Tuesday, May 23

Right - Wing Threats to Democracy in Israel


Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in Knesset, June 27, 2016. Olivier Fitouss
i
District Six Memory Plaque at the Moravian Chu...
District Six Memory Plaque at the Moravian Church in District Six, Cape Town, South Africa. It commemorates the victims of apartheid-era forced removals through the racially divisive Group Areas Act. Picture by Henry Trotter, 2000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is rare for me to write something about my personal experience in the 1960s and early 70s in South Africa where I was born, brought up and educated. It was in the era of apartheid when people, who opposed the evil white apartheid government, were placed under detention for 90 days, 180 days, and house arrests with no recourse to a lawyer. The criteria for everything were skin colour. Separate and inferior facilities for those who were not white - separate entrances in public buildings, buses and trains and separate beaches for blacks and whites.

The Group Areas Act, Immorality Act, and much other heinous legislation were the order of the day Those were chilling days, our phones were tapped by security police as my family opposed apartheid. The definition of a “communist” under the Suppression of the Communist Act of 1950 was very wide to include those opposing apartheid. Democracy in apartheid South Africa was thoroughly compromised. The Black people were disenfranchised. The list went on and on.

Demonstrators protesting in solidarity with ‘Breaking the Silence’ and other left-wing NGOs, after the Israeli government proposed a new law governing the financial disclosure of NGOs, in Tel Aviv, Israel, 19 December 2015. Photo activesills/Flickr
I had made up my mind in 1974 that I had to leave South Africa as the noose was tightening against those who opposed racism and apartheid in all its evil forms. I chose Israel as my country where I could start a family eventually. Israel is the only democratic country that I felt I could live and be free from the restraints of racism and hate for people of colour.

If we are to discuss the right wing threat to democracy in Israel, it is unavoidable not to use the apartheid South Africa comparison.

Today over forty years later, and after much water had flowed under the bridge, we are reaching a stage where the similarities between the present Israeli Government Coalition and the apartheid government of the old South Africa are becoming evident when it comes to enacting legislation weakening the law courts in as far as a citizen’s right to address a legal problem is concerned if it is not in line with the ruling government agenda. This is the case when the justification of theft of Palestinian land is concerned.

Countless articles have been written on the evils of the occupation since the June 1967 Six Day War on my blog as well as the history of the conflict.

There is a growing trend in the Coalition Government to try and pass laws that emphasize Israel as the Jewish State as if we are not aware of it. Perhaps there are Israelis who need reminding by having a law enacted to leave them with no doubt! Is this really necessary? Even the ultra-Orthodox coalition partner, Yahadut Hatorah, opposes this bill for their own partisan, political reasons. The innuendo of this bill is to ensure that non-Jewish citizens of Israel will remain inferior. The status of Arabic as one of Israel’s official languages will also drop. Why?

A very good friend of mine said that we, the secular, progressive citizens of Israel, who happen to oppose the present right wing Government Coalition of Israel, are caught up in a trap that is a two-edged sword. We are ostracized by BDS (that is anti-Semitic as well as being anti-Israeli) and Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas that fail to recognize Israel’s right to exist on the one side, and we are viewed as traitors to Israel by the right wing supporters of the Israeli Government Coalition. We are caught in between and get the flack from both sides. The latter is another symptom of the erosion of democracy in Israel, where having a left of centre viewpoint is synonymous to treachery. This gives a feeling of déjà vu for many of us, who grew up under apartheid in South Africa and now live in Israel.

There are accusations that any singling out of Israel is anti-Semitic: so, for example, calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions in Israel's case but not in others is prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism, as is using the word apartheid to characterize any aspect of Israeli society 1.

South African parliamentarian, Kenneth Meshoe, who suffered under the apartheid regime, said the comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa “betrays the memory of those who suffered through a real apartheid” and those who draw such comparisons “are minimizing the suffering that black South Africans endured.2

I have written articles on how wrong and inaccurate it is to compare Israel to South African apartheid. While this may still be true in many respects, today under the present right-wing Likud Coalition Government, the similarities, unfortunately, are becoming more poignant.

