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.

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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.

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Film: Gaza in Context

Arab Studies Institute

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“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 

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

Operation Dove, February 12, 2017

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Palestinians protest moving US embassy to Jerusalem

Israeli forces suppress weekly marches in Bilin, Kafr Qaddum

Ma’an News Agency, January 21, 2017

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Israeli forces Friday suppressed weekly marches held in the villages of Billin and Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Qalqiliya.

In Bilin, the weekly march, which occur every Friday to protest the Israeli separation wall and illegal settlements, was launched in solidarity with the Bedouin village of Umm Hiran on Wednesday which was violently raided by Israeli forces on Wednesday, leaving a local teacher and an Israeli police officer killed, before Israeli forces carried out home demolitions in the village.

The demonstration was also centered on protesting President Donald Trump’s support of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinian and international solidarity activists held up Palestinian flags and signs condemning the potential embassy move and threatening an escalation of the resistance if such a decision is made.

As the demonstrators marched through the streets, they called for national unity, resisting the Israeli occupation, and releasing all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Continue reading