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MIDEAST MIRROR 16.06.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)

 

Is BDS anti-Semitic?

 

Yedioth Ahronoth leads with a report that U.S. President Barack Obama has invited Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for talks in Washington next month after a deadline for reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran. The report quotes unnamed State Department sources as saying Obama had invited Netanyahu for talks in mid-July, after a June 30 deadline for a major powers deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

However, Officials in the White House and the Prime Minister's Office were quick to deny the report. A senior official in the U.S. administration told Haaretz that as yet no invitation was extended from Obama to Netanyahu to come to Washington. However, the official added that 'absolutely we’d expect that there will certainly be occasion for the two of them to meet in Washington at some point going forward.' A source within the Prime Minister's Office said that as yet no invitation was received regarding a Netanyahu visit to the U.S.

Responding to the Yedioth Ahronoth report, Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid said that 'it is alarming because it means that the prime minister will be invited after the nuclear deal signed with Iran. 'It means that we have lost the ear of the White House at a critical moment. The collapse of relations between the Prime Minister and President [Barack] Obama makes us pay dearly,' he added. 'When it comes to the Iranian nuclear issue, there is no difference between the Opposition and the coalition.'

Haaretz adds that National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, who is in Washington, met with his U.S. counterpart Susan Rice for dinner on Monday night. Deputy Spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council, Alistair Baskey, said that the two discussed the ties between Israel and the U.S. as well as regional security issues. A senior Israeli official said that a key part in the discussion focused on the unfolding nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.

Haaretz leads with a report that the government is considering altering the Sheshinsky Law – which regulates the operation and taxation of the country's natural reserves. According to the report, the proposed change would benefit the companies that currently control the vast majority of these gas reserves.

Israel Hayom leads with the news that IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot has decided to establish a new Cyber Branch in the IDF in light of the global increase in cyber-attacks. According to the report, Eisenkot established a team to investigate the defensive and offensive realms of cyber activity immediately upon entering the chief of staff's office, and decided to establish a cyber branch rather than a cyber-command. It is not yet clear whether the branch will be headed by a major-general, or simply fall under the purview of one of the General Staff's other high-ranking officers.

In other news, all the papers report that, according to Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, leading members of Hamas convened in Qatar over the past several days to discuss a proposal for a long-term ceasefire with Israel. According to Palestinian officials quoted by the paper, Hamas representative Moussa Abu Marzouk went to the Qatari capital of Doha on Saturday in the hope of finalizing a three-to-five year truce with the Jewish state. The truce proposal, which is backed by both Qatar and Turkey, is based on an outline formulated by UN special envoy to the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov, according to NRG.

The report added that Abu Marzouk held a series of meetings in Qatar with Hamas leader Khaled Mish'al as well as other senior officials in the organization. Hamas is expected to accept the plan which includes the creation of a floating Gaza seaport. Meetings will decide whether the floating port would be controlled by Israel or an international authority. Discussions over building an airport in the Gaza Strip have been delayed for the time being.

In related news, Haaretz reports that the IDF has given permission to reopen around 70 Palestinian shops in Hebron, in the area near the Cave of the Patriarchs, after 20 years. It will be the first time that the stores will be open since the Hebron massacre in 1994. Immediately after the news was announced, three shop owners reportedly rushed to unlock their shops but were not yet allowed to open the stores.

Meanwhile, some 4,000 Druze demonstrated in Isfiya on Monday evening to show solidarity with their brethren in Syria. Hundreds of Christians who live in the village also joined the demonstration. The demonstrators called out 'We're ready to die as martyrs for our brothers the Druze' and declared 'If need be – we will cross the border to Syria to defend our brothers.' Members of the Druze community in Israel have been raising funds to help purchase arms for the Druze in Syria, and have so far raised over NIS 10 million.

Finally, the Cypriot foreign minister – who is currently visiting Israel – confirmed Tuesday that his country thwarted a Hizbollah plot to attack Israelis or Jews. Ioannis Kasoulides' comments come after a 26-year-old Lebanese-Canadian was arrested last month on charges related to the discovery of a massive amount of ammonium nitrate in the basement of a home in Larnaca. Earlier this month, Israel said Cyprus had told the Jewish state that the fertilizer was to be used for bombs by Hizbollah, and that Israelis or Jews in Cyprus may have been intended targets.

Asked about that account, the Cypriot foreign minister said, 'Your information is correct.' Asked whether a Hizbollah bomb plot had indeed been foiled, he said, 'Most probably.'

