The top posts in Israel’s national police force are now in the hands of hardline religious settlers who are seeking to make “alarming” changes to policing in both Israel and the occupied territories, critics have warned. The growing influence of the settler movement was highlighted this month with the appointment of Rahamim Brachyahu as the force’s chief rabbi.
The chauvinism implicit in a new Israeli foreign ministry video portraying Jacob and Rachel as the only normal folk, stoicly enduring barbarians butchering each other in their living room, is ugly enough. But it is harder still to take seriously an account in which the Palestinians suddenly appear out of nowhere in 1948, as Britain departs.
As world leaders congregated in Jerusalem to eulogise Shimon Peres as a “great peacemaker”, the peace camp of which he was the figurehead went to war against its main Palestinian partner in Israel. Ayman Odeh, head of the only Jewish-Arab party in the Israeli legislature, enraged the Israeli Jewish public by refusing to attend Peres’ funeral.
Israeli airport staff regularly violate Israeli law by subjecting Arab passengers, including Israel’s own Palestinian citizens, to strip searches and other degrading procedures, says Adalah, a legal rights group. The practices occur at Israel’s international Ben Gurion airport, as well as at many foreign airports where Israeli security officials are entitled to carry out pre-flight checks on behalf of Israeli carriers.
The death of Shimon Peres, aged 93, marks the departure of the last major figure in Israel’s founding generation. Peres spent his long political career in the public spotlight, but his greatest successes – from overseeing the construction of Israel’s nuclear bomb to devising an interminable “peace process” via the Oslo accords – were engineered in the shadows.
Members of one of the main Palestinian parties in the Israeli parliament have accused authorities of seeking to criminalise their political activity following the arrest of more than two dozen party officials. Balad party leader Jamal Zahalka tied the arrests to the outlawing late last year of the popular northern wing of the Islamic Movement, an extra-parliamentary faction led by Sheikh Raed Salah.
The announcement last week by the United States of the largest military aid package in its history – to Israel – was a win for both sides. Benjamin Netanyahu could boast that his lobbying had boosted aid from $3.1 billion to $3.8bn a year. Barack Obama, meanwhile, hoped to stifle critics who insinuate that he is anti-Israel, as well as offer a presidential election fillip to Hillary Clinton. In reality, however, Obama’s aid deal has quietly punished Netanyahu for his misbehaviour.
A new peace movement, Decision at 50, stuffed with former political and security leaders, is demanding the Israeli government hold a referendum next year – to mark the 50th anniversary of the occupation – on whether it is time to leave the territories. Whatever its proponents imply, the referendum is about neither peace nor the Palestinians’ best interests. Its assumption is that yet again Israel should determine unilaterally the Palestinians’ fate.
In Netanyahu’s new video, he claims that a Palestinian demand to dismantle Jewish settlements amounts to the “ethnic cleansing” of 650,000 Jews living illegally in the occupied territories. Netanyahu wants to place another obstacle in the way of Palestinian efforts to seek international backing for statehood, but this time has he scored an own goal?
Israel has agreed to allow the International Criminal Court in The Hague to send a delegation to Israel and the occupied territories, it was revealed at the weekend, in a step that could dramatically increase the risk of Israeli officials being tried for war crimes. The ICC’s move comes as human rights groups have harshly criticised Israel for closing investigations into dozens of allegations that its military broke the laws of war during an attack on Gaza in summer 2014.
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.