Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman launched his new plan to retool the occupation. His “carrot and stick” approach is intended to sideline the Palestinian Authority in favour of new local leaders hand-picked by Israel. He will use a new website to speak in Arabic directly to ordinary Palestinians, who in turn will be colour-coded in green and red to denote whether they are “good” or “bad”.
In just a decade, a Palestinian farming project, Canaan Fair Trade, has recruited 2,000 small-hold olive farmers in the West Bank. It teaches them how to grow crops that can withstand the privations of a hostile occupation; cooperate to raise prices and make a sustainable living; and access foreign markets as a way to bypass Israeli control.
The stolen babies were not randomly seized. A very specific group was targeted: Jews who had just immigrated from the Middle East. The Arabness of these Jews was viewed as a direct threat to the Jewish state’s survival, and one almost as serious as the presence of Palestinians. Israel set about “de-Arabising” these Middle Eastern Jews with the same steely determination with which it had just driven out most of the area’s Palestinians.
For 40 years, everything about Gil Grunbaum’s life was a lie, including his name. He had been stolen from his mother moments after she gave birth in an Israeli hospital. His story would be disturbing enough if it was unique, but growing evidence suggests that thousands of children could have been similarly abducted in Israel’s first decade.
Was it meant as an epic parody or an insult to his audience’s intelligence? It was hard to tell. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to social media to apologise for last year’s notorious election-day comment, when he warned that “the Arabs are coming out to vote in droves” – a reference to the fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, awarded itself a draconian new power last week: A three-quarters majority of its members can now expel an elected politician if they do not like his or her views. According to Adalah, a law centre representing the fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian citizens, the so-called expulsion law has no parallel in any democratic state.
The grubby underside of US electoral politics is on show once again as the race for the US presidency begins. And it doesn’t get seamier than the battle to prove how loyal each candidate is to Israel. Donald Trump has hailed his Republican party platform for breaking with decades of US policy and effectively denying the Palestinians any hope of statehood.
Israel is waging a campaign of incitement against human rights groups as it tries to hamper efforts by the international community to monitor abuses of Palestinians under occupation. A new Transparency Law compels some two dozen Israeli rights organisations to declare publicly that they receive a majority of their funding from foreign governments.
There were no tears shed in the Israeli government over Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right blame Europe for many of Israel’s woes. But Brexit ought be a wake-up call to Israel. It is the latest symptom of a backlash among western voters against political elites seen as distant and unaccountable – and that can only be harmful to Israel.
The conventional wisdom holds that the narrow vote in favor of leaving the European Union is evidence of a troubling resurgence of nationalism and isolationism across much of Europe. That wisdom is wrong, or at least far too simplistic. The outcome attested to a key failing of modern politics, not only in Britain but in most of the developed world: the re-emergence of an unaccountable political class.
In a little-noticed move last week, Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman barred an official close to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas from entering Israel. Mohammed Madani is accused of “subversion” and “political terror” for meet the wrong kind of Israeli Jews – those with an Arab heritage.
Wearing a T-shirt, chanting songs at a demonstration or donating clothing could be enough for Israel’s large Palestinian minority to fall foul of a newly passed anti-terrorism law, civil rights groups have warned. The legislation, applied in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, dramatically broadens the range of offences to include sympathising with, encouraging and failing to prevent terrorism.
Israel is locking away millions of official documents to prevent the darkest episodes in its history from coming to light, civil rights activists and academics have warned as the country’s state archives move online. They claim government officials are concealing vital records needed for historical research, often in violation of Israeli law, in an effort to avoid damaging Israel’s image.
In a familiar muddying of the waters, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent the past week talking up peace while fiercely criticising Friday’s summit in France – the only diplomatic initiative on the horizon. He dusted off the tired argument that any sign of diplomatic support for Palestinians would encourage from them “extreme demands”. Netanyahu, it seems, is keen on any peace process, just so long as it’s not the current one launched in Paris.
In a surprise move, Benjamin Netanyahu forced out his long-serving defence minister, Moshe Yaalon. As he stepped down, Yaalon warned: “Extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel.” He was referring partly to his expected successor: Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, whose trademark outbursts have included demands to bomb Egypt and behead disloyal Palestinian citizens. But Yaalon was also condemning extremism closer to home, in Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
“I am sure one day I will return to Saffuriya,” Ameen Muhammad Ali says of a Palestinian village only two kilometres outside Nazareth that Israel destroyed during the Nakba in 1948. He pauses, then chuckles as he injects a note of realism: “If not me, then my son – and if not my son, then my grandson.” Unlike the majority of refugees from the 1948 war, 81-year-old Abu Arab lives near his former village, in a neighbourhood of Nazareth whose residents are all refugees from Saffuriya or their descendants.
Israel is stepping up its efforts to seize control of Palestinian heritage sites and antiquities in the occupied territories in violation of international law, Palestinian and Israeli archaeologists warned this week. The experts echoed criticisms levelled against Israel in a recent resolution passed by the United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO, that accused Israel of interfering with major holy sites in occupied areas.
There is no bigger taboo in Israel than comparing the state of Israel to Nazi Germany. And yet that is precisely what Yair Golan, the deputy head of the Israeli military, did during a speech to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. There is now a palpable fear among army commanders like Golan that they are losing control over their soldiers – and with it any hope of holding on to their much-cherished claim to be the “most moral army in the world”.
Israel and its supporters would prefer we forget that, before the rise of the Nazis, most Jews deeply opposed a future in which they were consigned to Palestine. What they feared was that the creation of a Jewish state in a far-flung territory in the Middle East, as the Balfour Declaration promised, dovetailed a little too neatly with the aspirations of Europe’s anti-Semites, then much in evidence, including in the British government.
In Israel’s evermore tribal politics, there is no such thing as a “good” Arab – and the worst failing in a Jew is to be unmasked as an “Arab lover”. Or so was the message last week from Isaac Herzog, head of Israel’s so-called peace camp. In the current climate, Herzog and his opposition party Zionist Union have found themselves highly uncomfortable at having in their midst a single non-Jewish legislator.