In the last week, press reports have suggested that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to give a key speech on the peace process in the next few months, with many flagging up his planned visit to the US in May. Claims of an imminent bold proposal have been met with a good deal of scepticism, from both Palestinians and Netanyahu’s domestic political opponents. Analysts have described the talk of a new plan as a “trial balloon” and a “public relations exercise aimed first and foremost at Washington”.
Netanyahu’s new plan, should it materialise, is rumoured to be based on the “the establishment of a Palestinian state within temporary borders” as part of an “interim peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority”. Other reports have been even vaguer, claiming that Netanyahu is proposing “a phased approach to peacemaking”, but leaving it open if this includes temporary borders.
Remember the Islamophobic cartoons published by the neo-con Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten? The controversy rumbled on from 2005 into 2006, and involved angry demonstrations, embassy-burnings (in countries where you can’t look at an embassy without a government permit), deaths, boycotts, and campaigns of support to counteract the boycotts. Although I found the cartoons deeply offensive, and not in the least related to free speech or constructive debate, I was more upset by the responses of some Muslims.
The cartoons were a media provocation, and should have been combatted through intelligent use of the media. The outpouring of Muslim anger at a West which insulted Muslims after slaughtering them was certainly understandable, but was aimed at the wrong target. I lived in Oman at the time, where the state-appointed Mufti as well as editorials in the state-controlled press encouraged people to boycott Danish goods. The supermarkets put up signs announcing that they no longer stocked Danish goods (although an English friend assured me that Danish bacon was still on sale in the foreigners-only pork room of one supermarket). Meanwhile the shelves groaned under American products, and Oman continued to stock British and American military bases. American planes were incinerating Iraqi Muslims in their mosques at the time. The cartoon fuss seemed very much to be an organised distraction from more serious issues.
Perhaps dismayed by the cabinet’s decision to reject Lieberman’s ‘loyalty oath’ proposal, Jewish communities in the central Galilee are taking matters into their own hands. Call it grassroots fascism. Jonathan Cook reports:
A community in northern Israel has changed its bylaws to demand that new residents pledge support for “Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land” in a thinly-veiled attempt to block Arab applicants from gaining admission.
Critics are calling the bylaw, adopted by Manof, home to 170 Jewish families in the Galilee, a local “loyalty oath” similar to a national scheme recently proposed by the far-right party of the government minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Other Jewish communities in the central Galilee — falling under the umbrella of a regional council known as Misgav — are preparing similar bylaws in response to a court petition filed by an Arab couple hoping to build a home in Misgav.
It was unthinkable, when I was based as a correspondent in Jerusalem two decades ago, that an Israeli politician who openly advocated ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territory, as well as forcing Arabs in Israel to take loyalty oaths or be forcibly relocated to the West Bank, could sit on the Cabinet. The racist tirades of Jewish proto-fascists like Meir Kahane stood outside the law, were vigorously condemned by most Israelis and were prosecuted accordingly. Kahane’s repugnant Kach Party, labeled by the United States, Canada and the European Union as a terrorist organization, was outlawed by the Israeli government in 1988 for inciting racism. Continue reading “Israel’s Racist in Chief”
Uri Avnery opines that “on the first day of the new Israeli government, the fog cleared: it’s a Lieberman government. ”
The day started with a celebration at the president’s office. All the members of this bloated government – 30 ministers and eight deputy ministers – were dressed up in their best finery and posed for a group photo. Binyamin Netanyahu read an uninspired speech, which included the worn-out clichés that are necessary to set the world at ease: the government is committed to peace, it will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, blah, blah, blah.
Rabbi Meir Kahane can rest in peace: His doctrine has won. Twenty years after his Knesset list was disqualified and 18 years after he was murdered, Kahanism has become legitimate in public discourse. If there is something that typifies Israel’s current murky, hollow election campaign, which ends the day after tomorrow, it is the transformation of racism and nationalism into accepted values. Continue reading “Kahane won”