band annie's Weblog

I have a parallel blog in French at


June 2010

7,300 Palestinians in Israeli jails

Israeli soldiers take a young boy into custody by force

Tue, 29 Jun 2010 02:40:50 GMT

7,300 Palestinians, including 17 legislators and two former ministers, are currently detained in about 20 Israeli prisons, a report says.

Hundreds of them have never been charged or put on trial.

Among the detained are 33 women, nearly 300 children, 296 administrative detainees, and dozens of political leaders, Palestinian researcher Abdul Nasser Farawna said in a report issued on Monday.

Farawana, who specializes in detainee affairs, said that 1,500 of them are ill and need urgent medical attention and dozens need surgeries and hospitalization, but no action has been taken by the Israeli authorities.

The detainees are held in about twenty prisons and detention and interrogation centers, mainly in Ramon, Shatta, Galboa, Asqalan, Hadarim, Al-Damoun, Be’er Sheva, Ofer, Majoddo, and the Negev detention camp, he added.

He went on to say that 83 percent of the detainees are from the West Bank, 10.6 percent are from Gaza, while the rest are Arab residents of Israel and other Arab nationals.

Jail terms range from 10 years to life sentences, Farawna, who is also a former detainee, explained.

Political figures like Nael al-Barghouthi, Fakhri al-Barghouthi, and Akram Mansour have been in prison for over 30 years.

Farawna has asked human rights groups and other similar institutions to bring this issue to light and is seeking help to obtain their release.

He added that the only Israeli prisoner of war, Gilad Shalit, who is held in Gaza, should not be released until all Palestinian detainees are released.


Condemnation over Gaza attack

BRISTOL City Council has voted to condemn Israel for the Gaza convoy incident that saw nine human rights activists killed.

Members called for the Government to “hold Israel to account for this illegal action” and to impose sanctions on the country until it “complies with international law and ceases perpetrating human rights abuses”.

Two Bristol men were aboard the Freedom Flotilla of ships when the Israeli military opened fire on May 31. One of them, Cliff Hanley, spoke in support of the motion before last night’s council debate.

He was joined by a number of pro-Palestinian protesters outside the council chamber, who want a boycott of all Israeli goods and companies in Bristol.

Mr Hanley said: “We question the morality of the council having money invested in Israeli banks or investment funds where it gains interest derived in any way over 60 years of ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine, the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the brutal starvation and slaughter of the people in Gaza.”

Proposing the motion, Lib Dem councillor John Kiely (Easton) compared life in Gaza to Bristol during the Blitz.

The Conservatives put forward an alternative motion, with what they described as “less emotive language” and calling for Israel to “exercise restraint”.

The amendment failed and while the Conservatives voted against the Lib Dem motion, the majority of the council approved it.


The attack on the Gaza relief flotilla jeopardizes Israel itself


By John J. Mearsheimer

Israel’s botched raid against the Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla on May 31 is the latest sign that Israel is on a disastrous course that it seems incapable of reversing. The attack also highlights the extent to which Israel has become a strategic liability for the United States. This situation is likely to get worse over time, which will cause major problems for Americans who have a deep attachment to the Jewish state.

The bungled assault on the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the flotilla, shows once again that Israel is addicted to using military force yet unable to do so effectively. One would think that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would improve over time from all the practice. Instead, it has become the gang that cannot shoot straight.

The IDF last scored a clear-cut victory in the Six Day War in 1967; the record since then is a litany of unsuccessful campaigns. The War of Attrition (1969-70) was at best a draw, and Israel fell victim to one of the great surprise attacks in military history in the October War of 1973. In 1982, the IDF invaded Lebanon and ended up in a protracted and bloody fight with Hezbollah. Eighteen years later, Israel conceded defeat and pulled out of the Lebanese quagmire. Israel tried to quell the First Intifada by force in the late 1980s, with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin telling his troops to break the bones of the Palestinian demonstrators. But that strategy failed and Israel was forced to join the Oslo Peace Process instead, which was another failed endeavor.

read on

Bloggers unite for Gaza

July 09, 2010

On 9 July, we are urging bloggers to make a simple promise: “Gaza, We Will Not Forget You”.

