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August 25, 2016 / 21 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘political’

Israeli Media Reporting on Hebron Shooter Trial Strictly Political

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

“Sitting next to his parents, with a blank face, [Sergeant Elor] Azaria is realizing the defense arguments are collapsing,” Shabtay Bendet wrote in Walla last Thursday, on the trial of the medic who last Purim in Hebron shot to death an Arab Terrorist who had already been neutralized and was lying on the pavement. An Arab B’Tselem cameraman captured the incident, and as a result what would have ended in a disciplinary hearing for the shooter, at most, quickly turned into a murder charge which was then reduced to a manslaughter indictment by the IDF prosecutor.

“These last few days of hearings did not bode well for the soldier, accused of killing a terrorist,” wrote Bendet, as if the term “terrorist” was a kind of civilian occupation, and could be easily substituted with “housewife” or “driving instructor,” or “electrician.” Bendet continued: “One after the other the witnesses undercut the defense claim that the terrorist posed a real threat of carrying an explosive charge on his person. Meanwhile, Azaria and his family have been maintaining their silence, except for one outburst borne by the realization that things are not great [for them].”

Bendet’s report about how the prosecution has been winning the Azaria trial mirrors countless reports with a similar message which have saturated Israel’s media over the weekend. And, naturally, the further to the left the writer, the broader the implications of the Azaria manslaughter case regarding the entire Netanyahu government and its policies in Judea and Samaria.

Ravit Hecht criticized in Haaretz on Friday Azaria’s father’s emotional call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to intervene in hi son’s case. “The father is calling on the prime minister to, in effect, take action against the army,” she wrote. “The father is turning to the prime minister to sabotage the machinery of the very system with which he is trusted.”

Hecht then goes on to accuse Netanyahu of always sabotaging the systems he is trusted with, but it’s clear from her approach that a conviction in the Azaria case is the proper outcome, while, should the 19-year-old sergeant be acquitted, democracy would be in peril.

Bendet, for his part, misunderstands the central issue in this case, which has made it such a tough case for the prosecution, they had to go and recruit outside talent from Israel’s top litigation firm. The case depends not on the objective conditions near the Hebron check point on the morning of the incident and whether or not there was a realistic expectation of the terrorist carrying explosives on his body, but on the state of mind of the shooter at the time: did Sergeant Azaria believe the terrorist posed a credible threat while on the ground?

But even regarding the rules of engagement as they were understood at the time of the incident, the prosecution’s testimonies are problematic, if not outright tainted, according to Moshe Ifergan, writing for Mida Saturday.

“Don’t believe what the media are telling you,” Ifergen insisted. “Judicially speaking, the testimonies of the division commander, the soldier and the company sergeant who were at the scene prove that the prosecution has collapsed. Severe internal contradictions in witnesses’ testimonies and obstructions of the investigation on the part of the command level should lead to a mistrial.”

Ifergen accuses the IDF of intervening in the investigation in a manner that hopelessly polluted the evidence and the testimony. Kalman Liebskind, writing for Ma’ariv also accused then defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF chief of staff Gabi Eizenkot of jumping to damning conclusions before the investigation had begun, and essentially shutting out any testimony that contradicted their strong and unmistaken condemnation of the accused. The defense was able to elicit from several witnesses, rank and file soldiers in Azaria’s unit, testimony about the massive campaign on the part of the division commander and the new battalion commander to condemn the accused.

A central question in the case, which everyone involved, including the judge, keep going back to, is the prosecution’s argument that the behavior of the soldiers in the B’Tselem video does not show that they were concerned about an explosive charge on the terrorist’s body, which the defense says was the reason Azaria shot him on the ground. Since these soldiers had undergone special training to handle explosives in such a situation, goes the argument, their lack of concern is evidence that no such threat existed at the time, ergo Azaria shot the terrorist because he hates Arabs.

But the protocols suggest otherwise. Here’s one exchange:

Defense: You underwent instruction with visualized situations of isolating a terror attack scene?

Soldier M: No.

D: You underwent instruction and situations where there was concern for an explosive charge on a terrorist?

M: No.

D: And on the terrorist’s body?

M: No.

D: The division commander who testified here said in an announcement [date omitted] that he instructed the commanders at the check point in Kiryat Arba (near Hebron) with the complete set of scenarios and that he wants to believe that this was passed on to all the soldiers. To you it wasn’t passed?

