Saturday, September 08, 2007

Ready To Admit You Really Know The Score?

Worse is infinitely better

Sep. 6, 2007
Deep inside - even if our incorrigibly liberal souls prohibit us from admitting it - most of us know the score. We know that Israel's own Arab population identifies with this country's genocidal foes, and that given a smidgen of an opportunity, it would avidly join forces with them to destroy us.
Exceptional moderates may marginally exist but they're few, decreasing in number and beset by radicals all around them - by whom they are routinely intimidated, who continually brainwash their children and who customarily practice the worse-is-better maxim to the max.

Examples abound. The most innocuous revolve around the reluctance of Arab local authorities to collect municipal taxes. Indulgent officials thereby automatically garner instant popularity. No one likes the revenuer and, when wrapped in a nationalistic/Islamic ideology, this antipathy becomes irresistible.

The notion of not paying what the "Zionist system" requires - and then demanding that reviled Jewish taxpayers foot the bills for Arab tax dodgers - makes sense to those who preach incessantly that Israel is illegitimate, that its very existence is an injustice, that its birth was a nakba, a catastrophe Arabs brazenly equate with the Holocaust (in which they quite enthusiastically collaborated under the leadership of their still-revered then-head honcho Haj Amin el-Husseini. He spent WWII as Hitler's personal guest in Berlin, making sure no Jew escaped extermination).

Not playing along and not paying is low-key rebellion.
Not only don't some citizens contribute to the system, but they additionally practice inconspicuous sabotage by squeezing all they can out of it. Any incremental debilitation of the abhorred Zionists counts, no matter how ostensibly small.

The upshot is that Israeli Arabs cut off their noses to spite their faces. Without their own income, Arab municipalities are bound to fail. Going broke and then expecting the government to bail them out is their calculated policy. But inter alia, schools get into a shoddy state, sewage and garbage aren't disposed of properly, sanitation is appalling, city employees are unpaid and the Jew next door - though taxed to his eyeballs - is eyed resentfully (despite the fact that the ultra-luxurious villas that fill Arab localities would make the Jewish population green with envy).

Lavish indoors and sumptuous private spaces contrast with squalid outdoors and derelict public spaces in Israel's Arab sector. The very Arab politicians who deliberately prevent progress inevitably seize upon self-inflicted dilapidation as evidence of discrimination. In the worse-is-infinitely-better tradition, the more they convince their electorate that they're wronged, the more votes Arab candidates rake in. The greater the instability, the more profit they reap - both in real and propaganda terms.

HENCE, AT the outset of each new school-year, we're treated to a rerun of an annual pageant. Each September the Arab sector threatens to keep schools shut to protest alleged inequity. Each September it's incumbent upon Jews to consider themselves blameworthy. The Hebrew media sympathetically resonate and amplify Arab misinformation. This cant has concomitantly become the trendy patter among some Jewish political parties, fishing for Arab votes in devil-may-care disregard of the terrifying bottom-line consequences. Short-term benefit outweighs long-term responsibility.

Even our children are taught to feel guilty.
Political correctness ad absurdum is imposed on public-school curricula. A few years ago, when my daughter started another high-school term, her history teacher waxed melodramatic about the "poor Arab children who cannot begin their studies today."

She then had each pupil expound on what he/she wishes his/her Arab counterparts. The chorus of honeyed cliches appeared unanimous; the kids sensed what their teacher expected. My daughter, however, was thrown unceremoniously out of class because she dared heretically wish Israeli-Arabs "exactly what they wish me."

When these same Arab teen-counterparts rioted in October 2000, pulling Jewish drivers from their vehicles and viciously beating them, my daughter's principal gathered his impressionable charges and launched into a long speech justifying Arab wrath as prejudice-spawned. His clueless audience had little option but to take his words at face value.

Such is the merciless left-wing indoctrination to which our largely helpless society is unremittingly subjected. Arabs, even if more affluent than ourselves, are regarded as the underdogs we oppress by just daring to breathe here. We owe them - a priori, without examination or critical thought. That's why President Shimon Peres averted the ritual school closure by blithely promising beefed-up education budgets to the very Arab mayors who single-mindedly neglect their schools.

That's also why he reduced the sentences of 14-year-old Danny Katz's five murderers (two of whom also raped and murdered 19-year-old Daphna Carmon). So what if their convictions were upheld in numerous appeals, a retrial and exhaustive Supreme Court reviews?

This is no trifling detail. It's the very Supreme Court which unfailingly sides with Arab litigants like Adel Ka'adan, who insisted on relocating to Jewish National Fund land purchased specifically for Jewish settlement with donations made for over a century by often-penniless idealistic Jews the world over. Ka'adan's campaign was vehemently supported by the head of the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch, Raed Sallah, who seditiously provokes violence and sponsors the devastation of Jewish antiquities on the Temple Mount. But Ka'adan spoke softly, only claiming his "due," like the Arab school administrators.

He fooled lots of people, though in November 2000, in an interview with California's prestigious Web site, he called Israel a "Nazi country" with an "apartheid system... a racist militaristic country that takes away people's rights." He garnished his pronouncements with what the correspondent described as "an anti-Semitic diatribe against Jews who plague the world 'like a cancer.'"

Malignancy must be excised, but neither our president nor justices nor teachers allow such bothersome incidentals to interfere with their uber-enlightened agenda of Jewish culpability.

You want an Israeli Government That Works?

Power to the people 'The Knesset member representing Ra'anana yields the floor to the MK from the Arad region who will speak now about how the bill would help his constituency, due to his accountability to the people who voted for him," the Knesset speaker said.

The previous sentence cannot be found in the Knesset protocols for many reasons. First of all, this is one of the few countries where none of the members of parliament is elected regionally. Secondly, there are no words for accountability or constituency in Hebrew.

But that could change if a grassroots effort called the Citizens Empowerment Public Action Campaign (CEPAC) is successful. It aims to mobilize public demand for a more representative Knesset accountable to the people rather then to the political establishment via a mass petition campaign for direct regional elections.

More than 3,000 people from across the country have signed the petition. A large percentage of the signers are immigrants from English-speaking countries, but many sabras and Druse have become involved.

The organization's leaders have met with MKs from across the political spectrum to present them with the petition and the results of a Dahaf Institute poll they sponsored about public attitudes toward electing MKs regionally.

The poll found that 64 percent of the population does not feel that their interests are currently represented in the Knesset. The same percentage said they were in favor of some kind of change to a constituency-based electoral system, with 41% saying they wanted all MKs elected regionally and 23% preferring to see some of the MKs elected that way and some by the current system.

CEPAC was founded last year by Elaine Levitt, of the northern town of Kfar Vradim, a 67-year-old entrepreneur and grandmother, who owns and operates the Kedumim chain of employment agencies and has been a member of four political parties since she made aliya from Oklahoma City in 1973.

Levitt said the last party she joined was Kadima, ahead of the last election, because she wanted to help elect Tel Aviv University economist Dan Ben-David, who was raised in the US and trained at the University of Chicago. But Ben-David was not placed high enough on the Kadima list to make it into the Knesset. She said the best potential MKs often do not run because they are turned off by the system.

"We maintain that only a Knesset that is truly elected by the people could attract the intelligent people who today would not touch politics with a 10-foot pole," Levitt said. "We have been recycling leaders for way too long. We need new leaders and a stronger Knesset that does real work on behalf of the public that has no voice at all today."

Levitt knows that she is fighting an uphill battle. Many MKs would not support such reforms because it would harm their reelection chances, while others think that the country is too small for regional elections and that several smaller reforms might be more effective.

AN OVERHAUL of the electoral system is currently taking place in the Knesset Law Committee, which is headed by Kadima's Menahem Ben-Sasson, a first-term MK who is a former Hebrew University rector and law school professor.

Ben-Sasson's reforms received a key endorsement from Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman in a meeting the two had with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, which should give them a majority to pass next month when the Knesset returns for its winter session.

Ben-Sasson has been passing the reforms piece by piece in his committee, but he hopes to bring them to a vote in the plenum as a package.

In February, the committee passed the so-called Norwegian law, whereby MKs who are appointed as ministers will automatically quit the Knesset but return if they leave the cabinet. The move is intended to end the current situation, in which ministers neglect their parliamentary work while backbench MKs juggle between five committees.
But its opponents believe it would empower backbenchers to rebel and allow MKs to pass irresponsible, populist proposals without the government's oversight.
The Law Committee voted in July to raise the electoral threshold from 2% to 2.5%, which would likely mean that factions would have a minimum of five MKs as of the next Knesset. The large parties favored raising the threshold by a larger percentage, but they have been forced by the smaller parties to raise it only gradually by small margins.

The next step for the committee was a proposal to make the leader of the largest party prime minister automatically, instead of the current system whereby the president decides who should form the government.

That idea was voted down in July, but Ben-Sasson said he thinks it will pass after the summer recess. Such a step could have serious implications after the next election.

A poll broadcast by Israel Radio two weeks ago found that if Olmert were Kadima's candidate, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu would beat Labor chairman Ehud Barak by just 2%, with Olmert far behind. If Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni ran on Kadima's behalf, Netanyahu would receive 29%, and Livni and Barak 24% each.

According to the current system, President Shimon Peres, who was elected by Kadima, could decide that Kadima's candidate would have an easier time forming a government despite a third-place finish. He could also choose Barak over Netanyahu in an effort to keep up hope for peace agreements with the Palestinians and Israel's neighbors.
Ben-Sasson hopes to pass four more reforms in his committee before they are brought upstairs for a vote in the plenum. He wants the Knesset to dissolve automatically if the state budget does not pass by December 31 instead of the current March 1.
Another proposal would prevent no-confidence motions from being raised without the support of 61 MKs for an alternative candidate for prime minister. This would end hours wasted every week on debating motions that have no chance of passing.

Ben-Sasson will also try to pass reforms redefining how to replace an incapacitated prime minister and preventing the Finance Ministry from hiding operative decisions inside the arrangements bill, which accompanies the budget and is hundreds of pages long and is voted on every year by MKs who are not given time to read it.

Asked about electing MKs regionally, Ben-Sasson said he supported the idea but he wanted to first make sure to pass the reforms that had a better chance of passing and only then get to ideas that are more controversial. He said that most veteran MKs believe electing MKs regionally is not right for the country in the current situation.