Adam and Moodley argue that notwithstanding universal suffrage within Israel proper if the occupied Palestinian territories and settler presence are considered part of the entity under analysis, the comparison between a disenfranchised African population in apartheid South Africa and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation gains more validity.3

In recent years we have witnessed a disturbing trend toward the erosion of democratic values in Israel and the promotion of anti-democratic initiatives. There is a move to silence those NGO watchdogs on human rights. Some examples are Breaking the Silence, B’tzelem and even Peace Now. Another example is the hegemony of the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate on freedom of choice of which religious Jewish stream a Jewish person wishes to adhere. Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism have no religious rights at all to marry couples and are not recognized. There is no civil marriage or divorce. There Is no separation of Synagogue and State in Israel.

Donations to Israel from naive Reform and Conservative Jews to the Orthodox establishment are always accepted. Of course to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, donations are always Kosher no matter from where it comes! Non-Orthodox observant Jews are viewed as “goyim” by the Orthodox Rabbinical Establishment. It will only get worse:


The security problem adds to the similarity. The lack of progress on both sides makes a solution to the conflict more complicated and impossible. Israel wishes to increase settler occupation in Palestinian lands beyond the Green Line. Naftali Bennett, Leader of Bayit Hayehudi and Coalition partner, has made this one of his mantras for remaining in the Netanyahu Coalition. He opposes the Two-State Solution. The only other solution is the One-State Apartheid Solution which is gaining more support as the Israeli Electorate moves further towards the right and at the same time viewing the left wing in Israel as traitors. In a recent poll, the young people are moving increasingly towards the right and becoming more religious.

So Israel — in the words of its most loyal benefactor — is moving inexorably “towards cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation” that is anti-democratic: i.e., the equivalent of apartheid.4



The upsurge of religious observance in Judaism and right wing Zionist religious ideology with its increased power over law court decisions on issues of increased Israeli settlement on disputed Palestinian lands is a threat to Israel’s reputation as being a democratic state. The trend to delegitimize NGOs such as Breaking the Silence, B’tzelem and Peace Now is threatening democracy in Israel.

  1. . 2 May. 2017, https://www.opendemocracy.net/richard-kuper/apartheid-references-in-israel. Accessed 21 May. 2017.
  2. 17 Mar. 2017, https://www.algemeiner.com/2017/03/17/the-lie-of-israeli-apartheid-2/. Accessed 23 May. 2017.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_and_the_apartheid_analogy. Accessed 21 May. 2017
  4. 6 Oct. 2016, https://theintercept.com/2016/10/06/u-s-admits-israel-is-building-permanent-apartheid-regime-weeks-after-giving-it-38-billion/. Accessed 23 May. 2017.

Thursday, March 30

A Stench of General Elections in the Air as False Alarm

General election fever in democratic countries is a time of excitement. This takes place every four or five years when the citizen gets ready for the one day that he/she feels like a king or queen as the right to vote for a government of one’s choice is exercised. All the political parties gear themselves up by making empty promises and populist statements that can never be fulfilled. Despite these pitfalls, there is a dearth of polls - most of which are misleading with questionable predictions as was in the American Presidential Election of November 2016. The polls in Israel are no less accurate yet they have their pundits.

In Israel, election results are predictable, especially today. It is a foregone conclusion that the right and the extreme right wing will win the elections if held today. No party will get an absolute majority, but the right wing block with its plethora of parties with similar ideologies will form the next coalition government that will be even more radically right wing than the present.

It all started with PM Netanyahu wishing to close down the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation in order to privatise it and make it more cost-effective as well as being more of a government mouthpiece. This would mean firing 1000 employees.

The Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon was prepared to go with Netanyahu on this and in the end, Netanyahu changed his mind after consulting with the employees’ representatives who felt that they were on the firing line. Netanyahu opposed the move but Kahlon was not prepared to back down on Netanyahu’s original decision. The closing down of the IBA is scheduled to occur on 30th April 2017. This would be replaced by a new broadcasting company called Kan that would receive a smaller budget. It would also be run by the Communications Ministry and tow the government line. In other words, Israeli and TV services would be handcuffed to a certain extent and lose their independence.

At the time of writing both Netanyahu and Kahlon are on the edge of brinkmanship and no agreement on this issue has been achieved by these two players despite the numerous meetings between the two. 

