle East risks transforming into a global pariah on the scale of South Africa when it was in the depths of its apartheid nightmare.

After decades of Arab-Israeli diplomacy, the idea of a one-state solution looms anew, as conservative elements in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition see the arrival of Donald Trump and his new ambassador to Israel as an opportunity to push their agenda.

If it is realized, it would reduce Israel’s Palestinian population to a permanent underclass and mean, in the not-too-distant future, that a Jewish minority would be ruling a Muslim majority, with the world on the side of the oppressed majority.

The United States would be its only friend and ally — relegating Washington to a role equally isolated from mainstream opinion throughout the region and far beyond.

This seems to be the role that President-elect Trump is carving out for America, and the role that Netanyahu is skirting perilously close to for Israel.

Trump’s ambassador-designate, David Friedman, the President-elect’s longtime friend and bankruptcy lawyer, has spent much of his career advocating and raising money for the one-state concept. His arrival in Israel will only reinforce the dramatic shift toward the more extreme parties in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition that now seem to be calling the shots.

It was not always this way. Three months after taking office, on June 14, 2009, just 10 days after a recently inaugurated President Barack Obama gave his landmark Middle East speech at Cairo University, Netanyahu, in a televised speech to his people, embraced a two-state solution.

Over the next eight years, Israel has solidified its position as one of the world’s most technologically innovative countries, a bastion of democracy surrounded by an ocean of autocracies or theocracies.

Five years ago, World Policy Journal used a basket of indicators to identify Israel, alongside Finland and Singapore as the world’s three most innovative countries. At the time, Israel had the largest number of startups in the world outside the United States — 3,850, or one for every 1,844 Israelis, according to the Israel Venture Capital Research Center. It had more companies listed on America’s tech-heavy Nasdaq than the entire European continent.

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Why Israel Still Refuses to Choose

It’s easier to leave Palestinians in limbo waiting for a “peace process” that goes nowhere

ROGER COHEN, The New York Times, October 28, 2016

One of the largest Israeli settlements on the West Bank, Maale Adumim, rising in the distance over the Palestinian village of Zaim (Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)

TEL AVIV — There is agreement on very little in the fractious Holy Land, but on one issue there is near unanimity these days: A two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more distant than ever, so unimaginable that it appears little more than an illusion sustained by lazy thinking, interest in the status quo or plain exhaustion.

From Tel Aviv to Ramallah in the West Bank, from the largely Arab city of Nazareth to Jerusalem, I found virtually nobody on either side prepared to offer anything but a negative assessment of the two-state idea. Diagnoses ranged from moribund to clinically dead. Next year it will be a half-century since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank began. More than 370,000 settlers now live there, excluding in East Jerusalem, up from about 249,000 in 2005. The incorporation of all the biblical Land of Israel has advanced too far, for too long, to be reversed now.

Greater Israel is what Israelis know; the smaller Israel west of the Green Line that emerged from the 1947-49 war of independence is a fading memory. The right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with its contempt for Palestinians and dissenting voices in general, prefers things that way, as the steady expansion of settlements demonstrates. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, has lost the legitimacy, the cohesion and the will to do much about it. The cancellation of municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza that had been set for this month was another sign of paralyzing Palestinian infighting.

“Two states are not achievable in the foreseeable future,” the former Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, told me. “It has become a process about a process, and not real.”

The Obama administration has reached a point of acute exasperation. The Israeli announcement this month of a new West Bank settlement was the final straw, coming just weeks after the United States concluded a $38 billion, 10-year military aid deal. Israel’s explanation that the settlement was a “satellite” of another did not wash; its actions were viewed as egregious. Seldom has Moshe Dayan’s old dictum — “Our American friends offer us money, arms and advice. We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice” — been more vividly illustrated. Yet it’s uncertain if the United States is prepared to calibrate its ironclad support in order to pressure Israel into change.

Within Israel, where Netanyahu has now amassed more than a decade in power, the political and cultural drift is toward ever more assertive and intolerant nationalism. Criticism is increasingly equated with treason. Groups like B’Tselem, which focuses on allegations of human rights violations against Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, are under withering attack. The Messianic religious Zionism that holds all the West Bank to be Israel’s by biblical decree is ascendant. The left is in feeble disarray.