M: No, it wasn’t passed.

. . .

D: [A previous witness, an enlisted man] says like you’re saying, that you didn’t undergo training in situations of isolating an attack scene, and he says you didn’t undergo instruction and visualizing of situations where there was concern for an explosive load on the body of a terrorist?

M: No, just like I said a minute ago.

D: The company commander also confirms this regarding a lack of instruction for explosive charges here. Does this match your version?

M: Yes.

The defense questioned three witnesses on this point, proving without the shadow of a doubt that while the division chief had instructed his commanders on the rules of engagement and protocol regarding a terrorist suspected of carrying a charge, the commanders did not consequently train their own underlings, which would suggest that the reason they appear care free and unafraid of an impending explosion was ignorance.

Meanwhile, earlier in the proceedings, the defense received confirmation to its point regarding the danger of an explosive from a prosecution witness, Sergeant A.

Prosecutor: When you arrived on the scene, what was your assignment?

A: To secure the terrorist who was situated at the bottom part of the slope, [dressed] in black, and to isolate the scene.

P: Who gave you this assignment?

A: Meir Avni (company commander).

P: What did he tell you regarding the terrorist?

A: He said the terrorist was still alive and there’s a concern about a charge on his person, I shouldn’t let people coming from down below to get close.

This was then used poignantly by the defense.

Defense: [Company Commander] Avni knows about the concern regarding the charge, this contrary to the testimony of the Division Commander.

A: Correct.

D: And he instructs you not to go near the terrorist, to wait for the sapper and stay away from him.

A: Yes, [but] on point there’s one correction, I was instructed especially to stand behind the sapper and make sure people who are not part of the security forces not go near.

The odds on an acquittal or a mistrial for Sergeant Azaria among legal professionals who are interviewed by the media are about fifty-fifty. With one military judge already having been forced to recuse herself following an accusation of conflict of interests, and with the security establishment appearing so heavily invested in getting a conviction, it won’t be an easy task for the military judicial panel to rule against the system. But the case for both an acquittal and a mistrial appears strong, so that there’s little doubt that a conviction would result in an appeal to the civilian Supreme Court.

JNi.Media

8 Women Receive Orthodox Ordination in Largely Political Endeavor

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.

One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned. Or more simply, because she has a PhD, but no ordination.

No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become a Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.

The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).

In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:

“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.

“Yes, but can they pasken on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:

Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halakha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”

So, basically, no paskening on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”

Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else.

JNi.Media

Unified Jerusalem Focus of Great Political Divisions

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

During Wednesday’s special plenary session marking the annual Jerusalem Day holiday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We remember Jerusalem before the Six-Day War, when there was no Israeli control here. We will not go back to that reality. We do not need an excuse for our existence in Jerusalem. Our fate is linked to Jerusalem, and this is part of our national and Zionist experience.”

“A solid and decisive majority within the [Israeli] public understands that only democratic Israel is capable of guaranteeing Jerusalem’s existence as a safe city for all religions,” Netanyahu continued. “Tolerance exists only when the things that are holy to the religions are respected. Regretfully, this is not the case in our region. There is a war here of who will destroy whom, who will kill whom, who will destroy national treasures – as could be seen with the incitement on the Temple Mount. People claimed that we want to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque, something that never happened. They claimed we have no connection to the Temple Mount. This is such an absurd claim. Both temples stood on the Temple Mount for some 1,000 years, and we have no connection to it? King David made Jerusalem our capital 3,000 years ago. Does anyone claim that the pyramids have no connection to Egypt? That the Coliseum is not connected to the Italians?”

Referring to the wave of terror, Netanyahu vowed that the violence “will not weaken our spirit. Jerusalem is a complex city, and there is, of course, tension between the populations; tension that is characteristic of other cities in the world. I believe that most of east Jerusalem’s residents want quiet, and I believe we should not allow anyone to light a fire and spark extremism. If they will do it again, we will act accordingly.”

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp-Labor) said, “Sadly, we are currently in the midst of a struggle for justice and the law in our midst us. We are getting further and further from the moral backbone our prophets wanted to give our nation. There are terrible acts of violence and racism, rifts, polarization, and harsh words are being thrown into the Israeli air as though all the lines of respect, self-restraint and responsibility have been breached. We are moving further and further away from the saying ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those who love you be secure,’ because physical presence in Jerusalem was not necessarily the dream of the generations.”