Humanitarian aid cannot address the hardship faced by Gaza’s 1.5 million people. The only sustainable solution is to lift the closure. The blockade imposed on Gaza is about to enter its fourth year, thwarting any real chance of economic development. As Gazans endure unemployment, poverty and warfare, the quality of their health care has reached an all-time low.

Israel’s raid on the Gaza aid flotilla brought the issue to international attention. We must act now to put an end to the humanitarian crisis once and for all.

On 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion condemning Israel’s infringement of the Palestinian right to self-determination and violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The ICJ explicitly affirmed the international community that the burden also falls on them not to recognise or assist the illegal situation.

This year, on 9 July 2010, remind your own government of its own obligations not to recognise or assist Israel’s violations of international law. Urge that there must be an independent and international inquiry into the attacks on the Gaza aid flotilla. And make a simple promise: “Gaza, We Will Not Forget You.”

Essay of the week: What drives Israel?

Hearld Scotland

By Ilan Pappe
Published on 6 Jun 2010

Probably the most bewildering aspect of the Gaza flotilla affair has been the righteous indignation expressed by the Israeli government and

The nature of this response is not being fully reported in the UK
press, but it includes official parades celebrating the heroism of the
commandos who stormed the ship and demonstrations by schoolchildren
giving their unequivocal support for the government against the new
wave of anti-Semitism.

As someone who was born in Israel and went enthusiastically through
the socialisation and indoctrination process until my mid-20s, this
reaction is all too familiar. Understanding the root of this furious
defensiveness is key to comprehending the principal obstacle for peace
in Israel and Palestine. One can best define this barrier as the
official and popular Jewish Israeli perception of the political and
cultural reality around them.

A number of factors explain this phenomenon, but three are outstanding
and they are interconnected. They form the mental infrastructure on
which life in Israel as a Jewish Zionist individual is based, and one
from which it is almost impossible to depart – as I know too well from
personal experience.

The first and most important assumption is that what used to be
historical Palestine is by sacred and irrefutable right the political,
cultural and religious possession of the Jewish people represented by
the Zionist movement and later the state of Israel.
Most of the Israelis, politicians and citizens alike, understand that
this right can’t be fully realised.

But although successive
governments were pragmatic enough to accept the need to enter peace
negotiations and strive for some sort of territorial compromise, the
dream has not been forsaken. Far more important is the conception and
representation of any pragmatic policy as an act of ultimate and
unprecedented international generosity.

Any Palestinian, or for that matter international, dissatisfaction
with every deal offered by Israel since 1948, has therefore been seen
as insulting ingratitude in the face of an accommodating and
enlightened policy of the “only democracy in the Middle East”. Now,
imagine that the dissatisfaction is translated into an actual, and
sometimes violent, struggle and you begin to understand the righteous
fury. As schoolchildren, during military service and later as adult
Israeli citizens, the only explanation we received for Arab or
Palestinian responses was that our civilised behaviour was being met
by barbarism and antagonism of the worst kind.

According to the hegemonic narrative in Israel there are two malicious
forces at work. The first is the old familiar anti-Semitic impulse of
the world at large, an infectious bug that supposedly affects everyone
who comes into contact with Jews. According to this narrative, the
modern and civilised Jews were rejected by the Palestinians simply
because they were Jews; not for instance because they stole land and
water up to 1948, expelled half of Palestine’s population in 1948 and
imposed a brutal occupation on the West Bank, and lately an inhuman
siege on the Gaza Strip.

This also explains why military action seems
the only resort: since the Palestinians are seen as bent on destroying
Israel through some atavistic impulse, the only conceivable way of
confronting them is through military might.

