Category Archives: israel

Israeli elections 2013


Israeli elections are taking place on 22nd January. Likud has merged with the further-right nationalist party Israel Beteinu to form Likud Beteinu, a party with a solid support base, if dwindling chances. Likud, who used to be firmly on the right of Israeli politics, have become much more like the centre ground. With all the new alignments and parties there is a lot of confusion – except for the religious right which is looking dangerously stable.

OneVoice Israel has produced an election campaign video, below. Unlike the several featuring Israeli soldiers (can you imagine how troubled this country would have to become before Farage and Cameron started using squad imagery to win elections?) it hasn’t been banned. The urgency of its message is striking – if the far right come to power, the EU and US will withdraw their moral and material support from Israel. The consequences are obvious and left unsaid: Israel will be impotent to withstand the religious and nationalist menaces in the region. OneVoice isn’t an organisation given to provocations – it must feel that desperate times call for desperate measures.

It’s helpful for moderate Israelis to be able to predict a loss of goodwill from concerned international supporters. In these affairs supporters have more influence than detractors.

Unfortunately the Green Party, which has been treating Israel as an untouchable state for years, won’t be making any contribution to this election campaign in this country and region which they and many others – on paper at least – hold crucial to world peace. The Green Party won’t be of help to Israeli moderates – not even its comrades Yeruka, the Israeli Greens. In fact, the Green Party turns its back and officially boycotts Israel as if Israelis were politically alike.

The Green politicians who understand these things aren’t able to prevent the Greens who don’t from indulging their disturbing prejudices as Party policy. Along with the worry and concern it’s caused British Jews, it’s a badge of Green politics.

And during the period of the Green Party boycott campaign against Israel, what has happened with Israeli public opinion? Israeli public opinion has moved toward the political right – Bob From Brockley points to some differing commentary on this. And although it’s probably far-fetched to claim that Green policy has any effect on Israeli policy, it’s important to note and learn from this Green mistake.

Here’s OneVoice’s Israel’s election video. It makes me sad but I think this negative, defencist, scare campaigning will work – because it’s correctly to the point.

Not everything in Israel is complicated

On BBC3 tonight Monday 14th November 9-10pm and available for 7 days is Mixed Up in the Middle East in which Reya al-Salahi travels to Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Her mother is Jewish, her father is Muslim, and the longer she spends in the region the more complicated the inequality, fear, humiliation, violence and retaliation she observes become. She returns to Oxford with a sense of injustice and a new humility about finding a solution to the conflict.

Much less complicated, in Israel the cabinet continues to turn its back on human rights. We have a National Unity Party (nationalist) MK proposing a bill to force sports team members representing Israel to sing a national anthem containing Jewish-specific lyrics, on pain of expulsion (if that one passed, which is unlikely, the correct response would be for all team members to refuse to sing). Likud (right wing) and Yisrael Beteinu (nationalist) MKs have proposed bills to limit and tax donations to NGOs which seek to influence Israeli policy*. Supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many other senior ministers, these proposals were approved by Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation. If they wanted to minimise “outside interference” in “internal affairs” (the occupation, of course, is not an internal affair) from “foreign” donors (think EU and US) they have sorely misjudged the situation and various world leaders are now making Netanyahu sweat.

There is a fight against the bills from within Likud, 5 ministers leading an appeal. The New Israel Fund, which is organising a letter-writing campaign to Netanyahu, writes in an email that Knesset Speaker Reuvin Rivlin (Likud)  said “The new Likud is not committed to the ethics of liberty, to the values of Jabotinsky and of Begin.”  Minister Benny Begin (Likud) said “Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Uzbekistan – these are countries that have similar laws to this one … What kind of society are we living in?” British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould has raised objections to the effect that the UK funds many NGOs in many countries without being against their governments.

Rachel Liel, Chief Exec of the New Israel Fund, writes:

“Defending the principles of democracy – equality for all citizens before the law, the rule of law over the will of the majority – this is not easy anywhere. Because of history, geography, demography and “the situation,” it may be harder in Israel than in any other democratic country. And this is precisely why these ill winds blowing through the halls of power pose such a threat, and why this society must be mobilized to resist them – because this country is unusually vulnerable to their force.”