“Jerusalem will not remain Jewish, moral, whole and safe unless a dramatic political change will occur here and unless we urgently move towards an agreement between both nations, without delay and without excuses,” Herzog stated.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein noted that during the Six-Day War the government of Levi Eshkol made the historic decision to reunify Jerusalem in a small shelter in the Knesset building. The shelter has recently been restored as a small museum.

“As a result of this historic decision, two days later the Old City, with the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, was returned to us, and the city was united,” Edelstein said.

“There are those among us who reject the notion of holding on to [all of Jerusalem]. They view the unification as a mistake and not as a right and the realization of the vision of all generations,” Edelstein continued. “In order to clarify their claim, they wave the overused argument that when we said ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning’ we did not mean Shuafat or Jabel Mukaber. This is a wrong and misleading claim, because when King David wrote those words of yearning for the holy city, he was not familiar with Rehavia or Talbieh (Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem). He simply wrote about Jerusalem.”

JNi.Media

French Political Gymnastics and How to Help the Palestinians

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

The French government seems to be falling over itself to undo its craven vote in favor of a UNESCO resolution accusing Israel — referred to as the “Occupying Power” in Jerusalem — of destroying historic structures on the Temple Mount:

  • Prime Minister Manuel Valls apologized. “This UNESCO resolution contains unfortunate, clumsy wording that offends and unquestionably should have been avoided, as should the vote.”
  • Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve apologized. [I do] “not take a supportive view of the text.” The resolution “should not have been adopted” and “was not written as it should have been.”
  • President François Hollande apologized. [The vote was] “unfortunate,” and, “I would like to guarantee that the French position on the question of Jerusalem has not changed… I also wish to reiterate France’s commitment to the status quo in the holy places in Jerusalem… As per my request, the foreign minister will personally and closely follow the details of the next decision on this subject. France will not sign a text that will distance her from the same principles I mentioned.”
  • Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault did not quite apologize: “France has no vested interest but is deeply convinced that if we do not want to let the ideas of the Islamic State group prosper in this region, we must do something.”

It sounds as if they thought they had made a mistake. But the vote was not a mistake. Underestimating the depth of Israel’s anger about it might have been a mistake, but not the vote. The French — who, according to their foreign minister, have “no vested interest” but need to “do something” about Islamic State — could not have thought that a UNESCO resolution that offended Israel would do anything to slow ISIS “in the region” or in Europe. There is no way it could; the two are not connected.

The French however, apparently thought a vote accusing Israel of something, anything, would keep the Palestinian Authority from presenting a resolution on Palestinian independence to the UN Security Council; Ayrault implied in Israel that the UNESCO vote was a quid pro quo. Why? The French have a veto they could exercise in the UN Security Council. But the Palestinians might then object to France replacing the U.S. as the “Great Power” in the “peace process.” They already have experience with a veto-wielding interlocutor — the U.S. — and they do not want another. The price of an elevated status for the French appears to entail not vetoing Palestinian resolutions, voting for them in UNESCO, and sacrificing Israel in a process that will end in French recognition of a Palestinian State, whether Israel agrees to be bound to the altar or not.

It should be noted that the Russians immediately put out a statement that the UN-sponsored Middle East Quartet is the “only mechanism” for resolving the Palestinian issue. It is not clear whether Putin was supporting American or Israeli interests. Iran and ISIS are similarly disinclined to see the French ascend on this issue.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are thrilled to have an international conference where others will make demands of Israel as the Palestinian experiment in self-government degenerates into poverty and chaos by its own economic, political and social choices, looking more like Venezuela every day.

For Palestinians in the street, killing Jews in the “knife intifada” did not take the edge off the popular anger and frustration with their own leadership.

Under the circumstances, the French, and France’s enabler, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, might usefully consider the approach taken in fact by President George W. Bush, which required changes in Palestinian behavior as a prerequisite for support for statehood. Honored mainly in the breach, Bush’s 2002 speech nevertheless remains the best statement of American, and Western, interest in moving the Palestinians toward a functioning state:

It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation. And the current situation offers no prospect that life will improve. Israeli citizens will continue to be victimized by terrorists, and so Israel will continue to defend herself…

Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born.

I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreements with Israel, Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.

And when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East.