The second force is also an old-new phenomenon: an Islamic
civilisation bent on destroying the Jews as a faith and a nation.
Mainstream Israeli orientalists, supported by new conservative
academics in the United States, helped to articulate this phobia as a
scholarly truth. These fears, of course, cannot be sustained unless
they are constantly nourished and manipulated.

From this stems the second feature relevant to a better understanding
of the Israeli Jewish society. Israel is in a state of denial. Even in
2010, with all the alternative and international means of
communication and information, most of the Israeli Jews are still fed
daily by media that hides from them the realities of occupation,
stagnation or discrimination.

This is true about the ethnic cleansing
that Israel committed in 1948, which made half of Palestine’s
population refugees, destroyed half the Palestinian villages and
towns, and left 80% of their homeland in Israeli hands. And it’s
painfully clear that even before the apartheid walls and fences were
built around the occupied territories, the average Israeli did not
know, and could not care, about the 40 years of systematic abuses of
civil and human rights of millions of people under the direct and
indirect rule of their state.

Nor have they had access to honest reports about the suffering in the
Gaza Strip over the past four years. In the same way, the information
they received on the flotilla fits the image of a state attacked by
the combined forces of the old anti-Semitism and the new Islamic
Judacidal fanatics coming to destroy the state of Israel. (After all,
why would they have sent the best commando elite in the world to face
defenceless human rights activists?)

As a young historian in Israel during the 1980s, it was this denial
that first attracted my attention. As an aspiring professional scholar
I decided to study the 1948 events and what I found in the archives
sent me on a journey away from Zionism. Unconvinced by the
government’s official explanation for its assault on Lebanon in 1982
and its conduct in the first Intifada in 1987, I began to realise the
magnitude of the fabrication and manipulation. I could no longer
subscribe to an ideology which dehumanised the native Palestinians and
which propelled policies of dispossession and destruction.

The price for my intellectual dissidence was foretold: condemnation
and excommunication. In 2007 I left Israel and my job at Haifa
University for a teaching position in the United Kingdom, where views
that in Israel would be considered at best insane, and at worst as
sheer treason, are shared by almost every decent person in the
country, whether or not they have any direct connection to Israel and

That chapter in my life – too complicated to describe here – forms the
basis of my forthcoming book, Out Of The Frame, to be published this
autumn. But in brief, it involved the transformation of someone who
had been a regular and unremarkable Israeli Zionist, and it came about
because of exposure to alternative information, close relationships
with several Palestinians and post-graduate studies abroad in Britain.
My quest for an authentic history of events in the Middle East
required a personal de- militarisation of the mind.

Even now, in 2010,
Israel is in many ways a settler Prussian state: a combination of
colonialist policies with a high level of militarisation in all
aspects of life. This is the third feature of the Jewish state that
has to be understood if one wants to comprehend the Israeli response.
It is manifested in the dominance of the army over political, cultural
and economic life within Israel. Defence minister Ehud Barak was the
commanding officer of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, in a
military unit similar to the one that assaulted the flotilla. That
background was profoundly significant in terms of the state’s Zionist
response to what they and all the commando officers perceived as the
most formidable and dangerous enemy.

You probably have to be born in Israel, as I was, and go through the
whole process of socialisation and education – including serving in
the army – to grasp the power of this militarist mentality and its
dire consequences. And you need such a background to understand why
the whole premise on which the international community’s approach to
the Middle East is based, is utterly and disastrously wrong.
The international response is based on the assumption that more
forthcoming Palestinian concessions and a continued dialogue with the
Israeli political elite will produce a new reality on the ground. The
official discourse in the West is that a very reasonable and
attainable solution – the two states solution – is just around the
corner if all sides would make one final effort. Such optimism is
hopelessly misguided.

The only version of this solution that is acceptable to Israel is the
one that both the tamed Palestine Authority in Ramallah and the more
assertive Hamas in Gaza could never accept. It is an offer to imprison
the Palestinians in stateless enclaves in return for ending their
struggle. And thus even before one discusses either an alternative
solution – one democratic state for all, which I myself support – or
explores a more plausible two-states settlement, one has to transform
fundamentally the Israeli official and public mindset. It is this
mentality which is the principal barrier to a peaceful reconciliation
within the fractured terrain of Israel and Palestine.