According to latest reports, an agreement between Netanyahu and Kahlon has been reached. A compromise has been made. No elections for the time being until the next storm in a teacup when we shall all be getting a feeling of deja vu for the umpteenth time.

National elections for the Knesset must take place once every four years, though early elections have occurred more often and few governments have reached the four-year limit.

General Elections in Israel have a habit of being very predictable. The Israeli electorate for the most part over the years has moved away from the left of centre and towards the right and extreme right. There are no signs that this trend will change in the foreseeable future.

The right wing parties - Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home Party, Yisrael Beitenu, Yesh Atid (a sitting on the fence party that could under certain circumstances move to the right as its leader, Yair Lapid, is a shallow populist and adapts his views to suit his electorate) would probably form the next government. Yesh Atid has a problem with sitting in the same coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties, who are not well disposed towards Yesh Atid. Nevertheless with a little push and shove and monies pledged to their ultra-Orthodox yeshivot as a bonus, this problem will undoubtedly be solved.

The present government is the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. It is unfortunate that it is a government with no foresight and prefers to allow the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict to remain unsolved. It is a government that puts great emphasis on illegal settler expansion for which the taxpayers pay the price. Those who oppose the occupation are viewed as traitors and automatically categorised as BDS supporters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Democracy is also being eroded and people are being intimidated for their views if they do not coincide with the ruling government coalition. The stormy Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev,  a great pundit for PM Bibi Netanyahu has threatened to withhold state funding for cultural projects that she defines subjectively as being hostile to Israel according to her narrow definition of culture. She does not even have minimum knowledge or understanding of Western culture and is condescending towards those whose appreciation of Western culture is important. A person in her position should be tolerant and accept all forms of culture whether North African, Oriental, Western or whatever, especially in Israel which is a melting pot of different cultures. So what if artists are not always portraying Israel in a positive light on stage.

Even in Judaism, the Orthodox establishment rabbis are becoming more intolerant of those who are different and many of them are even racists. Examples are Rabbi Dov LiorIsrael’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and  Rabbi Yosef Elitzur.  They have the final say on Halachic rulings as to who is a Jew and whether couples can marry according to their narrow interpretation of Halacha if one of the partners “Jewishness” is suspect. Under this government, the ultra-Orthodox parties have never had it so good. Under this government, there has been a rise of Jewish religious extremism and it is truly frightening. The Jewish Home Party is predicted to increase its strength according to the latest polls. It is a party that is racist and composed of people like MK Bezalel Smotrich, whose far-right views can only be described as virulently racist. He is a typical example of the ideology of the Jewish Home Party that is not very far from fascism. If one wishes to find a parallel to South African apartheid ideology, it is in Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party with its bunch of intolerant bigots and herrenvolk.

The Netanyahu Government under pressure from this despicable Jewish Home Party also has a Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked - a young, attractive Jewish Home Party Party firebrand with an agenda of wishing to appoint judges with right-wing views to the High Court of Appeal. She has already antagonised the present Judge President, Miriam Naor and senior judges.
This Jewish Home Party is a danger to democracy and is even interfering with the Courts to enforce its own agenda. The same can be said of the leader of this despicable party of Jewish Nationalist extremists, Minister of Education (or Brainwashing Indoctrination), Naftali Bennett, makes no bones about the education system he would like to envisage.

If general elections in Israel would result in a new government that is more open, does not erode the Israeli Court system nor tries to monopolize culture and with it censorship of films and books not supportive of the government, as well as improving the education system rather than letting it slide into the agenda of the Jewish Home Party and its inherent racism, perhaps there would be hope for a government that is all embracing of all Israel’s citizens irrespective of race, colour or creed, then the time will be ripe for elections. Naturally an honest desire for peace with our Palestinian neighbours involving making the compromises to achieve that even though the Hamas camp is not willing to negotiate. At least some moves will be made in the direction of negotiations. If the Palestinian leadership (Hamas and the PA) are not willing, at least Israel can go on record as making a genuine effort by halting settlements as starters.

Having premature elections, when there is no sign of any change, is a pointless exercise in futility and frustration. It only consolidates the present governmental stench of the right to extreme right wing party hacks in all their colours.