I wrote at the time that,

“Mr. Bush made one huge leap of faith in the speech when he said, ‘I’ve got confidence in the Palestinians. When they fully understand what we’re saying, that they’ll make the right decisions when we get down the road for peace.’ What, in fact, will the U.S. do if the Palestinian people weigh a new constitution and free political parties and STILL decide that blowing up Jews is better? What if they have transparent government, economic advancement and an independent judiciary, and STILL decide Jewish sovereignty must be eradicated with the blood of their children?”

The Palestinians have answered half the question. They do not have a “practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty,” but erasing Israel evidently remains their goal. Rather than offering no-cost recognition, the French should demand a few changes first.

Shoshana Bryen

Abbas Underscores PLO’s ‘3 NO’s’ in Ramallah Rant

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Palestinian Authority and PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is making sure the world gets it straight once and for all:

1. The Palestinians won’t accept a Jewish state
2. They won’t accept the “Islamization of the struggle in the Middle East”
3. They oppose a temporary [Palestinian] state.

Speaking on Wednesday (March 4) before the PLO Central Council in the PA capital, Ramallah, Abbas claimed, “We are moderate Muslims. We are also against the Jewish State because of the many things it would mean in the future.”

Abbas was coy over whether or not the PA would actually disengage itself from cooperating with the Jewish State over security, however. He also dodged questions about the entity’s future joint economic projects with Israel.

He called on the Central Council to “reconsider” the functions of the PA as it is currently structured and claiming a need for a “sovereign authority.”

Of course, the PA has for several years insisted that it already IS an independent “sovereign authority,” calling itself the sovereign State of Palestine. It has been accepted as such by a number of governments in the international community.

The PA leader continued to call on Israel to withdraw from all territories conquered in the 1967 Six Day war, including the parts of Jerusalem wrested from Jordanian occupation and restored to the ancient Jewish capital.

He also continued to precondition the PA’s return to the negotiating table on Israel’s release of Palestinian terrorist prisoners and cessation of any and all construction (including, for example, repairs on a driveway or a balcony to a private home) in any Jewish community in post-1967 areas. In addition, Abbas accused Israel of violating all agreements it has signed with the Palestinians.

In short, Abbas made wild accusations, continued to make ridiculous and unrealistic demands and lay the blame for his own failures at Israel’s doorstep – as usual.

“If Israel recognizes our rights, it would live in peace,” Abbas ranted. “The world must push Israel to wake up. Israel is the one that is hijacking peace and pushing towards tension in the world by continuing its occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese lands.”

So having lost his credibility among his own people as well among some of the international community, Abbas has added a new element to his claims about “The Occupation” — now Israel is occupying “Syrian and Lebanese lands.”

What’s next?

Hana Levi Julian

Senior US Sen. Charles Schumer Urges Fellow Democrats to Attend Netanyahu Speech to Congress

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

New York’s senior Senator Charles Schumer called on fellow Democrats to put principles above politics this week and be in their seats March 3 when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu walks to the podium in Congress.

The U.S. has always maintained a “bipartisan policy” on its relationship with Israel, Schumer said during a radio interview in New York.

“Democrats and Republicans have always worked together on it; we ought to keep it that way.”

Vice President Joe Biden’s office announced that he will be “out of the country” when Israel’s leader addresses American lawmakers.

Schumer offered the opinion that House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu “could have been done in a different way.”

As the leader of an ally in the Middle East that is “helping us fight terrorism,” Schumer said, Netanyahu has “every right to come here and speak, but he ought to do it in a bipartisan manner.”

Both of New York’s Democratic senators and all but two of its Democratic representatives will attend the session.

Long-time Congress member Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) is one of the ‘won’t go’s.

“I am certain his motivation comes more from Israel than from his American friends,” Rangel told the New York Daily News — as if the Israeli prime minister should put America’s interests above those of his own nation’s citizens.

“I think that they would have to realize that this is not in the best interests of Israel, that he does this for his campaign,” he added. The remark leads one to wonder why a New York Congress member would suddenly make a reference to an Israeli national election when the address – and the topic – was arranged months earlier.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) also plans to be absent for the session, according to the report. Congress member Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) did not respond to a query by the Daily News about her plans; Rep. Hakeem Jeffries told the paper he is “consulting” with his constituents in Brooklyn before deciding. All other New York City Democrats plan to attend, the paper reported. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) commented that skipping the speech would be a political move. “I am not choosing to participate in those politics,” she said.

