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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Mavi Marmara’

Confronting the Knesset’s Anti-Israel Caucus

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Last Sunday, Raam-Ta’al Ministers of Knesset Taleb Al-Sana and Ahmed Tibi participated in the International Conference for Defense of Jerusalem in Qatar. There, the putative representatives from Israel’s national legislature were actually listed as representing ‘Palestine’, and accused Israel of ‘Judaizing’ Jerusalem. Knesset members back in Israel were predictably appalled, and demands ranged from stripping the Arab MKs of Knesset privileges, to expelling them entirely.

This episode is the most recent in a familiar pattern, whereby Arab MKs lead or participate in anti-Israel incitement and conduct; the nationalist camp in the Knesset drafts and proposes a bill to punish such border-line seditious behavior from an MK; the Arab MKs – joined by a melange of human rights groupies, EU officials, and maybe even a US state department official – raise a clamor over the ‘erosion of Israeli democracy’, and throw out key words like “fascism,” “racism” and “apartheid” for good measure; and finally, the proposed bill gets voted down, or sent back to the legislative committees from whence it came – to be defanged, denuded, and only then enacted. Alas, even the bills that pass into law are rarely invoked to prosecute an offender.

Somehow, this pattern manages to take place under the shadow of the ‘Basic Law: The Knesset and the Law of Political Parties’, which states that a political party “may not participate in the elections if there is in its goals or actions a denial of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, a denial of the democratic nature of the state, or incitement to racism.” It goes without saying that only an anti-Zionist could deny that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – “the Jewish state”. And so, to hear members of Israel’s Knesset decry the concept of a Jewish state as “racist” is certifiably shocking and grounds for exclusion from the Knesset.

An exhaustive account of anti-Israel comments and conduct by Arab MKs would require an article of its own, but a review of news clipping from the first couple months of 2012 sheds enough light on the matter. Beyond his trip to Qatar, Tibi has been busy praising ‘martyrs’ at a Palestinian Authority event, and proposing a bill in the Knesset that sought to have Jerusalem recognized as the capital of a proposed Palestinian state. Raam-Ta’al MKs Ibrahim Sarsour and Masud Ghnaim were reported to have met with Hamas officials late in January, as was Balad MK Hanin Zoabi of Mavi Marmara fame. Zoabi has also been quoted as supporting Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons because she “need[s] something to balance its [Israel’s] power.” Suffice it to say, these individuals self-identify as Palestinians, and believe that they represent the interests of ‘Palestine’, not those of Israel; rather, they often and unabashedly reject the concept of a Jewish State.

Against this backdrop, MKs from the other side of the political spectrum have tried mightily to combat the assault that these Arab MKs have waged on their mutual employer – the Jewish state. In May 2010, the Knesset approved a bill revoking the citizenship and resident status of anyone engaged in espionage or treason against Israel. The bill came in the wake of the revelation that Azmi Bishara, the former Chairman of Balad and MK, fled Israel after an investigation was opened into allegations that he supplied information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War. In October of the same year, the Israeli cabinet approved a loyalty oath bill that would have required all future non-Jewish applicants for Israeli citizenship to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Soon after the condemnations and fury against this “mega-racist” bill had been registered, PM Binyamin Netanyahu ordered his Justice minister to extend debate on the bill and amend it so that the loyalty oath would apply to both Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of the state.

The ‘Nakba Law’, passed by the Knesset in March 2011, is a measure penalizing non-governmental organizations that publicly commemorate the ‘catastrophe’ that was Israel’s independence. The law is actually a derivative of an earlier proposed bill that would have made participation in Nakba Day events punishable by three years’ imprisonment. This bill died in its early readings after the predictable uproar over the infringement on “freedom of speech” had reached the Knesset plenum.

All of the above bills were genuine attempts to push back against the consolidated and sustained attack by the Arab delegitimization caucus in the Knesset, but they fall far short of stemming the corrosive consequences of its agenda. Such temporary salves are applied because the Knesset in its current formulation forgoes serious, lasting responses for fear of international condemnation. Even the stiffer laws – like the Bishara Law – are rarely, if ever, invoked, while the laws on the books against sedition and treason are so vague that virtually no one has been prosecuted for them, much less MKs that possess parliamentary immunity.

