Category Archives: Israel 2010

23% of Israelis ready to leave Israel at any hint of problems?

In the latest issue of the always informative journal Middle East Policy, University of Pennsylvania prof Ian Lustick expresses the notable observation that,

    Last year, a poll by David Menashri of the Iran center at Tel Aviv University reported … that 70 percent of Israeli Jews said they would not consider emigrating if Iran got the bomb. That’s an odd way to report a finding — how many would not consider emigrating. So there is deep fear.

I guess I have seen several references to the judgment that has apparently been reached by several Israeli decision-makers to the effect that the main bad thing that would ensue for Israel if Iran gets nuclear weapons is not necessarily a high probability that this would be used against Israel– which, goodness only knows, has 1,000 times the capability to deter such an action– but rather that Iran’s attainment of nuclear weapons would cause a mass flight of Israelis from the country.
But I hadn’t seen any reference to any data on this until I read Lustick’s piece. Then I Googled around a bit and found this report in Haaretz from May 2009. And actually, despite the way that Lustick wrote about the way the poll’s findings were reported, Haaretz reported outright that,

    Some 23 percent of Israelis would consider leaving the country if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

So much for them thinking that Israel is their eternal homeland, etc etc. As one expert on Algeria’s long battle for independence from France commented to me, “This makes Israeli attitudes seem very close to those of the French pieds noirs colonists in Algeria. The vast majority of them fled back to France when the going got tough and Algeria won its independence.” That, even though until that point they had all been adamant that Algeria was an integral part of France.
Or, one might say, the attitude of those many “White” former South Africans whom one meets in various spots around the world today, in which they have resettled after “giving up” on South Africa.
From the point of view of hardline Zionists, Jewish Israelis probably have far too many options for citizenship or longterm residence in other places around the world today. For starters, just about all of them could settle in the U.S. tomorrow if they chose, no questions asked. In addition, as my friend Yossi Alpher explained to me a couple of years ago in Tel Aviv, since the end of the Cold War a couple of million Jewish Israelis have either hung onto the citizenship they formerly had in the former Soviet Union or the countries of (former) Eastern Europe– or, in many cases, the Israeli children and grandchildren of people who fled to Israel from Eastern Europe during the Nazi era have been going back to Poland, or Hungary, or Slovakia, or wherever and reclaiming their citizenship “rights” there by inheritance… Something that’s especially valuable now that all those former Warsaw Pact countries are now firmly in the E.U.
(That, while they continue to totally deny to the Palestinian refugees any analogous right to return to their grandparent’s homes and properties within what is now Israel.)
But the bottom line in this phenomenon of Israelis being ready to leave so easily– if Iran even gets, let alone shows any sign of moving towards using nuclear weapons– seems to be that actually, the Zionist project of building Israel as the last, safest haven for Jewish people worldwide seems not to be terribly successful.
… All the above is interesting and notable even though I– like many other people– have still not seen any evidence that convinces me that the Iranian government is in fact aiming at building a nuclear weapon. This is more about Israel than it is about Iran.
Anyway, the rest of what Lustick writes there is also well analyzed and important.

‘Ethnic cleansing 101’ for Israeli high-schoolers

The ever-dogged Max Blumenthal has a deeply disturbing post on his blog about the fact that, when the Israeli security forces destroyed an entire village of (ethnic Palestinian) Israeli civilians in al-Arakib, in the Negev, last week, they bussed in a bunch of Jewish Israeli high-school students to help them perform (and cheer on) that gross act of ethnic cleansing.
As Max writes:

    It is not hard to imagine what lessons the high school students who participated in the leveling of al-Arakib took from their experience, nor is it especially difficult to predict what sort of citizens they will become once they reach adulthood. Not only are they being indoctrinated to swear blind allegiance to the military, they are learning to treat the Arab outclass as less than human…
    [T]he scenes from al-Arakib, from the demolished homes to the uprooted gardens to the grinning teens who joined the mayhem, can be viewed as much more than the destruction of a village. They are snapshots of the phenomenon that is laying Israeli society as a whole to waste.

Anyway, go over there and see the photos– taken by Ata Abu Madyam of Arab Negev News, and the many links Max has to sources and related materials.