"There is no majority for a regional element," Ben-Sasson said. "After talking to almost all 120 MKs, I think it is safe to say it has no chance of passing."
Levitt praised Ben-Sasson's reforms but said they did not go far enough. She said her organization would begin a renewed effort to lobby the members of the Law Committee to allow electing MKs regionally to be given a chance to enter the package that will be brought to vote in the plenum.

"His reforms are a step in the right direction but it's still upsetting that the people don't have a say," Levitt said. "These steps don't address the people's needs. I know it's not in the interests of the MKs to enact regional elections. Everyone I thought would help us has had his own personal agenda. Other than a few established MKs, it is quite obvious that the majority of the Knesset does not want to vote themselves out of business."

JUST WHEN Levitt was starting to give up hope for advancing regional elections, she received good news last week from Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines, a former Law Committee chairman who is one of the committee's most active members.

Paz-Pines, who opposed electing MKs regionally for many years, revealed that he had changed his mind. He said he has been working behind the scenes with experts on devising a bill that he intends to propose next month, which would call for adopting the German system of electing half the MKs regionally and half according to the current system.

"I was against regional elections because I thought the country was too small for them," he said. "But the country has grown to seven million people and the time has come. The German system has proven itself as the world's best. The public is too disconnected from its representatives. The will to change the Israeli reality is genuine."

Paz-Pines's surprising endorsement puts him in rare agreement with Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar, who for many years has been the leading advocate in the Knesset for direct regional elections.

Sa'ar, a Law Committee member, proposed a bill in the previous Knesset for 90 MKs to be elected regionally and 30 nationally. He proposed a bill in this Knesset similar to Paz-Pines's proposal of electing 60 MKs by each system, but he has not brought it to a vote because it lacked a majority.

For Sa'ar, ensuring representation for the different regions of the country is less important than allowing the public to choose its MKs directly. He noted that in the current Knesset, 75 MKs were not elected. They were appointed by the heads of Kadima, Israel Beiteinu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the Gil Pensioners Party and Arab factions.

"Regional elections are an important step on the way to democratization," Sa'ar said. "They would make the public more involved and more connected to the politicians, and the quality of the MKs would have to improve. But instead of reforms that are needed to help the people, [Olmert and Ben-Sasson] are passing the reforms that politicians would agree to, so they can say they did something."

Other politicians who have endorsed electing MKs regionally include Netanyahu and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit. While Netanyahu said he wanted half the MKs elected regionally, Sheetrit said he favored electing the entire Knesset by region and eliminating the current system altogether.

MKS FROM across the political spectrum have also been vocal against the idea. Meretz head Yossi Beilin said electing MKs regionally would make them overly beholden to local and not national interests.

National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev warned that electing MKs regionally could result in no religious Zionist MKs in the Knesset.
The Palestinians used the German system in their last election in January 2006 in which Hamas was elected. Ironically, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced on Sunday that the PA would abandon this system in favor of the current Israeli system.

Electing half of the Knesset regionally was one of the main recommendations of former president Moshe Katsav's Commission for the Examination of the Structure of Governance in Israel, which was chaired by Hebrew University president Menahem Magidor.

The commission recommended that 60 MKs be elected from within 17 constituencies based on the Interior Ministry's districts and subdistricts. In each of the constituencies, the number of representatives would change according to its population, with two to five representatives each.

"I didn't expect that it would be easy to pass this reform," Magidor said. "We recommended what was right, even though most of the Knesset wouldn't like it. Such a substantial change would bring about a shift of power and a real change and that's why the opposition is so great. But I still hope that enough public pressure would bring about this change."

It's that public pressure that CEPAC hopes to bring. Levitt said that due to the important decisions being made in the Law Committee, next month will be the key test for advancing regional elections. She said she was confident that if enough of the public pushed, electing MKs regionally could become a reality.

"More than 3,000 signed the petition without advertising, promotion, mailing or pushing," Levitt said. "We continue to receive petition after petition completed by our volunteers. This has been so pure grassroots it's not even funny. The people don't want this issue to drop, because electoral reform is urgent, now more than ever before."


What Naive Comparison-Suggests Ignorance Accepted!

Hamas is not the IRA DUBLIN:
Since my arrival in Ireland about a year ago as Israel's ambassador, it has been suggested to me in almost every conversation with Irish officials, academics, journalists and ordinary people that Israelis and Palestinians should learn from Northern Ireland's peace process and apply some of its principles if there is ever to be an end to our conflict. Since the successful implementation of peace through power sharing in Northern Ireland in May 2007, this model has been recommended to me with even stronger conviction.

In particular, I am told that Israel should talk to Hamas, as Britain and Ireland spoke to the IRA. After all, the IRA, as a terrorist organization, moderated its position, gave up arms, abandoned the use of terrorism and accepted an agreement based on compromise. Now those former political enemies share power in the same administration. But would a similar process lead Hamas to end its campaign of violence and accept the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state living in peace with Israel?

While there are some similarities between these two complex and protracted conflicts, and indeed some lessons can be learned, it is a dangerous exercise to conclude that they are the same because of their largely different historical, geopolitical and cultural circumstances. Especially, the different importance attached to religious beliefs in the IRA's and Hamas's political platforms.

Underlying my Irish friends' advice is the expectation that should Israel start a dialogue with Hamas, the latter will change its ideology, renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, stop all acts of violence, suicide bombings and Qassam rocket attacksand relinquish its weapons.

Such expectation is rooted in the assumption that when two parties with diametrically opposing views engage in a dialogue, the dynamic created changes the chemistry of the conflict, moderates the positions of both sides and makes a compromise possible. Although this theory may be valid in some cases, unfortunately it is not in the case of Hamas.

One of the main differences between Hamas and the IRA is the role played by religion in their ideologies. While most IRA members were Catholic and religion was a factor, its political platform and vision was the unification of the island of Ireland, not defined in religious terms. The religious beliefs of its members did not block the way to a political compromise.

By contrast, the ideology of Hamas is defined in absolutist religious terms,
that of a radical version of Islam, which is not open to influence or change. The political vision and religious belief of Hamas are one and the same; therefore, change is unlikely.

At the core of this belief is the desire to create an Islamist state based on Islamic law over all the land, not just the West Bank and Gaza, but Israel as well. There is no acceptance of the notion of coexistence, no support for the idea of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, but an exclusive demand, based on fundamentalist interpretations of religious texts, for control of the entire territory.

The Hamas Charter, adopted in 1988
and still very much in effect, defines the land of Palestine as "an Islamic Waqf" (trust territory) consecrated for future Muslim generations. It adds: "Until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it" (Article 11).

The Charter's preface states "Israel will arise and will remain existent only until Islam eliminates it as it has eliminated its predecessors.
" Furthermore, it defines the enemy explicitly as an ethnic-religious group - the Jewish people. Hamas officials continue in their refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. In contrast, the IRA never questioned Britain's right to exist.

The difference also applies to the practical level. After the IRA ceasefire of 1994, U.S. Senator George Mitchell, called in as a mediator, laid down ground rules for participation in the Northern Ireland talks. All the parties to the conflict then agreed to a code of conduct. The first principle was a commitment by all sides to "democratic and exclusively peaceful means" of resolving political issues. The second was a commitment to "the total disarmament" of all paramilitary groups. Sadly such principles cannot be reconciled with the Hamas Charter, its religious ideology and the concept of the duty to wage holy war (jihad), which will inherently always take precedence.

In fact, the whole idea of a peace process and the use of mediators are ruled out by the Charter. Mediators would not be welcome, since "those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the unbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam" (Article 13).

What then is a prudent policy for the international community towards Hamas, especially in the aftermath of its takeover of Gaza? The answer is a united front and a consistent policy, demanding and insisting on the acceptance of the three principles laid out by the Quartet (United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia): recognition of Israel's right to exist, renouncing and ending terrorism, and accepting all prior agreements and understandings achieved between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

These are sensible principles. If Hamas were to accept these principles, abandon its radical beliefs and, like the IRA transform itself into a partner for dialogue, it could join the peace process and put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people. Indeed, if Hamas stops rocket attacks on Israeli towns and villages and releases the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, it can pave the way for an immediate and stable ceasefire in the Gaza region.

Unfortunately, given the intransigent ideological and religious foundations behind Hamas' violent actions, such an expectation is quite unrealistic. Instead, Middle East peace would better be served by supporting the moderate Palestinian leadership in their effort to lead their people to a reasonable compromise - a path which Israel as well is willing to take.

Zion Evrony is Israel's ambassador to Ireland. He was previously head of the policy planning bureau at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

'Israel and occupation will disappear'

"Like the Israeli terror was leashed on Syria two days ago, it will reach each and every Muslim country if we remain in this situation," Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, said Friday, referring to the flyover that Syria alleged on Thursday IAF jets undertook the night before. The "situation" Salah was talking about in the "Aksa in Danger" convention in the Arab town Umm el-Fahm included references to most issues troubling Muslims in the greater Middle East: "Iraq is slaughtered in live transmission, Sudan cut in half in live transmission, Afghanistan disappears - and now Palestine is the victim of an evil scheme transmitted live. This is the time to test your leadership and its legitimacy," he called to Muslim leaders worldwide.

Salah dedicated much of his speech for calling on the warring Palestinian factions to reunite.

"I turn to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to the Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and swear you in Allah's name, in the name of the masses present here, in the name of our children and elders and in the name of the shaheeds - to renew the Palestinian dialogue. I call on you to establish a Palestinian unity government and to keep to the Mecca agreement [a Saudi-mediated unity agreement signed in Mecca in March]. Jerusalem and Al Aksa call you, do not let down their call," he told attendants.

Haniyeh, of Hamas, has been officially removed from duty as Palestinian prime minister by PA chairman Abbas, of Fatah, shortly after Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June.

Salah was recently accused of incitement, when he called on Palestinians to initiate a "third intifadah" to stop Israeli renovation works near the Temple Mount that he claimed were hurting the Aksa mosque.

On Friday he again issued a direct threat at Israel.

"Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque have experienced occupation by various peoples in the past and lived through this occupation. I tell the Israelis: You and your occupation will disappear, Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque will remain forever."

According to organizers, approximately sixty thousand people arrived to attend the convention. But Israeli police made an estimate that no more than 10,000 people came to the event.