The damage caused to the Jewish state by these overtly hostile Arab leaders is far greater than a mere rhetorical assault on Israel’s raison d’etre. On the most basic level, the Arab MKs behavior undeniably incites continued hatred and real violence. They perpetuate wildly irresponsible falsehoods, using the national legislature as their broadcast booth. These Arab MKs are ‘leaders’, individuals that people listen to and follow. The appalling reality that prevails on the Mount of Olives – where Jews are attacked and graves desecrated on a regular basis – flows directly from the persistent incitement by Arab MKs (helped by official Palestinian Authority sources of course) against Israel’s ‘pernicious attempts’ to ‘Judaize’ Jerusalem. So not only are these Arab leaders in violation of a Basic Law that should mean their exclusion from the Knesset, they are also guilty of complicity in violence and destruction against Jews and Jewish property.

Another harmful result is more insidious, and takes place in the consciousness of Israelis. A sense of siege is experienced within Israel, as Jews have to assume the added defensive stance of encountering anti-Israel propaganda emanating from their own government organs. On the flip side, the behavior of Arab MKs engenders a greater sense of entitlement for the general Arab population, as they are emboldened by unapologetic Palestinian nationalists that rise to the highest ranks in Israeli society, only to flout the law without consequence. This sense of Arab entitlement is pervasive and manifest. It is visible in the way Jewish visitors and graves on the Mount of Olives are treated, and the way Jewish visitors are treated on the Temple Mount. When lawmakers and leaders in a state decry, deride, and deny the legitimacy of the state they represent, and such talk has a government stamp, this content becomes normalized, internalized, and mainstream; this goes for both Jews and Arabs in Israel.

The unabated stream of anti-Israel delegitimization also takes a toll on Israeli democracy. That is, it shifts the spectrum of acceptable dialogue, cheapens the political debate, and wastes precious time and resources of the national legislature. And so, almost 64 years after its establishment as a Jewish state, Israel has to contend with domestic lawmakers that are still seeking to nullify its existence. These lawmakers appear driven by the maxim that politics is war waged by other means, and Israel’s Arab leaders seek to succeed where Israel’s Arab neighbors have failed. Zoabi herself acknowledged that reframing the spectrum was the best way to attack Israel: “Balad’s concept, which rejects the ‘Jewish state’ idea, is the only idea that can remove Lieberman from the circle of political and moral legitimacy…When you agree with the ‘Jewish state’ idea, you necessarily agree with the idea of loyalty to this state. Rejecting the ‘Jewish state’ concept will block the road for anyone who demands our loyalty to such a state.”

Simply put, it is patently absurd for individuals that deny the legitimacy of the state they reside in to simultaneously legislate for that state. Would another country in the acquiescent and progressive Western world tolerate such a state of affairs? Is there even a modern analog to serve as precedent? For the sake of comparison, it would be like an American congressman whose platform centered on the repeal of the US constitution, or a British MP declaring that the royal family as an institution should be eliminated.

Clearly, the situation is untenable and the status quo unsustainable. Something’s gotta give. Despite all the harm these Arab MKs cause to Israel, they do it one service: they force Israel to deal with the nagging and critical question about the right balance between its Jewish character and its commitment to democratic values. With every word of incitement and every meeting with a hostile neighbor, they inform Israel of its choice: Will it be a state that reflects the particularist religious and national character of the Jewish people or just another Scandinavian-style, universalist democracy that happens to be composed of a (shrinking) majority of Jews?

Attn: UN Human Rights Council, Re:Freedom of Expression

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Part 1: Overview and Background:

1) By any objective standard, Israeli democracy is as robust and pluralistic as any in the world. There are no restrictions on any form of protest or advocacy, including very fierce and unpopular criticism of the government and military. No other democracy can claim to have greater freedom of expression, despite more than six decades of war and terrorism; threats of annihilation; and in parallel, the challenges of developing a cohesive society based on numerous divergent communities scattered for generations as Diasporas, many of which do not have traditions of pluralism and democracy.

2) Like other Israelis, I am aware that we are not a perfect society. As in others nations, we have flaws, and it is our responsibility to correct them. But aggressive campaigns to greatly exaggerate these imperfections, as part of the ongoing effort to delegitimize Israel facilitated by the soft-power of groups not subject to any democratic accountability, should not be assisted by a United Nations framework focusing on freedom of expression and freedom.