Arrest campaign against Syrian citizens in occupied Golan

The Syrian citizens who live in Israeli-occupied Golan don’t get nearly as much international media coverage as the Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza. But the situation they live in is just about equally harsh. Indeed ever since Israel committed a unilateral (and globally quite unrecognized) act of Anschluss against Golan in 1980, the situation of Golan’s legitimate, indigenous residents has been as tough as that of the legitimate, indigenous residents of occupied East Jerusalem.
Yesterday, Haaretz had this report about the arrest of Mona Sha’ar, a resident of the Golan town of Majdal Shams.
Haaretz’s Jack Khoury writes that Sha’ar was arrested

    for allegedly committing crimes against the security of Israel.
    Her son, Fada Sha’ar, was the first in this case to be arrested several weeks prior for alleged espionage and committing crimes against Israeli security. Her husband was also been arrested in connection to the case.

Khoury described Majdal Shams in the piece as a “northern Druze village”, which implies that it is in Israel. It is fairly depressing to think that even the editors at Haaretz, which is sometimes fairly liberal, do nothing to question Israel’s longstanding official narrative that Golan is “just another part of Israel.”

Foreign investment in Israel plunged in 2009

Haaretz today:

    Foreign direct investment in Israel fell by 64% in 2009 to only $3.9 billion, down from $10.9 billion in 2008. Israel fell from 54th place in 2008 to 80th in 2009 in terms of FDI.

I found this great tool on Google that lets you compare FDI data for various countries.
Of course, since Israel plummeted from 54th place globally in ’08 to 80th in ’09, 26 other countries did relatively better than it did last year. One was China, which I put onto the Google chart there.
Equally obviously, it was not only the global economic turndown that brought down Israel’s total FDI. If it had been that, all other countries would have been roughly equally affected, and Israel might have retained its ranking. There must have been some other factor.
I’m pretty certain that worldwide horror over the Israeli assault on Gaza must have played a role– buttressed by the emergence of the worldwide BDS movement. Obviously, we should all keep the pressure up until Israelis are prepared to sign onto a fair, compassionate, and sustainable peace with its Palestinian neighbors and indeed, all ts neighbors.

550 IDF soldiers interrogated re possible war crimes in Gaza war

Huge kudos to Max Blumenthal, who found a report in yesterday’s Yediot stating that (in Max’s translation),

    More than 550 officers and men of IDF who participated in the “Cast Lead” operation have been interrogated by the investigative military police of the IDF in the last 18 months.

The Yediot report, by Yossi Yehoshua, notes,

    So far the interrogations gave rise to a considerable number of disciplinary – and legal – steps. The most serious one was taken last week when the Chief Military Prosecutor, Aloof Avihai Mandelblit, decided to charge a Giv’ati soldier for committing murder. On another occasion he decided to court-martial a Golani battalion commander for ignoring IDF instructions forbidding “use of neighbor” tactics.

As Max notes there: “’Use of neighbor’ tactic is the act where soldiers preparing to enter a suspected house force the neighbors to walk in front of them as a human shield.”
His laconic comment is, “Maybe Judge Goldstone wasn’t so crazy after all.” Indeed he wasn’t.
I guess my additional comment is that there does seem to be something of a battle going on for the “soul” of the IDF. An army that commits war crimes is not, in most circumstances, a disciplined fighting force. But today’s IDF has increasing numbers of military religio-nationalists rising up in its officer ranks (and in the IDF rabbinate), and many of those emerging leaders have racist, brutal views of any non-Jews. Thus we saw those outrageous hate-tracts that were distributed by some portions of the IDF rabbinate among soldiers during the assault of 2008-09… The military police (and thus, presumably, some portions of the general staff who support them) seem to have been rattled enough by the emergence of this openly racist religio-nationalism that they are trying to fight back and curb it? Maybe. Anyway, worth watching what’s going on there.

Plea of the Israeli political prisoner’s wife

Read this powerful article penned for Electronic Intifada by Janan Abdu, spouse of Palestinian-Israeli political prisoner Ameer Makhoul, who has shockingly been held without trial since May.
Abdu quotes the stirring (but possibly empty?) words that Secretary Clinton uttered recently at the 10th anniversary meeting of the Community of Democracies in Krakow, Poland:

    “Democracies don’t fear their own people… They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate.”

Well, that would be assuming that Israel is an actual democracy, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, go read the whole of Abdu’s stirring article there.

Military spending: The real crisis for Israel and the U.S.

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Didi Remez we learn that many of the ‘scare stories’ about Hizbullah, Lebanon etc, that have been coming out of Israel’s defense ministry in recent days have been motivated by– no, not any real concern about new developments in Lebanon, but more by a desire by defense minister Ehud Barak to fight hard against… the finance ministry’s current demands for spending cutbacks.
Remez translates into English an article in today’s Maariv that starts with this:

    “Ehud Barak is the most expensive defense minister in Israel’s history”; “The IDF is impertinently disregarding all of the Brodet Commission’s findings, while deceiving the public”; “it’s interesting how every time the military budget is on the table, they release from the stocks Hezbollah’s missile array and expose sensitive classified material,” — these are just some of the harsh statements that were heard over the weekend among senior Finance Ministry officials and directed against the IDF and the security establishment.
    A brutal struggle over the Defense Ministry’s budget is expected next week. Finance Ministry officials, headed by the finance minister versus the security establishment headed by the defense minister. A personal dual in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to give the final ruling.

Over at the excellent Global Issues blog, the info page on “World Military Spending” is headed by this great quote from U.S. founding father, proud Virginian, and president James Madison:

    Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Well, the folks in Israel who have turned down every attempt to broker a fair peace with their neighbors might have reflected on those words a few times over the past 62 years.
Israelis have been extremely lucky in the past 40 or so years to have had many of their military costs borne by the U.S. taxpayer through the always generous aid the U.S. congress has continued to send to Israel’s military. But many of Israel’s military costs– especially the manpower-related costs– can’t easily be dollarized, and therefore remain as a burden on the Israeli economy. ( Xinhua had this recent interesting article on the financial burden of Israel’s war-fighting and war-preparing projects.)
But in today’s United States, the picture of bloated military spending being sustained by (and in turn sustaining) the pursuit of numerous, apparently unresolvable wars– or, as it’s also known in mil-speak here, “the long war”– is exactly the same. And this, in the midst of a continuing, deep crisis in the civilian, real-world economy at home.
That page on the Global Issues site contains lots of very informative data, if you scroll down beneath James Madison. Including the stunning big pie chart that shows in ways no-one can misunderstand the fact that the U.S. (which has less than 5% of the world’s population) currently accounts for 46.5% of world military spending.
Of course this is not sustainable. Small wonder that current U.S. defense secretary Robert gates has spent quite a lot of time recently (e.g. here) trying to argue for some serious cuts in military spending.
But where to cut, and how? How to pull back the U.S. military from its present, extremely expensive engagement in war-zones (present and future) in more than 20 distant countries around the world– without further destabilizing those countries? And how to manage the loss of jobs in some U.S. communities that cutbacks of big-ticket weapons-system production would inevitably cause?
Those, of course, are the big strategic questions.
The U.S. public needs to start rationalizing our country’s interaction with the other 95% of humanity– and to start bringing our defense spending under some kind of real control– by taking the following steps:

    1. Let go of the idea that the U.S. is any kind of an “indispensable nation” when it comes to reducing inter-group tensions and building real, inclusive political stability in other countries around the world. We aren’t. Most often– including in Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan– the injection of a heavily militarized U.S. presence has made the situation considerably worse for the peoples of those countries. Those peoples may (or may not) need help from outsiders to get their sharp internal problems resolved. But if they do, there are many, many other international actors– including regional groupings, ad-hoc groups of neighboring countries, or the U.N. itself– that are infinitely better equipped to provide that help than the geographically and culturally distant U.S., whose reliance on a heavily militarized foreign policy only exacerbates tensions wherever it goes.
    2. Work with the other countries of the world to regenerate the U.N. and other international institutions on a basis of real equality and mutual respect among the world’s peoples, rather than continued U.S./western dominance of those bodies.
    3. Start planning to convert our massive and bloated defense industries into industries that serve the regeneration of our civilian national economy. Factories producing MRAPs and Hummers? They could and should be turned into factories producing rail cars and modern, green buses. Factories producing surveillance drones and cruise missiles? Shouldn’t they be producing solar panels and the hardware needed for a decent national broadbank initiative, instead? Etc, etc.
    4. Establish programs around the U.S. to take advantage of the (non-lethal) skill-sets the military has worked hard to inculcate in its members, and put those skills to use in rebuilding our nation, first, from the level of individual communities that are currently under great stress through the level of repair and regeneration of our crumbling infrastructure. Supporters of the military and of military spending make one good argument when they note that the military has done well at building a building a strong workforce that is generally well integrated as between different races, ethnicities, and even (to some extent) between men and women. (Though not, alas, between straight people and gay people.) So now, let’s take some of the money that continues to pour into sustaining those units as military units, and re-form them as a Civilian Community-Building Corps, to work at home.