Saturday, March 11

"The Jewish Home" of Racism and Intolerance

The title of this post is not the true Israel but a fair section of the Israeli population that have placed their eggs in the basket of Mifleget Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home Party). They received 8 seats out of 120 seats. This party is the diabolical metamorphosis of the now defunct National Religious Party (Mafdal). It is a macabre mix of extreme right wing, religious Zionist ideology laced with hatred for the Arab Community of Israel and those who do not share their intolerant and bigoted world view. It is an illegal settler ideological party that is against the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. Those, who disagree with their worldview are considered traitors to Israel.

This party, despite its relatively small representation in the Knesset, is the fear of PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud. It drags the Likud (once the liberal, moderate right wing party of Menahem Begin also known as Herut or Revisionists) into an extreme right wing direction. The leader of this political, pseudo-fascist abomination, Naftali Bennett (Minister of Education) is the pet fear of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who views him as a threat to his power base. Netanyahu and his party hacks are moving more to the extreme right, giving these party members much influence over the machinations of passing laws with a racist and anti-democratic edge. An example was the recent passing of the Regularisation Law as a result of a populist desire of Bennett and his MK hacks. The difference in ideology between the Likud and Habayit Hayehudi is marginal.  

Speaking after the law was finalised, Bezalel Smotrich of the far-right Jewish Home, who was one of the forces behind the legislation, thanked the American people for electing Donald Trump as president, "without whom the law would have probably not passed". 1

Another bill instituted by Moti Yogev MK of the Bayit Hayehudi Party called the Muezzin Law forbidding the call to prayer using loudspeakers between the hours of 11.00 pm and 7.00am. This law was aimed at the Muslim Arab Community of Israel and is another example of the hate that this extreme right wing party has for observant Muslims. There are enough laws in Israel against noise pollution that are not enforced. If the existing Noise Pollution Law was enforced then it would prevent the disturbing ear-splitting Muslim “call to prayer” from the minarets. Why single out the Muslim Community for their “call for prayer”? It is a populist law aimed to gain more support for the right-wing Jewish Home Party. Even the Attorney-General of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit, is opposed to this law. There are many mixed cities with both Arab and Jewish residents such as Haifa, Akko and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The Jewish citizens’ representatives living in these cities managed through dialogue with the Muslim religious authorities to arrive at an agreement and there was never any problem between the Muslim and Jewish Communities on this issue in the past.

The observant Muslim Arab Community is a minority group in Israel and as such are sensitive towards discrimination as well as any threat towards the “call to prayer” by the muezzin. The government showed a total lack of sensitivity to the needs of this community by trying to pass a law forbidding or curtailing their traditional custom of calling their faithful to prayer from the minarets of their mosques.

HaBayit Hayehudi has done a great disservice to Israel by introducing bills that are discriminatory and very pro-settler occupation in territories under international dispute.

There are members of this party that embrace ideologies resembling the ideology of the outlawed neo-fascist party - Kach of the Late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose ideology was deportation of Arabs from Israel and discriminating against them.

Bezalel Smotrich, who represents the Jewish Home party, praised the passage of the Regularization Law in early February as a “historic day for the settlement movement and for Israel”.2

Smotrich is a right wing extremist who created controversy by expressing support for apartheid in state hospitals with an emphasis on the Maternity Wards. Jewish and Arab MKs soundly condemned Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich for racist remarks; Israeli commentator Ben Caspit says Smotrich and his supporters are akin to 'Judeo-Nazis.'3

“Judeo-Nazis” is an apt description of the Jewish Home Party. They have an aggressive racist programme that is no credit to Israel. If the Late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an observant Jew in every sense of the word and one of Israel’s greatest thinkers, has used this term to describe Israel over 30 years ago, today we see that he was ahead of his time.



There is no place in Israel for a party that is divisive, racist and polarises the various population groups. It is very unfortunate that this party is gaining in strength and will be a powerful player in passing discriminatory laws.

There are other groups in Israel that share the views of this racist party - the divisive Jewish Home Party. A disgraceful group that comes to mind and is close in ideology to the Jewish Home Party is Lehava (Hebrew: למניעת התבוללות בארץ הקודש‎‎ LeMeniat Hitbolelut B'eretz HaKodesh; "Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land") is a Jewish far-right organization based in Israel that strictly opposes Jewish assimilation, objecting to any personal or business relationships between Jews and non-Jews. This group is under the leadership of Bentzi Gopstein a right-wing Kahanist extremist with Judeo-Nazi ideology.