3) Israel systematically protects the rights of its minority populations to freedom of expression and to protest. For example, each year, Israeli police forces and government institutions facilitate Gay Pride parades in Jerusalem Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Eilat; marches on Human Rights Day; protests by the Islamic movement; and to mark the murder of Yitzhak Rabin.

4) Mass demonstrations on socio-economic issues were held in Summer 2011, and attest to Israel’s dynamic civil society and a culture of advocacy and peaceable protest. Israeli police facilitated these activities, blocking off roads and granting permits. The government responded to protestors’ demands positively, in the form of a task force to address their claims.

5) During the “Arab Spring,” where thousands were murdered at the hands of their own governments, protestors in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere were quoted as taking inspiration from the peaceful social protests that took place during the summer in Israel. This highlights the Israeli commitment to free expression.

6) In contrast, the history of reporting by UN frameworks on human rights in Israel has been characterized by biased mandates, false and unverifiable allegations, double standards, and hypocrisy – from Jenin (2002) through Goldstone (2009), as well as reports by special rapporteurs Jean Ziegler, John Dugard, and Richard Falk.[1] The results have been highly counterproductive in promoting human rights. I am here today to engage with the Special Rapporteur, and to contribute to an accurate report that will not repeat the flaws and negative impacts of previous UNHRC reports related to Israel.

7) The geopolitical context resulting from over six decades of conflict and violence, including the results of the 1967 war – particularly the Israeli control of disputed territories that had been occupied in 1948 by Jordan (the West Bank), and by Egypt (Gaza) and the ongoing political stalemate, presents a unique and highly complex situation. In this context, allegations of human rights violations are part of political or soft-power warfare that accompanies the hard-power attacks and violence. Such accusations should not be accepted at face value, and must be tested against credible evidence that is independently verifiable.

8 ) Therefore, NGO Monitor urges the Special Rapporteur to subject accusations from organizations and individuals regarding the state of freedom of expression in Israel to careful scrutiny and independent verification, and to avoid erasing the context of these allegations.

Part 2: Israeli Civil Society, Democracy and Freedom of Expression

1) Israel has a vibrant civil society: a free and highly critical press, and an NGO sector with tens of thousands of groups across the political, social, and ideological spectrum engaging in often intense debate.

2) The Israeli public, media, government and Knesset (legislature) are conducting an intense debate on the massive and unique level of foreign government funding for highly political non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

3) This debate includes questions on and criticism of the unfair advantage gained by a very narrow group of political advocacy civil society organizations that receive massive and often secret funding from foreign (mainly European) governments. Major concerns exist regarding the lack of accountability for these organizations, their “democratic deficit,” non-transparent funding processes, and impact of these resources. This political manipulation and lack of transparency is unique in the case of European government funding for a narrow group of Israeli NGOs, and constitutes a blatant violation of democratic norms.[2]

4) In and of themselves, the fierce public debate and numerous failed legislative proposals affirm the strength of Israeli democracy.

5) A concerted political campaign by a narrow group of powerful NGOs uses slogans claiming “anti-democratic behavior” to intimidate critics. This campaign, including the denunciation of the very discussion of preliminary legislative proposals as entirely illegitimate, seeks to prevent this political debate. Partisan allegations from NGOs should not be taken at face value; in a democracy, groups claiming to speak in the name of human rights have no immunity from criticism and public debate.

Report: Turkey Dropping Flotilla Suits

Friday, January 13th, 2012

According to sources in the US State Department, the Turkish government has ordered a halt on all legal proceedings against Israeli elements involved in the IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010, Yediot Ahronoth reported Friday.

The sources said that the  Turkish Attorney General  instructed prosecutors of this shift in light of continuing US efforts to defuse tensions betweenIsrael and Turkey.

Economic, Diplomatic Fallout Looms As Turkey-Israel Ties Spiral Downward

Friday, November 11th, 2011

JERUSALEM – Regarding Turkey, the bad diplomatic news for Israel just keeps getting worse.

First Turkey announced it was slashing the level of its diplomatic ties with Israel to the second secretary level, giving the senior Israeli embassy staff 48 hours to leave the country. Turkey also said it was suspending all military ties with Israel.

