Israel sunk in ‘incremental tyranny’, say former Shin Bet chiefs

“You live in a democracy, and suddenly you understand it is not a democracy any more”

Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, 6 April 2017

Ami Ayalon, ex-head of the Shin Bet intelligence services, suggests Israel has a dynamic ‘of ongoing war’ and ‘like 1984, there’s always an enemy’. (Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Two former heads of Israel’s powerful domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, have made an impassioned and powerful intervention ahead of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in June.

One of the pair warned that the country’s political system was sunk in the process of “incremental tyranny”.

Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon were speaking ahead of a public meeting at a Jerusalem gallery which is threatened with closure for hosting a meeting organised by the military whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence, one of the main targets of the rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

During his recent visit to the UK, Netanyahu also asked Theresa May to cut UK government funding to the group – a request that baffled diplomats as no direct UK funding exists.

“Incremental tyranny [is a process] which means you live in a democracy and suddenly you understand it is not a democracy any more,” Ayalon told a small group of journalists, including the Guardian, ahead of the event. “This is what we are seeing in Israel. The tragedy of this process is that you only know it when it is too late.”

Ayalon cited recent moves by ministers in the Netanyahu government to change the laws to hit groups such as Breaking the Silence by banning them from events in schools and targeting their funding, while also taking aim at the country’s supreme court and independence of the media.

Issues of freedom of speech and expression have become one of the key faultlines in Israeli society – in everything from the arts to journalism – under the most rightwing government in the country’s history.

The Babur gallery is under threat of closure after being censured by the country’s culture minister, Miri Regev, for holding an event with Breaking the Silence on publicly owned property – a group which Regev claimed “hurts Israel’s image”.

Gillon was equally bleak in his analysis of Israel’s trajectory, saying that the country was being “driven by this occupation towards disaster”.

He added: “This country was established on the values of liberal democracy, values written in the only kind of constitution we have – which is our declaration of independence – values we don’t fulfil any more. You can analyse what happened to us in the last 50 years, but everything is under the shade of occupation. It has changed us a society. It has made us an unpleasant society.”

The comments by Ayalon and Gillon come amid a growing and heated debate between the right and opponents of the occupation over the historic meaning of the six-day war, in June 1967, which marked the beginning of the occupation. Rightwing ministers celebrated the occupation on Thursday as the “liberation” of the occupied territories.

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Taking Orders for Olive Oil and T-Shirts!

The latest shipment of Holy Land Palestinian olive oil is here! Besides the usual 500 ml bottles, we also have new 750 ml bottles available. Prices are

  • 500 ml: $15 each, box of six $84
  • 750 ml: $20 each, box of six $112

If you would like to purchase some oil, contact Veena at veena.brekke@gmail.co or phone 608-332-8745. She may be able to arrange delivery for larger orders in the Madison area.

Note: We have just a few bottles of last year’s shipment left, at a discounted price of $12 per 500 ml bottle. If interested in those, let Veena know.

MRSCP plans to order a batch of these “We Will Not Be Silent” English/Arabic T-shirts that some of us have been wearing and people have asked about.

For more info and available sizes see WE WILL NOT BE SILENT. We are planning to order black, short-sleeved men’s/unisex sizes M, L, XL and 2XL. If you want something else, let us know. The women’s sizes seem to run very small. The shirts are 100% cotton.

For ordering a shirt, reply to rafahsistercity at yahoo.com by Sunday, March 12. Shirts will be $16 for all sizes (except $18 for 2XL), payment on pick up.

New Senate bill threatens free speech

Instead of fighting antisemitism, new Senate bill threatens free speech

Jewish Voice for Peace, 06 December 2016

On Friday, without a single Senator in the Senate Chamber, the Senate unanimously passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act.

Judging by the title, it seems a reasonable enough piece of legislation. And the Anti-Defamation League was one of its main boosters.

But let’s look closer with a short pop quiz about why the ADL is behind this bill:

    A) To make it clear that actual neo-Nazis like the National Policy Institute, now in close proximity to power, are going to face real scrutiny and condemnation?
    B) To help prevent more violence against synagogues and Jewish poeple, like the dozens of instances of hate crimes and vandalism documented since the election?
    C) To protect the Israeli government from student protesters?

Probably the best way to figure out why the ADL supports it is to read what they’re saying themselves:

Sadly, the answer is “C.”

At a time when actual violence and bigotry against Jews is on the rise, Jewish institutions like the ADL are seizing the moment to… protect Israel from student protesters. That’s not acceptable.

We have to make sure Congressional reps hear from a more equality-focused perspective. Click here to send them a note urging them not to be fooled by the ASAA’s title. Enough pretending that defending Israeli policies is the same as fighting antisemitism. It’s time to get down to the actual business of protecting us all – especially Muslims and people of color – from hate.

I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am. “Leading” Jewish institutions have made it clear to they care more about defending Israel’s racist policies than the real slog of fighting antisemitism. Student activists — Jewish, Palestinian, Muslim, Black, documented, white, and otherwise —  pose no threat to Jews. The only threat they pose is to the culture of silence around Israeli apartheid.