How can one change it? That is the biggest challenge for activists
within Palestine and Israel, for Palestinians and their supporters
abroad and for anyone in the world who cares about peace in the Middle
East. What is needed is, firstly, recognition that the analysis put
forward here is valid and acceptable. Only then can one discuss the

It is difficult to expect people to revisit a history of more than 60
years in order to comprehend better why the present international
agenda on Israel and Palestine is misguided and harmful. But one can
surely expect politicians, political strategists and journalists to
reappraise what has been euphemistically called the “peace process”
ever since 1948. They need also to be reminded that what actually

Since 1948, Palestinians have been struggling against the ethnic
cleansing of Palestine. During that year, they lost 80% of their
homeland and half of them were expelled. In 1967, they lost the
remaining 20%. They were fragmented geographically and traumatised
like no other people during the second half of the 20th century. And
had it not been for the steadfastness of their national movement, the
fragmentation would have enabled Israel to take over historical
Palestine as a whole and push the Palestinians into oblivion.

Transforming a mindset is a long process of education and
enlightenment. Against all the odds, some alternative groups within
Israel have begun this long and winding road to salvation. But in the
meantime Israeli policies, such as the blockade on Gaza, have to be
stopped. They will not cease in response to feeble condemnations of
the kind we heard last week, nor is the movement inside Israel strong
enough to produce a change in the foreseeable future. The danger is
not only the continued destruction of the Palestinians but a constant
Israeli brinkmanship that could lead to a regional war, with dire
consequences for the stability of the world as a whole.

In the past, the free world faced dangerous situations like that by
taking firm actions such as the sanctions against South Africa and
Serbia. Only sustained and serious pressure by Western governments on
Israel will drive the message home that the strategy of force and the
policy of oppression are not accepted morally or politically by the
world to which Israel wants to belong.

The continued diplomacy of negotiations and “peace talks” enables the
Israelis to pursue uninterruptedly the same strategies, and the longer
this continues, the more difficult it will be to undo them. Now is the
time to unite with the Arab and Muslim worlds in offering Israel a
ticket to normality and acceptance in return for an unconditional
departure from past ideologies and practices.

Removing the army from the lives of the oppressed Palestinians in the
West Bank, lifting the blockade in Gaza and stopping the racist and
discriminatory legislation against the Palestinians inside Israel,
could be welcome steps towards peace.

It is also vital to discuss seriously and without ethnic prejudices
the return of the Palestinian refugees in a way that would respect
their basic right of repatriation and the chances for reconciliation
in Israel and Palestine. Any political outfit that could promise these
achievements should be endorsed, welcomed and implemented by the
international community and the people who live between the river
Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.

And then the only flotillas making their way to Gaza would be those of
tourists and pilgrims.

Ilan Pappe is professor of history at the University of Exeter, and
director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies. His books
include The Ethnic Cleansing Of Palestine and A History Of Modern
Palestine. His forthcoming memoir, Out Of The Frame (published this
October by Pluto Press), will chart his break with mainstream Israeli
scholarship and its consequences.

ePalestine Blog:

Israel’s Dubious Investigation of Flotilla Attack

by Stephen Zunes

Few decisions of the Obama administration have outraged the peace and human rights community as much as its successful efforts to block an international inquiry into May’s Israeli aid flotilla attack.

Instead, supported by leading Republican and Democratic members of Congress, the Obama administration has thrown its weight behind an investigative committee handpicked by right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to examine the incident.

The three-member panel is not a full committee of inquiry as defined under Israeli law, so it does not have subpoena power or the ability to question Israeli soldiers. Nor can it compel anyone in the military to provide evidence.

All the committee members can do is request documents and “summaries of operational investigations” that have already been conducted by the Israeli military itself.

