I spoke with Izzeldin Abuelaish this morning, as fighting raged between Israel and Hamas. His anguished words could serve as a rallying cry for the way forward.
Abuelaish is the Gazan doctor whose daughters and niece were killed by Israeli bombs in the closing days of the last military conflict with Hamas, his desperate cries captured on Israeli TV. I met him after the publication of his memoir, “I Shall Not Hate”, and was impressed by his humanity and stubborn optimism. The book is being issued in paperback in France, and I caught up with him by phone in Paris.
The optimism remains, but you have to search hard for it. He sounds furious that the violence was once again destroying his home and making the kind of coexistence he champions that much more elusive.
Forward editor-in-chief discussed the battle in Gaza and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an appearance on the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC.
Eisner pointed out that Palestinians are plagued by internal divisions that complicate the peace process. She also noted that many American Jews are watching the conflagration with nervous concern.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes lavished praise on the Forward’s Larry Cohler-Esses for his groundbreaking interview with top Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook. Watch the entire show below.
There’s nothing funny about war. So it’s unsurprising that a trending Twitter hashtag #HamasBumperStickers is being met with equal parts horror and glee.
“What’s the martyr with you?”, “I don’t break for Jews,” and “My other car is also a mass of blackened, twisted metal” are just a few of the Tweets cascading out today under the #HamasBumperStickers hashtag.
For those unfamiliar with Twitter, a hashtag is a way of marking — with a # — a keyword or topic that other people can follow and post to. The People’s Cube, a satirical, conservative website, claimed credit for launching #HamasBumperStickers at 10pm on November 14. By Novembers 15, as Israeli and Palestinian Twitter feeds did virtual battle, #HamasBumperStickers was among the hottest trending topics on Twitter worldwide.
But not everyone was amused. “So disgusted that something like #HamasBumperStickers is trending,” wrote Malak. “It’s easier than ever now to identify racists and advocates of child murder on twitter,” wrote Patrick Galey. “Just follow #HamasBumperStickers.”
When both sides are done flinging insults at each other, they might want to head over to Cafe Press, which offers a wide selection of pro- and anti- Hamas and Israel bumper stickers, from a Hamas flag rectangle decal ($5.20) to a “JIHAD THIS” bumper sticker ($5).
Contact Paul Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @pdberger.
REFRESH TO SEE THE LATEST #HamasBumperStickers TWEETS
Since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday, fighting around the Israel-Gaza border has been intense. The death toll stands at three on the Israeli side and 13 on the Palestinian side. A few minutes a rocket wounded ago three Israeli soldiers.
In the last 24 hours, 138 rockets from Gaza has struck Israel and Israel has targeted 156 sites in Gaza. Israel appears to have achieved some of its significant aims, in assassinating Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari and eliminating large stocks of Hamas’ long-range rockets which it feared could be used to retaliate deep in to Israel.
And so the question is: What does Israel want now? How long will it continue with its offensive?
Israel’s security cabinet is being vague in the information put out to journalists today. It decided “to continue vigorous action against the terrorist infrastructures operating from the Gaza Strip against the civilian population in Israel in order to bring about an improvement in the security reality and allow a normal life for the residents of the State of Israel.”
Unless the aim is to end Hamas rule in Gaza which seems highly unlikely, there’s no single moment when a light flashes in Israel announcing “Game Over” or “Misssion Complete.” The various comments of Defense Minister Ehud Barak don’t give any better insight in to what is planned. Naturally, the concern isn’t that this information isn’t being made public, but rather that it stands undecided.
After Operation Cast Lead, it was widely said that Israel didn’t know when to stop and try to calm the situation. This time around, Hamas, having been humiliated with the killing of such a high-profile leader will need to appear vengeful to its followers, and will be hesitant to stop firing. The ball is in Israel’s court, but is a firm game plan there too?
Calling on the federation system to join synagogues in a fight against religious discrimination in Israel, Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs aimed to engage the broader Jewish community in the struggle for equality of non-Orthodox Jewish denominations in Israel.
Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, described Israel as “the only democracy that legally discriminates against the majority of Jews who are in the non-Orthodox streams.”
He also spoke out against Israel’s decision not to allow women full access to the Western Wall, its refusal to recognize marriages performed by non-Orthodox rabbis and the discrimination against religious institutions affiliated with the Reform and Conservative movements.