It is sobering to note that Netanyahu probably represents the more moderate wing of his government. The most credible challenge to him may eventually come from his own spot on the political spectrum, the center-right, in the form of the telegenic Yair Lapid, who told me that Netanyahu “won’t merit even a page in Israeli history books.” Lapid believes he can conjure up some two-state magic, but he began his first political campaign in the large settlement of Ariel, and the notion that he can reverse the settler movement seems far-fetched.

I drove down to Ramallah, through a clogged checkpoint, always a startling transition from the efficient developed-world hum of Israel to the dust and haphazardness of the West Bank. On the way, I stopped to see Walid Batrawi, the director of BBC Media Action, a charity that mentors journalists and promotes an independent press. He was despondent, describing a “lack of confidence and faith in anything.” Palestinian statehood was “more distant than ever.” Abbas was distracted, he suggested, embroiled in the conflicts of his Fatah party, worried about Hamas, providing no direction. “Something has been lost,” he said. “A special feeling of patriotism, of belonging, is vanishing.”

In Ramallah, I heard similar sentiments, talk of a more individualistic Palestinian society, with less sense of community, where people were focused on taking care of themselves and doing the best they could with the current situation. Two states had become a bad joke. Young people had more faith in nonviolent resistance leading eventually to equal rights within a single state than in yet another aborted international peace initiative or aborted uprising.

Palestinians — whether in Israel proper, where the 1.5 million Arab citizens make up about 17 percent of a population of 8.5 million, or in the West Bank, where they number about 2.6 million — are tired of the humiliations, big and small, that Israel dishes out. How, they wonder, can anything resembling a state ever be fashioned from their countless little self-administering enclaves on the West Bank broken up by Israeli settlements?

In a sense, then, Israel has won. David Ben-Gurion was right when he observed in 1949 that, “When the matter is dragged out — it brings us benefits.” Policy since then has been pretty consistent: Create facts on the ground; break the Arabs’ will through force; push for as much of the biblical Land of Israel between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as possible.

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October 6, 2016
Film: Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back!

UW-Madison Multicultural Student Center
Red Gym – 2nd Floor
716 Langdon St, Madison, Wisconsin
7:30 pm

Sponsored by UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine.

Film screening of the documentary Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back!, which follows queer activists fighting against Israeli pinkwashing propaganda in their community, providing a strategic primer on intersectional social justice activism.

After the film we will have a friendly discussion about how queer issues and Palestinian issues intersect, and the different opinions and thoughts on the film.

Black Lives Matter Benefit Is Canceled Over Stand on Israel

The owners of the club have canceled a concert, citing a platform of groups affiliated with Black Lives Matter that calls Israel “an apartheid state”

MICHAEL PAULSON, The New York Times, September 8, 2016

Photo Credit: Karsten Moran for The New York Times

A popular Broadway cabaret club has canceled a concert benefiting Black Lives Matter, citing the movement’s criticism of Israel.

The owners of Feinstein’s/54 Below, a small performance venue just north of Times Square, this week emailed ticket buyers to the event, informing them of the cancellation. In a separate message to participants, the owners cited a platform released this summer by a coalition of groups affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement that declared “Israel is an apartheid state” and denounced what it described as “the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”

The concert was scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 11, and would have been directed by the actress Tonya Pinkins (“Caroline, or Change”).

In the note to participants, 54 Below said that its owners and managers “strongly believe in and support the general thrust of the goals and objectives” of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It continued, “However, since announcing the benefit they’ve become aware of a recent addition to the B.L.M. platform that accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions.”

The statement said, “As we can’t support these positions, we’ve accordingly decided to cancel the concert.”

The concert cancellation was reported by Playbill. The owners of 54 Below, through a spokesman, declined to comment further, and spokesmen for Black Lives Matter did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Pinkins, in an email, said that many of the speakers and artists who had planned to participate in the 54 Below event would be at “The Meeting*,” hosted by Justin Sayre, at Joe’s Pub on Sept. 18; she said some would “give testimony,” and that the proceeds would benefit Black Lives Matter.