This was the 12th time the convention took place. Shauki Hatib, chairman of the Israeli Arab Monitoring Committee, who usually attends, was missing this year, but MK Abbas Zakhur (UAL), head of the Islamic Movement's southern branch, made his first appearance in the convention. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa gave a speech transmitted by video conference.

Ramon: Arrogance Gone Astray!

A finger in every pie By Yossi Verter

When Haim Ramon rejoined the cabinet, about two months ago, he said his ambition was to help Prime Minister Ehud Olmert get through 2008 safely and bring him politically healthy and sound to 2009. At the time, that looked like a mission that was too big for even a savvy fellow like Ramon. But this week, after the Winograd Committee - which is investigating the handling of the Second Lebanon War - gave in and retracted all its previous refusals concerning the right of individuals who are liable to be harmed by its findings to defend themselves, Ramon's ambitious goal looked a little less pretentious.

The indefinite delay of the committee's final report enables Ramon to complete his A-plan: an agreement between Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) on the principles of a final-status agreement, which would be intended to restore public trust in the least popular prime minister of the past decade and protect him against the conclusions of the Winograd Report when it is issued.

To achieve that goal, Ramon is conducting intensive dialogues in several sectors: with the Palestinians, whom he is trying to persuade to lower their demands and expectations; with Kadima, where there is uneasiness over Olmert's moves; and with the less convenient partners in the coalition, such as Avigdor Lieberman and the Shas party. His kingdom is broad, his activity eclectic: political, diplomatic, security (he is dealing with the passages in the "Jerusalem envelope") and, as of this week, it also involves the public and the media.

Isn't this the etrog syndrome redux?
The question - referring to the way the media protected Ariel Sharon like an etrog (the fruit that is carefully protected from damage during Sukkot), because of its support for the disengagement plan - makes Ramon laugh. "The etrog syndrome is a theory concocted by the press," he says. "I think it is arrant nonsense. If we have a window of opportunity today, and do not know how long it will remain open, the prime minister and the government have no choice but to try to seriously examine how far we can get. That is exactly what that man [Olmert] is doing. He is trying and examining. If it succeeds, and a significant, serious process begins, maybe 50-60 percent of the public will say: Even though we don't like him, we want to allow him to go on doing what he is doing. And if the parties in the Knesset say that the prime minister has to be allowed to advance a process that is good for Israel, where's the harm? That is their duty. "Knowing the prime minister as I do," Ramon continues, "there is no chance in the world that he will reach understandings that contradict substantively the worldview of the leaders of Kadima, of Kadima [itself], the coalition and especially the public. I myself will object if red lines are crossed. It is clear to me that in the very near future he will have to sit down with the ministers and update them. But in the meantime, this is all much ado about nothing. How can you be for or against when you don't know about what? I suggest that all those who are worried should calm down. Just calm down."

To erase the stigma

Behind Ramon's A-plan is a B-plan: to restore public trust in himself, and erase the public stigma that remains from the affair of the idiotic kiss. In fact, that affair is not yet behind him: petitions against Ramon's appointment to the cabinet are pending in the High Court of Justice. This is one subject the vice premier still declines to talk about. Apart from the kiss, though, he's ready to talk about everything. In fact, it was only this week that he returned to the front of the stage and the spotlights in a series of moves (including convening the ministerial committee on the settler outposts) and militant, testosterone-saturated security interviews (he called for cutting off the power and water to the Gaza Strip because of the firing of Qassam rockets from there). There was no escaping him: Ramon's face was on every channel, his voice on every radio station.

On Tuesday night, he attended the wedding of Shula Zaken's son (Zaken, Olmert's longtime close aide, was suspended earlier this year during a police investigation of the Tax Authority). People came up to congratulate him. No, not because the trial in the wake of the kiss ended with no declaration of opprobrium, but because of his proposal to punish the Gaza Strip, which was headlined that day in the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth. In the security cabinet, by the way, the proposal was received coolly by both Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "We will conduct our policy in Gaza not on the basis of newspaper headlines and not on the basis of emotional distress but on the basis of logic," a senior source in the Prime Minister's Office stated in response.

At least 95 percent of Ramon's talks with the Palestinians are not reported by the media. That is how he likes to work. "I am trying to persuade the other side to lower their expectations, not increase them," he says. "I tell them that there are things no government will be able to give them. That we will never enter into a detailed agreement that will stipulate exactly what regime will exist in the holy places, or which territories will be exchanged. Or, heaven forbid, that the right of return of the refugees will not be confined solely to a Palestinian state. We want a very general paper, one that can be adopted by Kadima, the coalition and the Knesset, and that will obtain the support of the majority of the public. That is what I tell them, and also international figures I meet with."

Ramon's hyperactivity, his surplus of motivation and his deep involvement in the political-diplomatic arena have landed him no few opponents. Senior figures in the Prime Minister's Bureau think he is in too much of a hurry and that his style is too rash, so much so that it endangers the process. The view in the bureau of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is that Ramon is ratcheting up expectations ahead of November's scheduled international conference in Washington unrealistically, even dangerously, high, and the defense minister's bureau is wrinkling its nose at his activity concerning the settler outposts and his frequent meetings with Palestinians.

In fact, Ramon is acting as foreign minister in practice. Livni gets updates from Olmert, but it is Ramon who is doing the diplomatic work with the Palestinians. This should come as no surprise to anyone. It is exactly what the prime minister had in mind for him on the eve of his hesitant and morose return to the government, and that is exactly what has happened. In the meantime, Ramon, who is nobody's fool, is walking on tiptoes, avoiding leaving behind crude footprints. He has no interest in fomenting confrontations between Olmert and Livni and Barak. Nor do they have any such interest.

Ehud Barak has a clear strategy with regard to Ramon: not to clash with him and not to run up against him, for good or for bad. Barak's circle calls it the "disengagement strategy." "Ehud is a candidate for prime minister," says a Barak confidant. "He does not mess with ministers without portfolio. In any event, there is not much substance in what Ramon is doing. It's all for show. Despite what he says, his activity is mainly political, intended to calm the unease in Kadima."

"There is no doubt that Ramon succeeded in making Olmert walk erect," says a Labor Party cabinet minister, "because he understands that Olmert's end will be his end, and vice versa - that Olmert's rehabilitation will help with his rehabilitation. Ramon is the most experienced person in Kadima, but he is an outsider, and without Olmert he has nothing. His main efforts are devoted to advising Olmert how to overcome internal party rivals: [Shaul] Mofaz, Livni, [Meir] Sheetrit."

"I try very hard not to hurt anyone or step on anyone's toes," Ramon says with uncharacteristic innocence. "We all have a common interest in the existence of a political process and a diplomatic horizon. Tzipi is talking about a diplomatic horizon, I am talking about a diplomatic horizon. It's possible that she doesn't think exactly what I think, but we both want a horizon." In regard to the outposts, too, Ramon says, there is no friction and no stepping on toes. "The committee on the outposts was established before Barak joined the government. You have to understand that this is not a committee to remove outposts; that is within the authority of the defense minister. This committee will decide two main things: how to build in Judea and Samaria - from balconies and classrooms to [whole] settlements - without this depending on the mood of the defense minister or the head of the Central Command; also what constitutes a legal settlement and an illegal one."

He finds no overlap or conflict in the fact that he convened the committee just when it was reported that Barak was holding a dialogue with the settlers concerning the illegal outposts. "I know that the defense minister is talking to the settlers," Ramon says, "and I definitely support that. If asked, I will also help with it." Was he asked? Has he met privately with Barak since he became defense minister? "The opportunity hasn't yet arisen," Ramon says. When it comes to Barak, Ramon suddenly becomes Mr. Laconic.

Elections? In 2010

Ramon's involvement in Olmert's day-to-day tactical and strategic management is also reflected in the central role he plays on the "Balfour team" (named for the Prime Minister's Residence, on Balfour Street in central Jerusalem) - Olmert's equivalent of Sharon's "ranch forum." Ramon is not just another member of the small, intimate group of Olmert's trusted aides, who meet in the residence almost weekly: He is effectively its director and main figure. "Haim is the most experienced political figure there other than the prime minister, and that is very much felt. The dynamics that are created between the two are extremely interesting," says a member of the team, who declines to go into detail, because of the forum's secrecy.

In addition to Ramon's array of assignments, Olmert has now put him in charge of the committee that will negotiate with the university students on the implementation of the Shohat Committee's conclusions on the matter of tuition fees. On top of this, he and the cabinet secretary, Oved Yehezkel, have the task of recruiting the parliamentary majority needed to pass the legislation on changing Israel's political regime, the apple of the eye of Avigdor Lieberman, who is himself the apple of Ehud Olmert's eye.

Ramon sounds a bit skeptical. "I hope we can obtain a majority for at least some of the issues. Not for a presidential regime, to which Olmert is opposed, but for raising the threshold percentage [referring to the percentage of the popular vote a party must obtain in order to enter the Knesset], for having the leader of the largest party in the Knesset automatically become prime minister, and for needing a larger majority to topple a government than to form a government, 66-67 MKs. Those changes will strengthen the country's political stability and the ability to govern." Before you rejoined the government, I remind him, you were afraid you would have nothing to do, that you would crawl around between Olmert's legs, remember? "Today I am happy with my lot," Ramon says. "It is now 11 o'clock at night [on Tuesday] and I am on the way home. That is what the rest of the week looks like, too. I have work, I try to influence, here and there I succeed. My relations with the prime minister are very good, I have full cooperation with him, and he gives me significant freedom of activity." Will Olmert survive until 2009, as Ramon wanted? "There is a good chance. Olmert is a good prime minister. I am not ignoring what happened in the war, but I don't want to get into that. He is certainly better than those who want to succeed him, and I am talking about the chairman of Labor and the chairman of the Likud. He has to be allowed to continue running the affairs of the state. The greatest disaster is instability. There are those who are planning elections for 2008. That would be disaster for the country. It is impossible to govern like that."

What are the chances that Kadima will run in the next elections with Olmert at its head? Ramon begins to show signs of impatience. "The next elections are in 2010. I am not a prophet and I cannot forecast what will be in another three years."

Yes, Your Input does Matter-Intel Pulls Support For CNN

I, along with so many others, contacted Intel and held their economic feet to the fire-here is what happened!