A report by Uri Misgav of Haaretz on Apr 12, 2016, reports the Judeo-Nazi problem well:


Racism is always offensive and it is important to fight it. But even racism has its shades, too. Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich’s vocabulary is that of the master race.

Bezalel Smotrich speaking in the Knesset, November 16, 2015. Olivier Fitoussi
Why Israelis should be grateful for their racist politicians

Smotrich and segregated maternity wards are a sign of madness with no cure
Are we really any less racist than Smotrich?

Many true and informative things have been said and written, even on these pages, about the racist show of MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Heyehudi) and his wife. But one point has not been clarified enough, and it is important that it be clarified, despite the discomfort in dealing with its implications. This point overshadows all the political and social arguments by which the Smotriches and their comments were examined. It is impossible to continue running away from what's before us.

The Smotriches spoke of the holy and pure moment of the birth of a Jewish child. Of the demand that Arab hands do not interfere and pollute this holiness and purity. Of the refusal to share the physical space with Arabs, because Arabs are by necessity enemies. Of the baby that is born to an Arab mother and in another 20 years will murder the baby of the Jewish mother.
This is not just ordinary racism. Racism is always offensive and it is important to fight it. But racism has its degrees, too. This is the vocabulary of the master race. Of racial purity and its holiness. Of inferior races that could pollute the master race. Of the lebensraum cleansed of the enemy’s impurity. Of infants who will grow up to be murderous enemies because they belong to the enemy race. This is a Nazi way of thinking. The Smotriches and their followers are Judeo-Nazis.

A Judeo-Nazi movement exists on the margins of Israeli society. It is hard to estimate its size. It is not very broad in scope, but it exists. It makes various appearances in public in Israel. For example, the Lehava organization run by Benzion Gopstein (“Don’t even think about going out with a Jewish girl”); part of the activities of the La Familia soccer fan club (“Beitar Jerusalem will be pure forever”); the burning to death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir; the fatal arson attack on the home of the Dawabsheh family, and the celebration of the death of their 18-month-old son Ali at a wedding.

The time has come to recognise this phenomenon. Neo-Nazis exist in almost every Western nation. For some Israelis, the Holocaust was only a regrettable mistake in the address. At neo-Nazi rallies in Germany against Muslims, Jews waving Israeli flags participate. In last year's elections, the Judeo-Nazi denomination also won the right to enter the Knesset. It fell just short of winning more than one seat. Statistically, that is logical. Representative democracy reflects the segments of its society.
What is not understandable, and what is unforgivable is the attitude towards Smotrich. This is the true mirror he set up for Israeli society this week: Not everyone is like him, but everyone accepts his existence as something legitimate.

The only thing that needed to be done was to boycott him. To ignore his existence. Not to share a word with him. Certainly not a smile or handshake. Even the media did not stop interviewing Smotrich and his wife with chilly politeness. In the previous century, Likud tried to prevent Meir Kahane from running for Knesset, and after he was elected most MKs boycotted him. After that, his movement was outlawed.

Look at what happened in Israel over the past year. The Tekuma faction chose Smotrich in second place on its slate in its primaries. The party that calls itself Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) recognised the results and adopted him. After that along came Benjamin Netanyahu and promised voters they were a natural partner. Promised and kept his promise. The result is that the Judeo-Nazi faction is represented by a party that received the justice and education portfolios.


But it does not end here. Netanyahu has a coalition of 61 Knesset members. Smotrich’s vote keeps it alive. He was also appointed a deputy Knesset speaker and runs some of its sessions. The Judeo-Nazi faction sustains the government of Israel and serves as a deputy head of its parliament. It would be interesting to see what we would have said if this had happened in a different civilised country, shall we say Germany”.









