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The End of Israel as We Know It

politico.com

In the last few weeks—following our ‘Days of Awe,’ as it were—two major developments occurred in Israel-Palestine that might shape the reality of the place and its people for years to come. Now, while these two developments, in and of themselves, are not so earth-shattering—though nonetheless, historic—it is quite possible that they would seal the deal on the outcome, the trends, the events that have been brewing in the Holy Land for quite some time.

The first of these two developments is the unification deal between Fatah and Hamas, which was signed in Cairo on October 12, and which received the proper attention and media coverage in Israel, the world at large, and America. This deal of course is not a ‘done deal;’ in other words: thorny issues remain to be further ironed out, to be put into place and practice, until things will materialize into a sustainable reality. Until then, doubts will persist. However, there can be no doubt that if successful, this will be regarded as a momentous event, which will bring about a unified—fractured though it may still remain—Palestinian entity and force.

This development, which has been welcomed generally by the Palestinian people, the Arab Middle East leaders, the European countries; in short, anybody who for long believed that this is a major, required step towards solving the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Predictably, however, it has been rejected by Israel (strongly), and America (weakly). As far the latter is concerned, since it has no coherent policy of its own, or anybody in the State Department or the White House who has a clear understanding of the conflict, it has simply followed Israel’s dictate on the matter. Netanyahu—again, predictably—rejected the deal outright with all kinds of accusations and demands. The reason for that is simple: Anything that can bring closer a reconciliation between the two sides, with the possibility of peace and the creation of a Palestinian state, living side-by-side with Israel, is a nightmare for him.

The reasons for that, and for why this deal might in fact widen the chasm between the two sides—Israel and Palestine, that is, Jews and Arabs—and might push further away the chances of peace, are numerous. Meanwhile, it’s time for me to let you know about the second development, which came shortly after this first one, and that unlike it, received hardly any mention here in the American media, and in particular the Jewish American press. This development, coupled with the Palestinian unification deal, might signal, and solidify, the end of Israel as we know and love it. Or, to be more precise and honest: the Israel that we ‘knew’ and ‘loved.’

I am talking about, generally, the fate of the Labor Party in Israel, and specifically, the man who infiltrated it—indeed, like a fifth-column—‘kidnaped’ its leadership (albeit democratically) and now threatens to dismantle it once and for all. His name is Avi Gabbay. He is relatively a young man, 50, a successful business man—not without blemish, especially from the point of view of the ‘party of the working people’—who three months ago or so, after being a rightwing Likudnik most of his political life, including being a minister in Netanyahu’s government, switched allegiance, became a Labor Party card-carrying member, threw his hat into the ring, and—surprising everybody—had won the election, and became party chairman.

For those of you who don’t know, or remember, the Labor Party was formed in 1968, and comprised of the three main parties that ruled Israel—led mostly by David Ben-Guroin—for twenty years since independence. This union produced five Prime Ministers, and ruled Israel on and off until the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Thereafter, though not immediately, Netanyahu and the right-center Likud came into power, and never let go. Now to those of you who say, not without some justification, that the Labor Party—representing the center-left side of the Israeli people and politics—has been dead for many years, I say this: The Labor Party and its chairman, Isaac Herzog, lost by only six Knesset members to Netanyahu’s Likud in the last elections. If not for some late-hour shenanigans by Mr. Netanyahu—a la Mr. Trump—he might as well had won the election. A man of principals, Mr. Herzog refused the many attempts by Mr. Netanyahu to join his government, and be its Foreign Minister, unless there were real commitment to solve the conflict with the Palestinians, along the lines of the Two-State solution. But of course, there was no such commitment.

And so, in the last two weeks, the new leader Mr. Gabbay came out of the closet as what he truly is: A rightwing Likudnic. He declared, exactly as Mr. Netanyahu has done a few days earlier, that Israel will never dismantle any settlements. He declared the West bank settlers as the truly brave, new pioneers of Israel. Israel would never relinquish its s hold on the Jordan Valley, he’d further said, echoing Netanyahu. Latest rumors in Israel has it that he intends on changing the name of the party, where he already has power to appoint cronies to future ministerial positions all by himself, regardless of party affiliation. Furthermore, he declared his wish and intention to go into a national unity government with the Likud and Netanyahu. You see the similarities with the first development?

Why the Labor Party members—among them my 90-year-old-mother—have chosen him for their leader is a topic for another article. Though obviously, they are very keen on reclaiming governmental power, apparently at all costs. What is clear, however, is that while the first development signifies a compromise between the two Palestinian camps, and a wish—not without objectors, of course—to bring about peace based upon the principle of the a Two-State solution, the second development is exactly of the opposite kind: it signifies the enlargement, and hardening of the rightwing side of the Israeli people and politics. This side rejects any compromise, including the above mentioned Two-State solution. Essentially—it rejects peace.