The committee would not have the authority to even request testimony or other evidence “in regard to military personnel and personnel from the other security forces.”

They would not be able to interview any soldiers or officers individually or even see their testimony or statements, instead relying only on “summaries” and other documents of internal military inquiries. These are generally done by officers who have no training in such inquiries on possible violations of international law.

At most, the conclusions the panel gets will be lessons learned rather than any kind of investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing.
Israel’s Claims

“Israel claims the panel is independent, but insists that it accept the military’s version of events,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Given the Israel’s military poor record of investigating itself in past cases of possible wrongful death, it is hard to have confidence that the panel’s dependence on the Israeli military will lead to the truth.”

There are also questions regarding the committee’s makeup. None of the three members has any experience in this sort of inquiry. The committee is led by the conservative former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Jacob Turkel, who has attacked credible international inquiries into Israeli violations of international humanitarian law.

A second member is Amos Horev, a reserve Israeli major general and major figure in the Israeli military industrial complex.

The third member is Shabtai Rosen, a 93-year-old law professor who was involved in the cover-up of the 1953 massacre in the village of Qibya when Israeli forces crossed into Jordanian territory, destroying 41 buildings (including the school) and killing 60 villagers.

The Obama administration and other supporters of Netanyahu have emphasized the presence of two foreign observes, Canadian Brigadier General Kenneth Watkin and Northern Ireland’s pro-British Unionist Party leader David Trimble.

The news media has emphasized that Trimble won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the Good Friday peace accord. What they have largely failed to mention is that Trimble was also one of the key players — along with right-wing former Bush UN ambassador John Bolton and the conservative former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar — in a group organized late last month known as “Friends of Israel.”

The initiative was launched, according to Trimble and the other sponsors, because of their concern about “the onslaught of radical Islamism” and outrage over the “unprecedented delegitimization campaign against Israel, driven by the enemies of the Jewish state and perversely assumed by numerous international authorities.”

Watkin has been implicated in a scandal, arising from the disappearance and torture of several detainees arrested by the Canadian Forces and turned over to Afghan security services. When called to speak before the Canadian House of Commons, he refused to answer questions about his role in authorizing the transfers despite knowledge of the likelihood of torture and other maltreatment of the prisoners.

International Response

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon noted how Netanyahu’s panel was “not sufficient enough to have international credibility.” The leading Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, in its analysis of the probe, editorialized, “The government’s efforts to avoid a thorough and credible investigation of the flotilla affair seem more and more like a farce.”

By contrast, the Obama White House issued a statement praising the formation of the committee as an “important step forward,” insisting that “the structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation,” as called for by the UN Security Council. U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Alejandro Wolff insisted, “We are convinced and support an Israeli investigation…and have every confidence that Israel can conduct a credible and impartial and transparent, prompt investigation internally.”

Congressional Democrats have defended the Obama’s decision to cover-up for the incident and prevent a credible investigation. Even though Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented the failure of the Netanyahu government to investigate possible war crimes by its armed forces, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) recently insisted that “the Israeli government…has a very good record of holding the Israeli government to account,” and that “the Israeli government has a better record of legitimate self-criticism than almost any other government in the world.”

Turning the consensus of international human rights organizations on its head, Frank argues that the only a group “commissioned by the Israeli government” would have credibility, while “clearly no inquiry chartered by the U.N. would have the credibility.”

Other congressional Democrats have insisted that the right-wing Israeli government of Benyamin Netanyahu be entrusted with the investigation, including Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Rep. Sestak (D-PA), and Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

All this comes in spite of a recent public opinion poll shows a clear majority of Americans — including 65 percent of Democrats — favor an international inquiry over allowing Israel alone to investigate the circumstances of the attack.

It appears, then, that the Obama administration and its allies in Congress are committed to burying the truth and preventing Israel’s right-wing government from any culpability for its attack.

Quid Pro Quo?