“I hope that things can be worked out to salve some of the legitimate wounds that people feel,” Schumer said. “I will go to the speech out of my respect and love for the State of Israel.”

Meanwhile, Iran continues to behave in the manner predicted by Israel, which deeply concerns its leadership over the likelihood Tehran will reach a nuclear threshold.

Iran is still not cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to a confidential report obtained by Reuters. The agency remains unable to clarify outstanding measures of explosives tests and other activity that could be used to create nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Data in both areas were to have been provided to the IAEA by August 2014.

But this is not new behavior; Tehran long ago mastered the technique of buying time for more nuclear development by stringing along Western leaders with promises of “new talks” and “negotiations” in return for delays on sanctions. The current P5+1 negotiations, slated to end in a “new agreement” by March 24, are just more of the same.

It is precisely the danger inherent in the repeated delays – and time granted to Iran that allows it to progress in its nuclear activities – that has finally prompted Netanyahu to turn to Congress directly.

Hana Levi Julian

Turkey: A House Divided

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute

There is no doubt that the Gezi Park demonstrations in May and June, which spread to most of Turkey, represent a seismic change in Turkish society and have opened up fault lines which earlier may not have been apparent. What began as a demonstration against the “development” of a small park in the center of Istanbul ended as a widespread protest against the AKP government — and particularly Prime Minister Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule.

The European Commission in its latest progress report on Turkey has recognized this change when it writes of “the emergence of vibrant, active citizenry;” and according to Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül, who in the report is praised for his conciliatory role, this development is “a new manifestation of our democratic maturity.” The Turkish government, however, has chosen to see these demonstrations as a challenge to its authority and has reacted accordingly.

The report mentions various repressive measures taken by the government, including the excessive use of force by the police, columnists and journalists being fired or forced to resign after criticizing the government, television stations being fined for transmitting live coverage of the protests and the round-up by the police of those suspected of taking part in the demonstrations.

However, there is, in the EU report, no mention of the campaign of vilification led by the Prime Minister against the protesters, or reprisals against public employees who supported or took part in the protests; also, measures taken to prevent the recurrence of mass protests, such as tightened security on university campuses, no education loans for students who take part in demonstrations and a ban on chanting political slogans at football matches.

Not only the demonstrators themselves have been targeted but also the international media, which Prime Minister Erdoğan has accused of being part of an international conspiracy to destabilize Turkey. The “interest rate lobby” and “the Jewish diaspora” have also been blamed. As the Commission notes, the Turkish Capital Markets Board has launched an investigation into foreign transactions to account for the 20% drop on the Istanbul Stock Exchange between May 20 and June 19, which had more to do with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering than the Gezi Park protests.

In August, however, a report on the Gezi Park protests by the Eurasia Global Research Center (AGAM), and chaired by an AKP deputy, called the government’s handling of the situation “a strategic mistake” and pointed out that democracy-valuing societies require polls and dialogue between people and the local authorities.

Polarization

The Commission is correct, therefore, when it concludes that a divisive political climate prevails, including a polarizing tone towards citizens, civil society organizations and businesses. This conclusion is reinforced by the observation that work on political reform is hampered by a persistent lack of dialogue and spirit of compromise among political parties. Furthermore, the report emphasizes the need for systematic consultation in law-making with civil society and other stakeholders.

This division was underlined by Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek in June, when, at a conference, he deplored the lack of a spirit of compromise in intellectual or political circles. This lack is not only illustrated by the occasional fistfight between parliamentary deputies, but also when the AKP government in July voted against its own proposal in the mistaken belief that it had been submitted by the opposition. Or when the opposition two days later passed its own bill while the government majority had gone off to prayers.

President Gül, in a message of unity to mark the start of Eid al-Fitr (in August, at the end of Ramadan), had called on Turkey to leave polarization behind and unite for the European Union membership bid. But to create a united Turkey will be difficult, given the attitude of the present government. Even the democratization package presented by Prime Minister Erdoğan at the end of September does not indicate any substantive change in the government’s majoritarian approach to democracy.

Irrespective of the Prime Minister’s reference to international human rights and the EU acquis [legislation], both lifting the headscarf ban for most public employees and a number of concessions to the Kurdish minority can be seen as a move to boost Erdoğan’s popularity ahead of the local elections in March.

Robert Ellis

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/turkey-a-house-divided/2013/10/21/

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