 

 

IT'S NOT THE OCCUPATION, STUPID: Writing in Israel Hayom, Dror Eydar says that Israel's 'occupation' of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967 is not the reason for the boycott movement, which, he says, is a continuation of the struggle against the Jews' right to a homeland in the Land of Israel.

"Part of the sane Israeli left have woken up and joined the struggle against the boycott. But they find it a hard struggle. Since their genius plans were shot down in a barrage of fire and blood, a strategy from the fringes of the left – a strategy that expects the international community to do their dirty work for them and to force Israel to withdraw from the very heart of the Land of Israel – has crept into the discourse. The boycott movements serve this trend. The bottom line is that the argument between left and right centers on one key question: Is the root of the problem in 1967 or 1948? In other words, when certain people speak about the 'occupation,' are they talking about Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, or are they talking about the whole of Israel (in other words, Israel's right to exist as a sovereign nation)?

Not everyone who demonstrates against Israeli 'apartheid' is an anti-Semite, but anyone who blindly accepts the fallacious claim that Israel has a policy of apartheid against its Arab citizens – without checking the facts – is anti-Semitic, since believing blood libels against the Jews is one of the oldest and darkest traditions in the world. The BDS movement is the cornerstone for a variety of boycott movements and it does not recognize Israel's right to exist inside any borders. Its stated goals include not only the 'occupation,' but the 'right of return' and 'equal rights for Israel's Arab citizens.' In other words, changing the Jewish character of the State of Israel and making it a state for all its citizens. As historian Norman Finkelstein, one of the most prominent supporters of the boycott movement, put it, the goal is the eradication of Israel.

While it is true that campuses in the United States are a hotbed of anti-Israeli activity, this is nothing new. The United States is losing out because its campuses have become incubators for radical and anti-nationalist ideologies, inspired by Europe. But support for Israel remains strong across the United States, because many of these students, once they enter the real world, see the truth. There are tens of millions of Christians whose support of Israel is steadfast. In addition, the vast majority of the Jewish population of the United States still supports Israel.

There have been claims that Palestinian organizations and terrorists are not behind the boycott movement. This is a ridiculous claim, since the main players in the BDS movement are pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli groups, which advocate for the Palestinian narrative, rather than 'human rights' as a whole. Nobody is claiming that Breaking the Silence, for example, is a terrorist organization, but there's no question that it indirectly assists those who would justify terrorism against us.

The answer to the boycott movement is not just hasbara. The answer is to go on the offensive: To expose the sources of these groups' funding, to work tirelessly to halt the flow of money to them and to expose the true anti-Semitic faces of the leaders of the boycott movement. We also need to wage war on the legal battlefield. The study published last week by Professor Eugene Kontorovich showed that there is no international law against doing business with companies located in 'occupied territories.'

The problem is not the occupation. The moment that the 'occupation' of Judea and Samaria ends, a new occupation will become the target: the 'occupation' of pre-1967 Israel. The boycott movement will start to focus on the Bedouin in the Negev, the Arabs in the Galilee, the way that Israel 'forces' Judaism on its poor Arab citizens and so on. It is convenient for the left to ignore the anti-Semitism of the BDS movement and focus on the 'occupation' of 1967. They claim that, if a Palestinian state is established, our enemies will leave us alone. Decades of experience have taught us that this is a false assumption. But let's assume for one moment that the 'occupation' really is the reason for the boycott movement. Are there no other occupations in the world, which are far more violent and bloody than ours? In Africa and Asia, in Europe and in the Middle East. Russia has captured parts of Ukraine, the Western Sahara is occupied by Morocco, northern Cyprus has been invaded by Turkey and so on.

In the past week alone, tens of thousands of people have been murdered across the world, including right here on our doorstep in Syria. And still, the attention of the international community seems to be focused exclusively on Israel. Only when it comes to Israel are there accusations of 'apartheid,' 'ethnic cleansing,' 'repressions' and other words and phrases taken directly from some Orwellian lexicon. Don't Africans deserve human rights? And Syrians? What about the Yazidis, the Christians in the Middle East and the people of Sri Lanka? The Arabs of the Middle East always 'enjoy' special attention from the international community, since their struggle is against Israel – in other words, against the Jews who returned to their ancestral homeland. This is the very definition of discrimination.

By taking their struggle against us to the realm of a boycott, our enemies are merely continuing a long struggle against our right to a homeland in Zion. We need to understand this very basic truth and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the smokescreen of 'occupation'."