Therefore, it closes the coffin on Israel as we know it: Jewish and democratic. What will come instead, only years will tell.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue

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Democracy Dies in Silence

indiaopines.com

The order to silence the messenger, kill him or her if necessary, came directly from the Prime Minister. He commanded his top four ministers—Security, Justice, Culture and Education—to do all in their power to establish and maintain the big hush. The people must realize, he instructed, that there’s law and order in this country. Voices—such as those in the opposition, especially artists, writers, journalists, bloggers and the like—must not, “I repeat must not,” disrupt the ‘peace’ with their loud messages of protest. We can continue to have control over the people, and win future elections, only if we can continue to have control over the media. When you leave this office, go out into the streets of the country and silence them all. Literally.

Of course, my dear readers, you think to yourselves that here he goes again. Fantasizing. Our devoted blogger, you say, is resorting to his old ways. Think himself Kafka again. Or someone like him. Talking probably about Russia, or Turkey, or China. Certainly not about Israel. Not about us Jews. Of course not. That’s impossible. But you’re wrong, my friends, because I am talking about Israel. About the Jews of Israel. I realize, though, that I must convince you in the seriousness of my accusations. So here are three cases (out of many others), occurring lately in our ancient holy land, to illustrate my point.

First, I let you read this sentence, published in Ha’aretz’ article on September 7th. I myself have read it again and again, yet couldn’t get enough of its contradictions. It defies all logic in its absurdities. So here it is: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Government Press Office to remove Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief Walid Al-Omari from a state-sponsored seminar on freedom of speech planned for Thursday.” Furthermore, it continued, “The prime minister instructed that legal steps be taken to deny press passes of all Al Jazeera journalists working in Israel (among them Israeli citizens, H.D.), and to close their offices in Israel.”

Now, let’s try to analyze together what we’ve just read. There is a ‘seminar on freedom of speech,’ fine and dandy, but… it’s ‘state-sponsored.’ Got it? That’s absurdity number one: ‘state-sponsored.’ Then we have the head of that state, the Prime Minister, orders that a certified, known, respected global media organization, and its journalists, would be excluded from said seminar. Hear me on this? ‘Freedom of speech’—but you, with the Arab name, though you carry a press-card issued by the state—you are not allowed in. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, anybody? That ‘freedom’ here is limited, and is ‘sponsored’ by the state, and I’m the head of that state. Orwell is probably rolling in his grave laughing.

I can go on and on about this story, but you probably get the gist of it already, and we have other cases to cover here. So let’s go right to the next example. This one involves the new Israeli film “Foxtrot,” which has won recently the ‘Silver Lion,’ the grand jury prize at the Venice Film Festival. A major film festival—considered the third most prestigious film festival in the world—and therefor a significant award and achievement for the Israeli filmmakers. You’d think that folks in Israel, especially those in political power—who are usually so eager to congratulate, and celebrate any minor achievement for the state in the international arena—would jump on the opportunity to do so in this case as well.

Not so. One of the four ministers receiving the order to ‘kill the messenger,’ as mentioned above, is none other than the Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev. She attacked the film furiously—mind you, before even seeing it—claiming it tarnishes the Israeli army’s reputation. Apparently, she was told by a senior official at the ‘Culture Ministry’ about a scene where a group of soldiers at a checkpoint turn violent on Palestinians. As if that has never happened. “It the type of film that gives tailwind to the Israel boycott movement,” she was quoted as saying. In other words, as we continue along this path of absurdities, never mind the actions themselves, they are fine. The depiction of them and their messengers are the problem. Go figure.

The film went on to win eight major Ophir Awards—Israel’s version of the Oscars—and most probably (unless a government special decision to the contrary intervenes) would represent Israel next year in that most prestigious American, global competition. All the same, Mrs. Regev threaten to withhold all financial support from now on from any film that doesn’t subscribe to her—i.e. the Prime Minister’s—version of Israeli patriotism. Get the picture? And did I mention already here the country of Russia?

Over a year ago, the Educational Minister Naftali Bennet—another of the four executioners of the apocalypse in the Prime Minister’s office, as described at the outset—had “disqualified a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools around the country. The move comes even though the official responsible for literature instruction in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes…” Reported Haaretz on 12/31/15 “Among the reasons stated for the disqualification of Dorit Rabinyan’s “Gader Haya” (literally “Hedgerow,” but known in English as “Borderlife”) is the need to maintain what was referred to as “the identity and the heritage of students in every sector.”

Need I say more? Only that one of the corruption investigations currently ongoing in Israel by the police is of PM Netanyahu’s attempt to influence, and strike a deal with the publisher of the widely read newspaper in Israel ahead of the last election, in order to sway media coverage, and have favorable stories and editorials about him in that paper, Yediot Acharunut. As if he doesn’t have already another paper, Israel Hayom – Israel’s Pravda—as his private newspaper.

I can go on, but enough said. So I say to you my friends and colleagues in Israel, and everywhere else for that matter: Keep writing; keep talking; keep showing; keep playing; keep filming; keep producing. Because remember: It’s not only that democracy dies in darkness, as the Washington Post reminds us daily on its pages, but it’s also that democracy dies in silence.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue

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