Israel Is in the Midst of a Cold Civil War

Arabs, leftists, secular people – none are seen as part of the new State of Israel. What is our obligation to the state when it declares we no longer belong in it?


Thousands march in Tel Aviv in protest of incitement against Rivlin, leftist NGOs. December 19, 2015. Photo credit: Moti Milrod

“I will not accept two states within Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the scene of the recent terror attack in Tel Aviv, referring to Arab society. His fellow Likud faction member MK Miki Zohar, meanwhile, said that “Tel Aviv is acting like it’s a state… it’s not part of the State of Israel – it’s completely separate.”

In explaining the Education Ministry’s ban on the novel “Borderlife” from the high school curriculum, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) said, “The education system should not promote values that are contrary to the values of the state.” Bennett’s faction colleague, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, defended the law she initiated – requiring NGOs that receive funding from abroad to mark their documents accordingly – by saying: “It is inconceivable for the European Union to contribute to associations working in the name of the State of Israel, when they are being used by foreign countries to implement their policies.”

So, to Shaked’s mind, the leftist NGOs are the equivalent of Tel Aviv for Zohar: they are not part of the State of Israel, but something separate. The assaults on the NGO Breaking the Silence and Army Radio are also carried out in the name of the state. What, then, is the state?

The state is now an armed organization, with a bureaucracy that imposes the rule of the religious right in the area under its control (and not necessarily its sovereignty – see, for example, Judea and Samaria). In light of what is being said openly, it is clear that I, for example, am not part of the state. My lifestyle is not its lifestyle, my values are not its values, and my worldview represents the worldview of foreign countries. I might be called a dissident.

Arabs, leftists, secular people – none of them are part of the state. They were considered part of the state until not long ago, but now they are separate from it. They are not included in the state’s new definition of itself. This means a revolution is taking place before our very eyes, and we are helpless in our response.

Syrian official says situation in Palmyra ‘under control’ despite ISIS attacks

Regime troops recapture two hills from militants near famous heritage site, Homs governor says.

 An archive photo of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria. Photo by AFP

An archive photo of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria. Photo by AFP

AP – A Syrian official said Sunday that the situation is “fully under control” in Palmyra despite breaches by Islamic State militants who pushed into the historic town a day earlier.

Syrian opposition activists also confirmed that militants withdrew from a government building they had seized in the northern part of the town on Saturday, as clashes between the two sides continued.

Palmyra is home to one of the most famous world heritage sites in the Middle East, renowned for its Roman-era colonnades and 2,000-year-old ruins. The militants entered from the north Saturday and have not reached the UNESCO world heritage site, which is southwest of Palmyra.

Islamic State militants have destroyed and looted archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria. The group’s advance on Palmyra has sparked alarm in the region and beyond. UNESCO chief Irina Bokova has said she is deeply concerned and called on all parties to spare Palmyra from the fighting.

Israel, the denier of another nation’s holocaust

The country has always had its cost-benefit analyses and global interests to consider — now the issue is Turkey at the Armenians’ expense.

 A vigil after a church service commemorating the centenary of the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces, in Berlin, April 23, 2015.

A vigil after a church service commemorating the centenary of the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces, in Berlin, April 23, 2015.

Today, April 24, 1915, marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. But Pope Francis erred this month when he referred to it as “the first genocide of the 20th century.” The first took place in German South West Africa, what is now Namibia. Tens of thousands of tribespeople were annihilated. But blacks apparently don’t count as much.

The pope neglected to mention them when he cited the 1.5 million Armenians killed and called on the countries of the world to recognize the Ottoman Turks’ crime against the Armenians and humanity. Still, he should be commended. It’s not easy for him to take on the conservative Catholic establishment, which is only surpassed in its backwardness and corruption by the Israeli rabbinical establishment.

Will “the Jewish state” heed the Christian’s call? Or will it prefer, as usual, to focus on a different pope, accusing him of ignoring the destruction during those most awful times? True, Pius XII didn’t go out of his way to save Jews. But we too aren’t so quick to empathize with others’ suffering and rush to their aid. In its own way, Israel is also a denier of another nation’s holocaust.

Dozens of countries have already answered the Armenian plea and recognized the genocide, to the dismay of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and despite his government’s threats. The European Parliament just decided to break its silence too.

For what are the Armenians and their diaspora asking for? Not aid, just recognition. No one need be endangered for their sake; just show some sympathy and understanding. When eyes insist on remaining shut, wounds will keep on reopening.

But Israel hasn’t been willing to forgo its monopoly on victimhood or share its exclusive right to be the persecuted. It always has its cost-benefit analyses and global interests to consider — whether with apartheid South Africa or the juntas of Argentina and Chile.

If Netanyahu’s right, why is he so wrong?

 Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the Western Wall during a visit in Jerusalem's Old City, Feb. 28, 2015.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touches the Western Wall during a visit in Jerusalem’s Old City, Feb. 28, 2015.

Over the weekend the Prime Minister’s Office released a video showing Benjamin Netanyahu in his study preparing Tuesday’s speech to Congress. A source at the residence says that not much Hebrew has been heard around the prime minister in recent days. Many of the people around him speak American English in a heavy Republican accent.

One of the key people helping craft the speech is Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, who has been in Jerusalem the past few days. Dermer is a persona non grata in Washington these days, the man who concocted the speech idea with House Speaker John Boehner, behind the White House’s back.

But not only Dermer is in Jerusalem. Netanyahu has apparently recruited American consultants to help write the speech, to help him compose a text with maximum appeal.

So if Netanyahu is right, why is he so wrong? First, because there is no such thing as a good agreement with Iran. As in almost every security-diplomatic issue, the choices are between bad, very bad and disastrous.

Netanyahu has not yet produced convincing arguments on why the alternative he proposes is less bad and how it would lead to a peaceful resolution. Imposing additional sanctions at this stage, as proposed by Netanyahu, would ruin the talks and trigger a rush toward an Iranian military nuclear capability — and possibly war.

Second, Netanyahu is mistaken in his tactics. Over the last six years he has maneuvered Israel into a corner in which it has few options. He decided against a military option, and today this isn’t a viable option. He failed to forge an intimate relationship with Obama, instead creating a continuous crisis with the White House leaving Israel no diplomatic clout.

EU foreign policy chief: Israel violating Oslo Accords by freezing Palestinian tax revenues

Federica Mogherini’s statement doesn’t mention PA’s request to join ICC, but calls on both sides to refrain from taking actions that could prevent ‘a rapid return to negotiations.’

 EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, attends a media conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, Nov. 7, 2014.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, attends a media conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, Nov. 7, 2014.

The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, called on Israel on Tuesday to immediately renew the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, calling the recent freeze on the funds a violation of the Oslo Accords.

Mogherini stressed in a statement that Israel’s decision to freeze the transfer of tax revenue “runs counter to Israel’s obligations under the Paris Protocol” – the economic part of the Oslo Accords. According to Mogherini, the EU provides extensive financial aid to the Palestinian Authority to build the institutions and infrastructure of the future Palestinian state. “These achievements should not be put at risk by not meeting obligations regarding the timely and transparent transfer of tax and custom revenues,” she said.

Mogherini’s statement didn’t mention the Palestinian move to sign the Rome Statute and their request to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague, saying only that “recent steps taken by Palestinians and Israelis could aggravate the already tense situation on the ground and bring them further away from a negotiated solution.” The foreign policy chief called on both sides to “refrain from taking actions which could raise obstacles to the rapid return to the negotiations.”

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