Ends…

 

EVIL WIND: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Ben-Dror Yemini says that the BDS is anti-Semitic, since it assumes that any supporter of Israel is a traitor to their own country.

"Many people seem to think that the BDS movement is one organization. It isn't. It is an atmosphere. It is an evil wind. It does not seek to criticize the occupation or the settlements. Anti-Semitism was once defined as hatred of Jews that goes beyond what is necessary. The BDS movement's hatred for Israel goes far beyond what is justified. Its hatred has crossed the border into racism. This evil wind has permeated some of the most important places of learning and knowledge.

A few days ago, there were reports in the American media that Bernie Sanders, the Jewish candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, denied that he has dual American and Israeli citizenship. The reports appeared after, Diane Rehm, a presenter on National Public Radio claimed just that. Sanders issued an immediate denial. Rehm is known for her strong views against Israel. She later apologized for asserting that Sanders has dual nationality, saying that she had taken the information from an unreliable source on the Internet.

Claims of this kind are a low blow for anyone running for president: they insinuate that, in addition to holding two passports, the person in question actually has dual loyalty. This is an argument that is regularly made against supporters of Israel, who are described as being 'Israel Firsters' – in other words, that they put the interests of Israel ahead of the interests of the United States. Here and there, there are even mutterings about possible treason.

Accusing someone of holding dual nationality and forcing them to deny it is an exercise in media manipulation. It starts with a false claim someone posts on the Internet. Then that claim is repeated on a mainstream radio program. Thereafter, the New York Times – the most important liberal newspaper in the United States – gives credence to the claim by publishing the subject's denial. It's like publishing a report that Sanders denies beating his wife. Just by publishing the denial, the accusation becomes news. Something is very wrong if Sanders needed to issue a denial.

Bernie Sanders is an independent senator; on most issues, he identifies mainly with the far left wing of the Democratic Party. He was a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq and he was the first senator to announce that he would not attend Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress. The American left should be very proud of him. The problem, therefore, is not Sanders' views. The problem, it seems, is the fact that he Jewish. That is enough to accuse him of dual loyalty.

The lie starts out as something small, perhaps invented by some radical and anti-Semitic group on the left or the right. These groups are part and parcel of the evil wind that the BDS movement has created. It is the same evil wind that led a university in California to investigate whether one member of the student Senate was promoting an Israel First agenda. Suspicion focuses on whether the student in question had dual loyalties. She was Jewish, so she was suspect.

Those who deny the BDS movement claim that it is a marginal problem and that there is no reason for us to get overly worked up. They say that the groups involved in the boycott movement are small and lack any real influence. But the anti-Semitic incident at the California university is repeating itself in the mainstream media. Even a presidential candidate is not exempt. Even Bernie Sanders is having mud thrown at him, for no other reason than the fact that he is Jewish.

Opinion polls show that support for Israel among the American public is at an all-time high. But this is an illusion. In the main centers of learning and knowledge, there is a creeping process of change. The evil wind of the BDS movement already control many organizations representing students and lecturers. Among young Americans – Jews and non-Jews alike – support for Israel is in decline.

As usual, some people will claim that the occupation is the central problem. Israel's policies can be criticized and some of that criticism is justified. But saying that the BDS movement came into existence because of the 'occupation' is like arguing that racism against black people exists because some blacks are violent. The evil wind of the BDS movement is racist and it has started to permeate into the mainstream media. Not just on the fringes. And this is a growing phenomenon."

Ends…

 

THE DAY AFTER: Writing on the NRG website, Yehuda Blanga says that it is not in either sides' interest for Israel to openly support the Druze communities in Syria, Lebanon and the Golan Heights – for the same reason that the Druze never openly joined forces with Israel: fear of 'the day after'.

"There are around half a million Druze living on Jabal al-Druze. This is the largest concentration of members of the sect in the Middle East or in the world. For centuries, Jabal al-Druze has been the only place where members of the Druze community could find safe shelter from persecution and where they could enjoy some degree of autonomy. As members of a minority within Syria, the Druze have cooperated over the years with other minorities – Christians, Isma'ilis and Alawites – as part of a shared fate that was forced upon them because of the complex tapestry of nations that make up Syria. The Druze have shown outstanding loyalty to the Alawite regime of the Assad family – the father Hafez and the son Bashar.