Next the Turkish Embassy in Washington vowed that Turkey would pursue legal action against Israeli soldiers and officials who were involved in the deadly 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. Then 40 Israeli travelers on a Tel Aviv-to-Istanbul flight were separated from the other passengers upon landing and subjected to humiliating searches.

Turkey’s actions came as the United Nations released the report of its Palmer committee, which investigated Israel’s actions during its May 2010 interception of a flotilla trying to break its blockade of Gaza. Israeli troops encountered violent resistance when they tried to board the Mavi Marmara, and the ensuing battle left eight Turkish citizens and one dual Turkish-American citizen dead.

The Palmer report found that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legal and that Israeli commandos needed to use force as they came under attack on the Mavi Marmara. The report also found, however, that Israel used excessive force when boarding the ship.

Turkey has demanded an apology for the deaths of its citizens, but Israel has refused.

“We need not apologize for the fact that naval commandos defended their lives against an assault by violent IHT activists,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet this week, using the initials of the Turkish charity that sponsored the Mavi Marmara.

“We need not apologize for the fact that we acted to stop the smuggling of weapons to Hamas, a terrorist organization that has already fired over 10,000 missiles, rockets and mortar rounds at our civilians. We need not apologize for the fact that we acted to defend our people, our children and our communities.”

Netanyahu then made a last-ditch attempt to head off Turkey’s decision to limit ties with Israel.

“I reiterate that the State of Israel expresses regret over the loss of life. I also hope that a way will be found to overcome the disagreement with Turkey,” he said. “Israel has never wanted a deterioration in its relations with Turkey; neither is Israel interested in such a deterioration now.”

The crisis in ties with Turkey could have far-reaching implications for Israel. Severing trade between Israel and Turkey, which is more than $3 billion annually, would have a negative impact on the Israeli economy.

Diplomatically, the crisis could badly affect Israel’s relationships with Egypt and Jordan. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Egypt this week to discuss deepening that country’s strategic relationship with Turkey.

The trip came amid growing opposition in Egypt to the longstanding peace treaty with Israel. Egypt’s military leaders could come under increasing pressure to follow Turkey and recall their ambassador from Israel.

“Erdogan will say to the Egyptians, ‘What are you doing for the Palestinians?’ ” Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey, told JTA. “Egyptians will say, ‘Turkey is not even Arab, and they expelled the Israeli ambassador.’ It will add to the public pressure.”

Liel believes there is even a chance of a military confrontation between Israel and Turkey if, as expected, Israel signs a deal to export liquid natural gas to Cyprus, an island nation that is tensely divided between Greek and Turkish sectors.

“Those vessels will need to go through the Mediterranean, and Turkey will do whatever it can to stop them,” Liel said, adding that Turkey has 40,000 soldiers in the Turkish part of Cyprus.

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

I wasn’t the least bit surprised that Israel was vilified and condemned in the hours and days following the Israeli raid aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship outside of Gaza.

Like clockwork, the usual suspects lined up to censure Israel. After an emergency session, the ever-objective United Nations Security Council called for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards” into the flotilla incident. Officials from Turkey, Iran, Venezuela, China, Mexico, Brazil, Austria, and France all took to the airwaves and print media to denounce Israel’s actions.

Faster than the IDF could upload its video evidence to YouTube proving Israeli special forces were attacked first, Israel had been tried and convicted in the court of international public opinion.

Still, none of this particularly fazed me, as our enemies never miss an opportunity to jump on the anti-Israel bandwagon. What I did find particularly jolting, however, was just how many Jews, our own flesh and blood, have joined the chorus of voices clamoring against Israel.

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) called the nine so-called activists killed during the May 31 raid “innocent.”

During that same interview, Frank said, “As a Jew,” Israeli treatment of Arabs around some West Bank settlements “makes me ashamed that there would be Jews that would engage in that kind of victimization of a minority.”

Frank later backed off from his comments, claiming the Herald was inaccurate in its report that he had criticized the Israeli Navy, and that the paper had taken his use of the word “innocent” out of context.

Long-time Israel foe and New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman asked about the flotilla raid and the Gaza blockade, “How long is this going to go on? Are we going to have a whole new generation grow up in Gaza with Israel counting how many calories they each get?” (“When Friends Fall Out,” June 1, New York Times website).