First my message to Intel, followed by their reply:

nature: Consumer,Question
feedback: How can you justify supporting God's Warriors series? Israel serves you well, over 5,000 of your best employees, home to many Intel discoveries and you turn on a dime to support this program? Did you even watch it? First, the moral equivalency among the three groups astounds me. second, it is biased, slanted and incorrect. Tell me, when was the last time you heard about a Jewish homicide bomber blowing himself up among Palestinian or Arab civilian populations? Have you ever seen an Israeli children's show telling youngsters that all Arabs are apes, pigs evil and they deserve to die? In what Israeli textbooks do you read about the destruction of Arab counties or disputed territories? I shall await your reply before I decide upon action. gs don morris, P.h.d

Dear Dr. Morris,
Thank you for your email. Intel in no way meant to offend or imply support for any of this content. In fact, Intel did not formally sponsor this series and was included as an advertiser without our knowledge. We have raised our concerns directly to CNN and requested withdrawal from any related sponsorship or advertising mention.
Suzanne Fallender
Intel Corporation

Comment: Subsequent to this Intel hascontacted CNN and asked for an apology, stated they never gave such permission for their name to be used in such a horrible series and then were given other free time on another CNN program. This cost CNN a great deal of money!

Thanks to everyone who made this possible.

Friday, September 07, 2007


· The historical context of the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Middle East is fundamentally different from that between the whites' Afrikaner ideology of apartheid and the blacks in South Africa. The latter was a system of discrimination and inequality based upon racial criteria; a system of domination by a minority over a majority and refusal to negotiate a bilaterally agreed solution. Furthermore, for Palestinians, violence aimed primarily at civilians has been the first choice for many decades, for the African National Congress it was the last resort and never aimed intentionally at the murder of civilians.

· The accusation that Israel is an apartheid state is an insidious tool in the hands of those who deny the entitlement of Jews to a viable national home. The tool is so effective because it contains within it the precedent of the use of boycotts as a method of attack as was the case against apartheid South Africa.

· Those who use the apartheid accusation employ the old anti-Zionist arguments. These constitute a multi-layered construct of fundamental ideological positions and analytical constructs, one of which is the purposeful displacement of the real nationalist context for historical comprehension of Zionism with the vilifying label of colonialism. Many anti-Zionists, but not necessary all of them, apply identifiable double standards of judgment to Israel traceable to the characteristic anti-Semitic premise that all things Jews do are inherently evil, including their nationalism.

· Even Israel's relinquishment of all of the occupied West Bank would not dispel the fallacious Israel=apartheid accusation because it is rooted in a priori denial of Jewish nationalist need and entitlement, proscription of the entire Zionist enterprise as loathsome colonialism, and false equation of the Jewish national purposes and symbols of the State of Israel with racism.

Deconstructing the False Equation
"The term 'apartheid' originated in South Africa to describe a policy that institutionalized separation and differential status of racially defined groups in order to maintain the White minority's domination of South Africa's non-white majority. Those who attack Israel as a so-called 'apartheid' state, give that term a meaning so broad that it is deprived of its original significance. This enables them to label as apartheid any controversial policy or action of Israel rather than comprehending it in the context of conflict situations and legitimate security needs."

Professor (Emeritus) Gideon Shimoni is a former head of the Hebrew University's Institute of Contemporary Jewry, and held the Shlomo Argov Chair in Israel-Diaspora Relations. One of his books deals with the Jewish community in apartheid South Africa.

"A foundational element of the false equation is the disingenuous transforming of the term 'apartheid' from the description of a singular historical phenomenon in a particular time and place - South Africa from about 1948 to 1994 - into a generic concept. This deceptive device functions much like use of the term 'holocaust' to describe any and all human disasters. It obscures apartheid's constitutive core, racism, as well as its actual historical context, South Africa.
"Unfortunately, also some Israeli journalists, who are otherwise legitimately critical of certain policies, throw the word in loosely, generally as a warning as to what could become the reality if the areas under occupation remain permanently so without granting the vote to their Palestinian residents. Such loose usage of the term 'apartheid' thus provides a great service to those who are unconscionably hostile to Israel and use the apartheid charge to delegitimize her very existence.
"Former American President Jimmy Carter is one of those who use the word apartheid in an over-generic sense. In his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid Carter in fact admits that he is not claiming that Israel practices apartheid but only that what is happening in the West Bank looks like it. Yet he chose to give the book a title that trumpets the stigmatic apartheid code-word. This attests to prejudice. As Alan Dershowitz commented, 'Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover.'

"In deconstructing and refuting the application of the term apartheid to Israel one has primarily to address the criticism that comes from persons who constitute the liberal-minded public, many of whom are probably na?ve, misinformed and misguided. There is a vast range of such people who are neither anti-Semites nor inveterately hostile to Israel."

The Historical Context

Shimoni stresses that the historical context of the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Middle East is fundamentally different from that of apartheid South Africa.
"The contextual essence of the Palestine/Israel syndrome was not colonialism but rather a clash of nationalisms. In sharp contrast, the genesis of South African society was patently colonialist, in the definitive sense of involving colonization in the imperialist interests of external states, initially the Netherlands, later Britain.

"The role of nationalism in the further development of South African society was relatively limited, functioning primarily for mobilization of White Afrikaner ethnicity against British imperial control. The essence of the South African syndrome was thus never a clash of nationalisms, but rather the near absolute domination exercised by a racially defined minority (the Whites) over a racially defined majority of the population, which was denied the franchise and equal civic rights.
"By the same token, if one compares the historical experience of South Africa and Israel, the question is whether the valid paradigm is that of conflict over equal, as opposed to unequal, human rights in a common society and polity, or rather over which national collective's self-determination should have precedence in a particular disputed territory?

"The answer is: the first paradigm is ontologically constitutive of the South African case, the second of the Israel case. In South Africa the essence of the struggle was for a shared civic society and for individual equality, whereas, the Israel-Arab conflict was and remains in essence a struggle between two nationalist aspirations for self-determination in the same territory. Hence the prospect for optimal resolution of the conflict diverges: in the first case, marriage and sharing, in the second, divorce and dividing. Both require negotiation. Accordingly, the main obstacle to resolution of the Arab-Jewish conflict is rejection of territorial partition; the main obstacle to resolution of the conflict that developed in South Africa was apartheid.

"Another basic difference between the two historical contexts is the way in which the struggle of the ANC and the PLO was conducted. In South Africa the blacks started with a tradition of non-violent resistance. They tried in every peaceful way to argue their case, only turning to violence as a last resort, because the other side refused to negotiate. Even when the African National Congress (ANC) turned to violence, its nature was incomparable with the barbarically indiscriminate practice not only of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad but even of the PLO. The ANC always tried not to harm civilians, and most of their attacks were against installations such as electricity pylons. Comparing the Palestinian struggle to that of the ANC is an absolute insult to the latter's historical record."

Palestinian Rejectionism
"The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected Jewish offers of a negotiated compromise." Shimoni mentions a few examples: "They refused all possibilities that were proposed by segments of the Jewish community in the 1920s and 1930s. This included ideas of cantonization and bi-nationalism. In 1937 the Peel Commission came to the conclusion that the only possible settlement was on the basis of a partition plan. Its work is acknowledged by most historians familiar with the history of the period to have been the most fair-minded approach ever taken to dealing with the tragically unfolding Arab-Jewish conflict.

"The Jewish community, notwithstanding pain and internal conflict, basically accepted this approach. The Palestinians rejected it with the support of the entire Arab world. The same happened in 1947 with catastrophic consequences for themselves. Like the Peel Commission, the UN came to the same conceptual conclusion that partition was the only solution. The Jewish side accepted this and the State of Israel was established accordingly. The Palestinian side, supported by all Arab independent states, totally rejected the partition compromise and turned to warfare in order to efface the Jewish state.

"In 1967 another round of war was imposed upon Israel. Reacting pre-emptively to a grave existential threat, with astonishing success, Israel found itself in control of the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank up to the Jordan River. After the Six-Day War, eight Arab heads of states met in Khartoum, Sudan and resolved 'no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." When asked whether he knows of any people other than the Arabs who - when defeated - refused to negotiate even to get back land which had been lost in a war of their own choosing Shimoni answers, "I don't know whether there are any."

He observes: "Later the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) did undergo a change of mind or strategy which resulted in the Oslo agreements of 1993. In the year 2000 Prime Minister Ehud Barak went further than any other Israeli leader in offering a negotiated compromise, again on the basis of a partition arrangement. Its essence was the acceptance in principle that there would be a Palestinian State alongside a Jewish state. When it came to the crunch, however, Arafat refused to take up this option of negotiated compromise. After that, the PLO turned again to terror and suicide murders."

The Moral Excoriation of Apartheid
"The international resistance to South Africa's apartheid regime was motivated by many different interests and purposes. Above all, a norm of racial equality that had grown out of the universal post-second world war anti-racialism agenda paved the way for apartheid to be morally adjudged the very epitome of abhorrent racist-grounded violation of the principle of equal human rights and dignity.
"From the purely moral point of view, it must be stressed that what became near universally recognized as so abhorrent about apartheid as to justify sanctions and boycotts of South Africa, was not the severe repression of all opposition to the regime, the likes of which could be found abundantly in many other countries plagued by violent internal conflict. Nor was it the ethnic survivalist rationale of White South Africans, because continued exercise of domination is not entirely indefensible as long as there are solid grounds for believing that the only alternative to dominating the Other is to be dominated by the Other.

"The utter excoriation of apartheid rested on two indefensible wrongs: firstly, the racist basis of apartheid's enforced inequalities; secondly the adamant refusal of the apartheid regime to accept negotiation as an option for resolving the consequent conflict. Essential moral conditions for such negotiation were not only the willingness of the dominator to end the system of apartheid domination but also the willingness of the dominated Other not to resort to reverse domination. In fact, when these conditions were satisfied, boycotts and sanctions against the South African state rightly ceased. Manifestly, neither of the above-mentioned fundamental wrongs applies in the case of Israel.

"The present government of Israel was elected on a platform calling for a mutually negotiated agreement that will satisfy the national requirements and thereby the human right needs of both sides. It is willing to let a Palestinian state come into existence alongside Israel. The Palestinians, however, elected a Hamas government which refuses to negotiate on the basis of mutual recognition and declares that it will wage war until Israel is wholly displaced by a Palestinian State.
"Hamas is a movement that bases itself upon a policy that has genocidal potentiality. This should be totally indefensible from the point of view of fair minded liberals. Thus public demonstrations and boycotts should be against Hamas, not against Israel's government."