In Syria, minorities make up around 35 percent of the population; each sect has played a role in the Syrian Civil War. In fact, it is thanks to the support of these minorities that Bashar Assad is still in power. Petrified by what would happen if Assad's regime were overthrown, the Druze decided to rally round the Alawite regime. However, the weakening of the Syrian president in recent months has changed the situation. Defeats suffered by forces loyal to the regime, the seemingly never-ending civil war and the withdrawal of government forces to key areas in the Syrian heartland have left the Druze fighting for their lives.

It is important to understand that the danger facing the Druze community is not just from the front adjacent to Israel. The attacks by Islamist forces, including the al-Nusra Front, against Druze population centers, are also taking place in northern Syria, in the Idlib Province. Out of a sense of solidarity, members of the Druze communities in Israel and Lebanon have made their voices heard in recent weeks – especially after the massacre in the village of Qalb Lawzeh in the Jabal al-Summaq region. Their goal is to help members of their extended family who are trapped in Syria. And this is where the question about Israeli involvement in the war-torn country comes into play.

Should Israel openly intervene to help the Druze? The answer is no. That is: Israel should not use military force to intervene in the battle against the Syrian rebels. Why? Because, thus far, Israel has stood on the sidelines and has managed not to let the fighting approach its borders. We must not forget that, on the Golan Heights, the al-Nusra Front has established a permanent presence. If Israel were to intervene militarily, it would provide that organization with an excuse to carry out revenge attacks if its members are killed or injured by IDF fire. In addition, Hizbollah and Iran would not look kindly on Israeli intervention and would use it as an excuse to carry out attacks against us. If that were to happen, the path of all-out war would be a short one.

In addition, the Druze in Syria and some of those who reside on the Golan Heights, remain loyal to the Assad regime. They see Israel as the enemy and the fact that we provide humanitarian aid to anyone fleeing the fighting in Syria – including Islamist fighters – does not win us any points in their eyes.

It is hard to ignore Israel's colossal failure to forge an alliance with groups that have similar interests – such as the Druze. Instead of forging an alliance with them, Israel gave the Druze – especially those who live among us – a sense that, in the end, they would be returned to Syria.

Since the Druze are traditionally loyal to whichever regime they live under, there is no reason for them to be loyal to Israel. If, tomorrow morning, they find themselves living in Syria again, any new regime would seek to punish them for cooperating with the 'Zionist enemy' – even if the Golan Heights are returned to Syria as part of a peace agreement.

So what should Israel do? It should work behind the scenes, as it knows perfectly well how to do, in order to bolster trust between itself and the Druze leadership. It should send whatever humanitarian aid is needed. It should encourage the West, especially the United States, to come to the Druze community's aid and to help them in their life-or-death battle."

Ends…

 

ISRAELIS, NOT BDS, MUST END THE OCCUPATION: Writing in Haaretz, Iris Leal says that, if anything can be learned from the case of South Africa, it’s that one cannot expect boycotts alone to change the situation.

"It’s easy to give in to the sense that the increasing deterioration in Israel’s international standing is some kind of cosmic punishment imposed on the right-wing government for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s electoral victory. Easy, but foolish. There clearly is a concerted boycott campaign against Israel, but if anything can be learned from the case of South Africa it’s that one cannot expect boycotts alone to change the situation.

Even the personal animosity between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama and the strained relations between their governments will not result in a reassessment of long-standing policy, which is influenced by a complex set of factors. The constraints on punitive measures that the constellation of American political power would permit and Israel’s association agreement with the European Union are evidence that we are far from a general break with the rules that have prevailed up to now.

Sanctions that would limit or halt trade and put a stop to private investment and business development are effective. The 1985 announcement by Chase Manhattan Bank that it would not renew short-term loans to South Africa’s ruling National Party until it ended apartheid was an important milestone in the fight against that policy, in large measure because other banks joined in, causing a liquidity crisis for the Pretoria government. But despite the difficulties created by these measures, it is doubtful they would have played a decisive role in the eventual regime change, were it not for the assistance of internal forces.

The opposition in South Africa never stopped creating its own disruptions. It went to great effort to maintain international awareness about apartheid. It cooperated with foreign organizations and encouraged the boycott, without fearing that the NP would label it unpatriotic. The rivalry and bitterness between the opposition and opponents of the South African regime on one hand and those in power on the other were sufficiently deep to create two peoples, rendering anti-apartheid, pro-sanctions forces around the world the enemy of one and the savior of the other.

In what way does this resemble the Israeli opposition? Could anyone imagine the head of the opposition, Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog, or perhaps his No. 2, Tzipi Livni, or Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, or his party colleague Ofer Shelah, calling for a boycott of products from West Bank Jewish settlements and for economic and other sanctions, to help put an end to the occupation?