In other news, a secular yeshiva (educational institution focusing on Jewish religious texts) has opened in Jerusalem. Its founders “want to offer courses that study Judaism within a pluralistic environment” and perceive “a strong connection between developing a pluralistic Jewish identity and the ongoing struggle to end the Orthodox rabbinical monopoly on Jewish lifecycle events”.

*These are proposals that anybody who has ever been troubled by the idea of an “Israel lobby” can wholeheartedly endorse – no?

Show your support for progressive Israelis

The religious right is active in the Middle East, and Israel is no different. Here is Israeli President Shimon Peres on the shame the most recent mosque attack brings on Israel. It is far from only Muslims on the receiving end of the rage of the most extreme sections of Israeli society. Here is a piece from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on 7th October on Ultra-Orthodox attacks on a Modern Orthodox girl’s school, also covered by the JTA. Israeli army posts have also been targeted by militant settlers.

On the mosque attacks, the New Israel Fund emails supporters:

Something awful happened in Israel on Monday. Unknown assailants torched a mosque in the Galilee village of Tuba-Zangariya. Police report that the mosque was seriously damaged. Korans were burned.

Hebrew graffiti scrawled on the mosque suggests that Jewish extremists perpetrated the arson as part of an orchestrated campaign to deter the Israeli government from cracking down on radical settlers. Mosques in the West Bank, and even Israeli military compounds, have suffered similar attacks in recent months.

We’re not going to let extremists tear Israeli society apart.

Here’s a taste of how NIF is reacting:

Tomorrow, Banish the Darkness — an NIF-funded coalition — is organizing a visit to Tuba-Zangariya to meet with the residents and with the imam of the mosque. Rabbis from across Israel, representatives of Jewish communities in the Galilee, and other dignitaries will take part. 19 organizations will be represented.

The message is simple: Burning a mosque is wrong. It’s not Jewish. It’s especially horrible that it happened during the Ten Days of Repentance. We should be using this time to reflect and to improve the world, not to sow division or to desecrate our neighbors’ holy places.

Thankfully, we’re not alone. Some of these messages have already been echoed by some of Israel’s most prominent figures, including President Peres who made the effort to go to Tuba-Zangariya.

NIF is also mobilizing globally to stand with those in Israel who are building a more peaceful future. Earlier today, we put out a call for rabbis everywhere to sign this statement condemning the violence and praising those Israelis who are standing up to racism.

I need your help with this campaign. Take a moment, right now, to ask your rabbi — or a rabbi who works in your community — to sign this statement. You can just forward them this note.

Especially now — in the midst of the High Holidays — we need hundreds of rabbis to sign on. We must make clear that friends of Israel worldwide are determined to hold onto the vision of Israel enshrined in its Declaration of Independence: “Israel will… safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions.”

NIF is not just responding to the current crisis. We’re working day-in and day-out to combat racism and to build a strong Israeli society. After the media has packed up and gone home — after everybody has forgotten about the small Galilee village of Tuba-Zangariya — NIF will be there, just as we have been for years.

You and I know that for Jews and Arabs to live in partnership, all Israelis need to feel a sense of ownership for their society.

That’s why Shatil — NIF’s action arm — is pioneering an initiative called “Shared Society.” We’re  bringing together Israelis of different stripes — Arab, Jewish, Ethiopian, Russian, Mizrachi (to name a few) — to engage in meaningful dialogue and to plan joint activities.  Israel shouldn’t just be a place where these communities get by living side-by-side. Israel should be a place where these communities thrive, where they work in concert as part of a truly shared nation.

It’s about relationships. It’s about trust. It’s about forging partnerships.

That’s the type of work that NIF does. Every. Single. Day.

It’s vital work. I’m proud to be a part of it. And I’m proud to have you as our partner.

Daniel Sokatch
CEO, New Israel Fund

Israeli secularists are in urgent need of support.

But the Green Party has tied its own hands, excluding Israeli extremists and progressives alike by participating in the draconian Israel boycott campaign, and sustaining its own harmful internal and external discourse in which Israel is spoken and written of as if its struggling progressives didn’t exist.

