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.

Continue reading

UN official resigns after pressure to withdraw Israel apartheid report

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 17 March 2017

Rima Khalaf (via Facebook)

A senior United Nations official has resigned, following pressure from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw the landmark report published earlier this week finding Israel guilty of apartheid.

Rima Khalaf, the head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) which published the report, announced her resignation at a press conference in Beirut on Friday.

Reuters reports that Khalaf took the step “after what she described as pressure from the secretary-general to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing an ‘apartheid regime’ on Palestinians.”

“I resigned because it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report,” Khalaf stated.

As of Friday, a press release announcing the report remained visible on the ESCWA website, but the link to the report itself from the press release no longer works.

A full copy of the report is available below.

It concludes that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”

It finds “beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crimes of apartheid” as defined in international law.

It urges national governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.”

Palestinians warmly welcomed the report, but Israel angrily denounced it as akin to Nazi propaganda. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN demanded that the report be withdrawn.

That demand came just as the Trump administration announced a budget plan that includes sweeping cuts in US contributions to the UN.

Khalaf’s resignation indicates that Guterres acted obediently and swiftly to carry out the orders from the United States. In a tweet, the Anti-Defamation League, a powerful Israel lobby group in the United States, thanked Guterres for urging ESCWA to withdraw the report.

Continue reading

Film: Gaza in Context

Arab Studies Institute

Home        Film        Research & Resources        Team        Booking/Contact

 The Full 20-Minute Narrative
Read Script | 
Credits

“I did not think it was possible to examine in 20 minutes what Gaza in Context  does with such compelling clarity: Israeli policies toward Gaza and Palestine, which are inseparable; the core problems affecting Gaza and the deliberateness of the policies that have led to Gaza’s disablement; Gaza’s centrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and some common myths surrounding Gaza and the history of the conflict overall, which are straightforwardly debunked.
An immensely valuable teaching tool, the film’s power also lies in its fundamental humanity, a heartfelt entreaty to end the oppression and violence so that all people in this tortured part of the world may aspire to a future in which their children can flourish.–Dr. Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University 

Gaza in Context  is a superb film accompanied by an excellent  teaching guide with seminal articles on the various aspects of the subject,  discussion questions, reading list and bibliography. Not only does the 20- minute- film provide the essential facts necessary for an understanding of the problem  it helps  the viewer understand the context, history and nature of the Israeli policy that brought the Gaza Strip to where it is today. It does this without committing the  common error of treating Gaza in isolation from the rest of Palestine but  helps explain the consistency in the Israeli policy over the years and throughout Palestine while focusing on its implications and manifestations for Gaza. The film ends with a cri de Coeur to all of us to do what we can to bring an end to what the film convincingly argues is not a natural but a human-  made disaster and save Gaza from continuing to be a zone of death.”
​–Raja Shehadeh, Palestinian lawyer, novelist, political activist, affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, and a founder of the human rights organization Al-Haq.

Continue reading

Israeli forces raid At Tuwani after women and children’s nonviolent action

Operation Dove, February 12, 2017

More information on Operation Dove

raid5

This Saturday morning residents of the Palestinian village of At Tuwani were grazing sheep and enjoying a day of outdoor picnics when Israeli soldiers entered the village en masse, turning the peaceful village into a military theatre. The raid appeared to be part of the price paid by residents for their nonviolent resistance to settler violence in the South Hebron Hills:  twice in recent weeks Palestinians have gathered to peacefully plant olive trees on Palestinian land on the outskirts of the village, near the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on.

On the morning of February 11 more than a dozen Israeli soldiers entered the village in military vehicles. The heavily armed soldiers forced their way into houses and courtyards and began questioning the inhabitants, demanding to see all of their children between the ages of 13 and 18. They ordered Palestinians who asked for an explanation for the raid to show their ID’s, and forced several young men to spread their arms against buildings and cars while soldiers searched their bodies and clothing at gunpoint. The soldiers showed no official orders for the raid, but moved from house to house throughout the morning, questioning men and women, terrifying the children, and violating the human rights of the Palestinian residents of At Tuwani. Soldiers also demanded to see the passports of Operation Dove volunteers who were filming the raid.

Saturday’s military invasion was the second time in ten days that Israeli soldiers have completely disrupted work and life in the village of At Tuwani, and it will likely not be the last.  Before leaving the village this Saturday the soldiers threatened to return in the night.

Raid

raid2

raid3

Tags:


Operation Dove’s campaign #TogetherAtTuwani provides volunteers in the South Hebron Hills to support Palestinian shepherds as they remain on their land and choose to use nonviolent means, along with Israeli activists, to protect their lives and rights.

Operation Dove volunteers were first called to the village of At-Tuwani in 2004. Today, 13 years later, they still share daily life with communities throughout the South Hebron Hills. They support the popular nonviolent resistance by accompanying Palestinians on lands vulnerable to settler attacks and to harassment by Israeli soldiers.

You can donate to this effort.
Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading