For the past month Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to rewrite the Biblical story of David and Goliath by declaring war on what he terms Palestinian “terrorism by stones”. The touchpaper for the latest clashes are Israeli transgressions at al-Aqsa mosque compound. Tensions have risen sharply as ever larger numbers of Jewish ultra-nationalists have ascended to the mosque area.
Roni Alsheikh, Israel's new police chief, has spent decades living in two shadowy worlds: as a senior officer in Israel’s secret police, known as the Shin Bet; and as an religious settler who has lived in some of the West Bank’s most extreme and violent communities. Indicating the Shin Bet’s lack of transparency and accountability, the Israeli media had to refer to the new police chief by the initial “R” until a gag order was lifted on Wednesday.
Nearly 300 Israeli schools have joined an IDF-education ministry programme called “Path of Values”, whose goal is to “strengthen the ties and cooperation between schools and the army”. In practice, say teachers, it has led to regular visits to schools by army officers and reciprocal field trips to military bases for the children, to encourage them to enlist when they finish school.
The popular shift rightwards in Israel means that even the left can no longer afford to keep its racism hidden from view. For Palestinian leaders, that may be no bad thing: it is easier to grapple with an Israel that grows ever less sophisticated, ever less capable of concealing its central goals. It looks uglier, not simply because things are getting worse but because they are finally out in the open.
Corbyn is not just threatening to expose the sham of the PLP as a real alternative to the Conservatives, but the sham of Britain’s liberal-left media as a real alternative to the press barons. The talkback sections in the Guardian show its kneejerk belittling of Corbyn has inserted a dangerous seed of doubt in the minds of a proportion of its formerly loyal readers.
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is reluctant to unlock horns with the White House, even as he faces almost certain defeat in trying to block President Obama’s deal with Iran. Is Netanyahu hoping to turn the Iran issue into a doomsday electoral weapon against the Democrats, helping to clear the path into the White House next year for a Republican.
With 47 independent church schools in Israel facing closure as they are starved of funding, many Christians are starting to suspect their government is waging a low-level war against them. Christians in neighbouring states are fleeing the Middle East as they face civil wars and threats of persecution. In Israel the mistreatment of Christians may be more bureaucratic than physical, but its effects are likely in the long run to prove just as tangible.
Israel is examining ways to expand the scope of the Law of Return, defining who is a Jew, to entitle up to three million more people to immigrate. Immigration rights could be extended to “groups with ties to the Jewish people”, including so-called “lost tribes” in India and Latin America. The move appears to reflect mounting concern that Israel is losing the “numbers battle” against the Palestinians.
In an interview about his new book, Jeff Halper argues that Israel is cashing in – both financially and diplomatically – on systems of control it has developed in the occupied territories. It is exporting its know-how to global elites keen to protect their privileges from both external and internal challengers. In a world supposedly mired in an endless war on terror, we may all be facing a future as Palestinians.
The appointment by Benjamin Netanyahu of one of his most hawkish and outspoken rivals as Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations has prompted widespread consternation. As one Israeli analyst noted last week, Danny Danon’s appointment amounts to a “cruel joke” on the international community. The new envoy “lacks even the slightest level of finesse and subtlety required of a senior diplomat”.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been scrambling to extinguish a firestorm after his religious affairs minister questioned the Jewishness of hundreds of thousands of North American Jews. David Azoulay's disparaging comments about followers of the most progressive branch of Judaism, known as Reform, threaten to undermine Netanyahu's policy of trying to encourage Jews to immigrate to Israel.
Officials in Jerusalem have approved a massive construction project, including plans for housing, shops and a hotel, on one of the largest and most historically important Islamic cemeteries in the Middle East. A previous project to build a courthouse at the site, part of Mamilla Cemetery, was scrapped earlier after it provoked a storm of protest.
Israel is pursuing a dual policy towards Hamas. On the the hand, it hopes diplomatic gains will bolster Hamas’ political wing against more threatening newcomers like ISIS. On the other, it wishes to weaken Hamas’ military wing to prevent it from developing the capacity to threaten Israel’s control over the enclave. As ever, Israel is keen to sow divisions where possible.
The Israeli government has declared war on a new TV channel financed by the Palestinian Authority that targets Israel’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens. Despite the channel’s modest budget and ambitions, however, Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, ordered its closure last week, describing its operations as a “breach of Israel’s sovereignty”.
Fifteen years after Israeli police shot her 19-year-old son Ahmed in the eye, killing him instantly, Hadiya Jabareen has yet to lay his ghost to rest. Instead, she has watched Bentzi Sau, the commander who oversaw the police operation in which Ahmed and 12 other demonstrators died, rise rapidly through the ranks. This month she suffered a further indignity when the government made Sau the highest-ranking police officer in the country.
The belated admission by Israel that one of its citizens was last seen entering Gaza 10 months ago, and that little is known of his fate since, has caused outrage among the country’s small community of Ethiopian Jews. Avraham Mengistu’s family, able to speak for the first time after a gag order imposed since September was lifted, accused the government and security forces of foot-dragging and racism.
As Benjamin Netanyahu warns that Israel must “rebrand” itself to avoid pariah status, ordinary Israelis are being conscripted into an army of spin doctors in a campaign termed “hasbara” – Hebrew for “public diplomacy”. In the latest offensive, the education ministry has launched a compulsory hasbara course for students travelling abroad so that they can learn how to justify Israel’s policies in the occupied territories to outsiders and challenge those who “seek to delegitimise Israel”. It is yet more evidence that hasbara has become a national obsession in Israel.
Israel is seeking to bring dozens of church-run schools under government control, a move that community leaders warn will curb the last vestiges of educational freedom for the country's large Palestinian minority. The schools, which educate Christians and Muslims and are among the highest-achieving in Israel, are the only hope for most families trying to escape dire conditions in the government-run Arab education system.
The Israeli authorities razed Tareq Khatib's home for the second time in two months last week. Now under house arrest at a friend’s home, he expects to be billed hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the costs of the demolitions and security operations. Fingering prayer beads, the 48-year-old father of five asked: “Where are my family and I supposed to live? It seems the government thinks the only place for us is out on the street, without a roof over our heads. It’s like they are waging a war against their own citizens.”
Two recent reports suggest that Israel could face catastrophic consequences if it fails to end the mistreatment of Palestinians under its rule, whether in the occupied territories or in Israel itself. The reports should be generating a tidal wave of concern in Israel but have caused barely a ripple. The status quo – of occupation and endemic racism – still seems preferable to most Israelis.