“It is time to end this discrimination once and for all,” Jacobs declared.
While this call for arms is not new in the Reform discourse with Israel, his effort to enlist the federation system in the struggle does represent a new phase in the battle against the Orthodox denomination’s hold on Israel Jewish institutions.
With President Barack Obama’s reelection only a few days in the rear view mirror, the topic of the Jewish role in American politics is still brewing — and we learned some tantalizing details about Mitt Romney’s summer trip to Israel.
Democratic and Republican operatives sparred over the importance of the Jewish vote in the just-completed election at the only session devoted to discussing the results at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly.
Tevi Troy, a former George W. Bush adviser who consulted the Romney campaign on Jewish issues, said the big headline coming out of the election had nothing to do with Jews.
Insteaed, it concerned the fast-growing Latino vote, which went strongly for Obama, prompting much hand-wringing about the future of the GOP.
“People are going to wonder going forward,” Troy said, “how much the Jewish vote really matters.”
Dozens of rockets launched by militants in Gaza have pounded down on southern Israel today, wounding three Israeli civilians. The round of violence began last night when Gazans launched an anti-tank missile which scored a direct hit, wounding four Israeli soldiers — an act that was followed by Israeli airstrikes on Palestinian targets in Gaza.
This escalation has a clear human cost. Aside from the wouned Israelis, thousands of residents of southern Israel have stopped their daily routines and sit in bomb shelters listening for “code red” announcements. On the Palestinian side, several people were killed in retaliatory strikes by Israel.
But it also has an important political impact.
Will the campaign for the coming January 22 Israeli election tackle pressing social issues head-on, as several parties hope, or will security dominate the agenda? The answer seems to change every day. For a day at least, politics in Israel seems to be a competition for who can talk tougher, who can apply more no-nonsense rhetoric about the Hamas regime in Gaza and what is coming to it.
Look at the report on today’s cabinet discussions. Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Likud) remarked that the “rules of the game in the south are about to change.” Water and Energy Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) asked rhetorically if the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is “able to stop the firing from Gaza?” Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu) said that “Hamas is accountable and will pay dearly.” And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he is “ready to step up our response.”
Today, politicians like these on the Israeli right can give their strategists a vacation day — the script writes itself, and trumps the centrist and left-wing parties who want a more varied pre-election discussion. But all their talk doesn’t help the residents of the south who are stuck in their shelters.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reeling from not one but two disappointments on Tuesday. It is widely believed that he was desperate for Mitt Romney to win the American presidential election. But he also had an eye on another election at home.
The main religious-Zionist party Jewish Home was holding its primaries to choose a new leader, and the winner was none other than his former right-hand man who he wanted to lose.
High tech millionaire Naftali Bennett became Netanyahu’s chief of staff from 2006, and was responsible for the campaign that got him elected as Likud leader. But the two didn’t see eye to eye, and in 2008 Bennett left. Bibi was so keen for him not to be elected that his wife Sara Netanyahu was reportedly canvassing against him.
So what is it that made Netanyahu want one of Bennett’s rival primary candidates to lead Jewish Home? It’s not a subject he’s discussed but one can suppose that it’s in large part the very same things he liked about Bennett back in 2006.
Forward columnist Philologos recently took the Israeli daily Ha’aretz to task for using the term “apartheid” in its reporting on a poll that showed most Israelis support discrimination against Arab citizens. “Apartheid” and mere discrimination are two very different things, Philologos claimed. He suggested that Ha’aretz should be censured for using such a damning epithet.
Philologos went on to define what he sees the critical difference between “apartheid” and “discrimination.” The former refers to “the systematic segregation of one people, race or group from another,” while the latter means “the systematic favoring of one people, race or group over another, such as exists in numerous countries around the world today.” And while Israel may practice regrettable discrimination against its Arab citizens, he claimed it was a “lie” to suggest that it is in any way an apartheid state.
While Philologos may be a fine linguist, his knowledge of international human rights law is sorely lacking.
Contrary to Philologos’ characterization, the term “apartheid” does not refer simply to segregation, although the term comes from a word in the South African Afrikaans language that means separate-ness or segregation. In legal terms, apartheid applies to a wide range of acts in which a dominant racial regime commits institutionalized oppression against another ethnic group.