One Voice on a negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Received by email.


Dear supporter,

The Palestinian plan to request UN recognition of its statehood has created intense controversy and challenged OneVoice. How should we position ourselves on the UN initiative? How could we place it in a broader perspective? And most importantly, how could we play a positive role in shaping the aftermath?

OneVoice always strives to bring ordinary citizens into a constructive conversation about the conflict and to mobilize them for action. During this tense period, we continue to work to reduce the frustration and pessimism on both sides and channel people’s energy into nonviolent actions that advocate for a two-state solution – the only stable, viable, and peaceful future for the beleaguered people of Israel and Palestine. No matter how the UN initiative is resolved, that will remain our course.

Only good faith negotiations will produce a mutually acceptable, comprehensive and permanent two-state solution – of that we remain certain. President Mahmoud Abbas agrees, having said last week, “Our first, second and third priority is negotiations. There is no other way to solve this. No matter what happens at the United Nations, we have to return to negotiations.” He also added, “We don’t want to isolate Israel but to live with it in peace and security. We don’t want to delegitimize Israel. We want to legitimize ourselves.”

OneVoice Palestine (OVP) launched its campaign to support the Palestinian bid with the primary intent to mobilize thousands of Palestinians behind the two-state solution. Their activities will lay the basis for nonviolent and constructive responses in the aftermath of the vote. OneVoice Israel (OVI) will soon begin their own campaign to keep the two-state solution alive, spotlighting the potential benefits for Israel of recognizing a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with all its neighbors.

Our Israeli activists are urging their leadership to take positive actions that can turn the UN initiative into a win-win for both sides and rekindle negotiations. Prominent members of Israel’s political and security elite, including OneVoice Israel board members, believe that a resolution that addresses issues of concern to Israel and paves the way for renewed negotiations would preserve the country’s interests and the two-state solution.

With our Israeli and Palestinian teams, we reached an unambiguous conclusion: Bringing the vision of a Palestinian state closer to realization is vital to counter absolutist agendas. We have watched with alarm the growing Palestinian disillusionment with the two-state solution, which threatens a peaceful and stable future for Israelis and Palestinians. We have seen growing frustration on both sides at the lack of tangible progress, all set against the backdrop of worrying developments that endanger the security of the entire region.

OneVoice continues to advocate for a negotiated resolution to the conflict, and we hope this Palestinian initiative can produce positive developments that are far superior to stagnation and prevent a steep deterioration into violence and extremism.

Already, OneVoice Palestine’s campaign shows encouraging results. Thousands have visited OVP’s Web site and read our common message that supports a negotiated two-state solution. Nearly 60% of them agreed that the Palestinian bid will help realize this goal. We will send updates of our activities and their impact over the coming weeks and welcome your questions and reflections. Thank you for your continued support.


Howard J. Sumka

OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that aims to amplify the voice of Israeli and Palestinian moderates, empowering them to seize back the agenda for conflict resolution and demand that their leaders achieve a two-state solution. For the latest updates, join us at

Please consider signing this e-petition, asking the British government to recognize Palestine as a state and support its admission to the UN in September, as a step to reviving direct negotiations.

Dafni Leef’s speech to Israelis in State Square

Yesterday over 400,000 Israelis massed in squares around the country, the most populous of Israel’s protests to date.

Dafni Leef founded the tent camp which began Israel’s summer of protest. Here is her speech to the Israelis massed at Tel Aviv’s State Square , translated in a hurry but very eloquently by Robbie Gringas. From it,

“We have begun a new discourse, a discourse of hope, of sharing, of solidarity and responsibility. I want to ask the Prime Minister, to ask all the politicians: Look at what happened here, at what is happening here – is this what you want to defeat? Is this something you are able to defeat? You are the People’s representatives. Listen to the People. This protest, that gave so much hope to many people – do you want to break this hope? Is that what you want? To melt down the hope? You will never succeed!

And after we jumped all the hurdles and all the spin didn’t succeed, what did they have left? To attack me. This thing started with one person who did something. I set up my tent on Rothschild out of a personal feeling of to be or not to be. A person very close to my heart, Alex, put an end to his life. He was a poet. He wrote that even if you have a heart of gold, you will not manage to change the world. Two months before all this started up, he couldn’t be here any longer, and he chose not to be.