Attempts to silence human rights activists are always appalling. But in this time of crisis, when actual antisemitism is seeping from our political discourse and into our streets? That is truly disgusting. As Jews and allies we have an outsized voice on this one. Please, click here now and help fight this Orwellian legislation in the House.

And here’s another example: Rep. Keith Ellison is running to become Chair of the DNC. As a 501(c)(3), JVP takes no position on any election, but I will say this: I’ve met Rep. Ellison, and he’s a good and honorable man, utterly devoted to fighting antisemitism and all forms of racism. But he’s also dared to offer modest criticisms of Israeli policy, always condemning hatred at the same time.

For that, he’s been railroaded and smeared by far-right Islamophobic front groups. And here again, the ADL is carrying water for these hatemongers by lending their name and their weight to the attacks against him.

The ADL’s support for the “Antisemitism Awareness Act” and their attacks on Keith Ellison are both proof that their commitment to fighting hatred is an empty shirt. They’re not interested in really taking on antisemitism and islamophobia. They’re only interested in shilling for Israeli apartheid.

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Free speech triumphs over pro-Israel bullies in US universities

Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 20 October 2016

Students constructed a mock wall on the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor campus to protest Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. (SAFE-UMich Facebook)

Students have won major victories for free speech on US campuses lately as attempts by Israel lobby groups to suppress Palestine solidarity activism continue to fall flat.

“Israel advocacy organizations driving the suppression cannot succeed in manufacturing facts, even if they try,”
Liz Jackson, an attorney with the organization Palestine Legal, told The Electronic Intifada.

Last week, the president of the University of Michigan defended Palestine solidarity activism on campus after student organizers were attacked for holding a protest against Israeli policies on the same day as a Jewish holiday.

In response to accusations that the protest was an affront to Jewish students, the protest’s organizers, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) stated that the charges fall “under the much larger wave of speech suppression that seeks to derail any valid criticism of Israeli state policy of oppression against Palestinians as a false claim of anti-Semitism.”

University president Mark Schlissel told The Michigan Daily, a campus newspaper, that SAFE “did what we want advocacy groups to do, and to me, they were advocating a political point of view.”

Schlissel’s statement follows a similar defense of student activism in New York City.

There, Israel-aligned groups and elected officials lost a long-waged battle to censor Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) after a six-month independent investigation yielded results that did not support their claims.

The groups and pro-Israel lawmakers steadily pressured administrators at the City University of New York to censure SJP members, accusing them of being responsible for anti-Semitism on campuses.

In February, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a right-wing lobby group, published a 14-page letter, claiming that SJP “has created a hostile campus environment for many Jewish students.”

Around the same time, local lawmakers also called for a ban of all SJP chapters on CUNY campuses.

The accusations against SJP triggered the investigation, which was led by a former federal judge and a federal prosecutor.

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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.

CODEPINK Petition to Veto California Anti-BDS Bill

CODEPINK, August 28, 2016

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California’s AB 2844 is an attack on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and protest. It is intended by its authors to create a blacklist of supporters of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian human rights. This is of urgent concern to Californians who will be immediately affected by the legislation, and also of relevance to all Americans given the rapid spread of these laws to multiple states, chipping away at our right to use boycott to advocate for political change.

Civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, and the Center for Constitutional Rights affirm that right to use economic boycotts in support of human rights and social justice causes is a protected form of free speech under the US constitution. A recent article in the LA Times explain how boycotts of Israel are a protected form of free speech.

The authors of AB 2844 have portrayed the legislation as an anti-discrimination measure. However, the purpose of the bill, as admitted to by its authors, is to stifle the nonviolent boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian human rights, even at the cost of the US constitution. As CODEPINK co-founder Jodie Evans says, “it is up to all of us to let California Governor Jerry Brown know that we do not want to support Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid nor give up our right to freedom of speech and nonviolent protest.”

AB 2844 passed through the California Senate and is expected to pass the California Assembly in the next few days. At that point, Governor Brown will have only 12 days to sign or veto the bill. If Governor Brown does nothing, the bill will be approved by default. Join CODEPINK, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the rest of the Coalition to Stop AB 2844 in telling Governor Brown to veto AB 2844.

In peace,
Jodie, Sam, Marianna, Chelsea, Ariel, Alli, Medea, Nancy K. and the entire CODEPINK team


Dear Governor Brown,

We urge you to veto AB 2844, an unconstitutional and costly attack on Californians’ free speech and the movement for Palestinian human rights.

AB 2844 chills free speech by falsely associating legal and time-honored boycotts for human rights with unlawful discrimination, and by creating a vague new crime in the process. The bill could cost California taxpayers over $140 million (Department of Finance estimate) and unknown additional sums for fielding complaints and lawsuits.

Although the title and some of the content of AB 2844 have changed over time, its intent remains the same: to stigmatize and suppress protected political speech, especially advocacy for Palestinian human rights through the nonviolent tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Stop this attack on Californians’ free speech. Veto AB 2844.

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