Israeli President Reuven Rivlin
The second Israeli national election of 2019 has led to a lot of confusion. It has not resolved the question of who will fill the prime minister’s office on a permanent basis, nor has it cleared up the political logjam the country has been dealing with all year. Contrary to what many believe, the decision by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to give incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the first try at forming a governing majority coalition is not at all the same thing as Netanyahu having successfully held on to the job.
Here are a few key points to help untangle this mess. Read more at LobeLog
Bowing to a new law in Germany, the Open Source Festival in Dusseldorf rescinded its invitation to Brooklyn-born rapper Talib Kweli. In May 2019, the German government passed a law stating that the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) until it met the basic national demands of the Palestinian people was anti-Semitic. As a result, Kweli, who is a long-time advocate for the Palestinian cause, could not perform at a music festival using public funds, as this one does.
When it comes to BDS, Germany won’t tolerate “don’t ask, don’t tell” either. I have no idea whether Kweli would have said a word about the Palestinians at his show, and neither do the show’s organizers. Some of Kweli’s songs mention his support for the Palestinians and opposition to Israeli policies, but it’s hardly a primary theme of his. It’s just one piece among many of his stances for social justice. He did not start this; the festival producers asked him as a litmus test for his entry.
That’s how far anti-BDS legislation goes in its quest to stifle speech that might illuminate the Palestinian case. Read more at LobeLog
There are still a few races to be decided, but the overall results of the 2018 midterms are clear. The hoped-for “blue wave” turned out to be a blue trickle, but Donald Trump’s era of completely unfettered action is over. Voter suppression and gerrymandering stack the deck in favor of Republicans, yet there was enough disgust with Trump and congressional Republicans to swing about 30 seats in the House of Representatives to the Democrats. Republicans still gained at least two—probably three—seats in the Senate, despite the fact that Democrats got nearly 13 million more votes in the Senate races. That’s not a great indicator for the state of democracy in the United States.
It wasn’t the rebuke of Trump’s behavior and policies that some hoped for, but given the ongoing strength of the U.S. economy, the Republican losses still mean something. Democratic control of the House creates a check on Trump’s worst excesses, at least domestically.
In foreign policy, the gains will be more meager and harder to gauge. Congress still holds considerably more power over domestic affairs than foreign, and that is even more true for the opposition party in a divided Congress. Read more at LobeLog
“It didn’t have to be this way,” writes Jim Zogby in the new preface to the reissue of his 1981 book, Palestinians, The Invisible Victims: Political Zionism and the Roots of Palestinian Dispossession.
There were, a century ago, multiple threads to the Zionist movement. On the one side, for example, there was Martin Buber’s inclusive vision of spiritual Zionism, advocating the in-gathering of the Jewish people and cooperation between them and the indigenous Arab population in Palestine and the broader region. There was also a thread of what came to be called Political Zionism that proposed a more radical and exclusivist vision that sought to displace the Arabs of Palestine. Tragically, this was the thread that won out.
This is a crucial framing of Zogby’s book. Reissued after 37 years, the book often seems like it could be talking about contemporary events. Zogby’s basic thesis is summed up in his conclusion, where he states, “The violations of [Palestinians’] basic human rights are, quite simply, a function of the political ambitions of the Political Zionist movement and the state it created. Palestinian resistance to Zionism and its dream of an exclusive Jewish state, therefore, continues.”
Zogby’s 1981 book states the Palestinian case. It is a short book and makes no pretense to an exhaustive history or a complete review of then-contemporary conditions. It offers one idea, that the exclusivist vision of Political Zionism is incompatible with a lasting peace. Read more at LobeLog
Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour has been in the spotlight quite a bit in recent weeks. Her role in organizing the anti-Trump Women’s March, which drew larger crowds than Donald Trump’s inauguration and mightily rankled the incoming president, put her name on the map in a way it had not been before. One of the first ways she used her prominence was to start a Muslim campaign to raise funds to repair a Jewish cemetery in Missouri that had been vandalized. She and her allies had a goal of $20,000 and ended up raising over $160,000.
But some in the Jewish community want to hear nothing more from Sarsour. You see, she is a supporter of the tactic of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) and believes that the best solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is a single democratic state in all of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Many consider this stance to be conclusive proof that she is not just a supporter of the Palestinian cause but an extreme anti-Zionist and even an anti-Semite. Read more at LobeLog
Isaac Herzog, the Israeli opposition leader and head of the Zionist Union party, issued a “Ten-Point Plan” for a restarted peace process. His stated goals in doing so are to stave off the Israeli right’s drive toward annexation of the West Bank, to preserve the settlement blocs, to end Israel’s rule over another people, and to conclude a regional peace. Unfortunately, his plan would likely accomplish only one of those goals, the one already a fait accompli: maintaining the settlement blocs.
The cornerstone of Herzog’s idea is a ten-year freeze on settlement growth outside the blocs coupled with a vague promise of stimulating the Palestinian economy. At the end of ten years, final status negotiations would commence, but only on the condition that the preceding ten-year period had elapsed “without violence.”
These notions are completely unrealistic. Read more at LobeLog
The struggle of Natan Sharansky and his fellow refuseniks for freedom in the Soviet Union was an inspiration to human rights activists around the world. But his recent article, “Breaking the Silence Is No Human Rights Organization – and I Should Know,” where he criticizes Breaking the Silence, reveals that his experience does not necessarily give him insight into the norms of democracy and human rights. Read more in Ha’aretz