At the same time, however, the Obama administration’s acceptance of this whitewash might have been an explicit quid pro quo: The United States would defend the suppression of the truth in the Israeli attack in return for Israel substantially loosening the blockade of humanitarian goods. If true, this maneuver would be yet another case of Obama provoking the outrage of the left wing of his party in order to pursue a behind-the-scenes deal he believes will advance the greater good. Some analysts, like Marc Lynch, make a compelling case that such a trade-off is worthwhile, in terms of easing an enormous level of human suffering as a result of the four-year old-siege.

While tactically defensible, such a quid pro quo is strategically questionable. Given the Israeli government’s history of reneging on its various international commitments, there are questions as to how comprehensive this lifting of the blockade actually may be and how long it will last. It would also mark yet another bad precedent of the United States effectively granting an ally a license to get away with violating international humanitarian law and other illegal activities, thereby further weakening the international legal protection of civilians.

The apparent weakening of the blockade is cause for cautious optimism. But global civil society must continue to pressure governments to ensure that Israel — no more or less than any other country — be held accountable for its violations of international legal norms.

Stephen Zunes, a Foreign Policy In Focus analyst, is a professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco.


Jesse Rosenfeld: media coverage of Gaza Flotilla massacre, parts 1&2

June 21, 2010 at the Beit Zatoun House, Toronto

While the 3-year-old siege of Gaza has been brought into dramatic focus of late, the 12-year embargo of Iraq that crippled the economy and wrought havoc on civil society continues in another form, post-invasion. At the same time, the ongoing war in Afghanistan has taken a terrible toll on its beleaguered population.

The massive $1 billion security and military presence in Toronto this month for the G20 will protect the very world leaders who are overseeing wars and occupations that have cost trillions of dollars, and countless innocent lives. Independent media has a crucial role to play in exposing the reality of war and daily life in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan… Severe restrictions on visas and mobility for foreign and domestic journalists, as well as threats from government and paramilitary forces, hamper efforts to report reality on the ground. blogger Derrick O’Keefe, New Internationalist co-editor and author of Dancing in the No Fly Zone, Hadani Ditmars, and Carmelle Wolfson and Jesse Rosenfeld of The Daily Nuisance discuss opportunities for breaking the siege of indifference and reporting from occupied lands.

As settlements expand across Jerusalem and Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza intensifies, Palestinians are on the edge of a new popular revolt. Israel continues its crippling siege of Gaza, paving way for the brutal attack on a humanitarian aid mission into the Strip that took place this month.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are also feeling the pressure as urban renewal and gentrification is used as a pretext to force them out of their historic cities, while the government passes laws to criminalize public discussion of their identity and history. Meanwhile repression against Palestinians and Israeli solidarity activists continues, as does the Palestinian Authority collaboration with Israel.

Behind the regular headlines of tense relations between Israel and the US over settlements The Daily Nuisance is exposing the on the ground reality and impact on those living in Israel/Palestine through photography, video, print, news, analysis and opinion.

While international mainstream news filters out and misinterprets local voices, TDN uses English to present local perspectives to an International audience. The editorial collective is comprised of Palestinian, leftwing Israeli and international journalists and media makers.

Jesse Rosenfeld
Jesse is a Canadian print and video journalist based out of Ramallah and Tel Aviv-Jaffa since 2007. He is the print editor of The Daily Nuisance and has written from the Middle East for The Guardian, The Nation, The National (Abu Dhabi English language newspaper), Haaretz English, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, NOW Magazine, Z Net and Electronic Intifada. He has also blogged, Mondoweiss and produced video content for The Daily Beast and The Real News.
Sponsored by the New Internationalist,, The Daily Nuisance and Canadian Peace Alliance
Video Production: Anita Krajnc

Goldstone missed the cut

by boulos on June 27, 2010 ·

When Israel announced the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Flotilla debacle, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs issued a statement welcoming the news and noting that

“the structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.”

In the time since then, it has emerged that Amos Horev, one of the three Israeli panel members, helped castrate an Arab in the mid-1940s who had been accused of attempting to rape a Jewish woman. The act of castration inspired a popular song in Hebrew.