Israelis professed great interest in the U.S. election — but evidently not enough to lose sleep over it.
The US-Israel time difference meant that by getting up just a few minutes early, Israelis could watch the moment of truth. The Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, with the support of the Jerusalem Post, offered people the chance to take advantage of this, with a breakfast election results party at its central Jerusalem offices. There was a light breakfast, a television stream, analysis from pundits, and so that the religiously observant didn¹t need to choose between polls and praying, space was set aside for the morning service.
But despite the thousands of American voters in and around Jerusalem, there were only 20 to 50 people there at any given time. There wasn¹t a minyan or quorum of ten men for the morning service.
Those who did go along got on well, without differences in party affiliation causing any tensions. The pundits provided some worthwhile insights.
Pollster Mitchell Barak, CEO of Keevoon Research spoke of the inevitable impact on the January 22 Israeli election, saying that ³part of the campaign here now will be who will be able to get along better with the American President.
With the presidential election only days away, it is time for both campaigns to pull out their strongest arguments and best presenters in order to make that final push just a little bit more effective.
For Jewish Democrats, this means getting out Ed Koch, former mayor of New York, for a warm endorsement of President Barack Obama. In a campaign video released Wednesday Koch speaks at length about Obama’s record on Israel, and then moves on to praise the president’s economic policies. To make clear at whom this ad is directed, producers of the video made sure to film Koch with a large menorah in the background.
Koch is an important figure for the Obama campaign not only because of his standing in the Jewish community. Koch is especially valuable because of his on-again, off-again endorsements of the President, which may give him credibility as a straight-shooter with some undecided voters.
An outspoken supporter of Israel, Koch has criticized Obama several times in the past four years, even as recent as last month Now, the Obama campaign can make the point that even Koch, 87, is convinced by Obama’s record on Israel.
Everyone said that here in Israel we’d see an election that is all a about Iran, and today the largest opposition party started to set that agenda.
“Netanyahu is entangling us,” Kadima’s newly-revealed election slogan claims. The Hebrew word “entangling” has the strong connotation of endangerment.
Kadima’s claim is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party, lacks restraint and is prone to obsession on the issue of Iran. “Netanyahu is busy with only one thing — bombing Iran,” declared party leader Shaul Mofaz when presenting the slogan today. “Nothing else interests him. Not the middle class, not young couples, not society — only his uncontrollable urge to bomb Iran.”
Kadima is arguing in its campaign that Netanyahu’s lack of restraint on Iran is more problematic since Likud joined forces with the avowedly rightist Yisrael Beytenu party led by Avigdor Liberman last week. Mofaz claimed that “there is no responsibility and no logic, only one obsession.”
Fear spread across Israel’s illegal immigrants from Sudan last summer. As the Forward reported, it has seemed in recent days like the Interior Ministry’s deadline was looming and they would soon be imprisoned. In August he announced plans to jail all Sudanese illegals without trial starting on October 15 and was expected to get underway any time now.
But today, it emerged that his threat had received no authorization from the government, and is therefore illegal. Today, in response to advocacy groups representing the illegals with a petition in the Jerusalem District Court, the state revealed that no official decision was taken on the arrest of Sudanese citizens in Israel.
“At this time, the Immigration Authority has yet to receive any order pertaining to the incarceration of Sudanese infiltrators,” the State Attorney wrote. “Should such a decision be made in the future it will be stated publically by the authority, 30 days before going into effect.”
So what was going on here? Did the Interior Ministry carelessly overlook the need to get authorization for his planned round up? Unlikely. At the Forward we suggested as early as June, even before Yishai’s imprisonment promise, that he was bluffing with his tough talk on illegals, making threats that he knew Israel couldn’t keep. And it would appear that for the populist value of the statements and/or to deter other illegals from coming to Israel, he made such unfulfillable threats.
One question which remains: Why didn’t others in government, some of whom where deeply unhappy about his threats as the Forward reported in June, pull the rug from under him and save Sudanese in Israel several months of panic?
With brazen defiance, just a day before he is due to meet with the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went over the Green Line and defended building there.
“United Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital, we have a full right to build in it,” he declared today in Gilo, a Jerusalem neighborhood build on land that Israel conquered in 1967.
Netanyahu has been under strong international criticism, including from Ashton, for a plan which became public last week to build 797 new homes in GIlo.