History of the Israel=Apartheid Equation
Shimoni analyzes the Israel-apartheid equation in more detail. "It has a long provenance, but before 1973 its use centered on Israel's policy toward South Africa. When Israel joined the international condemnation of apartheid, in the 1950s and 1960s, it was used by its Afrikaner advocates, who truly believed - with an appalling mix of ignorance and fallacious comprehension of Judaism - that the teachings of the Bible, the practices that sustained millennial Jewish survival as a separate people, and the renewal of Jewish statehood, all together, constituted admirable models for apartheid theory and practice.

"Alternately, when Israel cooperated with the South African government, after about 1973, the Israel=apartheid equation was deployed in the international forum as a propaganda sub-theme of the notorious 'Zionism is Racism' slander. More recently the 'Israel-is-an-apartheid state' mantra has subsumed and largely superseded the defamatory 'Zionism is Racism' slogan.

"The foreboding signpost for this new direction was the September 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban. Even the South African government hosts admit that it turned into an unprecedented anti-Semitic hate fest in the course of which the apartheid stigma was viciously stamped upon Israel.[1] The signal significance of what happened in Durban is the spin that turned the human rights cause against itself, disingenuously creating congruence between anti-Semitism and support of human rights. Anti-Semitism postured as anti-racism, and Israel was demonized as South Africa's successor apartheid state!"

A Multi-Layered Construct
"The presumed Israel=apartheid equation is a multi-layered construct of fundamental ideological positions and analytical paradigms. One of these is the depiction of Israel as a product of colonialism. For the sake of the battle against Israel by its enemies it was vital to purposefully displace the nationalist context of Zionism with the colonialist paradigm. Zionism however never used the methods of the exploitative, historical phenomenon known as colonialism.

"The differences between Zionist settlement and definitively known cases of colonialism are of paramount significance. The foremost is that Zionist settlement in Palestine neither emanated from, nor was activated in the interests of, a state outside of Palestine.

"Zionists practiced colonization, but not in the context of colonialism. Their praxis was more akin to the parallel fin-de-si?cle immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe to Argentina and to the establishment there of agricultural colonies with the support of philanthropist Baron de Hirsch. From an economic perspective there was also a major difference with colonialism: the Zionist movement characteristically invested in Palestine rather than drawing profit or resources out of it.

"In sum, the definitive essence of Zionism was nationalist aspirations, and the essence of the Arab-Jewish conflict is the tragic clash between two self-defined national entities, each aspiring to national self-determination in the same territory. The core question was, and remains: which need and entitlement to national self-fulfillment should have precedence in the disputed land, known as Eretz Israel to the Jews and Filastin to the Arabs. Applying a colonialism paradigm subverts genuine understanding of Zionism and the Arab-Jewish conflict.

"Understandably, this depiction was enthusiastically adopted by Arab spokesmen for the cause of Arab resistance to the Zionist program in Palestine. Branding Zionism as colonialism, thereby denying recognition of any Jewish national needs and entitlement to Palestine as the Land of Israel, became a constitutive myth of the Arab discourse against the Jews.

"More recently, a broad school of so-called 'post-colonial' theorists - drawing heavily on Edward Said's polemic against so-called 'Orientalist' discourse - has sought to depict Zionism and the Jewish state as an entirely colonialist enterprise. The post-colonial paradigm has become a dogmatic ideological tool for automatically valorizing respectively stigmatizing beyond repair the presumed victims and perpetrators of all that is cast under the rubric of colonial or Orientalist discourse."

Why the Israel=Apartheid Fallacy Resonates
"Israel's governance, like that of most if not all states, undeniably has faults and moral failings and these may include breaches of human rights. But apartheid they are not, because they do not institutionalize human inequality on the grounds of race. Nor does Israel refuse the option of fair negotiation to resolve the conflict which has engulfed it. So why has the Israel=apartheid fallacy enjoyed such resonance?
"The answer is that apartheid has become one of the world's most potent defamatory code-words. Hence those who a-priori seek fatally to stigmatize Israel grasp it with alacrity as a weapon in the struggle to end its existence as a Jewish state. In a sense, the Israel=apartheid fallacy can serve as a litmus test for distinguishing between those who are hostile to Israel's very existence and those who are conscientious critics of the policies and actions of Israel's governments and public.
"On the whole, caring critics of Israel find it unconscionable to treat Israel as the successor of South Africa's apartheid state, much as they rightly shun the obscene equation of Zionism with Nazism or application of 'Protocols of Zion' conspiracy theory to describe Israel's behavior. However, today the apartheid stigma is all too serviceable for fighting Israel, because it evokes the precedent of powerful external pressure in the form of boycott and sanctions.

"The principal faults of many otherwise fair-minded liberal critics of Israel are: firstly, their double-standard moral judgment - higher standards for Israel than for Arabs - which in fact is an insult to the Arabs. Secondly, their one-eyed credulousness in favor of Arab ideological discourse and intent as opposed to Jewish cause and intent. This one-sidedness is compounded by their simplistic essentializing. Many left-liberals essentialize Israel facilely by dint only of the segmental Jewish national-religious ideology upheld by the settlers of the occupied areas, Samaria, Judea, and until recently Gaza. Few such critics, if any, are willing equally to essentialize the Palestinians by dint of Hamas' Muslim-nationalist ideology, even after it has gained the votes of a majority of the Palestinian electorate."

Ending Occupation Will not End Accusations

Shimoni considers that as long as the occupation regime and settlements beyond the borders of pre-Six Day War Israel exist, the Israel=apartheid fallacy will garner international credibility and be deployed increasingly as a weapon against Israel. In his view, effective repudiation of the charge requires recognition of the settler-occupation regime's moral indefensibility and encouragement of the Israeli public's willingness to end it; a willingness indeed demonstrated by the recent painful withdrawal from the Gaza strip.

He stresses that even the most ardent and persuasive advocates of Israel's cause, for example Alan Dershowitz, share this view. "Purely legalistic arguments such as that Gaza and the West Bank are disputed territories legitimately held by Israel as a result of failed aggression by the Arabs, carry no more weight than the purely theological claim that God promised all of the Land of Israel to the Jews."
Yet, Shimoni says that it is important to recognize that even relinquishment of all of the occupied West Bank, as has already been done in regard to the Gaza Strip, would not dispel the fallacy. "It rests firmly on a multilayered edifice of hostile premises: denial in principle of Jewish nationalist need and entitlement, proscription of the entire Zionist enterprise as loathsome colonialism, and false equation of the Jewish national purposes and symbols of the State of Israel with racism."

Shimoni concludes: "In sum, the fallacious Israel=apartheid equation is manifestly a malicious calumny used as a weapon aimed at the de-legitimization of Israel and its dissolution as a state that is Jewish in any meaningful sense. It is particularly insidious because it twists the worthy universal human rights agenda against itself."
Interview by Manfred Gerstenfeld
* * *
Professor (Emeritus) Gideon Shimoni is a former head of the Hebrew University's Institute of Contemporary Jewry, and held the Shlomo Argov Chair in Israel-Diaspora Relations. Among his books are The Zionist Ideology, (1995) and Community and Conscience: The Jews in Apartheid South Africa, (2003) both published by Brandeis University & University Press of New England.
We would like to draw your attention to 3 recently published articles:Hatred of the Jews as a Psychological Phenomenon in Palestinian Society by Daphne Burdman (Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4, Fall 2006)Israeli-Ugandan Relations in the Time of Idi Amin by Arye Oded (Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4, Fall 2006)Malaysia: Anti-Semitism without Jews by Moshe Yegar (Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4, Fall 2006)

Israel Raises the Level on Water Technology

The $10 million Palmachim desalination plant has begun pumping de-salted water from the Mediterranean Sea for the consumption of 300,000 people in the coastal area. The plant is prepared to expand production capacity and includes its own power station.
Israel has become the worldwide leader in developing technologies to address the issue of severe water shortages, having faced the problem for decades within its own borders.
The government agreed two months ago to more than double its self-imposed national limits of production of desalinated water from 230 million cubic meters to 505 million cubic meters. A plant currently under construction in Hadera will add its muscle to the effort, and three more plants are expected to join the list within the next five years.
National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer commented during inaugural ceremonies at the plant’s opening that water technology remains a significant priority for the country. He also noted that the rest of the world is beginning to wake up to the need for making the most of what is rapidly becoming a diminishing resource.
“Increasing Israel’s water sources is a top priority and part of our strategic plan for the future,” said Ben-Eliezer. “The entire world has also become aware of the fact that as the climate continues to change, there is less rain that can be used for drinking and the need for fresh water will continue to increase.”
Members of Waterfront, an industry lobby comprised of private companies, academic institutions and Mekorot, the state-owned water company, have pooled their resources to reach a goal of $5 billion in water-related exports within the next three years.
According to a report by the Al Bawaba website, the Israeli water industry currently includes some 270 companies and organizations devoted to water research and development, employing some 8,000 people.
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment figures showed that sales in desalination, drip irrigation and water purification technologies brought some $850 million to Israel’s coffers in 2006. Water industry sales are expected to top $1.1 billion by the end of 2007.
Israeli companies are eyeing what will clearly be a bonanza in the not-too-distant future: figures for the technology component of water industry sales show that the market share is growing by 14 percent annually, and accounts for at least 25 percent of the revenues.
At present, some 60 percent of Israel’s sewage water is recycled, with two other desalination plants operating in Ashkelon and Eilat. A fourth is under construction in Hadera.
The Ashkelon desalination plant, known as the largest such facility in the world, produces 100 million cubic meters per year using seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) technology. The Palmachim desalination plant, built by Via Maris Desalination, is expected to produce 30 million cubic meters of desalinated water per year, also using the SWRO technology