In an earlier, unrelated column Friedman had written, “Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, and even housing in disputed East Jerusalem, is sheer madness.” (“Driving Drunk in Jerusalem,” March 14, New York Times website).

In an online chat session with Washington Post readers, Adam Shapiro, self-identified board member and organizer with the Free Gaza Movement remarked, “Yes, our ships were attempting to break the blockade – a blockade that is illegal. Israel is the occupying power of Gaza, recognized as such by all governments and the UN, including the U.S. government. As occupying power it cannot declare war on that territory and cannot use blockade [sic], as that constitutes collective punishment. Yes, just as those who challenged Jim Crow laws and apartheid laws, we are challenging this blockade.” (“Israel Deports Gaza-bound Flotilla Activists,” June 2, Washington Post website).

And then there’s 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, a member of the Free Gaza Movement who was involved in coordinating the Mavi Marmara flotilla. (“Israel Signals New Flexibility on Gaza Shipments,” June 3, New York Times website).

I cannot help but feel a deep sense of betrayal when I see a Jewish name linked with anti-Israel rhetoric. I feel that same bitter disappointment in our Jewish Congressional representatives who remain quietly on the sidelines, waiting for the dust to settle, while Israel deals with an international backlash.

It is the perpetual silence of our Jewish elected officials that has enabled President Obama and his administration to set policies that have weakened Israel’s standing in the eyes of the world. It is their seeming indifference that has perpetuated the message that it is permissible, even laudable, to attack Israel, while Israel is prohibited from defending itself.

Throughout its brief history, Israel has bravely faced and fought its enemies as a matter of necessity and survival. Doing so proved easier when the line between enemy and friend was clearly demarcated. Today, as Jews openly and unabashedly attack Israel and work against its security interests, the line between enemy and friend has been blurred.

If Israel has any hope for a future, it must come to terms with the fact that, sadly, the enemy it must now confront comes from within.

Two More Boats On Way To Gaza

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

JERUSALEM – In the wake of Israel’s military operation against the Mavi Marmara (see main story, page 1), IDF General Staff Operations Commander Col. Itzik Turjeman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that two additional Hamas-supporting ships were on their way to Gaza. He said they too would be intercepted, hinting that electronic means might be used.

Asked why the Marmara was not stopped by the Navy without risking helicopter-borne soldiers rappelling down onto the ship, Turjeman said the Marmara was too large and heavy to have been physically blocked by navy ships.

MK Tzachi HaNegbi (Kadima), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, opened the session by noting that “After Operation Cast Lead, the government decided to impose a maritime blockade on Gaza and that all cargo headed for Gaza would be checked first in the Ashdod port This issue is a matter of total consensus in Israel, and the reason is the sense of injustice that we all feel, the cynicism and hypocrisy that typify the attack on the State of Israel, and the sense we all have that the IDF’s operation yesterday was logical and ethical.

“We left Gaza five years ago, yet for years we have been attacked from Gaza, and our soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held in a dark dungeon in Gaza. We therefore feel that we have the right to act in the way we did.”

Acknowledging that many questions remain concerning the military operation, the intelligence that preceded it, and the PR efforts that followed, HaNegbi said “we will insist on investigating these matters and receiving answers.”

Several of the pro-Hamas activists wounded on the Marmara ship were hospitalized in several hospitals throughout Israel, guarded by military police. Dozens of others arrested after being taken off the flotilla’s ships were being questioned; some were being sent home, among them an American citizen.

Among those removed from the ships was Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He originally was thought to have been injured on the boat, leading to some Israeli-Arab rioting and much media speculation, but he is now known to be safe and sound.

Arab MK Hanin Zouabi (Balad) was on board the ship as well but was released because of her parliamentary immunity, infuriating some Knesset Members. “Our democracy has lost its direction,” said MK Aryeh Bibi (Kadima). “We’ve reached the point where Arab citizens and MKs do whatever they wish. Zouabi’s parliamentary immunity must be removed and she should be arrested. I’d like to see her try similar protests in Arab countries let her join the Hamas regime in Gaza.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said, “Zouabi and her Hamas friends boarded this flotilla as [martyrs] who said that they knew they might die in the course of harming IDF soldiers. Instead of making peace, Zouabi started war on board the ship. Terror activists like her must not be permitted to return to the Knesset.”
(INN)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/two-more-boats-on-way-to-gaza/2010/06/02/

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