It has also emerged (thanks to Richard Silverstein) that another member of the panel, Shabtai Rosenne, helped David Ben-Gurion brainstorm lies which would cover up the Israeli military’s massacre at Qibya, in which Ariel Sharon led a force that murdered 60 Palestinian civilians, an act that outraged the world in 1953.

Richard Goldstone was subjected to the most savage obloquy for his work as a judge under the Apartheid South African regime.

If he had personally castrated a Black South African or helped cook up lies to exculpate the South African government for the Sharpeville massacre, maybe he would have been treated a little more gently?


Israel should be thankful it didn’t make it to the World Cup

An Israeli presence at this greatest of global sporting spectacles would have been guaranteed to attract an unrelenting wave of protests, PR stunts and bad publicity.

By Daniel Levy

As the World Cup progresses, Israelis might consider sending thank-you bouquets to the national soccer teams of Switzerland and Greece, who knocked Israel out at the qualifying stage.

Of course, it would be nice to wrap ourselves in blue and white, and cheer on the likes of Yossi, Guy and Ben. But on this occasion, one should probably be thankful that we didn’t make it.

There were large demonstrations in Cape Town last week following the Mavi Marmara incident. An Israeli presence at this greatest of global sporting spectacles would have been guaranteed to attract an unrelenting wave of protests, PR stunts and bad publicity.

In the days since Operation Sky Winds, Israel has been able to get a glimpse of the future and into the abyss that awaits if we continue on our current course. It is a future replete with both insecurity and the indignity of global opprobrium and sanctions.

Palestine has now irrefutably become a global cause. That is certainly inconvenient for Israel and maybe unfair.

Popular consumer, labor union, and cultural boycotts are gathering new momentum. Israel’s predicament will not be rectified by better PR or a new foreign minister; it has become structural and therefore far more worrying.

The logic of the kind of unarmed resistance represented by flotillas to Gaza is to shine a light on the wrongdoings of an offending party. Ideally, one will succeed in appealing to the better nature, to the humanity, of the offending party (Israel), and its behavior (in this case, the blockade on Gaza) will be corrected. If not, then one may seek to shame that party in the court of global public opinion. Any over-reaction or additional offensive behavior will only serve to strengthen the case of the light-shiner and “prove” the original premise of wrongdoing.

In this instance, Israel’s leadership played its role with Lionel Messi-like perfection.

In short, the game is up. This is not defeatism – it’s an acknowledgment of a reality that, by ignoring, causes Israel to imperil itself. It cannot be reversed by a good YouTube video or by cloning President Peres. An occupation that just entered its 44th year and entails denying basic rights to millions of Palestinians can no longer be sanitized. As long as Israel maintains that occupation, the costs will become increasingly burdensome.

Having lost the world, Israel’s focus turns in on itself. The country’s leadership has to work harder to keep its own public on board for the occupation project. This requires a growing suppression of dissent, further ostracizing Israel’s Palestinian minority, and ever-more aggressive appeals to Jewish national pride. Democratic norms are thereby eroded, further feeding the tarnishing of Israel’s image. This is the vicious cycle in which Israel is embroiled.

It is true that there will almost certainly always be unjustified prejudice toward Israel. Whatever it does, some people will always be out to get us. But prejudice is not what motivates the vast majority of those mobilizing in solidarity with the Palestinians. The occupation is the oxygen of their campaign, and the vast majority seek an end to it – not to Israel itself. An Israel that fails to appreciate this and which sustains the occupation is the single most proximate cause of its own delegitimization.

It is still in our power, however, to change all of this. We can genuinely end the 1967 occupation and live up to our declared democratic ideals.

But if Israel does not take the lead, then let us at least hope that our remaining friends in the world will step forward with their own proposals and that we in turn will have the wisdom to say yes to them.

Enjoy the World Cup, and let’s look forward to Israel’s qualification in 2014 being all about soccer and blissfully devoid of politics.


Blog at

Up ↑