Imagine For One Moment…

that instead of Iranian artillery indiscriminately shelling Kurdish civilians across the border in Iraq, it was Israeli artillery doing likewise to Arabs in Gaza. Let’s step back a bit.
For weeks now, Iran has been shelling Kurdish villages in Iraq, supposedly because it fears that Iranian Kurds, who wish for autonomy in Iran, are taking refuge across the border. Iran says PEJAK--a breakaway faction of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)--launches attacks from Iraqi bases.
For some time now, Turks and Iranians have been collaborating in ways to deal with their Kurdish “headaches.” In this, they’re soul mates with Arabs as well. All have worked to deny over thirty million Kurds--who pre-date Arabs and Turks in the region by millennia and who are there at least as long as Iranians--political rights in a nationalist age.
And it’s worse than that. All three have killed many hundreds of thousands of Kurds, subjugated living ones, and denied them even their own culture and language over the past century.
While the world demands a 22nd state for Arabs (their second, not first, one in “Palestine”…Arab Jordan sits on 80% of the latter), Kurds are still only referred to as separatists, terrorists, or the like when this subject comes up for them. The AP story on September 2nd was the latest to do this (“Iranian Shelling Angers Iraq,” by Yahya Barzanji). And consider the following as well. There are millions of Arabs in Iran’s own western, oil-rich Khuzestan province--so many that even Iranians have called it Arabistan for centuries. It was the main reason Iraq and Iran fought their bloody war several decades ago. Why not create Arab state # #22 there--especially since the province did trade back and forth between Arab and Iranian rule over the centuries?
Answer…Won’t happen because the Iranians are total hypocrites.
Iran brutally suppresses Arab, Kurd, Baluchi, Azeri, and so forth when it comes to the question of Iran’s own unity and national security, yet it’s quick to point the finger at Israel about the latter’s reluctance to cave in to Hamas, Fatah, and other Arabs who still have the Jew of the Nations’ destruction as their end goal.
So, let’s return to the beginning of this article.
Over two years after Israel totally withdrew from Gaza, Israel’s south is still being bombarded indiscriminately by Arab rockets and so forth from Gaza. One of the latest hit near a day care center, damaging a home next door and sending 12 young children to the hospital. Another exploded on a street in the center of the city. In their statements to the press, the Arabs called the attacks a "gift" for the new school year.
Could you imagine the world-wide outcry, condemnations, editorials, and so forth if--in response to this barbaric, deliberate assaults on the most innocent--Israel merely repaid Arabs in kind?
Folks, if I was running the show, best believe they’d get a mega dose of their own medicine--and with just a slight bit of hesitation. I’d probably first issue sufficient warnings that such equal treatment will soon be coming…and then exponentially with each new Arab “revenge” attack.
Sorry, lefty, suicidal, liberals (and I’m an old fashioned Liberal, in many ways, myself…but a very different breed from the “new” species)--especially the head-in-the-sand Hebrew types.
Let Arabs see what it’s like when they’re subjected to random, indiscriminate bombardment like they dish out…perhaps afterwards they’ll think twice about allowing the deliberate murder and attempted murder of Jews from being launched from their lands. And, if not, the other way didn’t work either. When you’re outnumbered 300 million Arabs to 5 million Israeli Jews, perceived weakness and inaction is suicidal. Tit-for-tat responses don’t work under these circumstances.
Yeh, I know, the world would be screaming about “Nazi Jews” and such…the same world that watches Israel’s Sderot daily targeted and victimized and says nothing.
Whoops--sorry, I’m wrong…the world does say that Israel must cave in even more.
So, being “nice” hasn’t worked. Again, unilateral withdrawals and such are simply seen by Arabs as weakness and incremental victories towards their destruction-in-phases plans for Israel.
Jews try to do it right and get shafted anyway.
Israel tries its best to target the exact perpetrators--yet when the latter hide amidst their own populations (against the Geneva Conventions), civilians at times get caught in the middle…especially since Arabs love to use their own kids to retrieve rocket launchers after firing missiles at Israel. Sick…but again, no world outcry.
Now, given this situation regarding expectations of Israel to pinpoint targets as it responds to Arab terror, why is it that Iran feels free to attack Kurdish civilians at will because of its quarrel with Kurdish “separatists?”
Why is there no worldwide outcry for the plight of Kurdish victims and refugees--let alone the absence of support for Kurdish political aspirations? Where are editorials, nasty sermons and demands from the American State Department, and such?
While I’m not endorsing PKK or PEJAK attacks on innocents if and when they occur, please understand that neither Arabs, Turks, nor Iranians have granted Kurds anywhere near the rights that Israel has already conceded to Arabs which seek its very destruction …including partitions of the land itself. Why is the latter a must for Israel, but autonomy (at the least) and political rights for suppressed Kurds unspeakable?
Shortly, Mr. Bush’s Fall Summit to shove a Fatahstan--the Arabs’ second state in Palestine--down Israel’s throat will commence--despite the fact that Abbas’s allegedly “moderate” Arafatians have as much or more Jewish blood on their hands--and the same end goals regarding Jews--as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Just visit all of their websites, for starters.
Is it not time for the plight of tens of millions of Kurds--who seek no one else’s destruction, but just a slice of political rights themselves which has been denied them up until now--to also move onto the front burner of the world’s moral conscience?

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Red Cross Backs Down-Again!

The visit of the Red Cross to Gilad Shalit: a Hamas leader has denied that his organization would authorize a representative of the Red Cross to visit the Israeli corporal. Ossama al-Mazini justified this refusal by the concern that Hamas has to keep Gilad alive. "If Israel knows where he is, it may bombard the spot to cause his death and put an end to the affair," he said. On Wednesday, the Red Cross official Angelo Gnaedinger met with the former Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh who gave him hope of seeing the captive.

Israel’s economy movin’ on up in World Competitiveness

Israel starts to compete with the big-timers as it advanced to the 21st spot out of 55 countries ranked in World Competitivenes One place above Israel was the UK and one place below was Estonia. Number one.. can you guess? the USA. Here are some more details, provided by Globes-Israel:

Israel’s economy has climbed three places to 21st place in the World Competitiveness Yearbook rankings, published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. The survey, which was published today, ranks 55 countries according 323 economic criteria, and is based on data collated from business entities worldwide. Israel is ranked in 20th place for economic strength, unchanged from last year. However, it has climbed 20 places, from 45th to 25th in the ratings for international investment.

…The survey assesses each country’s performance according to four main measures: economic efficiency, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure. Israel dropped two places to 33rd in the economic efficiency rankings. It rose two places to 25th place in the government efficiency rankings, and climbed to 16th from 24th place in the rankings for business efficiency. It rose by just one place to 14th place in the infrastructure rankings.

Ball in Assad's Court

How will Syria respond to current alleged Israeli provocation? Experts believe Damascus not keen to start war, waiting for Israel's reaction The reports of an IAF aircraft infiltrating Syria's airspace Thursday prompted concerns and speculations among Israeli officials and security experts, as to whether Damascus plans to respond to the alleged Israeli provocation.

"Syria is making a big deal out of it, and rightfully so as far as it is concerned," said Dr Mordechai Kedar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Bar Ilan University. "It seeks to retroactively discredit the Israeli claim regarding the causes of the last war, and show the Arab world that Israel, which claimed it's sovereignty was violated (in the war with Lebanon last summer) now violates the sovereignty of another country.

"Syria also wants to draw the world's attention to its direction, in order to ease the pressure on its ally Iran."

According to Kedar, the Syrian response depended on Israel, "and this is why Jerusalem remains silent. I think that in the future they may adopt Hizbullah's methods, namely – a kidnapping here, a Katyusha there, because they believe Israel will think twice before going to another war."

'Assad in control'
Prof Eyal Zisser, head of Tel Aviv University's Middle Eastern and African Studies department, said he believed Syria would not be quick to attack. "Syria's statements are even quite reassuring. They do not contain any new messages, the rhetoric is moderate… and that's a good thing.

"The fact that Assad chose not to respond himself… is also good. The problem is the negative dynamics that are being created here, and this should worry us," he explained.

Commenting on recent reports that Syria has been amassing arms with the help of Iran, Zisser said, "This certainly creates a problem in the long run. A regional arms race and new military opportunities are not a good thing, but it's early to say how the Syrians will respond."

Zisser claimed that Assad's decision to bring up "the resistance option" was not a clever move, because it brought about the current tensions. "He did not act wisely, he pushed himself to a corner and we now face a more problematic situation.

"However, for better and for worse, I believe that Assad is in control in Syria and that anything that is happening there was created by him," he concluded.

Palestinians attend Friday prayers amid worries of violence

Bethlehem – Ma'an – Muslim Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories are attending Friday prayers today despite worries that violence may break out as Fatah intends to continue to hold a number of prayer services outdoors in protest of Hamas' control over the Gaza Strip.

Fatah's outdoor prayers led to clashes with Hamas' security services, particularly in Gaza in previous weeks.

Hamas reiterated Friday its decision to prohibit outdoor services, calling them "political prayers." A statement by Mufti Marwan Abu Ras, head of the Palestinian Religious Scientist Forum in Gaza said that Hamas forbids and 'curses' such actions.

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, meanwhile, ruled that outdoor prayers are allowed under Islamic law, saying "those prayers are allowed, similar to the Prophet Muhammad's prayer in the Eid."

Shameful Contest At MIT-Yes You Read Correctly!

MIT's "Just Jerusalem" Contest Maligns Israel &
Encourages Taking Israeli Sovereignty Away from ALL of Jerusalem

Shalom CAMERA E-Mail Team:

In response to our August 8 alert about MIT's skewed "Just Jerusalem" contest (see below for that alert), many of you wrote excellent letters to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Some of these letters were passed on to Diane Davis, the co-director Jerusalem 2050 (the MIT group running the "Just Jerusalem" competition). Professor Davis, in turn, replied to a number of people who protested the contest's bias.

But Professor Davis's reply, which spoke in repeated vague generalities about the contest's supposed neutrality, failed to address any of the specific issues that betray the contest's partisan skew.

She claimed in her form-letter that there is no "implicit or explicit bias towards a particular sovereignty status for the city." But Professor Davis herself has written that the project seeks visions of "a city that is institutionally autonomous from competing nation-states." Clearly, this comment by Professor Davis - the co-director of the steering committee responsible for the contest - discourages visions which see Jerusalem and its institutions remaining under Israeli sovereignty.
More striking, though, is the claim in Davis's letter that "there is no political bias" and that the contest organizers "have carefully balanced or sidelined [political] considerations." The partisanship and lack of "balance" could not be more glaring.

If the contest has no political bias, then how did the following appear as part of the contest write-up?

