First Sheikh Jarrah, Then Baka? — Op-Ed in The Forward

Haim Watzman Mike Huckabee recently made a virulently anti-Zionist remark — and the Jews who accompanied him on his tour of East Jerusalem cheered. “It concerns me when there are some in the United States who would want to tell Israel that it cannot allow people to live in their own country, wherever they want,” … Read moreFirst Sheikh Jarrah, Then Baka? — Op-Ed in The Forward

Unaerobics: Bibi’s Speech Tonight

Haim Watzman

It’s a hot afternoon and I’m still feeling heavy from overeating on Shabbat. So should I go to my Sunday night masters swim group or stay home and watch Binyamin Netanyahu’s much-heralded policy address? Which will get my pulse up higher?

I think I’ll go for the swim. By all accounts, Netanyahu will surprise no one. He’ll try to square President Obama’s circle by declaring how important the Israel-U.S. relationship is, while at the same time refusing to accept America’s lead in setting Israel on course toward serious negotiations over an accommodation with the Palestinians and the Arab world.

Netanyahu will follow the lead of his mentor, Menachem Begin, in insisting that Israel’s settlements in the territories have no connection to negotiations with the Arabs. President Jimmy Carter thought he had gotten Begin’s consent to a settlement freeze until the ultimate fate of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was determined; Begin insisted that he’d agreed only to a three-month freeze. Netanyahu might offer a similar sop,

Read moreUnaerobics: Bibi’s Speech Tonight

Protesting the Settlers in Shul

Haim Watzman I went to a rally against Jewish settler violence at shul yesterday. Kehilat Yedidya is one of only a handful of Orthodox synagogues whose members can make a statement like that. And perhaps the only one in which opposition to the gathering came from the left rather than the right. My friend Daniel … Read moreProtesting the Settlers in Shul

Rogue Forces

Why does the Israeli army defend illegal outposts rather than dismantle them en masse? Why doesn’t the political leadership give the orders for the army to act?

Yagil Levy, an excellent analyst, has a very good, and very frightening explanation, via Ha’aretz:

The bias of the army is naturally in favor of the settlers, over the Palestinians. This bias was strengthened by the deployment of the military force in three circles. The first circle is regional defense, reserve units, made up of settlers, that participate in the settlements’ daily defense. In this context, the army entrusted the settlers with weapons as reserve soldiers, and the result was the growth of armed militias in the territories…

Read moreRogue Forces

Ha’aretz Gets It Wrong in Jerusalem’s Mayoral Race

Haim Watzman

So Ha’aretz has joined the gaggle of left-wingers who want to punish Nir Barkat. Barkat supports the construction of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which is incompatible with cutting a deal with the Palestinians creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. So a vote for Barkat is a vote against peace.

Now, we here at South Jerusalem think building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem is an awful thing to do. We advocate a two-state solution and we have noted time and again that when Israel builds for Jews on occupied land it often does so on land stolen from Palestinians or obtained under dubious circumstances. So, like Ha’aretz, we’re disappointed and disturbed that Barkat has jumped on the settler bandwagon.

But the Ha’aretz editorial neglects to note that Porush advocates building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as well, as he says here (in Hebrew), on his campaign website. Of course, Porush wants the neighborhoods to provide housing for his ultra-Orthodox community, while Barkat wants them to be designated for students and the religious Zionist community.

So why is Ha’aretz eager to punish Barkat and not Porush?

Read moreHa’aretz Gets It Wrong in Jerusalem’s Mayoral Race

A Stamp for Letters to the Edge of Madness

Gershom Gorenberg

The Israeli Post Office has issued a stamp commemorating the settlements of Gush Katif in Gaza – the settlements evacuated by the Israeli goverment in 2005. Gush Katif commemorative stampThe stamp shows an orange ribbon, originally the symbol of the furious protest movement against the withdrawal. Today the ribbon is the icon of those who have never forgiven the state for evacuating settlements from occupied territory. Below the images of greenhouses and the little kids happily jumping rope is the biblical verse, “And they shall no more plucked up out of their land…” (Amos 9:15), which in context can be read as a promise that no more settlements will be evacuated.

Read moreA Stamp for Letters to the Edge of Madness

The First Settlement, the Lasting Danger

Gershom Gorenberg My article on the first settlement in occupied territories, and the obsolescence of settlement as a value, appears today in Ha’aretz. The original Hebrew is here, and the English translation is here. (No, now that you ask, that’s not my English.) Also in South Jerusalem on settlement: Israeli Right Supports Right of Return … Read moreThe First Settlement, the Lasting Danger

Israeli Right Supports Right of Return

Gershom Gorenberg

One of the bizarre ironies of Israeli politics is revealed once more in a response by NGO Monitor* to Nicholas Kristof’s recent column on Hebron and the price of occupation.