Standing not far from the site of the new homes he said: “We have built Jerusalem, we are building Jerusalem and we will continue to build Jerusalem. This is our policy and I will continue to back building in Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu was doing what the Israeli right loves the most, namely showing that he’s a strong leader who won’t be bullied from his Zionistic credentials (which are seen as synonymous with pro-settlement credentials) by even the most powerful of world leaders. And yes, if you think it has the whiff of election posturing to it you would be right. But which elections?
The final debate is over — the last one ever for Obama and for us this election cycle — and it’s time for some flash judgment.
Israel, Israel, Israel: As anyone could have predicted, Israel was mentioned a lot. As “true friend.” As “greatest ally.” I think I counted 6 mentions by the president to 3 from Romney. My favorite was Obama pointing out that “the largest military exercise with Israel in history happened this very week.” But what I could not have predicted was Obama’s extended riff aimed at the Jewish gut, or more precisely the cheek of your nana living in a retirement community in Boca Raton. He had Yad Vashem in there. He mentioned the children of Sderot. And he made sure to not give Romney any, er, daylight, to make his usual “Israel under the bus” argument. When he was done, all Romney could offer to distinguish himself was that he would try and indict Ahmadinejad for genocide incitement.
It’s good to be the chief: Obama seemed to dominate this one, and he was helped largely by the fact that, as he reminded Romney at one point, he has “actually executed foreign policy.” All of the references to real decisions he has made, to conversations with secretaries of defense, to being the commander-in-chief, were calculated to making Romney look small (aside from also happening to be true). It gave Obama an upper hand that he did not squander.
Agreed: Remarkably, Romney spent much of the debate agreeing with Obama’s foreign policy approach. Another a few minutes and he might have endorsed him! From Egypt to drones, again and again, Romney said he supported Obama’s policies. The difference he proposed to bring to the office was to have a stronger, more forceful tone in the execution. To my ears, this distinction sounded hollow. What does it mean practically to just project more toughness? Do you used more superlatives in your speeches? How does it help get things done? Obama seemed to hit a nerve when he said that it sounded like Romney wanted to follow the president’s policies, but just speak more loudly.
Etch-a-sketch a-shak’n: Another clear objective of the president tonight was to use the foreign policy conversation as another opportunity to define Romney as inconsistent. Obama did this again and again, pointing to the zig zagging policy prescriptions voiced by Romney over the course of the last year. And Romney seemed to oblige by presenting tonight yet another face. Anticipating that Obama had a claim on toughness locked down through the killing of Osama bin Laden, Romney attacked the president from…the left. At times, he sounded like John Kerry. He argued that the president hadn’t used enough soft power – improving civil society, working on girl’s education, speaking to the peaceful nature of the Muslim world. “We can’t kill ourselves out of this mess,” was Romney’s practiced line. It sounded like just another shake of the etch-a-sketch. Though it’s possible that others didn’t hear it that way.
Europe? The environment? China?: While we’re thrilled at the Forward that the Middle East and Israel got so much attention, it was disappointing to see such a limited range of subjects discussed. The environment was not seriously brought up once in all these debates and it’s quite a global issue. Or what about any part of the world that is south of the equator? Even those issues that were touched on were done so in a very perfunctory way. The moral and legal dimension of using drones was never explored, for example, once it was established that both candidates agree that they are good policy. The predictability of the questions helped contribute to the staleness of all the debates, I thought, whether the moderator was forceeful or not. The heat instead came from the two men pushing each other and their seeming visceral dislike for one another. Thankfully the debate format gave the space for these fisticuffs to occur.
Thanks for indulging my quick take. If you’d like, participate in our own snap poll on the question of Israel and Iran.
And that’s where I draw my red line, folks!
This late in the campaign, everything is about swing states – and the foreign policy debate was largely about Florida, where moderate Jews could well decide who gets the state’s 29 electoral votes.
On those grounds, on the basis of issues important to Florida Jews, President Obama won this debate, but in a bizarre, looking-glass sort of way in which the candidates seemingly exchanged personalities. Mitt Romney sounded like Obama: reasonable, measured, and knowledgeable about foreign policy. Barack Obama sounded like Romney: making strong rhetorical points with little attention to detail.