"Jerusalem is divided by occupation and marked by profound inequality, injustice, and violence. The city continues to construct boundaries that segregate its space and its inhabitants, making many residents immobile, insecure, and excluded. Religiously, Jerusalem is central to the three monotheistic religions but is not equally accessible to all of them."

Most Israelis, and other observers, would certainly disagree that Israeli rule of the city is marked by "injustice." And it is clearly false that Jerusalem is "not equally accessible" to the three monotheistic religions. Israel does not restrict access to the city based on religion -- Muslim, Christian and Jewish Israelis, as well as tourists of any religion, are free to access the city. It is simply wrong to suggest that Israeli restrictions on individuals from countries or regions at war with Israel are related to the individual's religion rather than to security considerations.

Moreover, any contest seeking to avoid bias and sideline political considerations about a contentious issue would not be so dominated by individuals espousing extremist points of view about the issue and demonstrating such hostility toward only one side of the conflict.

MIT should explain why so many of those affiliated with "Just Jerusalem" represent the farthest fringe of one side of the debate? Wouldn't "balance" require a similar number of individuals who represent the opposite extreme? Or better yet, wouldn't it require that the contest officials not be political extremists at all, but rather moderates who understand both sides of the issue?

Consider how many of those affiliated with the contest promote fringe, anti-Israel views and delegitimize the Jewish state by calling it "racist," "colonialist," or a practitioner of "apartheid."

The steering committee's co-director, Leila Farsakh, signaled her support for an academic boycott of Israel by signing the May 20, 2005 "Open Letter to MESA Members." Clearly, this is an extreme position. Scores of university presidents - including MIT's president Susan Hockfield - agree that an academic boycott of Israel would be "utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy," a "deeply misguided policy," and an "intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempt to hijack the central mission of higher education" (See the anti-boycott ad signed by university presidents).

Farsakh also promotes an equally extreme, politically partisan and inaccurate position by calling Israel a colonialist and apartheid state. Similar views have been expressed by steering committee members Yosef Jabareen and Hania Maraqa and jury members Salim Tamari and Meron Benvenisti. Steering committee members Naomi Chazan, Jennifer Klein, Everett Mendelsohn, Zeina Saab, Richard Sennett, Philip Khoury and John Tirman also represent various points on the anti-Israel part of the spectrum.

Insisting the contest is unbiased and apolitical without addressing any specific complaints, as Diane Davis did in her e-mails to CAMERA members, is not a serious response. MIT should address - and redress - the specific shortcomings of the competition. With all the steering committee members who level virulent attacks against Israel, where are the steering committee members who focus on Palestinian culpability for the conflict? Why are both the Israeli and the Palestinian members of the jury extremist critics of Israel? Is this what MIT considers "balance"?

And how does MIT explain the "Just Jerusalem" Web site's highly partisan contention that Jews living in eastern Jerusalem - which includes the Jewish Quarter - are "settlers," and that Jerusalem under Israeli rule is marked by "injustice"? Why does the Web site mislead readers by claiming that "Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem are considered residents of Israel, not citizens" and that "they don't have Israeli passports and cannot vote in national elections"? In fact, Israel offers citizenship to all Arab citizens of eastern Jerusalem. Although most have chosen not to accept this citizenship, those who do hold Israeli passports can vote in national elections.

Action Items:

* Reread our August 8 alert, which is pasted below.

* If Diane Davis has sent you a reply that did not address the specific complaints about the contest, contact MIT president Susan Hockfield and insist that Professor Davis's vague and disingenuous generalities are insufficient. If you are using e-mail, copy Diane Davis on your note.

Feel free to thank President Hockfield for endorsing Columbia University president Lee Bollinger's note expressing dismay with the anti-Israel boycott movement, but you might also want to question why MIT is running a contest related to the Arab-Israeli conflict that is co-directed by a supporter of such a boycott (Leila Farsakh). If a boycott is "utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy," as the statement endorsed by President Hockfield asserts, then should someone who effectively supports such a boycott head an MIT contest about Israel?

President Susan Hockfield:

Diane Davis:

* If you haven't already done so, write to MIT officials to respectfully protest the contest's partisan, anti-Israel skew. This skew is evidenced by the contest's call for "a city that is institutionally autonomous from competing nation-states," by its steering committee and jury dominated by extremist critics of Israel, and by the Web site's misleading and pro-Palestinian assertions, including the defamatory description of Jerusalem.


MIT President Susan Hockfield:

MIT Corporation Chairman Dr. Dana G. Mead:
(The MIT Corporation is the board of trustees that governs the university. Dana is a male. )

MIT Provost Professor L. Rafael Reif:

MIT Alumni Association President Harbo P. Jensen:

Let CAMERA know if you wrote or called MIT. Send CAMERA blind copies of your letters:

Our original alert from August 8

MIT's "Just Jerusalem" Contest Maligns Israel &
Encourages Taking Israeli Sovereignty Away from ALL of Jerusalem

Shalom CAMERA E-Mail Team:

In Brief:

MIT has launched a "Just Jerusalem" contest that solicits "entries that envision Jerusalem, real and symbolic, as a just, peaceful, and sustainable city by the year 2050," as if Jerusalem is none of those things today. According to the co-sponsors ( Center for International Studies and Department of Urban Studies and Planning ), "Jerusalem is divided by occupation and marked by profound inequality, injustice, and violence. The city continues to construct boundaries that segregate its space and its inhabitants, making many residents immobile, insecure, and excluded. Religiously, Jerusalem is central to the three monotheistic religions but is not equally accessible to all of them." No surprise, the contest's steering committee and jury are comprised mostly of people with harshly anti-Israel views.

Complaints to MIT about this anti-Israel contest will likely elicit responses of "academic freedom; there's nothing we can do." But at the very least, the public should make it known loudly and clearly to MIT that such a skewed propagandistic contest is antithetical to true education and it taints MIT's reputation for scholarship and fairness.

Allowing MIT to become a haven for anti-Israel propaganda makes MIT an unattractive university for one's children or for donations.

For more details about the contest's bias, see the "In Depth" section below the Action Items.

Action Items:

* Read CAMERA's detailed analysis of the Just Jerusalem competition's steering committee and jury here:

* Write to MIT officials to respectfully protest the contest's partisan, anti-Israel skew. This skew is evidenced by the contest's call for "a city that is institutionally autonomous from competing nation-states," by its steering committee and jury dominated by extremist critics of Israel, and by the Web site's misleading and pro-Palestinian assertions, including the defamatory description of Jerusalem.


MIT President Susan Hockfield:

MIT Corporation Chairman Dr. Dana G. Mead:
(The MIT Corporation is the board of trustees that governs the university.
Dana is a male. )

MIT Provost Professor L. Rafael Reif:

MIT Alumni Association President Harbo P. Jensen:

Let CAMERA know if you wrote or called MIT. Send CAMERA blind copies of your letters:

In Detail:

The university is a place for the exchange and exploration of ideas. And so, at first glance, there is nothing especially remarkable about the Just Jerusalem competition at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The competition, according to its executive summary, is meant "to generate new ideas and discussions about Jerusalem as it might be in the future - a just city shared in peace by all residents" and to lead to a "plurality of ideas and design visions that will make the competition a starting point for future deliberations over the city."

But despite this stated desire for a "plurality of ideas," the Just Jerusalem literature steers potential participants away from submitting certain ideas. The contest's executive summary, for example, calls for ideas about a "shared" city and visions that "transcend nationalist discourses." Three members of the Jerusalem 2050 steering committee, including its two directors, wrote an article explaining that the competition arose from a sense that "it may be time to try a new approach to Jerusalem, one that entails envisioning this city as transcending the constraints imposed by nation-states," and more specifically, "a city that is institutionally autonomous from competing nation-states." A solution to Jerusalem's problems, they suggested, would be one that would "emancipate" the city from "nationalist blueprints."

In other words, the competition appears to preclude, or in the very least discourage, proposals that leave even part of the city under Israeli sovereignty, including proposals along the lines of the one suggested by Bill Clinton in December 2000. The so-called Clinton Parameters, which represented the culmination of long and painstaking negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, called for what is Arab in Jerusalem to be Palestinian and what is Jewish to be Israeli. (Israel accepted the proposal and the Palestinians effectively rejected them. For details about the Clinton Parameters, see Dennis Ross's The Missing Peace.) Instead, the contest encourages proposals that wrest Jerusalem from Israeli sovereignty and turn the area into an international or binational "corpus separatum," or separate entity.

Equally troubling is the extremely partisan make up of the competition's steering committee and jury. Of the 20 members of the steering committee, 11 have shown themselves to be at best critical of and at worst extremely hostile toward Israel, while having little, if any, public criticism of the Palestinians. These jury members have accused Israel of state terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and of being racist state or even apartheid state.

By contrast, only one person on the MIT's online list of committee members past and present has unequivocally pointed to Palestinian violence rather than Israel's response to that violence as the key obstacle to peace. The remaining seven committee members (plus another one who isn't on the online list) have said very little publicly about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

With pro-Palestinian views dominating the steering committee, it is little surprise that the competition's jury includes similar partisans.

For example, a Palestinian jury member accuses Israel of racism, refers to Israeli settlements as "colonies," and argues that the Palestinians are living in an apartheid situation. And the Israeli jury member is even worse. To him, Israel and its "immigrant" Jews are not victims, but rather an "oppressor" of the "native" Palestinians. In fact, Israel is even worse than apartheid South Africa, he suggests.

The effect of this partisanship is already apparent. A section on the Just Jerusalem Web site about "The Political Geography of the City" refers to Jews living in east Jerusalem as "settlers" living in "settlements," thus clearly endorsing the Palestinian viewpoint while rejecting the Israeli view that Jews in east Jerusalem, including in the Jewish Quarter, are not "settlers." And the Web site's section on "The Socio-Economic Geography of the City" misleadingly claims that "Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem are considered residents of Israel, not citizens" and that "they don't have Israeli passports and cannot vote in national elections." In fact, Israel offers citizenship to all Arab citizens of eastern Jerusalem. Although most have chosen not to accept this citizenship, those who do hold Israeli passports can vote in national elections.