… Anyway, these are a few of my ideas right now. Not original, I know. But still, increasingly urgent for us all to think about. These wars are dragging us all down. And there is, certainly, a far, far better way for Americans and Israelis to resolve the problems we face in our relations with the rest of the world’s peoples.

IDF Hasbara does Keystone Cops

Yesterday, or was it Thursday, the IDF’s disinformation (hasbara) units released a Youtube clip with audio, allegedly recorded in the leadup to Monday’s murderous assault on the Mavi Marmara, in which someone from the Turkish ship was supposedly telling the Israeli assailants to “Go back to Auschwitz!” etc.
Turns out it was doctored.
Jared Malsin has the story here.
Today, in response to persistent questioning from the fearless Max Blumenthal, the IDF spokespeople issued a revised version of the audio. You can find both versions at Jared’s blog post there.
Jared is still not satisfied that the “new” version of the audio that the IDF issued today has not been doctored.
Why should anyone believe anything the IDF has to say about this matter??
In particular, it’s imperative that no-one in the so-called “international community” let the Israelis get away with doing their own “investigation” of the whole piracy incident.
Some aspects of this botched attempt at hasbara intrigue me, however. It used to be the case that people in the west had a lot of admiration for the deftness of the “information operations” (IO) with which Israel always accompanied its warfighting. But now it seems the people who run the IDF’s hasbara (IO) units don’t really give a damn about the “quality” or believability of their work. Have they become arrogant and lazy? Perhaps.
Of course, it is also important to see that nowadays these units are being actively challenged on the accuracy and credibility of their statements and other IO products by dedicated young journos like Blumenthal. But where have all the “great and good” of the MSM’s correspondents been all this time? Why were they not expending the energy and shoe-leather required to check up on these things?
Maybe they became arrogant and lazy, too. Or maybe they’ve been so busy guarding their sacred “access” to Israeli decisionmakers that they didn’t want to rock the boat by questioning the IO people. Or maybe they just have such deep gut sympathy for Israel that they wouldn’t even dream of rocking the boat.
Israel, of course, has been doing a whole lot more to boats in international waters than just rocking them.
Update 5:50 pm I just listened to the whole of the allegedly “unedited” tape released today by the IDF. It does not contain the Auschwitz remark anywhere. How did that get in??
There are also huge new questions about the authenticity of even this tape. Jared now has an update in which Huwaida Arraf, the American-accented woman whose voice is heard clearly on the tape communicating on behalf of the Freedom Flotilla, says she was by the radio the whole time on Monday and she never heard most of these exchanges, and never on this occasion made the remark recorded there about “Gaza Port”– though she says she may have said that on the radio during a previous Freedom Flotilla action…
Bottom line: No, absolutely no-one should trust the Israelis to “investigate” themselves over the flotilla murders.

See the racist hate in today’s Israel

The present era in Israel is one in many members of the Jewish majority are expressing anti-Arab race-hate more openly and more frequently than ever before. But there are also courageous Israelis– Jewish and Palestinian– who try to counter this trend.
See this film clip shot by Ashira Ramdan, who went with a group of Israeli leftists to mount a counter-protest against an extreme nationalist gathering in Ashdod.
Ashira is amazing there: Calm, courageous, principled. Her assailants– not so, at all.