For now, they are all competing with Netanyahu, his cabinet and the Yedioth Ahronoth daily to be the staunchest opponents of the boycott. An automatic patriotic response kicks in, resulting in a false united front in the face of international condemnation.

The refusal, on both sides of the aisle, to accept full responsibility for the occupation and its consequences is reflected in a denial of guilt by the public as a whole, as if the situation of the Palestinians is none of its business and not its responsibility to remedy. The world, people here say, always judges Israel harshly.

The economic price of apartheid and the burden that it imposed on South Africans were important factors in ending white-minority rule. But the occupation, which also constitutes a heavy economic burden on Israelis, does not affect voting patterns in Israel’s geographic and socioeconomic periphery, in towns with high unemployment, despite the fact that they are denied the resources that are directed into the settlements.

And when everyone is to blame except for us, it’s comforting to console ourselves with a feeling of victimhood that is stripped of historic and moral responsibility. The bad news is that the current state persists because nobody else will do our job for us."

Ends…

 

PILLARS: Writing on the i24 website, Yakub Halabi says that Israel can no longer rely on the pillars of its foreign policy and that it must start abiding by international norms of behavior.

"Israel’s foreign policy has for years been underpinned by three main pillars: Israel’s military power that in Clausewitzian terms constitutes a continuation of foreign policy by other means, U.S. diplomatic support, especially within the UN, and German solidarity with Israel and protection of its interests within the EU institutions. Recently, however, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and organizations such as the BDS are dragging Israel into a new arena with governmental and non-governmental organizations (IGOs and INGOs), where the old pillars are proving ineffective. This new system is a diffused one, with thousands of powerful and autonomous organizations and multinational corporations that are independent of states.

Unfortunately, Israel’s foreign policy institutions have been unprepared to deal with this new challenge and they find it difficult protecting Israel’s interests within these organizations due to three factors: first, the UN General Assembly's recognition of Palestine as an independent state paved the way for the PA to join the ranks of many IGOs as an equal member. Second, in many of these IGOs, such as the FIFA Congress, all member states are equal and each has one vote; in other words, Israel becomes highly vulnerable within IGOs in which the U.S. has no veto power. And third, these organizations operate based on universal norms, to which, in their view, Israel does not adhere given its occupation of the West Bank, siege on the Gaza Strip and settlement building.

The two recent incidents with FIFA and the telecom giant Orange have exposed Israel’s diplomatic vulnerability. In both cases, Israel had to employ intensive pressure - on the President of FIFA and the CEO of Orange - to avoid a suspension or boycott, but more importantly - to preempt a wave of penalization by IGOs or corporations. This pressure culminated in a meeting between these figures and the PM of Israel, as if the former were heads of states. Israel came out of these two battles with minor injuries. At the same time, the PA and Palestinian organizations discovered the potential power of IGOs and corporations and Israel’s vulnerability to them - and will likely continue to pursue this path. With FIFA, the Palestinians were promised that a committee will be established to examine the freedom of movement of Palestinian soccer players. FIFA, in other words, succeeded in twisting Israel’s hand, where many states failed.

However, the problem of the Israeli government and many Israeli writers, such as Emmanuel Navon, is that for them the West Bank is merely a 'disputed territory' and that corporations should 'think twice before buying into the phony claims of political NGOs and of uninformed ambassadors.' Palestine, however, is much more than 'a disputed territory'. Palestine is a de facto state, and to a certain extent a de jure one given that many states, IGOs, INGOs and corporations have recognized it as such.

De facto, Palestine has an effective government, a parliament (the Palestinian Legislative Council), elected municipalities, security forces, a judiciary system including a supreme court, embassies and representatives in many states and IGOs, sport leagues, private and public media networks. It has vibrant civil society organizations and, above all, a society that is highly politicized and conscious of its distinct national identity. Israel deliberately continues nonetheless to perceive the PA as an entity that is subordinated to it under the Geneva Convention that applies to occupied territories. Israel, in short refuses, to take the PA seriously or face the reality that Palestine is a state and a nation in its own right.

In conclusion, under this internationally diffused system in which non-state actors play a major role in world politics, Israel has no choice but to start abiding by universal norms. The three pillars that underpinned Israel’s foreign policy were relevant to the state-centered system of the Cold War international climate, but these pillars are effective no more."

Ends…

 

 

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