Tag Archives: Haaretz

Israel Still Has the Power to Change

By Scott Fox

The beginning of 2012 means the nearing of elections in Israel and the United States. In both, incumbents have surprisingly maintained a strong likelihood of being re-elected in spite of failures and widespread criticism. While most polling shows Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are trailing President Obama slightly, what is more surprising is that polls show that Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s Likud party would gain seats if an election were held today.

This affirmation is probably the reason Likud has moved up their primary for the next election to January 31 even though a general election does not need to be held until October 2013. Many suspect that a new election will be called during 2012 while Netanyahu still maintains this high level of support. An outside observer may find it strange that an incumbent prime minister is so popular when 6 percent of the population was in the street protesting just three months ago. Republican strategist Frank Luntz is scared of the influence of the Occupy Wall Street movement when not even one percent of Americans has taken part in the protests.

How is this possible? Haaretz, Israel’s newspaper of record and “dissent,” has been publishing opinion pieces calling the current times the worst of a growing anti-democratic trend of repression of dissent in which Israel is having trouble seeing an alternative to Bibi. Haaretz specifically focuses on two developments that have hurt the continuation of an independent press: the likely forced bankruptcy of Israel’s Channel 10 and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein’s proposal to not allow any media coverage of criminal investigations in Israel, including those of public officials.

The Knesset is forcing the commercial television station to pay debts that the channel cannot afford or close at the same time that Israel’s state broadcasting network, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), is allowed to continue operations without paying a debt six times that of Channel 10. Haaretz and the station’s owners are crying foul over the unfair treatment that may be politically motivated. Channel 10 has aired many news reports critical of Netanyahu and the current Knesset. Knesset members apparently cheered when the vote to force the station to pay its debt immediately was successful. Weinstein’s proposed law will also critically reduce the press’s power to report on malfeasance in government and elsewhere.

What does not help is that Kadima supporters have lost faith in Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Party activists have recently protested in front of her home for a demand to “wake up the party and return to its former self.”

With all of the recent distressing news from Israel including the continuation of gender segregation on buses and the horrific death of Palestinian protester Mustafa Tamimi, it seems that Jews should be thankful that President Obama affirmed his commitment at the General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism to a strong relationship with this troubled nation.

Israel is troubled. It is likely too afraid to stray from the hard-liner policies of Netanyahu in spite of his government’s disgraces when fears of unstable Arab neighbors abound. Although last summer’s social justice protests may have appeared to represent a return of the Israeli left, Netanyahu’s government has likely calmed that fire by being at least partially responsive to this summer’s protests, approving measures that will attempt to reduce the cost of living.

Still, the ruach that motivated the summer protests is not lost. Israelis clearly remain upset with the status quo. The voice of non-violent dissent needs to continue to be heard for Israel to demonstrate to the world that there is not a consensus that allows the weakening of its democracy. The next election may be Israel’s last chance to change before Israel’s fast-growing anti-egalitarian, ultra-Orthodox population fully dominates the electorate.

This Week’s Links

Woodstock_music_festival_posterBy Michelle Albert

  • A new children’s book tells the story of how Max Yasgur, a Jewish dairy farmer in Bethel, NY, allowed half a million people to camp out in his backyard for Woodstock, which would become a defining moment in rock and roll history. [Haaretz]
  • Jewish summer camps upload thousands of pictures to their websites each day for anxious parents to appreciate. Is this digital link smothering the camp experience? [Forward]
  • Comedian Richard Herring defends his show “Hitler Mustache” in the Guardian. [Guardian]
  • Tablet takes an in-depth look at the lives of Israel’s mafia. [Tablet]
  • Though Iran has been working on creating enriched uranium since 2007, the US State Department registered their doubt that scientists in Tehran could create “weapon-grade material” before 2013. [WashingtonPost]
  • Kristen Davis, of “Sex and the City” fame, was dropped from her position as spokesperson for Oxfam International for her work with Ahava cosmetics, a company based in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. [Jewcy]
  • Charlene Yi (girlfriend of Michael Cera) talks to Heeb about her new movie Paper Heart and her undeniable attraction to Jewish guys. [Heeb]

Shin Bet Justice: Tunnel Vision?

Tunneling under Israel

Tunneling under Israel

Tunnels. The very word connotes ancient secrets, mystic rites and modern adventure. Israel is blessed with tunnels both natural (the country gets whole pages on spelunking websites) and man made: The “Rabbinical” tunnels alongside and beneath the Temple Mount get lots of attention. Their excavation launched Arab riots as well as a new locus for tourism. (Jerusalem’s coolest tunnel is Hezekiah’s ancient passage to the Gihon Spring, seen at right.)

For Israel’s security forces, it’s the tunnels under Gaza’s border with Egypt that, understandably, generate the most interest. Egypt’s government claims, unconvincingly, that it’s trying to keep the tunnels closed, while evidence at the other end (filmed by France24’s English newscast) shows Gazans’ using the tunnels routinely to smuggle in market goods and even electricity generation. Hamas undoubtedly also uses them for less homey shipments, like weaponry.

Israel’s been unable to police the tunnels since its pullout from Gaza, so the Shin Bet security agency gets its intelligence from Palestinian informants in Rafah, the border town. Unfortunately, according to an article in Haaretz, Shin Bet is willing to abuse its role at Gaza’s border with Israel to coerce possibly innocent Gazans into enlisting as spies.

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Pentagon Profiled Supposed Israeli Spy

Ha’aretz reports that last month the Pentagon issued an internal report stating David Tenenbaum, an engineer who was placed on paid leave from the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren, Michigan, in 1997, was singled out as a potential spy because he was Jewish.

Says Ha’aretz:

“It was well known that Mr. Tenenbaum was Jewish, lived his religious beliefs and by his actions appeared to have a close affinity for Israel,” the Pentagon report, which was released three weeks ago, said. “We believe that Mr. Tenenbaum was subjected to unusual and unwelcome scrutiny because of his faith and ethnic background, a practice that would undoubtedly fit a definition of discrimination.”

In 2000, Tenenbaum filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, accusing it of employing “Naziesque” surveillance methods against Jews, according to the Detroit Free Press. Tenenbaum, who had sought more than $20 million in damages, said he was the subject of a federal investigation that “literally terrorized” him and his family, according to the Free Press.

Tenenbaum still works at (TACOM).

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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Israel, Hezbollah Complete Emotional Swap

The touchy swap of prisoners and the remains of soldiers captured in 2006 was completed today with the assistance of the Red Cross at the Israeli-Lebanon border.

Although much of Israel held out hope that the two Israeli soldiers—Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser—were still alive, the nation’s fears were confirmed when the two soldiers’ were brought to the border in coffins.

In return, Hezbollah received the remains of 200 of their fighters, as well as Samir Kuntar and four other prisoners. Continue reading