On Israel, for example, it was Obama who struck first, citing his support of the Iron Dome defense system, and using the phrase “stand with Israel” numerous times. Romney, meanwhile, sounded like a Democrat: arguing for peace talks with the Palestinians, and a measured approach to Iran.
So too on the emotional issues likely to resonate with the bubbes and zaydes of Palm Beach County. Could anyone have predicted that President Obama would invoke the holocaust in his discussion of the State of Israel? And yet that’s what he did, noting that on his trip to Israel, he visited Yad Vashem (the holocaust memorial, he explained to the non-Jewish voters who happened to be watching the debate too), whereas Romney went to fundraisers.
There’s a Silverman involved in the latest pro-Obama ad, but it’s not the one you’re thinking (or hoping) it is.
Sarah Silverman’s sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, who lives in Israel, co-produced “Israelis on Obama.” The piece features a number of Israeli talking heads (mainly defense officials, political scientists, and intellectuals) praising Obama’s financing of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, and his sanctions policy against Iran.
Schlep Labs (also known as the Jewish Council for Education Research, put it out as a quickie response to Mitt Romney’s accusing Obama of not backing Israel strongly enough in Tuesday night’s presidential debate.
We’ll admit we’re a bit disappointed — not necessarily by the video’s message, but by the lack of production values as compared to the PAC’s previous ads. I guess we’ve been spoiled by all that free exposure to Silverman’s raunchy humor and Adam Mansbach’s clever writing.
Stav Shaffir is the first, but perhaps not the last, of the leaders of Israel’s social protest movement to enter politics. Shaffir, a 27-year-old journalist, is vying for a spot on the Labor Party’s list for the upcoming January 22 elections.
In a video that friends helped her produce, Shaffir, recognizable to many by her long, bright red hair, legitimates the frustration of so many Israeli citizens that the summer 2011 protests failed to make an appreciable difference. But she also says that the next step is to effect change through the political process.
“Many of us have given up on politics,” she said. “But to give up on politics is to give up on our future.” She goes on to say, “This is our time. This is the time for work” — making a catchy pun by using avodah, the Hebrew word for work, but also the Hebrew name for the Labor party.
Republican Jewish mega-donor Sheldon Adelson writes that Barack Obama can’t be trusted on Israel in a opinion piece posted today.
The gambling billionaire has committed tens of millions of dollars to backing Republicans this election cycle, giving millions to a pro-Romney super PAC.
In his op-ed, Adelson hit a litany of Republican talking points new and old in portraying Obama as a danger to Israel.
“[W]e need to take seriously the question: What are his second term plans when he no longer needs the Jewish vote?” Adelson wrote.
Adelson cites the November 2011 “open mic” incident in which Obama and French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy complained together about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also notes Obama’s friendships with leftist and Palestinian professors.
“Is Obama’s campaign rhetoric in support of Israel only creating “space” till after the election?” Adelson wrote. “These questions cause genuine worry in Israel.”
Adelson’s piece appared in JNS, the startup Jewish newswire that distributes content from Israel Hayom, the Israeli paper Adelson owns.
An opinion piece in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz argued yesterday that Israel Hayom is “actively campaigning for Romney’s election.”
In an attempt to pressure African asylum seekers to leave Israel, Interior Minister Eli Yishai has announced that 15,000 immigrants from Sudan will be rounded up and detained if they do not “voluntarily” leave the country by October 15.
Not sure what’s less democratic here: an inhumane plan to indefinitely detain 15,000 people (and eventually many thousands more) or the fact that a cabinet minister thinks he can make executive decisions about entire populations of people in Israel.
Seven Israeli non-governmental organizations have filed two petitions to the Jerusalem District Court last week in response to the announcement. The first is against the October 15 detention plan. It’s been filed against the Ministers of Interior and Defense and the legal counsel of the Israeli government.
The second petition asks to rescind the Anti-Infiltration Law, which allows for the indefinite detention of all non-Jews who enter Israel asking for asylum for three or more years without due process. It has been filed against the Knesset, the Ministers of Defense and Interior, and the legal counsel of the Israeli government by the seven NGOs as well as five Eritrean asylum seekers.
Yishai’s detention plan is problematic because it is not an official government decision. No cabinet decision has been made concerning the plan. Israeli and diaspora advocates for immigrants have been asking the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice to reject the plan.
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