  

Saturday, February 25

Elor Azaria is Sentenced to 18 Months Imprisonment for Manslaughter

The balance of deterrence. Eran Wolkowski Haaretz


 
It makes no sense, despite what many think (including many right-wing politicians in the Knesset, who exploit this tragedy for their own political gain) and feels, that Azaria committed a brave act by shooting a dying or prone terrorist that posed no danger to anybody around him. Shooting a dying terrorist, when he poses no danger to anybody, is not an act of bravery, it is manslaughter as the Court had ruled. Had he shot the terrorist in self-defense or defending others from death or severe injury is bravery and deserving of citation.  This is not the case here. Ruling politicians are doing a great disservice not only to Azaria, who did not express remorse for what he did but also to the IDF and to Elor Azaria's family. Even the defence lawyers are concerned about scoring points by appealing the sentence which is very lenient by all standards for their reputation and personal egos.

Baruch Marzel.
Baruch Marzel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The right wing extremists under Bayit Hayehudi and other extremists (many of whom have neo-fascist ideology) are becoming very powerful. This is also evident in the recent selection of conservative judges in the High Court. This was a heydey for the right wing, who are concerned with getting more votes in the next elections by unanimously requesting a pardon for Elor.

After Azaria was convicted of manslaughter in the case, several right-wing lawmakers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had called for him to be pardoned.1.

UN Human Rights Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani compares Elor Azaria's 18-month sentence for killing 'a wounded Palestinian' with three-year sentences given to Palestinian children for throwing stones; she declares that the case reinforces a 'culture of impunity.' This statement may be viewed as outrageous when we see that that the UN exhibits apathy to the genocide and slaughter going on in Syria and other Arab countries and condemns Israel for human rights abuses. However, this does not alter the fact that the sentence for manslaughter that Elor Azaria received was lenient.

We must also bear in mind that the relationship between the settlers in Hebron and the IDF is not in the best interests of the soldiers serving in that very explosive area. The right wing extremist settlers are over familiar with the soldiers and invite them over to their homes when they are off duty. Kahanist and Lehava extremists seem to rule the roost there and brainwash many off-duty soldiers in their ideology of hate for Palestinians. There seem to be two laws dominating the IDF soldiers serving in Hebron. There are IDF Protocol and the “very unofficial Hebron Settler Protocol” dominated by Kahanist and Lehava racists. It is significant to note that after Elior Azaria shot the prone terrorist, Baruch Marzel, the leader of the Kach Fascists came out of nowhere to shake Elor’s hand to congratulate him for his “heroic” act. Apparently, Elior and Marzel are good friends. What was Marzel doing in the area where the incident occurred?

“It's time to understand who's really in control in the occupied territories. Decades of occupation have transformed IDF units in the West Bank into an army that not only defends settlers but is also subject to their orders and instructions. Soldiers' testimonies in this report describe the close relations between settlers and the IDF in the West Bank along with settlers' involvement in, and influence on, military operations” according to a report by “Breaking the Silence” - an NGO maligned by the right wing Government Coalition and is forbidden to give lectures on their activities at educational institutions subsidized by the Education [Fabrication] Ministry in the hands of the extremist right-wing Bayit Hayehudi that has a right wing, religious settler-oriented agenda. It is viewed as “Fake News” (to use the President Donald Trump description of news and reports he does not want to hear or read). When an NGO devoted to human rights and truth reporting is maligned by the ruling government or administration as in the case of the US today, we must take their reports seriously.

There is a background promulgated by settler leaders that influenced the thinking of many soldiers serving in Hebron and dehumanised Elior to take the law into his own hands by carrying out the death sentence of the neutralised Palestinian terrorist 11 minutes after he was rendered harmless by the soldiers authorised to do so. There is no denying that this was the case.

Amnon Abramovich, the well-known Channel 2 commentator, wrote that the settler leaders should be put on trial and not Azaria.   

The desire to score points with the right wing Israeli Electorate by high-ranking politicians in the Knesset to demand that Elior Azaria gets pardoned. This homicide has been turned into a hot potato political charade by the ruling right-wing coalition. The Chief-of-Staff of the IDF, Gadi Eizenkott, bravely stated that the IDF responsible bodies will make the decision on Elior Azaria and not the right-wing MKs.