Kristof wrote of the particular burden imposed on Palestinians – and on Israel itself – by maintaining Jewish settlers inside Hebron:

The security system that Israel is steadily establishing is nowhere more stifling than here in Hebron, the largest city in the southern part of the West Bank. In the heart of a city with 160,000 Palestinians, Israel maintains a Jewish settlement with 800 people. To protect them, the Israeli military has established a massive system of guard posts, checkpoints and road closures since 2001.

For anyone who has visited Hebron with open eyes, Kristof’s description will appear accurate, even understated. (My own account of a recent trip to that town is here.)

However, NGO Monitor was not happy.

Read moreIsraeli Right Supports Right of Return

Who’s In the Way Here? On War Ethics and Mahsom Watch

Gershom Gorenberg

In your last post, Haim, you mention the soldier who is outraged by Machsom Watch volunteers at checkpoints in the West Bank. Much as I understand him, I think he’s got it backwards.

Read moreWho’s In the Way Here? On War Ethics and Mahsom Watch

Journey to Wadi al-Shajneh: The Illusion of Quiet

Gershom Gorenberg

Dov, the guy who owns the hole-in-the-wall computer lab, explained to Elliott and me that the operating system was only in English; he didn’t have Arabic Windows. As for service, he said, that would be no problem, "as long as he brings it here."

Unfortunately, Muhammad Abu Arkub, to whom we were delivering the computer, has about as much chance as getting a permit to enter Jerusalem for a computer repair as he does of getting back his wife’s gold. Dov wasn’t being snide. He’s the old-fashioned gruff kind of guy who curses about everything and then puts in twice the work fixing your computer that he planned and charges no more, and would be embarrassed if you mentioned it. But the village of Wadi al-Shajneh, in the South Hebron Hills, is beyond where he does service calls. He was surprised when Elliott explained why we were buying the computer. "And you with a kipah ," he said. Not that he objected to what we were doing.

Elliott read about Muhammad in a Ha’aretz article by Gideon Levy, a few days after we went to Hebron to give a washing machine to Ghassan Burqan. If you read my previous post (Journey to Hebron: Nightmares and Hope ), you’ll remember that Ghassan had bought his own washing machine and was carrying it to his home in the Israeli-controlled side of Hebron when he was stopped by Border Police, beat up and arrested. The machine disappeared. In memory of our late friend Gerald Cromer, Elliott decided we should bring Ghassan a replacement.

Muhammad’s home was searched by soldiers who arrived at midnight. They said they were looking for weapons. The search lasted two hours. Muhammad, his wife Lubna, their two small daughters, and Muhammad’s younger brother Rami were all kept under guard in Rami’s home – a single-room shack built onto the side of Muhammad’s house. When the search was over, and the family rushed back into the main house, they found their computer and television smashed. And, they say, the jewelry box where Lubna kept her gold was gone.

Read moreJourney to Wadi al-Shajneh: The Illusion of Quiet

Journey to Hebron: Nightmares and Hope

Yehiel and I met Elliott at the appliance repairman’s shed on a side street in South Jerusalem.

Elliott Horowitz, a historian at Bar-Ilan University, had already paid for the almost-new washing machine, with cash that friends have pledged to repay. We wrestled the heavy white hunk of metal into the back of Yehiel’s undersized station wagon, and set off – three guys with skullcaps and graying beards driving to Hebron with a washing machine for a Palestinian stonecutter.

It was Elliott’s idea.

Read moreJourney to Hebron: Nightmares and Hope

30 Years after “Now”

I can remember precisely what the weather was on Israeli Independence Day in 1983: Horrid. On the mountain near Nablus where Peace Now was demonstrating against the establishment of a new settlement, the rain was coming down in big cold drops that soaked through my ‘rain-proof’ shell and down jacket and sweater and shirt and skin. By Independence Day, the rainy season is supposed to be over. The sun is supposed to shine on picnics.

Thousands of settlers and their supporters were expected to come to the mountain to picnic that day and hear Housing Minister David Levy speak at the formal dedication of the settlement of Brakhah, which would be one more statement that Israel would rule “Judea and Samaria” forever. Only a few hundred showed up. The Peace Now demonstrators came by the busload and surrounded the ceremony, with very soggy soldiers separating the rings of people. The peace activists had not planned on a day of fun, and they by the thousands came despite the weather. So David Levy gave his speech inside a prefab structure – that’s what it looked like over the heads of the soldiers – and peaceniks rode home cold and soaked, but happy that they’d dominated the field that day.

Except that 25 years later, according to Peace Now’s excellent settlement monitoring effort, Brakhah has about 1,200 residents. The demonstrators were there for an afternoon,

Read more30 Years after “Now”