With thanks,

Gilead Ini
Senior Research Analyst

Response to: Jewish youths=Muslim terrorists, Sept. 4, 2007 New Statesman

Sept 6, 2007

Letters to the Editor

New Statesman
Dear Editor,

My grandson toured Israel this summer. Part of his time was devoted to IDF training.
He was issued a uniform. Got up early, ate poorly, was taken on long marches and abandoned with his mates in a forest armed with a compass and told to find his way back to the base. It was boy scout training pure and simple. They were not taught how to manufacture explosive devices, not harangued with religious theology that glorifies suicide bombing, not filled with racial purity garbage and certainly not taught that gentiles were infidels that had to be subdued. How the New Statesman could equate these Jewish kids with Islamic kids who do receive all the aforementioned indoctrination and instruction at jihad camps is a mystery in need of investigation. May I suggest one avenue, Britain’s falling IQ scores.

Sincerely yours,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Checkpoint checking

I rejoined the three Mahsom Watch women and we spent another half-hour observing the machinations of the checkpoint.
Comment: Seth is a very descriptive writer-note his analogies. He also attributes his feelings to body language he perceives in those waiting in line. He enters this "book' with a preconceived outcome and thus finds data to support his position; this is the ongoing fundamental flaw in these types of authors and books-they address the author's needs while trying to disguise the rel purpose of such work.I will not allow these people to go through this process untouched or unchallenged. I also have spent time at the checkpoints and will re-visit these writings-soon!

Slumped against the concrete slabs of the graffiti-covered security wall, I drifted off to sleep as I waited for the line of Palestinians to shuffle forward toward the checkpoint. The sun shone weakly through the dark early morning clouds, a cold wind did its damnedest to extinguish the cigarettes that hung from almost every pair of lips, and the only sound was the rustle of paper bags as the workers ate their breakfasts al fresco - as if they had a choice...
Welcome to rush hour at the Bethlehem checkpoint, where the difference between a day's paid work or a wasted morning's queuing followed by a mournful trudge home all rests on the whims of the bored teenagers manning the turnstiles inside their bullet-proof sentry boxes.
My own presence in the midst of the interminable line of laborers was down to my guides for the day, three Israeli women from Mahsom Watch who had encouraged me to use my British passport to pass through the checkpoint into Bethlehem so I could time how long it took me to return to the Israeli side. A trio of middle-aged Charlie's Angels, the women come every Thursday morning to the checkpoint at the crack of dawn to keep an eye on the army's treatment of those crossing the border, and to intervene when required on behalf of the helpless Palestinians whose complaints fall on deaf ears.
AS THE QUEUE edged forward agonizingly slowly, I looked around me at the world-weary faces of the men in their tattered work clothes as they stared helplessly at the red and green lights that hung above the turnstile. Those at the front of the semi-dark hall were bathed in the luminous glare of the red light, as it beamed out its warning to stand still and not come any closer to the booth 10 meters ahead. A couple of muttered cries of "Open another window, please" punctured the silence, but had little effect on the stony-faced soldiers manning their posts.

All of a sudden, the green light flashed into life, and the crowd surged forward as though scrambling for a place on the last helicopter out of Saigon. Five seconds later, and the light was cruelly switched back to red, with less than a dozen people having managed to make it through to the promised land. Eventually, the floodgates opened once again, and this time I was propelled forward by the swell as we pushed our way through the iron doorway.
As we rounded the corner, the men began removing their belts and holding up their trousers pitifully with one hand, as they clutched their valuables with the other. When we reached the x-ray machines, paint-spattered workboots were kicked off and placed on the conveyor belt, along with bags of food and bundles of clothes.
FORGETTING MY current status as merely another body to be searched, I walked through the metal detector without removing either my belt from my waist or my keys from my pocket. The siren screamed out its annoyance at my slip, and I retraced my steps and tried again.

Again I failed, thanks to the lighter in my back pocket, and the men behind me angrily motioned for me to take the situation more seriously. This was no good-humored queue of holiday-makers making light of inconvenient airport security - this was real life, and time was money to the impoverished men desperate to get through to find work on the other side.

Once I'd reattached my belt and rejoined the queue, I stood morosely in line for another 15 minutes. Those ahead of me had their hand-prints read by the computer monitors and handed their papers to the soldiers through the gap in the glass. Brandishing my British passport like a shield, I strode up to the cubicle, where the bored girl gave my maroon-encased papers a cursory glance before nonchalantly waving me through - evoking jealous stares from the green-ID-carrying masses behind me.
ON MY return, I rejoined the three Mahsom Watch women and we spent another half-hour observing the machinations of the checkpoint. When it became clear that there were not enough windows open to deal with the burgeoning number of people crossing, Ruti phoned the local army commander, who agreed to send a soldier to man another stall. I was standing next to the door of the troop's barracks, and a sharp blow from behind announced the arrival of the extra soldier dispatched to deal with the crowd, as she kicked the door open and strode into the hall.

Expecting her to apologize for knocking me sideways, I looked plaintively at her, and received a glower and "Nu, what?" in return. I responded in kind, but she'd spotted our Mahsom Watch badges by now and knew full well who was responsible for the sudden end to her break time. She sneered at me and flounced away, gun swinging from her shoulder in time with her footsteps.

EVERY NOW and then, an incoming Palestinian would stop and greet Ruti and her comrades, exchanging pleasantries and thanking them for their work. Outside the reception hall stood half-full minibuses, and those exiting the checkpoint hurled themselves at the bus doors, fighting one another for a coveted place aboard that would guarantee them a day's income on a building site in Jerusalem.

As the queue finally thinned, our observation job was nearly done for the day, and we got into the car and headed off into the hills for the next stage of the proceedings. We drove to Neve Yunis, where two Palestinian men were stranded after receiving fines from the police. Thanks to yet another malicious trick on the Israeli authorities' behalf, a Palestinian who gets a speeding ticket, for example, will have his papers confiscated until he pays the fixed penalty at the appropriate office. Except, of course, he can't get to the offices without his papers, since the army won't let any Palestinian through a checkpoint without his ID documents. No payment, no papers; no papers, no payment - which is where the women of Mahsom Watch come in.
Ruti and her colleagues play the middleman in this particular game of chicanery, ferrying the money and the papers between the two sides until the situation is sorted, and so it was this morning. The two grateful men poured out their hearts in thanks, before clutching their documents to their chests and heading off down the dirt track toward their village.

Next up was a visit to the DSO offices, where a large crowd of young men stood resignedly outside, waiting for a chance to plead their case for a permit to work inside Israel's borders.

AS WE approached the group, a white-haired man called out to Ruti, hurrying over to her and begging her to help him. "I've been put on the Shabak list," he cried, "and I don't know why. They say I'm banned from entering Israel, and they won't give me a hearing to put my case to them. I've got six children to feed, and all my work's in Israel - I don't know where to turn."

Trying to calm him, Ruti thrust into his hand the phone number of her colleague Sylvia, who is well-versed in intervening with the security services in cases such as this. "I've spoken to her," he replied, running an anxious hand through his thinning hair, "but she hasn't been able to do anything so far."

"It's getting desperate now at home," he went on - "what am I meant to do?"
Save for encouraging him to try Sylvia again, Ruti was unable to give him any other practical advice, having calculated the odds stacked against him. Afterwards, she told me that often Shabak wait until people like him are on the verge of penury, and then approach them quietly and tell them all their troubles could be over - if they'll just provide them a name of a terrorist in their village. Even though their quarry might not have a clue who is or isn't on the extremists' books, he'll often give any name just to get his papers back and regain the chance to work - and thus the cycle continues.

AS WE drove back to Jerusalem, Ruti waxed lyrical about the status quo that is allowing such criminal deeds to occur. "Occupation has to involve dehumanization," she told me. "If you have feelings, you can't kick someone down - so we've conditioned our soldiers to have no feelings for the Palestinians. We've brought up this third generation [of Israelis] to act like conquerors, and to have contempt for the conquered."

I suggested that the plight of the Palestinian workers is similar to that of battery chickens. No one likes to think of the conditions battery chickens are forced to live in; instead they prefer not to dwell on the issue at all, so long as they get their cheap meat (or cheap labor, in this case). Ruti agreed, saying "Israelis just don't want to know what goes on, they don't want to see themselves as the bad guys. People need to feel good, so they simply close their eyes to reality."

Which is what makes the work Mahsom Watch does so crucial to breaking the silence. These women and their colleagues are all Israeli Jews, and their publicizing via the Israeli media the atrocious conditions for Palestinians means that their message reaches parts that international activist groups can't reach. At the same time, "we show the Palestinians that not all Israeli [Jews] are enemies, and that's a vital part of our work," said Ruti.

"Once, at Kalandiya checkpoint, a man brought his six-year-old daughter to meet us to make her understand that there are good Israelis as well as bad. She was reluctant to meet us, and shied away at first, but he soon got her smiling and talking to us."
THE ARMY and the authorities will always be able to justify the tight security measures they use to keep the Palestinians at arm's length, and so too will the Israeli public themselves. However, what they won't, or can't see is that it's the daily humiliation and hardship that breeds the next generation of bombers, and guarantees the hatred is passed down from father to son and beyond.

I'm not suggesting for one minute that the checkpoints themselves be dismantled. For all that there is much wrong with the behavior of elements of the IDF and security forces, the underlying necessity for tight security is indisputable. Anyone who thinks differently only need pay heed to the daily streams of murderous rhetoric from the extremist groups on the other side of the security wall.

But the man who returns home without a day's pay to a hungry and desperate family won't blame anyone but the lackadaisical soldier who didn't switch the light from red to green in time for him to clamber aboard the minibus - and neither will his children. The man with no means of getting his ID card back other than coming cap in hand to a group of tirelessly devoted volunteers from Mahsom Watch won't ever forgive the authorities for the misery they put him and his family through. And the man forced to turn collaborator just to put food on the table for his six kids won't ever forget the cruelty of the occupiers who put him in such an awful predicament.

IF WE don't want terror on our doorstep, we'd do well to treat those over the garden fence with at least a modicum of respect and consideration. If we don't; if we refuse to retreat from our entrenched position of mistrust, mistreatment and misanthropy, then there's no hope for any kind of resolution that doesn't involve more bloodshed for years to come. Unless the call is heeded now by those with the power to help the Palestinians, a bitter harvest will once more be reaped by the very people the army is meant to protect with their actions.

The writer is currently traveling through the West Bank and the Golan gathering research for a book about Israeli settlements to be co-written with Josh Freedman Berthoud. This piece was originally published on on The Guardian Web site. Freedman grew up in London and worked as a stockbroker for six years before moving to Israel.