Putting aside all the statements condemning Israel's Military Court leniency and the political capital made by the right wing political parties, the fact remains that Elor Azaria was convicted of homicide by shooting a prone terrorist, who was lying neutralized by the Israeli Security Forces for 11 minutes until Elor Azaria decided to add his shekel worth of bullets or bullet that killed him. This act, leaving politics aside (it is NOT a political matter), is a criminal offence and went against the army protocol of indiscriminate firing of weapons and the lenient sentence he received was probably because of powerful right-wing pressure on the judge behind the scenes that obviously affected her decision. The judge admitted that the offence was very serious. The punishment was light rather than fitting the crime committed. The right wing extremists under Bayit Hayehudi and other extremists many of whom have neo-fascist ideology are becoming very powerful. This is also evident in the recent selection of conservative judges in the High Court. This was a heydey for the right wing, who are more concerned with getting more votes in the next elections by unanimously requesting a pardon for Elor.



Thursday, February 16

Trump and Netanyahu Meeting - Friendly Futility!

US President Donald Trump (R) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
After watching the Trump-Netanyahu Joint Press Conference before the meeting between the two leaders, it became obvious that the conference was an exercise of “friendly futility”. The words of both PM Netanyahu and President Trump were a back-slapping exercise of a “budding friendship” and chemistry between the two leaders. There was no hint of any substance whatsoever apart from vague statements open to interpretation by a hungry bunch of press reporters seeking a scoop. A scoop -  it certainly was not apart from photo opportunities and lavish praise uttered between the two leaders for each other and Trump’s praise of Sarah Netanyahu for her “graciousness”.

President Donald Trump hinted to Netanyahu that he should “hold back” on settlements. Netanyahu promised to “examine” that issue. There was no commitment on either side, just vague, meaningless statements. Netanyahu was obviously minding his p’s and queues. He did not wish to say anything that would antagonize his extremist right wing flank led by Naftali Bennett, Leader of the extremist right wing party, Habayit Hayehudi, back home. No mention was made of the Two-State Solution. Trump somehow saved the day by saying that he will go with any solution, one-state or two-state depending on what the parties to the conflict want. Trump has no knowledge of the conflict at all or at best, a very superficial knowledge. Maybe it is better that way. President Trump is very unpredictable in any case and even if he would “close a deal” he may change his mind later because of a personal whim or fancy.

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump rejected the long-established US framework for Middle East peacemaking at a White House visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday as he announced his desire to reach "the ultimate deal." 1

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday that he asked U.S. President Donald Trump in their meeting to have the U.S. recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel. 2

What was significant in this Joint Press Conference was what was not even mentioned. There was no mention of the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had misled the White House over his phone calls with the Russian ambassador to Washington. According to press reports, it was Flynn that helped organize the Trump-Netanyahu meeting. The cozy and admiring relationship between Trump and Putin also raises questions. Is it possible that Putin knows something about Trump that if revealed could result in Trump’s downfall? Time will tell. Putin of Russia is a wily and ruthless leader. He has well honed skills from his experience in the KGB.  

President Donald Trump said he would support the peace agreement Israel and Palestinians "like the best" in a joint press conference during which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against Palestinian efforts to reach a deal. 3

In the biggest blow to Mr. Trump's nascent presidency, his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned after it emerged he held secret talks with Russia before entering the White House. 4

General Flynn's resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration's intentions towards Vladimir Putin's Russia, including statements by the president suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said in a statement Tuesday. 5

The whole Trump-Netanyahu meeting appears to be a shallow show of meaningless platitudes uttered between the two leaders in order to satisfy those whose ears are tuned to what they wanted to hear.

An Israeli press reporter asked a question about the increase of anti-Semitic incidents on President Trump’s watch so far. While Trump did not deny the racism issue, he did not make any mention of anti-Semitism. Was he skirting the anti-Semitic issue because he did not wish to antagonize his anti-Semitic supporters, some of whom are in his administration? He skirted the issue in a way that satisfied everybody by making statements that the American people are very divided and under his watch and that “we will see a lot of love”.  

President Trump is a successful businessman and tycoon. He views the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict as nothing more his desire to reach “the ultimate deal” in which his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be a partner (mediator). A One-State or Two-State Solution makes no difference to him. As long as it is the “Art of the Deal”, it looks as if we have no room for any form of optimism even with improvement of Israel’s relationship with the Arab States as Netanyahu claims.


It appears that the Trump-Netanyahu meeting is nothing but a back-slapping, supercilious charade with no substance that can raise our hopes for peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours.


2.15 Feb. 2017, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/LIVE-1.771849. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.