How can a person like that, a dreamer and an idealist, feel that he no longer has a place in this world? If he has no place in this world then I suppose I have no place here either. And my heart hurt. My heart was broken. What kind of a world is it that has no room for dreamers, idealists, poets? What kind of world cuts them out? A world of poverty. Because all of us are dreamers and we all have the right to dream. To be poor isn’t only not managing to make it to the end of the financial month or to be homeless. To be poor is to be troubled by these things, fundamentally, to such an extent that you are not able to dream, to think, to learn, to hug your children.

So I started this thing. But just because I started it doesn’t mean it’s mine only. It’s not just my story, it’s the story of many people who stood up and started walking, stood up and began to do something. We all decided to be. We decided to be here. Here we are.”

Read it all.

HT Ma’ayan

Wadi Fukin, a valley of hope and dispair

At Palestine Note, Joshka Wessels writes:

“Fahmi Manasra walks to the spring he remembers from his childhood. He was a young boy when he moved from Dheisheh refugee camp to the paradise of Wadi Fukin some 30 years ago. At the time, he felt like he was in heaven.  He had wished to share this same feeling with his children but the spring is empty. Today, the spring and its reservoir are completely dried up. Nothing is left of the spring. Fahmi’s paradise is lost. The cause ? Construction of an expanding illegal Israeli settlement that is taking up land, drying up the springs and contaminating the soil.”

“During the years after the second intifada, it became clear that the increased settlement construction was severely damaging the environment.  This alarmed both the Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists to take action. The environmental NGO “Friends of the Earth Middle East”, a unique organization with offices in Tel Aviv, Bethlehem and Amman, helped out with scientific research. The studies showed the large scale environmental impact by settlement activities.

A big shock came when people from Tsur Hadassah and Wadi Fukin were presented with the proposed plans for the Israeli separation wall. The building plans proposed a route that will cut the valley in two parts and destroy the environment even further. The village will become a prison, encircled by the wall and the settlement of Bitar Illit.

Alarmed by the developments, the Israeli activists and Palestinian farmers filed a case at the Israeli courts. They approached Israeli human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard, who also represents the Rachel Corrie case. Based on environmental grounds, they argued that the wall should not be build and settlement activity should stop. The process was lengthy. It included a petition in Tsur Hadassah and many rejections of the case. The group did not give up and went to the High Court and finally last year managed to get some positive verdict. The building of the Wall has now been frozen based on environmental grounds. How long this freeze will last is unclear. But the fact that they were successful in stopping the Wall gives some little hope.”

Read it all.

Peter Tatchell responds to an accusation of “stirring up antisemitic rhetoric”

Peter has released a statement [pdf format] opposing the organization of a LGBTI conference in Israel.

The statement is long and convoluted and should be read in full. It includes some valid points and others which need to be discussed, but this is beyond the point of this post.

The conclusion, title, and only action point of the statement is simple and clear: “No LGBTI conference in Israel”, i.e. Peter effectively calls for the boycott of events organized by Israeli civil society HR organizations.

The JC reports that Jack Gilbert, the former president of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews, said: “These statements are deeply flawed and are bound to stir up antisemitic rhetoric.” See the full quote in the JC article where Jack Gilbert argues this opinion.

Peter Tatchell response should also be read in full in the same article. What is remarkable about this response is that it totally ignores the actual points made by Jack Gilbert. Instead, Peter praises his record of opposing antisemitism (which is not questioned) and notes that he has criticised other governments of the region in the same statement (which is true but irrelevant in this specific instance).

Peter argues that organizing a LGBTI conference in Israel could stirr up homophobia, yet does not see why people are concerned that boycotting events organised by Israeli civil society organizations in Israel may stirr up antisemitism.

Update 1 (correction): Islamophobia has been replaced by homophobia in the last sentence; see comment by Alasdair below.

Update 2: The third and last sentences have been slightly modified to address concerns express by Alasdair that I was not fair to Peter (see my comment at 2011/06/27 at 8:02 pm)