Monthly Archives: June 2010

Joint Israeli-Palestinian workshop on environmentally-friendly crop protection

(Looking beyond the standard lapse into misozoonistic language – ‘pests’ – of this bulletin from the Peres Center for Peace to appreciate the direction it points in:)

Farmer holding birdFifty Palestinian and Israeli Farmers Gather for First Workshop to Find Environmentally Friendly Solutions to Controlling Rodents in Open Field Crops

Palestinian farmers spent two days in Israel together with Israeli farmers at a workshop for the “Pest Management: Palestinian-Israeli-Jordanian Cooperation for Environmentally Friendly Pest Management” project. Through working together to find solutions to agricultural problems that transcend borders, Palestinian and Israeli famers are better equipped to implement industry-best and ‘green’ methods of pest control.

The Palestinian farmers spent the night in Beit Shean after attending an introductory welcome dinner. The Israeli farmers joined the group the following morning beginning with a demonstration on bird ringing (a procedure of placing an identification ring on the bird which weighs and examines its physical details). The participants then went on a tour to see Barn Owl and Kestrel nests, where they learned about the life-cycles of the birds. They learnt of the importance of these birds of prey as biological solutions to pests such as rodents – an environmentally friendly, more economical alternative to poisonous bait that is currently used, which pollutes the soil and is harmful to the ecosystem and to other birds.

The participants showed much interest and enthusiasm in the tour, which for some, was their first time seeing these birds from such a short distance. The day continued with lectures at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu on identifying locations for placement of owl nests, requirements of nests including the different requirements for Kestrel and Barn Owls, as well as techniques for monitoring rodents using humanitarian traps. The farmers discussed different issues related to the Barn Owl – which in Arab culture is believed to bring bad luck. By the end of the workshop farmers showed willingness to implement the techniques they had learnt as a substitute for laying poisoned bait, which is the most commonly implemented method of pest control.

A Palestinian participant commented: “I found the workshop very useful and interesting, particularly realizing that the Barn Owl can be a solution for pest control that is good for the ecosystem. The lectures were of a very high level, and I will definitely recommend the use of Barn Owl in the future.”

This workshop series is a joint partnership between the Peres Centre for Peace, the Amman Center for Peace and Development and a Palestinian partner and Tel Aviv University, funded by the European Union.

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Naomi Chazan: “Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul”

This is a guest post by Kubbeh, cross-posted on Engage.

Leading Israeli academic, peace activist and president of the New Israel Fund (NIF), Naomi Chazan, was in the UK earlier this month, talking to the Jewish community about her hopes and fears for Israel’s democracy. We’ve all heard the statement that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It may not be perfect (where is?), but it is true. The citizens of Egypt, Jordan, Gaza, Syria, Iran and elsewhere would all benefit from a good dose of democracy – particularly women, Christians, gay men and women, journalists and political dissidents.

Speaking earlier this month to a capacity crowd at Moishe House, a post-denominational Jewish community in west London, Chazan outlined the challenges to Israel’s democracy and what her organisation is doing about it. These reached a peak earlier this year with a well-funded smear campaign against NIF by right-wing pressure group, Im Tirtzu, which attempted to vilify Chazan and NIF as enemies of the state.

“Is there a problem [with Israel’s democracy]? Absolutely yes. Is there a hope? Equally so, she said.

For Chazan, democracy is fundamental to the existence and success of Israel as a Jewish state:

“Israel’s democracy is Israel’s soul. Without Israel’s democracy, there will be no Israel. That is because Israel’s raison d’etre, as embodied in its Declaration of Independence, will no longer exist. The source of Israel’s strength is its democracy.”

Chazan explained how the NIF has been “thrust to the centre” of guarding Israel’s democracy, a role which she sees as crucial to upholding the Zionist dream embodied by the state’s founding fathers: “Jews have the right to self-determination in two senses,” she said. “Collective self-determination, in terms of the right to create a state for the Jews; and individual self-determination, through creating a society which grants individual liberties and social justice to all of its citizens regardless of race, religion or gender.”

She also took a swipe at anti-Zionists and boycotters, many of whom she regularly meets in academic circles, who want to see Israel relegated to the dustbin of history:“I have nothing in common with people who tell me that I have no right to exist. We need to distinguish between the deniers and deligitimisers – and dissenters.”

At a time when Israel is more politically isolated and vilified than ever before and the Islamist extremists of Hamas and Hezbollah continue to stockpile weapons to use against Israeli civilians, the work of peace and civil rights movements like NIF is more vital than ever. Israelis who want to walk the path of moderation have never had it so tough. In Chazan’s words, they are “stuck between those who don’t want to hear it and those who don’t want them to exist.” If, like me, you feel confused and frustrated about how to respond to recent events in the Middle East, then supporting the New Israel Fund is a good place to start.

Eve Garrard on Israel, human decency and common humanity

On Normblog, Eve Garrard considers Israel, human decency and common humanity.

“Fintan O’Toole thinks that Israel regards itself as ‘exempt from the demands of common humanity‘ (via Z Word Blog). Iain Banks thinks that ‘simple human decency‘ means nothing to Israel (see this normblog post).

Two well-known writers, very anxious to tell the world that Israel lacks humanity. Israel’s not like the rest of us, the rest of the human family. Compared to other nations, it’s inhuman. It doesn’t recognize what everyone else knows about, the simple requirements of being decently human. It ought to recognize these things, it isn’t hard to do so, since they’re so simple; and most other people do, since they’re part of common humanity.

Leave aside the sinister provenance of that claim, and let’s just consider it on its own.”

Read on for why the claims, made uniquely and with great passion about Israel, are indeed sinister.

A proposal to end the blockade of Gaza

Bob rounds up sane comment on the Gaza flotilla disaster, noting how depressing the response of the pro-Hamas contingent has been, and continues with a description of the far right English Defence League, observing “the squeeze on a genuinely decent and thoroughly anti-racist left, between the phobic Harryists and the pro-Hamas left”. Greens are badly affected by that squeeze.

After aiming enthusiastic invective at Israel for a few days, some commentators remembered to use the opportunity to call for an end to the blockade of Gaza. Only a very inept campaigner for the end of the Gaza blockade (and there’s a reason it has endured for so long) would fail to demonstrate their similar concern for the safety of Israeli citizens by proposing an alternative to end Hamas’ missiling of southern Israel, preparations for war, and hostage-taking.

Via Norm, Yaacov Lozowick makes a proposal. Nick Cohen does too.

Update: and Kellie.